Codex VIII-Chapter 1

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By the time they flew up to Sudloc and located the Dragon's Graveyard, it was the beginning of February, and the cold up here was absolutely frigid. Greygook and Xaci flew the ship closer to the ground than they normally did, not wanting to compound the coldness of the season with the coldness of the altitude as well. Sanjin, per the druid’s instructions, tried to stay at the front of the ship where, if scryed on, nobody would see any of the other party members. They had decided to keep Gulnith’s wand in the voidgate system, for now, as a precaution.

The gnomes thought it best to sail a bit north and then come back down southeast into the valley, rather than fly over the mountains that ringed it to the south. As they approached, a blizzard came up, forcing them to hunker down for a day or so until it cleared. When it did, they brushed off the deck of the Randale as best they could before ascending into the sky once again.

In front of them was a sight, at least as seen through Greygook’s spyglass … hundreds of dragon skeletons, of every variety. The blizzard had covered many of them, but the lumpy drifts and the blown snow demonstrated to their eyes what lay underneath from this height. Some of the skeletons were oddly untouched, as if the snow had melted around them. Lightning played across the sky, even though there were no dark clouds, and the wind that reached them was at times even more bitterly cold and at times a blast of heat as if from the tropics. Energy of different colors sometimes materialized within the valley, coming together for a brief moment of a cyclone, or just a flash, or maybe a cloud that came together for a minute or two before dissipating. Thunderclaps with no discernible source echoed through the air. Sanjin’s eyes were wide.

“I had never thought of the possibilities of magic stemming from so many powerful creatures all dying in the same area. This entire valley must be fused with draconic magic!”

“Little wonder that group is perched on the outskirts,” Orensland said, pointing.

Sure enough, the rogue’s sharp eyes had noticed a small fortress, carved from rock, just at the foothills where the mountains met the snow plains they had just crossed, on the southwest side of the valley. Smoke came from it, clear evidence of occupation.

“Or those,” Khaska said. To the northeast was a large encampment, hundreds of tents, with many campfires burning. People moved about, cleaning up after the storm and going about their daily activities, small figures at this distance, barely discernible just because of their mostly white background.

"A hardy people, to live in tents this far north," Aestus mused.

Eryx (DM)
Sanjin would recognize that he’s not in any immediate danger from being scryed on, but you don’t know how long it will take for the cult to put together what information they can glean from Darkcrest through spies or informants or their own investigation to find out enough to begin scrying.

Thev, tell me who you contacted and what you said during your travels. It’s been six weeks. You’ve had plenty of time to talk to folks. You also now have one of two Stones of Sending, so you can communicate with Greygook anytime you need to.

How would you like to proceed? There seem to be two groups here, on opposite sides of the graveyard. One seems an encampment, more mobile than permanent, and the other a fortress carved into the rock (which likely means dwarven make, though not necessarily dwarven occupied). Would you like to go to one of them? Or would you just like to proceed into the graveyard?

Thev
The people Khaska would think to contact would be the following, with the gist of what he'd say to each. He'd ask for advice from each of them.

  • Sir Reitman (Hammerdine)
    • Discovered the destination of the Peaceful Children pilgrimages — the Cult of Skyrnyn is building a temple complex in the Marshes, with hundreds of dragons at their disposal — druids are resisting, but few in numbers. He'd also mention that he's sharing some of the intelligence with Darrell Titanius, and would offer to arrange the introduction if desired. Good folks need to stick together.
  • Darrell Titanius
    • See above, but without the Peaceful Children information (which would be meaningless). He'd mention sharing information with the Knights, and would offer to arrange the introduction.
  • Drikdare (centaur leader)
    • Update on the Maramos family, the fate of Darkcrest, and the Cult's activities in the Marshes. He'll mention the rebel druids in case the centaurs have some who want to join the effort. He'd offer to make introductions, if Drikdare would like (and if the druids consent).
  • Fenstrider Circle (Druids)
    • Would offer to introduce them to Reitman, Titanius, and Drikdare if they desire.
  • Bronzebeard, Akle, The female metallic dragon whose name I'm forgetting
    • The fate of Maramos and Darkcrest; Cult has hundreds of dragons in the Marshes; I've communicated with the Knights and the Bringers of Light.

Any others we should contact? Any differences in messaging?

As for the moment, Khaska would be interested in making contact with each of the settlements, perhaps starting with the rock-carved one. Khaska would like to be in the party, but would use the Hat of Disguise to appear as a tall human. (The rest of the core party should probably come along in case they're unfriendly.) He'd say that the party is a group of pilgrims seeking to commune with the spirit of Hyrmaphridion. If they have any advice on how we could encounter that spirit, he would appreciate it.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin will assist Khaska in making contact. He will cast Comprehend Languages as a ritual before aproching them.

Crosis
I asked Eryx if we could see anything that might suggest either party is hostile (big war weapons or the like), I got a 15 perception check, and he told me I see nothing that wasn't described in the above post. Well, worth the shot.

Orensland is also inclined to making contact with the rock-carved one first— chances are higher they've been around longer, so they may have an idea as to what may have happened to the storm giant's mate. He would suggest we park the ship somewhere out of sight and approach on foot. Orensland would offer to scout out the area first to determine if the people inside appeared hostile. Do I need to make a roll for stealth if I'm invisible for sound issues? Just in case, here it is below (with advantage, if I didn't have advantage I rolled a 10 first):

  • Stealth: 25 (12 + 13)

And in line with a text Eryx sent me, I added the name of another possible metallic dragon we've come across to the Major Plot Points page— Elial. In reading through the account a few months ago, I realized a disproportionately powerful bard with "brass-like" hair might just fit the bill. The hair description is in the second chapter of the first codex.

Thev
Eryx and I have been playing out Khaska's Sending correspondence with… many people (which will be wrapped up and posted soonish), and Bronzebeard warned us against contacting the "Guardians" of the Graveyard — he says they'll give us a lot of trouble, and recommends just sneaking in. What's more, our friend Mirwen (probable golden dragon!) was even more forthright: "Cover tracks well. You will be hunted. Much danger. Stay hidden. Incognito. Graveyard dangerous. Access barred by Knights. They will use lethal force."

In that case, Orensland's Stealth roll will be great, and Khaska will use his Hat of Disguise to fashion himself some fully-enshrouding white robes that could act as camouflage (and hide, among other things, his horns).

Once inside, it seems we'll have to find our own way to communicate with Hyrmaphridion.

And ooh, thanks for recalling Elial, Crosis! I've forgotten about so many characters we've met, and he was there in the very beginning!

Musha
Ok. After reading through all this, I am feeling at quite a disadvantage for my ignorance. Having joined the group later, I'm completely lost with everything that has been posted - the people, the places, the lore. Would anybody be willing to fill me in on this area? And why we're here? Etc.

Until I have enough information to form an opinion, I'm just going to play on the bandwagon. I'm good with whatever the group concensus is.

Eryx (DM)
The various conversations Khaska had during your trip between Codices, all with people the party had met before is here.

As far as why you're here at the Dragon's Graveyard, you were actually here in the campaign for this part, Musha. In Codex VII-Chapter 1 you all met a Storm Giant on Mount Elduin who gave you your current quest. His mate went missing many years ago on a quest to speak with the spirit of an ancient silver dragon spirit, and he wishes to know what became of her. He suggested talking to that same spirit as a starting point, which is why the party is at the Dragon's Graveyard.

Musha
Oh, so the Dragon's Graveyard was never discussed, or pointed out, or "encountered" by the party prior to the Storm Giant?

Crosis (via text)
I would probably go to the people in the tents first instead, approaching on foot so they don't see the ship. I would still be sneaky, though.

Thev
Musha: yup! Aestus knows everything the party knows about the Dragons' Graveyard.

Crosis: Maybe Orensland could scout out the folks in the tents and, if they prove unfriendly, shadowdance away. He's… much better at being stealthy than, say, Khaska and Aestus!

Eryx (DM)
If Orensland is going to go poking around the tent folk, I'll need an Investigation check from him.

After a little bit of discussion, and in light of the warnings they had received from their friends, they decided it would be best if they landed a bit out of sight and if Orensland would sneak into the area to get some more information. The wind was still blowing, so he wasn’t as concerned about leaving tracks in the snow, but still waited until the sun went down before he snuck into the area.

He was normally quite good at picking up on conversations and figuring out who to listen in on or talk to, but so many in this encampment, which was almost all humans, seemed just to be going about their business that he had a hard time zeroing in on some relevant folks to eavesdrop on. It was a little frustrating.

However, he was able to pick up on bits and pieces. The group was here on a more or less permanent basis, an oasis of sorts for many of the Dergon tribes here in the north. He thought of what he had heard of Hub. This seemed similar—a “permanent” city by virtue of its year-round occupation by nomads. And he could see why. The effects of the Dragon’s Graveyard nearby made the area a little warmer, overall (though sometimes the temperature dropped precipitously for a few moments), perhaps a nice place to camp out for some time during the winter months.

Eventually he felt confident enough in his background information that he felt he could talk to a someone without giving away the fact that he was an outsider. He picked a lone sentry on the edge of camp, one of several positioned between the camp and the rock fortress. He wondered why there were no sentries at any other locations, but perhaps that could be part of his conversation. He bundled his face up a little more to hide his elven features and approached.

“How’s your watch?” he asked.

The woman turned to him and grunted. “Cold. I’ll be happy for dawn when I can return to the fires.”

“I wish I could bring you some, but that would give your position away, no?”

“Always seems a silly idea to me. I’m sure the whites can see well enough, even at night.”

“You ever seen the whites?” She looked at him, and he could tell he had asked a stupid question. “Up close, I mean.”

“Just when they fly around. They never get too close to us, but I’m sure they could find the sentries if they wanted to.”

“Why do you think they don’t want to?” he asked.

She shrugged. “I don’t know why the Knights tolerate us. I’m not even sure why they’re here. I’m not even sure why we have to guard the edge of the camp nearest them.”

“How long have they been here? I’ve heard different things from different people.” He tried to keep his inquiries vague.

“As long as I’ve been alive. Whenever we’ve come here for the ordeal, they’ve been here. Never heard that it was any different in my mother’s time, nor her mother’s.”

A ripple of magic erupted near them, a few hundred yards away, just at the edge where the ground dropped down to the large depression that was the graveyard proper. A moment later, a wave of heat washed over them. Both let out a sigh of relief. Then both giggled a little at their mutual relief.

“I appreciate the company,” she said, “but this is my watch, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to finish it alone.”

“Your own ‘ordeal?’” he asked.

“I’m no shaman or chieftain,” she said. “But I’ll do my duty nonetheless.”

