We stood atop the tower, me trying to get my bearings, the rest trying to figure out what to do next, when Atterwood took a small lens he'd found and placed it in a spy-glass that was mounted to the center of the roof. Peering through, we were shocked to see Verna, the weretigress, standing at a window in a tower in the distance. Knowing that Leptor couldn't be far if Verna was here, we left immediately and went off in the direction of that other tower. Luckily for us that was the same direction the silver path led.
It wasn't long before we found the path we were on flanked by thousands upon thousands of ghost-like dwarves and elves. Dukek and I were visibly disturbed, as these massive numbers could only mean that Sirrith had stolen the souls of the dead from the battle before Tarimthol-El. I was not born yet at the time of the great battle, but Dukek was there and so set off immediately to try to find an old comrade. The rest of us waited for a few minutes before Dukek returned to the path, at which point he pulled me off to speak with the dwarf he'd found, Gorlock. Gorlock told me much, and then pointed me towards where King Palentine stood, further down the path. King Palentine told me yet more, as did a cousin of mine that I found a few feet beyond. Between the three of them, this is what I learned;
Not only had Sirrith claimed the souls of all elves and dwarves who fell at the great battle, but she has also been stealing all those who came after. Not one of our kinfolk has managed to make it to the lands beyond since that day.
They were being kept here in preparation for the return of the Grimorden, at which point they shall be raised as a new army.
The only way to free them from this fate would be to slay the Grimorden King. Doing so would mean that I wouldn't make it out alive.
Aedrenia and Daimisan were somewhere here as well, and we needed to return their artifacts to them.
One of our number, the one we least expected, would betray us. This led Dukek to think of Kanar, and me to think of Atterwood or Novarg. We both expected Rufo to betray us... again... so it couldn't be him. I half expected it of Kanar given the mark of Plague she bore. Barille had already been controlled by the demons here once, so it wouldn't be completely unexpected for him to betray us.
The only way to reach the future was to go through the past. We both took this to mean that there would need to be another great battle.
The path ahead of us would bring us to both Leptor and the Ruby. Although now that we were seeking the destruction of the Grimorden King, the fate of the Ruby seems inconsequential.
Nobody could tell me when or how I needed to repair Esserial.
Fate traveled with us. To this I professed my lack of belief in fate, and assured Palentine that I would carve my own destiny. Fate may travel with me, but it trails behind me, following only my footsteps.
The dragon's tooth was important, but not until after this quest is over, and not for either of us.
We returned and relayed some of this information, then followed the path until we soon saw the tower we sought with Verna standing outside carrying a basket of vegetables. She seemed different and younger than the woman we'd carted around for weeks as a prisoner. She didn't recognize us, which obviously struck us as odd. Through brief conversation, as well as a slightly longer conversation with the man inside called Leptor (who in only the most superficial ways resembled the Leptor we'd crossed paths with), and we began to think we were either in Leptor and Verna's past, or these two beings were simple shadow-memories of them from an earlier time. Atterwood and Barille took great interest in what the shadow Leptor had to say, and learned a great many things from him, most of which went over my head. At the least I understand that Leptor, before he went mad, was Lord Baltron's apprentice, and was fascinated by a natural phenomenon called Black Fire. Black Fire seemed to be a relic leftover from the creation of the world by Zoder Yog. In addition, he'd found a sealed box that radiated immense power and was inscribed with the glyph of Zoder Yog. Our collective best guess was that this contained an untapped shard of the first god. Leptor was working on getting it open, and presumed that he'd be able to open it within a week. Lastly, we were told that anybody crazy enough to touch or drink Black Fire would either melt, or grow exceedingly powerful. It was clear that this was not our goal, and so a quick search of the outskirts of the tower brought us back to the silver path, leading on in the distance.
Once again on the path, this time we came to a beach. The path ended at the shoreline, but the silver wire running alongside of it continued over the ocean, indicating that was the way to go. Recalling a small bit of advice from Gorlock, I placed my hand on the silver wire and walked over the water. The rest followed suit, and the expanse of water proved no obstacle. On the other side we saw a shadow-form of Guardian Island, with the path leading up to a set of stairs set in a cliff face. At the top of the stairs stood a tunnel with the remains of a previous adventurer in it. Barille saw in the remains of this human the spark of one attempting good, and stopped briefly to say a prayer for the dead. This was our only route, and so despite the lack of a silver path, we went in. Deep inside this cave there stood a room with a trio of wells, and a statue of a hand holding a green shard of incredible power. The wells were colored red, green and blue, and arrayed around the shard in a manner similar to the Star-Kin Stones around the Star of Daimisan. I hoped initially that this meant it was an area of good, but our few experiments with the colored liquid and the shard proved beyond a doubt that this was instead a perversion of that holy artifact. In addition, the green shard projected a form of solid light that presented with us a very firm barrier which we couldn't push past. A few more experiments and Kanar revealed that she could move, albeit slowly, within the light. Barille also discovered that the polished interior of his shield would act as an effective barrier and way to redirect this light. So Kanar held the shield in a way to present us with a path to the exit on the other side, then followed behind us.
