Category Archives: Scales of War

SOW Chapter17: Those Once Loyal

All
that happens now has happened before and shall happen again unless we choose
otherwise.

 

Since
the hated struggle against the elemental host in that storied event recalled as
the Dawn War, we have seen the divided god wage endless war as it seeks to reconcile
its sundered existence.

 

Over
the eons, the platinum wrestles with the chromatic, using and discarding us as
they will to slake their thirst for vengeance; our late patron defeated the
enemy, and the enemy has defeated our patron.

 

Time
and again they fight, but to what end? One triumphs only to fall as the other
gains ascendancy.

 

I
have peered through time’s mists, apprehended the distant future, and can see
no end to this struggle, and it is my despair at this eternal war now impelled
me to beseech your esteemed council, to urge you to let the Platinum Dragon’s
death be the last and to help me put an end to this age-old cycle for all time
… Fellow dragons, the time to decide is now!

 

 

 

Those Once Loyal

 

The Grim Reunion

 

Welded by Yu Gnuf the Arrow of Fate reveals
Amyria at the conclusion of the adventurers’ most recent battle, and in the
aftermath of the same fight they also acquire a spelljammer named Impaler.
After Yu Gnuf returns the Arrow to Rikar it twists and bends whenever
it is held pointing back towards the unconscious deva. No matter where the drow
moves or holds the Arrow it bends and maintains its direction until it is
eventually placed in her hand.

 

Amyria’s eyes slam open wide as her mouth falls open … She
collapses, and then she recovers; blinking and gasping her entire body shudders
as she pulls herself to her feet and looks at her assembled heroes. A moment
more passes before she says:

 

“The visions are correct. Bahamut lives … Celestia
we … must … Answers are there.”

 

Afterwards she collapses once again.

 

It is clear that Amyria is very ill. And it’s clear that if
something is not done soon her strange malady might very well kill her. Ssarina
assures the others that Amyria still lives, but regardless of the paladin’s or
anyone else’s efforts Amyria doesn’t respond to any attempts to aid her. She’s
in a coma and her condition has only worsened.

 

“She mentioned Celestia,” offers Rikar.

 

Yu Gnuf responds, “The Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia is
an astral dominion set in the Sea of Eternity, an enormous mountain ringed by
smaller peaks. It is said that the mountain’s summit emits a silver light which
illuminates all. It is the home to Kord, Moradin, and formerly to Bahamut as
well. It was the Grandfather of Dragons’ home prior to his demise.”

 

And Bingus adds, “Celestia is also said to be the home to
Empyron, the City of Healing, where ailments have no hold.”

 

Reaching
Celestia

 

 

“We should depart from this realm
immediately,”
suggests Yu Gnuf.

 

“That seems wise.” adds Finellior, “But
do we really know how it works? Can it carry us to Celestia?”

 

“I believe it can, it has a
spelljammer helm, a magical helm capable of acting as a focus for plane
shifting; it should be a capable means of transport and Hagrid appears to be a
natural pilot. Either you or I could activate the helm, but my guess is that
Bingus would be its truest master."

 

Hearing his named mentioned, Bingus interjects: “I believe
you and I should have a discussion about recent events Yu Gnuf.”
(See:
Revelations II)

 

After Yu Gnuf, Bingus, and Finellior secure themselves within
the command cabin, Rikar begins to examine the Arrow of Fate, as he does the
Arrow takes the form of a hand upon the stump of Rikar’s right arm and he is
filled with an urge to approach the helm.

 

Given that they had captured the Impaler and that traveling to
an astral dominions was what a spelljammer was built to do,
bridging the distance between Hestavar and Celestia would be easy provided that
they could find a way to utilize the ship’s enchanted helm, but the problem
with such plane shifting magic was that such spells typically required the user
to utilize specific secret sigils address any such destination. As Rikar grasps
the wheel, sigils magically appear as runes inscribed upon the vessel’s wheel.
And as Bingus and Finellior emerge from the cabin with Noe, after a brief
explanation and introduction, the gnome climbs to helm and examines the sigils.
Finding the runes inscribed as Rikar had described, the gnome quickly confirms
that they address one of the upper planes domains, joined by Finellior and the
bard concurs, and as Hagrid takes the wheel in hand the Impaler begins to rise
as a matrix of magic envelopes the Impaler and the beautiful painted sky of
Hestavar vanishes.  

 

“What
should we expect of Celestia?”
  asks Hagrid loudly,
meaning that everyone should hear the answer.

 

 

Bingus responds: “Celestia is called the Radiant Throne,
it is said to be a wholesome and virtuous plane, a realm formed about seven
magnificent mountains with each peak shining with its own inner light. It is
the home of Kord, Moradin, and other deities, just as it was for Bahamut before
his fall.”

 

Fin adds: “Within Celestia, Moradin is thought of as the
first among equals, both Bahamut and Kord generally acceding to the
All-Father’s guidance, but I would expect each deity would controlling their
own environs, wouldn’t they?”

 

Bingus answers: “One would expect, but the legends of such
places are often just the ramblings of aged sages among whom none could say for
sure, but tis said to be the final resting place of the just exalted, seven
mountains, Luna, Mercuria, Venya, Solania, Mertion, Jovar, and Chronias.”

 

Down on the deck, pinching his eyes together, Noe comments, “Your
knowledge is impressive Bingus, how is it that you know such things?”

 

“I am more interested in what you
could tell me about the 66th layer of the Abyss, and the Queen of
the Demonweb Pits!”
snaps back Bingus.

 

“I am sorry; I don’t have any
knowledge of such things.”

 

Allowing himself to become frustrated, the gnome continues, “The
time for pretense is over, you yourself spoke of Grandma Spider, is she not
Lolth?”

 

“Oh, you are confused; Grandma Spider
is not Lolth, nor is she any other spider, Lolth is but a grain of sand upon a
beach, but she is not the beach, no; Grandma Spider is the beach.” 

 

“And then what can you tell me of
Eon?”

 

“I don’t know him either.”
And then a ghostly black panther appears beside Noe, and Noe turns his head to
deeply peer into the wells of the great cat’s eyes as if he was silently
addressing the panther, and then turning back to Bingus he adds, “Nia
says I am also grain sand, and the Eon is a beach, but she will say no more
about him. She says talking about the devil is to invite trouble.”

 

Part One: The City of
Healing

 

The gentlest peak of the Seven
Mounting Heavens is Jusor. It ascends to its high vales by way of the wide
gentle slopes, whose pitches are not overly taxing. The mountain’s slope
invites them onward and soon a city appears atop the mountain. The city’s alabaster
towers come into view, graceful spires with fluted columns and wide, arcing
bridges spanning the distance between them. The white walls bounding the city
bear the merciful visages and snapping gold banners declaring the city’s
devotion to life and living. Passing over the city’s open gates they see broad
avenues sheltered by the spreading boughs of massive oaks which ease the sky’s
brilliance. From their vantage upon the ship the travelers never lose sight of
the still black waters upon whose shores the city stand no ripple mars the
water’s glassy surface and somehow unseen stars reflect their light off these
quiet waters, the waters of the Sea of Eternity as the party finds themselves
traveling over Empyron, the City of Healing.

 

Looking over the rail, a nearby tower’s
massive doors swing open on silent hinges to reveal the entrance of a brightly
lit and hall. Six attendants emerge, each carrying crystalline goblets, cool
cloths, or platters nearly overflowing succulent fruit. Each attendant wears diaphanous
white robes and a silver mask, concealing both their gender and features. As
one, they looks upwards welcoming the traveler to approach. Then a short,
stocky attendant joins the other. Like the others, he wears white robes, but he
lacks a mask, and clearly, brilliant armor peaks from beneath his robes.
Several of the ship’s crew recognizes this newest arrival as the dwarven
paladin
Kalad, the heroic dwarf
they knew in life who died fighting for the Coalition … The dwarf’s face splits
into a grin of recognition as he waves a hearty welcome to the City of Healing.

 

“Bingus,
brother, get your arse down here! Where are Benny and his little
friend?”  

 

Calling
down from the ship Bingus answers, “What are you doing here? I thought
you were dead!”

 

“Indeed I was, friend, but Moradin
still had need for this old dwarf. I’m just visiting here, learning a bit o’the
healing arts and lend my aid in what feeble ways I can … Truth be said, I’ve
been expecting you.”

 

“Who are these others in the city?” asks Bingus.

 

“Ah. They are exalted like me. They
intend no harm; their purpose is to help, heal, and nothing more.”

 

“Can we trust them with Amyria?” asks Ssarina.

 

“Of course, you came here didn’t you?
Why else would you be in the City of Healing?”

 

Finellior calls out: “Hagrid lower the ship, it’s time we
make landing. Well met Kalad, good to see you again … I’m sure Bhenedict and
Bairdyn would be happy to see you too. They are back in Klarn not doubt eating
and drinking somewhere. Have you heard about Bahamut’s death?”

 

“Who hasn’t? Things have been
difficult since he died trouble is brewing.”

 

“What do you mean brewing?” asks the bard.

 

“Bahamut is gone, and vultures have emerged trying
claim the Lord of the North Wind’s mantle.”

 

“But what if we can save Bahamut!” asks Bingus even
if he wasn’t convinced he wanted to bother.

 

“Hmm, that would be interesting . . .
Unfortunate lad, we can’t … He’s gone lad! Have your travels addled you laddy?
If they are, there’s no need for embarrassment, these fine people here could fix
that.”

 

As
the party begins to disembark from the Impaler, Empyron’s attendants rush to
Amyria’s side carefully inviting Hagrid to carry the unconscious deva into the
open hall. Dutifully, Ssarina follows the goliath. Only Noe stays on the ship.
As a group they begin entering the hall. Past a pair of heavy towering doors
made of an unrecognizable, but beautiful wood of reddish hue, opens a great hall.
The walls of this entry hall are lined with comfortable looking beds on both
sides for as far as the visitors can see. Whitewood arched doors lead off on
the far side of the hall where it is lit by glowing motes that fill the room
with a cheery light. There are no other patients visible.

 

Finellior asks: “You spoke of vultures Kalad, who were you
talking about?” 

 

“Bahamut’s self-appointed heir, an
arrogant mithral dragon called Dakranad or some such, he claims to have
foreseen all this or some such nonsense, he’s been causing a lot of trouble,
bad things. There has been trouble at Bahamut’s palace. It seems the dragon has
made foul alliances and driven out the palace’s proper custodians; no one has
seen the golds for months, and there is talk that devils have been posting in
Bahamut’s hall, can you imagine?”

 

“What about Moradin, certainly he
wouldn’t stand for such a thing?”
asks the bard.

 

“Aye, he wouldn’t, but then again he
isn’t here, he has left Celestia with Kord and the others, it is said the gods are
convening preparing to fight Tiamat’s expansion, but Moradin didn’t leave his
forge unguarded. He left a shade, an aspect of himself behind to continue his
work here at Torzak-Belgirn."

 

Hagrid lays Amyria upon a bed and quickly the healers circle her
and begin rendering what aid they can. Outside, unseen by any save Noe, two of
the stars reflected on the surface of the Sea of Eternity begin to swell
becoming more distinct like fast moving silvery comets, growing ever larger
until they take on the form of dragons–twin dragons plummeting from on-high;
one of dragons lands between the hall and the ship where Noe watches with
mounting concern, the second lands upon the hall itself. Cutoff for the moment
Noe can only watch.

 

Outside
the dragon’s silver scales glitter brilliantly in the mountain’s light, until
the one standing between Noe and the hall transforms itself into a beautiful
silver-haired elven maiden dressed in the same tribal attire preferred by the
savage elves of Klarn. As Noe watches he becomes convinced that these are the
same dragons that attacked his party when they first arrived in Hestavar, and
he knows this even though he himself wasn’t there.

 


Within the hall,
they hear the bellowing sound of rushing wind pounding out in rhythmic waves again
the roof of grand hall, until suddenly the building shutters only to suddenly
it stop with a final quake, that causes the ground to lurch. A dragon roars
outside of the hall forcefully enough to deafen as all at once the air seems to
flee the chamber replaced by the scent of cut pine as a slight elven maiden, of
silver mane and impossibly flawless beauty enters the hall and says:

 

“I call upon you intruders to this
sacred hall to join me outside that we might finally settle this, for whatever
drives your criminalities, Empyrean’s attendants have done you no ill, nor can
you, in fact, do them any real harm; regardless I assure you there will be no
sanctuary for you within this hall. Comply now and things will go easier for
you. I will not be asking you a second time; your rampage ends here
now at this instant!”   

 

She
turns and walks away, her hair whipping behind her in a silvery wave. Rikar and
Finellior follow her immediately, and Vani and Bingus follow a little way
behind them. Bilgamesh watches as best he can through the colored glass of a
stained window set in the front of the hall while Kalad posts himself in the
doorway, and both Ssarina and Hagrid stay back with Amyria. No longer a
tool of Kas’s Sword, Rikar allows himself a moment of leisure becoming lost in
the graceful motion of the maiden’s backside appreciating the view he ignores
the chill as a frosty wave of mist spills over them from the roof of the hall
as they exit the building. Finellior steals a glance upward and atop the build
he sees the second huge silver dragon perched on the roof of the hall of
healing, twitching anxiously, fearsome of form, its limbs, neck and tail all
looking unduly long in proportion to its body, not in a dramatic fashion, but
enough to give it an unusually disturbing silhouette as it swings its neck
slowing left to right and back again.

 

“Silvara do not waste your time talking to these
villains they must pay for their crime; I will not be denied my vengeance
again!”

 

“A moment more Niflung, there are more yet inside,
including the deva,”
answers the elf. 

      

Finellior
interrupts, “Amyria has no part in this, even if you would wrongly blame
us for Bahamut’s demise she is innocent, what cause have you to threaten her?”

 

“You cannot deceive me mortal, she is your very
reason for being here, you might be able to cover Vecna’s mark beneath a glove,
but you cannot hide your nature from me. I know who you are and why you have
come.”

 

“What is it you think you know?”

 

Silvara’s
form begins to shift; gleaming scales take the place of skin as his sinewy body
expands and wings begin spreading out from her back.



“I know that you
have come hoping to save her, but that cannot be allowed, what you have done
must be undone, the seed she carries must be allowed to grow. She must pass so
that the Father can return!”

 

As
a glimmer of understanding takes root in Finellior’s mind, Rikar steps forward
addressing the dragoness.

 

“I have a question … What would it take to allow me
to take a ride in whichever form you might prefer?”

 

The
claws of the dragon atop the roof convulse involuntarily tearing a hole in the
roof of the hall as the dragon pushes off rising into the sky, dropping enough
to snap his tail at both the halfling and gnome as he launches calling out:

 

Wretched curs, now you will pay for your
transgressions; you are not fit to address her! I will finish that which we
began in Hestavar and this time you will find no sanctuary!” 
 

 

Silvara
spreads her wing in challenge; the full majesty,
regal and statuesque, her
presence momentarily stuns the drow giving him pause as Niflung passes overhead
breathing out a gout of frosty breath powerful enough to freeze the moisture in
the air, making the ground beneath Rikar and Finellior icy, and to chill their
souls. 

 

“Now there will be recompense, but never enough, you
can never pay enough, there is no punishment that severe, only death and
oblivion, I will settle for that!”
rants Niflung.

 

Both
Bingus and Vani had vanished, teleporting away to avoid Niflung’s tail, and
they react quickly. The halfling adopts a defensive posture dividing his nature
into four separate parts to guard against an early demise; his doppelgangers
take positions atop the shorter nearby buildings, those surrounding the scene
of the battle. Bingus focuses his energy into a quick attack using his planar
mastery to thrust the flying dragon into the pocket he designed to imprison his
foes. Niflung vanishes!

 

Seeing
Finellior’s peril, Kalad calls out to the others,
“The bard’s
alone out there gainst a dragon he hasn’t a chance, to his side friends … Now
!”

 

Unable
to resist the charismatic dwarf, both Bilgamesh and Ssarina race outside,
leaving only Hagrid and the attendants guarding Amyria, but Finellior is not
alone behind Silvara, screened by the dragon massive body Noe had joined the
bard, flanking the remaining dragon. 

 

Joining
Silvara, vengeful angels of Pelor rise out of the tallest of the near towers
and dive into the fray, circling Bilgamesh, Noe and closing on Bingus and one
of the Vanis. Bingus vanished as the one of the angel destroys one the first of
four versions of the halfling sorcerer, it vanishes without a trace. Bilgamesh
quickly becomes overwhelmed, but Vani counterstrikes with a barrage of attacks
that destroys two of Bilgamesh’s attackers. Outside the battle rages while
within the hall the lights begin to gutter out starting on the far side of the
healing hall, and moving forward along with the sounds of splintering wood and
cracking stone, echoes from the expanding darkness spreading from the deeper
halls.

 

Kalad
charges rushing past the drow even as Rikar begins to recover his ‘hand’
transforming itself into the shape of a long spear. Finellior backs away, Noe’s
panther Nia appears beside him, but the bard is to slow to avoid Silvara’s
attack; she blasts her opponent with her own frigid breath, catching Kalad,
Finellior, Rikar, Ssarina and the panther … Alone the panther is safe being a
thing of spirit the dragon’s indirect attack has no effect, but the others are
frozen in place. Kalad tries to shield the others, but having already suffered
the attack of Niflung, but Rikar and Fin struggle against all-encompassing cold
of the dragon’s breath. If not for Ssarina might have both fallen, but the
dragonborn paladin is there to save with the healing power, as she lays heal
hand upon them they feel the radiant power of her fallen god healing them,
warming them from the inside out. Bilgamesh disperses his remaining attackers
with a flurry of arrows saving the last for Silvara, driving the magical shaft
deep between the dragon’s eyes. It is not enough to kill her but daze here as
she tries to remove the arrow shaking her here to and fro.

 

Making
matters worse Niflung reappears where he had vanished causing Bilgamesh to back
away, as he does for the first time he notices the dimmed light of the hall and
he spring to the doorway. Within he witnesses a scene of carnage, an attendant
flies through the air and crashes into a wall, leaving a bloody smear, an empty
robe and a silver mask to mark the attendant’s passing; these join those of the
other already so dispatched. Within the hall Hagrid was the only remaining
defender, but he was being overwhelmed by towering devils, and Amyria was
already secured in a net carried by one of a pair of devilish assassins of a
sort seen previously with Guionne. Before Bilgamesh can act the assassin
vanishes and Amyria disappears with it.   

 

Another
of the Vanis leaps off a rooftop tumbling gracefully as he lands and without
pause blasts lightening from his fingertips in all directions several more of
Pelor’s angels vanish while a smattering of others continue their assault, and
another of the sorcerer’s duplicates falls victim to their attack. Bingus
teleports to the safety of another rooftop joining one of the remaining Vanis
and opens another gate near Niflung drawing the dragon inexorably, this time
into the Primordial Chaos full well knowing it would not hold the dragon long,
hoping only to buy a little more time, even as Rikar skewers Silvara once again
upon the end of his spear.

 

From the hall’s
doorway Bilgamesh calls out:
“We are deceived, Amyria has been
taken!”
as
he leaps into the fountain and begins launching arrows at the devils harrying
Hagrid

 

Suffering
through the combined attacks of Noe, Finellior, Ssarina, and Kalad, the dragon
Silvara expels her frosty breath again focusing the worst of it upon the
deadliest of her attackers, the drow ranger Rikar, but at the last moment Kalad
shoves the drow aside taking Rikar place and instead of the drow it is Kalad
who is frozen solid.   

Fixing
his gaze upon Silvara Bingus yells:
“Size of a LIZARD!”

 

Silvara
shrinks until all that is left is a tiny silver lizard, surrounded by towering
heroes of Klarn. As one they begin stamping their feet and stabbing their
weapons into the ground trying to skewer the small reptile. Atop one of the
rooftops Bingus begins to laugh. Until finally Noe pokes the lizard and
suddenly Silvara begins growing, and shifting back to her natural state, her
body begins pushing the heroes back as it expands, but before she can gain her
full size and measure Finellior brings the hilt of his sword down as hard as he
can upon the dragon’s expanding head knocking Silvara senseless before she
regains her full size and power. She collapses, breathing hard.

Niflung
reappears smoldering both in actually and in temperament, and bounds at the
heroes leaving an icy pallet at his point of launch, frost spreads quickly over
Rikar, Noe and Ssarina, but Fin withdraws, and begins taunting the dragon as he
encourages the others to redouble their attacks. Inside the hall Bilgamesh
makes no headway. The four hulking brazen devils from the fiery depths of
Nessus, mercenaries purchased at high price from the Arch-fiend Asmodeus,
blocked any egress to the deeper hall closing off any chance of pursuit. These
horrendous diabolic soldiers dwarf Hagrid, and protected by their hellforged,
brass armor the goliath’s attacks find little leverage against the ferocious
devils. They swarm and batter Hagrid as the goliath tries to push past them, and
opts instead to screen Bilgamesh to the best of his abilities. Then one of the
remaining Vanis joins Bilgamesh and they begin targeting devils individually as
they take cover behind an overturned bed, and finally working together they
bring one of the fiends down.

 

Out
in the courtyard they heroes have greater success. Surround Niflung they begin
to overwhelm the dragon. Noe, Ssarina, and Rikar attack the monster from all
sides while Fin shouts encouragement and Bingus rains down lightning upon both
of the dragons inadvertently blasting the doors off the hall of healing as the
blasts of lightning careen about the courtyard at the gnome’s direction. Before
long the second dragon is defeated, and as group they close in upon the hall,
and with their added power the devil’s blockade collapses, as the devils are
defeated one-by-one.

 

Bilgamesh
quickly explains what had transpired and without any delay or hesitation a race
to find Amyria begins. Quickly they discover that what had seemed like a simple
hall from the outside was in fact a much larger, sprawling maze of rooms,
stairs, and passages. Without a guide, it would be easy to become lost among
the beds and the sterile rooms. Being unfamiliar with the layout they find few
landmarks or signposts to orient themselves, but Rikar notices that the
retreating devils had left a few telltale signs of destruction as they passed
through these halls and these help the shaman find a path through the twists
and turns of the until the arrive at a massive chamber with at least a hundred
doors that scatter across the chamber’s walls, floor, and ceiling. Inspecting a
few of the doors reveals that each is locked, but soon Bingus discern a magical
residue upon one of the doors. Noe inspects and disables the lock, and the pursuit
of Amyria continues.

 

Beyond
the unlocked door they find a steep, winding staircase. Knowing they must hurry
if they were to have any chance of catching the devils, they begin racing up
the stairs. Rikar hesitates long enough to lift and carry Bingus allowing them
to climb quite a bit faster.

 

At
the top of the stairs they arrive at a landing that opens into a short wide
hallway before opening into a larger chamber with an arched 30’ tall ceiling.
In that chamber they find a veritable infernal army defending a strange
platform that fills the far side of the chamber, a strange, dim reddish glow
emulates from the depths behind the platform coloring the walls of the chamber
in dancing, shadows and speckled red light as it sinisterly wells ups from a
pit set behind the platform; atop the platform it illuminates a hulking horned
devil with scaly red hide, and behind it a pair of cambions. Before the
platform stands another of Malsheem’s brazen soldiers with a cadre of lesser
armored warrior, legionnaires standing ready. 

 

Another bronze-armored devil
disappears descending behind the platform into the glow depression; Amyria
carried like a sack under one arm down. Lording over the others the pit fiend
atop the platform flashes a toothy looking your way as others vanish descending
into the light.

 

Still grinning,
the pit fiend growls an out an order using his own infernal tongue, and acting
as one the devils attack. The closest of the cambions reaches out straight
armed grasping at the air causing hellfire to erupt in the air surrounding
Finellior binding the bard and lifting him aloft helplessly into the air. The
second cambion joins in the attack flying down from the platform and launching
a wave of hellfire over Fin. Before Fin’s allies can react, the towering brazen
devil charges into their midst attacking with its massive halberd and engulfing
everyone present in an aura of cloying hellfire. Hagrid breaks through only to
be cut-off by the pit fiend’s battle-hardened legionnaires. Behind this
frontline the pit fiend begins gating in reinforcements hurling flames high
into the chamber with either hand.

 

The
battle rages as Amyria’s kidnappers take advantage, using the time to make good
their escape, frustrated but undeterred the heroes fight back until eventually
they begin to take control and they start pushing the devils back. When the pit
fiend finally falls, the survivors drop back to the raised platform and
continue to fight through until the last cambion is destroyed clearing the
stairs and opening a path to the top of the platform and to that which lies
below it. Beyond the 15-foot tall platform the floor sinks past two sets of
steps leading down into a deeper depression. At the platform’s center, the
first set of steps drop to a landing 15 feet below the top of the platform to a
landing that is even with the rest of the chamber’s floor, but a second set of
step leads further, down another 15 feet and at this final landing there a
shimmering red portal waiting, a gateway leading to the answers the party sought.

 

The
party pauses briefly allowing Bingus a few precious moments to examine the
portal, but the gnome wizard find himself stymied when he finds no sigils to
indicate where the portal might lead. What he can determine is that the portal
is of infernal origin, and the power of the magic used suggested that its
endpoint would be local, forging a path to another location elsewhere within
Celestia. Advising the others Bingus points out that it might lead them into
trap, and no one disagrees; even as the others debate the matter, Hagrid enters
the portal. He emerges on the other side finding himself within the shadow of a
great edifice, the Platinum Dragon’s fastness, at the foot of the gateway to
Bahamut’s palace itself, upon a platform suspended in open space about 30 feet
from the entry to the Bahamut’s Halls of Reflection. 

 


A mighty fortress rises from the
clouds near an outcropping of stone jutting out from the snowy mountain nearby.
Its gleaming walls catch and reflect the mountain’s glowing brilliance. Wide
towers thrust up, competing with the mountain itself for height, a collection
of dizzying ramparts festooned with draconic imagery promising no easy entry to
any would-be assailants. Hagrid’s eyes are drawn away from the palace by a
sultry angelic figure hovering in front of him, support by great,
black-feathered wings which easily hold the pale woman aloft. Unaffected by the
winds buffeting her, long dark hair forms a frame for her face as she gazes
down at the goliath, but as beautiful as she is what most draws Hagrid’s
attention most is the woman’s gleaming red eyes.

 


Slightly awed by
the woman Hagrid asks:

 

“What
is this place? I hope we won’t have to fight you too.”

 

“I see only you, but eyes can be deceiving.”

 

She
spreads her wing and suddenly five additional women appear each as captivating
as the first; they fan out behind her. Activating the magic of his flying boots
Hagrid rises into the air towards the first woman, but she flutters backward
maintaining her distance while the other women begin to circle Hagrid never
taking their eyes off the goliath. Hagrid offers:

 

“You
still haven’t told me about this place, or your purpose here.”

 

At
first there is dead silence and open space … Then she says:

 

“I’m not sure what that might be, but something’s
broken inside of me … I can’t help it, and it’s wrong … But I just can’t wait
to get under your skin.”

 

Her beauty
begins devolving into something far more sinister and a long dark rod with a
glowing tip lit by an unruly arcane fire suddenly extends from her hand. Behind
Hagrid the portal activates again as Rikar and Vani appear. Their beauty gone,
naked and angry, the women attack launching burning bolts of pure fiery power
from their rods as they begin circling and calling out with in wolf-like
screeching howls.

 

Three
of the burning bolts hit Hagrid, and many more strike Vani, almost killing the
halfling; Vani teleports, but the platform is too small to escape the women;
they simply adjust and retarget Vani even as other members of his party arrives.
Finellior and Bilgamesh are next, and immediately Fin calls out encouragement
to the others, quickly lifting the spirits of both Vani and Hagrid. Refocused,
and joined by Bilgamesh, Vani begins fighting back targeting the women with the
destructive power of his spells.

 

Working
together it doesn’t take long for the heroes to drive the women from the skies,
and in the wake of the skirmish Bingus discovers an invisible bridge which
leads to the Halls of Reflection. 

 

The
Platinum Dragon’s palace floats near a spur not far below Mertion’s peak. The
stronghold is massive and awe-inspiring in its grandeur; the travelers
cautiously, deliberately take their time crossing the invisible path.

 

During
Bahamut’s reign, the Halls of Reflection were a place where the God of Dragons
would meditate; monitoring his mortal followers, while planning ways to counter
Tiamat’s constant plotting. It was also a place where Bahamut hid away many of
his precious treasures deep within a vault hidden deep within the heart of this
complex. All the travelers were focused on was on the bridge itself for below
them they could see nothing but open air between them and another courtyard
more than a hundred feet below.  

 

The bridge carries them to a pair of
double doors carved of ash wood and bearing carvings of canaries. Hagrid opens
the doors revealing a modest open-aired courtyard with a balcony ringing the
area, white sand covers the floor with unsettling images etched in its surface:
pentagrams, queer beasts, and worse things drawing Hagrid’s attention away the
promenade above him, but more so than the images, a towering angel,
twelve-foot-tall with silver white hair that was standing in front of Hagrid
had his fullest attention. In his left hand the angel carried a great sword
nearly ten-feet long, and he held it as if it weighted nothing. The angel’s
features darken even as its eyes blaze as it challenges the goliath:

 

“Despoilers,
you dare come here, to Bahamut’s sacred halls uninvited?”

 

 

Bingus
looks to Finellior and whispers, “Do you mind if I handle this?”

 

Finellior
quietly responds … “I’ve got this covered.”

 

“Don’t
screw it up this time”
answers the gnome.

 

Ignoring
Bingus, Finellior addresses the angel: “By your tone I take it you CLAIM to
speak on Bahamut’s behalf, why is it then that we have found devils at your
very doorstep? We on the other hand come here TRULY working on the Platinum
dragon’s interests on a quest for Amyria, Bahamut’s own Scion.”

 

“I
know exact who you are and why you have come.

You
can no longer hide behind your ignorance mortal, here you stand accused, and it
is I who carries the sword of judgment enow! Now at long last your JUDGMENT is
upon you!”

 

“YOU
SHALL NOT PASS!”

