Blades at Dawn

End of the World

Looking the desolate view in front of her Gamalsarad considered the message. It had been sent across the entire world, following the sinuous Path of the Waves.

But it was a dread message the Nest Matron had awaited for a very long time, the world was dying and their age had come to an end.

“Prepare the Fleet,” she growled, her crest lifting as combat hormones flooded her body. “The time has come for the final effort against our cousins.”

“Destination, Nest Matron?” an aide asked.

“The Rent.”

Lightning drifted around the surrounding landscape, inside thousands of figures moved to their stations under the strengthening glow of the power lines. The mighty citadel of iron and stone started trembling. The sky above was devoid of all light but the continuous rain of ashes was visible as if every flake was lit from within. Pressure increased pushing everything closer to the ground, withered husks that had once been living things spun as if alive, only to explode in white hot shards.

The hillsides groaned, visibly contracted as the Sky Keep sought to free itself again. A hill cracked in half with a thunder. Lightning spanned the blackness. Shrieking wind rushed in like flood waters and everything it swept through burst into dust creating a cloud around the rising citadel.

Hammering concussions shook the hill, sheared away slopes leaving raw cliffs, boulders tumbling through the remnants. And still the dust cloud grew and grew.

A final crash, loud as the snapping of the world`s spine and then sudden silence.

Thousands of feet overhead, the last Sky Keep of the long-tails emerged from the eternal sea of clouds to join the last ships of her fleet.

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Adventure Journal of Luc Urban, entry 10
Nemesis

I needed to split my thoughts in two. So much has happened in so little time. Ever since we returned to Lencia that seems to be the case, though. I really need to ask Stormlit about her meditation. I can’t keep going full-tilt like this. I need to do something or I’m afraid I’m going to break.

As the towers collapsed we started to run, when Katryol questioned if we should perhaps help others. Cursing myself for not even thinking of that, I instantly turned back and dove into the dust cloud. Inside I couldn’t see anything, and the dust was so thick it began to choke me even with some cloth wrapped around my face. Somehow I was able to get out and back to my friends, all the while Kaela chanting how stupid I was. It’s so obvious now what happened, I don’t know how I couldn’t tell.

We made our way back towards the inn. On the way Kalleron spotted a cloaked Eladrin going the same way, and we followed her. She simply sat inside the inn alone, and though suspicious we all went up to Katryol’s room to sort the treasure they found. Then I purchased two rooms for us and a bath for myself. I would have greatly preferred the rain-like bath my mothers have at the Manor, as I needed to go through two tubs of water to completely clean myself and my armor. I spent more time than necessary in there, trying to figure out just how we were supposed to find my Lady Mother now. We killed our only lead. If I’d been less impulsive, if I’d been calmer and not jumped into a fight, would things have gone differently? But my mind simply went in circles, so I dressed and went downstairs to find Katryol at one table, the Eladrin still at another.

I don’t know what to think of Katryol. He’s proven himself a competent fighter, and he could have run at any moment when things became difficult. I can’t say I trust him, but I don’t think he’s bad, either. We both ordered dinner and drink, and the others eventually came down to join us. Near the end of the meal the Eladrin got up to leave, pausing briefly to give us a long look. I started to stand as she left, but Stormlit kept me with a calming hand. Unfortunately, Kaela ran off after the woman, and Kalleron simply tried to use his magic to track the woman instead. I think Kaela had the better idea in this case, although she went about it in a very wrong way.

She engaged the woman, and I eventually came outside and got close enough to hear the end of their discussion. The woman claimed herself our nemesis, and at that I closed the gap I’d purposefully left between myself and Kaela and demanded to know what she meant. She looked right at me and said she came by order of Nightchill, and I drew my swords the moment that name left her lips. She simply smiled, and we heard a yell from Kalleron inside. We’d walked right into a trap!

In every way this battle was worse than the one with the Oracle and the mimics. There ended up being three Eladrin, all extremely skilled and deadly, and we were caught completely unawares. The woman Kaela and I confronted set up a barrier of swords, and Kalleron teleported from the inn looking injured. The fake barmaid came out next, deadly as she targeted my friends, but Kalleron still managed to get off a spell against the first woman. From out of nowhere a third Eladrin attacked, a male this time, and with very little ease he took Kalleron down. I’ve never seen anything like it. And he kept attacking even after my cousin fell, this time targeting Stormlit. Something seemed wrong with her and Kaela, as well. I didn’t feel good either. My attacks were weak, and it was hard just to lift my swords to attack.

The battle did not go at all in our favor. I saw Kalleron wake at one point, and though Kaela was barely hanging on she managed to send one of the women through the wall of blades. I pulled her back, forced her to stand in the deadly wall as I attacked all three of them, demanding to know where Nightchill and my Lady Mother were. They didn’t answer, and the woman in the wall disappeared. I yelled to Stormlit that she was in front of her, but I was too late. Both her and Kalleron went down again.

We would have died if not for Katryol. His bolts took out the male, and the women quickly ran as their partner fell. I hurried to stabilize Stormlit and Kalleron, but they both looked bad. Katryol tied the Eladrin up as I wouldn’t let him be killed outright, and I carried everyone back into the inn. I was barely hit during that entire fight. Everyone around me was falling, and I barely took a hit. Why does that keep happening?!

I should have realized what was going on, both with the Eladrin and with Kaela. While Katryol and I tried to question the Eladrin, Kaela kept counting down, and in the middle of talking to him she threw her dagger into his throat. I stopped the bleeding and Katryol healed him with a potion, and then I hauled back and punched Kaela. She kept dodging, but also kept stabbing me. I took more damage from her than I did from the battle.

Our fight broke up when Kaela walked away, and I stayed downstairs with the Eladrin. Kalleron found the innkeeper and the real barmaids, and after he made sure they were alright I told him to sleep. When I was sure everyone was asleep, or at least going to stay upstairs, I roused the Eladrin.

I don’t know why I did. No, that’s a lie. I wanted to know about Nightchill. I needed to know how he could serve something like her. He talked of how she saved him and his sisters when no one else would, but why would she save anyone? She may have rescued him from a slow, torturous death as he says, but that’s exactly what she’s doing to my Lady Mother. And she told them to kill my friends but spare me. Does she expect me to be grateful?! How can anyone call her “Mother?”

