The first thing Frank notices when he awakens is…. He’s naked.
The second thing he notices is…. It’s really hot.
The third thing he notices is…. He’s suspended by manacles, hanging from a stone outcrop that seems to be oozing some sort of fluid.
A voice from off to one side says; “Mistress, this one stirs.”
Looking in the direction of the sound, Frank sees an immensely tall and fat abyssal Orc. It wields a barbed whip, Which it uses on Frank.
Another, familiar voice replies; “Ah, Gidrak. you find your way here at last.”
Frank is confused at this, as he thinks the voice must be talking to someone else. Squinting, he makes out the massive bloated form of Bagrob, reclining on cushions.
“Yes,You. Your ‘Human’ name is nothing: a falsehood given to hide you from your true destiny. But you were mine from the moment you were conceived. Gidrak, I name you!”
Seeing Frank is still confused, she prattles on;“There was a time, long ago, when the race of Orok were sorely beset. Their numbers dwindling and foes all around. They called on me for aid, and I, as goddess of fertility, gave them this boon; That they would become fecund, and grow to maturity faster . In exchange, every eleventh child would be stillborn – mine, to serve me as an army of unborn here.
Half Orcs were nothing to me; inferior and weak. Until one such called out to me in time of need. He asked me for aid in saving his family from Wyverns, and promised me the boldest of each generation of his line for champions in my Unborn. I was intrigued, and granted his prayer. Since then, until you, they never let me down."
At this, a grizzled Abyssal Orc champion walks into sight. There is something vaguely familiar about him, but Frank does not understand why. Until Bagrob greets the newcomer as ‘General Wyvernstooth’. Frank’s Unborn Uncle strides towards him, and spits on him.
Bagrob continues; "For his sin of denying me my due, your father has cursed your line. There will be no children born to your family.
Your only way to save the unborn son growing in your wife’s belly is to take your father to my temple, and sacrifice him to me by your own hand.
Do this, and I might even let you have my other toys back."
She gestures, and Frank’s eyes are drawn to a writhing fleshy pillar,which Frank senses somehow to contain the missing souls of his cousin and his new bride…..
The constant whipping finally causes Frank to pass out…
Frank awakens once more; this time to find he’s in a soft bed with silken sheets. More confused than ever, he looks around, to find that Marellian, Elden and Rayne are also within this sick room. An Elven nurse is busying herself around the patients. She seems glad to see that Frank is awake, but makes the mistake of telling him not to get out of bed just yet. He attempts to anyway, and manages to stand, although he is very weak. Soon, the others are also awake, and likewise try to get up. The nurse explains that they were all in a coma for a couple of weeks. Marellian looks around, and asks where his sister is. The nurse says that the four of them were all they found alive…
Marellian is distraught, and refuses to believe that his sister is dead. The nurse has no answers for him, but suggests that the queen will have more of the story. Marellian demands they go to see the queen right then; despite the nurse telling them they are all to weak, they manage to stagger out, Elden and Frank holding Marellian up betwwen them.
Outside the sick room, they find themselves in a familiar place; the Elven settlement they had travelled to. A large scorched area is alll that is left of the place where Loraella and the mad half elf called Feannar were standing when the Heartwood gem exploded. The nurse explains that the area was much worse, but Elven magic is repairing the damage to the plant-life.
Queen Fealinnar steps down from her throne to meet the party, and gives them her condolences for their loss. Marellian tells her that he doesn’t believe his sister is dead. She explains that they found the body of Fuddlemore, the Gnome about 30’ away from the blast, impaled on a tree limb, but that they did not find the bodies of her son or Marellian’s sister. Priests have also been unable to contact the spirits of the pair either. Marellian takes this as a sign that Loraella is not dead. The queen asks them to follow her outside, as there is something unexplained they need to see.
A tree in the courtyard is split in two, and in the middle of the tree is a statue of some kind. The Queen says that they have no idea how it got there, and it is not any statue they possessed. Marellian goes up to the statue and touches it: At his touch the statue speaks!
“Marellian. You are Marellian.”
Marellian replies that yes, that is his name. To which the speaking statue tells him; “You are our Brother.”
The party are shocked: what can this be? Is it truly Loraella?
It replies; “Call us Elana.”
However, the statue also calls Queen Fealinnar ‘Mother’, explaining that it contains the memories of both entities who perished with the destruction of the Heartwood Gem. It then says; “Memories tell us we should wear clothes.”
After the shocked party have given the creature suitable clothing, it follows them inside, where queen Fealinnar asks them the reason why they came to visit in the first place. The party explain about the buried shrine, and the creature who lurked there. They tell her about the strange insects that were able to poison humanoids and turn them into slave-like zombies. They tell her about their journey, with the Dwarves battling the Rock-Terror, and the Gnomes suffering the Clockwork Curse. And they ask her if she, or any of her advisors, can give them any information to help them in their quest.
Queen Fealinnor tells them a story about the four seasons; two gods and two goddesses. She then goes on to explain that there is only one person who would be able to tell them more, and tells them the tale of Zoastrian. She tells them that they possess something that would interest him enough to talk to them, and gestures at Elana…
Having found out all they can, the party is anxious to get back to Flint-Harrow. After all, they have been gone a while, and who knows what might have happened? Queen Fealinnor Is quick to suggest a way to get them home quicker: She explains that long ago a ship’s captain asked leave to navigate through waters the Elves claimed. In exchange, he gave a vow to come whenever the Elven ruler called: This vow still holds. The tales call sightings of this ship the Ghost barge. It being mid-winter;s night, They will be able to travel on the ghost barge for one night, and be at Flint-Harrow the following morning.
She warns the party that on no way should they leave the barge until morning, or they would find themselves lost in the mists of time…
After calling the barge, Queen Fealinnor turns to Frank, explaining that she has not truly thanked him for saving them from the Misty Malaise. She gives him a magic item: ‘The Horn of the Tempest’, saying that only one with great endurance can use it to it’s fullest potential.
(Elden mutters how come nobody ever gives him any magical swords….)
The party board the Ghost barge, and it sets sail….