I had just gotten back from Rivenwood, dropping off Mark for Victoria as I promised. I told her about the ambush from Darklings and Thomas’s unfortunate loss, but she was thankful for the attempt. I decided to keep my mask on, since she’ll most likely react like everyone else I’ve encountered in my life. Sleina settled next to me, and we let Zeneak take the first watch. Perhaps I’ll speak more with Victoria in the morning and learn more of her, see what she can do to benefit the group.
Sleina received a note right before sunrise. It was from her mentor Nyx, in the capital and she asked for her presence immediately. Knowing she would go with or without me, I woke Zeneak and Victoria to let them know that we business to attend to. I left Mesret asleep, knowing that mages needed to rest to in order to cast their spells. I trusted Zeneak to look after the two, and Victoria is honorable enough to not betray her word. But nonetheless I reminded her that working with us would be best for her in the long run. She agreed, giving her word that she would not cause trouble for Zeneak and Mesret. Sleina sent her one last warning glare before heading down the ladder. I let out a sigh, and apologized for my wife’s behavior as she is only looking out for our safety. Victoria seemed to be amused by her antics more than anything, and settled back into her makeshift bed as I made my way down the ladder.
I better make sure not to leave those two alone in the future.
We headed North, then East towards a river that would take us to Lake Beltane, allowing us to bypass the invading army heading towards Esbat. When we got to the river, Sleina began making a pontoon, camouflaging it to make it look like floating debris. It was easy going for the first day, and by nightfall of the second we were passing by the Fort Panter ruins. It was then that I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a woman, dressed in purple robes, and she walked into the ruins with purpose. Sleina saw it as well, and I could tell that curiosity was gnawing at her. I wasn’t sure if she knew it or not, but this was the place where Theadan sealed away the white dragon Krix forty years ago. It was what made him and Magatarius heroes and the leaders of Esbat. But recently Krix was released, I knew this because my father told me when I last saw him just a month ago.
“They have no business being there.” I said, wanting to know why someone would come here knowing the dangers of this place.
“I agree.” She replied, and began rowing towards the shore. She began securing the pontoon while I went ahead to see where that woman went off too.
I tracked her to a side entrance, and she wasn’t alone. There were several others there, dressed in very fine armor. Though none of the insignia’s were the noble houses of Beltane, which meant they were wild elves. Sleina caught up with me, and I informed her of my discovery. We both agreed that a direct confrontation was not the best choice of action, since we did not know their numbers. So we were able to sneak around the two elves that were on guard and enter the main entrance, as they were scouring another entrance.
The stairs led down to a set of huge doors that looked like they were forced open, and within was a gargantuan chamber, half frozen in ice and some debris. Walked to the other end of the room I found an arcane circle, which looked to have been modified several times. It was a powerful ward breaking rune, and I knew this was the room where Krix was held imprisoned the last forty years.
She is free now, and most likely going to make a move against Theadan soon if what my father told me of her is true. This could be troubling since the nation can’t afford to be fighting dragons again with this new army at Esbat’s doorstep.
Sleina got my attention, finding a hidden door back in the far corner of the room, behind where Krix would have been. We couldn’t find the latch to open it, so I went to work using my pick to open the way. Fifteen minutes later and we were through. Inside was a small alcove, with a desk and chair, and many parchments of papers; all on the study of dragons. It focused mostly on Krix herself, but there were extensive studies on dragon biology, anatomy, flight patterns across Beltane, dated around forty years ago. This was troubling to me. If this got in the wrong hands the dragons would be in danger. I started collecting paper in sight, shoving it in my bag. And we found another hidden stash, containing a single journal. I shoved that in my bag as well, knowing now wasn’t the time for reading when we weren’t alone.
Sleina found another hidden passage, and we followed it to another door, I started opening it, but stopped when I heard voices. There were two, and they arguing about their orders from a woman named Roxandra. I picked up “old man’s journal” from one of them and knew why they were here now. I motioned for Sleina to head back the way we came, and as we got to the alcove we were spotted. I slammed the door shut, then barricaded the door with the table and a couple boulders before we ran for the main entrance.
We were met by 20 or so men and women, along with the purple robed elven woman. We made a mad dash for the wall, I climbed it with ease and pulled Sleina up and over, with arrows flying by our heads. Before I jumped down I heard the woman shouting not to shoot us, but I wasn’t inclined to stay and find out why. We got to our pontoon, pushed it out on the river and got as low as we could to hide in the brush. It worked, they began going up river while we drifted towards the lake, though we didn’t move from our positions for an hour just as a precaution.
