The Edge of Empire

Small Signs

On the road to Moonstair

The gathered snow settled in the boughs of trees along both sides of the road. The tiny denizens of the forest fell silent at the sound of passing boots, peering inquisitively at the bruised and bedraggled Company from burrows and around trees. Hosvir’s boots cracked twigs and crunched leaves, his stride indelicate from unaccustomed weight. Angiledhel and Finn walked together, speaking in whispered tones as the elf wrapped a dressing around his burned arm. Ikar drifted slowly to the rear, serenely relaxed features a mask for what lay beneath. The winter sun cast them all in muted shades of gray, spreading pale, thin rays sparingly along the path as if to preserve a waning strength.

“Are we so diminished today,” Ikar whispered, his words barely rising above the sound of his breath as Finn’s banner flapped with an eddy of breeze, “or are you shrouding this shameful march out of mercy?”

A tiny, sharp sound draws the deva’s thoughts from his reverie and his eyes to the side. Perched atop a tree stump, a weasel sniffs indignantly at the pungent, spicy odor of Hosvir’s grisly burden. Scrambling from a shadowed nook to a hidden burrow to the sheltered overhang of a fallen trunk, she follows alongside the disheartened quartet. Seeing that the sound presages no threat, Ikar relaxes to a stop as his companions pass around a bend. Their tiny escort deftly negotiates a cluster of mud-caked branches, turnes sharply, and rushes across the path – close enough to touch – to the bushes on the opposite side.

A soft hiss and the rustle of leaves precede an eruption of motion and sound as the weasel leaps back into the path, brown fur dappled with white spots and red blood. The sinuous form of a serpent follows, drawing back to strike a moment later. The weasel circles warily, darting in and out of reach, tempting her foe to lunge.

Red scales, patterned with diamonds, ripple with motion.

Fur shifts, bunching and smoothing with the tension of muscles underneath.

The deva’s unblinking eyes follow.

In a blur of motion and flashing fangs, blood splashes across the dirt path, and a soft – but profound – crack punctuates the struggle.

The weasel drops the limp form of her foe, meeting Ikar’s gaze with an expression of mixed challenge and interest, drawing a shallow bow of homage from the deva.

“I know better,” he says dryly, “than to confront a champion in her moment of triumph.”


“…if he was that kind of guy…”

A snippet of Finn’s voice carries between the trees as Ikar passes around the bend. Hosvir trudges along to the side, engrossed in his own thoughts. Angiledhel kneels to gather some moss in his palm. A few shafts of light escape the gauntlet of gray clouds above to illuminate the Company as Finn turns at the sound of the deva’s approach. The light throws speckles of light across the priest’s muddy armor, tousled brown hair and inquisitive yet watchful expression.

The impassive mask slipping in a moment of amused recognition, Ikar smiles broadly.

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Limping Towards Moonstair

After their failed assault on the Troll King’s caves, our heroes limp back towards Moonstair, Angiledhel binds his own wounds, then falls in step next to Finn, holding small pot of salve and a strip of bandage for his companion. “Here. That cut over your eye. Put this on it.”

He slows his pace slightly, so that Hosvir with his gruesome burden of the minotaur’s head, and the Deva Ikar are out of conversational range, though not out of sight. Gil is pale, visibly shaken, more so than his injuries seem to warrant.

“I should have carried you out of there. I should have carried us all out of there, one by one, while I still held the shape of Fukurokami the Great Owl. I made a mistake, and it cost us terribly…” He shakes his head and passes a hand over his brow, grimacing in pain.

“Finn, I need to ask you something,” he says after a moment. “Do you believe the spirits of the dead can communicate with us? I know Lathander speaks to you, but… But I heard a voice just now, the one I told you about. The reason I insisted we return to Moonstair as fast as we could. My friend Elchelmon, my…” He hesitates, then says softly in Elven, “My heart star.”

