Shilsen's Eberron SH (Finished - The Last Word : 9/20/15)

ajanders

Explorer
*Snort*
There are some situations where ninjae are not the answer.
Let's consider, for example, that a half-fiendish monster has wings.

Picture, please, a squadron of winged wolves chasing the airship while being spurred on by their half-fiendish goblin masters.

Each of them can use darkness 3 times/day, plus desecrate and unholy blight. And that's the mounts.

To further the effect, I've always treated hobgoblins and goblins as Japanese ever since Keep on the Borderlands.
Make them all first level samurai, riding by the ship and slashing viciously at the rigging with naginata (glaives, to us).
They can't fight the Angels, but they don't have to.
All they have to do is crash the ship.
Possibly on a desert island.

I'd shoot for Lost, but with your bunch of players, I think you're going to get Gilligan's Island.

Or in the high mountains.
Think Alive.

Goblin demon-samurai, a crash, and a survival adventure.
I look forward to Gareth treating the Princess for hypothermia.
 

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shilsen

Adventurer
Solarious said:
Question: are you pretending to know what I'm talking about when I'm saying Boojum, or am I facing a fellow Twisted Tale Theme fan? :D

I don't know about Twisted Tale Theme, so I was referring back to the source of the Boojum - Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark.

And... there goes my next paycheque. Damn.

Well, at least I can work on some modified Boneclaws in the interm. :uhoh:

Ah, boneclaws. I've never really looked at those ones in detail. IIRC, they could be pretty interesting enemies with a couple of class levels.

You saw that? And you didn't say/do anything? I was so disappointed when nobody said anything in response to my posts of Astraloths...

Curse you shilsen!!! :lol:

Mea culpa! Blame it on my laziness :eek: I don't respond as much as I should to Shemmie's storyhours, considering I always read the updates and think they rock.

As for your Astroloths, let me just say that they're horribly, disgustingly scary :cool:

Well, at least he isn't turning into morbidly obese dire bears that needs to crawl around. You gotta look on the bright side of this Six, being able to manipulate shadow has got to be less freaky than being able to suddenly able to turn partially into an illithid, or worse, a Paladin!

Well, it's manipulating shadow and disguising yourself by growing flesh all over yourself, which later falls off in rotten, disgusting lumps. But yes, it's better than being made a paladin :)

As for our poor Gatekeeper with his new aberration forms, I threatened him with the possibility that his new flying form will be half-beholder and will involve his ass filling up with buoyant gas and expanding till he can float. After the requisite horrified response, I went with half-cloaker instead. As ever, I am an ocean of kindness.

I had just picked out the perfect mutation creature for a halfling. But hey, Mourlandized ex-Fett-buddies can wait. Gotta finish the Weeds.

Perfect mutation creature for a halfling? Do tell.

Okay...

Apocalypse - Luna
War - Gareth
Pestilence - Nameless/Edgar
Death - Six
Famine - ... Korm?

Why not? Luna would probably be the best bet for Famine too, considering the whole "eat thrice as much as anyone" deal due to the (now embedded) symbiont, but she's the best option for the Apocalypse. Come to think of it, she does also fit quite well for War, Pestilence and Death too.

Luna - the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rolled up in one giant hairy package.

Yeah, that's a simple and elegant party. But it lacks a critical ingredient.

Half-Fiend Worg NINJA. :]

:D

ajanders said:
*Snort*
There are some situations where ninjae are not the answer.

True, but most things go better with a dash of ninjae for flavor.

Let's consider, for example, that a half-fiendish monster has wings.

Picture, please, a squadron of winged wolves chasing the airship while being spurred on by their half-fiendish goblin masters.

Each of them can use darkness 3 times/day, plus desecrate and unholy blight. And that's the mounts.

Ooh - that's purty!

To further the effect, I've always treated hobgoblins and goblins as Japanese ever since Keep on the Borderlands.

Keith Baker obviously likes the way you think. And I do too. The whole "Dhakaani as samurai" approach always sounded good to me since I first encountered it in Eberron.

Make them all first level samurai, riding by the ship and slashing viciously at the rigging with naginata (glaives, to us).
They can't fight the Angels, but they don't have to.
All they have to do is crash the ship.
Possibly on a desert island.

I'd shoot for Lost, but with your bunch of players, I think you're going to get Gilligan's Island.

Or in the high mountains.
Think Alive.

Goblin demon-samurai, a crash, and a survival adventure.

