Saturday, 4 May 2013

A Paladin's Sword and then off to Viridi

Our quest had taken an odd turn when last you looked. Thinking they were going to end Tong's

Dallas Kasaboski
turmoil by destroying the devil Votharxis and his Edge of Sanity, the party was instead surprised to find out that Baelfire, the lord of Ruber, was in fact a red dragon! They were defeated in combat and assigned to collect holy relics to help Baelfire in his schemes. Accompanied by tiefling guards, including now Guard Captain Verius, the party had made their way to Chalybs to collect the first relic.

As Tribulus approached the party, he and Alvyn pretended not to know each other. They began smalltalk and discussed the local events, all the while sharing information via a secret sign language. Kalgar did not notice at first, and ordered an ale, but he knew Alvyn would be up to something, he always was. Tong noticed the signing and told Kalgar about it later, noting the very innocuous manner in which they apparently could communicate.

Verius was not too happy with the delay. Insisting that they have worked to do, he tried to hurry them all out of the tavern. Kalgar looked over to Verius and said, "I'll go when I'm ready to go" and finished his ale slowly.

Alvyn smiled. No one in the party had any reason to like or trust Verius. The captain of the guard believed he was doing what was right for his country, but he was entirely blind to anything else. The other guards were similar, and did not seem to understand or comprehend Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar's insistence that they think a little more about the orders they were given. The three tried to explain that the orders were strange, that Baelfire might not be what he seems, but the group would not listen. Kalgar even got upset and told them all one night that Baelfire was a red dragon, but they would not listen. They had known Baelfire to be a good and formidable leader of their country, a demon, but still, a good guy. Still, Verius's betrayal and blindness earned him the nickname of "Betrayer" to the three, and they were just biding their time until they could do away with him.

Alvyn's signing had been successful. He was able to communicate what had transpired in Ruber, and what they were doing now. He explained that the Doomguard should probably get ahold of these relics anyway, and keep them away from zealots who might use them, so he was going to keep the charade up as long as possible. Tribulus said he wished he could help, but there wasn't much they could do. Alvyn suggested the Doomguard try to get a hold of some of the relics before the party showed up, to keep them from returning to Baelfire, and said to keep an open ear as Alvyn might need to call upon the Doomguard to eliminate this tielfing party. He didn't think now was the time, and he thought perhaps some could be reasoned with, but he wasn't sure.

Leaving the tavern, Verius led them all to a temple of Pelor, where they would find the first holy weapon. A longsword used by a mighty paladin a long time ago, it was said to have magical properties to challenge the undead. The temple was for the Radiance in Battle sect of Pelor's worshippers, a group dedicated to more vehemently pursuing and upholding Pelor's goals.

Along the way, Tong had been quieter than usual. An eccentric character at the best of times, even Kalgar noticed the extra oddity about him lately. Calling Alvyn over, the two had approached the monk to find out what was wrong.

"This whole quest is awful. We...we're not only getting farther from my goal, we're now helping he who is helping the devil who cursed me! This is terrible and I wish to have no part of it!"

"Tong, none of us wants to be here, with these tieflings," Kalgar said. "We were defeated and combat and should have been killed. Instead we were ordered to go about this quest. This gives us a distinct advantage in that we can learn more about Baelfire and his plans without the normal risk involved with being a spy."

"Exactly. We don't want to help him, in fact I may have some ideas of how to, how would you say it Kalgar? Turn the tide? Yeah, to turn this in our favour. But look. We want to keep these weapons out of Baelfire's hands, so why not use him to thwart his own goals? His people are helping us, without even knowing it. Trust me, my friend. We will not let his plans succeed, we will go back, and we will challenge Votharxis, but not until we're ready."

Never dealing with the deception of espionage or the real tactics of warfare, Tong had not realized the duplicity involved here. Trusting his friends that they would have a plan, and thankful that their priorities had not shifted, he felt much more confident about their mission.

As Tong was recalling this, the others had made their way inside the temple and were taking a look around. Outside some windows, he could see and hear guards training in a cemetery. Inside, two guards were present and one female priestess was kneeling by an altar at the front of the room.

