Glenn's Eberron Campaign

Thoris Greenly - Epilogue
Thoris's Epilogue

Epilogue – Thoris Greenly

The sound of hurried footsteps echoed through the vacant corridors, but nobody was around to hear. It was Ritual Day, and everyone had places to be and things to do that had been rehearsed so many times they could have done it in their sleep. However, sleep was the last thing on anyone’s mind, especially Daphne’s. In fact, Daphne could not remember the last time she had slept, but that did not stop her from running down the grand corridors. She kept a large book tightly grasped to her left side, but many of her components and trinkets spilled from her robe as she turned a corner. Daphne wanted to go to the Ritual chamber, but she knew that on this day, only authorized personnel were allowed even close to the doors. Instead, Daphne ran to the quarters of her good friend Dewy. Daphne hoped Dewy was sleeping in like he usually did, for the situation would be more dire if he had already left for the Ritual chamber.

Daphne finally came up beside the door to Dewy’s room. Outside the door stood two armed skeleton guards, each brandishing a spear and shield. As Daphne approached the door the two skeletons continued to blankly stare at the wall parallel to them, as if the world disinterested them. She muttered the safety words when she got close then reached panting for the handle and threw the door open. The room was filled with stacks of books and spell components. A tall desk and bed were pushed against the walls, and a very fat not-Dewy sat on the stool by the desk.

“Fredric… what…what are you doing here?”

The fat man looked up at Daphne, startled. “DAPHNE! What are YOU doing here? I thought you were supposed to help with the Ritual.”

Daphne frowned. “I am supposed to help with the Ritual, but I found something rather troubling. Where is Dewy?”

Fredric gave Daphne a strange look. “He got up early to go to the prison before the Ritual starts.”

“He never gets up early.”

“_Everyone_ got up early today, Daphne. In fact, why aren’t you off casting spells? I thought you had an important role in today’s,” Fredric through up his hands sarcastically, “festivities.”

“I do. Did. Er, still do but… look I just need to talk to Dewy!” Daphne turned and slammed the door not out of malice but out of hurry. As she continued her run down the hallway, she could’ve sworn the empty bone sockets of the guards followed her movement.

She still kept the book close at her side, securing the many meticulously labeled bookmarks from the same fate as her spell components. She finally reached the staircase leading down to the castle dungeons. At the bottom of staircase was an iron door and another set of skeletal guards. Their would-be eyes glared at her suspiciously. She again reached past them and threw open the doors. Daphne had never really spent a lot of time here, and did a quick scan of the room. There were a number of large cells on this floor, each packed with half a dozen people of different shapes and sizes. A few wardens sat lazily in chairs, leading Daphne to believe these were not the most dangerous of prisoners. About halfway deep into the room stood Dewy, who was mid conversation with a charismatic looking prisoner.

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“Don’t worry,” Dewy said reassuringly, “I’m sure something can be worked out after the Ritual. The Master is merciful and just.”

“Thank you,” the prisoner replied, “we’ll even serve in t’Master’s army if’n he sees fit. We didn’t mean no harm, really.”

“Even if you are guilty, your crimes are not punishable by death.”

“Thank you!” The prisoner said while he and the others bowed humbly.

Dewy then turned to see Daphne and his mouth fell open, “What are you doing here?! You’re supposed to be casting spells for the Ritual!”

“Dewy, we need to talk. Somewhere private would be ni-”

Dewy grabbed Daphne’s arm and began leading her away from the cells. The skeleton guards seemed to shoot her hateful glances as she was lead further from the room. The two eventually stopped halfway down the grand corridor and Dewy forcefully turned Daphne to face him, giving her the first real look of him she had had in a while. He is well groomed, she noted, he never combs his hair like that… he even put on scented oils. Despite his clean face and formal attire, Dewy’s face was not amused.

“Daphne, you have to get to the Ritual chamber immediately! This is the Master’s big day! He needs you! He needs me! Without your spells something could go wrong.”

“Something will go wrong if I cast the spells as well.” Daphne replied.

Dewy gave her a shocked stare, “What do you mean? Is the Master in trouble?”

“You could say that,” Daphne continued, “the Ritual doesn’t do what we originally thought. It will turn him into an undead.”

Dewy laughed. “You really had me scared there for a moment Daph. Of course that’s what it does, he’s never been secretive of that. We’ve all known that would be the case for years now.”

“No, you don’t understand Dewy, it won’t just turn him into a lich, look at these notes.”

Daphne finally relieved her tight grasp of the book at her side and presented it to Dewy. She opened to the first bookmark.

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“The Ritual will turn the Master into a lich, but also strip away his soul. Although we see undead as mindless tools and weapons the process of becoming a lich is far more dangerous and evil. Look at the first of the spells I’ve bookmarked, a basic animation spell.”

“I could cast that in the belly of a Tarrasque. What of it?”

“Notice the wording, the spell restores the creature’s body, but not the soul. Now, look here.” She flipped to the second bookmark. “Raise dead, the simplest form of resurrection. Although the spell requires powerful components and is more difficult to cast, you can see here that the spell restores both the body and the soul. It effectively opens a planar portal to the soul so that it may return to and fuse with the body. See how it uses motions from transmutation, and both the healing and teleportation sub-schools of conjuration?”

“Where are you going with this Daph?”

“Look at the notes the Master gave us for the Ritual.” Daphne flipped to the third bookmark. “I didn’t notice at first, not until you couldn’t figure out some of your part and gave me a copy of your notes.” Dewy blushed embarrassedly. “Anyways, after you got the hang of it I kept the copy of your notes and was able to compare it to my own part in the Ritual. See here, the Ritual not only restores the body, but poisons the soul. It opens a similar planar portal but taints the soul on the return trip. Do you see Dewy? We must do something about this.”

Dewy paused for a long time, frowning at the open book.

“Dewy?”

“I heard you Daphne.” he said, shutting the book and returning it to her arms. “I heard you, but I don’t believe you. I refuse to believe someone so good could fall so hard. The Master has done nothing but good for us and many others across the land. He’s supported many good causes since the Great Forging. All the boy ever wanted was to become a powerful mage and help others. We have worked for him for years and now you abandon your trust in him for a spell so powerful you can barely understand?”

“I am not saying I don’t trust the Master I’m only saying he might have missed something. All I ask is that we give it more time.”

“We’ve been preparing for months! I think you’re just getting cold feet Daphne.”

“I am not getting cold feet! Dewy I’ve been up for days because I want to save our Master, not to plot against him.”

“If you’ve been up for days that might explain all this nonsense. Maybe you just need to rest Daphne, you look exhausted.”

“No. I will not rest until the Master himself sees this.”

Daphne’s words echoed through the empty hall, and the ensuing silence was only interrupted by her angry and tired heaves.

“By now the Ritual Day is in full swing, and there’s little you can do to stop me from doing my part. I will tell the Master you are too sick to perform today, but the Ritual will find a way to go on.”

Dewy started down the hall, heading for the Ritual chamber, and Daphne quickly realized there was no way she could keep up. Dewy got further and further away as Daphne practically limped down the halls.

If I’m not going to be allowed to cast in the Ritual today, I might as well use my spells now.

Daphne began to cast but instead tripped on her robe and fell hard on the ground. She rolled over onto her back and saw down the hallway behind her. Two skeleton guards marched aimlessly down the hallway, but their eyes seemed fixed on Daphne. Daphne saw them approaching and began to panic._ They are just on patrol. They know nothing of what you have been doing_, Daphne told herself. She crawled around the corner and summoned what was left of her energy into a single propulsion spell. She slid rapidly across the castle floor until she crashed into the wall at the other end of the corridor. Dewy was once again in her sight along with the door to the Ritual chamber. At either side of the ornate doors stood a skeleton guard. They had no eyes but they looked seemed to look at Daphne with hate and distrust.

“DEWY!” She cried frantically.

Dewy turned around to see Daphne and frowned once more. He gestured to the skeletons and entered the Ritual chamber, shutting the doors behind him. The skeletons lowered their spears and advanced on Daphne.

“NO!” She screamed again while flailing her arms in front of her. A sheet of fire whipped out and split one of the skeletons in half. The other continued its silent advance while Daphne worked her way to her feet. She gave a quick stomp and a stone tile from the castle floor ascended from beneath the second skeleton, crushing it against the ceiling. Daphne panted and began walking toward the Ritual chamber doors. Not a moment later Daphne felt a pair of bony hands grab her from behind. She turned to see the two from the prison door. They were unarmed but the one held her tightly and lifted her off the ground. It turned as if to take her back down the hall, but Daphne had energy for one last spell. She sucked in enough breath for 20 men and expelled it in a sharp and loud sonic blast. The two prison guards were obliterated into clanking storms of bones as they blew against the wall. Daphne was not-so-gently released from their grapple and returned to the floor of the corridor. As her eyes began to shut against her will she stretched a hand toward the Ritual chamber doors. Then it all went black.

Daphne could not say how much time had passed when she finally opened her eyes again. A growing cloud of green smoke filled the corridor as it billowed out from underneath the Ritual chamber doors. Daphne managed to walk over to the door despite the thickening green cloud. She stopped however, when she got halfway and her footsteps turned into a sloshing sound. She heard screams and cries for mercy from behind the door. She listened nervously to them before finally finding the courage to look down. Melted puddles of contorted faces floated and oozed out from beneath the chamber door. The faces of the dead split as they parted on Daphne’s trembling legs. Dewy’s face oozed out from underneath the door last, floating between Daphne’s legs but parting on a skeletons skull as it flooded down the corridor. Only then did Daphne break. She turned away from the Ritual chamber doors and began to run but slipped on melted flesh instead. She had never stood up faster in her life, but froze once she regained her footing.

The doors to the Ritual chamber had opened and what was left of Thoris Greenly slowly walked down the corridor. Daphne felt herself spin in place to face the lich against her will, more flesh goop piling on the fringes of her robe. He outstretched his skeletal hand and she felt herself lift off the ground, a gift of which she was only momentarily thankful. She seemed to regain control of her limbs but her neck began to tighten and she could no longer breathe. A small army of undead began forming ranks behind Thoris as they emerged from the unlit Ritual chamber.

“Eat her first, then the prisoners. Dawn will be upon us soon, and by then we shall have lost the element of surprise.”

The last thing Daphne heard was the snapping of her own neck.

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Kicero Aran - Epilogue
Kicero's Epilogue

Epilogue – Kicero Aran

The army spanned for what seemed like miles. Mattieu flew over a dozen ranks of pikemen, two dozen battalions of swordsmen, rows of cavalry, and several other bands of freelancers, renegades, and adventurers. He turned his gaze back in front of him, back to the skies. Fellow mages dotted the sky above the army. Flying calmly, their robes billowed in the wind. Like many of the other mages, Mattieu had been gifted with an impressive aptitude for the arcane. Mattieu was an accomplished sorcerer, and had been casting spells with relative ease his entire life. He was a strong young lad, and given his natural gift for evocation magic and his desire to see the world, he signed up for the military almost as soon as he could. His orange-red robe was plated in thin sheets of enchanted metal, and his robe ended just below his waist, revealing a pair of mithril greaves. He flew with grace, for he was no stranger to the skies. Flight was one of his earliest mastered spells, making him the envy of many young wizards and sorcerers when he was still in academy. This was not Mattieu’s first battle, but he could tell whose it was simply by looking at their faces.

They are afraid, thought Mattieu, afraid he cannot be defeated a second time.

Up ahead the sorcerer could see the hill where the battle would take place. A sea of tainted earth spilled out from the black hill. The necropolis was still a near ruin from the last time the Silver Flame slew the Archlich Thoris, but it was active now. Ghouls and wights lined up in ranks far in the distance, prepared to obey their master’s every whim and command. Somewhere in the ocean of undead was Thoris, who had risen again to continue his necromantic conquests. Without the help of the legendary paladin Gideon Rosethorn, many said that this time would be more difficult, and many more said that this time would be impossible. Many, however, did not include Mattieu. Without Gideon, there was a need of a different great warrior; someone to fight the Archlich and hold their ground. This time the army was led by a different champion, and Mattieu was confident in the champion’s abilities.

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Many had heard of Kicero the Red, but few in the army had seen him. It was well known that he was one of the Forgers, but few knew him well, and fewer still knew him like Mattieu. Mattieu saw the great sorcerer flying nearby, but was still stumbling over what he would say to his greatest idol.

Kicero the Red, he thought, Master of Fire, Lord of Flame, The Silent Slaughterer. What will I say to him? Will he think me weak? I have proven myself a worthy mage, but even my greatest achievements pale in comparison to what he’s done. Will he like me? What if I say the wrong things?

Mattieu found it odd that these were more concerning to him than the impending battle, but he could not help but feel confident that they would win. After all, they had Kicero the Red on their side, how could they lose to some lich pretender? Ki had taken down foes just as strong before, why should this be any different?

Up ahead the army had come to a halt. In his haze Mattieu had almost flown past the front lines, but stopped himself at the last second and allowed himself to descend down to the black and tainted soil. Mattieu could still not believe he would get to fight alongside his idol. Everything he had planned to say got caught in his throat as the time to speak with Ki drew closer. Soon many other mages landed next to him.

“Thorren, Gulf, Dakhan, Corwick, you go and meet up with Deniref the Black. Mattieu, Isa, Leroana, Banre, you should go meet Ki the Red. The rest of you stay with me.”

Mattieu’s heart dropped into his stomach.

This is really happening. I can still wake up… no, I am actually going to meet him! Good lord, I sound like a blooming girl who just saw her first knight!

Mattieu squeaked to himself as he began to walk toward the center of the army. He had read all of the books available on Kicero the Red. He had heard tales of the powerful sorcerer since he was a boy, and always dreamed of meeting him. Ki was Mattieu’s own inspiration for learning to master evocation, and Mattieu had studied Ki’s exploits extensively.

Finally he and the other mages rounded a group of soldiers to see the man in the flesh. He stood leaning slightly on a staff, with well-kept greying hair and a beard. He didn’t look particularly fit but the gods had blessed him with the gift of sorcery, so that was forgiveable. His clothes were tight fitting for a mage, and he preferred to go robe-less, sticking to leather pants and an embroidered cloth shirt and vest. He openly carried many magical items, as if to flaunt his power. The four mages bowed humbly before the master in front of them, and he spoke:

“Since you have all been placed under me, I expect you to do exactly as I say. Those of you with any available protection or enhancement spells, raise your hand.”

All four raised a hand, but Mattieu’s hand was up the quickest.

“Excellent, now before the battle starts, cast them all on me. During the battle, I expect you all to spend most of your time keeping minions away from me while I fight the lich.”

