With everything ready, Lady Antinua cast the Conceptual Reinforcement over the Party. Now protected against the transformative effects of the planes, the Party swam and in Carric’s case, walked into the fog. It thickened around them, enveloping each of the planar wanderers, with the only sound the splashing of water. But soon enough the fog evaporated and the sounds faded into faint echoes. The landscape was milky white, with strands of errant thoughts and concepts floating past and the Party were floating, or rather, existing in some sort of void. They had entered the Celestial Sea.
It was like a mathematical formula without any numbers. There was the idea of gravity, but nothing that it pulled towards. There were concepts of objects and theories, but each one without matter. Althaea’s musics existed when she hummed them, but the sounds itself broke into melodies, then notes, then waves, then nothing. An errant fleck of ink from Carric’s pen left the shimmering field surrounding the Party and then evaporated into a theory. Truly, the Celestial Sea was a strange and unforgiving place.
But the Party was here on purpose and the protective spell wouldn’t hold forever. Dulkan shouted into the void, calling the Divines who supposedly lived there. His mind first went to Ashanti, the one in whose temple he was judged back in Duskport. Without form, Dulkan saw in his mind the symbol of Ashanti, the torch with a sword hilt. This thought faintly swirled in the space without space in front of him… then solidified. A majestic temple, with endless pillars and a hard stone floor came onto being and the Party found themselves standing in it. And in front of them appeared from nothing a massive torch, with an orange leaping flame dancing on it. And it spoke, with a booming voice like rumbling thunder:
You have arrived.
Realization dawned and Dulkan found himself falling to his knees in awe. The rest were dumbstruck while their inner skepticism tried to deflect the fact that they were in the very presence of one of the Divines. Ashanti gave Dulkan permission to rise and he asked where the other ones were. The Divine stated that he had called Ashanti first. Realizing this, Dulkan then besought Mishra to arrive. And immediately a flaming sphere exploded among the pillars, spreading sky around and radiating pleasant, summer-like warmth. Mishra had arrived, greeting the Party warmly. And she called the rest.
It was a swirl of power as the Divines came, one by one, and surrounded the Party. They brought with them their aspects, transforming the empty void into a paved hilltop with vistas of different places of the Realm. The Divines surrounded the Party, transforming into their canonical forms. Cruxis, a blue dragon on top of a small metal tower. Mishra, a golden dragon on a small lively glade. Nissha, a green dragon on a warm clifftop with a single fruit tree growing on it. Zariss, a bronze dragon sitting on a crossroads. Ochrana, a red dragon on top of a mound of gold. Sithrahk, a white dragon on a withered tree. Quirion, a black dragon inside a perpetual shadow. Ashanti, a silver dragon standing proud on top of a throne.
With little formality, the Divines dived into the matter at hand: Why the Party was here. It turned out that the Divines had bent their mutual rules to give incentives and signs pointing the Party to the Celestial Sea for one purpose: To ask them to kill the Dragonslayer.
Divine Essence, the power Thera Ser had learned of and started to gather to turn into the Guardian, was an even more profound feature of the world than even the Divines. According to them, any being that could collect enough Essence could ascend and join the ranks of the Divines. But the Dragonslayer had expressed her fanatic decision to kill them, a feat that seemed to be possible, seeing the Divines’ implied concern. Their claim was that even if just one of them would fall, some of the domains holding the Realm together would be masterless, precipitating the entire world into an age no-one could predict.
While Ashanti at least expressed confidence of their prowess against the Dragonslayer’s plans, it became apparent that the Divines would not directly interfere with any mortal affairs. That is why they could not directly oppose the Dragonslayer, nor could they help nor command the Party. They were under no obligation to do anything the Divines asked them to do. The decision to traverse the planes to the Divines’ home was the Party’s own.
But before accepting the Divines’ request, the Party had one major question: How did the Divines decide which ascendant would they oppose and which they would allow to face them as equals? As Carric asked the question, he saw something few would have believed in the dragonic divine faces: Doubt. It was a debate that the Divines have never resolved, and one that would not ever be, as the group of eight seemed to be in a stalemate. Their answer was that for the moment it would be a case-by-case-basis.
This, however, prompted the Divines to ask the Party a question in return: Would they oppose the Divines? Did they have prospects of grandeur and godhood? Dulkan merely wanted to be left to his own devices. Lady Antinua was satisfied so long as the Divines continued to govern well. Carric too was disinterested in divine matters. Althaea understood that the world operated on a balance; Each Divine pulled and shaped the world in their own image, the net effect being that the world was in harmony. So she too, saw that the Divines’ order was good. This pleased the Divines.
With their primary matter exhausted, Carric used the opportunity to ask the one question that haunted him for a reason he did not remember: Do sorcerers have a dragon’s soul? As an answer, Mishra and Sithrakh explained that the soul is a container for the Divine Essence. There are many different kinds of souls, some with their own properties. When a being dies on the Realm, the Essence it carries is released back into the cycle, and the soul is sent to oblivion, where Mishra takes one and breathes new life into it. There are countless, innumerable souls both old and new, so it might very well be that Carric’s is one that had at least been a dragon one time.
The Party’s final question was how they could get to the Realm. After the Divines stated that they could not help the Party directly, Antinua began probing for a way to obtain the answer some other way. She asked about the planes, learning that the Realm was a unique place in the center of the cosmos, with a couple of planes in close proximity and the rest of the planes far away. Among these far away planes were ones the Divines had crafted alone in their own image. All except one: Shadowfell. It was beside the Realm, as it was the place where dead souls came to relinquish their Essence. And in this plane were many places of crossing, like the Bleak Caverns.
Now armed with a name, the Party bid the Divines farewell. The mighty beings dissolved into concepts, leaving the Party yet again in the void. Their next direction was clear: Shadowfell.