Before I could finish asking him all my questions he teleported away through the broken window. I know that too is my fault. I shouldn’t have woken him, and I let my guard down. I forced myself to stay awake while Kalleron tranced, afraid I’d invited them to return to finish the battle, but my fears were unrealized.

This morning I woke late and found Stormlit also still asleep in her room. There was a piece of paper on her clothes, and I couldn’t understand what it meant but when I woke her she told me it was a message from Tex. I’ve never seen her so happy, but it’s a little disconcerting. At least she looks better now. I was worried when we could barely wake her after the fight.

Back downstairs the innkeeper was still unconscious in the kitchen, so Kalleron tried to keep a drunken customer from asking too many questions. Kaela came downstairs with a bundle in her hands, saying she broke the mirror upstairs and was going to throw it out. I offered to help and she forced me away, but Katryol followed her anyway. They didn’t return for a while though, and we began to worry. Kalleron went out first and told us she wasn’t there and neither was the broken mirror, so I jumped the bar and came out in time to see an ice creature come up from the sewers.

Thanks to Stormlit’s magic we managed to bypass the ice creatures and find Kaela and another Kaela. We surrounded Kaela and I charged the fake while they tried to escape with the bundle. The battle was relatively quick. Kaela was the first to go down, but Kalleron didn’t seem too upset. I wonder how he’s coping with all of this. He didn’t even yell when Stormlit shot a bolt through Kaela’s head, and I didn’t try to stop her either. There was no need though, as the fake dissolved into a puddle of slime, while the other Kaela turned into a Rakshasa upon death.

We dispatched the ice creatures and returned to the inn, making sure to grab Kaela’s things. Inside Katryol unwrapped the bundle to find an unbroken mirror, and Kaela was nowhere to be found in the inn. When Kalleron looked into the mirror, though, he told us he’d found his sister.

I’m left not knowing what to do, again. Kaela’s trapped in a mirror, the Oracle is dead, and Nightchill’s children are trying to kill my friends. And even though it wasn’t her, in that fight I had with the fake Kaela I wanted to hurt her. I didn’t know she was a fake, and I really, seriously wanted to hurt her.

I don’t understand myself anymore.

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Kalleron's Memories part XVIII
Hubris...it's a bitch
On our way back to the inn, we saw one the Eladrin from the riot ahead of us. We followed her and she wound up going to our inn. We went inside, and after divvying the loot we took from the tower we went downstairs to discuss our next move. We talked for a while and after ordering some food, we had some dinner. The food tasted a bit strange, and there was something odd about the barmaid, but I could not put my finger on it. Eventually the Eladrin left and Katryol went outside with the intent to follow while I was preparing my spells to track her. However, our efforts were thwarted by Kaela who just went up to her and asked her who she was and why she was interested in us (she gave us all meaningful looks as she left). She simply replied, “I am you nemesis” and that she had come to kill us. Apparently, she was a servant of nightchill. By this point Luc and Stormlit had gone outside while I remained inside gathering my materials together. (Also, I should note that the two seemed a bit off. Luc’s movements seemed a bit sluggish and before I went unconscious I noticed that Stormlit was wearied at a faster rate than usual). Those outside were attacked by divine magic while I was ambushed inside by the barmaid (who turned out to be another assassin). The assassin attacked me, though thankfully her dark blade missed me giving me the chance to miss with my own blade. Cursing under my breath I teleported through a newly conjured wall of blades only to be cut apart by another attacker who had jumped down from the rooftops. I managed to summon a cloud of noxious gasses around the caster of the group, but my enchantment did not last long as I was soon knocked unconscious by a flurry of attacks. I did not have time to react. I managed to come around for a minute only to be knocked out again. Thankfully, I did not taste death, but I could feel myself being pulled towards the gates of the Raven Queen’s domain. My heart felt as stone and I could feel my life slowly ebb as my blood left my body. My vision was clouded by darkness…only his face was staring at me. I would have run in fear if my body had obeyed me, but it was if I had been petrified. Thankfully, someone (I assume Luc) staunched my wounds, and I was saved from my visions by coming to a few minutes later.

I had awakened in the inn after the battle had concluded to Luc shouting at Kaela. She wanted to kill the would-be assassin, who was bound and lying on a nearby table, while Luc wanted to question him about his mother. Apparently, after the one who felled me had been incapacitated, the others retreated, which is probably the primary reason why we survived that encounter. They had the upper hand throughout the entire engagement, so it does not make sense that they would retreat after losing one comrade. Well, after Luc stopped yelling he went back to questioning the prisoner who said that they were sent to kill four of us and that Luc was not to be targeted. (This dark goddess seems to be growing more attached to Luc. I can remember the sickeningly sweet way she talked to Luc about being his “mother” back in that dreamscape.) Kaela wanted to kill the Eladrin, but Luc LOUDLY declared that no one was going to kill him. He wanted to question the prisoner. Kaela decided that she would give Luc five minutes and then she would execute him. When I agreed that we should kill him I also got yelled at to shut up. I admit that in my grogginess I was not as diplomatic about voicing my desire for the assassin’s death, but Luc began to treat us like minions as opposed to companions, which did not encourage me to be tactful. Also, his zealotry and single-mindedness is getting tiresome. He does not appear to realize that this problem is much greater than simply his mother being captured, and he also appears to forget that we are all risking our lives to save her, his country, and indeed perhaps all of creation from nightchill…but I digress. I know he is in a lot of pain and has many burdens on his shoulder, but I do not appreciate having myself or my sister yelled at in such a manner. At one point during Luc’s screaming fit I made a rude finger gesture to him…not the most mature thing I have ever done. The situation only worsened when Kaela made good on her threat and threw her dagger at the Eladrin after the allotted five minutes, killing him. Luc wheeled on her and punched her after which she drew her other dagger and retaliated, slashing him. I pointed my wand at Luc and asked him to stop attacking, but he did not even notice me. After this trading of blows, Kaela walked off while Stormlit, who had also awakened but had wisely remained silent, healed Luc. Katryol used a vitality potion to keep the Eladrin from dying (though he remained unconscious), and I, tired of being yelled at for no reason, went to inspect the kitchen. Much of the food and wine had been poisoned, I discovered, and upon closer inspection of a cabinet I found the real proprietor and barmaids who had been drugged and tied up. Whatever was used on them was powerful as I could not revive them. Katryol and Luc discussed the information gleaned from the interrogation. I went upstairs to bed and brewed a replacement potion for Katryol who had already gone to sleep. Stormlit (probably the smartest of all of us in this situation) was the first to go to sleep. I’ll bet she didn’t even take off her armour before passing out. Well, Luc stayed downstairs to question the prisoner when he woke up. After I was finished making the potion I heard a commotion downstairs, then silence, and then a door slam that shook the inn. I did not have to go downstairs to check…the Eladrin had escaped. My frustration with Luc was still fresh so I simply went into Katryol’s room, dropped off his potion, and then retired. Kaela wanted to stay in my room since there were still assassins out there, and that staying two to a room would probably be safer. I, of course acquiesced, and so she went to sleep and sank into the restful state of my waking dreams…I wish I could remember more details about the previous day, but after the thrashing I received yesterday even my impeccable memory has been shaken. I can only imagine what fate has in store for us today…