Looking up, Tong noticed an impressive wooden carving. There stood a giant man, holding a sword, not a wooden sword but an actual one, and at his feet were the bodies of 12 undead. Clearly this was the right place.

Alvyn made his way to the front row of pews and knelt down in mock prayer. Kalgar assessed the situation. He could see the sword on the wall, but it seemed to be fastened with a lock of some kind. The guards looked formidable but not at attention. Male, roughly five a half feet tall, swords and shields. Outside, the guards were training, and looked to have some idea of what they were doing.

Moving to the front of the room, he looked up at the carving and said, "That's a pretty big carving."

The priestess turned around and said, "Yes, it is impressive, are you here to worship Pelor and the Radiance in Battle?"

"Um...well, I do not know much about Pelor, or His Radiance, but as a follower of Kord, I can respect the idea that actions speak louder than words and that faith alone is not enough."

"Indeed. Well, if there's anything you would like to know, please feel free to ask."

Suddenly, a ghostly whisper in Alvyn's voice was heard in Kalgar's ear, "Find out more about the carving."

As Kalgar asked his questions, Alvyn attempted to use his thieves's tools, combined with his magic, to pick the lock without attracting notice. However, he quickly realized that the lock could only be opened with two keys, which had a specific magical signature about them.

Tong, standing at the back of the room, was still thinking about Votharxis, and he noticed that Verius had stepped back outside. Leaving his guards outside, he had come in alone but he too had stood at the back of the room waiting. After a few moments, he returned.

"...and yes, the paladin left the sword here and we hold it and his work in high regard today. In fact, those soldiers you hear training outside? They're trained to especially counter the work of the undead."

"Have you had to fight many undead? I've only encountered ghosts myself."

"Sometimes. I've used that sword on a few occasions to keep those foul creatures at bay."

"And this paladin, was he a worshipper of Pelor as well? What was his name?"

"He wasn't a follower of Pelor, and we're not sure if he had any specific religious orientation. He disappeared some time ago, whether he died or left this plane, we're not sure. His name...was Posse McToes." She looked a little embarrassed at this last part.

"Tell her exactly why we're here, but only include yourself and Verius" Alvyn whispered in Kalgar's ear. At this point, he realized that one key was on the priestess but he could not find the other.

"Baelfire, the lord of Ruber, has sent me and that tiefling in the back to collect this weapon."

"No. You cannot have it."

Walking up to her, Kalgar towered above her, but she did not waver.

"Look, that sword is to be used to help many. We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. I would rather not spill blood in a holy place, but I will."

As he finished his sentence, Alvyn had approached a guard and slit his throat. In a flurry of action, the other guard made his way over and Kalgar tried to grab hold of the priestess. She brought her arms up to block his attempt and as she did so, a flash of light radiated out, blinding Kalgar.

Tong raced from the back of the room, flipping over pews, and kneed a guard in the face, defenestrating him. (Any excuse to use that word.)

At the sounds of crashing glass, the guards outside began to make their way over to the temple.

Alvyn was casting bolts of energy left, right, and centre, and managing to stay hidden while doing so.

Kalgar was pissed. 

"Alright. Play it soft? We'll play it soft, play it hard? Let's play it hard!"

Recoiling from the blinding flash, he unsheathed his katana.

Still blind, he called out. "Tong! Where are you?"


"And where is she!?"

"In front of you."

"...and to your left!" Alvyn called out.

"The god of war respects a good fight! Feel the fear and honour as I challenge you to battle!"
With great overhand swings, he brings his weapon to bear, lashing the priestess across the waist.

"We've got company!" Alvyn calls as more guards crash the party.

With a flurry of blows, Tong strikes at all sides, hitting the guards. However, they appeared to be growing stronger as divine light lit their weapons.

Alvyn looked to the back of the room and saw Verius, standing alone with his arms crossed. Suddenly, the party felt as if time had slowed, and their reflexes were more sharp.

The priestess had teleported away and appeared just behind Alvyn, who had crept over to a side room in the hopes of finding the key. She struck out at him, but he too was able teleport away.

