“Behind the tomb! Go!”
Jeffrey shouted the order just in time. He watched as Altas and the Sultan dove behind the remaining sarcophagus just as a flash of lightning struck the sandstone walls behind the spot their heads had just been occupying. He watched as cracks formed in the tomb, and a cloud of sand bellowed forth from the entrance.
Then he felt, as much as heard, a loud boom land to the right of the gravestone he hid behind. The explosion threw him into a stone marker ten feet away. As he lay silently against the stone, his ears ringing and his body bleeding from shards of stone, his assailant approached. Covered in black robes and armor, she appeared to be a moment of darkness itself striding under a bright mid-day sun. Jeffrey’s eyes strained against the sand and the sun as she neared.
She paused a moment, hands clasped in front of her before she spoke. “You are a leader in the Guard, though you are not its Captain. Tell me little man, where is she?”
“She’ll be seein’ ye soon enough, witch,” Jeffrey sneered.
“Come, little man, there is no need for such language. Your life is at an end, as are those who huddle, scared, behind you. Those who have followed you will all die, and then Nujel’m, and soon enough Sosaria, will belong to the Master.”
Jeffrey experimentally twitched his body, assessing the damage he had suffered. Bruised, but not broken. It was an action that did not go unnoticed.
“Still you plan to defy me? You have no weapons, and your Guard is occupied on the other side of the island. You are alone. And now, you will die.”
The dark enchantress leaned closer to Jeffrey, a glowing hand outstretched towards his chest. Just as she was about to plunge it towards him, she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye.
“It is me you want, leave him be.” It was the Sultan, barely clothed and haggard from his months of captivity. Despite his appearance, his voice was confident and commanding.
Their attacker was not impressed. “You are both merely obstacles that need removing. Do not make the mistake of assuming one of you has much more value to me than the other!”
As she shouted at the Sultan, Jeffrey searched the sands beneath him, his fingers finding what he searched for.
“What…” the enchantress began, noticing Jeffrey’s slight movement. It was all she managed before he brought his hand up and cracked a broken piece of gravestone on the side of her head. She stumbled backwards, clutching her head. Jeffrey felt two sets of arms underneath his own, hauling him to his feet.
“We need t’ move,” he growled as Altas and the Sultan helped him steady himself, “the fence in th’ back o’ the grave fell.”
They hurried to the gap in the fence, leaving their attacker behind them mumbling incoherently.
A great distance away, atop the mountains overlooking Cove, a man garbed in magnificent white robes stared in the direction of Nujel’m. The Time Lord, for all his power and knowledge, was unable to divine what the future here held. This bothered him greatly. As if this wasn’t enough, he was soon joined by an annoying reminder of that which he did fully understand.
“HeeHee…a bit high up here, is it not? A bit high, even for a hawk?”
The new arrival cackled and danced behind the him. Though it appeared to be little more than an imp, it was clear he was much more. “What do you want?”
“TeeHeeHee…a small chat only do I want. A question for you I have, an answer I doubt you possess.”
The Time Lord frowned, but played along nonetheless. “What is your question?”
For a moment, the imp stopped dancing, but continued to wear a crazed grin as he asked, “What trouble do you foresee, your portals of time joining those through space that are mine?”
“Your attempts to anger me will not work, imp. I suspect you know there is little I foresee, here. Your actions may have an effect on mine, or they may not.”
“Fear the loss of time, you do not?”
“There can be no loss of time. There can only be change. What concern of it is yours?”
“None. None at all! TeeHeeHee!”
Having just heard the rumor of King Blackthorn vanishing from his Castle, Sir Andrew rushed from the Chamber of Virtues. He knew it was likely to only be rumor, but he wanted to find out for sure – and few others currently in Britain would be able to.
He said goodbye to the monk at the entrance to the Chamber and took the road to the north. He slowed as he passed the memorial to Owain Surrey, a former auger to a former king. He halted in front of the memorial as he heard a voice whisper in his ear, “Sacrifice. Sacrifice.”
The retired knight, startled, look around him. He was alone.
“Stop,” Jeffrey commanded, “do ye hear that?”
His companions, still helping to support the Lieutenant’s weight, did as he said. They stood on the coast of Nujel’m, far from both the city center and the cemetery where they had nearly died. It was in that direction that they heard what sounded like the start of a furious battle.
