Hosvir studied the Jade Eye and learned a few things about its nature, including the fact that it is powered by willing sacrifice. The three remaining members of the Company found the dragon’s hoard, Una disabled the traps guarding it, and they and gathered the heaps of coin and treasure, taking time to properly identify and claim the items.
In attempting to deal with Angiledhel’s body, Finn and Hosvir noticed something strange. Their wounds, not strangely unhealed, bled into Angiledhel’s, as if the elf’s wounds were sucking blood into them. Finn recalled that some reptiles can regenerate, and that the curse gave Angiledhel reptilian features.
Angiledhel’s owl returned, seeking him, but seemed to be looking at the Jade Eye. Hosvir noticed this and sacrificed a portion of his soul to free Angiledhel’s soul from the Jade Eye into his healed body.
The Company found Eutocius waiting for them where they left their skiff and Una presented him with a note.
Within the Jade Eye…
First there was pain, then nothing, then… A green light. It was everywhere, inside him and outside, flowing through Angiledhel and drawing him into a place without form or object or end, where all was and is and forevermore will be green.
Angiledhel stared, if it could be called staring, since he no longer had eyes to see. Yet he did, somehow, and a body raked open by tooth and claw. This was no Eternal Plane of the Dead, it seemed, but some Limbo. Some other place, where Life and Death hung in unstable balance. He waited. And prayed.
How long was it—minutes? days?—before the voice came, speaking in an archaic, ornate elvish. “Are you supposed to be here? It seems not.” The voice was lilting, high-pitched, but clearly male. The accent, even with the strange taint of antiquity on the words, was familiar. The cadences of Myth Dranor. At once Angiledhel felt a sense of ease. Safety. “I… I don’t know where I am,” he answered in his own tongue.
“Then I am correct,” the voice replied. “You do not belong here at all. Yet, nevertheless, here you are. Lyia, what do you make of this?”
There came now, a sensation: sudden, localized warmth, as if someone were breathing down his neck, caressing his forearm, drawing close to his ear. And a new voice, female, speaking an old Common. “He still holds on to his form. And quite a form it is, though wounded, dreadfully. He did not come here willingly. He will not be able to stay for long.”
“Where…. Where am I? Who are you?” Angiledhel stammered, forgetting manners. He felt as bereft as he had as a child, facing the death of his father at Ingerhol’s hands. The sensation of a caress clawed over him again, and the dull echo of the pain he had felt in the moments before… Before. “Am I dead, then?”
“I apologize,” said the elf. “We forget ourselves. We’ve never had a visitor, unless you count the wizard. Perhaps you will be more comfortable if we take form.” Shimmering outlines began to appear in the unending green, as ephemeral as soft line drawings on old parchment. An elf dressed in fine armor of an old style, a beautiful woman in flowing robes, a dwarf, arms folded, wearing thick armor, and a gnome in leather. “I am Thanantilis, cousin. Welcome to the Jade Eye.”
Angiledhel felt a chill run through him, felt his dream-body ice through to the core, felt dream-hands go limp with shock. “Cousin… I…” It was true, Thanantilis was his cousin, or so said the lore masters of Myth Dranor. But a cousin so many generations back his name was more mythical than real. Thanantilis, the God-Slayer, who had martyred himself to save the world from Skoulos and Demos and the Otherworlder, millennia ago. “My cousin. My lady, my lords…” He bowed to the others. The Company of the Departed. “Surely I am dreaming.”
“Perhaps we’re all dreaming. It has been so long since we had any means of knowing the difference. So long….” Thanantilis’s voice seemed to taper away, but only for a moment, before resuming its pomp and cheer. “Tell me, kin, how long has it been? What year is it now? And what do you know of the wizard who joined us here some time ago?”
“Year? In the modern reckoning, it is 1479, but you, cousin, are… As people tell it now, you last walked this earth over three thousand years ago.” Angiledhel swallowed dryly, trying to come to grips with what had happened to him. Thanantilis’s question was as unsettling as any of this queer experience: what dream asked for news of the outside world. What dream had such detail? The burned spots on the gnome’s vest, where sparks had landed. The scar that marred the lady’s cheek. In legend she was unparalleled in beauty, but this lady looked to be… to be as human as Angiledhel’s companions had been. And Thanantilis himself looked far more real than the paintings Angiledhel had seen of the mythic hero. Dark haired not blond. Sharp eyed, and muscular, with hands that had long held weapons.
“1479?” A gruff voice interjected, with the guttural cadences of a dwarf speaking Common. “Tha’ makes no account by any reckonin’ I know. Bah, it don’ matter none, anyways. Get ta what does matter, b’fore ‘e goes ta meet ‘is gods.”
And then a softer voice, apologetic, nasal, intellectual. “What my tactless friend is trying to say is…” The gnome punctuated his remark with a sigh. “It is clear from the wizard’s presence, and from yours, that something has changed. The status quo that lasted all those millennia is no more. Tell us, while you can: does this Eye still imprison the overlord called P’lchrukk?”
