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Fantasy A Tide of Flames: a d20 Dungeons & Dragons adventure

Discussion in 'Role Playing Forum' started by Saintheart, Feb 20, 2008.

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  1. Ktala

    Ktala Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Sep 7, 2002
    Ariel Elandinai - Early Morning
    The Keepwood, Elsir Vale

    Ariel watched as Sellyria closed her eyes for a moment, as she gave a deep sigh. Ariel silently waited for the Speaker to continue. "We live. The axe was laid to our bole. Two hundred and fifty of my people came here. Seven score will return to the Blackfens. The Red Hand targeted us where they saw us on the wall and in the sky." Ariel's wings ruffled a bit. So many? But like her own people, Ariel was glad that any were able to return back to their homes. Many more could have been lost. It was a deep lost, one to be felt for some time.

    Sellyria continued. "The ranks of our wingleaders are riven -- Killiar, Taliessar; and so many of their seconds, gone to the Blessed Realm. It is a grievous loss. But it is a price paid well, and in full knowledge, and we will grieve, in time, but we will not grieve in bitterness." Ariel nodded, and her wings moved in sympathy, as she took in the words Sellyria offered her. Yes, there was much there, that reminded her of her own home. Ariel folded her wings around her shoulders as she took in the thought. But they did have a home to go back to, and the local area was now free of the hold from the Hand. And like her own people, the Tiri Kitor would survive and grow. Ariel looked up from her musings, and noticed that Sellyria was looking at her with a piercing gaze.

    "And you, aehilasa faeriya? What brings Aerdrie's Arrow here, for you to come gliding to a wood rather than an eyrie?" Ariel gave Sellyria a slow smile. "There is no eyrie for me to fly to right now, though I have danced the skies. And, for some reason, I felt that I needed to come here. I cant really explain it." Ariel gave a gentle shrug of her wings."Though I know not if my travels with my companions will continue on, or if I shall turn towards another path, it was important that I came here first." Ariel wrapped her wings around her, and then spoke softly, this time speaking in elven, "My heart demanded that I come here first, before anything else." Ariel tilted her head slightly, and gave a deep nod of her head. "The calling was strong, and I needed to see..." Ariel simply grew quiet. How could she explain what she herself could not fully comprehend or understand herself. But seeing Sellyria did make her feel a bit better. Without her being aware of it, her hand gently touched the necklace she still wore that had belong to their fallen comrade, as she gently raised her wings slightly, her words having no use for her now.

    TAG: Saintheart
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  2. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    Ariel Elandinai

    The Keepwood, Elsir Vale
    Early morning, Midsummer (First of Flamerule)
    Year of Scattered Lanterns (1368 DR)

    "Yes." Sellyria's face again had shifted, this time into comprehension. "It is more apparent now you are here. You are here - to wish goodbye." Her ancient face had taken on a look of sudden sadness. "You can hear them whispering, can't you? The trees. The wanderwoods. Long, long have they been in these lands. And they see things, sometimes. It is what made the humans call the forest the Witchwood. They are fleeting things, and even we hear little of them, but ... yes. Something is coming. I cannot see it; they cannot see it. But you are part of it. And the young man, the cleric of Torm, he is part of it. What is known is that when you leave us this day, our paths diverge. Perhaps until we meet again in Arvandor. So, child -- stay here a while, if you will. Until purpose calls you elsewhere. Stay, and remember us. For we cannot thank you more, or thank you less than to have you here in these woods, where our strength lives and grows."

    TAG: Ktala
  3. Livi-Wan

    Livi-Wan Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 29, 2002
    Skadi looked around at those who had spoken, giving them a grateful nod. It was not in her nature to smile readily, and the circumstances were, perhaps, to grim to warrant it, but they had kindled some hope within her all the same.

    "Thank you." Her hand went from her holy symbol- it was as if her prayer had already been answered, and the Vale was safe. "Truly."

    And then, she was back to herself again, running a hand through the unruly mess of her hair- more grey than brown, now- and frowning.

    "This situation is too dire not to warrant some kind of pan of action. Alessandro, I know it took all you could to deliver this message to us, but can you be any more specific as to the details of what may await us? I'd rather not lead us all into a death trap."
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  4. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    Sa'adi Adim, the Company

    Brindol, Elsir Vale

    Eight Bells (Morning) Midsummer (First of Flamerule)
    Year of Scattered Lanterns (1368 DR)

    Alessandro seemed to shrink. There was a great mass pressing at where his neck met his shoulders, invisible, tangible only to the men and women in the room who knew him. His voice came from beneath that weight, crawling out from under his bowed head, whispering as though it had been crushed. "I don't remember all of it. Not all of it. We found our way to the mountain. There's a path, an hour from Vraath Keep. They caught us on that trail, I remember, they--they--they didn't blindfold us, that's how I know the path. There was a winding ledge along the face of a sheer cliff. We--we came around a corner, and saw--"

    He swallowed. "There was a natural bridge. Ten feet wide. It led up the face of the cliff. There was a carving, a five-headed dragon, carved out of the stone of the cliff face. I've never seen anything like it. It would've gone clean over the height of this keep. Five heads, all carved agape and roaring. And ... the dragon came out. A blue dragon. It was hiding on some ledge I couldn't see, but it blotted out the sun. The hobgoblins that caught us, they bowed and scraped, but the dragon just looked us over and then let them pass. They took us across the bridge to a pair of double doors, twice as high as a man and that distance across, carved with five heads again. The leader of the patrol, he said something, I couldn't hear it, and the doors opened. It was dark. So dark. And--and--they--"
    "Come on, Skadi," said Corrath, suddenly. Her feet hissed on the stone floor as she took a step forward. "That's enough. You can't ask him to--"
    "No," the voice from under Alessandro's head rasped. It seemed to get purchase on the weight it carried, then staggered on. "They--blindfolded us again. Threw us into cells. Kept us in darkness. I could hear roaring, chanting somewhere, far off. Couldn't tell. And then they started--the--the--"
    Now Mazarun had taken a step forward, his tread silent, shadow flickering in the torchlight. His scarlet eyes were dying coals. "What happened after that?"
    After what? said Corrath's glance. It was answered by a look from the drow. A look that haunted her to the end of her life.
    The actor sucked in a painful breath. "We were freed. A hobgoblin took our blindfolds off. Unlocked our shackles."
    "A hobgoblin?" Tredora Goldenbrow spoke this time.
    "They'd done something to Mal, something keeping him from casting spells. He looked like they'd drawn the water out of him. The hobgoblin who let us out just about had to carry him. He was dressed like - all black robes - dragonscale talismans - dragonhead necklaces. Told us get up, get up, get moving, they be back soon. I couldn't hardly move. I don't know how I did. I was dark-blind, every torch in the place was like sunlight, and all I could hear was echoes of chanting off walls. Can't remember which way I went, but we went down passages, I can't remember, he took us through intersections. Checking everywhere. He'd slam my jaw shut if I tried to cough. He got us to some kind of storeroom. Cold. Maybe some sort of kitchen. That's when I asked him why."
    "Why he broke you out?" Lord Jarmaath shifted on his bed.
    "Just why. It's all I could get out my throat. And he put the palm of his hand, here, centre of my forehead. It burned. And there was this flash. I saw a face. Another hobgoblin -- this one with black skin, with burning red eyes. And it spoke. It told me -- and told -- the things I've told you now. Then his face faded, and the hobgoblin who'd brought us there -- he was pulling out a scroll or something. Said something about -- about -- teleporting. That with what Kul was doing to the mountain, to the planes or something, it was slower to cast a spell to get us out. Then something must've gone wrong, because we heard shouting, guards, something. Bearing right down on where we were, footfalls on stone. Mal got up. He bounced off the door's jamb as he walked toward the shouting. He was shouting something back, I can't remember what. The hobgoblin was reading from the scroll. Seemed to be getting desperate. And then he slapped me with his hand and the world fell apart and next thing I know is waking up in the woods. I could've--"
    And the actor shuddered, head falling into his hands.

    TAG: All

    The black-skinned hobgoblin with burning red eyes is familiar: that's the symbol of Maglubiyet, the god of goblins and hobgoblins in particular.
  5. Ktala

    Ktala Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Sep 7, 2002
    Ariel Elandinai - Early Morning
    The Keepwood, Elsir Vale

    As Ariel stayed silent, the Speakers face changed, as if she had gleemed that what Ariel could not put to words. "Yes." Sellyria responded. "It is more apparent now you are here. You are here - to wish goodbye." Her ancient face had taken on a look of sudden sadness. Ariel gave a slight nod. She would miss the unique feeling that she felt here among the woods. It was not quite the same as from her own home, but still, the feeling was there. Sellyria noted on the fact. "You can hear them whispering, can't you? The trees. The wanderwoods. Long, long have they been in these lands. And they see things, sometimes. It is what made the humans call the forest the Witchwood. They are fleeting things, and even we hear little of them, but ... yes. Something is coming. I cannot see it; they cannot see it. But you are part of it. And the young man, the cleric of Torm, he is part of it. What is known is that when you leave us this day, our paths diverge. Perhaps until we meet again in Arvandor. So, child -- stay here a while, if you will. Until purpose calls you elsewhere. Stay, and remember us. For we cannot thank you more, or thank you less than to have you here in these woods, where our strength lives and grows."

    Ariel's wings rose up slightly, in surprise as she listened to the speakers words. Ariel looked into the woods. Sellyria had mentioned the 'cleric of Torm'..being part of something, that was still to come, as well as she? So there was something more. Is that was what she was feeling? And it had to do with her Arael'sha? Ariel looked back towards Sellyria. And then she smiled. "Thank you. Then, I would stay, if only for a little while, to remember this feeling. And your people will always be remembered, by myself and others. I am thankful to your people, as you have rekindled something I have missed for a long time. And it that, you have my deepest respects and gratitude." Ariel opened her wings wide. "May the blessing of the Tel'Seldarine always be with you and your people, until our paths cross once more, Sellyria Starsinger, Speaker of the Tiri Kitor." Ariel offered the woman, and with a gestured opened her wings fully. Then, with one last nod, she shot skywards, but she was not leaving the forest...not quite yet. She circled slowly, intertwining between the thick foliage and treetops. She danced between the branches of the wooded vale, as if trying to burn it into her memories, so that when at last she made her way home, she would be able to recall it all in detail. As she flew, Ariel held her blade aloft, murmuring softly, asking for the Winged Mother's, and the rest of the blessed Tel'Seldarine's aid in dealing with whatever was to come next. But at least she knew, that whatever was coming, she would not be alone in facing it. Ariel spent some time, darting between the treetops, before she turned, and headed back towards Zanaek...her Arael'sha. There she would sit next to him, and meditate, until he awoke, or something else called them to action.

