War of the Burning Sky

Session XXII

30 Secondmoon 459

The fluttering of her wings was an involuntary reaction. Tiljann was excited, more so than at any point since deciding to leave her home in search of the Longwalker. How long had it been? Days? Weeks? She had difficulty grasping the passage of time as measured by the outside world. She had yet to see the sun since emerging from Innenotdar, ever hidden by a blanket of clouds. She remembered it from her youth, marching across the sky with merry abandonment. Before the fires and the smoke had choked it from the sky. Yet even a sunless world was better than the one from whence she had come. The frequent rains were similarly a welcome change, though she often felt chilled in a way that left her weak and aching.

She had woken with the chill this very morn, but it could hardly damage her enthusiasm nor dim the magic of this afternoon’s undertaking. The great ship, which rocked slightly upon the bay despite its massive hull, was filling with guests. Witnesses to their performance. How she longed to go to them, touch them all and thank them for their patronage. There had been many shows over the past several days, and she had learned of the mystical embrace that seemed to envelop both herself and her compatriots and those to whom she sang. She had been wary at first, knowing no song that did not fill some dire purpose. But these songs… these were meant to teach. To share the grand history of a people with those who would know its character.

A gentle hand touched her arm, and the chill seemed to intensify. It was Giorgio, Toteth Topec himself in the tale they prepared to weave, covered in the raiments particular to his role. His smile seemed genuine, but Tiljann always felt an underlying intensity to the man’s easy manner. Rather than speak, he motioned toward the audience, indicating the broad spiral stair at the rear of the theater. The seela squinted through the dimness of the chamber, and smiled to see her friends appear upon the stair. Joshua, Jasmine, Elessar, Crystin… those to whom she owed everything, who had plucked her from the fires and saved her people, bringing with them the hope of a long life free of the endless rage of Indomitability.

Tiljann’s smile grew to consume the whole of her eldritch being. Absently, she rubbed her arm where the youth had touched her, trying to dispel the shadow that lay quietly upon her heart.

Along with the myriad leaders of Seaquen and the Lyceum, the heroes set out into the harbor to visit the Wayfarer’s Theater, a massive ship with an even larger interior chamber from which the gypsies strive to entertain those willing to pay the fee. The performance is a politically-charged commentary on the heroic deeds of a long-dead Ragesian folk hero named Toteth Topec, and is accomplished through liberal application of illusions and clever stagecraft. Following the climax of the second act, however, Arlyn spots Giorgio, recently changed and wiping blood from his hands, making his way toward the deck. Katrina reacts instantly to pursue the actor, whilst Joshua, Elessar and the halflings are somewhat slower in their move to investigate. They arrive on deck just in time to see the wizardess incapacitated by their quarry’s minions, and a fight quickly erupts on deck. Giorgio manages to forestall any reinforcements by magically sealing the extradimensional pocket that holds the theater below, then proceeds to try and activate the vessel’s remarkable teleporation device, which would send the entirety of the craft hurtling toward a fiery demise.

They stop him before it is too late and manage to reverse the process, but Giorgio escapes. They capture two of their assailants, however, a pair of half-orcish brothers who reveal that they are in the employ of Torrent’s mentor, Lee Sidoneth.

The party investigates the hydromancer’s home, but find it abandoned. Meanwhile, a storm has developed over the whole of the peninsula and is beginning to wreak havoc in the town. Most of the heroes, infected as they are by Indomitability’s boon, are able to stand freely against the winds and make their way further into the unnatural storm. Upon noting that the hurricane’s most significant activity is to the east, they proceed toward the ruins at the peninsula’s tip, where they soon discover the eye of the storm… and in it’s center, the lone structure unaffected by it.

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Seesion XXI

24 Secondmoon 459

The astoundingly clear waters of the Crystal Delve were visible from nearly a mile away, even beneath the endless gloom of an overcast sky. Skeletal structures of uncertain character surrounded the tiny lake, like a ghost town confused about the era and culture of its origins. The sounds of the swamp receded as the party grew nearer the unlikely village, until even the insects grew silent for fear of whom – or what – they might disturb.

Joshua Stormborn strode purposefully across the soggy landscape, making his way swiftly to the edge of the Delve. Very little wind seemed to penetrate the surrounding marsh, leaving the surface of the lake unblemished in any way. Joshua felt confident that, were the sun to make an unlikely appearance, the entirety of the realm beneath the water would be laid bare to his vision. It was somehow both ultimately serene and generally discomforting a place, if for no other reason than that the area’s sole inhabitant of consequence was, as yet, nowhere to be seen.

