Rise of the Demon Lord

Top of the World

- The Scions had been trapped underground for almost a week, magically summoning provisions to survive. Food and water wasn’t an issue. Useable air, though, was. Time was growing short.
- In that week, the Scions had come to a number of conclusions:

  1. Fey stepping didn’t work. It was like running headlong into a wall.
  2. Teleporting didn’t appear to work as well.
  3. There were no traps, or trap doors, which was odd for a keep built by dwarves.
  4. The body of Tathlyn’s sister Neera was no longer in the temple room.

- With the air growing a little more crunchy, Salissta sat in a trace to better study the barrier which surrounded them. After almost a full day of meditation, she came to a conclusion.
- Salissta would have to use the power of the Skull of Hamfel it to break through the barrier and teleport them to the Raven Queens temple at the Spine of the World.
- That suggestion was originally met with a resounding “Hell” and “No”.
- She revealed that she could perform a ritual that would allow her to control the power of the skull long enough to get them where they needed to go. Kalak Stormrage, her brother, had simply placed the skull on his head and arrogantly thought he could control it.
- Salissta performed the ritual, slowly passing her hand over the spikes in the skull and smoothing them to the point where the skull began to look more like a helmet. Abelarde stood in front of her the whole time, holding her attention, while Toby stood in a batter’s stance with the giant Demon-axe Dreadflame at the ready. Lucan slowly made his way around her, just in case.
- Once the skull was smooth, Salissta put it on. Her hair became flames, her eyes glowed like hot coals. She said she needed one more thing to complete the ritual.
- Ectoplasmic tentacles shot out of her body, grabbed, Lucan, and pulled him inside of her.
- Abelarde frantically gave Toby the “Off with her head” nod.
- Toby was in mid-swing when they all disappeared.
- The first thing that struck them was the cold. The air was so thin and frosty that it burned Abelarde’s lungs. The snow seemed to be melting around Toby.
- It was mid-day, more or less. The sky was a blanket of grey, but the light from the sun managed to barely make it through.
- They stood in front of a large stone tower-like structure. It was round, with many windows, and stretched about 150 feet up. About half a mile on either side was a mountain. Behind them, the snowy surface seemed to drop off.
- Salissta stood on the stairs and motioned them into the temple.
- Once inside, they were greeted by a Warforged Shepherd of the Raven Queen named Shepherd Kyriel.
- He welcomed them to the temple of the Raven Queen and mentioned that he had been told to expect them.
- Kyriel offered them something warm to eat and drink.
- He took them into a back room and ignited a small flame box. A kettle of tea had been prepared, as well as a few cooked rabbits.
- While everyone sat to eat, Abelarde requested some warmer clothes. Kyriel opened up a chest that had various items of clothing in it. They were donations from people who had come to see him before their “transition” (death – the Raven Queen is the God of Death). Kyriel would sit down with them and help calm them by giving them his Sermon of Passing, explaining how things would happen, and what was waiting for them beyond the mortal coil.
- Once everyone was eating, Kyriel offered to take the helmet and start the shattering ritual.
- Shepherd assured Salissta that it was safe to do so.
- The helmet came off and instantly reformed into the spiked skull. Lucan fell “out of her”, bounced off the table, and crashed to the floor.
- Abelarde checked his vitals. Lucan was very much alive, only unconscious.
- Salissta was weakened by the ordeal, but assured Abelarde that Lucan would awaken in an hour or so.
- Toby and Dreadflame wanted to see the skull destroyed, so he offered to accompany the Shepherd while he performed the ritual.
- About forty-five minutes later, Abelarde listened for chanting but heard only silence.
- Salissta was barely moving, Lucan was unconscious, so he walked out of the antechamber to check on things.
- Both Kyriel and Toby were suspended in mid-air, apparently being held by the drow Tathlyn, the Blood Lord.
- Beside him he had propped up the decayed body of his sister Neera.
- He held the skull in his hand, claiming the power of the skull could bring his sister back, and “the Raven Queen be damned.”
- To say such a thing in the temple of the Raven Queen was blasphemy, and Kyriel assured him there would be consequences for his actions.
- The Blood Lord put helmet on Neera. After a few moments, she sprung to life. Her hair was like smoke escaping from under the skull. Her flesh was like shadow, and more poured over her to form a robe. A banshee scream knocked everyone back.
- Neera looked at her brother and announced how weak and pathetic he was. She looked angrily at Abelarde. The expression switched to more of a loathing rage when she stared at Toby (he killed her, chopped her up, mocked the corpse. Neera was a little bitter about that).
- Neera’s arm disappeared into a small portal. She pulled out a barbed spiked cord which jammed into the back of the skull.
- She had somehow started the Shadow Engine and was absorbing the power of the dead gods (the shadow engine was the maching Illidus had been trying to reach when the Scions stopped him.)
- Salissta weakly stood in the doorway of the antechamber while Abelarde, Toby, and Kyriel engaged Neera.
- With impressive tandem teamwork, they weakened her. Toby raised Dreadflame high overhead and severed the cord from the skull, and most of Neera’s head from her body.
- The energy pumped out unchecked. Neera clutched at the spraying hose, screaming.
- Salissta looked at Toby and whispered “… the Worldbreaker.”
- She fell back into the antechamber and shut the door behind her.
- The Scions fought against the god-energy, but the dimensional tear became too much to overcome. The walls of the temple scattered like leaves, and Toby, Abelarde, and Kyriel were blown off the top of the mountain. They took a few dings but miraculously landed alive a little further down the side of the mountain.
- They watched the energy beam rip across the sky toward the western horizon. There appeared to be an explosion of some kind beyond the horizon. Clouds scattered as a massive shockwave came back at them.
- Toby quickly dragged a tree in front of them for protection just as the shockwave hit.
- They fell out of their snowy cocoon and heard a scream. Neera had found them. She flew toward them.
- There was little left of her that was solid. She had no skin, just black necrotic energy sliding over bones. The skull sat atop her own bare skull. Her bottom jaw was gone.
- The fight resumed.
- Toby stood toe to toe with her. She stabbed her hand into his chest and grabbed his soul.
- At first it felt like his insides were burning cold.
- She withdrew her hand and Toby collapsed to the ground, dead.
- Kyriel and Abelarde engaged the necrotic demon-lich, and Abelarde struck her dead.
- Kyriel blessed his burning Warhammer and shattered the skull. Abelarde checked the pieces and there was no arcane energies left in it. They had succeeded.
- Abelarde walked on top of the snow while Kyriel, carrying Toby, climbed back up the mountain to check on Lucan and Salissta.
- The place where the temple had been was now a crater. The mountain tops that had been on either side of the temple had been blown off.
- They dug through the snow and found Salissta’s body. She had cast a barrier spell over Lucan, who was still unconscious but appeared alive.
- The skies became dark and snow started to fall. The wind began to blow, cold and bitter, stabbing at Abelarde’s skin. Toby was gone. Lucan was under a protective dome but there was no way to tell when, or even if, he would ever wake up. Abelarde was trapped miles up on top of a mountain, sitting in a stone crater, and the temperatures continued to drop.
- Shepherd Kyriel sat down, cross-legged and looked at Abelarde. He began his Sermon of Passing by saying “Let me tell you how things are going to go…”