    TAG: CmdrMitthrawnuruodo, Saintheart, Any
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  6. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    The Company

    Brindol, Elsir Vale
    Eight Bells (Morning) Midsummer (First of Flamerule)
    Year of Scattered Lanterns (1368 DR)

    "Okay, enough," said Corrath, stepping in front of Alessandro. "I don't care what you want to know, he's done."
    Mazarun's eyes were steady coals. "If that is all that we can discover about the enemy, it is scant. All we know of the place is that it has Tiamatists within, that one of them may be a traitor to their cause, and that a blue dragon guards the lair. Penetrating the place on such information will not be simple."
    Corrath sighed, hands on hips. "To be honest, it's not even getting inside the place that bothers me. It's the time it'll take getting there. If this rift, gate-thing, whatever is in the Wyrmsmoke Mountains, that's over a hundred miles from here, clean back across the Vale. Even on owlback that's a good two days' flight, never mind getting accosted by any passing pedestrians. Gods know how much time we've got to get there." She blinked, turning to William. "Unless...?"
    The wizard of Blackstaff Tower shook his head. "I could teleport us, yes, but I'll need to get some sleep before I try. And I can't jump blind wherever we're going. I'd have to know something of the destination."
    "Could you not scry upon the place?" said Mazarun. "In Menzo-- there were mages there, and seeing mirrors. They had--tactical uses..."
    "I could," said William, but his smile was sardonic. "I know the incantation. I even have a roc's eye and all the base components for the spell. What I don't have is a properly-engraved, silver scrying mirror. And without a scrying mirror, spells and dust are all I have. Besides," he added, "I can only control so many spells in my mind. If we were to travel quickly, I would prefer not to waste any headspace on that sort of incantation. I would prefer to retain all our strength for battle."
    "Damn it." Corrath scraped a boot on the floor, sending the toe into a beam of light. And then stopped still. And then smiled. "Well, I'll be damned. How about that?"
    "What?" Mazarun was puzzled.
    "Well, William can't scry. But he doesn't have to. Because I know someone else who can."

    And Corrath raised her ring of communication. "Zanaek, Ariel - if you're there, wake up, will you? I need to ask someone a favour. A big favour."

    TAG: CmdrMitthrawnuruodo , Ktala , all
  7. Ktala

    Ktala Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Sep 7, 2002
    Ariel Elandinai - Morning
    Brindol, Elsir Vale

    Ariel had come back to the church, and had found Zanaek as she had left him, sleeping soundly on the cot she had found for him. She smiled as she moved silently, and sat down, extending one wing over him for a moment. Zanaek seemed to sigh deeply and curl even tighter into the blanket that she had covered him with. With a smile, she moved to sit next to him, and closed her eyes to meditate and rest.

    . . .

    Ariel was not sure of how much time had passed, when she heard a voice close to her. It was Corrath's voice. It took a moment, for Ariel to realize that the voice was coming from her ring.

    "Zanaek, Ariel - if you're there, wake up, will you? I need to ask someone a favour. A big favour."

    Ariel stretched out slowly, her wings moving to open as she opened her eyes, her eyebrow arched curiously. She needed to ask SOMEONE a favor? That sounded interesting indeed. Ariel looked down upon the sleeping Zanaek. She hated to wake him, but this sounded important. Hopefully, he had gotten some rest. She bent down, and gently kissed him on the forehead, and then gently shook him. "Arael'sha", she whispered softly into his ear. "You must wake. We are needed." Ariel then spoke into her own ring. "Corrath. Zanaek and I are awake. What is it you need? Where are you?" she asked into the ring, looking down as Zanaek began to stir, grinning slightly as she played with his hair.

    TAG: CmdrMitthrawnuruodo, Saintheart, Any
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  8. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    The Company of the Crescent Flame

    The Chapel of the Triad, Brindol Keep, Brindol
    Ten Bells (Morning) Midsummer (First of Flamerule)
    Year of Scattered Lanterns (1368 DR)

    A trident of shadow caressed Zanaek’s face as he strode to the font. The chapel’s arched windows were still gathering illumination at this hour. The chapel was part of the keep; purpose-built, its dimensions integrated into the castle itself. At first glance he had thought it devotional but functional. It could not be any more different to the Cathedral of Lathander, not the least for lack of an author. The Keep’s architect was hidden in the passing of centuries and tomes long lost in Rhestilor.

    But Zanaek could still see him. He would never know the man’s name; whether through humility or oversight, not a signature, not so much as a carved initial remained in the stone here. But Zanaek could still see him, after spending so many hours here looking at him, for the chapel itself was the architect’s signature; his essence, his life more visible in his architecture than could ever be seen in a historian’s dry book. The pivot and slow reach of light through the high windows had built a symphony in Zanaek’s heart. The first dawn ray bloomed on the chapel’s doorhandles, signalling lauds with the precision of a water clock. Matins ended with the last glow of sunset fading from Ilmater’s bound marble hands, his image pleading silently for three hundred years. And between the arrival of dawnlight and its leavetaking at dusk, beams fell softly and moved upon junctions, lines, symbols, a procession of wordless messages for a cleric in silent contemplation, echoing back lessons from Zanaek’s novitiate with stunning force. Whoever the architect had been, he had the soul of an artisan, the mind of a timekeeper, and a heart given to the Triad. All three shouted from the chapel’s hidden spaces – the spaces hidden in plain sight, the spaces which could be found when one stopped seeing with his eyes and instead saw with the spirit.

    Zanaek bowed once over the font, feeling light wash over him; feeling the lessons wash over him. He looked to the three images of the Triad that dominated the space closest to the altar, and then turned back to face the congregation. Well, if you could call it that. A congregation of seven; eight if you included himself. All eight of them, here, together, people he had bound up and healed and fought with. So different, he realised. He doubted this congregation had been in the mind of the architect, no matter how devoted he’d been to the Triad.

    And yet…
    He blinked. Where had that come from? And as he did, a tear came unsummoned to his eye, making him blink again; and when he did, for that moment, they were transformed. Corrath and Mazarun could hardly be discerned apart. Moonlight and starlight, gathering shadows, moving through a teasing dance with death. William stood in blue light, though he seemed to this moment to flicker in and out of existence, as if he were not really there. Evelios did so, too, but in his space for a second seemed to stand the shadow of another. Ragnar was tall like a statue, grim, grey, but another tear blurred Zanaek’s sight for a second. He cleared it, and there the others were: Skadi, standing at a crossroads of sunbeam, the lines and symbols around her speaking justice ...
    … and she.
    Light from the red shardstone beneath the altar glowed softly on her chest. Her tunic and robes glowed lapis lazuli; her sandals gleamed gold. Gods above, if this way you show my path, I yield. I yield smiling.
    He rubbed his eyes; took a deep breath. “Are you sure about this?”
    “What, you got another option?” Corrath folded her arms.
    Zanaek gently laid a hand on the font. “This isn’t quite the same as asking the Triad for help. If Azarr Kul is doing what you’re saying, it greatly changes things.”
    William snapped his fingers. “Of course. I should’ve realised myself. The gate. That’s the problem. From what Alessandro said, Kul’s affecting both the separation between the planes and the Weave. Divination of the kind you’re talking about functions much more reliably when you don’t have to contend with the walls of existence being hammered on.”
    Corrath wiggled her ear. “Common tongue? Anybody?”
    “Imagine going fishing on a riverbank,” said Skadi. “You can see the fish, but you also know the fish isn’t where it seems to be. You have to adjust your spear, or your line, for the water tricking you about where the fish is.”
    “So Azarr Kul’s a…fish?” asked Corrath.
    “No. But imagine going fishing and trying to work out where the fish is while the water itself is being tossed in the middle of a storm.”
    “Excuse me.” Evelios raised a hand, index finger up. “Excuse me? I’d just like to ask a question. What does a fish need with a starship?”
    “Look, are you telling me you dragged us here just so you can tell us you can’t do this?” said Corrath. She had an odd gleam in her eye.
    “I can do it.” Something dead fell in Zanaek’s words. Something that knocked the gleam out of the half-elf’s gaze. “I did not say otherwise. I just cannot predict what the results will be.”
    “You cannot predict?” Ragnar’s voice rattled a couple of roofbeams. “When were we ever able to predict what was about to happen?”
    “—um, well, the prognosis of those past three fights was pretty predictable, I mean, remember those hobgoblins-with-harpoons-um-sorry-hunting-spears, that chain wielder, he had to resort to Rule Zero to make that one stick—”
    “The battlefield is one thing, Ragnar,” said Zanaek. “This is another. To scry is to see, but more fundamentally it is to reach through. If the planes are in flux as you seem to describe, something else may reach back.”
    “They are all battlefields,” said Skadi, and Zanaek was not surprised to see the others look at her. “If this is another, so be it. This is our test. I will not stand away from it.”
    “I know,” he said, and he felt hot tears rise from his sternum to his throat. The architect’s whispering in the chapel’s lines kept the water from reaching his eyes. “I know you will, Skadi. I just—”
    “Alessandro,” said Skadi. Her voice was gentler than the Company could remember it being for a long, long time. “He gave much to tell us what he did. Even if we were to face what he did and suffer – it would still be better than to let him have done so in vain.”

    Zanaek nodded slowly.
    And turned, sending his mind and spirit outward, to seek the light.

    Darkness found him.
    All of them.

    To be continued…
  9. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    The Company of the Crescent Flame

    It’s taken him as a bridge. He knows this in the instant – or perhaps a century – of horrified time that follows. He tries to end the spell. It’s fruitless. He might as well try to turn the sun from its westward course. And he knows in that same horrified instant that a black, blasting cloud of oblivion is in the chapel. That it has erupted to life from nothingness. That it comes from the power that stands on his very spirit, bending him like an overreaching span. That it washes across all of the Company in a heartbeat, that it blasts them into unconsciousness, into—

    --into light.
    The light is unchained by shadow here. No tree blocks its arrogant stride across the mountaintops. The mountaintops lie below like a woman’s work of thatch. Ragnar feels the cold in the air as he walks, feet on nothingness, striding to some unknown destination. The cold, the mountains; it is as though the Dale had come for him. Then he looks to his left, and he finds it has.

    Ingvar Silvertongue keeps stride with him. His father’s face is rimed with blood and frost and hate. Every barbed hair on his features is as Ragnar remembers him. Ingvar Silvertongue has not changed since the day his son left the village and went into the south, body and soul, forevermore. In all except one detail, he is the same. Ingvar is, something tells Ragnar, the same as the day he died, except for one detail. The detail is his father’s eyes. They are not his father’s eyes. Fire licks from them like tears. They burn like lost love.
    “Love?” asks Ingvar Silvertongue. “Gods love their peoples. I don ‘t love you.”
    “Where am I?” demands Ragnar.

    “You’re in the Wyrmsmoke Mountains,” says Jarrett Nurth, eyes burning, as they dive from the air towards the stonescape below at a speed that would kill a falcon in its dive. Corrath doesn’t know how she and Ragnar are occupying the same place, the same mind – but she knows it as certainly as her own hands are on her weapons, Carduus from the ruined manor, Bloodthirst from the Ghostlord’s lair. She knows this as certainly as she realises in horror that she and Ragnar are not the only ones in the same place. So, too, are other voices. All the others—

    “The Triad could not do what you seek,” says Tariq, his lithe, fifteen-year-old body alighting gently to the ground, and he strides alongside Skadi, tossing a smooth rock from hand to hand as they find their way up, up, faster than any sidewinder could move, up a rocky trail in the midst of the mountains, stinking yellow cloud around them, the cloud of Five Smoking Peaks which has killed root and branch in the vales that it has been directed to. “Oh, I suppose they could, in time, but that would rather defeat the purpose. And even then I doubt they would. This little speck of dust is already too thin with the tread of Powers. Any more wrenching of the stuff of reality and perhaps we’d have a Godswar for true here. Can’t have that. This reality is the last haven. Eberron’s powers are like a drop of blood in their world’s water. In Krynn they had a casualty rate to defeat She as she was there.”
    “She?” The word echoes in Skadi’s mind. “You mean Tiamat? What is this Krynn?”
    “Never mind. This stupid human form. Can’t keep its tongue still even if it’s thirty years dead.”

