Wiliken wiped sweat from his brow as he reached the top of the hill. It was a sunny day and the sun had sapped a great deal of his strength out of him, but they were almost there.
Jean-Baptiste had already begun his descent down the hill before either Ugarth or Grace had managed to reach the top. Wiliken felt a certain level of freedom when he traveled away from the city. Whenever he felt that Douglas wasn’t watching him, he felt that he could breathe easily. There was a part of the githzerai that felt anxious that the bard had not followed them. This mission was normally Douglas’s sort of adventure, and yet he had stayed behind in the city. It was curious.
As they approached, Wiliken felt a moment of uncertainty. There were two towering she-bears standing with tensed muscles and their backs turned to the adventurers. Wiliken didn’t know what was more disturbing – the fact that the bears didn’t seem to notice the party approaching or the fact that the party had decided to sneak up on a pair of battle-ready she-bears. The bears were transfixed on a point in front of them, a point that Jean-Baptiste had summoned them in order to guard, a tiny tear in reality.
When Jean-Baptiste had arrived the previous night, he’d wanted to lead a party back out into the wilderness that very evening. Jenkins had convinced him to rest and wait out the storm.
“The she-bears can handle guard duty until morning,” Jenkins had said.
“I suppose you’re right,” Jean-Baptiste had responded. “And if they are overrun, I will know.”
It was clear that Jean-Baptiste was unhappy, so Jenkins had called a council on the matter in the middle of the night. Jean-Baptiste recounted his story of being deep in meditation when he’d heard a deep rubbing sound. He’d felt the anomaly before he’d even seen it, a small gash in space much like a knife wound in flesh. Out of it had popped a small creature the size of a house cat which immediately began to devour any living plant, insect or small rodent nearby. Jean-Baptiste had killed the beast immediately, for the creature had disgusted his natural senses just as the gash in the open air had. The creature was no longer a threat, but Jean-Baptiste could see that the tiny gash was growing. He told the group that he had first attempted to close the portal. When he couldn’t he cast a ritual that would slow its growth and decided that he may need help.
The she-bears parted as they walked by. When everyone was present Jean-Baptiste touched the nose of each sentinel gently and released them from their duty. They bounded off into the forest, never to be seen again.
When Jean-Baptiste had originally described the creature, the others had speculated as to its origin. Ugarth had remained silent. As he approached the creature, he became clearly disturbed. His composure fell apart immediately and in a fit of rage he began stomping the dead animal with the heel of his foot before collapsing onto the ground in despair.
“What is wrong with the orc?” Wiliken asked.
“These creatures,” said Grace. “I believe they may be the same beasts that killed Ugarth’s people. He was once the king of the orcs, you know?”
Grace went on to explain that some of the people in the party had been there during the fall of Ugarth’s kingdom. They had been uncertain where the creatures had come from, but they had assumed that it was an Iuzian attack, some sort of biological warfare.
“But these portals aren’t Iuzian,” Wiliken suggested. “They’re far too primal, too asymmetrical. They almost look like they were created on accident. Far too crude for an empire with advanced teleportation capabilities.”
“I believe you’re right,” Grace said.
Shortly after they’d arrived, the portal popped shut, leaving no evidence of its previous existence. The party returned to the Felshore knowing nothing more than they had the previous evening, but Jenkins held another council just the same. When they explained what they had seen, Jenkins said, “If there are other such portals, I believe I can track them down. I will need the help of our githzerai friend.”
“You will have it,” Wiliken said.
Ugarth, Grace and Jean-Baptiste pledged their support as well in the search for the next portal.
“Would you care to join us, Douglas?” Wiliken asked. The human stood next to Jenkins with his arms crossed. He considered for a moment before saying, “I have more pressing things to do here in town.”
The others parted to make preparations for their departure, but Wiliken lingered behind.
“Can you give us some privacy, please?” Jenkins asked Douglas. Douglas looked at the wizard angrily before stomping off.
“How may I be of service?” Wiliken asked.
“You have been developing some uncanny abilities lately, it seems,” Jenkins said. “Heightened powers of the mind, one might call them. Don’t be frightened. Any wizard of a high enough caliber can sense these things. What I want from you is to meditate on the portal you saw today. From your description, I will pinpoint our location and send the party out to investigate.”
“I wish to join the investigation party,” Wiliken said.
“That can be arranged,” Jenkins said. “I suppose you’ll want some time to prepare as well.”
Wiliken had been dismissed, but he lingered behind for a moment uncertainly.
“Is there something else you would like to talk about?”
“I fear that my son has become too powerful for us to track,” Wiliken said.
“That is disappointing.”
“But I think there is a way to find him,” Wiliken said. “I believe that if I were to travel back in time I could stop him before he becomes a threat, and I believe that you are the only wizard in the world who has the power to send me back.”
“I will have to think on that,” Jenkins said. “At the moment I am drained. I don’t believe I could even send you ten minutes into the past.” Jenkins looked Wiliken over. “I will need a few items. Perhaps when you return from this mission we can discuss acquiring these things.”
Jenkins might have known about Wiliken’s newly developed powers, but the githzerai felt certain that the wizard didn’t know everything he’d seen in his visions. And he didn’t need to know either. Wiliken had no concern at that moment for tracking down his son. That was only a means to a higher level of trust in the Felshore. What he really wanted was to save his wife, to bring her back to the land of the living, and to do so he would need Jenkins’ time magics.
Campaign Stories is continued in Wiliken 21.