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A poet once said that the first sunrise on Arvandor seers the heart deeper than any dragon's fire. While this isn't the first sunrise you've experienced on the celestial plane, it is the first that you've seen. Since coming out of the portal nearly a week ago, your journey has taken you through the untamed wilds that make up the Hunting Lands on your journey to Nath Seldarie at the heart of Arvandor.
Though Arvandor is a peaceful plane ruled by benevolent gods, it is by no means a safe place. Abominations that escaped from the prison of Carceri wander the Hunting Lands, seeking to destroy any they come in contact with. Unwittingly, you find yourself part of the Great Hunt, slaying and tracking the abominations before they can escape into the Astral Sea and wreak havoc on the Planes and Mortal World.
Last night, you arrived in Nath Seldarie and were given beds for the first time in what felt like an eternity. When dawn broke the next morning, you were finally able to look out over the city, and experience the full glory of the celestial realm. Shimmering towers made entirely of moonstone that stretch impossibly high; Domed palaces on earthmotes connected to the ground below by spiraling glass staircases; waterfalls that twist and flow through the air against all the laws of nature, a thousand rainbows arcing in the mist... The view is awe-inspiring, and at once you realize that the colors and magic that gave beauty to the feywild were simply reflections of the glory of Arvandor. Even the walls of the city that protect the ruesti from the Abominations that roam the Hunting Grounds is a work of art, with bas reliefs etched in the marble and sapphire barricade.
At the foot of each bed (or meditation mat, for those who require reverie), you find that your clothes have been washed and mended, your weapons polished and sharpened, and the enchantments on your armor and magical possessions re-invigorated. Under the door, a small note has been slid, the symbol of the star and moon clearly visible.
"To Ark-erynsuoress Sharma, General Printempest, Grandmaster Roslow, Zyrr'delin Morvyndis the Enstarred, Highmaster Thoene, Magnus Durant, and The Shepherd.
The Seldarine wish to extend the warmest of welcomes to Nath Seldarie, and express most profound admiration at your endeavors thusfar in the protection of the feywild. It has been brought to our attention that you come bearing urgent news on fiendish activity in the Astral Sea. You are cordially invited to attend or send representatives to the council of Tel'Seldarine at the first trumpet past midday.
The letter is not signed, but is instead stamped with a banner of the moon and stars.
OOC: Feel free to elaborate or expand upon what may have happened to you during the Great Hunt while you journied to Nath Seldarie
This is the continuation of the "Adventures in Sigil" and "Adventures in Fallcrest" games.
The first part of the game can be found here, The second part of the game is here, and the third part is here, the fourth part can be found here the fifth part here and the sixth (Adventures in Sigil Part III) is here
The Wild Hunt awoke something in Lucan. He had grown up hunting in the wilds with his elven tribe, blending music and magic with archery and woodcraft. The Wild Hunt was so much more. Magic and nature were one in Arvandor, and all his skills seemed to expand to encompass the magic of the place. But what they hunted were creatures from legend, monsters who made the worst creatures of his home mere prey. It called up something fierce within him. Something primal. Something powerful. Something that would. Not. Shut. Up.
"Eeeaat," it whispered to him as he stared at the fallen carcass of some creature out of a nightmare, like a turtle with a spiked shell and tentacles instead of legs. It's blood steamed and sizzled.
"No thanks," Lucan said. "I'm not really hungry."
"Feeaassst," it replied. There was something familiar about the voice. He couldn't recall ever hearing it speak, but he was sure that its . . . presence was familiar. It seemed that he'd felt it when he'd been convincing the dragons to join the fight, that it had recognized the dragons as kin.
"Couldn't I eat something less acid?" Lucan asked.
"Fresh sheep with crunchy bones and chewy marrow, blood thick and warm. Cattle who tear and splinter beneath strong, sharp claws. Young, succulent maidens."
"That really doesn't sound that appet--wait, did you say maidens?"
"Comrade Lucan," Yuri said, "are you all right?" Both Yuri and Lena were looking at him oddly.
"What? Of course," Lucan said. "It's just that the whispering voice has strange ideas about what an appetizing meal is."
"Whispering . . . voice?" asked Lena.
"Yes, it's quite . . . You can't hear it, can you?"
"You did take a blow to you head," Lena said, fluttering around the sizable lump on his noggin. "Perhaps you should sit down."
"Yes, of course," Lucan said. "I think I will."
Unfortunately, the voice would not go away. It became a bit less obsessed with eating the flesh of Lucan's kills, though Lucan has found himself developing a taste for really spicy food. He's also found his magic becoming more powerful, more responsive to his will and more effective. But whatever the benefits, it now feels like there's something alive in him that's eager to break free. He's not sure what will happen when it does.
The Great Hunt was a new experience for Ash. It was all so surreal. Not like dispatching demons of chaos. This was different. There was no malice involved. No rage. Just pure drive. Even when a mindflayer lich attempted to forcibly remove The Shepherd's brain, Ash only saw its demise as his duty to Arvandor. He did not hate these creatures. Ash pitied them for their inability to appreciate the beauty found here.
So he hunted. With his new friends. With strangers he encountered along the way. The most interesting of which was a a pixie warrior named Peanut. He had dragonfly wings and carried a "great sword", which was more like a dagger in Ash's hand. You wouldn't think it, but that little guy could fight like just as well as Aramil. Ash kept that thought to himself.
"Oh, no reason really, well, maybe one--or two, hmmmmm. I guess peanuts are small, I'm small, a lot of people like peanuts, people like me, except for the ones that are allergic, y'know."
"People are allergic to pixies!?"
"No, silly! Peanuts, like me and these pesky monsters!"
"I guess I never thought of it that way."
"Most people don't, but that's okay, I just like beating these things back to where they came from, wherever they came from."