Very nice ideas, but really next to impossible in the current context. With the capabilities of the PCs, even if some people did manage to crash the airship (which you'd need some serious levels to do), they'd be back in Sharn or make it to Karrnath within a couple of days. Nameless can Greater Teleport now and both Luna and Korm can do Transport via Plants, not to mention all the other major transport spells they have (Wind Walk, Phantom Stag/Steed, etc). Short of an anti-magic field, not much can keep these guys in one place if they don't want to be.

Which I'm okay with. At these levels, the standard survival adventure (as opposed to a planar survival adventure or something of that kind) really doesn't work any more than it would have worked for a PC group consisting of Hercules, Cuchulainn, Merlin and Arjuna. But there's a whole lot of other stuff they can have to deal with that aren't possible at the levels where standard survival adventures work, so it more than evens out.

I look forward to Gareth treating the Princess for hypothermia.

Just the possibility of getting to play that out almost justifies me inventing a huge antimagic area for them to crash in. Almost.
 

Rackhir

Explorer
shilsen said:
Just the possibility of getting to play that out almost justifies me inventing a huge antimagic area for them to crash in. Almost.

Yeah, only being able to hit people with a tentacle sounds really thrilling and exciting.
 

Solarious

Explorer
shilsen said:
Very nice ideas, but really next to impossible in the current context. With the capabilities of the PCs, even if some people did manage to crash the airship (which you'd need some serious levels to do), they'd be back in Sharn or make it to Karrnath within a couple of days. Nameless can Greater Teleport now and both Luna and Korm can do Transport via Plants, not to mention all the other major transport spells they have (Wind Walk, Phantom Stag/Steed, etc). Short of an anti-magic field, not much can keep these guys in one place if they don't want to be.
Oh, but there is. Well, it isn't an anti-magic field, and it isn't in Khorvaire, and it's in a dessert rather than a watery island. But places that are difficult for high level adventurer parties to escape do exist on Eberron, if not neccessarily on Khorvaire.

If they decide to go back to Xen'drik in an airship, let me know ahead of time so I can introduce you to the Lost City of Enggha.
 

ajanders

Explorer
Sure, the PC's can leave whenever they want, fly/walk/teleport, whatever.

All they have to do is leave behind large chunks of Karnathi royalty, possibly injured from the ship crash, possibly still being stalked by half-fiendish goblin samurai, definitely exposed to the elements and the natural hazards of Khorvaire.

It's not that I don't think they'd run off and leave everyone, it's just that being known as the people who left a princess to freeze to death while eaten by wolves causes a whole new set of problems for them.
 

Solarious

Explorer
Oh, it's easy enough to bring them along. It'll take longer, with perhaps a few days dedicated to transportation, but it can be done with mass Teleports, Transport via Plants, Wind Walks, flying Steeds, increasing carrying capacities with extradimensional space and transmutations, etc...

Besides, Nameless can invoke Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion to keep most of them happy and safe while the are moved off. At his level, MMM lasts for over 24 hours, and I'm sure a 9-course meal can be stretched around a little.

ajanders said:
*Snort*
There are some situations where ninjae are not the answer.
But... ninja...

BLASPHEMY!!!
shilsen said:
As for your Astroloths, let me just say that they're horribly, disgustingly scary :cool:
Ah, the warm fuzzy feeling of approval makes an excellent balm for the burning sting of failure and rejection. :D
shilsen said:
Well, it's manipulating shadow and disguising yourself by growing flesh all over yourself, which later falls off in rotten, disgusting lumps. But yes, it's better than being made a paladin :)
I forgot about that. But hey, at least it isn't integral, defining part of his character.

Knowing you though, I'm sure it will be soon enough. :]
shilsen said:
As for our poor Gatekeeper with his new aberration forms, I threatened him with the possibility that his new flying form will be half-beholder and will involve his ass filling up with buoyant gas and expanding till he can float. After the requisite horrified response, I went with half-cloaker instead. As ever, I am an ocean of kindness.
:lol:

My god. Oh my frikken holy mother of Jaya Ballard. Sweet merciful Dol Azur. Korm... flying... bouyant ass... That's beautiful. Just beautiful. :lol:
shilsen said:
Luna - the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rolled up in one giant hairy package.
Sad thing is, I don't disagree. :uhoh:
 

ajanders

Explorer
Solarious said:
Oh, it's easy enough to bring them along. It'll take longer, with perhaps a few days dedicated to transportation, but it can be done with mass Teleports, Transport via Plants, Wind Walks, flying Steeds, increasing carrying capacities with extradimensional space and transmutations, etc...

Besides, Nameless can invoke Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion to keep most of them happy and safe while the are moved off. At his level, MMM lasts for over 24 hours, and I'm sure a 9-course meal can be stretched around a little.

You don't know how to make that difficult. I don't know how to make that difficult.
Shil does.