Banre frowned, “We could help you fight the lich, I prepared a good deal of offensive spells for just that.”

“That will be useless,” Ki said, “none of you are powerful enough to get a spell through to the lich, only I have such power. Your effort is better spent giving me time to charge my more powerful spells.”

This time Leroana piped up, “But master Ki, I have quite good control over my evo-”

Ki cut her off mid-sentence by sternly saying, “If you can control your power, you haven’t got enough.”

Leroana winced a little, but held her tongue.

“Any hour or longer spells cast on me now. I will need time to prepare. Your evocation spells are better spent on the hordes of undead below.”

The mages lined up and quickly cast their spells on Ki, then left to prepare. When it came Mattieu’s turn, he blurted: “It’s so great to finally meet you. I’ve heard legends, tales, and I can’t wait to see you in action. Uhhh… if you don’t mind, I prepared a few spells specifically for you, to help prevent necromantic spells from harming you. Shall I cast them now or later?”

“Now will be fine, I expect we will battle within the hour. The dead seldom wait for you to prepare. That is good thinking kid, what’s your name?”

“My name is Mattieu sir, and I would like to again express how much it means to me to finally meet you. It might be a little brash, but you are my hero sir. I’ve read every book and scroll to ever so much as mention you, and know that if anyone can win this fight, it’s you.”

Kicero paused before responding, which drove Mattieu into a temporary nervous fit, but he relieved the poor boy by smiling.

“Thank you, it’s good to meet someone around here who knows of my skill. Not many seem to have faith that I can destroy this lich. I can’t wait to see how they react when I defeat him faster than any paladin ever could.”

“How could they not have faith? You’ve never lost a battle past the Great Forging! You forged your keep of flame and defended it for decades! You and your group of mages were like a group of magical heroes!”

Ki seemed to darken a little at the mention of his old group of mages, but still seemed flattered by Mattieu’s bewilderment with his deeds. That was, unfortunately, cue enough for Mattieu to continue.

“I mean, your numbers might have dwindled as you fought many foes, but nothing could stop the great Kicero the Red! Kadira could barely hold off three, but you! You took out all of those wyverns with a single fireball! And when the earth elementals threatened to destroy the earth beneath your keep, it cost a few of your group their lives, but it was your lava spells that defeated them in the end!”

“Watch it kid, I didn’t win every figh-”

“I’ve even read about when you fought the dragon. It is lesser known but I found the tale in a scroll. You lost Lestor but your storm was able to kill the beast! Ahhh and when the druid Faira Xos went mad and betrayed you and dragged your Ambrose into the swamp to lure you out of your keep…”

“Tread lightly kid,” Ki’s voice was now very serious, “you know not of which you spea-”

“You had made Faira a Forger and she had made an abomination in that swamp, making her your most difficult opponent, but even that couldn’t stop you from eventually winning.”

Ki’s staff struck Mattieu’s kneecap with such force that the boy was forced to one knee. He let out a single surprised grunt before Ki was in his face, screaming.

“I DIDN’T WIN THAT FIGHT BOY! YOU HEAR ME!?” Mattieu felt his eyes grow watery. “AMBROSE DIED! THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT A WIN!”

Ki thrust his hand out, shoving Mattieu away. “I… I’m sorry…” Mattieu managed, “the books hinted that you and her… but I never thought… she was just a common girl… I always thought you would be more interested in… in someone else.” Ki turned his back to Mattieu.

“She was just a common girl, and that’s what made her special. Now get up, and cast your spells, we have a battle upon us.”

An awkward silence ensued as Mattieu produced the spell components.

“I’m sorry if I overstepped myself,” Mattieu said as he cast the protective spells on Ki, “but I hope I can prove myself to you in battle. Besides, words are wind right?”

Kicero Aran stood up straight and twisted his hands to form a wreath of flame around his body. The flames adhered to his skin and clothing before sinking inside of him, and he began to steam. He turned to look across the field of black soil. The armies of the undead were in full sprint toward the front lines. They were still very far away, but fatigue is a foreign concept to the dead, so they would be upon them soon. Before he took flight, he looked at the distant necropolis and said one last thing to the boy:

“Think of the power your words have. You, an ordinary person. Your words can comfort, they can wound, they can even kill or save a life. Now, think of the power the words of a hero have. They can take 1000 lives, or spare 10,000. A hero’s words can move mountains. They can topple kingdoms, and defeat entire armies. They can dethrone a just king, or elect a tyrant. Think on that when next you say that words are wind.” Ki then renewed his flight, and began soaring toward the black hill.

I will prove myself, Mattieu thought as he renewed his own flight and followed Ki, after we win I’ll find a way to apologize.

Beneath the squadrons of mages the living and the dead had clashed. The din of iron on iron and iron on flesh could be heard for miles. Mattieu and the other mages spent a good while raining spells from the sky. He could make out a few figures on the front line getting ripped apart by the mass of ghouls: a plated dwarf, a pair of human casters, an elf wizard, a deft halfling, and a good number of soldiers around them were overrun by a surge in the horde. Mattieu cringed and released a fireball on the tangle of flesh.

After about an hour of fighting, the lich emerged.

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Out of a ruined tower a skeletal figure exploded into the sky, a trail of ethereal heads trailing behind. Mattieu immediately ascended as fast as he could to rally to the defense of Ki. The lich wasted no time, and green and blue lightning effortlessly pulsed from his hands, killing mages in the sky instantly. Their bodies reanimated just in time to hit the ground and explode. Mattieu steadied himself, and just as the lich entered his range, he decided to disobey his orders. He carefully aimed his fingertip and blasted the most accurate and powerful spell he knew. Unfortunately, the lich simply twisted his wrist, sending the spell right back at Mattieu. He twisted his body and felt his own spell brush his side. By the time he regained aerial control the lich was a lot closer, and already pointing his hand at Mattieu. Mattieu threw up a desperate shield, but it immediately shattered in his face. The force was too much and Mattieu felt his body sail toward the ground. He pushed wind in the direction of the ground to break his fall but still hit it hard. Black soil burst around him and he heard and felt the loud CRACK of his body. He immediately knew he had broken more than one bone.

At least I am alive. He thought. Every part of him hurt, and he dare not try cast. With great effort he looked up to see that Ki and Thoris were already deep in their duel.

Not a single mage remained in the sky other than Archlich Thoris and Kicero the Red. Ki’s flames proved too strong to be turned back on him, but the lich still defended himself amazingly well. The very sky seemed to be ablaze, and the two cast increasingly powerful spells, far beyond the knowledge of Mattieu, or anyone else. Wave after wave of arcane power crashed into each other. Mattieu was mesmerized by the beauty of the duel.

Mattieu found it difficult to stand, but forced himself to. He winced in pain and fell back to one knee, nearly passing out. He settled for sitting but continued to watch the spectacle. Suddenly, one small burst of necrotic energy set Ki off balance, and he lost concentration for just long enough to take a more severe hit to the side. Ki fell a great distance, and struggled to get back up to the same height as Thoris.

He is losing. He can’t lose; if he does everything is over.

When he regained the same height as the lich, he was almost immediately met with another burst of necrotic energy, tearing apart some of his robe and tainting his flesh.

“NO!” Mattieu screamed, reaching feebly toward his hero.

The lich readied the coup de grace, but Ki pulled something he was not expecting. Just before the lich’s spell was completed, Ki’s eyes and mouth shone a deep purple. He swiped his hand and a rift tore open in the sky. The lich turned to look at the rift, and a beam of rolling purple flames erupted like a volcano from the rift. The beam was so massive that it cast a shadow over the battlefield. The beam rolled over the lich with such intensity that even a god might not be able to withstand it. The beam continued until it hit the necropolis, utterly obliterating the entire thing. Mattieu was excited at first, until the purple flames rippled away from the hill at an incredibly fast speed. His heart sank but before he could even finish a gasp the flames rolled of over him. Mattieu’s last half second of life was spent experiencing what melting felt like.
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Ki looked down upon the rapidly expanding purple firestorm as it rolled over both armies like they were ants beneath the shoe of a giant. He glanced at where he had torn the rift, but it was not there. The screams of the living and the moans of the undead formed a morbid cacophony, but he could barely hear it. He looked at his hand, and starting with his fingertips he could see himself begin to unravel. First his fingers evaporated into a purple vapor, but soon his hand began to go as well, and then it was down to his elbow.

I see, he thought, the spell was so powerful my body can’t seem to hold in the arcane energy, like a wicker basket filled with acid.

To be truthful, Ki found it rather peaceful, and just before his head evaporated he had his final thoughts. He thought of his old friends, and wondered if he would see them all in the afterlife, if there was one. He thought of Ambrose, and their love that could have been. He wished he had the power to go back and save her, to go back and live suspended in his favorite time of life.

Interesting, he thought again, I can’t control my power, and I still haven’t got enough.

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Iris D'Arenal - Epilogue
Iris's Epilogue

Epilogue – Iris D’Arenal

The dwarf pulled on his second mailed boot, and began fiddling with the straps on the back of his greave.

I should have bought that squire back in Barkhir’s Rest. Torvald thought.

“Need some help there Torvy?”

Torvald looked up the long flowing orange robe until he locked eyes with the elf. The elf’s teasing smile could be seen as he put his shoulder-length purple hair up into bun behind his head.

“Some of us take longer to get ready for a killing than pulling a bed sheet over our heads.” The elf’s smile faded.

“Is that what this is? A killing?” Daenara said skeptically, her twin brother tightening the straps on her plate armor.

“Only if it need be,” Torvald responded “hopefully the poor girl will hand it over without any blood needing to be shed, but you can never be too careful.”

Daenara and her twin rolled their eyes simultaneously, “You can never be too careful. That should be your catch phrase captain.”

The dwarf pulled the last strap tightly and rose to his feet. “Aye, it should. What do you think Hush?”

The warforged looked up briefly from sharpening his huge axe, eyes wide and worried as if he was expected to say something. After a brief silence, Torvald finally spoke: “Well said Hush.” The twins and the elf laughed, even Hush gave out a delighted grinding noise. Torvald turned his gaze to the only party member who wasn’t laughing. The halfling still sat atop a boulder, one of his kukris perfectly balanced on the tip of his finger.

“Won’t be so funny when one of us has to stab a little girl through the face.”

“Hold your tongue Clyde, and she’s not a little girl anymore. She may be a child at heart, but she is a beast in all other things, and she has control of her powers. Also, like I said, we are only hurting her if she doesn’t comply.” Torvald began walking toward his halfling companion.

“You will not kill her? You know it is the only way. Could you do it Torvy? Could you bring your axe through her skull if need be?” Clyde asked. He flicked his wrist and both kukris were suddenly in his hands. He hopped down from the rock, landing face-to-face with Torvald.

“I will kill her only if I have to.” Torvald replied.

Clyde smiled. “You’re lying. But don’t worry old friend, that’s what you have me for isn’t it? Sometimes tough decisions need to be made, and that’s why you keep ol Clyde around. You know sometimes stuffs gotta get done, and you know I have the guts to do it. Don’t worry though, I’ll only do it if we absolutely have to.”

He is right. Torvald thought. He always knows when someone is lying.

Torvald nodded at his halfling friend and motioned for the party to gather round the fire. Hush finished sharpening his axe and joined them last.

“This is a noble cause captain,” the elf said reassuringly, “no matter what we have to do it will be in the name of good.”

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Torvald nodded and addressed his party. “Two weeks ago we did battle with the lich. Although the lich had raised a large army of dead and was extremely powerful, we were able to gain the aid of the Silver Flame. Gideon Rosethorn himself led a small army through the undead hordes, and at the expense of many, the lich was struck down. The Silver Flame said they would take care of the rest but it appears they failed, for seven days later the lich returned and continued to ravage and destroy.”

“Her boyfriend nearly destroyed the world he made.” The robed elf said.

“He did some damage to be sure, but that pales in comparison to what he can do if he has more time. This is why it is imperative that our mission succeed. The Flame claimed they destroyed his phylactery, but clearly they did not. Our sources have led us to the girl, and so you all know what we must do. She was not there when the lich was slain the first time, and none have seen her fight for some time.”

“She is older. I say out with the old, and in with the new.” Clyde was back to balancing the kukri on his fingertip.

Torvald continued, “Fortunately she is not staying with Gideon at this time. Since the kalashtar turned lich, she retreated to The Wilds. That is where we will find her alone. I fear the Silver Flame will not trust us nor our sources. We should only contact them if we find the phylactery. Even if we find the phylactery and destroy it, it will still be difficult to kill the lich a second time.”

“Let us not think about that now,” Daenara’s twin Ruthol said, “we have our quest, let us go do it. Once we have succeeded we will discuss how to combat this lich again.”

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Torvald nodded, and motioned past his party, all of them turning to look. The party was camped at the edge of The Wilds, and the border was evident. Strangely shaped trees twisted in seemingly impossible shapes, several types of flowers littered the ground, and giant mushrooms joined in with different colored leaves to form a thick yet colorful canopy. A myconid could be seen deep inside, wandering aimlessly. Hush stomped the fire out and the party gathered their things and entered The Wilds. The sun was just rising, although they hardly needed it, for so many things in the forest shed their own light. With the help of some spells from Daenara and Ruthol, it was only about an hour before the party came across a small hut. Outside of it was a large field with significantly fewer flowers and mushrooms. There, sitting in the grass was a shifter woman.

She didn’t seem to notice the party until they were a few steps from her. As they got closer, they saw a butterfly net resting at her side. She wasn’t very tall, or particularly clean, but the look worked for her. Her hair was tangled, messy and long. A few unfinished braids were not-so-methodically scattered throughout her hair, and she wore a dirt-stained white dress. She certainly looked grown up, but even now she bore a childish aura.

She turned her head quickly, her brown hair twisting behind her back.

She smiled, “Hi there, my name is Iris. Can I help you?”

Torvald looked at his party, all of which nodded reassurance. He turned to face the girl and smiled, “Hi there, yes, my name is Torvald and these are my friends. We just wanted to ask you a question. Is… is… is that okay?”

She nodded. “Course ya can! What is it Mr. Torvald?”

“Well miss, we were wondering if you had… well, your old friend Thoris-”

Her smile faded quickly and she cut him off: “Thoris is not an old friend silly, he is still my friend. What about him?”

Torvald winced. This is not a good start. “Well, we were wondering if your… friend… if Thoris gave you anything special. You know like a box or a stick or something. You see, our sources say that you were one of the last people to see him before-”

She cut him off again: “I don’t have anything of the sort.” She rose to her feet, “I don’t have anything of the sort, and you had best leave my Wilds. Now.”

