The wights search Rod and attack the triceratops. Murad spots a small creature entering the domed ceiling, which he believes it to be a wizard’s familiar. The triceratops begin to trample the wights killing them, causing the one holding the Token of Fira to drop it. Moratu tries to stun Murad with Power Word Stun but is unsuccessful. Eeva, the witch, begins to cast Summon Monster IX.
Murad moves to use Heal on Arah, who then burst heals, bringing Bertom back from the edge of death. Bertom then heals himself and begins to attack one of the skeletons. Moratu casts Horrid Wilting again but the party seems to only take minor damage from it.
Just then, three Elder Earth Elementals appear from the witch’s spell. She casts another Horrid Wilting. Arah casts Destruction on the witch. She screams in horror, as she crumbles to dust. With the witch dead, the sleep curses on Rod and Fatima break and they awaken.
Fatima awakens and blasts the familiar, as Rod gains his footing and heals himself with a potion. Moratu tries to Disintegrate Murad but fails to kill him. Moratu’s anger and frustration seems to grow. With the witch dead, the Elementals are not certain what to do – one attacks one of the wights and the other two decide to leave. Murad casts Sunbeam on the lich, causing him to shreak in pain.
Rod, upset that he is missing his rings, runs and jumps up on the back of the dragon. He attacks the lich, who is flying just above the dragon. Moratu, badly damaged, flies down toward the pit. Rod continues to pummel the dragon. Realizing that it is close to death, the great beast attempts to escape. It flies up toward the ceiling, and crashes through. It damages itself and causes stone to rain down onto the party below. Rod, uses the dragon’s body as a shield and dodges the damage. He is able to remain clinging to the dragon’s back.
Just above the pit, Moratu cries out: “You may have thwarted part of my plan, but I shall have my revenge!” With great speed, he flies down, head first, into the pit.
Fatima runs over to Bertom and says: “You look like a strong fighter” and casts Fly on him to go after the lich. Bertom flies down the hole after the lich. Arah hits the dragon with Cone of Cold. With a great blow from Rod’s flaming sword, the dragon is killed. The dragon falling, Rod gracefully jumps off its back before the monster crashes down into the pit.
Murad, Rod, and Arah have a tugging feeling pulling them to the small weapon that seems to have fallen off the lich before he dove down into the pit. At this point, Murad notices that his Token of Zuar is no longer functioning. But it seems to be pulling itself toward the small metal hammer lying on the floor, that Murad now picks up. Arah and Rod notice the same thing with their respective tokens.
As their owners meet, the three tokens pull away, joining the hammer, which Fatima knows to be the Token of Galus. In Murad’s hands, the four tokens merge into a single form – that of a softly glowing yellow-white orb.
Bertom keeps flying down the pitch-black pit, passing through areas of cold into extreme heat. At the bottom, the pit opens into a cavern. Below him is a massive field of lava. Searching for Moratu, Bertom sees a small dot heading toward the lava. He believes this to be Moratu. Then, the dot disappears into the lava. Suddenly, the lava heaves, sending forth massive bubbles of gas. A wave of magic washes over Bertom. He sees that the bubbles surround him and are rising up the pit.
Arah resurrects Quintin. They see the gas bubbles spewing from the pit. The group quickly grabs all of the unconscious or dead bodies of their allies and hides inside the wardrobe lab.
At this point, everyone, including the dead characters, has a vision.
A woman with a kind face looks down at you affectionately as she wraps the last piece of cheese that you were promised. You are comforted to recall that it is your mother. Rather suddenly, her expression changes to one of fear as you hear a knock at the door. She holds you tightly. A slight man with delicate, noble features – your father – stands near to you. With a look of regret, he answers the door.
Standing there is a tall man with a cropped beard. He looks at you with penetrating eyes. Your own eyes are drawn to a thin, silver ring on his left hand. It has an almost frightening darkness to it. The man turns his gaze to your father, who nods. Your father takes your hand and brings you to the man. As you hear the sobs of your mother, your father looks to her and says: “I am sorry, we cannot take him with us. It has been agreed upon long ago”. With that, the bearded man clasps your hands with both of his and leads you away.
As you are packing up the last of your meagre possessions, you hear the voice of your mother, returned. You heed her call and greet her at the door. She gives you a big hug. There is a tear in her eye. She wipes it away and tells you to gather all of your things – it’s time to go.
You remember now that you made something for your mother, so she will not forget you when you are away at the strange school. You take the small coin on its cord and show your mother. She is clearly touched. “I don’t need anything to remind me of you, my sweet. But I love you for it.” She kisses you lightly on the forehead and takes your gift.
You see something hanging loosely from her neck. It is a dark jewel, almost like a piece of metal, attached to a silver chain. There is something both strange and fascinating about it. But before you can ask your mother, she tugs on your arm – “Hurry! We must find the kind man again before the others find us.”