Gil’s slender fingers clench protectively over the decorative hilt of his sword, then he speaks in Common again, “In twelve years I’ve heard no word from him. I don’t know how much of my past you’ve gathered, Finn, but when last I saw Elchelmon, he and I were both badly wounded, driven apart by Ingerhol’s soldiers. He was alive, but if they took him captive…” He breaks off again, storm-grey eyes not meeting Finn’s, and takes a breath, steadying himself.

“It was Elchelmon’s voice, just now, calling for help in Moonstair. It was like he was standing right beside me. Maybe he escaped. Maybe he mastered some sorcery that allows him to speak across distances. My heart wants to believe it, but… ” He shakes his head. “Something… Something isn’t right. Elchelmon’s voice said they intercepted the message we sent to Myth Dranor, but that was not our message. That message was sent by the mayor of Moonstair before we ever arrived there. Why would the answer come to me? And why was a message to Myth Dranor intercepted? The voice — Elchelmon — said he’s brought reinforcements, and that Moonstair has not yet fallen. That we had to hurry…”

His steps falter, and he stops. “Finn, I’ve seen your god work miracles, and I know he speaks to you. There are few men in this world I would trust, let alone call friend, but you are one such. You’re not the smartest man, but you… you have knowing of the nature of things.” Gil slips into Elvish again, finding no words in Common that suit his meaning.

“What do you think? What do you sense? Is this a trap, Finn?”

Finn absently applies the bandage to his forehead as he listens to Gil speak. When the elf finishes, Finn breathes out a long, slow breath before responding.

“I don’t really know what to think. Yesterday I thought we were going to kill that troll king and his army, but then he killed Goeban and kicked us out of his cave like little kids. The day before that I thought that nice barmaid wanted me to come say hi to her, but then she was asleep, so I thought it’d be better to not wake her up and play cards with her friends instead, but then the next time I saw her she was mad at me. The day before that I thought Lathandar spoke to me in my mind, but then the Oracle said it’s not Lathandar who speaks to me, it’s the banner, because it smells.”

Keeping his head down and his eyes on the road, Finn continues: “I prayed to Lathandar to make me strong enough to kill the troll king’s army, and he did, but I still couldn’t kill them all. But Lathandar can make the sun burn and move around in the sky and make crops grow and everything, so he can definitely make me strong enough to kill a troll army. So maybe I did something wrong. Or maybe I’m doing something wrong. I don’t know. But no one dead has ever talked to me—not even Father Radnic, and he’d definitely talk to me if he could, just to say hi and maybe to tell me a bit about what it’s like being with Lathandar all the time. And I thought my banner was Lathandar. It’s hard to tell who’s talking to you in your head, because you can’t see anyone’s lips move. But if someone says something that’s not what someone else would say, then you can tell that maybe the someone isn’t the someone else, you know? So if your friend Eckelman said something in your head that was wrong, maybe it wasn’t him. Or maybe he was confused; I get confused sometimes, and I say the wrong thing. Like maybe he thought the message was yours even though it wasn’t, or maybe he meant, ‘your message’ like ‘the message you guys care about’ or something like that. But it is weird that after such a long time he wouldn’t even say something like, ‘Hi, Gil! Guess who this is? It’s Eckelman! I’ve really missed you!’ Or was he not that kind of guy?

“Plus, that troll king said he’d already wrecked Moonstair, and he said we didn’t have to listen to him about not fighting if we got to Moonstair and it was still OK. So I hope it’s still OK, but that troll king really didn’t seem to think it was.

Finn finally looks up at Gil: “So maybe it’s a trap. Yeah, it’s probably a trap. But in a way, that’s OK. Because we would have probably died in that cave back there if the troll king hadn’t kicked us out, so even if we die up here in a trap we’re not really any worse off. So if it’s not a trap, then maybe your friend Eckelman is OK, and so is Moonstair, and we can save Moonstair and kill the troll army and the troll king. And even if it is a trap, at least we got to walk back to Moonstair together and talk and stuff before we die.”

