The Undiscovered Country

Gnome To Rest Eternal

Wullie lined the remaining members of the Undying Force along the road from Master Burn’s tower and had them salute as the group heading to the tomb left. It was their due when they were going to such a place on behalf of them all. He wished they could do more. Once they were out of sight, he ordered his troops back into formation and marched them back into the tower. They had another duty to perform now.

Leaving his comrades to get their gear together, Wullie went in search of Master Burn. On finding him, he gave a respectful salute and asked for a moment of his time.

“Sir, I respectfully request your assistance. I must travel with my comrades, back to the Citadel, to bury my brother and brief my Queen on what has been happening. Could you send us back? In return, if there is anything you require or if you need urgent assistance, just send me a message and if it is within mine or my Queen’s power, we will help.” Wullie expressed seriously & sincerely. “You are welcome at the Citadel anytime. My Queen would be honoured to meet you and your consort, but I fear she cannot come here herself.”

Wullie took a deep breath as he finished his speech, hoping it was ok and he hadn’t missed anything out. Master Burn gave a nod of acknowledgement.

“I’ll help you return.” he agreed. “Your brother died with honour, defending this place. We will be eternally grateful. You are welcome here anytime.”

Within the hour, Her Majesty’s Undying Force were amassed around the perimeter of Master Burn’s teleportation circle. Wullie stepped gingerly into the centre as the portal to the Citadel throne room opened, saluted Master Burn and stepped through. On the other side, he moved swiftly to the edge of the circle, turned to face the portal and stood to attention. One by one the first half of the Undying Force came through and took up a waiting position on the other side. Slowly, feet first, the lifeless body of Hamish Nackle, with silver trombone, was passed through the portal into the arms of the waiting soldiers. Once he was through, his four bearers marched to the edge of the circle where Wullie waited. Lastly, the remaining four members of the Undying Force crossed through the portal and joined their comrades. As the portal closed a lone piper, stood by the Queen and her retinue, sounded out a lament. Wullie, leading the Undying Force, marched across the throne room, stopping at the foot of the steps that led to the throne and saluted.

“Your Majesty.” he began, “We have much to report that couldn’t be done other than in person, but as you know, one of your loyal officers was taken in defense of others and we therefore ask for preparations to be made for a full military funeral as is his due”.

The Queen took a step forward and took a moment to compose herself. “Scout, you can be reassured – Officer Hamish Nackle will be honoured for his bravery and loyalty. He shall be buried with full military honours in three days time. All in the citadel will mourn him and remember his exploits.” She took a breath and continued. “My loyal Undying Force – take your comrade down to the royal crypt where he can rest until everything is arranged.”

She watched as the five that could saluted once more and marched out, her fiance in the lead. He was back and safe – he had kept his promise, but to lose his beloved brother, that was a hard price. So many of Wullie’s kin had died over the centuries, it was heartbreaking. She wished there was something she could do, but other than keep her people in the citadel, her options were limited. Perhaps Wullie would have some news to report back once his brother had been laid to rest.


The funeral was large and impressive. The streets were lined with citizens as the funeral cortege moved from the Guildhall, where Hamish had lain in state, to the Palace. Wullie reckoned at least half the citadel had visited the Guildhall on the day Hamish had lain there. He’d been surprised and humbled by their veneration of his brother. It wasn’t just the fans of the Undying Force either, though they had been most attentive, but ordinary folks too. They all seemed genuinely moved at the loss of another of their Gnomes, another of their own. Wullie had never realised how much their citadel family cared.

Wullie felt overwhelmed, but with the support of his fiance and his comrades, he was holding himself together. He concentrated on marching, leading the Undying Force and the cart with his brother’s coffin. A group of pipers followed, playing military marches, and behind them were the Queen and her retinue, who’d insisted on joining the cortege. When they got to the palace they would be welcomed by an elderly Gnome, who’d insisted on performing the burial ceremony. The pipers would switch to military laments, before a lone trombonist would play the taps. Hamish would then be entombed in the royal crypt, alongside other military heroes, his battered battle trombone lain on the stone atop him.

