Leaving the Hanging City, the party presses on; the Magus feels they shouldn't linger. The Dogtooth Jungle is strange - a purple haze hangs in the air, and the jungle has an odd scent. The Magus is tense as we enter. This place is beyond even their reckoning.
Our guide leads us to the Dogtooth Spar, and and the sun is purple - is it even the sun at all? The sky is a lilac color, and the plants are strange. The trees don't have bark so much as a tough skin. No one here knows the Magus or recognizes their power or authority, and no one here knows what "Ravens" are. To Harp, this is both disconcerting and exciting. She is not defined by her role. She defers, perhaps, a bit less to the Magus.
Kabu visits the Fruiting Grove. It consists of huge trees, and the fruit they bear are the size of wagons. The locals can eat of the flesh of one for weeks, but Kabu snacks on them, crunching on the hard interior seed. He doesn't normally eat like this - normally he "eats" by absorbing sunlight - but who knows if the purple "sun" here in the Jungle will sustain him? And besides, he likes the feeling of eating. Perhaps he is a different kind of giant...a Giant of the Caves.
River witnesses the Violet Dawn. She wakes up and vines have covered the party, and are pulling the under the ground. They bear strange, metallic-looking flowers, but the party barely has time to note that. The Magus destroys the vine with magic, but this leaves them weak. The party moves on, disconcerted.
Piccolo takes one of the metallic flowers adding it to the others they've collected. They wander off on their own, pushing through the brush, and finds the pack of a former traveler. It's disintegrated beyond utility, and serves only as evidence that this party isn't the first to brave the Jungle. Piccolo returns to the group, and on they go.
Gritwater isn't quite a swamp. The water is shallow and has just enough current to stay clean. In the midst of it is a hut, inhabited by the Pool Crone, the guide informs us - she is a being of great age and wisdom, but she is no threat. The Pool Crone invites the party in, and they all enter, even Kabu. Her home extends into caverns that lead below the pool.
Kabu finds the Moon Pool in these caverns. The water trickles in from above, forming a perfectly round, still pool. The Pool Crone sees Kabu there, and Kabu asks: Is Kabu still Kabu? Kabu feels less like himself as he travels. The Pool Crone responds that change is normal, even for giants, and the changes that Kabu experiences are fine if Kabu is fine with them. Kabu tries to tell himself that he is fine with these changes, but he's lying.
River visits the Salamander Shallows, and sees all of the little amphibians darting about in the water. The Pool Crone visits her and asks her a favor - she hands River a vial and says when the moment comes, she'll know what to do with it.
Piccolo feels homesick upon hearing the sound of running water, and follows it to the Moonmilk Falls, a waterfall backlit by glowing rock. The mist coming off the falls is cool, but the rocks are warm, and Piccolo finds a cut-out area that they can sit in. They feel warm and comforted, and their thoughts linger not on their home in Istallia, but on the pull of the unknown, driving them forward. When they leave the falls, they are confused.
Harp discovers that there are many other structures in Gritwater, but the shimmer off the water masks them. One is a Sunken Hovel, and as she walks towards it, she smells something amazing - someone cooking vegetables and roots. She finds an old man, who puts a dollop of the mixture on a hot stone and it bubbles up, and then bursts. He gives her some, and says if she eats it now it'll be tasty but not filling, but if she saves it it'll be filling (though it might not taste as good). She decides to save it, and he gives her two more.
Fortress of Karst
The party moves on, and the ground dries and changes. It's mostly stone, sometimes shot through with ore. The party reaches the immense Fortress of Karst, and the Magus looks, for the first time that the party has known them, frightened. They have to stop through the Fortress, though - it's the only path to Umbra. So they stay here, guests of the Machine.
River visits Flywheel Tower. It's noisy and smells like metal and grease. In the distance she sees storms, with green and purple lightning, and the storm doesn't have the normal scent of rain. This just smells...strange. She feels dread, and informs the Magus. The Magus nods, but doesn't respond.
Piccolo is, characteristically, poking about. They find the Vault of the Builder - a hallway, a huge room, dug out with tools. There's a pile of bricks, arranged into a pattern, with space in the center, and Piccolo hears something scrabbling around in there. Eyes peer out from the pile. Piccolo leaves, not wanting to disturb whatever it is.
Harp enters the Hall of Constant Motion. The floor is steady, but everything else moves in a dizzying pattern. She walks carefully into the hall, and a black cube appears on a stone riser. Words form in the black: ONE QUESTION. Harp asks, is magic gone or has it changed? The square glows red/orange, and then the word appears: CHANGED. Harp wants to ask if it could be changed back, but she only gets one question.
Kabu doesn't enter the Fortress. He's far too tall and he doesn't want to break anything. Instead, he sleeps in a valley with a boulder for a pillow, and he awakens to hear the Nest of the Machine - a great pit with an immensely complex mechanical apparatus clanking and whirring and spinning. He hefts the boulder and hurls it in, shattering the Machine, and magic bursts forth, suffusing him and all of the other-
And then he wakes. The Machine whirrs on. It was only a dream, and he can no longer lift the rock.
Gate of Umbra
The party nears the end of the journey, and approaches the Gate of Umbra. Storms of magic dog them as they travel, and they leave the Magus depleted. The gate itself is iridescent and beautiful, and many other travelers are nearby.
Piccolo finds a cairn near the gate, a Worn Monument. There's an inscription around the edges, in a language that Piccolo doesn't know, but the inscription includes an illustration and that does seem familiar. There's a certain wave-like curve that Piccolo recognizes from Istallia, but it's so old - did their people come from here? Is this originally "home" for Istallians? If that's the case, how, in this desert-like place with no waves, did they come up with this symbol?