“I need to return,” the man who accompanied Jeffrey stated, “it is my duty.”
The third member of the group shook her head, disagreeing. “Your Highness, I mean no disrespect, but the Lieutenant is in no condition to return, and it is because his duty is to protect you. If you should die, all of this will be for nothing.”
“Altas is right,” Jeffrey said through gritted teeth, “Fer myself I am not concerned, but fer us to win this and keep Nujel’m safe, ye must survive, Sultan.”
Weary from fighting and distracted by the sounds of distant battle the three did not notice the small ship approaching until it had nearly reached land. With a masthead the shape of a dragon, it looked like the type of vessel that used to be common among pirates in years long passed.
Jeffrey studied the ship as it approached, assessing it. “No cannons, and no crew that I can see. In any case, be ready t’ run…leave me here.”
The Sultan stood up straighter, hefting his share of Jeffrey’s weight before responding, “We will not.”
At that moment, a single figure appeared on the deck of the ship, and called out, waiving, “Jeffrey! Trying to cheat death again, are you? Why is there a naked man holding you up? I doubt Robert would approve!”
Jeffrey, almost at a loss for words, could barely respond. “What the hell…why…what are YE doin’ ‘ere?”
As the ship was brought close to the shore, the man aboard it turned his attention towards the sounds coming from the cemetery. “I’m heretosaveyou, now hurryupandstopstandingtherelikeafool,” the man replied in a hurried tone, his words running together.
The Lieutenant grinned, and gestured to the ship with a nod of his head. “Let’s go.”
Frederick the town crier took a deep breath, resting from shouting the latest news regarding rumors of the missing King and the invasion of Nujel’m. As he did so, he watched with curiosity as a monk, or perhaps a healer with his hood up, descended from Heartwood. The man was tall, even imposing. He paused for a moment, staring up into the trees. He turned and saw Frederick staring at him. Frederick nodded towards him as he approached, hoping to turn a moment of awkwardness into one of mere friendliness. The man returned the nod as he smiled and pulled his hood closer around him. As Frederick watched the man pass by, he couldn’t help but think the face under the hood looked familiar somehow.
The battle ended, Captain Olivia studied the body of the slain enchantress. She did not look away as two Guards approached, both the highest ranked enlisted Guards.
“Keenbadger. Tobias. Have we found them?”
PFC Keenbadger responded with a shake of his head, “No, Captain, not yet. But we will.”
“There were signs of another fight that must have taken place just before we arrived. Hopefully…” Tobias said before being interrupted by the Captain.
“The Lieutenant is resourceful, but if the Sultan is not soon seen by his people to be alive and well, we may have failed our mission even as we have won the battle.”
The Captain wiped her sword on the robes of the defeated enchantress, and rose. One hand on the pommel of her sword, and the other on the ankh relic that she wore around her neck, she turned to survey the city of Nujel’m.
“Make sure our wounded are tended to. And keep looking.”
Atop the mountain that held Cove in its shadow, the imp cackled as the Time Lord departed.
“Alone he thought we were. But know better I do! HeeHee!” the imp said, seemingly speaking to the wind. The creature held one of its claws out, and smiled as a small sextant materialized in it. “Time for something new, I suppose it is. New places, new people, you see…”
The imp looked to the sky as the Pentad began to glow softly.
Never the end.
A note from Barnaby:
I apologize for the time it has taken to finish this, and for the manner in which it is written. As long as it took, it is still rushed. And, of course, poses as many questions as it answers – those questions no longer belong to me, if they ever did, for I was only ever played a small part in the tale that some of you have been telling for the better part of twenty years.
There are references here that will likely confuse many, but my hope is that some of them are noticed and recognized. It is often difficult to remember that the stories we hold in our heads are rarely remembered in the heads of others the same way.
The purpose of this fiction is to close out one chapter, while leaving openings for a new one. I look forward to seeing what that one looks like.
As many of you have noticed (I appreciate all of the emails checking in on me) I haven’t been around much this month. I wish I could say it was because I was so busy preparing the book event of epicness that I have been hinting at, but sadly that is not the case. Instead of giving a preview of that event story, this morning I regretfully inform you that I am taking a leave from the EM Program.