Kalgar, surrounded by guards, fell. Tong shook him, and told him they still had work to do. He then focused his chi energy and suddenly ethereal wings sprouted from him as he flew across the temple toward the priestess.

Kalgar rose and wiped his eyes clear. The guards around him might have taken a step back if they weren't so well trained. Looming over them, Kalgar screamed toward the heavens and lightning and thunder crashed inside and out. It was both dark and brilliantly bright outside, and Kalgar struck between the flashes of lightning. His katana, shining green in the storm like the waters of Aes, whistled as it came under the armour of one, through the armour of another, and pierced the shield of a third. Alvyn used his Silver Storm (Phantom Bolt) to pelt one of the guards, forcing him away from Kalgar.

Sidestepping, Kalgar raced over to the priestess and struck her again and again. She blinded Tong and pulling two radiant blades out of her sleeves, caught Kalgar and dropped him.

Alvyn drew two separate wands and unleashed waves of fire and ice, eliminating what was left of the guards.

Kalgar felt a kick in his soul as Kord threw him back into battle, and he awoke to find the priestess standing over him. He swung his sword upward, and she stepped off of him, taking quite a hit. Tong had raced across the temple to help Alvyn, and looked back to see Kalgar killing a guard while still lying on his back. Finally, he swung his sword around and finished off the priestess.

Patching themselves up, the three scowled at Verius. While he may have done something, they were upset that he hadn't sent his guards in.

"We were sent to make sure you did your task. We do not want to take part in any of this cruel business, but we did help, my men slew some of the guards from outside."

The three directed their attention to the carving. Kalgar found he could not simply pull the sword down as it was too flatly pressed into the carving. Alvyn used the ring he found on the priestess and the lock on the sword to create a magical resonant effect, trying to find the second key.

Tong looked around the room, hoping to spot some clues. Taking a closer look at the carving, he noticed that the fountain which appeared on it matched the one outside, however the carving's fountain was more similar to a sun-dial which said 2 o'clock.

Both Tong and Alvyn arrived at a grave outside at the same time, and examining it closely, were able to find the second key. Kalgar did what he could to clean the place up a little and hide the bodies. He also dropped his last remaining gold pieces on to the altar.

Tong saw this and said, "This is gruesome work. I am not liking any of this."

"Neither am I but, Tong, do the followers of Ioun believe in an afterlife?"

"We believe that the followers of Ioun will go to a peaceful place full of knowledge, all others will be left in the dark, as they have always been."

"Well, whatever you believe, this priestess and her men died doing what they thought was right. By any religion I am aware of, they have earned their place and died justly. Our work here is foul, but it is for a greater purpose than guarding a sword that isn't really theirs to begin with. We will be help accountable for our actions. Not today, but someday we'll have to pay for what we've done."

"Ah, Kalgar, you misunderstand. I hope you're wrong, because I fear being accountable for what I have done." And with that sombre tone, he walked away.

Making their way back to Chalybs, Tong reacted violently as if he had been struck. Asking him what it was, Tong brushed it off as nothing.

"The last time 'it was nothing', you killed a bunch of people. What is it?"

Verius, worried about guard patrol, urged them along, "We don't have time for this."

"Trust me, we have time for this."

Tong led them to a back alleyway and knelt in meditation. As he did so, Kalgar and Alvyn began to feel the effect upon themselves and before they could blink, they were suddenly in a dark, abysmal place.

Full of hideous corpses who were shouting and jeering, Kalgar and Alvyn found themselves looking upon a gauntlet of the undead. It was a horrendous sight as many were not just dead, they were cut in two, or had severed limbs, and organs fell from their bodies. Kalgar and Alvyn were ignored completely and as they directed their gaze up to the front, where the jeers were directed, they saw a man, chained by his arms and legs, with bloodied hair draped over his face.

Making their way closer, a one-horned devil, the one they had known to be Votharxis, approached, accompanied by cheers from the crowd.

Grabbing the chained man's head, he shouted. "Who put you here?


"What are you going to do when he gets here?"


