Gathering themselves for teleportation back to Corneria, the party quickly discussed matters with Viktor‘s assistance, who wished their presence on behalf of the kingdom. With the king of Farmonia and the approaching Slingham arriving with allies for the next day’s council, it seemed appropriate for Corneria to show its own mettle. When Striker asked if they would be given proper clothing to represent the country, the assistant said they would be provided for free of charge (as long as they didn’t rough house in them).
Going about their own business, Xavier and Thad went to buy new magic for themselves and Spoony, Sig made use of a token at the brothel given to him by a bouncer he previously tipped, and Zach had Randall Thay remove the Quest put upon him by an Archon as a means to read the Book of Exalted Deeds. More importantly, Neolezreich was given reproach by many of those around him, not just because he was indeed a Black Dragon, but the coming army of dragon riders.
However, that he was in the presence of the party gave him passage, and he was approached by Viktor who sought answers. Upon hearing he was an escaped dragon of the army, Viktor offered him a gold reward for information about Slingham, its tactics, goals, purpose, and anything of value which would help Corneria in understanding the possible future enemy. While Neozelriech had no true intentions to fight Slingham, he also knew he would eventually need to face Slingham if he ever wished to be free. Neo accepted the gold offer, and he and Viktor went to a private room to talk.
Wishing to know what they were speaking about, Zach tried to listen into their conversation, but was stopped by two guards set outside to keep others away. At first Zach offered to bribe them, but then resorted to intimidating them with violence, after which they backed down. After the conversation with Neolezreich and Viktor concluded, Zach left behind the original bribe he offered them.
All the while, Striker sought out rRahu with a sending, who met him in an abandoned alley within Corneria. Rahu stated that Striker was now strong enough to handle on his own, and that it was coming time to follow through on what he had been protected from this whole time.
The council finally arrived, and the party was set on the Cornerian side of the table, along with Viktor (in front of King Connery upon a throne with his two guards), Dion from Incarnum, and Orthos from the barbarian lands (appearing to be injured from the siege of Liberty, but in actuality a ruse to hide the dagger he held). On the other side of the table was King Farook, sitting close to the ruler of Slingham, King Jorg. Accompanying him were two wizards, a dragon rider, Ulrich (commander of the protectors), and Felix (commander of the dragon riders, accompanied by Mor and Wolfgang).
King Jorg made quick motions for an introduction (visibly condemning Sig with his eyes when the elf interrupted him), and went straight to business: the immediate surrender of Corneria, and their assistance in bringing Law back to the land. King Jorg believed in what was known as the One True Way, and the floating continent Slingham resided upon was the living representation of the One True Way: where Law needed to be spread, where it needed to go, the floating continent went. When the party asked when this task would be over and how would he know, King Jorg simply said the continent would stop floating and settle into the earth.
Because the continent was guided by the One True Way, and it was coming coming across Farmonia and soon Corneria, this meant Law needed to come in order for the One True Way to continue. In regards to Corneria itself, Slingham had no qualms, for the ways of Saint Cuthbert were very similar to their own (though not as strict). However, Corneria’s allies and the surrounding lands needed to be tamed, namely Incarnum, the Barbarian Lands, Melmond, Elfland, and the Underdark below. In addition, the faiths of Corellon Larethian, Gruumsh, Nerull, Ehlonna, Erythnul, Kord, Lolth, Olidammara, Vecna and other Chaotic or Evil beliefs were to be abolished, for there ideals were too far at odds with the One True Way.
Just to make sure this wasn’t a regime change of an arbitrary will, King Jorg pointed out that Corneria had failed at keeping the peace, let wild Outsiders run amok, shown an inability to stem the war with Farmonia (which kept greater peace than Corneria in regards to its people), and the still unhealed scar the planar tear to the Abyss that occurred in the last war. Because of this imbalance, magic itself was effected, as noted by any magic user calling upon magic from the forces of Good, Evil, Law, or Chaos. No caster of opposed alignment could possibly cast or draw upon such magic, but the imbalance made it possible. The One True Way sought to fix this.
Before King Jorg even finished, it was plain to see the party and Corneria were at odds with him. Dion and Orthos were upon their feet crying out not only at King Jorg, but King Connery, whom they blamed for even considering this council. Dion even went as far to teleport right out of the council back to Incarnum at the very suggestion they should even consider confining the magic studies of his city. Sig had the same feeling, believing great magic was being lost if Slingham demanded they confine their studies. King Jorg replied he had no problem with the study of magic, for great casters on par with those of Incarnum resided in Slingham as well. It was all a matter of safety and direction of study, for the act of consorting with demons (which Dion did freely) was a violation of the One True Way. Turning on the Barbarian Lands and Elfland were out of the question as well (though Sig felt no problem if they were wiped out, which made Farook smile).
