We begin this episode with the group continuing its’ embrace, while Archelaus stands to the side, watching with some interest. Queen Yolande speaks to him about his unique situation, his rescue from Dorakaa, the freedom he now has within Celene and the reception he can expect from its’ residents. Archelaus thanks her and asks about training grounds, to which the Queen informs him of a facility two days south of the city.
Queen Yolande offers the polymorphed heroes the chance to revert back to their own forms, and asks Nilly and Elara what they know about the elven people. Nilly explains that if her parents had told her of the fey, she wouldn’t be as crazy as she is. Elara responds that her whore master of a father never spoke to her of her heritage. With some sadness, Queen Yolande mentions to Elara that she may know some things regarding her mother that she may find helpful, then takes it upon herself to explain to the heroes the rift between the Elves, Orcs and Drow – the conflict between Corellon, Gruumsh and Lloth. After the history lesson, and a brief outburst by Merrick, Yolande reverts Merrick and Elara back to their original selves. Nilly is given a choice, however. She may return to her half-elven form or she may take on the form of a true elf, her birthright. Surprised by this, Nilly takes a moment or two, and decides to remain as a half-elf, as her parents made her. Yolande accepts her decision, and as with the others, Nilly is once again at home in her own skin.
As the Queen is about to take her leave, Elara asks about her mother, and the Queen asks her to follow her to a secluded spot to speak. Yolande asks what she knows of her mother, and Elara provides the few details that she knows; her mother’s name is Elmaewin, she is captain of the Southern Guard of Celene, and that she is an elf and that is all. Yolande expresses how rare it is for an elf to be born, that it is a gift of Corellon, and that is is unfortunate that Elara was not raised with them. However, the Queen has some unfortunate news – that Elmaewin herself was captured by the orcs of the Pomarj when the fort she served in was toppled. Elara asks two questions of Yolande; does she look like her mother, and is she good with a dagger? The Queen smiles and answers that yes, aside from their hair, they are quite similar with striking features, and that her mother is good with any weapon placed in her strong hands. Yolande expresses again how dangerous the forces of the Pomarj are, and that they need to be stopped before they can unite. Elara believes the party may be able to help.
With that, the adventurers begin their extended downtime, extending into a two month period of in-game time that sees a few short RP sessions between characters:
Merrick and Robilar speak first, with Robilar expressing his frustration for Merrick’s choice of patron, Iggwilv, and that if Merrick thinks her power can be harnessed, he is a fool. Robilar has admiration for Merrick’s goal of destroying Vecna, and the band of friends Merrick has come to know. Robilar’s mood sours swiftly as the two men begin to discuss Mordenkainen. As the discussion continues, Robilar’s voice raises and he expresses sarcasm as he speaks of this new ‘Citadel’ and that they would be better off to leave the snake, Mordenkainen, behind. Merrick speaks of the illusion of Vecna in Dorakaa and how powerless he felt, and asks Robilar how to find a new patron. Robilar states he will have to find way out from under Iggwilv’s thumb before he can hope to find someone new. Robilar and Merrick part ways, each hoping the best for the other.
The scene changes, and it finds Alesa studying her books when Kallic approaches. He apologizes for interrupting her studies, but explains that he believes she may the only person who can help him. She seems irritated, but allows Kallic to continue as he details his inability to sleep, beset by constant nightmares of the Chained God, his mother and the horrors of Dorakaa. At this, Alesa puts down her books and turns her full attention to him. Kallic asks Alesa to help him find a way to restore his mother’s soul from her phylactery. He then looks around them, then reveals the black stone from his pouch. Kallic explains that he is drawn to the stone, and that he cannot let anyone take it from him; that he had to lie to Luciano to keep it from him. Alesa, interest piqued, attempts to identify the stone and finds it has a will of a kind – the stone is keyed to finding others of it’s kind. Kallic cares not for the Chained God, the stones, he just wants his mother to be safe. Alesa agrees to try and help him in whatever way she can and Kallic thanks her. In parting, he asks one more thing – that Alesa not reveal any of this to Elara, as she has enough to deal with and he does not want to burden her. When Alesa remarks that she gets flustered speaking to Elara, Kallic lets slip that Elara is fond of her, and has mentioned Alesa’s name in her sleep.
