His Majesty’s Service, ACT IV FINALE

BEHIND ENEMY LINES, SESSION 5

From last session, after your total party capture by the Dragon Lord, Gulgol:

“You will take the tunnels that exist between the mainland and the island, ancient volcanic tunnels from a time long gone by, which exist in secret from the Cillandrians. You will navigate through the passes, staying clear of the advancing army which is prepared as we speak to invade Cillandar. If you do as I say, you will regain the Lanthorn before it makes it’s way to Iggwilv, and this time you will use it to it’s potential. You will enter Iggwilv’s factory there and destroy my brood, something I cannot do because I cannot possess the Lanthorn myself.  If you accomplish this task, you will undoubtedly face Iggwilv herself, grown stronger in the days since your last encounter.

This time however, you will defeat her, before she takes her ascended throne. You will benefit me, and yourselves.  You will not stop the invasion, as the followers of Ket know the ascension of the last Two are coming, and their leadership will seek it’s own glory for them.  But, you will save yourself, by returning to me within a fortnight. And perhaps, you can spend your last days fighting against the armies that come for you all soon. For that I care not, but if you do not return, you will perish, 

In a manner, that I am sure, is not appropriate to that of…a Hero.

The dragon Gulgol reduces her form once more, her lithe and delicate body laid naked and bare upon the cavern floor. She walks over to a set of robes.  Dressing and throwing back her hair she calls nonchalantly to one of her guards.  He brings her a box, of ornate shape and another brings a ceramic jar.  The guard removes the lid of the jar, and produces a small brush covered in a thick, gooey brown substance.  Pulling your undergarments up to your shoulders, it wipes the goop on each of your arms.

Gulgol then pulls a wriggling and writhing form from the box, and places it on Cass’s shoulder, where the brown goo had been placed once before in the Parade of the Champions!  The grub begins to burrow into her flesh, crawling below the skin, up and up her shoulder, around the base of her neck and lodges itself into her spine. She screams out in agony, flailing against the bindings that hold her to the ring!  One by one, you all suffer the same fate, a slow sense of dread coming on to each of you as you realize that the grub has attached itself to your spinal cord, buried deep within.

“I have tracked you for some time and will again.  You have each been given a “friend to your end”.  A few treasures I’ve acquired within my dealings since performing duties to her coming …Majesty…Let me assure you they will be with you until you return to me for the only matching antidote that will force them to dislodge themselves and save you from succumbing to their…influence.

You call yourselves Godslayers. To live, and perhaps save your fair city, you must…BECOME Godslayers.”

Harper in the Know

While being held prisoner, the PCs notice several other living victims in Gulgol’s holding chamber.  One of them, a young elven warrior, bears the Harper insignia tattoed into his skin.  When the PCs pursue a conversation with him, they learn that he knew Genoran, and he has a very different tale to tell of what happened to Genoran.  The PCs  learn that Genoran realized Borindin was an impostor.

 

The Truth about the Harpers, Borindin and Genoran

According to Andar, while conducting a mock battle, Genoran and his father began to trade blows as they normally do.  However, Genoran, was able to gain the upper hand in the “fight” and accidentally injured his father with the brand.  Looks were exchanged between the two, as both knew immediately this should not have happened. However, Genoran, sensing changes in his father’s demeanor for several months, said nothing.  In fact, he arranged a meeting with a group that he secretly belonged to known as the Harpers.  Feeling the heat from a now suspicious “King”, the Harpers sought out truths about the king and came to the conclusion that Borindin must not be himself.  The brand simply does not allow anyone to injure the King, but Genoran was able to. 

This was his first clue.  He also sent messages to the Loyals in an attempt to inform them, but they never got there. The King or someone else was able to intercept the notes and Genoran’s every move was watched whenever he was near the Loyals.  The Loyals were kept in private suites during most of the Challenge of Champions and Battle of Heroes as Borindin’s Special Guests” (DM actually cackles out loud as he writes this).  The Harpers, composed of many of the silent leaders from nearby Cellinor and Cantian in the Northern Pass, decided that only by establishing Genoran as King for now, could the Kingdom be saved. The idea was complicated but they thought achievable.  Kill the impostor in a public and “accidental” fashion, and establish Genoran as King. If Borindin were still alive, this would give them the resources they needed to find him and put him back in power once more.  To preserve the peace, they knew that calling Borindin an impostor would lead to unrest and possibly even civil war with more loyal cities and provinces. So, with a sad heart, Genoran decided to use the Battle of Heroes as a place in which to sabotage his father’s impostor, killing him by releasing the Tyrannosaur. However, something went awry and instead, Genoran himself (who was supposed to be the bait) was tracked down into the lower catacombs. When the Loyals chased him down, Borindin’s impostor may have sensed a trap and didn’t bite. He stayed in the upper levels “fighting” the smaller escaped animals until the Loyals had dispatched the dinosaurs! 

