The Cataclysm of Ultana

Chapter 6
Long Live House Protex

The group stepped through the portal into a well furnished chamber. A small fire crackled in hearth, fine chairs sat around the room, and a table with food sat near the door.

“I’ll be back, don’t leave this room.” With that, Rith left the room. Marcus began boiling water over the fire crackling in the hearth as Malva and Cyrek made their way away from the group to brood. Drakon began pacing around the room, agitation plain on his face, even as Persephone began looking at the walls with a quizzical and slightly confused look on her face. Saca and Ryo sat in relative silence, and time passed for a bit. When the water came to a boil, Marcus removed it to make three cups of tea. He took one cup to Cyrek and set it beside him. He removed Lord Hector’s sword from the bag of holding and placed it against the arm of the chair, then walked away and sat next to Malva as she began playing her Lute.

After two hours had passed, Persephone, who had spent the whole time looking around the room attempting to figure out where the group was, decided she could wait no longer not knowing where she had ended up. She made her way to the door and, with incredible efficiency, unlocked the door. She opened it and began to make her way down the hall. Seeing her go, Drakon followed her, and Malva and Marcus watched from the door as they made their way to the window at the end of the hall. Persephone came to the edge of the window, and looked out upon the training ground of The Monastery.

“We’re safe.” She said to Drakon. “We don’t have to worry.” She turned to make her way back to the room just as Marcus disappeared and made his way out to the window to see what had been discovered. Percy looked back out the door and called to Marcus, assuring him that they didn’t need to worry. He made his way back into the room.

After they had reconvened in the room, discussion cropped up about The Monastery, and Marcus asked why she had not decided it was important to tell the group that the symbol of the Immortal Helix was the same as the monastery. Persephone nonchalantly brushed aside the question saying it had not crossed her mind, but even as she said it, Ryo’s head snapped up and he glared at Marcus.
“So the one who changes his voice constantly is questioning other members of the group?” He asked with heat in his voice.
“And you believe yourself worthy of questioning others Elred?” Marcus spat at him.
At these words, Percy sprang to her feet and slammed her cup to the table.
“I am not questioning. I am charging. If you don’t trust this group, then get the hell out.”
“You speak of trust when you refuse to tell me what happened to Herric, and the rest of the group that you are actually Elred, yet you still think you’re justified in standing there telling me I am the one that does not trust. And as we have seen Persephone has not been forthcoming in sharing information.” Marcus said, pointing at both of them in turn.
“I decided that it would be best to leave the nature of my identity to the discretion of Persephone.” Ryo countered.
“So you were hiding behind the daughter of the man you murdered?” Marcus retorted. At that, Persephone glared at him.
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand this. Maybe in a few years you will understand something about honor!” Ryo said with a condescending smirk.
Rage burned behind Marcus’s eyes, and he stood staring at Ryo, his hand drifting slowly to his sword. “You speak of honor, but your actions tore apart two kingdoms.”
“You have no idea what happened.” Ryo said coldly.
“You’re right, I assume you didn’t actually kill anyone, but took the fall because your queen Selene told you to.” Marcus said with just as much ice in his voice.
“Well if you want to keep assuming things, Marcus, then you will continue to bring distrust to this entire group.” Ryo said, condescension once again playing at the edges of his voice.
“No, what brings distrust to this entire group is when you are directly asked for answers, and you tell me that I can’t have them.” Marcus said, no amount of ice having left his voice.
“I believe I told you to take your questions to Percy, but you had apparently already talked to her.” Ryo responded.
“I asked you directly about what happened before your interaction with young Persephone. About what happened in Castion, not Eastaria. Don’t convolute the issue!” Marcus spat again.
“Guys.” This time it was Drakon who spoke. The three who were arguing turned to the door as Rith and a heavily tattooed elf walked through the door.
“Enough.” the elf’s voice cut through the room like a scythe, bringing all chatter to an immediate end. He looked around at the people in the room. “Do I need to walk away and let you argue, or can we take a break now?”
“We can take a break.” Malva quickly interjected, relieved that she didn’t have to listen to the bickering any longer.

Grandmaster Ky introduced himself and apologized for the wait, explaining that there were guests he could not get rid of politely. He turned to Cyrek and gave him his condolences for the loss of his father. He then turned to the rest of the group as he informed them that their presence in the monastery was to be of highest secrecy. “Thank you for bringing us this far. History is about to change and you are all in the middle. We have been waiting for you for a long time.” He then asked for the boxes and Rith pulled out the five boxes that had been collected. Grandmaster Ky again looked at the group and his voice grew even more serious. “What you are about to see is one Ultana’s most closely guarded secrets. I am only going to tell you this once. If any of you breath a word of what you are about to see to the Aegians, I will kill you without hesitation. Do I make myself clear? If you do not wish to be a part of this, there is the door.” As no one stirred, Grandmaster Ky proceeded. He waved his hand over them, and the boxes opened. The pieces rose into the air and snapped together, forming a foot long cylinder that gave off a faint purple glow.
“This is a cypher. Almost all of these have fallen into the hands of the Aegians. This cypher alone remains outside of their control. Each cypher is attuned between two obelisks. Dimensional travel into the area surrounding these obelisks is impossible without the use of the appropriate cypher, and that cypher will only take its user directly between the two obelisks. Follow me.”

Ky led the group through back passages and service corridors until they came to an abandoned building that appeared to be an old dorm building. Rith and Ky reached behind the edges of a fireplace along the wall, and a mechanical click sounded out from the wall. The fireplace ground and slid to the side. The group descended a staircase to a small obelisk. The group gathered around the pillar, and as Ky reached to slide the cypher into place, Rith spoke under his breath.

“I have waited a long time for this.” Other than Ky, only Ryo heard him say it as the group felt a strange pressure begin to push in on them. POP! And they found themselves in darkness. Marcus looked around the room. He could see the others, but the group was now surrounded by some sort of walls. He knew they were in darkness, magical darkness. He knew what that looked like. A great hissing voice boomed out in the heads of the party members demanding who dared enter the Archive. Ky called out, announcing that Sadorith and Kyloth had finally returned.

The darkness was quickly displaced by light and they looked around to see they were surrounded by a large cobra. The cobra’s upper body rose in the air as he bowed in respect to Grandmaster Ky who then introduced him as Zarinnas. The hissing voice resumed, “It is good to see you master. Follow me.” The cobra slithered out of the room and the group followed as they walked through a corridor that is lit by magical torches floating above them. They passed windows and recognized the Watchmen Mountains in the distance. They all realized that they were the farthest north than anyone had ever gone before. Zarinnas soon lead them into a large room that was lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves each containing thousands of books. Zarinnas coiled his long body into the center of the room and hissed “Welcome to the Archiveeeee. You are first to enter in two thhhhousand yearssss.”

The group all looked around the room in amazement till Grandmaster Ky again spoke and drew their attention back to him. “Friends you have all been told stories about the past, but nothing has been further from the truth. We are the leaders of the Immortal Helix, an organization dedicated to the preservation of the truth. And the truth begins and ends with all of you. You were taught that dragons were the cause of the Kraytian Empire’s fall, but that was a lie. Dragons helped and founded the empire. And we are the last of their kind.”

Suddenly, the grounds started to rumble as before them Grandmaster Ky and Rith’s bodies began morph before them and grow in size. The group frantically stepped backwards as the two men transformed into dragons. Before them now stood a black dragon and a white dragon, thoroughly enjoying their return to their natural form.

Seeing their terrified faces, the dragon who had previously appeared as Grandmaster Ky spoke. “We mean you no harm. We are your friends. Here is what actually happened. Countless years ago, Ultana was created by forgotten gods, but left in the care of two immortal beings, Kryos and Ratagos, brothers bound to the balance of Ultana; Kyros being a good being and Ratagos being twisted. Even though they are opposite as light from darkness, they understand that each are essential to the well being of the world in their charge. However, that did not stop them from being incredibly competitive with each other. At various points throughout history, they would create a new race of beings allied to one Brother or the other. Eventually there were 7 intelligent races all at war with one another. The Brothers never intended so much war but that was the culmination of their competition. So they created Dragons to serve the Brothers to keep the races from killing each other off.

Soon the races understood that they had free will and broke alliances with the Brothers and instead went to them and asked them to help them live in harmony under one banner. So, 10,000 years ago, Kyros and Ratagos created the last race: the Kraytians. They were the best of the races ever to walk Ultana.

The Kraytians formed an empire that united all of the 8 races together and the Dragons partnered with them to guide them. The Dragons had freedom as a race of their own in the Empire but were still directly tied to the Brothers. Two Dragon Lords oversaw their race; Kyloth served Kryos and Sadorith served Ratagos. I am that same Kyloth, and Rith is Sadorith. We were a completion of the Brother’s will to see Ultana balanced. They had both won. For 8000 years the Kraytian Empire ruled with Peace and Power, but sadly, it would not last.”

Grandmaster Ky paused for a moment to make sure he still had the group’s attention. Noting that their eyes were still fixed on him, he continued. “ It was during the reign of the last Kraytian Emperor: Achlys Protex, the greatest Kraytian of them all. He was wise in that he understood that his empire was too large to be managed by just one person so he founded a secret order of knights, known as the Knights of the Eventide, to assist, but these people were warriors and did not have expertise in leading a kingdom. He then decided to bring in advisers from the other races to assist him. He held a contest to see who the most gifted mages were in the land. Sadly he did not see what the outcome would be.

8 wizards, all nobles from the Elves, Humans, and Dwarves rose through the contests and became Achlys’ advisors; Athana, Gaiana, Teumess, Kallia, Theron, Skotos, Niketas, and Roxana. They called themselves the Octoma.

For several years they served the empire wisely but sadly their status gave them an arrogance over the other people. They had beaten the other races in power… why should the Kraytians rule over them? Before Achlys’s reign, an unknown ancient being came back to Ultana. We still have no idea who it is or where it dwells, but it brought poison to the land. This evil being acquainted itself with the Octoma and it’s poisonous beliefs seeped into their lives. It taught them evil magic that would change the balance of Ultana. The Octoma referred to It as ‘The Deep Void.’

The Octoma lured some dragons to a secret meeting and they sprang a trap. They killed the dragons and using their hearts, they preformed an ancient ritual that gave them immortality and power beyond anything they imagined. They used this power to cast an enchantment that would essentially lock the Brother’s influence out of Ultana. We were left on our own and defenseless. Then the 8 turned their actions against the Empire.

Sadorith and I immediately felt our connection to the Brothers vanish and knew something was wrong. We went to the Emperor and learned of the Octoma’s betrayal. Sadly we could not stop the events that were in motion. The Octoma had power that could not be stopped by anything of their day.

We scrambled for a solution and used the last of our magic from the Brother’s to look ahead to the future where we saw a remnant of people who still knew the truth and sought the downfall of the Octoma: The Immortal Helix. We also saw a solution to the problem: A weapon that could kill the Octoma, wielded by a re-founded Knights of the Eventide.

Desperate, we put everything we learned into a plan that would be a great gamble. We locked all the knowledge of the weapon in a special vault in this Archive, a hidden library of knowledge known only to the Emperor and Sadorith and I. This vault would only be able to be opened by us, a Kraytian and the refounded Knights of the Eventide when they found the key that we hid. It was you we saw taking down the Octoma. We have been waiting two thousand years for you.

When we started this plan, the Knights of the Eventide would go their separate ways, passing along their signet rings to their apprentices. The Kings Crown was to be hidden away, Sadorith and I went into hiding to wait for the opportune time. And lastly, the most desperate part of our plan: a time jump.

What the Octoma did not know was the Achlys’ wife was due to give birth any day. Sadorith and I knew of a spell that would be able to send one person forward in time and we all decided we would send the Queen while she was still pregnant. However, fate was not on our side for she went into labor that very day, giving birth to a son, who they named Drakon Protex.”

Everyone’s eyes in the group expanded as their heads whipped around to look at Drakon. Drakon himself could not hide the shock in face. Grandmaster Ky quickly continued before they interrupted him with any questions.

“This complicated things because the spell would only send one person. We had to make a difficult choice and sent Drakon two thousand years forward into a remote area in the Great Northern Forest, where a small gathering of people, who were still loyal to the House of Protex, lived. He was to be raised by a Dragonborn named, Kyrex, a descendant of one of the Knights of Eventide, and taught in the old ways.

That left Sadorith and I. We knew we would be immune to time, but we also knew that the Octoma would hunt us down. Two members of the Knights volunteered themselves to take our place. As you have witnessed, we are shape shifters. Sadorith took human form and I elven, and we transformed the two Knight into Dragons that resembled our original form.

The Octoma discovered the “Dragon Lords” and killed them, thus ending the line of dragons… or so they thought.

Sadorith and I separated. I founded the Monastary and for centuries have secretly taught the old ways. Sadorith spent his time creating a mass fortune that he has used against the Octoma. He also founded the Silken Underground, a massive criminal underground that dealt in magical items.

Even though we took two different roads, our goal was the same: Wait until Drakon Protex was of age to take up his father’s throne and find the people we foresaw as the new Knights of the Eventide. We have waited two thousand years for this moment. Many people have given their life for this secret. We know you are probably in shock, so we will give you some time process.”

The group was silent except for Drakon who could no longer hide his astonishment at discovering he was the son of a king and had traveled from 2,000 years before. Not quite sure what to say, his response was mostly noises and several wild gesticulations. Persephone was first to ask a question. “What do you mean you saw us coming 2,000 years ago?” “We looked forward into the future and saw seven people taking down the Octoma with Drakon leading. Everything is not set in stone as we did not see everything and some things have been different but we knew of your coming and we’ve been looking for you ever since. You have all shown up in our path seemingly random ways,” replied Kyloth.

Ryo asked what their connection to Lord Hector was, to which Kyloth explained that the Peariner line was one of the original Knights of the Eventide and subsequently one of the oldest lineages of Ultana. “Because we’ve had to keep our identity a secret, a Peariner has been the face and the center of the Immortal Helix,” explained Kyloth.

“There are people who can hear your masters?” asked Marcus. Kyloth responded, “We have not been able to trace down a bloodline, but we knew that there is one that has a connection to the brothers and have been able to hear their voices.” “Voices, huh,” said Persephone, looking at Marcus.

“What is this weapon you speak of?” inquired Cyrek. Kyloth explained, “The weapon was made of the same metal we used to get here. We thought we mined it all, but what most people don’t know that in the north near the mountains is a mine that we used to create the teleportation devices and apparently there is still some of this metal there. We just documented the vision, but we don’t actually know how to create the weapon.” Cyrek asked, seeking clarification, “So you know there’s more of this metal, but you don’t yet have the means to make the weapon?” Kyloth replied that that was accurate. “If we were to retrieve this metal,” continued Cyrek, “would you have the means to make the weapon?” Kyloth motioned to the room around them. “The library exists to help us find that answer. It has everything that the Kraytians ever did as we weren’t involved with everything. We mainly helped the Kraytians with management, so there is a lot that we don’t know about. We do know there are answers here. But Cyrek, your question about forging a weapon, that only gets you a weapon. You will need to amass an army. As you are all aware, the entire population assumes the Octoma to be their gods. If you try to take them on, you will be fighting against an entire nation. Not only do you need to raise an army, you have to actually start a rebellion.”

Marcus then asked, “Where are the Octoma?” “ The Octoma,” Kyloth shared, “as far as we know, are very well hidden. We assume that they are either in the city of Kraytian or in the mountains.” “Who is Arris?” followed Marcus with a second question. Kyloth responded without missing a beat; their numerous questions did not rattle him. He knew it was really only the beginning of their inquiries as they processed what he had shared with them. “Arris is the leader of the Aegians. There are always 8 of them and the title gets handed down to their successor. Arris is the oldest of the Aegians. We don’t know how old he is because he is human, but he has been around longer than all the others.” “And all of your brothers were slain?” Marcus continued to inquire, with a slight note of sympathy in his tone.“ “Yes,” replied Kyloth. “The Octoma have a power that can locate dragon form and kill them. That’s why we had to change our form for the last 2,000 years. We are only in our dragon form here because we are outside Ultana.” “And where is the crown?” asked Marcus. “ “The crown is part of a set that the King would wear. We know that the Knights of the Eventide hid it, but they did that after we’d already gone into hiding. We believe it was sent to Rama, one of the Knights who had a keep near Avalar called Myst Knight Keep. We believe that is the best place to begin looking.”

“Do you have a plan?” Ryo asked. Kyloth paused for a moment and then looked at each of them. “This was our plan,” he stated. Malva grew unsettled and could no longer hide her agitation. Spotting the confusion on her face, Sadorith called her out and asked what was wrong. Malva hesitated for a moment, shuffled her feet and then finally replied. “I don’t’ think I belong here! I don’t understand why I’m here. I am nothing and a nobody and I don’t understand what the point is to my being here. I can’t possible see how I would fit into such a plan with these people. “ Sadorith appeared pleased with her comments, as smug a look as a dragon is capable of appeared on his face. “You’re here because I wanted someone on the team who was more in it for themselves, I wanted a wild card, I wanted someone who wasn’t afraid to get their hands dirty. I wanted a thief.”

The room grew silent as they mulled over Sadorith’s comment. Ryo coughed, breaking the silence. “It seems to me,” he shared, “that we all need some clarification on our history and try to work out some things amongst ourselves so we are better able to work together.” “There’s too many secrets,” mumbled Malva. Ryo nodded, agreeing with her. “So perhaps you could shed some light on some things we that ourselves don’t understand.” Without any hesitation, Kyloth responded, “As far as we’re concerned, your histories are your own issues to work out.” “I beg to differ,” Drakon blurted out. “Mine jumped forward 2,000 years and I didn’t receive much clarification from my Master before he was killed by Malegore. So, some clarification on my role and history would be appreciated.” Kyloth nodded in understanding. “Well,” he responded, “there are things in this archive that can only be accessed by Kraytians. Perhaps that will help you.” Drakon sniffed, appearing unimpressed by Kyloth’s response. “Where do I start?” he asked, looking around the room. “That is up to you,” Kyloth said. He looked at each of them again, making sure they were paying attention. “You can choose to ignore all of this, but I will tell you right now that if you decide to walk away, we will kill you right here. No one can know this secret.”

Though he should have been intimidated by Kyloth’s threat, Drakon only became frustrated. “So you’re telling me,” he bellowed,” that I’m the emperor of Ultana but you can’t actually give me anything to help understand what this all means?” Kyloth remained unruffled. Sadorith on the other hand stood back on his hind legs, a low growl escaping his throat. “Boy…you might be the last of a bloodline but you have big shoes to fill.” “I realize that,” Drakon yelled back. “I am not saying this arrogantly, I am saying I have no where else to go, but you are giving me nothing.” “Yeah, you don’t sound arrogant at all,” Marcus muttered. “Seek the crown,” Kyloth repeated. “If you want a starting point, start there.”

