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Post  Admin on Mon Aug 30, 2010 8:12 am

The repulsive creature recoils back into the darkness like a seething, boiling mass of corruption. The fallen druid is alive but has become disfigured and Aidan immediately recognises the effect of taint from his experience in Zanarkand.

The clerics begin chanting to the ancestral spirits to keep the thing at bay. Tiralas commands the six warriors to form a defensive line with locked shields and scimitars at the ready. The other druid pulls his comrade from the chamber to the corridor that leads in and administers a healing remedy. The injured druid is stable but has obviously experienced great pain. His skin has begun to peel from his face , arms and hands in papery strips.

Aidan approaches the druid who is aiding the other that has fallen.
“Do you know what is wrong with him?”
“He is afflcted with painful lesions, they do not appear natural.” the druid replies.
“He has been tainted by the creature – I have seen this effect in Zanarkand before.”

“It moves again ...” one of the warriors calls out.
“Hold position.” Tiralas commands. “We cannot let it pass.”
“It is bound here,” the eldest of the two clerics informs everyone. “It is a guardian of great evil.”

Aidan notches his magical bow. “If you have a Restoration spell, use it ... otherwise he will need one within 24 hours ... failing that you will need a miracle or wish.”

The creature stays in the new opening and corridor that Aidan has revealed. It waits and everyone can feel its anger reaching out. A coldness radiates and it feels horrid, as though its essence is penetrating into each individuals' soul.

“Is it undead?” Tiralas asks.
“Possibly, although its type is unclear to us,” the elder replies. “There is something different about this guardian. It appears undead to us and certainly possesses vileness and impurity. Yet something ... is wrong. Our prayers have no effect upon it.”

The six warriors stand fast. Then without warning, two massive clawed hands slam into them, sweeping across and knocking them all to the ground as if they were nothing. Shaken, they stand and regain their composure, retrieving their shields to make their defensive line again.

Tiralas shouts a command word and from his outstretched hand stream forth several small glowing arrow-like projectiles. Aidan immediately recognises the effect of a magic missile spell and observes they are absorbed by the guardian with apparently little effect, although he senses it is displeased with the attack.

Aidan fires an arrow. CRITICAL. 14 hp of damage. The amorphous form reshapes itself and pulls back into the darkness. From the darkness there comes a deep booming laughter which rocks the foundations as the creature stirs, still waiting. And then it calls out in an unfamiliar tongue.

[DARK KNOWLEDGE 28 ] Definitely a dark language, possibly an ancient tongue

Aidan recognises the base language is a variant dialect of the Abyssal tongue. He realises he is able to recognise this because of his mild taint condition. He observes that the druid who was struck down earlier is looking quite uncomfortable as the creature speaks to them.

... Aidan listens ...

“You trespass ... you have broken the seal ... begone. This domain can offer you no sanctuary.”

“Before we leave, you explain your purpose here,” Aidan tells it. “For if you are a threat to this land and its people you must be destroyed.” Aidan wonders if anyone is going to get some help.

“You are not worthy ... entrance is forbidden to those who do not please my masters.”
The druids have left to go outside. The clerics are still chanting. The warriors and Tiralas remain.
They are looking at you.
Tiralas says “Can you understand it?” he looks surprised.
“Yes, it has said ... and I learnt this during a dark time in Zanarkand.”

“Who is your master?” Aidan demands.

“Those who came before you. Those who built and maintained this sanctuary.”
Aidan is guessing that this may be a guardian that has become tainted over time by another encounter.

“Who were those who built this place ... were they forebears of our race, or another people.”
“My masters were powerful. They preceded your kind.”
“I opened the seal as I learned the hybrid language on the wall. Do you wish me to reseal the entrance?”
“So ... you ... are .... the one ... the one ... who is ... responsible. You may step forward.”

Tiralas watches, slightly fearful for Aidan. “No!” he shouts. “Do not approach it ...”
The clerics chant louder, with no effect.

