I am writing this letter to you sitting in the Fields of Glory, surrounded by our deceased family and ancestors. They send their love and words of courage, by the way. Despite this marvelous scene, my heart is as heavy as it has ever been. This is why I am addressing this to you rather than our family as a whole. I have no idea whether this will reach you before we arrive, but your council would be most welcome.
We followed the map to the pirate’s base, which turned out to be in a series of caverns north-west of Castle Greyhawk. A bold choice on their part. Along the way, we spoke to Marcus Cannerly, who politely answered our questions about the Von Slythes. Evidently, Lianna was an imposter and had replaced Balthasar’s actual wife. That woman had been Claire’s true mother. He told us that Balthasar and the dragon Lianna’s child was more of a “thing” than person, being a mixture of devil, dragon, and human. This was the beginning of the Von Slythes corrupt bloodline and it took a millenia of careful breeding to produce someone who would be an acceptable host for Asmodeus. He also mentioned that the Oeridian people had originally come from a place called “Doria,” but we had no time to delve into that topic.
Jevan signaled to the pirates that we wanted to parley and they let us through. They proved to be incredibly well organized and competent. The first mate, Zegran Osver, met us with a small group of well equipped warriors and it was obvious that we hadn’t earned their complete trust. Idrys began explaining the full breadth of the situation to him, and he quickly decided to consult with his captain who was aboard their main warship. The two came back before long, and Idrys resumed his tale.
I would like to say that I knew immediately, but after nine years I honestly couldn’t be sure. He watched me apprehensively, and the longer I observed him, the more my doubts fled. It was Jack. He swore he thought we had all died, which was his defense when I demanded how he could have let me think he was dead for so long. Evidently his uncle Donovan had convinced him the explosion of the castle had destroyed more of the landscape than it actually had. I will have to talk with uncle Touma to see if he knows this man.
You once told me that nearly everyone has something that they regret all of their days, and I fear that this might be mine. Instead of telling Jack that I was happy to see him, that I had missed him terribly and would do whatever it took to protect him, I yelled and accused him. Of all the stupid things I could have said, I told him I was angry he had stolen my locket — even though he had given it to me in the first place. I can only pray that I get the chance to apologize.
We had not even five minutes to talk when an enormous fireball entered the mouth of the cave and obliterated one of the pirates’ ships. On the deck of their main warship appeared a death knight dressed in the trappings of the Baklunish and a Suel woman wearing clothes appropriate to the time of their Imperium. It seems she had been lurking invisibly for perhaps an entire day and had mind controlled many of the pirate crew. She used her magic to seal the cave entrance with a thick wall of ice. To compound our problems, another ghost ship surfaced, but this time under the control of a ghostly Von Slythe captain rather than Balthasar.
I don’t know what I was thinking, and it seems foolish and useless now, but I took the locket from Jack and put it around his neck. I made him promise not to take it off. Maybe I thought that since the chain also held mom’s holy symbol, it might offer him some kind of protection. I guess a part of me always believed it to be lucky somehow since it survived the destruction of the castle when nothing else had. Sentimentality never seemed to be a weakness of mine, but there it was. Instead of telling him I had missed my best friend or that I would come find him if anything happened, I force a piece of stupid jewelry on him.
The fight was fierce, but rather short. Between us and the pirates, we were able to defeat the devils that were meant as a distraction and the drowned ones that swarmed from the ghost ship. Loreli and Tulla worked together to summon a positive energy elemental which seemed more than ready to face the unholy Bakluni knight. Unfortunately, the death knight and the lady were well prepared and pulled Kalur, Jack’s younger brother who we had also thought dead, from a portable hole. The knight held his blade to Kalur’s throat and demanded Jack’s surrender.
Idrys cleverly used his magic to dimension door over to where they were, seizing Kalur out of harm’s way and shoving two purified holy grenades in the knight’s mouth. The explosion was spectacular, but again we celebrated too soon. Idrys passed Kalur to his brother’s hands, and I foolishly turned away thinking that the battle was all but over. Kalur, though, was not so much a victim as a willing participant. He activated a ring of teleportation, taking him and Jack far away. The Suel woman and the death knight immediately followed, leaving us with nothing.
Using a spell, Idrys was able to trace where they had teleported off to. This lead to the discovery that the Von Slythe’s castle had been rebuilt in some astral/ethereal plane sitting in it’s old location. We would have three days before it would materialize. Zegran promised to send a message to Jack’s uncle Donovan, hoping that he might know more about what was going on. I passed him our spare communication crystal from Sir Christopher so that he could keep in touch.