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Trust Issues

Despite the large horns growing out of her head, Salissta Stormrage was quite an attractive lady.

But it was her warmth, a side effect of being a vessel for a Demon Lord, that currently attracted the Scions to her.

The group sat inside the glowing teleportation circle, huddled close together while bandaging bloody wounds and trying to remain warm against the icy chill of the Shadowfell. Being in the realm of death was unpleasant to say the very least. Barely surviving against their undead welcoming party was bad enough, but the cold and necrotic energy surrounding them seemed to be seeping into their bodies like a chilling toxin.

Abelarde told himself that it was just the cold that had him shaking. His holy symbol of Amaunator was squeezed in his hand, and he was thankful for the Sun God’s assistance in surviving the ordeal. But he couldn’t stop thinking about that voice that had popped into his head, asking for help. Who was this person, and where were they?

Lucan and Toby tightened their bloody wraps and took stock of the situation. Salissta sat cross-legged in the center of the circle, providing demon warmth to the others while she meditated. A voice outside the circle brought her out of her trance immediately, and made every head turn. It was a very angry voice, coming from a very unlikely source.

“It’s a trap.”

Bare-chested and bloody, steam still escaping from a number of his wounds, Koyas stared at Salissta. “You led us into a trap,” he said, his voice far less timid and much more assertive than normal. Or whatever normal was in reference to Koyas the Mad. “After everything I’ve done to keep Koyas alive, you seem to have little problem throwing him to the wolves time and again.”

Abelarde looked at Lucan. “Should it seem strange that he’s referring to himself in the third person?”

“It would be strange to think it strange,” Lucan replied.

Salissta slowly opened her eyes and looked up at the monk. “I’ve led no one into a trap. This is a dangerous place. One can’t even be sure of drawing their next breath without worrying it may be their last. We survived, and will simply have to be more cautious from here on out.”

“We survived?” Lighting crashed. Koyas stretched his arms out to the sides. The grey light illuminated the gutted tower momentarily, but in that moment the monk’s ravaged body was fully displayed. “Does this look like survival to you?”

“Get over here you mad fuck,” Toby said. “We don’t have time for this. We’re alive. That’s the end of it.”

“And where do we go next? What good will come of us being in the Shadowfell?” He pointed an accusing finger at Salissta. “Why is that hellspawn dragging us father from the light?”

He took a step closer to the glowing teleportation ring. Madness was running unchecked in the monk’s eyes, enough so that Salissta drew her staff close to her chest. Koyas turned his attention to the Scions of Legacy. “You killed the Blood Lord! The one who commanded legions of undead armies and was responsible for the death of entire kingdoms! He’s dead, but here we are in the Shadowfell. Why?”

He pointed at Salissta. Blood ran down his forearm and dripped from his fingertip. “She killed Abelarde, possessed the dead body of your cleric, and had her power taken away from her by the man who sent her to the Nine Hells for a century or two.”

The former warlock gave him a curious look. “You weren’t there. How do you know this?”

“Koyas could smell the lie that is your entire existence and he told me.” The monk stood just outside the circle. “I may not be a Scion of Legacy, but I live to keep Koyas safe. I’m not about to throw our lives away based solely on the word of a demon woman looking for revenge.”

Salissta had heard enough and stood up. Her voice was as chilling as the air around them. “Then you should have left when Saffrenia did.”

“If I had any say at that time, Koyas would have followed the woman. Instead, he chose to follow you, first into the Underdark, and now the Shadowfell.” Koyas smeared his bloody hand across his bare stomach. “Darker and darker we go.”

“This is about much more than myself,” Salissta turned from the monk and addressed the Scions within the circle. “This is Illidus wanting the power of a God and bringing Hell to Earth!”

Lucan eyed the horned woman suspiciously. “I thought it was your brother who was so power hungry.”

“I’m starting to believe that I have been mistaken.”

Abelarde didn’t like the sound of that. “What changed your mind?”

“Last night while I was meditating,” Salissta closed her eyes and she lost herself in a dream. She moved her hands over her body, just hovering over her skin. “I felt the presence of Illidus. I felt his fire all around me. We still share a bond.”

Abelarde cocked an eyebrow. “Not sure how comfortable I am with you feeling his fire, whatever that means. Besides, I thought he was destroyed when you stole his whammy?”

Salissta’s hands stopped moving. She opened her eyes, a little embarrassed at her performance a moment ago. “I thought I had. I performed a powerful ritual and absorbed his essence. My brother, in his arrogance, simply put on a mystical helmet and thought he was powerful enough to take the Demon Lord’s power and control it. But when I was meditating, I could feel Illidus talking to me. Instead of Kalak absorbing the essence of Illidus, I fear the Demon Lord stole his.”

Koyas stepped over the teleportation circle and joined the others. Salissta’s body heat warmed the air, and the steam from the monk’s wounds disappeared. Koyas didn’t seem to notice or care. “Illidus talks to you. You feel his thoughts. Maybe he feels yours too. In which case, you’re hurting us more than you’re helping us.”

Lucan looked over at Abelarde. “He may by out of his mind, but he’s not wrong. Could be that Illidus decided to celebrate his freedom by going back to the Abyss. It was Kalak who wanted this god machine. If she’s right and Illidus is in control, how do we know he’s still going after the machine?” He shot a glance at Salissta. “Or did he tell you he was?”

