Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Onward to Ruber, the Land of Fire...

One can never be too sure what the future holds. While the party led a group of dwarves into their
Dallas Kasaboski
empire, the last thing they expected was to actually run into Illithid creatures! Fighting just one was a headache, in some ways literal, and there were obviously more just waiting for the tasty brain matter of others. With threats from all sides, the party decides to continue their quest to rid Tong of the Edge of Sanity thereby ridding Cyfandir of one threat at least.

Mako made good on his promise to give Alvyn some information about the country of Ruber. He wrote him a few letters of reference so that Alvyn could make some contacts who might prove helpful. Mako recommended the party check out the central library in the capital. It has a lot of information in it and might be useful.

As the party made way to set out, Shizuka pulled his horse aside and said he had decided it was time to leave. Seeing a second fallen empire had convinced him that he had to go back to Albus and help in any way he could.

Before he left, he dismounted and pulled out his black traveling case. Inside of which, Kalgar had seen several objects wrapped in a fine, black material, but hadn't yet the privilege to see what was inside.

Shizuka pulled out one bundle, and unwrapped a long, slender, one-sided blade made of dragon-bone with a cross hilt and leather-bound grip. Along the bottom side of the blade there was a fine, crystallized edge which shone green as Shizuka turned the edge back and forth in the light.

"This, was my grandfather's. From an early age, I was trained in the use of this type of blade. As a general of Albus, I have trained many. You, and your friends, have rescued me from a very dangerous foe, myself. I thank you for that. I give you this sword so that you may use it or pass it on to someone more suitable to it. Do not feel obligated to use it, but treat it well. Thank you all."

Tong and Alvyn said their farewells, and Kalgar embraced Shizuka as he shook his hand.
"You have a long war ahead of you. Your task will not be easy. Thank you, Shizuka, for everything. I wish you the strength to face any challenge and I hope to meet you again."

And with that, the dragonborn samurai rode off.

Over the next couple of days, between his exercises and riding to Ruber, Kalgar examined the blade. The grip's length was not as long as his khopesh, and the curve was not as prominent. Known by many as a "bastard sword", the sword could be held in one or both hands.

The blade had seen battle, but was in remarkable shape. Straight, slender, but still strong and sharp. Kalgar tested the blade, and found that Shizuka's training with the practice swords gave him the ability to wield it.

Still, Kalgar was not ready to use it in battle. His khopesh had been with him for a long time. It was a reminder of his home and people, and it was a reminder that he had things left to do in Aes. The new weapon was formidable, but it was not yet the time.

As the party moved closer to Ruber, the landscape changed from open plains, to rocky and crag-filled. The grass had disappeared, and was replaced by a fine-grained black volcanic sand. On the border of Ruber, Tong dismounted, and ran some of the sand through his fingers.

"Soon, I will rid myself of this burden!" He knelt down to meditate quickly, and as he did so, the distant sound of chanting could be heard and the beads and cloths which surrounded the Edge of Sanity wrapped themselves tighter around the burden.

"The people here are much for sensitive to its magic, we must be careful." As Alvyn heard this, he decided to use his power to try to obfuscate the Edge's presence.

No one from the party had ever been to Ruber before, and Kalgar especially knew little of the country. While Aes is the most western part of Cyfandir, Ruber forms much of the east. Kalgar's lessons in history and warfare did not include much about Ruber except that it was a land of fire and tieflings. Not knowing what to expect, Kalgar had made his reservations clear days earlier, stating that for all he knew, the place would be full of demons, devils, and other unsavory creatures. Taking a quick break from casting his arcanic cloak over the Edge, Alvyn summoned an image of a devil with a pitchfork off in the distance. Kalgar quickly halted, snorted, and pushed his horse onward.

Mako had suggested the party make a stop at Tubetown, a small hamlet on the outskirts of the country. There, he said an associate of his, Arthur, should be able to give more information.

