Scaled Down Scales

Almost a Jail Break
A Githyanki Assassin Interrupts...

…The Attempt to Free Elven Ambassadors…

…held in Cachlain’s secret prison.

Shadowfox told Krasire what was behind the secret door in the antechamber: a secret prison.

There she had found the missing diplomats. They told her they had been imprisoned by Cachlain at the word of Sovacles. Also in the secret prison: a former advisor to the Stone-Skinned King and a gnome named Legbreaker.

Krasire decided to take Nox to free the ambassadors, but Shadowfox insisted on exploring further. So he invited Bram Ironfell as well.

They found the lock too hard to pick, so they decided to try to break the cell door. No sooner than they started beating on it, though, and they were attacked by a Githyanki assassin and her Purplespawn Nightmares.

It didn’t take long for these creatures to gain the upper hand. They were quick and hard to hit.

Shade found a massive cavern, surrounded by a 10-foot-wide chasm below the king’s throne room. An arena was built on the vast, flat pillar of bloodstained purple crystal. She also found animal pens nearby. After scouting the area for a while, she heard someone being brought downstairs. “Another fighter for the king’s pleasure” was all she could guess.

it felt to Nox Rhasgar like he was the only one doing damage to these creatures. He was glad he could hit them — sometimes — but they had blooded all of them before he really got going.

And they were all making a lot of noise. The prisoners — except the gnome — were helping. But even the attempt to to open the prison cell had made a lot of noise.

Sure enough, before they had even bloodied the nightmare, the Stone-Skinned King’s guards showed up and yelled, “What’s the meaning of this?”

Fortunately, Bram Ironfell — who seemed to be a diplomat who used to work for the Githyanki — was a quick thinker.

He shouted, “We caught this Githyanki — she claims her name is Arzoa — trying to free these elves.” Then he ordered Nox to seize Arzoa.

Nox picked up on the ploy — shifting the blame for the jailbreak attempt to the assassin — and attacked her. He was even able to help the guards take Arzoa up to the throne room.

Sovacles seemed nonplussed by the whole affair. So surprised that he let the king make up his own mind what to do with the trespasser. Cachlain threw them into the dungeons, obviously anxious to use the Purplespawn in his arena.

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A Diplomatic Dinner Party
...with Invitations Sent...

…by the Githyanki.

Relvain Blackaxe laughed as Shadowfox fell face-first into her salad.

“Did you think to poison a dwarf with your sleeping draughts?” she mused, as Droeth turned into an Oni. “And Krasire here doesn’t even have a mouth. How did you imagine he might succumb to your poison?”

Then the guards attending the Githyanki ambassador transformed as well. Relvain could see from the look on his face — as he sniffed at his food — that he had never known his guards were Rakshasa: a race usually allied with the pirates of the Astral Plane, the Githyanki.

Bram Ironfell knew the food was poisoned as soon as he tasted it. He also knew something more terrifiying: The Githyanki had betrayed him. Droeth transformed into an Oni Spiritmaster, enough to suggest the Githyanki were behind the poison by itself. When his own guard transformed into Rakshasa Warriors, he knew Emperor Zetch’r’r was behind it. The Githyanki overlord had enlisted Bram in his plan to bring war and conquest across the planes. “What manner of betrayal is this?” he demanded. But the Oni only laughed about how slow his diplomacy was proceeding.

Krasire decided to show the Spiritmaster just how powerful diplomacy could be: He used his Keys to the City power to convince Bram Ironfell that being an ambassador to an emperor who would poison his own diplomats was not a worthy title.

He suspected Bram might have long harbored doubts about working with the Githyanki. Apparently the Emperor Zetch’r’r harbored doubts of his own. Krasire knew what a prize the Seed of Winter might be. And the portals the emperor sought to use in the domain of Cachlain were valuable as well.

With the Oni Spiritmaster laughing in Bram’s face, it probably wouldn’t have taken much to convince the ambassador to renounce his post and fight on behalf of the Alliance…

…even knowing the Alliance itself might never forgive his treason.

But the Masked Lord — Krasire — offered the dwarf the Keys to the City of Waterdeep anyway.

And that sealed the deal.

Then he turned to wake up Shadowfox.

Who was still snoring in his salad.

Belinda still hadn’t told her parents about Jerath’s — very public — offer. Asking her to star in his next production might be just what they wanted: a way to keep her close to Sayre and away from the action. Then again, maybe they would forbid it. Theatrical people had a bad reputation in some places — not Sayre, of course. They might think it inappropriate for a Lord Warden’s daughter. Belinda was not sure which reaction would make her madder.

All Cain could remember was the Githyanki ambassador accusing the Droeth of betrayal — Droeth? the laconic Cyclops had transformed into a Oni of some sort before the accusations started flying.

Now Krasire was slapping her, and the banquet of ambassadors had erupted into a brawl…

…with the Githyanki ambassador some how on their side.

“This is my kind of dinner party,” she thought as she saw four Howling Spirits appear behind the Oni.

They took down the Oni — a Spiritmaster, apparently — first. The Oni consumed its Howling Spirits even faster than they were able to kill them. “Doesn’t pay to be the minion of an evil master,” she thought.

After that they concentrated on the Rakshasa and took them down one at a time. Cain noticed Relvain was doing a good job of convincing all of the Githyanki agents to attack her. And fending off those attacks most of the time.

