After securing the outside of the Negerai's compound, the heroes decided to step inside the cave and have a look around.
Within the complex they found a deep cavern that seemed set up to serve as a prison and arena for the Negerai. Massive shackles were present that were presumably used to tether the Celestial Dragon for its tainting. Remnants of a battle in the cave were visible all throughout. On one wall, there was another smaller dragon still chained in place.
The dragon looked visibly tainted, however the heroes were not sure if it was completely turned yet. They managed to strike up a conversation and learned that the Celestial Dragon had been completely tainted by the Negerai and was on its way to make some demands on the Council, while the Negerai was to go off and start uniting the newly forming Dark Clans. This dragon, known as a Spirit Dragon, was designed as a messenger and explained that letting him go would be very useful for staving off the impending evil being propogated by the Negerai. So the adventurers compliled with some trepidation and managed to free him. He left without incident, apparently intent on some other great matters.
Upon further inspection of the cavern, the group found that it was also used as a makeshift command post and camp for the Negerai's humanoid minions. Discarded items were strewn about, as well as some freshly burning campfires that were seemingly abandoned in haste when the minions were attacked from the outside. While collecting some of the finer trash, Raven stumbled upon a peculiar black laquered rod with a few incscriptions and runes carved into it. There was an oriental common phrase engraved on the side, "toki auto".
Much discussion ensued about what this rod was. Vanoviel determined that it was VERY highly magical, and this made Raven even more curious (and greedy). After a time, the curiousity got the better of her and she held the rod while reciting the phrase.... amid the ducking and scattering of the rest of the crew. Instead of reigning down complete destruction, the rod did something else. A shimmering bubble appeared over Raven and enveloped her and anyone standing nearby. Looking outside the bubble, time seemed to pass very slowly. Those who were looking into the bubble saw time on the interior passing very quickly. Apparently, they had discovered a powerful artifact with the ability to manipulate time. Painstakingly, they figured out some limitations on the item, such as the fact that it would not stop any missle weapons or magic from comine inside the time bubble, yet casting magic or using ranged weapons from the inside was hindered.
Around this time they realized that they needed to confront the Negerai, and quickly, for he was about to tear the ruling celestial council of Khanjar Kuro apart very soon. From their conversation earlier with the dragon, they decided that they had no way to destroy the Negerai in a frontal attack, yet they may be able to think of some way to immobilize or imprison him, so they had to try. They set out back the way they came.
The way back was dark and tiresome after their ordeal. As they were about to rest, one of the heroes spotted a shadowy figure tailing them not far behind. The adventurers immediately took up a battle position when they got back to the abandoned village at which point the shadowy figure revealed himself. Dressed from head to toe in a tight fitting black suit with a face covering, the sleek ninja approached them while keeping a safe distance. It was clear from the way he evaded the party's attacks that he was there to parley.
After some toying with the party, he informed them that the Negerai, his leader, was on his way to meet them there to "deal with them". He made it quite clear that he was very angry with their meddling and they were to be summarily put to death. The ninja was there to shadow them and make sure that the Negerai could find them when he decided to come. This did not go over well with Vanoviel who tried in vain to "deal with" the ninja before the Negerai got there, however it was no use. The wily figure was too fast and too nimble.
Forgoing their nightly rest, the heroes decided that their best bet was to keep moving in order to find a more defensible area. So they set off with the ninja back in tow somewhere nearby.
The trip did not last long. Using his amazing powers of teleportation, the Negerai found them weary and mostly unaware. The heroes were cornered.
A grand fight ensued between the heroes and the Negerai. At first, neither side could gain the advantage, however after a time the adventurers got a rhythym going in their battle plan and managed to make the Negerai become very concerned about his own health. He fought like the infernal fiend he was, and after some nearly lethal swipes from Arie's sword, he decided it was time to exit and try another plan.
Reaching down to the amulet he wore around his neck with the curious stone in it, he said to the heroes, "If I can't kill you NOW, I will kill you THEN. hahahaha!" Unfortunately, at the very same moment he was winking out of existence, Raven activated her temporal rod while standing next to him......
The explosion nearly ripped them all to shreds. Bumped and battered, and moderately bleeding, the heroes picked themselves up off the ground, wiping blood from their ears and noses. Not long after that, they noticed that the Negerai was gone... and something was very wrong. The trees around them no longer showed any taint... in fact, they were not even the same trees. The species of trees that now surrounded them was not of Khanjar Kuro at all... in fact it was a common species found in T'Nanshi.
This puzzled the heroes tremendously. Why did the area they now stood in look so much like the forests of T'Nanshi? Even Tupaia recognized her home flora immediately. Even stranger were the more subtle signs arrayed nearby. Some treetrunks were chipped. Some had arrows lodged into them. A small way off, Kung found the dead bodies of 3 orcs killed in battle. It was all very strange, since they had seen none of these things in Khanjar Kuro. The answer came in the sound of hoofbeats.
Riding towards them were a large unit of elven soldiers... except they were a bit different than the elven soldiers that the heroes knew. In the lead horse was a dazzling figure of an elf with silvery hair. At his side he carried something very familiar. It was a sword, remarkably identical to the one carried by Arie in every detail except one. When the rider rode up and stopped before the party, Arie could see that this sword contained 4 stones while hers only contained 3. She stood there staring dumbstruck along with her friends.
The sharp-mannered elf demanded their identities. Not knowing who they were, he then introduced himself as Solerion Rinthon.
The revelation struck the party like a meteor swarm. They WERE in T'Nanshi. The forest was damaged and there was orc carnage everywhere. The great Solerion Rinthon stood before them. Though this was the land familiar to them, it was not right. They had travelled back in time, and by the looks of it, the times were not good. By all clues, they surmised when they were... the Great War was just about to begin its final battle.
The shocking realization did not have long to sink in however. Soon after introductions were made, the advanced unit of the fleeing orc army from the east came charging through the grove......