“Fendamar turned to look at you…as did the many deep-set eyes of the crowd. Then everyone’s gaze turned to Arcturas, to the light shed by his helm and the warm glow of his breastplate. They watched as if waiting for something to happen. The thousands of hopeless watched for any sign of hope….”
With all eyes upon them, our heroes leaped to action. They borrowed a boat and moved to render assistance to the queen’s lady. However, by the time they rowed across the great plaza of Sil’Batum, moored their boat, and ran up the steps, across bodies and rubble and toward the shattered White Tower, the crowd had carried the woman away to care for her. Felkin examined those carrying her away and some, at least a few, appeared to be Fendamar’s hands, the Blue Wizards.
Ned and Urien exchanged a few brief words with Fendamar. “Yes, the king is in danger – but the Queen…the Queen… she is the embodiment of the health of the people…and the Crown Prince. You must secure their escape from Ul Batum.”
Silverwind followed with, “where have you taken the Queen’s lady?”
“She’s safe now.” said Fendamar. “Safe.”
Once it was clear that our heroes had shouldered the responsibility of seeing to the safety of the queen and crown prince, (as well as the king) Fendamar disappeared into the crowd.
Felkin and Ned noticed the litter of falling fragments of ancient parchment. On further examination, they appeared to be details of trade exchanges, amounts, quantities, values, tenders, and rates of exchange in extensive detail. No doubt they came as rain from the shattered upper floors of the White Tower.
Nobo put his muscles to the clearing of fallen stone from the Gates of Justice.
Worn souls of Na’Batum crossed water and plaza to hear and see what was happening. Some crossed simply because they were mesmerized by the great roaring sphere and the falling flow of green death. A few gathered themselves enough to check the fallen for signs of life.
Nobo asked, “will there be boats?” Lengthy but quick discussion ensued about boats. Soon, Nobo ascended toward the gates carrying a still-dripping 24′ flat-bottomed craft on his back. “We’ll need this,” he said.
Urien asked those who were yet functional to set to work building a barrier within the gates. Arcturas and Lilia stayed behind to see to the construction and to provide succor to the peoples of Na’Batum. Soldiers of the Wards helped organize and soon, construction was underway.
Ned, Silverwind, Urien, Nobo, and Felkin gathered their kit, readied their weapons, and slipped into the darkness of the great gaping gate – the shattered white stones of the Tower of Truth loomed above them before the outrageous abomination of the Oynbokigon.
On the other side of the wall, more and deeper rubble from the crushed upper reaches of the tower challenged our heroes’ descent to the sacred lake. Nobo managed. Ruined boats and corpses floated dockside beneath the lingering green miasma. “I told you we’d need this boat,” shouted Nobo over the roar of the negative energy flames.
Pushing away from the dock and out onto the lake toward the royal households, our heroes passed great floating bergs of sloughed Oynbokigon flesh. A huge rent opened high on the side of the sphere and a great clot of excreta fell to the lake. Within the falling mass, clumps and masses of living demons, shrieking and howling with terror and delight. Three forms broke from the falling mass, spreading wings to take out across the lake.
Felkin drew on the first creature and a fraction of a second later, the true-flying black shafts of the Tanaari hammered home. The dark creature shuddered, and then another volley found its mark. The creature erupted in smoke and flame – sent back to the dimension of its origin. The other two beasts winged away and into darkness.
With Nobo at the oars, our heroes neared the first great palace known as the White Palace or by its ancient name as the Palace of the Ambassadors. As columns and roof lines appeared in the darkness, a lone form appeared on the roof of the boathouse. It was short and stout and appeared to be absently munching on something? Nobo’s work at the oars brought our heroes steadily closer. Suddenly it was clear. The figures head was set with a great toothy maw and it was feeding itself a human arm – a ladies arm by the look of it. It had pale skin and was covered with sores and wounds. It’s great flat clawed feet lolled from side to side as they protruded over the edge of the roof. In that same moment, our heroes noticed several partially dressed corpses floating in the waters before the building.