“I have a few questions,” said Cyrek, extinguishing some of the tension in the room. “One night we captured a prisoner and a man dressed all in black suddenly appeared and killed him. His body decomposed in front of us. What can you tell us of that?” “Those are the Reapers,” explained Kyloth. “There have been very few sightings of them, but there have been bodies discovered in their wake. We assume they are a sect of the Aegians. We know that Theron represents hunting and we think they are loyal to him.”

“And the orcs are simply one of the races that rose against the races and are now aligning with the Aegians?” asked Marcus. “The orcs are different,” said Kyloth. “The orcs are interesting to us because they seemed to have just appeared. They always existed in Ultana, even before the brothers and they’ve always been mindless until Nine-Heads organized them.” “Until the Aegians?” asked Marcus, seeking clarification. “Oh no,” laughed Kyloth. “Nine-Heads united the orcs, the Aegians learned to control Nine-Heads. The Aegians have kept Nine-Heads quite secret, but we know is that he has been around for at least 1500 years and that we can’t kill him.” “Like, he’s immortal or you just can’t find a way to kill him,” asked a puzzled Drakon. “Well, he’s still alive and he’s older than the elves, but the Aegians have a way to control him. So we assume that if he has some kind of weakness, the Aegians know it,” explained Kyloth.

Though the information shared had been interesting, Ryo returned to the question he had previously asked, slightly annoyed. “So you’re telling me,” he said, “that you guys have been waiting around for 2,000 years and you don’t have a plan for us? Sadorith sniffed, “How shall we say this,” he said. “If we appear in Ultana we die.” Marcus couldn’t hide a slight snear in his voice as he mumbled, “Now who’s the young one with no honor?” Ryo ignored Marcus’s comment. “All I see around me is a ragtag group of people with no one around to bring them together and if you’re not that person, who is?” he asked, not masking his frustration. “He died a couple of hours ago,” Kyloth replied. “So what now?” asked Ryo. The group again grew somber.

“I came here because my master was killed by Nine-Heads and I had a conversation with Hector and he told me my role in this was to keep you all together.” Drakon shared. “ I don’t know how to do that because I know that we have all been through a lot and there is a good amount of distrust, and I’m the youngest. I just learned I’m the son of the former Kraytian Emperor and I don’t know what to do with that. But I’d really prefer that we didn’t fall apart right now because, for the most part, we are all we have left right now. Whether we feel we’re alone or together, we’re all we have. I don’t have anyone else in the world. I know Cyrek has just lost everything, and Malva just lost everything and the rest of us come from pretty lonely backgrounds. I don’t have a plan because I don’t know what to do with the information we just heard and the fact that we just had all of our history rewritten. But I don’t want us to fall apart. They saw something when they looked into the future and Hector brought us together because he saw something in us, he saw some kind of potential. And there’s probably going to be some arguing and fighting to get us to that point, but I think we have the potential to do what they are proposing. I think we have what it takes to fulfill this vision that they had and to take down the Octoma.”

Moved by Drakon’s speech, Ryo agreed. “I too believe that we are bound together for whatever the future holds, so I shall share my past with you in hopes to shed some light on some things that have been confusing till now. I grew up in the Elven kingdom of Castion and was part of the Queen’s royal guard. I was close to Persephone’s mother, a kind of uncle to her.” Turning to Persephone, he said, “Persephone, your mother was the daughter of the Queen and she fell in love with a human and the Queen of course did not approve. She did not know that her daughter was pregnant when she asked me to kill him and take the punishment for it. I struggled between my love for Ashryn and my fealty to my Queen. I felt I had no choice as duty won out, so I to carried through on Raelyn’s decree but told your mother to flee. I then went into hiding for the next 20 years as my reputation was ruined and my name was tarnished. I’ve been in Avalar ever since under a pseudonym. King Hector knew of it, though I didn’t know how much he actually knew but now I assume he knew the whole story. But he called me in and offered me this job.”

“Thank you for sharing, Ryo,” said Drakon. “The part of my story that you did not hear tonight was that I was raised by Kryex, a dragon born, who did not tell me anything of my history. He said he was going to tell me one night, but that was when Nine-Heads showed up. Kryex gave me a box and told me to hide otherwise Nine-Heads would have killed me as well. And that brings me to now. I was raised to fight and was raised a warrior but not raised to lead an army or kingdom that apparently my lineage was responsible for. “ Drakon paused, waiting for someone else to share. As he was met by silence, he asked, “I understand we are all still in shock, but is there anyone else who wants to share? Marcus?” Marcus looked down at the ground, “I have nothing to say,” he stated. “Percy?” asked Drakon. Persephone remained silent. Drakon looked around at each person, but everyone remained silent.

Drakon looked back at Sadorith and Kyloth. “We need to make plans to move forward, but we are short on funds. Do you have any treasury to fund this mission?” Sadorith snickered, “ I started the underground for this reason.” He noticeably winked at Marcus. “I don’t know what that means,” said Drakon, confused. “Marcus can tell you,” said Sadorith, again chuckling in Sadorith. Marcus did not find the moment as comical. Drawing his sword from its sheath he glared at Sadorith and Ryo as he said, “The reason I endeavored on this mission and the only reason I ended up in Avalar is because people I loved were killed by the hands of those given orders by people with power because they knew too much or had done something they didn’t like. You are the man, the very kind of man that destroyed my home, destroyed the lives of the people I love and you look at me and say you are a man of honor because you kill with out question and throw your life away and the life of others. And you, dragon,” Marcus’s speech was interrupted by Sadorith’s chuckling. Marcus slammed his sword back in it’s sheath, “I will follow and I will do what needs to be done, “ he said, “because I have no where else to go. I am marked by the magic and voice of your creators, but know this Elf,” Marcus turned his glare from Sadorith to look at Ryo. “We will never be friends, allies but never friends” His speech completed, Marcus walked away from the circled group to lean against one of the many bookshelves. Sadorith started waving his wing in an attempt at clapping, highly amused by Marcus’s speech.

Annoyed, Drakon turned to Kyloth. “I’m not going to get any information from him. Can you tell me anything about this Silken Underground?” “It’s a network of criminals that deal in magical weapons. It pays very well,” said Kyloth. “How can we connect with some of these people and their weapons and perhaps some of their money?” asked Drakon. “Because I assume to finance a rebellion, you actually need finances.” Sadorith chimed in with a chuckle and replied, “Oh, I’m not giving you my treasury. You will have to work for me, to get me more money and I will share with you.” Drakon sneered, “But I don’t like you” he bluntly said to Sadorith. From the background Marcus was heard mumbling, “Oh, and you’re such a peach, Drakon.”

Sadorith was unruffled by Drakon’s declaration. “ That’s fair,” he said. “Just remember that your kind killed all of my kind, so lets talk about who doesn’t like who. I’m in this out of loyalty to your father. You have to earn whether or not I’m actually going to help you. Or you might turn on us, what’s to stop you from killing us, the last two dragons? Your kind did the same thing, so why should I trust you?” Drakon, noticeably agitated by Sadorith’s response shouted out, “ I’m here because of you getting me here so we could help kill the very people who killed your beings, so don’t put what everyone else has done on me.” Drakon sighed, “Kyloth, you seem more reasonable. Can you reason with me here, where do we begin because Sadorith seems to think we’re his pets and have to earn our keep. Is that really what you saw when you looked ahead?”

Kyloth calmly replied to Drakon. “Let me give you a piece of advice about dragons. We like our treasure. I gave mine up so I could found a monastery.” Drakon interrupted Kyloth. “But if you’re telling us that we’re supposed to raise an army, I would appreciate not being told by your brother that we have to turn into a band of his little smugglers to earn him money. Especially if it’s to finance something that ultimately is the whole reason we’re even here and that was not for our choosing.” Sadorith’s voice turned more serious. “Earn my trust,” he said. “At what point have you earned ours?” asked Drakon. Again, Marcus voiced his opinion from his place of seclusion. “Well, he hid us behind a wall, teleported us out of Avalar that was crawling with orcs, and brought us here to Kyloth.” Drakon turned to look at Marcus. “For us or for him, though?” Annoyed, Marcus mumbled, “you’re right, he should have left you to fight the orcs, you would have done just fine.” Drakon took a step towards Marcus. “Are you on his side now? Because I think you’re still brooding over your argument with Ryo, and if you’re going to have an issue you can walk away, because this right now is about our future, not our past. So I’m talking with the dragon about how we’re going to take down the Octoma. You still seem to be pretty upset about something Ryo did.” Marcus rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. “Really? Because this conversation seems to be more about your pride and how you don’t want to be the servant of a dragon.” “Because we’re not here to serve,” shouted Drakon. “We were told we were brought here to help take down the Octoma. And that doesn’t start by becoming his smuggler.” “It did for me,” retorted Marcus. Drakon shrugged. “That was your thing, but that doesn’t mean that’s where it begins for us. I need to hear more reason for why we are doing what we are doing.” Drakon looked at Marcus, expecting another smart response, but Marcus remained silent and stepped back to lean against the bookshelf behind him.

Cyrek spoke up, before any further arguments could begin. “We need to start thinking about a concrete plan and this bickering is not going to win them over,” he said to the group. Drakon looked at Cyrek and agreed, but reiterated some of his previous argument. Looking between Cyrek and the dragons he replied, “But are we on our own, or are you going to help us take down the Octoma? Because it sounds like you’re in it for your self and if that’s the case I want to know I don’t have two dragons on my side and these six people are all I have left in this world.” Sadorith responded with a smug tone. “You have one dragon on your side,” he said. “And Pepperpot has two,” Marcus muttered from the corner.

“How do we know for sure that what you’re telling us the truth,” asked Malva. “All that we knew about the world has now been turned upside down. What reassurance can you give us that it is actually the truth. I’m not asking to be disrespectful, but I think it’s a lot that you’re asking that we just take your word for it.” As Malva vulnerably asked her question, two voices suddenly spoke to Marcus’s mind. “Tell Malva that they speak the truth,” they instructed. Marcus started laughing in the corner, causing them to all to turn and look at him. “All I know is that I will stand with them because they speak the truth,” he shared. “How do you know they speak the truth, Marcus,” asked Malva. Sadorith looked at his chosen one, “the one who has some serious trust issues trusts us, what other proof do you want?” Malva remained quiet. “And we haven’t eaten you yet, so there’s that,” chuckled Kyloth.

Kyloth’s attempt at humor dispelled some of the tension in the room. Marcus still had some questions to ask. Taking out a few rings from his pocket, he asked Kyloth, “These rings, this one came to me from the hand of a Tiefling named Demra. Why would someone want to find it and take it?” “Why would someone want to find that ring,” asked Kyloth, making sure he understood the question. Marcus nodded. “Well if the Knights did their job, they instructed no one to ever tell the purpose of their rings. Are you sure it was someone looking for the ring or looking for the person?” asked Kyloth. “I’m not really sure,” said Marcus. “I was just wondering because of the importance of this crest to your cause. I assumed they might be related.” Kyloth shrugged. “I assume she was probably an ancestor of one of the Knights.” “And would she willingly give this ring up?” asked Marcus. “I don’t know,” said Kyloth. “I don’t know who this person is.” Marcus face fell, sadness evident for a moment before he controlled his emotions and exchanged his sad look with a blank stare.

He again spoke up with a question, this time to Sadorith. “So Sadorith,” Marucs said, “what can you tell me about Cazimir Drandas?” Sadorith and Kyloth look at each other. “Cazimir Drandas is another one of those ancient beings in Ultana. We discovered through our network that he is a vampire and runs a slavery ring that has existed for many years. We know that he existed about the same time as Malegore Nine-Heads came into existence. He’s been building his empire for about 1800 years. He runs Drandas Slavers. Why do you ask?” “And Hakson?” Marcus asked, ignoring their question for a moment, “His right hand man, what do you know of him?” “I just know Cazimir always has someone working for him, but I don’t know anything about Hakson,” said Sadorith. “I have a personal debt to pay to Cazimir Drandas,” Marcus announced. Kyloth recommended that Marcus focus on the current situation. “If you take him on,” he said, “you will also be taking on the entire Aegian order. We don’t believe that Cazimir is one of the 8, but they have a close relationship.” Marcus nodded, accepting his recommendation.

“I think that we need to seek the crown then, since that is what we know to go after,” Marcus said. Cryek agreed. “Do we stand in agreement on the issue?” Marcus asked. “The way the Knights and Achyls worked, there will likely be more information to discover when you find the crown. So, find the crown and then come back to the monastery,” Kyloth said. As everyone else continued to still be processing, Marcus pulled out a scroll that appeared blank to all but Malva. Marcus asked Kyloth if he could see anything on it. Kyloth read the scroll out loud. “If you are reading this, we hope you are part of the Resistance. This is final piece of the archive cypher. If you are not who we hope you are, than all is lost. Long live House Protex.”

“How will we return here?” asked Drakon. “I will have the cypher at the monastery,” replied Kyloth. “And how will we make passage in and out of the monastery without being seen?” Drakon responded. “Persephone can help you,” Kyloth said looking at Persephone with a glint in his eye. “She knows many secret ways in and out of the monastery.” Persephone chuckled. “And once we get back to the monastery, I can teleport you back to Avalar.” Persephone appeared concerned. “Grandmaster Ky,” she she said, “if all of this has already happened, everything we’ve already gone through, how can you be sure that the monastery will stay safe? Things are happening around us and people are rallying and we already know there are people who disagree with the monastery and what it stands for, so how can you be sure it will stay safe?” Sadorith’s replied with a cunning tone. “The Aegians are very greedy.” “You pay them to turn a blind eye?” asked Marcus. “Let’s just say, if they take down the monastery, they lose a significant portion of their income,” Sadorith cryptically explained.

Persephone once again spoke up, the concern on her face still evident. “So, others shared their history, but mine was shared for me,” she said with a note of sarcasm evident in her voice. “Ryo asked me this question a little while ago and I had no answer for him. You’ve never told me the truth, Grandmaster Ky, about my parents, I found it out from other places, you kept it from me my entire life. But maybe you can tell me now, is my mother still alive?” Her eyes showed a sign of hope and Ryo too looked intently at Kyloth. Grandmaster Ky looked down and sighed. “I honestly don’t know,” he said, with compassion in his voice. “All she told me the night she left was that she had to do something to secure your birthright. She never returned.” Persephone was silent for a moment and then asked another question. “Do you know if Raelyn Selene is sympathetic to the cause of the Aegians? Does she align with them?” Kyloth intimated a shrug. “She is not part of the Immortal Helix but we also don’t know if she is incredibly religious or not.” Cyrek turned to Ryo and asked him if he knew. Ryo informed them that though Raelyn Selene was by no means a fanatic, she had shown a value for the traditions of the Aegians.

Marcus stepped away from the bookshelf and made his way back to the group. “So now we must turn an entire nation against their gods, we must forge a weapon out of a material that does not exist as far as we know, it is somewhere in a mine, find a crown in a area that is crawling with orcs who will try to kill us, and we have to do all of this because of a prophecy from two dragons who happened to survive when everyone thought they had died.” He paused. “My life became much more interesting then it was before.” Drakon looked around the circle, “Can we do this?” he asked. “We’ve had our issues, but can we move forward?” “I can do whatever needs to be done,” replied Marcus. “Marcus,” said Persephone, “Will that brogue ever come back?” Marcus just smiled in response.

Returning to his question, Drakon again tried to get everyone’s attention. “So do we all understand that this is the path set before us and we walk it till it ends, or die trying? Because if not, Kyloth has already volunteered to eat people.” “I don’t have a problem with the path,” Malva shared. “But my question is can we entrust the leadership of this group to Drakon. Are we all ok with that?” “I didn’t say I’m the leader, but no one else has asked to be,” shot out Drakon defensively. “Entrusting the leadership to the youngest may seem foolish,” Marcus slowly replied. “Are we going to entrust the leadership to a dwarf when she see’s an orc?” shot back Drakon. “I don’t want to be the leader,” growled Sacagawea.” “Or are we-“ Drakon’s next sentence was cut off by Persephone. “Do you really want to go down this path, Drakon?” “Do you want me to?” he asked. Unanimously they all responded “No.” “Do you think it’s wise to point out everyone’s faults right now?” Persephone again asked Drakon. “You have decided to point out mine, and what I’m asking is are we going in the direction? I didn’t say I’m the emperor or the king, or your leader but we all seem to be standing around a circle and arguing in front of two dragons who aren’t super helpful and it seems like we all want to go in one direction, but not everyone is saying anything,” replied Drakon, his frustration evident.

Malva spoke up again. “All I’m asking,” she said, “is are we all on the same page? I’m not challenging anyone’s authority or pointing out any flaws.” “And I was asking the same thing. You brought my leadership into this,” shout out Drakon. “I brought our agreeing to your leadership into this. None of us have actually acknowledged, including yourself, who is going to lead this group, so I am proposing that right now,” Malva responded, remaining calm.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that we have to work together here and there will not be one person in charge, but we have to agree that we will do what is best for the party and not just for ourselves,” Ryo shared. “Well we have the daughter of royalty, a son of a noble, a high ranking official in the elven court, and the son of an emperor, but we’re not sure who’s going to lead us. I think that the best thing to do is to follow the dragons until we have our feet under us. I will put forth for the final time that I believe we should go after the crown because it is the only thing we know to go after. While doing such we can develop a plan and figure out where we stand, find people to turn against the Octoma and find out where we will not be able to do that. All in all, I believe going after the crown will be our most logical next step,” Marcus said with resolve. “I can agree with that,” Malva replied. “Are we going to find the crown?” rallied Drakon. They all replied in assent. Again before them, Kyloth’s form changed as he returned to his elven body. They looked at Sadorith who sensed their question. He would stay awhile longer. He was not yet ready to return to the human form that had held him captive for so long.

The group started to walk out of the room, but Malva lingered behind and asked Sadorith, “Do you know why I can see the writing on the scroll?” “I have a wanted someone on this team that I knew I might be able to count on if I needed them. I gave you an ability called Dragon Touch that the Kraytians and I developed that would allow a writing to be visible to those who the dragons seemed worthy. I gave it to you,” he explained. Still confused, Malva turned and followed the group.

They returned to the cypher and once again were transported, only this time returning to the monastery.

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Chapter 5
What Lurks In The Shadows

Standing at the crest of the hill, their hearts dropped at sight of the battle before them. Avalar’s wall had been breached but it appeared that the Keep had not yet fallen. Fire had spread throughout huge portions of the city and thousands of orcs surrounded the city. Far in the distance they could see reinforcements coming from the main road traveling towards a small encampment blocking the road to Cross Roads; the Aegian flag flew high over the camp.