Wullie fought to keep his composure. It would be a long day, but Hamish would’ve appreciated the efforts, particularly the huge wake the Undying Force had arranged for later. In fact – if there was any part that Hamish would’ve hated to miss it would be the drinking later. Wullie made a mental note to get Dipsy to help him in a rendition of Hamish’s favourite drinking songs. Thinking about it, he should also speak to the citadel royal bard – get him to record the songs in his books….there weren’t many of them left now, it would be sad if they were lost with the last of the Gnomes.

They were almost at the Palace now. Just a little further, a little longer….and they would be in the crypt again. There was a new inscription down there now though, above the place where Hamish would lie, along with a crest showing a dragon rampant next to a trombone.

For those that went before,
With honour and with grace,
Another comes to join you,
A casualty of war.

A Gnome with trombone roar,
Like others of his race,
Has said a last adieu,
While fighting in the corps.

Loyal to the oath he swore,
And eager for the chase,
A hero of the lengthy war,
Sleep the eternal rest.

A tear slipped from Wullie’s eye – he was going to miss his brother.

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In Hell
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Last Rite of the Day

Mortimer was silent, for the first time in months he had no wise ass remark to make… this… was great magic.

He watched the Elven bard turn a steel cube into a fortress and he was, impressed, no other word for it.

He didn’t find the idea of music being used for magic too crazy, music was ultimately just a series of patterns and control phrases, just like eXML music had it’s own rules and syntax that could be used to shape the container and the energy of the spell. That didn’t mean he understood it, or trusted bards… far too cheerful in general. Still he was surprised to find he felt for the loss Rema had suffered, enough so that he realised suggesting he could put the whole thing almost right with the addition of a little practical necromancy, might not have gone down so well. Instead he made sure her wife would remain as she had known her in life as in death, and let it be. Everyone had strange cultures about the dead, but he hated to see a body just… go to waste.

Mortimer chose the battlements as a place to get away from it all. The trancing elves creeped him out, and he had things to take care of. Cutting a sliver of skin, pricking his thumb, and adding a dash of bone dust to a pestle from his alchemist’s kit. He ground the previous into a thick pink paste, using it to scribe a simple XML tag on the inside spines of each of his skeletal servants. Instantly they snapped to attention. The small man used prestidigitation to clean his soldiers to an ivory shine, and refresh their scraps of armour.

“They might not have liked them last night, but fall in a few more traps for us, and they’ll realise, magic is about correct use of material components, not politics and ideals.”

His ritual done Mortimer sat down against a wall and picked up Master Burns spell book, for a moment he just held it. Master Burns had figured out a way to give, what Mortimer could only describe as “read permission” on other wizard spell books… he’d never known anyone manipulate Markup so quickly and with such finess, truly Master Burns was a magical master limited only by the age he had lived in!

He wondered to himself, for a moment, if the only thing that stopped any master of the arcane arts from becoming a king of all he surveys are the events and limitations of the world he is born into.

Then he looked over at the entrance to the tomb their tower now protected… inside potentially stood all the secrets to extended and immortal life Mortimer had ever wanted. Bonus, ironically it probably contained everything they needed to stop their collective enemy. Which of course was why they had summoned warriors from all parts of space and time… He wondered for a moment if he should feel sorry for the halfling, he’d know what power was required for magic over that distance, hell, he was a necromancer, he knew the thaumic energy in a mortal soul. Truth was he cared not, that was how Ashen Door agents protected the Citadel, they made the choices of when to wield arcane powers the Queen and Councils might not be able to stomach, for the greater good.

He looked back towards the temple. They knew the in, the rest was a lethal surprise. Laid down for them by a wizard not unlike himself. To protect his greatest secret, how to extend life and cheat death. Perhaps, even, mortimer dared to wonder, contain the dark wizard himself, the whole tomb perhaps a focus for some power, as the water wheel had been in the cave, perhaps with enough power to finally cheat death?

He looked at the book for a moment:

“How’d he get a frikkin’ beholder in der anywayz ah?!”

In this tomb were traps devised by a mind more devious and experienced than mortimer’s. Not at all clouded with friendship and remorse, he had necromancy so unique that necromancers of Mortimer’s generation were basically rediscovering it as they went along.

“He has an advantage on me in every respect, I got nuttin’ I…”

The gnome looked passed the book to his own hand, a small cut was healing from a week or so earlier when the dwarf had shown him something truly odd… how to pray.

