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Chapter Five

(a shorter session)

CHAPTER FIVE

The Heroes Diverted

Some time passed, then. The destruction left by the First Sign was repaired, and those who had been killed were laid to rest. A memorial to the dead was erected where the meteor had landed. Slowly, wounds began to heal.

We were contacted by Miral, the Mirin we had saved from the Rajans. He met us at a tavern and again I acted as translator for the party. He thanked us all again for his release, and asked us if we could help him again. He was on a mission from his queen, but due to his capture and severe injuries, he found himself unable to complete it.

Since there was nothing new on the Rajan/Tanasian trouble and the next Sign not yet imminent, we agreed. All we had to do was go claim the ancient sword that had been left in the care of a Sindaran collector in the city of Nankar.

We traveled there, and found that the sword had been stolen. The Sindaran collector, Na’Bu, told us that his information was that it had been taken to some place in the Wilderlands of Zaran, and marked the place on a map for us (for a fee.)

And so once again we set out to travel, this time we left the relatively safe environs of the Seven Kingdoms and into the no-man’s land of Zaran. I knew, however, that the trials that lay before us would help shape my party into the great heroes who would save the world on the fateful day of the Seventh Sign.

– End Session Five –

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Chapter Four

CHAPTER FOUR

The Heroes Go Hunting

With some effort, I located the Rajan camp. I might have missed it completely if Fate had not lent a hand, for it was obscured by powerful magics. The trail I was following had disappeared, and searching the surrounding region had proved fruitless. Just as I was about to retrace my steps once again, my Avir friend returned and warned me of the danger I was in. My feet were only a few steps away from the edge of a mighty crevasse, one that had been hidden from my own sharp senses. With the help of Fate, I was at last able to perceive what had been hidden before.

I had set out with the expectation of finding a base camp of Rajan infiltrators – no more than a dozen, was my estimate, based on the size of the strike force we had met the day before.

This was no camp, however. This was an encampment.

Peering down into the rocky pit, I saw scores upon scores of Aramut archers, Zagir infantry, even Shadinn brutes, led by black-armored Rajan commanders. Hundreds of troops in all, I estimated. The encampment was a hive of activity, and was clearly preparing for battle.

This was turning into a bit more than I and my handful of companions could handle on our own. I quickly wrote another note, and gave it to Fate to deliver to the same Cymrillian officer with whom I had spoken the day before.

By this time others had caught up to me, having been guided there by my avir. Truly, my life would be far more difficult if I did not have Fate on my side.

After a hurried discussion, we decided to do what we could until the Cymrillian forces could arrive. We had spied what we assumed was the commander’s place… a fortified construct of smooth stone, no doubt drawn up from the ground through the use of enslaved earth demons. We decided that if we could take out the commander, it would leave the remaining force without direction when the Cymrillian forces attacked.

Tyranus once again summoned his mighty Shadow Dragon from the land of the dead to harry the small army and provide a distraction for the rest of us. Meanwhile, we snuck into the crevasse and past the sentries who were rushing to deal with the shadowy beast.

We reached the commander’s place and with some luck and cleverness reached the interior despite the mounted guards at the entrance. Inside we did battle with the commander of the Rajan forces, only to discover afterward that he was in fact a Tanasian in full Rajan plate armor. We captured him, and Xain did the questioning. We learned that a faction within the House of Tanas was allied with Rajanistan, and sought to destroy Cymril so that they could rebuild a new Cymril over the ruins.

Inside the commander’s fort we found a crystal sphere that, we were told, would contact his superior, i.e. Death. I took the sphere but did not take the chance of activating it at that time. We also acquired the commander’s bracers, which had given him such formidable strength in battle. These we gave to Xain, who could best make use of their enchantment.

There was also a chest, locked and warded with ferocious magics. Xain tried to break the spell, but triggered it instead, causing the chest and its contents to explode. Miraculously, we were all unharmed, but any additional information we might have gleaned from the contents was lost.

We also rescued a Mirin, white-faced and weak. He appeared to have been their slave for an extended period. He did not speak Talislan, but I could communicate with him in the Elder Tongue. I told him we would help him escape as soon as the Cymrillian forces arrived. He whispered his thanks.

Eventually the Cymrillians arrived, flying an armored windship over the area I had specified in my letter. With the shadow dragon on one side of camp and the powerful windship and its soldiers attacking from the other, and without the leadership necessary to react to these threats, the Rajan forces were quickly subdued.

– End Session Four –

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Chapter Three

CHAPTER THREE

The Heroes Hunted

After the dust cleared, the Cymrillian constabulary arrived and questioned everyone involved. Tyranus, in particular, was most closely scrutinized. However, as the witness’s statements were collected it was clear that the heroes had done everything they could to help. We were thanked and allowed to leave, though Tyranus was released only with great reluctance.

I had not been concerned, of course. How else could it be, if they were destined to meet the other six signs?