There was something about knowing that a dragon lurked in the shadows nearby and being unable to detect it that failed to settle well upon anyone’s nerves.

At Jasmine’s party in the refugee camps, she learns of the existence of an angry green dragon in the swamp nearby, whose egg has been stolen. The dragon, named Naizelasa, has been unable to pursue the thief out onto the peninsula for fear of the Lyceum mages. Having also learned that the beast is in possession of a magical lyre capable of swiftly building habitable structures, a feat which would undoubtedly save many lives in the lands surrounding Seaquen, the heroes approach her lair to offer a trade, the safe return of her egg in exchange for use of her marvelous treasure. Naizelasa agrees to the party’s terms, provided that they deliver the transgressor as collateral. She gives them what information she has regarding the theft, and the heroes return to the city.

With the aid of Basil’s underworld contacts, the party is able to identify the thief as one Nathan Lowduke, a petty criminal who happened to be cunning enough to steal the egg but hasn’t yet been able to unload it, as the Shahalesti embargo firmly discourages any realistic commerce regarding such high-profile contraband. Jasmine locates Lowduke’s quarters, a casually-moored rowboat at the west end of South Harbor, and she and her stealthier companions raid his craft and recover the egg, capturing Lowduke in the process. From there, it becomes a simple matter of dragging him out to the scene of the crime in order to complete their unorthodox transaction.

The heroes otherwise continue with their individual pursuits, the magical harp providing a profound effect on the construction project Joshua’s efforts have initiated out in the camps.

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Session XX

22 Secondmoon 459

Arlo spat, glancing at his companion to make certain that no offense was taken. The dwarf had never spent much time around nobles, and the human variety had a reputation for quick tempers and even quicker judgment. The youth who strode confidently at his side appeared more pensive than perturbed, so Arlo concluded that he likely hadn’t been paying much attention to the dwarf and his disrespectful habits. He seemed rather lost in his own thoughts. Even the drizzle didn’t seem to faze him, as droplets formed across his brow and ran into his eyes. The dwarf snorted, chastising himself for his self-deprecation. A couple of the lads who trailed behind them had taken to singing – badly – and Arlo and paladin exchanged amused glances.

Elessar seemed to come back to himself as the Royale swam into view. The makeshift tavern stood alone among the ruins as the only useful building in the section of the island, and even that was a bit optimistic. Whatever the structure had originally been used for, it was unique in that it sported a roof that was largely intact, and a second story that, from all reports, offered a wide variety of comforts and entertainments. They didn’t approach the structure directly, however. Elessar’s attention was instead drawn to a match amongst the rocks just to the east.

Upwards of three score men and women formed a loose circle around two erstwhile gladiators who had come to do battle. Arlo shook his head, muttering to himself about the foolishness of youth, but he knew that the fights served a valuable purpose here on the peninsula. Many of these so-called adventurers had come to Seaquen amongst the refugees, and had nowhere else to go. They needed a place, like the Royale, to let off steam. It served as a proving ground for veterans and untried lads alike, and the victors eventually won a pass to the comforts of the tavern’s infamous upper level.

Elessar stiffened, and the dwarf’s attention was drawn back to the fight. In the ring, an enormous swordsman squared off against a somewhat smaller and less fortunate soul who had obviously gotten in over his head. At this point, the larger man, who probably had some orcish blood, was soundly trouncing his foe, more toying with him than fighting. As the combatants circled around, Arlo finally got a good look at the smaller combatant.

“Bloody hells,” he muttered, sighing deeply as his companion drew his wooden blade.

In the weeks following the gathering at the Lyceum, Joshua spends his time in constant consultation with the many priests to be found amongst the refugees. With Jasmine’s aid, the Theaosian cleric manages to learn how best to approach each group of clergy and engage their interest in a common house of worship, as proposed by Laurabec Adelsberg, that would unite the myriad factions found amongst the refugee camps and set about improving their quality of life. Jasmine’s contribution stems largely from her ability to acquire useful intelligence from throughout the camp. She turns the practice to her own benefit by taking the opportunity to expand her own local network of eyes and ears. She also encourages cooperation amongst the children and the elderly, using their knowledge and influence to implement programs that benefit the camp as a whole.

Derek and the halflings, meanwhile, launch a private investigation into a series of mysterious arson attacks in South Harbor, targeting newer homes that are being built and sold to those few refugees who can afford it, but they are immediately unable to locate a likely culprit. When the outbreak somehow spreads to North Harbor and the area near the Lyceum, however, they discover the presence of a swarm of fire-breathing rats who are living in the sewers. They manage to track the rodents to their den and force them to disperse, but are unable to be certain that the threat has passed. Derek takes one of the rats to the school for further study.

