Monthly Archives: January 2014

SOW Chapter16: Legacy of Io II – Finellior


 

Finellior’s
Response



 



 



H
ere’s
my proposed plan of action.  First of all, with Bingus having already
disappeared, we shelve our differences and for now at least we agree to work
together.  Most of us don’t know if Gelf has control of Bingus or not, and
equally, Rikar, we can’t know how much influence the Sword of Kas has over of
thoughts, honestly Rikar, how could we? You might even be deluded yourself, so
just for a moment put yourself in our shoes, either one of you could be lying
… And both of your have ample reason to do so, given your specific
circumstances.  I say that’s an issue we solve later; right now, the fate
of the cosmos in our hands.



 



As you have already so cleverly pointed out Rikar, our primary encouragement to
avoid talking to the three churches of Hestavar is the advice of a tiefling. 
While he certainly seems sincere and genuine … he’s a tiefling. 
Unfortunately we don’t have the time or ability to determine the truth or wisdom
of his claims at this point, but even if he’s absolutely correct; personally, I
still have no interest in fighting the forces of three righteous heavenly sects,
on the off chance we ‘might’ save Bahamut.  Frankly, even I’m not that
altruistic, and I don’t think ANY of you should be either!  Simply put, why
the hell should we risk our lives fighting the servants of the trio of goodly
powers that call Hestavar home to save another, even good god Bahamet, whom THEY
certainly should have even more interest in restoring than WE do!!! 



 



We’ve got enough problems of our own just trying to keep ourselves from killing
each other as we so recently demonstrated. So here’s my plan.  We have
Bilgamesh bring Amyria to Hestavar, and we explain to her all that we’ve
discovered.  We take her to meet leaders from the three churches of this
Bright City, and she explains her dream to them.  Then we explain that we
have every confidence in our fair deva plying our negotiation skills to such an
extent that we convince them that our procurement of the Arrow of Fate is
essential to Bahamut’s own master plan of salvation; and we ask their permission
to break the seals and acquire said Arrow.  Hell, they may even help us
defeat the guardian of the arrow itself at the fourth seal.  Then, we
present the Arrow to Amyria, we find out what good ol’ Bahamet had in mind all
along.



 


    
Assuming that all of this goes according to plan and we successfully save
Bahamet and restoring him to power, I for one ‘will’ request removal of the mark
of Vecna from my hand as payment.  I personally don’t think we did Vecna
ANY favors at all … I think the ritual was going to succeed whether or not we
showed up or not, and Dr. Manne-Crocre only waited for our arrival so he could
mock Bingus.  I also think Rachaela marked us with Vecna’s seal simply
because Vecna knew we would not be trusted by goodly forces here that we’re so
CLEARLY trying to help.  The fact that these eyes seem to have any useful
power at all is simply meant to tempt us into keeping them.  Just so you
all know, I didn’t take advance of Vecna’s boon at all while I aided Yu Gnuf
within the Swan Tower; I had no interest in employing this ‘gift’ of Vecna to
achieve anything!



 



The three best parts about this plan are as follows:



 



1.       


Substantially less risk of our own lives



 



2.      


If the forces of good here are somehow too stubborn to acknowledge the wisdom of
our plan, and Bahamet doesn’t get restored to power, then it’s on THEM and not
on US.



 



3.      


Imagine for just a moment that Amyria is somehow delusional, and isn’t receiving
her dreams from Bahamet after his demise, but rather she is somehow actually
compromised and is being used by Tiamat so the Dark Queen can further her own
goals and make sure Bahamet never returns.  We are certainly NOT the best
qualified personages in the entire multi-verse to determine whether or not this
is the case.  Perhaps the representatives the trio of divine powers here
left in charge are actually in a better position than we to make such a
decision? THEY can decide whether or not Amyria should be trusted, and no doubt
they can determine if this is the case by COMMUNING with their own deities who
have NOT been deposed or slain.  Then, we can act in the interest of the
forces of Hestavar under their direction and counsel coordinating our efforts
with these good forces, as opposed to say following the direction of an angel of
Vecna or a tiefling librarian.



 



That’s my master plan at this point. Of course,  I welcome your insights
and responses, but I have trouble imagining any of you are going to convince me
that this would not be our best course of action, but I am of course ENTIRELY
willing to listen to you and debate our course of action, as opposed to
resorting to more useless arguments.



 







Vani chimes in:



 



“I agree with Finellior. I have a bad feeling about this; it seems wrong that we
would consider challenging the god’s servants on these matters here and now
given that we understand so very little, especially without first giving a
moment’s pause to consider the possible ramifications of the things we don’t
know.”



 



And Rikar answers:



 



Don’t imagine that your flattery will garner you any influence over me
Finellior, kind words are the most common tool of the deceitful. While I may
have little faith in the promises of a devil, I judge that at least Guionne
sounds like he knows what he is talking about, but you, you sound like a
imbecility wag-tongue, or a buffoon.



 



Do you honestly imagine, even for a second that the guardians of these seals
will listen to you? Can you are truly that foolish, or is it rather that you
have such an overstated confidence in your ability to ply your tongue that you
actually believe you might for a moment alter their opinion. Consider this, you
haven’t swayed me, not in the least, how then do you hope to sway them?



 



I am not interested in participating in any course of action that is so certain
to lead to failure; we would be lucky if we were only cast out of Hestavar; it
seems far more likely you would get us imprisoned, slain as spies, or even cast
into the fiery pits of Hell itself. Yet it is obviously you trust your own
skills and that you have faith in the wisdom of these servants of the good
powers of Hestavar you hold in such high esteem which only makes it obvious to
me as a drow, that you have never experienced the all too common prejudice and
the closed-mindedness of people with an overblown sense of self-righteousness.



 



I am not one of these, and believe me Fin I have listened to what you’ve said
with a discerning ear; well-intentioned though you may be, what you suggest will
never work. We cannot tell these worshipers of our plans; it would only bring an
early end to our mission. Urgency has no place in the considerations of an
immortal, and ever if they listen to you, they will never truly consider the
merit of your request. Yours is only a sure path to failure, and ultimately you
would find them to be infinitely more close-minded than you could ever be.  



 



But perhaps that is your goal after all; a quick end to a mission you don’t
support; it is easier for me to believe that then that you might actually think
your puffery would move them. Considering Amyria’s current state it might be
kinder for me to just run her through and spare her a slow death, but then again
she is your friend, not mine. This much I do know, if she dies it will be the
end of all you’ve been fighting for. Me, I am an exile who was turned out by his
own family, and sadly you are now my closest ‘friends’ and up until now I can
say that our ventures together have been profitable, but if you remain
undeterred and deadest on going forward with this ill-conceived plan, tell me
now and I will take my leave. I will leave with Bilgamesh upon his arrival,
preferably before you endanger us further with such foolishness.
    



 



The only lucid way for us to move forward would be to act now while the gods are
absent, and to use their servant’s bureaucracy against them along with any other
weakness we can discover. That is our best chance for success if it is our goal
to capture the Arrow. As for this devil, it was imprudent of you to involve him
in this; in the future we can no longer let him know of our plans, not the order
we might attack the seals, not in the timing of our actions, or the method we
might use. My people have learned that the only way to deal with a fiend is to
bend completely and irrevocably to your will, short of that you should avoid
them entirely. This Guionne has invested far too much time and effort with you
for you not to grasp that he is using you in some way. Leave him with me for a
few moments and I will find out what he knows, or failing that at the very
least, I will see that he darkens our doorway no more. Regardless, if we go
forward with this we must do so alone, given our mission; here in Hestavar we
will find no one we can trust. Involving others only endangers us and our
mission.



 



Question me on this if you will, and I in turn I will question you; just
remember I don’t have to stay, honestly I don’t know that I care whether Bahamut
lives or dies … I am not so complicated as you. Like Tiamat, my goals are
simple, and easy to understand. I leave it to you; your actions will tell me if
I should stay or leave. Trust me if you will, again I really don’t care, but
know if you plot against me, you do so at your peril for I am no one’s fool, not
Gelf’s, and not Guionne’s. And now thanks to you, I will ever be vigilant, even
as you yourself should wish to be, for as long as Gelf lives and dog’s our steps
we will never be safe.



Yu’s
response:



 



A few thoughts that perhaps we should consider; Fin and Rikar both make some
valid points that need careful consideration.



 



Fin’s conclusions, while very logically thought out, would likely apply if we
were dealing with mortals; unfortunately, we are dealing with immortals. Their
perspective on things is not the same as ours: “What is this urgency you speak
of? It shall pass.”, Fin that is how they would filter your pleas. Even concerns
with great impact upon a mortal world may be of little concern here, if any at
all; their concerns are different than our, and again it is also a matter of
perspective. “What is one world’s temporary suffering compared to the will of
the gods who watch over myriad worlds?” This is how they will look at your
requests. Will they be deaf to your entreaty? Not entirely, but your words will
pale in comparison to the commands of their gods who have secured the Arrow of
Fate, and set guards to protect it.



 



Next, you seem to be prejudiced against the tiefling because of his ancestry
with no regard for his motives or past actions. Which truthfully, you know
nothing about. That is as reasonable as saying that the angel of Vecna had good
motives because it is of divine origin, which I’m sure you would surely disagree
with. Fin you own father was accused of treason, does that make you suspect? My
point here is that I think you would have learned not to judge books by their
covers during your travels.



 



Further, you think to entreat the servants of Erathis, Ioun, and Pelor to
involve themselves in affairs that deal directly with Bahamut. This is like
asking oil and water to mix. It requires an act of the gods themselves to make
it happen. Yes, they can peacefully coexist and do so very nicely, but they do
not join together naturally, even the trio of gods who call Hestavar home, no
doubt have their own agendas. This is part of the reason for mortals and the
need for heroes. They can break the barriers that separate the powers and allow
for miracles to be worked at the hands of the gods. The immortals are mere
servants of those gods, with power, yes, but they are they hammer. You, heroes,
are the fine instruments. My personal belief is that the gods as a general rule
avoid direct conflicts with each other for the stability of all creation and
that they leave us mortals to get our hands dirty. 



 



As for Amyria being delusional, I think you can put that thought from your
minds. She has been the one entity that has been consistent though your entire
path: first as the Sword, then when you restored her true form, and even now
with this strange dream; and all through she has been consistently true to
Bahamut as well as your quest to protect and restore your world to its natural
state. Others around you have wavered in their position and have been
duplicitous, but she has never given you any cause to doubt her. She may not
understand the meaning of the dream, but what reason do any of you have to
question her now over this now? She has not, and she seems more sure than ever
that this dream is both true and important, I myself see no reason why we should
question the validity of her dream any more than we might question Amyria
herself.



 



You are actually the ones who are most qualified to determine the fate of
Bahamut and Tiamat. You have been at the center of their struggle, and Vani and
Hagrid, the battle has taken place in your home. The Lords of Mendelland have
placed you here at the center of the conflict. We all find ourselves at the eye
of the storm and as such we, every one of us are the ones who will influence if
it is a storm that rages across the world and ravages it or if it is a storm
that is placidly dispelled (from the perspective of the world of Klarn and its
inhabitants).



