As they were raised back to health, Kalista’s spells were spent, and they were all confused.
“It’s paradox, don’t you see,” Captain Villeroy said. “I’ve tried to press information from the librarian but he asks me three questions of which I can only answer one and then says that I wouldn’t understand.”
Villeroy repeated the questions and Felghanis opened his mouth to answer then the exceptions and contradictions came to mind. It was far more difficult than he first thought.
“I’ve heard it said that these are Chrono-loops. If you make them touch the past they can expend their energy to snap the loop shut. It is meant to be terribly destructive.”
They talked at length and it was decided that informing their past-selves was too dangerous. They had to hide. In a small sitting room they packed in and rested. Each of them was sore and weary. The healing was painful and it took time.
“It seems that I am in this loop, too.” Villeroy added. He stood up suddenly. “I think I have a scroll that can help,” he said excitedly and rushed upstairs.
He was gone for some time and the party talked about what they ought to do. What the books meant and what the motivations might be for the Scours and the Church to retrieve them all.
When Villeroy returned they had decided to play it safe. The Scours had defeated them handily and it was only luck that saved them. None of the party remembered what distracted the Scours from finishing each of them.
“This scroll has a spell called Body Outside of Body and with it I have a plan. Unfortunately the scroll is very expensive and I have to pay the guild back, so anything you can do to help would be appreciated.”
“We already did… oh wait. That hasn’t happened for you yet.”
“Did what? Pay me for the scroll.”
“You’ll see… if it works,” Felghanis answered.
Captain Villeroy Moragne gathered his things and just before they left cast the scroll. There he was standing next to himself. Without a word the copy went to the counter and nodded back to the original.
“Let us be off then.”
Traversing the Rift was not anywhere near as intense.
“Can I ask it questions?”
“What, the Rift Weave?”
“Yes. When we went through before I saw a vision of my Uncle scrying me. He seemed force to answer my question.”
“I… I don’t know. I’ve had visions in my experiments, although they were neve strong so I paid them no mind, but I never performed them when a storm was coming.”
Kalista seemed to have a grasp of that and she nodded.
The wind was the same as last time: biting, cold, horridly cold. They built a berm of snow and sheltered in a small depression a few hundred yards from where they exited the rift. Villeroy used a wand on all of them and Endure Elements removed the threat of deadly cold turning it into simply cool discomfort.
Five figures appeared out of the intensifying Rift Weave. They gathered around one of their number. Then they all saw the battle play out again. However, it was right in front of them. The temptation to try and change it was strong but they held their position. None of them knowing what might happen if one of these ‘Chronoloops’ snapped shut or willing to risk it.
The Scours were attacked by the watery form and they pursued it. Fiery rays, that seemed to emanate from above and behind Mellevictus, lanced through the elemental and blew it to steaming fragments. They gathered together then set off at a jog, hustling west.
Once the Scours were out of sight the party returned to Stonecrest. This time Villeroy asked for aid.
“I can move us to after you left the first time getting us past the loops and making it safe again,” he explained.
It was made so. Villeroy rushed of to rediscover his map to the Deep Earth Crystal mine and the party limped back towards the markets. Merchants and storekeepers were shutting up or outright leaving. The storm seemed to be having the city closing up.
“We need to rest.”
“How about the Wainwright Lodge?” Aenir pointed to a sign right near them.
It seemed as good as any. They entered and purchased rooms. Taking some ale and food they all rested, save Felghanis.
“I have to stop my Uncle,” he seemed on the edge of a rant. “I’m going to the library. Maybe Brannighan, or his parents, can help?”
“At least let Don’ rest.”
“I will stay with Don’,” Kellor volunteered. Yet the doughty dwarf was still burned and sore.
“This has to be safer than the Whaler’s Retreat,” Kalista agreed.
The market square was deserted. There were few people about, however strange, and of those few most seemed to be darting from cover to cover.
On the short walk to the library they noticed a narrow alley just past the markets. On one corner a pillar fashioned like a skeleton marked the entry. Down its narrow cobbled way signs and shingles bearing arcane symbols of necromancy hung in the increasing wind of the coming Rift Weave storm.
It took them quite some time to find Brannighan in the library. He smiled at them.
“Why do I get the feeling that those who refused my help seven times have come back to ask for it again?”
“What do you know of Davinus?” Felghanis asked.
“Davinus,” Brannighan mused. “I think that is the name of an old and faded Ascendant.”
“The Saint is the son and Davinus the father,” Kalista suggested. “Maybe the son seeks the throne of the father?”
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Felghanis answered. Then he expanded, “The Saint uses the winter to force prayers towards him. He has sent priests all over the island, even to our Felk Bay, and they are ready to help the people in winter. Spells for protection from the cold, for making food, and those who refuse to believe will perish.”
Kalista couldn’t process it at that moment. Too much corruption and evil in a body she’d long thought was good and benevolent.
“It is my Uncle, though that worries me. He claims that he will use the Bell of Thullemon to raise and army. Then with it seize the throne of Davinus.”
Brannighan was interested, “Really? He has the Bell?”
“No, but he knows where it is and so do I.”
“You must tell me at once and I will tell my mother. She will be most interested.”
Kalista, Felghanis and Aenir shared glances: a real angel? The powers and dominions were aligning. Maybe the conjunction Jonas spoke of with Kalista was real. None of them voiced it, though. Felghanis spoke more with Brannighan but the half-angel, half-archon, seemed distracted as if carrying on two conversations.
“Mother is waiting for us outside,” Brannighan said gesturing to the library doors.
