Rorik awakens in a crypt, alone, except for his raven familiar, Enrico, who takes off out the front door of the tomb and into the dark forest beyond.
The eldritch knight gives chase, but loses sight of his avian friend amid the deep shadows between the trees. He stops to catch his breath beside the faceless statue of a woman, surrounded by baubles and candles that melted down long-ago. Rorik recognizes this as a shrine to the Raven Queen, a goddess said to judge the souls of the dead. He sits down in front of the statue and focuses, seeing through his familiar's eyes.
Enrico flaps forward, out of the forest and over a vast plain of blue-gray grass hundreds of feet below. Rivers of light wend across the plain, converging upon a towering castle made of black ice. From the tallest spire of this palace, a dozen or more astral conduits shoot off into a starless sky. Enrico flies ever closer to this glacial edifice.
Rorik snaps back to his senses and follows the arcane "footprints" to the edge of the forest, where a staircase cut into a cliff descends to the plain far below. He spots someone else on the stairs as he makes his way down them—it's Osana Greentide! Rorik asks her where the others have gone off to, but she doesn't know; in fact, the last thing Osana remembers is facing off against Ygorl and the dragon, Shkiv. As they reach the bottom of the winding staircase, Rorik gets a clearer look at the "rivers of light" in the fields before them, and realizes that they are actually miles-long lines of spirits. Rorik's jaw drops,
Meanwhile, at the Archlight, the castle of the The Black Antlers, there is a knock on the door. Jermlaine Jancer goes to answer it and returns to the great hall with a covered basket. He gives Mye-kuhl Jancer a knowing pelvic thrust and says, "A gift from another one of your admirers, bro?"
"Oh, you know I have so many~!"
Jimothy pulls the cover off the basket, revealing within a flower arrangement that includes a coil of lifeless snakes, wrapped around the severed head of Rorik Law. A note falls out as Elspeth lets out a scream, which reads: "WARM WISHES TO MY FAVORITE TRAITORS," stamped with the six-fingered hand of Graz'zt.
"Huh, well, in was nice of him to send the head, that means we can bring old Rorik back to life! To the dance floor~!"
While wandering the halls of the castle, Brublind hears someone crying. He looks out onto the balcony and finds Torutori, who shoos away a seagull as she mimics the sound of sobbing. Brublind asks what's up, and Torutori tells him that it's her fault that Osana is dead. The kenku is a seasoned pirate, and the young half-elf looked up to her, always asking her stories about the voyages she went on and the things she had seen out at sea with child-like wonder. Torutori shows Brublind her cloak, with its many rows of colored feathers, each representing a different ship she served upon, each one (save for the Wave Dancer and Back-up Dancer) the victim of a grim fate. The kenku are a cursed people, yet Torutori always survives, while everyone else "goes down with the ship." Brublind puts a hand on the kenku's shoulder,
"If you don't want the heartbreak, then don't go off and do dangerous things. Life's not all about adventures."
Torutori looks at the slaad for a long while, then unclasps her feather cloak and lets it go over the side of the balcony. It drifts off, growing smaller and smaller as the sea wind carries it away. Torutori turns and starts to leave, but turns her head back to Brublind and simply says, "Thanks."
Back in the Shadowfell, Rorik and Osana reach the foot of the icy palace and are welcomed inside by a pair of shadar-kai at the gate, who claim that the Raven Queen is expecting them. Rorik looks around for Enrico, but doesn't see him among the hundreds of ravens perched all around, watching with their black eyes. As the duo head through the castle, Rorik begins experiencing visions:
- Casting his first spell, which summoned Enrico, his first true friend, and fulfilled the deal he made with his parents to leave Riverslee behind.
- Sharing his love of mysteries and the arcane as he taught Sporp how to read in the library of Zakkencrag.
- Pulling a locket off the seafloor, and handing it to "Breezy" Isabella Locke, who gave him the biggest hug.
- The horror on Breezy's face after he eviscerated a giant, and the disgust he felt with himself that he felt nothing from this horrific act due to the influence of Snakebite.
- Grekas speaking to him as an equal after they rescued the wizard from Fraz-Urb'luu.
- Falling through the sky while fighting Fafnir, giving an unconscious Breezy as much air as he can, and then putting her into his Bag of Holding… which he hears burst with a resounding POP as they hit the ground.
Suddenly, Rorik is standing in a great throne room beside Osana. Both of them are teary eyed. Before them is a tall throne, atop which sits a woman with skin like porcelain, a black dress decorated in feathers, and an emotionless, almost mask-like face. Sitting on her finger is Enrico. Rorik calls his familiar to him, and the raven flies from the woman's finger to land on his arm, rubbing lovingly against the eldritch knight's face. Rorik looks up to stare into the eyes of the Raven Queen.
