Changing Fate - Part 2
Changing Fate – Part 2
As you enter the tower, the hallway is suddenly flooded with light and sound. There are torches on the wall, everburning torches fixed in steel sconces! The smell of smoke is strong in the air, and you hear screams and the clash of steel. The dirt and cobwebs are gone – and so is the tunnel you came through. The wall is in perfect condition.
Caiphys, as you look upon Sejik, something has changed. Or has it? Perhaps things are as they should be. Caiphys? What is that name? Was he a dream… perhaps a nightmare? Anger and aggression fill your heart and your dragonmark burns into your right hand. Burn, yes, that is your name. A man with the aberrant power to produce flame. Your memories are flooded with the faces of your children, who were killed by Deneith soldiers; you will have to restrain your fury when you encounter members of House Deneith. It makes you want to… burn things. Whisper, your elven female companion stands next you. Her ancestors aligned themselves with the House of Vol, who had to flee Aerenal in the wake of the civil war. She is cold, bitter, beautiful and calculating. Her dragonmark blazes darkly on her forehead.
Sejik, no… that’s not your name. Whisper… is it Whisper? A strange feeling momentarily overwhelms you, as it passes, you are comforted by the cold and calculating empty feeling inside you. You remember fleeing from Phiarlan spies and the Deathguard of Aerenal. You feel a disdain for elves of both cultures – and an odd sense of sympathy with those who follow the teachings of the Blood of Vol. Your ally Burn stands next to you. His eyes burn with rage. On your forehead you can feel a crawling, tingly sensation.
You both have this strange claustrophobic feeling, as if trapped by something greater than the walls that surround you. You want this feeling to end, but how? Perhaps, your commander may know.
You hear screams and the sounds of battle; there is a conflict raging beyond the walls and on the lower levels of the tower below. You hear a flurry of footsteps hammering on the floor of the hallway to the north – a single person, gasping for breath. A moment later she comes into view: a human in her late teens, wearing studded leather armor over simple brown clothes. You know her, her name is Grim. She is covered with dirt and blood; a black-feathered arrow protrudes from her left shoulder, and she has a deep gash on her right ribs. There is a scabbard on her belt, but she carries no weapons. Her eyes are wide with panic, and she is running as fast as she can.
“Burn, run!” she screams when she sees you. “They’re coming!”
“They’ve broken through, Whisper,” she says, even as she tries to push her way past you and keep moving. “The Devour Lord is our only hope. Move! We need to get to the sanctum!”
Three new figures come into view. Two warriors are in the lead, both wielding long swords and massive tower shields emblazoned with the symbol of a golden sun with a silver eye in the center. You can see little behind the shields, but you catch a glimpse of a woman in a dark cloak, with a longbow in her hand.
Sejik catches Grim and begins to heal her wounds.
“Caiphys, hold them off, I need time! Grim is badly wounded!”
Caiphys is unresponsive. Sejik notices that Caiphys does not seem to be struggling with his new “identity.”
His face no longer shows signs of inner turmoil, no signs of Caiphys, only Burn.
Without little option, Sejik addresses the person standing before him, “Burn, incinerate these fools!”
Jets of flame shoot from Caiphys’s hands and igniting one of the pursuers. Screams of burning agony and smell of charred flesh fill the hallway. The other two pursuers continue their advance undaunted.
Caiphys’s eyes begin to smolder bright orange. Opening his mouth, he yells out a bellow of murderous rage.
It’s dons on Sejik that the pursuers are from House Deneith, the very house that killed Burn’s children.
Tendrils of fire shoot out from his eyes and mouth, engulfing the remaining Deneithian soldiers.
The flames from the conjured inferno burn away everything in their paths, including the death wails of the remaining soldiers. There was no mercy, no remorse, not even grim satisfaction, only fiery rage.
Sejik spoke to Grim, “Lead on child! Burn we must make haste!”
The hall at the top of the steps stretches ahead of you. There are two heavy wooden doors on the eastern wall. Somewhat more interesting is the gaping hole on the western wall, about thirty feet away from you.
There is a gap in the wall, a wound about ten feet across. It appears that the damage was inflicted from the outside and is the result of a repeated series of focused explosions. Furthermore, a large creature came in through the hole and moved off to the north.
The edges of the hole are rough and blackened, blasted in by heat and explosive force. Looking up, you can see that the tower rises up another 75 feet. There are no windows, but there are arrow-slits across the walls on the higher levels. But what lies beyond is what draws your attention. An hour ago you were deep beneath Sharn, and all that should be beyond this wall is earth and shattered stone. Instead, a city stretches out before you.