“The Otherworlder? Yes. No. I… I don’t know.” Angiledhel stammered. “There is… there are rumors, and a great evil fell upon the land once home to the kingdom of Netheril. The Spellplague unleashed wild magic over all the world: much that was good was undone, and much that was wicked was made.” Angiledhel shuddered. “We found the Eye taken by a green dragon who cloaked herself in human form and claimed to be Skoulos’s consort. She was attempting to revive his soul by means of some unnatural witchery. The tower where the Otherworlder was imprisoned still stands, but we came upon the Jade Eye here, in the swamps that were once the Plain of the Greyflow, in the days before.”
Silence followed, for awhile. It was Thanantilis who finally spoke. “Then it is likely as you feared, Dwilimpileth,” he told the gnome. “The wizard here with us is Skoulos.”
The gnome nodded. “It is no surprise. Skoulos, desiring immortality, kept a portion of his soul in a phylactery, under the watch of the one our friend here calls The Otherworlder. This…’Spellplague’ must have destroyed the phylactery. The wizard’s soul found a new home here with us.”
“Lucky us,” the dwarf interjected, “but at least ‘e keeps to hisself. Never speaks ta us or ta the Old Souls or takes form at all.”
Thanantilis raised a hand to stop the dwarf. “We’ve little time left.” He looked at the newcomer. “What is your name, cousin?”
“Angiledhel Ironstar, son of Ardomiel, of the House of Findwallae,” Angiledhel answered with a bow. The movement this time brought the rawness of fresh wounds into sharper focus. How could he still be in pain, if he was already dead? “Then Skoulos is here? He was.. he was nearly revived, but my companions and I interrupted the ritual. We slew the dragon, though I think I did not survive it. And the paladin’s soul was not possessed, though he abandoned us as well.”
Thanantilis frowned. “Someone was using the eye for such a purpose. That explains the other new souls that came and left so quickly.”
The gnome frowned, crossing ghostly arms over an insubstantial chest. “Explains it to you, perhaps, but not to our visitor.” He turned to Angiledhel and cleared his throat, somewhat self-importantly. “The Jade Eye is powered by self-sacrifice, you see. A soul, willingly given, can enter the Eye, giving it great power. It is through this means that we were able to imprison P’lchrukk. Four souls sacrificed at once were able to alter reality around him, blocking him away from our world forever. Or so we thought.
“This dragon you speak of was attempting to wield the eye to place the wizard’s soul into a mortal frame. To do so, she must have required willing sacrifices. For a while, a dozen or so new souls came to join us here. But then they shunted themselves out again, ahead of the wizard.”
Thanantilis regarded Angiledhel again. “But you. You’re not here of your own accord. You cannot stay. When you leave, either you will enter your body again, or you will go to be with our ancestors, as I never will.”
“You are trapped here, cousin? Is there nothing that can be done?” Angiledhel asked. The thought of eternity trapped here was suddenly suffocating. Fear boiled through him, as the green light crushed in around his very soul. “The dragon… The dragon,” he stammered, struggling to find his voice against the terror that overwhelmed him. “She placed a curse on those who died; they were willing sacrifices only because for them, suicide was preferable to living on under her curse. She cursed me as well — perhaps that is how I came to be here — but I resisted the curse, for I felt the depth of the evil in it.” He thought of the broken body — his body — he had seen in the moments before he was transported here. “Is it true? Can I survive? What must we do to seal the Otherworlder again?”
The woman spoke, now. “The power of our sacrifice remains within the Eye, but its purpose is singular. Give us the opportunity to imprison the creature again and we will seize it. Fail to do so, and our sacrifice will have been in vain.”
A horrible voice, deep as the ocean, full of rage and contempt, roared around them. “You will never find P’lchrukk! He is lost to you! Even now, he waits, growing in strength, marshaling his forces! Your body rots, poisoned, elf. My dear sweet pet ate your viscera. You are dead. Leave this place and face your doom.”
Skoulos. Angiledhel knew it without any doubt. Blood-red terror turned to iron-white anger. A blaze of defiance, the righteous wrath of an elven prince rising to his rank, burst from Angiledhel’s tongue. “You are wrong, demon wizard. Your name is forgotten, the Otherworlder diminished to nothing, and the deaths of my good cousin Thanantilis and his company are not in vain. Your ‘pet’ is dead at the hands of my companions, and they will not fail me. As I will not fail my cousin.”
Skoulos began to take shape from the green, more detailed, more present than Thanantilis and the others, and far more terrifying. Bald, his skin yellowed from age, but not wrinkled. Pulled against his bones like canvas over a heavy load. “Perhaps all that you say is true, little elf. But all of your proclamations will be in vain if the Eye itself betrays you. Your cousin and his cohorts grow weak. Their souls have become detached, ephemeral, listless. Through the power of my will alone, I will have control of the Eye. Even if you live, this day, you will die a more terrible death at P’lchrukk’s hand.”
Angiledhel staggered, overcome with pain. Thanantilis and his cohorts suddenly shifted, standing between Angilhedel and Skoulos. “Do not move against this one, wizard.” As the battle began, Angilhedel could feel himself fading, unable to join it. Unable to move.
In a distance, he heard a familiar voice. Familiar voices. Finn’s voice, praying. Hosvir speaking an incantation. Una, calling his name. Angiledhel groaned, shivering, and opened his eyes.
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