Prereg for June

Hi everyone.

Here’s the current prereg list for June. Please make sure you’re on it if you should be, and if you see a friend who should be on it but isn’t, poke them to preregister. Thanks!
JJ

(Last updated 26May2022.)

Character NameTeam/Housing Group
AmitySilverbldes/Misfit Menagerie
AntheiaCoven
AriannaWindward
BastiaWeatherby Estate
BernadetteHaus Haldanghast
BrandtFree Society
BrunoHaus Haldenghast
Bunny
Caretta
CerynGroup A
CharcoalMad House
ChelseaSilverblades/Misfit Menagerie
ConchobharGroup C
Cor’deliaWindward
CoralCoven
CorsoWindward
CorwinFang, Horn, and Poppy
DagnaFree Society
DarlingHaus Haldanghast
DavorinSilverblades/Misfit Menagerie
DelilahGroup A
Devon
DimentioWindward
Elani
ElentiaParliament
ElizaMad House
Ellion
EllisWindward
EmrysParliament
FenrickCoven
FlorianParliament
FoxParliament
GuntherFang, Horn, and Poppy
Hallima
HartCoven
HollyFree Society
IcoranParliament
IgnoratioFang, Horn, and Poppy
IrisHaus Haldanghast
JerikhoFree Society
Jonathan
KaggFree Society
KenkoHaus Haldanghast
KesFang, Horn,and Poppy
KonstanzeFang, Horn, and Poppy
Kythera
LazarroHaus Haldanghast
Lexi
LoredanaWindward
LucindaSilverblades/Misfit Menagerie
MaiwennParliament
MurdocFree Society
NevWindward
new charWeatherby Estate
new char (Eric)
New char (Thomas)Weatherby Estate
Nico
OsricSilverblades/Misfit Menagerie
PagesWindward
PellimoreSilverblades/Misfit Menagerie
PiankaHaus Haldanghast
PirouetteSociety for Cultural Exchange
RainiereWindward
RasvimSilverblades/Misfit Menagerie
Roux (new)Parliament
RueGroup A
RydanGroup B
SamParliament
Sifjar
SilasCoven
SitaraGroup B
Skeek
Skjoldr
SnickersParliament
Sunrise
SylvieWindward
SyrusGroup A
TalosSociety for Cultural Exchange
Teal (new)Silverblades/Misfit Menagerie
TempestSilverbldes/Misfit Menagerie
The Balmonious BardFang, Horn, and Poppy
The GeneralHaus Haldanghast
ThrymyrSilverblades/Misfit Menagerie
TrisWindward
Vicquemare
WanderFang, Horn, and Poppy
Whaley
ZaloGroup A
ZephyrWindward

The Storm (Entry Eighteen)

Brother Quill entered the tavern with his two church guards and shook off the cold. The guards sheathed their weapons when they found that the tavern was intact, with real Gifted patrons. That was no longer a given, even though the Storm had largely subsided. The group had been attacked twice on the way to this place by elementals that lingered in the infrequent storms.

Brother Quill signaled for the guards to seek food and drink, and to get some much-deserved rest. Once they moved across the main room to find sustenance, Quill headed to the back of the room and approached a table set off from the noise and light of the room and its other patrons.

“Brother Razorlash,” Quill said as he pulled out a seat, “I am sorry I am late.”

The tiger shoathri looked up at the priest without lifting his hooded head. “The roads are dangerous in these times, so I am glad you have arrived safely, Quill. It is good to see you again, though using my former title is probably misguided since I have not been part of your formal church for quite some time.”

“That’s why I am here, Razor. I’d love to catch up, truly, but you have made it clear that your time here is brief. I can’t imagine what you are going through, with the rumors coming out of Vellingrim suggesting that there are shoathri tainted by infernal power. I am sorry.”

Razorlash tried his best to look impassive. “I don’t mean to imply that I am not glad to see you safe, Quill, but what do you want? Why have you asked me here?”

Quill dearly wanted to catch up, to see how Razor was doing, but getting the shoathri to open up about anything was a difficult task at the best of times when he was not involved in some task. “I was hoping… I want… you should come back to the church, Razor.”

The shoathri squinted and scrunched his nose at Quill, clearly rearranging his thoughts at this unexpected request. “I’m sorry, Quill, but I thought I heard you just suggest I return to the church?”

“Wait, wait, Razor. I see that look crossing you face.” Quill tried to calm his companion’s annoyance. “Much is changing.”

“I don’t owe the church anything, Quill. Where was the church when Vellingrim enslaved Gifted races? Where was the church when nightmares hunted common folk in the candle lit woods? How can the church justify its own priests killing shoathri?” Razorlash’s face lost its calm, if grim, expression. “The church is too disorganized, too disinterested…”

“Wait!” Quill lifted his palms towards Razorlash. “Wait. I understand your frustrations. We have spent long evenings discussing these very things. You know I largely agree with you.”

“Yet you remain in the church.” The shoathri began an argument that was too familiar.

“Wait. Things are changing. Things have changed, Razor. You have been away, all during the Storm, and on your crusade against those tainted with infernal power before that. You haven’t seen what I have seen. You haven’t been part of the changes. The people, the priests, enacting real change in the church during these difficult times. The invasion, the Storm, the difficultly meeting with the faithful. These all have forced the church to look at things differently!”

Razorlash watched the passion in his old friend’s eyes, swallowed his rising anger, and took a deep breath. “Quill, the church will never change.”

“Listen to me, Razor. You have been outside the light. Things have happened. Just, listen to me for a few minutes. If you are unconvinced, I will drop it. I promise.” Quill looked at the shoathri, and Razorlash frowned but nodded his head.

Brother Quill took a breath and started to go through his points as he had rehearsed them.

“We both remember what was done to those shoathri, and the shock when our investigations revealed it was priests who bore the aspect of the Merciful Killer that had done it. Ending the lives of shoathri, to ease their suffering, it was a terrible thing. But listen to me; the blessing of that Thread-bearer has not appeared to any priest during the Storm. During the holy days it faded from the remaining priests that shared that burden, and no priests have received the blessing of the Merciful Killer in all this time. There is not a single report of that blessing falling upon any priest; even those who were most fervent in the support of that particular Thread-bearer.”

