DM When last we left our heroes, they had defeated a mighty vampire lord. The party, in the grim aftermath of the battle with Gulthias, move through and methodically cleanse the catacombs of all life remaining within. Little stands in their way, only massive spiders or bat swarms too mindless to flee or hide from their wrath. Dara is not found, although her ring is located within the tomb of Gulthias’ mother. It seems she may have been here recently. No sign of Reynard remains. Was he turned, or destroyed?
DM The brazier room served as an escape for those who were able to get to it safely, and seems likely most fled through these means. Later experimentation will reveal the destination locales, but for now, their precise retreat is unknown.
DM The looting of the castle takes a week.
Kryss Kryss is more quiet and sullen than usual during the looting and only helps himself to a few items from the loot.
DM Rejecting the other vampire clans’ offer to take credit for the slain methuselah, the lords spread word of their victory across the land.
DM Once the lords make their way to Sengrad, they receive news that the protector they sent to the town, Tanleth the Fantastic is gone. A powerful mage appeared from the sky and Tanleth was forced to flee. Most in Sengrad paint the picture of Tanleth as a complete coward, though Milivoj scoffs at the accusation. Had he remained, the sullen youth points out, they could have all been destroyed by the other mage. Tanleth likely saved all of them in his retreat.
DM In Anakovia, the end of Tanleth is made very clear. The entire village exists in a twisted time loop. Upon entering, the lords watch the last minutes of Tanleth’s existence play out over and over again, each time Andor-Kralik destroys him. The people go about their lives unable to be affected in the slightest by outside forces.
Shael Shael approaches the tower and examines it curiously.
DM You come to a cold mountain lake enclosed by misty woods and rocky bluffs. Thick fog creeps across the dark, still waters. The trail ends at a grass- covered causeway that stretches a hundred yards across the lake to a flat, marshy island with a stone tower on it. The tower is old and decrepit, with collapsing scaffolds clinging to one side where a large gash has split the wall. Timeworn griffon statues, their wings and flanks covered with moss, perch atop buttresses that support the walls. Parked near the base of the tower, within sight of the entrance, is a barrel-topped wagon spattered with mud.
Shael He approaches, looking for the entrance, and calls out, “Sharwyn?” As he nears the wagon he looks inside; still curious.
DM Under layers of mud, this wagon sports a fresh coat of purple paint, and its wheels have fancy gold trim. A brass lantern hangs from each corner, and red drapes cover a tombstone-shaped window on each side. A steel padlock secures the back door, hanging from which is a cheap wooden sign that reads, “Keep out!”
DM Shael’s magical sight reveals to him that the wagon bears heavy conjuration magic about it.
Shael With a faint smile he looks between the tower and the wagon. He knocks heavily and exactly twice on the door. “Sharwyn.” he calls again.
DM There is no answer on the wagon door, it seems to be empty.
Shael With a sigh he moves on to the tower door, repeating the process entirely.
DM The moment he moves within five feet of the tower, he feels his magic fade. Every item, spell and enchantment he possesses, with the exception of his staff, is suddenly suppressed.
Shael Shael smiles broadly, impressed and thrilled with the effect. He knocks, firmly and exactly twice, calling out, “Sharwyn??!”
DM The door opens, and a Vharlangi woman opens the door. “She’s upstairs, and was busy, what did you want?”
DM Shael hears footsteps behind the woman.
Shael He tilts his head to the side and evaluates the woman curiously, “I am heading home soon, I came to pay respects before heading out.” he smiles ever so briefly.
DM “Oh Tal’s tits, come in, Shael. Ezmerelda, let him through.”
DM Sharwyn is behind the woman, in the shadows as the door opens wider, admitting the wizard.
Shael He waits politely for Ezmerelda to comply and then enters, “You’ve found your own tower, isn’t it thrilling?” he wonders.
Shael Looking wide-eyed around the interior, eagerly absorbing every detail he can perceive.
DM “You have a tower, Shael?”
DM The flagstone floor is strewn with debris, and a few old crates stand near the east wall. A torn curtain to the south partially obscures the tower vestibule. A five-foot-square indentation in the center of the floor contains four pulleys attached to taut iron chains that stretch up through a similarly sized hole in the rotted wooden ceiling. Standing next to the chains are four tall clay statues.
Shael “Jureen’s Tower, in Ossington… Jureen was a Fire Warden in the Sisters of the Flame.” he looks back at Sharwyn with a wide smile, “The Menhir there are quite potent and the local shadow elves have recognized my claim to the land so it’s something of a refuge for magical creatures as you might expect.”
Shael He rummages through his things and says, “I… I actually have her journal somewhere if you want to borrow it, it’s fascinating.”
DM “I’m sure it is, Shael. Did you come here to read to me?”
Shael He looks up suddenly and tilts his head to the side before mentioning, “It has the secrets of the Rune of Brenna-þurfa… I…” he purses his lips and places his satchel back at his side, “No, my mission is still incomplete -” he pauses and offers a good-natured smile, “- I expect it will never be, but in lieu I remain at your service.” he kicks his toe at the dirt and frowns suspiciously
Shael at Ezmerelda, “I just wanted you to know I’ll be leaving soon; after I meet with the Shadow Elves in this region, I have to head out of the region.”
DM “Where are you going?” Sharwyn asks. “And why? I thought with Gulthias dead that you could finally settle down and relax?”
Shael “My contract with Tchortloch will expire soon, I want to be there to ensure a smooth transition of the Reality Wrinkle… and, in truth, to say goodbye to my friend.” he smiles sadly, “I doubt I’ll see him again, and I have a goodbye present for him.” he takes a slow breath and adds, “I… think I may become engaged…” he shrugs, "…I need to answer soon, I’m hoping seeing him again at
Shael least will help me decide and either way I have to answer in person…" he takes a deep breath, clearly plenty more to say.
DM “You’re engaged?” Sharwyn blinks and steps back. “I…I suppose congratulations are in order.”
Shael “…and that is just the casual. You must have seen Tanleth’s Prison? He charged me to find Shyka the Many in the Faewild; the foe he’s trapped in time within is terribly potent and has made an enemy of me…” he shrugs uncomfortably, “…I do not think I can defeat him now, but I think Tanleth has given me the time I need to figure out how.”
Shael “Oh, no – I, not yet. I’ve been proposed to. It was after I saved him on the battlefield fighting the armies of the Mad Mage.”
Shael “But, as a political alliance I have to consider it…” he frowns, clearly still uncertain how he feels about it.
Shael “There’s so much I want to do, still… it will be a long time before I settle down, I think.” he looks back up at Sharwyn, “What about you?”
DM “You’ve always had your eye on what you wanted. I…I wanted to learn what I was, what it meant. I did that, and I have what I needed. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. Gulthias is gone thanks to you, although Shiara…Nightscale left as well.”
Shael He nods and looks away from her quickly, blushing and embarrassed. “I never meant for it to end like that. If I had it to do again, I would have found a way to tell you privately… but, we’ve had so few private moments, eh?” he smiles half-heartedly.
DM “Ezmerelda, can you go wait upstairs?” Sharwyn asks, not breaking eye contact with Shael.
Shael “What did you find out?” he asks as Ezmerelda walks off.
DM “About Shiara? Nothing, she’s a dragon and she hates me.” Sharwyn moves closer to Shael, her eyes almost binding. “About you? Nothing, other than you risked your life to save me. Over…and over…again.” She runs her fingers up his arm.
DM “Is there…anything you want to tell me privately…Shael?”
Shael His lips twitch as his eyes search hers, his mind is racing furiously as if evaluating dozens of possible outcomes. “You are fascinating to me.” he finally settles upon, taking her other hand and placing it over his fast beating heart. “I don’t know if that means anything, but in truth meaning has meant less to me in recent years. Action accomplishes more.”
DM “Then take one.” This close, it is easy to see how sharp her teeth are, how her eyes twist and swirl with color.
Shael Shael holds her hand in place on his heart for a moment that seems to stretch on into eternity. “No.” he says finally, and though his grip loosens so she can pull away he does not move away himself.
DM “Why not?” her lips twist angrily. “You boast of actions but refuse to take them?”
Shael He chuckles warmly, “We all have our secrets; perhaps you’ve had me chasing you for so long that I’d like you to return the favor?” if spoken in jest, that could pass for the truth – but, as with most things, Shael has a deeper reason. “My feelings are rarely the secrets I keep.” he concludes and presses her hand against his heart again, raising his eyebrows significantly.
DM She reverses the hold, pressing his against hers. She does have one, a heartbeat that is. She looks into his eyes. The barest flicker of his out of her gaze, and he notes ten pairs of eyes sitting on one of the crates.
Shael “I am taking the action I believe most likely to bring me what I want.” He says calmly in control, his other hand slips gently around her waist, “But I remain at your service and will suborn my desire for your need.”
DM “What? No, what’s your desire, Shael? I’m not…I’m not going to suborn you, ever. What do you want?” She shakes her head, her teeth returning to a lesser point, her eyes clearing. She seems almost drunk, but manages not to stagger or slur.
Shael “I’ll never get to be mysterious with you; will I?” he asks rhetorically with a self-deprecating smile. Shaking his head he sighs with good-humor and says, "I want forever and right now I think that means being patient. After what you told me – you are without purpose, split from your recent love, and struggling with the Origin you just discovered – I would feel like I was suborning you
Shael if I… pushed… at all." he shrugs uncomfortably. “This…” he caresses her side, “…was not my intent when I came to find you. I just wanted to make sure you were safe.”
DM “Shael, we are alive now. That may be the case ‘forever’, but it also might not be, ‘tomorrow’.”
Shael “Hmm, nah. We’ll have tomorrow at least – if I have to steal it from the Gods themselves.” he smiles. "You be the realist, I’ll be the optimist. You don’t have to convince me or ‘suborn’ me, I misspoke… just tell me to stay and prove the morning with you and I will. The past months have hardly been easy on me either and, though it would be more to me, I could use the comfort. Otherwise,
Shael I will allow you the space to grow and heal…" he smiles crookedly, “…it takes time for us all and you don’t need me.” His smile turns mischievous, “But you want me.” he teases with a wink.
DM She pounces on him at that, and he makes out the words prove the morning from the growl in his ear.
Shael Somewhere in the tussle he disengages and shuffles over to the table with the eyes, one pant-leg trailing behind, and throws a tablecloth over them. Hustling back to Sharwyn he collapses back into her muttering, “No reason to let them watch.”
DM “Oh, they don’t see much of anything anymore these days,” she assures him. “Not until I get them in the robe.”
Julian Before leaving, Julian helps Shael prepare for the embassy to the shadow elves.
Shael The group rallies; Shael divining a proper gift from among their spoils and interested parties invited along. They go to where they dropped off the survivor they rescued to call for an audience.
DM The shadow elves make their home at the base of the same hill that the Vharlangi wagons were camped, outside of Sengrad.
Julian Julian urges his fey steed forward.
Julian He rides into the elven camp and looks for any who approaches to greet or challenge him.
