106 - QUALTESH

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106 - QUALTESH

Post  Admin on Sat Apr 21, 2012 11:17 pm

Aidan, Jillian, Ahlissa, Valenar warriors and the others descend deeper into the caverns. They have uncovered the entry point to the ancient city of Qualtesh, which leads them into a deep abyss where the Umbragen once lived before the darkness of Khyber consumed their civilisation.
*****

The dark twisting caverns and rocky passages lead the explorers far below the surface world. The environment changes, growing warmer and more damp. The ground rumbles with earth tremors frequently (at least five times every hour). Nothing is living here, not even vermin. There is a dreadful sense of forboding and despair. The journey continues in this fashion for four days.

The group rests near the mouth of a large cavern opening and the sound of water rushing falling can be heard close by. Following the sound, the group soon finds a wide river is flowing from a gap in the cavern wall which leads them to a vast ledge that overlooks a gigantic open space. The water is turbulent at its edge and from there it crashes downward, smashing down into blackness on unseen rocks far below. The distance across this area is so great that they cannot see far before everything turns to complete darkness.

Scouts report they have found signs of a broken road, and there is evidence of giant statues at the sides that have long since fallen and crumbled.



A search is conducted by other members of the group and enough pieces of the statues are found to reassemble a likeness of what may once been a face. The face is elven in appearance, with a slight difference in the shape of the ears. They have an extra point on the lower ear lobe, rather than a rounded shape.

“Could this be the face of the Umbragen?” Ahlissa asks. “After all this time … remarkable. ”

“They do look the same,” Aidan replies. He recalls his visions and experiences from the ruins at the Star Haunt.

Jillian also studies the appearance of the statue thoughtfully, but does not comment.

The broken road leads downward, on a wide ledge that spirals around the edge of the vast cavern. Beyond the statues are the ruins of what once must have been gatehouses and a wall. Great blocks of stone lie shattered here, evidence of destruction that occurred long ago.

There are the remains of inscriptions here, on the scattered pieces of broken rock. With some effort, Aidan is able to fit some of these together. He can see the writing looks very familiar. At first glance, it appears to be elvish but it becomes apparent very quickly that it is not exactly the same.

DECIPER SCRIPT 31, DARK KNOWLEDGE 29

The writing is not of any current elvish script. It is older and cruder, yet it is still highly stylised and has a flowing beauty of its own, like a special signature. Umbragen. The fragment that Aidan assembled spells out another phrase … “This is Qualtesh. Our home beneath home. Always. We are lost from the Light.”

Aidan reads this to the others.

“That sounds very ominous,” Jillian comments. “What does it mean?”

INTELLIGENCE 9
Aidan says “It's a message. Like a signpost. It confirms we have found what we are looking for. Qualtesh.”

Ahlissa says “It sounds sad. There is a tone of resignation in their writing.”

“It also tells us there were survivors and perhaps this represents their legacy,” Aidan says. “This could have been written by the last of their kind.”

Jillian and Ahlissa nod in understanding. The other scholars murmur softly amongst themselves, intrigued at the findings. The Valenar remain alert and watchful of the surroundings. The two elven mages and the cleric look concerned about something.

Ahlissa asks them what is wrong and they confide to her and you that they have felt the strength of their arcane power and connection to the gods waning the deeper they get beneath the ground. They say this would be an expected effect of Khyber. They warn there is the possibility that their defences and power may disappear completely.

The explorers move forward, ever deeper into the darkness of the emerging abyss. More ruins are located, in isolated pockets at first along the wide spiralling ledge that leads them downwards and then the side wall of the path opens abruptly to reveal a wide cavernous space that contains sprawling ruins of an ancient city, lost so long ago to memory and time.

Ahlissa says “It looks like we have arrived. “

“Let's take the advantage while we're here and try and figure out why Izendraazt wants to come back here.” Aidan says.

“Lead the way,” Ahlissa tells you.

“Perhaps the scouts should find a good building on the edge that we can use as a camp, one that provides a good defence.”