“Good to have a talented tank.”

Searching the bodies they found 300 platinum pieces and a Circlet of the Resolute Mind, which left Krasire facing the difficult choice as to which of his two headpieces he should wear.

Cain found himself wishing he had such problems.

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Sympatico
...A Crazy King Meets a Cray-Cray Diplomat...

…To the Frustration of Sovacles…

…and of a certain shieldmaiden.

Relvain Dragonpinner was trying to come up with some way to use her fighting skills to impress The Stone-Skinned King in the gladiatorial arena. But Sovacles — obviously a mind-mage controlling the king somehow — kept frustrating her efforts…

…to say nothing of the revenant-assassin.

Shadowfox kept doing things which seemed totally inappropriate to Relvain. Just things one doesn’t do in situations. Like eating a coin. Or jumping into an acrobatic routine.

And yet these demented actions seemed to impress the king more than the rational alternatives the Dragonpinner was offering.

First, when the king appeared distracted by the gladiatorial combat in the arena below, the assassin got his attention by executing acrobatic stunts. Soon the king was clapping and Sovacles was sulking.

Then Shadowfox tried to intimidate Cachlain.

Sovacles blustered, “Threats will not work against the king.”

But Relvain could see the king was shaken. “Perhaps his paranoia makes him susceptible to intimidation.”

Then Shadowfox did something that really got Relvain’s goat. She convinced Krasire to give the Seed of Winter to the king.

“You didn’t even get anything in return,” she fumed. But the king seemed genuinely impressed with the gift. “Even though he thought it was his in the first place. And how are we going to get it back to give to the Daughter of the Frostwhite Forest?”

Bluffing about the danger posed to the king by the Githyanki, Relvain finally began to make some headway. “I guess I was right about his paranoia.” After a failed atttempt at diplomacy by Shadowfox, she bluffed again with even more success at provoking the paranoia in the king’s mind.

Cachlain’s interest returned to the gladiators — Relvain had been unsuccessful in provoking Sovacles to a duel in the arena, but there was still fighting going on down there. So she tried to do with athletic swings of her axe what she had seen Shadowfox do earlier with his acrobatics.

Unfortunately, she dropped the axe and the remained intent on the gladiators below.

Sovacles said, “The king has had enough of your chatter. Leave the court at once.”

The king did not seem to be paying attention, but offered no disagreement. As they were leaving, they saw Bram Ironfell — an old friend of Storm Johnson — go in and arrange for them to be able to stay in the ambassador’s quarters.

During these sessions where Sovacles came down to her cell complaining, Talryn always remembered the visions she had of her betrayal. In those visions, it always seemed that Delis Erinthal was the only one who could save her. Now the betrayal was real. And somehow the visions seemed more real as well. Today Sovacles was boasting about some audience with the king, about how he had foiled some diplomats who seemed to be set on upsetting the agreement with the Githyanki.

Trinity Shadowfox had plenty of time to get to know Bram Ironfell after the dwarf arranged for them to stay. Bram entertained them with tales of closing the gates to the Elemental Chaos.

When talked turned to his family, though, Bram became bitter. His family’s decision to exile him from their estates really grated on him. Though he was a hero in Overlook, his family’s betrayal — over him doing the right thing — convinced him that the Alliance would never stop the Githyanki.

So he had joined them.

Indeed, he was acting as the Githyanki ambassador to Cachlain’s court. He had already procured the right of the Githyanki to use the portals to pass through the Stone-Skinned King’s domain.

Bram invited them to a formal dinner later and Cain accepted. At the dinner, they met other ambassadors they had seen around the court:

  • Adrianna Baelsblood, haughty Tiefling, whose slaving business works with Cachlain’s;
  • Troke, a Satyr of the Circle of Crownstone; and
  • Droeth, a laconic Cyclops who works for a relative of Cachlain named Uluh-couram.

The food was poison with some kind of sleeping draught. As he slipped into unconsciousness, Cain saw Droeth transform into an Oni Spiritmaster.

“Uh-oh,” she thought as Bram’s guards turned into Rakshasas. Bram seemed as surprised at this as she was.

“I hope one of the dwarves can stay awake,” was her last thought as her face fell into her plate.

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Feeling Her Way
...Into the Court of Cachain...

…Shadowfox Discovers Some Disturbing Secrets…

…about her past.

Grim was still in her full battle mode when the general came over to thank her.

“I see now why the Lady Inzira has chosen you to represent us to Cachlain’s court. Not only do your crude manners make a better fit, but you obviously can defend yourself should the diplomacy turn to— other means.” He led Shadowfox back to his tent while the rest recovered. “You have probably saved my life today. And for this you must be rewarded.”

General Goldtemple gave Grim a chest filled with gold pieces and a bag of gems.

After contemplating whether the act would offend Druemmeth, Grim ate one of the gold pieces while the Eladrin explained that he would lead them to the area where most of the entrances to the Stone-Skinned King’s court could be found.

“Your combat skills might see you through,” he explained, telling them the previous emissaries sent by the Daughter of the Frostwhite Forest had never returned.

“I fear they may no longer be alive,” he admitted. “Please try to find them. And get them released, if you can.”

