Rise of the Demon Lord

Deal With It

“This mead tastes like mule piss,” muttered Toby as he tossed the flagon over his shoulder.

Lucan looked into his own glass and watched the wine reflect his frustration back at him. The Scions of Legacy had lost two of their members. Abelarde had been killed when Illidus – or Salissta, as it turned out to be – emerged from his body and burned it to a crisp. As for Yelena, she had her throat cut by Saffrenia Stormrage and her body possessed by Salissta. On top of all that, Kalak, who they had hoped would help Yelena, ended up stealing the power of the demon Illidus for himself and disappeared.

All in all, it had been a damn disappointing day.

Although not everything had been bad. Salissta, weakened after having her power drained from her, had been taken into custody by Saffrenia’s men. She would be questioned before being put on trial for crimes against Mithrendain, the Feywild, and the World at large.

Saffrenia had also ordered that Abelarde be resurrected by one of the resident priests of Corellon. She was surprised that the news hadn’t been met with any level of enthusiasm or gratitude from the Scions. She wasn’t aware of their track record with resurrections.

Until the resurrection ritual was completed, Lucan and Toby had been given rooms at the Waystop, an inn that was a little more welcoming to outsiders than most inns in Mithrendain. It was located in the part of the city known as the Old Battery, an ancient part of town that was as close to a poverty district as one could get in such a noble city. The rooms were nothing special, or comfortable for that matter. Each had one bed, and one footlocker to store essentials. Beyond that, visitors were on their own.

For men like Lucan and Toby, being left on their own wasn’t necessarily safe for anyone around them.

The barbarian was experiencing emotions that he couldn’t put a name to, and wasn’t sure how to deal with them. His manner of coping was odd, but for the eladrin hiding in the kitchen and hunkering down behind the bar, this was better than him deciding just to kill everyone he saw.

Toby picked up his fork and moved a piece of raw meat around in the bloody gravy on his plate. “They call this rare?” he grumbled. “It’s practically coal.”

The plate whistled through the air and shattered against the wall. The slab of beef stuck to the wood and slowly began its trek to the floor, leaving a bloody smear behind it.

Lucan hadn’t removed his mask, keeping everything south of his eyes wrapped behind a heavy veil. He could taste his breath, and the longer he sat with his thoughts, the more that breath tasted like blood.

And revenge.

The Scions were the only two mulling around the Inn, so when the front door opened the Waystop’s staff peered out from their hiding places. They saw one of their own, a young man dressed in the noble yet stuffy garb of a politician. “Welcome to the Waystop,” a voice said from behind the bar. “Plenty of room to sit. Help yourself.”

The young man smiled. “Thank you, but I’m here to speak to the Scions.”

Lucan looked up. “What’s left of us.”

“My condolences on your loss,” the young man said as he approached the table. “My name is Hracken, and I’m the liason for Councillor Stormrage.” This announcement didn’t impress Lucan at all. Toby simply grabbed a long loaf of bread and pulled it in half. “Gentlemen,” Hracken said, “Councillor Stormrage wishes she could be here personally but there was urgent council matters that needed to be addressed.”

“I’m sure,” said Lucan. “Why are you here?”

Hracken smiled politely, his hands pressed together as if in prayer. “Councillor Stormrage simply wants to ensure that your accommodations are adequate, and to reassure you that your compatriot will be rejoining you soon. Alive and well.”

“What about Yelena?” Toby asked through a mouthful of spice-buttered bread.

The eladrin’s lips pressed together. “That is another matter entirely. Councillor Stormrage currently has her top people working on a solution to that problem. But from what she has been told so far, the outlook does not bode well for the young lady, sorry to say.”

The dagger in Lucan’s hand seemed to appear out of thin air. He buried the tip of it into the table. He spoke in a slow, measured tone. “We came here for help. All we got in return were corpses.”

Hracken nodded his head in understanding. “The demon lord works in mysterious ways.”

Toby stared at the dark-haired eladrin who came out from behind the bar with a bottle of wine in his hand. He nervously approached the table and set the bottle down, muttering something about the fine quality of the contents and his desire not to be killed for delivering it. He quickly fey stepped, his hair appearing long enough to duck down behind the bar once again. Toby backhanded the bottle hard enough to shatter it where it stood, spraying glass and its fine quality contents all over Hracken’s tunic. “So what now?” he growled. “What are we supposed to do?”

Hracken cautiously brushed the glass off of his tunic. “You are welcome to stay until your friend Abelarde is well enough to travel. At that point, your future is your own.”

“She’s kicking us out of the city,” Lucan translated.

“No,” Hracken said. “She hopes that you will try to put this whole horrible ordeal behind you.”

Lucan wasn’t buying it, another lie to be added to the pile. He’d grown sick of the taste of it. “The quicker we can put this city to our backs, the better.”

Several sets of eyes turned to the front door once again when they were pushed open. Those eyes were disappointed when it wasn’t a customer who entered the Inn, but an adept from the church of Corellon. He came over to the Scion’s table and stood beside Hracken. His face was without emotion of any kind. “Gentlemen, I bring news.”

Toby set the loaf down. “Is Abelarde alive? Is he okay?”

“These rituals never go well,” Lucan said, studying both Hracken’s and the adept’s faces.

“The ritual went fine,” the adept said with a nod. “His body was returned to its original form.”

Lucan sat up straight and pulled his dagger free. “I feel there’s a ‘but’ coming on.”

