The gates unlock and they take a couple moments to wait, hoping to catch out anyone looking to ambush them. It isn’t long before they peek out to see someone has dropped a couple monster groups right by their start. Some helmed horrors are just outside the doors and skeleton warriors on the other side of the berm to their right. They quickly dispatch the horrors, keeping quiet to avoid the attention of the skeletons and hoping to use them as a buffer against the exemplars. Their intent proves correct as the Exemplars finish with the plantlings they had been fighting to find skeletons charging their way. Dissonant Whisperers use this as an opportune moment to ambush the Exemplars just after the Exemplars loose their spells. The fight sees a few blasts of flashy magic back and forth, but ultimately the Exemplars and the skeletons are defeated by the Dissonant Whisperers with only minor wounds. At the end of the battle, perhaps drawn by the noise or simply wandering, swarms of wasps take aim at the party, but are soundly routed by blasts of fire from multiple party members.
As the group rushes forth to secure the outer labyrinth gate, they see the Huntresses securing the nearby fortification in their quadrant. They choose not to use the cavern secret tunnels into the labyrinth, not wanting to run into other teams that might be attempting to use them. Arriving at the outer gate, it is still secured but the posted engraving indicates that they could sacrifice wealth, health, or power to open it early. After only a moment’s hesitation, they choose to give up some of their wealth for the headstart, dumping coinage and treasures into the hands of the statues flanking the doors.
During this time they hear of two other teams thanks to the upbeat announcer and cheers of the crowd: Weave had reached their own outer gate and Order of the Broken Skull had been roundly defeated. Thrilling heroics spends one of their announcer focuses to show off their successful slaying of some monstrous creatures. Not waiting around for another team to get in first for an ambush, the heroes charge in.
Inside they are flanked by a pack of gibbering mouthers and flameskulls. Fire is the go-to for the group and with Leon’s recent practice in bypassing resistances, even manages to burn down the floating skulls. Rila’s fireball in the direction of the mouthers ignites a pool of invisible gas, detonating the monsters and reducing them to bits. None of the group was in the blast radius, and with only a few scorch marks from the heat rays of the flameskulls, the group continues on. Rila scouts ahead in spider form, noting the sounds for hints of nearby large beasts. Getting the drop on a large Tyrannosaurus Rex, she takes out meat from the pocket plane to soothe and bribe a tyrannosaurus in front of their gate control. With the beast distracted, she hits the gate control, opening their path to the inner labyrinth. All around, they are noticing crates and supply drops, but choose not to investigate without knowing what could be inside. No trinkets on the list of possible treasures would be worth the damage or delay of hitting a trap.
With the gate open, the announcer speaks of the Dissonant Whisperers and Catalyst being the first to the inner gates. Across the way they can see Catalyst but they also see all the fortifications, two massive elementals, and a swarm of black oozes. They try to avoid the oozes but fail when they try to pass the statues guarding the pass between the fortifications. The statues resemble a stylized cleric and witch, who turn to bar the way.They guess quickly that the cleric statue needs a cleric so Leon burns a divine boon on the statue, causing it to crumble, opening the way. Not quickly enough though, as the oozes are drawn to the sounds of Tormenoths armor. A few spells and some combat are enough to vanquish the slimes without them reaching anyone. Catalyst does something out of sight, causing an explosion that draws the attention of the two elementals.
Not wanting to waste the opportunity, the heroes move in to secure the innermost ring when they hear the T. rex coming back. Leon blocks the gate with a magic barrier, confounding the beast until it leaves down the corridor it came from. At the same time, Catalyst finally finishes off the elementals then starts deploying traps before realizing whisperers are here too. As the dwarven team moves in to attack, the whisperers slam them with spells and attacks. Ariel and Leon move to the final circle to start its countdown, but Catalyst sends in some of their team to contest it. Oddly, the central circle continues the countdown despite Catalyst having entered the circle as well. Rila’s confusion spell doesn’t even get the opportunity to take effect as the second ranked team is taken down by summoned beasts and magic. Their amulets burst and they are whisked out of the arena.
The announcer shouts of Catalyst’s defeat by the Dissonant Whisperers in a magical flurry. Weave is also announced as under attack at the hands of the coalition of low ranked teams. Hearing the sounds of battle in the outer labyrinth, Ariel sets off a circle of death, popping half of the coalition from the competition. Shortly after, the countdown goes into hyperdrive, dropping to a single round. The coalition members charge in with howling accusations of cheating, but they are too slow. The circle turns green, announcing Dissonant Whisperers as the winners just as the Huntresses bring along the T. rex with Great Apes to mop up the remaining coalition. Leon uses this moment of surprise to start the ritual to drain Tiamat’s Egg of its power. Before a fight can begin between Huntresses, Dissonant Whisperers, Style, and Royale Squad, the announcer shouts about technical difficulties before his amplified voice is cut off.
Kourmalessa’s magical avatar appears, “Power. It is the greatest thing sought by all, many times thought ot be the end of a journey, but is in reality only the start. In its truest form, it can have only one master. So I put to you, my winning team, that there can be only one true winner for my attentions. However you decide it, only one can be sitting in the central throne to claim victory.” The team agrees almost immediately to have Ariel win, and that is when Beithir bursts from beneath the floor. “You wouldn’t believe how many times she practiced that inane little prattling. Sometimes berating whoever took the throne, sometimes rewarding selfishness. And all that time, she never realized I was right here. Waiting for the real prize. No one expects the Planeswalker to simply be there waiting, all their wards made useless by raw patience,” he rambles as other areas of stone begin to collapse around the inner labyrinth. “My minions, perfected from our previous encounters, shall get me what I have been promised.” His minions take the form of a charging brute covered in milky-white eyes, a skeletal humanoid with four cricket arms rubbing against each other in a cacophony of sound, a serpent-headed beast with many slithering, oily tongues, a swarm of slimy tentacles flowing in a cohesive mass, and a spindly half-spider dripping green chemicals from sniffling pores.
