Sunday, 28 May 2017

IV.28: Secret Chamber

Newthrone, Q’barra
Nymm 25, 997 YK

Spout Lore(Anaya): 2D6(6 3) +1 = 10 Success!
Good information

The guards led them down the passage along the Keep’s curtain wall. The neat square blocks of stone used to build the wall here looked nearly new, and Anaya remembered that this castle, like the city itself and the crest of arms on the tabards of the guards, was less than one hundred years old. The arrowslits here looked out over the western part of the city, down towards the docks that linked this new kingdom with the rest of human civilisation.

Anaya and Vaalyun were in front, following the guards, and Anaya wondered what her companion was thinking. The guard had referred to the elf as a Shadow, a term used for House Phiarlan’s spies, but few here should know that name. But if the elf was unsettled at all by the mention of his identity, he gave no sign of it. She caught his eye, and he merely shrugged. So he also does not know where we are going. At least they aren’t likely to murder us in the Keep, of all places.

They passed through an iron-bound door into the Keep itself, and Anaya began to wonder if it was the King that was summoning them for a private audience. If so, it was certainly not in a royal apartment; instead they were led down a narrow passage with a low ceiling leading to the back of the Keep, and stopped outside a small iron-bound wooden door.

The guardswoman opened the door, and gestured for them to go inside. “Wait in here. He will be with you shortly.”

The room inside was cramped, like the passage outside. All the walls were stone, and the far wall in particular was made of thick stone slabs—presumably the outer wall of the Keep, though there were no windows of course. A large and detailed map of Khorvaire hung on that back wall; there was a wooden desk and some chairs, and a well-stocked bookcase standing against the side wall. Most of the floor was covered with a large faded rug.

Discern Realities(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 6) +1 = 10 Success!
What should I be on the lookout for?
What is about to happen?
Hold one.

Anaya sat down. After Nyseris and Esthana were inside, the guards closed the door. Anaya was about to ask whether anyone knew what was going on, but Vaalyun reacted faster.

“Nyseris, guard the door!” Vaalyun whispered urgently. He quickly moved around to the other side of the desk, and began leafing through the parchments on it.

As Nyseris moved to the door, Esthana asked, “What are you doing?”

“My work.” Apparently finding nothing amongst the papers, Vaalyun moved to the drawers; he withdrew a sachet from a pocket inside his jacket and, from it, he sprinkled some powder in the air above the handles. The powder glittered slightly as it floated down.

Vaalyun stared at it intently, and grimaced. “Magically warded. Scrying, not conjuration; the owner would know if someone sneaks a look inside. Keeper’s blade! His real files, if they are here at all, are no doubt in a secret compartment.”

“Whose office is this?” asked Anaya.

“S–someone is coming,” whispered Nyseris.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 5) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Worse outcome

“Stand clear then,” said Vaalyun. The elf quickly blew away the traces of powder, and stepped back around the desk, taking a seat neat to Anaya. His forced look of composure only convinced Anaya that he was truly flustered.

The door opened without a knock. Turning, Anaya saw an elf step into the room; he wore blue robes embroidered with silver thread, shimmering slightly in the lanternlight. The newcomer looked around his visitors for a moment, then moved assuredly to the desk and sat down behind it, facing his guests. It took her a moment, but Anaya remembered the elf’s name—Taliesin. He had claimed to be a royal advisor and, though she had doubted him at the time, his presence here in the Keep suggested that that, at least, was true.

The guards had closed the door. Taliesin leaned forward, resting his arms on the desk, and looked at Vaalyun closely. “So, you are Vaalyun d’Phiarlan?”

“I am,” said Vaalyun. “And you are?”

“Taliesin Neritoris. I am an advisor to the King. And what are you, Vaalyun d’Phiarlan?”

“I am master of the Phiarlan enclave in the city—as you know.”

“Is it the business of your House, then, to plant evidence in the King’s court, to discredit its members and upset the operation of Newthrone?”

Defy Danger(CHA)(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 4) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Hard bargain: you can avoid giving any details away, but there’s no amount of composure or protest that will convince him that you aren’t involved.

Anaya had been watching Taliesin, but this made her turn to look at Vaalyun. Her friend had composed himself well, and his expression gave little away—except for an absence of surprise.

“My House brings art and culture to the citizens of Khorvaire; we are organizers of fashionable ent—”

“Spare me your advertisement,” said Taliesin. He withdrew a folded paper from the inside pocket of his robe. “Your agent Ievos planted this paper in my office earlier this week, and I do not believe that he acted without your orders. He was seen by one of my guards, so your attempt to embarrass me did not succeed. Were you acting for your House, or on behalf of another?”

“On behalf of another.” Anaya was staring at Vaalyun now; what is he up to?

“Who employed you?”

“I do not know. Another agent of the House dealt with the client; I merely conveyed instructions to my employees here for the delivery of the letter. I did not know of its contents; you have my apologies, and the apologies of House Phiarlan, if this was indeed an attempt to harass you.”

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(5 4) +3 = 12 Success!
What here is not what it appears to be? Hold 2

“But you suspected that the intent was to plant something in Taliesin’s office,” said Anaya. “Something to his disadvantage.”

Vaalyun shot her a warning look.

“Of course he did,” said Taliesin. “He is one of House Phiarlan’s better agents, if they have put him in charge of an enclave here; he knows the games that they play.”

Anaya glanced back at Esthana and Nyseris. The lizardfolk just looked confused; Esthana was looking at Vaalyun with suspicion.

“What do you want?” asked Vaalyun testily. “I doubt you brought the Templars here to discuss the seedier side of the politics of Khorvaire.”

“Do you have any idea what game you are playing, d’Phiarlan? This is not some minor intrigue between nobles in the courts of the Five. Your move in court today was bold, certainly, but not very effective. The stakes here are higher than you can possibly imagine.”

“I know that there is a risk of an Overlord being released in Q’barra if House Tharashk pursue their mining operations in the jungle. That seems like higher stakes than a trade deal for Newthrone.”

“And what do you plan to do about it? What are you trying to do here?”

Spend hold(Anaya): What here is useful or valuable to me?

Vaalyun is right, thought Anaya; he is using his anger as a cover to learn what we want here. She had suspected from her first meeting with Taliesin that he was working with some hidden agenda—but he had aided them then, and they had no reason to think that he was associated with House Tharashk.

She said, “We work to prevent the release of the Overlord. I still hope that we can persuade House Tharashk to cease their operations in the jungle. But, if we cannot, we will see that the lizardfolk protect the jungle against them.”

“House Phiarlan would not normally interfere with House Tharashk’s operations here; the trade in dragonshards benefits the Twelve,” added Vaalyun. “But we have always acted as intermediaries, seeking to peacefully resolve disputes between the peoples of Khorvaire. What I have seen convinces me that the danger spoken of in the lizardfolk’s legends is real, and that their protection of the jungle must be honoured.”

Aid(Anaya): 2D6(4 6) +1 = 11 Success!
Aid given
Parley(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 4) +2+1 = 8 Partial success.
Proof required

Taliesin glanced at Anaya briefly, then fixed his gaze back on the Phiarlan elf. “I hope that you speak the truth, d’Phiarlan. And yet what I see is a Shadow moving in the politics of Newthrone.” His voice remained stern, but the anger was gone.

“The lizardfolk are willing to go to war with House Tharashk if necessary. Persuading Newthrone not to permit Tharashk to build an army here may be the only way to avoid a war.”

“Again, a noble goal—if I believed it.”

Anaya could see that the two politicians might be at this for some time, if left to themselves. Instead she intervened. “Taliesin, you gave us the information about Count Zuokas. We found that he was plotting to start a war between the Cold Sun lizardfolk and the Blackscales—no doubt to weaken the lizardfolk’s control of the jungle. He was being manipulated by one of his own household: a disguised rakshasa.”

Now she had his attention. Taliesin had turned to her and, at the mention of the outsider, he tilted his head slightly to the side and shifted in his seat. “You faced the rakshasa? What were you able to learn of it?”

“We killed it.”

His eyes widened a little. “Can you prove that, Templar?”

I had forgotten that they recovered a book from the rakshasa. So they do have some proof of their actions.

Anaya furrowed her brow. “It was consumed by the Flame. As we were captured by the Blackscales immediately afterwards, I was not able to search it.”

“But I did.” Anaya turned with surprise as Esthana spoke; it had not occurred to her that Esthana would have come across the remains. “There was a book in the pocket of the cloak of the creature; I do not know if it is significant, but it was written in a language that I did not recognise.”

“May I see it?” Taliesin stood up, leaning forward with his palms on the desk.

Anaya turned back to Esthana, and nodded. Few humans even knew what a rakshasa was; while she had her suspicions about Taliesin, she sensed no evil intent from him. She wanted to see what his reaction would be.

Esthana untied the sachel at her hip, and drew out a small leather-bound book. She placed it on the table between Anaya and Taliesin; on its cover it bore a strange design, a sihouette of a tower, cracked and engulfed in flame.