Torvald turned nervously to look at Clyde. Clyde was already looking at Torvald and silently mouthed “She’s lying” while unsheathing his kukris.

“Miss Iris, we can’t leave. We know you have something we need, and it would us a lot of trouble if you would just hand it over. We’re trying to protect people.”

“He warned me this would happen,” the party took a step back as claws began to grow from her fingers, “he warned me bad people would come and lie to me! He told me to NEVER trust anyone who asked me that.”

Ruthol moved first, his mace releasing beams of white light. Iris raised her arm, which was now twice the size it had just been, and the beams scattered on her forearm. She threw out her arm, catching Ruthol in the gut and sending him several feet back; sprawled on his back and groaning. Daenara slapped her shield and divine magic surged around her, but even with her newfound strength she was relentlessly beaten into the grass by the claws of the shifter woman. Hush and Torvald ran forward and flanked her. Hush managed to slice his massive axe through her side, but she simply roared and turned to kick him twice as far away as Ruthol. Torvald sank his own axe into the inside of her thigh, but she turned her knees inward to pin him in place before bringing both her fists down on his head. Were he not a dwarf, she would likely have split his head open. A torrent of flame flew from the elf and Ruthol, singeing the white dress and much of Iris’s skin, but Iris then leapt over the stunned Torvald and delivered a kick to Ruthol. She then took the elf in her mouth and rotated quickly, throwing him effortlessly over her head.

Iris turned to the injured party and roared. Suddenly, Clyde appeared on her neck, kukris in hand. He drove one into her shoulder and flipped off her back when she swung a claw at him. Daenara had steadied herself and a beam of white light exploded from her hand and enveloped the shifter. She began to shrivel and shrink and her roars became less and less feral. Hush blew past Daenara and his axe careened into Iris’s chest, knocking her onto her back. Clyde was suddenly there again and planted his knees on her shoulders, pinning her upper body to the ground while Hush held her legs.

“Where is it?” Clyde demanded, his kukri pressed against her cheek.

“I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING!” She screamed, tears welling in her eyes.

The halfling leaned so far over her that his hood fell over his head and he said calmly, “I know you’re lying. We need it to stop your friend from destroying the world! Best tell us before my hand gets twitchy.”

“No I’m not! Thoris never gave me anything! Plus he’d never hurt anyone good, he only hurts bad people.”

Torvald limped over with Ruthol, who was carrying the elf.

“Clyde maybe you’re wrong, maybe she doesn’t know where it is.” Ruthol said.

“Yeah Clyde lighten up, she’s beaten.” Torvald said.

“You can never be too careful.” Clyde retorted, somewhat mockingly. He peered into Iris’s eyes while she squirmed. “Oh my gods… you still love him.”

“Shut up!”

“Do you know what he is now? He’s not even flesh no more! You just can’t accept that he’s gone and not coming back. You can’t accept that he would do such terrible things, that he would hurt so many good people. You can’t keep trying to keep him safe. Whether you like it or not he’s gone nuts and we need to stop him.”

“SHUT UP!”

“You’re willing to die for him even… well that can be ARRANGED!” Clyde slammed his kukri into her chest, and Iris let forth a wail of pain that echoed through The Wilds. Tears continued to run down her face and she looked down at her wrist where one bead remained.

“Help me daddy!” She cried, and used the last of her strength to lift her wrist and smash it on the ground, shattering the bead. A white flash of light appeared next to her, followed shortly by a silver dragon and its blond elf rider.

“Oh shit.” Clyde said before the dragon’s tail caught him in the stomach, slapping him far back. The elf dismounted and approached the warforged with a sword of equal size to his axe.

“NO DON’T! We’re on your side!” Torvald yelled, but it was too late. Hush let go of Iris to grab his axe but didn’t get it high enough to block the blow. Gideon’s sword hit the shaft of the axe so hard his sword continued on and buried itself down to the waist of the warforged. Hush’s dark eyes went out and oil burst from his wound onto the grass. His body slumped to the grass only after Gideon used his foot to pry out his sword from the warforged’s chest.

“I thought paladins fought for good.” Clyde mumbled while clutching his ribs.

“Appears I missed the memo saying that stabbing innocents makes you good then. Nobody who tries to kill Iris is any kind of good.” Oil dripped from his silver sword.

“We aren’t trying to kill her,” Torvald and the rest of his party dropped their weapons, “our sources say that she has what the Silver Flame needs to kill the lich once and for all.”

Gideon lifted his sword to Torvald’s throat and yelled “I WILL KILL YOU WHERE YOU STAND DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME? There is no way she-”

“Gideon…” Iris whimpered, and stretched a hand toward him. The dragon moved forward to watch the rest while Gideon dropped his sword and rushed to Iris’s side.

“Shhh Iris I’m here everything will be-” Iris began to giggle, then she whispered to cut him off.

“He told me not to tell anyone, but we’re friends so I can show you. Take me inside.”

Gideon glanced over at the remaining five people as they sat in a circle. The dragon nodded assurance at Gideon. Gideon carried Iris inside. Iris was bleeding all over, and Gideon noticed a green jelly seeping out of where she had been stabbed. She motioned weakly at a trapdoor. Gideon leaned inside and pulled from it a silver orb. Gideon stared at the orb for a long time.

She smiled, “He gave me a gift and said to keep it safe. I haven’t told no one about it, but now that I’m leaving someone else needs to keep it safe.”

“Iris…” Gideon cringed, “this isn’t a gift… it’s… it’s a phylactery.”

Tears were falling down her face now, and through sniffles she managed.

“Gideon… I didn’t know… he told me to keep it safe.”

Gideon started to cry too as he held Iris in his lap.

“What’s going to happen now?” She asked in her child voice, her pulse fading.

Gideon sighed and choked back the brunt of his tears. He smiled gently and looked at Iris: “Well, you’re going to grow up to be a biiiiig strong woman. You’ll get a nice little house and a giant field to play in. All your friends will live really close by, and you’ll be able to play with them as much as you want. There will be a ton of butterflies around for you to catch too. You’ll spend some time with Uncle John and then I’ll teach you a bunch of stuff. Then you’ll really grow up and be tough and strong and everyone will like you and you’ll live happily… ever after.”

Iris smiled up at Gideon, “I’m sure gonna live a great life huh?”

Gideon nodded, unable to hold back the tears anymore.

“Gideon… am I… am I an adventurer?”

“You’re the best damn adventurer I’ve ever seen Iris.”

Iris smiled faintly just before her whole body went limp.

Gideon once again forced back the tears and clutched the silver orb to his chest. He returned outside to see the party of five.

“See! You have it! I told you we were on your side!”

Gideon walked straight for his sword and wrenched it from the grass. He walked over to the sitting party.

“No doubt it took courage and bravery to obtain this. Courage and bravery that I have no doubt you will be able to replicate when you five are on the front lines when next we do battle with the lich. Leave the destruction of the phylactery to me.”

He went back inside and retrieved Iris’s body, placing her gently on the back of the dragon before taking flight.

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Revenant - Epilogue
Revenant's Epilogue

Epilogue – Revenant

The tiefling set down another book, completing his fourth tower. It wasn’t as tall as the other three, but nevertheless the stack of books ascended far above the cleric’s head. He grabbed the next book in front of him and blew the dust away. The spine cracked and snapped as he opened it and three pages spilled into his lap. He sighed and jammed the pages back in, then whispered a quick incantation and drew his finger down the spine, sealing the pages back into their place. His eyes glossed over the words but after Fire realized that he had read the same sentence six times in a row, he decided he would have to continue reading later. Fire set the book down and leaned back to stretch, his wood chair groaning as loud as his body.

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The sudden spout of noise echoed through the previously silent library. As Fire stood and grabbed his bag another tiefling exploded from underneath a pile of books. His long black hair flew wildly and he slashed at the invisible opponent across the table with a knife. He then lifted his hand to his baggy eyes and rubbed them vigorously.

“How long was I out?” he asked, yawning.

“You think I was paying attention to you, Hope?” Fire looked down at the tiefling. “Some of us are taking the assignment seriously.”

Hope sneered. “It’s not a competition, Fire.”

“And I’m a buttered paladin. We all know whoever figures it out will be the new master.”

Hope rose from his chair and pushed his hair behind his horns. “Oh is that it?” He continued in the mocking voice of a child: “Master Fire, I was wondering if you could help me wipe my ass! Only a talented master such as yourself can reach such magnificent levels of clerical wisdom.”

Fire scoffed. “Buffoonery is no substitute for wisdom. Mock all you want Hope, but when all seven of us stand before the master and he asks us to answer his riddle it is I who will have an answer while you sit there making jokes.”

Hope laughed, his voice echoing through the library. “Is that what this is now? A riddle?”

He walked toward Fire until the two were face to face. “It’s a simple question with a simple answer,” Hope used his child voice again, this time with accompanying hand motions, “What happens to us when we die? I’ve come up with more thought provoking questions in my sleep!”

“Oh without a doubt, I would too if I slept as much as you.”

Hope moved in closer to Fire, emphasizing the 12 inch height disparity over Fire. He flexed his chest and leaned over Fire. He gave a single puff of smoke from his nostrils but Fire did not flinch. The library was silent again.

“Care to say anything else about me or my sleeping habits?” Hope asked.

“No thank you. I’ll save you the trouble of opening a dictionary to understand what I’d say.”

Fire reached for the last of his books to slip it into his bag but Hope plunged his knife clean through the book, pinning it to the table. The two locked eyes and stared angrily at each other. They were so close they could see their reflections in the other’s pupils. They held the gaze until Hope grinned with his red-stained teeth. The grin caused Fire to smile as well, and soon the two were laughing hysterically.

“Do I not look threatening at all?” Hope chuckled, “come now, let us go get something to eat!”

Fire drew his arm across his brow. “No really I was scared I promise! Don’t give up the moment I start laughing have some…”

“I swear to death if you say ‘Hope’ I will kill you. After I’m done doing this!” Hope threw his arm around Fire’s neck and vigorously rubbed his hand back and forth on his head.

“Cut that out Hope! You owe me a book!” Fire freed himself from Hope’s arm and wrenched the knife out of the table. “You’ll have to get this one… no more fixing powers for me today.”

Hope waved his hand over the book and it repaired itself instantly. He flipped the book over to read the title.

“_The Forgers: A Comprehensive List, By Revlan Torywood_? Interesting choice, think it will have anything about what happens after we die?”

Fire slipped the book into his bag and turned to his companion, “I found something in it, something I think will help. Did you know that the master was a Forger?”

Hope’s eyes widened, “That’s impossible, he would have to be…” he did a quick count on his fingers but then gave up, “very old. Are you sure? Our master, a Forger?”

Fire nodded “Yes! He is listed in this book! He was the head of an army in the Old World, a place called Eberron! He ruled part of it with several others. The ones who lived also became Forgers. It is an incredible tale really.”

“Sum it up for me.”

Fire’s eyes burned with excitement. “Didn’t you ever wonder where this fortress came from? It’s all here in the books I’ve been reading! All of it! Lady Fate commanded our master to rebuild her faith in this world. That’s where we come in; the master Forged the swamps around here, the magical machines, the villages and churches to Lady Fate, even the creatures that we train with! The master has been trying to revive her faith, but she needs followers and devoted clerics to bring her back into power, but when the New World was Forged she lost most of her followers, like the rest of the Old Gods.”

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Hope nodded, “What does this have to do with the master’s question?”

“Because of Lady Fate’s power in the Old World, our master knew exactly what happened to people when they die. Because she does not exist in this world, he is unsure. I think I know where we can get a little more information…”

Fire skipped ahead of Hope and turned down one of the hallways.

“That leads to the master’s quarters… what are you doing?” Hope asked.

“Getting a little insight into the question,” Fire grinned, “he’s got to have something in there.”

Hope shifted uncomfortably. “I want no part of this. You’ve seen what the master can do.”

“Don’t be such a coward I can’t get in without your help anyways. When I’m the new master I’ll remember this. We both know it’s going to be me.”

Hope sighed and looked around for anyone else, then fell in tow with Fire. The two snuck down the corridor until they reached the master’s door and expended the rest of their magic to temporarily strip the door of wards. The two agreed that Hope would watch the door while Fire snooped around inside. It seemed like an eternity to Hope, but eventually Fire emerged, looking very distraught.

“Did you find anything? Do any of the master’s books say what happens to us after we die in this world?”

Fire stared blankly at the ground, his mouth slightly agape.

“He… he… he’s leaving us.” Fire finally managed.

“What?”

“The master… his room is filled with travel plans and packed bags. After the ceremony tomorrow he’s going somewhere.”

“Where could he possibly go? He’s spent his entire life in the New World working here for our Lady. He has nowhere else… he has nobody but us.”

Fire looked up worriedly at Hope, “That’s where you’re wrong. The master had friends who also became Forgers. However he shunned them after the Great Forging while he tried to revive our goddess. It looks as though he’s given up on that and is going to find his old friends.”

Hope smiled, “Don’t be ridiculous Fire, he’s too old to go far. He’s probably planning on naming you his heir THEN leaving to try and convert his old friends. Don’t be so paranoid.”

Fire took some comforting, but he eventually couldn’t help but smile and turned to clasp the forearm of his friend. The two gave a faint laugh and nod and retired for the day. They slept from dawn till dusk and awoke with the rest of their tiefling brothers. The group of seven clerics gathered their things and made themselves look as fierce and powerful as they could before setting off for the ceremony. They briskly walked down one of the fortress corridors until they stood before an altar and podium. The master was already behind the podium and even in his old age he looked terrifying. Numerous scars covered his face and his white-grey hair was kept between his large gnarled horns. He wasn’t wearing his iconic demon armor but instead chose a black leather doublet and vest. His iron walking stick stood as tall as he did and he clutched it tightly with one hand.

“Patience, Fire, Fear, Hope, Clutch, Claw, and Bones,” He looked across the standing line of tieflings, “You have had much time to contemplate the question I gave you. What happens to us when we die? Do any of you have anything to say?”

For a while the tieflings all stood in silence, but eventually Claw spoke up.

“I read in some texts from the Old World that when one dies, their soul travels to the plane that best suited who they were in life. There their soul lives on, living under the rule of those who rule the plane.”

The master simply nodded, and the other tieflings began to spout their own knowledge of what they believed happened after death. Several minutes past and the only tiefling left to speak was Fire.

“Fire do you have any wisdom to share with us? It is no secret you are one of our wisest clerics, I was hoping you would have something insightful to share.”

