Since Eugene won't be posted overseas now, I propose running a bunch of Highlands sessions in the month of April. Everyone good with that?
I'm assuming it won't be long. I don't know how many of you saw my post before I deleted it, but I'd change the letter to a personal one from Twilight. More appropriate
So here we are in April. I'm checking who's up for a meet-up for cards or Highlands downtime on Thursday. :)
My place available. Doug?
How is everyone for Thursday night, since Fri is a holiday? Jonathan, Daniel, Darren, Eugene, Doug?
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The stone-grey wolf treads her way solemnly across the busy grounds, unheeding of the bustle around her. She bears a silver chalice filled with clear water, upon which float small silver buds, a bundle of sage, a smoldering match and a garland of silver moonflowers in her hands. The crowd parts almost instinctively before her as she makes her way slowly down the broad, cobbled avenue, baking beneath the bright noon sun. It is still summer in the Highlands, but already a cold breeze blows steadily off the Whiteshears, sweeping the scattered leaves across the cobblestones. The trees are turning, fruits ripening and wheat rippling golden in the fields, matching the color of the wolf’s tousled hair. She pauses a moment and looks around, drawing a deep breath of the cool, clean air, thick with the scent of the new harvest mingled with cold steel and warm earth.
Twilight Orrin looks around, her eyes glazed, looking out at things that were - and are to be. Of the present, she sees little; the crowd of merchants and mercenaries, warriors and wayfarers, laden carts and half-finished buildings are but shades before her. Her heart rests in a time where this bustling boomtown on the edge of the highlands was but one of many lowland villages under Starkish yoke, a nameless huddle of quaint cottages and silent groves, of sleepy hollows and quiet fields.
Now they call it Lárnach – literally Central. The place where all the roads from the Highlands meet, bringing with them the riches of the land. A respectful distance south from Hydra’s Head Grove and less than an hour by cart from the new Starkish border, the once sleepy village has been transformed into a chaotic marketplace for goods – and services – from the Highlands. Separate from the Royal capitol and the homes of the various clans, Lárnach is dominated by two constructs – the central plaza, which plays home to the myriad merchants and middlemen, bringing goods to and from the Highlands, and the high barracks housing the nascent Mercenary’s Guild.
Kept under control largely by the shifters of Clan Orrin, the guild acts as a facilitator for mercenary companies from the Highlands and its neighbors; where many Highlanders seem to be savoring the peace that the wedding and coronation of Snack and Rain has brought others see the advantage a secure homeland provides to seek their fortune elsewhere, or simply find it impossible to resume their former lives after decades of war and death. Others are little more than riff-raff; former bandits, warlords, outcasts and stragglers driven from their petty holdings by Twilight, Gussy, Deathbiter and the others; and offered a choice between death – or the life of a mercenary under supervision of the Guild.
With a weakened Gierstark, the rebuilding refugees of Port Pearl, and conflicts simmering across the lands of the former Empire between factions of the Imperial remnant, the rising power of Wolf Bank and the main forces of the Dragon Armies to say the least, the demand for swords outside of the Highlands has never been higher and a steady stream of warriors of all stripes accompany the heavily laden merchant caravans south to Gierstark and beyond: Kobolds, Bugbears, Shifters, Lycanthropes, Goblins, Goliaths, along with the odd Shadar-Kai, Dwarf and Elf. And humans of course. There’re always humans.
Twilight barely notices any of this right now; her heart and mind are elsewhere, walking quietly upon a grassy hill beneath the pale moonlight with the air is still fresh and green and thick with the heady scent of wildflowers, herbs and heather; the scent of spring.
It’s been over a month since the wedding and the long, hard work of ordering the new Highland Kingdom has just begun. Twilight’s moved south with a large portion of Clan Orrin – old friends and old rivals long sundered, brought back together by the dramatic changes wrought over the preceding month. Now they help “King” Diarmante rally his scattered subjects, while clearing out scattered rogues, renegades and other darker creatures – undead remnants, demonspawn and other blighted creatures. The fighting has been tough at times, but none have fallen, a testament to their prowess in battle.
It’s been like old times, hunting wild and dangerous things, free of the tiresome drudgery of running the village. The wolf looks out emptily over the quiet hamlet which she and her forces have largely taken over as a base of operations. Already, traders and travellers flow freely from the Highlands along roads once again made safe. While there has been some muttering about the decidedly colorful nature of the new wayfarers, most have been wise enough to keep their tongues to themselves, surrounded as they are by a pack of ferocious shifters and their morose leader.
Twilight allows herself a brief sigh of satisfaction. Things have gone well…enough. Soon, however, they will face the question of what to do with the motley crew of mercenaries and freebooters that have made their way into the employ of various Clan Lords and Ladies. Once the fighting is done, they’ll have to be dealt with somehow to secure the Crown although Rain seems to be cooking up something with regards to that. She’d seemed rather smug the last time Twilight had raised the issue with her. A snort – she’ll find out soon enough. For the time being, everything is under control. The demons are quiet, the dragons are tamed or have retreated. The dwarves are broken, the elves preoccupied and no one has heard of the undead. For the first time in over a month, the shifter can actually feel she’s done well for everyone involved.
“You’ve done well for yourself, sister.”
Twilight starts at the familiar voice, as a svelte, silver furred arm wraps itself gently around her shoulder from behind. “It depends, I guess, how you define that, sister” she replies as she clasps her cousin’s hand. “The clan has…grown, beyond…our…wildest dreams. Though not quite in the way I had anticipated and not entirely in the way I’d hoped.”
“Your dreams perhaps, sister. It is much that I had dreamed of. Although I had hoped that someone a little closer to me would have been queen.” Eclipse purrs as she strokes her older cousin’s hair. “But you were never one to let go of things easily, were you, Twi?”
“Not of people, no” Twilight turns, holding tightly to her cousin’s hand. “Especially not family” she says as she gazes almost longingly at her cousin. Eclipse looks… different. She’s dressed in little more than a fine, flowing kilt draped tastefully about her lithe form, with moonsilver bracelets around her arms, legs and neck. A moonflower girdle holds a wicked-looking ceremonial blade in one sheath, and a simple dagger in the other. A stout longbow made of white wood is slung across her back together with a simple leather quiver of arrows made of the same. Her once lustrous silver fur has faded to soothing argent patterned with the various hues of moonlight, gentle greys fading into deeper shadows, her jet black hair now streaked with the blood moon’s coppery sheen.
But her eyes still burn with the same piercing intensity as before, amber jewels like the sun’s last defiant blaze before the moon’s shadow. And the mark, her mark, now gleams brighter than ever; a shimmering halo of the eclipse.
“Look at you, sis. You’ve gone half feral, I swear, hanging out with those blasted spriggan’ o’ yours by your mother’s grave.”
“No different from you, sister,” Eclipse shoots back slyly, “I don’t think you have any right to lecture me about hanging out around graves” Twilight flushes, “At least I had healthier company. Those wee troublemakers are no good for you…”, “They’ll do” Eclipse interrupts, “They do my bidding and they’re no more treacherous than those around you, sister dearest, strange though their ways may be to you,” a look of…sadness?... flashes across her face. “Even after all this time, Twi, why don’t you trust me to make my own decisions? I’m *not* a child anymore, sister.”
“I never meant to imply that…Callie.” Twilight looks squarely at her cousin, “But you don’t make it easy. Ever since you left us, you’ve been in the company of people and creatures of…questionable intentions, to say the least, and your actions haven’t been…”
“I did what I had to, Twi, you know that. Or you should.” Eclipse slips away from her cousin, a dangerous glint in her eyes, “I did what I needed to do, Twi. To protect our home, to protect our people, our family, Twi. Everything I have done, I have done to protect the Highlands. And I will do *anything* to keep it safe.”
“Callie, I am not denying that, sister. I… it just troubles me that you’ve been… well, you’ve hurt a lot of people – people with whom we’ve had no quarrel with. That you’ve taken to working with so many of the darker creatures we used to hunt in our youth…” Eclipse fixes her cousin with an icy stare as Twilight continues, “…I worry for you, sister. For your fate. You’ve…embraced so much that was once wrong to us. Embraced the darkness… the injustice that was once meted upon us you now visit on others, sister.”
“And?” Eclipse snaps. The two cousins stare frostily at each other in silence for a moment as the very shadows seem to deepen around them.
“And I am afraid for you, sister, for when the darkness catches up with you. You might wield it today, but the wielder becomes as the weapon they say, and I have no wish for you to become as… the others, sister. I know you are a noble creature at heart, but that will not…”
“I am not *noble*, Twi.” Eclipse sighs. The tension breaks, the shadows recede and once again, they face each other – two sisters, aged beyond their years, looking longingly at one another with the gaze of lovers long parted, who now have but a moment to savor together. “And if the darkness must take me, so be it” she says gently as she lays her hand on Twilight’s shoulder, “We are…no longer young, sister. No longer the simple hunters we once were. There is much in this world that would threaten our people, our home, and not all of them can be hunted under the noonday sun, so to speak. Many threats, many dangers stalk our people in the shadows. Others may walk in the open, but bear the light as their shield while they wield daggers behind their backs.
“And so I will hunt them from the shadows, strike at them from the night. I will wield the darkness so that others may walk in the light, bear the sins so that no other will have to…
“Don’t be a fool, Callie.” Twilight hisses, “You cannot bear the sins of others. Only they can bear their sins as only you can bear your own … I know what you are saying! Listen! For the first time in forever, Callie, listen to me!” Twilight grabs her cousin by the shoulders, “No matter what you do, Callie, the burden will still rest on those who would choose their path. Simply “sinning” on their behalf isn’t going to remove any guilt from them. It just adds to your own burden.” Twilight slowly loosens her grip, “All of us must bear our own burdens, Callie. You cannot bear them for us,” she looks plaintively at her cousin, “Please, Callie. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want you to be damned for our sakes.”
