Shilsen's Eberron SH (Die Hard 7 - Just DIE Dammit : 11/11/12) - Page 26




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    And here, as promised, is the conclusion to the rakshasa arc and the issue of the Key:

    ************************************************** ***********************
    As the demon appears, Zathara smiles and says, “Good – I need more energy here.” Instantly, an amber beam shoots from the Key to the glabrezu’s chest. As it hits, the demon smiles and says, “Certainly.”

    And then suddenly looks worried. The beam whiplashes suddenly, just as the one connected to Nethatar had done as she died, and the glabrezu is hurled suddenly through the air as if its huge bulk had no weight at all. It grunts in surprise, and then its body impacts the wall that Nethatar’s corpse had sunk into. The demon screams in agony, as its form begins to flake away incredibly fast, just as the dead rakshasa’s had. It thrashes around, but continues to sink deeper into the lava.

    In barely three seconds, the surprised watchers see the surface of its body ripped away, leaving bloody muscle, organs and bone, which continues to dissolve. Yet, somehow, the demon is still alive. Desperately, it attempts to concentrate and teleport out of the lava, but the intense damage being inflicted overcomes even its unearthly vitality and the attempt fails. With one despairing scream that trails off as what remains of its throat flakes away, it falls into nothingness. Unlike Nethatar, whose equipment floats away slowly through the lava, there is nothing to indicate the passing of the glabrezu.

    “What the hell just happened?” asks Luna mentally.

    A voice in the collective heads of the Angels begins to reply, “I cannot be completely sure, and since I am dead…”

    A collective mental groan replies, as does the snapped command from Nameless, “Screw it! Just get him!” As one, the Angels hurl themselves at the stunned Zathara.

    The rakshasa has been watching with shock written clearly across its white-furred countenance, as the demon dies, and the amber beam to it fades and dies. The cone of light pulses brightly for a moment and then fades slightly. Zathara looks down and places a paw uncertainly on the Key, and then raises its head to glare at the attackers.

    As another dispel from Korm strips off more of his protections, an onrushing Luna rakes his chest and tries to catch him in a non-metaphoric bear hug. Unfortunately, Zathara’s natural resistances render the damage negligible, and he is still protected by a freedom of movement.

    Zathara snarls his rage and confusion at what just transpired and steps out of her grasp, before casting another spell. His paw is ringed with life-sapping sable flames as he slams it down on Luna’s head. Already wounded, the druid cannot resist, and she feels a cold draining sensation, like an icy fist surrounding her heart. The fist contracts and squeezes. Luna’s heart throbs once, then more weakly again, and then stops. And she drops dead to the floor at Zathara’s feet*, as he rises into the air.

    Unseen to the others, Luna’s soul begins to spiral up and away, seeking its way to Dolurrh. Then, it pauses for a second to gaze back at the darkness of the body it once inhabited. There is something occurring within the darkness. A tiny silvery light gleams. For the moment, the Angels are all connected to the Silver Flame, and though it cannot fully keep them from death, it can hold a spirit in a ravaged body for a second longer than it should remain.

    Luckily for Luna, that second is just long enough. Gareth, rushing in behind her, may no longer be a paladin, but he is still a cleric and an Exorcist of the Silver Flame. Momentarily forgetting his own sorrow and confusion, he places a hand on her corpse, hoping that she is still alive, and casts the most powerful healing spell that he can.

    With a combination of a groan and a growl, Luna painfully opens her eyes and begins to rise. “Yes!” says Nameless, “Keep pounding him!”

    “Planning to,” says Six, whose own charge had been interrupted by Luna’s elephantine bulk dropping in front of him, as he jockeys for position with a huge crocodile that Nameless had summoned earlier to attack Nethatar.

    To Six’s momentary surprise, Zathara flies directly towards him, and though the rakshasa is fifteen feet in the air, the warforged knows he is still in range of the spiked chain. Then he realizes that Zathara’s attention is on the wall that the amber cone still shines on.

    Zathara cries out, “Master – I give this to you,” and then reaches up to the harness. With a mighty effort, he rips it off his chest, actually removing the hair and flesh immediately below it, which the ‘leather’ was evidently attached to. With a loud cry, he hurls the Key into the wall. It sinks in and quickly begins to float deeper. As with Nethatar and the glabrezu, the leather instantly flakes away into nothingness, leaving only the four metal arms holding the Key.

    “NO!” shrieks Dalassakash’alyntar’s serpentine voice in everyone’s head. “You must get it back now. NOW! Though the Angels do not know exactly what is happening, they can see an evident effect. An amber nimbus is beginning to extend around the Key.

    “I can dimension door in there,” transmits Nameless, “But anything made of flesh seems to be destroyed very quickly.” Then his gaze switches, as does everyone else’s, to Six.

    The warforged, a walking statue of wood and metal, sighs mentally. “I’m ahead of you.” He breaks into a run, even as Nameless hastes him and the rest. Six’s metal feet ring rhythmically on the floor as he races towards the wall of lava. As he nears the edge, Six flicks his chain sideways to bury the spikes in the perpendicular edge to the side, and then dives forward. His momentum carries him deep into the lava and his desperately flailing hand closes around the Key.

    Six pulls the Key toward himself and jerks back on the chain, hauling himself back towards the stone. To his momentary relief, not only is the lava here not as hot as it could be, allowing his magical protection to absorb most of its damage, but it does not seem to have the detrimental effect on his metal and wood body.

    Mostly metal and wood, he realizes belatedly, as various agonized parts of his body remind him. Thick fibrous bundles connect Six’s torso to the rest of his body, and are also present in arms and legs, and these are slowly flaking away, though luckily much more slowly than happened to the rakshasa and demon flesh moments ago. With no teeth to grit, Six clamps his metal jaws against the pain and draws himself backwards to safety, inch by inch.

