My opening attack using Avenging Flame missed as the mass of tentacles split apart to avoid my blow. Snorry engaged it a moment later, he shifted his stance and used his shield and axe to pin the creature to the spot. I moved to a flanking position drawing an attack from the monsters as I did when it lashed out with one of its tentacles striking me about the body. As it touched me I could feel it pass straight through my armour and my very flesh, in that same instant a distant memory resurfaced in my mind and this creature had tainted it with its presence. With myself and Snorry flanking the creature, Ylaana and Rackir stood off at the edge of the cube and hit it with everything they had. Ylaana’s attacks seemed to be more effective than our as most of our strikes seemed to pass through the creature as it it were insubstantial. Whatever thoughts this creature had put into my mind were affecting the swing of my sword and I rarely connected with the creature even whilst flanking it. When I missed with a strike my mind wandered and got confused and afterwards Ylaana told me I moved over to her and Rackir and were trying to strike them instead of the creature. In spite of all the mind tricks this creature was playing Snorry and Ylaana were relentless in their assault and becuase the creature could not move from its position in front on Snorry we managed to bring it to its knees and destroy it. Although once we had it bloodied it became more dangerous and I stood away from the creature using my healing abilities to keep Snorry up. When it finally died the creature vanished into nothingness, we could see nothing outside of the glass walls of our transport cube and the mystical symbols adorning the floor which had once been alive with energy were laid dormant. Somewhere in the abyss between worlds, dimensions we were adrift.
Snorry and I took the chance to catch our breath and split some water and rations between us whilst Ylaana busied herself with examining the symbols on the floor and consulting some books she had in her pack. A short while later Ylaana had figured out that the energy which was powering the transport cube through these runes had been expended and that she needed to recharge them with some of her own energy. She could perform a ritual to re-imbue the symbols with power but it would take a little while. Although I was accomplished in ritual magic some of the arcane practices are beyond even my understanding.
Ylaana performed the ritual with excellent precision and the symbols began to glow with energy once more. The room we could feel began to spin and we could now see images and shapes in the distance. Myself and Snorry shared a look between us that we both did not want to travel in this manner again if we could possibly avoid it. We knew we needed to head to Arden but we would have to find other means to get there quickly.
As the cube span the and the images of different places began to come into focus in the distance we all noticed a place which seemed at odds with the rest of the images of towns, cities, forests and plains. It was a grey place that looked like it was distorted as if seen through the edge of a glass. It’s streets curved up and over themselves and the sky and the ground were almost as one. Ylaana likened the place to something wrapped on the inside of a piece of twisted ribbon. Then all of a sudden the room snapped into focus and what once was flashing images of forests and cities was replaced with the cold stone of the original room we had first entered. We hoped that our journey was successful and we had arrived at the Tower of Art.
The wall moved and a stone door swung open to reveal a young boy who could not have been older that 12 years. He was human, short and his hair was cut in the fashion I had only seem in remote monasteries, shaved bald on top with a circle of hair around it. He was wearing the uniform of the Tower of Art although his robes as Ylaana pointed out during our walk had been borrowed from the school as he possibly didn’t have enough money to provide his own. He introduced himself as Tellis. After shaking hands and greeting him he said that he had been sent by his master Bellafon (who had previously sent us an animal messenger to inform us about the “Lord of Ruin” whilst adventuring in the Savage Lands). He was to take us to Bellafon immediately.
As we walked with Tellis, Ylaana asked him about his arcane schooling and how he came to be an apprentice to Bellafon. It turned out that Tellis was not much of a Wizard and who had not mastered the relatively easy 1st level spell of magic missile. I think Ylaana took pity on the poor boy and tried to give him some advice and words of encouragement. It was my first time visiting the Tower of Art and those who built certainly had a flair for grand architecure and unique design. The walls themselves were made from a dark stained wood with brass fittings for candles and lanterns, the floor was made from stone carvings of interlocking dragons of various colours but no two the same colour seemed to touch. Everywhere you looked there was something interesting, unique or colourful. As we headed down the main corridor Ylaana said we would entering the main area of the Tower called “The Plain”. I could see why they called it that as the corridor ended and opened out into a huge grassy field perhaps a mile or longer wide. There were small hills and ponds, butterflies flew all around and sunlight seemed to be pouring in from the ceiling although I couldn’t see it. The air smelt fresh and alive and the grass was green and lush, I could see other members of the Guild of Art walking around all dressed in robes with books and tomes busily going about their business. At one side of the plain a mammoth wooden staircase rises from the ground, suspended in mid air without a support to hold it or a bannister to stop you from falling. I could see people climbing up the stairs both up and down. At various points on the staircase single doors had been placed without walls to support them or rooms to lead into. They to seemed to be stuck by presumably some arcane magics. The staircase wound its way up the inside of the tower in a spiral pattern until I couldn’t see it any more, I wouldn’t of liked to take a class in one of the rooms at the top I thought to myself.
