Lythannis and Mentathenis take to the sky on Celestine to survey the floating city and test it’s defenses. Krushi and Aces notice that the remaining undead and shadow spreaders slip back into the shadows and everyone in the area can feel a pressure building in the air. The rubble of Arabel is drawn up into a vortex towards the city. The Eladrin feel the pull as well and Celestine struggles against it’s draw. A band of gargoyles flies out of Shade and circles in it’s defense. The structure turns to black and disappears into a point causing everything in the air to explode outward. The party on the ground is blown backwards and have to find cover from the rocketing debris. Celestine is flung forward over herself, and the two Eladrin are thrown through the trees and crash to the ground, the Pegasus with them.
The shock wave continues to roll over Aces. She begins to feel sick as it falls into a rhythm and causes her heart to speed to a race.
A searing pain on the back of her head causes her to wince. The pounding becomes clearer, the sound of a thousand stomping feet all in unison. The clouds and rain are gone now, giving way to a blazing yellow orange colored sky. A giant sun looms overhead. It’s corona wreathed in fire. While it’s flame burns blindingly bright it’s core is blackened and dark. The top of Kalak’s multi colored ziggurat intersects its lower edge..
Each stomp from the stands sends ripples across the arena floor, the searing sand burns against her back as a shadow falls over. Aces recognizes him. Jax. Her friend, trainer, fighting partner, lover, and father of Sona, her newborn daughter, he extending his hand to help her.
“On your feet Aces baby. We ain’t outta this yet!
His sculpted arm flexes and with little effort, he pulls her to her feet. He then turns to face their enemy. As she looks past him, she realizes they are surrounded by other gladiators, both dead and alive.
Aces recalls that the odds are against her this day. This is the fight of her life. Her final fight, live or die, on the sands of this arena. Reunion with her child, the first-ever born child of two Mul, are only a few more glorious kills away. Both she and Jax spent their entire life savings of ceramic. Fifteen years of winning arena battles and gambling, to buy Sona out of slavery upon her birth. Their allies and friends, two ‘Kreen named Ree’vr and Nee’sa took care of the transaction and once the two Mul are freed, Ree’vr will guide them to the location of Nee’sa and Sona.
Aces struggles to shake off her dream of freedom, otherworldly places and strange characters, and against five other gladiators she and Jax are overwhelmed. They manage to take out two of them, but Aces is knocked unconscious, again. Jax to flies into a rage, and takes out the remaining few, then races to his lover’s side to wake her up.
The crowd of their section of the Tyr arena cheers, and from the gates, two new challengers emerge. The two recognize them as Sh’reevot the Dray, and his human apprentice, Tiernan.
The Dray barks orders at the human woman and she moves in to net Aces. Jax intercepts Sh’reevot and the fight gets bloody quickly. Aces is still unfocused, but is able to injure Tiernan before she is again knocked unconscious. Jax continues to beat in Sh’reevot’s head and chest until the scaled one is killed, and then The Mul turns to Tiernan and crushes her head with his Warhammer. Jax helps Aces up.
The horns of victory are sounded and the crowd quiets to the voice of the announcer.
“Two gladiators have fallen! Alas! There can only be one released of a freedom match! Continue slaves! Show us who will walk out those gates, and who will stain the ochre in crimson!
Jax at first, refuses to face Aces. Then hesitantly, he turns and looks into her eyes, with a sigh and then a grin. The grin that tickles her heart.
“They won’t let you live if this looks thrown baby. Tell Sona that her daddy died a hero, and her mother is the most beautiful creature to ever grace the sands of Athas. Now come at me, and make me proud woman.”
Aces knows what she has to do and steels herself. She Hooks her maul under the lifeless body of Tiernan and flings it against the wall of the arena, spraying her blood into the crowd and sending them into a riot of excitement. Knowing that Jax always swings for the head and chest, she manages to dodge every one of his attacks and finishes him off in a couple of swings. As Jax hits the ground, his muscles relax and he gives her one last wink before his eyes close. The sound of the crowd is muffles, hardly able to hear the announcer, she unceremoniously find a wooden sword shoved into her hands. The arena gates are opened and she is escorted out. As she approaches her staging cell, it feels like only minutes ago she was inside, a slave. she can almost see the image herself with Jax, just as they had been before the fight.
Tizz’ler, the arena staging slave and friend of Aces and Jax walks by her side, escorting her through the staging pit towards THE exit of the arena. This is the exit she has never been through, never seen, and only heard about.