The adept hesitated. “We… can’t seem to bring his soul back to his body.”

Toby’s frown deepened. “Is it lost? Do you need to draw it some kind of map?”

“Nothing like that,” the adept said with a shake of his head. “Something is prohibiting his soul from returning.”

“Illidus?” Hracken asked.

The mask fell away, and the adept appeared nervous. “We are using every incantation at our disposal to find the answer,” he assured the Scions. “I hope to have news for you very soon.”

Hracken put a hand on the adept’s shoulder. “You will have any resource you need,” he said reassuringly. “The Councillor will see to it.”

The dagger disappeared from Lucan’s hand. He lifted the bottom of his mask and took a sip from his wine goblet. “Looks like we’re staying in town a little longer,” he said with a disappointing sigh. “Much to everyone’s delight.”

“Indeed,” Hracken spoke with slightly less enthusiasm than he had at the beginning of their conversation. “Enjoy your meals, gentlemen,” he said with a bow before departing.

Lucan closed his eyes and tried to wash the bitter taste from his mouth with the wine. Toby stared at the loaf in his hand and threw it at the bar.

“Bread’s hard,” he said.

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Answers

The Scions found themselves escorted across the city of Mithrendain by heavily armed guards. It happened quite naturally, but the guards that first met them with Saffrenia had gradually been replaced by more shrouded guardsmen. Four of them appeared to be flying from tower to tower, with eyes trained on the mystically bound Yelena and Thorim. Each block they covered added more bodies to their security detail, slowly amassing into the dozens. All the while Saffrenia walked confidently ahead, nodding and smiling, as if she were leading a parade.

Finally they reached the Citadel Arcanum, the large fortress in the center of the city. Walls surrounded the fortress, and as the Scions passed through they noticed the shrouded guardsmen had vanished. Fortress guardsmen pointed their swords at Yelena and Thorim, and all guards presented weapons as the Scions walked by.

Saffrenia motioned them through the front door of the fortress, then almost immediately led them down a stone staircase into what looked to be a library. There were several scholarly types putting pen to parchment, or reading from the great tomes. Saffrenia nodded to them and guided the Scions toward four guards, who stood around a concave disk sunk into the floor. None of the guards were permitted to accompany them. “I will be perfectly safe,” Saffrenia told them.

The disk glowed, and the Scions were translocated to a disk in a two-tiered room. It looked to be another library, with walls of books, cauldrons and fires burning on the second tier. The entire room was surrounded by a shaded dome. Something bright swirled on the other side of the glass, but what it was could not be identified.. The dome has yellow runes etched into it which helped to provide light for the room. One thing was obvious – they were no longer in Mithrendain.

Saffrenia told the Scions, “This, quite lit’rally, is where the magic happens.”

The Scions were not the only ones in the room. Vizius Bromm (Half-Elf Paladin of Kord), Fandral Stormrage (eladrin Warlord), Hukkrit (Minotaur Warrior), and Worjen Frostheim (elf Ranger) were waiting as well. They take a step back when they see the huge Thorim in chains. They draw their weapons and follow the Scions.

“Welcome to the party,” Vizius said.

“Will my uncle be here soon?” Fandral asked.

The group of four were concerned about the undead that had been attacking their people, not to mention the doomsday cultists preaching the end of the World. Worjen said that his father had told him that he’d seen this plague before. He could not speak of it though, and told them that they needed to see Kalak to explain.

As if on cue, the air seemed to fold in on itself, and Kalak Stormrage stood before them with a staff in hand. A long scar crosses both eyes, which were covered by a dark blue cloth. Kalak was blind.

Saffrenia smiled. “Husband.” She looked at Yelena. “Now we will see the truth of you.”

Kalak appeared before the group. "Saffrenia, why is there such a gathering in my private chamber? Who were these… " He paused, cocking his head as if sensing something.

Fandral said, “Uncle, it is I – Fandral. I have urgent -”

“Apologies noble Fandral,” Saffrenia cut him off. “But I have here two that require your immediate attention. My men have captured The Betrayer and his bodyguard.”

“Your men?” Kalak seemed amused while studying the chains surrounding them. He waved his staff and the chains disappeared. “Perhaps your men should focus less time on swordplay and more on their studies of magic. A child could dispel these chains.”

Saffrenia starts to protest, but Kalak waves a hand at her. “I so rarely have guests. So who do we have here?”

Saffrenia points at Yelena. “The Betrayer!”

Kalak nodded and smiled, amused at his wife’s outburst. “In a moment.”

Fandral started to make the announcements, but Abelarde cut him off and made the introductions for the Scions of Legacy, in grand style. Abelarde received a handshake and a chuckle from Kalak, and was told that his tales had been told all the way to the Feywild. Toby also received a handshake and a rap on the shoulder with Kalak’s staff. “The stalwart and brave,” Kalak observed. He held a hand in front of Toby’s face as if to feel his appearance, then lowered the hand to Toby’s broad chest. Kalak’s smile disappeared, saying only “The Great Destroyer.”

Kalak still wasn’t smiling when he shook Lucan’s hand. "I have heard a great deal about you. They say there’s none deadlier with a blade. He put a hand on Lucan’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “Everyone has a path that they must walk. They cannnot be forced down another. It can take a lifetime for some to understand this. Good luck to you on yours.”