“And right you are. I’ll save a spot for you near one of the fires.”

“Goodnight,” she replied.

Orensland moved back through the camp and eventually found his way back to the Randale. He simply appeared on the deck, having shadowdanced in. Xaci jumped nearly out of her boots.

“Where did you come from?” she practically yelled. He put a finger to his lips, and then gave his report.

Eryx (DM)
I was authorized to roll an Investigation check for Orensland, and he got only a 2 (roll) + 11 (bonuses) = 13 total. He was able to discern the basics of the situation here, but only those.

The groups here are the Knights (in the stone fortress) and a group of Dergon tribes who are here for both warmth during the winter months and something called the ordeals. Sanjin and Khaska, who are both proficient in history, can make rolls to see if they know what that is. The Knights apparently have “whites,” that can fly … a pretty clear reference to dragonriders. Sanjin would know that white dragons make their lairs in climates like this—ice covered and frigid.

Thev
Eryx asked me for a History roll, and Khaska got a total of 18.

DeltaWolf

History check: 23

Eryx (DM)
Those history checks are good enough to recall the following information:

1. The Dergon have long used the Dragon's Graveyard as a site for leadership rituals for those who would become leaders in their various clans. Those who are to be future leaders must spend one night in the graveyard before they are fully accepted as such. It's a combination survival/vision quest sort of initiation.

2. Sanjin recalls something about some negotiations between the Dergon tribes and the Knights of the Silver Dragons, who wished to bar entrance to the graveyard. In the end, something was worked out and the clans were allowed to continue their tradition.

Musha
These wouldn't be Knights of the Silver Dragon, though, right? Riding white dragons?

Crosis
How does one go about trying to communicate with the spirit of a silver dragon? that's ultimately why we're here, but I have no idea what to do about that.

And Musha, a little bit of background— most people in Jenoa believe that the metallic dragons of Jenoa were wiped out in the last Dark Times. The remaining chromatic dragons (incl. white dragons) were basically enslaved by the Knights of the Silver Dragons using dragon orbs. We happen to know a bit more by now— metallic dragons are still around, but in hiding, and there are many more chromatin dragons in the marshes— but that knowledge isn't exactly common.

Eryx (DM)
Knights of the Silver Dragons This link may be of use. Crosis has summed it up. Most of the world believes all the metallic dragons died in the last Dark Times, and that only 54 chromatic dragons remain, all enslaved by the Knights using Dragon Orbs. You in the party know that the situation is a bit more complicated.

Thev
In response to the question about communing with a dragon's ghost, Eryx had me roll a Knowledge (Religion) check; Khaska rolled 20, and got this response:

With a 20 religion check, you would be aware of certain rites and rituals that could be performed beyond even the “speak with dead“ spell, which Khaska has access to. (That spell wouldn’t actually help get the answers you need anyway, since the seer’s wife had come to speak with the ghost, not just with the body. The spell allows you to talk with the body, and only allows for cryptic answers but it knew while it was alive. The rituals are much more in depth.) However, he doesn’t know any of those rituals, certainly not for dragons. However, the storm giant seer seemed quite confident that you would be able to contact the ghost of Hyrmaphridion, but didn’t give you any special instructions on how to do so.

Khaska could Send to Bronzebeard to ask for any advice he'd have on contacting a dragon's spirit. And any advice he'd have regarding the Dergon, I suppose! (Eryx is getting back to me about this question.)

Given our friends' warning about not approaching these particular Knights, and given Bronzebeard's advice (below) Khaska thinks we should approach the Dergon, introduce ourselves (Aestus could really help here!) and say something about coming from afar on their own ordeal, to commune with a particular dragon. Might they have suggestions on how that could be accomplished? Do they know any secret ways into the Graveyard?

EDIT: Here's Khaska's conversation with Bronzebeard (via our cleric contact in Rhun):

Kh: "Arrived at Graveyard; found Dergon encampment. Any advice on contacting Hyrmphridion's spirit? Are you familiar with the Dergon; can we trust them?"

Br: "Dergon trustworthy. Value strength, combat prowess. If you can get into graveyard, you will be guided. The guardians are lethal. The Caretaker is benevolent."

Kh: "Thank you very much. We shall seek out the Caretaker. Will update when we have more news."

Crosis
I vote on approaching the Dergon. Orensland can approach alone if we are still concerned for safety, as he has the most sure escape route. However, he feels it might be best for us to arrive as a group. We ask them for help contacting the spirit, and are willing to submit to tests of worthiness if that comes up. They strike me as a "test of worthiness" kind of group.

I assume the Caretaker is with the Dergon (if we want to confirm that, we can have Orensland do some more spying). We can ask to speak with him about our concerns.

Given the warnings they had received about approaching these particular Knights, the goup opted to approach the Dergon tribes. Khaska and Sanjin had both heard about “the ordeal,” a ritual in which potential Dergon leaders would spend a night in the graveyard as a sort of vision quest or trial by survival challenge. Sanjin recalled that he had read somewhere that they had negotiated the ability to continue this ritual with the Knights at some point, but he didn’t remember any specifics beyond that.

They landed the ship a ways away to walk in and began to approach the camp as the sun rose, hoping to look more friendly by being so open about the situation. They were easily spotted and several large humans, all wielding axes or swords or clubs, emerged to intercept them. They did not seem overtly threatening, but cautious, and a little curious. One man stepped forward, a grizzled, white-haired human with a long braided beard and hair that went down past his shoulders, a man with thick arms and a broad chest, seemingly huge even within the layers of furs.

“I am Taidar, chief of the Domnent Clan.” He didn’t offer any more than that.

“Greetings,” Khaska spoke. “I am Khaska Nzaidullek Mawkhavi Tereshkven, and these are my associates, Aestus Fellblade,” Aestus gave a nod, admiring the man’s size, “Orensland, and Sanjin. We are on a pilgrimage to commune with the spirits of the graveyard, but ask your assistance. Word has it the Knights do not look kindly on strangers entering, but we wish to know if you could help us find an inconspicuous way in.”

Taidar glared at them for a long moment. Khaska was unsure how to proceed. When the clan chief looked at him Aestus did not look away, locking eyes with this northman. “I’d rather not have to fight my way in,” Aestus said, “but our mission is one of utmost importance.”

Taidar took one step towards the fighter, who did not flinch. They were about ten feet from each other at this point. Orensland was thinking that a fight was about to break out … and in this daylight in a snow-covered plain his shadowdancing would be useless. Then Taidar smiled and laughed.

“Ha. You don’t spook easily. That will serve you well in the graveyard. We are no guards of its boundaries, and happily help those willing to thwart the Knights arrogance. They do not own the land here any more than we own the sky or the sun or the moons.”

Orensland relaxed. “We had heard of a ‘Caretaker.’ Is he not one of your people?”

Taidar’s broad smile vanished. “If you know of the Caretaker, then you already know many secrets. He is not one of our people. When you enter the graveyard, he will find you. But I warn you, he is a strict keeper. If you wish to commune with the spirits, you will have to speak with him.”

“Have you met him?” asked Sanjin. He was intensely curious what this caretaker might be.

“When I went through my ordeal in my fifteenth year, I saw him from afar, but did not approach.”

“I fear no man, nor beast,” Aestus said. Taidar smiled.

“That attitude will serve you well out here,” he responded. “But dealing with the Caretaker requires a different kind of courage. But come, I will take you to the graveyard myself.”

They attracted some attention as they walked through the camp, but not as much as they might have expected. Mostly the people went about their businesses. It appeared one of the clans was breaking camp to move off, so the area nearest the graveyard proper was rather busy. The sounds from the arcane magics grew louder, thunder, lightning, crackling, and the lights and sparks became visible as they approached the edge of the barbarian camp.

Taidar led them just to the lip of the valley, but held back. “I wish you luck in there. It is not for the faint of heart, but you probably already knew that. If you come back, come and find me. We will drink to your bravery.”

“Any last words of advice?” Khaska asked.

“Do not attempt to deceive the Caretaker. He will know.” And with that, Taidar turned and left.

Aestus drew his Warhammer and axe. “Well, we aren’t getting any younger.” He strode into the graveyard.

Khaska followed after, with Sanjin right behind. Orensland came last, a little wary of the entire situation.

The graveyard was filled with various skeletons of dragons. They had seen it from afar through Greygook’s telescope, but up close it was something else. There were skeletons of all types. Some chromatic. Some metallic. It seemed the graveyard was for all dragonkind. Most of the skeletons were from fairly large dragons, in their prime when they came to die, but there were some smaller ones as well. Sanjin did not see any wyrmling skeletons, however. The air was noticeably warmer, a side effect of the arcane magics that ghosted around the area. Sometimes the hair on Khaska’s neck stood up randomly as electricity sparked around him.

“So where is this caretaker?” Aestus asked. “He should show himself.”

“Perhaps he is waiting to see how we act. May I suggest putting your weapons away. We are here on a mission of peace and knowledge, not combat.” Aestus looked around, and, seeing no overt threats, sheathed his weapons. The warrior was concerned, though. This seemed a place that perhaps steel and strength would not be enough. He thought back to Taidar’s words.

In their wanderings, they found several silver dragon skeletons, but there was no way to tell which was Hyrmaphridion’s.

Khaska was praying for some sign as they wandered when he heard a yell. He turned to see Orensland furiously backing away from a figure standing literally next to the shadowdancer. This figure was an old man, skinny and frail, wearing just a simple white robe that seemed to blend in well with the snow and the ice that swirled around them in the wind. His hands were folded into his sleeves, and his close-cropped hair was an arresting violet color. But his eyes were the most arresting part. They were a deep purple, and there were no pupils. It was impossible to tell where he was actually looking.

He began to speak to the group in draconic.

Sanjin looked around. “I guess that’s me,” he said. The wizard and this newcomer conversed for a few minutes before Sanjin spoke to the others.

“He’s the Caretaker, and I’ve told him that we have come to speak to the spirit of Hyrmaphridion on behalf of the storm giant, seeking information about his lost mate. He actually remembers her coming here, speaking to the spirit of Hyrmaphridion, and then leaving. She at least made it that far. He doesn’t know what happened to her after that.”

“Could we speak to Hyrmaphridion?” Khaska asked.

“Yeah, about that,” the wizard said. “He said only those willing to give up a prized possession can do so. It’s collateral. He can contact the spirit and will return the possession to us if the spirit says that he can.” He looked at the others. “Anybody feel like taking a big chance on making a good first impression on the spirit of the most famous dragon of the last thousand years?”