 

The
angel explodes with radiant power instantly stunning both Rikar and Finellior.
Bingus lifts his Red Orb of Dragonkind high, and with a flash the angel
disappears. Bingus orders: “See to Fin!” Speaking to no one in
particular and follows Hagrid into the sandy courtyard hoping to examine the sand
etching further when suddenly a pair of wyverns descend from the promenade
flapping their wing mightily destroying the etching; one breathes out a gout of
putrefied toxic smelling breath and the second slashes at Hagrid with its
poison stinger tipped tail. The tail snaps like a whip, Hagrid dives and rolls
away narrowly dodging the attack, and completely obliterating the sand etching
in his escapes.

 

Frustrated,
Bingus teleports atop balcony where he spies out doors set on left side of the
courtyard; their surfaces are carved in bas-relief with a depiction of
Bahamut’s likeness, his claws clutching the metal rings set to open the doors.
Curiosity peeked Bingus moves to the doors and pulls them
open,
and as he does they emulate radiant power as if in objection to his touch, but
the power passes over Bingus with no harm, and within the chamber Bingus sees
an angelic aerie, filled with mediation chambers organized in a cluster past a
seconded circular inset on the floor, another depiction of Bahamut, this one in
tile. Each of the smaller mediation chambers houses a large powerful angels,
each inhuman in their perfection, and holy, righteous and divine in their
demeanor. Somehow Bingus feels comfortable in their presence. One begins
radiating its own aura of brilliant light, as it approaches Bingus speaking
softly, but with great condemnation:

 

“I
am called Armaiti; you are trespassing upon the holiest of the holies, by all
that is right I shall repel you!” 

 

Gracefully
and with unmatchable speed the angel draws its blade and strikes his sword
whistles through the air as he strikes Bingus, easily with a warding
strike. 

 

Displaced
by Bingus’s spell, the Archangel Quoriel struggles against his imprisonment within
the maze-like construction of stairs so familiar to Bingus himself. Within the
gnome’s pocket dimension Quoriel rejected everything he saw, refusing to
participate in the gnome’s construction, declaring it all to be false, shallow
imagery … a parlor trick unfit to deceive him … Just as he had rejected any of
the arguments voiced contrary to his patron Dakranad, the holy mithral dragon
he had guarded since the dragon’s hatching. Quoriel had served the dragon its
entire life and always he had been loyal without question. Bahamut’s death and
Dakranad’s subsequent actions had shaken Quoriel’s resolve and maybe even his
stability but ultimately he stayed true to Dakranad, and he adopted the mithral
dragon’s stated goal of promoting peace and ending the war between Tiamat and
Bahamut as his own, so much so that Quoriel had been included in the judgment
rendered by the Golds when they declared both Dakranad and Quoriel to be
‘fallen’. No longer conflicted and consumed with righteous fury, Quoriel bursts
free of Bingus’s spell reappearing in the middle of the courtyard and begins to
rise hovering chasing after the hated gnome. 

   

Bingus
backs away from Armaiti giving way, as he does he turns his attention back to
Quoriel and quickly casts another charm; Quoriel answers shouting out in
triumph and closes upon Bingus slicing the gnome deeply with his irresistible
power of his massive blade, cleaving Bingus deeply (at least in Quoriel’s
imagining); in reality Armaiti stares back at Quoriel in disbelief forced to withdraw
from the Archangel bleeding after Quoriel’s attack, for the moment cowed as
much by the fury in Quoriel’s eyes as from the power of the Archangel’s attack.
In Quoriel’s mind, he had just struck Bingus and now he had the gnome and his
allies trapped within the aerie where he wanted them, his mind helplessly
twisted by Bingus’s enchantment.

 

Vani
joins Bingus atop the promenade and launches his own magical barrage starting
by conjuring up wrathful vapors, the fill the angels’ aerie with vitriolic miasma
of vapors that explode within the chamber alternately freezing, electrifying,
and scorching the angels within the small mediation retreat, and he follows
that with a primordial storm that finishes off all of the lesser angels leaving
only Quoriel and wyverns opposing them.

 


Hagrid slices upward with his magically forged falchion, a weapon of carnage
relieved from the body of Mornujhar, Tiamat’s black exarch, a wicked blade
combining the
weight and power of a heavy axe with the versatility of a sword; he cleaves one
of the wyverns ripping its belly open, and the monster crashes in its death
throes leaking thick foul smelling gore from its horrific wound on previously
pristine white sands of the courtyard. Then before Quoriel has a chance to
fully recover from Bingus’s enchantment, the gnome casts another spell, another
illusion, a mirrored sphere invisible to the victim within but with the power
to twist space such that the Archangel’s own attacks might be turned against
him. Outside of the sphere beyond the sphere’s magic it was visible as a globe
of light at play around Quoriel, and as he strikes the spell’s light bends
Quoriel’s sword as he strikes out savagely at Bingus, this time combined with a
blast of lightning. The astonishment of the spell’s reversal causes the
Archangel to fall to the ground where he finds Rikar recovered and waiting for
him; the Arrow of Fate becomes a sword used in concert with the black sickle
shaped blade carried by Rikar, a weapon carved from the claw of the Beast of
Monadhan, Rikar tears into his much larger foe. From the perimeter of the melee
Fin sings out encouragement, keeping his allies focused and on point. The Arrow
rips easily and severely into the angel’s flesh. Bilgamesh joins the attack
firing arrows two at a time at both the angel and the remaining wyvern. Hagrid
continues his assault upon the wyverns, cornering the last one with the help of
Ssarina and Noe, and soon both the wyvern and the Archangel fall; the angel’s
torn and bloody body at Rikar’s feet, the wyvern bleeding from a half dozen deep
wounds and pierced by a half-dozen arrows.

 

Joining the others back
down on the now bloody sands, Bingus leans on one of the wooden pillars supporting the promenade, a wooden canary dancing in the wood above his hat, as
he says: “Did you really need to kill him?” commenting on Quoriel’s
demise.  

“Wait
I’m confused.”

says Finellior, his features distorted by his dismay. “You tried to kill the
silver dragon after it had been subdued …”

 

“No
he killed the silver dragon!”
corrects Rikar.

 

“Whatever,
my question is why you would attack an incapacitated dragon and here now you
decree the demise of this angel. Are you mad, or just that perverse
?” ask Fin.

 

“He
just doesn’t want me to be happy. He knows I liked the dragon, she was cold,
but she was hot. He just didn’t want me to have her,”
offers Rikar.

 

Frowning
Bingus answers: “That’s not it at all, the dragons were in the wrong, and
they choose to side against us fighting on Dakranad’s behalf. They sought us out,
this angel didn’t, what is his crime? He was guarding Bahamut’s palace, and he
seemed confused, disturbed. Didn’t you see the drawings in the sand? Angels
don’t share our free will, they are creatures of duty, those that fail become
‘fallen’ that’s the tragedy of it.”

 

“But
won’t he comeback, like the exalted?”
asks Finellior.

 

“No,
he is not ‘exalted’; exalted are mortal spirits that come to the astral
dominions, usually as a reward for a lifetime of service. Here they are living,
corporeal beings exactly as they were in life. However, they become immortal
here. Angels are immortal creatures native to the Astral … This is their world,
when they die here they don’t comeback, but we have to succeed, making some
loss inevitable, but we don’t have to be happy about it. Let’s honor this
angel’s sacrifice by moving on before even more sacrifices become necessary,
Amyria cannot last much longer,”
explains Bingus. 

 

Rikar
says, “She lives.” And points to doubled doors set opposite those they’d
enter in the courtyard.

 

Stymied,
Fin heads to the next set of doubled doors and pulls them open revealing a
grand audience chamber, ancient, domed and massive. A place where Bahamut spent
much of his time within these Halls of Reflection; the chamber he would use
when meeting with visiting petitioners, his throne room.

 

 


 

A massive rocky throne rests on the
side opposite the entrance behind a twenty-foot-tall colossus of metal, a
statue of a powerful female warrior, bearing the sword of justice. Its hand
rests atop the hilt of the gigantic sword the point of which had been driven
into the stone of floor at its point. At the throne’s base, lit candles
surround a platinum disk engraved with Bahamut’s likeness. Light shines through
windows piercing the ceiling illuminates four flying angels hovering overhead.
Fin calls to them:

 

“Do
we really need to battle again; we come seeking a friend, nothing more?”

One
of the angels descends, not quite all the way to floor but a level far below
the others; hovering in front of the bard it answers: “Welcome Finellior, we know why you have come.”

 

“People
keep saying that, but sometimes I’m not even sure myself. Why do you think we
are here?”

 

“He told me you would say that, and
that you are here to save your friend, but she is already lost to you. She has
served her purpose with valor and grace, and she has accepted her fate. You
should as well, using what time you have left to you to make what amends for
your own failings.” 

 

“We
have always fought for what is right, for justice!”

 

“Is that why you bear Vecna’s Eye … Is
it a reward for your righteous service? You can hide it beneath a glove, and
perhaps even deceive yourself, but not us. Not one who can see into the very
nature of your soul.”

 

“I
never asked for that!”

 

“No, but you did earn it mortal … Even
now you ally yourself with the mortal who delivered our Lord’s death knell. You
protect and nurture him; he could never have succeeded without you. Evil done
out of ignorance is evil none the less, human evil, but there is another type …
evil everlasting, primary evil. I wonder will you shy away from that. Were you
not warned by the good people, even those you consider your friends to carefully
consider your choices. You have great power mortal, but have you the wisdom to
weld it responsibly? Or will you, as you already have, fail in your hubris to
seek out worthy council while keeping to your own pity concerns rather than the
greater good? This is why you find yourself accused.”

 

“Wait,
wait … Hold on for a moment, we didn’t kill Bahamut!”     

 

“He who did stands behind you now, do you still deny
this?”

 

“If
you’re talking about Bingus, he was with me the whole time, he didn’t do it …
It was his brother.”

 

“Finellior you have never chosen to
understand, and this may be your greatest failing. Bingus and his brother are
one in the same; your friend has told this time-and-again himself. To his
credit he does not deny it, I call on you to take pause to ask yourself why
then should you? Truthfully your flaw is your pride, pride that leads you to
despair ignoring that which is plain and true … Like the glove that cover the
Eye upon your hand, pride has blinded you to the truth.”

 

Bingus
interjects: “It’s funny that you mention time, because I do feel as if this
has played out previously, and every time this part is the same. Regretfully,
we fight our way through you.” 
Without further warning Bingus
attacks, casting a spell quickly … A swarm of tiny pitch forks flies from his
hand piercing the angel which bursts in the brilliant display only to
reincarnate high above within the chamber’s dome, the radiance of her outburst
collapses upon her angelic allies forming protective shields about them.

 

The statue roars
to life, voicing a powerfully, resonating battle cry deep at a psychic level
with enough power to vibrate the stonework of the chamber:

 

“JUSTICE
WILL PREVAIL!”

 

The
force of the statue’s pronouncement is of such power that it throws most of the
party into a hasty retreat. Too stunned to flee Rikar collapses to the ground.
Only Hagrid manages to charge forward but he too is easily batted aside by the
colossus. Having withdrawn to the courtyard, Vani and Bilgamesh coordinate
their efforts upon the shielded angels. 

 

Ssarina
and Noe rush to Hagrid’s side drawing the ire of the statue, it swings it blade
high over its head slashing downward with enough force to split the stone floor
beneath them; the heroes separate diving to either side as Hagrid rises and
pushes against the statue with all of his might incredibly driving the statue
back half a step with the force of his charge. He holds the statue at bay long
enough for Rikar to recover; he joins Hagrid flanking the statue the two
warriors begin to coordinate their efforts.

 

As
always Fin is there joining in occasionally, alternately shouting taunts or
encouragement, always aiding any friend who might begin to show doubt or
falter. The angels fall quickly to the combined efforts of Vani, Bilgamesh and
Bingus freeing them to add their power to that of the warriors battling the
statue and soon it too is soon destroyed; it falls in several large pieces,
some charred, some slashed, and others coated in bubbling acid, only the
statue’s sword is intact. Hagrid tries to lift it, but his efforts are in vain,
but then he notice soon of the other items left within the chamber. He finds
hundreds of platinum pieces spilled about the floor, and seven gold dragon
statuettes on display throughout the chamber (together worth as least 180,000
gold pieces, but he takes only one), and in a font a fine sparkling water,
which turns out to be a fabled potion of life powerful enough to restore life
to a falling friend.

 

Bingus
busies himself with the seal beneath the throne, a shining platinum disk, ten
feet in diameter that stands in the center of a stone throne’s rocky dais.
Using his magical prowess he circumvents the seals magical wards, and finds it
easy to open after the statue’s defeat. Opening the way he precedes through the
exposed passage way, a ten foot wide, circular tunnel carved into the living
rock.

 


After twenty
feet or so the tunnel ends in doubled door that opens to a rear gate off to the
left and into a dark hall on the right and soon the others join him, the gnome
opts to head to the right through the statue lined hall. Quietly, they move
through this hall that appear at first to serves as a memorial, and later as a
reminder to how far they had come. On either side of the hall all the greatest
mortal champions who died sacrificing their lives in Bahamut’s cause appeared.
These statues depicted humans, dragonborn, elves, as well as members of other
races, some recognized, and some not. As the visitors move stealthily through
the hall the statues begin to shift, changing form, cycling through the
countless mortals who had died in Bahamut’s service. As they walk some of the
party members begin to recognize old friends among the statuary: Jimmy the
Clevenger, one of the founding members of Brindol’s Brigade; Ramok the Goliath,
Hagrid’s own son; Theron the Healer, who had died horribly in Sarshan’s
Obsidian Tower over the Sea of Fire, Zed of the North, father of the
Restorationists, Math and Garth Helm; Vani’s cousins, the famed halfling
adventurers, Wes and Dell Corrin, sometimes called Knick and Knack, and finally
Governor’s Torrance’s son, Ian Whitestone. After about fifty feet the hall ends
teeing into a new hall. This new hall laments as the mountain winds waxes and
wanes in an endless cycle giving life to the moans and sighs of the hall.

 


Bingus
cautiously peers about the corner of the hall of champions and discovers that
approximately thirty feet down to the right side of the second hall it abruptly
ends, descending into a sunken alcove with holds a platinum dragon, or at least
a statue of a platinum dragon. It stands upon a pedestal in a cramped alcove’s
center, but even so the statue was huge, tall enough to tower over Hagrid
standing nearly twenty-five feet tall, a wing outstretched and eyes a glitter
with a soft blue light.

 

Fearful
of approaching any closer, Bingus summons his familiar, the tiny dragonling and
sends it forward to investigate. Almost immediately the familiar is attracted
to a strange, many-faceted gem in the center of the statue’s chest; it pulses
white light slowly like a calmed heartbeat, but then suddenly something on the
ground distracts the familiar, and quickly it drops to the feet of the statue,
momentary disappearing in the sunken alcove. The thing it finds on the ground
is a piece of flesh, a severed arm of unusual hue, with long dark nails and a
sulfuric smelling residue which betrays the meat’s fiendish origin. The
familiar struggles with the item bringing it into view, the cleanly severed arm
of a devil seared and sliced neatly above the elbow.

 

Bingus
creeps just five more feet before the dragon shutters, and the gem in its chest
explodes with searing brilliance that on another day might have killed the
gnome, but ever since his merging with his brother Bingus’s found that his
power had multiplied transcendently, a thing he hadn’t spoke of much but he
that had discovered. Truthfully now he found he could endure almost anything
without harm, just as he often now found himself capable of doing things he’d
never imagined he could. Here once again, this new power had saved him, but the
gnome was still stunned by the sheer power of the explosion itself. Bolting
forward, Hagrid grabs Bingus by the scruff of his collar and hurls him back
forcefully all the way down the hall well past the intersection trying to
remove the gnome from harm’s way, and then suddenly the hulking construct is
upon him sinking 8-inch razor sharp claws deep into Hagrid’s flesh. Painfully
the dragon begins dragging Hagrid down the hall as it continues to pursue the
others.      

 

Rikar
step into the center of the hall hoping to bar the mechanical dragon’s path,
but it breathes out a cloud of misty breath that stuns the drow as it
transforms him into a fine mist that the metal dragon passes through without
resistance as it closes on the intersection of the halls. Before the construct
arrives Bilgamesh darts down the left end of the hall crouching in front of
Bingus guarding the gnome, allowing him a chance to recover.  Ssarina bars
the hall of champions shielding the others with her body as Noe stabs at
Bahamut’s likeness behind her using an powerfully enchanted wooden spear. In
the confusion Hagrid wiggles free and takes a position between the statue and
its cubby, and all at once the heroes attack the platinum dragon from all sides
until the gemstone heart of the golem, the Eye of Bahamut begins to shatters
and then ultimately fails, burst with one final epic explosion of power that
tosses heroes down every hall. In the explosion’s wake the metal dragon
collapses, several tons of twisted, smoldering platinum.  


When
Bingus recovers he wastes no time, slinking past the wreckage of the statue to
explore the construct’s abandoned alcove, and he is followed closely by
Finellior and Hagrid. As they arrive, they examine the severed arm, its fingers
still writhing like a dying spider, beyond it in the bottom of the alcove they
see a large hole fifteen feet wide which had been exposed by the statue’s
departure.

 


The hole in the floor opens into a much
larger chamber. Directly below the opening there is a dais some thirty feet
below; steps lead down from that dais into a much larger gallery where more
daises are spread haphazardly throughout the chamber, each glowing, and holding
oddities or treasures. And there are also visitors within the treasury, earlier
arrivals, they include one hulking fiendish warrior clad in heavy plate armor
and a pair of cambions, one of them missing an arm and the second with Amyria
hung unconscious over his shoulder, but the most interesting figure of them all
is a tall, slender male with grayish, diabolic features dressed in flowing
attire of rich red and gold silk and an overlay of dark meticulously crafted
armor. He sports a smooth head, his brow topped with sharp curved horns, and he
stands upon cloven hooves and has a long pointed tail that fits well with his
pointy black goatee. In his left hand he carries an iron rod that is sculpted
to resemble a fanged serpent which he carries proudly like a badge of office.

 

Spotting
Bingus his says:

 

“Ah,
we meet again, and now we are all labeled villains, denizens of dark cause. I
dare say in many people’s eyes you have surpassed even my own infamy, now
cloaked in the blackest of shadow. I’m afraid we are all fallen now, yet here
we are soaring through heaven’s skies upon our raven’s wings, a pack of wolves
preying upon the heartless and misled of the heavens, they and those
descendants of the dragon’s blood who seem inclined to lay claim to the mantle
of dead Bahamut.”

 

“And why are we so marked? … Can it be
because we have dared to explore the mysteries of the unseen, to find answers
to questions dear to ourselves and our purposes? Do you find it as ironic as I
that we find ourselves drawn together on the same side of things here and now,
that in some ways, maybe most ways we are now finally united in our thinking?”

 

“Does it not appear that Fate has
deemed it that we should be working together, that we have been granted this
opportunity to clear the air? Let’s not stand on formality then; I am willing
to move past any unnecessary ill will, even to forgive your earlier trespass if
you can find it within yourselves to put aside your own prejudices in favor of
resolving the larger matters at hand. Let us dispel any such discourtesies and
not allow them to hamper this reunion, firm in the knowledge that together we
can accomplish great things, such as vanquishing a common foe.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


“I
imagine you are here looking for the vessel. Amyria is her name, correct? I am
open to discussing her fate, and maybe we can work something out, but before we
start you need to understand circumstances as they are and accept that for now
she is mine in every way meaningful way. As you see, I possess her, and you
should know that she was freely sold to me in payment for services I rendered to
a power greater, one with more authority than you. I grant that this might be
difficult for you to accept, but I assure it is the nature of barter here. If
you find it more palpable, you can think of her as recompense for your own
theft of Gith, and regardless, it doesn’t need to be an issue as I don’t see
why we shouldn’t be able to work something out between us. I myself am willing
to forsake my claim on the girl in fair trade and if I can help you achieve
your goals as well so much the better, should I go on?”

 


A quiet debate
between Klarn’s heroes follows, whispers really with but one consensus that
being that Dispater was in fact in control of the situation which left them no
choice but to listen if they were to have any chance of saving their friend.
Finellior nods his head in agreement and asks:

 

“Wouldn’t we need to sign in blood or
something like that?”

 

Dispater
grins wryly and answers: “I would prefer to
drink on It.”
and approaches without threat producing a flagon from
which he share a swig of fine ale with Hagrid, Bingus, Rikar, Bilgamesh and
Finellior, only Vani and Ssarina wave the offer off, and no one notices that
Noe had gone missing. The Dispater continues: “Your
true foe is a mithral dragon named, Dakranad. He was Bahamut’s own historian
and first among his counselors before the fall. Like all his ilk, Dakranad is
gifted with the ability to see into the future, any future but his own. It is
said that he is especially gifted, gifted enough so to cause all manner of difficulties
as he now seeks to take Bahamut’s place. He has used Amyria’s arrival to
engineer circumstances such that others have been willing to help him accomplish
his goal.”

 

“First among them, he needed her to
convince Moradin that he had the means to reconstitute the Grandfather of
Dragons. This vessel
(indicating Amyria) carries
the sole remaining essence of Bahamut within her and Dakranad has leveraged
this bit of insight to convince Moradin’s proxy to produce a Creation Spark
necessary for his ascension. While we dally, he is already on his way to Moradin’s
Soulforge where he hopes to obtain this seed of divinity. You can still stop
him but you will have to find a way to convince Moradin’s proxy of Dakranad’s
treachery, and I can take you there now; succeed I could be convinced to surrender
my claim upon your friend’s soul in exchange for the Creation Spark and until the
exchange takes place, I will happily guard her with all my power free of charge.
I would simply wait for you outside of the Soulforge. All you have to do is
deliver the Creation Spark to me and she is yours.”

 

“If we were interested in making
another Asmodeus of you we might even consider that, but since we need the
spark for Bahamut’s restoration I think we’ll have to pass,”
answers Fin. 

 

 “Ah, so you wish drive a harder
bargain. Wise, I can appreciate that, clearly then you mean to restore Bahamut
then; very well, but at least hear out this counter offer.”

 

“I will surrender my claim on the
vessel, Amyria and help you stop Dakranad for a mere bauble, the Arrow of Fate,
a trinket you no longer need … This way we would all win, you rescue the girl and
you can still stop Dakranad, and possibly even restore Bahamut to power; all
you have to do is find it within yourselves to forsake your own greed … What is
your answer?”

 

There
is a quiet gasp within the chambers as the party’s eyes turn towards Rikar, the
keeper of the Arrow of Fate; Fin freezes unconsciously holding his breathe, but
then Bingus breaks the silence.

 

“Master Devil, we worked hard to acquire the Arrow
of Fate with the understanding that we would need it to complete our mission. Perhaps
we could barter with it, but not now, not until our mission here is completed.
Surely you could wait until then couldn’t you?” 

 

“Hmm, an interesting offer, and truth
said I too would prefer to see Dakranad fail … Of course there would be no
exchange until you surrendered the Arrow of Fate and I suspect you will need the
woman to accomplish your goal. I suppose I could guard the vessel just a little
longer for you while you to pursue your own goals, or you could just give me
the Arrow now and we could all be on my way; I assure you really shouldn’t need
it any longer, but if you insist, I don’t see why I couldn’t wait. As I already
pointed out, I already have the vessel.” 

 

“Understood, but I still believe my friends would
feel better if we hold on to the Arrow of Fate for now … You said you could
take us to the Soulforge?”

 

 

Torzak-Belgirn

 

Steam
clouds lift joining the ever-present mists that conceal Solania’s zenith, yet
no matter how dense they grow light always finds a way to flash through its
murky haze hinting at the wonders being created there inside Moradin’s forge.

 

Solania
is also known as the Rainfather, named after its storms and the dense clouds
which surrounded it producing the waterfalls that spill down from top of the rich
mountain’s dizzying heights down to its vales. The mountain houses the God
Moradin and his servants, within the corridors and chambers that riddle the
mountain’s interior, some little more than crude caverns and others sumptuous
halls built at the highest standard of dwarven engineering. One could spend ten
lifetimes exploring these chambers and never see them all, but what astonishing
discoveries one might find in these endless passages are mirrored in the
innovation displayed within the dwarven enclave called Torzak-Belgirn.

 

Torzak-Belgirn
is the city built near the Rainfather’s peak it spreads across metal platforms
built in scores. It is a place where creation’s greatest artisans’ labor over
hot forges to produce not only the finest arms and armor, but also wondrous
machines, innovative vehicles, and constructs sized from tiny insects to
giant-sized colossal centurions. The work they perform here is not a requirement;
its workers are not slaves. Those who toil there do so for the love of their work
and also to honor the god who gives them the intellect and desire to create.
The city atop the mountain would be an interesting enough reason to lure any
inquisitive mind to Celestia if just to marvel at its creations, but we had
other reasons to search out Rainfather … Based on information we had been given
by Dispater we came to the mountain home of the All-Father seeking out the Creation
Spark necessary to complete Amyria’s ascendance making Bahamut’s return
possible.

 

         
From
Finellior’s Tales of the Heavens


 

 

 

 

Without another
word Dispater lowers the head of his rod into his free hand and suddenly the
crown of his head is lost is brilliant display of fire as a dark haze begins to
swirl above him; it grow wider with each spin, until it expands enough to encompasses
the entirety of the treasure vault and everyone within it, and then the
treasury is no more!

 

In
its place a mighty waterfall appears, a fall named Rainfather’s Beard tumbling
down the side of the fourth of Celestia’s heavenly mountains, Solania, not be the
tallest mountain in Celestia but a foreboding peak all the same, its severe
character revealed in its rocky slopes; from the break evergreen forest
blanketing its lower altitudes, to the sheer cliffs, jagged spurs, and
treacherous ravines oft times dressed by waterfall such as the one here which concealed
the hidden entrance to the Moradin’s Soulforge. Unbeknownst to the new arrivals,
the concealing waterfall was not the Soulforge’s only defense. During the Dawn
War, Moradin had defeated many foes, but one who he spared was mighty storm
titan Oceanus. In exchange for its life, the titan agreed to serve the god for
ten thousand years and the storm titan still laired here within the large pool formed
within bowled palms of two enormous stone hands carved into the side of Solania.
And Oceanus had been tasked with the protection of the Soulforge to which he
denied anyone access without Moradin’s express invitation. Having
appeared at the site, Dispater says:

 

“The Soulforge lies behind yonder
fall, and as I said, I do hope to see Dakranad fail. The vessel is safe in my
care, we will wait here while you pursue Dakranad, and no harm shall befall
her. Godspeed then, you will find us here upon your return.”

 

The Dispater
stands on one side of the pool with Amyria and the rest of his entourage upon a
small green meadow while Finellior and the rest of Klarn’s heroes appear on a
second outcropping of grass on the opposite side of the pool.  

 

Almost
as if answering Dispater’s call, the titanic humanoid Oceanus rises from his
lair at in the center of the palms, and sends waves crashing over in the larger
pool below, causing its banks to overflow into yet another pool far below. The
titan has blue skin and a bald head. It wears a finely crafted shoulder piece
forged of mitral, and a mask crafted of the purest platinum. The titan bellows
out a challenge using its own Primordial tongue:

 

“Mortals believe what you will, say what you have come to
say; it will matters not for I do not care! No one will ever hear of you again,
and when I am done with you, you will be no more!” 

 

“This makes no sense, we are here to
speak to Moradin not you whoever you are. The fate of the cosmos hangs in the
balance. You will have to answer to Moradin himself for this indignity when he understands
our purpose. There is no reason for you to oppose us!” …
replies
Finellior using the titan’s own Primordial language.

 

“Very well mortal, since
you are so confident in your message, then you and you alone shall carry it,
but your allies will wait here with me.”

 

“Very well, titan and if I
agree to your terms, but with the caveat that you take no actions against my
friend until such a time as I return, and only then after Moradin has heard my
request.”

 

“Mortal you have no
power here at all and less over me …

My tasks are written in
antiquity, not by the likes of you; I guard the way, and none pass without my
leave.

Go now or find your way forever
barred …

For I’ve no interest in
you or your companions or in the happenings beyond this pool of tears,

Those who stay clear of the
waters of Solania have naught to fear from me.”

 

“Then I will be on my way, and I will
bother you no more.”…  
Finellior leaps into the sky and begins running on
air using magic he’d learned after a great deal of cajoling from Mendelland’s
master thief Luven Lightfinger during one of the bard’s sabbaticals from his
tutelage within Mendelland; the power allows him to walk through the open air
above the pool long enough for Fin to quickly bow to the titan in a polite if
mocking fashion before he disappears through the waterfall.

 

At the edge of the pool the
cool mountain air is crisp and cold as the tension is thick with opposing
forces gathered on either side of pool upon the grassy knolls set there. The runoff
from the pool drops over hundred feet before forming a second pool far below. Seemingly
content to wait the Dispater offers nothing, and all but ignores the titan; he
waits quietly surrounded by his small cadre of devils: the hulking body guard
who held Amyria’s unconscious body, and his pair of cambion servants, one with
the severed hand and the other still whole. On the second knoll on the opposite
side of the pool waited Bingus, Rikar, Vani, Bilgamesh, Ssarina and Hagrid;
even now no one had noticed that Noe had gone missing and he had now shown up
with the others after the Dispater had transported them here, not that anyone
had noticed.
 

 

On
the other side of the waterfall, Finellior found himself within a damp 20’ wide
passage that sunk deep towards the heart of the mountain and he wasn’t alone; spread
out below him waited an aggressive herd of flesh-eating, bull-like gorgons; monsters
with armored hides composed of interlocking metallic plates; they were angry
and restless, each puffing plumes of raw elemental power from their maws, their
eyes ablaze with murderous intend. Lightning was effortlessly being shed by
their bodies; it played between them bouncing harmlessly from one from another
and back again. Fin had already passed several head of these creature before he
realized what was happening, all at once they began to rise floating into the
air as effortless as the lightning had sprang from them; they filled the space
where Finellior had passed blocking any retreat, and then they start moving
forward. Finellior withdraw as quickly as possible as the gorgons begin pushing
forward. Fin counts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and finally 6 … Realizing he is badly
outnumbered, he begins a full retreat, each gorgon was at least 4000 pound of
fury topped by a serious set of horns; they gave the bard no choice. Soon the
passage began to curve and curve again ending in a descent into a larger cavern
that was dressed with ceiling covered by sharp stalactites. Fin tries to shout
out a warning, afraid that no one would hear him, but Bingus had prepared for them
this possibility having set up a magical link between himself and Finellior
prior to the bard’s departure; still outside the gnome wizard quickly warns the
others informing them of the titan’s treachery as still inside, Fin begins his
descend into the larger chamber the way lit by the fiery glow of red veins that
wormed through the cavern’s stone walls. These strange veins shed a modicum light,
enough for Fin’s half-elven eyes.