    “Who are you, then?” Drow are nothing if not adaptable. Or so Mazarun reminds himself. He has to, in order not to flinch as he turns at a clifftop corner in the path to face the speaker.
    Ulwai Stormsinger chuckles, black blood spilling down her face as she narrows seared eyes. “You think I cannot see your fear, dhaeraow? And spare me veiled threats and promises about Lloth. She has her … interests, and I have mine.” Ulwai turns, pointing down the path. “Pay attention. We are here.”

    Ariel looks. And she sees it, just as Alessandro described it in his fevered speech: a vista of terrifying beauty. The ledge she travels leads over a ten-foot-wide natural bridge and then continues to wind up the face of the cliff on the other side to a large, flat ledge. The Cliffside soars several hundred feet up from this ledge. This vista is dominated by the lifelike rendition of a five-headed dragon craved out of the stone of the cliff face. The dragon is massive—easily a hundred fifty feet tall—and carved to look as if it were perched upon the wide ledge and emerging from the stone itself. The dragon’s five serpentine necks arch up and then back down. The heads protrude from the Cliffside, each leering down as if to challenge any who dare to approach. Each head is that of a different dragon, and each has a mouth agape in an eternal roar.
    At the base of the cliff, under the statue’s belly, lies a blue dragon.
    The smell rising from it is enough to overpower mountain winds. No beast of carrion has fed upon it. It lies nearly forty feet long, mouth opened in a death-defiant and endless scream. There is little doubt as to its cause of death; its abdomen has been ripped open from end to end. Its vitals no longer glisten in the unforgiving sun, but are slowly turning black.

    “His son did this, lady of the winds,” sneers Taliessar Quickleaf. The dead elf is just ahead of Ariel as they stand before the dragon’s corpse, and Ariel can count his bones from where the axe tore him open.
    “Who?” she asks, at length. “Whose son?”
    “The dragon's son. Azarr Kul, son of the dragon named Tyrgarun, the dragon who trusted in Tiamat and who lies before you now. Kul’s madness grows by the hour. This was one of his, shall we say, less impressive diversions.” Taliessar’s mocking smile as he turns back to Ariel almost makes her scream. “He was proud, do you know that? Even in the last moment as his son killed him. It’s enough to make one believe in parental love.”

    “Quiet,” snarls Zanaek. He starts towards the door, tearing his eyes from the dragon both and from the figure in a homespun dress drenched in blood that has followed him in his dreams and now chuckles at him.
    “Oh, don’t worry about keys or passwords and such,” she says from behind Zanaek as he walks to the door. “That much I can accommodate you with.”
    And with a flicker of
    thought, they are through the door and into the great entrance hall of the Fane of Tiamat.

    Entrance hall and history book, realises William. The hall stretches for fifty feet into the mountain, easily large enough to accommodate a decent-sized dragon. And the walls are carved, beginning at the space of wall closest to the door, masterfully carved with hands that could not have belonged to any human stonemason. The space is vast, the illustrations cyclopean, and there is writing down the length of the space. Enough to occupy a historian for years. But William finds himself absorbing the hall’s content in a second, a great swell of knowledge that serves him a history of abomination and blood and slouching towards the goal that Azarr Kul now seeks to finish.

    This is not the first time someone has attempted what Kul now brings to fruition, he realises. This Fane has stood in these mountains long ages. Longer than Brindol, longer than the Hammerfist Holds. It was here, sleeping, when Sellyria Starsinger brought her people down the Elsir to the Blackfens. He realises, extending his thought, the Fane makes civilisation in the Vale a newborn by comparison. This Fane stood before Myth Drannor. Before Netheril. Dragons, chromatic dragons, carved it. Back then, the metallic dragons were enough to end their schemes, and so Tiamat slept; slept long enough that the Fane should pass into memory. Until Azarr Kul came.

    Urikel Zarl slowly circumnavigates William. He is young again, the mage realises; young as William is now, still wearing a druid’s robes and the symbol of Silvanus at his throat. But his eyes need little encouragement to burn as they do right now; the lion is already there to foster the fire that has its hearth in Zarl's eye, and he somehow appears even more frightening in his youth than he was in his after-life. “And the hall has marked the time, has chronicled the years through the narrow band of fanatics who kept the dream alive. But it has always been tool, not temple. It was built to give the Champion a place to stand upon and move the world.”

    “Come.” Leviat D’Rtan holds his hand out, but the burning eyes and the hate they contain give the lie to the gesture.
    “I told you to pay attention,” says his father. “Just because I can do what the Triad cannot does not mean we have forever to do this.”
    And they walk. Up passageways, down tunnels, deeper into the mountain. None of the passages are crudely cut from the rock around them; all have a smoothness that beguiles the eye and chills the heart. Evelios does not know why they are able to see clearly in the gloom and half-light of dragonmouth-carved torches, but his father is moving ahead, threatening to leave him behind, and he follows.

    Impressions flick at him from shadow and stone like broken ghosts. Hobgoblins’ faces protrude from a rock wall outside a chamber filled with black implements, in an endless rictus. PUNISHMENT, his mind captions the wisp of this image, which almost blots out Evelios’s sudden realisation that the hobgoblin is still alive, will forever be alive, for he can hear them moaning in the darkness and the agony of their bodies fused forcibly with stone.

    Another image: a robed hobgoblin, alone, in a corner of the spartan barracks where they rest. The hobgoblin removes the dragonhead necklace he wears to uncover a precious image: an image of a black hobgoblin’s face rendered in clay, which its holder venerates with a kiss from his misshapen features before bowing his head and whispering in what can only be prayer. Three of his companions did not whisper so well, the image murmurs to Evelios. Those three whimper endlessly from the stone wall.

    They travel on, and the passageways around them open into a great space, a cavern, a lair, but this lair is styled in a temple. Here, horror resides. The congregation of hobgoblins here chant endlessly. No glint of fervour in yellow eyes here; they have passed beyond that place into insanity’s waste land--
    (Here is no water but only rock)
    --Evelios understands.
    Bodies of spent hobgoblins are scattered like grain on a threshing floor. The remainder of the congregation chants on, endlessly, supporting the Work that Azarr Kul crafts somewhere ahead. But the Work is not without misstep, not without a stroke that must be corrected: as Evelios watches, around them the planes bow and rupture, opening gaps in the world a few feet wide, opening spaces where roiling magma gleams or endless darkness stares back. Creatures appear out of thin air, winged beasts not unlike the creature they fought back in the Cathedral of Lathander. Then the Weave and Faerun and Azarr Kul regain control and the gaps close, sending ripples through rock walls as though they were made of water, and the creatures disappear with them.

    “This is not the epicentre,” says Leviat D’Rtan. Evelios expects him to say something of suitable import, something along the lines of ‘All of Faerun will look like this should you fail’—
    “I credit you with more intelligence than to have to state to you that conclusion. We go. This is simply a marker on the trail.”

    They travel again, through a secret door in the rear of the temple, in the belly of the statue of Tiamat which screams in pain or triumph or both, and they pass into what the wisps of images tell him is the oldest part of the Fane, and its most extant. It is surprisingly simple. A short tunnel ends in an alcove with an image of Tiamat crouched at its end. In the roof of the alcove is a circular hole, fifteen feet wide. The hole is the opening of a tunnel; its end vanishes up into shadow and darkness. And Evelios feels the details burn into him. He knows (as does William, as does Skadi, as does Zanaek, as do all of them) that the memory of this room will be enough that a mage of sufficient power could teleport himself here in body as well as mind.
    “That shaft is a hundred feet long,” says Leviat. Tears of flame lick from his eyes and disappear halfway up to the shaft’s single black eye.

    “What is up there?” asks Ragnar.
    “The author of this,” says Ingvar Silvertongue. “Azarr Kul. Together with the product of his Work.”
    “You bring us here, but you don’t want to show us that chamber?” asks Corrath.
    “You can attempt it, if you wish,” says Jarrett Nurth. “The gate nears its completion. Tiamat stands on the far side like a thief with her ear to the door. I bring you thus far, but my tread would be too heavy upon the earth for her not to know I am here. I’ll not precipitate the war to end all wars.” The murdering shopkeeper of Drellin’s Ferry considers for a long moment. “Not yet, anyway.”

    “We will know,” says Skadi, pushing Tariq aside, and in a way she doesn’t quite understand, she projects herself up the black eye of the shaft—
    --Brilliant geysers of energy light a wide stone chamber. There is no roof. There is a shimmering, perversely beautiful pool of shifting colours where the roof should be, and five dragonhead statues pour light into this pool. The assault on Skadi’s senses is overwhelming in this form. She senses—somehow—the alarm of presences that do not come from this plane, in this room, and at the room’s centre…
    She cannot see it.
    She can only feel it, as it locks minds with her. With all of them. A figure seven feet tall, encrusted with dragonscale, eyes burning, power burning down every course of its being, a power that has driven a people to death, a power that would now drive a world to death. Azarr Kul.
    And he is mad beyond measure, and he does not fear the Company.
    Then there is a sudden black cloud again, a sound like an annoyed curse, and all turns to darkness--

    --and the Company as one awakened from its sudden oblivion on the floor of the chapel in Brindol Keep.

    TAG: ALL
  10. Livi-Wan

    Livi-Wan Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 29, 2002
    Skadi struggles to her feet, armour clattering in her haste to be the first standing up. It is not pride, she tells herself, nor fear, that has he adjusting the plates that bind her body in a futile attempt to steady her mind. She is simply... uncomfortable.

    (Of all the forms, why Tariq? Skadi shakes the tendrils of unease that cloud her mind at seeing the ghost of her past before her)

    "Well, that was... enlightening." She takes refuge in words as dry as her mouth, spitting them out with the taste of ozone that's clouded her tongue. "Thank you, Zanaek."

    Skadi frowns up at the shadows of the chapel ceiling, "Is everyone alright? Zanaek?" Who else is likely to be hit hard by this unwinding of their consciousness? "Evelios?"
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  11. Ktala

    Ktala Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Sep 7, 2002
    Ariel Elandinai - Morning
    Brindol, Elsir Vale

    The scrying was swift, sudden and brutal. It was not in the normal way that Zanaek's spells usually worked. No, this was like it had been taken over by something, and control was wrenched away. It reminded Airel of the way of the strange visions when Drellen's Ferry had fallen. Suddenly, she was not herself, watching a thing. She was part of it, whether she wished to be or not.

    It was strange. She watched the vision unfold, in a strange type of detachment. It was amazing. It was terrifying. Seeing the elf Taliessar in death, showing her scenes she could not put a name to. Of the evil hidden within the mountains. Of a carved give-headed horror that Ariel knew of all too well. Her people spoke of it. As they were attacked to the brink of non existence, by the evil hordes of dragons, they all knew of where they spawned from. Ariel found herself shivering while looking at the carving. Not from fear. But anger. She watched the dizzying scene change, as their perspectives flew, as she would have, diving up and down the face of cliffs at dizzying speeds.