    “You cannot stop it now!” snarls Zathara, preparing to cast a spell to ensure that he is right, but he is distracted as Nameless’ crocodile rears up to snap at him and Luna rushes back to strike at him. While their attacks bounce off him, the charge of Korm, borne on his hawk-like wings, is more effective, as he drives the Ghaash’kala-gifted spear into Zathara’s back.

    The rakshasa screams at the pain and speaks a word, sending a powerful arc of electricity shooting up the spear and into Korm, knocking him backwards. As the orc staggers, Zathara hurls an orb of flame into his chest. Though his magical protections block the bulk of the damage, it is still enough to momentarily stun Korm. His wings slow and he begins to fall, when two mailed hands reach up to grab his feet.

    “Damn!” grunts Gareth, bending under the strain, “And you say Luna is fat!” The moment is all Korm needs, and with a muttered “Thanks!” he flaps into the air again.

    The distraction allows Six, his fibrous parts pitted and smoking, to stagger back onto the stone lip of the giant arm they are on. As he emerges from the lava, another amber beam shoots from the Key, this one to strike him in the chest. Instantly, he is aware of Zathara’s mind, not its actual thoughts but its general tenor, the Key connecting the two. In the back of Six’s mind, the couatl shouts, Now! You can drain his energy! Do it!

    Uncertain what to do, Six nevertheless tries, willing the Key to do as the couatl says. For a moment, the beam connected to him shrinks and the one linking the Key to Zathara thickens and pulses, as if something were flowing from him to the Key.

    Then, across the conduit, Six feels the ak’chazar’s will, and the accompanying rage and hate, as it fights back mentally. Try as he might, Six’s will is no match for the millennia-old creature**, and he falls to a knee, feeling as if the inside of his mind were about to emerge through his metallic skull.

    If it were a simple contest of wills, Six would be dead in seconds, but Zathara has some other distractions. Korm and Luna hammer away at him, not doing much damage, but keeping him too occupied to focus purely on Six. Gareth, unable to reach the flying rakshasa, continually pours healing energy into Luna, keeping her on her feet when she might otherwise have fallen.

    In desperation, Zathara unleashes a burst of fire from his body that would normally have incinerated any of his opponents***. But with their myriad protections, Luna and Korm remain on their feet, though each is horribly burned, with only the summoned crocodile being blasted away. Gareth would have been too, but the giant bulk of Luna shields him from the flames.

    Meanwhile, Nameless dimension doors across the chamber and appears next to Six, reaching out to the Key. As he touches it, another beam leaps out to his chest, and he has exactly the same feeling as his ally. Warforged and alienist oppose their combined wills against the rakshasa. Though even their combined wills cannot overcome his, for a moment they hold him at bay, Nameless’ aid preventing the ak’chazar from utterly crushing Six’s mind.

    Zathara roars in frustration and then casts his most powerful remaining spell. His wounds heal, the majority of them closing. And then, incredibly quickly, he casts a lightning bolt at Korm.

    The big orc’s eyes go wide, as he realizes that he has no chance to dodge, and that he is far too badly wounded to survive it. And then, even as the electricity leaps off Zathara’s extended paw, another paw, bigger than the rakshasa’s entire head, interposes itself.

    The lightning bolt strikes Luna’s paw and is deflected into her body. Even with Gareth’s ministrations, she should have no chance of survival. But, coincidentally, she is the only one of the Angels to have cast a protection from energy against electricity before the fight. Every hair on her body stands on end, but not one of them is even singed.

    Zathara snarls, “No matter! You cannot hold me at bay forever,” and blasts Nameless and Six with his will. The two of them manage to resist the attack momentarily, but can feel it slowly bending their minds backwards, like a giant fist slowly increasing its pressure.

    But, again, the effort means Zathara has to switch his attention from his immediate foes. Korm, who has not done so all this time, so that he could use his own magic, finally gives in to his berserker fury. Yelling a wordless battle-cry, he drives the spear forward with all his might, augmented by fury now along with that granted by the Flame. Forged for exactly such a moment in the depths of the Labyrinth, the holy spear strikes home, ripping and burning through the ak’chazar’s chest to actually emerge a hand-span from its back.

    Zathara screams in agony and thrashes around, allowing Luna to rear up and slam both claws into his skull.

    None of the blows kill it, but more importantly, Six and Nameless feel its concentration slip and they push back. There is a long moment of growing, almost intolerable pressure, and then suddenly, it is gone.

    The amber beams that connect Six and Nameless to the Key disappear instantly, while the one linked to Zathara quintuples in size, and the cone of light disappears. The Key tears itself out of the hands of the warforged and the alienist, and shoots into the lava wall behind them. With a despairing cry, drawn at equal speed behind it, flies Zathara, clawing vainly at the air around him.

    Both Key and rakshasa sink into the lava and float quickly into it, spiraling in a circle. As they fade away, streams of amber light shoot out. Wherever they touch, the black lines that spiral through the lava burn away, leaving behind only the streams of silver flame, which begin to glow with increased intensity. As the light increases, it hides the Key and rakshasa from view, the last sight of them being Zathara’s mouth opening in a silent, despairing scream. In their minds, the Angels hear an almost audible ‘click,’ as the Key finally does one of the two things that it was made for. It locks shut the door that Zathara had striven to open.

    For a moment, the Angels stand there staring at the lava wall where the Key and the rakshasa, both of which have plagued them so much, have disappeared, unsure that it is all over.

    Then, the voice of Dalassakash’alyntar says, relief strong within it, speaks in their minds. “Congratulations! You have done it!” Then, she adds, “I think you should be leaving.”

    The Angels turn to see the doorway of silver flame hanging behind them, and realize that the walls and ceiling of the chamber are beginning to pulse, with streams of lava falling from them.

    Without a word, they turn and race for the doorway. Only Gareth pauses, to snatch up the hilt of Kizmet, and then he too dives through the doorway, only a second before the chamber disappears beneath the lava of the Lake of Fire.

    A second later, the group reappears in the chamber with the couatl’s corpse. As they appear, the entire room shakes violently, and a loud rumbling fills the air. “I think it’s really erupting now! Run!”