Eryx (DM)
Getting past the Dergon turned out to be a lot easier than you expected. They don’t consider themselves guardians or caretakers or anything like that concerning the Dragon’s Graveyard. But now that you’re inside the graveyard proper, you have met this Guardian. He remembers the Storm Giant seer’s mate coming and leaving. (If you recall, the seer wasn’t even sure she had made it this far, so you at least have that information to give him.)

Sanjin can give me an Arcana roll if he wishes to determine what the nature of this Guardian is.

He can take you to Hyrmaphridion, but only if you give him a possession of yours that means a great deal to you. Hyrmaphridion himself will determine if your pilgrimage and interactions are worthy of having the item returned to you. If he does not, it is forfeit.

What do you all wish to do?

Crosis
Well, that’s exciting! And spooky. Orensland’s not used to getting snuck up on ;)

Orensland would want to know if an object is expected of each of us, or if one will suffice for the whole group. If the former, perhaps we should have one spokesman so we don’t all leave with bleeding hearts. Will we need to be able to speak draconic in order to communicate with the dragon spirit?

Because we have so much darn money, I suspect that objects that “mean a great deal” to us are more sentimental than financial. The object that comes immediately to Orensland’s mind (a good indication that he’s hit on the right idea) is his father’s dagger— an object he stole that doubly ensured his father’s ire. It’s important to him, to say the least. But whether or not Orensland volunteers (he obviously doesn’t want to) depends on how his above questions are answered. For example, if he needs to speak draconic than he’s not expected to risk anything. But if it appears the dagger is the best option, Orensland would part with it and hope he can get it back.

While we’re at it, we may as well ask the caretaker/dragon spirit about the metallic dragons. We can say the storm giant instructed us to unite the metallic dragons, tell him our current suspicions of various dragon candidates, and ask if he knows about them. Why they’re hiding, if they communicate with one another, how many there are etc.

Eryx (DM)
All who wish to speak to the spirit must provide an item.

He says he does not meddle in the affairs or the chromatics or the metallics. (He’s always speaking draconic, so Sanjin has to translate all of this.)

How Hyrmaphridion speaks to you, and in what languages, is up to Hyrmaphridion.

Crosis
From an entirely heartless-but-practical standpoint, he knows that his otherwise mediocre dagger is not required. For example, Khaska’s scimitar has sentimental value, but he also uses it in combat situations, so losing it would be detrimental to the party until it can be replaced. After debating internally, logic vs. emotion, Orensland would offer his dagger.

We should discuss what to ask the dragon as a group prior to actually speaking to it. Orensland would offer that we should ask about the storm giant’s mate (“A storm giant’s mate went missing soon after speaking with you— if we wouldn’t be breaching a trust between the two of you, could you tell us of what you spoke of?”) and about the metallic dragons (since the caretaker wasn’t particularly helpful on that front).

Thev
First, there's no need to worry about language — Khaska can cast Tongues on anyone who wishes to speak with Hyrmaphridion.

Second, Khaska really has two things that might count: his own scimitar, which is one of the few things he's brought from home (a gift from his father), and Kvanir — Tawru's sword. He really suspects that Kvanir would be the only one that would count, though, given its outsized importance: it's the fulcrum of most of his adventures so far, and most of his plans for the future. Further, the Dergon told the party not to lie.

Nevertheless, his one question would be whether Kvanir is truly his to part with. Kvanir is its own being, and Khaska still considers it linked to Tawru and Treewind, not himself; further, is it not a patrimony of all Maha'i? Is Khaska worthy to risk its loss?

Then again, this is a chance to speak with Hyrmaphridion, Markus's companion. That alone would probably be worth the risk. Further, having conversed with Hyrmaphridion and being able to testify thereto might be exceedingly valuable in negotiating Maha'i historical squabbles, going back even farther than Tawru…

Thev
After some time thinking to himself, Khaska would approach the Caretaker.

"Caretaker, I have two items with me that I esteem of great value. The first is the sword borne by Tawru Khimmak Tova Khatil Tineen, the first of my race to join the Knights of the Silver Dragons, the order named in honor of the very spirit we seek. It is invaluable to me and my people, but I do not believe that I have the right, as its present steward, to give it up. It is not my possession; it has its own mind, still answers to its deceased master, and is truly a patrimony of my people. Indeed, I seek to free its master from servitude to darkness and heal the sword so that it may once more serve the cause of goodness and justice, helping to heal old wounds through knowledge of truth and through reconciliation.

"The other item is valuable to none but me, but it is unquestionably mine to give up. It is the sword I have borne since I left my tribe, a gift from my father, and his father before him. Years I have carried it across this moon, and years it has served me well. [a somewhat involuntary pause] Yet as I speak these words, I reflect on how far I have come since my childhood, in miles, in knowledge, in experience. This is one of my last tangible links with my family and my particular heritage, and giving it up reminds me that I am far from home, farther than I ever anticipated. I have become a different person, and I hope that I may still be accepted when I return.

"I ask you to take this as a token of who I, myself, have been — and who I may never be again."

DeltaWolf

  • Arcana Check: 13 (4 +9 mod) Doh

The only prize possessions Sanjin has is his Spell Book and his Arcane Focus, both of which he is unwillig to part with. He is willing to surrender his Wand of the War Mage or his Staff of the Python -but they might not meet the prized criteria.

Eryx (DM)
Sanjin has no idea what kind of being this Caretaker is. Your Wand of the War Mage is back in the voidgate system, so it's not available for exchange anyway.

Musha
As a player, I can't think of anything Aestus would be wanting to ask this dragon, but as he is coming to know and be in awe of dragons, being able to communicate with one as renowed as this would absolutely excite him. Aestus will inquire of Sanjin if he must give up a possession simply to be in the dragon spirit's presence and listen to the conversation or only if he intends to communicate himself? He will then ask if this prized possession must be an object? The only things Aestus truly values are his Maha'i name and his own hands, without which he loses all skill, training, and experience that he relies upon to keep himself and his friends alive. He does have his toy rhinoceros, but with no memories to connect with it, it's not as sentimental as it could be.

Orensland was looking warily at this newcomer. His first thought had been, “Huh, that’s what it must be like to be snuck up on.” It wasn’t something he had really experienced before. But he thought he should keep doing it to others. His second thought was that … he didn’t really have anything that felt like a prized possession. And he didn’t speak draconic. So he certainly wasn’t going to give anything up if he couldn’t even have a conversation!

Khaska’s brow furrowed as he held his arms tightly against him, feeling the cold of the air match the chill in his soul. Kvanir would sure count as a “prized possession,” but did it count as a personal one? Would it qualify? He was unclear. Further, the Dergon had said not to lie to the Caretaker.

Everybody seemed to be glancing at each other, nobody quite willing to go first.

Eventually, Khaska came to a decision. He stepped forward, glancing at Sanjin.

“Caretaker,” he began, Sanjin began to translate into draconic. “I have two items with me that I esteem of great value. The first is the sword borne by Tawru Khimmak Tova Khatil Tineen, the first of my race to join the Knights of the Silver Dragons, the order named in honor of the very spirit we seek. It is invaluable to me and my people, but I do not believe that I have the right, as its present steward, to give it up. It is not my possession; it has its own mind, still answers to its deceased master, and is truly a patrimony of my people. Indeed, I seek to free its master from servitude to darkness and heal the sword so that it may once more serve the cause of goodness and justice, helping to heal old wounds through knowledge of truth and through reconciliation.

“The other item is valuable to none but me, but it is unquestionably mine to give up. It is the sword I have borne since I left my tribe, a gift from my father, and his father before him. Years I have carried it across this moon, and years it has served me well." Khaska paused, a little involuntary as he suddenly self-assessed what this sword meant to him and the journey he had taken since receiving it. "Yet as I speak these words, I reflect on how far I have come since my childhood, in miles, in knowledge, in experience. This is one of my last tangible links with my family and my particular heritage, and giving it up reminds me that I am far from home, farther than I ever anticipated. I have become a different person, and I hope that I may still be accepted when I return.” With this, he drew his scimitar and held it out to the Caretaker.

“I ask you to take this as a token of who I, myself, have been — and who I may never be again.”

The caretaker was very hard to read, his face not moving a muscle as he reached out and took the sword. He wavered for a moment, a kind of purple light outlining the sword. When the effect finished, Khaska’s scimitar was no longer in his hand. He began speaking in draconic.

Sanjin translated. “He accepts your offering, but wonders if he might see the other sword of which you speak.” Khaska hesitated for a moment. Might this be a trick to gain access to Kvanir? The Caretaker spoke again. “This isn’t part of the bargain to see Hyrmaphridion. He’s intrigued by your description and would like to see it.”

Khaska pulled his haversack off and reached in to pull Kvanir out. He took a moment to steel himself, but then drew the sword from its sheath.

Knave and fiend! Coward! Treewind used me for decades. Art thou so scared of me that you wish to not even wield me! Surely thou canst tame me and bend me to thy will! The voice of the sword came flooding into his mind. He ignored it and held it out to the Caretaker.

“Ask him if me would have any insight into Kvanir’s condition ways of healing it. Tawru wielded it when he made a bargain with Urziana, who worked for Baltham, both devils.”

The Caretaker took the sword, and Khaska immediately felt the burden of wielding it lift form his soul. He was watching the Caretaker carefully, and this being, whatever he was, didn’t even flinch when taking the sword. He was reminded of Mirwen, who had similarly not reacted when holding it. The Caretaker examined the inky black blade, and his eyes flared that same purpleish color for a moment. Then he returned it, speaking to Khaska as the cleric quickly sheathed the blade and re-wrapped it, placing it in the Haversack. The sword didn’t speak to him as he touched it, a disquieting turn of events, since the sword was usually so insultingly verbose.

“Hyrmaphridion would know better of such things than I, who care little for the wars between angels and devils and the like” Sanjin translated. “I’m sure he would also be interested in the sword.”

“Thank you,” Khaska said. The Caretaker nodded even before Sanjin translated it.

Orensland reached over to where he kept his father’s dagger. He flipped it over so he was holding the handle towards him. “I can’t speak draconic, so I don’t want to offer this if I won’t even be able to understand Hyrmaphridion.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Khaska said quietly. “I have magic that will allow us to communicate with the ghost if he chooses to only speak draconic.”

The caretake spoke. “How Hyrmaphridion speaks to you is his own affair. Why does this dagger hold special meaning to you?”

“It was my father’s. I stole it from him to anger him, and it is a reminder to me of his cruelty and abuse to me growing up. He would probably be more incensed if I lost it entirely.”

The Caretaker reached out to take the dagger, and once again violet light flared around it and it vanished.

