Chapter IV: The Judge


Journey to Hruggek



     Everyone wakes up and meets on the ship's deck, discussing their next strategy. Blackwing stands near the wheel of the ship, above his allies.
     "Yar har! We will set sail for Hruggek, the journey taking us three hours. When we land, we should prepare for anything, as Prag'tar will likely be aware of his citadel's defeat. Therefore, we must disguise ourselves as much as possible, changing outfits and such. Crow Lord will be without his cloak, as will Spider. I've got plenty of clothes prepared below deck... take as you need. I doubt he will recognize Warsch or Tharyn, but the rumors do speak of a paladin and a necromancer. I'd advise ditching the armor and tunics. Alethra, the twins, and I will be unknown to him. I don't know how much he knows regarding my former crew, so I will be disguised as a red and blue kenku, instead of black."

     Stormdrake tightens his lips. "You can change your colors too?"

     Blackwing removes his hat, tapping the gem on his head. "Yar. I used to scatter chalk on my feathers, but thanks to The Abjurer, that is no longer necessary."

     Selene speaks up. "Due to the security that we are walking into, Eranah and I will be disguised as well, posing as two Aasimar related to Warsch."
     Alethra nods her head. "I gotta figure something out regarding this hand. I'll be reading up on my book, trying to find a way or a rune to weaken it's destructive capabilities." she heads below deck, continuing her study.

     The rest of the party changes their outfits. Crow Lord removes his mask and attire dressing up as a fine gentleman, with long brown slacks, brown dress shoes, a white tunic and a brown vest over it. He leaves the top two buttons undone, giving him an attractive but otherwise unremarkable look.

     Spider returns from below wearing black slippers, gray leggings, and a mid-length green skirt, with a gray blouse tucked into it. Without her suit on, Spider has lost the ability to shoot webs and walk up the side of buildings like a spider, so she feels a bit unfamiliar with herself. Serene, Blackwing, and Eranah have never seen the drow before, and are astonished to see natural beauty lying behind the black mask.

     Tharyn burst from below deck, practically in tears. She wears an outfit similar to that of a damsel; a long blue dress flows from her shoulders down to her ankles. A tight black corset is tied around her waist, choking the air from her lungs. The dress has no sleeves, but Tharyn is wearing long black gloves that extend past her elbow. She keeps her long white hair tied back in a bun.

     "Can't... breathe! She says falling to the ground and crawling away from Warsch, who looses the knot on the back of her dress.

     "Much better." She says, a desperate smile on her face.

     Warsch is dressed very much so like an explorer, with a long brown trenchcoat over a tan tunic and dark brown khakis. His shoes are unpolished and scratched, like a very active archaeologist. Over his head is a brown adventurer's hat, in a similar state to his shoes.

     "Blackwing, how exactly did you come by these outfits?"

     Blackwings throws a few grains of granola into his beak, chewing on them unprofessionally. "Acquired many outfits throughout my adventures, I have. Not all of them I got fairly."

     Warsch looks down into the center of his tunic, which is slightly red with a dagger-sized hole in the middle. "I think I know what you mean..." Warsch says, taking a deep sigh. Warsch offers Tharyn a hand up, who bats it away and stands up on her own, trying to walk in heels for the first time in her life.

     Selene and Eranah transform their armor, turning each crystal into dust and forming it into threads. Selene is dressed formally in a black button up shirt with long black pants, while Eranah is in a fine white tunic with a white skirt that hangs below her knees. Selene still wears a thin strip of black cloth over her eyes, and Eranah pretends to be blind and holds onto her sister.

     As the party nears their flight to Hruggek, Alethra rises from below deck, with a long black glove over her left hand. On the back of her hand is a glowing red rune, formed in blood. Selene looks at the rune, her face unmoving.

     "Alethra, where did you learn that rune? Do you know what you have done?!"

     Alethra scoffs at the angel. "I have done what is needed. This glove will prevent any harm my hand may cause."

     Selene rubs a hand over her cheek. "What you have done is given the enemy an easy way to kill you. If you lose that glove, you WILL be killed. Do you understand me?"

     Alethra shakes her head. "I will not lose this glove, for I will most likely never take it off."

     Selene sits down and leans forward. "That glove isn't just an extension of your body; it IS your body. Any harm that comes to it will come to you. If a large tear forms down the middle of it, the same thing will happen to you."