King Farook’s supposed allegiance was also brought into question, to which Farook himself spoke for his kingdom. He had no qualms working for Slingham, for it sought to bring about Law to the lands, which was Farook’s desire for all his cruelty. If it meant possibly losing his rule to a much more capable ruler, then so be it. In return, the chaotic allies of Farmonia were absolved: the Orcs were driven back underground, lycans were cured of their affliction or subdued if they were natural, and the demons of Belladonna were wiped out (though she and the rest of her forces went into hiding). With their alliance sealed, Farook ordered his army on the march, and had already passed Restful Valley, putting the entire neutral zone under his control.
And what would Slingham do once it conquered the land through war? Leave while everyone left behind picked up the pieces? King Jorg pointed out the floating continent Slingham resided upon dwarfed the continent Corneria was upon several times over, so they weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Felix also stood up and took off his helmet, obscured during the whole meeting. Felix was revealed to be on old elf, face scarred from many battles. He explained he was once from another land Slingham came across in its mission to spread the One True Way, and like Corneria and its allies, it sought to fight back. In the end they lost, and should have surrendered, for much life was lost for what in the end was a much better way of living. Law was brought to Chaos, and the people…especially Felix…joined in the effort.
Striker also questioned and rebuked King Jorg and the One Ture Way, saying that it was not necessary to bring it into these lands, saying they would eventually make things right. King Jorg said Corneria had its time already, and deemed it was now time for Slingham to step in before too much damage was done. More so, that Striker should follow the command of his King and due his duty as a dragon rider (nodding to Neolezreich, though it was fairly obvious King Jorg knew the dragon was not under Striker’s control). King Jorg continued to state he was aware of the silver cross tattoo Striker bore as well, making him royalty and a key player in the One True Way. Given that Striker was disobeying him, King Jorg asked if he really was prepared to change the One True Way, to which Striker said yes.
With the terms of surrender so boldly refused, King Jorg and his company left in their respective ways (word of recall, teleport, dragon flight), but not before King Jorg banished Striker from the kingdom at his refusal to follow the order of his King. Due to the party seeming well on the side of making things right in Corneria, King Connery and Viktor began to lay out what they would need to do in order to stand a chance against the coming armies, along with the troubles they faced.
First and foremost, there were the allies of Corneria, those being the Barbarian Lands and Elfland. The Barbarian Lands were of no issue, for Orthos was ever ready for war, though Elfland was still in the midst of warring with the Drow below them. The party’s recent slaying of Dravo Madaras was not only a job offered from Garland Madaras, but a means to possibly gain leverage against the Drow who were invading Corneria due to Dravo’s undead army. With Dravo out of the picture, the undead were no longer under his control, but were otherwise mindless and quite possibly under control of Lolth’s clerics in the now. Finding a way to end the Drow conflict and have Elan Gwaren focus on Slingham would be paramount, given that he stood to lose if not.
Incarnum’s assistance was going to be questionable, because Corneira was already on bad terms with Dion for his use of demonic conjuration, which he saws no problem with for they were all powerful in their magical control in the city. It would likely go so far as a complete secession from the kingdom, with Incarnum possibly fighting on their own. And considering they had the magical prowess to back up their words, there was no telling what would happen after that point.
During the attack last month at Liberty, it was found that Jorell Hellion attacked Themopoly and tried to get into Liberty via the teleportation circle in Kord’s church. However, lycans from the other side came through and attacked, not only afflicting some of the barbarians but Jorell as well. He had since gone into the wilderness near the Shire and Kankun, causing chaos and spreading lycanthropy with those he allied with.
Even though Melmond had since opened up trade with Corneria again now that Dravo was gone, they still had a limited supply of Sovereign’s Glue and Universal Solvent, claiming there had been no word from the hermit of Rouge’s retreat for some time (the transmuter was the only one in the lands capable of creating the items). Finding out what happened to him and starting up the trade of those two items would be beneficial, because it would boost the ability to construct defenses and rebuild from the coming battles.
In regards to rebuilding, the great bridge between Corneria and Elfland was still rubble, for harpies had made it home, making it otherwise impossible for anything save an army to clear out the area. It’s believed the harpies are allied with Farmonia, and they would likely clear the rubble on their own once the warship fleet from Seagull’s Rest arrived, allowing them clear access to the sea between the two kingdoms. In regards to the sea, the waters have become unstable with erratic wither and sea monsters, making trade and seafaring exceptionally dangerous. Mounting any sort of naval defense would be impossible should the current conditions continue.
In Farmonian held Spira, the excavators discovered an ancient moving fortress known as the Iron Giant, which had the appearance of an Iron Golem, yet 100 feet tall and constructed to house a small army. It was unlikely if they managed to activate it yet, though it was believed the Farmonian army would use it in the first assault against Wilson’s Point, which Farmonia would arrive at within the month.
