The party receives their promised reward, and in secret, an opportunity. As they are being lead to freedom outside the walls of Edhen, they decide instead to escape and remain.
The party pushes through the fog until it's there, in front of them. The mass. The ponderous, shifting shape of power. Their skin and hair raise. This is what they need. This is what they need to bring back to the Elves.
Maybe if they stretch the bag of holding wide hough, they'll be able to widen the mouth to three or four feet and then quickly plunge the mass into the bag in one motion. Balcazar and Arcos volunteer.
Balcazar stands on the left side. Arcos stands on the right side. They reach and pull the bag's mouth agape. They count to three. On one, they push the bag forward. Bolts from the fluid mass and the pedestals burn their hands and arms and Balcazar and Arcos jerk under the currents flowing through their body.
The bag makes it over. Balcazar and Arcos fall forward into the water, exhausted. Hardy and Orryn help them up. Hardy peaks into the bag of holding. The fluid is there, now a black, dormant quicksilver. He decides to reserve a bit in a pouch. Orryn has a few leather patches he uses for repairs. He gives one to Hardy. Hardy ties a crude pouch with twine and dips it into the bag of holding. He pulls out a couple ounces of fluid. It's unnaturally heavy. He hands it to Balcazar and Balcazar slides it under his armor, protected.
List, out of sight in the fog but just ten feet ahead calls out that she's fond a door. The way out.
It's a big door and it should have been obvious to the party when they first surveyed the chamber. It's embedded in the wall but it looks out of place. It's light blue, the only color in the entire space.
Orryn decides to go first. He grasps the handle on the door, pulls. There's a compelling darkness beyond. He walks through and the rest of the party follows.
They awaken in their sterile rooms, alone. They're sore. They're not refreshed. Their heads hurt with a throbbing, hangover pain. They stumble out of their rooms into the central area and are relieved to see everyone present.
Their armor looks as it did before they laid down. No damage. Arcos's and Balcazar's arms were burnt, but they look healed. Hardy looks in his bag of holding. It's empty. But they still remember everything clearly. It's not fading.
They look down the central shaft. It's now empty, except for a few, lapping green flames at the bottom.
There's no Vaalyun or any of his help. Should they try to walk back to their compound? They certainly want out of this space. They find the entrance hallway and begin to walk back.
Mid-walk, Balcazar remembers the pouch under his armor. He unstraps his breast plate. It's still there. It's heavy. There's something inside. He opens it and there it is, black and quicksilver. He stops, stunned, to show the party and then puts it back under his armor. The party walks back slowly.
The door to the compound is open and the party walks into the open space. Vaalyun and crew are there waiting. There's no time or space to think. He seems a bit caught off guard, but he quickly congratulates the party.
"Bit of a trip, right? It can give you a headache, but I'm sure you'll be back to normal in a couple hours."
"Well, it looks like you've completed your side of bargain. We'll complete ours. I'll be back tomorrow morning with your award. Be packed up by then. We'll escort you out of Edhen after we've distributed the items."
The Elves shut both doors. The party decides they're going to strip the compound of every bit of wealth. The Elves have burned their goodwill. They don't fully understand their experience and haven't fully synthesized the conflicting pieces of information, but it wasn't was as advertised. Everything in Edhen appears to be an illusion, even the words of the Elves themselves.
Orryn heads off back to his room. He'd like the sheets. There's isn't room in his pack, but he'll take the carved bowl as well, and the silverware, and the perfume holders. He disdains the feeling of being taken advantage of.
It's morning. Vaalyun enters with a guest besides his usual collection of guards. It's a middle-aged, Elven woman in a basic blue tunic, carrying a leather satchel. Two of the guards are carrying a chest. They walk past the party and set it down in the center courtyard.
Hardy recognizes the Elf. It's her, from their first trip. He tries to suppress his moment of awareness. She's scanning the room. Her gauze lingers a little too long on Hardy. He tries to smile blankly.
Everyone gathers around the chest. Vaalyun speaks. "We're here to hold up our end of the bargain. On behalf of the Elves, we'd like to present to you the following."
Vaalyun opens the chest, and distributes the items1 one-by-one. "To List, I give to you a dagger. May it keep you out of harms way. Balcazar, I give to you this maul. May it always be in your hands. To Arcos, I give you to you this cloak. May it keep you hidden and healthy. To Hardy, I give you you this chain shirt. May it keep you protected. At lastly, to Orryn, I give to you this cloak. May it help you understand the night."