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Kalleron's Memories Part XVII
The fall of false prohpets...and towers

The following day we met up with our tour guide, Katryol and departed the Inn. The beginning of the day was rather uneventful as we entered a couple of magical curio shops where I procured a couple of items, a focus (which was purchased for me by Kaela…rather uncharacteristic of her), and a sending ritual. We were then shown around various other districts of the city before we went to the oracle complex and were shown into one of the auxiliary towers. We were introduced to a “friend” of Katryol’s who hinted (through a lengthy and roundabout conversation) that she had read some of the questions submitted to the oracle…she may have even read our questions. After Luc received a slight chastisement from the woman for a rather poorly phrased question, Luc reformed it and asked again. After a few moments, the woman’s voice changed becoming rather alien and otherworldly before she said, “…disrupt the ritual.” (Sadly, I missed the first part of what she had said.) After that rather disturbing event we left the tower and headed back to the Inn…though now Luc has become obsessed with what that woman said and now wants nothing more than to talk to her again. I would rather not encounter her again because she may be an agent of nightchill or a servant of another dark power. Sadly, our trip to the inn for a little rest was interrupted.

On the way back we heard of a disturbance happening in a relatively nearby plaza. We went to investigate (as is our wont), and discovered a huge crowd that was getting rather raucous and riotous. Kaela, Stormlit, and I managed to get out the throng before the melee began, and apparently Katryol had already taken to the rooftops. Just before the riot broke out, and the city guard started to mercilessly cut down anyone in their way, I saw two Eladrin at the center of the crowd for a moment, but then they disappeared using a magic I could not wholly identify. Upon seeing the brutality of the guards Luc wanted to charge them and cut them down, but a couple of well placed blasts of magic liberally applied to the back of his head persuaded him against making war upon the city (honestly I cannot blame him for wanting to stop the guards, but we simply cannot afford to make an enemy of the local constabulary). It was then that we noticed a rather shady individual dragging two children down a dark alley. I teleported to a nearby roof (where I ran into Katryol) and together we gave pursuit the others followed on foot. We tracked the man to a slightly neglected house, and stormed it. I must say I am rather proud of my heroic leap through the window. Who says wizards can’t be physically impressive? Anyway, we killed the man before he could further brutalize the children, calmed the kids down, and eventually returned them to their parents who, thankfully, were still searching for them back in the plaza. Katryol and I handled the return of the children while Stormlit, Luc and Kaela held the fort at the house. Upon our return we discovered that there was no blood under the dead pedophile, and that underneath him was a rather intricate mosaic. I tried to clear away more of the dust and dirt using my magic but to no avail. Apparently, only blood could clean the surface. Luc and Katryol cut themselves (though Kaela kept volunteering to do the honors for some odd reason) and gave their blood to reveal the rest of the mosaic (despite my objections). The work depicted a great war between two nearly identical reptilian races, which I could not identify, being directed by an equally mysterious deity. We stayed for a bit and tried to figure out what significance this mosaic had, and then we argued about our next course of action for a while…apparently we argued long enough for Katryol to complete a sketch of the great battle (perhaps we should work on this arguing thing…might be a bit of time waster). After our little “debate” we decided to go back to the oracle’s tower and see if any of our questions had been answered.

Upon our arrival, we were sadly disappointed to discover that no answer was forthcoming. However, during a rather chaotic moment when a priest was going into an oracular fit and everyone rushed to the scribe/priest to hear the answer (of course giving the appropriate amount of “ooooo’s” and “ahhhhh’s”), I saw the opportunity to gain access to the inner workings of the tower. I made for the door behind the scribes’ desk, which had been left unattended, and everyone followed. We were put under Stormlit’s illusory veil (making us look like priests) that protected our intrusion from detection; however, it also caused us to get separated. Thus, I found myself in a very unusual situation…I could not sense my sister. As stated in above ramblings, it was like losing one of my senses, and I profoundly hate the sensation. I thought it might have been because of an energy field emanated by the tower itself or perhaps the “oracle,” but as I was very distracted by recent events, I am not sure when our mental link ceased…I am getting wearied by all these unanswered questions. Thankfully, I was with Stormlit and Luc, which helped give me a measure of peace (though Luc’s zealotry is starting to get a little grating), and explored the reaches of the tower in a vain effort to find the other two. We even found a quiet cubicle where I tried to use my magic to track Kaela, but to no avail. We resumed our search and eventually stumbled upon a teleportation circle. After deciphering the markings, we learned that we could use it to travel up and down the tower. So, since our ultimate goal was to reach the top (which was hopefully the other two’s goal as well), we went there, where we found shelves piled high with all of the questions submitted to the oracle. It was there that we were ambushed by a couple of half orcs wearing priestly robes. I was able to distract them with my magic by creating an illusion of the terrain around us sprouting spikes and columns of flame to protect us, which gave us a few precious moments to analyze our assailants. They looked like half orcs at first, but they did not act like them. I blinded them with a blast of energy (or at least I thought I did), but they still assaulted Luc, and after attacking him the creatures split into three duplicates of Luc, each. Mirror mimics!! These vile aberrations love to copy humanoid creatures as it makes it easy to infiltrate society and find to victims on which to feed. We were then drowning in a sea of Lucs, and Stormlit and I would have been lost had it not been for a “handy” signal we had devised to earlier to tell us apart while we under Stormlit’s veil. We were able to dispatch the creature’s after Luc did a devastating whirlwind attack on those closest to him while Stormlit and I attacked the remainder. Luc was reeling after his onslaught, which was probably caused by the psychic backlash of the mimics. Thankfully, after a bit of rest, Kaela and Katryol found their way to us…though I still couldn’t sense my sister’s presence.