During the fight, Lessa Summers was trapped on the other side of the hulking beast, separated from the party in an attempt to save Genoran.  After restoring him to health, she herself was knocked unconscious, and very nearly died.  As Genoran approached her, Lessa heard “Remember my sacrifice Loyal. Be wary.”

Genoran escaped, knowing perhaps that his plot may have been thwarted, he went into hiding in order to collect help from the underground network and gather information about the coming Darkening and what the King was doing. However, Genoran was captured by his majesties forces who as you all know put full force into his recovery, and secretly Andar believes that Genoran may himself have been implanted and prepared for darkening. He wonders if anyone noticed his elbows, knees or neck? Perhaps, they were covered at the Winter Solstice?

Other Explanations

As the party listens, their sense of physical dread seems impossibly made worse from the devious and intricate plot explained to them.  They dare not trust another story and yet somehow it becomes obvious that the elven man is only telling them what they know to be truth. 

He explains many other things.  The Harpers dedicate themselves to preserving the Light and the peace but they have been concerned in the last few years that the Silver Flame leadership has not been using the Flame properly. Belloran himself seems dedicated to the job, but the Order of the Sword, the three bishops in charge with maintaining the Flame in the Temple of Cillandar, have all been replaced through death in the last 2 years.  Several clerics in the group have noticed the Flame’s powers diminishing and now, several of it’s more powerful  abilities will not work at all, including raise dead!  The Harpers were tracking down the Ketian plot themselves and attempting to locate the Concentric Gateways.  They know much about their location but not their function. They do know that these Gateways were of benefit to the good peoples during the End Days.  They also believe that Borindin may still be alive as the brand continues to function in other ways.  Perhaps he is being held somewhere. 

He also explains that those implanted will not show signs of a larger change until “Darkened” for several months underground.  This is why the cult members do not appear to be any different above the surface. Finally, he tells the party what, by now, they already know, that the Ketian Myth is based on truth, and that the answer to who the Ketians are is, as they fear, everyone, everywhere.  By the Light, who can they trust now????

 

The Briefing

Within several hours, several of the dragon’s henchman bring the party to a room where they are lined up, chained up, and smeared with blood.  Several of the party are given bruises or small cuts in visible places.  The leader, Drelesh, informs the party to stay quiet if they value their lives. 

ENTRY INTO THE LAVA TUNNELS

Gulgol’s Henchman will tie them up and they notice the party’s bag of holding is brought by one of the dragonmen as well. They’re taken down into the abyss, down a winding stair deeper and deeper into the dark. Walking in single file, their feet, hands and neck all tied by massive rings to a central metal pole, they’re marched  to an entry point where dark hooded guards are stationed.  The party notices the shifty and glistening shade of black innards visible through the skin on top.  None of the guards speak, but the dragonborn seem able to convince them that the prisoners are to be brought to Red Owl for gpunishment and darkening as Gulgol has decided she does not need them after all. 

The dragonborn make their way past the guards, with subtle looks passing between them and the party is brought through miles of an underground labyrinth.  It seems as though the lava tubes and tunnels wind their way under the sea, and to the East.  As the party passes stunning sights and large

 

 

 

scale stations of guards and warriors and underground structures of industry or barracks, the party can clearly now see that an invasion force is here, just minutes away from the quiet, peaceful city above.  Could this be the source of earthquakes, or plague or power behind the cults?

Coming into an enormously endless central cavern, the party looks up from their aggressive march, tired and worn from the impossible and endless agony they’ve endured this day.  The sight that meets their eyes takes several seconds to take all in.  They see hordes of darkened warriors making weapons, or stationed still and silent.  Other warriors are bugbears, goblins, or orcs, the later of which approach the prisoners beating them or spitting on them.  Several even seem to recognize the Godslayers and they receive the most punishment. In several areas of the cavern,  a large creature of some unknown form or origin is tied down, a large egg like sac protrudes from it’ lower abdomen.  Other crablike creatures work around these doing some unknown tasks, moving in awkward ways. Past your sense of vision in tunnels away you can just make out large glass enshrined container tubes with something wicked moving and writhing inside a dark and inky liquid.   In other areas, enormous cages perhaps hundreds of feet long entrap wailing and suffering prisoners from the surface.

