A Queen, A Goddess, and the In-Between

Alok escorts us out of the flying temple and back to ground. He says we must go Dusward towards Autmn, to find the Harvest, where the wedding was meant to be. He once against reminds us of the dangers, and begs us guard our thoughts as we head out. Time and our surroundings fluctuate strangely. We pass a cozy cabin with three bears, and before we get out of earshot, there is the shrill scream of a young girl. A young elfish prince comes toward us on the road, carrying a bloody slipper, begging the girls of the group to try it on. We turn him down, but Nat asks about the blood. His betrothed, he tells us. He swears he’ll recognize her, the cuts on her feet, or at the very least, the shoe will fit. We hurry away as he does the same. We pass a house made entirely of candy, and more and stranger things.

After a while, Alok stops the group. He says we are making good time, but the seasons are fickle and he is unsure of the path. He suggests we get a bit lost to find the right way to go. A short time later, we decide to stop and rest. Alok suggests making a fire to see if a guide while come to us, or at least someone who knows the way. He reminds us to be good hosts to any guests, as guests must behave as well. Hospitality rules.

We make a campsite, and start a small fire. There are strange noises in the night. Pipe playing. But Alok says we must not follow the music into the wood. Nat asks if there are any special herbs in this forest for dreaming, and Alok finds her a few. We sit and wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. But no one comes. Until heavy footsteps and crackling branches break the night’s stillness.

A huge, two-headed creature with hooks for hands bursts through the brush. One head is cursing and screaming, the other simply roars at it attacks. We don’t have to be good hosts to this thing, right Alok? Right! It’s another monster made by the gods. This things is brutal, and it takes all we can throw at it to bring it down without losing our lives. Klyce blames himself for his negative thoughts, and turns into a gigantic snake for the rest of the night. Exhausted from waiting and from battle, we decide to sleep, but take watches in case a guest arrives.

After a long rest, while we are eating breakfast, flute music approaches. Into camp rides a hedgehog of a man, on a large jaunty rooster. He introduces himself as Hans the Hedgehog, and finds us all very strange and large. We ask for his help and explain our situation. He says he knows where the wedding is, and asks if we were invited. No, we just have to go anyway. He says this is good, because those that were invited cannot leave until it is over. And since the King began it and then died, the wedding has not ended still. The queen and her 137 daughters, and the entire wedding party are still all there. He says he’d like it if we could bring the King back, as he owes Hans a daughter for helping him once in the forest. But can he help us, too?

He says he can get us there, but we will all owe him favors. One favor each, should we see him again afterwards. Alok ponders leaving, now that we have a new guide, but Hans goads him into staying to see the end of the story. The pact is sealed, and he leads us out of the forest onto a dank, foggy fen. Where his rooster leaps nibly from grassy knoll to grassy knoll. There is no animal life here, except for us. The grasses are even mostly dead. I do not like it one bit.

Hans keeps up a stream of conversation to keep us distracted and focused, but Klyce remains a giant snake the whole day. We quickly arrive at the Harvest grounds, and start to see the wedding reception still in progress. There is soft music and servants wander with rotten food on trays they cannot put down. Alok warns us not to accept an invitation to dance. I ask everyone in the group to surround me, and cover my ears and squint my eyes as tightly as I can. Hans looks at me strangely, and I explain to him my deal with the Hag of the Woods, all that time ago. I promised to always accept hospitality, so, here, I must not allow them to offer me anything. I beg to go around, but he says the Tomb of the King is right behind the Queen at her table at the feast. We must go through.

We make it through, not stealthy at first, but able to deny those who ask us to dance. We sneak more carefully after that, and manage to make it to the Queen without further trouble. The Queen sits alone, deep in grief, at the head table of a long since rotten banquet. The tables are lit with torches, row upon row encircle the high table at the far end, like a theatre. Behind her is a cave entrance, not twenty feet away. Nat and Dalish have a quiet and quick argument about approaching her or avoiding her. Hans wishes us luck and wanders a bit away to watch, his part in the deal completed. Dalish wins the argument, and we try to sneak to the cave.

Unfortunately, she sees us before we even get close. Who goes there? Who disturbs my grief? Nat had wanted to talk in the first place, so we push her forward to speak for us. Terribly sorry, great lady. We did not mean to disturb you. We are travelers out of place. Who are you? What are your names? Nat introduces herself, and then the rest of us. Why does that sound like equal parts Truth and Lies? There is a taint on us. The cause of your grief. The gods of the other world have touched our lives. Perhaps you sense that? Come closer.

We all head closer to the Queen. She recognizes us then, or the gods within us, probably, and asks again why we have come. Nat explains that we are from the other world, and we were told by the prophet that the way bad might be here, in the resting place of her dead husband. We wish only to find it and leave, to not bother her world any longer. What are you hiding? What possible connection could there be?

Nat offers her details, knowing it will be bad, no matter how she spins it. Telling her that one of her husband’s eyes was in our world, and being used for terrible purposes by other men. We defeated them and him, but then another of our friends somehow uses some of that power to craft an eye for himself. And we think this connection might take us home. You want to defile the grave of my husband to find your way home? Not defile, but yes, it might be our way home.

You come here! Representatives or chosen or whatever, connected to the people who murdered the king! To gain access to his resting place? You have robbed me of my daughters, too! No! I forbid it! As a mercy, from a grieving queen, I will allow you to leave and never return!

Dalish bows and immediately backs a way. Nat gives an As you wish, and turns to go. I pause before going, telling her that we had hoped to bring her son back to her, and would that maybe be worth it. She concedes, that should we do that, she might consider allowing us access. Then I retreat with the rest of the group.

