Season 3, Episode 2, Session 28
When Ghanna the Ranger and Sugar the Bard first visited his world from beyond the Sealing Veil, King Edgar called them the Returners. Along with Lur the Barbarian and a mix of other personalities, they traveled across mountains, over ocean, into the underworld, and through time.
- Ghanna the Ranger pledged her fealty to the Holy Cross of Saint Crucian, and vowed to destroy the Mother of Fiends.
- Sugar the Bard transformed into the Heartless Troubadour and the Herald of the Mother of Fiends, before delving into the Roots of the World and reclaiming his heart.
- After adopting an orphaned child, Lur the Barbarian was revealed as the missing Tsarevna of Kobolstadt, Iluriayne, the daughter of the Cthonic Empress.
- And now they are joined by the Paladin Malcolm Chaser, an Inquisitor Praetor of the Western Magisterium.
Ghanna has just followed the shade of Fayrin through the Black Gate. Immediately, Death’s fortress is shaken with a colossal boom, and gates open in all the columns of the arcade in Alberich’s great hall. Shades swarm through from all directions, some of them seemingly dead for a hundred years or more.
Ghanna spots her grandfather, the Bishop Sharyar of Deltoss, in the throng. Having been killed as a general of an early clash between the Western Magisterium and the Sultan’s forces, he is carrying his head under his arm, and they make eye contact.
Ghanna asks Alberich which way to the Lizard King, and he points through one of the gates while distracted. Ghanna’s grandfather gives him his rosary as a token of remembrance.
Ghanna passes through the gate.
Castle Figaryo, in Adûnibad
In the aftermath of the collision, the city has lost nearly half its population. Lur and Sugar were pulled out of the rubble of the Asterdial and taken to Castle Figaryo to recover.
Three weeks later, the High Council of Adûnibad convenes a special meeting at Castle Figaryo. They are none too pleased to have a castle in their midst, and a king claiming dominion in their jurisdiction, but the massive death toll and other problems have forced them to call a truce and work together. The chairman calls the meeting to order on behalf of the Grand Ajimaar, and announces that the council recognizes King Edgar as an honorary member.
King Edgar introduces Sugar, Lur, and Sinon as “world travelers” saying Sugar was once toasted as one of “the Returners”. He asks for their assessment of the current crisis.
Sinon Crimmthain is covered with burns. He shows a dead sparrow, and tells the council that it came from his ally Wei in the northern mountains of Dain. Before it died, the sparrow brought a message: “We have the mountain witch, and we will meet you at the monastery on the plateau. Come if you want to see her alive.” Sinon requests provisions for a journey North, and the appointment of guards to take him to the rendezvous.
The council denounces the frivolous waste of resources on such a foolish journey, but King Edgar says he will open his treasury to Sinon to provision the journey. He says if none of his other friends will escort Sinon, he will go himself.
The chairman insults Sugar, and Sugar breaks out into song about the elfin homeland of Forostadt. Through the power of the song, he sees the homeland now, razed and abandoned, and yet showing signs of new life. The song is so vivid, that Sugar produces a bloom from one of the trees there. The council is amazed.
Sugar asks the council to lay aside their squabbles and unite. With the reunion of the divided worlds, they will be facing new dangers, and they ought to face them with solidarity and resolve.
There is a rumble outside, and a tremor shakes the room. Sugar presses on, pledging to take Sinon to his destination, and imploring the meeting to lend their support in overthrowing the witch. They yield, offering whatever assistance they can after Sugar delivers them from whatever threat is stirring outside.
Another rumble outside startles the council. They begin panicking and fleeing from the room, only to enter again through a twist in space.
Lur rises and sees the hornéd fiend Dra’athos emerge from the rubble of the Asterdial. She leaps out of the window, touching down in the sandy courtyard two stories below.
Sugar uses Herr Votzar’s harpsichord and his own charm to calm the panicked council members, and they take refuge under the large table.
She rushes into the armory, grabbing a shield. As she surveys the arms, she hears the dragon’s wings beat, kicking up a thick cloud of dust. She wraps her face in a wet cloth, and goes outside. Dra’athos has lauched himself to a towering height, and Lur dashes to the highest tower.
