It is the Great Debate.
Our heroes – most of them – are assembled with Master Burne, Rufus and Spugnoire to make a crucial decision that cannot be put off any longer. Will they collapse the barrier, allowing anyone to move freely back and forth, or will they restore it, returning Hommlet to its proper place, ensuring the barrier will be impassible for all eternity – and killing every every wizard west of the barrier in the process?
The group wrestles with the dilemma. Mortimer is not terribly keen on the idea of dying at all, while Mawgojzeta is sceptical about Burne’s claims – after all, wasn’t this barrier supposed to be impassible the first time round, yet the battle mages found a way to cross?
Burne clarifies matters as far as he can. He is confident that his new research has shown him how to succeed where his predecessors failed. Furthermore, it is only those spellcasters who have some trace of wizardly power who will be destroyed by the ritual, just as it is only such people who can assist in carrying out the ritual. This will destroy all of the battlemages, the newly returned Acererak – and the elven queen. With all of the temporal interference blocking Sending spells, there is no way to warn her, still less to save her.
Meanwhile, No Name is with Jonathan, who she has just brought back to life in the form of a halfling. He is less grateful than she might have hoped. After a blazing row, he eventually calms down, accepting that what she did was well intentioned and did in fact save his life. However much he may have preferred to go to heaven, he knows that he will still get there eventually.
Jonathan’s attempts to impose his authority on his subordinates is less than successful. Vivien and the priest openly scoff him, and he becomes near-suicidal before eventually resolving to continue to do his duty as a King’s Man.
In the debate, opinion has swung in favour of restoring the barrier, and the question has now shifted to who can survive this ritual, and how. Jack comes up with the cunning plan of banishing wizards to another plane for a minute at the climax of the ritual, thus saving them from its effects. It’s a good plan, with just one limitation: the four wizards who actually carry out the ritual cannot be saved in this way.
It is time for the most fraught decision of all: who is to carry out the ritual, and die in the process? Burne and Spugnoire both volunteer. Mortimer vows to “the finest wizards in this land” (Spugoire is particularly flattered by this) that just as they are giving their lives to save his people, so he will do his very best to fight for their land. If they notice any inequity in this arrangement, they do not mention it.
Rima enthusiastically volunteers to join in the ritual (secretly hoping to see her beloved Vani again in the Feywild). Lastly, the Bard steps in as the fourth person. He may have dropped out of wizard training at an early stage, but he’s still wizard enough for this.
The rest of the party can choose to wait in Hommlet and return with it to the east, or leave the village boundary and remain in the west. Tuakiin, not wanting to waste any more time, makes a third choice. He still has his crossing amulet, and he travels to the barrier in order to use it. As he reaches the barrier, he is caught up by Mortimer, who wants to go through with him before the ritual begins. Enderis has no wish to remain in the west, and is glad to stay in Hommlet and leave his homeland behind forever. Mawgojzeta, on the other hand, still has a mission here. With the battle mages destroyed, the enemy will be suddenly weakened and she has to ensure that her people take full advantage, establishing a new political order quickly and decisively. She picks up the 13th Company from the pub and explains the situation to them. Also in the pub, the Bard makes an emotional farewell to Lubash.
Finally, it is time for the ritual. Burne, Spugnoire, Rima and the Bard all focus their arcane energies on Burne’s incantations. Spugnoire dies, then Burne. Rima, after diverting enough energy to restore the Feywilld, also falls dead – her spirit travelling to a new existence in the Feywild. Finally, playing one last bass chord of astounding power, the Bard dies, completing the ritual.
In the citadel, Daft Wullie is in bed with his beloved queen when she lets out her last breath.
In the tower, Rufus, still in the body of Burne, is struck by wracking pain. Jack manages to banish him temporarily, just in time to save his life.
In Hommlet, Vivien dies unmourned.
Somewhere to the south, Clausis uses her crossing amulet to open a gap in the barrier, and steps through, behind her, waiting to cross, is Acererak, at the head of an immense army of battle mages. Just as they are about to come through, the barrier seals behind Clausis. Acererak and all of his army are destroyed.
Outside Hommlet, Mawgojzeta and the 13th Company watch the village disappear. When all is done and calm is restored, they move off. There is work to be done. As they go, Mawgojzeta can be heard turning to Corporal Skeleton and asking “So, how long have you been a skeleton?”
With Hommlet returned to the east and Rufus returned to the material plane, Jack hurries off to catch up with Tuakiin and Mortimer, eager to continue delightfully spreading chaos.
In the Feywild – Rima bows before the Fey Court, her oath to the Winter King complete. Wandering the forests she eventually finds her love waiting under a tree for her.
In the Citadel – Wullie searches for someone who can restore his beloved Queen to life. Luck is with him – her spirit is restored, but into a new Gnome body. They rule together for long years, their children becoming the ruling dynasty for a thousand years.
A thousand years in the future, a giant spider that has spent a millennium clinging to the roof of an ancient temple, at one with the infinite oneness of the Universe, begins to stir. Its consciousness has ranged throughout time and space, and now it has returned, a deity in spider form. It will need a new name. It decides to call itself Lolth.