Fire waited until all of the other clerics were looking at him before speaking, “What Claw said was true of the Old World, but all of the gods of the Old World died with it. Without their followers they faded into memories, much like Lady Fate would without us. This led me to the conclusion that without gods, there is no way to tell what happens to us when we die in this world.”

Murmurs of discontent followed Fire’s speech. None of them seemed to like the fact that they had received a question without an answer. However, none were quite as discontent as Fire as he continued his speech:

“You knew none of us would figure it out,” Fire raised his voice and began addressing the other tieflings instead of the master, “he’s also not using this to decide an heir. Why? Because the master is planning on leaving us. He has decided that the resurrection of Lady Fate is a hopeless cause and is giving up on us and on her. I know this because I broke into his chambers. I broke in and saw that he has been planning to leave since before he even gave us the question.”

The tieflings looked horrified. One of them indistinctly turned to the master and demanded, “Is this true master?”

The master gave a faint smile and long blink, “You continue to impress me Fire. Yes, it is all true, except for the part about me giving up on all of you. There was a point to the question: by now you should all know that the eight of us have no chance of bringing back our Lady. I apologize that I mislead you all these years, for I was clinging to false hope. I desperately wanted to be her champion and bring her back into this world, but it is evident now that that is impossible.”

Bones had clenched his jaw and fists until his knuckles turned white, “We have wasted all these years for you. We trusted you!”

“If the years you spent here have been wasted then that is your own folly. The skills knowledge and wisdom you have gained here will stay with you forever, I hope. You are all young and can still make something of yourselves. As for me, I don’t have much time left, and I wish to use it doing what I should have done immediately after the Great Forging.”

“You have nowhere to go old man. You’ve spent your entire life here since the Great Forging!”

“A mistake of which I am fully aware. I should have spent it with Cormag, with Ferawyn and Ki, with Wat and Drogan and all the others. Instead I shunned them for my own selfish desires and delusions of grandeur and power. I still have time to right those wrongs, and that is why I am leaving tonight.” The master snapped and some bags appeared at his side. He hoisted a light bag onto his back and steadied himself on the iron staff before stepping down from the podium. He stopped in front of the seven tieflings: “I hope you all can forgive me, and I know you will make me proud.” He limped on his staff all the way to the outside and across the drawbridge, feeling happy and hopeful for the first time since the Great Forging.


The road out from Revenant’s fortress of death had been turned to mud from the heavy rain. A cold wind whipped at his robes, but the old cleric was warded far beyond the capabilities of a small storm. He held a smile on his face and although each step hurt his old bones, he knew he would get to see his friends again soon. After some divination magic, Revenant had discerned that the closest were Ferawyn and Lither. He had been travelling for several days, and once he saw the lush green forest in the distance, he knew he was close.

I am almost there. I wonder if they have changed much. They will have to forgive me, then I can finally live my final days in peace and happiness.

He was not a quarter mile from the forest when his seven disciples emerged from the torrent of rain and wind, each brandishing their weapon of choice.

No, He thought, not when I am so close! They will never hear me ask for forgiveness!

Revenant’s disciples rushed him from every direction, their blades tearing through his flesh. No magic of his could shield him from the pain of betrayal, nor the pain of knowing his companions would never hear him say he was sorry.

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Minus Trecedim - Epilogue
Minus's Epilogue

Epilogue – Minus Trecedim

“I can’t remember why I’m here, all I remember is that I’m supposed to be here.”

“That tree did hit you on the head pretty hard. You’re lucky I was nearby so I could heal you. Do you have anything to remind you why you’re here?”

“Only this note.” The satyr reached into his shoulder-bag with a furry hand and produced a crumpled note. He carefully unrumpled the paper and turned it so the fairy could see.

“That is odd, those words are barely legible… do the pictures mean anything to you?”

The satyr shook his head. “None of it makes sense to me after the tree fell on me. Even after your healing things are still a bit fuzzy. Oh well, I’ll figure it out, I don’t want to drag others into my business.”

“I hope you figure it out! Good luck on your travels mister…”

“Liam, I remember that much.”

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The satyr and the fairy smiled at each other and he held out his finger for her to shake. Liam thanked her one last time and the two parted ways. The fairy flew back to her vibrant forest on one side and Liam clopped over to the much more dismal and canopied forest. It was midday but inside the canopied forest it looked like it was dusk. Liam was a perceptive satyr but inside the dark forest he barely saw any movement. Once he entered he did not feel any different. No armies of the dead arose to strike him down, no giant spiders repelled from the canopy, Liam had only silence to keep him company.

I can’t imagine why I am wanted here… this place is full of sadness.

Liam walked through the forest for quite some time before he saw someone.

There is a boy up ahead. A boy on a horse. Liam felt the need to hide so he deftly leaped behind a tree and peered out from around the side to look at the boy and his horse.

The boy was not truly a boy in human standards, but to Liam he was still very young. An average height man but he looked exceptionally strong. He carried a beautiful bow and full quiver and his dark cloak bounced with the movement of the horse.

A warrior I wonder? Or a hunter maybe? I feel a strong affinity for this boy… what is he doing in these woods? Perhaps I shall follow him and see… And so Liam began to the follow the boy and his horse.

The boy and his horse trotted along in silence and Liam followed them as quietly as he could. He darted from tree to tree remaining close enough to hear the boy but far enough away not to be spotted. The silence was finally broken when the horse caught its hoof on an awkward root and nearly stumbled to the ground. The boy pulled on the reigns until the horse was at a complete stop.

“You worthless horse! Apple Blossom would never have been so stupid.”

Liam was startled by the sudden chastisement of the horse. His alarm at that made him realize he had secretly hoped that the boy he stalked would be friendly. As Liam continued to stalk the boy there were more and more signs that Liam should abandon all hope of befriending the boy. He constantly got angry with the horse over every blunder it made, and he chastised it for every wrong step. He was prone to cryptic mutterings and self-loathing statements. Even Liam’s perceptive ears could not pick up all of what the boy said, but what he did hear he wished he hadn’t.

The boy is troubled. Liam realized. Something has hurt him very much. Liam felt the need to find out, but did not know why.

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The satyr followed the boy for three days. Liam had barely been sleeping for he feared he would lose track of the boy and his horse. It wasn’t until the third day that Liam realized that they were traveling in a circle.

He doesn’t know where he’s going. Liam realized. Either that or he has nowhere to go.

On the fourth day Liam awoke to hear the boy shouting. He sneakily rolled over to see that a bag had fallen from the horse, and the boy was yelling at it once again. He even smacked it across the face a few times, despite its whinnies of pain.

I don’t like how he treats that horse, the satyr thought, creatures of my world do not deserve to be treated with such disrespect. Liam considered revealing himself to defend the horse but decided against it.

Eventually the boy was back on his horse and continuing his quest to nowhere.

“Father, sister, why do you still torment me?” The boy cries out. He cries nearly every day now and it saddens me to watch. Sometimes he just leans against a tree and stares into nothing. The poor boy.

On the sixth day Liam could hardly bare to watch the boy anymore, but also felt obsessed with him. The innocent satyr could not fathom what the boy had gone through but felt the need to follow him all the same. Liam became more and more fascinated with the sad boy and his stupid horse. The days had become like plays to Liam, where the only actor was the sad boy and his stupid horse. He wished he could ease the boy’s and the horse’s pain but he did not know how.

The seventh day was fairly routine until the boy had a particularly nasty breakdown. Throughout the entire week he had muttered the names Thoris, Gideon, Iris, John, Cathar, and many others, but today they were all he could talk about. The boy dismounted his horse and slumped to his knees, and began to talk to the forest canopy.

“My friends… my true friends… can you ever forgive me? I had been seeking approval my whole life but it took putting an arrow through my father’s neck to realize I had already found it. I found true friends the moment I left that harbor in Sharn, but I couldn’t see them until they were dead or gone. I made a forest to hide in and still I cannot escape your voices. Please just leave me alone you have no idea how wrong I know I was.”

Liam felt tears welling in his eyes but forced them back in. He will hear me if I cry.

“I wish I could find the courage to tell you all I’m sorry… Iris, Gideon, Thoris, John, Cathar. I’m sorry I was not better to you all and that I clung to my family for so long… please forgive me.”

He sat there for a long while expecting an answer from the silence but received none. Eventually he leaned forward and dug a small hole in the ground with his hand and produced an apple seed from a belt pouch. He carefully buried the seed and rose from his knees.

“At least you loved me, Apple Blossom. May you grow big and strong here.”

He turned to remount his horse and he landed in the saddle just as the horse did a sudden jerk. The boy was almost instantly thrown from the saddle and landed ungracefully on the ground. The boy gave out a primal scream at the horse and quickly stood up and ripped a sword from its sheath.

“NO! DON’T!” Liam cried, leaping out from behind the tree, but he was too late.

The horse whinnied in fear and turned to flee but the boy was too quick and plunged the sword to the hilt into the horse’s neck. He then pulled it out and did a quick spin to slash the sword along the entire length of its neck, spattering the both of them in blood. Even after the horse fell to the ground the boy continued to stab it again and again until he was dripping in blood. His tears splashed onto its flank and his stabbings grew progressively weaker until he did not have the strength to stab anymore. Liam watched horror-stricken, his hand outstretched as if to help.

“Who are you and why have you been following me?” The boy said, not turning at all to look at Liam. Liam was taken off guard by the realization that his presence had been known for quite some time.

“I don’t know,” Liam responded, “I just felt the need to follow you. You look so full of anger. Please tell me is there anything I can do to help?” Liam’s head began to throb.

“No creature is supposed to be in these woods, that’s how I made them.” The boy rose and pulled the sword from the horse. As he turned to look at Liam it was all the satyr could do to wince. Blood and tears had mixed on the boy’s face and dripped onto his armor. The horse blood dripped from his sword as he raised it to face level of Liam. “There is nothing you can do to help. There is nothing anyone can do to help. My friends will never forgive me for my cowardice and deceit. You are nothing but a reminder, and you should not be here.”

The boy lunged at Liam, but Liam was too quick for the tired boy and the sword glanced off his horn. Liam’s head hurt so much, as if there was something he was forgetting. Then he remembered the note.

“My job is to help you not to hurt you,” Liam said desperately, “please there is a note I am supposed to give you.”

The boy’s foot swept Liam off his hooves and he landed with his back on a tree root. A spike of pain shot up the satyr’s spine but he produced the note from his bag all the same. Liam opened his mouth to say something but the boy’s sword cut him off as it sank into Liam’s chest. Blood poured out instead of words. Thankfully the boy’s curiosity got the best of him and as the satyr bled pinned to the tree the boy picked up and unfurled the note.

“I couldn’t read it, it was in strange hand writing and pictures. I doubt you could…” The boy read it out loud.

“Dear mister goat person, even tho yu luk funny I trust yu to handel this quest. Minus is a very very very very special frend but hes sad all the time. He left before I could say goobye but I miss him and I think he needs more frends. I made yu so yu could find him and make shur he is O K. If yu find him tell him I think about him all the time and that he should B less grumpy becuz I like it when he smilez thiiiiiiiiiiiis much. Yu can du it mister goat. PS: HI MINUS! <3 Luv, Iris.”

A supreme silence filled the forest. Liam occasionally gurgled on blood but eventually managed a sentence: “Minus… I remember now… I was made to find you… to watch over you… do you see that they can forgive you… true friends will forgive you… you just need to ask for forgiveness…”

Minus’s eyes never left the note. He crumpled the note in his fist and finally looked up. “You’re right, I must go and find them at once. Can you walk?”

Liam looked down at the sword in him: “No.”

“Then I will have to carry you, and you will have to direct me.” Minus pulled the sword from Liam’s chest and quickly pulled the wound shut. He removed a potion from the dead horse and administered it to the satyr. Liam’s wound closed enough for him to barely stand and Minus lifted him onto his shoulders and began to walk to the nearest town.
________________________________________________________________________________

The two travelled together until they were right outside one of the last Silver Flame strongholds.

“Is this where Iris made you? Is this where I can find her or Gideon?”

“It’s our best start, master Minus.”

The two entered the temple and Minus brought Liam to the main room and laid the wounded satyr before a young frail girl in an elaborate silver throne.

“Jaela,” Minus asked while clerics tended to Liam, “where are Gideon and Iris or even Thoris and Bloody John? I wish to atone for my sins.”

The girl was frailer than when Minus had seen her at The Great Forging. He could tell something was off but did not ask about it.

“I cannot speak of the necromancer or the pirate, but Gideon and I had a falling out and he took Iris away for a trip, but they will be back soon.” Her eyes pulsed with energy. “However if you wish to atone, I have foreseen your coming, and you may do so before Father Gideon and Iris return.”

Minus nodded and approached an already prepared altar. Jaela was helped to her feet and beckoned at Minus to kneel before the altar.

“The Silver Flame burns low but its power grows when good is done in its presence. Surely it will receive your wish for atonement and make an appearance.”

Minus continued to kneel before the altar as Jaela opened her arms. Silver light faintly shone through her mouth and eyes as she placed her hand on Minus’s head. The room shook slightly but quickly fell silent again and Jaela returned to normal.

“Is that it?” Minus asked. “I don’t feel any differ- ”

Minus was cut off as smoke spilled forth from his throat into the air. The whole room turned their attention to Minus, or what was left of him. His hair suddenly caught fire and he once again slipped to his knees in agony. A fire began to consume him from the inside out. His gear started to slip off of him as the fire engulfed more of his body. His eyes melted down his face and spewed forth jets of flame. His fingernails clattered on the marble floor and his fingers sizzled and cracked until there were charred and black. His entire body continued to shrivel and every second his resemblance to a pile of ashes grew. No one dared touch him, so everyone looked on in horror. It seemed the affair was over when the charred corpse of Minus sat steaming in the middle of the room.

“Oh… shit.” Liam sputtered. He began to approach Minus’s corpse but quickly returned to the floor as a pillar of silver light erupted from Minus’s body. The light was so intense that all but Jaela had to shield their eyes. Finally the light dissipated and everyone turned to see what stood in the middle of the room.

“Minus Trecedim is gone,” Jaela said, “and has been reborn as The Vanguard.”

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Gideon Rosethorn - Epilogue
Gideon's Epilogue

Epilogue – Gideon Rosethorn

“Can one ever truly be selfless, Sir Cerrin?”

Not this again, thought Sir Cerrin, rolling his eyes.

The two sat alone in the stone hallway with no furnishings other than a rough splintery wooden table, two chairs, and an arrow slit for a window. It was bright and sunny outside so they were not without light but the two sipped at their tankards in the grey hallway all the same.