He hunted, and he thought. Would Zorella have changed? Possibly. From everything that Ash had heard, probably not. She was bad through and through. But that did not mean there was nothing left of the real Zorella. If the devils were cursed by the God Who Was, could the curse be lifted? Was there a way to redeem them? The Shepherd seemed to be of the same mind, and so Ash would find the time between hunts to talk with him.
The biggest weight on his mind, though, was his soul. How would he get it back. Mephistopheles still had it, and his power was waning if Baalzebul was to be believed. What would happen if the Lord of Cania was stripped of all his power? Would Ash get his soul back? Would ownership pass to the one that took his place? If that was the way things happened in the Hells, Ash would have to make sure his soul came back to him. One way or another...
As Slick returns to normal, Eltain breathes a sigh of relief and looks at those who'd opposed his actions.
"People can change. Things like her... Not so much. And not in time." He gently runs a finger along the tiny snake's back, smiling at Pavick. "She can't hurt him or anyone else ever again." He places a hand on the little gnome's shoulder comfortingly before turning to the others.
"We should get moving."
But the confidence is only a front, a facade hastily thrown over the agony within. They had failed. He had failed. Zorella's death had helped, but ultimately the burden of his guilt and his failure was too much. They hadn't managed to rescue Lu or any of the other captives. Shep had seemingly gone mad. And despite his best efforts, the Spelljammer's crew had almost certainly been lost. Men and women he'd come to like and almost trust. Who'd listened to his plan to rescue the others and helped him, only to ultimately be left behind in a terrible situation with no hope of rescue. Death would be mercy for them at this point, and a lifetime of fiendish slavery seemed more likely, and possibly even longer than that. He'd failed them all. If only he'd been stronger, or more convincing, or able to do anything...
He wasn't even certain if Frank had made it out. There'd been no time to dismiss him. The mule had 'died' before, taken down by the the arrows and magic of enemy fire, and though each time he had ultimately come back, each time it happened Eltain's heart had felt as if it must surely break, and each time he feared it would be the last. Could even Frank come back from that horrid place? Could Corellon's power extend even to such an evil area? Or was his friend and companion lost forever as well?
The fighting on the way to Nath Seldarie had become almost mechanical. He spoke little, ate less, slept not at all, forcing himself to fight almost constantly, throwing himself in harm's way to make sure no one else was lost on his watch. He wouldn't admit it even to himself, but secretly he hoped that one of the abominations they faced would end him and he could pay for his failures with his blood. That perhaps his death could wipe away his sins and that then he would never again be able to fail anyone.
So he fought, as though there were nothing else in the worlds, as though stopping for even a moment would cause some terrible calamity. Countless abominations fell to his blade and his magic. Time and time again he threw himself in the way of those about to be torn apart by them, taking blows that would have ended their lives. He spent his nights tending to the injured, bandaging wounds and holding hands and feeling throughout it all as though his entire existence was a lie. How could anyone look at him and not see him for what he truly was? How could it not be obvious to all around him?
And thus it was that Eltain found himself arriving in Nath Seldarie, his heart broken and nearly as frozen as that of the Prince of Frost, his soul crying out in the agony of his own self-loathing and pain. Even the beauty of the place, of Arvandor itself, couldn't reach him. Even the knowledge of the nearness of his god failed to stir him and only filled him with shame. Shown to a room, he finally allowed himself to sleep, and let the comforting darkness of it claim him.
Eltain rises the next morning, slowly pulling himself up from the bed and dressing in the haze that had become his normal state, strange dreams from the night before turning over in his head. He sits quietly as the others prepare for the morning and reads over the note, his shame only deepened by the mode of address employed for him on the letter. As if he deserved that title. As if he deserved the invitation therein. And yet... He sighs and pulls himself up as he finishes tightening the buckles on his bracers and straps on his weapons.
"Looks like we're suddenly objects of interest. I guess we should go. Even if we couldn't do anything, the information we gained is too important to let sit." It's more words at one time than he's spoken since the clearing where the group came through. "At least we can pass it on. What do you all think? Though maybe I should stay behind..."
Pavick smiled at Eltain's kind words. "She certainly caused enough damage while she was alive, but you've ended her awful existence. Thank you." Pavick gently strokes the scales behind Slick's head. "It was the right thing to do, and I'm proud to know you had the strength to do it."
After spending the next day recovering Pavick's sleeve, Slick was soon looking back to his normal, healthy state. So Pavick spent much of the rest of the trip riding on the super-sized Slick. As he rode, he seemed very distracted. Every 10 minutes or so, he would pull a book out of his pack and scribble down a few notes in it. Whenever the group encountered one of Arvandor's more inspiring vistas, he would require everyone to hold where they are while he took extensive notes.
Of course, Pavick did participate in the hunt too. Most of the combats he spent making the aberrations attack each other and then giggling at the results. His most impressive achievement was forcing a gibbering mouther to completely digest itself.
Finally, after a very restful night in Nath Seldarie, Pavick spends a few minutes making sure he looks his best. "Come on Eltain. Don't talk crazy, we've got enough of that around here already. You're with us; we wouldn't have made it this far without you. The information we bring is important, why shouldn't you be here to deliver it?"
Eltain smiles at Pavick as the wizard thanks him for taking Zorella out.
"Revenge and killing people aren't necessarily always the right thing to do, Pavick. But in this case... Despite what Shep and Asheroth seem to think, I think the right thing was done. We never would have been able to trust her, and after what she tried to do to Slick and to all of us..." He shakes his head. "No, she had to be eliminated. Creatures like that are different from people. People can change. They can't."
Eltain gives Pavick a sad smile. "I don't deserve to be there. After everything that happened back there..." He stares off into the distance, a haunted look on his face. "If I'd just been a little faster, or a little more convincing, or a little more insistent..." He sits back on the bed, drawing into himself in one of the most insecure gestures anyone's ever seen from him.