 

Outside,
taking heed of Bingus’s warning, and angered by the titan’s growing grin
Rikar’s asks: “Why do you smile so giant? Have we amused you in some way,
because I don’t think you funny in the least.”
Rikar also speaks using
the Primordial language; purposely calling the titan a giant in the hope that
he might insult him, as he does, he also silently signals Bilgamesh to stand ready
using a silent drow hand signal glibly. 

 

Annoyed,
the titan answers, his eyes narrowing and answering Rikar through tighten jaw
he growls:  
“Your
friend is lost, dead or dying, are you so anxious to join him?”

 

Stepping into
the

large, dark, wet chamber, Fin listens as moisture drips … plop … plop … plop …
off the stalactites the sounds playing out in an uneven beat throughout the series
of grouped chambers before him. The gorgons had suddenly halted their pursuit
and they seemed reluctant to cross the threshold of this larger cavern which
gives Finellior greater pause as he notices something other than the water
dripping from the ceiling. He notices something large moving quietly through the
darkness, an even darker shadow heavy enough to send a tremor through the
cavern’s floor. He squints his eyes as he tries to pierce the darkness until finally
he perceives the thick heavy body of a massive black serpent, or more
accurately a group of huge serpents advancing towards him. Again unconsciously
he begins to count 1, 2, 3, 4, and finally 5 heads slithering toward him, hissing
out in quiet outrage as they neared. Then as a group pulls their heads all at
once preparing to strike and Finellior realizes that he is facing not of group
of serpents, but rather one huge black-skinned hydra, the monster stares back
at him through five sets of beady black eyes, its dark body still mostly hidden
in the cavern’s shadows. As dismay takes hold, the bard quickly reverses course
and heads headlong back towards the massed gorgons just as Rikar appears within
the entry passage effectively trapping the gorgons between them. Outside the
others were busy engaging the titan, but Rikar had used his root gate to gain
access to the mountain’s interior hoping to aid Fin from whatever ambush had
developed.

 

The
gorgons start bleat out the stuff of storms, filling the passage with lightning
and deafening cracks of thunder. Outside, back at the pool’s edge, the gorgons’
display sets the waterfall ablaze with intense bright explosions of primordial energy.
The fighting both inside the passageway and outside at the pool was bedlam. The
titan’s own attacks mirror those of the gorgons as he fills the entire outer
area, the pool, the knolls and beyond, with a cloud of dancing lightning, thunder
crack, and overpowering winds that threatening to blow all of the travelers
from their perches upon the small mountain landings. Both within and without,
the heroes rally their efforts hoping to overcome their foes quickly that they
might reunite. Through it all, Dispater ignores the chaos content to shield
himself and his party behind a great molten wall of iron as he waits for the
battles to play out, protecting his captive Amyria. Ultimately, Oceanus falls
first, his own attacks largely stymied by the magical prowess of Bingus, while
Vani rains down primordial destruction and Bilgamesh attacks more surgical
using his arrows all the while defended by Hagrid, and Vani heals them when
necessary. Eventually the titan falls melting away into his pool allowing those
still outside to move in and join the others.   


   

 


In their own
fashion, Fin and Rikar were as successful as the others, with Fin’s
encouragement Rikar had begun to scythe through the gorgons, even before the
others joined him, and as they defeat the gorgons a debate ensues within the
tight confines of the passageway as the heroes try to concoct a means by which
to pass the hydra. They had
fought a similar
creature in Monadhan and it had almost ended them there, and this one here was just
a large and appeared likely to be even more deadly than the Monadhan hydra. It
displayed a quiet confidence, and its movement revealed something of the monster’s
density and power. Unbeknownst to them, it had a name, Mogul the Undying, and
it was indeed ancient horror. Moradin had been keeping it here as a warning and
a trophy since he subdued and captured this most deadly of hydras. Moradin had
laired the hydra here adding yet another layer to the Soulforge’s protection,
and guarding it against anyone who might seek to misappropriate its power. The
hydra had earned its nickname ‘The Undying’ due to its incredible ability to
resist straight head-on attacks, a gift granted to it by the orcs’ God Gruumsh
in hopes of waylaying Moradin during one of their many battles. This power
allowed the hydra to instantly heal from any attack it saw, and given its many
heads and the fact that it regrew two heads for one destroyed, Gruumsh had
managed to give rise to one of deadliest beasts in the all creation. Attacking
the monster head-on was suicidal; a fact yet unknown to the heroes of Klarn. Tired
of delay Rikar screens himself from everyone beneath a veil of invisibility using
the magic of one of his rings, and then silently began making his way down the
step which led into the lower cavern without anyone noticing; he works his way
past the hydra and then suddenly opts to attack the monster from behind inadvertently
exposing Mogul’s one weakness; the monster quickly spins and attacks the
suddenly visible drow snatching Rikar up in one of its powerful jaws and
lifting him high into the air where it quickly snaps down a second set of jaws
upon him and together they begin to rend Rikar’s flesh.

 

Shock
spreads through the still debating members of the party as suddenly realize
what Rikar had begun. Quickly the turn their attention to the hydra and begin
attacking without any further debate. Having turned on the drow, Mogul had
exposed its back to the rest of Rikar’s allies making him vulnerable to their
attacks; Hagrid and Ssarina charge while Vani, Bingus and Bilgamesh attack from
where they are. Given the scope of their power and the urgency with which they
use it they quickly stagger the hydra allowing Rikar to break free. Outflanked
and surrounded the hydra’s vulnerability stays in play, and it is only a matter
of time before the heroes eventually defeat Morgul. Ssarina, Hagrid and Rikar
all suffer grievous injuries during the battle but given the enormous reservoir
of healing magic displayed by Finellior’s they hold on long enough to lay the
hydra down for good.

 

After defeating the hydra they move through the
cavern heading south where they enter into a finished chamber. Within the
square chamber they find four grim statues each carved to resemble dwarven
warriors resting their stony hands on the handles of axes slung head down in
front of them leveraged at their feet. They each are dressed in helmets which
cover their faces, and their long beards cover their armored chests. Each waits
in one of the room’s corners. The walls between the statues move and writhe as
if they are alive; faces and images swim up from swirling mass of stone to
stare at each visitor with unmasked menace only to fade back into the stone
walls of the chamber as another face takes its place, some of these are beatific,
and others are monstrous; they include visages of dragons giants, demons and
devils; all-in-all, they form a strange parade of imagery with no apparent end
or reason, and no specific threat.

 

Staring
at the frightening display Bingus recognizes several the faces as those belonging
to some of Moradin’s most legendary enemies which leads the gnome to declares
the room to be a ‘Hall of Grudges’, an assertion that Finellior takes objection
with:   

 

“You can’t be right Bingus; Moradin
is a goodly god, surely not the vindictive heel you make him out to be.”

 

 Bingus
replies: “I think your own arrogance might be betraying you my old friend,
while you are to be certain, a wise and true friend, you should keep in that
you are but a mortal man, and a young one at that! You should try not paint everything
with your own oft-times petty understanding of things; further, you should be
big enough to understand that not everything and everyone in creation agrees
with you. Try to expand your understanding of things, rather than trapping
yourself within your own framework of prejudices. For example now, allow
yourself to imagine that I might know Moradin at little bit better than you;
possibly considering that I have known him a great deal longer than you. That
said, I agree, you’re mostly right as you speak of his ‘goodly’ nature; at
least as I expect that you imagine it, but he is very much the iconic dwarf you
would expect, and trust me, he knows how to hold a grudge. No, we shouldn’t be
in too much of a hurry to cross him, not if we know what is good for us.”

 

“What do you mean you know him?”

 

“Oh that’s becoming clearer to me by the second, clear
enough anyhow; let’s just as I say, I know him; if fact, I feel like I have
known the All-Father forever, a kindred spirit he is, a friend, nothing more,
nothing less.”   

 

“Whatever Bingus, I fear it’s you who
are finally getting to be as a crazy as ‘your brother’ may all the gods forbid
that I should ever meet him again”

 

Beyond
the Hall of Grudges they continue south and turn east through a marvelously
finished hall of perfectly cut stone until the hall ends in a set of sealed
double doors equally meticulously crafted of steel. Hagrid tests the doors and surprisingly
finds them unlocked but warm to the touch.

 

Godsworn Warriors

 

Having lent most of
defenders to the ongoing defense of creation before he left himself to convene
with the other gods to craft their response to this time of war and turmoil, Moradin
had few options left among those servants that remained as decided which to
leave guarding the Soulforge; it the end those he left behind were powerful
even if they were only a token force, and whether they be monsters he’d subdued
or constructs he fabricated himself, each of them would prove to be savagely
effective and earnest in their defense of the Soulforge and their willingness
to attack anyone who intruded here.

 

As
Hagrid opens the door and reveals the next chamber they see a
large room,
easily sixty feet across with a tall ceiling, within which they find a looming
hulk of iron armed to the teeth carrying a cruel blade connected to a heavy
chain, with two heavy massive bruiser style constructs waiting for them. The
bashers are almost as large as the iron golem, and they standing on either side
of a flaming pit set in the center of the chamber. There are also three
platforms built high within three of the chamber corners, two of these hold stone
statues depicting dwarves, but the third holds a low aligned, bug-like
construct the upper body of which is dominated by an overlarge ballista.

 

The
constructs move to attack as soon as the doors open animating immediately. The
largest begins scraping its exaggerated dire flail in an frightening way across
the stone floor and then starts spinning the blade-ended chain with impressive
speed, the heavy forked blade causes a deathly whirling sound as the golem
nears, and just before closing t
he iron juggernaut blasts
out
a
cloud of toxic gas that catches the majority of the party as it hurls into
Hagrid and Ssarina keeping them at bay with the horrible spinning blade and a
great shield it carries. The two bruisers join its assault

giving the iron golem a wide berth and then approaching from either side and
taking
positions both on the golem’s left and right boxing in the party’s most
powerful defenders. Rikar tries to escape slipping past, but the elevated
bolter clips the drow pinning him to the wall, and one of the bashers starts
pummeling Rikar with a berserker’s fury smashing at him with a stone fist that
weighs more the Rikar himself. The ranger breaks free and the Arrow of Fate
transforms into a heavy maul that shatters the construct’s arm; the arm falls
to the ground reforming into a strange clockwork that continues to attack Rikar
with renewed ferocity. Rikar strike the bruiser’s protégé and it explodes lucky
throwing Rikar beyond the reach of the iron golem, he rolls to his feet and
begins sprinting across the chamber. Throughout the melee the elevated bolter had
continued to rain down impaling bolts, one after another, and it became Rikar’s
target. The drow toss-up a magical rope and starts to climbs up to the bolter’s
ledge, and eventually destroys it allowing the others the freedom to focus
their efforts on the chamber’s other engines of destruction. In the end,
Klarn’s defenders rally at the expense of their bodies, and having exhausted their
remaining healing magic. Bloodied, exhausted, and drained of resources, the battle-worn
warriors have little choice but to proceed past the chamber of the godforged
warriors.  


 

 


Unbeknownst to the
invaders, a score of Moradin angels still waited for them in the chamber beyond;
a full score, sixteen of Moradin’s most valorous angels led by four higher angels
of supremacy. They all positioned themselves between the travelers and
Moradin’s aspect in the Soulforge beyond the bridge hovering high in the darken
heights of the chamber beyond, hidden by shadow. Together they were meant to be
an unbeatable force, and they were dead-set on ending the mortals’ invasion of
Moradin’s Soulforge. They hovered silently over a narrow bridge of white, built
like a catwalk which traversed this final hall, suspended over a 200 foot deep
chasm; the last defense of the Soulforge standing testament to the importance
which Moradin placed on this site.

 

The
Soulforge was but one of several sites within Celestia that were connected together
by a power called the Crucible of Light, an ancient fount of creation’s energy from
which all things were possible. It was here that Moradin fashioned his greatest
creations, drawing energy from this roiling source to fueling his forge and
imbuing its creations with power beyond the scope of imagining. He placed a
little of its power into everything he made, every good work, that he and his
devoted servants forged here. It was also here within the Soulforge that the
All-Father left an aspect behind to continue these good works, with the angels
of the bridge sworn to his aspect’s sure defense. The angels took this
responsibility seriously, and they would tolerate no interference, but given their
nature they withheld attack until Rikar began to cross the bridge.

 

As
he starts to cross, the angels begin shedding brilliant radiance shining like
stars in the air above making Rikar keenly aware of them. Despair grips the
ranger’s heart with the sudden realization that their defeat had become
imminent with the angel’s disclosure. Seeing know choice but to continue, Rikar
tries to sprint across the bridge but the four greatest of the angels swiftly
land blocking Rikar in, flanking him on either side and blocking both exits.
Desperate, Rikar has barely enough time to pass the Arrow of Fate to Bilgamesh
as he prepared to die fighting, hoping against hope to provide a strong enough
accounting of himself to allow some of his allies to win their way past the
angels. Rikar draws twin burning axes when unexpectedly Bingus steps onto the
bridge at the entrance where Rikar had just passed and says:

 

“Excuse me! We’ve no time for this foolishness, if you
would please tell the All-Father that I am here.  I would like to meet with him
without any further delay; this has all been much too tragic already, and it is
past the time for continued folly, strange as that is coming from me. We need
to end this, don’t you think?”

 

The
nearest angel spins on his heel to address the approaching gnome, for a moment
he glares as if he was his eyes to bore through the wizard’s skull and perhaps
he was for as he reaches the gnome the angel suddenly takes a knee and bows his
head responding:

 

“Watchful
Protector, I am sorry for any confusion, it has been a very long time.

Of
course we shall take you to him, allow only that I announce your arrival, and I
and my fellows will accompany both you and your party.

Given
the threats of the day we must all be diligent in our defense of creation.”

 

“Of course, I would expect no less. Thank you for your
hospitality.”

 

Unable
to contain himself, Finellior erupts:

 

“What?! … You
speak and they just let us pass? Why didn’t you do this in the first place, and
why did he call you ‘Watchful Protector’? Isn’t that one of the names used for the
gnome’s god, Garl Glittergold?”

 

Led
by the first angel, Bingus simply ignores Finellior and follows the angel, calling
to the others to fall in line behind him; as they make their way across the
bridge the other angels fall in behind them and together they all cross the
causeway turning right as the white paved bridge tees, toward an opening into a
large, well-lit chamber that echoes with the sounds of pounding hammers. Entering
this new chamber they see
brilliant flames roiling and flaring at the room’s
far end before which stands a mighty anvil piled with hammers, tongs, and other
tools, and standing before the anvil, there is a heavily muscled, pillar of a dwarf
dressed in full plate armor; he carries two mighty burning hammers, holding
each of the enormous hammers within either hand, and carrying them as if they weighed
nothing. As the group enters he unleashes an exaggerated sigh and sets one of
the hammers down freeing a hand to pat down his singed beard as he regards the
visitors with sad, overly weary distain. Two large brutal looking constructs
step forward, positioning themselves to defend the dwarf, each brandishing an
assortment of spinning saw blades, and all the while this is going on, on the
far side of the large chamber, eight more dwarves toils at smaller versions of
the great anvil, continuing to hammer away without missing a beat, working in
perfect unison at their projects blind to the goings on behind them.

Then
the great dwarf speaks, Moradin’s Aspect, speaks, his voice grating with sound
of a mountain shifting on its foundation:  

 

“Ye
purpose is noble but selfish my catered-cousin, but friendship demands loyalty,
still thither art times when ye wilt seteth aside thy own beliefs f’r the good
of all. I forgive that ye hath violat’d mine sanctum, and moo’ I am willing to
forgiveth ye all trespasses if ye wouldst but return from whence ye came and
giveth up on this … ye to date, most foolish mission”

 

“It is nice to see you too Moradin, I have traveled long
and far, even by my own standards to meet you here today, and I would not be
here if our need was not truly urgent. Can it really be that you do not want to
see Bahamut restored?”
asks Bingus.

 

“Ye
be misinf’rmed, ye hast been gone a good longeth time as ye sayeth, too
longeth, I sayeth. Oft times, I hast wond’r’d at ye passing yet ye art hither
anon and I knoweth wherefore, ye be seeking the Creation Spark, but ye art too
late. Dakranad already hath it and he is seeing to his mast’r’s rest’ration
enow. He hath warn’d me that thou wouldst come, and he told me that thou
seeketh the rest’ration of thy mistress Amyria, but h’r time hath pass’d. The
lass hath s’rv’d h’r purpose. Thou wilt leteth h’r go; thy loyalty is admirable
but misplac’d. Thou shouldst knoweth this as well as I.”

 

“It is you who are mistaken, you have been misled.
Dakranad means to take Bahamut’s place. Amyria carries Bahamut’s essence
without her Bahamut cannot be restored. How then would Dakranad restore the
Platinum Lord without her?”

 

“And
whence then is the woman anon, f’r when I spoke with Dakranad he told me he had
her, and he did not lieth f’r I wouldst had known if he had?”

 

“He did have her, having taken her from us, but we have
recovered her.”

 

“Then
whence is she anon f’r I doeth not see her?”

 

“No, I said we recovered her meaning we have found her,
not that we have her. She waits at the pool outside the Soulforge, but I am
sure you actually already know this, just as you know that the Dispater is there
and he has Amyria. He explained that he performed a service for Dakranad in
engage for Amyria and that she is his now, and that is part of our problem. I
haven’t concocted any reasonable way to rescue her. Dispater insists that we
trade something of great value for her, treasures I would rather not give him.
He demands either the Creation Spark or the Arrow of Fate.”

 

“Then
haply thou shouldst not dealeth with him at all, haply ’tis as it shouldst be. The
Crucible of Light bestows its blessing only once ev’ry hundr’d years at any
rate, I wouldst have to wait at least that long to cautel anoth’r Creation Spark
and I wouldst not provideth one to Dispat’r yea if I couldst; and the Arrow of Fate
tis irreplaceable and far too dang’rous in the wrong hands. Nay, thou wilt hath
accepteth h’r fate.”

 

“And what, let Dakranad win?”

 

“We
art not in controleth of all things; thither art yet pow’rs ranker yea more
than ourselves. Thoust dupp mine eyes to mine owneth failing and f’r that
thoust hath mine thanks, but I cannot giveth thou what thou came f’r; but I can
rest’re thy bodies making ye whole; and I can summon thy vessel, and telleth
thou wast Dakranad is, but I hast nay pow’r o’er Dispat’r thou will hast
determineth thy own course with him … I can only warneth thou against dealing
with him ‘r any fiend, ’tis in their nature to deceiveth.”

 

“Then where can we find Dakranad?”

 

“Ye
will find Dakranad at the Bridge of al-Sihal, b’yonder the gateway of creation.
I understandeth thou wanteth to save thy lass’s life, admirable, but not really
imp’rtant, ‘r yea pointeth of living. devas art imm’rtal anyhow, she will
returneth, if not in thy lifetime than haply the next. mine counseleth is to
release h’r to h’r owneth destiny. I am s’rry to say thoust did come hither f’r
naught.”

 

“No, All-Father, I believe you have given me exactly what
I need. You have my gratitude.”

 

 

The Bridge of al-Sihal

 

Once
again outside of the Soulforge, Klarn’s defenders find their captured vessel,
Impaler, waiting for them a hover in the sky above the pool, manned by yet more
of Moradin’s angels. Dispater waits for them below the ship, his captive still
held by his own iron-clad enforcer. The Dispater says:

 

“It is time for you to fulfill your
part of our bargain.”

Dispater
holds out his hand and adds:
“The Arrow of Fate if you
will?”

 

Bingus
shakes his head and says: “We will not be giving it to you; of course you
can try and take it, I suspect that would be amusing.”

 

“Then clearly, Tiamat’s blinding
greed has already sunk deep into your bones. And while you waste time here, I
wonder if you have considered how thoroughly Dakranad has outplayed you?”

 

“Having retrieving the Creation Spark
he already moves to advance his own ascension and replace Bahamut … And
regardless of your deception here and now, I already have what I came for, all
that is left of great Bahamut, and you will all be mine in due time, some of
you sooner than others to be sure; regardless I am not leaving empty handed and
at least I can satisfy a matter of balance and recompense, you stole from me,
now I will take that which is dear from you!”

 

The
Dispater drops his hand, and before anyone has a chance to react, the infernal
ironguard lets Amyria’s unconscious body fall hard upon the ground and
viciously hacking her helpless body with its heavy black bladed bastard sword; it
nearly splits her fragile body in twain. She dies instantly, her hot blood
spills upon the earth and a web of shadow begins to take form around her, as if
the cocoon of shadow was seeking to contain her soul, but her brilliant spirit
would not be held and it effortlessly tear the darkness asunder and rises
triumphant from the broken shell of flesh beneath it.    

 

As
the others hesitate, too stunned to act, Bilgamesh moves like lightening
launching a series of devastating arrows at Dispater one after another, each
arrow magically charged arrow explodes as it finds its mark driving the Archfiend
backwards with every blow until he finds himself teetering at the edge of the
cliff. As the Archfiend tries to balance himself Rikar hands Bilgamesh one
final arrow, the Arrow of Fate, and Bilgamesh aims and fires piercing the devil
with the irresistible weapon; it impales Dispater through and through, entering
his chest and passing straight through his back, and having been transfixed the
Dispater finally falls tumbling helplessly over the edge and disappearing. The
Arrow of Fate magically reappears in Rikar’s hand prompting a comment: “I’m
not sure that is what he meant but he did get the Arrow.”

 

Vani
and Bingus join in blasting the remaining devils with their arcane spells, and Hagrid
begins to trudging into the pool, but Ssarina leaps into the air as she
simultaneously summons her magically steed; the platinum warhorse appears
beneath her catching her in stride and carries her rapidly over the pool as she
races to the fallen deva’s side. Ssarina’s heart was tightening like a vice in
her chest, with the certain the realization that she had failed again in her
sworn duty to protect Amyria. Internally she was berating herself as she
replayed Amyria’s fall in her mind’s eye judging that she had finally failed for
the last time. As tears swelled in her eyes she struck the ironguard down
taking its head with one swipe of Bahamut’s holy sword. The devil vanishes in an
explosion of flame leaving only Amyria’s spirit which had assumed an aspect
that left Ssarina awestruck in its presence; Amyria’s spirit lingered hovering
before the dragonborn as the other devils are destroyed by Vani and Bingus.

 

Her
spirit floats without sound or movement, only hair is adrift on some celestial
breeze only felt by the spirit itself. Hagrid rises out of pool and calls out
to her, but the dragonborn is beyond hearing, her eyes locked on Amyria. Then
without thinking Ssarina reaches out, trying to lay hands, hoping to pour her
all into the fallen deva, willing to sacrifice her own lie if necessary; as
flesh touches spirit Ssarina is filled with a sense of acceptance and profound
appreciation. Staggered by emotions, Ssarina kneels shaking still offering
herself to the deva. Hagrid closes as fast as he can but his feet feel trapped
within the sands of time, and then at the last instant Ssarina’s platinum horse
cuts off his path off. Blocked, Hagrid watches as Amyria’s spirit begins to
fade with Ssarina’s rise. When Ssarina is fully arisen the horse disappears
along with the spirit clearing the goliath’s way and Hagrid approaches.
Immediately he knows that Ssarina had been transformed, and behind him Rikar,
Fin, and Bilgamesh join him each having managed to cross the pool in their own
fashion.

 

Bilgamesh
darts to the cliff looking over the edge for any trace of the Dispater and
finds none. Hagrid and the others try desperately to speak to Ssarina, but she ignores
them staring up the mountain as if her attention is being drawn by something
only she sees. Examining her, her change becomes clearer, and it is obvious to
all that she is no longer the Ssarina they knew. Her face was blank and calm, but
supremely focused, and she had begun to radiate a distinctly silvery hue, a
holy sheen that she wasn’t reacting to but seemed to be consuming her all the
same. Her eyes had become glowing orbs filled with hidden power, shining with
divine energy. Amyria and Ssarina had become one.  

 

Each
hero calls to Ssarina one after another until finally she turns her attention
to them as a group and addresses them together. When she does, they are all
filled with a sense of her well-being, an ecstasy beyond comprehension and the
firm resolution that were exactly where they needed to be. When she finally speaks
she
speaks with the deep, sonorous, commanding voice of the Lord of
Dragons
:

 

 

 

“You
have all shouldered my burden for so long, there is but one thing left to do.”

 

“What do you have us to do?” asks
Finellior.

 

“I must
go to the bridge, there lies my destiny. Do you have it?”

 

“What is she talking about?” asks the
bard.

 

“She’s talking about the Creation Spark.” Bingus
whispers to Fin before answering Ssarina himself:

 

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the Spark.”  

 

“There
can be no return without the Creation Spark.”

 

As
if in response to Ssarina, the angel aboard the Impaler
lowers a rope
ladder asking Hagrid:

 

“You
are the Captain of this ship, are you not?”

 

“The
Bridge can be reached by following the blinding path of Jovar, which starts at
the Mithral Gate of Asiryet, within the Heavenly City.”

 

“Beyond
which lies the Bridge of al-Sihal, the only way to reach Chronias, the highest
and mightiest mountain of this dominion, but it is a place where mortals may
never tread.”

 

“Flight
will fail you as you approach, the only way to pass is the Bridge itself and it
too is guarded, by Zaphkiel.”

 

They heroes climb aboard the Impaler and begin a hurried race across Celestia following the path
described by the angel; they climb past Solania, past Torzak-Belgirn, past
Mertion and The City of Tempered Souls, and Empyrea where their adventure had begun.
Finally, the arrive in Jovar, the Glittering Heaven the highest peak any mortal
had ever seen where they begin to follow a simple winding path that climbs the
magnificent mountain ever higher towards the shining glow at the mountain’s
summit where a golden halo of radiance wreathes the mountain underscoring its
purity and holiness. There they see the shining ornate gate forged from mithral
set at the entrance of the white stone Bridge al-Sihal that extends from the
mountain’s peak and just as the angel had described, and as he had warned,
their ship beaches itself, as Hagrid finds he can no longer keep the vessel
aloft. It comes to rest near the top of the mountain just below the mithral gate
where the path that leads to the Bridge which rises beyond fading off into the
golden halo of light.

 (Finellior)

            We disembarked and moved on to the bridge that stretched out
before us. Past the gate the bridge advanced over 150 feet before it vanished
into the curtain of golden light, but between us and the light stood the
fearsome dragon we had ever seen, Dakranad the Mithral.

            Its
head was adorned with a crown of spikes; its scales flexed and shined with intricate
white striations that sharply contrasted the towering dragon’s darker base
color playing out in brilliant flares forming patterns of energy that danced
across the dragon’s body highlighting the powerful muscles that lied beneath
his glowing scales. As daunting as the dragon was its efforts to cross the
Bridge had been stymied by an equally powerful defender, the Archangel Zaphkiel,
the Bridge’s mysterious guardian.

Zaphkiel was
the living embodiment of the ‘perfect good’ and it was clear that he had not
given Dakranad his leave to cross the Bridge. Legend says that this same
Archangel had held this post since the beginning of time, and that he was
perhaps the only angel left in the all of creation of such rank and power as he
commands, all others having perished long ago in legendary wars against the fiends
and the primordials. Only the most righteous and exalted of individuals dared stand
in Zaphkiel’s presence for fear of being consumed by his righteousness. Only
later I found out that Zaphkiel is also the patron of dead children and
stillborn babies, and that he watches over their souls as well, but I didn’t
know that at the time, and like so many things that had led us to this point,
Zaphkiel’s motivations and plans were unknown to us.

            As
we approached and Dakranad and he first saw us, his bright eyes blazed with the
dragon’s unmasked rage, then overtaken by a sense of urgency he attacked, his claws
clashing harshly against the angel’s fiery sword. Our arrival had given fuel to
Dakranad’s need to cross the Bridge. As we neared Bilgamesh began to target the
dragon with his bow, as he did he spied out something glittering about the
dragon’s neck, a glowing golden locket which he correctly assumed to be holding
the Creation Spark itself!           

            Ssarina
began to slowly cross the Bridge with single-minded determination, and she repeated
her declaration:

“There can be no return without the Creation Spark.”

            I
realized that our time had run out, there was no time left for further delay. We
had to find a way to clear the Bridge because the war for heaven had already
begun; marked on one side by the double-winged Archangel silhouetted by the
blinding light of creation itself, cloaking his face in enigma of shadow, but
his actions spoke loudly, as by strength of arm and fiery sword he denied the
dragon any chance to cross giving the rest of us time to gather our bearings.
Quickly, I formulated a plan and pulled the others close to me to share it with
them.

First Hagrid rushed ahead of Ssarina pushing as fast as could to
engage the dragon, drawing Dakranad’s attention away from Rikar who kept pace
with our powerful warden, but kept a step behind. Their approach was covered by
Vani and Bingus both of whom used their arcane wiles to attack the dragon while
holding their position at the foot of the Bridge. Bilgamesh moved halfway between
the magic-users and Dakranad, and then began launching his own attacks
combining his fire with that of our spell-casters. I stayed even further back
than them, keeping an eye over the entire battle so I would be in a good
position to help wherever I was most needed.

Holding daggers in either hand to focus his
sorcerous power, Vani unleashed his full power, becoming one with the
incredible power contained within his small body. He blasted the dragon merging
the power of arcane acid with irresistible force focused through his first
dagger, and striking with slivers of lightening focused through the second
dagger. At the same time, Bingus circled the dragon in a magical sphere of
energy that while invisible to the dragon, was both visible and recognized by
the rest of us; we well knew the power of Bingus’s globe, and we knew it would
protect us from at least one of the dragon’s attacks. Next we sent Hagrid to hit
the dragon low as hard as he could, just below the dragon’s knee  hooking it with
the heavy falchion he’d taken from Tiamat’s own exarch,
Mornujhar; the black, rune covered blade bit deep into the dragon’s leg
enabling Hagrid to drive the dragon backwards and he nearly forced Dakranad off
the bridge, but at the last instant Dakranad crouched, clinging to the Bridge for
dear life and breathed out pure radiance at his closest attackers. Just as we
knew it would, Bingus’s sphere reflected the dragon’s attack back upon himself,
briefly blinding Dakranad. Blinded the dragon began buffeting those near with
its wings trying to make space to regain his footing, but this only made it
easier for Rikar to fulfill his part of the plan; he dodged the wings and
quickly moved past Hagrid and behind the dragon and then Rikar began to scale
the dragon’s back latching himself as he climbed using amazing transforming
qualities of the Arrow of Fate and his crooked crescent-shape blade to fix himself
upon the dragon’s back as he climbed ever higher.   

