Matt Mann as Reks Relagia
Vincent Pecoraro as S’zeves V’destrii
Paul Vilbig as Borgamat Cadash
Michael Graziano as Varen Gilles
Danielle Callan as Maerlyn Zau’Ombra
Andrew Kilduff as Moon Duskbane
Christine Scott as Eilora Thalonia
Mysra’s clinic was located in a tunnel complex under Main Street in Drogynia. Mysra and her fellow healers were Current members all, but due to the underground nature of their work, they did not have access to all of the myriad resources most street-level clinics and temple priests had on hand. As Moon and Mae entered the clinic, they immediately noticed the presence of several other Drao, all of whom were quite sick. Mysra caught view of the two of them, pulling a mask down from her face, and shook her head: “Oh… this isn’t good.”
Moon quickly surveyed the room, a large triage area with beds lining the walls, and counted eight Drao in various states of suffering, not counting himself and Mae. It was the most Drao he or Mae had seen in one place since they left the Dusk settlement years earlier. Moon asked how many cases Mysra had seen beside the ten Drao in the clinic. She replied that she had treated eleven other patients within the previous two weeks, not including repeat visitors coming back for check-ups. She said with a tone of resignation that there hadn’t been any reported deaths from this disease, emphasizing the word “yet.”
She said that there were some things that could be done to help with the symptoms depending on how far the disease has progressed in the patient. She asked what Moon and Mae’s symptoms were. Mae replied that they were both experiencing nausea and fainting spells. Mysra asked if either of them were experiencing any adverse reactions to their Draoish powers, such as out-of-control levitations or fits of darkness. Upon hearing that neither of them had gotten that far into this disease, she became hopeful that there might be a chance to stave off the continued development of the disease in their early stage.
Moon noticed a Drao man in a bed constantly levitating a few inches off the bed only to drop suddenly and violently, his pained cries revealing the kind of madness such an uncontrollable symptom would certainly provoke. Another patient caught Mae’s eye, this one experiencing uncontrolled Darkness, bands of tentacle-like darkness wrapping around the patient against her will, and unlike normal, this Drao was just as affected by her Darkness powers as anyone else would be.
Mysra asked when the symptoms started for the two of them. Mae was ill the moment the S.N.S. Haiku landed at the airship docks, and while Moon had a minor headache at the time he thought innocuous at the time, he realized that he too must have fallen ill at about the same time. He usually got headaches in areas where there was an abundance of sunlight, but it wasn’t long before the headache overwhelmed him, leading to his first fainting spell. Mae asked if females were more susceptible to the disease, to which Mysra replied that there didn’t seem to be a gender or age bias. However, it seemed that cross-breeds with other races weren’t being affected by the disease. She once again used the qualifier: “yet.” Mysra was mortified that there seemed to be a disease that was affecting a specific race of people. Moon agreed that there was something going on that was unseen, a dark purpose from someone who planned this disease out. Mysra shook her head and said:
“We do have something that helps, but the problem is, we don’t have very much of it.” Moon asked what it was, to which Mysra replied: “It’s Deepseed Extract.” She brought over a vial of dark, thin fluid and handed it to Moon. She said that because the two of them were in the earliest stage of the disease, it shouldn’t take much of the fluid to stave off the symptoms or at least minimize their impact: “A drop on the tongue in the morning, and a drop on the tongue at night should keep the symptoms down. This may even prevent the disease from progressing to the later, more debilitating stages.”
One of the patients across the room began to scream in pain, the Darkness fits overwhelming him. Mysra excused herself to go check on the patient, giving Moon and Mae an opportunity to talk. Moon asked Mae if she knew who cursed the Dragons so that the whole of Wyrmshadow was poisonous to them. Mae recalled the curse well, as it was one attributed to the demons, specifically Testament. She said that Testament had been dead for 25 years, and that if he was to unleash a curse on the Drao it would likely have happened either while he yet lived or shortly after his death. Moon interjected that Testament did have minions, not the least of which was the Ebon League. Mae had no lack of hate for the demons, and neither did Moon. In fact, it was that mutual hatred that led the two of them together. Moon added that he had just as much reason to hate the Drao as he did to hate the Demons. He said that he didn’t care that this disease might wipe out the Drao race, but more that it would bring harm to Mae.
Mysra returned from her patient and Moon immediately asked her where he could get more of this Deepseed Extract. She said it is very rare. It is an extract from the seeds of the Blackroot Tree, which only grows in the Underdark. They had samples to make the small amount of extract they had, but the trees won’t grow anywhere higher than 2-3 miles underground. The Drao used to harvest Deepseed for use in tonics and potions to combat the effects of Drao-specific illnesses, and that was the only reason Mysra and her contemporaries believed the extract from the Deepseed might be helpful in combating this disease. She said it does indeed help, but it is a therapeutic agent, not a cure. Thus far, there is no cure for this disease. However, if they had more of the Deepseed…
Moon looked at Mae and said: “We have to sniff out the Ebon League somehow.” Mae nodded an agreement. One of the non-Drao patients walked up to Mae and flashed her the Current hand-gesture, to which both Mae and Moon responded in kind. The patient said that Reks Relagia sent word for the two of them to meet him at the Temple of Draconius in central Drogynia as soon as possible. Mysra left them with parting instructions not to take too much of the Deepseed Extract because, for the moment, it was all Mysra could spare for them. With that, Moon and Mae took their doses of the Deepseed Extract, a bitter, chilling liquid that left an unsavory aftertaste. They then set out to return to the streets above and make their way to the Temple of Draconius.
In the Temple of Draconius
Meanwhile, at the Temple, Reks, Auleak, and Yadykath were sharing a room whose windows faced out into the temple courtyard. Reks had just finally drifted off to sleep when a brilliant light shone through the windows from without. Reks gracefully, soundlessly crept out of his bed and skulked to the wall beside the window, lifting the curtain ever so slightly, hoping to avoid anyone outside from being aware he was casting his gaze toward them. To his surprise, it appeared that a large airship was landing in the courtyard, the lights strung along the three masts glinting in the darkness of the night, casting an ethereal radiance on the immaculate manicured temple grounds.
He could make out the presence of three individuals descending the ramp. From his angle, it was hard to get a good look at any of them, but Reks felt stealth to be more important than knowing the details. He guessed that one of them had to be Captain Tarrik Martok, as the ship certainly was waving the golden falcon symbolic of the Peregrine. Auleak suddenly sprung up behind him and asked, loudly: “What is it?” Before Reks could stop him, the uncouth barbarian tore open the curtains and stood in the center of the window, eyes wide, glaring down at the scene. Reks smiled, shook his head, and came around to stand next to Auleak, also getting a closer look at the three individuals that just descended from the ship and into the temple courtyard.
Auleak said that it definitely looked like Martok had arrived. He then exclaimed: “Holy crap, is that a Sahaugin?” It was indeed, a massive, hulking creature to which Tarrik Martok seemed to be having a conversation. The two kept looking back at the ship, Tarrik pointing at different positions of the ship, toward different crew members, the Sahaugin nodding and remarking thereafter. The two seemed to share a moment of laughter while the third person who came down with them ran playfully around the courtyard. She was a lovely young woman with brilliant green hair wearing a flowing white dress, and Reks was immediately smitten by her. She ran her fingers gently over the still waters of the courtyard’s fountain, which suddenly burst forth with a brilliant, dazzling spray of water, the tiny droplets of moisture playing against the Peregrine’s hull lighting and creating a numinous prismatic ring in the air surrounding the young woman. Reks noticed that as she ran around, the flowers at her feet seemed to bloom and move to face her wherever she went. Certainly, there was something special about this lady. Reks intended to introduce himself the first chance he got.
Tarrik seemed to be shaking his head and remarking to the Sahaugin about the girl. Auleak asked Reks if he had ever met Tarrik Martok before. Reks had not. His father, Daythin, did not get along with Tarrik, as he blamed the Captain for the loss of Reks’s mother and Daythin’s one true love, the Drao Ninja, Kurai. Reks had heard much about Tarrik, most of it through the filter of his father’s forceful opinion, and most of it bad. Reks was not so quick to judge Tarrik for the death of his mother, however. To Reks’s estimation, it was the man pulling the trigger that was to blame. Daythin, and even Vikter, it seemed, thought that every bit as much blame rested on the shoulders of the man who placed her in front of the speeding bullet to begin with. It was a point of contention that led Reks to abandon his father’s business and hit the streets of Kouten, and as a result, it was that same conflict that led Reks here, with the Current.
Meanwhile, in the room where Varen, Eilora, and Borgamat stayed, the Nomoid Avenger of Veil busied himself pacing back and forth across the creaky floorboards, much to the chagrin of Varen. The young Current rogue had barely gotten a moment’s rest due to Borgamat’s thorough disregard for the human need of a solid night’s sleep. Nomoids never slept, and some, like Borgamat, couldn’t really adjust to the eight hours of downtime his companions enforced every night.
At one point, very soon after Varen finally did manage to get to sleep, there was a knock at their chamber door. Borgamat, ever vigilant, dove noisily to the door and swung it wide open. A lovely young woman with reddish-brown hair rushed into the room, looked around, and began to dash out again. She said she had the wrong room. Borgamat called after her, asking if he could render aid, but she was pretty far down the hallway, so he really had to shout to get the message across to her.
Varen lifted his head from the pillows, glared at Borgamat’s back, and shook his head, mouthing the words “What the F&#%”. The same woman, moments later, dashed back down the hallway, passing Borgamat again going in the opposite direction. Borgamat figured the woman might have had a hearing impairment, so he was sure to be even louder this time when proffering assistance to the young woman. Varen flatly bellowed to the Nomoid, “Shut the hell UP you NOISY, INCONSIDERATE TIN CAN!”
The Next Morning
The Current members awoke to hear rapping on their doors. Paladins of the Order of Draconius were sent by the Archbishop to collect them all and escort them to the main temple shrine. S’zeves hadn’t slept through the night, enraptured by a book he had been reading, but felt no worse for the lack of sleep. The Paladin outside the door to the room S’zeves and Kelain slept in, Sir Amazarys Donegan, had been camped there the entire night. Unlike the other Paladins, Sir Donegan was curt and irritable. S’zeves had cost him a night’s sleep, and like many within the Order, the Paladin could little tolerate the young Shadar-Kai’s lack of self discipline. Kelain chuckled, because that was the very quality that made S’zeves such a great fit in the Current.
Seemingly the moment Varen drifted off to sleep, once again, there was a knock at the door. A voice called into the room. It was one of the Paladins, delivering the Archbishop’s request for their presence as soon as possible. Varen protested, saying they were supposed to have time to rest. The Paladin said that they had seven hours. Varen looked out the window, the sun was up and the birds were singing, mocking him or so it seemed.
