RETURN TO THE AZURE KINGDOM
Players, We've done a lot of talking in the "Tone of the Game" page of the website about players making the choices that they want to make. I remain very committed to that idea. Make the choices your characters...and your party...would make. I'll react to what you do. Do ANYTHING you want. You won't always succeed, but I will try to always make the storyline exciting...and satisfying.
Take chances! Read past summaries and dig up resources and NPCs that even I have forgotten about. Stretch the limits of possibility...and surprise me. Send your e-mails to me...and I will edit them and post them to the website.
I have completed re-writing and responding to all of your submissions below. READ THEM. Storyline and dialog are in black ink, and Game Notes are in blue ink. I have littered the following with things that will help you, and things that will warn you of danger. READ THEM....
Thank you, Mark Stinson, 11-09-2002
From the White Book...the Book of Purity...
At Birchmont we found heaven…but one of us found Hell. Seduced by the Red
Queen of Hell…She Who Suckles the Hoards of Hell, Brother Simms opened a gate between Kempin and the World of Hellfire.
Hellspawn spilled forth, feasting on and fucking everything they found…and many priest died in ways that no man
All who enter Birchmont will fail. Do not drop the Seal of Light…a priest
of sufficient Power…and Will, can pass the Seal…with all those he wishes to bring with him. To drop the Seal of
Light dooms all…but most assuredly those who unlocked its protective wards. My hope is that the unworthy will drop
the Seal of Light and be consumed before they can release the other Seals.
The Seal of Light - To hold back the chittering hoards of Hell
(This first story occurs prior to the party's entry into the Underdark)
The old man squinted his eyes to keep out the sun and the wind. His grey hair blew violently about his head and beads of sweat gathered on his brow and upper lip. Strange dark words spilled forth quietly from his mouth, and his hands moved rhythmically in the air...as if he sought to weave strands of invisible string into some great tapestry. The old man's feet were firmly planted, providing him a wide stance on the grass covered hill upon which he stood.
Thousands of men, and a few women, surrounded the base of the hill...the one the old man seemed to have claimed for his own. None would approach him...and not one sound issued from this crowd. They stood as if entranced...eyes closed, hands at their sides, swaying only slightly with the strong gusts of wind. It had taken nearly an Empire month for this talented throng to be gathered here...in the Grasslands of Shronth. Men, elves, gnomes, dwarves, even a few Swaldune stood side by side on this day.
Upon his huge black horse, nearly a mile away among 10,000 warriors on horseback, was Draad...Iron Lord of Shronth. "The Torla weaves powerful magic this day. I do not understand the threat we face this day...but I trust the old man's words like the metal of my axe." The Iron Lord's words were barely understandable, so thick was the accent of his clan cant.
The large armored figure near him nodded his head, his extremely short blond hair unmoved by the wind. "Yes. I consider him to be more than a brother. Without him, I fear we would soon fall to the demons...all of us...Iron Clan...Horse Clan, as well as my Empire. All that is has been threatened by the breaching of Birchmont."
Draad's horse stepped sideways uneasily, but was quickly made still by his master. "I appreciate your presense here...you and the legion you have brought with you. My grandfather...and my father...told me many stories of your younger days...and your adventures. It makes us proud that a man of Iron rules half the world. You have allowed us to be loyal to you...without demanding our supplication. This proves your strength, and makes us all the more loyal to whatever cause you need us for...."
The large man turned his horse so that he could look Draad in his eyes. "These words need not be said, Draad. We shall die loyal to each other and to our Clan. Though I am Emperor of a hundred thousand souls, you are still the Iron Lord of the Clan of my birth. We meet today...and always...as equals. If you are brought low, I too will be brought low swinging a sword at your side."
Draad slapped his sheathed sword. "We will wade hip-deep through the corpses of our enemies if need be. What we have built must survive."
Jestak turned back towards the Mound of Kordasha. "Has another Torla been found? Vavasha is very powerful...but he has grown old. Has not another Great Weaver been found?"
Draad's face was grim. "The coming of the next Torla is long overdue. Some say we have offended Kempin, and that he withholds the coming of another Torla. Some say a Torla was indeed born, but has not yet been discovered among the clans. I pray each morning and each night...that a Torla be born...and that he be born to a female of the Iron Clan. And no other."
Ten thousand horses sudddenly neighed and stepped high with agitation. Their riders struggled to control them. Jestak took this all in and then shadowed his eyes with his hand, squinting to see Vavasha along atop the grassy mound. "They feel his power...something is happening!"
Back on the hill, the old man had stopped speaking his dark words. A spark gathered in Vavasha's eye...a spark of pure and amazing power. There was a horrible flash...and the Seal of Kordasha was made. The Azure Kingdom was truly dead...but the World of Kempin would survive for now.
(This second story actually occurs after Scott's 3rd Game in November)
The Finders sat upon wide blue rocks, in the eastern foothills of a spur of the Blue Mountains that extended to the west of the City of Cornwalsh. Across several shallow valleys and meager hills stood the walls that had protected Cornwalsh for as long as any could say. A small fire warmed salted meat and red grain cakes, while gulps from a passed bottle warmed the party member's insides. Zeek appeared sullen and somewhat insulted. "How can they just ask us to leave like that? What right to they have?"
Oren had a mischievious smile on his face, and he appeared to be trying to imitate Zeek's tribal accent. "Where was their documentation? I DEMAND PAPERWORK!" Oren then yelped and rubbed his arm. No one had seen Zeek move, but no one doubted that Zeek had delivered to Oren a painful but unseen nerve strike. "Zeek, I suggest you buy a sense of humor in the next town that let's us stay for more than a day." Then Oren laughed.
Damon cleared his throat and spoke in a clear deep voice. "The authorities in Cornwalsh knew of our power...and for this reason they were much more polite about kicking us out than I would have expected. Much is asked of them in these days of strife, and in many ways I agree with them...trouble does seem to follow us. I suggest that anyone wishing to enter Cornwalsh tomorrow, do so on their own...and not part of our larger group. They may attract less attention that way."