"Soon, Victor Whitehelm, soon you will join us in mind as well as body." And he wrenched back the man's head revealing Tong's face.

Amidst the chaos, the two noticed a woman off to one side. Contrary to the shouts of all else, she was quiet. Wearing a simple nightgown, her body was sliced from one side of her neck down to her navel, and with hands clasped together, she looked upon Victor, Tong, and tears of pitch rolled down her face.

Feeling as if they were drowning, the two were pulled back to reality, finding themselves in the alley.

"Whoa. Was it like that when you went, Kalgar?"

"No, it was a much calmer place, peaceful."

"My friends, this was something different. I thought I had passed this, but it's trying to pull me back. He is trying to pull me back."

"I hate that guy. Tong, if we kill that devil, we destroy this curse, right?"

"That's what the monks led me to believe."

"Well, it's a good enough place to start. Alvyn, what do you think?"

"We have the book for summoning a devil, and we now know his name. If we could get a binding circle, we could summon him and finish this. Let me look into that."

"Agreed, we need to end this."

With this resolution, Tong felt better, and the party continued on their way. Verius has sent some guards off before who reported back saying that the north gate was closed. Some force had arrived and the city had shut the way for the time being.

The party made their way to the south gate. Alvyn used some magic and bluff to create the credentials of an officer of the guard within Chalybs. The gate-guard recognized his authority but would not let them pass, since his orders came from higher up insisting the gate stayed closed.

No amount of intimidation, diplomacy, or magic could convince this guard otherwise. Blocked by stubbornness (and plot), the party made their way north to find out more of what was going on.

It seemed that an envoy from Aurum had arrived. Astride large beasts including griffins and triceratops, they approached the city walls. Emerging from the crowd, and accompanied by a guard, was Eismer, the royal advisor to the Queen. Dressed ornately, he walked up the pathway and looked out at the envoy.

A single griffin rider flew up and announced that they had come to take Chalybs back into their fold. Thinking back, Kalgar remembered that Chalybs used to be a port of Aurum but had grown so large in size and influence that it became autonomous some time ago. Waving the rider away, Eismer said Aurum was just after Chalybs's wealth and that he would not felt pay for their war. The rider flew off, and the envoy made camp outside of the city.

The gates had been opened and, just to spite that one guard, the party made their way south again, exiting the city. Verius explained that the next artifact was in Viridi, the neighbouring country, but it would be a little harder to attain. The Viridian guards were highly trained and they would have to rely on stealth and covert tactics instead of brute force.

The trip took a few days and soon after leaving Chalybs, Alvyn had a brilliant idea, one of many. He told Kalgar and Tong that he might be able to strip the weapon of its magic, and replace it with just a hint of arcane energy. That way, it would be less than useful to Baelfire. In order to do that, he asked his friends to distract the guards for a while.

Later in the day, a raven flew down and landed on the forearm of Orianna, one of the female guards. Suddenly, she broke down crying, stating that her brother had been killed. He was one of the guards posted outside Baelfire's chambers, and both he and the other guard had had their necks snapped.

Recalling Baelfire's warning that anyone told about his true form would be killed, the three felt even more ire toward the demonlord of Ruber.

That night, as they were making camp, Kalgar faced the west and paid tribute to his gods. He was a long way from home, and he had much to do. He left Aes knowing that he was still new to the world and that he needed to find his way. Most importantly, he knew he was no match for many of the challenges and if he was going to put things right, he would need to grow and adapt for the battles ahead. He had already pledged his allegiance to Kord, and his favor with Him was growing all the time. After leaving Ruber, he knew some of what lay before him. He knew he had to help Tong rid himself of the Edge and he knew he had to confront Baelfire again. The dragon had surprised them before, and that had cost Kalgar and the others their victory. But Baelfire, like any great force of strength, had to be challenged in order to assert its right. Walking a little away from the group, Kalgar's thoughts and feelings conjured the wrath of the elements themselves.

