Timespan: 3rd Work 13:1208 to 3rd Work 23:1208
The group, now covered in blood and rain, look at each other in case another fight might break out with Leo and his men. The question was asked: Will the group aid Leo and go back to his encampment or will they continue to follow Rallis’ men?
Balasar Zavari gives his opinion by saying he is noble so he doesn’t like the idea of lying to the king by disguising Leo, however he understands the situation calls for a good strategy and that just may be it. Balasar has decided that he will side with Leo over the king and will protect/fight for Leo should it come to that. He feels that if there is even the slightest chance that Emperor Rallis could be Stondylus then he should not be trusted, at least not completely. Lately he is also struggling with trusting authority because of his past experience with his own men and country turning against him. He is starting to believe that if things do not change and the emperor keeps making suspicious treaties a rebellion just might be what is needed. And who better to lead that rebellion than Leo. However, this is getting ahead. At the immediate moment he wants to head back to Leo’s hide out to form and plan and possibly dry off.
Jayden is not shy and does not mind bluntly stating his opinions. He does not like being tricked or led into a trap, and although he is okay with Leo now, he is still angry at being led into an ambush. At this point he would really like to find out what is going on with the Emperor. It appeared that the Emperor was telling them the truth (or at least he himself thought he was). So if there is any chance at all that Stondylus is possessing the Emperor he would want to find that out as soon as possible. Whatever path leads to finding this out – Jayden would support. Jayden (like Thorin, he believes) is also getting worried about the final confrontation with Stondylus. As to how the group may be able to either destroy him finally or contain his spirit. Jayden is trying to discover a ritual for this… but if Leo’s people have some technology to help with this (for example trapping Stondylus in a Warforged shell, etc.) he would be up for investigating that as well. With all that being said, Jayden still has sworn a life-debt to Thorin, so will ultimately follow Thorin’s lead wherever that may be.
Kaori Shintaro is aware that Leo is a student of history, and is in a position of power at least similar to that of the Emperor. He has no great love for Rallis, again resenting the test of his language skills and all that, and the hiding of his own ability to speak Supernal, and feels much more inclined to work with Leo given his openness and seemingly good intentions. However, he is pragmatic, and wants to be sure that he’s aligning himself with someone capable of furthering his own personal interests, especially given the size of the enemy he’d potentially be making in the meantime.
“I will help you in your bid to thwart this Emperor Rallis, and will do what I can to prevent him from gaining whatever it is that he seeks, but I require your aid as well. First, I want access to your knowledge of history and your aid in researching whatever I may need. Second, I want your support, both physically and materially, in traveling to find and in obtaining a specific group of artifacts, once we manage to track them down. My only interest in the Emperor’s offer was the chance of doing just that under his patronage, and I hope that you can offer me the same to deny him the service. I’m sure you can understand the value of our working together on this… whether or not he realizes it, this Rallis may be on to something greater than us all, and I assure you that I don’t want him harnessing that power any more than you do. So do we have an agreement?”
Leo looks at Shintaro’s question and says, “If I am to aid this quest, I must be convinced of its just ends. For what purpose do you seek these artifacts? We’ve learned first-hand what mischief results from keeping secrets. Let this brotherhood forge a bond of honesty and trust that may save the world!"
The monk, Delad, having been meditating in a corner this entire time, speaks up without opening his eyes. There is no malice in his voice, only mild skepticism. “Honesty and trust, you say? This from the one whose secrets caused the mischief in question. One might suggest that such honesty would have served us all better before the attempted assassination of a world leader threw all of us into danger…ah well. Nothing can be done about the past, I suppose. Nonetheless, regardless of the origins of our Rallis predicament, a predicament we have. Although there is certainly more pressing business to attend to, I do not foresee Rallis as the type to forgive and forget; I’d rather deal with him now than have him pop up at some inopportune time and interfere with…future pursuits. An acorn is more easily dealt with than an oak, as Master Ryosuke was fond of saying.”
Though his eyes remain closed, his brow furrows slightly. “Another thing my master liked to say was that trust is broken quickly as an egg cracks, but built as slowly as it hatches. I have no concern for Shintaro’s secrets as far as they do not pertain to our quest; Nor, Leo, do I have concern for your misgivings about him. I advise we eliminate Rallis as a potential future obstacle, and we do it with either, both, or neither of these two outsiders. If they wish to gain our trust, they may come along and assist. If they would rather bicker and barter, they are a delay not worth enduring.”