 



Finellior, you have followed Amyria’s guidance this far and have not shirked
danger to this point. Why the change of heart now? Is it that you fear the
backlash of upsetting the servants of these good deities? Sometimes the servants
have been given a task that while at first was noble and given with the best of
reasons, even necessary, but they too can take things too far, too literally and
be both too slow and inflexible to act with expedience even in the service of
good. But you are wise to also consider the possibility that Amyria could be
compromised, but then so too could be the servants in Hestavar (and much more
likely given the powers themselves and away, and the degree of power available
here). Then too good can be twisted like a piece of wormwood into doing evil’s
bidding, or just as bad allow evil’s victory as they themselves fail to act as
they are paralyzed by their own indecision.



 



I think it would be prudent at this point to take Rikar’s advice and not include
Guionne in any more of our plans, just in case, we really haven’t determined
what his motives are and at this point they could be for weal or woe.



 



Furthermore, I suggest that if you want to consult Amyria to see if her dreams
have changed there is no harm in that, but that should not change our course of
action which I believe should be to, as Rikar suggests, retrieve that Arrow as
Amyria herself has asked us to do; and as Rikar points out, we will have to do,
without the blessings of the in habitants of Hestavar.



 



Lastly, I’d suggest that we first seek out the first of the seals in the Hidden
Library of Ioun as there may be more information of use to us there that may
give us insight as to what lies ahead for us.





 



And Vani again:



 



My friends you all have made some wonderful points, I am certainly lucky to have
such smart folks as you around all the time. And well, Fin, I believe they are
right. We have just learned all we really need to know to find the Arrow. All we
need to do is defeat the guardian, and afterward if necessary, I’m all for going
and finding Tiamat, and I’ll help kill her too, but Minerva, my little oh so
beautiful, but twice as dangerous as the Dragon Queen wife has made plans for a
dinner party in just two weeks from now, so if we can do this all within the two
weeks, that would make my life a lot easier … Yes indeed, this does seem all
much simpler now. (Vani thoughts shift back to food, having moved past lunch and
on to afternoon tea).



 



And addressing Everyone Once again, Fin suggests:



 



I have a question…..how do we know the three churches responsible for hiding
the Arrow of Fate would disapprove of our efforts to find it and try to use it
to revive Bahamet? 



 



Isn’t this basically just another assumption? 



 



How do we know they’re not interesting in having Bahamet restored to power as
quickly as possible for the benefit of the entire cosmos itself, not even
considering the realm of Klarn? 



 



Isn’t that just an assumption too? 



 



It just seems vain and arrogant to assume that we alone know what’s the right
course of action, and that the three churches in question are only self-serving
and would not seek to accomplish a worthy task. 
It’s not that I’m somehow convinced that my silver tongue will win the
day……it just seems obvious to me that Bahamet needs to be restored to power,
and I’m having trouble imagining the churches in question opposing our plan. And
since we’re bringing Amyria here anyway, it seems the obvious thing to do would
be to consult with her, as I’ve already suggested. 
She has perspective we lack on the eternal forces in play, given that as
a deva she is one of them.  Her
opinion as to how the churches would react to her dream which might be Bahamut’s
salvation would greatly influence at least my final opinion. 



 



 And if we really want to try to get
clever and run a work around on the leaders of these churches, she can simply
say to the representatives of the churches that Bahamet needs to be restored to
power, and ask if they support this view also. 
If they say yes, then we could go about our business without anything
further being divulged, and when we do eventually run afoul of their forces, we
simply respond with “I’m sorry, we’re enacting Amyria’s plan to restore Bahamet,
as revealed to her by Bahamet himself in dreams………we thought we had your
support.”



 



F
in,
you are correct. It is an assumption, but assumptions are your windows on the
world. You need to scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come
in. and these assumptions are based on experience with similar matters, but
still as you say assumptions. As such there is a possibility, however slim that
all of the guardians of these three powers would bless our endeavor, offer to
help us retrieve the Arrow of Fate and turn their focus to reviving Bahamut. And
I have no doubt they a interested in the common good of the cosmos, and even
desire that which is best for our Klarn too. All a reasonable assumption,
wouldn’t you say? And, that is the point of it, just because something is an
assumption doesn’t make it inaccurate. And you are right it would be arrogant of
us to assume that we alone are the only ones who would be trying to come up with
a solution to the demise of Bahamet.



 



It appear we have all agreed not to involve Guionne in our future plans, but
even so, his analysis was brilliant, and he pointed out three items that we
should add to this discussion.



 



One, our pleas will likely fall on deaf ears to the “leaders” of the churches
here in Hestavar as they are obedient to their gods who are away at council to
determine just what we are proposing–what to do to solve the Bahamet issue.
They would also certainly think us presumptuous on our own part, and
preposterous to suggest they do anything that preempts their gods’ previous
decisions, and I do expect, an assumption, that they will at best do nothing
until their gods return, and quite possibly turn their attention to actively
thwarting our plans should we reveal them. 



 



Two, if ever there were a time to retrieve this Arrow of Fate from its current
location, now is the time. Where any of the gods here, any plan we mortals might
conceive would fail. Only now, while all three gods are absent is there any
chance for our plan to succeed. This seems a bit like that hand of fate at work
to me.



 



 And, three, Finellior to see Fate’s hand
at play will requires faith. Do you not feel it all around you? Have you all
lost the simple joyful faith you had when you first joined this company and
began this journey? We started our journey from different places and for
different reasons, but to succeed here I suggest it would be wise if we all
began walking in the same direction do you not agree?



 



Amyria herself has become known as the Scion of Bahamut, and what is a Scion? A
scion is a descendant, often a son or daughter…but it is also a young shoot or
twig of a plant, esp. one cut for grafting or rooting. Given our experience with
her would it be difficult to take a leap of faith, and trust she was planted in
our midst by Bahamut and that now we too have been grafted into his family as
his daughter; perhaps even over the wisdom of well-meaning gods who even though
concerned, have other agendas and still more concerns to attend to. And who is
to say we are not already acting are their behalf, and as mortals how could we
know for sure?



 



And I am sure Fin you would agree that it would be presumptuous of us to assume
we are true representatives of the will of Erathis, Ioun or Pelor, and even if
one or more of these divine powers was genuinely supportive, it is doubtful that
they would entertain the wild notions of a handful of random mortals; all things
considered who are we compared to the assembly of the divine now taking place.
Face it Fin, we not their primary concern and I for expect that is a good thing.
My counsel for what is worth, is that we look to the one who is invested her all
in our quest for guidance since the very beginning.



 



If you still think it wise to bring Amyria here I suggest that what we ask her
for her opinion before we seek an audience with Hestavar’s guardians, perhaps
she can learn something of the god doings in it may well have bearing on her and
her lord, thus she would have access to such information that we would not, but
I agree with Rikar and I too believe we should not be divulging any aspect of
our potential plan to seek after this Arrow.







Y
our
words are wise, master librarian. 
Amyria should contact the leaders of the temples in question, request an
audience and ask if there has been any indication as to what might be the
outcome of their proceedings.  She
should be gracious and thank them for their support and their efforts in seeing
Bahamet restored, assuming of course that this is what they convey to her. 
And she need not and should not to convey any details of our plans
regarding the Arrow of Fate, for our sake and the sake of the plan, I can agree
to that also.  However, if she, as
the Scion of Bahamet, deems deception to be inappropriate in an effort to
restore the God of Justice to power, then I cannot gainsay her. 
I will support her if she decides to speak openly of what Bahamet has
tasked her and us to accomplish.  He
is or was a god of justice, and not deception, after all.



 



And I appreciate your talk of faith also. 
I do believe we should have faith in Amyria, both as a representative of
Bahamet and as our friend.  I have
not abandoned this faith, as you suggest. 
Rather, I also have faith in the representatives of the three churches
based in Hestavar.  If we can see
the need for the Arrow of Fate’s recovery, and if we can recognize the hand of
Fate at work, why should they be unable to recognize these forces at play? 



 



I say again that it is presumptuous to believe that only we are capable of
acknowledging what needs to be done. That being the case, I am not here to force
my will on any of you.  If you all
deem it necessary to reveal nothing of our plans to the churches, and if Amyria
in particular finds this deception by omission appropriate, then I will contest
it no further.



 



 
 

Bilgamesh



H
aving
Surpassed the githyanki in every imaginable way; in the magical power they had
welded, in their strength-of-arms; in violence they had proved capable of, and
in their kindness they had shown; the Order of the Bronze, griffon-riders; elves
of every tribe, surveyed the land of Klarn, until the githyanki were no more.
They had been led by an u
nvanquished
leader, a hero who taught them always to lead from the front of every
engagement. He was beloved by his soldiers who called him I’ Corm, ‘The Heart’,
as he led them in battle from one victory to the next.


 


 ‘He was a protector of all the people of
Klarn, humans, dwarves and elves alike, anywhere help had been needed,
Bilgamesh’s Order of the Bronze were there, and on most occasions they were the
first defends to make a stand. They moved through the sky like a wind on wings
of their mounts, and struck like tornados; irresistibility ripping into their
enemies, making ribbons of their flesh, with the sabered-claws of their
griffons. The opened the mountain passes, restored Klarn’s ancient network of
gates, and brought freedom back into the land.

And
now, triumphant, the time of the Order of the Bronze, has passed, and each of
the nine riders have parted company, each to their own cardinal direction:
North, Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Southwest, West, Northwest, and for
Bilgamesh, I’ Corm, the Center. These nine elite warriors each vowing that
whenever there is need, they will be there. 
Such is the day, the Bilgamesh receives a message from his friend
Finellior, who had employed a ‘True Sending Ritual’ to contact him.




 



 



After the meeting Finellior and Rikar left for The Methion to do some shopping.
Treasures collected since being hired by Rachaela have included monetary gains
in the form of coins, gems, and various items of art that eventually amounted to
a value approaching 300,000 gold pieces, due to some inspired negotiating Fin
and Rikar eventually gather the full and excess value of 300,ooo in gold in
exchange for this booty.    



 



·        


It costs Finellior 25ooo gold pieces to purchase a ritual of True Sending; have
acquired the ritual he returns to the Methion Arms and cast the ritual send this
message to Bilgamesh:



 



Bilgamesh, it is I, Finellior, I apologize, but I must get to the point. We are
in dire need; I am in the heavenly domain of Hestavar with Rikar at the bequest
of Amyria.



I need you to convey her here without delay to the inn called, Methion Arms now!



 



F
in’s
urgent message reaches Bilgamesh while he is camping in Elsir Vale. Having
recently scattered the Order of the Bronze, Fin summons comes as the sun sets
and the elven warrior known as I’ Corm is about to lay down his head, alone for
first time in months alone, enjoying the quiet of the open road. Reflection upon
his time spent as a leader during the great githyanki campaign, Bilgamesh had
claimed hundreds of lives as he directed scores of battles, so many battles that
he had lost count, and while he had doubtlessly saved thousands of lives, maybe
tens of thousands or even more that was even more difficult to quantify; who
could really say? It was still a wonder to Bilgamesh that they had somehow been
victorious, not only because of all of little and not so little Bilgamesh and
others had done here on Klarn, but also due to what his friends had done in the
far flung planes they traveled.


