Dreams in a Jar
19 Zor Eyre
Strange dreams visit the group that night. Zinnia finds herself in the Library of Arcane Studies, her entire family glaring down at her. Her uncle Bart declares that she has shown little progress, and now she must prove herself in a live-fire exercise. Enraged shifters who have been deprived of sleep and attacked by badgers are sent after the startled wizard.
Deep in the forests of Xen’drik, Xenrohs frees himself from a giant plinth that had crushed him. In the forest he hears the mocking whispers of his kin, the trick they used when honing on a target. Now they hunt him, for he has become the outsider.
Humphrey finds himself in a room of infinite mirrors, but each has a false reflection. One, a childish waif. Another, an orcish matron with a broom. In yet another, a human in working clothes and across from him a shapely half-elf with clothes that leave little to the imagination. But each chants the same phrase endlessly: “There can be only one…” They step out of the mirror and approach threateningly.
Finally, Valna finds herself on the storm-tossed Kraken’s Tempest, the vessel already listing. Around her are the drowned corpses of her crewmates, all blaming her for her failure. As one they lunge at her.
The dream creatures, for they but dreams, assault the group en masse. Xenrohs manages to move away from those against him, and Zinnia catches several of hers in flame. But Humphrey and Valna do not fare as well, for each touch of the dream fragments confuses them and each one that falls disorients them. They fight for their lives.
Slowly, the separate dreamscapes begin to bleed into each other. A portion of the library opens onto a Xen’drik jungle; the aft of the ship looks upon a sea of books and gnomes. As the dream creatures bring down the half-elf bosun, the gnome rushes at her side. Humphrey too falls, his life escaping until a surge of strength brings him back to his feet. Even the tough Jak is beset by the shifting creatures. But finally, wounded and shaken, the group manages to destroy their nightmares.
But they do not awaken.
Instead, they find themselves in a small stone room. Its circular walls are broken by a window into a space of rolling pink, purple, orange, and blue clouds. Lighting the color of dreams breaks the clouds. Occasionally, they see glimpses of other’s dreams: Lecturer Omrish gives a speech to a gathered body that laughs and eschews him, Professor Barrasten is impotent as a cheerful Zinnia shows stronger mastery of the arcane arts. The entire place feels wrong and only half-seen. Zinnia was sure they were not in Stormreach, but where they were… she was not sure.
The group retreat deeper into the strange building. On the other side of the observation chamber they find a wall inscribed with ancient Giant runes. Xenhros and Jak can only partially make it out. “Anabaraxus... Dream… Laboratory.” The strange words are unsettling.
Deeper in the complex, they find a small arcane study overlooking a set of closed cells. Between the two chambers is a shimmering wall, which Zinnia quickly recognizes as a psychic barrier. Shying away from the hazard, the group focuses on the arcane implements. Xenhros finds several sheafs of notes in Giant and begins rummaging through them while Valna and and Humphrey consider exploring the stairs found. Just then, the doors on the cages open. From inside step out insubstantial remnants of ancient elves and drow, apparently maddened from their imprisonment. They babble mindlessly in ancient Elven and Giant, repeating the same phrases over and over again: “Sleep! Let us sleep!”
The insane elven fragments assault the group, though most try to avoid the shimmering barrier. Dreams of arrows pierce Jak and Valna’s skin while brute drow with savage intent assault Humphrey and the warlord. As the dark dreams pass the wall, they scream in agony and somehow become more solid… more real. Humphrey slams one back through the wall, causing it to spasm again while Valna and Jak attempt to fight off the ones swarm them. Zinnia’s magics are less effective against the separated foe, but she does her best with bolts of force. Meanwhile, an unconcerned Xenhros, feeling the others that have had little to do with him, attempts to make sense of the arcane writing.
The elven figments continue their assault, arrows, swords, and raw brutality all taking their toll on the group. A heavily wounded Valna retreats behind cover while Humphrey is temporarily overrun and knocked to the ground. Perhaps know taking concern or because he found how to deactivate the wall, Xenhros shuts off the arcane barrier to the dismay of Zinnia. Then Xenhros discovers that the power of his dark masters solidified the elven figments for a short time as well. While the battle is fierce, soon the tide is turned.
The toll of the dream assaults where heavy. While Xenhros and Zinnia were still in high spirits or had taken few wounds, the battles had taken the wind out of the others. Making sure the area was safe, they took camp in the area. One oddity was immediately found: The destroyed remains of a warforged, but this one was only semi-solid, as if it had started to fade like the elves. It has a few foodstuffs, and a giant relic, but little to identify it.
As they rested, Zinnia and Xenhros begrudgingly worked together to try to decipher the strange writing they had found. The notes were from an arcane laboratory of the ancient Su’lat League giants; they were apparently examining the nature of dream. But the laboratory had turned to prisoners-
the elves and drow-to be their “subjects.” The notes ended abruptly, however, and no explanation of the place’s true purpose was found. Stymied, the group began to rest.
What rest was had was a restless one; dreams were absent. In the morning, the group felt drained. Apparently, true sleep in this place was impossible. They had to find a way out… and soon.