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


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shilsen

Adventurer
Yeah, I'm beginning to wonder if it's endemic to druids, or specifically druids of the female persuasion. I have to see a couple more in play before I can decide.

And now, to the next update. Since I'm sure nobody is really that curious about what happened when Nameless got coup-de-graced by a vampire assassin, I thought I should step back in time to Aundair. This is picking up right after Luna returned from her impromptu date to rejoin her friends...

* * * * * * * * * *

Having returned from her little adventure late at night, Luna relates what (and who) she did during her absence, and mentions the proposal/invitation from Lady Belissa ir’Kemiria.

Listening to Luna’s story, with an obvious look of disapproval, Gareth says, “You should have not left the party, Luna. We are here to guard Haydith, not to have you cavorting with people. If someone were going to attack us they would have expected you there and sent extra forces – so by you not being there we would have been outnumbered and potentially underpowered. You need to learn to control yourself.” He then turns to the others. “We do not have time to go to this meeting. Whether Haydith stay in her room all day or travel all around, we need to be close to her. This lady can contact us and meet us when our job has been completed.”

Nameless shakes his head. “I disagree, Gareth. There was plenty of security at the party and Luna is more of a hazard to us and the party at such an affair than an asset. It was far better that she be elsewhere for the duration. And according to that itinerary we received, tomorrow will be relatively light as far as escort duty is concerned. Most of the day will be spent on a meeting over treaties and trade agreements, between Haydith, her attendant diplomats and an Aundairan contingent. We’ll likely not even be in the same room. And after that, there is to be an official leave-taking from Aurala, and the Serenity will leave in the early evening. We can spare Luna and someone diplomatic to go talk to this lady, which excludes you, me or Korm. So I guess that leaves Six to go. We need more information on these people and why someone would be warning us away from them. We should send whoever goes in disguise though, so we aren’t seen to be openly talking with them.”

Gareth’s eyebrows shoot for the ceiling. “Diplomatic excludes me? Or did you mean I can’t go because I’m usually the primary guard for the princess?”

Six says nothing, expecting another round of arguments between Nameless and Gareth. Best to stick with the golden rule of social engagement. WWLD? What Would Luna Do? Evidently, what Luna would do is interrupt. “Well, I’ve got no interest in going. Hell, if you want I can stay here guarding the princess and you can go! I’m only going if we all are. If you ask me, we can just send a note telling her we’re busy running around toilet training some other set of royals and if she wants to talk to us she can do it here in some lobby somewhere. What the heck are we – delivery people? Oh, and make sure to tell her to bring candy! And that the Angels can get very grumpy if not appeased with candy!”

Now that she has spoken up, Six follows suit. “Maybe get her to meet us in a natural setting here? Then we could treat the area with spells of protection and detection, and with two druids, we have a significant advantage. If we need it.”

”Yeah!” says Luna, intrigued by the suggestion. “I could be in the form of a nice bird, so I’m not involved until I feel like it.”

Gareth, still somewhat miffed at Nameless’ comment regarding his lack of diplomacy, frowns at Luna. “What are you talking about? You are the one to arrange the meeting – you are the one who needs to go. There is no way I am going with my duties, and absolutely not a hope in Dolurrh that I am leaving the princess in your hands!”

Luna scowls back. “Well, my point was that your damn princess is after all mobile. She has legs and everything. Maybe she even has a brain and could be helpful. And she would be perfectly safe with me! Safe as houses! Just because I don’t have some weird royal-worshipping fetish doesn’t mean I can’t keep those in my care safe! And I did not ‘set up’ a meeting. I just reported that someone wanted one. And we don’t even have a meeting yet. Hell, I said I’m not really interested, but if one of you is stuck going alone, then I’d do my civic duty and accompany them.”

Gareth’s frown deepens, “We’ve seen a lot of destroyed houses in our time – usually destroyed because of us. The princess has business here and so do we. Our business is to follow her around. That’s it. As I said, I’m not leaving her. You four can do what you want.”

Six sighs. “How about we send this Lady an invitation to pose for a sculpture here? If she agrees, then we can just get a room for a studio, and Nameless can set up a private sanctum there.”

“Sculpture?” Luna shakes her head. “This is getting way too complicated.”

“Yes, it is,” agrees Nameless, “But with everything going on with us, we do need to be careful. Why don’t we do some divinations as to what it is that she wants?”

The paladin considers and says, “I could do a divination, but that means one less spell to use guarding the princess.”

“Well,” says Luna, “If we’ve been warned about them, then they’re probably a danger to the princess too, aren’t they?” She looks around. “So – are we going or not?”

Six says decisively, “We’re not going. But we may try to meet her here.” He looks at Nameless. “With your divinations, you could ask if the mental message was one of those psionic things you told me about. Additionally, whether it came from inside the House, and if someone on the security detail was responsible. I wouldn’t ask about motivations and if they’re friends or enemies. Without more information about the perceptions and beliefs involved, such information is not helpful to our group.”

“Agreed,” says Nameless. “Nobody is going until we’ve got some answers and since magic is our only reliable source for them, it is magic we will have to turn to. That’s a good idea about the psionics, Six. I’ll include it as a question when I try a Contact Other Plane.”

Gareth’s face has not lost anything of its frown, as he turns to Six. “That’s a lot of assumptions and generalizations. I care not for subtle intrigue. If a person cannot state –plainly – what they think then they are no better then a cowardly rogue trying to stab someone in the back – and they should be trusted as much. We also know the mental message we got was from one of the ‘guards.’ As for psionics, I am not sure, but maybe Nameless can find out. It also does help to know if the people who we work with are trying to help or hurt us, but unfortunately, this is not always easy to tell.”

Six replies, “But, Gareth, that is the essence of diplomacy and interpersonal interactions. Look at this palace around us. It’s all about subtle intrigue. And actually, all we know is that we got a mental message that we thought came from the direction of where some guard was standing. The message could have been implanted on a delay on the guard, us or the dessert. Since we don’t know the mechanism, all deductions about this barely rise to the level of idle speculation. Even the people working with us may not know themselves if they are trying to help or hurt us; such is the nature of scheming, not to mention magic.”

“Six, I disagree,” says Gareth. “Subtlety is a part of it, but diplomacy and interpersonal relations do not require subterfuge. Open dialogue – communication – is a much more effective medium. Secrets are sometimes needed, but lies and trickery is not. And while pawns may not know the consequences of their actions, that is quite rare.” He looks at Nameless. “I thought we knew the message came from the guard.”

The alienist shakes his head. “No, we don’t. We got the message, and then noticed the guard nodding at us and I saw a brief flash of a transmutation aura. While the two are likely connected, we have no proof that they are and it could well have been either misdirection or a trick of some sort, intended to get us to focus on that guard to the exclusion of the real culprit. One thing I’m almost certain of – the person who contacted us was not one of the guards. They were either controlling or impersonating one.”

Luna, who has been rolling her eyes during this discussion, breaks in. “Ghraagh! As far as I’m concerned – everyone is always trying to kill us. A person can’t step outside the house for ten seconds without a raincoat of powerful protective spells! It’s ridiculous! I’m damn sure everyone here would probably kill us in a Sharn minute if they thought they could. So – I guess one could argue that it doesn’t warrant any investigation because it’s all Business As Usual. Given a choice, I’d just fry ’em all and let the gods sort ’em out! We got specific warnings on this one, so I mentioned it.” She takes a deep breath, but seems no calmer as she continues. “But all this talk is getting on MY LAST SHIFTER NERVE! If we have to go around one more time about this – I assure you, I WILL FLAME STRIKE SOMETHING OR SOMEONE, and no one wants that ... do they?” Luna leaps to her feet. “That’s it! I’m going to change into a bear and go swim in the Royal Pool or Fountain to cool down. I am done discussing. You all decide what you are doing and let me know. I can’t take another minute of this crap. Call me when someone needs to killed!”

