Children of Netherhearth
Answers and questions
After killing the beetles and obtaining the Dreamwort, you returned to Grizelda’s cave. En route, Varian told you what he remembered of his time in xilix captivity, most of it having being spent within the body of one of the xilix matriarchs.
Once you returned to Grizelda, you sought the answers to all your questions. She confirmed that she did kill Leo’s uncle, Hoth. She wouldn’t say why, only that she now believes it to be a terrible mistake. However, she claimed that it wasn’t her that killed Leo’s parents. She wouldn’t elaborate further on any of this; she believed that telling you would only put both you and her in danger.
She explained how she fled to the crystal cave after killing Hoth, having heard tales of the cave from previous generations. She managed to find it, and with practice discovered how to enhance her future-divining rituals to a truly extraordinary extent. With the aid of the crystals, she is able to run “simulations” of possible futures with the clearest visions being those relating to her own experiences. By testing various possible futures in these visions, she found that the most reliable and least dangerous method to get you here was to use Magda to send you into the Underdark so that you would find Grizelda’s arrows and poems.
Returning from her previous trip to see Magda and to inscribe the arrows and poems, she discovered Varian, seemingly left to her by a group of wounded xilix – this possible future hadn’t appeared in any of her visions which was extremely strange.
The ultimate purpose of getting you to her cave was for you to experience a prophetic dream that depicts some world-ending threat. According to Grizelda’s visions, seeing this dream would motivate you to try to prevent it, and the only possible futures that don’t lead to Gyre’s annihilation somehow involve the three of you (with Varian now replacing Etoh in the most recent visions).
The dream itself seemed to show a montage of brief snapshot images of possible futures all culminating in the world-ending threat – some kind of semi-aware, alien being intent on the destruction of everything. Its scrutiny of you in the dream was more than you could bear, and you instinctively hurled yourself into one of your possible futures, a confrontation with what might be the demon-lord of the ratkin: a six-legged rat beast, writhing with carrion and with clusters of huge maggots in place of eyes. In the dream you were as you are now, rather than as you might be when you face it, so were quickly defeated causing you to wake up.
Grizelda went on to explain that in the possible futures where Gyre survives, you three somehow play an important role though she couldn’t really be more specific than that, as the more distant the possible future, the more hazy and less literal were her divinations. For instance, a recurring theme in the future possibilities where Gyre survives was something nonsensical and probably symbolic rather than literal: god figures of inconceivable size battling a vast sea of corruption.
During the course of the conversation, Grindle questioned both Grizelda’s ability and competence and was dismissively rebuked.
Grizelda then informed you that without your intervention Netherhearth was almost certainly doomed to be overrun and destroyed by a ratkin horde. However, she also foresaw that saving Netherhearth would somehow speed up the onset of the world-ending threat. She therefore counseled you to abandon Netherhearth to its fate, but as a group you choose to save Netherhearth anyway.
Given that you were committed to aiding Netherhearth, you sensibly asked her to attempt to divine the best way to defend Netherhearth from the upcoming attack. She agreed and spent much of your time together focussing her divinations on that aspect of the future. Her visions were fairly clear on the matter: the optimum strategy seemed to be for all non-combatants to cram into the White Tower, while the soldiers defend the main tunnels leading directly into Netherhearth killing as many of the ratkin as they can; then when enough ratkin have broken through, everyone should fall back to the White Tower. No effort should be made to defend individual settlements or buildings.
You also asked what lay in store for you in the sunlit world. Since it was further in the future and involved more variables, her visions were less clear, but in most of the ones in which you returned to her, you spoke of great desolation and of involvement in the affairs of the city of Pelenor.
You decided to spend several days with Grizelda, recovering your strength from your ordeals, overcoming your filth fever infections, and talking to her about the nature of her divinations. The decision to wait would almost certainly doom a number of people to death by filth fever (probably including Leo’s young cousin, Kali), but would give you the best chance to save the entire community from the upcoming attack. Grizelda also warned you that your return to Netherhearth through the ratkin-occupied tunnels would likely serve as the catalyst for the main ratkin attack, but that the attack would have happened in a few days regardless.
Since you were staying for a few days, Grindle asked Grizelda if she could teach her any ritual magic. Grizelda agreed, and taught her the rudimentary form of the divination ritual she uses in conjunction with the cave, though it will take a couple of weeks of practice to get it functioning properly. Although she didn’t verbalise it, it was clear Grizelda was very impressed with how fast Grindle picked it up.
Finally, as you were saying your goodbyes, Grizelda warned you that you should not tell anyone that you saw her. This meant that you’d have to invent your own tale for your extended absence, and come up with convincing reasons for suggesting the siege strategy she saw in her divinations.
With your route here now closed to you, Grizelda gave you a crude map and directed you to an alternative way back to Netherhearth. Following her instructions, you made your way to a landing in an unnaturally smooth tubular tunnel. Using a piece of magical artifice on the landing, Grindle was able to summon a platform that levitated along a beam of light. Your journey on the platform took you over some spectacular sights of the Underdark and through a back-lit waterfall, after which you were attacked by a colony of bloodwings along with its queen. However, Grindle was able to activate the platform’s magical defences in time, and although much weakened by the passing of the ages, it devastated their numbers – only the queen escaped.
Grindle eventually halted the floating platform at another landing, which according to Grizelda’s map was about an hour’s walk from Scrim Palace, the site of your first battle with the ratkin. You disembarked and prepared for the final leg of your return to Netherhearth.