Illuvinari

The Forge of the Maker

05/04 thru 05/05/5055

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Our heroes’ reconnaissance of the Colossus in Port Dawn ends in near-disaster! But will a mysterious package from Coramorphus hand them a victory for the elves?

Yestamir plane-shifts himself and Umbrecrom to Arvandor, along with the unconscious gnome prisoner that Umbrecrom had managed to grab from the golem construct’s auxiliary control room. Yestamir has a great need to ask Corellon for a way to atone for his actions while investigating the iron golem, feeling that his actions were overly desperate, vainglorious, and potentially ruinous to the mission. Umbrecrom agrees to go to Arvandor because he knows “that’s where the elven gods live, and it’ll be safe.”

They arrive in the midst of a forest of enormous trees. Yestamir and Umbrecrom take a moment to look up at the starry sky, and are unnerved because the stars move. Belatedly, they realize that they are not looking at stars, but at eight-foot-long fireflies. They discuss options. Umbrecrom climbs one of the trees to see if he can get a bearing, or determine a likely direction to go, but cannot see anything except more trees. The three of them wander around and find ruins and a pool nearby. The ruins are covered with murals and carvings that appear to be of the Great War, depicting elves, dragons, and slaadi fighting together, led by a giant male elf.

As Yestamir is examining the murals, Umbrecrom goes to fill his waterskin and realizes that this is extra-planar water. Thoughts of gold pieces glitter in his guileless eyes as he grabs Yestamir’s waterskin and dumps it out, filling it also with Arvandor water. He then takes possession of both skins, wondering who he might get to buy this to make Anarchic Water. Yestamir is wrapped up in personal thoughts and notices nothing

Suddenly, Umbrecrom sees the water ripple with vibrations. It shakes. And shakes again. And again, as if it were tea in a cup on the table in a giant’s nursery room. Looking up, he sees the trees are doing the same…

“Yestamir, hide!”

The two of them dive into a 10- to 15-foot-deep cleft, like a wooden cave, in the roots of one of the enormous trees around them. Looking out from their hiding place, they see a huge scaly green foot pass by. They see the tips of wings sweeping above the ground a few moments later as the
colossal creature moves on. When it pauses and sniffs the air, they stop moving, breathing, thinking.

The dragon pauses, eats, sniffs for the scent of any more food, and moves on.

Yestamir mind-links to Umbrecrom, and they decide stay in the root cave for several hours, to ensure the dragon is really gone. They fear confronting an Arvandorian dragon would detract from their mission. While waiting, Yestamir meditates on a proper prayer for forgiveness for his recent actions. After sufficient contemplation, he sits up and begins:

“O magnificent Creator, I beg you to hear my plea.
“I am at fault, for I have, through hubris and a desire for my own glory, risked the ruination of the mission entrusted to myself and my friends.
“I ignored the plight and need of my friends and left them in danger, without sufficient means of escape if needed.
“I have been a fool, and my good intentions were insufficient to the task.
“I beg of you, Coronal of Arvandor, to intervene on the behalf of your people.
“Please do not allow my actions to cause harm, even indirectly, to the cause the Elves of Illuvinari have taken upon themselves.
“If it please you, I beg that I be allowed the opportunity to make things right and to show my contrition for these wrongs.”

As Yestamir finishes his prayer, a glowing ball about two feet in diameter floats over to the cleft, and then floats away. Umbrecrom is cautious, concerned that the light is a will-o-wisp that they will have to fight. Yestamir recognizes the light as an eladrin, views its appearance as an answer to his prayer, and feels they should follow it. They leave the cleft and look around for the gnome, who is nowhere to be seen.

The fireflies have returned, with fey-looking riders — thorns — who surround them, and speak. Yestamir discovers he cannot remember how to speak Sylvan — a punishment for his previous actions? Unable to communicate with Yestamir and Umbrecrom, the thorns resort to prodding the two intruders with spears, directing them further into the ruins to the remains of a temple. From outside the temple, the thorns push Yestamir and Umbrecrom to enter. Trusting in his barbarian trap sense, Umbrecrom enters first, and goes to examine the fountain in the center of the temple. Yestamir follows. As they look within the fountain, it becomes apparent to Umbrecrom, knowledgeable in planar lore, that the water is from a planar gate (to the elemental plane of water?) situated just below the fountain’s surface.

Yestamir is expecting to be attacked by a monster, when a female water elemental rises up from the fountain. She asks: “What is your question, and what is your gift?”

Although she does not speak a language they know, they both understand the oracle, Aquatain of the Weird, clearly.