The talk of lying, betrayal, and possibly getting screwed over again wasn’t agreeing with Toby at all. “How do we know she isn’t using us so she can use the machine on herself?”

“You haven’t exactly given us much good faith to go on,” Abelarde told her.

Salissta looked shocked. “I took you to the Underdark to arm yourselves with powerful magic items! Why would I strengthen you if I wanted to betray you?”

Lucan seemed unconvinced. “Doesn’t mean you won’t turn on us as soon as we help you get to this machine. Maybe you’ll use that fancy dagger you picked up while we were in Apothica.”

Salissta’s calm gave way to frustration. She paced around the edge of the ring, the glow casting long shadowy horns up on the wall behind her. “I told you the truth before when I said I couldn’t stop Kalak without you. But if we’re dealing with Illidus instead of my brother, I’m less certain about our chances of success. That doesn’t mean he can’t be defeated, and it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be.”

Toby reached out and flicked a lock of her hair as she passed by him, stopping her in her tracks. “It’s not that easy to trust you, what with you wearing Yelena’s body like a damn coat.”

“Lucan is right,” Koyas told the Scions. “If she can hear Illidus’ thoughts, there’s a chance he can hear hers.” He looked at Salissta as her fingers tightened around her staff. “Or maybe that’s what she wants. Maybe she wants to warn him that we’re coming.”

Her staff crackled as Salissta swung it in a long arc toward Koyas’ head. But the monk moved much quicker and caught the staff with his left hand and punched her square in the face with his right. Salissta left her feet, as well as the teleportation circle, and slammed against the wall behind her. She dropped to the ground in a tumbled heap, her horns scraping against the stone wall until her back hit the hard ground.

Abelarde appeared to briefly consider stepping between the two, then tossed that idea in the trash just as quickly. “Enough!”

Koyas looked at the staff, which has stopped sparking, and tossed it over to Salissta. “Not even close, but it’s a start.”

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Out Of The Frying Pan...

- Salissta created a portal which took the Scions to the Shadowfell, specifically the ruined city of Odenia.
- They stepped through and found themselves in the top of a partially frozen, collapsed tower.
- Salissta told the Scions that there’s another teleportation disk that they need to get to, but it was on the other side of the city. Travel by bridges linking towers.
- The Scions were then attacked by mad Odenian Zombies and Winter Wraths.
- Koyas fell three times, Abelarde once.
- Bloody and spent, the Scions sat down and planned their next move.

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The Goblin Castle

Maximus Darkstone rested and recovered in his room, but wanted to know why the Scions were there. Salissta told him they were looking for powerful magic items. Maximus considered it and decided to assemble various magic wares for the Scions to peruse. He also asked if the Scions had heard anything about Kronoth (the Worldbreaker), an Abyssal Dragon roaming the world in Human form who happened to be a good friend of his.

Maximus suggested that the Scions adjourn to the Inn for the green. The green referred to the sheen many of the rocks gave off. They glowed green for a time (evening), then a transition period of violet, and then a yellow glow (day).

The Scions found very few people roaming the streets. They did find a building with a “bed” sign on the front of it. They entered and rang a bell hanging from a string above the desk. Minutes later, they were greeted by a goblin wearing a floppy night hat and a long white night shirt. “Can’t you read the sign!” he growled. “We’re clo-”

He looked at the counter and realised there’s no sign up. He quickly reached under the counter and swapped out his night hat for a purple ribboned turban with many shiny gems in it. “I am Prince Ikswel, and I welcome you to Castle Hallows.”

Prince Ikswel recognized Salissta. She asked for the box she had left with him. He retrieved it and handed it to her. She requested some wine, and hot food delivered to her room. She had to meditate.

The Scions decided to spend the evening in the Great Hall. But first, Koyas was sent upstairs to his room to be bathed, shaved, and his clothes cleaned.

Inside the hall was plenty of music, tables, bodies. Dancers. Crackling fireplace (faux fire).

A man cheered when Toby walked in. “There’s the next challenger” he drunkenly shouted. His name was Romsil and his bestest best friend Zuruk was taking all comers in an Arm Wrestling Challenge. Zuruk happnened to be a 7’ Bugbear.

Toby placed his mighty axe on the table, and Abelarde advertised him as the man who destroyed Illidus. Romsil and Zuruk were clearly intimidated. Zuruk won the Arm Wrestling match, and Toby fumed all the way to the bar after Abelarde talked him out of killing the bugbear.

Toby began pounding back the brews. Abelarde, in an attempt to sedate the big man, had his drinks spiked. It was enough that Toby needed to be aided back to his room by two lovely escorts (paid out of group funds).

Lucan, who had distanced himself from the group, made his way over to a Drow woman named Maratha who was sitting alone with a pile of gold on the table. She challenged him to a game of Drunken Daggers. Lucan accepted, wagered, and defeated Maratha. He then sat with her and they spent the evening talking shop before adjourning at night’s end.

The next morning, Salissta rushed the Scions out of the Inn and off to Maximus’ house to purchase magic. She kept saying they’d been found and had to leave quickly. No sooner had the Scions purchased their magic item, than Salissta had begun casting her portal spell.

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On To Apothica

- Saffrenia summoned portal home. Koyas carried her through but came back to the Scions, wanting to help.
- Sallista had magic raft in nearby river. Guided group in the dark to a place where the group can purchase magic items for the upcoming battle.
- Raft took the Scions down the river to a lake. Green glow came from the center.
- Walled “city” of Apothica.
- Sallista told them that Apothica was a large town / walled fortress filled with everybody BUT drow.
- Popular place for adventurers to offload drow magic and treasures.
- Town was hated by drow, yet they are afraid to attack it for some reason.
- Dragonborn guards at front gate, scanned group with gem and lets them inside.
- Instructed to see Maximus Darkstone, ruler of Apothica, to purchase more powerful magic items.
- No drow in town, but many humans, a few dwarves, goblins, orcs, ogre. Everyone behaved themselves.
- Dragonborn guard at Maximus’s home told group that he was training in the basement around back.
- Scions entered cellar, huge arena-like opening.
- Hairless muscled man with small pointed ears was fighting a large Earth Titan.
- Distracted when group entered, KO’ed by Titan.
- Scions intervened to save Maximus.