He moved on to Thorim. He placed a hand on Thorim’s chest, then shook his hand. “Apologies about earlier. My wife can be very protective of me.” Thorim spoke in a voice that was not his own. “I’ve heard that Eladrin eyeballs were a delicacy in some places.” He then quivered once, stared off into space and whispered “Together again, my love.” He screamed as he exploded, releasing an energy wave quite similar to the one that resulted from Yelena’s resurrection in Nynn. Few remained standing once the blast had passed.

The Blood Lord was now holding Kalak’s hand and brought his blade to the eladrin’s throat. “Stand down, or he dies,” he ordered.

Saffrenia fey stepped to Yelena and put a dagger to her throat. “Let him go, or your Lord dies.”

Kalak reached out to his wife. The room felt slower, as if time itself held its breath in anticiption of the outcome. “Saffrenia, put the blade down. Don’t do it. Please.”

“This should have been done in the first place,” Saffrenia told him.

“Please!” begged Kalak.

The Blood Lord seemed amused by all of this. “You won’t kill him by cutting her throat. Your husband, however…” His sword caressed Kalak’s cheek, drawing blood.

Saffrenia screamed “Nooooo!” and sliced Yelena’s throat open from ear to ear. Warm arterial blood sprayed out from her neck, some of it landing on Kalak’s face. He reeled as if he’d been burned by acid. “No! What have you done! Salissta!”

Saffrenia let Yelena fall to the floor. “Now you have nothing,” she said, although it wasn’t clear if she was addressing the Blood Lord or her husband.

The Blood Lord started to laugh. “Stupid cow. Do you think that the one called The Betrayer would attempt to hide inside one so obviously marked? She was the decoy. Lord Illidus still lives. But now -”

Saffrenia looked down at the former cleric, coughing up blood. Yelena could only gurgle and cough blood. Her eyes barely moved. The Scions moved to aid her, but Saffrenia told them to let the demon die.

Abelarde knelt down to help Yelena. After several long moments, blood bubbled slowly from between Yelena’s pale lips. Abelarde stood up and said that he wasn’t feel very well. “Then again,” he said, “maybe I feel better than I have in centuries.”

Saffrenia stared at the bard. “You?”

Abelarde burst into flame, the burning mass turning into a blazing tornado which spun into Yelena’s mouth. She tried to scream one final time before the flames consumed her body from the inside out. When the smoke cleared, Abelarde lay dead on the ground. Ashes fell from Yelena’s body as she slowly sat up. A female eladrin with long red hair and large demonic horns sat where Yelena once was. She looked at Kalak. “Hello dear brother.”

Kalak stared in shock. “Saffrenia?”

The Blood Lord looks both confused and amused. “Lord Illidus?”

Salissta smiled. “In here somewhere. Or at least, what’s left of him. I think the highest form of worship and respect for a warlock is by absorbing the essence of their demon liege, don’t you?”

“You’re a woman,” the Blood Lord pointed out.

“The very same reaction that Illidus had when I challenged him for his power. That didn’t turn out so well for him. Consider it as another of The Betrayer’s cruel acts.”

Saffrenia looked angry and frightened. Kalak simply looked sad. “Salissta…”

The demonic redhead dusted the ash off her shoulders. “Kalak, you have grown powerful. But I have survived centuries in Hell. A Hell you sent me to, no less. I have laid waste to devils and demons. And now, let me repay you for that kindness.”

A flash of light, red and black. Salissta’s attack instantly blocked by Kalak’s mystical defenses. The two started closing in on each other. Saffrenia was on her hands and knees, clawing at the disk, screaming at it to work. It remained dark, while the runes in the dome glowed brighter.

The wizard’s determined glare burned away at any sadness he might have felt moments before. “There is only one problem with that,” Kalak said. “I have always had my power. You had to steal yours.”

Salissta stared at her brother. “Still so arrogant. You still don’t have the power to stop me, even with your enfeebling runes.”

The two closed in on each other. Salissta quickly grabbed Kalak by the throat and the two vanished.

The Blood Lord looked at the survivors, and Saffrenia. “Open the portal,” he told her, “or I start swatting these flies.”

That was all the incentive the surviving Scions, Hukkrit, and Worjen Frostheim, needed to hear. While they commenced their attack on the Blood Lord, Saffrenia just sat in the center of the disk, weeping and staring at the patch of air that used to be her husband.

After a hard-fought battle, the Blood Lord lay dead. Saffrenia wept in shock, but then wiped her eyes and tried in vain to retain her dignity.

The dome rippled and the two mystic combatants returned, looking very much worse for wear. Saffrenia and Kalak both hit the floor, battered and exhausted. Saffrenia suddenly screamed like a banshee and repeatedly bashed Salissta across the head with a staff. Salissta told her to stop, twice, then grabbed her by the throat and yanked her off her feet.

Kalak asked “You have the Skull of Hamfel, yes? Quickly, I can use it to trap her.” The Scions would not comply, so Kalak found Abelarde body and retrieved the skull for himself.

Saffrenia shrieked and gagged, clawing at Salissta’s wrists. Her eyes were wide, her face red and slowly turning a shade of purple. Her tongue began flopping out of her mouth. Kalak closed his eyes, trying to recall the proper words to activate the power of the skull. “Yes my wife,” he whispered, “just keep her occupied a little longer…”

Kalak’s eyes snapped open with recollection. He grabbed the skull by the horns and thrust it out in front of him. He was about to start chanting when he took another long look at the demon warlock standing in front of him. He then lifted the skull and placed it over his own head as if it were a helmet. He began chanting, and a green mist immediatley began swirling around Salissta. The mist became brighter and started streaming toward Kalak. Salissta lost her grip on Saffrenia and dropped to her knees, trembling as her strength flowed out of her and, apparently, into Kalak. Saffrenia coughed and gasped, but still managed a wicked sneer as she watched through watering eyes while her husband drained Salissta’s power.

