The scouts manage to locate the enemy horde – it isn’t exactly difficult – but it is large and they are only able to clearly see the squads on one flank. While they are on their way back, Venomfang swoops down to the farmhouse. She converses with Tuakiin, and you don’t need to be fluent in Draconic to tell she is unimpressed. The fact that Tuakiin is skulking out in this farmhouse indicates to her that the deal she made to fight for the city is worthless – and she doesn’t seem inclined towards easily forgiving people who she thinks have messed her around…
With Tuakiin’s efforts to get Venomfang onside by telling tales of Javier’s abuse of dragon eggs clearly failing, Mortimer steps in. He argues convincingly that it was he who brokered the deal between Venomfang and the Vizier, and that deal still stands notwithstanding their subsequent travel from Theria on military business. Venomfang accepts this, but nonetheless demands tribute from all three present – Tuakin, Mortimer and Lubash – to compensate her for the inconvenience of having to come here out of her way.
Tuakiin offers the fine gems from his armour. Venomfang wants the gems, armour and all, and will not be bargained down. Reluctantly, Tuakiin misty steps out of his armour, appearing naked beside it as it clatters to the ground. Mortimer produces one of the gems of great value that he obtained in the Tomb of horrors, and this is enough to mollify Venomfang as far as he is concerned. Lubash, however, has no fancy gems to give, only a few coins, and he knows this will be insufficient. Instead, he offers up his warhammer, made by his father and passed down to him. It is a crude weapon, but one of great personal value to Lubash. Indeed, Venomfang declares it the greatest gift of them all, and flies off with her new loot, leaving the adventurers in peace.
No sooner has she gone than Illyria and Sal arrive. Illyria’s cheerful greeting of “What’s up, bitches?” is met with silence, and she contents herself with appreciating Tuakiin’s naked posterior while Sal reports on the disposition of the enemy. Eventually, the others explain the Venomfang situation, and they decide to make camp within the barn. Lubash thoughtfully clears away the straw to avoid a fire hazard.
Over supper, Illyria speaks to the party. She reminds them of the lesson of Yule, that they must work together as a team instead of closing themselves off from each other. As it stands, whichever side wins this war will want to kill the party afterward, but if they can stop the enemy horde before it reaches Theria they might win the gratitude of the King. She asks that everyone say what they can bring to the fight, and right now it seems that Mortimer’s new-found ability to summon meteors from the sky is their best way of striking the enemy.
They establish a plan – Mortimer will teleport himself and Illyria to within a mile of the horde, where he will call down meteors. As soon as the spell is cast, Illyria will plane shift them both into the Grey Wastes, and Mortimer will immediately plane shift again, taking them back to camp. There is only one difficulty. Mortimer has never seen the area he is teleporting to – only Illyria and Sal saw it on their scouting mission.
It is not easy to creep Mortimer out, but Illyria manages it when she tells him not to worry, she can show him in a dream. Nonetheless,he agrees to go for a nap to allow Illyria to invade him unconscious mind, and such have been the travails of the day he nods off almost instantly. When he is sound asleep, Illyria begins her spell.
Mortimer dreams that he is in the great hall of the elf-queen’s palace in the Shining City. It is deserted, apart from Jack, who is standing in front of him with a bag. Jack opens the bag and lets Mortimer look inside, revealing an utterly black globe – like the mouth of the carved devil’s head in the Tomb of Horrors. Mortimer declines to reach inside, and Jack gives him a royal wave.
Then he hears heels clicking towards him on the marble floor, and Illyria is behind him. Jack disappears, and the palace transforms into a landscape in northern Arnest. This is a vision of where Illyria and Sal saw the horde, and Illyria points out a twisted tree on a hill and a high ruined tower, landmarks which should be close enough to the horde for Mortimer’s spell. After taking this in, Mortimer demands that Illyria bring Jack back, but alas she can only provide an illusion of Jack that simply smiles and royal waves over and over again.
