How U Mine 4 Fish?

Gathering of the Elements Part 2

All That Was, Never Was

Attempts to converse with the master of the Order of the Still Mind were thrown off with anger, and eventually just dismissal when even Zacharaia tried to console him. Through their dialogue, however, they had learned they had defeated the lot of their warriors (killing a portion as well), effectively destroying their structure as an Order. As to the function of their Order, they made a permanent and nearly undetectable base on the Material Plane in the hopes of stopping the efforts of Mind Flayers, who would make a future where in they were the conquerors of reality. If the party really sought the Orb of Air, then they ensured such a future, for taking the Orb would destroy their abode. While he was uncooperative with nearly everyone, Velveeta was able to talk some sense into him, even manage to convince him in assisting them on the hope of rebuilding their order in secret.

Whilst the Master was being reasoned with, Sig Ollivander took the time to search through the dead and unconscious bodies of the Githzerai monks for magical items, seeing them no different than any of the other combatants the party defeated in the past. Razeil Kashar took afront to this, saying that no member of their party would do such a thing as long as he was around, which prompted Sig to teleport away to Corneria. With Sig gone, the rest sought a means to transport the Order of the Still Mind to a location that could not only accomodate them but also keep them secret. They eventually contacted Randall Thay, who revealed he was in Restful Valley, and that they could bring the Githzerai to the church of Wee Jas tended to be Fillian Malls.

To get there, Velveeta cast a Gate to the Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia, the party taking the Orb of Air with them before closing it behind them (which promptly dropped the Order of the Still Mind structure into the forest back on the Material Plane). Raziel then cast his own Gate to Restful Valley (having gone there in the past to follow the adventures of the party), meeting the gaze of an angry Fillian Malls. Randall was able to calm Fillian and bring everyone into the catacombs he built under the church, as a means to stage a counterstrike against not only Farmonia but everything else wrong with the world.

Whilst getting them up to speed, Macronian noticed that some of his flesh was rotting away, and he was not only infected with the Living Rot but likely infected the party and the Order of the Still Mind inhabitants as well. He demanded that no one would leave until they all had a Heroes’ Feast by tomorrow. Then there was the matter of who would get the Orb of Air, and it was eventually decided Zaden Holdstein should bear it, for the simple reason of it being the most strategically sound. Luvais Ziegler was called upon as well, who was attuned to the Orb of Water, and gave it to Mac.

With all the Orbs of the Elements now together and bound the one of the party, Randall Thay recalled to them the last adventure he shared with Gerald Highlander and Krum Stoneheart. The world was falling apart from the planar rip an the war with Farmonia, yet the Way of the Shalm pressed them to travel north of Thermopoly to the Temple of Chaos, where something sought to bring great disorder to the world. The Temple was surrounded my a old ancient city which seemed to spiral to the center, where from a portal a lone figure could be seen through, but not distinguished.

The portal itself seemed to take on the form of a creature which the figure commanded, whose form was more an amalgam of countless creatures, always shifting and boiling. They fought against the being for who knew how long, with Krum Stoneheart eventually falling (and whose wish to be kept dead were honored). By action of their own or some other power Randall did not know, but the portal eventually blew up in a burst of elemental energy, with the four colors of the elements shooting out in all directions.

Randall did not know it then, but those were the Orbs of the Elements, seeking out the free standing Gates to their Elemental Plane counterpart. He began to suspect it was a such when the party began to collect them and from his continued conversations with the Way of the Shalm, eventually realizing that in oder to save the Material Plane from a slow death, the party had to return to the Temple of Chaos. Randall had been watching the location over the years, and noted the city around the temple appeared to be regressing in age, as if the time that passed made it look as if it were just built. To take them there, Randall would cast a Teleportation Circle near the coast it say on, but only on the condition that the party would keep silent about whatever they should find there. The party found this request odd, but agreed to it all the same, stepping into the Teleportation Circle.

Upon a coast somewhere north of Thermopoly, they saw an ancient city that seemed to spiral inward, where a bright light visible in the daylight seemed to be shining. Four towers surrounded this center, but they were disregarded as they entered the city. They eventually overheard the sound of fighting, and upon investigating discovered Joanna fighting against devils with nothing but a longsword in her hand. Raziel cast a Flame Strike to deal with the brunt of them, while the rest managed to clean up. Joanna explained that after the Hand of Hextor kidnapped her, she was taken here so that she could be trained, so that, “If this failed, Hextor still needed a challenger.” She was then given the longsword she wielded, which the Hand claimed was the weapon of The Invincible (which The party recalled was a tittle of Heironeous), and Joanna had been fighting off against devils ever since. After making mention that the Hand had since gone towards the center of the city, the party took Joanna with them, believing they had no time to take her back to Corneria personally.

