At this time, Thurvan Rashong, possessor of the Shadowgeist Reaver and the Box of Shadows, stands at the top of the column in the center of Kadmiel’s third floor. Emeris has trapped him within a curtain of shadow.
Brummelt returns to the third floor after being frightened away by the baying of the shadow mastiffs. He joins the Rosegate Company (Emeris the shade, Early the warblade, Dziga the rogue, and Vatex the the elf) and his companion Daersidian the elven battle mage.
The companions drink healing and restoration potions to replenish their strength after fighting Thurvan’s horde of shadows and shadow mastiffs. Dziga and Early begin running up the staircase to the top of the pillar. Emeris will dismiss the curtain of shadow when they get there, and the two of them will hack up Thurvan.
Then shadows coalesce and Saharasahla arrives! “You made a terrible mistake coming here!” he tells the companions. He explains that he feels deep guilt over betraying Emeris, but he will claim the Box of Shadows and Kadmiel as his own, killing them all if they stand in his way.
Now it is time for Emeris to test his strength against the old shadowcaster, who has also become a shade with the Tenebrous Formula.
Saharasahla conjures up a huge shadow elemental, then throws down a gem of night to conjure up another 9-foot tall elemental. The huge elemental attacks everyone on ground level and the large one makes harrying flyby attacks against Early and Dziga. The elemental attacks them with its reach! Its powerful slams carry cold energy. Dziga fires an arrow and Early activates the Cold Resistance power from his Phoenix Helm. Then he leaps from the stairs, executing a Death from Above attack! He soars right through the elemental, landing forcefully below. Dziga starts heading down the stairs while popping off shots at the elemental as it pursues him.
The huge elemental tries to control the battlefield with its great reach and powerful blows that pass right through armor. Emeris teleports to the side of the room and blasts Killing Shadows at the huge elemental and its summoner. Saharasahla curses him as Vatex rushes the shadowcaster, slashing a deep cut into his side. Saharasahla’s Sharp Shadows mystery lashes out at the elf and rakes him with stinging cuts.
Saharasahla teleports across the room away from the sharp swords of Vatex, and conjures a second huge shadow elemental to attack his the elf. Early and Daersidian attack attack the other one as it stumbles from Emeris’ shadow blast. Brummelt hurls daggers at Saharasahla but is well prepared for this battle. This complex web of defensive mysteries surrounding him deflects all the attacks.
Early and Daersidian continue trying to take down the first huge elemental. Its size is tremendous and its blows are powerful. They keep cutting at it and it looks like they will soon take it down -- but then Saharasahla uses his Soul Puppet mystery against Early. The warblade is dominated! The elder shade sends him against Daersidian!
Daersidian, flanked by the powerful elemental and the warblade, doesn’t stand a chance. He is battered by the elemental’s blows, then Early’s Rabid Bear Strike cuts him in half at the waist. Brummelt looks on in horror!
Emeris advances on Saharasahla again and blasts another Killing Shadows, maximized with his metashadow ring. Saharasahla sees it coming and attempts to warp Emeris’ own mystery and absorb its power! An intense battle of wills ensues -- Emeris and Saharasahla each use Hero Points! In the end, Saharasahla’s greater caster level wins out.
Saharasahla powers up his shadow images, and suddenly there are 9 figures of the old shade standing before the companions. Brummelt hurls a volley of daggers and eliminates a few images, but it barely helps. A shadow elemental pounds on him until he dies.
Vatex fights off one of the huge elementals and dispatches it, but then the dominated Early is upon him, in the Punshing Stance and slashing with martial maneuvers.
THE END OF EMERIS? SMASHED BY THE SHADOWGEIST REAVER
As Emeris falls back to heal, Thurvan suddenly teleports out of the curtain of darkness and appears at his side. The corrupted engineer cries about not letting him take his special shadow treasures. The engineer swings the Shadowgeist Reaver... and it hits Emeris with cataclysmic force. “Nooooo!” shouts Saharasahla.
A shockwave of metaphysical energy bursts through the chamber. For a moment the entire universe seems to lose its third dimension and the world seems strangely flat and the perspective weirdly distorted. Reality grinds and churns as it attempts to reconfigure itself.
When the effect seems to resolve itself, the Shadowgeist Reaver’s blade is shattered and Thurvan looks confusedly upon it.
Emeris is completely gone. Somehow, the impact of Thurvan’s strike utterly annihilated both the young shade shadowcaster AND the artifact sword.
Saharasahla traps Dziga in a Prison of Night mystery. Ravaged by the cold aura within the metaphysical prison, Dziga flexes his willpower and breaks free. The old man then teleports most of the way up to the pillar and begins launching shadow evocations, and a maximized Shadow Storm. The old shadowcaster orders his puppet Early to attack Thurvan and get the Box of Shadows.
