Matt Mann as Laurence Van Drake
Paul Vilbig as Shaden “Leech” Liixe
Derek Romano as Cade “Blindsight” Haarkoth
Greg Mann as Crodonvos & Morik Martok
Michael Graziano as Daegys Sahii & Varen Gilles
Christine Scott as T’Saira Behntrilo & Aelanah Beastmourn
As we settled onto the deck of the Boatman’s Skiff on the River Styx, I had a moment to rest and meditate. Crossel was restless with concern for Laurence, who disappeared from our midst earlier that day. I would never know with certainty what happened to Laurence Van Drake during this absence, but whatever it was, the Laurence that returned to us was a far different man than left us…
Laurence Van Drake – What Might Have Been
For the third time since I came to Infernia, I have somehow found myself transported to a faraway place, removed from my quest by forces unknown. The last time this happened, I switched places with S’zeves V’destrii, the Emerald Knight of Imperia. When I returned from that brief foray into Materia, for whatever reason, S’zeves did not return (much to the chagrin of my party, who can little tolerate his thrill-seeking ego). This time, I was holding an ornate black metal box in my hands, and I was asking whether or not I should open the box. This time, the transition was less jarring. I guess I’m getting used to being transplanted from one realm to the next. In this place, I was still holding a box, but instead of the metal box from the World Before, it was a wrapped gift in a dimly-lit cabin on an airship, and Roena Martok was there with me…
This Tragic World Where I Found Happiness
As I asked, “Do you think I should open it?” I heard Roena Martok’s voice, kind, yet assertive, saying, “Ren, don’t you think we should let the birthday girl open one of her own gifts?” As I looked up from the gift, I saw Roena smiling toward me, warmly, and I realized that I somehow had transferred once again to Materia. However, the fact that she was not surprised to see me, instead of this ‘Ren’ she was referring to, led me to believe that I was not in the Materia I once knew.
- I glanced in a mirror to confirm that I was “me,” thinking perhaps that Roena was still seeing her husband. I still had doubts. Suddenly, a two-year-old girl hopped into my lap and began to tear open the gift box, revealing a hand-carved mirror with the name “Viese Van Drake” etched onto the rim!
- Roena knew there was something amiss, but before I could address my concerns, there was a knock at the door. It was a member of this airship’s crew, and he was addressing me as Captain Van Drake. Apparently, someone called “The Commodore” was hailing this ship, the Vengeance, via commcryst. Roena told me (calling me ‘Ren’ once more) to go ahead, and to be careful, as I looked pale to her. I felt pale, too, honestly. Where was I?
- As I was leaving, I felt a tug at my cape. It was the girl… my daughter, Viese. I looked into her eyes and I suddenly realized something truly staggering. The infant I appeared in the room with on the last occasion I found myself in Materia mysteriously… this was her, and she was mine! Somehow, I knew, from the bottom of my heart and in every fiber of my being, that I was the father of Roena Martok’s child!
- Stunned though I was at this revelation, nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead. I stepped out of the cabin, my cabin, the captain’s cabin on my airship, the Vengeance. I scanned across the deck with my eyes, searching for a familiar face, and eventually, I found one. It was Fujin Jagan, the Yuan’ti Ninja and a former member of the crew of the Peregrine under Captain Tarrik Martok, Roena’s father (and apparently, my father-in-law?)
- Fujin turned out to be my first officer, and like Roena, he noticed the look of confusion on my face. He told me that the Commodore was on commcryst for me, and he guided me toward the briefing room on deck six midships. This was a truly enormous ship, and it flew an unfamiliar flag: A red circle with a jagged slash crossing it out. I realized before leaving the main deck that this was a Blacksail, as in the days of the Liberation War. I could not reveal to Fujin that I was not his captain, as I knew he could not understand. I thought perhaps the Commodore, whoever he was, would hear his plight.
- The Commodore turned out to be none other than Tarrik Martok, but to my utter surprise, it seemed like he contacted me because he somehow “felt” my arrival! He called me “Captain” and insisted on my use of his title, rather than calling him “Tarrik.” In fact, he seemed unusually short, distant, and obsessed with protocol, which was much unlike the Tarrik Martok I know. He told me to explain the circumstances by which I came to be on the Vengeance, and I did so, sparing no detail.