When it was safe I let out a relieved laugh, while Sleina beamed with pride. She always liked going off on “adventures”, since she grew up in a noble household. Although we did come out with some valuable knowledge in the end, we would have to look at our findings when we get to Ta’lan, or risk them getting ruined while on the pontoon.
Another day passed by and we floated by Esbat. Scorch marked the walls and the smell of death and decay was in the air. It seemed the city was able to push back the army from the South, as it was still standing. But this wouldn’t be the last time the invaders would try, and I’m starting to think that Rivenwood is a lost cause as it is on the path to Esbat. We may have to relocate the people before they send in another force. The mines are no place to keep 200 people, especially if the plane of Necropolis is merging not far from the mines. Then there is the matter of the darklings, another problem I would rather not deal with along with the others. I’ll bring the matter up when we get back to the others, for now getting to the capital is our priority.
We abandoned the pontoon a couple miles outside Ta’lan and walked the rest of the way, and I got us a room for the night to get a decent rest. We ate in the tavern where my wife paid the bard to sing any songs he knew. To my horror there are rumors of a “Beast of the West” who saved a caravan with a single swing of his sword. I nearly choked on my tea when he recited the tale of our first journey to Rivenwood. My wife was delighted by it, and tipped the bard graciously that night while I just tried to stay out of site.
The next morning we searched for any ships head to the capital, though we only found two. One was leaving in a month’s time while the other in two days. We sought out the captain that was leaving sooner rather than later, and to my surprise/horror, it turned out to be Captain Anna and her little crew of pirates. Knowing that we couldn’t waste a months’ time waiting, I strode forward to the inebriated captain and her first mate Neven. She recognized me immediately, and held up her mug with a smile, inviting both me and Sleina over. Sleina was confused by the action due to my reclusive nature, but she went along with it.
I only hope she would not attack the captain outright once she found out she’s a pirate.
Anna gave my wife one look over, then asked who she was. When I said she was my wife she got this impish look on her face, then leaned forward towards Sleina.
“You know your husband paid me lots of money for my…services.”
I prayed to any god above that my wife wouldn’t punch her face in, and fortunately she did not. But she did give me a strange look, and I quickly explained that it was for passage on their boat. Anna giggled into mug while her first mate sighed, looked at me and said,
“You see what I have to put up with?”
“You have my condolences.” I answered, to which Anna promptly splashed the rest of her Ale on me. Lucky for her I’m not one quick to anger, due to my cautious nature in general. My wife on the other hand was not amused, so I acted quickly and threw a bag of coin on the table, setting my terms of passage and the need to get there quickly. Neven agreed on Anna’s behalf, and said he would get the crew ready to leave in the morning. We parted ways after that, and spent the rest of the day relaxing and getting ready for our departure.
A week later and we arrived in Sylvanus Hollow, where we got a room at an inn, then headed to the Otmar Estate to see Sleina’s mentor Nyx. I waited outside the room, letting the children gawk and giggle at the giant man in armor quietly. An hour passed before she came out again, looking shocked and awe. She led me back to our room and pulled out a small emblem; The Symbol of Beltane’s Hollow, or rather the Justicars badge.
It seemed that Sleina was no longer a trainee, but a fully-fledged Justicar. I congratulated her, but she still seemed to think it wasn’t real. I asked her what was her next task, and she said that she would be going to Labrys to investigate some trouble there. We decided to leave in a week’s time, so we could get some rest and new supplies. It would also give me some time to modify her sword and armor, a gift for her promotion. I also wanted to read the journal we found, since we had time now. And it’s not every day you get the Archmage’s writings, who knows what I’ll find in it.
As it turned out not what I at all expected it to be. I thought it would be his musings on how he and Magatarius would capture Krix, but I was only partly right. What was written was very hard to believe, since Theadan was a beloved hero to the nation, not to mention that Mesret worshiped the man. Gods, how am I going to tell Mesret about this?
That Theadan was part of a rouge mage faction, had dealings with the Black Hand, and after he dealt with Krix and had Magarius installed as Esbat’s leader he would assassinate him and take his place?
What I had was something much out of my expertise…high treason is not something I can handle at my level. Information like this was too dangerous to send by letter, I would have to wait until we get back to Rivenwood to tell Mesret about this.
There were other bits of information within this journal as well, locations of magic items and other important locations. I copied those places on another sheet of paper for myself, as for the rest I left in the book and waited for Sleina to return from the market.
She was shocked to say the least, and agreed that we needed to take this to her mentor, who was the Empress’s Justicar. We immediately went back to the Estate and I presented my findings to her, Nyx changed Sleina’s orders, wanting us to go to Esbat with the other Justicar’s and present our findings to the court.