DM The dusk elves are waiting when they arrive. Three guards appraise them before they are sent in to meet with the elves’ leader. His hovel has a decorated vestibule and a comfortable room beyond with a fireplace. Wooden statuettes of fae lords stand in cubbyholes along one wall. A tapestry of a forest hangs on the opposite wall.
Shael Shael presents his pedigree as granted by Rugad and the gift(s) that he divined would be appropriate. The Lords hope for support in local rulership for the Elves as they achieved in Ossington, use the Shadow Paths through this land, and trade; and ask to hear the local’s grievances and what the human settlement might offer in turn.
DM “You slew the vampire Gulthias,” states Kasimir Velikov, the leader. “Did you happen to find an elf by the name of Patrina?”
Julian “We found a tomb with the name of Patrina. Patrina Velikovna, I think it was, Kasimir Velikov.”
DM “Yes. My sister. It is my hope to restore her to the life that was taken from her.”
Julian “Tell me.”
DM “She was to wed Lord Sengir, but…my people were opposed to the union. They murdered her, stoned her to death, that he would not have her.”
Julian “Not recently, I think.”
DM “…over three thousand years past.”
Julian Julian shakes his head. “Years beyond years, master elf! I have power of life and death by God’s grace, but I cannot reach across so many centuries by the power that is in me or any power I know.”
DM “Nor I. Now that the valley is open, I must go to one who can.”
DM “I do not ask for you to restore her, that is my task. Merely to provide me with a token that will allow me to gain access to Neverwhere, and an audience with The Many.”
Julian “If you are asking our leave to depart, I do not intend to detain you, but three thousand years?”
Julian Julian very carefully does not allow himself either to react or to pause at those names, leaving that decision to Shael.
Shael Shael smiles and says, “I have business with Shyka, too…” he glances at Julian and wonders, “…do we have any spare tokens left or have we used them all?”
Julian Julian frowns. “I’m not sure we can offer even that…”
Shael “Wait, just to get to the Neverwhere?” he turns back, “We don’t need tokens, do we? We can just go there… I just need to find the key.” he touches his staff lightly, “Or find a path… and King Rugad might know the way if you like I can gain you an audience, with him or the Prince I think.”
Shael He tilts his head to the side and inquires, “Am I misunderstanding?”
DM “I just want my sister back.”
Julian “I… commend your loyalty, master elf, and if a way somehow opens perhaps we can offer aid, but I would be a liar if I said that I saw any hope.”
Shael Shael spends some time gaining more understanding of the particulars of the request, but of course insists he will do whatever he can to facilitate the request.
Shael Shael seems slightly more optimistic than Julian, but will not offer the implements since (from his perspective) they already have a specific use they are intended for.
DM Kasimir nods, understanding. “Not many can meet The Many, it is said. Do not be dismayed, the entire world is full of those who cannot assuage my millennia long grief.”
Julian “That leaves the present to attend to.”
Julian “Are you and your folk open to friendship and trade with us and ours, now that the vampire is gone?”
DM “We have long traded with the Vharlangi, the Gulvanians have wanted little to do with us. I see no reason to change that simply because a vampire has been killed. If Gulvanians suddenly seek elvish goods, they can go through the Vharlangi.”
Kryss Kryss’ friends see to their affairs for a time in Gulvania, but depart alone. Kryss informs them of his intent to stay and ensure the refugees are resettled and land is more stable.
DM Kryss clings to his mount as the damned creature dips and dives yet again in these perilous mountains. He’s north of Storgard in the Sardians, and the cold is lethal. He’s on a mountain wyvern, that was waiting, presumably for him, near the cave where his daughter was born. Thyra (short for Aesthyrondalaurai) wasn’t there, and Kryss hopes the creature is taking him to her. I mean, it would be ridiculous if he’d gotten on a strange wyvern expecting a ride to his draconic friend and was just flown off into the frigid northlands never to be seen or heard from again, Loyal Readers. So he’s definitely headed to Thyra, and not being flown into a frost giant ambush…
Kryss Kryss bears the bitter cold of the altitude and looks over the piece of dragon heart for what is probably the 1000th time.
DM Even his fire resistant hands burn as he holds it.
Kryss He stashes it away and grips the wyvern, trying in vain to see through the fog and clouds to their destination.
DM The ground suddenly rushes up at him as he emerges from a cloudbank. A cave, the snow out front a trampled mess. A…bloody trampled mess. Looking into the cave reveals quilts torn from the walls and shredded. The smell of burning bread comes from within.
Kryss Kryss throws his cloak back over his shoulders and enters the cave cautiously, keeping his hands in full view.
Kryss “Aesthyrondalaurai?” he asks in Draconic, unsure of the proper protocol.
Kryss He allows his draconic senses to reach out into the room, taking in every detail and processing it faster than a mere human ever could.
DM He hears two sources of labored breathing, both huge creatures by the feel of it. Draconic blood and…giant.
Kryss Kryss rushes forward, fearing for the matron.
DM He finds her, slumped against the wall of the cavern. She’s bleeding from a dozen wounds, but most of the blood is on her jaws and claws…she didn’t go down easily. She struggles to move. Several frost giants who will never breathe again are scattered across the room, some literally. A single frost giant warrior is gasping as well, suffering a sucking chest wound. He is not long for the world.
Kryss Kryss moves to her side and lays a hand on her. “Gods,” he says and sets to cleaning the blood away from her mouth. “How can I help?” he asks, knowing that she was an expert healer.
Kryss He empties his pack digging for healing potions. “Tell me what to do,” he demands. “Tell me how to help you!”
Kryss He scans the room for anything that looks useful while pouring healing potions into her wounds. His mind flashes with images of Dara in Gulthias’ clutches.
DM She sighs with relief as the healing potions begin closing her wounds. She winces, and shrinks into the form of a middle aged woman with gray hair. “Ah…that should be better…less energy expended in this shape…”
Kryss “Where can I take you that you will be more comfortable?”
Kryss He covers here with the remnants of a few quilts.
DM “Stop bothering with nonsense will make me feel a lot better about letting a red dragon know where I live in the first place. Now go and cut that rotten giant’s head off before he gets up and finishes what his friends started.”
Kryss Kryss does as he’s told, bringing Shatterspike down on the giants big head. He returns for more instruction.
DM “Did you see a giant dragon that looked like it was made from ice when you came in?”
Kryss “I did not. I fear I must not have been paying attention.”
DM “No. Stop it with that babble, Kryzschakaviss. The damn giants brought it with them. It’s a wrack dragon.”
Kryss “I’ve never heard of that.”
Kryss “Is it still, dangerous?” Kryss asks, confused.
DM “Kryzschakaviss, it’s probably not there if you didn’t see it. They didn’t send just this paltry few to sack my lair.”
Kryss “Then it has escaped. We need to get you somewhere safer.”
DM “It hasn’t escaped, it beat me soundly and left with those looters. They aren’t coming back here, they’ve gotten everything.” She sighs, and a shudder goes through her body. “I don’t even know how long I’ll survive without the horde.”
Kryss “I come to offer my help then. Do you have any idea where they came from or why they were sent to you?”
Kryss “Surely they didn’t just happen on your doorstep?” Kryss asks, taking the now ruined bread out of the oven.
DM “Mountains are crawling with giants these days. Didn’t think they’d get bold enough to rob me though.”
DM “Having an icewrack though…that changes everything. You never heard of wrack dragons?”
Kryss “I fear not,” Kryss replies. He begins tidying up while she explains.
DM “Long ago, only one creature could challenge us dragons for control of this world. When we were united under the rule of King Bahamut and Queen Tiamat, none dared but the titans. The titans warred for thousands of years with dragonkind. In time, their children, the gigas were born, and threw themselves into the war as well. The gigas though, were crafty, and using ancient and foul magics, melded the spirit of slain dragons into the very elements of the world, to shape the wrack dragons. Storm, fire, wood, ice and sea…hateful creatures that could stand against our might.”
Kryss “Who could harness these creatures? Why would they return now?” Kryss lifts an armchair and sweeps under it.
DM “The gigas are the predecessors of the giants, but I did not think they passed that lore to their children. Something very bad is going on, that is providing the giants with these weapons.”
Kryss “I fear I did not bring any better news.” Kryss lays the pouch containing the piece of the heart next to her.
DM “And no better smell, it would seem. I miss the bread.”
Kryss “Within that pouch contains the last remains of Ashardalon.”
DM Thyra hisses. “May the snake rot in his grave.”
Kryss “I fear that may be the problem,” he replies, opening his cloak to display the letters branded on his chest.
DM “What have you done to yourself, Kryzschakaviss?”
Kryss “A shadow of him appeared to me offering me power. I destroyed it with my dragonfire but I fear he continues to survive. When the smoke cleared I was burned with this brand and my armor had fused to my skin.”
Kryss He tells her of his recent adventures in Sengrad and his encounter with the legendary dragon and its vampire servant.
Kryss “There was also an incident years ago in the Sunless Citadel.” He explains the timehopping event the he and the very famous Azario experienced before he disappeared.
DM “Gulthias Sengir is dead? Well, that explains your attack, the heart, everything. Gulthias was staked in the Sunless Citadel. No doubt your removal of the tree freed him, and in his return, he sought to bring back his own master. Gulthias was a mad dog who needed a boot on his neck to feel he was in his place. Without it…psychoses.”
Kryss “He took Dara from me,” Kryss says flatly.
DM “And you said he turned her into a succubus?”
Kryss “His wives claimed that she returned different from then. A white to their black.”
DM “Kryzschakaviss, you were bound to lose her too soon in any event. You will live hundreds or thousands of years, and she will be lucky to make fifty. I know it sounds horrible, but at least this way you might see her again.”
Kryss “As you say. She will return to Emily and I when she is ready. Ashardalon haunts my dreams though. I fear he has returned and means to lay waste to the lands or worse. He may even be tied to these wracks returning as well.”
DM “Well if he has, he was a fool to let you get hold of his heart.”
Kryss “Gulthias seemed to draw power from it and Ashardalon attempted to seduce me shortly before I acquired it. I feel that the heart may grant me power to use against the ancient one, but I fear that it may give him power over me.”
DM “Well, if you keep holding it like that, and he was alive, and not dead from the fact that you have his heart, outside of his chest, it might. If you burned it and ate it, less chance of that happening.”
Kryss “But to what end?”
DM “The end of the heart. What do you want, Kryzschakaviss?”
Kryss Kryss looks to the ground slightly. “It doesn’t matter what I want anymore. If Ashardalon is out there then he is a threat to both dragons and mankind. I faced him once, though it be a shadow, and I will be able to face him again.”
DM “You are worried, Kryzschakaviss, and you need to stop that. When I am able, I will send out word, looking for Ashardalon, to set your mind at ease.”
DM “He was brutally slain by powerful magic though. A river of blood ran through the land from the sacrifices the druid performed to gather the power needed to tear out his heart.”
Kryss “Then I too must seek out the powerful magic that can slay him again. Can you provide me any wisdom to assist me in my quest?”
DM “To kill him, that’s what you want?”
DM “Or do you have a higher goal?”