- The Commodore said that he was diverting the flagship to meet with me over the Yonsal Wastes in three hours. He wanted to accompany me on board the Vengeance as it continued its mission to Dusk within the Shadow Empire. I was dumbfounded. The Shadow Empire? He said that he would explain everything when we met in person, but that I was to tell nobody of his intention to come aboard the ship. It is a routine order transfer, as far as the crew is concerned. Tarrik believed a Shadow Empire mole was feeding intel to the Shadow Knight.
- THE SHADOW KNIGHT?!
After giving the orders to have the ship’s course altered to make a rendezvous with the flagship over the Yonsal Wastes, I managed to get my first officer, Fujin Jagan, to reminisce about when the world started going crazy a few years back. I ascertained the point at which this world started to take a different path than my own Wyrmshadow. It seemed like the catalyst for these differences was none other than the new Shadow Knight, a young man by the name of S’zeves V’destrii…
- Apparently, the S’zeves of this world is a far different person than the one I have known since my late teens. Firstly, the S’zeves of this alternate Wyrmshadow was far younger, about nine years my junior. Secondly, he was not human, but a member of a race known as the Shadar’Kai. Without letting on that I had never heard of such a race of being before, I encouraged Fujin to give me a rough description. What he described bore nothing in common with the S’zeves I know.
- Unlike in my own Wyrmshadow, this world was conquered by the newly formed Shadow Empire As it had only been a little less than two years since the divergence between how my history played out and how this alternate history occurred, I was really confused at how things could have gone so bad so fast. According to Fujin, we lost the final battle against the forces of Ar’Kulat Fa’Sado and the Dark Lady thanks largely to the betrayal of S’zeves and his adoption of the title of Shadow Knight.
- In a sudden, global sneak attack, legions of Shadar’Kai (who had previously never been seen before, even in this world) appeared from every shadow in every city across the globe and began a stunning campaign of death and destruction that brought every government in Wyrmshadow to their knees. I asked Fujin why the gods did not help defend Wyrmshadow, and he asked if I needed to lay down for a while, because the answer was apparently supposed to be obvious to me. The gods were killed. The Shadow Knight saw to it.
- I made the rendezvous with far more questions than I had answers. As much as I wanted to know about this world and how it went so fast and so far into the shadows, I was more concerned with getting back to my mission, to my party, to my friends in Infernia. The Commodore saw the conflict in me as he boarded the ship. He was accompanied by three others: his nephew Morik, Edriq Thalonia, and Aelanah Beastfriend. However, much as the rest of this cursed, twisted version of Wyrmshadow, Tarrik and the rest of my ship’s new passengers were vastly different from the people I once knew.
- Morik and his uncle seemed very cold and distant. In fact, Morik seemed almost sadistic, and he was quite flippant and anti-authoritarian. Morik’s lover, Kaerysa, died in the final battle of Fa’Sado’s War (though in my Wyrmshadow, she was not present at the battle, and she and Morik are expecting their first child). Later, during the sudden sneak attack of the Shadar’Kai (also known as ‘The Wave’) Melchior Martok, Morik’s father and Tarrik’s brother, was killed in action in the fires that destroyed Quae Elfien. It was no wonder, then, that Morik’s world view made him brutally bitter and resentful of authority.
- Aelanah was now going by the moniker Beastmourn because when her father, the God of Nature, was killed, all of the animals on Wyrmshadow went bloodmad and began tearing one another apart. Also, the plants died and the oceans were rendered lifeless, causing whatever animals that survived to starve to death, and leaving her powerless to help. Losing Sarah and Kaerysa sent Aelanah into a deep depression, and with the collapse of the Current and the loss of her powers, she was left to wander a dying world. If not for the Commodore, she would likely have killed herself by now. By contrast, in my Wyrmshadow, Aelanah recently married Saleos and became queen of Infernia.