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The Land Down Under

Dark. Cold. Wet.

Out of the frying pan and into the… what, exactly?

“Where are we?” Abelarde asked, and heard his voice echoing back at him. “Lucan, what do you see?”

The eladrin’s keen eyesight cut through the black. “I see rocks. Some moss. Looks like we’re in a cave.”

Whitby drew his sunblade and bathed the area in bright, radiant light. Lucan was right. They were in a cave of some kind, with columns of jagged black stones jutting out from the floor and ceiling like sharp teeth. There were very few smooth edges to be seen. It looked as if the cave had been created by pulling the walls apart rather than through the forces of nature.

Salissta shielded her eyes from the light and turned her head away. “Put that out!” she demanded. “Are you trying to get us killed?”

Abelarde sheathed his blade. The darkness returned. “Might I remind you that you were the one who brought us here. Maybe you are trying to get us killed?”

Toby grabbed a handhold on the nearest wall. “I can’t see a thing, but this rock feels very cold. Are we in the mountains?”

Lucan lowered himself on one knee and felt the rock and dirt beneath him. “I don’t think so. It doesn’t feel like the mountains. It feels different.”

Salissta retrieved a sack from a box tucked behind a small pile of stones. Inside the sack was a glowing blue stone. The light from the stone was dim, but it brightened the cave enough for people to make out faces and navigate around the treacheries of the cave. Even with the light, it was a bit startling when Saffrenia croaked “We’re in the Underdark, aren’t we?”

All eyes turned to Sallista. Despite the fact that the tortured eladrin was now conscious, it seemed more important to have her question answered.

Salissta put the sack down and walked between the shards of stone. “Yes. We are in the Underdark. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to make sure that beacon of light didn’t attract any unwanted visitors.”

Quiet as a whisper, Salissta moved through the cave and disappeared. Koyas knelt down beside the Councillor. “You’re awake,” he said. “I don’t know if you can see them, but your feet aren’t right for standing on. Sitting down is a thing you should keep doing.”

Saffrenia looked up at Koyas. “Who is this foul-smelling little man? And who are you people?”

“I am Abelarde Whitby, and these are the Scions of Legacy. We have rescued you.”

“Hmm.” Saffrenia looked around the cave. “Thanks for that.” Abelarde cocked an eyebrow while Lucan stood behind her. “So tell me, Abelarde Whitby. What is Salissta doing here? Did my husband summon her to suck the power from her?”

“Well no, not exactly but it appears that was the final result.” Abelarde knelt down at Saffrenia’s feet and examined the burned stumps beneath her ankles. Charred meat clung to shiny tendons and white bone. “I’ve seen worse,” he diagnosed. “But not by much.” He set his field pack down and dug through the contents. “So was this a plan you and your husband spoke about? Bringing her back?”

Saffrenia looked down at her charred limbs, knowing who was responsible for it. “It was something he had been planning. You see, my husband was quite… obsessed with the arcane arts. At first, like a fool I encouraged his devotion, but soon he started talking about becoming more powerful than Elminster, and using the ritual his sister had used to empower herself with the demon’s essence.”

Lucan stared at the back of Saffrenia’s head. “Who was he planning on using the ritual on? Elminster?”

Saffrenia looked down. “Everyone.”

The concept took some time to sink in. Toby leaned against the wall and shook his head. “I tried to make him see reason,” Saffrenia tried to explain. “When he felt I was standing in his way he had me replaced with a construct. He hired an assassin named Tewey to act as her assistant and thereby controlled the Council of Seven. If anyone stood against him, he could have Tewey eliminate them. That’s why I ended up in the Blackguard’s basement.”

“Such a shame,” Koyas cooed.

Abelarde produced a roll of bandages and began to gently wrap what remained of Saffrenia’s feet. “Your children didn’t try to stop him?”

“Garridel and Larah both followed in their father’s footsteps. They did everything he said without question.” She winced as Abelarde applied pressure. “Deremiis chose another path, and apparently Kalak is searching for him in some effort to contain him.”

Lucan turned his back to Saffrenia and walked across the cave.

Abelarde stood up and admired his wrapping job. “All done,” he announced with a great deal of pride.

Toby stood up and looked over Abelarde’s shoulder. “You sure? Seems a little loose.”

“No, that’s just the light.”

“Really think it’s a little loose.” Toby bent down and tugged on the bandages. Saffrenia shrieked. The barbarian straightened. “See? Loose.”

Salissta stormed back into the cave. “Quiet!” she hissed at her sister-in-law. “You’re not conducting a meeting here!”

Saffrenia stared at her with open malice. “You’re enjoying this.”

Sallista stared back and curled her upper lip. “Maybe a little. I’ve had a rough century.”

Koyas knelt down and adjusted the bandages on Saffrenia’s foot. “There. All better.”

The Councillor didn’t seem to appreciate the effort. “You smell like garbage and excrement. I’d rather you not touch me.”

Lucan spoke just loud enough to be heard. “If it wasn’t for him, you’d still be in your cell. I guess he is crazy after all.”

At first, it had been hard to place the voice. It had seemed familiar to her, but this time Saffrenia managed to place it. She craned her neck to try and see where the voice was coming from. “Omessan?” Saffrenia whispered, hands to her lips, eyes wide with disbelief.

Salissta looked down at the Councillor. “This is how it is. The crazy little man saved you from your cell. I saved you from your prison. We are going after my brother before he decides that reality isn’t quite worth his time and wipes us out of existence.”

That got Toby’s attention. “He can do that?”

“He’ll have the power to do what he wishes. I think we’d all rather that not happen.”

There wasn’t much left of her heels, so Saffrenia pulled herself along the ground with her hands. She reached one of the outcroppings and leaned against it. “I’m a prisoner?”

Salissta scoffed. “Please. You’re Saffrenia Stormrage. Who could ever imprison the likes of you? Other than your husband of course.”

Koyas patted Saffrenia on the head. “That wasn’t a very nice thing for him to do.”

Saffrenia slapped his hand away. “I told you not to touch me.” She looked up at him. “But thank you for saving my life.”

Koyas smiled and bowed. Something small and unrecognizable fell out of his hair and landed in Saffrenia’s lap. She cringed and swatted at it, bouncing away from him across the hard stones.

