Into the Wild, ACT 3, The Path of Enlightenment

Session 1: Return of the Northern Lords!

While the King’s Honor sped through the icy waters of the Southern Sea, or perhaps it was before or after for to this day no one knows, Four travelers dreamed. And this is what they dreamed….

ON THE PATH, For All

A colossal chamber constructed of stone. Circular. Domed.  Within, several tall, slender individuals are preparing something. A man with golden hair is led to some form of contraption.  Surrounding him are many people, unlike the others, there dress and their fashion is unknown to you. Before them is some colossal, grand structure; It’s so big that it is nearly comical.  Twin white towers, with stairs and other metallic structures built around it. Something drapes around it like vines. It is, in a word, alien to you.  They are cylindrical, but so large that they could easily hold a small town’s water supply. The white liquid within shimmers.

The man is screaming.  You do not understand what he is saying but it is clear he doesn’t want to be here. There is a chant of somekind. Voices rising in unison. The man is not part of these. He looks around, to no avail.  Beside him, a woman appears within your view, she too is led, she is crying, her arms raking the floor, legs refusing to move.  Carried by powerful men, they support her but do so tenderly.  She has no choice you think, but this is no criminal. They are both naked.  Above them are the two gigantic towers loom.  Looking up as they do, you now notice that they are not white, but are made of glass, more glass than you have ever seen in one place.  Filled with liquid, but not water.  Whatever is in these containers is milky white and opaque. The containers are swirling within, the fluid is in motion. What There are so many people here.  Many are smiling.  And muttering. Some look morose but most seem inquisitive, as if they are about to see something….entertaining. They seem noble. Important.  As if they were observing a match at the Challenge of Champions.

The pair are led to the top of each cylinder, where a hatch is opened. With tear streaked faces the man looks over towards and into the eyes of the woman.  She whispers something to him, her words failing within this cacophony of sounds, a mixture of machine noises and the voices of a strange language, and he yells something back.  Even this is not overheard by you, but you know it is desperate. Something that must be said. A man steps out from the others below the towers, he is dressed in glinting mail.  A symbol of the tree glistens upon his back.  You cannot see his face, he raises his hands and the guards maneuever the pair into the cylinders.

They drop into the milky fluid.

Disappearing into the swirling liquid, you are filled with a dread.  To what end is this madness? A sound emanates around you and grows louder.  It’s a low rumbling, filling your ears. A surge of energy begins to manifest around the containers, you can see the bolts of energy sizzle, the people in your view step back, hands thrown up to their faces.  A wave begins to move in each, as if something within is making it, thrashing.  At first, you see an occasional arm, or leg, the man’s hair.  All eyes are on these colossal tubes.  There is shrieking and the sound of rumbling grows so loud you aren’t sure you can take it anymore, you feel like it’s inside you, growing inside your head.  This isn’t a physical sound, some power is erupting within this chamber.

Suddenly, you yell, there is something else within the murky liquid now. And it is much larger. Something is in there with the man, and with the woman too. Something you missed.

BANG!!!

A gigantic claw juts out from the substance and hits the side of the glass in the man’s chamber.  Another Bang!  In the woman’s chamber, a tail, long, scaled and green, slides along the glass, and is gone just as quickly.

And then through the murkiness, two gleaming green eyes penetrate the void.  As they drift closer to the glass you see a colossal snout and maw.  A beast, magnificent, colossal, it’s eyes brimming with intelligence and power.  Opposite these eyes, from the tower in which the man was thrown into,  appear two of gold.  Slowly they turn towards one another. The woman and man, nowhere to be seen.

In their place, the horrible eyes of two beasts.

It has only just occurred to you that the man with golden hair is someone you recognize from Haven, so very long ago.

Markers:

Taryn, The Hero

Bold is the man who with his hands

Takes what he needs upon the stands

For when he looks, there he’ll find

What others see not, left behind.

 

Melissande, The Great Mother

Your journey’s end is not in sight

Seek o’er borders and bond their plight

For darkness doesn’t have to be

When Light is brought with harmony.

 

Bolvist, The Trickster

While others lead, do not

Doubt

While others whisper

Shout

Darkness and Light. Who are you now?

A hidden crown. To none, that bow.

 

Jasper, The Dying God

You will in time, by your leave

Fail to serve, but not to lead

You will in time, by your leave

Give to another what they need

 

A Rude Awakening

There is a still and a pause, you remember a chamber, a man, woman, two creatures, and now! Darkness, and you are….wet!  You feel out of breathe, struggling to move your lungs, you try to inhale deeply, but as you begin to suck in air, gasping, you realize the air isn’t air at all, but water! Sea water!

Around you, are ruins of somekind, but it is dark! You taste salt. Your hair floats around you. Can this be real?

A light shines from above, but just barely.  You try to take in your surroundings as you struggle for breath, choking and clawing at your throat.

Then you realize, you are not alone.

Two forms slither and slip in the dark, their forms are growing closer.

Melissande, Bolvist, Jasper and Taryn!!!! The Northern Lords are all here. But there is no time to celebrate. Each finds a way to breathe, although Jasper in turn holds his breathe using his meditative practices.

There is no time to wonder how this happened. These creatures approach and their intention is clear. The party knows all too well what they are, having seen several themselves. These are DRAGONS!!!

The largest hides behind an outcropping of an ancient pillar.  While the smaller swims in and attacks.  Under the water, it exhales and blasts Bolvist with an icy breath.  All around him the water freezes, but inside Bolvist somehow is unharmed!

Soon, Jasper has joined the fight. Melissande however changes into a fish.  Taryn fights from a distance.

MEANWHILE, above the icy sea….

 

Aboard the Honor, Q’s Contraption

It has been several weeks since your incredible adventures in New Cellione.  Battling the evil aboleth and it’s minions, once common folk like you were, too terrible an ordeal. You still have nightmares, that is you would if you had time.  It’s been an incredibly fast paced couple of weeks. As The Honor travels through the waters of the Southern lands, you are being trained on everything nautical.  Gradually, command of the ship is given over to you.

With the help of the Sixth coin, and the Sasser map, you have placed the location where the King’s Lady must have sank.  It is surreal. Just weeks ago you were lowly guards aboard a caravan serving a drunk, and now here you are commanding the greatest ship in the fleet of Cellinor, serving his majesty, his majesty’s son, on your way to recovering the greatest treasure ever lost, or found for that matter.

All is as it should be, but aboard the ship on one particular night you hear what can only be described as a howl, followed by crying and wrenching towards the aft. Running to the back of the ship, Portia sees Schultar’s form outlined by the three moons. She is holding onto the railing, but she’s on the wrong side.

“Schultie! What are you doing??” says Portia.

But without a word, Schultar throws herself from the back of the vessel and into the dark water.  Portia runs to the railing but can only see the large woman splash into the water. She sounds the alarm, and waking the crew, the ship tacks several times but Schultar is never found.

Once or twice Portia thought to tell the others that as Schultar threw herself into the water, she thought she saw the strangest sight. Horns protruding from the back of her head! But she realized that this would probably only get her into trouble. And if there was one thing Portia didn’t need a lot of, IT WAS TROUBLE.

Later that week, the Honor put into a small cove. There, several Celn ships lay at anchor. The King and the Prince invite you to join Elad, Fritz and a druid you remember whose name was Horst. You row out to one of the vessels, where a wide eyed commander greets the King and Prince.

“Commander,” says the King, “This is now His Majesty’s Honor. Please report to my other ship. I will call you back when our business is concluded.”

“Aye! MY LORD!!!!” stutters the Captain. And as the crew departs, you are left aboard this ship with the King and his company.

“I have asked you to come here so that you will bear witness to what your deeds have set in motion.  Our friends here will join several others now assembling for the greatest expedition West we have ever attempted.”

“Your find of the derelict ship known as “The Black Scream” has heightened the need for us to know what lies to the West, surely others of this civilization will follow.  If they do, we need to know what we are up against. And to do that, we must send others there and back.  Horst, Elad, Fritz. May the Light go with you. For Cellinor.”

“FOR CELLINOR!” shouts Fritz, and Horst and Elad bow before the King as well.

As you return with the King to his flagship, you notice the look of satisfaction upon his face and can’t help wonder how events that you have been a part of have set in motion vast and immensely complicated other events.  Surely, something grand is happening here!

Within just a couple of days, the Honor has left the Crown Isles behind.  Small chunks of ice now appear here and there in the waters, and an occasional berg is sighted.  According to your charts you are coming close, and the King and Prince decide to slow avoiding bergs and observing the water currents. One afternoon, you are called to the main deck.

Wind whips around you.  You have gathered on the main deck for a meeting with the King and his Commander Luger.  You have heard much about Luger.  He is the Knight of the Light.  (Most call him the Knight Light).

“It is time to let you in on our little rendezvous party.  Please come below decks with me.” Lugar leads you into an area of the ship you haven’t seen. You assumed it was a part of the King’s personal area as it was heavily guarded.  But upon entering, you find a vast workshop, tools and metal gadgets.  A man with silver hair and a bushy beard greets you. He is wearing some kind of goggles and they are covered in what looks like some kind of oil.

Luger speaks. “Personally, I will tell you all I think this is nonsense. Nonetheless, his majesty, Lord Genoran, has asked me to prep you in the event this fantasy becomes reality.  Q will you please describe your contraption here.”

“Ofcourse, Sir.” The man turns to you, wipes his hands on an apron and begins, “We have rigged a contraption to enable you to go below the sea!”

He holds a small device in his hands resembling a pot for holding grains. “This is a model of the device held below decks.  A chain is lowered, and within we keep a pocket of air that stays submerged.  3-7 passengers may be lowered in such a way up to several leagues.  From there, they may exit below the water will not fill the container as the air keeps the water out.”

“Amazing,” whispers the King.

“We can’t take more on the journey down, because if Genoran is correct then we will need the rest of the space for our guests. However, when we practiced with this device, the first few volunteers were, well, they’ve sacrificed themselves for our knowledge. Those within must stay there for nearly an hour before rising, otherwise they will….they will….”

“They will…explode…from the inside…out.” Whispers Genoran. “I know this is asking a lot.  It’s dangerous. Do we have any volunteers?”

Roscoe steps forward, “I will go!”

Kazuto, one of the King’s elite guards steps forward as well. “I too…will go.”

“I guess I get the last….” Begins Genoran, but he is cut off.

“My LORD, forgive me for interrupting your heroic action, but I believe you are more needed here. I owe my life and my honor to one Taryn of the Northern Lands. If he indeed is returning to us now, whether on land or in the icy abyss, I will give my life to bring him back to you!” Malcolm’s words were cool and clear. Genoran knew in his warrior way he could not tell him no.

