…As Crowd Favorites in Cachlain’s Arena.
In the process, they expose an Exarch of The Queen of Treachery.
Andrea Ravn told the others they needed to prepare for another battle before they got to the throne room. She went about healing the others even as they were carried or hussled up through the corridors which led back up to Cachlain’s headquarters.
They were all at full strength by the time they got to the great doors.
“A good thing, too,” she thought to herself.
As soon as they got there. Sovacles began making wild accusations, charging them with crimes Andrea was pretty sure the mind-mage himself had committed.
“The gracious king invited you into his palace, and you use trickery and deceit to compromise the security of his domain. You aid his great enemy, Sangwyr, and you plot against our brave, wise king! At every opportunity, you’ve allowed them into the king’s domain and led them in their assault! Now, submit to imprisonment and the king might spare your lives.”
adviser to the Stone-Skinned King
Cain told Cachlain they were clearly attacked by the assaults Sovacles was trying to blame on them.
But the seneschal seemed to be ordering the Stone-Skinned King around, not even hiding his power over Cachlain. As soon as Sovacles shouted “Attack,” the Fomorian king charged them.
Wishing she had Krasire’s powers of persuasion, Cain concentrated her attacks on Sovacles. The rest were doing the same, although Valna tried to intimidate the king, berating him for letting Sovacles order him around. That didn’t work, but Cain thought it came closer than might be expected.
The king hesitated a second, looking angrily at his advisor. Then he shook it off and renewed his attacks on Relvain. Sometimes he was able to slam her so hard he caught others in his attacks.
Cain decided to step back and take advantage of her reach attacks to get a shot at Sovacles without setting herself up for those slams.
She noticed Nox was using smaller bursts of fire than he used against the wolves, so he he could hit the seneschal without hitting the king.
Sovacles was hiding behind Cachlain’s stone armor and deflecting as many attacks as he could toward the king himself. This seemed to convince the king their entreaties of friendship were some kind of deception.
But Andrea was actually healing the king.
“Seems to help,” Cain thought to herself. “Sovacles is getting more and more obvious. Maybe that’s helping.”
“You have no idea who you’re dealing with! My queen has given me the power to destroy you easily! Tiamat will have all that you possess and more, and your blood is my gift to her! And I’m sure Cachlain’s replacement will be more amenable to our commands.”
revealed as an agent of Tiamat
Once Relvain Blackaxe had Cachlain’s attention — “I guess the only way to get it is to hit on the head with my axe” — she adopted a defensive posture. The giant Fomorian still was able to hit her sometimes, but at least he wasn’t attacking the other.
The others were trying to convince the Stone-Skinned King that Sovacles was not his friend, but they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. When Nox put up what what seemed to Relvain to be a pretty good argument, she thought he was about to realize what was up.
When Cachlain shook that off and renewed his attacks, Relvain decided to take things into her own hands and tried the diplomatic approach. Just when that seemed to be working, the king looked at her and said, “Yer da one ’oo ’it me.”
She told the others they were just going to have to concentrate on killing Sovacles.
As the seneschal got more and more beat up, his ranting became more irrational. Just when it appears that the advisor’s threat is ended, his body evaporated and formed into a wispy green cloud.
The cloud began cackling about Tiamat’s power and Cachlain’s replacement, and Relvain knew the trickster had lost all control…
…and was revealed as a shapeshifter.
“Replacement?” shouted the Stone-Skinned King. He leaped toward his throne and gestured at the floor, which was made of some kind of crystal formed like stained glass. It disappeared and Relvain fell to the arena below.
She managed to keep her feet and saw the green cloud Sovacles had become float down on wispy wings.
“You have destroyed my human guise! Still, I have four more forms that can defeat you easily! Now you know you face Virizan, Exarch of Her Dark Majesty Tiamat! All in this room will take my secret to their graves!”
revealed as Virizan
Valna of the Moonstair heard a cheer from below, but he did not fall with the rest. He and Nox had spread out behind the throne itself to avoid Sovacles’s bursts of Bane Quills. The floor around the throne side had not disappeared when the strange king gestured at his crystalline floor.
Looking over the edge, Valna could see that four Eladrin gladiators had been fighting a Blackroot Treant. They had managed to chain it down with Cold Iron chains and now were acknowledging the crowd’s cheers.
He could tell the gladiators thought the crowd was cheering for them. “Foolish Feydark preeners,” he thought to himself. “Anyone can see the crowd is cheering because they paid for an ordinary arena fight. Now they get to see an Exarch of Tiamat, fighting for his life against true champions, capable of fighting on his level.”
“Cachlain won’t last long! Sangwyr marches, and the Fomorian weakling’s forces can’t stop him alone. Tiamat covets this domain and it will be hers, and Sangwyr will be a perfect puppet upon the throne.”
Exarch of Tiamat
Nox Rhasgar heard a new chant go up from the crowd below. Something about a dragon.
The insubstantial nature of Virizan’s Venom-Wisp form made it hard for Nox to do as much fire damage as he would have liked. But when his friends below surrounded the Venom Wisp, it was forced to change into a swarm of snakes.
Only a few of the crowd seemed to be taking up the chant about the dragon, but one of the gladiators heard it. He was now leading the chant and encouraging the rest of the crowd to join it.