“He didn’t have that… didn’t think he needed dat…”

Mortimer set about describing a summoning circuit on the roof, a double circle, it was always best to use protection. He had his unwavering servants surround his ritual and placed himself in the center, but in the dead of night he did not pray, for no gods lived to pray too… he sought to commune with the dead.

The flicker of the candels played over a grey world, beyond the circles the world was still dark midnight colour, but here, there was only grey, and, lute wallpaper? Was that a soft toy?… this is what happened when musicians messed with the powers arcana!

Dust swirled from the fresh, immaculate, roof of the tower, they took the form of a humanoid, devoid of detail or feature, the merest hint described by the hollowness in the swirling grey sands. The figure moved over, and as it came closer to a spot inside the circle the absence of swirling sands described the shape of a lectern, and a book.

“You can put that down, you’ll not be needin’ it.”

Mortimer stalked around the circle, around the void that suggested the dead god.

“Y’know where we are don’tcha? – you can feel it…”, “Y’know who, what, we’re up against on some level too? I’m guessing when we brought you back into this world in this time you sorta got extra info,forward and back, it’s not like them schmucks starting being animate again right?” He guestured to his skeletal guardians

The little man held up the index finger on his four-fingered hand.

“No need to chip in, I’m not here to pray to you for guidance, I’m actually not here to talk to you really, I’m here to ask you for one thing and I’ll tell you why: In there is the power to bring Asmodeus back to this world… In there is the secrets or objectives our enemies wish to use to finally gain total control of both lands. ‘There’ was constructed by a being that is more cunning, more clever, more devious, and powerful that myself or any in my party, maybe in this land.”

He paced, once again holding up a finger to the void that shaped a figure.

“I have nothing to use against this being and his tomb, I’m one of the most studied scholars of history, religion and magic in the Citadel, in the West, but I suspect he has me beat even on that score. BUT!”

A rye smile crept across the squat face of the gnome, between the frame of his pointed white goatee.

“I know something he didn’t… He KNOWS the gods are dead, he KNOWS they have been dead and gone for hundreds of years, but I know, they are not. Not any more, never really. 3rd law of Enochian Dynamics, even divine power can’t be destroyed, only changed in state.

He knew the gods are dead, I know, one of the gods, is undead…”

He held up a hand again.

“He had the intellect, the cunning, the necromancy, but he never had the divine, because the gods are dead.”

The little man walked into the swirling grey sands and looked up at the void.

“As the first Cleric of the Dead Gods I call upon you to lend divine favour to our quest, aid us in our holy mission.”

The void of a man remained unmoved.

“I know you have gleaned something from the worship of the bearded one, it might be the only ace that Acererak did not hold.”

He stepped back… the void of a man looked at him for a moment, lifted the void of a book from the void of a lectern and looked it over, then he put it down and brushed some dirt from the absence of a shoulder.

A golden grain blew through the turbulence and floated in a curve toward the pint-sized master of the undead. It settled in his hand and the towers darkened ramparts returned to view.

Mortimer felt in himself a confidence and warmth, a connection to a power that was not the cold of the grave, and a purpose, a sure sense of… a purpose that wasn’t careful, wasn’t what he had cautiously planned, so this was zeal? It would get one killed, this then was how the gods played dice?

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The Viol

She sat on a stool, in a corner of the bar, and opened her legs.

With a practised flourish, she stood the viol between her knees, took the long smooth neck in her left hand, making a chord with her fingertips, and ran her bow across the strings, then back, and forward again.

The tritone would have shocked an educated audience, but the drunks in this sawdust-floor dive in deepest Arnest paid no attention.

A melody next, in a minor key. One or two of the patrons stopped to listen to the rapid flurry of notes, watching her fingers jump and slide up and down the strings. Perhaps they were aware that this was unlike any other music, although they would hardly have realised the downtuned strings were playing lower notes than they had ever heard before.

It was time to give them a proper show.

Loud, staccato chords, distorted and enhanced by her magic. A dark, metallic, aggressive power that blasted from the viol, overwhelming all other sounds in the space.

That was the first four bars.

On the fifth, she started up the light show.

And that’s when the rhythm section kicked in.

She’d been rehearsing this for months, learning how to weave her magic into her playing. The low, driving counterpoint, the ferocious percussion, all a product of her arcane gift, filling the room with musical intensity while she sat there, bowing her viol in tightly controlled frenzy, bathed in smoke and many-coloured lights.

