Dawn of the Duskwalkers II: The Fire Within

Introduction
The Story So Far

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3 years have passed since the Tiamat Crisis nearly overturned the world.

Today Duskalon stands once more as a mighty city, with a new keep at her heart. In this newly formed Drakenkeep, upon the Throne of Twilight, the now-king Xavdak Duskwalker reigns much like his father before him. He is fair, he is ruthless, and he always seeks the betterment of his kingdom and family.

Content Not Found: waleak stands upon the ashes of Moriaris and works tirelessly to return it to its former glory, and moral code. Despite his efforts many of the common folk remain distrustful and suspicious of those monks in black. Waleak and the king work closely for the continued safety of the realm. They do not always see eye to eye, but they work toward the same goal.

Reginold Augerhand has returned from his home in the Dwarven kingdom of Kwothold far to the north to visit his friend Xavdak and to see the newly rebuilt Duskalon. He comes back to the city stronger, with a keen eye for military strategy, and a better understanding of the responsibilities of a leader. This new knowledge cannot darken his sense of humor, or inspire in him any more concern with the subtleties of conversation.

A new face joins the party. New as she is to the group she has been a fixture of Duskalon all her life. Esme Castille, owner of Le Bird de Fleur Inn and Pub. Esme like her father before her uses her position and skills to gather information and ensure that it gets into the hands of the king. She is unrivaled with her skills on the flute, interweaving magic with her music to devastate her enemies, and provide aid to her allies.

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A Jarred Awakening
The Fire Within: Episode 01

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Our tale begins in the throne room of Xavdak. His court busy with the business of running a kingdom. Esme is there on regular business with the throne as is Waleak. Reg is simply a visitor of the king. Suddenly a woman bursts into the throne room, ignoring all protocols and royal niceties. She pulls out a worn messenger’s bag bearing the symbol of the Republic of Armenos. Although she insisted on speaking in private with the king, Xavdak demands she speak now. She pulled a small glass jar from her bag. Inside appeared to be a mass of swirling magic. She also reports that Xavdak and Waleak’s old companion John the Silent, spymaster of Armenos, has disappeared.

Xavdak takes the jar in his hand and studies it for a minute, then attempts to open it. As soon as he does a blue flame leaps out, and the king is barely able to replace the lid without being burned. It’s magic is too strong or too wild even for him. He does not know how exactly, but it seems that John the Silent’s spirit is captured within the jar!

Suddenly, a sphere of blue light appears in the center of the room. Xavdak’s royal guard surround him and Reg instinctively reaches for his drill-headed mace. In the mystical light appears the figure of an old hunched over woman in ragged clothing. The three locals, Xavdak, Waleak, and Esme recognize her as the hermit Melaru.
“Ah, even the king cannot open the jar!” Melaru sneers as Xavdak steps forward.

As suddenly as she appeared she was gone. Xavdak looks down at his hand only to realize that this Melaru has somehow taken the jar! The party retreats into a private room adjoining the throne to discuss what to do. They are joined by Xavdak’s wife, Ravara. In this meeting room they decide on a course of action. Xavdak will scour the royal archives for any information on Melaru, Waleak will return to his monastery, Moriaris, and do the same. Reg and Esme are to return to Le Bird de Fleur and gather information from the common people. After a day they will all meet back at the inn.

Xavdak learns less about Melaru, and more about John the Silent’s recent movements. On behalf of Armenos he has been engaging in trade with a peaceful tribe of giants living to the south of the city.

Waleak learns that Melaru, well-known for trading in dark magical artifacts, has been suffering under the new era of the monastery. She once had a lucrative business trading with the monks, but now they will not trade with her. She has a reason to dislike Waleak.

Reg drank a pint of Esme’s famous Gypsy Barrel Ale with a local dwarf and discovered that Melaru is known for a penchant to fight with fire magic. Anyone challenging her head on would do well to bring fire protection.

Esme prepares the inn and organizes the security of her secret meeting room, The Serpent’s Head. An ancient meeting place where the owners of the inn from time immemorial have met with the king of Duskalon to provide information. Esme also learns from her apprentices Juan and Belvedere, that Melaru has been known to use the inn as a meeting place with some shady characters, and dark dealings.

One by one the party filter into the inn and make their way back to the Serpent’s Head. Esme is first, followed by Reg. Xavdak enters the inn to the astonishment of its patrons.
“Drinks are on the throne tonight,” he says, as the bar erupts in cheers. Hastily he and his retainers make their way to the back room. Finally, Waleak enters. As he is on business, he wears his robes which bear the symbol of Moriaris.
“We don’t serve Moriaris here!” Belvedere yells from across the bar.
Waleak quietly walks up to the bar with all the eyes of the now dumbstruck patrons of the inn upon him. He explains that the Monastery is under new management, and is loyal to the crown. To make his point he lays down several gold pieces on the bar.
“Drinks are on me!”
Belvedere grabs a mug sulkily and fills it from somewhere under the bar. He hands it over to Waleak with a conspiratorial gleam in his eye. Waleak grabs the mug and heads to the back.

The members of the new party share their findings with each other. It seems that they have two options: Go and speak to Melaru or go first to the giants to try and gather more information. They decided to go to the giants and bring gifts to them as symbols of friendship. They decide to spend the night in the inn and depart from there in the morning.

At first light they reconvene in the Serpent’s Head for breakfast. Xavdak notices that Waleak looks more tired than he should after a night in such a fine establishment. Waleak tells everyone of how an apparition of Melaru appeared before him the previous night, around 3am, and vaguely threatened him that he had six hours or something would happen. The party began to set off when three ruffians burst into the bar and threatened Waleak. The distrust of his monastery runs deep among the people. Xavdak forces two of the ruffians into submission, but the third remained obstinate. For this insolence Xavdak has him quickly dispatched. Such behavior cannot be tolerated in his realm.