"It's all my fault. I couldn't help anyone. I couldn't protect anyone. The captives, the crew of the ship... I don't even know if Frank was able to make it. If they weren't able to get out in the chaos then the best we can hope for them is for their deaths. Their blood is on my hands because I was too weak to prevent this. Too weak to stop everyone from walking into a trap, too weak to save anyone..." He buries his face in his hands for a moment before looking back to the gnome, his tears freezing for the first time anyone can recall as a tormented snow falls about him. "I'm a failure, Pavick. I don't deserve to even be here at all. It would have been better if I'd died back there. At least then those people might have gotten some measure of justice."
When Ash read the note, he was a little taken aback. Magus? Ash never would have considered himself a mage. But if a god tells you you're a...wait. Ash read the recipients again. Not magus, Magnus. Now he was sorely confused. The only thing he could be a "ruler" of was himself. But even then, just his physical body. To what could this title be referring?
Throughout the hunt. Zyrr splits his time between fighting down-and-dirty with the party and flitting amongst the trees as a shadowy scout. While scouting he's his old jesting self, tossing whatever berries and fruits he deems safe at his comrades and saving the rest for later experimentation.
In combat he's sometimes difficult to distinguish from the beasts he's fighting. The drow bares his teeth and rushes headlong at monsters' flanks, grunting as he plunges the Imposter's Talon into the backs of abberants, poor substitutes for the devils he's lost his crew to. By the time they reach Nath Seldari, Zyrr has gone from a proud pirate captain to a ragged explorer in tattered clothing the servants are hard-pressed to repair or replace before any courtly appearance. That said, his extreme hunting trip has been rather cathartic and he's more or less back to his old self by the time the note appears.
"The Enstarred. I like it, it sounds elegant."
Avatar gladly adopted from Ink!
It had started to seem, to the Shepherd, that all he and his band of fellows ever did was fight. Perhaps there was a brief reverie here and there, but a fight was quick to follow. Even in a place of such pristine beauty as Arvandor, where the glades were fresh and smelled of new mist, and the waters so clear they put mirrors to shame, they were immediately sucked into more bloodshed. Countless steams of things fell before them, and with each day, the Shepherd's arm swung with less strength.
His muscles remained, they had not atrophied of gone soft, but rather, it was his resolve to keep fighting so passionately that was waning. His companions continued to fight with zeal or bitter determination (or both), but the fight, it seemed, was slowly by slowly leaving him. The Shepherd felt tired, above all things--slowly but surely feeling as though he could simply rest his head in the meadows and drift off into sleep--a sleep that, to him, felt it would last a hundred years.
By the end of these frenzied skirmishes against things that had crawled from the nether regions of the planes, the Shepherd had simply stopped wading into the fray altogether. He stood back, a calm figure of basalt, watching his companions carefully with tired, heavy eyes, while he allowed the spirit-folk that now flocked to him to fight in his stead. And when his companions faltered, and their wounds grew too great, he sealed them shut, almost by simply willing them closed--as if such a thing were as natural to him as walking or breathing.
The world had changed around the Shepherd, and was changing still, while he himself seemed as unchanging as the stone that he was; all around him sparked things he could hardly explain. The animals of Arvandor seemed to calm in his presence--the birds twittered comfortably from the safety of his high shoulders, and he could swear he had started to hear the trees of the forest actually speaking to each other in hushed whispers. Whenever the Shepherd strode across the grass and the fields, with his long, loping gait, budding plants started to grow in the trails of his footprints, and when he slept, he always awoke in a bed of wildflowers that had not existed the night before.
That morning in Nath Seldarie was perhaps the first morning in countless mornings before it that the Shepherd did not awake to the sounds of the Hunt beginning once again, and for the first time in a long time, the bags under his eyes seemed a little less heavy.
Aramil, for the most part, kept himself busy by making sure his allies' recklessness did not overwhelm themselves... a timely teleport here, a blade in the gut of a would-be killer there, interspersed with lightning going almost everywhere.
In his meditations, he ran countless calculations, trying to determine how to bring peace back to the Feywild. Every one came back to the Court of Stars, with Tiandra frozen alive in primal ice. She seemed to call out to him still, even after all this time...
Receiving his invitation, Aramil said nothing at first, but then walked over to Eltain and slapped him on the back of the head. "Eltain. Stop this selfishness. Do you think you are the only one responsible? The only one who failed to protect them? If you want to do them justice, live. What good will your death do for those who have perished? But if you will not listen to me, listen to Corellon. He has granted us audience, it would be foolishness to spurn it."
Eltain nods numbly, rubbing the back of his head as he helps Aramil chip off the ice that had formed on his hand when he'd slapped him, still snowing morosely.
"I guess so... I'll have to face up to him eventually. I might as well get it over with and take whatever punishment he deems fitting." He sighs. "Even if nobody else could do anything either, I've sworn to protect others. That I failed in that... I'm just so tired of people dying on my watch. It's bad enough when it's agents of the rebellion who know exactly the danger they're going into and volunteer for a mission. In this case..." He shakes his head. "It doesn't get any easier. It just gets worse."
"Your watch?" Zyrr turns to face the paladin, any amusement in his face gone. "Need I remind you that the crew you feel so horrible about betraying was my crew? They were my responsibility first and foremost. They trusted me to get them out reasonably safely, not leave them in a bloodbath. I'm going searching for them when we get some down time, but until then we both have to deal with it because every time you bring it up is a fresh reminder of my own failure. And yeah, you're gonna face Corellon now. I didn't get to put off what my god had planned for me, so neither do you, it's as simple as that."
Avatar gladly adopted from Ink!