Aidan says “If they didn't want us to open it there would have been a warning, wouldn't there. Here goes nothing.”
Aidan approaches.

The creature seems amused by Aidan's attempt at conversation and conjecture. It laughs and surges forward as a seething mass of rotting corruption and its vile stench wafts out of the opening once more. CONSTITUTION check. A couple of the warriors start coughing and gagging at the smell. The others look uncomfortable. At the edge of the opening it rises up and its hideous form towers above Aidan as it looks down upon him. Everything about it is cold. Chilling to the bone. It's a sensation.

He senses it is assessing him, scrutinising everything it sees within his very soul. “Interesting ...” it says. “You appear as a weak mortal half blooded eladrin man, but your very essence is broken. I find a mild hint of sweetness about you. You would make a fine sacrifice to my masters. I would consume you easily and your demise would give me further nourishment. You would feed me and renew my strength. I am hungry.”

“Then why don't you ... or is something holding you back? After all, we can't be that much of a weakling for our knowledge did open this door.”

As Aidan draws nearer to the opening, the guardian warns him again “Then you must truly wish to cease your pathetic existence on this worthless rock. Step forward if you are truly without fear.”

“I don't fear you. I just want to live to see tomorrow on this worthless piece of rock that happens to be my home.” Aidan stands his ground.

The guardian attacks him. On its first successful strike against him, it pummels him to the ground, bringing him to his knees, and he experiences the most agonising pain and resists the taint of corruption and depravity that it unleashes. His chest is also burning, very much like it has been when he experiences his nightmarish dreams. The guardian recoils back from him into the darkness, cursing vehemently in its Abyssal tongue ... “This cannot be! Your blood is familiar, akin to my true masters'. Their mark is within you and now it burns ... it is reaching out ... good ... you sense it, you feel it, it wants to be freed ... offer me your spirit and you may enter into the corridor beyond me ...”

The clerics are horrified and the warriors look to Tiralas.

“Do not heed its calling,” Tiralas screams. “It seeks to deceive you for its own dark purpose ...”

Tendrils of darkness stream forth from the guardian, reaching out towards everyone beyond the opening. It seeks to pull them in.

Aidan is pulled into the corridor ... he feels his heart beating faster and the burning sensation in his chest deepens. He feels drawn towards the guardian. WILL SAVE 30. He wants to go in but he doesn't truly feel compelled to do it. The Abyssal tongue of the guardian gnaws through his mind and he sees the beast grinning, laughing, mocking him. “Enter the opening ... join us ... come in.”

He swings his magical longsword. It connects with the dark tendril, which is not cut but it does relinquish its hold on him.

[WILL SAVE 29] The compulsion to be with the guardian is not complete so he can still act freely.

Aidan turns and runs back towards the opening, a distance of 30'. As he does so, two more dark tendril lash out and one connect with him, seeking to pull him back. He is held and watches in horror as the bulk of the creature morphs and surrounds him in the corridor, blocking his planned escape.

The guardian admits Aidan and then surrounds him. “Submit,” it tells him. “I must consume a part of you to grant you further access. Resist and you shall surely die.”

“No,” Aidan resists stubbornly. “If I am what you say I am, then you will allow me to pass willingly as your masters would have wished.”

“True enough,” it tells him. “But I am hungry and you resist.” The guardian strikes him again ... missing and again ... driving him to his knees. 12 hp plus no taint ... sickened and dazed for two rounds. Aidan realises he has again resisted more taint.

His chest starts throbbing and the burning sensation subsides. The guardian shifts it form again, to block the exit from the corridor and it reveals a path forward. “Follow the corridor,” the guardian tells him. “Then go down the stairs. I will keep the others from entering. Only your kind are permitted here. Not them. Go.”

Aidan finds that the unlit corridor leads forward about 100' and then he reaches a nondescript archway. He can see that there are indeed winding stairs that lead down and, as the guardian instructed, he follows them. They descend 60' to another nondescript archway. Another dark corridor lies beyond and Aidan notices the darkness is blacker than before.