The items are perfectly constructed, beautiful. They turn them over in their hands.
Vaalyun continues. "Lastly, before we all leave, I wanted to introduce one of my fellow colleagues, Krisyra. She put in a special request to meet you before you left." He looks at Krisyra. "Did you want to say anything?"
Krisyra speaks, "You all have a remarkable story. I don't think we've seen a case like yours. I wanted to meet everyone in person before you left. It's curiosity on my part." She finishes and waits.
"We'll be departing shortly," Vaalyun says. "Please ensure everything has been packed. If you're dragging, we'll push you along."
The party dispenses to to their rooms to complete the remainder of their tasks. The guards, Vaalyun, and Krisyra wander around to check on everyone. Krisyra introduces herself to everyone in the party individually. Arcos and List feel like she's sizing them up. She criss-crosses the compound from room to room. She arrives at Hardy's room last, just as a supervising guard walks out. She introduces herself, thanks Hardy, and hands him a folded piece of paper. Hardy begins to ask her a question, but she shakes her head no. She points at the paper, turns around and leaves.
Hardy opens the note. It's in Common.
To Hardy, Orryn, Balcazar, List, and Arcos:
Your journey in Edhen isn't complete. Don't let them take you away from what you deserve. Follow these instructions carefully and without improvisation and I will show you the Tower.
- Exit as directed by Vaalyun.
- You'll briefly be in the open city as you head towards the Front Gate.
- As you approach the Front Gate, you will pass over a compass rose, and as you do, take a sharp left. Do not continue to follow the guards.
You will be facing an observation spire and a small building under construction at the spire's base. Head to the small building, and under the scaffolding and find a place to hide. I will find you when it's safe for me to do so.
You have no friends here.
Hardy thinks. He folds the paper to show the rest of the party. He finds Orryn alone, and unfolds the note. But it's just a piece of Elven ornamental paper, without writing, the kind that's been cut and placed around the compound for color. Orryn looks at Hardy, at the blank paper, and shrugs his shoulders. Whatever Hardy decides to do is fine.
It's a choice between insanity and believing in oneself. Hardy knows what he read. He wants to go ahead. He tells others of his plan. Not stepping where you're supposed to step is a minor act of disobedience. They're not attacking anyone. Hardy feels like the worst that can happen is the guards collect them and force them outside.
Krisyra has left the compound. The party doesn't see her. It's just Vaalyun and the guards and the party. Vaalyun opens the front door and they exit, back into the original tunnel.
They exit back into the main street. They can see the monument of front gate from where they stand. It's nearly dark. It was daytime in the compound. The uncertainty over what's real and what's fake is driving them mad. By the crosses on the calendar they arrived ten days ago. But it feels longer and they're tired. They want out of sight of any and all Elves now and forever.
The collection group together walks toward the entrance. A few Elves in the routine traffic of daily life stop to look at the precession.
They pass the compass rose inlaid into the uniform road. Hardy takes a deep breath and turns right, away from the party and the surrounding guards. As he does, a silky shape departs from his chest and solidifies into a mirrored image that continues moving along with the guards. It takes him a few seconds to adjust the awkward horror of watching himself.
To Hardy's relief the rest of the party follows, turns right as directed, and Hardy watches their face as they deal with their own internal struggle of seeing their imitations continue on.
But the guards nor the surrounding Elves appear to have noticed them. Carefully avoiding contact they walk to the right of observation spire. There's a short building under renovation that is surrounded by a network of scaffolding and piles of construction material. It looks like there are ample places to hide.
They continue into the construction site, crawling over and under the criss-crossed frameworks until they find a dark spot from which they can see the both the small door entrance to their building and the front gate of Edhen. They watch their imitators pass under the gate and wonder how the illusion is going to play out.
Arcos goes over to jiggle the door. It's locked. He heads back and the party waits.
It doesn't take long. The door opens, Krisyra peaks out of the negative space, and immediately spots the party. A slight smile crosses her face. She ducks under the scaffolding and sits in front of the party.
"I'm glad you made the right decision. I'd don't like putting down signs that people don't follow."
From her robe, she pulls out a thin rod key.
"Let's get inside so that we can talk. I only intended this effect to last for a half-an-hour or so."