    And then she saw the blue dragon, ripped apart, at the base of a cliff, under the statue. Even from the vision, the stench was enough to almost rock her backwards..if she had indeed been flying. But she was merely a passenger, along for the ride. Someone else controlled this flight. The thing that looked to be Taliesar told them that the dragons own spawn had slain it. So, it was an evil dragon, that was the cause of this? That somehow, managed to conjure up some spell, that was to rip apart the frail boundaries that kept that wyrm so far away from them. To allow her to actually enter into their world. The dizzying whirling movement, as they were show through the mountain, following half dug out passages, and crude rock, to end up passing a robed hobgoblin muttering, while further own, a lair, where bodies of more goblins lay about, while she sees something which looks like the wall between worlds is slowly being ripped apart. Strange gaps, so far only a few feet wide, showing scenes difficult to comprehend. Endless darkness, spurts of magma, winged beasts, and with each showing, the rocks ripple with unknown forces. But this is not the real cause. They continue forward, thru doors, and a temple that is painted with images burn to Ariel. They then come to a short tunnel, with a opening above. Somehow, Ariel knows it is Skadi that now moves them forward, looking into a fountain of bright lights, pulsating with color. Another five-headed stature of the wyrn was here as well. Was the light coming form the statue? The room seemed to pulse, and now Ariel has an overwhelming sense of hate, darkness and death. Another being, dragonscale?.. That was Azarr Kul? But there is something else there as well. But before exactly what that was, a sudden dark black cloud obscures everything, a sound, a curse, tumbling into darkness and then...

    They were back. Laying on the floor of the chapel in Brindol Keep. Ariel layed their for a moment, as she hears the sounds of metal rattling. She slowly sits up, as she sees Skadi standing already. Ariel looks to Zanaek, to see how he has fared through such a powerful scry. Skadi speaks. "Well, that was... enlightening." Then, after a slight pause. "Thank you, Zanaek." Another long pause. "Is everyone alright? Zanaek?, Evelios?"

    A most curious question indeed. How does one respond to it, after being shown the bane of your people, and to your very existence? It was as personal as one could get. More than just battling some misguided hobgoblins worshiping that foul wyrm...but the wyrm herself? All the stories and lessons of the Avariel flooded her consciousness, as she slowly stood up. She could not even put to words, the horrors that would happen, if they were to fail in this. Some of the others might have heard of just how much the evil wyrms ilk had to do with the slaughter of her people, but none of them would understand just how much was done to her people because of...that THING.

    'Merciful Mother!' Since becoming a Duskblade, Ariel had never questioned her decision. But to face a task such as this. Ariel wasnt afraid of loosing her life. That was the will of the Winged Mother and the Seldarine. But to fail in such a task, there would be no Arvandor. The visions that they had just held, would be a small penitence, to what would come. If evil men and dragons had almost decimated her people, what havoc would the coming of the great mother Wrym herself upon the world would cause? Ariel took a few steps back, and pulled her wings around her body tightly, to hide her fists that were gripped tightly. Was it anger, or hatred she was feeling? Ariel could not name what she felt, but it was powerful.

    Air. The suddenly need to take flight was far too strong. Without saying a word, Ariel's wings suddenly went wide, as she launched herself skywards. She needed to dance the winds, before she could trust whatever words were to be spoken next.

    TAG: Any
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  12. Ktala

    Ktala Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Sep 7, 2002
    Ariel Elandinai
    Brindol, Elsir Vale

    Ariel closed her eyes as she stood on the roof of the chapel, her wings folded tightly around her lean body. Too many strong emotions rolled through her, her skin suddenly feeling far to tight. Far too soon, the other would be busy, studying for spells, or praying for divine wisdom and succor as well. They would be busy, up to the last minute, before they would rest for what would most likely be the most intense battle to come. Ariel envied them slightly. She felt lost. She had no spells to study, for Ariel's came to her at her calling, and of the need of the Winged Mother as her Duskblade. At these times, when everyone seemed busied with the task of their calling or faith, Ariel found herself feeling alone. Every since Celbrandir death, she found herself with none besides her Arael'sha to truly speak with. Ariel absentmindedly ran her finger over the necklace that had once belonged to the elf who proved to be so much more. She sighed softly. She had enjoyed speaking with him. She was curious about him, as a mage. Mages were few and highly respected. She had been just as curious about William when he had first joined the group as well, but he, well, it did not seem to work out, that they would have a chance to speak on such things, thought Ariel could not think of why. But he was a human. And sometimes even Ariel understood that sometimes she seemed to misread them. And Corrath..

    Ariel gave another deep sigh. A companion yes. But a friend... Ariel would have preferred a friend right now. No doubt the bard and barbarian would find themselves in a bar someplace, celebrating this last night of fest and rest. Even Mazarun had his kitten to keep him company. She never had an issue with the dark elf, but his dark humor was something she did not quite understand. So right now, she was feeling quite alone, with no one, and nothing she could really do.

    No. Not quite alone. Ariel opened her wings wide, slowly opening her eyes as she looked around her. She shook her wings, before launching herself skywards . She arced her body high into the skies, slowly feeling the wind kiss her wings as she moved though the air. The Winged Mother was always here, in the wind, in the sky. Always moving, always comforting, a solace when there was no other. Here, Ariel could let her emotions flow freely, with only winds and Aerdrie Faenya knowing her feelings. She suddenly went up higher, going as high as she could comfortably, as she look at the skies around her, feeling the cold air kiss her skin. It was so beautiful. She hovered for a moment, before venting out her frustrations in a loud, long scream. She then smiled. That actually made her feel a bit better. She thought of her family, especially her father. She wished she could hear one of his stories of the times before a major battle. Right now, Ariel could almost guess that she had seen more dragons since joining the Company, than most of her people had seen in many years. Ariel then began a slow decent, making long wide spirals as she made her way back towards the city. As she did, she looked out towards the vast lands past the city's walls. Ariel did another slow circle, and she looked back down upon the city. She wished she could see the eyrie right now. But at least now, she didnt feel so much pent up frustrations. Whatever was going to happen, it would happen, blessed Goddess. Since she could not change it, even if she wished to (And she did not) then she would do her best, to do her best.

    Ariel continued her spiral down, gently flying until she touched down in the middle of the city. She was hungry, and she was going to find herself something to eat. And right now, she felt like walking among the people of the city. Wherever she ended up, if she smelled food, she would check out. If nothing became available, she would simply walk back to the castle, to find something to eat. Perhaps, she would at lest find someone or something interesting, as she walked.

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  13. guitar_hero

    guitar_hero Jedi Knight star 1

    May 3, 2008
  14. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

    Jul 13, 2008
    Evelios D'Rtan, Existential Dilemma, and Poe the Raven
    Hit it.

    [Darkness. Only voices can be heard.]

    Evelios: This is completely ridiculous. I don't have to put up with this - I have a contract.

    Poe: No you don't.

    Evelios: It's the principle of the thing.

    Ramza: Look, will you just be quiet? I'm trying to remember how I used to write these.

    Evelios: Oh, gee, it's almost like it's been three or more months since you last posted! Hey, it's not like I need you to write so that I can exist, I'm totally peachy just, y'know, being an idea! It's super awesome.

    Ramza: Shut up! I'm trying to concentrate. Concentrate. Concentrate. Concentrate. CONCENTRATE.

    Evelios: [​IMG]

    Poe: Heh.

    Ramza: Alright, you know what? **** this. **** you. I'm out. I've got meaningless e-power now, I don't need to put up with your antics. I'll just go read a math book. Be seeing you.

    [Angry stomping can be heard, followed by a door slamming.]

    Poe: Can he even do that? This premise makes no sense whatsoever.

    Evelios: Poe, you're running at a 10, I need you at 7.

    Poe: Oh, sorry. *Ahem.* OH NO, EVELIOS, WHAT DO WE DO NOW?!

    Evelios: Don't worry, Poe, I have a plan. A plan so cunning-

    Poe: Yeah, yeah, just get to it.

    The insanely attractive entertainer recovered from his deathlike slumber with near perfect reflexes. Indeed, so vigorous, so full of life was he, that it was all that he could to not spring to his feet and run 50 miles in the direction he was facing. Godlike was his serenity. In his face could be seen countless past lives spent in enlightenment, like unto that of a Bodhisattva. He tilted his head back and let out a hearty laugh, the laugh of a man totally content with his position in the universe.

    "Worry not, comrades, I am the very model of mental and physical wellbeing! Indeed, replacing the Evelios of old is an Evelios of the now, a being beyond Evelios, a bard beyond bards. Nothing like Evelios has come before - nothing like Evelios will come again. My friends I speak of the ehrfurchtgebietendmensch - he is this lightning! He is this madness! He is in desperate need of a shorter name!"

    The comedic sidekick bird was also alright.

    Thus spoke the adonis, the bard, Evelios! "Preparations must be made to deal with this eminent threat, my friends - nay, my comrades. If we are to reject the old morality, the slave morality, it would not be fit for a multiheaded dragon god to lay waste to Faerun! We must assert our existence. We must become the madman, who kills his own god. We must embrace the chaos in our hearts, the madness in our minds. And when the dragon god is gone, who then shall impose its will on man! My friends I tell you this - none but man himself! Will we be afraid? Yes. Man fears the burden of his ultimate freedom, but man must still embrace it. And to do so man must kill the god - or, in this case, the dragon god's servants, I'm not picky."

    The comedic sidekick bird made some kind of stupid expression, it was funny or whatever.

    Again spake the demigod, the entertainer, Evelios! "Rest well, my comrades, my friends, my closest allies! For on the morrow - or thereabouts - we begin the great trial. The endless struggle writ in our own flesh! Can there be more perfect a metaphor?!"

    Evelios once more tilted his head back and let out a hearty laugh. In this moment he was fully aware of himself, of mankind, of the essence of humanity. At last he had his ehrfurchtgebietendmensch! At last he had the key!

    Ramza: What the **** is this?

    Evelios: I wrote the post for you. You can read it, if you like.

    Ramza: Nah, I'm busy. Just post it, I'm sure it's fine.

    A TAG for ALL and NONE.
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  15. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    The Company of the Crescent Flame

    Cathedral Square, Brindol
    Six bells (dawn), Second of Flamerule
    Year of Scattered Lanterns (1368 DR)

    Lord Jarmaath was offered both litter and guard; he declined them for pragmatism and pride. His staff was sixty-year-old wanderwood and more likely to break another half century distant, which was well given it held him up here and now. His feet made irregular shuffling noises down the keep’s stone corridors, as he forced the staff and his good leg to do the work of the traitorous, whimpering limb that passed for his other. The healing draughts were still doing their work. There had been some complication arising out of his damnfool overuse of restoration potions ahead of the battle. But he had conquered both his servants and Tredora’s entreaties to stay in the solar, and having overcome them, his own body’s protests were no match.

    The men, aside the small watch on the keep’s gate, did not know he was going. They did not need to know. They also did not need to know the reason he was going to Cathedral Square. When they told him that was where they would depart from, he had queried the logic. But, learning what they proposed, it made sense. There could be only four outcomes this day: either they all returned, some returned, some returned grievously wounded, or none returned. And should that come to pass, the Cathedral would make the best place to come first. But there was also the cold, flat voice inside him that said that if they came suffering injuries they themselves could not deal with, there would be little Tredora and her exhausted clerics would be able to do.

