Rise of the Dark Mother

An Audience with Vorkhesis

The stakes are made clear...and raised immensely.

Like snow before a strong wind, the scene before the party scattered into mist, and they found themselves staring into the vast grey wastes. Alternately desolate, rocky flats and barren savannah stretched out endlessly in all directions.

Krav began looking around for any possible cover. “Damn, what is going on? Are we in the Shadowfell or the Dream World?”

Rabadash closed his eyes and focused for a long moment, then opened them again. “No feast? Not in the Dream World, then, I think. Pity…I worked up an appetite back there.”

Looking around, Arannis gathered in the arcane energies around them, and recognized this place as the Shadowfell. “Wait a minute, I thought we were just in the Dream World…how did this happen?”

Gathering in their surroundings and appearance, the group realized that their ‘idealized’ self-images were no longer manifest, nor could they determine whether they were living or ghosts. As the group looked around, continuing to take stock of their situation, vivid memories flashed in each of their minds—memories of the feverish, painful grip of the Plague. ‘Ghost’ became the increasingly likely answer to the question of what they were; it would be somehow less surprising to be dead than alive.

Comprehension dawning, Krav hefted his halberd. “So we met the Queen in the Dream World… Let’s try not to meet her too soon here…” He considered for a moment, and his characteristic outrage at the capricious nature of deities flashed in his eyes. “Wait…if we’re dead… where is everyone else? Is this really what happens when we die..? I had always been taught that when someone died, they got to meet their god. This can’t be the end. I mean, where is my judgment? Where is the Great Hoard? Where is Loriana?”

Rabadash sounded just as disappointed, even if his words were more careful. “It’s…not exactly what I expected.” He tried to pick up a rock on the ground nearby, and found the stone smooth and chilly in his hand. “Well, we have some physicality left, anyway.”

Krav moved from crouching next to the rock to standing atop it. “I’d like to tell you ‘I can see our bodies from here!’ I can’t.”

Rabadash chucked the stone in his hand at Arannis, but missed, the stone landing a good 3 feet away and sending smaller pebbles scattering with a crash.
“What did you see up there?” he asked Krav, who jumped down off the rock where he had been standing. “Anyplace more interesting than here?”

Krav shook his head. “It’s too flat, and I didn’t see anything new on the horizon.”

Collecting himself, Rabadash prompted, “I don’t think we’re going to find answers here. Let’s pick a direction and head in it until we find something.”

It was at that precise moment that both Arannis and Krav…became lesser. The outlines of their forms wavered, and some color and quite a bit more hope drained from the two of them, possibly forever.

“Whoa…” gasped Arannis, staggering. “I feel…lightheaded.” Krav gripped his halberd in pained silence. Once the moment had passed, the Eladrin tried to get a better grip on the situation. “Okay we went to the Dream World, saw Melora die and give her powers to the Raven Queen—”

Rabadash interjected: “Perhaps someone was dreaming that. Well, in any case, it wasn’t so much that she gave her powers to the Raven Queen, as that she hoped to gain power through dying, which is the Queen’s domain…that’s how I saw it, anyway.”

“So then, as I was asking before,” interrupted Krav, “who was dreaming that we had to wake up to escape that?”

The Tiefling simply stared at the Dragonborn as if in disbelief that Krav hadn’t connected the dots. “It was the Raven Queen’s.”

At a loss for what to do with the information he had just heard, Krav instead looked to the sky for any celestial bodies, an attempt to find a cardinal direction. Rabadash continued his musing.

“It bothers me that she’s had that dream twice now.”

Arannis, who had not been a part of the first excursion into the dream world, asked “Was there a different God/Godess in her first one?” As the only ones there who could have answered his question were lost in thought, silence was the only reply he received.

After further consideration, Krav did what he was best at—he chose a direction and started moving. Glaive pointed at the horizon, he called his mates to him.

“Let’s head this way and call it West. No point staying here for eternity. I want a way back. I’m not going to be remembered as a failure. We can keep talking while we move.” The group nodded their assent.

Just as they took their first steps, they heard the thunder of hoofbeats and felt the ground rumble beneath them. Before they could act, a carriage, wrought of substance of blackest night, pulled by nightmares with hooves of flame, pulled to a stop beside them. A figure, whose face was completely shrouded by his hood, beckoned them to come near. In a voice deeper than the firmament, he called to them. “His Eminence, Vorkhesis, requests your presence.”
The door to the carriage soundlessly swung open. No one was foolish or unobservant enough to miss the significance of the driver’s carefully chosen words—“requests” rather than “commands”. Vorkhesis certainly had the power to command, especially the dead, especially here.

