The cavern deep with in the earth was silent and dark, other than the occasional murmur of molten stone and the faint red glow the magma emitted. Who would want to come back to this place? It held only memories of endless torment, imprisonment, and death.
In one corner mirror lay cracked on the obsidian floor, its surface covered with a fine layer of volcanic dust.
Into this darkness, a single ray of light shone from its shattered glass—an unnatural light, as if comprised of all the colours of the spectrum yet none, the light of arcane magics refracted through a warped and broken lens.
Then a second, and a third. And finally a series of sounds—a sort of vwoooop! vwoooop!—almost comically out of place in the oppressive silence.
Where the cavern had been empty, there now stood two figures, weapons at the ready: one a huge, muscled half-orc, the other a battle-scarred human. Both were clearly warriors of some sort, clad in identical armour as black and forlorn as an endless nightmare. Around its neck the half-orc carried the mummified paw of a great cat attached to a golden necklace. The human wore a circlet of gems and ancient decaying teeth, torn from the skull of a past but not forgotten foe.
Moments later, there was more light, and more noises. vwoooop! vwoooop! vwoooop! vwoooop! Four more figures, dressed in black as the first two had been, stood in this place of evil.
“Well, Professor, is this the place?” said the shortest but most commanding of the group, glancing at the mage standing nervously behind him. “And is this the time?”
The mage pulled out a device and consulted it intently as a dark and malformed rat scampered among the folds of his black cloak. “I believe so, Sir. I am almost certain.”
An sultry elf winked as she played with the whip in her hand, its tip a knot of sharpened blades. “Almost? You had best be right, professor. As you know, he doesn’t take failure well.”
The mage swallowed hard under the steely stare of the Mistress of Pain. His last mistake had taught him that lesson well. “I am certain.”
The halfling nodded in acknowledgement. “If that is so, how long will it take to make the journey?”
A drow ranger stepped forward, again in black, consulting a map. “Once we find the passage to the Underdark, two to three months. The horacalcum deposit, if the journal is to be believed, lies near Silverymoon. But I know the way.”
“Well, we all have time, don’t we?” The halfling laughed, as the others smiled at the irony of it all. “Above they’re at war. The efreet has been released. They’ve forgotten what they once knew. We shall journey to this place, and once we are there…”
The mage interrupted, clearly excited about the prospect. “Another month or two, Sir, to fashion the mirror, and test its properties. Then.. then, the time-portal will be ready.”
vwoooop! Beside the party a creature now appeared, lurking and cavorting in the shadows. It was goat of sorts, ebony in colour, fanged and horned, its eyes glowing with unnatural flames.
Their leader smiled. “Let us proceed, then. We have a worlds to conquer and bend to our will. And as for you, Carpini…”
With this Arnold glanced at the horned abomination in the shadows.
“…there will be souls enough for you along the way.”