Cyrek grew somber as he watched his home burn before him. With a slight catch in his voice, Cyrek was the first to break the grim silence. “I think it’s important that we go the camp. I don’t know where my father is and I must find out.” Marcus asked Cyrek if he knew what the box was. Cyrek informed him that he had no idea, but believed it was crucial that they all stay together and go the Sentinel’s camp. Cyrek started to walk toward the camp and the others followed his determined strides. Trying to remain hidden from the orcs, their journey took several hours and finally they arrived just as the sun began its ascent. Marcus sensed a voice at the back of his head warning them to stay together. About a mile away from the camp, they heard a commanding voice call out, “Stop. Who goes there?” They all looked at Cyrek and deferred to him to respond. “We are allies of Avalar who are you.” In response, two heavily armored Sentinels stepped out from the shadows, “Identify yourselves,” demanded the same deep voice. “I am Cyrek Peariner of Avalar. We are returning and I wish to speak to whoever is in charge at the camp.” The guards’ demeanor turned less severe in response to Cyrek’s answer. They returned their swords that were at the ready to their sheaths. “Hello sir, we will take you to Commander Hycera right away. Please, keep your swords sheathed and your hands off any other weapons. The situation is very tense and we can’t guarantee someone won’t react should you cause any suspicion.” Glancing at the half-elves, the Sentinels made wide birth, weary of their presence in the group. Leading the way, the guards escorted the group to the camp.

As they arrived at the camp, they realized that there were very few soldiers in number and many of the people at the camp appeared to be people who had fled Avalar. As they drew closer to the headquarters of the camp they saw more soldiers, and in the midst of them they spotted Sacagawea. Though a welcome sight, they noticed her disheveled appearance, an obvious result of many the battles she had fought during her separation from the group. Cyrek greeted her and Sacagawea responded as warmly as her battle worn self could manage. Interrupting the groups reunion, one of the sentinels shared that only Cyrek could join them in Commander Hycera’s tent. Offended, Cyrek demanded that his companions all join him. Conceding to his demand, the sentinels said the half-elves at least must disarm and hand over their weapons before entering the tent. Accepting their compromise, Percy and Marcus handed their weapons over to Drakon.

They entered the command tent and the guard announced the arrival of Cyrek of Peariner to Commander Hycera who was brooding over maps laid out on a table at the center of the tent. Commander Hycera, an older full-blooded elf with pure white hair, decked out in heavy armor with a massive sword at her side, was an intimidating sight. Looking up, she greeted Cyrek, apologizing that their first meeting was at such an unfortunate time.“I wish we were meeting under better circumstances. We are doing everything we can, but we are outnumbered. The human army will be here but not for several days. We can’t do much at this point. The orcs came out of nowhere. Up till now, we didn’t even know this many existed.”

Motioning towards Sacagawea she said, “Sacagawea has been a great help doing reconnaissance for us, but we all found out too late what their plan was. We do suspect that Malegore Nine-heads is present which has changed our battle plans.”

At the mention of his name, various reactions rippled through the group ranging from anger or fear to blank stares. Ryo appeared to recognize the name, while Drakon’s hand immediately went to the sword at his side. Cyrek stiffened. Confused, Percy watched as the others responded, as the name was completely foreign to her. Noting some of the confused stares, an explanation was given as to who was Malegore Nine-Heads.

As no actual sighting was ever documented, only frightening rumors existed telling of Malegore Nine-Heads, king of the orcs who was supposedly one of the oldest living persons of the known world. According to bone-chilling legends, he could not be killed. He gained the name "Nine Heads when, generations before, he united the orcs under his command and every race sent a champion to fight him. One by one, Malegore defeated each challenger and forged the nine skulls of the nine races into a battle hammer. Rumors had spread for over a thousand years of his existence.

“We suspect he is present,” Commander Hycera gravely shared, “but we have been focused on trying to stem the tide and keep the orcs from heading into Cross Roads. As far as we know, the Keep has not fallen and Lord Hector is still alive, fighting for his people and his city. We cannot get to him. But Cyrek,” her voices softens, “I regret to inform you that we have received confirmation that the rest of your family has been killed.” Cyrek gripped the table before him and turned his face, his watery eyes stared off into the distance. Still not making eye contact, Cyrek requests that Commander Hycera confirm that she did say his father was still alive. Commander Hycera replied, “We assume because they are still fighting that your father is still at command. That is all I have to report on. You are welcome to set up camp, we could use reinforcements.” Clearing his throat, Cyrek ignored her offer to set up camp and insisted that he had to get to Lord Hector. “I must get to my father. Do you know of any way I could make it to him?” “It’s probably a suicide mission to try to get to him. I understand your desperation Cyrek, but again, I urge you, this would be one of the most foolish things you could do.” A moment of silence passed and as Cyrek’s look of determination did not change, Commander Hycera sighed. “But if you are determined, I would recommend you enter through the northern breach as it is closest to the Keep. I cannot spare any of man to go with you. If you go, you are alone in your foolish choice.”

Cyrek asked for a moment alone with his friends and with a nod of approval, Commander Hycera stepped out of the tent, leaving them to discuss their plans alone. “I have to get to my father,” Cyrek adamantly said. “I can’t ask more of you, but I must try to get to him. “ Drakon asked Cyrek if Miquesh could help Lord Hector get out if they needed to, to which Cyrek affirmed, but then reminded them of the boxes that were all in Lord Hector’s possession in the Keep. “He told us it was important to get this this last box to him. I can’t ask anything more from you, but I must get this box to my father and see that he is still well. I’m going to go, and I think we may have a chance if we stick together, but I have nothing to give you should you join this mission. I have nothing to pay you, that is all I have,” Cyrek despondently said as he pointed to the city of Avalar. The group remained quiet, giving Cyrek time to regain his emotions.

Drakon broke the silence first. “This Malegore, he killed my master, the man who raised me from childhood.” “You’ve seen him? “ asked Cyrek, shocked. “I have,” replied Drakon. Still dumbfounded, Cyrek said, “No one has ever seen him before. Can you describe him?” Drakon proceeded to describe how he did indeed have a war hammer made out of nine skulls. At a height of almost 9 feet tall, Malegore appeared was massive and threatening. “So if I have an opportunity to get anywhere near the battle and face him, I vote for that option,” scoffed Drakon. “If there is a chance we get anywhere near Malegore, that would probably be the worst thing that could happen to us. All the rumors and legends say he cannot die. No one has ever seen him wounded before,” responded Cyrek. “I would love to be the first to do so,” Drakon grumbled. “I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t try to face him, but either way, I will join you in this mission to get to your father.”

“Are there no other rumors of how he could die?” asked Persephone. “None that I have ever heard of,” answered Cyrek. “The fact that Drakon saw him and lived is remarkable.” “How did you survive, Drakon?” asked Persephone. “My master commanded that I hide. My master, Kyrex, battled Malegore who came in with a wizard named Arris who faced off with my master. It appeared that Arris was actually in charge of Malegore, that he was the boss. He spoke with my master, and before he left, Malegore killed Kyrex. This was right before I came to Avalar and met you.” “Have you ever seen or heard of Arris?” Ryo asked Cyrek. “I’ve never heard his name before,” said Cyrek. “That’s the name I heard my Master use” said Drakon, “and then they killed him.” “Did your Master seem to know them?” asked Malva. “Yes,” said Drakon. “They said they had been looking for him for some time, but I don’t know why. My master had promised to tell me some history, but was never able to. He even asked me to bring a box to Avalar to Lord Hector, it was just like the boxes that we were searching for.” “Did you ever look inside it,” asked Persephone. “I wasn’t allowed to,” replied Drakon. “My master asked that I wouldn’t. Are we with Cyrek?” asked Drakon, ready to get past their questions and make a decision. They all agreed.

Cyrek shared that there was a back entrance into the keep, but they would need to stay near the wall. “There’s a gate behind the keep that is very well protected but is our best chance to get into the keep. We should try to get there as soon as we can before the sun rises.” Cryek warned everyone to watch each other’s back.

They crossed the field, managing to dodge all the orcs, and were able to cross the break in the wall into the city. Managing to enter quietlt, they were not spotted by orcs in the street. Aiming at the first orc he spotted, Ryo attacked first; his arrow hit its mark and the orc fell to the ground. The others followed suit and attacked. Marcus used arcane energy and a bolt of light blue energy shots out of his hand and killed the orcs in his path. Cyrek also shot fire bolts and hit his marks. As their element of surprise passed, the orcs started to attack back. Malva and Marcus both took a hit in the orcs counterattack, but the orcs were no match to the groups determined and swift attack. Momentarily regrouping, Cyrek healed Malva of her injuries before they headed towards the keep.

Taking what he knew to be the shorter route, Cyrek lead them through a path, but Ryo warned that he could see more orcs ahead. Marcus took the lead, letting everyone know he had a plan and told them to hide until he had accomplished his task. While Marcus was talking, Malva noticed bodies of mages nearby. She and Marcus searched the bodies and found a bag filled with a few healing potions and dispersed them between everyone.

Ready to face the orcs, they repositioned themselves to attack. Marcus told them that they when they heard yelling, they would know it was time to attack. Disappearing from their view as he cast invisibility over himself, Marcus walked out into the opening where they orcs were stationed. Though Marcus was invisible to all, the group was able to see the sudden arrival of an orc chief carrying a great axe. They all gripped their weapons tighter. Marcus cast Darkness on the great axe and the orc chief and several orcs surrounding him began to cry out as an orb of complete darkness enveloped them, blinding them and masking them from the others. As the darkness came crashing down, Marcus’s invisibility dissipated.

The group ran out to attack catching the orcs who were not enveloped in darkness off guard as they stared in confusion at the black orb that had suddenly appeared. The angry yell of the orc chief was soon muffled by the noise of battle. A large orc walked into the clearing, joining his associates in their fight for their lives. Proving to be harder to take down, the group attempted hit after hit. After several failed attempts at taking out the large orc, Marcus had to release his concentration spell and the darkness dissipated, adding the orc chief and the other orcs who had been blinded to their enemies ranks. Wielding their deadly weapons, the group managed to kill the orcs and creatures that kept them from getting to the keep. As the last orc fell to his death at the hand of Saca, the battle dust settled and they could see the keep was within safe distance. Cyrek said, “lets get to the keep quickly.”

They approached the gate and see soldiers were still present, guarding the Keep’s entrance. The guards cannot hide their surprise and exclaim, greeting Cyrek, “we didn’t think we’d ever see you again! Do you wish to be escorted to Lord Hector?” Cyrek confirms their query, and with desperation in his voice urges them to lead the way quickly.

The guards escorted the group into the main room where Lord Hector and Miquesh are surrounded by mass chaos, franticness in his eyes. Seeing the guards enter the room, he double takes as he realized his son was following closely behind. His arms open to embrace Cyrek, “You got through?!” he exclaimed! Marcus handed Lord Hector the case, which Lord Hector hand then passed to Miquesh. “Miquesh, take this.” Turning to speak to the group, he says, “I hate to tell you this but Avalar has fallen and we cannot save it. We have been preparing a way to get out and I thought you’d be outside to meet us. I’m really glad you got in. Grab what you need-“ Lord Hector starts to say but is cut off as the doors burst open and the Dark Stranger ran in frantically calling out, “Hector, they’re here.” Miquesh looked off into the distance, his eyes glazed and said with resolve, “I will hold them.” As his eyes readjust, he turned to Lord Hector, “It has been an honor. May our souls find one another soon.” Lord Hector placed his hand on Miquesh’s shoulder, his eyes brimming with tears as his voice broke, “The honor is mine Miquesh. My family owes you everything.” They embraced and Miquesh headed for the door but before he stepped out he turned back around and looked at Cyrek. “Alfwin, live well.’” Cyrek called back “Live well Miquesh.” Miquesh turned and walked out the door.

As soon as Miquesh was out of their sight, Lord Hector took off his ring and handed it to Cyrek and embraced him. His voice shook, “Son, trust them,” he said, “Aid them, they are the future of this world. I love you.” Releasing his hold on his son, he turned to the group, “Friends, thank you for coming this far. I can’t ask any more of you but I can tell you that the fate of Ultana rests with you now. Your choices will shape history. Follow Rith, “ he said, pointing to the dark stranger,” he will guide you. Do not interfere with what happens next. “

Rith gave them no time to digest Lord Hectors words as he pushed them forcefully towards the back wall and then cast an illusionary wall that they could see through but blocked them from being seen by those on the other side. “Do not make a sound,” he hissed. “If you do, you will doom us all. Trust me.”

Only a few moments passed when suddenly the doors burst open and through it walked the biggest orc they had ever seen. He stood over 9 feet tall and carried a battle hammer made of 9 skulls cast in bronze. In his other hand he carried the dead and broken body of Miquesh. “Hector I presume,” he bellowed. “This is the best you could throw at me,” he boasted, tossing the dead body of Miquesh at Lord Hector’s feet. “After all the effort they put me through to take you down I expected better…I hate being disappointed.”

Hector attempted to retain his composure as he snidely responded to Malegore. “I see they’ve finally let you off your chain.” Malegore chuckled, a deep menacing laugh, touched a magical earring and said, “I have secured Hector.” As soon as he finished speaking, a portal opened in the door way and in walked a grey bearded human wizard in black robes who took his place standing next to Melgore.

“Ah, Hector Peariner” said the wizard in a deep, pretentious tone. “I don’t believe we have been properly introduced.” Hector glared at him, “I know who you are, you bastard. Tell me Arris, how do you plan to explain an Orc army to the council?” Arris arrogantly stared at Hector, folded his arms in front of him and, raising his head high, he proudly replied, “I wouldn’t worry about that as you won’t be attending the next council meeting. You have much more important things to think about now.” He nudged the dead body of Miquesh with his foot, a snide smile on his face.
Hector, his voice fierce and determined, said, “You’ll pay for this.” Arris’ maniacal laughter shook his shoulders, “Hardly. Well on to business. You know how these things go, Hector. I have evidence against you, you’ve been sneaking around, you’re a traitor, blah blah blah, let’s just cut the formalities. Unless of course you want to tell me what you’ve been planning behind my back, I might extend mercy.” Hector’s shoulders tense, “ you don’t know what mercy is. “ “I do actually,” Arris rebuts, “the Octoma has taught me a lot about mercy, but you have refused to accept their lessons and instead have tried to thwart their mission to guard Ultana.” Hector replied with icy resolve, “I do not worship false gods.” Arris became visibly angered by Hectors reply and his voice grew deeper and harsher as he growled back, “Where were your gods when the Kraytians fell? Did they help pick up the pieces of a broken empire? Did they restore villages and towns and homes? No! Of course not! It was the Octoma, the same Octoma whom you have refused their ways, the same Octoma that has decided that your days of heresy are over. I will give you one more chance, Hector, bow before me. “ Lord Hector stood straight, unsheathed his sword and calmly but determinedly proclaimed, “Long live House Pro-“ as Arris’s voice yelled over Hectors, Arris cast a spell and raised his arms as a bolt of energy released from his hands, slamming Lord Hector; Lord Hector’s body crashed to the ground, lifeless.

Arris commanded Malegore, “Take his head and claim your city.” Malegore obeyed, “Yes, sir,” as he ripped Lord Hector’s head from his body with his bare hands. Nodding to Arris, he left the room to claim his victory. Arris touched a magic earring as he stared victoriously at the beheaded body of Hector. “Calcima, we have dealt with Hector and Avalar is now in the hands of the orcs. Tell Hycera to pull the Sentinels back but make sure they leave some behind to die. Tell the others to help Lathar, Selene, and Stormfist to draft speeches. We need to use this to our advantage.”

Shaking on the other side of the wall, both with fury and fear, they heard a voice reply back through the magic earring. “It will be done sir. Was there any sign of Cyrek Peariner? Hycera said he went into the city.” Looking around the room, Arris responded, “No he is not here,” he laughs, “At this point I assume the orcs have had their way with him.” Casting a portal, Arris glanced around the room once more and as a deep maniacal laugh once again escaped his lips, he walked back through the portal and disappeared.

Seconds felt like hours to the distraught and weary group till Rith raised a hand and removed the illusion. They all watched his moves mechanically, as he then opened a portal, turned to them and with tears in his eyes, he said, “I am not going to beg you to follow me because I am not that man. All I’m going to say is your only hope lies through that portal. You can follow me or not, that is your choice.” Cyrek, visibly shaking, his voice barely above a whisper, replied, “My father trusted you, so will I.” Picking up the boxes, Rith looked at the group once more before walking through the portal. Marcus walked over to Lord Hector’s body and retrieved his sword and sheath and followed Cyrek and the others through the portal.

As they entered through the portal, they all wondered was it just the light or did Rith’s eyes suddenly become slits? The question faded as the portal enveloped them in darkness, taking them away Avalar and into the unknown.

Click Here to continue to Chapter 6: Long Live House Protex

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Chapter 4
The Tower

It felt strange to be back in Avalar. They had only been gone a week but for some that had felt a lifetime. So much learned, so much experienced, and yet so much more mystery. Avalar felt like a familiar blanket that now held a strange unfamiliar scent. Had it changed from your memory or had your memory changed along with you? No one can tell.

A deep weariness was felt by all and everybody went straight off to bed once they had been settled back into Lord Hector’s provided quarters. Marcus however, had a different plan in mind – a fact that should surprise no one. After the halls felt quiet Marcus cloaked himself in invisibility and crept into Ryo’s room. All his efforts for sneakiness went to waste on Ryo however as he was sitting up facing the door so immediately was aware of someone entering his room. He also deduced that it was Marcus – thus effectively spoiling the effect.

Marcus got right to the point: “Ryo, I have questions regarding your interaction with Persephone. I had previously wondered why a high elf would be wandering around Avalar and thought it might be the same reason that I am here. But why would a ranger from the north know so much about an orphan taken in by the monks? Why did you hide your identity from the group even after she had discovered it and the group was threatened by your very presence?”

Ryo was silent for a moment – when he spoke it was with the low quiet assurance that his words would end all inquiries and questions. “Persephone has the right to revealing her own story. It was not my place or my right to tell the tales of her past. As for my putting the team at risk, I dealt with Herric on my own. We settled our score privately and there should be no further cause of concern on that count.”

True to form, Marcus was not satisfied with this answer. He continued to harangue Ryo – circling…looking for some deeper answer to a question he would not voice.

“Do we have a problem Marcus?” Ryo interrupted.

“I have a past just like you though no one knows just what it is. I have killed and have had a loved one killed and I wish to know on which side you fall….I wish to know for what reason you killed. My own allegiance to the group is more important that any one person. I don’t need to know everything but I find myself to be concerned about your reasons for killing and how they might affect the group.”

Silence.

“You will have to be ok with not knowing.”

Silence.

Marcus stands and leaves knowing there is nothing more to be gained from pressing Ryo further.

The next morning finds the group gathering for breakfast – some quicker to wake than others…but eventually all joined the table. They were silent as they ate. This was not unusual; but the silence bore weight today. Everybody ate and waited.

Finally Lord Hector entered the room. They immediately noticed that he carried with him a box which he set down on the table and looks around at the group seated there.

“Good morning I trust you slept well. I know these are not the beds of the Silver Spoon but I hope you were comfortable. I wanted to thank each of you for the past month of service that you have given me. It is not something I take lightly as I know you all have made great sacrifices to be where you are today. You may not realize just how significant the work is that you are doing but I can tell you that history will be changed by the actions of your party.