Ash had the servants clean up his armor and garments. All the fighting he had done in the Great Hunt had caked layers and layers of blood and otherworldly guts over him. As didn't think presenting yourself before a god in that kind of condition was conducive to remaining alive in its presence.
He decided to explore the city before his audience with Corellon. As he was walking around Nath Seldarie he happened upon a large room that was apparently used for the collection of magical items. The curator of the room, who happened to have a beard and rather plump for an eladrin, showed Ash around and pointed out the more interesting items noting their properties and powers. There was one, though, that caught Asheroth's eye. It appeared to be just a regular deck of cards.
"Why is this here? It doesn't seem to be magical at all."
"Ahhh. And that is the wonder of this particular item," said the Curator lifting it off its stand. "You are correct in saying that it does not seem to be magical. Yet here it is catalogued with so many other supremely, obviously magical items. Perhaps if we play a game you will understand."
"Wait. It's not going to imprison me somewhere, is it!? Or set me against some enemy unknown to me? I've heard stories of a deck that can do that!"
The Curator chuckled a deep rolling laugh, "Oh ho ho no! Not this deck. Though you are once again correct in assuming there is a deck of that description. No. this one is fairly harmless."
Ash took a seat opposite the Curator at a small round table. The Curator began to shuffle the cards, and Ash concentrated intently on the cards looking for any magical flashes or indications that the deck was anything but normal. The Curator dealt one card first to Ash than to himself. "Do not be shy, m'boy! Let's see it, then."
Ash flipped his card over on the table. The King of Suns. The Curator did the same. The Ten of Portals. "Oh ho ho! Looks like you won. Again?" Ash nodded.
The Curator dealt once more. Ash flipped the card over. The Queen of Dragons. The Curator flipped his card over. The Jack of Blades. "You win again. Would you like to make a small wager? I'll let you shuffle the cards, then we will each take three cards from the top of the deck. If you beat me on any of the three cards I will let you have this deck. What say you?"
Ash thought about it for a long moment. Deals and wagers had made him wary as of late. But this was Nath Seldarie. The home of Corellon. A god of good. And this was one of his servants. What could go wrong? "And if I fail to beat you?"
"Then you help me catalogue the rest of my items until your audience time. Do we have a deal?"
Ash nodded. He took the deck and shuffled it. Then he shuffled it again. And then a third time. He placed the deck in the center of the table and was about to remove his hand when he thought better of it and cut the deck for good measure.
"Are you satisfied?"
"I sure hope so," Ash said as he rubbed his hands together expectantly.
The Curator drew three cards from the deck and laid them face down on the table. Ash did likewise. then they stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity.
"Show." And Ash authoritatively flipped his first card and slammed it on the table. "Ha! Jack of Portals!"
Without looking the Curator said, "Ace of Dragons," and flipped over his first card. The Ace of Dragons.
Ash's eyes narrowed. "Okay. Beat this!" When Ash saw the card, his face fell. The Five of Dragons.
"Oh ho ho! This should be easy. Ace of Blades.". He flipped over his card. The Ace of Blades.
"Alright, old man. You show first this time."
"Old!? Well, this old man is about to get a new helper. Ace of Portals!" Ash really wasn't surprised. The Ace of Portals. Ash placed two finger on his last card and rubbed it against the table as he closed his eyes. He flipped the card over without opening his eyes and said, "Ace of Suns!"
"Well, I'll show you how to record each item and where to put them after you have." The Curator got up from the table and turned his back. Ash opened his eyes one at a time and peered down at the cards.
The last two were still there. The Curator's Ace of Portals. And his...Ace of Suns!
"Y'know, technically, it was a tie," the Curator said looking over his shoulder.
Ash smiled and walked with the Curator through the archives. As they walked together they talked of Ash's adventures, and the Curator explained the secret of the deck. Then he surprised Ash even further by giving it to him. [COLOR="rgb(47, 79, 79)"]"Perhaps you can make use of this. I would hope you would use this for good only. Small jokes and jests not withstanding."[/color]
"Thank you, uh, I never really caught your name."
"Nic'zendithas Mistletoe. But you can call me Nic."
Lucan isn't really sure how to dress to meet a god. Unfortunately, no one is giving him very useful advice.
"Just make sure my coat is brushed until it shines, and my horn is polished and sharpened," Yuri says.
"But what should I wear?" Lucan asks.
"Red," Yuri answers promptly. "Red for the revolution. Don't let the fascistic oppressors think you're weak."
Lucan wonders whether it's a good idea to let Yuri meet Corellon. He is, after all, an atheist.
"Don't listen to the Commie unicorn," Lena says. She's wearing a gown of shimmering gray. "You should dress as if for court. You'll want a long, flowing coat of teal and frothy lace, the color of foam, and silver buttons, and . . ."
Silver scales, burnished so bright they gleam like the sun . . .
Sighing, Lucan touches his armor and transforms it into his usual traveling clothes, comfortable and sturdy, a leather jacket over a deep green shirt, and dark gray breeches. The sort of clothes that blend into the deep forest. They're all clean and neat, of course, but not exactly fancy.
"You're not really thinking of meeting a god in that, are you?" Lena asks, fluttering around his head.
Lucan ignores her as he goes out to meet the others.
Just before noon, there's a light knocking at the door, and a silver-haired head pokes into the room. "Oh good, you're ready. Court is starting soon, and I was asked to bring you with me." The creature steps into the room, and gives a polite bow, long pale robes of green, blue, white, and gray not making a sound as the figure moves. "I am Labelas Enoreth of the Seldarine."
Staring at Labelas, it's hard to determine whether this creature is male or female, but as it glances over you with piercing silver eyes, it seems to light up slightly at the sight of Pavick and Aramil, particularly at Pavick's wizard robes.
"Come, we shouldn't be late." Labelas intones in either a very low female voice or a very high male voice, and the creature turns and exits the room.