We had only a moment to debate what to do next, when the ice wall sealing the cavern was suddenly destroyed and a… whale appeared. Jevan seemed to be the only person aware of what was going on and wasn’t pleased at all. From the creature’s mouth stepped a woman he identified as his aunt Evelyn. She brought us an urgent message from Rutherford Seafire who insisted we needed to obtain two keys, one of law and one of chaos. These keys would be necessary to retrieve the Soul Gem from the Ghost Tower. We would need to go to Pandemonium and Celestia.
Fortunately, Evelyn’s companion creature was an Elsewhale which could travel to different bodies of water on different planes. She promised to guide us and immediately ushered us into the beast’s mouth. When we stepped out, we found ourselves on the first layer of Pandemonium. Evey, as Jevan called her, had spells to protect us from the worst of the plane’s effects. She also discovered that Villius’s magic sword was crafted from materials taken from this place. It’s sonic effects were tremendously magnified, and he was completely protected from the dimensional hazards.
Very quickly we found ourselves directed, by convenient signposts no less, towards a “trickster god.” No one was thrilled about the thought since such divine beings were almost guaranteed to be troublesome. A pack of winter wolves showed up to guide us the rest of the way to a hall. There we met with a being who eventually identified himself as Loki, a god not of Oerth. He fairly reeked of chaos, and we distrusted him immediately. Evidently he had won the key of chaos in a poker game and explained he was allowed to force us into a test in order to win it.
We fought his pack of winter wolves and three frost giants. It was a difficult but relatively quick fight, and true to his word, Loki gave us the key. Idrys and I questioned why a trickster god would want to force us into a martial battle rather than a game of wits. Loki simply shrugged and said he wanted to see how we fought together because “you never know.” I fear we will have to keep our eyes out for this being in the future.
Not wanting to spend any more time in Pandemonium, we quit the place as quickly as possible. The Elsewhale literally spat us out into the holy water sea of Celestia, forcing us to swim to the far shore. By the time we reach there, everyone was exhausted and immediately fell asleep. And awoke in different places. The majority of our party found themselves in Bahamut’s palace in luxurious bedrooms.
For my part, I woke briefly in the Fields of Glory to see — and I am not sure this wasn’t an hallucination — a tall, flame haired man with glowing white eyes and copper skin talking to my sword. He matched every description I have heard of Heironeous. Still exhausted, I promptly fell back asleep only to wake again later when Bahamut’s servants arrived. They led me to the Green Fields of the halflings where we picked up Marsys and then to the palace of the dragon god where we reunited with our friends.
Bahamut graciously offered us a feast and he and his gold dragon servants appeared as humans so they could more easily interact with us. We discussed a number of topics, such as Incabulos and Tiamat’s goals. Bahamut thinks Incabulos is “in over his head” and that Tiamat would gleefully destroy the world just to set foot in his palace. He confirmed that the terrifying second Bartholomew was from a future where he managed to get his hands on the Codex and plans to ensure that it comes to pass. Evidently, he would need to kill Simon Rhola to steal the key of Dalt in order to unlock the secret sections of the book. Even mighty Bahamut says he doesn’t know how this evil tome was crafted, but there is a dungeon in the Isle of Woe where it’s secrets still lie — including how to destroy it. He also warned us that the Soul Gem was important to Asmodeus’s plans, and that we absolutely needed to get it first. If our enemies get the Codex, we could still destroy it, but the soul filled Gem could spell the end of everything. We asked if there was a way to free the millions of souls locked inside, and he reluctantly suggested we speak to Zygyg, lord mayor of Greyhawk City.
As dinner concluded, Bahamut’s spymaster asked Idrys if he knew he was being watched by a demon. He seemed as confused as the rest of us at first, but recalled having tried to summon a demon when he was “only 90.” From what he said, the ritual had seemed a failure and was something he later regretted trying. But the dragon told him that this demon had seen something in Idrys’s destiny and decided to watch him. The two retreated to discuss what could be done about this situation.
Free to do as we wished for the rest of the night, Loreli was treated to some time alone with her deceased parents who had much to discuss with her. For my part, I came here to the Fields of Glory to visit with our family. After my dreadful failure, I suppose I hoped to find some solace. Sadly, there is none even in this magnificent place. The sword revealed it can speak here, but didn’t have a great deal to say other than to explain my experiences with it would shape its future self. It was created by one of our ancestors for their son who was a paladin.
So, here I sit, in heaven with a heavy heart. We will be coming to see all of you soon, and I can only say that you should consider evacuating as much of the people as you can before we arrive. Things are going to be difficult, and for the first time on the journey I am not sure of success. I have managed to fail my best friend twice and let you all down. My fears are being realized, and I seem to be utterly helpless to stop them. I worry that the next time I see Jack, there will be nothing left of him, and all I will have is my overwhelming guilt. Until then, all I can do is keep going forward.