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Despite his best efforts, Retay is growing agitated. I've heard a lot about this army from the others, but Aeroz puts it in an entirely different perspective... The Vilholn Reach, I'm sure I've heard of that from some traveller or another, I really must pay more attention to those people. So Hlondeth is there? Gods, the army is in Hlondeth and Cormanthor and Rashemen? This is worse than I could ever have imagined...
"Hlondeth lies countless leagues away, across Lake Ashane, all of Thesk, and the entire Sea of Fallen Stars. What concern is it of mine should the Emerald City fall?"
He leans farther forward, speaking more softly.
"Furthermore, if this artifact is as powerful as you suggest, why would I want such a thing to fall into the Serpent Queen's hands? It is bad enough that the thing has fallen into a necromancer's hands. Why should Rashemi blood be spilled to simply transfer the item from one abomination's hands into another's?"
He leans back in his throne and gazes at your group, perhaps looking for a more persuasive argument for his involvement in what he clearly sees as an alien affair.
Fizahn's look cycle changes slightly to incorporate annoyance. His voice once more enters it's generally used sarcastic tones. "Yes, Aeroz. Thank you so much for listening carefully to all my suggestions and using them all to devastating effect. I am so glad that the Rashemen are allied with us now, and we can retire to a life of luxury. Look Aeroz, this man is a king. King! He's not going to listen to you just because you are using a deep gruff voice that is similar to an older brother. You need to convince him that he will benefit greatly from all this! Just give me a second." Fizahn looks at the king and swallows nervously. "Garl please don't let me doom us all." He takes a tiny step up and tries to force all the nervousness and fear out of his voice. "As I have not been personally approached by the serpent queen or nay of her vassals to forge an alliance, I would just like to point out that allying with her does not necessarily mean she will obtain the artifact. Furthermore, even if she does get it, she has no designs on your lands, being across the sea and everything, but Sethra obviously wants to conquer them. I believe that this has been indicated by the ghouls conquering one of your outposts. Also, I would like to say that yes, it will be necessary to combat Sethra underground. I know for a fact that his ghoul armies happen to be using the Underdark as passageways. They also don't need to rest while marching, unlike your soldiers who will eventually need to rest, I'm sure that they are strong enough to go many days without rest, but they will need to some time. His forces also increase with each of your brave and powerful warriors that he slays. The situation is much more dangerous than you believe it to be. I hope that goes over well. Did I throw in enough compliments? I probably could have thrown in more...
"You mentioned that Sethra had lost the element of surprise--I don't think he ever expected to have it. He knows that we are working against him, and he knows that we are in this area. I'm sure that he knew we'd be coming here. The fact that he didn't even see fit to stop us should indicate the confidence with which he approaches."
A slow grin spreads across his face as he changes tactics, appealing instead to the barbarians' attitudes toward conflict.
"Besides, isn't the best victory one in which you face a foe who thinks himself more powerful than you? Isn't one of the greatest thrills of battle to see the sneer of pride wiped from his face as you overwhelm him and drive him into the ground? Sethra hasn't stopped us because he believes we don't need to be stopped. He is counting on the fact that you will not work with the Serpent Queen. He's walking on thin ice, and it would take little more than a simple treaty to shatter it right under his feet."
His mouth opens slightly, but then he thinks better of it and stays silent. Oh yes, an argument well made by Khazrael. Didn't they just say there were a lot of ghouls? More than enough to wipe out this Hlondeth and all these rashy men. They've got no hope either way. I just hope we get to rest soon.
The Iron Lord rubs his chin thoughtfully then smiles. His teeth are straight and white.
"Gnome and ... man-bird, you may have some good points buried within your attempts at glib flattery. But a few dozen ghouls do not an invading army make."
He holds up the scroll that had been taken from Aeroz, Elthan, and Callos.
"This scroll confirms at least some of your and the elf's words. Hlondeth is under siege by advance forces of the Army of Darkness, and the Serpent Queen believes that you may be able to deliver the key to saving her city, if Rashemen aids you."
"If the threat is as dire as you claim, then Rashemen must act, but before I commit the forces of my fyrra I will require proof that this necromancer of whom you speak truly threatens my people."
