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October 2018 Prologue

Tab titleNews and Rumors

[ENVOY’S OFFICE, TRAVAKI ENCLAVE IN FREEHOLD; OCTOBER 8, 2018 (WR)]

Leaning back upon her hinged swivel-chair, Penelope Gold-Tongue ran her fingers through her braid, brow furrowed with thought.

Although outside was bright with the light of an early fall afternoon, her office in the Iron Kingdom’s Freehold enclave was occluded with thick steel bars and plain curtains and lit with artificer lanterns. It was once filled with awards, statues and other artifices worthy of the Iron Kingdom’s envoy. But she had sold most of the more ostentatious items in financing the freedom of Malak Travak and securing a home for herself and her daughter. Instead, it was filled with books and notes from her hirelings’ investigations.

Beneath her, the hinged, swiveling chair was the only thing of monetary worth in the study now, a one of a kind gift from Bolt Anvilsmith of the Golemic Advancements Guild. It was comfortable enough and the blankets draped over it and over her provided her with some solace after long hours of perusing notes and interviewing her hirelings.

But more valuable than the chair were the multitude of notes and tomes that she had accrued across a few short years. She was no scholar or academic – but she was skilled in the tallying of numbers and the management of an office. She used those skills and spent her coin for the last few years toward the accomplishment of one goal: the destruction of the Immortals.

Her people bore the scars of their depravities: the death of thousands were at the feet of Fang-zhara during her initial invasion of the Iron Kingdom and the more recent rampage during Malak Travak’s entombment. Lector’s undead minions were much a part of the latter… though that Immortal and his Blood Lords had injured Penelope in a more personal manner – on occasion, she touched her stomach and grieved for the child that the Blood Lords broke within her.

No – all of them needed destruction. Even “gentle” Vallah was suspect, only tolerated by her because of his own declaration that they were all abominations and needed to be destroyed permanently.

The letter on her desk folded into itself without her fingers to keep it open. Penelope had read it dozens of times but the words upon it remained difficult to grasp – the, plagued and ravaged town of Northwall now marched south to Freehold, reanimated and made hungry by Lector’s unholy magics.

The other missives and notes on her desk told similar stories: that Lector himself was seen in Freehold and driven back by the Freefolk and that the Brotherhood’s internment facility was attacked by a gigantic Lich.

A reckoning was upon Freehold once again, but she was so close. She stopped herself from tugging her braid in frustration.

Penelope was no warrior. She only had healing magic. She could not possibly fight this like They could.

But she had other ways, she was an Iron Dwarf after all. She had pen and paper and more capital to burn. The Iron Kingdom Envoy moved the letters aside to unbury the document beneath them. With a short flourish, she completed and signed the sale of the swiveling chair. It was a pittance of its truth worth and she already knew where she would spent it on – but it was an evil most necessary.

After all, Penelope had already lost one child to the Immortals. She would burn a hundred such chairs and all the comfortable blankets upon them if it meant that her daughter would have a future of safety and prosperity. And while the Immortals reigned upon Midworld, no such future existed for anyone.

A knock on her thick, steel banded door freed her from her ruminations. The voice calling her name outside was familiar, so she made to open it.

For the first time in days, Penelope smiled at someone that was not her daughter. “Eva Caterwaul – what information do you bring for me, today?”

Rumor (anyone may read this):

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September 2018 Prologue

PrologueRumors and Clarifications

[IXIA, CAELLINRAH TOWERS; SEPTEMBER 07, 2018 (WR)]

Before the end of the week, three magical circles had been constructed around the infested tower. They meant to contain the burgeoning energies within and to weaken the undead monsters that would spill out. For their efforts, casualties were light despite the “outbreak”. But any loss of life or limb was of serious import to Choir Caellinrah – Shaed-ling verathas, Shaed-ling veridun, Shaed-ling veradas!*

They were in the middle of constructing the fourth circle, with Elven sentinels eying the infested tower’s windows and door, when the contingent from the Order of Patience arrived, bristling with weaponry and suspicion that was decidedly not the Ixian norm.