Ahlissa tasks the scouts with moving ahead and finding a suitable position to set up camp. They proceed as instructed and return 20 minutes later saying they have found a sheltered area on the outskirts of the ruins, a small house that still has two walls intact. Most structure are completely broken they inform her.

“Let's go there and establish our camp.” Aidan says.


Main Entrance

WILL 39. Aidan experiences slight disorientation and hears the sound of many whispering voices. Looking around, there is nothing to be seen. The sound of the voices subside and Aidan asks “Can you hear them?”

Ahlissa and Jillian look confused and ask “What?” . Nobody else can hear them. Only Aidan.
“Voices. Many voice. They've gone now.”
“Sorry Aidan, we can not hear them.” Ahlissa says. “Are you alright, your eyes seem to have grown darker.”
“Yes, I feel alright.”

The group moves forward. Camp is estanlished in the ruined house. There are other small ruined houses nearby, none intact.


Lake

An enormous body of water, apparently a natural collection point for water that seeps and flows down into these depths of Khyber's abyss.



Residential District

Mostly destroyed, although some few parts of it remain intact. No complete buildings have survived, mostly a wall here or a room over there. Excavating the ruins reveals small trinkets and many bones of dead Umbragen. Out of respect for the dead, the Valenar do not disturb their remains any more than is absolutely necessary. They whisper oaths of remembrance to their own ancestors and remember the fallen, offering prayers.

WILL 26. Aidan feels something is watching the group. A presence. Ominous and hateful. You also feel the dragonmark writhing within in his skin for brief periods of time. Intermittently.

Aidan informs Ahlissa. He suggests nobody wanders alone and stays on guard.

Of everything that is found within this area, an unusual discovery is made. A large piece of metal bearing the inscription “Platform One” is uncovered. This seems oddly familiar to both Aidan and Ahlissa. Ahlissa remarks, “I have seen something marked like this before near Zanarkand. There was an ancient metal structure that once existed in the Crater Lake before Mabar fell and destroyed it. That place was Platform Nine. Only one group was ever able to gain entry and I took them to it. The Mithril Mercs. They were foolish explorers, led by a raving lunatic of a half orc named Thanatos, if my memory serves correctly. They were responsible for reactivating it and it served a purpose. It fired some kind of energy beam into the sky when Mabar began to fall. I do not know what effect it had because we know it failed to prevent what happened to Zanarkand and the Blade Desert.”

Aidan thinks of the Star Haunt but realises it was an ancient ruin, not a platform like Platform Nine. He also thinks of the presence but cannot locate where is is watching from. It is omnipresent, all around them. He worries about the dragon mark, considering its attraction must be to evil.

Ahlissa confirms “the scouts have sighted a temple built into the far cavern wall. Perhaps we should investigate that further tomorrow. I see you are experiencing some discomfort. Is there anything we could do to help with that?”

“No,” Aidan replies. “It is just something that is happening. I can't really do anything about it.”

The group rests and plans to explore the temple several hours later.

Temple

The group treks across to the far side of the ruins, using bridges to traverse over the canals.

This imposing structure remains fully intact. It has withstood everything that has been thrown at it. Its architecture appears elvish, although its edges and shapes on closer inspection are rougher and its carvings and inscriptions carry a much darker edge and tone. The temple entrance is built into a side wall of the cavern and so presumably the rest of the building is accessible and undamaged. The enormous double doors (40' tall) are slightly ajar.

“This presence I am feeling might be a guardian, similar to the one I found in the Star Haunt.”

Ahlissa nods in understanding. “We will be prepared,” she says. The mages and cleric are informed.
Aidan says “If there is a guardian and it does attack, then I suggest everyone leaves. Especially if it is corrupted, you do not want anyone to be affected by that.”
“Of course, we understand.” Ahlissa replies.

WILL 29. Aidan again hears the sound of many whispering voices and again experiences disorientation, stronger than before. He also feels a slight sensation of fear and panic. There is something sinister here. An old presence and he feels unwelcome.

“Is everything alright?” Jillian asks.

“'I'm hearing the voices again and there is a presence inside this temple that is not very welcoming towards us. I am just wondering whether I should go in alone.”