On the way up the stairs Ylaana and Tellis are still talking about arance business when he mentions that he has seen Ylaana’s picture hung on one of the walls from our win at the Gauntlet that brought us together, Snorry is finding the whole floating staircase idea a little daunting and all together too magical as he shakes the faceplate down on his amour with a gruff “humpf!”. We arrive outside a blue door just standing at one the landings on the staircase. There is nothing behind it or to the sides, a small brass plaque on the front says “Master Bellafon”, we had arrived. We thank Tellis for guiding us to Bellafon and I bless him with Bahamut’s prayer for good fortune and success in his learning.
Tellis opens the door which leads into a oddly shaped tall room made from red brick, it has one single tall window at the rear which looks out over some clouds. Books are stacked almost floor to ceiling and strange implements and oddities lye on the floor as if discarded by a child who has finished playing and become bored with them. Though the stacks of books and strange objects we can hear loud snoring, as we pace closer we can see large padded chair, small table with books placed upon it. Even the chair and table seemed to have been grown from tree roots and almost look alive as we approach. Above the small table a number of books are orbiting three feet from the ground, like birds moving in flight they spin and glide held in the air by more magical energies. Bellafon himself is an elderly human male of unkempt and unshaven appearance. A crooked, worn hat sits oddly on his head most of face obscured by a grey bushy beard that is in bad need of grooming. A pair of odd glasses sit on his nose with multiple lenses, hinggs, arms and folding parts, the work of a very precise artificer for sure. Sitting next to the small table is a sturdy animal cage with a fel taint inside which presumably has been part of some recent experiments. If Bellafon had been able to capture or even tame one of things it was a good sign he could help remove the fel taint from us. We all were growing tired of the extra eyes we have embedded in our skin. Ylaana recalls that Bellafon although eccentric is a renowned problem solver and deals with matters sometime too strange or weird for other mages to cope with. I introduce myself in a loud manner to wake Bellafon from his afternoon doze. After some introductions and handshakes we pull up chairs and get down to the business at hand.
Bellafon informs us we have been infected by something called the “Widdgery Taint”, it is an uncommon affliction but something that can be removed by a cleansing ritual which he can perform. He is happy to perform the ritual for us to which we agree. A little way from his chair a very ornate ritual circle is engraved onto the floor and embossed with gold. It has obviously seen mush use and some black scorch marks can be seen on the flagstones and the smell of burning hair hangs in the air. After stripping down to our undergarments we all step inside the circle at let Bellafon conduct his ritual. He pulls a gnarled wooden staff from a hollow elephants leg nearby, the staff has a mystical look about it and it almost shines with inner power. As Bellafon starts the ritual he strikes at the symbols making up the ritual circle as the bottom of staff hits the gold symbols motes of green and blue light rise into the air like fireflies. As the ritual progresses we all feel the eyes begin to close and disappear from our skin, at the same time I can feel my Dragon mark on my arm begin to glow and become warm to the touch, something which has not happened before. As my mark begins to glow the light if gives off is reminiscent of that I saw when I was in the Shadowfell. We cannot hide the marks on our skin from glowing and as the ritual finished Bellafon cannot help but notice the mark on my arm, the one of Snorry’s chest, Rackir has one on his back, and Ylaana has one over her heart.
Bellafon looks astounded that we have these marks and something of a lifetime experience to see four people in the same room with these marks. We know a little about these marks from the harbourmaster in Scarport but ask Bellafon for more information on them. As he searches the stacks of books for a particular tome we break out some refreshments from our packs and rest a little easier knowing that the fel taint has finally been removed. After finding the tome he was looking for Bellafon seems to enter into a trance as the book floating in front of his eyes and the pages turn without his hand as much touching the paper. A short time later Bellafon stand up from his chair and asks to examine the Dragon marks we have in closer detail. I offer my arm up for him to take a look at as he gets closer some of the attachments and lenses on his glasses fold down and looking though them one of his eyes turns purple. Snorry is not so co-operative with Bellafons examination I have to calm his quick dwarven temper with the promise of ale after we have finished here. Bellafon tells us that the Dragon marks we bear appear once perhaps in several generations, they are a sign that the person marked in such a way is destined for great deeds and that a destiny has been written for him. We all have a connection with a divine plan but what that plan is and which of the gods is guiding our actions cannot be said. One thing he does know is that to see four people together with Dragon marks in the same place and time is unheard of and whatever challenges we have in front of us could be larger than any of us realise.