They were led by none other than the Gate-keeper Warden, a Cambion who regarded the scene with a severity akin to the sharpened steel that hung from her belt. Though she was far and away from it physically, her charge was the maintenance and the guardianship of the only way into Ixia: the Gate of Patience.

As surprise spread across the Elves, the sentinels guarding the tower turned to face the newcomers. However, they were commanded to remain at their posts by a priestess of high rank. She immediately moved to meet with the Order of Patience, with a personal guard and a tall, foreign Elf.

“Welcome to Choir Caellinrah! Sleeping Winter, I presume?” the priestess spoke with a smile that befitted a banquet rather than the containment of dangerous magics. “I am Alassiel Caellinrah, Twilarch Heirophant in Avorah’s absence”

The Cambion responded with a curt nod as she surveyed the individuals before her and her forces, as if determining the manner and the method of dismantling them should violence erupt. Sleeping Winter’s eyes settled on the foreign Elf – he did not appear to be subservient to the priestess or any other individual. More importantly, he was familiar.

“Magnus von Dammerlicht”

He returned her demeanor with a gaze that was more stoic than severe, being a soul that had endured much in recent times. “Warden. It has been several moons since the cells”

“A precautionary measure for all who enter Ixia, Patriarch Magnus. Everyone understands, of course!” Alassiel did not physically get between them but her voice was enough to break the spell between Magnus and Sleeping Winter.

The Gate-keeper Warden turned her attention to the priestess. “Your messenger has informed me of the situation, though I suspect that much has changed since then”

“No, no – the situation remains contained”

“Then why have you called for the Order of Patience? This is Crown business, not ours” Contrary to her words, her tone seethed with a distinct lack of patience.

“Because of your talents, naturally!” Alassiel flashed a winning smile. “And of course, your proximity. We were aware that you were on your way to the Gate and close by. The strength of the Order is well known to we of Caellinrah – it is all that stands between Ixia and the savagery of the outside world!”

Sleeping Winter paused long enough for the priestess and her guest to understand that the Warden was unimpressed by her geniality. When the silence was almost unbearable, the Cambion gestured that she was to be led to the tower’s perimeter.

Magnus and Alassiel shared a glance after they turned around. As it is with such things, they arrived just in time to see the wraiths and the banshees spill out of the tower in a maddened frenzy. The only warning they gave were the howls of the tormented dead.

****

The battle was a vicious one and the undead tore through sentinels and magical circles at a rate that was yet unseen. At the end of it however, the living had put the dead to rest. The strength of the now broken magical circles and the support of the Warden and her forces were all that stood between the Twilight Elves and destruction. Now the battle was over, healers were lending assistance to the wounded and the dying in no small amount – Caellinrah were known for their love of magic, after all.

A bloodied Sleeping Winter strode to the priestess. Alassiel’s priestly robes were marred with claw marks and crimson.

“Explain”

But for once, the priestess found herself at a loss for words.

Magnus had acquitted himself nobly in the combat using Witchery and he answered for her. “Warden, this attack is unlike anything I have ever seen or encountered, even when my house lived in the death-ridden Corpse-Kingdom. However, I am well aware of its nature and its source”

Sleeping Winter raised a hand up to give him pause. She immediately summoned two of her runners. “You are going to Z’akil. And you are going to the Gate. Both of you will tell them what you saw here”

The Gate-keeper Warden turned back to Magnus. “Apologies. Continue”

Magnus flinched little during the battle, but he trembled with barely contained fury as he spoke. “I have never seen it myself, but I know of this phenomenon – though I did not expect it here, nor do I understand how it comes to be here.

This energy is similar to that of a Soulwell, a nexus of necromantic and spiritual energy. A gateway into the realms of the dead”

“Where did it come from?” Alassiel finally managed enough composure to whisper a question.

“Freehold – from the people who all but recommended the destruction of the Dammerlicht… of all I held dear” Magnus almost choked from his hatred.