“My lords, the underwater lung is only a safe haven for those going down into the sea. I can’t get it as close as you believe you need. How will we know exactly where to be? My Lord, we know nautically where this is, but the ocean is vast, we could still be leagues off.”

Genoran cuts in. “Have no fear, there will be a sign.”

The Return of the Northern Lords

Much later, while dining aboard the Honor, there would be laughs and cheers during the telling of this most incredible battle below the seas. However, during the battle, no one was laughing, nor could they.

While Taryn, Jasper and Bolvist fought the beasts, the dark figure of the underwater lung was lowered down. Mellisande swam for the surface while out from the pocket of air swam Roscoe, Kazuto and Malcolm using magical means to breath the water itself.

The battle ensued until Bolvist struck down the larger foe! Together the heroes were spurned on by this death, and Roscoe fired his magical missiles into the water striking and killing the last dragon!! Her lifeless body floated in a grissly and awkward slow motion back into the darkness from whence she came. The heroes swam to the lung, Malcolm himself helped Taryn aboard as Kazuto waited for Jasper and Bolvist.

Melissande was a fish.

Entering the lung, Taryn was still in a state of shock. “Malcolm?” said Taryn.

“Yes, my lord, it is I.”

“Malcolm, why you have grown into a man!”

“Yes, my Lord, it has been 10 years since you have been away.”

That’s when Bolvist, and Jasper took their first breath of air, while the salt water trickled from their mouths, and with their first breath they all gasped, “WHAT???”

Dinner Aboard The Honor

That night, a grand feast was held.  The entertainment none other than Tuatha Ulreicht himself. Even the cooks were familiar.  A grown Jeffer and Jill!!!! Borindin toasted his party.  “My fellow Celns. Welcome. Welcome Aboard THE HONOR. We are so glad to find you! What a day this has been for Cellinor, and for the LIGHT! WHAT NEWS DO YOU HAVE?”

It just seemed too much. No one spoke, although they all tried.  At last, Genoran stood, next to his father. “My friends.  It is MY HONOR to see you again!!!! Long have we waited, and with much anticipation. I have gone through many lengths to find you. And I have much to tell.  But, first I want to know what you have discovered. Are you that much closer to walking the path and saving us from The Darkening?”

As all listened, Melissande, Bolvist, Jasper and Taryn relayed the events leading up to them crossing the portal barrier.  Here, Genoran took over describing the manner in which he feigned death to satisfy the marker. He spoke of how the darkened forces were driven back into their caverns and why the Flame and Crown decided to use the victory as a motivational tool against the Trebians instead of inciting panic or fear in the populace. Then the party told of their dreams along the path, but none spoke of the markers.

The only question no one could seem to solve was how Taryn’s sword came to be about The Black Scream!

After dinner, Borindin introduced all to Calyssa,  a beautiful young woman, who is the King’s personal assistant and sometime secretary.  A very regal woman had been dining next to Borindin during the meal as well.  After Tuatha’s thrilling account of the victory at Carr Alpha, Borindin introduced her to you all.

“This, is my…..Librarian….she is an expert in many areas of our lore.  Especially…..Dragons.”

“Hello.  My name is Annuine. I grew up near Cillandar and I have always been fascinated by ancient lore. When I was a child, Genoran and I often played together and we pretended we were back in the ancient times, the time of Kasille.  She blushes.  Now, as a woman, I am able to study the best materials found in the realm.  Tonight, I will share what I know with you as best as I can.”

“Dragons, come in several groups.  Gen (you have never heard anyone call him this) tells me that you have had some experience with them perhaps.  Based on murals and other visual representations, it would seem as though dragons, the ancient ones, could appear as humans. In fact, it appears as though they may have begun as humans. “

A hush settles over the crowd.

“I know this seems incredible, but my research leads me to believe that the Kasillians, were creators.  Rather than fashion weapons of iron, or copper, or bronze, they sometimes made them by binding the wills of different creatures together.  The griffon for example.  There have been found several sources that suggest dragons may have begun in the same way by powerful magics we can only dream of.”

“The first were said to number 12 in number. The chromatics, female, and the metallics, the male.  Paired as guardians.  Represented in the outer ring that Gen has told me you have found.”

“Of course, we all know of Gulgol, The Black, slain by our Lord and Grace.  Hear she bows graciously to Borindin who returns her bow with a quick dismissal gesture of the hand.”

“These 12 may have been instrumental in the destruction of the Kasillians. We now believe, and our majesty’s inner circle has known for some time that they may have aligned with the traitors in their betrayal.”

“According to ancient lore found, these 12 after their corruption were unable to reproduce again.  Their kind was bereft of continuing.  Most were likely destroyed in the cataclysm of the past.  We see remnants of their kin still, but we believe these are the bastard offspring they try to produce. The dragonborn and other wyrms of the land may have several of their characteristics but they are nothing like the legendary wyrms we have read about.”

“However, we know of at least that survived, and if there is one, there may indeed be others. Recently,  group of adventurers with the Prince came across a powerful white in the South. This was a very young wyrm.  Too young to have been a product of some ancient coupling.”

“In short, we believe another has survived. She is known to the Orst as Ise-Risen.  And legends of her are many in their culture.  When Portia shared with us the story of Trunilan’s father.  It has now become obvious that she herself may have been instrumental in the sabotage of the King’s Lady.”

“And she may be indeed it’s guardian.”

“If this is true, we have our work cut out for us.  For dragon kin will protect their mistress, and she obviously has minions at her disposal.”

“We do however have a weapon of our own.  A. We have a map of the ancient site obtained by us at very great cost. B. We have the lanthorn assigned to her by the ancients themselves.

“You noticed it then??? So long as you stay within the protective circle of this Lanthorn Bolvist, you will be guarded against her most powerful weapons.”

Here she turns to the others, her tone becoming somber.  The bearer of the Lanthorn gains power, but it will attract Isriesen. You will, be her immediate target should she identify the lanthorn on your person.”

Bolvist, impervious to fear the way a common man does, simply nodded.  “Should the bearer of this lanthorn fall, another must dedicate themselves to safeguarding it.”

As dinner concluded, Tuatha’s lyre began to strum away, and soon  rang a melody that all in the Realm knew so well.

 

Hymn for the King, Verse 1

Tuatha Ulreicht

 

Cellinor in light and darkness

Cellinor in peace and war

Borindin, our Sire commands us

Lighted SHIELD o’er at the fore!

 

 

Icy peak to scorch-ed desert

Ancient spire to sunlit shore

Rise up Celns for King and Homeland

Rise up Sacred Cellinor!

Chapter 2, Into the Abyss

Allegiance and Identity

Having saved the Lords of the Northern Valley and returning them to the Honor to be united once more with Lord Genoran and the King, the party soon realizes that taking the treasure will now be the most dangerous trip to the Abyss.  If Annuine is right, how then can they defeat an enemy as powerful as Ise-Riesen, ancient dragon of white, former Guardian of the Kasillian Empire? Maybe, they don’t need to….

A Subtle Tactic

“It’s the Light we’re after,” stated Taryn, leaning over Annuine’s map of the city of Tor Ephis. They had spent a considerable time discussing what the ruins would now look like, and where the guardian was mostly to place her lair and the treasure.

“That’s right,”  Melissandre, “And no offense to the Realm, your Majesty, but maybe this is something we can do another time…”

“There is no other time,” replied Genoran.  “This moment has been 10 years in the making, if only moments for you.  Your markers say as much.  You may not wish to hear it, but it is your destiny, and if it isn’t yours, certainly you will let another take the task….”

“Now just wait a minute,” said Malcolm, “you said that the part of the treasure we are here for is the Light, the Lanthorn.  How do we know it will be there?”

“We know because it was among the treasure lost, and it is the only reason Ise-Reisen would risk her lair there.  You see, she cannot touch it.” This time it was Annuine.  “The guardians could not handle the Lights, that power was reserved for the seven.”

“Light take you, you sound like a blighted Trebian!” Commander Kruger laughed.  “Look, while you lot hassle about who’s riding Q’s magic machine, we’re about to be boarded by 1000 of the nastiest Orsts I’ve ever seen.  We need to come up with a plan and it better include one or the other.”

“I intend to take the Light with Genoran, and I think you should all come with us.” It was Taryn, who humbly nodded towarded Genoran.

“What about both?” It was Malcolm this time.  “What if we could convince the Orst to attack Ise-Reisen. What if we could get them to divert her attention from the true treasure?”

“How do you propose that?” laughed Roscoe. “How do you trick a thousand warriors and a dragon at the same time?”

“Easy,” said Malcolm, “Just let both think they’ve got what the other wants….”

THE RUSE

The boat came closer, the Orst Commander Van Or standing within like a stubborn mule as his underlings rowed him towards the boat the Honor sent out.  Among those present were Kruger. 

“Tell me Celn, why I should not board you now, and kill you all before I send your ship to the bottom of this icy sea?”

“You could do that,” said Taryn, “but if you do, you’ll be missing out on the treasure your King has waited so long to have.”

A silence followed…

“You lie!!!!! You lie to save yourself,” laughed Van Or, but he waited nonetheless for Taryn to go on.

“Why do you think we are here? For our health?  This is the exact spot the King’s Lady sank.  The treasure is there!” He points towards the glacier which surrounded the small isle. “Simply let us have but another day, and we will split the treasure with you. You will return to Orstland with the greatest prize and bring honor to your crest Commander!”

Van Or seemed to consider this a moment, he spoke in Orst to his men at arms. Luckily, the party overheard and understood. Van Or was humored by the fact that these Celns believed Ise-Reisen was alive, it was well known that she was simply a myth.  Her kin may be there, but the Orst could dispatch with a dragon, and take the treasure for themselves! If what these Celns said were true, they would take the treasure, kill the crew, sink the ships and return to Orstland as Heroes.

“I will take the treasure for myself, you Celn scum. I have no need of you, to help me.” He began to order to be rowed back, but Bolvist stopped him.

“Don’t be a fool, Commander.  How will you dispel the enchantments without our help?”

“Enchantments, what enchantments?”

“The treasure is protected by magical wards and requires a Celn voice to fully remove all curses. You will not be able to touch it, without our aid.”

“LIAR!!!!” Roared Van Or.

“I DO NOT LIE!” yelled Bolvist.  And placing the lanthorn behind his back he signaled to the others who had practiced the ruse before the meeting with Van Or.  Malcolm whispered towards Melissandre whose cursed necklace she could now remove. She handed it to Bolvist, who held it aloft, with his Lanthorn behind him.

“NOW WATCH!!!!” Roscoe then brought forth a ray of frost, but Bolvist was completely unharmed. Van Or’s men stood wild eyed.

“You will need this to defeat the enchantments, and take the treasure for yourself, Van Or! Afterwards, you will need us to remove the curse from the treasure. If you agree to let us sail peacefully back to Celn waters, we will give you these and you will be a hero to your people.”

