Three for the Twelve

...beyond the end time
...residue of what was

Ultra-Meta Post-Campaign World Stuff
The night skies have long served as guides to sages, sailors, and dreamers. Among, between, and behind the stars, constellations, and other cosmic bodies lie the answers to ancient riddles, present mysteries, and the future itself. Although different peoples use many names for the stars and moons, a select few have been held in common across time & distance:

  • Arko – a constellation that can be seen throughout the year in various places in the sky, the stories surrounding this body are many, and all tied in some way to daring exploits. Arko is often used as the protagonist in bards’ stories, and sometimes in a comedic manner.
  • Flet, aka ‘The Wanderer’ – a rogue moon that appears at irregular intervals and places in the sky, and is often mistaken for other celestial bodies at first glance. Seen by some superstitious folk as a herald of conspiracy, while other stories say that when a person recognizes its true nature, they will soon make another, fortuitous, discovery or realization.
  • The Black Axe – a constellation visible throughout the year, this is one of the most obvious celestial arrangements, clearly a great axe made up of bright stars in an otherwise empty region of the sky. It is looked on as a sign of good luck by soldiers before battle, and individuals facing significant trials.
  • Orien – a constellation seen mostly in the southern skies, this series of bright stars is used by sailors and rangers as a reliable guide.
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The End Times
...and some faulty assumptions

It wasn’t the Tarrasque that was so dangerous; it was what the beast heralded. And it wasn’t the heroes who would stop the darkness from returning; it was what they held collectively in their souls. The great beast, released from time to time throughout history by foolish summoners and those with malign intent and the false conviction that they could control such a primordial force of destruction, would bring about the release of something far worse. The Hags, indeed, wanted to see the age of man come to an end, and believed that the Tarrasque would, if summoned properly, destroy the kingdoms of the civilized races, and along with them manifold protections against the release of the Hags’ demonkin. Once spent in its mission to destroy the Daughters’ enemies, the beast would be easily placed back in its storage box by the leaders of the new order, some fully free of the Demon Wastes and others provided easy access to Khorvaire through extra-dimensional portals. The Hags would have their new order, and the civilized races would be broken and forever subjugated.

What the Hags, in their narrow-minded arrogance, did not realize is that the Tarrasque was always only the beginning of a series of events that could not be fully foretold, to say nothing of controlled. The beast, simply put, was the footman to the worst evil imaginable: the source of evil itself: the deathless Khyber. Additionally, in their single-minded pursuit of the means of its release, they did not realize that another event was inextricably tied to it: the return of Eberron, the great dragon that had, in the mists of time before time, smote evil Khyber to avenge Siberys’ death. The world-as-known would end – in this the Mosaic Chamber were correct – and in its place would come another reality.

The heroes, for their part, were vessels for the core elements of Eberron, which could only be themselves released and reunited under special circumstances – specifically, the arrival of the Tarrasque. When the great herald of destruction, which threatened to free the deathless dragon Khyber and sunder the world, arrived, Eberron would be there to meet, and best, it. The heroes, drawn to the Prophecy, enlightened by the Prophecy, and ultimately agents of it, brought themselves forward to the brink, where one reality would end and one of two others would begin: one light, one dark. Their sacrifice was the last step that enabled Eberron to prevail, and the next world to exist in the light. Khyber was held in check – ever-present and scheming, yet held – as Eberron wiped away the stain of the Daelkyr, Quori, and forever rewrote the story of the stars, precluding future cosmic combinations that would open many doorways into this world from others. A new world was created, and on it would grow up the races, in new lands and kingdoms.

And over the surface of the new world glided a mist, invisible to all but a few, and this mist carried in it the essence of creation, left by Eberron’s work.

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The Passage of Time

Flet accepted the Order’s offer for training and a home – how could they not offer these to what was clearly a favored soul? The changeling had experienced so much strife and tumult over the last few years that it was time to step back, reassess his place and direction in life, and make some key decisions about his future. And so he stayed on for a time, helping the others to rebuild, rooting out the last of the demons still lurking in the surrounding mountains, and applying his new perspective in the context of accepting holy orders. A short time, he believed, was all he needed to sort things out.