Razorlash scowled thoughtfully, and Brother Quill continued when he saw that Razorlash was not dismissive.

“Some temples have tried to investigate the matter, but communication between the temples and the faithful has been difficult at best. Each church I have visited seems to have a different theory. Sister Gillis claims that the Merciful Killer has severed the connection to the faithful because the Thread-bearer is in some kind of danger, and did not want to extend that danger to the faithful. Brother Gradis claims that the Merciful Killer is dead, but as you know Brother Gradis has always found the most grim explanation and interpretation of omens also the most compelling. Some even claim the Merciful Killer was lost in the Storm itself. I can tell you this; none of the church leadership know for sure, and that scares them. They have kept the matter quiet; the faithful have had a difficult enough time without something like this to shake their faith.”

Razorlash considered the news. “I am surprised the church could agree on anything at all. The high church in Blacktallow feuding with the Morgrave churches, the Sollos church spending all its time keeping the Celestial temples mollified to keep the peace, It’s all a mess.”

“You’ve been away a long time, my friend. Let me continue.”

Razorlash nodded, and Quill continued his explanation.

“With the threat of the Gilded Imperium, and the burning of three temples at their hands, the priests were rushing to form some kind of defense. Several temples had a small force of defenders, but none were effective at protecting the temples in their path, much less throwing back the advance of the invasion. But you know this. What might surprise you is how Vicar Astor rose to lead several newly formed orders and combined their might to drive the Imperium away from one of our temples on the outer parts of the Commonwealth of Blacktallow.”

Razorlash drew a breath from his mouth, baring his teeth as he considered. “I would not have thought Astor would have the vision for such a thing.”

Quill continued. “Vicar Astor, it was explained to me, was often favored by Thread-bearers of Light, but early in the war, during the first Holy Day, the Vicar was visited and blessed by three Thread-bearers of Shadow who had never graced him. At first, he was surprised, and saw this as an ill omen. Whether this change brought confidence, humility, or both, the priests I have talked to have told me he seemed changed by it.

“After the Imperium retreated, he was instrumental in securing the Temple of Divine Purpose in Morgrave, and brought the orders to bear to help other temples in Morgrave besieged by the dead soldiers of the false undead king that plagues that place. Since those victories, and the strengthening of the new orders under his leadership, the temples have rallied around him.”

Razorlash thought for a moment. “That’s all well and good I suppose, but why do you want me to return if the Vicar is firmly in place?”

Brother Quill paused and looked over his shoulders, first one way and then the next. He lowered his voice even though the two of them sat alone. “That’s just it. The Vicar seems to be missing. He returned to the Temple of Divine Purpose to gather representatives from the greatest temples, but before they could arrive, he vanished. Some say he left the Temple on his own, some are less sure. Either way, no member of the faithful has actually seen the Vicar since he disappeared from the Temple of Divine Purpose. Razor, I know you can track things, and your skills extend beyond the natural world. I might need your help. We can’t call on the orders; few know of his disappearance, and there is fear the news would bring despair to followers who found hope in his leadership after the fighting during the invasion and the hardships brought on by these Storms.”

Razorlash rubbed his forehead at the news. “Tracking anything in Morgrave is… difficult. Everything smells wrong. Hm.” Razorlash tapped the table with a claw, as if following a new mental thread. “Tell me of these new orders, the orders that have risen in the church and that served him in this task.”

Quill thought for a moment. “As you know, there are many smaller orders in the church. Orders that dedicate themselves to a single Thread-bearer despite our desire to maintain the Woven as one community. Orders that protect a single place. Orders that follow a single person. These orders come and go, especially in the wake of the invasion, and the arcane storms. But two orders have gained momentum and support, and I want to bring a third to your attention as they may need your support.

“The Crimson Accord first arose in the Commonwealth of Blacktallow during the war with the Gilded Imperium. The Red Abbey, the largest temple within the Commonwealth, sent out a call to the other Temples, offering them protection. Although the Gilded Imperium had not yet started a full invasion of the Commonwealth, their forces had been scouted both in the eastern borderlands, and to the west within the passes that lead to Coalmire. Many Temples petitioned for protection, and the leader of the Red Abbey, Mother Clark, required any participating temple to send those faithful who were willing and able to train in martial combat at the Red Abbey. The members of the Accord swelled, and it remains the largest order in the church. The Knights of the Crimson Accord dedicate themselves to Courage and Humility. The knights act as champions of the faithful and are well armed to deal with threats to the common folk. Recently, many of the Accord have helped in Morgrave, despite the dangers of travel during the arcane storms.

“The Winged Order was commissioned to help maintain communication and, when necessary, travel between the various temples during the arcane storms. Although small, they are very popular with the faithful since for many this order was their only communication with the church and the other faithful. The Winged Order is not centered in any of the significant temples; instead, the order creates small temples on the side of trade roads. During the storms these temples were blessed and warded to weaken the arcane elementals that might approach them, and this often encouraged these beings to wander off rather than attacking the faithful within. All members of the order dedicate themselves to Charity and Honesty. Inspired by Vicar Astor’s courage and self-sacrifice, several champions from the Temple of Divine Purpose have joined and bolstered the Order so that the faithful may travel safely, or more safely, between the temples.”

Brother Quill paused so that Razorlash could take it all in. He was fairly certain that his friend had not heard about these orders, since the shoathri had been entrenched in gaining what knowledge he could about the events in Vellingrim.

“There is one other movement I want to tell you about, Razor,” Quill continued. “The Thread-bearer who protects our dreams has appeared to the faithful in a new incarnation; the Dreamspinner. Are you aware of this?”

Razorlash shook his head. “No, but that is not a Thread-bearer that I would expect to grace me with its blessings. At least it never has.”

Quill nodded. “The Dreamspinner has blessed a number of priests, and they often see the blessing as an ephemeral web, woven of dream. The priests who have been so blessed seem excited by this revelation.