I’m not sure I can put in words my appreciation for all of the players of Catskills. For five years I have had the privilege of being part of the best community this game has ever seen. Community. It’s a word that is often tossed about, but rarely is it considered beyond a generic meaning. Community to me is, in a sense, an ecology – the recognition that all members have an impact on others. Unlike a natural ecology, however, it has developed through choice. Despite disagreements, arguments, and difference, you have all chosen to make this not only your “second place,” but a second home.
I have been in a consistent state of awe at the creativity of this shard. Sure, we’ve had our share of drama (and perhaps Chesapeake’s share, and Origin’s share, and….;) but you made my job easy. All I ever wanted to do as an EM was tell a story. The ways in which many of you participated in that story, made it your own, and contributed to it are many. There were SO, so many times in the past five years where an event or story changed as a result of your interaction.
Beyond the events, the competitions (go Blue Beetles!), and the role-play, I appreciate having to gotten to know so many of you not just as your characters, but the player behind the character. I say this recognizing that I myself, bound to certain rules, was very careful about letting too much be known about me. I hope to one day find my way back here, so with that in mind, I will still keep those rules in mind. What I can say is that while my heart is still in the job, my head and my energy is not. I am managing family illnesses, and preparing for my first child (due in January). If it is a boy, Kyronix dared me to name him Dupre. I’m not one to back down from a challenge 😛
As I said, I hope one day to return, but that may not happen. I know that whatever happens, Mesanna and the development team will see that you are in good hands. When I first arrived on Catskills I had the benefit of Kasaven being able to show me the ropes. He took me to Olympus, to Aegis, Vamp’s Lair and others. He explained a bit of the history. As I will be taking my leave JUST before I was all set to finish the overall narrative I’ve been working on for years, I will be leaving a detailed primer for whomever takes my place. It is my hope that there will be a sense of continuity. At the same time, a new EM means new, fresh ideas – something that you deserve, and I know you will enjoy. If nothing else, you will AT LEAST be guaranteed someone who is better suited to playing a proud monarch.
Thank you again for allowing me the privilege of being part of your community for the last five years.
Don’t forget! The final conflict with the Vizier is tonight! Meet the Captain at the Castle at 8pm EST!
The Nujel’m Conflict
This is a summary of events that took place between *** and ***. During this time, the Kingdom of Britannia faced a unique threat – not from a mystical artifact or a powerful demon, but rather a cunning man determined to seize power. Though it is not necessary, it may be useful to read the summary for “The Path Forward” as that is where many of the characters in this story are introduced. This is a very brief summary – all Guards who filed a report and wish it to be added to this summary are invited to submit a copy of the text for inclusion.
This story has a seemingly simple beginning. Trade between Britannia’s cities had increased dramatically as internal relations returned to normal with the crowning of a new King. This increase in trade, however, also gave rise to an increase in banditry. Oftentimes convoys did not reach their destination – the King’s own craftsmen were killed on their way to build a new market in Trinsic. Captain Olivia was determined to put a stop to these criminal, and violent, actions, ordering the King’s Guard to begin seeking out the bandits and bring them to justice. Caught in a sudden blitz by the Guard, the bandit threat was handled quickly. The victory was not decisive, however, as rumor spread of a new leader of the bandits – The Pirate Jor.
It would not be long before Jor began rebuilding his forces, recruiting new pirates, brigands, and mercenaries. Investigator Thorpe’s detectives learned of this recruiting, and met with Jor in disguise, learning of his plan – the robbery of the Vesper Mint. With this information in hand, Lieutenant Jeffrey planned a trap. Some of the Guard would continue to associate with Jor, and accompany him on the robbery. The rest would lie in wait, surrounding the mint. In addition, the bank manager, Karel DeMaje, found a noble who agreed to use his own wealth to further entice the robbers. The plan was simple, and success more or less assumed. What they didn’t count on was the craftiness of Jor.
The pirate and his group entered Vesper via moongate, very close to the bank. They quickly entered through mysteriously unlocked vaults, and looted the mint. Striding out of the bank, Jor loudly boasted that he would not be caught. Just as the Guard sprung their trap, a moongate glowing a dark red appeared. Jor escaped through it, along with many of his accomplices. The Guard gave immediate chase, finding themselves emerging along the mountain pass to Dungeon Deceit in Felucca. Standing before them was Jor, taunting once more – it was not the Guard who had laid a trap, but Jor himself. A battle immediately ensued, with Jor calling for his true followers to reveal themselves. Two of those who entered the mint with him stepped forward to claim their loyalty. One, an archer, announced identified herself, quite curiously, as Grilled Cheese. The other, a thief, claimed no name but would later be accused of being none other than the sitting Governor of Jhelom.
