Matt Mann as Laurence Van Drake
Paul Vilbig as Shaden “Leech” Liixe
Derek Romano as Cade “Blindsight” Haarkoth
Greg Mann as Crodonvos
Michael Graziano as Daegys Sahii
Christine Scott as T’Saira Behntrilo
The sting of Regult’s saucier kept Cade unconscious for several hours. While Daegys dragged the young human behind him by his collar, I spoke once again with Regult, trying in vain to get the ancient hero to accept that he was a role model. The old man claimed that he did far too much wrong in his life to have the few bits he got right celebrated. I supposed that the same could be said of me, considering my past with the Horns of Agony…
The World Before
As Cade came back to consciousness, our pace quickened, and after half a day’s journey, we came upon an area of this ancient corridor that none of us could have expected to find. The area ahead of us closed in and down in a series of ribcage-like arches of diminishing size, and it seemed as if we walked out of the corridor and into… what could only be described as an ancient upside-down tallship. We felt the crunch of ancient paper under our feet, saw strands of frayed and rotted sails dangling down from the inverted ship’s hull. Upon looking back from whence we came, we found the way out shut behind us by the aft section of the roof-like upside-down ship.
- Laurence, Daegys, and I noticed a dim blue glow coming from the wheelhouse of the ship, and we climbed up to investigate. Within the wheelhouse, the mystery of this strange ship got even stranger. Everything on this ship was upside-down. There was a desk on the ceiling with ancient, decayed papers and other paraphernalia still littering its surface, as if the tug of gravity worked differently in within the wheelhouse. However, on the ceiling, which we saw as the floor, a hanging chandelier (hung upward in keeping consistent with the strange gravity of the room) was mounted next to a chair. The chair was placed on the ceiling, occupied by a fragile skeleton, and it appeared to be under the same gravity that Laurence, Daegys, and I were.
- Laurence got closer to what we all agreed looked like an elf’s skeleton, and upon examining it further, noticed that it was clutching an ornate, black metal box in its hands, and it had an ancient ivory-carved key tied with a strap of leather around its neck. Something about the way Laurence went after the key made me feel a sense of dread and unease. As soon as Laurence barely touched the key, the skeleton collapsed into a cloudy pile of dust, and the dull blue glow within the wheelhouse faded to black. Instinctually, I reached out and took the box from the cloud before it hit the ceiling-floor. Realizing there was nothing more to be found in this area, the three of us climbed back down to rejoin our allies.
- As we made our way down to the floor of the corridor, the only part of where we were that still made sense to any of us, we began to exchange ideas of what it was we were dealing with. Laurence placed the key strap around his neck and asked me to hand him the box. For a long moment, I hesitated. What if this was a trap? Why was Laurence so interested in taking the box from me? Perhaps the box was emitting some sort of a magical spell that was dominating Laurence’s mind. Then again, perhaps the same could be said of me. I finally relented, though I think Laurence could tell I was conflicted about giving him the box.
- As soon as I handed him the ornate black metal box, the entire area within the hull of the upside down ship went dark. More than losing our vision, each of us felt as if all of our senses were fading away. We could no longer feel anything, hear anything, or physically experience our surroundings. Worse, we could not react, or tell if anyone else was going through the same thing we were. I knew it. It was a trap.
- However, just as suddenly as our senses faded into nothingness, we all became aware once again, and our surroundings were far from anything we could have expected. We were outdoors in a busy port town. It was mid summer, wherever this was. Children playing in the streets passed right through us, as if we were not there. The signs of the buildings were in that same strange elven-like script we saw in the relief sculptures on the archways leading into this corridor from the Well of Slivered Souls. Laurence somehow was able to decipher the text on one of the signs: Welcome to Tarretton Gate.
- Cylia said that she believed she knew what this place was. The slivers in the Well of Slivered Souls showed Daegys a vision from the World Before. She believed those slivers were what remained of the living souls of this long-dead world. When the Legendary Wyrm awoke, it stood upon the ruins of this world they now witnessed. It was as if we were all being given a chance to taste the air of our fallen predecessors from over a million years in the past.