“That’s… not for either of us to decide, Twi. Let’s not argue – there’s been enough of that.” Eclipse smiles sadly as she embraces Twilight, “I know how you feel, Twi. I just hope you know how *I* feel in return. It was never an easy decision to leave you behind. And I too, felt pain as you did. I failed my mother, as you felt you did me. You understand, don’t you? I will *never* let that happen again.” There’s pain in her voice now, “You know how it felt, to be so close yet so far. It…it was never my intention for you to feel that way, sister.”
“If I hadn’t…”
“No, Twi. That was as much my fault as yours. I don’t blame you for what you did. And you shouldn’t blame yourself. For everything. You said it yourself, all this, it was my choice. I only regret that you got involved in this way. I never wanted to put you through this.”
“That too, was my choice, sister.” Twilight chokes, holding her cousin tightly, “I…I just wanted you to have a chance to live, like the rest of us. And I don’t want you to wind up in the hells, or worse, sister. Please…”
“I don’t think that’s an option any longer, Twi.”
“No! I won’t accept that, Callie. I. Will. Not. Accept. That. There’s always hope, there’s always redemption. You don’t have to do this.”
“But that is what I choose, sister. I know you’ve at least been willing to contemplate that as well.”
“I’ve always pulled back, sister.”
“I know, Twi. And I’m glad that you do – that is why I choose to do what I do; so you don’t have to take that step, sister.”
“There’s always another way!”
“Not always. Not often. Sometimes. And even then, it may not be enough.” Eclipse strokes Twilight fondly. “You and I, sister… we’re not so different. We’ve both loved and lost, we’ve walked far from the fields of our youth, faced the bitterness of failure. And all through this, I have always cared for you, Twi. As you have for me.” A kiss, “And no matter where your feet take you, you will always be in my heart, sister.”
“I will follow you, sister, wherever you…” Twilight starts to speak, but Eclipse shushes her.
“No you won’t. Now is not your time, sister. No matter what, you are still mortal and your ways are as mortals are. If you could promise me one thing, promise me this – live, Twi. Live. I cannot force you away from me – it really didn’t work out last time – but if you care, Twi, live.” Eclipse disengages from her cousin, with a gentle smile on her face, her voice soft and sad. “You can’t bring back what’s been lost, but you *can* make something new, for all of us. You have Rain, her children, the Clan, all the others.”
“And what of you?” Twilight whines miserably, “What shall become of you? Everything I’ve said, everything I’ve done… Callie, please, will you not listen? Step off this path, embrace all that was good about your mother and not the shadow that lies upon her domain.”
“My mother was the shadow, Twi. So am I. Hers was never the path of light or darkness, but the way in between.” Eclipse intones solemnly as she slowly backs away, the shadows slowly cloaking her in their embrace, “I came to you tonight as a sister to lay your heart at ease over what once was, and as sisters again we will meet upon the road from which there is no return. Until that day, however, expect no more of me than you would of her. Rather, go in peace and live.”
“Live Twi,” she croons, as she fades into the night, “It’ll only be for a moment. We, on the other hand, have forever.”
The dream fades. Spring has given way to a summer of industry, which itself now wanes into a bountiful autumn. The Guild Square is a hive of activity – even more so than usual, chock full of some of the finest mercenaries in the Highlands, all attended to by the ever attentive Goblin logisticians, loading stocks of arms and supplies for what is the largest single shipment of military might in the Guild’s short history. Destination; the moon or, more accurately, Gierstark’s former colony and it’s now-independent Governor Certain.
Bare days have passed since the announcement that the Governor has contracted the services of an entire army to reinforce his troops in what is to be a mighty effort to destroy the Red Master and remove his threat to the world once and for all. Swordsmen, skirmishers, engineers, archers and everything in between from every conceivable race in the Highlands and then some prepare to depart upon what’s left of the once mighty moonfleets of Gierstark. The journey, it is hoped, will not draw the attention of the Red Master.
And of course, who better to lead this grand army than the Highland’s veteran of the moon?
Twilight turns away from the bustle and strides slowly up to the modest shrine standing in the gateway at the end of the square. The plain stone shrine stands in a bed of silver moonflowers, their vines already creeping up around the simple granite altar and the statue of the woman upon it; a beautiful shifter warrior, her face proud and stern, one arm clasping a mighty klaive at the ready, the other outstretched in defiance of the enemies of the Highlands. A graceful mark crosses her right eye, like the sun fading behind an eclipse. The wolf kneels before it and carefully lights the sage with the match in hand and reverently waves the smoldering bundle around the statue, chanting quietly as she does.
Hold firm against the brooding darkness
And let no evil mar your will
Your presence our enduring fastness
Our faith in you unbroken still
She repeats the process three times, then lays the sage upon the altar and proceeds to pour the contents of the chalice over the statue;
With this I wash away all sin and stain that you endure in my name. With this I undertake the burden of guardianship, as swift sword and steadfast shield of the Highlands.
With that, she gently places the garland around the statue’s neck, stands, bows deeply before it and turns away, with one last wistful look, to her duties.
The wolf looks around with a strange sense of satisfaction, mingled with grief, at the hubbub around her. She still finds it hard to believe that it’s been only six months since the wedding. Five months since Eclipse last appeared to her. Then again, she still finds it hard to believe that it’s been just over a year since her old life came crashing down around her. Since then, her life has been a whirlwind of conflicting emotions and a non-stop stream of challenges. Where she once mediated disputes within the clan, now she mediates disputes between clans. Where she once oversaw the clan’s hunters, now she oversees a large portion of the Kingdom’s military.
She can’t even tell when that happened; all she can vaguely recall was chipping in to help Snack’s folk in the southern Highlands secure the territory from various marauders left over from the recent turmoil. Somehow that led to her overseeing security for the widespread infrastructure projects carried out at Snack’s behest and, with one thing leading to another, ending up with her being in charge of the creation of a professional core for the Highlands army.
It’s all quite amusing, considering that she’s gone back to being a teacher, only this time she’s building an army, rather than a new generation of hunters. Rationalizing training, equipment, specializations, institutions… all vaguely familiar, yet spread out across hundreds of thousands of troops drawn from a variety of sources rather than the small, personal touch she’d had the luxury of exercising as the clan hunt-master/mistress. At least she’s had the able assistance of her old hunt-master; Kay Powen.
Rain has helped where she can, but the young wolf-Queen’s duties have kept her exceedingly busy. Trade, diplomacy, the various points of running a kingdom; even now the young woman is up north with Snack, meeting with the Diarmante and Lemma in their new realm in the former undead halls. It rankles on the old wolf’s pride that her protégé has had to lean on her husband to learn the finer points of trade, but an old huntress isn’t exactly someone who can teach you how a bank turns a profit. And Eclipse had said something about…children?
“Uh, no mom. I am quite certain I am not pregnant yet.” Rain had snorted when Twilight confronted her about Eclipse’s statement. “But it’s not from want of trying, I’ll tell you that” she’d added with a sly look on her face. She’s grown fond of needling Twilight whenever the older wolf has gotten a little too…meddlesome… in her affairs, but takes the overly protective and somewhat paranoid nagging with good humor, something Twilight is eternally thankful for. Between that, the occasional territoriality with Felisin and a paranoid dislike for Susie, she’s starting to feel like an old mother hen.
Somewhere, she’s certain, Eclipse is grinning at that.
Twilight sighs and walks on. Behind her, a pair of mean looking shifters follow at a respectful distance. The Furies, both Black and White alike, form the backbone of the Southern armies as well as the main fighting force keeping the rest of the mercenary companies in check. The feuding factions remain bitter rivals, although they are no longer at each other’s throats. Instead, they seem to have settled on a system of constructive competition, sending out their young packs to compete for fame and fortune in the wider world. There’s an ongoing argument about which of them constitutes the senior faction in the military pecking order as well, but just about everyone from Snack downwards is quite happy to leave them to their squabbles. Even now, two packs, one from each company, form the vanguard of the mercenary companies heading to the moon.
A third pack accompanies Twilight personally. Consisting of some of the meanest, toughest shifters from both factions with only one criteria for selection; a fanatical faith in both Twilight herself – and in Eclipse. Their personal guard, as Twilight likes to think of them, although she knows that’s mostly wishful thinking. But after the conflicts of the past year, she can’t stand the differing views of the two Furies, hence the third; her own Silver Furies. Even now, one of the walks silently up to her and coughs lightly.
“Lady Twilight? The skiff is ready.”
“Thank you, Blaze.” She sighs again, stretches and cracks her knuckles. Enough time spent in the past. There’s a future to be won. For all of them.
“And fourth company will be bringing up the rear with the supplies. We keep the Kobold Engineers companies in a separate transport, away from the trapmaking materials” Blaze concludes with a smirk. He looks up, “Our escort seems to be breaking off. We dock in ten.”
Twilight looks up from the reams of logistics reports and waves across at the departing Dreadnaught. On the deck of the Overcompensating, Stonehands throws a salute back at her. “We’ll take good care of your army for you!” he bellows heartily across the void as the ships draw apart.