Irritable and even more surly than usual, he blurted out to a still waking Eilora: “What the hell was that about last night?”
Eilora stood, crossing the room and taking some cool water from the washbowl into her hands. She shook her head, splashed some of the water on her face and neck, and smiled lightly, turning to face the young man: “I want to apologize for that. I had a son, roughly your age, that was taken from me when he was… very young, and there is just something about you that kind of… reminds me of him.”
Varen glared at Borgamat as the Nomoid paced right in between the two of them, quite nearly stepping on Varen’s foot in the process: “Yeah, well, it couldn’t have been me. I mean, my mom abandoned me when I was three, so… unless you want to live up to THAT identity…”
Eilora interrupted him, sitting on a tall-backed padded chair and running a brush through her long, black hair: “My son was taken from me when he was that age.”
Varen cocked his head to the side, looked off to the corner of the room, and then shook his head to clear his head. Getting less than an hour of actual recuperative rest must have been playing on his mind: “Well, you said that you knew Edriq, right?”
“Correct,” Eilora replied, placing the brush down and sliding her hair up into a tight bun on the back of her head.
“Well then,” Varen said, sliding his boots on one at a time just like anyone else thank you very much, “how did you know him?”
“He was kind of a folk hero in my youth,” she replied, suppressing a slight chuckle as Borgamat once again agitated Varen by stepping in between them. “I was young, rebellious, and he was dangerous and charismatic…”
“Yeah, well, that was my Grandfather,” Varen said. Eilora prevented herself from reacting, but her heart nearly leapt to her throat upon Varen speaking these words. She spun around to face away from Varen, feigning vanity by looking into a small mirror on the desk, but secretly, she was hiding a steady stream of tears. “Apparently, I was supposed to follow in his footsteps according to my father… if you wanna call him that. I don’t really consider my father WOULD YOU STOP STEPPING BETWEEN US, YOU GIANT, USELESS, METAL FOOL!?”
Borgamat looked at him, confused, knowing that he had been addressed, but not having paid attention to what was said.
“Never mind,” Varen said. “Just pace around over there in the corner, jackass.”
Borgamat supplied Varen with a series of hand gestures meant to imply he was going to punch Varen in the back of the head again. He then walked away from Varen and Eilora, allowing them to continue their conversation, This little altercation gave Eilora the time she needed to compose herself and hide any sign of her emotional reaction to Varen’s revelation.
“Where was I,” Varen asked. “Oh, yeah. I didn’t really think of my father as my father, but at least he stuck around a lot longer than my MOTHER did.”
Eilora knew she was about to do or say something that would likely blow up in her face. Luck was on her side, however, because the Order Paladin had returned to knock on their door once again. Varen flipped the worst imaginable hand gesture toward the door, feigning a polite tone and saying; “Yeah, we’re coming.” He then turned back to Eilora, who had her back to him, wrapping a sash around her waist with care. “Now I gotta figure out a way out of this whole ‘murder’ thing.” He rolled his eyes and walked to the door.
Borgamat crossed in front of him to grab the door handle at the exact same time. The two locked eyes and, for a moment, a tiny war was waged in their mutual distaste for one another. Soon, however, they were in the hallway with one of the Paladins of the Order, who began to slowly lead them down the twisting corridors leading to the main temple shrine. Reks, Auleak, Yadykath, S’zeves, and Kelain joined them as well. Reks mentioned that Captain Martok’s ship, the Peregrine III, had arrived at dawn’s break. Varen hesitated, but the Paladin ushered him ahead.
As the young rogue considered the ways in which he could sink the edge of his sword between the soft padded areas of the Paladin’s armor, he said that he was interested in meeting Tarrik Martok face to face. Eilora mirrored his sentiment. He remembered that when Tarrik’s name was mentioned the previous night, both he and Eilora seemed to have a similar reaction. He found it disconcerting, and shook it from his head. Lack of sleep was making him jumpy and besides, Eilora was probably just another one of Martok’s brainless admirers. She would probably shriek like a schoolgirl and beg for an autograph like all these other brainwashed tools. The thought made him smirk, but there was definitely something about this woman, something different than everyone else, something similar to him. His smile quickly faded.
As they approached the northern area of the temple, a Page approached Sir Donegan, whispering into the Paladin’s ear. The Paladin took a moment to consider the Page’s words, and then turned to Reks, asking whether they had two Drao in their group, a Moon Duskbane and Maerlyn Zau’Ombra. Reks nodded and Sir Donegan let out an exasperated sigh: “Fine, escort them into the main temple shrine as well.”
The Sending of Hector Van Houten
The heroes were reassembled once again at last, but now was not the time to discuss recent events. As they were escorted through a pair of vast cathedral doors, they entered the temple’s main shrine. This was the most visibly impressive display of faith in all of Wyrmshadow, a monument to Drogyn Martok the man, and to Draconius the god. Tapestry rugs lined the floors, depicting historic scenes in which, over and over, Sir Drogyn Martok proved his valor, overcame adversity, and brought justice to the wild worlds of old. On the walls, between towering stained-glass windows stretching hundreds of feet into the air, were more tapestries, these depicting not Drogyn Martok, but the god that came to stand among them on the deck of the original Peregrine over 45 years ago. His deeds, and those of his fellow gods, were depicted faithfully in these immense works of art.
Sir Donegan gestured for the Current members to move ahead and into the shrine, where they could see Vikter Van Drake, facing away from them, performing a rite of sending on the five bodies of the fallen Paladins who had died in the fire the previous day. The Paladins, including Hector Van Houten, were ravaged by the flames, but their armors were gleaming and new, and Hector was donning his old armor, no longer bearing the Black Shroud of the Avenger. As Vikter’s attention was turned away from them, S’zeves used the opportunity to cross the group and bring himself nearer to Reks.
He whispered to Reks that the Archbishop was aware of their involvement in the deaths of these Paladins and in the fire that covered up these deaths. As Reks was about to panic, S’zeves reassured him that everything was fine, and the Archbishop wasn’t holding them accountable for it. He said that this whole scenario was an extension of the sins of Sir Pac, and they were just defending themselves from a righteous vengeance they didn’t deserve to face. Reks gave S’zeves a puzzled look, but the young Shadar-Kai, as ever, grinned and acted like he had everything under control. Always as ever, the prospect of this impetuous young man holding their fate in his hands brought Reks little comfort, especially considering where they were at the moment, and what they were bearing witness to.
S’zeves continued: “The Archbishop spoke with me last night, and he gave me this book.” Reks took the book in hand, and he saw that the title was: “My Memories of Auriq, by Vikter Van Drake”. Reks was surprised: “He… GAVE you that book?” S’zeves nodded, and Reks asked if he could read it as well when he was done with it. S’zeves hesitated, thinking that it may reveal elements of Runometry considering the subject of the book, but then he thought twice about it. Unlike Sinystre, the author, Archbishop Van Drake, knew nothing of Runometry other than what everyone else knew. S’zeves agreed.
Borgamat was exceptionally reverent. He had much more respect for the Archbishop now that he saw how respectful the man was for following every one of Veil’s death sending doctrines and funeral rites. In a house of another god, he was pleased to see that they had equal respect for his own. It was no wonder, though. This man walked beside Borgamat’s god as well as he did his own god.
The sun was just now beginning to rise up over the horizon, immense shafts of sunlight streamed into the shrine. Motes of dust were twinkling in the air, swirling and adding further to the serenity of the place. Just then, to the contrary of all logic, it appeared that the light pouring in from outside the room began to congeal and take shape. The shape was a brilliant, stunning humanoid form with broad, gleaming wings and a large fiery halo perched overhead. It was an Angel, and the first one most of them had ever seen. Borgamat fell to one knee, so overwhelmed was he by the honor of being in an Angel’s presence.
Varen, who had gotten little sleep and was already delusional in some respects, assumed this was a figment of his imagination. However, he did ask the others: “Um… are you seeing this?” Everyone confirmed that they were indeed. Moon Duskbane and Maerlyn Zau’Ombra were no strangers to Angels, as they fought alongside them during the final moments of the Shadow War. They were not as awestruck as the others, but perhaps the most moved was young S’zeves V’destrii. This young man came from a world where the gods and Angels were all dead, and now, S’zeves had actual physical proof of the return of the gods, right in front of him. He was, however, also a bit creeped out by it as well. Everything in this world was so saccharin, so nice, that it seemed anathema to his world-weary sensibilities. He scanned the shrine for any sign that Vespa Tigh was in there with them to see the Angel and Hector’s sending, but the presence of the divine being was so captivating that he couldn’t concentrate long on the search for her.
Eilora, also, had never laid eyes on an angel before. However, there was something about this experience, the warmth and the light given off by the angel, which was so familiar to her.
The angel nodded to Vikter and smiled toward him. The Archbishop grew a warm smile of his own, looking down and closing his eyes. It walked over to the bodies, one by one, its feet hovering inches from the floorboards, and touched the hand of each of the Paladins. From within the charred physical remains, they could see the souls of the fallen holy warriors being assisted out of their mortal coils, led by the hand of an Angel of Death. When it got to Hector, they could see that his soul had its legs fully intact, unlike Hector himself, whose legs were torn from him in a brutal conflict earlier in his life. Reks leaned over to S’zeves and said: “Hopefully, this guy will get some peace now that he wasn’t able to in life.”
Hector opened his eyes and looked toward S’zeves, emotionlessly, then looked down at himself and toward the Angel, a smile broadening on his ethereal lips. He looked back at S’zeves, still smiling, and the Angel raised its wings overhead, a brilliant light and intense, yet comforting warmth permeated the room. A peal of trumpets and a choir of angelic voices could be heard, the sound so loud, so wondrous, that the vibration shook their chests and they felt the music, the light, the joy in their hearts. Then, the Angel flapped its wings, and in a fiery beam of light, the Angel and the five souls shot skyward and out of the steeple of the temple.
Ourside, beyond view of the sending ritual or its audience within the shrine, a flock of birds was startled by the beam of angelic light. They fluttered from the rooftops and across the sky. The young green-haired woman in the courtyard reached up with her finger and wrote her name in the sky, the birds somehow flying in the path her finger traced. Behind her, the Sahaugin told her to quit showing off, to which she giggled and said he should see what she can do with a school of fish. He snorted a laugh and, once again, reminded her that she was the craziest woman he had ever encountered.