- Laurence noticed that black clouds were pouring in from the horizon, and tall, black-sailed ships (which seemed eerily reminiscent of the Shadow Empire’s Blacksails) coming toward the city as heavy rains began to fall and slap onto tightly cobbled streets. We felt the rain, heard the hurried footsteps of the citizens as they rushed to take shelter, smelled the sweet fragrance of the summer rain, the sting of the ocean’s salt air in our eyes. We then saw a human Paladin and a young boy moving toward the docks, walking precisely in our direction. As the Paladin passed by, and through, Laurence, the resemblance between the two men was uncanny.
- The Paladin stopped at the edge of the dock and held his hand out to the young boy, who dutifully handed the Paladin a familiar looking ornate black box. As the Paladin turned away from the crashing waves and approaching ships on the dark horizon, all of the sound began to fade from our ears. He looked directly at Laurence, which Daegys checked by shoving Laurence slightly to see if the Paladin’s gaze shifted to follow Laurence’s movements. Indeed, the Paladin from this vision of the World Before was looking at Laurence. He spoke, but we could not hear his words. We could only make out the motion of his lips, but in a foreign language, none of us could have known what the Paladin was trying to tell Laurence. However, the vision suddenly faded, and we found ourselves back in the corridor, the strange inverted ship gone, but the box and the key still remaining.
“Do you think I should open it,” Laurence asked before winking out of existence. The box fell from his disappearing hand and clattered to the floor of the chamber. S’zeves glanced around, then felt himself and cursed the fact that yet again, he was not returned to Materia with Laurence. I reminded him that we could not know where Laurence had gone off to, or how it was happening. We could only pray that wherever he was, he was not in any immediate danger…
Cult Of The Thunderbeast
We soon realized that we could not wait for Laurence to return. Wherever he was, he would want us to move on, as enough time had been wasted in getting to Glyph. The way forward now open to us, we continued onward and eventually found ourselves exiting the corridor and stepping out onto a huge landing at the shores of the River Styx. Towering thousands of feet overhead was a rounded cavernous roof, from which occasional bolts of lightning would crash down into the waters of the river and onto the moist, cracked stones of the landing at the river’s edge. It did not take us long to realize that we were being surrounded by enemy forces. Compared to what we had just been through, a physical challenge seemed to be a welcome change of pace.
- Our attackers were a cult of Yuan-ti brandishing golden weapons and armaments bearing a lightning-bolt symbol. Cylia wailed out into the ozone-thick air of this underground riverbed cavern, warning that the slivers were restless, and that a far greater danger than the Yuan-ti loomed ever closer. Unfortunately, before any of us could react, this great danger reared its ugly head, as a bolt of lightning tore down from the cavern ceiling, slammed Leech in the chest, and sent him hurtling through the air and into the center of the raging river.
- As we did battle with the Yuan-ti, bolts of lightning continued to crash down from above. Crossel wanted me to dive into the river after Leech, but I knew that would be suicide at the rate the lightning was crashing into the raging river waves. He and Adon were both lightning monks in their former bodies, but the Crodonvos form we have taken was not so well equipped to withstand such electifying forces. Crossel was furious, once again feeling the crushing limitations of his current bodiless condition. The inability to act on instinct had a terrible toll on Crossel’s morale, and there was only so much support Adon or I could give to assuage his diminishing mental condition. I feared that soon, Crossel would be so unstable that I could not hope to keep his sanity in check.
- Suddenly, lurching from the river waters, a tremendous serpent-like form created from what appeared to be living strands of indigo lightning rose up and began to lash out at us. The way that Cylia was reacting to this creature, I could tell that it was an amalgamation of thousands of soul slivers. The Yuan’ti were chanting something in their language, Mual-Tar, but some of them seemed to be calling it by the Infernal term, “the Thunderbeast.” As we killed the Yuan-ti, the great sliver beast launched lightning bolts carrying more slivers into their corpses. The lightning slivers inhabited the Yuan-ti corpses and reanimated them. We were hopelessly outmatched and outnumbered, here, and what was worse, it seemed that Leech was being suspended amid the center of the great sliver beast’s body, his life force being drained to feed it’s terrifying assault.