Throughout the battle Ssarina continued her slow advance drawing
ever nearer to the melee. Together we fell upon the dragon again, but none of
us more fiercely or with such power as the Archangel Zaphkiel. The dragon
staggered under the pressure of the assault. Zaphkiel began adding holy rebukes
to the unrelenting assault of his blazing sword. Trapped between us and the
Archangel, Dakranad reeled without hope, and Rikar snatched up the locket’s
chain in his sickle’s curved blade slashing it and causing it to fall. On the
ground below, Bilgamesh darted forward in time to catch the locket again just
as we’d planned, but the dragon had began to recover his sight and moved to
stop Bilgamesh only to be blinded a second time, this time by, the Archangel.
After this second blinding, Dakranad found it impossible to regain control of
the Creation Spark, Bilgamesh easily escaped, and the dragon failed to mount
any comeback. Having captured the locket, Bilgamesh sprinted back to Ssarina
and handed it to her, and she called out:  

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and
unopposed it can shake down the pillars of the skies giving rise to the unfettered
reign of Chaos and Night.”

“You are all the shield of justice which protects the world and
even if it never knows what you have done here,

I will never forget!”

Blood was running from the corners of Ssarina’s mouth as she clutched
the locket tightly in one her scaled fists; Bahamut’s spirit was too great for
her mortal body to hold; it was destroying her from the inside out. How great
must have been the strain upon Amyria who had held fast the same power for so
long. Ssarina renewed her advance, and Bilgamesh spun about and fired two more
arrows into Dakranad.

            All the while I was providing healing magic to those
who needed it, as the others also continued their attacks. Many of my comrades
were ablaze, dressed in burning radiance of the dragon’s attacks, but the
dragon itself had been crippled, and was reeling as Rikar struck one final blow
still mounted atop the dragon, he tore the dragon’s throat asunder and
Dakranad’s hot blood spilled like a font. Our ranger leaped to the safety of the
Bridge as the dying dragon fell to his death over its edge into the great
unknown spinning helplessly through the open air.

            By
this point Ssarina’s advance had garnered the Archangel’s attention and he
landed in front of her halting her progress and announcing:


“I deny thee passage cross the Bridge of
al-Sihal.”

           

Ssarina paused just long enough to respond:

“There is no
crueler tyranny than that which is perpetuated under the shield of law in the
name of justice.”

The air was
tense, filled with their righteous indignation; I took advantage racing to
Ssarina’s side, with our fate still hanging in the balance, but I knew what was
needed, and arbitrated on Bahamut’s behalf myself. 

I stated my
argument thus:

“Zaphkiel
… It is my honor to greet you, never did I imagine I might be in a position to
approach one such as you. We have traveled here in Bahamut service, escorting
his essence here that he and only he might be restored. I understand it is your
purpose to guard this holy Bridge, and neither I, nor any of my allies seek to defeat
your purpose in this regard, rather we are here to offer our meager assistance
however meager as we demonstrated  in the battle with the defeated dragon, Dakranad.
He was the false prophet, the one who sought to usurp Bahamut’s place upon the
Great Wheel of Creation.”

“I
freely admit, at times our methods have been questionable; we have all had to
do things which we have all regretted during our journey to this place. We
brought down the Dawnbell, and we stole the Arrow of Fate from Hestavar. We
battled Bahamut’s own confused vassals, and we invaded Moradin’s Soulforge. I
myself questioned each of these engagements and many more, but they brought us
to this point here and now with great purpose.”

“And what
is at stake should we allow Tiamat to win? I am but one mortal man, I do not
pretend to know the answer to all things. So I put the question to you for I
imagine that this very type of judgment is the reason you are here. You are
more than a simple guardian. So we approach asking you to consider the truth of
things and to help us determine our course. Should we allow creation to suffer
Tiamat’s wrath, or should we allow the balance to be restored? ”

 “But
please know our time is short, many of my friends and allies have given their
all to bring this choice to you now, and no one more than Amyria and Ssarina.
Amyria was a deva yes, but she was also Bahamut’s own Scion. As long as I have
knew her she was the purest, most true ally I have ever known. During these
past years she has been unwavering in her purpose and determination to restore
Bahamut. Unbeknownst to us her immortal body carried Bahamut’s very essence that
entire time, but in route to this place she was cruelly taken from us by the
Dispater, and now or ally Ssarina, Bahamut’s greatest paladin, has taken
Amyria’s place carrying Bahamut’s essence within her own mortal body, but the
mortal shell cannot long contain it, a fact you no doubt can plainly see, and she
cannot hold out much longer.”

“I also suspect
that you know more of the dragon twins history than me or my friends, but this
much I do know, together they were both sired by the Dragon God Io, and Bahamut
was Tiamat’s first, and most fierce rival , respected by the powers Heironeous,
Moradin, Yondalla, and most lawful, good serving deities. He is the very heart of
justice and a soul of wisdom, and I hope, or dare I say, I know that you of all
beings in creation, you must certainly appreciate this.”

Zaphkiel took
to air once more and responded: 

“The
one you call Ssarina may pass, but only she and she alone; now turn away from
this place and return to your home, knowing that your long mission here is
complete.”

 

 

Ssarina struggled forward, her body betraying her
with a staggering gate and a popping of joints, as she smoldered with the swell
of Bahamut’s power struggling for release as she completed her final walk into
the golden curtain, just before she entered she paused and looking back to us, and
with tears of joy spilling from her eyes, she spoke to us for one last time,
this time in Ssarina’s own voice:.

 

“My
friends, there is nothing I can say or do to thank you for what you have done
for Him. This is not the end but only the beginning; farewell my friends, and
thank you.”

With
that Ssarina disappeared through the golden curtain and we boarded the Impaler
and we returned to Klarn.

 

 

 

SOW Chapter17: Those Once Loyal – Revelations III

Revelations II


Under Hagrid’s control Guionne’s ship ‘The Impaler’ raises above the lagoon.

“We
should depart from this realm immediately.” suggests Yu Gnuf.


“That seems wise.” adds Finellior, “But do we really know how it works? Can it
carry us to Celestia?”

“I
believe it can, it has a spelljammer helm, a magical helm capable of acting as a
focus for plane shifting; it should be a capable means of transport and Hagrid
appears to be a natural pilot. Either you or I could activate the helm, but my
guess is that Bingus would be its truest master. Hearing his named mentioned,
Bingus interjects:

“I
believe you and I should have a discussion about recent events Yu Gnuf.”

“I
agree and I will join you.” adds Finellior, “There is a lot we need to discuss.”  

The
three of them cross the deck of the void cruiser taking shelter in the command
cabin at the fore-end of the vessel. Within the forecastle they find themselves
surrounded by luxurious accouterments and enough comfortable seating for the
three of them. Noting their departure, Bilgamesh follows, and sets himself at
the door, close enough to surreptitiously catch snippets of their conversation
with his keen elven hearing.

As
they take their seats Yu Gnuf’s mood subtlety shifts as he eyes Finellior with a
look of uncharacteristic irascibility, and then just as he is addressed by
Bingus his eyes change to a shade of slate gray as Bingus begins to speak:

“We
were

joined
, you and I, even if briefly, within the Mantled Citadel … I am sure
you remember Yu Gnuf, and I admit I have been troubled by the visions I saw
there ever since.  I have had an opportunity to do some self-examination
since then, and even more research within the libraries of the Swan Tower, but
much of that event is still unclear, but I this I do know. Your being here is no
accident and I expect the enigma of your existence is one of the keys that
drives our quest. Understanding your part in this may very well determine our
ultimate success or failure, but I have asked you enough questions to know that
you are either incapable or unwilling to respond directly. Still, uniquely, you
Yu Gnuf seem to be the most understanding of Jeroen’s manifestations to date and
so I hope we can get to the bottom of this now while this rare opportunity
presents itself. So with you leaves, shall we begin?”

 “In
all the heroic stories of the ages there is at least one villain, a man or woman
who wants the heroes of the day to fail, yet in some stories there may be even
more villains, and when they come together, one may be greater than the other,
or then again maybe not, but instead there is just greater evil.”

“My
own adventure

began
in opposition to my brother who had allied himself to Klarn’s Dark
Lord of Death, and on a lesser scale to the hobgoblin Sinruth; later I was

captured
by the shadar-kai arms merchant Sarshan, and in

defeating
him we were placed at odds with the githyanki and ever greater
evil. You have played no small roll in this, and you have revealed yourself in
many forms, first as

Jeroen
, followed by

Aenied
in Overlook,

Asa Mantir
in the Thornwastes, Noe in the desert (didn’t you mention Grandma
Spider there), and then

Quill
in the mines of Karak.


“Later, you shifted again when we got back to Overlook this time into

Iroon
, and then just as we finally began to study the mystery of background
with the help of

Krasus
you disappeared only to reappear later once more as

Jeroen
, but you weren’t done … Soon in the bowels of Fortress Graystone, you
changed again when we met you as you are now, finally as

Yu Gnuf
… And suddenly we all remembering having met you previously, even as
children, and I have asked myself ‘How can this be?’ and until now I’ve come up
with no good answer for it. So I counted: Jeroen, Aenied, Asa Mantir, Noe,
Quill, Iroon, and Yu Gnuf … seven, but there was another wasn’t there?”

“You
vanished again … this time longer for a longtime, but eventually we found you
again with the lair of the Stone-skinned King after several adventure within
which we were plagued by unexplained disappearances, but in the bloody arena of
the Stone-skinned King you revealed yourself as

Virizan
as you tried to kill us and said:


"It
is time to end my human guise! My power goes far beyond that most puny disguise;
I have five greater forms that can defeat you easily! Know now you face
Veri-zan, exarch of Her Dark Majesty Tiamat! And tremble in the knowledge that
all of you in this room will take this secret to your graves!”

And
after your defeat you declared that we had slain our friend. And upon our return
to Sayre, our ally, Ian Whitestone produced a document that read:


"I
am Jeroen and this is my will that the bearer of this letter proceed to the
Crystal Caverns and lay my sword there."

A
quest Ian freely accepted as his own prompt him to resign his appointment to the
Coalition. And confused me further; were there now eight manifestation of Jeroen
or nine? Yet Ian seemed to have a history and background separate from that of
Jeroen, so I opted on eight and left it at that, but then something even
stranger

happened
.”


“When we were alone away from Sayre and the Coalition Ian said:


"My
friend, what I revealed to the council was not the complete truth. What I read
was not a message from Jeroen, it was by Jeroen–for I am well and truly Jeroen.
I do not know entirely what has happened to your friend Ian. I believe that he
is not lost to us."

This
statement made no sense to me until I was possessed by Iroon.”



“Wait, wait, wait just a minute, I a smart guy, well-educated … and it still
doesn’t make any sense to me.”

injects Finellior.”

“And
I’m not surprised.” continues Bingus. “As I said I was confused too, but this is
what I have been able to put together.”


“There have been eight manifestations of Jeroen, and there are eight

Lords of Mendelland
; and I believe each manifestation mirrors the purposes
of one of these Lords. Yu Gnuf has described himself of an envoy of Ishtar,
Iroon for one he called his Mistress of Death, but couldn’t that also mean he
worshipped death itself, the bulwark of Grithstane? And what of Virizan, that
beast described itself as the Exarch of Tiamat. And the same is true to one
extent or another of all the others too, but I ask you Yu Gnuf, to what
purpose?”

A
mask magically appears over Yu Gnuf’s face, weaving itself over his face even as
his eyes begin taking on a crazed look akin to that of a cornered animal as Yu
Gnuf responds:


“You should take care of the questions you ask gnome, you know what they say of
curiosity and the cat, don’t you?” 


Helter skelter, hang a-sorrow, care will kill a cat, a-morrow.”


Unamused and interrupting Finellior says, “That has the tone of a threat Yu
Gnuf, not like you at all.”


“Who was it that called me Yu Gnuf?”

“So
you’re saying you’re not Yu Gnuf?”


“I didn’t say that either.”


Trying not to garner notice Finellior tries the door, and finding it secured, we
tries again, with less subtly, but still the door remains secure.


Outside Bilgamesh takes note of the disturbance, and he too tries to open the
door, when he too is denied he calls out to the others.


Within the command cabin Bingus takes hold of the conversation one more and says
… “I saying it. You are not Yu Gnuf, and you’re not Jeroen either but we’ve
spoken before, and in the same riddles; I recognize you even if I don’t know
your name, but that’s okay because Yu Gnuf knows who you are and he just hasn’t
wanted to tell me it yet. You have that much in common. Are you afraid of him or
is he afraid of you?”


“Don’t taunt me gnome. I’m not you’re play thing. You not find me so easily
fooled.”


“You’re not very honest either; you’ve made it perfectly clear that you prefer
the comfort of shadows, as if the light of revelation itself scares you. If you
would rather not answer, why not let Yu Gnuf? Unless you really do fear him, is
that it? I really don’t expect that you are overly shy.”


“Your problem may be that you try to define everything, there are far too many
definitions here already along with rules about this and that, more restrictions
and labels … What do they all amount to? Perhaps I like to think I’m just a tad
bit undefinable, that bit of spice called chaos in an otherwise dreary world.”


“Then for adventure’s sake, why not let Yu Gnuf respond? I doubt I have the
power to force you out. It would be the ‘chaotic’ thing to do wouldn’t it. If
you’re as powerful as you suggest what would be the harm? In fact, he hasn’t
wanted to answer himself so why not compel to answer? I bet he wouldn’t see that
coming.”

Yu
Gnuf shifts again; both in form and demeanor, unmasked, stern and with lips held
tight he says:

“I
dare say, I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“I
would say that I am quite beyond hope now, rather, but self-determinate. If my
theory is correct, we reached a point of no return Yu Gnuf … Besides which I
don’t expect you will be able to help us much longer. Honestly you’ve not been
yourself, and I don’t believe you are fully in control, not any longer. So let
us dispense with word games and stop wasting time. What is your story Yu Gnuf,
and how can we help you?”

“You
are quite right son on one account; perhaps it is time to tell you a story, a
fiction if you will that begins like so many others with … Once upon a time.”

           


O
nce
upon a time there was a world, a world so very different from anything you might
imagine. This world was a dark place a drift in its own mechanisms, devoid of
magic or wonder, which was both infinitely large scope yet small even in light
of all its power due mostly to the laziness and a lack of thought among the
people living there. The people of this world were very clever and they were
self-reliant to a fault having little need for gods or magic; they had explained
everything within their world to their own complete satisfaction, and they had
conquered every monster, and they had everything they would ever need to
accomplish their every desire, all save one stumbling block … themselves.

Into
this world there were still a few men of vision. Men who dared to pull back the
veil, to search for those things that were yet to be discovered, exploring the
unknown. They were not so different from you in that regard. These men of
science, for that is what they called; they were the wizards of their world, and
the three greatest of them formed a conclave, a secret cabal working from the
King of that land to solve all the world’s problems.  They were given
access to the infinite resources of the King and free reign to test the limits
of their power. This

triumphant
is still known to us in our legends, their names: Majere, Ishim Khan, and
Grithstane.


Unbeknownst to them they were not of the same mind or purpose, yet they had
inadvertently put the power of three to work in their studies. Three is a magic
number that makes great things possible, it is how we think. The three moons of
Klarn, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you see we like things to be not too hot
and not too cold, but rather just right. They had stumbled upon the use of this
number, interesting in that they hadn’t explored the nature of three-fold power,
not in the sacrifice to Dionysus or any other Trinity of the day. Three is also
known as The Code of Creation.


Perhaps one of them had guessed at it; Grithstane, but his purposes were his
own. More than any of them he had studied man’s condition, and he had determined
that their number was too great, so great that the burden of it had become
unbalancing, and to his way of thinking, ultimately unsustainable. In addition
to this, he believed as do I that men achieve more through trial and tribulation
than through complacency. Given their power and means, the people had become
lazy, and distracted, simple gluttons ill prepared to make hard decisions.
Grithstane sought to wake them from this slumber, to challenge them in both mind
and body; to force them to make something more of themselves than they ever
would ever do on their own. He turned all his resources towards this purpose. He
came to think of himself as a necessary catalysis, an inoculation that might
cause injury, yet in the end save them all, and to this end he deceived the
others 


Their core of their studies involved communication. They were reaching out to
forces unknown, power and intelligences beyond their reckoning or any existing
base of knowledge, delving into what up until then had been thought of as the
realms of imagination and infinite possibility. They designed a method to call
out to this great unknown as they pursued even greater understanding. They
designed that which you found beneath Sayre, the Bitter Glass, and they used its
Dark Lens and something they called the Infinity Coil to focus their efforts.

Fin
interrupts: “Excuse me please, but we know about this, the legends of the Lords
of Mendelland are taught at the university, and we destroyed the Bitter Glass,
Bingus and I were both there. What does this have to do with you or the
challenges before us?”


“Maybe everything, tell me what you know about the beginnings of Klarn.”


T
ogether
four lords, Grithstane, Ishtar, Magnus and Majere, worked feverishly creating a
tool, an arcane mechanism they named the ‘Infinity Coil’ imbuing it with the
power to reach across dimensions into other unknown worlds of existence whence
they sought aid for the world predicament; but, as the other lords sought to
save their doomed world secretly Grithstane acted against them to derail the
attempt. To accomplish this Grithstane brought about Ishtar’s downfall creating
a dark lens to focus the Infinity Coil upon the oldest, darkest of all
dimensions from which he summoned a single shard of pure evil, a crystal shard
of infinite power, a crystal summoned from the same dark source that had given
birth to the abyss. Grithstane presented the crystal to Ishtar for study keeping
its source and nature from the venerable sage. Quickly the crystal embedded
itself within Ishtar’s mind, its incomprehensible nature corrupting the white
lord completely immediately threatening the other Lords’ plans. Ishtar used his
new power to accomplish their original goal, that of creating a new world out of
portions of the old, and he called the new land Klarn; but having been
completely corrupted by the power he had used he decided to make a god of
himself in this new world.

In
desperation, Magnus and Majere refocused the Infinity Coil reaching out blindly
for help against the Dark Lord’s plot and they succeeded in contacting a son of
Olympus, Mendel, who claimed to be an heir of the Horned-god, Pan. Mendel aided
them against Ishtar who had begun calling himself ‘Darklens’ but who was never
mentioned by name by the others; for fear that in his new omnipresence he might
hear them. Powerful as he was, Mendel lacked the power to heal the world on his
own so he advised Majere how to contact a goddess capable of doing so, Gaea, the
earth goddess. Working together with Mendel, Magnus and Majere refocused the
Infinity Coil and used it to contact Gaea, but they found that she was in a
fury, angry because of man’s mistreatment of their previous world and their long
rejection of her. Still, working together the other Lords managed to persuade
her to help with the agreement that the peoples of this new world never be
allowed to rely on technology or science to resolve their problems for Gaea
blamed their previous preoccupation with technology for their current plight and
their previous rejection of her. When the other lords agreed she immediately
began the purification Klarn by causing the great tree Yggdrasil to branch out
there; the wonder of Klarn known as the

Ever-Tree.


Darklens immediately detected Gaea’s interference and began to war against the
other lords and henceforth, deprived of their technology, the Lords of
Mendelland: Grithstane, Magnus, Majere and Mendel knew they could not stand
long, much less prevail against the power of Darklens, even while being aided by
Gaea’s power. Making matters worse, Grithstane betrayed them joining with the
Dark Lord against them; and buying the Dark Lord’s confidence by delivering the
Infinity Coil to him; together they crushed the other Lords in every clash, and
this period is now known as ‘The Dark Age’ of Klarn.


Eventually, under the leadership of Magnus, Majere attacked Darklens while Gaea
distracted Grithstane, and Mendel used their battles as a distraction allowing
him to steal back the Infinity Coil for one final effort. The plan succeeded,
and having captured the device, they activated the Coil one last time. Its power
allowed them to span the dimensions seeking a weapon to change the balance of
power in their favor, and on the other side they heard a quiet, soft voice from
the ether beyond, the non-descript voice of a simple-minded dragon named Vorel.


“Very good so far, but allow me to interject. In the beginning Ishtar was first
known as Ishim Khan. And the myth about Vorel conflicts with other histories
which concern Io so if you will please allow me a moment to clarify perhaps I
can shed some light here. Great Io’s first child was a small, simple-minded
dragon called Vorel. Vorel’s name means "beautiful" in Draconic, for beautiful
it was, perfect of scale and form. Not much is known about Vorel, and his name
is absent in much of the dogma surrounding to origins of dragon-kind, but this
so-named dragon promised Magnus that he could bring magic into the world of
Klarn, and with it the power to overcome Darklens. Intrigued they listened
further, and the dragon warned that his identity would need to be kept hidden. I
have postulated that this is the very source of the confusion related to Vorel.
Some legends suggest that Vorel was given form before his better known sibling,
a set of twins, one male and one female: Bahamut and Tiamat. 

Some
controversial legends suggest that Io intended that the twins would mature and
eventually mate, producing children that combined the best traits of each.
Instead, the two became bitter rivals each even seeking to prove they were
better than the other, and trying to get Io to choose between them, but Io would
not pick between them. After many failed schemes to make herself look better and
Bahamut worse, Tiamat hatched a diabolical plan: she decided to slay her
simple-minded, older sibling Vorel that she might frame Bahamut for the awful
deed. These legends go on to say that Io, carefully sought out the truth, and
sorrowfully banished his daughter Tiamat from his presence. Tiamat turned
utterly to hatred and Evil, while her brother Bahamut, ever her rival, turned to
Good in order to oppose her. In this Io lost all of his children: the first to
death, the second to Evil, and the last to Good.


Still another more familiar legend suggests another

origin
for the two draconic gods.


“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.”

But
I have had the pleasure of speaking to Vorel myself, and this is what he told
me. Not long after creating dragonkind, Io was in fact slain by the
primordial Erek-Hus, who we know as the King of Terror. He was split from head
to tail with a rough-hewn axe of adamantine. By some accounts, Io’s parts rose
up as Tiamat and Bahamut to destroy Erek-Hus, but Vorel told me Io’s death
simply released his divine energies which flooded into the twin elevating each,
Bahamut and Tiamat, to their deific forms. The twins then wrecked their
vengeance upon Erek—Hus tearing him asunder. And so my question was what had
happened to him, the first son of Io? 

The
first son of Io had been hiding himself from his sister for she had come to
blame him for her father dismissal. She had failed in her attempt to kill him
the first time, and eventually he traveled to Klarn seeking sanctuary there
answering the invitation of the Lords of Mendelland. This explains why he had
insisted that his presence must be kept secret. The Lord’s agreed and this
small, beautiful, non-threatening dragon entered the world, calling itself
Mondragon, the ‘first of dragonkind’ … looking much as you might expect a fairy
dragon to appear, to the utter dismay of the Lords of Mendelland. Mondragon
appeared to have no power to speak of, but the small dragon promised to deliver
magic to their land stating that it would follow upon his tail. Already in
communication with Io’s blood, and in growing desperation, Magnus moved against
the advice of the others and called with the Infiniti Coil again, this time
reaching Bahamut himself, but Bahamut was reluctant in matters beyond his scope
of knowledge so Magnus offered himself up to Bahamut, promising to serve his
will if only he would lend his power to the just defense of Klarn; thereafter,
Magnus has shared Bahamut’s moniker, The Lord of the North Wind. Magnus didn’t
know that the dwarves, the elves and the fairies of the Fey had already entered
the world in Vorel’s service, or that they had already begun to the aid of the
scattered human populace. At this time in Klarn’s history, lacking any of the
technology of their previously home, the humans had fallen into tribal,
barbaric, savagery. They worshipped only their new dark gods, to whom they made
bloody sacrifices. The Dwarves went into their midst and built seven cities of
stone, and the elves help find, and organize the people, teaching them new ways
to survive in the wild, and aiding in their development of culture and society.


Fueled by Bahamut’s power Magnus raged about in a righteous fury against the
evil works of the Dark Lords distracting them while civilization took hold.
Eventually Magnus garnered their full attention, and the two Dark Lords who had
taken shelter within their separate sanctums, and who up until then had acted
alone against Magnus decide to finally conspire against the Lord of the North
Wind. Outnumbered and overpowered Magnus was forced to call out to Bahamut
entreating on the Platinum Dragon’s support, but more than Bahamut heard his
Magnus’s call he had also drawn Tiamat’s attention as well, and given her guile,
she soon sensed Vorel’s presence too, but still she couldn’t find him. Mondragon
was two small to be noticed, he snuck up near to Magnus during the battle and
whispered into his ear advising him to retreat to the Mystic Isles in the wake
his near escape, and informing him that he would find Grithstane hiding there,
and then surprisingly the tiny dragon assured the Lord of the North Wind that he
would deal with the Darklens himself. 


Having no other choice Magnus accepted the likely offer, and when he came
face-to-face with Grithstane he was suddenly he was flooded with the full power
of Bahamut, and rising like a phoenix he utterly destroyed Grithstane’s form.
But the ways and rules of creation cannot be ignored, not by men and not by the
gods themselves; the more power Magnus had claimed the wider the doorways
between the two realms had opened, and this newest display opened the door wide
allowing Tiamat to find her was through, but she chose not proxy through as had
Bahamut, but rather she chose to come through whole, in the fullness of her
power sensing the nearness of Vorel.


Mondragon had found Darklens within the mountain’s west of the Dark Haunt woods
and there secretly spied of the remaining Dark Lord for he Tiamat was looking
for him, searching with her horde of chromatic children. His one heir were
small, and inconspicuous, fairy dragons, yet they too knew how to hide and spy
so he had plenty of warning when Tiamat came upon him, but there was no way that
she could ignore Darklens or he her. So Mondragon hid himself as Tiamat and her
chromatic horde surrounded the Dark Lord. Caged by the evil dragons, Darklens
lifted the mountains upon which they stood into the air cursing the dragons with
his every breath even as they blasted him with enough raw power to consume him.

Thus
in the course of Klarn’s history since Mondragon had entered the world, Magnus
had become a proxy for his good brother Bahamut, and Tiamat; his evil sister had
defeated Darklens, binding Klarn’s future forever with that of dragonkind. Great
Io, the Nine-fold Dragon, the Swallower of Shades, the Great Eternal Wheel, the
Sire of All Creation had not one child, but three (again that magic number of
creation), and through the small, seemingly simple-minded dragon called Vorel
Klarn had been saved. So it seems that during the Primordial War when Io was
slain a pair of children didn’t rise from his remains, but rather as the other
legend suggest the twins inherited his power. They have in turn given rise to
dragons. After many failed schemes to make herself look better and Bahamut
worse, Tiamat hatched a diabolical plan–to slay Vorel and frame Bahamut for the
awful deed, but Vorel discovered the plot and hid himself away, and now
answering the call of Lords of Mendelland he lairs with the Dragon Isles of
Klarn, calling himself Mondragon, the first of dragonkind, and with him magic
entered the world upon his tail as he said it would. And this is why Tiamat
turned utterly to hatred and Evil, while her brother Bahamut, ever her rival,
turned to Good in order to oppose her. It also explains their interest in Klarn,
and Tiamat continuing enmity for the realm. 

In
his downfall Darklens had not died, his black heart still beat, and the Dark
Lens for which he was named, still housed his soul and remained intact. These
parts were so filled with his power that they couldn’t be destroyed. So, they
were cast separately one, the crystal within the remaining Tomb of Limbo, but
the second Tomb had been destroy during the battle between Darklens and Tiamat,
but its parts still floated in the sky, even as the mountains did themselves,
those that had been ripped from the ground by Darklens. The mountains became the
floating Dragon Isles, and the Tomb which had become a perfect black sphere
became the resting place of Darklens black heart, and was henceforth known as
the Fane of Scales, Darklens evil pulses there even now, within Klarn’s black
hidden moon, suspended above the floating Dragon Isles of Klarn.

And
now finally, we are at the true beginning of my plight, and the answer to your
question.”

           
“As I have said the Dark Lens, a crystal, had been cast into the Tomb of Limbo,
a structure that had been more aptly named then any might have guessed. Limbo
actually literally means ‘The edge of Hell’ but I prefer to think of it as the
epicenter of creation; a place of pure chaos, filled with twisting quicksilver
and bits and pieces of rocks, trees, the four elements, entire landscapes,
strong winds, and random pockets of liquid, solid, or gas that might be
manipulated by those with will enough to do so. It is a place where one is free
to create their own reality to the fullest extent to their imagination. And into
this realm they cast the crystal which had possessed the Dark Lord, linking a
sentience from the far realms, a place of madness and horror to that of Ishim
Khan. Within Limbo this crystal gave rise to two new Lords, polar opposite
beings, Ishtar and Malakon, the White and the Black, and they joined the others
bringing their number to eight: Majere, Grithstane, Magnus, Gaea, Mendel,
Tiamat, Ishtar and Malakon … The Eight Lords of Mendelland. Yet this is not the
full story of Lords Ishtar and Malakon who are in many ways the same being, but
when these twins emerged from Limbo they did so at opposite ends of the spectrum
of time; Malakon at its beginning and Ishtar at its end, thus Malakon knows
everything that did happen and Ishtar knows everything that will happen which
brings me back to my story, which is a fiction for now and with Ishtar’s help
let us

hope
it remains so.”

           


O
nce
upon a time, in a world so very similar to your own a group of heroes rose to
prominence through their heroic deeds. These knightly souls had risen in rank
and stature from their salt of the earth beginnings to become their world’s
greatest heroes, but giants had been raiding the civilized lands in large bands,
visiting death and destruction upon villages, towns, and farmlands. Entire
militias had been conquered, entire crops wiped out. These marauding bands
consisted of mixed groups of hill giants, stone giants, frost giants, and fire
giants, as well as ogres and other monsters allied with the giants.