    He cleared the keep’s gates and walked downhill. A servant trailed him, torch in hand. The predawn light would soon be clear enough to see by, and saer Marshall had insisted they go before they were seen or anyone should ask.
    No. It had been the Lady of the Balance who had said that. The hour grows late. There will be no time for farewells.At least allow the garrison a feast in celebration. It will do well for their morale, he had said.
    If we fail there will be no time for celebration, she had said.
    If we fall, you and your people must go. With all speed. Make for the safest haven you may find. That had been William Marshall. He had pressed a scroll into Jarmaath’s pale hand. And if we don’t return, send word to Waterdeep -- to the Blackstaff Tower. It will be too late for us, but we might buy enough time for Faerun to be ready.
    How long shall I wait?
    You will know, the dark elf had said, from a shadow beside the solar’s doorway. But if there truly is no word – dawn of the next day.
    I do not know how to thank you.
    Do not. Mazarun did not blink. Unless we return all of this was for nothing.
    You really believe that? There are men who live today because of you. I think all those who live in Brindol, live because of you. They’ll leave these walls. They’ll hold their wives and children again. I do not call that all for nothing. No matter how short the time they might have left to do so.
    Then you had better make sure that if dawn rises without us on the third day that you get your people out of here as fast as their feet can carry them.I have a better idea, Jarmaath had said, hand trembling as he reached up, as if to bring all of them within some unseen net projecting from of his outstretched hand. You make sure all of you return here before dawn of the third day instead.

    Cathedral Square was open before him, a great grey fugue plane touched with false dawn. They were standing there, in its centre. He realised through hot, wet, stupid eyes that they had waited for him. He limped across to them. He looked at them as he did. He tried to set every feature in his memory, from shortest to tallest, limber to powerful, beard to beardless, dark skin to light, wing to weapon. He tried to press into his mind the look in each eye that met his.

    They did not speak. Nor did he, all the way across, or in the full minute that passed when he stopped walking and stood before them. All he did was lower his head, respect, sorrow, gratitude pressing his neck down.
    At last, he said “Gods go with you.”

    There was movement; liquid words in William’s suddenly-strong voice, forgotten as soon as heard, and a final thump as air rushed in to fill a space, and Jarmaath was alone in Cathedral Square.


    From open air to the crushing weight of a cave’s dead air, from the caress of promised light into cold and darkness. Skadi pulled Winterfall, and the weapon’s pale light pushed at the darkness, its tears of snow glinting fiercely. The chamber was small, bare, ancient. Directly across from the Company stood a six-foot tall image of Tiamat, carved with such beautiful detail as any of them had ever seen. And above:
    Darkness, in the roof of the alcove. A circular space fifteen feet wide, its end vanishing up and beyond the reach of Winterfall’s light. But echoes stir in that darkness, echoes like forgotten nightmares, shreds of sounds half-suffocated in the echoes from far above. And even without magic to augment any of their senses, they know the centre of the evil lies that way.

    TAG: Everyone

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  16. Ktala

    Ktala Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Sep 7, 2002
    Ariel Elandinai
    Cathedral Square, Brindol - Dawn

    Ariel had spent the day before quietly eating or keeping Zanaek silent company. She had already completed her own prayers to the Winged Mother, and since she did not have spells to pray for for the upcoming battle, she kept herself busy making sure that Zanaek and the others ate, while they prepared for the battle to come before the dawn. She meditated, to just before the sunrise, where she took off once more, to offer her morning prayers. They would be needed more this day than any other, she believed. So much was at stake, not just for the people of Brindol.

    Ariel smiled slightly. Evelios had been in rare for the night before. She recalled his toast, while they had the evening meal. "Rest well, my comrades, my friends, my closest allies! For on the morrow - or thereabouts - we begin the great trial. The endless struggle writ in our own flesh! Can there be more perfect a metaphor?!" While she might not normally agree on MOST of what the bard spouted, she had to admit, this could most definitely be called the great trial. Even among her own people, this would be something to be recorded in the great book. It certainly would make for an interesting tale. Perhaps Evelios would have a yarn to spin for many days.

    Lord Jarmaath was one of the few awake in the Cathedral Square, when the light barely reached the skies. Silently, he had walked down, not speaking a word until he came to stand in front of them. He stared at the group for a long time, until he finally spoke. “Gods go with you.”

    Then William began his spell, and Ariel tucked her wings as the strong magic encircled about the group, and the cathedral faded from their sight.


    Dark, dead air greeted them. Ariel pulled her wings even tighter around her, not liking the enclosed feeling she now felt. She watched as Skadi pulled Winterfall, and the weapon’s pale light pushed at the darkness. It was a tiny chamber, and Ariel's eyes narrowed as she noted what stood in front of her: a six-foot tall image of Tiamat, carved with amazing detail. Too bad it was an image of the foul wyrm. A homage to her vileness. Ariel scowled as she looked around in the dim light. She did not have to use the gifts of the Goddess to feel the dark decay of evil that permeated the area. Looking up, Ariel could see a circular area that seemed to disappear upwards. And there were sounds within that darkness. Ariel drew her own blade, but stayed silent as she waited, her eyes sharp to the area around them. The fool who would attempt to open the doorway lay close. They had to stop him before the gate was fully opened. There was no other outcome to be had.

    TAG: ALL
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  17. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    The Threshold

    At the fifth hour, they brought him the prophet. No sign of pain; the prophet did not moan when he was thrown to the marbled floor, despite blood flecking at the impact. When they had first begun to work on the prophet, he had screamed indeed. There was no particular courage or cowardice in that failure of silence. With the prophet, it had been thought best to begin hard and exercise restraint later. So he had screamed when they pinioned him, cut his body, extracted the pointed talons of his fingernails, pulled tufts of oily hair from his head. But when they put out the prophet’s eyes, the screaming stopped. That time forward, even scourging and flaying small parts of skin brought nothing but gritted, yellowed teeth in a face flaring a darker tint of verdigris as they did. Two days they tried to summon words, and produced none. On the third day, before dawn touched the Five Smoking Peaks, they brought him the prophet.

    Champion and prophet were both silent. The Champion sat cross-legged on the wide marble circle of the dais that was the centre of the sanctum, a loincloth only for his clothes, hands folded before his lips and elbows resting on his thighs. Around him, energy crackled, roared like fire among long-dead trees. Geysers of light writhed, plumed, poured upward from the mouths of five dragon’s-head statues set around the dais’s perimeter. The geysers met no ceiling. A lake aflame filled the roof’s dome. Shimmering light heaved, as if in birth pangs. And shapes moved within the lake of shimmering light – ghosts, serpentine shapes, dark forms.

    The Champion raised two fingers of his right hand, and the roar of energy in the room subsided around him, though the light continued to pour upward to the boiling air above.
    “The last of your people has been found,” said Azarr Kul. “He died on the altar moments ago.”
    The prophet put his arms beneath his body. Trembling hands with dark-red, fleshy extremities slowly lifted the hobgoblin’s chest from the ground. Swathed amid the black robes, torn and divested of their symbols of She Who Breathes, the effect was momentarily, and disturbingly, to watch a mountain range rise. But the prophet only had enough strength to collapse onto his side, a hiss against what must have been agony from his bruised and riven back, sightless and crusted eye sockets flicking as if seeking that which had been lost.
    “You will never find the last of my people,” said the prophet. Still more disturbing. The voice was hoarse and tentative from the dehydration’s grasp and the recent and new gaps where teeth had once been. But there was none of the resonance of brokenness in his tone.
    “No one here follows your patron. Only She Who Breathes.”
    “You will never find the last of my people,” rasped the prophet, “unless you can send every hobgoblin on the face of the earth to her altars as well.”
    Kul lowered his hands to his thighs. “I credit your concern, but I would no more do that to our people than you would.”
    “You have sent a hundred tribes to her altars already,” said the prophet.
    “To save a thousand more. Tell me, Rezun, has the Lord of Depths shown you what is to come?”
    The prophet struggled to an elbow; collapsed. “He has.”
    “Then he has shown you what the Realms will face?” A silence. “You are his prophet. This all your people have told us on the rack. That Fiery-Eyes came to you first because you could yet save them all, turn the People from She Who Breathes. So he has shown you, hasn’t he? The mad god’s revenge in Dweomerheart? The storms that will wrack the earth, the magic that will tear the caverns asunder, the undoing of all we know? And you would let this come to pass?”
    The prophet’s face did not turn fully to Azarr Kul. “The Lord of Depths has seen what is to come,” he said. “And in what is to come, you do not survive.”
    “Rezun. Why.”
    “Why what?”
    “Why? You brought the Ghost Vipers with me. We fought on the long day in the valley together against the Burning Lions. Where was the Lord then, my comrade? Why have you done this?”
    “Because she cannot stop what is to come. Has she not told you this?”
    “She will protect us from it.”
    “She will enslave us in it,” said Rezun. “We would be protected like a farmer protects his cattle. The Lord of Depths has never asked of us what she does. He asks merely that we be who we are.”
    “Be who we are? And burn, and die in the blue fires?”
    “Many. Most, perhaps. But not all. The People – under the Lord – will endure. Will rise. Will one day rule. That is his promise. His covenant. Not rule by kissing the scaled feet of a bitch goddess. We will not serve. We do not serve. Azarr.” The prophet’s sightless, blood-tearing sockets seemed to meet the Champion’s gaze for the first time. “If you do not stop this now, the Lord’s plan will come to fruition.”
    “What plan?”
    “The ghosts. The Eight Ghosts. They come. She can feel them coming, and her fear is yours. I know. There is still time. End this madness. For the sake of all your kind.”
    Kul was on his feet; feet that had successively grown scale as the incantation had proceeded. Horns of his father’s form lifted his height to a full seven feet, the full height of a half-dragon hobgoblin. He moved, liquid, clawed, scaled hands moving to embrace the prophet’s head. “For my kind,” he said and twisted his hands suddenly and there was a thin noise like an egg breaking and the prophet was dead.

    The two erinyes asked him three times whether the body ought be removed. He declined each time, sitting cross-legged, naked but for a loincloth in the centre of the room, as energy poured into the lake afire in the dome above, crackling like a fire in dry wood, as the Weave and wall between planes weakened and her voice grew stronger with every moment. The demons attendant, the vanguard of her army, were uneasy, and he could sense their unease, but they stayed, as the walls of the world bowed and bent and prepared to birth. He saw the room with new eyes: roughly oval, walls inscribed from top to bottom in a scalelike pattern, arching gently upward, almost giving the chamber the appearance of the interior of a gigantic dragon’s egg. The pool of light shimmered eighty feet above, and only thirty feet below two galleries trisected the room. Five oval alcoves were arranged in the room’s walls at that level, dim lights in each, and in the one at the rear of the room was a great statue of his mistress, Tiamat, saviour of the People of the Dragon.

    It was there he was sitting as the tunnel from the lower levels of the Fane spewed eight forms, their bodies gleaming with magic.
    The Eight Ghosts.

    A last battle.
    For his people’s fates, and for his queen’s supremacy.

    TAG: All

  18. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    Corrath Marktos

    Out of the tunnel, and into the chamber. The crackle of light spewing from floor to ceiling was near-deafening. Sound and shadow did not obey reality. She had been surmounted in so many spells by Skadi, William, and Zanaek that she could almost feel the veils of energy eddying around her form – but they only made her feel, suddenly, like a single candle in a dark storeroom where dust mounted and spiders spun. The room was filled with things. Two winged women she did not think were angels. A towering monstrosity was off to her right on one of the dark, overhanging balconies. The hobgoblin – if that was what he was, it was impossible to tell anymore – stood at the centre of the room.