Aestus stepped forward, kneeling down to take something from his backpack. He held up the small wooden rhinocerous. “The only thing I truly value is my Maha’i name and my hands and skill in battle. But this small toy is from my childhood, long since forgotten. I have no memories connected with it, but if it is an object you seek, it is all I can offer.”

The Caretaker looked at him for a moment, then began to speak. Sanjin’s eyes went wide. “Would you be willing to give up some of your strength to speak to the spirit of Hyrmaphridion?”

Aestus hesitated for a long moment, pondering on this question as the winds continued to howl around them. “If this toy is not enough, then yes, I would.”

The Caretaker reached out to take the rhinocerous, which once again vanished in a small flash of violet light. Aestus, worried for a moment, tried to raise his arms a bit to see if he felt any different. He didn’t feel like he was weaker or something.

Sanjin looked at the Caretaker. Speaking in draconic, he said, “The only prized possessions I have are my spellbook and my arcane focus, without which I would be powerless.” He held out his staff, “I do offer up my Staff of the Python as collateral.”

The Caretaker took the staff and it also vanished. He spoke in draconic as he began to draw on the ground, swift and sure movements carving an arcane circle into the snow, his fingers leaving faint traces of that same violet magic. Sanjin could not quite follow all the intricate spells and runes he was creating.

The Caretaker stood up, and spoke to Sanjin. “Once he completes the spell, we should step onto the circle.” The Caretaker looked at each of them, assessing their understanding of the instructions. He reached down to make one final mark and then the arcane circle flared brightly from its completion. The Caretaker stepped into it and vanished in a flash of violet light, arcs of purple lightning left behind in his wake. The others all stepped into the circle, each vanishing, until only Aestus was left. He took a deep breath, wary of the situation, but then followed his friends.


Sanjin found himself … exactly where he had been. Except that nobody else was there anymore, their tracks still visible and the arcane circle just a series of scratches in the snow. His eyes narrowed as he saw his staff of the python on the ground before him. It looks like his offering had not even been accepted.

“That’s disappointing,” he said to himself.


Khaska found himself … exactly where he had been, the runes under his feet still alight with arcane power. He stepped off of the circle, looking at the Caretaker who stood a few feet away. Orensland and Aestus emerged from the circle, but Sanjin did not.

The Caretaker beckoned to them and began to walk. They followed.

“Where is Sanjin?” Aestus whispered. “He went before I did!”

“I suppose his offering was not accepted,” Khaska said.

The Caretaker led them to a particular spot, in front of a dragon skeleton that seemed about as big a one as they had seen. He began to make some somatic motion and chant in a language none of them understood, though Khaska seemed to think this was draconic again. Violet runes began to come from his hands, slowly wrapping themselves around the individual bones, strings of arcane symbols orbiting the various portions the skeleton’s anatomy. His voice rose to a crescendo and there was a flash of white light, after which all the runes were gone. Superimposed across the skeleton, and even matching the placement of limbs and wings, was the ghostly outline of a great silver dragon wyrm. The ghost stood up, the bones remaining where they were and stepped forward. Though his form was translucent, the party could see the powerful muscles and the silver scales that seemed to glint in the sunlight. His eyes were silver orbs with no pupils, but it was still obvious that his vision swept over the group before resting on the Caretaker. Hyrmaphridion bowed before the Caretaker, who returned the gesture, hand on his heart. The Caretaker spoke for a moment, and then stepped back before Khaska, speaking for a moment, Khaska’s scimitar emerging from a small burst of violet light. He placed the sword on the ground in front of the cleric. He then stepped in front of Orensland and did the same with the dagger, as well as with Aestus’ toy rhinocerous, though he spent some additional time conversing, and pointed to the warrior. Hyrmaphridion chuckled, a deep resounding laugh from deep within his chest. Then the Caretaker stepped to the side and his hands vanished into his sleeves again.

The ghost spoke to them, this time in common. “I am Hyrmaphridion, the Eternal Storm. You have come here to seek me, and Ordojoxerul has summoned me and told me of your offerings. What would you ask of me, young ones?”

Eryx (DM)
Sanjin’s offer was not accepted, but the staff was not taken, either. So he cannot participate in the conversation with the ghost of Hyrmaphridion. Is there anything he wants to do while waiting for the others? Would he even wait, or just head back to the camp or the ship?

The other three of you are there with Hyrmaphridion’s ghost. What would you ask of him?

As a sidenote, I changed some of the description of Ordojoxerul from the previous post since I realized I had erred a bit in the description of what I intended. I don't know that it affects you at all since Sanjin didn't roll high enough to understand what kind of being he is, but it was important to me to correct my mistake. His close-cropped hair is a violet color and his eyes are a deep purple.

Crosis
Wow, it worked! Orensland, who is not accustomed to showing a great deal of respect, won't immediately know how to react. The only time he showed respect to a superior was a complete act (the Maramos storyline), so now that he's around someone he is actually in awe of, he'll just kind of watch Khaska (who is much more accustomed to showing respect to others) and follow his lead. Do we bow? Kneel? Grovel?

In light of that, Orensland would defer to Khaska for speaking first. Unless Khaska is too flabbergasted to speak, at which point he would do his best to demonstrate a reverent attitude and ask about the storm giant's mate. "Great spirit, we have come on behalf of a storm giant on the Death Side of Jenoa. His mate came and spoke with you, but she ultimately failed to return to him. We have been tasked to inquire if you know of where she may have gone after speaking with you. If we are not breaching some form of privacy, may we know of what you spoke with her about?"

In addition to this particular topic, there are a couple others we should raise as best as we can. Four others that come to mind are:

  • Tawru's sword (Khaska should definitely be the one to bring this up)
  • The questions I posed earlier about the metallic dragons ("We have also been tasked by the storm giant to unite the metallic dragons against a coming evil, the massing of chromatic dragons in the Zyb. Marshes. We have come across several individuals that we suspect are metallic dragons, but are hiding themselves from the world. Do you know why they are in hiding, or how many are really out there? Do you have advice on how to unite them?")
  • Arkenos, since he was alive during the last dark times. "We believe we have found a safe form of travel to and from Arkenos before, during and after the coming Dark Times. Do you believe that some manner of peace can be established with our neighboring moon before war becomes an absolute certainty?" I assume we are ok telling him about the voidgate system. If someone gives Orensland the stink eye… well, let me know how far into the conversation we've gotten by that point. It may influence if Orensland listens or not.
  • Asking if the dragon spirit has any tasks he would wish to see accomplished that we could pursue. Might as well, right?

Anything else?

Musha
Aestus may be in awe of this magnificent, powerful creature, but seeing the caretaker point at him and the dragon subsequently laugh at him will make him very self-conscious. He will try to secretly test his strength again; hopefully unnoticed by his friends and the dragon, he will subtly perform some flexes (Sleight of Hand check = 11; rolled 9 + 2). Then, throughout this encounter, he will attempt to make himself seem bigger than he is (legs at a wider stance, shoulders back, chest puffed, elbows held out slightly). He will try to maintain this even through deferential actions such as bowing or kneeling. Like Orensland, he will follow Khaska's lead when it comes to showing due respect.

For the most part, Aestus will stand as an observer, simply wanting to see Hyrmaphridion with his own eyes. However, depending on how the conversation(s) go(es), he may feel confident enough to speak up and inquire his own interests. If the dragon is of noble bearing, he will ask:

  • For Hyrmaphridion's personal opinion on what the Order has become and what it is today, vis a vis not helping with the slavery situation,
  • For Hyrmaphridion's personal opinion of his Master's (Tawru's) service to the order,
  • If Hyrmaphridion gives positive responses, he will ask if the dragon thinks he should follow Master Tawru's path in joining the Order.
  • Depending on the info the party gets, Aestus may believe that Hyrmaphridion is omniscient. If so, he will ask the dragon about his sister.
  • Lastly, Aestus may feel that Hyrmaphridion is an entity to be trusted, depending on how he treats us and the info he gives us. If so, just as Crosis proposed above, Aestus will pledge himself to the dragon's service, offering to perform tasks for him.

Thev
Given that Aestus and Orensland are visibly deferring to his etiquette example, Khaska will step forward and show his respect in a way typically reserved for royalty and, well, prayer: kneeling near prostration, head back so his horns are against his back. He will then arise and explain what brings them to him: the mission from the storm giant (which Crosis worded quite nicely up there). Beyond that, Khaska wishes to ask about the following (or ensure that the following are asked about):

  • Kvanir: explaining the sword and its original bearer, he'd ask Hyrmaphridion what he might recommend to heal the sword and redeem Tawru; he'd also ask why the sword had gone quiet, and would offer Kvanir to Hyrm. for any further inspection he may desire.
  • Uniting the metallic dragons: basically, as explained above (in addition to what we could possibly do against the forces in the Marshes).
  • Arkenos: thanks, Crosis, for bringing this up! It's a great point. Khaska would feel that the party could entrust knowledge of the voidgate network to the greatest dragon in historical memory, and if traveling to Arkenos could help, he'd like to know. Perhaps we might also ask if Hyrm. has any knowledge of the "Pressen Empire." We might also ask the nature of the conflict back then — Khaska's learned enough to not exactly trust folklore!
  • Markus: the Maha'i have many conflicting legends about Markus (for instance, that he was Maha'i and a conspiracy has covered up this fact, or that the Knights banished Markus to Arkenos, or that Markus was divine…). Part of Khaska's long-term objective to unite the Maha'i, to whatever degree possible, is to learn the truth of the past. He's working on doing so with Tawru, and this is the best chance he has to do so with Markus. (He'd also, I suppose, ask whether Hyrm. met any of his people during his life.)
  • Offer Service: as with Orensland and Aestus, Khaska would offer himself to carry out missions for Hyrmaphridion.
  • Any parting advice. Hyrm. has known many adventurers through his life and afterlife; what words of wisdom might he have for us. Khaska is somewhat haunted by the storm giant's words about overcoming his own prejudices, new and old, and after some hesitation, would ask Hyrm. what helped the world come together across traditional boundaries to survive the last Dark Times. He'd volunteer to bear messages to the Knights, if Hyrm. so desires.
  • Sincere gratitude for the time taken to answer our questions.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin will just wait there.

Seeing the Caretaker point at him and the two laughing, Aestus was self-conscious. He began to flex his arms, seeing if he felt less strength in them, but trying to not be obvious about it. It apparently did not work.

“Aestus,” the dragon spirit spoke, “my brother has no way to reduce your strength. We meant no offense, even if we are somewhat amused. But it is telling that you, who value strength so much, would give it up. I am honored to meet you.”

Aestus was slightly unnerved that the dragon knew his name. They had not introduced themselves properly, even to the Caretaker. Was this dragon omniscient? He looked to Khaska, as did Orensland, neither really sure of the protocols, nor of how to show the proper deference.