Determined to repel the invaders, local lords had begun hiring brave
adventurers. The first few groups didn’t fare well. Some were crushed beneath
the boulders and jackboots of rampaging giants, and others simply never returned
from the wilderness. Until finally a new band of adventurers were assembled to
punish the destructive giants and banish them from the civilized lands. These
adventurers came out of the dark forest. Their power was great as was their
desire to defeat the giants. Their number included a halfling sorcerer, a master
thief, a disguised, dark elf, a warrior incased in armor, a savage wild elf, a
great druid, a wizard, a ranger, a bastard prince, a shaman and a high priest
and their allies. Several of them had claims to greatness, being sons of the
lords of this realm. And having laid claim to two most powerful crystals of
their Lords, the White and the Black, one carried by the bastard prince and the
other by the halfling sorcerer.

           
And while their story is great, this is not their story, but mine. For now it is
enough to say that they were successful, they drove the giants from their lands,
even pushing deeper, down into the underdark in pursuit of the giant’s true
masters. They


descended into the depths of the earth, chasing the drow priestess Eclavdra
through a vast subterranean network of interconnected caverns and tunnels,
battling various creatures in the course of their journey. First fighting a
tough drow patrols, and then a raiding party of mind flayers (illithid from the
far realm) who were allied with wererats, but had halted their patrol long
enough to capture and torture their drow prisoners. They also found a grand
cavern containing more drow soldiers, purple worms, a lich, a clutch of undead,
a giant slug, sphinxes, trolls, bugbears, troglodytes, wyverns, and poisonous
fungi. While the prince fought and defeated the illithid, the party’s priest
entered into a secret dialog with the monsters.

The
heroes continued pursuing the drow encountering deep ones, a race of intelligent
water-dwelling creatures, approximately human-shaped but with a fishy,
frog-like, appearance. I think their predominant color was a greyish-green
through I forget, but I do remember that they had white bellies. They were
mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms
vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with
prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. And at the sides of their necks were
palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly,
sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I remember somehow being glad that
they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices were clearly
used for an articulate speech, and it held all the dark shades of expression
which their staring faces lacked … They were the blasphemous fish-frogs of the
nameless design – living and horrible, we called them Kuo-Toa.


“Wait, wait … You describe this as if you were there?” asks Finellior.


“Well yes, I suppose I do, as I said this is ‘my’ story.”

           
Anyhow, we found one, a rogue who helped us cross a large river for a fee. A
party of Svirfneblin (or deep gnomes) approached us on the other side, and we
convinced them we had come to fight against the drow. As we advanced we found
signs of the drow are all around; the drow moved easily through these
subterranean areas, even though they were hated and feared by most of the other
local intelligent races. As we moved through kuo-toan territory, I met their
ruler, another religious leader, the Priest-Prince Va-Guulgh, a servant of the
deity Dagon.

I
appeased the kuo-toa and gave show of a healthy respect their customs, and from
that point forward the evil kuo-toa were not openly hostile to us, yet I had
already started my decline. I found out that the drow and kuo-toa traded with
each other openly, but the kuo-toa still hated and feared the drow, which
resulted in frequent skirmishes between their two peoples.


Eventually we arrived at Erelhei-Cinlu, an underground capital of the drow, and
the city that housed the Fane of Lolth, their evil spider-goddess. After
traveling for league after league into the deep Underdark, we arrived at the
vast subterranean city of the drow. And within the Fane we found an astral gate
leading to the Abyssal realm of Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders, and goddess of
the drow elves, and she was the architect of the sinister plot involving the
giants of our realm. Her realm lied on the 66th layer of the Abyss, and it was
called the Demonweb Pits.

“Bla,
bla, bla, bla … Haven’t you heard enough from this buffoon. None of this means a
thing here and now … Besides it’s a fiction, it never happened.”


“Then why not let him finish? You said yourself it doesn’t matter.” suggests
Bingus.


“I suppose, but I may have to kill you when this over, and don’t say I didn’t
warn you.”

Yu
Gnuf continues as if nothing had happened:

We
traveled through series of interweaving passageways constructed in a maelstrom
of lost souls in the abyssal plane. One of group ventured off the path and we
lost him. Many of our spells work differently or not at all within this abysmal
realm. It was a maze; there were a number of portals to other worlds some where
Lolth was sending her minions as invaders, one such, a winter world and another
realm

of
perpetual night.

We
marshaled our way through Lolth’s webs, constantly confronted by her minions,
slaves, guards, and captives. At the very end we had a final confrontation with
Lolth, an exceptionally difficult battle against a gargantuan mechanical spider,
which Lolth manipulated, and Lolth’s handmaidens, the demonic yochlol.

Our
victory completed the single greatest quest I had ever participated in. We had
lost our thief; the drow spy had joined our cause turning against his sister
Eclavdra and his people; our warrior Logan had been destroyed; the savage elf
was long dead with our shaman, Lama Amya Seff. And many of my fellows had
already become bitter rivals, but I was the most tainted of us all. I had forged
dark alliances with the kuo-toa and the illithid and on our back to the surface
world I did their bidding.

I
broke seals, and open gates, protections put in place by the Lords of Mendelland
that had stood since The Dark Age. Breaking these seals opened the doorway
between Klarn and the Far Realm. Madness spread above us starting in the Far
East, centered on Raven’s Keep like the plague. Dagon rose from the sea, with
only a slight churning to mark its rise to the surface, the thing slid into view
above the dark waters. Vast, Polyphemus-like, and loathsome, it darted like a
stupendous monster of nightmares to the Overlord’s City, and attack my beloved
Palanthas, and flung its gigantic scaly arms, the while it bowed its hideous
head and gave vent to certain queer measured sounds.


Insane with fear, the people fled. Once I arrived, I sought out anyone who had
been present that day and escaped, I found a few, haunted by visions of the
creature, they spoke of his hideous gibbering, and they shared a common fear for
the future of humanity.

To
this day I cannot think of the deep sea without shuddering at the nameless
things that may at this very moment be crawling and floundering on its slimy
bed, worshipping their ancient gods carving their detestable likenesses on
submerged obelisks deep in the dark water dreaming of a day when they may rise
again. It was with in mind that I did eventually move into the sea kingdoms of
the waterborne elves, to guard against such an occurrence, and still I hear
whispers of their desire to drag down humanity, their talons reeking with the
remnants of puny, war-torn mankind –on that day when the land shall sink, and
the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.

As
we rose into the sun, the damage had already been done. Raven’s Keep had fallen,
and Blern and his Friends of Entropy were moving from east to west across the
landscape of Klarn. Soon after that the Lords of Mendelland abandoned us to our
fate. Between bouts of our own infighting we beat back the invaders, and then
they turned against me, and I myself was the last to fall, and it was the
bastard prince himself that dragged me to my doom. 

My
betrayal had been discovered by the halfling sorcerer, but my power had grown
beyond their scope, and so he conspired with the others against me. They
gathered the pieces of the Rod of Seven Parts, the same item once used against
Miska the Wolf-spider, in the Age before Ages when he commanded the forces of
Chaos against those of Law. On the battlefield of Pesh on the world of Oerth,
the Wind Dukes defeated Miska, imprisoning him within Pandemonium and shattering
the Rod into seven parts that were later gathered by Mendel and given onto the
Klarn’s Guardians of the East, but in the wake of my betrayal, the guardians had
fell. So the surviving members of Mendelland’s Court tracked down the pieces of
the Rod, and gathered them once more to use the Rod against me. In the depths of
my perfidy I was seeking to release Darklens upon them all, and they caught-up
to me at the Tomb of Limbo where we fought into a stalemate, when at the climax
of this battle Ian Whitestone, the welder of the Whitestone which had been
Ishtar’s half of the Dark Lens tackled me and dragged us both into the Tomb.

Immediately
I wrestled with his mind over control of the Whitestone, but his will was strong
and he would not be defeated. Eventually our minds merged as one being; as such
we learned that we could use the power of the stone to escape at least partially
from the prison in which we had become trapped. You see, long before this day
Ian had learned to manifest duplicates of himself through the power of the
Stone, a power that proved beyond Limbo’s power to contain. Working together we
projected ourselves back into the fabric of Klarn’s space. And that projection …


“Hah, I knew it, you asked for it and now you know I am quite beyond your
ability to harass me, but I would let him give you my name because there is a
magic in names, and I have no wish to be beholden to you.”

“I
already know your name, it is Eon … I learned it when I was merged to you. Now
let him finish or I will do my best to use your name against you!” threatens
Bingus.


“As if you could, I care not, I’ll let him finish, but not because you’ve told
me too, only because I want him to finish … then I will kill you and not only
you, but all of your friends too, and then maybe every gnome

everywhere.”


“Don’t let him bother you lad, I heard him that time. I think you’ve got his
attention. And regardless, I’ve got a plan, a real plan. That’s what I want to
tell you about. And keep in mind, he’s not all bad, not really, Ian is in there
and I believe he is at least as powerful as Kenth. Kenth, that’s your friend
there. You remember him don’t you? The boy you met in the ruins of Rivenroar.
The same boy Orion and Lama Amya showed-up in Brindol for. He’s the priest I’ve
been telling you about.”

           
As I was saying, Eon had learned to project himself out of Limbo. And he began
adopting different personas each to its own purpose, some very evil, and others
less so, all of them also mad in their own way and possessed of immense power.
He interacted with his old friends, feeding their egos, cajoling team, sewing
his own special brand of chaos turning one against one another until they were
nearly as raving as Eon and they were just about as powerful as Eon himself.
Their names became legend … Faffernedi, Sam Spade, Elkatron, Orion, Zardoz, and
Jack. I know you’ve met a few of them, and be thankful that you haven’t met them
all, one of them is a really rapscallion.

Eon
was one of the catalysts that distracted them and turned them against each
other. Without their support and in the absence of the Lords of Mendelland, all
of whom had left save Gaea, along with the worship of any other true god; the
people turned their faith back to the ancient primordials, elemental evils, in
search for power and meaning while these would fought amongst themselves and
even then they still managed to battle and defeated Tiamat, but without outside
guidance they stole her power and the greed that came with it for themselves.
Eventually they reformed the world into one in which the people serviced them
instead of the other way around. The Seven city-stated became Nine; each
clinging desperately to life in the expanded Tablelands of Klarn that then
included the lands east of Raven’s Keep. Each city was ruled by a powerful
Sorcerer-Kings, who served both as a tyrant and a protector of the City they
maintained, and still they battled each other until only five remained. Jack,
the only one still concerned with justice had left long ago in disgust seeing
the world they had created; a world where magic drained the very essence of
life. Their epic wars left vast swaths of the land sterile; even as Orion and
his druids fought a losing battle to somehow preserve the environment. They
insured that the practice magic became a means to tempt death at the hands of
mob-like masses that had once again fallen into savagery, yet the cities
themselves were ruled by the most powerful practitioners of magic the world had
ever seen, defilers and dragonkings all. Eventually all of cities were cast into
chaos and violent strife until the desert swallowed them and the wastes became
riddled with the ruins of the people’s long dead cities.

But,
as I prefaced this tale, none of this has ever happened, and I hope it never
will. The problem is Eon is still trapped in Limbo a place where time doesn’t
exist not any sense you’d comprehend. Not even you Bingus and you’ve been there
haven’t you. Fun wasn’t it, I know you’ve had more than a glimpse of the kind of
chaos that occurs there and it is going to be hard if not impossible to do or
undo everything needs to be done. The problem has always been the Whitestone,
the psionic gem within which Ian and Kenth were merged; the same stone that had
been known as the Dark Lens. It contained their essence, and their combined
power; power greater than any mortal mind could endure or weld and retain any
measure of sanity.  Giving a mortal man that much raw power, putting him in
control, and watching him become a god is a sure path to destruction. So a rare
alliance of the Lords of Mendelland was establish, and with the support of all
the Whitestone was shattered, divided it into eight equal parts, each dedicated
to the purposes of one of Klarn’s Lords; each more manageable, with but a
portion of the power of the whole; each with a distinct persona. All of these
have now worked with or against you now in the pursuit of your mission, but we
are each imperfect and incomplete, hidden from each other, and we must die all
of us that the world might live. Together with me there are four left … Quill,
Asa Mantir, and Noe. And Noe is unique in that he cannot be seen or influenced
by our father, which was another part of the plan. Eon has grown restless now
that his time is finally at hand.

           
A brilliant light flashes concurrent with a loud popping sound, half-blinded,
Fin hears the door smash open behind him. Bilgamesh leaps into the small cabin
and a great cat growls as a strong arm pushes the bard aside. 

As
Bilgamesh enters,

Noe
steps out of the shadows blocking his path, a ghostly panther crouched,
hissing beside him.


"Quiet Nia, these are friends … Bingus, it has been a long time has it not? I
see that the spirits have been guiding your path, which is well as yours is a
journey of many miles. It is a shame that the friends that you had with you
before are not with you now, but your current companions are strong and seen
clearly from the spirit realm."

He
nods to Bilgamesh before continuing to speak to Bingus.

"If
you would be so kind as to introduce me, I would make my acquaintance with the
others. I have a better understanding of myself now and I have realized that we
have all met to a limited degree, but in truth we are still in most ways
strangers as well. It has been a great many moons since we last crossed paths so
it is only fitting that I tell you of my journey. Since last we met I have
learned more of my own history.”


A
s
I said before I am of the cliff people, a peaceful group of varied humanoids who
live in the cliffs off the coast of the Sea of Dragons. We were a people who
lived in harmony with nature and only had to worry occasionally about the
attacks from other islands.

My
father was a panther walker, one of our village’s defenders; as such he had been
bonded to his own panther as a babe, a great honor among my people. He had hoped
that I too would become a panther walker. He procured a panther for me, Nia, and
I was raised along side-by-side with her. However, as I aged, I found that I did
not have the focus and discipline of my father, and the ways of the wild escaped
me, but I took to the combat well enough, and I needed to; the other children in
the village were jealous of Nia and I. Few were bonded to their panthers before
their naming ceremony, a thing that happened only after they came to and age and
maturity to be recognized as full member of our tribe, and a part of this was
the learning of the names of the herbs and development of the skills necessary
to survive alone in the wilderness. These were all lessons that came hard to me,
if at all. I took shortcuts, I stole. I found it was easier for me to wait and
take what I needed from others than to find the herbs the elder assigned me to
find. First I was a bully, and then a thief; I took the hard earned treasures of
others and claimed them as my own. I was young and foolish, and I didn’t know
any better or more honestly, if I did, I didn’t care. And I didn’t learn from
those occasions I was caught, instead I became even better at stealing and as
the years passed I was caught more infrequently.


It was our way during our coming of age ceremony that each child was required to
partake in a vision quest. Each child is sent into the wilderness to survive
until they received a vision at which time they came back to the tribe and share
the truth they had discovered. It was believed that these quests brought greater
understanding to the tribe. When it was my turn I became worried, I knew that I
was expected to come back as a warrior, as a panther walker, but in my heart I
never expect that would happen. Before being sent out, the village shaman
pronounced a weird over me assuring that I would come back as an adult or not at
all. She looked at me before I left and said, "You are not mad; I am sorry for
the pain, but it is for the best." It sounded ominous.

I
was lead far out into the wilderness past the point where I had any hope of
knowing how to come back on my own and I told was told I would know when I
should return. I was alone, with no provisions, but I was allowed to bring Nia
with me. 

The
first couple of days were difficult, but Nia was a good hunter and she brought
her kill back and shared it with me. Had she not, I would have quickly become
hungry. She also found a pond of fresh drinking water. We traveled for three
days climbing over rocky hillsides until we heard rough sounds that we found to
be a band of ogres. At first, it was easy to avoid them, but I didn’t realize
that the place that I chose to take shelter was so poorly chosen, a trap-not one
set by the ogres, but by my own ignorance. I awoke to the sounds of the ogres
shouts, roughhousing and carousing, there was a great rumble above me. 
Within seconds rocks were tumbling down upon us, we both scrambled to try to
escape from the crevice in which I had hidden myself, but, moments later I was
immersed in darkness and choking as dust filled my lungs. I passed out and after
a long time finally regained consciousness. My head was aching, as I pushed
rocks out of the way and climbed out of the rubble which had buried me. It was a
wonder that I had not been crushed, but the crevice had provided a shield of
protection over me, and the larger rocks had passed by leaving only a smattering
of smaller rocks to pelt me. I was injured but luckily not dead. After I freed
myself I looked for Nia. I cried out a wail that must have been heard for miles;
surely the ogres had heard me, but I didn’t care, I had found Nia and I had
lifted her broken body in my arms. She had escaped the crevice only to be
crushed by the huge boulders. I held her, rocking with my pain, cripple both in
mind and body until I feel asleep in my exhaustion.

As I
slept I had a dream. In the dream I saw a group of strange creatures dancing
around a fire. Each of the creatures came over to me and touched my forehead and
then returned to their dance. Finally, a person emerged from the dance, it was
our shaman. She looked at me and said, "Now your test begins in truth. Do not
despair, she is with you still."

I
awoke once more to the sound of approaching ogres, and again I quickly
disappeared into the shadows before they found me. The next couple days were
hard, I struggled trying to find food, but my skills were lacking and I found
little to eat. I found a few berries, but again my ignorance betrayed me, I did
not suspect that they were toxic, and they only made me sicker. I did find some
water, and my wounds had begun to heal even as I became more ill, but thankfully
I hadn’t broken anything though my ribs began to ach significantly.


Eventually I circled back and found the ogres, desperate for food I imagined
that I could fairly easily steal from their food stores. I had no difficulty
sneaking into their camp and when I did, I notice that they had a satyr caged
within their camp next to a sack of meat. I open the crude lock of the cage and
roused the satyr. He was about to cry out so I quickly covered his mouth while
motioning for silence; he quieted, and I grabbed the bag of food as he and I
fled the camp. Unfortunately, he was not as stealthy as I and the ogres heard
him, and quickly began to chase after us. My erstwhile accomplice turned out to
be less thankful than I had hoped, and as soon as we saw the ogres behind us he
told them that I was stealing their food as he turn and ran in their direction.
The ogres were predictably dim, and they looked confused as I quickly ducked
behind a bush causing them to doubt whether I was there or not. The ogres split
up, some taking the satyr and other staying to search for me. It was a simple
matter for me to lose the ogres in the scrub of the underbrush. Once I was safe
I opened the sack of food and pulled out the catch I had worked so hard for
looking forward to a meal; my stomach was growling with anticipation, so great
was my hunger, but it turned to disgust a I pulled out a leg with a cloven hoof,
clearly that of another satyr. I was hungry, but not hungry enough to eat other
sentient thing, not even one that looked like a goat, besides there was more
meat yet in the bag. I cast the satyr’s leg aside and reached for the next
offering, but I instinctually recoiled in horror as I withdrew Nia’s head.
Quickly I tossed the bag away and I buried her head along with the satyr’s leg
offering as much respect such as I could muster to both.

I
wandered for another three days, I had stopped thinking about myself and
worrying about when I might find the village, my thoughts were focused on my
lost companion, more than any fearful reception of my tribe. The lack of food
and the poisoned berries were starting to take their toll on me. I was feeling
feverish and was seeing and hearing things that were probably not there. I was
sure that I was being followed by the ogres but when I doubled back to observe
them they were gone, nothing was left, but that night I saw movement in the
light of the moon and after that I had trouble sleeping.

On
the fourth day since the rockslide I had another encounter. I had found another
pond of what I believed to be fresh water but just as I was about to drink a
panther burst from the undergrowth taking a position between me and the water. I
fell over in my surprise, but the panther only stood; denied of the water, I
backed away, until I could safely flee. Still unsated, my thirst grew, men can
go hungry, but fail quickly deprived of water. There was a rustle in the
underbrush as a bird took flight near me, and I feared that the panther had
followed, but took heart when I realized I was still alone, and I began to look
in earnest for another waterhole. Eventually I was successful, I found another,
but again when I went to drink the panther appeared and warned me off. Over the
course of the next day the encounter repeated twice more before I finally found
a watering hole that seemed to satisfy the great cat which had plagued my steps.
Weakly, I bent to drink the water, fearful and cautiously by now expecting to
see the cat, but this time I didn’t spot the panther until after my lips touched
the water when I saw the panther watching me from the other side of the pond and
finally I realized that there was something familiar about this panther, she
looked very much like my Nia. I called out to her and she came to my side. Tears
began to run from my face and I reached out to pet her only to have my hand pass
through her. She was an apparition nothing more, and immediately she
disappeared.

I
fell to the ground and cried out in frustration and anger as if this was some
trick the spirits of nature were playing with me. But then sitting next to the
trunk of a large tree was a beautiful fox.

She
spoke to me, "Understand, I’ve played no trick, young shaman. It is just that
you are inexperienced. You do not know how to control that which is within you;
though I admit I did find it a bit funny."


"Shaman?!” I exclaimed; I am no shaman. I am a…I don’t know but, that isn’t
… it" I was at a loss, for honestly, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be,
but I had never thought of myself as a shaman. One doesn’t become a shaman, it
is a calling. One is chosen.

"Ah,
the light dawns, call back your totem. She will come when you call. She will
help guide you. Restore that relationship first, then we will continue our
conversation, I and the rest of us, if we’re not too busy."


After the fox left I called out to Nia and she returned. I recognized her, and
of course realized she was a creature of spirit now. I quickly grew into this
new relationship, I flourished, and after many days spent in the wilderness
talking to her she tutored me in the ways of spirits, and taught me how to speak
to the other spirits of the wild, and after many day I found myself back to my
village.


Oddly, Nia was visible to all the member of my tribe, everyone within the
village saw her, so unusual was this that the tribe afforded a position and rank
of an elder even though I was still but a teen.

I
worked with the other elders of my tribe for years until one day when the
spirits of the world began to call out to me so loudly and such urgency that I
could not ignore then. Eventually I was visited by one of the great spirits–The
Carver–who warned that there was a great change in the wood. Not sure what to
do I brought the information back to the other elders.

The
other elders make offerings to the gods and spirits seeking out their guidance
and wisdom. One of the elders, Okatu, believed that we had angered the gods and
suggested they should begin making human sacrifices until the gods were
appeased. The other elders were shocked by Okatu’s suggestion and refused to
listen to his words, even banishing him from our council.


While we elder continued to deliberate, Okatu had taken matters into his own
hands and began secretly snatching and sacrificing members of our tribe. At
first his actions were attributed to the dangers of the wilds, accidents
happened people were lost, but soon we realized that something more was afoot,
and that someone was killing off members of our tribe, and it was easy to guess
that it was Otaku.

We
cornered Otaku on the edge of a cliff and were going to force him to surrender
himself, but instead he chose to jump into the raging sea below and disappeared
into the waves below; the waves rose as if to meet him and they continued to
rise becoming larger and larger until they were higher even than the cliffs
themselves and they began to wash over our village. Soon the village was
decimated; many were drowned and still more were crushed by falling rocks as the
waves pounded against the rocks, causing them to tumble down the cliffs.

I
did what I could to save my friends and family, but in the end I too was washed
out to sea and as I sunk below the waters I was again visited by another great
spirit, the Great Current. She came to me and carried me to safety to another
island far from where my village had been. There I recovered, and afterwards I
built a raft and returned to my home. I searched the island but I could find
nothing of what had been my home, and there were no survivors. Perhaps others
had been rescued by the spirits of the waters, but if so I could not find them.


Alone of the island I went on another vision quest to determine what my new
place in this world might be. During that vision a third great spirit came to
me–The Monster Hunter. It said that I had yet had a great destiny in store for
me, but warned that it would be a long, strange journey. It said that would be
both myself and not myself; it said I would die and live and die again. And in
the end, I would join save my tribe along with the rest of the world from Otaku
and others far worse, and one day when this finally came to pass, I would be
reunited with my family.

I
awoke from my vision quest I knew where I must go and set myself upon this
journey. I have been wandering the countryside for many moons; the Fox Woman has
shown me many of her tricks, though I hope she has saved a few for herself.
Another great and fearful spirit tried to follow me here. A spirit that had
passed through the gate of dreams, one who sought to kill me, but my spirit has
not gone to my ancestors yet. I deceived the Spirit Hunter, and passed through
his gate of dreams myself; the Fox Woman was clever enough to teach me how to
hide. Beyond the gate I found shelter within a crystal palace where I met other
spirits, those who had been killed by the Great Spirit Hunter, and I realized
that I had stumbled upon the means to complete my quest.

“And
so once again I have come to you Bingus, that once again we might travel this
road together.” 

As
light floods into the cabin you feel something shattered beneath your feet,
looking downward you find crystal shard sewn about the floor.

“Do
not worry; I have put the Spirit Hunter to sleep. He will not find you while I
am here. We have no time for him now. We must content with the Great Dragon
Twins now, they too are couch themselves in dream and metaphor. Know that I am
honored to be with you again and should you need anything from me you have but
to ask.”


A Postscript, Bingus’s Explanation:

 

           
We never saw Yu Gnuf again. Oh, I eventually found his hat among my fineries,
but I never the man himself. I believe that his cycle has been completed as I
found a shattered crystal on the floor of the cabin. Thankfully, the entity
called Eon seems to be gone as well, at least for the time being, and seemingly
it has no influence over Noe. And while I may never fully understand it, I have
determined that the minds of Ian Whitestone and Thurann Kenth merged while
battling over the control of a powerful crystal called the Dark Lens after they
were trapped together within Limbo. Later they used the power of the crystal to
escape, but only by bringing the dangerous, powerful being called Eon into
existence, a being who would or will herald the end to the world of Klarn in a
reality or a future which we must avoid. Given the unique nature of Limbo, Yu
Gnuf has been struggling prevent this potentiality. The problem is that Eon is
so powerful, and lairing within Limbo, he is insulated from any conventional
attack so a plan has been developed, by agreement of the Lords of Mendelland
that involved the shattering of the Whitestone before it ever entered Limbo thus
dividing Eon’s power and consciousness into eight separate but equal personas,
some of them more beneficent than others, but regardless of their nature, until
they too are gone we will never truly be safe. Let us hope Yu Gnuf’s sacrifice
has not been in vain.

SOW Chapter16: The Legacy of Io – Conclusion

The Legacy of Io – Conclusion

 



“Few things are as iconic, or as terrifying, as finding a hoard of treasure only
to be met with a fearsome nightmare;



Covered in scales, wings unfurled, and with breath as lethal as a natural
disaster;



However, and to be sure, despite their magnificent power, the dragons of this
current era are but pale imitations of the true dragons … The first dragons!



It is said that Io was the progenitor of the twin dragon gods Tiamat and
Bahamut, and that through them the world’s modern dragons arose,



But then you must keep in mind dragons are mysterious beings, able to mix and
blend with mortal society with ease.



As such, a little bit of draconic blood, yes even the blood of the Io, might be
mingling, hiding within even you simply waiting for the chance to burst out!



Oh, the divine splendor of it all, waiting to spring back to life, and show the
material world what a real dragon can do.”



 


 



Storm’s Fury



 



W
ith
each broken seal the storm that rages perpetually over the district known as the
Salts grows more intense. The breaking of the third seal is heralded by
shrieking winds and roaring thunder. The uninhabited islands nearest the
epicenter of the storm are raked with lightning as the storm’s fury reaches
heights never before seen within Hestavar and the waters of the lagoon begin to
flow inward toward the eye of the storm fueling an ever growing waterspout
already of gargantuan proportions. It is in the eye of the storm, a place that
no immortal dares tread, and is there that the final seal waited, bound into an
all but forgotten terror from the war at creation’s beginning: Nakheten, the
raging storm, a powerful storm titan, the former lieutenant of the primordial
Heur-Ket, but the eons of captivity had not been kind to the storm titan, now
while only a shadow of his former self, he had woken from long slumber, a
terrible force of insane rage and hatred, mirrored in the growing storm. Within
a cage forged of deific magic, Nakheten had been wakened; as his rage had
swelled it gave rise to the storm above, his roars lost in the thunder. The
waters of the lagoon rose into a frothing wall of destruction as he bid to free
himself hoping to resume his master’s work.



 


Back at the ruins of the Dawnbell as the visitors from Klarn begin to traverse
the darkening skies of Hestavar. Everywhere the inhabitants of the Bright City
flee before them; they are greeted as bringers of doom, doors slam shut, and the
sky empties in front of them clearing a path to the inn where Bilgamesh had
concealed Amyria. The inn named the Garden of Geras lied buried within
Hestavar’s complicated network of isles and earthmotes, waterward of the
Dawnbell, towards the storm and past the City’s more ostentatious districts. The
Inn took its name from the Olympian legend of Geras, whereby the more gēras
(age) a man acquired, the more kleos (fame) and arete (excellence and courage)
he was considered to have. Regardless, Geras was depicted as a tiny shriveled-up
old man, an apt enough description of the inn.


 


They arrive at the inn without interruption, but upon their arrival they find
only the librarian, Yu Gnuf waiting, and they find him asleep, and there is no
sign of Amyria. Yu Gnuf wakes with a start, bewildered:


 



“Pardon me, I must have dosed off.”  


 


Ssarina shouts,


“Where is Amyria?!”


 



“Oh dear, she must of wandered off somewhere.”


 



“She was in no condition to go anywhere, you’re not making any sense!”

declares Bilgamesh nervously fingering an arrow as he unconsciously brings his
bow forward.


 



“You are quite right about that, the last I remember she was sleeping … And she
couldn’t be wakened, she was fitful, as if she was being tormented by another
nightmare. I must have … Ah … tried to quiet her. That’s all I remember …
Strange, hmm … Do you know how I got here, weren’t we somewhere else?”



 


Yu Gnuf’s comments trigger a search of the Garden of Geras. The inn’s staff is
to the person, notably intimidated by the party, who as mentions were now all
seen as harbingers of the doom that had seemingly fallen upon Hestavar. Amid the
innkeeper’s fearful gnashing of teeth, a narrative develops wherein Bilgamesh,
Ssarina and Amyria had secured the room, and then later, Bilgamesh had returned
alone, and then left with Ssarina, but no one working at the inn had ever seen
either Yu Gnuf at all, or Amyria since she first arrived, and at present, she
was nowhere to be found. Try as they might, the group is unable to solve the
mystery of the deva’s disappearance and after an hour’s search, given the
absence of any progress, they decide to rest and gather themselves in
preparation for the final push to break the fourth seal, all the while, Ssarina
and Bilgamesh take turns staring at Yu Gnuf with unmasked suspicion.