I confronted her and even said that she couldn’t be my sister since there was no link. She, in a very blasé manner said that she had been able to sever the link, and that she didn’t want me in her head. I cannot deny that I am incredibly hurt, disappointed, and astounded. How did she accomplish this? Something is wrong…Argh!!! I hate this not knowing!!…Well, I did not have much time to divine the answer to this question as Luc was busy positing his own questions to the oracle. He sat himself in one of the large chairs by the long table in the center of the room, and kept asking questions (which were so vague and unspecific that it is no wonder that they went unanswered). I tried to give him some help in formulating some better questions before he finally blurted out, “Show yourself!” probably referring to Nightchill…though we were greeted by something else. Some of us attempted to hide while Luc stood still as an amorphous form began to rise from the floor. The thing took on a vague humanoid shape before saying that it was going to kill us because we had dealt it injuries and had killed its children. The floor then opened into a giant fleshy maw and swallowed. We were deposited in an area farther down in the tower, I assume (which as it turned out is the body of a massive mimic), which was filled the creature’s refuse…skeletal and fleshy remains of various humanoids that had the look of being fed upon. We were separated again, and the creature attacked us again. As we assaulted the massive mimic massive tentacles sprouted from the walls and lashed out at us. I cast a magic barrier on the group, which protected us from the walls, but not from our main foe. While Luc made an impressive display of force against the creature, the wall tentacles ensnared him and kept him pinned down while the mimic taunted us by assuming different forms (that were close to some of us) and dissolving into the terrain to confuse us. Kaela had to deal with a pair of tentacles that were trying to ensnare her, but after a few slices she was able to join the fray and together we were able to bring the creature down. Luc was even able to extricate himself from the tendril trap and get in a few stabs before it died. Katryol definitely proved himself a capable fighter. I have seen few examples of a crossbowman of his caliber, outside of Stormlit. Also, his ability to conceal himself in sparse surroundings is uncanny. Anyway, apparently the mimic that was attacking us was either linked to and/or functioned as its core, because the whole structure began to shake and sag, so we frantically looked for an exit. During our search, however, we found a treasure trove…which we, of course helped ourselves to…saving the world does require funding after all. Upon stashing the loot we found a passageway out of the chamber (thanks to Luc) and blessedly made it out of the tower before it collapsed. While I do not feel guilty for the priesthood, who mostly mimics probably, I cannot help but feel a pang for the people who must have been caught in the fall of the “tower.” Luc tried to go back into the dust cloud to help people but wound up only getting covered in dirt and debris. I hope most of the petitioners were able to escape. In any case, after the collapse we made out way back to the Inn.

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Kalleron's Memories part XVI
A hasty message scribbled in the margines...

I do not know if whoever may be reading this has ever been deprived of one of their senses before, but it is a wholly disheartening experience. Throughout the course of my adventures, I have been rendered immobile, blind, deafened, and confounded, but one thing that has always been a steadying force has been my link with Kaela. She and I have always been able to tell where the other is, and even were I blind I could still sense her and know that she would be there to look out for me, and I would of course be there for her. However, I find myself trapped in this blasted tower, surrounded by enemies, potentially, and I cannot sense where she is. Her presence is wholly gone and I admit that I am having difficulty keeping my composure despite the company of Luc and Stormlit. If I knew whether she were alive or dead I could formulate a plan based on that knowledge, but this “not knowing” is driving me mad. Where is she? I need to know!! I cannot let my unease show, however, since losing my cool will not bring her back…but still…this feels too much like last time…

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Kalleron's Memories Part XV
A tale of a new city

At last we came within sight of Coral Beach, a city of unexpected expanse dominated by an immense tower in the center that is easily over 300ft. in height. I admit, I was expecting these islands to be largely populated by beasts and all manner of strange creatures (as it turns out I was right, but I will get to that later), but instead, we were greeted by a bustling port town populated by a diverse range of races. The city is not as big as Lencia, but it is still a rival. The city seemed to have a thriving port as well as a merchant district, and the architecture while somewhat parochial still has an austere beauty to it…except for the main towers in the city which are anything but simple. I must say that it is nice to be allowed a brief respite from the ravaging undead and marauding giants to be able to appreciate things like architecture, but sadly, our search for the oracle begged intrusion.

Funnily enough our search for the oracle was a rather short one. I thought we were going to have to trudge through jungles and swamps to find some secluded temple nestled in the dark reaches of the island; however, the being we sought resides in the central tower and according to the city’s laws, no one can be denied access to the oracle…after a fashion that is. As it turns out, the oracle is not seen by the general population and all questions to the oracle are relayed to him/her/it by way of a set of scribes who write down the question for you. Also, a nominal tithe (i.e a nominal fee) is required…for each question submitted. I do not think the possibility of a scam escaped any of our thoughts (with the possible exception of Luc, who in his single-mindedness might have overlooked the prospect) as we heard about this little tidbit, but, for lack of a better option, we decided to submit our questions and pay the money. Well, Kaela was spotted money by Luc because she would not pay money for what she thought was an obvious scam. I cannot say I blame her, and it is nice to know that one of us inherited our mom’s frugality. In addition, the oracle only answers questions that it finds interesting or entertaining, so we can only hope that those we submitted piqued the interest of this quasi religious figure. I have my doubts about this oracle, especially after seeing the business that has sprung up around it, and Kaela is wholly convinced that these people of fleecing the entire city. I cannot really tell what is going through Luc’s mind at the moment except the usual frustration at his search being stymied once again. Stormlit remains her usual introverted self, though maybe she will decide to open up to Luc again. Oddly enough, he is the more approachable one.