- This world’s Edriq Thalonia still calls himself by the name his father gave him, Varen Gilles. His mother, Eilora, was killed by the Black Lion during the final battle of Fa’Sado’s War. Varen had a choice between helping Tarrik to save Lucinda from Fa’Sado or chasing after the Black Lion to avenge his mother. He chose the latter, and as a result, Lucinda died, and Tarrik lost all respect and admiration for Varen. After he killed the Black Lion, the truth of the situation dawned on him. No matter how many times he killed the Black Lion, he could never have the justice he sought. Unlike the Edriq I know, this Varen Gilles became a sullen, stoic man.
- Tarrik’s tale was perhaps the most breathtaking of them all. During the final battle of Fa’Sado’s War, Ar’Kulat Fa’Sado was siphoning the life force of Lucinda Vale-Martok, Tarrik’s ex-wife. As Tarrik and his allies burst into Fa’Sado’s lair, they saw that S’zeves had joined the enemy and thus had himself become the enemy. Foreseeing the potential danger S’zeves posed, Veil, the God of Death, ordered Borgamat to reap the newly rechristened Shadow Knight. However, the Dark Lady slew Borgamat, saving S’zeves and earning his loyalty. S’zeves then gazed skyward, saw through the Gates and into Arcadia itself, and leapt into the realm of the gods. Moments later, he returned, having slain every living being in Arcadia, including the gods themselves. Among the gods, of course, was Draconius, the God of Justice, who was formerly known as Sir Drogyn Martok, Tarrik’s father…
“That’s not how it happened where you come from, I suspect,” The Commodore said. I noted that it was not a question so much as a statement, but I nodded nonetheless. Tarrik and I had adjourned into my office adjacent to the ship’s helm.
“None of this was meant to happen, Ta… Commodore,” I said. “I think S’zeves must be the key to this, because of all the things that I’ve heard that are different about this world, he is the only one that seems to have been different all along.”
“Yes,” The Commodore agreed. “Captain, you’re right. The Shadow Knight is at fault for the destruction of our Wyrmshadow, and believe me, I know this is not the way things were meant to be.”
To Find A Way Home
As the Commodore continued to explain the events that led to this world’s current state of discord, I realized that in a strange and twisted way, I might have been the only man whose life turned out better than it did in my own Wyrmshadow. I began to remember both the events of my own world and those of the world I had been transposed into. I began to feel a deep and potent love for Roena, and for Viese. I realized that if I did manage to find a way home, I would leave the only true happiness I had experienced (in either of my lives) behind…
- As the gods realized they could not defend themselves against the wrath of the Shadow Knight, they opted to transfer their power into new hosts. However, S’zeves remembered that the gods had done so previously in order to prevent the previous Shadow Knight from succeeding in ridding the world of all divinity. Ryss, the God of Nature and the Balance, sacrificed his own life to grant Veil, God of Death, and Draconius, God of Justice and opportunity to find mortal hosts for their divine gifts and transfer all of their powers, memories, and responsibilities into new beings.
- Unfortunately, the being chosen by Veil was his own daughter, Lucinda, and just as Fa’Sado had hoped. As Fa’Sado was siphoning the soul of Lucinda into himself, it was instead he who gained the powers of the God of Death. For Fa’Sado, this event brought him full-circle, as he was once known as the Valefiend, an Infernal revenant created from the original body and mind of Silas Vale (from before his reincarnation into the new body that would ascend as the God of Death, Veil). Fa’Sado finally got what he felt he deserved all along, the power and influence of the “false” Silas Vale.
- Draconius, the God of Justice, chose his son Melchior, Tarrik’s twin brother, to become the new God of Justice. However, Melchior’s tenure did not last long, as he was one of the earliest victims of The Wave. Melchior transferred the divinity of the God of Justice into Tarrik Martok, but rather than share his power with the faithful, the Commodore refuses to follow the path of Justice. According to Tarrik, there can be no justice in this world… only vengeance.
- I learned that my mission to Dusk was to collect Maerlyn Zau’Ombra, who sometime after the fall of Fa’Sado began to see prophetic visions, and whose gifts may prove useful in determining how Laurence came to be in this world. In my Wyrmshadow, Maerlyn went insane before the final battle of Fa’Sado’s War, and she attacked S’zeves, stabbing him in the chest and saying that he “changed everything.” None of us knew what she meant at the time, but now it was starting to sink in…
- Maerlyn Zau’Ombra was experiencing both realities at the same time!
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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