"Well said, Damon." Casiel was casually flipping a gold Kern back and forth across the tops of his knuckles. "What is next for us. We have done all that we can regarding the gnolls. I wonder where the collective fate of our party will take us."
Jeremiah stood, and brushed dirt from his cloak. "I don't feel right going on missions and adventures outside the Azure Kingdom. The soulless hoards have taken our Kingdom from us...and more and more, I think it is time we dealt with it. No more jaunts to SonaNyl, and no more mercenary missions for the highest bidder. We have the Dragon's Tear...and I fear for the Paladin's soul the longer we he is required to carry it. It is time we act. It is time we found a way to free our lands from She That Suckles the Hoards of Hell."
There was silence around the fire. Jeremiah sat back down in his place, realizing that each of his friends and fellow travellers was mulling over his words. Minutes passed, and Ruahdin added some wood to the fire, and then distributed the food without so much as a word. They consumed the warmed meat and ate their dry cakes, and though each of their minds raced horrible images burned into their memories at Birchmont.
Damon shook crumbs from his rough black shirt with his right hand. "It will take hundreds of spellcasters. Thousands and thousands of troops...foot soldiers, horsemen, as well as machines and beasts of war. This is not one mission for a small group of adventurers...no matter how powerful we have become. Freeing the Azure Kingdom will take the resolve, the resources, and the blood of entire nations. And even then...it might not be enough."
Zeek muttered under his breath, "Agreed." And each party member followed in suit..."Agreed...agreed...agreed...."
Jeremiah clenched his fists. "And yet...it is something we must do."
And again each member of the party spoke aloud in turn, "Agreed...agreed...agreed...agreed...."
The priest began to draw paper and pen from his backpack. "Then I propose we begin to prepare...and plan our righteous campaign. I propose we make a list of the resources we can bring to our cause, and then each of us must do our part obtain these resources. Magics...Armies...Elements of War...we shall split the labor and we shall prepare for this war. Giants will not hold the Azure Kingdom from us. Demons will not hold the Azure Kingdom from us. We will live or die by this effort, and dreadful woe to he that stands in our way."
While the priest prepares for the conversation, Oren rubs his chin. "I wonder where Vikos is? He appeared to us briefly in a vision before we went to the Underdark...but what of him now?"
No one in the party had forgotten Vikos appearing to them two weeks before. He was ranting and raving, and sparks flew from everything metal the party members were wearing. Vikos' words had been fierce. "You are all cowards for running from the real fight. If you are not willing to fight the demons with me I will I fight them on my own. If I die, it won't be the first time. I'M off to slay your masters." At that he disappeared and flied away.
Oren laughed. "That overworked moron is probably trapped within the Seal of Kordasha at this very moment!"
INSIDE THE SEAL OF KORDASHA
(Outline of ideas from Matt Johnson, fleshed-out and written by Mark Stinson)
"...I will check back with you tomorrow...communicating with you is extremely...tiring." As Vavasha's shimmering image faded from the air in front of Vikos, the thunder priest smiled and nodded in affirmation. Vikos had come to enjoy his meetings with the elder mage. Communicating with the outside world...even for so short a time, seemed to make being trapped inside the Azure Kingdom less claustrophobic.
Vikos damned the Seal for the hundredth time. He damned its power. He damned its efficiency. Even Molene's magical
paintings were cut off by the seal. They were mere paint on canvas, and had lost all their magic...at least for
the time being.
Vikos peered out the mouth of his cave. The sky crackled with energy. Not the natural electrical energy that Vikos felt to be a gift from Tobin, but the magical energy of the Seal. The sky was streaked with smoke and yellow fumes, and Vikos gagged and coughed a few times before composing himself. The earth itself had split in places, and columns of hellfire, black smoke, and noxious fumes rose high into the once clear mountain air. Vikos rubbed black soot from where it had gathered under his nose. "They will pay for this...they will pay."
Vikos had flown a full day above the bare path of scorched ground. He had stumbled across the 60' wide trail
during a brief scouting venture that morning. The very earth was burnt black, and the signs of a great weight dragged
along the ground
were evident. A hundred feet out in both directions from the burnt trail, the plants were black from some great exposure to heat. "Some great demon has travelled this way...great enough to demand my attention!"
Twenty meteors the size of a human head appeared from nowhere, several of them impacting heavily into Vikos' head and chest. Suddenly Vikos' fly spell was gone, and he fell from the sky trying all the while to catch his breath. He hit the ground with a sickening thud, but immediately began crawling to his feet. Two pit-fiends were now visible in the air above him, their red skin giving off a blistering heat that he could feel on his face. "I'll take care of these clowns, and get on with my search for the one they protect," Vikos thought to himself.
A massive battle ensued, with powerful spells from both sides, and at times physical blows exchanged that shook the earth beneath the 1/2 elf's feet. Vikos gave as good as he got, but in the end it was his mortal blood that soaked the ground, and his earthly flesh that hung in tatters.
Hours later, Vikos crawled upon his elbows and knees, barely conscious. It had taken every last bit of his knowledge, skill, and will-to-live in order to escape the two from the pit. He had his life, he had his axe, and his faith was unshaken. "Every last wrong shall be righted. Every bit of evil washed from this land."
Vavasha's mis-colored left eye shone red from his face. "You must be more careful, my friend. You are my
one trusted contact within the Seal."
A quiet moan of agony escaped Vikos' lips as an ork skilled in healing applied one of many bandages. The sound was cut off mid-moan, and Vikos let a brave grin appear on his face. "What of Javair? Have you not located him?"
"I said 'trusted' contact. Javair is...well, let's just say...compromised."
Vikos flinched in pain again, and shoved Fygun hard to the ground. "Damn your clumsy hands!" Vikos quickly spun the bandage around his knee, and tucked in the loose end. "Vavasha, how goes the efforts to acquire the Wyrm's Tear?"
"The Finders have it in their possession, though one of them...perhaps all of them are in deadly peril as long as they possess it. We shall see if it was worth their efforts...it all depends on the will of their paladin. Does he own the Tear, or does the Tear own him?"