The King’s Guard fought with Valor, but eventually retreated back to Vesper as Jor and his followers entered Deceit above and his trained dragons pushed up from below. The Guard had suffered its first defeat.
Though the battle was over, the conflict continued during the next Council meeting, as the new Governor of Jhelom, Ethan, was accused of being known as the thief “Mercury Ali,” who had sided with Jor in the fight against the Guard. Little could be done, however, as their was no conclusive proof of this claim. The actions of the Captain, Lieutenant, and Investigator came under attack as it was clear that they had been out-maneuvered, and people had died because of it. Further, the city of Vesper had suffered losses and demanded recompense.
The damage to Vesper would be repaired, and Thorpe would be temporarily relieved of his position. In the Investigator’s absence, it fell to Lieutenant Jeffrey to task the Guard with exploring the circumstances surrounding the robbery. Here, the first evidence was uncovered that there was a link between Jor and previously unknown intrigue in Nujel’m. Around this same time, various Governors were targeted by attackers who claimed to be acting on behalf of Nujel’m. The King’s numerous letters to the Sultan went unanswered, so a diplomatic envoy led by Governor’s Mare Jade and Inkboy was dispatched to Nujel’m. The envoy was welcomed by Said Halabi – the Vizier to the Sultan (this being the same man who served in an advisory capacity to a previous governing council). The Vizier’s pleasantries quickly dissolved, however, when he was pressed for details regarding the attacks. The skilled diplomats from Britannia were able to calm the situation, however, resulting in the Vizier proposing a treaty enabling the two states to work together in addressing the pirate threat. Once examined in Council, however, many believed this proposal to be a trick – something to appease Britannia while also gaining important information about the Kingdom’s naval capacity.
Two weeks after the Delegation to Nujel’m returned, the newly constructed Vesper Lighthouse was attacked and destroyed during its dedication ceremony. Arriving aboard ships with allies already in wait on land, Jor’s forces quickly swept through, leaving a path of destruction before escaping to sea. Thus begun the chase of Jor.
Where is the first place one should go when looking for a thief or a pirate? The answer seemed simple enough, so Lieutenant Jeffrey sent a fighting force to Buccaneer’s Den (after an investigation confirmed his recent presence, of course). While they were successful in finding him, once again the slippery sailor eluded capture – leaving a very large, very ANGRY aquatic dragon in his place. The dragon would be defeated, but Jor remained at large. It seemed time again for the detectives of the Guard to search for more information that might lead to his capture. The resulting efforts yielded a few clues – primarily, a description of Jor’s ship (the Kaze) was provided by the Tokunese boat captain he had stolen it from. Lightly armed, it was a fast ship that enabled him to continually out-race pursuing vessels. In addition, it was suggested by a familiar tavern resident that a thief named Joshua (who might be remembered from previous events) might have more information about Jor, as he too had been seen asking about the pirate.
A newly reinstated Thorpe was questioned about Joshua, as he was rumored to have occasional contact with him. The Guard’s lead investigator confirmed this, and told the Guard’s detectives how to contact the thief. Setting a meeting with Joshua was not an easy task, but some of the Guard’s brightest were able to do so, and met with the thief in the dead of night in a Britain basement. It was here that many questions were answered. Primarily, the nature of the roles of Juwain (as a pawn to the Vizier) and Jor (the hired help) was confirmed. Joshua also warned the Guards that a bounty had been placed on the heads of Thorpe as well as his “field agent,” whose existence had been kept secret by Thorpe (and for safety reasons, his identity shall not be revealed here!). When asked how he knew so much about the plot, he cryptically explained that he wanted to see Jor captured, as he had broken the “Thieves’ Code” and wronged his father.
With this knowledge in hand, things began to move quickly. The merits of various plans were debated in Council meetings, and the Guard continued to search for Jor. It would not be until “Lord” Juwain of Nujel’m arrived in Britain, however, that there would seem to be hope for resolution. He entered the Council chamber prior to the start of a meeting, and surrendered. He offered all the knowledge he had, asking only that when the time came to fight the Vizier, his sister Altas would be saved from her imprisonment. The Governors in attendance (the King had not yet arrived) agreed to hold him under guard in the castle until he could be interrogated.