The green mist became thicker as it blanketed Kalak, and when it finally dissipated Kalak was a changed man. The skull had changed shape, appearing not only to be more demonic but it looked to be part of Kalak’s head. Glowing blue orbs stared out from the sockets, and Kalak looked to be able to see once again. The eladrin’s smile was decorated with sharp, pointed teeth.

Saffrenia picked up her staff and returned to beating Salissta with renewed vigor. These blows were far more damaging, and Salissta began bleeding quite badly despite her feeble efforts at protecting herself. Blows caught her in the back of the head, across the face. Blood began dripping from her nose, the back of her head, and an ear. Kalak watched the carnage unfold, emotionless. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe there were some items I need to look at. You won’t be needing them anymore… dear sister.”

He then looked at his wife. Saffrenia stopped the beating and looked at him, shocked at his obvious metamorphosis. “Kalak?” she asked hopefully.

The eyes glowed out from behind the skull. Kalak’s head fell back and laughed, long and hard and devoid of any compassion.

And like that, he was gone.

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Crossing Paths

The final assassin fell to the ground, dead.

The cityfolk who were still in the marketplace discovered their misplaced sense of self-preservation and cleared the marketplace just as fast as their terrified feet could carry them.

The Eladrin woman who had been the focus of the attack reacted in much the opposite manner. Instead of fleeing, she smiled a relieved smile and approached the Scions without hesitation. “My name is Saffrenia,” she said, casually surveying the group. “I’d like to thank you for saving my life. I wish I could say that this sort of thing doesn’t happen to me very often, but lately these cultists have been becoming bolder as far as opposing those who wish to silence their nonsense about the end of days.”

One brave soul poked his head around the corner of a nearby tree and shouted “The guards are coming!”

Saffrenia nodded. “You have nothing to fear,” she told the Scions. “They come to aid me, not hinder your efforts. I serve on the High Council, and these assassins were disguised as my security detail.” Her eyes became cold. “I will be having words with those who were in charge of my protection.”

While the opportunity presented itself, the Scions began examining the bodies of the assassins. Each of the Eladrin possessed a brand on their forearms, a mark very similar to the mark of Illidus that Yelena bore on her forehead.

“It looks like the plague has spread,” Yelena said. “For someone that nobody has heard of, his followers seem to be multiplying faster than rabbits in heat.”

“You are quite popular,” Thorim said.

“Shut up,” Yelena replied weakly.

Armed Eladrin poured into the marketplace from seemingly everywhere. Robed ones appeared out of the nether. In a second the Scions were surrounded and greatly outnumbered. A moment later the platoon had turned its attention to Saffrenia, who addressed them sternly. “Stand down!” she ordered, and all eyes turned to the plantinum-haired Eladrin. “These strangers saved my life,” she told them. “I need you to turn your attention to the city.” She turned her focus to the Eladrin wearing what appeared to be a high-ranking insignia on his chest, distinguishing him from the others. “Captain Legna?”

The Captain stepped forward. “Yes m’lady.”

“Captain I want you to take your men and scour Mithrendain. I know these cultists often preach on street corners, such as they are. I want your men to find them and gather them up. No more of them preaching how only the faithful will be saved. If you see them, take them into custody. Am I clear?”

Captain Legna nodded once. “Yes m’lady. It shall be done.” He snapped his fingers and pointed a squadron of his men in various directions.

While the Captain mobilized his men, Saffrenia approached the Scions. “Now what brings you to Mithrendain?” she asked.

Yelena coughed into the back of her hand and told here they had come to speak with Kalak Stormrage. “It actually involves these doomsayers and cultists,” she said. “But the specific details we can give only to him.”

This Saffrenia seemed to find quite interesting. “Is that so? Then it would appear that Fate has had a hand in bringing us together. Kalak is my husband.” Her expression changed after taking a long look at Yelena. “But then, you already knew that.”

The mages launched a sudden attack, orbs of light screaming at the Scions. They focused their attack specifically on Yelena and Thorim, battering the duo repeatedly. Lucan had already taken refuge behind a nearby tree, Abelarde behind a nearby Toby. By the time the spots disappeared from view, Yelena and Thorim were both surrounded by thick glowing chains that seemed to slither around them like snakes. “Stay your hands, Scions of Legacy,” Saffrenia said loudly. “Yes, I know who you are. This is for your safety as well as our own.”

Thorim struggled against his bindings. Yelena barely had enough strength to remain standing. Saffrenia walked over and yanked the headband off her head, revealing the glowing mark of Illidus. The mark had changed color for the first time, turning from a light blue to a blood red hue. “You thought you could enter Mithrendain without detection?” Saffrenia said to Yelena, the cleric’s eyes barely open. “Clever ploy, bringing these people here as a ruse to get your revenge on my husband for imprisoning you all those centuries ago. But there will be no revenge, Betrayer. This time there will be no banishment for you – only execution!”

Thorim bellowed, “Kalak is supposed to help her!”

Yelena rolled her eyes in Thorim’s direction. “Your boss won’t like hearing that.”