Kryss Kryss considers the question carefully. “I feel you deserve my honesty and so I will tell you the truth. Part of me wants to see him destroyed in order to protect the world. Part of me thinks it my duty.”
Kryss “Another part feels that he has called me out and I must see his heart beating in my claws.”
DM “You’re a dragon Kryzschakaviss. You don’t need powerful magic. You need your birthright.”
Kryss “Perhaps Ashardalon is the key to that. In the past you didn’t care to discuss any of that. Although you were actively trying to save my wife and daughter at the time.”
DM “Mmm. Or perhaps I just didn’t want a rival red dragon prowling my territory.”
Kryss “Do you consider me a rival?” Kryss asks.
DM “You could be.”
Kryss “Do you mean now? Or do you mean when I was here before with Dara? I’m obviously no threat to any dragons as I am, and you didn’t know of me as a hatchling.”
DM “I mean, I had no intention of allowing an evil being to gain power in my domain. But you aren’t, evil that is. I may have misjudged you, though I’m far too old to apologize for those things.”
Kryss “Misjudged me when?” Kryss asks.
DM “When you came to me and I refused you hospitality.”
Kryss “I assure you that I am only here to help,” Kryss promises, his fingers absentmindedly touching the ring around his neck. “Can you help me understand what I am?” He asks.
DM “You’re a dragon, but you are descended from a hybrid line, which means human blood runs in your veins as well.”
Kryss “So… that’s that. I’m both a dragon and a man. A perfect blend of both. A fine birthright indeed. I’m surprised there aren’t more like me running around.”
DM “Your…human side ceased to be human over a thousand years ago. Perhaps two. However, for a time, your people were known as Autarks.”
Kryss “Does nothing remain of them besides me?”
DM “Kryss, long before you were born, the Kaviss family of the Autarks merged with dragons in truth…no more human breeding. In a few generations, you were drakes, and a few more, dragons in truth.”
Kryss “Then Em and I are the last. Is that why Ashardalon is interested in me?”
DM “I couldn’t possibly answer that. Is he even interested in you, or you in him? Was all of this Gulthias’ doing and not the dragon’s? Too many things to count. You think you’re a perfect blend of man and dragon, but you need to bring out the dragon within.”
Kryss “How do I do that?”
DM “…you could start with that piece of heart. Access your true dragonfire.”
Kryss “I trust you,” he says. He inhales softly and produces a small flame from his lips, igniting the heart. He then consumes the ashes as instructed.
DM He wakes up in a warm room, bread baking in the oven. It smells delicious. Thyra is sewing. She looks at him wryly.
Kryss “Its lucky I was here to nurse you back to health after the giants attacked,” Kryss says groggily.
DM His voice is much deeper.
Kryss “Ahem,” he coughs. “Could I get a glass of water?”
DM “No, because you’ll break it and I’m not sweeping up any more rubbish.”
Kryss “Maybe in a cup with a lid then?” he asks.
DM “Look at your hand.” A massive red scaled claw awaits his viewing.
Kryss “That’s going to be difficult to explain to people,” Kryss says, flexing the claw.
DM She rolls her eyes and points him towards the pool where he can drink. He moves on all fours to get there and views the face of a dragon, his true self, in the reflection.
Kryss “I… I’m a dragon again!” he turns his head and flexes his mighty wings.
Kryss He rears back onto his hind legs and swings his mighty tail around to splash at the water in the pool.
DM “It won’t last, you don’t have the energy for it yet.”
Kryss “It won’t last?” Kryss asks, “How long will I be myself again? I have to face Ashardalon before I change back!”
Kryss He looks down at his chest to see if Ashardalon’s mark is gone.
DM “I’d say you’ve got about a minute left. You don’t have the energy to expend on this form yet.”
DM (The mark is still upon him.)
Kryss “Only a minute? I’ll never make it in time. Even so, perhaps with practice or perfect timing…” A hundred scenarios play out in Kryss’ mind.
Kryss “How long was I asleep?” he asks.
DM “Two weeks.”
Kryss “I fear I’ve intruded upon you. Thank you for looking after me, though I meant to care for you. Thank you.” Kryss allows himself to relax back into human form and begins looking around for his things.
Kryss “I will send you an offering when I return,” he says, putting his pack on his back. “It won’t be enough for a proper horde, but perhaps it will be a start. Did you hear anything from your contacts regarding Ashardalon while I was asleep?”
DM “You need to stop that. It sounds too weak to be a dragon. You need strength, and a horde. And no, a few weeks have not turned up anything other than giant attacks raging across the entire region, from here to Alsoor.”
Kryss “Then I will take your advice and keep my offering. Wait, that means that Dragonfyre may be in danger. I have to hurry back. I meant to ask your help with a cloak, but I fear I will have to pass on that and craft a lesser quality one without your guidance…”
DM “You’re doing it again.”
DM “Show me respect without berating yourself, without disparaging what and who you are.”
Kryss “Let me try again.” He coughs and growls, “You were wise to provide me aid. In the future I may return the favor. Good day Dragon Elder.”
DM “You are worthy, if you are not, nothing you say to or of me matters. Yes, I am your superior, yes, I am your elder, your better. But you have greatness within you as well. Do not let that spark die, but fan it into a conflagration. And give my best to your hatchling.”
Kryss “I will.” Kryss turns and leaves his mentor’s home and begins the journey back to his hatchling. There was much to explain to her.
DM Kryss remains behind in Gulvania, but the other two lords do return sooner to Dragonfyre. They are greeted eagerly by their people, who have only recently fought off a brutal raiding party of giants. To hear the tale told, it seems the giants were not uniform in kind…towering giants of frost fought alongside titans of flame and fury. The destruction they wrought was significant, but the highly trained militia did not break as it did in nearby cities. It seems that the entire world of man is under attack by giants of legend. Dragonfyre’s remote location and staunch defenders allowed it to come through better than most. Finally in Ossington, Griswold lies dead, torn apart by what were described as metallic wolves or cougars.
DM Emily and Tom Bing are safe and sound however, neither giant nor metal wolf threatened the daughter of Kryss or the infant she is keeping these days while in her butler’s charge.
DM Join us now, as we discover what our lords do between now and the upcoming Council of Lords!
Julian Julian’s first priority on returning home and learning of the outbreak of regional conflict is Dragonfire’s response, and he is glad – though not surprised – to learn that Shella and Aethelstan have overseen an effective response in his absence. He quickly lends himself to the effort as well, seeing that men of the Dragonfire Fyrd respond to raids on their own lands and that they act in concert with the Baron’s men in Brindinford, each to aid the other.
Kryss Kryss sees to ensuring that Gulvania is relatively safe and profitable for a few months.
Shael While preparing to leave for home, Shael works to find a suitable administrator of the land until their liege can make a final decision. He calls upon divination of the future to guide their search and decision.
Shael “Who is the best candidate to administer these lands?”
DM “Hair of red and gold will rule with firm hand and bold. The serpent whispers death unto she who held it hitherto.”
Julian Julian suggests Fiona when he hears of this – the warrior woman has done a good job so far of rallying Sengrad’s guard.
DM The mercenary looks pleased at being named, but privately expresses doubts that she has what it takes to be a noblewoman to the lords in private.
DM Because that’s where you privately do stuff. In private.Julian “It is a burden.” Julian allows.
Kryss “Leading is a natural trait,” Kryss grumbles over a huge cup of wine.
DM “I don’t really know how to do any of the fancy stuff.”
Julian “I think this land can do without the fancy stuff.” Julian grins wryly.
Shael Shael smiles and mentions, “I wouldn’t worry about the fancy stuff anyways; I’m not sure how soon we would be able to formalize it. Administration, protection, and rule of this land – I know for certain that you are more than capable of granting it prosperity.”
Julian “It can’t do without a bold leader who can rally the folk and lead warriors to drive off what evil remains.”
Julian “I brought you back for a reason, Fiona.”
Shael He nods in agreement with Julian and mentions, “You’ll set the rules, you know, so it’ll be up to you if it’s fancy or not.”
DM She looks serious…she did die once for this village afterall. “Thank you, my lords. Hmm. Am I still supposed to call you my lords?”
Shael He shrugs, “I have no idea.” he chuckles aloud, “I think we are peers, doesn’t bother me either way.”
Julian “Well, I still call them my lords. My lord,” he nods at Kryss, “doesn’t like it though.”
DM “Alright. What’s your vision for this land, my lords? I’ll do my best to make it so.”
Julian “Vision…” Julian’s eyes light up. “Let’s talk.”
Shael Shael clears his throat and intervenes, “Julian, we each have our own vision – remember, this is her land now.” he reminds Fiona, “We are happy to share, but remember it your choice.”
Kryss “Get her in touch with Thos,” Kryss gruffly spits.
Julian “Yes, yes.” Julian cheerfully rolls with Shael’s rebuke and goes on anyway. Roads rebuilt, ditches dug, vineyards revived, fields replanted, prosperity returned… all aided by Dragonfire gold and watched over by a stout and disciplined militia.
DM Fiona takes copious notes, or rather, has one of the servants do so, being unable to read and write.
Julian Julian allows Shael to cut in at some point with his suggestion of a treaty with the shadow elves.
Shael Shael offers to assist in brokering a treaty with the shadow elves as they have in Ossington.
DM “Of course, my lords! Please, I am new to this, and I would welcome all of your help and ideas.”
Julian “There’s also the matter of the other remnants of Sengir’s rule.”
Julian “The druids that worshiped him, the werewolves that served him…”
Julian “I trust you to move boldly against these, and until the folk here are prepared to take up their own defense, you will have gold for soldiers and silver arms from our armories.”
DM “I will speak with Miss Faulkin, but I think we can come to an arrangement with the wolves. I do not know about the druids…theirs is a bloody and brutal practice.”
Julian Julian nods. “My advice is to drive the druids off. Cleanse their holy places of Gulthias’s influence. Perhaps turn them over to the elves keeping, if they will have them.”
Shael “The shadow elves may have an emissary who can fill the role -” he agrees with Julian, “- this land is bound to its ruler, those sworn to Gulthias are obviously inappropriate but it would not be unwise to keep a loyal member of the druidic order to consult.”
Julian “If you can find one.” Julian is less than hopeful on this count.
DM “We will see. Regarding the wolves, I want to keep them away from the people, but…not exterminate them. I have had several long conversations with Miss Faulkin and I do not wish to be at war with them. We can co-exist, or at least…each stay on our side of the fence.”
Shael Shael nods agreement, “I agree. Do you need anything from us to help?”
Julian Julian’s thoughts run quickly to the last representative of the land’s werewolves they met, who betrayed them to Sengir at their most vulnerable, helped kill Reynard… but with Shael present he holds his peace.
DM “A golden weapon that won’t break or bend. And golden armor. One thing that must be done before there can be peace with the wolves, is to slay the loup garou.”
Shael Shael glances at Kryss, “Can you help with that?”
Kryss “I can hammer something together,” he admits at length.
Julian “The dire werewolf.”
Kryss “I can likely deal with that problem as well,” Kryss grumbles.
DM “No. It needs to be me. They need to see.”
