The Gatekeeper

14. Red-Haired Stranger

Of Friends New and Old, a Wrathful Elf, and a New Quest

After Vayne left the party to keep tabs directly on Sunic, the other Worldwalkers compared notes as to what to do.

After discussion, it was decided they would continue along their current path and look for an opportunity to lure Sunic into a trap. J’Div stepped in to act as the party’s ostensible leader, though decisions are still made with heavy input from each member of the group. The group collected several magic rituals, such as magic circle (to keep out fey and/or shadow creatures) as well as planar sending, to communicate with their plant inside Sunic’s castle. They made inquiries as to where to get to Ellerin’s laboratory in the Elemental Chaos, as well as tracking down Henri, one of Brandis’s old associates.

Meanwhile, Sunic returned from surveillance, extremely frustrated by the party’s attempts to provoke him into an attack. He confided in Vayne, who reassured him. She made a show of discovering that he had switched pieces of the rod and hence could no longer track Tristan’s piece (which she had known all along)—in the process, she touched Sunic’s piece of the rod and determined the next piece lay in the Abyss. She proposed an alternative plan: that they two go and find the rest of the rod on their own. Finally, she convinced him to promise her that if and when he went after the heroes, that he would take her along—of the two of them, she was more deserving of vengeance after what they had done to her.

The next day, Ysabelle dispatched a sending to Vayne, asking her how she meant to join back up with them, and she replied with the assertion that she would not be coming back and was instead staying with Sunic in order to distract him and cover their own efforts. Vayne promptly revealed this contact (though not the content) in order to win Sunic’s trust; she convinced him that they were hoping to turn her against Sunic, but that Vayne had chosen his side, rather than theirs. Sunic, infuriated, insisted they go attack the heroes on the instant, but she convinced him to wait—that perhaps she could work out a way to get back in their good graces and work against them for Sunic’s benefit.

Later that day, the heroes went to the Nook, a tavern in Sigil where Henri was supposed to frequent. Brandis’ goal was to get Henri to tell him where he might find the Dragon Tear sword, as well as the next member of the old gang. While they were searching for Henri at the tavern, a woman who looked much like Vayne (albeit dressed in white, with red hair and different tattoos, and wielding a gold greatsword) walked through the door. With an odd mixture of sweet talk and intimidation, this Vayne attempted to get information regarding a “creepy little girl” who had tampered with her memory. Her arrival and inquisition smoked out Henri, who was quickly confronted by Brandis. Despite Fiona’s attempts to diffuse the tension (as well as Vayne’s intercession with the mercykillers), the interview did not go well, and Brandis and J’Div ended up kicked out of Henri’s tavern (as he had Mercykiller thugs and the patrons of that place owed him their loyalty). Vayne ended up talking with Ysabelle, and confiding in her that her life seemed broken and she didn’t even know why. Ysabelle drank and started to hallucinate, which unnerved Vayne, who teleported them both out of the bar. Fiona slipped Henri a note before leaving—they would meet up again later.

Out in the street, the red-haired Vayne confronted the rest of the party, demanding they either fix her mind, or fight her. She vowed to wound as many of them as badly as she could before she killed them. Exposing frayed nerves, she collapsed in tears when Brandis called her a soulless automaton. The rest of the party conferred, and Ysabelle issued the command words that awoke Vayne to her former memories. This made an obvious improvement, making her more like her old self, but she still seemed a little off: she evinced none of the extreme protectiveness the old Vayne had for Ysabelle, nor did she demonstrate any capacity for leadership. She gladly let Brandis (whom she assumed was the leader) take charge, until he said that J’Div was really the leader. Vayne also seemed to find the rest of the heroes extremely attractive—in particular J’Div, Tristan, and Fiona—prompting some discomfiture on the part of her companions.