Vatex and Dziga take down another shadow elemental, but they are both badly hurt from the elemental attacks and Saharasahla’s onslaught. They start rummaging through their bags and drinking every healing potion they’ve got. They close in on Thurvan. Surrounded and desperate, Thurvan kills himself in desperation by unleashing a blast of power from the Box of Shadows. He is destroyed, and in turn damages his attackers.
Early scoops up the Box of Shadows and begins running towards the staircase that goes up the pillar. Vatex intervenes to block him. Early rushes the elf and tries to overrun him. Vatex tackles the warblade and knocks him prone. He beats down on Early with the hilts of his swords and knocks him unconscious.
BOUND TO THE REAVER
Emeris’ head clears and he finds himself somewhere other than Kadmiel -- he is standing on a darkened ridge in the Plane of Shadow. It seems when the Shadowgeist Reaver struck him, something happened which shunted him out of the Shade Tower and into this plane. But why? There is no obvious explanation. Here can hear the baying of shadow mastiffs all around him in the darkness. Lots of shadow mastiffs.
Then Emeris notes that from his right arm extends a spectral blade in the same jagged shape as the Shadowgeist Reaver that had hit him. It seems that he has _merged_ with the shadow sword... or at least its metaphysical aspect.
Then a dark figure appears, with smoky skin and a long beard. The figure identifies himself as Dadga Hazareth, legendary shadowcaster. Or at least... a fragment of Hazareth’s essence. He says that he mastered the Tenebrous Formula to such a great degree that he actually achieved apotheosis with the Plane of Shadow. He explains that something just happened, and it was felt deep in the core of the Plane of Shadow, to which Hazareth is intimately connected. He says that this metaphysical cataclysm is such that he feels the Plane of Shadow -- and possibly the entire universe -- has been affected. So dramatic is this event, that even the “Lord of the Dead” has taken notice... and he is sure to appear shortly.
A large pack of shadow mastiffs attacks, and Dagda Hazareth disappears. Emeris feels the Plane of Shadow like never before... he draws upon the Plane of Shadow to recharge his magic. Rabid mastiffs close in on him, lunging to attack. Cone-shaped blasts of shadow magic burst from Emeris’ eyes and hands, splattering more than a dozen of the monsters in mere seconds. He keeps his wits against their insane baying, and uses the spectral blade attached to his arm to cut down others. The spectre of the Shadowgeist Reaver does not cut normal wounds in the flesh -- it cuts the very lifeforce of living foes, and transfers some of that lifeforce back into himself with every hit.
More shadow mastiffs climb up the ridge and emerge from the treeline. They are not individually strong, but there are so many... Emeris prepares to unleash more shadow magic, but then the ground begins to rumble violently and he fights for balance.
LORD OF THE DEAD! A PARADOX IN THE MATRIX OF SOULS
Suddenly SAMHAIN, the Lord of the Dead -- one of Enhasa’s oldest gods -- rises from the ground. He is a massive figure, bound to his massive throne, which forms a huge wall behind him that fills Emeris’ vision horizon to horizon. Misshapen visages are carved into this wall, subtly shifting expressions of horror. The emergence of the throne and wall knocks most of the mastiffs off the ridge and sends the others fleeing. The visages in the wall call out in uncanny unison -- “Behold, Samhain... Lord of the Dead... he speaks!”
Samhain’s voice is ancient and seems... sad? “IS THIS A DREAM? ALL THE SOULS THAT I LOVE, CALLING OUT MY NAME... THE FLOW OF SOULS WARMS MY DIVINE HEART, BUT IT IS FADING FAST. WHAT HAS HAPPENED?”
As if to answer his own question, Samhain seems to look into the distance. His face shows no emotion, but in his eyes he can see the god unravelling pertinent information related to his divine portfolio of death and souls. Emeris is paralyzed by the divine aura of the god as he looks upon the shade after several moments. His eyes narrow accusingly, but though he looks upon the shade, he does not seem to address him when he speaks.
“ASHARDALON, WHAT HAVE YOU WROUGHT? YOUR CHILDREN ARE THE ULTIMATE BLASPHEMY UPON THE CYCLE OF LIFE AND DEATH.”
Emeris feels a chill at these words. Ashardalon... Saharasahla’s bookshop had been visited by a mysterious stranger bearing the symbol of that ancient dragon, who was destroyed long ago. What was the connection?
Then, as if to answer Emeris’ thoughts, Samhain speaks again.