Saffrenia looked up at the giant in disgust. “I have the power here, not my husband.” She noticed the look being burned into her from the remaining Scions. “Very well. He should probably see this anyway. Captain, take them to the Arcanium.”

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A Timely Rescue
A Timely Rescue

Visitors to the Autumn City from the World were likely to be struck by both how beautiful and how alien the city appeared to be. Mithrendain was built in the middle of a great forest, seeming to spring up from the ground just like the trees throughout the city. In fact, many tall, broad trees are larger than several of the city’s eladrin-built towers, giving the impression that the towers are merely natural growths within the forest. Unlike the Citadel at its heart, the city of Mithrendain has no walls, meaning that entering the city is a matter of walking wherever a gap can be found between the buildings and great trees. Hundreds of streets flow outward from the city center, allowing visitors to enter wherever is convenient upon arrival; similarly, leaving the city is a matter of finding the shortest route to the edge of the buildings. A city filled with citizens that can teleport, even over short distances, has little need for large walls to protect it.

The streets, loosely paved with an extremely smooth sandy yellow stone, wind their way through the city in a rather haphazard fashion. The buildings in Mithrendain are not built into city blocks, but rather cluster together in groups of three to five towers; the roads flow around them, and no dead-end streets exist in the city. Every street connects with another, or another branch of itself, and the buildings allows those looking in any direction to see for great distances with little obstruction.

Though many buildings are in the city, each cluster of towers does not block line of sight over long stretches. While walking through the streets of the city, one might suspect that Mithrendain is an unplanned, haphazard city due to the organic nature of its layout, though this couldn’t be further from the truth; the city’s leaders carefully approve of every new building, making sure that it still leaves enough space for unobstructed views of distant places in the city. Additionally, the city has parks with small patches of grass and streams that feed into placid pool, which is where eladrin can gather outside their homes. The eladrin make sure that Mithrendain is constantly filled with gardens, streams, and small lakes, which gives the impression that the city and the forest surrounding it grew up at the same time.

Once the Scions had crossed into the Feywild, they found themselves in the middle of a market square. Farmers and shoppers huddle behind produce carts in the midst of a street brawl. Several eladrin males with swords drawn were attempting to surround a female eladrin defending herself with a staff. Seeing the group suddenly appear as if by magic, the eladrin assassins assume them to be allies of the woman and attacked.

During the conflict, the Scions were unsure if they should have been attacking the swordsmen. The eladrin appeared to be well armed and officially dressed. Yet someone in the crowd referred to them as “Cultists” at one point in the conflict.

Despite having to work around not only terrain but fear-struck civilians, the Scions came out on top and were about to speak with the woman who had been attacked.

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The Lady's Revenge
The Lady’s Revenge

Having completed their audience with Lady Moonfire, the Half-Elven leader of Loudwater, the Scions were feeling a rare sensation of positivity. “She seems nice,” Abelarde said as they took to the gravel streets, off to another meeting of a less pleasant nature.

“What part was nice?” Lucan asked. “The part where she offered to barter our magic items in a number of markets for us? Or the part where she apologised for not hosting a ball in our honour sooner?”

Abelarde gave a self-satisfying smirk. “Like I said, she seems nice.”

Yelena stumbled, then quickly caught herself. Her skin had been losing color lately, and despite her brave front she was clearly in pain all the time now. “Kat mentioned that Lady Moonfire throws quite the party,” she said. “I can’t remember the last time I danced.”

Thorum’s face split in an odd way that almost resembled a smile. “My wife was the same way. She loved to dance. So graceful. When we danced together, she even made me seem less clumsy.”

Everyone seemed to pause. Since he’d arrived, Thorum said little and acted more like an automation than anything resembling a person. The revelation that he’d once had a wife made things seem awkward if only for a moment. Yelena’s voice was soft. “Where is your wife now?”

Thorum looked down at the former cleric. “She waits for me. When Lord Illidus is free, I’ll dance with my wife once again.”

“And the world continues to disappoint,” Toby declared and looked up at an all-too familiar abandoned building. “We’re here.”

Yelena squinted in the afternoon sun and surveyed the exterior of the faded, decrepit structure. “We know this is obviously a trap,” she said.

“Obviously,” said Abelarde.

“Do we have a plan?” Yelena asked. “Or are we just going to blindly run into the basement of this death trap to face the Lady of Shadows? Who, by the way, is a Vampire that is none too happy with us.”

Abelarde studied the situation. “The way I see it, we need the crystal that she stole. But more importantly, you need it. So maybe if you and your gigantic dance partner were to waltz through the front door, Lucan could stealth in through the back. Toby will cover your back.”

“And where will you be?” Yelena asked. “As if I didn’t already know.”

“Don’t you worry about me,” Abelarde assured her.

Yelena stared at him. “I don’t.”

“Your eyes say otherwise,” Abelarde said through his smirk and took a step back. “Now if everyone will…”

Lucan had already vanished. Toby was walking toward the front door, almost pushing Thorum out of the way. The two behemoths stormed through the front door, Yelena moving as quickly as she could just to keep up with them. Abelarde stood in the street. “Uh…”

After several seconds, Yelena called out from inside the building. “Abelarde, you’d best see this.”

The bard stepped through the doorway. “Missed me?”

Abelarde’s smile dissolved at the image of a dead Drow hanging by his feet from the ceiling.

Toby picked up a length of board and attempted to poke the hanging body. Lucan stopped him. “Let me check for traps before you get all pokey with the corpse.”