Seeing the hand of Corellon in this, Yestamir offers up his cognizance crystal without complaint, and asks, “What path should we take to rejoin our friends and ensure the success of our mission?”

Aquatain pauses. Visions appear in her watery flesh: a column of smoke; great battles with fierce armies; a terrible slug-like creature with claws looming; a plane of light and darkness all mixed together, where horrid. . . things. . . strain against a membranous wall.

Finally she answers, “You must seek Seluna the Lillend. She has something for Nique, something that Hithlorien seeks.”

She turns then to Umbrecrom expectantly. Umbrecrom offers her a powerful bow he had made with his own two hands, and his collection of masterwork arrows, and says, “We would seek a way to defeat the forces at Port Dawn.”

Aquatain smiles indulgently and says, "Well, then, your answer is the same.” She begins to turn away, and then looks back and adds, "One last thing — be cautious of the Guardians at the Hall of Doors.”

Realizing what a boon she had just given them, Yestamir pours a potion of cure light wounds and a potion of cure moderate wounds into her water as a parting gift, to show respect and gratitude. Aquatain accepts the gift with gracious pleasure.

The thorns outside let them leave the temple. Yestamir mind-links with the leader of the thorns, who mocks him for not speaking Sylvan, and then invites Yestamir and Umbrecrom to stay for a meal. Yestamir, remembering countless warnings about this very thing, very politely declines, explaining that their mission is of the essence. The leader tells them that Seluna the Lillend lives in Alfheim, not in Arvandor. As Yestamir and Umbrecrom prepare to plane-shift to Alfheim, home of Kord, god of strength, and Olidimarra, god of shadows, the thorn leader says, “One favor I would ask if I may?”

Yestamir agrees cautiously.

“Tell the Speaker we await the call.”

As he manifests his power, Yestamir feels Corellon’s gentle touch guide the plane shift. He and Umbrecrom arrive on a cold snow-covered mountain. Yestamir quickly adjusts his body to the temperature and they search for a passage. Finding a long cleft through the mountains, they follow it, gaining some protection from the weather. Once through, they are in a valley warmed by glorious summer weather. They follow a crushed marble path meandering through a magnificently landscaped glade to a gazebo and a pool. A woman in diaphanous clothing sits beside the pool, singing and playing a lyre.

Umbrecrom cannot remember ever seeing any woman so beautiful. He approaches her, appreciating her fine form, her exceptional taste in nearly transparent attire, and the skill with which she plays. She looks up, sees him, plays a discordant note, and rises, berating him in Sylvan. Sensing he had just been chided, Umbrecrom retreats apologetically, rubbing his burning retinas, oblivious to the blinding attack she has just unsuccessfully brought upon him. He cannot understand what she says, but, as long as he can hear her lovely voice, does that matter?

As Umbrecrom backs away, Yestamir hears the sound of wings. Forcing his gaze away from the woman, obviously one of the fey, he sees a lillend fly in and land, wrapping her tail around one of the columns of the gazebo. The nymph speaks to the lillend, frowns, and points to Umbrecrom and Yestamir. It is the most beautiful frown Umbrecrom has ever seen. The lillend turns to them and speaks fiercely to them in Sylvan, which Yestamir still cannot understand, and pulls another lyre from thin air, which she brandishes in a threatening posture. Umbrecrom, recognizing the universal language of threat, if not the specific dialect, again bows his head, trying to show humble contrition.

Yestamir quickly mind-links with the lillend Seluna, who demands an explanation for their intrusion in her glade. He apologizes, explaining that they were sent by Aquatain of the Weird. “She told us you have something for Nique.”

At the sound of Nique’s name, the frown vanishes from the nymph’s face, like storm clouds retreating, and is replaced by a smile that rivals the sun in its brilliance. She bounces excitedly, up and down, and squeals in happiness. Umbrecrom feels he could spend the rest of his life here in this glade, just watching her. Seluna says something to the nymph, who scampers off into the forest. A pang of regret stings Umbrecrom’s heart — how excellent it would be to follow her, watching her scampering, her bouncing, her. . . But that might earn another Sylvan tongue-lashing. Still. . .

A few moments later, the nymph returns via dimension door, carrying a package that she hands to Seluna. As Seluna offers the package to Yestamir, she says, “I was ordered to give this to Nique, when the time was right.”

Surprised, Yestamir asks her, “Who could order one such as you?”

“Coramorphus,” she replies.

Even more startled, Yestamir decides to risk another question, “Is Coramorphus still alive on the Prime Material Plane?”