With a wry smile Waleak notices that Belvedere has lost any sense of mischief he once possessed, and now tries to avoid his gaze.

The party heads out to the giant’s camp, but after the events at the inn the sun is already high in the sky. They lost a lot of time. They meet up with the caravans of gifts that they planned to present to the giants, but are met by one of Xavdak’s retainers.
“They’ve been killed, all of them!” He exclaims.

As they draw close to the camp the stench of death filled the air. Huge bodies were strewn across the encampment with their throats slit. Evidentially, their six hours were up, and this was the price they paid. Strangely, the tents of the camp were left standing. Stranger still, there were more of the jars like the one they suspected John was trapped in were left hanging throughout the camp. Xavdak and Waleak went to the tent of the chief, while Esme and Reg inspected the bodies outside.

“Come look at this,” Karin yelled to Reg. She stood alone a little ways off looking at the ground. At her feet was a stone tablet. It wasn’t natural and it seemed to be of dwarven design. When Reg touched it, it began to glow with a red flame which expanded outward and he had to step back. Esme took out her flute and began to play. This was no mere tune, but an intricate spell directed at the stone. As she played the fire grew larger and hotter. Eventually it began to burn away the ground around the stone and it revealed more and more of what was not only a stone, but a structure. Xavdak and Waleak emerged from the tent to see the conflagration growing outside. The tents and the bodies of the dead were cremated alike in the flame until finally a set of steps leading down into the earth were revealed.

The party looked at one another in silent agreement as they began to descend, Esme still panting from the exertion required for her spell. There was a plaque on a locked stone door that simply read “Armanos will fall.” The adventurers had no time for locked doors. Xavdak pointed his wand and an opening appeared before them. One by one they entered the maw.

They walked down and down. In the darkness each could make out symbols depicting the four basic elements of reality. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. The images seemed to be swirling before their eyes. As they continued exploring Waleak found a symbol of a monastery he thought long lost to the annals of history: Ash Mountain Monastery. On another wall there was writing “The company of the elementals have looted this monastery.”

Later the party faced off against malicious traps, pits in the ground, and hallucinogenic gasses in the air. The heat of the place was oppressive, especially for Reg in his plate armor.

Crossing through an ornate archway they came across a fire elemental who seemed to be struggling to maintain his hold on this plane. He informed the party that the elements were being reexamined, and that one element was attempting to become more powerful than the others. He also informed them that Waleak’s monastery was involved somehow. Upon speaking these things the elemental was weakened too much. He collapsed into a puddle of lava, and melted through the floor, gone.

In the next room the party faced off against more elementals. This time they used weapons and magics rather than words to send sway the earth and water beings that stood before them.

Finally, the party entered a nondescript door when who should stand before them but Melaru. She threw down a glass jar and it erupted into flames. In the flames John the Silent and a fire elemental seemed to be battling one another to enter our plane of existence. One moment one seemed in control, and then another would have the advantage. Melaru smiled a sick grin as she explained how she killed all those peaceful giants simply to gain their power.

Enraged, the party rushed to attack Melaru, but now Nemus stood before them as a putrid undead monster, a shadow of his former self. He stood no chance before the combined might of the four before him. Nonetheless he taunted Waleak with the information that it was his own monastery’s ruling council that had brought him back, and that it was he who captured John the Silent.

With Waleak kneeling over him raining blows down, Nemus’s body seemed to disintegrate down through the floor and he was gone. The four victors looked at one another, pleased with their victory and astonished with the revelation that Nemus’ information brought. Once Nemus disappeared, John the Silent appeared burned and panting on the floor. Xavdak quickly created a teleportation portal and sent him to the Drakenkeep for medical aid. They would have to talk to him later.

The party explored one last room in the monastery. In it they found what appeared to be a study. Among the documents spread across several desks they found information about Waleak and Xavdak, things no one outside their confidence should know. There was also information on the reexamination of the elements of ancient origins reaching all the way back to the first city, Deeplight. They also found a document which read “The Day Moriaris Burns from Within.” Written by a group called the Five Flames. Finally they saw scratched into the desk itself the words “Burn the Head, and the Bird will fall.”

With these chilling words the party left the monastery and returned to the city.

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The Path Corrected
The Fire Within: Episode 02

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The story continues in the Drakenkeep. Esme, Waleak, and Reg rest and recuperate, but soon notice that Xavdak has been missing for several hours. With deep misgiving in their hearts, they turn to Escobert for information. Waleak is acutely aware of his unpopularity here, and waits outside the Dwarf’s office door as Esme and Reg go in.

Escobert assents to speaking with Waleak grudgingly.

“Go to Moriaris” he says. “The King has taken several dozen troops with him.”
With an uncharacteristic poignancy he remarks “I am loyal to the king and his family, but I do not agree with every decision. You should go now.”

The three make their way on horseback toward Moriaris. Waleak senses that judgment is coming. In an act of loyalty to the king he removes his weapons and gives them to Reg and Esme for safekeeping.

When they ride into the valley Moriaris is burning, and chaos abounds on its land. Men and women are running to and fro in weak attempts to escape the sudden onslaught of the Duskalon troops. Before the gates of the temple the bodies of the seven elders burn on stakes. The stench of death fills the air alongside the pungent odor of burning hair. Reg is horrified at what he sees. He remains rooted in the ground for several moments, wishing that this was not so. Esme remains stoic and silent.

Waleak moves forward and attempts to walk close to the council members, some still living, others thankfully dead. The guards begin to block him, but the see that he has no weapons. Xavdak utters not a word.

One of the council members in her dying breath attempts to give Waleak some kind of precious stone, but it is immediately picked up and piled on the carts with all of the other secrets and treasures of the temple. Waleak walks on to another member of the council. He looks on Waleak with disdain and says:

“You couldn’t save us, Eclipse!” Despite the harsh flames he hangs on to life with only hated to keep him alive.

“You think Armeos is the focus? Xavdak, it is the time of the elemental reexamination. The fire burns from within!”