Van Or took the necklace from Bolvist and immediately put it on.  Smiling, and without a word he stepped back onto his boat and his men rowed him away.  “I will return.  If you have lied to me, you will all be dead, before the morning.” And turning towards his men he said in Orst, “Kill them before morning whether I have returned or not.”

Tor Ephis

“The plan has been set!” It was Kruger. “I still can’t believe he fell for that. You lot could be quite useful on the war council.”

“Well, we have practiced a few sieges in our day, Commander,” said Taryn smiling at the others. “But let’s get to the point here. Even Van Or will not be fooled for long. We must consider our plan and get it in action.  Then, return to the surface before Ise-Reisen’s attention is back on us.”

“Right, the Lanthorn will protect us as we descend and hide us from her gaze. But once inside her domain, we have other dangers I cannot account for,” said Annuine.  “This is why I must go with you….”

“No Annuine! We discussed this…” whispered Genoran as privately as he could.

“Gen, I told you, I must go.  The lives of all of your friends depends on my knowledge, and mine alone.”

The party assembled in the quarters below as Q readied his contraption once more.  “Enjoy my Lords, keep her in good shape wouldya?”

“Will do Q,” said Taryn, “When I get back it’s Dying God ale for you Q.  This machine is a wild ride.” They all entered the cylinder, one at a time, no one saying anything, as Genoran gave a signal to Q, he began to lower them down, into the dark abyss….

With magical means, they were able to communicate telepathetically under water.  Annuine pointed out the wreckage of the King’s Lady, but they all decided this was not their mission and they would lose too much time to investigate it.  They decided on entering a nearest section of the former cities outer wall.  Schools of fish flowed with and against the tide as the once mighty rocks of ancient walls shone in the dim rays of what little sun penetrated the depths.  It was very dark here, and it was murky too.

Rounding a corner, the party saw a gruesome sight. Two figures tied to posts, their hair swirling around their bowed faces.  Malcolm moved forward in the water, something about the figure made him reach out to help it, to release the poor creature’s body in this foul place.  But just then, one of the figure’s head raised, and it’s green glowing eyes fixated on Malcolm who immediately diverted hi gaze just in time. Maclcolm couldn’t believe it was alive, and it was clearly a sea elf as well.  He untied it and brought the woman to his chest. She immediately clung on to him as if a child to it’s mother.

“Ambush!” yelled Bolvist, who had just been attacked by a score of wicked creatures.

Later, once the creatures had been killed by the party, the woman spoke in Malcolm’s mind and in the other’s minds as well. She was Lyra, and her story was both terrible and fascinating…

Lyra’s Story

Every culture of men loves a story, to tell and to hear one.  This is what my father used to say before he was killed by the women of our kingdom.

I asked him once why this was so. He told me that each of us live a life, like a single strand of coral.  Once we choose a path, it cannot be undone. Eventually, ones choices lead to the end, a lifetime that is finite, and structured, and irreversible. My father said that all creatures of will enjoy stories because for a brief moment it allows us to choose a different path, a different strand of coral.  My story is all I know, but stories do not interest me anymore because my strand is near the end, and my path is irreversible, even in my dreams.

Once, many years ago, I was a servant to the great king of the elves beneath the sea.  In the elven kingdom of Tethys, the ancestral home of my people.

For as long as our people can remember, Tethys has shone like a beacon here in the waters of the Great Sea. Although the ruins you now stand on are dark and deep, Tethys is shallow, and was warm, and the light’s mighty rays penetrated our halls, filling our world with beauty.  It filled our kelp forests with rich life as well.  Abundance and renewal, our kingdom thrived.

Until she came.

I remember the day well, for I was there in the great hall of Enoch, Lord of Tethys, and so was my father, the lover of stories, serving the elders. 

She was a land dweller and magic user, an arriver from a foreign land we knew not of.  Her servants were like men but were serpents. She warned us of colossal changes, of our seas freezing. She told the King that the Great Current that carried the richness of our seas to us from far across the waters would run cold, and then that it would one day stop, and we would be doomed here in this watery wasteland.

How the King laughed!  The elders as well, for this was madness and foolishness. The Great Current had always been and always would be, even though she insisted it would not be so.  She told our people that she would take residence in the ancient ruins of Tor Ephis, a great city before the End Days cast it below the waves.  She told the King that she would wait for him, and that he would beg for her help.

And she was right.

Within months, the Great Current’s warm waters began to grow cold, the kelp grew diseases our magics could not cure, the fish that lived among them began to find shelter elsewhere.  And then, the coral began to die, whole forests of our beautiful corals, turning to white, the color of Ise-Reisen’s flowing hair, the color of the woman who predicted our demise.

The King and his Elder Court had for time innumerable held power, my people traded with the Orst and with the Sassers to the East, but even during the Sahaugin wars and the battles with the merrow, Enoch kept his power through the use of strength in diplomacy and the abundance of our realm.  But now our people began to starve, and many questioned his dealings with the powerful stranger.

To be continued in game….

 

 

Chapter 3, Light and Darkness, Black and White

Wherein our heroes enter the lair of Ise-Reisen the ancient and find themselves surrounded by falsehood and truth.

Into the Heart of Tor Ephis

After discovering Lyra and hearing her story, the party is presented with a challenge and also with a problem.  They know the other Sea Elves are being held captive, but they don’t know what to do about it. Their time is limited and they make a decision to continue to Ise Reisen’s Lair.  Sir Malcolm at first cannot ignore this quest to save innocent lives, and yet he is pitted with his steadfast commitment to his Lord, Taryn.  Only by promising him that they will return to free the captives, can Malcolm be persuaded. 

The party continues into the dark and murky waters of the labyrinthine corridors of ancient Tor Ephis. All around, fish and other sea creatures shrink away from them.  Dark but colorful corals grow on the surfaces of these ancient stones that once were magnificent buildings and monuments.  They begin the long journey, following Annuine’s guidance to the central structure.  This structure is actually a large tower that rises high into the water.  It is this structure that is “attached” to the glacier visible above.  This is no doubt how the dragon has created her lair. 

Melissande brings the party to an area of deep corals, and they take a small rest.  Bolvist is sharpening his blades when he hears Genoran and Annuine having an argument.

“I don’t care Annuine,” says the impassioned voice of Genoran. “It isn’t safe for you to be this close to Bolvist. Stay behind me. I will protect you my Lady.”

Annuine’s soft voice replies, “Gen, I know how you feel.  But I assure you, I am safe.  Bolvist will need me to guide him the closer we are.  The Lanthorn’s protection will keep me safe.  This is my duty as the King’s Librarian, you must let me do this.”

“Blast it, Annuine! Why won’t you just listen to me? You are not skilled in war. I am.  We are facing an enemy of incredible cunning and malice.  She will not hesitate to destroy you! I want you behind me, to stay hidden in case she surprises us.”

“Gen. I understand. But she cannot surprise us within the Lanthorn.  When the time comes, I will hide. I promise.  Do not fear My Love.  I will remain….safe…”

“I can not bear the thought of losing you, An….”

“You will not lose me, Gen. You must worry about yourself now. Trust me, you are much more vulnerable than I.”

“I wish I could believe that.”

“You will Gen. When the time comes, you will. Now focus my guide of the Flame.  Your heroes need you.”

Relunctantly, Genoran returns to the others, while Annuine once again takes her place near Bolvist, giving him guidance on the direction in which they are going.

“Wait!” the others hear in their minds.  It is Annuine’s voice. “Stay hidden.”

BONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!     BONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Several merrow swim overhead, followed by others.  They all appear to be swimming in one direction. Towards the sound of the metallic bang.  Is is an alarm? Is it a call?

Suddenly, overhead in the swirling current looms three hideous forms.  Two of the forms are more massive dragons, white, their talons dangling behind them while their tails slither in the water. However, the central shape is colossal, massive.  It is more than twice the size of the other dragons.  It must be Ise Reisen herself!  All three forms land on the sea floor only a few leagues from the hidden heroes.  They sit still and frozen taking in the scene through the coral.  Ise Reisen looks around, her blazing blue eyes like beacons shining upon the prostrated merrow lying on the ground at her feet.

“COME HERE, Sluc-nar!!!!YOU sniveling krill! I told you to guard the entrances, all of them.  THERE is a GAP on the East.  YOU DARE TO DEFY ME!!!!

“KILL THE PRISONERS and EXPAND YOUR PERIMETER WITHIN TOR EPHIS WITH THEIR GUARDS. I WANT THE HEROES FOUND AND BROUGHT BEFORE ME. DO NOT FAIL ME. I LEAVE MY DAUGHTERS HERE. THEY WILL BE WATCHING YOU.”

There is a whimpering noise, followed by speech that is not clear.  And then again, Ise Reisen’s voice interrupts it.

Something that sounds like chanting builds from the collected merrow, Ise Reisen then launches herself into the water and swims speedily upwards towards the ice above.  Soon, she is lost in the depths of the sea. 

“THAT is Ise Reisen?” says Taryn.  “I’m going to need more arrows.”

“I’m going to need my brown pants,” says Bolvist, in his usually taciturn combat voice.

“Come on,” says Taryn.  “We have a job to do.  Our best chance of never seeing her again, is getting into the lair from below and getting the Darkness out of there.”

“Lord Taryn is right,” replied Annuine. “Lord Bolvist, this way.”

The Gate

The group continued their journey into the deep and dark heart of the ancient city.  At last, they had come to the structure in the middle, and watching carefully, found two guarded entrances.

A large circular region lies before you.  Within the center is an ancient circular monument. You hide behind several large stones and peer into the darkened water. As your eyes adjust you can see movement.  There are merrow which line the outside of the structure, obviously these are guards.  You can’t make out much else.

 Deciding on the less guarded of the two, they found a portal.  While Melissande worked desperately at the stone and melded it to her will, the others killed the guardian merrow.  But although they had eliminated this threat, one of the bodies of their slain adversaries drifted on the watery current towards the other guard station. 

“Go!” Roared Genoran in their minds, and they entered the hole Melissande had made just as she closed it up behind them.

“They know we are here, but we can still complete our mission,” said Genoran, watching the rock close behind him. Turning around, he saw what the others did too.

A defaced statue rested adjacent to it’s pedestal above a watery entrance.  The statue is stone and aged, it is riddled with holes from the years, but it appears to show a man and a woman in an embrace.  The man is holding the woman, and both stare out together in the same direction. Past the statue stairs led upwards to another portal door.

The Nursery

 

This is a room containing exhorbitant amounts of laboratory equipment.  Most of the clear, glass and cylinders are filled with a milky liquid in which lie the remains of deceased lizard like creatures.  Many of which are transformed into hideous stages of development, some with three arms, others with two heads.  Various equipment around the room suggests that this was a chamber for creating a new type of creature, and that the experiment failed often.

