The Undiscovered Country

Christmas Special

It is the best Christmas ever. Lille Nisse Hansi sits happily in her nisse hole, snitting some lovely presents while children play.

It is the best Christmas ever. No Name wakes up in bed with Jonathan. He is the soul of courtesy and charm.

It is the best Christmas ever. Lubash is with his family, drinking and telling stories. They are so proud of his work for the Ogre’s union.

It is the best Christmas ever. Mortimer is with the 13th Company in a great castle. All his friends are there – Corporal Skeleton, Daft Wullie, Awfully Wee Hamish and more.

It is the best Christmas ever. Tuakiin is in a high room with his sworn enemy Javier. He reaches behind his head to where he has a hand crossbow affixed to his back, pulls it out and shoots Javier, who falls out of a high window to his certain death.

In a snowy forest clearing sits a woman playing a viol. So loud is her playing that she fails to notice the manticore until it drops down in front of her. She stands and armours herself with defensive magic, but the manticore only wants to talk. He asks what she is doing, and she explains that she is a musician – Illyria de Viol by name – and she is practising in between performances. The manticore directs her to a local inn called the Rising Giant where he expects she may find an audience, and flies off.

In the Feywild, an elven woman named Tuarsalkafaesen – Sal for short – is surprised to find a large mirrored cube, thirty feet on a side. It is a most incongruous object. She attempts to interact with it, but all to no avail.

It is the best Christmas ever. Lille Nisse Hansi is so delighted when her old friend Günther arrives, and she gives him a big tankard of øl from the tun. Skål!

It is the best Christmas ever. No Name wakes up with Jonathan. She is troubled. Hasn’t this happened before? He is utterly pleasant and charming. Now she knows something is wrong.

It is the best Christmas ever. Lubash hears noises outside, and wouldn’t you know it? It is his best friend, the Bard, come to visit! They have a jolly time, singing and telling stories of their adventures.

It is the best Christmas ever. Well, it was for a while, anyway. No Name is increasingly freaked out by Jonathan’s implausibly pleasant behaviour and insists that he leaves. He eventually accedes to her demands and goes out of the door. She decides she has to leave too, but when she opens the door she reveals only a mirror filling the doorway.

It is the best Christmas ever. Mortimer is receiving delightful presents from all of his lovely chums, and beaming that heartwarming smile of his.

It is the best Christmas ever. Tuakiin is in Escapar now, with his family. His mother is so proud of him, especially when he tells her he has taken revenge on the dragonborn who killed her. Hang on…

Illyria enters the bar. It is a rough sort of place, and in her dark makeup, black leather and lace she stands out amongst the various soldiers and labourers. She buys a bottle of whisky from the bar, and the barman invites her to play her set in return for a room. Her music is loud, hash and metallic, augmented by her magic with percussion and counterpoint and an astonishing light show. Then, in an instant, all of her magic fails. She segues into a quiet lamenting melody, as if she meant it all along.

Sal punches the mirrored cube, achieving little but drawing some blood. She uses the blood to write on the mirror, in Common, Elvish and Infernal.

It is the best Christmas ever. Hansi goes out into the town to deliver presents to all, accompanied by her old friend Günther. Eventually she gets to Mortimer’s place. Mortimer is so happy with his present that he invites her to come and play hide and seek with all the children. Skål!

No Name sees writing appear on the mirror. She finds a jar of tomato ketchup and begins writing back.

It is the best Christmas ever. Lubash is having such fun with his friend the Bard. But he decides it is time to leave, and go to spread the word about the Ogres’ Union. As he tries to leave the village, his way is blocked by a wide mirror. He tries to hit it with his axe. The mirror takes no damage – but writing begins to appear on it.

It is the best Christmas ever – but Mortimer is sure something is wrong. Searching through the castle, he eventually comes to the female privy. The door opens to reveal a mirror blocking the doorway. Writing is appearing on it.