 






 



Several hours later, with their preparation complete, they gather and depart
from the inn targeting the massive tornado of water that had formed. It had
grown to an intense columnar vortex in the lowest region of Hestavar, both
titanic and menacing.


 


The
churning waters of the lagoon roar as its wave’s rise reforming themselves into
a wall of crushing, swirling water that climbs high into the sky sending an
avalanche of spray blasting outward at its pinnacle. As the travelers approach
within their astral skiff they find themselves trapped and buffeted by winds the
draw them in to the storm. Gripped by the storm’s irresistible power, Hagrid
struggles in vain with the vessel’s rudder, trying to hold a steady course
against the winds; despite his best efforts there is no way to change course
against the pull of the vortex. Winds hurling the small ship recklessly, its
passengers shaken like rag dolls one-by-one lose their grip and separate falling
away from the vessel, all save the goliath who clings for dear life, and manages
to ride the skiff right through the wall of water crashing down into an area of
the lagoon bed that is impossibly devoid of water. Around Hagrid a thundering
wall of water rotates around the dry bed of the lagoon, a manifestation of the
insane rage of the storm. Other members of his party begin to rain down, as the
warden takes note of the titanic creature roaring in concert with the storm;
within the vortex its rumbling bellows drowning out even the storm’s thunder.
Its form seems roughly hewn from shale; brilliant, crackling orange-white lights
shine forth from the cracks and joints in its body issuing as raw power and
rampant energy. It turns to regard the arrivals they feel an unending, ageless
rage burning deeply in the monster. It appraising them with wincey eye-like
ceases upon its head, and then unleashing a thundering howl from its blazing,
orange-white furnace of a mouth seemingly directing a question at Yu Gnuf it
asks:



 



“Miska is that you? It doesn’t look like you, but it smells like you. You’ve the
taint of the Rod upon you!



Is it time?



 



“Has the Queen wakened from her slumber?”



 



 


As the titan queries him Yu Gnuf spies the final seal, a flat disk of dull metal
inscribed with the combined symbols of Erathis, Ioun, and Pelor, buried deep
into the rocky flesh of the titan’s chest even as he struggles to grasp the
meaning behind the titan’s question. Finellior is quicker though, and silently
he recalls the legend of Miska, the wolf-spider:



 



T
he
bard recalls a legend about the earliest days of creation, in the Age before
Ages, when a obyrith demon lord called ‘The Queen of Chaos’ was said to have
launched a war against the forces of Law. By brute force and threats of death
and punishment, she rallied her fellow obyriths into a united front. To gain
cooperation from the then-servitor race the tanar’ri (now called demons), the
Queen took as her lover and general a beast called ‘Miska the Wolf-Spider’. The
Queen is said to have gone as far as murdering the then-Prince of Demons
Obox-ob, so that she could bestow that title to her new consort.



 



Under Miska’s command, the forces of Chaos were triumphant, taking over realm
after realm, driving back the forces of Law, which were led by the Vaati, or the
Wind Dukes until the Wind Dukes eventually fashioned an artifact to use against
Miska known as the Rod of Law. On the battlefield of Pesh on the world of Oerth,
the Wind Dukes defeated Miska, imprisoning him in Pandemonium and shattering the
Rod into seven parts, effectively bringing the war to a stalemate. Of the Queen,
to this day, no one knows, though legends of Oerth persist, stating that she
searched for a way to free Miska to finish the war.



 


Still what this had to do with Yu Gnuf is a mystery to the bard, who had more
urgent concerns as across the small battlefield his allies began launching
attacks upon the titan. Fin calls out to them asking for calm and reason, but
they ignore his pleas as the titanic battle begins. Rikar is the first to race
to the titan’s side, standing no taller than the monster’s ankle he strikes
viciously with Kas’s blade in an attack that goes all but unacknowledged by
Nakheten. Quickly he is joined by Bilgamesh, Vani and Ssarina and finally the
titan responds with fury, thrashing out at all his attackers as we wanders to
the center of the battlefield. Waves of thunder and lightning cascade upon
Nakheten’s attackers as the titan swings about with his massive fists knocking
those closest to him aside while at the same time calling down a lightning
strike upon the elven archer Bilgamesh. The lightning flashes painfully around
the elf, while from the vortex above a winged chariot falls sky amidst a cloud
of griffon’s feathers, with two riders desperately clinging to the chariot’s
gold armored hull. They land hard, the chariot upside not far from the titan. At
the edge of the battlefield Hagrid strains mightily trying to salvage the astral
skiff that remained trapped with the current of vortex comically being dragged
until  succeeds in shrinking the
vessel back down to it small cubic form. The chariot tumble through the air
tossed by one of those beneath it, as it flies away two figures stand revealed,
one an armored angel and the other the gnome Bingus, the party’s missing wizard.



 

Bingus
dusts himself off as Rikar screams his name … and the gnome casually responds:
“Bring me my blade.”



 



“What?”

ask Rikar incredulous. As Bingus associate springs to his feet and advances
toward the drow ranger.



 


Shaken but alive Bilgamesh draws from a special cache of enchanted arrows,
pulling a pair of particularly nasty arrows and fires both of them into the
titan’s massive face dazing the monster. Nakheten screams and howls in protest
causing an explosion of deadly winds to buffet and hurl his attackers helplessly
backward … Already at the edge of the battlefield Hagrid and Bilgamesh are cast
back into the vortex where they begin spinning helplessly in its current.


 


Rikar stabs at the angelic warrior who deftly dodges and counters, only to be
caught by Rikar’s following scythe-like second hand.  
 



 


Unimpressed, Bingus grins as he repeats,
“Rikar bring me the blade!”
The drow lunges, attempting to slay the gnome
but Bingus blocks Rikar’s blade easily with a rod, and gaining an advantageous
position he thrusts outward with the rod catching Rikar below his chin knocking
him backwards forcefully to the ground, and says:



“Do not imagine that you are my equal drow!”



 


Again the angel strikes stepping on Rikar’s arm in a clumsy attempt to disarm
the ranger, but Rikar rolls regaining his feet and preparing himself to counter
the angel’s approach.


 


Given up any hope of forestalling the battle, Finellior begins to sing, bringing
forth his own his own brand of magic through song; he begins healing his allies
across the battlefield and calls out to Yu Gnuf to do the same …


 



“My song will place gnawing doubt in the monster’s mind; friends strike him now
and you will be sustained!”



 

Needing
no further prompting Vani splits his essence in four directions vanishing only
to reappear as four separate wholes, and then the Vanis attack Nakheten with all
of their considerable power holding nothing in reserve. Being a storm sorcerer,
Vani was protected from the precise type of energies that were cascading from
Nakheten’s body, the raw unbridled power of storm; unfortunately likewise, the
titan seemed almost immune to either lightening or thunder with played on Vani’s
effectiveness too. Momentarily turning his attention back to the titan, Rikar
spins and flanks the monster with the Ssarina and the two warriors coordinate
their efforts to great effect, enough to make them the new focus of the titan’s
assault. Hagrid and Bilgamesh are each finally spat out of the vortex at random
points in the field of battle, Hagrid near the Nakheten, and Bilgamesh nearer to
one of the Vanis. As they recover Yu Gnuf begins communing with the nature of
time as it existed here within the eye of the storm, and begins manipulating it
creating a subtle disturbances, wrinkles in time that allow the librarian’s
allies to redouble the efforts striking over and over, in what passes for the
titan as almost no time at all. And all through it Fin cheers and rallies the
party’s efforts heightening their resolve and calling them to even greater
efforts:


 



Onward my friends, onward heroes!



Fight until we win!



Hack and slash, thrust, parry, bash!



On to battles end … (U-rah-rah)



Onward heroes, onward heroes!



Plow into the fray.



Fight, my friends, fight, fight, fight!



Until we win the day.


 


The others begin echoing the bard sentiment, answering his refrain, attacking
the titan with sword, bow, and spell until angered beyond reason Nakheten
reaches up into the storm and calls down lightning in such a torrent, so dense
that he makes it impossible to escape; the lightning blasts cover the small
oasis in a corona of raw power that almost kills Bilgamesh, and leave his lying
senseless on the dry lagoon bed. The elf’s friends rush to his aid, both Vani
and Yu Gnuf, offering healing magic. Seemingly frustrated, forgotten in the
chaos, Bingus shouts once more at Rikar, again this time his syntax and
pronunciation changing drastically as he commands:


 

“Do
not ignore me drow!



You really do think yourself my equal?



Did you think I’d forget?



BRING ME MY SWORD!”


 


As he speaks Bingus’s shoulders are held high as his three foot frame allows,
his chiseled, goatee-dressed chin is thrust forward, up and out, the gnome’s
eyes pinched, determined …


 


Rikar suddenly stops and turns to face Bingus abandoning the fight with the
titan even as the monster strikes … Unabashed, Rikar rolls with the blow,
tumbling then coming to feet to stand before Bingus. Bingus casts his eyes
downward with purpose, and without hesitation or protest Rikar collapses
kneeling as he presents the Sword of Kas to the gnome. Taking the sword in hand
Bingus reaches up with his free hand, towards his face and motions as if he is
ripping his own face off but instead peels away a mask of porcelain and throws
it aside spinning through the air, and in an instant he grows more than doubling
his height, quadrupling his weight and tossing the rod to the ground announcing
himself to be none other than Kas the Destroyer.


 



“Know that I could kill you now were it my goal, but I think it better to allow
you to suffer, so that you will know loss as I have.”


 


Beyond the revelry of Kas the Betrayer, Nakheten continues his assault, but he
begins showing signs of wear, and with his power beginning to wane. Hagrid
strikes the titan hard as he’s ever hit anything as he takes Rikar’s place,
keeping Nakheten between him and Ssarina’s, joining the paladin at the frontline
of the battle. Vani and Bilgamesh continue to attack from range, and they are
all buttressed by Yu Gnuf and Finellior. Together they overwhelm the titan. As
the battle rages Kas servant ‘Rook’ joins his master stepping close to Kas’s
side even as Nakheten falls. And then as the titan finally falls; the roaring
wall of water collapses instantly submerging the everyone present, hurling them
without mercy, hero and villain alike, tossing them a drift, choking and without
warning, sending them where it would.   


 


 

The Devil’s Due


 


 


The
crashing surf carries the hapless heroes like so much flotsam inexorably towards
the shore of a small unnamed island, their path narrowly avoiding the
razor-sharp spurs of jagged rocks that dot the island’s beach. As they arrive
they are greeted by the familiar, cheerful voice of Guionne, but his visage has
changed, he no longer appears decrepit or aged, but rather as a devil in full
vigor. He calls out from atop a flying vessel, a spell jammer docked above the
lagoon.


 



“Ah, my friends, I am so delighted that you were as good as your word and I see
you’ve managed to retrieve the arrow.”



 


Guionne breathes deeply, savoring the feel.


 



“Can’t you feel it in the air? The city is already feeling so much more
hospitable, and we have you to thank for it. Now … I need the artifact.”


 


Guionne reaches out with a hand offering a king’s ransom of gems.


 


Lined up below the ship waits Guionne enforcers, a cadre of devils including the
pit fiend the heroes met previous, a pair of diabolic lieutenants every bit as
massive as the pit fiend itself, and almost a dozen of hell’s finest
legionnaires. And on of the ship above wait Guionne, his two cherubium, and yet
unseen two assassin devils cloaked by invisibility. 
Guionne was feeling positively radiant, secure in the knowledge that the
mortal explorers would be worn out by the primordial, and half-drowned … They
should be, relatively speaking easy pickings now.


The heroes find themselves spread out across the expanse of the lagoon,
deposited randomly along with their enemies Kas and Rook. And Guionne was right,
they were weary, but he was wrong too, because there was still plenty of fight
within every one of them. Buoyed by the magic of one of his rings, magic that
allowed Hagrid to move as easily through water as land, the goliath emerged
nearest the shore and closet to the ship. At the end of the battle with the
titan, after the collapse of the waterspout, Hagrid realized something had
appeared within his hand; it looked like a short spear, but Hagrid knew it was
the item called the Arrow of Fate. Standing there Hagrid feels an instinctual
need to protect the Arrow, and he tries to hide it beneath the waves, but they
were capricious, rising and falling, and Hagrid was tall, too tall while caught
standing there in the shallow end of the lagoon, and he knew the Arrow had been
exposed. Hagrid turns away from the beach, fleeing from Guionne’s prying eyes
trying to make for deeper water, but Rook, Kas loyal aid intercept the goliath
and makes a grab for the Arrow. The vampire’s servant is quick, too fast to
avoid, but thankfully not strong enough to immediately wrest the Arrow from
Hagrid. A scuffle breaks out between the two of them, Rook seems as at home in
the crashing surf as Hagrid, but being much larger than Rook gives Hagrid an
advantage as he tries to pull it from Rook’s grasp, then as if choosing side the
Arrow transforms becoming a wickedly sharp blade at the point of the shaft where
Rook had it gripped and he finds no purchase upon the weapon as Hagrid rips it
from his grasp.    


 


Everywhere along the beach those caught up in the crashing waves begin to
appear. Taking cue from Kas’s servant, Rikar, a ranger who was also a skillful
swimmer, comfortable within the rough surf, had had regained his senses and was
once again free of Kas’s influence; silently he swims up behind Kas and stabs
the vampire in the ribcage with his scythe-like bladed-hand distracting the
vampire and snatches back the Sword of Kas with his free hand. Immediately Rikar
feels the rush of the Sword’s power spreading through his body, for a moment
unconcerned by Kas’s rage, but reality, and self-preservation quickly returns
and Rikar moves to escape, but the vampire lord rises from the water gliding
effortlessly through the air and lands in front of the retreating ranger. Faster
than the eye can follow he attacks with a second sword but Rikar parries Kas
strike using the Sword of Kas and grins as the vampire with ruthless intent.
 


 


Nearby, Bingus suddenly ‘reappears’ and begins calling out to anyone who will
listen, Fin stares at the gnome with incredulity, disbelieving that he is
actually seeing Bingus clinging to the face of one of the many rock-outcroppings
there at the eastside of the lagoon. Seeing Finellior confusion Bingus repeats
himself:


 



“We have to take the Sword from Rikar; it is the only way to save him and
ourselves from its evil! Can’t you see how it controls him? We don’t need to
fear Kas, he only wants the Sword!”


 


Rikar reacts immediately,

“Liar!”

… “I knew you were behind this Bingus, you’re the bane of my existence, first I
will end Kas and then I will end you I swear it
!”
as he viciously slashes as Kas.


 


Then rising out of the surf Yu Gnuf appears hovering and says:



“Bingus you’re back.”



stating the obvious before continuing:


 



“I believe there is merit to what Bingus is saying, maybe we don’t need to fight
Kas after all.”



 


Being a creature of darkness himself, Rikar is quick to comprehend an advantage
in his duel with the vampire lord; here in Hestavar, even after the storm, the
environment remained brilliantly illuminated, as one might expect of a place
called ‘The Bright City’ and certainly, while yet powerful, Kas the vampire,
couldn’t possibly be at his full strength; watching closely, Rikar realized the
vampire’s wounds were not closing, and he seemed to be struggling more than he
should if it were not so bright. Rikar, on the other-hand, had been with the
party long enough to go accustomed to the light of the sun, even while
preferring darkness. Playing on this weakness, Rikar attacks coping quite well
with the insanely powerful vampire and joined by Ssarina they more than hold
their own, so much so Rikar thoughts are free to wander to what was truly
bothering him, his so-called friends and allies. It burned him deeply that they
here again they were being so quick to judge him, to turn on him! Certainly, he
would be better without them. He didn’t need them anyhow; they needed him, and
they used Him! They lied, they stole, and they betrayed. They deserved to be
abandoned their fate, or better maybe he should kill them all after he finished
off Kas and Bingus. They were obviously all fools, and the gnome had to die.


 



“Bingus, I am coming for you, I’ve seen through you and when I come you won’t
escape, not this time! You’re fools all of you to believe him, none of this
would be happening if you hadn’t stopped me last time. I am through warning you
now!”


 


When Vani appears he is alone, all his duplicates had been destroyed in the
crash of the storm. As the halfling pops above the waves he sees Hagrid swimming
towards him, then the surf crashes again pushing him past the goliath who shove
something into his hand. The surf deposits Vani near the beach near the prow of
the ship and he wastes no time before he blasts most of Guionne’s legionnaires
into non-existence. Guionne reacts trying to encircle Vani within a wall of
burning iron, much as the Dispater aspect had done to Bingus back in the



Fortress of Three Sorrows
,
but before they can trap him Vani teleports away into deeper water escaping
Guionne’s wrath for the moment. On the ship above the two cherubium take aim and
launch a pair of magical ballistae, one at each Hagrid and Vani, fortunately for
the heroes they miss. 


 


The pit fiend and his lieutenants’ race after the goliath taking to air in the
effort to corral the fleeing Hagrid intent on capturing the Arrow, unaware that
Hagrid had already passed the Arrow to Vani in passing, but Guionne knew, and he
sends his invisible assassins after the halfling sorcerer.


 


Together Ssarina and Rikar continue their attack upon Kas taking full advantage
of their flanking positions. Torn as to what to do, Finellior joins in their
effort taunting the vampire and inspiring the efforts of the two warriors all
the while still searching for some measure of hidden truth amid the various
statements of his friends. Frustrated Fin calls out to Yu Gnuf and asks what he
thinks they should do.


 


Bingus answers first: “It is the
nature of the Sword to betray, it speaks in whispers, convincing him to slay and
betray us. We cannot abandon Rikar to the Sword!”


  


As an afterthought Bingus dispatches the last of Guionne’s legionnaires with a
spell while from the far side of the beach, Rook, Kas servant, a shape-changing
doppelganger, takes on the form of a mere-man which allows his to swim rapidly
towards his master.  


Surrounded
and trapped within a field of fire thanks to an burning aura exuded by pit
fiend, Hagrid prepares to do battle with the three largest devils, but worse
that the pit fiend’s flame is the appalling sense of fearsome dread that engulf
the goliath as the devils draw near; it is the kind the fear that freezes one’s
soul, the little death that heralds final demise. Needing a miracle Hagrid draws
deep from the primal well of his power and smoke begins curling off Hagrid’s
exposed skin joining with the steam created by the flaming water of the lagoon;
the smoke spills from fissures forming in Hagrid’s thickening hide, and then in
a spreading transformation his hide turns to magma as Hagrid adopts a guardian
form of a fiery earthen elemental. He ignores the devil’s flames and attacks!
The devils respond with pounding fury, they attack with sword and shield, mace
and the pit fiend’s poison-tipped tail. Together they batter Hagrid into the
surf where he lays battered and oozing bloody magma.
 


 


Vani turns his attention to Guionne and his cherubium, but as he begins to
target one of the cherubium he can’t help but question the cruelty of his
action, the cute cherub’s sweet disposition get the better of the sorcerer and
he decide at the last second to blast the devils attacking Hagrid instead and
sends them toppling backwards and begins healing Hagrid.
 


 


Bingus yells: “LISTEN … We CANNOT
slay Kas! There is no way for us to kill him only a stake from his home plane
can accomplish that.”


 


Even surrounded by foes, thus far Kas had easily held his own and he was still
showing little sign of wear or fatigue, but even so long centuries of conflict
had taught Kas to rely on more than his skill-at-arms and his considerable
physical prowess to win the day; with growing awareness that he would not be
able to best these assemble heroes here and now so without warning he changes
tacks, scabbards his blade, and says:


 



“Bingus is right; I am here only at his request for only I can save the drow
now; he is broken, make no mistake. He is a tool of the Sword, for no mortal can
long weld my blade. Now it is only a matter of time before he kills you all.” 
 


 


Guionne calls out:


“Vampire Lord, join me, I care not for your blade, let us slay them all you can
take what’s rightfully yours and I want only the Arrow. Let us join forces, kill
them and be done with it.”



 


Finellior cautiously asks: “If he is
broken, how might we save him.”


 


Rook rejoins Kas at his side, and offers himself:
“Feed master, regain your strength.”


 


Without hesitation Kas grabs Rook and rips his throat open with needle-tipped
fangs, and heals himself feasting on Rook’s blood.


 


Suddenly a powerful wave driven by the faltering storm, crashes through the
lagoon; it causes Vani and Hagrid to lose their footing, and once again Hagrid
find the devils upon him, circling him on the beach, the goliath rises to his
feet and slashes out violently destroying the two lesser lieutenants leaving
only the pit fiend opposing him. The assassin devils appear on either side of
Vani and capture the halfling in a net of shadow along with the Arrow. The
capture of Vani and more importantly, Guionne’s lust for the Arrow along with
the growing anticipation that it would soon be his distracts the fiend away from
the conversation long enough for Kas to respond to the bard. In answering he
says
:



“You cannot heal your friend, such is the power of the Sword, but you might be
able to replace his desire for it.”


 


Repulsed by Kas’s feeding, Finellior asks
“How?”  


 



“With the Arrow of Fate.”

answers Kas …


“I expect it is as least as powerful as the Sword, and in the absence of the
Sword presence its power should ease Rikar’s yearning.”


 


To Guionne’s dismay Vani escapes the net teleporting away, and the master devil
orders his cherubium to give chase. As Vani reappears he counters lambasting
both his would be assassins and Guionne with sorcerous power. 


 


Rikar, having been stunned into inaction by the sheer audacity of Kas and his
disbelief in what he was hearing, and with his paranoia having risen to a new
zenith, the drow dances past Ssarina and launches himself at Kas. Deftly Kas
shields himself with Rook’s body, lifting the doppelganger into Rikar’s path
using the strength of but one of his arms. Rikar’s blades sink deep into Rook
killing him instantly, finishing what Kas had started. Tossing the body aside,
Kas backhands the ranger knocking him into the surf. Then staring down at the
ranger he repeats his command:


 



“Give me my Sword!”

and helpless against Kas’s will Rikar hands the weapon back to the vampire.  
 


 


Moving to avoid being boarded, Guionne directs his ship, The Impaler, to begin
rising into the sky. It lifts straight upward. Below the fleeing vessel Vani and
Hagrid bring their battles with the pit fiend and the assassin devils to an end
destroying their attackers, and having had enough of being bit and harassed by
the two cherubium both of whom had been attacking him with needle-sharp teeth
and piercing claws Vani laughs and says:
“You should chase after your master now, because you’re starting to make me mad,
and you won’t like me when I’m angry.”



 


Ignoring the halfling the cherubs renew their attacks and good as his threat
Vani blasts them to non-existence. Above the fray, Guionne struggles with
vessel, lacking the necessary crew to properly pilot the vessel, desperate he
respawns the cherubium who reappear aboard the ship, red-faced and angry, but
even with their help the ship moves at a crawl.


 


Alone and completely healed, Kas looks towards Bingus and says,



“I believe we are through here. Be sure your path does not cross mine again or I
will certainly kill you.”


 


As he finishes he transforms in to a mist and vanishes.


 


Joining the others, Vani hands Yu Gnuf the artifact, and says:
“Am I right in assuming that this is the
Arrow of Fate?”


 

As
the librarian takes hold of the item an arcane breach opens in space, leaking a
heavy darkness that congeals and becomes Amyria; she lies silent at Yu Gnuf’s
feet as a look of surprise and embarrassment colors the librarian’s face
painting his cheeks a warm shade of pink. Rushing to Amyria’s side, Ssarina
checks for signs of life and announces,



“She’s alive, but only just.”


 


Quickly Yu Gnuf passes on the Arrow of Fate on to Rikar, as the drow begins to
recover from Kas’s enchantment, and tells the drow
“I expect you to put this to good use.”



 


Eyeing the librarian with unmasked distain, Bilgamesh hisses with an icy
intensity stating


“I thought you didn’t know what happened to my lady, Amyria. What exactly have
you done to her
?”
as he sets arrow to string.  


 


But just then Amyria’s eyes begin to flutter and her lips move as if she is
trying to speak, failing that, she collapses once more. Still confused, by
impulse more than thought, Rikar places the Arrow of Fate in her hand and she
wakes with a start, blinking and gasping, with her entire body shuddering,
Amyria pulls herself to her feet leaning heavily upon Ssarina she announces:


 



“The visions are correct. Bahamut lives … Celestia we … must … the answers
wait there.”



and then she slumps once more into Ssarina’s powerful arms unconscious.


 


Incensed, and frustrated, Rikar recovers the odd looking weapon. As he does it
shifts in his hand becoming a mirror image to Kas’s own blade; curious Rikar
imagines a shorter blade, and the Arrow of Fate reacts matching his thoughts.
Rikar glares at the others still angry, but with a birthing insight that alters
the tone of his anger, shifting it to a thing born of frustration, the
frustration of having been proved wrong rather the deeper brooding hatred he had
been experiencing.


 


Watching Rikar closely, Bilgamesh points toward the sky, where high above on the
Impaler was a drift, seemingly out of control … Summoning his griffon he asks
Rikar,


“I need you, are you with me?”



 


Rikar nods, and joining Bilgamesh on the griffon, they rise together giving
chase to the ship, and when they arrive and find it abandoned, they commandeer
the vessel and Bilgamesh turns to Rikar and says:


 



“Hagrid is going to like this.”
   



 

 

 



Arrow of Fate –


Epic Level



 



An ancient shard of the fallen dragon god Io’s physical form, the Arrow of Fate
is a powerful weapon against the primordials and their servants. As a fragment
of a greater god, the artifact is equally effective against the divine, for what
better to harm a god with than a piece of another? The Arrow, created from the
essence of the one that gave rise to them, also holds great power over the
children of Io (dragon-kind).


The Arrow of Fate can function as a rod, staff, or wand, as any normal
weapon with which the wielder has proficiency., or as ammunition for a crossbow,
longbow, or shortbow (in which case it overrides any enchantment the bow or
crossbow may carry). Whatever its form, it is a +6 weapon of that type. It can
also appear as appear as a metal gauntlet with the shape and function of a
humanoid hand.


 



Enhancement:


Attack rolls and damage rolls



Critical:


+6d8 hit point of damage, or +6d12 damage against dragons and creatures with the
elemental or immortal origin



Property:


Attacks using the Arrow of Fate ignore the first 15 points of resistance
a dragon or creature with the elemental or immortal origin has, if any, to the
damage.


 



Power (At-will):



  • Minor Action
    :
    The Arrow of Fate transforms from its current form into one of the
    other implements, weapons, or ammunitions listed above.


 



Power (Daily


Fire, Radiant)



  • Standard Action

    – You breathe forth a blast of fire charged with the energy of the astral
    sea: Close blast 5; Constitution + 6 vs. Reflex; 4d12 + 8 fire
    and radiant damage. Miss: Half damage.


 



Power (Daily


Fear)



  • Standard Action

    – An aura of majestic terror washes over your enemies: Close burst 10;
    targets enemies; Constitution +6 or Charisma +6 vs. Will; the target
    is stunned until the end of your next turn. Aftereffect:
    The target takes a –2 penalty to attack rolls (save ends).


 



Power (Daily – Healing) –



·        


(Special)

Once per day, the Arrow of Fate can be used to perform the Raise Dead
ritual without the need for components or its bearer having the ritual caster
feat.


 



Goals of the Arrow of Fate


  • Destroy the primordials and their servants.

  • Protect the world for which Io fought and was destroyed.

  • Prevent the twin halves of Io, the gods Tiamat and Bahamut, from resolving
    their eternal conflict by permanently destroying their opposite.


 


Impaler:
HP 500; AC 3; Fortitude 20, Reflex 15; resist 10 all
damage;



Speed 12

(0 at the beginning of the skill challenge)


(Four of the six turrets)

on Impaler’s are designed to allow magical attack to be channeled against other
ships and airborne combatants. A creature in a spell turret can use the turret
to direct any non-weapon ranged or area arcane or divine attack power. A
creature directing a power through a spell turret uses its own attack modifier
and deals damage as normal. However, a power directed through a spell turret
cannot be used with an implement and the magic of a spell turret doubles the
range of arcane and divine powers, and allows powers to target inanimate objects
even if they normally cannot do so. Characters attacking airborne creatures
through a spell turret can make use of any of a power’s effects. Powers that
create effects in addition to hit point damage can be used against a ship, but
the ship ignores such effects (including ongoing damage). Attacks that deal
damage throughout an area (typically attacks that target all creatures in a
burst) strike more than 1 square when used against a ship, dealing additional
damage as follows: burst 1 or 2, double damage; burst 3 or 4, triple damage;
burst 5 or larger, quadruple damage. Attacks that can target multiple characters
function only as a single attack when directed through a spell turret.



Characters that do not have arcane or divine powers can make use of two force
ballista turrets on the strike ship.

Force
Ballista: (To Hit as a Ranged Basic Attack)
;
ranged 40; 3d10 points of force damage.

Each
force ballista has 10 bolts and is operated by a single character.



·        
Firing is a
standard action.



·        
Activating
the magical bolt loader is a minor action.

 

Attacks
made with the spell turrets and force ballistae target only the other craft or
creatures in the air or ground. These attacks cannot target a individual
character on a ship.



 

 

Other
Treasures:



Parcel M: Parcel 13




Devil skin pouch holding 20 astral diamonds



Parcel N: Parcel 11




Celestial oak and baatorian hardwood puzzle box inlaid with mithral (50,000 gold
pieces) containing 200,000 gold pieces worth of residuum, gold and black
enameled astrolabe adorned with points of elemental lightning, fire, and ice
(50,000 gold pieces)



Parcel O: Parcel 1




Boots of Teleportation –
Level 28 Rare



Wearing these elegant boots, you never need to raise your feet to move.



Feet Slot –


2,125,000 gold pieces



Power (Teleportation) 

 (Move
Action)


You can teleport a number of squares equal to your speed.



 

SOW Chapter16: Legacy of Io V – For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls


 


 

The
Dawnbell Bastion was a light fortification and garrison built off the Whitebell
Bastion and maintained by angels of Pelor upon three small, neighboring
earthmotes. The elegant tower once rose several times the height of its sister
buildings, but it was open at the top, revealing the bastion’s primary function
as the home of the Dawnbell, the bell that lent the complex its name and tolled
but once a day announcing the beginning of each day in a city that knew no
darkness.