In the middle, lies the largest of all.  A large glass cylinder of some kind. Inside drift wicked swirling smoke, looking inside, you can just see that the swirls are semi-transparent. At first it appears as regular smoke, but then you notice a set of eyes and a grimace as well. Followed by others.  Another portal sits adjacent from you on the opposite wall, and as you begin to take in the room, it opens!  Out pours dragonborn warriors of the same color as those in the tubes.  These however are very much alive, and they grin with bloodlust.

“They are here!!!!! Kill them!” hisses the largest.  And they rush in to attack.

“Out of the abyss and into the…” began Melissande, but she was cut off.

“It’s a nursery for Lights sake,” roars Kazuto.  “Just kill these bastards before they tell their mistress we’re here!”

The battle turns in the party’s favor, but the remaining creature is about to escape when instead, it pulls out a jagged sword and strikes the inner most tube!  It shatters, and out pour the sinister eyes attached to their shadows which freeze the air around the party.  The beasts float towards Melissande weakening her.

Although wounded severely by the merrow, the party kills the creatures quickly and Malcolm closes the chamber door just as more dragonborn are about to come filling in.

“We’re trapped!” Says Taryn.  “Above and below.”

“Maybe not yet, Master Ranger,” murmers Bolvist, who sweeping pieces of glass away where the central tube once stood, shows the others a strange set of runes in the chamber floor.  It is a circle, and around the circumference of it, lie 52 rectangular stones, each rising higher than the floor by only an inch.  Each stone is embedded with an image, an image they all recognize from the game of Pockens.

“There is an access again here. It’s as if we were supposed to find it.” Says Kazuto.

“Yes, well now we’re here. What do we do with it?” says Melissande, but even as she said it, she knew.  “The game. The game we played last night. Remember? Each of us had our final card at exactly the same time. I wonder.” And she stepped on the card that she had left the game with just a night since.

“Wait….no!” began Taryn, but seeing a section of the circle light, he too stepped on his.  Another section began to glow.

“This is madness,” said Bolvist, “But, I don’t know how that’s any different than dealing with you all since Haven.” He too stepped on his card’s image.

They all looked at Kazuto.  “Jasper isn’t here Kazuto.  But you are. You were playing with us last night. Us four, remember? This is….”

And as if in answer to their thoughts, Kazuto stepped on his card’s image, and the portal door swung open, falling downwards to reveal an empty chamber, and another portal emblazoned on the floor.

Bolvist dropped inside, and quickly vanished.  Followed by Annuine, as Genoran screamed, “No!”

“Oh blast it!” Roared Taryn, who was soon followed by Malcolm and Kazuto. Finally, Melissande was left.

“Why is it that when someone else makes a silly mistake, there is no one left for me to talk about it with?” She said to herself, and shaking her head, she too fell to the floor below and quickly vanished.

The Fall and the Rise

You are surrounded!  Weighed down and suffocating!  You can’t breathe or see.  It feels like the weight of the world is put upon you. You hear metallic chinks clink. Clink.  If you don’t do something quickly you will surely die.

Alone, they each squirmed and fought to pull themselves out of some unknown doom.  It was as if they were drowning in something, but it wasn’t water, it was…

COINS!!!!!!!! Coins is what Bolvist tried to say, but couldn’t. And then, suddenly he burst through the top of it, and finally caught his breath. The sight that beheld his eyes almost stopped his breathing once more. He was in an immense chamber of ice.  And the other thing more grand than it’s size, was the size of the pile of golden coins that he now sat upon.  A hand shot upward through the coins, and Bolvist pulled Taryn out, then Malcolm and Kazuto.

A badger’s head popped out and winked at him.  “Druids,” Bolvist whispered to himself.

Genoran and Annuine came next. The Prince struggled to bring Annuine out, who insisted to him over and over that she was ok.

“Light take me.” Stated the Prince, his eyes gleaming with the glint of untold wealth. “We’ve found it. The King’s Lady treasure. It really is here.”

“There’s no time to lose,” said Taryn, “We need to find the Lanthorn….” But then he stopped. A shadow had begun to emerge from the far end of the chamber, and a pounding upon the ice.

“DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD ENTER MY CHAMBER and TAKE WHAT IS MINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“DID YOU THINK YOU WOULD SURVIVE WHAT IS TO COME? WALK THE PATH…HAHAHAHA….IT WAS DESTINED TO FAIL, EVEN TIRESIAS KNEW In TIME THE FOOL.  YOU TOO ARE FOOLS, YOU ALWAYS HAVE BEEN.  THE PLAN HAS FAILED AND SO HAVE YOU. WELCOME TO MY HOME YOU DISGUSTING MAGGOTS.”

“YOUR LIGHT CANNOT SAVE YOU.  SOON YOU WILL BE DEAD, and YOUR LIGHTS WILL BE MINE AS WELL.  I WILL SURVIVE THE COMING DARKNESS.  But you will perish with the rest of GAIA!!!!    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!”

 

Lady in White

The story of the battle with Ise Reisen is best told in song. Of how Kazuto the Brave was slain, and the cunning of Taryn who defeated Ise Reisen as his friends lay dying, is perhaps one of the most beatufiul hymns of the Realm.

I will not try to do it justice here.  I will however continue our narrative to what happened afterwards, as the wyrm lay, it’s body stilled at last by Taryn’s mighty bow.

Her form shrank, and shrank, until unbelievably right there upon the ice, and in front of the others, an old woman, with aged skin and pure white hair lay before them.  Her head hung low, her eyes looked up upon them, almost as if she were in shock.  She took them all in, and began to speak.

“I…I…I was…..” but she couldn’t seem to find the words.  She tried once more….”I….I am sorr…..” but then her eyes caught Annuine.  Annuine the Librarian who had come out from her hiding place during the battle, and stood in front of the woman. Annuine looked different somehow, her stature was taller somehow, and her fearful look was gone. She looked wickedly collected, and was smiling.

“Hello, sister. It’s been a long time.”

“No, No it cannot be.  YOU WERE KILLED! YOU ARE DESTROYED!!!!!YOU CANNOT BE…..” came the voice of the woman who had once held the form of Ise Resien the Ancient.

Annuine, smoothed back her hair, and replied, “OH, but I can be Sister.  I can and will.  You however, will not!”

The battle with Ise Reisen had left Kazuto dead, and nearly everyone else near death. But now, before their eyes rose an adversary unlike any they could have dreamed in their worst nightmares.  Annuine’s form grew, as her skin became scales, and her legs became trunks with wicked talons, her nose a snout, growing into a size that made Ise Reisen’s look diminutive. When she had reached the vastness of the cavern itself, the beast snarled around at each of them, who cowered. Only Malcolm dared look upon her.

“LONG HAVE I WAITED TO TAKE WHAT IS MINE! LONG HAVE YOU KEPT IT FROM ME! DIE NOW. IN the Dark, only the strong will survive!!!!!!!!!!!!! “

Lady in Black

The beast, who could only be Gulgol herself, opened her gaping maw and exhaled a cone of acid that obliterated Ise Reisen.  In triumph, the creature roared and ice chunks fell from the ceiling and walls. 

“The staff is mine, Great Mother!” Came the mocking voice of Gulgol, who while the others could only cower, transformed back into human shape and picked it up from the outstretched hand of the dying druid.

“Thank you,” came the sweet voice of Annuine.  She then turned to walk away.

Around her, the others lay dying, and bleeding.  The Prince however found the power to stand, as she passed him by. But her gaze was too much for him, and he looked away.

“Fear not my prince,” she said insultingly at him, “I still require your services. Just not in the manner you were hoping…”

“Look not for the other Lanthorn, Heroes, it is mine as well, although you may keep yours Bolvist. It serves me not.” And laughing she turned to leave.

“Wait!”

It was Malcolm.

“Wait!” And he was about to stand. She turned towards him, her power radiating from her as if she were warm to the touch.

“You are not of them, PALADIN!” She hissed. “You would make a great servant.  Come with me. I will not ask again.”

Malcolm took one look among the others.  In his heart, he had longed for this moment. It was finally his for the taking, and he walked towards her, she began to smile.

But with a final look, he glanced back at Lyra’s body laying upon the ice.  And suddenly, everything changed. For at that exact moment, Lyra looked up, and her eyes were crystal blue, and they were looking longingly into his, in a way he had never seen before.

Malcolm stopped, and in an instant, he made his choice.

Gulgol left without him, taking the Lanthorn with her.

The New Royal Navy

The first rays of a golden morning are streaking through the ice and among it, casting yellow light and rainbows in every direction. At first the party had to shield their eyes, it was so bright.  As their eyes slowly adjusted, they could just make out the slight movement from bodies lying in different states on the icy floor of a cave entrance.  Beyond the opening of the giant cave entrance, they saw nothing but blue sky, while inside they saw more of the dragonborn as well as Orst soldiers who had apparently used grappling hooks to scale the ice either dead or dying.  Many of the different soldiers were gouged or cut in pieces, some were still squirming in death throes.  The battle had not gone well for either side.  Many of the areas of the cave had ice cones stuck into the walls from where the dragonborn had blasted their enemy, the frozen air solidified in the shape of the blast.  There were many more Orst than dragonborn. 

“Our ruse worked well!” It was Malcolm. “Without the Orst we could never have defeated Ise Reisen AND her minions.  I don’t even want to know what that thing was…” Malcolm pointed to a gigantic white worm creature with daggerlike fangs and a frilled neck that lay atop a huge pile of Oorst bodies, the legs of an Orst soldier were protruding from it’s mouth.

“Yeah, I don’t think any of us want to know,” said Mellisande. “Whatever it was, it sure wasn’t natural.”

“I’M GOING TO BE A HERO!!!!!!!!!”

“What was that?” called Taryn. “Who said that?”

“Whatever it was it was coming from outside the cave,” it was Bolvist, and he suddenly began to smirk.  “Wait, no….”

“I CRAPPED MY PANTS, BUT NO ONE WILL KNOW!!!!!!”

“There it is again?”

“I HOPE I DON’T DIE!!!!!!!!!!!”

“What in the Ketian….”

Suddenly, a silhouette of a man holding a large hammer and wearing an Orst commander’s hat appeared over the edge of the cave, soon followed by head and torso of a large Orst pulling himself up from a rope into the icy cavern. It was none other than Van Or himself! Behind him, several other soldiers had just appeared over the edge as well. 

Rising to his feet, he looked up into the surprised expressions of our heroes!

“YOU TRICKED ME!!!!! And this blasted amulet tells everyone what I am thinking too!!!! I’m going to ……”

But Van Or never got to finish his threat.  For at that exact instant, something happened which later was sung in the halls of the King’s Tower.