Shael “What kind of armor?” he frowns pensively, concerned about the time required.
DM “Chain, preferably.”
Kryss Kryss looks the new Lady up and down. “Chain will break under claws. Plate is better but has a lot of gaps. Maybe I can…” Kryss begins sketching out a design.
Kryss “This hybrid protects your vitals but you’re still covered head to toe to defend from claws or bites. Gold is weak and malleable. I can probably layer it atop traditional steel for concussion protection.”
Kryss “You’re going to need to be fast and move easily. You’ll need wool padding to protect your skin too.”
DM “I always wear padding, otherwise the metal pinches. As long as there’s enough gold over it, I think I’ll be alright.”
Julian “Gambeson, then chain, and a reinforced top? Golden brigandine?”
Shael Shael nods and asks, “And the sword?”
Kryss “You’re tall enough that a spear would be well used. Or a polearm. I have a little mithril for a strong shaft and the tip from gold layered with silver.”
DM “I fight with a longsword and dagger.”
DM “If I need to be further away than that, I have my bow.”
Kryss “But you only get to attack with your off hand a few times in any fight. Its more efficient to use a shield.”
Shael “You need a golden longsword, dagger, and arrows?” Shael asks, surprised.
Shael He glances at Kryss, being well known for fighting with two weapons, surely.
DM “No, just a golden sword and armor. I’ll make it do.”
Kryss “So you say,” Kryss returns to his bucket of wine.
Julian Julian makes a note to see that she gets golden arrowheads and dagger anyway, regardless of his fellow lords’ protests.
Julian He turns the talk back towards the region’s other problems and future solutions, though, and the day passes in planning, advice, and discussion…
Julian As the talk of the future of the realm winds down, Julian takes Fiona aside.
Julian “You’re right,” he says quietly, “you can do with just a gold sword and armor, and forget the dagger. Because you’ll have this.”
Julian He shows her one of the Shadoklaw daggers and explains its power.
DM “Oh wow, thank you. That should…wow.”
Julian Julian nods. “No half measures, Lady Fiona. You have our full support.”
DM “Thank you. Once I kill that bastard, the wolves will be free people too.”
Julian “It is devoutly to be hoped. Good luck.”
Julian Having no special business with Sharwyn, Julian is the first of the lords to turn his path homeward.
Julian The paladin’s first priority on returning home and learning of the outbreak of regional conflict is Dragonfire’s response, and he is glad – though not surprised – to learn that Shella and Aethelstan have overseen an effective response in his absence. He quickly lends himself to the effort as well, seeing that men of the Dragonfire Fyrd respond to raids on their own lands and that they act in concert with the Baron’s men in Brindinford, each to aid the other.
DM The giants, despite tales of mixed groups, are largely of the hill variety, with ogres as well. While their tactics are poor, their strategy seems to be rather impressive…most of the time they strike targets completely unable to properly defend themselves, and are gone before anyone can aid.
DM Brindinford has repelled no less than three of the attacks, with huge boulders flying over the walls to crush stalls, people, etc. However, the giants do not frequently assault powerful cities, and tend to focus more on outlying farms and thorps.
Julian “Fighting giants. Like old days. Hit and run now? We’ll soon see if they can outrun me.” Julian puts his head together with his retainers and devises a plan.
Julian A few scouts, rangers, and runners will be dispersed around the area in advance, their job not to fight the attackers off but to send the bat-signal, er, paladin-signal into the sky.
DM The first few of such raid rebuttals are successful, though rumors begin to spread as to how Lord Julian is able to arrive in the nick of time so consistently. However, later raids often include feints, multiple spread out targets and in one dramatic case, eight giants vanishing into thin air before the Dragonfyre Raiders’ very eyes.
Julian It is well known that Julian conquered the fey roads, and if asked he simply claims that he is using them again. Bit as it becomes increasingly clear that there is both malign intelligence and magic behind these raids, he sends for Shael to speed his fellow lord’s return.
Julian While waiting for his lords’ return he tries to interrogate any of the enemy he does manage to come to grips with and defeat. Whence this new enmity?
DM The giants are typically unhelpful. They don’t know much, they don’t remember much, but they do like to boast. Ruk has returned to them, they say, over and over. Ruk will crush the humans with his brothers. Who is Ruk? Ruk is Ruk.
DM Ruk, from what little Julian can find on the subject, appears to fill a mythological role similar to Arcturos. A first king slash savior who is coming again to lead the people to a more glorious future.
Julian Brothers? Julian digs further, visiting the Reality Wrinkle to correlate stories with Shael’s books.
DM Nothing seems to suggest Ruk had any brothers. Hill giant lore does not seem to be a popular topic with historians, unfortunately. Julian does discover some missing link between giants and titans known as a gigas as he searches through the books, however. It is possible that Ruk was an ancient gigas and that is why the hill giants considered him so important.
DM “The titans-still molten-hot with the fires of creation-trod across every plane, and in their footsteps arose new lihe gigas. Spawned from the stuff of the planes themselves and their titan parents’ divine spark, the gigas exhibit only the tiniest splinters of godly power but share their progenitors’ immense size and strength as well as supreme adaptations to the lands that bore them. In time, the gigas themselves bred with all variety of mortal creatures, spawning young of incredible size and, like their parents, uniquely adapted to their environments. Legends ascribe gigas contributions to any number of colossal beasts, from rocs to enormous vermin, but realistically the gigas’s true scions are the myriad races of giants.”
partial manuscript found in the Reality Wrinkle
Julian Julian’s lips curl as he tosses the book aside. “Bits and pieces, Hengist. I do not know what to make of it, and it has been days since an ambush bore fruit.”
Julian “I suppose we had better settle other business while we are here, at least. With me, we’ll visit the Baron and make report on what’s been learned and done in Sengrad.”
Julian “And not least on what’s to be learned and done now.”
DM “We have driven them afield, Lord Julian. Their threat lies out of our lands these days.”
DM The crippled trollkin smiles with his scarred face.
DM “When will you allow me to face the blade?”
Julian “I don’t trust that weapon. But I do trust you. Are you ready?”
DM “I’ve died, and yet my soul clawed its way from Urxhel to return to you. I do not think I will be more ready. Ever.”
Julian “Take it up with my blessing, then, my friend.”
Julian “And should it struggle with you… let will be the sterner, heart the bolder. Spirit the greater.”
DM “…as our strength lessens.”
Julian Julian does offer a report to the Baron before returning from Brindinford to Dragonfire, but once he does, he opens the armories and has the Runesword brought out.
DM While a powerful and brave wielder for the Runesword is to be found in Hengist, his other two weapons lie waiting for a hand to hold them.
DM Rollo the Hammer has sent back word that he, King Rollo of Khundrukar, would seek to wield the hammer, though not for Dragonfyre, but rather his own realm. He promises dwarven friendship in return.
DM The merfolk likewise have sent word that Dragonfyre has no use for Assail, but they would see that the river teemed with fish and wealth were it to be given to their prince.
Julian Julian seriously considers this offer. A triple alliance between the wielders of the three weapons and their respective realms?
Julian This may be the closest he can come to satisfying all three weapons’ desires while still seeing that Dragonfire benefits.
Julian He asks Shael to confirm that such an arrangement would be met with favorable outcomes.
Shael Shael nods and adds, “I will name Hengist champion of Ossington to seal the triad if you wish it.”
Julian “Very well. Let it be done.”
DM "The Hammer is a true and kingly noble’s friend.
DM …the water’s prince will come to a bitter end."
DM “Dragonfyre will be blessed in each event. But the water kingdom shall be torn and rent.”
Julian “Provided that we warn the merfolk.”
Julian “If this truly portends danger to them, it would be ill done to inaugurate an alliance by dissembling about it.”
Shael Shael frowns and shakes his head ever so slightly, “We do.” he says to Julian in the future progressive.
Julian “Very well.”
Julian Word is sent of the lords’ assent and the King and Prince are invited to receive their arms.
Shael The sword prophet takes a closer look at the Tallite, he purses his lips and seems uncertain whether Julian gets it.
Julian Such are the perils of prophetic ambiguity in tenses.
Julian With this settled as far as the paladin is concerned, he approaches Shael the next day for a grimmer purpose – tying up loose ends from Nightfang Spire.
Julian “Can you find out what became of Reynard? Where I should go to put an end to Ludmilla Sengir? Anastryasya? Valenta?”
Julian “Lidda? She was a good friend to us once.”
Julian “And… you know.”
Julian “If you can even find out where to look…”
Shael “Whatever you need, Julian – Lidda is still my friend, though she may think otherwise and I may find myself needing to act contradictory.”
Julian “Start with Lidda, then. If we were to go within the week… where should we go to find her?”
DM Divination fails, repeatedly, while looking for the vampires, as it appears that if their paths will ever cross again, it will be further in the future than a week’s time. Lidda, Hennet, Krusk, Dara…nothing. Finally, a hit. “Sengir’s bride has gone to ground, in a quiet and ruined town. Seek her out, to see her face again, in the place where it all began.”
Shael Shael relays the questions through his magic; spacing them out to one per day.
Julian “I’ll hunt her there.”
Julian A small smile plays on Julian’s lips.
Julian “Do you want to come?”
Shael He shrugs ever so slightly, “Yeah, I don’t mind.”
Julian Julian nods. “All right then. First light.”
Julian He turns back towards Dragonfire Manor, walking with Shael past Kryss’s forges where apprentices are hard at work melting down coins to be restruck. A new batch of gold Gulthias coins enters the furnace as they pass, the vampire’s image to be destroyed forever.
Julian “You should know I’m going to kill her.”
Julian “And then the other two.”
Julian He looks ahead and catches sight of Shella on the steps of the manor.
Julian “Good night, Shael.”
DM And a good night for the lords of Dragonfyre it is. It is a bit over a four day’s ride to Gulvania, Will they find Sengir’s bride there to kill? Or will his vampiric paramours know enough of their lord’s hemomantic dark arts to escape a bright fate? Find out probably sooner than next week!
Julian Julian is as good as his word, ready to depart for Gulvania at the crack of dawn after Shael’s divinations reveal the lead. He sends word to Kryss as well, still in the region, in case their fellow lord wishes to join them.
Kryss Kryss agrees to go, hoping to earn treasure to add to his (and Emily’s) horde.
Julian The three lords meet a short ways outside of the abandoned town. Julian suggests that they can approach by stealth until they have confirmed the presence of their quarry.
Kryss Kryss wraps his dark cloak around him and disappears into the darkness
Julian Julian works a spell to hide Shael and himself from sight.
DM Every building, every alley, even the graveyard is quiet. They do detect something out of the ordinary beneath the ruined church, but it turns out to be the opposite of what they seek. Three tiny balls of light dance in the undercroft.
Julian Shael’s interest in particular is piqued by the effect, and he draws closer to examine it.
Kryss Kryss steps out of the shadows and stands behind him in case of foul play
DM Crystalline music seems to hum from the effect, and the lights whirl around each other.
Julian “Pure souls…”
Julian “Graceful Ones, why have you come?”