    “Don’t leave the couatl!” says Gareth, as the others head for the door.

    “It’s dead!” snaps Korm, on the way out. “And too big.”

    “But…,” begins Gareth, trying to drag the creature behind him and only doing so slowly. With a disgusted growl, Luna turns back, flips the corpse up with a giant paw, and hustles out.

    Emerging in a rush, the Angels see that an eruption is definitely under way. Even thicker clouds of smoke stream from the crater far above, this time shot through with flame. Liquid fire rolls down the slopes and the mountain shakes again.

    There is, however, a more immediate problem at hand. Scores of corpses litter the ground nearby. The closest are the ghaash’kala, still in a rough semi-circle, evidently having fought and died where they stood. Facing and among them are approximately fifty creatures of various kinds, including many of the animals the Angels have seen in the Wastes as well as approximately twenty warriors from the Carrion Tribes.

    The only living creatures stand merely fifty feet away, a trio of rakshasas of the yellow-furred variety. They stand over the body of Morran, who lies on the corpse of a fourth rakshasa, his sword buried deep in its skull.

    For a second, the three rakshasas stare at the four individuals and a giant bear that come rushing out of the entrance, all of them bloody, burned and battered. Then, in unison, they begin to cast spells. A second too late, they realize that the Angels are staring past and above them.

    As the Angels emerge, so too, sinking quickly out of the haze that covers the sky, does a giant vessel. At first glance it looks like a normal ship (other than the fact that it is flying, of course), except that it has large control fins and rudders rather than sails. And burning constantly around it is a huge fiery ring. Even with no evident insignia, it is clear to the Angels that they are looking at the most advanced form of elemental vehicle in existence, the Lyrandar airship.

    Also instantly recognizable to the Angels are two among the figures clustered around the prow – Saala Torrn and Gurr’khan. That many of the others are of their ilk is quickly apparent. As the airship descends rapidly, they are replicating the motions of Saala and Gurr’khan.

    The rakshasas have no warning as eight flame strikes slam down simultaneously on them. When the flames disappear, two badly scorched corpses lie there, and the third, heavily burned rakshasa only pauses to hurry through a dimension door and disappear.

    The airship comes to a stop and Saala calls down, “Need a ride?”

    *****
    A few minutes later, the airship is speeding southwest, with the Angels resting on the foredeck and speaking to the assembled Gatekeepers.

    Listening and interjecting comments as Nameless explains what happened, Luna, now back in shifter form, asks, “So we’re absolutely done with that damn Shard, right?”

    “Looks like it,” says Six. “I’m not sure what happened, but I think we managed to not just stop whatever was in there from getting out, but locked it in even more tightly.” He feels the burned away portions on his throat, arms and legs, thinking, I hope so, considering I almost got killed for it. He glances at Gareth, sitting silently and disconsolate, with the hilt-shard of Kizmet on his lap. And what he lost.

    “Good!” says Luna. “I never want to see or hear of that damn thing again. Pity we couldn’t get that white-haired bastard as a trophy.”

    Korm chuckles, “Look on the bright side,” and points at the three rakshasa corpses lying on the deck. “We got a matching set.”


    * Blew her save vs. Harm. Second person below -10 in the fight, Gareth being the first.
    ** Opposed Charisma checks between the guy with Cha as a dump stat and a rakshasa are never good.
    *** Empowered Greater Fireburst
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  • #252
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    NICE!!!!

    Good work there crew. That was very, very, very, well done!
    Avatar courtesy of Sialia!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by delericho
    Sadly, the reality is that many people don't realise that "no, you can't" doesn't always reduce fun, and "yes, you can" doesn't always increase it. So, very often, they find themselves working against their own fun.
    My idea of faith: The All Black's WILL win the World Cup - it's gonna happen people!!! (so long as we don't get France or Oz in our semi-final).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidekick
    NICE!!!!

    Good work there crew. That was very, very, very, well done!
    That it was.

    All of the bonuses from the Silver Flame were a significant factor, and the Key ended up helping them more than hurting, but even so, if they hadn't played it very smart and worked as a team, it would easily have become a TPK. And they did both about as well as they've ever done.

    The swashbuckling cards worked out very well too. Besides keeping Gareth and Luna alive, they let the PCs stay in the fight a lot of times when one might have been taken out just long enough to make a difference. The bit with Luna blocking the lightning bolt was one example (card allowing you to take an attack intended for another PC), as was Gareth stopping Korm from falling (card allowing you to let someone succeed automatically on a Fort save, since Korm blew his). I forgot to mention one more in the writeup, where Zathara used an empowered Vampiric Touch and someone used a card to minimize damage, so the poor guy got 9 hp back instead of some 30+.

    All in all, it worked out as just the kind of thing I wanted for a climactic fight. A dramatic reveal (as poor Gareth can attest), some seriously "Oh crap!" moments, the PCs taking a real beating, and still managing to come through at the end and permanently deal with a significantly major enemy and plot point.
    shilsen is broken - Crothian (and this is why)

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    These swashbuckling cards that you speak of. Where can I find them?

    And more importantly do I have to pay for them?
    Avatar courtesy of Sialia!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by delericho
    Sadly, the reality is that many people don't realise that "no, you can't" doesn't always reduce fun, and "yes, you can" doesn't always increase it. So, very often, they find themselves working against their own fun.
    My idea of faith: The All Black's WILL win the World Cup - it's gonna happen people!!! (so long as we don't get France or Oz in our semi-final).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidekick
    These swashbuckling cards that you speak of. Where can I find them?

    And more importantly do I have to pay for them?
    I believe they're a combination of a deck created by ENWorld's barsoomcore and something called the Dork20 deck. I believe the first set is free but not the second. I got them via Rolzup, who runs another D&D game I play in, and who writes the Burne story hour in my sig. Check the following links for them:

    http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/s...ds/dork20.html

    http://barsoom.hyboria.net/Swash.html
    shilsen is broken - Crothian (and this is why)

    My Eberron Story Hour. Updated (Finally!) November 11. The Grand Finale!