Rabadash did not hesitate. “I accept.” He climbed into the carriage. Krav quickly followed. “Give me a window seat,” he growled. The rest of the group followed their leader.

Once the group was inside the carriage, which was far larger than its exterior would suggest, and which was luxuriously appointed, if rather gothic in style, the door soundlessly swung shut, and all the noise of the outside world fell away. The passengers gaped in awe, and rode on in silence for a while. Krav finally spoke. “So Rabadash…If the Raven Queen is having this dream, like you think, then why are we being pulled into it? What are we to her? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Rabadash screwed his eyes shut and rubbed his temples. It was the same question he had been asking himself, and had only found one answer to—and no one was going to like it. “Probably because we’re fated to be.”

Arannis, who as an Eladrin had always venerated Corellon, brought up a religious angle. “Maybe she is trying to convert us?”

“Through a dream?” Krav shot back. “How often do you ask for fealty from people in your dreams, Arannis?” The Eladrin shrugged in a blase, fey kind of way. “I don’t know. Just a thought.”


Krav continued, on a less-than-charitable train of thought. “Maybe gloating, though… She’s killed Melora, or got her on a butcher’s hook in her dungeon somewhere anyway.”

“The most disturbing part, though,” thought Rabadash aloud, “is that we weren’t helpless in the dream.” The others stared at him, not comprehending why that was disturbing rather than a bonus. He continued. “It sounds good, until you realize the possibility that someone else could be affecting the dream, too.”

Arannis turned to the idea that this was being inflicted on her: “The Raven Queen certainly has her share of enemies, even before this whole war started. Historically, there are a few people have had a bone to pick with her. There’s ongoing strife between her cult and the cult of Orcus, more than anything else. Perhaps—”

“So, even if we accept that the Raven Queen has drawn us into her dreams, what does it mean? I’ve never read anything about this kind of event before.” Krav was normally keen to wax historic, but found himself far more concerned with the future than the past for once.

The party hadn’t been aware of moving, but, lost in conversation, they were surprised when the door glided open again. A forbidding palace loomed ahead. On stepping out, another robed and hooded figure, this one more female in shape than the driver, greeted them in a voice tinged with crystal, “His Eminence awaits.” She begins walking up the path to the palace doors. Krav was still stuck on his prior train of thought.
“…I mean, if she’s doing it to gloat, what’s there to gloat about? We’re….we were mortals, and even still subject to her already.”

Rabadash shook his head. “I don’t think she wants people in her dreams. It might just be happnening.” He led the party in following the guide up the great staircase. Balthazar, comforting even in his silence, began to polish his holy symbol as he followed the group up the stairs. The Tiefling continued, “It’d be nice to find out if it’s a dream of something that has happened or has yet to happen. My bet is that it’s somewhere in between, considering the state of the world.”

Krav turned to their guide. “Escort, tell me. Do you know the nature of our summons?”
Addressing herself to the party generally, she said, “I trust your accommodations were comfortable.” It was not a question. Without waiting for a reply, she continued: “Few people are invited to an audience with His Eminence. Most have no choice. Therefore, I would advise you, if you would have advice, that if His Eminence requests, or commands, anything of you, not to refuse him. He has already been more gracious than you likely realize.” The figure stopped before a great door, and bowed her head to the porter. “Farewell.”

Breaking his silence, Balthazar addressed himself to the porter. “Very well, please, by all means lets parley with your master.”

Feeling the momentous, and frankly bizarre, nature of their audience at last, Krav shifted nervously. “Cousin Balthazar, remind me… Aren’t the dead supposed to be greeted by their god, or a messenger? This isn’t typical, right..? People don’t really meet Vorkhesis on a regular basis, right?” He appeared to be grasping for some sense that he was not as insane as their present situation seemed. Balthazar had no response, but Rabadash let out a nervous laugh. “I guess we do,” he said, glancing around.

The porter opened the door and lead them down a seemingly endless hallway of cold opulence that sometimes threatened to teeter into a rarefied despair. He then bowed to yet another hooded, robed servant, who opened the doors to a great throne room. From the great throne at the end of a magnificent hall, a familiar voice called to the adventurers.