In lieu of doing anything more useful alongside his compatriots, Basil spends his time languishing at the inn in the company of his cat-like paramour. Anya’s personal life soon catches up with her, however, and the two of them are attacked in their room by pirates in the service of Makung Shaftobem, one of the two men who have effectively come to control the ruffians inhabiting South Harbor. Basil and Anya manage to dispatch their assailants, secreting their bodies in the outhouse behind the inn.

Elessar’s days have been spent building a sort of camaraderie with the soldiers of the Muster, a loose militia under the supervision of Xavious Foebane, whilst spending his afternoons with the grizzled dwarf engaged in tactical combat simulations. At the Royale, a tavern located in the sunken ruins east of Seaquen, one of his soldiers, a youth named Kinadius, is beaten soundly by an obnoxious half-orc. To salvage the lad’s life, if not his honor, Elessar himself challenges the man to a duel, trouncing him in turn. The half-orc, a swordsman named Rove, makes his way to the Muster the next morning and joins the militia.

That night, with the aid of the Wayfarer’s Cirque and a busy band of refugee assistants, Jasmine throws a party in the camp that draws merrymakers together from every nation.

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Session XIX

9 Secondmoon 459

Simeon Gohanach, Headmaster of the Lyceum and reputedly one of the region’s most powerful and influential leaders, watched from an adjacent antechamber as the emissaries were marched into the chamber. Despite his outward calm, the headmaster was seething within. The hubris and pomposity of his contemporaries required this little dog and pony, but he would rather have skipped the formalities.

Kiernan Stekart appeared at his side. The stoic dwarf moved with surprising grace and stealth for a wizard. He motioned at the chamber doors, indicating that everything was in readiness. “The group from Gate Pass has arrived,” he offered. Simeon nodded, pleased that they had decided to make an appearance. He already suspected that they would play a powerful role in events to come, though he feared that he would prove ultimately unequal to their needs. Gate Pass seemed very remote given the threat that was now posed by Ragesia, though Keirnan had ventured an opinion that Leska’s focus on the city was more than a passing tactical interest.

The headmaster straightened his jerkin and made his way into the makeshift council chamber. He’d given numerous lectures in this very room over the preceding decades. He desperately hoped that this wouldn’t prove to be one of his last. He smiled… perhaps he shouldn’t think of it as a lecture. More than a few of his guests likely wouldn’t appreciate it.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, drawing eyes from every corner of the room. “You’ll pardon me if I’m brief…”

Representatives from the city, the refugee camps, the surrounding nations and the Wayfarer’s Cirque gather at the Lyceum to discuss the Ragesian threat and Seaquen’s part in the coming war. As erstwhile emissaries from Gate Pass, the party is given opportunity to plead for the city’s survival, while turning over intelligence from Leska’s camp to the academy for study. The council is soon interrupted, however, by the arrival of a group of Shahalesti insisting that the Lyceum pledge their support to the elven king and place their services at his disposal. Simeon is quick to inform the king’s daughter Shalosha, who has brought an armada of Shahalesti ships to form a naval blockade around Seaquen’s harbors, that the city will never bow to the will of a foreign king.

This effectively ends the discussions, and the heroes return to their private pursuits as they await the decisions of the Lyceum. Elessar visits the devil-woman Jezska, a prisoner of the academy, and is able to bargain for the names of those who have fallen victim to her charms throughout the local populace. Mages are succinctly dispatched to free them from their enchanted state.

Basil, meanwhile, prowls the streets of South Harbor, observing the local ne’er-do-wells and tracking their movements. When an unusual girl with cat-like ears and tail is cornered in an alley by a couple of thugs, the swashbuckler can’t help but get involved. Anya, a local pirate wench who has purchased herself a few physical modifications from a local biomancer, shows her enthusiastic gratitude by joining Basil back at his inn and thanking him profusely over the next several hours.

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Session XVIII

8 Secondmoon 459

Joshua knelt in the solace of prayer, his every thought turned inward as he strained to hear the will of Holy Thaeos. As ever in these moments, dark thoughts welled up from within, tainting his communion. He took comfort in the weight of Shirakas where he lay across his bare knees, the naked blade quite warm despite the morning chill. The soft chorus of snores emanating from his companions was the only thing to break the pre-dawn quiet. Joshua smiled. He took comfort in those, too.