You have already fulfilled any requirement that might be considered to be over you but there is much more work to be done yet. Are any of you opposed to going further down the road with me? I will be honest, what you are about to do will mark you, there is no going back. You need to know that I hand picked each and every one of you. You all play a crucial role in the plot that is developing even if you may not yet know what that role is. I will honor any desire to not continue further with us but I would say that you should not make this decision lightly. The door is over there – I will not stop you if you feel that you cannot continue.”

“Lord Hector,” Marcus interrupted, “I find it funny that you say you hand picked each of us when I was chosen because of a prophecy given me twenty years ago. So, if it is by your hand, then your hand has a long reach.

I’ve found what I am searching for and I have but to reach out and take it. I don’t know what it is you think we are doing here or what history you think we are making. But as far as I can tell, all we have done is routed out personal enemies from a swamp and have investigated an old rival of yours.

I am seeking the demise of the man that killed someone who was very dear to everyone in my theatre troupe and left her child scarred and broken. That is what I am doing here. That is how I was tricked into your service after delivering your package to your men at Cross Roads.”

“I am not going to argue with you Marcus. But I can tell you that you are twenty years old – you are young. I know you have scars from your past but so does everybody at this table. I have known of the prophecy for longer than twice your age! I have been waiting for you. So, if you think that your mission here is done, you are wrong and you will understand that soon. Do not play me for a fool.”

“Play you for a fool? There is no turning back for me. I have voices in my head telling me of house telling me what to do…tellilng me of House Protex…telling me of some scroll. There is no turning back for me regardless of what I think and feel. I have been marked by a prophecy and by voices in my head that I never asked for or thought would come into my life. But you speak to me of being a fool and not knowing the way that things work. Tell me! Enough of telling me that it will come soon.”

“Those answers I can’t simply tell you. You have to experience them for yourself. Do you want to know who it is that is speaking in your head?”

“That would be a good start.”

‘Then work with me. Does anyone have anything else you would like to get off your chest?”

Everybody avoided making direct eye contact as Marcus’ confrontation of Lord Hector clearly was making everybody feel highly uncomfortable.

Lord Hector pulled out the box and inside were four smaller identical boxes – they looked the same as the one that had been found by them earlier.

“These are four of five pieces of a puzzle I have spent my life seeking out. The first I found 50 years ago which led me to the second, which led me to the third and fourth which were stolen before they made it to me. There is one more piece – the clue to the next has always been in the previous box.”

He took up the box and, using his signet ring engraved with the Immortal Helix, he opened it.

“Knights of the Evening Tide….I am one of them. Drakon’s master was also a member.”

He held up another ring (similar to his own), and threw it to Drakon. He then opened the rest of the boxes and began to connect them all together creating a cohesive shape that made the missing box obvious to all. In the fourth box was a small scroll which he opened and read.

“I now know where the fifth box is. There is an old ruined watchtower that has fallen to decay in the woods to the east. It is but one day’s travel from here…are you willing to travel again to retrieve it?”

“What challenges might we face?” It was no surprise that Cyrek was the first to respond.

“This could be the most challenging yet. There has been increased traffic of orcs and I wouldn’t be surprised if you encountered one. Travel fast.”

Cyrek spoke up again: “What do you expect to happen?”

Lord Hector sighed. “I don’t know. However, my scribes were able to translate the scroll….”

He paused when he noticed that most of the group seemed confused by his statement. He turned to Malva with a questioning and disapproving face. He was of course referencing the scroll that Marcus and Malva had gone to such great lengths to discover and obtain. He opened the scroll and laid it before the group.

“It didn’t seem to be my secret to reveal. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with the mission at hand and I did not feel a need to share it at the time.” Malva explained herself to the group as much as Lord Hector but she also seemed to begrudge the accusing faces turned towards her. They then all looked at the scroll and, as it was with Marcus before, saw nothing but a blank scroll. Malva explained again that she seemed to be the only one who could see the characters written upon it at which point Miquesh revealed that he too could see the characters.

Lord Hector read the translation of the scroll aloud (Click Here to Read Scroll), and were all silent for a short moment after the scroll was read. Lord Hector looked up and spoke:

“My scholars have looked at this and we know this is coming from before the time when the dragons fell. All I can piece together is that Rama was also a knight and that the crown was The crown of the Kraytian Empire. Rama had a keep north of Mist Point. Your secondary objective is to see what you can find out about this keep and the crown. However, focus on finding the final box. And hurry. Any final questions?”

Malva shifted and in an uncharacteristic manner spoke up of her own accord: “Lord Hector, can you think of any reason why I would be able to see the writing on the scroll?”

Lord Hector looked at Miquesh expecting him to answer the question.

“I don’t know,” Miquesh responded. “We can ask him the next time we see him.”

“Who is ‘him’?” Malva asked for the group.

“I don’t know how many of you have met him – but he would be a stranger to most of you and simply a puzzle to the rest of you. I can tell you for sure that he is an interesting character.” Hector’s further description revealed ‘him’ to be the mysterious stranger that everyone except Persephone, who narrowly missed him due to a blonde blunder, had encountered.

Before he could continue, a soldier burst into the room and announced that a party of orcs have just attacked. Lord Hector immediately stood and, after giving the team a final reminder of his charge to them and the urgency of their task, left.

After some organizing of their supplies, the group set off towards the tower which was about a day’s travel away.

At some point during their journey while travelling through the woods some members of the crew started to smell a campfire. Marcus & Ryo had been scouting ahead so they snuck up closer to see who was setting up camp.

They discovered that a small orc raiding party of four was setting up camp. After gathering this information, they went back to the rest of the group and shared what they had seen. After conferring, it was decided that they would deal with the orcs then continue on with their mission.

They all snuck up to the campfire and readied for attack. With surprise on their side, they attacked and caught the orcs unprepared. The skirmish was over quickly, but not without some injuries sustained by our band of travelers. Cyrek used his abilities to cure any serious wounds and the whole group settled in for the night near the orc’s campsite.

Wanting to get an early start the next morning, they all woke up and made quick work of the rest of their journey to the tower. They entered into the base of the tower and found themselves in a large central room with a stone staircase. They all proceed to go up the stairs and find more rubble and another large empty room – but the floor above them has collapsed. Everybody starts to look around the room for any possible hiding places or clues to what they are looking for. Malva discovers a small hidden button with the symbol of the Immortal Helix. She presses it and they all hear stone scraping coming from the floor below. They all head back down and discover a hidden entry to a staircase going downstairs.

Cyrek used the light spell to illuminate the passageway and they all went down together. Once they got down they hit a fork in the road and followed it to the right. They didn’t make it too much further before they almost landed right in the middle of a small den of goblins. Instead of taking valuable time and resources to fight them, they decided to double back and try the other direction.

After continuing on in their new direction they arrive in a room that appears to be a dining hall. They all split up and began to explore the room and some smaller rooms attached to it but there did not seem to be any obvious way past the room other than a closed portcullis. Marcus in his searching discovered a lever which he could not budge but he gathered everybody and with their combined efforts were able to move the lever and raise the portcullis. They continued on.

Marcus, who had gone invisible a little while back, decided it was his personal mission to continue on ahead of the group and scout out what is coming. Remembering Lord Hector’s warning, they are all on high alert for booby traps and general danger.

Thanks to Marcus’ scouting and the rest of them being cautious, they managed to successfully avoid the first few traps. After a few minutes they came across another stair down which Marcus, Malva, Drakon, & Cyrek went down to explore. They entered a room filled with a few inches of water and found nothing but an obviously old sarcophagus, marked by the Immortal Helix, with a decayed corpse inside of it. There was nothing that seemed to help them on their mission though and while they were intrigued by the mystery, they decided to move on.

Again, Marcus continued on first to scout and quickly encountered a mysterious voice that said “Stop – who goes there?”

‘I am Marcus Silvernight.”

‘What do you seek?”

“I seek to restore House Protex.”

“What was the name of the lost son?”

Marcus was at a loss and the rest of the group who could also hear what was being said, could not come up with the correct name. The only clue they had was the letter they had read which referenced the lost son.

“If you cannot guess, I cannot let you through” continued the voice.

After a wrong guess, the suits of armor which had been guarding portions of the hallway came to life and moved in an aggressive manner to surround the party. Finding themselves trapped in by these mysterious magical enemies, they all readied themselves for a fight.

Persephone, in an uncharacteristic move, attacked first. This launched a flurry of attacks on both sides. In a surprising moment in the middle of the fight, Marcus found the pieces of three suits of armor being flung at him mysteriously from the general direction of Malva who looked very surprised as well…in a suspicious manner. With a combination of physical blows and magical attacks they manage to disarticulate the suits of armor successfully.

They took a short rest to quickly deal with a few small wounds and to restore their magical capabilities then pressed onward again. They finally reached a room where they found a circular section of the floor which caught their attention. They looked around and discovered another button similar to the last one they found. Drakon offered to push it and the rest of the group stepped back in case of a trap. The circular portion of the floor opened up revealing a spiral staircase going downwards. The whole group went down and found a small room with a pedestal in the center with the box sitting on top of it and a scroll case. Marcus grabbed both of them and with the object of their searching safely tucked away, they all proceeded to travel back the way they came. While they were leaving however, they noticed that one of the cast aside suits of armor had knocked into the wall and, oddly enough, had caused the wall to tilt inwards…they looked inside and discovered a small treasure trove which they divided up amongst themselves based on what they found.

The most notable item they found were a magic lantern which Cyrek claimed, a seemingly magical sword which Ryo gave to Drakon, a strange globe that illuminated the area and floated which Malva took, a magical bag that seemed to have no end to the space it could contain items in which Marcus offered to carry, and finally another one of the special signet rings marked by the Immortal Helix which Persephone grabbed. This ring was made of purple Amethyst.

After successfully finding their treasure and objective, the group rushed out of the tower and through the night back to Avalar excited to give Lord Hector the final box. However, when they crested the last hill before Avalar was in their view, they saw the most unexpected sight; an orc army numbering in the thousands besieging the city.

Hector was trapped.

Click Here to continue to Chapter 5: What Lurks In The Shadows

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Chapter 3 - Part 3
Eastaria

- Part 3 -

Persephone opened Herric’s door and stepped back outside, her eyes glazed, as she tried to comprehend the immensity of the truth she had just learned. Shaking off her stupor, she looked around at her traveling companions, pausing a few seconds longer on Malva who was still enraptured with her newly discovered jumping capabilities. Confused but moving on with her observations, Persephone realized that Ryo was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Ryo?” she asked, hoping to not sound as angry and confused as she felt. Malva, who had stopped her jumping at this point, spoke up to say that she had seen Ryo walk into the woods. Drakon started shooting out questions, “Is he coming back? Where did he go? What happened?” Unsure of what or how much to say, Persephone retreated back into herself and remained silent.

Drakon repeated his questions and everyone started to look at Persephone. Realizing attention was on her, and hoping to deflect their prying stares, Persephone asked Marcus if she could speak to him alone. Walking far enough away that they could have a private conversation, Persephone kept her back to the group. For added privacy, she spoke to Marcus in elfish. “I don’t know what do.” She sighed deeply. “What do you mean?” Marcus asked, his confusion evident. “I…I have found out some information and I don’t know what I should do.” Marcus remained silent as signs of Persephone’s mental and emotional struggle showed on her face. Sighing again, jaw set, she shared with Marcus what Herric had told her. “You’ve already guessed part of what I learned in there. Herric confirmed my suspicions that Jon Wynrett may be my father. When I pressed him to find out who I could ask to be sure, he told me I could ask Elred and then proceeded to inform me that Elred was part of our party, and in fact, was Ryo.” Marcus appeared unaffected. Persephone continued. “And before I left he threatened that we had 24 hours before he would send word to Lord Moriar that Elred is in our party.” A moment of silence passed between them. “And what do you want to do?” Marcus asked Persephone. “I don’t know. What do you think we should do?” “That is up to you. You must decide what you want to share with everyone else.” Persephone’s jaw tightened. “And what about Herric?” she asked. “I can take care of Herric if you want me to. But I will leave that to you to decide.” As Persephone had no other response, Marcus returned to their confused companions. Persephone remained for a moment, still lost in her own confusion. Sighing, she too joined the group.

“Well, what do we do now?” Asked Drakon. “Should we just go back to the Silver Spoon? If Ryo returns from wherever he has disappeared to, he his more likely to meet us there.” Looking around for confirmation, all nodded in agreement. Marcus turned to Persephone, “What say you, Persephone? Shall we return?” Persephone nodded, but made no eye contact with him or the group.

Their return to the Silver Spoon was uneventful and quiet, an unspoken agreement of a silent walk interrupted only by Marcus advising Malva to keep her leaping to a minimum. It may, after all, draw unwanted attention as they once again enter Eastaria’s gates. As they approached the Silver Spoon, it was impossible to miss the ostentatious chariot and 2 well dressed guards standing in front. Marcus, speaking to Malva’s mind only, shared “The Emperor’s brat is here.” Speaking to Cyrek’s mind as well, “It appears the Emperor’s son is here.” Now on alert, the group entered the inn and noticed Kylen urgently motioning for their attention. Appearing agitated, he alerted Cyrek to the fact that guards were standing outside their room and Lord Moriar himself had been waiting for Cyrek for a couple of hours. Telling his companions that he would go in alone, Cyrek made his way to their rooms, praying for guidance, as he was unsure of what fate awaited him behind the door.

As he walked into the room, the first thing he noticed was Lady Lecell lounging on the couch and several guards also standing in the room. As he surveyed the rest of the room, he locked eyes with Lord Moriar. “Tell me Cyrek, why does a noble come to my city and not come see me right away? Your father and I differ on everything, but I had hoped that someone of your scholarly opinion would know better.” Realizing the shaky ground he was on, Cyrek chose his words carefully. “Sir, I am sorry if I offended you. It has been such a long time since we last saw each other and so much has happened, I confess I was unsure of what welcome I would receive.” Bowing in deference, “I humbly apologize sir and hope any offence will be forgiven.” Lord Moriar, nods his head in acceptance of Cyrek’s apology. His voice slightly less accusing, but no less arrogant, he replied, “You are always welcome. I wouldn’t turn you away. You grew up with Jon and Lecell and were practically my own son as well.” A moment of silence passed between them. “Well, Cyrek. So you are here now and I hear you have been keeping company with some ‘unmentionables.’ But I did not come to dwell on that topic, though I must say I am glad to see your opinion on the mutts differs from your self-righteous Father. I wanted to extend a personal invitation to the Dawnbreak Festival to you, and you alone. Keep the elf at home.” Lord Moriar got up from the chair, signifying the close of their conversation. Cyrek thanked him for his invitation. Lord Moriar again bowed his head in acknowledgement and walked towards the door. Lady Lecell uncurled herself from the couch she was lounging on and said goodbye to Cyrek. “Come, Theycian,” Lord Moriar commanded, and Cyrek noticed one of the guards turn his head at the mention of his name and follow Lord Moriar out of the room.

Allowing a few moments to pass before signaling for the group to return, Cyrek recounted the conversation that had passed between himself and Lord Moriar. Assuring them that all was well, he shared that he had received a personal invitation to the party. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, the group resettled into their quarters, their attention returning to the day’s activities. Saying nothing to the group, Malva went to her room as she realized a heat was starting to emanate from her pack and she wished to investigate in private. Removing the scroll of sending from her pack, she felt warmth radiating off it and immediately unfurled it to see a message from Lord Hector asking for an update and if they had found Herric. Returning to the main room, she alerted the group of Lord Hector’s message and they all turned their attention to her, helping to decide what their response should be. Malva wrote back to Lord Hector that they did find Herric but that he did not appear to appreciate their visit very much. He was able to help them in describing a floor plan for the keep. They also discovered that Theycian was captain of Moriar’s bodyguards. They ended their message alerting Lord Hector to the fact that Ryo had disappeared without explanation. Before Malva finished writing, Marcus requested that she also ask Lord Hector if he knew why Ryo would disappear after an encounter with Herric.

A few moments passed as their message on the scroll disappeared and Lord Hector’s response formed. “It is very troubling about Ryo and very unwise for him to be alone in Eastaria. You should seek him out. Do you have a plan yet on how you will navigate at the Keep?” Malva reads. Malva wrote back as the others voiced their responses. They already had 3 passes to the party and discovered a fourth on the body of Celra Truebrew. They were still in need of 2 additional passes. A plan was not confirmed, but perhaps the other 2 would break in using thief’s tools and Malva and Marcus would take the lead on sneaking around. Hector responded with concern over the idea that the 2 musicians hired for this special event would be the ones sneaking. They should probably focus on playing their part as entertainment and help draw any attention away from others who should investigate. Hector also asked who Celra Truebrew was as the name was not one he had heard before. They responded sharing the story about their encounter in the woods and the bodies they found in the cave, that they suspected she was attempting to make a name for herself and break into the noble circles. Hector asked them if they had considered yet that they could send in some of their party as servants. Hector gave them instructions to complete 3 goals: to locate Theycian, find out where he was keeping the stolen goods, and to find and retrieve 2 small boxes that were marked with the Immortal Helix.

A knock was unexpectedly heard at the door, and Malva hurriedly hid the scroll. Marcus opened the door to find the innkeeper Kylen standing on the other side. He shared that he was about to close up but wanted to see if they needed anything first. Before sending him away with their assurances that they had no needs, Drakon asked if Kylen knew who may be hiring help for the party as he was available and would be glad to be of assistance. A bit surprised, Kylen shared that he was actually the one who hired workers. If Drakon would stop by and see him in the morning, he may actually have some a spot available that Drakon could be good for. Wishing them all a good night, Kylen retired for the evening.

As night settled in, the group dispersed to their own rooms. Malva returned to the scroll of sending, writing out a few of the symbols from the scroll the tiefling told Marcus to find, and asked Lord Hector if he recognized the symbols. Lord Hector responded that it was the Draconic language. Asking him if anyone in their party would be able to read the language, Lord Hector replied that both Drakon and Cyrek should be able to.

In his room, Marcus changed into a new costume composed of base armor, a dark cloak, and his lamb mask. Casting invisibility, he climbed out of his window into the dark night. Once he was safely out of the city and in the woods, Marcus removed his invisibility spell and the mask.

Meanwhile, back at the Silver Spoon, Percy sat in her room, her thoughts returning to the troubling discoveries made that day. She found rest to be an elusive companion as waves of confusion, anger and sadness washed over her. Suddenly she heard a knock at her window and warily walked over to see Ryo standing on the other side. Fists tightening at her side and her body and jaw instantly tense, Percy stood at the window, staring at Ryo. Ryo returned her stare, his eyes expressing sympathy, searching for any indication of how she would respond. Seconds passed feeling like hours till finally Percy moved from her frozen position and opened the door. Ryo’s shoulders slumped. Breaking his return stare, he looked down at the ground as a heavy sigh escaped. Looking back up at a rigid Persephone, he whispered in elfish, “Do you still trust me?” Quietly, attempting to keep her voice steady and reserved, Percy responded, “I don’t know if trust exists any longer between us. But for now, you are safe.” A silent moment passed between them broken when Ryo asked, “Do you have any questions?” Percy remained silent. “If you no longer wish me to be in this company, then I will disappear.” “I have no questions at this time, but perhaps in the future I will. I am sure you can understand my disorientation at this moment and give me space to process.” “I can. And I will endeavor to do all I can to make amends.” And with that, Ryo walked away again, only this time to break into his own room and return to the group.