Gil meets Finn’s gaze, steady and searching, holding somberly still a long moment. Then he smiles wryly as if he has reached some conclusion. “Okay. But let’s not die if we can help it, Finn.” He sets into motion again, keeping to an easy pace to match his human companion’s. “Elchelmon was definitely the sort of guy who would have said hi, if he could have, but… When I knew him he was no sorcerer, but when he knew me I was no druid. Maybe something has changed. Maybe the Troll King lied. Maybe Moonstair yet stands.”

Slanting elven eyes study Finn, seeing mismatched armour, toussled, unwashed hair, blood-stained, bruise-marked cheeks dark with stubble. Seeing a light about Finn that seems to come from within despite the rough exterior. A light and a shadow, and maybe it is just fatigue and injury playing tricks with Gil’s vision, but… “I don’t think you’re doing it wrong, Finn. The gods… Gods sometimes give strange answers to prayers. Maybe Lathander didn’t want us to defeat the Troll King and his army. It’s hard to understand what a god wants sometimes. Although the Oracle was probably right about your banner not being Lathander. It speaks for Lathander, maybe, but Lathander is surely bigger than a piece of cloth. ” He glances up at the overcast sky, shivers, and pulls his cloak closer about him.

“I think the gods right now must want us to be cold. Or maybe the gods want to see those trees covered in snow. Or to hide the—” He breaks off, noticing something on the ground and swiftly kneels to retrieve it. When he stands he groans, holding his aching side. “Maybe the gods wanted me to find this. It’s fevermoss. Good for healing bruises.” He cups a brownish, velvety curl of moss he’d scraped from the ground in a creased, scar-marked palm and holds it out for Finn to see, before he stows the bit of moss away in a belt pouch.

“The gods — Lathander, Ereval Illesere, maybe some other gods we don’t even name — brought us to know one another, after all. Brought us this far. Maybe the gods are still on our side.”

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The Running of the Bull

Gil and Ikar returned from their adventure and deposited Orin safely with Mama Nettles and Cher Nettles. They welcomed him home with an odd sort of calm, then Cher Nettles issued a cryptic suggestion that they visit the stables where Goeban was staying.

So to the stables they went, only to find Pria, not Goeban. Gil aggressively questioned Pria regarding her presence there and Goeban’s absence, but learned nothing. Instead, he lay in wait and followed Pria as she snuck into the night, via the path into the mountains.

Gil and Ikar followed Pria for hours, far into the mountains. They watched as she reached her destination, where the mountain path comes to the high headwaters of the Greyflow River. They watched her look around, failing to find whatever it was she sought. They watched her wander onward on the path upriver toward Moonstair.

The three of them, each in turn, came upon the scene of a massacre, as a few large and disgusting trolls stood over the carcasses of freshly-killed horses and humans, and one wounded minotaur.

Gil and Ikar rushed forward behind Pria, and the battle was begun.

Meanwhile, back at the Scepter Tower, as Gil and Ikar were leaving to follow Pria, Finn entered his room after a long day and found that he had a female visitor: Lady Saharel the Oracle of the Scepter Tower!

They spoke for a bit. The Lady was impressed that Finn asked for nothing from her. She explained to Finn that, while The Standard of the Morninglord that he carries might share his values and his love for Lathander, the Standard is not, in fact Lathander himself.

Then she warned Finn that his friends would soon be in trouble, that they’d taken the mountain path, and that he should get Hosvir and follow them.

Finn did just that, and hit the trail only minutes after Gil and Ikar. He and Hosvir trailed behind them, too far back to catch up, but arrived in time to see the last of the trolls fall before the combined onslaughts of Ikar, Gil, and a Pria-revived Goeban.

A quick and frank discussion revealed that Pria and Goeban had intended to run away to Moonstair together. Before this notion could be further explored, Gil noticed a note on one of the fallen riders’ bodies. It read:

Brave and honorable Baron Perenon,

I truly regret that I must send you a multitude of terrible news. May I state in advance my sympathies, and tell you that I, too, am aggrieved by the dreadful events that seem to never stop in these times.