It is not Sharn. While there are a few towers, the simple, blocky architecture is unfamiliar to you, and these buildings are only a few hundred feet in height – no match for the mile-high spires of Sharn. An assortment of squat stone buildings are nestled around these towers. But there is no time to study the buildings: this city is under attack. Smoke fills the sky, billowing from towers and shattered buildings. The streets below are filled with hundreds of soldiers and siege engines pressing forward, and you can hear screams and the clash of steel. A knot of warriors are clustered around the base of your tower – some seventy-five feet below you – and in the moment you look out through the wall a shower of arrows and magical blasts hurtle towards you.
Caiphys regains his senses and realizes powerful magic is at work. He struggles to find the words,
“Cousin, I – I’m not sure how, but it would appear we are involved in the War of the Mark.”
“It’s very unlike you to speak figuratively Caiphys, but I agree, in my mind, the War of the Mark never truly end-”
“NO, you don’t understand!” Ciaphys cuts Sejik off.
“This IS the War of the Mark. We’ve been transported back in time!”]
Sejik and Ciaphys pause a moment to look out beyond the wall. Both are stunned and silent as they look at the battle waging on below them. It was Grim who brought them back to their senses.
“Whisper, we must hurry!” Frantically, Grim darts off ahead down the corridor.
Ahead the faintest shimmer on the floor catches your eye. There is a symbol on the floor, glowing lines of energy that are almost invisible – but not quite. Studying the area, you realize that there are dozens of the symbols covering a wide stretch of the nearby walls and floor.
Caiphys shouts to Grim but is too late. As she steps on the first symbol, it explodes in a shower of blue and yellow sparks. Grim’s body lay charred and motionless on the stone floor. Sejik reaches her first.
“She alive, but barely!”
Sejik cradles Grim and whispers in her ear,
“The Traveler watches over you, child. It would seem He has taken a liking to your name and has briefly suspended your death. Without His gifts, you will die. With them, you may live to serve His will. Do you wish to follow the will of ‘He of a Thousand Names’?”
Inaudible to all ears other than the Traveler’s, Grim breathes her decision. Sejik’s hands begin to glow faint blue and a warm light surges over Grim’s body.
“Your arm to please the Giver of Gifts, your life to prove your faith.
Now rise and walk the path of grey, behind the Traveler’s wake.”
She stands up, completely healed, wearing a holy symbol of the Traveler. Sejik address his new convert,
“Grim, you have no ‘arm’ to give, but a gift is required nonetheless.”
He takes out the Exodus knife and cuts off a small lock of her hair.
“In exchange, I give you this.”
Sejik hands Grim a heavy footman’s mace. Caiphys snorts in derision as Grim tries clumsily to wield it.
“Well, it’s better than nothing. Let us move on to more pressing matters. Caiphys?”
Seeing Caiphys’s confused look, Sejik deduces that Caiphys has left and Burn has, once again, taken his place.
Sejik corrects himself.
“Burn, can you disable the sigils?”
Without comment, Caiphys disables the glyphs and the three continue through the hallway.
You see the remains of two bodies spread across the hallway. These unfortunates were torn apart, and a pool of blood has spread across the corridor.
Sejik finds enough pieces to deduce that the victims were a human male and a dwarf female. Both were killed by slashing damage. The wounds look like they were caused by the pincers of a large creature – something akin to a giant lobster – but the cuts are too clean to be the result of natural weapons; they seem like the result of a metal blade.
“Grim, lead on! Burn, we are being followed!” Sejik motions over his shoulder.
“Whisper, I need you to hold off any Deneithian maggots while I clear our way.” Caiphys spat at the name as it escaped his lips.
As Sejik takes position, he hears the clamoring of plate armor down the hall rapidly closing in on them. Still struggling to fend off Whisper, Sejik steps out from around the corner, raises his staff, aims and steadies himself.
The assailants turn the corner at the far end of the hall and bark their challenge, “There! We have you now elf witch!”
Four more Deneithian soldiers descend upon Sejik. His head begins to spin, and he utters words unfamiliar to him. Suddenly, a black bolt of necrotic energy shoots from his staff striking the closest assailant in the chest. The Denethian soldier crumples in mid step to the floor. Weapons drawn, the soldiers continue to approach. Sejik then raises his hand in a claw-like fashion and from it lurches a shadowy disembodied claw that speeds through the air, grasping a second soldier in the throat. The claw-like shadow then burrows into the mouth of the screaming Deneithian, muting out his gasps for life giving air.
“Burn, two still approach, I cannot keep them all at bay!”
“Grim the passage is clear, lead on! Whisper, follow her! I’ll deal with the others, they are but walking ash!”
