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Story [D&D: Eberron] Game of the Ancients Part I (Updated 3/13)

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by MasterGhandalf, Mar 9, 2014.

  1. MasterGhandalf

    MasterGhandalf Jedi Knight star 3

    Oct 25, 2009
    Title: Game of the Ancients Part I: Khorvaire
    Author: MasterGhandalf
    Fandom: Eberron (Dungeons and Dragons)
    Genre: action/adventure, drama, epic
    Characters: OCs
    Timeframe: Canonical timeline, some six years after the end of the Last War
    Summary: A young woman with a dark secret. The mercenary team she employs for a mission that makes little sense. The followers of two ancient faiths that stand in their way. The dark forces that wait on the sidelines, using them all as pawns in an ancient game that may decide the fate of a world. From such as these are legends made

    Note: This fic assumes a basic knowledge of the Eberron D&D campaign setting. The plot and protagonists, however, are all my creations.

    Dramatis Personae

    Thyra Entarro: Student (female human)

    Valyria Entarro: Inquisitor of the Silver Flame (female human)

    Yhani Eshenhali: Priestess of the Undying Court and Wandering Blades medic (female elf)

    Ghazaan: Second-in-command, Wandering Blades (male hobgoblin)

    Harsk: Scout, Wandering Blades (male shifter)

    Havaktri: Battle psion, Wandering Blades (female kalashtar)

    Irinali: Emerald Claw necromancer (female elf)

    Len: Captain, Wandering Blades (female human)

    Kharvin ir’Narris: Karrnathi Warlord and Emerald Claw operative (male human)

    Rinnean: Stealth expert, Wandering Blades (male elf)

    Pitar Tallano: Paladin of the Silver Flame (male half-elf)

    Taras Zanthan: Professor of Mythology, Morgrave University (male human)

    Prologue: In Darkness

    Red-tinged sunlight streamed through the window of the tower chamber, casting its sullen glow on the opulent furnishings within. The walls were hung with tapestries and paintings, some modern, others stretching back to the days of Dhakaan or far beyond. All were sterling examples of the craftsmanship of humans and elves, orcs and goblinoids and dozens of other mortal races, and all depicted scenes of war and strife from across the millennia. They were here as proof of the influence of the room’s owner, that he might acquire such things, and as constant reminders to him of the ultimate fruits of his long labors.

    That owner stood in the center of the room, head bowed and hands folded before him. He was all and powerfully built, clad in rich robes of violet and gold, and he bore a more-than-passing resemblance to a human in many respects – many, but not all. His hands were attached differently to his wrists, facing opposite of how a true human’s would and his head… his head was not the head of a man, but the head of a tiger.

    The figure that stood in the center of the tower room was not human, nor was he of any other mortal breed. He was a demon, an ancient fiend of that kindred known as the rakshasas, and here at the heart of his stronghold in what the mortals called the Demon Wastes, not far from the ancient city of Ashtakala, he prepared the next moves in a game which had been in progress since the world was young.

    The demon began to stroll languidly across the chamber, his gaze fixed on the floor beneath his feet, which was patterned with an exquisitely detailed map of the continent of Khorvaire. It was yet another example of the sterling craftsmanship that characterized the room’s contents- save, that is, for a magically-blackened scar at its heart that symbolized what had once been a great nation- and small figurines were placed at various locations across it. These were the symbols of the many, many individuals who crawled across the continent like ants, who were born, lived, and died in an eyeblink while imagining themselves the center of the universe. Certain of those ants, however, were useful indeed to those who might care to make use of them. The demon who stood alone in the high chamber was one, as were his allies and rivals among the Lords of Dust. Around the edges of the map stood statues of other such forces- a regal human figure with a formless shadow hovering behind it, and elf woman with dragon wings sprouting from her back, a warforged bedecked with jagged blades, and an androgynous humanoid too graceful to be truly of this world, wearing a smile that even the demon found disquieting. These, however, were not the chief foes. A dragon coiled in a pose of watchful relaxation, an ancient elf who was mummified and yet deathless, a formless fire- the Chamber, the Undying Court, the Silver Flame. These were the ones the demon hated, feared, and respected the most of all his enemies, and he kept their statues especially pristine, as a reminder that he must never let himself forget such persistent foes.

    His robe rustling, the demon reached the map’s depiction of the land that was now called Thrane. A great work had been done their once, and would be done again. Bending down, he lifted one small figure from that land and held it in his hand for a moment, regarding it carefully before placing it down again near the city of Sharn. A small piece to be sure, yet unnoticed in the grand scheme of the world, but if events proceeded as the demon intended, it would be the falling pebble that would start an avalanche. Already orders had been given, words whispered in the right ears. It had begun.

