Apri 16-Maya 2
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
Vatex, Early, and Allustan arrive back in Diamond Lake. Allustan no longer has a home, so he decides that he will head for Limberry to see if his former mentor, the archmage Manzorian, can help him find a new place to live where he will be safe from dragon attacks. Allustan says he will continue his work on learning about Kyuss and the Age of Worms, and Early should come visit him in Limberry some day.
Before Vatex and Early head back to Elan, Allustan reveals the location the Tolstoff family’s Blackfall Keep, supposedly Jakter’s last known location. He also tells them that although the Black Triad cult does not seem to be directly following Kyuss, he has learned that for some reason they seek something called the “Apostolic Scrolls” -- ancient documents that speak of the Age of Worms.
Emeris establishes a proof uniting seemingly disparate equations within the Tenebrous Formula. This provides a breakthrough that enables him and Saharasahla to put the last pieces of understanding into place. They are now quite possibly the living people to know the ultimate secrets of the mighty shadowcaster Dagda Hazareth, who penned the Book of Inverted Shadows. Deeper insight into the metaphysical nature of things and the twisted laws of shadow magic are revealed.
Saharasahla says they can now undergo the transformation into shades, where they draw upon the essence of the Plane of Shadow into their own soul’s. Then, the old man says, they can go to Kadmiel.
Saharasahla prepares a few “ingredients” for the transformation -- as always, he does not explain much about what he is doing. When the time comes, Saharasahla gives Emeris three strange shadowy potions to drink, and some course black powder to sprinkle in his eyes. First Saharasahla casts an unknown mystery modified with the power of the Tenebrous formula, which starts to channel the essence of Shadow into them. Emeris drinks the potions and applies the powder, which feels like putting glass particles in his eyes. Saharasahla does the same. Emeris starts to feel weird then starts throwing up blood everywhere then he falls into a coma.
After several days of a dreamless coma, Emeris finds himself in the Dreamscape. He is surrounded by a sea of copycats of himself. Saharasahla appears, looking healthy as a shade. The old man says that Emeris must sacrifice his draconic nature and become a being of shadow. For days, Emeris walks among the crowd of Emeris copies, before finally locating one that looks like Shade-Emeris. Emeris merges with the Shade-Emeris.
When he awakes, he is alone in Saharasahla’s library. The old man is nowhere to be found, and Emeris feels a deep affinity with darkness -- even more profound than before. He has become a shade.
THE WAR-AMPS WARBLADE
Early and Vatex get back to Elan in about 10 days. Early feels like he hasn't seen the end of the cyber-ninja. He wants to get some light shed on some of the cyber ninja's unique martial maneuvers, which match no known school derived from the Book of Nine Swords. There isn't much organization among the variegated and rare martial initiates in the city, so Early just asks around town, trying to find a martial lore expert. He finds RYU KAWASAKI WANG, who is a confusing amalgamation of every Asian martial arts stereotype. This man was a powerful warblade until he lost his arms in an ugly incident. Kawasaki tells Early to speak with EIJIN, a man who runs a cuttefish diner -- and who just happens to be a retired warblade himself. No one in the city knows more about the Vajra and the techniques of the Bo9S, supposedly. But he procrastinates for now.
THE PLIGHT OF THURVAN RASHONG
Vatex is contacted by Daersidian and Brummelt, the elf battle mage and halfling rogue who he’d met on the road back from Moonsilver Forest.
They want to hire Vatex to find their friend -- if possible, saving him, and if necessary, killing him. They elaborate on their earlier story -- their friend Thurvan Rashong, a structural engineer, was one day approached by a man who seemed to charm him with supernatural powers, and gave him two dark items -- a box of shadowy metal, and a big shadowy sword with a jagged blade. The man then told Thurvan to go to a place called “Kadmiel”.
Thurvan did not obey, but eventually he became corrupted by these dark artifacts he possessed, and he did indeed abandon his family and home and travel to Elan to find this “Kadmiel” place. They say that Thurvan must be found and restored -- but if he is corrupted beyond hope, he must be killed.
Vatex refuses the contract because Daersidian and Brummelt simply don’t have enough money to hire him.