As he says this his bonds burn enough and he struggles free. He falls into the conflagration beneath him and with a great effort slams the ground with the palm of his hand, and died. His actions causes waves of elementals to rise and attack Waleak, but as they reach him they were only apparitions, illusions.

Xavdak looks at Waleak and says “Rebuild it.” With this he turns and sets his face towards home.

Reg rides up and cuts the remaining bodies off their stakes. He thinks to himself that it would have been better if they died in battle, evil or no. With respect he lays their charred remains down. Waleak thanks him and Reg nods. Reg regains the saddle looks at the temple and spits in disgust at all that occurred there. Esme bends down and writes and ancient curse of her people into the ground over Nemus. Reg and Esme return to Le Bird De Fleur, but Waleak remains a while longer.

Back at the Drakenkeep, Xavdak goes down to the family crypts, to the grave of his father, his brother, and all trueborn Duskwalkers before them. Here he meditates on what he’s done, and is wracked with misgiving. Doubt begins to creep into the normally confident Xavdak. His mind turns to memories of his older brother, and of his father. It was as if his brain was trying to search for answers he sought in those memories. However, all Xavdak found was pain, anger, and a sense of loss. Each memory seemed to only add more weight to the crown of his father that rested on his head.

Lost in his thoughts Xavdak is snapped back to reality when he hears a voice break the silence of the dead, “Hello my old friend.” Xavdak looks up, and In a seeming answer to prayer, Aiden Brightmane his old companion and friend appears before him. In shock Xavdak drops his staff. The sound of it hitting the floor resounds loudly in the catacombs. Xavdak rushes over to Aiden, embraces him, and for the first time in Xavdak’s life he weeps. He weeps for his family. He weeps for those he killed at Moriaris. He weeps for the death of his father and brother. He weeps because deep down he knows he was never meant to be king. Chiefly though he weeps for the return of his companion. One of the few people Xavdak could totally, and completely rely upon outside of his family. Xavdak had always been wary of the gods, but this truly was an answer to prayer.

“There, there my old friend, there there” Aiden says as he affectionately strokes the back of Xavdak’s head. The tears flow freely, and with them Xavdak feels his father’s crown grow lighter. Aiden breaks the embrace, pulls a bottle of mead from his coat and says, “looks like we have some catching up to do.” Xavdak smiles, takes a swig of the mead and begins to tell his friend everything he has missed.

Aiden, after his death at the battle of the Dragon was returned by Lathander to the material plane to continue his work. Now he is here to help Xavdak and his friends protect the world once more.

Together Xavdak and Aiden go to Le Bird de Fleur to speak to Reg and Esme who are found sitting at the bar, drinking. Esme has actually closed the inn today and they sit alone with the only light coming from the fireplace. As the door opens they look up and see Xavdak. Esme greets him with appropriate deference due the king, but Reg says nothing and returns to his drink.

Esme tries to clear the air a bit with a shot of a special liqueur called Wolf’s Spit. Xavdak takes his glass and sits by the fire. Aiden sits by Reg and after a few moments of polite conversation reveals himself for who he truly is.
Reg is delighted at the sight of his old friend, gives him a huge bear hug, and together they catch up and talk. After a while Reg takes his shot and to Xavdak says

“I’m not one to tell you how to run your kingdom, and I’ll say this only once. Your rage was just, but your actions were not. I’ll stay, but only for the sake of Aiden.” With that he drains his glass and goes back to the bar.

Meanwhile at Moriaris, Waleak walks the now empty halls remembering times past and mourning. As he enters what used to be the banquet hall he is startled by none other than Nemus who seems strangely healed from his wounds. He is standing beside two chairs and before him on a piece of table that still stands is a bottle and two glasses.

“Join me for a drink?” as he gestures to the chairs.

Waleak eventually, in exhaustion and defeat, sits but he remains wary of this deceiver. They speak for a few minutes and Nemus tries to convince Waleak that the Duskwalkers are holding both him and the temple back from their true potential. He tries to make Waleak believe that they are on the same side. Perhaps the stench of death is too strong still in his nostrils, for Waleak hears none of it. With this refusal Nemus disappears.

Waleak goes to his old chambers. There he presses on a secret stone button which opens a panel in the wall. Inside is a small room. In this room rests Aiden’s old armor, weapons, and his Holy Symbol. Waleak sits and speaks to his lost companion. Half in prayer, half in grief he asks what he should do next.

Unbeknownst to Waleak the others have arrived and Aiden can hear his prayer. Aiden walks in to see Waleak and with a soft word brings him out of his reverie. Once again, the two old friends reminisce and catch up. Waleak returns Aiden’s holy symbol to him.

As the party makes their way outside they are surprised to see a giant standing before them. Waleak tries to speak to him, but he will only parlay with Reg and Esme.

This giant tells of how a group called the keepers of time had sent his tribe to trade with Melaru Rylee in order to obtain a certain scroll. That scroll is now in his possession, and he had been instructed to give it to the party. Remarkably, the scroll magically changes size to match the holder. The giant spreads it out and Reg and Esme read it. The scroll details a legal agreement between ash mountain monastery and ancient Deeplight at the time of the elemental reexamination. Deeplight eventually fell before the work could be done. It describes the events of elemental reexamination – every ten generations of royalty elements the elements must be balanced. Ash mountain monastery attempted to help balance, but a corrupt family in the Deeplight government system was the weakness that led to Deeplight’s demise. The scroll ends with the phrase “May the one who touches this scroll bring balance to the elements.” It is decided that Reg should hold onto the scroll for safekeeping.

The party returns to the keep to speak with a now-coherent John the Silent. While he is still resting in the infirmary the party arrives. Through the discussion, it appears that John had been investigating dark magic, and began to speak to the keepers of time, a group seemingly of giants. He had some trade with Melaru and eventually her magic sucked John into the pocket dimension in the el Gato jar where he was forced to fight the fire elemental. Through his conversation with the Keepers, John believes that a king should be the one to touch the scroll. As such he asks Xavdak to make the attempt. Xavdak lays his hands on it and the scroll seems to react, but suddenly it stops.