Khaska swallowed. He was acutely aware that he had taken more of a leadership role of the group since Rynn’s departure, but this was beyond him. But was it? Perhaps showing extreme deference, as if to royalty, would be in order. He knelt down in the snow, nearly prostrate, his head back so his horns were not displayed aggressively.

“Great Hyrmaphridion, we are honored by your presence. We have many questions, some from the one who sent us, some of our own, but do not wish to tax your patience. We were sent by a storm giant seer to seek you out. Some centuries ago his mate left to speak to you, but never returned. He wishes to know of her fate.”

“We have been tasked to inquire if you know of where she may have gone after speaking with you,” Orensland spoke up. “If we are not breaching some form of privacy, may we know of what you spoke with her about?”

Hyrmaphridion cocked his head to the side. “I remember her. She had received portents concerning the dragons of our moon and wished to consult with me. We spoke at length about the affairs of the world. She spoke of the dwindling metallics, and I counseled her to speak with Thakillestra, the Golden, who lived in Sethrayin, advising the Tlerian emperors. She left to go do so. I am curious, how do my metallic brethren fare nearly nine hundred years later?”

Khaska shifted uncomfortably. “Great spirit, they have all fallen. It is said there are no metallic dragons on our moon anymore, though we ourselves have met some who appear to be metallics in disguise. They hide from the world, and we know not why.”

The dragon ghost went still for many moments. “This pains me greatly. What of the chromatics? Do they rule unchecked?”

“That is complicated. The Knights of the Silver Dragons, paladins named after, well, after you, use dragon orbs to control fifty-four of them. But we have recently learned of hundreds of free chromatics in the Zyrbryxion marshes. This is one of our questions to you, about how to fight such a fearsome foe.”

“Paladins that use the orbs of dragonkind to enslave my brothers?” Hyrmaphridion seemed incensed. “But if there are no metallics, I can see the desperation that might lead to such actions. But you say there are hundreds of chromatics in the marshes? It appears Zyrbryxion’s plans bore some fruit.

“Zyrbryxion was a devout worshipper of Tiamat, and wished all chromatics to be as dedicated as he was. It was a source of tension between him and the others. Did the Knights hunt down the chromatics to capture them?”

“That is what the histories say, though I am reluctant to trust them entirely.”

“That is wise,” Hyrmaphridion said. “Even for beings as long-lived as dragonkind, history and myth can become blurred. But if the Knights hunted down chromatics, perhaps they drove the remainder into hiding. Though why they remain in hiding, I cannot know.”

“But why would the metallics also be in hiding?” asked Orensland.

“I do not know. If they are few in number, perhaps the followers of Tiamat seek their deaths. If Zyrbryxion succeeded in converting many to the direct worship of her, that would pose a threat to a dwindling population of my metallic dragon brethren.” He sighed. “He should have long since died,” he turned to Ordojoxerul, “unless he came here to die?”

The Caretaker shook his head. “He has not come here to enter his twilight and pass on.”

The spirit’s great head shook. “When I last saw Zyryrbxion, hundreds of years before the last Dark Times, I was surprised he was still alive. Chromatics do not live as long as metallic dragons, and he was ancient even then. He would be long since dead, though his brood and converts to Tiamat may carry on his work. His zeal outlives him, unfortunately.”

“The storm giant that sent us said that we would need to ‘unite the metallics’ if we were to survive the coming Dark Times,” Khaska said. “I can only presume that means there are some left that we could unite, otherwise it would be an idiot’s errand. He said without them the darkness could only be ‘staved, not destroyed.’”

Hyrmaphridion’s eyes narrowed. “I know not what would require the assistance of all metallic dragons. Though we are powerful and dangerous, we are as any other being. Markus taught me that—to avoid hubris and to think one better by virtue of birth or species. If there is something that requires us, though, I cannot know what that would be. Perhaps the draconic sages of Trik’Brin could be of assistance.”

Khaska swallowed. “Great spirit, Trik’brin lies in ruins. Has for centuries.”

The spirit grew still again. “Then I do not know where else such information could be obtained. Surely some of it remains there. I would urge you to seek the ruins. Perhaps some information could be gleaned.”

“I am sorry to be the bearer of such grim tidings,” Khaska said.

“I am glad to see such heroes as you. The moon will need them. It is our lot to fight and die in our time, and then the torch must be passed on to others. I hope you, and these Knights, fight as we did.”

“You seem not to have a high opinion of the Knights,” Aestus spoke up for the first time. “I have questions myself. I was enslaved for many years on the Death Side, part of a slave trade that spans that half of our world, yet the Knights do nothing to fight it.”

“If they are preparing for the Dark Times, there is much to be done. We can all also only do so much. We barely repulsed the devil armies of Arkenos in the last convergence, at great cost.”

“So you do approve?” Aestus was a little angry.

“I recognize that we cannot do everything, as much as we would like to, and try to be a little humble in my assessment of others doing what they think best,” the dragon responded, diplomatically, Khaska thought.

“There was a paladin, a Maha’i, who was killed by the order for apostasy,” Aestus said. “He was excommunicated for not following orders, and turned to evil. When that was discovered, he was killed. What would you think of the fate of such a one?”

“I do not know the rules and restrictions of these Knights of the Silver Dragons,” Hyrmaphridion said, “but turning to evil is never warranted.” He leaned forward, his head coming close to Aestus, who felt a little self-conscious once again. “You have been injured by these Knights, in their failure, and speak almost reverently of this fallen paladin. Why are you so interested in them?”

Aestus hesitated. This was a desire of his heart he had not spoken of to anybody yet, but the dragon spirit seemed to understand there was something on his mind concerning the Knights. “I wonder if my fate might be to join with the order to help reform it.”

“I am sure that the order would accept any of good heart and clean hands,” he smiled, “and well-muscled and skilled in war as you are, you could find a place there. But you would have to prove yourself to them by dedicating yourself to their cause wholeheartedly. If you join with a chip on your shoulder and an agenda to enact, they will notice, and that will hinder your cause. Learn from them, as you would wish them to learn from you. Together, perhaps you can both be better than you were alone.”

Aestus nodded. “Wise words.”

Khaska looked at Aestus with renewed surprise, and a bit more of respect. The cleric was a bit stunned, leaving Orensland to fill the gap.

“Great spirit,” the shadowdancer began, “perhaps you could also answer some questions about Arkenos. We believe we have found a safe form of travel to and from Arkenos before, during and after the coming Dark Times. Do you believe that some manner of peace can be established with our neighboring moon before war becomes an absolute certainty?”

Hyrmaphridion bent forward to approach the elf. “If affairs were as they were when the convergence ended, then no. Baltham Planeswalker and his armies held absolute sway over most of the moon. We metallics did leave some of our forces behind in the last days of the war as a rear-guard action to prevent further incursions as the moons separated. If they survived and managed to carve out a space for themselves amongst the ruins and the blasted landscape of Arkenos, there might be friendly forces there, but peace with the entire moon would be impossible.”

“We have heard of Baltham,” Khaska said, “though he is now called Baltham the Everburning.”

At this Hyrmaphridion laughed, long and hard, his chortles echoing through the entire dragon’s graveyard.

“That was my doing. Markus, Jiveneit, and myself engaged the Amnizu in battle. Markus and I struck him down, allowing Jiveneit to blast him full in the face with his breath.” He chuckled. “Asmodeus was so incensed with Baltham’s failure, that we noticed in the months after that his burns never healed, his face an eternal mass of charred flesh.” He chuckled again. “Everburning indeed. Oh, what a fitting fate for one so evil as Baltham.”

“What could you tell us of the war, then?” Khaska asked. “Arkenos approaches, and the Dark Times are upon us again. For example, I do not know who Jiveneit is.”

“Jiveneit was a good friend, a golden dragon, mate of Thakillestra. He died during the last Dark Times. As to the war itself, we do not know why the devils came to Arkenos many millenia ago,” Hyrmaphridion said. “But in my parent’s time and my grandparent’s time they would come over and enslave the people of our moon, dragging them off. We fought them each time. I myself fought them in two Dark Times, and I fear the other moon is slowly becoming more and more corrupted by their influence.

“Markus was as noble a soul as I had ever met. At his behest, I rallied the draconic forces as he rallied the mortal forces to stem the tide. We fought for the months the two moons converged and, I think, managed to stave off many incursions. Still, we did not always win. Many of us fell. As I said, some stayed behind to fight off last-minute attacks, and we do not know of their fate. Something about the moon prevents magic transportation and communication. My ancestors told me it was not always so, but it is now. But tell me of how you think you might journey there before the Dark Times.”

Khaska briefly explained the voidgate system, and brought up the fact that they thought the upper platform went to Arkenos. He also mentioned the gnomes’ research and the phrase “Pressen Empire.”

Hyrmaphridion’s ghost licked his lips in thought for a moment. “There are legends, even among my kind, that there was once peace and harmony between our moons, before the devils came. But that is all I know of such things, the silver dragon equivalent of campfire stories passed down over generations.”

“Did you ever meet any of my people during your fights?” asked Khaska.

“Many Maha’i fought with us. We were proud to stand alongside them with the other mortal races in fighting against the devils of Baltham and his forces. I do not know how the landscape has changed in the intervening centuries, even on our moon the geological upheavals after the convergence altered many parts of the land, but I know that Summo Civitatem, where the convergence was closest, seemed less under the devil’s influence than elsewhere, probably due to the fact that it exchanged hands many times during the war. The further you get from that location, the more difficult it was to even approach the surface from the air. Evil pervades the very environment itself. I suspected the devils made their incursion elsewhere on the moon.”

Khaska immediately noted the name. Perhaps it was one of the voidgate locations?

“I have one last question, for one such as you who knows so much of devils and their ways.” He drew Kvanir out. “Aestus has spoken of Tawru, who was excommunicated and turned to evil. This is his sword, Kvanir Addhineen Vazhdu Avd’Urziana. It is an intelligent sword that was also corrupted by the fell bargain Tawru made with a succubus named Urziana. Your brother,” he looked over at Ordojoxerul, “said you might know how to heal such a weapon, to return it to good.” Khaska laid the sword on the ground.

The ghost of the ancient silver dragon reached out to touch the sword. He paused, listening to its rants, Khaska could tell. He released it, grew still for a moment, his silver eyes lighting up momentarily, and then he touched it again. He waited for a long time.

“The sword is insane now, a by-product of being turned against its will. Urziana was working for Baltham, but she holds the contract.”

“She has since fallen out of favor with Baltham, for reasons we do not know,” Khaska said. “She is here, on Jenoa, but in hiding.”

