Having been returned to the throne room of Glitterpalace, the lobby of their divine tests, the heroes were amazed by their lack of injuries and the restoration of their abilities. They had passed the Test of Wisdom through lucky guesses and had been rewarded with a blue gemstone, one of the three needed to complete their challenge.
Now they faced the Test of Heart or the Test of Valour.
Stepping through the magical doorway they entered the swampland of the Test of Heart. A foul bog on a series of connected plateaus above a seemingly bottomless void. Dim purple light provided little illumination, although barely enough to see. A shape moved to the east, a person who seemed oddly familiar.
Investigating, the Companions found themselves in a skeletal forest which gradually began to resemble the nightmare woods of Silvanesti, the elven kingdom travelled through mere months ago. Bleeding trees and unnatural sounds filled the air.
Progressing, the Heroes encountered a procession of the dead: failed soldiers who were doomed to march in an endless looping procession for eternity, continually bearing the shame of their defeat. Shockingly, the group recognised Elsebeth, Elistan, Bupu, and other familiar faces, bemoaning their damned stated and advising the party that they would soon be joining the hopeless procession.
After saying some simple words, the Companions moved on, ignoring the gloom from behind them. They entered a vast marshland. As they moved they sunk deep into the boggy mud, with boots continually threatening to be left behind. Wilder Spirit looked down and realized the root that had caught her foot was really a skeletal hand! Suddenly, bony limbs reached out from all across the bog, grasping at the heroes and trying to drag them down into the ooze. Wilder Spirit fought against the pulling limbs, as they grabbed at her belt and breeches. Squee turned into a dire bat and flew away, grabbing at Wisp and Deldred to pull them from the muck as Arcus shapeshifted into an air elemental to free himself.
Moving deeper into the marsh, the Companions neared the edge of the plateau. In the distance they could see a white pavilion, glowing brightly. It was separated from their plateau by a hundred-foot gap. Approaching the edge, spirits began to rise from the marsh. One was a massive dark shape, as big as an ogre. Defending themselves as best as they could against the ethereal attackers, the party was soon weakened from their unnaturally cold touch. Wilder Spirit was repeatedly drained by the large phantom, being brought to the very brink of death while Arcus was beaten into unconsciousness. It was an unwinnable fight, as even the repeated brilliant holy light of Deldred could not stop the undead threat, and more spirits continually rose every few seconds.
Somehow still standing, Wilder Spirit urged Squee to flee, to get to the pavilion and get the gem. Reluctantly, the simple gully dwarf flew ahead over the chasm. Grabbing the brilliant red gem there was a flash of white light and Squee had a vision: he saw Berem meeting with a sad young woman before a cracked pillar. The two figures joined and all that was left with a single white gem, the third gem needed to complete their trial.
All four awoke. Wilder Spirit had regained her vitality, and was no longer seconds from death. Squee nervously looked at the third challenge. They had faced a howling ghost in the Test of Wisdom, and an unwinnable army of wraiths in the Test of Heart… what awaited them in the test dedicated to courage?
They entered and found themselves in a large throne room in a Solamnic keep. Outside was an army of draconians laying siege to the structure. A young girl sat on the throne, one Elsebeth Blackblade. While the siege was likely topical, their host was from the past.
With draconians hacking away at the door to the chamber, the group fled through a secret door into a glassteel globe. Deldred paused long enough to stoneshape the passage behind them closed, preventing their being followed. The globe dropped down a long shaft, falling an unknown length before coming to a rest in the crypts of Vingaard keep, resting place of the Blackblade family and various other knights. The tombs were filled with the knights slain by the Cataclysm. The vast crypt was a mixture of rough natural caverns and hewn stone reinforcing the walls and carved chambers.
Advancing into the dark chambers, the heroes examined the sarcophagi but did *not touch the resting places. Carved on the lids were knightly symbols. From inside faint whispers could be heard: “Are you the one?”
Moving down the darkest corridor the heroes navigated over several large clefts from a natural chasm that cut through the tomb. Wind built and howled eerily through the gap. Beyond the first chasm were three suits of armour. As Deldred approached they rose up, fuelled by the spirits of dead knights. “Are you the One?” they asked. “Yes,” Deldred replied, not knowing what they were truly asking. They attacked, their gaze sapping the strength from their opponents. After a brief scuffle, Deldred and Wilder Spirit convinced the knight haunts that they were on the same side. The knights let them pass.
Continuing onward, the group passed into a large chamber of coffins and into a large hall with a single massive door on one side. Inside that far chamber was a pair of thrones occupied by the long dead spectres of the lord and lady of Vingaard keep. As the Companions neared the thrones, waves of undead knight haunts rose behind them in a silent procession. “Are you the One?” the dead lord asked. The Heroes inquired into which one, and learned it was the One who caused the Cataclysm and brought death and fire to so many. The Heroes asserted they were definitely not “the One.”
The lord then asked, “Then who is?”
The Companions stumbled over the answer before remembering the tale of Lord Soth, the death knight who fought the Western Heroes at the High Clerist’s Tower. They said he was to blame as he failed to stop the Cataclysm. Being told that this Soth was not fighting on behalf of the Dragonarmies, the lord vowed to send his undead soldiers to bring him to justice. With that, the Heroes passed the Test of Valour. Before they returned to Glitterpalace they saw one last vision: the Dark Queen Takhisis blocking passage, standing between worlds. After blasting the party with fire a brave hero stepped forward wielding a dragonlance. The champion glowing with white light held the Queen back, distracting her long enough for victory to be achieved, for the heroes to return to Glitterpalace. With all four gems being retrieved they passed the test of the gods and awoke on a large, dark circle of glass. Above was a dim night sky reflected below in the obsidian like surface of the glassy ground. They heard a divine voice coming from all directions offering them advice and comfort. Overhead, the stars shown brightly save for the two empty voids where two constellations were absent: the Platinum Dragon and the Queen of Darkness. As the voice ended one of the constellations returned briefly to the stars before vanishing again.
Exiting the small vale in the mountains, the Companions realized they were not where they had entered Glitterpalace: they had been transported several dozen miles away and were within striking distance of Neraka. They exited the vale and passed through a misty forest planning their next move when dark shapes appeared overhead. Two dragons landed nearby while several others circled overhead. Suddenly, the chromatic colouring faded revealing brilliant metallic scales! Elsebeth Blackblade, clad in shiny gold-plated armour descended from one of the dragons and saluted her fellow heroes. A very happy Tictok congratulated everyone for being alive.
Reunited and together, for the first time in the flesh, the Heroes of the Lance planned their next move. One group was needed to infiltrate the city and find the secret hidden underneath. Meanwhile, someone had to get into the throne room of the dragonarmies and kill the Dragon Emperor or the war would continue. The two groups divided and departed, ready to end the war once and for all!