Firstly, I must inform you that your son, Etheran, fell in battle against the trolls. He fought bravely to protect the people of Moonstair, making several expeditions into the Trollhaunt and slaying many of the beasts, but he was defeated before he could find the Troll king. A troll warrior delivered to our town a token proving your son is dead, and declaring the intentions of Skalmad and his “kingdom,” which he calls Vardar.

Regrettably, your ancestral sword was lost as well. We believe it to now be a trophy of the Troll King.

The trolls seem to be even more set on destroying our town, and we believe they will attack quite soon. I am grateful to you for your help so far, but times are desperate, and I humbly request troops to defend us. We’ve requested aid, via the Moon Door, of elves of Myth Drannor, but they require time. Even if you send help immediately, I fear our town will be destroyed before any help arrives.

May the gods favor us and this letter reach you in time. I hope this is not the last you hear from the people of Moonstair.

Kelana Dhoram, Mayor of Moonstair

The Company resolved to travel on to Moonstair and learn more of what transpired. Angiledhel attached a separate note to the note he had found, explaining that the original bearer was found slain by trolls and giving the date, then he summoned an owl to fly the note onward to Baron Perenon’s man, Captain Wellborne, in the Keep on the plain below the Scepter Tower.

And so it was that, on the fateful evening of Uktar 2, 1479, a runaway Minotaur, an infatuated tribal healer, and the Company of the Scepter Tower wiped the snow from their boots inside the town of Moonstair.

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Jack is Back

In the Chamber of the Jade Eye, Ikar and Angiledhel met K’hthel, dragonborn scholar assigned by Baron Perenon to travel to the Keep with Captain Wellborne, study the chamber, and assess its dangers.

His work to this point had mostly consisted of reading old tomes and making various magical attempts to find some clue as to the nature of the chamber.

Gil was able to use the Kala’s Spyglass given to him by Kala himself, Gil’s Glithzerai friend from the Plains of Rust, to view the otherwise undetectable portal that stood on the chamber’s far wall, and even to see through the portal to the other side.

Through the glass, beyond the portal, Gil perceived the Otherworlder, along with the two other beings: Orin Nettles, son of Mama Nettles, pulled by the Otherworlder into his prison when Hosvir and the others defeated him months ago; and Jack Jones aka Moonflower.

Their feelings about Jack Jones aside, the pair decided to rescue Orin, if they could. Using the spyglass, Gil was able to read the instructions around the portal for its activation. By this means, the pair and their Dragonborn ally entered the Otherworlder’s prison.

They found the Otherworlder immobilized by waves of solid energy, along with Orin and Jack Jones. In freeing Orin, they broke the emitter that created the energy and freed Jack and the Otherworlder.

A fight ensued, and was surprisingly one-sided, as the Otherworlder fell to repeated attacks from the others. After a brief battle, the legendary horror called the Otherworlder died, starving, in his prison.

The dust had barely settled from the battle when the Dragonborn scholar laid his hand on Jack Jones and stated: “This one is coming with me.”

The Dragonborn explained that he worked for an ancient White Dragon whose name was irrelevant. Apparently, years ago, Jack Jones had run afoul of this Dragon, while simultaneously impressing the Dragon with his sardonic wit and irreverent humor.

The White Dragon saw an opportunity to punish Jack Jones for his impertinence while also using Jack Jones’s talents against the Dragon’s own enemies, especially the family in charge of House Azaer.

So, for years, Jack Jones has unknowingly worked for the Dragon. The way it worked was this:

Jack Jones could go about his life, but would be transported, without warning, to a place of the Dragon’s choosing, and enthralled to do the Dragon’s bidding.

Usually, this involved publicly insulting or humiliating House Azaer—crashing their funerals, embarrassing their elders, deflowering their virgins, that sort of thing; dangerous work that made Jack hated and hunted all over Faerun.

The Dragon did show one bit of mercy: When the job was done, if Jack lived, he was transported back to the site of his object of greatest desire. Unfortunately for Jack, the object of his greatest desire was always just that: an object. Most recently, a singing sword that fell into the portal Hosvir created to imprison the Otherworlder.