Back within the shrine, the Current members were suddenly aware of how much more dead these five corpses were. As Paladins drew shrouds over the five bodies, Borgamat stood, bowing to the Archbishop as he turned to face the Current. They heard a door opening behind them, one of the same doors they had come in through, and they saw Vespa Tigh entering the shrine. S’zeves noticed that there was something a bit off about her. She smiled lightly at him and folded her arms, staying to the back, but she seemed distracted. S’zeves went to go to her, but the Paladin nearest him told him to stand where he was. S’zeves grimaced and Borgamat patted him on the shoulder.
Vikter told Sir Donegan to bring the list of charges before him. Sir Donegan brought over a scroll that was almost comically long and handed it to the Archbishop, then stepped to the side and faced the Current as well. Now, all the Paladins were turned to face them. Then, Vikter said: “S’zeves V’destrii. Step forward and face justice.”
Kelain looked to Reks and then said, loud enough so that everyone in the group could hear: “No matter what happens, if you’re guilty, we all are, if you’re innocent, we all are. We all share the accolades, so we all share the woes.” Reks nodded and encouraged young S’zeves. Auleak whispered: “If shit gets too real, I’ll take the guys on the left, you guys handle the guys on the right.” S’zeves chuckled, but Auleak didn’t seem to be joking. The Paladin near him gestured for him to step forward and stand on a small wooden platform in front of a podium.
Just as S’zeves was about to step forward, Snuh appeared out of nowhere. He roared: “ALRIGHT LADS! LETS BE RESPECTFUL AND THROW OURSELVES TO THE MERCY OF THE ARCHBISHOP! AAAAGH!!!!” Vikter replied: “Snuh, pipe down!” Snuh replied: “…. YOU HEARD HIM, LADS! BE QUIET, THIS IS A HOUSE OF THE GODS! SHOW SOME DAMN RESPECT! SHHHH!!!” And he stood there. S’zeves stared at him, his mouth agape. The moment he took his eyes away from Snuh, he looked back and the dwarf was gone. Auleak shook his head: “Gods damn it, Snuh.”
Vikter sat down in a high-backed chair, and everyone could tell that the man didn’t seem well. His hands were shaking and looked far worse than he did the night before. He cleared his throat, looked up, and said: “The first complainant, please step forward, state your name, and your grievance with the accused.”
They heard the doors open behind them and the sound of footsteps approaching. The first complainant was Martin, the merchant whose sword S’zeves now carried. He gave S’zeves a stern look as he rounded the corner of the Complainant’s Podium, and then said: “Upon the word of Hector Van Houten, I provided the accused with a sword. He gave me this.” He held up 70 gold in notes for Vikter and the others to see. “He gave this to me as a downpayment on his behalf. But I don’t want Hector’s money.” He reached over and placed the money down on the arm of Vikter’s chair. “I would like that to be donated in Hector’s name. I also demand 5,000 gold from S’zeves V’destrii.”
S’zeves had been paying more attention to Vikter’s condition than to Martin’s righteous indignation. Vikter noticed S’zeves sizing him up and tried to get the young Shadar-Kai to concentrate on the present moment: “What do you have to say in your defense for these charges?”
S’zeves asked: “First, are you feeling alright to do this right now?” Vikter was immediately dismissive of his overtures of concern, demanding that he answer the charges. S’zeves said: “Well, first of all, it was 2,000 gold, not 5,000.”
Martin wasted no time in shooting him down: “No, that was Hector’s price, not yours.” S’zeves replied without hesitation: “Okay, 5,000 it is… and I don’t have… 5,000… gold…”
Vikter said: “I find in favor of the complainant, Martin Arbalest. You owe him 5,000 gold. Next complainant, please.”
The next complainant was someone none of the Current had laid eyes upon before. It was a Hafhie, who walked up to the podium and stood up on a little stool to see over it. He said: “I am the owner of a storehouse at the Kabuhm-Braony Crossroads. It was busted into, the front door demolished, and looted. Now, there is evidence that the looting was done by Kobolds and later by Goblins. But, I found THIS EVERYWHERE!” He threw down a piece of wood that S’zeves had etched his symbol into. Everyone in the Current gasped, and S’zeves winced. Vikter asked what it was that was looted, and the storehouse owner said: “That’s the thing… gunpowder, brass casings, and lead for bullets. Whoever busted into my storehouse left a giant, gaping hole where the front door was, and now, who knows what the Kobolds and Goblins are planning to do with all those materials?”
Vikter said: “Can I see that, please?” The complainant handed him another piece of wood that had S’zeves’s mark on it. He held it up and looked S’zeves in the eye: “Did you do this? Did you break into the building.” S’zeves tried to weasel his way out of that charge. He said: “I admit that I was inside that building, but there was already a window broken when I got there.” Vikter asked if the front door was also already broken when he got there, and S’zeves admitted that it was not. He also said that he didn’t personally break the door. Auleak stepped forward and said “I broke the damn door, alright? If anyone’s guilty, it’s me, so leave the kid alone!”
Vikter said: “Besides the fact that there are Goblins running around now with everything they need to cause tremendous damage, you are responsible for leaving that building, whose upper floors were locked and secure according to the complainant, in a state where the Goblins could come and go with whatever they wanted. What is the estimated value of the goods that were stolen?” The complainant said that by his estimations, the losses totaled about 30,000 gold. Vikter said that he found in favor of the complainant in the amount of 150,000 gold.
Everyone within the Current stood with their jaws agape. Vikter said “S’zeves V’destrii, all other charges against you have been summarily dismissed in the interest of justice. You may step down, but you may not leave.” Varen suddenly looked at Reks and said “Wow, I guess S’zeves is in much more trouble than I am, huh?” Reks shook his head and made a gesture of his finger depicting his throat being slashed. He then said “No, I’m pretty sure your f%^#ed.” Varen’s brief smile inverted and he audibly gulped.
“Varen Gilles, step forward and face justice.” Varen stepped forward and stood, his arms crossed, awaiting the massacre he knew was about to unfold before him.
Vikter said: “There is only one complainant. Please step forward and state your grievance against the accused.” A woman, about 3 years older than Varen, with a 3 year old child in her arms, crossed in front of Varen and stood at the podium. The woman was obviously about seven months pregnant. The woman was shaken and distraught, and she said that she didn’t think she could do this. Vikter calmed her down: “This is part of his punishment for what he has done. He has to face the people those that he’s wronged.”
She took a few breaths and said that her husband was a dock worker at the Drogynia Airship Docks. He was the first ever to die in the docks. They said that he was shot with a crossbow. She didn’t work, she didn’t even know how to read, and her husband was the bread winner for her family. She now had no way to provide for her child, or to watch her child if she did somehow find work: “Besides that… I love my husband… and he’s gone.” Varen hadn’t really cared about taking that man’s life before, but now, seeing what his thoughtless crime had done to this poor woman and her child, he genuinely felt sorry for killing the dock worker. Before, he was only sorry that he had been caught.
Borgamat was livid, his hand’s wringing one another, metal filings floating to the floor as his thick fingers ground together. He was angry because this man didn’t have to die, because Varen could certainly have subdued him instead of killing him, and now this man would be forced to watch from Arcadia his wife and children struggling through the coming years without him. Reks looked over at Varen and shook his head, mouthing the word “Damn.” She continued her testimony: “My husband wasn’t even a warrior. They said he wasn’t even armed.”
Varen suddenly interrupted, saying “No way. He had a gaffer’s hook in one hand and a dagger in the other, and he was coming at me in a threatening manner. Granted, I shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but he was definitely threatening me and I was being chased. I had to make a choice and I did.”
Vikter said: “You do however admit that, because you were there and shouldn’t have been, a man is now dead that wouldn’t have been.” Varen nodded. Vikter continued, to the complainant: “How much did your husband make in a year?” She looked at him and said: “Three thousand gold.” He asked how old her husband was, and she told him he was 26. He said that, assuming he was going to work at the docks until the retirement age of 60, accounting for raises and promotions… I am awarding you one million gold.”
A deathly silence fell over the room. Varen’s eyes slowly closed. He tried to imagine himself back in bed, still asleep, and that this was just another Borgamat-induced nightmare. Vikter’s voice telling the woman she could leave brought him crashing back down to reality. How, they all thought, could any of them in their wildest dreams gather 1,155,000 gold? Vikter said after the woman left: “Kelain Iolius, please step forward.” Kelain hesitated, looked around the room, then pointed to himself and mouthed the question “Me?” Vikter nodded and Kelain reluctantly stepped up beside Varen. Varen said to him: “Yeah… good luck, buddy.” This elicited an uneasy, awkward chuckle from Yadykath. The Kobold quickly cleared his throat and said: “Sorry, your holyship.” Vikter smiled at him, and then turned his gaze back to Kelain, letting the smile immediately collapse. Kelain gulped audibly.
“Earlier, you said to your allies in the Current that their innocence would be your innocence, and that their guilt would be your guilt. This elicited a reaction from your entire group, nods of agreement, solidarity among you to face the consequences of these foul actions together. These fines, no matter how great they may seem, are no punishment. They are light compared to the loss of life that they caused. A price cannot be set for such things. No, the fines are recompense for your victims. Punishment, on the other hand, is a wholly different matter. I cannot even fathom the number of victims of the Goblins that were, by your careless actions, given access to all that gunpowder.”
Varen interrupted the Archbishop with a staggering revelation that would elicit a shocked reaction from everyone present, including members of his own group: “The Ebon League supplied those Goblins with their weapons, not us.” Reks freaked out, stepping forward to look Varen in the eyes, demanding to know more. “I was told…”
Vikter interrupted him: “Who told you? Who provided this information to you?”
Varen said: “A little bird told me.”
Vikter protested, demanding the identity of the informant. Kelain, possibly using his bardic talents, insisted that the identity of Varen’s confidential informant needn’t be revealed, as Vikter could tell that Varen was being honest, and furthermore, Kelain could tell that the Archbishop was ready to believe the Ebon League was involved. Reks was beside himself, glaring at Varen, unsatisfied with his silence. He knew that later, out of the earshot of the Paladins, he would know the name of the person who provided this information.
The Archbishop said that this revelation only served to solidify his choice of punishment for this Current group: “Your punishment, as a group, is that you are hereby conscripted to the Order of Draconius. You have to work for us to pay off your debt. The only way you are going to pay off this debt, is to investigate the Dark Lady, determine her ties to the Ebon League, and bring her to justice. Our justice. You are also to abide by the rules of the Order of Draconius while acting as our proxies. No more killing just because someone happens to be in your way, and no more smashing into buildings just because you can.”
Reks thought to himself that this was good, that this was something that they were likely to look into anyway. However, if this involved the Ebon League, the justice would be his own, not that of the Order. He had a personal stake in this, and he had no intention of playing by the Order’s rulebook. Fortunately, they weren’t going to have someone from the Order overseeing them anyway.
