The Aftermath

Roark scored a critical blow causing Demogorgon to fall prone. He then leapt onto the dying demon lord and unleashed a series of attacks, profanities and curses borne of hatred, frustration, and vendetta over having been possessed and controlled like a puppet. It wasn't until Saris spoke up, saying, “Um, Roark … I think you got him!” that he stopped, exhausted and out of breath.

“Is that it? Did we win?” Duxsil asked, breaking the silence. “Did we stop the Savage Tide?”

The response came from an unexpected voice in an unexpected direction. From the door to the room, that had reopened at some point during the battle, a familiar voice answered. “Well, I can’t say that you stopped it…” Igwilv responded in her smooth, silky voice. She made quite an entrance; emerging from the thick water vapor of the adjacent chamber. She continued, “…but you certainly put a major pause on it.”

Gliding over to the lifeless body of the double-headed, former demon lord, she produced the Iron Flask of Tuerny and stooped as one would to fill it from a river. A nimbus began to form around his heads resembling two crowns of dark energy. These two crowns quickly merged into on single crown and floated to about eye level. Meanwhile, the body crumbled to dust as if flash incinerated by an invisible flame, the dust leaving a black stain on the shore. Besides the stain, all that was left was a smoke-like remnant of Demogorgon’s essence, and the contents of his stomach – the Master Pearl.

“I thought you jaunted that thing, clam and all, into another universe,” Saris noted to Duxsil.

“I thought I had,” the chronomancer replied, “There was that hiccup when he cast timestop; that’s probably when he did it.”

While they were talking, Igwilv collected what remained of Demogorgon’s consciousness into the flask. Looking up at the party, she asked, “What? You didn’t think I was helping you just to be nice, did you? This is my payment.”

“Good thing we already took care of our debt to Ahazu with the spirit of Arendragrost,” Saris said, mostly to himself.

As the smoke was drawn into the flask, a final double cry could be heard, almost as though it was psychic rather than auditory, and only silenced when she closed the lid. “Everyone in Gaping Maw and Shadowsea heard that,” Igwilv noted, standing lithely. She indicated the floating crown, “All contenders for the throne will be coming for that.”

“Why don’t you take it?” Viselys asked, perhaps a bit sarcastically.

She grimaced in mock fear, “Not on your immortal soul! Oh, no, I can’t be saddled with a demonic realm. I have other plans. I will remain a while, however. I am curious to see how this plays out.”

Realizing that this likely meant that a whole host of demon lords (and would-be demon lords) were about to show up to claim the crown of Demogorgon, Viselys quickly threw the portable hole over the Master Pearl and tucked it away into his pack.

The first to arrive was an aspect of Dagon; he bore an uncanny appearance to a Ko-Toa, but with tentacle-like probosces wriggling around his mouth. Roark felt a sudden fear rise up within him, reminding him of his glimpse of the True Dagon out in the Shadowsea, but he was able to steal his resolve, strengthened by his recent triumph over the Prince of Demons.

As Dagon emerged from the waters at the far wall of Wat Dagon, the room began to grow into a vast hall, appropriate to receive those who were about to arrive.

And arrive they did. After surreptitiously referencing the Demonomicon, Duxsil was able to identify those that the party had not previously encountered directly. First to arrive after Dagon was Bagromar -coupled with the absence of Tetradarian it was not hard to deduce the outcome of the battle between “brothers”. Then Orcus, Ulu-Thurg, Gromsfed “The Drowned,” and Urbala.

Although Malcanthet did not arrive in person, Roark could hear her whispering in his ear, as though she was standing right beside him, “You have as much claim to the throne as any of them, you know. MORE, because it was you who vanquished Demogorgon, when all of them failed…”

Roark thought about it, and he realized, not only was she right, but he wanted that throne. He didn’t set out on this adventure to become a demon, but here he was, all demonic, and in every way improved because of it. He wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity, so he stepped forward. “So, how do we do this? Do we just … fight … or something?”

“As much fun as that would be,” Orcus rumbled in his deep timbre, “Ever realm is different. In this case, the crow will decide. We must each state our case to persuade the forces of the realm to choose us. I will begin, because …” and Orcus launched right into an eloquent speech of self-promotion.