“In this war, we face not only mortal danger, but a more sinister attack—an assault against our hearts and minds. The githyanki threaten to drive us to defeat through neglect and treachery. Neglect as we refuse to take the bold steps we must to survive, and treachery as our enemies lead astray those who could be our allies, and mobilize them against us.”
Amyria,
appealing to the Coalition

Shade knew her medallion could be used to find the patrols which Druemmeth had warned her about. She had not yet decided whether she should approach the Stone-Skinned King’s guards openly or try to sneak past them with her stealth.

Shade Shadowfox was particularly proud of her stealth skills.

Once they picked a hole and entered the underground caves which led to Cachlain’s court, she found a maze. Labyrinthine caves led every which way. So she tried the medallion, which was able to pinpoint nearby life forms. Unfortunately, it pointed almost straight down. She was pretty sure it pointed at the court itself, but it didn’t tell her much about which tunnel to choose.

“I guess I’ll just have to pick the one that leads most surely downward,” she told herself. “I know the medallion will be ready to use again in a few minutes.”

Before the trinket had a chance to recharge, Shade heard voices. The words sounded like Cyclops-accented Giantish and Shadowfox was glad she heard them before they heard all the noise her companions were making.

“Especially that dwarf.”

So she decided that diplomacy was the better part of stealth and approached them openly. When she asked for directions to the Court of the Stone-Skinned King, they took the party there straightaway.

“One might even think they believe they have arrested us,” she thought to herself.

But she said nothing aloud.

“I am saddened by the loss of Lyrindel,” High Lady Ordalf told Avenglen. “She was on an important mission for us. Perhaps the more mundane — and practical — resources of the Sword Coast will be able to help. Or perhaps the gods themselves are becoming involved.”

Cain was impressed with the king’s domain, despite herself.

The walls were hewn from purple crystal and supported in places with beautifully forged iron plates. The giant doors were unlocked or non-existent in most places.

As she descended into the tunnels, the air becomes cold and stagnant.

The purple crystal that formed the walls glowed faintly as they approached the court itself. Strange, vibrantly colored mosses and fungi carpeted the floors and walls, though the living quarters and common areas she passed through were scoured clean of these growths.

Slaves and their Cyclops overseers walked the halls, and she began to see a wider variety of fey as she moved closer to the heart of Cachlain’s holdings.

As she moved through the foyer into the main hall, she saw a faint light showing through purple-crystal wall on her left. In its light, she could clearly see the outline of a door.

“Secrets,” she thought.

A massive throne of purple crystal stood on the far side of the throne room. Cachlain sat there, looking them over with his grotesque eyes.

Like other Fomorians, his body was deformed, and his skin purple and covered in warts. Plates of stone are bonded to his flesh. They look almost like armor and are carved with elaborate designs.

Cain had been expecting the armor, but not the carving and inlays.

Next to the throne she saw a smaller seat, and when they entered, a human rose from this smaller chair — a slight, bald man, and carrying a staff of office. His eyes dart among them as he prepared to speak.

The most unique feature of this room is the floor. Giant panes of glass—or maybe smooth crystal—formed a window that looked down on an arena far below. She could see gladiators battling there, and she caught the king sneaking glances at the fight.

The advisor introduces himself as Sovacles, and stepped forward to ask them, “Why do you come here? And what makes you think the great king cares what you have to say?”

Noticing a faint magickal glow around the king’s head, Cain was sure the advisor was exerting some kind of arcane coercion on the king’s mind. This was born out by Cachlain’s subsequent behavior: Whenever Sovacles made a suggestion, the king was quick to adopt the same line of thinking.

Both Sovacles and Cachlain seemed interested when she explained the recent history of the Seed of Winter — the king seemed to barely remember why he had loaned it to a dragon.

After Cain entertained the king with a display of acrobatics, she began to see they would have to work together to accomplish anything during this audience: Whenever the king became distracted, someone would have to get his attention back.

As Cachlain clapped and praised her acrobatic skills — suggesting she might be a good gladiator — Cain realized the king was likely to be impressed by displays of athletics and acrobatics prowess. She surmised that he might take those he perceives as powerful warriors more seriously.

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Eladrin War Camp Attacked
Heroes Save General Goldtemple...

…from Sangwyr’s Cronies

Relvain the Dragonpinner woke in some kind of camp. She was being tended by Eladrin healers. Other tended her companions, but she seemed to be getting the better treatment.

She remembered losing their fight with Pyradan. Not how she got to this camp.

Seemed to be some kind of battle camp. Arrows and spears were stacked nearby.

A tall, muscular Eladrin with long, dark brown hair confirmed this by his demeanor. Adorned in mithral chainmail and wearing a longsword, he’s clearly prepared for battle. He introduced himself to Relvan as Druemmeth Goldtemple. True to his name, he had streaks of gold in the long brown hair above his temples.

He asked her about the war against the Githyanki.

When Relvain explained who they were and their relationship to the heroes in that war, he apologized for sending the Firblogs after them. “I would have approached you more diplomatically had I known who you were.”

He hadn’t heard about the siege of Nefelus, so Krasire joined in to help fill him in on the details of that adventure. General Goldtemple was interested in the Seed of Winter. “I must converse with Inzira about this,” he told them as he headed for his tent. “My ruler will want to know all about this.”