Shilsen is the dwarven god of misfortune.
 

Solarious

Explorer
The problem being, as shil put it earlier, is that he can't do it without appearing to railroad this situation down their throats. Railroading is definitely not shil's style, and neither is it conductive to the world's most lethal symbiont-warped shifter druid's temperment.

Going from all the anecdotal evidence that we're drowning in, Luna isn't someone you want comming after you, IC or out of it.

Besides, I do know a way to achieve results similar to what you want. Just not in your specific situation involving hypothermic princesses and dying Karnnathi nobles. Because that would definitely involve shutting down nearly all the magic which 4 out of 5 players have invested in heavily, in a very large area, and that would be unfun for those 4 out of 5 players. Including everyone's favorite Flame Strike happy psycho, Luna.

Besides which, the airship trip is probably over and done with, or nearly so anyways.
 

shilsen

Adventurer
Solarious said:
Oh, it's easy enough to bring them along. It'll take longer, with perhaps a few days dedicated to transportation, but it can be done with mass Teleports, Transport via Plants, Wind Walks, flying Steeds, increasing carrying capacities with extradimensional space and transmutations, etc...

Besides, Nameless can invoke Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion to keep most of them happy and safe while the are moved off. At his level, MMM lasts for over 24 hours, and I'm sure a 9-course meal can be stretched around a little.

That Portable Hole of theirs is the best asset in that area. You can easily stick a half dozen people in there, teleport, and pop them back out again a few seconds later with no trouble.

I forgot about that. But hey, at least it isn't integral, defining part of his character.

Knowing you though, I'm sure it will be soon enough. :]

Well, it's effectively part of his physical structure now, and since he's going to be taking more swordage levels ...

My god. Oh my frikken holy mother of Jaya Ballard. Sweet merciful Dol Azur. Korm... flying... bouyant ass... That's beautiful. Just beautiful. :lol:

Thanks. Somehow Michael Tree (Korm's player) didn't appreciate the awesome beauty of the concept. Some people have no taste.

ajanders said:
Shilsen is the dwarven god of misfortune.

:D

I wonder what sort of a portfolio that would give me.

Solarious said:
The problem being, as shil put it earlier, is that he can't do it without appearing to railroad this situation down their throats. Railroading is definitely not shil's style, and neither is it conductive to the world's most lethal symbiont-warped shifter druid's temperment.

True on all three counts. I'd be much more amenable to doing that kind of stuff if the PCs were off in Xen'drik or poking around in the Demon Wastes or back at Yarkuun Draal, since that would be a lot more justifiable a location for "really weird magic - or the lack of it - that screws you" than on an airship trip across some of Khorvaire's most highly populated and urban nations.

Going from all the anecdotal evidence that we're drowning in, Luna isn't someone you want comming after you, IC or out of it.

I believe the sentence can safely end at "Luna isn't someone you want."

Besides, I do know a way to achieve results similar to what you want. Just not in your specific situation involving hypothermic princesses and dying Karnnathi nobles. Because that would definitely involve shutting down nearly all the magic which 4 out of 5 players have invested in heavily, in a very large area, and that would be unfun for those 4 out of 5 players. Including everyone's favorite Flame Strike happy psycho, Luna.

True, which is why if I ever go this route, it'll be strictly a short term "aw, crap - how do we deal with this?" scenario. A long period with the PCs unable to use the majority of their abilities could slide a lot closer to irritating. Even if I think it would be marvellously character-building for Nameless to have to hit things with his tentacle ;)

Besides which, the airship trip is probably over and done with, or nearly so anyways.

Nearly so. The point where we ended our last session before I left was with the conclusion of the Emerald Claw attack on the airship. We actually glossed over the stop at Aundair and decided we'd play it out over email and our forums, which is what we're doing right now. So finishing that up, covering what happened on the trip between Aundair and the main attack (you didn't think there'd only be one, did you?), and then the main battle, will give me enough material for updates into late July and maybe even early August. The ones after Aundair will hopefully be a little faster, since it won't be dependent on playing stuff out over our forums.
 

shilsen

Adventurer
After receiving the message from the unknown guard and seeing from their expressions that the others did too, Gareth whispers to Nameless, “I didn’t need that message to warn me about politicians attempting to use us to their advantage, but at least we have some concrete leads. Do you have any telepathy spells that have a long term effect?”