Each of the contenders took their turn. Orcus was clearly the frontrunner with Dagon and Bagromar being real contenders. Ulu-Thurg, Gromsfed, and Urbala were eliminated early. Then Roark spoke. Despite emphasizing how he had vanquished Demogorgon when all the others had failed so many times, his lack of elocution was evident and unconvincing. His point served to do little more than draw the ire of the collected demon lords.

“For an incubus, you are surprisingly lacking in panache and personality, little upstart,” Orcus chided. Even the minor demon lords who were out of the running found this amusing.

“This is not over, my sweet,” Malcanthet whispered to Roark across the dimensions, “Return to me and we will being implementing my plans for you to ultimately rise to the Throne of the Demon King!”

Orcus reached out and took the crown, now an apparently solid object, and placed it upon his own brow. His maniacal laugh filled the chamber. Iggwilv smiled and stepped close to Orcus, and after saying something to him in a low and seductive voice, she shimmered away. With a final warning to no one in particular, Orcus also gated away to begin his reign as the new Prince of Demons. Dagon paused a moment, looking around. He examined the party of adventurers very carefully and rasped in a gurglely voice, "Terrieth ye not long in my realm, and know I will be watching," before returned to the water. The other demon lords shimmered away one by one.

“Agreed,” Duxsil conceded, “But I’m not entirely certain how to do so safely. I was considering a disjunction…”

Gwynharwyf shook her head, “That method brings other dangers, even if it is successful. Why don’t you return with me to the Court of Stars? There, at least, it will be out reach from any demon lord, even the prince. Besides, it appears that your livery has taken her leave and left you stranded.”

Duxsil made a one-sided grin, “Well, we’re not entirely stranded, but your offer is thoughtful and I, for one, would like to accept.”

The rest of the team accepted with the exception of Roark. “I have other plans. I think this is where we part ways.”

“Then we must divide the party treasure before you go,” Adameus asserted, making it clear that he didn’t intend it as a discussion point.

Duxsil agreed, “Apologies, Your Majesty,” he said to Gwynharwyf, “Just some brief mortal issues to resolve first.” She responded with an acquiescing knod, most likely relieved that she would not have to take a demon with her back to her realm.

When the treasure and equipment had been divided, Duxsil stared to say something, but was apparently cut off as he shimmered away, presumably not of his own volition. Then all the others likewise took their final leave of Wat Dagon, following Gwynharwyf though a portal into the beautiful land of the Eldarins.

Upon arrival, Duxsil spoke up, “Your Majesty, I might be able to deduce a method to destroy the Master Pearl if I could access a library of sufficient arcane knowledge.” She nodded and summoned Celeste to take him to the court library. In the meantime the Court of Stars came together less in celebration and more in sedate camaraderie with feasting and ambient music. The party of adventurers were honored for their role in defeating Demogorgon.

After a day of research, Duxsil emerged from his studies. He entered the Court and addressed the general collection of his friends and Gwynharwyf, “I have the answer, and it shouldn’t be too difficult. All we need is … oh, that smells good. I haven’t eaten …”

With a gesture, Gwynharwyf indicated that the servers should bring Duxsil some refreshments. A beautiful Eldarin maiden just seemed to appear at his side with a tray of fruit and bread, and she deftly used the tray, and perhaps a bit of her own allure, to draw Duxsil back towards Gwynharwyf. “You were saying,” she prompted him and indicated towards the dais.

“Huh? Oh, right,” Duxsil said as he grabbed a hunk of bread and bunch of grapes. Around a mouthful of food he managed to say, “I think if we submerge the pearl in waters of exceptional serenity and purity, that should do it. If you think about it, it is a pearl which came from a sea creature in the waters of Shadowsea, so if you think about the opposing forces…”

Gwynharwyf cut him off, “Yes, your reasoning seems sound. We don’t need to see your work.”

Duxsil swallowed before replying, “I was able to discern half a dozen suitable locations throughout the multiverse, but the easiest to access…”

“…would be the Fountain of Beauty right here in the Court of Stars” Gwynharwyf finished for him.