 


Bilgamesh’s mind begins drifting as he reflects upon one particularly decisive
battle, the Battle of the Nanty-Glo. It had required a combination of raw speed,
superior mobility and devastating firepower, all under the command of the full
Bronze Order which he himself commanded. As the defending militia of the
Nanty-Glo held desperately to a guarded position they had hastily constructed,
not much more than a trench with a stone embankment, the had looked like they
had more than reached the end of their rope. Metaphorically, the githyanki
circled the Nanty-Glo’s ragtag like vultures squabbling for position over a ripe
carcass. The force made up mostly of men and dwarves had hung on desperately,
longed than anyone expected, but at great cost which allowed the githyanki to
savior this which was to be their final act of genocide. The Nanty-Glo’s
sacrifice allowed the time necessary for Bilgamesh and the rest of the Order to
secretly circle around the githyanki force and swing about attacking the
githyanki sky ships left behind, manned as they were with scant, skeletal crews.
The unexpectedly attack gave the githyanki cause to wheel towards their rear
flank, a maneuver that shattered the dreaded the githyanki discipline. Always
aggressive, the githyanki predictably attacked, sending their dragon-mounted
knights after the griffon-riders of the Order that were imperiling their ships …
The githyanki charged never guessing that before the battle was done every
single githyanki would be dead.


 


Bilgamesh found it disheartening and distasteful to think about the fallen, both
the force of the Coalition and those githyanki who had died needlessly. In the
course of the war, he had come to understood that these githyanki left to their
own means would live longer than even longest lives of the gray elves, and it
bothered him that they had always seemed so eager to die. The Order’s trick
broke the githyanki’s ranks, and dragon mounted knights had moved to pursue
them, but Bilgamesh and his fellow griffon riders needed only lead them far
enough. As the githyanki were distracted the Nanty-Glo’s surviving riders
charge, the horse-bound riders draw close in with the githyanki line and push
forward until they start trampling over what had formerly been the front rank.
As the dragons close Bilgamesh and 
other eight warriors of the Order dive (a silent order) and gain speed, pulling
away as a host of concealed elven archers rise, take aim and fire. The githyanki
and their dragon mounts fell from the sky, as a second wave of heavier armored
infantry, stout fearless warriors of the Overlord’s City charged grinding the
now weakened and disorganized githyanki warriors into the ground. Githyanki
blood flowed and began to moisten the parched earth until the ground was
eventually stated leaving the blood to congealed in small, macabre pools across
the battlefield. Still, the githyanki warriors tried to regroup, but then the
Coalition’s wizards and sorcerers, practitioners of many divergent paths hailing
from places as far-flung as the City of Seven Dark Delights and the Mystic
Isles, and from everywhere in-between began to appear, all gating in by way and
power of the captured Well of the Worlds. Arcane fire and lightening lit up the
night sky and finally the githyanki army died.  


 


With all this on Bilgamesh’s mind, and the forest to his left and the great
river to his right, Bilgamesh receives Finellior’s call. Two days later he finds
Amyria in Sayre, still in a state of delirium, resting uneasily in the Githzerai
Stronghold. At first Ssarina wants no part of Finellior’s plan; as Amyria’s
self-appointed guardian, the dragonborn paladin was having no part in moving the
weakened deva, but when Amyria wakes Bilgamesh explains:


 



Amyria, I will guide you past all treacherous passes, traveling on paths that no
enemy can follow, onward and through to a heavenly abode that can only serve to
sooth your troubled heart and soul. I will carry you to the Bright City where
you will be welcomed by the sounds of lyres and harps; and I shall not rest
until they ring out in your honor as well, praising you for your many deeds that
have already accomplished, these same deeds that have led to our victory here in
Klarn. And now it is time for you and your mission to move elsewhere, to a place
where both you and the mission stand a better chance of finding all that you and
we ultimately need. It is time for you and this mortal realm to part, Finellior
knows what is at stake, and he has called us there, and with all urgency; he
would not do so without cause. So let our hearts’ be fearless, fear does not
suit either of you. You know in hearts’ that I am right, so be at ease 
with this and let them beat hard, strong, and true for all the right
reasons. I will take you to this better place, and do so safely, but we must be
away now.

 

 

Arrival



O
ne
day later, Bilgamesh departs for Hestavar, not knowing what to expect, he had
come prepared. The elf is accompanied by both the dragonborn Ssarina, and by
Amyria, Amyria having been too frail to safely travel or even to reliably carry
herself without help. Both women were still confused, Bilgamesh had been forced
to convince them just to get this far.


 



“How is it that we can travel anywhere at all given Amyria’s condition? My lady,
I am sorry, but you have worsened by the day! Elf, I say no, I cannot allow any
such foolishness.”



had been



Ssarina’s argument; hearing her, Amyria began to blink, gasp and shudder before
she finally pulled herself to her feet and looking Ssarina sternly in the eye,
after a moment’s pause she said, “My visions are correct, the decision is mine
to make Ssarina, only I can determine my course. I will make this trip alone if
I have to, but in truth I could use your support my dear friend.” Amyria
collapsed again as she finished leaving Bilgamesh moved by her courage, but not
so much so that it kept him from catching Amyria as she fell. As he laid her
down gently, Ssarina stared at the elf, her lips pulled back unconsciously
revealing a toothy grin of exasperation. Bilgamesh calms her saying:


 



“Worry not; I will carry us upon the dark road, a place where no one can follow.
No matter how far or how many planes separate us from the other, we will reach
our destination safely. I will be using shortcuts that you cannot begin to
fathom. We will need no food or water, neither will we need to rest or camp; and
I will see us past any hazard … Ssarina trust me, you need not worry. One day is
all I ask of you; can you trust me just that long?”  


 


Bilgamesh sets their course; visualizing the Bright City and specifically the
inn that Finellior had mentioned, The Methion Arms, but having never actually
seen either location Bilgamesh forms a mental picture of their destination using
only his mind’s eye and his own imagination as he begins to summon his dark road
. The path takes them outside the city of Sayre, through a glade, and past a
small waterfall that gives rise to a doubled rainbow. Seeing this as a sign, a
marker of the heavenly domains, Bilgamesh allows his instinct to guide them as
he leads them beneath the rainbows.


 


Immediately new vistas welcome the travelers, ghost-like Bilgamesh leads them
past a score of different domains, shadows, they never pause long enough to be
seen, but as they near Hestavar Bilgamesh finally pauses long to gather himself
and ask specific directions. As they breathe the air deeply for the first time
and it feels good.  They proceed
windward through the Garden of Nesoulis and cross over the Specter’s Bridge to
the Seven Angels’ Mote. Following that path past the leeward rise and an exalted
citizen tells them to jump off the cliff next to the fountain: “Don’t worry,
there’s a soft drop there, and beyond you’ll find the Lion’s Gate that leads to
the market.” Before leaping Bilgamesh suggests:


 




“Given Amyria’s welfare, perhaps it would be wise to acquire lodging before we
reach the others, we have no idea what we might be facing and I still don’t know
the cause behind Fin’s urgency?”


 


Ssarina agrees and soon they find a room at a small, but adequate inn called the
Garden of Geras on one of the floating islands of one of the more waterward
neighborhoods. Some say that in Hestavar wealth and power are like cream—it
floats to the top. That’s just a clever way of saying that the waterward
neighborhoods were poorer and filled with the less important personages of the
Bright City. In the grand scheme of the city, though this was not always true,
the waterward neighborhoods commonly lacked the ostentatious wealth of the
gold-trimmed and gem-studded streets of the upper mote wards, but compared to
the cities of the mortal world, even the least of them was still wondrously
wealthy beyond the imagination of anything Bilgamesh or Ssarina had ever seen.
After finding the room Bilgamesh proceeds to The Methion Arms alone. 


 


Looking about as he leaves, Bilgamesh notices that here, high above the lagoon,
the famous painted birds of Hestavar shared the skyways with a variety of
larger, some might consider, even monstrous, flying creatures, but they comfort
Bilgamesh as spies out familiar griffons along with hippogriffs, wyverns, and
the unusual legendary Hestavar riding drakes, and even a pair of silver dragons
flying from one earthmote to another aggressively as if vying for prime perching
space. The heavenly environs fill Bilgamesh with a growing sense of confidence,
as he summons his own griffon and continues on his way.


 


As Bilgamesh arrives he finds Finellior, Rikar, and Hagrid present. Both Vani
and Yu Gnuf, along with Bingus are out or otherwise absent. Quickly Fin asks:


 




“Where
is Amyria, you were supposed to bring here with you?”


 



“There is no need for concern, she is here and she is safe.”

offers Bilgamesh.


 




“Why isn’t she with you?”

asks the bard.


 


“It
is nice to see you and Rikar too Finellior, it has been a long time. I thought
it wise to approach you alone not knowing what to expect, and given Amyria’s
condition; perhaps now it would be a good idea to introduce me to your friend
and to explain yourselves before press that matter further.”


 


Over the course of the next hour Fin introduces Hagrid and together with the
others, he brings Bilgamesh up to speed. Bilgamesh feels a quick affinity for
the goliath, but in Hagrid as well as both Rikar and Finellior, Bilgamesh senses
the same confusion, a singular lack focus he had seen too many times in the
faces of otherwise good soldiers absent strong leadership after losing one
battle too many. Then he notices an even more telling sign, the mark of Vecna
borne on each of his allies’ right hands. Having listened to their tale through
to its completion Bilgamesh addresses the group again.


 


“Fin,
to me you seem seized by doubt, when clearly action is called for; why? Are you
frightened to go on?”



 


“Dear
friends, ask yourselves if you are not just allowing the rigors of your travels
to get the better of you!”



 


“Now
is a time for courage, if you had abandoned your mission the world of Klarn
would not now be free. We must all live for the day, and find strength where we
can. The fellowship of battle-tested friends is one such strength, but when
trust fails, hardship and doubt follows. I suspect the chaos of recent days,
this battle with Bingus, and your doubts about Rikar’s loyalties are the true
source of your troubles, but why should you be so quick to judge one another,
especial before given real cause?”



 


“As
for myself, I trust Rikar despite that is a drow, and I have learned to trust
his insights, many are the times his keen discernment has served me well. Yes,
he has a different more direct way of seeing things than I, but it was also he
who taught me that many a great tragedy has been caused when wicked things were
done in the service of good; and Fin, you know as well as I that even more
tragic events could have been avoided if those of good-conscious had acted
rather than standing back and pointing their fingers at others while duty and
fate so clearly calling out to them, or any person of courage to take charge and
act!”



 


“And
that is my message to you ‘Courage’ dear brother. This is not the time to allow
fear or doubt to guide your course. Your heart has been tested over and over in
battle. You, I all of us, were all raised in battle. When your legs feel weak
and tremble, it is not the time to run or to shirk duty; no, nor is it time to
think about yourself, rather the truly courageous think more about those who are
counting on them. In these things doubt is your first enemy, and fear follows
close behind, and why?”



 


“It
is because doubt and confidence cannot exist in the same man at the same time,
doubt will steal your will if you allow it. Fin, since when have you needed
someone else to tell you what is right or what should be your course of action?
I say let the gods plot as they will, they didn’t ask me for my opinion, nor
shall I ask them theirs. If they would judge me then let they judge me for what
I’ve done, not for that which I failed to do. Among the Order of the Bronze I am
now called I’ Corm, the heart because they have trusted with their lives; it has
been my great honor to lead them in battle. Here now, I would call you I’ Corm …
If you would but trust yourself and allow your heart beat as a kettle drum
propelling you ever forward. Let go of your doubts, trust in your own judgment!
Doubt me if you will, not that it would affect me in the least, but always you
must always trust yourself. If you cannot trust yourself, you will never be able
to trust your friends. Your lack of faith in Amyria is but a symptom of this,
and especially unworthy of you. Have you forgotten all that she has
accomplished, and through all of it has she ever given you reason to doubt her?
Maybe if you instead borrow strength from her, you will remember how strong you
are and how strong you have been. I myself have seen you as you were pressed in
battle so fierce, so thick with githyanki that if you didn’t keep moving
forward, you would never have been able to step back. Yet you still stand before
me here today.  And while it is fine and
even admirable that you still retain enough humility that even now in light of
all your accomplishments, you can still forget who you are and where you’ve come
from. We have both stood before the edge of the great Feywild forests marveling
at the great height of those trees, and yet neither you nor I will ever grow to
such heights, and while it is an easy thing to admire the trees, it is not our
purpose to take their place. In the same way I also admire the tenants of many a
good god, but again I am not them, and I will not pretend to think for them, nor
will I blame them for my problems, or even ask them to solve them for me, and I
won’t rely on them to determine the course of my action either. I believe the
gods’ aid those who help themselves, and even, then only when it serves their
purposes first. You should not allow your admiration of them to cause you to
second guess your plans, your loyal friends, or to steal your will to act.”


