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
Finding Maerlyn became my highest priority upon realizing that she may have been the key to getting home to Infernia. The cruel truth was that I no longer considered myself Materian, so devoted I have become to finding a way to save the good people of Infernia from the overwhelming evils that oppress their every day. Now, I was in a hell of a different kind, one made of the world I once knew, and little did I know it, but this was only the beginning…
Shadows In The Heart
As the ship approached Dusk, the Commodore began to display some of the divine power that he had been hoarding since it fell upon him. He rendered the Vengeance invisible and greatly increased the ships speed and maneuverability. Looking at the menagerie of Shadow Empire forces lying in our path, we could use all the help we could get. Unfortunately, Tarrik was right about there being a mole among our forces. He could not have realized that mole was none other than his own nephew, Morik Martok…
- Morik was notably absent during the strategy meeting, which I would have noticed if I wasn’t so preoccupied with getting Maerlyn out of Dusk. I suppose that was why Morik chose this moment to execute his plan, on behalf of his master, Ar’Kulat Fa’Sado. Morik worked his way back to my quarters, excused the guards stationed at the door, and went in under the guise of visiting his cousin and niece. As Roena greeted him with a warm embrace, he returned her gesture with one of his own: a tremendous blast of magical energy that threw her across the room. He cast a sleep spell on Viese, my daughter, and took the child into his arms.
- On the main deck midships, Tarrik raised his arms and held his palms skyward, causing piercing rays of holy light to tear through the dark cloud canopy overhead. By the hundreds, the Shadow Empire’s defense forces fell to his divine wrath. Our presence was now known, but their defenses were decimated, so it was a worthy display of divine rage. I tried my best to lead the men and women of my ship’s crew, but as the battle continued, and as my memories from both realities continued to blend together, both I and my senior staff began to realize that I did not belong here.
- A young boy, a deckhand not more than 12 years old, came up to me, shaking in fear of the chaos surrounding the Vengeance. I told him to get below decks to the WaC room and deliver a message to the caretakers, saying that we would weather this storm and emerge victorious and free once more. He nodded, grateful that I was allowing him to find a bit of safety in the Women and Children room. Fujin remarked that I was too soft on him, and that it wasn’t like me to fill the crew’s heads with false hope. I defended my actions, though. As bad as things were here, and they were very, very bad, I have been to hell and back. I know the folly of losing faith and embracing hopelessness. These people need to believe their sacrifices will amount to something, even if they won’t.
- Lurking on the ground, a series of Shadar’Kai mystics began conjuring portals leading onto the bridge of the ship. Dozens of Shadow Empire soldiers poured through the portals and onto the bridge. As I engaged a Shadar’Kai for the first time, yet for the umpteenth time, I remembered both the S’zeves of this Wyrmshadow and the S’zeves of my own. If I got home, it would be to a world where S’zeves V’destrii (the Shadow Knight in this world) would be marrying Roena (my wife in this world) and raising her daughter, Viese, as his own (my daughter in both worlds). My thoughts were prescient; as I was thinking of Roena, I could have sworn I heard her let out a chilling scream.
- Tarrik looked at me, his face betraying his deep concern. Roena! Viese! I ran ran back toward my quarters, but I was beset by a few small groups of Shadar’Kai. From a cloud of black smoke, Fujin leapt into the fray, taking out a pair of assassins eking closer to my flank. He told mee to continue onward and check on my wife and daughter. At least Fujin’s heroism was consistent between these worlds. Though I only briefly met the Yuan-ti before stepping through the Kouten Hellryft into Infernia, I had this world’s memories of fighting this hopeless war with Fujin Jagan at my side, ever loyal. If ever I was to get back to Materia, after matters in Infernia are settled, I would like to buy him a drink.
- Morik held the unconscious Viese in his arms as he stood at the edge of a hallway corner, waiting for some of my crew to pass him by. The coast clear, he stepped around the corner only to be met by the young deckhand I sent below decks earlier. Morik swallowed deep and prepared to murder the child, when suddenly a chain of black runes encircled the boy, the links of the rune-chain growing denser until, in a wave of dark energy, an ornate black metal armor covered every inch of the deckhand’s body.