When he returned, he told them, “Inzira seeks a temporary alliance with the Stone-Skinned King. It’s best if she speaks with you.”

He invited them into his battle tent and then removed a mithral medal from his chest and pinned it to the wall of the tent. Ice spread from the medal, crystallizing across a large surface, and forming the image of a female Eladrin’s face.

With long white hair and piercing, icy blue eyes, her presence seemed cold and unfeeling to Relvain. Her eyes studied the shieldmaiden as she spoke:

“The Seed of Winter belongs to me, not to you and certainly not to the Stone-Skinned King. It was a gift from Koliada to me when I was a mere child, and I have no intention of parting with it."

Her eyes turned toward her general, "However, Druemmeth has convinced me that the Fomorian and I must work together to foil the plots of Sangwyr. Use the Seed of Winter for the time being, as a tool to make a way into the King’s court. I’ll be expecting you to return it when you’re finished.

Turning back to Relvain, she said, “It’s convenient that our interests align, so you’ll be my messengers. Tell the Fomorian I do not like him, and I know he does not like me. However, Sangwyr utterly hates both of us, and we must stop his stupid uprising.”

Pointedly hinting that he thought Inzira should be sending him instead of them, Goldtemple offered to take Relvain and her companions to a place near Cachlain’s palace.

“She has sent other emissaries before you, and they have not returned. Find them if you can and have them released.” The general’s face turned grim. “Assuming they are still alive.”

Rumors coming in from the “traveling” company (currently ensconced firmly in the very permanent University Theater in Sayre) of Jerath the “Bard” suggest that the Drow’s perversity may not be limited to stealing the words of Dwarven mastersingers.
— from a handbill Murrik Ironfell was seen passing out in front of The Orb Theatre.

Shade wondered if the dream about being a praying mantis was some kind of clue as to her previous life. Seemed right somehow, but the idea she was once a mantis seemed improbable.

“Contemplating the improbable will have to wait,” she told herself. Relvain and Krasire were already deep in diplomatic negotiations with some Eladrin general. “I wonder if he knows the high-elf lady from my dream.”

The diplomacy wasn’t even over before Shade heard the sounds of battle from outside the general’s tent. Glancing outside, she saw Eladrin bodies peppered with arrows. Others seemed to have been flayed with hundreds of tiny cuts.

The Eladrin dowsed the glowing silver sigil which was providing the light in his tent. “Good,” she thought. Shadowfox did not like the idea of her own shadow — cast on the walls of tent — giving away her position to her enemies. “Strange, though, how it almost looked like a mantis.”

Rushing outside, Shade was able to find cover in some rocks. “Hard to tell who was firing the arrows.” The only archers she could see appeared to be Eladrin. Some elderly women lurked in the trees, but they didn’t look like Eladrin. Krasire shouted out that they might be witches, and Shade was convinced they had some kind of affinity to shadow.

Some of the Eladrin were armed with swords — Winter Blades, Shade seemed to recall they were known as…

But how could she, a member of the High Lady’s Summer Court…

“That was from the dream,” she thought. “The lady in the dream where I was a mantis.”

Shaking off the thoughts, she noticed the Eladrin with the swords seemed to be taking the worst of it. Those already dead were all armed with swords. Those still standing seemed to be the targets of whoever was shooting at them. She turned to one of the Eladrin archers to tell her to fire back, when it turned into a Rakshasa and fired an arrow at the general.

And one at Shade.

Meanwhile, a troll covered in vine had crashed into the back of the general’s tent and attacked those inside with a Thorny Burst. Krasire was able to immobilze the troll and one of the old women with his empowered Force Grasp. That enabled the rest of the group to get out of the tangle of brambles left behind by the troll’s attack.

“The archers are shapeshifters,” she cried and Relvain rallied the heroes to concentrate their fire on one of Sangwyr’s Night Hags — that was the form the old women shifted into when they wanted to do damage.

Seed of Winter cast aside some of its doubts. Now that the Psion had promised to return it to Inzira once the charade with the Stone-Skinned King was through, the Seed didn’t have to worry whether it had given its Concordance too easily. Still, Krasire did seem to be learning a little bit about dominating a battlefield. At least against these assassins.

Krasire Mirrorsmasher was finally getting the hang of his Precise MInd power. He just had to wait until one of his augmented powers hit, then follow it up with an unaugmented psionic powers. He realized that even an unaugmented power could do a lot if he picked the right one.

“And if it has a greater chance of working.”

Krasire used his augmented Force Grasp again to finish off the first Night Hag and start on the troll — “Twice as many targets gives me twice the chance of hitting” — so Revain began shouting they had to concentrate their fire on the troll.

Relvain was particularly worried about the Vinespeaker Troll as it appeared to be able to regenerate itself. Indeed, once they bloodied it, it healed itself completely and grew more ferocious. They had to kill it with a burning stake from the fire to prevent it from coming back to life. Once they burned the troll’s corpse, they turned to the other assassins.

It became clear Sangwyr’s minions were really after the general. The Rakshasa were targeting at least one of their shots at him every time they turned into their fighting form.

After the assassination attempt, General Goldtemple urged them to leave for the court of Cachlain at once.

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Total Party Knockout
Pyradan Scores a TKO

The two Portal Dogs seemed to Krasire to be doing a better job of controlling the battlefield than he was.

