Exiting a building down the road from the Colosseum, Moirin and Greg heard a loud explosion from the direction of the palace. Screams and moans of dismay filled the air, citizens running from the direction of the concussion, and gunslingers as well as soldiers hurried to aid. Snarky joined them as they began toward the fires now pouring from the castle walls and lighting the smoke-filled sky.
From the same direction, Sylas showed up, stopping them. “It’s time to go, pack your bags, we need to leave.”
“Why?” Moirin asked, immediately suspicious of his anxiousness.
“Trust me, we are not safe here. Meet me at the East gate, it’ll be worth it.” He added to Moirin directly.
Around them, the screams turned to words, to mourning shouts, “the king is dead” they cried, the anguish of their words evidence to their love for the king. Anger boiled inside Moirin.
“What did you do?” She asked, instantly furious.
“We can’t talk here, just meet me,” and shoved two Gungslinger pistols on Greg, and a Lord’s Alliance pendant into Moirin’s hand, and left.
Looking around at the wreckage and torment, Greg, Snarky and Moirin were deeply confused. Planning on spending weeks more in the city, with lots more on their minds about the coming days, they hesitantly made plans with their contacts. Moirin and Greg headed to the post office to send a letter to Vannay in hopes of continuing their research with him, and Snarky endeavored to inform his contacts of his untimely departure.
Moving out of the city by the East gate, Sylas met them as promised, in disguise. Moirin turned on him, “What have you done?!”
“I got this,” he said, grinning as he held out the red orb to Moirin. As he held it, anger infused his words as he yelled back at her. “Isn’t this what you wanted?! I got it, as promised!”
Snatching it from his hands, her own anger lifted, and she returned the yelling. “YOU KILLED A KING?!”
“He was a tyrant anyway, he was going mad cause of that thing!” He stated, pointing at the orb she now held.
“You knew?! You knew it was because of this orb and you killed him anyway? A GOOD king?!”
“Turns out I was his son, he didn’t care for me, why should I care for him?”
Putting down the orb and covering it with her cloak, Moirin breathed to calm her anger. “Had you taken the orb, he wouldn’t have been a tyrant. And you blew up innocent people?!”
“I didn’t have anything to do with that. That was the King’s wizard, Martin Broadcloak. He helped me by creating a diversion.”
Suddenly Sylas looked panicked, “Do you feel that?” He asked, touching the ground. The other’s looked confused.
“I don’t feel anything.” Said Greg, watching him.
“You’re just paranoid because you killed innocent people.” Moirin snarled, and stomped down the road a ways.
“No, really, something’s coming.” Sylas insisted, looking around.
Greg and Snarky shrugged, unsure what was going on.
As Moirin looked up to the East, she noticed dust rising into the sky, along the horizon it stretched for miles each way.
“Um… guys..” She said, returning to the group, “There’s something heading this way.”
“Yep,” said Sylas, “That’s the Good Man’s army, coming to take the city.”
“WHAT?!” Moirin yelled, “You knew about this too?”
“They were coming either way,” he said, defending his actions.
“You don’t know that!” She yelled, and scooped up the orb, tucking it hastily into her bag.
As the army approached, the lines became clearer, something was different about this army, and it was advancing all too quickly.
Moirin headed over to the Stables, hoping to buy horses for her companions to escape. Greg, realizing he didn’t need a horse, began to summon his own as Snarky helped Moirin to bargained for a better deal. As they mounted their horses, they could see through the dust kicked up that these were not soldiers, the sounds coming from them were like the grating metal of a whetstone on steel, only deafening, the shapes like wide, square wagons with wheels like spiked snakes. None of them had ever seen anything like it.
Moirin turned to the shopkeeper, and yelled “Run!” and turned to head North around the city of Gilead.
…zzzzzzZZZZ BOOM The wall exploded inward, causing fires to blaze toward the sky. Screams from inside the city began anew as another strange sound filled the air and another part of the wall collapsed. Rushing their horses up the hill amid the panicked people and explosions, a couple of the horses reared and fell, one throwing Moirin from her mount. Pulling herself back on, they rode toward the bridge that crossed the river, joining a flood of people trying to escape the city from the Northern gate.
Still furious, Moirin yelled over the screams of fear and the whistles of the coming explosions. “What have you done? What are you not telling us?”
