The Traitor in Sword Village
You get the nod from Swardu just as Vallas lands a vicious kick on Tarmis’ knee. You hear a sickening snap and he cries out as you draw the silver sashi. You lunge forward with a fast convincing feignt to Vallas’ head and you can’t help but grin as he falls for the maneuver leaving his abdomen exposed. You step in close and slash viciously at his stomach while spinning with your whole torso. You know it will take you out of position, but you don’t care. This ends now, one way or the other. Your clever strategy pays off and you feel the sashi sink deep into Vallas abdomen stopping only when it contacts his spine. Your spin causes the sashi to scrape across his backbone and it lodges there wedged between his vertibra.
You finish your spin and stand ready to fend off a counter strike but instead you see look of relief in Vallas’ face.
“I am free.” he says in a strangely calm voice. “Tell Ashook I will see him soon.” he purrs in a decidedly evil voice. The man that was Vallas shifts his form into the hairless, featureless grey of a malamorph as a greasy grey smoke bubbles forth and settles across the corpse.
You expected a cheer of some sort to go up from the crowd. But instead they have all taken a step back in horror at the scene before them. Master Swardu is at your side taking your katana from your hands as other monks tend to your wounds.
“It is over my son. You have done it. You have saved the sword temple from the grip of chaos. The monks also tell me that your friends have saved the village from a similar fate. It seem all our eyes have been clouded by false heroes and treacherous gifts.” He looks down and shakes his head sadly. “All of which has cost us master Telpurr, the greatest and wisest among us.”
You are saddened at the news but not surprised. You thought you recognized the spirit that turned Vallas’ blade. So many questions remain for the master and now he is lost to you.
Suddenly the crowd of wellwishers and monks parts as Prospero, Susi and Colby arrive. Grimclaw is dragging a body in his jaws which lays at your feet.
“This is the wizard Ashook. He is a petty Invoker of sorts and the master of Vallas.” Says Prospero. He looks down at the featureless form in the greasy puddle and says, “I assume you made this mess?”
You smile as the wizard Ashook raises his head to look at you. You see he wears a slave collar covered with runes.
“You are Ashook?” you ask.
“I am.” He says sullenly.
“I know someone who is looking for you.” You say with a smirk
The blood drains from his face as he realizes that Vallas is now free if his hold and looking for revenge. “You must protect me.” he pleads. “I will tell you everything I know.”
“I’m sure we can accommodate that request. The monks have a lot of chores that need doing. Hauling water to the temple. Cleaning latrines and such…”
You see his face twist in rage as he rises up. “I am Ashook the Binder, master of the Third Circle and a Lord in the City of Lost Hope. You will address me with the respect …”
His rage fades as Grimclaw moves into his field of view and crouches to pounce.
“This is my friend Grimclaw. He likes to play with his food and has a fondness of the taste of wizard. The last one took days to die didn’t be Prospero?”
“Three days to be exact. And the mess was tremendous.”
Ashook falls to his knees trembling humbled and broken once more. “It will be as you say.”
“Simon, Ashook and his friends have desecrated the graves of many of the ancestors in this village.” squaws Susi. “I think these fair folk are deserving of recompense.”
“Oh? What would you recommend?”
“I saw some fine stocks on the other end of the market square.” squeaks Colby. “Very well made, and terribly uncomfortable looking.”
“Sounds like just the thing. People of sword village! Ashook is yours for the next tendy. All I ask is that you leave some life in him for me!”
Now the shout goes up and Simon smiles. No small victory this. “Come my friends. I would have you bear witness to what happens next.”
Prospero looks upward at the 10000 steps and mumbles. “Why didn’t I learn that fly spell?”
Rune Master at Last
You and Susi race up the mountain with Colby hitching a ride in your pouch. Grimclaw wanted to run ahead with you but Prospero would not allow it saying it would be undignified for a wizard to arrive without his familiar. Grimclaw had his doubts but kept them to himself.
The temple doors are thrown open wide at your approach and you all march directly in. You take your leave of Colby and Susi and head towards the main altar where Father Thury already awaits among what must be hundreds of lit candles. Munder and Jaymar go forward to light the braziers and incense. Swardu stands beside Simon as his sponsor and sniffs the air.