We are also told some more facts about “Yinighou” (The Lord of Ruin) who has succumbed the gnolls to his will. Although we destroyed one of his temples there are many more and their purposes is to bring the demon god from the realm which he is trapped in into this world to wreak havoc and destruction. Although this is a pressing and disturbing matter we are almost at war with Arden and it is unlikely that the Gnolls are very far along in their plan. All of us know that this threat will need to be dealt with and when we have the resources (perhaps by using the Deed that the merchant guild might give us for our diplomatic mission to Arden) we will return to the Savage lands in the south a put an end to the Gnolls plans.
Whilst we have Bellafons knowledge in front of us we all decide it would be a good idea if we can learn some more about the Dragon Shard we recovered from the clockwork dragon Xenathrax in the demon realm. As I remove the shard from my pocket Bellafon’s eyes widen like a animal looking at it’s prey. I hand it over to him as he retells the story of Tiamat and Bahamut. It seems as if some of the dragons have part of the “Heart of the Dragon” hidden inside themselves and that re-assembling the entire heart would bring forth a lighter time for the entire world. Pieces of the Heart are sought after by powerful dragons and Bellafons warns that we should tell no-one of this artefact. Even Kings could use the power of the legend behind the Heart to start wars or invade countries. One interesting fact about the piece of the heart that we did not know is that you can use it to locate other fragments of the Heart. Something which Ylaana will need to put some work into figuring out how to do. I can’t help but think that perhaps my or even our greater destiny and the purpose behind these Dragon marks is to re-assemble the heart and make the world a brighter place for all.
After all the talking we have done Snorry is keen to journey to Arden to begin the out latest quest to find the Ruins of Thevvier. Secretly I think he most likely wants to wonder into some Arden troops and give them a good beating. We ask Bellafon if there is another way we can travel to Arden without using the transportation room. He digs out a small brass key from a pile of what looks like rubbish in the corner of the room. The key opens a blue door in the cellar of an inn which will take us to where we need to go. Although he says that the place which we must travel through is dangerous, we must stay on the path and keep to ourselves. Bellafon opens the door to his chamber and asks Tellis who was waiting outside to take us to the black door further up the staircase.
The black door on the staircase is unassuming, it has the face of a court jester daubed on the outside although the collar the jester is wearing is made from nails rather than cotton. Tellis uses a key which Bellafon has given him to unlock the door. Once opened the door leads into an alleyway, old barrels and mouldy stacks lye in puddles in this dreary place. We all step through and Tellis closes the door behind us. Ylaana has been given some instructions hand written on some parchment by Bellafon they read for us to:
- Head down the alleyway
- Turn left
- Enter the inn
- Tell the barlady that Bellafon sent us
- Use the key on the blue door only
As the door closes behind us the door vanishes to be replaces by a brick wall and no way of returning to the Tower of Art. We pace down the alleyway and find ourselves in a street, there are people around but none of them pay us much attention. It quickly becomes clear that we are in the same place we saw in the transportation cube earlier that day as the street curves round, down, up and back long above our heads as is twisted on a ribbon. Luckily enough the building to our left is marked as an Inn. Some runes above the door translated by Ylaana read “Clarions’s est 465”, we quickly enter the Inn. Inside the place smells of tobacco and low ceilings mean I have to stoop slightly, inside there are more runes on the walls, some dwarven patrons sit a a bench at one side of the bar, although I have not seen this particular breed of dwarf before. They have dark skin and do not have beards, they also have strange tatoo’s and marking on their faces. All of them look dangerous and one of them might easily take all four of us. Each of the 6 dwarfs at the table have magical weapons and armour and look at us as if we are very out of place. There is a single female human barmaid who Ylaana approaches whilst Snorry and I keep a watch for trouble. Ylaana tells her that “Bellafon” sent us and she beckons us quickly to the cellar stairs. As she moves the sounds of chains rattle and clink, someone has chained her to the bar and she can only take us as far as the cellar stairs. Quietly she tells us that the door is down there and to move quickly before we arouse suspicion. Down the cellar stairs we move in a small pump room where barrels of ale and mead are pumped by strange devices into the bar above. In one corner a stack of different coloured doors lie on their sides and in front of us on the back wall a green door sits in place. I take the green door by the frame and pull it from the wall to reveal a brick wall. Snorry grabs the only blue door from the stack on the floor and places it into the same position as the one I had just removed. Ylaana put the key into the lock and turns it slowly. A “click” later and it is unlocked. Snorry opens the door and immediately we are pounded by sleeting rain and howling winds. All of us venture through the door Ylaana who is the last one through closes the door and locks it with the key. As soon as the door is locked it vanishes. Ahead of us we can see a lean to shelter and a gravel road. As we huddle under the shelter we realise that none of us knows where we are…