“In order to ensure that you play by the Order’s rules, we are assigning someone from the Order to oversee your efforts. Mame Tigh?” As Reks placed his palm to his face, S’zeves turned his gaze to the back of the shrine, where he saw Vespa approaching, crossing in front of them, and coming to a stop near the Archbishop. “With the death of Sir Pac Sapius, we felt a need to add to our Knight’s Order. Vespa was kind enough to step into Sir Pac’s role, and as such, she is more than qualified to be our eyes on you as you complete your punishment. I have provided Mame Tigh…”
Vespa shook her head: “Just Vespa.”
“I have provided Vespa with a few leads you might want to follow up on. She will not govern your actions, nor will she attempt to call the shots. Her role is to bear witness to your methods and report back to me any aberrant behaviors you exhibit in pursuit of the Order’s goals. How you proceed from here is entirely up to you. I see the fact that you were able to stem the Kobold Uprisings, you were able to defeat Nykathia, and you were noble enough to stop us having to chase you down to face justice for your crimes, which tells me much of your character. That is why I am trusting you all, placing upon you my faith, and sending with you one of my most precious assets in Vespa.”
Vespa smiled lightly, and some of the sour, morbid atmosphere among the Current began to loosen once more. He then said that he was going to retire to his quarters for the remainder of the day. Sir Donegan crossed to aid him in getting up to his feet and escorted him from the shrine, leaving the Current members, Vespa, and several Paladins flanking them along the outer walls of the massive room.
Vespa turned to hear S’zeves say, sheepishly: “Congratulations.” She replied that it was not exactly the way she wanted to earn her knighthood. She told her new teammates that she had no interest in stepping on anyone’s toes. She believed she could be an asset. She then said that there were reports from the Drao settlement of Dusk in the north that monsters had been descending on them from the caves northwest of the town. As a result, several of their most important citizens had gone missing. There were no ransom demands, and there was no indication as to what kind of monsters were responsible, but it was believed that the abductions were the work of monsters from the Underdark. The caves northwest of Dusk were known to lead very deep underground, and may lead all the way to the Wyrmscar Caverns on the other side of the Rohn Highlands.
Moon summarized for the other members of the group what he and Maerlyn learned from Mysra, the Current clinician. The group came to a consensus that this was certainly something they should investigate. Many within the group were hesitant to go to a Drao settlement, including Moon and Mae themselves. Despite the role they played in the foundation of Dusk, neither Moon nor Mae had any great love for their people. S’zeves, being from a time when the Drao ruled over most of the world, had a specific dislike for them. However, as he was now travelling in a group comprised of two full-blooded Drao and one half-Drao, he thought it wasn’t really any more unusual than the rest of his experiences since awakening in this strange new world.
Vespa said that she was very happy to hear them agree to check out Dusk, because she already gained them transportation to the Drao settlement. The Peregrine 3 was docked in the courtyard and prepared to leave north as soon as they are ready to go. Captain Martok had already agreed to take their group there, as it was en route to their next destination, the far-northern coastal town of Ceihl. Varen’s eyes opened wide and he stared at Vespa: “Captain… Martok? As in… Tarrik Martok?”
S’zeves asked: “What is so special about this guy?” Varen said that he was: “A real piece of work.” Kelain explained that Tarrik was the son of one of the gods, Drogyn Martok, and is married to the daughter of one of the other gods, Silas Vale. If that wasn’t enough to earn a bit of respect, Tarrik was a pirate who led a resistance group to crush the Shadow Empire, and was considered one of the people who was most responsible for ending the tyranny of the Shadow Knight.
Varen asked Vespa if she thought Martok would grant him an audience. She replied that it Tarrik’s ship, so it was up to him. Varen decided then and there that he was going, even if the rest of the group decided against it. He had to take any opportunity he could to confront Tarrik Martok about the fate of his father. Reks was fascinated with the prospect of meeting Tarrik, despite the idea that the man was at least partially responsible for the death of Reks’s mother, Kurai. He had grown up hearing his father Daythin spouting the name Tarrik Martok with venom, but to Reks’s mind, it was not Tarrik’s fault his mother was dead. No, that blame fell solely upon the Ebon League bastards who lured the Peregrine into the ambush years earlier.
S’zeves was frustrated at how much this man was respected. For some reason, he found the prospect of a “hero” to be almost disturbing. In his world, there were no heroes, so to hear the adulations being poured onto this man, not really understanding what it was that he accomplished, was just adding to his opinion that the man could not have been as great as everyone was making him out to be. He asked Auleak what he thought of this Martok guy, and Auleak said that he was excited to meet him. S’zeves was exasperated and asked Yadykath the same question.
Vespa whispered to Kelain out of everyone else’s earshot, asking him why S’zeves seemed to be so obsessed with the idea that everyone else has to be wrong all the time. She admitted that his inflexibility was so frustrating to her that it was literally one of the few things stopping her from admitting she had feelings for him. Kelain whispered back that S’zeves came from a world where he was the smallest minority, a good person in a world where that quality was both rare and dangerous. Being in a place where men could be good AND thrive must have made him a bit jealous. Just as S’zeves needed to embrace the world for what it was, as his friends, Kelain said it was his and Vespa’s responsibility to embrace him for what he is, even if it does sometimes frustrate them. Vespa said that Kelain was a good friend. Kelain smiled to her, melting her heart a bit, and said “So is S’zeves.”
The two nodded to one another and listened to the end of Yadykath’s answer to S’zeves’s question. Yadykath’s master, Fujin Jagan, had previously been a student of Kurai. Fujin, unlike Reks, placed a sizeable portion of the blame for Kurai’s loss on Tarrik’s shoulders. As a result, Yadykath was less than excited with the prospect of meeting the man. Moon, as one of the few present to have actually met Tarrik, gave his impression of the man. He said that Tarrik was reckless, cocky, yet incredibly competent. He simultaneously commanded the respect of his crew and the fear of his enemies. He was a great warrior, and was one of the few to gain his respect back in those dark times. Finally, of the two organizations, Tarrik was certainly more a Current kind of guy. Varen rolled his eyes in disbelief of that statement, and Vespa asked the group: “Shall we?”
The Current heroes departed from the temple’s main shrine and made their way to the courtyard. Upon exiting the building, they were greeted by a magnificent sight. The Peregrine 3 was a six-deck airship, long and slender, with two of the decks devoted to cannon ports running almost the entire length of the ship on both sides. It was the first time S’zeves had ever seen one of these ships up close, or, for that matter, the first time he had seen any ship up close. However, this past week had dulled his sense of awe, an overload of oddity crowding his mind’s ability to process the enormity of these new experiences.
As they walked toward the tall ship, Reks noticed the lovely young woman with the green hair and the flowing white dress. Reks beat an immediate path to the girl, who was sitting on a marble bench near the fountain. He strolled up beside her and decided to begin the conversation with the question: “Peregrine, huh?” She looked up to him with a smile and nodded. He added: “What number are we on?” Her head tilted slightly and she asked: “Huh?” He clarified: “You know. Peregrine 1, 2, 3…?” She paused and things became awkward between them. She said: “I don’t know. Three, I think?” He answered: “Yeah. My dad served on 1 and 2. Daythin Relagia. You probably never heard of him.” She rolled her eyes, hopped up to her feet, and said: “Nope!”, then she ran off to frolic in the courtyard some more. Reks rolled his eyes and said: “Alright, so much for that.”
As he turned his attentions to the ship, Kelain approached the girl, performed a simple magic trick, producing a flower from thin air, then presented it to her. He then knelt down to regard a tiny squirrel he noticed her playing with earlier, feeding it a piece of seedbread he had kept from dinner the night before. He then stood, kissed her hand, and walked away with a wink. She rushed up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and she produced a flower of her own and handed it to him. He smiled, placed the flower in his lapel, and bowed to her before turning his attention to the boat as well. He stepped next to Reks and said: “Next time, notice what she’s interested in rather of blurting out why you think she should be interested in you instead. Women want to be listened to, not talked at.” Reks shrugged and said: “She’s too flighty for me anyway.” Kelain laughed, agreeing: “Yeah, she’s definitely got a surplus of happiness.”
S’zeves took Reks’s failure and Kelain’s success into consideration. He really wanted to impress Vespa, but he had no idea what she was interested in, other than himself. So, he called out to her: “Hey, Vespa!”, and then he performed a picture-perfect flirtatious pose which made her simultaneously blush and giggle. She then began up the ramp. S’zeves wasn’t sure how she would react, but he guessed that went about as well as it could have. He was quite taken with Vespa, and was determined to gain her affections one way or the other. S’zeves and the others followed Vespa up the ramp as well, where they saw dozens of the Peregrine’s crew members rushing around on the main deck, busying themselves with their myriad responsibilities. One of the crew noticed Kelain and flashed him the “C” hand gesture, revealing that there was at least one member of the Current on board the ship.
Then, they all saw the Sahaugin that Reks and Auleak noticed from their window earlier that morning. This was by far the largest humanoid any of them had ever come across, much bigger than Borgamat, and every bit as wide as he was tall. Even Auleak was impressed with the Sahaugin’s size and, since it was the first time most of them had ever seen such a creature, whispers of “What the hell kind of creature is he?” began to circulate among them. He introduced himself as Shehayde Craidos, First Officer of the Peregrine. He welcomed them aboard, and then turned to Vespa, saying he assumed by their presence on the ship that they decided to take Captain Martok up on his offer. Vespa nodded, and mentioned that Varen was also interested in meeting with the Captain.
Everyone else in the group began to say that they, too, wanted to see Captain Martok. However, Craidos was most interested in Varen, asking why he specifically wanted to meet Tarrik Martok. Varen said it was a private matter, and for personal reasons. Craidos said that the good news was that they would all get a chance to see Tarrik, because like all good ship captains, he ran the ship from the helm. He turned to face the crew and began to bark out orders to get the ship ready to sail.
Varen said he was going to try to get some sleep, and asked where his room was. A crew member led him below decks, where the sailor pointed to a rope hammock hanging alongside a hallway busy with heavy foot traffic. Varen shook his head, and then began to approach the hammock. Suddenly, he heard voices from down the hall, toward the front of the ship, and he saw Captain Tarrik Martok assisting one of his men in securing a heavy object against one of the outer walls of the ship. Even though he had never seen the man before in his life, for some reason, the moment he laid eyes upon him he knew… this was Tarrik Martok.