The temperature change between Aurum and Ruber was quite drastic. While Aurum had been warm enough, Ruber boasted a sweltering heat. As the party entered Tubetown, they saw that they could quickly tell the difference between locals and tourists. Locals barely wore any clothing at all, and what they did wear was obviously designed for comfort from the heat including: hard-soled sandals, shoulder cloaks which kept much of the torso exposed, or no shirt at all.

Tong quickly matched suit, taking off one of his robes, unfastening his hood, and rolling up his sleeves. Alvyn climbed up Kalgar's back and opened Kalgar's backpack. From time to time, due to his short stature, Alyvn would ask Kalgar or Tong for a ride, making walking faster for the party. Neither Tong or Kalgar really minded as Alvyn was pretty light.

Kalgar felt Alvyn shuffling around and when he looked over his shoulders, he saw Alvyn's pants draped across his shoulders.

"Hey! What are you doing?"

"Much better! Too bad there isn't more of a breeze."

"Hmph. My tent, it's thermally lined. If you turn it inside out, it should protect you from the heat. Try not to let it touch...your lower half."

Making their way along the streets, Tong pointed out that every building seemed to have a flag on it, all different, but all with a common theme; a broken circle. The one nearest them looked like a gold coin, and indeed the hut was a merchant's shop, who tried pedaling his wares to these newcomers.

Stating their non-interest, the party moved on. The people of Ruber seemed nice enough, Alvyn remarked. While merchants are usually friendly to anyone with two gold coins to run together, even the common passersby were greeting them and making smalltalk.

Another prominent trade to be seen was that of smith. Kalgar had remarked that he clearly was out of his element here, as he had come from a country of water, and now was in a land of fire. With volcanic activity ever-present, the people of Ruber quickly learned to use this to their advantage. Because of this, many of the dwarves who fled their homes ended up here and the crafting trade was very successful here.

One shop in particular caught Alvyn's eye. The merchant was offering rings, fire and heat resistant ones. Alvyn took a look at Kalgar who, through pride, foolishness, or a greater tolerance for the weather, was still wearing his full scale armour, although he had tucked his black Aesian naval jacket into his bag some time ago.

Alvyn suggested they talk with the shopkeep and after a short time, bought 3 rings. Upon wearing them, the party felt instantly better, though Kalgar's breath still steamed through his nose. Asking about Arthur, the party was directed down a narrow tunnel, at the end of which was a dwarf, and one rather portly man. The only lighting was a trail of lava below the floor which was no more than a grate, and due to this, everything had a red-lit and foreboding appearance.

The man, sweating profusely, kept taking a drink from a flask at his belt, which was obviously enchanted as it didn't seem to run out of water.

Climbing out of Kalgar's backpack, Alvyn introduced himself and produced the letter from Mako. The man, Arthur, greeting him cheerily enough, the dwarf merely grunted. Asking about the libraries and resources of Ruber, Arthur suggested the Frozen Stacks of Ioun, a temple and library which not only had great resources, but that he knew Rilgar, a female dragonborn, would be able to help. Asking about Arthur's work here, Arthur explained that while the dwarf made the rings, Arthur helped enchant them. Alvyn stated his interest in learning the trade, and Arthur said something could be arranged.

As Alvyn discussed business with Arthur, Tong made his way back down the tunnel, urgent to continue with his quest. Alvyn climbed back up Kalgar flicking the backpack's straps like a horse's reins.


Kalgar grunted.

"He sounds like the dwarf," Arthur quipped, and with that, Alvyn and Kalgar made their way back down the tunnel.

Nearing the end of which, they could see Tong arguing with two elderly tieflings. Not able to hear what they were saying, Tong was gesturing toward the tunnel and shaking his head emphatically. Finally, the tieflings moved off as Kalgar caught up with Tong.

Alvyn asked what was wrong. At first, Tong did not want to answer, but finally he revealed that the tieflings had suspected something and he was able to convince them it was nothing. Alvyn's concern over this was obvious as he asked about the type of energy the Edge exuded.