Sejik retreats around the corner and follows Grim while Caiphys takes Sejik’s place. Calmly, he pulls out a small knife, grabs the blade with his bare hand and draws his own blood. As the blood collects in his hand,
Caiphys speaks the necessary words of magic. The blood beings to boil and flame, and just as the remaining two Deneithian soldiers raise their blades to strike him, Caiphys hurls liquid fire into the faceplates of his attackers. Almost instantly, their armor melts and begins to consume the flesh underneath. He watches, emotionlessly, as the screams fade and nothing is left except two small pools of pulsating fiery liquid. After a brief pause, Ciaphys quickly speeds off after Sejik and Grim.
A large creature is crouched in the southern end of the hallway – a massive metal insect. Its jointed body is formed of mirror-bright steel, and its compound eyes are studded with glowing rubies. It rests its weight on four sturdy legs; two additional limbs are folded just beneath its head, and these long arms are tipped with serrated blades. Wings of gossamer and steel are tucked against the sides of its thorax.
The hide of the creature is covered with an intricate pattern of mystical sigils, and these symbols pulse with an inner light. You see that these symbols are taking shape on the floors and walls around the creature, growing clearer with each pulse.
Burn raises his concerns to Whisper, “A Cannith construct! We do not have the physical prowess to shield
against the onslaught of this machine.”
Grim begins to panic, “We must get to the sanctum!”
“Burn, we have no choice…”
Burn and Sejik step into view of the clattering machine. It continues with its work, ignoring them completely.
Burn spreads his fingers and aims at the construct. Suddenly, a fan of blue flames engulfs the automaton.
When the flames clear, the machine appears unaffected aside from a dull glow of heated metal upon its metallic exoskeleton. It faces Burn and begins to charge with a flurry of bladed pincers. Sejik reacts and launches a bolt of shadow from his staff at the creature. If hits the creature directly in the face. The machine reels in pain, a scream of screeching metal reverberates off the walls of the hallway. Grim grips her mace and rushes in to attack. She slams the weapon onto the carapace of the machine, but without strong hands to wield it properly, the impact sends a jolt of pain to her hands and the mace clatters to the floor. Burn’s words echo Sejik’s thoughts.
“Whisper, we cannot win this fight, we must retreat!”
The machine’s blades slash at Grim with mechanical precision, slicing her across the stomach. The blow should have eviscerated her if not for her small stature and nimble legs.
Sejik calls the retreat, “Head back to the door! Get inside!”
Upon reaching the door, the party clambers in and bars the door shut.
The smell of burning flesh fills the barracks. It doesn’t take long to identify the source – the corpse of a female gnome lies before you, slain by a burst of immense heat.
“Burn,” a voice mutters, filled with misery.
A man is leaning against a bunk. He wears a jerkin and breeches of black leather studded with iron rivets and wields a warhammer. His name is Black and wherever his skin shows you can see that it’s scarred by burns – some old, some quite recent. Much of his hair has been seared off, and his scalp is a patchwork of angry welts and scars. Even his lips are burnt. But what catches your eye is the mark on his forehead – a blackened brand in the shape of a twisted dragonmark, burnt into his skin. His eyes are wild, but he seems more frightened than angry; he looks at you, and you can feel his fear and confusion.
“Burn,” he repeats. “The others. They’re here! Spies! They are trying to stop the Devour Lord’s ritual!”
Without warning, Black swings his ax at Sejik.
“You! The watchers…everywhere…you are one of them! Watchers…WATCHERS!”
Sejik sidesteps Black’s wild swing. In a desperate gamble, he attempts to exploit the madman’s insanity.
“Black, we are not the Watchers! The watchers followed us! They are outside, we need to destroy them! Help us!”
“Watchers! Outside?! No… NO! They will not get us!”
With the strength of lunacy, Black barrels down the door and charges after the construct. Sejik and Caiphys follow suit launching a magical assault. Grim, grasping her stomach as if keeping her entrails intact, staggers behind.
Black unleashes a powerful assault upon the machine, crushing into the exoskeleton with his blunted axe.
The machine’s blades mercilessly slash away at Black’s torso, exposing muscle and bone. Sejik is able to mend his body, but only to see it reopened. Grim averts her eyes from the repeated mending and shredding of Black. Completely undeterred, Black continues his onslaught.
“Watchers! Die Watchers!”
Explosions of yellow sparks erupt from the machine. The automaton’s crushed armored plates now expose gears, cogs and other manor of clockwork. Black takes his axe and smashes into the exposed moving wheels, but not before the construct’s pincers impale him and rip off his legs. There is a shuddering crash and the Cannith construct collapses to the ground. Black, still hoisted in the air by its claws utters his last words,
After a brief moment of silence for the departed, Sejik urges Grim to lead on.