    The demon stood and straightened his robes as he faced the image of the deathless elf who stood in here for the entire might of Aerenal’s undying, one of the only powers in the world whose insight into the Prophecy rivaled the demons’ own. Baring his fangs in a smile, he gave a mocking bow to the statue. “Well, old friends,” he said in his smooth voice that was devoid of warmth or affection, “it is your move.”


    I’ve long had a certain fondness for the Eberron DnD setting; though I’ve never managed to join an Eberron campaign, I followed the novel line from its first release in early ’05 (almost nine years ago now!) until a few years ago when the last novel was published, and I still follow Keith Baker’s online articles about the setting and his thoughts on it. Part of what attracts me to Eberron, I think, is the fact that it is clearly evocative of the classic fantasy setting while also having its own striking identity deriving in many (though not all) aspects from the thesis of “the industrial revolution, except with magic”; too, the setting supports such a wide variety of types of stories- action or intrigue, good and evil, moral ambiguity, or a combination thereof, all have room here. Of course, I seem to be drawn to elements of the setting that are different from those that a lot of people often talk about (just looking at the setting’s original races, for example, I’m much more fond of kalashtar and changelings than the seemingly more popular warforged and shifters- I’m particularly dissatisfied that the novel line petered out before it produced a kalashtar character I really liked).

    About five years ago, I started an Eberron fanfic, and ended up scrapping it after two chapters or so- I simply ended up not liking where it was going, and the main character fell flat, especially since I thought her backstory felt too contrived. This fic is something entirely different, drawing a variety of character concepts I’d been toying around with into a single ensemble with dynamics that I really liked. Ideally, this fic will be the first of a series, taking the characters across the world of Eberron and running afoul of the plots of various powerful groups, with the shadowy threat of the Lords of Dust hanging behind everything. I might also end up doing a smaller, Khorvaire-focused fic to contrast this globe-trotting one. But for the moment, I’d be happy to just finish this first story.

    Note: I have rough game stats for my main characters (and significant supporting characters)- I’m not locking myself down terribly as to what they can do, but I did want to give myself a good grounding in their abilities (one of the other problems with my first attempt at a fic was that it suffered from a bad case of “making stuff up” in terms of character abilities). Also note that I’m using Pathfinder rules rather than DnD 3.5 or 4, largely because I like the degree of options it gives me for both power level and story purposes (especially for this fic, that would be the magus class and the concept of sorcerer bloodlines). It should be fairly obvious what classes my characters are intended to belong to in game terms, though I’ll usually indicate it in an AN for anyone important enough for me to have actually statted them.

    Thank you for reading, and wish me luck!

  2. Space_Wolf

    Space_Wolf Jedi Master star 3

    Mar 13, 2007
    Cool. I never expected to see a D n D story on here...
  3. MasterGhandalf

    MasterGhandalf Jedi Knight star 3

    Oct 25, 2009
    Chapter 1: The Sorceress and the Mercenary

    Thyra Entarro steeled herself and squared her shoulders as she regarded the building that stood across the bustling street from where she sat. It wasn’t much to look at, being to all appearances an utterly unremarkable inn, neither particularly fine nor particularly run down. It was, in all outward aspects, in no way distinct from the dozens of other establishments like it in this part of Sharn alone.

    There was nothing at all to suggest that this was the place that held what would be, hopefully, the key to Thyra’s salvation inside.

    Breathing deeply, the young woman stood, brushed down her plain skirt almost reflexively, and crossed the street. It was now or never. The building might not look like much, and she had no direct knowledge of the people she was going to meet, but Taras had told her that they would be perfectly suited to the job she needed done, and if there was one thing she had learned in the last two years, it was that Taras Zanthan was seldom wrong.

    The interior of the inn’s common room was as nondescript as its outside. True, the clientele was a diverse lot, as to be expected from a city that saw as many travelers as Sharn – Thyra was certain that the man in one corner dressed in plain but well-made clothes and a vaguely disapproving expression had to be Riedran, of all nationalities – but as it was only mid-afternoon, the crowd was relatively sparse and fairly calm. Picking her way through the room, she slowly made her way to the back, towards the usual table of the person whom she had come here to meet.

    Suddenly, Thyra stopped cold, a slight prickling sensation running up the back of her neck, as though she was being watched. Brushing a lock of golden-brown hair away from her face, trying to look nonchalant, the young woman slowly turned to see an out-of-the-way table where sat a pale, slender elf woman in unadorned white, who seemed to be regarding her intently over the hands she held clasped before her.

    “Is something the matter, girl, or did you simply never bother to learn manners?” a sharp voice asked suddenly from nearby; female, but not the elf’s. Thyra turned back towards the direction in which she’d originally been going and saw the speaker, a tall, lean human who relaxed casually at one of the other tables, mug in front of her. She had black hair pulled back in a tail, wore a heavy black coat over travel-worn shirt and pants, and had a burly hobgoblin hovering protectively behind her, arms crossed.