    There were seven of the smaller ones. Humanoid in shape, deep red skin. They wore leather armour and chain coifs, sporting vicious snarls that revealed teeth filed to points. Longswords in one hand. The other arm ended in a bloated, iron-studded forearm with a small, withered hand hanging from its end. Amazingly, she recognised them: merregon. Legion devils. There had been a summoner, once, one that she and her mentor had taken down – with his last breath, he had finished an incantation for one of these things. She had only seen it for a moment before the gate to the Infernal Planes crashed shut again, but that had been enough. It had been one of the few times with Barsillus that she’d really been afraid.

    But she wasn’t afraid now. Something else was in her, twisting from her gut, clenching at her ribs, sending fire through her shoulders and into her cheeks. You are going to die, her head said, and this something was inside her, burning its way from her guts to her head, filling her with images of all the dead outside Brindol’s walls, filling her with Demetrius’s still, ever-sleeping face below its shroud, filling her with all the pain and the suffering of the past weeks and all the futility of it all, that she was going to die here in this stinking hole of a mountain, and that thought burned in her mind and coursed to her limbs and Nox and Bloodthirst came singing from their sheaths and she pushed herself forward in the air, floating forward, smashing the two blades together with such ferocity the magic in them sparked and flickered with the impact.

    She slid forward in the air, weapons wide, in the middle of the garrottella again, open on all sides, Barsillus floating nowhere but in the shadows of her memories, Jarrett Nurth burning in her brain and flickering shadow around her, and she drew air to her diaphragm and screamed at the things which filled the room: “Well, come on, you bastards! You want my life, come and take it! How many of you does it take to kill one half-elf with a blade? Six? Seven? Come on, you yellow bastards, come and see how hard a rogue dies!

    The legion devils drew blades, and started at her—

    TAG: All
  19. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

    Jul 13, 2008
    Evelios D'Rtan, Still Having Some Technical Difficulties, and Poe the Raven
    I'm in trouble again.

    "I thought we were over this whole... introspection thing. German words and all that?" Edgar Allan Poe observed, prodding the camp fire with a poker.

    "So was I. But then I realized that I was creating my own meaning purely with my will alone, and that's not really a solid foundation for a guy with so many hims running around." Evelios-56 sipped at his tea.

    "Doesn't this strike you as needlessly convoluted?" Evelios-413 asked.

    "How so?"

    "Well we're kind of getting held up on meaningless inquiries while there are like a dozen... I dunno, things in this room that are ready to kill us to death."

    "Oh, that."

    "Yes, that."

    "Being sucks."

    "... Wait." Evelios-56 dropped his tea cup and shot to his feet. He grabbed Edgar Allan Poe by the lapels. "Say that again!"

    "I didn't say anything, that was Zaid."



    "Zaid Nejem."

    "... Yes."

    "Zaid Nejem, the Death's Hand."

    "For the love of - YES."

    "Who you killed."

    "It's all in the mind."

    "I... wait, that's it. By Milil's magnificent minuet and trio, that's it!"

    Back in the real world Evelios suddenly grasped Poe by the shoulders - or wings, or whatever. You ever notice how Poe only really gets mentioned every so often these days? Lots of unnecessary bollocks about Evelios' mind, it's all very self-indulgent and at this point a little forced. How much longer can we keep this up? How much longer before somebody gripes at Ramza via PM? Who even shot J.R.?

    "Poe, Poe!"

    "Evelios, Evelios!"

    "I finally get it, Poe. I've finally arrived at my fundamental insight!"

    "I thought you already did-"

    "No Poe, the fundamental fundamental insight. Why I've been having so much trouble! Why I keep having these odd visions of a realm beyond our own where some math-obsessed bastard writes about our exploits! Why there are so many long, lengthy talks I've given that ultimately go nowhere! Poe, I understand everything!"

    "We're kind of in the middle of a really important fight right-"

    "POE! IT'S ALL IN THE MIND! You, me, them, everybody! Everybody! And as long as those minds are out there, we mattered!"

    "I don't... I don't think I understand."

    "We must craft our own directions, Poe! There isn't anyone who can tell us what we mean save ourselves. There is only validation in temporary acknowledgement. There is only existence, Poe!"

    "I definitely don't understand."

    "It means get ready to rock, because there's only one way to kill the demon."



    Evelios unsheathed his blade, and began to sing. His voice was infused with magic, bringing strength and confidence.

    Here at last was a man who knew why he was here, why he had come all this way, why he would die here if necessary.

    Here was a man who had finally chosen his own purpose.

    It was a cheesy as hell way to go out, all things considered, but gods damn was he loving it.

    TAG: Saint

    OOC: As I understand, proper mechanics are out the window, so songs of buffing and then combat as necessary. Once more unto the brink.
    Saintheart likes this.
  20. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    The Threshold

    Evelios sang.
    Zanaek could feel it: a harmonic resonance in every stone of the chamber, in the very air itself. It was not merely the power of the Words, the melody of creation itself cried out to servants of the Celestial. It was in the thinning of the walls between worlds and the gathering of the Weave's force to conjure it; and in that moment the cleric realised it would be dangerous to summon allies here, that the act of opening doors to the Triad's realm would all but accelerate the destruction that could take place here. And the Words and the walls and the Weave resonated, and, in a moment, he saw. With the flickering, inconstant sight that had been building in him since the mountain of the Ghostlord, he saw.

    Skadi leaps forward. But it is not she; there is a hammer, and a scale, where she stands.
    Evelios sings. But he does not; for his whole form is a harp, strung between his outstretched arm and the trunk of his body.
    Ragnar swings his hammer. But it is a sword; he is a greatsword, burning with battle's flame.
    Corrath flickers in and out of sight, as she teleports among the merregon, a flickering battle of chess across four dimensions, but she is a starburst, an elven starburst of quickness.
    William, hovering above the tunnel, chants spells; but he does so with a woman's voice, a wounded woman with seven stars wheeling around her.
    Ariel, his arael'sha, his love, soars forward like a bird of prey; then, she is the bird, a raptor's shadow against a cloud.
    Mazarun spins into Corrath's shadow, moonlight to dusk, and his form is indistinct, but there is a shifting, shimmering presence like a leaf where he stands.
    And Zanaek whispers words of protection, of the light against darkness; but when he raises the Staff of Life, he raises it with a hand encased in a blue gauntlet that is not his; a hand raised in acknowledgment of duty, a hand that flares almost actinic with light.

    And across the room, the hobgoblin stands. Except it is not a hobgoblin. Not in his sight, not now.
    It is a dragon.
    A five-headed dragon, all colours and none, and the demons around it wheel like attendant wyrms.

    Evelios hurled himself forward into the chamber, and a great shadow from the balcony above answered. The horned devil leapt across, not bothering to teleport, great black wings opening as it screamed in a voice to try and drown his song. There was a hissing, unlimbering sound, and Evelios, body glittering in the suit of armour that had uncoiled itself, caught a glimpse of something long, spiked, with links forged from hell-born steel, swinging at him...

    TAG: Ramza, everyone
  21. Ktala

    Ktala Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Sep 7, 2002
    Ariel Elandinai
    The Threshold

    What happened?

    Ariel knew that she was being transported. But this time, it felt different. Looked different. Perhaps it was because of where they were heading to, but the strength and power that resonated through the spell was mind numbing. The walls seemed to flicker, and the air was thick was shadows. Ariel did not look towards her companions, except for the brief look towards her arael' sha. The power she felt coming from him was amazing.

    And across the dark room they now stand within, there is a something standing there. No, there are many creatures within the room, creatures that Ariel had no name for. Then Ariel heard a sound she knew quite well. The flap of wings.

    She looked over to her right, and saw some demon looking thing over in that direction. In front of the party, and rather nasty looking hobgoblin who should be dead, with two female, for lack of a better word, companions nestled within some statues, and a multitude of smaller creatures around them. Ariel went up, but otherwise stayed where she was, waiting for someone to move forward. Her job was to keep these vile creatures away from the clerics, until Ariel could be put to task to take out whatever she could. This entire room was an affront to the Winged Goddess. And she would do her best to make sure that the enemy of her people would not find its way into this realm.

    TAG: Everyone
  22. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    The Portal Opens

    Ariel Elandinai felt it before she saw it.

    The creature, the half dragon Azarr Kul, Champion of the People of the Dragon, master of the Red Hand, clenched its fists, closed its eyes. She felt the Weave, the ether that pervaded all magic on Faerun, bow and bend, tortured even further--and then there were six of him. He, at the centre of the dais, and five other scaled forms identical to his, each of the five tinted a shade matching the five dragon heads around the circle. Five more high priests of a dragon goddess, to add to all of the others in the room.

    She knew, then, what had to be done. What her last act had to be.

    She spread her wings, lifting, arrowing forward, as those five priests raised their hands and the chamber’s empty air filled. Fireballs, jagged electricity, verdigris gas, crackling ice, sizzling acid, streams, flames, clouds, bolts, enveloped the Company’s position.

    Skadi and Zanaek met it. Ariel heard her lover chanting above the storm; without looking, she could imagine him with eyes burning, staff raised, hand in a simple, open palm against the chaos. Light was pouring from him, countering the raw force of fivefold dragonfire with light. Lightning arced away from him, pulverised rock walls. Ice melted as the radiant aura around him surged, turning killing frost into harmless water. Skadi’s prayers were in her weapons; had Proctor Martell seen her he would have been proud of her form. Prayer and battle were one, now; she channelled Tyr’s strength through her, into her weapons. Winterfall thrust once, perfectly; dissipated a fireball with a touch; her shield drew acid, surged with light, neutralised the hissing liquid. But for every prayer that dispersed a black spell, another replaced it. Tyrran and Tormite could counter the deluge, but they could not progress against it, and the chant of cries to the dragon queen grew higher.

    She beat her wings, once, and put her lover behind her, put Skadi behind her. She hazarded a glance in Corrath and Mazarun’s direction; saw the two spinning, back to back, an intricate dance, a dance of rapier and crossbow and kukri as they parried and slashed and cut at the storm of demons that flickered in and out of reality around them like glitters of water on a sunlit lake. She saw Corrath miss a cut, saw a demon’s arm lash in. Metal pierced flesh. Corrath staggered. Fell back against Mazarun. The dark elf whirled. Pushed her up. The half-elf recovered. Parried another blow, her own blood raining to the floor.

    Ariel beat her wings, again, and put half-elf and dark elf behind her. There were two creatures a little like her, in the air, above her; Erinyes, some distant memory whispered to her. Demons of seduction, visitors from the lower planes. They were not focused on her; they, too, had their hands raised, screaming incantations that the avariel forgot as soon as heard. And she heard a nother strong, male voice speaking the same language as they: William Marshall. Spells ripped between the three of them like arrows, like lightning that could not ground itself, as he fought them.

    The mage was sweating, and he could taste his own blood in the back of his throat, copper and bitter. The teachers at the Blackstaff Tower had warned him when his command of the magic became potent enough that battles of magic could be decided in seconds; split-seconds. He had been strong enough to hold off the erinyes’ first gambits; they had managed to conceal themselves as spellcasters, but his reflexes had been enough--

    Until now. Their power was incredible, fuelled by the torture of the Weave and the growing shadow of the goddess on the far side of the thin planar wall. One of their spells staggered him, another came within a hair’s-breadth of passing his defences. Time slowed. He knew the next one would come too quickly, that he would be unable to discern the pattern of the spell screaming in at him, that his attempt at dispelling it would surely fail, that the magic here was too strong.