"We are cursed that we must depend on him...for he lacks any sense or judgment. The Tear will certainly own him."
Vavasha seemed to ignore Vikos' rant. "Forget confronting the demons for now...gather any allies you can within the Seal. A time will come when we will need each and every one of them. As hard as it might be for you...you must be more the politician for now...and less the warrior. Rest...heal, I will talk to you tomorrow." And Vavasha's image was gone.
Vikos had flown low all morning, along the tops of the trees. hugging the contour of the countryside, dipping
into valleys where he could, skimming the tops of mountains and their passes when he had to. He landed in the hot
dry streambed about a quarter mile from his goal, and walked along the uneven stones.
The black dragon that Grinval had been stalking lived in a dark steaming hole in the ground somewhere up ahead. What an amazing mount a black dragon would be. The fear it would cause in his enemies, and the bravery it would inspire in is allies....
Vikos could smell it before he saw it. Death. Rotting, putrid death hung in the air. Even through the sulfurous ash that hung in the air, he could smell it. And then he saw it. The demons had found the black dragon first...and clearly made sport of it. Its upturned belly lay wide open with hundreds of feet of black entrails draped in the limbs of the trees around it. Black stickly blood covered the ground and tree bark in a wide circle around its evicerated corpse.
Vikos stood, his hand set upon the handle of his axe. "Well, this mount will not do." Vikos shook his head, chuckling, and took to the skies with a few words and a casual gesture.
Vikos flew towards the Storm Gates. "I will challenge these damned giants...see who can kill the most demons! No one can win the war between giants and men...large and small, until the demons are driven from the land." Vikos smiled a wry smile, as he pictured himself at the head of a huge army of giants...striking fear in those that know no fear.
Vikos stopped in mid-air, and checked him maps against the countryside below him. There just ahead was the City of Stormgate...yes, he was sure that was it. The mountains...the valleys, that river over there even...it was all on his map. Vikos rubbed his eyes and looked again. The Storm Gates were gone, as were the ancient walls that had once held back the unnatural winters. The Storm Gates were gone! Gone!
Vikos landed in the now thawed, but long-abandoned city. There must be an answer to this. There must be. Where were the giants? Where were the gates? Vikos spied the thin trail of smoke wafting upwards from an ancient domed temple, and walked that way through the rubble strewn city streets.
The lightning priest pushed the heavy gilded door open, and peered into the darkness. A woman's voice spoke to him from the darkness. "Hide your eyes mortal...for curiosity will be the death of you."
Vikos shaded his eyes with one hand, refusing to completely cover his vision. "What manner of creature are you? Do you think me stupid...that I would cover my eyes, and allow you to strike me dead at your own convenience."
The female laughed, and the laughter echoed within the ancient temple. "I am older than your god. I am older than this land. Speak with me, for I long for conversation with another, but do not gaze upon me...and respect the privacy of my temple. Ask me what you will...."
Vikos stayed within the doorway, resisting his urge to purge the darkness with magical light, and explore the mystery presented by this disembodied voice. "Where are the Storm Gates, witch? Where have the giants gone?"
The answer came quickly, and in a direct matter. Vikos judged the answer to be true. "The giants have moved on. The will vent their excess storm and cold in some other place...in some other world. They have no taste for war with demons. They have gone...and I do not believe they will return...."
Vikos' mouth dropped open, for the woman's words hit him like a runaway horse cart. The words, "I do not believe they will return," swum through his head. Vikos slapped his hand on his axe, and his head cleared. "Who are you, witch? What do you know...and how do you know it?"
"I am Timorda...ancient mother of snakes...and now I rule this ruined city from the darkness of this my temple. You would do well to respect my power, and the kindness I have shown you today. To enter my temple, is to die. To linger too long, will be your undoing...."
Vikos laughed. "You write better riddles than my friend Javair. You have been kind...and forthcoming with information. We part not as friends...but also...not as enemies. Enjoy your empty city, witch." Vikos strode down the steps of the temple whispering under his breath, "The giants were nothing but cowards...women in the guise of men. A few demons...and they flee like children...baaah!"
Vikos clung to Friilllion, the giant eagle he had befriended. Vikos was more confident flying on his own, than on the back of a feathered beast. But he realized that a pact with the eagles might help in the coming weeks and months. The Azure Keep loomed before them, and Vikos scratched Friilllion's neck feathers.
Landing at the Azure Keep, Vikos found it abandoned. Striding through its quiet halls, Vikos found a chill running up and down his spine. Months ago this place had been brimming with activity. Soldiers and politicians, working at building and negotiating a new Kingdom. Javair holding court with representatives from around the world. Now there was nothing but silence...and dust.
Vikos took a seat in Javair's chair at the head of the long table in the Feasting Hall. No Javair...no staff...no goblin bodyguards...no one at all. Vikos knew what had to be done. He would have to take over. Declare himself king, and gain control of General Fazirrel and his10,000 man undead army that Javair had held in reserve. Javair had told Vikos that the men of the undead army owed the King of the Azure Kingdom one last fight. Now Vikos would have to access them. Vikos would use them.
"I am now King! Do you hear me?!? I am now the leader of this mess...and as such I demand all the powers and privilages. Give me a sign!" Vikos cast his eyes about the room, as if he expected to hear a thunderclap...or the marching feet of 10,000 undead soldiers. But there was silence...no...there was a sound...though very faint. It was laughing. A very soft laughing. Vikos stood from the chair, and cocked his head, trying to hear where the sound was coming from. He walked to his left, but then turned around and walked to his right. It wasn't coming from Javair's make-shift bed chamber...no. Vikos walked past that door, and almost stumbled over a couch in the half-light. The painting! The painting of Vendra's Castle. The laughter came from the painting! Vikos tried to stick his hand through the painting...but he simply touched paint on canvass. This was one of Molene's magical paintings...but it wasn't the sort that allowed you to step through. Though clearly someone had been using the painting to spy on him. Vikos got the chill up his spine again. It wasn't just one person laughing...there were two male laughs. One deep and rich with age and experience...the other with a kind of musical lilt to it.
