The Gatekeeper

21. Gloom of the Shadowdark

Of Guides Lost, Seeping Darkness, and Ancient Powers

The heroes pressed on, only to find themselves walking through increasingly oppressive gloom. Without knowing it, they had entered into the Shadowdark—the Shadowfell’s equivalent of the Underdark—and the darkness of the world of shadows seeped into their minds and souls. Brandis became paranoid and possessive while Vayne became quarrelsome and muttered to herself once again, as she had in the Lowerdark. Tristan spent most of his time in communion with Mystra, while Fiona clung to Morthos as though she would fall without his support. Garal Kai grew even more distrusting of the others, and Morthos himself grew angry—even wrathful. In short, the gloom heightened everyone’s insecurities and flaws of character. Only Ysabelle was unaffected by the gloom, and she grew extremely uneasy if, for once, she was the sane one.

This oppression led immediately to tragedy: Morthos stared menacingly at Garal Kai, looking to plant a dagger in his back. Morthos told Fiona that she was better than all of the heroes and she no longer needed them. When the tiefling argued that they were useful and even her friends, the drow cast her off to collapse to the ground. Brandis lightly pushed him away from Garal, and the drow immediately blasted him with his warlock powers. Before the rest of the party could intervene, the two were fighting. Brandis pushed Morthos off a nearby cliff but when he tried to catch him, he missed the grab. The enraged drow plummeted into the impenetrable darkness. Vayne shoved Brandis and almost knocked him off the cliff as well, but the monk caught himself on the stone. The two of them looked about to fight, but at that moment the rest of the party intervened and pulled them apart.

After Ysabelle’s plea for sanity, Vayne finally shook off her irrational temper and explained the Shadowfell’s effects to the heroes. She said that the shadar-kai fight against the gloom of the Shadowfell by committing themselves fully to their course of action. They staved off ennui through emotional extremes, pain, and violence. She urged everyone to throw themselves into battle whole-heartedly, and that way they could stave off the Shadowfell’s gloom. Afterward, she apologized to Brandis and told him she did not hold him responsible for pushing Morthos off the cliff. The monk nodded mutely, but it was clear he still blamed himself. Vayne gave him a reassuring hug.

Garal Kai had fled after what happened to Morthos, but the group quickly found him once more. He professed that he could not trust them, and they said that was his decision. At this point, if he accompanied them, it was his own choice and his own moral responsibility to rescue Henri or not. Tristan talked him into coming along, and the genasi reluctantly followed them once more. Also, before the next leg of the journey, Vayne proposed that the party pick a leader, upon whom the ultimate responsibility for decisions would rest. With her background as a pirate captain and leadership role with J’Div, she might have been expected to suggest herself, but she kept silent and passively accepted the party’s decision to place the mantle of leadership on Tristan. For now, at least, the paladin would be the leader of the group.

The heroes continued on through the Lowerdark, emerging from the Shadowdark into a place of glowing crystal. Ysabelle began experiencing terrible headaches, and Vayne offered to connect to her mind to try to protect her. This proved a failure: Vayne was hurt, and Ysabelle was not much improved. Finally, the source of her headaches was revealed: a chamber of crystal infused with psychic energy that enhanced her powers. Ysabelle told everyone they should leave immediately, but too late: mind flayers and umber hulk slaves ambushed them, and battle was joined. The heroes dispatched one mind flayer quickly enough, and the second fled while the hulks attacked. Finally, the heroes won the day, but the other illithid had not reappeared.

They took a moment for Garal Kai to commune with the crystals (as an earthsoul genasi), during which Brandis and Fiona scouted ahead stealthily. The two came upon a mind flayer and a thoon hulk, and ambushed the two before they could get away. These foes proved extremely capable, however, and the tide quickly turned on Brandis and Fiona: more so when the escaped mind flayer reappeared, with mind thralls in hot pursuit. The rest of the heroes caught up to them, only to see the mind flayer reinforcements arrive: a mind-reamed drow warrior and a certain half-starved halfling.

They had found Henri, and now he was going to kill them.

TO BE CONTINUED!

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