    It was then he remembered the Heart of the Lion. Felt the similar song of dark magic within the chamber, felt his mind sink into the quickening of pure intuition, felt himself understand the currents of magic in the room as Evelios might have understood a complex chord in an instant. And his hands moved. Once. Twice. He bent time again, flickered his hands. Stopped one of the demon’s spells. Then returned it, tenfold, upon her. The demon gave a final, high-pitched shriek and imploded, blood, cloth, flesh raining down on the room, and the other’s eyes filled with fear as it felt the tide turn.

    Ariel beat her wings, again, and put the mage behind her. She heard a metallic hiss and flickered a glance back. Evelios’s rapier, gleaming like an icicle, working madly, had drawn the horned demon’s blood and cut the spiked chain it had cast at him. But its black arm lashed out, catching the bard by the throat, stilling the music that had surged through her heart and soul all these long miles. Then the music was replaced by a wolfen howl as Ragnar threw himself at the cornugon. The hammer of Elias Kharmantle arced once, swift, flaring with lightning, and she heard bones in the cornugon’s shoulder crack as the maul’s head impacted. Evelios fell from the demon’s limp hand.

    But the creature used its scream of pain to mask its movement. And having given all his strength to one strike, Ragnar did not have time to recover.

    The blow drove Ragnar’s head clean across to one side, and she heard another audible crack. The force behind the cornugon’s strike sent the barbarian sailing across the chamber – and through one of the gleaming rivers of energy. It sizzled hungrily at his form, the smell of burnt hair billowing sickeningly through the room, but he did not scream, did not scream because his back was likely broken already, and then he was through it, and then he thudded into the far wall, and the noise was that snap and crunch of ribs shattering on impact. Elias’s hammer fell to the floor with a deep-throated clang.

    The cornugon turned to look for Evelios.
    It met Legeia.
    The icicle of its blade drove clean through its chestplate, in silence, and it did not have the chance to scream before the weapon’s enchantment stilled its heart.

    Ariel beat her wings, one more time, eyes streaming with tears, mouth aloud in a wordless scream, and she plunged into a dive, a death dive, Sulsalka before her, the weapon gathering force. The figure before her was the one at the centre of the dais, clad in nothing but loincloth, dragonscale glittering, and Azarr Kul opened his hands to meet her charge.

    His right hand, open, weaponless, palm upraised, met the killing swing of Sulsalka’s strike.
    The greatsword broke.
    Shards of glasteel tumbled, glittering in the chamber’s perverse light. Though she managed to hold onto the weapon, there were perhaps ten inches of blade were left above the crossguard. Azarr Kul’s hand was unmarked and drawing back into a fist.

    And before she could check her momentum, he moved his other hand. Again, palm raised and open, as unarmed as a serpent and just as fast. Something red exploded in her cheek and she was on the ground, blood pouring from her mouth. She tried to clear her wings but he drove a clawed, scaled foot down on the left axillar, and again a red burst of pain went off in her head as she heard delicate avariel bone snap. Through the shriek of pain she sensed him raising his foot again, and she managed to move, and this time he only caught the horn that she had carried on her belt all these long miles. It fared no better than her blade, shattering under his heel.

    Then he had his arms around her and was hauling her up with impossible strength, clutching her to his chest in a vile embrace, fists locking together somewhere between her shoulderblades, his scales cutting her with dozens of small wounds. Her arms were pinioned in front of her and there was no escape from the grapple; Sulsalka’s hilt she could bring to bear on her own leg, but could not raise it against him.

    And then he squeezed, contracting his muscles, bringing to bear the unholy strength that only a goddess of five dragons could give her favoured servant. She felt her ribs flex under his impossible strength; tried to counter with her own, felt her own muscles scream, overstressed.
    You could not have stopped me,” he whispered. His breath reeked of orange and bitter herbs. His lips were as close to her as Zanaek had ever been. “The incantation ends. But you bring a perfect final sacrifice, avariel. She will glory in the blood of a winged elf as she strides through. Now feel her embrace.

    And his arms surged, and she felt one of her ribs go, and she realised an instant before those shards of bone became traitorous daggers, piercing her heart, her lungs, her intestines that there was only one chance, that it was as simple as death. And so she turned Sulsalka’s hilt on herself, let the half-dragon’s strength aid her as she drove the shard of the blade into her own leg, and through the pain she called on Aendrie Faenya’s gift to her and channelled power down the blade and back into herself, feeling the incantation take hold—

    And she vanished from Azarr Kul’s embrace with the little cantrip William Marshall called dimensional hop.

    She reappeared directly behind Azarr Kul. He had half-stumbled forward at her sudden disappearance. Time slowed again. She ripped the shard of Sulsalka from her leg. Took one sliver of a second to aim the strike. Slapped a hand on the Champion’s shoulder. And slammed ten inches of glasteel through layers of protective magic and down into the junction between two plates of dragonscale where neck and shoulder met.

    The half-dragon arched his back, face in sudden rictus, as the avariel weapon sliced through flesh, nerve, and bone, and pricked Azarr Kul’s heart. His arms fought upward, twitching, staccatoing, as if to try and staunch the terrible wound, to call out to his goddess, but Ariel had aimed the strike expertly and he could neither get a healing hand to the terrible wound or vocalise the words of a spell.

    And then death reached out for him, and the Champion of the Kulkor Zhul collapsed to the floor of the dais as nothing more than a corpse.

    The chamber shuddered. Ariel felt her legs give out. Her wing screamed where she landed on it. The light dimmed as the five geysers of energy flickered out like so many candles, and their roaring faded like a dying storm. As one, the remaining demons in the room screamed, clutching at their eyes and hands, pulled upwards into the roiling pool of energy that flickered still at the roof, as though flung by catapults. The five images of Azarr Kul arced in the same, dreadful silhouette as the original had, and then crumbled into dust.

    Then a rending, splitting sound quelled all other noise. For one breathless instant, all of their eyes were drawn upward, to the portal. Tiamat, Dragonqueen, She Who Breathes, hung over them in her living form upon the Prime Material Plane, emerging, unfolding from the pool of energy. Five gigantic dragon heads lashed in the pool, shimmering in a myriad of colours, so many the mind blotted them out, the senses incapable of comprehending all of them. Burning heat and the rank smell of brimstone billowed into the chamber.


    Her voice thundered into their heads, inescapable, inevitable. It was a voice that commanded worlds to spin, destroyed worlds with a whisper.

    All is lost, Ariel felt herself thinking, lying drained on the dais, unable to look away from five pairs of eyes that burned with eternal, limitless hate. This is her hour. We have failed.


    The five heads reared in triumph … the pool of energy wavered, flickered, and went out. And with a roll of thunder and a snap Ariel could feel in her soul, as the Weave reasserted control, as the walls between the planes healed and rebuilt themselves, the roof of the chamber was empty of goddess and pool alike. And the only lights left in the room the radiance pulsing from Zanaek’s own form and the cool, eternal light drifting in the eternal snowfall of Skadi’s blade.

    The roof shrieked; creaked. The roll of thunder came again; was taken up by deeper, basso, answering rumbles from deeper in the mountain.
    “It’s going to come down!” Ariel heard William shouting. “Quickly, gather round!”
    She found enough strength to turn over. Then enough to get to her feet. Then Skadi was next to her, shimmering with Tyr’s blessings, and the woman all but hauled her to her feet. The pain of her wing and her jaw was immense, but she was remembering---something---

    She remembered. Looked that way. Evelios was already there: next to Ragnar’s form, which had slumped at the wall of the chamber. In Winterfall’s pale light she could make out the dark stains over the northman’s lips.

    Evelios sheathed Legeia, biting his lip, began to look for a relatively undamaged place to put his arms under Ragnar’s broken shoulders---
    Leave me,” the whisper came, even above the growing rumbling somewhere above and all around them.
    “No,” said the bard. His eyes were clear. “I’ll get Zanaek. Or Skadi. You’ll be feeling fine in no time—”
    No time,” the northman echoed. His voice was a broken basso crawling over rubble. “Can’t lift me. Can’t feel my legs. Arms.
    “I’m not going to—”
    Skald.” The barbarian did not grab at Evelios’s trembling limbs. Could not have raised a hand to do so. “It’s all right.
    Evelios willed his hands to stop shaking. The walls of the chamber were already trembling. “No—”
    A song.” The first, cart-sized rock tore free of the roof with an agonised scream and shattered into powder across the room. “A song for me, spellskald. A song!

    “Evelios!” Mazarun’s voice vaulted the growing noise of the chamber collapsing. A flickering glance revealed him with Corrath over his shoulder, halfway to the questionable shelter of the alcove and William Marshall’s rapidly increasing ring of companions. “Come on!”

    The bard cupped his hands around Ragnar’s coarse, whiskered face, memorised the colour of the man’s eyes, and breathed in the man’s smell, from his sweat to the copper smell of his bloodstained lips to the foreign, lingering scent of the north. Then he broke his heart into pieces and turned and ran for the alcove.
    Voices were around him. Zanaek’s, above all. What are you—Ragnar’s still—
    He bowed his head, letting the tears come. The rumbling of the cavern became a scream of stone as the chamber’s egg shape finally gave way to the unimaginable weight and pressure upon it---

    But William’s voice was louder still, incanting words the bard forgot as soon as he heard them, and an instant later the screaming of thousands of tons of rock collapsing in upon itself was replaced with the snap of air pushed aside---

    ---and the near-sepulchral quiet of Cathedral Square in Brindol as they teleported the length of Elsir Vale, back to the city they had defended.

    Only the most brave of eagles in the Wyrmsmoke Mountains witnessed what happened next: as the Fane of Tiamat, wounded at its heart, collapsed in upon itself in a rumbling, thundering avalanche that changed the face of the mountainside into which it was cut, consuming guilty and innocent alike. And it is said that day that the Five Smoking Peaks in those mountains rumbled as if birthing, and the clouds of sulphurous gas they produced that plagued the bare vales of the Wyrmsmokes from thence forward drifted into the air, free of Tiamat’s choking influence at last. But they, and the ruined face of the mountain where the Fane once stood, were cursed places, and steered around by all passerby in those rude places.

    But as for the Company of the Crescent Flame, their quest was ended.
    Elsir Vale, and the Forgotten Realms, were safe.

    TAG: Any or all, with one epilogue from the chronicler to come
  23. Ramza

    Ramza Administrator Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP

    Jul 13, 2008
    Evelios D'Rtan and Poe The Raven, Back for One Last Bow
    Sometime Shortly Thereafter

    “Evelios D’Rtan?”

    The bard cocked his eyebrow and turned to face the voice that had just addressed him. It was not one of his (He supposed now former) traveling companions, not a resident of the Elsir Vale, not even a citizen of the Realms.

    It was, instead, a man - one he had figured he would never see again, not after the voices had stopped. Certainly, he never expected to see him here, on a quiet country road, in the real world. “Ramza.”

    “Not going to lunge at me this time, I hope?” the man asked, scratching his hair. The bard shook his head.

    “No. At this point, I’m just tired. Tired of fighting, tired of losing friends, tired of this endless gauntlet of mental and physical suffering you’ve inflicted upon me. I need rest. I’m going to return this damned magic stick and then I’m going home to Lia. Just give Poe and I a few weeks before you send us on another damn fool excursion, is all I ask.”

