We are all standing on the deck and watching the flickering images of the tower in the distance when Vedis suddenly speaks up with an idea.
“Maybe you could use those planar sails to get in alignment with where/whenever that tower is, exactly?”
Why not? It’s not like we’ve got any other ideas at the moment… and we’re not exactly about to turn around and go home empty handed.
“I like the way you think, Vedis!” I excalim with a smile as I slap her on the back and try to hide the wince of pain as I remember (once again) what Maenads are made out of. “Let’s do this!” I say as I leap into the rigging and climb towards the sails, Lenata scurrying below me to get to the Helm.
“Ok Star Archons and Crystal Dragons and whatever other holy beings that are out there trying to guide our path… we’re here at your bidding, so I’d appreciate a little help at the moment,” I mutter to myself as I adjust the sails to what I hope (and pray) is the correct setting. After checking and double-checking all I can, I give the “OK” to Ef Utan below and we activate the sails…
… and end up gliding through a cloud of mist towards the stone docks of a large 5-story tower. Suddenly someone starts clapping on the decks below and we’re all jolted out of our shock. “Oh bravo,” exclaims Mercutio as he claps enthusiastically. “I had no idea you people were actually good!”
I leap down from the rigging and give him one of my best cocky grins. “That’s ok… we forgive you.” I’m about to tell Mecutio a (slightly-edited) tale of one of our past grand adventures when I spy a figure out of the corner of my eye in the mists. I turn to get a better look and can just make out several other large humanoid figures joining the first as they stride from the tower towards the docks… and our ship.
Well… if they are here to fight, they’re going to fight no matter what we do… so we might as well try some honesty first. “Hail to the Tower,” I shout out. “We have been sent here on a quest to see Aionius at the behest of a Star Archon!”
It only takes a moment before the leader of the group steps out of the mist to reveal a horrific mass of sewn flesh and muscle. “Wait here,” it says in a cold dead-pan voice, and then disappears back into the mist.
“Flesh Golems…” I hear Lenata whisper beside me and I shudder as I remember the first flesh golem we encountered on the Plane of Dread so long ago.
I shake myself from my reverie and turn to the others. “Well, I doubt the whole crew is coming with us… so lets tell them what we’re going to be up to so they don’t freak out.”
After an announcement is made on the tubes the golem returns and tells us that 3 are allowed to see Aionius. Lenata volunteers to stay with the ship and the crew in case anything should go wrong, so Ef Utan, Vedis and I decide to follow the golem through the mists to hopefully meet the fabled wizard of my dreams.
The golem points the way down a rocky stairway and we carefully make our way down to see the man from my vision standing in front of a swirling portal of time and space. I am tempted to analyze it closer, to reach out and touch it as I try and mold the swirling portal of infinite possibilities to my will, when I feel a sudden tug on my tail from Ef Utan. “Stop your daydreaming, Kenari; we’ve got work to do.”
We watch in patient silence as the wizard focuses on what seems to be an experiment he’s conducting as he draws a metal rod from a pile at his feet and places one end into the swirling energies. After a moment he withrdaws it to see that the end is now rusted and crumbles to dust at the touch of it. “Strange,” he mutters, “This one seems to have aged even further.” He then tosses the rod into a different pile and is about to grab a new one when Vedis clears her throat.
“Ah yes,” the wizard says as he brushes off his hands and turns to us. “My guardians informed me of why you are here. Do you speak truly? A Star Archon told you to find me?”
“Indeed, sir, it is quite a tale to hear how we ended up in your company.”
“Well then, we shall have to hear this tale in more comfortable surroundings.” Aionius then removes a crystal from his robes and mutters into it, and before we know it there is a flash of light and find ourselves in the middle of a large library. “Have a seat and make yourselves comfortable,” he says as he gestures to leather chairs placed around a large round table.
We take our seats as a silver tray moves on its own to each of us with glasses of brandy. “Well, if we’re going to tell our story again, I might as well get out the visual aides,” I say as I whip my chart out of my sack and unroll it on the table. “Where do we begin?”
After what seems like hours we have shared our beliefs about the Dream Stone, Melchot, and the Spelljammer to find that we were close… but not quite there. Aionius has a friend who is familiar with the Dream Stone, and he believes that the ritual will be used to make real someones perceived perception of what the Spelljammer is, and not the Spelljammer itself. This can be worse than what we thought… because do we not perceive ourselves as more than we actually are in our dreams? This Spelljammer could be powerful beyond any of our wildest imaginings if it comes into existence.Aionius then conducts some scrying spells (with our permission) to try and piece together the parts of the puzzle we are still missing. “Hmmn… I must research this. If you will excuse me…” With a flash of light, we’re back on the deck of our ship. Vedis goes to fill Lenata in on what’s happening, and the rest of us go to our cabins to wait for the word from Aionius.
After a few hours Aionius’ assistant Montgomery appears on our deck and takes us back to the library to see a rather troubled Aionius pacing the floor. “Events are very difficult to sort out… the time strands… something is shaking everything, and the repercussions could be fatal if you stay here,” he mutters.
“What? Care to explain that in a little more detail?” Ef Utan asks.
