The party returns to earth from the pinnacle of the world, but their minds remain afloat. A conversation with Krisyra does little to settle them. They are finally on their way.
The party watches the sun rise. The early fog has parted. They can see the small yard of the city footprint below. It's breezy. The waterfall of chocking energy has stopped. It's peaceful. They could sleep here, relax in the peace and solitude alone on the top of the world. Let the wind carry their thoughts up and over the side.
But they can't enjoy enjoy the moment. They need to move on. Krisyra gave them a strict timeline. They know the next shift of Elves are coming. Arcos sighs and takes a drink of his vial. His body convulses and transforms into large crow, as Krisyra said would happen. He laughs and takes to the air.
Orryn watches the party transform. As they change, he tells them he's staying for a bit. He walks around and finds a vantage point from behind a column, his back aligned with the vertical edge. He sits. He'll wait out the Elves. He tells the party to leave him alone and watches as they peel off in great, expanding circles.
The hand of an Elf reaches up from the hatch and onto the platform. Orryn waves at the party for them to begin their slow descend down.
It's peaceful without the rest of the party around. His angle keeps him well hidden. Orryn looks on as three Elves climb up and out of the hatch entrance onto the platform. They're in the same generic military uniform as Vaalyun.
Two elves carry a wooden chest between them. They set it down. They take out note-taking equipment: pens, binders, notebooks, accordion files. Under the top layer of writing sundries there's a polished round stone, cradled in velvet, and a married stand that they unfurl and place near one of the columns flanking the control chair. The stone is placed on top of the stand.
It takes a while for the Elves to assemble: the senior Elf sits on the chair; a younger Elf stands with one hand on the stone, the other on the right column; and the third sits, pen and books in hand. Their conversation as the prepare stays bounded within the routine orchestration of setup. Orryn gathers their names: Eler, Celotie, and Tate.
The Elf on the chair nods. She steels herself, takes a deep breath, and her chair rises upward. The aperture opens. She disappears. The Elf bridged between the stone and the column bows his head in concentration. They're a short delay. He begins to dictate to the scribe.
"Thirty people on the East Ferran wall. Train cleanup complete."
"Nothing new on Cauldron horizon. Inbound Fortress. E-T-A three months. Irregularities still observed. Cannot make out name. Trying again to make contact."
There's a long break.
"Direction is refused. Will try again tomorrow. Worsening irregularities in nimbostratus cover around focal point G12. This may affect communication down the road."
The dialog continues and it's hard for Orryn to store the detail. The world is probed and described. The Dwarves are working on something new. The Plains are quiet of activity. Statements and names blur. Orryn estimates at least two hours have passed. He's tired and ready to leave. He can't stretch his legs or move.
Eventually the chatter stops. The chair descends. The Elf looks exhausted. She stands quietly as everyone gathers their material. The orb and stand are disassembled. The chest is packed. Together the Elves head back down and close the hatch behind them.
Orryn is alone again. He lays out and watches the sun begins to work its way overhead.
And then, he's full. His need to investigate has been satisfied. It's time for him to descend. He takes the potion, transforms, and takes off and down to the minutiae of the world below.
Day 76 (simultaneous to Scene 2)
A half-mile away from the tower, the party feels a push of force and a slight buzz of electric energy. They've moved through some sort of wall. The way back is blocked. The tower has vanished to everyone but Arcos. The city has folded itself into a plain collection of uninhabited walls and concrete barracks. The transformation is complete. They are fully outside the magic of Edhen. They feel empty.
They fly until the city is out of view and then head North. Arcos guides them towards their rendezvous point with Krisyra. They're high up on the mountain. They pass over patches of pine forests and descending streams. They come across a burned clearing and land to investigate. As soon as their feet touch they transform back into their original forms.
There's something ahead, nearly invisible against the black char. It approaches. It's a Vrock. It attacks. Despite missing the helpful ranged support of Orryn, the Vrock is killed.
Balcazar, List, Hardy, and Arcos are tired. Arcos guides them to a protected location to set up camp despite the remaining hours of sun in the day. They miss comforts of the Elven compound but here they're free. They relax, a bit nervous for Orryn's return, let Balcazar tell his tale, and watch the remainder of the day flow by.
Orryn flutters in as the sun descends. Relaxes. He needs something to drink. He declares that he will give the details of his day but passes out before he can.
Day 77 Day 991
Orryn and Arcos wake the party with their early-morning discussion. The position of sun as it tacks above the horizon is incompatible with their understanding of the season. Orryn an Arcos are convinced the party spent longer in Edhen than the ticking-off of days would suggest. They're arguing over the amount and they settle on three weeks. They don't know where and when the extra time has passed.