“I do not think it is a coincidence that a new Order has gained followers in Kyrzenwold. I know you were frustrated that the commonfolk in Kyrzenwold have been unable to seek the aid of our church there. Let us be honest, the folk in Kyrzenwold have never, as a people, been warm to any church. So an established order is, at the very least, interesting news.”

Razorlash nodded. “Where is the temple.”

“Well, it seems there is no temple. The priests that have joined the order have found some way to establish some kind of refuge at the border to the Dreaming. The church has traveled into the Dreamscape using Chimera magic before, but these priests are different. They seem to dwell within the Dreaming. I do not know the details, but it is said that they can draw those who need protecting into their chantry within the Dreaming if they need to.”

Razorlash wasn’t sure if he liked that news. It wasn’t how he imagined helping the commonfolk in the realm of candles.

“This Cloistered Dream, as they call themselves, was established by Mother Reisinger when she still served the Temple of the Ever-Burning Font. She has told stories to the members of the order describing how she received inspirational dreams from the Dreamspinner to create a chantry to shield the faithful from the Storm. She has trained a small number of priests who have been inducted into the order, and now they seem to spend more time traveling in the Dreamscape than walking in the waking realms.”

“As you see, Razorlash my friend, much has changed.” Quill brought the point home. “And I need your help. I cannot pursue the disappearance of our Vicar without word spreading throughout the church. And few have your ability to track things that are supernatural.”

Razorlash seemed reluctant to turn away from the events in Vellingrim, even for a time. “I will meet with the other demon hunters, and endeavor to find out what I can in Morgrave.”

“If you need help, a force that can act outside the church, without the pomp and discussion, and without spreading your news to every temple, then I suggest this. The call has gone out for the heroes of Nocturne to return to those ruins. They are a capable, if motley, assemblage. You might be able to enlist their aid, and they are not beholden to any particular temple. If you need help, without the direct interference of the church, then I would send agents there. Just be careful; there are a fair number of tainted Demonbound that dwell there. I have tested them, and thankfully it seems they have not succumbed to Hubris, but the most powerful infernal powers would not, if they held sway over one of those, reveal themselves to be in control from such a simple endeavor.”

“Travel to Nocturne,” Razorlash continued, “while I start this hunt for the Vicar, and enlist their aid.”

The Storm (Entry Seventeen)

The following information has been carried to Spiritualists, and by extension those who might interact with them, in the form of clear visions, dreams, or readings resulting in a trance-like state. Some spiritualists might also hear pieces of this dialogue as whispers from spirits they might call upon, and might piece together these details rather than receiving the information in a clear and concise manner. We leave it up to each character how they might have come across this information.

Dear Bridget – 

I hope that that problem you mentioned in the sands was as easy to resolve as you hoped, it sounded dangerous.  

I wanted to give you an update on what we’ve found.  The spirits at the last two places we checked are, in fact, gone.  Gone or destroyed, but I am hoping it’s just gone.  There are signs of the Seers of the Grave in both locations.  They are trying to be quiet about it, but they’ve started again.  I suppose it was too much to hope for that the Storm would have ended their threat permanently.  

I can practically hear you grinding your teeth now about who ‘we’ is.  Do you remember Roka?  You and she nearly tried to kill each other before we realized we were all investigating the same thing.  We decided to combine our efforts, and she’s been helping me search, as she knows more of the world as it is now, and I know more of the ways of the sojourners.  She’s an interesting traveling companion.  

I know you are busy, but I hope you’ll be able to join us.  They’re saying that the heroes of Nocturn will be able to clear that place, and you told me that the sojourners have a spiral there?  Roka is giving me a good idea of how this is affecting the animal spirits nearby (at least one of those is missing, too), but we could use your perspective as well, changed though it may be.  I don’t think we’re going to be able to do this without everyone.  

Also, it’s possible that any traps they’ve left behind will be aimed at one or the other of us, but not all.  Don’t worry, Roka got me out.

Stay safe, and I hope to see you soon,

Laurel

The black-gloved hand crushes the paper into a crumpled ball, and an irritated voice mutters a curse.  “If you want something done right…”  The paper lands on an earthen floor, just at the edge of a campfire, and hovers there for a moment before a draft pulls it into the flames.  Black boots thud as their owner stomps around just outside the circle of light, doing not quite visible things that involve the sounds of leather and metal moving against each other.  Suddenly, the movements pause, and words spoken in a more thoughtful tone drift out from the shadows.  “So, Nocturne will be open, then…”  There is a long still moment, then the boots return to the edge of the fire, quickly and determinedly kicking sand over the coals.  “It’s time to find the others.”  The decisive words linger as heavy footsteps recede into the dark.

The Storm (Entry Sixteen)

Najit felt the Wayfare magic in the air before the gate appeared, and rose to greet the traveler who stepped through the resulting magical gate. Although the power of the Storms had subsided, Najit still was wary when gates opened. For so long, during the Storm, a gate could attract arcane energies, and elementals were known to occasionally slip through the gates while they were open. Even now, within the Free City, after the Storm had subsided, one had to be wary.

Minuri stepped through the gate, looked around to acclimate herself, and nervously adjusted her stoal. Finally noticing Najit there, after an awkwardly long pause, Minuri made an exaggerated bow. “Minuri, of the Illuminarium. I believe we have met previously, but I thank you for receiving me.”

Najit nodded, “You are welcomed in the Free City, Minuri of the Illuminarium.”

Greetings finished, Najit moved onto business, likely heading off Minuri’s awkward efforts at small talk, with an eye to her full ledger of appointments.

“You have requested a meeting with my organization, and the Catalyst Club has agreed to host you. To what do we owe the pleasure of your appearance and company?” Najit gestured to the comfortable chair in front of her desk, and sat down when Minuri seated herself.

“Ah, yes, of course.” Minuri smoothed her robe. “As you know, the Illuminarium is planning a return to the ruins of Nocturne, to support and advise the travelers and explorers who have, in previous times, taken residence there. Well, that is before the Storm drove us all out.”

Najit nodded. She was well aware of the situation in Nocturne, but there was always a chance that the Illuminarium might have some tidbit of knowledge that was previously unknown to her.

“We feel as though the return, after such a long time, should be celebrated!” Minuri beamed.

