Monthly Archives: November 2011

SOW Chapter11: The Stone-skinned Odyssey

The Stone-skinned Odyssey

Council discussion

the time is dire and dark


action is required

The Stone-skinned Odyssey

“In this war, we face not only mortal danger, but a more sinister attack—an assault against our hearts and minds. The githyanki threaten to drive us to defeat through neglect and treachery. Neglect as we refuse to take the bold steps we must to survive, and treachery as our enemies lead astray those who could be our allies, and mobilize them against us.”

—Amyria, appealing to the Coalition

Trellara Nightshadow:

“We have confirmed that the githyanki have built a network of allies across many planes before beginning their attacks upon our realm, and one of these is Cachlain, the powerful fomorian known as the Stone-Skinned King. From his secluded lair, he is providing transport for the forces of evil. Like the Elsir Vale, Cachlain’s realm contains portals to different planes and locations, unlike our portals in the Vale, all those within Cachlain’s kingdom are under the King’s direct control. Though the githyanki possess many means of transport, the Stone-Skinned King’s portals are especially worrisome, since they appear to connect to lands near several cities states within our Coalition. The fomorian has total control over the portals, using rituals that took decades to take effect; no one passes through one of the portals without Cachlain’s seal. We need information and we need in now, I have taken the liberty of inviting a guest to this proceeding who is familiar with Cachlain‘s court, Bilgamesh of Shinaelestra … Bilgamesh, if you can describe the court please?”

“Cachlain, the fomorian king, rules a subterranean complex of caverns, much of it chipped from great crystals and shaped by cyclops slaves into immaculate, enormous corridors and rooms. Cachlain is particularly fond of beautiful magical craft, and his citadel is filled with arcane torches and doorways that open on command. Constructs are his favorite marvel, and he has many throughout his realm. It is said that once upon a time, when the king was in an especially mad mood, he had a stone golem pried apart, and its stone armor affixed to his skin. This is why he is called the Stone-skinned King. Now he revels in gladiatorial combat hosting tournaments in his Arena of Blood.”

Trellara continues, “We have found out about the troop transports, but we do not know how many troops he is moving or the extent of Cachlain involvement, nor do we know what Cachlain is gaining for his assistance. What we do know is that Cachlain provided the Seed of Winter to Nefelus’s invaders and rumors have spread that he wants the Seed of Winter back and we are using the recovery of the Seed to our advantage.”

Sidgevin interrupts, scowling, disbelief clearly written on his face.

“Can you truly have been so reckless, to entrust the Seed of Winter to a band of thrill-seekers? Must the realm entire pay for your lack of foresight? Isn’t it bad enough that the humans have forgotten their own gods, cursing this world with their ignorance, all in favor of their own greed and pursuit of power. Already their actions have burned a hole so deep in their hearts that it threatens the very world!"

"Simberious’s own actions were the catalyst for the githyanki wrath that is upon us. You would all know this if only you paid heed and listened to what he himself has said. His involvement in this conclave poisons our efforts, and your willingness to participate hastens the dooms that is upon us. Many of you will die and the world will be poorer for your loss, but I will not be among you. Taer Lian Doresh is strong, we will not yield and we will not fail. I will be a party to this farce no longer!"

Taking his feet, the Vindicator’s chair flies backward as he stands, bows in surly, contemptuous fashion before exiting the hall, leaving only Odos, Fariex, Trellara and Simberious at the table to represent the Seven Platinum Shields coalition.

Fariex offers, “Well … this is unfortunate.”

Simberious adds, “It is incredulous, and foolish beyond belief, but perhaps we should have anticipated this.”

“I did,” responds Odos, “Sidgevin’s purposes and reasons are his own. We have bigger concerns, yet the impact of Sidgevin will impact us all in due time. Right now I suggest we open our body to new members, one for each of our slain fellows, and I suggest we replace Sidgevin as well.”

Simberious answers, “I second your suggestion Odos, but carrying on with Trellara’s theme, once again Cachlain’s slavers have been actively using the portal we discovered. The portal that connects the Elsir Vale to Feywild at the source of the Elsir River at the foot of the mountains. Trellara?”

“Yes, this portal leads to Feywilde near the entrance of Vol Thomil, at the place the Stone-skinned King and his underlings make his court. Once again they have been taking slaves from the Elsir Vale then transporting them through the portal to Cachlain’s realm. And as Odos has pointed out our council is broken, enemy forces have killed two of our members. We have lost both Lord Torrance of Sayre and Kalad of Overlook; their bodies have been defiled, their spirits are lost to us. And for now, there is no time for us to mourn, nor do we have we the luxury of retreat. We must turn the tide if we are to survive. We find ourselves in need of bold, assertive leadership, and given that, we have already taken steps to deal with Cachlain, for better or worse. Filling our two empty seats, yes, but we should not be over hasty regarding Sidgevin departure. I know him better than you, his blood runs hot but patience can be equally astounding. Given that which is clearly at hand, our necessary first step is to now consider the several candidates have been nominated by this body, and have presented themselves here in Sayre in good form in response to our invitation. They include: our envoy Amyria, Bejam of Nefelus, Eoffram Troyas of Brindol Council, and Zefram Troyas of the Elsir Consortium. And perhaps no one here is better qualified to introduce these most worthy applicant’s than Finellior.”

For Fin, Ian and Eoffram:

You should determine who you will support in their bid to join the Coalition of the Seven Platinum Shields. Your actions may very well determine whether your candidates will be welcomed as new leaders within the Coalition.