He was disappointed by the (too) measured reaction of the Lord to his words. Sure, he hadn't asked directly for help, but he has no clue if he was entitled to speak for the whole of the Great Dale, and the ruler was smart enough to understand the implicit plea for help...
Then he realizes he was obsessing about the army in the Dale and forgot an element of great importance. He whispers to the closest person to him - which happen to be Tiriel : "The vampires ! We forgot about them !"
Trying to getting you to speak, kuja
__________________ My old characters (I don't game on this board anymore) --- Avatar by Castaras
"Even gods must learn to control their tempers, lest they set a bad example."
The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Steven Erikson
Anika steps forward and bows deeply to the Iron Lord. "Your Lordship, I believe I may have the proof you require. While in Hlondeth, I and my two companions were hired by an elegant, mysterious masked woman. I can only assume she was Rashemi, as she had the same manner and accent of speech as Your Lordship's people. We were to retrieve the evil artifact known as the Kris of Sethra from a Thayan envoy also in Hlondeth. This Kris When we had acquired the artifact, we were to travel to Telflamm and wait until we were contacted there. We successfully gained the Kris and guarded it until we reached Telflamm. Along the way, chance brought Sheyra, one of the two last surviving heirs of Sarloc, ancient enemy of Sethra, to me and my companions. She was a refugee from the war in Mulhorand, and had managed to escape those who would abduct her and hold her for ransom. Although she and I eventually parted ways, we met again in Telflamm, after an arduous journey through the Underdark, where we were forced to travel by that same war between Mulhorand and Unther. In Telflamm, in Sheyra's home, we were contacted by a masked woman, but not the same one as before unless I miss my guess. When she removed her mask, she was the twin of Sheyra. Thinking she was a friend of our previous employer, we left the Kris with her, to be stored in her protective vaults. In return she gave us her mask and orders to go to a Rashemi hathran named 'Lady Yhelbruna,' who I assume was our previous employer. We were told to go to Your Lordship, and that Your Lordship would lead us to 'Lady Yhelbruna.' It was a grave mistake indeed, to have left the Kris with Sheyra, for it was not until we were well upon our way to Rashemen that we discovered that Sheyra had been possessed by the evil necromancer Sarloc, who had used his necromantic magic to store his soul in a fire opal before he died, and when his prison was opened, he transferred his soul into a living man, taking possession of the man's body and forcing the man's mind into the opal. He continued in this manner, abandoning one body and possessing another, until he came upon Sheyra. When he possessed her, he knew that she was the last descendent of his mortal enemy and believed his victory was assured. Sethra's undead minions, raised by his Kris, pursued us all the way to Your Lordship's esteemed country; we faced--and fled--vampires, armies of walking skeletons and corpses, ghouls, and even people that seemed human, but cast no shadow. We barely escaped with our lives by running away. Some of us, including one of my companions, did not even keep their lives.
"Sethra's army is extensive and powerful, and includes human (or not-so-human) magic-users as well as hordes upon hordes of undead. He has already conquered many well-defended cities, among them the elven city of Myth Drannor. Hlondeth, too, may soon fall. Sethra himself can invade a person's body and absorb their memories, to act as that person without detection, until a better host comes along. He might already have destroyed Sheyra and her twin, Sarloc's heirs, so as to make his victory complete for himself--victory in eventually conquering all of Faerun, and victory in finally destroying the last remnants of Sarloc's influence."
(OOC: Holy crap, long speech. Anika probably hasn't said this many words in a row in years. )
Anika's outburst is stunning to most of you, mostly because the reserved mistress-of-disguise has hardly ever spoken more than two or three words at a time for as long as you have known her. Lissa's eyes are as round as saucers and her mouth dangles open in amazement.
Anika's speech has an even more electric effect on the Iron Lord however. He sits upright, clenching his large hands into fists on the arms of his massive throne.
"The mask you speak of. Do you have it?"
When Anika produces the mask and hands it to a retainer who in turn passes it to the Iron Lord, the entire chamber erupts into angry shouts. The cries echo and are amplified by the arched vaults of the chamber, creating a deafening roar. Fists and weapons are raised, calling for blood.
The Iron Lord is on his feet, the Hlondethi scroll in one hand, the porcelain mask in the other.
