Thunder split the sky above the Balach Swamp, and reality was torn asunder as a rift opened at its centre, spilling the nightmares of Great Muud on an unsuspecting world.
Those first few unfortunate enough to scout out the vortex perished to the beasts, which were tough enough to fell even the hardiest of demigods. Eventually, it was the cunning hunters of the Serenwilde Commune who managed to clear the swamp, led by Lleuke Zayah, the Silver Oracle. Though small, his band felled the creatures through skirmish tactics, finally reclaiming the land that had been lost to the nightmares.
With a moment to breathe, others turned their minds to hunting the source of the problem. Shedrin Shevat and Davos of the Beacon of Harmony joined forces with Arcanis De’Unnero of the Engine, and carved their way through Great Muud Himself to seek out the Sleeping Child. Though their battle was long and hard, they eventually reached the Child. She seemed unharmed, but stirred in her slumber enough to make a plaintive plea: that they find her friends, the Keepers, and help them.
Meanwhile, Dain of the Hartstone and the Voice of Trialante, as well as the resident priest in Celest’s Cathedral, spoke of the coming of a force of light that would stand against the darkness. They cautioned their supplicants to keep a keen eye out for whoever or whatever this force was. Even Brennan Stormcrow stirred for long enough to encourage the Glomdoring Commune towards the arts of Dreamweaving, since surely there was more to be seen there.
For the few Dreamweavers who had stepped through the Portal of Fate, it had been a frustrating time. Dinae De’Unnero of the Geomancers and Yvonari Delauney of the Hartstone had spent days searching for clues in their dreambody forms, yet to no avail. Though they had at points felt the tremors through the Dreaming before they had reached the First World, there seemed to be little more they could do…until the prophetic words of Dain, Trialante, Brennan and the priest came to pass.
As the vigilant guardians in the Balach Swamp felt a presence in their vicinity, Ixchilgal Mes’ard of Gaudiguch and Calesta Ysav’rai of Glomdoring, shed their corporeal forms and began to search. It was Ixchilgal who found the prophesied visitor first, and began to communicate with her. A trill with snowy-white feathers, the dreambody introduced herself as Ladae Mistskimmer, one of the Keepers of Dreams. Ixchilgal quickly found the difficulty of conversing with Keeper Ladae, however; for whatever magic had animated this form of hers was weak, and flickered in and out of being from word to word.
Together, Ixchilgal and Ladae went to the vortex, and Calesta joined them to assist in the translation. With their help, Ladae explained that the first and most important task was to seal the vortex. She beseeched them to bring her several ingredients – dream leeches, corpses of Manifestations of the Dreaming, and silk spinnerets – with which she would construct a net that would seal it, and the Dreamweavers skilfully communicated this to their waking brethren.
The True Ascendant Kaimanahi McCloud, Princess of New Celest, personally went and collected a number of the corpses, whilst Tremula and Arcanis of Magnagora assisted and Calesta collected the spinnerets from the widows of the Glomdoring Commune. Once the items were gathered, Ixchilgal enveloped them into their dream form and delivered them to Ladae, who created the net for Ixchilgal to place into the vortex.
Glowing vibrantly, the dream net enveloped the vortex, which imploded in a shower of ash. Soon all that remained of it was the weight of a nightmare that lingers upon waking, and the grateful form of Ladae Mistskimmer. She managed to manifest fully then, her power waxing in the wake of Great Muud’s nightmares, and began to explain the plight of the Keepers of Dreams and the Sleeping Child. The Aegis of Vestera, she said to the rapturous crowd, was weakening – and the Keepers needed help to restore it so that the Sleeping Child could remain protected.
But just as Keeper Ladae began to tell them of the Enclave, her form flickered and faded. Though she fought to maintain her grip on her form, the trill’s image soon dissipated into iridescent dream motes, nothing lingering but the few words she had managed to impart. And though the gathered adventurers did their best to search, and to pursue every lead they had, they were left only with questions.
What was the Aegis of Vestera? Where was the Enclave of which the Keepers of Dreams spoke? And what fate would befall the Sleeping Child, already cursed to hold Great Muud’s attention for all eternity, if they failed?