Kryss Kryss notes the reverence in his voice and steps back into the shadows to allow Julian a little privacy. The Holy Knight can still sense his friend’s presence, however, and knows that his discussion shall not be interrupted.
DM They whirl around, perhaps originally oblivious to their invisible company. The tinkling music comes forth again.
Julian The church door swings open at Julian’s words, and the paladin approaches.
DM The music tinkles once more, and the lights swirl back and forth.
DM The lights appear to want Julian to follow them. They bring him to the spot where the priest’s son was brought back to life. The music grows louder.
-Julian Shael follows Julian, having caught an invisible elbow earlier and promptly divined the paladin’s intentions.
Julian Getting the sense that the holy spirits want him to approach, Julian does just that.
DM The spirits float around his head in a crown of light, bobbing and singing in a joyful tone. He senses they are happy with something he has done. Or perhaps they are anointing him king.
Shael Shael smiles as he watches them dance around and looks at Julian, curious if he understands their message.
Julian “I think they are happy with what we did here.”
Julian “Unless they’re annointing me king?”
Shael Shael chuckles warmly, “Serra is pleased with you; the irredeemable has been redeemed.” he tilts his head to the side, observing Julian curiously.
Julian “Do you know. Shael, with all else that happened after, I hardly remembered.”
Julian “Maybe… there’s a lesson here for future as well as past.”
Julian “They were his victims too, once, I suppose, before they were ever his helpers.”
Shael He shrugs vaguely and keeps his peace, approaching the lights to stand next to Julian. He holds his hand out to them, smiling beatifically with calm and reverence.
DM The lights swirl around his hand, singing praises to Tal, Serra and Radiant.
Shael “I do not know if it is only saving Doru or something more.” he finally answers Julian, “Where is he, now, anyways?”
Julian “With his father, I think? Or at least he went with him to Drylake when we cleared the town.”
Julian “Thank you for the reminder, faithful spirits.”
Julian Julian withdraws a little way and gathers the party together.
Julian “Do you think we have mistaken the place, Shael? You have a better sense of this than I do. But if we should wait here, there is some work I can do.”
Kryss “There is certainly a hallowed feel to the place. I feel it’s worth watching them for a time.”
Shael “We could ask again.” he suggests to Julian, following direction from the Knight who has chosen this as his mission.
Julian “If you think it necessary. It would be ill news if the riddle meant Oakhurst, though.”
Shael He smiles faintly at the lights before using his magic to inquire, “What is the next step we should take to find Anastrasya?”
DM “Ask once, ask twice, ask yet thrice again, you must return to where it all began. Foe, then ally, then foe once more, gives shelter, comfort, worship and lore.”
Kryss “He means the dragon priest in the Citadel.” Kryss grumbles.
Kryss “Or Calcryx. Either way, that is where our path leads.”
Shael Shael frowns with concern and glances at the others, “I have to find Sharwyn… be ready, we must hurry…” he looks at Julian pleadingly before running out.
Kryss “I doubt she still feels the influence of the tree, Shael. Any magics remaining are likely residual, but she may believe it to be a safe haven.”
Shael “Her mother lives there-“ he hollers back without breaking stride.
Kryss Kryss looks back at Julian, “Why shouldn’t we simply teleport to Oakhurst?” he asks.
Julian "I think we’ll pass the night here at least.
Julian “I’ll walk us there in the morning.”
Julian Julian looks up towards the claw-scarred altar. He picks up a fallen broken pew and sets it in place, muttering a low toneless chant to set right its broken legs.
Julian Then it provides a platform to stand on and reach the sagging rotted rafters and set them true and mend the holes in the shingle roof.
Julian Julian works at restoring the chapel until late into the night.
Julian In the morning he gathers the party and works the spell that can bring them back to… where it all started.
DM Gulvania’s gloomy scenery disappears as Julian seeks out the ruins of the Gulthias tree. And then, it reappears. They’ve gone nowhere.
Kryss “I had thought you addressed this problem?” Kryss asks
Julian “I guess not. I could try to drop us just outside the citadel, or I could try for the town, with some more risk. After I recover my focus.”
Julian “I’ll try for just outside the citadel unless you think otherwise.”
Julian “No need to sit here until I can try again, though. Let’s ride for the day, and we can get the look of the land as we go, now that the mists have passed.”
DM The day’s ride brings them about half way to a traveler’s shrine they know lies ahead with another day’s travel. The night’s camp passes uneventfully, though the feeling they are being watched does not pass. Nor are they able to determine its source that night, for it manifests to neither magic nor mundane. In the morning, the teleportation spell brings them to outside of the citadel. An alarm immediately goes up from the kobold guards. Pitiful creatures, they are nonetheless armed for war with tattered chain and sharpened spears.
Kryss “Behold, minions, for your saviors have returned. Lay down your weapons and armor and prepare yourselves for the feasts and rewards I have brought to shower upon the keepers of Calcryx!” Kryss roars in Draconic.
Kryss “We come to pay respects to the kobald here Meepo, and woe to any who should stall us.”
DM “You must wait for the big chief!” shouts the only kobold not trembling, though none of them give any recognition at those names. “We are to die if necessary.” His black scales and sharp eyes are a staunch contrast to his shaking peers.
Julian Julian gives Kryss a look. “It seems they will oppose us.”
Kryss “They dont remember us,” Kryss says, “let’s play nice.”He turns to the speaker, “Send one of your number to fetch the chief, that I may speak with him. The remainder of you are welcome to join us for a meal.”
Julian “Very well. Be quick.”
Julian The party wades through the kobold visitor process.
DM The kobolds do not share the meal with Kryss, standing wary or fearful by the entrance to the Sunless Citadel. After ten minutes, a messenger returns to the suspicious kobold guard. He informs them that the chief will see them once ready. Several hours pass before that occurs. The chief approaches them, a female kobold with white scales and caution in her eyes. “What do you want?” She does not sound friendly.
Julian “Passage below. Information if you will give it, whether others have come.”
DM “There is no passage below. Others have come. Massive, bigger even than you. We are not the ones who destroyed your human town.”
Kryss Kryss snatches the chieftain up and throws her off into the canyon. “Bring forth another chieftain that I may entreat with them instead. I want to see the dragon priest, Miraak. Who among you will deny me?”
DM She plummets to her death. The other kobolds run in fear.
Kryss “Guess we’ll have to announce ourselves then,” Kryss shrugs. “I’ll go first.”
Kryss Kryss leads the party to the kobalds lair where they once kept Calcryx. He politely knocks at the door before using Shatterspike to blow it to splinters.
DM Kobolds fall by the dozen as the party moves through the warrens, the creatures helpless to stop them. The door explodes in. The cage has been removed, and replaced with cushions, stacked up in a corner. The room has been cleaned recently, as though from a ransacking. The smell of blood and egg yolk still hangs in the air, even above the reptilian stench that pervades the complex.
Kryss “Julian? Would you mind taking a look around and trying to puzzle out what may have happened here?” Kryss asks calmly. He seems considerably well humored in comparison to his recent demeanor. “I had hoped for a nicer welcome from our old friends, to be honest, but kobalds must keep a short history.”
Kryss Kryss inspects the cushioned area thoroughly. The scent of egg yolk could portend ill indeed, but he pushes the thought aside.
DM He finds bits of shell, missed by the cleaning.
Kryss He sniff the shell carefully, hoping his human nose sensitive enough to confirm what his heart is telling him.
Julian Julian takes a look around and tries to puzzle out what happened.
DM Kryss notes that the mother had not been getting enough iron in her diet when the eggs were laid. Julian and he look over the entire room. As best they can tell, it housed a nursery of white dragon eggs, many of which were broken within the past month, in some sort of struggle. Kobolds died here brutally, but whatever they were fighting did not so much as leave a hair to mark its passing. Since then, the room has been cleaned and stacked up as best it could be.
Kryss “The late chieftain said bigger than us,” Kryss reasons out loud as he paces the room slowly. “Theyve had time to clean up. The eggs hatched a month ago.”
Kryss “She would have needed a sire. I wonder who she found?”
Shael While the others wade through kobolds and investigate – Shael wears invisibility and silence like a cloak and swiftly visits all of the significant places on this floor before returning to report to the others. He starts with the shrine, then the throne rooms (kobold than goblin).
Kryss “Shael? A… friend of mine, was recently set upon by a great dragon known as a wrack, which I suspect to be in service to Ashardalon. I know it still roams the lands, do you suppose Calryx mated with that at Ashardalon’s instruction?”
Kryss “This land was known to him. I feel like none of this is a coincidence. If my former matron has fallen in league with him, I fear she will have nothing nice to say about Julian betraying her.”
Kryss “That also scratches my plan of doing the same to him.”
Kryss “To Ashardalon, not to you,” Kryss clarifies to Julian.
Kryss “The wrack is also tied to at least one tribe of giants. I feel like there is a greater power behind all of this, and the answer may lie to the north with Ruk.”
DM Shael finds nothing particularly out of order…kobolds preparing for a final stand against the invaders, no sign of the goblins, kobold expansion into the goblin territory, etc. however in the goblin throne room, half of the room has been collapsed onto the pit leading lower. It seems to have been blocked off extensively…even if all there is to keep them out is what he can see, it would take hundreds of hours of manpower to open up.
Shael Shael nods to Kryss and replies to the both of them, “I think we need to go back to the town; our quarry is not here—” he explains what he found and looks sadly towards the Kobold corpses. With a long sigh he says, “—I don’t see any reason to have killed them… but, such is life I suppose.” and sadly looks back to the other two to explain what he found.
Julian “You think they are not?”
Julian “We are blocked from going below twice over now. It seems doubtful that there is nothing behind that.”
Shael “There is certainly something behind that – but, you may have forgotten how often this lair has been assaulted since we left
- Onella, Lat-Nam, other hunters of fortune certainly… we may need to return, but that is not where our quest brings us -now.”
Shael “It is the first thing the Chieftain said when we arrived…” he glances ever so briefly at Kryss before concluding, “…but, we did not ask questions… if we had, we may have found this answer more quickly.” he shrugs absently.
Julian Foe, then ally, then foe once more, gives shelter, comfort, worship and lore."
Julian “Who else is that but the dragonpriest?”
Julian “But you are right. If I cannot walk past it then I have no way to quickly break the barricade. Let’s go to town.”
DM Six days, now, they have traveled the lands, by steed and spell. Four to Gulvania, and searching through that desolate village for a day turned up the Miracle of Doru. A day’s ride towards Oakhurst and a ’walk brought them to the front door of the Sunless Citadel, where they slew the kobold guards and their chieftain, discovering that the kobolds had a dragon egg nursery, recently ransacked. The path leading lower into the Citadel has been blocked up, likely for years, and magic cannot seem to enter the area. They ride now for Oakhurst, hoping that they have not been too late to follow where this divination leads.
DM They reach Oakhurst as the sun sets on the seventh day, and as the kobold chieftain had said prior to her death, the town was ruined. No smoke rises in the air, no crows circle overhead to reveal the desolation that is the former village. Buildings have been crushed by stones, bodies have been picked at by scavengers…Oakhurst has fallen to the giants. Still, our lords note, there are signs of life…a lone fire burns near the center of town, in the ruins of the tavern.