A long walk it had been, from the Poison Apple Pub to the city of Seaquen. They’d handled themselves well, if not always with the utmost honor. He took pride in his little company, given that their courier mission had taken many unforseen twists and turns. They’d dealt with Shahalesti spies and Ragesian inquisitors with equal proficiency, had managed the challenges of Innenotdar with few scars and fewer regrets. Only the paladin, who currently snored the loudest, had suffered a weal upon his soul, as they had been forced to lay waste to a noblewoman’s Ragesian bodyguards in the quest for his mighty steed.

Joshua harbored no doubts that Seaquen would present them with new challenges, to which his heroes remained untested. They may have reached their destination, but the cleric strongly suspected that their journey had yet to reach its end.

As Joshua pondered the days to come, a gentle knocking sounded upon the chamber door.

Whilst most of the heroes are sleeping, the erinyes Jezska visits the men in their chamber, using her enchantments to try and compel them to hand over the book they retrieved in Gate Pass. Not everyone falls victim, however, and a battle ensues. Just as the devil-woman seems to gain the upper hand, Lyceum mages arrive, bursting in from above to ensnare the creature. She is summarily removed to the academy for questioning, and the heroes are invited to interrogate her themselves at their leisure.

As they put the events of the early morning behind them, the heroes turn their attention to Seaquen. Elessar makes his way to the partially-completed stone fort in the midst of the Dasseni refugee camp, the home of General Xavious Foebane, a dwarven soldier who is attempting to muster a militia amongst the refugees. The grizzled dwarf takes an immediate liking to the young swordsman, and begins teaching him the secrets of tactics and warfare. Joshua, meanwhile, becomes acquainted with a paladin named Laurabec, a servant of the Aqualine Cross, who is attempting to unite the various religious factions prevalent in the camps in an effort to create a grand central temple. Jasmine’s perusal of the camps is much less public, as she begins brewing a plan to boost morale amongst the refugees… and provide her with her own network of spies and informers. Basil, Derek and the halflings spend much of their time in the city itself and in the south harbor, where a seething underworld is beginning to form amidst the thieves and pirates who have found their way to this distant port.

The day passes, and the heroes prepare themselves for the following morn… and the council of war.

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Session XVII

6 Secondmoon 459

The home of Lee Sidoneth was built directly into the rock of a small island just west of the harbor. A narrow wooden bridge provided access to the isle, and Arlyn was quick to note the temperment of the waves below as they polished the pillars that supported it. Growing up in the mountain wilds, he had never before laid eyes upon the ocean. This first glimpse did little to erase the trepidation which had settled in the pit of his stomach.

Torrent led the way, obviously at ease in these familiar surroundings. Her laquered armor shimmered in the constant drizzle, a kind of beacon for the rest of them to follow. Joshua instructed Arlyn’s sister to stay behind, poised to alert them should anyone be trailing them… including, the ranger had no doubt, their dubious new companion Katrina, who seemed to have an agenda all her own.

Taking large steps to keep his footing on the wooden slats, Arlyn almost wished he’d remained behind with Charmalina.

The heroes visit briefly with Torrent’s mentor, who first sees a trio of other guests to the door, including a man with a blinking eye on the back of his hand. After listening to their needs, Lee Sidoneth agrees to put in a word with the headmaster at the Lyceum to gain the party an audience. The group soon departs to take stock of the city and the nearby refugee camps. They also learn that a woman had been looking for them, describing them with alarming accuracy, but are unable to learn of the woman’s whereabouts. Katrina, meanwhile, takes a more direct route to earn the heroes’ their audience, regaling the headmaster’s aides with exaggerated accounts of the party’s exploits since leaving Gate Pass.

Simeon, the headmaster of the Lyceum, seeks the party at their inn on the following evening, inviting them to an impromptu council of war scheduled for the morning after next.

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Session XVI

4 Secondmoon 459

An eerie mist drifted through across the swamp, obscuring much of what lay ahead. Elessar knelt in the midst of the boat as it skimmed across the surface of the water, being careful to keep one eye firmly on the witch who cowered before him. According to her instructions, the isle they sought should lay just ahead. Elessar waged a private war within, however, seeking Theos’ forgiveness for the cold which had settled in his heart. He tightened his grip upon the hilt of Anyariel, ready to strike the witch down should her directions prove to be false. Something about the creature offended him horribly, not the least of which her own admission that she and her sisters had taken captive others who had sought passage through the swamp, using their blood for their foul magical concoctions.