At the same time, Marcus’s journey brought him back to where they had met with Herric earlier that morning. Arriving at what he knew to be the destination, he walked into the clearing only to be stopped in his tracks as he realized the cabin that had previously been in that exact location was now gone. Investigating the area, Marcus found nothing but a few footprints and was left with no other choice but to return to his room at the Silver Spoon.

As morning arrived the majority of the group congregated in the main room for breakfast. Marcus whispered to Percy’s mind that he went to Herric’s cabin during the night and it was gone. Attempting to show no concern, Persephone casually announced that Ryo had returned. Surprised, they all paused to turn to Percy and ask her where Ryo was, as he had not appeared yet for breakfast. Shrugging, she replied that she assumed he was still in his room. Marcus immediately left and walked with determination to Ryo’s room, barely waiting for a response to his curt knock, and found Ryo was indeed there. Walking past Marcus, Ryo joined the rest of the group. Marcus followed. An awkward silence filled the room till Ryo cleared his throat. “I apologize for my disappearance yesterday and for any concern it may have caused for your or my own well being. But I’m back and shall remain with you.” Looks of confusion crossed all faces except for Persephone who was in deep concentration, examining her breakfast. Half completed questions jumbled out as they all tried to make sense of the situation. Finally, someone managed to ask Ryo if he was going to tell them what happened and where he went. Ryo remained quiet for a moment, looked at Persephone and said “All I am willing to say is that it was something between Percy and myself. If she wishes to share more, that is up to her. But I have nothing else to say on the matter.” As it was apparent that no more was going to be said and that Persephone had no response, they returned to their meal, and began to plan for the day.

It was finally the day of the Dawnbreak Festival and they needed to figure out how the whole party would be able to attend. Drakon recalled Kylen’s invitation to speak to him that morning and made his way to the bar. After an enthusiastic display of his physical strength and dexterity, Kylen hired him as a bodyguard and gave him a key and floor guide for the Keep. Returning to the group, Drakon shared the information he had also received from Kylen about Celra Truebrew. Kylen had shared that he was actually familiar with the name, though neither he nor anyone else it seemed had actually met her. Rumor was that she was being groomed by Emperor Tiric to be the new governor of Dailyon, but who she was or what she looked like was a mystery. An idea began to form of disguising Persephone and having her go undercover as Celra Truebrew. Ryo would be her bodyguard. Since her arrival was later than expected, they would say she and her party were attacked on the road. The guards at the gates had warned of mischief on the roads, so a cover story such as that could be believable. Malva spoke up that they should check in with Lord Hector as they finalized their plans. She and Marcus needed to leave to practice with Kosopho, she said, so they needed to confirm plans before more of the day passed. Writing out a message to Lord Hector, Malva shared that Drakon now had a key and they planned to disguise Persephone. Drakon would unlock the door to the guard’s room and signal to Ryo who would sneak in to look for the boxes. Lord Hector responded, “Do not be alarmed” and within seconds a portal opened in the room and Miquesh and Lord Hector walked through.

Reviewing the plan, Lord Hector advised them to find out where Theycian’s room was located as quickly as possible, retrieve the boxes and return to the Silver Spoon in as inconspicuous a way as possible. Marcus, more than slightly annoyed by Lord Hector’s magical arrival, told Lord Hector that Herric’s cabin had disappeared last night. Lord Hector appeared perturbed, but did not linger on the news. He prepared to return back through the portal, but gave some last words of wisdom before departing. “Focus on what needs to be completed. And one last word of advice, it would be wise to not engage with the Wynrett’s. As much space as you can inconspicuously put between yourself and them this evening, the better.” With a final farewell he and Miquesh returned to Avalar through the portal.

Evening soon arrived and the group prepared for the party. Marcus created a human disguise for Persephone and Ryo, who acted as her bodyguard. Marcus also donned his Phillip Phelden costume. Drakon arrived and presented himself for duty and was stationed in a hallway to keep watch. Upon arrival, Marcus and Malva were quickly ushered to the stage along with their musical companion, Kosopho, who still appeared a bit uneasy with Phillip Phelden. Soon the trio’s melodious tunes filled the room. Cyrek also arrived and soon after Persephone as Celra Truebrew and Ryo made their appearance. Lord Moriar, Lady Lecell, High Priestess Calcima, and various others of high nobility and rank were mingling throughout the room. At different points in the evening, all but Persephone noticed that the Dark Stranger had also made an appearance at the night’s festivities. Soon after her arrival, Percy’s disguise was put to the test as Lord Moriar welcomed her to Eastaria but questioned her late arrival to his fair city. Percy shared a harrowing story of being stopped on the road by bandits, her small group of bodyguards being overthrown, her belongings ransacked and only she and one of her bodyguards being able to escape and arrive in Eastaria. She spoke of her exhaustion and hunger; she was still trying to shake off the distressing experience. Lord Moriar snapped his fingers, alerting his need to a nearby servant, and commanded him to get Celra some food and help her find a place to sit and recuperate. Percy thanked him and followed the servant to a seat, hoping her act had worked and she would no longer need to interact with Lord Moriar any further that evening. Hoping to fend off any other conversation, she asked the servant to bring her several drinks in an attempt to give the appearance of being a bit tipsy. Ryo followed closely behind, but looked around the room for Drakon till he spotted him and they nodded to each other, signaling the start of the evening’s investigation.

Cyrek walked around the room before making his way to Lord Moriar to say hello. Greeting Lord Moriar, he complimented him on an excellent party. Lord Moriar welcomed Cyrek and said to let him know if he needed anything. Spotting Prince Jovash, Cyrek started to walk towards him but stopped when he saw Lady Lecell talking to him.

While the party went on around him, Drakon kept an eye on the guards mingling throughout the room. Signaling to Ryo to wait, Drakon stepped away from his post to explore the hallway that Herric had told them lead to the guards room and Lord Moriar’s office. Finding what he thought to be the right door, he returned to his post, caught Ryo’s eye and waited till Ryo was able to make his way to the hallway, undetected. Looking around the room, making sure no one was watching him except Drakon, Ryo left his position at Persephone’s side and walked to the hallway. Drakon also looked around to see no one was watching, and followed, meeting Ryo in the hallway. Drakon motioned to Ryo to follow him and lead him to the door, unlocked it, closing it behind Ryo as he snuck into the room. Ryo quickly made his way to a large desk in the room and flipped through the papers on the desk, trying to find anything incriminating. He stopped as he caught Caulder’s name written on a piece of paper and read what appeared to be the start of a letter. “Caulder,” it read, “it has been 2 weeks since the last shipment. Please send word soon.” Folding the letter and putting it in a pocket, he looked around the room and spotted a door. He made his way to the door and tried to open it, but realized it was locked.

During this time, the others continued playing out their roles. Malva and Marcus entertained with Kosopho, Cyrek mingled and chatted his way through the room, and Percy attempted to hide from any possible guests. Her attempt failed as Priestess Calmel walked over to her. Inwardly groaning, Percy faked a smile as she greeted the Priestess who quickly turned their conversation to rumors she had heard that Celra was considering the Governor position of Dyrian. Cornered, Percy replied that she could neither confirm nor deny the rumors. Priestess Calmel walked away, a look of slight confusion on her face.

From the stage, Malva noticed a familiar face in the crowd. As soon as they took a break, she bee lined for the Dark Stranger who showed no surprise at Malva’s presence at his side. “Well, Malva, it has certainly been an interesting night.” “It’s not quite my typical group to play with,” responded Malva. Swirling the drink in his hand, he asked, “ Malva, tell me, do you aspire for greatness or are you content with staying at this level? Why don’t you explore that little power of yours?” “What if I don’t know how?” queried Malva. “I think there’s others in your party that can help you.”

Marcus, after watching Malva rush off the stage, decided to follow Malva, but was stopped in his attempt when a nicely dressed, elderly elf gentleman stepped into his path. “I did not catch your name,” he stated, “but I have been watching you. You are quite skilled. I am Cazimir Drandas. Where did you study music?” “In Stoloss,” Marcus replied, and tried to walk away. Putting up a hand to stop Marcus’s retreat, Cazimir pompously said. “I am trying to hire you, please treat me with respect. I am always looking for entertainment. My assistant Hakson will be in touch with details.” Signaling to a middle aged dark haired man with a very noticeable scar over his right, milky white eye, Cazimir walked away. Marcus introduced himself as Phillip Phelden to Hakson and decided to play along. He asked where Hakson was from to which he replied that he hailed from an estate up north to which Marcus replied that he came from Dalyion. Giving him a card, Hakson told Marcus that he should contact him. In his mind, Marcus heard a voice whisper in his head, “Power” it said. Marcus tried to walk away again, only this time he was stopped by an annoyed Lady Lecell. Marcus, wanting to get to Malva, told Lady Lecell he was sick and needed a few minutes. “I don’t care if you’re sick or not, we are paying you. Get back to that stage.” Marcus returned to the stage and was soon followed by Malva.

Back in the guard’s room, Ryo peaked out the door to signal to Drakon. Trying Drakon’s key on the door, they were disappointed to find it wouldn’t work. Recalling that he had noticed a key on Lord Moriar’s belt, he went out to the party and spread word to his companions that they needed a distraction to be able to retrieve the key. Percy, playing the role of a tipsy Celra, walked about the room while Malva and Marcus began to play a jaunty tune. Spotting Lord Moriar, Percy walked over adding a little trip and sway to her stroll. Bumping into him, she managed to snag the key off his belt and continued her unsteady saunter to Drakon, handing off the key. Drakon returned to Ryo who was waiting for him near the guards door, gave him him the key and stood guard. Ryo rushed to the locked door, tried the key and felt relief as the lock clicked and the door opened. Taking in the room, he saw a desk, and a suit of armor in the corner. Behind the desk a picture of Jon Wynrett hung on the wall next to a very expensive, red handled sword in a frame. A plaque on the frame titled the sword “ Diviner.” Tearing his eyes off the plaque, he went rummaging through the desk for the boxes. Their dangerous plan paid off when Ryo found not only the 2 boxes Lord Hector had told them about, but also incriminating letters from Priestess Calcima, and blueprints for the city of Avalar. Hiding the items in his cloak, Ryo locked the door behind him, told Drakon he found the items and returned to stand by Celra’s side. Throughout the evening, as he managed to encounter his companions, he whispered that their mission was complete and one by one, they made their escape from the party, making sure their departures were timely and unsuspicious.

Click Here to continue to Chapter 4: The Tower

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Chapter 3 - Part 2
Eastaria

- Part 2 -

The third morning in Eastaria arrived a bit earlier for the group then they appreciated. Startled awake by Cyrek, he shared with them that he had just received a message through the Aegian network that the unlicensed sorcerer who had set off the alarm may have been discovered. As it was 4am and they didn’t appreciate the incomplete report at such an early hour, everyone went back to bed to get as much more rest as they could. At 7am, Cyrek received another message that the unlicensed sorcerer had been arrested, but decided it was best to not share till 8am when everyone was in the breakfast room and more awake and alert for the day. After Cyrek and Marcus retrieved breakfast and everyone was congregated, discussion began on what the plans for the day. As all had different places they wanted to explore, they broke into pairs and went their separate ways.

Before departing, Marcus returned to his Phillip Phelden costume, snuck out through his widow, and met Malva outside. They headed to the Keep where Kosopho was staying. Outside the Inn were guards who they asked to take a message to Kosopho, saying they had arrived to practice for the Festival. After waiting for some time, they were greeted at the door by a pants-less Kosopho, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. In a deep, groggy voice he asked “What are you doing here?” followed by a deep cough and spit, eliminating the morning phlegm from his throat. ‘Phillip,’ aka Marcus in disguise, cheerily greeted the half-clothed man and explained they had come to practice for the festival. He made sure Kosopho notices the wink he gave. Kosopho stared at Marcus then turned to look at Malva. “Well, I don’t do anything important without my pants, and I make a point of never putting on pants till after noon.” Phillip over eagerly assured Kosopho that they could return later at a time that was more convenient for someone with as great a talent as himself. As Phillip gave another exuberant wink, Kosopho’s confused face glanced from Phillip to Malva a few times. Stopping at Malva he asked, his voice matching the confusion in his stare, “Are you guys together?” Malva, stone faced and deadpan, returned, “We’ve been passionate lovers these last 12 hours.” She rolled her eyes and walked away as Phillip followed soon behind, leaving a very perplexed Kosopho standing in the door way.

At the same time, Ryo and Drakon made their way to the Cat and The Cradle, another local inn, in hopes of learning more about Herric. On their way, they walked by some construction and saw that a platform was being built. They discussed what was possibly being set up; Drakon shared that he thought it was a gallows perhaps to assassinate the rogue spell caster Cyrek told them had been arrested. As they lingered a bit longer than anyone else who had noticed the construction, a nearby guard called out and walked over to them, asking what they were doing. Relieving the guards concern of any foul play, they walked away and headed again towards the Cat and the Cradle. When they arrived at the inn, an elderly woman who introduced herself as Erix greeted them. Drakon thanked Erix for her welcome, focusing all his charm in her direction. He claimed great ignorance, explaining he had never been to a city this large before and asked if she knew what the construction was that they passed on their way to her fine establishment. Erix, won over by the young, but large, man’s flirtation, confided that in all her years in Eastaria, a rogue spell caster had never been executed by hanging. The accused was a tiefling named Jara and would be killed that day. Rumor was that Lord Moriar himself may even make an appearance. Drakon took advantage of Erix’s chattiness and asked her if she’d ever heard of Herric. “Herric?! That’s not a name that’s been spoken of for quite some time. He used to be the captain of the guard but Lord Moriar exiled him after his son Jon was killed. If you want to know more about Herric, you could ask any of the guards, or Johali. He’s been part of the guards for years and may know where to find Herric. But I’d be careful boy, most don’t take kindly to talk of elves, begging your pardon sir,” she said awkwardly glancing at Ryo. Thanking Erix for her hospitality, Drakon and Ryo departed the inn.

The third pair left the Silver Spoon Inn and headed to the library. Walking behind Cyrek, Persephone continued to play the role of dutiful slave and servant to the royal Cyrek Peariner. As they passed by the temple, they noticed a lot of activity, but did not stop to investigate. They walked up the steps to the massive library and once inside are greeted by a librarian seated at a desk in the main entrance. With the advantage of his station to back him, Cyrek announced that he wished to research architecture and was particularly interested in looking through any books on fortresses. The librarian at first appeared happy to help till she spots Persephone standing behind him. Her hospitable demeanor turned cold as she said in disgust “She is not allowed in here.” Cyrek attempted to argue back, asking how one of his standing should not be allowed to have his slave at his side; what would happen should he require her assistance? The librarian adamantly responded that slaves were not allowed in the library, especially ones as unwelcome a species as this one. She could remain in the coat closet, out of sight, during Cyrek’s stay. Cyrek conceded, and as the librarian turned to show them the way to the coat closet, he shrugged his shoulders, signaling to Persephone that he tried. While Cyrek had debated with the librarian, Persephone’s attention drifted to a large painting that hung on the wall behind the librarian’s desk. She noticed a plaque at the at bottom with the engraving “In honor of Jon Wynrett.” Her eyes roamed upward as she took in the massive painting only to stare into the striking, deep, blue eyes of a young man. Her attention drifted back to the conversation as she overheard that she was sentenced to wait in the coat closet. She started to follow Cyrek and the librarian, but could not shake some strange connection the painting and turned to look back at it. Before the librarian could notice their delay, Cyrek cleared his throat to get Persephone’s attention; she snapped out of her daze and turned with a quick look back before she headed into her temporary prison. The librarian called over an assistant and told him that he was to stand guard in the coat closet to be sure the slave didn’t steal anything. The assistant sighed, his annoyance of his task quite obvious. Cyrek and the librarian left them to sit and wait.

The assistant librarian sat in a chair and pulled out a book and began to read. Persephone glanced around the room, trying to decide how far she should go in discerning the assistant’s attitude towards slaves. Taking a chance, she broke the silence and asked him what he was reading. The assistant librarian paused in his reading, and slowly lifted his head, his eyes narrowing and a slight sneer formed on his face. “What do you think you are doing, half-breed? Here is how things will go. You will remain silent and I will sit here completing the aggravating task of babysitting. If you speak one word, I will tell the librarian that I caught you foraging through the coats and then we will see what will happen next.” Percy’s eyebrows raised in response. She pursed her lips, and wandered towards the lone window in the closet, putting some distance between herself and the assistant, hoping that the view outside would help the time pass faster.

Meanwhile Cyrek settled into a desk and flipped through a pile of books that had been brought for his perusal. Hoping to learn something about the Keep, he flipped through book after book, but found nothing about the Keep, it’s level of security or any insight into how he and his companions could sneak in. Giving up, he walked back to the library entrance to retrieve Persephone.

As she stared out the window, movement across the street caught Persephone’s attention. She saw a very well dressed Aegian priestess walking down the street followed by 4 sentinels who were dragging an old tiefling. He appeared bloody and beaten. She had no time to look further and discern if he was even conscious as Cyrek’s voice was heard outside the coat closet thanking the librarian for her help and saying he would be on his way once his property was retrieved. Gritting her teeth and rolling her eyes, she turned away from the window, and walked towards the entrance. The librarian assistant quickly closed his book, anxious to return to something much more worthy of his time. “She behaved herself. Thank you for your patronage sir, have a nice day,” he said and then quickly walked away before he could be assigned any other menial task.

Cyrek and Persephone walked out of the library and crossed the street towards the market but stopped when they spotted Malva and the disguised Marcus as Phillip Phelden. Cyrek and Malva share where their morning’s wanderings had taken them. Marcus, still in character, asked Cyrek in a haughty voice, “Who is the mutt sir?” Unable to take any further verbal abuse, Persephone growled, “Good lord, can I speak now? Marcus, cut the BS.” She took a deep breath to calm herself down. Quietly, she updated them on what she witnessed from the window in the library. As she finished, Drakon and Ryo joined the chance meeting. Drakon confirmed what Persephone witnessed, sharing what they had learned from Erix. Marcus became visibly disturbed by the news.

As they were standing around, they notice a guard captain walking towards them and recognize him as Johali. Johali stopped and greeted the group, and when Ryo started to ask him questions about Herric, he asked Ryo and Drakon to turn aside. Quietly, he confessed that he did know where Herric was. “This is to stay secret and must not get out.” Glancing at both to make sure they understood the gravity of his statement, Ryo and Drakon both nodded in agreement. “Herric may have been exiled from the city, but he didn’t go very far. You can find him about half a day’s journey in the woods. But if you go, be wary, there has been reports of strange noises in the forest.” Before Johali took his leave, Drakon quickly asked him about the tiefling that had been captured. “That scum will get what he deserves,” Johali muttered, and then walked away.

