The Gatekeeper

10. Aiming to Misbehave

Of Barroom Brawls, Wild Magic, and Ultimate Power

The heroes (which is to say, mostly Tristan) decided on a plan of action to lure the crew of the Chromium from hiding. Tristan marched into the most disreputable tavern in the port, declared himself both the new owner of Algas’s axe and the “new sheriff in town,” and started a brawl.

A vicious fight ensued, of which the casualties included a dining table (Tristan’s axe), seven mead tankards (various attacks), a mad ogre bartender (portal to the Far Realm), a suddenly intelligent magic sword (J’Div throwing it off the edge of the land), the laws of reality and/or physics (wild magic surge), the bar itself (see above), and approximately half the roguish population of that particular island (see above).

Tristan began the battle by “throwing down the axe” (as it were), splitting a mead table in twain. When the ogre tender joined the fight, Tristan used his silver fire and inadvertently burned a hole in reality to the Far Realm (which made short work of the bartender). The portal immediately started sucking all of reality into it, and all magic went wild. J’Div underwent dozens of transformations, akin to shape change, into a series of fantastic and sometimes rather frightening creatures. Vayne grabbed Ysabelle and together they managed to close the portal with their combined magic. J’Div stopped shifting, only to realize that his enchanted sword had suddenly developed a personality of its own. Tristan promptly named said personality “Wooly.” The genasi promptly threw the weapon into the Astral Sea before it could work any mischief.

Having so brazenly proved themselves (and in the wake of the quom’s departure), the heroes had but to wait an hour or so before one of the surviving Chromium mutineers contacted his old captain, Vayne. Confident that she could protect him (and a little infatuated with her, as they all were), the haggard man offered to lead her to the Chromium, which was safely docked in hiding. The heroes set out, wary of the deception they were playing on the mutinous crewmen.

The man led them into a set of caves, warning them that dangerous creatures lurked in the tunnels. They followed his lead, weapons at the ready, until they came across a passage marked with a set of sigils that seemed to correspond to each of them: Tristan got wings around 7 stars (a dragonborn paladin’s symbol of Mystra), Brandis got an ornate sword (the Dragon Tear sword), and J’Div got the Pandemonium stone. That left one symbol unclaimed—an empty cradle—which Ysabelle speculated could represent her. Vayne said nothing. Surrounding the symbols was a circular rune that Tristan identified as the personal mark of Ruha, the witch and prophetess who had accompanied his parents in their adventures. If it was indeed her mark, she must have left it there a century previous. The heroes could not decided if the symbols were a legitimate message left for them or a forgery meant to mislead them. One thing, however, was certain: despite their guide’s protests, they would take that path.

The heroes stalked down a corridor in pitch blackness, only to find a light growing behind them: the illumination of a ghost beholder. The creature attacked, and they fled down the corridor, which ended in a sloping chute that led to the lair of several astral hulks (extraplanar cousins of the umber hulk). The heroes fought for their lives, barely managing to defeat the creatures. They continued on and came to a great chasm, guarded over by eye tyrants that did not seem keen to attack. The heroes delved into the darkness, and encountered a massive beholder eye tyrant and a hydra that looked like it had been warped by the Far Realm.

They defeated the two creatures in a titanic display of power and prowess, only to find an object inside the hydra: a black orb that looked on the surface like a sphere of annihilation. The orb reacted violently to arcane magic, melting Vayne’s enchanted gloves right off her hands. Tristan revealed that he had heard stories of this item: the Orb of Reality, his parents had called it—an object that had the power to alter reality at the mere thought of its wielder. It was also strongly antimagic—it had carved a rift in Mystra’s divine realm once when they brought it there by accident—and they had finally got rid of the object by tossing it through a portal to a random plane. (Vayne noted this disturbing trend not to clean up their messes but only to sow chaos in their wake, and hoped Tristan did not take too much after his parents.)

No one seemed to want to try it after what had happened to Vayne, but when Ysabelle touched it, the orb seemed to have found its chosen wielder. It proved ridiculously powerful in Ysabelle’s hands, reversing gravity at a mere thought of how the rules might not apply to her. She reined in the power, but too late—the haggard crewmen fell to his death. Ultimately, the heroes managed to restrain the orb, but Tristan explained that the orb was without its magical case to contain its powers. He proposed the heroes journey to the world of Faerûn, where they could find the case for the orb.

Remarked Vayne: “This quest gets more epic all the time.”

TO BE CONTINUED!

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