[SPELLCRAFT 36] It is Deeper Darkness and Aidan's darkvision cannot penetrate it. He knows he will need a higher level magic light spell, if he wants to dispel it. The alternative will be to simply grope his way around.

Aidan gropes his way forward. It is smooth rock walls, perhaps magically created. The ground is solid rock, and there are no obstructions.

The corridor extends for 60' to a solid black wooden doorway. He traces across the wooden to find an etched symbol. Serpentine, like an M with an upside down cross in the centre. The door is unlocked but is marked with a magical symbol. The symbol:

Aidan puts on his True Seeing glasses and can see the symbol glowing brightly on the door. Definitely magical. He feels and sees a door handle. The door is unlocked. He opens it.

Opening the door reveals a small elongated ante-chamber that measures perhaps 30' x 60'. A 30' long hardwood table is positioned at its centre, with 14 padded chairs arranged around that.

On entering, Aidan experiences a vision ... he sees fourteen figures seated around the table and, oddly, they appear to be out of focus. There are fine tapestries decorating the walls and a prominent feature among them is the symbol that was on the entrance door. As he observes the scene he realises they are meeting and discussing matters of importance in an unfamiliar tongue. Men and women.


Their faces and their voices become more real and now Aidan feels as though he is there. They are discussing strategies and upcoming plans for defending the sanctuary against their enemies; Daeklyr from Khyber, Quori from Sarlona and dragons from Argonessen. The people assembled in the room are dressed in fine clothes and fine armour. It is definitely a war council. They are a delicate, yet hardened appearance with pale skin and deep black eyes. Much like the Drow, Aidan muses, only he senses a difference. These are not ordinary elves, nor are they fallen elves from below. He senses they are older, much older. He knows they are not light hearted and he can feel a malice about them, a coldness in their souls, a cruelty that he can feel but finds difficult to describe. They cannot be Eladrin, perhaps they are ancient Fey he surmises, for everything about these elves does point to such a racial origin.

And then a word comes to him ... LeShay ... and the vison ends. Aidan finds himself standing in the empty war council room.

Three doors lead from here ... east into ablutions, living areas and sleeping quarters, north into store rooms, kitchens and a dining room. West leads to an armoury, training rooms, magical research quarters and a library.

The library is small but contains knowledge that is very specific to the LeShay and some documentary evidence of “marks of power” that began to manifest among their kind during the Age of Fiends. This is significant, Aidan realises, as this knowledge predates that which is commonly understood or accepted about dragon marks by our people these days. Is it possible that the LeShay experienced the first manifestation of dragonmarks in Khorvaire, long before they were known by such a name? He considers this might be possible.

The LeShay held this fortress long ago until it was eventually sundered and abandoned by them after an assault by determined foes. They fled from Khorvaire but an interesting footnote suggests that a remnant of their bloodline was seeded into a lesser one, to remain on what is now named Aerenal. That bloodline would play a part later in the prophecy that the dragons of Argonessen so avidly sought to decipher, even if those who inherited its power lacked any understanding or knowledge of it.

This particular fortress was sanctuary to one of the more efficient and cruel clans of the LeShay. They were exposed to many horrific enemies and so formed a cabal and sought to master the powers of corruption and depravity so that they might command it and wield its unimaginable forces against their foes. The theory being that using something corrupt to consume opposing forces corruption would provide the necessary level of defence for their sanctuary.

Aidan spends time and he realises he should get back to the others. His chest pain subsides the more he reads the less the burning affects him. He takes notes in shorthand with his writing materials and notebook. It is his own form of that so that it will be hard for others to decipher.

Aidan is aware that he has spent a few hours here and realises his companions may have left, fearing he could have been slain by the guardian. He has heard no evidence of fighting or attempts to gain entry from above.

Aidan goes back through the darkness and up the winding stairs. He reaches the corridor with the guardian. It is there and it has kept the others at bay. As Aidan approaches ... it moves to the side and speaks to him.