AMYRIA: Amyria, is a deva, a race of creatures whose essence lives in perpetuity through reincarnation. Her most recent reincarnation occurred after her primal essence was awoken within a platinum sword that had once been carried by Lord Magnus. A cadre of heroes known as Brindol’s Brigade recovered the stolen blade from a hobgoblin with aspirations of grandeur. With great effort Amyria awoke within the blade and eventually developed the ability to speak and be heard. As a sword she entreated the heroes to free her from the blade by performing a ritual at the Fortress Graystone. The effort required to speak drained Amyria of her life force, however, and she was only able to provide minimal guidance on the trek to the fortress with had become the den of deadly tribe of gnolls, the Wicked Fang and their leader the Destroyer. Eventually the heroes prevailed and performed the ritual that finally released Amyria allowing her to take her current flesh-bound form. Still, she found she was unable to remember anything of her purpose for being there, and only the vaguest flashes from her past lives. Amyria retreated to Overlook to find herself in prayer just as the city came under attack of the githyanki know as General Zithirruun. After the githyanki was defeated and the siege ended, Amyria allied herself to Kalad of Overlook and together they made their way to Sayre with the goal of putting together an alliance against what Amyria recognized as a concerted attack the threatened all of Klarn. In the course of her efforts events within Sayre revealed that the githyanki advance was far more serious than the attending leaders had realized, and that the githyanki had been spying on them for years. The githyanki had even excavated an ancient relic of immense power beneath Sayre, a device they called the Bitter Glass. Amyria struggled to mediate the dispute between desperate githzerai survivors Aziff, Gal’ott, and Odos encouraging patience and wisdom in the way they dealt with the githyanki spy Telicanthus concerned that the political backlash from all of his friends would put the surviving githzerai at risk. Eventually with the help of her allies Amyria was chiefly responsible for orchestrating the Seven Platinum Shields Coalition. Amyria’s extremely passionate appeal and her selfless idealism rallied the leaders meeting in Sayre to discuss the invasion. When she did spoke, almost glowed with her inspiration and belief in what is right. Amyria has continued developing, having grown in her role as a scion of Bahamut and force for good, Amyria was tasked to become the special envoy to the isolationist island nation of Nefelus, due in part to her heritage (the rulers of Nefelus are all devas) and also because she had shown herself to be a capable diplomat. Still, her friends from Brindol’s Brigade remain her favorites when it comes to getting a job done, and thus she took Bhenedict along to help with Nefelus’s problem. Amyria admitted that she was uneasy about meeting other devas, especially some as ancient as members of the Thraxinium. She was also concerned what might happen if she failed in this task but she didn‘t and she has returned to the Coalition with a key ally — one that could provide substantial military and magical support.

BEJAM: Bejam is one of the Thraxinium of Nefelus, the ruling council of mages in that Deva island magocracy. You and the other coalition envoys saved Nefelus from a blockade of ice caused by Chillreaver and the Seed of Winter, and now Bejam has agreed to represent Nefelus interest in allying with the Coalition of the Seven Platinum Shields. Bejam is thoroughly logical and clear-headed, when Bejam speaks on a subject, his words hold the weight of something that has been heavily analyzed and well-thought out. A member of the deva Thraxinium, one of the seven leaders of magocratic Nefelus. He turned to the Coalition and its agents for help when Nefelus was threatened. With your assistance he managed to save Nefelus from permanent climate change. Nefelus controls among other things, a mighty naval fleet. He is a strong believer in protocol, and – like all Thraxi – he has a sagely expertise in all fields relating to arcane knowledge.

EOFFRAM TROYAS: Eoffram, a member of the Brindol council, an outspoken and at times rash defender of the Elsir Vale, and has become even more so as he hears more news of war. When speaking, he is somber, methodical, and powerful but debate is generally not his cup of tea. Most times he appears to prefer to make quick, decisions and to take direct action than to get bogged down in endless chatter. There is no doubt that the Councilman truly seeks to do good, whether his efforts are better spent on the road with his friends in the Brigade or with the Platinum Shields in Sayre has yet to be determined. Eoffram is willing to serve and sacrifice whatever he can and more if it helps bring shift victory and an end the war. He believes a quick, decisive victory is what is needed to strengthen the coalition.

ZEFRAM TROYAS: Since the coalition’s inception, Zefram has be eager to be of assistance. His role with the Elsir Consortium has become increasing important, and his political maneuvering has led to his appointment as the new Warden of Brindol since Lord Jarmann went missing. Zefram now enjoys influence over trade in several lands, and he can easily access any raw materials needed for the war effort. Traders in every major city-state know his name. He’s an expert at arranging deals, especially when time is tight, and some say there is no better negotiator and that Zefram is exactly what the coalition needs for its cause.

IAN WHITESTONE: Since the death of his father, Ian has taken on a greater role in the day-to-day management of Sayre were he is very popular among the populous and the university staff, if not with his step-mother. Still his status as a ‘bastard’ still prevents Ian from holding any official title within Sayre’s hierarchy but there are no such restrictions within the coalition and Ian’s talents are undeniable. Still he has little influence beyond Sayre and his friends within Mendelland.


SOW Chapter10: Departure

Departure

Councils of trade made
Plan for combat subterfuge
Why isn’t Bhenny here?

Departure

BejamAs you assemble at the dock in Nefelus, Bejam gives his regards to his assembled family and friends. While Bejam is distracted with his goodbyes, Amyria leans in to speak with the balance of her friends in a troubled tone.

“I have just received another message from Lord Fariex. Again he is brief, since he communicates by using a Sending ritual.”

“As you know the Coalition has suffered great losses. They are in chaos and in dire need of new leadership. I must return immediately thankfully with Bejam, but this time Fariex sends good news … Though a mustering of force and at heavy cost Fariex has recovered the Seed of Winter; unfortunately, again, the fell dragon, Chillreaver, has escaped, but at least the Seed is ours.”

