The Verdant Passage

Making Contact

The ritual began as the fire died down. Ashes were spread in two concentric circles, with a string of chalk-drawn arcane runes written on the exposed stone between them. After lighting the candles, the intoning commenced. Tlaloc spoke in a clear voice, halting at places, a few phrases in Elven, then Draconic, and also another language better left unknown. At times the wind seemed to echo his words, reluctantly whispering acceptance of the coming breach of worlds.

After ten minutes, Tlaloc ceased intoning. At once all the candles died out. The resulting darkness spread like blood on the battlefield, blocking even the twilight from a nearby window.

Everyone held their breath.

Light returned as a tiny spot in the center of the ritual circles. It emerged from the nothingness, shining with eerie grey light. The spot slowly grew to become a floating sphere, about the size of a halfling’s head. Grey smoke and black shadows played across the face of the sphere, sometimes taking the form of ghostly faces.

Then the sphere spoke. Its voice sounded as if a faint and distant chorus were speaking with strange precision, and in that unknown language. Tlaloc answered in the sphere’s tongue, his voice altered to take on a demonic color. He sounded the way burning cities would sound, if they could learn language. They conversed for a long time. When they finished, the grey sphere began to dissipate, like smoke blown in the wind. It wafted into Tlaloc’s nostrils and mouth, and his jaw seemed to distend somewhat to consume the entirety.

When the sphere was entirely gone, the darkness abated. The starlight from the window returned, and Tlaloc turned toward the observers.

“I have made contact with the spirit advisers that served Aramis. Their wisdom is now available.” As he spoke, Masters of the Way observed his breath fog in the air, as if he were standing in an impossibly cold room.

The party traveled to Elvenshae, a journey taking several days. Each night Tlaloc would draw the sphere out. Supernatural grey smoke would flow from his mouth and nostrils, coalescing to become as it had appeared on that first night. They would talk, in that unknowable language. When they were finished, the sphere would flow back into Tlaloc, and the half-elf would stay silent for a long while, considering all that he had heard.

As the party traveled, Tlaloc would sometimes mutter to himself, saying something like “The spirits are concerned.” And one of his living companions would ask “You mean the Spirits of Athas.”

“No, not of Athas,” was his answer.



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