“Nonsense,” Jillian replies. “We are with you as we have been each step of this path.” She transforms her appearance into shining elvish battle armour and produces her glowing energy blades from the palms of her hands. “We stand beside you. This is my vow to you.”

Ahlissa says “Let us move forward.” She commands the Valenar to lead and follow in a protective stance.

Courtyard

WILL 31. The dragonmark convulse. As Aidan enters this space he is momentarily blinded by a flash of brilliant white light and staggers. He is seen by the others to have stumbled and fallen to the ground unmoving, they rush to his side.

But from Aidan's perspective he is standing in the middle of a bustling scene, many finely dressed men and women have come to the temple for worship and within the courtyard they have assembled and speak to the priests and acolytes of the temple before moving into the main hall for the day's service and prayers. At first all appears normal until Aidan begins to realise that the Umbragen, if this is who these people truly were, appear to have minor deformities. Facial lesions, mis-shapen limbs, that sort of thing. This reminds him of the effects of Taint, which he knows is caused by exposure to evil and its effect of corruption. He also notices that the apparent effects of Taint on the acolytes and the priests is more advanced than the others. As he follows the scene, something else becomes obvious to him. The symbology of the temple is identical to that of the languages and inscriptions he has recently been deciphering, especially those contained within the layers of the Demonstone. And, perhaps most troubling of all, a very prominent symbol that is displayed above the doors and on the walls of this temple is the very same symbol that has manifested on his own body (lower back) as an aberrant dragonmark.

WILL 29

Aidan snaps out of his torpor and induced vision to see the concerned faces of Ahlissa and Jillian standing over him. He explains what has happened and what he has experienced in the vision.

He conceals the details of the dragonmark from everyone except Jillian and Ahlissa.

“I think I have seen a past vision of a race that was degenerating. I wonder what happened to them?”

His dragonmark stops writhing.


Barracks

The attached barracks for the temple, of the main courtyard is empty. There are no complete weapons or sets of armour here. Only a few parts remain and nothing that can be considered useful.


Mess Hall



Kitchen



Storerooms

These are empty.


Library

The scrolls, manuscripts and books that were once stored here were either destroyed or perished long ago. Only empty standing or overturned stone bookcases remain here now.


Meditation Rooms

Small private rooms dedicated to private moments of prayer and daily dedication. Old incense sticks.



Main Hall

After resting a bit, Aidan points out the symbol on the walls that matches his dragonmark. He see the scholars and other specialist are studying the symbol and the other inscriptions on the walls. “We've got to really study this place. See what they transcribed into the walls. See if there is a correlation to the dragonshard we have been studying.”

They do so, taking charcoal rubbings and use the courtyard as the base for combining the messages they uncover.

The main hall contains many overturned congregation seats and tables, as though a major conflagration or event occurred here. There are also many bones scattered around. Something troubling must have happened here in the past.

Ahlissa looks to Aidan to see if he reacts to anything. “Anything?” she asks him.

Aidan looks to her and suddenly feels a crawling sensation growing within his head.
WILL 28– with a sense of dread and horror, Aidan realises the Demonstone is beginning to manifest and exert Izendraazt's controlling power. He feels compelled to go to the far end of the Main Hall, where he finds a panel of ancient dark Umbragen script which warps and twists before his eyes. DECIPHER SCRIPT 33 / DARK KNOWLEDGE 29. Everything becomes clear as the languages shifts and morphs. Translating this reveals a secret opening that leads into a hidden hallway. The crawling sensation remains.

Ahlissa asks “Is this safe to enter?”
Aidan replies “Izendraazt has manifested his presence and is leading us here. I will proceed down the hallway.”

On entering this hallway he hears the others gasp.

There are moving shadows that emerge out of the walls, like smoke serpents which rush to meet Aidan and swirl protectively around him. Two of the Valenar step forward to intervene. If anyone draws too close the smoke forms snap out defensively to warn them away.

Izendraazt's voice dominates Aidan's will … “Follow,” it directs him. “Go to the Sanctuary.”
WILL 34. Aidan obeys. Dismayed, the others can do nothing but follow him at a safe distance.