    “Yes, well, that’s what I’ve come to talk to you about. I’m kind of… well, I’m not breaking the rules to be here, per se, but… uh… See, I really enjoy Breakfast of Champions, and now that I actually have the opportunity, I’d just like to say… you’re free.”

    There was a considerable pause.


    “Free as in… our time together is done. As in you can go your own way. As in after years of my dictating your every exploit, after years of my sweating through the details of your fights and internal conflicts, of projecting things I enjoy onto your story, of watching you grow into a character I will always look back on fondly… it’s all yours now. Yours to own.”

    “So I have free will.”

    “Hard to say. Does anyone? I don’t know the answer to that question. But whatever you have, it’s not me. Just, uh, don’t say ‘make me young,’ you’re younger than me now. … God, when I started this you were the older one. Funny how that works.”

    “Well then… thank you, I guess.” Evelios was surprised when the man embraced him.

    “It’s a little stupid to get all sentimental, and it’s just a pretendy funtime game, but I’ll miss you, you silly, silly bard. Live a great life.”

    Smiling slightly, Evelios hugged him back. As he released the man, he replied:

    “I will.”

    “Who are you talking to?” Poe asked, perched on a branch up ahead, some bread of unknown origin being dutifully consumed.

    “Ra—” The bard turned to look back at the spot where the man had stood. He was gone. “… No one. Just… thinking out loud.”

    “Not talking to yourselves, I hope?”

    “I told you, they’re all quiet now.” He took a few steps forward. “Come on, we’ve got a magic wand to deliver.”

    “Think they’ll ever come back?” Poe asked, fluttering over to the bard’s shoulder. Evelios shook his head, and glanced up at the blue sky overhead.

    “Nah. Plum ran out of things to say.“

    “It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done.“ -- Kurt Vonnegut
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  24. Ktala

    Ktala Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Sep 7, 2002
    Ariel Elandinai
    Another Time

    Ariel was silent, as she stood tall upon a high perch. Her Arael'sha was not too far away, but she had excused herself to a few moments to be alone.

    It was over.

    So much had changed. The Company of the Crescent Flame was no more. They had manged to complete their task. But not without cost. They had lost so many companions during the quest with Ragnar, the wild barbarrian being the last to fall. Ariel had lost Sulsalka as well. But she did not complain. Sulsalka had done its job well. But at least it managed to complete its last task. Ariel gritted her teeth as her wing moved, still feeling a bit tender. Her Arael'sha and she had also undergone changes. No longer was he the fresh faced youth she had met what felt like a lifetime ago. No, their journey had changed him. His eyes beheld a new look in them. He had grown, as she had. A few more white hairs, meant nothing to her, except to make him look even more handsome.

    She sighed softly, looking off into the direction of her Zanaek. They were here to rest and heal. And then...? Ariel had teased the group, with the items they had found from the old ruins, they could stay. Even have their own castle. But she had no intentions of staying within the vale. No, the cool winds of the north were strongly calling to her now.

    Ariel would return to the gleaming white towers of home. But only briefly. There was much of the outside world left to see. And now she had someone to explore them with as well. With a quiet blessing of thanks to the Winged Mother, she fluttered down from her perch, and with a quiet smile, headed off to join her Arael'sha, dissapearing into the woods of the fae.


    Thanks for the journey.
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  25. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000

    This is the Company of the Crescent Flame, in the end: survivors all, aged years in weeks, now resting, now mourning, now alive as never before and never again.

    I would have you see them this way: see them very well. For soon they will be lost to us: no matter how long we have known and loved them, no matter how real and eternal they seem, no matter how beautifully the light from the hearth dances in their eyes as we now look upon them, we are losing them even as we speak. The moment is coming. Soon they will rise from their seats, shoulder their packs, open the waiting door, step onto a road that lies beyond, and will be gone forever. To where they go we cannot follow.

    Night has fallen gently on Brindol. There is no red glow on the horizon, only the clean yellow flicker of sentries’ torches as they walk unneeded patrols down quiet streets. The city will have a Celebration, in due time: the sort of official Festivity that trails a great bloodletting like a murder of crows. Kerden Jarmaath hates the idea but the Castellan Of Brindol can think of no better way to raise his people’s spirits for the long autumn and winter to come.

    There is no Celebration tonight, but there is thanksgiving. In corners, in alleys, there are gatherings: here and there, twos and threes, men who after eight hours of exhausted, dreamless sleep have awoken to realise they have passed through both death and its counterfeit. They do not cheer or carouse. The spirits of their brothers, fathers, and sons are still close by, and the city is yet empty of women and children, whose laughter alone would drown out the whispers of the dead.

    But there is thanksgiving. By no particular official decree, one inn spared the Red Hand’s onslaught of boulders has reopened. Ale has made its way down from Brindol Keep’s basements, and the place is quietly filling up as the pale moon rises and the men look for places to hide from the memories rising with it.

    There is a table in one of the inn’s corners where seven people sit. It’s a large table: one of the heavier ones, made of dried-out wanderwood old as the city itself. It took six guardsmen to drag it across the floor to the hearth, but the moment the table’s present occupants stepped through the inn’s doorway the table was moved as though it had been commanded. There are no cheers or raised cups. There is only silent eye contact and a steady, paid-for stream of ale to the table.

    Shall I tell you what these seven people look like? It seems wrong to do so. We have seen them in extremity and carousing alike, have watched them spill their blood, shed tears, give sweat, smelled their fear. We have felt hot rivers of desire pass through them, seen their rage, watched them kill, watched them care. So far as their exterior is concerned, it suffices to say that all the hurt to their exterior has been washed away by the light of Tyr and Torm, leaving only scars. The interior no one can ever heal.

    But here is our advantage: we can know their thoughts.

    Mazarun Zothyrr’s heart burns, for he lives, having passed the test, and he now knows he is ready to face another.

    William Marshall’s mind is in a clear, cool fountain somewhere in Waterdeep, where he knows he must return.

    Sa’adi Adim’s mind is on the Harpy, if indeed it ever truly left; but she is standing on its deck in a bracing seabreeze with Isak at her side, and the old man is smiling and has a warm, worn hand on her shoulder.

    Corrath’s mind drifts between buzzing excitement and crushing loss. Against all the odds, she is alive, when the Elsir War has claimed so many around her. Najos. Celbrandir. Demetrius. Durin. Mal. Alessandro, or at least his mind, though hopefully with time that wound would mend. And the last---but she is alive. And free. And has an open road ahead of her.

    Zanaek and Ariel’s minds are with one another, so obviously that the other five people do not have to see their hands are clasped together under the table. They shelter under their love against the grief that is so near, but it is so much more than that.

    Evelios D’Rtan’s mind is silent. The mad choir in his head sings no more, heads bowed. The silence is new, and unfamiliar, and disconcerting; but in honour of his friend, Ragnar Ingvarsson, he endures it.

    At no physical signal, these seven people look at one another. There are no words. They lift wine glasses, tankards, cups, water glasses to one another, and take a long drink together.

    Of their trails, we can only see glimpses, as of where a road rises over a hill before the last descent into shadow and vanishing on the horizon.

    Ariel and Zanaek will leave the Vale together, travelling north to where snow gleams as diamond and white towers sing on silver mountainsides. There will be many other places they see in the Realms. And where he and his elven wife go, hope and light will spread and burn like fire on a marsh. Eventually, as for all of us, there will be both life and death. Ariel will see death close her husband’s eyes. Her only comfort will be their image in the faces of their half-elven children standing with her when he goes to meet his god at last. Zanaek will find no fear in this, for as the grey in his hair slowly spreads, he will see his god more clearly and with ever more love.

    William will return to the Blackstaff Tower. When death and darkness and chaos comes to Waterdeep, he will be there; he will stand, and for a man of the Tower, that is all that is asked or desired in the end.

    Mazarun will go with William, for a time; but when they reach Waterdeep, their paths diverge. Mazarun will walk into the shadows of Skullport and thence into the limitless shadows of the Underdark. He will not return.

    Skadi will remain in the Vale. Skadi is custodian of the chapel to the Triad within Brindol Keep, and the people need her. She will hunger and thirst with the people of Elsir Vale through the long, lean winter that follows, but she will meet the coming spring as no more a wanderer but a Valeswoman and a spring of justice and discernment for a people in need. Eventually, she too will rest among the other faithful of Tyr interred in the chapel of Brindol Keep, and Elsir Vale will give her honour enough to expunge a pirate’s conscience tenfold.

    Corrath, too, will remain in the Vale. She will take the Deed to Vraath Keep, long in her pack and stained with sweat, and use Lord Jarmaath’s court to leverage herself position, sneaking through the brief window of Brindol's gratitude to be ennobled as Lady of Vraath. Where the court’s authority ends, she will use more direct means: a bloody war will erupt in Brindol’s alleyways in the summer three years hence. Neither Rillor Paln or Verassa Kaal will survive it. Corrath will cause men to die and will suffer the deaths of men loyal to her. But in her rebuilt keep, in the midst of the Witchwood, she will be happy.

    And Evelios?

    It will be the unfortunate case that, shortly after the final struggle for Elsir Vale, accounts concerning the Harper agent known as Evelios D’Rtan become riddled with contradictions. Most historical records will write of him being present at simultaneous events many hundreds of miles apart, and in at least one incident there will be eyewitness accounts to the effect of his being a member of both sides of a single conflict. Further complicating matters, his record with Those Who Harp will be long considered lost. It will be said, in some circles, that no less a figure than Elminster Aumar knows the true tale, but if that is the case the old wizard, in typical fashion, will not expound on the matter.

    In one typical case study, he will be said to have primarily relocated to the Cormanthor, to spend the rest of his days with Lia, his lifelong partner. In this account, he will successfully accomplish several missions scattered across the breadth of Faerûn, before retiring to take care of his children. He will be said to have died peacefully, in his sleep, at the age of 111.

    In another, the bard will have met his end battling on the side of a populist uprising against a tyrannical monarch. Though the precise country will be as disagreed upon as the tales of Evelios himself, it will always be agreed that he was cut down by a swarm of arrows, which were trained upon his location when it is realized that his music was spurring the rebel forces to victory. At least one account will swear that before the arrows struck, he was smiling.

    In a particularly interesting account - mostly toyed around with by others in his profession - it will be said that Evelios D’Rtan simply opened the wrong door, at the wrong time, and found himself lost amidst the infinite expanse of the planes, which he wanders to this very day. Some particularly creative minstrels will insist that he travels through time and space in a magical box, and still others will contend that he eventually settled on a planet and became a much-beloved musician under an assumed name. One esoteric scribbling will insist that he inspired his own creation, if only indirectly.

    These are but a few of the tales, histories, songs, and sagas that will be told concerning the Mad Bard of the Crescent Flame. There will be many, many more. It is possible that none of them will be the correct account, or even that they all contain a grain of the real truth. Whatever the case may be, it should be noted for posterity these common threads, which will be present in them all: His love for Lia was unwavering. The raven known as Poe was his constant companion. His choices and actions were always his own. And wherever he went, to whomever would listen, he sang the story of Ragnar Ingvarsson, whom he always described as the bravest man, and finest friend, he had ever met.

    And now the moment is come, constant reader. They rise from their seats, shoulder their packs, open the waiting door, step onto the road that lies beyond, and are gone forever. Here the Company of the Crescent Flame passes beyond their chronicler’s sight, and must go on alone.

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