"Damnit! We have to do something...we have to save this damned Kingdom!" Vikos' face was red with the frustration of it all.
A rich thick voice issued from the painting. "Satisfy yourself with the fact that all goes according to plan. Everything according to plan....."
Vikos spent the next hour attempting to talk to whomever was on the other side of the painting, but the voice would not speak to him again. Vikos left on the feathered wings of Friilllion...the cold wind burning his face.
Vavasha's weathered face shimmered...and the walls of the cave could be seen through the magical projection. "Go on...we only have a few minutes more."
"O.K....I'll get through this quickly. I've managed to gather up what remains of my army of Tobin-loyal orkish troops. Tor-Forgen kept them together and hidden all this time...waiting for my return. They have been scavenging for additional arms and armor...and they have recruited quite a few new members to my army...humans, goblins, kobolds...even a few elves. All stragglers caught within the Seal. I've made it pretty clear that their only chance is to stick with us...we'll see if we can keep them around! The elves are the most likely to wander off...but the goblins and kobolds seem pretty sold on what were doing."
"I've also put the word out to the woodland creature that I am gathering a force to fight these unnatural demons...."
Vavasha interrupted Vikos. "Devils...not demons...devils."
"Whatever, old man...evil incarnate...who cares what you call them!?! I've let it be known that I will aid the animals and plants with spells to increase their size and power. I've been working on scrolls in here...Enlarge...Barkskin...Magic Fang...I've been cranking them out like one of those gnomish printing presses. I've been in contact with bears, lions, stags, wolves, and eagles. Kyiiiiri is young among the leaders of the eagles, but he has gained much power and influence during this recent strife. He is bold, and acts fearlessly in tune with his instincts. He can deliver the eagles help, if anyone can. I'm keeping a giant eagle with me...to help build bonds between us. I'm doing what I can in this Hell..."
Vavasha's magical image nodded. "Good...good. Gather all that are innocent. Gather all that are not devils. Use whatever excuse you need to bring them to you, and keep them with you. Plans are being made as we speak. Anything else...the spell is fading."
Vikos spoke very quickly, "Yes...some of those gathered into my army here speak of slave camps...and breeding farms. For some reason the devils are breeding humans, adn keeping them alive...and captive. I don't know...."
The spell ended, and Vikos stopped speaking. "Damn."
DISTANT DISTANT COUSINS
(Idea by Brian...written by Mark)
Casiel hadn't really let it sink in yet. The Finders had been too busy, rushing from one adventure to another...without much pause for grieving. Though his eyes were dry, he was swallowed by a deep feeling of loss, and had begun to feel the almost crushing weight of the enormity of it all. The Azure Kingdom was sealed off from the world...overrun by every manner of demon and devil...and with it the Forest of Ancients. As far as Casiel knew, his mother and father...his sister-in-law...even Nia, his wife, were still within the Forest, cut off completely from the rest of the world by the magical energies of the Seal of Kordasha. Casiel thought of his only child, Laurien. May Olidammara protect his young life...and allow him to grow to his full potential within the elvan community.
Casiel's face sunk into his hands, and he let his mind wander. Images of Nia horribly violated and tortured by the creatures of the pit drifted through his mind. He could hear within his mind the screams of his parents as their souls were stripped away and dragged off to Hell of all eternity. And then his son...Laurien...whimpering as a fiery fiend slowly peeled pieces of flesh from his body. Casiel clutched at his closed eyes, shaking his head back and forth violently. Enough! "Curse the day we entered Birchmont! Curse the day!"
Casiel raised his face from his hands and looked in every direction. He was within the edges of the Forest Green that extended up the continent between Cornwalsh and Lornki. He was cut off from his elvan community...he was cut off from his home the Forest of Ancients...but he was not cut off from his race. He had been following the subtle signs for a day now. Seeing things no one but an elf would notice...smelling clues only his nose could detect...listening to the subtle hints the wind whispered to him. He was close...there was no doubt about that. Then he saw them...in the distance...an ancient stand of oaks, towering high upon a hill to the east. Casiel began to move faster through the underbrush, and a smile crossed his lips.
Casiel stopped short about 100 yards from the stand of trees. He could feel eyes upon him...but was unsure of from where he was being watched...then he heard it. The sound of a bow string accepting tension...and an arrow ready to be let loose. "Elf-kin...I mean no harm...and seek your help and guidence. I am cut off from home, and seek the kindness of my race."
The old man dropped from the trees, landing on the floor of the forest without so much as a snapped swig. "Lay back your hood, little brother...from where do you come?"
"I was born in the Forest of Ancients...to a proud family of weavers. They are lost to me within the Seal of Kordasha...have you heard of this?"
The old man stepped forward with a pained look on his face. "The trees whisper of the pain suffered there...the animals mourn the loss of many ancient lines within their numbers...and we feel the loss of elf-kin you speak of. You are welcome here, little brother...since you have no family...you shall be treated as one of ours. My name is Nevalkenaere...and I am father to many fathers. This is our home...Odnirille. Come...you must need rest...." Side by side the two men moved silently toward the ancient stand of oaks.
(Brian, You are able to pass on the information about the Drow to this settlement of elves, and they send messengers abroad to spread the news to other elf-kin...far and wide. Nevalknenaere and his family treat you as one of their own, and one of their weavers creates for you a beautiful pair of elvan boots. They have no elvan cloaks available to give you...for times are difficult here also, but they promise to begin one to give you at a later date.
If you wish, you can write back to me about anything you want to learn from Nevalkenaere and his family...or any expanding of this story you want to do....Mark)
(from Brian) Mark, thanks for this. I am trying to gleam from my new friends any information they have on the following: (1) Are there any knowledgeable sages or libraries available to elves, especially who would have info concerning the places the gods dwell - especially the celestials and/or the demons, (2) has anyone with planar travel knowledge heard of new souls or bodies being taken to the abyssal regions, (3) are there any reputable other sources that I could possibly consult as to demonology, as I plan to go after my family and other elves in the not too distant future. As many elves live 700 or so years, we/they might have some pretty knowledgeable individuals in some of these areas. Thanks for all this. Brian B
Nevalkenaere looked at you a bit stunned. Dinner had just be served, and here was this newcomer asking such deep and dangerous questions. "You are too young to be wanting to deal with either celestials...or demons. I would warn you away from such contact...as I would my own sons."