Spout Lore(Anaya): 2D6(3 1) +1 = 5 Failure!
Offscreen move for the Lords of Dust - I’ll figure it out later

Vaalyun leaned in to look at it. “A striking design; I thought I had lived in Thrane long enough to recognise all symbols of the Church of the Silver Flame.”

“It is not of the Flame,” said Anaya.

“No; nothing could be farther from it,” said Taliesin.

“You recognise it?” asked Esthana.

Anaya opened the book; inside, its pages were filled with sharp, angular script. “The writing is in Infernal—not surprising for a fiend. I never learned to read it.” She looked at Taliesin.

“Have you ever heard of the Lords of Dust, Templar?” Taliesin took the book from her, closing it so that the tower in flames was before her again. “This is their sigil.”

“The Lords of Dust?” Anaya looked at him questioningly.

“The rakshasa are not wild and violent, like most fiends.” Taliesin was sitting back in his chair now. “They are intelligent, powerful, and patient servants of the Overlords. Those that were not bound by the Flame, that still roam freely, are the Overlords’ lieutenants in this world. They call themselves the Lords of Dust—or that is the closest translation in Common.”

“What do you know of them? How many are there?” asked Anaya.

“I knew that one was operating in Q’barra. Where the Overlords are, the Lords of Dust are drawn. They always seek a way to prove their loyalty to their masters—and there is no more valuable service that they could give than the release of an Overlord from its imprisonment.”

“Tell me,” said Vaalyun, “how does a royal advisor to such a young nation come to know so much about rakshasa?”

Acting on information from a Discern Realities  20 chapters ago.

Cast a Spell(True Seeing)(Anaya): 2D6(1 4) +3+1 = 9 Partial success.
Lose the spell

Introduce a new faction or type of creature

“He is no royal advisor,” said Anaya. “We have shown enough of our purpose here—now is the time to reveal your purpose.” The power of the Flame, always burning within her, seemed to burst into a fierce blaze as soon as she began to call upon it, and in a moment it was like a torrent as the purifying energy flowed through her. Anaya was surprised again by the strength of power that came to her now; even though it had been this strong back in the Vale of Eberron, that had been on a sacred site, and she had not thought to feel as strong elsewhere. Her eyes glowed with silver light, as the Flame granted her the clarity to see beneath the surface, past illusions and disguise, seeing only true forms.

To her eyes, Taliesin’s elven form shimmered and became translucent, as the illusory form of the rakshasa had done out in the jungle. In place of the elven face before her, instead there was a silver, scaly head with a large snout. High up on the sides of the face were piercing red eyes, and from its back two large horns emerged. A long neck stretched behind it, stretching back to a scaly silver body, with wings, clawed forelegs...

“By the Flame!” gasped Anaya. “It’s a dragon!”

The dragon’s head reared back in surprise, jaw opening to reveal a row of large canines. The image was jarring to the eye; the transparent image of the elf, also recoiling in surprise, still sat in the room in Newthrone, but the dragon behind it was too large, and so it seemed to stretch beyond the walls of the room.

The others still saw only the elf before them, of course. “What?” asked Vaalyun, turning to the cleric.

The dragon closed its jaws, and snaked its head forward again. “How remarkable. Very well, Templar, I suppose we can have this discussion in our true form.”

Taliesin said something in Draconic, and the entire room seemed to dissolve around them, to be replaced by very different surroundings.

Anaya found herself seated in an airy circular chamber with a domed ceiling; in the centre of the ceiling, sun poured in through a large a circular opening. Silk banners and fine paintings hung around the stone walls, in between the large windows that looked out over the skyline of some settlement. Her wooden chair was replaced by a metal frame chair wrought from a weave of mithril filaments; Vaalyun sat on a similar chair beside her. The desk was gone, but there were several chests and bookcases around the now much larger room. On the paved stone floor before them rested the silver dragon; its tail was curled around its body, laying at ease on the floor, and only its neck and head were raised up to face its guests.

Vaalyun jumped up immediately, glancing around in alarm. Esthana took a step forward, drawing her sword and moving to stand beside Anaya. Anaya looked back to see Nyseris looking around in wonder, jaw hanging open.

While the others collected themselves, Anaya got up and walked over to one of the windows. They were several storeys above street level, and the surrounding buildings seemed to be of a similar design to this one: tall, with domes opening to the sky. It was a moderately large city, it appeared, but there was no-one in the street below, nor any sign of activity; the whole thing was an illusion, and not depicting any city that the cleric recognised.

“Where are we?” asked Vaalyun.

“My office in Newthrone is too small to appear in my real form,” said Taliesin. “This is my real home—or rather an image of it. I come here when I want to relax; your bipedal bodies are not suited to comfort. Truly I pity you, always trapped in those clumsy forms.”

“This is an illusion?” asked Esthana.


“But if your real form is a dragon, and we are really still in your office, how do you fit in there?”

Taliesin chuckled, sending a low rumble through the floor. “My elven form is not an illusion. Dragons mastered the magic of shapechanging long before your species existed.” He looked over at Anaya. “No member of the younger races has ever had the power to see through that transformation, until now.”

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(2 5) +3 = 10 Success!
What happened here recently? Hold 2

Anaya said, “This is an illusion of a real place, though.”

“Yes, Templar. This is Io’Lokar, in the Vast—in Argonessen. This is my home there.” He made a sweeping gesture with a foreclaw to take in the room. “Or a fairly good recreation of it.”

“The City of Knowledge,” said Nyseris.

Axun, moxt myvish. Yth aldoer wer gul siksta tenpiswo.

Nyseris bowed, and replied also in Draconic. “Vinxa ihk wer aldoer.

“What is a dragon doing acting as an advisor in Q’barra?” asked Vaalyun. He had composed himself and taken his seat again, facing the dragon. Anaya walked back to her chair also.

“Very well, pobona. You did answer my question, so I suppose it is time to answer some of yours.

“We have always kept watch on the younger races of Khorvaire, who in their immense energy have built and torn down several empires in the last twenty thousand years. But with the emergence of the pobonai, and the mastery of their abilities, the pace of change on Khorvaire has become so alarming that—”

“Wait,” said Vaalyun, “‘pobona’? I do not speak your tongue.”

“‘The Marked’” said Nyseris.

“Dragonmarked, as you call them,” said Taliesin, “though since you were not marked by dragons, at least as far as we know, that name always seems strange to us.”

Vaalyun shifted uneasily. “Scholars have always claimed that the innate magic of the marks has some similarity to artifacts of draconic origin discovered in Xen’drik. The label stuck.”

“No doubt as much for propaganda reasons as any other.” The dragon snorted. “Tying the legendary power of dragons to the abilities of the Twelve is an effective way to strike awe into the population.”

Anaya had always wondered why they were called dragonmarks; it seemed even those most concerned did not understand it. “You were saying?”

“The appearance of dragonmarks caused great alarm amongst my kind. And the pace of events—the development of arcane technologies, unlocked by the marks, and the transformation of the human civilisation that has resulted—only increased our concern. It is hard to summarise our culture in brief to an outsider, but dragons have made their home here in Argonessen for over a million years. We are long-lived, and our actions are generally well deliberated before we act. To see your world transformed, and an entirely new form of magic emerge, in the space of a thousand years was seen as a catastrophe—perhaps worse because its cause and effects are still barely understood.

“We have always existed apart from the other civilisations of Eberron. Some argued that the changes on Khorvaire would burn out, that your greedy and rash expansion would quickly lead to an implosion and collapse. The Last War seemed to be exactly that, and yet the carnage seems instead to have accelerated the pace of change. The near release of Bel Shalor was alarming enough, and yet it seems not to have deterred your kind at all; the Mourning is barely two years past, and already House Tharashk invites a new disaster in Q’barra.”

Esthana suddenly interrupted. “What do you know of the Mourning? Was it caused by the dragonmarked?”

Taliesin shook his head, his eyes downcast. “We do not know. But no such thing happened before the discovery of the marks. We do not know if it was caused by the Lords of Dust, or the Overlords, in some part of their designs; or if it is just an arcane disaster caused by a rash experiment. Given the intensity of the war amongst the Five, an intentional weapon deployed by one nation against another is possible. But we simply do not know.”

“So even the dragons do not understand it—you have not seen its like, even in your long history?” Esthana asked.

“I am afraid not, Templar.”

Anaya put a hand on Esthana’s arm, looking up at her compassionately. There were no number of years that could pass that would make the loss of so much seem small to her friend; alarming as the Mourning was to all the inhabitants of the Five, to Esthana it was much more: almost everyone that she had known since childhood must have died that day.

There was a pause, and then Taliesin resumed his account, quieter than before. “Some dragons advocated remaining apart from the younger races, hoping that things would right themselves in due course. But some of us—younger dragons mostly—argued that these events needed to be understood. Our group, which we call The Chamber, has sent agents to many of the cities and courts of the nations of Khorvaire, gathering information on the progress of events and seeking to understand their effect on the Prophecy.”