A broad, soggy island swam slowly into view, the bare branches of lifeless trees reaching out as if to capture the unwary and drain them of their vitality. The skeletal remains of numerous visitors to the isle dotted a low fence surrounding a small cluster of leaning shacks. Despite the witch’s claim that a hostage remained behind, the paladin could find no sign of life amongst the detritus and debris.

A low growl and a sudden splash at the rear-most craft in the party’s tiny fleet drew his attention from the island. The witch’s crocodile companion had returned to upset one of the boats, that with the halflings and the bulk of the party’s supplies. It proved to be but a momentary distraction, however… just long enough for his own captive to slide overboard and disappear into the murky waters of the swamp.

After dealing with the hags’ unliving welcoming committee, the party searches the island and soon locates its only breathing occupant, a sorceress named Katrina, who greets them as if she’d been expecting them all along. She turns out to be the sister of Rantle, a hero of Gate Pass who bade the party seek her out in Seaquen, and volunteers to accompany them to Lyceum and use what influence she has to help them gain access to the headmaster. The party burns the witches’ home and continues their journey through the swamp.

Dawn finds the party somewhat nearer to the edge of the marsh, and they once again locate a safe place to rest. After a few hours of sleep, they press on, abandoning their watercraft and dismantling one of them to forge a sort of sled for their supplies. That afternoon, in the woods several miles to the west of Seaquen, they encounter a patrol of Shahalesti intent on interviewing refugees in an attempt to flush out any Ragesian spies. They are only accosted very briefly, and separate peaceably to continue their journey, reaching their destination early the following day.

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Session XV

14 Deepwinter 459

Jasmine’s senses were in overdrive. Every instinct she had, honed to a fine edge by more than a decade of her uncle’s teachings, told her there was a story in this room that she had yet to unearth. A story with a twist that she might never find.

It irked her somewhat.

The noblewoman’s body was just where they had left it, wrapped in blood-soaked sheets on the spot where she had died. The jeweled knife that had pierced the woman’s heart was at her own waist, a powerful reminder of the disaster which had occurred in this place. Jasmine could hear the movements of her companions through the open window, laboring in the early morning drizzle to gather the bodies of their foes and see them burned or buried at the edge of town. She couldn’t really care less. Perhaps the lady’s soldiers didn’t deserve their fate, but she could hardly shed a tear for a gaggle of dead Ragesians.

She carefully extracted one of Lady Talia’s dresses, a forest green affair with seed pearls lining the bodice and the sleeves. She glanced at the body, wishing she had a full-length mirror. The woman looked to be about her size…

What she found beneath the dress drove thoughts of courtly apparel firmly from her mind. She resisted the urge to cackle, suddenly overwhelmed by the irony of the situation. They had tracked the Ragesians to this tiny village in pursuit of the horse that had appeared in Elessar’s dreams. Jasmine had a healthy respect for the power of dreams and visions, and quietly considered it their solemn duty to attend to them. But there hadn’t been any sign of the steed amongst the Ragesians’ mounts. Elessar had been unwilling to accept this failure and had insisted on confronting the woman, who had committed suicide to avoid capture, leaving only her frightened maid to answer for their presence in eastern Dassen. Her men had steadfastly refused to allow them access to the woman, and had paid for it with their lives.

At the bottom of the bag was a ten-inch statuette of a rearing stallion.

The party is back on the road by midday, heading south. It takes them more than two weeks to reach the end of the road, a shanty town called Vidor on the edge of the Sour Lake Swamp. Seaquen lies just beyond the marsh. Vidor’s primary trade, of late, seems to be boats, as an endless stream of refugees has flooded the region in recent weeks.

Procuring a rough map and a few quality rowboats, the heroes proceed into the swamp. Camping that night on a small island in the depths of the marsh, they are attacked by a trio of mad witches. The battle is brief and bloody, with but a single survivor amongst their assailants. The witch pleads for her life, offering their lone surviving hostage as a bribe. Though they’ve had little rest, the heroes grab their gear and take to the water, following the woman’s directions to the island home of she and her sisters.

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Session XIV

13 Deepwinter 459

A cool breeze drifted across the open plain, a mist pebbling rapidly against Joshua’s skin and armor. The darkness was complete, the moon barely a sliver on the horizon. Occasional bursts of lightning danced among distant mountaintops to the north, the thunder so distant as to make the storm seem little more than an elaborate illusion. Water pooled in hollows in the soft earth, adding a must to the air that made it heavy and difficult to breathe. Toads and insects sang across the field, the only evidence of life in this place.