 


As Bilgamesh pauses, Fin hesitates a moments digesting what Bilgamesh had said,
and then says: “You still haven’t told
us where Amyria is.”    


 


“No I
haven’t nor will I. You all now bear the mark of Vecna; given that this is the
case I think it unwise to endanger her until we know more about these eyes. This
is not because I doubt you, only the prying of these eyes themselves. Tell me
I’m wrong any of you and I will listen, but Amyria is not well, and if I were to
bring her here she would only be in greater danger. Trust me, she is close and
she is safe. I see no need for her here and now, perhaps after we have captured
the Arrow of Fate, but not until. Why do we need her? She is in no shape to
accompany us, and I agree with Rikar, it would be folly to send her to argue our
case before the guardians these gods have left behind. Does the thief warn his
mark before he picks his pocket; would the knave ask for the queen’s permission
to borrow the king’s crown? Fin you yourself brought to light the inherent
deceit of meeting with these guardians and not informing them of our plans, why
then should we ask Amyria to do it for us? Wouldn’t we be jeopardizing her and
sabotaging our own chances of success? Our question should not be whether we
will ask our weakened friend to take up a fool’s errand, but rather we should be
discussing which of the seals we will break first and how shall we hide
ourselves afterwards?”  
 





RIKAR:

“I hear what you are saying my brother,
but while you lecture us of trust and courage, while at the same time
withholding information from us, and why because of a mark on our hand! I can
admire foresight, but such blatant hypocrisy is beneath you. Why should I or any
of us respond to such a cry for action? Fellowship and trust runs both ways
brother. How can you stand there and pretend to trust us while you keep such
information to yourself? And honestly, I don’t care if you tell us where Amyria
is or not, that is not the point … I am just sick of lectures, rampant
duplicity, and stupidity. You need to decide, will you trust us or not with our
without these eyes on our hands; and if we cannot be trusted then we should not
be involved with any plot to retrieve this Arrow.”
  
  



 




BILGAMESH:


“Rikar, all of you, this should not be confusing …
I am happy to fight, live and die with you if necessary, but this isn’t about
you or I. Amyria is somehow the key to this and the less of us who know where
she is, at least for now, the better. Rikar, I would expect you of all people
would understand the difference between prudence and distrust; often it is the
difference between victory and defeat. It is the principal of ‘need-to-know’;
forgive me maybe I have been a general for too long; I am not used to explaining
myself, but as harsh as it may seem, and whatever conflict you imagine this
creates with my other statements, warfare, battle and espionage often conflict
with our natural desire to be friendly and open, but make no mistake this is a
war, and it is about time you all started acting like it. Our success will
require shrewdness from all of us, and we will all be required to do things we
don’t like and we don’t want to do. In this battle our enemies are the gods
themselves and we will have to sacrifice some pleasantries to win this war. We
can no longer afford to be weak, nor should we be taking unnecessary risks
simply to avoid hurting someone’s feeling. I trust you all or I wouldn’t be
here, but the less of us who know where Amyria is right now, the better. It
means there is less opportunity for exposure, and less chance that one of us
will betray her and not all betrayal is a matter of choice.
 Do not for a moment think that we don’t
have enemies who can rip such information from your mind or mine. I have spent
years fighting githyanki, and believe me they can, but in this matter Rikar, the
answer to your question is as plain as that eye on your hand Rikar … Do you for
a second believe you have been ‘gifted’ by Vecna’s boon without cost? Do you
really believe that this ‘eye’ reveals information only to you? … I trust you
Rikar and the reason that you are here, but neither you nor I have ever
professed to be experts on the ways or tools of gods, but neither am I a fool,
nor should you allow yourself to be played as one! Why have you not given pause
to consider the true purpose of that thing on your hand? That you haven’t gives
me more pause than the eye itself; regardless, I prefer that Vecna and his
allies not know where I have hidden Amyria for now, and if that hurts your
feelings, so be it; even so, I cannot do this alone, or I think without you!”
  




Bilgamesh! A wonderful insight! I think you may have an eye for detail if you
don’t mind the pun. I hadn’t considered it before, but I think you may be right.
Who is Vecna? He is he god of secrets is he not? And how does he gather these
secrets? Perhaps one way is by gifting people with his eye that he is then able
to use as a vantage point, spying upon them and those around them furthering his
own ends. I say that we should thank Bilgamesh for having the foresight not to
reveal the location of Amyria to us, not because he doesn’t trust us, which I
believe he has amply demonstrated by coming all this way without any explanation
on our part, but what he doesn’t trust or underestimate, and as he points out,
nor should we are the forces of evil that we have been and continue to contend
with. Until such time as we can determine a way to be rid of the ‘gift’ of the
eye, we must take care with what information we divulge on the chance that Vecna
may be aware of it. We should consider this too, could it be we have grown a bit
lazy in our thinking? Fin might this have some bearing of the greeting you
received as you arrived in Hestavar. We still don’t know how the host of
Celestia knew you would be arriving at just that moment, and could not the
forces opposing us have something to do with the angels attack? Theology is ripe
with tales of good being manipulated by the forces of darkness, perhaps in this
too we have underestimated our enemy?” suggests Yu Gnuf.  


 



R
ikar
approaches the table and takes a seat, and without saying a word lays his right
arm palm so that everyone seated has a good view of the unblinking lidless ochre
slitted eye in the center of his open palm, and says:


 



“I do not like spies, and I am not anyone’s puppet, nor will I ever be … Does
the saying not go: If thy right eye offends thee, pluck it out, and cast it from
thee?”



 


Then he lifts his left hand, and with his elbow high and drops his right hand
suddenly with a quick jerking motion the ends abruptly with the sound
reminiscent of a knife striking a butcher’s block. Rikar’s right hand separates
from his arm at the wrist as the Sword of Kas is suddenly visible in Rikar’s
left hand. A stream of blood shoots across the table spraying Bilgamesh’s face.
Rikar reels back, his blood still spraying from the bloody stump of his right
arm. Fin rushes forward and grabs Rikar’s wrist applying pressure as best he can
to slow the bleeding. Rikar doesn’t resist, but through gritted teeth he howls,
“DO NOT HEAL IT! GRAB MY AXE, SEAR THE WOUND!” 


 


Finellior yells at Hagrid, telling the goliath to get Rikar’s flaming axe, and
the goliath does as Fin and Rikar have asked. All the while Rikar stares and
grins, wild-eyed, filled with a maniacal excitement that borders on joy. It is
over in a few minutes, and when the bleeding is stopped Rikar allows his back to
fall backwards, and lying down, covered in sweat and his own blood, the drow
stares at the ceiling he calls out: “Bring me some wine, it is going to be
a good day!:”

SOW: Chapter16: Legacy of Io – Part I



 



Legacy of Io




S
ince
his return from the Feywild Rikar had begun to weary of Bingus’s nighttime
visits. The gnome had long been an irritant, but he was worse now, deceitful,
lying, as he tried to worm his way into Rikar’s thoughts, all shallow ruses,
insulting thin, to point of wretched transparency. Rikar found himself
daydreaming about the one quick slash, the flick of the wrist that would make a
bloody stump of Bingus’s neck. Still he let the gnome ramble on, about all the
power Rikar stood to gain, once Bingus completed his ritual. Bah, Rikar knew he
was lying, the Sword inoculated Rikar to the gnome’s many deceits, but a
reckoning was coming, and Rikar was certain it would be soon.


 


Back in Sayre, Amyria’s health had been declining, she was wasting away; it was
as if the news of Bahamut’s fall was too much for the deva, known as the Scion
of Bahamut, and neither the city’s priests nor its doctors could do anything to
reverse, or even to slow Amyria’s deterioration. It was as if her body was
rebelling against itself; as if Bahamut’s doom was being reflected within
Amyria’s own body. Amyria was still as stoic as she ever had been, but even she
could no longer conceal her growing weakness or fully mask her suffering. The
light fading in her eyes disclosed her body’s betrayal and gave fuel to recent
challenges to Amyria’s leadership of the Coalition. And given the deaths of her
chief supporters, Kalad’s and Simberious, and Odos more recent resignation and
departure, much of Amyria’s support within the Coalition had dried up and was
already gone. When the matter came to a vote the deva was easily deposed, and
after she was removed from her position of leadership, the Coalitions goals
shifted as quickly as the shed the name ‘The Seven Platinum Shields of Klarn’.
Now they were the Coalition of the Seven Cities, and their stated focus was now
rebuilding and recovery, but in truth Amyria feared this new council was more
interested in lining their own pockets. Even among the council members not
everyone was comfortable with the new direction they had taken, Trellara
Nightshadow, the elven envoy, High Druid, the former Princess of the Stagrunners
was still attached the august body of leaders, if only to keep an eye on them,
and it was she who met the heroes of the war in Thiradith as news of their
return to the Realm of Klarn spread to Sayre. 


 


 


 

Trellara
meets with Ssarina, Bingus, Rikar, Hagrid, Finellior and Vani in the frost
covered forest outside of Thiradith.



 



“I am heartened that you have returned to us, but regrettably I have difficult
news; Amyria has taken ill, and others have taken her illness as a sign of
weakness, using it as an excuse to dispose her. She is no longer leading the
Coalition. I remain attached to the Coalition to maintain a watchful presence,
but I have other growing reservations about this new council’s direction, a
movement led in large part by a new councilor, an associate of the Coalition
some of you have already met. She wishes to speak to you again now, but before I
take you to her know that she has been vying to take Amyria’s place. She is the
Angel Rachaela. She waits for you now in Sayre. I will take you there that you
might meet with her, and not only for the meeting with Rachaela, but rather so
that I might discuss other things with you, but these things will and must wait
for now. So if indeed you accept this, invitation, then we should leave as soon
as possible, and I will meet with you again after you have spoken with
Rachaela.”


Coalition Hall


The trip to Sayre is completed in an instant, Trellara activates the Lord’s Gate
outside of walls of Thiradith and they pass through to the outskirts of Sayre.
As they arrive they are greeted by a


single mournful bell tolling dirge over the city. The few inhabitants that are
out and about seem mournful and afraid adding to the already bleak pall cast
over the beautiful city, these locals give way quickly or move to the far edges
of the road as the company led by Trellara passes, no doubt in large part due to
the white tiger that accompanied the great druid.
 Soon they arrive at the coalition’s
holdings within Sayre, and they get there without incident until Ssarina begins
insisting on seeing Amyria. Trellara explains,


 



“That is not possible, she is not here.”


 


Riled, but with a good measure of control Ssarina says,



“Where is she, I must see her immediately, you will take me too her now!”