Emeris finds a note left by Saharasahla. It apologizes for betraying Emeris, saying he had to be the first to reach Kadmiel and he could only do that by making sure the “hounds” would not attack him. The old man apologizes, saying that he feels deep regret because he could not have mastered the Tenebrous Formula. Even so, the old man warns Emeris not to follow him. When Emeris leaves, he soon discovers that he has some kind of illusion cast upon him that makes him appear to be Saharasahla.
He gets back to the Rosegate House and convinces everyone what has happened. Then they are attacked by the hounds -- more specifically, the “Hounds of Dharculus”, aberrant predators from the Ethereal Sea. Three of these terrible monsters attack with grim, alien efficiency, but the powerful companions defeat them swiftly. However, they soon discover that more hounds are closing in.... lots more hounds. Hoping that the library still repels the monsters, Emeris shadow steps back to the library and finds himself safe once again. The hounds do not bother the others once Emeris flees.
After another day, the illusion on Emeris fades, allowing him to leave the library and not be attacked by the Hounds of Dharculus. By now, Emeris presumes Saharasahla has reached Kadmiel.
He searches Saharasahla’s library top to bottom. The old man left almost everything. Emeris finds valuable scrolls and potions. One thing that is gone, however, is that strange shadowy key that House Sadar wanted. He also finds a discarded “first draft” of the letter to Emeris, which reveals more information.
It says Saharasahla had been hunted by the hounds of Dharculus for years. His plan was threefold, he says -- become a shade to deal with his dying physical body; enter Kadmiel to live forever in perfect safety and comfort; and get the Box of Shadows. He says that the Book of Inverted Shadows was always the key, and it allows one to modify a shadow jump, shadow step, plane shift, or similar power to allow one to enter Kadmiel, which is otherwise inaccessible.
A STRANGE BARGAIN WITH HOUSE SADAR
Emeris reaches out to Lord Sadar to see if he can ally with the powerful wizard to get back at Saharasahla. After all, Renn Sadar hates Saharasahla and vice versa. Lord Sadar reveals that he wants to get the Box of Shadows for himself. However, he doesn’t believe it is inside Kadmiel at all. But, if he had the complete Book of Inverted Shadows, he believes he could make a Box of Shadows for himself.
He says that Kadmiel, the Shade Tower, was the home of a powerful elven sorcerer who created the Shadowstaff and the Box of Shadows. Renn Sadar already possesses the Shadowstaff. As for the Box of Shadows, it is said that its dark power was so great it utterly corrupted the elf that he became a being of pure shadow and utterly disappeared into the darkness. The power of the box also transposed the elf’s tower into the Shadow of Elan -- a gloomy half-world that exists at a specific vertex of the boundary between the Prime and the Plane of Shadow specifically overlapping the great city.
Then 200 years ago, an adventurer named Thaddeus Koll entered the Shadow of Elan and acquired the Box of Shadows somehow. He turned it over to the Malkuth, who in turn entrusted it to a powerful loremaster. Unfortunately, the powerful frost giant Ymrik killed the loremaster and took the Box of Shadows for his own. At that point its location becomes lost.
Sadar tells them they have killed his elite Shadow Blade Squad, except for the ninja Zuuma, who has disappeared. He wants the Rosegate Company to become the new Shadow Blade Squad. This is declined. Eventually the only agreement that is made is Emeris will release the info, word by word, from the 751st page at a ridiculously slow pace. In exchange for a non-aggression pact and cooperative information sharing. Sadar accepts the deal, although his motivations are unclear because the deal seems ridiculously bad.
THE SHADE TOWER
When Vatex puts together his information about Thurvan together with Emeris’ information, it looks like the Rosegate Company will be heading to Kadmiel to get Saharasahla. And furthermore, the Box of Shadows must have returned to Kadmiel as well, if Thurvan has it. They have to get it before Lord Sadar. But to do so, they may have to face Saharasahla himself. How powerful is the old man anyway???
So the group speaks again with Daersidian and Brummelt, who say they have found a necromancer who lives in the Necropolis who claims he can get them into Kadmiel for 10,000 gold, and they accepted the offer. Vatex, with Emeris, can get them into Kadmiel also, so he negotiates the price down but they say they want to accompany him into Kadmiel. Part of the job is protecting them so they can try to turn Thurvan back “to the good side.”