“Even I cannot tell you that,” she replies. “But I had this package from him before Nique was born.”

Finally, Yestamir asks her if there is a portal to the astral plane nearby.

“There is not, although there is a portal to Illuvinari, which would place you near Nique’s home in Amcarofarne.”

As he ponders the fastest way back to Port Dawn and their friends, she adds, “There is one who might help you. . . the Master of Shadows.”

Yestamir asks how to find him. “Look in the shadows, of course,” she laughs. "But I ask that you not call him here in our glade. Go further down the path.”

The nymph speaks excitedly to Seluna, and Seluna adds, “Give our love to Nique.”

Yestamir pulls Umbrecrom away from the nymph, who is fondling Umbrecrom’s bowed head. Yestamir heads off into the forest, a dazed Umbrecrom in tow, until he feels that they are a sufficient distance from the gazebo, and then calls quietly to Olidimarra.

“Lord of Shadows, hear our plea.” The landscape around them becomes dark and full of shifting shadows. Stepping into the shadows with a gulp, Yestamir says, “Master of Shadows, hear our plea, for we desire your aid. We wish to travel undetected into Port Dawn.” The feeling of a Presence fills the area as the shadows thicken around them. Something foreign in Yestamir’s brain draws into the shape of a thought.

“What’s in it for me?”

Yestamir realizes he has no idea what to offer a god of thieves in return for the aid he needs.

Umbrecrom speaks up, “My Lord, we wish to travel to Port Dawn, in Illuvinari.”

“I know.”

“We do not wish to be noticed and we have already set off their alarms once.”

“I know.”

“We need to rejoin our friends quickly. . . but you know that. . .”

The Presence laughs, “You are funny. I will send you back.”

Yestamir gets a definite sense of other presences beyond the Presence laughing as well. The Presence turns back to Yestamir.

“Come now, you surely don’t want me to name the price. . . " Again Yestamir has the sense of laughter. Thinking frantically, he opens his mouth to speak, but it is too late. “Very well, then,” the Presence says, “here is my price. A friend of a friend of a friend is in trouble. Because it amuses
me to throw a stone in the cogs of law, when the time comes, and you will know when it comes, you will help a servant of the wolf against law. Are
we agreed?”

“Agreed,” says Yestamir.

“Very well then, cast forth your mind and step into the shadows.”

Yestamir thinks very clearly of their room in Port Dawn, steps forward. . . and slams into a tree. Howls of laughter echo in his mind.

“No,” the Presence chuckles, “Use your plane shift to cast forth your mind.”

Grumbling to himself, Yestamir manifests his power, and feels the Presence focusing him, like Corellon’s touch, but darker. . . grabbing Umbrecrom’s hand, he steps forward. . . slamming into something hard.
Solid.
Flat.
With a doorknob.

Cringing in pain, Yestamir tries to wriggle around enough to get to the doorknob, despite the crowded conditions in the closet. “Umbrecrom is no pixie,” he thinks. He finally grasps the doorknob, turns it, and steps cautiously through the doorway. . .

Lothron 5, 5055, around 2:30 a.m.

Nelke paces through the spacious suite at the Golden Gnome’s Retreat, a perfect reflection of Nique’s anxiety. Malachitrix peeks over Quingle’s shoulder as they look out the window yet again at the smoke trailing from the silent iron golem in the harbor. Ananmara sleeps on soft pillows in a corner. Pr’Gillis’s flute song hovers around them all.

“They should have been back hours ago.”

No one is sure who has spoken. They have said this so often tonight that it seems to have become a part of the flute song.

Ananmara whimpers, and tightens her hold on one of the pillows. Quingle glances at her — her movement has exposed a corner of her new brand. He winces.

A sound.

The flute song stops. Five pairs of eyes turn toward the suite’s closet. Five bodies prepare to defend.

The closet door opens.

Yestamir and Umbrecrom tumble out of the closet. Nique’s anxiety dissolves into giggles, as her two old friends appear.

The reunited Shards settle down with some refreshments and begin exchanging tales of parties and golems and the new knowledge obtained.

“And then, with Yestamir under one arm, and the gnome under the other, I dive out into the darkness, …”

“Wait, I almost forgot, this is from Seluna,” Yestamir interrupts, handing Nique a plain wooden cube, about 8 inches on a side. “She says Coramorphus gave it to her for you, before you were born.”