Twilight Orrin, Legend of the North, Queen Mother of the Highlands and Commanding General of the Guild and Highland armies to the Moon braces herself against the rail of the small lunar sloop that has brought her to the doorstep of the Archmage Certain. The Tantive IV glides slowly to the surface, towards the docking tower at the edge of the great lunar walls that surround the city. Gierstark’s lost colony shows all the grandeur and power of its parent city, but, like its former master, much of it appears to be slowly falling to ruin, brought on by incessant war and the draining ravages of the bloated Imperial bureaucracy of latter years. That the governor has kept the place running in good order, even as the City’s other colonies fall, is a testament to the man’s strength of mind and will.
The sloop drifts up against the moorings and is quickly lashed down by the waiting dockhands. The moonport is bustling – like so many other parts of the world opposed to Eldred. Which seems to be almost everyone. The wolf has heard of his claim to the throne of the elves. A snort of disgust. Well, if there’s ONE person that could keep the Highlands, dwarves and elves on the same page… she scans the busy docks as the linesmen secure the ship. Her eyes fall on the splendid gleaming figure in full plate standing patiently by the quay. She smiles.
The Imperial Paladin Lukas stands at rapt attention, awaiting her arrival. His armor is gleaming, as always, as is his hair blowing an ethereal shade of platinum blonde in the solar wind. As the wolf strides down the gangplank, he snaps to attention and bows.
“Lady Twilight! It is good to see you again.”
The wolf laughs, “Come off it Lukas. We’ve travelled together long enough that you can dispense with the pleasantries. I heard you’ve had quite the promotion as well, since.”
“It’s a long story, Twilight.” He rolls his eyes, “I’ll fill you in on the way. Come, the Lady Iris is already at the palace. I hear King Diarmante is also on his way.”
“Lead on, good ser. Lead on.” With that, the two stride off towards the Lunar Palace of the archmage.
It has been a wild ride for Clan Orrin, to say the least. The last four seasons have seen the Clan fall into chaos, then emerge phoenix-like as one of the most important of the Highland clans. A lot of that can be put down to the marriage of Rain Orrin to King Snack of the Highlands. Having such a powerful rallying point has pushed the incipient rivalries that had racked the clan out of mind and both feuding factions have rallied behind a common banner. Rain is a popular choice in the Clan, grudgingly respected by the Black Furies, welcomed as kin by the White.
Twilight also appears to have largely recovered from her despair, although she remains moody and morose on most occasions. The elder Orrin now leads the Southern Army of the Highlands, and has largely been away from the Clan’s home territories, remaining in Orrin village for only a couple of months to oversee the construction of a series of defensive works and dams across the paths leading south to Ironlake.
Not that the dwarves are a threat. The return of Eclipse has been… widely heralded within the Clan, at least among her followers. Again, opinions… vary, but with Twilight showing only devotion towards her and Rain remaining studiously neutral, conflict remains…intellectual. At least as intellectual as a pack of civilized predators can make it. The one other thing that Twilight has erected during her brief stay in the village has been a large shrine to her cousin/sister. Eclipse’s “tomb” has undergone a transformation, with the addition of an altar, statue and various standing stones surrounding the granite terrace before the great oak and the barrow beneath it, inscribed with various tales of the sister’s exploits, blessings and rituals.
The clan’s new colony in the wildlands of the old McColl territories has prospered as well, its hunters having done well in driving back many of the wild beasts that have reclaimed a much of the once desolate land. With the return of so many of the dead, the need for quick resettlement and the fact that the main road from Red Keep to Liarnach and the south has meant that the hunters of Moon’s Memory have never been busier.
And this does not even begin to cover their new duties as part of the Highlands’ new royal household, representatives for Clan Morgan in the new order and overlords and enforcers of the Mercenaries’ Guild. With its duties now spread out over the length and breadth of the Highlands and three household names, Clan Orrin might not be the largest, nor the most powerful of the Clans, but it certainly is the most visible.
How quickly the wheel has turned. Just seven months ago, Twilight was the clan outcast, living in a self-imposed semi-exile as she mourned her cousin’s loss. Today she leads the largest army to depart the Highlands for a generation at the behest of her adopted daughter; the Wolf-Queen of the Highlands. The older Orrin remains a grim visage to gaze upon, scarred of mind, body and soul. But no longer despairing, no longer lost or fearful.
In the months since her daughter’s wedding, since her last meeting with her cousin, Twilight has kept herself busy with “cleaning out” the southern Highlands, the ordering of the new Highlands army and the running of the Guild. There has been little time for her to brood over Eclipse’s words and the older wolf suspects that that is how Rain and Snack want it. Her one tribute to her cousin has been to set up several shrines across Clan Orrin territory and wherever their presence may be (which, at this point, is pretty much everywhere) as part of a ritual Oath of the Guardian for pack members new and old. It befits, in her mind, that her sister not stand watch alone. Ever present in her mind is the fear of losing her sister to the darkness. And the hope that someday, somehow, all her sins shall be washed away.
Until that time, however, Twilight intends to honor her and her sacrifice (however misguided the older shifter feels it is) by living her life as free from fear or regret as she can and to help forge and safeguard the new world that is to be and to shatter the last bastions of the old order that have visited so much pain upon her and her family.
On the surface, then, a strong, vigorous warrior, fearless and redoubtable. The weary sighs and mournful words beneath the moon are a secret only the night shares.
One Unique Thing:
Cousin of Eclipse, Daughter of the Moon, dark guardian of the Highlands. The two are reconciled, for the most part, but a great gulf remains between – Eclipse’s sinister and often brutal methods are a constant source of pain and sorrow for her sworn sister. With the elf Queen still missing and the wars of the moon reaching their crescendo, the sisters’ future remains wrapped in mystery with only cryptic whispers as clues to the road ahead.
True Daughter of the Highlands (+4):
Stronger than Highland stone, faster the mountain winds, fiercer than the winter storms, yet as loving as the fleeting spring and gentle as the summer rain, as wild and untamable yet sturdy and loyal as the land itself. A doughtier lass none shall meet.
I Have Returned (+4):
A year ago, I walked into the Moon’s shadow, a lone shifter on a desperate quest. Through darkness, despair and death I strove until hope’s end. Now I return to the shadow, with fire and sword, to break the chains of tyranny and light the fire of freedom!
Queen Mother of the Highlands (+2):
Twilight’s name is known far and wide, spoken aloud in awe, or whispered quietly in dread. The forces of the Highlands are at her back, both seen and unseen.
Faces of the Moon +2
Red Master: -1
Race: Longtooth Shifter
+2 to WIS
When hit, you may spend a recovery. At less than 2 escalation, recovery is worth only half.
+2 to STR
Memory of the Wild
Eye of the Eclipse
Howl of the Tireless Hunt
Pack Circles Prey
Song of Silver Tears
Light Armor; Brigandine (Studded Leather)
Shield; +2 Adaptive Shield
Sister’s Sorrow: +2 Artifact Cursed Longsword (Signature Weapon)
This well-made longsword is obviously of Highland make. What’s interesting about it is that the intricate etchings on the blade appear to have been made AFTER the blade was forged. By all rights, this should have weakened the weapon, yet the blade is clearly keen and very, very deadly.
The etchings on the blade are clearly of Highland origin, sweeping swirls and knots of Insular pattern. The designs on the blade appear to differ slightly from the usual in that the patterns have been made to resemble stylized lunar vines and moon flowers. The entire spine of the blade is covered with these etchings. The hilt carries a unique crest – a silver moonflower encircled by a pale golden eclipse.
Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the etchings on the blade are actually a pictorial chronicle of what appears to be a tragic saga of loss and regret. It tells the story of her relationship with her cousin, Eclipse Orrin, Daughter of the Moon, how the two grew up together as close as sisters and eventually swore a blood-oath of eternal sisterhood. The tale takes a turn for the worse on Twilight’s 20th birthday, when a costly mistake leaves Eclipse embittered at Twilight’s perceived lack of faith in her.
The chronicle continues as the two grow enstranged to each other, with Twilight ever longing to be reconciled to her cousin and blood-sister, while Eclipse prepares to fulfill her destiny as the heir to the Moon Goddess Sehanine. Things come to head as Eclipse sets off on her journey, closely pursued by Twilight both seeking to help heal the bleeding moon. Eclipse is then captured by Torog, God of the Underdark and is bound as his sacrifice upon Torog’s chair. Twilight arrives too late to stop the ceremony and tries desperately to free Eclipse from the chair’s grasp. Tragically, in her grief, the elder sister fails to understand the true nature of her cousin and agrees to sever the bond with the Moon Goddess as the price of trying to free her. The attempt fails and, with it, Eclipse loses both her life and her destiny, while Twilight is left broken and embittered at the price she’s paid.
The story resolves itself as Twilight carries on in her cousin’s path to the Eye of the Moon. There, she helps rescue the Goddess Sehanine from the minions of Torog. In the end, however, there is nothing else she can do for her cousin, save secure a blessing from the Goddess for Eclipse’s soul, so that “the love I have for her and can never myself give, shall find her no matter where her soul dwells or what body she wears.”
A second weave appears to have been added. Intricately wound into the pattern of the first, it appears to carry on where the first tale left off. Upon returning in disgrace to her home, Twilight finds redemption in her daughter and the City, rescuing her old master, Kay Powen, overthrowing the tyrannical Baron Vlad and defending the City of Gierstark from the invading Demon and Dragon Armies. Meanwhile, the younger sister leads an uprising against the Roadsinger Chalys and is rewarded by the Raven Queen with resurrection. Her triumph is short-lived, however, as her mother, the Moon Goddess is betrayed and murdered by her sister, the Elf Queen, Tiandra, who seeks to elevate herself to Godhood. The younger sister then takes it upon herself to avenge her mother and to destroy all who would threaten her home and family, and, in a cataclysmic act of vengeance all but destroys the dwarven city of Ironlake to rid the world of the Elf Queen.