Sugar shouts to the Fiend with a vocal blast, and the dragon turns to face him in the air. The shockwave of Sugar’s shout shatters the weakened foundation of the tower Lur is in, and she surfs the rubble to the earth.
Sugar calls the Fiend to him with another blasting shout. The Fiend reckognizes Sugar and dives toward the window. Another bawl from Sugar sends the dragon hurling back, and it lands in the courtyard.
Lur takes this as her cue to run up the Fiend’s back and lash herself to its horns with a rope. Sugar engages the monster in a frank conversation about their contrasting wants and needs. Through this exercise they learn that the monster doesn’t want to help them destroy the witch.
“Enough talk”, Dra’athos says. “Have at you!” With that, he sends a torrent of hellfire into the council meeting. We don’t think the harpsichord will hold up.
The Inquisitor Praetor Malcolm Chaser is surveying the extent of geographical upheaval after the planetary collision, scouting the borders beyond the Magisterium with a band of witch hunters under his command. Chaser reach the outskirts of Lauron on the extended veldt by night.
Ghanna steps out of the Black Gate in front of him, appearing from the darkness with black sand cascading off her form and disappearing into dark vapor. Startled, Chaser addresses her, and she greets him as an old friend.
They see the large house blazing in the yurt city below, and Ghanna tells Chaser she came here to see the man who lives in that house. Chaser dismounts and dedicates himself to learning the truth of this person.
Chaser invites Ghanna onto his mount, and they ride down to investigate. As the make their way into the city, they see hundreds of people, nomadic yurt-dwellers of the Steppenkazi horde, frantically gathering water in any vessel that can hold it from the river and forming a chain to pass water uphill toward the blaze. But as they get closer, the dense crowd of people stops passing water, as they look on in terror at the scene in front of the burning mansion.
Chaser and Ghanna see a small band of horned figures in silhouette in front of the house. Laying prone before them is the Lizard King, and over him a hooded figure hunches. She rises, lifting a small mass in her left hand, and speaks: “You all serve me now. Your master’s heart is mine!”
Chaser spurs his horse to charge through the dense crowd of people, inviting Ghanna to knock an arrow. The witch commands the horde to protect her. The Steppenkhazim ignore their survival instincts and press in on the horse, trying to tear down the riders.
Ghanna uses her stopwatch to freeze the scene, leaping off the horseback and vaulting off the shoulders of a native in order to reach the clearing. She slashes through the witch’s forearm with her shortsword, and takes the heart-clutching hand, just as the flow of time resumes.
The witch shrieks out a blasphemous curse, freezing Ghanna’s blood in her veins. Still gripping the witch’s forearm, Ghanna staggers right into the horde of people. Then Matka inhales and swallows Ghanna alive.
Chaser begins chopping through the mass of people tearing at him, while he readies his horn. They unhorse him and he loses his sword in the fray, but he winds the horn before being tramples. Another horn sounds from the hillside, and Chaser’s band descends into the city on horseback.
Ghanna attempts to pivot her shortsword to cut herself free, but she can’t get any leverage while squirming in the witch’s tight mass of guts and slime, and she can barely breathe.
Chaser comes face to face with some of the Steppenkhazi warriors—the royal guard—still under the witch’s sway, and they exchange blows. Chaser is wounded. (How?)
Horses sweep into the crowd, and the crowd begins to panic. Sgt. Thomas Begenhof stops near Chaser, offering his steed to his captain. They drive out of the crowd before Chaser asks for Begenhof’s sword, and commands him to find a sniper perch and fill the witch with arrows. Begenhof springs into action.
Ghanna begins losing consciousness inside the engorged witch, but she hears Matka’s voice say, “Into the blaze, my children!” Suddenly, the organs boil around Ghanna, and she is scalded by the roasting heat.
The spell loses its hold on the Steppenkhazim, and they begin to gather around their fallen king. Chaser gives orders to his men: watch over the steppefolk, and to don’t let them leave until we interrogate them. Seeing the hoofprints leading into the blaze, he quickly makes supplication for Crucian’s guidance to rescue Ghanna.
Chaser enters the burning house, his faith inuring him to the flames. Unable to find any sign of the goatkin or their mistress, he pauses to examine the burning structure as timbers collapse around him. One of them falls on him in a stunning blow. Chaser is knocked out, but unharmed.
Chaser’s men pull him out of the blaze just before the house caves in.