With that, Luna storms out of the room. There is a moment of stunned silence, and then Nameless looks at Korm, who had dozed off, only to be woken by the outburst. “Go get her! The last thing we need is Aurala looking out the window and seeing Luna in bear form in the fountain. That’s liable to kill her – or restart the Last War.”

“Hey!” says Korm, aggrieved. “Why do I have to do the dirty jobs?”

“You’re a druid. Luna and you share a close kinship.”

Korm gives Nameless a dirty look, but rises. “You know, that’s a damn mean thing to say about anyone!” Then he grunts and follows hurriedly after Luna.

Once he leaves, Nameless gives Gareth a withering glance. “And you complained because she left the party?” He shakes his head. “Anyway, it’s getting late. We need to get some rest and in the morning, we can do the divinations.”

The Angels head to bed, including Luna, whom Korm persuades to return without mauling any of the help. Not certain of the Gatekeeper’s persuasiveness, Six spends a good deal of time checking out exits and especially areas with plants and trees, just in case Luna does finally lose it.

* * * * *

Luckily, the shifter does nothing untoward, and she and the other Angels have a restful sleep. Awaking early next morning, so as to make their magical investigations before required to attend to Haydith, they prepare their various spells.

While they are doing so, Six leaves to find the local Sivis post and dispatches a messenger to the ir’Kemiria manor with a message for Lady Belissa. It says that Six, who is an accomplished sculptor, would like to make a sculpture of her and that she should come to the royal palace to meet them.

The messenger returns just as the spellcasters end their preparations, with a sealed note from the Lady. The note reads:

“While I am flattered at your offer, I am feeling slightly indisposed and would prefer to do no traveling today. I would appreciate it if Six, and anyone who cares to accompany him, would visit me here at home instead. If he is still interested in the sculpture, I am sure I can provide any facilities he shall need.

I hope you will be willing to honor my request. I know that you are here to escort princess Haydith, so I apologize for the inconvenience I am causing you. Nevertheless, I believe it will of mutual benefit for us to speak.

I shall be at home throughout the day, so I would be happy to welcome you at any time.

Cordially,
Lady Belissa ir’Kemiria.”

After reading it Gareth says immediately, “I still will not go. Accepting this offer would be an insult the princess. If we were to leave her to attend this lady, we would be elevating her above Haydith.” Looking at Luna, who he is certain does not understand, he adds, “That means we would make the princess look bad – and in the end that would be bad for us socially, politically, morally and financially, considering we are here to help the princess – who paid us.”

“Actually,” points out Korm, “We aren’t getting paid, remember? Nobody ever mentioned money. We were told that it would make important people in two, perhaps three, countries very happy if we took the job and did it satisfactorily, but nobody offered us any money.”

Six cannot close his eyes, but he quietly opens his haversack and puts his head in it, a second before Luna explodes. “We aren’t being paid anything for this? Nothing?” She glares back and forth. “Which of you sons of bitches negotiated this deal? Again – we are being paid NOTHING?! I’m just having trouble taking that in. I thought we were getting a free ship or something?”

Nameless opens his mouth to say something, but she rages on. “Didn’t one of you idiots at least say something about the treasure we find? Because there’s a lot of treasure around these castles! Jewelry everywhere! I saw some damn good furniture and tapestries too. Damnit – we could use it in the house or even hock it! Hell, I’m tempted to walk through this place and start hoarding it, and then Nameless could teleport it back home when it gets too much for our bags of holding!” Luna takes a deep breath and then looks around once more, slowly calming slightly, becoming more disgusted than angry. “Nothing?!”

While Six pulls his head out of the haversack and Korm chuckles loudly, Gareth says, “Trust me, the good will that we get from this job will be worth more than all the gold you can carry.”

Luna snorts. “I can carry a lot more gold than you think! Anyway, this all better be worth it when we’re done, or I’m going to have words with somebody. Words that end in burning and screaming! But I won’t say anything for now. You guys get started on the divinations.”

“All right.” After some discussion, Gareth begins the process by casting a divination, asking, “If we do what the sender of the telepathic message wants us to, what is the goal he – or they – wishes to accomplish?”

The answer he receives is, “They wish your friendship, and to help and protect your heart. Remember, even the vilest villain can be a friend in need or share similar goals. For a time.”

When Gareth repeats it to the others, Nameless says, “Hmm. I don’t think it’s paranoia that makes me think that ‘heart’ might refer to you-know-what in here.” He taps his chest. “All right. Time for a contact other plane. In view of what Gareth discovered, I think I’ll focus on the question of what exactly his divination meant, and also whether psionics were used in that message. That’ll help us narrow down the options.”

“Doesn’t that spell make your brain come out your nose or something?” asks Luna.

“It could, if I tried for the highest degree of certainty in the answers, but I won’t be risking that today. I’ll try for just enough to be certain of taking the strain. The answers will be less reliable, but we’re not in a situation where I can risk it.” Nameless then begins to cast his spell.

Once he completes it, the alienist feels his consciousness expand, with the slightly addictive pleasure that he always feels when using this spell. His vision dims and then the room around him disappears, to be replaced by a dark gray expanse, within which hangs the gleaming web pulsing with light that represents the reservoir of cosmic knowledge that he is currently in contact with. This time the web is dimmer, with many of the sections darkened, since Nameless is attempting a lesser degree of contact, to avoid any chance of temporary mental damage.

As always, there is a growing physical pressure inside his head, which disappears suddenly. And then comes the expected mental command - Ask.

Nameless asks his first question – “Does ‘the heart’ refer to the Gate in my chest?” As usual, the web reorients itself, focusing on a particular section and one of its component motes.

And then something changes.

Nameless feels himself drawn irresistibly inwards and – though directions are strictly metaphorical here – downwards. His area of vision shoots forward, into and through the web, emerging on the other side and continuing swiftly into the dark gray expanse. Darkness envelops Nameless, darkness shot through here and there with flickers of green and purple, in shades nauseating to a normal human but actually soothing to him.

Not soothing, however, is the feeling of complete loss of control. Nameless’ consciousness hurtles ‘forward’ for what seems like minutes, before a giant wall leaps into existence and he slams to a halt with a terrific mental collision, sending a sharp pain shooting through his head. The ‘wall’ is vast and green, very gently curved, and at the edges of his ‘vision’ changes abruptly into a yellow field, shot through with thick vein-like green strands.

The alienist only has a second to comprehend what he sees, before a voice booms in his head - “Metaphorically – Yes!” Even as he realizes that it is an answer to the question he asked, Nameless feels a draining sensation and the questions he had planned on asking leap to the forefront of his consciousness, though with no effort on his part and with no opportunity to change them. And as each question is formed, another answer thunders in his mind.

Q: In the answer to the divination Gareth cast, does “the heart” refer to me?

A: Yes. Not you as an individual, but by extension, as guardian of the Gate within.

As the answers arrive, the pressure in Nameless’ head grows quickly...

Q: In the answer to the divination Gareth cast, does “the heart” refer to my heart?

A: In the sense that your heart and its beating prevents the Gate from opening – yes.

... until it is almost unbearable, and he realizes that he is in contact with an entity rather than a diffuse web of cosmic knowledge. And one of incredible knowledge and power. And his...

Q: Was the transmutation aura I sensed on the Guard a spell I know?

A: No. It is a psionic power, not a spell.

...intellect is beginning to crumble beneath the contact. In fact, it is crumbling in a manner that he seems to recognize. This has...

Q: Was the transmutation aura I sensed on the Guard a spell I don't know?