The interrogation took place a short while later. Lieutenant Jeffrey placed Keenbadger (the highest ranking enlistee in the King’s Guard) and Tobias Cardont (who had played an integral role in prior investigations) in charge of the interrogation as well as any immediate actions they believed needed to be taken in light of anything Juwain said. It was during this questioning that it was learned that Lady Constance DeMaje of Vesper had aided the Vizier in orchestrating the burglary of the Vesper mint. Juwain himself had been sent by the Vizier to seduce Lady Constance, though he would prove to be the one to fall for her. He was heartbroken to learn that he was but a pawn, that Lady Constance was already in league with the Vizier, and that Juwain himself was being set up as a potential scapegoat. Further, he re-affirmed that the Sultan had indeed been kidnapped, and that the only people to know his location was the Jor and the Vizier. The Vizier’s plan was to provoke an attack on either Nujel’m (as the one in the Old Lands had not been left the same way Britannian cities had) and to kill the Sultan and blame it on the Britannians – hoping it would help him control the populace. One bright point (of a sort) was that it seemed Constance’s current husband, Karel, was in fact innocent of any wrongdoing (he was previously a suspect in the robbery).
Keenbadger and Tobias decided that the Lady of Vesper needed to be arrested immediately. They set off immediately with the rest of the Guards in attendance, only to find that she was not in Vesper. Knowing that she originally hailed from Cove, they set off through the woods until the reached the tall gates of the small hamlet nestled in the mountains to the southwest of Vesper. The Guard quickly found Lady Constance on the docks where she shouted defiantly at them. Believing it be better to perish as a noblewoman than to spend her life in a cell she turned to throw herself over the mooring ropes into the water. Suspecting her intentions, Tobias Cardont was in movement by the time she turned, and was able to restrain her. She was returned to the castle and put under guard, remaining defiant and refusing to answer any of the Guards questions with anything other than snark.
The results of the interrogation where reported to the Council of Governors, and again possible action was endlessly debated. To make matters worse, an old foe, The Hand, had returned to Yew intending to lay claim to it. A battle on two fronts now seemed imminent, making it vital to move quickly on the Vizier in order to prevent more attacks on Britannia from his mercenaries and Feluccian allies. The King ordered a War Committee formed in order to determine a course of action. Governors Frey of Jhelom, Thom of Trinsic, and Bytor of Vesper sat on the committee and organized a meeting at which others may also present their ideas. The result was a request for another investigation in hopes of locating the Sultan (and locating Jor as a secondary objective), and then moving on the Vizier with whatever force seemed appropriate.
The resulting investigation did not result in the recovery of the Sultan, but Jor’s hiding place had been discovered. Knowing he was being pursued by both the Guard and the Vizier’s forces (the Vizier wanted him dead so he could not reveal the location of the Sultan should he be captured), Jor left a note for the Guards implying he would help the Britannians if they could stop the Vizier’s men. His hideout no longer secret, he abandoned it, mentioning he would be staying with new “friends” who could be quite violent.
Following up on this, the Guard was to muster by the King himself, commanding all present to capture Jor and bring him to Britain. The Guard (as well as non-regular adventurers) met with Lieutenant Jeffrey in Moonglow and discussed potential places to look for Jor in the Lost Lands. At the suggestion of Tobias Cardont, it was decided to seek out the tribal people near the City of the Dead. Upon arriving in Papua, however, they were shocked to find the town under attack by the Vizier’s forces. Word came to them that Delucia was also facing an attack as the brigands, pirates, and former Faction warriors searched for Jor. Before continuing, the Guard would have to first protect the people of Papua and Delucia.
Ridding both towns of the invaders, the assembled group of Guards and adventurers set out for the tribal people of the Lost Lands. When they arrived it was quickly made apparent that they were not the only ones to suspect Jor of hiding amongst the tribal people – former servants of the Shadowlords and Minax, now under command of Vizier Halabi, had already begun battle with the tribe. The Britannians entered the fray, fending off the dark wizards and angry tribal peoples until Jor appeared, fleeing from an assassin, Renault. Once Renault was defeated, Jor was taken into custody and brought back to Britannia, to answer to King Blackthorn.