“In such instances, the contract is still valid, despite the difference between the devils in the hierarchy. Asmodeus does not hold every contract made by every devil, even though he is the superior of every devil in their fiendish hierarchy. In this instance, the contract was made inadvertently, and so can be broken. Slaying Urziana would do so, but the killing blow must be made with this weapon. I see you worship Pelor. I would also implore him to help you at the moment of combat, that the blade be healed. The prayer is sometimes called Divine Intervention. I will speak with Pelor personally about your quest, and plead for him to grant you a boon when the moment comes.”

Khaska was flabbergasted. “You … you can speak with Pelor?”

The dragon smiled. “Can’t we all? But I dwell in the celestial realms now, having served the light all my days. Pelor is known to me, and I to him.”

Khaska prostrated himself before the dragon. “Thank you, great one!” He was nearly overcome with emotion—to be speaking with such a being, and one who knew Teresh personally!

Orensland cleared his throat. “Thank you for your time,” he said. “I can’t imagine ever wanting to leave those realms you speak of, but you have done so, and we thank you. Is there anything you wish of us?”

“I too, pledge myself to your service, great dragon spirit,” Aestus said. “You need only ask, and we will go forth to accomplish.”

“Perhaps,” Khaska’s voice was nearly breaking, still overcome, “a message to the Knights?”

“These Knights may not be perfect,” the ghost spoke, “but if they are trying to prepare for the coming war, aid them as you can. I fought in the last war. I have passed the torch on, and beg of you to take it up. Baltham desires nothing good for Jenoa. He must be stopped again. In a thousand years, perhaps they will sing songs of your deeds. So strive to do deeds worthy of song.”

He turned to Ordojoxerul. “It is good to see you again, brother. Your service to all of our kind is still appreciated.”

The Caretaker bowed. “Hyrmaphridion,” he said.

With that, the great dragon spirit returned to where the skeleton lay, re-wrapping itself into the same position as the bones, and then slowly fading away.

“You may take your items,” Ordojoxerul said. “Your offerings are returned to you. Come with me.”

They picked up their respective offerings and followed the Caretaker back to the violet circle, still on the ground. He pointed to it, and they stepped onto it one after another. Khaska paused.

“Thank you, Caretaker. May your legs never tire from the journey.”

The man smiled, and Khaska felt a small push into his mind, ever so slight, as his eyes glowed slightly violet once again. “May your feet never know splitting from the road.” The cleric stepped on to the circle, and the light enfolded him.


Sanjin saw the magic purple circle re-appear, grateful for a respite from the boredom of sitting in the cold cold and the unnerving situation of being amidst all the arcane chaos of the dragon’s graveyard. He stood up just as Orensland appeared, followed by Aestus, followed by Khaska.

“Well, what happened?” the wizard asked.

“We will tell you about it as we return,” Khaska said. “We have much to discuss.”

Eryx (DM)
Lots of information here. To sum up.

1. The storm giant seer’s wife came approximately 900 years ago. During that time, there were still metallics on the moon. This was after the Dark Times. She was worried the metallics seemed to be dwindling.
2. Hyrmaphridion sent her to see Thakillestra the Gold in Sethrayin.
3. Not all of the metallics died during the war. Some volunteered to be left behind on Arkenos to fight as a rear-guard as the moons separated. Some survived and returned to Jenoa, and their numbers dwindled for reasons the storm giant seer’s mate was concerned about, but that neither she nor Hyrmaphridion know.
4. Arkenos is controlled largely by Baltham Planeswalker, now called Everburning, an Amnizu devil. Khaska could roll a Religion check to see what he knows about those devils.
5. Sanjin would immediately recognize that “Summo Civitatem” is indeed one of the names of a voidgate on the upper platform. There is an “Imo Civatetem” on the lower platform—the one that leads to the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance. These two are the draconic names that clearly correspond to each other. (And draconic is latin in my world, as it should be!!)
6. Like Mirwen said, Urziana must be killed with Kvanir to break the hold on the sword. Hyrmaphridion gave the additional advice to cast Divine Intervention during the combat.

Where do you all want to go now? What are your next steps?

Thev
Wow! Khaska's somewhat overwhelmed by all this — not only have he and his friends spoken with Hyrmaphridion, but Hyrm. was incredibly friendly, good-natured, and helpful in ways that Khaska would not necessarily have anticipated from the greatest dragon of the recent ages. Now Khaska has a much better idea of what he needs to do in some of his quests.

Brimming with new knowledge and somewhat, perhaps, giddy, upon returning to the Dergon encampment, he realizes why it felt familiar: it's similar to a cold-weather version of the tent-encampments in which he grew up in the Niktean Wastes. And for the first time in years, songs and dances he learned as a child — not the ones he studied in Jevereshk — are coming back to his mind. He'll ask Aestus if he's familiar with the Lay of Markus Triumphant, a folk song shared among many Maha'i, and whether he'd like to sing it. If Aestus is receptive, he might even approach a Dergon leader (Taidar, if he's there) near the campfire, explaining that they've had a successful ordeal and asking if he and his people would like to learn "a dance from the far south, where the grass and sand lie from horizon to horizon as the snow does here."

Persuasion: 11 = 6 + 5

If that works, Khaska will teach as many Dergon as desire to join a circle dance from the Mawkhavi. …And if Taidar isn't taking it, Khaska will thank him for his aid, and return to the ship, where he'd extend the same offer to the party. (If Aestus doesn't know the song, and he wants to learn, Khaska will try to teach it to him.)

As for what next: we were already planning on heading to Tleros to deliver the knight's armor to Cyriest. (I forget: is the armor in the voidgate network? If so, there's a gate very near Sethrayin…) Sounds like a stopover in Tleros is in order — perhaps Cyriest first, if we have the armor; if not, the voidgate, then Sethrayin to try to find Thakillestra, then Cyriest.

Further, with that proximity to a voidgate, we could spend more time exploring, making contacts at various entrances, taking an excursion to Trik'Brin, and perhaps even a peek into Summa Civitatem.

Oh, another question: do we stop by the Fortress of Vigilance on our way? Given Hyrm.'s words, Khaska thinks that would be a good idea.

And religion check about the Amnizu: 24 = 18 + 6

Crosis
We didn't explicitly mention grabbing the armor from the voidgate, but had generally planned on returning the armor soon after our visit to the Dragon Graveyard. I would assume we had taken the armor with us— possibly putting it in Orensland's handy haversack, as that would have been the most convenient method of retrieving it from the voidgate system and I don't see why he would have gone to the trouble of removing it. That's all "would have" talk, though, so if Eryx rules that we don't have the armor because we didn't explicitly say we brought it, I guess we need to stop by a voidgate.

That being said, Khaska is right— it appears a stop to Tleros is in order. The order of our visits depends on if we have the armor, as indicated by Khaska. If we do, then we should probably get the armor back sooner rather than later to check that off our list. Then on to Sethrayin.

Orensland would also suggest Khaska use his Stone of Sending to ask our hiding metallic dragon friends if they have ever heard legends of the golden dragon Thakillestra. We can mention we conversed with Hyrm., who told us the storm giant's mate went to her to inquire about the dwindling of metallic dragons. "Spoke with Hyrmaphridion. Mate visited about dwindling metallic dragons. Didn't know why, sent to Thakillestra in Sethrayin. Going there. Heard of her?" I didn't do a character count, but Orensland would just suggest that.

As for teaching the tribe a dance, that sounds wonderful! If theatrical displays are occurring, Orensland would volunteer to give his own performance— he was traveling with a performing troupe for a few months, after all. And while he would be sorely tempted to use shadowdancing to mystify the performance, he also understands that most are suspicious of shadowdancing and may accuse Orensland and friends of black magic. That seems a quick way to turn their "look! These strangers completed a legendary feat and should be treated with great respect!" reaction to "Witches! Burn them!" So he'll just do some acrobatic feats should they so desire.

Acrobatics: 23 (rolled 14 + 9)

Eryx (DM)
To know whether or not Aestus knows the dance, give me a History Check, Musha. DC 15. He would be aware of such things, but whether Spikes and Labiba taught him this specific one or at least the basics of such a one he could adapt, will depend on your roll.

DeltaWolf
Hearing of their great experince with the dragon -Sanjin will feel sad at missing it. Perhaps he should have been more sincere in his offering…

Musha
To have such a deified figure as Hyrm. say that he his honored to meet him, Aestus would feel both humbled and boastful. Then, discussing the Order with the dragon spirit, his heart will have softened towards them, thinking about himself, Spikes, and Tawru. All three did the best they could in their respective situations. Sometimes circumstances dictate limitations on what we do or even what CAN be done, and while Aestus still carries the emotional wounds caused by his experience in slavery, as well as the flame of wrath that there were people who could have rescued him and his friends but didn't, he is seeing the Order in a new light. They are dedicated to good, and while they perhaps can't do it all, maybe they are doing their best within the confines of their limitations. Still, though, Master Tawru was able to do it… Aestus may feel more favorably about the Order, but he'll have to think more on Hyrm's wisdom and this chip on his shoulder. Hyrm counselled him to be open to learn from them as he wishes to change them. But hadn't he already done this when he challenged Rider Lystria to a sparring match? Much to consider.

Ok. Thev and Crosis have already established a great direction for us. I'm all in.

History roll: 11 (rolled 10 + 1)

Like Khaska, Aestus will be giddy that he is friends with a dragon! When Khaska proposes sharing a dance with the Dergons he will absolutely want to join in. I'll have to see what Eryx says about my roll, but hopefully, Aestus will at least recognize the dance, or parts of it, even though he doesn't know this specific dance, and will join in and learn as he goes! Then, if Orensland decides to turn this into a talent show, Aestus will perform as well (in addition to Khaska's dance). As a many-year veteran of the arena, he considers himself a performer that put on hundreds of shows for thousands (millions?) of people. He'll either do a weapons display, showing off his weapon skills with lots of fancy flourishes, or he'll invite one or two Dergons up for a friendly spar (depending on THEIR culture).

Thev
Besides, I could see Aestus very enthusiastically resolving to learn an unfamiliar dance, come what may… :)

Musha
Come what may!! :D

As they returned to the lip of the valley, they all shared their experience, and were all very excited. Their conversation spilled over each other and there were frequent interruptions. Through it all, Sanjin was mostly silent. The sun was high in the sky now, and the light from the snow was becoming blinding. There were few clouds in the sky, and as they exited the graveyard the unnatural heat waves grew less and less intense, the biting cold of the winter season at this latitude asserting itself once again.

Taidar was waiting for them, sitting by a fire left in the wake of the departure of one of the clans. A young woman was with him, boiling some water in a kettle over that same fire. The area nearest the graveyard was basically deserted, and Orensland with his sharp eyes could see the group moving off into the distance, which he pointed out.