Far below, the King and his Royal Navy had been watching the fight.  The Orst flung their fighters at the icy cavern above with reckless abandon as was their custom in war.  When the Orst felt they had superior numbers, they continued on until the fight was theirs.  Unfortunately, for Van Or, too many of his troops had perished and were driven back into the sea.  As the Celns aboard the Honor watched this, they knew the time was theirs to test their new cannons!

Seizing the moment, they pulled their anchors and navigated into the assembled Oorst ships. The Oorst soon realized what they were doing, but by this time it was too late.  Luger aimed for the icy cavern above and sent cannon blasts in after Van Or just after he reached the top.

“Send that blighted bastard back to the depths, Luger,” roared the King.

“Aye Aye, Your Grace.”

From the cavern, Van Or was just issuing his threat, when unbeknownst to him, several cannon balls sailed behind him on perfect trajectories right for the cave mouth!

“I am going to….”

And a cannon ball at that exact struck the ceiling above him, the resulting shock wave and concussion shattering ice in all directions.  In front of their eyes, the party watched as Van Or was instantaneously blasted into a thousand tiny pieces mixed with ice shards that smatterered on the cavern’s back wall and on them.

“Tastes like dire chicken,” said Roscoe.

“Oh look, an amulet,” said Melissande, “looks familiar”.

An Old Friend, and a New Enemy

The blasts from the Honor and the resulting death from Van Or seemed to signal a significant change in the Oorst leadership.  A horn sounded far below.  Kneeling by the side of the cave mouth, looking down into the cold sea below, Malcolm turned to his mentor, Lord Taryn. 

“Sir, the Oorst are leaving.  We have done it.  The battle is won. There she is! The Honor!  We have won this day!”

Taryn clasped Malcolm on the back, tears filled his eyes, “Aye Malcolm, we have. And I promise you that I will fulfill my bargain. We will rescue the sea elves, and free Lyra’s people.”

“Aye, my Lord.  But we must rest first.  Today, we have lost a comrade.”

“Aye, Kazuto gave his life for our cause.  We will celebrate him this night. Along with the great treasure we have reclaimed for Cellinor.”

“Gentlemen, if you are done admiring the view, there is something I think you ought to see.” It was Bolvist from the back of the icy cavern. 

“He’s probably found some magical item and wants to make sure he claims it as his own.” Laughed Roscoe.

“No, it isn’t treasure,” said Bolvist, “But it has been missing a while.”

The others collected themselves, and stood up from where they had been watching the Honor fire volleys over the departing Oorst.

“Well, what is it then?” Called Taryn, he stood, sheathed his sword which had once again gone back to the color of steel, and walked to the back of the cavern where a section of cannon had ripped a huge hole in the icy cave wall. Bolvist stepped aside so that Taryn could see.

Looking into the hole, Taryn realized he was peering into the walls of a cell, which was now exposed because of the cannon blast. A man in filthy robes looked up at him. He was bearded and looked ancient and scrawny. Clearly he had been here for a very long time.  Around him lay small bones and other debris that showed the squalor of his imprisonment.

“Taryn?” Whispered the man.

“Doromir?”

Truth and Loyalty

“Where is Genoran?” said Melissande.  She was searching among the wounded.  “Where is the Prince?”

“He’s there,” muttered Roscoe. “He seems in shock.” He pointed towards the Prince, who was kneeling near the foot of the cavern mouth.  His head was hung low, and he had taken off his gauntlets.  Both hands were clasped together before him so tightly that the knuckles were white.  Finally, Genoran rose, and with a sudden surge, roared out of the cave.

“FAAAAAAAATTTTTTTHHHHHHHHHEEEEEEERRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Narrative Interlude, ACT III INTO THE WILD

Sunset and Honor

“You’ve just caught the sunset,” said the dark haired woman resting her arms on the railing.  She didn’t look back, but Schultar guessed it wasn’t hard to know who was coming and going on the ship with the way she shook the planks. “It’s the final time you’ll see it this yellow before the next overlapping is done.”

“Overlapping?” asked Schultar, she came to stand along the railing next to Annuine, but she wasn’t nearly as graceful and she felt out of place.  The raven haired lady was the most beautiful woman Schultar had ever seen and she spoke so clearly, that it was a bit unsettling. Perhaps, this is what it is like to be among nobility, she thought.  I guess I better get used to it, when we return to Cillandar. 

“Yes, my friend.  The next overlapping is upon us.  The three sisters will once again reach their zenith, and when they do, they will bring the tides in upon themselves, this will change the color that we perceive the sun to be.” Annuine spoke  with grace but such a keen sense of assurance, as if she knew with utmost certainty of what she described.  “The ancients believed that this event, which created three concentric rings in the sky, gave them power, and according to ancient mythology, they designed their entire civilization around it.” She looked up at Schultar who seemed to still be taking in this knowledge.  Annuine gave a subtle laugh. “It’s all very academic I suppose, but it doesn’t take from it’s beauty does it?”  Schultar tried to nod, she felt so clumsy here next to this elegant woman. Annuine continued, “During this time, our feminine charms will be at their height as well my dear,” she smiled, “we’d better warn the men, don’t you think?”

          Schultar attempted a laugh, and glanced over at Annuine, but she was still gazing out at the setting sun.  Behind the ship, the wake spread in a V, and a small gale had picked up. “Do you come on deck often?” It was all she could think of to say.

          “I enjoy getting out of my shell….sometimes,” Annuine murmured. “Every so often.” She turned towards Schultar and smiled again. “But what about you dear? Do you ever feel the need to find your own way?”

          “My way is the Light, and the….” Began Schultar.

          “Of course it is dear,” interrupted Annuine.  “I understand the Flame touched you as a young child. Isn’t that so?”

          “Yes,” sighed Schultar, “in a way.”

          “And you have given yourself over to it, but you have your doubts, do you not?” Annuine had a way of speaking, and Schultar found it hard to look away. She had never spoken of the event in her youth, the man who introduced her to the Flame, but who also taught her the way in which one could be burned by it. For a moment, she wondered how Annuine might know this, but then the thought was lost.  Her eyes were mesmerizing out here in the light. Her voice so calm.  She felt the innocence of the conversation take her over, surely she could trust her.

          “I do….,” began Schultar,”but I do not talk about it. I cannot.”

          “For fear of a reprisal from the Order, of course.” It was a statement, not a question but Schultar found herself nodding nonetheless…

          “It was a long time ago…,” she continued, “but I have never forgotten it.” She found herself going on.  Annuine had taken her gaze from the sea, and moved to Schultar’s side.  “My mentor was a part of the Flame, but the Flame was no longer a part of him.”

          “And he taught you to use it’s power?”

          “Yes.”

          “That is indeed, a unique gift. To be a part of the Flame, but not to be a part of it.”  Her eyes caught the last rays of the sun, and she spoke intently in a soft tone. “I’d like to learn that trick, Schultar.”

          “I can teach you, if you like.”  Annuine’s concern was so intoxicating.  She felt like a friend, a friend that Schultar had never had.  All the months at sea, all the years among pirates and deck hands, troubled souls and all the hiding, hiding who she was.  For the first time in a long time, she felt like she had someone to share her secret. 

          “And in Honor of that, I will teach you Schultar.  I will teach you a great many things.”

The Journey Home

After several weeks at sea, and much needed rest following the harrowing adventures in the abyss of the Southern Sea, the Northern Lords return aboard the Honor, with King Borindin, and his son Genoran.  Much has been spoken about on those nights at sea. From concerns over the changing weather, to the disruptions of food, to the aliens from the West, the so called Sasserines. Talk of plague had begun again, and unceremonious rumor of the Flame’s mighty power failing to do as the Order of Silver bid.  But these were nothing knew, and the King often moved on from these quickly. As if all this weren’t enough, a new rising cult within the confines of some of the cities in the Realm including the  metropolis at Cellione was growing and prospering, despite the King’s efforts to appease the Flame and handle things diplomatically.  It seemed to the heroes that the government of the Realm must be a bold undertaking.  In just the short time they heard Borindin handle his affairs, they realized soon, that they too must do the same in their now thriving city of Carr Alpha.

“I wonder what it will be like, after 10 years gone,” said Taryn to Bolvist one day.

“A larger headache, but more gold to line our silk tunics, Taryn.  Haven’t you been listening to Borindin?”

“I have rogue,” replied Taryn, “but surely our troubles and affairs at state will not be on the scale of what we have heard these last weeks.” Taryn seemed to be asking, not giving his thoughts.

“I doubt that very much. I think it will be very similar.  And Taryn?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t call me Shirley.”

 The King often delighted in Canton’s tales of his time disquising himself as a pirate.  Canton of course made sure to elaborate about the cruelty and difficulty of a nobleman’s journey in such uncouth lands as the Crown’s Isles.  His duel with the pirate in New Alpha became the stuff of legend, and Borindin delighted in the telling. Even Genoran often cracked a smile or two, but quickly it would disappear just in time for Canton to turn towards him while Genoran nodded in feigned disbelief. “Anything goes, when it comes to rows, because pirating ain’t easy Canton.”

“Aye, my lord, it is not.” Canton would say, rubbing an old “wound” from one of his sea battles.

They saw Genoran play the dutiful son.  None of them had met Gen’s brother.  But apparently he was something of an adventurer as well.  Although it wasn’t entirely sure to any of them if that was something the King or his eldest son approved of. 

They talked of the Paladin Fritz, who was well known to the King. He was most interested in how Portia found him and subsequently saved him as well.  He knew that Fritz would be a powerful ally for those sailing West, along with Elad, the warrior of an Isle far to the West, an enemy of their enemy. They also discussed the story of Radagar, the wizard who had an incredible story to tell about a new kind of divinity, known as the Web.  This was bordering on very taboo conversation.  The King only hinted to it on occasion.  It would not be something the populace would need to know about, and the Flame would no doubt abolish any such thoughts that an alternative source of power could be used in a similar fashion to the Flame’s mighty embrace.  When these talks ended, they usually ended in silence and were broken by shifting the talk to something else.

Borindin was a great talker.  His “discussion room” was famous.  Taverns around the Realm had “reproduced it” for their patrons.  It was said that Borindin was wise in his ears, and smart in his mouth.  An expression that could be heard often among the population.  The party could see why.  The King did have one very important talent in the least, HE LISTENED.

During one of these nights of conversation, debate and dialogue, the King decided to delve into his best hard liquor and ordered a Cillandrial Old Fashioned, made from his Southern reserve grains.  The others were excited to join him for this honor, but when Jeffer came in from the food galley to report that the cocktail glasses were ALL missing, they looked around the common room.  One of their party was missing.  It took several minutes after sending for the missing person, but eventually, the glasses were returned, by a very shocked Portia, who claimed steadfastly that she believed them to be storage devices and best kept by a thief to store her many baubles in.