 



           
“I can do, that, I will take too her, she is not so very far; we will
leave as soon as I make arrangements for the meeting. The others can join us
later; I will send a runner to guide them.”  


 


After a short wait, Vani, Finellior, Bingus, Rikar and Hagrid are usher into one
of the smaller conference rooms, as they enter the doors silently close and they
find Rachaela waiting for them; she is seated at the head of the ironwood table.
She appear withdrawn, and her eyes seen moist with tears. As the party seats
themselves, she gathers herself and with her voice still quivering she says:


 



“After we received word of your return or hearts were at once lifted, but then
as news spread of Bahamut’s death, new fears replaced our jubilation, worries
about the future. The Coalition quickly fell into disarray, and it became
obvious that new leadership would be required, along with a plan for a new world
order.”


 


She adjusts her posture, finding the strength to straighten herself; as she does
she rises from her seat, and suddenly the mood in the chamber shifts, subtly at
first, but quickly too, and the change that in mirrored in Rachaela’s voice as
it takes on a lyrical quality as she begins to sing. Her voice is angelic, but
strange. As she begins shadowy wings take form behind her and start to glow as
they spread behind her.



 



.


Blink – blink … a trace of blood.



Stars slur – from another time.



I hear the screams alive in your heads.



I am sorry for your life.



I really am …. A-a-a-a-h!



 



Here in darkness, you’ll pray for your fears.



It’s the drama, its silence, that’s breaking you down.



Are you sorry for your life?



You thought you were doing fine.



 



But you’ll learn from your struggles, learn from your faults.



Are you really going to lose your life here?



Pause from you run, you should stay here.



And join me FOR-EVER … …



 


As she sings, the angel begins to grin and the hue of her skin changes taking on
a deep luminescent violet cast. Her eyes open ever wider filling with gleeful,
maniacal anticipation as sings,


and as she does the chamber grows ever darker, until she finishes the song in
darkness so complete even Rikar’s drow eyes can barely make out the angel’s
silhouette from the far side of the small chamber. Then in darkness she speaks
once more, her becoming shrill and inescapable within the small chamber:


 



“Take heart, be thankful, your lives are still your own! Vecna’s blessing is
surly upon you, and well-deserved!”


 


A corona of indigo energy erupts within the conference room, purple light
emulating from Rachaela herself. Between her and the heroes dances a whip-like
band of energy; it extends from the angel’s open palm as she rises effortless
into the air.  And then in a sudden
explosion of blinding light, the angel Rachaela is gone. As the party’s eyes
recover, those who had participated in the mission to Monadhan: Hagrid, Bingus,
Rikar and Finellior each find their right palms suddenly filled with a benign
burning sensation; when they look to their palm, they are gripped by emotions
spread from horror to apprehension as they see a single round yellowed eye with
a slitted pupil staring back at them from the palms of their hand, the Eye of
Vecna.

           



          

Text Box: Vecna’s Dark Secret Level 19



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



 



           



 


Finellior is the first to scream: “Aaagh! What is it, get it off!” the
bard opens and closes his hand uselessly as he stares at his palm. 


 



“It is the Eye of Vecna!”

answers Bingus.



 



“Yes I’m sure you’re right, but why, what does it mean, and do we get them off?
… There must be someone here who can cast a ritual, or a priest we can talk to.”



 



“I still have my burning axe.”



offers Rikar.



 



“Really, you are really going to go there. This isn’t a joke.”


insists Finellior.


 



“It may not be as easy as you think, Vecna is a god after all, Rachaela must be
his angel.”

adds Bingus.


 



“An angel of Vecna?”


asks Finellior.



 



“Yes, angels serve both good and evil powers.”


answers Bingus.



 



“Even I know that, but I didn’t before. Is it somehow making me smarter? Like
maybe, I know things now that I didn’t before?”



suggests Hagrid:


“I think it is a gift.”



 



“Did you do something for Vecna?”


asks Vani.  



 



“Something for both Vecna and Gelf, it would seem.”


answers Bingus, “And yes, we did trap Kas within Monadhan.”



 



“But I destroyed Vecna’s avatar within the Forest of Twisted Souls.”



points out Rikar.


 



“Hah, maybe VECNA wants to keep an ‘EYE’ of you.”

suggests Bingus.


 



“THIS ISN’T FUNNY AT ALL!”

shouts Finellior.



 


As they file out of the conference room they find a pair of githzerai waiting in
the hall outside … “The Lady Trellara sent us, she asked us to bring you to her
.” 


 


           
The gith lead the heroes out of the Coalition’s offices and into the
streets of The March, past the Glassworks, past the Market, and into the
rarified air of Prospect Hill. As the party begins moving past the district’s
cultivated gardens and grand estates Finellior, Bingus, and Rikar are quick to
recognize the path even before they see the unique gate pillars that house the
finest lanterns of exquisitely decorated by stained glass blown by the master
craftsman, Telicanthus. Of course, he was now deceased, and the pillars marked
the entry into the property that had once been his, but now it housed the
githzerai embassy, and which had become an epicenter of activity within Prospect
Hill. The githzerai guards are notably polite opening the doors of the grand
mansion as the heroes approach. Trellara waits for the company inside. Still
frustrated, Finellior moves forward to show her his hand, but she dismisses his
inquiry respectfully saying: “I beg your
indulgence Master Bard, but there is of yet a pressing issue, the real reason I
asked to come, please forgive my artifice, but it is truly Amyria who has
requested your presence here in Sayre, I am only acting as her messenger. I have
hidden her here, and besides the githzerai and me, only you and your company
know that she is here. She has been asking for you. If you allow, I would take
you to her now.”

 


Trellara leads them through the halls of the mansion until in one of them they
find Ssarina standing guard just outside the mansion’s small reading room. As
they approach Ssarina opens the door, Amyria is waiting inside.



Her skin is drawn and unusually pale; it has a gray sickly cast that matches the
weariness present in her eyes. Amyria’s normally distinct markings had also
faded away, leaving just a single crescent that looked like a waning moon. The
changes make it obvious that she is not well, but something more than her health
is bothering the deva. Seeing the questions in her visitors’ eyes, she
immediately quiets them silently gesturing of her hands, indicating that she
wants to talk about something other than her health.


  

“I
understand that this is not the reception you might have expected or deserve,
and I am sure you have many questions of your own, but I am not now, nor have I
ever been what was important. I have been waiting here to speak to you in
private, safe, and beyond earshot of the others in the Coalition. You here, my
friend are among the few people can truly trust with this information”



 



“That I have not been well is no secret; the others within the Coalition believe
the cause of my illness to be my grief over Bahamut’s passing and the toll the
war has taken upon me, and I have done nothing to dissuade them of this, but
they are wrong. Since the fall of the Platinum Dragon, my dreams have been
wracked by increasingly vivid visions of my own death. Each night I see myself
pierced through with an arrow of bone wrapped with sinew and flesh and adorned
with burning runes. Silver-chased blood spreads from my wounds and runs from the
head of the arrow. The power of these visions is both frightening and
overwhelming. I can tell the dream is somehow ancient beyond any reckoning, but
I know that the dream is neither evil nor malicious.”



 



“With every fiber of my being I know my dream is a gift. It is the last gift
from Bahamut to this beleaguered servant. The artifact in the vision is the key;
it must somehow, even now, be able to foil Tiamat’s foul schemes. I have asked
much of you before, and I can no longer trust the Coalition, not with this. So
once again, I beg of you, I plead … search out the identity of the object in my
dream and recover it, for without it all is lost.”


 


           
Despite his concerns over his newly acquired boon from Vecna, Finellior
finds himself so moved by the Deva’s words that for the moment he forgets his
own problem and he quickly agrees and as the others agree, Amyria continues:



“I have already consulted with Master Yu Gnuf, and he has told me of a place
like no other the heavenly domain called Hestavar, there one can find the most
fabled of libraries, within Hestavar’s Swan Tower. Given that we have lost the
Well of the Worlds to the whims of the new Coalition, and that I would rather
keep this mission and my condition a secret, have already made private
arrangements  for your transport there; a
new friend, one of your acquaintances,



Captain J’ladimir

of the githyanki has agreed to give you passage upon his powerful astral
carrack, Gith’s Memory, and he will gift you with a skiff by which you can make
landing upon the white sand beach of Hestavar. The Captain offers this service
free of charge, in repayment for past favors. And Master Yu Gnuf has already
gone ahead and waits for you in Hestavar now, and he left this scroll describing
the environs to assist your preparations.”



 


She hands the scroll to Finellior and asks: “Is there anything else you can
tell us, anything that you know?”


 



“I have told you all that I know, there is nothing else, but I am certain about
all that I have revealed to you. The Captain is waiting for you now, out of
sight, but nearby, the gith will take you to him as soon as you are ready.”



 


Ssarina then interposes herself, saying,



“The Lady must rest, you should be on your way.”


 



“Aren’t you coming?”

asks Finellior.


 



“I must guard the Lady; I will see to her safety, and make sure that no further
harm befalls her
.”


answers Ssarina.



 


“Well, maybe we should be on our way then, I for one could use a vacation, and I
haven’t been sleeping well myself either. Hestavar is supposed to be a paradise
after all, did you know that it is the home to Erathis, Ioun, and to Pelor too.”
adds Bingus.



 



           


Soon they find themselves aboard Gith’s Memory as it sets sail into the
afternoon’s darkening sky, its bowsprit pointing high at the descending sun.
Hagrid asks,


“Are we going to fly all the way up to heaven?”

with a child-like wonder.


 



“No.”

answers the githyanki Captain. “The
ship, she flies, but only so far and so fast, to bridge such a distance we need
magic, the plane shift; the trouble with such ritual is that it requires a sigil
to name specific location, one we don’t have, but don’t worry I will get you
there and it won’t take long, a few days no more.”


 



As Gith’s Memory gets underway Finellior retrieves the scroll prepared by Yu
Gnuf and calls the party together to read it to them:


   







And then Fin adds,


“While I don’t profess to be the expert that Master Gnuf is, from what I have
heard of Hestavar, during my time in Mendelland is the thing that really
attracts travelers to Hestavar, indeed the very reasons those with the means
flock to the city, is the stories that name it the finest trading center in the
Astral Sea; a place where the sun literally never sets, and so the saying goes,
the commerce never stops. And while in truth it isn’t as large as the legendary
City of Brass, and it lacks the vast, smoking forges and smithy of that city,
and the slaves that man it, Hestavar is certain to have more than its share of
brilliant armorers and weapon smiths; craftsman more likely to craft graceful,
lithe weapons of quality without any slave labor such as the type common within
the City of Brass. And even more than the efreet city, Hestavar serves as a
center of magic item creation and innovation. And there’s bound to be someone
there who can get these damned eyes off our hands!”


 


“But I like it and I think I am going to keep mine.”


says Hagrid.


 


A Chilly Reception



 



 






 


           
Captain J’ladimir delivers the group as promised within sight of
the glowing jewel that was Hestavar, providing the group a folding skiff for the
final leg of their journey. The small craft precludes carrying much gear, or a
horse, so Rikar takes only one of his golem guardians, and together with the
drow and his guard, Finellior, Bingus, Hagrid, and Vani make up the rest of the
crew and head for Hestavar’s beach.