“Ah, it is good that you have come. Please enter, and do not be afraid. I will not harm you. I have asked you here as guests.” Gesturing to seats around a great round table, Vorkhesis said, “Please, be seated.”

The band of warriors took seats of their choosing: Krav at Vorkhesis’ right hand, after setting his spectral belongings behind the chair; Kuorlai across from Vorkhesis; Arannis near the middle of the table, hands resting atop it as a respectful display of weaponry; Balthazar near Krav, and Rabadash sitting last, on Vorkhesis’ left.
Vorkhesis continued after they had been seated. “I confess, I did not expect your journeys to lead you here quite so soon…the strands of Fate seem to be more malleable, or perhaps more subject to reweaving than they once were. I regret that you have been unable to rescue your friend. Loriana is in a tragic situation, and is suffering unspeakable torment, likely as we sit here, so I will be as brief as an extraordinarily complex situation allows. I have asked you to come here because I require your assistance.”

Krav, clearly at the end of his patience (and possibly his sanity) responded in an angry and confused manner that bordered rudely on accusation. “Were I not seemingly at the complete mercy of the world right now, I would think you’ve not been honest with us, Vorkhesis.” The god stiffened his spine almost imperceptibly, affronted.

In an effort to defuse the situation, Kuorlai asked calmly, “Perhaps you could answer the question on most of our minds… Are we dead?”

“What do you require from us?” Arannis, fighting homesickness and the ghosts of his past, wanted to come straight to the point. The Son of the Raven Queen, however, was not going to let Krav’s insinuation go unanswered.

“Khor, your confusion is understandable, however, perhaps you forget where you are?” Inclining his head toward Kuorlai, he answered her next. “Yes, you are among the departed.”

The goliath pressed for absolute clarity. “Among, or of? I am merely trying to understand our unusual circumstances….”

A slight smile crossed Vorkhesis’ face and he responded with kindness, as aware of her careful politeness as he had been shamelessly blunt in response to Krav’s rudeness. “You are indeed dead, and in the domain and dominion of the Raven Queen.”

Arannis lept in to ask how it had come to pass that they were dead, but the god forestalled the Eladrin with a raised hand. “I will answer any of your questions that I may, but hear me speak first.” Krav leaned forward with a pointed brow and seething with unspoken anger to listen, and the party gave the god their complete attention.

Vorkhesis continued. “Allow me to explain, and to relate this to Loriana’s current plight. No doubt…you are aware of the current campaign being pursued in Kementari. You have witnessed firsthand the devastation and death brought by our people. However, you do not know why. Few, if any, in the mortal world do. Therefore, I trust you will be discreet with what I am about to tell you.”

Krav burst in, driven beyond endurance by more information that he could not understand. “What is Kementari? Who are ‘our’ people? You don’t mean you are a Shadar-kai, do you?”
“No, I am not of the Shadowborn mortal races.”
“And what is Kem-men-tar-rey?”
“Your home.”
Kuorlai interjected. “Our home, as in the mortal world?”
Rabadash, recognizing the word, its origins, and therefore a good deal about Vorkhesis himself, nodded. “Our world as a whole. Kementari is one of the first names for it.”

Krav snorted bitterly. “So the world’s dying, and your people are slicing its veins. Hmph. Why do you need our help? Aren’t we out of the way now?”

Vorkhesis sighed, tiring of the Dragonborn and what the god perceived as his arrogant obtuseness, but before he could remonstrate the warlord, Rabadash snapped at his companion.
“Shut up and let him finish, Krav.”

The god continued, in very measured tones, as if speaking to a small child. “I am not fond of repeating myself, so I will ask this one more time: do I have assurance of your discretion in this matter?”

Ungracious to the last, Krav relented. “Fine, you have it, Oracle.” The rest of the party nodded.

“The Raven Queen has lost her grip on reality, and by all appearances, has gone mad. She sleeps in Letherna, haunted by dreams from which she cannot awaken. She still has power—if anything, her power has exponentially increased. She commands her people by mental prowess and sorcery, in which Her Majesty had surpassing skill even when she was still wholly herself."

“How did she lose her grip?” Arannis asked, genuinely intrigued. Vorkhesis shrugged. “I do not know.”

