Dreams in a Jar
22 Sul Eyre?
Getting closer to the dream laboratory—and hopefully their freedom—the party turned to the path away from where they found the captured shifter. But no sooner had they entered, then spikes from the floor shot up. Jak shrugged off the jabs, and Humphrey easily disabled the triggering plate, but the spikes were a feint—as Zinnia moved past them, crossbows from the ceiling descended, firing bolts of disruptive energy at those below.
Jak smashed the magical defenses slowly, while Valna assisted. Humphrey attempted to attend to the traps, but well hidden and sophisticated machinery made such efforts difficult: The others destroyed the turrets before the hobgoblin managed to disarm them.
Gathering their breath, the group found the remains of the other prisoner the druid Redclaw had mentioned. Long dead, the human corpse had no identifying papers or marks to signify who this person once was. But Humphrey did appreciate the corpses find darkleaf leather armor, though he was reluctant at first to possess it. “He won’t need it anymore,” Jak helpfully chimed in.
There were no other doors but the one they had waited for—the door to the heart of the dream laboratory. It was a huge chamber, dominated by Anabaraxus’ greatest work, the Dream Machine. Arcane runes of channeling were inscribed on the floor before it, drawing arcane power into the billowing chamber of orange and purple mist the color of dream, the chamber taller than the giants that made it. The eldritch energies of the machine were fierce enough to be felt from the far side of the room. There was no doubt that this forge of dreams was powering the lab, and keeping the party trapped.
A lone dream of a fire giant guarded the machine, bellowing in anger as the others burst in. Humphrey took quick action, sprinting forward with alacrity. In close succession he drove a low slash and two other cuts, almost bringing the giant to its knees. It barely had time to register to the blow before Jak finished the job.
Stepping from the mists of the chamber came constructed dreams that served only to defend the machinery. They assaulted Jak, just as another nightmare creature similar to the one that had possessed the minotaur emerged. This time, it touched Xendrohs, but could not hold on control for long. But its threat was enough to cause Jak, Valna, and the drow to focus upon it. However, the dream fragments kept on deflecting their blows, sacrificing themselves while the nightmare creature danced around them.
As the battle raged, Zinnia focused on trying to understand the machine. As she stared transfixed by the orange and purple glow, it just made sense. She began manipulating the machine as if she understood it naturally, unaware that she was talking in the babbling tongue of the dream creatures. Watching in horror, Humphrey attempted to disable the machine himself, but Zinnia was soon lost to the machine, seemingly become more and more with it. She yelled in triumph in the maddening tongue, and with the machine quiescent, its defenders were soon defeated.
But as what cost?
All could see the change coming over the gnome: The strange speach, the glazed look in her eyes. But she knew intuitively there was only one thing left for them to be free, and would hear nothing else.
All was left was Anabaraxus.