Casiel looked down at his plate and closed his eyes. "You are a wise elder, and I respect your advice...and your knowledge. It is just that my family is trapped within the Seal, and to simply walk away, without at least researching what to do about it...would be similar to dying for me. To not at least seek knowledge about what is happening...I might as well be dead. You can understand that...can't you."
Nevalkenaere nodded. His eyes were tear-filled. "We are a simple band of elves...with little real contact with our more adventurous and magical brothers and sisters of the South. We live with the trees...and the earth...and the animals, and we live well. But we are far from complicated. In Cornwalsh...in Cornwalsh there is a man I trust enough to send you to. His name is Demitrious. In his day he was very well-travelled, in our world...and between worlds. A powerful mage...but actually a more powerful sage. His true power was knowledge. There are even stories he kept a demon captive in his laboratory for years...forcing the vile thing to teach him all the magic he knew...and then banishing the creature, when he had nothing left to teach."
Casiel looked up from his plate. "Good elf. I thank you for this knowledge...and your trust in giving it to me."
Nevalkenaere began to eat. "Demitrious is an odd sort. Show him kindness, and he will return it in kind. Offend him...and beware. Enough of that...let us eat, and enjoy a night of song...and dance."
A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS A DANGEROUS THING
(Idea by Brian, written by Mark)
Casiel carried the two mugs over to the table. Sneaking into Cornwalsh on fake papers was not very difficult, it was locating a credible demonologist that had been the challege. Casiel had met with several people claiming to be able to help him, but in the end...they had been fakes. They spouted off the typical popular folklores about devils and demons, without having any real first-hand knowledge. Tales by the fireside would not help the party. They needed real knowledge...stuff very few men would have lived to repeat. Then he had found Demitrious....
"I thank you for the ale good friend. I've come to enjoy the simple things in life...a mug of ale, a night of good conversation, a smile from a pretty girl. Each day I gather what small joys I can find." Demitrious sipped from the cold froth of the ale, his eyes closed, and a smile on his face. He opened his eyes as he wiped the foam from his beard and mustache. "Now what can I help you with?"
Casiel leaned forward and spoke quietly. "We seek to destroy the demons that have overrun the Azure Kingdom. I seek any information that may help us in this matter...."
Demitrious shook his head. "Not demons, my good man. DEVILS. Everything I've heard about them indicates that they are devils. They are extremely structured...they have a caste system...and a large group of them with a wide variety of types actually coexisted together within the Seal of Light for over 500 years. Demons would have gone to war...struggled and fought, until just one type remained. Then this group of similar demons would have broke down into tribes, and the warfare would have begun again. No...these were certainly Devils."
Casiel drank deeply from his mug. And then in a whispered voice, "You speak much too loud, considering the nature of our conversation...keep it down."
"Of course...of course. I love my work...and I tend to get a little to excited while discussing it. There are definite rules...definite patterns that the devils follow. Figure those out, and you'll have an advantage. Their are structures of rularship, and heavy discipline within their culture, so to speak. They are evil, but they are very ordered...top to bottom. Each one has his or her role within the greater plans."
Casiel nodded. "What of capturing the souls of paladins and priests? What purpose would that serve?"
Demetrious smiled. "They will seek to convert them. The holy convert the unholy...and the unholy convert the holy. It is the nature of the dicotomy...thesis and antithesis. Once again...structure...rules. They do not act randomly. Once converted, the holy made unholy would be powerful tools in their arsenal."
"How many demons...no, I mean devils, will we find within the Seal of Kordasha?"
"As many as they want you to find." Demitrious chuckled. "I've had conversations with experts on the matter...and the Seal of Kordasha only protects our world from what lies within the Seal. They are not trapped within...as in a cage. No, they are simply barred from crossing the Seal and entering our world from within. Those devils that can gate to and from Hell, can still gate to and from Hell. Gating is in their nature...and it would not be impeded by the Seal. I feel that the magic of the Seal would prevent most, if not all, other forms of teleportation and plane travel. It is just that the bond between these creatures and Hell is very very powerful. If you kill a devil in this world...he does not die...he is simply driven back to Hell. That shows the power of this bond."
Casiel's face was clouded with doubt. "As many as they want us to find...do you mean that they could be gating in more devils even now?"
"Oh, yes. I doubt very much that the Seal is preventing them from gating in or out."
"So why don't they just gate to Hell, and then back into our world...outside of the Seal? Why are they bound?"
Demetrious drained his cup dry, and signalled Casiel to order him another one. "There is a balance to be maintained. They could gate back to Hell, and then Gate right into Citadel. But there are rituals...there are pacts to maintain, political agreements, rules and laws, and the very balance of good and evil. A man named Sir James worked for years to bring the Devil RakRon into this world...hundreds of sacrifices, hours upon hours of rituals...and yet at the crucial moment...his work was disrupted, and the spell was broken. RakRon has still not been able to enter our world. Same for the Red Queen of Hell...She that Suckles the Hoards of Hell...her energies are so vast, her evil so massive, that only very complicated and lengthy...not to mention costly in both wealth and blood, could bring her into our world. Such was the efforts made by Brother Simms of Birchmont some 600 years ago. It is unlikely the Red Queen will be able to enter our world in another location...she has committed herself to Birchmont. If the Seal of Glanvil can be breached...then the trail has been blazed...and the invitaion signed and delivered. The Red Queen can enter your world without cosmic consequence to herself...without celestial retribution. Am I making sense?"
"Sort of...sort of. So individually, lesser demons...pitfiends, and below, can still enter our world outside the Seal. But the greater powers take more to allow their entry. Spells, and rituals of great power and consequence. So the easiest place for greater powers to enter this world would be through the window to Hell that Brother Simms opened all those years ago. Am I getting this?"