- Daegys felt his sister’s sliver writhe upon his wrist, and he knew that she was trying to tell him something. Cylia’s eyes were transfixed on the corridor we came through from the Well of the Slivered Souls. Suddenly, the dim light from the corridor faded with the presence of an overwhelming flood of crystal-clear water filling the corridor and pushing out into the river, washing away the remainder of the Yuan-ti. The flood bent and wove between us, and as we saw into the perfectly clear waters, we could see thousands upon thousands of tiny, gleaming soul slivers coursing through and toward the Thunderbeast.
- As the slivers from the Well of Slivered Souls came to our aid, Leech was ejected from the body of the Thunderbeast, thrown onto the hard stone of the landing with tremendous force. It seemed that both the Thunderbeast and our saviors from the Well were a perfect, deadly match. In the end, all of the Yuan-ti were destroyed, the Thunderbeast along with them, and every sliver from the Well of Slivered Souls was destroyed in the effort to save us. As Adon began to administer life-saving medical aid to Leech, I noticed that Daegys was comforting Cylia, who was taking the destruction of the slivers very deeply and sorrowfully.
- Leech came around just as a skiff seemingly carved from solid bone appeared from upstream, seemingly out of nowhere. We all got to our feet and made our way silently toward the skiff, which lowered a boarding ramp for us as we neared it. Just before we made our way aboard, Cylia glanced around and held out her arms, and a half-dozen surviving slivers came out of hiding toward her, shivering and afraid. She began to search in earnest for raw materials to create physical shells for the slivers to inhabit. Each of us contributed something of our own to the cause. I gave her my sash, Daegys some rope, Leech some darksteel chain. She created new rough forms for the slivers, which seemed delighted to have them as they frolicked innocently on the cracked stones of the landing.
- However, we did not have time to spare. Cylia called the slivers to her and boarded the skiff, and one by one, we followed behind her. As the skiff left the landing, we all collapsed in exhaustion, and our thoughts drifted to different places and different times.
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Chapter 1: The Dreamers in… Hellbound
Chapter 2: The Dreamers in… Life In The Cauldron
Chapter 3: The Dreamers in… The Waking Nightmare
Chapter 4: The Dreamers
Chapter 5: The Dreamers in… Escaping The Cauldron
Chapter 6: The Dreamers in… Wrath of the Beholder
Chapter 7: The Dreamers in… Hounds of Hell
Chapter 8: The Dreamers in… Hideous Laughter
Chapter 9: The Dreamers in… The Tomb of Caenus Graymane
Chapter 10: The Dreamers in… Allure of the Wispwaters
Chapter 11: The Dreamers in… Goodbye, Impy
Chapter 12: The Dreamers in… Sole Survivor
Chapter 13: The Dreamers in… The Iron Fist
Chapter 14: The Dreamers in… Battle at the Ancient Wall
Chapter 15: The Dreamers in… The Long, Hard Road
Chapter 16: The Dreamers in… Hunted
Chapter 17: The Dreamers in… On Fields of Ancient Dead
Chapter 18: The Dreamers in… The Woods of Woe
Chapter 19: The Dreamers in… Divine Intervention
Chapter 20: The Dreamers in… The Standing Stones
Chapter 21: The Dreamers in… Cherished Memories
Chapter 22: The Dreamers in… Hero of the Night Sword
Chapter 23: The Dreamers in… Well of Slivered Souls
Chapter 24: The Dreamers in… Dreams of a Lost World
Chapter 25: The Dreamers in… What Might Have Been (Part 1 of 2)
Chapter 26: The Dreamers in… What Might Have Been (Part 2 of 2)
Chapter 27: The Dreamers in… Shimekiri Sankatte (Part 1 of 2)
Chapter 28: The Dreamers in… Shimekiri Sankatte (Part 2 of 2)
Chapter 29: The Dreamers in… A Long Black Day
Chapter 30: The Dreamers in… No Justice In Hell
Chapter 31: The Dreamers in… The Soothsayer’s Tower