Nameless nods and begins, “Yes, I can create a telepathic bond, which would link me and up to four other people, and last over…,” when Luna – who has been looking suspiciously after the soldier, interrupts. She steps over to whisper hurriedly to her companions, “Should I go grab him and find out what the hell he meant?” The tone is hopeful, but becomes less so as she takes in her friends’ various expressions, and she quickly adds, “Or I could just wildshape and follow him subtly. Like maybe as a poodle again?” A little wistfully, she adds, “Man alive, it’s been a long time since I was a poodle!”

Gareth reflexively and loudly says, “NO!” Seeing a few curious glances from the guards who have remained behind at the end of the hallways, he lowers his voice and hisses, “No! You are not following anyone! The last time you got us in a lot of trouble, but at least that was a party – this time you could breach security and get us imprisoned or dead. Besides, with House Medani and others around, you would be spotted very fast. Also, this guy is probably smart enough to avoid being found; speaking telepathically to a group of people is not that simple.” Thinking for a moment, he adds, not just to Luna, “I don’t know this person, and I don’t trust this person’s information.” Looking back at Luna, he says, “There are only two things here. Either somebody’s trying to hurt us or somebody’s trying to help us. Just so you know.”

Luna snorts, with a combination of disappointment and disgust. “Oh, please! Tell me something I don’t know, genius! Every second bloody idiot we meet is trying to hurt us, and the ones that say they’re trying to help us are also trying to hurt us half the time. Ghraagh! I’m getting sooo bored with this crappy escort job!” She glares around at the group. “You guys better hope something exciting happens at the dinner-ball, otherwise I am going to go bat-:):):):). Dire bat-:):):):)!” With that, she turns and begins to stalk towards one of the rooms the group has been provided.

Nameless reaches out to stop her, his illusion-hidden tentacle coiling around her shoulder and drawing a quick “Eww! Don’t touch me like that!” from Luna. Ignoring Korm’s muttered, “Funny how you never said that to the gnome,” Nameless says quietly, “Why don’t you just leave now? We can have Gareth make some excuses for you, and you can come back in a couple of hours after the boring formalities are over.”

Gareth looks at Nameless in shock. “Do we really want Luna roaming the palace, or any part of the world, alone? Wouldn't it be much better to sedate her? Sleeping poison? Maybe give her a shiny bauble to play around with?”

The alienist eyes Gareth as if he were a slightly slow child. “Luna’s been immune to poison for over a month now, remember?”

“Oh yeah ... okay, shiny bauble it is.”

Luna growls. “You know where you can put that shiny bauble? And yeah, that sounds like a great idea, Nameless. I could really use the chance to pop out and stretch my wings, and check out a little of this city. And relax – I’ll stay out of trouble.”

Six says, “I’ll be offering odds on that, if anybody’s interested.”

“Bah! Everyone’s a critic!” Luna shakes an admonishing finger and heads into the room.

A minute later, an inordinately fat pigeon about the size of a small goose flaps out of the window of the room and makes its slow way into the sky. Its passage is mostly unnoticed, except by the queen’s head falconer, out exercising one of her prize goshawks in a large garden some distance away. Amused and intrigued at the sight of the huge pigeon, he releases the hunting bird. Despite the distance, the goshawk rapidly catches up to and gains altitude over its slow-moving prey, which must be either blind or stupid, considering its complete lack of reaction to the predator. With a sharp cry, the goshawk descends upon it, a feathered bolt of destruction. The falconer is too far away to make out the details, but there is a single sound, seeming more like a growl than a bird’s cry, and then, amazingly, what he thinks is a small explosion. And then only the pigeon winging its way onwards, while the shape of the goshawk plummets downwards.

Horrified, the falconer rushes to the scene, to find the goshawk alive, though stunned and significantly bedraggled, with one badly torn wing and strangely scorched feathers. Clutching the dazed bird to his chest, the man hurries off towards the mews, grateful that the queen hadn’t been present to see what happened. Luckily for his continuing employment, he is able to revive the goshawk to full health eventually, though it never quite gets over a tendency to scream and huddle on the ground when a pigeon flies by.

* * * * *
Nearly two hours later, the Angels – including Luna, who returned just in time, looking very satisfied with her excursion – are among a few scores of people walking, sitting and chatting in a giant hall in the palace. None of the guards from Haydith’s entourage or the Brelish contingent are present, leaving Haydith accompanied by Maddox, Theda, Gustavus, Malkom, Inara, and the Angels. A few discreetly – and distantly – placed Aundairan soldiers can be seen, but none of them close enough to jar with the surroundings. From the rich, sometimes exotic and often ostentatious, clothing of the guests, to the tables laden with the choicest delicacies from Aundair and the rest of the Five Nations (and beyond), to the various insignia imprinted on the banners hanging over the heads of the people below – there is a very conspicuous display of royal and noble splendor here.