A: Yes.

...happened once before. And even the voice – or rather, will – that answers his questions seems familiar. When was it? Wait, can it be? But that's impossible! It's just like...

Q: Is the transmutation aura I sensed on the guard a spell Gareth could cast?

A: No.

...when he was in contact with – Cyäegha!

And even as the realization leaps to the forefront of what remains of Nameless’ consciousness, the ‘wall’ in front of him moves slightly, the yellow boundary shifting closer to him, and he realizes that he is ‘floating’ immediately in front of (or behind?) Cyäegha’s giant orb, evidently unnoticed. Until now.

For an instant, the Great Old One’s will is bent towards this infinitesimal consciousness before it, and Nameless feels the purely impersonal waves of cosmic evil roll over him. But beneath that, there is a glimmer of emotion that Nameless can recognize, and it is that of surprise. To his own amazement, the alienist realizes that while he is in no way actually present in Xoriat, his consciousness somehow made contact with Cyäegha’s through his spell, and the answers he received were dredged from what passes for the Great Old One’s mind. And evidently without its knowledge.

But now it knows. Cyäegha’s simple awareness of the contact with Nameless places an incredible mental burden on the alienist, and with his intellect already deeply strained by the unexpectedly powerful contact of obtaining the answers, it is too much to bear. Everything goes black.

...

What the other Angels see is Nameless cast his spell, his eyes go gray, and then his face turn ashen. He does not respond to any questions and, a couple of seconds later, pitches forward on his face, blood running out of both nostrils and ears.

...

Nameless comes to, with the others tending to him, a couple of minutes later, with an incredible headache and a feeling of extreme fuzziness in the head. Once he has been healed back to normality, with multiple lesser vigors and lesser restorations, Korm asks, “What the hell is going on? That wasn’t supposed to happen, was it?”

Nameless shakes his head. “Well, that was extremely purple...”

“Say that again and I will smack you!” growls Luna.

“Forgive me, Luna. I’m a bit discombobulated. I was going to say it was very <rose scent>, integral of <roquefort cheese>, but I’ll refrain.” He shakes his head again. “Am I making any sense?”

After taking a look at the expressions around him, Nameless says, “I guess not. Well, to put it in more conventional terms – it would appear that there have been some additional effects from my ‘reincarnation.’”

“See? Told you I should have done it!” says Luna, but the others shush her, and Nameless continues. “Rather than the relatively benign other planes I had in mind, I was thrust into contact with Xoriat. Which is impossible. Not only was I in contact with Xoriat, but one of the Great Old Ones as well, which is also, of course, impossible. And what’s more, until the final question, it was apparently unaware of that I was drawing answers from it. Which is also impossible. And if I do anything else impossible this morning, I suspect I may spontaneously become a turnip.”

Korm reaches into a haversack and pulls out a bag. “If so, I’ve got the spices for it. And I’m only half-kidding!”

Nameless says dryly, “Good to know. Now here’s what I learned.” He explains what he asked and the answers he got, adding, “Unfortunately, I was unable to change the questions which I had planned to narrow down the details, since the flow of information was too strong. But it wasn’t a loss, since I got far more detailed information than I would have.”

After listening, Gareth says, “I would assume these old ones are not friendly, or even neutral in nature, that they would wreak havoc if they came into contact with our realm. Given they also know if you die then you open a Gate here, they may want to kill you. But because of the loose connection are they not capable of it? I am not sure, but either way, it seems like contacting other planes may not be a good idea for you unless it is an absolute necessity; the risk seems too great otherwise. What do you think?”

Nameless replies, “If the Great Old One had wished me dead, I would have been dead. I could no more resist a Great Old One than a single ant could overcome you. But, time does not pass the same way for a Great Old One that it does for us, so what we have done may not have happened yet there or it could have been an eye blink since the last time I was there even if millennia have passed here. To the Great Old Ones, Past, Present and Future are meaningless concepts. They exist beyond our petty comprehension of such things in ... in ... the same way you transcend the limits of a drawing on paper.”

“Good,” says Luna. “I thought you were going to say ‘purple’ there for a moment.”

“I could barely resist the temptation,” says Nameless dryly. “But now we need to decide what to do about this Lady Belissa. Even though the divinations weren’t directly about her, I think it’s clear that we have more than enough to worry about without adding more.”

“So, what message do we send back?” says Korm.

“I’ll deal with it.” Nameless takes a sheet of paper and begins to write. He concocts a cryptic and confusing answer that seems to imply a number of things, yet eventually turns out to be utterly meaningless and non-committal. Then, to further complicate things he partially encrypts it in ways that would suggest various things to a skilled mage, while remaining just as meaningless. “Here you go.”

Korm reads the first couple of lines and then stops. “If this makes her feel half as dumb as it just did me, then I don’t think she’ll ever contact us again.”

”Excellent.” Nameless dispatches the note with another messenger.

Shortly after he returns, the Angels are asked to join the princess for breakfast. It takes place in a nearby dining hall, with all members of Haydith's entourage present. During the lavish meal, Haydith and Maddox go over the itinerary for the day, which is the same as what the Angels received earlier. Maddox also mentions, while pointedly looking at Luna, that it would be preferable that everyone who is supposed to be near the princess actually stay where they are supposed to. And anyone not supposed to be near the princess should at least stay with others from the group or make sure at least a couple of people know where they are.

After breakfast, the Angels get half an hour of time to themselves, before they have to accompany the princess to her meeting. When they eventually do so, it is to a different part of the palace than they have been before. The meeting is to occur in a large suite, and those not participating are expected to wait in three adjoining rooms. Haydith, Maddox, Gustavus and Theda head inside, along with an Aundairan contingent that includes Lord Darro ir’Lain. The Angels, along with a few Karrnathi soldiers and a small Aundairan escort, get to wait outside.

About half an hour after the meeting begins, the Angels are joined by Adal, who is accompanied by four palace guards. One of them happens to be the one that the telepathic message the day before seemingly came from, and it's quite clear that he is significantly uncomfortable. Adal strides over, a polite smile on his hawkish face, and greets the Angels. Then, he leans forward and says quietly, “Nameless – and anyone else who’s interested – could I talk to you privately? Regarding what you mentioned yesterday at the party.”
 

Vorput

First Post
And now, to the next update. Since I'm sure nobody is really that curious about what happened when Nameless got coup-de-graced by a vampire assassin, I thought I should step back in time to Aundair.

...you really are a RB... :p
 

shilsen

Adventurer
Vorput said:
...you really are a RB... :p
[Wide-eyed innocence]Moi?[/wide-eyed innocence]

Not to worry, the next session will see us right back on the Serenity for a pulse-pounding encounter featuring...

* Vampire assassins (yes, there's an "s" at the end)

* Voltron (or is that Optimus Prime?)

* A golden shower from Gareth

* The answer to the burning question - what happens when you put two ladies-in-waiting inside Luna?

Stay tuned!
 

shilsen

Adventurer
The vampire grins in satisfaction as Nameless’ hands attempt vainly to stop the stream of blood jetting from his ravaged throat. The alienist’s body thrashes in agony and with the abortive effort to concentrate and form the words of a spell, and then tumbles off the bed to the ground, blood pooling around him as his eyes close. His killer looks across the bed, to meet the startled gaze of Korm, who has been woken by the sound of the attack. He smiles, tongue flickering over gleaming canines, and leaps for the druid’s throat.