“Dammit!” John says gruffly.

Aiden offers John a little healing and the party heads to the banquet hall. Reg, returns the scroll to his belt.

On the way Nemus attempts once more to seduce Waleak away from his chosen path, and attempts to show him something with magic.

Now at the dinner table there is tension and awkwardness in the air. Everyone in the royal family knows of Xavdak’s actions this day. Eventually Gracenda, the Queen Mother, is so upset that she excuses herself and leaves the table. Reg alone seems unaffected by the mood and tucks into his meal, though perhaps it is only the appearance of a dwarf in the eyes of an elf.

Waleak can barely eat. He asks Reg if he could attempt to activate the scroll. Cautiously, Reg hands it over to him across the table. As soon as his skin makes contact with the parchment the room begins to fill with water. In an instant chaos reigns in Xavdak’s halls. The waters continues risings as several elementals invade the room Princess Ravalyn, the king’s sister grabs Ravara and runs to the door, but it is sealed by some magic!

The party unleash the fury of the day on the beasts, each attack more ferocious than the last. Even Ravalyn enters the fray as she uses her hidden blades to strike an elemental down. Thinking quickly she goes to an heirloom tea set that belonged to the women of the family for generations. It sits on the mantel above the fireplace. Inside the teapot is a secret cache of Listawan dust, a magical substance which gives one the power of flight. With this power she dispatches the final elemental.

Quickly, Reg hands the scroll back to Waleak. Once he opens it up again the room is dried in an instant. The scroll has activated with Waleak!

As the party gathers around, a fire elemental appears in the fireplace and attempts a last-ditch effort to kill. It tries to blast Xavdak, but Aiden takes the blow and dispatches the beast. Suddenly the doors burst open. Huge vines shoot through the air and grab at Aiden’s feet, they begin pulling him out of the room. As he is being pulled he buries his axes into the table to slow himself down. He shouts:

“Lathander has passed judgment your kingdom can become the greatest that has ever been or it will dwinde into nothing. You are not your father! You are XAVDAK! YOU…ARE…XAVDAK!”
With those words he is pulled from the room, and from this plane.

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Time Upended
The Fire Within: Episode 03

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The party stands breathlessly in the dining hall of the Dragon Keep with Aiden’s haunting words still ringing in their ears… After a moment of contemplation, they remember the teleportation symbol in front of them, which appeared as a circle on the ground once Waleak had activated the scroll. Upon further inspection, the party determines that the scroll is a map of the ancient city of Deeplight; the reigning civilization at the dawn of magic.

The party makes the decision to enter through the circle, though they know not exactly what they will find. Xavdak posts a few of his men at the teleportation circle to guard it, and goes to speak with his wife Ravalyn to tell her of the necessary tasks ahead of him. Meanwhile Waleak makes a compelling speech to remaining monks of Moriaris, instructing them NOT to take revenge on the elves. He shows the monks Aiden’s axes as a symbolic reminder that a sacred peace can never come through violent revenge. The speech is met with mixed responses; the majority of the monks nod in approval, while some still burn with anger.

Eventually the party reconvenes in the dining hall, and collectively decide that Reg should be the one to keep the Knight’s Jewel safe. Reg places the jewel in his pocket. Then, one by one, they enter the teleportation circle… Upon entering the circle the party feels a strong rush of wind overtake them. Suddenly they are dropped onto a rocky area on the ground. They gather themselves, and realize they are on the outskirts of a small town square. When the party wanders into town, they see a young girl enter an Inn named, “The Heart of the Torch” and choose to follow her inside.

Once inside the inn, they notice the girl has sat down at a table with four fully grown men in leather robes displaying the ancient symbol of Moriaris. Esme and Reg go over to the bar area in an attempt to get closer to the girl’s table and listen in on her conversation with the four men. Esme inches her way closer and closer to the table and is able to hear snippets of their conversation- “I haven’t seen too many eyes follow me. People are going to question an eight year old girl… It’s time for the elemental re-examination… I’ll meet you all up north with the giants… I think we’re being watched.” The girl gets up to leave and the party follows her. Xavdak wargs himself into his cat familiar Frederick, so as not to draw attention to himself.

Upon following the girl out the door of the Inn, they see a crowd surrounding the lifeless body of a young boy and four skeletons infused with the four elements- fire, water, earth, and wind standing over him. As Reg, Waleak, and Esme battle with the elementally-infused skeletons, a magnificent skeleton conductor by the name of Conductor Bones appears and excitedly conducts awe-inspiring battle music for his skeleton comrades. In the end, the four elementals and Conductor Bones himself are defeated. Esme picks up Conductor Bones’ femur wand as a memento of their musically-inspired victory.

While Xavdak remains warged into Frederick, Reg, Waleak, and Esme ask various crowd members if they know anything about why this would have happened. They are told that in fact, this kind of thing has been happening more and more frequently; there is always the death of one child, and there are always four elementals. Reg finds a scrap piece of paper in the pocket of the dead boy. When he shows this to Waleak and Esme, they immediately recognize it as an ingredient list for a very basic spell.

As they continue to discuss why this boy was in possession of this list, they are approached by a group of three men who represent the esteemed Hodgkins family of Deeplight. These men thank the party and insist that their master Deerus Hodgkins will want to thank them in person. The party agrees, and meets with Deerus. Deerus tells the party that the origin of these elemental occurrences seems to be up north and that the dwarf encampment there may provide some answers. As this appears to be mutually beneficial, they party agrees to investigate the area for the Hodgkins. Deerus puts the party up at the Inn, and when they arrive in their room they see that Deerus has had hand-tailored Hodgkins family uniforms laid out for them to wear. They decide not to wear the uniforms, as they don’t know fully how that would affect their remaining interactions in Deeplight. Outside their room door Waleak finds an envelope containing a letter that reads,

“Why do tamper with what is not yours? Let your ancestors handle this.”