“We have discussed this at great length, Sir Faragar. If you had read the texts more in depth you would know that a pure form of selflessness exists, called altruism, doing something solely for the benefit of others, and not at all for yourself.”

“But can anything really be done in such a way? Say I help an orphan child by giving him a portion of my meal, am I not doing that in part for the child, but also in part for my own personal reasons? Maybe not even consciously, but I feel that nothing can be done without a personal desire. What do you think Cerrin?”

Sir Faragar finished his statement staring expectantly at Sir Cerrin. Cerrin took a long drink from his tankard and peered out the arrow slit before answering.

“If you had listened in class last week you would know the answer. Man alone is incapable of achieving what Father Grovman calls ‘true altruism,’ but with the divine assistance of the Silver Flame, one can temporarily achieve this state. It requires a firm and faithful follower to occur. The Silver Flame does not choose its servants lightly, but I hope to one day experience being taken over by the holy flames and to perform an act of true altruism.”

It was Sir Faragar’s turn to take a long drink and pause before responding.

“Perhaps you are right Cerrin, but Father Grovman also said that giving your life for the Silver Flame was the ultimate service… if a paladin gives his life for the Silver Flame, the embodiment of all things good, is that an act of true altruism?” Faragar paused before laughing “You see, if you want to experience it so badly, you just have to die! It’s that easy.”

Sir Cerrin was not as amused. “Not that easy, not any paladin could do it. It would need to be a glorious and holy death. A paladin would need to do it in the service of good and without hesitation, all for others. Not an easy situation to find yourself in, or a state of mind to get in to.”

The two sat in silence with their drinks for another several minutes, contemplating the tenets and principals of what it means to be a paladin… until the gong sounded. Sir Faragar and Sir Cerrin locked eyes with a worrisome look.

“Battle.” They said together, and the two reached for their bows and jogged out onto the ramparts.

The two knights burst through the door and were blinded by the midday sun. They had been oblivious to the raucous outside from their little grey hallway. Paladins, knights, and warriors from all over the keep were running in every direction, loading ballistae and trebuchets to combat the incoming foes. Cerrin and Faragar ran along the wall to get to their posts and saw their squires dumping arrows into quivers for them.

The two looked out over the wall to see the beautiful lush steppes, the clear blue sky, and the gaping portal to hell from which an army of demons crawled out in ranks. Somewhere behind them a man barked orders and shouted at the soldiers: “THEY ARE FINALLY COMING OUT! TO YOUR PLACES MEN AND MAY THE SILVER FLAME GUIDE YOUR HAND!” Sir Cerrin and Sir Faragar quickly found themselves joined on the wall by a dozen other soldiers. Shortly after the walls were lined with men, a commander began walking behind the line of archers.

“The demons have finally decided to crawl up from their pit. We have known they would attack for some time now, and it will be hard to stand against them, but remember, it is only our job to hold them off long enough for the Fathers to close the portal. Remember, a paladin does not fear death, and may the Silver Flame protect you.”

Sir Faragar turned his head to the commander, “Which Father shall close the portal?”

A huge smile split the lips of the commander, “The Elf Who Sleeps.”

A collective gasp escaped the archers, and then a noticeable courage washed over them. They switched their attention to the army of demons that had already begun to charge the wall impatiently. It was a shame they hadn’t heard of the Orange Flame of Patience.

“Fire!”

The battle raged on into the night. Sir Cerrin and Sir Faragar stood on the wall firing arrows for hours, watching as their comrades died around them to hellfire, winged demons, and crooked arrows. Eventually Sir Cerrin began pulling arrows from the quivers of the dead, for they would not need them, and Cerrin’s squire had been ripped from the wall by a succubus two hours ago. After firing yet another arrow, Cerrin could not find the strength to pull the bow anymore. He slumped behind the wall and turned to look down the rampart. The wall was littered with corpses and scorch marks, except for Sir Faragar and his squire.

He has always been stronger than me, Cerrin thought, but he can hardly remember his own birthday. Then again, what good is my intelligence doing me up here? Brains can’t pull a bow string…

The squire dutifully handed Faragar arrow after arrow, even running back to grab the quivers for the dead soldiers.

“RAAAAM! GET OFF THE WALLS! MOVE TO THE COURTYARD!”

Soldiers began lining up underneath Faragar and Cerrin, shoulder to shoulder and shield to shield near the wall.

“Faragar…” the word came out of Cerrin’s dry throat a whisper and the knight continued to shoot.

“F-F-FARAGAR!” Cerrin shouted. The knight turned his head. “We have to get off this wall, they are about to break it down…”

While Faragar was looking at Cerrin, a bolt of electricity passed over the ramparts and struck Faragar’s squire in the face. The boy’s face melted immediately and black charred blood was blown all over the silver armor of Faragar. Before the boy could fall backwards off the wall, Faragar dropped his bow and caught the boy. Cerrin could not hear him, but the word “No” was easily perceived on Faragar’s lips. Cerrin found the strength to stand and ran to his friend.

“He is lost, come let us get off this wall.”

Faragar just held the boy in silence, and just as he opened his mouth to speak, Cerrin felt his heart leap into his chest as the wall underneath them collapsed. The two knights made an ungraceful descent to the courtyard ground. Cerrin fortunately fell down the wall striking it at multiple points, allowing him to land prone and in pain, but without serious injury. Faragar was not as fortunate, and Cerrin opened his defeated eyes to meet the lifeless ones of Sir Faragar. Cerrin switched his view when he heard the battle cry of the paladins in the breech. The warriors were met with more demons, and Cerrin knew he should take out his sword and join them, but instead his gaze fell to his fallen friend and he crawled backwards on his butt until he leaned against a tower.

“Silver Flame protect me.” He managed.

“The Silver Flame is dead sir.”

Cerrin was startled and turned to see a young elf in stunning gold full plate. He held a silver orb in one hand and a beautiful helmet in the other. An enormous greatsword rested on his back. His unwrinkled skin and silky hair looked as though he had just bathed, not as though he was on a battlefield.

“The Elf Who… Father Gideon… I…”

The elf stared at the paladins as they were slowly overwhelmed in the breech, almost curiously.

“Are you here to close the portal and save the order?” Cerrin asked hopefully.

“I am here to close the portal,” Gideon said, “but the Silver Flame has been lost for years now.

Sir Cerrin could not believe what he was hearing.

“But Father Gideon… you have fought your whole life for the Silver Flame… you created this keep and the order! You…”

“No, I didn’t. Jaela did those things, I merely taught and upheld the tenets of the Silver Flame all my life. But had you seen the church in all of its glory in the old world, you would have to be blind not to see how far we have fallen. This is one of two remaining keeps and the other is currently on fire. The other Fathers are fled or dead, and with this orb I will close the portal, and many of these people will survive, but not enough to keep the Flame alight.”

“But we… you’ve been worshipping the Silver Flame even in this world.”

“The Silver Flame is the embodiment of all that is good, therefore it should be followed and even worshipped, but there are no longer enough people to give it substantial divine form or strength, and so the Flame burns out, but that does not mean one should not uphold all that is good.”

“If you knew the Silver Flame would be extinguished then why fight so hard for us all these years in the new world?”

Father Gideon walked forward a bit and turned so the sunset was behind his head, his shadow dwarfing the tower that Cerrin leaned against.

“Why do I fight? Fighting clears my head. I fight because when you stand before an army outnumbered ten to one, when Hell itself spits its spawn up to kill you there are no options left. I have no other option but to think only of battle. All the clutter of life collapses into one thought: survival. When I hold a sword in my hand and stare at the forces of Hell my entire goal in life changes, and suddenly there is something I can put all of my being into. Even if I die I will have made the world a better place.”

“I wish I could be like that,” Cerrin replied, “fighting to the death at the side of my brothers in arms, and not being afraid to die like you and them.”

Gideon gave out a quick guffaw, “A common misconception in my opinion,” he said while putting on his magnificent helmet, “ every paladin should be afraid to die. A paladin should be afraid to die not because he fears death, but because after death he will no longer be able to fight evil.”

gideon_dragon.jpg

Cerrin sat in awe. A silver dragon armored in Silver Flame plate armor landed next to the paladin. Father Gideon could not have looked more magnificent then at that moment. The sun slipped over the mountains and Gideon unsheathed his greatsword. His gold dragon armor shone in the light and he mounted the dragon, still clutching the small orb.

“I have heard great things about you and your memory, Sir Cerrin. So tell me, am I misplacing my trust when I ask you to flee this keep? I want you to summon your horse and ride for the town of Walluttor. There you will find a quiet and peaceful place to write down all that you know and have been taught about the Silver Flame as a philosophy, and you will record the tenets and principles and make sure they endure forever. You don’t need to fight to do good in this world… it’s just my preferred method.”

Sir Cerrin nodded and did exactly as he was told. He summoned his celestial horse and mounted it best he could. He looked at Father Gideon as the silver dragon began to take flight and was pelted with dust from the massive beast’s ascent. He turned and rode away as fast as he could.

Gideon Rosethorn flew as fast as he could for straight above the portal. Although no one could see, underneath the Helm of Anachleous his pretty elven face melded back to its true form. His soft peach skin folded over itself into countless pale white wrinkles. His sky blue eyes faded into droopy grey spheres, his fine nose into little more than two slits, and his hair… Gideon’s golden locks shriveled and receded into a dry grey scalp until it was no more than a tangled snag of grey hair. The changeling had not aged well, but it never showed.

old_gideon.jpg

The paladin passed over the portal to hell and the dragon effortlessly rotated upside down and Gideon slipped from the saddle and plummeted toward the center, orb first.

And so Gideon fell to a glorious and holy death, in the service of good and without hesitation, all for others.

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Ferawyn Bevogg - Epilogue
Ferawyn's Epilogue

Epilogue – Ferawyn Bevogg

“C’mon Eric we’re almost there!” Thomas had not come this far to have Eric slow him down.

“How did you even make this jump?” Eric shouted across the ravine, his young eyes fixed on the bottom.

“Use the vines to swing across! They were made by a druidess I think they can hold your fat ass!” Thomas shouted back.

Eric finally looked up at the countless dangling vines and gave out a childish groan. He leaned as far as he dared over the ravine and groped for the thick vines that dangled from the forest canopy until he at last grasped one. He pulled it up the hill behind him and took a running start before clinging for dear life to the vine as it swung over the ravine.

“Let go Eric! You have to or you won’t make it!”

Eric reluctantly let go and ungracefully landed on the other side of the ravine with a soft thump.

“All this for a bloody peach?” Eric said, rubbing his butt to ease the pain.

“Not just any peach Eric,” Thomas turned smiling like the child he was, “a lust peach! The last ingredient for my love potion!”

“You know Thomas, you could try wooing Bethany first instead of resorting to this. You’ve never had any trouble with the ladies in the past what makes this case different?”

Everything makes her different. Thomas thought. Her lush green eyes, her thick and soft brown hair, her warm smile and comforting touch…

“She’s different.” Thomas said firmly. “She’s just… different, and I’m not taking any chances with her.”

The two boys were a mere 15 and 16 years old but had set out on the quest nonetheless. The forest wasn’t the most dangerous in the known world but travelers still disappeared from time to time. Thankfully Thomas and Eric were as prepared as most travelers when they left the small town of Walluttor. They had each taken a backpack filled with three days of food, rope, flint and steel, bedrolls and blankets as well as an axe and sword. Their waterskins flapped at their hips as they continued their trek through the forest. It had already been a full day since they left, but they trekked onwards with high hopes of getting a fabled lust peach.

Thomas and Eric continued in silence for another two hours, hacking away at vines and carefully avoiding the snares and tangles of giant roots. The travel was slow going but the two made progress in following the vague instructions off a piece of paper mapping half the forest.

“The peach tree should be just up a head,” Thomas said breaking the silence, “right through this tunnel.”

The two got on all fours and started crawling through a tunnel of soil.

“Isn’t there a witch that guards the peach tree?” Eric said.

“That’s what the tales say,” Thomas replied, “but I do not fear a witch. Even if she shows up we have weapons.”

When the two emerged at the other end of the tunnel they dusted themselves off and turned to see a long field of lush green moss leading up to a massive tree. The leaves were large and a pinkish-yellow color, the branches a light shade of brown that bore hundreds of peaches. The tree itself was the size of two windmills, and its roots stretched far in all directions.

Grove_1.jpg

Thomas jumped triumphantly and clapped Eric on the back. “We did it Eric! Ahhhhh I can hear Bethany’s voice already!”

Thomas ran up to the foot of the tree and immediately dropped his pack and started climbing. Eric was slower, so by the time he arrived at the base of the peach tree Thomas was already shimmying out to grab a peach.

“Be careful Thomas!” Eric cried, looking around the wide-open grove nervously. “The witch could show up at any moment…”

“Catch!”

Eric looked up just in time to grab the peach. “Thomas…”

Thomas laughed as he slipped down from the tree. “Good catch! What are you afraid of an old woman?”

“Thomas… behind you.”

Thomas turned just in time to be slapped across the face by one of the tree roots. He tumbled down the small hill that the tree was on until he spilled out on the field of moss below. Eric grabbed Thomas’s pack and began sprinting toward his fallen friend. He made it most of the way down before the roots at the foot of the hill rose to trip him. Eric’s face slammed into the ground but he turned his body to prevent harm to the peach. The root started to pull the screaming Eric back toward the trunk and he let go of the peach, leaving it in the middle of the field. Thomas leapt forward and hacked at the root with his sword, freeing Eric. Eric began to crawl for the peach and Thomas turned and yelled, “Show yourself witch!”

A leopard burst out of nowhere and swiped at Thomas, who barely dodged, earning him a torn sleeve. He leapt forward and swung his sword at the animal, but it easily jumped aside then pounced onto him, tackling Thomas to the ground and disarming him. It was all he could do to hold its maw away from his throat, leaving its claws free to tear his chest apart.

“THOMAS NO!” Eric cried. He finished crawling to the peach and placed his hand on it just before a black bear paw was placed on his hand. He slowly looked up and met gaze with the entirety of the beast. “Please don’t… no I’m too young to die.” Eric managed, whimpering.

The leopard continued its assault of Thomas until the black bear morphed into an elderly woman with long grey hair and commanded: “Lorla, stand down.”

The leopard immediately stopped its assault of Thomas and trotted away from his limp body with bloody claws. The leopard stopped at the woman’s side, purring.

“He… he’s dead…” Eric managed.

“Not if I can help it.” The woman replied.

She walked over to the fallen boy and placed her hands on his shredded tunic. The blood on the tunic did not disappear but the puddles still oozing from his body seeped back in and Thomas’s eyes exploded open and he gasped for breath. He saw the face of the woman and leapt to his feet, looking for the sword. The woman waved her hand and the sword crumpled to dust.