Viselys produced the portable hole and joined Gwynharwyf and Duxsil at the fountain. A cistern was indicated and he caused to pearl to spill out into it. Then Gwynharwyf redirected some of the flowing water to fill the cistern. The pearl, once immersed, crackled and smoked, and seemed ready to burst and trigger its savage tide anyway, but then it just as suddenly turned white and brittle, the consistency of chalk.

With that final task completed, the party said their goodbyes to the Court of Stars and they were transported back, at long last, to the harbor-front of the colony of Farshore; that familiar village the group had fought so hard for.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In the blink of an eye, the heroes found themselves standing on the main pier in Farshore Harbor, right next to the Sea Wyvern, which was rocking gently in the tide. As they looked up at their battered but beloved ship, they caught the eye of Jakob Weathersby, who shouted “Ahoy!” and waved. He then turned in the opposite direction and called out, “Captain! They’ve returned!” Although they could not hear the response, they got the gist when Weatherby eagerly invited them aboard.

Saris led the way up the gangplank. When he reached the top, he found Amella there to greet them. “Permission to come aboard, Captain,” he said without a hit of irony or jest. Amella nodded and smiled warmly. It was at that moment that Saris realized that she no longer had a baby bump. His surprise and concern showed clearly on his face, prompting Amella to respond with a head jerk indicating for him to follow.

She led the way up to the quarterdeck, where Weatherby had apparently relieved Amella from the wheel (which told Saris that they were making final preparations to set sail). Behind him was a new addition; what appeared to be a chest on a raised platform secured the deck. Amella nodded to Weatherby who took two steps to his right allowing her to take his place behind the wheel. She opened the chest revealing it a rather comfortable-looking bassinet within. Swaddled in soft linens was a sleeping baby.

The baby’s sleeping condition did not prevent Amella from speaking in a normal voice, “It may seem unorthodox, but then so is ship’s captain with a baby. Besides, he’s learned to sleep through just about anything; he’ll make a great sailor one day.”

Weathersby added, unbidden, “And, it’s a good, sturdy structure,” indicating the unique apparatus. “It’s helped me keep my footing many a’time when the seas were choppy. I was actually thinking of securing some sort of harness to it for the helmsman.”

Amella raised an eyebrow and knodded, “Not a bad idea. I like it.”

“It’s a boy?” Saris betrayed more interest than anyone would have expected.

Amella nodded and indicated he could get a closer look.

Saris grinned, “He's handsome enough; kinda looks like…me.”

“Well, he should! He’s your son…..” Amella announced softly.

Saris looked surprised, more at the admission than the fact. “Really?”

“There was never a question of it!” she said in somewhat tired exasperation. “I never actually bedded that barkeep. I just let you think I did so’n you’d maybe take us more seriously.”

“And then you really drove it to shore by having my son!” he replied, which made Amella smile. He continued, “Look, I’m not so good with sentimentality. But the past few months have changed me a lot. I literally fought my way through hell…”

“Figuratively,” Duxsil interrupted, “Literally we were in the Abyss, which is the realm of demons, whereas Hell is …” He tapered off when he realized that everyone was staring at him with withering looks. He finished sheepishly, “… the realm of devils, but it’s a common mistake.”

Saris turned back to Amella, “My point is, through all of it, all I could think about was you. How, if the Savage Tide was unleashed, it would destroy all of Oris, with you in it! It wasn’t about the adventure anymore. It wasn’t about grandstanding or looking good. It was about making the world safe for you … for the three of us” He got down on one knee, “Amella Venkalli, will you marry me?” When she didn’t respond right away, he added, “I don’t actually have a ring yet, but I brought back a bag-full of treasure, and I swear I will get you one amazing ring!”

Amella’s continence never changed. She showed neither joy nor anger, no surprise – nothing. After a painfully long pause, she slowly nodded her head, and in a tone of complete apathy, she said, “Yeah, sure. Why not? Let’s give the kid a name besides ‘bastard,” hey?”

Everyone grinned and chuckled. Saris seemed overjoyed. He stood up and said, “So, it would seem you and I have quite a bit of catching up to do!”