     Selene picks up a fork, and Alethra's face turns white. Selene throws it at Alethra's hand, but as the fork comes within an inch of the glove, a wall of shadow deflects the dagger.

     Selene tilts her head, curious to what the woman has done to herself.

     Alethra pulls up her sleeve, revealing two branded symbols on her arm. Tharyn puts a hand over her mouth.

     "You know that you could've just written that in ink, right?" Says Tharyn, her voice muffled by her hand. "Washes away after a few days, and then get something new?"

     Alethra scoffs at Tharyn. "These runes are necessary, and I would rather avoid any accidents where they aren't active."

     Eranah smiles at Alethra. "I think that Alethra is doing wonderful and is growing into a fine Warlock. Tell us, good Warlock, what those runes mean."

     Alethra bows her head at Eranah. "This top rune is the symbol of Shadows, which grants protection called The Armor of Shadows, as Selene was kind enough to demonstrate," Alethra glares at Selene. "The bottom rune is the symbol of Thirst, which gives my right arm the ability to infuse my weapons with increased power, doubling their damage output. They drain my energy slightly, but I'll get used to it."

     Tharyn claps her hands at the warlock's magnificence. "Well done! I'm so proud of you, my girl! Let me know if you want to have a study session together! There's much I would love to show you, and in return you would let me take a peek inside that big ol' book of yours..."

     Alethra nods at the necromancer and then takes a seat next to Crow Lord, taking note of his scars. What happened to him that caused him such pain? How has he gone so long, unable to speak?

     Crow Lord bites his lip, distracted by his memories that Selene returned to him. However, with each day that passes, Crow Lord forgets a small detail. Whereas yesterday, Crow Lord knew what his father's face looked like, now he can't. Just a pool of blood that scatters on the stone floor. He recalls all the memories of the past year with perfect clarity, but his life before he became a druid is a mess. "My name is daimon... something." He tries to recall in his mind. He can't remember his last name?

Hruggek



     The party approaches the large iron doors of Hruggek, where two guards, a Goliath and a Half-Elf, stand on top of the wall and shout down to them.

     "Halt! The city is barred shut due to recent bandit activity in the region. State your intentions, and we may let you pass!"

     Blackwing steps forward, much to the party's surprise. "We are here on ceremony for our two lovers here, who wish to be wed in the strongest and safest city of Skoraeus's Kingdom. However, I suppose we could take our gold down to Dal'Krosh or-"

     The Half-Elf guard interrupts him. "Hold that thought! This city is certainly the strongest, and our church would be more than eager to host individuals such as yourselves. Please, enter and be merry!"

     As they step through the gates, which close behind them, the Goliath guard motions toward the center of the city.

     "You will find the Altar of Hruggek, a holy location to Goblins and Bugbear, in the center of the city. The chapel next to it has a single priest, who will gladly accept your vows."

     Blacking removes his hat, and bows to the guards.

     As the party walks away from the guard's sight, Tharyn slaps Blackwing alongside the head.

     "MARRIAGE!? YOU VILE WORM! I'LL HAVE YOUR HEAD, YOU DAMNED BIRD!" She screams.

     Warsch tries his best to hold back Tharyn, who could very well kill the Kenku in a split second.

     Blackwing holds up his hands. "Now ye listen here, ye nitwit! This here place is well known for a ceremony called the 'Sham-Wedding.' Basically, it's all pretend! In the greater sections of this world, *Blackwing whispers* Hruggek isn't acknowledged as an actual deity! *He speaks normally* So, even though you two wed, it won't be official!"

     Warsch points a finger at the blue and red bird. "Marriage is supposed to be sacred! You are not wise to fool a pala-"

     Blackwing interrupts Warsch. "Shh shh shhhhh! *he waves a hand at Warsch, and begins whispering* You'll blow our cover! Don't talk about your professions! Remember your secret identities!"

     Warsch and the party all look at eachother in confusion, whispering at Blackwing. "What secret identities?"

     Blackwing takes them all into a dark alley, where he slaps Warsch across the face with an invisible hand.

     "Now listen here, ye dumb wits! I told ye that we all were disguising ourselves. I thought you all had made up names figured out!"

     Warsch whistles, and a spectral pair of hooves fly out from the ground and kick Blackwing in the gut, knocking him ten feet back into a wall.

     "Damn.... ye!" Blackwing coughs, then leans up the wall back onto his feet to regain his breath. "Alright! Name time! I want everyone to come up with a name! I'll start first! Call me... Navigator Vinny!"