“In this war, we face not only mortal danger, but a more sinister attack—an assault against our hearts and minds. The githyanki threaten to drive us to defeat through neglect and treachery. Neglect as we refuse to take the bold steps we must to survive, and treachery as our enemies lead astray those who could be our allies, and mobilize them against us.”

As the Nefelese ship, Dakkar, departs for Sayre throughout the war torn mainland riders cross the perilous roadways between the great city-states in search of heroes. Among them, the Seven Platinum Shield has requested the presence of: Chen Li Phoon, the famed monk from the Temple of the of the Dawn who earned his reputation fighting the githyanki; Bairdyn of Drellin’s Ferry, the famed scout of Brindol’s Brigade.

As they arrive in Sayre they find the mood somber within ’The Shining City’ rumors were flying as the coalition leaders were busy meeting with a githyanki delegation that only just arrived even as the people of Sayre were still reeling over the loss of their governor.

For the time being, Lady Catherine Torrance had assumed control of the city with General Taramin, acting as her firm right hand placed the city under martial control much to the dismay of the more erudite university community given voice by Archdean Isabelle Grimaldi … She who was meeting with Bairdyn and Chen at The Tankard of Ink, a popular tavern within stumbling distance of the university grounds, the place to go if your predilections more often involved a philosophical debate rather than a fistfight. Isabelle

“I have heard that the githyanki are seeking a diplomatic compromise to prevent further bloodshed even after they have killed Governor Torrance, as if there no end to their arrogance. And how do you expect our General Taramin will respond? “

“Do you believe even the Seven Shields would stay his hand?”

“And what of the ‘Five Shields’ ? Lest we forget their number is down by two. And who then do we have to take their place, the brothers Troyas? I think there is room for no more than one of those and my choice would be Eoffram. Too I think, this coalition may yet be in need of new leadership, Deacon Inogo is a good man but he clearly lacks the degree of focus and inspired action to truly lead the coalition. I am afraid that he is more a cog than wheel.” Nefelese ship Dakkar

Two days later, the Nefelese ship Dakkar arrives in Sayre’s port carrying the island’s emissaries, including Amyria, Lucian, and Doctor Manne-Crocre. Joining them are some unexpected august allies: Bejam of Nefelus and Ssarina of Majyst, one of the other Mystic Isles.

They are welcomed with fanfare and instantly the story of their battle with Chillreaver becomes the talk of the town. Drinks are always on the house for Sayre’s heroes, as barkeeps hope to attract the heroes to their tavern.

Immediately the Coalition council gets to the business of electing and confirming new leaders. All of the surviving Shields had been recalled to the island: Fariex, Sidgevin, Trellara, Simberious, and Odos. Others joined them, would be Shields: Eoffram and Zefram Troyas, Catherine Torrance, and Amyria with a few other respected allies such as: Ian Whitestone, Finellior Marnin, and Luven Lightfinger.

Security abounds throughout Sayre thanks to General Taramin’s efforts. Finellior arrives with a sense of purpose knowing his actions might determine whether his candidate, Amyria became the next leader of the Coalition but this wasn’t the only controversy before the council. A deep divide had already developed as the discussion had turned to a desperate plan …

Trellara: “Our enemies have allied with Cachlain, the Stone-Skinned King. He is allowing them to use his magical portals within his Feywild kingdom as a staging area for raids upon our home. We must send a diplomatic party to travel to the fomorian king’s realm to convince him to stop allowing githyanki troops to travel here through his domain.”

Odos: “How do we know this?“

Trellara: “The Lords tasked us with the guarding gateways when the world was young. These specific portals, those of Feywild, are within the prevue of ‘The Great Dragon’, the ancient wyrm now residing within the Fane of Scales. In turn, The Dragon dispenses control of the Feywild portal to whomever is most favored of that realm. Cachlain is counted amongst them and we have agents within his court.”

Zefram: “Spies?”

Trellara: “Welcome guests.”

Odos: We cannot expect the Stone-skinned King to welcome our party to his court.”

Eoffram: “Master Odos is correct, the Stone-skinned King is not our friend. Time and again he has interjected himself in our battles and harassed us, extending even into kidnapping, imprisoning, and tormenting my friends and allies. He held several of the Brigade for days or weeks, forcing them to fight for their lives within his arenas. He toyed with our minds, destroying and altering our memories. He should not be underestimated. We should be prepared to deal with him in a more permanent manner.”

Fariex: “We may not need to resort to violence, at least we know who our enemy is. If something were to happen to the King, then based on what Trellara has said, The Great Dragon would only give control of the portals to someone new and we would be back at square one. If we properly bait the hook, and I have something Cachlain will find irresistible, the King will open his doors to us.”

Lady Catherine: “Why do we not deal directly with The Great Dragon?”

Simberious: “I have seen this wyrm, it is a monstrous red dragon of unmatched size, age and power, a monster among monsters feared by man and dragon alike. It resides within the hidden Fane of Scales, our own dark moon where it feeds itself daily on Darklens still beating heart. Men cannot stand alone against this abomination. Even the combined might of Hal and Sapphire Hastings, Aerdaluna, Lu Fang, Jack Draco, Silent Pete, Drendel, Pandora, and Cecily Green meant nothing against it as it ripped through giants, dragons and men to take this fell post. We do not want to wake this monster from it’s slumber within the Fane.”

Fariex: “And as I was saying we don’t need to. My agents have recovered the Seed of Winter. We can use it a chip of barter … a gift for the king. He will welcome our ambassadors.”

Finellior: “This make no sense. Do you understand what we just went through to get the Seed of Winter? Dell died, he is still dead, his body was lost at sea. We are lucky you have recovered the Seed at all. Besides all that and correct me if I am wrong but hasn’t our research indicated that Cachlain had given the Seed to our enemies?”