“Did you find what you wanted to know?”
“Yes. I saw the vision and I saw the people. In understand what they are and where i might be a part of this. I also understand the origin of yourself and your purpose.”
“Good. Then you must equally understand that this sanctuary might one day be restored and you will know that you will be welcome. When you leave I will seal this place behind you. You know how to get in.”
“Yes. I will return, once I learn more of the people who built this place for I sense that this place will return to its glory again. I thank you for the chance of learning what could be more about my parents who I only have slight visions of, before I was taken from them.”
“Then you have learnt much. Go now.”

Aidan leaves and suggests that the wording be changed, if it can.
“[laughs] That is not in my power. You know how to come back in. If any others attempt to do so, I will destroy them as I could have destroyed you.”
“Yes you could have done that.”
“ But your essence was true and so I did not kill you.”

The chamber is empty. The door seals behind him.
Aidan follows the corridors and chambers outside.

Returning outside, Aidan is very soon discovered by warriors from his war clan. He feels weakened from his time in the sanctuary beneath the ground and the warriors appear suspicious, for his appearance is no longer completely as they as known him. They keep him at bay, surrounded by long shields and spears.

Tiralas quickly arrives. “Leave him,” he commands but looks at Aidan with concern. “Leave us. I have brought healers.”

The warriors disperse, casting sideways glances and four druids approach. They administer healing salves and Aidan feels restored again. “We have summoned transport,” Tiralas tells him. “Your ordeal in there means you cannot continue on this patrol. The other warriors have grown wary of you. Word has got back to the camp that you were speaking in a dark tongue. I quelled the worst of the rumours but it would be wise to retire and return to Taer Valestaes, perhaps to go back to your studies.”

“Lorian informs me that you have performed very honourably in the patrol thus far, so there is no shame to be leaving at shorter notice than you might have anticipated. Follow me ... we will go to the pickup point that has been designated.”

Tiralas leads Aidan two kilometres to an oasis. “Rest,” he says. “Here is some food and drink.”
“I will return and within the hour we expect the Zephyr Breeze to arrive. Ahlissa was only too pleased to make the urgent transport available. Take care, Aidan, you have fought by my side bravely and I thank you for your assistance. We will see each again, brother. Know this ... despite your weirdness .. I do trust you. You might have noticed I also dabble a little in the magical arts.”

Tiralas treks back across the sand dunes, leaving Aidan to his own devices.

This is a pleasant oasis. A calm still pool of water, with a few bits of greenery and rocks dotted around it. Aidan enjoys a moment of quietness.

[PERCEPTION 37 ] There is no evidence that Aidan is being watched, as he suspected.

An hours passes and then the Zephyr Breeze glides gracefully across the plains and dunes to descend on the opposite side of the oasis. It hovers, extends a gang plank and Aidan climbs on board. He is greeted by Ahlissa's crew and excorted immediately to the bridge. He thanks them.

Ahlissa welcomes him with a warm embrace and instructs an assistant to bring a cool drink for the new passenger. The crew member obliges and Ahlissa commands that the airship proceed to its planned destination. She looks at Aidan and says, “Follow me.”

He does so and they retire to a rear facing observation deck and seat themselves on soft padded leather recliners. There is food and drink within reach.