Once again, there is a shift and we are brought to Nilly meeting with Queen Yolande and her parents at the Pool of Corellon’s Tears. Her parents are sitting outside of the pool, frail and birdlike, their eyes tired and bleary. Nilly sits in front of them and attempts to be lighthearted, but her father reaches out to touch her face with a shaking, cold hand. He speaks to her of how proud he is of her, and her mother speaks to how it is a gift that they’ve gotten to see her again. Nilly tries to remain calm as she scoots closer to them to be nearer their touch. Her father tells her that they will continue to watch her grow and flourish from afar, but that they cannot remain. Yolande speaks softly from behind Nilly, explaining that what her parents have endured has been too much for even the elven spirit to recover from, even with the magic of a wish. Nilly accepts the news as well as she can, trying to hide the well of emotions rising in her. Her father states that she must embark on a new journey soon, and when she leaves, they will depart as well. Nilly smiles to them, and then pulls out her father’s lute and begins to play a song for them as the scene fades.
The scene fades back in weeks later, to a secluded ruin near the southern training facility, where Kallic and Archelaus are sharing some food and some quiet before another long training session. Kallic asks about Archelaus’s past, about his want to become a monk. Archelaus explains that it was monks who took him in when he had no where and no one, gave him a place, and taught him many skills. To prove his point, he playfully trips Kallic with his tail, who falls to his side. He reaches down a hand to help pull Kallic up, then asks what has driven him to train so hard. Kallic replies that the pit fighting brings in money, and he has things he needs the money to pay for. It pays well, but only if he’s winning, which Archelaus has helped him do. As they talk, Archelaus takes a fighting stance and encourages Kallic to do the same. It’s become a familiar routine for them. Kallic begins explaining that he needs the fighting as a way to distract himself, to which Archelaus asks what he needs distraction from as he jabs him in the face. Kallic rubs his cheek then tries to explain that he needs to get better to keep from dying again; when he dies, he comes back at someone’s cost and he can’t let anyone else suffer again. Archelaus uses his lack of focus against him and sweeps Kallic’s leg, catching Kallic before he falls to the ground. Anger flashes across Kallic’s face, and his hand drops to his new whip, loosing it from it’s strap and wrapping it around Archelaus’s legs, dropping him to the ground with a tug. Realizing his mistake, Kallic’s visage softens and he moves to help Archelaus up, apologizing profusely. With a deft kip-up, Archelaus launches up off his hands and back to his feet gracefully. He pats Kallic on the shoulder and tells him that in that moment, he was focused and remarks that Kallic thinks too much. Kallic protests that he needs to think, it helps him keep control. Archelaus notes that Kallic should come to one of his meditations, and then motions to the food, commenting that they should eat. Kallic agrees, and they sit and begin to finish their meal as this peaceful scene fades.
