Fight for the seed-What!
Rikar now attacks as enemy?
Subdued, answers revealed
A Midnight Invasion
In the hall beyond the dining hall, the Doctor and Shaden had succeeded in freeing Shaden’s friend Maxyzne, but they hadn’t found the other missing envoys, Bairdyn or Ssarina. With Maxyzne they had made their way back to the dining hall only to find their way blocked by Bram’s guards. Shaden ordered the guards to give way but they declined and the guard’s forms began to shift much like the cyclopes had in dining hall.
A huge fight broke out both inside and outside the dining hall. It was fought hard on both sides. Lucian was nearly killed but over the course of his heroic struggle both Strider and Chen had been awoken in time to help save the dark sorcerer. The cyclops Droeth had been an imposter, and actually turned out to be an oni spiritmaster. Bram’s guards had also been imposters, at some point the real guards had been replaced by shape-changing rakshasa warriors. It had taken everything the heroes could muster to defeat these foes and ultimately they could not stop Marrot who managed to captured the Seed of Winter escaping into the ambassador’s chambers in the room beyond the dining hall. Surprisingly, Bram had proved to be a useful ally to the Coalition’s envoys during the dining hall battle.
As Marrot ran up the stairs towards the guest chambers Chen barred the jester’s path in a vain attempt to stop the vile gnome. Hidden by illusion, Marrot invisibly danced past the monk, but his position was nearly revealed by the fool’s rancorous guffaws and raucous prattle. Chen struck swiftly towards the sound but failed to anticipate that the fool was also a master ventriloquist. Ultimately, Chen’s blow missed, which sent Marrot into a new fit of laughter as he ran past the monk and adopting a ghost-like form he passed through the sealed doors into the safety of first chamber at the top of the stairs.
The heroes gave chase but they were blocked by the locked and sealed doors. From the base of the stairs, Bram called out, “The fool can pass through walls and doors, but I don’t believe he can long hold such form. He will be hiding within one of the sleeping chambers. Here take my keys, and (searching the largest of the bodies in the dining hall) here the key of Droeth or whatever creature he hath truly been revealed to be. These keys will give passage to the sleeping chambers. I stay here to wake and advise the surviving ambassadors, they yet remain sleeping due to the gnome’s poisoned concoction … We need to be prepared for what will certains follow. Beyond the dining hall the King’s guard lies dead and I would see to it the blame does not fall upon us.”
Shaden responds,“True enough, I have already lost the King’s favor, his new man Sovacles seems to have it in for me … Maxyzne, see to the bodies, I will take the center room.”
Keys having been giving, Chen heads to the nearest chamber, Shaden to the second and Lucian to the third. The doctor holds a post in the center of the foyer to the sleeping chambers while Strider keeps watch on the banquet hall and Maxyzne supervises the clean-up and the watch within the banquet hall. The first three heroes enter their appointed rooms stepping as one in an attempt to catch the gnome no matter which room he might be waiting. Each of the first two chambers are only smallish square chambers filled with bunks, but the third is larger, a L-shaped chamber with a space that remained hidden beyond Lucian’s sight as he entered the chamber. From the entry door, he hears exaggeratedly loud snores and quiet giggles. Looking over his shoulder Lucian calls to the doctor, “Come to me, I hear him within.”
Side-by-side the doctor and the dark sorcerer enter, Lucian points to the corner where the chamber bent and without hesitation blasts the area hoping to catch Marrot in the explosion and he quickly rewarded by a squeal of pain and the call , “You got me doc!.”
Then as the two heroes tentatively inch forward, the fool’s odd scepter pops out from the hidden side of the room and in a high pitched voices says, “Good-night, sweet prince; And the flights of angels sing thee, boom, boom … Out go the lights.”
As if in answer the chamber goes dark, then with a deep growl, the stone beneath their feet begins to tremble as the sound of cracking stone erupts from the hall beyond the doors to the sleeping chambers.
The floor of the center sleeping chamber ripples and bursts into a rush of sharp broken crystal chuck. In the darkness Shaden reacts widening his stance and drawing weapons but he is thrown, unable to fully appreciated the size of the hulking bulette exploding out of the ground to attack him. Shaden flies through the air into the back wall of the sleeping chamber, the front wall having been completely demolished by the bulette’s attack. Shaden lands roughly but still on his feet. Chen rushes into the outer hall activating magic that granted him a dragon‘s vision; a useful tool earned in hard fought challenge. The magic sight allowed him to see clearly sees through the darkness and he bore witness to the beginning of an all out assault.
One after another, villains appeared, each exiting a gateway forged of roots and darkness. He saw a monstrous half-woman, half-spider that had skin black as night, a pair of flaming bats followed behind her, and finally a number of drow, led by a fearsome looking male who carried two axes.
Battle follows, none of the invaders having any trouble with the darkness. The spider-thing attacks first heading straight for Chen. Both the monk and Shaden find themselves cutoff from the others by the hulking bulette but the spider has no problem crossing the room on the ceiling. The inferno bats race into the largest of the sleeping chambers where the doctor and Lucian had Marrot cornered.