So, when Jack finished up his last mission for the Dragon, he was transported to the singing sword…inside the Otherworlder’s prison, and was trapped there, unreachable by the Dragon’s magic as long as the energy barrier that held the Otherworlder remained intact.

So the Dragon pulled some strings to have his Dragonborn agent assigned to the Keep. And the gambit paid off when Gil and Ikar decided to free Orin.

Through his servant, the Dragon expressed his appreciation to Gil and Ikar for freeing his agent, Jack Jones. In his gratitude, he offered Gil and Ikar a choice: allow Jack Jones to continue in the Dragon’s service, and gain the Dragon as an ally OR take custody of Jack Jones and continue to live beneath the Dragon’s notice.

Gil and Ikar consulted with Jack Jones and it was agreed that Jack Jones would continue in service to the White Dragon, indefinitely.

Gil and Ikar returned to the Scepter Tower with young Orin in tow.

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A Keep to Charge I Have

With Hosvir obsessed with securing his lab and the Jade Eye against further intrusion, and Finn and Crexis working hard to build the temple, the work of the Company fell to Angiledhel.

For Gil, this meant tying up a particularly vexing loose end regarding the Otherworlder.

For a thousand years, Gil reasoned, the Jade Eye was stored in the Keep just north of the Scepter Tower, and down on the plain below. From this spot, the Jade Eye kept the Otherworlder imprisoned behind a portal. This was the Eye’s only use until the ancient wizard Skoulus, the Otherworlder’s lieutenant recently returned from the dead, attempted to revive his old master by taking the powerful jewel.

Since the Company defeated the Otherworlder, pushing it into an otherdimensional space Hosvir created using the Jade Eye, Gil’s worry had been that their victory was not complete. To have the Otherworlder’s prison truly secure, Gil reasoned, the Jade Eye must be returned to the Keep.

Naturally, Hosvir did not agree. But Gil decided to venture to the Keep and examine the place where the Eye was kept.

Ikar accompanied Gil, having vowed not to leave Gil’s side until the matter of the assassins from Myth Drannor was solved. They made the brief journey to the Keep, only to find the flag of Waterdeep flying above it, indicating that the Keep was now the property of the large city-state of Waterdeep, far to the southwest.

Gil used his reputation and that of the neighboring Scepter Tower to gain audience with the Captain of the Guard newly in charge of the Keep, one Captain Wellborne, who approached the interlopers with a mixture of condescension and suspicion.

Captain Wellborne explained that he was sent by his superior, Baron Perenon, to station his troops at the Keep in order to reinforce and maintain it as a bulwark against an attack from the North—a last defensible position far from Waterdeep in case Netheril decided to invade.

After some debate, including a few threats from the Captain involving the future of the Scepter Tower and Spellguard, Captain Wellborne was persuaded to allow Gil and Ikar to inspect the chamber where the Jade Eye did its work of containing the Otherworlder, lo those many centuries.

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Heavy the Head

Having disappeared from the Loudwater area after fighting the Otherworlder, then having disappeared from the Prime Material Plane after an explosion in the Seven-Pillared Hall, the Company had been missing for months and were presumed dead.

Their return to the Scepter Tower was cause for celebration, and they were welcomed as heroes.

It wasn’t long before they were embroiled in local politics.

Goeban, the minotaur who accompanied Mama Nettles back to Spellguard, had no experience with human society. Crexis (the gnome who had caught a glimpse of Hosvir’s lab as he accompanied Hosvir and Finn home after their adventures in the Abyss) approached Goeban about what was in the lab, encouraging him to try to find out.

Goeban finds out immediately by breaking into Hosvir’s lab and gravitating right to the Jade Eye, where the entire population of the tower is shocked to discover a powerful connection between Minotaurs and the Eye. Using the Minotaur’s very life essence, the Eye activates, temporarily, displaying a three-dimensional map of the cosmos in Hosvir’s lab. Hosvir angrily demands justice for the minotaur’s break-in.