His ire caused the sky to cloud over and thunder boomed overhead. The party, even the tieflings, had gotten used to Kalgar's affinity with storms by now, and paid little heed to it. Kalgar was far enough from camp that the storm would not affect them anyway. As he sat there, mulling over their next move, he made a stronger resolve to Kord. Strength must be checked, weakness is its own punishment, and as he said these words over and over, he felt emboldened by the wrath of Kord. Many challenges lay ahead and he was becoming ready to face them.

Meanwhile, Tong had also been doing some serious thinking. Meditating, he once again found himself confronted with Ting Tang Wong Gong. Upset by the latest events, his Master told him that the Canitian monks could do little to help. This was Tong's pilgrimage and he must face it. They would support him, but it was outside the immortal realms of Ioun's concern. He told Tong to pass messages along to Kalgar and Alvyn, saying that Kalgar had started down a path of strength and should continue in this way, and that the monks appreciated both of their work in helping Tong. He said to tell Alvyn that they were watching and willing to help, no matter how hollow Alvyn may feel the divine world to be.

Making his way back to camp, Kalgar saw Alvyn nod as he disappeared into the darkness. Thinking of Aes, Kalgar made his way over to the tieflings. Nodding to Tong, he saw Orianna, surrounded by the guards, with her face in her hands.

"Your brother, he was one of Baelfire's personal guards?"


"He had a place of honour at that post, very commendable."

"Thank you."

Tong looked at the crying tiefling and tried to imagine what might cheer her up. "You and your brother were close. You mustn't forget all the good times you had. In this way, he will continue, long after his mortal body has perished."

"I...I guess that's true."

"Have you ever been out west? No? Well, it is completely different from Ruber, let me tell you. Your land is one of fire and rock, mine is a place of water. Even standing on the shoreline, looking off to the sunset, there's nothing but a smooth, sheen of blue-green water as far as you can see. It's quite pretty."

Crying less, Orianna said nothing to this.

"You know, I met a tiefling sailor once. She was very good at her job, but she obviously was not happy at being on boats all the time."

Orianna smiled.

"What did you and your brother do for fun as kids? What do tieflings do for fun? I cannot imagine. My youth was full of fishing, diving off ships, getting in trouble and swabbing the deck, heh, what did you do?"

Orianna brightened up at this. "My brother and I used to play a sport, we just call it Tail ball. Basically, two teams have to try and bring a ball across a field and score goals. Our tails come in quite handy in that game."

Tong interjected, "Then, I guess Verius doesn't play this game?"

Looking over to Verius, who was talking with another guard, Orianna nervously smiled and said, "No, I guess not. But, in this game, if you have the ball, you cannot move backward. It's kind of a symbol for our people, not moving back, and not turning back to old evil ways."

"You know, there are some in Aes who want to change our flag. They want something similar to represent them and they were thinking of putting a shark on there. Sharks cannot swim backwards you see, or they'll die. I guess Ruber and Aes has more in common than we thought."

Orianna smiled, and the group talked amongst the crackling fire.

Alvyn, was quite busy. He had taken the magic sword from the temple of Pelor and he was studying it, examining its lines of magic. Stripping of its power was simple enough, and he delighted in the ease of it. Leaving just a trace of magical energy on it, should anyone be looking, he used some of the magic and reagents to create a few things for his friends.

Later, he took his friends aside and presented them with their gifts.

For Tong, he took several pieces of wood and carved them into spheres. Infusing them with magic, and helping Tong add his psionic energy, he explained that they were "Difficulty spheres". As he was making them, Ting Tang Wong Gong appeared and Alvyn told him to get out of his head!

"Ah, you are in my head. Look, Tong still has not figured out the riddle between weapons and tools, so, just tell him those spheres are tools, for giving wisdom. Also, Tong is about to enter a new phase of his monk training, where he will give up much of this material life. Here is how I think you can help him..."

Passing the spheres along, Alvyn explained that they could be thrown at enemies, making them wiser and more disciplined and that they would return after being thrown. Wearing them like giant beads, Tong was quite pleased. He was also presented with a belt. Brown, made of rope, with a few symbols carved on it, Alvyn explained Ting Tang Wong Gong's instructions for Tong and how he was about to make a greater commitment to the monks of Ioun. The belt, would help him along the way, as the wearer of the belt would no longer need to eat. By refusing even the taste of food, Tong would be one step closer to true peace and discipline.