“They are see through…so you know where you put your valuables!” She declared, as if the entire kitchen staff had been using them wrong this entire voyage.

Each night, as the candles were dimmed, and most of the sailors retired belowdecks, they toasted their fallen comrades, Jethro, and the others whom had been lost fighting against Trunilan, and the Aboleth Master.

It did not go unnoticed to the others, how Borindin handled his affairs, and they took note, wondering if they themselves would soon find themselves this busy after a ten year absence.  Other news would be brought to the King while he was eating, or taking in the wind, as he would call it.  The party wasn’t sure how he received this news, but it seemed certain the King would not be able to leave his capitol for this period of time and not stay informed.  Surely, the nobility could keep order.  Nonetheless, the heroes quickly recognized what a mission this had been for him.  What it had meant to Genoran that his father had taken the journey.  They wondered if many of the stories of his younger days were true, even though they now knew the truth, or at least part of it, with the dragon Gulgol.

Many times, something caught their attention while listening to Borindin speak to his officials, of which Commander Luger, seemed to be the most critical.  It was Luger who was Chief General and in high Command of Cellinor’s forces.  And Luger may have been the only one to speak to His Majesty in the manner he did.

The party learned of Bearclaw’s advancement in the ranks of the Shielded Order.   He was currently on a  diplomatic mission to the Orst.  Commander Flemin, whom they themselves had rescued along with Bearclaw in the bowels of the invading goblin tunnels back in Haven was leading forces against the Trebians. Rumors in the Isles about that war had been abundant and contrary. Melissandre often wondered when she heard about these forces how Eemilche had died riding into battle on their behalf, and how she would have felt having been demonized by the Realm’s superstitution and the Flame’s rhetoric.

They learned of a dragonborn named Mustakrakish, the very one who they had befriended in the gnoll’s lair,  leading a force past Almagesh and to the North into the Sea of Sands. A woman known as Casseiopeia followed him, both now branded and trusted faithful to his Majesty.

There was talk of two elves, named Lessa and Maria who had  declared themselves from the Blue Elf kingdom, and sought an audience with his majesty.  Apparently, the elves to the East of the Cairn Lands were in need of assistance.  If this were true, it was the first time in years that the elves still living amongst their populace had exposed themselves to the Celn Empire.  They were either desperate, or there were other considerations to take in.  Bolvist remembered how they had considered searching for the Elf Maiden, Elora Moonshadow. The traitor who had given his life in order to find her so long ago in Haven.  Could these two know where she is? 

Throughout these talks, one member of the party was often away in his cabin. It was Kazuto. As he was once called.  Although Genoran had raised his soul from the darkness, there had been a change in him.  He was often by himself, spoke little, ate less, and when asked about things, he gave shorter answers.

To all this, Ise Reisen’s prisoner, Doromir the Explorimer listened happily.  No one seemed in better spirits to discuss the land of Cellinor than he.  He ate more than any three of them, and after gaining back just enough weight to make the “bones go away” as Roscoe called it, he kept eating but gained no more.  The party was delighted to have their designated researcher and philosopher back amongst them.  He often said he had remembered some things on his own journey, but unfortunately, it seemed as though Doromir had a bit of amnesia.  This seemed to plague him but he was convinced with time, he would remember that which he needed and wanted to know so badly.

One thing that was not discussed however, was Annuine, the King’s Librarian.

For a while, with the departure of Annuine (after the dramatic events in the glacier), who the party now knew to be Gulgol, Borindin would not come out of his quarters. When he did, he seemed resolved of something.  Whatever words he and Genoran had had about the lies his father told, if he indeed had invented the story himself, had been done in private.

The party was in some ways unsure about what to think.  Obviously, the story of Borindin’s defeat of Gulgol was untrue. But how, they didn’t know?  Did Borindin realize that was the dragon in disguise?  Bolvist for sure figured he did.  How could he not?  If that were true to what end? And what did Borindin think of the others obviously knowing this truth? Whatever that thought was, he gave no indication.

Perhaps, the dragon made a pact with him, the people would prosper.  And what would Annuine receive in return?  Maybe the lanthorns.  Maybe.  Either way, she had gotten what she wanted.  Her rival was dead, and the lanthorns, Tiresias’, and whatever lanthorn had been in her lair, belonged to her now. 

Where she was, they didn’t know. And in many ways, they didn’t care. She was a vastly superior enemy, even as their power grew. But one day, one day, they might be ready to exact their revenge.  Revenge for being used by the ancient wyrm.

As the crew worked the sails and picked up the trade winds to the East of the Crown Isles, Cellinor proper came into sight.  Celn ships would often come out to follow the Honor and her companion vessels, with cheers and eruptions from the locals, fisherman and traders. From time to time, Genoran or Borindin would appear by the rails to greet them. 

And then, on a sunny morn, with the various sea birds and dolphins trailing in the ships’ wake, Melissandre and Roscoe saw it.  On a colossal cliff of granite, Hundreds and hundreds of meters high, with various outcroppings along it’s height and massive sheets of stone like peeling skin, the magnificent towers of Cillandar rose before the ship!  So high, the sun had not yet surpassed them on its climb to midday.

“By the Light, SHE is there!” shouted Taryn.  “The City of Flame, The City of Enlightenment, the mother of Cellinor: It is Cillandar herself!”

Taryn gripped the railings, feeling the wind whipping by.  He hadn’t realized how in all this time, and all these adventures, how much the City meant to him.  Others had asked him, questioned him.  Are you the Warrior? Are you the Hero?  Enemies had called him first and last. As if his beginning was unknown to him, just as all other endings would be. 

But maybe here, in fact, he felt it to be true that maybe here he would find the answers. The answers to what happened to his family, the answers to why he had begun the path that Tiresias told him about.

Next to Taryn, Melissandre stood.  She had heard the shouts from the men. Cillandar meant nothing to her. In fact, if it weren’t for these events she was a part of, she would not have returned.  The most central tower gleamed higher than the others. That was the King’s Tower, but to it’s north was another.  One in which a flame could be seen alight, even in the morning glow.  This was the temple mount.  This was the place of her beginning.  The place where she had learned firsthand not to trust the flame.  She dreaded coming back, but not like before. Now, she came with power. And a realization of divine power from the world itself. It gave her strength, and she protected it in return.  She would not be used as she once had. “We need not fear the dark, when we stand within the Light” she whispered in near sarcasm under her breath. It was one of the Flame’s most well used verses among the populace.

As if in answer to her thoughts, a large and calloused hand grabbed the rail next to her.  She looked over to see Borindin’s aged face, hard and fast.  A mask of emotion, staring straight at his capitol city. A wave hit the ship’s brow, and his other hand came to grab the rail too.  He turned towards Melissandre.

“You grew up here, Melissandre.  Welcome home.”

“Thank you, your Majesty.” Said Melissandre.  “And you my lord? Are you glad to finally be home?”

“Yes, Melissandre. Yes, I am.  I am glad to be home.  I have learned much on this journey, and I am glad for the change it will bring me.  One is never too old to understand one’s mistakes.”

“We all make mistakes Your Grace.  But we don’t always get a chance to change from them.” She didn’t dare look at him.

“The world changes.  We must change with it.” He smiled at Melissandre, and she could see tears in his eyes, “it was an honor to find you, My Lady.  I wish you a prosperous return to OUR fair city.  For Cillandar is just that.  The Light in the Darkness of the world.  And my Great Mistress of the Earth, we ARE it’s mighty protectors.” And with that, the king shouted commands to the men, who began in earnest to prep the ship to tack as their deckmaster led them in song.

In the galley, Malcolm heard the men above and he looked across the table at his opponent.  It was Jasper, the enlightened monk, who was holding a set of Pockens cards.

“I wonder if these cards we use tonight, will somehow reveal our destiny again Jasper. For that is what happened in Ise Reisen’s lair.”

“I heard this tale through Roscoe,” whispered Jasper, staring intently at Malcolm in the typical fashion he would when he was taking in the world around him. Which was nearly all the time.

“Perhaps, it will be the city itself that decides our fate.”

“Perhaps, my goodly knight.”

“What will you do when we disboard, monk?” Malcolm had known that Jasper had gone into a deep meditation while aboard the Honor. In fact, he himself had taken his seat in Q’s submersible contraption.  But, like them all, he hadn’t said much since “awakening” from his trance.

“I seek the Light, my friend.  As do we all, in our own way.  I am being called in my way. I have no doubt you are too.  If you listen well…”

“So, you will not be joining us then, in the Challenge of Champions and Battle of Heroes tournaments?”

“No, I shall not. I have my own battle to wage.” And he would say no more, as the ship rocked, and the men above sang of the fall of the ancient wyrm at the hands of Borindin, King and Protector of the Realm.

“May I join you?” It was an all too familiar voice, coming from a framed mirror behind Jasper. Inside it the Dread Pirate’s Roberts image smiled hopefully.

“NO DPR!” Came the many annoyed voices in the common room simultaneously.

Within a few hours, the ship had tacked into Serpents Bay.  Guided by numerous craft, the Honor first docked at Cendros, emptying it’s innards of the grand treasure that was found.

THE Festival of the Fall, and the Fall of the Festival

After several days of what Bolvist would later describe as the most disgusting display of human vanity and untowardness, the Northern Lords, as they were now called everywhere, were ready for the Festival of the Fall, and the grand celebration of their return. They had been sleeping in the King’s personal chambers, supposedly while their very own noble estates were being prepared to their various wishes in the noble quarter.

“You mean, we get our own Cillandrial house too?” asked Roscoe.

“Yes Roscoe, and don’t forget, we also get new clothes.” He winked at Bolvist, who was rolling up the sleeves on an embroidered dark green tunic recently sewn for him. It wasn’t enough that the embroidery was a slightly exaggerated face of an orc, with teeth protruding, repeated over and over again around the material.  He couldn’t guess at why the tailor would use such a material or create one, but he knew as soon as Bolvist saw it, he wasn’t going to like it one bit, and the half-orc was already fuming at needing to make these concessions in the first place.

And then, Bolvist had nearly stormed out during the measuring process, when a tailor named Hanssen had stuck a pin in his buttocks one too many times. Which was once.  When Bolvist roared, the others nearly blurted out laughter, but then thought better of it.  Since then, he noticed at times, one or another member of the party would smile awkwardly when they saw Bolvist. Taryn knew exactly what they thinking, but he sure wasn’t going to say anything about it!

He was also excited about seeing his new estate, and setting up his shop. He longed to take a walk in the city, and see the sights for himself.  He was tired of being pampered.  And he was tired of the flimsy feel of silk!

However, before this was to be done, they were in need of briefing.