A sudden flash occurred, momentarily making it difficult to see. Another quickly followed the first, then a rapid flicker of golden light. Moments later, the silence exploded with a deafening crash as hundreds if not thousands of bodies emerged from the darkness all around him. A mere thirty feet away, at the epicenter of this epic translocation, a flaming beacon threatened to sear his eyes. Those standing nearest the light had their eyes averted, as if well accustomed to its brilliance. Armed and armored orcs and men surged forward, moving away from the beacon, which the cleric could now identify as some sort of torch. Bearing the torch aloft, its flame beginning to fade, was a figure he instantly recognized from the 90-foot statue gazing out over the walls of Gate Pass…

It was Emperor Drakus Coaltongue himself, in the flesh.

At the long-forgotten shrine of Holy Thaeos, Joshua receives a vision. First, he watches as Coaltongue’s army appears, traveling under the power of the legendary Torch of the Burning Sky. He then joins the late emperor and his most trusted advisors, including the witch Leska and his own father, in the command tent, eavesdropping upon their strategies as they prepare for a coming mission. Joshua’s father, whom the cleric apparently knows even less about that he had assumed, seems very young, little older than Joshua himself, as does Drakus Coaltongue.

Upon leaving the vision and stumbling free of the statue’s mystic grasp, Joshua rejoins his companions as they prepare to take the road northward, on the heels of the men who captured Elessar’s dreamt-of warhorse. The cleric raises no objection to the lost ground, and they soon hasten north- and eastward toward the Shahalesti border. There, they find the Ragesian soldiers who visited the shrine, in a tiny village on the edge of the Dassen wilderlands. A confrontation with the Ragesians, who travel in the company of a noblewoman named Lady Talia, leads to a deadly combat which lays waste to the village’s lone inn. The noblewoman herself elects to pierce her own heart to avoid capture.

The stallion of the paladin’s dreams, however, is nowhere to be found….

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Session XIII

11 Deepwinter 459

Elessar Heartsblood woke and, groaning, raised himself to a seated position. The narrow bunk, a rare luxury amidst the seemingly endless nights spent on the frost-hardened earth, was considerably less comfortable than it had seemed the night before. His head swam a bit, a ready reaction to the prior evening’s libations. Though his order had no prohibition against drinking to excess, he had no taste for it. He had many years of service yet to look forward to; he need not hasten his body’s failings. Already the trials of the past few weeks had made him sore, and a chill had begun to settle in his bones.

Nonetheless, he may have had a touch more to drink than he should have.

He got to his feet, glancing about in the dimness. Only Joshua had already risen and was now deep in prayer, his holy blade laid in state before him. Elessar moved carefully so as not to disturb his brother’s meditations. Of all the company who had fled Gate Pass less than a fortnight past, Elessar alone comprehended the bond between the priest and his weapon. Joshua’s path was a road well traveled, though the tradition had flagged somewhat in recent generations.

The paladin cracked the ice in the basin and plucked the small shaving mirror from the floor beneath it. He was surprised to note that he hadn’t actually aged in the last few weeks. His eyes seemed a little haunted, perhaps, his father’s eyes on a younger man. The image was quickly obscured by his frosty breath.

The fog that hung before him reminded him of his dream. It had come upon him thrice in the past five days, and he harbored no further doubts that this was a sending from Holy Theos. In his vision, he saw a mighty stallion, black as midnight, its breath a heavy mist in the chill winter air. The destrier stamped impatiently, as if summoning him forth. Chains sprouted from the surrounding earth, wrapped about its legs and holding it fast. Behind the steed, sillohuetted against the rising moon, a twelve-foot sword of solid rock was lodged firmly into the ground.

Tonight’s dream was different, however, as a dangerous serpent lurked in the shadow of the blade, creeping us silently on its unwitting victim. In the dream, Elessar met the horse’s gaze, willing him to break free of his bonds and flee into the night. The stallion waited, nothing more, nothing less.

Elessar sighed. Joshua would not be pleased.

After replenishing their supplies and securing horses for the journey to Seaquen, the party decides to veer eastward, following tales of a stone sword atop a hill in the East Mire. Following two days on the road in an unrelieved freezing drizzle, they stand at last before pitted statue. The horse of Elessar’s dream is not there, though recent tracks in the surrounding earth reveal that he once was, as were a number of men. Whilst Arlyn picks out one print from another, however, Joshua approaches a small cave in the mound beneath the statue… a cave which no one else can see.

And disappears.

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