Upon entering the next level of the tower, you can still hear the sounds of battle raging below, but for the moment this hallway seems to be secure. The walls are intact, and you don’t see anyone at all; the only noteworthy feature is the door on the eastern wall.
Grim’s face is ashen and her breathing is raspy and labored.
“Grim, you must rest a moment. Let me tend to your wounds.” Sejik helps her inside the door.
This chamber must have been the private quarters of the priests who tended to the temple. The bedding is disheveled, and the room is in a general state of disarray; it seems likely that someone else has taken over from the original tenants. Four vials of varied color liquids are on a nearby shelf. A hallway leads to another room.
As Sejik tends to Grim, Caiphys enters the adjacent room.
“Whisper, we must be close.”
The marble altar in the center of the room suggests that this room is a temple. There are nine statues raised on pedestals and set around the walls of the chamber, but blankets have been draped over the statues, hiding their images. A broken trident lies across the altar.
Beneath the blankets, the statues are indeed images of the nine Sovereigns. The statue of Arawai has been defaced; the others are fully intact. There is nothing else of interest in the room.
Sejik deduces that the room was a temple to the Soveriegn Host, but has since been converted to a shrine of the Dark Six, specifically a shrine to the Devourer.
Feeling a sense of unease, Sejik prompts the party to continue onward,
“We should keep moving. Rest is for the dead.”
With that, the party exits the temple and continues down the tower’s hall towards the next stairwell.
As you turn the northeastern corner of the tower, you hear a faint whistling… and then the world disappears in a burst of fire.
Hot wind slams into you, along with a rain of sharp stone shards. Dust chokes your breath and blocks your sight. And when it clears, you find that you are standing on the edge of an abyss.
In the wake of the explosion, the eastern half of this level has collapsed and been reduced to rubble. Below, the other floors fared much worse. Nothing could have caused such devastation, except perhaps a House Cannith siege engine. Amongst the rubble, you see an open passage has been revealed across the perilous gap.
“Whisper! Whisper! Where are you!”
“Down here! The ground gave way and collapsed some 30 feet below you. Where’s Grim?”
“She’s gone, and do not concern yourself with her remains. There is nothing left.”
Sejik, takes a moment to say a quick prayer for Grim.
“May your travels no longer be on borrowed time little one.”
With that, Sejik heals his wounds and starts to make his way back to Caiphys.
You begin to make your way across a shattered tower a hundred feet above a devastated battlefield. The wind is powerful. It howls mercilessly and threatens to throw from the ledge. As you move across, several Phiarlan archers below notice your movements. Their commander orders their attack. Arrows whistle by your head.
In a display of incredible agility, Caiphys deftly evades the arrows and traverses safely to the other side of the wall. Ducking behind cover, he shouts back to Sejik.
“Whisper, hurry! The archers are upon you!”
Still shaken and disorientated from the fall, Sejik tries desperately to climb up from the rubble and scale the wall to the other side. However, one of the arrows finds its mark in Sejik’s shoulder causing him to lose his grasp and fall another 20 feet below.
Sejik’s body lies motionless, battered upon the rubble below. Caiphys gravely looks on, uncertain of Sejik’s fate. The archers have redrawn their bows, but hold their fire. Content with their kill, the Phiarlans leave the scene. After several seconds, Sejik lifts his head and winks at Caiphys. After addressing his wounds, he climbs out of the rubble.
After about 20 minutes and several stumbles, Sejik finally scales across the wall to Caiphys and press onward.
“I can deal with arrows, but climbing,” Sejik spat, “climbing is for the birds!”
You rise to the top of the ramp and turn the corner – and stop. There is a smooth wall ten feet ahead of you. There is no door to be seen: the hallway just comes to an end. Sejik, you find the outline of the door along with the slightly projecting stone that serves as the trigger.
“Hang on a second…I got this.”
Intuitively, Sejik presses the door with his dragonmarked hand.
The stone door slides open on hidden hinges. The final floor of the tower lies beyond. The walls are lined with arrow slots, and you see a woman with a crossbow leaning up against one of the walls and peering through the slit; she is covered with sweat and dirt, clearly near exhaustion.
A bald man in rusting chainmail stands a few feet away from the woman. He looks at you and smiles faintly. “Burn,” he says, “Thank the shadows that preserved you. Are others on their way? Are you injured?”
You oddly recognize the man as Grinder. Priest of the Devourer.
“You should post along the walls where it is safe." he says. “There’s only a handful of us left up here. But the Devour Lord says that our time of victory is close at hand.”
Changing Fate – Part 3