|Sealing the Gate|
I saw the rainbow in flux, the immense, shifting mass looming before me like a tidal wave. The crystal shard was before me, nearly in my grasp...and then I stumbled. The pebble seemed to come straight out of the Void, just as I was righting myself from the leap over the gully the rip had created. The stumble, magnified by the sharp incline, became a flip, for was tumbling through the air. I knew the moment I began to spin from the stumble that I was taken, and that only Anwar was left to grab the shard. I knew this even before the tendril loomed over me and sped downward, propelling me to my destiny.|
In an instant, all was white.
As I was enveloped in immaculate white, it occurred to me that the physics of my movement before I entered the tear would cause me great pain as soon as I contacted something solid on the other side. In truth, it did not feel like I was hurtling through the air, yet by the same token, it did not feel like I was not hurtling through the air. It did not even feel like I was floating; if anything, it felt like I was resting on an exceptionally light, soft sofa. It would actually have been rather calming were I not in fear of what was on the other side, and how I would be deposited there. Would I resume my rather awkward forward momentum, or would I simply be unceremoniously dropped to the ground? I knew enough of the Chaos Realm to know that anything I were to experience would be the last thing I would expect.
Ironic. It is one thing to say that and quite another to live it. When the light faded, I found myself lying on the bed in my chambers at the Temple Of Whispering Air. My companions were nowhere to be found; indeed, I was completely alone. The solitude was quite peaceful, as I have not truly had it in months, but I knew that something was not entirely right. When I flipped through my books, I found that all their leaves were blank, save for some few passages that I remembered particularly well. That sparked the memory of my conversation with Nyran, in which we concluded that the Realm of Chaos was, to some extent, bendable to the wills of those who entered.
I thus deduced that my chambers, everything I saw in this place, was a product of my memory and my dreams. There was nothing to lead me to this directly, but I had enough circumstantial proof to make a guess, and it...felt right. It must have just been some flash of intuition. I also reasoned that, if I were to picture my friends, concentrate on them, and envision myself standing by them, then I would be transported to them by virtue of this realm's power. By focusing my mind, I was able to see Horus and Arilyn were both in a field. Anwar, it seemed, was not yet in the realm; I could only bring to mind the memory of her as I saw her last, following me down the slope. Nyran...it was strange. I saw him, but he was unconscious, and it looked as though he were being held by, well, by the chaos itself. It was caressing him, as a mother might caress her child. That did not bode well, but there was another concern: I could not picture Elana at all. No memory, no vision of her somewhere in the Chaos Realm, just blackness, in my mind. She was not here, and likely had never gotten close.
Needless to say that worried me, and does still, as we have yet to find her. I didn't want to go to Nyran straightaway, because Arilyn and Horus would likely need my help navigating through this place, and I would likely need their skills as warriors to free Nyran, if what I saw was accurate. So, I focused my mind on me standing next to the two of them in the plain, and a mere moment later, there I was. I explained to them as best I could, and as best they could comprehend, what was happening, and how things appeared to be working. When we tried, however, to place ourselves near Nyran, we achieved nothing more than looking silly.
This vexed me more than I can express. It had worked well enough during my first attempt; there was no reason it should not have worked again, but it did not. I have such a revelation, and then it is taken away from me before I barely have the chance to use it. Perfectly unjust.
After a few more moments, we were joined by Anwar, who had a huge surprise in store for me--she had Elana in tow. I was puzzled mightily by this, and probed as to how they found each other, but I let the matter rest, and to our detriment. After some discussion to bring them current, we were off after the first sign of life we had come across in this place, a wolf staring at us from a wood nearby. We headed off after it, but our chase was cut short. We found ourselves at the fork in the Neph where Rezariel had ambushed us, and where we'd met Nyran. Slaads appeared and rushed us. We have faced such things before; I am quite sure Arilyn remembers them, and they were too fascinating for me to have forgotten. They did have rather nasty-looking cousins though.
We prepared ourselves once again for the song of battle. They caromed at us, and steel flashed against claw and tooth. Cut and parry, scrape and maul, until they lay festering in their own blood and we stood victorious. For the moment.