Felkin’s arrows struck the beast in its neck and head. The creature erupted in a cloud of spark, ash, and smoke. Suddenly, a couple of dozen sets of eyes appeared on walkways, through windows, and across the rooftops. Our heroes worked their bows and Ned felled many more with fire. The light revealed many corpses in the waters around the boat.
On the rooftop, two larger beasts ran toward our heroes. They went to make a great leap out across a high void and onto the boathouse and then again, another leap, and onto Nobo’s boat. But the wrath of Ned and Felkin brought them down. They too erupted in smoke and flame and were gone.
Pulling away from this scene of carnage and alien beasts, our heroes glanced back again at the Oynbokigon. The luminescent green flames of the sphere revealed a boat or a ship dangling skyward by its bowline from near the summit of the great orb. The ship, possibly belonging to the raiding party of Gith warriors, pulled skyward on its leash. Its sails and rigging guttered in chaotic winds.
Discussion about the ship and it’s presence passed quickly as our heroes noticed that corpses were drifting behind them – toward them. A group of eight to twelve corpses followed them, not moving or swimming but sort of being drawn toward them as if compelled or pulled in their wake.
Nobo rowed into darkness, pulling at the oars until the vast pillared walls of the Blood Palace, the Royal Residence, emerged from the gloom. Four cloaked figures stood well spaced at the docks to receive our heroes. A couple of naked and torn corpses floated beneath the blood-stained dock.
“Come,” they said solemnly. “Your lord awaits.”
After a few brief words, our heroes reluctantly followed the four men into the great palace. Blood spattered the walls in several places but the floors were clean. Four armed and armored guards closed in from behind and added to the escort. Several of the guards were bloodied and bleeding, all four appeared charmed or grievously stricken with terror.
The four robed figures led our heroes down the Hall of Children, so named after the images of playing children in the bas-reliefs lining the walls, and on into one of the great reception halls of the lower court. A young boy, standing alone, received them there.
“Welcome to my royal palace,” he said.
“Who are you?“ asked Ned.
The four robed men assumed positions behind our heroes and away from the child-like figure. The four bloodied and terror-stricken guards lagged behind in the great hallway. And now, four more figures appeared. They were very heavily armored and held heavy crude blades as though preparing to strike.
“I am your king,” said the boy. “Kneel before your king.”
Our heroes knelt, but with growing uncertainty. Tensions rose.
“Where is the chosen one?” asked the boy. Ned noticed that at some radius around the boy, perhaps ten feet away, the air rippled strangely and there appeared a wisp of heavy rippling darkness – like a shadow of smoke.
“Who are you really?” asked Ned.
Urien peered through the monocle of true sight and beheld a giant corpulent winged demon with the snout of a boar, cruel claws, and cloven hooves below.
“I am Lord Schnee…. bow before me…grovel before your Lord!”
Felkin fired arrow after arrow into the creature – to no apparent effect. The heavily armored soldiers were something less than human, with savage weapons, they joined the fray. Ned let loose with a fiery conflagration that immolated three of the robed figures and one soldier. One heavy warrior stepped forward and belched a horrible blaze which dropped Ned and Felkin to the floor. Silverwind was there. He restored Felkin to the fight and Lessep saw to Ned.
It was a vicious battle but Lord Schnee was no match for the combined wrath of our heroes. They exercised discipline and persistence. Blows from Urien, Nobo and Silverwind struck home again and again. The beast was pincushioned with Felkin’s arrows and lit afire with Ned’s flames time after time. Finally, Nobo finished him off with a mighty blow from his great axe cutting the great beast nearly in two.
“You’ll see Schnee again… and you’ll bow before I eat your souls!” he gurgled in death.
The other alien creatures were also sent back to their realms of fiery darkness, and all fell quiet. The four terror-stricken guards were questioned and comforted. All set to tend wounds and find out a bit more about their surroundings.