Genoran greeted them at the royal banquet hall one morning and said he had a surprise for them.  While Bolvist was into his third plate of Trebian sweet cakes, the prince waved his arms towards the grand entrance, and in strode a whole collection of smiling faces, some familiar, some unknown.

“Lords of the North, I have sent for your government.”

Mellissandre couldn’t believe her eyes. The sheer joy of seeing the twins, Jeffer and Jill aboard the Honor was now surpassed by her many friends, from Carr Alpha.  There was Billingsweed, the gnome, who strode in with quill in hand and his customary saddle bag containing no doubt all his many important documents for their behalf. Clyde and Melancholy came next. Clyde seemed to skip with pure joy, which nearly ended in tragedy as he wheeled what Taryn knew would be a cart full of Carr Alphas best ales produced no doubt in their absence. Clyde wore an embroidered tunic bearing a local tavern’s logo that Taryn had heard about from one of the Shields. The Touching The Flame Tavern, but he had heard that everyone called it The Touching Her Flame. To his side, they saw Njord and Q, both older but somehow looking more masculine than ever, Njord almost seemed to look younger as dwarves often can in their way.  Indi Ilium was wheeled in on a rather interesting contraption. It had wheels and resembled a throne. 

Bolvist walked over to it and eyed it rather curiously. He looked to Q, as if to acknowledge that only he could create something so interesting. “Yours. Q?”

“Yes, Master Orc,” he said with a wink of his eye, “I call it the chair of…..wheels.”

“So it’s a wheel-chair?” It was Portia, who had already found the handles in the back and tried turning it this way and that.

“I call it a Chair of Wheels, Master Halfling,” replied Q, trying to grab the handles back and steadied the chair once more.  “It has more wheels and only one chair, so, Wheel….of…Chairs.”

Once Indi presented himself with his enthusiastic yet reserved way in which those in the eastern sands behaved, he simply said “I have much to explain to you about our economic boom my lords.”

Malcolm watched Taryn and the other Lords greet their subjects.  He remembered the way in which they had ruled their lands.  He smiled.  There was a reason, he stayed on to follow Taryn’s path.  From time to time, although he never purposefully considered it again, he thought about the offer that Gulgol made him.  He kept it at bay, refusing to let it enter his mind’s room. But still he heard the knock; he knew that his answer had been the right one. His divine might was the rarest of breeds, but in Taryn he knew what right meant.  He would listen to that voice, even though his power came from another.

          Others came in as well, a whole lot. Some known, some seemed new but nonetheless deserved to be there.  It HAD been 10 years. There was a rather natural looking man wearing overalls holding a skunk of all the Darkened things.  They remembered him as Odis, a man who they had been eating with the night bodies flew in at Haven.

          How long ago that seemed now!

          Of course, there was Gingrich, who they now heard had taken up some duties here in Cillandar.  Tuatha in his many colored robe, seemed to push past the crowd with hands hidden by his robes.  “Let me past!  My Lords will be expecting me!” He was shouting.

          That made Melissandre chuckle a little.  Taryn rolled his eyes.

          There were others present.  Elves that the party were unfamiliar with.  One rather young elf named Laetis the party remembered well seemed to have come into his own somehow.  Bolvist reminded himself to ask about him. A mage named Streven was introduced to them and began a discussion with Doromir.  Apparently Carr Alpha was developing something of a research tower right in the heart of the city. It was hard for the Lords to think of Carr Alpha as a city. Melissandre pictured a tower rising up above their campground instead. It made her chuckle again.

          Finally, a group that the party just remembered huddled together, waiting to greet them.  Genoran clasped hands with them all. Obviously, they were very good friends.  Bolvist remembered seeing them clawing their way through the rubble, the night the Path opened for them.  They thought then, that they were the first marker, but apparently they weren’t these four were!  There was Splendar the Mage, even though well known for his wonderful performances.  Buttercup, the girl with the premonitions.  Melissandre wondered how the Flame liked hearing about that.  And finally, there was Bruce, the potions master. 

          Genoran also introduced the group to his personal griffonmaster, .  And Gerkin, who managed the Shields directly responsible for the security of the tower.

          The introdutions and re-introductions went on into the day. By the end, nightfall had come upon them and they again indeed felt like they had a valley to take care of, for good and for bad.  There would be much for them to do, and very soon. But for now, they had to prepare for their introductions during the Festival of the Fall. 

          In the morning they were escorted in carriages through the grand streets of Cillandar.  Hoardes of gazing citizens cheered and shouted.  There was much celebration.  Rumors had spread through the city of the Lords of the North return. The very same who had defeated the Trebians at Carr Alpha and secured the passes into the North that had brought much wealth to the Realm.  They were eager to meet their heroes! With the brew and the food of the Festival of Borindin’s great defeat of Gulgol, there was much rejoicing to be had, and everyone was ready for a grand celebration.  Borindin took his place in the Grand Plaza of Heroes, while Genoran and his brother Alorin took their places to his side.  Other chairs were reserved for the heroes.  A grand speaker announced:

The Game is Afoot!

Overlooking the grand harbor in the Heroes’ plaza, the adventurers oversee the great tradition of the Fall ceremony.  Below them, amongst the crowd of onlookers, Belloran, the Keeper of the Flame, inquisitions several high profile murderers, in an act meant to honor the King’s defeat of the dragon Gulgol and thus the foundation of the City of Light, the city of Cillandar. They are bound and released over the edges of the city into a certain death, plummeting to the sea below. Melissandre looks on, had it really been that long since she walked the halls of the Temple Mount?

The speaker works the crowd into a near frenzy, describing the recent battles with the Trebians. The crowd learns that a new coin is about to be issued which bears the official image of Borindin’s two remaining sons.  The coin is to be introduced into circulation just after the Festival is at an end.

The party is about to be introduced when a small bird flutters near Taryn.  In his talons is a note and a gem that drops into Taryn’s outstretched hands. The note reads

“The little crystal you are holding is actually a greater fireball spell frozen in time the instant before it detonates. Unfortunately, the field around it degrades over time, until it explodes! There are seven others scattered around the city set to explode in exactly 3 hours. I assure you that if even one of them is allowed to detonate, the lives lost during the Festival will be devastating.

And unfortunately for you, these crystals are all linked to you…

On the backside of this letter are seven clues to the location of the crystals here in Cillandar, If you are clever, you might be able to find them, if not, I win this little game, Heroes.

Let’s not go interrupting the Fall Patrons or SHIELDS too much, I might get a little anxious and want to see some excitement early. I’d keep the JOB to yourselves, if I were you.

Take a last look at the little crystal? Do you feel how warm it is? That’s a sign that the stasis field around it is about to expire? If I were you I’d get rid of it as soon as possible.”

On the backside of the note is the seven clues:

I

Man strives to bend metal to his will

And continues to forge still.

II

Search beneath the Duke’s Throne 

III

An imposter alight

In the skies at night

‘Tho that be a lie

Tis not really the sky

IV

Held firmly in the high hand of Justice

V

Underwater, above the sea

Fed by rock and rain

Behind a wall of earth and stone

To keep it all contained

VI

The Wanted Wench at dockside

Her arms are open wide

Beneath her bales of golden hair

Her hidden charms reside

VII

Middle of town

Look around

What’s to be found?

Seek a reflection

Providing direction

To minute confection

Under the floor,

Under the floor,

Behind the square door.

 

 

The Lords have returned

, Tis True Tis True

I’d like to play a game with you!

 

To celebrate the Wyrm’s Fall

Will you proudly give your all?

Will you heroes stand and fight,

Or leave the Darkness

And hide in Light?

 

Icarus Aton-

A well known story in Cillandar

Icarus was incarcerated in Carr Thos’s infamous WHEEL and given an indefinite number of turns.  It was postulated that giving him a capitol punishment may have turned him into a martyr. 

Icarus, a Priest of the Flame, led an expedition into the Outer Wilds in order to bring the Light to new people. It is rumored he is one of the few Celns ever to venture into the Sea of Sands and return alive.  In 56, Icarus returned from an expedition and is said to have begun spreading information detrimental to the Realm.  He proclaimed that the End Days were come again and that he alone was given the power to protect those that followed him from the Darkness. This was obviously against the Order’s doctrine, and he was ordered for a public Inquisition.  However, instead of arriving passively, Icarus arrived with many of his followers and was able to escape. But instead of fleeing, he attempted to storm the Temple Mount to kill Bishop Belloran himself.  Icarus’s attempts were unsuccessful but he was able to disappear into the countryside where he and his followers had set up preparations for the End Days in an abandoned ruin.  It is well known that Icarus uses ruthless tactics and has access to very powerful magic. Nonetheless, he was tracked down and his complex surrounded.  According to the story from those who were there, Icarus had given each of his followers a drink in order to “protect them from the End Days”.  All who drank died, which gave Icarus tremendous power through the Transpower of soul. In a terrible battle, Icarus was finally subdued. As many in the villages still believed the rumors he had spread, it was decided that he would be best sentenced to Turns in the Wheel.  He is considered the Wheel’s most high profile prisoner.  But, he has recently escaped.

Tracking Down an Unknown Enemy

With help from the other heroes, Taryn causes a diversion and is able to send the gem off the cliff side where it explodes in a terrible boom, but away from the crowd and city.  People duck and cover, the Shields tighten their border, but it is dismissed by the speaker, with a bit of a nudge from Bolvist, as just a portion of the grand spectacle.  Applause erupts.

But not for the heroes. They make fast work and set off immediately to find the other gems.  Quickly, they track down one in Old Joe’s Smithy. They decide to break up in order to search faster.  However, they nearly escape an ambush in both a local bar and in the reservoir.  Coming together, they track down the clues to a Halfling confectioners shop at the North end of the city.

“This has to be the place,” said Roscoe.  “We need to look under the baker’s floor.”

In they went and they convinced the baker to see his cellar.  They did indeed find a gem, and nearly a trap that killed them too!  They also found some footprints that were quite muddy and dark.  Standing guard, they also heard the guards talking about a shift in schedules. There seemed to be some clue here, but what it was telling them, they couldn’t guess. And then they were greeted by Genoran who seemed to have tracked them down.

“Friends, it is time for you to tell me what is going on.  We know the explosion wasn’t part of the show. My friends in the Docks Quarter tell me you nearly tore the place apart.  WHAT is going on, let me help you! You haven’t even been able to see your estates yet, please friends….what is the……”

Together they walk back to the central square, the Heroe’s Pavilion, where Genoran pleads with them once more. However, in the middle of his plea, a large magical mouth appears over the population:

“THE DARKNESS COMES FOR YOU!!!!

The Lords of the North return with power, your power, taken from the Flame.  But they bring more! Look to your sacred text! Death is upon you!”