“The Prophecy?” asked Vaalyun. The elf was leaning forward, elbows resting on his knees, fingers steepled before him, watching intently as the dragon told its tale.

“The Prophecy is the distillation of a hundred thousand years of research by draconic scholars,” said Taliesin. “Dragons observed patterns in the land that looked like symbols: mountain ranges, forests, swamps and canyons whose shapes seemed to form a common alphabet. Dragons scoured the landscape searching for more of these patterns—these “Marks”—and our scholars spend tens of thousands of years deciphering their meaning. We came to realise that they were portents of the future, fortelling the fate of Eberron, now and to its end. The fall of Galifar, for instance, was described—obliquely—in a Mark formed by the patterns of forests and field boundaries in eastern Thrane.”

“Field boundaries are the creation of farmers,” said Anaya. Her clerical duties had taken her to many places, and she had often tried to reason with those that followed strange local superstitions. It had left her with a mistrust of trying to see patterns in ordinary things. “It hardly seems like a place for divine prophecy.”

“But a farmer does not place those boundaries at random; they often follow terrain, or changes in the type of soil. In any case, the fall of Galifar was a human matter, and so the imprint of many humans might be a reasonable place to seek an overarching pattern to reveal the course of human history. That mark used a common language with marks found elsewhere. The source of the Marks is unknown; the most common belief amongst my people, which I share, is that they are Eberron herself seeking to give guidance to her children.”

“Knowledge of the future is a powerful gift,” said Vaalyun. He was leaning back in his chair now; the hydras’ heads embroidered on his robe glittered slightly in the sunlight. “If the dragons possess this, then surely they should be able to forestall any move to free the Overlords?”

“It is not so simple, pobona. The correct interpretation of the Marks is always a matter of debate amongst our scholars, and the meaning of most marks is shrouded in uncertainty. And the arrival of your kind was unanticipated; the meanings of thousands of marks are suddenly open to new interpretations, and much of the last two thousand years has been spent reviewing every existing mark, seeking to understand whether new meaning—”

“My kind? You mean the elves?”

“No, the Dragonmarked. I will show you the Mark for Q’barra and it will become clear, I think. This was recorded by Rhashaak himself, written into the density of tree cover in the jungle of eastern Q’barra, seventy thousand years ago.”

Taliesin gestured with a scaled forearm, and an large tangled weave of glowing lines appeared in the air. The mass drifted apart before them, breaking up into individual symbols formed into rows before them; words in Common then appeared underneath each symbol. “The decomposition into symbols is not unique, of course,” Taliesin said, “and the translation may lose subtleties in the meaning.”

Spout Lore(Anaya): 2D6(4 2) +1 = 7 Partial success.
She sees it, but not the significance

The first symbol of the Mark was like a curled “L” character wrapped around a circular mesh of lines. To Anaya’s surprise, she recognised the symbol, even without the word “Shadow” that appeared beneath it. Any educated citizen of Khorvaire knew the marks of all the Twelve Houses, and this was unmistakably the Mark of Shadow: the same Mark that Vaalyun carried.

She turned to look at Vaalyun; the colour had drained out of the elf’s face, and he was gripping the arms of his chair tightly. “These prophecy marks use the symbols of the Dragonmarks?” he asked.

“No; the Dragonmarks use the symbols of the Prophecy,” said Taliesin. “That has been one of our greatest difficulties: this mark was analysed tens of thousands of years ago, but the Mark of Shadow first appeared on a living creature only two thousand years ago. The start of this mark, “Shadow and Siberys join Nymm in the timeless jungle” was thought to refer to some alignment of Sypheros and Nymm with the Ring of Siberys—either an astronomical alignment, or a planar one. The alternative translation of “The Shadow and the Flame,” only suggested itself after the Dragonmarks manifested; our scholars are still debating whether this new translation has more merit than the old one, when it has already happened.”

Suddenly Anaya understood. “When we first met—the first thing you said to me was ‘The Shadow and the Flame’! This prophecy refers to us?”

“And the symbol of Nymm is the Mark of House Ghallanda,” said Esthana. “When we arrived in Newthrone, we went straight to their hostel.”

“I thought that the newer translation could be right,” said Taliesin. ”So I came to Q’barra nearly eighty years ago, to watch for something fitting this prophecy fragment to occur, and observe its results.”

“‘The lizard lord’s demon claws’—Count Zuokas’ followers had demon’s claw pendants and tattoos,” said Esthana.

“And Zuokas’ house crest had three lizards on it,” added Anaya. Like her fellow Templar, she was now reading the Mark, trying to relate it to events since they had arrived in Q’barra.

Okay, time to write a plot synopsis for a half-written story? Where the remaining story is determine by yet-to-be-made dice rolls? Great.

The Shadow and the Flame join Nymm in the timeless jungle, blunting the lizard lord’s demon claws. Servants of the darkened watcher hunt the Flame, and rakshasa turn the dwellers of the timeless jungle against each other. Finding hunts the lock of Siberys unknowing. The darkened watcher is sundered and the guardians of the jungle’s light are renewed; when the guardians’ watch is ended, Masvirik will come forth once more.

“Again, something that we could hardly have anticipated even ten thousand years ago; scholars thought it most likely that it referred to a lizardfolk tribe.” Taliesin unfolded one of his wings, stretching it lazily, and retracted it again. “Similarly, it is clear now that Finding refers to House Tharashk; had we known, we might have prevented the gnomes from encouraging the clans of the Shadow Marches to unite to form that House. But, since the prophecy foresaw it, I suppose it would always have happened.”

“What is the ‘darkened watcher’?” asked Anaya.

“Most of our scholars believe that to be Rhashaak. He came to Q’barra originally around eighty thousand years ago, to watch over Masvirik and the lizardfolk tribes set to guard the jungle. But spending such a long time in Haka’torvhak, in close proximity to Masvirik, was his undoing. He took his research into the Overlord’s power too far, speaking to the Overlord in person to try to learn more of its thinking. The Overlord’s power cannot be concealed entirely, even by the Flame, and gradually it corrupted the one sent to watch over it. Rhashaak became just another of the Overlord’s servants, and the Blackscale lizardfolk tribes turned with him.”

“So what does the prophecy tell us?” said Esthana. “It says that Masvirik will be released; does that mean that we are doomed to fail?”

“But it also tells us when—‘when the guardians’ watch is ended’. Preserving the lizardfolk is paramount; they protect the jungle that is bound to the Flame that holds Masvirik in place. You two—the coming together of the Shadow and the Flame—are the force that has set in motion the unfolding of this element of the Prophecy; but its conclusion could be next month, or a million years hence, depending on whether you can forestall the threats to the lizardfolk’s watch.”

“What of the dragons themselves?” asked Anaya. “Since you understand the threat, can the dragons aid us in containing this threat?”

Taliesin looked at her, tilting his head. “I might ask you the same, Templar. Can the Church bring its power to bear in Q’barra?”

“That would be difficult,” Anaya replied, frowning; she had considered this several times since they had become aware of the Overlord here. She spoke slowly as she explained it. “The Church is a political and military force as well as a religious one, and there are few Purified in the east; there is not even a church in Newthrone. A large number of Templars showing up in Q’barra would not be welcomed.”

“We face similar difficulties,” said Taliesin. “A flight of dragons showing up in Q’barra would effectively be an invasion. And our past interventions have had mixed results; we helped forge the gul siksta alliance, but Rhashaak’s betrayal also formed the Blackscales. We are not a numerous people, and a permanent military occupation of eastern Khorvaire would require too large a commitment of our forces. Tiamat, the greatest of the Overlords, is imprisoned beneath Argonessen, and the Lords of Dust above all work to free her; our elders think it would be unwise to move much of our strength away from our greatest charge. Nor is she the only Overlord bound here that we must watch over.

“We believe that the Flame embraced Tira Miron because it foresaw the need for the younger races to play a role in shielding the world from this evil. I can share with you what I know of the Prophecy, and I stand watch against the influence of the rakshasa in Newthrone. But it is clear that this task was made for you, Templars, and you for it.”

“The vision that the Flame gave to me,” said Anaya, ”showed Rhashaak to me, deep within Haka’torvhak. I feel certain that the Flame means for me to free him from the taint that has corrupted him.”

“Purify Rhashaak?” Taliesin’s voice boomed off of the stone walls, and the dragon rose up onto its forelegs, his shadow falling over them. “That cannot be possible! Dragons have the most powerful magic in Eberron, and none has ever thought that enough power existed to purge the taint of an Overlord.”

“The Flame showed me the path,” said Anaya, looking confidently up at the dragon above her. “The power that the Flame grants me has grown beyond that of any Templar since Tira Miron herself; if she could bind an Overlord with the Flame, why should I not be able to drive out the power of another?”