    Thyra relaxed; the scene was exactly as she’d been told it would probably be. “Captain Len of the Wandering Blades?” she asked.

    “And what business is it of yours if I am?” the woman asked her, taking a slow drink from her mug.

    “My name is Thyra,” she said. “And I’d like to hire you.”

    Len raised an eyebrow and shot a skeptical glance at the hobgoblin, who shrugged. “In that case,” she said lightly, “take a seat. Let’s hear your offer.”

    Thyra did so smoothly, folding her hands in front of her and regarding the older woman who sat across from her. Len looked to be about ten years her senior – making her probably about twenty-nine or thirty – and had a general air of tough competence about her. Yes, Thyra found herself thinking, this might well be the person for the job. The captain looked to be sizing her up as well. “So, Thyra,” she said casually. “Name’s a form of “Tira”, if I’m not mistaken, as in Tira Miron, founder of the Church of the Silver Flame. Going by that and the accent, I’d hazard a guess that you’re Thranish, and probably a follower of the Flame too, or at least your parents are, am I right?”

    “You’d be right,” Thyra said, rather more stiffly than she’d intended. “I trust that won’t be a problem? The War is over, after all.”

    Len shrugged. “I fought for Breland myself, as did most of my team, but… well, we all did things we’re not proud of during the War, and I’m not terribly interested in carrying out old grudges if it gets in the way of my business. Besides, I mostly saw action against Karrnath, and I’ve got no hard feelings against Thrane or the Flame. Now, with the introductions out of the way, what exactly is the nature of the job for which you intend to hire me? I must confess, I’m a bit curious as to what a nice Flame girl like you wants with a scruffy soldier like me.”

    “I am a student at Morgrave University,” Thyra said, “but my family are merchants back in Thrane. Not hugely wealthy, but we’ve been decently successful. About a week ago, I received a letter from home saying that some valuable property had been stolen from us. We believe that the thief fled Thrane immediately upon having completed the job. I would like to hire you and your team to assist me in recovering the stolen property.” The lie came easily to her lips, now; the Flame knew she’d practiced it enough.

    “Ah,” Len said, folding her hands. “I believe you have me confused with an inquisitive, or perhaps a Sentinel Marshal. I’m a mercenary. Hunting down an unknown thief across Khorvaire is not exactly my area of expertise.”

    “You don’t need to hunt him, and he’s not unknown,” Thyra said. “We know who is behind the theft, and he’s rather… more than what my father is willing to tangle with through strictly legal channels. His name is Kharvin ir’Narris, and he’s a Karrnathi warlord.”

    “Hmmm,” the big hobgoblin said, speaking for the first time; his voice was deep and surprisingly smooth. “So it’s not an investigation, then. Sounds more like a raid.”

    “Yes,” Thyra said. “That’s exactly right. I need you and your team to help me break into ir’Narris’s manor, find the property in question, and get out without causing an incident between a Karrnathi aristocrat and a family a Thranish merchants. I was told that your team specialized in odd jobs and daring escapades. Are you interested?”

    “That depends,” Len said. “First off, what exactly is the “property” in question? I’m not terribly interested in risking my neck for family jewelry or your grandfather’s favorite hunting trophies.”

    “It’s a map,” Thyra said. “A map which depicts the location of a treasure buried since the Age of Demons. My father had intended to sponsor a mission to excavate the ruins and sell the findings to whatever museums, institutions, or aristocrats across Khorvaire might be interested.” She chewed her lip for a moment, then began to improvise. “I’ll be frank – some of father’s most recent business dealings have fallen through, and his competitors are sniffing around. If he doesn’t strike something big, things could bode ill for my family. If he does, then trust me when I say he’ll be very grateful to anyone who helped him.”

    “And presumably, his gratitude will have a monetary nature,” Len added. “Which leads me to my next question – how much, exactly, are you going to be paying us?”

    “Fifty galifars a piece, up front, for each member of your team,” Thyra said. “At least as much upon the successful completion of the mission, as per the amount of difficulty endured. If the map does lead to a valuable find, you’ll also receive a cut of the profits – say, ten percent?”

    “Not bad, not bad at all,” Len muttered, rubbing her chin. “You have any input, Ghazaan?”

    “Well,” the hobgoblin said, focusing on Thyra intently, “I do have one big question. Kid says she wants us to help her break in. I’m wondering why she wants to go along, and why we should put up with it?” Both he and Len fixed her with equal cold gazes, and Thyra suddenly had the feeling that the captain had known exactly what Ghazaan would ask her.

    The young woman ignored their stares. “This task is important to my family. I want to make certain it is carried out properly. And while I told you I was a student, I didn’t specify that I was a student of the arcane. If you need another spellcaster, I can fill the role.” Thyra was not, of course, a student of magic; she was a student of comparative mythology. Her magic came from … other sources.