But her ruse fails. The Elf Queen succeeds in sequestering herself and her city out of reach and the younger sister is blamed for the mayhem, much to the dismay of Twilight. The weave ends halfway down the blade, with a reunion of the two sisters, where Eclipse proclaims herself Guardian of the Highlands, willing to bear any sin to defend their home, to her sister’s enduring grief. It is clear that whoever wrought this weave considers the tale unfinished.
Property: Agony of the Moon
Eclipse’s screams of pain upon Torog’s chair mingle with the rage and grief of her mother’s betrayal. The voices of the broken moon resonate through this blade with one word; vengeance
2d10 damage on hit to both target and wielder
Quirk: In constant agony
As long as this blade remains with the wielder, the pain and despair endured by the broken moon will never fade. The wielder feels pain as if being flayed alive, the faces of his or her friends twist in malice and betrayal.
Once a hunter, now a queen. The protégé and adopted daughter of Twilight, Rain has had an equally eventful, if considerably less violent, year. Her marriage to Snack came as a shock to the young wolf, but she’s grown quickly into the role thrust upon her. After a few stumbling steps in the beginning, she now finds herself in a position of strength within the household, as a representative voice for Clan Morgan, as well as her own people.
In the six months of peace since her wedding, the shifter has taken every opportunity she can to immerse herself in her husband’s world – of trade, negotiation and shrewd politics. And though she’s managed to impress most around her with her ability to quickly pick up on what she’s learnt, the wolf-queen quietly wishes she could leave those affairs entirely to her husband. But pride won’t allow her and, besides, it’s an important part of her job description AND something to share in common with Snack.
She really does adore “her” King. Snack is every bit the man she’d hoped for and his deft handling of his – THEIR – new kingdom has been admirable; someone to swoon over every day of the last six months and fourteen days. She manages to remain on friendly terms with both Fianna and Suzie despite occasional bouts of jealousy between them.
Of course, that’s nowhere near the kind of paranoid protectiveness Twilight has shown against them.
Twilight has been a source of quiet concern for both Rain and Snack…and just about everyone else in the Highlands. The older woman has often teetered on the verge of homicidal depression over the past six months. Fortunately, they’ve managed to keep her busy most of the time and she’s done a magnificent job of organizing the Southern Highlands and the Guild.
The Guild was Rain’s idea; partly a means to keep Twilight busy, but mostly a way of quietly securing the throne by providing a convenient means of controlling the ebb and flow of sell-swords and white shields in the Kingdom. It also provides a tidy income for the crown through various rents and fees. The mercenaries benefit from the various connections of the guild’s agents, the logistics support and other specialized services, their employers receive well trained and equipped mercenaries with a greater loyalty than most. Everyone wins…except whoever’s on the receiving end of a pissed of company of Highlanders.
Throughout the Highlands, peace reigns. The various Clans are more-or-less pacified, through a mixture of deft manipulation, alliances and outright bribery, the roadways of old are being rebuilt and strengthened, new defenses erected as trade flows ever southwards to the resource-hungry city of Gierstark, the new settlements of Port Pearl. With a cautious respect to the sovereignty of the Wild Woman and the sanctity of the many wild places in the Highlands, and now the dispatch of Twilight to the Moon in answer to the Lord Governor’s call, there are few threats without and within the Highlands that trouble its new king and queen.
Which suits Rain just fine. Protestations to Twilight aside, the wolf-queen is quietly aware that she’s carrying twins. Preparations are already been made in secret for the birth of the heirs to the Highland Kingdom.
Daughter of the Moon, Dark guardian of the Highlands. Eclipse’s return has wrought much wrath across the paths of her enemies and sorrow and consternation to her family. She’s a troublesome sore to Rain, a source of constant pain to Twilight and a terrifying whisper to everyone else. Not that she cares.
Her visit to her distraught cousin was simply a courtesy. Quite apart from the fact that she may well need her in future, Eclipse does feel somewhat guilty at the pain she’s put Twilight through. And she matters. There are few people in the world who matter more to the dispossessed demigod. Yet, Twilight has often frustratingly refused to grow up in Eclipse’s eyes, clinging doggedly to faded memories of times that will not return.
She’s willing to admit – now – that she was probably responsible for that as well.
Hence the visit. It is time for her older sister to grow up and take her rightful place in the world. With her family secure, her adoptive daughter a Queen – and safely pregnant – Twilight’s destiny has never been clearer. All she has to do is take the leap. Pushing, taunting and outright challenging didn’t work. Maybe a softer approach will. She was never much of a teacher.
She is the daughter of the moon, guardian of the Highlands, a spirit of vengeance and bringer of wrath. Her sister’s path is lit, hers cloaked in shadow. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Grandfather of Twilight, Elder patriarch of Clan Orrin and the clan’s former Chieftain, old Whitehair has, for the most part surrendered leadership of the Clan to his daughter and granddaughter. Which is as it should be, he would say. Although Eclipse remains a painful sore that refuses to heal, Rain’s ascension and Twilight’s recovery have left the old shifter with much to be pleased about. He remains in Orrin village, but spends most of his days with his sons and daughter-in-law reminiscing of older, more innocent times. He still hopes to see his granddaughters happily settled but he’s pleased enough at the prospect of becoming a great-great-grandfather someday.
“Black” Todd Orrin
Uncle of Twilight, father of Eclipse, seer and former Chieftain of Clan Orrin, Black Todd remains an enigma, his aging face as placid and emotionless as it ever was. What he sees, no one really knows, but he seems to have accepted the fate of the two sisters with some equanimity and appears content to be able to live in peace with his brother.
Father of Twilight, husband to Vita Phearosisar and a humble woodcarver, Paden is the shadow of a man who once had something to prove. Now his gruff, exterior has mellowed and he enjoys a pleasant coexistence with the brother who he once resented to a fault. There’s a certain level of wistfulness to him; his relationship with Twilight remains difficult but his daughter has at least made the effort to reconcile. There remains a certain level of bitterness, however, but right now Paden is content to accept the fact that she at least acknowledges him again.
Mother of Twilight, wife to Paden Orrin – a refugee from Broken Stone, Vita, as always, knows everything. A constant confidante of Twilight – especially since Rain’s wedding – Vita is well aware that, though things appear to have been settled within the family, much of the discord lies buried beneath the peaceful surface. It pains her as much as everyone else to acknowledge Eclipse’s transformation, but only she knows the extent of Twilight’s own grief that has not been healed – merely pacified. The old woman takes a great deal of comfort in Rain’s well-being and her pregnancy. Soon, she will be travelling to meet the young Queen to help care for her during her confinement. But for now, that too, remains a well-kept secret.
Aunt of Twilight, sister of Vita and scourge of evil from beyond the veil, Deathbiter looks at Twilight these days with a critical but approving eye. Her niece has somewhat redeemed herself in her eyes with her exploits in Gierstark and in securing the Southern Highlands for the new Highlands kingdom. Not perfect, perhaps, but she’s come a good ways from when she dragged herself back from the moon like so much washed out trash. Deathbiter even has a good thing or two to say about Rain and her husband. She now commands the Guild and the Southern Armies in Twilight’s absence. Turning this little village into a clearinghouse for sell-swords was a stroke of genius in her mind – the better to keep a lid on dissent. Deathbiter herself would LOVE to follow Twilight to the moon… perhaps later. For now, however, her niece needs something to preoccupy her lest she fall into further moping over her renegade cousin.
Rain’s former assistant, one of Twilight’s students, former leader of the White Furies and now chief of Moon’s Memory, the Orrin outpost in the former McColl lands. Gussy has been kept busy from the moment she’s arrived in the new village, keeping things running while maintaining constant patrols to drive back the dark things that took over large portions of McColl lands with the decimation of the clan. The return of the dead has meant even more work, clearing out long-abandoned villages and shires of dangerous creatures to make them habitable again.
Of her kin, she has been the most directly touched by the return; her beloved twin-sister Fade showed up one day, right as…rain, if a little confused at the changed circumstances. Fade’s tale of the fighting around Unicorn Hill has led to a softening of Gussy’s attitudes towards Eclipse and the Black Furies – but not a lot. Mostly, she hasn’t had much time to consider the ramifications of the tidings her resurrected sister has brought – Moon’s Memory is her chance to prove herself to Twilight and Rain and she’ll be darned if she’ll let anything distract her from that!
Twilight’s aide-de-camp, Blaze is an old comrade from Twilight’s days in the Black Furies and a loyalist to Eclipse. An old wolf himself, he’s watched the drama between the cousins unfold and harbors no ill-will towards the older Orrin sister. Now he serves Twilight faithfully as an aide, helping her juggle the myriad responsibilities of command.
No word has been heard of the rogue shifter wizard since the fall of Paul Morgan. Some say she perished before the dwarves, others believe that she still wages a lonely frontier war to avenge her lord… and, some say, paramour. Whatever the truth, they say, only the Daughter of the Moon knows.
Followers of Eclipse, the Black Furies have largely been restored to their former glory with the return of many of their slain veterans to their ranks. Much to their chagrin, however, they find themselves competing for pride of place within the Royal Household as well as the Mercenaries’ Guild with the upstart White Furies. Unable, out of courtesy to their new Queen, to settle their differences more…directly, the Black Furies are engaged in an intense but…friendly… rivalry for honor, glory and gold with the Whites. Black Furies tend to be older, wiser, with a preference for stealth, guile and cunning over their rivals. They consist almost exclusively of rangers of all sorts. Their insignia is a black moon on a white background.