“You won’t need that, nor do you need my peaches.” The woman held out her hand, glaring at Eric. Eric timidly placed the peach in her hand. She lowered it to Lorla who happily began munching.

“You witch! Your pet tried to kill me…” Thomas said between angry breaths.

“Yes she tends to do that to thieves,” the woman said, “that is what you are isn’t it, thieves come to steal a fabled lust peach! Which is it boys, a binding spell? Are you going to summon a succubus? Or brew a love potion? C’mon, out with it.” She casually pulled a grassy chair out of the ground to sit on.

Thomas and Eric exchanged glances.

“Like we’ll tell you.” Thomas said.

“Thomas needs a lust peach for a love potion.” Eric blurted. Thomas stared open-mouthed at his friend.

The woman laughed. “Ah young love, I’m sure she’s pretty, but I can’t just go handing out my peaches to any spurned lover to enter my grove,” she began to walk to the tree, “you best head home and find another way to woo your woman.”

“What does an old woman like you know of love?” Thomas yelled.

The woman stopped in her tracks, never taking her eyes off the tree. She knelt down and touched a root of the tree.

“If there is anything I do know of love, it’s that it shouldn’t require a love potion. You could take my peach, go back to your village and make your potion. You would feed it to your woman and she would fall madly in love with you and you her, but deep in the back of your mind you would know, and you would question the authenticity of your love every waking moment of every day deep into your old age and it would torture you until you die, all the while wondering if you could have won her over without magic until you can’t even look at her without feeling utterly disgusted with yourself. Tell me, do you know why the lust peaches grow here and almost nowhere else?”

The boys exchanged glances again before shaking their heads.

“They grow here because I planted the tree on my true love. He died not long after I made this forest.”

“You made this forest… who are you?” Thomas demanded.

“I am Ferawyn Bevogg child.”

“That… we were told you made this forest but after the Great Forging you disappeared.”

ferawyn_tree.jpg

Ferawyn returned to her earthen chair in front of Thomas and Eric. “Aye, after the Great Forging I made this grove, this forest, and much else. That was 49 years ago, and now here I am.”

“What happened to your friends?” Eric asked.

Ferawyn smiled. “They died so people like you could live better lives in this world. Well, not all of them died. Ki and Revenant left for lands that better suited their tastes. Mint, Cormag, Drogan all went their own paths and Lither,” tears appeared on her face, “I took the piece of him and brought it straight to the most powerful of my groves. I placed it on the best altar that dragons could make and immediately started my ritual. I already hadn’t slept for two days during the Great Forging but had little time to reincarnate him. The ritual took another 24 hours but I finished it, and Lither was restored to me.”

She wiped the tears from her eyes before continuing, “The world saw fit to restore him to me as hobgoblin, and we picked up right where we left off. I made a paradise for just the two of us to live, and so we did for five of the greatest years of my life. However, he was old and warned me when we first married that he would not last long. At age 30 my Lither began to wither, and soon he died in my arms. I buried him under this tree, and planted the peach tree on his grave. The tree grew fast and large, and bore lust peaches. I’ve defended this tree ever since.”

A silence fell over the grove.

“The reason I prevented you from getting the peach was to protect you. Now go back to your village and woo this girl in a proper way. Even if it doesn’t work out keep fighting, because one moment of real love is worth ten-thousand fake ones.”

Thomas and Eric rose and began gathering their things to head back to Walluttor.

“How will you defend the tree when you die?” Thomas asked.

“I’ll find a way.” She said.

Once the two boys were all geared up, Thomas turned to Ferawyn, “I’m sorry,” he said, “I just, really like Bethany and wanted to assure she would feel the same.”

Ferawyn placed her hand on his chin and raised his head so their eyes met.

“If it was meant to be, she will. Love should be magical, but not require magic.”

With that the boys headed back for Walluttor, and Ferawyn turned her attention to the peach tree. She approached the trunk with Lorla trotting at her side. A small slit in the trunk opened just wide enough to fit the aged Ferawyn. She knelt beside Lorla and stroked the leopard gently.

“Shhhh momma has to leave but I won’t be far, I promise.”

Ferawyn raised her hand above the top of the hole in the tree and ran her fingers over the carved message that Lither had left her before he passed away. Inside the carved heart read “L+F, making newer happier memories”

Ferawyn could not hold back the tears any longer and they ran down her face like waterfalls. No, she thought, today is not a sad day, but a happy one. She smiled, wiped them away, stepped inside the peach tree and let the forest absorb her.

Ferawyn_epi_3.jpg

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Bloody John Rackham - Epilogue
Bloody John Rackham's Epilogue

Epilogue – Bloody John Rackham

“So many fucking barrels,” Dane said. “I’d heard the man had taken to drink but this is ridiculous, even for someone with a liver as famous as his.” The crew of Blue Burtha had sailed into the cave several minutes ago, and barrels still lined the cave walls that flanked their ship. They wouldn’t be able to see the barrels at all were it not for the dying sunrod held by Salty Sam as he walked up and down the deck. Blue Burtha continued floating deeper into the cave silently until the empty crow’s nest began to scrape the ceiling. The din of wood snapping and splintering on the cave ceiling demanded the gazes of the entire crew, but there was nothing they could do other than shield their heads as bits of wood rained down upon them. Once the ceiling rose in height to once again accommodate Blue Burtha’s tallest masts the crew shifted their gazes to their captain, but Bruce did not seem to notice the stares of his crew, much less the now lack of a crow’s nest.

pirate_ship.jpg

“Captain…a-a-are you sure this is wise?” Lem stammered. “That might take a while to repair and what if the ceiling gets lower if we go any deeper?”

“It won’t” Captain Bruce said plainly, “if it did we would have seen the other ships come out by now.”

Sure enough, after silently passing over the dimly lit water for another few minutes, Blue Burtha finally saw shore. The cave opened into a massive moonlit clearing. The other ships could be seen now as well: Banshee, Foamkiss, Sara’s Embrace, Dawn, Drowned Defiance, and three or four others that Captain Bruce could not remember the name of or were in tongues he did not speak. Blue Burtha anchored near the other ships, taking up the last remaining space off shore. The crew quickly stopped the boat and scrambled into rowboats headed for shore. Many of the crew looked up as they rowed, gazing at the three moons that shone faint light through large holes in the cavernous ceiling. Moonlight reflected off the water in this large portion of the cavern, but Captain Bruce was still unimpressed.

Bruce wasn’t like most captains you saw these days. Bruce had never been one for flamboyance or fanciness of being a pirate. Bruce always thought of himself as a practical man, keeping his hat featherless and tight fitting to his head. His black boots fit well and his sword and pistol were strapped to his side, barely dangling as he walked to join the other captains. While the rest of the crew of Blue Burtha pulled onto shore, Bruce called to his finest to join him.

“Lem, Dane, Salty Sam, follow me, and keep your weapons ready.”

“Why so cautious Bruce? The man would need an entire fucking army to save him now” Captain Ahab grinned, revealing half a set of teeth.

“I don’t want him to escape again, and underestimating him is why he still draws breath, or need I remind you, Captain Ahab, of the wyvern incident?”

Captain Ahab’s smile collapsed into a snarl and he put a hand on one of his three pistols. Bruce and his chosen crew ignored him and joined the growing circle of pirates on the beach.

“Was Blue Burtha the last ship?” a slim elf with an absurdly large hat asked.

“Yes,” Bruce replied, “we are ready then?”

“Has everyone chosen their most trusted crew?” Four-fingered Fiona asked.

Each captain nodded at various people standing near them. Bruce looked around, examining each one as they were briefly introduced. You can’t hide much longer. Bruce thought. We’re coming for you, and this time there is nowhere to run, no cosmos-wielding friends to save you, no storm to summon to rip an entire fleet apart, you could barely hold a sword the last time I saw you. The introductions went quickly, and there were some 30 pirates here, not including the rest of the crews still tending to each of the captains’ ships.

“So many barrels… how did he get them all around the cave like that?” the slim elf said in a strange accent.

“He has friends, powerful ones at that.” Four-fingered Fiona answered.

“Not anymore,” Bruce piped in, “they are all dead or gone now. The ‘elf,’ the girl, even the thrice damned wizard boy. He’s alone and he’s somewhere inside there.”

The rest of the captains turned to look where Bruce was pointing. Not far into the beach they were on the cave began again, but not in water. A sandy pathway lined with barrels continued deeper, dimly lit by small lanterns.

Lem shifted uneasily. “What if it’s trapped? I heard he killed an entire army of aliens. Hell, he probably MADE this cavern! It could be crawling with poisonous snakes or dragons even! Or worse, more…”

“More fucking barrels.” A halfling captain said, the annoyance in his tone clear as he started for the trail.

Bruce placed a hand on Lem’s shoulder and gave a gentle nod of reassurance, which seemed to calm the young lad. Bruce pulled out his pistol, and Lem did the same. Dane and Salty Sam had always preferred their cutlasses and entered the cave with those drawn instead.

One captain barked orders in the halfling tongue to some halfling pirates as they carefully scanned the trail with devices Bruce didn’t even pretend to know how they worked. The cave entrance was large enough to fit three men abreast and there were several grooves in the cave that conveniently held more barrels. The group of pirates walked with the scanners in front and passed quietly but for the occasional snide remark about halflings and barrels. Bruce was normally calm, but felt a rage grow in him the deeper the group got into the cave. Bruce had spent his entire life as a pirate, but his deeds would never compare to the man who created this cave. You loved to pillage and reave so much that you made an entire land to do it in. Even if you hadn’t made the entire land I’ve lived in my whole life I still would never come near you in skill. You’ve flown on two different worlds and killed hundreds of people. You’ve navigated through calm seas and storms and amassed a hoard so bloody large it’s a wonder you’ve managed to hide it until now. But you are only human, and now your time is done and ours is here. Bruce continued to think to himself of what he would say when he finally met his biggest idol and worst enemy face to face, but found himself at a loss for words. All his mental speeches and dastardly threats seemed more and more meager and pathetic as the group drew closer and closer to the legendary pirate’s final hiding place.

“Welp, this must be it.” One of the scanners said, turning off his device and putting back in his bag. The party turned one last bend to see a shanty looking door made of grey rotting wood. The pirates exchanged glances and Bruce felt the fear in them. Here they were, some of the most feared and respected pirates in all the world and all of their reputations put together paled in comparison to one man. One man who had thwarted each of them time and time again, one man who had killed dozens of their friends, dozens of their enemies, and amassed so much treasure that every one of the captains and their crews would be set for life it they found even a fraction of it. No one seemed to want to open the door first, and after a seemingly eternal silence Bruce walked as calmly as he could up to the rotting door and opened it.

Thirty pirates leapt into the room swinging pistols and swords, each bellowing a different battle cry as their eyes darted around the room, ready to shoot the expected army of pirates here to defend their fearless leader. But there was nothing inside, nothing but a desk and chair of the same rotting grey wood, another dimly lit lantern, and a mountain of barrels.

“What the… how many damn barrels are there?” Dane said, his cutlass still ready in front of him.

“Enough.”

The entire group of pirates was startled and turned to see an old man appear from invisibility. He sat comfortably in the grey chair, surrounded in barrels. A frayed eye patch covered one of his eyes, and his single hand clutched desperately to a driftwood staff, by the looks of him to keep him from collapsing to the ground at any given moment. Bruce gave a quick glance under the desk to see a bloody peg where a foot used to be and a wrinkled foot topped with grey hair. A single one-shot pistol rested on the table but no one reached for it, for by the looks of the man there was no hope of him grabbing or much less shooting it. His beard was a soggy mop of curled grey hair that tumbled to the middle of his chest.

“Good god he must be 100 years old.” A pirate said, laughing slightly while sheathing their cutlass.

“One hundred and fourteen years of scurvy fighting wench fucking and rum drinking to you sonny. Eighty nine years since I made the seven new seas.” The man spoke with great strength considering his appearance.

“We’ve been looking for you for years, old man, give it up. You’ve got nowhere else to run, and we’ve got a lot of life left to live. Let’s cut to the chase, where is your treasure old man? You hear me in those deaf ears of your? WHERE IS YOUR TREASURE?!” Captain Ahab was losing his temper like always.

Everyone stared blankly at the man, but he sat there like nothing had been said. “Where is it,” Fiona said more gently, “we won’t hurt you if you just give us a map to your ship or your treasure.”

“FUCK THAT! I’ll make your death quick if you tell me, and slow and painful if you don’t!” This time it was a captain Bruce barely knew who spoke up.

Bruce sensed the room would soon devolve into yelling, and knew he had to step in quickly and firmly. “EVERYONE QUIET!” Bruce shouted. Bruce hated shouting, it hurt his throat, but he knew it was necessary at times like these. Bruce kept his hand on his pistol and walked up to the desk.

“Sir, let us parley.” Every preconceived speech Bruce had thought of had left him in that moment. He never anticipated how thoroughly defeated the man would be when they finally met. “I’ll admit I came in here with the intention to kill you but I can see that won’t be necessary, for you don’t have much time left no matter what we do to you. The fact of the matter is that you’ve successfully managed to keep us away from your treasure for your entire life. You created a world for pirates like us to explore, enjoy, and suffer in. You knew what people like us would enjoy and you made an entire world out of those things! You made a haven for us to sail in and fight in, to pillage and drink in, and to sail into the sunset and across the horizon, but you knew it inside and out. You knew nearly every detail, down to the currents and winds. You used your knowledge of the world with your great skill as a sailor to become the greatest pirate who ever lived and make your name the most feared in the land.”

“You’re damn right I did, and thwarting ye all over the past 89 years has been me favorite hobby.” The man said, still looking like he would cough up his black heart at any moment.

“That and drinking,” Salty Sam said, “look at all of these barrels sweet Queen Elizabeth there are so many!”

“Who’s Elizabeth?” the man said in a dazed, world weary voice.

“What I am trying to say old man is that don’t you think it’s time to pass the torch? Don’t you think that you’ve had your fun and… you know what? I’ll say it just so you can hear it from us before you go to your grave. You are the greatest, most feared, most respected pirate in all the land, and I wouldn’t dream of ever being as good as you. You’ve done it. You win. Congratulations!”

The old man nodded slowly in approval. “Arrrrrrr thank ye all, it means a lot to me, really it does.”

Bruce cracked a smile. “Now then, now that you can rest knowing none of us will ever challenge your title as the greatest, most feared, most respected pirate in all the land, and that none of us would ever dream of ever being as good as you, you can tell us where you hid your treasure and go peacefully to your grave.”