“How are you Aidan, I must admit that this urgent call to retrieve you from patrol has come as a surprise.”
“It did to me to.”
“So ... what happened ... what have you done wrong?”
“We entered the sanctuary and there we found a door, which I opened. We revealed a very tainted evil guardian that proceeded to attack us. I was able to determine its language, a dark language, and spoke to it. That is when my mark started playing up quite strongly. The guardian sensed it, knew something about it, and putting it simply ... it allowed me to pass as it saw me being of the same kind as its masters. I went into a room where I saw a vision of people siting in chairs and I initially thought they were Drow ... but no, there is something different about them ... much older ... a very ancient race. They spoke about threats – dragons, quori, daeklyr – and i sensed there was a certain malice about them. But other than the guardian there was no evil, other than the symbol on the door. I found a library and learned that these people were not of this world. They were here during the time of fiends, that they experienced dargon marks and admitted that they were a malice group that used corruption as a defence against their enemies. Though I sense that this is not normal of the race in general. From what I learned, they left, however there is a foot note that said they had seeded their race into a lesser race in Aerenal that would fulfill some prophecy in a later time. It seemed that this people abandoned the sanctuary and left this world. The guardian, which is a manifestation of the corruption they used as a defence told me I would be welcome back. Anyone else who goes there would be killed. My only crime to most people in the war band was speaking in a dark tongue. I think they were glad to get rid of me. I do pity Lorian for I think he is walking a political tightrope with his son, Tiralis. ... explains how his mark was burning, throbbing, soothing as he spent time there.”
Ahlissa nods understandingly, looks a bit serious when Aidan describes the guardian and the effect with his dragon mark ... then she says “My, my you have become quite the adventurer ... look at you. That's the first bit of action you've seen in a while, normally you're stuck with all your fascinating books.”
“Oh ... they suggested I go back to them.”
“Do you want to do that?”
“I think I have read what I can.”
“Then where do you think you will be headed? Khorvaire is a big place. I am currently headed for Gideon and ... after that ... who knows?”
“The who knows sounds adventurous.” he smiles at her.
“It could be – just depends on what the next contract is.”
“Gideon would be my logical choice because it is probably there I can get my taint removed. But then again ... what if my mark has risen because of the taint ... I really don't know.”
“So ... if its advice or healing you're after ... maybe one of the temples is a good start?”
“The problem is ... who can I impart knowledge to about the dragon mark. No one really, except yourself.”
“That's true,” Ahlissa says. “Plus in the big city it is a melting pot of all kinds of people and factions from all across Khorvaire. Rumour recently had it that The Seeker and The Sentinel have recruited a small group that are actively searching among the city's population for any unregistered dragon marks that have manifested. The small group's name is unknown and they have a very low profile. My understanding is that they were sent by The Twelve from Korth.”
“The Monks in the Temple of Twilight Calm don't ask questions. They will give you healing in exchange for services or donations. It's up to you how you would repay them, if indeed they can remove your taint. That's if you want it gone,” she says.
“If you don't mind I can hang around with you, work with cargo, pay my way and figure out what I want to do?”
She smiles “Sure ... whatever you like. It's not a problem. You are welcome to have a room on board this vessel or, if you prefer, acquire some lodgings at the various places we may berth.”
“I think a room on the ship will be better. I have some knowledge that I haven't had a chance to research.”
“Ok then ... how does this sound as a deal; you stay on board for lodgings and food. In exchange if we find anything interesting in our travels then you can examine it and undertake any necessary research into said items history or advise us of any unfortunate consequences that some items might have attached. I would keep any knowledge you gain of our activities to yourself as we do cross paths, occasionally, with some unsavoury factions. Not all of my work is ... accepted in the mainstream. As you know I am an independent operator and I like to keep it that way. I'm sure we have an understanding.”
“Yes, we do.”
“Good then, that's settled. No there is one other thing. You will have to dress like one of my crew so that you blend in. Is that OK? “
“Certainly, but I would like to think that I should earn that first ... don't you think?”
“What did you have in mind? You have travelled on this airship and spent time with me, so I would say you already have.”
“Fair enough ... I am already sort of reasonably known to the crew and seem to get on well with them.”
“Yes, indeed. I know for a fact that they do like you. Like yourself, they are mostly half elven so this is a home free of prejudice. Your mark, if that is what it is or is going to be, hasn't manifested yet so we can keep it pretty quiet. Nobody else on board is aware of what you told me, so it will kept that way. If your condition progresses then we'll review our options. But in any case my crew will stay silent in the presence of other members of House Lyrandar. You are safe.”
“Thank you. It's been a while since i had that sort of feeling. It's good to be among friends.”
“Then it settled – welcome aboard. Now ... shall we go down town and have a fine dinner?”

The airship is just arriving at Gideon. It connects with the dock and they make preparations to disembark.

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