“ENHASA IS A PRISON PLANE. IT IS NOT CONNECTED TO THE PILLAR OF THE SKY AND THE GREAT WHEEL AS ARE OTHER PRIME WORLDS. THEREFORE, THE SOULS OF THE DEAD TO NOT JOURNEY TO THE OUTER PLANES TO BECOME PETITIONERS FOR GODS. INSTEAD, THEY ARE BROKEN DOWN INTO RAW INCARNUM AND REPROCESSED WITHIN THE BASTION OF THE FIRST AND THE LAST. THEY ARE THEN FED INTO THE MATRIX OF SOULS SO THAT NEW LIFE MAY BE BORN.”
What the fuck is this guy talking about?
“YET AT THE MOMENT YOU WERE STRUCK BY THE SHADOWGEIST REAVER, THE MATRIX OF SOULS BECAME DISRUPTED BY A PARADOX.
“THE SHADOWGEIST REAVER ABSORBED YOUR SOUL. BUT YOUR SOUL WAS ALREADY WITHIN THE SWORD. THIS DISRUPTION IN THE SYSTEM OF FATE CREATED TOO MUCH STRAIN ON THE MATRIX OF SOULS AND IS CAUSING IT TO UNRAVEL. EVEN I, THE LORD OF THE DEAD, CANNOT FULLY COMPREHEND THE GRAVITY OF WHAT HAS HAPPENED, BUT IT MAY NOT BE TOO LATE TO REVERSE THIS. I MUST RETURN TO MY REALM OF DEATH.”
Samhain’s wall and throne begins to sink back into the earth of the Plane of Shadow. Emeris calls out, “What are you saying? What happened to me?”
Samhain replies, “GO NORTH, LITTLE SHADE... JOURNEY TO NIGHTFANG SPIRE. NORTH IS WHERE YOUR ANSWERS LIE.” The Lord of the Dead wills Emeris back to Kadmiel.
Back in Kadmiel, Dziga and Vatex fight alone against the last huge shadow elemental as Saharasahla hits them with more shadow evocations. The rogue strikes a final decisive blow that destroys the elemental, but do they have enough strength to defeat Saharasahla?
Then Emeris reappears. Saharasahla’s powers have been too severely depleted, and the old man never takes extreme risks. He is confident that he still has the required resources to defeat powerful foes like these three. But only barely. Bad luck could swing things against his favor. How could he be so close, and risk losing everything after all this time? He decides to play it on the safe side. He vows to return to the Shade Tower and claim the Box of Shadows, which he warns is “virtually useless” to anyone but him -- because he possesses the special key. He holds up the key that Emeris had found long ago in the hidden lair of the mysterious alchemist Ephraim... and with that, he vanishes.
The companions know that Saharasahla will be back soon, with his magic fully recharged. But they cannot remain here, so they gather up their loot and Emeris uses his shadow powers to shift them out of the Kadmiel back onto Ridge Road in Elan. They have all their loot, except they find that the Box of Shadows has disappeared from their bag, presumably back into Kadmiel. Perhaps without Sarasasahla’s key, it cannot be removed from the Shade Tower, or some similar restriction?
Emeris finds he can make the spectral Shadowgeist Reaver appear and disappear at will. It is bound to his soul completely. Although he feels it is a powerful weapon, he wonders at the implications of its connection to him and Samhain’s words. Is this weapon a gift or a curse?
THE RETURN OF KHYRON? NO WAY!
Back at the Rosegate House, they are visited by Mystina, the man-at-arms, err... WOMAN-at-arms (?) from the Knights of the Pale, who’d fought with them against Khyron last year.
Mystina brings grave news and is asking for the Rosegate Company’s assistance. She says she has been trying to hunt down the vampire Aelindai Whispersong, a follower of Khyron who’d been the sole escapee of the battle at the Apocalyptic Sanctuary.
Mystina reveals that when she finally tracked down Aelindai, she learned the vampire was working with the Forsaken -- undead worshippers who’d been allied with Khyron, and helped him become a “shigmaa” as part of his quest to achieve ultimate power. Now the Forsaken working with Aelindai were trying to bring Khyron back to life at their hideout in the Necropolis. Based on intelligence, this resurrection ritual was supposedly taking place... tomorrow!
Mystina wants the Rosegate Company to accompany her and a squad of Knights on an assault to ensure Khyron is not brought back. The Rosegate Company is glad to help -- not for any particularly noble reasons, but simply because there are few people they hate more than Khyron.
They will rest from their battle at Kadmiel, and join the Knights of the Pale in tomorrow’s attack.
Next time: The companions fight to stop Khyron’s resurrection! What exactly are the Forsaken planning?