As he tranced, Riardon cast his mind back to the events of earlier that night, trying to gain some semblance of understanding. He flicked his memory back to the moment the armour clad figure had beckoned the party in to the open room which seemed to house a junction of the arterial drains and culverts converging in the centre of Hatheril. Riardon looked round the faces of his fellows at the moment the malevolent being let a menacing spiked chain slink through his fingers. He saw on each of their faces that a spine tingling shiver reverberated through every one of the heroes but none more so than Riardon.
Riardon had been largely detached from Thelanis for years and not even his timely jaunts spent passing though during teleportation eased the feeling of separation from his home realm. Still, he had grown to tolerate this plane and its unnatural nuances. The minds of the people here had turned to metal and machine and while it proved interesting (in an anthropological sort of way) for a while, he had long desired to hear the song of the Faerie court once more. Every once and a while when he was deep in his meditative trace he could still hear a few memorable bars of that beautiful chorus and, even though he knew that it could not be possible, he had convinced himself that whilst fey-stepping it was as if a single flawless note sounded and was felt rather than heard. This is what kept him sane day-by-day. When, however, the dark presence underneath Hatheril willed the adventures to join him in the chamber, Riardon could almost feel part of his sanity slowly slipping away.
Despite appearing human, Riardon felt that the creature which stood before the group was something which harboured evil well beyond the capacity of an ordinary human. As the creature lashed out with its first volley of blows, the Fey-born knew that it was too late to make haste away from that foul place. His comrades were engaged and he too would have to join the fray. As the shifter and the drow encircled the beast, Riardon readied a furious psychic assault on it. When the Eladrin reached into the creatures mind, he was met with sites which left him stunned. The creature, not to be outdone, launched a psychic riposte at the dumbfounded Eladrin which sent him to the ground. Riardon, summoning all his remaining strength, managed to teleport away from the battle. To his companions, looking on at the weary Eladrin, he was merely catching his breath, awaiting his second wind. Riardon, however, had been emotionally crippled, perhaps even changed by what he had seen in the beasts mind for this creature, this faux-human was no idle threat to be taken lightly – it was a harbinger of death and destruction – a creature of eyes and claws. It’s voice had echoed in Riardon’s mind like discordant music – sickly sweet words, woven together with a chorus of nightmares -
“You can not defeat me fey lord… for you can not defeat that which is forever. We are children of the darkness which dreams…”
His mind flashed and he mumbled as he shook himself out of his trance. A quick glance around the room told him that he was not the only mind troubled this night. Durzo stood stoically at the window, gazing contemplatively at the street below. Rather than risk waking the sleeping shifter and drawing her weary ire, Riardon refocused his mind and attempted to re-enter his meditative state. He cocked his head slightly as the thoughts of the dark creature returned to his mind and he began to contemplate what he saw (or at least what he thought he saw).
In the short instance that the eladrin connected with the creatures mind, minutes, maybe even hours passed in Riardons head as he followed the creature through one of its own memories. The creature walked through an apocalyptic wasteland although even this was difficult to make out. Were it not for the shadowy ruins back-lit by what seemed like hundreds of pockets of gas burning like blue witchfire, it would have been almost impossible to grasp exactly how horrifying this place was. The creature approached a set of what Riardon assumed was once grand steps. Hewn from what seemed almost like ivory, the steps were now bathed in darkness and covered in some viscous, dark laquor which tainted their probably once apparent splendour. The creature climbed the stairs and beheld an ornate A-shaped doorway at the top. The doorway and the building it provided the entrance to was all constructed out to the same opulent rock. For the briefest of moments, Riardon almost wished that the creature would stop and look around a little more so that the eladrin could garner a little more information about the setting. The creature entered through the doorway which opened up into narrower A-shape hallways. This place, whatever it was, was truly massive. Periodically, the creature would pass intersections with more halls leading off in every direction and doorways hiding stairwells which spiralled up to higher parts of the structure. Then the creature passed a decorated façade which lined one of the hallways. Beneath what seemed like a sooty dust was a beautifully gilt leafed pattern with letters embossed in the stone running through it. It was a language Riardon had not seen for years and he, himself, could not speak or write it but he did recognise the characters. It was sylvan – the language of the natural world and of the Faerie court. A moment of panic rushed through him as his mind started to imagine the very worst possibilities – had these creatures invaded Thelanis?