They rest for the night at their room in the Inn. In the morning they are greeted by Teevan and Tiyor, representatives of the Hodgkins family. They convey that Deerus will not be pleased that they are not wearing their custom-made clothing, but shrug it off, and the party follows them north into the desert. They travel together across the desert for several days, and seem to be getting along with Teevan and Tiyor quite well. One night while around the fire, Teevan informs the group that this has all been a sham- he and Tiyor are actually loyal to the Jeacock family- a rival family to the Hodgkins. They tell the party that there are no dwarves up north, but instead giants whom the Jeacocks are secretly in trade with in order to gain knowledge of elemental power. The party is stirred but not shaken by this revelation, and decides to continue up north with Teevan and Tiyor.

After several more hours of walking in the desert, the party comes to a camp of about sixty or so giants who upon seeing Esme begin to worship and welcome her, declaring that she is the one who can, “unlock the great power.” Once dusk arrives, everyone is gathered around the campfire. Teevan and Tiyor begin chanting in unknown languages, as a horn is blown and a group of men wheel out a large, ornate mirror. Standing close by is a hooded man wear the symbol of Moriaris. On the ground lays sheet music of the ballad of Esme’s Inn, “The Bird le Fleur.” Hesitantly, Esme takes out her flute and plays the song.

As she does this, this the sheet music lights up and bursts away, revealing four floating balls of fire, water, wind, and earth. The Knight’s jewel begins to burn a hole in Reg’s pocket and he flings in onto the sandy ground in front of him. Immediately a hand shoots out of the sand, grabbing the jewel. Slowly, the same eight year-old girl the party saw at the “Heart of the Torch” Inn emerges from the sand, holding the Knight’s jewel.

She smiles at the party and says, “Thank you Waleak.”

The mirror shatters into a portal, which Esme, Waleak, and Reg are sucked through. When they come to, they realize that Xavdak is no longer with them. Worried and confused, the party looks around and sees that they are back in the banquet hall of the Dragonkeep- however much is changed. Red and black banners of Moriaris cover the walls, and Duskalon is ruined in smoke; desolated in fire. At last, a monk approaches Waleak, bows, and addresses him as, “Kingslayer.”

*
View
Moriaris of Future-Past
The Fire Within: Episode 04

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Aghast at the altered version of Duskalon they find themselves in, and distressed by the sudden absence of their King Xavdak, the remaining party members walk from the Banquet Hall. As they walk down the halls of the Dragonkeep they notice large, detailed portraits of on the wall of Nemus and the Master, as well as a giant mural of the army of Moriaris rushing against the Elves with Tiamut circling in the background.

Finally the party comes to the throne room, which now contains three lavish and opulent seats. The Master sits on the largest throne in the center- at his right sits Nemus, and to his left is an empty seat, presumably for Waleak. When the Master and Nemus see Waleak they address him warmly,

“Welcome back, Kingslayer! We are glad to have you with us.” Waleak, not wanting to appear suspicious, plays along with their apparent view of him, “Thank you Master, it is good to be back.” Esme follows Waleak’s lead and also pays her respects, “My master,” she says, bowing. The Master and Nemus smile in approval. “My lady,” says Nemus. “And who is this dwarf?” Asks the Master motioning to Reg. “This dwarf will be extremely helpful for us in a new alliance I am seeking to make with the dwarven kingdoms.” Waleak replies. “Ah good, good.” Says the Master, clearly with something else on his mind. “…Waleak, I have something for you; a gift!”

The Master claps his hands, and two guards bring out two female elves; Xavdak’s mother and his wife Ravalyn. The Master tells Waleak that they kept them alive, to ease the Duskalon population and prevent any further revolt. He asks Waleak, “We may still kill them anyway… What do you think we should do with them?” Waleak asserts that if keeps the people placid, then the women should be left alive. “Very well, Kingslayer.” Replies the Master.

“Esme, you may be of some help to your Father. He is currently downstairs helping to re-write Duskwalker archives.” Upon the realization that in this world, her Father Garto is alive Esme’s eyes well up with tears, “Yes, I will go to help my Father.” Waleak declares that he and Reg will accompany her, and they leave the throne room to go down to the archives. On their way down, Esme is flooded with emotions, realizing that the man she is about to meet may not very well be the same Garto that raised her, but a different, perhaps evil echo of her Father… Once in the actual archive room, Esme sees her Father at a table at the end of the room and runs to hug him. She notices however, that also standing over the table is another, different Waleak (who from here on out shall be referred to as “Faux-leak” for practical purposes) examining and helping to re-write Duskwalker family histories. Seeing this startling anomaly, Esme uses a sending spell to tell Waleak what she is seeing, and he quickly hides in the corner. Reg wanders over to a dwarf helping out in the archives to see what information he can gather. Between the two of them, Reg and Esme ascertain that in this world, Tiamut was indeed successful and Moriaris is attempting to re-write history to persuade the people that the Duskwalkers were ultimately responsible for the desolation of Duskalon.

In a desperate attempt to get Garto alone and away from Faux-leak, Esme tells her father that she has personal, family business that she wants to share privately with him. Garto insists that anything that can be said, can be said comfortably in front of Faux-leak. Esme smiles at her Father and brings her hands to her stomach, saying, “But Papi, I want to tell you my exciting news privately!” Garto smiles widely and takes Esme aside excitedly. Esme tells Garto, “Papi, you’ve seen the way Nemus and I look at each other and well, I’m… pregnant. I’m pregnant with Nemus’ child; with Garto Jr! And while I know we are working so hard to re-write history, I feel my child- your grandchild, has a right to know… What really happened to Xavdak?” Garto looks confusedly at Esme, and replies, “I’m sorry my daughter… Who is Xavdak?” Esme is distraught, but changes the subject quickly and ends her conversation with Garto.