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    Our dear former paladin, Gareth, is up at the Rogues Gallery too. Since I have both Korm's and Luna's characters, I'll add our druids soon enough.
    shilsen is broken - Crothian (and this is why)

    My Eberron Story Hour. Updated (Finally!) November 11. The Grand Finale!

    My world's worst paladin thread. Vote and throw rocks!

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    The horror that is Luna is up at the Rogues Gallery.
    shilsen is broken - Crothian (and this is why)

    My Eberron Story Hour. Updated (Finally!) November 11. The Grand Finale!

    My world's worst paladin thread. Vote and throw rocks!

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    Cool.

    Now post some story my fine RB friend...

    please?








    For Justice?
    Avatar courtesy of Sialia!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by delericho
    Sadly, the reality is that many people don't realise that "no, you can't" doesn't always reduce fun, and "yes, you can" doesn't always increase it. So, very often, they find themselves working against their own fun.
    My idea of faith: The All Black's WILL win the World Cup - it's gonna happen people!!! (so long as we don't get France or Oz in our semi-final).

  • #259
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidekick
    Cool.

    Now post some story my fine RB friend...

    please?








    For Justice?
    As you wish. Here are a serious of interactions with various NPCs they had after returning to Sharn. Even though there's no action, a couple of things happened that should be very significant things for the future of the Guardian Angels.

    I'll probably have another set of NPC interactions up in quick order (they were played out via some online forums I set up, so I just need to cut, paste and tweak), maybe on Sunday, and then will have the Daask fiasco up.

    And its aftermath, which is turning out to be very juicy indeed. But, for the time being...

    * * * * * * * * * *
    Session 46 – Home Sweet Home

    Gareth Byron Deneith - Human ex-Paladin3/Clr2/Exorcist of the Silver Flame6
    Korm'akhan - Orc Drd7/Hexer4
    Luna - Shifter Drd11
    Mithral 6 of 6 - Warforged Ftr4/Scout7
    Nameless - Human Wiz6/Alienist5



    A couple of days later, in the Shadow Marches:

    Saala, currently using her druidic abilities to look like her original, orcish form, though the movements of her younger body belie the aged appearance, shakes her head. “If I hadn’t seen what came before and after, I might not have believed your story. You’ve done incredibly well. Not only did you destroy the two rakshasas, one of whom was an ak’chazar, but you also made the Key safe from use, and managed to seal an especially powerful rajah into its prison as tightly as we know of.”

    Saala shakes her head again. “Amazing!” Then she smiles slightly and says, “I must admit, I didn’t really expect you to retrieve the Key, leave alone all the other things you did.” Her eyes flicker sideways to Gurr’khan and rest there. The elderly orc grunts and then says, almost grudgingly, “They did well.”

    Korm, sitting across the fire with a heaping plate of spiced meat, laughs. “No problem. I didn’t really think so either.” The expressions on a couple of his companions’ faces say the same.

    Saala laughs too. Then she says, more seriously, “The lands of Khorvaire owe you their gratitude, but since it’s unlikely that the Five Nations will be showing up to provide it, you’ll have to settle for mine. If, at any point, the Gatekeepers can aid you, we will attempt to do so.”

    “Thank you,” says Nameless. “We appreciate it.”

    “So,” says Saala, “You’ll be heading back to Sharn tomorrow, I gather. Gurr’khan will help in the transport, though – I gather – both Korm and Luna can do so as well. It seems some of your empowerment by the Flame has remained?”

    “Yes,” says Six, who is still trying to adjust to the improvement to his mental acuity.

    “Interesting. Korm, will you be leaving too? One of your abilities would be very valuable to us here, but, at the same time, you’re likely to do a lot of good with your companions.”

    The big orc chews meditatively, swallows, and replies, “Yes.” He grins around at the rest of the Angels. “I think we work well together, and they let me experience a lot of things I only ever heard about – and some that I didn’t. Plus they’ve got me almost killed more times than I can count now.” The expression and tone say that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    “Certainly,” says Saala, “I understand.” She sits silently for a moment, and then says, just a trifle hesitantly, “In view of your abilities and what I’ve already seen you do, if at some point…”

    Instantly seeing where this is going, Luna rolls her eyes and jumps to her feet. “Sorry – I need to take a walk!”

    Saala watches her walk away with a half-smile, while Gurr’khan scowls and grunts, and the rest of the Angels exchange grins. Except for Gareth, sitting off on one side, wrapped in his own gloomy thoughts. Before Saala can speak again, Nameless says, “You don’t need to ask. If we can help the Gatekeepers again at some point, we’ll be happy to do so. Well, maybe all of us except Luna.”

    “Thank you. And no, I’m not surprised at her reaction. Or yours.” She grins around the group. “I have met many strange and unusual people, but you are certainly the most…”

    ******
    A day later, in Sharn:

    “…unusual and impressive group,” says Surr’kal, sitting outside his home in Carosten Park, as the newly returned Angels explain to him what happened to them. “I’m glad that you were the ones to find the Key.”

    “You know,” says Six, “I get the impression that was the one thing that rakshasa, Zathara, had not really planned on. But then, we’ll never know.”

    “Yeah,” says Nameless with a smirk. “It really would have been nice to turn him into a nice rug.”

    “On the bright side,” says Luna, tapping the bag of holding at her side, “We do have two of his buddies to use as rugs if we want. Good thing we got three, since Saala wanted one.”

    “Doesn’t work as well,” says Korm, mock-sorrowfully. “We need to get new drapes now, since they don’t match.”

    Surr’kal simply shakes his head and laughs at the banter, as well as the idea of a group of people who are carrying around a pair of rakshasa corpses with them.

    “We should be going now,” says Nameless. “I’m sure Luna and Korm will be here often, and if you need to contact us, you can do so at our new place.”