“I am given to understand,” Najit replied, “that there are still arcane elementals, and arcane pools that empower them, around the environs of Nocturne. Are you sure a celebration is not… premature?”

“Right! Right. You are well informed, good lady.” Minuri performed a half bow from her chair. “Yes. Well, as the Storm has subsided so has the power of the arcane elementals in the area. For a force as capable as the Heroes of Nocturne…” Minuri paused to see Najit’s reaction, but if she had hoped to read anything in the face of the shoathri, she was disappointed. “well, defeating the remaining elementals and dealing with the nexus pools should be well within their capabilities. Once that task is completed, we believe it should be safe to celebrate. So much so, that we have invited a number of important personages to visit the shared tavern as the heroes have a chance to celebrate their return.”

“I am glad that the danger in Nocturne seem much reduced and that you believe it will be… as safe as Nocturne is likely to be. We had heard that the area was particularly dangerous at the start of the Storm, and that the energies were particularly intense.” Najit paused, looking for a reaction from the Illuminarium member, and was not disappointed.

Minuri started at the comment, and tried to compose herself, but her reaction was telling. Something did happen in Nocturne, and the Illuminarium knew something they were clearly not sharing. The meeting was fruitful, just for that information.

Minuri continued, “The effects of the Storm have largely passed. While Nocturne might be considered dangerous for travelers such as you and I, the heroes have faced far greater dangers.”

Najit nodded. “As you say. I have yet to hear how this might involve the Catalyst Club.”

“Of course, of course,” Minuri replied, “well that’s just it. We believe it would be an excellent time to celebrate everyone’s return!”

Minuri looked expectantly at the shoathri, and then continued when there was no reply.

“It is the celebration that I speak of. After the defeat of the elementals. We had hoped that the Catalyst Club would be willing to… might be interested in… might attend such an event and, um, celebrate with the heroes of Nocturne.”

“Najit waited for a pause so it would not appear that she was interrupting her guest, and interrupted her guest to move onto the point. “So, you wish to retain the services of the Catalyst Club as entertainment, as part of this celebration?”

“Yes! Yes, that is it exactly. To help… um… facilitate the celebration.” Minuri explained.

Najit quickly assessed the need, and the price she might extract. While Najit surmised that she might be able to extract a good deal here, information or money, or magic, that it was more valuable to have an excuse to have the presence of the Catalyst Club when the heroes returned. Perhaps it would be a simple celebration, which would be well and good, but information and rumors in such a place, if they managed to procure important visitors, were worth the time of the Club.”

“I believe,” Najit nodded, “that we can agree on a reasonable stipend for such a task. Although I must point out, that you have left us little time to prepare a proper celebration. If we act in this manner, the Catalyst Club requires two things. First, the expectations should be muted, since we have little time to prepare. Second, since we will rearrange our schedule to accommodate this date, and do this as a favor to your group, we expect that you understand the inconvenience is this accommodation. We hope that you will take this into consideration in our future dealings.”

Minuri nodded. “Yes, yes, that all sounds reasonable. We believe that the Heroes of Nocturne will have much to discuss among themselves, and you will likely have little to do to support the celebration.”

Najit looked unconvinced.

“Minuri continued, “Excellent, yes let us discuss the terms so we can both continue our preparations.”

The Storm (Entry Fifteen)

A Tale of the Last Days of the House of Argales

When the storms arcane descended upon the lands to the north, where even in brighter days, the cold hand of winter clings ever-fast to the lands for most of the year, at first, it seemed a minor thing when compared to the constant danger from those who breathed their last ages ago.  At first, the foul ocean-dwellers continued their relentless assault upon the shores of Winterspire, upon the fair elven folke who reside there, and people thought naught of the storms but a fancy light show in the sky.

Ah, but then, but then it came clear that this was no passing squall, and that the beasts, the creatures who rode upon the winds of this storm were of no natural construction, and would not bear the presence of any of the Gifted, innocent though they might be.  And when the greatest storm of all centered itself upon the Spire which gives our country its name, then those stationed there to defend it called for aid against a seemingly endless horde of those strange elemental magic creatures.  More brave knights strode to the field to aid their fellows, their leader, the great King , leading the charge, heedless of his own safety.

Long could I dwell upon the bravery of those fine knights, upon their bravery, upon the flashing of their blades and the brightness of their magics, but that is a tale too long to tell.  For a time, it seemed as though their might would, inevitably, prevail against their arcane foes, even as the storm, ever present overhead, continued to churn and occasionally disgorged one of those creatures.  But the strength of those mighty knights was greater than even that of the great storm, and slowly, the numbers of the wrath-filled elementals were falling as the knight fought closer to the spire itself, and it seemed that they would accomplish their goal.

But, alas, it was not fated to be.  Not I, nor any living soul can tell what passed through the hearts of those brave knights, but upon the field they spied some new enemy, be it some Gifted or some greater elemental, or even some entirely unknown creature, and in the moment they saw it, they faltered, and some element of their will failed, and suddenly the rush of the creatures against them, once so manageable, seemed utterly insurmountable.  The king called to his people, attempting to rally them to him, perhaps to attempt to make an escape, but they only made it so far as getting to him before being overrun, with he, at the last, being carried under by the swarm, his blade still fighting against them even as they overwhelmed him.

And thus ends the House of Argales, with none left to even properly mourn the passing of the king. 

That’s the story that is getting passed around between bards in the north, got it for the archives.  It’s close enough, if more than a bit too flowery for my tastes.  But, you know, there’s a lot more to the story than their beautiful glorious deaths.  I have spoken to some of the few survivors of that fight, and it was not their will that failed that day – it was their healing.  No one I spoke to saw exactly what happened, in the storm, but they all agreed – in the blink of an eye, all healing magics on the field stopped working.  It caught them all by surprise, and their line fell soon afterwards.

And Winterspire did not end there, it still lives, though in a much changed form.  The storm over the Spire seems to finally be dying down. I say seems, because it was so large, no one has been able to get within sight of the Spire in over a year, but the circle of destruction is definitely shrinking.  The Coruscating Hold is lost, it was abandoned when the King fell as the storm spread, and it’s been in the storm all this time – no one has been able to approach it since.  As far as I know, no living person has set foot near the Spire since that day… but rumors persist of mournful figures walking near it, of footsteps coming out of that area.