“The dragons did not forsee Tira Miron’s power,” said Taliesin, uncertainty in his voice. “We have always been the masters of the arcane, but we have not been strong with the Flame itself since the couatl left us.” The dragon settled back down before them. “But this is a dangerous path, Templar; if you are wrong, you may release Rhashaak and find that the Overlord’s influence has roots too deep in him.”

“And what of me?” asked Vaalyun. Glancing over at the elf, Anaya saw that he was calmer now, back in thoughtful mode with his fingers steepled before him. “If the Shadow referenced in the prophecy is truly me, what role does it foresee for me in this?”

“Your presence here is clearly central to this verse of the Prophecy, but as to your exact role, you can see it as clearly as I. The Prophecy is often unclear until the event itself has happened. But as you are mentioned in this verse, you must be crucial to its outcome; the Templar will need you, somehow, before this is done.”

End of Session(party): Learned something new about the world, +1 XP to all.

Time to update the party’s bonds I think. Anaya’s bonds:
Lady Esthana is a fellow Templar of the Flame.
Lady Esthana has sacrificed much in our holy quest.
Vaalyun and I are bound by prophecy; together we will defeat a great evil.
Nyseris wields the Silver Flame; I will learn more of her power.

Esthana’s bonds:
Lady Anaya is the most powerful cleric of my faith that I have ever seen.
Vaalyun rescued me when I was unjustly imprisoned.
Vaalyun is a liability in a fight, but needs my protection.
Nyseris, like me, serves the Flame; we have a common purpose.

Vaalyun’s bonds:
Esthana saved my life.
Lady Anaya and I are bound by prophecy; together we will defeat a great evil.

Nyseris’ bonds:
Lady Anaya will save my people from the Overlord Masvirik.
Esthana is a brave warrior that I am proud to fight alongside.

Anaya: 1 failures, 1 bond updated; at 8XP.
Esthana: 0 failures, 1 bond updated; at 7XP.
Nyseris: 0 failures, 1 bond updated; at 4XP.
Vaalyun: 0 failures; at 6XP.

I have a plan for how the party can potentially free Rhashaak. Both Vaalyun and Anaya need to get to level 7 for the plan to work, though. They are getting closer now.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

IV.27: The Dragonne Spreads its Wings

Mythic GME Chaos Rank: 5
Scene setup: d10=7 (unchanged)

Is Borurol the commander? Unlikely (An orc or half-orc would be more fitting for a follower of the Gatekeepers).
Fate d100(27)=Yes

Newthrone, Q’barra
Nymm 25, 997 YK

Hireling, Do Your Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 1) +1 = 4 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth

Vaalyun sat comfortably at his desk, passing time while they waited for their visitor to arrive. In one hand he held a wine glass, and in the other a report on activity in the city since he had left for the Vale of Eberron. Ryfon had done as well as he could with their limited resources here, but the guildhouse was only recently established, and their only reliable eyes and ears were still the elves Imra and Ievos. They had blended in well in Thaliost, but they could not directly mix with Tharashk’s mercenaries here. There was at least some information on the more public of Tharashk’s movements, and it appeared that House Tharashk had grown its presence here by around fifty mercenaries in the last two weeks.

Esthana and Anaya sat at a smaller table on the other side of the room, with the morning sun shining in through a window next to them. Anaya had been reading a report on the Cult of Vol from Thrane, which Vaalyun had requested from his House’s agents in Thrane, and now she was writing a report back to the Templars in Flamekeep, passing on some information that might be of use to them. Vaalyun’s gaze moved from her to Esthana; the soldier was fretting at being stuck indoors, as usual, and was staring out of the window at the street below.

They were in Vaalyun’s office, in the Phiarlan Chapterhouse in Newthrone. After arriving back in the city on the previous day, Vaalyun had sent a note to Commander Borurol, requesting to meet with House Tharashk’s commander on an unspecified matter of business. Such requests between the Houses were common enough, and Vaalyun expected that the commander would call during the morning. Vaalyun preferred to meet him here, rather than in Tharashk’s guildhouse, in case the discussion went badly. The Templar’s work to unite the lizardfolk would make Tharashk’s work in the jungle more difficult and, while it was unlikely that the commander knew of it yet, once they told him it might cause problems. They had taken the precaution of leaving Nyseris at the Dragon’s Bounty for this meeting, as their presence might provoke him.

Vaalyun’s office was richly furnished now. The carpet was newly shipped from Sharn, and bore a large pattern depicting the five-headed hydra of House Phiarlan. The same fine paintings decorated the walls as had once hung in his office in Thaliost, and one or two newer paintings that he had bought during his brief stay in Flamekeep. The shipment had arrived a few days ago, and Vaalyun was pleased that his office now reflected his station as a scion of one of the twelve Houses.

The expected knock at the door came at last. The door opened; and the cleric heard Ryfon, from outside, announce the visitor.

“Commander Borurol Torrn d’Tharashk.”

Borurol wore his armour and scimitar, as he had when Vaalyun met him before at the Tharashk guildhouse, augmented now with a fine green travelling cloak bearing the sigil of his House.

Vaalyun had stood up when the name was announced, and he walked around his desk to greet the commander. “I am glad that you could come today, Commander. I think you have not met my associates, Lady Anaya and Lady Esthana, of the Templars of the Silver Flame.”

Defy Danger(CHA)(Anaya): 2D6(1 4) +1 = 6 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth: You killed this guy’s cousin, and he heard about it.
Aid(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 1) +1 = 4 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth: They know you are working with the Silver Flame now.

Well, that didn’t go as planned.

Anaya and Esthana were seated in the corner behind where the door opened, to be out of sight as the guest entered. Esthana had stood already, and now Anaya stood as well. “Commander Borurol.” The cleric inclined her head politely.

Borurol had turned to them, and looked surprised. He looked back to Vaalyun. “What is the meaning of this, d’Phiarlan?”

Vaalyun was taken aback; as far as he knew, the Templars had had no dealings with House Tharashk in Newthrone. “Be calm, my friend. These Templars wish to speak—”

“The Templars that killed my cousin!” He turned his glare back on the Templars.

Your mercenaries attacked us in the jungle,” said Anaya; the cleric had lost some of her customary calm. “They killed many lizardfolk, and the lizardfolk killed your mercenaries in self defence.”

“Lizardfolk? Traveller take them! The savages will pay in blood for their crimes.” He turned back to Vaalyun. “I do not know what has brought you to associate with these fanatics,” he said, gesturing to the Templars, “but any business between our Houses here is finished.”

Vaalyun started to protest, but the mercenary stormed out, shooting one last glare as Esthana as he left.

There was a moment of silence between them as they heard Borurol’s heavy steps on the stairs outside. Anaya looked over at Esthana: the other Templar was gripping he hilt of her sword tightly.

“Well, now we have more people in the city that want us dead,” said Esthana.

Vaalyun still stood before his desk. “You were there when Xulag was killed?” he asked quietly.

“I was,” said Esthana. “He wanted us dead.”

“It would have been good to know that before I arranged the meeting.” The elf looked away, shaking his head. “Killing a member of one of the Twelve Houses always brings complications. Tharashk may take the matter to the King here; and it seems to have made Borurol even more determined to take on the lizardfolk.”

“Perhaps there are other members of his house that would be more reasonable?”

Vaalyun sighed. “I can make enquiries. I understand that you want a peaceful solution, Templar, as do I—but it will be hard to avoid a fight with Tharashk if their commander is determined to see through their current course.”

“If it cannot be avoided, then we will not shrink from the fight. House Tharashk have put down roots here; but, if they will not here us, it is time to tear them up. We have a message from the lizardfolk to deliver, and it is time for the King to hear it.”

Mythic GME Chaos Rank: 6
Scene setup: d10=5 (Altered scene)

Commune(Anaya): Cure Light Wounds, Bless, True Seeing
Is Borurol making his case to the King when they arrive? 50:50 (He may have the same idea as our heroes).
Fate d100(64)=Yes

The great hall in Newthrone’s Keep was a riot of colour. Rich tapestries depicting the deeds of knights, and banners bearing the heraldry of the nobles of Q’barra, hung over whitewashed stone walls. The vaulted stone ceiling reminded Vaalyun of the cathedral at Flamekeep, albeit on a smaller scale. Shafts of sunlight cut down into the chamber from high windows, drawing attention to the lack of arcane lighting.

The court of Q’barra were gathered here, nobles dressed in finery. Swords were worn openly, and some of the nobles and knights wore armour, even plate, polished to a bright shine. On a dais at the end of the hall sat King Sebastianes, the first to be called king of Q’barra: a richly-attired human wearing a simple gold circlet, leaning forward in his throne and listening attentively to the requests of his subjects. Seated to his side were Marshal Marioth and Earl Ottesen, both key officials in the kingdom.

Spout Lore(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 1) +2 = 6 Failure!
Is there a Rakshasa here as well? 50:50 (They are the other faction in town, already trying to get involved in the power plays here).
Fate d100(88)=No
Event: 80: Ambiguous Event
2d200 = 2, 45: Starting Illness

Front(Lords of Dust): Attack a foe with magic, directly or otherwise: They are trying to kill the king.