Shael Shael rushes forward, heedless of danger, to find what remains.
Kryss “Giants,” Kryss says.
DM Around the fire, about a dozen survivors huddle, hoping to stave off the bitter cold that comes with sundown. They can see that they are not recent survivors…the attack clearly has happened weeks or months past. A familiar face, the Primata Corina hails them on their approach. “Friend or foe?”
Kryss “Friends, though late to the rescue we seem to be.”
Kryss Kryss sets about unpacking blankets and improving their shelter. The meal he leaves for Julian to prepare and Shael will likely see to any injuries.
Shael “The Lords Dragonfyre, Primata.” he moves closer so the fire can illuminate him, “Is… is this everyone who survived?” he asks mutely.
DM “Dragonfyre?” The primata’s grasp of geography and extra-local politics is poor, but her sense of people is not. She sends a pair of young men to help Kryss, and broaches the topic with Shael carefully. “There are…some more, though all too few. Less than fifty survived the giants.”
Shael Shael spares only a moment to glare angrily in the direction of the Giants before he relays all that is necessary to identify themselves and, perhaps, remind Corina of who they are. “What all can we do to offer succor?”
DM “We sent some of the men to Alsoor to obtain supplies, they should be returning soon.” Shael recalls that Alsoor is further along the Old Road than the Sunless Citadel, and they had not seen any sign of travelers. “Mostly, we need warm days to regroup and rebuild the town. So…so many are gone. Leng wants to move everyone to Alsoor, and Shiara thinks it is a good idea. Maybe I’m just a stubborn old woman, but I don’t want to leave. This was my home and my parents’ home and their parents before them.”
Shael Shael is about to ask about Kerowyn but stops suddenly, “Shiara?”
DM “She settled here about six years back, after the shrine to the north was ruined by those vile mages.”
Shael “Where is she now? And what about Kerwoyn Hucrele – did she survive?”
DM “No, though she was killed a few weeks before the attack. A huge metallic cougar attacked Old Rurik Lutgehr while she was in the shop. Killed them both.”
Kryss “And now we cross paths with the metal monsters again. Our enemies possess many arms indeed.”
DM “I’m afraid I do not understand, Lord Dragonfyre.”
Kryss “I’m sorry, I thought it known to you that there had been similar attacks across the land.”
Shael “Neither do we, in this case…” he looks troubled, angry, and grief-stricken. “Are there any refugees who have only recently arrived?” he describes the woman they actually came here to find.
DM The Primata looks surprised. “You mean the Lady in Red? She has appeared at night, to several of the young men here. She has given them potions, food, water. But she is not one of our refugees…until you described her, I did not think her real, but merely a hallucination.”
Shael “I think she might be a friend of Sharwyn’s.” Shael replies with a small smile – despite his grief and anger he regards this surprise as good news. He looks around, “There is some work to be done — give succor before your own tasks, is it not said?” he moves to help the others in sharing their aid with the refugees.
Julian Julian lets Shael take the lead here for once – the knight has pulled a traveling cloak over his fine armor and left his sword sheathed, and now he sits by the fire and quietly watches those who come and go.
DM Very few ‘go’, and those that do do not go far. The fire is the only warmth the night has, with the ruin of the town. The night is bitter and cold, even now in the mid summer season. Soon it will be the equinox, when the barrier between the mortal world and immortal grows thin.
DM As the fire burns into the dead of the night, he notes the two guards beginning to nod off at their post. One of the young men stirs in his sleep, and gets up, leaving the tavern ruins to relieve himself.
Julian Julian leaves in a different direction and after discreetly concealing himself in the shadows of a ruined building he doubles back to tail the young man.
DM The man takes out his cock and begins to pee. This goes on for about three minutes, before he shakes it vigorously and puts it back in.
DM Two more false alarms that night before they finally catch sight of their quarry.
DM Julian expertly stalked down two peeing men and a third taking a giant smelly shit, but the fourth man doesn’t seem to need to relieve himself. He heads outside of the town, near the trees along the river bank. The bride of Sengir appears from out of the fog. The young man offers her his wrist, which she drinks longingly from. She then gestures behind her. A slain deer lies waiting for him. He lifts the corpse and begins walking back towards town.
Julian Julian lets the charmed young man head back towards town and, veiled by his magic, approaches Sengir’s bride.
DM Having fed, she fades into the fog.
Julian “God lift these shadows from my eyes.” This from Julian as he reaches where he last saw the Red Lady. The paladin becomes visible again as his second spell takes effect.
DM He spots her, near the edge of his vision, about a hundred feet away. Her white misty form is run through with black and red lines to his holy sight. It sees him as well, and floats further up river.
Shael Shael hears the spell and enchants Julian with one of his own so that the knight may pursue the woman who is undoubtedly flying or some other arcana.
Julian “Thanks, Shael.” Julian takes advantage of Shael’s aid to outmaneuver and chase down the vampire. He knows just the spell to prevent her escape, and after he has achieved the best position he summons a cage of force to bar her from fleeing them any further.
DM She resumes her true form once she realizes she is caught, and turns on him with a snarl. “You just can’t leave well enough alone, can you?”
Julian “Well enough alone…” Julian’s hand is on his sword-hilt, but he does not draw, yet. “Can you? It was you and yours who started this war.”
Julian “Do I do wrong by coming here to finish a small chapter of it?”
Julian “Do I offend Tal the radiant or Pala the wise?”
DM She hisses. “I should have listened. I should have stayed with my sisters, left to the south, to our honored grandsire’s estate. They were right, and now I am dead. Curse you, Knight of Tal. I am laid low by hunting the hart on land not my own. How ironic.”
Shael “You traded fairly here, and there is no crime against hunting game in this area.” Shael reminds her, “I am not the judge for all the crimes of your life and undeath, but for now…” he shrugs slightly. “…there are greater foes to face, I think, and the small number who survived their attack…” he purses his lips.
Julian Julian resists rolling his eyes as Shael voices favorable judgment before even hearing the case. He rubs his neck where Anastrasya’s fangs sunk into it weeks before.
Julian “Why did you come here then?”
DM Her lips twist as she weighs the potential benefits of cooperation with one who would kill her regardless. “There are no lords here and people I thought that would help me.”
Seure thrums in Julian’s sheathe, the blade clearly not happy about any reasons for allowing a vampire blood.
DM “Yes, Lord Miraak.” Julian can tell she’s dissembling, trying to divert attention away from Natskalla.
Shael “She is, even more than you, only as much my enemy as she chooses.” Shael comforts the vampire with a smile.
Julian “But don’t think to dissemble to us. Nattskala as well.”
DM She remains silent. She may not be able to lie successfully, but it is clear she does not intend to sell out Natskalla, for whatever reason.
Shael “Another point in her favor.” Shael mentions with a grin.
Julian The shadows don’t hide Julian’s dour look, and it is clear that he weighs the points differently.
Julian “What did you seek to do here, besides hide? Say we had not followed.”
DM His skepticism is heartily seconded by his weapon, much less agitated as it senses his suspicion.
DM “The sun will be up, I had intended to leave. I have fed, I have provided food to those starving peasants…there was nothing more I required tonight.”
Julian “More broadly.”
DM “No one cares about this place. I could live here for years without drawing attention.”
Julian “And do what? Lurk on the riverbank for years trading harts for blood? Create your own little Gulvania?”
DM “I had not thought that far ahead. My lord took care of most of our needs. I am unsure how best to exist now.”
Julian Julian gives an almost imperceptible shrug, his hand has never left Lightbringer’s hilt. “All right. It may not matter now.”
Julian “Would you say anything for yourself?”
DM “What would I say? I am a magical creature that shuns the light. Twice damned in your sight. It had to end some time. I had thought it would be further off.”
Shael “You would call yourself a magical creature, not an undead?” Shael wonders, tilting his head to the side curiously.
Julian “Once damned, but once may be enough.” Julian sighs. “That is true, is it not? To lose the power to die naturally is to be doomed to die otherwise.”
Julian “Who were you when you were alive, Anastrasya?”
DM “Baronetess Anastrasya Karelova. I was the daughter of a local lord, not unlike yourselves. A little fief, long passed now, named Tintagon. When we were conquered by Lord Sengir, I was arranged to be married to him as part of the terms of our surrender.”
Julian “Would you like to be remembered so? Or as just Anastrasya?” The option of “Anastrasya Sengir” is not left out by mistake.
DM “You are to be my killer, Julian of Tal?”
DM “I hope that all who cared for me bring you low. You will regret this.”
Julian “As Anastrasya Sengir.” Julian’s face closes.
DM She looks impassive, although both of them can see something in her eyes. She feels she has won and is resigned to death.
Julian Julian looks sidelong at Shael. A word of power passes a secret message between them. “She thinks she has won. She thinks that… she keeps something from us?”
Shael Shael looks at Julian for a while, taking in the stance and demeanor of the man. Unable to respond in kind, he walks around the force-cage instead, “Any life, no matter its semblance, once ended cuts a chain of possibility from the world — redemption, either of that life or those the life would touch, becomes impossible.” The wizard sighs at length and says, “I do not think you’d like to be redeemed; would you?”
DM Foremost on her mind is the holy sword that put an end to her lord. She wonders if her end will hurt, or be quick.
DM Her thoughts shift to lying wizards at Shael’s questioning.
DM “You would cure me, Lord Shael?”
Kryss “I’m willing to cure her!” Kryss calls from below the cage.
Shael He tilts his head to the side and murmurs, “The possibility of a cure for lycanthropy is what drew us to Gulvania — once there, I think you understand that we could not ignore what we found. I do not know if your affliction is curable; I do know that there is a way to live with it and still fight for redemption.”
DM “I’ve had my fill of masters, I’ll not exchange one for another. No chains, thank you. Are you going to do it yourself, or keep me here long enough that I cannot escape the natural sun?”
Shael Shael smiles faintly and murmurs to himself, “Another point in her favor…” he then speaks up and adds, “…You know that I am not a Tallite?”
Kryss “I’ve a question, now that you’re free of Gulthia, are you who you were before he was you or are you something else?”
Kryss “Or are you simply a cluster of evil magics bound in a body that pretends to be who your were?”
DM “I do not care overmuch for religion, Lord Shael. It matters not to me in whose name I am slain.” She looks at Kryss. “None of us are the same after a life changing experience like the Embrace. You aren’t the same either. But I know who I was then, and who I am now.”
Julian Julian cuts in.
Julian “You had a look to you just now. One that I saw before on Gulthias Sengir’s face.”
Julian “He looked that way when he thought he was winning.”
Julian “What have you won, Anastrasya?”
DM “I will be avenged, Lord Julian.”
DM Her thoughts are of her family, sisters and daughter.
Julian “Unless I miss my guess you hope to carry something to the grave with you. What?”
Julian Julian trusts, though because of the undetectability of Shael’s magic he does not know, that Shael has picked up his cue.