Secret Study / Sanctuary

Aidan leads his group to the end of the hidden corridor. He finds the way forward blocked by another wall, much like the barrier he encountered at the ruins known as the Star Haunt in the Blade desert when he was training with the Valenar. Recognising this, he also senses another malevolent presence behind the wall. Something powerful is being contained. Then he feels his mind again being compelled by Izendraazt … “Open,” it tells him. “Go in.” WILL 36 – Aidan obeys. The others keep their distance, knowing full well that something dangerous may happen here.

The whispering voices return enmass. They are warning Aidan not to proceed. But he can't resist.

DECIPHER SCRIPT 26 / DARK KNOWLEDGE 27

The wall slides open and reveals a wide chamber and a black floating entity, manifested of corruption surges out towards Aidan seeking to strike him down. “You will hold your place,” the Demonstone directs him. “I will protect you and tell you what to say.”

Under Izendraazt's guidance, Aidan merely stands his ground and raises a hand in calm defiance. The Guardian ceases immediately and shifts impatiently left and right, inspecting the intruder. It speaks to him in an abyssal dark tongue which Aidan interprets easily and responds to.

“Why have you come?” the guardian demands. “None save my master may enter.” It roars in rage.
“I am your master now,” Aidan tells it. “You will obey and step down.”
“You are not he yet he is here within you. He is my master and I obey. You may pass. No others.”
“Then do as you will but leave my companions unharmed. They are with me and follow willingly.”
“None shall enter or they shall die.”
“I understand. They will wait here and you will protect them while I am inside.”

The conversation ends and the guardian dissipates into the ground through small holes in the flagstones.

“What is happening?” Ahlissa asks. WILL 29.

Aidan turns to Ahlissa and tells her “You must come no further. I must go beyond. It is just a small way. This is where I must go to get answers. This is my purpose and it is where the Demonstone belongs.”

Ahlissa sees that Aidan has changed. His eyes are now fully black. She knows he is no longer in control. “Of course,” she tells him. “Be safe Aidan. We will wait for you.”

Aidan turns and enters the sanctuary. He experiences a flash of brilliant light.

From Ahlissa and Jillian's prespective, he disappears. But Aidan sees that he has entered an impressive room, full of instruments and writings and experiments with many pieces of equipment and apparatus that he cannot identify. He recognises alchemy and necromancy and also components of other types of arcane magic are being investigated here. INTELLIGENCE 24. Perhaps research into the effect of Taint and Corruption? He is not sure.

WILL 24. Izendraazt invades his mind again and compells him to move to the far end of the room, to a place where an unusal apparatus exists. It is a tall cabinet made of smooth metal and in its middle there is an indentation of sufficent size in which the Demonstone can be placed. “Put it in,” Izendraazt commands him. “Do it now. This is necessary. This is how all Truth will be revealed.” WILL … Aidan obeys even though he may wish to resist.

When the Demonstone is fitted into the cavity, nothing happens immediately. Then Aidan notes a sequence of small smooth coloured crystals light up in three rows. The crystals are coloured from red to orange to yellow to green. The crystals illuminate in a pattern that changes as the apparatus recognises the Demonstone. Then there is an odd sound, similar to the sound that some “mechanicals” in Zanarkand used to make and the Demonstone begins to turn slowly within the apparatus.

Aidan begins to see symbols flashing in his mind. Like a code from the layers of the runes and inscriptions he had been deciphering during his studies of the Demonstone. He gets the senses it is being decoded. Unlocked. The apparatus would appear to be some kind of key.

Then, on the wall beside the apparatus, a swirling shape of energy appears. INTELLIGENCE 16. KNOWLEDGE ARCANA 23. KNOWLEDGE PLANES 27. Aidan recognises this to be a portal, perhaps a gateway to another plane of existence.

“I am free ...” Izendraazt sounds triumphant in Aidan's head and he sees a dark shadow forming nearby. 12' tall and a very demonic looking entity. Izendraazt. Aidan starts trembling and then he is shaking violently, uncontrollably. Izendraazt laughs and mocks him. “You are mine. You always have been and always will be. I will see you again. I will lay waste to your world but spare you for the gift you have given me. You gave me knowledge and for this I give you power.”