    “Ah!” says Surr’kal, “That reminds me – your friend Trillia stopped by a few days ago asking if I had received any news of you. She said there is some problem…”

    ******
    “…with the house,” says Trillia, as the group sits around her now fairly cramped sitting room. “I don’t know the details, but Balan Cord said that he’d explain it to you when you eventually see him.”

    “All right,” says Nameless. “We were planning to do so soon enough anyway.” He looks slightly uncomfortable, as he continues, “In case there is a problem, can we…”

    Trillia chuckles and says, “Yes, you can stay here.” She lifts a finger. “For a time.”

    Six lets out a metallic chuckle too. “I always did say that the second most exciting day in your life must have been when this bunch moved in with you. And the most exciting day will be when we leave.”

    Trillia laughs but doesn’t deny what he says. Nameless grins too and then says, “On the positive side, I have a number of new dweomers that you will be very interested in. And I picked up a couple of small magical trinkets for you.”

    Trillia quirks a curious eyebrow. “You’re becoming quite the charmer, aren’t you? Then again, you’re becoming quite the master mage, as well. To the best of my knowledge, now that you can harness valences of the sixth power, you surpass all wizards and sorcerers in the city. Let’s just say you are going to be very respected at the Guild. I presume it’s safe to say you’re not exactly interested in getting yourself one of the administrative positions there, right?”

    “Right,” says Nameless emphatically. “You know,” he continues, “One of the most interesting things about being able to cast…”

    Luna rolls her eyes. “Can you two have your spellcasting love-fest after we check out what the problem is with the house? I want a place of our own, damn it!”

    Korm laughs. “She has a point. My guess is Balan will say it’s something to do with the …”

    ******
    “….specific location,” explains Balan, in the meeting room adjoining his office. “Anywhere else in the city, just your money would be enough to get you the place. But this is Upper Tavick’s Landing.”

    “So?” snorts Luna. “What’s so freaking special about Upper Tavick’s?”

    Balan throws an amused glance her way. “Lots of money, that’s what. During the Last War, the leaders of Upper Tavick’s petitioned the city council and got a few laws passed which pertain only to that ward, which let it function almost like its own city. They’ve got their own division of the Deneith Blademark posted there, who have equal authority with the City Watch in the ward. You haven’t actually been there yet, right?”

    “No.”

    “Well, you’ll need a few permits when you do. You need a permit to carry a weapon there. And the chances of a non-Brelander getting it are effectively non-existent. Any member of the Watch or the Blademark can demand to see a license and if you don’t have one, or are carrying any weapons not specifically listed on the license, will confiscate them. Similarly, you need a license to cast spells and have to list what spells you’ll be casting. Armor is generally considered inappropriate unless you’re a member of the Watch or House Deneith, or some government branch. You can be escorted from the district and be ordered to stay away if not dressed appropriately.”

    “What?! Are they all nuts there?”

    “Nope. Just rich, like I said. Oh, I forgot to mention that if you’re buying a place in Ocean View, which is the district the Gray House is in, you need at least thirty current residents signing a petition allowing you to do so.”

    Six grunts. “Maybe we should talk to Killian. He’s sure to have dirt on thirty people there.”

    As Balan chuckles, Nameless says, “I don’t think blackmail is the best way to obtain permission to stay there. Anyone you know who can help? Who’s the councilor from Upper Tavick’s?”

    “Bestan ir’Tonn, a very wealthy barrister and a member of the Sixty Families. He’s been their representative for decades. Unfortunately, I doubt he’s going to be that interested in helping you people. By the way, did I mention that he’s well-connected with the Boromars?”

    “Boromars! Daask!” Korm shakes his head. “These guys seem to be everywhere.”

    “They are,” says Balan, with a sigh. “But one person who might be able to help is Talleon. You know, the…”

    “…head of the Dark Lanterns,” says Nameless. “Yes, I remember. In fact, I was planning to speak to him at some point.”

    “Good. Talleon told me to tell you to speak to him when you get back. As I said, he may be able to help.”

    “I’m sure he will, from what little we’ve already seen of him,” says Nameless. “On a different note, you can close the book on Arrok’s and Dala’s murders.”

    “Really? That’s good to know, since it’s not like we were discovering anything new about them. So you found the murderer? And did you dispose of him?”

    “Yes. It was a rakshasa. Mind you, I can provide no proof of this, but we know now that they had been observing us closely for some time and their abilities match too closely with a number of the puzzling aspects of how Arrok was murdered. The rakshasa had motivations for killing both of them as well, related to that item we were concerned about when I was framed for Arrok’s murder.”

    Balan looks genuinely surprised. “A rakshasa? I’d be skeptical if someone else told me, but you folks seem to have knowledge of, and encounter, the strangest things. And you’re sure it’s dead?”

    “Yes,” says Nameless. “Let’s just say if it shows up again, you’ll have something much bigger to worry about.” He grins. “And you’ll know it’s here by the screaming and sounds of us running away.”

    “Intriguing. Care to tell me about it?”

    Nameless goes into a quick coverage of what had happened with the Key and the Angels’ recent adventures, with the others adding little details. Balan listens silently, except for a question or two. Finally, when Nameless is done, he says, “O – kay! Sounds like you were fortunate to all make it back in one piece. I’m glad it was outside my jurisdiction, so to say.”

    Nameless laughs. “Just a bit. Anyhow, I wanted you to know that we’re back for a while, and if ever we can help you with anything, just let us know.”

    “Thank you. That’s very generous.”

    “Not a problem. In all honesty, we’ve had enough problems with various parties trying to manipulate us that I figure it’s useful to be on good terms with people like you and law enforcement in general. That way we can avoid misunderstandings like happened last time.”

    “I understand,” says Balan, “And agree. And, as I said, I appreciate the offer. It would be very beneficial to us to work with people of your…”

    ******
    “…unusual abilities,” says Talleon, looking over his desk at the Angels.

    “So people keep telling us,” says Luna, with a scowl. And keep wanting us to do things for them.