    Len shook her head. “I can’t tell if you’re brave, paranoid, or just plain stupid, kid. You’ve got guts, anyway. Most of the time, when someone hires mercenaries they sit back on the sidelines and let us do the work. In any case, I’m still not certain having you along is the best idea. People like me tend not to get paid – or hired again – when we let our employers get killed on us.”

    “Trust me,” Thyra said, “I’ll be worth it. Just give me a chance.” As she spoke, she reached deep inside herself – into that part of herself she’d sworn by her namesake and the Silver Flame to never use unless she needed it – and wove magic into her words, just enough to give them a slight edge of persuasiveness.

    Ghazaan smiled and nodded, but Len’s eyes suddenly opened wide. Grabbing the hobgoblin by the arm, the captain leapt to her feet and stalked off towards the hallway behind the common room, dragging her companion behind her. Thyra stared speechlessly behind her, uncertain how to reach – or indeed, how her magic had provoked that reaction. A moment later, the elf woman who’d been watching her earlier slipped off to join the mercenaries.

    / / /

    “What was that about?” Ghazaan demanded once he and Len were in the empty hallway. “The girl made a good point. And why do I always have to be the ominous, looming one?”

    “You get to be ominous because you’re good at it,” Len hissed, “and the girl’s argument wasn’t what was convincing. She was using magic to make herself more persuasive.”

    “That wasn’t like any spell I’ve ever seen,” Ghazaan retorted.

    “I don’t think it was a spell, and certainly not a potion,” Len muttered. “I think it was some natural ability. Trust me on this one, big man. You know I know what I’m talking about. Now, on the one hand, the girl did just make a better argument for her competence than anything else she’s done so far. On the other, she’s just proven herself extremely untrustworthy. I’m extremely tempted to through her job offer back in her face, cut of her profits or no.”

    The door to the hallway opened again and Yhani stepped inside, the elf managing, as always, to look poised and elegant despite her plain attire. “Care to explain what that was about?” she asked in her lilting, musical Aereni accent. “Blood of my ancestors, Len, if that girl had slapped you I don’t think you’d have reacted like you did.”

    “I don’t like it when people try to mess with my head, and you know it,” Len said. Then she sighed. “I need your advice, Yhani. On the one hand, this job could be exactly what we need right now, after the last one went… well, you know. On the other, after what that girl – Thyra, if “Thyra” is even her real name – tried to pull, I don’t trust a word out of her mouth. I’m half convinced that she’ll try to backstab us once the job is done and we’ll never see a crown. Or worse, she’ll get us all killed.”

    Yhani paused quietly for several moments. “I can’t make this decision for you, Len. My head tells me that this is dangerous and we should walk away. My heart… my heart says, this is important, and it is about more than one human girl and her map. This… may be where we are needed.”

    Len groaned. “You know I don’t believe in fate or destiny or whatever it is you think guides us. Unfortunately, I do trust your instincts, which are right more often than is damn good for them. If you think it’s important, then it probably is.”

    / / /

    Thyra looked up from her seat to see Captain Len approaching, flanked by Ghazaan on one side and the elf woman on the other. “I accept your offer,” Len said, “on one condition.” She bent down in Thyra’s face. “Don’t use magic on me or mine again without my express permission. You see, I know a little myself, and if you try, don’t think I won’t know. Keep that in mind, and I think we can have a good working relationship. Agree?”

    “Agree,” Thyra said, torn between guilt at having been caught, and elation that the captain had listened anyway. “In that case, you’re hired.”

    “Glad to hear it,” Len said, and though she smiled, there was a faint undercurrent of danger to her voice nonetheless. “So, what say I’ll buy you a drink, and then we’ll talk about further details of this job you want us to do.”

    “Well, there is one thing,” Thyra said slowly. This would have to come up sooner or later; better that it was sooner, and at her initiative. “Lord ir’Narris? Is suspected of being a member of the Order of the Emerald Claw.”

    / / /

    And so it begins. This chapter was mostly an introduction to two of our main characters – Thyra and Len (with a bit of Yhani and Ghazaan, too). Why did I make my two most important leads both women? One, because the stereotypical adventuring party is male-heavy enough that I wanted to shake things up a bit. Two, because even though I’m a guy, I generally prefer writing female protagonists. Thyra, you’ve probably noticed, is a bit of a chronic liar, but it’ll be a while before we find out the whole truth. That’s not to say Len doesn’t have her secrets too…

    Mechanically speaking, Thyra’s a sorcerer (probably pretty obvious) and Len’s a magus (for those not familiar with Pathfinder rules, the magus class blends element of fighter and wizard, and seemed fitting for the relatively common state of magic in Eberron). Also keep in mind that Thyra’s decidedly uncomfortable with her powers. There’s a reason…