Harp finds the Dusk Road, a long stretch of road that's only visible at dusk when the fading light hits it just right. There are caravans, tent cities, so many travelers here. It's not a destination per se, mostly it's a waypoint elsewhere. Harp climbs a dune and sees the camps stretching for miles, and moonlight reflecting off the road. A traveler (or a resident?) approaches and explains the name, and Harp asks where the road goes. "Everywhere, away from here, but who knows the end?" The road fades as the darkness falls. Harp realizes that once, she didn't want to be anything but a Raven, but now, she could be something else. She might have to be.
As night falls, the fires appear, and Kabu watches as magical creatures - giants, dwarves, dragons, unicorns - all dance by the firelight. They're here celebrating the last of their magic, and as it fades, they shrink. The unicorns become horses, the giants become men, and some of the creatures just...fade. Kabu sees other giants, some much bigger than he is, and he realizes they don't judge how he's changed.
River ventures to the Coast, and finds the Magus, looking old and frail. They're fading, and the Magus says that they aren't sure they'll make it through the Gate. River feels the vial that the Pool Crone gave her grown warm, and she gives it to the Magus, who drinks it. The Magus revives some - not entirely, but enough.
The Nameless City
It's a short distance through the Gate to the Nameless City. The City is worn and broken, but not from battle. It's just losing life, little by little. The roofs have holes, the walls are crumbling. People still live here, but they're worn and hollowed, too. Nothing attacked the Nameless City, magic simply withdrew. This takes a toll on the Magus. The Magus doesn't sleep anymore.
The Magus has Harp take them to the Academy of the Sightless. They're escorted in by a young novice wearing a blindfold, and then before the Council, all of whom are completely blind. The Magus questions the Council, and the Council confers silently, and then answers:
Magic comes, and magic goes
Its form may shift, but no one knows
What's yet to come or yet may be
But we live on uneasily.
The fate you seek we understand.
You've traveled from a distant land.
But change this will, and here we stand.
Harp and the Magus are escorted out, and the Magus seems sad, but relieved. Harp asks if it's time to go, and the Magus says, "not quite."
Outside of the City, Kabu finds the Body of the Ancient, the corpse of a giant much bigger than Kabu. The bones are all that's left, but giants decay slowly and the inhabitants are picking through the corpse for bone marrow to eat. Kabu discovers that this huge giant was stabbed, dying of his wounds, and is appalled to realize that the giant died in battle. The scavengers tell Kabu that legend has it that the giant was part of an immense battle in the distant mountains, and fell here, dying. Kabu looks to the mountain, but decides not to investigate. There's enough battle in history already.
River finds the Night District. It used to be opulent, but there's nothing fancy here anymore. She finds a well, sealed up entirely, and River asks the inhabitants why. They tell her that it used to be a well of magic, but then the blood of the dying seeped in, killed the well, and poisoned the magic of it. It used to be beautiful. River walks away from the well disheartened.
Piccolo visits the Palace of Silver, which isn't so much a palace as a small, square building lined on the inside with resplendent silver paneling. Piccolo realizes this place was built with magic, and that, while they can't determine the exact function, that this was definitely a gathering place of some kind. It's peaceful here. Piccolo finds a small niche at the back of the building, with a trunk and a desk. Inside the trunk are books and scrolls, all in different languages, all radiating magic. The magic was once powerful, but like everything else, it's fading now. Piccolo takes a book and finds, pressed between the pages, another of the wave-flowers like they found in the Hanging City. It still makes the wave sound if they listen carefully. Piccolo takes it.
The journey is coming to an end. The party moves on, to the Glow in the distance, where magic was born. The inhabitants of the Nameless City do not accompany them. As they approach, the Magus whispers, "If it's not here, it's not anywhere."
Kabu hears voices and sees faces in the glow, faces of other giants. He realizes that all giants shift - humans shift on a cultural level, but for giants it's individual. Kabu's shifts are therefore part of his journey, and that's just how giants are. He realizes that, for now, he's not a Giant of the Caves or of Mistwood. He's just a Giant. Kabu wanders off, and eventually shrinks and becomes a man. Years later, he sees Harp in a market, and while they smile and greet each other, they do not recognize each other from this trip.
River follows the Magus into the Glow. River reflects, and realizes that the Magus gave her a purpose, someone to protect. She decides that she'll go back and become a Gray Ranger when this is over. She is pulled through a portal and winds up at the altar of the Grey Rangers during their ritual. Over time, she becomes a leader, and helps them to develop the magic of sacrifice.
Piccolo walks into the Glow and sits. They pull out the book and the strange collection of objects that Mathilda gave them, and try to figure out how it all goes together. Do they pour the vial over the flowers? Drink it? They aren't sure, and they site there, lost in the Glow. They're not from Istallia anymore. They're Piccolo of Nowhere. Eventually, they get up and leave when no one is looking, never having figured out what to do. The combination of objects is still there in the Glow, and scholars debate its symbolism and function endlessly.
Harp doesn't go into the Glow. Those who are too invested in magic, she realizes, always wind up harmed or doing harm. The Glow isn't up for control, and trying would end badly. Maybe magic isn't gone, maybe it's just changing, but it's passing beyond the control of people like the Magus. The real magic is people - Harp's people back on Oak Island, the man who gave her food, the people that they've seen celebrating by the Gate. Harp hangs her black cloak on a tree and goes to pack up. She's just Harp, now - no longer a Raven.