 The dragonborn lead the Loyals past this hellish scene and approach a tower lit by torches and draped with eviscerated bodies.  Commander Luger’s corpse hangs above the entrance to what seems a stairwell, his tongue lolling out, eyes missing in their sockets.  Harshly, and in full view of several morbidly silent guards, the Loyals are deposited in holding cells at the base of the structure. The cell is set down into the muddy clay.

Their bag is tossed to them, and then a key is produced and handed to Mustakrakish. “You must take these spheres and insert them in the Lanthorn at the right time.  The smallest will grant you privacy and keep all those from seeing you while inside 20 feet of the Lanthorn. Only a person of true GOODNESS may take the Lanthorn and use it. This is vital. There is no second guesses. It is time to ask yourself Casseopia of the Godslayers what you truly stand for!  When you enter the tower, you must activate the Lanthorn with the first sphere quickly, otherwise you will bring the entire Ketian Army down on you, and our deaths as well.  Some  guardians can see through the Lanthorn’s power but keep it with you as it will shroud your fight.  Should you leave the safety of the Light you will surely be discovered and destroyed. The second sphere is for the battle with Iggwilv.  She has grown stronger since you last met her and will be attempting to ascend once more by acquiring the Silver Flame.  The larger sphere will aid you by giving you power in that battle.”

  “Good luck, brother” whispers the Dragonman, “May you die with your warrior spirit intact, or else rise above the powers that hold you down”.  Musta knows this to be a Dragonborn saying, and an odd sense of nostalgia sweeps over him.

Battle for the Lanthorn!

As the party, re-equips themselves from the bag of holding, they notice the Dragonborn have created a minor diversion and have walled off just a few meters of space with their massive bodies, talking and appearing to take a noisy break.  In a second bag of holding, Smudge removes several bodies, dressed similar to the party and props them around the cell in sitting positions. The party loses no time and quickly manages to escape the cell, winding around the tower wall, they enter the inner stairwell.   Ascending the tower, Smudge and Verilish stay within the shadows killing the guards stationed there along the way up.  As they approach the top, Smudge and Verilish view a scene between the Elder Brain and someone robed and hooded. The landing of the tower is draped with dilapidated statues, many of which bear shocked expressions, a red light emanates from within, and several cloaked figures face a larger cloaked figure who seems to be peering out over the masses that encamp around the tower.

 “We did not ascend in this forsaken Light and annoyingly weak air before the Darkening begins to be swindled Red Owl. The Lanthorn is essential to Iggwilv, and we expect to be paid handsomely. These trinkets are nice, but so is the power we seek.   We have our own schemes to attend to…”

A slithering sound, and shuffling…as Smudge and Verilish enter, taking their position they see the Lanthorn on a small table in between three mindflayers and what appears to be a large, snake-bodied Medusa.

“Perhaps, you judge that my Master has treated you unfairly, Master Illithid.  I myself was blinded by greed once.”  Here, a sick laughing sound, as though a joke was endlessly funny to the creature.

“It appears Gulgol’s victims were set free accidentally once more….shame on us perhaps ,” the Mastermind speaks in a grotesque common, “but death to you!”

The Hidden Battle

As Smudge kills Red Owl in the most amazing display of kick assedness ever (DM recalls getting upset about that here), the Mastermind and the two remaining Illithids pin most of the party down with immobilizing psychic blasts. Smudge then brings the Lanthorn to Cass, who inserting the first of the two spheres, creates a field of beautiful warm light shielding the party and entrapping the Mastermind!  As the Monk was about to have his brain eaten forever, Verilish stikes him and the Mastermind attempts to Teleport but finds he cannot exit the sphere and releases the Monk!  For the first time in a millennia, the Illithid knows fear and offers a disgustingly robotic plee to the party.  As vengeance for the torment they endured at the Pod’s hands earlier, the Mastermind is murdered and his underlings as well. 

Treasure: Two Helms of Telepathy, Quickening Diadem Level 29, Spell Anchor Gloves, Bracers of Wound Closure, Inescapable Longbow +4, Shimmering Cloth Armor +3, Ring of Feather Fall

Flight to Xendros!