Simberious: “That is without question, we have conducted rituals which confirmed Cachlain’s complicity.”

Sidgevin: “What folly is this!"

"I have returned to wage war and to reclaim our land not to barter with our enemies and yield our hard fought victories. Have you already forgotten what was wrought with this weapon? … Surely, Bejam you would not be a party to this madness?”

Bejam: “We had opportunity to discuss this matter at Nefelus, the Tharxium is in full support of this mission.”

Sidgevin: “I see … So then it has been all decided … Thank you for inviting us to the discussion then. Given that the githyanki busy themselves ravaging our cities and slaying all they encounter I will sleep easy knowing the deaths will be worthwhile just as long as we can keep delivering presents to them so they might do so all that more efficiently. And this is of course is fine with me, and I will so explain to others, because here today we have all shared this opportunity to voice our opinions. Speaking for myself, I am more than satisfied, so much so, I will take me leave."

Shouting he adds, "Perhaps I can dig up some new artifacts to give the githyanki.”

Without pausing for another word Sidgevin leaves the hall in an obvious rage.

Bejam: “I am sorry, I meant no offense, given the controversial aspects of this plan I had to bring the matter before the Tharxium prior to our departure.”

Ian: “Do not overly concern yourself, our ‘dark knight’s’ fighting skills may be unmatched, but his emotions range from irritable at best, to outwardly hostile, sprinkled with healthy portions of haughtiness. We are happy if we can just keep him pointed at our enemies. He will return when he is ready.”

Trellara: “Patience is not Sidgevin’s strong suit but I agree that we should be ready to do whatever is necessary where the Stone-skinned King is involved.”

Finellior: “True … Lord Fariex, I have been wondering, how exactly was the Seed recovered?”

Luven: “Our Lord Fariex has friends in both high and low places … Very little is beyond his grasp. Some things are best left to the imagination … Prestidigitators and gamblers alike know to keep their secrets to themselves.”

Fariex: “Even so, when these matters are behind us I may reveal my methods, not before.”

Zefram: “So it would seem that you have agreed to a plan, a diplomatic mission to Cachlain’s court is to be sponsored, any thought as who should be sent? Might I suggest my brother Eoffram? He is a skilled diplomat, his judgment is sound, and he is more than capable of defending himself.”

Eoffram: “Thank you for your vote of confidence brother, but I am needed here now, but I have been discussing this topic with Amyria, and we have put together a short list of individuals we believe are more than capable of completing this mission … Amyria.”

Amyria: “Indeed, the list includes: Bairdyn of the Elsir Vale who is familiar with the King‘s court, Chen Li Phoon the Monk from the Temple of the of the Dawn … no one has more experience fighting the githyanki, Ssarina, the dragonborn paladin, her heroism was unmatched within Overlook during their defense against the githyanki, and both Lucian and Doctor Manne-Crocre both of whom participated in the successful mission in Nefelus, and both are skilled negotiators.”

Finellior: “Really?”

Catherine: “Lucian and the Doctor … skilled negotiators?”

Amyria: “Lucian and Dr Crocre had been negotiating the sale of goods within both Overlook and Sayre … True, they are unusual, but in this case they may be exactly who we need considering Cachlain’s predilections. Also we noted they are more familiar with the Seed of Winter than anyone else we might send.”

Finellior: “Not to diminish their accomplishments, but why not sent me? I am trained to this very purpose. This group seems better suited for battle than negotiation.”

Fariex: “Exactly, combat and subterfuge … As excellent mix, you have my vote.”

Amyria: “Finellior, if our ambassadors should fail we may well have need of both your own and Eoffram skills, but I believe in those we’ve chosen and still others who may join their quest in route to the Stone-skinned King‘s court. Now is the time for all heroes to make their stand in whatever way they can best contribute. Here now, important discussions are taking place and I hoping you would lend your talents to these debates.”

Waiting anxiously outside the hall stands Bairdyn, antsy anticipation keeping him busy bouncing his weight from one foot to the other. It had been about a month since he had last seen his buddy Bhenedict. Bairdyn was especially anxious to hear the tale of the dragon hunt first-hand from his friend; and of course, he was going to finally be able to tell Benny all about how he had found his Grandpa Basil in the forest and about riding a manticore, Ssarinaand all the other adventures he had experienced. Unfortunately, it was not to be. When the meeting broke there was no sign of Benny, instead Bairdyn recognized Fin who was walking with and chatting to Ssarina. Bairdyn asked, “Where is Benny?”

Oh, hello Bairdyn, well met.” answers Fin … “I am afraid he stayed behind. We ran into one of his relations while we were away, another Stormcastle. They left together to hunt down the dragon, they had some of Lord Fariex’s team of adventurers with them.”

Disheartened and looking concerned Bairdyn offers, “He really shouldn’t be fighting dragons without me, he needs someone to watch his back.”

Addressing Bairdyn, Ssarina says, “It’s funny because he said must the same about you, he made me promise to keep an eye on you.”


SOW Chapter10: Destiny Calls

Destiny calls them

A ruse is discussed by all


Who will they support?

Destiny Calls

Having routed the dragon Chillreaver, Sayre’s emissaries successfully freed Nefelus from the icy embrace of the Seed of Winter. In the process they all had almost died time and again, and one of their members was lost, but ultimately victory was won on guts and glory on the edge of a blade. Even their victory almost finished them as the iceberg which had been sustained by the power of the Seed crumbled upon Chillreaver’s defeat, but they escaped and survived by clinging to blocks of melting ice until rescuers arrived. When they made it back to Nefelus they received a sedate heroes welcome from the Thraxinium, led by Bejam.