Izendraazt's laughing recedes as the dark shadowy form is drawn into the spiralling vortex of energy on the wall. There is a burst of light and the portal closes, leaving the Demonstone spinning until it slows down. The sequence of crystals cease blinking and then the apparatus shuts off.

Aidan experiences another burst of light. Ahlissa and the others see him appear in the room.
“Is everything all right?” she calls out to him. “You vanished from our sight. It has been thirty minutes.”

“I'm sorry … I could not control what I was doing and as a result Izendraazt has been released.”
“Are you certain? You were gone from this place. If that has happened, then it cannot have been here.”
“I was physically transported to another location where the shard was deciphered by some kind of apparatus and he emerged from it.”
“And where is he now?” Ahlissa asks. “Where did he go?”
“He went through a portal. I am presuming to his own plane. Mabar.”
“That is possible because this location is close to that plane. Also it is close to the plane of the dead. That is why our magic is being resisted while we are here.”
“He has threatened to return and destroy the world. And intends to ensure I am the only one left alive.”
“Did he say when this will happen?”
“No. But I was used, no doubt about it. I could not control my actions at all.”
“That was always a risk of this quest.”
“Yes, well when you are up against a god you have no choice when it comes down to it.”

“Come let us leave this place,” Ahlissa tells him. “Not all is lost. While you were gone one of the scholars uncovered another hidden chamber and found some manuscripts in a metal box. They seemed excited by the discovery and told me you would be very interested. I suggest we take them back to the Zephyr Breeze. There is something weird about this place that does not add up. I think this place is not entirely what it seems. It is not just about Taint or Corruption and Demons. It is not just about death. I think there is more to the Umbragen than we knew. I am hoping the manuscripts will tells us more about that.”


THE PATH BACK



Mysteries … the new Umbragen Manuscripts … Platform One … Aidan's aberrant dragonmark … Aidan's shadow minions ... where did Izendraazt go when Aidan released him … what were the whispering voices … why were they venerating the symbol?

INTELLIGENCE 25. Aidan gets the sense that the apparatus may have released Izendraazt into the past, sending him to Mabar.

It takes four days of perilous climbing and travelling through Khyber to get back. Along the way a small pocket of Khyber dragonshards in discovered and Ahlissa instructs her people to harvest them for future trade opportunities.

There are very few encounters, which is a relief for Ahlissa as she had feared much worse given the reputation of the Demon Waste.

Eventually they arrive back at the Zephyr Breeze to find it has remained undetected and undamaged. They ready it for flight and make plans to depart from the caves the following day.

While preparations are made, Aidan deciphers the manuscripts.

He learns:

The Umbragen were originally Le Shay, an original race of Fey who are strong, arrogant and emotionless.
The Le Shay travelled to Ebberon on large vessels that traversed The Void between worlds
Qualtesh was a location selected to build a city because it was identified as a Power Node
Nodes are considered to be locations of great power both physical, elemental and spiritual
Qualtesh was built and flourished until a cataclysmic event occurred – a meteor smashed into the region, sundering and destroying it, pushing the city deep beneath the surface of the world
The Le Shay searched but gave up hope of finding survivors and left, abandoning Qualtesh to time
The inhabitants of Qualtesh who survived the destruction realised there would be no rescue and set about trying to find a way out from beneath the ground
They found demonic entities were blocking their escape from Khyber, chief among these was a creature they identified as Izendraazt
A battle between the demons and people of Qualtesh ensued. Eventually the people succumbed to the influences of Khyber and its manifest zone (Dollurh and Mabar) and Izendraazt gained much power from their suffering.
In time, the people of Qualtesh embraced the darkness and Izendraazt – they changed their name to Umbragen, the final act to sever themselves from being Le Shay.
A handful of the Umbragen however, never gave up hope that one day they would again return to the surface world. They embraced Izendraazt and the dark power of Taint and Corruption with the intention of turning it back against the demons so they might escape from Kyber – the Demonstone was forged in secret and it was used to capture the essence of Izendraazt in their time. It could only ever be opened again by a true descendant of the Umbragen, and only in Qualtesh, in their time.