At any other time, the Angels might have been completely out of place here, but thanks to the garb provided, they fit in fairly well – at least at first glance. Gareth, Korm and Nameless (the latter aided by his constant illusion) are all resplendent in outfits normally worn by high-ranking nobles, wearing fabrics incorporating a combination of blues, purples and other rare dyes, and including significantly more jewelry than any of them would otherwise wear. Luna looks surprisingly fetching in a long green gown, which has evidently been designed with a shifter wearer in mind. Though it is slit along the side to reveal a tanned and muscular thigh, the neckline is unusually high and serves to hide any chest hair, and a craftily made combination of hat and hairband combines to hide most of her wild mane of hair and sideburns. Even Six, though not wearing other clothes, has been provided with a large fur-lined cloak and a hat, which combine to disguise most of his bulky and martial form. The others too have been similarly attired to best advantage, even Maddox having doffed his usual bone armor for a suit that makes him look more like a burly merchant than a deadly warrior.

Naturally, Haydith and those who accompany her are the center of attention, with people constantly swirling around them, mostly just exchanging platitudes and the usual meaningless social chit-chat. After the princess, the Angels draw the greatest attention, due to the combination of their position and fame (or notoriety). They also find it difficult to stay together or near the princess, considering the amount of people talking to her and to them, and the various directions in which they are often pulled or propelled.

Haydith, glowing brightly to Nameless’ arcane eye with all the protective spells that he and Gareth have placed upon her, is standing nearby, chatting with Aurala and a couple of others. Gareth, who has been staying close to the princess and only giving simple, short and very basic answers to people speaking with him, sees her take a few steps away as the queen introduces her to another noble, and makes an attempt at extricating himself from a conversation with Lord Darro ir’Lain and Maddox. Darro, who is speaking, frowns slightly at the obvious move and Haydith, who has been watching Gareth almost as much as he has her, quickly transmits a message over the telepathic bond that Nameless has set up between her, Gareth, Korm, Six and Nameless himself. “Gareth – try not to make any diplomatic faux pas. I seriously doubt anyone would risk something in such a gathering, even if they could get past all the security, with all the protective magic you’ve used on me and all of you nearby I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” There is the mental sound of a giggle, as she adds, “We’ve got enough people gossiping about you following me around everywhere.”

Gareth replies telepathically, “What gossip are you speaking of? Not that it matters – I will keep more distance, but I would be remiss if I missed something. Not all attackers use brute force.”

“I’ll remember that,” is the response. “As for the gossip, it’s just some silly people talking.” There’s another soft mental giggle.

After being instructed to do so Gareth gives more attention to Darro, who is speaking to both him and Maddox. “As I was saying, all our nations, and us as individuals, have lost much in the War, which is why preventing any chance of it recurring is a very important aim to us in Aundair.” He turns to Gareth. “I believe you lost your father at the Battle of Grace. It is a pity. I had heard good things of Marshal Byron Deneith.”

A moment of pain and pride fills Gareth at the mention of his father. “Marshal Byron Deneith was a great man, and an amazing father. I was lucky to have had him train me – I was lucky to have had him save my life. I could only hope to one day be half the man that he was.”

Darro says nothing, simply lifting his glass in a silent toast to the memory of Gareth’s father. The paladin continues, “As for the nations, it is important they work together in harmony. Take it from my experience, there are things much more grave out there then petty rivalries and self-indulgent greed to power. There are creatures I have seen that just the very mention of them would cause people to want to cower in a hole for eternity – and I guarantee you that would not help at all. There are creatures out there that can level armies at glance. I wish I could show people that we need to come together to work as one – evil has no problem using us against us.”

Darro shrugs and says “The nations working together harmoniously is obviously something most right-thinking people in Khorvaire want, but it is a difficult process. So many kingdoms, cultures and smaller groups, all of them with their individual agendas, most bearing deep scars and resentments from the War – it’s hardly surprising that there hasn’t been any unified movement among the nations since the Accords. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better if the War had been fought to a finish, leaving one clear victor to unite Khorvaire under her banner.”

“Or his,” says Maddox dryly, reminding Gareth that while Aundairans refer to their nation as a motherland, in Karrnath it is a fatherland that people speak of. Darro’s head snaps up at Maddox and his eyes flash for a moment, but as the bone knight calmly holds his gaze and then looks down to lift his glass, Darro nods slowly. “Yes.”

Listening, Gareth shakes his head. “One banner is not needed, and as you said people differ too much to live under one banner – what is needed is for the pettiness to stop. We can be different and work for just causes.” He motions to Nameless. “Look at Nameless over there. We argue consistently, and to outsiders we might seem like bitter enemies, but when push comes to shove we are side by side and work together to vanquish our foes. That is the unity we need – to be different is okay, to argue is okay, but to fight against each other is not.”