Salissta grabbed the glowing blue stone and held it up. “Okay, enough. Saffrenia, you know how to get home. I trust that you can get there safely. The rest of us will be carrying on to Apothica. After that, we will stop Kalak from unmaking reality.”

Abelarde pulled his sunblade once again. This time, he dimmed the blade enough to enlighten only the nearby area. “I’m glad you feel this sense of empowerment, but might I remind you that we really don’t trust you. You’ve brought us to the Underdark, and want us to wander around in the dark at your mercy. Also, you happen to be wearing a Scion’s body as a coat. As amazing as we are, there are limits to what we can tolerate.”

Salissta tossed the glowing stone to Toby. “I know you don’t trust me. I’m not asking you to. You want honesty? Fine. I can’t stop Kalak without you. Feel better?”

Nobody seemed much better.

For the moment, the Scions rested on long, thin sacks that acted as mattresses filled with moss. Small bowls of powdered rations were passed around to everyone. It was mixed with fresh cold water to form a fine paste that hinted at some kind of actual food. While Saffrenia cast her ritual that would send her home, the Scions sat in the near-dark eating their goop.

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The Hurt Locker
  1. Lucan returned to the Waystop with Koyas, a homeless human who came off as slightly insane. He had escaped from the Chamber of Truth and said that he could lead the Scions back there. He took them through an old sewer system, which collapsed behind them after they passed through it. They were forced to find another way out once they reached the torture chambers.

The sewers took then beneath the cells, where the blood that drained out of them would pass through floor grates into the sewer. Once underneath the torture cells, the Scions discovered the room that Salissta was being tortured in. They entered the room through the floor grate, killed the Blackguard torturer, and escaped out the front door of the cell. Salissta told them that if they could find her ring, she could teleport them to safety.

As they entered what appeared to be some kind of throneroom for the Blackguard, Lucan caught Saffrenia kissing her assistant Hracken. Only it wasn’t Hracken. Lucan recognized him as an assassin named Tewey, who had been using some kind of medallion to change his appearance. The two assassins squared off while Saffrenia used wizard magic to keep the rest of the Scions at bay. Tewey was killed, but when Saffrenia was ended her corpse melted. She had been a simulacrum, forged by Kalak’s very powerful magic.

Saffrenia had been wearing Salissta’s ring, so it was eventually returned to her after a great deal of hesitation on the Scion’s part. While Salissta began the evac incantation, Abelarde gave Koyas the keys to the cells as he had promised. The Scions were leaving, and if he wanted to come with them he had less than a minute to do whatever he was going to do, and return in time to depart with them. Koyas ran back, opened one cell, and pulled out a woman whose feet were badly burned. It was the real Saffrenia, and she was very unconscious. Salissta completed the ritual and teleported the group to a dark cave where they could rest.

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Back Alley Action

Abelarde was a little overwhelmed with the events that had unfolded during the course of the evening. It was quite a bit to take in. First, the windfall of money. Then, Abelarde had overheard some people talking and discovered that the Waystop was actually owned by a drow who had fled the cruelty of his people and wanted to make something better of his life. Motives be damned, Abelarde did not want to spend any more time in that building than he had to. After being visited by a ghost, as far as he could tell, the night couldn’t possibly get any worse.

Until he and Toby sat down at their table and found some gronk with an attitude just itching to try himself against the great Toby.

Normally Abelarde would have tried to diffuse the situation. But he didn’t care if the business establishment of a drow was destroyed, so Option B was to go for a walk and let Toby do what he did best.

In order not to draw attention to himself, Abelarde went to the bathroom and slipped out the back door. The alleyway was empty, and standing between the ancient buildings he could see the bright stars in the sky. Even the moon, full and white, almost seemed like a dim sun shining down on him. “I can take a hint,” Abelarde muttered to his new deity.

He turned around when Abelarde heard the back door swing open with a grunt, and a large man stumbled out, quite doubled over. A victim of Toby’s redecorating plan, no doubt.

What looked like blood running down the big man’s leg was actually urine. He was peeing and walking at the same time. What an amazing talent, Abelarde thought to himself. He stood there, stunned, and watched the burly mess try to pull himself free of his pants to keep from completely soaking himself right through his hide armor. After a brief struggle, the big man gave up.

Abelarde noticed that the big man was now looking at him, while he looked back. Sadly, there was enough light to make out the ruined features of the man’s face, including the empty socket that once held his right eye. “Hey, ain’t you that Whitby guy?” the big man asked.

“Uh, yes. That would be me.”

“Well la dee dah,” the bruiser scoffed. “Yer friend is inside causin’ all sortsa damage to folk.”

Abelarde slowly took a step back, putting distance between himself and the urine-soaked hooligan. “Yes, he has a tendency to do that very thing.”

“He’s doin’ all manner of nasty thing to people. He took a bottle away from this one guy and, well, I ain’t gonna say where he shoved it but I don’t think that feller can drink through that part o’ his body.”

“That’s unfortunate.”

The brute’s remaining eye locked squarely onto Abelarde. He took a squishy step toward the paladin. “Maybe if’n I go in there with yer head, he’ll stop fighting.”

What a terrible idea. “There’s really no guarantee that’ll happen,” Abelarde tried to explain.

The one-eyed pee-soaked bull drew a huge battle axe and charged.

Abelarde quickly summoned his own armor, drew his blade, and for the first time in a long time, attacked on the front lines.

Minutes later, the brute lay face down in the dirt. Abelarde, quite battered himself and not thrilled with the concept of things like ‘getting hurt’ and ‘bleeding’, tended to the drunken brute’s injuries and walked back to the Waystop’s rear exit.

A large rock, one that had been propped up against the wall, suddenly flew up and smacked Abelarde in the side of the head. Alarmed, he hugged the wall and looked around. That’s when he saw the big man groan and roll onto his side, just before what looked like a glowing sword come flying from somewhere above him, almost separate the big man’s head from his shoulders, then fly back up to the Waystop’s roof.

Abelarde swallowed hard and looked up. He couldn’t see anything up there, and wasn’t about to find a way up onto the roof to find out. He pressed his back to the way, kept his eye on the darkness, and changed direction towards the street.