They teleported Relvain into the cave, but they failed when they tried the same tactic on Shadowfox and Krasire himself. This failure was almost worse than success might have been, isolating Relvain from their help.

Sure, it allowed him to keep his hippogriff, Xerxes, in the fight. But Relvain was isolated from all help. Still the Dwarven Defender seemed to be holding her own, tanking the Bloodbear inside.

But Pyradan and his dogs were able to harry them relentlessly outside the cave.

When he worked his way closer to the mouth of the cave he used his full mental powers to Force Grasp both Pyradan and the Bloodbear. Not only did this immobilize them inflicted so much damage — more than Krasire had ever dealt in a single attack — he tried it again before they could react. Seemed like a waste of a good immobilize, but it sure did a lot of damage.

Then the dogs were able to knock him out.

“Ah, the sweet surcease of consciousness,” he thought as he slumped to the ground.

Andrea Ravn remembered another moment from her dream: Zellara telling her about being trapped in the Harrow Deck. She could not get out of it until she taught another to use it. The woman’s ghost was caught in the fortune-telling deck which had been so much a part of her life.

Trinity Shadowfox was glad to see Xerxes bring his rider back to the land of the living, but the Shardmind did not seem to have his heart in the fight. Using her Ghost on the Rooftops power, she was able to evade the dogs for a while. Neither she nor Krasire ever really got inside the cave to help Relvain, who had added Bloodbear-pinning to her repertoire.

Trinity knew it wouldn’t be long before both she and Krasire would both be unconscious at the same time and she would not be able to heal the Shardmind.

“I’m glad this is not a fight to the death,” she thought. “And Xerxes can probably keep us both alive.”

“Precise Mind,” The Seed of Winter whispered. “Precissssse Mind.” But the Shardmind did not seem to want to use its Precise Mind. Still, the Seed persisted, “True domination is possible only through the Precise Mind.”

Relvain the Dragonpinner was almost sorry when she finally bloodied the Bloodbear. At first it was just a Firbolg in a bearskin. When she bloodied it, however, it turned into a giant bear-humanoid hybrid which seemed to have healed all its wounds.

Thinking it was critical to bloody it again — “I’ll bet it turns back into a Firbolg” — she threw everything she had into her attacks on the werebear, which seemed to have some kind of power of regeneration.

Even though this meant she had to ignore Pyradan and his dogs, she was able to pile on the damage faster than the Bloodbear could regenerate. The dogs were unable to get through her defenses much, but Pyradan and the werebear finally managed to wear her down.

She awoke on a makeshift altar in the war-camp of an Eladrin noble who seemed to have two streaks of gold in his hair just above his ears. He was directing his healers to bring Relvain and her companions — lying on the ground nearby — back to consciousness.

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The Demesne of the Sun and Moon
In the Feywilde

Entertaining the Skyshaper

“I like this place,” Grim Shadowfox told the rest. “Lots of shadows.”

It quickly became apparent the shadows were not just for effect. Two 12-foot humanoid hunters quickly moved to attack. Shadowfox knew that Firbolgs like shadow almost as much as she did.

“And so do those Shadow Snakes I see hiding in the shadows.”

A rumbling voice thundered through the sky. “You fight in my demesne, do you? Fine, then. Entertain me.” She quickly realized this must be the Skyshaper, the archfey Caliandra told her about.

While the Firbolgs started raining Moonfire down on them — to the delight of the Skyshaper — Grim was not convinced they were fighting all out. “Probably just testing us out,” she decided. “What are those war picks for?”

She soon found out. When they hit two different creatures with their picks in one turn, the Ghostravens could blind one of them.

Then she got a message from Krasire. Using his arcane lore, the Shardmind had figured out that the Skyshaper could be influenced by either acrobatics or flattery. “I can do both of those,” she shot back to him.

Sure enough, as soon as she started complimenting the archfey, the sky brightened slightly. This didn’t help Grim much, but she was sure it helped her allies.

And the enemies definitely didn’t like it.

Andrea Ravn remembered this dream. She’d had it before. On a mission to save some kids from a guy named Lamm. Only in this dream she wasn’t a Dragonborn. She was human. She had always failed before. This time she spotted the gnome hiding among the children before he could stab her. Andrea convinced the kids — known as Lamm’s Lambs — to turn on their oppressors. They her where Lamm was hiding, and went down and killed him. She awoke with a sense of success she hadn’t felt in days. And four trophies: a gruesome hatbox, a Harrow Deck (which probably belonged to the ghost who sent her after Lamm), a teak cigar box containing a broach with a broken clasp; and a knife inscribed “for a father’s inspiration.”

Andrea found magic on the Harrow Deck and on the broach and resolved to find out what they did. The Harrow Deck was probably for divination, but the broach could be useless until she got it repaired.

In this world or in the other.

She went to Amyria, who was recently elected to take Lord Torrance’s place leading the Coalition. The deva told her the Order of the Black Feather had been selected to take care of an important mission. She thought Andrea’s skills in that arena might be singularly useful.

So Andrea decided to try to catch up with them. She still thought of herself as more of a Golden-Scales kind of Dragonborn. But Amyria told her that Ragnar the Mighty was going along. Andrea couldn’t think of anybody as Golden Scales as Ragnar.