- Tarrik looked to Varen, who suddenly conjured his mystical White Lion armor, brandished his kusarigama and began to work his way aft. Tarrik called after Varen, telling him to make it quick. They had far more important tasks to worry about than the Black Lion. Varen sneered at Tarrik and closed the mouth of the lion’s head helmet around his head, pushing his way past sailor and Shadar’Kai alike, heading in the direction where he sensed the Black Lion. Meanwhile, Tarrik turned to speak with Aelanah only to find her missing as well…
- I arrived at my chambers to find a sailor assisting Roena to her feet. She was faint and dizzy, the left side of her face cut and charred. When I asked what happened, she cried out, weakly, that Morik did this. He took little Viese and knocked her out. I was shocked, but I swallowed it down. I ordered the sailor to watch the door, and if Fujin came, to tell him Morik was “capture on sight.” There was no way I was letting him get away with my daughter.
- The Black Lion gestured for Morik to follow him to the aft of the ship. Morik nodded in assent, and he allowed the Black Lion to clear a path for him. Along the way, the Black Lion killed several sailors and set a distraction fire in the WaC room. Just then, I descended a set of stairs and saw the Black Lion and Morik holding my daughter. I called out to Morik, who looked at the Black Lion, then turned to run toward the aft promenade, leaving the Black Lion to deal with me. It was the first time I had ever seen the Black Lion, but I knew the story well enough, and I could tell that it had taken the body of the kid I sent below decks earlier during the battle. I did not relish the idea of killing a kid, especially when he had no control over the crimes his body was being forced to commit.
Meanwhile, In A Different Kind Of Hell
While I hurried to rescue a child I only just found out was my own flesh and blood, the rest of my party was continuing dealing with vivid visions from our pasts. For some, these visions acted like windows into a past robbed of them by the Acquisition Processing in the Cauldron. For others, like Crossel, the visions forced them to relive moments of their pasts they would much rather leave behind them…
Crodonvos – A Different Kind Of Hell
- My first visions were of my time in the monastery, learning from the monks that healed my wounds and saved me from a life of wretched depravity. However, these relatively pleasant visions were fleeting, as I was suddenly surrounded by my old allies, the Horns of Agony, and I was relishing the thrill of the hunt and the kill. I was, in every way, a monster worthy of fear and hatred. Had someone killed me during those days, justice would have been served, and many lives might have been saved. Instead, much later, the monks saved me.
- Leech was at first transfixed on his youth in the shadows of the Obsidian Portal, a time he had long forgotten since his induction into the Iron Fist mercenary guild. Now, however, he was haunted by his memories of the battle on the Bonedust Road where his entire platoon of Iron Fist mercenaries were cut down by the Foulspawn Seer and his Orbthrall menagerie. Tagar was one of the Orbthrall at the time, and Leech now remembered with brutal accuracy how it felt to have his skull caved in by the troll he now knew as a great friend.
- Cade’s memories of his tragic childhood in Glyph gave way to more recent memories of his life in the Cauldron. In his vision, he was in his sentinel tower, charged with killing any prisoners who tried to escape the slave camp. He noticed a conflagration at the edge of the portal towers and shifted his weight to bring his bow to bear on one of those attempting to escape through the portal. He hesitated as he recognized the one leading the group of escaping slaves. It was Lone, an Incubus who once told Cade that he had a great destiny ahead of him. Like Cade, Lone was a Dreamer. But Cade had a job to do… and so he took the shot that killed Lone.
- Daegys’s memories of his distant past were a gift of sorts, as like T’saira and Cade, these moments of his life were obscured by the processing he received as a slave in the Cauldron. He remembered vividly his village of Skul on the shores of the Azure Lake. He remembered spear fishing with his little sister, the child whose slivered soul now curled tightly around his right forearm. He remembered the day the Legion came, the fires, the blood. He remembered the smoke and the acrid smell of his dead people’s burning flesh, the feel of their bodies rendered as ash against his skin. He remembered the Kao, Regult, who hid him away from sight. It was the first time He realized that he knew Regult as a child.
- However, Regult’s role in saving his life as a child faded, and another vision crept into his mind. In his vision, he vividly recalled when he was back in the Cauldron and he saw a Kao attempting to save the life of a young Krim girl who was being accosted by a couple of Aer thugs. Unable to look away this time, Daegys was forced to watch in total horror as the Krim girl whose life and dignity the Kao was trying to defend turned on her would-be hero and helped her attackers slay the Kao. Then, with no one to help her, the Aer went to work on the Krim, violently using, killing, and stripping the girl of anything of value. All along, Daegys could not interject, but just stood there and watched this tragic injustice unfold. This was the greatest regret of his life.