The path opened up on the other side, but was dull and grey with no silver wire to encourage us that we were on the correct route. About a half a mile outside of the cave we saw a temple off to the left of the path and investigated. It turned out to be a heavily defiled temple to Astalon, Barille's patron. The sheer amount of effort and time that must have gone into presenting us with such a profane and vulgar version of a temple of light was astounding. I choose not to remember the acts that were committed in such a holy place. We knew this to be no illusion, yet it could not be real. We abandoned the temple and returned to the path, yet as we arrived Barille seemed to become entranced in an illusion or dream. He presented his holy symbol a number of times, and was screaming prayers and protestations, as if his life depended on it. He fell a time or two, yet some outside force prevented us from reaching him to offer him aid. By the time he came back to our plane of perception he was sweating, out of breath and completely exhausted yet encouraged by his apparent victory. This act brought him near the breaking point, and it was decided that rest was needed by all, despite my protestations. The group slept. I attempted to remain awake all night, unwilling to let my guard down lest the demons come close enough for me to attack them. I failed, and slept, and when we all woke we were surrounded by ghosts, spirits and other undead. They watched us with their empty eyes, but did not approach. I didn't see them as a concern, and urged the party forwards on the path. The undead kept their distance.
The dull path and tunnel of ghosts brought us to a castle wall and tower that looked of elven make, yet was not one I was familiar with. The undead kept their distance from the wall, and the path led to a door in the tower, so our route seemed clear. Inside there was a door leading further in, and a set of stairs leading up. Something within me drew me towards the stairs, so we tried them first. A few floors above we found a landing with a door in one wall. The door was very solidly built, and had only a small barred window set in it. Behind the door stood Aedrinia, slightly spirit-like, and chained in shackles of smoke. She begged us to leave her, to flee before a woman named Merlissa, possessed by a Bean Sidhe, returned and found us. I couldn't leave before returning her ring to her, and so I asked Atterwood to do what he knew he must. He hesitated briefly, but handed over the ring. This act freed her of the shackles, and so she led us upstairs before taking us out of the tower. In the top room of the tower we found the Grimorden King's throne, complete with creepy floating crown and riddle. The riddle was a clue to his Truename, and only by solving it could we hope to defeat him. Atterwood and Kanar wrote down the riddle and we fled the tower, heading back to the Wells of Souls. Aedrenia left us at the door to the tower, and bid us luck. I thanked her, and assured her I would be seeing her again soon. On our trip back to the well of souls we discussed the riddle, hoping for a flash of insight and any new weapon we could get to fight this menace.
Returning to the room with the wells stopped our progress, as the green barrier was still in place. Kanar moved forward to attempt to use the shield to open up a path again, but was assaulted by a large shadow-beast, that seemed to wish to delay us long enough for something or someone to catch up. We scrambled desperately to try and pass the beast. We managed to succeed mostly thanks to Barille's connection to the holy powers above, although not without taking some serious cuts and bruises first. Yet another problem stopped us from crossing. Kanar's ability to move within the green light seemed to only be enough to let her go deeper into it, and not to escape it. In order to flee, one of our number would have to stay behind. Rufo took this as his time to complete his destiny and held the shield for us, but not before he told us that his true name was Lord Fate. If I'm still alive later I'll have to consider this new information, in the moment however I was too pleased to have a path to give it much thought. Again on the shore of Guardian Island we were now stuck. Our silver path was gone, the silver wire was nowhere in sight, we undoubtedly had enemies behind us, and the world we now stood in was shaking and threatening to fall apart. Our time felt short in all respects, and so in desperation I laid out the shards of Esserial and prayed to Tarimth for guidance. All I was granted in return was the notion that I must do that which was yet undone. There were too many things left undone, and all of them seemed to be out of my reach! I didn't have Esserial, I didn't give Daimisan his torc, we hadn't regained the Ruby, nor the Emerald, nor the Black Fire, I hadn't faced the Grimorden King, nor died, nor been betrayed. Spitting on the remains of the sword in frustration, I began cursing the Grimorden King, daring him to come and face me here and now. I cursed every possible name I could think of, given the riddle we'd found earlier. Oddly enough, by the time I finished my stream of epithets we were in some new location. It looked similar to the temple on Guardian Island, but was not quite right. Leptor's image stared at us from an obsidian bowl in the center of the room as he cursed our stubbornness and ordered a pair of dark elves to attack us. The two drow (*spit*) flanking him drew their swords, presented me with a master's bow (which I returned), and then advanced.