Still troubled by the news of the tiefling, Marcus told the group that he was going to go to the barracks and walked away before anyone could question the wisdom in that decision. Malva followed after him. As they arrives, they saw High Priestess Calcima and Lord Moriar exiting, followed by sentinels and one bedraggled tiefling. As they watched the tiefling’s death march, they followed closely behind. Malva, concerned with Marcus’s behavior asked him what was going on. “You’re hiding something Marcus.” “Do you remember when we rescued the slaves, Malva?” Marcus asked quietly. “Do you remember the man who was bleeding from his ears and died? He died because I couldn’t help him. I won’t allow another person to die because of me.” As they arrived back to the gallows, they rejoined their companions. Marcus stared anxiously at the tiefling on the platform, eyes darting all around, trying to figure out if there was a way he could save him. As a Priestess stood up to the podium and explained what had taken place, her voice grew quiet as a different voice, a stranger speak into Marcus’s mind. Marcus hardly noticed that Lord Moriar had now taken his place at the podium. Trying to discern the location the voice was coming from, Marcus finally gave up his spastic searching around the podium only to lock eyes with the tiefling, who was looking directly at Marcus.

LISTEN! We don’t have much time. I hear the voices too! They told me that you would come. A long time ago they entrusted me with a ”/wikis/jaras-scroll" class=“wiki-page-link”> scroll that I never could read. I know that it has something to do with the Lost Crown! Go to my shack and on the roof you will find the scroll under a loose shingle. You CANNOT let them find it. LONG LIVE HOUSE PROTEX!"

As Lord Moriar declared the teifling death sentence, High Priestess Calcima made her way to the front of the stage. “Jara, for your crimes, you have received the penalty of death.” She pulled an 8-tipped star from her cloak and held it over the teiflings head. As two priests walked up from behind the High Priestess and stood on both sides of the teifling, Calcima again spoke, her voice deep and threatening. “And now, you will be vanquished into oblivion.” A beam shot from both priests’ hands, from one a beam of light; from the other, fire. The beams collided as they attacked Jara’s body and he instantly screamed in agony. His skin blistered then melted, sliding down his body as his screams were still heard, echoing through the crowd. As his skin melted away and his body began to crumble, his soul made it’s final escape and was captured into the star Calcima had been holding over his head. The final remains of the tiefling collapsed into a puddle of flesh.

Marcus wanted to let out a deep scream, but kept his reaction hidden. He turned to Malva telling her he had to leave; he had to find something immediately. Cyrek attempted to rally the group, suggesting that they should return to the Silver Spoon Inn, but Marcus would not be deterred and Malva joined him as he walked away from the crowd. As they walked back to the Silver Spoon, Ryo shared with Percy and Cyrek what they learned from Johali how Herric was living in the woods.

Meanwhile, Marcus and Malva rushed as fast as they could without drawing attention to themselves and arrived in the slums of Eastaria. In the not too far distance, Malva noticed a troop of guards heading in the same direction and warned Marcus. Finally they arrived at the shack Jara had sent Marcus to and searched for a way to get on the roof and find the loose shingle. Furiously searching, the guards drawing ever nearer, Marcus finally found the loose shingle and the bag Jara described hidden beneath it. Time running out, Marcus and Malva made a clumsy retreat, Marcus tumbling off the side, but managing to escape the notice of the guards who had arrived at the front of the house.

Sneaking off into the slums, they returned to the Silver Spoon. Still dressed as Phillip Phelden, Marcus cautiously walked around the Inn and entered via the window to his room. Alone and back in his natural appearance, he investigated the bag he just put his life on the line to rescue. Inside the bag was the scroll Jara told him about, which he removed and opened. As he opened the scroll, he saw a piece of paper, but as he continued to unfurl the parchment, he realized that the paper within its protection was completely blank. Taking a quill and ink, he made a dot in the bottom right corner to see if the paper took the ink or if it possessed any magical qualities. He left a black smudge on the paper, but nothing else appeared. Confused and disappointed, he removed the paper and replaced it with one from his own collection and put Jara’s paper into one of his own scrolls. Taking Jara’s scroll and the counterfeit paper with him, he joined the group congregated in the meeting room of their suite.

He heard Ryo asking Malva, “Where is Marcus?” as he came around the corner. They all turned and stared at Marcus, and he shared with them that he heard the tiefling speaking to him in his mind. Jara begged him to go to his home and retrieve a bag he had hidden in his roof before the guards discovered it. Ryo asked Marcus what he found and Marcus showed them the scroll and opened it exposing the blank piece of paper. Persephone began to doubt that Marcus was telling them the full truth, as, upon inspection, it appeared the paper was much newer the scroll. As Cyrek asked Marcus questions, her distrust grew and she asked if that was really all he found. As Marcus assured her it was, she voiced her doubts accused him of lying. “Ah, so now the one who has long stayed silent decides to speak,” Marcus criticized. “Maybe that’s when you should listen,” challenged Persephone. Marcus scowled then left the room only to return with his personal scroll that contained the original paper. He opened the scroll confessing that the paper inside was the original one he rescued, but, “There’s not much difference,” he said, “it’s still blank.” Everyone appeared confused but did not notice that Malva more closely inspected the paper, as it did not appear to be blank to her eyes, but had mysterious writing that she was unable to read. Keeping this to herself, she listened as Ryo asked Marcus if the teifling told him anything else. “Only that I must save the scroll for the Lost Crown and the House of Protex.”

Unsure of what else to do, Ryo suggested they go to the forest to find Herric. As it was mid afternoon by this time, they all decided it was best to wait till the next morning. Their meeting adjourned, Marcus disappeared, having cast invisibility, and spoke to Malva’s mind that he would be waiting to speak to her in her room. Suspicious, Percy watched Malva as she walked to her room, but decided that if by chance Marcus was involved, it was best to not further perturb him that evening. Instead, she went to her room and quietly meditated, a pair of striking blue eyes making their way back into the forefront of her thoughts.

Making her way to her room, Malva closed the door and as it locked in place, Marcus removed his invisibility. Once again removing Jara’s paper from the scroll, he asked Malva if she could see anything on the paper besides the black smudge placed there by his own hand. Malva responded that she could see much more than a smudge, but in fact she saw that it was covered in strange characters. She confessed she could not read the characters, but, if he left it with her for a few hours, she should be able to recreate its appearance. Marcus handed her the counterfeit blank piece of paper, returned to his invisible state and left her to complete the task at hand.

As the next morning dawned, they all arose early to prepare for the days journey. Departing Eastaria by the West Gate, they were warned by the guards on duty to be careful. Many frightened travelers had recently passed recounting strange encounters in the woods. Their warnings heeded, the companions passed through the gate and headed towards the woods.

Surprising all of them, perhaps even herself, Persephone struck up a conversation with Cyrek. “Cyrek, you grew up with the Wynrett children, did you not?” “I did, yes Percy. I am closer in age to Lady Lecell whose brother Jon was about 10 years our senior. He was always a kind gentleman. Lecell loved him dearly.” “So you were old enough, perhaps to remember when he died? What do you recall?” “Ah, it was terrible, a very distressing time indeed! About 20 years ago, we received news that Jon had been killed by an elf named Elred Leoycin, a member of the guard to Raelyn Selene, Queen of the Elves. Elred was arrested but before his execution, he vanished. The Wynrett’s were promised that if he was found they would turn him over, but that promise was never fulfilled. The elves argued it was because they never discovered Elred’s whereabouts; the Wynrett’s accused the elves of being half-hearted in their attempts. The situation became incredibly tense.”

As they continued their journey into the woods, Cyrek asked Ryo what he remembered of that time. Ryo responded, “I grew up in Castion, the home of Raelyn Selene. I remember Elred and disliked him not only for what he did but because he brought such shame upon the elves reputation.”

Intrigued by their responses, Persephone asked Cyrek another question. “And how well did you know him Cyrek? Had you actually met him or just knew of him?” “I knew him well enough. He always seemed different from his family. He was religious, genuinely interested in the cares of the people, and not just of the people of Eastaria, but of Ultana as a whole. In fact he was serving as an ambassador to the elves at the time he was murdered.” “Which is why his murder was so detestable,” muttered Ryo.

After about an hour passed, Ryo stopped the group, announcing he could smell smoke. Peering ahead, he saw what looked like the remnants of a campfire. Moving in front of the group as they cautiously made their way towards the campfire, Ryo was first to see an abandoned site including an overturned wagon and a horse lying in its blood. Bags were tossed around, ripped open and a trail of blood, the source of which likely a body being dragged, led into the surrounding forest. Checking on the horse, Ryo was able to tell that the time of death was about 5 hours before their arrival. Ryo left the group to investigate the murder scene and followed the trail of blood into the woods, only to be greeted by a loud roar. Following the sound of the roar, he came upon a giant troll covered in blood. Spotting Ryo, the troll started to run at him. Ryo retreated back to the group, yelling out a warning of the troll’s imminent arrival.

The group battles, one after the other attempting to kill the gruesome creature, but he wouldn’t go down easily. The troll attacked back, managing to cut Persephone who immediately began to bleed. The warriors continued to fight back till finally Drakon made the final blow and cut off the troll’s head. Thanks to the help of both Marcus and Cyrek, Persephone’s bleeding stopped and her wounds were healed. After taking a moment to regroup, they all walked into the woods in the direction the troll came from. Not too far from where Ryo first made contact with the troll, they discovered a cave and as they made their way in they became increasingly aware of a terrible stench. As the smell grew more and more disgusting, they finally arrived in a large room and discovered its source: human remains. Covering their noses, they searched the room and found the troll’s recent kills; the remains of one young, tattered and, now, disfigured, blonde woman and half of another body. Ryo checked the woman’s body for any signs of identification and found an invitation to the Festival addressed to Celra Truebrew. As they investigated the cave, they all found different artifacts, but most notably, Malva found a gold ring that, once she placed it upon her finger, she felt a weird sensation that only grew as the day went on.

The smell became overpowering and they all made their way out of the cave and returned to the campsite where they discussed what they should do next. Cyrek shared that based upon his observations, he believed the travelers were on their way to Eastaria for the Festival hoping to meet Lord Moriar and win his favor through their numerous gifts. Malva spoke up and shared that she recently had a dream in which she saw someone who looked like Persephone wearing a ring, one just like the one they found on the young woman’s body, and Cyrek kissing her hand. Having taken the ring from the body, they kept it in their belongings, wondering if Malva’s dream was perchance a premonition of future events. As they considered what to do about the remains of the campsite, they noticed rain clouds ahead. Expecting the rain to clear away the debris and blood, they left the campsite having done little to clean the remains of the troll’s devastation.

After walking about another hour into the forest, they spotted what looked to be a footpath that someone attempted to cover up. Growing slightly concerned, Ryo warned everyone to keep walking on the path but to appear as non-threatening as possible. Herric, he believed, lived not far off. Taking note of Ryo’s warning, they all walked with extra caution. Not much time passed till Ryo motioned for them to stop; a man was hiding on the path ahead. In elfish, Ryo called out, “Mellon, (friend).” As the man only slightly stirred, Ryo continued to call out. “I am a friend of Raelyn Selene.” A voice challenged back, “Few can make such a claim, so I’ll ask you once, who sent you here?” “Johali told us we could find you here,” replied Ryo. “And Lord Hector suggested we find you as you may be able to help us understand the Keep in Eastaria.” Slowly, the lone figure stepped out from hiding and before them appeared an aging elf, whose appearance drew them to the obvious conclusion that he had been living in the woods for some time. Ryo continued to speak to Herric in hopes of winning his trust. “Lord Hector has sent us on a mission. We believe Theycian, Lord Moriar’s head guard, is in league with some lowlifes we’ve come in contact with. We’re still not sure if the Wynrett’s are working with them or not and seek to find out their allegiance.” Herric gravely replied, “ I gave my entire life to the city of Eastaria and the Wynrett’s, why do you think I would betray them?” Marcus responded, “The good of Ultana does not rely on Moriar Wynrett. Moriar has been blinded by his hatred. I’m sure you of all people have seen the damage of the decisions he has made because of his hatred.” Heric appeared thoughtful, then told them that they could follow him and turned to walk further into the woods till he lead them to a well concealed cottage. Turning so they could hear him, he says they are welcome to come in.

“What do you really need?” asks Herric. Cyrek explained they needed to know how to get in and out of the Keep without being noticed. “I don’t recognize this guard you speak of, Theycian; his name is new to me. But I can tell you that there is a secret tunnel that connects to the Temple and it’s somewhere in the kitchen. I don’t know where exactly though. The sewers are also an accessible way to get into the Keep.” As Herric shared, he took out a piece of paper that showed a diagram of the Keep. The group all studied it intently, trying to memorize the blueprint. “As far as guards are concerned, Lord Moriar’s personal bodyguard will be very difficult to bribe. All the doors will be locked at all times, so you’ll need to access a key. Certain housekeepers should have access to keys as well. The only people who stay in the Keep are the Wynrett’s and their guards. But keep in mind that they’ll be hiring more security during the Festival as well.” Taking in all of Herric’s insight, Ryo asks, “Does the name Truebrew mean anything to you?” “No, I don’t recognize it at all. If it’s a noble, then it must be a new family that has or is trying to make a name for itself.”

Trying to keep Herric talking, Ryo asked Herric what he knew of the last 20 years that he coul share with them. “How well did you know Jon Wynrett?” Ryo asked. Sighing deeply, Herric’s voice took on a melancholy tone, “Jon had been in Castion for almost a year when he was killed. He had been sent there by his father and was making progress in the elven and human trade policies.” A shadow crossed Herric’s eyes and he grew silent for a moment. “I don’t want to talk about Jon any longer.” Just as they started to wonder if Herric would speak anymore, he shared further, “But Lord Moriar I have known since he was born. I helped teach him to walk! I saw many of the house of Wynrett born and raised in my time. His daughter used to be more like Moriar was as a young man, but things have changed and there’s no hope anymore.” Herric visibly became more tense as his hands clenched at his side. Moved by the obvious sadness over the city and its inhabitants, Marcus asked, “What, sir, is your hope for Eastaria?” “What I hope for Eastaria or what I hope for myself?” queried Herric. “Both,” responded Marcus. “I want my life back and I want vengeance done for what was wronged and on the one who wronged Moriar and I.” Herric was no longer able to hide his agitation and began to lose his composure. His voice cracking and gruff, Herric abruptly ended the conversation. “It’s time for you to leave. I’ve said all I will, you need to go and leave me be.” Some of the group appeared to want to keep asking questions, but Persephone spoke up from a corner where she had been silently observing, “I think we should honor his request and leave.”

The group gathered their belongings and headed out of the cottage, but Ryo and Persephone remained in the cottage. Studying the two elves that stayed behind, Herric glanced back and forth between them. Persephone remained silent as she watched Ryo and Herric converse, observing Herric become more and more tense. “If you knew there was a Wynrett in the room, Herric, would you share more information that could help us?” asked Ryo. Wide eyed and caught off guard, Herric made a quick glance at Persephone, till, glaring at Ryo he asked, “Does she know?” “No,” Ryo responded emphatically. Attempting to show no outward reactions, Persephone remained silent, though inside her mind was spinning as the cryptic conversation played out in front of her. Once more Herric stared at Persephone. “You need to leave. NOW,” he growled. Grabbing Percy’s arm, Ryo dragged Persephone out of the cottage.

Only as the door slammed behind her did Percy react, shaking Ryo’s hand off her arm. Frozen for a moment, not sure what to do next, Percy stared at her companions. Unable to walk away without some answers, she in turn pulled Ryo off to the side. Speaking in elfish, she demanded to know, “What did he mean, ‘Does she know?’” Ryo attempted to deflect the question, saying it was nothing and they should leave. “Ryo. What does he mean?” Percy again asked, her voice stone cold. Ryo looked at Percy, shaking his head. Looking at the ground he confessed, “He means he knows who your father is.” Immediately, Persephone started to walk towards the cottage only to be jolted in her attempt as Ryo once again grabbed her arm, keeping her at bay. “Don’t Percy. You’ll find out soon enough, I’ll tell you myself even. But now is not the right time.” Startled, Persephone pleaded with Ryo, “Ryo, I have wondered my whole life who my father is. If the truth is what I have come to believe it is, it seems he should want to tell me, not keep the truth from me.” Attempting to dissuade her, Ryo continued to argue that now was not the time for her to pursue talking further with Heric. “I have waited so long and if a chance to know the truth is right in front of me, why should I wait?” demanded Persephone. “Just…trust me,” responded Ryo, now pleading. “We have been together for only 2 weeks and you speak of trust?” spit back Persephone. She fought off his arm and made her way towards the cottage. Observing their interaction from a short distance away, Drakon noticed Ryo’s attempts to stop Persephone and her determined strides toward the cottage. Recalling Herric’s threatening tone telling them to leave, he stepped in front of Persephone, attempting to stop her as well. As she brushed off Drakon and managing to escape his attempt to pick her up, she made her way to the cottage, opened the door, and walked in.

While all this was occurring, Malva and Marcus were standing off to the side in their own conversation. Since their walk to the cottage from the cave, Malva had noticed the strange sensation she first felt when she put on the gold ring growing stronger. A lightness had overcome her and she felt compelled to use magic. Using a spell, she felt a weight lift off of her, her body physically feeling lighter. Looking at Marcus she saw he was wearing a silly grin and asked him if he felt different somehow. Marcus responded that he did not but asked Malva, while grinning, how she felt. Trying to explain to him the lightness she felt, Marcus encourages her to jump. And she does! Malva’s jump took her almost 3 times higher than any of her normal jumps ever did before. Stuck between observing Malva and Marcus’s interactions and Malva’s subsequent leaps, and Persephone and Ryo’s confrontation, Cyrek and Drakon look on, confused by all the chaos going on around them. Only when Persephone fought off Ryo’s attempt to stop her, did one of them finally move from their frozen observation point.

But all this Persephone was oblivious to as her mission unfolded before her. Hand shaking, she turned the doorknob and walked into the cabin. As the door closed behind her she suddenly realized she didn’t know how to ask the question that could lead to finding out something she had longed to discover her whole life. She saw Herric sitting at his table nursing a drink, a bottle close at hand. He appeared tired, worn out by the company’s arrival, his thoughts elsewhere till he heard the door close and then jolted alert and stared at Persephone. Wishing to show she meant no harm, Persephone set down her staff and walked closer to Herric. “Sir,” she attempted to speak calmly, “I apologize for my return. I know you have asked us to leave, but I had to come back.” As Herric made no move, she felt safe to continue. Suddenly, in her head, Persephone heard a voice unmistakably that of Marcus, say to her, “Ask him if Jon Wynrett is your father.” Momentarily gritting her teeth, she shook her head as if to eliminate the voice from inside and ignored Marcus’s mysterious intrusion. “Sir, I was in the library in Eastaria and saw a painting that has haunted me since that day. It was of a young man whose eyes were very captivating; eyes that look exactly like those I see when I look into a mirror, and I cannot shake their stare. This has been a mystery to me my whole life, but sir, I believe you can tell me. Is Jon Wynrett my father?”

