As Xul’gos approached the mausoleum, there was a shuffling in the corner of the chamber and a creature sleeping there on rags rose. It was a drow, long-necked and spider-fingered like Manufacterie, but bent with age. The Caretaker shuffled about the chamber, lighting torches in sconces with little bursts of darkfire from his fingertips. When Xul’gos asked the Caretaker who was interred there, he replied “Xul’gos”. When Xul’gos asserted that he was, in fact, Xul’gos, the Caretaker sniffed at the assertion, saying the tomb was of the One True Xul’gos, the primitive progenitor of the entire drow race.
Xul’gos entered the tomb undaunted and there met with a host of shades presided over by a tomb guardian. The guardian did not permit the shades to give Xul’gos any factual information about their lives, only to tell him the details and sensations and feelings they felt in their last moments. Some of the shades were deceitful, some were tricks. Xul’gos had to choose which shade knew his head, and which his heart. They described how they met their end, their last moments, and Xul’gos interrogated each in turn to try to discover which shades spoke truly. He determined that one knew his head, the shade that spoke of the burdens he bore that no one else could possibly understand, who met his end peacefully, knowing that what “she” had told him was, in the end, right. And there was one other who knew his heart, the shade that spoke of almost limitless despair in the end, yet who felt almost nothing when his companions Bogey and Lutros met their own fate. After he chose, the other spirits, the lying deceitful spirits inhabiting the tomb like parasites, writhed and spat.
Xul’gos strode forward and lifted the lid of the sarcophagus. Inside, there was almost nothing left of the corpse or its raiment: only dust. And yet, among that dust, miraculously preserved as if no time at all had passed, was a whole and still-warm gall bladder. Xul’gos swallowed it, reclaiming a memory of his childhood, of the times he would secretly observe his wicked and vicious drow mother while she bathed, and afterward, from her water, he would collect her fallen hairs and cherish them and weave them into a slender thread and then a rope. This is the origin of the braided hair necklace so dear to him that he wears around his neck at all times. In the midst of this reverie, Xul’gos was taken unawares by unknown assailants, and blindfolded and bound.
In the encampment where Sanivlize and Rondanina had been summoned before General Rondanina, the general thanked Sanivlize for disposing of the mummy Bogey, as Rondanina could not, but before she could ask for the sword artifact back, there was a violent commotion at the back of the camp where two teams from the College of Scrutinators were holding some sort of competition or ceremony in two separate, adjacent shanty tents. Amid whoops and hollers and hurrahs, in one tent the gaggle of Scrutinators had managed to “create existence” by diverting a portion of the Transverse spark. The spark infused life into a rough-hewn and primitive manufactured body. The entity, covered all over in Ova code, was unable or unwilling to name itself and was identified only by the quantity X. General Rondanina, completely gobsmacked, immediately and hastily began packing a bag for her escape from the encampment. When asked why, she said that when the doxe had sent her these men, she had no idea the imbeciles could possibly have achieved what the doxe said they would, and now it was only a matter of time before a πανδὸν finds them. She would have to abandon the camp to reunite with her larger forces. General Rondanina asked Rondanina if she would assume stewardship of the camp as her subcomandante and the gorgon agreed, after which the general fled as quickly as possible.
Virtually moments afterward, there was a crowing from the adjacent shanty tent, and another crowd of Scrutinators claimed success in their endeavor, which was to produce fully grown and battle-ready biological material with monstruum, which each Scrutinator carries around in his syringe of office, the Glister:
The Scrutinators squirted out the shape of a humanoid, and called form and consciousness to it in … some unknown though doubtless unsavory fashion. Through the ether, an entity interrogated by hallucinations Bursaris, Lavendis, Fendulo and Omoro, was drawn into the fluid and animated: a tiefling wizard named Vecclin. The hallucinations appeared to Vecclin as the high regent’s court, and discerned a number of truths:
- That Vecclin was not born as he is, and has no mother.
- That the sign of travel to exit time-frame is two hands held above the head.
- That he had deciphered the ancient runes of Sinlabel through his researches in the Great Book of Flame.
- That he had personally traveled to the lost city of Hrosz-Ko.
- That his star ship was some place near to him.
- That the time stream can be accessed through the following sigil:
Called out of this hallucination and into physical being, Vecclin arose, completely nude and bleeding profusely from a pinprick in his forehead, but mostly in possession of himself and not fearful or panic-stricken. Of all the recent arrivals on the world of Orrery, Vecclin appeared to be the least disoriented or surprised. He was a relation to the lords of the young empire of Bael Turath, a sailor among the stars, and a wizard. He had glimpsed stranger things.
After a brief parley with Rondanina and Sanivlize, the camp was attacked by a raider force of drow led by an eladrin claiming to have been dispatched by General Xul’gos to retrieve the unblemished skin of Rondanina, known to be in that camp and traveling without escort. This eladrin held captive Xul’gos, what he called a “lesser copy”, which through careful questioning Rondanina established was indeed the person she knew as “Xul’gos”. The two factions fought, Xul’gos freeing himself, and X and Vecclin joining the fray.
After most of their number had been cut down by the newly minted party, several of the drow ceased attacking and descended on Rondanina with thieving hands, and stole the artifact from her, handing it off from one drow to the next. The last in the line, about to sprint towards the wasteland, was cut down by Xul’gos mid-flight, and Vecclin used his wizard tricks to turn the artifact invisible. Almost immediately afterward, a strange but familiar robot clockface professor teleported onto the battlefield and searched in vain for the artifact. When the remaining drow were unable to hand him the artifact they were supposed to have stolen, or to show him where it might have gone, he abandoned them to their fate, but not before mocking Vecclin, thanking him for the gift of his spelljamming ship. The strange professor teleported away once more, leaving the party in the disarrayed camp, with a gaggle of cowardly bellowing Scrutinators hiding under tent beds, along with an unspecified number of folk who are decidedly not warriors, leaving the party looking around at their new companions and thinking, Who are these people?