As the party wraps up the battle they discover an array of powerful items. They also gather several maps arrayed strategically on a table that seem important and bringing the bodies of their foes within the sphere’s influence marvel anxiously as the new guard changes, and cannot see them inside the Lanthorn’s glow.  It is as though they are invisible to these foes! 

Moving together, huddled within the Lanthorn’s radiance, the party descends the stairs, killing the guard and hiding their bodies.  As they exit the tower, a giant Clang is heard, and a sort of mustering begins en masse.  The party knows their time is now!  With the clock ticking and the worms growing ever closer to their spine, they make their way, wading through the thousands of skin covered creatures who are unable to see their passage inside the Lanthorn!

As they enter the Eastern portion of the cavern, a tunnel ahead opens to a wide chasm, a narrow and smooth bridge spanning it in the middle.  Soft radiance from several red glowing torches light it’s edges.  As Cass looks down, she sees the hovering form of something massive, several eyes the size of human heads tilt and rise on massive stalks around the bridge, and a massive mouth in the center of a gigantic frame rise above the bridge.  The Guardian of Xendros attacks!

 

Battle at the Bridge

The Beholder Tyrant can see the party inside their sphere!  It is known as the SUDDEN DEATH in Underspeech and uses it’s rays attacks to great success, but the party and especially the Warlock, Verilish dump damage.  Smudge is dragged by telekinetic rays over the chasm, but is saved from a certain falling doom by Verilish, who teleports him back across!  As the Guardian is destroyed, the heroes make their way across the bridge and must decide on a right or left path.  For Cass, Musta and Verilish though, their brand begins to glow, and warm. It’s the first time, they have ever felt this.

 

The Prison and the Rescue:

Although the party believes the right passage to be a direct route into Xendros and to Iggwilv herself, the party decides that the Left passage must be investigated.  Entering a wide hallway they encounter cells where dead and dying prisoners are to be found in various stages of agony and despair. 

As they approach the closest, they sense movement and a  man, haggard and ragged lifts his head, blinded by the Lanthorn’s warm glow, his jaw drops, the once proud face of the man you knew as Borindin, is now a gaunt ghostlike visage.  “To what torture do I know the pleasure this time?” he says feebly…

 

And for nest session, the conclusion of the MIDWAY point of our campaign. 

Lanthorn: Gulgol provides the party with two, extraordinarily rare spheres.  These spheres, when inserted by a GOOD and BENIGN soul, function with astonishing powers.

  1. Orange Sphere- Gives the holder and all GOOD natured creatures inside a 20 foot radius protections vs. evil aligned beings as well as anti-detection against these creatures.
  2. Blue Sphere-Calls forth the powers of an Ancient and Legendary force, who during the End Days sacrificed themselves in order to put to rest the last of the Traitors. This sphere can aid the party during the final battle with Iggwilv, granting them powers they cannot achieve themselves.
  3. For those of true and honest nature, the Lanthorn grants the power of true seeing. All Darkened souls become clearly visible, all traitorous or liars appear sick and twisted and demented.  The holder of the Lanthorn will never again need to worry about being double crossed.

 

 

 

The Light Flickers, Finale Wrap and

Conclusion of His Majesty’s Service

 

 

The Defeat of the Guardian Eye and the Prisoner Kept There

The party finds the King Himself, Lord Borindin among the bone constructed prison cells hidden in the back of the Guardian Eye’s Lair.  With Borindin, are imprisoned the Southern Adventurers and others the party is glad to see!  Amongst the various prisoners are the several Shielded Mothers, perhaps the last in the land, and finally Harpers, the surviving members of the group which had been attempting to find the real Borindin and overthrow his imposter on the throne of Cillandar!

 

Borindin’s Story

Borindin knows that he has sacrificed his people’s future for what he thought was the foundations of a new and civilized society in Cillandar. However, he now realizes that his actions have doomed his nation, the Known Realm.  Through a pact with Gulgol and her twin sister Sherserakshen, Borindin agreed to establish the Church of the Silver Flame in order to feed power to Gulgol and her wicked Sister in the Eastern Mountains. In exchange, Gulgol allowed the realm to become established underneath her very sight, and even at times protected it’s growth from would-be invaders through her forces and ties with other denizens. 

 

However, Gulgol’s plan would ultimately serve her.  Gulgol sought to take the power of the realm and use it to ascend to Godhood before the Darkening, giving her the ability to withstand the hordes that would soon be pouring from the depths.  Her sister, Sherserakshen, is but a legend in the taverns of Cillandar, but myth holds that she guards over Kasil, believed to house the legendary treasure of Kasil, and perhaps the last remaining tomes and knowledge of the End Days and Before Times. 