One eye opens beneath an arched eyebrow. “All that aside, I don’t enjoy bleeding for longer than I have to, So I’ll follow wherever our dear Cleric decides to lead. The choice is yours, Thorin.”
Lightning-blue eyes flash angrily at the serenely seated elf from Leo, “I’d think your trust would have hatched when I saved your hide from the Underdark, or over the months that I’ve been risking my life to help you all on your quest!”
His bluster passes like a storm, his visage of strength falls away, revealing a man worn down by grief, responsibility and exhaustion. Sighing, he looks pleadingly to his comrades, “I do not blame you for your suspicion, as my actions of late appear that of an outsider. I did not involve you in my ‘predicament’ precisely to keep you out of this present danger. I did not expect to leave Geshur alive, and hold little hope of defeating Rallis’ army now. I see now, that I should have allowed my friends to choose for themselves.”
Slumping on a tree stump with his head in his hands, the companions notice how young he really is (18 now), a scared boy with the weight of many on his shoulders, “My father, Braivemor Anima and I parted with harsh words, and when I heard he was killed, I was overcome with guilt, but it has fallen to me to carry on in the defense of our people now that the Duke is gone.”
Leo conveniently draws his sight to an acorn next to him on the ground. He picks it up and, remembering himself, he stands; the air of royalty again gracing his chiseled jaw line, “An acorn before an oak, you say. If Rallis is really Stondylus, as I believe, then he may be at the very core of your quest. Neither do I doubt that our meeting Shintaro is coincidental. He is one of a handful of people on the planet who understands Supernal, and is searching for the very same artifacts as Stondylus.” Turning to Shintaro, he offers a hand to shake (even though he’s in tiger form), ‘I will aid you in your quest, trusting that you will reveal any information you deem relevant in your own timing, and I pledge the friendship of Rydelle until such a time as I am convinced your quest does evil to my people, my companions or to the world.’ With a slight smile, he adds, “At least let us outsiders stand together.”
Shintaro pauses, considering the warlord’s outstretched hand. He shifts into his shifter form, and for a moment almost seems like he is about to launch into some sort of tirade, but manages to check himself, and slowly extends his hand to shake with Leo. As they shake hands, for a brief moment he appears slightly less wild and defensive then the group has seen him before, and as he speaks he almost matches Leo’s nobility, “If that is indeed what Rallis is searching for. We shall see. But our meeting was not by chance, I agree. So I accept your offer, and the friendship of Rydelle, and in return I offer my own assistance and the friendship of Lau Jahnan.” As he releases Leo’s hand, the air of nobility is gone, and once more in character, he sneers “Until such a time when we are convinced that we do evil to one another.”
Shifting back into his tiger form he paces for a moment before settling down on his haunches and says, “With that out of the way, we still must decide what we plan to do next, and time runs short, the Emperor will be expecting us. Do we carry out his charade and attempt to learn what we can, or flee into the countryside to fight a war that we surely cannot win?”
Almost as an afterthought, he adds. “Oh yes… and who is this Stondylus you all keep carrying on about?”
After cleaning themselves up, Leo looks at Thorin out of desperation and asks, “My family has been faithful servants of Pelor for a hundred generations, many of them clerics and paladins. My father cared more about Pelor than with his children. How could Pelor allow the horrible things that have come to our family? My mother was taken by a horrible disease when we were still young. Our good king was replaced by this possessed monster and my father died by dragon bile (the most painful poison imaginable). Is that the reward Pelor gives to his followers, or is he just too weak to protect them? Why doesn’t he step in and help this world in peril?
Thorin, as if a million miles away, shakes his head and brings his attention back to Leo and says, “Leo, I understand that you are hurt and angry but don’t let the faith and service of your parents die with them. That would be a crushing blow to all that they lived for and devoted themselves to. You knew to remember that Pelor is good and he will do right by his servants. He is also the god of time. Everything needs to happen in its time. Just as the sun marks times as it journeys its designated path across the sky. So we all, including your parents, journey our designated paths. Just like when you grow crops—some produces a harvest and some wither too soon. Our lives end in tragedy or in joy but there is always the harvest of the greater good being produced. Remember, Pelor is good. He is the god of the summer. It might seem like winter to you right now but summer is coming. You need to give Pelor time. I believe, I must believe, that he will bring your family justice. We may be chosen to be those agents of justice. Please, grant Pelor and us the faith and the time to see that justice.”