Did he really see his homeland drowned in shadow as he momentarily stepped though to it earlier that day? What did these creatures want with this structure? The sound of torturous screams cut through air in the building and Riardon once again shook himself out of his trance.
He looked around the room once more and was greatly surprised to see that Durzo had returned to his pallet. Usually when in a trance, eladrin are fully aware of their surroundings. This was troubling for Riardon. Some of his companions talked of a phenomenon called dreaming and he had heard of such a thing happening among the fey races but it required practiced meditation – very few eladrin had ever been able to reach a state of such immersion, certainly none that Riardon knew.
Riardon’s curiosity was piqued. Had he entered a state of dreaming? What had the creature in the sewers really done to him? The creature had said that it was a child of the darkness which dreamt – surely it was no coincidence that Riardon found himself doing the same. He had a basic knowledge of the planes and knew that when mortals slept their conciousness visited the remote plane of Dal Quor, the region of dreams. Had this creature somehow linked Riardon’s mind to this place? It seemed unlikely, but still he had to find out more. The glimpse of the creatures mind and memories in the sewers had shaken him but now, with the benefit of controlled meditation, Riardon was picking out details he hadn’t seen before. Perhaps it could help him unravel more of the mystery he had been presented with in the sewer. Riardon focused his mind once more, this time, homing in on the screams of terror. They were just background noise to him as he heard it in the creatures mind but now, now he could make out definite syllables and language form. The screams were in an ancient dialect of a language the people in the natural world referred to as elven – it was the language of Riardon’s ancestors. With that, the room of the Freedom’s Call started to fade into the background as Riardon returned to following the creature on its journey…
The dark beast turned and passed a wide doorway which seemed to lead into what was once a grand reception room. On a raised dais at the end of the room two humanoid creatures, not unlike elves or eladrin, were tied to dark, obsidian obelisks with arcane runes etched all over them. A beast much like the one whose mind Riardon had infiltrated called out words in some malevolent, unknown language. This was the first time Riardon could properly inspect the creature – it was a horrifying sight. A terrible stinger met with a body not unlike that of a serpent. As it wound up, it joined something akin to a torso – replete with tiny grasping hands. The hands, however, paled in comparisson to the two mlaw-like mandibles which grew from where its shoulders should have been. As if that was not all terrible enough, its crown was covered in tiny beady eyes, each peering and searching in different directions. As it called out the runes on the obelisks pulsed with psychic energy, searing the minds of the two helpless creatures bound to it. They both cried out with a mix of pain and terror. Their words of anguish were broken, but, regardless, Riardon had a measure of what was going on – they were being tortured for information… Information they did not have.
The creature continued down one of the ornate hallways, rounded a corner and began to ascend a long, winding spiral staircase. At the top, the creature reached a crossroads in the corridor – doors led off right and left but the creature continued straight ahead and out onto an open balcony. It was a sight to behold… even through this evil creatures eyes. Again the dark, formless landscape stretched out as far as the eyes could see. It was a desert of shadow only illuminated by these tiny blue pyres dotted every few hundred yards. Another humanoid stood in front of the creature on the balcony, resting on a stone banister, flanked by two smaller monstrosities. The humanoid turned around. He was eladrin, slightly smaller in stature than Riardon but with an air of martial prowess about him. He was old, even by eladrin standards but consequently, his eyes harboured much wisdom. The creature began to speak to him in broken common, trying to bridge the language barrier;
“Where is the fifth?”
The eladrin cocked his head and stood defiantly as he replied to the beast of shadow;
“You will never have its power. The magic of the Faerie court persists even here, hiding it from your prying eyes. Your minions think they rule this place but they are gravely mistaken. Wisps linger in corners you can not reach. Gnomes weave their magic to stay invisible to your eyes and my people can travel through spaces where you can not harm us. Long years have you lingered in this place, toiling day by day, searching for your quarry yet finding nothing but everyday, we grow closer to liberating ourselves from your shackles and returning this great spire to our homeland.”