Anyway, we weren’t left with much else to do except look around, so we walked around the area, stopped in a couple of shops of magical curios where I procured an overpriced magical focus, and eventually wound up at a local tavern/inn. We decided to stay there in lieu of the ship (which would have been free) because we wanted to be close to the oracle in case our questions were answered quickly. We ran into the two marines who had slipped away from the ship in order to have a good time…and I am getting the impression that one of them, the dwarf called Squeak, has more than a passing interest in me. While I am curious what the product of a dwarf and me would produce (1/2 dwarf, 1/4 elf, and 1/4 gnome…what would that look like…), I do not think such a liaison would be wise at the moment…or in the near future. She invited me to have a few drinks and tour the town with her, but I politely and (to Luc and Kaela’s combined annoyance) in a roundabout way, refused her invitation. We got our drinks and dinner, and as we sat down to discuss our next course of action, we noticed that the head count around the table was one higher. A well-dressed half-elf had discretely joined our group and claimed to have connections around the city that could conceivably get us into some of the restricted sections of the oracle’s complex (such as the auxiliary towers surrounding the main one and the library, which is closed off to all but initiates in the oracle’s “faith”). His confidence at getting admittance for us was both reassuring and unnerving, and while I cannot trust him as of yet, I also cannot pass up the opportunity to further our search. Sadly, Kaela seems to be taking more than a passing interest in him, and while I am not as zealous as her in regards to propriety, I would remiss in my duties as my father’s son and her brother if I did not watch him…VERY carefully. He proposed to meet us tomorrow and take us on a tour of the city, would end with our entrance into the vast oracular complex. He gave us the night to sleep on it, so we will see how we feel about it tomorrow. Perhaps this is some elaborate trap, but, as one of my old masters taught me, knowing of the trap is the first step in evading it.

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Adventure Journal of Luc Urban, entry 9
mimicry

I will be glad to be away from this city. There are too many secrets, too many hidden things here to make me comfortable.

We arrived safe enough, despite the loss of lives aboard the ship, and I gave the rest of the marines some time to leave. Then we headed into the city, and made a few pit stops along the way for Kalleron to check out some magic shops. Coral Beach is much larger than I had expected, and the Oracle’s Tower is amazing to see. We finally reached the main tower, and surprisingly they simply let us in. It’s refreshing not to have to deal with Lencian bureaucracy.

Inside the Tower we were told that there were two ways to present our questions: either freely on the lower floor, or we could pay five gold on the second floor and submit our question in writing. As the people on the lower floor almost never had their questions answered, I opted for paying the five gold. We all submitted questions, and then headed back into town to explore some more. Kalleron found another magic shop and Stormlit and I left him inside to haggle. She’s still very quiet, and I don’t fully understand her, but I trust her.

Across the way we saw an inn, and by the time Kalleron and Kaela left the shop it was well into evening, so we decided to get something to eat and rent out some rooms. The inn isn’t the best we’ve ever stayed at, but far from the worst. Although the innkeeper misunderstood and rented us four rooms instead of two, but I’ll admit I wasn’t very specific.

During dinner a stranger showed up beside Kaela. His name is Katryol, and I’d know him for a rogue anywhere. He offered to give us a tour of the city just because, and that he also knew people in the Tower. He darted off before we could really question him, and he also left his tab in our laps.

After that brief meeting we finished our meal and finally were able to bathe. Unfortunately the men’s and women’s baths were in the same room, separated by a curtain. That was a little awkward.

The next morning Katryol was at the bar as promised, but so were two of my marines. They offered me a seat while my friends spoke with the rogue, and their interest in Kalleron hadn’t gone away at all. Thankfully, Stormlit pulled me away from them before I could embarrass myself any more, and we went with Katryol into the city. He took Kalleron to yet another magic shop, and Stormlit and I remained outside once again. Mother used to tell me how Uncle Sucaeva always liked to get magic items, but I hadn’t realized just how much Kalleron took after his father in that way. Even my mothers don’t get this excited about weapons shops.

We finally reached the Oracle around midday, but Katryol talked to some guards and we went into one of the side towers to meet someone he referred to as the Lady. She was kind enough, although the fact she knew our names and other things about us didn’t sit well. When I asked about Nightchill something strange happened; her voice changed mid-sentence as she said “Disrupt the Ritual,” but she didn’t remember it at all. We were quick to leave her and regroup outside, but before I could ask Katryol about what just happened, we heard a loud sound coming from the marketplace and I ran headlong that way, loosening my swords from their peace bindings as I ran.

We got there in time to see a couple of Eladrin within a crowd, and then some soldiers came through to disperse things, swinging their swords and killing their own civilians. I saw one woman with children cut down right in front of me, but the soldiers were too far gone before I could do anything. I heard Kaela yell a few moments later, and just caught the sight of a man pulling two girls into an alley. With Kalleron and Katryol on the roof I found the building he entered and kicked the door in. He was beyond a second door inside, and I charged and broke that door as well. He had the youngest child on the ground, below his foot, while he stripped the older girl. I don’t really remember what happened next, but I suddenly found myself on the ground with Kaela’s dagger in my shoulder and the man dead below me, a huge gouge going from hip to neck. The girls were crying behind me, but Kaela and Stormlit worked at calming them down.

Kalleron and Katryol left to see if their parents were in the dispersed crowd left in the marketplace, and I did my best to wipe my clothes off but nothing helped. They found the girls’ parents and I stayed back in the shadows as the children were returned. Despite my suggestion to return to the Lady and question just what she meant by “Disrupt the ritual,” we went back into the house where the man lay dead. Strangely, despite the wound I dealt, there was no blood near him. The floor was clean below him though, and we could clearly see an old mosaic. Kalleron tried to clean the rest of the floor, but the dust wouldn’t lift, so I offered to shed some blood to clear the floor. Kalleron was against it, but Kaela was all-too eager, and she sliced my arm. The moment my blood hit the floor I collapsed to my knees and felt the life being sucked from me. Stormlit was quick to heal my wound, but there was still one section of mosaic that remained unclear. Surprisingly, Katryol cut himself to clear the rest of the floor. I didn’t understand the picture at all, and Kalleron also seemed stumped.