As Martok gave the young deckhand a few words of encouragement and then told him to get up on deck, he began to turn toward Varen. That was when the young Current rogue saw it… the Mask of Dead-Aim, hanging like a trophy from the belt of Captain Tarrik Martok. If there were any doubts in his mind before, there were none now. This was the moment Varen had been waiting for. Since news reached him of his father’s disappearance and apparent death, Varen could think of almost nothing more than this. Now, as Tarrik Martok himself began to approach him, nodding politely as he passed him by, Varen was dumbfounded.
All those years, hearing everyone around him lavish the name of Tarrik Martok with such praise and blind devotion, he thought to himself that this was just another man, another sack of blood and sin, exactly like everyone else. Now, when actually faced with the man, he was actually one of those people, those fools he always judged so harshly. He was star struck. He stumbled for the words he had practiced over and over for the past five years, finding none of them. So, he awkwardly improvised.
Varen asked Tarrik, as his back was to him and he was heading toward the steps leading above decks: “Um… where… where did you get that mask?”
Tarrik was a bit distracted, or otherwise, he might have wondered why this strange kid was asking him about the mask of Dead Aim. He spun around, looked confused, then touched the mask hanging from his belt: “Oh, this?” He paused in thought: “I fought in a duel with a man, a man who tried to kill me, and I won the duel. I carry this with me to remind me that duels are a sacred thing. Whether you live or die, you take something with you from a duel. In my case, I lived, so I took the guy’s mask. Next time? Who knows. Someone may be taking something of mine as just such a reminder.”
Varen asked: “Would that person by any chance be Narys?” Tarrik immediately said: “No. I’ve never heard that name before. Well, I have to head up on deck. You’re with the Current, yes?” Varen nodded, unable to deal with the idea that Tarrik Martok didn’t even know his father’s name. Tarrik replied to Varen’s nod by flashing him the “C” hand gesture, not likely signifying that he was a member, but perhaps that he respected the Current and they should feel welcome on the Peregrine. Tarrik turned to dash up the steps and onto the main deck, finding Eilora there in front of him, the lovely Half-Elf having just descended to find out how Varen was doing.
She saw Varen down the hall, staring blankly in no particular direction, and Captain Tarrik Martok himself walking toward her, away from Varen. As Tarrik passed Eilora, he complimented her robes and told her to watch the last step heading down.
Eilora noticed that Tarrik, while a very handsome man and still quite youthful for his 46 years of age, was wearing numerous scars from the many battles he had faced throughout his long and adventurous life. Eilora couldn’t help but think that some of those scars were likely caused by Dead Aim, her hero. She stood there for a moment, letting sink-in her proximity to the man who killed her hero and, later, perhaps the father of her child. Then she returned her attention to Varen, rushing up the hallway to him, and asking if he was okay. Varen was in a daze, barely recognizing her presence. Between his lack of sleep the night before and the fact that he actually just looked the man who killed his grandfather in the face, Varen was deservedly preoccupied. Eilora repeated the question, and this time, it did register with Varen, even if only slightly. Varen replied: “I’m fine. I… how… how did he not know the name Narys…”
He instinctually climbed into the hammock a few feet away from where he stood, turned his back on the hallway, and closed his troubled eyes. Whether it was because of his exhaustion or his mental anguish, the hammock was unusually comfortable, and he quickly found himself drifting to sleep. Eilora stood beside him for a few moments, then removed a bedroll from her adventurer’s kit and draped it over Varen, over her sleeping son. She let out a long, sad sigh, then turned and found a barrel across the hall to sit on. She wept, as silently as she could manage, for the life she could have had… the life Varen could have had.
Above, First Mate Shehayde Craidos pronounced that the captain was on deck. Instantly, the crew of the Peregrine 3 stopped what they were doing and turned their attention to Captain Martok. As Tarrik scanned across the ship, noting the good work his crew had accomplished, he recognized Moon Duskbane and Maerlyn Zau’Ombra from across the deck near the ramp. He greeted them, and Moon said that it had been a long time. He agreed. Moon and Mae, as Drao, aged far slower than humans like Tarrik. Though he still had a lot of his youthful vigor, it took them both a moment to realize that this was the same man that once led the Phoenix Flight and helped take down the Shadow Empire. Tarrik said that he was pleased to see them, but thought it unusual that they would join the Current. The last he heard, the two of them were in the Drao settlement of Dusk, ironically their planned destination. Moon and Mae looked at one another, and said that Dusk was not much of a home. He joked that they may have chosen the wrong ship, because that was exactly where he was heading. Moon revealed to him that they had to go to Dusk because of the Drao Plague.
Tarrik suddenly got very serious, asking if it was anything like the Ten Curses of Asmous. Moon nodded, and then Tarrik asked if the two of them were alright. Moon said: “No.” Tarrik paused, keeping Moon’s gaze for a few moments, then yelled to Craidos an order to hoist the main sail: “The sooner we get these people where they’re going, the sooner they find what they’re looking for.” He then re-checked whether Moon and Mae were going to be able to withstand the rigors of air travel. Moon replied: “What are we going to do? Sit still and wait to die?” Tarrik nodded and started assigning everyone on the deck, including Moon, Mae, and the rest of the Current, to positions throughout the ship.
When he made his way over to Reks, he did a double-take. He said: “Reks?” Reks’s eyes widened. Tarrik recognized him? He nodded and Tarrik stepped forward to embrace the young man, the son of some of his best friends. Reks stiffened as Tarrik held him at arm’s length, revealing that he hadn’t seen the young man since he was a baby. He asked about Daythin, and Reks said that his father was prospering with his livery business in Shidi Ma.
Tarrik smiled slightly, saying that if anyone deserved to prosper, it was Daythin. He then released Reks from his grasp, stepped back, and said: “Well, then… welcome aboard. Get to work.” He told Reks to aid the Boatswain in fastening the mainsail tie downs to the rail spikes. He then spun to point at Borgamat, calling him “Nomoid”, telling him to join the two other Nomoids in the cargo hold securing the heavy crates to the hull for travel. Borgamat sprinted down the steps without hesitation.
As Borgamat stormed down the hall, he noticed Varen curled up asleep in a hammock. He decided to once again plant a fist in the back of his rival’s head. This time, however, Varen’s reflexes and keen positional awareness saved him. He dodged the attack and called out a foul profanity as Borgamat continued on his way down the hall, flipping Varen a rude hand gesture before disappearing around the corner and down another flight of steps.
Back on deck, Tarrik finally noticed S’zeves, asking him: “What the hell are you?” S’zeves got indignant and very loud, saying: “Who the hell are YOU?” The captain replied: “Tarrik Martok.” S’zeves instantly snapped: “AND?” Tarrik smiled and sniffed, then lunged at S’zeves faster than the young Shadar-Kai could react, grabbing him by the collar and shoving him into the rail overlooking the courtyard. Tarrik explained that on this ship, he was to be shown respect. He thought perhaps that pot and pan duty would be the best way to teach him some respect. He yelled back at Craidos to take this young man down below decks to meet “Cookie” for pot and pan duty.
S’zeves recoiled at the name Cookie, saying that he was sorry, and would prefer to stay and help out on deck. Tarrik dropped him to the floor and told him if he showed him that kind of idiotic disdain on his ship again, he would have a lot of time to think about it while free falling a thousand feet. S’zeves once again apologized, saying: “I didn’t realize who you were. I’m sorry. I don’t know if this helps at all, but I’m not from here.” Tarrik’s reply was: “Don’t care. Get to work.”
Borgamat reached the cargo hold and met two other Nomoids, Qix Manaweaver and Darxide Xen, both 25 year veterans of the Peregrine crew, and both close friends of Captain Tarrik Martok. As Darxide asked Borgamat to aid them with their work, Qix compained that they always got stuck with the heavy work. Darxide said it was probably because if any of the heavy cargo fell on them, it wouldn’t crush them to death, unlike the other crewers.
S’zeves was led by Craidos to a huge bundle of knots in a rope. The Sahaugin pointed at it and told S’zeves to hurry the hell up. S’zeves rolled his eyes, took the rope in hand, and gingerly untangled the mess of knots. This was one of the things he had done as a child to build hand-eye coordination, a sort of game Auriq used to have him play. Later in life, he would learn that it was an exercise to teach him precise control over runes, as a mangled runometric equation had much in common with a tangle of knots in a rope. He triumphantly said: “Done!” to Craidos, handing him the untangled rope only moments after it had been assigned to him. Craidos looked impressed, for a brief moment, then smirked and pointed to a huge barrel full of the same kind of knotted ropes. S’zeves’s proud, smug demeanor quickly melted into a barely hidden contempt.
The Peregrine’s sails expand and push forward, filled with artificial wind created by Crystech crystals lining the edges of all of the masts. From below decks, Borgamat peered out of the portholes near his work station, watching as dorsal sails unfurled themselves on metal guide rods and similarly pillowed upward with magically created pockets of lift-giving air. The entire ship gently swayed, then began to lift off of the manicured courtyard of the Temple of Draconius.
Borgamat gazed for a few moments at the glowing crystals as they conjured gusts of wind into the lift-sails. Without pausing in his work, he asked Darxide and Qix whether either of the two Nomoids had any experience in Crystechnology, the art of creating devices designed to harness the power of mana-infused crystals. Qix replied, saying that while neither he nor Darxide were engineers, they knew of Nomoids capable of creating Crystech devices in Ce’Virah. Borgamat paused, confused, and asked where Ce’Virah was.
Darxide Xen replied: “On the moon.”
Borgamat was rendered utterly speechless. Qix followed Darxide’s statement up, saying: “Don’t worry, you’re bound to make a pilgrimage to Ce’Virah at least once in your lifetime.” Within his mind, fertile with ideas, Borgamat envisioned fashioning himself a pair of mighty Crystech wings.
Back on the main deck of the Peregrine 3, Tarrik walked over to admire S’zeves’s handiwork, the young Shadar-Kai having completely untied a barrel full of knotted rope in an impossibly short amount of time. He nodded with a smirk and said: “Impressive!”
S’zeves said: “I wanted to apologize for before… I… yeah…”
Tarrik closed his eyes and shook his head, placing his fingers around the bridge of his nose and wrinkling his brow furtively. “Don’t apologize to me. Just don’t disrespect me.” S’zeves asked if the two of them were “cool,” to which Tarrik nodded with a faint smile.
S’zeves smirks and decides to answer Tarrik’s earlier question. “I’m a Shadar-Kai, by the way.”
Tarrik responded: “I have no idea what that means…”
S’zeves quickly said “Nobody does. You asked and… the Archbishop… he…”
Tarrik put his hand up to stop S’zeves from talking. “I honestly just don’t care.” He then turned and walked away from S’zeves. As he left S’zeves, the boy’s mouth agape in shame and disbelief, Tarrik caught notice of Eilora as he was gazing across the main deck. He let his glance on the lovely woman linger perhaps a bit too long, and he realized that he was smiling a little more than he probably should, so he continued to walk past Eilora and head toward his first officer, Craidos.