The chief stood to greet them. “Did you meet with success?”

Khaska was giddy. “We did! We spoke with the spirit of Hyrmaphridion himself!”

“Some of us,” Sanjin muttered.

Taidar heard. “There is no shame in that. Not all can serve in all places in a clan. There is honor in all stations. That is the way of the Dergon. But come, my daughter, Leri, has prepared some tea for the brave souls who have come so far on such a dangerous journey.”

The tea was warm and the blend of herbs and spices gave it a tangy taste, but quickly they all felt that the cold didn’t seem as fierce and the winds lacked the punch they once did. They all sat on the hard ground to partake, talking with Taidar in generalities about their discussions. The chief didn’t push, and the group didn’t offer much more.

Khaska glanced over to the horizon where the departing clan was vanishing over the snowy hills, and was struck with a pang of homesickness. His conversation with Ordojexerul had reminded him of how far he was from home, and watching the clan disappear over the ice and snow reminded him sharply of the lands of his birth, covered in sand and rock, to be sure, but similarly barren of most plant life. These barbarian clans were, perhaps, somewhat akin to the clans of his people, just in a different environment.

“Will you be leaving us, then?” Leri asked Aestus.

The warrior turned to Khaska. “I think so, but I’m not sure when.”

“You would be welcome to stay and warm yourselves by our fires for a day or so,” Taidar said. “There will be a storm today or tomorrow,” and with that he pointed to a few wisps of clouds on the horizon, “so perhaps take that into account before you decide to fly out of here.”

Khaska nodded. “We accept your generous offer, though, Orensland, perhaps we could go retrieve Xaci and Greygook from the ship. I assume our gnomish skyship crew are welcome as well?”

“Of course!” Taidar said.

“And, I have a thought, though it may seem slightly odd,” the cleric continued.

“You have but to ask, and if it in my power, I will try to grant it.”

“This experience has reminded me of how far I am from home, and your tent-encampment reminds me of the ones in which I grew up in the Niktean Wastes, far to the south. For such an occasion as momentous as this one, in my clan there would be song and dance.” He turned to Aestus. “Aestus, do you know ‘the Lay of Markus Triumphant?’”

The human’s face split into a huge grin. “It was one of Spike’s favorite songs.”

Khaska turned back to Taidar. “Chief Taidar, I wonder if your people would like to learn a dance from the far south, where the grass and sand lie from horizon to horizon as the snow does here.”

Taidar smiled and nodded. “A celebration it is! We are honored that you would share your ways with us.”

“Perhaps we can share some of ours with you,” Leri said.


Orensland went with one of the clan guards to retrieve the Randale and its crew, and Greygook actually flew the ship a bit closer to the encampment before anchoring it once again.

Taidar ordered his clan to prepare a feast for his friends who had “completed their own ordeal,” and Khaska and the others found the clans a merry group. The days this far north were very short now, and soon the sun was setting. Roaring bonfires lit the camp and the smell of savory meats wafted between the tents.

Khaska found some of what might be called “bards” in other cultures, the storytellers and musicians, and together he and Aestus taught them the song ‘the Lay of Markus Triumphant.’” Khaska then also taught them the dance he knew from his childhood that went with it.

Orensland got into the spirit of things by beginning to show off his performance skills. The flourishes and extra motions that came with performance came easily to him, muscle memory from his time with the shadowdancing troupe helping him get into the swing of things easily. He also found a few items he could juggle easily enough, to the delight of some of the clan children. He decided to hold off on any shadowdancing display, however, worried that the celebration would turn into a “witches, burn them!” kind of situation. His acrobatic feats were more than enough to keep the crowds entertained.

Greygook and Xaci took part in the dancing, and Xaci shared some of her stories and music, though the air was so cold her lute kept warping out of tune quickly, and she finally just put it away.

After dancing for several hours, and seeing Orensland doing his entertaining, Aestus decided to challenged anybody to a sparring match. There was immede support, and a ring was set up hastily with enough fervor that it was clear this was a regular occurrence. Their culture was to fight armorless, so he found himself stripped down of his plate in a muddy circle surrounded by bonfires. Weapons were not allowed, and wrestling seemed to be the order of the day. A ringed circle was created with bonfires on the outskirts to keep the combatants warm.

It wasn’t exactly a tournament. There were winners and losers, but each took their turns in an ad hoc system that came together moment by moment. Aestus noticed that women generally seemed to wrestle women, and men, men, but there were sometimes co-ed wrestling matches. The bonfires kept the air in the circle relatively warm, so then men were usually shirtless and the the women down to fur and leather underclothing. Leaving the circle, with its intense heat, felt good for a moment, but just a moment. Coats were immediately placed over sweaty skin after leaving a bout.

Khaska saw all of this and was a bit scandalized, but didn’t show it (progress, he thought) but then simply decided to stop being offended at the ways of these friends from a different land and culture. He had invited the celebration. Who was he to tell them they were celebrating inappropriately? He thought back to Farah and her reaction to Maha’i culture. Perhaps he was becoming wiser at all of these moments. His moment of self-reflection ended, however, as he was pulled back into the dance that he had taught them and started, but which now seemed to take on a life of its own as the merriment spread, a fact that he noted corresponded with the amount of grog that these barbarians had drunk.

Taidar, in particular had quite a bit to drink, and in his impaired state roared that the part were now all honorary members of the Domnent clan. The crowd roared with approval.

It was only Sanjin who did not truly join in the merriment. He enjoyed the food and the warmth of the fire, but was still smarting from being denied a chance to talk with Hyrmaphridion. That coupled with the fun all the others were having put him in a sour mood indeed. Though he shared food and some tales of the death side with others of the Domnent clan, eventually most drifted away from the taciturn wizard to enjoy other merry-making.

It was Taidar’s wife, Briallen, who came to sit by the wizard. She brought a cup of warm soup and handed it to him. “You don’t seem to want to enjoy the festivities.”

He shook his head. “I’d rather be either in a library curled up with some magic texts, or somewhere trying to find some old magic texts. Or magic items. This kind of revelry isn’t really my cup of tea.” He held up the cup. “Thank you for the soup, though.” He smiled at his inadvertent pun. She didn’t seem to get it.

“Many who come to the dragon’s graveyard do not survive,” she said. “Sometimes they leave things behind. As my husband has just made you an honorary member of the clan, perhaps one of them may be of use to you.” Suddenly intrigued, Sanjin got up to follow her. She led him to the large meeting-tent, which was guarded by two men who looked like they would rather be participating in the festivities. They both glared at him as he entered.

The tent was quite large, and an old, ratted rug was laid out on the ground. Large pillars kept the tent up, and the wind did not penetrate the thick canvass. A fire burned in a brazier in the center, providing some light, tended by an older gentlemen who was poking at it. He saw Briallen and gave a grunt and a nod, then studiously ignored them.

Briallen pulled out a chest from under one of the log seats. It was worn and battered. There were several markings on it, ones that Sanjin did not recognize. He touched one of them.

“It is a warning,” she said. “My people generally do not like magic nor trust magic-users. Over the years we have come into possession of some items of magical nature. Some think them cursed.”

“And what do you think?” he asked. Some items might be genuinely cursed, after all.

She shrugged. “Magic items are tools like any other, I say. We don’t even know what some of these things do.”

She opened the trunk and he peered inside. It was a hodgepodge of items, some rings, some stones, a wand, a few scrolls, and one moldy spellbook.

“Can you discover what these do?” she inquired.

“I can,” he said.

“That would be a great help to us. We would allow you to take one item with you as a reward.”

Eryx (DM)
There are a fair number of items in this box, and I’d like to know how Sanjin wants to proceed. You can cast Identify as a ritual on them, try to roll Arcana checks to see if you might divine some of their properties, or perhaps something else I haven’t thought of. We can resolve this here without waiting to move the entire story forward.

DeltaWolf
Sanjin will start with an Arcana to see what he already can guess and throw in any historical insights.

  • Arcana check: 17
  • History check: 12

Casting Identify as a ritual takes 21 min. so Sanjin will start casting Identify as ritual on the most interesting things then move less interesting until he has; identified them all, identified the most interesting, or spent as much time as he is willing towards the venture (it’s noteworthy that Brianllen’s interest will make Sanjin more enthusiastic then even normal)
Lastly if there is a cursed item Sanjin could try to Dispell Magic on it -but only if it is dangerous if you leave it alone and/or it has a really beneficial attribute, otherwise he would just caution her about it.

Outside, Aestus was practically thrown into the ring by Leri, who laughed as he saw his opponent. A skinny-seeming girl with braided red hair that went halfway down her back. She had mud smeared under her piercing green eyes, giving her an intimidating look. Her arms were well-muscled, though not overly large, very little fat on her, a girl he recognized as having functional use of her body, unlike some of the men and women the Ararics would parade around, who focused purely on bodily aesthetics. She moved into the circle with a cat’s grace, light on her feet, and quick to assess this newcomer. He recognized her has having defeated most of the women.

“Come outlander,” she said. “Let’s see if I can’t put you on your back.”

He smiled. “You are welcome to try.”

“You know you want him to put you on yours, Olwenna” a cry came from the crowd. With her fair skin, even in the orange firelight, and flushed as she was from previous matches, it was easy to see her blush. She covered for it by rushing at Aestus.

Her technique was a weird combination of martial arts, undisciplined and raw. She knew how to use her strength well, mostly by channeling Aestus’ strength in ways that threw him off balance. Previous wrestling matches, even against women, had mostly been brute strength against brute strength. Aestus had to adjust his tactics quickly as she smartly threw him to the earth after their first pass.

He did not adjust them quickly enough. A few times he managed to push her out of the circle or pin her to the ground, but she quickly managed to get out of his holds and turn them back on him, turning the tables more than once. The crowd loved the back and forth, and just as Aestus began to get the hang of the situation and adjust to this smaller, more nimble opponent, he tired. Their last fight ended in basically a draw, the two of them overly tired from grabbing at each other’s mud-slicked bodies, down on the ground, panting from the exertion.

“You fight well, Outlander,” she said.

He laughed. “As do you. I know when I am bested.”

“Many men would not care to admit being defeated by a woman,” she laughed, getting up. She reached out a hand, and he grabbed it, pulling himself up a bit by leveraging her strength with his.

“Come,” she said, “let’s drink!”

Both exhausted from their bout, they sat by one of the fires to cool off (which happened quickly) and to talk a bit. Leri shooed several people away, and everybody else seemed to give them a wide berth, so they had time to talk while the wrestling continued on.