Darro replies, “I agree, but sometimes I wonder if it will take some great external threat to unify the nations, by requiring them to work together against a common foe, just as you and your companions do. Is that the kind of enemy and evil you were speaking of? What did you have in mind?”

“May the Silver Flame prevent such a tragedy before it begins!” says Gareth. “Whatever the final benefits, unfortunately anything like that will mean many have already suffered. The enemies I speak of are Daelkyr, ancient dragons, artifacts of great and devastating power in the hands of those who would crave it.”

Darro nods but says nothing, and after a short silence, Gareth turns to Maddox. “What made you choose the path you have taken? It is a difficult one, and takes dedication that not many can muster up.”

Maddox hesitates, and then replies slowly, “I am surprised you need to ask me that question. As a paladin of the Silver Flame, you yourself must know – and carry out – tasks that require dedication beyond what the average person can, or is willing to, provide. When I left Rekkenmark, the ranks of the Bone Knights had been thinned by the War, and they were greatly needed. That was a path I was both willing and able, since I was already a paladin of the Blood of Vol, to pursue. So I did, and after the War, I continue to pursue it, since it … suits me and vice versa. There really isn’t more to it than that.” He smiles a rare smile. “I’d be happy to train you in the art, if you want,” but the tone says he knows what Gareth’s response will be.

“For me it has always been a calling,” says Gareth, “Not something that is mutually beneficial but something that is a part of me – like an arm to others.” As he speaks, the paladin remembers his current condition and chuckles inwardly at the irony of the statement. “It is a great honor of which you ask me, but my faith and service is to the Silver Flame – the causes of good and justice.”

A little distance from Gareth, Aurala’s brother and Royal Minister of Magic Adal is saying to Nameless, “I believe you are the premier mage in Sharn and one of the most skilled in Breland. That’s very impressive. Have you ever visited the Aundairan colleges of magic? Especially Arcanix? I would think someone of your skills would find it very interesting there.”

Nameless shakes his head. “Between chasing rakshasas, battling dragons and having tea with vampires we’ve had regrettably little time available for pursuing academic interests. However, now that I’ve been here I may return to consult on some matters that have recently arisen. What can you tell me about other alienists at the Academy?”

Adal emits a short and sharp laugh, drawing covert glances from a couple of people in the vicinity, and then says, “Really? I presume such events will be covered in the Chronicle too?”

“Most of it. There is some information we don’t divulge for reasons of either confidence or danger. As adventurers, we do run across things where it is safer that they remain a secret and, of course, we do undertake confidential missions as well. We try to maintain a good working relationship with the authorities in Sharn. They always have uses for a powerful adventuring group and it has proved a useful way to hone our skills.”

Adal takes a sip from his glass while listening. “You said that you might want to visit the Floating Towers to consult on some recent developments? May I ask what they are? I might be able to recommend someone for you to speak to and, of course, I can provide an introductory letter and arrange for you to be given access to Arcanix.”

“I have some questions about the Far Realms that my regular sources have proved inadequate to answer. Other sources I have sought out have proved unhelpful. I am approaching transcendence and there is more I must know.”

“The Far Realms? You mean Xoriat? That’s really out of my area of expertise. As for other alienists who might be able to help...,” The Royal Minister of Magic strokes his chin thoughtfully for a couple of moments, and then says, “...that’s not an area of expertise for me, of course, but I daresay at least a couple of people at Arcanix would know about such things. I believe Daumar Ronag is an alienist, though much less skilled than you. Theviana ir’Lantar, currently the leading expert on Planar Studies at Arcanix, also has some interests in that area. I believe you met one of her distant cousins in Sharn, our ambassador there who disappeared mysteriously some time ago.”

“Unfortunately, someone significantly less powerful than I is unlikely to be of much help. When I encounter a problem and question that I cannot solve myself, they are no longer those which any but the most skilled and knowledgeable can assist me with. But what can you tell me about your ambassador’s disappearance? Was it in Sharn? We might be able to investigate the matter if it was. As I mentioned we try to maintain a good working relationship with the authorities. Though it might be awhile before we have a chance to look into it.”

“Really?” says Adal. “Aurala would be quite pleased if you did so, and very grateful if you managed to solve the mystery. I’d have to check, but I think Helais disappeared on the 3rd of Rhaan, which makes it a month and a half now. And yes, he did disappear from Sharn. The last person to see him was his twin, the co-Ambassador, Alais, who saw him go up to his room that night. He was never seen again, and his bed was apparently not slept in, nor was there a struggle, so he was very likely kidnapped magically. We’ve used diviners to attempt to ascertain his location or situation, but there must be powerful magic protection involved, since we’ve discovered effectively nothing.”

