Fresh from dropping through the dimensional breach, Gux capped it (and a mass of tentacles) in ice until they could fight off the remaining tentacles and flee. They fled down an underground river for four days, fighting giant silverfish, centipedes, newts, algae, and fungus until the river broke to the surface (following the advice of one of Oervind’s summoned creatures). Two more days’ travel overland brought them back to Oervind’s teleport point.
Oervind got them home, with only a slight delay when a mis-teleport landed him in a wizard’s tower near Tarsh. The Three debriefed them, dedicating special attention to Feordin, Gux, and Gâshek. A small contingent (Edane, Sender, Shegger Gork, Anatheron, and Seth-Durash) set off to take Sefu back to her people to have her memory restored. While her people had contacted her several weeks before, it was only now that the party had the time to spare for the voyage.
Approaching the enclave guided only by dream imagery, the group found a hillock with an exposed stone that Sefu could take them through. This led to a whole brightly-lit underground village bustling with small, insect-featured humanoids. The villagers paid them little mind as they walked toward the crystal-laden fountain at the center of town, almost as if they’d been told to expect guests. Sefu led the party onto a platform on the crystal fountain, and they were teleported.
The teleport landed them deep within a dazzling, frenetic subterranean metropolis unlike anything they had ever seen. Countless residents scurried to and fro against a backdrop of massive vaults and arches, fluted columns, gleaming crystals, fluttering flags and tapestries. Sefu, almost as dazzled as the rest of the party, conveyed her understanding of her largely-forgotten native language, revealing buskers and performance artists of every imaginable medium advertising gourmet potluck dinners, choral ensembles, and poetry slams. On their way through the city they sampled specialty liqueurs, sniffed through inscrutable “scent poems,” and witnessed wild displays of acrobatic prowess. Yet despite the mad diversity of activity, to outside eyes the crowd was an indistinguishable sea of identical carapaced insect-gnomes moving as if by invisible orchestration in some densely choreographed ritual dance.
The party approached a shining hall near the heart of the city, draped with a streaming waterfall and filled with robed meditants. An acolyte met them under an archway, and took them through a maze of galleries and courtyards until they found themselves in a broad, open hall. Rough-hewn benches lined the walls and formed a column near the middle of the room. Incense-blued shafts of light suffused the room with a heavy radiance. Chants echoed in the air, drifting from deep within the building. Six figures sat on the floor in the middle of the room, and the acolyte directed the party to sit on the benches facing the six figures. Aside from the drifting of their antennae, the meditating figures gave no immediate sign that they had noticed the party’s arrival.
“It has returned,” one of the figures said, its eyes still closed. Another continued as if with the same breath, “from a double exile.” A third figure continued, “We carried out our people’s justice and offered it the silence of exile –” Another interrupted, “– which it accepted gladly. And from exile it found itself enmeshed in a new community.”
The figures continued interchangeably, “Sefu Manech fell from the grace of our community, and as penance took unsavory duties in the upper wastes. We allowed it to travel among you to learn the ways of this new breed of wastelanders, and to teach you to respect and appreciate the ways the world must work. You honored those teachings it presented, and abided by our requests. Even the less benevolent mandates of our neighbors you observed, which validates our choice.
“When Sefu fell from this world, it broke from our concordant vigil, and the vigil’s power erased all memory of its past and its nature from its mind and from all those it encountered. This is an old instrument, built to safeguard these people from the trials of persecution and abuse from the upper wastes.
“But Sefu returned from beneath the soul of the world, and found its way back into our view. We decided to summon it back into our confidence, to review its story and consider restoring its memories from the echoing wells.
“We have observed, but must ask as well, to sound the true shape of its soul, and the connections it has forged. You have all traveled with Sefu Manech for months. Though your minds are naturally discordant and divided, you came together under the shelter of its society of mind. You trusted this strange soul, accepted its peculiarities and honored its wishes. You took it into your hearts and claimed it as one of you, even when it cost you. Tell us, each of you, why you chose to accept Sefu Manech into your circle of trust, and into your mind.”
[Plug party responses in here: Edane, Sender, Shegger Gork, Aranethon. They can go before or after Seth-Durrash’s response, below.]
Seth-Durrash cleared his throat, “I was a slave to a mind-wizard.” He pointed at the rest of the party, “These people bought my freedom with his blood. They should have killed me, but they offered me a fresh start instead. I have no path among my kin now. I can earn no songs, no namesakes, no sacrifices. Among their people, I’m a beast, a brute. The others accepted me because their strange honor insisted, but Sefu was different. Another exile. So we stuck together. Sefu is fragile where I am strong, fine where I am coarse, riddling where I am blunt. Dreamspinner drives me crazy sometimes, but she has a heart big enough to love the world. I guess that’s worth something, too. I’ll sing songs of Sefu to my child, and the finest cut of his first kill will be hers.”
After each of the party members responded, the six figures stood. Each speaking in turn they said, “We are not accustomed to dealing with those outside our enclave. Sefu agreed to take the great personal risk of traveling with wastelanders far from our protection. It acted in our interests without hope of reward or credit, and risked deadly dangers to do so. Its actions gave us the opportunity to reflect upon long-entrenched positions, and craft meaningful change.
“Each of you decided, against instinct and against convention, to embrace Sefu Manech and take it into your hearts in as intimate a way as any your people know. Dreaming kin and dreamlost alike, you have shown us that the upper wastes can be a place of honor, of constructive collaboration.
“You have earned back your place in our society, Sefu Manech. We will share with you your memories from the wells of echoes, and your gift will spread to restore the memories of all you have touched.” One of the figures put its hand on hers, “You must stay with us for three days to complete the restoration, and your family-of-wanderers may stay in the enclave as long as you are here. We cannot yet lift your exile, so you must leave again, but you and your fellow travelers will be recognized as a household of our enclave. When we have opened our doors to the sun-tempered lands, you will be welcome to return. Until then, all the boroughs of the enclave will listen for news of your household’s exploits, and how you pave the way for a brighter future for all peoples.”
The acoyte urged the rest of the party to get up, leaving Sefu with the group-speaking figures. While Sefu rediscovered her own story, the others enjoyed several days of rest in an exotic metropolis. Sender and Edane scribed scrolls for trade, Aranethon shared healing lore and magic, Shegger Gork studied nature magic and meditative practices, and Seth-Durrash explored their child-rearing customs. Each member of the party received a special tattoo sigil that marked them as a member of their new “household.” This one-inch black mark, though always visible, can be moved across the skin with just a thought.
When Sefu emerged from “reparative therapy,” it had returned to its natural shape. “I liked my time in human skin,” it said, “but I have to be as true to myself as the vagaries of adventuring life allow. Thank you, friends, for making this journey with me. I am happy to call you my kin now, the conjoined dreams of a shared household. Let’s return to the surface, and see what further challenges present themselves for our consideration!”