The group decides to leave immediately and charter a griffon. The group arrives at a griffon aerie by early evening, called the Red Raptor. The Red Raptor operates officially as a trading post—for both thoroughly legitimate goods and questionably legitimate goods. Oracius has been through the place before, but the griffon tenders are a ragtag bunch and give him attitude regardless. In consideration of the city’s recent troubles, they’ve suspended booking any further flights. (During the conversation, Morrirane sneaks over to the eyrie and inspects a griffon.) The group presents the signet ring and brings up Solovey’s heritage to pull rank. Their conversation is interrupted by multiple psychic apparitions of Headmaster Masthar in the street, preparing an announcement as the city’s residents gather to listen.
Masthar’s apparitions warn the city of the underground cult, and the legion of gnolls gathering, with an urging to congregate and form an impromptu militia that he will lead, and board up their homes. In the case that evacuation is necessary, he declares, he will disseminate the instructions at a later time.
As the announcement concludes, the tenders bolt toward the griffons. (Griffons can comfortably ferry three regular sized humanoids; any extra riders bring the safety of the ride into risk.) Morrirane holds one last griffon in reserve as all the other tenders depart in haste. Oracius and Morrirane engage the last rider with intimidation and the group, all six, piles onto the remaining griffon, intending to send the griffon back toward aerie after they arrive at the Mistvale and leave the last tender to ponder his fate in the meantime.
While on the way down, the Amnesiac Girl notices that another griffon is following them. Mauryn turns the bird around; the griffon does not seem special, but Mauryn notices that the man is wearing a shining metal helm but who otherwise seems to be a dark black shape. Thinking it is the man with the mask the group saw in the sewers, Mauryn wheels it back to the Mistveil, intent on running. Both griffons go into a dive. Mauryn decides to head for an elven village, expecting she will be supported by the elves there, many of whom would despise the Falconcrest humans.
While diving, the man begins to catch up. Suddenly, the Amnesiac girl screams, and the group looks back to see that black tendrils are exploding out of the man’s body, and Mauryn sends the griffon into a nosedive. Solovey draws his wand while Rhaleban pulls out his newly bestowed rod. As the blackness closes in, Rhaleban fires off a blast of dark energy into the heart of the creature; Solovey, being whipped about by the griffon he is riding, misses as he fires bolt of magic. The black object suddenly expands, firing droplets of darkness onto the griffon. As they land, the droplets begin to grasp like hands with unnatural force. The Amnesiac Girl screams; Solovey grunts with pain and then notices that blood is beginning to flow from under his mask.The black figure suddenly shoots towards the group at unnatural speed. The griffon it had been riding is nowhere to be seen. Oracius screams for Mauryn to get out of the way; she attempts to pull the griffon parallel to the ground, but as it does the creature dislocates its wings. The monstrous blackness tries to grip the group, but Mauryn again, with incredible skill, pulls the griffon out of its path. As she rights the beast, she sees a third griffon flying towards them; it is moving with purpose and speed.
Before the group can get away, the entire griffon is engulfed in blackness. Each person within is engulfed in a horrific sense of panic, cold, and a sense of weightlessness. They lose a sense of time as they write in pain. Eventually, they feel the darkness recede. Before them, they see an endless sea of bones. Truly, every man who has died since the dawn of time could not make these many bones. The sky is black. Rising from the sea of osseous deliquescence is a titan ziggurat of hewn onyx (perhaps). Within this mass of non-euclidian spires, towers, and spikes, there is a massive staircase, climbing to a raised, jagged tower, upon which is laid seven massive obelisks, each graven with runes that burn the soul to read.
Standing calm atop this nightmare citadel are four figures, motionless: three in front, one on a raised dais behind. The three in the front look as follows, from right to left: A humanoid woman of unusual height and stature; her supple and comely body is clothed in black leather. On her face, almost bolted to her flesh and integrated with her normal skin, is a macabre mask that appears as an inhuman puppet. Above that rises a twisted head topped with seven gnarled horns of a pale color, and from her back rises bat-like wings. The second figure is a humanoid figure shrouded in mummy-like robes and wrappings, his face completely concealed by a large hooded cloak and a scarf. His eye sockets appear empty. The third person is the most human-looking member of the group. It is a man, who is dressed in strange leather arm that seems fitting with the theme of Cyclopean horror. His head is bald and covered in gruesome scars, and his ears are pointed. His face seems partially rotted: His cheeks are sallow and his nose seems to have crumbled off. His left is holding his cloak, and his right arm terminate in a bony, scythe like protrusion.
The final figure standing in the back is a humanoid figure. He is wearing Starfell Academy robes, with a large hood covering his face. As the group picks themselves up, the figure in the back cries, with incredible clarity:
It is Adrian.
He steps down from the dais. Oracius, Rhaleban, and Mauryn all step forward in front of Solovey and the Amnesiac Girl.
Speaking calmly, Adrian says “Solovey, you always were the one. Look at this man. Do you recognize him?” He gestures to the man with the scarred bald head. “He was transformed by the light I have discovered. He was Hugo Octavius. Once the son of a minor Valuan lord; now, a servant of God. A hand of the God himself! He wields power to change this world. I offered this power to you…and you rejected it. You chose to continue cutting your wretched life from the rock of this world.”
He pauses. “You will not need to die. Indeed, you will live forever. These three,” he said, pointing, “are my hands. You can be part of this inevitable power. You can be a part of that, Solovey. You can accept the only path that is before you, and know that I was the only one who could lead you down it. You can help destroy this imperfect wo “Only with you, Solovey! Only with you have I done the only things I have ever done that was worth anything. Only with you can I finally help the brittle, ancient pages of history crumble to meaningless dust. When we work together, we can wield a power greater than anything—the power to craft a new book of history, to say on page one, ‘Here there once was, then was not, but now will be.’ All you have to do is will it in your heart.”
There is a pregnant silence. “Once there was love between us,” Solovey stated quietly. “And now there can be only war.” l. “In the end, there will be no difference.”
Adrian casts off his cloak.
To be continued…