     Blackwing points at Spider, who thinks for a second and then blurts out "Retuna!"

     Blackwing looks at her, dumbfounded. "A Drow named Retuna? Really? *He pauses for a moment, trying to think of something better* Fine! Crow!"

     Crow Lord tries to speak, but cannot. He slams a fist on the wall, trying to remember his name. Selene puts a hand on his shoulder and whispers into his ear. "Daimon Krough... remember?"

     Crow Lord feels a sudden surge of memories flood his brain: His father's face, in agony. "Cao Cao!"

     Everyone looks over at Crow Lord, who's voice was raspy, but still audible.

     Warsch tilts forward, looking at Crow Lord. "Daimon... You spoke!"

     Crow Lord looks around in surprise, and tries to again. "Kaw... Kaw! Kaaaww!" Crow Lord gives up, shaking his head.

     Blackwing tilts his head. "Okay, so Daimon Krough. I don't think anyone will know that name here, so good thinking Selene! Speaking of which, Selene, Eranah, and Alethra don't need made up names! Next! The Dragonborn!"

     Stormdrake rubs his chin, trying to think of a good name. "Well, I have blue scales, so call me Azuron!" Stormdrake folds his arms, feeling quite empowered by his new cool name.

     Blackwing nods his head, then points at Warsch and Tharyn. "You two are getting married, so yes fake names are needed."

     Tharyn cuts off any response that Warsch was about to make, shouting. "Theresa and Larry... Lordran!"

     Blackwing smiles at the two of them. "Great! The Lordrans... has a nice ring to it." Blackwing begins rubbing the bottom side of his beak." Now, all we gotta do is procure some wedding rings! I could steal some-"

     Warsch pulls out two rings. "I've had these for quite some time, which I... may have found when we fought that undead army with the necromancer and-"

     Tharyn grabs the smallest ring, slipping it on her finger. "Aha! A perfect fit! Good eye, Warsch!"

     Warsch's face is red with embarrassment. "I don't think she knows what they were for..." He thinks.

     Everyone looks at Tharyn in complete shock, surprised at how unaware she is. Those rings...

     Blackwing pushes the party out of the alley, and begins walking them towards the chapel. "Now, in order to blend into this town, it would best to alert the officials to our intentions. They'll think that we are just here for ceremony, which gives us an excuse to be in this town for a week. While I set up Theresa and Larry Lordran, the rest of you should try to get jobs, particularly inside or near the Judge. Anything that looks inconspicuous but benefits our cause!"

     The party splits up, and the trio walk towards the Altar of Hruggek.

The Altar of Hruggek



     Blackwing walks towards a large brick building, opening a tall wooden door set with steel bindings. They walk inside, finding a lone Bugbear priest kneeling in prayer towards a great statue of a Bugbear.

     The trio wait for the man to finish with his prayers, who turns around and greets them in shock. He speaks much more intelligently compared to the previous Bugbear that the party encountered in the past: with a clear dialect, however his Bugbear accent is heavy.

     "Bah! My apologies, I didn't hear any of you enter! My name is Brotta'Q, a priest of Hruggek. How may I help you three today?"

     Blackwing raises up Tharyn's hand, hoping the priest will catch on; he doesn't.

     "My associates here are looking to be wed under the divine guidance of Hruggek! We came far, hoping to bind these two in union. Can you help us?"

     The priest smiles, and walks back behind a podium. He pulls out a large book, and begins muttering to himself.

     "I would be more than happy to help you get married! Marriage in Hruggek is rather primal, and a few offerrings to Hruggek must be procurred before we can begin. Many of the ingredients can be easily procurred, however it will take some time before we can arrange the ceremony."

     Warsch speaks up. "How long do you suppose that it?"

     Brotta'Q closes his book, and walks into the back room. After several minutes pass, he returns. "Well, we have the ingredients, so we just need to arrange the courtyard and such. It'll take me at least a day to find help, another day to set up, the third day to practice so we don't make mistakes, and then the fourth day the three of you will be bound in-"

     Blackwing shakes his arms and head. "Three of us? Oh no no no no! It's just them two. I've no intention of being bound for life to a couple of dumb-"

     Tharyn slaps him in the back of the head. The priest's brow raises, and then he laughs. "My apologies! So, the Aasimar and the Elf it is! An odd pairing, but much better than the Ogre and Gnome I wed the other day... Anyways, I'll need a thousand gold to cover the costs, and if the three of you would help, it would make the process much more meaningful."