“They were coming anyway, I had nothing to do with this, I just got that damned orb like you wanted!” Sylas yelled back.
As they began to cross the bridge, having to go slowly for the townspeople on foot, a light appeared in the center of the bridge, and a deep laughter.
“Broadcloak..” Sylas said, staring at him, confused.
“You fool, you did everything we wanted you to, and you played right into our plans.” Then he disappeared in a flash, laughter echoing.
Sylas was struck, “No,” he whispered, staring into the empty space where the wizard once stood.
“Who was that?” Moirin asked, even more suspicious now.
“Martin Broadcloak, the king’s magical advisor.” Sylas shouted over the crowd.
“You worked with him?! This is all your fault!”
“No it’s not! I did what I had to to get that damned orb for you! That’s all that matters!” Sylas screamed back at her.
“Enough!” Snarky yelled, and moved forward across the bridge. “We need to go.”
“Maybe he could speak under my Zone of Truth spell, that way we know if he’s lying.” Greg suggested.
“Yes, I’ll submit willingly, then you’ll see I’m telling the truth.” Sylas eagerly responded.
“Fine.” Moirin said bluntly, and turned north.
With that the party moved on quickly amid the sounds of screaming, the acrid smoke burning their eyes and noses. Sylas and Moirin fumed silently, Moirin newly mistrusting of the murderous half elf, and Sylas angry at being fooled.
We moved into the woods, slowing only when we found a quiet glade to settle, the horses and heroes exhausted from hours of ruthless travel. Despite the distance, smoke filled the night sky, bright flames reflected upon the dark mass. Echoes of explosions still sounded from time to time, but for now, they were safe. After setting up an impromptu camp, and watering the horses, the adventurers settled down to hear Sylas’ explanation under the spell of Zone of Truth.
“On the 1st day of the tournament, I used the cloak, gunbelt, guns, and identification necklace as a makeshift disguise; pretending to be one of the Lord’s Alliance gunslingers. We all know from our time in Gilead that the gunslingers were the de facto police force. Hence, the disguise made it appear as if I was one.
“While in the castle, using what you guys had told me about the approximate location of the RED ORB, I wandered around, trying to pinpoint its location. I knew the RED ORB had a specific value to this group, and it was determined that we should get it. With everyone’s participation in the tournament, I volunteered to retrieve it.
“While using the disguise, I “cased the premises”, so to speak. Meaning, I spent the next 3 days watching guard rotations, patterns of travel, and gossip- and information-gathering. Using this information, I came to realize that the day with the fewest guards would be on the 4th day of the tournament. But another bit of information I gathered was that there were not only mundane wards against theft, but magical wards as well. Knowing that magical wards are usually tied to the specific one who cast the spell, I tried to find said specific spellcaster.
“I did find the finger-wiggler in question. His name is Martin Broadcloak. Sneaking to his room, I made my way past his two door guards, and gained access to his actual room.
“Once I had gained access to his room, I could literally feel the power emanating from Martin Broadcloak. At this point, I sincerely felt out of my league. So when faced with an unwinnable situation, I felt the need to win. Hence, I attacked, rather viciously.
“Martin was hurt, badly; but still managed to fire off an attacking spell. [He hit me for damage, but I had made my save – barely – to avoid being restrained.] We fought back and forth for a few moments until Martin began to speak. He told me about how the King was going crazy. So I stopped trying to kill him, but only until I was sure.
“After listening to Martin Broadcloak’s story, I ceased my attacks. It was he who told me about how the King was my father. He also told me about how the King was going crazy, sitting up all night, just staring into the RED ORB.
“When I told him I wanted the RED ORB, he fully acquiesced, saying it would be good to be rid of the damned thing. I told him I wanted to take it before the end of the tournament, and he devised the plan to create a diversion within the castle, one that would draw the guards from their posts. He also gave me the ability to become invisible – at will – for the next 24 hours. We agreed that the time for the diversion would be the next day, on day 4, just prior to the headlining match of that day of the tournament.
