After resting from his northern journey, Dreyhan went back to his Order and met with Brother Caaval. He found his mentor in the midst of the retelling of the Fall of Oblesin. Caaval saw him enter and handed off the retelling to another monk and met with Dreyhan in a small alcove. Dreyhan presented his mentor with the magical blade he had recovered from the Ghost Knight and filled him in on the events that had transpired. When he was done, Caaval wore a curious expression on his face, “I did some research on the obelisk and discovered there are many such stones throught the land. Some seem to think they are ancient elvish road markers due to the elven runes they bear. Regardless of their purpose, they do seem to be invested with old elven magic and maintain a connection to the fey. It is possible that one could cross from here to the BrightLands if they knew how to work them, but as far as I can tell, perhaps only the Taan and the Elves know that lore.”
Considering there was a band of undead at the obelisk and he had found evidence of an army of undead, Dreyhan asked if Caaval thought the undead were traveling through the realm of the fey by way of these stones. Caaval replied, “I would hate to think someone is using those to move undead around quickly. But considering there are other ways to transport large groups of people, I have my doubts that’s what is going on. But I will send your concerns to the Prime Temple and ask their council.”
“Thank you, Master. As I go, is there anything you would have me do?”
The elder monk smiled gently and answered, “Look out for orphans and take any you find to the Order of Truth.”
Dreyhan bowed to his master and made his way back to the palace.
In the week that they had been back in Syntyr, Fiona had been traveling from tavern to tavern to glean the town gossip and earn some coin. The city was gluttoned with people and her competition was fierce as there were more bards than taverns. But she impressed the owner of **** and as she entertained the tenants, she kept her ears open. As the people came and went, she heard frequently that the masses weren’t sure about Nephelle taking rule. They had been very pleased with her father and were sorry that the law mandated he could only rule 200 years. They had grown to trust the King, but they didn’t know Nephelle and many thought she was too standoffish and wouldn’t understand their needs.
As fate would have it, a better bard than her arrived at **** and the owner paid her for her time and sent her on her way.
Lucien was very glad to see Nephelle return from her trip to Highglen and listened intently as she recounted what had transpired. After spending some time with her ‘Uncle’ she went to Lady Hadassa’s quarters where she was shocked to find her meeting with Lady Mara. Once she recovered from her shock, she realized that the woman’s eye color wasn’t quite the same. Hadassa introduced her, “This is Lady Quann. She is a Haptic Consort from Althair.”
Nephelle bowed to her as was customary then asked about her connection to Mara. At that name, Quann’s expression soured. Instead of answering, she asked, “Have you met her?”
“Yes, we met at Highglen, from where I have just returned.”
Quann frowned, “Did you find yourself indebted to her?”
Suddenly suspicious, Nephelle hedged away from the inquiry, “Why do you ask?”
“I would be disappointed if I found that out to be true.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“While we seven Consorts rule Althair together, we are not unified in our vision. To put it simply, in our shared rule, we are rivals.”
“I see. Lady Mara will be attending my coronation tomorrow.”
A slight smile appeared on Quann’s lips, “Then you must not have heard. Lady Mara’s caravan was ‘delayed’ on their journey. It seems she will not be here after all.”
“That is unfortunate. If you will excuse me, I need to see to some of the preparations.” Nephelle left the room, pondering her most recent conversation.
Rothelar spent the first day at his temple communing with his goddess, then became restless. He went to a tavern to see if he could assist an adventuring party for a few days before the coronation. He met an odd group who were setting out to discover the truth about the rumors of a monster in the nearby woods. Rothelar didn’t get any names, but identified them by their odd garments. One of the fighters wore a bright blue belt while the other’s red socks came up to his knees. The rogue also liked her socks and the brilliant pink had distracted many people while she lightened their purses. There was another rogue in the group who was easily identified by her pink ruffled shirt. They welcomed the cleric to their band and set off into the woods.
Lagging behind the group a ways, Pink Shirt spotted a large statue in a clearing several feet off the trail. She called the others’ attention to it and they moved closer. The stone statue was of a nine-foot tall Auxen garbed in Bysynth livery. While they are examining the cunning likeness, sounds of trees crashing on the far side of the clearing grabbed their attention. The sounds got louder as they came closer then suddenly a six-legged beast emerged. It was covered in stone-colored scales and while the others quickly lowered their gazes, Pink Socks looked into the creature’s eyes. The gods were smiling on her that day for while the basilisk was looking in her direction, it did not meet her gaze. As it moved into the clearing, they realized it was leashed, the chain looping toward the ground and ended in the hands of a man dressed in black armor.