Some distance away, we discuss. The mana machines! Did we steal her daughters and murder them in the machines??? Or were they many of the other things we killed in the city? Is Aranea one? We have to figure out what happened to the Prince, and how we might get him back for her, for everyone. Should we ask the gods what they did? Klyce reverts to human, and Alok calms his emotions to keep him summoning more monsters. The bookish folk look at Banishment, to see if they could reverse it somehow. I sit down and focus on the Green Witch and her love for the Clever Prince. Klyce suggests we chill out and tap into the world around us. Maybe a drum circle?

Alok agrees with the use of music in this place as a good way to connect. He gets us all to circle up, and uses calm emotions on the entire party to try to mellow us out and help us get in touch with the fae world. Nat decides to take it a step further and, using the herbs Alok had gathered, makes us all tea. We pass around cups and settle in to take a trip together with Nat guiding the dreaming.

It is all very confusing to me, time and space, and then great big nothingness with light at one point. The whiteness is the unknowable beyond, she tells us. It is beyond our order-wrapped world. We are in the in-between. We have to find the Prince and set him free. Focusing on that desire, we find a Door. Nat says it’s the Door to Oblivion from her dreams. There were terrible portents in that dream, but it is unclear what they mean. Things might explode if we open it, or he might just be an angry Prince. But this is what we came here for. This crudely painted door with the Prince beyond.

I settle down next to it with Nat. There are countless runes worked into the painted surface. Nat knocks, but nothing happens. I focus in on the door and there is a flicker and then a brilliant light. The Dawnmother commands me: DO NOT OPEN THAT DOOR! But she is afraid, almost pleading. I feel no compulsion in that command. I reach for the doorknob, and I can feel it. Not flat like the painting should be. I’m sorry, Dawnmother, but we must fix the damage you have caused here. I twist the knob and open the dor. It disappears in a crack of thunder.

Nat says something bad has happened with that action. We keep focusing on the Prince. Even calling for him, but nothing. The door is gone. Someone suggests that it must be back in reality now. Quite probably in our own world. We have forced the door to exist, but when they banished him behind the door, they must have also then banished the door. We have to get home and find it. I have been staring at the empty space in shock for a few moments, but the word home snaps me back to the discussion.

Home. Can we get home from here? From in between? Without going back to the queen? We rise up from where the door had been and we focus on going home. Nat stops us. We could do it, but in a dimished capacity. We have to go back and get our bodies and our full power. We turn back towards the fae, and the going back is a lot harder, but we manage it. Barely.

We clean up, and explain to Alok what has happened. Klyce has another strange ramble, this time worrying that if we find him, I’ll fall for the Prince, and then my other promise to the Hag will have him gone all over again. Oh man, Klyce, I’m pretty sure it was Oliver I gave to the Hag, but we’ll just have to risk it. I’m not going to fight the real Green Witch over the Prince. I’m only 15.

Alok asks us to swear we will try to undo the crimes of our gods, and bring back King Balor, the Clever Prince, and Time to the realm of the Fae. We agree to the Prince and Time. He goes to speak to the Queen on our behalf, turning blue as he does so. He gets her to agree, and we head back to see her. This one has said many words, I wish to hear them from you. We swear to her to try to open the door and attempt to repair time. As it is Sworn, So shall it Be. There is a tightness with these words, but then it passes.

We have to get the Prince back before we can fix time. Alok also asks us to find the daughters if we can. She then insists he go with us, to ensure we keep our word. Nat asks about her daughters, but she says we will know them when we see them. She then rises to leave, and we see that she has a gigantic bulbous body and eight legs. She heads away and we head into the tomb.

Nat reminds us to be ready for the fight. We apologize to Alok and tell him our world is awful. We have to help him disguise himself, maybe Remy can share his hat. We head down the cave to a set of double doors with a huge cycopian lion.

Who seeks to enter? Natty says the Queen sent us down. We must answer questions three.

What loses its head in the morning and gets it back at night?

A Pillow!

Yes!

The beginning of eternity and end of time…. he goes on for a while with this one, but it’s

The letter E!

Yes!

The more of these you take, the more you leave behind. What are they?

Shits? No! And lasers strike Gerhardt.

Moments? No! And Marybeth gets hit.

Breaths? No! More lasers.

Lives? No! Lasers.

Steps? Yes!

The door opens. We head in and down the stairs. A huge funerial chamber. The dias is 20 feet tall. The King does not look decayed, but there is golden ichor flowing from his wounds. His armor is rent and he holds a broken spear. His eyes is gone and his face is smashed. Do we need to go through the eye or just use his blood. His blood is certainly filled with power. We could use it to transfer, to connect. Drink his blood? Alok suggest this might be best. I remember the power, and how good it felt. I’m a little scared to feel it again, but I really want to. I get my phail from Marybeth so I can save some after we go through. We take one more look around, and notice he’s still breathing. Right, time to go!

His blood tastes awful!!! I give Marybeth my spare phial back, I do Not want more of that! We think really hard about going home as we circle up and hold hands. There is the feeling of movement. Then cold, strangeness, flickering dark of the cavern.

We made it! We’re alive and back in our bodies! The nightwalker looms above us and Nat’s aunt is cackling in glee. Remy stands up and shoots the monster. Klyce stands up and slices it in half! Shadows fly everywhere from its broken form. Natty and her Aunt pick up their internal fight and we all rush over to support her however we can. She crushes the spirit and gets some of her memories.

Okay, good. Now what about the ritual? We need to cleanse Old Town, but do we want to give Great Grandpa back his power? Wait, Remy? How are you alive? Where’s Alok? He says it’s complicated, but he and Alok are now sharing his mind. The conversation then devolves into what to do with the ritual.

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