Except Grigore Weatherbie Goldforge, of course.

She found the trail of the other members of The Order of the Black Feather at the ruins of Rhest and almost caught up to them before they disappeared through a portal.

After Shadowfox’s compliments had such an impact on the ruler of this strange realm — the guy they were hoping convince to help them get to the Stone-Skinned King’s court — Krasire tried following his own advice. The sky brightened as the Skyshaper was again taken in by the flattery.

Then Shadowfox tried a different strategy: Using her acrobatics to leap to the top of one of the standing stones which surrounded them, she somersaulted out of reach of the snakes which kept shifting between them.

“Marvelous!” shouted the booming voice. And the sky brightened further.

When Krasire delivered his final compliment, Andrea saw the sun come out and heard yet another roar of pleasure from the Skyshaper.

The Shadow Snakes were not doing well under the sun’s rays. Nor were the strange creatures wearing the raven masks. Andrea could almost see smoke rising from their shadowy hides.

Except the smoke seemed to a sunshine sparkle to it.

“Like this guy likes to show off his control-of-the-sun-and-moon powers,” Andrea decided. “Almost as much as he likes flattery.”

In the heat of battle, Krasire could hear the voice of the Seed of Winter in his head, "To control is to dominate. Domination is control. See: You are now the controller. You slowed the Ghostraven with your Force Grasp. it can even immobilize, but sometimes slow is all you need. It could not get away while it was phasing, so your comrades could concentrate their damage on that one. Elimination in detail: That is what a controller can do. Just as your Kinetic Wave can push your enemies into traps laid by your allies. Just as your Betrayal can shift or slide your opponents into bunches. To control is to know just what your allies need. To dominate the battlefield is to be aware of everything on the battlefield and move the pieces where you want them to be.

When one of the snakes tried to climb the pillar where Shadowfox was acrobatically dancing out of its reach, Relvain was able to convince the others to concentrate their fire on that one. Once it was dead, they did the same to the other.

When they turned to the Ghostravens, she did not like the way the battle turned. The Firbolgs could no longer achieve true invisibility in the bright sun, but they were alternating their attacks in such a way that only one was available to attack each turn.

But Krasire finally saved the day by slowing one when it was not in a tree.

“The kid’s actually getting good,” Relvain told herself. The Dragonpinner had been frustrated as the Ghostravens kept phasing out and flying away. It prevented her from concentrating the damage on one of the two remaining opponents.

“I guess once you’ve pinned a dragon, it’s going to be frustrating to be unable to pin something as inconsequential as a Firbolg,” she told herself.

The slowed Ghostraven was unable to escape Relvain’s pin and, when the other came down to rescue it, the Shardmind caught both of them in a Kinetic Wave. Soon it was unconscious and they were able to finish off the other.

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Tracking the Slavers
...Cachlain's Cyclops Minions Are Cornered...

…And the Kidnapped Citizens…

…of Elsir Vale are set free.

Ragnar the Mighty raced toward the Ruins of Rhest. The ancient city was hidden in the swamps which were gradually engulfing it.

“Where are they?” he asked. “Amyria said some revenant figured out these ruins are where the slavers they are seeking are operating from.”

Then he heard the sounds of battle.

“That’s where the blood will be,” his sword told him.

He tried to ignore it. The sword always tried to out-barbarian him. He didn’t like that much.

Running to the sound of the fighting, he found a passageway leading down into the ruins. He got there just in time to see a Stone Golem rampage through the party Amyria sent him to find. Charging in, he told himself the Golem wasn’t the only one who could rampage.

His sword agreed.

“Shut up, Wicked Fang,” he told it.

He was able to charge the Stone Golem repeatedly when Krasire — the Shardmind turned out to be a psion — forced it back toward the imprisoned citizens they had been sent to free.

Then his sword got stuck in the rocky hide of the Golem, Ragnar could see how he could twist the sword and free it. Likely hurting the stone creature in the process. "It might break Wicked Fang, though…

A smile crossed Ragnar’s face, and he twisted hard. No break, but maybe now the sword might not be so quick to call him a whiner.

The sword did not seem to mind. Almost seemed like it enjoyed the risk.

The Seed of Winter whispered, “Dominance is control of the battlefield. Not just making them hit themselves. Not just making them hit their friends. Control is dominance of the battlefield.”

Grim Shadowfox watched as her shadow detached itself from her feet and went over to stand behind the Cyclops Crusher. “That greatclub of his might have the reach of my inescapable rapier, but it will do nothing to a shadow on the stone.”

Unfortunately Shadowfox was soon separated from her shadow, unable to use it to gain combat advantage. The Stone Golem’s rampage pushed her back, but not her shadow. So she just piled on her shrouds until she could get that advantage back.

When she did, her vampiric rapier was able to channel some of the golem’s essence into her own undead being. Soon the Golem was nothing but gravel and they were able to turn to the Cyclops themselves.

Krasire pondered the Seed’s words. “What could be more useful than damaging themselves? And how could I spread my augments out longer in a big battle. I have used all my daily powers, so I will need to make the most of my mental powers for the rest of the day.”

Relvain Blackaxe was finally able to get the Cyclops Crusher up against a wall of the cave. “Not quite as fun as pinning a dragon, but effective nonetheless,” she thought.