Then he awakens to the sound of thumping music. Undead bump and grind around him on the dance floor in the hips of the Archlight. Saladesh tells everyone to give him some room, because he's about to get freaky. Rorik tries to ignore all of this and keep his eyes tightly shut, until he hears Sporp's voice, at which point he sits up and gives the myconid a hug! Jancer cast 'Wish' to replicate a 'Resurrection' spell and brought the eldritch knight back to life. Jimothy asks how he died in the first place, but Rorik is not entirely sure, though it seems Graz'zt was involved, if the "gift basket" is any indication.
Rorik has lost most of his magic items, it seems, but Enrico barfs up several things, including his journal and the reagents for his demon-slaying sword. He swears to get back at the demon prince for this.
Later, Elspeth and Pleedleploplina ask Rorik to weigh in on a discussion they've been having about their experiences in Pandemonium. Elspeth points out that she has always been a little claustrophobic, as she grew up in a cramped bunkhouse filled to the brim with other dwarves, and Pandemonium seems to have exaggerated that fact to its extreme, making her… do the things she did. Blocking out the mental images of a naked Elspeth as best he can, Rorik nods. Pleedle adds that maybe Ra'deem became such a hypochondriac is because her father was infected with the chaos phage and became a slaad. Rorik says that Dal'zin already had his doubts about gith society as a member of the Sha'sal Khou, so the cynicism was, again, that taken to its extreme. Elspeth and Pleedle both look at Rorik expectantly,
"So why did you have hallucinations then?"
Rorik thinks about it for a moment, but isn't entirely sure what to conclude.
Morghadam the wraith visits Jancer, telling him that he's fascinated by the architecture of the Archlight, "it's almost as good as the tombs that I made for master Acererak. Almost." Morghadam points out that he even found a secret room and asks Jancer if he knew about it. The necrodancer heads down there and learns that there is a warded area that even the wraith cannot enter, and that there is a dwarven handprint that he recognizes as a magical lock imbued with divination and necromantic power that would allow only a scion of Clan Kofir to enter.
Jancer sends Morghadam to fetch Brublind, who agrees to come along if the wraith leads the way and doesn't look back at him. Upon seeing the handprint, the transmuter realizes what it is, polymorphs into his dwarf form, and places his hand in the imprint. Red light spreads across the wall, which starts to rumble open. Jancer's eyes widen with wonder. The wall closes again as Brublind removes his hand. Jancer looks at him. Brublind puts his hand back on the wall and it starts opening once more. He takes his hand off, puts it back on, off, on, off, on. He chuckles to himself as he allows the wall to open all the way, revealing the secret chamber beyond.
Five stone seats are in the chamber, with a "window" that looks at the blank stone wall behind it in front of the seats. The red light from the wall dances up the walls of the chamber and along four adamantine struts, in the middle of which floats a massive heart made of stone. Massive rubies in the stone heart glow as the red light reaches them, and a rhythmic pulse thrums through the chamber. Jimothy and Rorik arrive to investigate the tremor that went through the statue and find Jancer and Brublind within the heart chamber. When they sit in the seats, the "window" shows a view out the eyes of the Archlight.
Jancer realizes that their castle is an ancient dwarven mecha, powered by a mighty elemental bound within the stone heart.
Naturally, the Black Antlers decide to immediately go out and get tacky bumper stickers to put onto the Archlight's stone ass.
Rorik pays a visit to Gerald Law, his treant son and former arm, in the coral garden outside the Archlight. The treant is experiencing autumn for the first time, and he and Rorik have a discussion about life and death. Gerald warns his "father" to be careful, as a big wolf peed on him and then walked away on two legs a few days before the party got back. "It seems like all of Mother Nature is suffering."
One evening, Brublind awakens to a brain tickle. It's Iggwilv. She tells him that she has a job for him to do. Brublind asks what will happen if he refuses, and he feels a sharp, psychic pinch in his forehead,
"I hold your control gem—the very essence of your being—if you disobey me, I can destroy you. But I really don't want to do that, Brublind, because I think that you and I could work very well together. All I want from you is to get the Rod of Seven Parts from that meddlesome Mye-kuhl Jancer and bring it… to me."
Brublind robotically gets out of bed, walks past his clothing, and out the door, "Guess I'm not wearing any pants today."