While Lucan slowly went over body, his hands hovering inches above the dead flesh, Thorum eyeballed the body from a safe distance. “Twin scabbards, empty. Armor looks beat up. A whole lot of holes from the looks of it.”

“That would explain why he’s dead.” Toby grumbled. “Cause of death – holes.”

Minutes later, Lucan wiped the sweat from his brow. “Body’s clean. Well, the body isn’t trapped. Pockets were empty.” He verbally fended off the looks he was getting. “What? I was looking for traps.”

The Drow’s white hair had turned to long red clumps, the ends of which stuck to the floor. A pool of blood had grown beneath him. Abelarde looked simply triumphant. “You see this? We’re so feared that Drow are killing themselves rather than having to face us!”

Everyone looked at him. He shook his head. “Okay, I have no idea what happened here. But that right there is the best kind of Drow.”

“I might have found a clue,” Lucan said.

“Where?”

“I’d say the bag hanging from the wall might be a giveaway.”

A small leather satchel was pinned to the wall by a dagger. Above the bag, a large circle with an X underneath it had been carved into the wood. “Isn’t this the sign of that pirate?” Yelena asked. “Crossbones?”

Abelarde looked at the symbol. “A pirate that leaves treasure? Is this Backward Land?”

“I knew there was a name for the world you lived in,” Yelena said.

Lucan slowly examined the satchel, checking every stitch, every fold. He studied the dagger. Satisfied that it was safe, he gently dislodged the dagger and gently set the satchel on the floor. With the edge of the dagger, he traced the edge of the flap to ensure there were no booby-traps inside. Taking many, many seconds, Lucan raised the flap and looked inside. He lifted the silk bundle out and slowly peeled the layers off. The note, once he’d seen the insignia on it, was palmed and slipped in his pocket.

“The crystal,” he said aloud. “It’s here.”

“Well that was easy,” Abelarde said with a great deal of satisfaction. “Now let’s take that rock, head to the Fey, save the World, and sing the tales of my greatness!”

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The Dark News

The Dark News

It is the middle of the afternoon when the Scions of Legacy returned to Loudwater. Four children in total returned with them. The little girl that Toby saved, Tamayla, hadn’t left his side since he saved her life. She referred to him as “the Angry Man”. When the boat arrived at port, the Loudwater militia was both thankful that the Scions have delivered the children, and a little bitter at the group doing what they had been unable to do. Again. They will not shed too many tears when the group decides to move along.

The guards gathered up the children. Tamayla wouldn’t leave Toby. When the guards became insistent, Thorum stepped up beside Toby and suggested that the militia let the Scions deliver the child. She’d been through enough “disagreeable circumstances” for one lifetime.

Tamayla guided them to a Herbalist shop. Her parents, Thom and Peera, were thrilled to see her. They offered five Healing Potions, their entire stock, to show their gratitude.

The Scions returned to the Green Tankard Tavern. The Halfling, Marsh Laval, was excited to see them. He’d been worried that he might have had to sell off their rooms (cough cough rub palm). He also said that he had a message for them. It had just arrived, in fact. It was a letter from Muradin.

Scions,

I hope my message finds you well, or at least alive. I had no sooner returned to Waterdeep than I was assailed on all sides by questions: What happened at Nynn? What do I know about the increased number of Undead bands attacking the countryside with both knowledge and purpose? Is it part of the Blood Lord’s plan to kill every living creature?

Over the past few days, I have noticed an increased presence of robed figures bearing the insignia of a skull veiled by shadows. They call themselves The Helion Brotherhood, and they’ve been picking fights with various church entities. To what ends I have no idea. I have a drawing of their emblem – perhaps it is familiar to you.

The drawing was that of Illidus’ Shadowy Skull.

I began my research in finding out what I could about Yelena’s condition, as well as any information involving Illidus. The few doors that were actually worth opening could only be opened by large keys of gold. Keys larger than I was able to produce. However, a locksmith did come through on the behalf of the Scions of Legacy – Reginald Whitby. Somehow he received word that I was working on the behalf of the Scions, and he was only too happy to help out. Abelarde, your father told me to tell you that he is very proud of your success. He also seemed surprised as well.

The information I was able to gather wasn’t as informative as I would have hoped, but it was something. All roads lead to one man, the man who actually fought Illidus and trapped him in his dimensional prison – the Eladrin Battlemage named Kalak Stormrage. He currently resides in Mithrendain, within the confines of the Feywild.

I have included a Crystal of Translocation, which should open a gateway to Mithrendain for you.

Good luck Scions,
Muradin.

“Where’s the crystal?”

Marsh returned to his office. He thought it best to lock the crystal away. It looked pretty valuable, so he thought it’d be safer in his lockbox. When he returned from retrieving the box, he had only a note with him. The box had been emptied, the crystal gone and replaced with the slip of paper. The paper was an invitation for the Scions to retrieve their precious crystal. The note was signed “the Lady of Shadows”.

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The Battle Continues

The Battle Continues

With Abelarde and Yelena moving about, Thorum grabbed Lucan and threw him at the dragon. Lucan landed on the beast’s back and brought it to the ground.