It is the best Christmas ever. Tuakiin’s mother flies him across the mountains of Escapar, past the distant shining domes of the city of Bahtriah, into the west. Eventually they reach the sunken city of Rhest, and Tuakiin has his mother land them on the top of the highest building. She transforms into dragonborn shape and they explore the deserted tower together. Eventually they come to a corridor that ends in a mirror. Tuakiin cannot scratch the mirror, and even flame breath cannot damage it. But writing starts to appear…

Alone in her room, drunk and depressed, Illyria lies in bed and prays to her Lord Asmodeus, risking her very sanity to obtain answers as to why her magic has failed. Her effort is successful, and she becomes aware that someone called Clausis is to blame, and that this Clausis is currently some weeks’ travel away with scores of comrades – and is more powerful than Illyria. Then the wall seems to open and Asmodeus himself appears. Telling Illyria there are more important things going on, he takes her with him to Hell. There he shows her an incongruous mirrored cube, thirty feet on a side, which has recently appeared. It is going to drain all the magic of Hell, unless one of the other planar kingdoms can be destroyed in order to stop it. Illyria is eager to help her lord in any way – but he unceremoniously pushes her into the mirror.

In the Feywild, the Spring Queen appears to Sal and sends her on a special mission, opening up a portal for her to travel into Hell. there she meets Asmodeus, who shows her the sights of Hell, such as they are – a sandy wasteland, uninhabited save by the demons he conjures. Many souls come here, he explains, but all eventually repent, and both Asmodeus and the one are merciful. She notes that there seem to be identical cubes in both realms, and he explains that the only way it can be removed is for one realm to be destroyed so that the others might survive. He tries to convince her to go back and destroy the Feywild in order to save Hell, but she is having none of it.

It is the best Christmas ever. Hansi is playing hide and seek. She comes into a bedroom, but can find no one in it. Eventually she opens one of the doors leading off. It opens onto a mirror filling the doorway. There is writing on it. Suddenly, a woman appears from the mirror – Illyria. She is quite confused.

It is the best Christmas ever. Jonathan is in his bedroom, looking at the mirror which is blocking the door, when Illyria arrives. He is his usual irritating self.

No Name and Sal have had the chance for a conversation, mediated through blood and ketchup respectively on the mirrored surface. Unfortunately, it seems no closer to getting No Name out. Then Illyria arrives through the mirror.

Lubash has realised that the best Christmas ever is not real, and that his friend the Bard is really dead. He tells the Bard that he will have to let him go, but he will always remember him and sing his songs. Illyria appears through the mirror, startling the poor ogre.

Mortimer is joining in the mirror conversation, by means of scrawling XML on one side of the mirror to try to find a way through. His spell to pass through solid objects seems like it might be promising, but when he passes his hand into the mirror it just comes straight back out at him. Then Illyria appears.

Tuakiin is having no more luck with the mirror than anyone else when Illyria arrives through his mirror too. While she can’t help admiring his buff torso, she is feeling a little disorientated as there are several versions of her all at once and she is aware of all of them.

Between the mirror writing and Illyria’s dissociated state, the party are finally able to communicate as a group. Illyria thinks she can get them all back using her power to travel through the planes, but that just brings them all back to where they were. Mortimer inscribes a teleport circle on the mirror, such that it appears on everyone’s mirror, but it remains inert.

This is when Illyria, seeing them all trapped in their own private worlds, on Christmas Day of all days, realises what is so wrong with all these perfect Christmasses. Christmas is about togetherness, she explains, the love and warmth of family, found family, friends all together in music, laughter and delight.

At this, the teleport circles glow. Quickly, all of the party step through their respective circles, all arriving in Hell with Asmodeus and Sal. Illyria comes through several times, merging with herself each time, which becomes confusing.

Asmodeus explains that he will soon die, and shortly after Hell itself will be destroyed. He grants the party the power of Hell in its last few moments, before dispersing into dust. The party use this power to open a portal back into their own world – to the Rising Giant public house, to be precise. Illyria, distraught and heartbroken, is the last to leave.

[Somewhere far away, Clausis feels her Wish spell ceasing. She declares to her companions that the next one will not be so easily thwarted.]

In the pub is much companionship and good cheer. No Name and Jonathan are reunited properly this time, and he comes as close as he can to expressing real feelings for her. Illyria takes up her viol and begins a new melody.

When the snowman brings the snow
When the snowman brings the snow

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