Another night of drinking, none of us seem to have any other hobbies with which to pass the time, and if it wasn’t for the alcohol, we may have all killed each other long ago. We’d decided to return to the site of the silver sigil and close it up for good. My highly-intelligent companions had not sealed it properly when last they passed by, and while I’m grateful that they inadvertently gave me the opportunity to slip through into their world, I felt it had been leaking for far too long now.
We set out in the morning. It was cold and frigid yet again. Oh how I love this chaotic Winter. The sound of chimes could be heard on the breeze, and Johannesz mentioned something about how the snowflakes were falling through dimensions; even better.
We set off for the hamlet of Ngoc. Laithina passed the time by stroking her overtly-powerful bauble under the folds of her shirt. I swear I could hear her cooing at it too. I need to remember to keep a watchful eye on her. She only stopped as we began to approach the village. Njord and Laithina had found some writing implements and drawn a moustache and spectacle on the sleeping Jason’s face. If you are reading this, Jason, I want you to know that I deny having any involvement.
The farming hamlet of Ngoc was quiet, almost too quiet. We could see the half-slouched forms of the sleeping inhabitants in the streets and fields. The cold did not seem to disturb them. We finally came to the Fool and Cask Inn. Apart from the patrons, who were obviously from out of town, the barkeep seemed to be the only soul awake in this town. He was sheepishly arranging a handful of silverware on the wall behind him when we entered.
Three mercs sat quietly around the inn, sulking and nursing drinks. It seems to be the done thing for adventuring parties to do. One among them, a halfling with a facial tattoo named Bardo, recognised Laithina immediately, and seemed cheered to see a familiar face. He introdued us to his friends, a slander elf dressed all in tight leathers named Nerwenye. A surly dwarf eyed us from the by the fireplace while we conversed.
Bardo explained that three nights earlier, Alin Fordaye had gone missing, taking only his journal. Alin was the great grandson of Wilarg Fordaye who had made the family name by sealing up the sigil long ago to protect the town, or so the story went. In truth, his family had been siphoning energy from the Echoing for generations. Damned warlocks.
We were all quite adament that before we visited the old castle, we would stop by Alin’s house. Bardo insisted that it had been stripped bare by the villagers, and he was not mistaken. The Fordaye’s illustrious villa had been compeltely ransacked, nothing had been spared. Even the skirting boards had been ripped up.
We investigated the rooms nonetheless. Jason stopped dead in one of the rooms, and an expression came over his face that just screamed ‘I can smell devils’. I entered the room behind him, and immediately began to feel my illusory visage slipping. A strong power had been here. Njord attempted to commune with some sort of being. We watched as he was suddenly covered in a multitude of watery snakebites. I assume that’s not what he intended.
We made the trek up to the dilapidated castle and met up with Bardo and Nerwenye. The sigil in question was at the base of a long staircase. As we descended into the darkness, I could feel my tinitus clear. Smells like home.
The sigil itself was large and ornate, covered in geometric designs and spiralling triskeles, and engraved in abyssal. There was a small, angular indentation for the keystone, marked with a vertical scratch down through the silver. This was our leak. We worked out that this was indeed being used as a funnel for warlocks to siphon planar energy, and not as a seal as the villagers had believed. This side was damaged, which meant that there was a mirror-image of the damage on the other side which would also need to be repaired, but this could only be done with the copy of the key in the Echoing. Wonderful.
Johannesz was the first to use the keystone to pass through (without knocking, I might add). We followed, one by one, piling up in a heap on the other side. My glamour had fallen completely, my skin bright red and my hair burning hellfire. It felt good to not have to worry about appearances anymore.
It was dark as pitch here, wherever we were. Someone cast dancing lights, illuminating the tunnel around us. The walls seemed to be transparent, and as we watched in horror, a great yawning mouth attacked from the other side. When it discovered that it was unable to break through and attack us, it drifted away back into the darkness.
The sound of our shuffling was distorted and unusual. As Jason straightened himself, his adamantium armour rang out. The sound sharply rose in pitch, ricocheting and amplifying off the tunnel walls, until it materialised itself in the form of a metallic spider that skittered away into the darkness.