The city of Nath Seldarie is not large, but the path you take doesn't feel very direct. Labelas leads you up waterfalls that form stairs of pressurized water to stand on, over arching roads made of rainbows where sentient mushrooms and turtles race and chase each other, and up tall spiral staircases of stained glass. While the path winds north, south, east, and west, it always seems to be leading you up higher, until eventually you arrive at a shimmering white tower that sparkles as if cut from diamonds. A large doorway, flanked on either side by towering oak trees that dance and sway in the light breeze stands before you. The doorway, made of intertwining sapphire roses, part soundlessly as you approach, revealing only gray fog beyond.
Labelas doesn't slow down, and leads you into the fog. Stepping through, you find that while your sight is taken away your other senses seem to suddenly come alive.
Aramil can hear the clanging of steel, and the voice of his old master Elfire Greensword instructing him. "Good, good. Now block higher, and follow it up with the lightning..."
Pavick, rather than hearing any voice, suddenly finds his taste-buds come alive with the sweet sugar of a sticky-bun, exactly like the one his mother made for him in their bakery in Fallcrest after he had been accepted as a Wizard's apprentice.
For Zyrr, the faint sounds of crickets can be heard, immediately taking his mind back to a night well over a year ago; The first night in his life he was able to drift into reverie without worrying about whether or not his allies would try to slit his throat during his meditation.
For Asheroth, the faint smell of old leather and mulled cider fill his nostrils; the smell that he had come home to nearly every day of his childhood as his father sipped cider and re-arranged the books of his shop, telling young Asheroth stories of the great empire his people once held.
The Shepherd heard nothing, tasted nothing, but felt a cool mountain breeze blowing on his skin, clean and fresh. The breeze wasn't one he had ever felt while tending his sheep, but from a time long before that...
For Lucan, two senses seemed to battle with one another. One was the sound of clear singing, the voice of his mother when he was young and living in the forest, the songs that had taken hold in his mind and his soul. The other sense was on his stomach, where he could feel the piles of coins he had made for a bed.
As Eltain passed through the fog, he felt a slight tingling on his cheek, and in his eyes. From out of the fog a voice floated to him, a voice he had heard in his soul his entire life, but that he could now hear as clear as a trumpet. "You are my Chosen, the instrument that I will use to save the world."
Though the memories seem to last for ages, your feet barely take two steps before you find yourself stepping out of the fog into the room beyond. A large round table dominates the center of the room, surrounded by Fey and humanoid creatures of all shapes and sizes. Many you don't recognize, but for those who have studied the Seldarine names seem to jump out at you: Hanali Celanil, guardian of young lovers; Solonor Thelandira, the Great Archer; the feathered elf Aerdrie Faenya; the mischievous Erevan Ilesere... It's almost as if you had stepped into some sort of story book, seeing the faces and namesakes for so many elven parables and fairytales.
Around you, the room makes no logical sense as to how it could exist, yet somehow it does. Walls are made of intertwining tree-branches, flowing streams, glass and gems of every color. The chandeliers above look to be held up by waves of solid sound blasted from silver trumpets, played by angels flying around the ceiling in mesmerizing patterns.
Below you, the floor looks to be made of very thin fog, and through the fog you can see the whole of the feywild stretched out below you, parts still pristine, parts blackened and burned from the war that has ravaged the land over the last year.
However, in spite of all these amazing things to look at, your gazes are magnetically drawn to the dais at the far end of the room where three figures sit. In the center, a tall eladrin male with golden blond hair, golden glyph markings, and robes of deep blue and silver reclines on a thrown of raw magical energy. His face seems to radiate and brighten the entire room, and his eyes seem to sparkle with magic and power. Seated next to him is an elven woman whose age seems impossible to gage. Her features appear young, but her eyes look to be as old as any creature you've ever seen. Her dark hair cascades down behind her, and an ivory colored body is clearly visible under a diaphanous gown of moonbeams.
Even if you hadn't been in Arvandor, or seen the splendor of Nath Seldarie, or seen the angels that hover near the pair, you feel like you would have recognized them. The aura of awe and power and beauty could belong to none except Corellon Larethian and Sehanine Moonbow.
Seated next to the pair of dieties is a third figure, whose presence you would have immediately noticed had she been in any other company. At first glance, the figure looks to be a dryad, but the way her eyes sparkle and the waves crashing around her feet hint that there is something much more to this being who seems to radiate her own power, even in the wake of the gods of Arvandor. However, it is not until you see the seashell with a spiral glowing in bright blue on the head of the dryad that you recognize it as the Avatar of Melora.
From across the room, the god Corellon looks up, and motions you to step forward. "Welcome, my children."
Asheroth steps forward, places his right hand on his chest and bows to on knee. As he does his armor shifts to look like porcelain plate gilded in gold and silver, crimson flame designs playing on the gauntlets, greaves, chest and shoulders. A long crimson cape flows from his back. Asheroth lifts his eyes but does not stand.
"Corellon Larethian, Sehanine Moonbow, Meloran Avatar and the Seldarine present, we thank you for your most gracious invitation. Asheroth Durant, your humble servant. We are gladdened to have the honor and pleasure of being worthy to enter your presence. Whatever assistance we might be able to give in this crucial time, you shall have it."
Ash rises and returns to his original place in line by the Shepherd.
When beckoned to step forward, Aramil obliges and then kneels. When he realizes that Eltain delayed long enough for Asheroth and Lucan to introduce themselves first, he gently pushes the paladin forward.
Even in the state he's in, Eltain cannot help but be moved by the sheer beauty of Nath Seldarie, or amazed at the presence of Labelas Enoreth as their guide. One of the Seldarine themselves, fetching them!