“Yeah, well, we’ll have plenty of time for that, on the voyage back to Sasserine,” she replied with a sardonic grin. “the Wyvern sails tomorrow with the morning tide. It works out to the good that you’ll be with us. Your father’s been asking about you; you should go see him when we arrive. And, so, yeah, he put me in charge of the fleet making the round-trip between here and there. The Meravanchis are our only competition on the route, but it’s working out great for the both companies. We’re making a fortune in trade, the rivalry let’s people think they’re getting goods at the best price possible … which they may be; I don’t know about that. Anyway, the reality is that ole Zebulon Meravanchi and your father struck themselves up quite a partnership; with House Meravanchi seeing to things here on this end, and the Van Sky family tending to affairs back in Sasserine.”

Saris shook his head in disbelief. He never would have believed it. His mouth was agape. Amella moved up, and closed his mouth with a long, deep kiss. Then she continued,

“And, don’t you worry about your father. I made sure he knew that it was all your idea, albeit indirectly. I then made the most of the trade agreements, squared away the crews, and secured a few new ships. But all the while, …”

“Does he know about the baby?” Saris interrupted.

“Nah. Never came up. I figured that one was on you. I was thinking we should name him after your father. Montag is a nice name….”

Lightening up the awkward moment, Viselys slapped Saris on the back, “Congratulations, my friend, on all of it. It looks like you three are going to be quite busy. I guess this means farewell—for now. Have a safe voyage and I’ll see you upon your return.”

Everyone offered Saris similar sentiments and then they prepared to debark.

As they descended the gang-plank, Amella called after them, “There’s a Council meeting taking place at the village hall. I hear, you and your Savage Tide hoopla, are the main topic of discussion. You might want to poke your heads in.” She then turned and gave a devilish grin to Saris, "Well, silly, go wit' em! But return 'ere sunrise, or I might just leave you behind."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As Viselys, Saris, Adameus, and Duxsil left the ship in the gathering twilight, they noticed that, indeed, the town was extremely quiet. Nearly everyone, it seemed, was at the Farshore's Village Hall. As the group entered, all heads turned around silently. Then one voice broke that silence – a child’s voice, “Look! It’s the Fire Trolls!”

The heroes all instinctively grabbed for weapons and spun around, while everyone else looked on in bewilderment.

“Where?! I don’t see …” Viselys began.

A beautiful, feminine laugh brought their attention back into the Hall, “Not those Fire Trolls, my friends,” Lavinia informed them. “I don’t know why it happened, but somewhere along the way, the people of Farshore began referring to your group as The Fire Trolls.”

It was at this moment, that their old friend Urol, who had been struggling to get down from one of the benches, finally managed to make his way over to them, “I have a theory on that. I think it’s the ship that we acquired from that band of mercenaries; the one with that Fire Troll masthead. Where if started, Miranda popularized it in her songs about your adventures: The Ballad of the Fire Trolls!”

From the Council Table up at the front of the hall, Father Vesserin stood up and spoke loudly, “What news? Has the Savage Tide indeed passed?”

Viselys responded, “The demon-lord Demogorgon has been slain and the Master Pearl un-made. The Savage Tide is now ended and we are all safe at last!”

A collective cheer filled the Hall. Lavinia tried to call something out but her voice couldn’t be heard by Viselys, despite the fact he was standing right next to her. She then made a series of gestures up to the Council table, where Mathalay Meravanchi followed her lead and stood up, gesturing for quiet with both hands. After a few moments, he had garnered enough attention to finally be heard, “On behalf of Governess Vanderboren and the Council of Farshore, I now declare this meeting adjourned. Let us celebrate the return of our heroes: the Fire Trolls!’

“I’m not sure I like that name,” Viselys grumbled.

“I kind of like it, although the term is technically inaccurate…..” Duxsil stated, bemusedly.

Soon after the meeting adjourned, Farshore became a literal whirlwind of festivity. The village's central pavilion was suddenly flooded with hundreds of people carrying food and drink. The open square was soon filled with the noise of cheers, laughter, and music; and the “Fire Trolls” were the center of attention.

“Adameus! Adameus! Look what I learned to do!” called the same child’s voice that they first heard refer to them as “Fire Trolls.” It was young Gidrick Talbot. He did a very elaborate sleight of hand trick involving a rather large glass ball, nearly as large as his head, making it’s “disappearance” all the more of a spectacle.

“That’s … quite brilliant …” Adameus began.