Gulgol’s plan was well established, until the party unwittingly awoke Iggwilv from her slumber.  Once awakened, Iggwilv took little time in preparing herself to retake the land once more.  Within but a single year, she had once again brought her Mindflayer and Deep denizens to do her bidding, creating hordes of followers through various devious means from Cult activity across the realm.  With this new power and army, lying just hidden from the city above and her access to a former base on the Island of Xendros, Iggwilv challenged Gulgol and reascerted her authority by stealing her brood, two hatchling Dragons. Gulgol knew that the power of the brood and Iggwilv together could destroy her outright, and she gave up her rights to Xendros’s secret chamber, one of the precious protective barriers still in operation (the concentric circles which you now know to be Towers of Pure Energy), allowing Iggwilv, at just the right time, to gain access to the Silver Flame, and the power of Cillandar collected through the good deeds and consciousness of a century.

 

The Plan

With the power of the Loyal’s, the King, the imprisoned Harpers and Shielded Mothers, and the power of the Lanthorn, the party realizes that this moment is their chance. Both to save their own lives from Gulgol’s implanted creatures and to save the land from an ascended Iggwilv!

 

The party decides to track down Iggwilv and end her before she can complete the ceremony.  The Shielded Mothers, led by a woman calling herself Reverend Mother Lina, prepare for battle and death, and the Harpers too swearing their allegiance to the King, pledge their lives to the battle ahead!

The party stays within the confines of the Lanthorn and flees into the inner volcanic passages towards Xendros.  Before long, they come across a gigantic chamber, of Immense proportions, towers rising in circles around it’s emptiness.  Guards of silent “Darkened” soldiers massed around at various positions, unmoving and still.  The towers are made of metal and most obviously are pre End Days in construction, a large ring attached high in their tops. 

Amazingly, two shapes above are suspended in mid air!  Above, the party gasps as they see two galleon sized vessels, floating, as if at anchor, but nonetheless hovering in mid air, a chain attached to the ring of the shaft high above.

Within seconds, the party decides on a course of action.  The thief is sent towards the larger galleon, a vessel of immense size covered in hideous décor, with a large Throne in it’s foredeck.  Scrunch begins battle with a terrible Captain of the Guard there, while the remaining party climbs the second tower to the smaller of the two vessels.  However, the party arises suspicion, and the alarm sounds!  Guards begin to pour in from below, threatening to eliminate the Loyals and their unarmed companions!  But, led by Mustakrakish and an Elven warrior found in Gulgol’s prison, the party attempts to navigate the vessel away from it’s mooring, and ramming it into Iggwilv’s would-be flagship, destroys it in the process!  The party climbs aboard, rejoining Scrunch!  With luck on their side, and with the closest of calls, the party navigates the hulking float around the moorings and into the large passageway beyond, which they hope will lead them to Iggwilv or at least to the way out!  Arrows whiz by and guards below give chase, as the party mans the various riggings. Luckily, many of the Harpers are seafaring men from beyond, and they quickly find the right ropes and measures to right the skull ladened ship before it strikes the cavern’s ceiling.

The party sails into a second vast space, below, a concentric disk, where none other than Hockenbrecht himself reads from a tome (none other than the Demonicon itself!) and Iggwilv waits guarded by her insectile steeds and Mindflayer Pod!  Next to her lie the twin dragon brood, kept in stasis, and slowly, the circles begin to rise, creating a monumental tower! A flame of pure Silver begins to grow from within, whilst all around the ocean seems to be sucked into a vortex located under the tower’s landing

 

The Final Battle of Iggwilv

 

The party decides their priorities include Borindin’s survival and as the hordes of Darkened souls rush down into the chamber the vortex creates a barrier giving the party precious time. They  use the anchor to attempt to stop the risen tower.  But to no avail, the Mothers guard the small exposed entryway onto the platform, several giving their lives to the cause.  Even then, another is cast over into the watery void, but the few remaining prevent the Horde from passing over.  Meanwhile, the party does battle.  Cass inserts the precious gem into the Lanthorn, and amongst the party ghostly apparitions appear.  Warriors of incredible weaponry and grim expressions fight amongst them, granting incredible powers.  A monk, a cleric, a warrior…the figures work together, seemingly as a single Unit.  And the battle commences,  first the Master Mindflayers are eliminated, the remaining leaders of the pod that had captured them but a day before!  Finally, Iggwilv herself is ready to enter the Flame, but only one person is able to stop her. 