In DungeonWorld , clerics don’t possess any spells for curing disease. But it would be interesting if, say, herbs deep in the jungle were required to treat his illness. Offer an opportunity, with or without cost

Vaalyun was too young to have seen the courts of Old Galifar, but the hall seemed like a pastiche of a world long gone. The styles here were hundreds of years behind Wroat or Sharn, or even Thaliost. To learn from the past is wise, but only fools seek to cling to it.

Defy Danger(CHA)(Aided)(Nyseris): 2D6(1 5) +0+1 = 7 Partial success.
Admitted without weapons
Aid(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 2) +0 = 8 Partial success.
You are responsible for Nyseris’ actions here

As they walked down the length of the hall, many turned to stare at them. While a few lizardfolk did come to Newthrone to trade, it was rare for one to appear at court; nor had there been any Templars here for many years. It had taken some arguing with the guards for them to admit Nyseris at all, and they had insisted on confiscating the ranger’s weapons. There might officially be peace in Q’barra, but two groups that communicated so little could hardly trust each other.

They were ushered into a queue of supplicants waiting to speak to the King; but Vaalyun saw with alarm that the current supplicant was none other than Borurol, bringing a case before the King on behalf of House Tharashk.

“...have made peaceful arrangements with the lizardfolk allowing us to access their lands.” Borurol was speaking loudly enough for all to hear. “And yet, they attacked us without provocation. Moreover, there is at least one other team that went into the jungle two weeks ago, and is overdue to return to the city.” Borurol was accompanied by several half-orc mercenaries, and Vaalyun noted that they had been allowed to keep their weapons.

Discern Realities(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 5) +1 = 10 Success!
What here is useful or valuable to me?
Who is really in control here?
What happened here recently?

“What was your expedition doing so far east?” asked the King. His expression was serious, giving the sense of paying full attention and consideration to a subject; but Vaalyun suspected that he was stalling for time.

“Pursuing our trade, known to yourself and approved by the relevant authorities here. Our expedition was identifying new sites for the extraction of dragonshards.”

“And you say that the lizardfolk had at first agreed to allow you passage?” When Q’barra was founded, early in the Last War, it had appealed to refugees and settlers as a refuge from that conflict. Apart from the one war with the lizardfolk, when the young nation needed to grow, it had remained a relatively peaceful place at a time when most other human nations were at each other’s throats. The King would be reluctant to allow a war to start here, Vaalyun considered, unless his own nation saw great need for it.

“Yes; we had given them items of great value to them, hard to obtain in the jungle, in return for access to their lands. Then they betrayed us; my cousin was slain only days after meeting them on terms of peace.

“Moreover, these lizardfolk were aided by two Templars of the Silver Flame, who fought alongside them. The Templars are in Newthrone now. I call on your to seize these traitors and see that they are punished for their involvement in this crime.”

Borurol was focused on the King, but many courtiers turned their heads to took at Anaya and Esthana. Vaalyun stepped away from the line of waiting merchants and minor nobles waiting to be heard, and raised his voice.

“If Your Grace pleases, I and my companions could testify on this matter.”

Above the Law(Vaalyun): You can act out of turn here without consequences to yourself, due to your standing in the Twelve.

The King looked at Vaalyun; the elf was careful to stand square on, so that his Phiarlan robes were clearly visible. Borurol turned too, and scowled when he saw them; he turned aside to one of his companions and muttering something angrily.

“I suppose those are the Templars against whom Borurol d’Tharashk makes his allegations,” said the King. “Your group may approach and be heard.”

There were louder murmurs amongst the courtiers as the group approached the throne. Borurol was standing to one side, ahead of the line of supplicants; Vaalyun led the Templars and Nyseris to stand before the King, but on the other side of the hall so they faced the Tharashk contingent below the dais. There were several knights stationed as guards around the dais, and two of them moved closer to the newcomers, eyeing them carefully.

“Your Grace, I am honoured to be received,” said Vaalyun. In truth, it would be a rash king that refused to hear a dignitary of one of the Twelve Houses these days; but Q’barra was so far behind the times, they might have failed to extend the expected courtesy. ”I am Vaalyun d’Phiarlan. Allow me to present Lady Anaya Biemolt of the Templars of the Silver Flame; Lady Esthana, also of the Templars; and Nyseris of the Eternal Fire Tribe.”

Anaya bowed deeply as she was named, and Esthana copied her.

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(6 2) +3 = 11 Success!
What happened here recently?
What here is useful or valuable to me?
Hold 1

Useful: you were actually there, Borurol was not.

“A lizardfolk—it is rare to see your kind here,” said the King, his gaze lingering on Nyseris. Up closer as they now were, they could see that the King was a middle-aged man with a dignified bearing, but also tired—or perhaps something more, as he held himself slightly stiffly, as if trying to maintain his lordly presence despite some injury or ailment. His gaze shifted to the Templars. “I have never left my kingdom: it is rare that a King can afford that luxury. So I have never met a Templar before. Are these indeed Templars?”

One of the noblewomen spoke. “I have travelled to Thrane on several occasions; they do wear the uniform of the Templars.”

“Borurol d’Tharashk makes strong charges against you, Lady Anaya. What say you?”

With +1 forward from her Discern Realities.

Defy Danger(CHA)(Aided)(Anaya): 2D6(1 3) +1+1+1 = 7 Partial success.
Worse outcome
Aid(Nyseris): 2D6(3 5) +0 = 8 Partial success.
Worse outcome

Just enough not to get thrown in jail.

Anaya met the King’s stare and question without apparent concern. “Your Grace, our work here has taken us into the jungle, where we have met and travelled with some of the lizardfolk tribes. We were travelling with them when Xulag Torrn and his mercenaries ambushed us—attacking at a river crossing where our party was divided. The lizardfolk defended themselves and we aided them. I did not see Xulag meet his end; he was on the south side of the crossing, while I was on the north.”

“The Templar speaks–s the truth,” said Nyseris. “The lizardfolk defended themselves against the human and orc mercenaries.”

Is Borurol angry enough to speak out of turn here? 50:50 (He does seem like someone that talks without listening when he feels slighted.).
Fate d100(17)=Yes

“Lies!” shouted Borurol. “Xulag traded with the lizardfolk, and would not attack them.”

“Mind yourself, Borurol d’Tharashk,” said Marshall Marioth. “Speak when addressed.”

“House Tharashk says one thing, and the Templars say another. And there are no witnesses to this ambush other than the participants, I gather.” The King turned back to Borurol.

“Xulag d’Tharashk is dead,” Borurol said, “slain by the lizardfolk—they do not dispute it.”

“But not by these Templars, whatever their involvement. And the peace with the lizardfolk prevents us from pursuing those that did do this into the jungle.” Vaalyun suppressed a smile; in practice the King’s authority did not extend beyond the human settlements along the Adder, but the King claimed juristiction over the whole jungle.

Borurol would not give up so easily. “The peace is ended, Your Grace, if they attack our expeditions into the jungle.”

“Violence against our traders is unacceptable and His Grace with certainly respond, you need not doubt,” said Earl Ottesen. Vaalyun had known, from earlier enquiries, that the Earl generally supported House Tharashk; but it was still alarming to hear the Earl, the commander of the army here, pushing for such a course.

“If I may, Your Grace,” said Vaalyun, “we come with a message from the lizardfolk.”

The quiet murmurs of the courtiers became hurried whispers around them. The King had turned back to them; after a glance at Vaalyun, he turned his gaze to Nyseris. “Is this one, then, an emissary from our neighbours?”

“No, Your Grace, I carry the message from the gul siksta.” Anaya took a step forward to stand beside Vaalyun. “We have travelled directly from the Vunal di Gemuth, from a meeting of the gul siksta chieftains. This is why we come before you today.”

Parley(Anaya): 2D6(2 2) +1 = 5 Failure!
Front(House Tharashk): Claim Territory or Resources

So many poor roles on the diplomacy today.

The King looked at Anaya. “I will hear their message.”

There was near silence around them as Anaya spoke; she raised her voice so that all might hear. “The gul siksta protect the sacred land of Q’barra. The dragonshards, that House Tharashk seeks, are part of their land and are sacred, blessed by the Silver Flame; their presence shields Q’barra from the great evil that dwells beneath it in Khyber. They will not allow any more of the dragonshards to be taken.

“The gul siksta insist that the peace that was struck must be honoured: those that live in the human settlements must intrude into the jungle no more. Any that seek to enter the territory of the lizardfolk or take the dragonshards will be killed.”

“This is an outrage!” said Earl Ottesen, jumping to his feet at this conclusion. “The lizardfolk have not spoken to us in years, and their first message is threats and lies! This nonsense about evil is clearly an excuse to try to scare us from pursuing our rightful trade.”