They were watching now.

She started singing.

Some people say my love cannot be true…

These were simple people, even by the standards of rural Arnest. None of them would discern the true meaning of her song, however clear it might be to the educated. The identity of her true love would be lost to them.

…I will give you those things you thought unreal…

But they enjoyed the spectacle. The novelty. The thundering power of the music. She had their attention now.

…Follow me now and you will not regret
Leaving the life you led before we met…

Some were nodding along to the music, a couple of the drunker ones even cheered. It was enough for now.

In time, perhaps, some would fall in love with the music. And eventually, maybe, a few would fall in love with the power that inspired it.

…Look into my eyes, you’ll see who I am…

Tonight, it was enough that they were in the power of her viol, for a little while. The rest would come in good time.

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Untitled

“Stone of the world, hold me.”

Carreg gazed down the side of the cloven hill, tree roots beginning to grow into mid-air, the soil turning sour and dusty in the dry air. She liked this hill. Even this close to the Authority’s church, her little grove of trees felt secluded; outside of time, almost. How appropriate for her twilight prayer: the in-between of night and day. The tipping point. Balance in everything. How had it had been forgotten here?

A muttering. A scraping. Below. Around…? Carreg muttered a hurried “bloodofthewillingleaveme” and quickly nicked her hand as she ran to the edge. Below, in the dust, black smoke billowing around him, Mortimer. As she watched, the smoke began to form words. Of a sort…

<?xml version=“1.0” encoding=“existential”?>

She’d seen this before. Mortimer’s necromantic rituals. Burne and Spugnoir’s studies. What in Hell was he up to now.

<existential:incantation xmlns:existential=“http:∕∕ashendoor∕~mortimer∕existential.dtd”>

From the side of the hill, remains beginning to animate themselves. Crawling from their opened graves.

Oh. Shit.

“We need to go. Now”.

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A Tangled Web We Weave

The message read:

To the 13th Company… my apologies, I am now informed you are referred to as The Undying Regiment. This correspondence is the required formal declaration (article 78a) and further to the magical sendings exchanged between myself and the duty-wizard at the time of my return.

I, Corporal Mortimer Greysproket, 13th Company “the Undying” confirm I have returned to the lands contested and rightfully controlled by Her Majesty, and return to active service. I have journeyed into territory considered beyond current theater, and have intel concerning the same, I await debrief.

The message was ready to send, and, as expected, was glanced at by the “trusted” courier.

The message made the eyeballs itch and try and look away, the message made the head hurt for days.

At it’s destination the message was read through a piece of black obsidian.

To the 13th Company… my apologies, I am now informed you are referred to as The Undying Regiment, This correspondence is the required formal declaration (article 78a) and further to the magical sendings exchanged between myself and the duty-wizard at the time of my return.

I, Sequestered asset Mortimer Greysproket, cover deployment 13th Company “the Undying” confirm I have returned to Theorised Border Side Alpha, having crossed to Theorised Border Side Beta. Confirmation is given of ASHEN DOOR’s founding theorem: Theater of war is result of magical, not military interference and ASHEN DOOR is confirmed in its mandate: must take all magical steps to assure a Citadel victory even where military assets refuse to sanction arcane intervention or practices.

Await debrief, but this must be postponed. Upon hearing of my return, former cover placement regiment 13th company reunited with me at SITE: BLUE ANOMALY via magic circle transport (be advised, non-euclidean-incident clean-up teams may be required at SITE: BLUE ANOMALY). Extra-barrier assets were also chosen and acquired via my services to further the chances of success of mission.

I am exercising Ashen Door protocol 13 “to acquire and control all pertaining non military ‘special’ assets for the protection and ultimate victory of the citadel” to inform you I intend to take a team of willing (but plausibly deniable) assets into desired Cache 9, whose location I believe to have finally genuinely acquired.

For the record I want to note; one of the members that has attached themselves to the party I’m am attempting to use to liberate Cache 9 is potentially an insurgent placed to liberate occupied territory, and has dealing with Glass Staffs. I recognised them from supply runs carried out to occupied rebel villages the gnomes of the 13th ued to run via the subway tunnels only gnomes could access.