 

With a brief thought, Casseopia knows that Iggwilv will unerringly enter the Flame, and as she feels a greater sense grow within her, the sound of the voice of the Reverend Mother, dying from the other side of the platform as she whispers “It is time Cass….”, our heroine, the Cleric of the Flame, enters the Silver Fire. Turning to the assembled Loyals, she appears to them, in brilliant form, smiling, as if she understands something that they do not.  And as the tower descends, a shrill cry sounds throughout the cavern, a dying avalanche of noise shrieks as Iggwilv’s body erupts in decaying fire, turning to ash and evaporating in the wind swirling throughout the cavern!  The party recoils, and drops to their knees as they feel the detachment of the creatures from their spine, crawling down and falling about them!

Iggwilv is destroyed and the the Loyal’s are free from their once certain doom!  But, the ocean sweeps nearer, and the army is all but clawing it’s way over the few remaining Mothers, as the party is passed down ropes and climbs aboard the vessel once more.  As more and more arrows whiz by, and as the winged steeds begin to mount a second attack, the party races the vessel out into the only visible exit, a glimpse of light at the far end of the cavern, to what they hope will be escape!

 

The Return to the Light

The skull ladened airship narrowly misses the cavern’s ceiling, and shaded sunlight streaks down on the party for the first time in what feels like a millenium, giving warmth even as it’s rays are diminished from the Darkening of the First Moon. The hideous hide of what would have been Iggwilv’s command ship looking like a macabre insect unable to find it’s hiding place before the sunrise.  As you view the western coast of Cellinor, glad to see Cillandar still there amid the horror below it, a vast shape appears in the sky, followed by smaller shapes creating a V shape hurtling towards you.  The shape grows larger as the wind blows back your hair, and through it’s strands you know it can be none other than that of Gulgol with her legions of dragonmen coming for you at your weakest.  As you despair, remembering the night’s stunning and sudden events, the King approaches the railing, eyes squinted in an exertion of resolve  “I will not fail Cillandar again!!!!”, he roars into the pummeling gail, fists now clenched around the wooden beam.  “To this promise, you Loyal Servants of the Light, I swear!” As the salty air whips up, blowing the airships sails to full, you imagine you can just hear Casseopia’s voice blow past “All is not lost yet, good King…”. And around you, as if by some illusion or mistake of the eye, the Light from the Lanthorn shines full, radiant and warm…”

 

 

Death of the Flame

Epilogue of His Majesty’s Service Thread

        Yesterday, what the citizens of Cillandar are now calling The Darkening brought an afternoon of faded light to the land. You joined the ranks of many Templars and Faithful Citizens in the pews and quiet places on the Mount, giving aid to the rising prayer to bring back the light of the smallest moon and pull Illiune back into the arc it normally took in the sky above.

Illiune, The First Moon, Moon of the Awakening.  Named for giving it’s rays of light in the early morning, before even the sun arose.  Would it arise tomorrow as it did each day? Or would this foul Darkening continue, despite the prayerful sorrow of thousands of assembled Cillandrians calling for it’s return? Throughout the night, tears ran down faces of mothers holding babes and soft cries arose from the throng assembled around you, whispering, kneeling in solemn worship to the Silver Flame. Each soul, in it’s way, attempting to bring back the Light.

Below you the sounds of clanging are heard, barely audible over the chanting, as a vast military dispatch sent from the Tower by  Lord Borindin assembles.  So far the attempts to gain entry into the vast chasm in which the worshippers of Zargon appear to have disappeared, have failed. Where did they go?

        Zargon! The name brings an instant wave of uncertainty. How could Borindin allow this zealot to continue to collect his fellow faithful right within the view of his most sacred city, Cillandar?  Borindin, the professed bearer of the Flame, the one who established the Mount, and the Temple of the Flame itself within the Known Realms of Gallinor, the Flame he was bestowed from his father, and his father before him, that which he credited as giving him the power to bring triumph over the dragon Gulgol and establish a Lighted society once more out of darkness. Many in your ranks professed their anger, some even in the open, at the idea of a New Realm, unprincipled, and allowed to worship in their way, or Light forbid, their own entities. Rumors of Zargon bringing back worship of a God or Gods may not have been proven, but you’ve always had your doubts. 