Behind the mirrored glass, Toby saw someone falling through the sky with him. At first the figure appeared to be far away, but at a second glance he realised that it was a child – a ten year old girl. The little girl appeared limp, dead or unconscious. He couldn’t tell. But Toby tucked his body and managed to manoever his body close enough to grab her. She opened her eyes slightly and asked “Are you a good giant?” She was pale, weak, and obviously dehydrated, but still has the strength to hold onto him tightly. With his sheer strength of will, Toby fought off the imprisioning magic and brought both of them back into Rallon’s chamber.

Confronted with a dragon, the girl rushed to a corner to hide. Yelena got between the child and the dragon, paying the price with a large gouge across her back. But with the dragon on the ground and Toby back in the fray, the Scions killed the fake “old god” and cut it’s head off, displaying it outside the temple as a warning to the other Yuan-Ti.

The Scions brought the remaining survivors back to Loudwater.

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The Chamber of Rallon

The Chamber of Rallon

The Scions stepped through the doorway and entered a large room with an open roof, trees grown over the opening. In the center of the room appeared to be a statue of a dragon, surrounded by a maelstrom of wind and sunlight. Eight mirrors are set into the floor near the room’s entrance. On the far side of the room, water poured into a fountain from three carved draconic heads. Flanking the fountain, two pillars of black stone crackle with blue sparks.

Standing proudly in front of the fountain is a green dragon, its verdant scales glistening in the sun. Two Dragonborn warriors surrounded the dragon.

Observation time gave the Scions some more information -

  • A screaming elven face pressed against the other side of one of the mirrors, and fists pounded soundlessly against the glass. Just as quickly as it appeared, the face was swept away.
  • The scrape of footsteps around the corners indicated that more foes hide just out of sight.

The five dragonborn gladiators swarmed forward as combat begins, attempting to catch the group in a crossfire of multiple dragon breath attacks.

In the opening moments, Rallon remained in the maelstrom, benefiting from its concealment and
using luring glare to slide the Scions into the storm. She managed to draw Toby in. Unfortunately, the big man was first paralyzed by the mist before being sucked through the mirror-like eyes of the Statue. He found himself on the other side of the mirrors that the screaming Elf passed by, falling endlessly much like he did.

Rallon took to the air once the dragonborn were defeated, and took a great deal of pleasure in bringing death from above. With no one able to reach the great beast, and Toby falling endlessly in the Mirror of Trapped Souls, could the Scions survive this battle?

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The Tomb of Rallon

The Tomb of Rallon

The Scions were taken down river by a grizzled old fisherman named Goril. Gor was impressed with their mission, “like something Crossbones would pull off.” For 50gp in advance (hazard pay) he’d gladly take them to the ruins and bring back any kids they found.

Word on the street is that this Crossbones person is a man of mystery. No one had ever seen him, but he continues to pop up all over – Waterdeep, Baldur’s Gate, and even Loudwater had claimed to have encounters. Many claim him to be a pirate that travels the river and shoreline, hence the nickname. There are rumors about him, but there are those who claim he’s just a myth that people use to their advantage. He’s killed both the righteous and the wicked, so his true motives are unclear.

It was a two-day trek to the temple. They made the approach to the ruins under the cover of night. Gor’s fishing boat was small enough to navigate the channel, but large enough to bring back any number of children. As they cautiously make their approach, they could see the glow from two torches. It wasn’t very well-lit, but there were trip-lines set up around the perimeter of the camp that were quietly deactivated.

In the camp itself were four cages. Two of them had children in them, SIX children total. There were four Snaketongue Warriors in the camp, who were surprised before they were killed.

The temple ruins sunk into the ground. The Scions followed the tunnel down into a room illuminated with a large flaming arrowhead in the center of it. The stone pillars on either side of the room were decorative, depicting scenes of reptilian creatures in a sunlit forest.

On the opposite side of the room was a solid wall made up of the bodies of nonbelievers (mostly elves) who were captured by Rallon’s followers and were trapped forever in undying misery.

The door was magically sealed. After slaying the serpent guardians who were in the room, the medallion they wore was placed in the fire and allowed the door to open.

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Nightmare

Nightmare

It was a good thing Lucan didn’t need much rest at night. Sharing a room with Yelena was getting to be bad for his beauty sleep.

At first, she was simply restless. Loud mumbling, tossing and turning. The next night she would scream in horror and sit up in bed, soaked in sweat, but never be able to recall what her nightmare was. It was on the third night that Lucan wondered why she happened to be so silent. She slept the sleep of the dead, and if he hadn’t noticed the shadowy tendrils that had wrapped around her throat, she might have slept eternally. The tendrils seemed to come from her, but when he stabbed them they vanished. All she could remember the next day was the sensation of being strangled.

After the tendril night, they never returned. But Yelena’s sleep never improved.

However, during the day Yelena and the Scions were busy. They were piecing the plans together, given what little information they had, to free the child slaves of Loudwater. Also, while they were at it, maybe they’d consider knocking off this forgotten god that the Yuan-Ti had unearthed. Kat had been helpful in gathering information from the locals – although she wasn’t one of them, they treated her like a celebrity. Unlike the Scions, she didn’t have an aura of danger around her. People felt comfortable, and in that comfort Kat found information.

She’d learned that a second group had spoken with Kyos, and had ventured off to find the ruins. That was a week or so ago, and there’d been no word since. No one had given them much of a chance anyway.

That particular morning, the Scions had assembled for breakfast. Yelena was drinking a strong tea to keep herself awake, when Kat entered the Tankard. “Good Morning Scions,” she said with a smile on her face. “Wonderful morning, isn’t it?”