Sh*t! Nameless! Korm throws himself off the bed, barely avoiding the attack, and desperately grabs at his sword. As his hand closes on the hilt, claws rake his back and fangs bite into the top of his shoulder, only an instinctive jerk saving his throat. The Gatekeeper feels the inevitable effect of the vampire’s touch, draining his vitality as well as the most powerful of the spells from his mind. With a snarl, Korm draws the sword, reverses his grip and strikes backwards, barely missing his own side. Driven by muscles permanently enhanced by Mordain to rival the most powerful of giants, the meteoric blade punches through the vampire’s undead flesh.

With a half-scream and half-snarl, the vampire throws itself backwards, ripping itself off the sword. Somersaulting across the cabin, it leaps and lands halfway up the wall, glaring down at Korm as he spins around to face it. Though its ribs are visible through the gash he just inflicted, it growls and its muscles tense for another leap. Korm hefts his weapon and sets his feet. Though he knows he can probably defeat it handily enough now that he is on his feet and prepared, each blow from it will further weaken him, and that might make all the difference. Even as he thinks of calling out for help, he hears startled cries from the guards further down the corridor outside. Damn! Now what?

The vampire’s smile indicates that it knows what the reason for the alarm is. “Fool! You cannot save your precious Princess – or yourself.”

Korm growls back, “If you’re so sure, come down here and let’s see exactly how undead you are.” The vampire’s eyes narrow in response, and then widen in shock and surprise, its fanged jaw actually sagging for a moment.

Huh? It wasn’t that snappy a comeback , thinks Korm, before realizing that it is looking past him. For a moment he wonders if it is trying to trick him into turning his head, and then he hears the sound of spellcasting. Pained, slightly indistinct, but very recognizable, spellcasting.



With the front of his throat torn out and his body drained by the vampire’s attack, Nameless should – by the standards of normal, mortal human beings – be dead by now. As his body hits the ground, even he expects to be momentarily a corpse, and wonders as his eyes close precisely what is going to happen to the Gate in his chest with his death.

But none of the Angels is strictly a normal mortal any more, least of them Nameless, with the blessing of the Silver Flame, the world-warping touch of Xoriat, and the ‘improvements’ of the Fleshweaver all existing within his physical form. A form, not all of which he was actually born with. A second after his eyes close, he feels another sharp pain in his throat, as the modified troll-flesh implanted throughout his body by Mordain begins to repair itself. Tendrils of flesh begin to spread across the huge gash and the pumping of blood slows to a trickle. The pain is intense and actually grows for a moment, but it only serves to indicate to Nameless that he is still very much alive.*

And now really, really, pissed off.



Nameless rises slowly from behind the bed like the pride of archmages, his throat and chest soaked with gore, speaking the words of one of his most powerful – and hitherto never used – spells. The sonorous arcane words are somehow made even more impressive by the accompanying wheezing of air rasping through the ragged tear in his throat. The alienist dips a hand in his belt pouch and produces a tiny bronze hammer, which shimmers momentarily and then falls to dust as he completes the spell, “…Form Voltron!”

The metal dust from the hammer sparkles on his fingertips and a matching sparkle shoots up his hand, up the arm, and across his body. Nameless feels first his limbs and then the rest of his body grow simultaneously heavy and unresponsive. Arms thicken and broaden, fingers meld into strange shapes while expanding drastically. His chest and torso puff out and his legs bulge till they are like tree trunks. Nameless’ head bumps against the ceiling and he has to bend forward, his growing form filling the cabin. A thick metal coating appears over his now completely transformed body, and the alienist can feel it spread inwards, till he is almost purely a creature of iron and steel, a metal monstrosity that somewhat resembles Six – in so much as a hunting tiger resembles the fiercest alley cat.

Both Korm and the vampire stare in surprise as Nameless looms over them. The transmogrified mage cannot speak, but no words are necessary, as his deep-set mechanical eyes fix themselves on the undead and he slams his hands together, or more precisely, the huge axe-blade and giant maul that now pass for his hands.

The vampire promptly turns into a misty vapor and flows towards and under the door. Korm quickly slashes at it, tearing away wisps of the cloudy form and then ducks even more swiftly, as an axe blade the size of his torso slashes past his head, ripping away more of the vapor. “Hey – watch it!” he says aggrievedly, before asking, “When the hell did you learn to do that?”**

Unable to speak, the warforged titan that is Nameless shrugs and then indicates the door. Korm nods and throws it open, only to be enveloped in smoke as huge clouds of it roll in from the corridor, which is also full of smoke. Korm swears explosively, if in a somewhat muffled voice, and says, “There are either a hundred vampires out there or something really screwy is going on. Come on!” Taking a deep breath, he plunges out and into the smoke. The titan squeezes through the doorway behind him, to the accompaniment of rending wood as his huge sides splinter the doorframe.

As they both emerge and turn towards the princess’ chambers, now invisible in the smoke, the next door flies open and another huge shape appears. Luna steps into the corridor, shaking her head warily from side to side at the smoke. As the titan, which matches her huge bulk, turns to look at her, the druid emits a growl and lifts a paw. Korm, barely able to glimpse her general shape but knowing precisely what Luna’s response to strange sights is, shouts a warning, “Don’t flame strike him! That’s Nameless! And we’ve got a vampire problem.”

“Nameless?!” Luna yelps, in her tinny voice, “And vampires? What the f*ck have you two been up to? And what’s with this smoke?”

“Search me,” says Korm, still making his way slowly through the smoke. “We got attacked by a vampire while sleeping. I thought Nameless got killed, but he’s evidently better. The vampire fled in gaseous form under the door and we opened it to find this place full of smoke.”

As he is speaking, a large metal maul hooks itself around Korm’s chest and yanks him backwards. And then Nameless’ huge form thunders past him.

The alienist had cast an abjuration*** on the door of Haydith’s chamber when leaving Fairhaven, which informs him of whoever is entering or leaving the room, providing a visual image as if he were standing nearby. And what he sees in his mind, even as the spell’s magic warns him that two creatures have entered the princess’ room, is the sight of not people opening it but rather smoke rolling under the door. More vampires!

* * *

Meanwhile, inside the princess’ chamber, all of the occupants have been warned that something is amiss by the surprised cries and sounds of conflict outside. Gareth, who has taken to sleeping in his armor, leaps to his feet from his cot outside the special internal bedchamber that Haydith uses, the Endless Blade flashing into existence from his metal hand.

Haydith’s face appears around the curtains that hide her bedchamber, hair tousled from sleep but eyes bright in alarm. “What’s going on? Gareth?”

“I don’t know, but better to be prepared for anything. Get behind me.” The paladin takes a step, seizes her hand and pulls the princess out, before moving between her and the door. Haydith emits a surprised squeak at the sudden tug, momentarily seeming more a frightened teenager, in her nightgown and bare feet, than a royal scion. But then she sets her jaw and a hand produces a hidden dagger, which she holds at the ready.

Her ladies-in-waiting scurry toward her, but Gareth waves them away. “I need space around the princess! Stay back!” The women halt and reluctantly retreat, huddling together nearby. Without giving them a second glance, Gareth begins to place extra protective dweomers on Haydith. As he completes the second spell, one of the ladies-in-waiting shrieks, “What’s that?!”

Turning, Gareth sees coils of vapor roll under the door and advance steadily towards them, moving far too quickly and determinedly to be normal smoke.

* * *

Outside, at the far end of the corridor, Six, covered in black shadows by his responsive plating as soon as the alarm was raised, rolls through the hatchway above and drops to the ground without bothering to touch the stairs. Despite his three eyes, the warforged can pierce the thick smoke not much better than his companions, but he has the advantage of being unaffected by inhaling it.

Flicking his chain into a ready position, Six advances along the corridor. Just as he is about to turn the corner, his foot hits something metallic, which rolls over the carpeted floor. Huh? Six stoops and feels for it carefully, half expecting an explosion, and his hand closes on a rounded object. Raising it to his face, he sees a metal flask, its stopper hanging off it on a chain, with smoke billowing out of the open mouth. Six drops his chain and attempts to stopper it, to no avail, since the stopper halts two inches from the opening as if there was something in the way, even though investigation reveals nothing. Great! Magic!