Another week went by, and we arrived in Esbat the night of a Grand ball being thrown by the mages and Nobles, and it was where Magatarius was. As a Justicar, Sleina had access to get in anywhere, and I followed where she went. I don’t know what kind of trouble would happen if Theadan was there, and I would rather not have a confrontation with him. But where she goes I will follow, if only to keep her out of trouble; fortunately he was not.
We were off to the side, watching the highborn and mages enjoy the night and celebrate Esbats recent victory against “The Company’s” army as it was told. Apparently Aegon Theren came up with a battle plan that utilized magic against their technology. And it worked, with the city suffering minimal losses while the invaders were destroyed save for a handful of people. Whatever my father’s feelings on the “Usurper” he was right about the man’s strategic planning; he isn’t someone I would want to fight with an army.
Just as we were trying to figure out how to present ourselves to Magatarius, several loud explosions sounded throughout the hall. Soon after that a human came running out one of the side passages, screaming bloody murder throughout the hall. Then a second human, his clothing torn and covered in blood, was thrown out into the court room but he quickly got back to his feet.
The room was silent, all eyes were on the man as he pulled out what looked like a broken spear head. Then several more crashes resounded throughout the hall, and a Glabrezu came out of the same side passage. The demon looked just as bloody as the man, and he was ready to tear the human apart. I reached for my blade, just in case Sleina decided to attack, but she seemed just as shocked as the rest of the party. The Glabrezu seemed to notice the hundreds of people for the first time, and took a step back. He raised a claw towards the human and roared,
“THIS ISN’T OVER!!”
The demon began to fade from existence, but the man threw his spear head with precision right at the Glabrezu’s head. Right before it hit both the spearhead and demon were gone, and the room went deathly silent once more.
The man fell onto his back, and began chuckling to himself; most likely out of relief when an elven woman ran to his side. He sat up and said something to her, though I couldn’t hear what it was before he broke into a smile. He got back to his feet, attempted to dust himself off, and strode with purpose towards Magatarius. He bowed to the lord of Esbat, then stood with his back straight and said,
“My lord, on behalf of the Knights of the Hollow, I’m here to implicate Theadan with high treason against the nation of Beltane, and I have the evidence to prove it.”
Well that solved our problem of approaching Magatarius.
My wife laid a hand on my shoulder before walking up to the both of them; she stated her name and rank, then supported the man’s claim before showing Magatarius her own evidence and then using her power, claimed Theadan an enemy of the Nation, and is to be hunted down to face his crimes. The man began recounting all of Theadan’s crimes then: illegal demon summoning, kidnaping, illegal and morbid experimentation on the citizens of Beltane, inciting Noble houses to fight amongst themselves by utilizing the Black Hand, and the list continued so on.
Magatarius ended the party soon after, and gathered his council as he was present the evidence in question. The man said a few words to my wife before he strode off with the elven woman and left the building. Sleina came back to me, saying that we had an audience with Aegon Theren. Apparently that was the man himself, and he had been investigating Theadan for the last 6 months. He wanted to compare our findings with his own in order to fully update Beltane’s Hollow on his investigation
So we headed off to the Aedan Estae, the First house of Esbat of all places where Aegon was staying with his wife. When we were brought to him, he had a fresh changed of clothes, and all his wounds were healed. He was tall, a couple inches shorter than myself. He looked like he was beginning to show some muscle, like he had started a training regime; though I think that it’s mostly due to his newly acquired bloodline. He wore an amulet around his neck, had a headband around his forehead, with a pair of goggles that hung loosely around his neck as well. His face was scruffy, like he hadn’t shaved for a couple days. His black hair was cropped short, which made the earring on his left ear stand out; platinum and gold braided into a simple circle. Simple and elegant.
The Elven woman from before sat behind him, wearing the same earring on her right hear. And now that I got a better look at her I could tell she was with child, with the light bulge on her midsection showing. This had to be his wife, and the new maiden of the Spire. A former Aedan as well, which meant she most likely knew who we were before we arrived into Esbat.
The High dragon greeted us with a smile, holding out his hand to Sleina, and bowed his head to me when she introduced me. He looked at me for a moment, and I could tell he had heard of me. I’m going to have to start paying the bards to not sing of my exploits because it’s starting to drag me back in the political game…
He thanked Sleina for her support at court, as he was having trouble finding physical evidence for the last several months. He asked to look through the journal we found, and see if there were any common themes in the books that he had found earlier this night. I saw Sleina pause for a second, trying to get a read on his intentions, but in the end she handed the book to him. He quickly started skimming through the pages, pointing out names and such. He told us that Theadan’s Black Hand contact was in fact the Demon at court, which co-inside with the evidence that we found.