Finn learns that there are dozens of pilgrims waiting to see him, believing that he is the head of the Church of Lathander, due to his possession of the Standard of the Morninglord. He’s soon involved in the planning of a temple to Lathander, with Crexis as his architect.

Dozens of others have come to seek the counsel of the Oracle or the assistance of the Company, including Pria, a native from the primitive tribes who still wander the vast plain to the north of the Tower that separates the area from Netheril.

Hosvir, Angiledhel, and the other surviving original members of the Company are asked to join the Council of Spellguard to help deal with the day-to-day operations of the village: Taxes, property disputes, treaties with nearby city-states, etc.

The first Council meeting they attended featured items ranging from the tedious (disputes about supplier contracts for the ongoing improvements to the Spellguard area) to the contentious (a difficult argument about what to do with Goeban), to the deadly (the last person requesting an audience turned out to be an emissary from Myth Drannor asking if Angiledhel was indeed the eponymous treasonous coward who escaped Myth Drannor after an attempted coup. A fight ensued, ending with the emissary’s death).

Each member of the Company grew busy with his own affairs, as the businesses of building a new temple, understanding the Jade Eye, and dealing with issues from the past overwhelmed each in turn.

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Return to the Scepter Tower

Each member of the company, in time, found a way to return to his home plane and to the Scepter Tower.

Gil returned via the “Moon Door,” a portal in the nearby town of Moonstair, where he befriended the Deva known as Ikar, who claimed to have been created with the memories of Samir. Ikar came with dire warnings involving the goings-on in Gil’s homeland.

Hosvir’s connection to the Jade Eye led him to return to his chamber in the Scepter Tower, Finn and Crexis in tow.

Mama Nettles, having witnessed the disappearance of the Company at the Seven-Pillared Hall, returned to the Scepter Tower through more conventional means: a covered wagon containing Goeban, a minotaur she’d found wandering in the caverns after the disastrous events there.

They returned to find that their absence had been quite long, and the environs had changed quite a bit:

  • The Oracle now appeared somewhat regularly to people, on the condition that they served some time in service to the Tower or the Monastery.
  • A village of sorts has sprung up around this proposition. With people coming from everywhere to spend some time in service and have their audience with the Oracle, serving those people with food, drink, and supplies has become a sustainable business proposition. The village is called Spellguard.
  • Corvyr has become Captain of the Guard at Spellguard. Lo’Kag has become lead guardian of the Scepter Tower. Sister Cherra runs the small shrine for the devout to meditate and pray.
  • Allendi chairs the Council of Spellguard, a small governing body that operates the village.
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Pebbles, and the Resulting Rockslide

Myth Drannor, earlier this year

Leaves abound in the City of Song, all the colors of autumn contesting as the wind swirls them about the feet of elves unhurriedly making their way across the city. Riotous oranges and reds compete to drown out reserved browns each time the wind unsettles the city’s leafy seasonal carpet.

“… the evergreens seem to belong most of all.”

In the midst of the motion and chaos, a tall figure, more slender than even the elves, moves seemingly without deliberation or forethought around the square. The Deva stepped without touching a single leaf, and a careful observer would note he did so with his eyes closed.

“Surrounded by change and movement, so casually unaware of the passage of time. They rest at the center of a great circle that returns to its place of origin time and again. So like your people, so like their City. Don’t you think so?”

Arenwen flared hot in response, “I certainly hope not! The trees are passive, immobile… and the world needs action! The People cannot stagnate, Ikar, lest we fall again, as we did in the Weeping War, this time with no hope of return!” As the refined tones of courtly Elvish strained to contain her tempestuous passions, she gestured emphatically with a clenched fist, “We must expand our holdings and undo the errors of the past while we can. Our opportunities are not infinite!”