A moment of silence passed between them till finally Herric sighed and looked down at his half drunken cup. “There are rumors,” he said, “that what you say is true, only rumors. But I can tell you, yes,” deep sadness filling his voice, “ you do have his eyes.” “How can I know if it is true,” she asked. Herric looked directly at Persephone as he responded. “You can ask Elred.” Unable to hide her confusion, eyebrows furrowed, Persephone asked, “And where would I find Elred?” Herric paused. “You could see him now as he’s standing right outside.” Stunned, Persephone took a few faltering steps back. Speechless, she turned around and picked her staff from off the floor. Still struck mute by Herric’s revelation, she walked toward the door; as her hand rose to clutch the doorknob, Herric’s voice broke through her cloud of confusion. “Persephone Selene,” he said. Frozen at the door, Persephone was unable to move or react. “I will give you and your party 24 hours and then I am going to notify Lord Moriar that Elred is in your party.” She ingested his words of warning, and opened the door.

Outside, Ryo remained standing where he and Persephone had argued just moments before. As the last of Persephone and Herric’s conversation came to an end, Ryo looked at the cottage one last time, turned and walked away, disappearing into the forest.

Click Here to continue to Part 3 of Eastaria

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Chapter 3 - Part 1
Eastaria

Two days after their return from the Gloom Swamp, Lord Hector summoned the group back to the Great Hall; all but Sacagawea returned. Lord Hector explained that during the night he had had to send Saca orc-hunting as there was increased orc activity and her assistance was needed. As they settled into their seats, Lord Hector prefaced his new appointment with an opportunity for any member to take their leave. He could not yet explain everything to them as they had not yet earned his full trust. He was aware that what he was about to ask of them was potentially life-threatening; if anyone wished to step away from the group, now was their chance. As no one moved from the Great Hall, Lord Hector proceeded with his speech.

“I believe the Reapers did not kill you because they knew you did not know anything. I assume Zaos knew much more than they were willing to sacrifice, and so they took his life. Based on the letters you brought back, I believe there is a bigger plot at hand centered in Eastaria. Eastaria is ruled by Lord Moriar of the Wynrett Family, who have longed ruled the city. While Lord Moriar and I have often disagreed on many matters, I believed it was only political differences between us. I now believe that Lord Moriar’s distaste for my beliefs has taken an uglier turn and have become personal and devious. Your new mission is to go to Eastaria, discover anything you can about Lord Moriar’s involvement with the bandits and find out who Theycian is. I cannot pay you now, but you will be compensated upon your return.

Furthermore, this mission will require more, shall we say, humility, from some of you. It has long been known that they Wynrett’s have a great dislike of elves. They will not hide their distaste for your presence and for our half-elf comrades, I am afraid your presence will bring even greater displeasure. One of the many areas where Lord Moriar and I differ is in this matter. In Eastaria, half-elves are only present in the city if they are slaves, so you must take this into consideration as you make your plans. “

Lord Hector made apologetic looks at Marcus and Persephone. Marcus appeared unruffled as Perspehone’s jaw became taut, and she refused to make eye contact.

Lord Hector proceeded to speak as he pulled a small, narrow box from his cloak. They all noticed that on the box was a symbol, the same symbol, in fact, that was on the key they had found days before. “I have been collecting boxes like this and two have been stolen from me. I believe these boxes are in Eastaria, and may very likely be in Lord Moriar’s possession. Find the 2 boxes and return them to me.” Ryo questioned the value of the boxes, but unruffled, Lord Hector insisted they were of great significance.

The instructions completed, tools for their journey were handed out. To Marcus and Persephone were given slave wristbands and deeds of ownership. Lord Hector also provided a scroll, which he explained was outlawed by the Aegians and keeping it’s existence secret was of high priority. This magical scroll was connected to another scroll that was in his possession. Anything they wrote on their scroll would appear on his; this would be their method of communication and they were to keep him updated during their stay in Eastaria. Lord Hector also returned the key that Malva had found. He recommended they keep it in Avalar but he explained that he had not been able to find out what it went to.

As it started to appear that all had been said, some began to get up from their seats, only to be stopped by Alfwen. “As we are to head into Eastaria, there is some bit of information I should bring to your attention now. I have not been honest about who I really am and believe it is now time to share the truth with you. My name is not Alfwen, but I am Cyrek Peariner, Lord Hector is my father.”

Shock rumbled through the group as they each reacted to the news. Drakon spoke first, questioning the wisdom of bringing Lord Hector’s son with them to Eastaria. Was it not foolish to take the son of Lord Moriar’s political enemy into an already tense situation? Malva spoke up as well, asking if it would not appear odd to have the son of Lord Hector, a known abolitionist, in the company of slaves? Lord Hector heard their doubts, but assured them that Cyrek was his own person; there was no need for him to present himself as one who followed his father’s personal beliefs. His lineage need not hold him back from going with the group. Cyrek grew up knowing Lord Moriar’s children and his presence could actually be beneficial. Lord Hector also informed them that Lord Moriar had two children but his daughter, Lecell, was his only surviving child. Lecell was courting the Prince of the Empire and rumors were that they would soon be engaged, putting the Wynrett’s in the running for the throne of Ultana.

Lord Hector left the group to discuss their plans, but was followed by Persephone. “Lord Hector, Sir.”

Lord Hector stopped and turned. “Persephone?”

“Sir. You’re aware that Grandmaster Ky sent me here and said I could trust you, but I am about to sacrifice my independence for this mission, to a place where you have warned us my life holds no value. I don’t know if I will return and I do not want to die with out knowing…” she paused, took a deep breath and asked, “Sir, I have long sought information on my family, do you know who my parents are?”

Lord Hector remained unfazed by Persephone’s question. With a sympathetic tone he responded, “Yes, I do. But now is not the right time to discuss that information, I am sorry. When you return, we will talk further.”

Persephone exhaled, unaware she had been holding her breath. “And if I don’t return?”

“ I have faith. If the group gets in trouble, let the Tempest out.” Lord Hector turned and walked away, leaving Persephone standing alone in the hallway, confused and disappointed. After a few minutes, she returned to the Great Hall where the group began to prepare for their journey.

Percy and Marcus gave their money to Drakon for safekeeping. Before departing for Eastaria, Marcus went to a store to purchase a mask that was half lamb, half human with orange stripes, and a grey cloak. They left for Dailyon where they boarded a ship and arrived in Eastaria after two days of travel.

Eastaria, a city built along the coast has massive walls surrounding it. Boasting of the Octoma’s great blessing on the city, Eastaria is known far and wide as the most elite of all human cities. Mainly a trade city, it is much richer than Avalar and the lifestyle appears to be significantly more lavish than Avalar as well. Eastaria is also the home of a huge slave market supported by Lord Moriar Wynrett who is also one of the biggest supporters of the Temple. Though the city may seem diverse, for a trade city, the significant lack of elves is incredibly apparent to any outside observer. As they disembarked the ship they were stopped by a man on the pier who asked what their business in Eastaria was. Cyrek took the lead, explaining who he was and that he and his party had arrived to pay their respects to the Aegian house and to visit the city. “Ah, you have arrived just in time!” the man exclaimed, “for the festival will begin in a few days.” “Ah, yes, the festival!” said Cyrek. They all played along, attempting to not show that most had no idea what festival he spoke of. Cyrek asked where would be the best place for he and his traveling companions to stay. The man directed them to the Silver Spoon Inn, an establishment worthy of such breeding.

They walked through the East Gate, and procured a carriage. As they made their way to the Silver Spoon Inn, they took in the city. They drove through the public markets, a flat area, but see the center of the town come into view – in the very center of which is a hill surrounded by an octagonal wall. They arrived at the Silver Spoon Inn and were greeted by the innkeeper, Kylen, who welcomed the noble guest and recommended they visit the Temple as the festival will soon be upon them. They settled into their rooms and soon Drakon returned to the bar of the Inn to speak with Kylen.

Persuading Kylen of his ignorance of the Festival, Drakon learned what the people of Eastaria would soon be celebrating. Drakon returned to their suite to share his news with the party. The Festival, he had discovered, is the Festival of the Fall of the Dragon Lord. When the Octoma rose to power there were 2 dragon lords, Sadorith, the black dragon, and Kyloth, the white dragon. The Octoma overthrew Kyoth and cast a spell that blasted Sidorth into oblivion. This was the turning point of the war against the dragons. The Wynrett’s celebrate the Octoma and are great supporters of the Temple in Eastaria. Drakon also learned from Kylen that there was another situation they needed to be aware of concerning the Wynrett’s history. There is a moment referred to as “the event” in the city, a moment only whispered of and never openly spoken about. “The Event,” was the devastating loss of Lord Moriar’s son, Jon, who was murdered about 20 years ago. It is know that Jon was killed by an elf, an elf who Queen of the elves, Raelyn Selene, said they would turn over to the Wynrett’s if the murderer was found. No such action was taken though, and a deep rift grew between the Wyrett’s and the elves.

As Drakon shared the history he had learned, Marcus went to his room to put on a disguise and appeared to the group as Thomas Bilkherst, an older gentlemen with a slight hunch. Marcus is undeterred by their requests that he not leave and explore in his disguise. After a few minutes of bickering and imploring, Marcus ignored their growing annoyance, cast an invisibility spell and disappeared in front of them. Invisible to all, he left the suite and made his way to the Temple where he became visible again and introduced himself to a temple cleric. As Thomas Bilkherst, he shared his great interest in the Temple and the Octoma and asked the cleric if he knew of anyone who would dare discredit the Octoma. He, Thomas Bilchurst, had been studying and seeking to expose anyone who would discredit the great Octoma. The cleric expressed great concern and asked Thomas if he would like to meet the High Priestess. Ignoring Thomas’s insistence that that was not necessary, the cleric left Marcus to find the High Priestess. Left standing alone in the temple, Marcus heard a voice in his head yell “Run!”

Immediately, Marcus cast an invisibility spell again and ran from the Temple. At the same moment he cast the spell, an alarm went off in the temple. Cyrek, back at the Silver Spoon Inn, sensed the alarm that had gone out to all clerics, and heard the warning that a rogue spell caster was in the city. He shared the warning with the group. Not sure how else to proceed, they decided to lock the doors and window and all go to their rooms, except for Cyrek and Drakon who decide to go into Marcus’s room. As they are standing in there, they hear a tapping at the window but cannot actually see anyone. Cautiously, Cyrek unlocked and opened the window and just as suddenly as Marcus disappeared, he reappeared in front of Cyrek and Drakon. Cyrek heard a voice in his head, the same voice of Marcus, ask “Why would someone hear a voice in their head?” Not afraid to show his annoyance, Drakon shared his frustration with Marcus’s foolishness and left the room in a huff. Marcus revealed a ring to Cyrek, a ring that bore a great resemblance to one in Lord Hector’s possession. Cyrek remained in the room and told Marcus that he would trust him. Marcus’s voice changed, the brogue accent no longer evident, as he shared some of his history with Cyrek. He had been a carrying magical item for the Silken Underground when he was discovered and thrown in prison. He was told that he could either join the traveling party or face execution. He had made the obvious choice and was told he was now a free man but now he was trying to find someone he needs to have a conversation with. He had discovered he had magical abilities when he accidentally killed a man, but he did not know what happened. Cyrek received Marcus’s confession and left him in his room for the night.

The next morning, when the servants who were serving them breakfast had left, Marcus entered the room and was immediately greeted by questions and accusations. Marcus shared that he had remained in disguise and had gone to the temple and only spoke to one of the clerics. He pretended that he was trying to find out information on people who were discrediting the Octoma and when the cleric had left, he heard a voice in his head that told him to run. Not one to ignore such a strong warning, he went invisible and ran. Because he had used his powers he set off the alarm. When questioned about the voice in his head, Marcus could give no explanation only that he had been hearing voices for about 3 months. Still slightly annoyed at Marcus’s actions, Ryo angrily told Marcus “If you ever threaten the safety of the group again, I’ll put a blade through your throat.” In response, Marcus magically pulled a blade out of his hand, made a snarky comment and returned to his room.

Their first full day in Eastaria included nothing notable, but as evening approached, they all began to prepare to attend the Music Competition that would be hosted at the Silver Spoon. Unknown to most of the party, Marcus donned another costume, the musician Phillip Phelden, and he and Malva made plans to perform in the competition. They all joined the evening’s festivities at the Inn and noticed that there were groups of people playing games and gambling. The party appeared to center around a beautiful woman, one of the guests of honor, Lady Lecell. Also making an appearance at the party was one of the Priestess’. The competition began and several musicians attempted to win the favor of the crowd and Lady Lecell. The team went separate ways in hopes of learning something to help their mission. Seeing Malva in the crowd, Cyrek made his way over to talk with her and wish her luck in the competition. Percy, stuck in the role of obedient servant for the evenings, followed Cyrek through the crowd. Next to Malva was the disguised Marcus, attempting to keep his identity secret from Cyrek. As Malva and Cyrek spoke, Lady Lecell, recognizing Cyrek, walked over and greeted him warmly. “Cyrek! Welcome. Come, join my party! After all, the company is much superior.” Looking at Percy, she snidely remarked, “I’m glad to see that you are following the right thinking and are keeping the mutts in their place.” A cool chill coursed through Perspehone as she kept her head down, attempting to not react to the rude comment.

Across the room, Drakon decided to strike up another conversation with Kylen. Spotting Drakon walking towards him, Kylen snickered and wondered what ignorance Drakon would now display. Greeting Kylen, Drakon struck up a conversation and asked when Jovesh would be making an appearance. Kylen shared that Jovash would not be arriving till the Festival began. As the two chatted, Drakon spotted Ryo across the room trying his hand at one of the games.

Ryo sat down with a group of guards and played a few rounds with them. As he lost another bet to the guards, he made an off-handed comment about how losing money was just like paying his debts to Theycian. The guards apparently saw this as no off-handed comment as they became visibly on edge and asked Ryo if he often came in contact with the governor’s personal bodyguard. Ryo spun a story about owing Theycian money in the past, and apparently passed their momentary doubt as they guffawed and slapped him on the back.

As this conversation was going on, a man appeared on the stage and introduced himself as Kosopho, which the crowd responded to with boisterous cheers and applause. As Kosopho performed, Drakon spotted Lady Lecell and decided to make his way over to her. The walk to her became difficult once Marcus and Malva took the stage and the crowd even more boisterous in response to their excellent performance. As Marcus and Malva walked off the stage Lady Lecell called to them and invited them to join her. Drakon gave up attempting to catch Lady Lecell’s attention and began to notice the presence of a man at his side, standing a bit too close for comfort. Drakon nonchalantly looked around to catch a peek at the stranger standing next to him to see an older gentleman, tall, dark haired and exquisitely dressed. Striking up a conversation with the stranger, Drakon said, “Hello! What, sir, is your name?” “My name, Drakon, is of no consequence. Tell me, how is Kyrex doing?” “Kyrex is dead,” Drakon flatly stated, his eyes furrowed in confusion. “And what brings you to Eastaria, Drakon?” “I’m traveling with friends. I’m sorry, do I know you?” “I have not seen you since you were born.” Drakon stared at the stranger and watched as he took a sip of his drink, only to notice that on the strangers finger was a black onyx ring that bore the Immortal Helix. The dark stranger took his leave of Drakon, leaving him standing with unmasked confusion on his face.

Persephone walked nearby, carrying drinks for Cyrek. Slightly tripping and spilling some of the drink down her front, she cleaned herself off paying no attention to the man walking by her. Her concentration was broken when she heard someone say “Hello Tempest,” but no one was around her when she quickly looked up in shock. Perplexed but knowing she needed to return to her post, she made her way back to Cyrek.

Ryo was still gambling with the soldiers and started to see if he could get any information about Theycian from the guards. As he won a round, the guards divulged that Theycian lived in the Keep. Ryo asks how could get a message to him.

The final round of the music competition began, but Malva had spotted the Dark Stranger leave the Inn and attempted to follow. As she made her way outside the Inn, she saw him enter a stagecoach. Though she decided to not pursue following him, he turns, spotting her and calls out “Well played, Malva, well played.” Emboldened, Malva walks up to the stagecoach. Not far behind her, followed Marcus, who watched as she stood at the stagecoach speaking to whoever was riding inside. Malva asked the Dark Stranger, “What are you doing here? I need to know why you sent me.” “For this very reason, Malva, you have skills beyond your understanding.” Malva stared at him. “I still don’t understand,” she said. “You will in time. Just stick to the plan.” Marcus walked closer to the stagecoach and called out to Malva, “Malva, who is your friend? He is very well dressed.” The Dark Stranger acknowledged Marcus. “And so are you Lodon” as the stagecoach started to drive away, leaving Marcus and Malva standing side by side. Malva looked at Marcus and asked him how he knew the man only for Marcus to state that he didn’t. They returned inside to wait for their turn in the finale.

As Cyrek enjoyed the company of the elite Eastarians, he was greeted by Priestess Calma. “Ah, Priestess Calma. How nice to see you to see you again! Tell me, have you found the perpetrator that was warned of last night?” The Priestess shared that they had not found the person who had set off the alarm but she was sure they soon would. “Tell me Cyrek, who is the large man traveling with you?” “That is Drakon, Priestess Calma. Why do you ask?” “Oh no reason,” she responded. “He’s just quite striking in size, that is all.”

All focus turned to the music competition as Kosopho and Malva and Marcus took their last turns. Both parties played exceptionally well, winning the crowds favor. Lady Lecell made her way to the stage to bring the final judgment and declared a tie! Turning to Kosopho and the duet, she asked that they consider playing as a trio. She granted them a special guest invitation with access to the grand event at the Festival. Lady Lecell had been quite taken with Phillip Phelden throughout the evening and wished him a particularly kind “Good Evening.”

As the festivities drew to a close, the party all returned to their suite to report on the evening’s proceedings. Malva retrieved the sending scroll so they were able to update Lord Hector. Drakon shared about his encounter with the Dark Stranger. Malva shared that it was someone she used to know. She’d run into him a few times in Avalar, but didn’t really know anything about him. Ryo shared that he discovered that Theycian was one of the personal bodyguards to Lord Moriar and he could be found in the Keep. Malva recorded their discoveries on the scroll, her words disappearing, giving way to Lord Hector’s response. Their discoveries were a great start but they would need to find more. Lord Moriar, Lord Hector replied, houses his bodyguard in the Keep. He suggested they try to learn the layout for the barracks. “About the Dark Stranger,” Lord Hector wrote, “ His appearance is interesting but not shocking. He is an ally but a shifty one. Don’t tell him more than you need to.” As no other response returned, they wrote back to Lord Hector asking if he had a blueprint for the keep. “I do not,” he said, “but there is a man named Herric who, if you can find him, I believe would be able to help you.”

4 days yet remained till the start of the Festival.