DM “Now. Do it now, before you lose your chance. This cage will hold us but for half a bell more? Half again that?”
Julian “A last secret?”
Shael “Her daughter.” Shael says simply.
Shael “Of course, she wasn’t talking to us.” Shael rushes back towards the ruined town.
Julian Julian draws his sword and drives it through Anastrasya’s heart.
Kryss Kryss looks at Julian for a decision. “Ask her Julian. Ask her if Dara screamed for us as Gulthias took her,” while she gurgles her last breath.
DM She falls to ash on the floor of the cage.
Julian “This is holy work, Kryss. Not revenge.”
Julian “Get to the town. Quickly, if Shael is right.”
Julian “I will be here a spell.”
Kryss Kryss turns and sets after Shael at a jog.
DM It takes Shael mere minutes to get back to the tavern, where the fire no longer burns. The melted corpses of those huddled survivors still bubble and hiss. The young man who brought the hart lies headless near the entrance.
DM Julian finds a copper wire in the ashes of Anastrasya Sengir’s corpse.
DM It’s finer than the one he used for his magic.
Julian Julian rejoins his companions a while later, a black look on his face. He tosses the copper wire to Shael.
Julian “Will you speak for Nattskala still?”
Shael “Don’t be a fucking dick, Julian.” Shael snipes back and starts traveling back to Ossington.
Kryss “I don’t think you’re being a dick,” Kryss offers.
Julian “No. Sincere question.”
Julian “And we should stay.”
Julian “Nattskala may still be about. Sharwyn may be coming here.”
Julian “There may be people who were not at the fire.”
Julian Julian sighs. “It’s a sincere question because for my part I think we need to put her down, Shael.”
Julian “I’m sorry. I know you had hopes for her.”
Shael Shael doesn’t try to outpace Julian as he walks beside him away from Oakhurst, “It doesn’t matter, you don’t get it anyways. None of you do.” he keeps walking. “I am alone, it’s fine, just leave me that way.”
Kryss “My guess is she’ll head south to share word with her family of our latest offense. If we can catch her that might buy us time to research the giant invasions before the pack of ancient evils descend upon us,” obviously not picking up on Shael’s foul demeanor, until… “wait, alone? You haven’t been alone since Lat Nam, Shael.”
Kryss “Then Julian has been attached at our hips since our first trip together. It’s starting to feel like he’s part of our team. What is it that you’re trying to do that we’ve somehow failed at?” he asks, purposely ending his sentence with the preposition for Shael’s sake.
Kryss Something about revisiting this area and seeing the death of one of Dara’s murderers has him feeling introspective and curious, possibly too the detriment of his relationship with Shael.
Julian Julian’s lip twists. “All right Shael. I’m going to see if there’s anything I can do here, or at least bury the dead. I will see you when I see you, and fare well till then.”
Julian “With me, Hengist.”
DM Oakhurst is gone. The only survivors now are those who left the town before ruin came to it. What the metallic cats and giants did not finish, the dragon has. Most of the bodies are unrecognizable.
Julian Julian sets to the slow work of burying a dozen corpses.
Kryss Kryss stays to help.
Julian “Do you think Sharwyn will show? She must have had the message by now.” Julian asks, wiping away sweat as he and his friend tamp the earth down on a fresh grave.
Kryss “I couldn’t say,” Kryss answers. “What should we do if she does?”
Julian “Tell her the truth and the whole truth, I think. I hardly know whether she still considers these folk her people and her family, but she did once.”
Kryss “You frightened her pretty badly when you scared her off all those years ago, I wouldn’t think her brave enough to return.”
Kryss “Right? Sharwyn is the one that we pulled from the Gulthias Tree?” Kryss asks.
Kryss “And you were going to cut her head off so she wouldn’t tell anyone about your mag… oh sorry. We don’t talk about that.”
Kryss “She totally didn’t betray us after all though, did she?” Kryss continues, “I guess if she comes back this time we will allow her to stay,” he reasons.
Julian “Yeah. Where it all started.”
Kryss “So where do we go from here?” Kryss asks. “North to the giants?”
Julian “We’ll have to sooner or later.”
Julian “Even Dragonfire can’t stand these attacks forever.”
Kryss “Why do you say it like that?” Kryss asks.
Julian “Like what?”
Kryss “Dragonfire,” he replies, mimicking Julian.
Kryss “Dragonfyre,” Kryss says in Draconic.
Julian “Dragonfire.” Julian repeats after Kryss.
Kryss Kryss visibly gives up. “Have I ever told you about Durraakinin Bralshsh?” he changes the subject.
Julian “I’m not even going to try to repeat that.”
Julian “What is it?”
Kryss ‘Meh, I’ll tell you another time. We should talk about Ashardalon. I think he’s somehow forcing the giants south."
Julian Julian stops work and turns to Kryss. “You have reasons.”
Julian “What are they?”
Kryss “It all seems to fit. The giants attacking here for no reason, the giants attacking my… friend. The wracks. Ashardalon’s clues leading us north. Also your pretty friend asked us for help in that direction. I feels like something is growing there.”
Kryss “But there is some good news. I don’t think Ashardalon is that powerful.”
Julian “Isn’t he a worm? I thought worms were the mightiest of dragons?”
Kryss Kryss rubs his temples. “Wyrm… its pronounced wyrm.”
Julian “Worm.” Julian repeats.
Julian “That’s exactly how I said it!”
Kryss “Anyway, I think he’s still hurt from dying and claimed a lair somewhere up there. He must has just regained enough power to influence his surroundings. Its easy enough to nudge intruders not to walk up on a lair. Its something we learn early on. But imagine a dragon like Ashardalon emitting the Shhslrush. That would definitely drive away anything in the area and make them nervous enough attack armed soldiers.”
Julian “This wrack that you described… you may be right.”
Julian “Alhandra is visiting Dragonfire in a week, she said. Before the wedding. I promised her some time to talk about war-fighting in the mountains.”
Julian “I’ll ask her when she comes whether she’s seen any other signs of this.”
Kryss “Lets follow the clues he left me in the dream.”
Kryss “Now you’re doing it on purpose.”
Julian “What do you make of the clues then?”
Kryss “That’s where I’m stuck. They were too vague.”
Julian “Let’s go over them again…”
Kryss “You know who I am and that I am no more a man than you. You must follow the four signs. First, as soon as you arrive in the steading, you will meet an old and dear friend. Greet him at once, and you will receive help.”
“Two, you must journey to the north until you come to the ancient city of giants.”
“Three, you will find writing upon the stone of that ruined city, and do what the writing says.”
“Four, and finally. You will know the Blade, if you find it, by this. It will be the first in your travels to ask you to do something in my name.” Kryss recites as though they have been burned into his brain.
Julian “I am not a diviner.”
Julian “But I predict that these clues will seem clearer when the events are close at hand.”
Julian Julian sighs. “I’m ill equipped for guessing more. I wish now that I had bitten my tongue back there.”
Kryss “That wouldn’t help you pronounce it right. It’s in the inflection.”
Julian “I’m sure you’re right.”
Julian “On a completely separate note, I wish I had been more diplomatic with Shael.”
Kryss “Ah. He’s good at diplomacy. He’s not good at Dead People though. And hes especially not good at Girls.”
Julian “I should do something to make amends though.”
Kryss “I’m not going to stop killing stuff!” Kryss exclaims.
Julian “So long as it’s stuff that needs killing.”
Kryss “I imagine I’m considerably more discerning than most people we run into.”
Julian “Trial and error is an effective learning method.”
Kryss “I haven’t killed anyone today.” he says proudly.
Julian “Well done, Kryss.” Julian looks at him. “Really.”
Julian He picks the shovel back up. “We’ll be done by noon or so, I think. If Sharwyn hasn’t come by then, we won’t wait longer.”
Julian When the work is done, Julian brings them home.
Julian There is a lot more to do. Giant raids to counter. Military expansion to oversee. Labor corvees to manage, trade links with Drylake to encourage. A wedding in two weeks, it might be time to start thinking about that… or about Alhandra’s visit and mountain warfare, the new ballistamen’s training, whether war wagon production can be sped up…
Julian When Alhandra arrives, true to his word long ago, he shares all he knows of mountain warfare, the problems of constrained supply, the counter-intuitive, decisive importance of fast or unexpected maneuvers… this last he emphasizes heavily. “Iskander won an entire battle in the roughest mountain terrain, without shedding even a drop of blood, just by maneuver, for when he got a part of his army behind the enemy by laboriously cutting steps into the stone cliffside, they knew immediately they were beaten and surrendered.”
DM She takes in the advice and lore seriously. The idealistic knight is still there, but her naivete is gone, replaced by the weight of experience. She nods. “I will seek to accomplish the same then, if I am able.”
Julian “What sort of armies is this Imperagon leading?”
DM “We’ve seen the usual fodder driven out before his true forces, the orcs, goblins, their ilk.”
DM “But it is duergar that seem to make up the bulk of his forces.”
DM “Duergar…and men, sadly.”
Julian “What men would ally with orcs, goblins, and duergar?”
DM “They are very pale, and their eyes often glassy. I know not where they come from, for in truth, they look more monstrous than many an orc I have battled.”
Julian Julian drains half his goblet and looks into the rest for a moment.
Julian “Men from as deep underground as the dark dwarves, then.”
Julian “You must be very careful of what I’ve said about position. Not only to take advantage of it, but to make sure you do not find yourself, not in Iskander’s position, but in the position of his enemies.”
Julian “How easy will it be to pass a banner of men over empty hills one day, and the next to find dark dwarves and cave men have swarmed out of a hidden tunnel in your rear in the night?”
DM “Fiends also seem to aid his cohort. I wonder if they simply admire his work or if he has struck some unholy bargain with them. Your words are well considered, for fiends need neither stone cut stairs nor even wings to flank our forces.”
DM “Between them and the dark dwarves, we will need to be cautious indeed.”
Julian “Have you heard or found aught that suggests a link between him and the giants that have troubled us here in the lowlands?”
DM Alhandra considers the possibility seriously. “There are ogres among his mercenaries, so it is not impossible that he is allied with the giants in some fashion or another. Typically, even dark dwarves loathe giants, but…Imperagon is anything but typical.”
Julian Julian nods. “Years ago, when we sacked Murklas’s fort, some of the records of their dealings seemed to suggest he was not even a dwarf at all, but called him Son of the Dragon.”
Julian “Allusions, bits and pieces without context…” He frowns. “Dragons have been on my mind lately though.”
DM “Hmm. Perhaps I should see if Orruntal can aid me on my quest then?”
DM “If he is a dragon, Orrun’s aid might be exactly the sort I need.”
Julian “Let’s send for him.”
Julian “I will also ask help from King Rollo. I asked him to the wedding, so I hope to see him here very soon. With the aid of wholesome dwarves we might find out secret tunnels, perhaps even have means to lure them from their tunnels and then block them off before they can retreat…” Julian falls back to strategy.
Julian Julian suggests to his fellow lords that it would be long-term beneficial to offer Drylake a substantial subsidy.
Julian He also reminds Kryss about the golden weapon and armor.