Your master kicks you to the ground. “No, like this!” He takes your knife, lying beside you, and shows you the slash that you had intended to make. It cuts a small red line in your thigh. Still towering above you, your instructor tosses the knife at your feet and walks away.
Trying to hide the tears, you scramble to your feet and run home. As you make for the door to the hut, your mother calls out to you, catching your arm. “Iolanthe, what is the matter?” You keep your head bowed so she won’t see the redness in your eyes. That is weakness to the orcs. She takes your chin and lifts it, her eyes probing, but strangely warm. She looks at the blood on your leg and gives a knowing smile. “I see that Uzgal has given you a lesson. He will not like that you ran from him. But he knows that half your blood is human.”
Your mother releases your arm and takes hold of your hands. Examining them, she says: ‘You will be strong. But you’ll need a lighter touch. Your father is a kind man, but perhaps you have been with him too long.’ She takes the small axe hanging from her belt. Palming it, she says: “Until you are more accustomed to our ways, I will teach you how to defend yourself.” Your eyes transfix to the fine metal sheen of the weapon, its near blackness. Your mother opens the door to the hut and you go inside.
In a strange way, the priest’s droning seems to dull the pain just a little. It almost seems that your mother was giving you a warm scolding, in the way that only she could, this very day. But, of course, that is far from the truth. You try to smother the same feeling of being punched in your belly that you felt when your father gave you the news. The family’s physician had told your mother that she was too old to bear another child. Your father had the man stripped of his title for saying it, but that didn’t save her.
Your father gives you a look – it is your turn to look at your mother, before the priests take her away to be buried. You approach the stone alter, nervously, not certain what you might see up close. You peer over the edge – she lies there, still. “Is she just asleep?” Her skin is so pale and her mouth is curled a little, like the knowing smile she might give to you and your brothers when you believed that you had gotten away with something. You stare at her, thinking of what to say, how to wish good-bye…
You feel a nudge from behind. Startled, you turn to see your brother, Vergo, pushing you softly. “Come on, your turn is up. Go back to father.” You turn your head away quickly – you might have tears in your eyes. He’ll never let you forget it if he saw you crying. Taking one last look at her, you see that she is wearing something that you didn’t see at first. Her wrist bears a bracelet, made of a shiny metal, like silver, but darker in colour. She has never worn this before –perhaps it was a last gift to her from father. Your bigger brother muscles you to the side and touches your mother’s hand. You consider pushing back, but decide against it, hurrying back to your place at your father’s side.
It seemed like an eternity for the ship to dock. Finally, you have your chance to explore. You heard that there was a canary with teeth on these islands and you want to be the first from all of Zinova to see it. Better still, your father promised you a cage to put the bird in after you catch it. But he is still in the town, waiting for mother to get back from her luncheon with the Governor’s wife.
After much exploring through the jungle, the sun has fallen below the trees all too soon. There are lots of sparrows and crows and even a parrot here, but no canaries. You’ll have to resume your search at daybreak tomorrow. Well, that’s if father lets you. You decide that you had better get back to town before dark, as you promised.
You open the door to your family’s lodgings and rush inside just as the last rays of the sun fade. Your mother is here. She sees you and gives a bright smile. She looks like to run to hug you, but stops herself. You see that she is speaking to a man, not your father, his back to you. The man turns around, smiling, but without the warmth in your mother’s smile. “Is this young Quintin, then?” Your mother, with a more grim look now, nods in agreement. The man’s face is a little old and mysterious, like he is from a distant land that even your family has never visited. He is stooped slightly, using a cane to keep himself upright. You see that the cane is not wooden, but made of an unusual metal, charcoal coloured, with an unsettling sheen. It has three prongs for his hand to rest. He shuffles past you toward the door. "Very good then. It has been settled. When you come of age, boy, you will learn what it is to serve.”
“It will take as long as it takes", your master says as you struggle with the tiny seedlings. You didn’t mean to complain, but it has been days and the new plants don’t seem to like all of the wind here. Perhaps your master has a plan, but he’s not telling you about it. He just seems to be pondering, as you do all of the work.
As if reading your thoughts, he says: “Once we help them, these plants will grow on their own. They will provide food for our people close to the village when the rains come.” Your master observes your work. “Very good. That is enough for today. Go home and meet me here before the sun rises on the morrow.”
You bow to your master and run home to beat the setting sun. On your way, you think about your lessons and whether or not your master will ever teach you his magic. Back at the village, you see your father speaking to an Ealduran man. The man is pointing to the sea, yet you cannot hear what they are saying. You must get home before your father sees you – he’ll wonder why you are late.
At home, your mother is preparing the meal. Your siblings dash about, partly helping and partly in play. Your mother sees you enter and bids you to get more wood for the cook fire. You turn to go back outside and nearly trip over your younger brother. Only three years old, he seems to be playing with a toy, a strange toy. It is made of a dark and shimmering wooden material, like metal, which you know to be forbidden. It has been shaped like a lizard, a dragon lizard. You’d like to look closer, but your mother gives you a stare. You go get the wood.