Red Socks drew his sword and danced around the basilisk, hacking at the man and leaving a large rent in the man’s armor. The man unleashed the basilisk, siccing it on Red Socks. The giant lizard took a bite out of the fighter, eviscerating him, and the man grabbed him by the neck. A sharp twist of the wrist and Red Socks crumpled to the forest floor, his socks becoming redder as they soaked up his blood.
Pink Socks thrust at the man in black with her daggers, catching the edge of the rent and peeling it apart. Rothelar put an encouraging hand on Blue Belt’s shoulder, and the fighter glowed for a moment with the cleric’s blessing, then launched himself at the foe. The black armored man lashed out with the leash, trying to wrap it around Blue Belt’s throat, but the fighter ducked and it whipped harmlessly over his head. The basilisk bit into his thigh, but he was able to twist free for Pink Shirt had slashed at the basilisk with her daggers, leaving bleeding gashes. The creature let go of Blue Belt, but at the moment of Pink Shirt’s contact with the creature, the lower half of her body turned to stone.
Blue Belt swung his ax at the man, and caught him just under the helmet. It flew off revealing emptiness within the armor. Dark, harsh laugher rises from the cavity. Blue Belt staggered back a step in shock and caught sight of Pink Socks stabbing at the basilisk. She struck true but the gods were truly smiling on her that day for she did not turn to stone. Rothelar made a loud magically powered noise, hoping to frighten the creature, but it just ignored the cleric.
Frantically swinging as hard as she could with her lower half a statue, Pink Shirt stabbed at the basilisk again. As the dagger sank to its hilt into the creature, her movement froze as stone encompassed the rest of her body. Blue Belt hacked at the lizard with his axe, but his legs too turned to stone. The basilisk reared up on its back four legs and bit down at the fighter, chomping off the upper half and leaving twin stone legs behind. Pink Socks jabbed up and out with her daggers and the head of the basilisk tore free, showering her in blood and the forest gained another stone statue.
Rothelar realized he now stood alone in the forest with an empty suit of armor. Laughter came from the breastplate and commanded for him to run along and tell his mistress they are coming. In the distance he heard more crashing of trees, and he bolted from the clearing, running toward Syntyr as fast as his legs could carry him.
The Coronation Ceremony
The anticipated celebration was finally at hand. The king was going to step down from his throne and hand the kingdom to his daughter. Delegates from the surrounding countries had arrived and waited in the grand hall for their turn to present their gifts to the king and his successor. The king took center stage and joyously gave welcome to all. Behind him stood his daughter, regaled in all her beauty. Davik, Brand, and Dreyhan were present as her retinue, while her other friends mingled in the back of the hall.
The Baron of Trynal, Lord Hyram Windblade approached the throne and, as was customary, presented a sword to the king. The centerstones on the hilt and the crosspiece were beautiful pieces of myiar crystal. Lord Hyram said a few words in regard to the long history of Trynal and Bysyth’s cooperation. He concluded by saying, “Peace will reign. War is at its end.”
After he returned to his seat, Lady Quann approached the throne and gave a similar speech, speaking of Althair though. As she concluded, she signaled to the two Catafracts at her side and they moved closer to the king. He bowed slightly to them in anticipation of receiving the customary tribute. One of the Catafracts was a blur as it helped the king rise by thrusting a massive fist through the king’s chest, lifting the man up in the air. The Catafract threw the king off its arm as the doors to the great hall slammed shut and the other Catafracts began slaughtering the crowds.
Screams and cries for help echoed through the chamber, and the guards all drew their weapons. The guards from Trynal turned their swords to those from Bysynth and hacked them down, looks of surprise still on their faces. Once the guards were disposed of, they began butchering the courts.
Dreyhan grabbed Nephelle’s arm and pulled her behind himself and stared suspiciously at Davik, who’s father was doing a fair amount of slaughter himself. Nephelle frantically scanned the crowd for her father or uncle. Her father was in a bloody heap in the middle of the room, and all she could make out of Lucien was that he was being surrounded by Catafracts. A flickering light caught her attention and she looked out one of the windows to see her beloved city aflame. A ragged scream tore from her throat. Her eyes danced around the room, looking for any allies that might still be alive. Hadassa was in her element, casting powerful spells left and right against the Catafracts, but each of those spells dissappated across their armor, not phasing them in the least. The remaining Bysynthian guards hacked at the Catafracts, but their swords broke more often than they caused damage.
Brand grabbed Davik’s arm, shaking him and yelled in his ear, “We must get the princess to safety!” Snapping out of his shock, he nodded and the three of them formed a huddled knot around her, and tried to usher her to safety and rendezvous with the others, who were somewhere in the blood bath below.