“You saw Seluna?!” Nique exclaims as she takes the cube. She is about to ask how this happened, but the cube, …the cube, …is so … lustrous, so beautiful, with its deep grain. Is it ash? She turns it over in her hands, looking at it more closely, the surface cool and smooth. One side forms into a mouth and asks her a question. She answers, and the mouth disappears, returning to lustrous wood. And then the grain moves, and forms into words.

The party warily watches the exchange; no one understands the language spoken by the cube and Nique. When the words form on the cube, Quingle looks over her shoulder, but cannot read the writing. “Nique,” he says softly, “what does it say?”

She looks up from the cube at a circle of concerned faces, and realizes that both the words spoken and the words written by the cube have been in druidic.

“It says:
‘Upon considering that every beginning has its end,
despite what is believed by many learned magi,
some may discover that it is unwise to envelop
light within a cloud of darkness, for a
cat can always find its way with an open eye,
marking its path easily, and it will receive
not a single surprise through darkest midnight.
What spell am I thinking of?’”

More refreshments are consumed as the Shards try to make sense of this poem. The phrase “every beginning has its end” and odd placement of line breaks nags at Nique, and she begins looking at the beginning and ending words of each line, and finally at the beginning and ending letters of each line.

“Displacement — is that a spell?” she asks. Quingle tells her that is an arcane spell, and she says “displacement” to the cube in druidic.

The writing disappears, and the cube emits three objects: A small obsidian figurine of a displacer beast, a scimitar (+2 frostburst) with its name, Frostwind, carved in runes, on the blade, and an ornate wrought gold box. Nique decides to examine the box first, and puts the cube and figurine in her pocket, and the scimitar on her waist.

The box is 8 inches wide by 12 inches long by 6 inches deep. The top and four sides are finely engraved. A two-headed dragon, roaring to either side, with crystal eyes, is engraved on the lid, along with the words “Help us in the hunt. All must face their prey.” The back and left and right sides of the box are rippling scales. A line of men with swords and shields face the five metallic dragon head clasps on the front of the box. The heads are in this order, from left to right: Silver, brass, gold, bronze, and copper.

The box has five legs, one in each corner, and one in the center of the undecorated bottom. Each leg is a different metallic dragon with druidic script on its outstretched wings.
The left rear is a brass dragon that reads “I am hunted by a dragon not of water.”
The right rear is a bronze dragon that reads “To seek my prey, I must fly to freezing fate.”
The left front is a silver dragon that reads “My prey dwells on lofty heights.”
The right front is a copper dragon that reads “When my hunter comes, I do not wake.”
The center is a gold dragon that reads “None dare seek the gold, though I may hunt any who do not share my home.”

Through some cautious manipulation, the Shards determine that the dragon box legs will turn, and they begin working on the puzzle clues. They finally come to an agreement, and Nique turns the brass toward the copper, the bronze toward the silver, the copper toward the brass, and the silver toward the copper. She then turns the gold toward each of the other four.

The box opens. The inner compartment is 7 inches wide by 11 inches long by 5 inches deep and contains a pouch. Nique opens the pouch, and pours out five small eye-shaped gems — a black opal, an emerald, a pearl, a ruby, and a sapphire. Although they all radiate transmutation, nothing happens. She puts the gems back in the pouch, and the pouch back in the box. There is another other object inside the box — a small perfect sphere of wood, radiating strong transmutation. Nique reaches in, picks it up, and. . .

Alone in the suite, Ananmara sleeps on.

The suite dissolves into a greyness that becomes a clearing, surrounded by 12 ancient monoliths. Huge trees tower outside the circle of stones. Nique recognizes the experience as a bizarre variant of transport via plants.

The Shards determine that they are still somewhere on Illuvinari. They begin exploring the clearing.

The northernmost monolith is carved with an arch composed of five identical bas-relief dragon profiles. Each profile displays an empty eye socket. Above the profiles, the words “Welcome to the Armory” are carved.

An armory. Has the party found the tools to win the war?

As the Shards approach, the dragon carvings stir, and then each head, beginning with the one on the lower left, speaks one statement.
“The ruby rests not on the left.”
“Opal does not look up to ruby.”
“I keep the opal near me, but wear it not.”
“The pearl rests not on the right side.”
“Ruby and sapphire reside higher than emerald.”

The heads then smile in a most unfriendly manner, watching the party with their empty eye sockets.

“Another puzzle,” groans Umbrecrom. However, this one takes the Shards little time to solve. After everyone agrees on the solution, Nique inserts the gems from the pouch, beginning at the lower left, one for each chromatic dragon in order — pearl, black opal, sapphire, ruby, and emerald.