When the voice speaks in his head, Eltain is barely able to understand that there even are words to it as the pain of his failure is washed away utterly by the sheer, utter joy that spreads through every corner of his soul at the sound of his god's voice. When the veil parts and he stands before Corellon and the Seldarine, the broken, frightened Eltain of mere moments ago seems utterly erased as he walks forward boldly, stopping mere feet before his god and dropping to one knee, his head bowed in respect even as his eyes look up in utter joy. No beauty the multiverse offered could compare to the sight before him at this moment, to the unearthly beauty, grace and splendor of Corellon himself. He feels as if any moment his very soul must shatter from the feelings of joy and contentment that ripple through his being, and for the first time in a long while the air around him isn't even chilled by his presence. A tear born of happiness and awe spills down his cheek to splash on the floor as he speaks.
"My lord. I..." His voice breaks, his body shaking. "All my life I have longed to look upon you, to hear your voice. And now... Thank you." He closes his eyes and steels himself. "I beg your forgiveness for my failure to protect the members of Zyrr's crew and my failure to be able to save the captives we went in search of. I'm sorry I failed you." He takes a deep breath and collects himself.
"We had gone in search of a missing friend of Asheroth's. Pavick tracked the destination of a portal the ones who'd kidnapped her had used and we went there by spelljammer. What we found there was an illusion concealing an enormous armada formed by the devils in a remote area of the Astral Sea. We barely escaped from Baalzebul's clutches with our lives. From what we heard, Graz'zt has secretly been working for Asmodeus all along and they're planning to reignite the Blood War."
Stepping out of the fog, it took Pavick a moment to take it all in. The beauty of the room filled with so many characters of fable. He looked around accounting for each one mentally before going on to the next. When his eyes finally fell upon the gods, he was shocked it had taken him so long to look in their direction. The presence was so powerful, that he fell to his knee at first sight. All evidence of Pavick's false bravado was washed away here, for he knew even with all the magic he was now capable of, it was nothing in comparison to these gods. He wasn't sure if he could say anything worthy of their ears, but felt he had to say something. He opened his mouth, and a simple "Thank you," stumbled out at barely more than a whisper.
He glanced down at his wrist, and saw that Slick was still buried deep in his sleeve. He brings his arm up to his mouth and whispers in, "Come out Slick, show some respect." The tiny serpent wriggles down so that half of his body was sticking out of his hiding place, and his head bows reverently.
At Eltain's words the three gods exchange looks with one another. "Well that would explain it..." Melora's avatar mutters, even as she eyes Slick curiously. Sehanine nods, and turns back to the group that had just entered, motioning you to stand before the dais.
As you step forward, one of the Seldarine steps forward and moves to intercept Zyrr, shaking her head as the Drow approaches Corellon. The woman, dressed in shimmering azure robes from head to toe with a long veil hiding her face places a hand on Zyrr's arm as if to lead him away. Before she can do so, Corellon clears his throat slightly, and the woman turns as if she had been shocked before quickly taking her seat and allowing the group to pass.
Approaching the dais, you realize that the gods in front of you are larger than you expected. While Corellon had appeared to be a tall Eladrin, it seems now that he towers over 15 feet above you, yet somehow you're still speaking to him at eye-level. The sensation is odd, and the more you think about it the more your brain starts to hurt, yet before you become too distracted, Corellon speaks. "Six days ago, one of the angels in the service of Asmodeus came to us requesting our presence at a godsmeet."
"There has not been a call for a full godsmeet since the Raven Queen ascended..." the Avatar muttered again, as Sehanine begins strumming her fingers on the throne. "The defenders of the Feywild arrive in Arvandor after escaping the devil's armada, the holy steed of the Arkerynsuoress returns to his Astral home bearing marks of fiendish weapons, and suddenly Asmodeus wishes to speak with the gods..."
Corellon looks past the party, through the floor and to the Feywild far below, scarred and burning with the signs of war. A single tear rolls down the face of the god of beauty and magic as he sits deep in thought. "My children slaughter each other and the fey-lands, but I cannot allow the Blood War to start again." He looks back to the group in front of him, gazing intently at each of you. He tilts his head thoughtfully at the Shepherd and Lucan, but pauses as he looks at Zyrr. For a long moment, he looks into the eyes of the Dark Elf, before turning to glance at Sehanine. The pair exchange a slight nod, before Sehanine gives Zyrr a smile that seems to radiate moonlight over the drow.
Corellon continues looking over the group, considering Asheroth briefly before his gaze comes to a rest on Pavick, Aramil, and Eltain. He places a hand on Eltain's shoulder, but his eyes go to all three of you, his voice the sound of a thousand waterfalls. "This war must end. The drow and the Formorians will tear the feywild to pieces while the Fey battle each other. I need you to end it."
"I wish you to end it with no fey lives lost, the drow renouncing their spider queen forever, the Formorians wiped out of existence, and the Court of Stars reunited in perfect harmony forever." Corellon pauses, and gives Aramil a wink. "But even gods can't get all that they wish." Corellon gives a small chuckle.
Behind him, Sehanine's face twists into a wry grin. "I think Melora and I are having an impact on you. 10,000 years ago you would have never made a joke like that."
Corellon turns back to Aramil. "To answer your question honestly, we three are of differing minds. Sehanine is of the opinion that the drow must be stopped at all cost, before they can take Senailesse and Shinaelestra. Melora seems to think that once the Winter Courts are free of the leadership of Prince of Frost and the Bramble Queen, the fey can unite to drive back the dark elves." At the mention of the Bramble Queen, the waves on Melora's avatar begin rising in intensity. "I agree that the Winter and Green fey are needed in the fight, but I am not convinced that the Prince of Frost is lost to us. His heart has frozen, but I think it may still be thawed.
Across the great hall, debates have broken out with different factions arguing the merits of each plan. Corellon lets the discussion continue a moment, before raising his hand for silence.
