1500, Wir, 25 Febryan, 3E1000
The Heroes 4 Hire watched the glowing, sparking barriers coalesce between the pillars, impeding access to the giant, blue crystalline structure beyond. Lt. Diplo Norixius, stepped forward and touched the barrier, receiving an instant shock but escaping unhurt due to his Blue Dragon heritage. After some discussion as to how to penetrate the barrier, or if they even should, Illyia Baham remembered that the aura he saw through the Gem of Seeing surrounding the statue of the unknown king downstairs in the shrine identically matched the blue electro-force barrier they faced now. The team divided in two, half proceeding to the shrine and half staying in the Library with the barrier.
Once down in the shrine and in front of the statue, the team realized they, possibly, knew who this was. The statue with its crown and scepter, that decayed and necrotized before the eyes of Naïlo Thia, reminded them all of an old legend, well-known across all of Caledonia and based in the country of Breland:
A king of Breland, powerful and popular, was overcome in his elder years by fear of death and obsessed over finding immortality. No one knows exactly what he did in his pursuit of his quest; some surmise he sold his soul to a devil, while others assumed that he, being an accomplished and renowned arcanist, dallied with powers best left alone. Either way, he transformed into something unnatural, and when his people shunned him for his hideousness and shrank from him in fear, his rage was unleashed upon them.
When his anger subsided, the king saw what he had done to his own beloved people, and his sorrow and despair drove him mad. He fled his lands, never to be seen again.
With the recognition of the Breland King, the half of the team in the shrine approached with caution and investigated the statue once more. They asked Erendriel Thalolan to cast Dispel Magic on the statue, and in a moment the aura was gone, as was the barriers. The team reunited in the Library, and Dajjal put a hand upon the crystal and was instantly gone. The team froze as they realized his disappearance, but Dajjal saw something much different.
When he touched the crystal, the room instantly changed, and he was standing in a large octagonal foyer with a wide hallway proceeding out of it to the north. Torches and wall sconces began to light themselves in sequence down the hall, and he could see it opened into a much larger chamber beyond. The spaces were ornate, but dusty, as if untouched by the living in centuries. Suddenly feeling very much alone, he put his hand back on the crystal, and just as instantly was standing back in the Library surrounded by his friends.
With the crystal basically understood, the team teleported through it to the octagonal foyer and proceeded up the hallway, stopping just short of the threshold to the larger chamber beyond. It was massive; dual lines of columns flanked the sides of a great open stone floor, stretching to the limits of sight to an ornately arched ceiling above. At the opposite end a great stone colonnade rose up to a second level above. Stone stairs flanked the entrance where they stood, leading up to catwalks along the outer walls that also led to the second level at the opposite end. And at the top of the grand colonnade sat a great stone throne, and on it a decaying skeleton, some rotting flesh still clinging to its bones under mouldering royal regalia. An ornate-but-tarnished crown rest askew on the back of its skull, and an equally tarnished scepter lay in the crook of its left elbow.
The Heroes began to discuss, but Smedley “Deadly” Hampton acted first with his bow and bounced an arrow squarely off the skeletal skull from the hallway. The previously dark and lifeless chamber… slowly… rose back to consciousness. The skeletal figure sat up slowly, repositioned the crown properly on its head, placed its right elbow on its knee and its sceptered fist on its left hip, and stared down from its lofty throne.
“And what do YOU want?” the Breland King asked incredulously, obviously unharmed by Smeldey’s barb. The floor at the base of the colonnade began to come alive with spectral shapes, formless at first but coalescing over time into shapes of people, dancing in an never-ending ball, aristocracy to be sure. Spectral men-at-arms stood sentry along the walls, seemingly unaware of the Heroes presence and barely watching the dancers.
The Heroes apologized for the interruption, asked a few mundane questions and receive curt, clipped answers for their troubles. When they said they would leave, the Breland King invited them to come in and join his ball. At the sound of that prospect, the Heroes ran for the crystal to the sound of insane cackling, successfully teleporting back to the Library.
The team took sometime shaking off the freezing cold that had gripped their very souls. They discussed the Dark Priest and what they should do next, and it was agreed upon that they would head south overland to the capital city of Bree to seek trainers to advance their skills. They also agreed to set up a daily task of Scrying on the Dark Priest, hopefully to ascertain his whereabouts and destination. Dajjal would stay behind at the ruins, to search and study in the Library, and stay well clear of the crystal.
0600, Zor, 26 Febryan, 3E1000
The Heroes 4 Hire, minus Dajjal, set out and traveled five days south over the grasslands of central Breland. Once arrived in the capital, it took little time for them to find the appropriate training masters and begin their advancement training. After twenty long, grueling days of work and sweat and bruises, the team gathered their wagons and mounts and rode the five-day journey back the way they came, back to the Ruins of Sorrow.
In their absence, Dajjal found much of worth in the library’s contents, but unfortunately most of it he already knew. However, he did decided to revisit the Breland King by himself, teleporting through the crystal and again staying well short of the threshold of main audience chamber. As if on cue, the Breland King sat up from his slumber on his throne. Dajjal asked him how he had found eternal life, and the King rebuked him, saying, “This is NOT life!! THIS… THIS is eternal DEATH!” Unfazed, Dajjal asked more questions, and the Breland King baited him, hinting that he may know what Dajjal ultimately wants to know… and he can join his soiree, if he chooses, and see for himself.
Dajjal changed subjects to the Dark Priest, and the Breland King admitted that ‘Lord Daemonne’ had visited with him regularly during his stays at the Ruins, that He-the-King-himself had advised the Dark Priest and originally steered him to the items and knowledge he sought. And, the Breland King knew what Lord Daemonne was after:
“He seeks to return his daughter to life, his precious little girl that was tragically killed so long ago.” Dajjal asked why a more routine form of resurrection wasn’t used. “Oh, he’s tried them all, to be sure, Boy. But you see, therein lies the rub. The usual resurrections still cannot violate free will… the SOUL has to WANT to comeback. And apparently, she… does not!” The King let out a maniacally evil cackle, and Dajjal pressed for the solution this Lord Daemonne seeks.
