Spindrift on the Astral Sea

A Haunted House

From Adara’s Journal:

After Belmorn rescued us from the falling tower in the Flesh Quarter, he was eager to learn what we had discovered, although he was not pleased when he heard what we had to say. We told him of the strange Genasi, who called Aquelle sister and took Gwenny’s blood by stabbing her through with a dagger. We told him of the deals we had to make with the strange Eladrin woman, Mother Talvi. I gave her a memory from 2000 years ago in exchange for a prophecy, the words of which still echo in my mind:

The abandoned one hunts, the shadows fear the darkness.
The new children open their eyes, the new children are bound and gagged.
The lost ones seek the new way, the eyes of fire pull them into the abyss.
The fulcrum opens the way, the fulcrum closes hope.
The old masters return, ready to flay, ready to burn.
The unseen hands move the pieces, none see the hand that moves all.
The gate beyond the gates opens, the chains are broken.
Blood to bind, blood to open, blood to call.

We also swore to save her daughter within a year. While I am sworn to preserve innocent life, to save those in need and to avenge those I cannot save, I cannot help but feel uneasy about this promise, as if we have agreed to more than we know. Melian seemed displeased with the deal, and she knows her people best of all.

Belmorn was pleased to see that we had rescued Gwenny, but was troubled that we had not found the book that had been stolen from Gellentara’s estate at the same time. He had learnt that it belonged to a wizard who sought to open the outer gates to the Far Realm, and let insanity into our world.

In turn, he had news for us. He told us that a mob had risen up against the Cult of Vekna in Gloomwrought, and had driven them to ground. Thinking back to our time in that city, it still pains me that we were not able to rescue more of the innocents from the Cult’s lair, that we left that angry boy – the son of Karthenix, who burned to avenge his father’s death – to find his own way to safety. At the time, everything seemed to happen so fast: the portal opening, Odo and Flynn stepping through it, the dragon rising from its pile of treasure. If it had not been for Pieter’s brave and foolhardy act, who knows what might have happened to us? I remember him flying to the roof of the cavern and punching the icicle that hung above the dragon, only to be caught between it and the beast. We all thought him dead, but Melian moved quickly to save him, shifting herself to him and standing on the dragon’s back as easily as if it had been solid earth. The ensuing battle was difficult, but we defeated the dragon at last, and Flynn ate its heart. These wildens are a strange, wild race, and I am not yet certain what to make of them.

Still, we may not have made the same choices if we had to do it again. Thus, we strive to perfection by learning from our errors. Thus, like gold, we are purified through the flames.

From Adara’s journal:

When we arrived at Sigil, Lord Gellentara came to meet us with his troop. I escorted Gwenny to meet him, afraid that she might be taken from us again. She leapt into her father’s arms, and he seemed pleased to see her, in his own reserved, cold way. He and Belmorn left for the Eladrin’s manor, having important matters to discuss.

With some free time on our hands, Pieter and I decided to visit the shrine to Dol Arrah and the Silver Flame in the Eberron City. We both felt in need of some spiritual comfort after the events of the past few days. As we walked through the city, we could not help but notice that its streets were more crowded than usual. Many of the people were wearing ragged clothes, and had a lean and hungry look about them. At a fountain, a man was raving about how the failure of regular portals was a sign of the end times, about how we should all repent of our sins and prepare for the coming of the gods.

Later, Aquelle told us that the people on the streets were staring at her, as if afraid. From a hot pie vendor, she learnt that some Genasi had recently trouble in the city; they had tried to assault a stock room in the higher ward. The nobles of Sigil sent a message to their representatives, but got no response.

On our return, Belmorn called us to his cabin, where Odo was already relaxing in his chair and swirling a glass of his finest brandy in one pale hand. Belmorn told us that he had made a further deal with Lord Gellentara. According to the Eladrin, a manor had manifested itself within the city. From the outside, it seemed to be a small house with modest grounds, but anyone who entered through its gates found themselves in an expansive estate with a large manor situated in them. Stranger still, it seemed to leeching all the life and colour from the areas around it, so that anyone who approached it grew melancholy, and the surrounding streets were bleached to grey. Rumour had it that it belonged to a wizard who was experimenting with contact with the outer realm, and that it still contained arcane items that belonged to him. Belmorn had promised that we would investigate it, and retrieve any items of that nature. He also told us that some apprentices had gone into it and had never returned, so we should be on the lookout for them too.

Indentured slaves do not have the option of refusal, and so we headed to the manor without delay. Black iron gates stood in front of it, the metal twisted and moulded to resemble demons. To my knowledge, they did not come from any particular pantheon, but the design did seem to place a great deal of emphasis on a severed hand.

As we passed through the gate, the landscape changed around us. One moment, we were stepping into a neat, small patch of lawn. The next, we were standing in the middle of a huge, overgrown estate. The gardens had returned back to the wild, and miles of wilderness stood between us and the house ahead. A cold wind bit at us, and thin, grey clouds scudded overhead in a pale sky, quite unlike the empty expanse of light above Sigil. A trail led forward, but, as we walked along it, it disappeared and left us stranded in the middle of the tangled woods. Together, we were able to force our way through it, and found ourselves in front of the house itself. Its proportions seemed oddly distorted, as if it were overly tall. The upper stories and the roof had fallen in on themselves, leaving the top jagged and ugly.

When we drew nearer, we smelt the undead before we saw them, that pervasive stench of death that burns your nostrils and clings to your clothes. The fight that ensued was terrible. More than once, I thought that it was my time to return to the Great Wheel and begin anew the search for transcendence. Eventually, though, we managed to defeat them, and gain access to the manor.

Inside, there were more undead, and the fighting was equally bitter and hard. Once again, I almost passed from this body, and Odo almost joined me. I wonder what happens to changeling souls once their bodies perish. . . .



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