    “Well,” says the gnome with a smile, “It’s true.” He looks back at Nameless, who’s just gone through a short version of the story he’s been repeating a few times today. “And in view of the experiences you’ve had – and more importantly, survived – it’s safe to say that you are the most competent set of adventurers in Sharn.”

    Talleon falls silent and stares meditatively at the group for just long enough for the silence to get a little uncomfortable, and says, “It’ll be helpful having you around.”

    Nameless nods. “As I already told Balan, we’ll be happy to help you in some way if we can.”

    Talleon inclines his head slightly. “Thank you. I appreciate the offer.” He slides out a paper from under a pile, without bothering to look at it, and says, “I believe you’re having some problems getting access to the Gray House.”

    “Yes.”

    “Have you considered becoming Brelish citizens?”

    Caught off guard by the unexpected shift in subject, the Angels stare at Talleon uncomprehendingly for a moment, until Korm says, “Huh?”

    “Brelish citizens. Perhaps the biggest problem in the way of you getting the Gray House is your status as foreigners.”

    “I’m Brelish,” points out Luna.

    “I know. And four of you aren’t. Foreign nationals don’t get to buy property in Upper Tavick’s. Period. The Gray House was owned by the same family of Karrnathi nobles for four generations, which is why it wasn’t Brelish-owned. And the fact that it turned out to be owned by Karrnathi vampires, who were heading a secret cell of the Emerald Claw, hasn’t helped the chances of foreigners obtaining property in Upper Tavick’s.”

    Talleon continues, “Considering that you are buying a substantial piece of property and expecting to live in Sharn for the foreseeable future, it seems that it would make perfect sense for you to become Brelish citizens. Do any of you have objections to that?”

    “Will we have to pay extra taxes?” asks Six.

    Talleon chuckles. “Ah, yes – adventurers! And no, you won’t have to pay extra taxes. In fact, you’ll be saving some money, probably a significant amount, since we tax foreigners a fair bit more heavily. So – what do you say?”

    “I’m fine with it,” says Nameless. “Six and I don’t exactly have a nation to belong to right now.” The warforged nods.

    “I’m technically a Marcher,” says Korm, “But I’ve been traveling around most of my life. I have no objections.”

    “I do,” says Gareth, who has been sitting silently through the entire discussion. “I am quite satisfied being Karrnathi.”

    Talleon looks at him silently for a few moments, and then says, “The Karrnathi angle causes a little trouble, considering the Emerald Claw affair, but you have the advantage of being affiliated with the Silver Flame and having connections to the Deneith enclave. And with four Brelanders in the group, it won’t be a problem. We can take care of the citizenship issue tomorrow and I expect you’ll have the house in less than a week’s time.”

    The gnome looks around and adds, “A big advantage, for me personally, is that this also makes it much easier for me to use your abilities if needed. And for you to get credit for it. Let’s just say that it’s a lot easier for us to openly say that “The Brelish adventuring group The Guardian Angels provided crucial help to the Citadel” than to say that a group consisting mostly of foreign adventurers did so.” He smiles thinly. “Call it a hangover of the War.”

    Nameless says, “I understand.” Then he looks around at his companions and turns back to Talleon with a grin. “Remember that room you tested us out in once?”

    Talleon smiles back. “Yes. Want another chance to show me how good you really are?”

    “Hell yeah!” puts in Luna. “I haven’t killed anything all day.” Korm simply grins too, while Gareth nods grimly. Six, however, wishes he could actually roll his eyes. “Seems a waste of time, but I’ll go along and sit in a corner.”

    “Excellent,” says Talleon. “Follow me.”

    Half an hour later, he stands in front of the Angels outside the test room. “Very impressive,” he says, though the tone doesn’t seem as much. “That was the best I’ve seen thus far if one includes magic and swordplay, though I’ve seen a couple of better displays of pure bladework. Very impressive.”

    Talleon glances at Gareth, who stands silently off to the side, seemingly lost in his thoughts. “He seemed especially violent in there. Anything wrong?”

    “He’s just having a …”

    ******
    During the next couple of weeks:

    “…bad few days,” says Gareth, dropping heavily into a chair opposite Cedric.

    “I believe you,” says the older paladin with a grin. “You look like !”

    That draws a faint smile from Gareth. “Thanks! Do you have anything to drink?”

    Cedric theatrically raises his hands in horror. “The Flame protect us! Something must really be wrong!” He walks over to a cabinet, produces a bottle and a couple of glasses, and pours Gareth a drink. “Here you go. Now tell Uncle Cedric what’s wrong.”

    Gareth swallows half the glass, grimacing at the taste, and then pauses to cough at the unusual sensation. Cedric says nothing, but his eyes narrow for a moment. After a few seconds, Gareth begins. He starts at the Battle of Grace, with his father’s death and Kizmet being handed to him and the beginning of his paladinhood (or so he thought), and continues onwards, till the encounter at the Lake of Flame and the revelation of what was actually going on.

    Cedric remains silent for most of the story, except for a quiet question or two, and refilling Gareth’s glass silently when needed.

    When Gareth finishes, his words are distinctly slurring. “So, you see, Cedric,” he says, waving his glass drunkenly, “I need to find a way to become a paladin again.”

    Sounds like you were never a paladin thinks Cedric, but says nothing. Gareth almost drops the glass, recovers, and then looks at Cedric with bleary eyes. “How did you do it? You got called by the Flame, right?”

    Cedric grins. “Not exactly. When I was around your age, a certain … friend … brought me into the worship of the Silver Flame. I was never a priest, and I never had the kind of vows you do, but I was what you might call devout. I believed in the Flame as the answer to all things, as you do. And then something happened that … well, broke my faith.”

    Cedric’s eyes go cold for a moment, and then they return to their normal, easy humor and he continues. “And me too, or nearly so. I lost all faith in the world around me, and especially in the Flame.”

    Listening with rapt, if drunken, interest, Gareth asks, “So what happened? Did you atone somehow? Or do some holy quest for the Flame?”