Rabadash volunteered their information. “My Lord, we have seen her dreams.” Krav hissed at him to be quiet, and Vorkhesis raised an eyebrow, clearly surprised that the group would have any new information or insights to offer.

“How is this possible?”
“Before we arrived here, we were in the Plane of Dreams, and we saw the Raven Queen making somekind of agreement with Melora,” Rabadash explained. Stunned into silence, Vorkhesis leaned back in his throne.
“Rabadash!” Krav hissed again. “We don’t know what we saw.”
Vorkhesis shook his head, ignoring the Dragonborn. “Significant as it may be, ultimately I have no time to consider it now. Time is the one thing that no one in this affair has.” He sighed again. “My loyalty and my oath are to my Queen. Therefore, I must do what I can to protect Her when she cannot see the threats before her. Here is how this relates to the fate of Loriana. Your group’s heavy involvement in this war was fated from the beginning of Fate itself. You all have seen more pieces of the puzzle, so to speak, than anyone else—mortal or otherwise. It is precisely this knowledge that is causing Loriana such suffering, and could have cataclysmic consequences for the entire universe.”

Speaking under the god’s soliloquy, Rabadash dismissed Krav’s objections. “Of all people, he deserves to know, Krav.”
“Why?”
“Later.” The warlock whispered to the warlord, wanting to give Vorkhesis his full attention.
“What later? Even Vorkhesis says we have no time! I fade away even now!”
“Then perhaps instead of arguing what to tell him or not, we could hear the rest of what he has to tell us?” Kuorlai interjected. Krav could be something other than rational once his temper had ignited.

Vorkhesis continued, unaware of or ignoring their whispered conversation. “Loriana’s torture is terrible, and I am moved to pity for her in her anguish, but there is more to it than that.”

Arannis was clearly falling behind the conversation, lost in self-centered despair. “What shall become of me?! I have no body to return to!”

Ignoring the Eladrin and struggling to find a sense of calm, Krav asked Vorkhesis plainly: “We’re all dead men. How can we possibly help you? How could we even help our friend?”

Vorkhesis turned to Krav, finally ready to get to the heart of the matter. “You are correct when you guess that there is more to this than I at first revealed to you. It was knowledge that would have burdened you immeasurably. Now, I see, I have no choice. It is not only possible, but practically guaranteed, that, under the duress she will face, Loriana will speak of what she knows and has seen. What do you think the consequences would be if the King that Crawls were to have intimate knowledge of what was happening?”
That name got EVERYONE’S attention—even Arannis’. “You don’t think he…he might be able to free himself?”

Vorkhesis built his case. “If he knows, how long will it take before the One-Handed One or the Queen’s bitterest foe were to learn of it? It is already known to me, and now I do not doubt that it is known to all of you as well, that other Gods prepare for war upon the Queen.”
“And the world will be in the middle of it,” concluded the Eladrin dolefully.
“Not just ours.” Rabadash was in wide-eyed horror at the possibilities such a conflict could bring.
“Indeed, Eladrin, the world would be undone by it.” Vorkhesis agreed.
“Is there anyway we can prevent the war?” Arannis wondered.
Vorkhesis explained, “That is what I am trying to do…or at least to forestall it as long as one might put off Fate.”

Kuorlai tried to establish the framework on which any plan might be built. “Based on your previous statement regarding your loyalties, you obviously don’t want the Raven Queen pulled down…. What alternatives are there to resolve the problem of her…. being lost…. so to speak?”

“The Dawn War repeats…” Krav said miserably. Rabadash shook his head in disgust and sorrow.

Vorkhesis relaxed, as much as gods of his stature do, which is to say that his chin dipped forward. “This is precisely why I wanted your assistance.”

A flash of cognition struck the warlord like a thunderbolt. “Rabadash, the other dream!” The warlock nodded.
Vorkhesis stopped mid-thought. “There are several important—what other dream?” The god sat forward with intense interest.
“The Council,” Krav explained.
“I’m listening.”
Rabadash explained. “Together, we dreamt of the gods deciding to do something about the Raven Queen.”
“They didn’t all agree about it, either,” observed Krav. Vorkhesis was so far forward in his chair, he might have been levitating. Rabadash nodded. “No. Corellon and Sehanine left early…oh yes. Fate has entwined us tightly in this.”