As I walked down the crystal steps in front of the guard station where I had been questioned, I was filled with peace and satisfaction. We had done well, following the path set by Fate. So distracted was I by my self-congratulating thoughts that I did not at first notice the tugging at my leg.

In a small voice, a Gnomekin child said, “Am here to thank you, dark one.”

I looked down in surprise. There, no taller than my knee, was the very child I had seen before the First Sign had fallen. He continued, “For saving this one and family, Mother wishes you to have this.” He held out in his tiny hand an emerald.

I smiled and said, “There is no need to reward me, young one. I only did as my nature required.” He answered, “Please take the healing stone. You saved this one and family. Maybe it will save you one day.”

He reached up and placed the emerald in my hand. It was smaller than one of my fingernails, yet seemed to be heavy for its size. As I looked at it, it shimmered faintly with an inner radiance, and I was shocked to realize I recognized this gem!

This was Noorio’s Healing Gem, which had been found in the wreckage after the First Sign. I remembered this now. This gem had been found amid ashes and unidentified bodies. I remembered this NOW. My vision swirled.

I had changed the future. That which I had read in the history books was now wrong! What new catastrophes might now lay in wait because of my tampering?

When I finally managed to tear my gaze away from the gem, the Gnomekin child was gone. I was left alone on those crystal steps, with the evidence of my actions weighing in the palm of my hand.

I left the city then, without a word to the other heroes. I retreated to the well-tended groves and gardens that pass for forests in the kingdom of Cymril. I needed the tranquility of sky and soil, of leaf and wind, like I had seldom needed it before.

The next day, events were transpiring around the heroes of which I would only learn later. While I meditated in the forests beyond the city walls, the heroes were being targeted by Rajan assassins. They struck at range and then vanished, each time leaving nothing behind but a poisoned dart. The heroes evaded their attackers, though at least one innocent bystander was killed.

That afternoon, one of them came for me. The trees hid me, however, granting me invisibility, and I used my bow to strike down my attacker before he knew I was there. I turned the assassin over to the guards at Cymril’s gates, and that is when I learned of the other attacks.

I sent my avir friend, Fate, into the city. In the feathered tongue I told her to find the heroes and lead them to me. To ensure there would be no confusion I also tied a small note to her leg that said “Allow Fate to guide you.” I then set out to follow my assassin’s trail back to the Rajan camp I knew must be hidden nearby.

– End Session Three –

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Chapter Two

CHAPTER TWO

The Heroes Engaged

That night there were signs and portents to be seen everywhere. The fortune-tellers and cartomancers closed up their shops. The Sarista tents were taken down and gone before the first moonrise. A herd of panic-stricken Greymanes fled the steed-seller’s pen when Zar, the black moon, raised its baleful eye across the city.

Zar: it was months yet until the seventh month of the year, yet there it was, full and powerful, looming larger than it had in millennia, yet hardly anyone noticed. Few had eyes to see its blackness amid the stars. The few who did merely speculated on the oddity, blind to approaching doom.

When Fate’s chosen heroes arrived, we made our way to the Whirling Omniverse. Soon the sky began to lighten with approaching fire. Faces were raised, some fearful but most with expressions of anticipation, thinking this was another spectacle for the celebration.

The First Sign was coming.

When I looked around, I spied many who I knew were destined to die in this historic catastrophe: the Cymrilian rogues, with their silver hoods, the Sindaran trio caught mid-debate, a dozen others, recorded by historians not yet born. I knew they would be reborn in another life, another time, yet I still felt a pang of regret when I saw the Gnomekin children.

Perhaps they were destined to perish beneath the approaching First Sign. Perhaps, yet I couldn’t remember seeing their faces in the history books. Surely if they were here, where doom approached, then it was their fate, right?

A part of me – a part that I think of as my inner Fool-Hero – thought “Maybe not.”

Was there room for me to make a change? Could I do something? These young lives might be spared, if I dared act.

I made my decision. I would warn who I could and let the future take care of itself for once. I went among those in danger and told them to flee. I told them they were in danger, that this was no magical display of light and fire. I urged individuals and I persuaded groups.

Some listened, others did not. I noted that those I remembered from the history books laughed at my warnings, or simply did not heed me in time. The Gnomekin family, I was pleased to see, fled to safety moments before the roar of the First Sign became unmistakable.

A piece of the black moon, Zar, was about to fall on Cymril’s Magical Faire.

I did what I could, and fled at the last moment as the flaming meteor came screaming through the sky and crashed into the sixty-foot tall Whirling Omniverse. Lines of arcane energy were snapped, spiraling iron framework was twisted, and a score of Faire attendees were killed.

Not everyone was killed, however. There were dozens more that were injured and trapped amid the flaming wreckage. The heroes, true to the name, ran forth to help those in need.