Ned used the scrying powers of Azhir’s Eye to find the king. Within seconds he sighted what he believed to be the boy king, Arinos IV. The boy, perhaps thirteen or fourteen years of age, sat alone in utter darkness on a solid throne. Around him were sarcophagi of ages past. He appeared entranced or perhaps catatonic or asleep. By conferring with the guards, the most present of whom introduced himself as Captain Ondre, our heroes came to understand that perhaps King Arinos was sequestered in the family catacombs? Perhaps he was in the crypts which lie below this royal palace itself? Ondre urged against heading to find him – “The Guardian” … “there is a guardian of iron that cannot be passed and gives no quarter…”
Ned also pointed The Eye to find Queen Tulasaman. A veiled woman, fine of form but tall of stature was revealed at a high window, looking out into darkness. Beside her were several ladies in waiting and among them was the Lady Cora Klibanar – the same woman whom they’d seen earlier, horribly wounded and maimed at the White Tower. Now, however, she appeared whole if somewhat pensive and focused on some fearful sight outside the window.
After quickly tending to their wounds and salving their burns, our heroes set out again in their boat. They took their small boat further down the great lake toward the House of Silks, also known as the Queens Residence or the Compound of Cats. Those who hate the queen sometimes refer to its marble halls as the Whore House.
Nobo, again at the oars, brought them close to the halls just as a great battle played out in the waters just off the dock. A great demon strode toward the high house, but in seconds it was brutally hacked to pieces by some great invisible force – no doubt one of the Faces of Ul’Batum doing its duty to protect the queen from fiends and outsiders.
At dockside, a great mountain of a eunuch named Gawser warned our heroes to keep away. Once intentions were clarified, Nobo was allowed to row to the dock and quick words exchanged. There, in the lee of the dock and just out of easy sight from the lake, sat the Golden Barge of Castle Klibreck, complete with the Oar of Echthelon Zhir and Samartha’s Figurehead.
All headed quickly up and into the Queen’s reception chambers, a world of soft silks, sumptuous carpets, waiting pillows and long couches. Everywhere lay precious pieces of art, statues, alabasters, and images, not to mention partially and thinly clad ladies and maidservants. The textures and sweet scents combined with soft music lightly played by a pair of eunuchs gave all an otherworldly presence.
Queen Tulasamon herself appeared. Though complete veils obscured her exceptionally tall form, she was clearly tall, strong, and fit. She moved with the quickness and grace of a wild creature. After formal introductions, all began to strategize about possible routes of evacuation. Ned volunteered to facilitate the teleportation of all who could make the trip to the magic circle within the halls of Viscount Cassilis Na’Sarta.
Discussion arose around the Crown Prince as well. The boy, who behaved well, was kept tightly swaddled throughout our heroes’ time in his presence. Lessep got an ill vibe from the child.”Evil,” he called him. Felkin was concerned that perhaps the transport of the child to Na’Batum might free some darker force from the confines of Ul’Batum. All here worn and hurried at this point, however.
Finally, Lessep counseled, “it’s an infant…what harm could the boy cause?”
The Queen and party reluctantly agreed to make an escape by teleportation, but there was much to do. The royal belongings must be gathered and packed, including many perfumes and other important articles for her toilet. There were a few precious carpets and a large magic harp, as well as, of course, her two large winged cats, Lothor and Elerya. Her whole retinue would make the trip – except her eunuchs. There were to be twenty-nine including Queen Helene Tulasamon, the Crown Prince, Lady Cora Klibanar, twelve maids, eleven ladies, and two boatmen who were trapped when their boat was destroyed by the wave of the Oynbokigon, and lastly, Gawser. Eight eunuchs would stay behind.
For their efforts, for their valor, and for their kindness, Queen Tulasamon gave each hero a small crystal vial containing a pale, slightly luminescent, clear liquid. “Healing draughts…you’ll need them,” she said. She gave the vials along with her thanks. With a few words of power, Ned opened the passage and in flash, all were gone.
This is the moment to which we shall return.
How will Na’Sarta receive the Queen and entourage? As the leader of a noble faction allied against the Queen, this will provide unforeseen … opportunities. Will you continue to cleanse the sacred city, or will you seek to escape demon-ridden Ul’Batum? What of the Githyanki craft? What about the army of the MarghulToa marching toward Na’Batum? What about the Oracle of Lornen Thirnon and the Nine Labors of the Repentant? What do you do?