The soft thump of her fist striking her palm amidst the hushed silence sent a handful of birds up from their perches above. Passing eladrin barely veiled disapproving glares at what was, by the standards of the Court, an explosive outburst. Sunlight worked its way through the now abandoned branches to dapple his skin with its light. Alternating patterns of purple and chalky grey stood in sudden contrast.

Properly chastened, she continued in a whisper, “We are not all destined for unending rebirth.”

A dozen breaths passed. The first of the birds settled back into the branches.

“Perhaps you are.”


Later in the season, a crier declares news at the estates of Ingerhol

“The exile – the illegitimate Angiledhel, of the dissolute House of Findwallae – is known now to be dead. Those brave and skillful elves who took part in the pursuit to bring the criminal to face justice shall be rewarded by our Lord Ingerhol as befits….”

“The people welcome this news, my Lord. Your son’s patrimony is further secured with the death of the pretender.”

Ingerhol’s snort seemed incongruously dwarven coming from his svelte elven frame. “You are a skilled wizard and wise counselor. I will say what you think but cannot utter aloud – that my son was never concerned for Angiledhel, except that Arenwen would use the boy’s corpse as a stepstool to surmount him in the succession.”

The smooth glide of wood on fitted wood interrupts their council. A door opens, and an unmistakable figure glides forward in silence.

“I wonder why you use doors at all.”

“You called me to see you, Lord Ingerhol. I am bound to attend to your request.”

“That is not what I meant and you know it perfectly well, Ikar. It is a wonder my daughter is able to benefit from so many answers that are not answers.”

“She benefits a great deal, and is more talented than she herself knows in perceiving hidden truths. Her progress would be even greater, but she is distracted of late.”

A knowing smile creased the corners of Ingerhol’s mouth at the oblique criticism. “You believe that by directing her training to preparing for this pursuit, it has been impaired before this news. I should have let her grow into her own sky, perhaps?” His impression of the Deva was practiced enough to draw a raised eyebrow in response.

“Walking in a straight line, placing one foot ahead of the other with each step, she will reach a destination.”

“Exactly…”

“… but will she ever dance?”


Later in the evening, in the Lords counsel chamber.

“Repeated divinations – mine, and that of priests of the temple – reveal no new information. Angiledhel is not alive. That much is certain. He is also not dead. That is clear as well, my lord.”

Ingerhol’s brow furrowed as he considered his vizier’s confusing answers. “That makes no sense. How is it possible – he is no wizard to cloak himself against so many rituals.”

“He may not have met his end – whatever it is – on this plane. We can make contact with otherworldly creatures to seek more knowledge,” the vizier hurried his words as he saw displeasure cloud Ingerhol’s features, “I do not suggest demonology, unfit for any elf, and banned in the City as it should be. I would recommend a more subtle approach, calling upon the substance of the Chaos, hoping to draw knowledge from creatures that passed away under its influence. I doubt we will find any specific information, but there is a small chance that some being acquainted with Angiledhel passed away recently enough.”

“If only all his companions found that fate sooner, we wouldn’t have had to spend years pursuing him. Perform the ritual, let us see what we can learn.”

“Very well my lord, although I suspect the most likely result is no result at all.”


The next evening, as the ritual is completed.

Bare wooden walls frame what is the closes thing to a perfectly round room in a building created from a living tree. The walls are unadorned except for four hooks, evenly spread across the wall. Two identical robes frame the objects that dangle from the East and West hooks. A suit of embroidered leather armor occupies the North hook, with the arms folded to rest at precisely identical angles. On the South hook, an unadorned scabbard hangs by the exact midpoint of its belt.

A single pallet occupies the floor, on which a painfully slender figure rests in perfect immobility. The tiniest degrees of movement by his ribs indicate that he draws breath. He produces no other sound or movement, as the faintest wind stirs the chamber, bearing the ozone smell of a storm expending its last.

And the sleeper, awakens.

“I have to find you first.”

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Scattered

Gil, Hosvir, and Finn passed through the Elemental Chaos and fell into the Abyss, each awaking in a different plane.

In his own words, Gil tells of his time on the Plains of Rust.