The leader of the drow, Rikar silently ordering the other drow by use of hand signals and inflection, in a manner of language used by drow; he tell them to secure the hall while he recovers the Seed of Winter. Rikar knew full well that Marrot had the Seed, he had been dispatched by Sidgevin to recover the artifact.
As the flaming bats enter the chamber they immediately attack the doctor and the sorcerer. Both heroes gave way heading deeper into the chamber. Blinded by darkness, Lucian is too slow to avoid the bat, and as he finds himself engulfed in flame, he teleports deeper to the far wall of the chamber, badly burned and on fire thanks to the attack. The doctor runs quicker, turning the corner and as the light suddenly returns, he leaps on to a large bed at the farthest end of the room. In the bed the doctor finds the jester curled up under the covers. The jester opens one lazy eye and mugs a forced yawn, and asks, “Is that a rod of lordly might in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”
When the light returns, Rikar is already behind Lucian and he remains unseen by Lucian. The drow warrior slams Lucian hard with broadside of one of his battleaxes knocking him out of the way. Lucian stumbles forward toward the ground but instead of falling he vanishes again teleporting, this time back to the outer hall. Lucian reappear staring back towards his attacker, but somehow he is unable to see Rikar. The drow had masked his presence to the sorcerer’s mind with the force of his attack. Rikar often stalked prey in such a manner.
Rikar, calls out, “Marrot, give me the Seed of Winter, and be quick about it, so that we may be on our way!”
The doctor interrupts, “At times it is folly to hasten at other times, to delay. The wise do everything in its proper time, (then turning towards Marrot) but for now just go away.”
Then with a flourish of hand gestures that ends in an outthrust arm, a pointing finger and a high held orb … The bed rocks, and a great red clawed arm thrusts up from beneath the bed grabbing, clutching. wrapping around the cushioned mattress and snatching the lying jester. With it’s prey in hand, the arm withdraws disappearing from where it had come, into the shadows under the bed.
Slack-jawed Rikar stares, then rushing to the doctor he raises great axe in threat shouting, Bring him back!”
The doctor shakes his head as if pitying the drow warrior, “I could have just as easily sent you away,” (then removing his doctor’s mask, the doctor reveals himself to be Bingus of Brindol’s Brigade, a former ally of the drow warrior), continuing Bingus offers, “but we are all friends here.”
“Are we?” asks Rikar as he sweeps his blade causing it to burst into flames.
“Go ahead, if you must, but remember, I didn‘t attack you,” says Bingus.
Rikar strikes, but the axe passes harmlessly through Bingus and the gnome wizard vanishes.
In frustration Rikar calls out, “I warn you, I cannot fail, my family is threatened with certain death if I fail to return with the Seed.”
Alone with the flaming bats. Rikar orders the bats, “FIND THEM!”
The bats skip and dance through the air, then dart like arrows after Lucian back in the outer hall. Distraught Rikar rips the covers from the bed but neither Marrot or Bingus are anywhere to be found. Then suddenly he hears Bingus’s familiar voice from behind him. “Who threatens your family?”
Turning Rikar sees Bingus once again wearing his mask, with his back to the bed, and Bingus standing further out on the far side of the room. Rikar answers hesitantly, “Sidgevin came to us welcomed as honored guest, but to my surprise he was not alone. He provided entry for the fomorian, known as Sangwyr the Butcher and she to her cronies … Soon we found ourselves overwhelmed, prisoners within our own estate. He has ordered me to return with the Seed or not at all.”
Then as if on queue, Marrot reappears.
“Tisk, tisk … What is the difference between a gnome wizard and a zombie?”
“One is a brainless, useless waste of space, and the other one is a zombie.”
Without further delay, Marrot hands the Seed of Winter to Rikar.
For the moment stymied, Bingus warns, “Sidgevin will be disappointed.”
Seed in hand, Rikar runs past Bingus without pausing to look back and races into the outer hall; as he does he calls a withdrawal to his remaining allies, “The Seed is ours, to the gate … NOW!”
In the outer hall the walls, doors and the floor had been completely demolished as the bulette and Shaden had battled. The other drow soldiers had fallen to Chen and his two golden lions, but only one of the lions had survived the battle. Lucian was burned and again he was set on fire by the inferno bats but he had vanquished the elemental creatures. Maxyzne returned to aid Shaden but she too had fallen after she lost consciousness after having endured the spider’s bite and having endured too many crushing blows from the bulette, but Shaden wouldn’t have survived without her timely aid. Chen still struggled against the drider. Again she spun the monk in webs, then moved to escape through the root-gate. The bulette was beyond hearing, it set itself to the single-mindedly task of killing the half-orc. It bit him and rolled him over like a crocodile ravaging prey. Shaden was dragged over the broken floor, his skin torn but he used the leverage to insure that his blade bit deeper into the bulette, scoring the monster a dozen times over. In the end he rises victorious covered in the beast’s black blood.