Arriving at the temple, they found the Hand of Hextor standing before a portal, his back to them. Called out to by the party, the Hand turned to them, but he did not draw his weapon, preferring to use his words to dissuade them and said it was too late to change anything. Instead of continuing the conversation, the party immediately attacked, with Velvetta attempting to close the portal with a Dimensional Lock or at the very least keep the Hand from escaping. Not only did the spell fail to close the portal, but the Hand seemed uninterested in the concept of escape, as if this was exactly where he wanted to be. Those who physically attacked the Hand were assaulted by summoned Inevitables who claimed they, “Broke the parley.” When it was fairly apparent the party would not be listening to reason, only then did he draw his sword, smiting Zacharaia with a single blow powerful enough to almost kill him instantly.

Thad decided to got after an outfitted devil skeleton that was assisted the Hand of Hextor, but was soon outmatched when the greataxe it wielded bypassed the dwarf’s armor and drained him of his life as well. Not even a powerful turn attempt by Raziel empowered by Pelor could Turn of Destroy it, though it was eventually brought down by the fists of Zach. The Inevitables were brought down swiftly as well, while Zaden rushed in on the Hand, hoping to fend him off as he did the last time. Zaden was soon shown otherwise, for it was likely the Hand was holing back the last fight, and he was now also empowered by some force which healed him from all wounds. It didn’t help that Velvetta had blocked his escape via a Forcecage around the Hand and himself, though Velvetta did teleport into the Forcecage quickly enough and beat down the Hand before Zaden could be slain.

Despite being incapacitated to the point that no man could possibly survive, the Hand’s body continued to regenerate, even after Zaden seemingly cut him in half. Believing this to be the work of the various magical items on the Hand’s person, they stripped him down, and to their horror discovered that the Hand of Hextor was none other than Gerald Highlander. Placing him in another separate Forcecage, they questioned him about his betrayal, to which he said that Gerald was dead, and he killed him long ago, and he now served Hextor gladly. As to why he would spare Joanna, he gave no answer other than he had his own reasons. Gerald otherwise told them they were wasting time with him, for the world was going to die lest he go through the portal.

Finally looking into the portal, the party saw younger versions of Randall Thay, Krum Stoneheart and Gerald Highlander fighting off against creatures (or a single creature?) of utter chaos. Krum had already fallen, and Gerald looked like the next to fall. It soon became apparent to the party that they were looking into the past, and the story Randall relayed back to them before coming to the temple was happening right now. Believing they needed redo the events of that day in order to revive the world, by somehow putting the Orbs of the Elements through the portal. They feared going through the portal however, uncertain what it would do to them or if they could come back, and attempted a plan to give their Orbs to Velvetta who would then walk through the portal for them, having no fear because she wasn’t of this world to begin with. Thad, being the one attuned to the Orb of Earth, didn’t have much faith in the logic being presented, saying that they were likely going to be okay, because they were in the present now and didn’t need to do a thing because they were still alive. This brought on an arguement about how they weren’t going to be alive soon if they didn’t take action, because they were alive today because they were saved by actions they were about to do.

On the other side of the portal, Gerald Highlander fell against the creature(s), and the world around the party seemed to be going dim and shake from instability. Gerald yelled at them to allow him to go through so that he may save the world, and action Raziel and Sig were considering. Something must have happened to Gerland in the past for him to become the Hand of Hextor, and perhaps it was because his future self possessed him. Mac pointed out that still didn’t explain the issue with the Orbs, and they still had to pass them through somehow. Zaden eventually pointed out that throwing the Orbs wouldn’t work, because they were each attuned to them, a fact made evident when one Orb was attempted to be thrown in, but it simply returned to the attuned member. With no time to switch the Orb’s over to Velvetta (who in the end could have only one orb at a time), putting the Orbs through would require each attuned member to physically walk through the portal with Orb in hand.

With time running out, Zaden and Mac volunteered to go through the portal (Marria and Alton Tealeaf choosing to follow), knowing everyone was going to die lest they did something. Upon passing through the portal, their bodies slowly lost color, eventually becoming ash. Yet the Orbs were unaffected, glowed brighter than ever, and shot forth away from the battle Randall was having against the creature. Zaden followed suit after a moment of thought, yet Thad refused to go through and die. The remnants of the party began to force Thad through, who was turned into a turtle via Baleful Polymorph. Before Thad could be thrown through, however, Raziel and Sig still believed that Gerland needed to go through the portal as well, and had him go through before Thad.

This act made the world shake all the more, and eventually fade to black. In the darkness the party stood before Olidammara, who applauded their efforts, but sadly explained to them the world they knew was likely gone forever. Gerald was in command of the portal, a boon given him to by the four Armageddon Elementals that resided in the towers surrounding the Temple of Chaos. Using this power, we was able to kill his past self, and take his place in that timeline. With the future Gerald now in the past, their own future was drastically changed, and otherwise didn’t exist, for the Hand of Hextor was now in a position of power against the rest of the world, and would likely find means to slay each of the party members before they could ever challenge him (among other things).

Had the party did as Zaden finally accepted and sacrifice themselves to complete the time loop, their world might have had a future. Not to say that their story wasn’t unknown or pointless, as Olidammara made sure to press, for their efforts were known to him and all outside the realm of mortality, and the adventure was always more important than the goal. And who knows? Maybe there was a way they could fix their mistake and prevent Gerald from making his future a reality. But that was an adventure for another time.

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