     Tharyn smiles at Warsch, then back towards the priest. "We'd be glad to help out!"

The Executioner



     Alethra, Spider, and Stormdrake walk up to the great gates of the Judge's Court, where they are stopped by two Ogres, who speak with surprising intellect compared to the ogres they have met previously.

     "Halt! The court is not in session! Whatever your intentions are, you must wait until tomorrow!"

     Alethra smiles the ogres, who each remain still like stone. "Good guard! My friends and I were looking for work, such as guard duty and court service. We were wondering if you know or knew-"

     The ogres interrupt her in unison. "Come tomorrow evening, and the court will address you! Good day!"

     The trio turn around and head back towards the center of town. As they walk out of their earshot, Alethra remarks "Well, wasn't that just rude!"

     Stormdrake rubs his chin. "Perhaps we should approach several of the shopkeepers. They might know something about the town's troubles, or how we can help."

     The trio make themselves inside of a smithy, where smoke fills the shop.

     As the smoke clears, the party meets a small but strong Dwarf, turns towards the trio and lights a cigar in his mouth. After asking about if the man knew anything about the guards, the Dwarf responds.

     "Look, ye might be good folk, but guard duty is not something ye want to be in this town. I'd advise pursuing something nobler, like bounty hunting. And stay away from the court! Ye don't want to become executioners or the clean up crew."

     Spider tilts her head. "Executioners?"

     Before her question can be answered, a loud ringing sound is heard from the center of town. Across from the Altar of Hruggek is a large wooden guillotine, where a woman with black hair with red streaks is strapped into the bottom of the device, which is manned by a familiar ogre.

     "Kovark demands attention! By the decree of Judge Qwo'jar, this woman is found guilty of plotting against the city! You may know her as Sumner, but her true alias Scarlet Wind! The assassin who slew countless noblemen and tried to assassinate Qwo'jar! Do you have any last words, Scarlet Wind!?"

     The woman looks up at the crowd, smiling with blood streaking down her chin from her mouth. The blood is black, and drips upon the wood below her. "Mark my words: Qwo'jar is as good as dead! He has until the sunrises tomorrow before I-"

     The blade falls from the top of the machine, and chops her head clean off her body. Black blood spills from her body, But the small group of heroes notice that not nearly enough blood spilled from her wound as expected.

     Crow Lord puts on his ring, and tries to communicate. "That woman is not normal. Black blood, and when she was beheaded... barely any blood came out."

     Spider nods her head. "We will have to intercept her body, see if Tharyn can piece her back together. We may need that woman's help."

     While the trio went towards the castle, Crow Lord opened up a small stand in the center of town, called Daimon's Goodberries. Several good folk approached his stand, paying a single silver coin for every Goodberry he produces. Eranah sits next to him, casting a colorful hand over each berry, removing the bitter taste and giving it something comparable to grapes and blueberries.

     The people who consume the berries feel completed sated in their hunger, as if just eating a six-course meal. After the events of the execution, Crow Lord closes his shop, hoping to regroup with the party.

     Crow Lord kept an open ear while he operated his stand, listening in on the local converstations. From what he was able to gather, Qwo'jar has been acting more brutal ever since the great battle at Onatar's Gate, and after that the Prag'tar bandits reduced their raids on trade routes. On one hand, trade in the town has grown and many traders were able to sell their stock out of the city, creating many wealthy tradesmen and increasing the town's economy. However, others were saying that the guillotine wasn't used as often. As matter of fact, such things like public executions weren't even a thing at the time.

     Most of the people who had gone missing or been executed were very outspoken people against the Prag'tar bandits, who were trying to start a petition to get the Imperial Army out to stop him. Few remain, but no one speaks publicly against them anymore.

     Crow Lord walks around and frequents many of the shops, talking amongst the traders. A few of them refuse to answer his questions, but when he visits a flourist, she gives him a small note.

     Crow Lord walks out of the shop and reads the note in an ally.

     'If you seek those who are against Prag'tar, seek out the sewers.'

     Crow Lord burns this note, then takes a walk throughout the outskirts of the town, making a mental note of the sewer entrances. As he passes through the alleys, Crow Lord comes across a bunch of bullies kicking a poor chicken, although they do not kill it. Crow Lord pushes aside the bullies, drawing unnecessary attention to himself as he grabs the chicken and makes a run for the gate, sticking to the shadows and avoiding the busier parts of town. The bullies are hot on his heels, eventually chasing him into a dead end.