   But Borindin’s decree has always been, and his reminders clear to all, especially those who hung by a chimmit along the King’s Road: “Walk ye in the Light, in What Way ye May, Walk Next to Those Who Search it With You”.  The meaning has always been clear. So long as a citizen of Gallinor, or ally of the land has chosen to aid it’s land and people, that citizen has been free to choose it’s life path.  And with this simple decree the land of Gallinor prospered, and grew up from the suspicious, and superstitious ignorance of it’s still more wild inhabitants and neighbors.  Elves from the Northern reaches traded and trusted. Dwarfs from beyond the East and Southern Icy Reaches came bearing the skills needed to build Fortresses. The halflings, came from the swamps of the North establishing themselves near Cellion, creating a vast network of trading and mercantilism.  And Cillindar itself attracted many others, some even from across the seas, where other tales abounded of lawlessness and savagery. 

Of course, most who created a livelihood decided to worship the Flame, as Borindin himself did. The ancient fears of God Worship tied to the fall in the End Days bred into every babe of the land in nearly every walk of life from bugbear to human. Through tales of the Shielded Mothers, and the Old Fables of the Three Sister Moons, all who walked on two legs, and many on four, knew that to worship one was to destroy the many.  Such was the downfall of man in the past. Best to walk in the Light, or better, in the warmth of the Silver Flame, created from the willful input of all good souls.

 The ties of the Flame held strong the members of a land to each other.  A most omnipotent force, a force that showed it’s constant power and energy in healing miracles daily within view of the people: The Silver Flame.  In truth, the Flame was the only source of miracles known to the common citizen, besides of course the arcane power wielded by those who found the magical forces of the past tied to items or forces unknown.  But who wielded these powers? The Faithless, the Shadowed! Taking risks with powers known to have been part of that which destroyed an entire Realm.  A realm, based on ruins and artifacts, at it’s peak, which gave it’s power to the Gods! Ha. And where were the Gods? Long gone.

But your voice lost it’s strength at some point in the night, and you found yourself needing to rest, convinced that in the morning the Light would return from Illuine, as it always does, the Morning Awakening.  You waited for Illuine to rise and as usual, spread it’s rays across your hammock telling you it was time to begin the morning prayer.  But as your eyes adjusted to the light of a new day it was Ellisande that appeared over the Great Sea, Illuine seemingly not there at all in her normal position above the Silver flecks of a constant sea. 

Not speaking, you and your assembled Templars reported to the Mount of the Lighted Host, confused, uncertain. What would be done? Would would the Order of the One request? The sacred home of the Silver Flame, where the Keeper of the Flame resides, the Mount, was a small hill from which Cillandar had been built around.  It’s view visible, as was the King’s Tower from virtually all areas of the city and where you, as has been the case for several years, have worshipped  and kept your duties as a cleric, and Templar. 

        Whispers arose from the mustered force, and in the less bright and vibrant rays of the partial moons you just make out that Borindin himself is come to the Mount, to pray.  King Borindin does not often visit the Mount, certainly not in the early hours of dawn, and when he does, there is usually a public reason,   with important significance and decrees. A message of solidarity, good-will, or show of strength to his subjects at work.

        But not this time.  As you gaze past the Order of One, you see his silhouette clearly defined, entering the Sacred Circle, his right hand resting on the hilt of his sword as he often does, his left carrying something, something from a chain. Next to him walks several of his guard clad in mail and fluttering tunics, and a woman.  A woman? Long dark hair, and even from this distance you can see the assurance she seems to bring to the King. Has he, finally, chosen a new wife?

 Between the King and where you now stand at attention are the  cleric leaders who were permitted to enter the Sacred Sepulchre, who attended to the one, true Flame, which Borindin himself established many years ago. The same Flame past down from generation to generation, bringing the power which was said to keep the Darkness at bay for over a millenia, now on the Mount.  All within the various orders of the Flame knew a new Keeper would be chosen soon.  One had to accept the responsibility of the Flame as was tradition after Bishop Belloran’s death.  Rumors abounded, that Casseiopia was the King’s favorite, others speculated it would be another more senior member of the Order of One. Could it be that Borindin found a more suitable candidate in this woman, but no, a Keeper must be a member of the Council of One, ofcourse…

        As you gazed on, it all seemed to happen so fast.   One minute the King was walking inside, the next the rumbling and motion of the rock under your feet.  Cracking, splitting of the earth in veins along and around you.