 





Excitement
begins to grow as they approach the pristine white sand bank that winds its way
through the peaceful lagoon that sparkles with brilliant sunlight. Hagrid’s
jubilation is evident as he takes the rudder of the small astral skiff imagining
himself to be every bit as great a captain as J’ladimir himself. Beyond the
beach they can see Hestavar’s open, airy buildings, each seemingly carved from
white marble and roofed with the purest gold. For some time they had been
thrilled by the elegant ships that were plying the lagoon, at times they seem to
be everywhere gliding through the sky, and darting about within the clouds of
earthmotes that seemed to rise ever higher. Hestavar was almost indescribably
beautiful. It had manicured cobblestone streets that traversed pass breathtaking
buildings of every imaginable architectural style crowning Hestavar’s floating
neighborhoods. Truly, here finally they had arrived, and Hestavar, the Bright
City, was laid out before them as they made way for their landing upon the
sun-warmed sand that preceded the gates of the city’s gates ahead. The entry was
sprinkled with rocky outcroppings and small pools with tiny waves that lapped at
the edges of the sand bars contributing to its peaceful, calming ambiance. Then
suddenly, as they near the beach, a great horn sounds preceding a brilliant
explosion of light so bright if temporarily blinds everyone aboard the small
skiff!


 


As their vision clears they see that a tower set upon a thundercloud has
appeared above the sand bar and already it was moving forward, cutting off their
path to the beach. Atop the tower waited a celestial host of angels, the roof of
the tower was completely filled and still more angel were aloft circling the
tower carried by their beautiful wings, but most pressing was the two silvery
dragons racing towards the party’s small skiff. The dragons had already closed
half the distance between the tower and their vessel, and they were in a full
charge. Before anyone can react the dragon are upon them plummeting downward
towards the skiff, then suddenly spread their wings breaking their dives as they
sound thunderous roars and blast the vessel and all aboard with billowing clouds
of bitter, icy breath so cold and powerful that they shatter the skiff’s mast
instantly, and flash freeze flesh to weapons and armor while covering the ship
in a thick coat of ice. Trapped in the center of the skiff, the first wave of
dragon’s breath freezes Rikar’s golem solid; the second breath shatters the
golem into a thousand sharp shards, leaving only the golem’s feet stuck, and
snapped off at the ankle, and still frozen to the skiff’s hull. After being
struck by the first dragon’s breath Hagrid leaps over the side into the waters
below, and Vani teleports away from the attack reappearing atop the angel’s
tower. Rikar survives the first breath narrowly, but he is frozen to the core;
he summons his root gate and flees joining Vani on top of the angel’s tower.
 


 


 


Obviously
eager to join the melee, the dozen or so angels shed a brilliant radiance as
they moved purposefully in the dragons’ wake; one and all, they are armed with
burning greatswords held judiciously at the ready. One of the angels calls out:


 



“Low behold, the dastardly slayer, he whom struck down our Lord, swift be his
retribution; were we not told we would know him by the company he kept?”



 


And another:


 



Vengeance
now, for the Lord of the North, STRIKE TRUE!”



 


And a third:


 



“Be fearful, thou unbelieving, abominable, murderers, and sorcerers,



For you have earned your share of the lake



That burneth with fire and brimstone!”


 


           
Crippled by the dragons’ attacks, having borne the brunt of not one but
both breaths, Finellior huddles shivering on the floor of the skiff, amid frost
and the shards to the destroyed golem, but Bingus was somehow still standing
completely unaffected by the dragons’ frozen breath as Fin manages to call out:



 



“We are not your enemies, we have done nothing to you, and why then have you
attacked us? Can you not see that we are heroes?”



 


Standing in the center of the skiff, Bingus points his finger at the closest
dragon as hovers in the sky next the vessel preparing to bite him. The dragon
vanishes with a loud ‘popping’ noise dispatched to another plane, and Bingus
fades from sight.



 



“Heroes?!”



 



“You who struck down our LORD, and only after enduring more than a decade of
torture, if that is the measure of your heroism, then be thankful that we’ll
take no such pleasure;



Rather thou shall receive the swiftest of rebukes, as we execute our great
vengeance upon thee!”


 


           
Strings of lightening blast from the tower, careening outward at an
angel’s command and covers the skiff in a sheath of electricity that for a
moment silences the bard. Vani answers blasting top of the towers but the
nearest angel screen his attack throwing himself into Vani’s arcane fire and
explodes into brilliant light that protects his allies in a protective glow
shielding them from further harm, and then the angel reappears resurrected above
the tower glowing brightly, reborn like a legendary phoenix as the rest of the
angels close in upon Vani and Rikar … Rikar mocks surrender presenting his empty
palms and stating, “Look I haven’t attacked you, even though I could.”
 causing another outburst from one of the
angels.


 



“Look in his hand, he bears the mark of Vecna, the foul god of secrets, lo
behold we face servants of the evil one, villains who carries out his
perversions.



O Wrath upon these malefactors their ruin is well-earned!”



 


           
Having heard the commotion within Hestavar, Yu Gnuf rushes for the city
gate even as the walls of the city fill with radiant angels filtering in from
their posts at the Whitebell Bastion. Ignored submerged in the water below the
skiff, Hagrid makes for the surface as the remaining dragon rises higher staring
into the drifting icebound skiff, where still shivering, and seemingly alone
Finellior curses and says, “Where is your justice? What can be your rational
for this action?”
 


 

The
dragon responds:


 





“Your words, your lies, however you might disguise them, will buy you no
reprieve. Not you, not any who might seek to defend the vile gnome;
 



Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound
for wound, stripe for stripe he is mine …



And know even though you have hidden yourself, know I sense you yet, and hide
though you will, I will find thee!”



 


           


Hagrid bursts from the water and flies through the air colliding with the
hovering dragon, the goliath’s attack does little more than annoy the titanic
silver dragon, and it slaps back using its tail like a powerful whip stunning
Hagrid and causing him to tumble back into the water. Bingus reappears as he
casts a dimensional cascade spell, and hurls the dragon through a whirlwind of
planes, each more inhospitable than the next, but even as the second dragon
vanishes the first dragon reappears and grabs tight to the small vessel locking
it place and Bingus’s own momentum causes the gnome to stumble and nearly fall.
This dragon snaps at Bingus with steely jaws, and Bingus vanishes again saving
himself, and reappearing on the other side of the skiff. Back on top of the
tower Vani casts avatars of chaos, dividing his essence into the primary quartet
of poles allowing himself to spread and attack from a multitude of locations,
but again just as with Vani first attack, even his great power had no impact;
the angels simply shield each other and respawned. 
One of Vani’s duplicate ends up near the walls of Hestavar where for the
first time Vani notices the angels manning the city’s walls.


 


           
Exiting Hestavar’s gate, Yu Gnuf flies into air and takes in the scene
from this new vantage point searching out the cause of the violence, and
realizing that it is his friends, begins to look for a way to end it. The angels
atop the tower spread their fly and leap descending and alighting upon the
skiff. Finellior lies still, avoiding anytime action that might be confused for
aggression. As the angel land the bard refuses to stand and still unarmed, he
crouches against one of the frosty sides of the small skiff. One of the angels
calls out:


 



“Look he too bears the mark!”


           


           
Listening, Yu Gnuf begins to gain a grasp of the situation, and
immediately realizes that these attacking angels and dragons were not from
Hestavar at all, but rather, based on the angels appearance he guessed that were
most likely visitors from Celestia, another heavenly domain that was the home of
Moradin, Kord, and until recently, Bahamut. No wonder then that these angels
were enraged. And somehow, they had found out that the party was coming, and it
was obvious to Yu Gnuf that they blamed Bingus for Bahamut’s fall, and why not,
in a very real way he was? Making matters worse Rikar had still been disguising
himself as the villain Kas, and carried the anti-hero’s own dread sword; and (Yu
Gnuf could hardly believe his eyes) … several member of the party had somehow
acquire the mark of Vecna!


 


What then were the angels to believe, and what could these heroes be thinking?
Truly, Fin could not be so foolish, but what of Bingus? Regardless, Yu Gnuf knew
if he didn’t act quickly they would all soon be dead!


 


           
With both dragons staring down at the bard and several angels pinning him
to the floor of the skiff at the point of their burning blades Finellior cries
out,


“What are you talking about, I bear the mark?”


 


From afar, Yu Gnuf answers:


 


           
“Finellior, it is I, Yu Gnuf, look to your palm, do you also marked by
the eye of Vecna?”



 



           
“Yes, yes … but I never asked for it, never wanted it.”



 



“Yet you wear it, a stain to mirror your tainted soul; like a muddied spring
your evil is plain for all to see;



So it is for all who pretend righteousness yet give in to their wicked ways,
branded forever by their own misdeeds.”



 


Back at Hestavar’s wall, Vani addresses the angels:


 


           
“Are you just going to stand there, they are killing my friends?”


 



“This is not our battle small one, we but guard over Hestavar; all who enter
here are under our protection.”



 


           
“You mean to say, all we have to do is enter here to be safe?”



 



“We offer sanctuary to all within the walls of Hestavar.”



 


As the angel’s words sink in Vani unconsciously but loudly yells:


“RUN!!!”


 


           
Being the closest to the gate, Vani (as least one version of him) is the
first to enter Hestavar, his other duplicates vanishing after he enters. Rikar
also runs the gauntlet screening his escape with a cloud of darkness, he then
summons magical mists the transport him to the ground safely and he runs like
the wind through the gate; elsewhere, recovered from the dragon’s attack Hagrid
moves speedily through the shallows, unhindered by the terrain, and splashes
ashore only to gaining speed; he too moves swiftly through the gate, but with a
cadre of angels giving chase until he crosses the gate’s threshold. Following
the others Finellior frees himself from the angels using a quick incantation to
briefly dash into the Feywild, just long enough to slip past the angels, and
reappear in Rikar’s root gate jettisoning himself to the thundering tower, and
just as more angels begin to close, the bard leaps from the tower and flies
through the air courtesy of roguish magic he’d borrowed from the master thief
Davros Elden, an aerial step that allow Fin to hits the ground and he too darts
into the city. As they begin counting heads and realize Bingus is still missing
they others hold their breath as, all the way back on the skiff they notice that
Bingus appears trapped!


 


The second dragon reappears angrier than ever and together with the angels and
the other dragon attacks. Bingus teleports backwards while retrieving the ebony
fly from his bag, and uses the little space he gained to summon forth the
enlarged manifestation of his fly thankful that it had finally reconstituted its
after its destruction in the Mantled Citadel. Quickly he mounts the fly Bingus
and zips into the sky, but the angel pursue him easily keeping pace with the
wizard and begin to close once more just as the catch-up to Yu Gnuf who subtly
manipulates time just enough to allow Bingus to springs ahead and escape into
the city. The angels stop short, and safe at last, the company moves to find
shelter within Hestavar.  


 


The Swan Tower


 


The remainder of the sojourn in the city is uneventful. The white sands of the
beach give way to sculpted marble and manicured walkways as group enters into
the city proper. The vast majority of the city still lay above them on the many
earthmotes that rose into the sky, but even here at ground level, there was a
bustle of an active, a thriving metropolis that enveloped the travelers. They
find the open, airy streets, lined with beautiful homes and businesses of all
descriptions, traveling past the exalted as they go about their business. Troops
of angels were moving about as well, and no doubt keeping an eye on them too,
but much to the group’s surprise the angels don’t disturb, as they do almost
anything but what the party really expects. Despite all the activity, there was
already a sense of peace and contentment growing within them that no mortal city
would ever be able to duplicate.