After a second’s thought, Six reaches in his pouch and pulls out a large piece of cloth. He quickly places it on the carpet and straightens it, immediately creating a large cylindrical hole in front of him. Six promptly drops the bottle into it, scoops up the portable hole and stuffs it back in his pouch. Then, recovering his chain, he moves on, noting that the smoke is very gradually beginning to thin now that the bottle that created it is gone.

As Six advances, shouts of alarm break out ahead of him, followed by the sound of a terrific impact of metal on wood.

* * *
Unable to warn the others of what he knows, Nameless simply rushes towards the princess’ chamber, knowing that Korm and Luna will understand what he is doing and follow.

The warforged titan looms out of the smoke over the two confused soldiers still standing in front of the door to the antechamber outside Haydith’s room, who are looking as bewildered as they have been since they saw a rolling wall of smoke envelop them, followed by sounds of conflict within it. Uncertain whether to retreat to the princess or move forward to investigate, they compromised by remaining in position, and now regret it thoroughly as the metal monster bears down on them.

As they bravely prepare to defend themselves, Korm appears behind the titan and yells, “It’s us! Lower your weapons!” A second later he yells, “And duck!” Even without the warning, the guards would have done so when they saw what is coming, and they are already throwing themselves aside as Nameless’ huge maul smashes the door to smithereens. Smashing through what little remains of the door, the titan begins to squeeze its way into the antechamber.

This area too is smoky, though less so, as it has been filling slowly with what seeps under the door. But above the smoke, on the ceiling, crouches a dark figure, who throws himself at Nameless as he enters. As billows of smoke fill the chamber through the shattered doorway behind him, the alienist-titan has a momentary glimpse of sharp fangs and recognizes the face that he saw above him as his throat was ripped out only moments ago, as the vampire Korm fought descends on him. With absolutely no effect, as its claws make an excruciating screech across his metal armor and fail to penetrate, and his new semi-construct nature makes him immune to its necromantic touch.

The vampire twists away desperately, barely escaping being crushed against the wall by the titan’s bulk, and lands beneath him. As Nameless attempts to look down in the cramped space, Korm yells from behind him, “Go get the princess! I’ll handle this!” An aggrieved, if thin, growl from behind Korm indicates Luna’s frustration. “Screw this!” she grumbles. “I can’t see squat! I’m going inside too!” Even as Nameless ignores the vampire and smashes down the princess’ door, there is a momentary inrush of air behind Korm, as Luna activates her ring and dimension doors away.

* * *
Inside the room, Gareth’s eyes narrow as the mist advances, and then he laughs grimly. “Let’s see if I can persuade whatever it is – and I think I know – to emerge.” He produces a flask of holy water, uncorks it and sprays it in the air, while chanting the words of a spell. The falling droplets take on a silver glow and hang in mid-air for a moment, before reversing direction and flying upwards till they hit the ceiling. And then they spray outwards, till a driving silvery rain is falling throughout almost the entirety of the large chamber.

Though the raindrops land on Gareth, the princess and her ladies-in-waiting, they disappear instantly, not even dampening their clothes or skin. Not so for the advancing vapors. As the droplets hit them, there is a sizzling sound and acrid smoke arises. The mists recoil as if alive and split into two, flowing around the edge of the falling rain to the walls of the chamber, where they float upwards. And then solidify, resolving themselves into two vampires, with their arms and legs bent in preparation to spring.

One snarls, thin lips rolling back to reveal pointed teeth dripping with anticipatory saliva. “Time to die, paladin.” Its glowing eyes shift to focus on the princess. “Greetings, Princess – the Emerald Claw welcomes you to Karrnath!” Haydith glares back silently, her expression belying the pallor on her face. Gareth pushes her a little further behind him and looks back and forth between the vampires, while saying, “If you’re so confident, why are you hiding up there? Come and get a little wet.” His eyes flicker to the small pockmarks on the skin of each vampire, a couple of which still emit wisps of smoke, thanks to his spell.

Both vampires simply snarl in return and the one who spoke gestures to the other. They scuttle sideways along the walls, placing themselves on opposite sides of the pair on the floor. “You cannot stand against us both alone,” the first one says to Gareth. “Maybe – just maybe – you can stop one of us, but the other one only needs to touch your little princess.”

Gareth’s eyes flicker back and forth and he swings the Endless Blade back and forth, but he knows the vampire is right. He cannot cover two directions at once, and it’s already abundantly clear from their movements that both of the undead are faster than him. “You know,” says a voice from the sword, thankfully telepathic for once, “I think you’re kinda f*cked!”

The vampire leader grins at the paladin’s expression. He knows the magical rain will hurt slightly, but it cannot kill them instantly. Already, the time taken to exchange threats has allowed him and his ally to heal the damage they have taken. He nods at the second vampire and his undead muscles flex, as he prepares to leap, already looking forward to the pleasure of rending and tearing…

…and then the door explodes into fragments, as a huge metal figure smashes its way into the room, carrying part of the doorframe with it. In the midst of the smoke behind it, two struggling figures are momentarily visible, one significantly more muscular than the other. As an eddy in the smoke reveals them to the view of those in the room, the vampire slashes at Korm’s face. The Gatekeeper grabs his wrist in mid-slash, knots of muscle leaping forth under the strain, and then drives his sword upward point-first like a huge dagger, through the vampire’s upper belly and out his back.

As the smoke conceals the pair again, the occupants of the room stare in shock at the giant metal figure. The three ladies-in-waiting, huddled in a corner as far from the vampires as possible, scream in terror, and the screams intensify as another huge figure appears. This one is an inordinately obese bear, and unfortunately for Haydith’s servitors, it appears in the same area as two of the ladies. For a split second, bear and humans share the same physical space, and then the two unfortunate women are flung into the nearest open space, shrieking in agony as deep cuts appear on their skin. Ignoring them and the minor damage she suffers too, Luna growls, “Relax, people – the metal guy’s Nameless!”

Gareth breathes a sigh of relief, but doesn’t lower his sword. “You’re outnumbered and outmatched! Surrender now!”

The shocked expressions quickly fade into fury as the vampires snarl again – and leap. But the momentary hesitation caused by the strange entrances has given the Angels all the time they need. The leader is intercepted in mid-leap by the gleaming silver arc of the Endless Blade, as Gareth smites him to the ground, the combination of the sword’s nature and the paladin’s gifts allowing it to smash through the vampire’s resistances to damage as if they never existed.

The second vampire is met by a less magical but much larger blade, as Nameless’ huge axe also smashes it to the floor. As it struggles to rise, the giant maul follows, bowling it backwards in a neat parabola to land at the edge of the smoke entering through the shattered door. Though badly wounded, the vampire springs agilely to its feet. And then a spiked chain leaps out of the mist behind it, to wrap around its ankle and deposit it face-first on the ground. It instantly rolls over, just in time for Korm to step out of the smoke and bury his sword in its face.

As Gareth swings another brutal blow at the leader, he finds his target falling apart into a dark gray mist, which then disappears, only to reappear right behind Haydith. The vapor coalesces in the blink of an eye into the vampire. He strikes out with a clawed hand at the shocked princess’ face, and then a paw the size of his chest smashes him to the ground, as Luna barrels into him.

Refusing to give up, the vampire sinks its claws into the bear’s forepaws, draining her vitality. Luna growls at the pain. “That does it! I’ve had it with these motherf*cking vampires on this motherf*cking airship!” She pushes down, pinning the vampire to the floor with all her weight, and calls backwards, “Get out of the blast radius, princess!”

