Upon returning to the ante-room which is so familiar to us now, we find the ceiling is alight with stars and constellations. Are they familiar? Or different than we remember them being?
Next, we go through the yellow door. This place is sunny and bright, the fields are green. It must be the middle of summer when everything’s in bloom. We find ourselves on a read and see a castle in the distance, so we take hands and skip down the yellow-brick road, the lion (Oc), the straw man (Skith), the girl (Allura), and me, the tin man, with Grakkis and Three Dogs lumbering behind, saying something about how real men don’t hold hands.
After about five steps, Allura realized that we don’t hear any birds. This is very unusual and usually indicates danger. Now on our guard, we continue down the path to the castle.
The road is well-maintained, but empty.
It is not too hot, the temperature is pleasant. The air is still.
As we approach the castle, we see pinions flying from the ramparts bearing a sun symbol. Don recognizes this as the heraldry of a legendary elven court. Just outside the gate, vendors’ booths set up ready for service, with paints laid out ready for faces. As they enter the castle walls, they find it is truly empty. Everything looks as though it were vacated only minutes or hours ago.
The party calls out but hears to reply. Allura, more tuned to the ethereal plane, occasionally catches notes as if blowing through the air. She changes to bird-form to survey the interior of the castle. She reports that it is truly empty, save for two figures. One is standing in the middle of the court yard, and the other, a very old Eladrin, sits slumped in a throne covered in cobwebs under a canvas shade.
The party enters and discovers that the figure in the middle is their old nemesis Veth. He does not take up arms, nor even does he appear to recognize the travelers as they enter his vision.
Veth tells us of the challenge that awaits. This world is stuck at the top of a perpetual gasp until the challenge is met. It is twelve hours before the changing of the age. Some forces (that is, the noble Eladrin who are currently in power) wish to forestall this as long as possible in order to continue to enjoy their status. The challenge is very risky, and many heroes have come to try and failed. Here we discover also that every failed challenger becomes a shard of Veth, explaining the hordes of them that we had fought earlier. This is the original Veth, from which all the others came. Being the heroes that we are, we decide to accept the challenge so that this world may continue to grow and change into ever new expressions of beauty.
Veth offers us six stones, each of us chooses one in turn and battles a creature matching that element. In the beginning Allura helps, but as the matches continue, we discover that her actions which aided in the first round return as punishments in subsequent rounds.
When the last of us defeats our competitor, the world explodes into a festival, already in progress. The king rewards each of us with a piece of jewelry, each recipient’s piece as if it had been custom made and imbued with special powers especially for her, and proudly displaying the king’s symbol and a matching stone.
The sun slowly continues its descent into the horizon, and at midnight the stars change to our old familiar constellations / or to new constellations unknown to us ?? We party all night long.
When we wake in the morning, we find that the castle is gone, the festival, the food, the people, the stones, even the air smells empty. Don Emmanuel’s white dragon speaks a word in his ear, “you will know when to speak this…” and they return through the yellow portal.