When I present them with ASHEN DOOR code challenge however, they gave standard citadel intelligence response. They’re not one of us, but I feel better knowing we have friendlies on side. Those from the Theorised Border Site Beta, I can vouch for myself.

Mortimer finished the encryption spell he had redesigned (can you believe they used to use that old rubbish based on Tenser’s scripts?) and handed it to the runner, he new the poor fool would try and read it, he pitied him the desire to scratch the back of his eyeballs.

That was the Grey Opps, and the Boots on the Ground side of things covered.

He wondered how long before The Citadel tried to call him back into service again, covert or military, and interrupt his vital work? The 13th had been a perfect cover and the DOOR had given him access to secrets no Citadel library would release, but, he’d seen the other side now, he knew how close he was.

Now all he had to do was go back to the true point of all this, get in there, end this! Carrieg would be at the sliced-in-half graveyard, cliff face praying. It was nearly dawn. He needed support, and after recent events he suspected he knew just where to find it. Defiling the towns graves however, bad form, to obvious, his friendship to Burns was to useful and… if he was honest… too genuine, to risk. Thankfully, The Barrier provided once again, there was another way, and the only person who need know, knew how important their not-always-tasteful work was!

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Entwined for Eternity?

…With this ink, the symbol of your entwined souls,
You will be linked for eternity.
Whatever affects one, will affect the other.
No distance is too far to part these soulmates….

The words of the druid who had bound her and Vani’s lives together when they’d wed reeled in Rima’s mind, as she clasped her love in her arms. The white hot anger that she’d felt mere moments before was now eclipsed by the agony of loss. Burning hot tears streamed silently down her face as she tried to remember to breathe. She buried her head against Vani’s own, still warm face, and wished there was something she could do. One of her hands drifted to the spot on Vani’s thigh where her identical binding tattoo was located. She focused on her own tattoo, trying to follow the shadow of the connection back to Vani, but she couldn’t sense the path.

With a exclamation of despair, she pulled Vani up into her lap, wrapping her into an even tighter embrace. She concentrated on the feel of her in her arms, her familiar scent, the memory of them running in the forests……..how they would run together again in the Feywild. She focused on that thought in desperation, letting the sensation of her own body evaporate from her mind. She wanted that now…to run in the Feywild and reached out, her mind calling to Vani there.

Suddenly, she was there in the forests where the Spring Queen had asked for her help just weeks before, but it was wrong. Horribly wrong. Rima gasped in shock and despair as she looked about. The forest was no longer green and luscious – the trees looked dead, the ground covered in ash. Rima’s plaintive cry of “Vani!” remained unanswered in the deafening silence. She wandered through the dead forest, trying to retrace her steps to the Court. When she found it, her tears fell again. Four skeletons sat on thrones facing each other in a cross. Now she understood why the Spring Queen was calling out to the Elves to help and it looked like they’d all failed. Moving to the centre of the cross she knelt, her head bowed.

“My Sovereigns. I am sorry we couldn’t stop this.” she apologised sadly. “I wish I had the power to change this, to return your realm to it’s full beauty and our people to its protection.”

She lifted her head and wished they could give her a sign to let her know it wasn’t too late. As she let her gaze drift across the faces of the skeletons, she sensed there was still something there, as if the Fey weren’t entirely gone. Dropping her head once more, she wiped her face clean on her sleeve and took a deep breath. Standing, she pledged with as much resolve as she could muster, “I will try!” Looking up, she stared into the eyes of the skeleton she believed to be the Winter King. “I will!” She felt a connection and silently spoke her pledge to him. The figure began to stir….and then she was back in Hommlet Tower, her soulmate in her arms. “We will be together!” she pledged with a kiss to those lifeless lips, before lifting the body onto a nearby bed.

Vanindae leapt onto the bed beside Vani & nestled close to the body with a soft cry. Kneeling beside the bed, Rima clasped her lover’s hand and leant her forehead against her side. As the tears of desolation flowed, she began to softly sing the love songs she had written. They had all been for Vani and always would be.

After some time, she realised she wasn’t alone. There was someone lingering by the door. As she looked up, she calmed Vanindae’s low growl of warning with a reassuring hand stroked across her fur. It was one of the Gnomes she’d met in passing earlier.

“I’m sorry to disturb you Lady, especially in your grief, but the songs you were singing….I know some of them.” Wullie muttered in quiet puzzlement.