Demitrious wiped foam from his beard and mustache. "Yes...I think you are. If given a chance, the devils will destroy the Seal of Kordasha. But it is in their nature to seek one of us...a human of our world, and to exploit his or her weaknesses. It would be sweet irony if one of us humans, through our innate failings, made it possible for them to breach the Seal. This would satisfy their rules...this would agree with their role within the order of things. They will not only welcome such a result, they are most certainly at this very moment influencing events in any way they can to make this happen. Believe me."
Casiel's brow was furrowed. "What are you getting at?"
Demitrious finished his beer, wiped his face, and stood from the table. Then he leaned over, his hands on the
table, and spoke very close to Casiel's ear. "Are you sure the devils aren't using you? Perhaps its your weaknesses
they seek to exploit? Maybe one of you Finders will fail...and let loose the Red Queen's hoards upon the
entire world of Kempin? Think about it...."
A WORD WITH HIS GOD
(Idea by Steve, questions and answers by Mark)
Jeremiah had cast two failed Commune spells, before his third spell finally worked. The drain upon the world's magic by the Seal of Kordasha was so great, that many spells failed to trigger even after being properly cast.
"Heironeous...lord of all that is good...provide me with your wisdom. Is Phineous Thorn in Hell, as we suspect?"
Yes, my son.
"Is he dead?"
His body, yes...his soul, no.
"Can he be saved?"
"Are other paladins and priests souls being held by the devils."
"Will we be able to enter the Seal of Kordasha?"
"Will I have to sacrifice my arm to enter the Seal?"
"Will we be able to leave?"
Not through the Seal.
"Will I be able to plane shift us out of the Seal?"
"Is there a way for us to get out of the Seal?"
It is possible, though nearly impossible.
"Are there people still alive within the Seal? Elves, orks, humans...whatever?
"Is the Seal of Glanvil still intact?"
Yes...but the others have fallen.
"Can we survive entering the Seal?"
It is possible, but nearly impossible.
"Will the Worm's Tear help us in our quest inside the Seal?"
Its unclear. It can save you all, or it can kill you all.
"This one is a bit touchy...my lord. Are you a member of the Empire's pantheon? Do you have an aspect within the religion of Kempin?"
Have more faith, my child. I am more than an obsolete god of a dead religion...worshiped by few, and forgotten by many. My power is not in my name...but in those that believe in me...and what I represent. You will know my face...and my power in many religions. My aspect is universal...and my truth is larger than you understand.
Jeremiah chuckled softly. He made the sign of his god, and said a prayer to end his spell. Jeremiah found it amusing that he had gotten basically yes or no answers, until things got a little more personal. Perhaps what Will had been telling him about the universal divine aspects of godhood, and the religion of Kempin were true. It certainly seemed that way, based on that last answer. This would take more thought...and more prayer.
SOME GAME NOTES ON JEREMIAH'S ACTIONS
(from Steve) Over the next few months Jeremiah will be going around looking for refugees of the Hierounous religion. Once he have found a what worshipers he can including townsfolk, farmers and any of the clergy he will try and convert them over to the Kempin religion. Once he has accomplished this he will travel to the empire and try and establish himself within the Kempin church. Hoping to set himself up within the hierarchy of the church. This might help with getting the church more involved with the demon infestation in Azure Kingdom.
(reply from Mark) Jeremiah is successful in contacting many refugees that worship Heironeous. He is less successful in converting them. Not because of their extreme opposition to such teachings, but because the last thing these refugees want is more change. The one stable thing in their life is their religion. The suggestion that they should change or alter their beliefs during this extremly chaotic and stressful times is met with a deaf ear. Not anger, but almost actively avoiding the topic when it is brought up. Once, Jeremiah brings it up during a religious ceremony...and most of the congregation quietly got up and left. Now, Jeremiah did have some small successes in this matter, and had converted about 50 people to the Kempin religion.
Jeremiah then travels to the Empire, and makes contact with the church there. When he
tells them who he is, and why he is there...they reject him. They want no part of him...as he is seen as cursed,
and trouble follows him. Steve, you will have to let me know if you disguise your identity, and seek to approach
the church a second time as a different person. If I don't receive word to the contrary, I will assume you gave
up and came back to the areas outside the Azure Kingdom.
(from Steve) Jeremiah is also going to try and find some individual in the church that could supply him with the spells of Rope Trick and Permanency on a scroll. This way he would be able to hide the Book of Light and possibly the Bag of Souls if required. Giving the party options on leaving these things in a safe place that only an individual or two would know.
(reply from Mark) Well, you don't find the individual
within the church of Kempin...but you do find an individual...a Weaver of the Grasslands of Shronth named Nathaniel.
He is a young Weaver of the Blood Clan, but very serious about his craft. Most of the Clans are patrolling different
stretches of their border with the Seal. For the most part almost all the Clans are cooperating with the Iron Clan
during this crisis. With Nathaniel's help you create a Rope Trick that is permanent...that follows you, and to
which only you know the password. Nathaniel is careful to do this in a way, that you are confident that even he
does not know the password. You will need to let me know if you put the Book of Purity into the extra-dimensional
space at the top of the rope. If you don't tell me that you do this...either through e-mail or verbally at the
beginning of the next game...I will assume it is not in the extra-dimensional space. If you wish to approach Damon
about the Bag of Souls, do so through e-mails or at game time, or I will assume you have not approached him further
about the matter.
(from Steve) On a note, I was thinking that maybe in a dream from Hierounous and a visit from one of his minions, Jeremiah could receive a message that the arm has the power to open a door into the barrier, and Hierounous would give me the incantation. The cost would be that my actual arm would rot away...
(reply from Mark) No dream of this sort occurs. And your commune spell above has now let you know that entering the Seal will not require such a sacrifice.
(from Steve) Jeremiah attempts to scry the band of nine.
(reply from Mark) Jeremiah prepares himself...and thinks of one of the Band of Nine. He casts the scry spell and it fails. Jeremiah shakes his head. The Seal of Kordasha again! Ugh!