They worked singly, and they worked as a team, these strangers. Many who would have died would live to see the dawn thanks to Fate’s chosen. Pixx used her sensitive nose to seek out those who were unable to call out to their rescuers.  Wu climbed amid wreckage with no concern for his own safety and pulled many from certain death. Tyranus summoned a Shadow Dragon to lift the heaviest pieces of wreckage, freeing those trapped below. Xain used pure brawn to carry the injured to safety. I called an elemental spirit to grow a tall tree beneath the rubble, clearing the way for the rescuers and preventing further collapse.

Our real test was still to come.

The Rajan death-priest Raj-Nihil and his cultists arrived during the confusion and mayhem and prepared to lay claim to the meteor. I knew we could not allow this, and informed the chosen what they must do.

The battle was fierce, but in the end the death-worshippers were defeated. We had taken the eerie crystal that had come from the heart of the meteor, and prevented it from falling into evil hands.

– End Session Two –

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Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

The Heroes Meet

It was the fifth day of Cymril’s Magical Faire, and the weather had been sweltering. Tourists and celebrants had come from all across the continent to take part in this – the biggest party of the year – despite the unseasonable heat. The streets were thick with sweaty bodies pushing against one another in a futile effort to cling to the infrequent oases of shade.

My name, when I need one, is River, and I had seen all of this before.

I watched as a pair of Cymrilian rogues plied their games of subterfuge, fleecing unsuspecting travelers of their possessions with rigged games chance. I did not intervene, though it was well within my power to do so. Who am I to tamper with the local ecosystem? Let them be. I remembered that both they and their victims would be dead before dawn.

I arrived at the Emerald Pentacle at noon, awaiting those I had asked to meet me. Outside, my avir companion, Fate, watched their approach and alerted me with his music. They arrived one by one, as I had known they would; adventurers, wanderers, and other desperate souls. None of them knew that they were destined for greatness.

The first to arrive was a tall, imperial looking Cymrillian. He bore all the marks of the House of Tanas: the arched brows, the aquiline nose, and the haughty demeanor. He introduced himself as Tyranus and told me this meeting had better be worth his time.

The next fellow introduced himself simply as Wu, a smallish man with gold-hued skin and a shaved pate. He was soft-spoken, but seemed most interested in discussing silk prices, shipping and labor costs, and the clothing market. His demeanor was a smokescreen, I knew, for his hidden agendas. He was carefully evaluating us even as he spoke at great length about recent Arimite labor disputes and their effect on his silk business.

I judged that Tyranus could not have been more bored.

The third to arrive almost did not make it. As she crept into the Emerald Pentacle’s entry hall, the proprietor bustled out from behind the bar, broom in hand, and prepared to shoo her away like some kind of vermin.

It was the sort of greeting Pixx was used to receiving in civilized society, as a Ferran.

Before he could make use of his broom, she vanished beneath a table. A look of consternation passed over his face as he began searching for her, ducking between booths and tables in vain.

I intervened then, not wanting our first meeting to devolve into a slapstick comedy. I informed the proprietor that the Ferran was there as my guest and that I would stand for any trouble she might cause. I believe Pixx stuck her tongue out at him from behind my back. With a disgruntled expression, he sighed and walked back to the bar. When he glanced back, my cloak carefully blocked his view of Pixx’s rude gesture.

When she joined the table, Wu moved diplomatically aside to give her space to sit, though it is possible he was simply arranging to not be downwind of her.

Tyranus seemed to have had enough by then, and was ready to leave. I urged him to remain just a little longer, as we had only one more guest to come, a fellow named Xain.

When I said the name, two things occurred. First, Tyranus looked startled, as if he knew the name. Second, Xain himself cleared his throat from the dark corner in which he had been sitting all along. He slowly arose, walked past Tyranus and sat at our table. Tyranus bore a carefully blank expression.

When we were all seated, I told them what they could handle, if not believe. Belief could come later.

I am called He Who Walks the River’s Bank, because I walk along the river of time, stepping in and then out again when fate demands it. I was here, in the ruins of Cymril, sixty years from now. I knew what had happened, and I knew the names of the legendary heroes who had stepped in when needed. So now, an agent of Fate, I called those heroes together and told them where they must go.

They were uncertain of me, of course, but I had come prepared with the coins of gold that I knew would persuade them. They agreed to meet me that evening near the Whirling Omniverse ride near the center of the Faire, and so we went our separate ways.

While the future heroes enjoyed the entertainments of the magical faire and spent their new wealth, I sat on the roof of Aharazad’s Potions and Philters. I gazed upon the Omniverse, and contemplated the future.

– End Session One –

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The Cast

The Cast

Narrator      –         River

an Ariane Druas forever out of time

Tanasian        –     Tyranus

a Cryptomancer and the man who would have been king of Cymril

Mandalan       –     Wu Lung

silk merchant and revolutionary

Ferran         –         Pixx

a tough survivor with a soft heart

Xambrian    –         Xain

a drunkard resisting the call of Destiny

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