The dragon carvings reluctantly accept the solution. The stone in the middle of the monolith peels back to reveal a solid wooden door. There is no handle. Nique touches the door and the Shards find themselves on a round wooden platform in the middle of a large circular stone chamber, with approximately 50 wooden doors in the continuous wall. Many of the doors are broken, burnt, or rotted. A symbol is carved above each door. From where they stand, the Shards can see these symbols:
Mountain
Crown
Island
Hand
Pair of crossed spears
Treant
Waterfall
Flame
Triangle
Bushes

There is also one silver door under a carving of two islands, with the lower island the reverse image of the upper one.

Pr’Gillis steps off the platform to get a closer look at the doors, and a large earth elemental suddenly rises up out of the stone floor.

“Hello,” says Nique in Terran.
“Hello,” says the earth elemental, hesitantly, in a voice that sounds like two mountains scraping against one another.
“Are you the guardian for this place?”
“Yes.”
“Coramorphus sent us.” And Nique shows the elemental the wooden sphere and the gold dragon box. The elemental examines these objects, and decides not to eliminate the party.

The rest of the Shards explore the chamber, while Nique talks with the earth elemental. She asks its name, and patiently listens for the next several minutes while it is recited. The elemental permits the party to shorten its name to “Granite.”

Nique joins the rest of the party in exploring the room. As she nears the door with the carving of the bushes over it, a magic mouth appears and says, “I think this is the door you’re looking for.” The Shards go through the door, hoping desperately that there will be a weapon that can stand against the golem, or the armada, or the soldiers marching on Jawarl, or perhaps even the Evil in the Sorrow Wastes.

They find themselves standing by a wood, in front of row upon row of very large thorn bushes under a silver sky. A thin mist permeates the air. They step forward to investigate their surroundings. The bush nearest them moves, unfolding into a shape like a large six-legged cat made of briar. It looks at them with buds like pomegranates, and asks, “Is it time?” Nique thinks of the many threats to the good creatures and the natural world of Illuvinari, and, with a silent prayer that this will be the right answer, says, “Yes.”

It is like tossing a stone into water. The battle briar nudges its neighbors, who stir and nudge their neighbors, an awakening wave of thorned danger rippling across the demi-plane. Nique looks at the amount of power she has aroused, and an uncomfortable feeling forms in the pit of her stomach.

The sound of rustling briars fills the demi-plane. A whisper of “It is time” turns into a shouting chant of “Go! Go! Go!” The Shards look at each other — what should they do now? How can they make use of this weapon? How can they get these plant creatures to a battlefield? The battle briars are too big to go through the door from the chamber, and there does not appear to be another opening in this demi-plane. Will they be able to control them if they do get them out of the demi-plane? It is almost impossible to think — the presence and sound of so many large creatures makes the space feel even smaller than it is. There is some discussion of just leaving the pack of plant creatures here, but no one knows how to put the creatures back into stasis, and without sunlight and water, the plant creatures will probably die.

Nique manages to quiet the creatures enough to make a hasty promise to return after she learns how to free them, and the Shards quickly go back through the door into quiet of the stone chamber.

Perhaps there will be an answer to their problems behind another door. The silver door glints at them; it is unique among the chamber’s doors. The Shards unanimously agree to go through the silver door.

The Shards find themselves on a balcony of a huge stone structure floating in the Astral Plane, surrounded by an astral storm. It is an asteroid that has been altered into a castle, with half of the edifice the mirror image of the other half. There is a line of mountains trailing the castle as far as the eye can see.

Yestamir recognizes where they are. The tapestries they took from Lashimir were astral maps to this place. This is the Astral Cannon; these mountains can be dropped onto Illuvinari through a special gate in the tube below the balcony they stand on!

There are two large doors, which are closed, leading from the balcony into the castle. The party rings a bell next to the doors. The doors open, and a female elf steps through. She moves very stiffly and mechanically. She asks, “Who are you? Why are you here? What is the password?”

Nique says they have been sent by Coramorphus and shows her the items from him. The elf construct asks again for the password. Nique explains that they do not know the password. The elf construct calls for Galenial.

Lights come on, sounds start up, the astral storm clears. The castle awakens. The castle is Galenial, “The Maker,” the first child and only daughter of Coramorphus. The elf construct changes, her motions becoming fluid as Galenial takes her over. Galenial has been asleep, and the party’s arrival has awakened her.

“Who are you?” The party members introduce themselves. When Galenial hears Yestamir Carnen’s name, she looks closely at him, displeased because she does not remember him.

