Two Steps Forward

There was no time to waste, after that. Adric woke me up and Trevor and we sent a Sending to Badl to meet us in Sess’uadra. We teleported there and met with Berol who, it seemed, hadn’t slept all night. “My god had to subdue Tiamat’s spirit after she arrived in the land of the dead,” he said, “And I could not sleep during that time. Tiamat was not ready to accept her fate.”

Berol had tried to scry for them in the plane of the dead – where we have long known the Ascendeds go when they step through their summoned gates – and had discovered much to his displeasure that there is a part of the land of the dead which not even Kelimvor can see. There, we imagined, is where the Ascendeds have their stronghold. We quickly ate breakfast and then Adric summoned a Greater Plane Shift for us to cross over into that dimension and meet our friends.

Rock, Dyson and Mytheria had quite a lot to report. In the distance we could see a smoldering and battle-scarred fortress. There, they told us, the Ascendeds had fought an extremely long battle against beings that were half demon, half angel. “Concordant Killers,” Mytheria told us. “The hired men of the gods and other powers.” Adric was able to fill us in a little more on them: if any one of them is killed then the rest of them swear a blood oath to find and destroy the killer. With that in mind we set off towards the fortress in vague hopes of being able to find out where the Ascendeds were going. We knew now, thanks to Ba’nall, that the Ascendeds were after BOB. If they went this way, so must he have gone.

Adric also reported to all of us about the conversation he’d had at the temple to Mystra in Elventree, where he’d met both with the high priestess and with Elminster, who was there waiting for him with the Font in his possession. The Font, Elminster said, is the depersonified power of a god from the ancient elven pantheon, the one they had overthrown and enslaved before they arrived in this world. He still didn’t know how to use it but he did know this: it knew its master – Muad – had been taken from it and it wanted its master back. What, Elminster posed, did we think would happen if we dropped the Font in front of Muad while he was under BOB’s control? He said he believes the Font is probably powerful enough to break BOB’s hold on Muad and once Muad is free he will almost certainly want to turn on BOB himself.

For now, though, we had to find BOB and that meant finding out where the Ascendeds had gone after assaulting and entering the fortress in front of us. Upon flying around behind and above the fortress we saw signs of a vast battle, mounds upon mounds of dead Ascendeds. In the back of the fortress was a large portal and, standing in front of it, was one Concordant Killer. Upon spotting us it took to the air and called out that we should surrender so that our deaths would be quick. I called out asking if we could talk about this and the reply was in the negative.

So much for avoiding that blood oath.

All the meleers kicked off their boots of flight and Mytheria shifted into his draconic form – enormous and terrifying but unable to break through the fear-warding properties of Adric’s magical breakfast the way Tiamat had done – and went in to press our assault. A long and frustrating fight ensued, with the Concordant Killer – not at all beautiful in its angelic features, melded as they were with demonic ones – repeatedly dispelling our ability to fly, trapping Mytheria, etc. Eventually I summoned up all my abilities and reached into the guts of the universe with all my gifts and the skill granted me by Moment of Prescience to force the Killer to speak with us.

“I can prove that the entity who hired you will betray you and your brothers and that if you let us pass you will save your and their lives and efforts!”

The battle paused and the Concordant Killer looked at me, then floated over. I did nothing aggressive, just stood there without armor and without a weapon in my hand, as it approached.

“You have my attention,” it said.

I quickly walked it through our history with BOB and the fact that the Ascendeds currently chasing him and with whom the Killer had just obviously had a fight had been BOB’s allies for something north of fifty thousand years up until this morning. I explained that we had no interest in killing Concordant Killers, that we knew of the blood oath and that we would be perfectly happy to part ways in peace. In passing I mentioned that we are merchants and the Killer asked, “Merchants? Perhaps you can make a counter-offer to complete with that to which we agreed with this… BOB.”

“What did he offer you? What was the deal?”

“Sixty thousand gold, ten for each of you. He did not mention this…” It glanced at Mytheria. “Dragon, however. If he had, we would have charged more and sent two of us rather than one. He is in breach of contract.”

We did some quick math and produced a cape we had gotten from Alex’s belongings that morning and none of us could use. “This,” I said, “Plus six thousand one gold will exceed the sum paid you by BOB. We would pay you this to leave us alone and let us through that portal.”

“Agreed,” the Concordant Killer intoned and, with his loot in hand, he simply teleported away. It did, of course, cross our minds to ask him to join us against BOB but his price was too high and he was already down on spells just as we were – and besides, he told us, BOB has two more Concordant Killers as bodyguards and they will not fight one another.

Once he was gone, we ran around the camp looting dead Ascendeds of their magical items – we are merchants, after all – and then prepared ourselves to go through the portal the Concordant Killer had protected. What we would find we couldn’t possibly guess but if we had to, we’d bet on the Spine of the World, the last place of power, the Cauldron of Birth.

We stepped through and found scores more dead Ascendeds and one dead Concordant Killer. Was that in addition to the two guarding BOB, or had he been whittled down to one?

Exploring ahead just a few yards we found a large underground lake with a small exit on the far side. From it, in the very far distance, we could hear drums.

Someone was playing the Mother’s heart.

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