“Oh, this is the most precious of all. Tharizdun has spoken to him in his dreams, told him of a ritual that can force the soul back into the body, free will or not. It can wrench the soul out of the hands of the Sovereign Host themselves, and back into its corporeal form. Well,… into ‘A’ corporeal form anyway. But, its a fool’s errand, and he’s just the fool to trust what he’s been told by one of the Dark Eight… or by an old, dead King.”
Dajjal asked about the ritual, and was provided a few details, but the most pivotal of the Breland King’s answers was the timing of the ritual. "Power of this magnitude is not normally available on the Prime Material. Only once in a millennium does a very narrow window open to perform such a rite. Your friend is on a stringent schedule, you see. He has to gather the items. He has to learn the incantations and the performance factors. He has to get the offering. And he has to perform it at EXACTLY the right moment. Only once in a millennium, Boy… " The King let the word hang in the silence for a moment.
It suddenly dawned on Dajjal like a thunderbolt… something he has seen in many of his books and research and tomes, regarding a once-in-a-millennium moment where the powers of the entire cosmos become available to the proper arcanist. “You’re talking about the Great Conjunction!”
The Breland King seemed amused, if such could be accomplished on the flesh-decayed face and empty eye-sockets, now filled with tiny, bluish points of light. “Yes, Young One! Yes, the one time in a millennium, when all the celestial bodies of Seles align… align in perfect alignment… the alignment of perfection! Of, PREDICTION! The alignment of POWER!!” The tiny points of light in the King’s sockets burned exceptionally bright for a moment, and then subsided back to their usual intensity.
“When is it?” Dajjal queried, and the King made a gesture as if he rolled his eyes at Dajjal, although through empty sockets.
“When does our calendar begin? When does the SELESIAN calendar begin? How do we mark time? WHAT YEAR IS IT?” the King demanded, almost standing up from his throne.
“It is the 6th of Maros, 1000th year of the 3rd Era.” Dajjal kept his voice level and calm and respectful, recognizing the obvious threat.
The Breland King sat back in his throne, looking irritated and frustrated that his ‘pupil’ is not following as quickly as he’d hoped. In a sardonic voice, the King said, “…and what DEFINES an era?”
Dajjal felt a little thick as he verbally walked the mental path laid before him by the King. “A millennium is 1000 years.” The King rolled his head, and then nodded, waiting impatiently as his student made the connections. “The era is defined by the Great Conjunction. The new era starts at the end of the Conjunction!”
The Breland King relaxed into his throne, now assured that his pupil has ‘gotten it’. “…And the calendar? The Date?”
Dajjal was sure he had it, but he couldn’t help pause for a long time, recalculating to be sure. “The Great Conjunction will happen at the stroke of midnight on the divide between the 28th of Decia, 1000th year of the 3rd Era, and the 1st of Janos, 1st year of the 4th Era. The Dark Priest must perform Tharizdun’s ritual then to bring his daughter back.”
There was not enough flesh left on the Breland King’s skull to form a smile, but the skull was grinning nonetheless… evil and unnerving.
Sar, 28 Maros, 3E1000
The Hereos 4 Hire reunited at the Ruins of Sorrow early in the evening, and enthusiastically discussed what they should do next. With the new information Dajjal had collected from the Breland King, it was decided that the party would return to their home at Half Point in Eridae, for some well earned downtime and rest, while continuing the daily scrying and other investigative avenues to divine Lord Daemonne’s next or ultimate destination. They departed the very next morning, during the wane of the Vernal Equinox and rode southbound along the main rode to Ravenmere. There they purchased passage for themselves, their mounts and their wagons, sailing to Tingerhof in Gilder where they changed ships before continuing on. Dajjal remained behind in Tingerhof to visit Allendretta and her Library.
The rest of the group continued on to Anchorhead, unloaded their wagons and mounts, and set out for the full-day’s ride to Half Point. Illyia sent Nightshade ahead to carry the message of their pending return, and as they approached their homestead they were greeted by their friends and staff, their guild members old and new as well as many of the guests at the Blind Boggle Inn, to an unusual amount of excitement and camaraderie. Alyn Quinn had personally cooked a “Welcome Home” dinner for the Heroes 4 Hire and had it waiting in the dining room of the Heroes Haven Guildhall, and the waitstaff ushered them there as quickly as they could hand off their mounts to the Stablemaster and their weapons and armor to the Smith.
As the soiree wound down later in the evening, Alyn reported on the financials of the Heroes’ business ventures, recounting the considerable profits the entire operation has been enjoying, and that the morale of the staff has been extremely high. She also suggested a small across-the-board raise for all the staff for their hard work and obvious success. She also mentioned that there had not been word from the Hardby Mine operation in quite some time, and that she was a little concerned about the lack of regular communication.
After six months of adventuring and travel across the continent, not to mention grueling combat, the evening finally drew to a close and the Heroes 4 Hire retired to a long night’s rest, finally back home in their own beds. The scrying had proved fruitful and revealed a visit to another enclave of the Cult of the Elder Eye followed by arrival at the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. The Dark Priest, Lord Daemonne, even with the Temple in his control, could wait.
1800, Sar, 28 Ayre, 3E1000
With the Dark Priest, Lord Daemonne, firmly in control of the Temple of Tharizdun, what will the Heroes do next? Will they be able to gain the advantage on him and his cult’s renewed numbers? Can the information given to them by the Breland King be trusted?
Find out next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”