He then updated her on all his findings for her to give to her superiors; his witnesses, the books he found, and his possible connection with the woman named Freemont, who was the head of the invading forces. I noticed that he visibly relaxed as he shared his findings, and looked very tired. Apparently this had been taking a toll on him for awhile.
He handed the journal back afterwards, and thanked her again for her support. So thankful that he granted us our choice of land in his new outpost South of the Dragon’s Spire and promised to pay for what we wanted to build there. He asked us where we were headed off to next, and she told him back to Rivenwood. He perked up then, and asked about the outpost since it went silent before the army hit. He was worried about the people and his cousin Algeris. I spoke up then, telling him that the people were safely evacuated to the new underground mine. He let out a relieved sigh, but then went back to being serious. He asked a personal favor of us then.
It turned out that he knows Mesret, and that he was an apprentice of Theadan. Aegon believed that with Theadan’s betrayal revealed, all of his apprentices will feel the blowback and be arrested for interrogation. He knows that Mesret was an apprentice for a short time but, but it was enough for him to be known by others. He wasn’t sure about the involvement of Theadan’s other apprentices, but he believed Mesret to be innoncent. Therefore Mesret needed protection until everything begins to calm down again.
My wife knows an opportunity when she sees one; a personal favor of a city lord wasn’t to be passed up. But I knew that she was also concerned for Mesret’s safety, and we were both eager to get back to the outpost as quickly as possible. We said our goodbyes and Aegon thanked us one last time before we went back to our room for the night. As soon as we arrived Sleina dropped to the floor, letting out a long sigh. I asked her what was wrong, and she said that tonight was the first night that she had that much attention on her in the high court. I joked at least she didn’t have a Glabrezu throwing her across the room.
I brought up my concern of Mesret, and why Aegon would know of an orphan boy and want him looked after. I knew enough of politics to see that something wasn’t right, but since he wanted us to protect him I didn’t want to over step my bounds and ask why. At least not yet. She had no idea either, but having a favor from a powerful lord would be good for us. She asked about the new land opportunity we had, and I thought we should consider it, and possibly take Mesret and Zeneak with us after we figure out what to do about Rivenwood. A fresh start out of the war path sounds very pleasing to me right now. We’ll agreed to bring it up again once we get back, and after we tell Mesret about what happened with Theadan. For now, we would rest and leave in the morning
We were halfway back to the outpost then we ran into a problem. We had to cross a river, but a crocodile was in the way; A crocodile the size of an elephant. My wife was apprehensive about fighting it, but we didn’t have a choice. That thing was in our way and it needed to be gone.
I tend to forget that some creatures are far more dangerous than I believe they are. But when you spend half of your childhood raised by a dragon these details tend to be forgotten.
Utilizing my magic, I threw my sword at the beast, scoring a hit. And right on cue it charged at me, grabbing me with its jaws. I heard Sleina scream, but it only motivated me to end this as quickly as possible. I got out of its mouth, and pinned its jaws shut using my sword, then sealed it with a breath of ice. Sleina came up and shocked it at its neck with a touch of her hand, and I did the same between its eyes. It struggled to get free, but with one last shock it went still. We slit its throat just for good measure, and Sleina gave me some potions for my wounds. We decided to harvest the meat, skin, and bones since we now had a bag of holding to carry as much as we wanted; and it would be a waste to leave it here. It took us two days to prep everything, but we did so and continued on our journey.
We arrived back at the hideout a day later, but Mesret was out harassing the unwanted guests at the outpost. Zeneak healed the rest of my wounds, and Sleina and I decided to wait until Mesret returned before we broke the news of Theadan and the invasion. An hour later Mesret climbed up the ladder. He changed since we last saw him a month ago; more lean, but he had some muscle on him now, as well as a tan from living outdoors. He looked healthy, but at the same time tired.
He didn’t take the news of Theadan’s betrayal well, as we thought. He asked for the diary, and his hands shook as he read it. I wanted to comfort the boy, but I think my words wouldn’t have an effect on him at the moment. For now I’ll give him some time to think on it then talk to him. My main concern is the people of Rivenwood, and what we need to do to get them to safety. This place wasn’t safe anymore, with everything going on. I believe we need to move to a new place, one not on the warpath. I’ll bring my thoughts up in the morning, when we have a fresh start.