Even in the presence of the King of Britannia, Jor the Pirate still retained his sense of arrogance. He did agree, however, to tell the King the location of the Sultan so long as he would not be put to death for his crimes. To this, the King agreed, and Jor revealed where the Sultan was being kept – in Nujel’m itself, on Felucca. In (under?) the cemetery, to be precise. Jor was then escorted to a cell in the prison in Yew.
Sunday, 9/27, 7pm EST – The Time Gate The finale to the current global arc leading up to the Time of Legends. More details to come.
Wednesday, 9/30, 9pm EST – Council of Governors Meeting
Friday, 10/9, 8pm EST – Machinations The final play by/against the Vizier is made.
Saturday, 10/31 – A Preview of Things to Come This will not likely be an event, per se, but I’m putting it on the calendar anyway. It is my target date to release a preview of an intense series of events to take place in late November.
In accordance with King Blackthorn’s wishes, a War Council consisting of the Governors of Trinsic, Vesper, and Jhelom was convened. During their meeting, they, assisted by others who provided counsel, determined that the best way to deal with the Vizier and his threat from Nujel’m was to first find the Sultan, capture Jor the pirate, and then finally remove the Vizier by force, if necessary. With the Sultan safe, the Vizier would be unable to lay the blame for hostilities on Britannia.
An investigation was called for to locate the Sultan. While this was not successful, the King’s Guard was able to root Jor from his hiding place in Moonglow, driving him back into the Lost Lands. Now, the King has asked that this effort be followed up on in the hopes that in finally capturing Jor, the location of the Sultan will be learned.
Meet with King Blackthorn in the throne room of his castle at 8pm EST.
I feel like I’ve been saying this too much the last few months, but I am very sorry – this meeting is going to have to be delayed. I’ve had an unfortunate convergence of family issues that is going to take my attention for the next couple days. Once I can look at the calendar for a moment I will post a new time.
I apologize for the schedule being weighted towards the second half of the month – I have some family affairs taking me out of town for longer than I thought. Still, there is a lot going on!
Thursday, 9/10 – Tuesday 9/15 – The Search for Jor: Lost and Found (Investigation) The final investigation in the current arc. Jeffrey will be at the Castle with details by 7pm EST. Reports must be filed by the end of the day on Wednesday, 9/16 in the mailbox at the Reward Hall. All who file a report will receive points towards their Guard rank.
Wednesday, 9/16, 9pm EST – Audiences With the King A chance for citizens and friends of the Kingdom to petition the King. All who wish to speak will be held to a time limit (determined by the number of attendees). The location is to be determined.
Friday, 9/18, 8pm EST – Council of Governors Meeting
Monday, 9/21, 8pm EST – Kings and Pirates A continuation of the Lost and Found investigation (details will be known following the conclusion of said investigation).
Sunday, 9/27, 7pm EST – The Time Gate The finale to the current global arc leading up to the Time of Legends. More details to come.
Wednesday, 9/30, 9pm EST – Machinations The final play by/against the Vizier is made. Details to be given pending earlier events this month.
Monday the 10th, Council of Governor’s Meeting, 7pm EST (Will be dealing almost exclusively with matters related to Rorik and Nujel’m).
Tuesday the 18th, King’s Guard: Interrogation of Juwain, 10pm EST. Jeffrey will oversee a questioning of Juwain of Nujel’m. It is likely that his information will lead to other assignments this evening, assignments best done in the dark of night. Information gathered this evening will be given to the War Council for consideration.
Friday the 21st, 7pm EST – The Despair Diamond of Ilshenar
Monday the 24th, 8pm EST – Council of Governor’s Meeting The War Council will brief the King and Governors on potential attack and plans of defense. We will hear truncated reports from each town individually, as well, and give some of the gathered citizenry a chance to speak before the King and Council.
Monday the 31st, 8pm EST – The Decay of Sosaria: Epilogue Honoring the last wish of Delbert, volunteers are going to be asked to be both scholar as well as adventurer as they decipher a series of clues in order to locate Delbert and the Tree of Life. See THIS page for a summary of the story arc.
Though it is sometimes difficult to believe, there have been times of relative peace in Sosaria. Times when neither kingdom nor clan found itself in extended conflict. When the evils that once, and would once again, plague Britannia were quiet. When the factions that sought control in the Old Lands of Felucca were weary of fighting and, aside from the occasional skirmish, were largely silent. That isn’t to say the world was void of danger – far from it. This danger, however, was more often than not confronted on the terms of the adventurer, warrior, explorer, collector, or hunter that sought it out.