The second time that he tries, the spell succeeds. A forest grove comes into his minds eye, as his remote eye begins to scry. The long grass and undergrowth was bright green with early summer weather. Trees circled a hollow within the grove of trees, and thick vines hung down and across the opening. Jeremiah turned his scrying eye in a wide circle. "Where is the member of the Band of Nine I was trying to scry? This appears to be out in the middle of nowhere...."
Then Jeremiah saw it. The fresh earth. There was a pile of loose earth by the edge of the clearing in the trees. It was about a foot high, three feet across and 6 feet long. "A grave...a fresh grave!"
Jeremiah attempted to scry two other members of the group...and found two other graves...in different places. But still,...graves.
THE HELPLESS ACT OF SEEKING HELP (all by Chris)
Under cover of the astreal plane, Zeek moves about the Empire looking for allies to help the Finder's redeem
the Azure Kingdom (and themselves). In most towns, word of the Finder's has spoiled the population's opinion of
their plight, and Zeek must leave dodging tomatoes and rotten apples.
Even when Zeek approaches synogogues and temples, he is met with animosity. Once, a priest out-right attacked Zeek with Holy Water, thinking he was a demon. Zeek only thanked him for his blessings and went on his way. Looking for any kind of help was becoming more and more like the Quest for the Holy Grail.
In one meeting with Galen Green, Oren and Zeek begged for his help. Galen only had one thing to say, "We are part of the Empire now, and the 'Empire' wants nothing to do with you or your kind. Why don't you become farmers?"
As Oren, Zeek, Casiel, Jeremiah, Will, Collin, Damon and Kit begin to go to the next town, a few miles outside of New Mark, a mob of people confront them. "It was all your fault! My family is gone!" And from another voice, "You killed my mother!" And another, "And my babies!" The mob appears somewhat organized, as if they had planned this. There is no negotiation. All that is heard is..."NOW!"
A bombardment like that encountered at Widow's Grove was unleashed upon the party. Although, this time the party acted as one. Will yells out, "RIGHT FLANK, MOVE!" "LEFT FLANK, MOVE!" Forming a wedge, Damon, Oren and Zeek are on the Right flank, while Will, Casiel and the paladin are on the Left. Jeremiah, Collin and Kit stay in middle, casting spells.
Like a well oiled machine, the party moves into combat and quickly makes hamburger out of the lynching mob. When 1/2 of their number is either seriously injured or maimed, the other half bolts to the hills. As some are running away, Zeek's (uncalled) Flame Strike comes from the Heavens, burning more of them.
Although it was in self-defense, the party is dismayed and a feeling of remorse and regret fills the air. Jeremiah raises the few that were killed. As they come too, they yell, "You ARE Demons!!!" and run away. Fearing the worse and not wanting to get involved with the locals, the party moves on.
Zeek asks the spirits for guidiance...
"Death follows you. You would be better served to come back to us and help those that have fallen in your
Zeek, in a wail of panic and frustration yells, ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!
What are we to do???
HEAVEN HELP US
(Idea by Brian, written by Mark)
There are deserts of sand...miles and miles of lifeless wastes...no water...no plants...no animals. But there are other kinds of deserts...deserts of snow and rock. Mountains so high, that plants and animals cannot survive there. Casiel tromped through the snow, the cold wind whipping at his layers and layers of clothes. Demitrious had told him of this place. Casiel ducked into a rocky crevice to avoid the wind for a few moments. If Demitrious had lied to him, Casiel would make sure he got his due. Oren...or maybe Vikos would be happy to finish off a liar, even if Casiel didn't have the soul of a killer himself.
With demons and devils plaguing the Azure Kingdom, it seemed that celestials would be the perfect allies to seek out. Winged angels of purity and goodness, smiting down evil in all its forms. A perfect fit. Casiel was very proud of his idea. "This might just be the factor that turns the tide...."
Hours later, Casiel marched upward. For three days he had been alone...marching through the snow...climbing to the tallest peaks between the Grasslands of Shronth and Lornki. These mountains were filled with mystery. And if Demitrious was speaking the truth...here Casiel would find a window to heaven. Casiel laughed at the imagery....a window to heaven. "Whatever works...."
The sun had disappeared behind a large ridge, but Casiel continued to climb. For 20...30 minutes, he had kept up with the falling sun. But now night was upon him. And yet he climbed. The scrap of map that Demitrious had given indicated to him that he was very very close now. Just over the next rise, he hoped to find the alter that he sought. The air was thin, and Casiel gasped for his air. The cold was much less a problem than the air...for Casiel had fully prepared for the cold.
In the west, a dim light was all that was left of the sun. The mountains were draped in deep gray shadows. And still Casiel climbed. He could feel that he was close...and then he saw it. A simple stone alter, drifts of snow around its base. Casiel began to run, gasping for air...and fell to his knees before the alter. Something crunched beneath his knee. Casiel reached down, and lifted the partially crushed skull. Casiel was not the first to visit the alter...just the most recent. Casiel had no intention of remaining as long as this new silent friend....
Casiel bowed his head. Prayer was not one of his favorite activities...and not one of his better talents. But Casiel did his best. Suddenly his mind was flooded with light...and he was stunned senseless by the presence before him...a being of pure light. "Thief...what brings you to us...what selfishness drives you...what do you seek to gain?"
Casiel found he could not move...but he could speak. "Demons...well, actually devils infest my homeland. We seek to do battle with these demons and seek your aid. We require your attention...your blessings...perhaps even holy weapons to counter this infernal threat! Please...we need your help..."
The celestial burned white hot before Casiel, burning his eyes as if he stared into the sun...but Casiel could not look away. Then the angel spoke again. "We know of what takes place on your world. It is one of an infinite number of struggles between good and evil that we monitor. In your case, over 500 years ago a human priest of your world invited the evil into your lands. At that time, the selfless sacrifice and death of many good priests stopped the devils from overrunning your land, and a balance was struck. They countered the evil with their own goodness and sacrifice. It was your party of adventurers that let that evil loose upon the world again. We worked through one called Grinval, long ago known to us as Brother Simms...overcoming his own selfish evil long enough to communicate to your party exactly what you needed to counter the evil...but this advice was ignored. Then the tattoo'd one contacted the spirits of his ancestors, and we influenced them to tell the party what they needed to succeed...and still this advice was ignored. Then we spoke through the hooded mage, and sent a stranger to you that communicated a third time what you wanted to know...but this third time we were ignored."