Through all of this, the Way of the Shalm had been neutral through this, though messengers have come now and then to urge the party in the direction of bringing balance back to the elements, lest the world wither and die. Even though they were neutral, a possible alliance could be achieved, for there was no telling what the coming war would do to nature, which the Druids prized above all else.
And not only was the floating continent coming, it’s size was going to cover all of the kingdom and block out the sun, and for several months considering the length of the continent appeared to be over 1000 miles. Because of this, vegetation was quite possibly going to die out, making food sources scarce and possibly upset the ecosystem. The party found great irony in this, given the One True Way was supposed to bring Law, and this appeared as Chaos. Ecosystems were the least of their worries, however, because Farmonia could now freely use their loyal vampiric allies from Rosefield without fear of the sun.
With so many problems and so little time (the floating continent and Farmonia’s army passing the eastern most Wayside in just one week), the party noted why King Jorg felt they were unable to handle the Chaos around them. They decided to first possibly assist Elan Gwaren to regain his allegiance, beginning to devise a means to travel their immediately. Before leaving, Viktor drew Zach aside and told him he was informed Zach not only bribed some of his men, but threatened them as well. Viktor continued by saying that if Zach did any such action again he had no qualms about imprisoning him for his crimes, to which Zach scoffed at and threatened back in turn.
Hoping to make a quick trip to Elfland, the party contacted Garland via sending, because he was believed to be back in Melmond after assisting them with teleportation earlier. The return sending however informed them he would be unable to assist them, for he was currently atop a table to keep from being eaten by an armadillo within Rouge’s Retreat. Feeling they could use the assistance of Garland’s teleportation magic and see about the hermit as well, they instead decided to go to Rouge’s Retreat and take out two birds with one stone.
Sig brought them to a gypsy encampment near Titan’s Tunnel, the entrance to the valley which Rouge’s Retreat resided. While there, they bought horses (for they had no interest in gypsy games), and Zach was handed a story about Olidammara to read upon the way. Before they left, they all managed to lose a few coins to the gypsy pick pockets as well, which they didn’t notice till they rechecked their pockets well away from the camp. The story Zach read dealt with Olidammara stealing a magical gem from Wee Jas, and when he was cornered he smashed the gem into countless shards in lieu of returning it to her. The shards were scattered across the planes, so that Wee Jas and not even Olidammara could have the gem. These shards have since come to be known as Luckstones of Olidammara.
Arriving at Titan’s Tunnel on horseback, they rushed through the tunnels and came upon the Titan the tunnel contained in the middle of his meditation in front of a shrine to Olidammara. Going by the name Karmac, he claimed them to be rouge’s should they seek the Rouge’s Retreat, and they sought it because the Law had finally caught up with them. Should they desire retreat from the Law, they would need to give up some of what they took from the world. Believing themselves not to be rouges/thieves, the party realized they would need to give up some of the treasure they accumulated through their travels.
In the midst of judging if they should give some of their belongings to him, the party noticed the carpet Karmac was meditating upon used to be a Tayellah (an ancient magical beast which could be considered common animals in a gods court), turned into a trophy carpet from when Karmac hunted. Sensing the great risk they took if they fought their way through the tunnel, the party offered random items one by one to eventually reach the value Karmac desired (potions, scrolls, and finally glove of dexterity from Zach). Claiming their hoard was enough, he gave them safe passage through the tunnel and the valley as well.
Exiting the tunnel on the other side, they descended a stairway to a single stone path leading to a giant pyramid in the distance, lined with columns. On almost all of these columns sat a living Gargoyle, sitting silent and still, but watching every move they made. A day and a half later they ended up at the foot of the pyramid, leaving the horses behind as they climbed up the steps. The top of the pyramid spanned 100 feet across, but the only building which stood upon the space was a single beaten down outhouse. Upon opening the door, they noted the toilet inside was made of solid gold, but were immediately set upon by one hundred slaadi summoned via traps that were not disabled. They were subdued with minimal effort, but due to their numbers they still didn’t walk away unscathed.
Free to investigate the gold toilet, one of them walked in only to disappear, with the rest of the party following suit so as to assist the party member wherever he went. Coming through a closet filled with coats, they were greeted by a magically conjured musical band to Rouge’s Retreat, asking them to enjoy their stay away from the Law. Wasting no time with the theatrics, they walked through the banquet hall to a hallway filled with knights statues in awkward positions. If ended upon a stairway leading up, and a doorway blocked by a prismatic wall. Thinking they needed to jump through the wall to continue but did not have the proper spells to dispel it, Striker was about to jump through but was reminded of the staircase, saying they should explore their options first.