- T’Saira felt a tremendous wave of emotions as she was remembering her brother and parents for the first time since her memories were stolen in the Cauldron. Now, however, she began to remember her life in the Cauldron itself, as a spelunker. She remembered using metal tools to dig through the crumbling remnants of dead civilizations, victims of the Legion of Asmous. She harvested useful materiel for use in the creation of new armaments for the Legion, all the while realizing that she was part of a chain of blood and blades, and that somewhere out there, another life awaited her…
Frayed and Furious
Just as we were preoccupied with an overwhelming barrage of personal and emotional memories, Laurence was attempting to prevent Morik Martok, an agent of Ar’Kulat Fa’Sado, from absconding with Viese Van Drake, Laurence’s daughter. However, in order to save Viese, Laurence first had to contend with the Black Lion, a powerful mystic knight that manifests randomly in a different body of its choosing. In this case, the Black Lion chose the body of a 12-year-old boy that Laurence had no interest in killing…
Laurence – Frayed and Furious
Just as I was about to match steel with the Black Lion, I was spared the effort by Varen Gilles, who intercepted the Black Lion and bought me the opportunity to move on after Morik. However, as Morik reached the aft promenade, he was confronted by Aelanah Beastmourn. She fired a pair of arrows, one in his path, and one where she knew he would be when he dodged the first arrow. The second arrow sliced across his left cheek, but he answered with a volley of Magic Missiles of his own. She leapt toward him with stunning celerity, firing five arrows to intercept his missiles, then kicking him in the chest, causing his back to slam perilously against the aft railing.
- Suddenly, a colossal dire raven appeared in a cloud of black magical feathers, letting out a piercing shriek and flapping its wings hard enough to knock Aelanah over the rail of the ship. I saw her falling, but I could not reach her in time to save her. However, as Morik levitated off the deck and onto the back of the colossal dire raven, Vicious, I found myself awash in a power great and terrible. From my back sprouted wings of hellfire, and from my eyes poured forth a searing Infernal flame. From his location midships, Tarrik looked aft toward my direction and recognized the power I was displaying, though he was unable to deal with it at the moment.
- I chased after Vicious, not fighting or wondering about this power, but merely accepting that it was mine to wield. I intercepted the great, evil raven and demanded that Morik return my daughter. However, just as it had appeared from a cloud of mystical black feathers, it vanished, taking Morik, and my daughter, to the lair of Ar’Kulat Fa’Sado far the the southwest. Unable to stop their escape, I thought to look for Aelanah, but once I saw her mangled body on the ground thousands of feet below, I knew it was a waste of effort, and that finding Maerlyn was now even more important. Little did I know it at the time, but as Aelanah’s life faded, an angelic presence with shom she had been secretly infused took possession of her crumpled form and used its divine energies, fleeting though they were, to restore her to health.
- I returned to the deck of the Vengeance in time to lead the final charge to victory against the Shadow Empire forces defending Dusk. Varen returned to the deck, having succeeded in destroying the Black Lion. Varen said that the Black Lion did the damage it sought to do, so there was no victory in killing him anyway. I tried to tell him that sometimes the motions we go through have to be good enough to sate our appetites until we can savor true victory, and it seemed like I might have gotten through to some of my crew, Fujin included. However, Varen was lost in his stoicism and depression. He saw the grim futility of existence on a daily basis, and the weight of this realization had crushed him.
- We collected Maerlyn Zau’Ombra, and I had the opportunity to speak with her. Everything she said made so much sense now that I knew she was not insane, but was merely a victim of a miracle. She was simultaneously experiencing both this world and my own, true Wyrmshadow. As she confirmed Tarrik’s suspicions, that this world truly was not meant to be, he became frayed and furious, suddenly no longer a calm, assertive voice of authority. He poured forth his divine energies to grant the Vengeance unheard of speed and maneuverability, bearing southwest to the lair of Fa’Sado, where he knew we would find Morik and my daughter. Along the way, Tarrik told me something that under normal circumstances would chill me to the bone, but now, having seen all that I have seen, done all that I have done… it was as if he was telling me what I already knew.
“Laurence, you are a Hellgod. I don’t know how it’s possible, because as far as I know (and I know a great deal now that I have the memories of the Ancient Elder Gods) there is no such thing as divinity in Infernia. But I suppose it would be hypocritical for a god to deny the possibility of a miracle.”