Sleeping Winter nodded with an understanding beyond what a single sentence could grant. She had been there at least once and had seen both the virtuous and the sinful within that town, though there seemed more the latter than the former. It was not her place to judge and enact judgment, but if she had her way–

Their palaver was interrupted by more howls, more maddened screaming. Sleeping Winter nodded to her runners and drew her steel, moving her forces between the undead and the retreating Choir Caellinrah. They only needed to last until reinforcements arrived, but it was a tall order and weeks in the making.

When the undead horde streamed out of the tower, she cracked her neck and spread her stance. She would let the wraiths and the banshees come forth unto her waiting blades.

She was patient, after all.

 

 

*See the Celestial Church of Ixia in the Ixian Religion page

Clarify (everyone should read this):
Rumors (anyone may read this):

 

Callas Selvarion Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Fir’bolg Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Gotterdammerung Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Grellken Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Ixia Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Jotunbrud Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Kali-Ishtar Kingdom only

Labyrinthium Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Malak Travak Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Pendrakken Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Riverfolk Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

August 2018 Prologue

PrologueRumors and Clarifications

‘At Least’ —  those are this month’s words

Rodrigo Zapatero heard the curtain beads clatter as his sister entered the tiny kitchen. Tierra was kind enough to let him stay here after his shop was demolished by Fang-zhara’s golems in last month’s invasion so he did his part whenever he could, at least.

“I did not know you had already returned” Tierra’s voice was as low and tired as the sputtering flames beneath the cauldron, as the flickering fires of the candles. “The children are asleep. How was work, Rodrigo?”

“Only getting worse” he sighed, elbows on the dining table of the small room. He rubbed his aching, bandaged fingers together. “People still want their shoes and their leathers mended. But they have not the money to pay. So, I’ve been getting foodstuffs and baubles”

“The farmers are still growing food, at least. Things are difficult with this thing around Freehold that’s stopping us from leaving.”

He upended his bag unto the table, spilling out shrunken and shriveled vegetables and hard bread. “Everyone is talking about what that bright wall is. Lots of folks are putting the blame on the Sun Elves…but no one really knows.”

Tierra picked up an onion and held it closer to a candle. The farms were saved but the price of their salvation was paid to a monstrous, treacherous Witch – so said the people in the tavern. That much she believed, but she and her children were alive…at least.

“We’re not starving” Rodrigo did his best to sound hopeful but found it harder to do than shape leather with ravaged fingers.

“But we will be soon” Tierra started cutting with a nearby knife, starting with the onion and then moving on the rest while she spoke. Shriveled or not, it needed to go into the cauldron with the rest of the foodstuff she traded for her husband’s things. “I heard that the Emerald Chalice and Swift Shipping Guilds have opened their stocks and reserves to the needy, but there is only so much food here. Hinterlanders line the streets of the north and west markets, trapped in town and hungry”

“And desperate?” He was suddenly aware of the weight of the club hanging from his belt.

“No, they left me alone. But this can’t last for long”

“It can’t. It won’t” His fists hurt as he clenched them. “But I know that we will endure this and see this through! There are people out there that will make things right for Freehold!”

She stopped cutting and her voice was a whisper as she signed herself with the symbol of the Seven United. “You don’t mean Primus do you? Celia said that she saw his cultists skulking in the streets, yesternight”

Rodrigo looked at her aghast. “No, no, that’s terrible. No- I mean, the Freefolk! They’ve beaten Primus before and the rest of those other monsters. They even defeated the three Immortals last moon! They’re practically gods and they were scattered like crows! They’ll fight their way out of this!”

Tierra finished cutting as he raved and dropped her work into the simmering interior of the cauldron, handful by handful. She felt, rather than heard, the children stir at his voice– but she couldn’t find it within herself to rebuke her brother.

“And if they don’t?” she said quietly into the cauldron.

“Then it would up to us?” He grinned at her and patted his club. “And no one wants that to happen”

Clarify (everyone should read this):
Rumors (anyone may read this):
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