Krav and Kuorlai both resisted the suggestion. The warden objected, “What can a small group of mortals…. dead mortals….. possibly do to affect something so beyond our scope?” Krav continued that line of reasoning. “Even if we could do anything, Oracle, this would not be a two-sided war. What it all comes back to is that we are dead, and generally beyond the reach of my Sergeant and the world we could even try to defend.”
“Actually, Krav, I am in a much better position to help you now that you ARE dead.”
“Like pawns on a chess board.” That was Arannis, forgetting himself and where he was.
The god pressed for more information. “Tell me who was aligned in which way at the Council you saw. I will have much better ability to move the situation as best benefits us if I know who is arrayed against the Queen. I believe I can return you to some mortal form once I know how best to use the help you might offer me.”

The Eladrin continued to bemoan his status. “I don’t have any mortal body to return to.”

The rest of the company ignored him. Krav began a list. “Bahamut was present. Moradin, too. And neither of them liked the idea of the Queen keeping her seat a 2nd time.”
“Ioun lead the meeting, since she was hostess…” Rabadash offered, guilt coloring his tone. “Corellon and Sehanine didn’t seem to care—”

“Did she cast her lot with those for or against the Queen?” Vorkhesis demanded.
Rabadash was taken aback. “W-were there any for?”
“I seem to recall Melora and Kord were there too,” offered Arannis.

Vorkhesis’ demeanor was beginning to crack, and he showed the slightest hint of impatience. “You mean to say they are ALL allied against the Raven Queen??”

Krav mused, “…well that finally explains why Melora was so riled up. She’d lost a bet with the Raven Queen. But Kord wasn’t keen on putting an end to her.”
“Nor Avandra.” Rabadash suddenly remembered. “They spoke as if the Dragon Queen and the Spider Queen were allied with her.”

Vorkhesis practically quivered at this, like a hound straining its lead: “Allied with WHOM?”
Rabadash looked taken aback. “With the Raven Queen, my lord. Her goal seems to be to extend Winter forever.” Vorkhesis actually snorted at this.

Krav continued, annoyed at Vorkhesis’ dismissal of their intelligence. “White dragons have been almost everywhere we have seen Shadar-kai, and then some.” Vorkhesis sobered considerably (no mean feat for someone as sober as the Prince of Letherna always is).

“Any alliance she might have made with them would be full proof of her madness,” the god said finally. Rabadash nodded. “That is exactly what the gods fear.”

Vorkhesis looked more grim than usual. “I can see now that this is far greater a task, and the Queen’s danger much closer at hand, than I had guessed.” Vorkhesis mulled over these thoughts, brooding on his great throne.

“So,” Krav redirected the conversation, “what Loriana knows is old news, then.”
Vorkhesis considered this. “…Not exactly, if I’m understanding you correctly. You have seen more than the gods have, in many cases, and their alliances can be fragile things. However, Loriana’s knowledge, obtained by torture, will make all but public, advertising to two-bit godling and insane wizard that there is unfathomable power for the taking. She will be beset from all sides…and potentially fighting an army of the gods is great enough a task without primordials and the Hells becoming involved. Knowledge of this kind sells, if the price is right, and simply flows freely, if pressure is properly applied. If it is true, and not simply foreshadowed, that these alliances will take place, who else might be trying to pull strings from beyond the reach of this plane? That, and, it is possible that what you have seen is a glimpse into the fated near future…it may still be possible to delay, forestall, or even…”

Several times, Krav looked very much as if he wanted to add something to the god’s musings, but would clam up just before opening his mouth, looking thoughtful.

“Which brings us back around to, what is it that you believe we can do to aid you in preventing, delaying or fixing this problem?” Kuorlai wanted to be on her way, but was too polite to say so.
“Do you still have a will to rescue Loriana?”
Krav answered right away. “Yes. Without hesitation. But to what end afterwards? Are we to swill around in death? Is the world of the dead even affected by this?”
Vorkhesis raised an eyebrow—clearly, Rabadash was not the only one frustrated by the warlord’s occasional obtuseness. He tried to reconstruct the question in a way that made the answer perfectly clear, even to the Dragonborn. “Is the world…of the dead…affected by a war…on its Goddess??”

“The goddess of death is going to be besieged…Would you really think someone like old One-Eye would keep the status quo?” Rabadash was concerned about what may have already been lost.

Kuorlai’s frustration was beginning to show. “Does the after matter, if the rescue of a valiant comrade is achieved and is not itself the act to set off the war?”
Krav’s departure from the dwarven monastery came to mind, and he answered her as best he could. “The after always matters. It’s why we fight now.”