That night, in an empty lot on Ridge Road in Oldtown, the group -- Emeris the shade, Vatex the urban ranger, Early the warblade, Dziga the shadowdancer, Daersidian the battle mage, and Brummelt the rogue -- stand in the shadow of a tower that does not seem to exist. Emeris uses one of Saharasahla’s plane shifting scrolls and uses his knowledge given by the Book of Inverted Shadows to twist the effect of the magic to bring them to the “real” Kadmiel.
They find themselves in a shadowy landscape dominated by a single feature -- a tower of dark gray stone. The big doors are open, and inside on the first floor they find someone has already killed the guard dogs -- a dozen shadow mastiffs -- many days ago. Shadowy light pervades the place, and even Early’s goggles, Vatex’s flaming sword, and Dziga’s darkvision cannot penetrate it. Only Emeris sees clearly, a byproduct of his shade powers.
Emeris feels like this place is strangely familiar, but he cannot explain why. He certainly has never been here before. Or has he? There are gaps in his memory that he has never been able to explain. But surely he would remember a place like this...
Up on the second level, they find a tenebrous abode much larger than the tower that seems to hold it. The shadowy expanse have unknown size that surely holds many secrets. Could Saharasahla be out there somewhere? Or is he above?
They ignore this for now and ascend to the third level. Emeris gets a strange rush of deja vu when he sees the distinct layout. The chamber is massive, with a roof 100 feet off the ground. A single thin pillar rises from the center of the room, to a point 80 feet up. An 18-inch wide stairway circles the pillar all the way to the top -- where Thurvan Rashong awaits.
“Visitors, how do you like my home?” says Thurvan. In his left hand, he holds a box of shadowy material, and in his right hand, he holds a massive sword with a jagged blade. The man is clearly mad, and when he sees Emeris, a look of panic appears in his face and he clutches his sword and box so tightly his knuckles turn white.
“You...!” he says to Emeris. “He told me you would come... that was so long ago, I was starting to think he was wrong. But then I reminded myself that he had been right about everything else, so I had to trust him.”
“Who? Who told you I would come?” demands Emeris.
“A very helpful man. A GREAT man. The man who gave me the Box of Shadows and the Shadowgeist Reaver.”
Daersidian and Brummelt plead with their friend to give up his dark treasures and return home with them.
“But I _am_ home! Kadmiel is my home now. And I have the only friends I need!” Thurvan holds up the box and the sword. “And I will not let him--” he points the sword at Emeris --”take what is mine!”
Emeris interjects, “Damn you! What was the man’s name? What did he say about me?”
“His name was Garloth Gulthias!” The name is familiar to Emeris but he can’t remember where he’d heard it before. Did Saharasahla mention that name at one point? “He gave me these items and told me to wait at Kadmiel. And he warned me that one day you would come to take my treasures, but if I defeated you, then the box, the sword, and Kadmiel would be mine... forever!!!”
With that, Thurvan opens the Box of Shadows and a swarm of lesser and greater shadows surges from within. The swirl around Thurvan like a shield. “Die!!!!” yells the corrupted engineer, and he commands his undead minions to attack. He then summons more shadow mastiffs who appear and attack as well.
Emeris quickly casts a mystery that encases Thurvan and one of his shadows in a cage of shadowy energy, as the other shadows fly towards the group. A furious battle breaks out with Dziga and Vatex and Early fighting fiercely against the strength-draining touch of the shadow swarm. Brummelt uses his necklace of fireballs, Daersidian fires magic missiles, and Emeris fires enhanced umbral rays. The shadow mastiffs unleash their terrible baying that sends poor Brummelt fleeing back down to the second level in supernatural panic.
The companions work together and hold back the undead and mastiff assault. Early and Vatex suffer some serious strength damage but ultimately the assault is repelled. All the shadows are destroyed and the mastiffs butchered.
Their next challenge, whatever its true nature, is the engineer with powerful magic items trapped (?) inside Emeris’ curtain of shadow at the top of the pillar.
Next time: Will Emeris _really_ discover why Thurvan was expecting him? Will the Rosegate Company face off with the powerful shadowcaster, Saharasahla, and be utterly destroyed?