About halfway down the alleyway the glowing blade flew out like lighting and screamed towards Abelarde. Luckily, the blade struck the wall just above him, and bounced into the opposite wall. The blade fell to the ground, and as Abelarde rushed to where it lay on the ground, he could hear an elven curse that barely needed translation to be fully understood.

“Wow.” Abelarde picked up the bastard sword and felt the blade glow like the sun. It might have been a touch of irony, but in the end it didn’t matter. What mattered was that the blade was now in his hand, not buried in his skull.

“I hope Toby is finished playing ‘stab the patrons with a table leg’,” Abelarde said with a sigh and pulled open the door to the tavern.
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Escape the Pain

Hracken’s eyes were dangerously close to popping out of his skull. Toby’s fingers closed tighter around his neck. “I merely queried to see when you were planning on leaving!” Hracken gagged.

The nobleman feet swung wildly as they dangled off the floor, desperately trying to find something solid underneath them. The barbarian stared at the young noble through bloodshot eyes, and gave him an extra squeeze before he released his hold. Hracken landed on his feet and stumbled backward, tumbling over a chair and falling to the floor in a heap.

The patrons of the Waystop laughed long and hard.

Toby shrugged. “Thought you were trying to kick me out of here. Not finished my drink yet.”

Abelarde raised his glass. “Indeed, none of us are. I suspect that will be the case for quite some time, thanks to our newfound wealth.”

And wealth they had. A messenger from Lady Moonfire informed the Scions of Legacy that she had successfully sold all of the equipment they had requested, and secured a lucrative price. Tens of thousands of gold was set at the feet of the Scions, and after they events of the past few weeks, they decided to take one night to cut loose and enjoy themselves.

Hracken stood up and indignantly dusted himself off. “Councillor Saffrenia was pleased to hear that your fortunes had improved. She merely wanted to know your plans so she could schedule time to see you off.”

Lucan looked down from the stairway, observing the whole room. The Waystop was packed with adventurers, and as luck (for Abelarde anyway) would have it, most of them were familiar with the Scions. The celebrity treatment was in full effect, but that was a treatment Lucan was trying to avoid..

Toby finished off his dwarven ale and slammed his mug down on the table. “We are the Scions, little man. We leave when we want to leave, and not a moment before.”

“But if you had an idea?”

“I have an idea to pull you ears off.”

Hracken bowed nervously. “Enjoy your evening.”

Abelarde slapped the big man on the back. “Well played Toby. Now drink!” He raised his glass to Toby in a toast, then tilted his glass in Lucan’s direction. “Tonight we celebrate the Scions of Legacy! To us!”

“To you!” the Waystop shouted back.

Abelarde signalled for another round. The barmaid had been kept busy all night, but she never kept anyone waiting for their drink. She always delivered the beverage promptly, followed with a smile. So when she approached the table with neither drinks nor smile, Abelarde suspected something was wrong.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

The barmaid leaned forward. “Someone wishes to speak to you in the back. It’s quite urgent.”

“It’s always urgent,” Toby muttered to her cleavage.

“Who is it?” Abelarde asked.

“A woman.”

Toby and Abelarde both stood up. “Best never to leave a woman waiting,” Abelarde announced. “Now we just need to round up Lucan.”

“I’m here,” Lucan said from behind the former bard.

Toby stared at the eladrin who had just appeared out of thin air. “It’s officially creepy how you do that,” he muttered.

The Scions followed the barmaid behind the bar, through the small kitchen, and she stopped in front of a door built into the side of a staircase. She opened the door for them but remained behind it. “The lady does not want to speak to me. She makes me a little uneasy.”

There were many different encounters that could have played out inside that room. One involving Salissta standing before them in a black robe, much like the one her brother wore, was low on the list. The fact that she appeared intangible dropped it even lower. “Scions,” she said, her voice barely an echo.

“What are you doing here?” Abelarde asked.

“How are you here?” Lucan asked.

“What are you?” Toby asked.

Her red locks shifted as she folded her arms within the sleeves of the robes. “My body is presently being tortured by Saffrenia’s henchmen,” she explained. “I projected myself out of my body while they do their business. A little trick I learned while being tortured for decades in Hell.”

Abelarde wasn’t pleased. “Why are you here? I don’t like seeing you wearing a bastardized version of one of our people.”

“I’m here because you need to stop Kalak. He hungers for more power, and now he knows how to get it.”

The masked eladrin drifted to her side. “Why should we care if he becomes more powerful?” asked Lucan. “He’s been fairly powerful all this time and hasn’t done anything evil, as far as we can tell.”

“Nobody thirsts to become a God if they don’t intend on doing god-like things.”

Toby didn’t like hearing that. “He can become that powerful?”

“If he reaches the Shadow Engine, he’ll be able to tap into the very energies of the Shadowfell itself.”

The barbarian was uncomfortable with the topic of gods, and magic, and not being able to gut anything right here and now. Lucan stepped away from the conversation. Abelarde addressed the ghostly apparition. “So where is this Shadow Engine?”

“There is an extradimensional pocket in the Shadowfell that contains a fortress. That is where the Shadow Engine lies.”

“And you know this because…”

“Because it was my fortress. It was where I fought my brother a few centuries ago and he banished me to Hell. I can guide you to the Fortress, but you need to free me.”

“I thought you were being tried.”

Her laughter sounded painful. “There is no trial. There was never going to be a trial. There is only the torture. And in three more days, I will be shipped off to Stormrage Prison, to rot for an eternity. You must free me before that happens.”

“You understand, of course, that we don’t believe you at all.”

Lucan stepped out of the shadows, dagger drawn, the tip pointed at Saffrenia’s eye. “How do we know you’re telling the truth?”

Salissta’s form swirled like draft through smoke. She image reformed in front of Lucan, and she grabbed his head with both of her hands. The eladrin doubled over, his knees buckled, and a look of unbridled agony bore into his face. He staggered away from her grasp and stabbed her in the throat, had she been more physically inclined. He composed himself. “She’s definitely being tortured,” he told the Scions while maintaining eye contract with the spectre. “But ghost or not, you try that again and I’ll end that suffering and give you something new and painful to think about.”

Salissta backed away from Lucan and lowered her head. “Apologies. I needed to make you see.”

Abelarde thought back to something Amaunator told him back when he walked amongst the departed. “Okay, we’ll help.”

Toby didn’t like hearing that. “She looks like Yelena with horns. I don’t like her.”

