Craig Hale looks up from his book, feeling intense heat behind him. He turns suddenly, seeing the Man in Embers standing in the room with him, fire begins to envelop the library.
Man in Embers
“The Coin,” The Prophet of Doom Rasps, “You MUST grasp the COIN!”
He reaches out and grabs Craig by the shoulders, he flinches at the intensity of the heat. He can feel fire and pain searing into him, his clothes begin to smolder-
Witch’s Hat Tower
-Craig snaps awake. He shoots up to his feet, the book he was reading knocked to the floor. He pats himself down, seeing no sign of injury. He does catch the smell of soot and sees the remains of two burned footprints on the floor. Before he can bend down to examine them closer, he hears the sound of Bethany laughing. Craig looks towards the entrance of the library, Bethany’s laughter has a desperate, almost manic quality to it.
He picks up his newly acquired Warden Sword that he had set carefully next to him and buckles it about his waist. Craig rests his hand on the worn hilt and strides into the room. He feels as comfortable with the blade as with being a Warden, which means not that much, but he figures the blade is better than nothing.
In the entryway he sees Bethany on her knees clutching at her throat, her face is red and eyes are beginning to bulge as she struggles for air. Her breathes are strangled off with frantic laughter, tears of pain pouring down her face. Standing above her his a tall man with odd proportions, his head is bald and gleams in the morning light. His eyes are wide open as if the skin on his skull his stretched tight, the same effect gives his big toothed grin a loathsome and monstrously large appearance.
The figure turns to Craig, “Ahhhhh Warden Hale, let me introduce myself, I am Mister Brightside and you have something I want,” the grinning monstrosity extends a long arm and holds out a massive hand palm up, “I need the gold key to the World Chair, please give it to me.”
Craig draws the sword, the blade lets out a clear ring of warning as it clears the scabbard. He places himself between the sorcerer and Bethany. Craig knows of Mister Brightside, he has heard of the sorcerer who lost his soul making contact with the Outside. “Leave her alone and I will not grant you the key. Submit yourself to the Judgment of the White Council.”
Mister Brightside giggles and suddenly lurches forward, his other hand makes a fist and slams it into Craig’s gut. Craig feels fire lace up his body as his ribs creak beneath the blow, he nearly drops to his knees. He lashes out with the blade scraping it up along Mister Brightside’s arm. He draws black blood, but as it flows out, the skin simply reknits, healing itself.
Mister Brightside gazes at Craig intently, he leans forward pressing his face against the young wizard’s. His rotting and sweet breath rolls across Hale, “Oooh, you have something else I could use, yes, yes, please give me the piece of iron on your person too.”
Craig realizing that he is outmatched, calls upon Way Nexus that lies at the heart of Witch’s Hat Tower, he creates an opening to the Nevernever.
Come on Winter Court, I have given you passage here, please someone be close enough to feel the presence of this being.
Mister Brightside launches another brutal punch against Craig, knocking the wizard to the floor. He lunges forward and grabs Bethany around the waist, pulling her tight towards him. Mister Brightside giggles and slaps at Craig again, the strength of his blow spinning the both of them around. A loud feral cat hiss arises around Mister Brightside as Malks suddenly appear tearing at him with razor sharp claws and teeth. Their efforts do about as much damage as the sword, but they force Mister Brightside back away from the portal. Craig gathers his strength and lurches through the gate, but not before Mister Brightside reaches out and grasps the Iron lodestone that Thomas had given him. The sorcerer rips it from Craig’s pocket as the Wizard and Apprentice escape into the Nevernever.
“You are an interesting man, wizard,” Trick says as he is flanked by two Winter Trolls standing in the Way Nexus that marks Witch’s Hat Tower in the Nevernever.
Craig closes his fist, causing the portal gate to close. Bethany falls to her knees, the laughter stopping and begins sucking in deep breathes of air.
“The Summer Court nearly beat us here, Wizard, I hear one in particular wants something from you,” Trick’s cold eyes look down momentarily to the gasping Bethany, “If you wish us to intercede on your behalf, the Winter Court would enjoy another year of accessing this Way Nexus.”
Craig helps Bethany back to her feet and then nods towards the Winter Changling, “I will keep that in mind, but for now I think it is prudent if we leave from here.”
With that Craig and Bethany walk deeper into the Nevernever.
“Who was that? What are we going to do?” Bethany’s voice is still raw from her earlier bought of laughter, the rasp of it causes Craig to wince.
“To the first, that is a Sorcerer who goes by the name of Mister Brightside. He experimented in forbidden research and the White Council has no idea how may Laws of Magic he might of broken, but he is very dangerous,” Craig narrows his eyes and peers deeper into the Nevernever, “as to the rest, I need to talk to Blackthorn. I need Puck off my back if I am going to deal with any of this.”
Craig and Bethany find the Way to the Pig’s Eye Public House and begin to take the trip to Blackthorn’s. It isn’t long before they both feel a chill in the air. The land shifts from the plush green forest of the Wyldfae to that of the top of Witch’s Hat Tower. Craig and Bethany can feel a malevolent presence coalescing in front of them. The ground swells, sucking the two up to their knees, before solidifying in hard stone.
Evan St. Claire
Before them, the translucent shape of Evan St. Claire appears, his face twisted with fury and a desire for revenge. Craig can see the open gash in his chest that Brittany and Thomas created. The ghost reaches out and encircles his hands about Craig’s throat. Craig tries to push the ghost away, but feels an entropic energy pushing at him, giving the ghost power it shouldn’t have. Craig grasps Bethany’s hand tightly as he strains for breath. He channels a blast of power and yanks the two of them out of the Nevernever and back into the mortal world.