We left the room after a short discussion, and returned to the Oracle’s Tower. Our questions hadn’t been answered yet, but someone else’s was as we stood there. We took the opportunity to sneak into the rooms behind the clerks, but as we used Stormlit’s Veil spell, we lost each other in the crowd. I found Kalleron and Stormlit, but Kalleron said he could no longer feel Kaela in his mind. We hurried up the Tower in an attempt to find her, and after a few floors we came upon a strange teleporter that took us to the top floor. We decided to wait there a few moments, and I sat in one of the five thrones at the large table in the middle of the room.

Apparently this was the Oracle’s room, and I started asking my questions again. When I asked about my Lady Mother, two men entered the room asking what we were doing. I didn’t want a fight, but Kalleron threw up an illusion spell as the men advanced, and Stormlit hit one with a crossbow bolt. The men weren’t real men, as when they charged me they suddenly disappeared, only to reappear looking like three of me. I took out four of “me,” and nearly died from the pain of it. I’ve never felt something that severe before—it had me on my knees in seconds, my vision white and ears ringing. I don’t know how I survived, but these things Kalleron called mimics were still around. I forced myself to my feet to take them on, and they once again stole my form. Even knowing the pain they brought on I still attacked them, and somehow we managed to kill the creatures. But there was no chance of searching for Kaela, as I had to rest after the battle.

We didn’t have to search for Kaela anyway, as it turned out. She came about half an hour after our fight. Kalleron demanded to know what was going on, and she said she simply turned off their link. I can’t imagine that’s possible, but Kalleron grudgingly took her at her word, so I had to as well. He knows her better than I ever can. Katryol showed a few minutes later, and I returned to asking the Oracle questions. In frustration I finally asked it to show itself, and suddenly the floor lifted up into a giant creature and announced itself as our Doom.

It pulled us down into rooms below and we were quick to regroup. The Oracle attacked Stormlit and showed us just how difficult this battle was to be. Tentacles in the walls attacked and restrained our movements with some kind of acid, and the Oracle itself would grab and drag us around the room. I stood fast against it, trying to give some kind of advantage to my companions, but without Kaela to flank it I couldn’t offer much help. Strangely, she refused to enter the fray. I know she prefers getting in and out, and I don’t blame her for those tactics, but this time that wasn’t an option and we desperately needed her help.

The strangest thing was that, twice within the battle, the Oracle took on a different shape. The first time it became a giant bed that affected Stormlit in a strange way, and the next time it became the bath in my mothers’ room. I don’t know how the creature knew about any of these things, but we never got a chance to ask it. We finally took it down, and unfortunately the entire building with it. I found an exit from the crumbling room as the others found treasure lying around. We barely managed to get out before the Tower began to cave in on itself, and with it the surrounding towers also fell in.

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Ancient
Katryol's Thoughts

I took to the shadows, hoping to avoid detection. Stormlit emerged from a room to my left, Luc, in front of me. The creature came down the corridor beyond Stormlit. Behind me, Kaela and Kalleron became engaged with something. Stealing a quick look, I saw tentacles emerge from the wall. Their reach was long and moved like a jellyfish. Great, distractions.

I fire from the shadows into the massive creature, hoping to slow its advance. It seems to anticipate the bolts trajectory and weaves out of the way! What trickery is this?! How could it have known where I was, unless,… Of course! My ambushes have been ineffective in this tower, like the building itself has eyes and can sense where I am. It’s a living, breathing entity! I forgo my cover to face the beast directly. No sense in useless subtlties. Kalleron joins the fray, but his magic seems to fail him. Something is lacking in his mind. Kaela is still engaged with the limbs. Stormlit drops down to join us and moves into a position in front of Kalleron – she won’t see him get hurt. Finding Luc, I see him lying prone on the ground. Damn, it seems the tentacle inject a minor inhibitor when they strike. I continue to fire into the beast, staying away from the walls – who knows if there is more of those arms out there?

The beast strikes and Kalleron shields. Stormlit readies her magic and fires back. I swerve around to its flank and fire into it again. The creature stops and seeps into the ground. Great, it can hide. I ready myself for a surprise attack. Luc emerges, seemingly rid of his predicament. Kalleron casts an Acid Ward on us to guard us against the poison. Kaela is still trying to fend off her attacks, without much success. What kind of a rogue can’t hit anything? Suddenly, beneath Luc’s feet, the creature begins to appear. We jump out of the way and continue our assault, but the creature takes it all. Luc moves to attack the beast from behind. Much to my horror (and probably his), as soon as he rounded the beast, four tentacles emerge from the walls and start striking him. They were lying in wait! He’s taken by surprise and dropped as they grab his legs. He stymies their attacks, but he is no able to assist us. He is pinned. Stormlit, Kalleron, and I continue to whittle away at the beast. Then, suddenly, it writhes and stops. A bed appears before us. Great – we’re getting our ass kicked by a bed. Stormlit does a quick intake of breath. Perhaps this is a manifestation from her mind? Would the creature reveal my past too? We gather ourselves for a moment, readying our arms for the inevitable. Stormlit heals Kalleron’s wounds. Her foresight into that matter proved invaluable, as the bed changed back as she finished her magic.

The creature continued it’s path, seeming to single out Stormlit now. Great, kill the Healer – the thing knows how to finish a battle quickly. We renew our assault, when a rumbling comes from a side room – the one Stormlit was in! I peer inside and see a passage. The three of us move into the room and I peer down the corridor. There is a door at the end. An exit perhaps? No, it could not be – remember the building is alive! This is a trap, it has to be. But hope is a powerful thing. But not yet – one thing at a time. I must maintain my wits and focus!

We are trapped in the room, trying desperately to fend off our attacker. Kalleron takes a step toward the passage and I pull him back – is he that naïve? Stormlit unleashes an attack and the creature writhes again. She is a strong one, this Genasi. Expecting another bed, I edge toward the doorway – I need to get out of this cage and into open space! But no bed appears, instead it is a bath. What kind of people am I with? Tables and baths are their dark secrets!? May it not steal into my mind.