Followers of Twilight, the White Furies have matured over the past months into a formidable fighting force and a fitting rival to the Blacks – at least in their mind. Like their rivals, they refrain from open conflict out of respect for Queen Rain and the Lady Twilight and instead focus their energies on besting their rivals on duty in the field – as guardians of the Royal Household, garrison troops in some of the most dangerous outposts of the Highlands… or more commonly dispatching packs out into the world in service of the Guild. White Furies are generally younger and more impulsive, yet more open and cosmopolitan. Their ranks are populated mostly with bards and barbarians.
Twilight’s personal guard; Silver Furies are selected both for their ability and their unshakable faith in the Orrin sisters. They are, almost without exception, some of the toughest, meanest shifters around. Well-equipped by Highland standards, they form an elite core that Twilight and her kin can rely on under any circumstances. Silver Furies tend to be either barbarians, Paladins or Clerics, with the occasional Sorcerer.
The Guild of Free Swords
Simply referred to as the Mercenaries’ Guild, the Guild of Free Swords was established by Royal charter in Lárnach as a means for dealing with the glut of unemployed or underemployed warriors in the Highlands on the behest of Queen Rain.
The guild maintains a mutually beneficial arrangement that exchanges support and services – banking, logistics, contract agents, even training and equipment if necessary – for a cut of the profits. To enforce a level of professionalism on its often rowdy members, the wolves of Clan Orrin gleefully tear apart any mercenary company that steps out of line or betrays its contract. These bounty hunts – offered free of charge as compensation to the slighted customer – tend to be treated as opportunities for glory by the various Furies and are often executed with great zeal. The guild guarantees professional service in line with their contracts. (Of course, the guild maintains sufficient loopholes in its contracts to allow certain…liberties…to be taken. So long as they are not excessive)
Of course, simply maintaining a fair and profitable trade in one of the Highland’s most famous exports is only one part of the Guild’s purpose. In truth, many of the agents keep tabs on the comings and goings of their charges, giving Rain and Snack a clear picture of their potential rivals. The guild also serves as a two-way pressure valve, draining skilled warriors from potential challengers while also providing a Twilight and her peers a steady stream of hardened professionals whose experiences and exposure to new technologies and techniques is quickly and eagerly absorbed.
At this time, the guild remains relatively unknown outside its immediate environs, but even then, business is booming. The Governor Certain’s contract is a chance for the Guild to show its worth in to many others far beyond the Highlands. And an opportunity for far more lucrative contracts to come.
I hereby announce the establishment of a new Icon, meant for former worshippers of Sehanine, followers of beauty who shun the Elf Queen, as well as those dedicated to the divine destiny of the Highlands (rather than the primal nature): The Faces of the Moon. Symbolised by overlapping lunar circles (full, half and new), it represents the fractured paths of those touched by Sehanine's life and death.
Sisters of Autumn
“So you’re representing BOTH of your city’s main rivals?” Twilight asks Lukas in amusement as Diarmante joins them on the dockside with his detachment of Kobold engineers. Blaze looks at reptilian entourage with distaste but says nothing.
“Pretty much. Everyone’s interested in the Archmage these days it seems. And how are you, Lord… er, King Diarmante?” Lukas corrects himself as Twilight gives him a quick nudge. “No problems here,” the moon-pirate-turned-dragon-king says. “Lemma is back in the Highlands keeping an eye on things. I’m here to deliver a message to the Lord Governor.” He beckons to a glowing orb slung around Dreadle, his lizrardman follower. Together with Klax, the Kobold Grand Wizard, he forms part of Diarmante’s “royal” entourage.
Twilight says nothing. Her opinion of the putative Dragon King hasn’t really grown since she first met him; a – so far – loyal companion and useful pawn in the game that the Roadsingers and Snack seem to be playing. Snack and Rain had said as much when they’d briefed her on the expedition’s main goal; to convince the Archmage of the Roadsingers’ innocence in the death of Sehanine.
“As you know, the Highland Kingdom has two patrons – your cousin (whether we like it or not) as the Guardian of the Highlands, and our friends the Roadsingers, Felias and Merraine. Unfortunately, the Archmage is suspicious of them and their supposed involvement in the fall of Sehanine. We, of course, know that is not true. However, the Elf-Queen’s allies have been industrious in spreading rumors of their involvement so much so that the Archmage himself is uncertain about the truth. As a result, he’s been reluctant to work with us, even with regards to the Red Master.”
“We know you have many duties to attend to, which is why we are dispatching an emissary to present a gift to the Archmage to argue our case. He is, of course, expendable, but the item he bears is not which is why we need you to keep an eye on him and keep him as safe as possible.”
And cue Diarmante. The wolf couldn’t stop an amused smile when she’d learnt that HE had been entrusted by Felisin as the Roadsingers’ emissary to the Archmage, although the somewhat reckless (in her mind) manner in which he’d left the Orb in possession of his minion, Dreadle, irritates her. Poor Diarmante – between Lemma and Felisin, he’s barely master of his own body, let alone lord of his kingdom. At least Snack and Rain’s pairing has been on more equal footing, though the wolf sometimes worries anyway.
In any case, she cannot help Rain by sitting around and worrying. There’re plenty of things to be done and the sooner she secures her own power, the stronger her hand will be in raising the inevitable heirs Rain will produce for the highland Kingdom. Their future. For all of them. She looks forward to being a grandmother. Behind her, a Kobold engineer accidentally sets off his jetpack, going off like a rocket against the black, star-studded sky. Blaze sighs, mutters an apology beneath his breath and stalks off to oversee the rest of the unloading.
“There’ll be time enough for us to catch up with one another on the way, friends.” She smiles, turning to Lukas and Diarmante, “Lukas, if you could be so kind? There’s a war on and we shouldn’t keep our host waiting.”
“Of course, my Lady.” Lukas bows, “This way, please.”
The small entourage set off towards the Moon Palace of the Archmage. Besides Twilight, Lukas, Diarmante and the Dragon-King’s two followers, they’re also trailed by a calamity of Kobolds from Diarmante’s engineering corps, a squad of Highlanders armed with Starkish-style repeaters and a further platoon of Bugbears from the Starkish PSC; essentially the city’s mercenary guild. The wolf doesn’t expect them to be much more than meatshields in the coming battle, but better them than Highlanders. Lukas is looking around, muttering to himself, at the colony’s architecture – it is obvious that the city has been rebuilt from a Moon-elf city of sorts, and traces of its older, more beautiful, form can still be seen. But it is also obvious that much of it has been rebuilt by the Starkish colonists along more…utilitarian lines, a harsh contrast to the graceful elven styles that occasionally grace its buildings.
Such is Harrier’s Hollow – the great Starkish moon colony, built on the ruins of the former Moon elf capitol, destroyed centuries ago by the Starkish expedition to the moon that ended the last killing moon. Most of the city was wiped out in the fighting, along with its inhabitants, the Moon Elves. The elves’ gnomish slaves remained, however and have gone on to make up the majority of the lay population of the city, tending the verdant lunar vineyards and orchards that make the Hollow an oasis of life amid the rolling grey dune seas. Their numbers have recently been augmented by refugees from the former satellite colony of Shipwreck Deep, destroyed less than a year ago by the forces of the Underdark allied with Ironlake. Twilight still remembers the battle – and the fall of Stocking and her friends in defense of the Gnomish population.
Around them, the Archmage’s guards keep the road clear for their passage, holding back the curious crowd of Gnomes with various wards and force shields. Twilight can appreciate their efficiency – she has to remember to find time to negotiate a “technology transfer” with the Archmage, but her attention is drawn to the Gnomes behind the barriers; all of them appear to be waving flowers – not all of them moonflowers but, tellingly to the shifter, all silver (most seemingly painted that way). She keeps her face impassive despite the growing curiosity.
“It’s her! The Moon Queen! Twilight!” she hears the murmur rustle through the crowd. She arcs an eyebrow towards Lukas who looks back at her in surprise. “I wouldn’t be quite as surprised if they had been calling out to… someone else.” She says looking curiously at the increasingly excited crowd. “Twilight! Moon Sister! Bless us Twilight! Protect us! Save us! Twilight!” The crowd surges forward against the forcefields as the mages struggle to keep them in check. The shifter smiles and waves at them and continues walking, despite the confusion.
There’s a commotion in the crowd. A little gnome girl slips out from between the barriers before the watchmages can react, carrying a little bundle tightly beneath her arm Nimble little feet sprint up to Twilight and she calls out, “Lady Twilight!” bowing as Twilight turns to her, she unwraps her burden and pulls out a small, beautifully crafted model and presents it to Twilight, “Your palace, my Lady.”
Twilight looks at the tiny model. It’s beautifully crafted out of krakenbone, down to the finest detail, a replica of the moon palace, but with subtle changes – a distinctly Highlands look to it. She looks curiously at the little girl. “Where did you get this?” the wolf asks, kneeling beside the child. “The Iron Prophet. He said that the Archmage would be defeated. And that you were going to save us and become Queen of the Moon.” the little girl says, looking up pleadingly at the wolf, “You are going to save us, aren’t you?”
“I’m sorry, he said what?” Lukas looks at the child flabbergasted. “Wha…How…does he know this, who is this Iron Prophet, and how does he know all this?” Twlight smiles soothingly at the girl.
“And who is the Iron Prophet?”