“You are right, Ottesen,” said Borurol. “The lizardfolk traded with us, then betrayed us. They seek to deny you a fair share of the bounty of this land, and to intimidate you into submission.”

“That is not true,” said Anaya. “The lizardfolk seek peaceful coexistence with the human settlements here.” Vaalyun could hear the passion in her plea, but could see that the court was against her. He had known from previous discussions with the Marshal and other officials that Earl Ottesen was generally supportive of House Tharashk’s operations here, and the Earl’s outburst made it clear that his support for Tharashk was unconditional. The only hope was that the King himself would think twice.

“Their attacks on our expeditions prove that they have no interest in peace”, said Borurol, waving his hand dismissively at Anaya.

“Your expeditions go deep into their territory,” said the King. “While I sympathise with you on your losses, Borurol d’Tharashk, I will not start a war because your trading arrangement fell through. So what do you want of me?”

Borurol turned to face the King, and took a moment to collect himself. “Permit us to bring in a larger force of armed mercenaries, Your Grace. Our expeditions until now have been peaceful exploration of the jungle to gather resources—resources that are of no use to anyone but the Twelve. Given the hostility of the lizardfolk now, we will need a strong armed escort with future expeditions. Without this, the trade in dragonshards—and the associated revenue—will surely dry up. My House is well able to provide the necessary protection to our prospectors if you will allow us to marshal forces here.”

Peaceful exploration indeed thought Vaalyun; if the jungle could have been explored entirely peacefully, it would not be the private army that was House Tharashk doing it. But it was clear that the argument was lost, and there was no need to risk his own position here to try to reverse that which was inevitable.

The King looked strained by the discussion, and there was an uncomfortable moment of silence. Then he spoke. “Very well. I permit House Tharashk to double its presence in Q’barra, including in the cities of Newthrone and Adderport. You may make arrangements with Earl Ottesen to have more space allocated to you within the city walls here. This trade dispute between yourselves and the lizardfolk is regrettable and we hope that you will be able to resolve it and pursue your trade without hinderance.”

Anaya was about to speak again, when the King turned to address her. “We have no desire for a war with the lizardfolk, but, should they attack any of our settlements, they will learn that we are a nation now, stronger than when they last faced us. We expect them to continue to honour the peace that was struck.”

“You ask them to honour a peace with you, while you give shelter to those that attack them?” asked Anaya.

“As I have said, I hope that House Tharashk can resolve its dispute with the lizardfolk. This matter is settled.” The King rose abruptly. “I will hold court again this afternoon, to address those subjects whose appeals were not heard this morning.” He turned and walked away to a side door.

“Long reign the King!” shouted Earl Ottesen.

The chatter in the throneroom picked up, much louder than it had been while the King held court. Vaalyun saw Borurol walk over and begin talking to the Earl. There was nothing more to do here today; he ushered the Templars and Nyseris away from the throneroom.

They passed into the corridor outside; armed guards with polished halberds closed the doors of the throneroom behind them.

“That did not go well,” said Esthana. “House Tharashk seems to have its supporters in the government here.”

“Careful Templar,” said Vaalyun. He lowered his voice, waiting until they were a little further from the guards before continuing. “There are ears throughout Newthrone Keep, and no doubt a few listen on behalf of House Tharashk.”

Anaya spoke with a lowered voice now too. “It is as we feared—House Tharashk is too important to Newthrone’s trade for their request to be denied.”

“And the lizardfolk have reaped the reward of never talking to their neighbours. The King gets House Tharashk’s attention and money every day; why should he care for a neighbour that sends its first messenger in twenty years?” It would not have been this way if House Phiarlan had had a presence here years ago, Vaalyun believed; his House had been practicing diplomacy in Khorvaire since before humanity arrived.

They were descending a spiral stone staircase now, leading down to the Keep’s courtyard. Nyseris said, “Perhaps if the humans had talked when they first came here, instead of simply stealing land from us, then we would think it worth talking to them more often.”

They reached the bottom of the stairs, but the way to the courtyard was blocked by two soldiers. Silhouetted in the light from the courtyard beyond, it took a moment to make out the crest of Newthrone displayed on their tabards. Both had their hands on their sword hilts already.

One of them, a heavyset human woman with a scar above one eye, spoke. “Templar, Shadow, come with us. Our employer wishes to speak to you.”

End of Session(party):

Anaya: 2 failures; at 5XP.
Esthana: 0 failures; at 5XP.
Nyseris: 0 failures; at 2XP.
Vaalyun: 2 failures, alignment goal; at 5XP.

Well that was an abject failure; the party failed several key rolls outright, leaving little choice to the GM but to move the politics against them. The net result of the session is that I had to write Grim Portents for House Tharashk taking over Q’barra; the whole region could descend into war over the jungle if this track continues.

The story is heading in general in a different direction than I originally imagined; I had thought of the party as uprooting Tharashk’s influence here, bringing the government in Newthrone to renew their peace with the lizardfolk, while having only a weak bond with the lizarfolk themselves. Instead, the party is strongly bonded to the lizardfolk, and might simply have to abandon the human part of Q’barra as a lost cause and side with the lizardfolk outright. That would be unfortunate for Vaalyun, who has invested in the city here.

III.26: The Perilous Wilds

I forgot that, having made it to level 4, Nyseris now has access to level 3 cleric spells (due to God Amidst the Wastes.

Commune(Nyseris): Cure Moderate Wounds, Magic Weapon
Followers, Do Your Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(3 2) +1 = 6 Failure!
Imra and Ievos are detected when trying to plant evidence on Taliesin. Let’s go with Front(The Chamber): Learn forbidden knowledge

The Chamber has seen what Anaya did in the Vunal di Gemuth (Vale of Eberron), and is alarmed at how fast events are proceeding.

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(6 1) +3 = 10 Success!
What here is useful or valuable to me?
Who is really in control here? What here is not what it appears to be?

Jungle north of Newthrone, Q’barra
Nymm 20, 997 YK

They stayed in the Vale for two nights. Anaya had had much to discuss with the wise ones of the lizardfolk tribes, who spoke more about the legends and traditions of the tribes and their ancient bond with the jungle here. There was much in common with the faith of the Church of the Silver Flame, and it was evident, given the powers that Anaya, Nyseris and the wise one’s shared, that it was the same Flame that they worshipped. Anaya could only wonder that the Church in Flamekeep was, as far as she knew, entirely unaware of the lizardfolk and their common faith. She, in turn, had much to tell them of the work of the Church in the Five Nations to spread the worship of the Flame. The lizardfolk promised that they would welcome any of the Templars that came to Q’barra in future.

The faith of the lizardfolk seemed crude to Anaya, and she harboured a suspicion that the dragons that originally imparted the knowledge had regarded the lizardfolk merely as guardians of the jungle, not needing to know more about the higher meaning and nature of the Flame. But they had kept their faith for millennia, since long before humans came to this land, and Anaya had great respect for that.

On the third day they set out for Newthrone. Anaya was all too aware that their victory here was a temporary one; if House Tharashk continued their incursions, eventually it must mean war with the lizardfolk. Strong as the lizardfolk were, their strength would be taxed, and perhaps overdrawn, if they were forced to fight against Newthrone and Tharashk. Her mission now lay in Newthrone, and persuading the King to rein in operations that House Tharashk ran there.

One, oblique, answer to Anaya’s “Who’s really in control here?” is that she is. Heroes are meant to be big in Eberron, and we just made Anaya the most powerful cleric of the Flame alive. Let’s acknowledge that.

The journey south from the Vale of Eberron was hot and difficult, like all journeys through the jungle of Q’barra. Anaya was far from complaining, however; indeed she felt a determination of purpose beyond what she had ever felt before. While Anaya had always had a strong faith in the Flame, even before she learned to channel its power herself, speaking to one of the couatl that formed the Flame had revealed fully to her that which had previously been known only through the Church’s teachings. She saw that determination reflected in Esthana’s face, when she looked at her fellow Templar—together with something else, more like awe, that she could also understand. In the Church’s teachings, there was no instance of a Templar, or anyone else, talking with a couatl since Tira Miron herself, the Templar whose sacrifice had enabled the Church to be founded. The Flame only reveals itself directly when the greatest dangers—the Overlords—threaten us all.

Undertake a Perilous Journey(party):
Navigate(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 2) +2 = 5 Failure!
I rolled on the Perilous Wilds tables and got an arcane trap/effect (aspect: time), in plain sight. And I rolled for which front set the trap and got the Blackscales. We have established that they have a bunch of wizards. Front(Blackscales): Cast a spell over time and space
Scout(Nyseris): 2D6(4 6) +1 = 11 Success!
You get the drop on whatever lies ahead. You discern a beneficial aspect of the terrain.

Jungle north of Newthrone, Q’barra
Nymm 21, 997 YK

On the day after leaving the Vale, the Templars and Vaalyun were making their way along a trail through a less dense section of jungle. The trees here were older and higher, casting deep shadows across the jungle floor.