The party follows her to the door. She inserts the key. Waits thirty seconds, and then opens the door. Behind it is a rugged descending staircase. She ushers everyone in and closes the door behind. It's completely black. She looks at Balcazar, the only one without darkvision, says sorry, and the descending space lights up with a soft glow.
"Elves are smart, but they have small dreams," Krisyra says. "Their dreams used to be big. Only dreamers would build the Tower. But that generation is long gone and all that's left are the greedy moles that only concerned about their neighbors and don't care about the World. It's too much power for confined minds."
"The Elves thought you would die, but I didn't. They've forgotten how planar-spatial movement works." The party is a little shocked at the thought that the Elves expected them to die. "You're conditioned to it. They would have gotten what they wanted, whether you lived or died."
"The big question is what do I want and what can I offer? They're both the same. I'm going to bring you to the Tower. I'll show you the world and you can tell me what you see."
The party agrees.
Krisyra nods. "Great. I'm glad you're on board. We'll talk more later. This city is alive and I'm not comfortable sharing more about myself within these walls."
"I've linked the door we stepped through to an underground canal far under the city. There's a boat tied up below. Take it to the next dock, and meet me there tomorrow. I can't come with you. We've got to avoid detection by both the Elves and the city itself, and that means traveling with a light imprint."
Krisyra turns around, opens the door. Behind her is another passageway, another tunnel, and not the main street as expected. She shuts the door behind her. It locks and the party has no key. They head down the stairs, footfalls echoing off the walls. They begin to pick up the sound of running water.
The tunnel ends in an underground river. There's large space carved out in front of them, large enough to fit a dock and a couple of boats pulled in from the direct current.
It's a rowboat and it looks well constructed. The seams are tight, there's no water inside, and it looks large enough to hold everyone. It must have been used to carry cargo downstream. There are a few empty barrels on the dock.
Everyone steps into the boat and Balcazar guides it from the dock and pushes it into the river, stepping into the boat as its bulk catches the current and they are softly pulled downstream.
They drift for several hours. Balcazar gives the boat the occasional tug with his oars to point it away from the rough walls. The passage is deep and dark, fully without light except for the infrequent dim patches of luminescence on the rock above them. Sometimes the tunnel roof narrows low enough for them to touch. Orryn, now in darkness or dim light, tries his new cloak. He grasps its sides, leaps into the air and the cloak carries him aloft. He flies in and around the party. Eventually he tires of their company and he flies downstream, away and out of sight.
It's a while before he returns, but he does, lands, and says the second dock is up ahead. There are Elves there. It looks like they're sleeping.
The party is on guard when they first spot the landing dock. The area is lit. They dock the boat behind an obscuring pile of cargo and approach the main platform cautiously. They can see two Elven guards resting and talking. One is standing, the other is sitting on blanket thrown over a barrel. They're too far away to overhear their conversation.
The party isn't feeling gracious. They step into line of sight and approach the guards. The guards are shocked into motion, and they attack the party with intent to kill. The party responds with death.
After their adrenaline dissipates, the party stands around, watching the guards' blood stain the ground. This wasn't the best way to remain undetected. Arcos drags their bodies to the river and sends them downstream and the party cleans the floor the best they can.
They're supposed to wait. Krisyra said she wouldn't arrive until tomorrow. The party finds a area to rest, near the boat and out of sight. They set up watch to allow everyone to recover and sleep and prepare for the unknown day ahead.
Additional detail on the treasure the party receives from the Elves:
List: Dagger of Blur, +1: 1x per day the user can cast blur on oneself, as per the spell
Balcazar: Maul of Returning: +1 maul; if thrown (range 20/40, damage 1d8) the Maul snaps back to the thrower at the beginning of their next turn. Note that the thrown damage is less than a two-handed attack (2d6), but is greater than a spear (1d6).
Arcos: Cloak of Elven Kind. If one wears the clock with the hood up, wisdom checks to see them have disadvantage, and they have advantage on Stealth checks to hide. It takes an action to pull the hood up or down.
Orryn: Clock of the Bat. The cloak gives advantage on Stealth checks. In areas of dim light or darkness one can grip the edge of the cloak and fly up to a speed of 40 ft per round. Furthermore, in an area of dim light or dark one can cast polymorph on oneself to transform oneself into a bat.