Waleak, Reg, and Esme continue to pour over scrolls and books as quickly as they can to find any information on Xavdak, the mirror, or the Knight’s Jewel. While they are doing this, a contained fire is lit in the archives for the purpose of destroying any original (true) information on the Duskwalker family. When the party reconvenes they find that in this world Faux-leak has killed both Aiden and Xavdak’s father. Tiamust decimated Duskalon, and the Master, Nemus, and Faux-leak are currently in the process of rebuilding it.

Eventually, they come to the eastern section of the archival room which holds relics rather than books. As they walk through the room they hear the voice of Xavdak screaming in pain, although only the party seems to notice this. The party walks up to an older female elf who is the apparent “librarian keeper” of the Duskwalker family relics. She doesn’t take kindly to Waleak (thinking that he is the same Faux-leak who helped destroy her kingdom), but directs them to the Knight’s Jewel anyway. Waleak attempts to find what the she-elf described and finds an ornate box with the symbol of the gatekeeper on it. He opens the box to see a dazzling jewel, and within that jewel he sees the face of Xavdak- bloodied and weak.

Reg notes that that this jewel seems to acting in a similar way to the Elgato jars. Esme goes into a deep trance, casting, “Legend Lore” on the box to see how they might be able to use this jewel to get back to their own world and timeline. While she is doing this, Waleak inspects the room for any relic, secret, or piece of information he could use to know if he could stop Xavdak from taking such violent action again (OUT OF STORY NOTE:::Barnes rolled a natural 20 on his perception check for this, but since Schwandt wasn’t able to be with us for this session, we decided that Schwandt should get to tell Barnes what “secret” or “relic” Waleak would find:::END OUT OF STORY NOTE).

When Esme comes to, she informs Reg and Waleak that there have been great battles over this Jewel, and for centuries it was, “held by only one hand.” The it spent 1,000 years in a jar, and then eventually the Duskwalkers found it. Esme tells them the phrase that was turning over and over in her mind as she held it was, “Stare into the reflection and you will obtain what you see.” The party goes back to ask the female elf librarian where they might find a mirror fitting the description of the one they came in through. She is confused by Waleak’s ignorance (again, thinking he is Faux-leak) but states that the mirror is in the throne room. After some discussion the party decides to attempt to find anything they can on the elemental re-alignment, as they only have a limited time to access the Duskwalker archives. Together, they find that the Hodgkins family had a lot to do with the last elemental re-alignment 10,000 years ago. Presently, the world is exactly one year away from another total alignment.The party takes note of this information and make their way to the throne room.

Hiding out of site behind a door, the party discusses how best to access the mirror. Esme peaks around the corner to see that the mirror is indeed in the throne room, but so are The Master, Nemis, a noble-looking Dwarf, Garto, and Faux-leak. Together Reg, Esme, and Waleak come up with a plan- Esme is to create a diversion while Reg and Waleak make a beeline for the mirror. Although everyone is a little nervous, they decide to go through with it. Esme enters the throne room and bows to the Master, then walks up closer to the thrones themselves. “Today is a joyous day; it may not be what I had planned on, but nonetheless it is wonderful, for me, and for Moriaris. At first I wasn’t sure, but now I know…Nemus, it is with great confidence that I can say, I am carrying your child!”

At this, the room evolves into an cacophonous uproar- everyone rushes Nemus and Esme to congratulate them. While the crowd remain distracted Waleak and Reg get to the mirror, and quickly Waleak uses wand of paralysis on Nemus, Master, and Faux-leak. Reg holds up the jewel to the mirror when suddenly Nemus uses his power to yank the jewel from Reg’s hand and it skims across the floor. Nemus then bellows loudly at the excited crowd, “EVERYBODY LEAVE!!” Indeed, the crowd scatters, leaving the party with Nemus, Master, and Faux-leak. The party engages in battle with them. The Master and Nemus prove to be significant foes for the party. Waleak takes severe damage from the Master and Nemus does a number on Esme, nearly knocking her unconscious. When Reg throws himself between Nemus and Esme, she is able to scoop up the jewel off the floor and run to the mirror. She she points the jewel to the mirror, Xavdak’s bloodied and beaten reflection appears, and the mirror begins to crack, and without warning, Esme gets sucked back in. Reg also makes his way to the mirror, also getting sucked in through it. Waleak and the Master engage in a brutal fight, but Waleak is finally able to get to the mirror. As he runs through he hits the mirror as hard is he can to try to seal the portal. The mirror crumbles, but does not shatter, and at the last minute, the Master and Nemus gets sucked into the mirror as well.

The party awakens in desert of Deeplight, still without Xavdak. In front of them, they see The Master (of the other timeline) disappear into the sand. Esme uses her spell, “Cure Mass Wounds” to recover the health of Waleak and herself. Upon further inspection the party sees that they are back at the giant’s camp, but the original ritual area is now blocked off. Waleak looks into the jewel to see if Xavdak’s reflection is still there. The jewel begins to elevate a bit and spin in Waleak’s hand, in stops suddenly, pointing at a very specific tent. The party sneaks up to the tent.

Reg peaks through the tent flaps and sees Xavdak beaten and tied to a stake. The master is also in the tent, cleaning blood off himself. After some discussion, the party comes up with yet another plan- this one perhaps even riskier than their last… Waleak casts darkness on the tent, and Esme casts invisibility on Xavdak and the rest of the party members. In the confusion, Reg cuts Xavdak free and Waleak catches his body. Reg makes sure to grab all of Xavdak’s belongings. The party steps out of the tent to find themselves face to face with Nemus and the Master.