The creature became enraged. Riardon felt its whole body shift and change till he could see it manifest a human arm. The creature took up the same brutish spiked chain it had confronted Riardon and his companions with underneath Hatheril. The creature growled and spat as he retorted to the eladrin;
“You are a fool! Right now our agents scour a petty human city for the tenth. It is only a matter of time before we find the others just as it is before we find the one you brought here. You know nothing of our devotion to il-Lashtavar’s plans. For forty thousand years we have waited and we have planned. Soon we will return in force and then the civilisation’s of the natural world will fall as they should have in the age of the giants, the bane of our kind. Our priors are already in all of the lands but when we control this city of Sigil… then, even your kin on your home world will bow before his might.”
The proud eladrin showed a look of fear dart across his face as Riardon felt the creatures grip in its claws tighten. Then the oddest thing happened… The look of fear on the eladrins face turned to one of joy and he returned to smiling defiantly at the beast. Riardon felt the creature flinch with uncertainty as the eladrin started to speak;
“Let me share an old eladrin adage with you. Our ancestors often said that clarity lies in the shadow of the beast. We often find true wisdom only when we stand in the wash of a wave. I will die today and I have made my peace with that. A moment ago when I felt you about to strike me down, I stood face to face with the fragile nature of life and my mind was opened but for a few seconds. I know that I will die today because my people call me a seer. From time to time the cosmos reveals its secrets to me… This place, this realm of yours, however, has darkened my visions of late. Yet, but a moment ago, my mind was opened. I will die today but you too will be destroyed in time – it may be years in this realm, but it will only be moments on the natural world. I assure you, you will never stand at the gates of Sigil. I have seen you fall and I have seen the hands that kill you. More than that, however, I see that we are not alone on this balcony. A son of Thelanis stands here with us this day and he will be your undoing.”
Riardon’s mind started to work overtime and, although sure that he was deep in a dream-like state, he could almost feel himself mumbling and fidgeting on the floor of Freedoms Call. Was this seer talking about him? Did he know that Riardon was in the creatures mind… or, rather, would be in the creatures mind? Who was this eladrin? One thing was for sure, he was powerful. With that, the wise old eladrin began to talk in an elven dialect so ancient and
foreign that even Riardon barely understood what he was saying let alone the shadow creatures on the balcony;
“Be strong my son and take this wisdom with you –
The first four are in the Sister’s library.
The fifth is with our kin in the Silver Tree.
The sixth is below the streets of darkness guarded by an army of death.
The seventh is theirs but not beyond your reach. Your path will lead you to it.
The eighth lies unfound in a valley of bones at the end of the world.
The ninth is with our cousins, in the sceptre of the king.
The tenth is within your grasp. Reach into the tunnels of the mark and take it.
The eleventh and twelfth we could not find. That is now your burden.
The thirteenth is yet to fall. The gatekeepers watch for it, as do the mages in their mountain cloister. Seek their help.”
As he finished his last few words, Riardon once again felt the creatures grip tighten . The beast lashed out at the eladrin with all his might. He struck the fey-born hand in the chest with a blow that tore skin and cracked ribs. The eladrin was sent backwards, stumbling over the balcony and falling into the darkness below. The creature sadistically moved to the edge of the stone bannister just to watch the eladrin fall to his death and as he did, the sides of the structure which were blocking Riardons view began to thin out so that he could now see the tower in all of its glory.
It was impossible for Riardon to be sure of what he thought it was because he had never looked upon it with his own eyes… Few had… There were those who still told stories of the tower, stories Riardon had grown up hearing. Millenia ago, the eladrin feyspire of Shae Tirias Tolai had appeared in Xen’drik as the plane of Thelanis, the Feywild, became coterminous with Eberron. The giants of Xen’drik attacked and pillaged the spire, dragging its inhabitants back to their cities to become the slaves that would eventually lead to the elf and drow races. The loss of Shae Tirias Tolai was felt deeply by the remaining feyspires but some of the fey lords determined to fight back. Over the next two-and-a-half centuries they plotted their revenge and when the feyspires came once more to the mortal plane they attacked the giants in a desperate act of revenge. Perhaps if they had convinced all the other feyspires to help they might have succeeded, but their attack only angered the giant titans and it was said that their retaliatory strike flung the tower of the rebels from both the mortal realm and Thelanis into the chaotic Plane of Dreams.
The plane of dreams… the darkness that dreams… Riardon himself, dreaming… It all seemed oddly coherent which led credence to waht Riardon believed he was looking at…
…This was Shae Doresh, the Spire of Dreams.