"Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread." – H.P. Lovecraft
Cool air slicks over your membranes, and you heave yourself against the starless cavern sky. Your mind pricks with fear. Their fear. Orc and troll slaves, and a handful of qlippoth, demons from a time before demons. Even the shoggoth draws within itself for a moment.
How many can claim to be the nightmare of a nightmare?
Only He does not stir at the sight of you, at the physical and mental weight of your presence. Vellath the Green. Dragon of the void. You do not even attempt to reach out to him. You have long since learned to expect the tasteless nothing of the outer dragon’s mind. And there are other tasks at hand. The task. The only task. Nhuul’agaht. The Sightless Gate.
The alien gateway stood silent, unbending, immutable. It was old when the aboleth were sightless, single-celled creatures stirring in the depths of Arcadia. Whatever its purpose, whoever had built it, was knowledge lost to even the most ancient creatures of the abyss. Until now.
“The gate is ready,” Vellath hisses. “It needs only the key.”
Tentacles spread from you, weightless appendages to part the dark water. The fear rises. The shoggoth thrills. And you begin to sing. The orcs and trolls stagger under the weight of it. They rejoice; they recoil in existential horror. Their souls are splayed before their eyes, and they scream. Silently at first, then aloud. The qlippoth demons begin to chitter and howl. And Vellath growls. No, not a growl. Not a scream. He is laughing. Runes scarred into your flesh begin to burn and glow. And a whisper cuts the darkness.
“You are the key.”
It does not stop you. Nothing can stop you now. Your mind fills, whispers, bleeds, screams. It is now. He is now. You are the Key, and He is the Gate. And soon – you will be all.
The worm is halfway into the chamber before your mind registers what is happening. It grows as it enters, or the gate grows. It is impossible to tell. You stop singing, but the song does not. You reverse the song, push back. The song grows louder.
The qlippoth turn to brackish mist and marrow between the worm’s teeth. It twists towards Vellath.
“They have come!” He laughs. He cries. “The Other Gods come! And oh, their song!”
The worm’s jagged maw cuts through Vellath like butter, and the dragon’s body burns with green fire. “Nothing!” He howls, as his bones turn to slag, and his eyes melt from their sockets. "There is absolutely… noth – "
You turn to flea into the sea, but the worm is already there. Its body fills the cavern. There is no cavern. It is only the Great Worm.
As the worm begins to eat you, and your body begins to burst with steaming blood, you see a Thing at the threshold of the gate. It is humanoid, with a long white cloak, and hands clutched before it, like a monk. Tawil at’Umr. The thing from your dreams. Your nightmares.
You reach out with your mind, seeking to control it, to stop it, then to bargain. And plea. And beg.
But there is nothing.
This was the tale shared by Orin with the Initiative. His study of Chevaghol’s Iris had led him to this final revelation, the moment when Chevaghol destroyed the world. Soon enough, Kel discovered the final piece: the Dragon Watch could indeed be used to travel through time, but only if it came into contact with the blood of a time dragon’s heart.
They planned. They knew that Chevaghol would be vulnerable at her moment of triumph, but also not alone. Vellath the Green would defend her, along with a host of demons and slaves. They would never every tool in their arsenal to succeed.
Once their preparations were complete, they boarded the Titanis and bid their farewells to their allies, for only Umbrath had chosen to accompany them on their journey. They did not know if the world they left behind would cease to exist, should they succeed, or simply go on. But they knew they had a chance to bring hope to a world, one way or another.
Soon enough, with the aid of the Dragon Watch and a plane shift spell, the Initiative found themselves before the gates of Castle Ouroboros, high above Golarion. A pair of strange creatures greeted them: blue-skinned humanoids, one with the pair of insect wings sprouting from her back, and the other with the head of a beetle. They spoke to the party; one as if time was immutable, immovable and the other as if time was chaos, ever-changing and unknowable. But both seemed unsurprised by the Titanis’ landing, or her passengers. “Malam is waiting,” they said, and turned to move further into the castle. The Initiative followed.
The castle interior was a maze, patrolled by countless creatures, many of whom the party recognized: Hogon, the fire giant who met the party in the Mindspin Mountains and gifted Thorgur the Sword of On; Katsutoshi, the orc samurai who had first told the party of their fate to wield the Dragon Watch; and others, different versions of their own party, with different members or their own, yet always altered. Younger, older, trained in different disciplines.
“Do not be troubled,” Rhodin assured his friends. “Time flows strangely here.”
Onward then. But before long, they found themselves back where they had started, on a small, exterior landing large enough to hold a ship. But Titanis was nowhere to be found. Instead, they were greeted by Malam himself. Yet he was young, not much larger than the dwarves, and seemed to recognize them not through their encounters with him in the past, but through repeated encounters with versions of their own party. Young time dragons, he explained, are more likely to intervene, more likely to see time as something that can be meddled with, impacted, and changed. The Malam they would come to know would, an older time dragon, would see time as sacrosanct, and be less willing to help them.
But Malam was quick to tell them what they wanted to know. They could indeed restore the Dragon Watch, through his own blood, by facing his older self, and putting him down. Such was his fate, and the opportunity he would provide. He directed them to the adjacent chamber, where at that time, Urzen Rogarvia would lead the Watchmen against Malam.
The battle was short, but costly. The Great Wyrm Malam was a deadly foe, but Umbrath threw his own weight into the fight. Seizing the moment, Astrid attempted to strike Malam down, but Malam used her weapon against her, shifting time to turn her blade against her. Astrid fell as Urzen raged and wept. But the time dragon was distracted long enough for Umbrath to deal the killing blow, ending Malam at last.
The Initiative gathered the blood of Malam and Umbrath into the Dragon Watch and returned to Titanis. One more ritual was needed to return. The four remaining members, and Titanis herself, contributed their faith, wisdom, knowledge and love to return to the past and create the potential for a new future. Yet as they returned, Orin demurred. “I fought long and hard for this body,” he said, his voice stranger now, his visage shifting before them. “And I will not waste it on your futile quest.” Those words spoken, Alexander’s Guns sliding into Hudson’s hands, Orin – only, perhaps, not Orin anymore – disappeared.
They were alone now, aboard Titanis, in orbit over Golarion, 20 years in the past. And so, with this last setback, the Initiative prepared themselves. There was still time. They would have time to face Chevaghol, time to stop her, time to end the threat of Yog Sothoth to Golarion for countless ages.
But would they succeed?