“Muh,” Yelena grunted. Her face was poured into the palm of her hand, head supported by the elbow propped on the table.

Lucan wiped his eyes. “Yeah, sleep isn’t an option for some people.”

Abelarde shrugged. “Really? I slept fine. Must have been the silk sheets I requested.” He felt all eyes on him. “What? Group funds.” He sipped his tea.

“It’s times like this that I don’t completely regret stabbing you,” Lucan muttered.

Kat cleared her throat. “Well I hate to bring up business so early in the morning, but when I was coming in I passed by a rather regal, rather armed fellow preaching across the street. Paladin from the looks of him. He says he’s here to kill the host of Illidus the Deceiver.”

Yelena spit out her tea. Kat handed her a napkin. “I take it he’s a friend of yours?”

Toby perked up. “Sounds like he’s starting trouble.”

“Well he’s saying that The Deceiver is a threat to the town. Nynn fell to Illidus, and he says if he doesn’t kill the Host, Loudwater will suffer the same fate.” Kat handed Yelena another napkin. “The natives are starting to get a little restless.”

“I should go out there,” said Yelena.

Toby stood up and cracked his knuckles. “I agree.”

“Not to fight,” Yelena added.

“Whatever,” Toby chuckled.

Abelarde stood up. “To preserve our good name and to prevent any more misunderstanding, we should… uh, where did Lucan go?”

“I would guess he’s probably carved his initials in the back of that Paladin’s head by now.” Kat looked up. “And by NOW, he’s sliced the fellow into small chunks.”

NOOOOO!” Toby bolted for the doorway, and hit the doors so hard the frame cracked. “SHARE!”

The Scions exited the Tankard. As Kat had said, a man clad in ornate plate armour was addressing the small crowd of locals that had started to form, curious to see what all the noise was about. He raised his arms overhead and said, “… and I tell you now, if the Host is not destroyed and is allowed to continue to draw breath, it means not only the end of Loudwater, but the end of the entire World!”

Abelarde knew Lucan was in the crowd, and most likely inches away from the Paladin’s neck. Toby appeared ready to wade into the civilians and commence with a beating. “This could get messy.”

Yelena shouted, “You wanted to see me?”

The Paladin turned and for a moment seemed to forget what he was saying. “You!” He shouted when he finally found his tongue. “You’re a woman! The Host was foretold to be a Man, not a Woman!”

“Well I guess you can’t believe everything you hear,” Abelarde said to Yelena’s chest. The Cleric rolled her eyes and pointed at the Paladin. Abelarde forced his eyes to the plate-wearing Priest. “Now stand down and let’s discuss this.”

The crowd shifted restlessly. They knew of the Scions, but they’d heard stories about the fall of Nynn and that Yelena was somehow connected. The ever-increasing number of negative stares was making Toby twitch in a “lust for violence” kind of way. He stared back at every set of eyes looking at them, visualizing them being crushed into dust.

The Paladin smirked at his newfound support. Toby really wanted to hurt him.

Like a shadow, Lucan passed through the crowd and appeared behind the Paladin. He watched Yelena and Abelarde, waiting for a sign for him to strike.

“Stand down,” Yelena echoed. “I don’t know what you think I am, but I’m not the evil one here. I am no Host!”

The Paladin drew his sword and pointed the tip at Yelena. “You are in league with the Blood Lord himself!”

Lucan’s dagger was in his hand. Toby stepped into the street. Abelarde remained one step behind Yelena, trying to get the best line-of-sight of everyone involved. Also, he had on a new shirt so, another step back.

“I am not in league with the Blood Lord!”

The Paladin advanced, pushing the crowd aside. As Lucan brought his blade back, his eyes focused on the gap under the helmet, the soft spot at the base of the Paladin’s skull , the air parted in the middle of the street. A huge mass of humanity, standing almost a full bald head taller than Toby, stepped through the tear and continued his stride toward the Paladin. The grey-skinned titan drove his fist into the Paladin’s chest, and the thunderous boom sent the civilians scattering.

Lucan dove out from behind the Paladin, vaulting over a fallen man and landing in the street beside Toby. Yelena ran out into the street, but the grey giant held a hand out. “Stay back,” he said in a deep, hollow voice. “The Blood Lord has sent me to protect you.”

“So much with that whole ‘not in league with the Blood Lord’ tactic,” Yelena grumbled. Her hand moved to the blessed medallion of Bahamut that she wore around her neck, and began to chant. Seconds later, she collapsed in the street. Those locals who hadn’t fled the scene were now making a mad dash for anywhere but here.

The bodyguard struck the Paladin a second time, getting slashed across the stomach in the process but seeming not to feel it. The Paladin, on the other hand, felt the huge fist strike him in the helmet with enough concussive force to shake him loose from consciousness. The Goliath didn’t bother to watch him hit the ground. He turned his attention to Lucan and Toby, who were checking on the fallen Cleric.

Abelarde stepped into the street. “We were told someone might be along,” he said. “Who are you?”

“Thorum,” the Goliath said. He looked down at Yelena. “Are you alright?”

Yelena looked at Thorum, then at the Scions. There were tears in her eyes. “No,” she whispered. Her lip trembled. “I… tried to call upon Bahamut. He cast me out.”

She looked down at the dragonic medallion around her neck, then pulled off the scarf she’d wrapped around her head. The glowing mark of Illidus shone down on it, brighter even than the morning sun. “Please…” she begged. “Don’t leave me.”

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