After Tong told him, Alvyn sealed himself in Kalgar's pack and didn't come out for some time. Tong and Kalgar made their way out of Tubetown, and east toward the capital. Arthur's instructions were clear and as they neared the city, the mountain on which the Frozen Stacks stood was very visible.

The land was not a very friendly one, Kalgar remarked. Tong agreed and wondered what the people hunted here, among the sharp crags, the flows of lava, and the basalt floes. The mountain was tall, but it was also wide, and the slope was not difficult.

Halfway through one of Kalgar's tales about his time at sea, Alvyn popped up, surprised at where they were.

"...and that's why they call it the poop deck, ha ha ha!"

"Whoa, guys, where are we?"

"Up the mountain, there's the library ahead. What were you up to all this time?"

"Well, I've calculated the energies needed to hide Tong's sword better, hopefully now these tieflings will have a harder time spotting it."

The Frozen Stacks of Ioun might have been easy to miss. A wide basalt tower, it was essentially featureless except for some flags bearing the eye of Ioun.

Inside, the place was exactly the opposite. Beautiful floors with specks of rock embedded, the place was pristine.

Tong immediately prostrated on the floor, at which point Alvyn jumped out of Kalgar's bag and made his way into the building. Kalgar, torn between the shared respect of the gods, and the insistence of Alvyn, took a few strides forward before stopping.

Taking a look around, Kalgar could quickly tell this was not his type of place. Everywhere, people could be seen reading, writing, and discussing matters of academia in small, hushed circles. Ioun was the goddess of knowledge and as such, knowledge was revered above all else.

Kalgar's god had a more physical presence and competitive approach to things and Kalgar instantly felt out of place, as any giant dragonborn still wearing his scale armour would appear. Warriors and libraries didn't mix well. Still, the air was quite cool, and Tong's prostration did not take long.

Someone who appeared to work in the temple, made his way over to Tong, who he had seen showing his devotion, and asked if there was something he needed. Tong asked where he could find Rilgar, to which he was directed several floors up.

Tong asked how this place was kept so cool, to which he was told that ice elementals flooded the air keeping the temperature down.

"So they condition the air...interesting."

The building was circular and with Tong feeling the need to bow and pray at every level, it took some time to make it to the top. There, they saw a female dragonborn between the rows of books.

A young, red dragonborn, with sharp eyes and wire-framed glasses, she looked up as the three walked over. Tong asked if she was Rilgar and if she knew anything about devils. At that point, a tielfing, off to one side of the room, looked up and stared at the party.

Tong showed Rilgar his tome and asked if she knew where they could find more information. She marveled at the tome and handled it with exquisite care. She thanked Alvyn for repairing, as Tong explained some of the story, and said that it was a great work with much information. Tong asked if she had any information on the Edge of Sanity. Unlike anyone else, Rilgar didn't flinch at the name and said they would have to go to a different section to find what they were looking for.

At the mention of the Edge, the staring tiefling put down his book and walked away quickly. Kalgar leaned down to Alvyn, mentioned what was happening and said he was off to follow him. Alvyn nodded and followed Tong and Rilgar to the Reference section.

The tiefling had made his way down the floors, outside, and was walking, quickly, toward the central part of the city. Kalgar didn't know the area too well and didn't want to get too far from the group, so he made note of the direction, and walking speed of the tiefling, and started his way back.

Meanwhile, Rilgar had found an old book which she thought should help. Written by a succubus, it should contain information about many devils and hopefully would have more information about the devil which originally crafted/owed the Edge.

The book was bound in iron, and Rilgar needed a key to open it. As she did so, a small circle on the back of the book started flashing and Rilgar became extremely worried.

"Oh no, I...I thought it was safe, I should have checked, um..."

At that moment, several devils appeared all around the library floor. Tar dripped from every orifice and they smelled like brimstone. Alvyn pushed Rilgar away and commanded Tong to go find Kalgar.