Tarrik told Craidos to get the ship up to 8,000 feet and assemble all hands to the main deck. He then entered the captain’s office in the main wheelhouse behind the helm. The crew collected on the deck, including Varen, who jumped out of his hammock the very moment he heard that Captain Martok had called for a gathering. This could be his chance.
As everyone gathered, S’zeves began to read from Vikter’s book about Sinystre. Reks glanced over and raised his eyebrows as if to ask “anything interesting?” S’zeves shrugged and nodded slightly, still focused on getting past the first chapter: “before Captain Apathy comes back and doesn’t care some more.” But perhaps S’zeves was just being bitter.
Borgamat noticed that Darxide Xen and Qix Manaweaver seemed puzzled about why Captain Martok would have called for this meeting. The last time he called for such a meeting, there was a massive battle shortly thereafter. Qix pointed out that in several places throughout the ship, they were still in the process of patching up all the damage caused in the fight.
Tarrik came out of his office, stepped in front of the helm, removed his gunblade from its holster, and stabbed the edge of the blade into the deck in front of him.
“Men, I have been made aware of something that makes me, honestly, as angry as I have been in a long, long time. Apparently, someone decided it would be a good idea to wipe out an entire race of people. This isn’t the first time that it’s happened, but I swear, upon the gods, and upon my sword, it’s the last.
“There’s something out there called the Draoplague. We’re taking these Current members to Dusk in order to… I guess, investigate this thing; to find out how deep this rabbit hole goes. Now, I’m going to talk to some of these Current members personally, but we are going to render every ounce of assistance we can to these people. This is now our number one priority. The crew of the Peregrine, and its captain, are now devoted to the same cause you are. “
Tarrik left his sword stabbed into the deck of the ship, stepping away from it to pace in front of the crew and the ship’s Current guests.
“A long time ago, before I was born, before any of us were around, the demon Asmous decided he was pissed off at the races of the world for uniting against him, so he created these ten curses. One of the curses affected the dragons. My sister is a dragon. One of these curses affected the elves. My wife is part elf. One of these curses affected the gnomes… a lot of my good friends were gnomes.” Tarrik glances at Qix and Darxide, the Nomoids, who nodded intently.
“Over and over again the demons have sought nothing other than to destroy our lives; to wipe us out. I say, we turn the tables. They want us wiped out? I say we wipe them out. Any demons on this world that aren’t with us are against us. They should be crushed on site. If we find out that the demons are responsible for this Draoplague, I will make it my personal mission to hunt down every last demon and either force them under our will or kill them with my own blade. “
Tarrik recovered his gunblade and resheathed it, turning away from the crowd gathered on deck: “…and I expect nothing less from any of my crew. “
Moon Duskbane asked Tarrik how he expects to do what he claims. Tarrik smiled and looked at Moon, saying that he has friends in high places.
The Shifting Winds
Reks Relagia spoke up: “Uh… begging the captain’s pardon… but.. we’ve got information that the Ebon League might be behind this Draoplague.”
Tarrik’s hand went to the mask of Dead Aim slung as a trophy from his gun belt. It was a black fabric hood with a faded white skull shape painted onto the front. He asks Reks what sort of information he had. Reks admitted that the information was pretty vague. They had an inkling that the Ebon League was involved because of some of the Kobolds that the Current took down recently. Reks affirmed that, because of the Ebon League’s possible involvement, he was in this for the long haul.
“What do you know about the Ebon League, Captain,” Reks asked. There was a deathly silence on the deck of the ship, with only the occasional fluttering sound of the Peregrine’s waving banner breaking the deafening quiet. Varen could barely contain his interest in what Tarrik would have to say. S’zeves asked Varen about something he said earlier in the Temple of Draconeus. He mentioned that Goblins had stolen the gunpowder from the storehouse, but as far as S’zeves knew, they hadn’t encountered any demi-humans other than the kobolds. Varen revealed to S’zeves that he had received a Little Bird message from Aelanah regarding the Goblins. S’zeves was still a bit confused, but he held his further questions for later.
Tarrik said, “The Ebon League honestly used to have a lot in common with The Current. They were essentially a group that decided the laws of society were too restrictive and made it too difficult to do what needed to be done to protect themselves and those they loved. Somewhere down the line, their leaders decided to ally themselves with the Demons. As the Drao on the ship will surely attest, when a group of people choose to ally themselves with the Demons, disaster ensues. Suddenly, the people they were became just as bad as the Demons they swore fealty to.”
Varen visibly squirmed at Tarrik’s words, and he noticed that Eilora seemed a bit pale as well.
Tarrik continued, “My family has a lot of personal history with the Ebon League. The first incident was one in which a man named Dead Aim attacked my father about a year before I was born. He attacked my father and challenged him to a duel. This Dead Aim lost the duel, and my father killed him. I was born and grew with some animosity toward my father, and I didn’t realize that I was following right in his footsteps. Eventually, a new man wearing the same mask as the previous Dead Aim came after me. He came after me, he came after Sharakh… he came after my wife. He took my wife and he took me. He brought us to the closest thing to Hell I had ever seen, deep into the Underdark, to the lair of the Demon, Testament. That’s where I met Queen Medrahna for the first time.”
Moon’s fists curled tightly at the mention of Medrahna. Maerlyn similarly crossed her arms and scowled when Tarrik said the name Testament.
“She drugged me and performed an… invasive experiment on me.”
“She created the monster that exists inside me,” Moon interrupts. “Her experiments made me a Weren. She made me what I am today… my own mother.”
Reks’s eyes widened. Tarrik shook his head: “I had no idea, but I wouldn’t put it past her. You weren’t the only child of hers that she…” Tarrik stopped himself from going any further.
Upon our escape, Dead Aim was waiting for us. He challenged me to a duel at my very weakest. He gave me nothing to fight with. It was a coward’s challenge. I was fighting for my wife, for my life, for the hope of the entire resistance against the Shadow Empire. I was fighting with my hate for the Demons and, honestly, I was fighting with my hate for Dead Aim himself for bringing us to this horrible place and doing all these things to us. During the duel, for a moment, I thought I might die that day. Things went the other way that day. I lived. He died.”
Tarrik removed the black faded cloth from his belt and held it up into the air in front of him: “This is the mask that I took from that man. It’s symbolic… it doesn’t really mean much to me, other than the fact that it was a duel. You can either take victory or defeat from a duel, and I decided, this is a symbol of my victory. This is a symbol of me taking back my dignity that was stolen from me by that man; taking back the respect that was stolen from me by the Ebon League. “
He refastened the mask onto his belt: “…and that is exactly why I carry it with me to this day. So do I know the Ebon League? You’re gods-damned right I do. Do I owe them a hell of a beating? “ His eyes and tone softened as he saw the glimmer of tears in Reks’s eyes. “We both do. We all do.”
“Let’s give it to them,” Moon said.
Tarrik said that he didn’t want to believe they were still out there. He began to explain about something that happened a few years ago, but he paused, swallowed hard, and decided to tell these people the most personal fact in his life:
“The experiment Medrahna did on me… she used the fruits of that experiment to create within her womb a child. Her name was Roena. They used her to get to my father… they used her to get to the Night Sword, and to release the Shadow Knight at the end of the war. She’s the reason why Imperia has a big hole in the middle of it. They’re the reason she even existed. She came to me, and she was leading what was left of the Ebon League. She was being called the new Dead Aim. She challenged me to a duel. Just when I managed to get through to her that we didn’t have to fight, fate decided another destiny for her. She ended up dying anyway. At least that’s what it looked like. I hoped not.”
Tarrik continued: “This man, about five years back, he… he made it look like Roena… the one I thought long dead… the one I named my daughter after… he made it look like she might be still alive. He started rumors of a woman starting a revolution in the Underdark; a woman he called the… uh… um…”
“The Dark Lady?” Reks said. Tarrik looked up to Reks and crooked his head.
“How do you know that term?” The Current members look to one another momentarily. Might this woman, the original Roena, be the Dark Lady?
“Because,” Reks replied, “we recently encountered some Kobolds, and…” Reks told Tarrik everything, about Nykathia, and about their brief glimpse at the Dark Lady.
“…then it wasn’t a lie?” Tarrik said.
“Is that where you took my mother?” Reks asked. Tarrik was expecting Reks to bring up Kurai sooner or later.
“I was… I was following up on the leads he set-up for us, and my brother, Melchior, and your father, Daythin, and Maros Tempest, they all told me that it was a trap… that my enemies were trying to get me alone. I said… I’m not going alone, I’m taking my ship, and a full complement of my men. Your father told me, like hell you are, you’re not taking my wife, and Melchior agreed, saying, you’re not taking my brother, Ian, either. I told them… like hell I’m not. They’re my crew. And… they were right. I shouldn’t have taken them with me. I should have gone alone.”
Shehayde Craidos stepped forward and protested: “But… you’d be dead, captain!”
“Yeah,” Tarrik replied, “I’d be dead, and they’d be alive. I should have gone alone. It was an ambush. Somehow they were able to get a hold of some left-over Imperian Black Sails; six of them. They outnumbered us six to one and had the Peregrine completely in their hands for the taking. “
“Were they Ebon League?” Reks asked. Tarrik nodded.
“The men that swung over onto the deck of my ship were wearing the Ebon League masks, but they didn’t fight with anywhere near as much power or coordination as the Ebon League has in the past. They were nowhere near as well trained or competent. I should have known that the men pulling off this attack couldn’t have been the ones who planned it. It was a beautifully planned ambush. I’ve never seen better. Whoever planned this ambush was a master strategist. But the men who attacked me? Frankly, they were amateurs.”
Reks got visibly furious. “If they were such amateurs, how they hell did they kill my mother?”
“Reks… amateurs with six Black Sails and superior numbers… some of our people were bound to get hurt.”
“… but, her?”
Tarrik nodded, a pained resignation in his face: “Yeah… follow me.” Tarrik led Reks over to the aft section of the main bridge and he pointed down. “You see these floorboards? All six decks, all the way down, exploded from Crystech cannon fire. Anybody standing here didn’t stand a chance, and this is where both your mother and my brother were standing. I hate to say this, and this is what drives you father and my brother crazy… I couldn’t…,” Tarrik broke down into tears. “I couldn’t even send enough of them back for burial.”