Viselys quickly whispered in his ear, “Gidrick. He used to follow you around on the trip here and you taught him sleight of hand trick.”

“…Gidrick!” Adameus finished his sentence, as if he was in the know the whole time. “My, you’ve taken all that I shown you and run with it. Indeed! How talented you are.” The boy beamed with pride and ran off.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As the night of merry-making grew late, a cloaked, but familiar figure approached the group, accompanied by Lavinia. Most of the group did not recognize the distinguished older man, except for Viselys and Adameus; both stood agape in complete surprise. Lavinia introduced the stranger as none other than Captain Viktor Mortaum; who made an imposing sight, dressed in his tailored uniform bearing the Taskerhill crest. Viselys immediately snapped to attention and executed a perfect, parade-ground salute, “SIR!”

The Elder Mortaum reflexively returned his son's salute, but then said softly , “I think we can dispense with formalities, son.” He clapped Viselys on the shoulder, “I’ve heard what you’ve done, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of you.” Viktor hesitated, as if gathering his courage, then continued. "I haven’t told you, as I should have; but I’ve always been very proud of you, son.”

Viselys was taken aback, , “I … I am honored, Father. That … that’s always been my goal.”

The elder Mortaum nodded, “I know, but I'm afraid now I have to ask to you for forgiveness; for there is much else I should have told you long ago, but, … I was afraid…"

Viselys, shaking his head in disbelief, interrupted, "Father, I've never known you to be afraid of anyone, or anything."

Viktor, held up his hand, "My son, you are too kind, but alas, I was a coward about something… or should I say, someone." he turned and looked past Viselys, toward Adameus, who now seemed to be trying to back away, behind his other companions. That is until Lavinia glided over and took him in her arm, as if to comfort him.

Viselys now noticed that his father's face had changed. His expression was grave, and he had tears in his eyes. Viktor continued staring at Adameus, but spoke as if to Viselys. "I remember it clearly, it was twenty-four years ago. I was a young man, unmarried. I met a beautiful young Kendari woman named Olivia. By Kendari law we could not marry, but we fell in love anyway, and she became pregnant with my child. Sadly, she died in childbirth, and her son ended up in the Sasserine Orphanage." Viktor's voice broke with emotion, "Before she died, she asked me to name the boy; Adameus."

Viktor paused, and composed himself, "I was afraid for my reputation, for my honor, and, to my undying shame, I allowed the infant to be raised as an orphan."

He continued to speak, but it was clear to everyone how difficult this was for him, “… And I’ve missed you so much … son.” His voice caught and tears again welled in his eyes.

Adameus tried to speak, but no words came. While he struggled silently, Lavinia hugged him close and whispered in his ear, “Remember what we talked about, all those times. Let go of the past and see what the future holds.” With that, she pushed him towards Viktor.

Adameus took a few steps forward on legs as heavy as lead, tears began to pour from his eyes. In sotto voce he whispered, “Father?”

All of a sudden, the two men were embracing and crying. Viselys was dumbstruck, but not so much as he might have been. As he stood there observing a reunion of the two men he was closest to in the world, he thought to himself, 'it was as if I have always known, somehow.'

After a long while, Viktor broke the hug, still holding Adameus with one arm. He turned to Viselys, and said, “Viselys, I take it you have already met Adameus … your older brother?”

Viselys, found himself welling with emotion, a tear rolled down his cheek, “I hadn’t believed it when I was first told that he was my brother, but even so, we certainly became brothers-in-arms over the past year. Now you’ve just confirmed that we are brothers-in-blood as well.”

Viktor Mortaum pulled himself together, dried his eyes and cleared his throat, “When Lavinia sent word to me regarding your undertakings, I boarded the Sea Wyvern and came here to await your return. I … well, I was terribly worried.” Then he turned to Adameus, “She told me about you when I arrived. The whole story. Please don’t be cross with her. She wanted to make sure any awkwardness would be minimized when you returned and I was here.”

Adameus shook his head, “No, I couldn’t be cross with her. She’s been preparing me for this moment for a very long time. Both directly, … and indirectly." Adameus glanced at Lavinia, who was grinning at him, "She’s always been such a good friend to me.”