“You stink of demon Simon. Normally we would take our time and clean you up a bit first,” he says smiling. “But Thury and I think that you need to be placed under the Bandar’s protection as quickly as possible. Such things happen in times of war. Consider it a battlefield promotion.”
You chuckle nervously at that and reflect on the road that has lead to this moment as the priests make the altar ready. Growing up with the Fel after your village was destroyed by the Lazuri. Learning to walk the way of the M’Yow Lin as a boy and dreaming of being a Way-master some day. Fighting with the Fel against the Lazuri as a teenager and seeing you name on wanted posters in the villages near your jungle home. Leaving home to keep from bringing trouble to your pride. Traveling to the Realm of Earth, fighting in the army of the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders, honing your skills, biding your time and building your strength in order to destroy your sworn enemies, the Lazuri.
Prospero, the other candidates of the challenge, and few village dignitaries from the crafters and merchant’s guilds enter the temple as the doors are drawn closed and barred from within. Only the candles illuminate the temple with a flickering glow. Father Thury comes forward and addresses those assembled.
“My friends, this day brings us great joy. A new champion and master of the Way has emerged and will be brought under the watchful eye of Bandar the Lord of Light!”
At his cry, the walls and ceiling of the temple glow with the with what appears to be sunlight and the altar becomes too bright to stare at directly. “Behold, Bandar has banished the darkness and filled the world with his light. Bask in his greatness my friends, may it lighten your load and feed your soul. I would ask our newest champion to step forward at this time to take his oath of service and fealty.”
You stride up to the altar, resisting the urge to raise your hand to block out the blinding light. You long ago learned to fight without your eyes, a short walk to the altar with your eyes closed is trivial. You stand before the altar and notice that the top glows with a more bearable light. Upon the altar lay the last works of Swardu and Telpur. The shining katana and sashi engraved with Telpur’s sword kata as well as newly added fire and air runes. Their ornate scabbards lay above them. Arrayed in a sweeping arc around them are a six silver shurikens inlaid with runes of gold. A new leather pouch fastened with gold clasps lays to the right of the weapons.
“Telpurr knew that a great champion would soon walk among us. He foresaw it in a a vision.” continues Father Thury. “He worked tirelessly with master Swardu laboring for an entire season to create a masterpiece that will shine with Bandar’s light and last the ages. As with all our great works, we scoured the spirit world looking for a great champion of Bandar that would reside in the blades and guide it’s wielder with their wisdom. We found many candidates but judged them unworthy of the work of masters Swardu and Telpurr.”
At this moment, a spirit begins to materialize above the altar. After a bit, it takes on the familiar form of master Telpurr himself.
“The untimely death of master Telpurr has solved the problem for us. At his passing he specifically asked to become your ally Simon. It is a great honor worthy of such a great champion as yourself.”
You bow you head to master Telpurr’s ghost, humbled nearly beyond words. “I am truly unworthy of such a wondrous gift and can only pray that Bandar will guide my actions and grant me the grace to accept such a prize with the honor and humility it deserves.”
Swardu smiles and Father Thury nods in appreciation for your words. “Bandar has chose his champion well. Discipline and humility are the greatest tools of a way master. Far greater than strength or steel. Place your hands upon the altar Simon and speak the oath of fealty so that Bandar can shower his gifts down upon you.”
You lay you hands on the altar and Father Thury positions your right on the katana and the left on the sashi. A quick mind speech spell is cast and you hear the words of the oath in your mind. You speak them out in a load clear voice for all to hear.
“I promise on my soul and the souls of my ancestors, that I will be ever faithful to the lord Bandar, his priests and his temples. I will never cause harm to those friendly to his teachings and will observe my homage to him completely in good faith and without deceit. I will be an instrument of Bandar’s will when called, a holy commander in times of war, and avenging avatar in times of treachery, and a stalwart guardian of his people and his way. I make this oath freely and without duress and swear my complete fealty until I am released, or permanent death takes me, or the world shall end.”
With the closing of the oath you are bathed in the light of bandar and find yourself transformed. You are clean, wearing a new tunic of white linen and new trousers. Your scars are gone and your body feels years younger. Your new pouch appears on your shoulder and you feel the weight of the shurikens inside. The katana and sashi are sheathed and jammed into the belt around your waist. Thury turns you towards those assembled and shouts, “Behold Simon! Rune Lord of Bandar and Master of the Way!”