Thorin shifts gears fluently from caring priest to decisive leader as he address the rest of the group, “I would like to confront Emperor Rallis as soon as possible but I do not think we should rush in like fools. If there is any chance Stondylus is involved, we need to be as prepared as possible. I do not wish to see him escape justice again to corrupt other kingdoms and destroy other lives. I believe we should go with Leo to assess the situation and our strengths. We need to be magically prepared if possible. Yes, we need to confront Rallis very soon but I think we should try to strategize as quickly as possible. We run the risk of being declared enemies of the kingdom if found with Leo but they have not proven to be our strongest friends.”
Looking to Thorin’s guidance, the party decides to side with Leo and follow him back to his headquarters, in Dunerth. They take their two captives, Mearah and Ophel, and throw them in the jail.
Leo is greeted by his generals and is told that there is a General’s meeting happening that he needs to attend to. Thorin and Shintaro go with him and attend.
They find out a couple things: Rothia, who went with Leo to Kinsmet is protecting their headquarters from many warforged scouts that have been trying to see what is happening in their village. Also, they tell them their supply line for food and equipment from their accomplices from the south has been cut off recently. And if nothing is done about it immediately, they will have to disband the whole army.
The group also finds that Magnus and his scouting troop came across the Animus’ estate before leaving Rydelle as it was being severely searched for the revolutionary army. Many of the eladrin’s men and women who were with him died getting the magic items from the tombs of Animus. One of them is marked with ancient script and Shintaro claims it is of The Kingdom of Lau Jahnan and asks to have it. Leo agrees and gives the rest of the magic items each to one of the party members.
Leo and Thorin decide that the next morning they should travel down and find out what’s causing the problems for the supply line.
During the meeting, Jayden, Balasar, and Delad begin to interrogate the twin brothers, Mearah and Ophel. Mearah is compliant with their demands but Ophel, upon seeing his predicament, decides to kill himself by blowing himself up with what the party guesses is a pre-made ritual. His body lays in ruins as his brother watches in horror and begins to cry. Jayden insists he tells them everything and he agrees as long as he can bury his brother properly. The party agrees and Mearah tells them everything he knew. Nothing in particular is said other than the fact that Emperor Rallis was going to reward them like he promised for completing their job. Mearah says the reason they attacked the party was because it was the orders of the emperor to take care of the party if they don’t comply with their orders as the emperor didn’t want to take any chances with the party since he knew they were old friends of Leo. Rallis said to the party before that he was willing to let them talk to Leo but only when Leo was captured and taken into custody so that he goes through the proper trials.
Afterward, the group helps Mearah with the burial of his brother right outside the gates of Dunerth. To everyone’s surprise, Leo asks for forgiveness from Mearah and proceeds to let him go and let’s him do whatever he wants (within reason) in their village HQ. Mearah and the rest of the group are quite astonished and Mearah is left in silence. That night he stays at his brother’s grave and is then seen the next morning in town just as a neutral visitor.
The party then travels south to the Aglecairn Mountains to find out what stopped their supply line. They enter the tunnel that connects parts of the Underdark and what gets through to the desert to the south. Along the tunnel there are various ways to go to get to different dwarf, gnome, and halfling villages. The party comes across a deserted halfling village. The only info. they can get is that they gathered their things in time (not in a hurry) and left in almost a uniformed fashion (single file). Thorin suggested it might have been the warforged who gathered and captured them.
In the deserted town the group came across a trashed temple of Pelor. Graffiti made by the warforged was written all over it with tipped over furniture and broken glass everywhere. Thorin says he can’t go any further until he fixes this temple up. So a majority of the party helps while the others explore the rest of the town and keep watch (as the major road passes through the center of town).
Upon finishing the clean up, an angel appears before the whole group in front of the temple gates and gives them a message:
The group, bewildered, talks of their recent accusations. No one is able to clearly say who is of what color so they continue past the town further south to ponder over these ominous words.
A few miles further they come across stone statues of people along with abandoned carts. They are then attacked by snake men and a medusa. The group is able to defeat almost all of the enemies, and when things seem to be going their way, Balasar is turned to stone by the medusa along with Leo.
The medusa then says, “Sheathe your blades. If you wish to save your friends, you must complete a task for me. I am desperate.”