“He emerged not long ago in Shipwreck Deep. Some of our people returned after the battle to salvage what they could and found him there. Many have since left to seek him out. He knows many things – much of what he’s predicted has come true and he’s predicted more that is to come. He said the Archmage would be defeated by the Red Master and that the Moon Sisters would be the ones to save us and rule as the two Queens of the Moon.”
“Indeed,” The wolf smiles, “Thank you, child. I’m afraid I must leave now – there is much to be done.” She kisses the girl gently on the forehead.
Immediately the cry goes up, “She kissed her! She’s been blessed!” The crowd surges forward again against the barriers “Please! Lady Twilight! Bless us too!” Twilight gets up and, with a parting smile at the girl, strides slowly away, whispering to Lukas and Diarmante as she goes, “What do you make of that?” “Well, all I can say is that this item is certainly not any ordinary trinket. The workmanship is of a quality equaling the best craftsmen I have ever seen. It would be worth hundreds of gold pieces on the market.” Diarmante says, casting a critical eye on the carving. “Not something a Gnomish peasant girl could simply have laid hands on. Maybe there is something to this whole Iron Prophet thing.”
“Hrm.” The wolf grunts “If there is, then we’d better check it out as soon as we can spare the time. I want to know what is going on here and what they’re talking about. Last time I was at Shipwreck Deep, it was a Gnomish settlement about to be flattened by a Duergar army.” And its resident prophet, the wolf doesn’t add, wasn’t particularly well disposed towards her.
“If what he says is true… and the Archmage… the Lord Governor is going to be defeated…” Lukas looks completely at a loss. “And you and your cousin will be…”
“We don’t know that, Lukas.” Twilight says quietly. “We have no idea who this Iron Prophet is and what he knows. We must find him as soon as possible.”
The party walk on, their guards looking increasingly edgy at the frantic crowd of gnomes. Twilight remains deep in thought. She’d half suspected her cousin/sister of being responsible for this, but it doesn’t sound like it anymore. A very different modus operandi so to speak, and an odd prophecy. Eclipse hadn’t given her any indication of this when they’d last met… unless she was hinting at something more with her parting words. In any case, the grizzled Highlander has grown cynical concerning prophecy.
Halfway to the palace, they encounter the Governor’s guard, a dozen moon-elf sword mages lead by none other than Prince Ashenheart of the Tarnished Crown. Twilight remains impassive; it seems an age ago now since the last time she’s seen him under much less benign circumstances and he’s suffered his own loss at the hands of Torog – there’s no reason to hold anything against him. She bows lightly in greeting, as do her companions.
“Greetings, Prince. I take it take it that you are here to escort us to the Archmage?”
“Greetings, Lady Twilight. The Lord Governor is currently…engaged… with preparations for the great battle to come. I am to escort you and your companions to your accommodations in the palace while he completes his preparations.”
At the sound of his voice, the orb nestled in the sling around Dreadle’s shoulder begins to stir. “That voice. I recognize that voice! It sounds like a…a descendent! I must speak to him!”
Twilight shoots a look of irritation at the orb. The swirling sphere contains the soul of one of Snacks’ moon-elf allies – Lord General Riken of the Moon Elf invasion, who’d sworn service to Felias out of admiration of the Trickster King’s ploy that defeated the army of the Killing Moon to the Highlands at the birth of the Highlands itself. The spirit’s testimony is key to the Goblin King’s (well, his patrons’ at any rate) plans to convince the Archmage of the Roadsingers’ innocence. The disembodied soul has kept his peace throughout the majority of the voyage, but the sound of Ashenheart’s voice seems to have awakened him. Riken was supposed to have been a member of the Moon Elf Royal Bloodline, and so too is Ashenheart it seems.
The wolf pushes her irritation aside and nods in assent at Ashenheart as he greets Lukas, but halts before Diarmante, looking carefully at him. “Diarmante…” he says thoughtfully, “You know, the name sounds familiar… and your look reminds me of… someone. Back in the old days. Of a great Lunar Pirate who once roamed the sands of the Sea of Tranquility. You don’t happen to be related, do you?”
Twilight stifles a snortle.
“Uh…no?” Diarmante looks suitably innocent. “I don’t think so.” Ashenheart looks thoughtfully on. “Ah well, that was a long time ago. He was defeated by my sister, the Nightingale of the Valley of the Wind. His entire crew was imprisoned in the Valley along with his ship over a century ago.” Diarmante does not react to this, “Ah me,” Ashenheart sighs as he reminisces on that long-ago battle, “All this remembering must be getting to me. I even hear the voice of my ancestor speaking to me.”
“Indeed! It is I, General Riken! I have returned!” the orb thunders, “I must speak with you!”
“I can imagine him talking to me right now.”
“I AM YOU FOOL” screams the orb.
“Yes. Even how he used to scream at me.”
The orb’s furious sputtering is unintelligible.
“No, really, he’s talking to you right now” Diarmante takes the orb from Dreadle, much to Twilight’s displeasure, and shows it to Ashenheart, who looks at it in surprise. “We’re here to present thi…uh… him… to speak to the Lord Governor.”
“Indeed?” Ashenheart looks warily at the orb, “It must be important then…”
Lukas breaks in, “My apologies, lord, but we have some pressing matters we’d like to clear up. We’ve just heard of something about an “Iron Prophet” out in Shipwreck Deep?”
Ashenheart shrugs, “He popped up a couple of months ago among the ruins of Shipwreck Deep. He’s been gathering quite a following of late – supposedly he’s accurately predicted a lot of things, but we don’t know much more than that. We haven’t been able to pin him down and, with the threat of the Red Master and preparations for war, we haven’t been able to spare any more men to investigate.”
“I don’t suppose we’d have time to investigate before meeting the Archmage, would we?” Twilight asks, “There’re a lot of things we’d like to find out about him, particularly with regards to certain…prophecies.” Ashenheart shrugs, “It’s quite possible. Between you and me, he is gathering allies from the Elemental Plane of fire. We do not know when he’ll be back, but it’ll be at least another half day or so before the ritual is complete, so that’s the least amount of time we’d have available.”
“Well, then, we’d better get started.” Twilight says purposefully, “We have much to discuss with the Archmage and we’d like to be able to kick off the meeting as soon as he’s available. So let’s all get to the Palace and sort out this Iron Prophet business as quickly as possible.”
“Yes, indeed.” Ashenheart nods and the guard do a quick about face as they escort the party through the streets, an uneventful journey until they arrive at the gates of the Governor’s Palace to find a raucous crowd of perhaps 50 – 60 gnomes barring their way. Ashenheart looks tiredly at the corpulent Gnome standing with his wife at the head of the group. “What is the meaning of this, Mayor?”
“The meaning is that we don’t want this troublemaker here in our fair city” the Mayor bellows, pointing a pudgy finger at Twilight. A chorus of assent rises sporadically from the crowd behind him, “She’s nothing but trouble, with that…that crazy cult o’ hers stealin’ our children and spreadin’…spreadin’ lies! A…and falsehoods! About the Archmage, our Lord Governor!” “That’s right!” someone at the back yells in agreement, “Sayin’ that the Archmage is goin’ t’ be defeated an’ all that,” more agreement. “I saw what ‘appened when Shipwreck Deep fell, wit all these outsiders causin’ trouble! I saw the sufferin’ they brought,”
“Err, weren’t you back here when Shipwreck Deep fell, Mayor?”
“Shut up!” The overweight gnome huffs, “What a’ mean is – we don’ want any o’ this Moon Sister’ nonsense o’r here, an’ we want her gone lickety-split, a’fore anything else happens.”
Twilight grins in amusement as the Mayor huffs and puffs, his face growing redder and redder with each word. “Now wait a minute!” Lukas exclaims, “The Lady Twilight just got here, she’s just stepped off the boat and…” “And we want her to step right back soonest!” the Mayor yells, “She’s got a lot to answer for! Taking our children like that!” “We hadn’t even heard of this cult until five minutes ago!” Lukas exclaims, “Everyone please calm down!” he cries as the angry mob surges forward menacingly. He looks desperately at Twilight, who stands there with a look of concerned amusement written on her face. She coughs.
“I don’t want to cause any more trouble, so the sooner you let us pass, the sooner I can take care of business with the Governor and the sooner I’ll be able to leave.” “Yeah, leave! Leave!” the crowd yells without taking any notice of the rest of her statement. As the press of gnomes continue to creep closer against the Sowrdmages’ forcefields, Twilight’s bodyguard ready their weapons, “Shall we fire, m’lady?” the lead guard grunts as he trains his repeater at the crowd.
“What? No!” Twilight says, “Get your men into the palace immediately!” the wolf snaps, “But, m’lady…” the man begins to protest, but a glare from Twilight sends him and his men off through the press of bodies with a frustrated sigh.” The wolf turns to face the crowd again, but catches sight of the Bugbear mercenaries pointing their spears at the mass of gnomes and yells at them to stand down.
Diarmante is frantically trying to prevent his potion-happy engineers from unleashing acidic death on their tormentors. He catches sight of Dreadle simply standing facing the crowd, trying to physically prevent them from moving any further. He tries to call him back, but the lizardman continues to glare at the mob, with a vacant look in his eyes and mutters something about how they used to deal with uppity gnomes back in the old days.
Beside the wolf, Lukas tries desperately to talk to the crowd, but the mob is barely paying attention as they begin to fling rocks and other various debris at the besieged party. Twilight tries to bring her shield up, but in the press, she just isn’t fast enough and a rock grazes her cheek as she’s yelling for her mercs to simply force their way through the crowd without resorting to their weapons. A deafening silence suddenly falls as, for a moment, the entire crowd stares transfixed at the battle-scarred wolf as she sheds a single silver moonflower from the scratch on her cheek.