Oh, f*ck!

Paladin, titan, Gatekeeper and warforged all hurl themselves at Haydith, simultaneously pulling, shoving, and carrying her away in an effort that miraculously does not kill the princess.

Ignoring them, Luna looks down at the struggling undead and emits an ursine laugh. “Think you can dodge this?” A look of comical confusion crosses the vampire’s face, and then she calmly brings down an empowered flame strike on the two of them.

Everyone in the cabin stares in shock as Luna’s upper half and all of the vampire disappear inside the roaring column of flame. And then as the magical fire dissipates, Luna shakes herself and blinks owlishly as the vampire falls apart into mist. Turning to the others, she chuckles, “Evidently not.”

Korm looks at the huge bear, the upper half of which is completely black, smoke rising from her scorched hair and flesh. “You … are … insane!”

Luna laughs. “Yeah, yeah – but you love me for it! And I figured he couldn’t do any fancy dodging if I held him down, and it worked, didn’t it?” She glances at the slowly retreating mist. “Can we do anything to that?”

“Afraid not,” begins Gareth, when a small voice interrupts, “Could you let go of me now?” The paladin quickly relinquishes his hold of the princess, as do the others, and let her rise.

Though bruised and battered, Haydith is fine. At least in body, though the expression in her eyes wars between hysteria, anger, fear and relief. After a few seconds of silence, she finally manages to say quietly, “Thank you … for saving my life.” There is a slight pause, and then she says, in the same quiet, controlled, tone, “Please tend to these ladies. And excuse me for a moment.”

Gareth begins to say something, and then, after one look at her face, falls silent. Haydith turns away and walks, slowly and deliberately, to her bedchamber. Stepping in, she pulls the curtains closed behind her.

“What’s that about?” asks Luna, confused at the response.

Six shakes his head. “Let’s start cleaning things up and find out exactly what happened. I found this bottle on the…”

There is a muffled sound from the bedchamber, like one might produce if screaming at the top of her lungs while holding a pillow tightly over her face.

“Aah!” says Luna, as enlightenment dawns, “She’s just got to know us well now!”

* * * * *
Later that night, a couple of hours before dawn, Six stands on the deck of the Serenity beside the wheel, talking to the heavily cloaked figure of Mal. “So three of them?” asks the captain, frowning. “And you still have no idea how they got on board?”

“No. Once they were defeated and turned to mist, we couldn’t hurt them any more. Though Luna tried. Gareth’s confident that they’re dead, since we saw them float overboard, and they’re likely too slow to reach their coffins in an hour, as he said they need to.”

Mal’s frown, if anything, deepens. “Good. But did you bastards really have to screw up my ship like that?”

Six shrugs. “We didn’t have much choice, since Nameless had to get in there quickly. I’m sure you can repair it.”

“We can, and will, but your bloody overgrown mage took out two doors and most of the partition around them. Damn!”

“Believe me, it could have been worse. Knowing this group, a lot worse!”

“That’s not as reassuring as you thi…,” begins Mal, who is looking around idly, but he never completes the sentence. Instead, he peers into the darkness and then stabs a finger at a point ahead and well to the left of the airship. “What the hell is that?”

Six turns and looks in the indicated direction. Approximately a quarter of a mile away, rising out of the darkness, are multiple large shapes, though their precise proportions are difficult to discern. The warforged looks up at the overcast night sky which hides the stars and moons, and as if in reply, a patch of cloud above parts fortuitously. The beams of Rhaan, now in its full phase, beam down as if spotlighting the scene, and Six can now see the dark forms perfectly.

Each is a huge shape, nearly twenty feet in length, borne on slowly flapping wings that slightly resemble those of a gigantic bat. But the bodies, beginning with a fanged draconic head and ending in two huge taloned feet, with a tail that curves up over the broad back and bears a hooked stinger as long as a greatsword, are hardly bat-like. Nor alive, as Six’s incredible eyesight notes the gray, corpse-skin covering the bodies, and the places where their flesh is tattered and torn, revealing the pumping of giant muscles or the white of bone.

Each of the six zombie wyverns bears four figures on their back, many of them armed and armored, wearing white tabards with some insignia on them, indistinct due to distance. A much larger emblem, perhaps the same, is now visible on the banner that stands, evidently planted deep in undead flesh, on the back of the central wyvern. On a simple white background gleams a symbol, five digits made of wavy green flames, forming the claw-like hand which gives its bearers their name.

As Six opens his mouth to call a warning, Mal shouts into a speaking trumpet that will carry his voice to all corners of the airship, “Battle stations! Get on deck! Emerald Claw attackers dead ahead!”


* Luckily somebody had a swashbuckling card that let you automatically make a Fort save, without which Nameless would have blown it against the coup de grace.

** That, is a Body of War spell from Spell Compendium, which turns you into a warforged titan

*** Improved Portal Alarm, also from SC
 


shilsen

Adventurer
Vorput said:
hehe, that quote made my night :)
I'll take credit for that one. Since the session was actually played out two months ago, I couldn't remember the precise details of who killed each vampire how, so I've ad-libbed many of the details of the fight, and thrown in a lot of the more humorous lines. But it's true in spirit, if nothing else.

The one thing I do remember is that they beat the crap out of the vampires in no time flat. They were fairly tough (two CR8 and one CR11 vampire, all three heavily buffed for the attack), but the PCs really tore through them without the vamps being able to do anything much. Ah well - I can always reuse the stats later. And, considering the PCs have really put themselves on the Emerald Claw's radar now, I'm quite sure I'll be able to :]
 

Sidekick

First Post
WF Titan!! Vampires attack, crazy goodness involving Druid D-dooring, displacing and almost killing some ladies in waiting.

Only here on Channel Shilsen - it's got all your Rat Bastard needs!
 

shilsen

Adventurer
Sidekick said:
WF Titan!! Vampires attack, crazy goodness involving Druid D-dooring, displacing and almost killing some ladies in waiting.

Wait till you see what Luna pulls off in the big battle versus the Emerald Claw attackers. Let's just say it's finger-lickin' good!

Only here on Channel Shilsen - it's got all your Rat Bastard needs!

:D

Alas, Channel Shilsen will be a little late with the next program, since I've been busy for the last couple of days, but it's for a good cause. It was to get my visa renewal approved, which I did, so I shall be back in the US in late August to start off another nine months of Guardian Angel goodness.
 

shilsen

Adventurer
Here's the belated update, which is the last bit regarding the group's activities in Aundair. The next update will be the one with the battle vs. the Emerald Claw. That'll be the last one before I head back to the US.

* * * * *

Nameless responds to Adal, “I think we’d all like more information on what happened, if you have no objections.”

“Certainly,” says Adal quietly, indicating the exit. “We can discuss this in the next room.” He doesn't glance directly at the Karrnathi and Aundairan soldiers in the chamber, but his eyes flicker in their general direction. “Privately, as I said.”

Rather than replying to Adal, Gareth says quietly to Luna, “Luna, we have all agreed to be here and protect the princess. Please heed Maddox’s words and stay close by and OUT of trouble. I understand you get bored easily and cannot stand these kinds of events – but you agreed to be here – and I am sure that you keep your promises.” He grins. “I mean, have you ever failed to keep your promise about flame striking someone who annoyed you?”

Luna growls, “I’m failing to flame strike someone who’s annoying me right now!” and then turns to Korm, “You can keep Gareth company.” The Gatekeeper sighs and nods. Luna says, “Thanks,” and then transforms into a large pigeon and flaps her way over to land on Six’s shoulder, as the warforged is following Nameless out of the room. He turns to look at her and says succinctly, “You crap, you die!” drawing a very un-pigeonlike burst of laughter from the bird.