Casiel had tears of pain and tears of sadness running down his cheeks. "Please, I beg of you...help us...save us. My family is in the Seal of Kordasha...my wife...my child...do not forsake us."
The angel's light dimmed. And his face was visible to Casiel. The face was full of sorrow. "It is you that forsake us. Your party sends a thief to speak with us? Where is your priest? You all reek of over-confidence...you are corrupted by your own sense of self-worth...over all others. Did you seek the wisdom of your gods while cleaning Birchmont...no. Did you heed the warnings that we sent you...no. A new balance has been struck...and the stampede of evil has been stopped in its tracks. Your world lives on, though your Kingdom languishes under the rule of evil most foul. Leave us thief...we have done what we can for you....choose your path with an eye towards your gods."
Casiel was not afraid. "I am a druid priest...and I feel a passion in the nature of things that perhaps you do not sense or care to see in me. Can we not consult on how to deal with these unnatural abominations? We were merely trying to drive the devils back to their own planes of entrapment...where I had imagined the Celestials imprisoned them long ago. I have only stolen those things I have needed, and I have only killed those that needed to be killed. I believe that we should discuss this...work on a solution together...."
The angel interupted Casiel. "Believe what you will...do what you will, it does not affect the choice that we have made. You are a priest of trees and animals...neither valuing the powers of good nor evil. You were stubborn in your approach to Birchmont...and refused to listen. You continue to refuse to listen, even now. This imbalance was begun by humans over 500 years ago...and the imbalance was renewed by you and your companions. Only the sacrifice and selflessness of humans will set the balance right. You exist and act within one of an infinite number of delicate cosmic mechanisms...and we cannot and will not intervene. As we said to you just minutes ago...choose your path with an eye towards your gods."
Casiel opened his eyes. He was laying on his side in the snow. He could feel his silent friend's bones beneath him in the snow. All was darkness around him. Casiel crawled, and then stumbled to his feet. "Shelter...must find shelter...then get back to the others...we have a choice to make...."
BIG DECISIONS TO MAKE
Damon looked at the other party members. "It cost me my last favors owed to me by a Weaver of the Iron Clan, but I have brought you the observations that Vikos provided to Vavasha during their daily conversations. Just to breach the Seal and communicate with Vikos takes the magical energies of ten Weavers directed by Vavasha himself. Incredible really. So now we have some idea what is going on inside the Seal of Kordasha. And each of you has stepped forward and shared what you have learned. Now we must make some choices...some very important choices..."
Zeek poked at the dirt with a stick. "These could be some of our last choices."
Damon cringed. "No reason to be morose. We live...we die...that is not up to us. Luck...the fates...some godling's master-plan for us...who is to know. One thing I do know. In just a few short days, there is be a huge meeting of world leaders and certain members od the Council of 13, in order to discuss what to do...or not to do...about the devils within the Seal of Kordasha. I think maybe we should go to that meeting...see if whatever plans we make fit in with the worlds. Its just a thought...I'm not completely set on this idea."
O.K., players...like Damon said...there are some big decisions to make. Consider essentially all of the information above to be Character Knowledge. Any decision you make...I will allow to play out. I'm not set on a particular path for the game, though I will make your character's lives exciting and dangerous...no matter what they choose to do. If they do make a series of insanely bad choices, they may end up dead...but maybe not. Gotta play these things out! Right?
I need two things from each of you. FIRST, I need to know if your character would want to attend the world conference that Damon referred to above. SECOND, I need some idea of what each character thinks the group's direction should be. If you choose to go to the world conference, we will play that out this next half-game I am running on November 16. When you state your preference of the future direction of the group, you will not be held to that. The November 16th game is all about getting together and setting our future agenda...while facing some fairly challenging encounters.
Below, I have provided some options...but they are only options. You may come up with something more logical...or a better storyline. I am simply providing these options to show you the many many directions you could go
1. You have heard rumors that there is to be a huge meeting of world leaders and certain members of the Council of 13, in order to discuss exactly what to do...or not do...regarding the Seal of Kordasha and the devils within. You could go to the meeting! I need a yes or no on this one prior to the November 16 game.
2. You could attempt further to gather armies, magics, and other resources to tackle the devils yourselves...or maybe as part of some international force bent on clearing up the problem.
3. You could enter the Seal of Kordasha on your own, and seek to solve the problem from the inside. Does Tunis, Rosehill, the elves of the Forest of Ancients, or Javair still exist within the Seal, and what other help could you recruit once inside?
4. You could speak further with contacts mentioned on this webpage above, and tryto get more productive results...or resources not yet contacted for advice or support. The sky's the limit here.
5. You could seek an alternative power source for the Seal of Kordasha, so that the world's priests and mages did not face spell failure on a daily basis due to its huge drain of power. You know that Archibald Leech's research and design went into erecting the Seal, so perhaps a visit to him in SonaNyl would be in order. Or you could try to see Vavasha himself....
6. You leave the Seal in place for now, and travel to the Empire to look into a growing rebel movement there...in the Emperor's absence. Once again the Duchy of Grey seems to be a hot-bed of anti-Imperial activities.
7. Reflecting you status as disliked anti-heroes, you could travel to the outlaw nation of Respite...the home of the Red Jackel...and seek his advice. Or a job from him...most likely a bounty upon someone murderous, and extremely dangerous within his realm.
8. You could travel to the Island of Sir James, and research his activities surrounding the devil RakRon prior to his death. Or to the Kingdom of Bantroth, to speak with...or rough-up the Mad Duke of Bantroth. See what he knows about devils, and stopping them.
9. You could do any damn thing you please. Really, I'm completely serious. Honestly. Anything. Does that mean the game is directionless. Well read the eight options provided above, and THEN say you don't have options for going in some real, but greatly varied directions. Or throw away my list, and come up with something on your own. You want to be directed along one course of action...go buy a computer game!......Mark