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Part IV: The Final Days

And so it went, for weeks on end. Exiles stood around town or went nervously about their business, always listening for the cry: "A new ripture is forming! Everyone come help, and hurry!" Sunstones broke, failing just as communication and coordination became critical. Their prices rose from the usual 1000-2000c to an unprecedented 3500c or more. Finally we tired of always being on the defensive. We still didn't know the true origins of the riptures, but it seemed clear that their power was tied somehow to the undine, and so mid-morning on the 20th of Summer a large group of exiles, including six organizing clans and many others, mounted a full-fledged assault with the intention of wiping out every undine in the lands. Several fighting forces simultaneously took control of the farmer's undine cavern, the desert well, Ash Island and the Dark Temple, and even the Abyss. Meanwhile another small group stood in Adytum, pressed against the warm stones of the Dialith, their spirits cross-linked with those of the fighting teams, hoping that that might have some benefit once more.

The attack was declared a success; at the very least, it did wonders for our morale. We were even bold enough afterward to try to close one of the fully-formed tears. A group of healers gathered at the north edge of the orchard, running one at a time into the "voided" area of the forest just north of there and struggling to apply their moonstones to the heart of the ripture for a few seconds before falling and being carried to Adytum. We will never know if our efforts might eventually have succeeded, for we were soon interrupted by more urgent matters.

What impact the assault on the undine had on the strength of the Darkness is still not entirely clear, but it did not go unnoticed. Starting just a few hours after the attack ended, riptures began opening at an unprecedented rate. From the evening of the 20th until the wee hours of the 22nd, eight new tears formed. With great organization and courage we managed to close half of them, but logistics, luck, and exhaustion took the other four from us. More of the marsh and east forest were gone. South pass. North beach, as the cold tendrils of the void closed in on our fair town. Finally the ripture openings slowed for a time and we could rest. Little did we know that our enemy was only gathering strength for a final onslaught.

The next two days were relatively calm, with only occasional ripture openings to be fought. It was the calm before the storm. Like a hurricane, a huge force of undine arose to batter the town, dozens of Revours and Greater Wraiths pressing in on all sides. We fought valiantly, but could not hold them back. Just as it seemed that all would be lost, those fighting and lying fallen in town found themselves transported to Adytum by the power of the Dialith. On the morning of the 24th of Summer, the trees and buildings and beasts of Puddleby were lost to the void -- but the town's most important asset, its community of exiles, had been saved.

We stood in Adytum, a bit stunned, for a few minutes. Then each of us felt the call of the Dialith, urging us to go south into the mist-shrouded region we began to call the Planar Temple. Not knowing what else to do, we heeded that call, then in our great exhaustion collapsed there on the ground and slept. Perhaps some restorative power was at work within us, for not one person stirred for more than a day. When we awakened it was early afternoon on the 25th, and the great struggle to reclaim Puddleby began.

While we slept, the world had changed around us. The portal to Purgatory had closed, preventing our return to Puddleby, but a new portal had opened in the Planar Temple. Some exiles touched this portal and were surrounded by an ethereal flame that did not harm them physically, but cleansed them of all their advanced skills and burned their coins and most of their items. Fighters kept their daggers, healers their moonstones, and mystics their wands, but that was all. Oddly, however, while "inspired" by the cleansing flame an exile was nearly invincible, and could destroy even Greater Deaths with hardly an effort. Once the flame burned out, the newly "taintless" became bright blue from head to toe. Only these "bluebies" could pass through the portal to Perdition, a ghostly shadow or spiritual essence of Puddleby that reminded the oldest exiles of the town as it was years ago.

In Perdition we found hordes of oddly weak Revours that fell surprisingly easily to the blue-striped "taintless club" each exile received upon arrival there. We also found portals leading to what we guessed to be the "back sides" of the riptures that had opened in our home. Once more we set to healing these riptures and pushing back the darkness. The task was long and arduous, since the only healers able to reach the tears were cleansed, as unskilled at their art as one brand new to the profession; but we persevered. Each time a ripture was closed, the Dialith in Adytum grew stronger. Better still, the mystically attuned among us felt the currents shift and tears in Puddleby itself close each time a Perdition ripture was healed.

Meanwhile, undine in Adytum and the Planar Temple launched periodic assaults on the Dialith. Their attacks seemed to be related to the cleansing of exiles, but that was never certain. Those who had not yet been cleansed, and thus retained their former skills, valiantly fought back and protected the stones, since it was by the power of the Dialith that anyone falling in Perdition or the Planar Temple was carried to Adytum. Several times Adytum nearly fell, but was saved by an exile who sacrificed his learning to the eerie cleansing flame and became inspired, and thus invincible for a time.

Just before midnight on the 32nd of Summer, after more than a week of this final battle, the last ripture in Perdition was healed. Had there been eight? Perhaps nine? In the chaos and exhaustion of that long final battle it was difficult to keep accurate count. As the last ripture closed, a great earthquake rocked the etherial land of Adytum. Cries of jubilation filled the air even as dozens fell to the unstable ground. The Dialith pulsed strongly and then subsided, its purpose apparently fulfilled, and a bare handful of standing healers worked to raise the fallen bodies. Taintless rushed to the Perdition portal, eager to see what it might now offer. To our joy, we discovered a new gateway in one corner of the shadow town, a portal that led back home! Giddily we passed through this final door and arrived once more in our familiar Puddleby.

Or perhaps not so familiar after all. The disruption caused by the Ripture War had a lasting impact on our home islands. Puddleby itself was largely unchanged, but the surrounding fields and farms had been rearranged somewhat, and the forests and outlying areas were considerably different. Still, we have survived chaos storms of this sort before, and we start on our journey of rediscovery with "bluebie clothes" still on our backs, but hearts as light as our empty packs.

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Page last modified on March 12, 2009, at 10:35 AM