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.

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