Oddly, there is this inexplicable gap in my memory. Everyone on the group kindly reminded me of our encounter with Evil Lemmy. After Lemmy killed Evil Lemmy, we took the corpse to Redhurst Academy (along with the stray kids) and the Department of Necromancy where we made Evil Dead Lemmy answer a few questions. The surprise came in who sent Evil Lemmy on his evil mission—an apparently Evil Violetta.
Now I like Violetta. Swell gal, excellent entertainer. And really, I’d rather take a troll piss shower than brawl with those I break bread with, but if she goes orc-ass wild on us, what were we going to do? Would we spot the Evil in time and chase it away from Violetta or could we expect Evil versions of us coming back to kill us or . . . I furrowed my brow in consternation.
My odd little memory tick left me on the steps of the Necromancy Department of Redhurst Academy. Caz and Ibid had gone off to seek the headmaster, leaving the rest of us tense and full of questions as to what exactly we were dealing with. And Lemmy’s foretold battle in the Tears of Selune was only a month away.
I felt very nervous and had to fight the urge to find a quiet corner and groom myself and nap. Whenever I get confused and worried, I do that. I find it clears my head. Caz returned with the portal key we needed to get back to Cormir where we left the Voidskimmer and our pay. Ibid had gone off on some mysterious errand. We were off to Araculus on Spiral in Braal Space where we were to meet someone.
Araculus. What a hornet’s nest that place is. Originally inhabited by elves, the planet was taken over by the Scrow, who continue to occupy Spiral. Before the invasion, seven Sages of Temporal Meditation lived in Araculus. At some point, when arguing over conflicting visions, six mages left the area, reputedly mad, leaving behind one equally mad companion named Thales or Thalus. The Academy normally would not stop in occupied territory but was making an exception in this case in order to pick up refugees fleeing their oppressors. After retrieving a map of Araculus and the surrounding area from the library, we met with Ibid.
Ibid had a sly grin on his face as he approached. He dropped a tiny silver sphere into Violetta’s palm and stood back as if awaiting a standing ovation. We all looked at the ball and then at Ibid.
“I have a cousin here in the Temple of Illusion,” Ibid began, “We whipped this up while catching up. It’s a mass invisibility sphere.” While it was of limited application (you could be heard or felt; the spell only lasted a short time; the spell would suspend when engaged in battle), it would be of great use to us in crossing occupied territory. We oohed and aahed over the magical little sphere and Ibid looked properly gratified.
We landed on Spiral, about 30 miles from Araculus. It was a lovely planet, except for the naked, eviscerated elven corpses nailed to the trees of the clearing the Academy had landed in. The walls of Redhurst bristled with armed men and mages in battle gowns while squads formed at the gates. We grabbed our horses and ran for the gates amid screams of “Incoming!” as a large mantis ship hove into view. We headed for the forest, hoping that our exit went unnoticed amidst the chaos.
Xrng and I led the charge for cover. Running into a clearing, we found ourselves facing three scrow outfitted in black armor with rifles and crossbows. For a stunned moment as my companions skidded to a halt behind Xrng and I, we looked at one another. The balanced tension exploded along with the mantis ship we saw earlier. Debris went flying—killing one scrow outright—and knocking me wily-nily to the ground. I staggered to my feet and heard Violetta call for her familiar, the dog Henri. Feeling like perfect hell, I armed myself in mage armor and took a healing potion under the cover of the wild fight that broke out. Staggering a bit, I entered the skirmish.
Breathing deeply (“To breath is to do.” my old master, Wu Jen Kitaro Fujiama frequently said.), I launched Stunning Fist on my opponent, causing the scrow to stagger back. Frustrated, I breathed even more intently and attacked again, this time combining True Strike and Stunning Fist. To my intense pleasure, an amber glow began to emanate from my hands just in time to knock the scrow unconscious, allowing Caz to deliver the coup de grace with his starwheel. Lemmy dispatched the final scrow and a tense quiet descended on the clearing.
We hurriedly searched the bodies and took the weapons. Along with the weapons, we found explosive charges as well. We decided to pose as scrow guards with prisoners. Violetta put on the smallest set of scrow armor and began to lead us. Right to a dead and mutilated elven girl. I shot a surreptitious glance at Violetta. Were her evil tendencies starting to come out and it was manifesting in leading us to corpses?
While burying the girl, we heard troop movement headed in our direction. A mad scramble for cover took place and I hid myself in the branches of a nearby tree. We all held our breath as a troop of over 20 scrow crossed the clearing. After they left, we continued to hold our breath and positions. My ears pricked—“Stay put. I hear someone approaching by horse,” I whispered.
A beautiful maid entered the clearing riding a nightmare. I heard the bush Caz was in begin panting and bit back a groan of frustration. Just as the maid was about to exit the clearing, she turned and looked in our direction. Turning her beast, she slowly ambled over in our direction stopping about ten feet away from the “corpses” of Xrng and Violetta.
I felt a prickling sensation run the length of my tail and the hair fluffing out in panic. The maid dismounted and approached Violetta’s “corpse”. My muscles began to bunch up, ready to spring. Casually, the maid began to trace a fiery pattern in the air above Violetta’s chest. The Cas bush fired.
Violetta jumped to her feet and swept the maiden’s legs out from under her, knocking her to the ground. With a sweet smile gracing her elfin face, the maid faded from view while her steed bolted. We surrounded Violetta in a concerned huddle. I explained that the maid marked Violetta with an arcane mark acting like a signature, which Caz confirmed when he said he saw a corresponding mark appear on Violetta’s armor when the maid worked the spell.
After a short debate over whether Violetta’s armor was marked or Violetta herself, we reformed our prisoners band. Noting the tightly knit forest canopy, I offered to act as a scout as I would be well able to move easily among the branches (there’s alot of similarity between jumping balconies at Wyrmfall and this), an offer readily accepted by the others. Violetta quietly began to sing Inspire Courage as we began to march. A long ride with the occasional evasive action soon saw us to the edge of the forest.
With 17 miles to cover over open ground, we decided to hold to our disguise with me acting now as Violetta’s scout and flunkey. Fortunately, our travel was undisturbed and we arrived at Araculus at about five bells in the afternoon. Unfortunately, Araculus was not there. But a huge crater that looked to be a few weeks old was. About 500 feet in diameter, the rim reached as high at forty feet in some areas.
As we gazed down into the crater, we saw fog obscuring our vision of the bottom of the crater. I blinked and shook my head. Did I just see a face in that soup? We slowly rode down and circled the circumference and found nowhere we could cross with the horses. After a short conference (You wanna go down there when its on the verge of sundown? No? Me neither.), we elected to make camp for the night and enter the crater on the morrow.