“This isn’t your fault,” Reks said. Tarrik shot him a gaze. He longed to hear those words, the words he told himself to get sleep every night, from someone like Reks… someone for whom his hubris and arrogance lost them someone so special.
“Like hell it’s not. I’m the captain of this ship. This is my responsibility.”
“It’s your responsibility. It’s not your fault. It’s their fault,” Reks said, pointing to the mask on Tarrik’s belt.
“It is his fault,” Moon interrupted. “You put her in a position to die. She trusted you. She stood where you told her to, and she died, and that’s your fault. If it were me, I’d stand there, too. And my death would be your fault, but I’d have died serving Tarrik Martok, protecting him from his enemies. A lot of people would do the same, on this bridge, and all over the world. It’s also your fault that there’s still a world at all. You’re crippling yourself with this guilt. I say, use it. Let it motivate you to do better.”
Tarrik nodded curtly to Moon and said: “The point is that good people have died, over and over again, in my lifetime and before that, because of the Ebon League.”
“So, let’s put an end to them,” Reks said, stone faced and committed to the task. Tarrik nodded dismissed the crew to their stations. He left Craidos in charge and went to his office once more, closing the door behind him.
Varen’s Chat with Tarrik Martok
Varen let himself into Tarrik’s office without knocking, and without being invited. Tarrik was sitting at his desk, pouring himself a drink. He looked up and said nothing as he finished filling his glass and put the stopper back in the bottle.
Varen said: “You said you dueled a man, and that’s how you got that mask, but isn’t it also true that somebody came to fight you for that very mask?”
Tarrik let the silence linger, took a few deep swallows from his drink, and placed it on the desk in front of him. He replied: “Get to the point, son. Have a seat.”
Varen slouched into the chair in front of Tarrik’s desk as casually and irreverently as possible. Tarrik couldn’t help but smirk at his arrogance. It was like a mirror from thirty years ago. Varen continued, “Isn’t it true that a man, who you claim to not know, by the name of Narys Gilles, came to fight you for that very mask that you hold by your waist with such pride.”
Tarrik casually and irreverently pulled a musket from behind the desk and placed it on the desktop, the barrel pointed directly at Varen.
“Now, let me ask you, before I answer your eloquently-put question, what is it to you what the man’s name was?”
Varen, hiding his fear of being killed quite well, said, “Uh… let’s just call him a relative.”
“Am I dealing with some sort of a family feud, here?”
“Well, it could be,” Varen admitted, letting his eyes linger a bit longer on the barrel of the gun than he would have wanted to.
Tarrik replied, “Hmm… I’m gonna tell you what I told this man; this man who swung across on a rope, stood on the deck of my ship… the man who had just aided in causing the death of several people very important to me. MY family.”
Tarrik leaned in, got a deadly serious look in his eye, “You want the mask on my belt? You take it from my cold, dead body. “
“… but he didn’t,” Varen said.
“Because he lost,” Tarrik explained.
“Is he dead?”
Varen could tell that he was being deceitful. “Can you swear by that? You mean to tell me that you swear, by everything you believe in, that he is dead, and there is no way for him to come back.”
“Who is this man to you?”
“I told you, he’s a relative.”
“Specifically,” Tarrik said with a smirk.
“Well, if you want to call him such a thing, you could say he’s my father,” Varen revealed.
Tarrik admitted, “No. I don’t know that he’s dead. His men took him and escaped on their last remaining Black Sail.”
“So, then, he escaped.”
“Uh… I cut him pretty much in half. If he survived, he’s not in good shape,” Tarrik said. He leaned back again. “Listen, son. You don’t seem to have a lot of love for the man. I didn’t have a lot of love for my father, either. For much of my life, probably until about your age, I hated Drogyn Martok. I thought he failed the world. He failed me. He led, one way or another, the world into all the mess it was in with the Shadow Knight, because he failed to do his job. He failed to be a father to me, and he let somebody else do that job for him.”
“I think you and I have something in common,” Varen said.
“The only difference is, my father came back and proved me wrong. Even if you father comes back, he’s still a scum-sucking Ebon League bastard.”
“You might be right, but, you’re not the one to say it,” Varen said.
Tarrik stood up. “What’s your name, son?”
Varen stood also. “Varen Gilles.”
Tarrik said, “Nice to meet you, Varen. We’ll see who’s right.”
He sat back down, put his musket away, leaned back and picked up a book to start flipping through the pages. As he reached for his drink, Varen interrupted him.
“One more thing, though,” Varen said. “If it is at all possible that he survived, do you think he could still be with the Ebon League?”
“I’m not experienced enough with the Ebon League to know what they do for the men who need medical attention. I assume they’d just put a bullet in his head and call that mercy. It’s what I’d do if I was one of them.”
“Yeah, but… if you want to say that Dead Aim isn’t so much a person than a… more like a… family business, then, I’m kinda next in line.”
Tarrik suddenly got more invested in the conversation. He seemed almost amused. “You mean to tell me that the man you’re talking about… what did you say his name was?”
Varen barely held back his rage. His family has had a feud going on with the Martok family for generations, and they don’t even know his name. “Narys Gilles.”
“Okay, this Narys Gilles, you’re telling me that HE was supposed to be Dead Aim?”
“Yeah, after my grandfather.”
“Your grandfather was the one that I dueled back during the war…,” Tarrik realized. Varen nodded.
“And my father’s the one who tried to get the mask back.”
“So, it’s a family business? Heh heheh… you wanna follow in your family’s footsteps?”
“Well,” Varen said, his rage building, “I didn’t say that. All I want to know is where my father is. And if he’s still alive… well, I never said I wanted to keep him that way. I just want to know if he is.”
“I think,” Tarrik said, smiling, “At this point, that’s a question both of us want an answer to, so I tell you what. First one to the answer wins.”
“What is this, a game?”
“What isn’t?” Tarrik asked.
“Alright, we’re on,” Varen replied, shaking Tarrik’s hand.
“Excellent,” Tarrik said, “Enjoy the hospitality of my ship, Varen Gilles. Consider yourself the personal guest of the guy who killed your grandpa.”
Varen was absolutely stunned by this experience. He walked silently toward the door and heard Tarrik say that it was a small world. Varen could not get over how cocky and confident Tarrik was. He was unlike anything he had always imagined he would be. The rage in Varen completely crumbled. Why did he like this man so much? He wanted to hate him. He so wanted to hate Tarrik Martok, but everything about him… despite Varen’s best efforts, he couldn’t help but admire him. He could somehow see why the whole world liked him. He never expected that.
The entire time Varen was in Tarrik’s office, Eilora paced the deck, terrified of what might happen between the two of them. When the door opened and Varen came out, he had a stunned, confused look on his face. For Varen’s part, he felt as confused and stunned as he looked. He couldn’t believe Tarrik. He wasn’t sure if wanted to hang out with Tarrik Martok or kill him. He thought Tarrik was going to be totally stuck-up. Instead, the man openly mocked Varen’s family and somehow found a way to make Varen like him at the same time.
Eilora went up to Varen, mostly to check for bullet wounds or open cuts, but she was just as concerned with the look on his face. Varen almost didn’t even realized Eilora was standing there, and he nearly bumped into her.
“Um,” Eilora said. “How did it go?”
Varen scratched his head and looked back in confusion. “Good? I guess? Different than I expected him to be.”
Eilora asked if she could go in and talk to him, and Varen said he didn’t see why not, the guy seems to have an open door policy. As Varen walked away, Eilora noticed that he wasn’t carrying as much of a burden anymore. Ever since they heard that they were going to meet Tarrik Martok, Varen had seemed like he was under a lot of pressure, like his past was catching up with him suddenly. Eilora understood that only too well. Now, as he came out of Tarrik’s office and went back below decks to get some sleep, amidst the confusion, it almost seemed like Varen was relieved?
Eilora knocked on Tarrik’s door. She heard Tarrik call out from within: “You better not be Varen Gilles.” Eilora said she wasn’t. Tarrik then said, “That voice sounds female. Come on in!”
Eilora entered the office to find Tarrik sitting behind his desk with a book closed in front of him.
“You, again. What’s your name,” Tarrik asked.
“Eilora Thalonia,” she replied. Tarrik complimented her name and asked her to take a seat.
Now that she was here, in front of the man, she wasn’t sure what to do. She knew that she wanted to get close to the man, and he honestly was quite handsome and close to her age, so she decided to flirt with him. He was flattered, saying that she is probably the most beautiful woman to grace his ship with her presence in a long time, but he is a married man, and he is very loyal to his wife.
Eilora wanted to get that mask, but this obviously wasn’t going to be her moment. She was patient, if nothing else. She excused herself and left Tarrik’s office, returning to the deck of the Peregrine.
Arrival in Dusk
The Peregrine arrived over the Drao settlement of Dusk just prior to dawn the next morning. Tarrik shook Vespa’s hand and told her that he would be looking at this Ebon League problem from a different angle, but that he would be in touch. He nodded toward Varen and Reks, sniffed at S’zeves, and winked at Eilora, then left them to their work in Dusk.
The first thing S’zeves noticed was how much Dusk reminded him of home. Dusk was the last remaining settlement of Drao in Wyrmshadow. It was built in a stony valley between two ridges of the Rohn Mountains with a narrow, slow-flowing stream bisecting the village proper. The sky over Dusk was magically darkened for the Drao’s comfort, which reminded S’zeves of how Sylverton once was.
S’zeves informed the rest of the Current that he was ready to leave this place already. Auleak said that he didn’t want to be here anymore than S’zeves did. Reks tried to explain that this was the best place to start their investigation, but S’zeves, as was typical, whined about how this place “sucked” and compared it with where he came from. The place looked like a battlefield, with smoking pits and fields pockmarked with impact craters. There were poorly constructed tent-like structures that comprised most of the settlement’s buildings.
The Drao, it seems, were not accustomed to building anything with their hands, but had grown so accustomed to slave labor and magically conjuring everything they needed, their own craftsmanship stagnated and declined. These people were living like cavemen. Worse, the full effects of the Draoplague were readily visible to them. The Drao of Dusk were dying. Borgamat paused to pray to Veil for a merciful death for those beyond saving, and to grant him the strength to help those that might still be saved.
The villagers started crowding around the Current members, and two of them in particular went over to stand before Maerlyn and Moon Duskbane, whom they immediately recognized from their brief time in Dusk a few years ago. The villagers asked whether they had come to help to deal with the monster attacks. Moon asked what kind of monsters have been attacking the village, and what have they been doing. One villager said that they were mostly Bugbears. Auleak let loose a sincerely ferocious growl, saying that somehow, he knew it would be Bugbears. Reks noticed the villagers’ fears over Auleak being there at all, but he told them to relax, because he was one of the good guys. Auleak said: “Hey! Take that back, Reks.”