Mishka, between helping to rebuild the physical defenses and track down demons, spent considerable time poring over the Keep’s archives, expanding his knowledge and understanding of the Prophecy considerably. The rubbings from the spellshard, coupled with what he’d seen in the stars and what was stored in dusty tomes in the Keep opened his mind to a whole different view of the Prophecy: instead of it being a history of what was and a loose predictor of what would be (as if that wasn’t enough), the Prophecy, he believed now, could be used as a tool to shape current and future events, at least in part. If one had enough pieces to arrange, one might be able to determine not the course of the future, as if it were a fixed quantity, but rather chart and decide that future well in advance. If this were true, one would wield the Prophecy as would a god the powers of creation. If only one had enough of the pieces, enough of fragments. Mishka became increasingly obsessed with amassing such a collection. If only…

While his friends worked at their chosen tasks, Arko! took on for himself the role best suited for his qualities and experiences: emissary to the many interests involved in what happened at the Keep and in the short war between Breland and Droaam. The leaders and power groups in Breland, the Eldeen Reaches, Aundair, and Thrane were all keenly interested in what was happening along the defensive perimeter in the Icehorn Mountains. Karrnathi officials also paid attention, along with representatives from the various Houses, and even the Twelve. It was during these meetings that Arko!‘s identity became clear to the leadership of the Twelve, and with his those of his companions. What would they do with this information? The story of the murder, years ago now, was long forgotten by all but a few within the leadership of the Houses. The existence of the fugitive Flet was a well-guarded secret from the beginning. And so the Twelve kept its mouth shut, and eyes and ears open, jealous of the status achieved by its wayward operatives, and eager to learn more about them, especially the changeling – now frustratingly out of reach, behind layers of church, state, and friend. In the view of the Twelve, these men were wanted, and yet now that they were in the open, they were more out of reach than if they’d still been on the run.

Foen led many of the hunting parties into the surrounding mountains in the first months, delousing the vicinity of many demons, and even capturing a Droaamite emissary, thus proving the connection between the invasion and the attack on the Keep. Breland, Aundair, and Thrane all broke off relations with Droaam over this, and began working to organize a common defense against the monsters, should they attack again. The barbarian also accompanied Arko! on several of his diplomatic trips, serving as both added muscle and an additional voice in, and sometimes against, the chattering chorus of national, merchant, and House representatives. ‘Those of the Mark,’ as many referred to the four, had their own agenda, it seemed, and getting the other players in the game afoot on Khorvaire required a great deal of talk, cajoling, and getting those other parties to see that putting their differences aside would be best for everyone. For the most part, these diplomatic efforts resulted in only slight success, as the old animosities simply would not die. As Arko! worked with the leaders of the different factions, Foen skillfully worked behind the scenes – and, sadly, with limited success. ‘Yes, of course the Houses would take seriously a demonic threat they would say…’and yet the prosperity and security of so many people were dependent on economic activity, which itself was built on trade secrets, yes?’ Surely one could not ask, in good faith, for so many people across the continent to set aside their well-being, and trade away their futures based on such a vague notion of threat? There must be another way; another meeting should be called…this can be dealt with when people have calmed down…we should wait…’ Foen took away more understanding about the seemingly blind nitwits running the great Houses and nations than he did solid agreements between them all.


Meta

Please add your stories about each of your characters as comments on this post. This will give us a chance to chart the development of each character, the party, and the story as you all increase to 15th level. I will write more of the story over time, adding in the events I had planned to run in sessions that will bridge the gap between where we left off and where we’ll eventually, fully, end this story. It’s a good story, I think, and you’ve added a great deal to it. I’d rather sink my energy into telling it than playing it, for the most part, and reserve that energy for one or two capstone sessions, sometime in the future when we want to take a short break from the new game, and put the period (or, rather, exclamation mark) at the end of this whole campaign.

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Sora Kell Contained

The Hags’ attempt to free their mother, and along with that shatter the defensive shield holding back the hordes from the Demon Wastes, had failed. First, their invasion of Breland – a feint, really – had fallen apart under the weight of its own disorganization, and the persistent and skilled attacks of a particular team of partisans along the southern front. The Hags’ had read their versions of the Prophecy, too, and yet weren’t able to capitalize on it as they’d wanted. Their near victory in the Icehorn Mountains – so close were they to achieving the release of Sora Kell! – was even more stinging, once they realized the same ‘partisans’ were involved.