Back at their home base, the heroes reworked their plan in light of the new addition to the group. Brandis and Tristan discussed their next move, Ysabelle practiced her rituals, while Vayne and J’Div sparred. The bare-hand combat turned tense (involving a kiss between the two), though J’Div ultimately refused Vayne’s obvious advances and the shadar-kai left to bathe herself in the wake of the fight (J’Div turned down the implied invitation as well). On her way back, she encountered Fiona giving a pair of dimensional shackles to Tristan, which prompted Vayne to joke: “Sorry for interrupting—I’ll just be on my way.” The party decided to continue the quest for the Orb of Reality’s case, which would lead them into the Elemental Chaos.

They made camp inside their warding circle in the dojo, which was drawn around Vayne (as a shadow creature she couldn’t enter or leave it once the circle was drawn). Vayne spent some time in conversation with Fiona, who loudly voiced her disapproval of the former’s “whoring.” Vayne pointed out that it was nothing of the sort if both parties had feelings for the other, and that Fiona should really lighten up a little. At the same time, Vayne expressed an interest in learning more about her “tighter morality,” and the two managed to get on watch together. Fiona took the opportunity to leave the protective circle and abscond to parts unknown, and instead of alert the rest of the party, Vayne took the opportunity to awaken J’Div and seduce him more brazenly. This time, she was successful.

The rest of the party woke up and asked Vayne about Fiona: the swordmage said, truthfully, that Fiona was very stealthy and she couldn’t say exactly where she had gone. Brandis accused her of distracting herself by having sex with J’Div (which they all heard), but Vayne just shrugged it off and J’Div didn’t seem put out either. Vayne stated, very clearly, that she couldn’t have stopped Fiona if she’d wanted to, as she couldn’t cross the protective circle. Brandis was very upset about the situation, though he didn’t make it clear if he was angrier at Vayne or Fiona. The tiefling returned, saying she had made a deal with Henri for the location of Evelene (another of Brandis’s former partners), provided they do him a favor: involving the theft of a diamond in her possession. Though displeased by the arrangement, Brandis accepted the task, as no other option seemed to present itself.

Sunic returned to do surveillance on the camp. He left the rod in his castle in the Shadowfell (so the heroes couldn’t track him) but took along Vayne, who insisted he could hide her inside his shadow cloak (and she would make it worth his while). They arrived outside the warding circle, and Vayne made some noises to cover tipping off Ysabelle telepathically. This was the first time Sunic had seen the duplicate Vayne, and he was rather unnerved by it—the original Vayne said it was the product of some magic she didn’t fully understand, and she blamed Ruthchek, which Sunic seemed to accept.

The heroes confronted Sunic, who revealed himself as well as the original Vayne. Sunic called Tristan a coward for not attacking him, and heavily implied that he held the soul of Linn (Tristan’s father) prisoner. The pissing contest did not blow Vayne’s cover, and she acted in all particulars as though she were on Sunic’s side, all the while telling Ysabelle telepathically that this situation did not favor them and they should not attack. Finally, too upset by Tristan to think clearly, Sunic left the dojo with Vayne in tow—she tried to reassure him, using the opportunity to convince him of the need to attack them all at once. She couldn’t get much accomplished, however, before the party emerged from the dojo, as well as Matsumura. The duplicate Vayne did not come along, as she was trapped inside the bounds of the protective circle. Feeling overwhelmed, Sunic said that he would attend Tristan again soon—after Matsumura was dead. He and Vayne teleported away.

Unnerved, the party left Sigil the next day for the Elemental Chaos. They bought an elemental glider and followed the compass to Ellerin’s laboratory, which seemed to have been much damaged by the ambient chaos. Much of the lab’s contents had been destroyed over however long it had gone without proper wardings. They found their way inside, only to encounter the former wizard turned into a blob of elemental energy. Tristan pleaded with Ellerin to stand down, but the creature must have been driven totally mad by the magic that warped him, and he attacked the party with silver fire. The battle was harrowing and quick, but they ultimately defeated Ellerin.

TO BE CONTINUED!

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