The details that Adal mentions jog Nameless’ prodigious memory, and he recalls hearing of Helais’ disappearance before. Flim Turen had mentioned it to the Angels after their return from the Demon Wastes, among the news in Sharn during their absence. Helais had disappeared the night before their departure. Nameless also recalls Helais, a tall half-elf whom they had met at Corven’s investiture in his lordship, where the Cyran aide Tyrala had commented that he rarely attended such ceremonies and that while he was an effective diplomat and strong proponent for improved relations between the nations in a post-War Khorvaire, she did not trust him. The Angels had met him again during their visit to the Karrnathi embassy, when they had spied on Dals Nelmo, the Butcher of Eston.

Adal continues, “I believe that Helais is, unfortunately, dead, but we can’t be certain. If you could ascertain his situation, one way or the other, I’d be very pleased. There is, naturally, a significant reward for such information, and Alais has also announced a reward from their personal wealth – which is actually quite extensive – for information leading to certainty about his brother’s fate. The two were identical twins and very close.”

He pauses and then asks, “You said it would be a while before you’d be able to check on this, if you did. I presume that’s because of escorting Haydith to Karrnath and back again on her return. Or is there anything else you expect to be busy with? And, if you don’t mind me asking, are you planning to do more such work for the Brelish crown? The reason I ask is, if you’ll forgive the crassness, because people of your ability are rare, and especially so in the sort of group you and your companions form, so I’d honestly like to benefit from this meeting. Especially since, as Royal Minister of Magic, much of my work has to do with the advancement of magical study and practice in Aundair. Even though Arcanix is undoubtedly the premier arcane academy on Khorvaire, I’m sure someone of your abilities would help improve it. And conversely, the resources there would certainly be a great asset to you in your current and future endeavors, I’m sure. Such as in this movement towards transcendence, whatever you mean by it.” Adal falls silent and looks at Nameless quizzically.

This could be beneficial. The alienist says, “I’ll raise the topic with my comrades when the opportunity arises and investigate with the magic I have at my command as opportunities permit. Unfortunately, one of my most powerful divinations does carry some risk of disabling me for a period of time and that is not something I can permit at this time. And there are some other tasks we have committed to which may or may not consume a significant amount of time. One of them is a favor to a former comrade.”

“Even if time were not an issue, working at Arcanix in some sort of a full time capacity is not something I would be interested in. I hold with a philosophy of struggle and believe that growth comes through risk and pitting one’s self against the dangers or challenges of the world. Sitting in a classroom and lecturing to students would directly contradict this approach.”

Pausing for a moment, Nameless is struck by an idea. However, it’s only a glancing blow and fails to penetrate his magical (or intellectual) armor. “However, it occurs to me that it is possible we could meet half way. I have discussed with my comrades the possibility of organizing and supporting some adventuring group or groups to deal with tasks that are either too easy to require our attention or for which we do not have the time. Well trained mages would be required for such groups and interested students from your Academy could provide that. In return, these groups would provide them with the kind of seasoning in combat that academic pursuits can not provide. We would provide a certain amount of mentoring and hopefully a rescue team, should any of the groups get in over their heads.”

Some distance from Nameless, Six stands in the middle of a relatively open space, since most of the guests do not bother the three-eyed and especially martial looking warforged. Which suits him just fine, until he is accosted by a short and portly gentleman.. With no preamble, he begins, “I don’t mean to be offensive, but as a warforged yourself, what do you think of the current treatment of warforged? I’m hearing that Cannith South is hiring them … I mean your people … in great numbers. Some people are quite concerned about that, saying that Cannith is trying to form a private army, but I think that’s just bollocks. Don’t you?”

Six, who has been steadily getting bored with the party and a little irritated at having to put up with the social encounters that he firmly believes his companions are incompetent at dealing with, thinks (in a remarkably Luna-like manner), Get away from me, you git, before I tear off your head and pour dire bear and bat poop down your neck! Not expressing the sentiment aloud, he simply says, “I agree. I have walked the halls of the Cannith South headquarters in Sharn, seen their laboratories and spoken to many people there. I am convinced by what I have seen that there is no such army. You have nothing to fear; everything is fine with the warforged situation. For a certain definition of fine, Six thinks, knowing that his reply involves a certain degree of oversimplification, misstatement of facts, unsubstantiated claims and the odd complete falsehood, but is essentially true – to the best of his knowledge – on the main subject of the original question: the existence of a warforged army controlled by House Cannith.