The last statement troubles Aidan - “in their time.” Is this what he experienced? How?
Perhaps Izendraazt possesses the power to manipulate time.

Aidan shares his findings with the others. The scholars, mages and cleric are very intrigued.

Word reaches Athovar and he summons Aidan for a meeting.

Athovar will be amused and thoughtful on the issue. “This is perplexing, but possible. It is entirely plausible that the young Izendraazt planned to locate a true descendant of the Umbragen in his future so as to escape imprisonment. He could do this by planning to control that person and transport them back to his past for a short duration in order to make his escape possible. In effect, he has used you to free him through a portal and he has retained a memory of your existence knowing that he could manipulate you now and indeed in our recent past. One suspects he knew he would find you in Zanarkand and could use you to set his plan of stepping through from Mabar in motion. The irony is he had already used you to send him into Mabar in the past … confusing I know, but you are linked to him. It is a small consolation to know that he is gone from this world again, we understand into The Void between worlds.”

“Demons will always try to influence us but our present has not changed.”


Exiting the Labyrinth

The Zephyr Breeze exits the caves and navigates out through the Labyrinth without incident.

But it is again on the plains that a storm rages in from the horizon and then they find themselves engaged by three Ghaash'Kala elemental airships. The ships look like the massive decayed skeletal remains of dragons, that have been merged with wood and steel. They radiate a red glow, are shielded by magical force energy and appear to armed with heavy ballistae and giant grapples. The situation looks dire and, with emergency bells sounding, Ahlissa commands a desperate counter-manouvre with all weapons readied when a crew member cries out “Another vessel approaches, something large!”

This is the Stormbringer, the large airship that has been rumoured to exist and sighted all over Ebberon. It is crewed by robots and patrols Khorvaire wherever there are remanants or concealed platforms that the Le Shay once constructed. The Le Shay may also be referenced as the Progenitors. A race of inter-world travellers who possess technology in addition to magic.

There is a flash of brilliant blue energy and a bolt of blue white light scythes through the swirling sandstorm to obliterate the side of one of the enemy combatant airships. There are six more flashes which leaves the enemy in complete disarray with two airships destroyed and the third retreating from the battle.

Ahlissa commands a communication be sent to the new vessel which has not yet become visible. “We have hailed them captain,” the crew member informs. “There is no response.”

It is then that the storm dissipates revealing a gigantic airship made of shimmering metal hovering in a position 100' starboard and 100' above the Zephyr Breeze. It has no obvious weapon ports exposed and it is silent.

A brilliant beam of white and green light then shines down and sweeps across the deck and bridge of the Zephyr Breeze. There is no ill effect. Ahlissa remarks “I think they are checking us out, identifying our strengths and weaknesses, perhaps waiting to see if we are a threat.”

Ahlissa orders all weapons to be stood down and that the Zephyr Breeze's shields be lowered. Her crew act immediately. “Let's see what this new vessel wants with us,” she smiles at Aidan.

“I think this ship has saved us, they could have cut us down but chose not to.”

Jillian gasps “Is this the vessel that I think it is? I have heard the stories … many rumours … but I never thought I would see it in person and never in this part of Khorvaire.”

“I believe it is.” Ahlissa replies. “The question is, who controls it?”

“I hope they're friendly,” Jillian says.

“We're about to find out,” Ahlissa responds and points towards the large airship. A small point of light appears beneath it, radiating out and towards the Zephyr Breeze. “Sound general quarters, all crew to brace themselves!”

Jillian turns to Aidan and tells you “It's the phantom airship that everyone talks about – Stormbringer!”

At the moment of impact, Aidan finds his vision is flooded with a brilliant white light. When his vision returns, a few moments later he is in unfamiliar surroundings. He is standing alone inside a small square room on what appears to be a raised circular mark on the floor. All surfaces of this room are smooth and coloured white. There is no obvious exit.

… Aidan steps of the platform. He wonders where everyone else is. He hopes they are OK.

After perhaps five minutes, Aidan hears unusual sounds. Like metal on a hard surface and with the repitiion of footsteps approaching the room he is in. The sound stops directly outside the wall he is facing and then there is a humming sound as a section of the wall slides across to reveal a narrow doorway with a white corridor beyond it.