    Cedric laughs. “Not that easy. I went down, all the way down, to the darkest place inside me. And then I sat in my room and yelled at the Flame. A lot. I used a few words you probably don’t know, and informed the Flame that if it bloody well wanted me to do its work, then it needs to get its shiny silver ass down and speak to me, because I needed to talk to it.” Even in his inebriated state, Gareth shivers slightly, at what sounds very much like blasphemy.

    Cedric shrugs. “And then it spoke to me and I spoke to it, and we came to an understanding, and here I am.”

    “What?! That’s it? Tell me what really happened.”

    “There really is not much to say. I came to an understanding with, and of, the Flame. And of our world. I wasn’t chosen to be a paladin. I chose.”

    “Huh? How do I do that?”

    “Honestly,” says Cedric, “I have no idea. We all have to find our own route to it.” Assuming there is a route for you.

    “But, but…,” says Gareth, rising to his feet and swaying back and forth. “You need to tell me h….”

    The sentence is never completed, as the eyes roll back and he goes over. Cedric is out of his chair in a flash, and he catches Gareth as he falls. And watches sadly as Gareth’s falling glass shatters, spilling alcohol across the floor. The sacrifices I have to make!

    Mazin Tana hurries in from next door at the sound, to give Cedric an exasperated look. “What is it with you and getting paladins drunk?”

    “Shush!” says Cedric, good-naturedly. “Anyway, he’s no longer…”

    ******
    “…a paladin,” says the Archierophant Ythana Morr.

    “I am a paladin!” says Gareth angrily, perhaps fueled as much by his hangover as by his somewhat waning certainty about his relationship with the Silver Flame.

    Ythana’s eyes go cold and hard, and if Gareth were not so distraught he might notice how much she looks like his grandmother at this moment. Perhaps it is this evident pain and sorrow that makes her restrain herself. “All right. You do not currently possess the powers of a paladin.”

    Gareth subsides slightly and says, “Yes. That is what I have to recover. Archierophant, how well connected are you within the Church hierarchy?”

    Ythana replies dryly, “As well connected as anyone in Breland. Why?”

    “Because I am thinking of a traveling to Flamekeep to meet the Speaker. I need to know if my father’s soul is part of the Flame. Or if he is in Hell.”

    “Why do you think he would be? From the tale you have told me, it seems the demon entered the sword only moments before he fell.”

    “I just need to be sure,” says Gareth. “The sword duped me, and I do not know if it did so to him earlier. Also, I wish to know if there is some quest by which I can redeem myself.”

    The Archierophant considers silently for a while and then says, “I will think about it and see what information I can gain for you. I will send you a message when I have something to tell you. But, before you go, you obviously know that the festival of the Ascension is occurring in less than two weeks.”

    Gareth nods. No worshipper of the Flame, and very few people in one of Khorvaire’s cities, could fail to know when the annual celebration of Tira Miron’s sacrifice and the beginning of the religion occurred.

    Ythana continues, “Naturally, the primary ceremonies in Sharn will be at the Cathedral. I would like you to take part in them with us.”

    “I will be honored.”

    “Good. Then I will speak to you as soon as I have news. Feel free to visit the Cathedral whenever you want. I will give instructions that one of the private chapels be made available to you whenever you need it.”

    Gareth thanks her, bows and takes his leave. As he heads downstairs, planning to spend some time in one of the chapels, his thoughts turn to the next visit on the agenda for the group. It is time to find out whether Thurik Davandi, councilor from Upper Menthis, is or…

    ******
    “…is not Killian.” Luna, who is benefiting from one of Nameless’ true seeing spells nods to corroborate Six’s opinion as the Angels look through the observation gallery at the Sharn city council at work. “He has no magical disguises on.”

    “Yeah,” agrees Korm. “Thurik Davandi isn’t Killian, I think. But that son of his might be. Thurik really does look like an older version of Killian, or what we saw of Killian when he took off that hat of disguise. We should go check him out.”

    Six nods. “Since Sava Kharisa gave us the location of Davandi’s shop when we spoke to her yesterday, we might as well. And she did say that nobody knows of any real work this Thurian guy does, other than supposedly helping around the shop.”

    “Speaking of Sava,” says Nameless, “We have to remember and meet with that Watch captain she recommended – Iyanna ir’Talan. If she’s as incorruptible as Sava says she is, I want her to know we’re willing to help the law in this city, and for us to be in her good books.”

    “I just noticed something interesting,” says Luna, who is still looking down into the chamber. “Six – come take a look at the changeling.”

    Six, who also has a similar spell from Nameless effective on him, walks over. After a couple of seconds, he says, “Interesting all right. And strange.”

    “What?” asks Gareth, as he looks at the elderly changeling called Kilk, the representative for Lower Tavick’s, who openly wears his changeling appearance.

    “He’s not who he seems to be,” says Luna. “He is a changeling. But he’s a younger changeling making himself look older. And different, though I’m not much good at changeling features.”

    “Not hairy enough, eh?” quips Korm, drawing a scowl, but even he looks puzzled. “Why would he disguise himself that way? Weird.”

    Six shakes his head. “Haven’t you people learned, yet? This is Sharn. Everything is weird. And everything has a reason for being however it is.”

    Nameless shrugs. “This doesn’t concern us right now. Let’s go and deal with our more immediate issue – finding…”

    ******
    “…Thurian Davandi,” says Nameless to the attendant in the Davandi Fine Tailoring.

    The attendant looks a little askance at the odd collection, especially considering how well armed they are, but nods. “Of course. Please wait here while I get him.” He turns and walks to, and up, a staircase near the back of the large store.

    A few minutes later, when Killian, aka Thurian Davandi, walks down the stairs, he finds the Angels assembled at the bottom. Expectedly, if he is the least bit surprised, he shows no signs of it.

    “Ah, my friends,” Thurian says, beaming expansively, “I’d been wondering when you’d eventually be kind enough to visit me.”