Ignoring the interplay among the Angels, Adal leads the trio into the next room and shuts the door after the four guards have entered. One of the guards stays at the door, while the other two stand close behind the one who seemingly sent the message the previous day, who is looking more and more nervous.

Adal turns to look at the Angels and then points at the fourth guard. “Is he the one whom you think you get the message from? I presume so, from your description, Nameless. I have spoken to him and he says he has no memory of having delivered such a message. And, to the best of my ability, I cannot see any sign that he is lying. If you have any explanation or suggestions, or a way for ascertaining the truth, I’d be glad to hear it.” He indicates the guard. “He’s all yours.”

The guard turns a little paler than he already was.

Nameless says slowly, “We have done some magical investigations already and the results indicate that it is unlikely that he would know anything. We have been able to determine that some sort of psionic power was used on him and thus that the message was likely sent to us using psionics rather than magic.” As he speaks, he drops the illusion concealing his eyes and studies the guard with the arcane sight.

Adal listens silently, with a slight frown on his face, and his expression doesn’t change as the illusion drops and Nameless’ gleaming blue eyes are revealed. The guards all look a little surprised, especially the one being interrogated, who looks slightly more uncomfortable than he already did. He clearly has to make an effort not to shrink back as Nameless looks him over.

The alienist finds no magical auras on the guard – or any of the guards – though Adal has the expected plethora of minor magics and a couple of powerful items on him. Nameless shakes his head. “He seems to have no enchantments on him now,” before addressing the guard directly. “I do have two questions, though. Have you recently made any new friends or acquired any new magical items?”

The guard licks dry lips and then says, in a slightly reedy voice, “Um ... no, sir. I ... er, have nothing like that ... and no ... um, new ... friends.” Adal speaks up at this point, saying, “I’ve had his quarters searched. The only magic items he had were the standard potions we issue guards.”

Even as Adal is speaking, Nameless sees an enchantment aura flash into existence around the guard. What also occurs, and equally unnoticed by the others since none of them is standing as close to the man as Nameless, is a change in the man’s eyes. Though his facial expression doesn’t shift by even an iota, his eyes suddenly turn significantly calmer and somehow seem older, differing drastically from the highly concerned look they wore moments earlier.

What the others, or at least Luna and Six, do notice is the telepathic message that they, and Nameless, receive. The voice is recognizably the same as the one which sent them the message the previous day. “Yes, I am within him, without his knowledge. Do not reveal this. It is for you, not Adal. You should not have told him.” While the message is being sent, the guard begins to speak, explaining that he was questioned by Adal and that he knows nothing about what he asked.

There is a moment’s pause in the telepathic message, though he rambles on verbally, and the guard frowns slightly, as a mage might when casting a spell. Then the voice continues telepathically, “I can only speak, not hear you, like this. I wish to aid you and keep you safe. Trust and seek no more for now.” There is another pause and a third message. “If you wish more speech, nevertheless, use the word ‘consideration’ and I shall contact you this evening so we can communicate more freely and in detail.”

Nameless notices another flare of enchantment with this message, which quickly fades away, as the previous ones have. It seems that each message is a separate use of a psionic power, similar to sending but with multiple recipients and only one-way.

The voice ends, and the guard falls silent too, studying Nameless with an inscrutable gaze, which the alienist feels is currently evaluating him and his response. Adal is still looking at the guard quizzically, seeming slightly surprised at the random information that he provided to Nameless and evidently unaware of the telepathic communication that just occurred. He asks Nameless, glancing at Six and Luna as well, “Any ideas?”

Luna thinks for a moment and then says, “Thank you for your time and consideration.
I guess that’s all for now. We are very sorry for any inconvenience to which you may have been put in regards to this matter.” Man, I hate this :):):):)!

Adal’s expression doesn’t change much, but he is clearly a little surprised. “Is that it?” he asks, his eyes focused on Nameless though he is evidently responding to Luna’s comments. “There is no inconvenience,” he adds. “If people are ... doing what you said he did, it needs to be investigated.” It seems from his words and manner that Adal has not told the guard what he is supposed to have done.

The guard looks at Adal and then back to Nameless, with a hopeful expression on his face, but the faint light of shrewd calculation doesn’t leave his eyes. He frowns slightly again, and all three Angels receive the message, “Good move. Tell Adal that you are done, Nameless. And do not be alarmed at what happens next. It is for secrecy and your benefit.”

While Nameless considers what to say next, Six too says, “Well, goodbye.” He then bows and leaves, as does Luna, still perched on his shoulder.

Adal’s expression flickers very quickly to deep irritation and then back to a relatively placid mask, as Six and Luna exit. He glances at them and then focuses on Nameless again. “Is there anything you would like to know, or is that all?”

“No,” says the alienist finally. “I was simply considering any other options I might have, but nothing comes to mind that I can utilize right now. I apologize for being unable to help any further and for the inconvenience, little as it may be.”

In the other room, Six quietly explains to Gareth what just happened. The paladin sighs, “I do not like all this subterfuge, and controlling of other people. It is deceitful and vile. This person seems powerful enough that he could have gotten us a message another way – without controlling someone.” He pauses to ponder the situation for a few moments, and then continues. “Given this news we will need to meet with this person eventually – at least to hear out what he has to say. It would have to be after we are finished with our current task. We cannot afford to get swept into something else – and I am not willing to have this telepath in the proximity of the princess.”

Six shrugs, causing Luna to flap her wings to keep her balance and give him a swift peck. Ignoring it, he says, “Given this is a psionicist – or at least that’s what Nameless thinks – who can piggyback on the unwilling without their awareness, how would you know? We would need someone with great psionic knowledge to decipher what might have happened.”

Gareth frowns. “Would you please rephrase? I have no idea what you just said.”

Since he is unable to sigh, Six simply replies, “I was responding to your assertion that you don’t want this telepath within proximity of the princess, and asking – how would you know? The psionicist can piggyback on unwilling subjects without their knowledge. We don’t know the powers available to psionicists. The voice told us it couldn’t hear our conversations, but he could be lying. Any guard, the ladies-in-waiting, or the princess herself could be already affected by our mental friend. We don’t know and we don’t have anyone to ask. We would have to speak to a psionic expert in a way that avoids a psionicist that can be anywhere. I would say anyone, but we don’t know if his powers are limited to people.”

Gareth’s frown lessens only slightly, as he says slowly, “You are correct. For all we know he could be in one of us, though I think my training provides me some more resistance than the average person, or even in the princess. I would, however, still prefer to keep the princess’ contact with this person down to a minimum. We still have a job to do here, and maybe it is the will of all that is evil, but it always seems like something is trying to distract us from our quest at hand.”

Luna, from her perch, nods slowly. “Hmmm .... in as much as I agree with you about not taking on anything else right now, I do think that we should have more ‘speech’ with this person. I think we want to know what is going on, and if someone is possessing people to get to us, that needs to be addressed. And we want some names, dammit! Anyway, since I used the word ‘consideration’ like he asked, we should hear from him this evening.”

“This evening?” asks Gareth. “But we will have left Fairhaven by then.”

“Based on what these two are telling us,” says Korm gloomily, having stood and listened silently all this time, “I doubt that’ll be an inconvenience for him.”

Meanwhile, in the other room, Nameless takes his leave too. Evidently somewhat dissatisfied, Adal dryly thanks him for all their help and departs with the guards. After joining the others, Nameless – and they – wait in the room outside the meeting chamber for the next two hours, until the negotiations are concluded. Haydith and the diplomats emerge and they head back to their quarters to make the final preparations for lunch and their departure.