I was rather surprised to find during and after the fight that Anwar and Arilyn were hard-pressed to hold them at bay. Horus was able to fly somehow, and thus escaped any battle damage, but while the two gave much better than they got, still they came away with rather serious gashes and bites. I managed to survive the fight nearly unscathed, so I was really quite astounded to see them both in such bad shape. Elana had moved far to one side, and when I finally turned from the last of the slaads, I saw her standing over a fallen Arilyn. Confusion ruled again, as there were no slaad corpses near them, and I could not believe that Elana had done such a thing. Until we found out that it was not Elana, but some vile slaad chieftain, with designs on our lives.
We found ourselves again surrounded by slaads, at its command...only more than we could possibly hope to defeat.
And then, trees.
We were in a druid grove, the very grove at the heart of Lochlainn, as it chanced. The druids who had lived there were caught in the chaos, and had built themselves, with the help of a most unique orb, which focused concentration of many into one, a sanctuary of sorts amidst the tumult. They were trapped, however, because they could not leave, and they could not close the gate.
They were kind enough to heal our wounds, and we were reunited with Nyran, whom the druids had also rescued. We soon set to discussing how we might go about sealing the breach. Use of the orb was suggested, but the head druidess informed us that they had already tried to seal the breach that way. It resulted in the grove losing its cohesion and its barriers, allowing the slaad army entry to their one place of safety. But she also admitted that if they did not close it soon, they would not long be able to maintain the grove; most of the inhabitants were human, and many were well on in years.
It occurred to me that we might use the orb to seal the breach; with Arilyn's ties to the land, and the combined intelligence of Nyran and myself, we would arguably stand a better chance. At the same time, those not working on closing the rift would be assigned the duty of focusing their minds, without the help of the orb, on keeping the barriers of the grove intact. It would be a stopgap measure at best, but with some forty people bending their minds to the endeavor, I reasoned it should hold long enough for us to try. It was agreed on easily enough, though reluctantly by the druids.
Nyran, as it chanced, stayed out of the circle; he wanted to be ready to help the druids if the slaads should break through. The rest of us, along with some of the more experienced druids to round out the circle, sat down and began our task. I wish I'd had more time to study that orb. It really was a remarkable device. One's will was part of all, in the circle. One did not lose oneself, but one's focus and concentration were all directed as one large whole, something greater than the mere sum of the minds working together. It also conferred knowledge of what was happening in the grove at all times.
It was grueling work, focusing that hard for that long, but we managed, finally, we thought. We were not sure if the rift was closed, but we knew somehow that we were done, one way or the other. In the meantime, as we had seen, the slaadi had indeed broken through, and worse than I had expected. Battle opened its ugly wounds all throughout the grove; it was only from the heroic and sometimes fatal efforts of the druids that the frog-things were kept away from us at our task.
My companions wanted to go to the battle, to help, but they did not want to leave the circle short of people, to redirect back to maintenance of the grove. I was sure that, with the number of druids already there, I could hold the grove together. I sent them off with my blessing, and I stayed behind to bend my will to the defense of the grove.
The battle, though the day was again ours, did not go well. The slaadi pressed all of them hard, and the blood flowed like wine from each of them in their turn. Matters at the center of the grove were no better for me. As the fight wore on, we in the circle could feel that, no matter how much we focused, no matter where we directed our attentions, the barrier around the grove was failing. There seemed nothing we could do; it just seemed to...slip away.
Finally, it was gone. The hordes would break in, and we would surely be lost. I raced from the circle to where my friends had finally dispatched the chieftain and his guard. They were undoubtedly surprised to see me, since I am rarely so reckless, as they thought, with my duties. I related to them quickly what had transpired, that the power we projected to keep the grove alive and protect it, was just gone. We prepared ourselves to meet the slaughter that waited for us, and then....
In an instant, all was white.
|Associated Regions: Chaos Gate, Chaos Threshold|
|From the journal of Islan Diemyn|
Contributor: Chris Schuettpelz