"As you can see, this is a discussion that is dear to the hearts of the Seldarine. If the drow are stopped, the last chance to unite the Fey courts may die along with the lost ones. If the fey delay battling the forces of evil, the Feywild may fall under dominion of the spider." From around the hall cries against the "great traitor" rise as Lolth is mentioned, and the woman in Azure turns her gaze again to Zyrr. Again, Corellon holds up his hand and the hall reverts back to silence. "And if you try to unite the fey, will it be by the sword, or by pleas for reconciliation?" As if to emphasize his point, Corellon draws his own weapon, a longsword of lighting and radiant light that glows brighter than the noonday sun.
Still seated on her throne, Sehanine looks down at the party. "You, great heroes, have seen the wickedness of the drow and winter alike. What say you in our great argument?"
Corellon's touch is almost too much for Eltain to bear, the touch of his god's hand nearly reducing him to tears. Here was something he had longed all his life for, but he did not deserve it. But he would. He swears in his mind to both himself and Corellon that he will make himself worthy of it. He remains quiet as the gods speak, mulling over the situation in his mind before offering his opinion.
"I too believe that it's not too late for the Prince of Frost, and I know we can get him on our side if we approach things right. He's fallen to evil, yes, but I don't believe he's truly gone; and it's said even still that he's a man of honor. Right now he wishes to rule the Feywild and its inhabitants. He will not let either be destroyed by an invasion if we make the situation clear to him. He'll work with us and order his forces to do so as well. And many in the Winter an Green Courts fight out of loyalty, not antagonism. I've seen the state of the people. They will join our side." He pauses, stroking his chin. "The Bramble Queen is less certain, but whether she follows the Prince's lead or needs to be taken out of play, we can work with either." He looks uncomfortable for a moment before continuing, uncertain if he should mention what he says next.
"I've asked some of the members of the Order of the Azure Star to look into the movements of the drow, so we may be able to find some information on their plans to try to stop them with as little bloodshed as possible on any side." He swallows, then makes up his mind, speaking quietly to keep the rest of the room from hearing, forcing himself to look Corellon in the eyes. "...I'm working on the 'renouncing the Spider Queen' thing. A lot of people are. We don't believe that they are beyond redemption either. It's just... Hard. The church is against us, and most believe even you are against us."
"The Prince may be turned, but not yet. Not while he sits untouched in his impregnable fortress and Tiandra stands frozen in primal ice within her own palace in Senaliesse. Any attempt to reconcile before the threat to him by the Drow is clear would prove fruitless, I believe, and until they are battered by a two-front war the Winter and Green Courts will stand with him, almost without a doubt. Even if he was to agree, his ambition is such that I have no doubt that he would use his power and guile to turn it into a political victory for himself."
Pavick rose, but still found himself having some difficulty looking directly at the gods standing before him. He found himself in the difficult position of not agreeing with the god he'd worshipped his whole life, and not sure how to tactfully bring up the matter.
"The Prince has chosen his path, and numerous atrocities have been committed at his command. Even if he is capable of being turned, do those foul deeds mean nothing? The entire feywild has been injured by his arrogance and destructive acts. In fact, I would argue he has done more to injure the feywild than any since the demon spider herself. I say cut out the cancer and reunite the feywild to fight off the drow threat."
"I did not say or even suggest that he could be redeemed this very instant. Or that he should not pay for his crimes. But the price of everything need not be instant death. People are different from devils, Pavick. He was very different than he is now once. Love gone wrong turned him to darkness, but he was not born of evil. Killing devils is one thing, but if we mindlessly slaughter everyone we disagree with we're as much a force of ugliness in the world as those we oppose." He ponders.
"No, we put him in a place he wants to be in, or at least that he'll think he does. He'll cooperate. He's not a fool. We talk to him. We make him realize the threat to the Feywild. He'll realize that if he continues his war against the rest of the Feywild there won't be anything left; and he will not abide the thought of the Fey being defeated by their enemies. A threat to the Feywild is a threat to him, Aramil. Its destruction would destroy his ambitions. Those who already oppose him in the Winter and Green Courts will turn easily to our side, those who side with him will cheerfully follow him. If he has any sense after the drow and formorian threats are stopped, he'll contain his allies and they'll ride the good will they've created politically rather than attempt to continue the war with their forces even more depleted than before. He wants a unified Feywild. So we unite it. On our own terms." He smirks.
"Use his power and his ego against him, and he'll find himself in a position where he's got more to gain by falling in line and behaving. Perhaps we can even convince him that Tiandra's leadership is needed in this." He taps his fingers lightly on his armor. "We could gain a powerful ally if we play our cards right. One who already knows the strengths and weaknesses of the Winter Court and much about the Green Court as well. Further, if you wish to eliminate anyone, the Bramble Queen seems a more sensible target. The Prince can be reasoned with. I've no reason to believe she can be. Her sins are as bad and even worse than his in some cases. She's the real wild card here, not the Prince. We should listen to Corellon's wisdom and take the opportunities to create beauty that we can."
"I know none of you have looked at all into the moods of the Winter Court and that none of you had any awareness of what I've been doing the last year. Many in the Winter and Green Courts oppose what their leadership does. Many fighting in the war do so out of duty to their lands, not to the Prince of Frost or the Bramble Queen. He knows that. I've been a thorn in his side long enough that he's well aware of what goes on and how many stand against him openly and how many support the rebellion's cause quietly. His court is divided. He'll talk to us because he'll want to know what could possibly be so important that I of all people would come to him directly." He sighs.
"We'll have to get close to him to talk. At least try a diplomatic solution first. If he won't be moved, we can try to eliminate him, though I doubt our success in that at the moment and argue with the choice of target." He snows lightly, knowing at heart that his words will, as ever, fail to register with his companions and be rejected and that he'll fail Corellon once again. He tries to resist the urge to fall to his knees and beg forgiveness immediately and only barely succeeds.