Whatever happened to the Coruscating Hold, many of its inhabitants managed to escape and survive. Most of them went to the Snowcrown elves, who continue to have some smaller skirmishes with the drowned elves, though they appear to have been badly affected by the storms.  Of more potential interest is the fact that in the midst of all the confusion of the storms and the shuffling of refugees, the Prince of the Snowcrown elves arrived at the palace, had some sort of confrontation with his mother the Queen, and then took himself and a not insignificant portion of the snowcrown nobility and their retainers and went off somewhere, no one seems sure where, exactly.  But it has left the Queen with a greatly reduced number of fighters for holding off both the elementals and drowned elves.

The Frostrime orcs took in refugees, too, those that were willing to swear to their precepts.  Their situation is much as it was before the storms, except… worse.  They were short on food, cloth, leather… pretty much everything before.  Now it’s been two years of storms and elemental attacks, they are still short on everything, with many more mouths to feed.  No one has said anything official yet, but I’ve heard grumbling from every corner that if they aren’t given a target soon, they’re going to go raiding wherever seems most convenient.  And honestly, I have a hard time blaming them.  Things are bad there. 

When the storms die down enough to try to get near the Spire, I’ll let you know and go try to see what has survived.  Honestly, though, I’m expecting the Spire and pretty much only the Spire to have survived.  Might be pleasantly surprised, though? 

Lord of Forgotten Ways

The Storm (Entry Fourteen)

One could easily get used to this sort of excess, Khalil thought as he sat waiting for the person who had insisted that they meet here at the Catalyst Club. The food, the drink, the intoxicants along with even stronger options all here for the asking.  It was an amazing display of excess for a public house within a city that was beginning to know hunger.  He knew hunger.

It was difficult enough being inside the walls of the Free City now that it was filled to overflowing with refugees from the both the war and more recently the storms rampaging in the rest of the world. The City was crowded, and the Catalyst Club itself was a veritable sea of shoulder-to-shoulder people filling the public room of the expansive club. He had never been comfortable with crowds, and his undying curse only amplified his discomfort when surrounded by so many of the still living.  It awakened hungers that even after all these years were a struggle to keep under control.  This meeting had best be productive, for the people of the Sands were in desperate need of help.

Khalil collected his thoughts as Najit, one of the Shoathri who comprised the inner circle of the Catalyst Club, approached and took a seat at his conspicuously empty table. 

“Hello Khalil, I hope you’ve been able to order something more than just coffee?”

“I’m good”, he replied.  “I don’t like it here, so can we get to it?”

“Of course.  We’re pleased that you came to us rather than one of the Mage’s Guilds.  May I ask why?”

“They have no interest in helping us, only in gaining new membership.  They have no awareness or at least no care of the danger that is building in the Sands. If anything, they want to try claiming some of the power for themselves.”

Najit nodded, indicating that she either agreed, or at least wanted Khalil to continue speaking.

Khalil looked around to see if any of the crowded tavern were watching and hoping that he’d not missed someone as he began to motion with his hands, calling upon magics to shield their conversation in Dream.

“That seems excessive” said Najit as she realized what Khalil was casting.

“Perhaps, but it is more than just the guilds that concern me.  The Three Rivers tribe has many friends within the city now as they have flourished with so many refugees living outside the walls.  The refugees don’t know them from us, the true people of the Sands.  The Unspoken Vow are also active and already have some of these visitors following Hamadi and joining the Vow.  I have been attacked three times now within the City, but I suspect one of those was by the Blood Tower since there were vampires involved.”

“Khalil, you are a friend of the Club and we understand your concerns, but while things here in the city seem overwhelming to you; one has to remember that turning this large a ship takes longer than you would expect.”  Upon seeing the blank expression on Khalil’s face with her reference to ships, Najit added. “It is like trying to suddenly change directions when running down a dune.  Once you start running the sands follow and push you along, it is like that with the people here in the city.  We have seen what the Three Rivers and the Unspoken Vow are up to here in the Free City and are even now working to redirect those sands.  Enough about problems here in the Free City, please tell us what is happening out there in the Sands.”

Khalil resisted the urge to remind her and the Club that she represented that the Sands would have been better off if the people of the Free City had stayed out.  It was always people from outside the Sands who awakened the things best left forgotten to time.  Sadly, things had progressed to the point where outside help was needed.  The storms Arcane had swept across the Sands but the places hardest hit had rarely been places of import to the forces now contesting for control over sources of magical power long since buried beneath the sands.  The storms were simply an additional danger added to the list of reasons most gifted who entered the Sands returned by one of the Gates of Death or joined those less fortunate who had lost their Gifts to the Sands and were added to the countless undead wandering within the wastes.

“Hamadi, the leader of the Mummy Lords, has consolidated her power to the East and is beginning to call forth some of the ancient undead of ages lost to do her bidding.  Her armies grow in power along with herself and her fellow Mummy Lords.  I fear that if unchecked they will very soon rival the Majestic in power, especially given his efforts in deflecting the Storms Arcane…”

Najit nodded noncommittally at Khalil’s attempt to determine if the Majestic was the reason Ket had been spared the storms and, noting that Najit wasn’t going to give him an answer, he continued.

“The vampiric council that originated in Morgrave continues their efforts to uncover the resting place of the elder vampires.  They have made league with the Blood Tower, a cabal of undead who, rumor has it, ruled the Sands in the time before the Cataclysms, and who seek to return to power.  The only thing keeping the Blood Tower in check is their war against the Hamadi and her fellow Mummy Lords.  As I think about it, the war with each other is the only thing keeping them from turning their eye toward Ket.”

“These are things we already know Khalil.  In fact, you’re the one who told us.” Najit raised a hand toward the bar indicating she’d like a drink.  It most certainly wasn’t going to be a coffee. “What drove you to come to the city, and to us here to the Club?”