Instantly, the several hundred assembled fyrra and their captains fall silent and drop to one knee.
"Send word to the Citadel and assemble the armies of the North. In three days, we go to war!"
On bended knee, the berserkers shout as one, "HUHRONG!" striking the shafts of their weapons on the floor. Once again, the room trembles.
Without another word, the Iron Lord sweeps out of the chamber, trailed by his honor guard.
The other Rashemi file out through various archways along the periphery of the chamber.
The Rashemi captain is again by your side. His manner has changed subtly. The tone of his voice remains firm, but is much more respectful. For the first time, he introduces himself.
"I am Sigurd Sigurdsson. Please come with me. You must be hungry and tired."
You are led to a dining hall. Long tables run the length of the hall. Colorful banners hang from the rafters.
A simple but hearty meal has been laid out for you - bread, cheese, cold meats, and wine.
Sigurd taps one of the bottles of wine. "Jhuild," he says with a smile and a wink towards Tryntha.
Elthan does not put much of anything on his plate, in fact nothing at all, the thought of being silent throughout the proceedings enough to loss his appetite if the regret brought up from Tiriels words was not enough to already do so. There didn't seem as if there was much he could do to gain their forgiveness.
Observing the small amount of wine in cup, he looks down as he speaks, avoiding the gaze of his companions. "As weakly as that began, it ended rather well. That was.. very well done Anika," he says giving a quick glance to her before looking back at his cup again. "Callos, perhaps now would be a good time to take out those rings and examine them. Prozen mentioned each had some additional function."
Originally Posted by erikun
Aww, a griffin! Cute!
Originally Posted by Collin152
If griffin-hugs are going around, I want in on them!
Avery: What are you, some kind of grammar nazi?
Millie: Yep. I've just invaded Grammar Czechoslovakia and duped Grammar Neville Chamberlain, and now it's off to Grammar Poland and Grammar World Conquest!!
When the furor breaks out at after Anika presents the mask, Damian instinctively ducks low behind Retay, his hand reaching to the scroll in his belt. He relaxes when the Rashemi file out of the room, but he still endeavors to keep insignificant.
He browses around and picks some of the food to eat, and then goes over to Aeroz. "Don't feel frustrated. You tried. I did try to warn that the Iron Lord would not want to believe what you were saying. At least it worked out for the best."
Tiriel is surprised by her friend's long speech and proud as well. Anika's explanation was much better than anything she could have done. Tiriel can't help but sadly remember the events that have lead up to this place and the companions and friends that have perished along the way. When you break it down, all it took was getting a porcelain mask into the hands of the Iron Lord with a good explanation. I wonder what the mask, and the woman who wore it, means to them. Something important obviously.
Once the captain Sigurd, leaves Tiriel turns to Anika and hugs her in a rare show of affection and joy. "We did it! Now there's at least some hope."
ooc: cheesy post :P
Anika seems as surprised at her speech as everyone else is. She absently thanks Retay and Elthan, and heads over to the food on the table. She stacks a few slices of meat and cheese between two slices of bread and carries her food over to watch Callos examine the rings. "These rings must be magical if Elthan wants you to look at them; what are they supposed to do?"
A second question occurs to her, and she calls over to Tryntha. "Tryntha, why is the mask I had so important to the Iron Lord? I know nothing of Rashemi culture..."
The wood elf, not having known Anika for very long in any of her aliases, was only somewhat surprised by her speech. What interested him, however, was the mask that held so much stock in Rashemi culture. He was about to ask Tryntha before Anika opened her mouth what significance it held, but held his tongue and helped himself to a piece of meat while waiting for her response.
Fizahn smirks a little when the Iron Lord says his suggestion had merit, but his face looked glum aside from the self-confident smirk. This is not going according to plan. He shrugs as Anika steps up. "I gave it a try, you might as well." His jaw drops as she begins her long speech. She doesn't talk that much! I talk that much. It tries to drop further when the Iron Lord responds so quickly and passionately. "Well, we can't all have show-stopping trump card masks like that." He goes to eat dinner and sits next to Callos. He eats an extremely large quantity of food for someone of his size. His ears perk up and a roguish grin crosses his face as he hears Elthan mention 'rings' to Callos. "What's he talking about Callos? Perhaps a way to leave this place rich and prosperous, or at least less poor?"