With little more ado they left. Bright white light shone from the bottom of the stairs and in the gloom of sunset in the angry sky of the Rift Weave storm it was plainly pure and good and peaceful.
“My boy,” she said in a beautiful clear voice that rang with music.
Brannighan blushed and met her affectionate embrace.
“Oh it is so good to see you again. Are these your friends?” She turned her gaze on them.
Each felt the same in differing degrees. All that was good in them she weighed and saw. All that was angry, or traitorous, or flawed felt like it was plainly in her sight. They writhed in their emotions and could barely meet her eyes.
“Yes. She’s quite nice,” Brannighan indicated Kalista.
“Ah, Kalista, is it?” Brannighan’s mother greeted Kalista.
“And Felghanis?” The angel gestured to him. “Aenir?”
They all nodded in reply.
“The Bell of Thullemon, you know where it is, Felghanis?”
“I think so. In the base of the Iron Tower.”
“Then let us go. There is no time to waste.” She furled her wings and gestured for them to lead her in the right direction. “We will collect your other friends and then the Bell will be retrieved and destroyed.”
“Destroyed?” Felghanis almost baulked.
“Of course. You know why, don’t you?”
Felghanis dissembled and the angel was plainly unimpressed.
“No. It’s simple, Brannighan?”
“Nothing good comes of evil,” he responded.
Felghanis could only look at the ground as they walked.
“Mother you really ought to hide your wings. There are people here who would try and take them from you.”
“Oh, very well.” With that she quickly changed shape, in a heartbeat perhaps, she looked like a tall woman and suddenly she pulled a cloak about her. None of them saw where the garment came from.
At the Wainwright Lodge they met with Kellor and Don’, who was feeling a lot better.
“Oh my,” she said sadly. “You are wounded.”
With a touch all of the batterings and punctures that Kellor had withstood from Thiridea’s poleaxe were mended and he bore a bright smile.
“Thank you fair lady,” he managed.
“Oh forgive me. Most of you carry wounds.” And she laid hands on them healing their ailments. “Now we must leave. Join hands with me.”
Kalista almost rushed at the chance and took her right hand. Felghanis summoned courage, or at least looked like he died, and took her left, the rest making up the circle.
“Where are we going?”
“The Iron Tower to destroy the bell.”
“I want to stay, Mother,” Brannighan said.
“Of course my love.”
They were in clouds that seemed to conceal ground, or were ground, they couldn’t tell. A host of winged men and women were far above singing beautiful choral music. It had the sound that it was just one passage that was part of a long tale of defence of innocence and the pursuit of truth.
Brannighan’s mother bowed with a broad smile. “I serve in a different way.” She turned her face upwards towards the light that the host were singing towards.
Crashing waves and a strong bitterly cold wind shook them all. Dark clouds were above and thick forest to their right. In the distance the spike of dark iron rose above the butte of stone. It was the Iron Tower.
“Not as close as I hoped. Let us walk,” she said and retook her natural form. Tall, over seven feet, and fair she walked with slow power and purpose.
They followed her lead and Don’ struggled to keep up. She kept taking his waist and setting him forward. After seven touches Don’s exhaustion was gone. After seven more touches he felt fresh again.
Swinging open on its impeccable hinges the door to the Iron Tower revealed it to be as they left it. Brannighan’s mother glowed with powerful light and they saw well in her illumination.
“You said there were creatures here? Of course, there were undead abominations. Where is the bell?”
She led, insisting to be ahead to protect them, the party downstairs. As they came closer to the pillar containing the crystal where Felghanis saw the bell she bade them to halt. “Wait here and I will deal with the trap.”
It was no threat at all, it seemed. The lightning bolt leapt towards her but she dodged it with ease. She halted before the pillar and looked intently for many heartbeats. Long enough that they began to doubt her ability to do anything. Then she vanished and reappeared cradling the bell in her arms, bearing its great weight.
She triumphantly pronounced, “For his glory!” With a soft flare of light she was gone.
In the silence and almost pitch darkness Kalista spoke first, “Do any of you have any food?”
Before they could answer the angel returned bathing them in her glow.
“My deepest apologies. I should have let you know I was coming back.”
The relief was evident even on Felghanis’ face. Thunder pealed and a metallic shattering rumbled through the rock into their ears.
Felghanis laughed. “I’ve beaten you, Uncle.”
“Now, my friends, I can take you anywhere in Kiltayre. Where will it be?”
“We want to go home,” Aenir ventured suddenly.
“Of course,” she said.
“But we promised to help them to complete their quest,” Kellor said.
Aenir seemed saddened but his resolve returned quickly. “Yes. Yes of course.”
“The Black Tower,” Kalista said. Everyone agreed.
"Brannighan’s mother concentrated for a few heartbeats. “I am sorry. The tower is surrounded by orcs and blakh. I will not take you within sight of the tower for your own safety.”
“Then back to Stonecrest,” Felghanis pushed. “I have research I want to do and more importantly Goran’s body must be buried correctly.”
“Goran’s burial is not our concern,” Donhallan said.
The angel seemed to narrow her eyes slightly but her voice was still peaceful. “To Stonecrest then?”
They were standing right back in the Wainwright Lodge. If it weren’t for the darker room and less people they may not have even left.
“Thank you my friends. In the morning I will return and until then I would have you think on a reward suitable to further your defence of the people and your revelation of truth.”
The possibilities began to enter their minds but sleep beckoned with more strength. Within the hour they were all asleep in their rooms carrying a peace they had not felt for months upon their hearts.