Luc recognizes the bath. But he is still preoccupied. Kaela finally emerges from her room, tattered and out of breath. Her shoulders slump when she sees us. Yes, we’re tired too.

I escape the room and retreat down the other hallway. As I position myself, I hear a scuttle behind me and turn in time to see a tentacle lash out from the wall. I roll to my right, narrowly escaping its touch. Too close and too stupid. The walls are no longer my friends in this place. Wheeling back to face the beast, I sense it might be on its final legs. Its movements are slower, and it ripples on its edges, as if losing control over its shape. I load more bolts and fire again. Stormlit adds a volley as Kalleron weaves his magic. Kaela, as far as I can manage to see, watches in horror. Luc is, well, useless.

With a massive spell from Kalleron, the creature lets out a guttural and grotesque moan, as it goes limp and falls to the floor. Finally! But it seeps into the ground, sucked up by the stone itself. The tentacles behind me cease their movements as well, and a sense of relief rushes over my body and mind. I return to the corridor and head to the exit. As I approach the door to open it, I stop. The door fades away and the walls shake. Turning, I see tentacles lining the wall, lifeless, but there. It was a trap! I run out, back to the others.

“It’s a dead end. There must be another way!”

The walls continue to shake, dust trickling down from the ceiling. The stones groan, as their weight becomes too much to hold. The tower is going to collapse on us! We must find an exit! Luc yells. He found a door! Quickly, I find the room. The others, having searched the rooms, find us. I usher myself out quickly. Too much time here is too little life outside. As I run down the passages I can hear the collapse of stone and mortar behind me. Debris flies past my face at each step. Dirt and dust fill my lungs. An exit, we need an exit! In the distance, I spy an opening! I force my heavy legs onward, and I’m carried. The wind picks up our pace and forces us out of the passage, ejecting us like leaves on the wind. The sound is deafening, the clouds thick. I find my senses quickly and realize I’m sprawled on the ground, outside the towers base. Outside! I made it!

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The Tea House on Clay
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_0tLM2TZZw

To my Master, I wish to tell a story that is a favorite among the banished githzerai of Mehir Mahara, and was told to me by a duergar shoe shiner that had scuffed a pair of my special slaad-leather knee high boots after I warned him to be careful. The shoe shiner told me this story and it got me back on my feet.

Now on a large drifting mound of clay in our Elemental Chaos, there stood a black towering building known as Ore & Coal. It was at this magnificent structure where many came to make a living. Ore & Coal had a splendid past, but as most things in life, it was not meant to be forever. In a horrific moment the building came down, and the demise of it meant the demise of all forms of business, except one: a small Tea House had survived the falling monolith. It was nestled finely into the clay not very far from the center of the destruction between two semi-larger buildings that took the brunt of the collapse. The Tea House owner had seen many customers bow in thanks as they took their leave, but seeing the neighboring Ore & Coal “bow” as it tried to enter his establishment was enough to make him pass out.

Because the owner passed out, he missed the opportunity to be surprised thrice more, for in walked a very dusty man with a pointed blue hat speckled with tiny moons and stars along with his pet fire half-drake. Shortly after, a petite female courier with beautiful auburn hair pushed the doors aside making a grand entrance, coughing and also carrying a dusty package, mistaking the first man for the tea house owner and asking if water was available then heading to the window as if looking for survivors. Lastly, a young couple set aside their dusty cloaks revealing lavish attire. They took a table separated from the other two.

The man with the pet half-drake approached and started a conversation with the couple. “This is unfortunate, I feel somehow I had a magic trick left up my sleeve and that if had I the intuition, I would have used it to save many myself.”

The man said “Nothing for us thank you, but we will take some Waterdeep Wine if you have any.”

“You think I am a…ahem…I am Wisard the wizard and this is my pet, I call him Emardin. My job is to keep things controlled, and had been studying strange markings in the clay that pointed to trouble. I wanted to finish deciphering them this very day, but my Emardin pulled me towards this tea house, and just in time too it seems.” At this point Wisard becomes distracted “Your very good my pet, yes you are! Who is a good good half-drake?” Emardin smiled gleefully, but as a reptile it was hard to tell any difference.

The woman who was dressed in lavender with long blonde hair answered Wisard “How do you do, we apologize for our assumption. This is Sonmir – chief diplomat from the L’Cia region, and I am Dautex his wife. We were merely visiting Ore & Coal on business for my husband. This all happened as we were just leaving the tea house. We had rented a small cozy cottage behind here you see. I am afraid the two of us are out of our element as it were and if you have time, would you read the notes on the wall there to see if there is anything that will help us? We are not familiar with local language very well and our translater was crushed. I desperately wish to return to my father’s side in the big city,” she turns her head to redirect her conversation “he was right to warn us not to come Sonmir. Sonmir?”

Sonmir held a deep frown but releases it in a pounding of the table “Will you two be quiet? Your conversation is out-of-place and we should all still be out there looking for survivors!” He stands knocking over the table. “Look at that simple courier still searching for people. She should be commended, while everything I do to help seems to be stymied by…” He looks back at the two of them. He successfully silenced the wizard and lady who move very little while Sonmir heavy-steps around the room.

“Fine words but if I was being honest, I am looking for water to clean my bundle. My nime is Aleak,” a professional bow “and my company prides itself on delivery.”

“What is the package? Something we can use?”

Aleak looks back over her shoulder “this bundle is not for sale sir. And if you don’t take your eyes off of it” a blade appears “I have no problem killing you in order to see it make it to its destination for I have not said my company’s name yet and our reputation will be secure.”

By this time, Dautex had recovered from her being put-in-place and set the table back up, including resetting the buttercup table setting. The buttercups had ample water to keep them alive, but she purposefully spilled the excess water as a sign of her disapproval of her mate being threatened. The courier would have to find another source for whatever she carried under her arm.

“Ah! We are in fortuitous situations!” spoke the wizard. “It appears on this wall is a timetable for a ship named the Krull that will arrive soon and could take us to the next port. I think we can all agree that whatever is in the bundle isn’t worth fighting over.”

