Children of Netherhearth
The viceroy’s master
After Leo had fallen into a drunken sleep following his interrogation by the viceroy, his psyche was brought into a bizarre and frightening dream world controlled by a masked figure. The man demanded that Leo tell him everything he had withheld from the viceroy or he would wrest the information from him by destroying his mind. When Leo refused, the man revealed that his Aunt Jibella was also trapped in the dream world and being subjected to horrific torture – torture that would take its toll on her sanity in the physical world. Still Leo refused to yield.
Enraged, the man attacked. Leo fought back, but he was vastly outmatched. The man dissolved him in a explosion of acid and agony, only for Leo to reform whimpering and weakened. Again he demanded that Leo yield, and again Leo refused. Another quick battle; another agonising defeat for Leo. Another demand. Another refusal. Another agonising death …
Meanwhile in Varian’s cave, he found himself reaching out with his mind in a half-hearted attempt to make contact with the xilix matriarch. In fact, he was responding to another compulsion planted by her while he was in her body. His mind connected with a nearby xilix sent by the matriarch to act as a messenger. Though in great pain from wounds sustained during its journey, the xilix managed to pass on its message before it died.
From the messenger Varian learned several things. He learnt that the compulsion for him to destroy the Skystone was planted to somehow protect him from being murdered – apparently he was never intended to actually destroy it – and to effect his banishment so that this communication would be possible undetected. He also was told that the xilix matriarch had seen two possible futures and could not decide which was favoured. In one future, Grizelda is discovered and killed, but still somehow able to help in a limited fashion. In the other, Grizelda remains hidden and alive, but the xilix’s ability to guide you would be curtailed.
In the end, Varian made the difficult decision to save Grizelda. This would require the help of the twins, Dolan and Shay, who, according to the xilix, must remain unrevealed to “the enemy” as they have an important part to play in the struggles to come. Varian woke the twins, joined with them psychically (using the bond they had previously formed to experience the events of the other strange world), used Shay’s powers to locate Grindle and Leo’s psyches, and then Dolan – with the aid of some intense pain – used his powers to amplify everyone else’s, and send their minds catapulting into the dream world to join Leo.
A desperate struggle ensued as the three of you brought your amplified powers to bear on the masked man. In the end, the unfettered power provided by Dolan proved too much for the man to handle, and he released you from the dream world with some final warnings: the xilix demon-queens would pay for their meddling, and you will never escape his reach.
The next few hours passed in a haze. When Dolan’s bolstering was withdrawn, you were left feeling stupefied – the vast power coursing through your minds had taken its toll. Only Varian with his extraordinary psychic fortitude could still hold a coherent conversation. You woke the Knitting Circle and managed to convey what had happened. With Shay and Dolan standing shaken nearby (with Dolan nursing self-inflicted broken fingers) they were inclined to believe you.
Grindle had earlier deduced that a dream world of that scope could only be powered by artifice of considerable size and complexity. The only likely candidate was the Skystone. This had troubling implications. However, the first priority was to get Varian, Leo and Grindle out from under its reach before their next sleep lest the sinister man return to finish what he started. The obvious plan of action was for them to leave that morning to begin their quest to find a way to repair the Skystone. Magda also made assurances that the Knitting Circle would remain vigilant and, if possible, do some digging of their own – they no longer felt they could trust the viceroy unconditionally now that there seemed to be the possibility of him being controlled by a mysterious and malign puppetmaster.
By next morning you were all able to somewhat function again. You would be accompanied by Lareth and Cole as far as the surface, but for everyone else it was time for emotional farewells.
Shortly after you walked into the exit tunnel, you turned to see a woman called Farida running after you. She gave you her diamond wedding ring, a precious family heirloom, in return for saving the life of her son Devin in the Warrens all those years ago.
Then you turned your back on Netherhearth – perhaps for the final time…