Rabadash thought about it. “If Lori hasn’t broken yet, then that reduces some of the danger for us dead folk.”
Kuorlai shook her head. “What I mean is, if saving your Loriana aids in preventing this world-breaking chaos, is it not a worthy challenge even though we remain dead after? For her, and for the rest of the world?”

Vorkhesis smiled. “A woman with the heart of a mountain. They write songs about those. I used to know all of them, in all the tongues of the world…” Vorkhesis grew distant, as if recalling a pleasant memory.

Arannis, too, was called by the strains of distant song. “You guys have to try and save her.”
Krav sat bolt upright. “You’re not going?”
Rabadash objected. “Your body is in no worse shape than ours, in the grand scheme of things.”

Vorkhesis settled back into the present. “Your heart is with distant family, Eladrin?”
“Yes, I do long to see my real family again,” said Arannis, a note of homesick weariness in his voice.
Vorkhesis nodded. “They await you. Will you go to them?”
The Eladrin shed a single tear. “Please. That would mean the world to me. I always knew I would see them again in death…I am ready.”
“It is done.” A cold wind filled the chamber, and the shape of Arannis dissolved. Rabadash shivered, and Krav looked glum, slumping backward in his seat.

“Our chances grow ever thinner now.” The warlord was perilously close to whining.
Vorkhesis was untroubled. “He was not fated to go further with you.”
“You’re awful to polite to ask when you already know,” Krav practically spat, a half-hearted smile quickly fading from his face.
Vorkhesis was having none of this. “And had I simply returned him to his people, what would you have thought? Would you have found me polite, or even just?”
“Tyrannical,” Krav was forced to admit.
The god looked like someone who was about to get his way. “And this would have made you more or less willing to do what I ask?”
“Depends.” Krav was not ready to give up the fight. “Are you asking me to save someone I’d have died for, or are you asking me to save your Queen?”

Vorkhesis played his trump card. “I’m asking you whether you want a second chance to successfully accomplish what you ALREADY died for, assist me in the offing, and help keep your world intact. Is that succinct enough for you, Krav Khor?” The Dragonborn looked mutinous, but knew when he was outmanuvered.

“Where do we start?” Krav asked.
“You’ll need a way to the Underdark, which can be provided to you. You’ll need some idea of the torture den where she is being kept. You’ll need to rid yourself of whatever it is that ails you…it is unclear to me. It is not something I’ve seen before.” Vorkhesis looked Krav up and down, as if he were a smith fitting a suit of armor. “Death…tinged with life…how strange…”

Balthazar, who was nothing if not over-prepared, chimed in: “Planning for the Underdark? We need something that permits vision without torches…”
Vorkhesis nodded. “Easily done. Do you prefer a corporeal form?”
“Give me my body and I will strike down any King that Crawls across my path to Lorianna.”
The Prince of Letherna looked as though he might chuckle. “The Dragon rears its head once again…however, I would question the wisdom of walking into the Underdark looking like Krav Khor.”

“How would you have me look?” Krav asked, a mite testily.
Balthazar didn’t quite get what the god was suggesting. “If given a choice…a body of blood and bone and platinum would serve my Lord best.”
“The heart of the mountain beats best in a body from the earth,” said the goliath, waxing unexpectedly poetic.

Vorkhesis, though he may have harbored the heart of a poet in his breast, was entirely practical. “I would suggest looking like people who are SUPPOSED to be in the torture dens. Drow would probably be best…there are many of them that serve the King as well as Lolth.”

“Oh, hey, subtlety. There’s a new trick.” Rabadash’s foray into sarcasm was generally ignored, and he acquiesced, shifting back into a more serious tone. “I’m willing to accept all possible help to get this job done.”

Krav was in business mode, taking stock of what the group’s resources were. “So, bodies, disguises, the den’s location, a way out, and a way to end our plight. These are what we need just for starters.”
“The gods are best served by those who want their help least,” quoth Vorkhesis.

Kuorlai was ready for action. “So when do we set forth on this journey? Krav is ill in some way and Balthazar seems to be affected by it too…. We’re all a bit beaten about, I believe…. But time is limited.”

Krav started, remembering something. “Wait a second! How long have we been dead? It’s important!”

That was the last thing any of them said before the change, and the darkness, overtook them.

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