“You don’t have to like her Toby. And to be honest, I’m through with being used and deceived. But she makes a valid point, and for the time being we need her. Once that time passes, well we’ll see where we stand.”

Saffrenia gave Abelarde an understanding nod. “I have no idea what that kind of power would do to my brother, no matter how noble you thought of him in the past. I just think it’d be safer if we never had to find out.”

“Do you know where you are?” asked Lucan.

“I didn’t see where they took me.”

Abelarde gave the matter some thought. “Lucan? You know the landscape. You know the players. Perhaps you should make some subtle inquiries and find out where Salissta is being held.”

“On it.” Lucan disappeared.

Saffrenia turned her head and caught Toby staring death daggers at her. “I don’t like looking at you,” he said.

The smoke changed form. The horns disappeared, the features softened, and Yelena materialized before them. “Is this better?”

Toby’s hand rested on his axe. “No. Leave or I’ll kill you when we find you.”

The smoke swirled again and dissipated. Abelarde looked over at the barbarian who seemed to want to kill the air around them. “You sure have a way with the ladies, Toby,” he said.

Toby’s nostrils stopped flaring. “I have a way with that one, and it involves splitting her in half.”

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Blinded By The Light

Abelarde could hear a voice say something about feeling better than ever, and it confused him. It was a familiar voice, and coming from somewhere nearby. He was kneeling down beside a pale young woman with blood bubbling from between her lips. He knew her, and knew it hadn’t been Yelena that said it. So who was speaking?

A brief spike of panic hit him squarely in the chest when he was suddenly pulled to his feet. The panic burst from the pit lodged in his chest and spread to all of his limbs like cold snakes crawling through his veins, when he realised that he hadn’t actually been lifted by someone. He had stood on his own. Something had made him stand. More questions.

The only answer he ever got came in an explosion of fiery pain that erupted from somewhere deep in his chest, scorching everything , flesh and bone alike, on the way out of his body before bursting through his skin. If he would have had any level of control over his body, he would have screamed before he died in a ball of swirling flames.

A moment later, the pain was gone. Abelarde was on his back, and had no idea how he got there. Light stabbed him in the eyes. It was bright, not flickering like flames dancing across his face like a burning log in a fireplace. He opened his eyes, then squinted against the light and sucked in a breath. He could see no fire, only bright sunlight. He smelled no smoke, just cool fresh air.

Was he dead?

The sound of approaching footsteps, soft leather against cobblestone, made him turn his head to the side. Beads of sunlight caught the edges of the shimmering gold and red threads interwoven in an intricately patterned robe that stood a few feet away from him. His eyes followed the leather sandals on her feet, past the woven black cord wrapped twice around the waist, up to the etched inscriptions stitched carefully on thick fabric of the chest, and then up to the face. A woman’s face.

Eyes back down to the chest. Returning to that beautiful face.

Long, wavy black hair framed her face, but it was her eyes that caught Whitby’s attention – eyes as dark as the richest chocolate, framed with the smallest trace of gold. Those eyes looked down at him. Lips that appeared as soft as the finest silk, pulled back and smiled at him with the whitest teeth he’d ever seen. Abelarde sat up and propped himself on his elbows. “Just to be clear,” he said, “I’m dead, right?”

The smile never wavered. “Welcome to the Palace of the Four Suns,” she said.

“Palace of the…. Oh I am dead.”

“Afraid so. I’m Zanielle,” she said and offered him her hand.

Abelarde took it and she pulled him to his feet. “Thanks,” he said, a little surprised at the strength in her hand, then looked around. He’d been laying in an intersection of several cobblestone footpaths, the paths cutting pie wedges in deep green, lush grass. The lawn spread out to walls ten feet high, white stone creations that seemed to have grown into being. Bright and beautiful, those were the words that Abelarde kept coming up with to describe everything he saw.

He turned to Zanielle. Everything he saw.

“As much as I enjoy the view,” Abelarde said, “What exactly am I doing here? This isn’t quite the afterlife I was expecting.” When she didn’t answer, only smiled and looked at him with those understanding eyes, he started putting two and two together. “This is Waukeen’s domain, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Zanielle confirmed. “She stays here along with her liege, Amaunator, Keeper of the Yellow Sun.”

Whitby didn’t feel exactly thrilled about that revelation, but he decided to play it off as best as he could. He set his hands on his hips and let out a boisterous laugh. “Well that’s great, seeing as how I’m a paladin of -”

Zanielle quickly pressed her fingers to his lips, her eyes reflecting her alarm. “Don’t speak of that,” she whispered and removed her fingers. The smile returned. “Now please, let me show you around.”

“Why not? I’ve got all the time in the world,” Abelarde said and flashed a smile of his own.

As they walked through various courtyards, Abelarde began singing his tales of glory. After a few stories, he noticed Zanielle was still attentively listening to him. It was a good thing he had many stories that he could pull from his bag of tricks, because he wanted to talk to her all day and night.

It was during a lull between tales that Abelarde took a moment to enjoy the surroundings. It was beautiful here in the Palace, but it was also very quiet for a citadel this size. All he could hear was a soft hum, possibly a chant or prayer some distance away. That would have explained why he hadn’t seen another person during their entire walk.

Zanielle led Abelarde through the central courtyard and stopped in front a wide set of stairs. “Is there a prayer meeting going on,” asked Whitby.

“Something like that,” Zanielle told him. She motioned toward the stairs. “After you.”

Abelarde’s hands went up. “Oh I didn’t mean I wanted to actually go to the prayer meeting, I was just wondering where everybody was.”

Zanielle didn’t say anything more. She just motioned toward the stairs. Abelarde wasn’t exactly feeling comfortable with that, but what were his options? “Okay, if you insist.” And up the stairs he went.

Once Abelarde reached the top of the stairs, he turned and looked over his shoulder. Zanielle remained at the bottom of the stairs. She waved him forward, motioning for him to continue through the doors. No turning back now, Abelarde decided, and pushed the twin doors open.

Inside was a large, circular room with large colored windows on either side of it. The light shone through the windows and illuminated a metallic sun, fixed squarely in the center of the room. It was an audience room, Abelarde noticed, like a screening room before one stepped into a royal chamber. A large, single door to his right open and Abelarde turned to see a man enter the room. “Man” meaning he looked like a powerfully built human from the waist up, but his face was nothing more than two dark orbs in his eye sockets . No nose, no mouth. “Enter” meaning he drifted into the room on the flapping of a huge pair of wings sticking out of his back, and swirling light where his legs would be.