The Cyclops’s Evil Eye was doing little to fend off the damage that Shadowfox and Ragnar were pouring on. And, of course, Relvain was doing her share as well.

“Nice to have a tank who can do some damage,” the barbarian told her.

Krasire was doing a good job of getting the two Cyclops to swing at each other, but they didn’t seem to hit very often. When they did, not a lot of damage ensued.

The Crusher did go down. And the other Cyclops — the Slaver with all the barbed nets and shuriken — headed off in a hurry.

After they searched the body, they freed the captured citizens and followed a map they found to a portal which opened with a scroll from the Crusher’s body.

Stepping through the portal, Relvain found herself surrounded by a circle of tall, columnar stones. A ring of glowing runes encircled them, but it dimmed after they arrived.

Twelve-foot-tall humanoids immediately ambushed them in the circle.

“Firblogs,” the shieldmaiden snorted. “I guess the Slaver warned them we were coming.”

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Amyria Won the Election
...With a Little Help from her Friends

The mercenaries brought Krasire and his wounded mount back to Brindol, where they were greeted as heroes. While Quelenna Entromiel was not present — she was still politicking back in Sayre — she had arranged for a parade in their behalf.

Her agents were quick to credit Krasire for his efforts, but the mercenaries were the stars who had broken the blockade. The result was clear.

Quelenna’s gambit had succeeded.

Testing the waters with Odos, Krasire found the Githzerai leader unwilling to commit to any politics. He wanted the voting over. With Quelenna in the lead, any commitment he might make to Amyria would only prolong the voting at this point. “Maybe I can convince him once Amyria is closer to winning.”

He already had the Deva vote locked up, since he had convinced Bejam to join the council after saving Nefelus from an Exarch of Tiamat. And with the people of thinking so well of Amyria — since he had convinced them of the historical importance of religion in past wars — he was able to convince Inogo as well.

Shadowfox told him the people of Overlook seemed to be impressed with her credentials as a member of the Order of the Blackfeather, even when she told them she had only been associated with the group for a couple of days. So the Revenant went to the High Council in the dwarven city and convinced them the Black Feather was backing Amyria.

Then a stealth raid by Hobgoblins was easily foiled by the city guards. Eoffram Troyas decided to use this as proof the forces of evil were easily defeated. Trying to convince the people of Brindol that this meant his aggressive strategies would quickly pay off, Troyas made a move shore up the votes in Elsir Vale.

So confident had Krasire become with the Revenant’s abilities, that he left this gambit entirely up to Trinity. But working by herself the Revenant was unable to prove the danger of the Hobgoblins was exaggerated or even show that they were not associated with the Githyanki.

As she died, Lyrindel had a strange thought: “My soul is frozen in many pieces. My body as well. What if I split my mind as well? Legends say the swarm mind was created at the same time as the dryad mind.”

Two dragon sisters became heroes. Great metallic-dragon gods brought them to Bahamut and asked that he reward them. Bahamut told them the pair they could choose any kind of mind they wanted. The first sister said, “I will choose the mind of a tree, serene and slow, able to think a single thought for a long time.” She became the first hamadryad.

The other sister said, “I will choose the mind of the beehive, able to think many things at once.” She became the first bee swarm.

Lyrindel thought about this. “I will try to die with the mind of the swarm,” she decided. “I wonder how many ways I can split my personality before I lose consciousness.”

As Trinity shadowfox watched Krasire attempt the next round of diplomacy, she became convinced the Shardmind was going to blow it. Then she began to see the way the rock-person was able to become one of the secret masters of an entire city.

Suddenly, Quelenna was on the offensive again with another of her gambits. She had been nosing around in their finances and found the heroes who were supporting Amyria had profited substantially. “Maybe they only vote for this strange Deva because they know she will send them where they can acquire the most loot,” she suggested.

Trinity was quick to her own defense. “I have not profited at all by my association with ”/wikis/the-order-of-the-black-feather" class=“wiki-page-link”> The Order of the Black Feather," she insisted. Since none of the evidence indicated Trinity had looted anything, Trinity was off the hook.

She could see that Krasire could make no such claim. Yet he was able to overcome the accusation by promising to return the Seed of Winter to its rightful owner and to contribute his profits to the Alliance cause.

Quelenna’s second gambit was nowhere near as successful as her first, even losing some of the support she had garnered earlier.

Krasire apparently saw that Eoffram had the momentum and deftly offered Elsir Vale seat to Eoffram Troyas if Amyria got the leadership role.

“That ought to take the edge off his attacks on our candidate,” Shadowfox decided. “He won’t want to insult her too publicly if he knows he might lose the seat should she win.”

Krasire told Shadowfox he was going to talk to Fariex to see if the dragon-merchant was impressed by the way they were foiling the gambits, so she decided to talk to Inogo. Both negotiations were successful: Fariex the Scalehammer laughed heartily as he admitted he was impressed, and Inogo Dravitch was glad the council was coming to a consensus around Amyria.

Trinity turned underground, gathering rumors — and even spreading a few herself.

Turned out she wasn’t the only one taking this route. She caught wind of Quelenna’s effort to bribe some officials in Sayre. When the bribes went public, Quelenna lost the last of her non-Dornatholian support.