A bucket of cold water wakes Mortimer, and he is ready to go. He decides to aim his teleport at the ruined tower – specifically, behind the ruined tower, for safety. The party decide it would be best of they all went together on this mission, just in case something goes wrong.
Something goes wrong.
Instead of the ruined tower, Mortimer accidentally brings them to the only other tower he knows – the tower of Hommlet. Hs former quarters to be precise. Tuakiin and Lubash recognise it instantly, and when they tell Illyria they are in Hommlet she has scathing remarks to make about the local pub.
There is a knock at the door. It’s Jack. Mortimer is too pleased to see his old friend to ask too many questions about how he came to be here, and soon they all go to meet Rufus, who is now master of the tower. He is still in Burne’s body, but he tells Mortimer that everyone in Hommlet knows his true identity. Rufus has a melancholy demeanour these days, but is happy to help the party and arranges for Tuakiin to obtain a new suit of armour.
It being rather late, the party decide to sleep and try their plan again in the morning. They all bed down in the tower, and once in bed Illyria tries to reach out with her mind and contact Asmodeus, whose presence she felt during her morning ritual. It doesn’t work, and she spends the night in a delirious sweat. To avoid Illyria’s muttering, Sal looks for somewhere else to sleep – discovering an abandoned, trashed room that seemed to have once been the quarters of an elf, she helps herself to some items and beds down for the night.
In the morning, after their usual rituals, they assemble for another attempt, but this time they will go through the Grey Wastes first, and then teleport back to Hommlet. Jack is initially reluctant, saying that Mortimer has brought him back from the Grey Wastes three times now, and he has no wish to go back, but eventually he accepts the plan.
This time, nothing goes wrong. Mortimer brings them to the shadow of the twisted tree, and Illyria drops them straight back into the real world. Sal climbs the tree and hauls Mortimer up on a rope to give him a better view, whereupon Mortimer produces four pebbles, flings them into the air with a trail of magical light, and four flaming meteors crash down upon the horde, killing hobgoblins by the hundreds. Descending as quickly as possible, Mortimer casts his teleport spell and soon they are all safely back in the tower of Hommlet.
In the Welcome Wench, where the party go to relax despite the rampant inflation caused by the present crisis, Mortimer is mainly drunk on his own power, at once delighted that the spell worked and aghast at the scale of the destruction it caused. Nonetheless, Illyria is keen that they should repeat the attack as soon as Mortimer is able, and he goes off to sleep and recover.
Late that afternoon, they are ready to go again. The horde will doubtless have spent the day marching, but during the last attack they saw a rocky outcrop in the distance that would be a suitable vantage point. They arrive, and four more pebbles rise into the air, and four more meteors come down. The horde have dispersed themselves somewhat in response to the previous attack, but still lose hundreds more of their members to fiery crushing death. Indeed, a careful observer would probably conclude that the horde was by now down to about 83% of its original strength.
A great red dragon some distance away swings round in the sky towards the party, but they teleport away while it is still far off. Back in Hommlet, the party try to relax in the Welcome Wench before bed, but Mortimer is even more troubled than before. Meteor storms were used to devastate armies in his homeland, allowing the battlemages to take control, and Mortimer is now distressed at the possibility that, by using this spell now, it is he who brought this power into existence. Lubash tries to reassure him, arguing that it’s not possible, but Jack is far from reassuring. He tells Mortimer “Yes, it is all your fault,” and then vanishes, leaving Mortimer to his troubles.
That night, Illyria tries again to contact her lord. She reaches out with her mind – and finds herself in a room, where a dark-haired, sharply dressed man is sitting. He greets her with his usual devilish charm.
That night Sal opens her mind once more to her lord – to see if he has further instructions for her. He is busy, so she awaits his pleasure with customary patience.
In the Feywild, the Summer King holds court on his throne. Before him stands Jack, who assures him he has been sowing chaos. The Summer king approves, and walking with Jack informs him of his plan to step down soon, and assures Jack that he will be the next Summer King.