Kryss “Gold is soft, easy to work. Won’t take any time,” Kryss answers. He runs his dirty hands through his thick hair and stares down at Shatterspike disassembled on the table. “I’ll get right to it.”
Shael Shael assists Kryss with the golden armament, girding it with the sacred power of Serra.
Kryss “Do you really have to put your hands on it Shael? Just sit back and give good vibes for awhile maybe. It took me a long time to get that helmet shined to a mirror finish and you’re smudging it.”
Kryss “I’m sorry,” Kryss says, “It’s simply a helmet.” Kryss shakes his head a bit as if to clear it. “I supposed I’m feeling over protective of things these days.”
Shael Shael purses his lips, still concentrating over the armor. “It’s not taking as it’s supposed to.” he grouses, “It’s fine..”
Kryss “I told you that one wasn’t nice enough. It has to be perfect for the magic to sink in.”
Kryss “I’ll start another. Do you want to adjust these runes around the rim?”
Julian “Shael,” Julian finds this moment to be nearby, “if the magic isn’t taking well, maybe I can substitute.”
Julian “I know you have a thousand other cares.”
DM (In truth, Loyal Readers, our Lords of Dragonfyre are going above and beyond, as Fiona merely asked for golden armor, and not protective enchantment.)
Julian “I need to bring her the subsidy. I may as well stay for the fight.”
Shael “Sure, if you’d like.” he replies absently, cross-referencing the runes against one of his books.
Julian “All right. Is the blade ready already?”
Kryss “Yes, just since this morning. I feel horrible making a gold weapon though Julian. Its going to bend in half when she uses it.”
Kryss “There has to be a better metal for fighting a werewolf than this.”
Julian “You remembered the part about ‘A golden weapon that won’t break or bend.’ right?”
Julian Julian coughs.
Shael “Yes, that’s why I enchanted it since there is no other means of making such a gold weapon.” Shael retorts.
Kryss “She may as well have asked for a unicorn to ride into battle and a rainbow to blow out my behind. I say it will bend even with Shael’s enchantments.”
Shael “I can’t help with the rainbow, but I might be able to find a Unicorn…” Shael murmurs absently, he picks up the longsword and slams it edge-first into the anvil.
Shael Holding the edge for Kryss to inspect he gives him a pert look.
Julian “All right, Shael. Thank you.”
Shael Shael blinks and asks, “You want a Unicorn? I thought you were joking?” he reaches for another book, an atlas that is heavily bookmarked with his notes.
Kryss “Ill build a trap!” Kryss says!
Julian “For the sword. For the sword!”
Kryss “Oh.” Kryss looks dejected.
Julian “I don’t… specially need a unicorn. Right now.”
Shael Shael frowns and shakes his head, “No, please do not even engineer a Unicorn trap… they are too important.”
Shael “It’d probably be easier to find a herd of pegasi, they are not usually charged with the protection of a ward.” he mentions.
Kryss Kryss immediately pictures a perfect unicorn trap with sharp teeth and reverse hooks to hold things tightly. “Uh… ok Shael, sure.”
Julian “The golden brigandine came out well too Kryss.”
Kryss “Thanks, I was just sort of winging it. I barely know what a brigandine is.”
Julian “Thanks anyway. I owe you another one.”
Julian Julian sees that the arms, weapon, and coin are all delivered safely to Drylake.
Julian Julian offers while he is there to escort Fiona and offer moral support during her battle. Shael finds that morning in his library a written summary of information gleaned from Faerie, in Julian’s hand.
Julian The first piece of lore is that Shyka dwells in the House of Eternity, a place outside the bounds of time. The second piece of lore is that Shyka exists as multiple beings, who are Shyka only for a number of moments, some lengthy and some eyeblink in duration. The third piece of lore is that the key/focus for shifting to Shyka’s domain, if you do not have some other way to get there, requires the forging of a clock in the present, by hands from the distant past.
Kryss Kryss raps lightly on Shael’s door one evening and asks, “I was thinking it had been awhile since we played a game of dragon chess. Are you busy?”
Shael Standing with the door open, Shael can’t help remembering that the last he saw Kryss the wizard was galloping away on a conjured steed. “Yeah, yeah, c’min.” he waves his staff, always close at hand now, and the board begins assembling itself as Shael moves to get drinks arranged for them both.
Shael “How are you holding up?” he asks with concern in his voice even though he doesn’t look back at his friend.
Kryss “Holding up what?” Kryss asks, confused.
Shael Shael snorts with brief amusement, “If you don’t want to talk about it, I won’t push you.” he brings the drinks back to the table and motions for Kryss to sit with him.
Kryss “How did you know to have drinks ready for two?” he asks.
Shael “It was either you or Julian…” he waves the note Julian left him at Kryss and says, “…I assumed it’d be you. Nothing mysterious about it, you’re both my friends and we parted on bad terms. Either you would be ready to talk with me first or I would you, but whichever way we’d make up.” he tilts the glass and looks at it pensively, “Or, I’d waste the good scotch…” he says before looking back up, “…but, you’re worth it.” he smiles.
Kryss Kryss taps Shael’s glass with his and drinks it. “I like that we help people Shael. Do you see how this area has changed since we rescued Julian from that tiny cell?”
Kryss “Did you know we would accomplish so much?”
Shael He takes a deep breath and lets it out before taking a drink. He makes a face at the taste. Looking back up afterwards he says, “The People suffer somewhat less often and somewhat less severely when they do.” he smiles comfortingly, “But I worry they are still the same people and that after we are gone all will return to how it was… in even a hundred years, will our efforts be erased?”
Kryss “You don’t think your actions will echo in history?”
Shael Shael considers his answer while he moves a piece on the board, “I told you, I am alone. Throughout history, I have been and will be. You, and others, have often chosen to stand beside me… some have chosen to stand with me… but, none of them have been the same as me.” he folds his hands in his lap, “I know that it’s the same for most people, but I’ve been feeling it more keenly lately in myself. The world is not the reflection I want to see.”
Kryss “Do you plan to change the world then?”
Shael He smiles sadly, “No. That is not the way. I stand in the world so that it can see me, if it chooses to change I will support it.” his shoulders fall a little, “I’m worried it won’t… and sometimes I worry that it shouldn’t.”
Kryss “Well, at least we have Dragonfyre to call home.”
Shael “Hmm. I chose one place in the world to protect, Ossington… and I couldn’t even accomplish that.” Another piece is placed in opposition to those Kryss controls. “…I’m sorry about Griswold.”
Kryss “Why do you think something like that would happen to him?”
Shael Lips thinning, he shakes his head. “There are too many possibilities – rivals of us choosing a moment of weakness, the Giants or their agents striking against leadership in the land they mean to invade in force, Tchortloch’s enemies striking at any allies he may have made before he is released from our contract, enemies we cannot or have not seen… or perhaps even those we might otherwise consider allies taking action they thought was right and necessary.”
Shael “I’m working with our agents to discover the truth.”
Kryss “I’m certain you’ll know something soon.”
Shael “Hmph. Best to not have too much confidence in me, it’ll be misplaced eventually.” he smiles briefly to soften the words. “What about you? Anything new in the last few weeks?”
Kryss “My adjustments to Shatterspike are almost complete, I just need to figure out a good rune to decrease the weight when I need it to.”
Shael “Decrease the weight?” Shael tilts his head to the side wonderingly, “Why would you want to do that, wouldn’t that decrease its effectiveness?”
Kryss "And that’s the trick. I need her light sometimes and heavy other times and those times change depending on how I’m using her.
Kryss “Or… not light…” Kryss’ brain starts churning.
Kryss “I need her to be repelled… and then… not repelled?”
Shael “That would shoot her away from what she was repelled from and then she would fall to the ground… what are you trying to do?”
Kryss “I want her repelled from me, into my enemy, and come back. I’ve been practicing and I can throw her a fair distance accurately, but I cant recover her in a fight.”
Shael Shael tilts his head to the side, “This is in your study materials – you are talking about manipulating the Law of Contagion. She is your weapon, her Name and Yours share many of the same syllables, the runes you are seeking are those that will remind her where she belongs.”
Shael “She could never be repelled from you, she is a part of you… and you, her.”
Kryss “More Lord Answervey eh? You know I find him tiresome. Even Emily only reads his works once.”
Shael Shael chuckles, “You dragons have become far too much a part of this world – so grounded in the rules of the Prime even though your magic is unbound from them except as you make it. ‘If it works, then I’m right’.” he winks, quoting Lord Answervey whether Kryss realizes it or not.
Kryss “You’re trying to confuse me. You speak of contagion but your cite a quote on pragmatism.”
Kryss “The law of polarity is what struck my mind earlier. Up, down, in, out. Why not here to there?”
Shael “There is only one true Law of magic – your will is the way. Everything else? Answervey, Talsti, Mervo, Sien; only tools to guide your will. Check.” he says, drawing Kryss’ attention back to the board. “Polarity is not the same as Magnetism – Polarity means that if I separate one of these pieces…” he holds up the Knight he took to place Kryss into check, “…from the board, it is still a thing that exists and now the board has become a new thing without it.”
Kryss “But that piece still knows where it belongs,” Kryss answers moving a kobald into Shael horde line, thus allowing Kryss to reclaim a lost piece. “I’ll take that knight back please.”
Shael He hands the piece back with good humor, “Yes, because of the Law of Contagion.” he reminds Kryss.
Kryss “All dust settles,” Kryss quotes.
Kryss “The law of contagion applies to you as well, you know.” Kryss says absently.
Shael Shael smiles faintly, “Does it?” he wonders, tilting his head to the side. “Whether the law of contagion applies or not is a choice – if the world I see is not the one I want…” he trails off and shrugs his shoulders. “Check.” he says again, after moving a bishop onto Kryss’ side of the board to convert several of his pieces.
Kryss “Shae? What are we doing? Are we building all this for Julian? Or ourselves? Are we trying to get rich or change the world? Are we on a mission from Lat Nam or are we freewheeling bandits that got lucky a couple of times? What are we trying to do?” Kryss asks bluntly.
Shael “What do you want to do?” he asks, bluntly in turn. “I think that is more important than what I want for you, or for Julian.”
Kryss “I’ve accomplished my goal, with your help. I have a daughter, and we seem to have built a life here, but you won’t stay, will you? Dragonfyre will never be enough for Shael, and when you go, I may well follow.”
Kryss “So how far will be far enough for Shael? Not Dragonfyre, not the world? Once the stars align to your vision, my Protector, will you rest?”
Shael “Just me, Kryss. I just want to know who I am.” he says, sitting away from his friends vehemence. “I’m sorry if sometimes I make it seem like something so insignificant is larger than the world, I don’t mean to and I really don’t think it is.”
Kryss “I’m sorry I lost myself at the citadel. I haven’t been very disciplined lately. The last weeks at the forge have reminded me of patience.”
Shael Shael laughs a little, startled. “Kryss, you’ve been a rock – molten as ever, but solid. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
Shael “I left because I needed space, not because I wanted to be away from you. Maybe they sound the same, but they are very different to me.”