Who were these warriors? From where had they come? What power seemed to propel them between the key junctures of the Prophecy, and how was it, as troubling as it seemed, that they were at least aware enough of its ancient mysteries to make use of it?

What next? If they could not release Sora Kell, then the next step in the plan would require another approach…another means of breaking the seals, and of releasing that which could shatter the world and thus enable them to bring about the fruition of their entire plan. An army of monsters? A tool. Droaam? A means to an end. The destruction of the rule of men, and full subjugation of all races under a new order, born from the most ancient of powers? That was the goal, the dream: a complete turning of the wheel, back to a better time, when those now thought bound would rule again, and forever.

Another path…and time. That is what it would take.

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Invasion, Repulsed
A year of war, and its immediate aftermath

The Droaamite Invasion of 998 began in early fall, reached its high watermark right before winter, and only held and Brelish territory of note after that because of the harsh winter, and its blunting effect on operations. Although the hordes had made respectable gains in the north and in the vicinity of the Six Kings, the rugged passes through the Graywalls hampered their ability to establish a unified, stable front. Coupled with their setbacks in the south, the monsters were held in pace throughout the winter, and by the time spring came Brelish forces had reinforced and regrouped to the point that the still-disorganized monsters could not withstand pressure across the broad front.

Small guerrilla forces also infiltrated behind the Droaamite lines, again from the south, and wreaked havoc with what passed for lines of communication and supply, further degrading the monsters’ ability to coordinate their defenses. By the time the spring rains came, there were only pockets of the horde left in Breland, and the passes were slowly being retaken.

The Hags, for their part, remained mostly silent throughout the affair, with only rumors providing their voices for months. By early spring, however, emissaries from the Great Crag had made contact with Breland through House Tharashk diplomats, and had insisted that the “regrettable friction” between the two countries was the result of a break-away faction within Droaam, and not a coordinated effort by the Sisters themselves. Little more came through diplomatic channels as the monsters were steadily beaten back to their own borders.

Intelligence gained from reconnaissance forces that had operated within Droaam did uncover other Droaamite operations, elsewhere in Khorvaire. The King’s Citadel, having established contact and productive relations with a key group of partisans along the southern front early in the war, shared intelligence related to these other efforts, far to the north, along the mountainous divide between the Eldeen Reaches and Demon Wastes. The Icehorn Mountains, running northeasterly and dead-ending in Eldeen Bay, separate the Reaches, and nearby Aundair, from the eastern plains of the Demon Wastes. The King’s Citadel uncovered evidence of contact with Droaamite agents and efforts apparently operating in the northern Reaches, near a series of ancient monasteries and keeps that guard the passes out of the Demon Wastes. The areas involved can be seen in some detail on this map. The location in question is northwest of Merylsward, and in the Icehorn Mountains, south of Ashtakala, the de facto center of power in the Demon Wastes.

The King’s Citadel has arranged for transport by elemental galleon across Silver Lake and Lake Galifar, and into Eldeen Bay. The party will be accompanied by agents of the Citadel, as well as other representatives of the Brelish government in order to properly assess the potential threat from any Droammite involvement with the demon nation.

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War!
Two months after the Droaamite Invasion of 998

Fort Virtue Soars was the last to fall, and thus exacted the highest price from the invaders. The southernmost pass through the Graywall Mountains was blocked to free movement by Droaamish forces for over a month before repeated frontal assaults by ogre infantry and aerial attacks by harpies and gargoyles finally drove the fort’s defenders from key parts of the walls, which then fell. Thus far, it seems there were no survivors. Soon after news spread of the fort’s defeat, a rallying cry took on a life of its own, as people from across Breland spoke of “fighting with Virtue” to destroy the invading monster hordes.

Things had gone even worse in the central and northern passes, with monstrous forces making relatively swift gains through the mountains. The Argonth had been dispatched to aid in the relief efforts at Sharn, and was thus late in making an appearance on the front. Legions of gnoll infantry had made swift progress south of Silver Lake, across the plains separating northwestern Breland from northeastern Droaam. Those foothills of the Graywalls, and the northernmost pass were also taken quickly. Fort Orcbone fell, and Droaamish forces stopped west of the Shavalant Wood, and northwest of Castle Arakhain – seemingly at the far end of their lines of communication.