Rima wiped her reddened eyes and confided, “I wrote them for her.”

Wullie paused, looking at the lifeless figure on the bed, before adding “I sing them to my fiance. You wrote them?”

“You’re the young man who’s engaged to an Elven Queen? I’ve heard of you.” Rima remembered. She sighed emptily. “Why are you here?”

“Me and my brother were sent here with our company to help. My late brother.” Wullie added unhappily. “It’s my last mission before I get married.”

“Come here Mr Wullie,” she beckoned, a look of intense seriousness on her face. As he reached her, she gripped his shoulders tightly and looked deep into his eyes. “You listen to me Mr Wullie. You take your brother’s body and you go home to your Queen. Bury him with all honours. Marry her and enjoy every minute of your lives together. Do not go on anymore missions, just stay with her for as long as you live. Your time together is precious…oh so precious….more so now there’s no Feywild! Do you understand me!”

Wullie blinked, breaking the tension. He’d been holding his breath without realising. With a deep breath he replied, “Yes Lady. I understand.”

“Before you go, I have something for you!” Rima added more calmly now. She rummaged through a pack, extracting a bundle of papers. She offered them to Wullie, “Here – I always make copies. They are a wedding present for you and your Queen.”

Wullie took the gift and glanced at the top couple of sheets. They were songs. She was giving him her beautiful songs. A tear escaped down his face as a wash of conflicting emotions hit him. “Thank you Lady. It’s a wonderful gift.” A thought struck him and he added “Are you going on…to carry out the mission?”

Rima’s face hardened and in a strained tone replied “I don’t think there’s any choice. The mages need to be stopped before none of us are left.”

Wullie frowned in thought. “Before I go, I will bring some things to you that might help you. It’s the least I can do given you are going on such a perilous quest. I believe my Queen would demand I did no less.”

“Thank you Mr Wullie.” Rima acknowledged sincerely. “And I’m sorry for your loss!”

“As am I for yours!” Wullie agreed gloomily. “Many are being lost in these times of trouble. There are few of us Gnomes left now.”

The tears welled up in Rima’s eyes once more as the desolation of her loss and those of others rose once again. She pulled Wullie into her embrace and held him close as they mourned their loved ones together.

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Season 5 Session 1
That went well

Our heroes arrive in Hommlet, having mostly travelled together from Wave Echo Cave with the exception of Mortimer, who took an unexplained diversion along the way. Other activities en route include Mawgojzeta surreptitiously sending magical messages to her superiors in the Citadel, and Rima contacting Vani across barriers of time and space.

In the Citadel, the Elf Queen has no sooner proposed to her lover and confidante Wullie, than the happy couple are interrupted with an intelligence report. Clausis and her force of battlemages are close to finding the lost tomb of Acererak – but an agent has made contact with a group of adventurers who also know the location and are on their way to investigate. One of the members of this party matches the description of Mortimer Greysprocket, much to Wullie’s delight.

At the Queen’s Command, the 13 Undying are assembled, a force of ten elite warriors including Wullie, Hamish, Dispy and the highly respected Corporal Skeleton. Wullie and Hamish volunteer to be teleported into Hommlet, to meet up with the adventuring party. Hamish is disappointed that Tuakiin does not seem to be amongst them, but keen to go nonetheless.

Meanwhile, across the barrier, our other group of heroes is in the ruins of Rhest, winding down after the battle, when Vani receives Rima’s communication and relays it to the others. At the mention of the “Tomb of Horrors”, Anarië’s ears prick up. She insists they must find a way to cross the barrier so that she can enter this tomb and discover its secrets, but Tuakiin insists that there’s no way to do so in time. Even if they were to head to the barrier now, by the time they got there weeks would have passed on the other side.

Back in Hommlet, the party’s arrival proves more controversial than anticipated. In the bar of the Welcome Wench, the Bard decides to bring closure to his unresolved issues with Jonathan, Captain of the King’s Guard, by punching him in the face and declaring that he doesn’t give a damn who knows that his father is the Grand Vizier. Mawgojzeta’s attempt to calm the situation by suggesting to the bruised Jonathan that he come with her for a drink and tell her all about himself and his men rather backfires, when Jonathan’s unexpectedly blatant response to her subtle magic leads the entire bar to realise she is using enchantment – and they are most unhappy about it.