     Crow Lord turns around, the chicken starring at him in appreciation and fear as the bullies prepare to give him a beating.

     Crow Lord looks into the chicken, who deeply seeks justice against the bullies who had dared to harm it. Justice, Crow Lord thinks, is not his for the taking.

     Crow Lord channels a great deal of magic into the chicken, polymorphing the white bird into a human clad in a white tunic; a singular red belt is tied around his waist, and a mask covering the head is adorned with a chicken head made of cotton.

     Crow Lord begins croaking "Kaw Kaw!" and points forward, motioning the chicken ninja to attack. The chicken ninja runs forward at the bullies, who are defenseless against the chicken's kung fu moves, no matter what weapons or tactics they brandish. Despite being outnumbered, each bully is flipped, beaten, and unarmed by the chicken's martial prowess.

     The chicken reverts it's form, and runs back into Crow Lord's arms. With great fear, the bullies flee from the druid. Crow Lord regroups with the party, finding them by the Altar of Hruggek.

The Sewers of Hruggek



     The party meets up near the altar, and decide to rent a tavern for the week, picking a decent place near the center of town called The Duck Tavern. Tharyn immediately notices Crow Lord holding onto a chicken as he walks in.

     "Ehhh... Daimon? What's with the chicken?"

     Crow Lord sets down the chicken and begins writing. "Saved it from bullies. Received a note, telling me to go to the sewers."

     The party reads the message, curious as to what lurks below. Blackwing nods his head.

     "These are the only clothes that we have prepared. We need to go out and purchase some before we travel waist-deep in sewage, and maybe buy some wedding attire while we're at it."

     Spider taps the table. "I think we should split up again, because I don't know if the rest of you saw it, but there was a public execution today. However, I don't think that the girl, whatever she was, is really dead. Her blood was black and when her head was chopped off, little blood spilled out. We were hoping to take Theresa and Larry along and investigate her body. A woman who tried to kill you-know-who is likely a good ally."

     Blackwing nods his head. "Then it be decided. I will go with Larry, Theresa, Retuna, and Azuron. Before we split, perhaps some shopping? We still have a few hours before sunset."

     The party heads out to a tailor, who sells them several temporary outfits and even measures them for suits. After they disperse the coin to the tailor, they change their clothes and seperate.

     Crow Lord leads his gang into an alley, where they pop a grate and slide down into it's smelly wonders. They wander for what seems like hours, walking in circles. Even with his flame casting a light in the tunnels and the angel twins' perception, the party cannot find whatever they were supposed to find. As they complete what is actually their third pass of the sewers, they find a lone man sitting on a crate near a grate, which was unnoticeable before. His hair is a fair yellow, and his clothes are the common attire of an archer, with leather padding over one side of his chest, leather bracers, and padded shin guards. His body is slim, but his muscles stretch against his clothes. Despite having the looks of an archer, he bears no weapons of any kind.

     Alethra puts her hand on Crow Lord's shoulders. "I'll handle the talking." She says.

     Alethra walks up to the man, who tilts his head up at her. "I'd stop right there, if I were you. I'd hate to have to sick the great sewer serpent on you."

     Alethra crosses her arms. "We don't mean any harm. We are actually here based on rumors against Qwo'jar, who we know is actually Prag'tar."

     The man raises his brow at her, a smile stretching across his face. "You know, do you? Tell me, how did you figure this out?"

     Alethra raises her chin at the man. "We slew his second-in-command at the Prag'tar Citadel. We then read his journal, which explained very much regarding Prag'tar and his position here in Hruggek."

     The man stands up off his crate. "Well, that would be half of the information that you need to know. There's a reason the people didn't immediately overthrough Prag'tar. As matter of fact, it's quite obvious that Qwo'jar is no longer the judge he used to be. Prag'tar has, in his control, a horde of artifacts that grant him unlimited power: The Scepters. So far, we've sent many assassins after him, and even issued a revolt against him. However, one of the scepters he possesses allows him to rewrite past events in his favor, erasing people's memories in the process."

     Eranah and Selene each begin to make "oooh oh no."

     Alethra and Crow Lord each turn around. "What are you two getting at?" Alethra asks.