A silence fell over the room, and all eyes rested on the old man behind his stack of barrels and his rotting grey desk. His eye blinked once slowly, pulling at the wrinkles on his shriveled face.

“Why the bloody hell would I EVER tell any of ye where I hid me damn treasure?”

Bruce lost his temper. His foot rose to meet the grey desk and it went sailing forward into the old man’s gut and the barrels at the bottom of the mountain. The old man groaned painfully as Bruce reached over the table and grabbed him by the beard. Bruce pulled him over the table and put his pistol under the ancient pirate’s chin.

“Listen you shriveled piece of crusty shit. Tell me where you hid your damn hoard or you’ll go to your grave knowing Captain Bruce killed you and I’ll spread the word across your precious world that you died pissing yourself and drowning in rum in this god-forsaken cave.”

barrels.jpg

The top of the barrel mountain rumbled and the uppermost barrel teetered back and forth before finally falling from the top and making its descent rolling down to the ground layer by layer.

“Aye,” the old man said, “that’d be true, if’n any of ye were leaving this cave alive.

The barrel gained enough momentum to skip the last several layers of the mountain and explode open on the ground, revealing a sizeable blob of black powder.

“Mother of god…” Lem murmured, “they can’t all be… that’s impossible.” Tears swelled in his eyes.

Bruce’s smile melted from his face as all the pirates left running down the hall. While he looked away the old man’s hand shot across the table and grasped the single shot pistol with amazing speed, and the old man could no longer hold back his smile.

“See ye in hell.”

Bloody John Rackham pointed the pistol at the pile of black powder and pulled the trigger.

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A GOOD THING GOING - DROAAM FINALE
DROAAM FINALE

Since voting for Jorlanna d’Cannith, the PCs and seemingly everyone in Droaam had been experiencing vivid, lucid dreams and nightmares; a well known side effect of Dal Quor approaching closer to the Material Plane. The constant dreaming became a hot topic for discussion among the people of Droaam, but more so was the PCs and their recent conquering of the monster-filled nation. Since the deaths of Sora Maenya, The Queen of Stone, and Xor’chylic, as well as the departure of Sora Katra and Tereza, the PCs were the largest power group in Droaam. With the Great Crag vacated, the PCs left Cazhaak Draal and inhabited some temporary quarters in the palace of the Daughters of Sora Kell. Trusting in the promises of safety and peace from the strange group of adventurers who had convinced them to vote for Jorlanna, the PCs began to settle down.

The PCs were awoken from that night’s dreams by their beloved Mint, who said it was time to start holding court. The PCs were flooded by servants and readied themselves for ruling from the Great Crag and Droaam. The line into the throne room was hundreds long, and many humble Droaamans presented humble gifts at their feet, or simply thanked the PCs for the peace they had created, no matter how temporary. It appeared that Droaam was actually somewhat tired of fighting. There were many warlords in line who pledged their allegiance to the PCs in order to keep the peace. Others were messengers announcing that their chieftains would be there soon to pledge their allegiance as well. Others reported news of reconstruction. The most notable of court attendees was an entourage of gnolls from Stonejaw Keep and a gargoyle from Graywall. The gnolls gave the PCs an ornate ebony chest filled with jewels thanking them for freedom from the daughters of Sora Kell, and the gargoyle reported the elimination of the Flayers Guild in Graywall. Night was on the PCs before they knew it and they all retired to their temporary quarters.

However, each of them was awoken by an assassin clinging to the ceiling above their beds. The PCs all fought well for being unarmed and unarmored, with Maginda punching one’s jaw through his skull and Desmond magically ripping the heart out of his assassin. Ferawyn turned into a bear and slashed open the face of her assassin. Kicero, Cormag and Revenant were able to capture their assassins. The assassins turned out to be tongueless Inspired from the Dreaming Dark (An order that serves the Quori of Dal Quor). The PCs executed two of them to prevent them from using telepathy and intimidated the last one into confessing that they were sent to kill the PCs to prevent them from saving anyone when Dal Quor and Eberron became coterminous. The PCs had the last one executed when they found nothing more to gain from him. Once they were done with that, a terrified Mint said there was something outside… a lot of somethings.

The PCs went into the courtyard to see thousands of Dragons flying overhead. The people of the Great Crag were terrified as the Dragons blotted out the early morning sun. Mint also said they had a visitor. The PCs turned to meet an enormous blue Dragon. Its deep rumbling voice asked them if they remembered the prophecy from Sora Tereza. They did, affirming their suspicions that the adventurers sent by Jorlanna were the famed Party of the 13th Plane. The warning about Dal Quor again becoming coterminous with the Material Plane had been relayed, and they were needed to help save people. The blue Dragon told the PCs that this world would be destroyed, but that a new one would be remade. When Dal Quor would become coterminous with the Material Plane, a portal spanning the length of the entire coast of Droaam would open, connecting the two planes. However, the Dragons of Argonessan were ready this time, and planned to commit genocide on the Quori. The Dragons would then use the empty and vacated plane Dal Quor to forge a new world by terraforming a new planet. The Dragons had been silently contemplating this for thousands of years, and had unfortunately had little actual interaction with the present population of Eberron. The Draconic Prophecy, however, stated that the Silent Slaughterers and the Party of the 13th Plane would be the best people to choose who goes on to the next world. The PCs were at first stunned by this immense responsibility, but quickly decided they owed Droaam more than anywhere else, and told the Dragons to prioritize the people (and monsters) of Droaam.

In addition to the people escorted to the new world on Dal Quor, the PCs were tasked with selecting people to be “Forgers.” Forgers would be a select few to have an active hand in forging the new Material Plane on Dal Quor. They would be given a host of Dragons to command in terraforming the new planet. The blue Dragon urged them to think about who they would name, and told the PCs to prepare for battle and to leave the Great Crag with as many troops and people as possible and march for the southern coast of Droaam.

The PCs miraculously gathered all of the immense (and confused) population of the Great Crag, some 50-70 thousand, and broke the news. The silver-tongued Desmond explained that although they had been promised peace and safety that the entire world was now in danger, for by tonight the Quori would pour onto the Material Plane by the millions, and the only way to survive was to suit up and march for the southern coast. Many at first objected and felt betrayed by their new leaders who had promised to be different than the previous monstrous leaders, but with Desmond’s credibility and Mint heralding the daelkyr heart banner, the people were roused enough to gather their belongings and weapons and begin to march south.

Before the march, Sir Ari and Sir Cormag shared their last suiting up and Ari confided that he was going to name Cormag a Forger to assure his survival and as a reward for being such a good lad. Cormag was hesitant at first but knew there was no talking his old master out of it. Revenant experienced what every cleric dreams of: a visit from his goddess. Lady Fate appeared in his chamber and told him that no gods or goddesses would have immediate tangible power in the new world because so many of their followers would die with Eberron, but she wanted him to herald their faith into the new world, for there would be power in it for the both of them. She also told him he could invoke her power to its fullest one time before entering Dal Quor. Ferawyn made love to her husband Lither for possibly the last time and he presented a gift he had been preparing for her. He had asked a gnome servant to make a remembrance potion for Ferawyn. This potion would cure her amnesia. However, Ferawyn still remembered that she had intentionally terminated her memories, and decided not to drink the potion, wanting only to remember her life beginning in Droaam. Lither was shocked at first, but respected her decision. He later bumped into Desmond, a bloody sack swinging from his hip. Desmond asked about the bloody sack, and Lither revealed he had spent a lot of money on an assassin to kill Ferawyn’s ex-husband Declin Ayolos. Lither reasoned that whatever Declin Ayolos had done to Ferawyn that it drove her to intentionally terminate her memories deserved nothing short of death. Desmond and Lither then burned the severed head of Declin. Desmond also once again bumped into the peasant boy Wat, and took a liking to him, secretly planning to name him a Forger in order to protect him. Maginda then ran into her mother Ooloppa, and immediately named her a Forger, commanding Dragons to carry her through the portal immediately. Ooloppa objected immensely, but could not resist the Dragons and told her daughter to be safe and that she would be waiting in Dal Quor. Kicero went to his mini mage guild and was immediately bombarded with questions, the group demanded to know what the Silent Slaughters had been hiding, and the true gravity of the situation. Despite their pact not to tell anyone about the position of “Forger,” Ki told the dozen or so magic users about the position, and that they would have to fight hard to survive if they wanted to become Forgers. Most of them were satisfied with that, but Ki returned to his quarters to see one of the gnoll twin sorcerers sneaking through his things. The gnoll was looking for journal entries or something to get more information about anything the blue Dragon had told the PCs. Ki, furious, dismissed the gnoll, and then immediately ran into Mint who told Ki he had another visitor. Ki followed Mint to meet his cousin, who pretended there were no hard feelings between Ki and the rest of his family. He asked for several favors given Ki’s new position of power. Ki bluntly refused and told his cousin to beat it and how dare he only show up when things looked bad.

After their individual problems had been addressed, the horde of 70,000 set out from the Great Crag for the coast of Droaam. As the sky turned reder and reder, Quori poured out from the ground and sky and the horde was almost immediately met with resistance.

Thousands of people died to the claws and psionic powers of the Quori, but it hardly detoured the mob of Droaamans as they made a beeline for the massive portal to Dal Quor. The PCs fought valiantly and slaughtered Quori by the hundreds to defend themselves and their people. However, things got hectic very quickly, and the PCs found themselves in a skirmish with some exceptionally powerful Quori. The PCs were attacked by two Du’ulora Quori (Blackfuries) and a Retriever demon. Although Maginda came dangerously close to death, Desmond was able to rescue her. Sir Ari’s hydra mount was cut out from underneath him and he was flung into the air by a Blackfury, but he slowed his fall by cleaving into the side of the Retriever, followed shortly by the felling blow from Revenant. The Blackfuries fell quickly to Kicero’s disintegrate and Maginda and Ferawyn’s beatings. After the battle, the PCs looked around and witnessed Manos manifest a Greater Mark of Handling, but while it was appearing on his face, Veera died defending him. Ovandar was also cut off, losing complete sight of the PCs, his aberrant mark barely holding off the Quori. Kaya continually flung herself into the fray, cutting down Quori after Quori. The PCs considered going after her, but she kept charging further and further away from the group, with “LODAQ! LODAQ!” as her battle cry. She wept while she fought, but looked relieved when she finally took a fatal blow, and readied to meet her love in the world beyond. The PCs regrouped with Mint, Manos, Lither, some of the mage circle, and others. About 15,000 had been rallied, and they grouped for the final push to Dal Quor. Ari summoned a phantasmal chariot and began defending the rear with Ferawyn and Cormag. Desmond, Ki, Maginda, and Revenant lead the front of the charge.

The band continued running and fighting until they saw a nearly impassable barrier ahead. A tunnel of Quori had formed ahead, fending off all of the Dragons by sheer numbers. The PCs realized there was almost no chance of anyone making it through alive. Mint pulled them aside and said he could hear Quori voices while he held the daelkyr heart banner. The PCs deduced that the Quori were attracted to the daelkyr heart, but the PCs were hesitant to destroy it, for it was the only thing that warded them from the scrying of Mordain the Fleshweaver. The PCs realized that this is why Mordain coveted the daelkyr heart so much: it would make the Quori view him as one of their own and protect him so he could make a safe jump to Dal Quor when this day came. The PCs knew they had a big decision to make, fight an army of Quori and likely one of the daelkyr themselves, or risk the wrath of Mordain? Mint advised to destroy the banner because they KNEW that if they held onto it they would face a near impossible number of Quori, but if they destroyed it they only RISKED Mordain showing up. In the end they followed Mint’s advice and destroyed the banner. The tunnel of Quori was subsequently dispatched by Dragons, and the PCs and their people had a clear shot at the portal to Dal Quor.

As they jogged for survival, two dragons landed near Ari and his chariot. They were badly wounded and told him that the changeling Vo (Gideon Rosethorn) had named him a Forger, and that they had to protect him on his way to Dal Quor. However, Ari refused to be safely guided, saying it was his duty to stay and die for these people. The Dragons tried to forcefully grab Ari, but Ari took advantage of their wounded state and cleaved through their necks, killing them both. Soon after, they heard a crack of energy above and the familiar voice of Mordain the Fleshweaver. The ground around them sank into pools of lava and a prismatic wall of light formed a dome around the entire army. Mordain appeared on the other side of his magical prison with a powerful orb that was producing the spell. “I finally tracked you down. You will all go down with this world while I forge a better one in my image.” He then left the orb on a pedestal on the outside of the magical prison, and began walking the last mile toward Dal Quor, his lithe figure dwarfed by the seething red skies of Dal Quor.

The army of Droaamans began to panic, but Revenant simply called upon the full power of his goddess and began to walk across the lava unharmed as everyone gaped at his power. When he reached the prismatic wall, tendrils of light peeled away from his body until he touched the orb left behind by Mordain. Despite the power granted by his goddess, the raw eldritch energy began to rip Revenant apart, but he was able to move the magical prison to ensnare Mordain instead of the PCs and their army. The PCs yelled at their people to go and make a break for Dal Quor while they surrounded Mordain in his magical cage. A few Dragons came by quickly to hear their lists of Forgers, and to ensure the safety of Mint, Cormag (to whom Ari gave the Lance of Longinius), and Manos. The monsters broke into a full sprint as the PCs prepared for battle. The orb continued to rip Revenant apart and would have killed him had it not been for the combined healing efforts of Ferawyn and Desmond. Finally, when he could not hold it any longer, Revenant quickly dropped the orb and stomped on it. An epic battle immediately ensued.