“Our gratitude runs deep for what you’ve done today. We will reward you handsomely for your efforts, and you can be sure that Nefelus will provide aid to your cause on the mainland. Would there be anything else you’d ask of us?”

Fin catches Amyria’s eye as the deva awaits your answer, with a glance she makes her intentions known, and only then she responds to Bejam.

“You have heard our proposal Bejam, we have need of your knowledge and we would welcome you as a representative of the Nefelese among the Coalition against the githyanki threat. I have learned that the Seven Shield Coalition has suffered a terrible loss, General Kalad has fallen and we need you more now than ever. ”

Already reasonably receptive to the idea, it takes little time for Finellior to convince the deva that he can do his people the greatest good by leaving his duties in Nefelus and agreeing to join the emissaries when they returned to Sayre. The deva agreed provided he would be allowed enough time to tie-up his loose ends in Nefelus before they departed, including but not limited to informing the Thraxinium of his decision. Of course, Amyria agreed to the delay and so the odd collection of heroes waited in repose while Bejam held an emergency session of the Thraxinium council and made the necessary final arrangements were made. It gave the emissaries an opportunity to gather their thoughts and to recover from the trials they had experienced within Icehome. While they waited they were surprised when they were joined by the Restorationists who had also managed to survive thanks in large part due to the assistance of Sayre’s emissaries. The Restorationists expressing their thanks by paying for a night of festivities at Navah’s House of Spirits. Besides the normal revelries several more serious topics came up as topics of discussion including postulations about value that Nefelus added to the Coalition by sharing their vast stores of ancient knowledge and the addition of their formidable navy; concerns over the loss of the Seed of Winter, and the escape of Chillreaver; and a somber memoriam of those lost, Dell Corrin, an ally to both the Restorationists and Sayre’s emissaries and to their friend Kalad of Overlook, as fine and heroic a dwarf as any had ever met.

In the morning representatives of the two teams were summoned to the Great Library of Nefelus for an impromptu meeting with Amyria and the seven members of the Thraxinium, each of councilors, a powerful deva mage in their own right. Specifically, they requested the attendance of Thorin, Math, Lucian and Bhenedict. As they made the long trek up to the library there was a shortage of idle conversation until Math said,

Math Helm“I have been considering why they have requested the four of us. Not knowing you specifically I can only judge on appearance, norms and generalities … Lucian and I are both practitioners of magic. …”

“And unsavory looking.” adds Thorin.Lucian

Math continues, “Regardless, our vocation tends towards exclusivity, secrets and arcane knowledge; while you and Bhenedict are both perceived as the leaders of our individual teams. What they intend to discuss with us will involve both magic and their plans for our teams, but Lucian, correct me I am wrong, but you are not the most adept practitioner on your team are you?”

“First, I’ve never consider myself ‘unsavory’. Thorin, perhaps you meant to say ‘suspect’ or even ‘villainous’ … Which wouldn’t be strange coming from someone less sophisticated, say for example someone who might in a knee-jerk way consider all dwarves grubby, greedy or otherwise perverse, but to answer you Math, no, far from it,” answers Lucian.

“And that is curious … Do you any idea why they might have included you?’” asks the Restorationists mage.

“I don’t why it’s even matters, we’ll find out soon enough. I am more interested in the swell reward they’ve been promising,” suggests Bhenedict.

“Truthfully, I wonder at this myself; my guess … I held the Seed of Winter, I and none other.” answers Lucian.

As the visitors arrive at Nefelus’s Great Library they find the seven members of the Thraxinium and Amyria waiting for them, she starts the meeting. “Our Coalition has been deeply shaken by several dreadful events. While we have been absent, our most effective general, Kalad and our master diplomat, Lord Divian Torrance, have both fallen. They were assassinated by our enemies and while it will be difficult for us to persevere we will recover from their loss. It is what they would expect, it is what they deserve. We must not fail them.”

“Now, the Elsir Vale and Sayre seats of the Seven Shields Coalition are open, thankfully the council still has its leader Simberious and Bejam has agreed to serve, but that leaves one open spot and the leader of Brindol’s council, Zefram Troyas, seeks to fill it. Many people, both citizens of the Elsir Vale and influential people in other regions are suggesting myself for consideration. While I have not sought out such an honor for myself, I have my own reservations about Eoffram’s brother.” “I have just received a message from Fariex. He was brief, communicating by use of a Sending ritual. He delivered news of the Stone-Skinned King, there is no longer any doubt, he is now allied with the githyanki. The wild elves have detected a funneling of troops through his domain in the Underdark of the Feywild. The githyanki are taking advantage of the numerous portals to other lands that lie within it. Githyanki have moved more rapidly due to this, but no one is sure how severe the problem is. Caliandra has been tracking the situation in the Feywild and knows that Cachlain longs for the return of the Seed of Winter. Apparently, the fomorian once believed it belonged to him, and Caliandra has discovered that Cachlain had lent it to aid those who attacked Nefelus.”

“We of the coalition must decipher Cachlain’s motives and prevent him from helping the githyanki further if possible. We believe Cachlain is unaware of Chillreaver’s escape. Only the Thraxinium, the Restorationists and the coalitions representatives here know what happened at Icehome. We here on Nefelus know and no one else need know for now, if we act quickly, if heroes strong enough to safely travel to the king’s domain we may be able to deal with him with nothing more than a ruse. We have but to assemble the right team.”