Vaalyun had been quiet for the past day, withdrawn in his own thoughts. As they crossed a small stream, he finally chose to speak.

“Things will be difficult when we get back to Newthrone, Templar.”

The elf was walking behind the Templars, and Anaya slowed her pace to fall back to him. “I do not doubt that—House Tharashk will use their influence to try to keep the dragonshard trade open.”

“They are not the only ones working against us. A few days before I left the capital, assassins attacked me openly in the street.”

“Assassins?” Anaya was shocked; Esthana, ahead of them, turned her head towards them with a look of surprise.

Vaalyun described the attack briefly, sticking to the facts. The elf could be very calm and quiet-spoken, Anaya thought, in contrast to the more flamboyant style that he used in his public dealings; but his composure was more surprising in the circumstances.

Discern Realities(Esthana): 2D6(4 1) +1 = 6 Failure!

Reveal an Unwelcome Truth

“So the assassins were not from Tharashk—the bodyguards would not have fought for you if they were,” said Esthana.

“We are friends, Vaalyun,” said Anaya, “so I hope I may ask—is this certainly connected to our work here against House Tharashk and Masvirik? Your position in House Phiarlan may have made some enemies in the past, I suppose.”

“It is not my first assassination attempt, it is true,” the elf replied, as if it were merely another matter of business. “And I have heard of spellthievies being used as assassins in subterfuge between the Houses. But I do not know of anyone that wants me dead now, in this place. The effort of organising such a thing, at such a distance from the Five, does not seem fitting with the usual work of the other Houses. I think it relates to your mission, Templars. And, whoever opposes us, they are well resourced and willing to breach the peace of the city. You will be their target too, once we return.”

“If only there was some way to persuade House Tharashk of the righteousness of our cause,” said Anaya. “I wish them no ill will, and I feel sure that no-one of the Five would want to risk the release of an Overlord, knowing the consequences of their actions. But it is hard to convince those that are not Purified of the danger.”

“That reminds me,” said Vaalyun. He reached into his jacket, withdrawing a small leather-bound book from inside his jacket. “I found this in the Commander’s office in the Tharashk guildhouse. I had someone translate a few sections of it, but I do not really know what to make of it. It seems to be a cult of some kind though—the Gatekeepers—and you know more of religion than I do.”

Spout Lore(Anaya): 2D6(2 4) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Vague information, up to the characters to make it useful

Anaya took the book from Vaalyun, opening it to a page filled with dense orcish script. “I have heard of the Gatekeepers, when I travelled in the west of Aundair many years ago. They are a druidic cult, as you say.”

Vaalyun gave her the gist of the parts that he had had translated: the tale of invasion from Xoriat, and how the Gatekeepers had sealed the evil below in Khyber. It sounded like a pale imitation of the story of the couatl to Anaya, and it was tempting to dismiss it as some corrupt heresy, but she had read of the legend, the so-called Daelkyr War, in a book on the history of Khorvaire. Much from that era was speculation, of course, but it was possible that there was some substance to these tales.

Investigate(Anaya): 2D6(5 5) +1 = 11 Success!

Once Vaalyun was done, she spoke up. “Whatever the truth of this legend, I find it hard to believe that any druidic cult would want the release of an Overlord.” The circle of arcane runes obscured by vines on the cover did not seem to her to contain any symbols of demons or Khyber. “I think we must speak to the Commander, and try to persuade him of our cause.”

Cast a Spell(Magical Weapon)(Nyseris): 2D6(3 5) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Lose the spell
Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(3 4) +3 = 10 Success!
What is about to happen here?
Who is really in control here?
What here is hidden?

Anaya felt a faint tug, a flicker in the Flame ever present in her conciousness. She looked ahead for Nyseris, trying to see the lizardfolk between the trees where they were scouting the path ahead. The lizardfolk had drawn on the Flame, Anaya realised—and that meant they had found trouble.

“What is it?” asked Esthana, glancing around.

As if in answer, they felt a slight rumbling in the earth beneath and around them. The ground sloped down to a river somewhere off through the trees to the west; looking down the slope, Anaya saw a patch of earth, perhaps eight feet across, bulge upwards and then break apart as a creature forced its way to the surface. From the continued rumbling around them, the cleric immediately knew that it was not alone.

The creature looked like a mixture of a serpent and a crab; standing six feet tall, its long slender body was supported on four insect-like legs. It turned towards them, swinging forearms that ended in huge pincers; they looked easily large enough to cut a man in two.

Volley(Anaya): 2D6(3 4) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Deal less damage: d6-d6=3-5 for 0 damage
Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 3) +2 = 11 Success!
Deal damage: 2d4=7, 3 after armour

Anaya already had an arrow out, and loosed a shot at the monstrosity; the arrow skipped harmlessly off of its thick carapace. “Keep moving forward! We must reach Nyseris.”

Vaalyun had a wand in his hand already, firing a bolt of energy that struck the carapace just behind the creature’s head. The shell blackened and cracked; and the creature recoiled slightly, letting out a shrill cry that seemed to drill into Anaya’s head.

Defend(Esthana): 2D6(6 3) +2 = 11 Success!
Divert attacks to self, hold 2
Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(3 6) +3 = 12 Success!
Deals d10=1 damage, 2 piercing, reduced to nothing by armour

Spend hold(Esthana): Deal damage equal to level: 6, 4 after armour

The enraged creature leapt into motion, its gait switching easily between a forwards charge and a crab-like sideways scamper as it bounded around the trees towards them. It aimed first for Vaalyun but, as he followed Anaya, Esthana took the rear and turned to meet the creature’s charge. The creature tried to sieze her in one of its claws, but the Templar easily sidestepped the strike and drove her sword into the creature’s armpit; its left arm fell limp. Esthana made another strike, aiming a blow up under its head, but the blade caught on the edge of the capapace.

Volley(Anaya): 2D6(5 3) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Put yourself in harm’s way, deals 4 damage which is negated by armour

Anaya looked to her left as the ground there also burst upwards, as another of the creatures broke through onto the slope above them. It turned towards the group, and Anaya loosed another arrow, but the arrow just shattered on one of the creature’s pincers. The creature charged at once, thundering downhill at the cleric, too fast to evade.

Defend(Nyseris): 2D6(6 1) +1 = 8 Defend
Halve damage to target
Defy Danger(Str)(Anaya): 2D6(4 2) +0 = 6 Failure!
Deal Damage: d8+1=3 damage, 3 piercing, halved to 1
Defy Danger(Dex)(Anaya): 2D6(3 1) +1 = 5 Failure!
Put someone in a spot
Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 6) +2 = 12 Success!
Deals 2d4=6 damage, 2 after armour

The first chuul has 3/10 HP left.

Anaya drew her sword. She tried to parry its first blow, but the creature was far stronger than her and brushed the steel aside, crashing into the cleric and knocking her to the ground. It raised its other pincer for a downward strike, but then a bolt of silver light crashed intothe side of its head—if the shell-covered top of its body was a head—knocking it off balance momentarily. Rolling to one side, Anaya tried to get to her feet, but the creature over her recovered quickly; the wind was suddenly knocked out of her as a large claw struck her in the back, pushing her into the dirt.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(4 1) +3 = 8 Partial success.
Deals d10=4 damage, 2 piercing, so 2 damage after armour
Defend(Nyseris): 2D6(4 4) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Halve damage to target

Golden opportunity (Anaya is still pinned): Deal Damage: d8+1=3 damage.

Anaya is at 13/17HP; the chuul are at 8/10 and 3/10. The characters need urgently to deal with the threat to Anaya, or it will have the chance to do more damage.

Summon Living Dragonmark(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 3) +2 = 10 Success!
Living shadow, 1HP, all basic moves with +1, +2 for strength
Defy Danger(Dex)(Anaya): 2D6(6 4) +1 = 11 Success!
You get away

Anaya struggled to rise, but the weight of the creature was pressing down on her. Her mail kept its claw from breaking her skin, but its weight was crushing her. She tried to twist, expecting the pincers to come down for the killing blow at any moment; but instead there was a sound of weapons clashing on shell above, and she felt the creature shift its weight. As it did so, Anaya twisted the other way; there was a sharp pain in her back where its weight bore down on her, but she was able to shift out from under it and scramble free.