For Kalgar, Alvyn presented him with a cloth bag. Raising an eyebrow, Kalgar said he had one already. Alvyn pointed out that this was a Bag of Holding and that it would greatly help store his items. He also warned quite emphatically to NEVER turn the bag inside out. He also created a set of silken cloths which he fastened onto Kalgar's armour near his feet. While the armour could have been made to cover the pads of his feet, Kalgar had preferred the feeling of ground beneath his feet. It gave him a better sense of balance and allowed him to use his clawed toes for support. He had never worn boots in the navy, and wasn't about to change. His armour covered the top of his feet, and these cloths affixed to that and slide under. Alvyn explained that the pads will allow Kalgar to move a little easier in battle, simply by shifting his weight to the back of his feet. (For all those gamers at home, Alvyn made Boots of the Fencing Master for Kalgar which will help his defenses and help him shift more)

Alvyn made a couple of wand holsters as well as some quick-release mechanisms to wear upon his arm. With a flick of his wrist, two wands can shoot out directly into his hands at any time. In addition, he made a magic bag which can help stow one item in it secretly. He amused Tong and Kalgar by putting a note into the bag, closing it, opening it and asking Tong and Kalgar to find it, which they couldn't.

He also made a shield for himself, knowing that it should help protect him in battle. Finally, he pulled out a case, about Kalgar's shoulder-width across, and opened it. Inside there were a few bars laid out in a row. As Alvyn pulled them out, the others noticed that the pieces snapped together, forming a longer pole. On the bottom were two extra supports, and as the top came together, a piece of cloth unfurled. "I wanted you to know how much I trust you, and how odd that is. I am not a trusting person, most Doomguard are this way, but you have been with me through many adventures and I've been able to count on you. You're an odd bunch, and you're family to me. I know that whether it be ridding the world of a great evil, or putting a country right, you guys will always be by my side, just as I'll be by yours." And as he said this, they looked upon the battle standard, for that's what it was. Combining the personalities and goals of the three of them, the symbol was entirely unique and yet appropriately familiar. (We'll get a picture of this soon.)

The next day, the group made their way through the thickening forests approaching Viridi. Finally, they came across a great wall running north to south. Verius realized they had approached too far from the south and so they followed the wall northward.

Finally, they came to stop at what looked to be a gate, of some kind. Wrapped entirely with vines and leaves, it was strange how it looked both artificial and natural. The group noticed a few guards standing watch at the post, and looking around, they saw giant redwood trees everywhere. Suddenly, they heard a whistling sound and upon looking up, noticed an archer high above them in a tree. He was wearing a bow, slung over his shoulder, and he looked to be wearing leaves, or was that armour?

Tong made his way to the gate and greeted the guards. Saying he had heard of their natural connection, he wished to treat with them. A little awed by his formality, they talked with the group for some time, explaining that with the recent development, they would ask that the group register themselves, for everyone's safety.

As Alvyn signed in the names of the party, including announcing the presence of Verius, Kalgar talked some more with the guard, discussing general military topics. Verius was glaring at Alvyn as he wished to not have his presence made so known, but Alvyn shrugged it off, signing shortforms of their names so as to not draw attention later.

Kalgar knew a little of Viridi. Highly trained warriors, their people combined various forms of magic to be successful in warfare. They didn't heavy siege weapons, and wouldn't really want them either. Most of their people were happy with life and didn't want to push out for more land. They viewed battle as an artform, but not one they wished to practice that often. Still, they had some of the best trained warriors in the world and Kalgar knew this next mission was going to be difficult.

As they made their way inside, they were directed past a tree. As wide as a house and incredibly tall, the tree had a door in it. Seeing inside, they saw that the tree had been hollowed out and that it was lined with stairs. Grumbling about how he had to go from boats, to land, to a land of fire, over mountains, and now people went up trees, Kalgar made his way along, toward the garrison.

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