 


Getting anywhere in a massive, bustling city built on hundreds of independent
and sometimes mobile floating chunks of rock was sure to be a daunting task.
Fortunately for the new arrivals, they find the natives of Hestavar taking great
pride in their ability to navigate the confusing three-dimensional maze and
positively anxious to give aid to lost travelers, but their advice, while
seemingly accurate and precise, also seemed insanely convoluted. Their
directions included strange jargon, directions were reckoned by the landmarks of
the dominion, and the people of Hestavar reconnoitered their city by the
directions which included terms such as: windward, leeward, waterward, and
lightward. Even time within the Bright City had its own set of rules, filled
with steady and unblinking sunlight that seemed to filter from the uppermost
clouds of the dominion; night truly never fell in Hestavar. Here they measured
time by way of a number of water clocks that were situated on somewhere amid the
hundreds of earthmotes that made up Hestavar, each fueled by an endless spring,
but most importantly, by the large bell atop the highest tower of Whitebell
Bastion which towered above the lagoon, the Dawnbell that tolled out the
beginning of each new day, and in suit each day was split into one of three
6-hour cycles called bellings (short for bell-length, since each cycle is
announced by a cacophony of ringing bells), and each is named after one of the
three deities that called Hestavar home. As a matter of reverence and custom, it
was said that the city rested and meditated during Ioun’s belling, but in truth
they found that the city never really slept, rather it only slowed down slightly
during Ioun’s belling. These bellings were even further split into two hands,
and each hand was in turn split into 3 hours and it wasn’t many of these before
the party found way to an establishment called ‘The Methion Arms’ and
acquired two rooms. It seemed an excellent choice given it central location,
respectful staff, privacy, and relatively reasonable rates. No one bothered the
party there, but it seemed an angel was at all times posted just outside the
inn. Such being the case, it was decided that they would make their way to the
Swan Tower separately, or in small groups to diminish the chances that the angel
would be able to follow the entire group. Fin followed behind Yu Gnuf; Rikar
behind Hagrid, and Bingus mostly kept to himself as he had taken to consistently
complaining about his own sense of growing malaise and weariness.


 


Kerith-Ald occupied the entirety of its own earthmote. It sat high over the
lagoon and other earthmotes. It soars only slightly lower but more leeward than
the golden palace of Aurosion. Its lower structures contained the magic
university and the great Hall of Enlightenment, a place where great philosophers
and wizards met, to verbally spar with each other, and to create great works of
reason and arcane. The majority of the many structures on the earthmote are
given over to the magic academy, the university, and even more so to the vast
library that made the tiny island of rock the greatest center of knowledge that
existed anywhere. The Swan Tower for which the complex was named roses above all
the others, and it was said to be the private resting place and retreat of the
goddess Ioun. The fabulous library of the Swan Tower was itself far too large to
be contained within any single structure on the earthmote; rather it was spread
among several adjoining buildings. Within its storied halls were overflowing
with every manner of tome, scroll, and loose paper imaginable, all meticulously
cataloged and filed on one of the countless shelves or in some other receptacles
by a veritable army of scribes and librarians. Yu Gnuf found even he was being
overwhelmed by the sheer volume knowledge that surrounded him. This was without
doubt the master scholar own personal heaven, a place built for him and him
alone where he might explore all of the mysteries contained in the whole of
creation, and all of the knowledge contained within the library and freely
available at no charge to any who would but seek it out. 
Yu Gnuf knew if the information he was looking for, answers regarding
Amyria’s strange visions, could be uncovered anywhere, it would be here within
the prestigious halls of the Swan Tower. Somewhere within the Swan Tower there
would be an ancient tome or equally ancient scholar who would hold all the
answers he sought, but it was also clear that the sheer volume of materials
available within the library were going to make this one of his most daunting
tasks to date. After several exciting but frustrating hours, Yu Gnuf is
approached by an elderly gentleman. The man would be indistinguishable from any
of the host of other scholars frequenting the library were it not for the two
horns jutting from his temples, his dark eyes center with red irises, and the
hoofed feet that identified his devilish origins. With a flourish and bow, he
introduces himself:


 



“Excuse me fellow scholar, as a most humble student of planar history I am most
pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Guionne. I couldn’t fail to notice
that you and I might very well be studying the same thing, an artifact, am I
right?”



 



“Possibly, what is it you are looking for?”

asks Yu Gnuf.



 



“As I said, an artifact, through mine is purely an academic interest to be sure
and yet, I would be remiss if I did not offer you my services, and in all candor
not only to lend my own humble expertise, but also for the sheer pleasure of
proving my own hypothesis is correct … You see I have theories of my own about
the particular item in question. But first, you should heed this warning …
Studies in the vein of research you have been pursuing will earn you no good
will from the kindly guardians of the library, nor should you expect their help;
I myself have had to step carefully in this regard and I continue to move most
circuitously in order to avoid being ejected. While all information is freely
available here, those that are deemed to be abusing this hospitality find
themselves quickly expelled and barred from reentry by the hosts of goddess
Ioun.”



 



“I see, and then it would seem foolish for me not to accept your aid, but how is
it that you know what I am looking for?”



 



“I have but witnesses the pattern of your research, that and I am not without
friends here, please allow to me to make introductions; these are my two
assistants, mind you, they speak only to me. And even though they no doubt
appear to be young and certainly immature, I assure you they are quite nearly as
old as I am myself; they keep watch and gathering books for me.”



 


Two innocent appearing cherubs appear above, making no sound. Guionne smiles,
offering the cherubs a forced grin:



“Perhaps then we should get back to work? … Might I suggest you start at the
beginning, meaning, of course, the Dawn War?”





 


Following Guionne’s lead, Yu Gnuf begins sifting through a pile of archives
relating to the ancient histories of the Dawn War; and start exploring the roles
played by the divine powers involved, focusing specifically on Bahamut and
Tiamat. Almost immediately Yu Gnuf finds a paragraph of information that seem
key to the goal of his research.  


 


“And
thus it was that the proud god Io, forefather of dragons, went forth alone to
meet that formidable primordial known as the King of Terror. The confrontation
raged fierce between the divine and the base for long days as grievous wounds
were wrought by both upon the form of the other. It continued in such ferocity
unabated until the vile King of Terror took up his crude axe and dealt to noble
Io a fearsome blow that shattered his divine form, hewing the valiant god in
twain. The vicious primordial’s triumph was not to be; for no sooner had Io’s
sundered remains fallen to earth than they rose up to assail the beast as the
twin gods Tiamat and Bahamut. Their sudden assault saw the King of Terror torn
asunder in a righteous fury, yet in their triumph, the victorious deities fell
upon each other. Two imperfect forms for a single essence, the pair are ever
drawn together, locked in eternal hatred as that which they are seeks
unachievable consolidation. Of Io, only a flesh-wrapped bone remained, a relic
from the terrible Dawn War, in which the gods battle against primordials for
control of the world; only this single fragment of Io’s physical form remained
separated from the newly birthed gods, and it was this tiny shard of divinity
that ultimately became known as the Arrow of Fate.”


 


After a short time Finellior joins Yu Gnuf, and after a brief introduction to
Guionne, he begins aiding the pair of scholars soothing their way with the other
academics, and he himself posing as a devotee of the trio of gods that called
Hestavar home, hoping to counter any problems before they occurred, and ensuring
as little suspicion as possible was garnered by their explorations and
inquiries.

Over
the course of the day, and running into the next they discover:



·        


The Arrow of Fate was likely a very potent weapon against primordial or the
divine alike, forged as it was during the upheaval of the Dawn War. As eons
past, legends arose that it was also capable of exerting a powerful influence
over the forces of both life and death, but little if anything was truly known
or tested about the item, as at some point it became an issue of contention
after it was somehow lost and eventually recovered by the Archdevil Asmodeus. 



 



·        


There was a disagreement between the Archdevil Asmodeus and the trio of gods
Erathis, Ioun, and Pelor.



 



·        


Asmodeus sought to barter access to Hestavar’s base of knowledge for his devils
and followers; and in a show of cooperation more characteristic of earlier ages,
the three gods granted the devil’s request, but only with guarantees that
Asmodeus and all his adherents would treat Hestavar, its environs, and the souls
of its inhabitants as strictly forbidden and with his agreement that they would
never to be targeted for deviltry or diabolic entanglement. Asmodeus agreed, and
to cement this bargain, he willing surrendered the Arrow of Fate which was
locked away in Hestavar on condition that the pact would stand for as long as
the Arrow remained within the city.



 



·        


Sealing away the Arrow was Asmodeus’s suggestion, but in point of fact it seemed
to suit the interests of all parties involved.



 



·        


To safeguard the Arrow and ensure that the accord would last, Erathis, Ioun, and
Pelor wove a great ritual in four parts, one part by each of the deities and a
fourth representing their collaboration.



 



·        


Each of the gods warded these seals in their own way.



 



·        


Pelor forged his into the form of a great bell that would announce the coming of
dawn and set a garrison of angels to watch over the bastion constructed to hold
it.



 



·        


Erathis bound her seal into the very flagstones of the largest market square
upon the mercantile earthmote and neighborhood of Methion.



 



·        


Ioun secreted hers away within the Sealed Library, a cloistered haven hidden
within the fabric of the domain, where a trusted few researched sensitive
projects for their lady.


 

And
then, as Vani joins the others, the halfling sorcerer puts together the final
pieces of the puzzle not only with information found in the library, but with
information he had gathered beyond the library’s walls: 



·        


The fourth seal is protected by the first three, and it rests under the constant
storm that marks the Salts district where nearly a dozen inhabited islands were
located underneath the wind- and rain-soaked umbrella of the Eye of Storm. A
place the people of the Hestavar called the Salts; named for the salt water the
Eye of Storm spat about. This place was located in the lowest part of Hestavar.
The defeated primordial’s essence created a field there that no angel could
enter, some made claim that the gods themselves avoided this place. Given these
prohibitions, the Salts were home to a number of seedy taverns, feast-halls,


and other dens of sin, not to mention an embassy of the Nine Hells. The common
folk of Hestavar believe the rain-drenched and gale-battered structures of the
Salts hid cults to primordials, the enigmas of Vecna, and those who were seeking
gain power from the strange beings that haunt the Far Realms, but the business
folk of the place, such as those Vani had encountered running the famous Silver
Tankard, seemed to find the Salts more to their liking as the place that
provided lodging and entertainment for travelers not found elsewhere in the
Bright City; those who found days of constant sun, and a city filled with
exalted and angels a little disconcerting. Regardless, the fourth seal was
hidden beneath the Eye of the Storm in the Salts, and it would be accessible
only if each of the other seals were undone. Even so, tales warned that the gods
had set a terrible foe from the Dawn War to guard the Arrow from any who might
disturb it.



 



And while the others busied themselves in the Swan Tower, Hagrid and Rikar
ventured forth beyond the walls of Hestavar and recovered their heavily damaged
skiff and saw no sign of the host of Celestia which had attacked them; the
tower, the dragons, and the angels were all gone.



 


The Sword of Kas verses Gelf


 


Back at the Methion Arms, a discussion takes place into the wee hours of Ioun’s
belling. Yu Gnuf, Finellior, Bingus, and Rikar are present as the discussion
turns towards what they should do given all they now knew about the Arrow of
Fate. Given what they had learned so far Finellior was positively apoplectic as
he says:



We cannot seriously be thinking about this! We are not going to battle three
gods. We will have to explain ourselves, convince them of the rightness of our
cause. These gods, their servants are the wisest, most enlightened beings that
exist; surely we can reason with them!”