He helps himself to the food, and tucks in with surprisingly good table manners. He ignores the others for the most part, focusing his attention on the wine and meat before him. But when they mention rings, he stiffens a little. Rings? He swallows his mouthful.
Pray tell, good sirs, what rings be these? he says oddly politely.
Tanner continues to keep silent, praying to Gond for intervention. It grows more difficult when each member of the group continues to chime in, unwarranted. That is until Anika speaks. With the fervor instilled by the many-faced one, Tanner's will manages to keep him from whipping into a frenzy like the Rashemi, for he understands the significance of the mask all too well.
"Praise the Maker," Tanner says after the verdict is given by the Iron Lord.
After thanking Sigurd in his native tongue, Tanner waits for everyone to be seated before sitting himself. He breaks bread and wine with the others, listening intently to each of them. When the question of the mask and the Hathran is queried, Tanner adds, "The Hathran - or Witches of Rasheman as they are more commonly known - are powerful spellcasters. It is said that they are tied so closely to their homeland, that no force may best them when they are on their native soil. When the Sisters travel outside Rasheman, it is then when the ritualistic mask is worn to conceal their faces." Tanner chews for a moment in thought then considers, "Although I am no expert, I have heard talk of a group of Rashemi that are like night to the Hathran's day. They, too, wear masks, but unlike the Hathran, they deal with dark spirits. Either way, the mask presented does not bode well for the current situation."
Tanner washes down his food with a sip of the potent wine, "Now that we are safe...for the moment at least, what are everyone's plans? Granted, some of us may be conscripted into the service of the Iron Lord to perform some quest, but what is it each of you would like to do in the near future besides eat, rest, and identify rings?"
Khazrael slumps low in blissful repose, full for the first time in weeks and feeling the pleasant effects of a good amount of wine for the first time in much, much longer. He considers Tanner's question for a moment.
"Depends on how much time we get before we're called to action again. There's no way I'm gonna miss out on a chance to put a stop to Sethra and his allies if I can...especially his allies. Until then, I just want to cool my heels and pick up some new gear. I'm not exactly chilly, but people look at you funny when you walk in out of a frozen wasteland without so much as a shirt on your back."
He gives his wine a sip and furrows his brow.
"Thanks for pullin' our asses out of the fire, Anika. I was running out of ideas and starting to think he wasn't gonna listen to reason."
The necromancer just sort of shifted to the background as the others went to speak to the Iron Lord, it probably was for the best anyway since he was not the most...polite of individuals. But he did, rather courteously at that, turn down the hathran woman's invitation to examine his arm to try and heal it more.
At the hearty feast Callos dug in with more then a little bit of relish. Breads and meats disappeared down his gullet with a startling ferocity but it didn't last too long either and soon enough he was leaning back in his chair with a content smile on his face, though a startled look came to his face when Elthan spoke up about the rings.
...Note to self, Elthan does not equal discrete...
So with a sigh he pulled himself more up right and looked around the table slowly as if to gauge everyone's reaction to the news of rings and takes note of them. Especially Grynde and Fizahn whom he glared at before growling out in a distinctly Lumpy-like fashion. "Keep your hands on the table Fizahn, I know how curious you gnomes can get and you wouldn't want to find something...unpleasant because it got the best of you."
Warning given, he sighed once more and reached to pull out the case he had carried from Hlondeth and set it on the table in front of himself. "Look, I really don't mean to give any offense but I've had too much experience with being betrayed since the Underdark so forgive me if I'm a bit paranoid. We were given a set of rings in Hlondeth that should repel Sethra's influence if he tries to possess the wearer and also holds another unknown ability as well. These could be a huge boon but with Sethra's habit of sleeping among us or of various people running off and getting killed or leaving, I don't think I can just hand these out not until I have seen someone's determination to see things through and that your...not unclean. That said, whats the harm in showing them? Please don't approach and make me edgy though, like I said it's nothing personal."
Pulling out the rings and opening the case.
I will be gone from the second to the 11th and be without any computer access. Games and recruitment will obviously be on pause. Warriors & Wuxia: A community world-building project focused on low-magic wuxia/kung-fu action using ToB.