The Master puts his hand on Waleak and says, “We will let you go if you want to. You can take Xavdak and wander the endless desert. But if you stay here, as our prisoners, you will at least have food and a place to sleep.” Waleak initially hesitates, and Nemus says, “Why stand by the elf who destroyed everything you stood for?” Waleak defends Xavdak, saying that while his actions were terrible, Xavdak is still his king and his friend. The party agrees that they are already trapped, and agree to go with the Master and Nemus. They are led to an empty space in the sand, out of which a large cage appears. The party, including Xavdak now, enter the cage and stand.

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The Fire Kindled
The Fire Within: Episode 05

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The intrepid adventurers slowly awake once again, only to find themselves still trapped in a cage in the middle of the Giant’s camp. Two days have passed since the party attempted to rescue Xavdak from the clutches of the Master, only to find themselves face to face with their foes, and forced into their present predicament. The party has attempted escape each of the two past days, only to be met with the cold eyes of their two Giant guards and a biting sense of failure. The tortured Xavdak has been resting and gathering his strength, and trying to forget the horrors which were inflicted upon him at the hands of the Master.

This day though the wizard comes up with a new tactic, and causes an earthquake to burst forth, which brings something to the parties attention. The cage which they are trapped in surrounds a small, yet ornate stone foundation, within which is concealed a hollow W’leak surmises. Reg and W’leak hatch a plan to open the hollow, in order to find an escape route and return to their own time. As W’leak is distracting the guards Reg breaks open the stone foundation with a mighty swing of his War Axe. Inside however, is something which none of them expected to find.

Instead of a path for escape Reg finds a leather blanket, which is covering a very cold, yet breathing, body of a small humanoid figure. Pulling it back, the party sees a small girl, covered in leathers and sand goggles who they recognize as the little girl who was in Deeplight speaking with the monks of Moriaris. She awakens, puts her finger over her lips and whispers, “I’m here to help you.”

She is about to continue on, but sees that Reg has taken her blanket from her, and grows increasingly agitated. The girl requests, with no small amount of anger, that it be returned to her. Xavdak tells Reg to return it, though he does not indicate why. Once it is returned she tells the party that she will release them after dark. She wraps her self in the blanket and disappears along with it, at which point Xavdak tells the party that he felt immense amounts of magic coming from it and thus told Reg to return it as he wanted to know what it was.

The party passes the rest of the day in a wary unease, not sure whether the girl can be trusted or whether or not she will truly return for them as she had claimed. Therefore they attempt to pick the lock of their cage, only for Xavdak to discover that it contains a silent, magical alarm which would surely alert their captors to any escape attempt. They attempt to befriend one of their guards via magic, which only leads to a furious giant who wishes to crush Xavdak once the spell wears off. Finally, however ,night falls and the Giant camp begins to settle in for the evening. It is at this point however that W’leak spots a figure moving through the camp, faster than he has ever seen anyone move. Tents throughout the camp begin to burst into flames, and in the blink of an eye the two Giant guards who were watching the party are dead. Outside the now open door to the cage stands the little girl, wrapped in her blanket, who tells them that it is time to leave.

She navigates the party through the Giant camp, clearly quite familiar with it, and they emerge outside of facing the vast expanse of desert which separates them from civilization. Ahead of them however stand two dark figures, each hold a dagger which gleams in the moonlight. Teavin and Tayor, servants of the Hodgkins family, step forward and begin to argue with the girl with malice clear in their words and actions. The party tenses for a fight. The little girls however, simply flicks the blanket at the two men who stand in her path, and before the very eyes of those assembled they begin to boil from the inside out, screaming and writhing in agony before they collapse to the ground, dead.

They continue on, and speak with the little girl, attempting to figure out where she is taking them, and also anything that they can about the mysterious blanket which she carries. She tells them that they are going to Deeplight, where they will help her with a job, though she does not say what this job will be. Xavdak is able to learn that the blanket itself is the source of the magic which is being done, though the girl does not know how it is done or even what magic is. 300 yards from the city a young man in a turban stands, clearly waiting for the party. He explodes with movement upon seeing Xavdak and pins him to the ground with a knee on his throat. The man threatens Xavdak and inquires as to how he is able to do the feats which he has done. He also accuses the party of being Jak sympathizers, a charge which the party adamantly denies. W’leak menacingly places his blade at the throat of the man from behind, as he and Reg leap into action to protect their friend. A tense situation is only calmed by the girl telling the man “we need them for the job,.” The man doubts that the party is up to the task, but removes his knee from Xavdak’s neck as Reg and W’leak back up and sheathe their weapons as well.

The man introduces himself as Degen and motions for the little girl to tell the party about the job which she had rescued them for. She appeals to each of the party members in turn, imploring them to help her save a friend, and asking each what they would do to save those that they loved. Degen interrupts her and they converse in a dialect which W’leak and Xavdak recognize as ancient Elvish, as she tells Degen that Xavdak and W’leak speak “the mother tongue.” She continues on and tells the tale of her murdered brother, who she claims was murdered by an important person in Deeplight, who the party would finally bring to justice. Xavdak, W’leak, Reg, and Esmé all agree to undertake the task, and they set off with Degen and the little girl into Deeplight.

They wind their way through the streets and quickly come to realize that they are approaching the estate of the Hodgkins family, those who had first approached them in regards to a job which they came to find out was a ruse. Degen and the party stop before entering as he opens a sewer grate which he beckons the party to follow him into, as the little girl remains outside, seemingly to keep watch. They move through the sewers and soon find themselves underneath the Hodgkin estate with two guards standing and watching their approach. Seeing this W’leak motions for them to stop and blinks out of existence, before materializing in the shadows behind the guards and slitting their throats silently. He motions the group forward and notices that Degen seems quite impressed by the martial display. The party continues up the stairs and finds four guards who stand at the top. Reg continues on alone, tricking the guards into thinking that he is one of their number, and sending them down the stairs to be dispatched with.