At the top of the stairs they came upon a door with a statue of Olidammara before it, which began proclaiming to them they stood before the entrance to the Rouge’s Test, which should they pass, gain proper entry to the main household of Rouge’s Retreat, and possibly win the right to be head of the house. Upon asking more questions to the statue, it proclaimed it was just a magical effect to relay information to possible Test takers, and thus began into the proclamation once again. Knowing that Garland was likely within the main household or the test itself, they walked through the doorway.
They arrived in another banquet hall, where a single table sit in front of a gargantuan door. To the side of the table was a food bowl filled with food proper for an armadillo, which could be seen wandering about the room. To the party’s sides were two gargantuan stairways leading up, and the doorway they walked through had disappeared, with only a solid stone wall behind them.
Sig jumped up upon the table when the armadillo came for him (claiming it was dirty), then heard the faint screams of Garland, whom Sig almost stepped upon on the table. He was apparently only one inch tall, a predicament he realized when he began climbing the stairway to the left of their entrance. He had since been atop the table so as to avoid the armadillo which had tried to eat him. Upon hearing this, the party began contemplating violence against the animal (or at very least subdue it). Zach thought it a good idea to have the armadillo investigate the stairways for them, so they wouldn’t be effected by the possible magic that effected Garland. As such, Zach began tossing the armadillo up the stairs, hurting the creature as it limped back down the steps, seemingly unaffected.
Realizing they would likely need to climb the stairs anyway to get the armadillo far enough up the steps, Thad took the initiative to climb the right staircase, which began getting smalling the farther he went up. When the walls became five feet wide, he began to climb back down, all the while realizing the staircase wasn’t getting any wider. Arriving back at the party, Thad stood before them in Gargantuan size, as did everything he held, as if he and his belongings were effected by a permanent enlarge person many times over.
Zach began to examine the gargantuan door, and after doing what he could do to search if it was locked (it was) or trapped (he couldn’t ascertain), Zach knocked upon the door. From the ceiling a sign decided, simply saying, “Please Knock,” which Zach did again, and a larger sign came down, saying, “PLEASE KNOCK!!!” Sig deduced that they needed to cast Knock in order to open the door, which he had not prepared for the day. Knowing this, Zach still continued to knock, which first opened up pit across the entire wall to the door, poisoned spikes at the bottom. Zach then climbed around the wall to keep knocking, this time firing several poisoned darts in his direction, none of which struck him. Zach was eventually convinced to stand down till they figured out what they could do to get past the door.
Meanwhile, the armadillo managed to crawl back to the food bowl next to the table and began to eat, noticeably becoming stronger the more he ate. Neolezreich decided to try out some of the food in the bowl, and while it was the most wretched thing he ever ate, his wounds began to heal, and so he began to eat in earnest. Thad (back to normal size after climbing the other staircase which shrunk him down) noted this, and began to eat from the bowl as well, retching along with Neolezreich as the armadillo ate happily, the food bowl replenishing itself as it was emptied.
Striker eventually took Garland in his hand and climbed the enlarging staircase, bringing Garland back to normal size and then climbing up the shrinking staircase to return to his normal size in turn. Garland explained he was trying to get to the main rooms of the household to speak with the hermit. He went on to say the Madaras Syndicate had little to do with him, and while he had no intention to change that, the hermit’s trade and involvement would help efforts greatly.
Realizing none of them had the proper skills to disarm the trapped door or even unlock it, the party spent the night in the room, waking the next day to have Sig cast Knock upon it. With the gargantuan door now unlocked, there was now the matter of opening it, for none of them were large or strong enough to handle the door (especially with the giant spiked pit in front of it as well). Neolezreich then rushed up the enlarging stairs and returned as if he were a great wyrm dragon (in size only), and knocked the door straight off its hinges. He then pulled the door across the pit to allow the rest of the party to walk across it as a bridge.
Before them stood another room, with a giant sized chessboard fit for medium sized creatures, and two noblemen playing chess with each other on the other side: one clothed in white, the other black, and both with seemingly metallic skin. They stood up and greeted them, claiming that in order to continue they would need to play chess with them on the giant sized board. They choose to represent black, each of them choosing a piece of the set to represent against white. They also took their time to cast buffing spells to enhance their chance of winning against the White Set, since the Kings (as the noblemen revealed themselves to be) did not object to their choices. The only objection they gave was that and Zach shrink to medium size so as to fit upon one of the spaces for the game to begin, which they did by quickly making use of the stairways in the other room.
With their spots selected, the Black King bid the match begun, and a wall of force encased all of them within the chess board. In addition, the board also attempted to dispel all the magical effects currently enhancing/hindering the party, making them lose many of their enhancements. And with that, the game began.