Ferawyn transformed into a bear and immediately brought a comet out of the sky, somehow managing to knock Mordain down. Unfortunately, his aura of madness drove away the brave Sir Ari and turned Ki against Revenant, causing Ki to cast disintegrate and nearly kill Revenant. Desmond began frantically trying to cure the confused party while Maginda wailed on Mordain. Mordain’s quick healing showed as the party barely made a dent in his actual figure, and he unleashed more and more powerful magic. Mordain started with a disjunction and followed with horrid wilting, softening up most of the party. The battle continued as Ki and Ferawyn assailed Mordain with their strongest spells, but still had trouble breaching his magical defenses. Revenant beat on Mordain as well, and Maginda decided to grapple him despite her low hit points. Desmond saw how dire the situation was, and expended all he had to heal everyone in the party, even breaking his vow of poverty to use Ki’s rod of quicken spell. Shortly after breaking his vow to save the party, Desmond sacrificed his life to give out his last ounce of healing. His last words being “Some people are worth dying for.” He then cartwheeled one last time before falling apart into a pool of blood. Ari finally came to his senses and turned to charge Mordain, ramming his sword through Mordain’s chest. Mordain retaliated by having his symbiotic whip and armor detach to crawl inside Maginda’s mouth and devour her brain, killing her shortly after. Once free from her grasp, he used telekinesis to project Ferawyn (who had charged and clawed him with her bear claws) 1,000 feet away and into a tree. Ferawyn looked around at the remnants of their army, and Lither rushed to her aid, but he took a lethal blow in the process. He kissed her and cut off his ear and gave it to her, asking her to reincarnate him when/if she made it through to Dal Quor. She then used transport via plants to teleport back to Mordain. Mordain followed up by stopping time, allowing him to heal much of his wounds. However, the remaining four PCs were well healed from Desmond, and carried out a relentless assault after time started again. Ferawyn, Ki, and Sir Ari all dealt vicious blows to Mordain, realizing they could not kill him with mere damage. Fortunately he was very hurt after their attacks, and Revenant decided it was now or never. He approached Mordain and placed his hand on his forehead, saying “Mordain, your soul will not enter OUR NEW WORLD!!!!” and used his death touch ability on him. Revenant’s power proved just enough, and he ripped Mordain’s soul out of him and bound it to one of Ki’s soul gems. Revenant heard his goddess whisper for him to leave it behind as an offering. The PCs then joined their horde in the sprint for Dal Quor. All except for Ari, who turned the other way. Remembering Desmond’s last words to him, Ari went down fighting Quori to assure more Droaamans were able to make it through. Ki, Revenant, and Ferawyn finally made it to the coastal portal and entered Dal Quor.

Several massive black clouds formed to hold the PCs and their some 9,000 survivors. They were almost immediately met with an angry mob of monsters fighting for the position of Forger. How they found out was a mystery, but they had found out, and some even knew that the PCs had some say over who became a Forger. The PCs named those on their lists, but many urged the PCs to name them as well, with some even resorting to violence. When the PCs tried to explain that there were limited spots, Golb was stabbed to death by Droaamans in hopes of one of Ki’s slots to open up. This false logic startled Ki, but he was more so startled when the gnoll sorcerer who had been snooping through his stuff that he intentionally didn’t name a Forger literally stabbed him in the back, threatening to pull it up into Ki’s heart if he wasn’t named a Forger. Ki defiantly refused, and luckily Revenant cast slay living and slew the gnoll before Ki himself was slain. As the mob approached the PCs with violent intentions, Revenant turned and gave an incriminating speech. He told them that the PCs had fought, died, and killed for all of their lives and that now of all times was not the time to stop trusting their decision making, and that they should be ashamed of their behavior. The speech washed over the crowd and they felt ashamed, and allowed the remaining three PCs to finish their Forger lists to the Dragons. All three PCs also decided they wanted to be Forgers, and were floated up with the other Forgers to gaze upon the new planet being formed by the Dragons.

The PCs took the last glimpse of Eberron as the the portal connecting the two worlds was destroyed. They turned their attention to the task at hand, attempting to make a new and better world where monsters would be more tolerated.

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DREAMS COME CRASHING DOWN - XEN'DRIK FINALE
XEN'DRIK FINALE

The PCs rode on the back of the ancient dragon as it flew above the clouds, encircled by an army of dragons. The PCs knew today was the day that Dal Quor would once again become coterminous with the material plane of Eberron. The dragons rallied in Droaam, ready to commit genocide on the Quori the moment the portal that spanned the entire coast of Droaam opened. When they asked the PCs who they would like the dragons to protect and carry into the new world, the PCs talked it over for a while and decided that evacuating the city of Stormreach was the best and simplest plan of action. Stormreach was a racial mosh pit and also had an extraordinary populace, making it a great place to save and protect for the creation of a new world. The dragons accepted the request, and sent several dragons to Xen’drik to get ready to protect the city and shuttle the populace through to the portals to Dal Quor.

There was one more thing the dragons told the PCs. In addition to those they wanted to see safely brought to the new world, they also needed to each choose people they wanted to be “Forgers.” A Forger would have an active hand in the creation of the new world and a personal entourage of dragons to direct in sculpting the new world. They would essentially help orchestrate the forging of a new planet in Dal Quor to replace Eberron. The PCs began to make their own personal lists of people they would like to be Forgers.

As the dragons prepared for battle in Droaam, they sent the PCs ahead on Bloody John Rackam’s airship to warn the city of Stormreach. While the party sailed above the ocean, several Inspired mages flew out of the water and began barraging the ship with spells, attempting to destroy it. However the battle-hardened PCs and crew of the ship repelled the attackers with relative ease, even making one of the Inspired walk the plank to their death. As the sky grew redder and redder, the PCs appeared to be the only people trying to get into the city of Stormreach. The sky and water docks were both full of people fleeing the city. From their airship the PCs could also see hundreds of monsters and giants fleeing out from the jungles of Xen’drik and into the water. In their haste, several of them were drowning or already wounded from the Quori that were pouring into the jungles from the portal at Thunderwall.

Instead of the docks, Bloody John landed his airship in the center of the city. The PCs saw The Twelve, the Storm Lords, the Dragonmarked Houses, and the Silver Flame all in heated debate about what to do when the PCs stood in the middle of them and explained that everyone should gear up for the defense of the city. Dal Quor was now coterminous with the material plane, and the Quori were coming to wipe out everything. The people began to stir but the PCs slightly comforted them by saying that while they defended the city against the Quori invasion, the dragons of Argonessan would be shuttling groups of them through the portal to Dal Quor at Thunderwall. The whole city then armed itself in preparation.

The PCs had agreed earlier not to tell anyone about the position of Forger, to prevent conflict among the people of Stormreach. Despite the agreement, Minus Trecedim secretly offered his cultist father an assured position as a Forger. While people scrambled about, rumors spread about the PCs having a huge say in who would survive, and many wanted to be prioritized by the dragons to assure their survival. As more and more dragons arrived to help in the defense of the city, people began approaching the PCs. Specifically, Bloody John had every Storm Lord approach him and ask for guaranteed safe passage. First, the halfling harbormaster Dorrian Wylkeses approached John, asking to be safely guided through. Because the two were friends, John ordered an elite squad of dragons to carry Dorrian through, while secretly planning to make him a Forger as well. Next to approach the pirate was Brolo Lassites’s daughter: Lauren Lassites. She recognized that they had not had the best of relationships in the past (her family had tried to kill him and the PCs twice) but forced out an apology and begged John for mercy. She would do anything she could for his help, knowing she was damned without it. After a brief silence, John burst out laughing in her face, laughing nearly to the point of tears until Lauren was red in the face with rage and embarrassment. John finally replied with a resounding “Hell no” and offered to her crew that anyone who did want to live could now follow him. Almost her entire crew left her, leaving her with one ship and only a handful of pirates. She fought tears, and boarded her ship with the little dignity that remained, and set sail for the portal. It wasn’t long before the PCs saw her ship overturned by Quori, and her body ripped limb from limb.

Additionally, Gideon was approached by the Silver Flame. and they demanded that he make it through, for he was one of the best paladins on the planet and needed to herald the Silver Flame into the new world. They even gave him the helmet of Anachleus, a minor artifact infused with powerful divine magic. Gideon was touched, but still objected, saying it was his duty as a paladin to die so as many Silver Flame members as possible could make it through. A higher up official then informed Gideon that Jaela Daran, the Mouth of the Silver Flame, had specifically decreed that Gideon Rosethorn should make it through to represent the Silver Flame. Gideon recognized this was a blatant lie to try and convince him to not give his own life but decided to play along with the lie and obey nonetheless, inspired by how much his life meant to his people.

Many of the Twelve tried to cut deals with the PCs, but the PCs told everyone else that their fates were left to who the dragons were able to pick up and they would issue special protection to no one else.

Stormreach was then ready for battle. As the sky turned a blood red color and Quori poured out of the jungles of Xen’drik. They also poured out of rifts in the sky itself, throwing themselves at the walls of Stormreach. The two forces clashed and immediately spells began to tear apart the land as giants, dragons, the lesser races, several monsters and Quori all died in troves. While the PCs held the main gate, dragons began grabbing people and making a beeline for the portal to Dal Quor at Thunderwall. When some particularly menacing Quori emerged from the jungles, the PCs threw themselves into the fray, unleashing all of their might. Iris leapt from the wall and cut a powerful Quori in half with her magically enhanced claws, freeing a previously grappled Minus who shot down several more Quori. Then the Ragewalker, the enormous Quori they had stopped at Bazek Mohl, emerged from the jungle. It did a good amount of damage to the surrounding area (as well as the party) but the PCs were just too strong. They unleashed one powerful blow after the next into the alien, bringing it down before it could break into Stormreach.

After the Ragewalker died they had a short respite. They turned to see Stormreach in flames, but most of the city had already been evacuated, killed, or lay dying. They also saw their old friend Clester the cloud giant leaning up against the wall, but only the top half of him. Iris rushed to her friend’s aid, and said she would miss him. Clester responded not with kind words but by screaming at the little shifter girl to grow up and face reality. The entire race of cloud giants was now gone, and they would soon cease to exist. This was not a silly game, he told Iris, for Clester’s entire race had been wiped out. She was not just an innocent little girl, she was a caged beast waiting to rip apart nearly any foe, and if she didn’t learn to control that power, she wouldn’t be able to save others that she loved and cared about. Clester died shortly after his speech. Iris then shifted, but for the first time, remained in control. She was no longer a little girl, but a woman, and a warrior.

Shortly after, the PCs saw Erintin Lyrandar with his newly wed wife in one hand, and rapier in the other showering his foes with daggers. In short, he said there was no way he would rather go out, and as Quori came at him from every side, he fought tooth and nail before dying in a blaze of glory.

Finally, when the PCs were the only ones who remained amid the rubble and ruin of Stormreach, the very ground underneath their feet rumbled and eight dragons arose from from the earth. Each had a wingspan of half a mile and a distinct biome on its back. The PCs began in a jungle biome, and the other seven dragons formed a ring around the PCs, and began speeding toward the portal at Thunderwall. The biome dragons were quickly surrounded by a tunnel of thousands of Quori, determined not to let the PCs through. They blazed past Lyrandar and pirate airships and barreled through trees like they were not even there. Everything flew by as the dragons protected the PCs on their way to Dal Quor. Despite the shield created by the biome dragons, many Quori were still able to slip through and hamper the dragon the PCs were on. Additionally, a the most powerful type of Quori (a Kalaraq Quori or “Dream Lord”) began an attack against the PCs directly. They had to deal with the hundreds of Quori attacking their ride, the power of the Dream Lord, and the natural hazards of the biome they were in.

The battle was long and epic, with various biome hazards claiming the life of Minus’s new horse, and Thoris’s brother Carter. John, Minus, and Iris were able to hold off the legions long enough to make safe transfers to other biome dragons, but five of the eight still died to the constant attacks of the Quori. Minus even died and came back to life via revivify during the battle. Gideon, Cathar, and Thoris focused their powers on the Kalaraq Quori. Despite his waves of psionic energy, his disjunction , and his insanity aura the PCs were able to slay all of their foes and push through to Dal Quor. However, not before Cathar was killed by the powerful magic of the Dream Lord.

Upon entering, the PCs saw more dragons breathing into a core, slowly forming a new planet. They also saw numerous black clouds holding up the thousands of people that had been saved by the dragons.

The PCs were deposited onto a black cloud holding about 200 people, including Minus’s father. The people seemed to have heard about the Forgers and were bickering as to who would get the amazing opportunity to help create the new planet. The PCs interjected into the childish argument and screamed that they were tasked with choosing the Forgers. People were still upset until a cleric stepped in to advocate for the PCs, recognizing them as The Party of the 13th Plane. Despite the testament to their character, a gnome stepped forward and demanded he be named a Forger. When asked for his name, he responded “Vase.” The PCs pulled him aside and, remembering the prophecy from earlier, took him by the ankles and shook him upside down. Realizing this was probably not what the prophecy meant by “turn,” Thoris then used his turn undead ability and disintegrated Vase, revealing him to have been a vampire. The PCs came back onto the cloud and Gideon told the people exactly what had happened. The display finally seemed to quiet the crowds, making things a lot easier for the PCs.

Minus was then approached by his father, Jiril. Before he could say much, Minus felt something invade his mind. He lifted his bow and put an arrow through his father’s chest. He got a telepathic message from his powerful magical bow saying it had been good the whole time and sensed the evil in Minus. Although it knew Minus was evil, it did sense some good so it decided to bide its time because it could not in good conscience allow a man as vile as Jiril to become a Forger. As Jiril choked on his own blood, his last words were “You have proved better at one thing than your sister… disappointing those you love.” To which Minus responded “F*** YOU DAD!” and shot a second arrow through his head. Thoris, horrified and confused, rushed over and used a scroll of revivify to raise Jiril. However, Minus promptly kicked Jiril’s body off the black cloud into the ectoplasmic void of Dal Quor. Minus explained the situation, and revealed he planned to use his place others who had wronged him on his personal Forger list (such as the fire giant Zmovos, the kobold Gamble, the Lord of Blades) to secure their protection to Dal Quor just to kill them himself.

Other than that, a dragon came to collect the list of names from each PC for who they wanted to be Forgers. Some of those they named didn’t make it into the now Quori-less plane of Dal Quor, but a majority had been successfully transported. After collecting their lists the dragon departed to rally all of the Forgers.

Eventually the PCs were called up to be Forgers themselves. They joined those on their lists as all the Forgers floated up to surround the core of the new planet and began directing the dragons in the construction of a new planet.

A few remaining dragons turned around and destroyed the portal to Eberron, and everyone took one last glimpse before turning their attention to the new material plane.


The lists, repeated names were not typed a second time, nor were people who were dead:

Gideon – Jaela Daran, Jorlanna Cannith, Sir Domeric, Sir Ari Morgrave, Dorrian Wylkeses, Kelmar (a cleric friend), giants (in general)
Bloody John – Edgar the pilot, Wendy the halfling and her husband Kelvin
Iris – Myconids, House Jorasco, “santa” (Baron Yoren Ghallanda), Prince Trelib Medani, Palamei, adventurers (in general)
Minus – Shroomy (killed shortly after being rescued), that one valenar elf from the horse competition (also killed by Minus), Genna Jorasco, Sir Martyn, Sebastian Relothi
Thoris – Shaggori, Mom, Dad, Uncle, Eilonna, Saeras Vadallia, Serenese (in general), that pretty girl from Karrnath/women who will marry me (in general), that stable boy I screwed over in the horse competition

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