 


While t
he
bastion can be reached by a

soft fall


from the base of the Whitebell Bastion that sits in the center of Hestavar’s
lagoon
;


th
is
soft fall


deposit
s
travelers onto the largest of the

three

earthmotes

housing the Dawnbell Bastion, it being the only island which has a landing and
this larger island is connected the others by


g
olden


b
ridges
that look more


airy

than


stable
.


The bridge
s
are

open to the air,


offering a beautiful view and


a long drop

of well over 100 feet



to the nearest earthmote below


 


 


The guardians are accustomed to their bastion being used in this manner and pay
little heed to those arriving or leaving so long as they stray no further than
the entrance a place of contemplation and mediation. The angelic defenders

there have never been

aware that the Dawnbell


Pelor’s


ancient seal, but they

knew who the travelers from Klarn were and they had been


w
ell
prepared, determined to

brook no interference with their master’s rightful property
,
but they were not prepared for what the explorers from Klarn did next.



 



Whitebell Bastion



 


Located at the near center of the lagoon, its towers pointing up toward the
lofty heights of the Aurosion, Whitebell Bastion serves as the single largest
internal garrison of angels in the city. A central edifice reaching more than a
thousand feet into the air is encircled by three sets of three smaller towers
(each one a mere 100 feet tall); the highest of these housed the Dawnbell. All
four structures are independent and each smaller bastion connecting its


various towers by


bridgeworks where angels look down upon


the Bright City

watch
ing
for dangers that only rarely manifest
ed.
Atop the center tower is a large bell made from the purest of platinum—the
Whitebell. The bell is magically attuned to all the various water clocks of the
city, and it rings in a deep and rich baritone with each belling. It is said
that the unabashed ringing of these bells and their echoes throughout the
structures of the bastions was so powerful it could kill mortals trespassing
within the towers.


 

The Party


The people making-up the exhibition from Klarn included Finellior, Klarn’s
master diplomat and the reluctant leader of mission, a half-elven bard,
well-versed in planar travel; the much more enigmatic, Yu Gnuf, Klarn’s master
librarian and scholar, a student of both time and space who wore at least eight
separate known identities, he was originally known only as Jeroen, a simple
farmer with a missing past; the heart of the group is Hagrid, a goliath, on
Klarn he had been a recluse serving as the Warden of the North a stretch of
barren mountain that separated the seven cities of man from the barbarians of
the north, but while he was away seeing to the welfare of others his own family
came under attack and his life-mate was killed, angered and fleeing for his life
his only son left leaving their mountainside home deserted and when Hagrid
return they were already gone … his son Ramok joined Brindol’s Brigade of heroes
as they fought against the githyanki invaders attacking Klarn, but ultimately he
was slain, and as bards filled the land with tales of Ramok’s heroism Hagrid
sought out those see his son alive and ultimately joined their cause filling the
gap left by Ramok, and together with these new allies he had succeeded in
freeing his son’s soul from the purgatory called the Forest of Twisted Souls;
Vani Firestorm, is the groups halfling sorcerer supreme, he had been Lord
Ishtar’s apprentice and legendary Lord of Fate and Destiny had decreed that Vani
should aid and protect this gathering of heroes; and perhaps the most unexpected
member of the group Rikar, a drow, an outcast, a ranger, a slayer, the welder of
the Sword of Kas, a man around who destruction seemed to swirl, death dogging
his trail, the party’s most deadly blade, and most recently a man becoming more
like the bitter betrayer Kas himself, even to the point of severing his own arm.


 


Together they had seemed to have lost their way and maybe even their soul,
having lost Bingus when he was driven out over differences with Rikar. The gnome
wizard had fled after they arrived in Hestavar after Rikar almost killed him,
and he had not been seen since, but soon after they were joined by Bilgamesh, an
elven comrade of both Rikar and Finellior who had led the resistance against the
githyanki becoming the realms most famous protector, a guardian of all the
people of Klarn, humans, dwarves and elves alike; he was the leader of the Order
of the Bronze, the group of daring griffon-riders that had saved many
 lives during Klarn’s war. Summoned to
the Bright City by Finellior, Bilgamesh hadn’t come alone; with him he brought
the Ssarina, Emissary of Majyst, the paladin of dead Bahamut who had dedicated
herself to

Amyria,
and Amyria herself, the self-named, Scion of Bahamut who led Klarn’s coalition,
and seemed intimately bound to the chaos within Klarn these past years.
Bilgamesh had secreted Amyria somewhere within Hestavar where she remained,
guarded by Ssarina. The party has also hidden themselves, they were staying in
one of the hideaways provided by the diabolical scholar Guionne who had aided
their research in the Swan Tower, and without whose aid they might never have
discovered the turn nature of the Arrow of Fate or how to find it, but the quest
itself had given them pause causing them to examine their own beliefs relating
to the morality and methodology of their mission. The party had been tainted,
torn, and disharmonious since they arrived; pangs felt most keenly by Finellior;
and along with Hagrid, he still bore the mark of Vecna, just one of several
things that had already set the goodly protector of Hestavar and even Celestia
against them. These marks were withered grotesqueries, yellow, slitted eyes, set
in the palms of their right hands, and these eyes offered insights, offering
some of Vecna’s own discernments to their own, but Finellior had refused to take
advantage of this ‘awareness’ and had taken to constantly wearing a glove over
his right hand to blind and hide the eye, but it frustrated him still. Making
his unease worse, here in Guionne’s home they were now being served by one of
the devil spawn’s mute cherubs; while it made no sound, and offered no threat,
Finellior could feel Guionne’s eyes set upon him through the cherub’s blank gaze
and it left him ill at ease.


 


With each seal they had opened, the storm that rages perpetually over the
district known as the Salts grew even more violent. The breaking of the second
seal had heralded intense winds an earthquake and the sounding of thunder, and
the uninhabited islands nearest to the center of the gale were now being raked
by great waves. Yu Gnuf had sunk to quiet mediation as he calmly communed with
the other voices that constantly haunted his mind trying to determine their next
move. For his own part, Rikar seemed more animated than he had recently, but
even so he was still keeping mostly to himself. Fin saw the new glint in the
drow’s eye, but he could only guess at its source and it
 was enough that Rikar for the moment
seemed at peace with himself. After a day of rest, Yu Gnuf emerged from his
meditations and announced to Bilgamesh:


 



“I need to see Amyria; I need to speak to her now.”


 


For a moment Bilgamesh looked like he would resist, but Yu Gnuf’s eyes flared
and Bilgamesh acquiesced without further comment; yet another disturbing sign,
but before anyone present could formulate a counter argument they were gone, and
three hours later Bilgamesh returned with Ssarina, who upon her arrival seemed
confused. Bilgamesh announced:


 



“Amyria is fine, Yu Gnuf is seeing to her well-being now. We need to go. There
are two seals left we must strike the Dawnbell first, and we must do it now.
There is no more time to waste. While I was out I reconnoitered the Dawnbell
Bastion and I have drawn up a plan.”


  

The Seal of Pelor

 


 



“We will fly high above the bastion, seeking the very ceiling of Hestavar’s
space, and we will drop upon the angels, heading directly to the tallest tower
of the Dawnbell Bastion, that it the tower that houses the Dawnbell. I have
gathered


elixirs of flight


enough for all of us and wax for our ears. We won’t be able to hear each other,
but it is a necessary precaution given the likelihood of the sounding of the
bells, and the legends of their power. Those of us who arrive first should set
ourselves to the bell’s destruction, and those who come next to the protection
of the others. Hagrid will guide his astral skiff; collapsing it and joining us
only after the rest of us have bailed out of the vessel. We must be prepared for
anything. They are surely expecting us.”


 

From the
Traveling Journal of Finellior:


 

Rikar
and Bilgamesh were the first to leap from the craft, I followed, and we fell
quickly seeming to hang is space. Angels had already taken to air beneath us as
if to catch us, but both Rikar and I had magically rendered ourselves invisible
so initially the angels only reacted only to Bilgamesh and those following
behind him. Bilgamesh deftly fought his way through the angels never slowing his
fall until he had moved well past them; he entered through the tower’s highest
arches straight into the bell chamber itself, and I followed him on the opposite
side of the tower. As I landed still invisible, Rikar was already contenting
with a tower’s guardian, glorious Archangel that radiated a palpable aura of
righteousness. This great angel wore armor, crafted from gold and mithral that
bore an impossibly detailed scene of angelic conflict, and the angel welded a
titanic greatsword. Already they were parrying, bracing and countering,
blow-for-blow against Rikar. Rikar handled himself, better than I have ever
witnessed, as he was locked in mortal combat with the angel, then Bilgamesh
began launching arrows at the angel from the far side of the bell tower. The
angel turned its featureless face towards me and spoke in thundering intones
that sounded clearly through my waxed ears.


 



“The charge to defend the Dawnbell is mine, laid upon me by the lord Pelor
himself, I Memar, lead the Radiant Host, I am the Dawn Bringer. I bring judgment
against, you, against any, who would violate this holy sanctuary! I fear no
evil, nor will you be allowed to stand against his will here; Pelor doth light
my way leading me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea and his
will well be done!”



 


Then the great silver bell before me tolled with terrible power, instantly
wearing at my resolve as its power registered upon my body; I fell to the ground
along with Rikar and Bilgamesh, perhaps it was the wax in our ears that saved
us, but it clear we wouldn’t last long in the midst of such power. With my head
ringing I crawled beneath the massive bell stood carefully and began moving in
time with the swinging of the bell until I was able to grab the bell’s hammer
and climb on, which I did hoping to find a method to still its sounding.


 

Still
outside the tower the rest of the party fared less well. Intercepted by angels,
most of the others had not fared well, injured badly and or cast aside by the
angelic defenders. Alone, Vani had escaped their wrath teleporting his way past,
he made a relatively safe landing in the bell tower, only to be instantly
knocked senseless by the Dawnbell’s first sounding, and both Ssarina and Hagrid
had crashed into the side of tower and fell to the balcony below. Hagrid landed
on his feet but he was immediately surrounded by over a half dozen angels, those
arriving from either of the two other towers that made up the Dawnbell Bastion,
he was in danger of being overwhelmed, but Ssarina was in much more immediate
danger like Hagrid, she was being overwhelmed, but had also bounced off the side
of the tower, and she was prone and almost defenseless, the party’s hulking
goliath was better suited to fighting on his own, even outnumbered the angels
wouldn’t be defeating him quickly or without a substantial fight, but Ssarina
was already bleeding severely, and she was gasping for breath with one of her
lungs having been punctured by an angel’s blade. In both these melees the
collected angels of the sun god began to radiating a great withering heat, an
aura of the Sun God’s own righteousness, and both Hagrid and Ssarina were
suffering under their righteous vengeance. As Vani recovers from the bell’s
tolling he summons his avatars of chaos, and disappears having been replaced by
set the four duplicates set to all corners of the battle site, one at the entry
arch of the bell tower, another in the bell tower, and two others on the
balconies below. One of the duplicates is immediately dispatched by an angel’s
burning blade; the second responds, summoning a group of massive icy stalagmites
and causing them to take form at strategic points of the main tower freezing the
majority of the present angels in place, Frozen in space they vanish defeated by
the stalagmite’s icy embrace, but even a larger, second wave of
 more powerful angels close upon bell
tower, two of these pause hovering blasting the all the visible invaders on the
outside of the tower with bolts of lightning. Two more of the sorcerer’s
duplicates are destroyed leaving the halfling barely consciousness within his
sole remaining agent in the bell tower itself as Ssarina finally collapses.
Hagrid begins pushing back the angel making his way urgently towards Ssarina to
help to the injured paladin.      


 


I was swinging on the bell’s hammer, struggling to catch the side of the bell
with my feet focused on doing whatever was needed to prevent the dreaded toll.
Outside of the bell, my friends, Rikar, Bilgamesh and Vani were fighting for
their lives against the powerful angel that easily held his own, and it seemed
like Rikar was giving as well as he received, both he and the angel were bloody
and injured; the angel’s brilliant radiance shone in stark contrast to the inky
shadowy darkness that shed off Rikar’s person and sword. Looking about the
chamber I caught glimpses of Bilgamesh and Vani but they had once again been
rendered senseless by the angel’s power.  


 


I felt dirty, and clearly on the wrong side of the conflict, like I should be
helping the angel, but I couldn’t let them fall. I healed each of them,
channeling my full efforts even as I held on to the bell’s hammer, and
desperately pulling the wax from my ear, and I called out, not knowing if they
would themselves hear me, trying to tell them to strike now as I set upon the
angel with a stirring shout, laying a network of doubt upon the angel’s mind,
and fueling this refrain with song sung out in perfect melody to feed Memar’s
growing seeds of doubt. Then amid the chaos as the angels allies began appearing
framed in the arches of the bell tower.


 


My allies rose and fought back, but even now I couldn’t bring myself to take
arms against the angels, so instead I turned my attention to the bell, or more
precisely to the mechanism which held it the hammer aloft, then in the opening
set in the floor below me, a large hole egressing this level of the tower from
the floor below, Ssarina appeared and joined in the shell of the bell and began
helping me destroy the metal latch which supported the hammer. 


 


Rikar quickly recognizes the intent of Finellior’s efforts, as with every blow
he lands thereafter upon the archangel he begins to feel stronger. Heedless of
the others he presses his own attack swing wildly even as other powerful angels
begin filling the chamber to overflowing. They shout out terrible, thundering
edicts that threatened to bring Rikar to his knees, and yet another fills the
chamber with a blinding brilliance. The others begin casting bolts of lightning
striking both Bilgamesh and Vani but they respond driving the angels back, the
elf with his deadly hail of arrows and Vani with his own unquenchable arcane
power. Then crawling through the arches Hagrid too makes his presence felt
throwing himself upon their attackers grabbing one angel by the throat a hurling
another to the ground. The other angels close in upon him, and the battle
collapses into a quarrel of giants rolling upon the ground. All the while
Bilgamesh stares at the melee with deadly resolve, picking off one angel after
another with the devastating accuracy. The angels begin vanishing under the
punishment until the Archangel Memar calls out:
    
 


  



 
Verily
I say unto you, there is yet time for you to seek out the light, let it guide
you too into righteousness! I cannot answer for the Sun Father, yet I knoweth in
the end his will well be wrought; and all present, with eyes yet open will see
the truth of things. Here upon this perch, I ask thee, even as I am overwhelmed,
leave the world brighter, even as I have sought to do.”



 


Memar falls, and taking no pause, Rikar immediately turns his attention to the
angels still piled upon Hagrid; one of them jabbing in the goliath with a spear
sending a corona lightening dancing over the goliath’s body. The bell tolls one
final time as it crashes to the ground, those present within the chamber outside
of the bell simultaneously find themselves deafened, weakened, and knocked to
the ground as they are hurled against the walls of the chamber, and still under
the bell Fin grabs hold of the floor’s edge as the bell falls past him with
Ssarina still dangling within carrying the trapped dragonborn with it through
the hole in the floor. The bell tumbles banging out several time at it falls
floor-by-floor bring the tower down in its wake. As it lands with a final
shatter death bang on the ground floor, the tower shudders in its own death
throes and crumbles to its earthmote foundation and sending tons of brickwork
raining down to the lagoon far below. As everyone still present in the bell
tower flees through the air.


 


Sometime later, after an extensive search I found Ssarina. She was still alive
but severely battered. Her ring of regeneration had saved her life once again.
The remaining angels had retreated to the other towers troubling us no more.
Even though we had succeeded and broken Pelor’s Seal, I felt more the loser than
ever, and even less heroic as I witnessed Bilgamesh scouring through the
wreckage of the tower, salvaging those shiny baubles he could find. We had slain
Pelor’s angels, destroyed his tower, now my friend was looting his treasures,
and I was no better, I said nothing, lost in my own disgust. At this point, even
if we somehow save Bahamut think I will fail to understand the justice of this
day. I have held my tongue so far, to the very edge of my own self-condemnation,
but the rest of my party seems to have no more stomach for debate over this
matter than I have any need of this mission. I lack the blind resolve of
Ssarina, or the understanding of Yu Gnuf, but I like the others see no other
course for us now, I am here, but there is no getting away from our deeds this
sad day.


 


The storm’s rage has now reached a new crescendo, and I have notice that below
us, the waters of the lagoon have reversed their course flowing outward towards
the eye of the storm as if summoning us to some final reckoning. 
    



 


 



Treasure


 



Parcel B: Parcel 8:

750 pp, mithral and celestial gold statuette of Pelor inlaid with condensed
astral fire (100,000 gold pieces)



 



Parcel C: Parcel 6:

1,000 pp, one potion of recovery, 5
astral diamonds



 



Potion of Recovery – Level 25 Common


This mighty potion uses your own stamina to restore your hit points and to help
you shrug off harm.



Consumable: Potion   25,000
gold pieces   Power –
Consumable (Minor Action)


Drink the potion and spend a healing surge. Instead of the hit points you would
normally regain, you regain 50 hit points and make a saving throw against each
effect on you that a save can end.

 

SOW Chapter16: Dodging the Law

Dodging
the Law


Tumbling effortlessly to the ground carried by the magic of his winged-boots,
Hagrid lands on his feet only to be quickly surrounded by the guards of the
Bright Watch. They are led by a solid, sturdy looking man, wearing heavy armor
that is adorned with insignia that announces his service to Erathis, the Goddess
of Civilization.  
 


 



“I am Huron Saberlain, Captain of the Bright Guard, and Exalted Servant of the
Goddess Erathis; you will please explain the meaning of this intrusion now!”



 


Hagrid stumbles over his words, grasping for an answer he says simply:



“They call me Hagrid.”


 



(Whispers amidst the patrol, some less kind than others suggest the goliath
might be a simpleton).


 



“Whatever the case giant, your case most unusual; it requires the review of
Guild Master, Steelgate, you will accompany us to him directly … Follow me
giant, we shall take you to him now!”



 


Elsewhere in the Methion, Yu Gnuf and Finellior had also seen the brilliant
light that had preceded the ambush, and they too had spotted the flying tower
that still hovered above the marketplace marking the point of the ambush.
Knowing what this particular tower meant, they wasted no time moving in that
direction while sticking to the alleyways that surrounded the market square. As
they close in on location, conflict renews as a flight angels from the Whitebell
Tower arrive and give chase to Vani, Bilgamesh and Rikar.  

 




 



After launching their attack upon the seals protecting the Arrow of Fate, the
peacekeeping forces of Hestavar had scrambled hoping to apprehend the
“violent criminals.” Once alerted by
the goodly shopkeeper at the book ship within the University Chapel, exalted
patrols had begun to sweep the streets along with flights of angels supplied by
Bastion of the Whitebell Tower, even now they searched the skies for signs of
trouble all of which had made moving about the city a difficult prospect, and
had forced the party to divide in an attempt to avoid further confrontation with
the authorities. Unfortunately for Klarn’s defenders the ambush had ruined any
chance of that.



 



“Do hurry it up giant, even if you are slow of mind, with your gate you should
move faster!”


suggest the watchman following Hagrid.



 

“Let
him be, we are not far, and I would take his measure, be he man or giant, he
has, but one life to live, and he may yet chose to live it righteously. He will
have his final judgment soon enough … Now listen giant, you have, but one
opportunity to prove yourself out, as base animal or as one who might servant to
a greater cause … I would suggest you be on your best behavior when we reach
Master Steelgate.”



suggests the captain.


 



“Who is Master Steelgate?”

asks Hagrid.


 



“He is one of Erathis’s most faithful servants. He is a Master Craftsman, and
all the guilds of Methion answer to him, but he answers only to Erathis
herself.”   



 


In the air about the market place and on the rooftops above the battle between
Pelor’s angels and the party begins to play out, and in every confrontation
Klarn’s defender find themselves over-matched, and quickly forced to retreat.
Rikar creates a cloud of darkness, using it to mask his departure as he abandons
the thundering tower and leaps to the rooftops below. As more angels close in on
Vani the sorcerer teleports deeper into the market to the edge of the main
square, not far from both Finellior and Yu Gnuf, but Vani hadn’t spotted them
yet. Below him dozens of stalls and carts catered to the tide of citizens
browsing or just passing through. More of Erathis’s exalted soldiery were on
patrol there and they began clearing the square as the group that had captured
Hagrid approached, but there was still about three dozen civilians meandering in
the square as Vani arrived on one of the rooftops above. Quickly he notices that
the Symbol of Erathis lied below worked into the flagstones of the square.
Bilgamesh was faring less well, the most powerful of the angels was pursuing him
and it was faster than Bilgamesh’s griffon mount; making matters worse, this
angel was accompanied with a small group of lesser angels. Bilgamesh turned and
fired, piercing the nearest of his pursuers, and the angel vanished only to
reappear directly in front of him nearly causing him to crash and the armed with
a flaming sword, grievously injures the elf with one swipe of the fiery blade.
For a moment, Bilgamesh sways causing the griffon to dive, and quickly
recovering he sails over the center of the market square adding to the concern
of the crowd.


 

Hagrid
reacts suddenly shifting his form to something resembling a giant wolverine;
immediately he attacks the captain, and the captain withdraws, avoiding the
attack with some deft maneuvering of his own. The watchmen behind the goliath
slam into the wolverine knocking Hagrid to the ground. From his vantage point
upon the roof, Vani finds that has a clear line of sight to Hagrid and drops an
elemental storm atop friend carefully placing the goliath in eye of the storm
protecting him, but forcing the Bright Guard to retreat a few steps back. In the
square proper,


the those members of the Bright Guard stationed there come to a full stop just
short of the symbol itself, and a moment later, the massive symbol of Erathis
pulses once with a brilliant blue light. When it recedes, an elderly dwarf
wearing finely-manufactured plate armor and carrying an equally well-crafted
hammer appears. His eyes pass over the square, and he turns to Vani with a grim
expression and says:


 



“Before you push off on such dangerous waters, t’would be wise to review your
course, wee one … Now get down from there so we can talk!”



 


Vani pays the dwarf no heed, and rather casts another spell, Avatars of Chaos,
creating four duplicates of himself that pop into existence throughout the
market. Yu Gnuf takes advantage of the distraction and glides forward through
the air approaching the dwarf and says:


 



“Master Dwarf, please allow me to introduce myself and my friends … I think
there’s been a misunderstanding …”



 


As he does Bilgamesh spins and fires upon those patrolling the square and Vani
again blasts the guards attacking Hagrid and second time dropping most of the
goliath’s opponents. They fade away as they fall. With only the captain and his
two main watchmen remaining Hagrid lunges catching and quickly dispatching the
captain, he fades away too. The watchmen throw themselves upon the giant
wolverine and pin him to the ground. Seeing the carnage, the dwarf takes one
step towards Yu Gnuf, and buries his shield in the librarian’s gut bending him
over and then sweeping the air with the same shield hurls Yu Gnuf to the ground.
Standing over the librarian he says: 


 



 All the way back in year 1, people
belonged to no-one and you didn’t stand a chance son … If your plans were
undone.”



 


He holds his massive hammer high in the air with one arm and it releases a crack
of thunder the rips through the air destroying one of the Vani’s duplicates and
continues:



 



“We were bred for community, to be builders of society — but here in this
Present Day — You are a million generations removed from expectations of being
who you really ought to be!”



 


The dwarf waves his hammer in a circle over his head and then points to Yu Gnuf;
as one the guards surround and start beating Yu Gnuf senseless, seconds later
the step away leaving the unconscious librarian in the center of the plaza
square. Bilgamesh launches two arrows, both of them anticipated and blocked by
the dwarf and the angels begin to close on the elf yet again. Still unseen,
Rikar teleports and hits the watchman harrying Hagrid, freeing up the goliath
enough to escape and finish his final attacker. He like those guards previously
defeated, he does not bleed or fall, but rather he fades away as if he were
never there. Without pausing Rikar races toward the square and Hagrid follows,
still cloaked in the form of a giant wolverine.


 


As they approach, the dwarf yells:


 



“I am Goran Steelgate, Master Craftsman, and Guild Master of the Methion …
Before you push off into this doom, turn your head just once more — and make
your peace with everyone. Think about what you’ve done, and if you choose to
stay away, you’ll live another day to do the things you should have done!”



 


Hagrid passes Rikar and leaps’ charging at Goran … Expecting this, the dwarf
moves while shielding himself, Hagrid slides past and lands hard with a thud,
the dwarf answers his charge with a telling blow from his hammer that dazes
Hagrid. Just behind the goliath Rikar spins and slices his way through a
half-dozen patrolman cutting the number of the dwarf’s supporters by half.
Hidden behind the awning of another rooftop a second Vani opens up blasting the
other side of Goran’s support, and another half-dozen patrollers vanish leaving
Goran alone in the market square with Rikar, dazed Hagrid, and the fallen Yu
Gnuf.


 


Hidden in an alley, Fin begins singing loudly, brilliantly, spinning a song sung
with perfectly pitch, enchantingly, fueling his allies with the healing magic of
song. Suddenly, Yu Gnuf wakes, Hagrid recovers, and both Bilgamesh and Rikar are
healed; moreover, the enchantment spreads and spins, circling about Goran
forming an aura of power that Fin knew would aid his fellows … Just like he had
against Sarshan so long ago; the bard knew his spell would end the dwarf, but
Goran didn’t relent. Instead he called out to the open air:


 



“To me my fellows let us bring the weight of civilization itself upon the heads
of these interlopers!”


 

Two
creatures, archons loyal to Goran appear at the edge of the plaza giving courage
to the huddles masses, and as a group they advance on the mortal heroes of
Klarn, but even with these creatures and the citizens of the Methion bravely
adding to his defense of the square, Goran begins to falter even as the last of
the angels fall to Bilgamesh’s arrows and Vani’s magic. At his every turn the
heroes attack the dwarf until their attacks wear heavy upon him, and he shouts: 


 



“You’re going to spiral in your own emptiness, until you learn to pray for a
sign that those of greater mind have written you into this play. And now, if you
still feel you must cross this geared and gilded line, let the stony ground
crack beneath you as you embrace your life, as rabbits on the run, silver drops
collecting in the corners of your eyes, shining



on your setting sun, cause soon you’ll find this story’s too damn real in this
present tense. I hope it’s worth the cost, lads, cause now’s the time to see if
you got what it’s going to take to see your plans through.”


 


The ground splits and trembles, the remaining civilians break and run, as the
earth quakes and all once the earthmote that houses the Methion begins to shake
violently, climaxed as the ground opens beneath the dwarf and swallows Goran.


 


Quickly, Bilgamesh lands in the emptied square and shouts out to Vani, calling
the halfling to join him upon the griffon. Rikar states, quite obviously,
“We need to hide ourselves!”


      


Yu Gnuf responds, “I have the map to
Guionne’s safe houses.” 



 



“Is there one near the harbor, where the Whitebell tower lies?”


asks Fin.


 



“What does it matter?”


asks Hagrid … “It doesn’t matter, not
really.”
Confirms Yu Gnuf … “But
yes, one of them is near the lagoon, and another is in The Salts.”



 


Hagrid withdraws a small metallic cube from a pouch, tosses it to the ground and
it expands revealing it’s true shape, that of a githyanki forged astral skiff;
not as beautiful as those created in Hestavar, but unlike those, this skiff was
outfitted with armor. Escorted by Bilgamesh and Vani the party retreats once
more into the painted sky of the Bright City.


 


 


 


 

 

 

SOW Chapter16: Legacy of Io – The Sealed Library

The Sealed Library

Rather
than defend her seal with angelic steel as Pelor chose to do, Ioun hid hers away
within the Sealed Library, a marvelous construction which is itself hidden in
the fabric of the domain. Within its confines, trusted scholars have long worked
on sensitive projects for their lady while standing vigil over the seal. The
open and well lit interior seems at odds with its cloistered nature, but the
structure of the place is designed to promote contemplation while fostering
research and advancement. The vast shelves could never contain the sheer
quantity of lore required by the scholars ensconced within the library. They are
tied through ancient ritual to every library that welcomes Ioun’s presence.
Books slip from the world and beyond to stock the shelves of the library before
shifting back when no one is watching.



 



Entrances to this Sealed Library are hidden throughout the Bright City, allowing
the scholars to move about and gather whatever they might need for their work.
Dead ends to back alleys behind alchemist’s shops and spare rooms in rare book
seller’s stores are the places the adventurers need to search and this must be
completed without arousing any extra unwanted suspicion.



 



Having discovered that Ioun has secreted her seal away within a Sealed Library,
a structure that is itself hidden within the very fabric of Hestavar, giving
allowance to only a the few trusted scholars and other devotees of the goddess,
those specifically tasked with conducting here sensitive research, were
typically ever granted access to this wondrous study hall; the party sets out to
gain entry. It is relatively common knowledge within the Bright City that any
number of doorways lead to and from the library, doors designed to enabling
these scholars to move about the city and collect whatever materials they might
need, but only these few who have earned the full confidence of Ioun and who
could be fully trusted not to reveal what they knew were ever granted access,
and still it was one of these hidden doorways that the party would have to find
in order to breach the library and if successful, to break the seal within.




 



But before they can start, Rikar discovers that his Mask of Familiar Betrayal is
missing. Exquisitely crafted from nearly paper-thin marble and bound in a
delicate golden frame, Rikar had been using the magical mask to disguise himself
in public places. Most often he had appeared as Kas, the Bloody-handed betrayer
of Vecna, but the mask allowed him to appear as an exact likeness of one of the
target creature’s friend’s, allies, loved ones or any inconspicuous person with
a short range of roughly 15’ feet. The drow had come to depend on the mask’s
magic for various acts of subterfuge. Instead of the mask Rikar finds a
hand-written not from Bingus (see above) … Anything but amused, Rikar stares
outward in disbelief utterly certain that the mask could not have been taken
from him. Slack-jawed he stands looking about with urgent cause, and he begins
rummaging through his belonging. Finellior asks,
“Rikar, what are you doing?”



 



The drow ranger crumples the parchment scroll and throws it at the bard
shouting, “THIS IS YOUR FAULT, YOU
SHOULD HAVE LET ME KILL HIM!”



 



Fin moves to help, and Rikar sneers,
“Stay away, all of you … You’re no better than he. Anyone who steals from me
should be prepared to lose more than their hand.”