Finn awoke as a slave in the City of Brass, working to construct a large meeting hall. Separated from his Deity, Finn was without his power. Each day, they would wake early to work and work until late at night. He was befriended by a gnome, Crexis, who was something of a “foreman” among the slaves, though still a slave himself. They were watched over by a Minotaur slave-driver and a strange humanoid creature of crystal kept high in a cage far above the construction site.

Finn was able to realize that the crystal creature was keeping their minds weak and subjugated, with help from headbands that each slave was forced to wear, but had no idea what to do about it. One night, with help from Crexis, they were able to sneak from their barracks. Finn found a storage room, where the slaves’ items were kept. There, his banner told him “Spread my name among these people”.

So Finn began talking about Lathander and about his own faith. A measure of his power returned, possibly from his time with the banner or possibly from the faith of those around him. In time, he was able to use his power to heal those injured on the site.

Many days’ hard work later, it was revealed that the meeting hall they were building was actually a temple to Shar. Since worship of the gods is forbidden in the City of Brass, the building of the temple was being done in secret. The slaves who built it were to be killed.

Hastily, Finn, Crexis, and others staged an uprising. They managed to escape their barracks and take to the streets. They found an underworld sort who was willing and able to remove their headbands, for a price. The price, however, was too high.

Fortunately for them, Hosvir showed up, fresh from his own adventure, about which he has said very little. It is known only that he no longer carries Yamin in tow, is no longer deformed, and is no longer blind.

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Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

In the green fields outside a peaceful halfling village on the surface

The great bronze statue lies broken in the dirt, half buried and covered with here and there with lichen and vines, having long since fallen from its post over the teleportation dias. Halfling children duck and find cover behind the statue, the bushes, in a ravine, as a great rush of wind bursts from the dias – the air displaced by the arrival of a bizarrely mismatched pair. A short, slender human wearing a black cloth mask drags the bruised and beaten form of a naked dwarf along the dias to the grass.

“We have arrived, it seems, at the horizon – wherever that is.”

Slowly drawing himself up to sit against the statue, Adrik pulled together just enough presence of mind to quote an ancient dwarven idiom passed down through the centuries…

“Hmph! More nonsense!”

The children peer around the legs of their parents as a small crowd gathers, Una standing in their midst, embracing his mother and reuniting with lost friends. A great babble of news and stories flow between the returning hero and the Halflings of the village…

“… a green dragon? Was it big? Were you scared uncle Una? What about the …”

“… and this is my second, hopefully at girl this time, although husbands always want boys…”

“It’s good to have you back, we could use you in town, ever since the village reeve fell ill last year it’s been one thing after another…”

“Elves and humans and dwarves and … genasi? We’ll all catch all manner of disease with anyone keeping that sort of company! I do insist that you drink your castor oil and take a milk bath at once…”

“…. yes mom, a bath and… well I might not have any castor oil on me so maybe we can wait on….”

Ussan smiled at the buzz of gossip between the village children and doting mothers. He bound Adrik’s wounds, and handed the dwarf his cloak with a cocked eyebrow, “It is the best kind of nonsense, my friend. Now put this on before you warp these impressionable children forever.”

Adrik fumbled to make use of the cloak sized for Ussan’s slender frame, finally turning it lengthwise as a – barely adequate – kilt. His bushy eyebrows knit into a single bar of hairy displeasure as two young halfling girls chuckled and pointed, “… so tight, looks just like what my sister wears when the tanner’s son comes to call…”

“Bah! You’re one to talk! Last I looked, you were looking quite grim yourself, or didn’t you notice in all the excitement,” his glare melting away as a single eyebrow rose mockingly, “that you’re still dressed like you’re here to gather all their little heads in a sack?”

Ussan peeled off the mask that marked him as a servant of the Lord of the Three Thunders. The incongruously sheepish expression on his face drew a great stream of guffawing laughter from the dwarf, drawing in the children and their parents.

“In the morning we part ways, but for tonight…to the village! For beer, meat, and a decent pair of pants!”

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