For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
After what seemed too long a time during which Gabriel and Khiron debated swimming back down into the flooded stairwell to seek the fate of their missing companions, Thorne broke the surface. As the enviro-bubble about hir’s head broke away, Thorne was babbling about the death of Ser Marcel and something about an imposter, but was clearly exhausted from the struggle of freeing hirself. Floating beside Thorne was the faint outline of a ghost—later we found out that it was the shade of the “hacker girl” Ramona—herself rambling on about quantum this and event-horizon that.
Gabriel spoke a few soothing words to them both to try to get them to calm down enough to tell the tale, at which time another person emerged from the roiling waters. Turning back the company was face to face with Ser Marcel, only not as we knew him. His clothing and gear were bizzarely sleek and light, gleaming with lights and thrumbing with soft power. HIs face was indeed that of Ser Marcel, but the eyes seemed much older somehow. He introduced himself as "Ardin’ and said that Ser Marcel had left—Thorne insisted he was utterly destroyed by the vortex of power—and that he himself was from another plane, planet, and time. In fact, he claimed to be a time-traveler.
Eventually it was decided that it didn’t really matter if Ser Marcel and Ardin were the same person or not: one was here, the other was not and there was still no sign of Mr. Dwight or the artifact that had begun the whole episode. Outside Chattanooga was a scene of utter chaos and madness. Many of the “zombies” evaporated, while others merged into hideous giants. The fading power of the leylines was still a maelstrom, and Thorne said the maddened sprits were only just beginning to realize they were free. It was unclear if the magic storm would linger for days or week or longer, but it was ever-so-slowly fading.
Making contact with the Bessie Bell informed the party that Justice and Olis were safe, but that Mr. Dwight had not made it all the way out to the boat or contacted them. The storm was still too strong to safely approach by boat, and that we would have to wait a while for it to calm down before he could fetch us. While the lower-levels of the building were still inaccessible, a search of the rest of the floors did not locate Mr. Dwight. Khiron was disappointed to see that time had ravaged the contents of the building including our cache of salvage when the wards fell, but he dutifully picked through the remains and saved what he could.
Strangely at several places in the building, there were signs of Mr. Dwight’s passing. In one corner we found a message in his handwriting: “Where the fuck are you? -D”. At that point, Ardin touched the wall and a faint vision of the past swirled into view showing Mr. Dwight looking somewhat tired and hungry writing the message in the same room but with much less age showing on the walls. Thorne spoke at length with Ardin about ‘timey-whimy’ things which at least made the work of the search more entertaining. Eventually Ardin assured us that Mr. Dwight would find us.
After a fitful night in the howling winds of the high floors and a less-than-fruitful search, the company scaled down to the waterline to board the Bessie Bell. Justice was quite keen not to leave Mr. Dwight behind, and it look some time to convince him with the aid of Ardin’s “time sense” that he was safe and would catch up. Chattanooga was still not a safe place to linger, so reluctantly he agreed and the journey up-river continued. While there were no longer hordes of zombies throwing themselves off bridges as the boat passed, several of the ‘meat mountains’ did hurl wreckage in our wake.
Further up the Tennessee the Bessie Bell put in to the village of Woodland Groove. The week spent dealing with Chattanooga left the company in need of supplies, and a night in a dry bed and a meal was welcome respite. With worry about Mr. Dwight and the fate of Ser Marcel still weighing upon them, there was little discussion with the locals and the evening passed quietly.
Traveling further up-river, Khiron spotted a structure at a fork ahead, one that seemed hastily but sturdily built. Furthermore, signs of a chain in the water lay across our intended direction of travel. Wary of a trap, Gabriel piloted the other branch and then put in the Bessie Bell well out of sight. The group disembarked and made their way overland to investigate the structure. It was indeed a fortification and was manned by the same well-armed mercenaries Gabriel had spotted further down-river in the employ of Mr. Dwight & Khiron’s former patron from Gateway City. Deciding stealth was the better approach, the party continued their travel south with plans to travel to Knoxville and then overland to Oakridge in the hopes of bypassing further sentinels on the river.
The main threat on the overland route was said to be ‘muties’ which turned out to be to Gabriel and Thorne’s eyes a village of trolls. Some festival kept the bulk of them occupied, but as the party attempted to skirt them they encountered a pair about to dine upon an innocent girl. Khiron bravely rushed to the rescue, but was injured in payment for his virtue. Ardin and Gabriel brought down the trolls but it was a messy, nasty job as the creatures were ultimately only destroyed by Thorne’s fire spirits after many long minutes.