Desperate to stop the dangers she saw in the rash policies being advocated by Eoffram Troyas, Quelenna withdrew from the race and threw her support behind the candidate she thought would be more willing to listen to conservative ideas: Amyria!

Desperate to prove his plan’s viability, Eoffram sent out some false orders to two cities. He made it look like the Alliance Council was commanding them to raise civilian armies and strike back at the invaders. Shadowfox lit out like a banshee, using her endurance to beat the messengers to one target city.

Later she returned to Sayre and heard rumors that Krasire had taken a more leisurely pace. Even flying on his hippogriff, he got to Overlook after the messenger had presented the fake orders to the dwarves. But his masterful diplomacy managed to convince the High Council to wait for confirmation.

Which never came.

“I guess it never pays to underestimate the skills of someone who claims to be one of the Secret Masters of Waterdeep,” she said. Back out on the streets, she was able to undermine confidence in Eoffram by spreading rumors about his fake orders.

This set up Krasire for his final round of diplomacy, winning the leadership position for Amyria.

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Back in Sayre, Krasire Gets Down to Some Politics
...But a Blockade Threatens...

… to Upend his Support of Amyria…

…when another candidate tries a gambit to take advantage of it.

When Krasire returned to Sayre, he found the Coalition in disarray.

After Kalad, the paladin from Overlook was killed, Lord Torrance rushed out to avenge his death. But the Githyanki assassins had left behind an ambush, which killed Torrance himself.

With two of the top leaders dead, Amyria told Krasire the Coalition needed new leadership. After careful consideration of the alternatives, the Shardmind convinced Amyria she should run for the office.

Two other candidates had put themselves forward: Eoffram Troyas, a half-elf member of the Council in Brindol, and Quelenna Entromiel, an Eladrin merchant who rules over the settlement of Dornaithos.

Krasire believes Troyas, who hasn’t even been chosen for the Elsir Vale seat vacated by Kalad yet, is to brash and aggressive to lead the Coalition. And Quelenna is just the opposite — convinced a defensive posture will eventually win without diverting too many resources from trade.

With Bejam already backing Amyria because of Krasire’s intervention to save his island from a Winter-Court dragon who had thrown in with the Githyanki, Krasire decided to start his campaign for Amyria by targeting the respresentative of the distant city of Sherrbyr, Deacon Inogo Dravitch.

Belinda was able to open a portal to the village of one of her father’s vassals, which made his journey to Sherrbyr a lot quicker. He found a religious community open to many religions. So varied were the opinions, the entire society seemed caught up in endless debate.

Open-air forums were everywhere, so Krasire decided to take advantage of this. He set himself up on a soapbox in one of the open squares and began propounding on the history of warfare and the importance of all the various religions in that history. Didn’t take him long before he had the crowd squarely in Amyria’s court.

“That should help Inogo see the wisdom of siding with Amyria,” he told himself.

As Belinda got ready for the musical to start, a young elven lady sat down beside her. “That’s funny,” she thought. “Here I am at a play about an elven princess, and a girl sits next to me who looks just like a high elven princess.” So she started up a conversation.

Returning to Sayre, Krasire found the city in an uproar. Hobgoblin brigands were blockading trade in the Elsir Vale. The Elsir Consortium was crippled by the blockade, and Quelenna Entromiel was quick to exploit the situation for her own political gain.

“The Consortium is a competitor of mine,” the ruler of Dornaithos told the people. “But this demonstrates what I’ve been saying all along. Trade will be vital to defeating the Githyanki threat.” Quelenna announced she was hiring mercenaries to break the blockade. “Trade protects itself. I will put up the money to keep the resources flowing.”

Figuring that hiring mercenaries would take awhile, Krasire decided it was time to fly his hippogriff, Xerxes, to break the blockade before Quelenna got all the credit.

He flew out and found a few Hobgoblins blocking a bridge.

“Not much of a blockade,” he thought. “I can take them out before the mercenaries arrive. Then I can tell everyone Amyria sent me out to scout the blockade and her quick thinking and careful planning allowed me to break it quickly.”

Sure enough, he was able to kill two of the Hobgoblins with a quick Irruption of the Living Gate. The third Hobgoblin was obviously a lot tougher.

“Must be a veteran,” Krasire realized.

Hanging back and hitting the creature with his mental powers, the Shardmind was able to bloody it without taking damage. But then he got overconfident and had Xerxes swoop in for the kill.

The Hobgoblin was ready for it. With a heroic leap, he grabbed Xerxes’s claw and pulled him close enough to swing his axe at the Hippogriff.

Seeing the wound his mount had taken, Krasire jumped to the ground and engaged the Hobgoblin Vet hand to hand.

Much more to the Hobgoblin’s liking.

Soon the Shardmind was bloodied as well, desperately trying to heal himself while he wore down the veteran. Then the Hobgoblin got in a lucky blow and Krasire went down.

When he regained consciousness, Xerxes was licking his face and the Hobgoblin was dead nearby. He could see Quelenna’s mercenaries removing its head and mounting it on a pike. Apparently they had arrived in time to finish off the Hobgoblin and revive him.

By the time he got back to Sayre, Quelenna’s partisans were already celebrating her “victory” over the blockade.

The trade queen’s gambit had paid off.

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