“I can see that at least that one realizes they are not cheering for him,” Nox noticed. “I guess all Feydark Eladrin are not so arrogant as to think everything is about them.”
Now that the crowd was organized, he could make out the words:
“Dragon-Pinner. Dragon-Pinner. Dragon-Pinner….”
“I guess Relvain is better known around here than I thought.”
The crowd was reacting to his blasts as well. The party members who had fallen were on their feet and attacking Virizan with their weapons. Whenever they surrounded the Shapeshifter, he would turn into a swarm of snakes and it would become hard for them to hit the teeming mass.
Their blades often struck between the snakes, doing less damage than they might. But his blast attacks left no room for the snakes to squirm to. They seemed to do extra damage as the snakes got in each other’s way.
Every time this happened, the crowd seemed to cheer, only to fade into disappointment.
“I guess it’s because they cannot see me up here.”
The gladiators — ever in tune with the crowd’s mood — made the same guess they formed themselves into a kind of ladder to let Nox and Valna climb down.
The crowd went wild.
“Do not think I ever underestimated you. You stopped Chillreaver, so you’re clearly skilled. None of Tiamat’s exarchs falls easily!”
Exarch of Tiamat
Remembering nothing of the philosophical debate before they fell through the floor, Grim was impressed with the way the crowd was reacting to the Dragonborn Sorcerer’s fire attacks. When Nox killed off the swarm form, they changed their chant.
“Fire Man. Fire Man. Fire Man….”
When the Snake-Swarm form died, Virizan tried to alternate between his Venom-Wisp form and the guise of a human creature with scaled skin. In this guise, he produced his staff of office, now twisted and warped into the image of a hooded serpent.
But the Venom-Wisp soon died as well, forcing Virizan to try another form, transforming into an enormous, coiled serpent with a humanoid face. A row of green quills ran down his spine, and longer spines jutted out from the tip of his muscular tail.
This form died quickly, and the Shapeshifter had to stay in the Snaketongue form for the rest of the battle.
As the gladiators joined the winning side — Grim could see they had keen sense of whom the crowd was favoring — Virizan began to try to edge him closer to the chained tree.
The green-scaled creature had the ability to send out Emerald Coils which slid them towards the undead Blackroot Treant.
“I have no illusions that I am the strongest of Tiamat’s Exarchs. Even if you defeat me, you can’t stop us all!”
Exarch of the Queen of Treachery.
“The tree has reach,” Andrea Ravn warned the others. “I think its branches can attack you if you’re with 15 feet of its trunk.”
Then she herself was grabbed by roots which emerged from the ground around her…20 feet from the trunk.
“And its roots can reach even farther!”
She could tell Virizan was close to death, but she could not reach him with her weapon. So Andrea picked up a rock and threw it at the green-scaled form he had taken.
The rock didn’t do much damage, but it was enough to kill the Exarch. The crowd started a new chant.
“Rock Girl. Rock Girl. Rock Girl…”
Freed from the spells Virizan was casting on him, Cachlain sent his guards down to bring the heroes up to his throne room. As they passed the cages where the Quicklings had released the arena beasts, Andrea noticed a rack with weapons arrayed for use by the arena fighters.
One of the weapons glowed with a red magickal power.
A Cyclops guard noticed her interest in the weapon.
“Rock Girl likes sickle?” he asked her. “I take sickle to Stone-Skinned King. Maybe he make sickle present to Rock Girl for winning in the arena.”
She was pretty sure it was no ordinary sickle. So she kept her mouth shut.
“My stupid guards!” shouted Cachlain when the guard told him where they had found the weapon. “This no sickle. This is Talenta Sharrash. Made only beneath the Dark Sun. Magic item of great power. I collect such items, but my guards had this sitting in stupid weapon rack.”
Then he turned to Andrea Ravn. “Guard says you see this magic item in rack, after you kill Virizan. Cachlain not know Sovacles really Virizan. Not know Sovacles work for Tiamat. Not know Queen of Treachery want help Sangwyr take Stone-Skinned King’s domain from Cachlain.”
After he freed Talyrin, she told him what she had learned from Valna while they were both prisoners in the secret prison. Convinced by this that Sangwyr was the true enemy, Cachlain turned to his guards.
“Prepare my armies to march. We must meet Sangwyr on the battlefield. The debt I owe those who freed cannot be fully repaid.” Striding into his personal quarters, he emerged with two more magic items from his collection.
He gave Andrea the Talenta Sharrash, which looks like a sickle on the end of a long pole.
Andrea was sure she heard the Sharrash growl when he handed it to her.
“That’s how you’ll know it is hungry,” he said, raising a stone eyebrow. “For blood.”
Then he handed her a fire-scorched wooden staff with sharp teeth running along its entire length. As a Dragonborn, she could feel its draconic power.
Finally, he bestowed a large shield on Relvain. “For the Dragonpinner.” This shield was emblazoned with an arm raised to make a defiant fist.
From the reluctance in the way the dwarf laid down her old shield, Andrea knew she might have a hard time convincing the shield maiden to use the new one in battle.
“I better take a look at its magic. Maybe it will be better than the old one.”