Tizz’ler attempts to comfort the Mul on their way through the underbelly of the arena. He reminds her of her daughter and asks her about the promise she and Jax made to him if they were ever to get free, they would find a way to free him. He also talks about his sister Sizz’ler, who work at an herb shop in the Elven Market. He tells her that she would be able to help her with a place to stay until she adjusts to a life of freedom. Aces says she will honor their promise as soon as she can as they reach the gates into the city. She hesitates for a moment before stepping out into the free air.
Dressed in a dirtied tan hooded robe the Thri’Kreen, Ree’vr stands just beyond the doors. Aces can tell by his antennae movements he is pleased to see her, but he looks past in an effort to locate Jax. When he can’t find him, his eyes search her for answers. His antennae stop moving and slowly droop to the sides in painful understanding and he moves to hug her with his four chitinous arms. Aces knows this is something Thri’Kreen only do to members of their clutch. Those they hold in the highest regard. But without hesitation, and without attempting to keep one arm free with a weapon in claw, the insectoid holds her.
Aces leads Ree’vr to Sizz’ler’s herb shop and they talk to the woman about Tizz’ler. She mentions having saved up a large amount of ceramic from working at the herb shop and selling her body but doesn’t think she has enough to buy his freedom. Aces ensures her that when coupled with her diplomatic skills, it just might be.
They all return to the arena and ask the guards to fetch the slave manager. When he emerges, Aces proceeds to bargain with the stubborn man and manages to pursuade him to part with Tizz’ler for 10,500 ceramic, around 1,000 less than Sizz’ler had planned for, saving her some coin.
The Mul, ’Kreen and two elves buy supplies and head out of the city of Tyr. As they turn the corner to see through the great arena gates and into the vast wastes of the Table Lands, Aces realizes that this is the farthest distance her eyes have ever lay upon. The world stretches out before them and fades almost seamlessly into the yellow orange sky.
Ree’vr conveys to the group, that Sona and Nee’sa are safe, hidden, and wait for them in a large abandoned cave at the base of the Ringing Mountains. He wants to travel into the eve, and half to the mid dark, then make camp for the cold. Towards red up, they will continue on, and find covered shelter before the high burn. They should get to the cave sometime in the next eve.
They travel through the afternoon and during early dark, they set up a camp in a sandy depression surrounded by rocks. Ree’vr and Aces stay awake and talk under the sickly yellow green light of the two moons Ral and Guthay when they are raided by a group of starving gith looking for a meal. They cry out and attack jumping about and slicing wildly, but Aces and Ree’vr kill them off one by one. Tizz’ler watches and cowers near the camp fire, and Sizz’ler sleeps through the entire thing.
Just before red up, they continue on and encounter a blind Inix with three hatchlings in tow, they attempt to feed the creature but it appears to be picky with it’s meals. Aces, thinking the three Inix babies will be hard pressed to survive under the protection of a blind parent, snatches one of them up and takes it with her.
That night they reach the mouth of the cave and Aces thinks it may have been a lair of a Mekillot at some point judging by it’s size. As they enter, they are attacked by a silent assassin. Tizz’ler and Sizz’ler retreat towards the darkness in search of Nee’sa and Sona for safety. As the three fight, Aces tries to find out who the woman is and why she is trying to kill them. The woman does not answer. Aces can hear the sound of a baby crying and turns to catch a glance of Nee’sa with the little Sona in her arms cradling her tightly watching the fight.
Suddenly, a reality distorting ripple bursts through the cave from entrance to end towards where Nee’sa and Sona stand in wait. The three fighters are ripped back towards the mouth of the cave. and find themselves tumbling and falling through what appears to be a tunnel of swirling blue. Stars zip past them like grains of sand in a storm.
The three continue to fight as best they can in the midst of what is happening, but then the assassin, D’evon, slings her blades and says she is done. In judging their current situation, she feels there may no longer be any money in killing her target.
The tunnel begins to collapse and they can feel themselves slowing down. The twisting blue nearly fades away entirely before the three are ripped violently in another direction, crashing through a wall and out into a busy city street.
As Aces tries to get her bearings, she mistakenly glances down the cobbled road she lies upon. her eyes follow it’s zig zagged path up, up, up into the distance until it is lost among other criss crossing streets and bizarre architecture. The horizon is once again, non-existent. In glimpsing the whole of the ring, it’s reality falls over her like an impossibly large slave collar and just before she passes out, a humanoid silhouette appears over her.
“Welcome to the cage berk!”
