The Gatekeeper

4. Madness like a Sickness

Of tests finished, spying conducted, and why you should never give a book of ultimate evil to your supposedly benevolent mentor

As the Chromium floated back toward the monastery, the heroes worked on a plan of entry that would not tip off Matsumura as to their activities. Ideas were advanced to have Brandis return alone, or all of the heroes but Vayne and Ysabelle, etc., and have Brandis claim that they had perished on the quest. Unfortunately, none of the heroes trusted everyone else enough to make such a split actionable.

The journey was not uneventful. Tristan fell into communion with his goddess, resulting in being bathed in silver fire that seemed to burn up magic. This caused some damage to the ship, which Vayne explained away as normal wear-and-tear for transporting folk in their profession. Tristan told the rest of the heroes that he was a chosen paladin of Mystra, a goddess of magic from a distant world. Vayne had heard of this goddess, but was under the impression she was long dead—indeed, that she had perished a hundred years ago. Tristan seemed perplexed and a little angered by this assertion, leading to an argument Vayne ultimately ceded.

In the confusion, one of Ruthchek’s scurvy pirates approached Ysabelle (alone in the guest cabin) with lecherous intentions, and by instinct she released the dark consciousness imbedded in her mind. The heroes next heard her screams of alarm and rushed to the cabin, only to find the place decorated with blood and festooned with the pirate’s guts. Ruthchek saw the place and was horrified, but Vayne distracted him by luring him away for a private moment.

The rest of the heroes made an effort to clean up the mess, and Razor immediately suggested they open a portal to the Far Realm (with the knowledge gained from the tome). Brandis particularly disagreed with this suggestion and the heroes dispersed from the area. Alone, Razor sneaked back into the cabin and opened a portal to the Far Realm in which to shovel the blood and guts. The plan was working well at first, but then his arm got stuck in the portal and when he finally managed to pull it out, it was a pink, sucker-covered mind flayer arm. He immediately tried to hide this, though the rest of the heroes discovered it in short order. The decision was made that the heroes would stay together, regardless of the consequences.

When they returned to the monastery (having left the Chromium in hiding), they found it in some chaos. Matsumura had fled the monastery, under suspicion of having murdered the third elder githzerai. Funiksahi seemed harried and not a little erratic, and he was perhaps displeased to see Brandis and the others returned. The heroes made themselves comfortable as guests again, but soon discovered Funikashi’s secret chambers which hosted a huge portal to the Far Realm. The monk came upon them and battle was joined. The heroes drove off Funikashi, but not before he roused the rest of the monks of the monastery against them.

A shadow from Tristan’s past—the elf rogue Sunic, who was a companion of Tristan’s father Linn—appeared and ushered the heroes through a portal to escape from the monastery before the monks could find them. They fled Funiksahi’s mocking laughter.

TO BE CONTINUED!

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