We explored the tunnels for a while. The perspective kept shifting, nothing seemed to make sense here. Jason caught a rook-shaped granite humanoid with recurved knees that was blending into the tunnel walls. Johannesz took the opportunity to shout at him in celestial. The noise sounded dampened, but caused the creature to spasm. Its legs snapped forward, clothing grew around it and he began to speak.
He said that we made him ‘trainge’, some kind of bastard word of ‘train’ and ‘change’. He told us that the Fleshful Hunter had been gathering people, plucking them out of existence for his own purposes. He could tell us very little else, except that one of the Fordaye’s had left an object behind, a flayed-flesh sandwhich. A book, more likely.
We found the book, sure enough, embedded in the wall of an hourglass-shaped staircase. It was Wilarg Fordaye’s journal of dastardly warlock knowledge. A symbol of a star had been inked onto one of the pages. Without thinking of the consequences, I reached out and touched it, instantly transporting us all to a black stone reflection of the castle. A man was here, Alin Fordaye. He recognised Laithina immediately and seemed glad to see her. A tortured scream echoed out from beyond the room.
“We thought he died,” Alin explained. “We have a crypt for him and everything.” And with that, he was pulled in on himself and sucked through a tiny dot. We pressed on. The next room was immense, a grand ballroom except upside down. There was a vast, red, stained glass skylight on the floor. A creature of wrought iron bones and stained glass flesh was trying to blend in with its surroundings. It had barbs of steel and a chain for a tail. Its scream sounded like ringing glass.
“More scions for the fleshful hunter!” It cried out in abyssal. Jason attacked, knocking out one of the panes of glass. It appeared behind him and smashed over the back of his head.
“What became of the others?” I asked, mid-combat.
“Fuel the fires for the Fleshful Hunter!” We weren’t going to get very far with this conversation.
The battle continued for some time. We dodged and weaved around its slashing attacks. A shatter spell caused the ground beneath us to break and fall away into nothingness, but an invisible floor still remained. Jason took an opportunity to smite it, infecting its leg with tendrils of radiant white light. It screamed out, discarding its damaged leg and unfolding a new one. A frozen, burning, human heart appeared to be concealed within its glassy head. Laithina leapt towards it, and pierced it with her blade. The barbed devil rusted up within seconds and dissipated into the air.
An olf halfling man came down the stairs from the roof, Wilarg Fordaye.
“Who are you? You’re not my scions.” He said. I kept thinking he was talking about psions, far too excitable. We asked about Alin, and he said that it was a necessary loss. As was the barbed devil, which had been a thorn in his side for far too long. He explained that he was trying to fix the Echoing but that he was losing his hold. He wanted to ‘melt it down and reforge it’. We asked how.
“By collecting them, all of them, and creating a new cacophany.” That sounds like more work for us.
He was not aggressive, but said that he caould not allow us to fix the silver sigil or it would break the weave and ruin all his work. Johannesz reached out to pick him up and was instantly consumed by hellfire, almost to the point of death. Wilarg shook it off, it seemed like a reflex more than anything else. Laithina flashed her orb at him, but he resisted its pull.
“I know what you’re trying to do,” he warned. He pulled the keystone out of his pocket to assist his ramblings, and we locked eyes. While he was hypnotised, Johannesz stole the key from his outstretched hand. It was much like the one from our realm, but the colour was inverted. Njord attempted to channel some sort of entity into Wilarg’s mind while he was dazed, but it reverberated back through our telepathic link to me; a wide, pentsected eye. I know of no god like it, I shudder to think what it could be.
We return to our positions and I drop the gaze. He looked around himself as though he had lost something, wondering aloud what had happened. We stammer to cover up the ruse, but he does not fall for it. He reaches back, casting some sort of immense fireball. Njord summons a vast orb of water which catches and contains the flames, but they are too powerful and burst forth. We run while he is distracted by the chaos, fleeing back through the tunnels as they rumble and splinter.
We hastily use the keystone to score the damage back up on the sigil, and then all press through as quickly as we are able. We narrowly make it through the portal as the world behind us implodes. Just another quest successfully completed. Time to hit the bar again.