    “Well,” says Nameless, “We figured you already know we’re back, so we thought we’d save you the effort of contacting us.”

    Thurian’s smile broadens. “So kind of you, as always.” He looks around and says, “I see all of you are here, and all looking so healthy. Excellent, excellent.” The gnome looks at Gareth and a look of deep concern crosses his face. “But you, Gareth – you look a little different. Ah, I see now – Kizmet is missing. What happened to it?”

    Luckily, Korm is nearby to grab Gareth’s arm as the paladin – or rather, former never-really-was paladin – takes a quick step towards the gnome with what looks like a thundercloud on his face.

    Unperturbed, Thurian simply lifts a quizzical eyebrow. “Touched a sore spot, did I? I am so sorry. You know I hate to see you hurt.”

    Luna growls, “Okay – we’ve seen enough, people. Let’s go.”

    “So soon?” chirps Thurian. “Alas, parting is such sweet sorrow. But I’m sure we’ll meet again.”

    As they are heading away, Six thinks of something and stops. “Actually, I have a question…”

    “Yes, yes – I’m sure,” says Thurian quickly, interrupting him. “I’ll make it all clear to you.”

    Six stops, wondering how the gnome knows what he was about to ask. Thurian steps forward, waves his hands and says, “See – men’s clothing on the left, women’s clothing on the right, shirts towards the front of the store, trousers over there…”

    The warforged shakes his head disgustedly and turns away, hurrying to join his friends.

    Thurian waves gaily after him. “Don’t be a stranger.”

    As Six emerges from the shop, Korm says, “I don’t know why, but just being around that guy makes me feel dirty somehow.” He pauses, and then growls, “Actually, I do know why.”

    “Forget about him,” says Luna. “It’s time to go and check out…”

    ******
    “…our house!” Luna grins broadly and spreads her arms, as if to embrace the cold stone walls around her.

    Nameless looks at her curiously. “I didn’t think this would be something you’d be that interested in, considering you spend all the nights you can at the Park.”

    “The Park’s good,” says Luna, walking around and peering down corridors and into rooms, “But you can’t really decorate it.” She stops suddenly. “Oooh – I have to go shopping!”

    The others exchange glances as Luna spends the next half an hour rushing from room to room, muttering and smiling gleefully to herself. They too spread out around the building, checking out its different aspects and comparing it with the information Balan has given them.

    When they finally reconvene in the main parlor, Luna isn’t the only one grinning. “This place is excellent!” says Nameless. “Four floors, tons of rooms, secret panels in half the rooms, really thick walls, single entry via skybridge – it should be comfortable as hell and really easy to defend. Did you notice the guard posts and the portcullis? Sure, it’s broken, but it’ll be easy to repair.”

    “And there’s a roof garden,” says Korm. “Well, not really a garden, but there’s potential for one, and I bet Luna and I can have one up and running shortly.” He looks around the parlor and adds, “It’s just stuffy now because of the lack of windows and since they kept the balcony doors closed, but Luna and I can stone shape those windows into functionality tomorrow.”

    Six, who has been checking part of the wall, says, “Notice these small holes?” pointing to four inch-wide holes ringed with metal. “I think these are the things Balan said the vampires used to be able to get quickly and secretly from floor to floor.”

    “Must be. They get stone shaped shut as soon as can be too.”

    “We’re going to need carpets, drapes, furniture, and a bunch of other things,” says Luna, with evident anticipation. “Oh yeah – I’m going to have to take the master bedchamber.”

    “Huh? Why do you get it?” asks Gareth.

    “Fat. Bear,” says Korm quietly, but Luna’s next words take the smile of his face.

    “Because I’m going to need lots of room for my litter, stupid,” says Luna.

    There is a long moment of deathly silence. Finally Six, in the tones of someone opening a door he is sure is trapped, asks quietly, “Litter?”

    “Yeah. I’ve decided I need to start breeding. I’m going to need a big nursery.”

    There is silence again. This time, it’s Nameless who speaks. “And what do you plan to be … breeding with?”

    “I haven’t decided yet,” says Luna, with a toss of her head, as if to indicate it’s a simple matter. “I need to find a powerful druid, preferably a Gatekeeper.”

    “Like Korm?” asks Six.

    “Thank you,” says Korm bitterly. “Thank you very much, Six!”

    “No!” says Luna emphatically, throwing them both a withering look. “My kids can’t have a dad who’s always making fun of their mom.” She then glares around at everyone. “And when my kids arrive, I can’t be having all this ‘fat’ and ‘hairy’ crap! It’ll be a really bad influence on them!”

    “O – kay,” says Gareth, taking a surreptitious step away. “But they’re not arriving soon then?”

    “Of course not!” says Luna. “I have to find the right guy first. Hmm, maybe that Hruit guy on the city council. He’s a little old, but in pretty good shape, and having a dad on the council could be really handy. I bet he’d be able to get the kids into the right schools too.”

    Seeing that she’s half talking to herself, the four others quietly and quickly back away from Luna and head for the door. “Drink?” says Korm.

    “Yes – drink!” reply both Gareth and Nameless, while Six adds mournfully, “Right now, I really wish I could drink!”

    Luna turns around belatedly to see them heading out the door. She glares after them for a moment, and then laughs to herself. “Men!”
    Last edited by shilsen; Thursday, 21st December, 2006 at 10:38 PM.
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    Shi, that was very very very well written.

    Ka Pai (well done) indeed!!!

    Sounds like the Angels are getting themselves well set up for some mischief and hurt in Sharn.

    Just the way I like it!

    Now go get cracking on that Daask hurt.

    FOR JUSTICE!!!
    Avatar courtesy of Sialia!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by delericho
    Sadly, the reality is that many people don't realise that "no, you can't" doesn't always reduce fun, and "yes, you can" doesn't always increase it. So, very often, they find themselves working against their own fun.
    My idea of faith: The All Black's WILL win the World Cup - it's gonna happen people!!! (so long as we don't get France or Oz in our semi-final).

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