Viktor smiled warmly and nodded, “Well, I know this is a lot to digest for both of you, and you also have so many other people here, so I’ll leave you to enjoy your party and we can catch up later on. I’m not going anywhere, anytime soon” As he turned and walked away, they heard him call out, “Lord Meravanchi, a word if it please you, sir…?”

Adameus and Viselys both turned to Lavinia and, in unison, said, “Thank you!” then laughed at the comical occurrence. Then, there was an awkward pause between the three. After a few moments, all three tried to speak at once, then stopped. Viselys held up his hand and broke the stalemate.

“Lavinia, we have all changed so much since we first met in Sasserine. Adameus and I are …” he looked at Adameus quizzically, “… brothers?”

Adameus smiled and agreed, “Aye, that we are.”

Viselys turned back to Lavinia and continued, “We’ve put you in the middle of us, and while it’s not my intent to say you must choose, I want to give voice to the awkward situation so that you may feel free to address it as you choose.”

Lavinia smiled, betraying apparent relief, “Thank you. That does, indeed, help break the ice of the situation. And it seems to me so very perceptions on my part to think I have the right to choose; to assume you both still desire my affections as once you both might have. However, the truth is, I wouldn’t be choosing one of you over the other. It isn’t even a choice for me to make. Viselys, you are a dear friend, and I owe you so much gratitude for all you have done. But, ultimately, I cannot translate our particular friendship into romance; the spark is not there. I do hope you understand.”

Viselys nodded, and then smiled, “Yes, I do. Truly, I am no longer the boy you met. I still care for you greatly, as well, but no longer with the mooning naiveté I once had.”

Lavinia chose her next words very carefully, “I would, however, recommend you consider that there is someone else to whom you should look. I think I’ve managed to save the ember, but it’s you who must stoke the flame. But be careful; she is very fragile, emotionally .” With that, her gaze indicated that Viselys should turn around.

There, with a fearful look, in the red gown he had bought her, was Diamondback. She bit her bottom lip and twisted the toes of her right foot in the ground, awaiting Viselys’ reaction.

“Diamondback, I … mean Tara, I mean you… you look lovely.”

Her voice cracked and quivered. Tears began to stream from her eyes. With effort to hold her tone steady, she simply said, perhaps louder than she intended, “I … love you … Viselys!”

Viselys took a deep breath and stepped forward. He embraced her and they both lost track of the world. Nobody felt slighted when the two lovers walked off together without a word.

Lavinia misinterpreted Adameus’s perplexed look and attempted to explain, “Diamondback and I have had a lot of time to talk, and I’ve helped her see that she was being a bit unfair to Viselys. What happened to her was not his fault and she owes him her life many times over, and not just in the mortal sense. He really is the hero she’s made him out to be, but he’s not perfect; she can’t fault him for that.”

Adameus smiled and nodded, which seemed enough for Lavinia, but Duxsil knew that he still hadn’t a clue. Nobody outside “The Fire Trolls” knew that this was not the same Adameus they had known, and that he lacked many of his counterpart’s memories. It was entirely possible that he didn’t even know who Diamondback was. He wondered if there was some way he could help his friend.

At that very moment, a sound began to grow from silence into a moderately loud groaning-wheezing sort of sound as a large object began to materialize right next to him. When it object was fully solid, the sound stopped with a little “thud.” It appeared to be a square dark blue marble pillar of about seven to eight feet in height and about five feet at the base. Then a seam opened like a door out of the pillar and three figures emerged: A man with a staff and a healer’s bag dressed in a gold vest and a cloak, a pretty woman with dark hair and blue eyes, and … most surprisingly … an older version of Duxsil.

“Are we then?” the older Duxsil asked, “Is it today?” He looked around and took note of Adameus and Lavinia before fixing his gaze upon the younger Duxsil . “Hmm, yes. You look like the me I’m looking for. Ah, yes! There is the confused expression I remember. Don’t worry. Everything I say will sound like complete and utter grot and you’ll still be completely confused when I leave, but eventually it will all make sense until eventually, you’ll be me and then it’ll be you standing here.”

“Um, Professor,” the man with the healer’s bag addressed Duxsil the Elder, “Maybe you should just give him the items?”