The big warforged runs his gleaming, lidless eyes, over the soft, pudgy figure before him and thinks cynically, And things like that are the least of your problems. After all, you spend half your life in a state that puts you very near a realm of mental horror, filled with powerful beings that want your essence and your only protection is the belief you are safe. If I could sleep, that would keep me up a lot more than thoughts of an artificer collecting a warforged army. Again, instead of mentioning anything of what he thinks, Six asks, “And who might you be?”

The man smiles broadly and makes a clumsy bow, spilling part of his drink in the process. “I am Lord Murat. I don’t know if you have heard of me,” he beams at Six hopefully, and continues, “But I’m – if I may say so myself – regarded as one of the more progressive of my rank and I’ve been trying to lobby for greater appreciation of the various, and especially rarer, races in Aundair. Warforged, for example, are one group I’m very interested in, because I think they’re often very badly treated. It’s really wrong how you people can be treated like walking machines! I’m happy that folks like you are gaining some attention, so maybe more people will realize that warforged can be productive members of society deserving just the same rights as others!” Murat is getting quite excited by this point, turning a little red in the face and beginning to gesticulate. Realizing this when he again sprays a little wine around him, he visibly calms himself and says, “Sorry. It’s just something I feel strongly about. I’m sure you and your friends have opinions about the subject too.”

Murat? Six sends a telepathic message to the others, informing them that he has found one of the two individuals that the guard had warned them about. Korm, currently facing a very matronly looking baroness and her twin sister, transmits back, “Could you send him over here and ask him to try and kill me? I’ve got two bimbos asking me about fashion!”

As he is completing the message, the baroness strokes his arm familiarly and gushes, “Your friends and you must be getting invited to the best parties! Tell me, what are the ladies currently wearing in Sharn? Hats! What kind of hats? I’ve always wanted to go to Sharn myself, but never had the opportunity. And I’m not sure how I’d handle the heights. Is it very drafty? Do people have to wear thick clothing all the time? I mean, I’m all right with fur, but not all the time. Do you like fur? I think …”

While Korm grits his teeth and wonders how someone can speak without seeming to breathe, Luna is getting just as bored, and without the recourse of transmitting rude things telepathically to her companions, since she has been left out of the bond. She smiles wanly and tries to bring her attention back to the three young men surrounding and plying her with compliments.

A couple of the men look a little disheartened at the expression, but the third says quietly, “Are you doing anything later? These formal parties are damn boring, and I'd love to see you in more comfortable surroundings afterwards.” He leans over to fill her glass and quickly whispers, “Or now, if you'd like to sneak out.” Her interest piqued, Luna notes that the speaker is likely the oldest of the three, in his late twenties or perhaps even early thirties, whereas the other two are in their mid to late twenties, at most.

She smiles, yawns loudly, and says, “Well, I do have to agree on that score at least. Man – this is a LAME party!!” She looks the young noble up and down as if he were a joint of meat. “Do you have any tattoos? Or maybe just a cool scar with a good story to back it up?”

The young man grins broadly at Luna’s question and says quietly, “No tattoos, unfortunately, but I do have the odd scar. Not in places I can show you at a party, but maybe elsewhere. I’m sure you have some interesting ones too.” As the other two men look around uncertainly, clearly having been cut out of the conversation, and back off a bit, his grin turns wicked and voice drops a little further. “And might be willing to leave a couple, if I ask nicely?”

Luna laughs and then adds, “Good answer. You know, I can dimension door the two of us out of here.” Her companion looks surprised for a split second and then nods quickly. “My carriage is right outside.” He closes his eyes for a couple of seconds and calculates. “All right. If you can get us approximately eight hundred feet in that direction,” he says, indicating a window, “That would be great. But before we go....”

He turns towards Queen Aurala, talking to Haydith some distance away, with Gareth hovering in the background, and waves gaily. The Queen of Aundair looks up and at him, seeming slightly surprised, and he makes a gesture with his index and middle fingers as if they were two walking legs. Aurala frowns slightly but then nods. The young noble bows and turns back to Luna. “And we’re free. Would you do the honors?” He slides an arm companionably around her waist.

Finally! “And we’re off!” Luna places an arm over his, speaks the command word, and both she and her new date disappear. Aurala, who is watching them, looks startled for a moment, and a number of others notice the sudden disappearance.

Nameless, one of those to do so, rolls his eyes and transmits to Gareth, “See why I wanted her distracted as much as possible? If we hear tomorrow morning that part of Fairhaven blew up, you’re doing the explaining!”
 

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