While I was coming to terms with some staggering truths about myself, Morik was ascending the steps of the Lair of Fa’Sado, my daughter in tow. He was greeted by the Dark Lady, Cordelia Nes’Nuvel, who beamed upon the sight of her great-granddaughter, Viese. Fa’Sado (calling himself Vale now), joined her in congratulating Morik on a job well done. “Vale” seemed troubled, however, over a previous stipulation of Morik’s: he would turn Viese Van Drake over only to the Shadow Knight, and only in-person…
- As the Vengeance arrived within striking distance, we were greeted by the full force of our armada, flying the flag I had come to learn represented The Chaos. Tarrik recognized that The Order could not function as a tool of insurrection against the Shadow Empire, just as justice was impossible in a world that cried out for pure vengeance. As the Chaos Armada descended upon the great City of the Dead (Which Tarrik sarcastically presumed Fa’Sado would call this wretched place), a smaller group of us teleported down to the ground, leaving the ship under the command of First Officer Fujin. Both Tarrik and I felt it at the same time: the presence of the Shadow Knight, here, with Fa’Sado. Tarrik smiled, as it suddenly became possible to have all Wyrmshadow’s vengeance served up in one place.
- The enemy resistance was strong, but our resolve was far stronger. None of the power-players bothered to come out from Fa’Sado’s lair, a cathedral-like structure hewn from a still-active volcano. We entered to discover a castle erected upon an island floating in the center of a lake of molten lava, a massive drawbridge hefting upward in the wafting, smoky air as we drew closer. This proved to be no problem either, as Aelanah came out of nowhere to fire explosive arrows into the drawbridge lifting chains, causing the bridge to crash down onto the surface of the lava with a great, deadly splash. Her reappearance was shocking to say the least, but we were too focused on getting within the lair, now. I wasn’t about to question providence when I surely needed it most.
- As soon as we entered the lair, we saw Morik as he was about to hand-over Viese to the Shadow Knight. Aelanah dashed forward, leapt into the air, and did something completely unexpected: She grew in size, her shape changed to that of a black dragon with feathery wings and a halo suspended from a pair of great antlers. She let out a scream for Morik to unhand the great-granddaughter of her greatest love, and that was when it dawned on me. Aelanah was the mortal host of the archangel Blight, who somehow survived the Shadow Knight’s destruction of Arcadia nearly two years ago. Like Tarrik, she was waiting for the proper opportunity to have her revenge, but Morik’s kidnapping of Viese changed her mindset to one of a protector.
- Morik revealed his own ulterior motives, tearing off his shirt to display a series of intricate runes etched into his flesh. Morik had been practicing Runometry, and S’zeves, the Shadow Knight, knew exactly what equation he had written on his body. It was a nearly-complete version of the Anti-Life Equation. Morik said that he was here to end the cycle of death and shadows once and for all, by erasing the Shadow Knight from existence, even at the expense of his own. Aelanight (the merging of the body of Aelanah and the soul of the Black Dragon Angel, Blight), swept in and wrested Viese from Morik’s clutches, and the final battle to decide the fate of this world began.
- In the chaos, I was unable to follow every occurrence in great detail, but I know that my divinity played a key role in my battle against the Dark Lady. She was wielding Borgamat’s scythe, and I could tell that she found great pleasure in using a gift from the true Silas Vale to his most devoted follower. She was not counting on the kind of power I now possessed, nor did I have a strong grasp of its extent myself. I knew that with every great display of Infernal Divinity, I grew incredibly weak, so I had to make my every attack count.
- While I tangled with the Dark Lady and Aelanight protected Viese, Roena, and Maerlyn from coming to harm, Varen met the Black Lion in battle once again, this time in a far more savage and potent form. Once again, Varen was faced with the decision of whether to aid Tarrik in his battle against Fa’Sado or deal with the Black Lion. This time, he chose to help his friends for the first time since that fateful battle two years earlier. He grabbed the Dark Lady’s scythe, disarming her long enough for me to make a killing strike, and hurled the weapon into the hands of Tarrik, who used it to great effect in his fight. The Black Lion took advantage of Varen’s gesture by flanking him and attempting a killing strike of his own. However, Aelanight’s breath weapon took the Black Lion by surprise, and by the time he recovered his footing, Varen Gilles, the White Lion, was prepared to face his eternal foe with a clear conscience.