Duxsil the Elder looked at him, “Hmm? Oh! Quite right!” He opened a pack and reached his arm into it much farther than the apparent size of the container should have allowed. He pulled out a small leather book and three little gems, each about the size of a small birds-egg. Two of the gems looked like silver diamonds, and the third had a bright pink hue. These he handed to his astonished, younger self.

“This book … you’re gonna need it from here on out. Use it to keep track of paradoxes, otherwise you’ll screw them up. This one is the first entry and I’ve taken the liberty of filling it in for you.”

In utter amazement, the younger Duxsil opened the book and read the first page. There he found it appropriately dated, with the following entry: “Give self this Paradox Journal, along with two Wish spell gems (to sort out those two over there) and one True Resurrection spell gem for Godrenn.”

“’Those two over there?’” he quoted. “Which two over where?”

The elder jerked his thumb in the direction of Lavinia and Adameus. “And you will recognize the gems as being similar to the ones Demogorgon used to cast Timestop. It’s a warp fold conjugation in a carbonized shell, or a spell waiting to happen. Basically like a scroll, but one that can’t be copied. Look into it.”

With that, the trio climbed back into the pillar, but before he closed the door, the elder Duxsil turned to the younger, “One more thing: Tomorrow, be at the Olman Gate at exactly noon, straight up. Trust me!” Then he closed the door and the pillar De-materialized, making the same sound with which it had first arrived.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Well, that was quite unexpected, even for this group” Lavinia laughed. Quite a number of people had gathered around to witness the event, and Duxsil had no doubt that this event would expand the Legend of the Fire Trolls.

Duxsil pocketed the pink gem and the book, placing one diamond-like gem in each hand. He smiled and walked over to Lavinia and Adameus. Because of his True Seeing ability, Duxil could see that Lavina was not a normal woman, but a Doppelganger that had taken her form. She wasn’t aware of it herself, any longer; all memory of her life as a shape-changer were lost when she accepted the spirit and memories of the original Lavinia that died at the Battle of Farshore. “Lady Lavinia,” he addressed her, “You are a very special person; unique in wonderful ways – almost too good to be true. I wish you to truly be what you appear to be.”

With those words, the gem in his hand closest to Lavinia crumbled to dust and a swirled in a glittery cloud around her that only Duxsil could see. Before his True Seeing eyes, the Doppelganger that was truly became a human woman. All of this occurred completely without the knowledge of anyone present, of course, except for Duxsil.

Even Lavinia herself was unaware that any change had occurred. She just smiled and said, “Thank you, Duxsil, for such a lovely compliment.”

Then, turning to Adameus, he said, “And you, my friend – a man walking through a world not his own. I wish you could remember all that you would if this was your world.” This completely confused both Lavinia and Adameus, but then, suddenly, Adameus understood as all the memories flooded into him of an adventure to stop the Savage Tide that did not result in the death of his brother and so many other companions, where Ornrik did not become dangerously insane, but rather died at the Battle of Farshore and was resurrected as a human, and Urol had stayed on the Isle of Dread and not accompanied Ornrk and Adameus into the Abyss.

To his amazement, Adameus now had two distinct memories of the events between his first meeting with Lavina and the events of the present.

“This is … confusing,” he said to Duxsil.

“You’ll sort it out,” Duxsil assured him. Then he excused himself so he could go somewhere to resurrect his friend and apprentice; Godrenn.

This left Lavinia and Adameus relatively alone together, both individuals being whole for the first time in a long time. Adameus looked into Lavinia’s eyes, “So…”

She smiled, “So, what, my ‘mud-bespeckled friend?’”

He returned her smile, somewhat sadly. “Friend,” he repeated.

Her smile broadened, “Yes, ‘friend,’ and then some!” She then pulled him close for deep, long kiss.

Nearby, Miranda Rivers drew long, slender fingers over her golden harp, and began singing a sweet song:

It’s hard for me to stop my heart
Love never knows when the time is right
I don’t want to hurt anybody but
Can’t help loving you
I never felt like this before
I know there’s a special love worth waiting for
Let life take its course
That’s the only thing for us to do
Time and Tide
Nothing and no one can stop us now
For better, for worse
This time I’m sure it’s gonna last
Gonna last forever…”

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