A great cry goes up as the onlookers rush forward to congratulate you and thank you for all you have done. Prospero, Susi and Colby also enjoy many backslaps and heart felt thanks for their role in saving the village. A procession is formed and you are led down from the high temple to the village below. The temples musicians play a variety of hymns to Bandar and you find yourself dancing down the stairs with the other monks. You will look back on this parade with great fondness for all of your years.
In the city below, a great feast has been prepared and you notice that Ashook is already in the stocks at the far end of the market covered with dung, rotten produce and many, many fresh bruises. You take your place at the head of the table and feast begins immediately. You finally get to hear of the great mystery that your friends solved while you were in the trials. You are amazed at the scope of the deceit that was arrayed out in a fine net to ensnare you and your friends. Things could have gone much worse here.
The feasting, dancing and singing go on late into the night and at one point the crafters guild pulls the party aside and offers to reward the group for saving the village and the guild. Susi asks for some lightweight flexible armor that will not impede his flight. Colby asks for some size appropriate armor and a new sling. Prospero asks for some silver armor for him and Grimclaw if it’s not too dear. The guild masters are excited about the challenges of filling such a wide variety of offers. They smile conspiratorially and say, “We have just the thing. We’ll start tomorrow and within the tendy you will have your wishes with our thanks.”
You also note that Helmund has no shortage of offers for apprenticeships and he has all or you to thank for that.
The party finally winds down and you stumble off to the common house to find your bed. The next day finds Simon in communion with Telpur to learn the ways of his new weapons and skills.
The rest of the party is called to the Street of Hammers and measured and fitted for hours. The evening finds more more parties and celebrations and the ceremony is held at the low temple to allow everyone in the village to meet the new rune lord. The third day you assemble in front of the stocks to extract what you can from Ashook. You find that he holds a wealth of information and shares it willingly. His former arrogance is gone replaced with a keen desire to do anything to improve is current situation. In exchange for his information, you decide to free him from the stocks and turn him over to the monks of the temple.
From Ashook you learn the following:
- Igmar is a lazuri rune lord that is a sown foe of Simon. He last post was Mount Labor and Ashook has heard that he is leading an expedition into the WedgeIron mountains. For what is not known.
- Volmag is a lazuri general who rose to power by driving the fel to the verge of extinction. He is known to both Simon and Telpurr. It is thought that he burned Simon’s village and killed his parents.
- The lazuri wanted to seize the awakened weapons in the Hall of Blades to force the Fel to surrender and end their guerrilla warfare campaign against the lazuri empire. It was thought that the Fel would do anything to protect their fallen ancestors bound into those swords.
- Vallas was a chaotic horror bound into a malamorph. The morph took on an appealing shape to woo the villagers and temple folks. He had to be rebound every day as he was most powerful. Ashook shudders when he speaks of this. The god of morphs also leant his magic to Vallas to disguise his aura and hide his true nature.
- The agents of the lazuri are everywhere in the earth fire realm so it is not unlikely that they have been in Nyca sowing deceit and villainy.
- If you take the Fire Temple from the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders it will hurt the lazuri badly. They are marshaling a great force there.
- Volmag is preparing for the siege on Thenga Velu – the great city of earth. It is said that the he is in possession of some great Journeyman relic, a iron sarcophagus of some sort. Finding him and destroying his source of power would keep Thenga Velu out of the hands of the Lazuri for good.
Over the past tendy five ships have approached or docked within the harbor of sword village. The first is the Fallen Oranna. Captain Ward was in a hurry to leave after the trial was complete but decided to stay on once he learned the true nature of the schemes surrounding the village just in case Susi, Colby, and Prospero needed a few more men at arms. He reluctantly agrees to stay the full tendy after the trials once the smiths say they are willing to trade the bulk of Ashooks ore for a very low price. Ward is eager to return to his home port of Ard and is willing to drop the party off anywhere along the spinward coast of the Sea of Steam. He will not venture further out to sea as he has learned from the other captains in port that Black Jack Adair is hunting his ship.