Then everything snaps back into focus.
“IT’S TRUE! THE PROPHECY IS TRUE” The Mayor’s wife shrieks.
“What? No! Don’t believe it! It’s a trick!” the fat fellow yells back
“Didn’t you see that!?”
“BE QUIET WOMAN!”
“THE FLOWERS! THE FLOWERS OF THE MOON! THE PROPHECY IS TRUE! SAVE US TWILIGHT! SAVE US!”
“IT’S A TRICK! ONLY THE ARCHMAGE CAN SAVE US!”
All of a sudden the crowd turns on itself as gnomes leap at each other, screaming their support for Twilight or the Lord Governor. Twilight stares at the howling riot in helpless frustration as more and more gnomes join the fray. Where are they all coming from? “LUKAS!” she yells. The Paladin is staring at her with his mouth agape, pointing in amazement at the flower she’d just shed. “Don’t just stand there, try and break them apart!”
The Paladin shakes himself out of his daze. “Yes. Yes, of course, my lady.” He tries again valiantly to be heard, but Twilight can see that it won’t be enough as the riot is already spreading to adjoining neighborhoods. She snaps a look over at Diarmante, but a swirl of movement catches her eye, she looks and goggles at the sight of Nylis being curbstomped beneath the press of gnomes on the other side of the forcefields.
The eladrin has a glamor on her, making her appear to be a gnomish peasant lad, but Twilight can see right through it. She looks rather worse of wear from being swamped by the frenzied mob, but the wolf knows that little news has emerged from the elven lands since the disappearance of Tiandra. Klax had assumed Nylis dead, but the little Kobold has never been in the Queen Mother’s list of “most reliable sources of intel” anyway. Snack and Rain’s own people have heard more – of factionalism in the court of Summer and the collapse of central authority. The wolf is dimly aware that Diarmante has been promised more lands in elven territory for his part in bringing Riken to see the Lord Governor, and of the circle of renegade elven wizards that now serve as the Grey Council to him.
But not of Nylis herself. The eladrin swordmage raises a querying eyebrow at her and the wolf motions frantically for her to disperse the crowd. The result is surprising.
With an anguished scream, the swordmage/gnome keels over with a sword sticking right through his body. The crowd bursts into terrified panic as those nearest to “him” peel away frantically, allowing Twilight to burst through and “aid” the “fatally wounded boy”.
“GET HIM INTO THE PALACE, STAT!” The wolf yells as she picks up the “boy” and rushes to the palace with the rest of the party. The crowd breaks apart before them as they sprint up through the gate and into safety as Lukas slams the gates shut behind them in relief.
“Phew” The Paladin exclaims and slumps against the gate. Twilight puts Nylis down with a huge grin. “Very impressive, Nylis. And it’s good to see you alive. We were beginning to worry about you.” “No better or worse,” she replies completely unruffled, but Twilight can see the change in the eladrin’s eyes and her manner. She says nothing – she’s partly responsible for what she can imagine has happened to the elf, if only through Eclipse’ actions. “What brings you here?”
“Same as what has brought you, I’d imagine. To see the Archmage.” The Eladrin dusts herself down. “My question to you would be what did you do to start THAT?” the Nylis points at the riot raging outside the gates.
“LONG story.” Lukas answers as Twilight turns to Ashenheart, “How do you intend to deal with that mess outside?”
“The Lord Governor has some…alien allies, he points to a number of flying crystalline beings hovering around the outside of the Palace. Even now, they swoop out over the walls into the city. “They have…powers… that make them very good ad quelling riots without undue force.” Twilight snorts at that. She remembers Amata and his powers too well. “At any rate, let me show you to your rooms. You will be staying in the Genocide wing of the Palace.” Lukas looks aghast, “Genocide Wing!?”
“Mhm,” Ashenheart nods pleasantly, “The Lord Governor named the wing after his victory over my people a hundred years ago.” “And you’re…ok with that?” Lukas asks, still looking horrified. ”Well, it was a long time ago.” Ashenheart answers diffidently. “The Lord Governor is in the Colonization Wing preparing his ritual. He mustn’t be disturbed.”
“Alright, then, let’s get settled. Then we head off to Shipwreck Deep to see the Iron Prophet.” She gives a sidelong look at Nylis. “We’ll fill you in on the way. It’s been an interesting morning to say the least.”
“I’ll say,” says Lukas, holding up the flower. “How long have you been able to do that, Twi? I think we all associated this with your cousin, not you.”
“Wait, now Twilight is bleeding moonflowers?” Nylis asks with raised eyebrows. “That’s…interesting to say the least. Have you been doing something lately, Twi?”
As the others discuss Twilight’s sudden case of spontaneous divinity, Dreadle comes up to Diarmante with an apologetic look on his face. “I’m…sorry, sir. I don’t know what came over me out there. It’s this orb. I…can’t seem to control it. It’s almost like it controls me sometimes” Diarmante nods, “Ok. Give me the orb then. I’ll hang on to it.” The nascent Dragon King tucks the orb into his rucksack and heads off.
It takes the party bare minutes to reassemble in the courtyard.
Nylis watches Twilight thoughtfully as she ruminates on what she’s just been told. She’s not sure how much the wolf knows of her own mission to the moon, but the old huntress has been developing a knack for sniffing out her companion’s motives and Ashenheart’s apparent lack of a reaction to her appearance has probably tipped the Queen Mother off that her appearance at the palace was not unplanned for. She shrugs ever so slightly. Her mission has little to do with the Highlands and the old wolf seems to be working with the assumption that the destruction of the Red Master is the primary objective right now.
Of course, the Eladrin’s senses are already twitching. A jaunt out into the lunar desert to meet a prophet? She’s already bracing herself to be sidetracked from her original mission as Twilight walks up to her.
“Do you happen to have any of that glamor you had on before, Nylis? I don’t think I want to be seen outside the Palace again until all this is sorted out.” The Eladrin nods, “Sure. This isn’t anything fancy, mind you, I can’t make you into something totally out there…”
“Just hide me as one of my men will do, Nylis dear.”
The elf shrugs and begins to cast.
The light sand skiff skims low over the giant fungal forest surrounding the crater of Shipwreck Deep. Nylis stands poised at the prow – as usual – scanning the distance with her keen elven eyes despite still resembling a Gnomish youngster. Lukas, Diarmante and Ashenheart stare after her, looking out towards Shipwreck Deep. Twilight, though, is glancing around at the familiar tops of the Mushroom Forest. The scars left by the party’s last fight in this place are still visible – Karnathug’s Crater looms in a distance as the skiff approaches. Twilight gives a silent salute towards it, in memory of Stocking, whom Twilight liked from the start. She still has a letter addressed to her father she’d like to deliver personally. But that seems unlikely. For now, the hole in the ground will have to stand a testament to Stocking’s heroic sacrifice. Someday, perhaps, Twilight will do her justice with a nice little monument to her.
She’s erecting a lot of monuments these days…
There’s a tap on her shoulder. She looks over to see Lukas pointing out over the mushroom forest to a cluster of banners flying in the solar wind. Each grey and silver banner is embroidered with what looks like three overlapping lunar circles. “I thought you said they were hard to pin down?” He says turning to Ashenheart. “They were” he replies “Something’s changed it would seem. Now it looks like they’re actually trying to be found”
“Maybe they’re expecting someone,” Lukas says, looking over at Twilight.
The skiff crests the rim of the great crater and the scene unfolds before them – the remains of the great Gnomish settlement of Shipwreck Deep, built under of the husks of tens, if not hundreds of skyships – Starkish and Moon-Elven alike. But something has changed; where once the wrecks lay scattered across the hollow of the crater, now they have been gathered around by some great unseen hand, forming a concentric circle at the center of the crater, their vast bulks looming hundreds of feet into the lunar sky, yet still below the lip of the crater. Only the banners streaming from their tops are clearly visible for miles around.
“What’s happened here?” Nylis wonders aloud. “We’ll soon find out.” Twilight says shortly. “Take us down, helmsman” she points to a small clearing in the mushroom forest, “We’ll walk the rest of the way.”
Skillfully, the helm-mage lands the skiff in the shadow of the towering mushrooms. The party quietly disembarks, straining their senses at the shadows around them. Twilight wraps herself in the cloak she’s brought along for the trip. Normally she’d be fine with just her kilt, but after the chaos of the morning, she feels something less conspicuous might be a better idea.
“So, what is the plan?” Nylis asks, “Do we let our Chosen One lead us in, or should I scout ahead first?” “Well,” says Lukas, “They do seem to be expecting someone… maybe it might be a good idea for her to lead us in.” he says looking at Twilight.
“I don’t think so,” the shifter says quietly. “We still don’t know who these people are and what they intend to do. Nylis, if you could scout ahead for us…” The eladrin nods and glides forward silently. The others follow at a cautious distance. They halt at the edge of the forest as the “gnomish boy” walks forward, towards the group of gnomes performing rituals in the sand before the gateway of the new construct at the heart of Shipwreck Deep.
There are quite a lot of them, gnomes of all ages, although a lot of them appear to be fairly young. From where they stand, some of them can recognize the rituals and symbols the gnomes appear to be performing; prayers and worship to Sehanine. But the rituals are slightly off and the symbols appear…corrupted somehow – some are clearly Sehanine’s mark, but others differ to varying degrees, until, ultimately they form something entirely new – the symbol of the three lunar circles that fly upon the banners in the wind.