“So, on day 4 of the tournament, I used the ability to become invisible, which I had previously confirmed, and entered the castle. Making my way stealthily to the Exhibition Hall where the RED ORB was, I then waited patiently. Sure enough, and right on cue, there was an explosion within the castle. Most of the guards withdrew immediately, leaving only the two guarding the RED ORB. Still I waited. Sure enough, roughly 60 seconds later, they too abandoned their post to go assist with whatever was happening on the far side of the castle.
“Taking that as my cue, I went towards the RED ORB to retrieve it. Somehow, someone had pierced my invisibility; and as my hand reached for the RED ORB I saw a reflection on its surface of someone coming up behind me. Reacting instinctively, I drew my weapon, turned, and stabbed whoever it was.
“It turned out to be the King, my father. I was horrified. However, at this moment someone else showed themselves. It was Vannay.
“Vannay told me to just take the damned thing and go, but be aware that everyone in the city will want to slice my throat.
“I grabbed the RED ORB, and bent over the King. He was dying, but he managed to whisper to me that he knew one day I would return and had saved the RED ORB for me. Just for me.
“I drew both of my short swords and offered the King a quick release, which he accepted. I then stabbed both of my short swords through the chest of the King, killing him instantly.
“I bent and took his Royal Signet Ring off of his hand and placed it on my own, claiming my right upon the throne. But I knew that this was neither the time nor the place for such a claim; let alone the proper situation. So, toting the bag I had placed the RED ORB in, I fled the castle.
“Narrowly missing a scuffle or two, I luckily chanced upon the rest of the group just outside of the castle. It was here I told them that I would meet them at night fall outside the east gate, as I was going to be “persona non grata” in Gilead for the foreseeable future.
“Hastily I gave the gunbelt and guns to Greg and the identification necklace to Moirin. Leaving them behind, I made my way to my room at the inn where I had been staying and gathered my belongings.
“After I had my possessions, I made my escape. Again.
“And I was played. You all saw how. And it makes me angry.
“Angry enough to kill….”
After this the group began to argue about whether to stay in camp, to move on, what we needed and about finding further orbs. Because the red orb was not attuned to Moirin, Greg’s orb was useless in finding any other orbs, but with the rage it instilled in her, Moirin was wary of using it in Sylas’ presence, thinking she may just kill him. While the others discussed, Moirin decided to immerse herself in the safety of the woods, finding a small, quiet place to sit. Settling down, she closed her eyes and entered the orb.
Greg, looking around, noticed Moirin was missing. “Hey guys, where’s Moirin?”
Sylas and Greg spent some time searching, Greg following tracks he swore were Moirin’s, only to use the orb, and have it point the other way. Sylas ended on a cold trail, unable to discern the next direction, and both returned to camp empty handed. Deciding to settle down and wait a while, the party took some time to rest.
Bunnies.. So cute and fluffy, so soft, snuggling in my lap, nuzzling my cheek, they are so adorable! I’ve never seen so many.. Ah.. I needed this, I needed to relax. But wait, why am I here? Where.. is here? Oh nevermind.. these adorable little leverets need my attention. Moirin reached out and petted one of the younger hares, smiling with a peace she hadn’t felt in over a century. She breathed deeply, relaxing into the soft warmth of her little companions. _ And yet, I feel like I am forgetting something._ She murmured almost intelligibly. After what felt like a few moments lost in bunny-land, Moirin’s eyes opened a little as a little kit hopped onto her chest. She giggled, and reached out to touch it, Mmm, fliishhhif… Kiuthilly? JERIGHIYT!? Suddenly, unable to speak or make a clear thought, fear jolted through her and she tried to pull herself away, out of the orb.
Hours had passed at camp with no sign of Moirin anywhere. Finally, the party decided to search again in the direction Sylas had found, using Greg’s orb to guide them. Upon finding her, Moirin looked blank, her eyes dilated, no emotion betrayed on her face.
“Is she trancing?” Greg murmured, looking worried.
Sylas knelt down, looking into her eyes, “Moirin, you alright?”
Blank eyes stared back, although she could hear him she could not form words in her mind. A mix of emotions filled her to brimming before turning to her trance to calm her confusion. Sylas moved forward and dropped food into her lap, promising to return, and they left for camp. Snarky, unhappy being so close to the machines and anxious to move on, left the camp early to head North along the coast to the next village. Greg and Sylas moved camp closer to Moirin and waited a day longer for her to recuperate from her ailments.
((To be continued))