Fading in, the scene opens on Laotan and Alesa in the lair of Kyrin, the ancient white dragon that Alesa had befriended. While Kyrin sleeps soundly nearby, Laotan is obsessively poring over the ancient books that Alesa has been keeping safe and secure in the lair. As he closes the last of the books, he looks mentally taxed and exhausted. Concerned, Alesa mentions Laotan was muttering many things in the prison about what he had revealed and about the books, and asks if the books are even important anymore. She follows up asking about the Ashen Staff, and what their next steps should be. With sadness in his eyes, Laotan admits that he does not know. He explains that he told his captors everything, and that she is sought by the Brotherhood, Iuz and she is not safe. With what Laotan revealed, the Old One certainly knows that the missing secrets of the staff may lie with their people’s lost tribe, the Lerara, and that Iuz will likely not rest until he finds them. Alara mentions that she made it to the Temple of Syrul, and that she had found letters that Treyghar had written. She mentions that Kallic had given his life to save her, and that brief mention drives Alesa to mention Kallic’s need for Laotan’s help. In a frenzy, she begins dumping the contents of her bag of holding on the ground, showing Laotan the letters, and searching for Haromet’s journal to show him. Trying to answer her many questions, Laotan first speaks of Kallic’s mother and the mystery of the phylactery, and that they are used by liches to maintain their spirit and existence upon death. Laotan asks on the mother’s body, and Alesa knows that the body disintegrated into ash and that Elara still has a lock of the mother’s hair. At the mention of the hair, Laotan remarks that he has noticed Alesa starting at Elara’s auburn hair, to which Alesa seems to get a little flustered. He mentions perhaps wish magic could restore the mother, but that is all he knows about that. Changing subjects, he goes on to speak about Trayghar and that he may be close to gaining the parts of the Ashen Staff and bringing down the Rain of Colorless Fire. He begins to impress upon Alesa the magnitude and importance that the party assists them in stopping both Trayghar and Iuz from finding these relics or the entirety of the Flanaess may be destroyed. Alesa asks where he may go, and Laotan intends to return to their homeland, not the peninsula, but the actual homeland of the Suel people.
Two months have passed, and the night before the party is supposed to gather to decide their path, Merrick is roused in the night by Iggwilv. She asks him to show her the stone, begging for it, offering him power untold if he shows her the stone. Merrick attempts to bluff her with a black stone he picked up in Dorakaa, and she chastises him. He has tried to fool her twice, and he tries to explain where he left the stone she seeks. She fades his vision to black, and when it clears, he is looking at a black bound book. In this book, she has recorded all of the true names of the known demons, and it’s is a book he needs in his quest for revenge. Not knowing the value of the book, Merrick inquires as to why he would need the book, and Iggwilv explains the power that the true name can give the wielder. The book fades and Iggwilv again asks to see the stone. Successfully bluffing her into thinking he left it in a lockbox in another location, she admits that she thinks he might be untruthful with her. Launching into a tirade, she speaks of her return to this earth, and that she is going to gather her forces to her side. Promising him untold power and ability, she beckons him to join her as her faithful soldier. Merrick remind her that he doesn’t wish to rule, but simply get the vengeance he seeks. At that, Iggwilv issues an ultimatum; show her the stone within the next two weeks, or their relationship will change drastically. She plants a soft kiss on him, then vanishes.
The next day, the heroes meet with Queen Yolande at a secluded temple to Corellon, where four benches have been arranged in a diamond formation. Merrick is surprised to see Robilar seated on the inner stairs surrounding the pulpit. The party takes their seats while the Queen speaks to Archelaus about Elucia, the elven agent who worked with him in Dorakaa. She explains to the group that Elucia also subjected himself to the same polymorph magics they did to allow him to work in secret. After a brief question from Merrick, Yolande informs the group that Elucia fell shortly after the party escaped from Dorakaa. Archelaus remarks that Elucia spoke highly of the group. Behind the Queen, Mordenkainen himself strides into the room; prompting Robilar to stand quickly and descend to the bottom of the stairs he sat upon. Speaking highly of the group, Mordenkainen states that the party may keep the resources he’s provided, save for his purse. He also speaks of the Citadel and how it may once again be strong, to which Elara asks what Citadel actually is. As Mordenkainen begins to explain, Robilar moves forward to confront him, blaming him for the fate of the Circle of Eight and the former Citadel. In righteous anger, Robilar declares himself an enemy of Mordenkainen, and before there can be any further discussion, Queen Yolande waves a hand and Robilar vanishes. Merrick leaps to his feet in anger, and the Queen remarks that she simply removed him from the elven lands to prevent any hostilities in this holy place. Kallic steps forward to Mordenkainen and drops the money pouch at his feet, while Nilly pleads with the archmage to just pick a side. With quiet intensity, Mordenkainen explains that picking a side tips the balance, and that balance must be maintained. He states that if the party sees him as a means to an end, so be it. If they do not require his council, he will leave them to it, but before he can leave, the Queen cuts him short. Yolande explains that the group must come to a decision on their next steps, and in the elven traditions, that means each person must bear their wishes to the group, then a vote will decide where the path will lead.