Pulling two wands from his back, Alvyn cast Sleep hitting most of the devils, he then popped around a corner, trying to hide, buying himself some time.

As they searched for him, Tong had practically flown down the steps and found Kalgar.

Kalgar bounded up the steps but even though he didn't stop to bow at every floor, Tong caught up with him on every level, practically running along the wall.

Reaching the tops of the steps, Tong saw Alvyn pressed back against a wall, and looking to Ioun for grace and agility, jumped over the stacks of books. Landing with precision and power, Tong reached his hands out to the sides, and as he drew them in, a strong breeze flowed toward him, rustling the books on the shelves.

With a flurry of blows, Tong punched repeatedly, forming a wall of air and chi energy which he broke with a single strike of his hand. This sent the shockwave out toward a devil, causing its body to shake, spasm and hit the floor.

"Fool! You were already dead."

Kalgar rounded the steps, saw Alvyn who nodded off to the right. "Librarian, she's over there!"

Kalgar drew his khopesh and his javelin and as he rounded the corner, he leaned into the throw giving it everything he had. It tore into the shoulder of a devil, ripped itself out and returned into Kalgar's hands.

All this commotion had caused the tar from the devils to hit the shelves. More concerned about the books than her own life, Rilgar opened a panel on the wall, and took some powder from it, throwing some on the mess.

Alvyn moved up beside Tong and took care of a devil trying to toss a fireball at Tong. The monk's hands and feet were flying in all directions as he somersaulted, did a handstand and whipped two devils in the process. Becoming injured, Tong's tattoo glowed and gave him some needed health and adrenaline.

Oddly enough, on the other side of the room, Kalgar felt the same energy he had felt when visiting the Reverie with Tong, and he too felt the reassuring health. Suddenly, the voice of Ting Tang Wong Gong reverberated through Kalgar's mind saying, "No tattoo, no matterrrrr".

Alvyn hit a devil with The Silver Storm (Phantom Bolt, which he had renamed after Alex inspired him to rename his powers), showering his with bolts of arcane energy, leaving only one path of escape, right next to Kalgar.

Calling upon the power of Kord, Kalgar slew the devil with a thunderous attack, and charged the main mage. Challenging it to a test of Kord's will, the mage refused and teleported away. As the three caught up with him, they dispatched him quite quickly.

Suffering minor wounds, the party patched themselves up and Rilgar finished cleaning the books. It seemed that the circle on the back of the book was in fact a summoning circle which summoned devils anytime the book was opened. Alvyn took some rope from his bag and wrapped it around the pages to keep the book open.

Both Tong and Rilgar hissed at the thought of rope touching the pages, but agreed that they didn't want any more devils summoned.

Tong flipped through the pages, looking for the one-horned devil who had cursed him so long ago. Finally, he found it. With trembling hands and a shaky voice, he exclaimed that he found him.

"Yes. That's him! His name may have been stricken from my memory but this face has haunted my waking dreams."

Turning the page, however, he found that the page where the devil's name and description should be, was missing.

"No! This can't be! Cruel. Cruel cruel cruel."

"It's alright," Rilgar said, "you could simply ask she who wrote it."

"The succubus?"

"Indeed, Lady Peryl, the adviser to Lord Baelfire. Although, if I were you, I would try to meet with her, and her alone."

Indeed, Lord Baelfire's temper had a reputation. After the Great Betrayal, the tieflings had decided that this was a sign that they were to turn away from their demonic roots. Since that time, they have done what they could to shun devils and show the world that they were willing to work together. Oddly enough, Baelfire, a balor, had shown up and, other than his great temper, actually seemed to be a good guy.

He ruled the country of Ruber with a stern hand, but a fair one. Still, legend of his wrath was world-renown.

Alvyn thought it would be best to take the book to her and try to talk. Rilgar seemed uncertain of the wisdom of letting the book leave the library. Kalgar stepped in, and said they would bring it back, but it was important.

As the party made it to the bottom of the stairs, 30 armed guards stood waiting. In the middle was a tielfing with no tail; Knight Verius of the Knights of Shame.