And then a terrible explosion rocks the central plaza before you.  The statue in the middle of the plaza, featuring a shining bronze image of Borindin holding aloft the head of Gulgol instantly obliterates, sending out a cloud of green and black smoke and particles.  Hundreds of patrons and merchants are instantly interrupted and the concussion knocks them to their feet.  As they stand though, their hands move to their faces.  It’s as if their skin is peeling off!  They moan with the agony of this infliction, running here and there. The scene is utter Chaos.

One man, outside the green smoke, sees you and points at you with an angry face.  “IT’s them! The Lords of the North! They have brought this upon us!  Send for INQUISITORS!!!! May the Flame protect us!!!!!’

Genoran is beside himself with grief, he wades into the dying crowd, trying desperately to save his people, his eyes full of tears, “Send for the Order! Send for more help!!!!!”

He turns to you, ““Quarantine this area!” Yells Genoran.

“Send for my father, Luger.  I need to speak with him immediately.  You! This is no longer a threat to you. It is to us all, and your reputation in fair Cillandar also depends on what you tell me next. Now, out with it. Taryn, I know I can trust you to divulge this information to me!”

Reluctantly, Taryn and Malcolm tell the Prince of the crime being perpetrated against them.  Genoran nods and says that they must quickly be on their way. “This blast breaks their own commands.  If they want to kill now, they will. All we can do is hope to stop more death. Go friends!  I will try my best to find the other gems, that you cannot.”

With that, the party leaves, running through the streets to find the next gem. But they don’t get far. For while on foot through the back alleys, they are attacked by hooded figures from the rooftops! As night comes on, they are blasted by powerful magics that light up the streets, and set homes ablaze!

A familiar voice echoes from above, as the party advances onto the roof to face their attackers. They again hear the voice, but it no longer belongs to who they thought it was.  Schultar has been hideously transformed, and those with her, are like nothing they have ever seen before. The only word to describe their hideousness is ‘demon’.

“My friends! I see you have returned. You. You filthy Halfling maggot. Miserable old bag of weeds! Saviors of the realm indeed.  You serve the Flame of injustice. The Flame of the unholy.  The Darkness is the only true justice. The justice of POWER. 

My mistress will acquaint you all with what is to come.  If you live!”

Again, the story of that epic battle, atop the burning dwellings, in the dark of night is one for the bards.  How the party fought them off, the stuff of legends. Schultar escaped.  And with her, the security of the city.

However, before she left, she left another magic mouth to give them a clue:

I see you’ve found the seven gems,

But one you ought to know.

I took it back and now it’s hid

Where fame and challenge sow.

“We must find Genoran, let him know what we are up against. Secure the other areas where we think the gems are! If we can’t find them all, we can keep people from the areas!” Said Bolvist.  A simple, yet elegant plan. 

The Shield assigned to them, located Genoran, who found them moments later, atop griffonback.  Landing his steed in the streets, he ran to Bolvist.  “We have news, friends. We must hurry! There are two gems now placed in the Champions Arena, a spectacle planned, thousands will be lost.”

“We know,” said Malcolm, “An old friend just told us…”

“Wait.” It was Lady Melissandre.

“My Lady, there is no time to lose, we must….”, but something about the way she said it made them stop in their tracks.  Melissandre was….well, she was thinking!

Putting Two and Two Together

“Didn’t your father,” started Melissandre, walking back and forth, her druidic robes bustling around her feet, “didn’t he say that they were minting new coins?”

“Yes!” blurted out Genoran impatiently, “but…”

“And,” interrupted Melissandre, clearly no longer in a hurry herself, “where does one get gold from to make all those new coins?”

“From the gold we just acquired of course, Lady Mel….,” but Genoran stopped then as well.

“Muddy footprints….,” this time it was Taryn.

“Muddy footprints,” said Bolvist, “quit it would ya Taryn? I just had these polished by all the idiots in the King’s Tower remember?”

“No, Bolvist! Not yours! The footprints under the bakery at the Northern end of town! Prince, where did they unload the gold?”

“Why, Cendros,” it was Genoran now who began to pace, finger to his lips.  “Where there is dark mud in the unpaved areas…”

“This has all been a diversion,” whispered Roscoe.

“It has?” said Melissandre, she was smiling, “Did I help?”

“Melissandre, you’re a genius!” roared Genoran.  “Everyone, to Cendros!”

“Let’s go to Cendros, but not so far as to call the druid a genius,” laughed Roscoe, as together, they loaded themselves onto Malcolm’s Pegasus and the other griffons. The great beasts sprung off the stones, and alighting on the wind, hurled into the night, towards Cendros.

The Story of Icarus

While in flight, Malcolm flew across from the Prince.  “Do you really think this is about gold, Your Grace?”

“My instincts tell me it is more, Master Paladin,” yelled Genoran into the wind, “for Icarus is there as well!”

“Icarus? Why is he no longer in the wheel???”

“It’s a long story, he escaped!  We recaptured him but did not want the people to know for concern there would be chaos and worry.”

“Icarus?” It was Roscoe.  “Who’s that?”

So Melissandre told him the story in flight.

Behind the Prince, sat Bolvist, who, in his customary tone, replied, “Catch the worst criminal in Celn history, then keep it a secret during the largest Festival of the year. What could go wrong with that plan?”

It Always Come Down to….

It doesn’t take them long to dismount, and discover the guards are all either killed or asleep by some magical ailment.  They enter the lower vaults and come across an empty chamber, it’s gold taken, only a few coins left scattered.  While some of the party locate the tunnels that had been built to steal the treasure, the others search and discover Icarus in a cell.

Icarus, to their surprise was not a Celn, but a Trebian. He had been magically altered so that he could not communicate. His tongue was also cut out. Metal links on his hands bind his wrists together. He looked utterly devastated and yet through his eyes, was a power they had seen in other monsters and creatures that had become wells of the force of will.  Restrained.

Around them were muddy footprints, wheel marks in mud and scattered coins. They recognized them as the coins that had been brought up from Ice Reisens’ lair.  Next to the cell wall, a large hole had been blasted through the wall, and you can hear the splashing of water.

Behind him, staring into the cell are the demons that attacked you earlier tonight. The Maralith formerly known as Schultar turns around, and whispered, “I see you have figured my little game, you fools.  It will not matter.  My master has come for Icarus.  He is ours!”

A terrible battle ensues, wherein Schultar makes an escape into the water.  The battle is won, and most of the gold has been found.  They turn towards Icarus, whose eyes grow wide.  Bolvist notices that he is not afraid.

“I feel as though he were trying to communicate with us,” said the orc.

“I as well,” whispers Taryn, standing in front of the Trebian prisoner.  “I find it hard to believe that this is the man, we have heard stories of.”

“Well, they are stories of the Order, Taryn,” said Melissandre with more than a hint of sarcasm, “and in case you haven’t noticed, they haven’t all been that truthful…”

Just then a horn blasts from above, and you hear the sounds of metal clinking, steps hurried on the stairs. In front of a contingency of armed soldiers and paladins wearing heavy armor, wearing magnificent crimson robes, strolls a figure you have seen in many events, but never in person close up. Except of course for Melissandre.

“STAND ASIDE!!!!!” Yells the Keeper of the Flame.

Producing a key he immediately walks to the cell, inserts it and mumbling a few words removes a silver dagger and plunges it in Icarus’ heart!!!!!!!

The man looks up and his eyes bulge in shock, then dim.  Belloran turns around to face you.

“You have done well, my friends.  The Flame grows brighter tonight with the death of this enemy of the Realm.  Why he was kept here and not immediately returned to the Wheel, I’ll never know. But this is no matter now, for you have saved us all from his escape, and….” He peaks over through the tunnel to see one of his guards gesturing, “also you seem to have saved a fair portion of our cities treasury.  Well done my Lighted Warriors, Well Done.”

He pats each of you on the back. Beside him, a red faced Commander Luger is examining the body of Icarus.

“Send for the King,” he tells a man.   “Tell him, our Lords of the North are Heroes once more.”

With a sweep of his robes, Belloran replaces his dagger in his scabbard, and strides back up the stairs, before climbing more than a few, he turns back to you.  “Heroes are not to be encouraged my friends.  But, I think in order to clear your names, we should hold a special gathering.

May the Light Guide You, and the Flame Keep You….”

Heroes Arise

Later, that very night, the party for the first time, sat with the King, Master Borindin himself, in his discussion room.  For each of them, he gifted an incredible treasure. They talk into the night of the Challenge of Champions and the King asks for their help with the Council of Nobles on various topics, giving his opinion in his humble way. Each of them receives an estate in Cillandar, and a shop window.  They also each are awarded 10,000gp.

At one point, the King sighs.  He says, “I was wrong.  My son, Alorus,  has been sent to ancient Tsocanth.  I will give you whatever resources you need to retrieve the lost lanthorns.  Meanwhile Genoran and his friends will continue to find the next opening in the path.”

“We are running out of time.” Genoran points to a small model that Genoran holds. He places it before the King, and fiddling with it’s sides, it activates. You have seen this before.  But it would seem, the King has not.

The model is very  detailed and intricate. It shows the Sun and a smaller sphere orbiting it with the name “earth”. The map is much different and unrecognizable to you, many oceans and bodies of land are positioned around it. Around the “earth” revolves three oddly shaped spheres in very intricate patterns.  Along the bottom of the model is a very fine set of dials and knobs that have the numbers from 57 all the way up to 96.  There seems to be a mechanism which moves the model. When the dials are adjusted from 56 to 57 and so on, the “earth” begins to rotate on it’s axis.  The top part of the sphere slides downward while the bottom pole begins to move up.  As the model spins around the Sun, the top pole continues to face the Sun as the “earth” revolves.  The mechanism moves along and begins to approach 87 where the top pole is now tilted even more in the direction of the Sun.  The moons spinning around the sphere have moved closer and closer to the North Pole of the Earth and have now taken positions directly between the Sun and the Earth. The North Pole is also directly facing the Sun while the planet has completely tilted on it’s Side.  A magical light of some kind emanates from the Sun portion of the model and glows brighter.  Even in this model, it is crystal clear that none of the light makes it to the sphere. The “Earth” has become a darkened sphere, lost in the darkness.

“We have recently fixed the contraption,” says Genoran.

“For this is the reason why Icarus was captured and not Inquisitioned immediately.  “His numbers were wrong.”

“We have ten years.” But no longer.  “Ten years, and the world will go dark again.”

“It was what the Kasillians prepared for, but what they failed in doing. We must discover why the path was broken.  We must find out, before it is too late.”

“Yes, Genoran,” replied the King. “I believe you my son. I do.  I am sorry, I have taken this long to hear you, my boy.”

“And we will, but we also have a kingdom to run, and these heroes have a Challenge to win. Don’t they?”

“Yes,” said Genoran, “they do.”

 

 

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