Master Burne expresses the villagers’ anger most emphatically, but Mawgojzeta is alternately baffled and amused by the fairy-tale theology of these travellers from the past. No Name has been here before, of course, and has resigned herself to tolerating these silly beliefs. For the sake of calming things down, Mawgojzeta agrees to refrain from enchantments within the boundary of Hommlet.

Leaving the pub, Mawgojzeta is followed by Mortimer. She responds appropriately to his code phrase, establishing that they are both working for the Citadel. They are joined by Carreg, returning from her regular blood ritual, who at first tries to claim that the cut on her palm was the result of a fall but eventually reveals the truth.

In Burne’s tower, there is a council of war. (Mawgojzeta, being persona non grata, is left to kick her heels and chat to some soldiers.) Mortimer and Burne devise a way to bring people across the barrier – but it will drain the life force of one person to achieve this.

In Rhest, the group receives this news. Vani, Anarië, Tuakiin and Lubash are keen to cross over – but who will suffer the life force drain?

Step up, Angus the fishmonger.

Those who are going to travel say their farewells, Anarië giving Ser Gweneth a necklace to remember her by, and the spell begins.

The travellers from Rhest and the 13th Undying from the Citadel are transported to the tower of Hommlet. Apart from brief apparitions of Angus writhing in flame, all seems to go well. A barracks room is found for the 13th, Vani and Rima lose no time in finding a private room in which to become reacquainted, Tuakiin finds a barn in which to sleep, No Name takes Jonathan outside for some late-night al fresco shagging and Anarië shares wine and politely bitchy conversation with Master Burne, in which the question of whether his Majesty would approve of Burne removing the tower of Hommlet from the path of his enemies is brought to the fore.

Then the time wraiths appear.

Flying skeletons in black robes, they appear in front of many of those who were teleported, swooping immediately to attack. Separate battles ensue, scattered throughout the tower.

Mortimer finds to his frustration that the creatures are immune to his necromantic energies. Anarië joins him, and although the power of her heat rays is lessened against the wraiths, between them she and Mortimer are able to destroy one of them. Mortimer immediately heads to the barracks room, Anarië following, but they arrive too late to save poor Hamish, who despite valiantly wounding a wraith with his silver trombone has already fallen, his soul pulled out by the wraith and transformed into a spectre. Anarië and Mortimer manage, with difficulty, to destroy both creatures, but alas there is no hope for Hamish. He is irretrievably dead.

Vani similarly comes under attack in the room she is sharing with Rima, and the wraith quickly takes her down. Rima’s scream of shattering rage fails to stop the creature from harvesting Vani’s soul in like manner to Hamish’s, turning her also into a spectre. Although both creatures are eventually destroyed, Rima’s rage at losing her wife shows no sign of abating.

Lubash also have wraith. Lubash hit wraith many times with hammer. Lubash kill wraith.

The final battle is on the roof, where the adventurers arrive just in time to see Angus the fish seller being put out of his flaming agony by the sweet release of death.

The time wraiths defeated, the party begin to prepare for their journey to the Tomb of Horrors – some resting, some grieving, one necromantic gnome raising corpses from the churchyard. They have lost three people before their journey even begins. Some might call this an omen.

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Harrathian Karolith
I

A tentative knock came at the door of the temporary apartment of Harrathian Karolith and momentarily the door unlatched and swung open, seemingly of its own accord.
“Ahem, um, master, sorry to disturb your investigations but the wagon train is ready and Clausis did make clear the importance of speed.”
As he knelt, Harrathian’s back was to the door so Bettina, his most promising acolyte, could not see that he closely examined not a magical item or scrying device but a simple rough carving of a female and child figure.
“Clausis commands and we must obey, no? Well at least I’m more comfortable solving the problems of dungeons than rebellious villages. We’ll leave the killing of peasants to that lazy fool Arinian. Heh.”
He rose slowly to his feet, using his glass-staff for purchase. Nevertheless, once upright he made an imposing figure, the deliberation and grace of his bearing indicating the dexterity and strength that old age could erode but not destroy.
He moved purposely past Bettina and strode out to meet his obligation.
Bettina knew better than to comment on the single tear that fell almost unnoticed down the ridges of his weathered face. Sometimes that happens to old men.

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