Amyria“The ruse is this, we have the means here within Nefelus to create a convincing duplicate of the Seed of Winter, a fake, but with Lucian’s help we believe it would be convincing enough to open doors with Cachlain’s realm."Bejam

 

Bejam adds,“This can only succeed with complete secrecy. Githyanki spies roam freely throughout the mainland, telepaths, mind-readers. And they are allied with the Stone-skinned King who commands powers all his own, powers beyond common understanding, including those that allow him to satisfy his own curiosities about the mortal realm. For this reason, only those who know nothing about the deception, or someone completely protected should be involved in the mission. We have the means to protect just one person in such a fashion. He should be Lucian, the only one here with the experience to perceive our deception. The rest of you must stay clear of the mainland. Take refuge here, or leave and pursue Chillreaver to the Hard-Land Sea before he can build-up his defenses there, whichever your choice you cannot return to the mainland now without endangering the mission.”

Amyria continues,“As for the team, I would suggest the following heroes. Lucian as the ’Seed’s bearer’ for obvious reasons, the Doctor’s brother, Bingus … He is most familiar with Cachlain’s court and he is a master of trickery; Chen Li Phoon, a Monk from the Temple of the of the Dawn whose skills could be critical and he has the most experience fighting the githyanki. Bairdyn’s stealth would be an great asset, and Ssarina, the dragonborn paladin, her heroism is unmatched and she is both near and available. Others from the mainland may yet join them … It is the time now for all heroes to make their stand.”

***************************** Part III – Back at the Mainland **********************************************

The Stone-skinned Odyssey

“In this war, we face not only mortal danger, but a more sinister attack—an assault against our hearts and minds. The githyanki threaten to drive us to defeat through neglect and treachery. Neglect as we refuse to take the bold steps we must to survive, and treachery as our enemies lead astray those who could be our allies, and mobilize them against us.”—Amyria, appealing to the Coalition

Trellara Nightshadow:

“We have confirmed that the githyanki have built a network of allies across many planes before beginning their attacks upon our realm, and one of these is Cachlain, the powerful fomorian known as the Stone-Skinned King. From his secluded lair, he is providing transport for the forces of evil. Like the Elsir Vale, Cachlain’s realm contains portals to different planes and locations, unlike our portals in the Vale, all those within Cachlain’s kingdom are under the King’s direct control. Though the githyanki possess many means of transport, the Stone-Skinned King’s portals are especially worrisome, since they appear to connect to lands near several cities states within our Coalition. The fomorian has total control over the portals, using rituals that took decades to take effect; no one passes through one of the portals without Cachlain’s seal. We need information and we need in now, I have taken the liberty of inviting a guest to this proceeding who is familiar with Cachlain‘s court, Bilgamesh of Shinaelestra … Bilgamesh, if you can describe the court please?”

“Cachlain, the fomorian king, rules a subterranean complex of caverns, much of it chipped from great crystals and shaped by cyclops slaves into immaculate, enormous corridors and rooms. Cachlain is particularly fond of beautiful magical craft, and his citadel is filled with arcane torches and doorways that open on command. Constructs are his favorite marvel, and he has many throughout his realm. It is said that once upon a time, when the king was in an especially mad mood, he had a stone golem pried apart, and its stone armor affixed to his skin. This is why he is called the Stone-skinned King. Now he revels in gladiatorial combat hosting tournaments in his Arena of Blood.”

Trellara continues, “We have found out about the troop transports, but we do not know how many troops he is moving or the extend of Cachlain involvement, nor do we know what Cachlain is gaining for his assistance. What we do know is that Cachlain provided the Seed of Winter to Nefelus’s invaders and rumors has spread that he wants the Seed of Winter back and we are using the recovery of the Seed to our advantage.”

Sidgevin interrupts, scowling, disbelief clearly written on his face.

“Can you truly have been so reckless, to entrust the Seed of Winter to a band of thrill-seekers? Must the realm entire pay for your lack of foresight? Isn’t it bad enough that the humans have forgotten their own gods, cursing this world with their ignorance, all in favor of their own greed and pursuit of power. Already their actions have burned a hole so deep in their hearts that it threatens the very world!"

"Simberious’s own actions were the catalyst for the githyanki wrath that is upon us. You would all know this if only you paid heed and listened to what he himself has said. His involvement in this conclave poisons our efforts, and your willingness to participate hastens the dooms that is upon us. Many of you will die and the world will be poorer for your loss, but I will not be among you. Taer Lian Doresh is strong, we will not yield and we will not fail. I will be a party to this farce no longer!"

Taking his feet, the Vindicator’s chair flies backward as he stands, bows in surly fashion before exiting the hall, leaving only Odos, Fariex, Trellara and Simberious at the table to represent the Seven Platinum Shields coalition.

Fariex offers, “Well … this is unfortunate.”

Simberious adds, “It is incredulous, and foolish beyond belief, but perhaps we should have anticipated this.”

“I did.” responds Odos. “Sidgevin’s purposes and reasons are his own. We have bigger concerns, yet the impact of Sidgevin will impact us all in due time. Right now I suggest we open our body to new members, one for each of our slain fellows, and I suggest we replace Sidgevin as well.”

Simberious answers, “I second your suggestion Odos, but carrying on with Trellara’s theme, once again Cachlain’s slavers have been actively using the portal we discovered. The portal that connects the Elsir Vale to Feywild at the source of the Elsir River at the foot of the mountains. Trellara?”

