In the throes of the curse of Corylus, John struggled and screamed in agony. The voice of Haura reached him through the visions of madness. She did not touch him, standing on the opposite side of his wards — magical defenses that were growing less effective each night. She bore bitter news: Charlie had gone missing and something terrible was happening to Northport.
As John stirred the fog of the nightmare from his head, Haura brought him up to speed. Charlie was gone, seemingly sleepwalking under the power of the Night Twist’s curse. Tesh-Xi went to find him and has not returned. They were last seen heading towards the Museum.
All around the building, an unearthly luminscent fog engulfed the city. John couldn’t see anything, barely even his own hand. Fog-choked screams echoed through the streets. Lights began to go out, blocks at a time, replaced by a baleful green radiance rising from the museum itself.
The power to the Essex Hotel was dead. Haura and John descended through the stairs. Every so often he thought he saw a flickering silver light in the fog, like a search light or lantern. Down in the hotel lobby, Katherine Rascal was nowhere to be found. On the wall behind where she would have sat a massive splatter of blood boded poorly. The receptionist phone dangled off the hook, beeping uselessly.
John and Haura made for the streets. There was still some minor traffic going on, but the eerie sense of muffled quiet still prevailed. As they sought a taxi that would drive them to the museum, a terrible roar shook the streets and stirred the instinctual fear of a prey species within John’s heart. Shadows moved through the fog, prowling for any civilians foolish enough to walk the streets. John realized with a shock that they were flesh-hungry ghouls, hunting and eating the citizens of North Port.
At last a cab screeched up to the curb, parking with two wheels on the sidewalk. Haura and John hopped in and demanded to be taken to the museum ASAP. The cabbie threw them a demented, manic grin and tore off through the fog at break-neck speed. John realized something was not only wrong with the driver, but eerily familiar…
On the reckless, careening journey through the fog, John saw survivors trying to escape the hungry undead, screaming as they were dragged into alleyways by filthy claws. At last they got to the museum and rolled out of the car as it came to a screeching, out of control stop. The entire roof had been blown off. Transfixed before the Infernal portal stood charlie, pulsing with organic green light. His arms dangled at his sides, as if nailed to a cross, and ephemeral branches of shadow burst from his eyes and mouth — the curse of Corylus, manifested and in utter control of his body. From above the pillar of green light a massive winged shadow descended, with another bone-rattling, unnatural roar. John realized to his horror what was going on: The Infernal Alliance had come to Northport.
Varin the Necromancer descended on the fleshless wings of an undead dragon. The necromancer taunted John—after all, only through his actions were they able to follow him. He’d spread his curse to a hapless mortal, manipulated his allies, and left a trail of suffering and betrayal in his path, a trail that led Varin and his allies right to the keeper of the shards of Uzhul. As John retorted and drew arcane power around him like a cloak, a short burst of automatic fire ripped through his back. He plunged to the ground, bleeding and dying. Haura stood behind him, Thunder raised and barrel smoking. With a sneer of hate, she finally tore off her skin and embraced her true form— the dragon Acophisinian. Her claws and teeth gleamed in the unnatural light, but before she could tear out John’s throat and take her vengeance on him for destroying her memories, John came to a crucial realization:
This was still a dream.
He’d never woken up. With that breakthrough, the scene continued to play out, but as if through a pane of frosted glass, distant and vague. At last the voice that had been calling out to him broke through the illusion, and a new shape emerged through the scintillating mists of Dream: Indogalad, King of Fleuris.
Here in the realm of mind, John could see the rot consuming his friend the Elven King from within. It had become more severe since John’s departure. Indogalad revealed that he and Medwethyn had never stopped searching for him across the worlds. Furthermore, he came with a warning.
“The darkness in your dreaming mind flowers. No one has ever withstood it as long as you, and within you, it approaches its fruition for the first time. Should it come to pass, the harvest will be bitter beyond any that have come before.”
“Periannth is on the brink of war, and only you can truly understand what is at stake. I have need of your counsel. Return to my kingdom before the nightmare blossoms, John Carmichael, or you will become the undoing of all that you hold dear.”
At last John truly awoke, wracked and drained by the horrible nightmare. The message of Indogalad was real: John’s only hope to prevent the Curse of Corylus from manifesting itself more powerful than ever is to return to the court of Fleuris, and hope that the mighty elven king has found a solution for his plight.