Rikar chases behind the fanglord, but too late, as he moved to step through the gate, flames erupted about him circling him in near death; the crystal ground beneath him cracked and splintered raising him into the air, separating him from any means of egress or escape. Trapped he became aware of the taunting voice of Bingus, “I am sorry, I cannot let you leave. We fought long and hard for the Seed of Winter and we have traveled far to bring it here. We must stay the course of our mission.”
“WHY?” cries Rikar … “What does the Seed mean to you? Is it worth my family’s life? Sidgevin is right you are fools, all of you! … Was it not Cachlain who gave your enemies the Seed? Now you would hand it back to and sacrifice my family in your foolishness?”
Suddenly Shaden leaps through the flames joining Rikar in his mystic prison. He say, “Rikar, why not join us, I long to battle Sidgevin myself, I would join you as would we all had you but asked.”
“Do you think me a fool? Why would I trust the King’s cur? Besides even if such a thing were possible he is not alone. Sangwyr the Butcher stands with Sidgevin, my family would be forfeit if we attacked.”
Without another word Rikar attacks. Blinded by Bingus’s spell Rikar never sees Chen who joins Shaden in attacking the drow. Together they prove to be too much for Rikar and soon they take down the drow. With Rikar subdued Lucian recovers the Seed of Winter.
The heroes secure Rikar as he recovers. Fuming the drow stoically refuses to speak further, but his words had already had impact, fanning doubts and concerns Chen already had about this mission and the monk was not alone, his confusion shared quietly by several of the heroes. Of those, only Lucian knew that the doctor was actually Bingus. Bingus had earlier replaced his brother, taking the place of Manne-Crocre even before the heroes had entered the Stone-skinned King’s realm. Bingus was the most knowledgeable of Cachlain’s foes having spent the last few months taunting the King in any number of ways. Bingus was the party true insurance, though the other heroes didn’t know that. And only those two, Bingus and Lucian, knew that the Seed of Winter was a counterfeit, the real Seed, remained safe a world away. Trellara had counted on such confusion and frustration of the heroes party to help sell the deception of the false Seed. The fake had been provided by Bejam of Nefelus and it was a masterwork but unlikely to fool the King under close examination, but so far it had worked, and maybe too well, or maybe better than expected because the deception had also exposed the splintered core of the coalition. Sidgevin’s inflexibility became all too clear, as had his unwillingness to yield to the will of the majority of the coalition.
“We need to rest,” suggests Shaden.
“Really?” asks Strider, “and what will the King say once he wakes and finds his guards are dead?”
“He is right,” adds Chen.
“Ssarina and Bairdyn still both missing, and they are sentenced to die in the arena when the King wakes. We must act now while we can if we are to have any chance to save them.”
“You are right … It is now or never, but I am in no condition to fight,” responds Shaden, still limping and bloody, accessing the injuries that have been inflicted during his fight with the bulette.
“Perhaps I can assist.” offers Bram, handing Shaden a potion.
“Gratitude.” replies Shaden accepting the potion.
Bram adds, “I doubt it will heal in full, but it will help.”
“I’m confused Bram, given your history, why are you helping us … what’s in this for you?” asks Bingus (disguised again as the doctor).
“You wound me! You were threatened as was I myself, would you rather I had not helped?”
When it becomes obvious that Bram isn’t saying more the doctor asks, “Why did the githyanki target you during our meal? I thought you counted yourself among the githyanki’s Queen’s favorites after all you chose them over Klarn?”
“Ha!, I sought only to save our world from destruction, the destruction bought about by would be heroes such as yourselves. Had we employed more diplomats and less mercenaries many lives could have been saved.”
“I have no doubt you consider yourselves educated and you too may have the best of intentions, but you expose your ignorance by your very words. If truth be known, I did what I did in defense of the Elsir Vale because I knew certain we were going to lose the war, and surmise it was better to survive through discussion with the enemy than to die due to arrogance and a closed-mind.”
“You probably don’t even know the source of their hostility. Are you surprised to hear that it was our own ‘heroes’ who ignited the githyanki’s righteous angry?”
“Oh, tell me more.” answers the doctor.
“Heroes from Klarn, associates of the coalition’s leader Simberious are the one who incurred the wrath of Vlaakith, the githyankis infamous Lich Queen. She was anger by an invasion from our world, so much so the githyanki caused Nuitari to fall from the sky causing the long night, the killed tens of thousands, and brought about a march of dead. Even after that our ‘heroes’ failed to learn, in their arrogance the same adventures traveled all the way to Tu’narath, the githyanki’s City of Death, and in the height of vanity they destroyed the Lich Queen. Causing the githyanki to chose a new leaded, Emperor Zetch’r’r, who now seeks vengeance, and he means to bring war and conquest across the planes securing his position he by punishing our world for their Queen’s destruction. The githyanki are merciless and destructive, and they commonly leave nothing behind in realms they conquer. They will not be satisfied by sacking our world; they will only when they have destroyed everything and everyone is dead will they be done, they will leave nothing but a barren wasteland to mark our passing.