It may seem a lifetime has passed since such a peace, but in truth it has only been three years. Virtuebane had been defeated, though Queen Dawn had perished. For nearly a year Britannia mourned – and began to move on. Led by the local nobility, and protected by Captain Olivia and the Royal Britannian Guard, things were calm, if different. This would not last, of course, thanks to the machinations of Lian Vinre, a pawn of Relvinian.
The Guards would fall apart, and the towns and cities of Britannia came into conflict with one another. A curse-driven plague tore through Trinsic, and threatened Britain. Minoc and Vesper were on the verge of taking arms against one another. Acting independently, a few remaining Guards struggled to maintain peace in Britannia, and an uneasy understanding between the Paladins and Necromancers in Umbra. Soon, Exodus would reveal itself, and would threaten to decimate the world.
Yet, once again heroes came together. In the Battle of Ver Lor Reg, Britannians allied with Gargoyles, the Paladins of Luna, the mysterious Ethereal Warriors, and even a few orcs to lay siege to Ver Lor Reg – ultimately defeating Exodus. The realm would once again have to recover from its wounds. But it would not be without help from an unexpected source.
It was at this time that Lord Blackthorn reappeared, looking like the man who walked the streets of Britain rather than the machine that sought to destroy it. He revealed that he had been a prisoner of Exodus all these years, that the machine was not him. Still, many were slow to trust him – some still do not. But he was crowned King, and acted not as a tyrant, as many believed, but as a healer.
He formed a Council of Governors, and empowered these elected officials to serve their represented towns in a way that no mayor or noble had been able to before. This would prove a wise decision. As contentious as some of the elections were, the result would be a series of capable leaders who would face challenge after challenge. In addition, he re-established the Royal Britannian Guard, creating two separate groups. The Town Guards would handle the day to day threats of their homes, while the King’s Guard would assemble in order to meet larger acts of aggression. These new Guards would face slavers, demons, and other evils.
Even now, as strange prophecies surface from the Dungeon Doom and old secrets threaten to reveal themselves, the mysterious Hawkwind seeks help in combating the surging power of Minax.
Whispers of an even greater threat, however, begin to be heard.
Deep below the surface, a spirit wanders cavernous tunnels. Lonely (but no longer afraid) it reflects upon its life – and recent demise. It studied new subterranean growths of grass and vines as it wondered for the thousandth time why it could not move on. Lifting its head from the freshly sprouted grass, it saw a great gnarled tree. As it watched, the tree began to glow red, pulsating. The spirit thought it heard a thump, thump and knew he had found the cause of his continued presence in the world.
High above on the surface of Felucca, three people stood on the docks of Occlo, staring to the sea. They conversed with whispered words.
“They were studying the loading operation here last week. They are going to suspect something.”
“Yes, they will, that is why you or your brother must take the opportunity presented to us – complete the contract, and let us be rid of the Detective.”
“Why must it be one of us? What if he is not there?”
“If he is not there, someone else of value will be, I’m sure. As to your second question, I have a battle to prepare for.”
“You? What about the pirate?”
“He has reached the end of his usefulness. Our…master…wishes him to be disposed of.”
The conversation at an end, the three stood in silence for some time. Staring out to the sea, they did not notice a figure rise from behind a barrel of fish and slowly depart.
On Trammel, King Blackthorn stood in his orchard. He gazed towards the western end of the spit of land upon which his great castle stood. His nose catching the faintest smell of sulpher, he made a short Hm and turned on his heel, walking back towards his study.
Elsewhere in Britain, Detective Thorpe re-read the report of one of his investigators, Tobias Cardont:
I’ve read some books on the Festival of Masks and two thoughts come to mind. The Festival involves a “game” whose players have to wear masks. Masks are about concealing faces and identities. What is the Vizier hiding? The Sultan’s location and the gold and his plans. Also, the “game” at the Festival is centered around a replica of a gem called the Eye of Dahsk. What is the true Eye of Dahsk, where is it located, and what can it do? I don’t know the answers, but do you?
Thorpe rubbed his newly shaved face, frowning at the loss of his well-trimmed red beard. Putting the report away, he turned to a selection of masks, and prepared for a party.