 

After
better than an hour’s search, Rikar begins to accept that the mask is truly
gone. Pensively, thoughts of dread vengeance fill his awaking mind, as he
considers this latest betrayal, and he begins to doubt that Bingus had acted
alone. As he looks at the other gathered in the room, it is Rikar’s hunter’s
stare they see looking back at them; the stare of a cornered beast, the death’s
head stare of a cold-blooded killer.  



 



Eventually the groups leaves the Methion Arms and Vani initiates the search
effort by introducing his friends to a tavern called Andarman’s Taproom where
the halfling sorcerer adopts the guise of a cloistered scholar, and starts
things off by buying a few cheap ales for his fellow scholars at the tavern
which leads to a long afternoon of discrete eavesdropping and even more ale
while Vani begins to connect tidbits of information as he listens to their
stories trying to deduce some of the areas within the Bright City these same
scholars frequented. As the sagely-folk take, Vani idly wonders if any of the
stories he was being forced to listen to were actually true; occasionally he
tosses in a few innocent-seeming statement about his own imagined field of
research and occasionally he tries asking about a few particularly rare arcane
ingredients from a list provided by Yu Gnuf, but Vani usually slaughters the
names of the ingredients in question, and the plan backfires as often as not,
but from time-to-time they question do lead the conversations in the directions
Vani hoped, and in the end he comes away with a location, an admittedly obvious
one at that, the University Chapel in Kerith-Ald and the group heads in that
direction.



 



When they arrive, Rikar begins to spy about the university grounds
surreptitiously following groups of scholars hoping they might inadvertently
lead him to a portal, failing that, his efforts still bring the party a little
closer to their goal, specifically to a book shop not far from the university’s
chapel. Within this bookstore they find a number of backrooms, private reading
chambers, studies, and a privy chamber. Rikar was sure at least one scholar he
had been watching had disappeared within one of these chambers, but given the
configuration of the halls that accessed the chambers he couldn’t be sure which
chamber his mark might have disappeared from.



 



Armed with this information Yu Gnuf approaches the shop owner and tried to draw
him into a conversation about Ioun’s sealed library until it becomes obvious to
the master librarian that the man both knew about the portal and that he wasn’t
going to volunteer any information about its whereabouts. So Vani approaches the
man and makes it very clear that they really weren’t ‘asking’ and then looking
his most maniacal, the halfling sorcerer points out Rikar and pointing out the
ranger’s missing hand he says, “You know
he cut off his own hand just to prove a point, imagine what he’ll do to you if
you don’t tell us what we need to know?”



 



With a forced grin the man directs them to the proper chamber.



 

The
scholars working within the Sealed Library don’t ever expect anyone to barge
through their hidden doorways, least of all a band of heavily armed insurgents,
regardless, brilliant as they are, they were always prepared for trouble. Those
present today had all had long careers as spell-casters in their previous mortal
existence that coupled with their exalted lack of fear meant they would not be
going down without a fight.



 



As the party suddenly appears within the sealed library two of its researchers,
are high on the sliding ladders searching the shelves for material, these
happening to be those nearest the entry portal as the group arrives; a third
researcher stands talking to one of two academics present, the academics being
even more wizened scholars than the researchers, they were tasked with the
oversight of the sealed library. In total five scholarly intellectuals greet the
party as they enter Ioun’s library, and they were all exalted, and they were
some of the brightest minds to be found anywhere in existence. While surprised
by the invading adventurers, they react instantly, and without hesitation quite
prepared to eject any would be invaders.



 



With a flash of light, Finellior, Rikar, Yu Gnuf, Vani, and Bilgamesh find
themselves in what appears to be a well-lit and well-appointed library. Still
outside, in the book shop, alone Hagrid keeps watch. Within the sealed library,
the travelers find a smattering of solid wood tables and plush chairs scattered
about within the surprisingly tight confines of Ioun’s Sealed Library; it is a
single chamber dominated by a mirror-still reflecting pool and massive shelves
that sweep around the entirety of the room reaching from floor to the ceiling
some 40 feet above. Already utilizing the library, they find five
scholarly-looking individuals, two set high upon ladders near their point of
entry, they are busily working the selves, and the three others all arrayed on
the far end of the chamber. They all look towards the new arrivals with a look
of astonishment, but their shock wears off instantly, replaced by a look of
sudden recognition and immediately they begin grabbing for implements kept near
at hand and one wizened goat-faced sage says:



 



“I am certain that the Headmaster is not expecting you as he already engaged.
You should leave now … While you still can.”


 



Without another word being uttered a battle breaks out. Yu Gnuf rises, floating
in to the air as he approaches the closest highest scholar, but with but one
pull of his arm, the sage in gone, sliding quickly on his latter across the room
to the far side of the chamber, his ladder guided by a rail set in the floor.
Another researcher, the one standing between the two seated academics on the far
side of the room, launches a prism of light across the chamber that explodes in
the middle of the party washing them in a brilliant multi-colored burst of
arcane lightening that strikes with crippling power. Stunned Finellior sprawls
upon the floor; Vani teleports escaping the blast, both Rikar and Bilgamesh
weather the blast better than Fin, but both still have to endure the initial
blast of lightning, and the enduring malaise of the spell, like a poisoning the
spells aftereffects still threatened to render them unconscious. Rikar begins to
move across the chamber, and Bilgamesh cocks two arrows and fires at the second
of the two ladder-born scholars; the scholar raises his hand in a defensive
shielding maneuver magically batting the first of the two arrows away but the
second arrow grazes the scholar’s hand use to grip the ladder causing to nearly
fall, he stumbles, recovers and jerks at the shelving sending his ladder siding
across the hall with him still dangling awkwardly upon to ladder.



 



Vani casts his avatar spell creating a posse of duplicates to engage the
library’s defenders. Both Yu Gnuf and Rikar near the far end of the chamber,
each in their own fashion, but before either can make their way across, the two
seated academics rise and both target the more dangerous looking drow, both
uttering a single devastating unfathomable word that resonates with enough power
to stop Rikar dead in his tracks, the raw power of the words nearly kill Rikar,
but Yu Gnuf reacts immediately and manipulating both time and space around the
drow he blunts the impact of their attacks. More arrows fly, joined by the
magical arsenal of Vani’s sorcery … the scholars begin to fallback as they are
picked off, one-by-one. The researchers respond with blasts of their own, which
combine to create a sparkling cloud of cinder that covers the portal side of the
chamber and then explodes setting Bilgamesh and Finellior ablaze. Patting out
the flames, Bilgamesh rushes to the still stunned bard to help put out the
flames; quickly, he grabs Finellior and drags him to the shallow reflecting pool
depositing the bard within it to douse the flames. 
        



 



The remaining researchers continue blasting away while trying to use the sliding
ladders to keep out of reach, but soon it becomes clear that they are fighting a
losing battle. As the scholars are defeated, they don’t die or fall, but rather
they fade away occasionally leaving behind a few of their belongings to mark
their passing. The library’s academics move about to keeping Rikar a bay just
long enough for Yu Gnuf to make it to the heavy elaborate doubled doors on the
far side of the chamber, as Klarn’s master librarian reaches for the handle the
massive doors swing open revealing to headmaster’s chamber beyond, a
well-furnished office used by the person appointed as Headmaster by Ioun
herself, tasked with the oversight her library.



 

On
the other side of the supremely thick doors of the study, Headmaster Elminster,
the Sage of Shadowdale, was already irritated having been interrupted in the
middle of an in-depth discussion with Granosos, a unique sphinx otherwise known
as the Cheshire cat, a most recent addition to bizarre pocket dimension known as
Dungeonland.  



 



In the doorway, Yu Gnuf sees a distinguished-looking, elderly mans with a very
strong hawkish nose standing and smoking a pipe; at his side a large
emaciated-looking, feline creature with a mean demeanor crouches slightly behind
the sage, the cat sporting a huge, maniacal grin as it stares eye-to-eye with Yu
Gnuf, even while crouched on a lower steps, its eyes timelessly shimmering with
the depth of ages. It briefly studies Yu Gnuf, licking its lips and then
adopting a wretched yet accepting expression it says:



 



“Seek and ye shall find, they say, but have you noticed, it is rare indeed when
they say what you’ll find?”



 



The elderly man’s expression is gruff, reflecting his annoyance; he puffs out a
cloud of bluish-green smoke and taps out the pipe as Yu Gnuf notices the Seal of
Ioun on the far wall behind them,  flanked
in-between twin statues of a hooded woman. The Headmaster’s speaks:

File:Elminster rom.JPG



“I am Elminster of Shadowdale, called by some the Old Sage, and called far worse
things by others. I’ve walked these realms for over a thousand years. Yet, I am
still very far from the oldest, wisest, or mightiest of beings, still I’ve
well-worn boots—and that is truth, but I doubt ye have come here for the long
history of my deeds, and regardless ye’ll find out soon enough less ye depart
from my presence without further delay, or I assure ye you’ll know precisely
what I stand for and who I am! Given that hasn’t happened yet. ye still have
time to consider if ye know exactly what ye stand for … Such knowledge is a rare
and priceless thing indeed.”



 


Yu Gnuf stares wide-eyed at the mage, knowing the legendary Headmaster by
reputation alone, having never foreseen this encounter. He stutters awed,
eventually announcing:


 



 “We are visitors of Klarn, here on a
mission for Bahamut.”


 



“Somehow I doubt that, the King of Dragons is no more, but life, and living has
little or no meaning other than what we give it anyhow. I wish a few more of ye
would give more, Bahamut as much as any. Regardless, I’ve found there are only
two precious things on earth: the first is love; the second, a long way behind
that, is intelligence. From the sound of it, you are lacking at least the
latter, if not both, and regardless ye are not welcome here, but I thought I’d
already made that clear!”



 


With a thought and a small puff Elminster hurls Yu Gnuf backwards with his
innate arcane power and force of will, the librarian resists reducing the impact
of Elminster’s power, but still flies backward uncontrollably and lands on his
back between Elminster and the reflecting pool. Vani attacks sending a blast of
fiery acid, infused with power drawn from the essence of his own arcane blood at
Elminster, but the wizard vanishes somehow swapping positions with Bilgamesh who
is hit by the full force of Vani’s attack. Rikar reacts spinning towards the
wizard who was now situated where Bilgamesh had been, but before he can advance
Elminster waves his hand saying:
“Size of a mouse!”
 


 


Instantly overwhelmed by magical energies Rikar spasms and shrinks taking on the
form of a tiny brown mouse, and with another subtle gesture, a mere flick of his
wrist, the power engulfing Rikar leaps from the drow to Bilgamesh, who like
Rikar before him also transforms into a mouse, only he is a gray one. Elminster
grins an quotes a poem:



 



WEE, sleekit, cow’rin’, tim’rous beastie,



O what a panic’s in thy breastie!



Thou need na start awa sae hasty,



Wi’ bickerin’ brattle!



I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee  
        



Wi’ murd’rin’ pattle!



 



“But a mouse is just a mouse for all that!”



 


The huge cat launches itself up the stairs and into the library … Without
hesitating further, recovered at last Finellior rushes through the portal to
summon Hagrid!


 

“Did
someone say mouse?  Ah there you are
… Abandon all hope little ones!”



“A new law reins here now; I’m afraid it’s going to be very rough justice all
around, best to be on your guard.”



 


Before anyone can react, the cat leaps to the center of the library and catches
the gray mouse that was Bilgamesh in his mouth. Yu Gnuf floats off the ground
and shifts time and space again causing Elminster vanishes and reappearing
within the headmaster’s office which breaks the great wizard’s line-of-sight to
the interior of the library; quick Yu Gnuf pursues the famed wizard by flying
into the office as he chases after Elminster. Finellior reappears with Hagrid at
the library’s entrance. With Bilgamesh still in his mouth the cat pounces on one
of the four remaining Vanis; it disappears unceremoniously leaving three
versions of the sorcerer, within the chamber and one squeaky brown mouse
scampering as the cat skids across the floor giving chase. With its mouth still
full the cat seats and stares as if appraising the new arrivals. And through
clenched teeth it asks Hagrid:


 

“You’ve
look like you’ve a bit of an attitude, for one visiting a temple of knowledge,
curious and willing to learn, are you?”



 



“Then answer me this … Why is a raven like a writing desk?”


 

Dazed
by the cat’s inane question, Hagrid cuts off his charge suddenly feeling
impelled to come up with an answer.


 


Recovering from Elminster’s spell, Bilgamesh begins to swell within the cat’s
mouth and the cat coughs the elf up like a hairball. Coated in spit, and lying
on the library’s floor Bilgamesh begins to shake the cobwebs from his mind, and
spouts out an esoteric answer he had heard to the cat’s riddle:



“Poe wrote upon both!”


 



“Very good …



but on the other hand maybe it’s because there is a ‘b’ in both and an ‘n’ in
neither.”


Bilgamesh’s answer helps Hagrid recover long enough to attack the cat, but his
blade whistles through the air and passes through the cat’s body harmlessly as
the feline takes on an ethereal aspect and floats effortlessly into the air.
Rikar also recovers returning to natural form, and races down the short flight
of stairs that leads into the headmaster’s office; within he finds Yu Gnuf and
Elminster who had been sparring with other using a variety of arcane attacks
none of which had had much effect on the other. As Rikar joins them Yu Gnuf is
hovering high above Elminster’s head, but just as the drow enters the wizard
telekinetically drags Yu Gnuf to the ground; using the distraction of Rikar’s
entry to his advantage, Rikar closes and attacks striking with both Kas’s blade
and his own crescent-bladed hand. Elminster sidesteps Rikar’s blade, but the
drow traps him with the bladed-hand and pulls him in tight pinioning the wizard
between the deadly blade and his own body. Elminster explodes with power that
engulfs the entire south side of his office and throws both Rikar and Yu Gnuf
across the room and setting Rikar ablaze in the process. Conveniently Yu Gnuf
lands near Ioun’s Seal and races to examine its defenses while simultaneously
healing Rikar who was rolling on the ground behind him trying to extinguish the
flames.


Back in the main chamber the cat comments and asks another question:



“Bravery and I are not on intimate terms, my natural curiosity has always been
tempered with caution.



Thus, I’ve lived long, but now, ignoring any instinct to flee or fib,



I will speak the truth without regard to consequence, your courage deserves no
less … You have only to answer this.”



 



“Your frustrations are my toys, your rage my delight, you tantrum and cry at my
expense; you are now and always will be my puppet … Who am I?”



 


Once again Hagrid is stymied, and this time he is joined by Bilgamesh, who also
has no quick answer … The cat roars triumphantly with thunderous power that
throws both of them clears across the library deafening them. They crash at
Finellior’s feet, and the bard yells:



“Wrath! The answer is our answer!”

“Humility
bard, only the insane equate pain with success!”


No longer confused Hagrid and Bilgamesh recover and attack throwing the Cheshire
cat into a fast retreat; Bilgamesh’s first arrows drive deep into the cat’s
flesh, it quickly recover and the second volley flies through the cat’s ghostly
form. Fin turns his attention to his injured allies using the magic of his song
to heal both Bilgamesh and Hagrid.


In the office Rikar crawls across the floor and slashes desperately at the
wizard, but Elminster parries his attack with his own longsword and bats Rikar
with the backside of his thunderstroke sword; it explodes with enough thunderous
power to hurl Rikar away, and this time Elminster follows after him showering
the drow in fire issued from the wizard’s fanned out left hand,
 the erupting fire washing over the drow
lighting on fire a second time, as Rikar starts to burn Elminster withdraws and
gestures widely with his arm launching several motes of magical energy appear
floating in each corner of the small office and begin blasting Yu Gnuf with
blasts of lightning, magical force, thunder and fire.



“Ye, I, and all gathered here now, are most obviously dangerous. Should ye then
be destroyed out of hand because of what you might do? Nay! It is the right and
the doom of all creatures that live to do as they will; it is why I doth frown
so at those who charm often, or in frivolous cause. Not even the gods of
Hestavar take it unto themselves to wantonly control ye or me so tightly that we
cannot walk or speak or breathe save at another’s bidding! It is their will that
we may be free to do as we may. Slay a foe, sure, or defend thyself against
raiders such as ye, to be certain, but to strike down one who might menace thee
… To my way of thinking that is as monstrous as the act of the usurper who would
slay all babies in a land, for fear of a rightful heir someday rising against
him! So be thankful, I’ll not be removing your freewill, though truthfully I
could! Instead, I offer ye one last chance to flee while ye still can most
foolish mortals!”



“Alas, only the savage regards the endurance of pain as a measure of worth.”


Says the cat, as it leaps through the portal and disappears. In the office Yu
Gnuf speeds Rikar’s healing, and says,
“We must defeat Elminster to break the seal, it is protected by his presence
here; we should try to drive him from the office!”


Still prone, Rikar advances again crawling with singularly determination towards
the wizard, Elminster withdraws further, still facing the drow and renews his
assault once again raining down fire upon the drow as he retreats back stepping
up the stairs. From within the main library, Bilgamesh seizes opportunity
quickly placing two arrows in the wizard’s back strike with almost impossible
focus and accuracy enough to pierce through even Elminster’s magical defenses;
having bloodied the wizard, Bilgamesh redraws and firing again launching two
more arrows in a second volley, adding to his attack. Exasperated Elminster
yells:
“Damn you!”
and Bilgamesh,
freezes magically petrified by the wizard’s
vitriol. Yu Gnuf flanks Elminster approaching him from the rear hoping for
advantage while Elminster’s attention is drawn to Bilgamesh, but Elminster is
ready, and the most famous wizard of Faerûn swings his cane backwards behind
himself with fierce intent catching Yu Gnuf on the chin dazing the librarian,
and then spinning, quickly buckles Klarn’s librarian over with a second quick
jab of the cane to Yu Gnuf’s gut, but this allows Hagrid to charge and he pounds
into the wizard, knocking Elminster back down the stairs hard upon the floor of
the office. In an instant Rikar is on him stabbing viciously with his bladed
hand. Bilgamesh joins Hagrid at the offices entrance, and takes his time aiming
firing with each brief opening while Elminster and Rikar roll across the floor.
Still talking, during the chaos of the struggle, the strong wizard says:



“Methinks one shouldst take what is given when proffered by an elf. For ye all
have secrets aplenty as well ye should, and I’ve learned not to pry ye too hard.
While inquisitiveness tis often admired, rude investigation never is, and I’d
rather crack the shell of a dragon turtle with my own teeth than find myself at
odds with a slighted elf such as ye! … And for now, I think my time here has run
its course!”


Suddenly, without warning Elminster stops resisting, and failing resistance
Rikar’s bladed hand drives deep through Elminster’s ribcage and the wizard fades
away, his spectacles falling away from the wizard’s face as he vanishes; they
ring out as they strike the office floor heralding the thunderous boom as Ioun’s
seal splits down the center with a quaking crack the brings the conflict to a
sudden end.


 

After the battle the following treasures are gathered:
   


 



Eyes of Charming – Level 26 Rare



These silver spectacles let you either assert subtle influence on others, or
force them to do your bidding.



Level 26 – 1,125,000 gp



Property



You gain a +6 item bonus to Bluff checks and Diplomacy checks.
    



http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/symbol/Z3a.gif
Attack
Power (Charm) 

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/symbol/x.gif
 Daily
(Standard Action)



Attack: Ranged 5 (one creature); the eyes’ level + 5 vs. Will



Hit: The target is dominated (save ends). The target is not aware that you used
this power against it



 



20 astral diamonds



 



6 Tempest Whetstones – Level 20+ Uncommon



This unfinished iron whetstone lends your weapon a spark.



Level 20   5,000 gold pieces  
Consumable: Whetstones  
Power (Lightning) – Consumable (Minor Action)



Touch this whetstone to a melee or ranged weapon you hold. Until the end of the
encounter, any successful attack with the weapon deals an extra 4 lightning
damage to each enemy within 2 squares of the target; the target of the attack
does not take this damage.



 



Potion of Recovery – Level 25 Common



This mighty potion uses your own stamina to restore your hit points and to help
you shrug off harm.



Consumable: Potion   25,000
gold pieces   Power –
Consumable (Minor Action)



Drink the potion and spend a healing surge. Instead of the hit points you would
normally regain, you regain 50 hit points and make a saving throw against each
effect on you that a save can end.



 



120 pp



 



Potion of Recovery – Level 25 Common



This mighty potion uses your own stamina to restore your hit points and to help
you shrug off harm.



Consumable: Potion   25,000
gold pieces   Power –
Consumable (Minor Action)



Drink the potion and spend a healing surge. Instead of the hit points you would
normally regain, you regain 50 hit points and make a saving throw against each
effect on you that a save can end.



 



Potion of Resistance – Level 24



The color and smell of this potion varies with the protection it provides.



Level 24 – 21,000 gold pieces  
Consumable: Potion   Power –
Consumable (Minor Action)



Drink this potion and spend a healing surge. You do not gain hit points as
normal. Instead, gain resist 15 to damage of a specific type until the end of
the encounter. The damage type (acid, cold, fire, lightning, necrotic, poison,
psychic, or thunder) is determined when the potion is created. Only one potion
of resistance can be in effect on you at once.



 



Six clear diamonds that glow with inner light (15,000 gold pieces each)


 


Hestavar Alerted



 



The attack upon Ioun’s Sealed Library stirs the Bright Guard and its allied
angelic forces into action. Bands of exalted having already taken to the streets
with flights of angels searching from the air above, a fact that is only too
obvious as Klarn’s heroes exit the book shop. Horns sound and the chase is on as
the peacekeeping forces of Hestavar scramble to apprehend the
‘violent criminals’. Alerted, the
exalted patrols begin sweeping the university’s streets near the book shop a as
the angels watch from above. Seeing no way around it the party splits-up intent
on meeting up together back their room at the Methion Arms which meant going to
back to that earthmote in mercantile district known as Methion, perhaps the most
diverse and cosmopolitan area of the Bright City, and the home of one of the
greatest markets to be found anywhere. It’s only true rival being the bazaar in
the City of Brass, and while artisans of Hestavar might grudgingly concede that
the arms traded in the efreet bazaar were more destructive, they were always
quick to point out that the markets of Methion are unequaled for weapons of more
refined sophistication.



 

The
earthmote is also home to the majority of the exalted houses dedicated to
Erathis, those involved in Hestavar’s Game of Making. Thousands of merchants
plied their trade there each and every day, but even amongst this diversity the
party members stand out especially as they beginning spotting each other and
regrouping. Such is the case when Rikar, Bilgamesh, Hagrid and Vani are found
and ambushed.



 



Having reentered the Methion, the four allies having temporarily lost their
tails gather amid the back alleys of a concentration of mercantile emporiums,
guildhalls, and artisan workshops, never guessing that here amidst the great
estates of exalted houses, the intrigues were about to prove as convoluted and
dangerous as any they’d encountered!



 



In the Game of Making’s the stakes often ran high, and at times, even here in
Hestavar, competition turned violent, but even the death held now fear, as least
among the exalted craftsperson or thinker, for whom ‘death’ caused but the loss
of a week and one day of work. In rare cases when the stakes are particularly
high, entire houses, workshops, guilds, and even schools of study were known to
break out into open war. Still, of course, theft and violence were firmly
frowned upon in the Bright City, and nowhere more so than by the defenders of
the Methion, these exalted of Erathis. When pressed, they could place powerful
edicts in effect that served to discouraging malfeasance of any sort within the
Methion. Any mortal should keep that in mind and understand that most of the
exalted saw themselves as vastly superior to even the most powerful mortals
within Hestavar.  



 



Suddenly, the Celestia tower appears overhead and immediately the travelers find
themselves surrounded by a brilliant corona of light that pulsates in waves
around them cutting off any view of the streets beyond the small square in which
they had hid themselves, and this same wall of light cuts off the small block
from the defenders of the Methion acting as an impenetrable, blinding wall of
force. Within the trap, the traveler see fast twin glints of silver descending
together  from the tower and rapidly
disappearing on the rooftops above, while Hagrid notices something crouching low
on one of the nearby rooftops and hears the faint rasping of steel being drawn
echoing from nearby alleyways, the sounds of an ambush and quickly warns the
others!



 



R
ikar
yells out, “This is your fault, all
of you, Fin was right along … Don’t you get it, we are the villains here, not
they! We are all still doing Vecna’s bidding, and he is watching through that
thing on your hand and laughing at us. We have just destroyed Ioun’s Seal; the
goddess who is Vecna’s greatest antagonist. I will have no further part of this
folly; you all are on your own!”


 

Rikar
moves to retreat, but suddenly realizes what Hagrid already knew, they were
surrounded. Devil legionnaires had somehow infiltrated the nearby alleyways and
cutoff any easy escape, as he moves they begin to flood in, while still more
watch from the surrounding rooftops, and then a hulking pit fiend leaps off the
tower and takes charge of the forces as it too descends from the tower!


 


The drow’s frustration mounts,
“Behold, Hell’s fury has been unleashed! Is this not everything Finellior warned
us about?”


The pit fiend gestures and violently, irresistibly, a legionnaire flies helpless
through the air towards the party and explode in a massive ball of fire that
immerses the party in flame. Once again Vani saves himself by teleporting away,
he escapes the pit fiend’s attack, taking a position on the rooftops above, and
from this higher vantage point he sees two silvery half-dragons poised below
himself but still above his other allies on rooftops situated closer to the
party than the one that held the halfling sorcerer. Both Rikar and Bilgamesh
dart away in opposite directions fleeing from the flames. The half-dragons
vanish from the rooftops appearing on either side of Hagrid and strike the
goliath with brilliantly glowing longswords, before Hagrid can respond they
vanish again and reappear on the rooftops above. Both of the elves find their
retreats cut short by the legionnaires.


 


Vani begins blasting any opponent he can see, this time he holds back nothing …
The halfling becomes the epicenter of an explosion of arcane power, and Vani’s
sheer power was second to known, no other mortal from Klarn he had ever met
could match him, Ishtar’s halfling apprentice was gifted with power like no
other!


 


He begins by throwing several bursts of thunder, each striking with terrifying
force amid the groups of legionnaires, the power of these blasts hurl the
legionnaires about as if they were toys causes them to burst into flames and
vanish, and he follows this attack by summoning huge stalagmites of ice, one on
either rooftop holding a half-dragon and a third upon the pit fiend itself; the
roofs collapse under the weight of the stalagmites dropping the half-dragons and
burying them in a huge shower of ice shards; the pit fiend is knocked aside, and
temporally cutoff from Hagrid by the icy barrier.


 


Separated from the others, and any other foes Hagrid calls out,



“I am here you cowards come for me if you will!”


as he withdraws from the ice stalagmite set between him and the pit fiend.


 


Bilgamesh and Rikar finish the few surviving legionnaires, out of the ten that
had started the attack only two had survived the first few seconds of battle,
and they find own ends in the two elves; Rikar to the alley south of Hagrid, and
to Bilgamesh in the alleyway north of the goliath. Bilgamesh pierces his with an
arrow through the neck, and summons his griffon. Rikar destroys the last
legionnaire with Kas’s sword, and disappears utilizing his ring of invisibility.


 


The half-dragons escape their icy tombs teleporting out of the messes created by
Vani, one moves to pursue the halfling while the other renews his attack upon
the goliath, as it attacks and says,
“GIVE US THE VILE GNOME AND YOU CAN LEAVE, RESIST US AT YOUR PERIL!” 
  


 


Vani flees again teleporting as the half-dragon closes and burst with the purest
of radiances, light so powerful it destroys the upper floor of the tower that
had been sheltering Vani.


 

The
pit fiend erupts in bellowing flame that blasts the ice stalagmite into a
million tiny shards that fall like hail upon Hagrid. It shouts orders in its own
diabolic tongue, and then two new devils appear on either side of Hagrid and the
pit fiend vanishes. One stabs the goliath as the other casts a shadowy net upon
the goliath.


 


Vani
blasts his pursuer out of existence and surveys the battle once more from the
rooftops, he see nothing of the pit fiend or Rikar, just the two human-sized
devils battling Hagrid, and Bilgamesh for the first time upon his griffon …
Bedazzled by the griffon, and wistfully wishing his manticore alley were there,
the halfling watches as the elf picks off the remaining half-dragon with his bow
firing from astride the griffon with an expert’s grace. 


 


As a group, Klarn’s heroes turn their attention to the two devils confronting
Hagrid. The devils continue to stab or net the goliath in turn, but every time
they successfully net the goliath he manages to get free quickly ripping their
shadow nets off. Bilgamesh begins peppering them with arrows, and Vani hit them
with spells, but the devil are fast and their armor is strong; they ignore the
attacks maintaining their singular focus upon the goliath. Then lightning
suddenly explodes from the top of the tower, and Bilgamesh commands his griffon
to gain enough altitude to allow a view of the top the tower. Vani finally
dispatches one of Hagrid’s adversaries, but still finally trap within the net of
the second devil, both the devil and goliath disappear.


 


 


 


Having
risen above the tower Bilgamesh sees Rikar standing atop the roof of tower
within the control circle inscribed there as the devil arrives with Hagrid
secured within it net. Rikar takes one step forward and lifts the devil into the
air on the point of his bladed arm. The devil bursts into flames and disappears.
Then Rikar reaches down with his free hand and begins to help Hagrid to his
feet, but then with one deft maneuver buries his foot in the goliath’s
midsection and boots him off the tower. Hagrid’s winged boots react immediately
flutter frantically and slowly the goliath’s descent as he falls to the ground,
on the tower above Rikar shouts,



“Stay off My tower!”



 


As the last devil is destroyed, the screening wall of light fades, opening the
square to the vast market beyond which is abuzz with activity. Immediately, a
captain and a pair of watchmen rush in, and closing on Hagrid as he crashes to
the ground, other member of the Bright Guard close in from all sides. As the
defenders of the Methion detain Hagrid, others close in on Vani and a host of
Pelor’s angels move on Rikar and Bilgamesh in the sky above. The sturdy looking
captain approaches Hagrid and says:


 



“I am Huron Saberlain, Captain of the Bright Guard, and Exalted Servant of the
Goddess Erathis; you will please explain the meaning of this intrusion now!”


 


Elsewhere in the Methion, Yu Gnuf and Finellior had seen the brilliant light
that had formed the screening wall of force that had trapped their friends, and
too, they had also seen the tower hovering above the marketplace; knowing well
what that meant, and it drew them like moths to a flame; they too had closed in
on location, and had been near enough to witness Rikar’s dismissal of Hagrid
from the tower.  



 



 



 

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