Aces awakens to the sound of a baby crying out. She sits up in her cozy bed and sees a disgruntled male child staring back at her. She attempts to hand the child it’s sucker but it refuses and just glares. A gust of cool wind blows through an open window and a pile of cloth scraps blows into the Muls lap, she picks one up and discovers them to be pages of the Telaric Codex, a highly sought after ancient book on Athas. She is unsure where they came from.
A large woman opens the door and looks pleased that Aces is awake. She picks up the child, whom Aces learns is named Oopsee, and introduces herself to be Cassi Solivan, Ehd’s mother. The Mul is in the Solivan house. Cassi calls down to the others and Krushi, Mentathenis, Terrlen, Modreg, Sam, Ehd, Cliff and Lythannis crowd into the room to welcome the Mul back from her deep slumber.
She learns that after the Shadovar city teleported away, the cloaked figure, and friend of Lythannis became very protective of her in her sleep, and as the group began their trek westward, the mysterious humanoid carried her the entire 300 miles from the ruins of Arabel to Iriaebor. While passing through Iriaebor, against Ehd’s best hopes, they were caught by friends of his mother’s and were forced to pay she and his family a visit.
After reuniting, the whole group heads through the twisted stair wells and hallways of the Solivan household to the floor level dining room and kitchen area, where Cassi is planning a dinner for the party. On the way, they pass one of Ehd’s sisters, Eve, a 12 year old girl with raven black hair and pale skin who shrugs off Ehd’s attempts at sibling playfulness. Cassi informs Aces that she is a mute, but the best assassin the family has. Krushi is disgusted that a 12 year old anything is an assassin but Cassi ensures the halfling that Eve wasn’t happy unless she had a couple daggers in her hands.
Aces wanders around the house and sees Megilwath sitting in solitude, she is reminded about their lost friend, Sona Summergale and decides not to interrupt the man in his thoughts. In the back yard, she is greeted by Fanidea, who is also sitting alone and sharpening her sickle, squinting in the sunlight. On a log sitting quietly, she sees the mysterious cloaked figure who notices her approach. As she sits next to him, he puts his arm around her and without a word, she and Ree’vr have an understanding.
They spend the next few moments before dinner talking about what each of them remember about their past and how they ended up on Toril. Strangely, it seems that Ree’vr has the same dark spots as Aces.
As Cliff and Sam help Cassi finish the dinner, the woman shamelessly hits on the shifter, talking about wanting a rematch with the man and how she desires a few puppies of her own someday. The shifter raises an eyebrow and Sam pretends not to hear the two. Ehd however, does and voices his protest from the next room, but is shushed by his mother in a playful manner.
The front door flies open and in strolls two more of Ehd’s brothers. Garren, a jerk-faced, hulking 16 year old wearing full plate, and Brandis, a robed 10 year old with a silly pointed hat and his nose shoved in a book. Ehd and Garren, as usual immediately get into a scuffle and Cassi has to break it up as they sit down for dinner. Another brother, a dirty little 8 year old nicknamed “Peggy” hobbles over and plops himself down at the kiddy table on the floor and waits patiently for dinner to be served.
Once again, the front door is opened and in a blinding light glides Mana. A beaming 14 year old with white hair, white robes and a set of beautiful golden pauldrons covering her shoulders. Excited to see Ehd, she runs up and jumps into his arms with a smile. Eve appears in her seat and dinner is served.
During the meal, the group talks about their next move, Cassi pressures Cliff into joining her in the back yard mud pit, and Sam tries to figure out where Eve’s food is going, as she never makes a move to eat, but her food is seemingly disappearing from her plate.
Mana inquires about Ehd’s love life and makes the connection between he and Krushi. Garren pesters the group about their makeup and why they have no cleric of use, and Fanidea resists slicing off the boy’s head and sending it to Lolth.
Brandis asks Mentathenis about his spells and rituals and offers to teach the eladrin some tricks and Lythannis recounts his stories about Ree’vr who he believes to be a scared kindred spirit of the Feywild. Megilwath keeps to himself while Modreg and “Peggy” have a food fight and Terrlen polishes off his mapping of the Solivan House.
Ehd and Garren get into another fight and Aces rises to her feet to put the bastard in his place. Krushi, noticing Eve is suddenly standing behind Aces with her daggers in hand and glaring up at her back, calls her out. Ehd tells the dark haired girl to stand down and that the Mul woman in not a threat to her brother,but he needs to learn respect. Garren continues to spout out insults until Aces calls him little and he pouts, flops back in his chair and sits quietly for the rest of dinner.
Mana notices Krushi struggling with her mother’s cooking and with a smile she leans in and whispers, “I understand, it’s always bad!”