“She just disappeared, I guess.” — Azereen, in response to Jager’s query about the missing Scylien.
While Jenna circles overhead, the rest of the Band approaches the high ground under cover. The male lizardfolk greets them and introduces himself as Tshinhar. He is resting before continuing on to Tarass Shar Orn.
Tshinhar explains that he was leaning against a Harlass Orn Guidepost. This black metal post is about ten feet high and six inches in diameter, and topped with a golden sphere the size of a man’s head. When questioned in Draconic, the Guidepost will give directions to various locations known to the Harlass Orn. Tshinhar assumes the Band needs directions, and offers to provide them.
Further conversation reveals that Tshinhar is fleeing a Dhakaani invasion of Harlass Orn. From the Band’s perspective, this invasion actually occurred thousands of years ago. During Tshinhar’s rest, a number of travelers have asked for directions, including Jheamast, who passed through earlier in the morning. This makes no sense to the Band, since Jheamast died fifty years ago. The Band eventually concludes that the Guidepost and Tshinhar must experience a different flow of time, or are stuck in the past.
Meanwhile, the Band realizes that Scylien has vanished. She did not reach the Guidepost with the rest of them. A tense couple of hours pass as Scylien searches for the Band, and they for her. She cannot see her comrades, even when she stands at the spot where Jenna discovered the Guidepost.
Jager leaves the Guidepost and finds Scylien a couple miles away. He brings her back to the Guidepost, and this time they both find it. After some discussion, the Band decides that entering the region of distorted time around the Guidepost can be hit or miss, and some people seem better at it than others.
Tshinhar provides the Band with directions to Tarass Shar Orn. Scylien then queries the Guidepost about the Transit Towers. She learns that there are actually twenty-three towers, including the nine that give the Band its name. Most are in Q’barra, some are probably in the Talenta Plains, and at least one may be in Valenar lands.
Tshinhar will not leave the Guidepost, so the Band continues east towards Tarass Shar Orn. The next day they reach the island specified in the directions. A dead tree one hundred feet high rises from the hilltop. Jenna uses spells to determine that the tree has been fabricated and that the base of the trunk radiates magic. Azereen sends an elemental underground and learns the tree sits atop a stone shaft.
Jager remembers the phrase Dorian Orsova overheard from lizardfolk: “the sleepers must awaken.” Speaking these words in Draconic causes a section of the tree to open, revealing a circular room ten feet in diameter. With some trepidation, the Band crowds in. Scylien says the phrase again, the tree closes, and the floor descends.
The lift drops at least a hundred feet or more to a hallway, where it settles into a depression in the floor. The hallway, floor, and ceiling are constructed of superbly fitted stone slabs, and the entire area is illuminated by Everbright lamps mounted on the walls. Some lamps are extinguished, so that shadows exist in the spaces between the functioning lamps.
The Band begins the exploration of Tarass Shar Orn. The architecture is odd. There are few straight lines, the walls and ceilings curve, and all the rooms are ellipsoid or hemispherical. The atmosphere is also eerie. Voices cry out with no apparent source, figures run through the hallway and vanish into rooms, a group of Dhakaani warriors appear from nowhere, attack the Band for a few seconds, and then disappear again.
Exploration continues down a flight of steps to a lower level. Here, the curving hallway is lined with doors, and none of them are locked. Behind each door is a hemispherical room of varying size filled with couches. Beside each couch is a table, and upon each table is a bowl of blue or golden liquid.
Many of the couches have lizardfolk occupants. Some appear to be sleeping, others are desiccated and mummified. The blue liquid is beside each occupied couch, the golden liquid beside the unoccupied couches.
Jager receives a headache while resisting some sort of mental attack. After knocking over a number of the bowls, Scylien is similarly attacked, but she fails to resist and finds herself faced off against a lizardfolk in some sort of dream-like environment. The foe attacks her with a crossbow and spells; Scylien replies with her crossbow and sword. The rest of the Band sees Scylien frozen in place and unresponsive to external stimuli, body spasming each time she is struck.
Mila Smites Scylien, and Fixit supplies a Protection from Evil. Both efforts aid Scylien in the battle, and soon she has gained the upper hand, or at least thinks that she has. Regardless, her mind suddenly returns to her body and the battle is over.
The explorers move on to inspect more rooms. A small room holds a single lizardfolk male wearing a robe and an amulet, which bears the Draconic words “Truth” and “Knowledge.” Pouring small amounts of the blue liquid into his mouth awakens him. Initially startled and afraid, he calms down enough to ask about Dhakaani attacks and to explain that his people have been hunted in their dreams by a creature called the Dreamseeker.
Tentative trust is established as the Band assists the recovery of the lizardfolk man. Scylien gets bored, however, and wanders down the hall. It soon opens into a large room filled with shelves that contain a few books. As Scylien gapes at her discovery, a lizardfolk man leaps around a corner, surprising her about as much as anyone can be surprised.
The lizardfolk cries out in Draconic, “Die Dreamseeker!” Scylien watches in dumbfounded amazement as his sword arcs towards her head.