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Chapter 2 - Part 2
Doom and Gloom

- Part 2 -

Upon arrival, Marcus immediately made his way to the Lakehead Inn to see what the assistant inn-keeper would know about Caulder’s sudden disappearance. Alfwin made his way to the provisioner to see what he could tell him about the supplies Caulder had bought, and Saca made her way to the shrine of the Octoma in town. Marcus was told to check with the dockmaster in town, Alfwin found out that Caulder owned his own boat from the lewd, elderly shop owner Jyaek (Percy was there, and did not enjoy the experience), and Saca was offered some sort of reward for any information about the contents of the wagon that had been brought back to Avalar. She learned that the The Aegian Order was searching for any information proving that Lord Hector was against the Octoma.

We gathered back together, and shared this information after which Alfwin and Drakon made their way to the docks to see what could be discovered of Caulder’s boat, and sailing habits.

While this was happening, Marcus disguised himself as an elderly human whom he named Thomas Bilkherst. He inquired about the formation of cults, and what different cults had cropped up among the people of Ultana, and how to spot such cult activity. He sought to find information about the voices in his head without being direct, but the priest seemed to be suspicious of “Thomas’ questions and left Marcus without answers.

At the same time, Alfwin and Drakon had discovered information regarding the habits of Caulder to leave with his boat toward the Gloom Swamp, and be gone for several days. They also learned the cost of renting the boats, and though they possessed a writ of passage from Lord Hector, they would have to foot the cost, which would be reimbursed to them upon their return from the Gloom Swamp. He also gave them warning to avoid the northern edge of the swamp as multiple ships had been lost in that area with little revelation as to why. The group came back together and had a long discussion about whether or not they should leave for the Gloom swamp tonight or on the following morning. The group decided to head for the swamp during the remaining sunlight available to them, and to make camp at the edge of the Gloom Swamp.

The group awoke the next morning and began making their way up the river into the swamp, keeping their eyes peeled for any indication that Caulder had been through. They made sure the canoes were well hidden, and mad their way down a stone path which they had landed next to. They had very little luck on the first day, and on the beginning of the next morning they continued a little further, and, upon finding no signs of passage, made their way back to the canoes to head further up the river. They made it back to the canoes as the second day came to a close. Attempting to make up for lost time, those of elven blood continued through the night while the others rested.

The group continued through the following day, and found a path that they followed. From the road, they could see the river splitting in the distance. They made camp that night, and in his sleep, Marcus heard a voice telling him that the group should continue deeper into the swamp.

When they awoke the next morning, Marcus informed the group of this development and how these things had helped in the past. They made their way back to the river, and continued further into the swamp. They continued up the river, and as they continued Malva began to get antsy for lack of things to do. Marcus saw this and handed her a bar of soap and a knife for her to whittle if she wanted to. She gave him a very quizzical look, and he realized he may have just given her the impression that he thought she smelled like she needed to bathe. He said nothing.

As they continued, Persephone thought she saw something in the distance, and leaned forward to get a closer look. As she did, she pitched out of the boat and into the water. Seeing this, he looked in the direction Persephone had been looking when she fell out of the boat. He saw a canoe hidden in the brush on the side of the river. The group made their way to where the canoe was docked, and made camp on the side of the river. During Drakon’s watch, they group was assaulted by a Carrion Crawler whom Drakon and Ryo spotted. The group awoke to Drakon’s shouts of danger and rallied to combat the foe. It failed to land a single blow during the entire encounter, and it was ended by Persephone’s staff with a sickening squelch and a miserable dying gurgle. It was last watch, so the group gathered their gear and broke camp.

They continued down the path until an old, crumbling wall came into view in the distance. Percy, Marcus, and Ryo made their way to the wall ahead of the party to scout, but were spotted in their approach by Captain Zaos. The alarm was sounded, and the men inside were rallied for a fight while the rest of the group made their way to meet up with the less than successful scouting party. They gathered outside the wall and rushed in upon the enemies within. As they turned the corner, they were met by a hail of arrows and the oncoming Caulder with a small retinue of soldiers. Saca attempted to sneak in the back to hit the enemies from behind, but due to unexpected rough terrain, she ended up getting into the fray well after her allies. Marcus and Ryo found themselves bogged down in the mud of the swamp as their allies rushed forward, and lost time tearing themselves free of the muck. They made of for the lost time however as Ryo summoned the magic of the woods to leap to the top of the wall and begin showering their enemies with arrow after arrow. Marcus bent his intent to running into the fray and felt the still unaccustomed magic flow through him and hasten his advance. He ran past the others and met Caulder head on as the rest of the team cut down the archers and soldiers closest to the entrance. Early in the fight, Captain Zaos was knocked unconscious, and left to be taken care of later. Drakon made his way up to Marcus’ side and they stood shoulder to shoulder against Caulder and his men. Though Saca was late to the fight, she hit the remaining soldiers as an unseen sledge, cleaving down two of them with one sweep of her mighty halberd. Alfwin rained bolts of fire on the soldiers from the entrance to the neglected fort, and they returned fire from the other side of the riverbed that ran through the fort. Persephone ran through like a lethal wind, landing blows upon multiple enemies as she flew across the battlefield at an astounding speed. The battle was ended as the soldiers were felled by the onslaught of the rest of the party, and Drakon landed a mighty blow against Caulder, cleaving his head from his shoulders. The party collected the unconscious Zaos and made their way to the dilapidated keep to search for the stolen materials they had been sent to find.

They only found a relatively small amount of gold considering what had been stolen, and none of the other goods. They attempted to rouse Zaos, but were unable to do so. Marcus found a note from an individual named Theycian from Eastaria regarding the materials that had been stolen form Lord Hector.

As the others looked around, Malva discovered a secret compartment that contained an intricate key inscribed with the Immortal Helix. They gathered to discuss what they found, and Saca informed the others that the Aegians were interested in what Lord Hector was transporting, causing the plot to thicken even further.

Later that night, as the group attempted to sleep, they heard Zaos begin screaming. They awoke to see a man dressed all in black drive a dagger into the body of Zaos. Ryo fired an arrow that found no purchase as the man disappeared once again. The party made their way to Zaos to find his body shriveled and nearly mummified, a strange mark where the blade had pierced his body. Malva made a quick sketch of the mark, and the party returned to sleep, having no leads to go off of. The following day, the group took the head of Zoas and made their way back to the Lakehead Inn. Drakon acquired passage back to Avalar, Alfwin had a drink with Jyaek, and the party milled about, attending to different things. They received news that they could return to Lord Hector, so they returned to Avalar and informed him of all that had happened. They showed him the head of Zaos, the note from Theycian, the Key, and the information of the Aegians looking into his actions.

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Chapter 2 - Part 1
Doom and Gloom

Dissension in the ranks.

When Lord Hector learned Captain Zaos had turned against him with the help of Caulder, he was furious. He did not show how great his displeasure was to the band of adventurers he had gathered under him. Only Alfwin was able to see the true extent of Lord Hector’s anger, but he kept it to himself. He knew his father’s moods better than anyone but Miquesh. He found a small amount of pleasure in knowing more than his fellows, but it was soon overwhelmed by a sense of anxiety and betrayal as he thought of the moment he would be forced to reveal his true heritage. He steeled himself and listened as his father turned from Miquesh to address the group.

“We have looked into one of the locations which your information may have described, and found it empty. This means that Captain Zaos and Caulder are hiding in the Gloom Swamp , but, I cannot give you an exact location. It is up to you to find them, and put a stop to them. You are going to put a stop to their theft, and find a small wooden box with this insignia upon it.” He held out his ring, etched with the Immortal Helix. “You are welcome to keep whatever other wealth you might find.”

He finished with his instructions, allowing the group access to the keeps stores under the stipulation that they return all resources taken. The group had some questions, but after having them answered, were ready to make their way to the provisioned to prepare for the quest. Some of the members wanted to make other, more permanent purchases, and made their way to one of the general stores in town. As they shopped, Marcus saw the Tiefling who’s grandmother had been murdered on their first day as a group, and went over to speak with him. The Tiefling informed Marcus that he would probably be able to get some information at the Golden Goat, a shady establishment run by a man named Olan. Marcus decided to make his way to the Golden Goat, under disguise, and Malva offered to join him because of her connection to the innkeeper, Olan. They made their way to the Golden Goat, but Marcus asked all the wrong questions and was summarily dismissed as Malva continued with her conversation. She was able to get from Olan the location of an abandoned warehouse which was being used by some less than innocuous individuals as a base of operations. For what, Olan could not tell her, but he thought it may have something to do with the muggings and deaths occurring around Avalar. After receiving this information the pair returned to the main group. Marcus informed everyone about what they had learned, and told the group that he had to check out the warehouse, and he would be happy of their assistance but didn’t think it within his rights to ask them for it. They decided as a group to check out the ware house, and made their way to the riverside district.

They arrived at the warehouse near mid-day, and paused out of the vision of the guard in the window to discuss what they were going to do. After a short discussion, Drakon announced to the group that he would take care of talking to the guard, and strode off toward the door. As Drakon approached the front, Ryo made his way around the right side, and Malva sneaked off around the left. Upon seeing Drakon, the guard snapped out of his stupor and jumped to his feet from his chair.

“Oi, What are doin’ around hear? This ’ere is provite priperty!” The man, with a slurred speech that denoted a less than intelligent mind, shouted from the window.
“What’s your name?” Shouted Drakon.
“Jack Bob! Who’s askin’?” The man shouted in return as Drakon’s brow furrowed in confusion.
“I’m here as a friend of Lord Hector and I wanted to see what is inside this building.” Drakon shouted back.
“Well… … … … You can’t…” The man replied, seemingly taken aback by the response that Drakon had offered him. "I’ts my ‘ome see, and you can’t see it.
“I was told it was abandoned, so how is it your home, and if your’e allowed inside, then why am I not?”
“Yer jus not! Now go away!”

The rest of the group watched on in horror as Drakon continued to talk for the better part of ten minutes.

Finally, Marcus decided the verbal Battle Royal needed to come to an end and stepped out into the street. He hailed the two and made his way to the front of the building.

While Marcus was walking forward, Malva, who was hiding around the side of the warehouse, saw men sneaking out from a side entrance. She attempted to get the attention of the rest of the party, but they were too enthralled with the show at the entrance.

The men made their way to the front, and upon realizing the people at the entrance posed no threat, they stowed their weapons and walked out as though they had come from the adjacent bar.

They bantered with Drakon and Marcus giving them the same run around as the man in the window, and decided to send a guard to get the town guard. Marcus decided that it was time to open the door, and so he did so. He checked to see how it was secured, and deftly slid his sword between the doors and shoved the bar on the door out of it’s sconces. As soon as he had done so the man who was running to get the guards clutched his head and screamed; falling to the ground dead. Everything erupted into chaos as the men drew their weapons and began laying into each other. Drakon immediately ran to the back of the warehouse to see what the men were hiding.

While everyone was still arguing around front, Ryo looked around the side of the building to see what was going on around back. When he got to the back he saw a man in a boat with crates on. As he saw this, shouting erupted from the front, and Ryo decided he should act if he was to stop the man getting the boat down the river. He used his reserves of magical energy to leap from the side of the dock all the way to the boat, and engaged the man as a pulse of magical power sent waves pulsing out from the back of the building.

The rest of the crew around front charged into the fray and began laying into the men from the warehouse. Persephone ran from around the building across the way, moving like the wind. She was across the street in under three seconds and striking before the men even knew she was there while the rest of the party began running as fast as they could in an attempt to get across the street, the dwarf trying as hard as she possibly could to keep up, and after a short while, the men outside had been restrained. One of the men had collapsed onto the ground next to Marcus weeping about the voices in his head, even though nothing had apparently happened to him. He hadn’t even been struck, but he had completely given up.

Drakon broke through the door at the back, and saw the boat manned by one of the men, and summoned the power from within him to stop the man.

STOP.” The single word boomed out across the water in a pulse of power and the man dropped the paddle he was holding and stood stock still, as Ryo flew out from the side of the docks and landed with a thud in the bottom of the boat. The two of them attempted to convince the man to stop, but he continued fighting, and finally died at their hands. They opened the crates, and found slaves inside, one of which was a half-orc girl, and decided it would be best to transport the slaves back without letting Saca know there was a half-orc involved.

When Malva saw that the group was headed back, minus Ryo for some reason, she decided to make her way back before the others did. Everyone made their way back to the docks next to the keep, where Drakon disappeared came back with a cart which was used to transport people from the river back to the keep. When they made it back to the keep, Drakon began having a quite conversation with the guards and refused to let them search the wagon. When Miquesh came out, Drakon began speaking with him.

Ryo finally walked forward and said in a hushed tone, “We have slaves in the back, one of them is a half-orc.” As soon as the words were out Drakon looked at Ryo with rage and confusion because he thought they should have been more discrete.

The group finally made their way into Lord Hector’s main hall where they debriefed after what had happened. He told them to turn in for the night and not to leave the keep until he had spoken with them again.

On the following day, the group made their way back into the Main Hall. Lord Hector informed them that the man who had escaped had yet to be found, and they were not to let themselves be seen as they left. They made their way down to one of the gates and left as the sun was rising.

They arrived in Myst Point around midday, and immediately began searching for information on how they could find Caulder.

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Chapter 1
Cross Roads

The group meets for the very first time under Lord Hector’s roof: Drakon, Malva, Marcus, Persephone, Ryo, & Sacajawea. One human, two half elves, a wood elf, a dwarf, and a halfling…not the bunch you are likely to see together in your neighborhood pub. Nonetheless, Lord Hector chose each one – so there must be some greater purpose at play here than the usual social standards.

They were given their first mission: to escort one of Lord Hector’s caravan’s back from a town called Cross Roads (there had been much bandit action along this road). While waiting for their departure time to arrive, they happened upon a ruckus in the city. The source of which being the body of a murdered Tiefling woman. Marcus seemed to carry the weight of this death quite heavily and pledged to the dead woman’s son that he would avenge her death.

They left soon after as they could do nothing else and gathered at the city gates. While there they met up with their final party member Alfwin and Captain Zaos. He was to lead the party to Cross Roads and back and, as he proudly told them, no caravans had every been lost under his command.

The group set off for Myst Point (their first stop on their way to Cross Roads) and before they had gotten too far into their journey they were met with their first obstacle: wolves. They were eventually able to kill the pack but several members of their group sustained injuries. It was at this point that they discovered that Alfwin, the most recent addition to their party, was a cleric and claimed healing capabilities. After they took a brief time to rest and deal with the worst of the injuries they continued on to Myst Point without any other incidents delaying them.

Once there they checked into the Lakehead Inn and met the innkeeper Caulder. Alfwin almost immediately started to question Caulder about what he knew about the bandit activity on the road leading through their town. He got nowhere however as Caulder claimed to know nothing and seemed put off by the intense questioning. Two other members of the group, Malva & Marcus offered to entertain Caulder’s guests for the evening and that seemed to diffuse the situation. While the evening progressed members of the group began to notice a mist coming out over the lake obscuring it from their view.

After they had finished playing, Marcus noticed a man sitting in the corner who appeared to be paying particular attention to their group. He had a distinctive scar on his face. When he noticed that he had attracted the attention of Marcus, he immediately left the inn. Marcus attempted to follow him but was unsuccessful.

The group decided to retire for the evening and set out fresh in the morning. Unknown to the rest of the group however, Persephone did not feel trust towards Zaos and planned on entering his room during the cover of night and seeing if she could find any evidence to support her feeling. She entered his room and was unaware that her actions were noticed by Marcus and Ryo who happened to be coming out of their rooms at the same time that she was entering Zaos’. Her search was cut short when she accidentally stepped on a creaky floorboard and woke him up. He was immediately on edge (understandably) and, calling her a half-breed, commanded that she leave his room. She left quickly and then saw that Ryo and Marcus were waiting in the hallway to see what she was about. She would have walked by them in silence except that Ryo stopped her and told her to mind her own business. She got even more frustrated and continued on to her room as Marcus also said that it would be be best for them all to head to bed.

They left in the morning and arrived in Cross Roads by dinner time without anything else happening on the road. Zaos went to arrange for their party to stay at the Orc-Inn-Stone while the rest of the group decided to take a look around. They got off to a rough start however as Marcus was almost immediately singled out by a guard and had to run off with the guard in pursuit. He sought out Zaos who vouched for him but was highly unhappy with the ruckus the group was causing right off the bat. Almost immediately after, which in hindsight might be seen as humorous, Malva was brought to Zaos in guard’s custody for wandering around where she did not belong without good reason for why she was there or who she was with. After also diffusing that situation Zaos went into the inn in a huff to drink and eat. The rest of the group soon followed.

They were greeted by the innkeeper Vidimir who began to show them around the inn. In particular, he seemed quite excited to show them the reason for the name of the inn…in the very center of the dining hall was a great stone statue of an orc…clearly caught in the act of taking a dump.

Vidimir had found the statue while exploring the forest to the west. There was a tourist site there that some hunters found a couple years back. While hunting they came across what was an orc raiding party that had been turned to stone. Vidimir was exploring the site and found this statue in the river. It must have fallen. He had the statue brought back to Cross Roads and used it as the base of the name of his inn.

The group might have just chuckled at the irony of this statue except that Sacajawea, the dwarf of their party, immediately became enraged and moved to strike down the statue. She was only stopped by Drakon who overpowered her handed her weapons to Persephone who stood nearby, and took her upstairs to lock her in her room. Both Drakon and Percy (Persephone) stayed with her but she refused to engage them in conversation.

The next morning the group met up with their designated caravan and set out back towards Avalar. They hadn’t gotten too far when Captain Zaos was pulled away from the group to go deal with an uprising. With no other choice but to press on, the group continued on their journey.

Around the middle of the day they encountered what they had hoped to avoid. A tree had been placed in the middle of the road as a barricade and the scarred man the Marcus had seen was standing on top of it waiting for them. He called out saying that they were surrounded and that their only choice was to surrender the wagon and its contents to him.

Drakon, who happened to be positioned in the front, moved forward to address the man (Rash was his name) when he was struck by an arrow which revealed that his statement about being surrounded was correct. A short struggle ensued as the group fought their attackers. Before too long all of the bandits (including Rash) had been struck down except for one – who the group decided to take back for further questioning by Lord Hector as they had not managed to get anything useful out of him.

They continued with the caravan on to Myst Point where they passed a brief night before they continued on to Avalar. However, before they left they did discover that the innkeeper there, Caulder, had disappeared almost as soon as they had departed themselves.

When they arrived at Avalar they were met by Miquesh, Lord Hector’s right hand man, who took over care of the wagons. He told them that they were expected by Lord Hector the next morning to debrief.

The morning came and the meeting started. Marcus handed over a letter to Hector (to the surprise of the rest of the group) which he had apparently found on Rash’s body. It revealed to everybody’s shock that both Caulder and Zaos were involved in the bandit activity. Lord Hector reproved Marcus for not being open with the rest of the group about his discovery and declared that he expected us to work together in openness and unison. He then said that he would notify them when he needed them next and left the room.

The group disbursed – some staying in Hector’s care as he had promised housing in return for work and some made their own way in Avalar. Waiting until their next meeting.

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