Mye-kuhl Jancer is busy using 'Contact Other Plane' to communicate with the Nine Hells. Someone from the Hell Hotline picks up and says that he can answer up to five questions Jancer might have. Jancer asks about Tiamat and the best way to get some of her flames, and learns that he would probably have to ask an archdevil about acquiring something like that, as Tiamat has a pact with Asmodeus to dwell in Baator. When the phone operator learns that this caller is THE Mye-kuhl Jancer, he looks something up and tells him that it looks like he actually ALREADY has a meeting scheduled with an archduke to discuss the Rod of Seven Parts. Jancer knows nothing about this, but says he looks forward to it.
When he comes out of it, he turns to see his window open. The wind tickles his fancy as he begins to dance, unconsciously assuming 'Gaseous Form' as he does. Just then, two magic-infused, six-fingered claws pierce into the necrodancer, nearly killing him. A pale-skinned woman with short black hair, cat-like eyes, and a black and red monk's outfit stands behind him, her razor-sharp nails covered in misty blood.
Jancer flees out under the crack of the door, making his way towards the dance hall downstairs. The assassin gives chase, running into Brublind at the top of the stairs. The transmuter hears Iggwilv say, "Thraxxia?! Of course Graz'zt would send one of his mongrel daughters after you guys. Hm… her presence might be useful."
Brublind casts 'Time Stop', and decides to play a little prank on Thraxxia over the next four round:
- Takes all the books out of his bag and stacks them up on the stairs, right in front of her foot.
- Slips one of her shoes off and puts it on her hand.
- Puts a bag over her head and pulls the drawstring tight.
- Says "Iggwilv smells" as many times as he can in his head while doing all of this (134 times!).
Time starts flowing again, and Thraxxia goes tumbling down the stairs as she blindly slips on the books. 134 simultaneous "Iggwilv smells" hit the Witch-Queen all at once, nearly deafening her, and she gives Brublind another psychic pinch in response. Rorik wakes up to this commotion and goes out to see what happened, finding Brublind at the top of the stairs. Jimothy also awakens and makes his way to the stairs. At the bottom, he finds a discarded bag and several books. The slaad says, "I dropped my books."
Rorik and Jimothy start asking Brublind questions, and the transmuter tells them that he thinks Mye-kuhl Jancer has been possessed. They need to get the Rod of Seven Parts away from him. Rorik knows Jancer has been contacting extraplanar entities for information and believes it's possible. Jimothy, ever the fighter of evil, also comes along as the trio head for the dance hall.
Meanwhile, Jancer arrives to find his undead servants all partying the night away, and orders them to blockade the chamber. He uses his Sending Stone to call up Sporp, telling the myconid to warn everyone that there's an assassin afoot. One of the chamber doors buckle as someone slams in it, but the undead keep it shut. He casts 'Greater Invisibility' on himself. The opposite door buckles, but when Jancer hears that it's his companions, he tells his servants to let them in.
Brublind accuses Jancer of being possessed and tells the others they need to get the Rod from him (rolls two nat 1s on Deception with advantage). Meanwhile, Jancer accuses Brublind of being the one who is possessed. They aren't sure who to believe, but Jimothy says that he should be able to banish any demon. Jancer submits to a 'Dispel Good and Evil', and Jimothy says that if he was possessed then he should be fine now. The necrodancer warns them all that there's an assassin who attacked him. Brublind changes shape into a naked Jancer and says that he can serve as a distraction, but Jancer needs to give him the Rod and anything else that would make him identifiable.
Just then, the door behind them bursts open as Thraxxia strong arms her way inside the dance hall and charges Brublind (who looks like Jancer, while the real Jancer is invisible). She tears into him with her claws and nearly kills him too, but then the undead close in around her and Jancer hits her with 'Otto's Irresistible Dance'.
"You didn't think you could come into my domain without dancin', did ya', baby~?"
Thraxxia growls, confused as to why she's dancing, but Jancer's undead fall on her and start hacking. Shoalhydris swoops down from her perch and bites one of the assassin's arms off (NAT 20!). Thraxxia kicks wildly with her dancing feet, and hits her assailants. Jimothy tosses his new Peridot Wyvern and the gemstone drake stings the assassin. Brublind fades with 'Etherealness', and tells Iggwilv that their chance might have passed, Iggwilv says that Brublind did well enough, but warns him not to fail her NEXT time. Jancer reappears and hits Thraxxia with a 'Finger of Death', while Shoalhydris takes another mighty bite and tears off the fiendling's OTHER arm (SECOND NAT 20)!!!
Thraxxia feebly tries to use her unarmed (HA) strikes with other body parts, but is overwhelmed by Jancer's undead servants and hacked to bits. The necrodancer spins over and grabs Thraxxia's decapitated head and tosses it to Rorik, "How 'bout we send Graz'zt this pretty little thing as a thank you?"
Just then, Sporp flies in on a spore servant bat and says, "GUYS, THERE'S AN ASSASSIN!"