Despite the overly crowded main room Najit’s drink arrived almost immediately indicating to Khalil that his conversation with the Club had their full attention. Good, this is why he had chosen to endure coming into the city and subjecting himself to being surrounded by the living. If he could get help for the tribes who had been cut off from the Oases by the undead it would be worth it. Even if it meant telling the outside world of what the storms had uncovered.

“Yes.” He continued. “You know of those dangers, but what of the enormous city that has emerged from the sands in the wake of the storms?  It looks to have buildings from each of the ages from before the last Cataclysm to the founding of the first nation to have held sway over these lands.  It crawls with undead, elementals, and constructs not too unlike your Scaled Guard.  They fight among themselves but more and more of them are venturing into the sands looking for food, or others of their kind to join them. “

It was clear that he now had her full attention, and it was no surprise to him that telling the Catalyst Club of a huge city that has yet to be plundered had emerged from the Sands would be the key to getting their help.

“The tribes of the Sands need help.”  A sip of his coffee before he could continue asking help of the very people who day after day sent people to raid the places his people felt sacred. “You know my feelings of the so-called adventures your people send into our most sacred places, and here I am now to ask that you send more of them.” 

This did surprise Najit, her cup paused half-way to taking a sip.  “You want us to do more? Does this mean your people will stop killing everyone they catch out in the Sands?”

Khalil sighed; his people were not the killers but some rumors he was happy to let persist as it helped to keep people out of the Sands and encouraged those who ventured out to avoid contact with the Tribes. “Yes.” He replied. “Even more, we will provide you with locations, including this new city, that are certain to be rich with treasure.  Your … customers will be thrilled.”

“What’s the catch and what are your people asking in return?”

“I said they would be places rich with treasure. I said nothing of who or what might currently be residing in the place.  Your customers simply need to fight their way to the treasures and leave as much water as they can carry at the gates you provide them. We have lost too many Oases to the new Jackal kingdom that has come out of the Jungles to the west, and the people of the Sands are suffering from the loss of water and constant Jackal raids upon their camps.” 

“Why we pick each location for your excursions will not be important to your customers, or to you. Only know that it will weaken the various factions prolonging their conflict and will be rich with treasures. In this effort, we are truly on the same side as once the war in the Sands is settled, the victor will be coming for Ket, and while both the Mummy Lords and the Blood Tower seem to believe they have some knowledge that will help them defeat the Majestic, we have no hint of what powers are awakening within the new City and how it will change the balance of power here and in the Sands. Your customers will help us uncover that danger.  They get rich, we save the Sands.  It seems a fair deal to me.”

“Thank you, Khalil, I will take this up with the Club, and if we agree to help, I suspect we can have Bridget and Donovan begin gating people as early as next week.”  She held out her hand and after a pause Khalil shook it, finished his coffee, and headed toward the door.

“Najit, I will send you a dream tomorrow to know if the Club will be helping us.”

The Storm (Entry Thirteen)

There is an amorphous place, of shifting light and dark, of clouds of sound where oddly shaped things, creatures that never walked the lands of Aerune, dart about at the edge of vision.  A small section of that place seemed to solidify slightly, forming a patch of ground upon which to stand, ground that looks not unlike ordinary earth.  A second later, a red-haired woman slowly fades into view, standing on the ground.  She looks around the space, and it rapidly starts to take more shape, assuming the form of a small glade in a nondescript forest, with patches of grass on the ground and trees forming a loose perimeter.

A moment later, a man also fades into existence.  “Daniel?” the woman asks, peering at him cautiously.

“Magda!  It’s good to see you… safe?”

“Safe enough.”  She frowns slightly and makes a gesture, and a pair of chairs appears in the glade.  And then another, and a fourth.  Several other random objects also appear, along with tendrils of vines that start growing out of the backs of several of the chairs, flowering in some cases, digging into the ground in others.

“You… are badly out of balance,” he says, walking over to one of the chairs and touching the vines sprouting out of it.  “How bad is it?”  At his touch, the vines start to unravel, splintering into pieces, and cracks immediately appear on the chair.  He starts and pulls his hand back.

“About as bad as you,” she says, her voice brittle.  “Everyone I’ve encountered is out of balance.  Everything is so broken, and we’re all trying our best to hold the pieces together… but we’re all doing what we’re best at to try to stay ahead, and most people just trend one way or the other instinctively… it’s not just you and me.”

“But things are getting better now,” he counters.  “We… need to work on this.”  His eyes travel around the now-cluttered space as she nods in agreement.  “Where is Clover?”

“I don’t have the slightest idea, mostly because I’m pretty sure that he also has no idea where he is at any given time.  I tried to get word to him that I was preparing this place, but…” she shrugs.

“Where are you?”

“On the border of Vellingrim and Blacktallow, currently.  There’s… a lot of changes going on right now.  Some good, but with everything… Mortimus is there now.  He’s made friends with some of those guild heads that are asserting themselves, and he’s even more entrenched there than he was in Ket.  It’s going to be a problem.  How about you?”

“Seven Charters, near Tome. Now that things are starting to calm down, I’m catching signs of the ship again.  Hopefully I’ll have something more solid soon.”

Magda nods, looks as if she is about to say something, hesitates, then finally says, “I’m sorry about your homeland.”

His lips tighten slightly, and then he nods.  For a long moment, he says nothing, and as he opens his mouth to reply, the sound of faint music drifts through the glade.  Both of them spin to try to identify the source, and as they do, there is a tearing sound, and a gate appears in the glade. 

“Oh dear, I’m not sure…” says a familiar voice, and then a man in patchwork clothes falls backwards through the gate, which immediately closes. 

“Clover!” Daniel lunges and manages to get a hand on the Tatterfolk, catching him before his head hits the ground. 

“Clover!  Are you ok!” Magda asks, staring wide eyed at him.  “Are you… are you physically here?”

“Yes.  Yes, I believe I am.”  Clover scrambles to his feet, hands white-knuckled on his cane.  “Physically here, that is.  I haven’t been in the dreaming in a while, though.  This is sort of nice…” he stares at the jumble of furniture, then looks suspiciously at Magda.

“Are you alright?” Daniel repeats.

“That… is a complicated question.  Yes.  Very complicated.  I do have to keep moving, though, you understand.  But it might be safe here, for a bit?  I haven’t spent much time in dream, you know.”