Corellon looks down at Eltain and gives a smile of support. But Sehanine taps her fingers on the throne in irritation, each finger sending out small bursts of light. "I'm not certain you all know what devastation the dark elves could unleash on the feywild, scars that may never heal." She pauses, and turns to look at Asheroth and Zyrr.
"You are Zyrr'dellin, yes? You are as familiar with the drow as any, what do you say to all this?" Her gaze shifts slightly to Asheroth. "I would also be interested in hearing the opinion of an outsider who has not yet been involved in this war."
Once the group enters the court of gods, Zyrr dearly wishes he had worn his mask for the occasion. Now there is nothing to conceal the jaw-dropping awe he has for the building itself and the two-point-something gods sitting at a triad of thrones. This completely ruins that "seen one divine realm, seen 'em all" joke he came up with when dressing for court.
When the seldarine in azure grabs his arm, the drow sighs and calmly waits to be put in shackles, but is just as surprised as his prospective captor when He-Who-Cursed-Us calls her off. Even so, he has enough presence of mind to disdainfully brush his arm off before continuing his approach.
Zyrr bows as he is presented to the divine three. It doesn't escape his notice that there are in fact three seats for the gods, and he briefly wonders about the odds that one was brought in specifically for Melora's avatar. He isn't sure what to make of the gods' seeming hesitation about his presence, so he decides to assume the most logical reason. "It shouldn't surprise you to learn I was taught at a very young age that if I should ever find myself in this situation I should stab you in the eye" he nods to Corellon "for casting us out of your sight, and cut out your tongue" he then nods to Sehanine "for the poisonous words that turned Corellon against Lolth and her children." He pauses, keeping an eye on the azure-clad woman, until any fears that he plans to do exactly that have passed. "And now that I'm here, you give me a warmer welcome than my dear mother. So it just so happens that I have no desire for your eyes or tongues. It is exactly this hospitality and kinship that keeps hope alive for the elven races to be reunited. ...Not to exclude you, Melora. You might be pleased to know that you are the one surface goddess my people consistently understand; people pray to you because of both what might happen if they do and what might happen if they don't."
He looks down at his clasped hands when it comes time for him to chip in on the current debate. "But as hopeful as this situation is, I entertain no illusions that the eladrin armies meeting the drow with picnic baskets and open arms will have any sort of peaceful resolution. The winter fey, at least, know that they are fighting on their homelands and thus will have to help clean up after the mess they make. And if the winter fey are fighting largely out of loyalty, well... like it or not, this civil war needs to end soon. I understand that you don't like killing your own kin, but the war will be just as over with the appointment of a new, sympathetic lord of winter as with a reformed Prince of Frost. Even so, whether we talk him down or strike him down, we'll need to reach him."
Avatar gladly adopted from Ink!
Asheroth crosses his arms and holds his chin with his right hand. His brow furrows, and he studies a spot on the ground as if images were playing across it. He takes a step forward. "If I might offer my opinion."
"Noble aims, and each have their merits. I guess the question is, which do you value higher? If we go to stop the drow first, we may be able to thwart their invasion without much death. Saving drow, elf and eladrin lives in the process. I fear this or any violence against them wil sour the dark elves against us and our attempts to have them renounce the Spider Queen. There may be some drow who would leave Lolth's fold in light of their defeat and pleas for reconciliation, but that number would pale in comparison to the whole population. My thought is that those who turned would mostly be males. Those in power like to stay in power. The priestesses would fear that their power would be stripped and their society made to look like the majority of the other races. Males in power. I cannot fathom whether we alone or a larger coalition of the elves and eladrin would sway the drow more to give up the Spider Queen. I mean to say, this has been their way of life for thousands of years. It may take more than a strong plea to change their minds." Asheroth takes a breath and sighs.
"If we go after the Prince of Frost and Bramble Queen, we will need to find a way past his defenses. Before we set out on our current adventure, I suggested using hellfire. It would obviate the Prince's defenses and turn the tables in our favor. As it so happens we happened upon some information that may help. Mephistopheles has been stripped of his rank and his troops. His standing in the Courts of Hell is tenuous at best. That may give us some leverage on the Lord of Cania. I know that assisting or dealing with an archdevil is abhorrent to most here, but Mephistopheles is in a weakened position with much to lose. I don't know whether my thinking is misguided, but I would like to believe that devils can repent of their evil ways and revert to their old natures if not their old forms. He Who Was cursed their forms, and I believe their minds evolved to fit their new forms. It follows that if this is true, they can find the former selves they used to be.
If he had a shot at redemption and regaining power by assisting in our assault on the Prince's fortress and the War in the Feywild, Mephistopheles might be willing to assist us. And the planes might be that much closer to reversing Asmodeus' betrayal." Asheroth looked around sure there were faces agape all around him. "Not that it would be an easy sell, but I think it's worth a try."
"Short of employing hellfire, I would say using the drow invasion to sway the Prince of Frost would be a good idea. And without the Prince and the Bramble Queen it will probably be extremely difficult to stop the dark elves. It could be done though. With the right plan and execution."
Asheroth turns to Eltain. "I find your lack of faith disturbing, Eltain. You speak of instant death not being the price for everything, yet you slaughtered Zorella like an animal just a week ago. You say devils are different, like they can't change. Maybe not, but I will not give up on them, as you will not give up on the Prince of Frost!" Asheroth steps back from Eltain eyes wide. "I'm sorry, my friend. I've been thinking long and hard about this since we arrived in Arvandor, and I feel like the devils have the ability to change their nature. To be redeemed, as well. I did not mean to take it out on you. Forgive me."
"I make it; you buy it."
Last edited by Orsik Vondal : 11-19-2012 at 10:49 PM.