A flock of birds took to the sky, startled by the sudden sound.
“What a rush!” cried Argens. He was beaming from ear to ear for the first time in days. He dropped Clement and Jens’ hands and started bounding around the forest clearing, swinging his sword in complicated patterns.
Tegan peered into the gloomy distance. “What happened to the sun?”
“This is the region of Brux. The Beastlands is divided into three layers: one is endless afternoon, another endless twilight, and a third endless night. This is the middle layer. I’d like to introduce you to your first god.” Jens cast a spell. “And he’s only 10 miles away! Well done, Clement.”
Two hours later
Clement and Argens were lagging behind, laughing about some farm story from the cleric’s childhood. “Back in St. Olaf—oops! I mean, back in Brandon’s Bridge….” Seeing her opportunity, Tegan grabbed Jens’ arm roughly and pulled him a few paces ahead.
“I know you brought our weapons, Father, but did you bring anything else? Scrolls of major magic? A summoning wand? SOMETHING?”
Jens looked guilty. “Why do you ask, my child?”
“I’m a serious adventurer, Father Jens. Surely you didn’t think I’d let the four of us travel to another plane without doing at least a bit of divination? I bought some potions from Andros and consulted Obad-Hai directly. The augury said that Clement and I would find ‘weal’ on this adventure, but the divination implied that we were in terrible danger. It used the word ‘death,’ Jens!!”
“I consulted Tyr also, my daughter. You need not fear. Tyr’s prophecy is extensive. It covers every aspect of our … trials.”
“I can’t help but notice you kept this extensive prophecy from me…”
The cleric grew agitated. “I could not risk it! You had to come!”
Tegan froze in her tracks and put her finger to her lips. “What is that commotion up ahead?” she hissed. Argens and Clement came up behind and peered over Tegan’s shoulder. Two hundred yards ahead, there were perhaps twenty humanoids, pushing at some sort of wooden barrier. The party could hear wailing and moaning, and the occasional barked command.
“We’re now well within the borders of Ursis, the domain of Balador, god of werebears. What problem could afflict heaven, a problem that a god could not solve?” said Fr. Jens.
The party walked up to the crowd of humans. Each, Tegan noticed, had some strange physical characteristic. There was an elderly woman with antlers, a young man with feathers up and down his arms, and a little girl with a fox’s nose and whiskers. “Side effects of spending eternity in the Beastlands,” whispered Clement. “Eventually these human souls will become intelligent, saintly animals.”
“My son!” cried the antlered grandmother. “He’s in there! Why won’t you let me …” As she pointed ahead to a strange pearly hemisphere set into the ground, a large werebear wearing a cape stepped around the magical dome, leaned over the fence, and waved a carved stone in front of her eyes. The grandmother’s agitation ceased. “My oath,” she said calmly. She walked away, accompanied by two others.
“Miele!” called Father Jens. “What on earth is this?”
The massive werebear approached. “We do not know, friend Jens. It seems to bewitch the mortal petitioners, but we natives of the Beastlands are immune. Have you seen Balador?”
“We just arrived. He hasn’t answered you?”
“No,” said Miele, shifting uneasily. “Ursis without our god … we fret and whine, the whole community.”
Clement grabbed Tegan’s arm. “Look! The explanation is right there!” he cried, pointing to the pearly dome. Tegan saw nothing. “Look closer, woman! It’s that bastard, Dendritius!!”
Argens raised his sword. “Evil! Evil must be stopped!!!”
Before Miele could react, Argens and Clement vaulted over the fence….
...and vanished as soon as they touched the pearly dome.
Jens moaned. Tegan shot him a look of contempt and somersaulted into the dome herself. “Support me, Tyr!” the cleric cried, as he pushed the horrified Miele to the ground. In an instant, he had joined his friends inside the dome.
Inside the Seed of Woe
It was an unearthly experience. Inside the dome, the grass was red and the trees were lilac. Wind tore at the party’s hair and clothes as each raved psychotically and slashed at a smoky, shadowy figure. Blood streamed from their wounds as each fight got worse and worse…
Clement (with his kick-ass Will save) was the first to recover his wits. He turned to the smoky erinye devil and bellowed, “By the Shining One, go back to the Nine Hells! You are not REAL!!” With his next blow, Peri blazed with a blinding light and the apparition vanished.
“Tegan?” he cried. Peering through the chaos roiling around him he finally found her. She was slumped on the ground, staring at a shadow-roper, murmuring “No… no… my strength…” The cleric raised his hands to the skies and cast dispel magic. He could feel a heaviness, a resistance as he said the magic words. The Beastlands is a good-aligned plane. My spells should be more powerful than ever. What is wrong with this place? Nevertheless, Tegan’s eyes popped wide and with a cry of rage she stabbed the roper with her two swords and it exploded.
“It was an apparition. But it felt like it was getting more real with every second. This place is feeding on us, Clem. That’s why Miele was trying to keep them out!” Indeed, as the pair looked through the gloom they could see each of their companions surrounded by four foes which were growing less smoky and more solid. Jens was closer, so the pair ran to his side.
Jens was moaning as he faced four glowing stony figures. Tegan decapitated two of them in one round, as Clement cast break enchantment, freeing both Jens and Argens from the madness effect, because they were in range! Jens killed the other two creatures with a cry of triumph.
The three rushed to Argens’ side, just in time to watch him kill the second to the last of the shadow-zombies facing him. Tegan raised her sword and charged … just in time to watch the zombie-thing deliver a mighty blow. She hacked the thing to ribbons, and Clement ran to Argens’ side, already saying the magic phrase for cure serious wounds.
Brother Clement looked up at his friends in horror. “He’s dead!”
Father Jens dropped his sword and grinned maniacally. “Finally!!” he growled, transformed into a giant bear, and bared his fangs.
Next time: Lies and the lying liars who tell them.