“Don’t ask me how it happened, but I think this is a dream,” Vedis whispers as the starlight illuminates a woman in silks chained to an altar on a raised stone dais nearby.
Nine cloaked figures appear from the darkness and encircle the dais as each raises their daggers high in some sick ritual. Ef Utan draws his sword and runs to the dais to try and block the daggers while Lenata mutters a whispered prayer to her god for a spell that might save the woman.
“No!” she calls out in frustration. “My spells aren’t working!”
I reach out with my mind and try to imagine myself crouched on the dais and the woman in silks on the ground beside Lenata… but for the life of me something about her just keeps slipping from my grasp and prevents my new abilities from working.
The cloaked figures strike in unison, the daggers plunging into the helpless woman again and again. Lenata cringes and looks away as the woman screams, but I can’t help but notice that the arm of the one standing in front of Ef Utan passed right through him.
Eventually the screams end and one of the figures cuts open the corpse as the others greedily start reaching into her body and pulling out various amulets and tokens. So this is how they did it… no wonder she was so angry!
“That poor woman…” Lenata whispers.
“Hmmn… let me try something,” says Vedis as she reaches out her hand and freezes the scene. Her brow furrows for a moment and then it’s like everything is happening in reverse as the figures replace the tokens and close her wounds. When it rewinds back to where they’ve drawn their daggers, the scene freezes.
“I wonder why we’re seeing this… and how?” Vedis mutters. “Could this be the dream of the conspirators? Or maybe what is left of the spirit of Sonneray is trying to show this to us?”
“Well since we’re here, let’s see what we can see,” I say as I cautiously squeeze between the conspirators and look at the altar. “I wonder if there’s any writing here that might pertain to the ritual?” As I kneel down to check the sides of the altar I notice some inscriptions along the base in a few different dialects. All of them seem to be references to the same story of betrayal and sacrifice. I stand up to tell the others when a particularly interesting inscription catches my eye. Around the indentation for the head of the sacrifice there seems to be a glyph that looks curiously like the Spelljammer.
“Guys, I think this is where those 10th Pit guys are going to conduct that ritual with the Dream Stone!”
“I just hope that they haven’t already done it,” mutters Ef Utan as he walks around the circle to peer under the hoods. “Why don’t you let this dream play for a bit, Vedis… I want to get a good idea of who is who, and who took what token.”
Vedis complies and after a few minutes we’re able to come up with a list of the betrayers we haven’t encountered yet:
- Tic-Toc Man takes her eyes
- Balomar (the puppet!) takes her skin
- The Night Peddler takes her ears
- The Weaver takes her hands
- Some unidentified augmented human takes her brain
When we’re done, it seems the dream has decided that it’s gone on long enough and the figures turn into wispy puffs of smoke before everything goes dark.
The light returns and I’m blinking for a few minutes to adjust before I realize that we’re back on the stage in the theatre again, Balomar and his puppetmaster asleep under Vedis’ power.
“No need for them to wake up again,” says Ef Utan as he draws his dagger and bends down to slice the throat of the sleeping puppeteer. I can hear the cleric’s gasp of shock at such an act, but Melchior nods in approval at justice being done and I just shrug. Better him than me, I say.
“So where do you think the token for the skin is?” I wonder aloud as I grab the dummy and pop its head off before shaking it upside-down to see if anything falls out. Alas, all that comes out is a nasty cloud of sawdust that gives Ef Utan a coughing fit before it fades away.
“The only interesting thing here seems to be this rather hefty diamond I found on the puppeteer, and no you can’t see it, Kenari.” Ef Utan replies as he stands up and pockets the diamond.
“Guys, I think there’s something you should know,” Vedis mutters.
“Again?” Ef Utan replies. “Feel free to tell us these things when they happen, you know.”
Vedis ignores him and continues. “I had another vision when I looked at that altar in the dream… I saw Melchot there for just a moment before it became Sonneray again.”
“Oh no… do you think they already conducted the ritual?” says Lenata.
“Whether they did or not, our goals haven’t changed here, people,” says Ef Utan firmly. “We still need to find the Dream Stone and the Witchlight Marauder key before we can get out of here.”
The group nods and we finish with the corpses of yet another conspirator before leaving the theatre and heading back to the brambles. We manage to make our way for another hour or two before our momentary silence is disturbed by a loud noise ringing out from a northeastern direction.
“That was a gunshot!” exclaims Melchior in surprise. “Do you think someone else is here in the Harrowing too?”
“Let me check it out first, and I’ll come back to report,” I offer as I slip on my gauntlets and disappear into the bushes. I do my best to follow the direction I swear I heard the shot come from when I finally come to a clearing. As I look around I can’t see anyone with a gun who might have made the shot… but lying in a pool of blood and fur with a bullet between his eyes is the unfortunate soul who was on the receiving end.
That fool rabbit.
“Oh geesh,” Vedis moans as the others come into the clearing. “The poor guy didn’t deserve to die that way. He was just a silly rabbit!”
“He was a murderer like the others,” Melchior replies grimly. “Justice has been done.”
“We won’t know what was done here until we ask him,” says Lenata with a look of disapproval at the gunsliinger. “With the help of Celestian, we should be able to ask him what happened.”
The silverhaired cleric kneels over the furry corpse and mutters a prayer as her hands flutter back and forth above his body. Suddenly Brambelsons eyes open and I have to stop myself from taking a step backwards. What can I say… I don’t like the undead!
“Ask me your questions before I finally find my peace, cleric.” the voice drones in a raspy monotone.
“Why were you killed?” Lenata asks gently.
“How do we get to the next token?” asks Ef Utan.
“Who killed you?” Lenata asks again.
Brambelson seems to hesitate for a moment… as if he doesn’t know the word for what he wants to say. “… ugly pig men.”