The meal, which takes place just over an hour and a half later, is a much smaller affair than the banquet of the previous night, with the visitors being joined by mainly Aundairan royalty and those closest to the throne, as well as a couple of favored members of the nobility.

Six, having cogitated on the prospect, decides to tell Adal more about the psionic issue. While the others are eating, he takes a seat beside the Royal Minister of Magic and tells him quietly, “About that situation with the guard, I think you need a psionic detective. Someone with an inviolate mind, the savvy to ask the right questions, and enough knowledge of both psionics and magic to comprehend the answers. We’re quite sure that you have had a major security breach by a psionicist, but exactly how is something our group can’t discover yet. And we have other things keeping us busy. Whoever handles your security and issues of espionage should be given this problem.”

Adal doesn’t seem too pleased at the news, giving the impression (without voicing it) that he’d have liked to have this information earlier, but he thanks Six for the suggestion. “Psionics is a very rare art. I shall see what I can find out, and if possible, I’ll let you know. I have the guard being watched now, so at least he should not be a problem. He still seems quite confused. If possible, I’ll let you know what I find out.”

The meal is significantly more peaceful for the Angels than the earlier affair was, with absolutely nothing untoward happening. The same is true for the leave-taking ceremony that follows, which occurs in the throne room but involves a much smaller number of people than during the original visit there. Queen Aurala says her official goodbye to Haydith and asks her to return at any time, while re-pledging Aundair's friendship with Karrnath. Haydith responds in kind.

Afterwards, Haydith and her entourage prepare to board the waiting carriages and proceed back to the Lyrandar tower where their vessel awaits. The return to the airship and the departure occur without a hitch and Fairhaven soon fades behind the Serenity as it heads into northern Aundair.

As promised by the unknown person possessing the guard back at the royal palace in Fairhaven, the Angels receive a message midway through the evening. More precisely, Luna does. It comes as a voice in her head, which says, “Greetings. You wished more speech with me. What do you wish to know? Speak quickly, since our contact will last slightly more than a minute.” Having received them before, Luna gets the impression that this is similar to a sending spell, where each message can only be of 25 words, though evidently this one lasts much longer.

As Luna receives the message, Nameless’ sight lets him see a new enchantment aura of moderate strength spring up around her. “Message?” I shall have to research these psionics further, he thinks.

“Yeah.” After quickly relating the contents, Luna says to her companions, “He says there’s not much time, so I’ll ask a few questions quickly. If you want me to add something, say so.” Then, to the unknown contact, she queries, “Who are you and what is your interest in our group? What is the actual danger/concern that you possessed someone to caution us of?”

There is a pause of a few seconds after Luna transmits her questions and then she receives the reply. “You are heroes of Eberron. We approve. We warned you of those who might have learned Nameless’ condition. Would be ... unfortunate. So we prevented it.”

“Ask about the Lady they warned us of,” says Six. “All right,” says Luna, and then proceeds to ask, “How did you learn Nameless’ condition? What was the specific concern with the lady? Didn’t we prevent its discovery by refusing her audience?” After a moment, she adds, “Is that you, Fleshweaver? Or one of the Silver Flame people? Who are you and what factions do you work for/represent?”

There is a momentary pause, and then Luna receives three replies, one after the other.

“Your companions have spoken to many about Nameless’ condition. We hear much, so we learned. Others may too, who are less friendly. Be more careful.”

“The Lady does not know of Nameless. She wished other work, which could reveal his state. You have prevented it by refusing her. Well done.”

“Fleshweaver? Silver Flame? No. We secretly study and protect Eberron. Some like us wrongly possessed you to attack Havakhad. We apologize for the inconvenience.”


Luna lifts an eyebrow and grins at her companions. “Wow! Protectors of Eberron? That’s cool! Maybe we are finally meeting ‘people’ of some account! Not those stupid government officials or royals!!”

Gareth grimaces. “Assuming they’re saying the truth, which I sincerely doubt. If you can still respond, tell them we wish to meet face to face – be it in our home or a neutral place.”

Luna does so, and the response is swift. “Certainly. In Sharn. But we must speak through someone. We do not ... travel well. But should not matter. The vessel is unimportant. The consciousness is.”

“Have you any interesting special powers? Can you help rid Nameless of his burden? If not, how he can use it to best advantage?”

“We are studying possibilities for curing Nameless’ condition. If there is one, we will find it and inform you. We think there is no advantage.”

“Do you have any aberration fighting tips? Why Sharn? Why your interest in Eberron, if you don’t even live here? Are you like druids?” Korm rolls his eyes at Luna’s next set of questions. “People who are possessing others and using psionics? I doubt we’ll find anything druidic about them.”

“Not only Sharn. We have thousand eyes everywhere. We dwell in Eberron too, but not like you. Not druids, but we abhor extraplanar dangers too.”

“Yeah, yeah,” grunts Luna at Korm. “But anyone who has issues with extraplanar :):):):) gets my support. And if you want to know about the possessing thing…,” she asks over the psionic link again, “Also, how did that little mix up like the mistaken possession and murder attempt come to pass?”

“ Some among us have poor judgement. Attempted to slay Havakhad through you. Long history of Kalashtar opposition to some of us. Unfortunate. Was an error.”

As Luna is relaying this to the others, she is interrupted by a closing message. “Must end here. Fear not. Shall be watching and aiding you. Shall also minimize others’ existing knowledge of Nameless’ situation. Tell nobody of our contact. ” She feels a soft prickling inside her head and the contact is gone. As it ends, Nameless detects the momentary flare of a moderately powerful divination aura around Luna, which instantly begins to fade away.

Once the contact ends, Luna says, “I wonder what these ‘people’ are.”

Nameless considers whether to expand on what his research and divinations have revealed about the quori, but decides not to bother. Korm is slightly less reticent, saying, “I know little about this, but one of the more learned Gatekeepers mentioned them to me, and it wasn’t positive. As we saw with that possession issue you asked them about. Them claiming to be on our side doesn’t make me any the happier about it.”

Luna shrugs disdainfully. “Well, actually everyone had better be on ‘our side’ ... cause if Nameless goes... the world goes with him! Which is a real pain if this is where you are keeping all your stuff!” Then she grins. “You know, maybe we should let everyone know about Nameless’ condition, so that people know not to risk hurting him. Maybe put out an article in the Korranberg Chronicle with a big picture of Nameless and a sign above him saying, ‘Do NOT blow this :):):):) up!’”

While Korm almost snorts his brain out his nose with amusement, Nameless simply looks at Luna silently for a few seconds, before saying dryly, “Of course. I’m certain telling everyone about this would be the perfect way to go.”

The sarcasm is lost on – or ignored by – the shifter. “Precisely! The more people who know, the safer we actually are! Damn – where is my gnome?”

Gareth rolls his eyes and says to Nameless, “Is there any chance you could research a permanent silence spell or effect for Luna?” The alienist shakes his head. “Even my magic isn’t that powerful,” causing the druid to growl at them both, “Bite me, you two. Or even better – let me bite you!”

The Angels continue to discuss the situation and the communications they received, but it is not the last telepathic, magical message for the day. Barely fifteen minutes later, they receive another. This time it is a sending to Six, and it comes from Adal, the warforged clearly recognizing the clipped tone even as the spell identifies the sender.

Problem here. Found trusted psion to interrogate guard. Before interrogation began, guard dropped dead. Part of brain and spine exploded. Was psionic attack. Self inflicted.

Six sighs inwardly and replies, Fears confirmed. My condolences. Source seems centered on us. Investigation seems to activate the otherwise dormant source. We are suspending inquiries until charge is delivered. Then he proceeds to tell the others what the message was.

Korm growls irritably. “And these are our new friends, who might be watching us as we sleep? Peachy!”
 

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