"Ah, here to direct us to Lord Baelfire?" Alvyn asked.

"Yes, he demands your presence."

"I see. Yeah, thanks" and as Alvyn came closer to Verius, "sleep lightly, you're dead."

The guards wore the insignia of Baelfire's personal guards. Kalgar tried making smalltalk, asking questions, just trying to rattle their horns, as it were. They made it very clear that they were not interested in anything Kalgar had to say.

Baelfire's lair was quite intimidating. Pools of lava poured out from massive, tall statues, and with the ash in the air, the entire place looked like the Underdark itself, or at least what the players thought they knew about it.

Entering, there was a giant door with chains all along it. The guards opened the door, and directed the party in, Verius following behind.

The room was quite spartan, not what one would expect, really. It was a large, dark room, with a single shaft of lava running down the middle of the floor toward a pool of it.

On one side of the pool sat the most attractive creature Kalgar had ever seen. With slender horns, bright red lips, and sharp eyes, this was clearly Baelfire's adviser, the succubus. Knowing as much myth as fact about succubi, Kalgar did his best not to think about her too much.

As they closed in, out of the pool emerged Lord Baelfire himself. Standing over 15 feet tall, dripping with the fiery embers of the earth itself, his features were indistinguishable for a few moments. Finally, his massive horns, and intimidating demeanor presented himself and he asked about the party's interest in the Edge, saying he knew who Tong really was.

Tong retold his story, and his mood and face became distorted with the telling. He recalled the shame, the arrogance, the sin, and the destruction. He cried out with vengeance stating that he had come to Ruber to rid himself and all of Cyfandir of this burden and that he wanted to destroy the creature who had cursed him and so many others before.

Baelfire listened intently, and then demanded to see the Edge, saying he could help. Kalgar stepped forward a little. "Excuse me, but, well, why? I apologize if I step out of line, I am from far from here and your customs are new to me, but why would you help us?"

Baelfire said that Ruber had worked hard for a long time to rid the land of evil, and he wanted to get rid of this great evil once and for all.

Seeing no way to refuse, and live, Tong reached back toward the sword. As he did so, Peryl reached up and held his shoulders saying that she could protect him, temporarily, from the sword's influence.

Unwrapping the cloths, he swung the bundle around and presented the sword.

It didn't look like anything special, Kalgar noted. It was black, entirely, and didn't throw any light, which was odd, but other than that, it was a sword. But, even Kalgar could see the effect it was having.

Tong became tense, his shoulders hunched, his face twisted with emotion, but calmed a little as the adviser took on his emotions and features. She became tense, and her hands clawed into Tong's shoulders. As he handed the sword over to Baelfire, Tong's entire body seemed to show its relief. He stood up straighter, and in the flickering light of molten rock, Alvyn and Kalgar could see a tear flow down his cheek.

Alvyn, seeing the pain the adviser was taking, and not liking the idea of Baelfire holding the Edge of Sanity, suggested it was time to put it away. Tong reluctantly agreed and placed it back over his shoulders.

Baelfire asked Tong if he wanted to know the name of the devil which cursed him so.

"Yes, more so than living itself."


With that, any foggy elements of Tong's memory became suddenly clear.

"Would you like to confront this devil, once and for all?"

"Yes. I have dreamed of this day for over 10 years!"

And the adviser began to chant. As she did so, a circle of ruins appeared on the floor and a devil was summoned before them. Trapped inside the circle was Votharxis, appearing exactly as he had in the book, one horn and all.

Votharxis, looking shocked at seeing Baelfire, saw Tong and began to laugh.

"No! You don't get to laugh. Today is a solemn day. It is the day that I finally confront you. I will destroy you as you have destroyed me. I will end you! Prepare to meet your doom foul devil!"

And as Tong stepped forward, Baelfire commanded him to halt. Looking from Tong, to Votharxis, he said,

"Can you make more?"

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