“Yes, this portal leads to Feywild near the entrance of Vol Thomil, at the place the Stone-skinned King and his underlings make his court. Once again they have been taking slaves from the Elsir Vale then transporting them through the portal to Cachlain’s realm. And as Odos has pointed out our council is broken, enemy forces have killed two of our members. We have lost both Lord Torrance of Sayre and Kalad of Overlook; their bodies have been defiled, their spirits are lost to us. And for now, there is no time for us to mourn, nor do we have we the luxury of retreat. We must turn the tide if we are to survive. We find ourselves in need of bold, assertive leadership, and giving that we have already taken steps to deal with Cachlain, for better or worse. Filling our two empty seats, but we should not be over hasty regarding Sidgevin departure. I know him better than you, his blood runs hot but patience can be equally astounding. Given that which is clearly at hand, our necessary first step is to now consider the several candidates have been nominated by this body, and have presented themselves here in Sayre in good form in response to our invitation. They include: our envoy Amyria, Bejam of Nefelus, Eoffram Troyas of Brindol Council, and Zefram Troyas of the Elsir Consortium. And perhaps no one here is better qualified to introduce these most worthy applicant’s than Finellior.”

For Fin, Ian and Eoffram:

You should determine who you will support in their bid to join the Coalition of the Seven Platinum Shields. Your actions may very well determine whether your candidates will be welcomed as new leaders within the Coalition.

AMYRIA: Amyria, is a deva, a race of creatures whose essence lives in perpetuity through reincarnation. Her most recent reincarnation occurred after her primal essence was awoken within a platinum sword that had once been carried by Lord Magnus. A cadre of heroes known as Brindol’s Brigade recovered the stolen blade from a hobgoblin with aspirations of grandeur. With great effort Amyria awoke within the blade and eventually developed the ability to speak and be heard. As a sword she entreated the heroes to free her from the blade by performing a ritual at the Fortress Graystone. The effort required to speak drained Amyria of her life force, however, and she was only able to provide minimal guidance on the trek to the fortress with had become the den of deadly tribe of gnolls, the Wicked Fang and their leader the Destroyer. Eventually the heroes prevailed and performed the ritual that finally released Amyria allowing her to take her current flesh-bound form. Still, she found she was unable to remember anything of her purpose for being there, and only the vaguest flashes from her past lives. Amyria retreated to Overlook to find herself in prayer just as the city came under attack of the githyanki know as General Zithirruun. After the githyanki was defeated and the siege ended, Amyria allied herself to Kalad of Overlook and together they made their way to Sayre with the goal of putting together an alliance against what Amyria recognized as a concerted attack the threatened all of Klarn. In the course of her efforts events within Sayre revealed that the githyanki advance was far more serious than the attending leaders had realized, and that the githyanki had been spying on them for years. The githyanki had even excavated an ancient relic of immense power beneath Sayre, a device they called the Bitter Glass. Amyria struggled to mediate the dispute between desperate githzerai survivors Aziff, Gal’ott, and Odos encouraging patience and wisdom in the way they dealt with the githyanki spy Telicanthus concerned that the political backlash from all of his friends would put the surviving githzerai at risk. Eventually with the help of her allies Amyria was chiefly responsible for orchestrating the Seven Platinum Shields Coalition. Amyria’s extremely passionate appeal and her selfless idealism rallied the leaders meeting in Sayre to discuss the invasion. When she did spoke, almost glowed with her inspiration and belief in what is right. Amyria has continued developing, having grown in her role as a scion of Bahamut and force for good, Amyria was tasked to become the special envoy to the isolationist island nation of Nefelus, due in part to her heritage (the rulers of Nefelus are all devas) and also because she had shown herself to be a capable diplomat. Still, her friends from Brindol’s Brigade remain her favorites when it comes to getting a job done, and thus she took Bhenedict along to help with Nefelus’s problem. Amyria admitted that she was uneasy about meeting other devas, especially some as ancient as members of the Thraxinium. She was also concerned what might happen if she failed in this task but she didn‘t and she has returned to the Coalition with a key ally — one that could provide substantial military and magical support.

BEJAM: Bejam is one of the Thraxinium of Nefelus, the ruling council of mages in that Deva island magocracy. You and the other coalition envoys saved Nefelus from a blockade of ice caused by Chillreaver and the Seed of Winter, and now Bejam has agreed to represent Nefelus interest in allying with the Coalition of the Seven Platinum Shields. Bejam is thoroughly logical and clear-headed, when Bejam speaks on a subject, his words hold the weight of something that has been heavily analyzed and well-thought out. A member of the deva Thraxinium, one of the seven leaders of magocratic Nefelus. He turned to the Coalition and its agents for help when Nefelus was threatened. With your assistance he managed to save Nefelus from permanent climate change. Nefelus controls among other things, a mighty naval fleet. He is a strong believer in protocol, and – like all Thraxi – he has a sagely expertise in all fields relating to arcane knowledge.

EOFFRAM TROYAS: Eoffram, a member of the Brindol council, an outspoken and at times rash defender of the Elsir Vale, and has become even more so as he hears more news of war. When speaking, he is somber, methodical, and powerful but debate is generally not his cup of tea. Most times he appears to prefer to make quick, decisions and to take direct action than to get bogged down in endless chatter. There is no doubt that the Councilman truly seeks to do good, whether his efforts are better spent on the road with his friends in the Brigade or with the Platinum Shields in Sayre has yet to be determined. Eoffram is willing to serve and sacrifice whatever he can and more if it helps bring shift victory and an end the war. He believes a quick, decisive victory is what is needed to strengthen the coalition.

ZEFRAM TROYAS: Since the coalition’s inception, Zefram has be eager to be of assistance. His role with the Elsir Consortium has become increasing important, and his political maneuvering has led to his appointment as the new Warden of Brindol since Lord Jarmann went missing. Zefram now enjoys influence over trade in several lands, and he can easily access any raw materials needed for the war effort. Traders in every major city-state know his name. He’s an expert at arranging deals, especially when time is tight, and some say there is no better negotiator and that Zefram is exactly what the coalition needs for its cause.