The five sense based creatures rush in, to the surprise of Style, Royale, and the Huntresses. Some quick convincing by Ariel gets the other three teams to join their defense. Accusations of cheating die on the other teams’ tongues in the face of obvious interference and aggression by an outsider. Leon banishes three of the creatures and the other two minions take the brunt of the assault as Beithir spends his effort trying to disrupt the egg ritual and offensive spells targeting his minions. With a snap of his fingers, the amulets on all four remaining teams fall to the ground, “No need for those pesky things.”
The team tries some radiant damage as well as damage types that worked last time to realize the minions have gotten new abilities and lost their old weaknesses. With allied teams to fight Beithirs minions, the Dissonant Whisperers are able to focus their attacks on Beithir himself. The assault is enough to demand Beithir’s attention as Rila and Ariel target him with powerful spells that he is forced to counter with magic and attacks of his own. It isn’t long before the combined might defeats the dragon and minions long before the banished ones are able to return. Beithir crumples to the ground, covered in debris as part of the labyrinth ceiling collapses on his eviscerated form.
With the dragon gone, the egg ritual seems safe until Beithir’s contingency spell makes itself known. Blaring to the senses of even the weakest magical senses, “Property of Beithir the Planeswalker, hands off or die.” as the wards around the arena collapse. He broadcasts a keep away message to all of dragonkind. Styx, on Klythmnora’s back swoop down to give the bad news. Greedy dragons worldwide were likely paying attention to the competition, but now they’ve seen Beithir try to claim something important enough to die over. They are coming, and fast. They’ll be fighting in the skies to keep the dragons clear, “Now or never, kiddos! By the way, I had hoped to tell you all at your victory party, but I said yes.” Dragons of all shapes, colors, and sizes begin to teleport or fly in. Utter chaos consumes the surroundings as dragons fight to get to the arena past Klythmnora and Styx, with many deciding to settle old grudges or keep rivals from claiming the prize.
Greedy dragons aren’t the only ones to show up, however. A flight of metallic dragons appear in formation around the arena. Bahamut’s promise comes through as metallic dragons show up to fend off draconic aggression as well.
The egg starts to crack when the dragons running each of the five schools surround the group. “Only I have the command to shield this child from outside influence, the educational caliber to help it tame whatever goddess gifts it might have,” declares Kourmalaessa the Black. In retort, Aytherine Warfrost the White shouts, “What so you can spend another handful of centuries hiding our nature, playing dead to all the world? I would take this child in hand to rise, and raise up the world with it.” Brashka the Red turns to argue with Oshkimnet the Blue, “More schemes and plans. No, I see this child as a future paragon, who should be free to pursue what they desire.” Oshkimnet replies in a dry tone, “Another tinkering mad genius then? The world has enough oblivious inventors crushing those who happen to be in the way. What this child needs is someone who can fend off that old schemer Tiamat with schemes of their own.” Meanwhile Lilly the Green mutters, “I had something planned for this. Maybe a sketch? Usually I prepare the ground more for these things. Did the bird show up yet or did I get it out of order again? *Sigh* Even with foresight, I’m not really here for these big things. From where I’m standing, I should get the egg, as only I have the foresight to see where it should land.”
The five begin to slam each other with spells and breath weapons, scaring the remaining dragons overhead away with their power. It is too late though, Tiamat chooses Beithir as her herald and his flesh knits back together, filling in rended gaps with a rainbow of colors, as he roars with fury. “I am the Herald of all Dragonkind, kneel before me!” he shouts as a motion of his claws paralyzes the five dragons. He dives into the fight, clawing and breathing on the Dissonant Whisperers. Style and Royale beat a hasty retreat to this new development but the huntresses stay to fight, not realizing that the five dragons aren’t enemies. They let loose arrows and spells on the paralyzed dragons. The ritual with the egg is winding down, but with Tiamat’s influence so close, the group has to take the fight to Biethir to hold him back.
In the midst of the fighting, Rila realizes the meaning behind Lilly s words and retreats with the egg to the fortification she was standing atop. Inside is a smaller ritual circle. When Rila puts the egg inside, the real Lilly pushes up from the floor, brushing off dirt from her elven form. “This is why I’ve been avoiding all my meetings, and I’m glad you all figured it out, but I had help with this plan.” Just as she says that, the egg starts to crack. A tiny golden canary flies in, pecking at the crack in the egg. The shell begins to collapse but not before the canary pulls out a five colored strand of ribbon and flies off. The egg hatches revealing a dragon whelp with a ribbon shaped scar on its head.
Biethir falls to the combined onslaught and Tiamat abandons him for his failure. Tiamat rages as winds whip up into a magical apocalypse but Bahamut chides her, as the hands of many other deities step in to cancel her wrath. With her stepping so hard into the mortal world, the other gods now had a free hand to put an end to her current scheme.
When the dragons come to, Lilly’s illusory duplicate disappears and she takes dragon form to convince them to let the whelp grow up under the tutelage of the Dissonant Whisperers. The child will be powerful, but without the direct influence of Tiamat, the dragons will have a much more important task of managing public relations with their schools’ secret leadership being revealed.