“Hello Abelarde.” The voice seemed to come from the Angel, which seemed to be the best definition Abelarde could come up with.

“Uh, hi.”

“Hello. I am called Jenocine. You may address me as such.”

Abelarde nodded at the emblem on the floor. “Is that for -”

Jenocine nodded. “He will be joining us momentarily.”

That rattled Abelarde. “I’m… talking to him?”

Jenocine folded his thick arms across his chest. Abelarde noticed two large swords hanging off his waist. “Do not presume to speak to him. Address me, unless he directly addresses you.”

“Got it.” Abelarde actually didn’t get it. Why did a celestial being, a God of all people, want to speak to him? Did he want an autograph?

Jenocine’s arms dropped to his side. He lifted his head. “May I present to you, the Morninglord, the Keeper of the Yellow Sun, Amaunator!”

A small ball of light rose up from the sun emblem. The orb grew, stretched, twisted, all the while glowing brighter until it flashed white light. Abelarde shielded his eyes. Even with his eyes squeezed shut, he still saw spots burned into his brain. When he opened his eyes, there was a gold-skinned, athletically built young man wearing a regal robe of royal blue standing before him. Abelarde was also on one knee. He didn’t recall making the decision to drop, but it seemed like a good idea regardless.

He looked at Abelarde with a slight smile. Jenocine spoke. “Abelarde Whitby, you have been brought here to answer allegations of sacrilege by portraying yourself as a Paladin of Waukeen. This blasphemy has not gone unnoticed.”

What? No! Abelarde thought to himself. That was all Yelena’s idea! It wasn’t my fault! He looked at the floor and hoped that it would split open and swallow him up. His head felt warm, and Abelarde slowly looked up to see Amaunator studying him. Abelarde hung his head. “I meant no disrespect.”

At first, Abelard felt an overwhelming desire to be anywhere but here. But the feeling was getting stronger, and very specific. “Do you feel that?” Jenocine asked. “That sensation of being called away somewhere?”

Abelarde kept his head down. “I do.”

“Your friends are performing a resurrection ritual. They want to bring you back to them. Would you like that?”

Abelarde lifted his head and made eye contact with the Sun God. “Yes,” he said. “I would.”

To his surprise, Amaunator spoke back to him.

“There are those who believe I should not allow this to happen,” he said. “The fact that you are still here proves I have the power to keep you from returning. Ever. In fact, if I felt so opposed to your presence I could cast you out into the Astral Sea where your final moments would be excruciatingly painful. That is, if you weren’t drawn into the Abyss first.”

Abelarde could feel Jenocine staring at the side of his head, but he wasn’t about to look away. Staring at the sun might make you blind, but he was determined not to look away from the Sun God.

“You have sullied Waukeen’s good name,” Amaunator said, not so much as an accusation as it was a statement. “You are known to many in Faerun, and your actions have not always reflected favourably on Waukeen.”

Amaunator smiled, which surprised both Abelarde and Jenocine. “However, I believe there’s a better purpose for you back amongst the living. I’m sure you’ve been made aware as to what has transpired since your demise?”

Abelarde thought back to the past few hours. During his tour with Zanielle, he’d had images, thoughts, flashed across his mind. He didn’t give it much weight because he was dead, and he was enjoying his time with the young lady. “Yes, I am aware.”

“Kalak Stormrage has come into a great deal of power. Soon, he will have the capability to obtain much… more power. Power that would make him something beyond mortal. A single man with that much power could upset the pantheon and destroy what little contact gods and mortals have managed to forge over the past few centuries. Magic itself could be wiped from the World. All magic, save for his. This makes him dangerous to everyone, man and gods alike.”

“How does this involve me?”

“I will grant you a second chance. You will return to your body, and breathe life once again. In return, you will be my voice, my paladin back amongst the living. You will stop Kalak from obtaining that power.”

Abelarde started to stand, but Jenocine gave him a stare to suggest that course of action to be a bad idea. “You want me to become a paladin?”

“My paladin. Consider it part of your penance.”

“Since I may never get this chance again, I have to respectfully ask this question if I may.”

“You may.”

“What would happen if I decided not to accept this offer?”

“Astral Sea, Abyss, or maybe Jenocine.”

The angel spread his wings. His swords actually flickered.

“I accept.”

“Excellent!” Amaunator motioned and Abelarde rose to his feet. The sensation of having to leave became much stronger. “Be on your way, and good luck.”

Abelarde bowed before Amaunator, watched Jenocine hover there silently, and spun on his heels. It was like an invisible rope was tied to his waist and was physically dragging him away. He pushed the doors open and ran down the stairs.

Zanielle was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. Her smile stopped Abelarde in his tracks. “How did it go?” she asked.

“Looks like I’ll be leaving here,” Abelarde said with a sudden pang of regret.

The smile was still there, but there was a sadness in her eyes. “And we just started to get to know each other,” she said with a hint of her own regret.

That invisible rope started tugging again. “Hopefully we’ll get to see each other again,” Abelarde said over his shoulder.

“But not too soon,” Zanielle called out as Abelarde flew through the courtyard.

“Don’t forget me while I’m away,” Abelarde shouted, glowed, and vanished.

Zanielle pressed her fingers to her lips. “Who could forget the great Abelarde Whitby, Paladin of the Sun.”

  • * * * *

Back at the Waystop, sitting at their own table, Abelarde Whitby enjoyed another round of drinks amongst friends and told Toby and Lucan the whole story – meeting a beautiful woman who seemed to be totally into him, getting out of charges of blasphemy against Waukeen, talking to the sun god Amaunator himself, and being set of a path to save both mortals and immortals alike.

As he finished his story, Toby set his flagon down and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Wait a sec.” He burped.

“All class,” Lucan said with a smirk.

“As I was saying,” Toby continued. “That’s quite the story.”

“It’s all true.”

Lucan and Toby exchanged glances. “You’re telling us that you’re really a paladin now?”

“Yes.” Abelarde sighed. “Really a paladin.”

Both men burst into laughter. Long and loud. Laughter.

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