Magda and Daniel exchange mutually bewildered looks.  “Clover… the Illuminarium says that Nocturne might be safe to visit again.  We’re going to head there next… do you think you can get there?  There’s… likely to be a lot that needs to be righted, with the Storm and the cycle of magic changing.”

Clover’s eyes brighten slightly at that statement.  “Speaking of the cycle of magic, I think that it may actually help us in one way… the magics were reset *very* thoroughly.  Clean slate.  Very difficult to adjust to.  I’ll explain later.”

“Later, wait, what…”

“Need to go!” he says as there is another tearing sound, and another gate opens in front of him.  “I’ll explain in Nocturne!”  And he steps through.

The other two stare at the spot where the gate was for a minute. 

“Well, he seems well,” Daniel says, his voice heavy with irony.  “Nocturne, then?  Will you need an escort?” 

“I can find my way there.” 

“Try breaking a few things along the way, if you can.”

She glares briefly at him, then twitches, looking around the small bubble she’s created.  “He’s coming, we should both go.”  She waits only long enough to see a nod of acknowledgement from Daniel before dissolving the dream space, sending them both back to their sleeping bodies.

The Storm (Entry Twelve)

And in the Pale World

            As arcane storms savaged the land, the wise teachers of the far flung groves did as they always had in the past; they laid the named spirits of trees to rest. A vast quiet settled over the lands and those that remained gathered what strength they had and set off against those who would strike against the natural world, and little was heard from them again.

In Nocturne

            The Eventide set about their task as well, setting the tree spirits to rest, so that they would be passed over by the Arcane torment and lightning. Excepting two.

The Eventide stood affront the pale grove and a single tree spirit remained. “There will be fire, there will be lightning,” they said, “best to rest.” And the Holly tree stood resolute. “I endure, I regrow.” And so the Eventide passed it over. And the lightning crashed, and the fire smote, and two years of torment cracked the rock and wracked the ground; and, each spring, in the midst of blight; Holly stood, re-growing each time; beaten and forlorn, Holly endured, and held the ground.

Lastly, the Eventide came to Hazel. Wild and free, thick with brush and thorns. “Sleep,” they said. And Hazel said “No.” “This I have seen before, and I have weathered far worse storms; let them come, let them dare.” So the Eventide withdrew. And while the Arcane Storms descended, Hazel grew foot long thorns, and Badgers sheltered under its branches, snapping at the defilers of nature, wild-eyed and implacable. For these years, it clung to the rocky outcropping that was its home, and sustained them. “As it should be,” said Hazel, running new shoots over the badger warrens and the chattering of new kits. As the skies began to clear, from under the twisted briar patches, Badgers gazed upwards at a clearing sky and Hazel said “Let them dare again.”

The Eventide looked across the land; blackened and scorched, waiting for the gifted to return. “These two will do,” it thought; “these will do.”

The Storm (Entry Eleven)

Glendamara walks hurriedly down a darkening road, pausing occasionally to put a hand on a shoulder or offer a word of encouragement to the travelers in her care.  She flashes what is clearly intended to be a reassuring smile toward Andrew, but it either lacks conviction or he knows her too well.  He steps to the side of the path, frowning at her, but she waves him off, and he nods acknowledgment.  He continues waiting while the others pass, and she leaves him to it, knowing he will take up the self-appointed position of rear guard.  Even though these are not the folk of his kinring, old habits die hard.  She takes a deep breath, and continues forward with the rest of the travelers, walking just a bit faster than the others, until she finds the one she seeks.

The Weavering’s kincrown turns as she moves up beside him, and greets her respectfully, despite the worry lines the last two years have etched into his face. “Tattercloak,” he says, almost a sigh, “how fare my kin?”

“They persevere, Jamison,” she smiles again, hoping this man will take the reassurance she offers better than Andrew did, though she is no more firm in her convictions than before.  “As we all have been.  How much farther do you intend to travel today?”

“Not much farther,” says another woman, pausing to let them catch up to her.  Savila holds her bow in her hand, and though she is clearly attempting to project calm, her knuckles on the wood are nearly white, and her other hand hovers just a little too close to her quiver.  “I want camp set up and everyone under cover before dark.”  

Jamison shakes his head, his voice mild as he chides her gently. “Savila, you know that the storms are no more likely to come at night than during the day.  And we haven’t actually seen one in weeks.”

The Weavering’s kinsword nods curtly but holds to her decision.  “Of course,” she responds quietly.  “But daylight makes it a lot easier to see those…” She stops and visibly changes her choice of words, “mindless creatures that linger in these lands.  I don’t know why they respect the flimsy walls of our tents and caravans, but I want that protection for our folk when it gets dark.”

“They are elementals, Savila, we’ve been through this…”

Glendamara holds her opinions to herself, knowing that these two know as much as she does about the world these days.  They fall into a discussion that has the moderate cadences of one well-rehearsed, taking comfort from the familiarity of an old argument.  Glenda lets her thoughts drift towards her destination, a safe house along the Weavering’s usual routes, not too far from Nocturne – too close, in fact, which is why Glenda is not making this journey alone.  Well, one of the reasons.

“Still worrying, Glenda?”  

The voice at her elbow startles the tattercloak out of her own futile trains of thought which she also has rehearsed many times.  This time, her smile is self-deprecating.  “You know me too well.”

Isaura tilts her head in disagreement. “No,” she observes, “you wear it on your sleeves these days.”  They walk a few paces in silence.  “How is the Lady of Weft doing?”

“Declining,” Glendamara answers simply and grimly, clearly concerned.  “We hadn’t made any progress on figuring out why she collapsed, but at least she seemed stable.  Nearly two years passed without much change, but almost in step with the fading of the arcane storms, she has begun to slip away.  We haven’t been able to figure out why, and we are running out of time.”

Another few moments of silent steps, before Isaura asks, “How much father?”