- Morik and the Shadow Knight were embroiled in a Runometric battle, a phenomenon I have never witnessed. I think there was something about the runes in use that fouled my memory of these moments, but I know that eventually, the Shadow Knight got the upper hand, and Morik lay on the floor with a broken back and a lacerated abdomen, not giving him very long to live. As S’zeves was coming down for a final coup de grâce, Tarrik used Borgamat’s scythe to intercept the Shadow Knight’s descent, and he, too, fell to the ground next to Morik. Morik took advantage of his last few moments of life and took the Shadow Knight by the wrist, then completed the Anti-Life Equation! Unfortunately, S’zeves revealed that Morik’s equation was flawed. This would not merely bring about the erasure of one man, or two, or two-hundred from existence. The devastation of this equation would not stop at any city, country, or continental border. Morik Martok just wrote the Runometric equation that ends all of existence!
- With Fa’Sado, the Dark Lady, the Shadow Knight, and the Black Lion all destroyed, we had won. However, due to Morik Martok’s ill conceived hubris in the use of such devastating power, our victory was a death’s knell to the world, and indeed, to all worlds (even this one, where seven people sat around a table, rolling dice on a Friday night, oblivious to the fact that someone imaginary to us was capable of destroying all of existence, including our own!). I realized that I would never get home to my friends and my mission in Infernia now. There would be no home to get home to. We saw the destruction unfolding. In the skies overhead, visible through the massive volcanic vent atop the lair, we saw the stars themselves winking out of existence as if they were chalk dots being erased from a blackboard. The world trembled, and we all knew that there was nothing to be done. In Morik’s final moments of life, he realized what he had become, the destroyer of worlds, and he begged for forgiveness with his last breath. Tarrik’s fist was curled in rage, but tears fell from his face, and he let his anger go. Now, this world could have neither justice nor vengeance after all. He closed his dead nephew’s eyes and said “Child, thou art forgiven.”
- I went to Roena and Viese to comfort them, and I found a great measure of peace in sharing a final embrace with my wife and child, even though only a day earlier, I had no idea how precious to me these two young women were. Tarrik came over and placed a father’s touch upon the head of his daughter, who collapsed into his arms as I held Viese in mine. I looked deeply into her eyes once again, impressed at a toddler’s ability to witness such a devastating moment, the last moment of a doomed universe, with such calm and cheer. She was smiling up at me, and in her smile, I no longer felt afraid. I knew in my heart that this wasn’t normal. I should be devastated, but Viese’s gaze gave me hope when all was lost. Tarrik noticed it, too, and as she looked into his eyes, I noticed something falling from her robes. Feathers. Golden, glowing feathers…
“Why, Little Viese… you’re the Phoenix, aren’t you,” said Tarrik, earning everyone’s shocked gaze. “Have you come to stop the destruction of all creation? A grandfather always suspects that his grandkids will be special, but it’s rarely so true as it is right now. So please, little Viese… save Wyrmshadow.”
Back Where I Belong
It was true. My daughter, Viese Van Drake, was the Phoenix reborn. I remembered a discussion that the Laurence Van Drake of this world had with Tarrik after the rise of the Shadow Knight. I asked him whether the Phoenix would return to save us from all this, but he said that he was not sure anymore. The last time the Phoenix came to Wyrmshadow, it was in the form of a young human named Remy Blanchemont, who warned Tarrik and the others not to seek the power of the Phoenix before its’ time.
- Viese began to reach up into the air and wiggle her little fingers around. Runes appeared floating in the air in the wake of her fingers, appearing awkward and charmingly childish, like the dripping mess of a finger-painting. However, it soon became apparent that the most Viese could do was localize the destruction to this version of Wyrmshadow. She was saving my home at the expense of her own, ruined world. As I looked into her eyes, I knew that she was the one that brought me here to begin with, so that I could see what might have been, and learn just how fragile our existence is. They say that parents learn as much from their kids as the kids do from their parents, but in the short time I had known her, I learned far more from Viese than I could ever teach. I also knew that before it was over, she would send me back where I belong.
- The remaining people in Fa’Sado’s crumbling lair had mere moments left to exist, and they knew and accepted it with unheard-of grace. Maerlyn seemed excited by the prospect of having only to contend with one mind and one world at a time. Then, after a wordless exchange of glances, I was whisked away from this world and back to Infernia, where I came to consciousness laying on the ground at the shores of the River Styx. I knew not where my allies were, but I knew they had to be close. For a moment, though, I laid back, took a deep breath, and smiled.
“It’s good to be home.”
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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