The Bugbears were reportedly making nightly attacks in the village, storming in, ransacking the place, and almost always leaving with one or two captives in tow. It was usually the healthy Drao that got taken, though recently, they have been forced to settle for taking those that were only marginally ill. The entire settlement of Dusk was infected with the Draoplague now.
Seeing all of the suffering these people were confronting, Maerlyn decided to remain behind in the village while the other members of the Current proceeded north, toward the cavernous tunnels etched into the cliffs overlooking Dusk Valley, from whence the monsters came.
Into the Dusk Valley Maw
The Current had no problems reaching the caverns north of the settlement. The entrances of the caverns, the way they were shaped and spaced out, looked like a wide, toothy mouth stretching across the northernmost edge of the cliffs encircling the Dusk Valley. This was the Dusk Valley Maw, and it was one of the few caves said to be deep enough to grant access to the Underdark.
Unlike the Leviathan’s Intestine, the initial caverns of the Dusk Valley Maw were huge, with walls hundreds of feet apart and ceilings higher than the heroes could rightly see, a series of ornately carved pillars stretching from the hard-packed sand floor to the shadows above. The columns had magical sigils carved into them that were very reminiscent of those they saw in Nykathia’s hideout.
Varen removed the board he took from the carcass of the rat golem a few days earlier, placing the board up against one of the pillars to examine the sigils on either surface and see if there were any similarities. He noticed that two of the sigils found on either the board or the pillar were identical. Rex said that they should really try to find a way to translate the sigils, as this cannot be a coincidence.
S’zeves mentioned that he was interested in why such perfectly-carved and decorated columns were in the middle of this cavern. Reks asked whether Auleak thought the Bugbears could have made the columns. Auleak guffawed and said: “No. We’re monsters. Basically, we’re really good at hitting things, and that’s pretty much why we still exist because people keep us around to hit things for them. The only reason why I ain’t a part of that crowd is because I got half a brain to hit things for myself.”
Reks asked Auleak if he would have a problem hitting his own guys. Auleak replied: “Aw, f%$# no. Listen. I’m a berserker. I like hitting things. I don’t care what they are. I’m not hitting you guys because I like you, but I ain’t gonna not hit someone just because it’s a Bugbear.”
Borgamat asked whether Auleak liked him. Auleak sniffed Borgamat and said through grinding teeth: “You know, it’s weird. I f%$#in’ hate Nomoids; I just wanna rip them apart, tear out their crystals, crush ‘em in my teeth… but you’re an okay guy, so I’m probably not going to hurt you.”
Kelain said, “I love you, guys. Now, let’s go let Auleak hit some bad guys.”
In examining the back wall of the cavern, they noticed that they could not find any doors or openings that led further underground or into the mountain range. As this chamber was supposedly an entrance to the Underdark, they found that to be quite peculiar. However, Eilora noticed that some of the dried leaves and detritus that had blown into the Maw from the valley over the years were forming a pattern that led her to a specific part of the back wall. There didn’t seem to be an opening, but when she put her hand on the stone, her hand pushed through it as if it was not there.
There was a brief argument about who should go first, with Borgamat encouraging Varen to “make my day.”
Eilora chanted softly to herself and a lovely series of dancing light patterns began to animate on the surface of her robes, shedding visible light far into the distance. Kelain said: “Just when I thought the lovely Eilora couldn’t light up a room any more than she already does…”
Eilora smiled warmly as she strode, with caution, through the illusionary wall. The moment her magically illuminated robes pierced the illusion, the false image of a solid stone wall faded, revealing a passage leading deeper into the heart of the Rohn Mountains.
As the Current traversed through the revealed open passage, S’zeves said that he wasn’t eager to continue onward. Whatever created this passage and that illusion were far greater than the Kobolds they had previously faced. Reks replied that the Kobolds had help, and if they find Bugbears within, they, too, have help. It’s whoever or whatever is helping these monsters that they had to find and deal with. S’zeves shrugged, made a resigned face, and fell into the marching order behind Reks.
Vespa patted him on the back between his shoulder blades, saying that if he ever wanted to repay his debt to society, he was going to have to accept the risks involved. He smiled and agreed, but when he looked away from Vespa and toward Yadykath, he made a facial gesture implying that he had no clue what she was babbling about. Yadykath chuckled and ran to the front, circling around Eilora and scanning his eyesight through the distant darkness beyond the range of her magically conjured light source/ fashion statement.
After a half-mile march through a narrow passageway, the Current emerged into a vast chamber with a low spike-lined ceiling and a narrow stone path cutting straight ahead across a seemingly bottomless void that flanked either side of the path. Reks ventured out on the path, his half-Drao lineage granting him superior vision in the dark. He noticed movement up ahead, and a faint glow beyond the movement. However, upon further inspection, he realized that the movement he was seeing was a reflection of himself and those behind him.
Reks bent to loosen a bit of the stone from the path he was standing on and he then threw it into the reflection ahead. The stone fragment went through the surface of what seems, by its reaction, to be a vertically-situated liquid-like substance, the reflection of Reks and his allies behind him rippling as if he had dropped a coin through the unspoiled surface of a wishing well back in Shidi Ma. Eilora approached the still quivering fluid-like wall of black reflective energy, passing her hand over it, and after a few moments she concluded that it was a kind of short-distance portal.
Reks said that this must be the way deeper, the passage into the Underdark. He passed through the portal and, when he emerged, he found himself on an identical narrow stone path, with an identical stone spike ceiling ten feet overhead, and another reflective wall in front of him. Reks found the stone chip he had thrown sitting on the path near the next reflective wall and he slid it back along the path through the portal he had just come through. Taking the hint, the team began to make their way forward and into the next chamber with him.
As the Current recollected, Varen said that he could hear something faintly coming from up ahead, beyond the reflection, which was rippling on its own without anything being thrown through it. Auleak shook his head and said: “Yeah… those are war drums. Orcish drums. Sometimes, Bugbears use ‘em. Do I look worried? I’ll go first, this time.”
S’zeves decided to go with Auleak through the next portal. Eilora put a stop to their plans, however, when she realized what was happening, here. The portals behind and ahead of them are illusions, albeit powerful ones that even had her fooled up until this moment. The first “portal” was, like the false wall in the Dusk Valley Maw, a simple magical image. The first illusion was meant to lure unsuspecting adventurers into believing that in passing through the next “portal”, they would find themselves, once again, on another narrow path with another portal up ahead. Instead, what lay beyond the illusionary portal ahead of them was likely an ambush of some sort. Eilora said that this magic was recent, and it was created by a genius of the craft. That ruled out Bugbears. She told Auleak she meant no offense. He shrugged and scratched his armpit, saying: “No, y’er right. We’re idiots. Plus, we’re direct. We ain’t gonna take the time to come up with a plan like that… not when we could just hurl boulders at you or maybe grab one of you by the legs and beat the rest of you to death with that first one.”
Yadykath asked Auleak how often he thinks of ways to creep all his friends out. Auleak said it’s easy with friends like his. Despite the relative danger they were in, most of the Current had to suppress a chuckle.
There was a long debate about how to effectively deal with the ambush that lay beyond the illusionary portal on the path ahead. Eilora stumbled upon an idea, sending her falcon familiar through the illusion, peering through its eyes, and reporting back to the rest of her teammates what she found on the other side. There were nine Bugbears in total poised to strike at them as soon as they ventured through the phony portal. One of the Bugbears looked especially powerful, and was wearing heavy armor and brandishing a massive war pick. The rest, like Auleak, were wearing rough cloth and carrying greatclubs. The familiar also saw that, from the Bugbear’s perspective, the illusion was just as effective. Therefore, whatever counter-ambush tactics the Current devised, the Bugbears wouldn’t be able to simply watch and listen to them planning it.
Varen and Reks took to the shadows to take advantage of their natural ability to mete out devastating damage when they strike unseen. Eilora created a shower of magical starfire over the heads of the Bugbears, casting her magic through the illusion by channeling her mystical power through her familiar circling overhead. The Bugbears were stunned. They didn’t see the attack coming, and several stumbled off of the path and over the brink to their doom as a result. The melee commenced as the Bugbears left standing crowded through the portal… and into an ambush of the Current’s devising. The armored Bugbear stood back, his arms folded, and watched as his forces were decimated by the Current. As the fighting came to an end, and the Current members crossed the threshold into the Bugbear’s intended ambush area, they found that their well-armed leader had run off through a side tunnel and left his own men to die at their hands. Eilora’s familiar had noticed the creature making his escape, and she noted that he didn’t look frightened or confused. It looked like he nodded, shrugged, and casually turned to leave.
During the battle, S’zeves was the target of several horrendous attacks, and once again, the young man nearly lost his life. Wounded and winded, the Current decided to take a rest in the chamber the Bugbears intended to ambush them in. Soon, they would proceed to chase after the armored Bugbear, hoping that in the process, they would learn where these monsters had been taking the Drao captives and, ultimate, who was the mastermind behind all this.
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Chapter C-1: Sins of the Fathers Preview: Kobolds in Drogynia?
Chapter C-2: The Current in… Into the Leviathan’s Intestine
Chapter C-3: Varen Gilles in… A Stigma of Guilt
Chapter C-4: The Current in… Nykathia Awaits!
Chapter C-5: The Current in… A Burden of Prestige
Chapter C-6: The Current in… Arrivals and Departures
Chapter C-7: The Current in… Legacy of Pain, Part 1 of 2
Chapter C-8: The Current in… Legacy of Pain, Part 2 of 2
Chapter C-9: The Current in… Trials of Pain, Part 1 of 3
Chapter C-10: The Current in… Trials of Pain, Part 2 of 3
Chapter C-11: The Current in… Trials of Pain, Part 3 of 3
Chapter C-12: The Order & The Current in… To Slay the Darkness
Chapter C-13: The Order & The Current in… To Save the Light
Chapter C-14: The Current in… Prophecies, Epiphanies, and Tragedies, Part 1 of 3
Chapter C-15: The Current in… Prophesies, Epiphanies, and Tragedies, Part 2 of 3
Chapter C-16: The Current in… Prophecies, Epiphanies, and Tragedies, Part 3 of 3
Chapter C-17: The Current in… Time To Wake Up
Chapter C-18: The Current in… The Eternal and the Forever Changed
Chapter C-19: The Current in… The Tragic Tale of the White Lion
Chapter C-20: The Current in… Sealing of the Fates
Chapter C-20: The Current in… “The First Steps Are Always The Hardest…”
Chapter C-21: The Current in… “…On The Journey To The Rest Of Our Lives