Degen begins to use a series of hand gestures to communicate with the party, which outlines the plan and the surrounding palace, signals which W’leak immediately recognizes as a language known only to monks trained by Moriaris. He thus pulls his monk’s robes from his pack and shows Degen the symbol of Moriaris, which causes Degen to immediately attempt to cover it up as to not be seen by Xavdak, Reg, and Esmé. W’leak however tells him that there is no reason to hide it from them, and Degen, once they have gone up the stairs shows W’leak alone a tattoo on his arm of the same symbol.

They move through the house, quickly and quietly, as Degen has pointed out all the potential pitfalls and traps which are placed in it. W’leak pulls the other aside and tells them of his discovery, and they approach an ornate door which Degen claims houses the bedchamber of Deerus Hodgkin, the leader of the Hodgkin family and the man who murdered the brother of the little girl who has freed them. He tells them that their task is simple, kill him and thus bring justice upon his house for the crimes which they have committed.

W’leak however will not accept the job unless he knows the name of the little girl who has freed them, a fact which he makes clear to Degen before they enter the room. Degen tells them that the name of the little girl is Glynni, which satisfies W’leak. W’leak and Xavdak move to the bed, as W’leak awakens *Deerus * by holding a sword to his throat. He interrogates the leader, wishing to know for certain that the justice they are meeting out is right, but Deerus will not give a clear and truthful answer, a fact which frustrates W’leak. Degen says that W’leak is bringing shame upon his people by not simply doing the job, but W’leak says that honor is nothing if one does not live by a code, something which W’leak knows all too well. Finally, with Reg whispering that two guards were approaching, W’leak removes his blade from Deerus’ neck and pronounces a sentence upon him, death. Xavdak moves his hand over Deerus and begins to steal the very life from his body, as W’leak forces himself to watch. A sickening darkness spreads over Deerus, and the life drains from him,into Xavdak, who begins to heal the wounds which he had suffered during his torture. The body of Deerus Hodgkin lies before Xavdak and W’leak, devoid of life.

Their task complete the party begin to make their exit, only to be met by Glynni fleeing from the direction of the throne room, being chased by six guards. Xavdak wheels around and conjures a wall of fire between her and the guards, and the manor begins to be engulfed in flames, as the party, Degen, and Glynni escape through the front door. AS the manor begins to collapse under the weight of its burnign facade, Degen adn Glynni lead the party back to the Torch in the center of Deeplight. Glynni pulls out a large mirror and the Night’s Jewel and then thinks better of it, and says that being on the run is not the right time for this. After questions she relates that she knows more about W’leak than he believed, and that the party is not from this time. She tells them to not attempt to interfere in what is to come.

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Upon reaching the Torch they find a group of 200 children who are tied up and facing the wooden platform at its center, upon which stands Degen, Glynni, and four other men. Glynni calls out that it is time for the Elemental Reexamination that it is time to bring magic into the world. She pulls out her blanket and lays it down on the platform, as Degen also unravels his turban and places it on top of the blanket. She reveals that her name is Glynni Duskwalker and that it is on her behalf and on the behalf of the brothers of Moriaris that the old order must be torn down.* “The time of Deeplight is over. A new empire rises. The elves will rule and good will come to this world.”* thus she cries as magic begins to come forth from the tow garments upon the platform, a magic which is very familiar to W’leak.

Before their eyes they see the magic come over the children, and just like Deerus Hodgkin, steal the very life from their bones. This atrocity causes Reg to charge the platform, intent on destroying the accursed item which had done this evil deed. He finds himself suddenly running in the air, as Xavdak has grabbed him and held him fast, even as Xavdak places the Night’s Jewel upon the mirror and is sucked into the opening vortex. Reg, overcome with anger and grief, calls out to W’leak and accuses him of having no honor and a worthless code if he is willing to allow the death of children, a cry which rouses W’leak to action. Knocking an arrow, which he has lit on fire, he fires towards the platform, desiring to destroy the source of the magic which brought such death and grief. As they are being sucked into the vortex, Reg, W’leak, and Esmé see the arrow strike its target, but the magical items remain before their eyes, as if taunting them with the horror of what they had just witnessed.

They emerge in the banquet hall of the Draken Keep as it appeared after the fight with the elementals which occurred before their journey to Deeplight. Everything is as it once was, save only for the fact that there now exist two Night’s Jewels in this world. Overcome with rage and grief, W’leak stands up and stares at Xavdak, screaming one simple question, “Did you know?” Calmly, yet also fumbling over his words, Xavdak says that he did know, that in fact he knew what was going to happen in the Torch even before they entered Deeplight. Noting how angry and betrayed the party feels by this revelation, he brings them to a place which has never been seen by a non-Duskwalker, the royal crypt. There, after walking past generations of royal Duskwalker tombs, including one which he points out will someday be his own, he stops before a tomb with a mural painted behind it of the scene which they had just experienced. They stand in front of the tomb of Glynni Duskwalker, the first of the royal line, she who brought magic into the world. Xavdak tells the party that he had been raised with the knowledge that his family had brought magic into the world, something which he believes was truly right to do. He asks them to imagine what the world would be like if magic and the Duskwalker’s had never come into being, of what it would mean for not only the world, but for him in particular. Reg however cuts him off and states that if this is what brought magic into the world, than the world was better off without it. He storms out of the crypt, leaving Xavdak, Esmé, and W’leak to ponder what they had witnessed.

Esmé left the king’s presence soon after Reg, also in anger and incredulous over what had just happened. Finally only W’leak stood before the king. The two stood in silence, neither sure what the other would say, until W’leak broke it simply by saying, “Remember what Aiden said. You are not your father’s son. But if this is who the Duskwalker’s are, then perhaps Lathandar should have brought judgment on your family long ago.”

W’leak leaves the king alone in the crypt, thinking on those words which Aiden exclaimed with his last moments on this plane. Each member of the party however would have to come to terms with what they had just witnessed in his or her own way. At least for now, Xavdak, Reg, W’leak, and Esmé had never felt more alone.

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