The party packs and begins their half-way walk to the waypoint. En route, Orryn relates his experience on the Tower observation platform: the locations that were scanned, the movements and evolution of forces and objects on the Cauldron horizon, the mundane description of Dwarven activities. The rest of the party chews on the information as they walk.
The ground is getting rockier, more mountainous and difficult to navigate. Orryn and Arcos are fine, but List and others need to frequently steady themselves as they press on.
The sideways drop of their path levels. They find the lean-to that Krisyra described. It's bigger than anticipated. The protective wall leaning against the mountain cliff is made of small tree trunks instead of branches. Green and birch-bark gray bits of trees and plants finish the dense protective lean-to wall and camouflage it from anyone approaching it from the front.
The party walk in from the side. The ground is dusty earth. There isn't a sign of recent activity. A few rocks mark the outline of an old fire pit. The space is big enough for everyone to find a space to settle and rest for the night if need be.
Along the mountain wall is a carving of a door, recessed into the stone face. The party approaches to inspect it. Arcos traces out symbols written in old Elven, but can't read them.
Orryn is sure it's some sort of portal. He taps it with a stick, kicks it. It behaves, smells, and feels like rock. Maybe if touched it with something living. He leaves the lean-to and later returns with a couple of mice. He tosses one at the wall, a bit too hard. It falls to the wall dead from impact.
The party exhausts their curiosity and then settles down and awaits for Krisyra to come.
Krisyra arrives in the late afternoon. The party is outside the large lean-to, preparing dinner. She's in the standard Elven traveling outfit of smooth, weather-proof wool. She carries a single leather satchel. She holds her hand up in greeting and the party responds in kind. She asks the party to join her in the lean-to.
She walks in and the party follows. They stand in a circle. Krisyra glances at the carving of the door and the freshly dead rat at its base and then begins to talk.
"I'm glad everyone is here. I can speak more freely outside of the city. That's a lesson for you. Always know who's paying attention. It's a skill that takes a while to learn."
"I'm sure Balcazar talked to you about what he saw out there in the Cauldron. It's a big, vast world. I don't know its extent, although I have wandered its space for years while it was still safe for me to do so."
"The space was different then. When I arrived in the Plains, the Cauldron was far away. It's grown. It chips away at space when everyone's distracted.
Krisyra describes the land, the smell, her descent into the flats and the communities that subsist on tiny bits of life. The party asks questions about the environment.
Krisyra pauses to walk to the edge of the lean-to and look around. She returns to the group to resume the conversation.
"The Tower is something special. It's a generational gift given from the old shepherds to the new to keep things right. The Elves are supposed to make sure the right things are inside the Plains and the wrong things are kept outside. It's the only reason I stay in Edhen."
"But each generation cares less and less about stewardship and I'm beginning to lose patience."
"And for the love of Old Gods, I will not speak of the Dwarves. I don't know how they managed to dig themselves into a deeper darkness than that in which they're born. They're a lost cause. Anything that touches them is cursed."
Krisyra meets their faces.
"How about a more friendly face. The Elves aren't the only ones who can keep themselves well hidden. Don't be afraid. It's just a little change."
Krisyra, without any indication of a cast spell, strengthens and hardens herself into a Tiefling. "Better?" she asks. "I don't like speaking of the Elves or Dwarves when I'm in that form myself. It's disingenuous."
The party nods reluctantly, more out of congeniality than agreement. The party wants to know who she is, where she's from.
"I don't mean to startle anyone. So who am I? That a long story," Krisyra says. "I'm a Listener. I listen to what the Land tells me what to do and I do it. If it tells me to heal, I heal. If it tells me to destroy, I destroy."
"That brings us to the here and now, under this lean-to."
Krisyra puts forth her ask. "There are a lot of problems in the Cauldron and the plains. There's a widening separation between what is and what should be. Animosity, raids, wars, violence, pollution, desecration. It's too much. It's exhausting."
"What's happening here under my feet is connected to what's happening out there. So if you agree to be my eyes and ears, if you learn to Listen, you could help save us."
The party exchanges looks. It's an adventure, although ill-formed. Hardy is the first to nod in agreement and the rest follow.
"I'm lucky to have found you. You respond to Tech better than others. That's important. That's really important. You can't travel without the aid of Tech."
"The next step will be to get the Cauldron edge. It's best to avoid the Dwarves and the Elves and the Tower. That's probably easiest through the Feywild. We're in one of the few natural spots where everything is close enough to step between."
She gives more detailed directions to Orryn and Hardy on where to meet.
"Come with me." She walks to the carving of the door on the wall, bows her head, and places her hand on the rocky surface. Gradually, slowly, the rock dissolves into a thick, grey mist that blows gently out towards the party.
"It's beautiful in the Feywild. You'll like it."
Elapsed number of days corrected to fix Orryn and Arcos's new understanding based upon the position of the sky and other natural clues. ↩