The second ship was a lazuri slave ship that sailed to the harbor but did not enter. It stayed at sea circling for two hours and then departed. When questioned Ashook explains that the villagers were all to be sold into slavery once the plan was complete. The ship was waiting for the all clear signal which never came. At this point the lazuri are aware that the plot has failed and that Simon has prevailed. Simon flies into a rage that this part of Ashooks plan was not divulged and throws Ashook back into the stocks. Ashook seems sincere in his denial of any treachery saying that his mind was addled earlier in the tendy from the battle and the beatings of the villagers. Simon begins to doubt the wisdom of keeping Ashook alive.
Simon and Telpurr decide that the safest place for the blade of the Sword that Must not be Drawn is in the tiger temple. He and Swardu enter into the caves beside the temple and hide the blade in a deep corner after which Swardu places powerful illusions over the hiding place.
“No one that does not know where to look will ever find that blade.”
The third ship is a sleek yacht called Thorne’s Pride. It’s captain is an elven noble named Waltin Thorne. He is a big game trophy hunter on safari trying to round out his collection. He is in Sword Village to pick up a weapon order of masterwork harpoons, balistae with giant killer bolts, masterwork battle axes and fine armor. Only the best will do. He chats up the party in the common room while his cargo is being loaded by his men. Thorne seeks to add a roc, a sea serpent, a cyclops, and a tyrannosaur to his collection on this trip. He looks capable enough but his plans are sheer madness. Who would seek such things on purpose? When he lays out his maps showing you the islands where he plans to hunt, you note that his dinosaur hunt is in the Shran jungle Rimward of the Wedgeirons. He is indifferent about taking you on but he insists that you help with all four hunts as payment for your passage.
The fourth ship is of an odd design you have not seen before. Her captain calls it a modified blockade runner named the Wind Dancer and she is bound for Orrana, the Sargasso Sea and the forest home of the Storm Elves. Her captain is Jetta the Red a gorgeous outspoken woman with a firey spirit to match her flaming red hair. She is a storm caller, a powerful air wizard and she takes an immediate liking to Prospero. She has a fondness for spouting sexual innuendos at Prospero in public just to watch him blush. Through your conversations in the common room you learn that she is an exile of Thenga Oranna like captain Ward. Unlike Ward however, she is a key figure in the resistance that still thrives within the shadows of the great city of spires and spans. She has heard of Simon’s work in the thicket and of the party’s deeds in the sea of steam. She is here picking up whatever arms the village can spare to deliver to the resistance. She seems well informed about the latest movements of the lazuri and she confirms Ashooks tale about the massing of troops and a secret lazuri weapon. You gather that her spy network must be vast indeed. She is eager to take you all on board and bring you to the front lines of the fight against the empire.
The fifth ship is a sturdy vessel called the Silver Manatee and it is on a voyage of exploration. It’s captain is a bookish looking dwarf named Farin Aghar. He is heading Rimward as far as he can in hopes of finding a route between the Stonerims and the Ringrange. He also hopes to detour from his quest Inge enough to gaze spin the celestial stairway. He is taking on supplies and his crew consists of guides, surveyors, geologists and musketeers. He could use a few more scouts and hired swords and is willing to give each of you a full share in the party’s fortunes, whatever they may be. He speaks of the potential of mineral deposits, trade routes, forts, and holy wonders. The ring range remains largely unexplored to this day, a true frontier.
The eighth day of feasting finds the party alone in their suite of rooms taking a late lunch on the balcony. Prospero pulls a scroll from his sleeve and lays it on the table.
“We have some choices to make my friends. Where to next and possibly who’s going where? I have listed our options on this scroll. Let’s have an honest discussion about our next steps.”
- Sail with Captain Ward back to Ard and the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders perhaps to attack the fire temple
- Sail with Captain Thorne to make our way to Igmar and the direction the silver compass is pointing
- Sail with Captain Jetta to fight against the Lazuri empire on the front lines perhaps to destroy Volmogs secret weapon
- Sail with Captain Farin to explore the Ring Range
- Find Father Vargas and investigate the problems with the Earth temple and solve the riddle of Colby’s Book of Birds
- Travel to Horn Cove and seek out the Necromancer that kept Dora enslaved
- Explore the Crypts of Xaar and help Trisha make Runelady
- Travel with Prospero and Elisandra to Emancia to walk the Conundrum once again
- Add something more to the list to discuss…