In the center, the eastern foothills of the Graywalls were entirely in Droaamish claws. Their forces were, however, in a somewhat precarious position, with their backs against rough terrain with only a few points of egress, and to their front was an expanse of flatland that ended in a dense wood, where Brelish forces had thrown up a stout series of defenses, and were using the familiar woods as a means of supplying what had become their western front.

Shadowlock Keep, at the south end of the border, had stood. A combination of naturally rough terrain and the lingering devastation from the sea had made a large-scale invasion along the southern coast impractical, and so Droaamish forces moving through the pass at Virtue Soars were breaking south to contain and reduce what had become the westernmost bastion of Brelish forces. Their advance through and beyond the pass had been severely hampered since the beginning of the invasion by skilled delaying actions and guerrilla-style attacks by an unknown number of presumably Brelish partisans. The road out of the pass was held with such tenacity that the invaders were unable to move their forces around the fort and into Breland as quickly as they’d planned, thus enabling the fort to do more damage to the Droaamites, and the pass itself, before falling. Word was spread by these partisans to nearby towns, which enabled both for the escape of many people and an early warning of not only the existence of the attack, but a detailed picture of the forces involved.

Following the fall of Virtue Soars, the partisans fought a series of delaying actions to the southwest, back toward Shadowlock Keep, where their eventual arrival was met with much relief – the survivors of Droaam, twice over, with their hefty haul of magic items, were there to make a last stand against the hordes.


We will begin our next session within Shadowlock Keep, with the party working alongside COL Anwar to formulate a defense plan for the coming siege. Scouts have reported Droaamish forces closing in from the north, and the presence of some skirmishers to the west. They could be at the Keeps’ door within a day.

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Of Routes and Directions

Given your collective knowledge of Breland’s geography, and from information gleaned from COL Anwar at Shadowlock Keep, you know that Sharn is roughly 5000 miles away as the crow flies. There are a few routes to the city, each with seeming advantages and disadvantages. The direct land route would take you through part of the Skyraker Forest, a very dense and largely wild subtropical wood, then southeast through the Tilorn Expanse, a massive, untamed prairie long reputed to be haunted. After passing through the Expanse – about 100 miles of it – you’d arrive at Moonwatch, a medium town on the western edge of the hilt of the Dagger River. Moonwatch was partially destroyed by the wave, although not nearly as extensively as Sharn.

Another route would be to skirt the eastern slopes of the Graywall Mountains (the ones that separate Droaam from Breland) and go through part of the Skyraker Forest, heading directly east into Galethspyre, which is on the west bank of the Dagger River, almost opposite Wroat, Breland’s capitol. One would think that water transport could be found from there to Sharn. There are also extensive land routes, including the lightning rail line, from Wroat south to Sharn. Word is that the northern portion of the Dagger River – near Galethspyre and Wroat – was largely spared from damage from the wave; it seemed to dissipate quickly north of the City of Towers. Word is also that the eastern banks of the Dagger, north of Sharn, are clogged with refugees and stranded caravans.

There are no reliable ports along the southwestern Brelish coast from Shadowlock (which is actually miles inalnd) and the mouth of the Dagger River — the coast is too rough in most places to support any built-up port facilities. Pirates and smugglers probably have their coves throughout the area, but nothing formal.

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Washed Away
and made new

After learning of the team’s war exploits – covered, of course, with fake names and different unit designations – the border fort’s commander, COL Anwar, invited the five to stay a night or two at the fort. During this time he and his intelligence officer sat for hours of interviews and conversation about the specifics of what they saw in Droaam, and shared what little they knew of what had happened in Sharn. The best they knew was that about a week ago a massive wave appeared at the mouth of the Dagger River, from the southwest, and slammed into the city, hitting the outer towers first around the docks. The wave was as high as the middle wards and washed between and around towers, quickly filling the basin between the five main sections of the city and swamping all the lower wards – all of them. Many towers filled completely or in part with water; a few of the older ones collapsed in part or full; and it took a day before the water started to recede from within the city. Then the next wave hit, and drove the water level up to the lower levels of them middle city, driving what refugees from the docks and lower city upward in a violent frenzy, spreading chaos.