“Who is Speaker of the Eldar?”

“Eqximiye Carlack.”

Galenial is becoming more displeased; she does not know this name.

“No, that’s not right. Where’s Coramorphus? Where’s Elmenethrond? What year is it?”

“It is 5055 A.E.”

“A.E. — what does that mean?” she snaps.

“It is 5,000 years since the war against the Gurth Morgul Herui.”

“Did we win the war?”

“Yes.”

“Then why is there still a taint? Where is the Queen?”

“She is dead.”

“Where is Coramorphus?”

“He is dead.”

Galenial is shocked, confused, angry — she should not have been asleep this long. Nique tells her about the Queen’s death, the Daughter-Tree, Hithlorien’s breakdown, and the current war. She asks Galenial for help in getting back home and in using the battle briars in the war.

Galenial agrees to help the Shards get home and leads them from the balcony into the castle to a teleport room. She states that Nique will stay, and the rest of the party will return to the stone chamber. Yestamir and Nique explain that the Shards need Nique with them to finish their mission. She sharply says that Nique will not be long in joining them and sends the rest of the party back. After a short private conversation with Nique, she also sends Nique back, accompanied by the elf construct — a nimblewright.

When Nique and the nimblewright arrive in the stone chamber, they find Granite and his kin listening to Pr’Gillis playing the flute. The nimblewright coldly adds another thousand years onto Granite’s length of service for this dereliction of duty.

Nique is saddened by Granite’s punishment. Perhaps, when the current crisis is over, she can discuss whether the punishment is necessary with. . . — she turns to the nimblewright. “What is your name?”

“I have no name.”

“You will be traveling with us. You will need a name. What shall we call you?”

“It does not matter,” the nimblewright replies indifferently.

Nique consults with the rest of the Shards. She returns to the nimblewright. “We would call you Baelavel .”

“As you wish.”

The Shards and Baelavel enter the room of the battle briars. The rustling and chanting start up loudly as soon as the creatures see the party.

“Baelavel, how do we get them out of here?” asks Nique.

“It is simple, you just cast gate and take them through.”

“I cannot cast gate.”

Baelavel looks at Nique. “You cannot cast gate,” she states flatly. She looks at the rest of the party, and back at Nique.

“None of us can cast gate,” Nique says, in response to the unasked question.

Nique and Baelavel look at each other. Yestamir, Quingle, and Pr’Gillis each find that some aspect of the demi-plane requires scrutiny. Umbrecrom thinks about what the nymph might be doing.

“Yestamir, could you and I combine any of our abilities to find another solution?” asks Nique, finally. “What do you think, Quingle?”

The magic users determines that they may be able to combine a transport via plants and a plane shift and open up an exit from the demi-plane back to Illuvinari. Nique has the plant creatures file past the party so the creatures will (hopefully) be able to recognize the Shards and not attack them by mistake. She instructs them to arrange themselves with the “tamer” lesser battle briars near the party, and the wilder greater battle briars further away. She orders the creatures not to attack anyone using the password “sunshine” spoken in sylvan, and not to attack anyone who is not fighting or using magic.

Then, with much trepidation, the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach becoming ever stronger, Nique begins casting a transport via plants to the nearest oak tree 10 miles north-northwest of Port Dawn. She coordinates it with Yestamir’s plane shift, and an opening appears on the far side of the demi-plane. Guided by an unseen hand, they all shift.

Lothron 5, 5055, 10 a.m.

The edge of the Wyrmwood forest, next to the road leading from Port Dawn to Laroosh. A pleasant day in late spring. Sunlight dapples through the tree leaves. Birds sing, squirrels chatter, chipmunks scurry. A scattering of travelers on the road taking care of the ordinary business of everyday life — carrying produce to market, carting wood, walking to a relative’s home for a visit.

Lothron 5, 5055, 10:10 a.m.

Broken branches and shredded bark hang from what few trees still stand upright. Red smears adorn the gashed roadway. Silence, except for the distant sound of galloping thunder.

The battle briars had poured onto the road, most of them staying together and heading in the direction Nique had told them to. Had they been following her directions, or was it chance that they were now headed in the direction of Laroosh? Within minutes of arriving in Illuvinari, the Shards find themselves behind a company of soldiers marching from Port Dawn to Laroosh. The battle briars toss, trample, and destroy the soldiers, joyously being what the Eldar had created — living war machines. The briars then rapidly come up on another company, and obliterate them as well.

The Shards look at one another. What have they unleashed?

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