CRACCCKKKK!!!! And the Sacred Sepulchre, the very Temple itself began to fade.  It’s constantly gleaming stone pillars becoming less outlined. Beams of silver from the heart of the Flame within were pulling back inward from all directions! As you peered into the Temple’s inner area, past the staggering forms of people gripping each other for support, you could just make out the Flame itself, diminishing in size, drawing in on itself, crawling into a void that should not have existed at it’s radiant heart!

CRACK!!!! And the Mount trembled, and trembled. Quaking with the sudden onslaught of some gargantuan force.  Templars and citizens run in all directions, you find yourself taken up in the crowd, running down towards the Temple Gates.

As fissures erupt around you, swallowing others with merciless abandon, you just manage to make it through the gates as the Mount before you begins to transcend before your very eyes. The Sacred Sepulchre gives way unto itself with a monstrous boom as it’s upper pillars collapse sliding down and covering those unlucky souls still stuck atop it  with a dusty cloud.  Underneath this, another “CRACK!!!” as the Mount envelopes itself even more, a third and fourth CRAAACKKK as the entire complex you have known, protected and loved, caves in on itself in sequence.  With a final, and violent wave the last CRACCKKK!!!  Echoes across the city and undoubtedly for miles around as the ground below and around pulls in on itself. Where once stood a mighty hillside, sacred to all, the Heart of the Flame in  the land of Gallinor, a dust cloud swirls, a great circular chasm below, rocks and debris settling. The cries of the wounded reverberate from around you.

        A friend grips your arm  to steady you from falling into the crater as you wipe the tears which run through the ashy layer of dust coating you.  “Look”, he whispers “What in the Light is that?!!!”

        As you peer below, through the whirling cloud of dirt and sand you can see the form of a giant circle, formed from several concentric circles, one small, one in the middle, and one larger forming the outside ring.   As you look on, you can just see the outermost circle sink to rest flush with the others, a slight banging as it locks into place.  It’s bare metallic frame partially covered in the rock and soil that used to make up the Mount.  “The Darkened thing was metal!” Your friend whispers…”The Mount was nothing more than a metal tower now collapsed on itself. What in the Light has happened to the Flame??? And why would Borindin do such a thing??????”

        Wasting little time, you pull together your kit of medicines scattered throughout the pockets of your robes and begin the chant to aid the first of the injured.  As you approach a young man, an acolyte you have seen before in Prayer, he reaches for you, and as you have often done, you place your hands before you, waiting for the warmth of the Healing Flame to envelope you, to seize it’s power in order to close up the gaping wound in the boy’s leg.

        But it doesn’t come.

For the first time in your life, the spirit that resides in the force you know as the Silver Flame, a comfort and guide during your life, does not come.

        And that’s when you hear the voice….a woman’s voice.  Soft and assuring. The very essence of the Flame, but in a form you have never heard or experienced. “Your time to aid your fellows is at hand, but it will no longer be by the Grace of the Flame you once knew.  Use my power instead.  I call myself not a God, but a leader in the War with the Dark to come.  You are my outlet. I am your springwell. We have much to do, you and those I have called forth from this moment of despair.”

        Not a God? Light! What have you done to deserve this demonic force’s entreats!? And yet, there below you lies a dying man, blood oozing from his leg wound.  Surely death will take him soon.  You can feel the power behind the words, they are there if you choose. Safe and warm, and radiant. Surely this cannot be the Shadow.  Surely, this is Good.  And perhaps as if this thought were enough, you begin to feel a force enter you, so familiar, so compassionate.  Suddenly,  you feel the familiar heat and radiance of pure power roar through your hands, before you, the leg is healed, the man’s face awestruck at the service you’ve performed.

 

        “But I…” as you glance down at your hands, a mark begins to appear.  A faint outline of lines intersecting.  The shape is familiar.  “What the….?” You whisper as the outline of several dots and angles scribes itself apparently of some unknown force you cannot see. A shape forms on the outside of both your palms, shockingly the shape is not unfamiliar to you.

 Bewildered, you try to think back to when you last saw it. It was over a plate of hearty stew, while talking about the Godslayers and the Challenge of Champions.  The adoring fans that night had created images from yet unnamed constellations from the stars above for each of their champions.  The images were graffitied in alleys and stone outcroppings in the city centers. Children scribed them on their scrolls in the margins while at school. 

The outline on your palms, plain and clear, was that of Cassieopia.

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