The city is still draining, apparently, either out from between the towers, out of damaged or porous areas of the lower towers, or possibly through the Depths or Cogs. The death toll is not known at this point, although it must, by logic, be in the tens of thousands. The city is in a state of almost total upheaval right now – there is open fighting in and around some towers of the middle and upper wards, as people seek higher ground and seeming security. The city authorities have lost control over Sharn as a whole, and control only a few areas, where they’ve been able to concentrate personnel. Fragmented reports are coming out about who and what survived, how the Houses are fairing, the various churches, and other interests within the city. Morgrave University, it seems, survived intact, and is holding out against refugees who would flood its halls, museums, and gardens. Cannith Tower stands, and Baron Merix d’Cannith is reported to be putting his best people to work in the service of the city.

Travel in and out of Sharn has been completely disrupted. All the dock facilities – including the massive cranes – have apparently been destroyed. The lightning rail station, and some of the track immediately outside the city, are also apparently a total loss. Sky galleons are being used to rush in supplies and people, and bring the same out. The overland routes from the north and northeast are largely intact, or so it seems through the rumor mill. There are also, so it’s been said, ships in the Dagger River assisting, now that the river water level has gone down; however, the area around the Hilt of the Dagger was also laid waste, in some cases for many miles inland. The city took the brunt of the wave, but there is much more to the destruction than just Sharn – although it’s getting all the press.

King Boranel has set up a command center in Skyway, in order to personally oversee and coordinate the rescue and recovery efforts underway. Although his personality and abilities account for much, the efforts are highly disorganized and already there are accusations of inept handling of the crisis by the city and national authorities. Everyone seems to have an armchair expert perspective on why it happened, why it’s so bad, and who’s to blame.

COL Anwar, considering his duties, is only able to make space for the team for a day or two, and then they’ll have to move on…where?

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The Room of Your Doom
Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

You’ve opened the double doors, which are about 6 feet wide each. The 1 foot wide channel of filthy water, running from the pond where the elemental was, bisects the room, running about 40 feet directly into a 10’ diameter pool, which itself is next to a raised throne (the pond is partially between you and the throne). The room is dimly lit. The pond is ringed by kneeling figures – you can’t tell if they’re statues, people, moving, or fixed in place. Shadows dance along the walls and ceiling, which is about 25’ high, and arched. The room is about 10 feet wide on each side of the channel, with the right side of the room slightly wider than the left.

On the left side of the room, near the pond, are two openings that lead…somewhere. They are each only about 3’ wide, and are both dark.

The throne is on the right side of the room, with the pond directly in front of it. The cyclops has to turn about 45 degrees to its left to look directly at you, if it’s sitting in the throne facing the water. It’s like this: if the pond is a clock face, the throne is off the 5. The doors through which you came are directly off the 9; and the openings on the left-side wall are off the 11 and 1. You’re about 50 feet from the cyclops, which is looking directly at you and waving its hands around in a somewhat spastic ‘wax on; wax off’ motion. It’s also, for lack of a better term to describe the sound, chortling at you. Its single red eye glows in the dim room, providing the most powerful source of light, in addition to a few flaming brassieres along the walls.

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Disjointed Images in Time & Space
...as the Prophecy unfolds...

A tempest roars at sea. Waves lash a series of islands, arranged around a central bay. One is utterly swamped, its surface washed clean by the water, leaving an alien landscape behind, dotted with the wreckage of what once was.

A red orb sits on a distant, cloud-heavy horizon. A sun? Setting? Rising? Uncertain.

A giant stands along a rocky shore, his massive feet mired in mud and filth. He reaches into the sky. His head is shrouded in the clouds…similar clouds to those on the horizon in another image, from another time and place.

The giant sways as his legs weaken. His feet shift as he tries to keep his knees from buckling.

The red orb winks in and out as clouds pass before it. The sea begins to churn as the horizon itself darkens, storm clouds concentrating.

From a great distance away, the islands, orb, and giant are visible, all distant from one another. The viewpoint shifts as its location comes into view itself: another land, this one made of vast mountain ranges and seemingly endless tracts of wildlands. A massive building looms, empty and deserted. A light glows from within.

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