Aionius suddenly stops pacing and holds up his hand as if to silence us. “The answers to our questions will arrive in 10…9…8…7…”
As soon as he reaches “1” the doors of the library slam open to reveal a new troubled visitor with a broad-brimmed hat, long coat… and some truly interesting guns strapped to his sides. I wonder if he’ll…
“Aionius, there’s trouble in Sigil,” he exclaims as he whips off his hat and slaps it against his thigh. He reaches into the pocket of his long coat and throws two wands on the table. “They’re burnt… they’re done,” he says in frustration.
“We kind of figured, after that explosion that took out the Armory,” I mentioned as I cross my arms over my chest and look at him with an arched brow. “I think it had something to do with that ‘Fated’ bunch, If the rumors are true.”
“Well then you and your friends got out just in time… because the doors to Sigil are now shut, as the shit has really hit the fan there.” he turns to the wizard. “Three of the faction leaders are dead, and two more have been Mazed, Aionius.”
“This is not good, Murlynd,” Aionius mutters before he walks over to us. “This Faction War is like a knot in the threads of fate… and no matter which one I tug, all paths seem to lead to it… and your eventual destruction. There is a chance, though…” he continues as he rubs his chin and begins pacing again. “It seems that the timelines of you and your friends were pulled loose from the weave of reality when you were pulled into the Plane of Dread. If we use the Demi-plane of Time, we could perhaps launch you forward in time past the events of the war, to a point where you can once again do your best to stop the events regarding the Spelljammer.”
“How far into the future?” Ef Utan asks.
“Hmmn… 20 years should do it.” Aionius replies after making some calculations in his head. “Of course… there’s only a 60% chance that this will work at all.”
“Well,” Vedis mutters to herself, “I guess I should cancel that least on my apartment.”
Waitaminute… Murlynd… I’ve read about him somewhere, I know I have! Yes, I remember now… I was researching past temporal disturbances in the Library of the Spheres after that strange dream with the Kobald, and all I could find was mentions of a wizard named Elminster, and this strange yet fascinating man in front of us.
“Hey… I’ve read about you!” I exclaim with a smile as I walk up to Murlynd and shake his hand. “You must be quite a powerful man to have done everything the stories say.”
“I’m flattered, ma’am.” Murlynd says with a tip of his hat.
“If…if what Aionius says is true about the 20 years… do you suppose you all could help our crew get home? While the four of us have generally accepted the chaos that has been surrounding our lives… there are at least a dozen people onboard our ship who I am sure are not prepared to leave their families behind. As it is… I think we all might have some letters that need to be delivered to our own loved ones before we do this.”
Murlynd purses his lips and stares at me for a moment before the corner of his mouth curves upward into a wry grin. “You know… I like you; I promise I’ll do what I can to help whatever crew that wants to leave get home and get those letters taken care of for you.”
“The preparations for the ritual will take some time, my friends. Return to your ship and prepare… for in 1 hour we should be ready to send you through the portal,” Aionius declared.
One hour… that’s not a lot of time to say goodbye to the life you’ve known and prepare to greet the complete unknown. With a flash of light we once again find ourselves on the deck of our ship… and with a sigh we call the crew to the deck to give them the choice that we didnt’ have.
The crew mutters to themselves and disperses after the announcement. All those who are wishing to leave will meet on the docks, and those wishing to stay will remain on deck. Personally, I wouldn’t hold it against any of them if they all left. It pains me personally to think of the people I will leave behind; my newly discovered family in Wa… and Dassam. I make my way to my room as I hear Ef Utan say something to Vedis and Lenata that would normally have me rolling on the deck in laughter.
“You know…we’ve got an hour…”
“Damn it!” I curse once I’ve made it to the privacy of my room and quickly wipe a tear from my eye with the back of my hand. I have no time for hysterics… I have to find my parchment and write a message to Dassam. Goddess… what will I tell him? I can’t expect him to wait for me for 20 years, damn it! There’s no other way about it… I will have to end it.
After many tissues and ink smears I’m finally able to finish my letter and seal it for delivery. With a heavy sigh I head to the main deck to see who, if any, have decided to remain. To my surprise, Hatuk and his family, one Elf, two humans, Nerak, Aspodel and our new cabin boy are staying for the adventure. Kelson, however, has had enough.
“Aw come on,” I hear Vedis say. “If you stay with us, by the time you get back the baby you sired will be long grown up and out of your hair!”
“Sorry, guys… but the wrath of one dwarf is looking awfully nice compared to this.”
Indeed… ‘Fate’ has to be the biggest obstacle we’ve tried to overcome yet.
The time finally arrives as Aionius finishes his chanting. I say my final good-byes to everyone choosing to stay, and once again give my thanks to Murlynd for helping the crew. As I’m shaking his hand, however, I can’t help but notice the swirling lights of the portal glinting off a shiny metallic brooch in the shape of a star pinned to his vest. As I peer at it, I can just make out a word engraved in the middle.
“What’s a sherrif?” I can’t help but mutter in curiousity.
Murlynd chuckles. “I guess you could call it part of the guard. Safe travels, my friends.”
With a final wave to everyone we prepare the ship the best we can for whatever the fates have in store. Will we defy their plans and come out the other side, free to stop the machinations of tyrants bent on summoning a Spelljammer more powerful than anyone could imagine? Or will we be torn to pieces on the tides of Time itself?
…only one way to find out…