IAN WHITESTONE: Since the death of his father, Ian has taken on a greater role in the day-to-day management of Sayre were he is very popular among the populous and the university staff, if not with his step-mother. Still his status as a ‘bastard’ still prevents Ian from holding any official title within Sayre’s hierarchy but there are no such restrictions within the coalition and Ian’s talents are undeniable. Still he has little influence beyond Sayre and his friend within Mendelland.

SOW Chapter10: Seven Shields Assassinations

Seven Shields Assassinations

Assassination

Sneaky dragons kill the Shields


Honorless evil

Seven Shields Assassinations

Kalad

Kalad of Overlook: While Kalad prepared for upcoming battle near Pax Tharkas he thinks back on how his presence had been requested by the conclave of high priests. It had been a long arduous journey since he had first become involved with the matters he was now attending. Once a simple dwarven paladin of Moradin, the last survivor of the Monastery of the Sundered Chain. Kalad was a natural leader, tall for a dwarf, thickly muscled. When Brindol’s Brigade had found him his beard had been cut from his face by the orc chieftain Tusk, but Kalad had fared much better than the other acolytes of the monastery, all of whom died and only the lucky ones died quickly. Since those days Kalad had carried a haunted look about him, plagued with the horrors of the attack in the monastery. His beard had grown back, streaked with whites and grays befitting his haunted appearance. Deeply pious, as one would expect of a holy warrior, Kalad spent a portion of each morning in deep prayer, calling out to his god for guidance, comfort, and a renewal of his resolve to continue in his fight against the darkness.

Together Kalad had enjoyed a somewhat tense evening meal with the high priests and the assorted representatives of the Knights of Heironeous, representative of the Order of the Roses, the Order of the Sword and the Order of the Crown had all been there to discuss the battle to come. During the meal the phrase "We’ve come a long way since the Nexus" invariably got used more than once by Kalad.

VillianThe next day was one of battle, their opponents had mostly been made up of githyanki forces, though there were also several dragonspawn leading several elite groups. The first fight involved Kalad and a group of knights, Order of the Crown, the most inexperienced and generally younger knights but a second front developed and somehow Kalad became separated from the knights. After the battle, an alarm had traveled through the ranking knights and they quickly ordered a search to commence for Kalad through the battlefield. Soon they found him finishing off a troll. He grinned once at them, blood streaking his graying beard. Triumphant, Kalad began to puts the troll’s body to the torch, then suddenly his eyes grew wide. Staring down at his chest, a silver blade had pierced his body through. The tip of the blade had burst from Kalad’s chest and it dripped with the dwarf’s life-blood. A powerful looking red-skinned dragonspawn appeared behind him. The dragon warrior lifted his great, clawed foot driving it into Kalad‘s back and with a forceful thrust, ripping the blade from the Kalad’s back. Kalad fell to his knees, not quite dead, but before the knights could reach him the dragonspawn dropped his blade and tore a huge axe from his back, raising it high before sweeping down mightily, neatly cleaving Kalad’s head from his shoulders.

The knights raced to Kalad’s side but before they arrived the assailant casually gathered Kalad’s head and vanished. The witnesses surmised he’d used some means of teleportation to escape. The knights managed to rally and fight off the final wave of enemies, but the battle had prevented any immediate pursuit. After Kalad’s death, the Coalition’s army was unable to do anything to revive the paladin. To the man, each of the witnesses had described the event as horrible.

Lord Governor Torrance of Sayre:

Lord DivianWhile in the Council Hall of the Seven Platinum Shields Lord Torrance meets with his bastard son, Ian Whitestone.

“We will need to replacement for Kalad immediately before the council falls into complete disarray.”

“It is equally or more important that we find the ’right’ replacement, not just anybody, someone we can trust … And someone who can command the other shield’s respect.”

“You performed adequately during the crisis here … more than adequa -”

Lord Torrance is interrupted by the clatter of heavy footsteps echoing in long curved stair outside the grand hall … then the sudden ‘BADADABOOM!’ as the doors of the hall burst open.

Purplespawn DeathdealerFour figures, two clad in heavy, red robes glare determinedly, they appear unarmed; two others, creatures with bodies fused of vaguely humanoid and serpentine shape, purple scales cover their bodies and their long tails brandish weapons, cruel looking longswords. Their leader, clearly githyanki, removes his hood reveling himself to be none other than Telicanthus. With his nod their attack begins.

The second red robe heads directly at Ian but stops short withdrawing twin crystal daggers from folds in the robe; crimson ribbons of force burst from the daggers wrapping inexorably about Ian. Ian’s attacker yanks hard and the force ribbons rip the bard across the room towards the attacker. Mixed with bursts of maniac laughter, Telicanthus focuses his mind smashing Ian over and over with crushing blows psychic kinetic energy, even as Ian is held fast in the crimson ribbons. Not forgotten, Lord Torrance darts for cover, drawing his sword, a tool he’d used more for ceremony than battle. The serpent creatures quickly flank him, but to the lord’s dismay … both had become perfect replicas of his the lord himself. Horrified , Lord Torrance calls out to Ian who turns, confusion immediately telling over his face as he spots the three versions of his own father. Reaching deep Ian calls forth his phantom self. Sending him after his father. ‘THOOMP’ … ‘THOOMP ‘ Telicanthus hits him again hurling him across the chamber and with a cat’s grace the assassin is on his again, this time Ian recognizes the secretary, Pennel. Try as he might Ian could not throw off the githyanki’s manservant. And then it was too late. His father was dead. And the villains had his head!

Glaring at Telicanthus, the githyanki stares back and locking hard like fist over Ian’s mind. The world disappears … Ian blacks out as Telicanthus slowly says, “VENGEANCE IS MINE” … as he telepathically commands the bard to stay put. Ian’s thoughts clear quickly but the foes are gone and so was his father.