Yu Gnuf speaks up. “But, they believe you are responsible for Bahamut’s demise.”



“That’s ridiculous!”


“In a way, we did, or at least I did, you were with me though.” confirms Bingus.



“It was your brother, not you, and you said yourself, he finished the ritual
before we even got there.”



insists Finellior.


“No, I said he waited for me, or I guess you could say that I waiting until you
had arrived … No doubt about it, we were the spur that put it all in motion.”
answers the gnome.


(Rikar was quickly tiring of their banter.)  


“Yes, and then of course, my brother and I merged; you were there remember? But
can we talk about this in the morning, I’m tired.” complains Bingus.


“Why didn’t you sleep yesterday?” asks Finellior


“I did … I slept all through the day, at least part of the day, but then it is
always day here. Oh bother, it’s very confusing. Well, I slept while you were at
the Swan Tower.” points out Bingus.


Still irritated, Fin responds: “But I saw you at the library, we all did,
and even so you barely helped at all!”


“I didn’t go to library, nobody woke me up!” snaps back Bingus.

“YOU
DON’T EVER SLEEP.”

interjects Rikar interrupting their discussion.


“What are you talking about?” asks Bingus.


The drow stands, crosses the chamber and towering over Bingus says: “Just
shut-up! Is this funny to you? Do you take me for a fool? Is this another of
your pranks? Whatever made you think you could toy with ME?”
he asks
suddenly as serious and cutting as any blade. 


Interrupting quickly Fin asks: “Rikar, what do you mean?” 



“He’s lying, he always lies … This isn’t even Bingus now … You are talking to
his brother Gelf. He has been trying to convince me to let him cast a ritual on
me … I am sick of him, not that Bingus is any better; they have been working
together all along, the whole time.”


answers the drow ranger. “Here, let me show you.”


           
Chaos ensues, a chaos fully understood by few, or possibly by only one.
In a flash Fin sees the Sword of Kas appear in Rikar’s hand. Bingus topples even
faster than Fin’s eyes can follow luckily if only barely avoiding the blade. The
gnome scrabbles, but not before Rikar slashes Bingus with the black crescent
carved of the claw of the Beast of Monadhan carried in the drow’s off-hand. As
the gnome’s blood spreads across his bed linens, Finellior leaps between them
and without pause Rikar draws his bow and pierces Bingus with an arrow before
Finellior can find a way to stop him. Not want to add fire to the unfolding
drama, Fin raises his hands blocking the drow yet still not threatening Rikar
and prepares to grab the bow should Rikar draw again. Rikar yells: “GET
OUT OF THE WAY, WE CAN’T LET HIM ESCAPE!”
 



What Fin and the others don’t realize is that the bard had not been to only one
who had interfered, nor had he been the first; Yu Gnuf was not only a Master
Sage, Scholar, and Librarian, but as of follower of Ishtar, he had learned to
manipulate the fabric of time; Yu Gnuf experienced time not as a river but
rather like an ocean extending in all directions to infinity. 
And here, and then, such as now, Yu Gnuf had learned how to shift the
currents of time itself, the talent he just used to save Bingus’s life. In the
future Yu Gnuf had just witnessed, Rikar hadn’t missed and Bingus hadn’t
survived. Yu Gnuf wasn’t sure if he had just changed their fate or simply added
a tangle to fate’s tapestry, regardless Bingus wouldn’t be dying here in this
chamber now and whether the gnome knew or not he lived and breathed because Yu
Gnuf had just acted to save him.



“Notice, that I haven’t attacked Rikar, I haven’t even defended myself. He isn’t
right, it’s the Sword, and it’s controlling him. We have to take it from him,
destroy It.”


insists Bingus.



“Maybe it is the Sword.”

acknowledges Finellior.



“The Sword can’t be trusted, and neither can Rikar as long as he has it!”



agrees Yu Gnuf.



“Look at you, are you all fools … Don’t you see how Gelf is manipulating you.
Have I ever given you cause to question my loyalties?”



“There was that other time you attacked me in the Stone-skinned King’s palace!”

squawks Bingus.


Rikar slides easily past the bard faster than Fin can react and nearly skewers
the gnome again, but this time Bingus saves himself and teleports across the
chamber such that Finellior was again between them.



“You are both making good points.”

suggests Yu Gnuf, forcibly moderating the tone of his voice hoping to spread a
measure of calm.



“NO! … This is pointless; if the gnome escapes none of us will be safe! He uses
more than words to manipulate minds. By his own admission, he and his ‘brother’
are now one, but the truth is worse yet! I tell you they always WERE
!”

screams Rikar, and moves to chase down Bingus yet again, and the gnome casts a
spell about the drow. Rikar strikes anyhow and the spell partial shields the
gnome reflecting a portion of Rikar’s attack back upon the drow, but still
Rikar’s blade cuts Bingus to the bone and forces Bingus to use his magic to
escape again and retreat to the to the hall outside their room.


It takes the others just a moment to determine whether Bingus is really gone
from the room or rather just used his magic to hide within it. With his
frustration mounting, Rikar is the first to run out of the chamber into the open
hall of the inn and he finds Vani lying on the floor sleepy-eyed and befuddled.
Vani looks up at the drow, and asks: “How did I get here? I didn’t miss
breakfast, did I?”


Without pausing Rikar hits the door of the chamber being shared by Vani and
Hagrid, just as the Goliath opens the door, which prompts Rikar to ask:
“WHERE IS BINGUS?”


“He just flew out the window.”


answers Hagrid.


           
It takes about an hour for the party to get settled again. They gather in
the larger of their two rooms where the fight had started. Finellior is more
upset than ever. Bingus was now missing and no one present knew where he’d gone.
Within the room they were seated at a huge table that furnished the chamber, it
was large enough to seat them all comfortably, but Rikar was pensively sitting
alone in one dark corner of the room and we was also sporting a perpetual scowl.
As the Dawnbell tolls the beginning of the new day there is a soft knock at
their door. Hagrid opens the door, and fails to mask his surprise when he finds
a devil standing in the hall; the devil bows politely:
“Hagrid, I have hoped to make you acquaintance, my name
is Guionne, and I have been collaborating with your associates at the Swan
Tower. I had hoped I might have a word with them.”


Quickly Yu Gnuf extends his welcome and jumps to his feet inviting Guionne to
join them at the table.  


The devil nods a greeting to the others, and joins them at the table. Once
seated he says:



“I wanted to thank you once again for allowing me to share in your expedition of
discovery, at my advanced age I find it is the type of adventure for which I am
best suited. And even here in Hestavar scholarship of your merit is a rare
commodity. Truly, I found our collaboration most rewarding, a pleasure, and for
whatever small assistance I may have been, I was repaid threefold, and for that
you have my thanks. That said I have been concerned about you, I might be
overstating actuality, but I have come to think of you as friends or at the very
least I feel a certain solidarity with you, with that in mind I feel it is my
responsibility to reiterate my previous warning. The information we discovered
together is more than provocative, one might even call it notorious, and if in
truth you mean to act upon any of it; you should consider that you will very
likely incur the wrath of the great powers that call the dominion of Hestavar
their home. That said, now might also be the only opportunity in your lifetimes
that such a thing might be possible; you see the trio of gods that abide here
are for the moment, not present; a circumstance, I believe without precedence.
The reason is clear enough; Bahamut’s demise is no secret. Even now, spurred by
the recent death of Bahamut, many of the good and unaligned gods have gathered
together at a conclave of the divine to discuss what they might need to do in
response to recent event. Erathis, Ioun, and Pelor have withdrawn from Hestavar
to attend this council, and they have left the operation of the city in the
hands of Hestavar’s angelic bureaucracy; and so if not now, then when?



“Wait, wait … We are not ‘stealing’ the Arrow of Fate!”


proclaims Finellior.


“Stealing is a bit strong, borrowing, might be better.” offers Yu Gnuf.



“Didn’t Amyria just ask us to figure out what she was dreaming about?”

asks Fin.


“Obviously you feel strongly about this Finellior, but no, specifically she
asked us to find out what it was and to recover It.” corrects Yu Gnuf.



“Well, regardless, we can’t go off fighting angels … Like I said before, maybe
we can convince them to release the Arrow.”


counters Finellior.



“Excuse me, I do not mean to interrupt you Finellior, and I have no part in this
to be sure, but I do have a little more experience than perhaps any of you
negotiating with angelic officialdom. Even dismissing the legendary patience of
angels, a negation you mention while easily spoken, is not realistic. Even
considering that none of the administration left behind would for a moment
consider acting without the direct consent of the power they serve; even in the
very unlikely event that even one of the powers might take the time to consider
your request within your lifetime, I can tell you beyond the slimmest shadow of
a doubt there is absolutely no chance that they would all agree. And so my
counsel is that you either forget the Arrow entirely, or that you to come up
with another plan. If then you like I believe that this is truly a matter of
faith, and you again like I myself, feel fate’s hand at work in this matter, I
would be remiss if I did not at least offer what assistance I can. I am quite
sure the servants of the three gods that call Hestavar home will not be
understanding of your quest and that they will inevitably react poorly to any
attempt to open the seals, and while I cannot be involved in any such efforts, I
can offer you the use of two houses I have here in the city. I am certain that
no one can possible trace either of the homes back to me, and you will no doubt
find need of such safe havens should you opt to act on any of the information we
found. Regardless, I am going to leave the addresses with you and I welcome you
to put them to use regardless of your decision, and so if you have no other
questions I will leave you to your thoughts.”


No questions are asked and so Guionne stands bows once again, and hands a
parchment with the addresses on it to Yu Gnuf and leaves. Back at the table,
Fin’s grumbling continues as Yu Gnuf patiently listens. Hagrid waits to hear
their decision, and Vani daydreams about meal planning, having already made
plans for breakfast, second breakfast and elevensies, and having just begun
planning lunch when Rikar speaks up:



“I find it interesting that you find it so easy to question me and my motives,
yet you all seem eager to take the word of a devil.”



 
Jumping
in on Rikar’s thought, Fin adds:



“You know Rikar, that is a very good point … I think the best point you’ve made
all day. What was it that we have discovered? That a pact had been reached
between three gods and the Archdevil Asmodeus that will stand as long as the
Arrow of Fate remains within Hestavar. And so, if we remove the Arrow, then
literally and quite possibly all Hell could break loose here. And why are we
considering such a thing?”



“Well, because of the dream of an ill deva; yes, it is Amyria! But can we
really, can we be considering this? I for one am not ready to set Hell loose in
the Heavens … No, and I say Amyria will have to come here! I am sure that Bingus
could have summoned her easily, but now thanks to Rikar Bingus is now missing.
Is he still in Hestavar? Well, the fact is we just don’t know, he could be here
with us in the very room!”



“Regardless, I at least have a plan; we are in Hestavar, the home of the
Methion, the finest market of magical item to be found anywhere. I am certain I
could find and purchase a scroll with a ‘True Sending Ritual’ inscribed upon it,
and with such a scroll I could contact Bilgamesh. Bilgamesh is what we planers
call a ‘Wanderer’, he has a very special ability; he can move almost
effortlessly through planes. He could easily bring Amyria here to us, and we if
we can bring somehow capture the Arrow of Fate we could bring it to her and
still leave the pact inviolate.”


Your Next Move



 



With the information gained in the Swan Tower you have some choices to
make. You can attempt to find any of the first three seals, or you can give up
the search and leave the choice is yours to make, I invite you to discuss it
among yourselves and let me know what you come up with.