Elara speaks to the group first, pleading to her brother that while his mother’s spirit is safe in her pouch, Elara’s mother is being held by the forces of the Pomarj. She asks the group to assist her and the elves in defeating the forces of the Pomarj and saving her mother.
Next up, Nilly states that she has no path to offer, but she has some gifts to distribute to the group. She apologizes to Archelaus as she has nothing for him, and he laughs in a deep, unnatural chuckle. She turns to Alesa, and gives her a bottle of perfume, explaining that she wanted to give her something nice, and that she may have someone to smell pretty for. Alesa, embarrassed, cuts her off, thanks her and takes the bottle from her. Moving on, Nilly’s attention goes to Merrick and pulls out a lantern with a shutter, so he can always see in the darkest places lie the rest of the group. Finally, she turns to Kallic and Elara, holding two small bands with red gemstones in them. She approaches each of them, tying them to their wrists. The red stones are heartstones, and now the siblings can know each other is safe if they are separated. Kallic surprises her with a light kiss on the hand as she finishes tying his band on, and both of them appear to be a bit flustered at the show of affection. Yolande smiles and thanks Nilly for her generosity to the group.
Shifting to Kallic, he raises his head to Yolande defers to the group, stating that he will follow where the group chooses.
Merrick suggests that the heroes take the path that will lead to saving the most lives.
The group turns to Alesa, and standing, explains to the group that she is with the party because she was trying to hide away the secrets that decimated her people; the invoked devastation and rain of colorless fire. A number of dangerous foes are seeking these secrets and don’t care whom they destroy in the process. Yolande interrupts her briefly to clarify that the Old One knows of these secrets and pursues them, and Alesa nods and sits back down.
The queen then queries the group, looking to Archelaus, on how many will be voting. Archelaus looks to Kallic in surprise, while Merrick seems to be concerned about the newcomer with red skin and horns. Nilly tells Merrick to calm down, while Kallic stands and explains Archelaus’s fighting prowess and the need for the group to fill it’s missing rank. As her own test, Nilly asks Archelaus about his time in Dorakaa, wondering what he considered the worst thing he witnessed there. After a few moments of deliberation, Archelaus remarks that he was raised there, taken in by Elucia and shown a way out. Nilly points out that he didn’t answer the question, to which he responds that it’s an impossible question to answer. The group debates his benefits between them, when suddenly Archelaus strides to Nilly, conjures smoke around them and speaks to her in Infernal, stating he can help them in the darkness. Jumping to his feet, Merrick raises his blade to Archelaus, to which Kallic responds by cracking his whip and yanking the sword from his hand. Nilly speaks a few words of magic, grabs Merrick’s hand, and takes him through a dimensional door.
Merrick and Nilly have a brief conversation in this nullspace, that Merrick will need to trust her and if Archelaus turns out to be an enemy, Merrick will have every right to cut him down where he stands. In agreement, they step back through the dimensional door into the temple once again.
Upon their appearance, Merrick gives the group a little more information to chew on; Iggwilv is free and she is in pursuit of him. Yolande and Mordenkainen agree that is troublesome, but that the party’s two main paths seem to point either south to the Pomarj and Elara’s mother or to the secrets of the invoked destruction detailed by Alesa. Merrick protests that he may be some kind of key to the destruction, to which Mordenkainen explains that perhaps he is not the key, but simply a way for him to unknowingly lead Iggwilv to the secrets.
The vote goes around the circle, with Merrick, Kallic, Nilly and Elara voting for the south, while Alesa speaks that Laotan will go alone, without her. She declines to vote, with Archelaus casting the final vote for the south.
With a decision made, Mordenkainen offers further support and the Queen suggests everyone get some rest, as the group will be departing in the morning for the south. Archelaus asks Yolande to speak privately, and as the two of them walk away, the scene fades on the group as they stand, decision made.