Glenda winces.  “Not too far, but we’re stopping soon. We should get there before noon tomorrow.” Isaura frowns, and Glenda barks out a laugh without much humor.  “This time it’s your face that gives you away.  No, my friend, we are not going on without them.  Even with Andrew, we don’t have the resources to be sure of getting through to the safe house without the others.  There is a reason why we Tatterdemalion have insisted on traveling in groups since the storms began.”

“There was a time…”  Isaura begins darkly, then sighs and lets the thought go.  “I know, I know.  We don’t live in that time anymore.  We’re just going to have to figure out how to carry on as things are.”  

Glenda nods, her face darkening again.  “At least the call has gone out.  The heroes of Nocturne should be coming back to help deal with the elementals.”  Her eyes meet Isaura’s again.  “And maybe they can help us as well.”

The Storm (Entry Ten)

A stolen letter has appeared on the merchant’s road, and has become widely enough available that informed personages such as the citizenry of Nocturne could have most certainly run across a copy.

Admiral Golent,

I have ferried the Princess of Morgrave to Blacktallow as you requested. Princess Lucia offered her thanks and gratitude to you and Travos for hosting her through this calamity. She is a remarkably intelligent and ambitious woman. She did seem to enjoy your company too! Just thinking out loud… it would be nice to have a committed ally, especially one who could very well sit on the throne of Morgrave someday. Certainly, the Charters could benefit from having a healthy relationship with that northern kingdom. Perhaps you should engage in correspondence with her? It is worth some thought!

I have completed my survey of the League. There is good news, somewhat good news, bad news, worse news, and messy news. I’ll start with the good news. Travos and Grames seem to have managed the storms quite well. The ancient lighthouses in the other cities appear to have served as focal points for the storms. The clouds would gather over the lighthouses throughout the day and then rain wild magic down during the evenings. The lighthouse we built in Travos and that glowing stone lighthouse in Grames did no such thing. We’ve had occasional storms, but they were random, not regular. Given that Grames remains our most steadfast ally, I think it is quite fortunate that they have weathered things as well as we have. Of course, we haven’t heard from the Driftwood King in months, but he does tend to do that. So, no worries! Right?

In somewhat good news, I spoke to Lady Helania when we passed Sol. She is eager to restart trade though I am not entirely certain what she plans to trade. Her true element stockpiles are now significantly less valuable given the change in the cycle of magic. She does remain quite anxious about the Imperium despite their withdrawal. I suppose it is reasonable given what happened to Vellingrim, but it is unclear to me why she is convinced that the League in particular is in danger. Still, Lady Helania has never been so accommodating. She was almost nice… almost. Like I said, somewhat good news.

On to the bad news… the Poinsettia flag of Fabian Winters still flies in Majesty and now flies over Iovos and Floros. I’ve been unable to locate Dread Faena in Majesty though I believe she is still alive. Only a true monster would kill his own mother and Fabian is no monster. He is actually quite popular. Majesty was hit hard by the storms, but he supported the city with Faena’s vast treasury. Majesty’s fleet seems to have survived better than our own. I made some diplomatic overtures, as you requested, but they were ignored. Majesty remains hostile to us, Admiral.

As for Iovos, the storms seem to have exacerbated divisions in the city. Wealthier ‘nobles’ left the city when the storms came. Those that stayed took over their duties of the ones that left. Now the returning nobles are insisting that their duties be restored while the nobles that stayed demand that their perseverance be rewarded. Lord Captain Stefolare is trying to iron out the difference but inference from Majesty may be hampering his efforts. Some of the noble houses have begun to fly the Poinsettia flag. To make matters worse the two dueling schools of Iovos have taken opposite sides in the dispute. Captain Stefolare has officially requested our assistance. Now, getting mired in the politics of Iovos and making an enemy of one of its dueling schools is not a good idea in my mind. We must, however, counter the influence of Majesty if we are to remain in Captain Stefolare’s good graces.

Floros is a much different story. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. I had a cordial visit with the Master Thespian where he gave me a two-hour dramatic improvisation of how Floros managed to survive the storms.It was a good show though it ate up most of my time in the city. I asked about the Poinsettia flag and he said it flies because he doesn’t want trouble from Majesty. He remarked that the flag of the Seven Charters was flying a few inches higher though it didn’t look like it from my angle. I asked about the Theater Fortuna and the Master Thespian became a bit evasive. Apparently, there was a problem. He introduced me to a red-masked Delirium Lord usher who spoke with such a thick accent that I, honestly, couldn’t understand him. My apologies if I missed something important. Anyway, throughout my entire stay in Floros, I was followed at a distance by a stern-looking Lady She’lea of the School of Three Roses. It was quite strange. I think there is something going on. I just have no idea what.

So, worse news or messy news? I’ll go with the messy since you usually like the worse news last. As we were approaching Tome, we spotted Captain Arlan Nantz’s Belaingarde fleet in the distance. That’s the one that has been at sea for two years and has the ships with the massive hulls. You met Nantz last year. They want to found a New Belaingarde. So, I think that fleet may be heading toward Tome. There isn’t a harbor in the League that can safely dock ships with drafts that deep. All those ships tied up at Tome, however, can serve as a deep-water mole. So, they can certainly dock there. I spoke to Lord Captain Skellig about the possibility. He was concerned at first, but then grew very excited at the prospect of making them give up their books so he could burn them. He was drooling. Assuming that Nantz isn’t going to just hand over cultural artifacts salvaged from his destroyed homeland just so that they can be burned by a deranged were-rat, this is going to be a mess! I am not entirely sure what should be done about it or where we should stand here.

Now the worse news. Do you remember Bloodtooth and all those other scum pirates we drove out of the League years ago? Remember how they founded that little garbage scum town Haven on the south coast of the Borderlands between Blacktallow and Vellingrim? In two years that town has grown three times larger and has acquired a massive fleet that can probably rival any fleet in the League. Apparently, they had a large influx of people fleeing Vellingrim. They also now host some of the worst criminals of Belaingarde. Some gracious humanitarian apparently opened the prison during the evacuation. I don’t know much more except that Haven is run by… get this… the Sixfold Syndicate. They are going to be a real problem.

I’m gonna get drunk now. I’ll be on the lookout for your orders. Feel free to pass this around to people who are reliable. 

Sincerely,

Navigator Purvis