Standing in the doorway is a slender figure and it is neither monstrous nor humanoid. It has thin arms and legs, a smooth torso and is unclothed. Its head is oval shaped and its face appears to be a smooth black mask that gives no hint of emotion. It is some form of construct, being made of non-organic material (possibly metal). In some ways, while its movement is fluid it seems to be either controlled or manipulated in some way, perhaps remotely. A number is marked on its front “09” and it moves into the room, stopping just inside the doorway. It stands for a moment, observing Aidan silently.

… “Hello,” Aidan speaks to it. He tries common and then Umbragen.

There is a sound, a whirring and from the top of its left wrist (above its hand) the figure extends a small rod of some kind and points it at Aidan. It fires a white beam of light at him which strikes and causes him to fall unconscious.

Aidan wakes up to find himself restrained by metal wrist and ankle cuffs on a table in the middle of another white room. This room is different to the other, in that it is circular and there are bright lights mounted on the ceiling overhead which cause him some minor disorientation. The room also contains a variety of pieces of unfamiliar apparatus that are mounted on wheeled stands, most of which are covered with unusual levers, attached square boxes with moving pictures and blinking lights. He can turn his head and is able to look around. He still feels a little light headed as an after-effect of being stunned by the white beam of light.

Across the room are three of the slender figures and he sees a man dressed in fine robes, apparently giving the figures instructions and gesturing with his hands. The man has pale white skin and his long blonde hair is pulled back in a form of top knot with the length still falling down behind his back. Listening carefully, Aidan hears the man speaking but struggles to identify the langauge easily. It sounds elvish but is not.

INTELLIGENCE 16

Aidan realises the man may be of the Le Shay race. As he listens, the man turns and sees that Aidan is watching and listening to his conversation. Aidan sees a rather cruel and sardonic expression on the man's face, although as he advances towards the table the apparent hatred disappears and his emotions become difficult to interpret.

The man turns and studies a moving picture on one of the nearby square boxes and presses some raised squares beside it. The man presses something else on his wrist and speaks again. “You are different to the others, yet you carry their signature in your blood. We can see you have acquired some of their traits but you are of this continent, not of their world. “ the man states matter of factly. “You are of Khorvaire, yes, and you are of the elvish people? Do you identify as Aereni or Valenar?”

“I am neither.”
“How have you been living? Who have you spent the most time with?”
“Most of my life has been spent in Zanarkand and Gideon. Also on the Zephyr Breeze, who you took me from.”
“Do not fear for your friends on the Zephyr Breeze. They are safe. You intrigue us. Do you identify as being elven?”
“I am half-elven. But my recent experiences determine that I may have a different lineage.”
“I would agree. We have tracked your movements and determined that you have been to Qualtesh. When that city was lost to our people, there were none who survived. All perished. Yet your blood carries the signature of those people. Your blood is like our own. But in addition to this, you carry something else. I would liken it to an infection. Does it cause you any trouble?”
“I cann only consider that what you speak of is the Taint.”
“Yes, we have heard it called that. What is its origin?”
“The Taint is something that I learned that those who were called the Le Shay adopted on this world to protect themselves against enemies of corruption. I encountered this in Star Haunt and also at Qualtesh.”
“You are saying it comes from my people? We are not familiar with this Taint.”
“From what I have seen, two groups of your people adopted this Taint to learn and understand the enemy they were facing to protect themselves. In Star Haunt I saw images of what the Le Shay looked like in a meeting room, yet it was guarded by a creature of corruption that they had created as a guardian. Therefore they had adopted corruption and Tainited themsleves in doing so to defend themselves. In Qualtesh, the survivors, knowing there would be no rescue could not leave as they were prevented from doing so by demons. One of whom whose name is Izendraazt they were forced to follow. I saw a vision of them … the Umbragen as they called themselves, and though they look like Le Shay, the darkness and the taint was beginning to affect them.”

The man nods in understanding, listening and comprehending what Aidan tells him.

“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Khoresh of the Le Shay. Your people call us the Progenitors.“
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