“Not many women would defeat me so handily,” he said. He thought back to Rider Lystria. He had now sparred twice with women in the past few months and been soundly defeated. “I must practice more.”

“Perhaps you’d like a private match tonight,” she said. “In my tent.”

Well, there it was, out in the open. Aestus glanced at her, unsure what to even say. “You are strong and wise, having faced many hardships in your life,” at this she reached a hand out to touch his chest, where a scar ran down his skin, “and are chosen as an ally by the greatest of beings. I will bear you a strong child and take your greatness into our tribe.”

Eryx (DM)
Authorized by Musha, I rolled 10 athletics checks between the two of these fighters and I have to say, the dice were not in Aestus’ favor. I rolled a 1 two different times. (Even at one point muttering out loud, “Aestus, what are you doing?!?”) Olwenna? She rolled a 20 THREE times on her checks. Aestus won 2/10, she won 7/10, and the last one was a tie, both of them getting a 24 on their athletics check. This would have been quite a sight to watch.

Then, having relayed this information to Musha in an email, I asked if he would go to bed with her.

This was his reply:

Musha
Aestus is very accustomed to female fans and groupies fawning over him because of his strength and victories; though, as a slave, he was never allowed such visitations by fans. While sometimes the thought of female companionship was enticing, the shouts and cheers of such fans often became white noise. This, plus Lady Lyra Araric sometimes (often?) commanding him to perform certain services, lessened the appeal.

In this case, however, Aestus will find this prospect most appealing. This isn't just some groupie. This woman bested him soundly and still wants him. Nor is he being forced. He will also feel very honored by her invitation to add his “greatness” to the tribe. However, if a pregnancy does occur, Aestus will ask that he be informed. He lived through a horrible childhood without parents and he has seen how important having a child is through his friend Rynn's experience. He would not doubt the tribe's ability to raise his child, but he would like to be involved in the child's life.

Eryx (DM)
Through texts, and with a roll of the dice, we mutually decided that Aestus had not been that kind of slave to Lady Araric.

Aestus was conflicted for a moment. He had flashbacks to the arena, where of course there were many fawning groupies impressed with his strength—not that he was ever allowed such visits from any females. In the end, their cheers and cries ended up being little white noise in his gladiator fights. Even Lady Araric, when she had him accompany her as window dressing, never actually used him as part of her harem.

But this woman was different. This Olwenna had bested him in combat, and still wanted him. Thought of him as great, and even desired a child from him. This was different.

“I would be honored to have a private match with you in your tent.”

She smiled, and despite the cold and the pain and the mud, Aestus felt none of it, lost in the way her entire face lit up with happiness. She grabbed his hand and led him away.

Orensland, by now with less of a crowd due to the kids heading to sleep (whining and complaining about bedtimes seemed to be cross-cultural, he noticed), was the only one to see him go. “Amateur,” he said to nobody in particular. “I’ll have to give you some pointers so next time you try to sneak off you’ll actually, you know, sneak!” The party was still going pretty strong, though, and the shadowdancer joined in one of the groups dancing around a fire. Things kept going for some time until the elf noticed a clansman run up to Taidar, who immediately got up and left, a look of concern on his face. Orensland excused himself and followed.

The chief and the guard were standing at the edge of the camp, not really hiding, peering out into the night. With Arkenos just over the horizon, looming large, the night was actually very very bright outside of the camp, the reflected sunlight also bouncing off of the snow-covered plains, bathing everything in a kind of reddish-brown hue. It was immediately obvious to Orensland what they were looking at.

A white dragon, a rider atop, hunkered down against the cold, was flying around the camp. It circled for some time, watching all the while.

“That a usual thing for them to do?” Orensland asked. The guard jumped, cursing from the start, but Taidar was made of sterner stuff. The shadowdancer smiled. He still had it, though he gained an appreciation of the guard’s reaction from his own earlier experience with the Guardian.

“Not usually,” Taidar said. “But on occasion they come to watch us. The Knights know that the graveyard is sacred to us, and allow us access, an arrangement since before my great-grandfather’s days. But I’ve seen them cut down others attempting to reach it. I wonder if our celebration has drawn their attention.”

“I’d hate to think we’d put you in danger,” Orensland said.

Taidar laughed. “What are they going to do, massacre several clans of the Dergon? I do not care for the Knights, but they would not do such a thing. Even with the two whites, such a fight might not go their way.”

The dragon circled a final time before banking away to glide back to the fortress.

“Let us return to the party,” Taidar said. “Thank you for alerting me,” he said to the guard, who nodded and returned to keeping watch.


Khaska enjoyed sleeping in the tent provided after the party wound down. It was surprisingly warm, and covered in furs, in the middle of a horde of barbarian friends, with the blessing of Hyrmaphridion, he was able to rest more soundly than he had in months. He felt refreshed in the morning, even having slept in a little.

When he emerged, the camp was already busy with life, the sun just peeking over the horizon. Orensland was entertaining children again as Greygook and Xaci prepared the ship for departure. Sanjin emerged from one of the larger tents, and when queried, explained that he had spent the evening identifying the Domnent clan’s magical items.

Aestus approached, holding the hand of a red-haired woman. “Master Khaska,” he said. “This is Olwenna. I wished you to meet her because there may be a reason to contact her in the future.”

Khaska’s eyes widened. He immediately understood the implication.

“And you are just leaving?” he asked incredulously.

Olwenna shrugged as she leaned up against Aestus. “Our ways of child-rearing are different. There are few pairs, mostly chiefs and their wives. Sometimes more than one wife. Children are raised by the tribe, as I was after my parents passed.”

Aestus nodded. “I understand this, but she understands that if there is to be a child, I would like to know. Though I would not join their tribe, I would have my child know my face.”

Cultural differences, once again. But Aestus had made his choice, and Khaska could respect that. He raised his head to be unthreatening to Olwenna. “I am pleased to meet you, Olwenna. I will magically contact you in the future, so that we may know if your fates are intertwined because of your time here together.” That was about as politic as he could make it.

Taidar approached. “We have prepared rations for your trip and loaded your ship. Orensland and I noticed something last night, however.”

Orensland quickly relayed the sighting of the Dragon Rider, and Taidar conveyed his thought that the merriment might have attracted the Knights’ attention.

“I wonder if they are still watching,” the chief said. “I have never seen the Knights attack someone leaving, and we occasionally get skyships to visit our camps, but if you wish to make a more sneaky exit, may I suggest waiting until later in the morning, when the storm will arrive.” He pointed, and indeed, the cloud front from yesterday was even closer. “It should hit in a few hours.”

Eryx (DM)
I really enjoyed writing up this post. You are all excellent role-players and give me so much to work with. This is a great campaign. (Says the DM.) Anyway, thanks for being great players.

So, leave immediately, or wait until the storm hits to try to gain some cover?

And you have the armor. You were only keeping things in the voidgate system that you wanted to keep in the pocket dimension, such as the cult’s wand and the some of the cash. (Although a lot of the cash is now in Hammerdine in the bank.)

As I see it, there are a few places to go:

1. Cyriest. Return the armor.
2. Sethrayin. Look for Thakillestra. (Orensland and Khaska give me a history roll.)
3. Greygook wants to see what was up with that weird voidgate in D5. That’s where he was headed when you called him back.
4. Back to Mount Elduin to report back to the seer.
5. Explore the upper voidgates. Arkenos? Who knows?
6. Return to Hammerdine to debrief Rider Reitman, per his request.

On to Cyriest, then? Return the armor? That seems to be what Thev and Crosis decided in the last post, but I want to make sure before we proceed.

As far as Khaska’s religion check, this is what you learn about Amnizu devils. They are medium creatures (roughly human-sized, like all of you). From Mordankeinen’s Tome of Foes, a 5e rulebook:

Amnizus lead the infernal legions into battle and command guardians at the gateways to the Hells. Amnizus are arrogant, bullying, and ruthless, but they're also highly intelligent tacticians and unfailingly loyal—qualities that the hellish archdukes value.

Guarding the River Styx.
Some amnizus perform the critical task of watching over the River Styx from fortresses along the river's blighted banks, where it flows through Dis and Stygia. Souls arriving in the form of lemures have no personalities or memories; they're driven only by the desire to commit evil. The amnizus that patrol here drill the rules of the Nine Hells into the new arrivals' pitiful brains and marshal the lemures into legions.

Musha
That really was a fun post. I certainly enjoyed the lightheartedness of it. And Aestus finally has a friend in a faroff place like all the rest of his friends!

And yes, I, too, vote for Cyriest.

Thev
I agree! A fantastic post, and a great, memorable moment for everyone!

Khaska would advocate for leaving under cover of the storm; he doesn't want to be noticed by the Knights here if he can help it.

He'd also vote for Cyriest, but would ask: do we want to stop by the Fortress of Eternal Vigilance? That's the Knights' headquarters, and we could introduce ourselves and share our knowledge; they might have ways to more efficiently speak with Sir Reitman, as well. Of course, we don't know exactly how they'd respond.

After Cyriest, we could more easily stop by Sethrayin and the nearby voidgate, from which we could explore the D5 gate and Arkenos.

And, regarding Thakillestra (History check): 26 = 20 + 6

Ha!

Eryx (DM)
With that roll, you'd easily remember that there is a Cathedral of Thakillestra the Gold in Sethrayin. Kyrnyn, who the party met and rescued from his curse waaaay back in Codex II, was a cleric of Heironeous that was first anointed there. When last you saw him, he was going to lead a pilgrimmage to the Cathedral from Hammerdine for other fellow Heironeous worshippers.

Thakillestra was a devout worshipper of Heironeous and had the Cathedral constructed in his honor. It was there that she stayed dispensing wisdom to the leaders of the Tlerian Empire. The emperors would have to come to her in her space of worship.

Thev
Wow! Deep dive into campaign lore there!

Eryx (DM)
DM Pro Tip: Outline. Outline. Outline. (But also be flexible, of course.)

Musha
Also, I vote we try to depart sneakily just in case those white dragons come asniffin'.

Crosis
Orensland would ask Greygook for his input— can he ride the skyship in a storm well? But generally, I suspect we would all agree a storm is better than a dragon. I've already written next destination thoughts above, but basically armor first, then on to Sethrayin. Orensland would suggest we go to see dragonriders we know before flying to the fortress— we have a good reputation with Reitman, he's probably more trustworthy. But armor/Sethrayin first. :)

History roll: 23 (nat 20 +3)

Soo… do we get a divine visitation unveiling the history of the world with two natural 20 history rolls? :D

DeltaWolf
I have posted in the gray box above concerning what Sanjin will do about the chest of magic stuff.

Sanjin agrees with using the cover of storm.

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