Then, a voice seems to emanate from the orb:
The lava bed has been disturbed. If you wish to stop the reaction between the earth and star magics from occurring, you must destroy the pit. By doing so, the explosion of the energy contained within the lava will be prevented. Instead, the magical earth energy will implode, consuming itself and all of the magic from across your world.
If you let the two magics come into contact with each other, the resulting explosion will cause much destruction. With either choice, there will be conflict and suffering.
Quintin estimates that a volcanic explosion, if allowed to occur, would kill close to 15000 people in the islands.
Murad, Rod, and Quintin are brought up to date by Gere. Quintin, with Io’s help, figures out that the strange lichen-like organism growing on the walls of the pit, is preventing the pit from being collapsed. Quintin realizes that the Greater Attenuate formula might be used to weaken the organism, but he has used up his only supply of the substance.
Quintin thinks, with a lot of luck, he can make the formula from his Attenuate vials and by using the alchemical glue that the other group found in Moratu’s laboratory. After some special effort, the formula appears to be successful. They smear it around the inside of the pit, in contact with the lichen-like organism. Then Quintin places several force bombs together with a fuse at the entrance to the pit. Murad casts Transport via Plants to use as an escape route. Each member of the group disappears, in order, into the patch of ferns. Bertom, the last to leave, looks back at the pit. He sees the wick on the force bomb extinguished, the spark igniting the gas of the volatile liquid inside. Before it explodes, Bertom vanishes…
The party re-appears, one at a time, in the garden of the House of Fenne in the city of Llantry. Those that use magic notice the the magical energy quickly drain from their bodies and the items that they possess. Their plan seems to have worked!
Murad feels the energy in the sphere and tries to tap into it, but is unable to. The sphere begins to float away. Murad prevents it from leaving his grasp. As this is happening, the image of an unknown being appears above from the orb. In a strong yet calming voice, it speaks to the group.
I am from another world, another plane of existence. I am light, I am darkness, I am order, and I am mayhem.
Nearly 12000 years ago, your world was in a dark corner of the universe. Her skies were filled with poisonous gases and the ground was frozen. The planet was lifeless, with few signs of the magic buried deep within her. She was a blank canvass, if you take my meaning. That is when I arrived.
I wanted to bring balance to the great chaos I observed and to see what could be made of this world. After I unleashed some of the earth magic trapped beneath her surface, the sky cleared. Life began to grow under the sun and stars at a rather accelerated rate. When humans and other races began to attain sentience, I decided that I would observe them from a closer perspective. I split myself into my four ‘elements’, shall we say. I scattered my essence across your world, taking residence in various items of value. Over the centuries, I imparted some of my power and knowledge to those who I encountered, including the one known to you as Adric the Protector. That is why the various religions of the world all give reverence to my four aspects – be they elements, spirits, or even moral views.
By this time, the magic of the earth was mostly unknown to the people. I decided to observe what your world’s inhabitants would do once they were able to access this power. I seeded certain areas on the surface of the planet with earth magic from below. This served to attract the star that fell to your world some 2000 years ago. One of the star’s fragments struck the dormant volcano on this island. The impact made the power of the earth magic more accessible to those on the surface. And the arcane power of the star fragments was now on this planet. A small number of individuals learned how to use this newly available energy. Some chose to use the magics for the good of the people, many for their own personal goals.
I came as an observer, but ultimately, I wish to see balance. Moratu’s plan would have unleashed great power, but would have caused much imbalance. Evil and chaos would have prevailed for a great time. That was the vision you saw in your dreams, Murad. If that had been what you had wished, I would have consented to it. I must admit, I am pleased that it was not. I did not err many years ago, when I chose you as the bearers of my power.
But your choice is not without consequences. Magic will no longer be a determinant of power – politics and technology will fulfill that role now. Of more pressing concern, the poisonous gas that has been released from the volcano is moving toward the other islands in this chain. Within days, many thousands will be dead. In the capitol city of Ealdur, the attackers have positioned hundreds of barrels of black powder around the palace and the academy grounds. Magic was protecting the people from this threat, but is no longer. Once the attackers learn this, they will ignite their weapon, killing countless innocents.
Then the image begins to glow a bright white light that engulfs the party. Each individual is imparted with great knowledge of the universe and all within it. The being continues.
It is time for me to leave this world. You now have the knowledge to take care of it and help its people. Before I leave, I will grant you one last boon – I will provide you with the means to prevent one of these calamities from occurring. You must decide which one and how. You cannot prevent both – some hardship must occur before healing can take place. Perhaps you prefer to achieve the balance in another way. If you choose, you may exact some revenge upon your enemies instead.
The party discusses their options and decides to save the people of the islands. Murad communicates their request to the entity. It replies: “It shall be done”.
The image fades until both it and the orb disappear. At that moment, Quintin runs for the door, telling the group that he is headed for the Academy of the Stars’ Children. Rod and Io follow close behind…