Tiriel joins the "feast," steadily making her way through generous portions of everything. Rings. Rings, what rings? We should be trying to relax while we have the chance. But as much as she'd like to relax and ignore the building talk, Tiriel pays attention to the conversation at the other end of the table.
"Watch it Callos. Some of us have been in this longer than you have. So don't push it. Unless I read your intentions wrong, this isn't about who's better, or 'clean' or whatever. It's about who's personally willing to go face Sethra and his minions. And I don't think I need to reiterate my intentions to you."
Fizahn assumes an expression of innocence. "Why Callos, you know I'd never do a thing like that! You're just typecasting anyway. Gnomes aren't all that inquisitive. Tell him Lissa." Fizahn waves his hands at Callos before carefully setting them on the table a good distance from the rings. He scowls as Callos mentions people running off, and he becomes immediately defensive. "You can't fault me for running off like that! We were in the Underdark, and it's dark and... ummm... under. Just like the name says! Plus there were fishy-men and grabbing stalactites! And it was big! And did I mention dark? Plus the screaming for help that could have easily been a gnome in trouble!"
Damian winces visibly when Tanner mentions "conscription." "This is why I hate wars with morals. I'm sure this will offend some here, but I don't risk my life for anyone for free."
He sighs. "Still, unless I miss my guess, the situation is more complicated than 'what are we going to do.' From our little speeches in there, it sounds like Rashemen is surrounded - the wastes on one side, and an encroaching army on another. Much as I would love the luxury of walking away if no one hires me, I think I'd be putting my life in just as much risk that way as well."
When Callos displays the rings, Damian looks over to him. "Callos, I know you haven't known me very long, and I can imagine that your opinion of someone whose loyalty is bought may be low - but let me explain one thing. Once I'm hired, my loyalty is absolute until my employment ends or my employer dies. Period. I could easily offer you references, although verifying them may be difficult given the current turmoil."
"And I'm built to make other people go away - quietly, or loudly. This isn't me being cocky. This is what I do. I eliminate threats. I don't doubt that Sethra is a powerful enemy - not in the least! - but I can guarantee that your chances would be improved with me along. I can hold my own against beasts such as we have faced - and those here can attest to that - but especially against a wielder of magic is where I come into my own."
Anika glances over at Khazrael. "Whatever reaction I was expecting, it wasn't that. The point I meant to make was that Sethra's army could overpowerand already had overpowered some of the most powerful magically defended cities given enough time and that Sethra himself could possess people without others knowing he was there..." She looks back to Callos and his case of unidentified rings. "Mind if I watch?"
Tryntha wisely abstains from drinking the undiluted jhuild though several of the rest of you help yourselves to both the wine and the simple but savory food.
Those of you who imbibe the "firewine" soon find yourselves feeling quite inebriated after only the first goblet. Heat rushes to your faces (as well as other parts of your body) as your blood rises. Simultaneously, a pleasing numbness spreads to your limbs. The effect is quite heady, especially for those of you unaccustomed to this Rashemi brew.
Perhaps the jhuild also has an aphrodisiac effect as well, because soon Lissa and Achkby are off canoodling in a dark corner, and Desmona begins edging her chair closer to Tanner's, smoothing her hair back with her hands and lightly resting her hand on his shoulder as she talks and giggles.
Attempting to ignore the increasingly boisterous laughter from the more drunken members of the party, Callos pulls out a flat wooden case, lays it on the table and opens it gently.
The inside of the box is lined in green velvet. The case has been divided into nine sections (three by three). Seven rings lie in the case.
You notice an extremely gaudy, jewel encrusted ring on Callos' fourth finger of his one unwrapped hand. Elthan also wears a ring, though his is a simple copper band.
The other seven rings have the following appearance:
1. A black iron octagon
2. A cloisonne ring
3. A brass ring that appears to be a snake swallowing its tail
4. A gold band with three inset rubies
5. A leather loop tied in a square knot
6. A white gold ring with an inset black pearl
7. A ring of silver filigree in the shape of a dragonfly
All of the rings are magical and emit a strong aura of abjuration. There are also more subtle auras that can be detected though not clearly identified ...