Hack and Slash(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 2) +2 = 5 Failure!
Put someone in a spot: the creature ignores the shadow and goes for you
Volley(Nyseris): 2D6(3 4) +2 = 9 Partial success.
Put yourself in danger, deals d8+d4=6 damage, 2 after armour
Defy Danger(Str)(Vaalyun(shadow creature)): 2D6(2 4) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Deal Damage: d8+1=5 damage to Vaalyun, but is forced to release Vaalyun

HP: Vaalyun is at 10/15, Anaya at 13/17, chuul are at 1/10 and 8/10.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 2) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals 2d4=6 damage, 2 after armour

As she stood up, she saw that the first creature was still up, and had rounded on Vaalyun, grasping him around the waist in one of its pincers. As she watched, another bolt of light whistled past her, striking the creature with enough force to punch through its shell, causing the creature to let out another high shrill of pain. But she also saw a shadow, the shadow of an elf, holding on to the back of the creature with an arm around the creature’s neck as if to break it. The creature gave another high shrill that made the cleric wince; but it released Vaalyun himself, who fell to the ground. He extended his arm, still holding his wand, and fired a bolt up into the creature’s head; the head exploded, and several shards of already cracked carapace were thrown across the jungle floor. The huge beast fell to the ground, finally dead.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(1 2) +3 = 6 Failure!
Deal damage: d8+1=9 damage, ignoring 3 armour, for 8 messy damage to Esthana

Anaya’s response was written in at character creation: risk yourself to heal another.

Cast a Spell(Cure Light Wounds)(Anaya): 2D6(5 3) +3 = 11 Success!
Heals d8+6=14 damage

A human cry of pain turned Anaya around, to see the second creature now holding Esthana in one of its pincers. Blood was running down the Templar’s breastplate, where the pincer had sheared into the plate and was cutting deeply into her armless shoulder. Anaya rushed in to help her friend, putting a hand on Esthana’s back and channelling the power and strength of the Flame into the Templar; she felt its purifying energy, stronger than ever, flow through the touch, and Esthana was surrounded by silver light.

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 1) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Take what you can get: 2d4-d6 = 4 damage, negated by armour
Defy Danger(Cha)(Vaalyun(shadow)): 2D6(3 4) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Use up their resources: it slices up the shadow thing

Another bolt of arcane energy from Vaalyun flew past, ricocheting off of the creature’s carapace. Anaya hesitated, unsure how to make the creature release Esthana; and then the shadow elf flitted past her, rushing at and through the creature. The beast staggered as if struck, though it showed no injury; it dropped Esthana, and turned around to face the shadowy figure now standing behind it. Anaya quickly helped Esthana to her feet, as Vaalyun ran up to them.

“Nyseris is beset by another of these things, just off through the trees,” said the elf.

“Then we must get to them, now.” Anaya helped Esthana to her feet—the Templar was still shaken, though the bleeding had stopped and the wound had closed—and they began hurrying away from the creature. Glancing back, she saw the creature tearing at the shadow elf.

“My shadow summoning will only keep it busy for a few seconds,” said Vaalyun.

Let’s catchup with Nyseris’ fight.

Hack and Slash(Nyseris): 2D6(6 2) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals d8=6 damage, 2 after armour
Familiar Prey(Nyseris): 2D6(4 6) +1 = 11 Success!
You know all about them
Hack and Slash(Nyseris): 2D6(6 2) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals d8=7 damage, 3 after armour
Hack and Slash(Vaalyun(shadow)): 2D6(3 3) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Cannot do enough damage to harm the chuul, takes damage so is destroyed
Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 3) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals 2d4=4 damage, negated by armour
Volley(Anaya): 2D6(5 3) +1 = 9 Partial success.
Take what you can get; d6-d6=-3, no damage

They could see Nyseris through the trees now. The lizardfolk was standing beside a large stone obelisk, placed in a small clearing in the trees. They were fending off a third creature at spearpoint, trying to keep the thing at a distance and using the obelisk to stop it from swinging its pincers for a knockout blow. Vaalyun fired and Anaya loosed another arrow, but both bounced harmlessly off of the creature’s tough shell.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(1 1) +3 = 5 Failure!
Use up their resources

Esthana is having a bad fight, for once.

Esthana charged into the clearing, shouting “For the Flame!”. She levelled her sword at the beast, the silver fire running along the blade illuminating her as she moved into the shaded clearing. Her shout drew the creature’s attention however, and it turned on her; a sweeping blow with its pincer caught the Templar on the side of her lost shieldarm, the force of the blow knocking the sword from her hand and throwing her to the ground.

“What are these creatures?” shouted Anaya as she moved into the clearing.

Nyseris deals damage, as the creature’s back is turned. d8=2, ineffective against its armour.

“Chuul,” hissed Nyseris. The lizardfolk jabbed at the creature while its back was turned, but its tough carapace turned aside their spearpoint. “I have never seen them on the surface before, though.”

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(4 1) +3+1 = 9 Partial success.
What here is useful or valuable to me?
Defy Danger(Dex)(Esthana): 2D6(4 5) +3 = 12 Success!
You are able to get to your sword

Esthana rolled aside as the creature brought down its other pincer; its blow cut through several tree roots running through the dirt where she had lain. Rolling to her feet, the Templar dodged a strike from the creature’s other pincer, and ran out of its reach, grabbing her sword off of the ground as she did so.

Not on the surface? Moving into the shadow of a tree, Anaya drew on the power of the Flame, feeling her surroundings. Yes, there is something here—some malignant presence has brought these creatures here. If I can drive it back...

Volley(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 3) +2 = 10 Success!
Deals 2d4=5, 1 damage after armour.
Volley(Nyseris): 2D6(4 6) +2 = 12 Success!
Deals d8+d4=7 damage, 3 after armour

The chuul are at 7 and 2 HP respectively.

Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(6 5) +3 = 14 Success!
Deals d10=10 damage, 6 after armour

“Here comes the other,” called Vaalyun; Anaya saw him fire another bolt as the second chuul burst into the clearing; there was a sharp cracking sound as part of its capapace cracked. Ignoring the elf, the creature joined the other in attacking Esthana, moving around to her side and then closing on the Templar. Esthana moved too quickly for it, though; she rolled under its charge, rolling between its legs and coming up behind it. Rather than attack the newcomer though, she lunged at the other, which had been blindsided by its companion’s charge. She stepped between its legs and drove her sword up into its soft underbelly; the creature let out a shrill death rattle and collapsed.

Cast a Spell(Sanctuary)(Anaya): 2D6(6 2) +3+1 = 12 Success!

I am letting Anaya use this spell for a more powerful purpose than it would normally be used for—because the Blackscales are calling the chuul to this place with a spell cast from a hundred miles away, and so I have to give the party a way to stop it. Be a fan of the characters

Anaya heard, and felt, a familiar rumbling of earth behind her—more of the creatures were coming. Stepping out into the clearing, she called on the power of the Flame, and once again she felt its vast power flowing through her, as it had done back on the Vale. The clearing was filled with silver light as the Flame illuminated her, driving back the gloom of the jungle.

The remaining chuul in the clearing backed away, throwing its pincers up in front of its head to shield itself from the light. By the light of the Flame, Anaya could now see two more chuul between the trees to the east; they, two, were no longer advancing.

“Whatever brought you to this place, begone foul creatures,” she commanded. “The Flame guides us, and drives evil from our path.”

Whether the creatures understood her or not, they did not now seem to want a fight. The one in the clearing sidled away to join the others, and the group moved away, down towards the river.

“Chuul like the water normally,” said Nyseris. “Hopefully they will go to a nearby cave and stay there.”

“What brought them here, though?” asked Vaalyun.

Nyseris shook their head. Anaya said, “I sensed something, a malign force—a summoning spell which drew them here. I do not sense the caster nearby, however. If it is a distant spell, it will have cost them a great deal to cast. Hopefully it will take time before they can try again.”

“Then we should get moving, cleric,” said Vaalyun. The elf was holding one arm to his side, where the first chuul had seized him.

Cast a Spell(Cure Moderate Wounds)(Nyseris): 2D6(4 5) +1 = 10 Success!
Heals 12 HP

“Yes, but let me see to your wound first.” But before Anaya could move to help the elf, Nyseris had stepped up to him; with a touch, the fires of the Flame surrounded her, and Anaya saw the elf straighten as the healing fire flowed into him.

Moving to the lizardfolk’s side, Anaya put a hand on their arm. “Your strength with the Flame is growing, faster than I would have imagined. You are already stronger than most clerics trained in Flamekeep.” There was a hint of awe in Anaya’s voice; it still surprised her that the lizardfolk followed the same faith at all, but to have one that could channel the flame so strongly was amazing to her.

“I learn it from you, Anaya of the Flame,” said Nyseris. “I feel you draw on the power, and then I feel that I can do the same.”

Anaya nodded. “When this is all over, you must travel to Flamekeep with us; there are many there that would like to meet you.”

“My kind rarely travel beyond our own lands. But perhaps,” said Nyseris, smiling, “it is time that we did explore more distant places. Since their problems can come to us, we ought to know more of what lies beyond the mountains.”

Anaya’s invocation still lay upon the clearing, a faint silver light suffusing the air around them, casting shadows out into the jungle around them. With wary glances down the slope, the companions resumed their journey south.

End of Session(party):

Anaya: 2 failures, alignment goal; at 3XP.
Esthana: 3 failures, alignment goal; at 5XP.
Nyseris: 0 failures, alignment goal; at 2XP.
Vaalyun: 2 failures, session goal; at 2XP.