Sonmir had been taken aback by the single-mindedness of the courier and would not break his stare at her in her audacity. He managed to return to his wife’s side and noticing some soot from the outside had gotten through the cloak, gently brushed her lower back free of it while taking her hand with his other. “Then we shall leave and not bother your, what should now be impossible I imagine, delivery.”

However, the courier kept the knife out, stepping across the room slowly to the back door. “That is right, you just get on your Krull ship and leave me to my business. This bundle holds beauty like the godess of love, and is deadly like the mixture of a thousand poisons. It mocks me with its perfection and I fear the longer I hold it…”

“Deadly? Are you saying it is responsible for the building falling?” an irate Sonmir demanded.

“Perhaps it is an item that I need for repairing sanity to this world?” asked Wisard.

“If I could only see it briefly, it may have been sent by my father.” Requested Dautex.

The knife in her hand was shaky now, she darted for the door, tripping on an as yet unnoticed tea house owner waking him up in a startle. “Aaaah!”

Emardin the fire half-drake jumped from behind the service counter and pounced on Aleak, shocking the tea house owner to his passed out state. The two rolled on the floor until the courier moved no longer. Emardin raised and with the bundle in his mouth and gave it to Wisard who unwrapped it in front of the couple. All eyes smiled. The couple hugged. The wizard clasped his hands together.

Years later the Ore & Coal was rebuilt, and trade was better than ever with a new region, L’Cia. Wisard was credited with doing what was right, painted countless times with the item from the bundle by his side. Dautex and Sonmir renewed their vows beside the glow of what was in the bundle. From then on Emardin the half-drake ate only the finest foods, and a few couriers.

Master, the bundle held something that allowed those in authority to do what was right for everyone, including the simple people like this courier. If she had only listened, she may not have had to pay the price of death. In times of trouble those below should listen ever more closely to those above, as I do you.

Your servant, Stormlit.

Bonus:
Almiccopy
Stormlit second from right

Bonus: What Luc Procured from Stormlit
“Had to get something of Miria’s. Sorry I missed you Mauvais Murasaki. Back to the M’s. M.E.R.A.T.

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The Oracle's Tower
Katryol's Thoughts

Donning our robes, we head back up through the tower in search of the others. We check the rooms on the way in hopes of finding some indication of what is going on in the Oracles Tower. On the 23rd floor, we come across a room that stands out from the other rooms; to me at least, there is a difference about this room that puzzles. A quick scan of the room nets its contents – carved alcoves along the walls, surrounding a single pillar, upon which rests a miniature tower. The tower, about a half meter tall, seems to be a replica of the central spire. Though, upon closer inspection, I notice faint differences in its height, girth, and external marking – perhaps fashioned in the eye of the tower’s past. An appraisal of the tower puts the value at about 50 gold. A free 50 gold is hard to resist. But there is more to the tower than money.; it is a trophy, and the historical value may be worth far more – to the right purveyor. Kaela, on the other hand, seems to disagree, and she appears indifferent to the circumstances. Removing the tower should be easy.

I check for traps and find none. Cautiously, I try to swap out the tower with a dead weight. The tower refused to budge at my deft touch. I decide to wrench the figurine free, but after two feeble attempts, I give up (not aided by Kaela’s amusement). Looking closer though, I notice that there is a adhesive substance fastening the tower to the pedestal. I unsheathe my dagger and thrust it into the glue. There is a sharp twang as the sinews of the adhesive snaps and separates. I severe the glue and remove the tower, and that’s when it happens. Blood spurts out of the altar, coating my hands, face, and chest. I recoil in astonishment, bewildered and perplexed. Kaela rushes out of the room. I follow quickly, trying to gather my thoughts. I need to wash the blood off. Blood – how did stone bleed? And why? Ducking into the bathroom, I wash. I need another set of robes too, so I gather a spare set from another room. Unfortunately there are no more white robes, only a set of blue. Discretion is the better part of valor, I hope.

Kaela and I head up a floor, but we proceed no further. We are curious about the room, and Kaela’s hesitancy is soothed by my insistence. We head back down and cautiously enter the room. The spouting has slowed, but the floor is covered in a thin layer of blood. I set up opposite the altar, Kaela by the door, and I signal her. She throws one of her daggers at the altar and it strikes as I release one of my bolts. Blood gushes forth from our joint attack. Kaela vanishes from the room as I continue to pelt the altar with a volley of bolts. I know not if there is good coming from it, but blood continues to flow. I saw no end in sight, and my continuance was seemingly to no avail. I left, closing the door behind me, I head back to the washroom. The blood is thick and stains deep. As I enter the washroom, a cleric emerges. He spies me, and I know I’m in trouble if he escapes. Acting swiftly, I slide in to his left, grab his wrist and spin him around, and strike his temple with the butt of my dagger. He slumps, unconscious. I move him to the bath, and remove his robes. With stains from my hands having sullied his robes, I turn them inside-out and hope for the best. I meet back up with Kaela and (after another amusing look) we continue to head up the tower stairs.

Eventually we reach the pinnacle of the tower and find the Oracle’s room. Inside, we find Luc, Kalleron, and Stormlit. Kaela rushes to them and I hang back. Stormlit shoots me an unsavory look.

The room is adorned with books, maps, a large desk, and 5 thrones, amongst other items. Luc and the others seem preoccupied with the thrones. Their conversations are riddled with arguments; about what, I know not. Their adventure, it seems, is more complex than I had imagined. Kaela relates our experience as Kalleron relates theirs. Apparently we have been facing mimics of some kind. Mirror mimics or the sort. Monsters that take on the appearance of people and objects to deceive and infiltrate.

The party continues its banter, then, suddenly, the floor opens up, and swallows us. What did they do? What magic do they possess? What are we fighting? Where are we treading? As we slide down I drive my dagger into the wall, hoping to break my fall. Blood emerges from the wall as I descend. Is this tower a living being? Could this tower be a giant mimic?

I hit the bottom and find that I am flanked by Kalleron and Kaela. Great, separated again. I hear Luc and Stormlit call out – so they are with us, but where? I emerge from our cell and spy, through the dimly lit corridors, a monstrosity. What it is, I could not describe. I seemed with out shape, but yet present, lacking structure, but full of thought. There was an awareness within the being, an omnipotent, awesome power coated with loathing and hatred. This situation could not end well.

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