“This is what happens when a God dies,” Ashenheart murmurs as Nylis walks away “The rituals and rites change, slowly at first, but soon people forget and the symbols shift until they are no longer recognizable” The Eladrin catches his words distantly, but any further conversation is halted as she’s greeted by a serene looking Gnomish worshipper.
“Have you come to seek enlightenment?” he asks, smiling benignly.
“Yes. Yes I have. I seek the Iron Prophet I would like to speak with him.”
“Of course.” The gnome beams, “Everyone wishes to seek his knowledge. He has predicted everything that has come and will come to pass.”
“How incredible” Nylis cries, feigning delight, “Where can I find him.”
“I AM HERE.”
Nylis looks up startled as the twisted mass of metal that she’d taken for the hull of a wrecked skyship unfolds into a bizarre mechanical being before her eyes. Its limbs are made of a twisted fusion of gears and wires, it’s “head” is a plain glass screen, patterned with moving lights, while it’s … foot… a tracked wheel on which it lands almost silently as it drops to the ground before her.
For a moment, the Swordmage stares in fascination and wonder at the strange metal man in front of her and, from the deepest recesses of her memory, she can almost hear her mentor, Ben-Rae, talking to her about the strangest and most elusive creatures in creation. A mere child, standing knee deep in ancient tomes as the rain lashes down outside, she can hear him explain;
“One of the rarest and most elusive beings in the multiverse, a Zorigami – sometimes called a Time Golem – is a being that exists by travelling forward in time. As each age comes to a close, a Zorigami forwards itself to the next, in order to continue existing. But sometimes, something goes wrong, and a Zorigami can accidentally find itself travelling backwards, rather than forwards in time.”
“Are you the Iron Prophet?”
“I AM.” It bellows in its odd metallic voice. “AND YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU SEEM TO BE, NOR ARE YOU ALONE.” It leans over and seems to scrutinize her carefully, “WHY HAVE YOU COME?”
“Truly, you are all-seeing,” the Swordmage bows respectfully as she removes the glamor from herself, “I am here to learn more about your prophecies regarding the future, in particular with regards to the defeat of the Archmage and the rule of the Moon Sisters.” At that, the Zorigami’s… face… seems to start and its…eye? … narrows.
“Indeed.” Its voice seems to go down several notches. “Very well, let us go…inside… and speak.” It looks up. “And do your friends intend to come in as well, or will they remain outside?” Nylis looks over at the group standing silently in the shadows and beckons them forward.
With a shrug, they emerge. The Zorigami seems to look them over carefully until its … eye… lands on Twilight. It stares at her a moment then says, almost in disappointment, “This one hasn’t hatched yet.” The wolf says nothing, despite the curious looks from Nylis and Lukas.
“COME. FOLLOW ME.”
The Zorigami reaches out and swings itself through the open gateway. The party follows and, as they do, they hear the roar of dozens upon dozens of gears as the great gate slowly grinds shut. To their amazement, the gate itself is made out of dozens of other Zorigami, unfolding themselves to form a barrier across the hole in the skyship’s hull.
The “gate” slams shut and the Iron Prophet perches itself upon a twisted remnant of a command console. “Now“ it says looking at each of them, “To answer your questions, I have one of my own – and a tale to tell.”
“Me and my kind are time travelers. Ours is a species that exists by travelling from one age to the next. At the end of each age, we forward ourselves to the next, that we may avoid the cataclysm that accompanies the end of one age and the birth of the next. I, myself, have existed since the fourth Age and now stand at the end of the 13th.” There’s a murmur from the party as Lukas and Diarmante exchange troubled exclamations. Twilight and Nylis remain impassive.
“But something has gone wrong. I am not supposed to be here. According to my calculations, I should have been at the start of the 14th Age, and yet, here I am, at the end of the 13th. Something, or someone has meddled with the future. Things are not as they should be or should have been.”
“I saw, as I was torn backwards in the flow of time, a vast city, shimmering gold flying forward. That is the meddler. Because of this, all my knowledge of the future is now invalid, because something has changed. I do not know who this meddler is. I therefore created this cult in the hopes that someone who would know would notice and seek me out.”
“Message received,” murmurs Lukas. Ashenheart taps his chin. “To be able to travel through time… imagine the possibilities! We could go back and prevent all this war and misery that has happened! Can you imagine?” Twilight cuts him off with a snarl.
There’s an awkward silence.
“We… have our suspicions,” Nylis begins, but Twilight again cuts her off, “It’s Tiandra, the Elf Queen. It looks like she’s taken the city of Illinith into the future,”
“But it was only one.” The Iron Prophet says, “There should have been more.”
“What?” both Nylis and Twilight exclaim as they stare at the Zorigamie prophet with a look of horror slowly creeping across their faces as he explains.
“The Elf Queen should have brought the seven cities of the elves along with her, to escape the conflagration at the end of the 13th Age when the Gods will fight among and destroy themselves. She intended to protect all that was beautiful in the world… at least, all that SHE deemed beautiful. There were some who resisted her plans, but she dealt with them. And she brought all the elves with her into the future. Without the elves, the forces of the Archmage were overmatched and he was defeated by the Red Master.”
“Now, however, things have changed. Only one city has travelled to the future. Six remain and, with them, the majority of the elves. At this point, our timelines diverge and my memories are no longer valid – the Moon Sisters, the power and grandeur of the Highlands Kingdom, the rise of the other races – none of it will occur, or will happen very differently. This change may be the ruin of us all.”
“Do… do you think your cousin knew of this?” Lukas asks Twilight.
“I don’t know, Lukas. She keeps her own counsel.” The wolf shakes her head and draws herself up erect, “In any case, that is not the problem we have at hand. Right now, we know that the Archmage’s defeat is no longer certain. We still have a chance to defeat the Red Master. We must work to keep it that way.” Nylis nods.
“At least, in the past, we have the advantage of acting first. We must work to prevent Tiandra from yanking the remaining cities – and their populations! – into the future with her – and that would mean severing them from the grid. We would need Iris and Severance to do that, but we know that she’s been preparing for just such an eventuality since she learnt that the Tiandra was up to something.” Nylis strokes her chin thoughtfully, “Unfortunately, I can only help you gain access to one of the six. Two others are under Iris’ control. The fourth and fifth are under the rule of factions of the elven court that are… shall we say… ill disposed towards me. And the sixth city is still unactivated.” Lukas looks curiously at Twilight.
“Wait, Twi… you know that… by doing this, you will be sacrificing your future? I think we all know you well enough that we know the future the Prophet has just described is everything you ever wanted?”
“I know, Lukas,” Twilight sighs, “But I will not sacrifice others chasing a dream for myself. If the Red Master wins, then EVERYONE is at risk – including Rain. There’s nothing in the prophecy about her, Lukas. And I will do ANYTHING, sacrifice ANYTHING to keep her safe.”
“Including your future and your cousin’s future?” the Paladin asks cautiously.
“Someone once… told me… the pain of losing one you love… that she would not let that *ever* happen again.” Twilight replies evenly, “I take her at her word. She has her destiny to make as she will. Mine is my own, and is my decision, no one else’s.”
“Thank you, Prophet, for your words. We must…consider this and plan our next moves. We shall take our leave of you.” The wolf says, “Come, we must get back to the Palace – we have much to discuss; more than we ever imagined.”
“There remains a slim possibility that the future I have described may yet come to pass.” The Zorigami says as it follows them to the gateway. “But it is only a possibility. We will keep these Gnomes here. They seem content to remain and we will see that they come to no harm.”
“Duly noted, Prophet” Twilight bows, and walks off, deep in thought.
“You do realize, Nylis, that if the Elf Queen were to try to reclaim her cities, she could theoretically just appear at any point in time she wanted, or make them disappear at any point she wanted?” Lukas asks as they walk slowly back towards the skiff.
“That’s true, but we still have the advantage of acting first.”
Twilight listens carefully, slowly chewing over what she’s heard.
If the elf queen HAD the ability, or at any point in time gained the ability to travel back in time, she could make things happen before we could do anything about it. Ergo, whatever happens, IF she could change time, it wouldn’t matter what we did – she could render it moot at any time. Therefore, there HAS to be a limitation, something preventing her from acting as such. What is it?
The party slowly boards the skiff as they head back to Harrier’s Hollow. Twilight continues to ruminate.
Also, it doesn’t make sense; why would Eclipse do something that would prevent the future the Iron Prophet said would come to pass? It doesn’t seem likely that she knew about this unless she believes that she has a better way of bringing this to pass. But then, who? Who would know?
Would VECNA know? He IS the God of Secrets, after all, and he obviously played Eclipse into dropping Ironlake onto Tiandra. But even a God has limits to his knowledge. How would HE know? Wouldn’t he need a time traveller of his own to know of this? Do we have any…stray…”
The light slowly goes off in Twilight’s head.
Didn’t WE encounter a Time Golem in Baron Vast’s estate? Where is that thing now? What happened to it? We must…
There’s a massive bang from behind the skiff. The party rush to the stern in time to see streaks of flaming light streak from the heavens and slam into Shipwreck Deep, throwing up massive eldritch blasts as they do so. Without even needing a prompt, the helmsmage swings the little ship around and tears back to the scene of the carnage.
Sister’s Sorrow sings from its sheathe. Battle is about to begin.
Twilight is hell-bent on tracking down TackTackTack now since she thinks it might hold the key to who is behind the disruption. Of course, the first order of business is still beating the Red Master, but there's the whole "end of the age" thing to think about now.
A good scrying spell would be useful here