     Selene sighs. "It's not one of the scepter that he controls, but several of the five. Basically, each one is a key to a gate of great power, similar to how Onatar's gate was opened with the Tonitrus. However, this isn't a gate to another world: it is more like a vault, filled with world-ending power. However, the vault is not completely opened, only granting a portion of the it's power over reality."

     The man steps into Selene's view. "And tell me, angel," He smiles at discovering their identity. "What does the fifth scepter grant?"

     Eranah's face remains still like a frozen person in pain. "A single wish, which can grant anything. At least, that's all that I can remember from my previous life. We came across the spears once, shortly during The First Summer. We decided that such power couldn't fall into the wrong hands, and decided to destroy them instead. Unable to do so, we threw each weapon in locations where trusted gods could watch over them, places where mortals could not reach them."

     The man nods his head. "Follow me. My guild has been waiting for you to show up."

     Alethra squints her eyes. "What do you mean 'waiting?' We've wandered here for hours!"

     The man shakes his head. "We have your friends, who've said much and sent me to collect you. I'm the guard for the guild, a master of the illusion magics. It's no wonder that you weren't able to find it."

     Alethra looks at the man untrustingly. "How did you meet our friends before us?"

The Undying One



     Stormdrake, Tharyn, Warsch, Spider, and Blackwing travel to the graveyard, where they dig up recent burials, which are many. After digging up ten graves and finding partially rotted corpses, the four come upon an empty coffin, which is odd considering that the dirt above it was undisturbed after it was buried. Warsch and Stormdrake climb out of the hole, their limbs tired from constant digging. As they climb up, a woman's voice blasts through the damp air around the graveyard.

     "Freeze! Move, and I'll blow one of yer heads off!"

     Stormdrake turns around and sees the graveyard keeper, who fires a bluderbuss at him. Reacting as quickly as possible, Stromdrake raises up a lightning barrier around him, which zaps each bullet and redirects them to his right, hitting a nearby tree.

     The woman is dressed in normal commoner clothes: brown boots that reach her calves, tan pants, a brown jerkin over a white tunic, and a hat which she keeps pointed down to cover the top half of her face.

     The woman smiles. "You aren't ordinary graverobbers," She says casting aside her gun and reaching towards her left hip. At first, there's nothing there, but as her hand closes around an invisible object, a great red and black shadow materializes onto her hip.

     She pulls a dark blade from a scabbard, and points it directly at them.

     Blackwing takes a step forward. "We've come to parley-"

     Immediately upon taking his first step, putting his foot on the ground, the woman appears before him and cuts his hat in half, and the top half of it blows away in the wind.

     Blackwing pulls his hat off and sticks an eye through it, looking at the woman with hatred in his eye. "Now... that's just not nice, you damned-"

     Stormdrake puts a hand on his shoulder. "We don't mean any harm. In all honesty, we were hoping to inspect the body of a woman we saw get executed earlier today, for we noticed a few things about her."

     The gravekeeper points her blade at Stormdrake, his azure scales reflecting the red glow from her sword. "Oh? And tell me, what things did you notice?"

     Stormdrake take a deep breath of air. "First, we noticed that her blood was black, and when she was executed, that she did not bleed like a normal human. Secondly-" Stormdrake motions towards the empty grave "she was either never buried, or she somehow turned into a ghost and phased out of the ground."

     The woman lifts up her hat, dark red eyes piercing at him. Stormdrake gasps. "You're that woman!"

     She laughs at him. "Now that you know, what would you do with that information?"

     Warsch walks forward, trying to settle any disturbances, however the woman presses her blade against his chest, which eats through the fabric of his shirt.

     "We just want to figure out why you tried to assassinate Qwo'jar, and how you failed. We know who and what he really is."

     The woman sheathes her sword, and walks them over towards the gravekeeper's house.

     Inside, the party finds another woman, who looks very much like her, tied up on her bed. The woman they contended with earlier pulls up a chair and sits next to the bed.

     "I don't know what is going on here, but don't you think it's a bit cruel to keep her tied up like that?" Says Warsch.

     The woman nods her head. "I'm a Doppleganger: I require someone's looks to copy, and then I steal both their memories and their identities. I accept contracts during that time, and after I've earned enough coin, I move on to the next town and find a new look."

     Stormdrake blinks. "Dopplegangers, huh? But that still doesn't explain how you managed to resist death after beheading."

     The woman sighs. "I cannot die. My mother, who was in a cult, slept with a doppleganger, who she assumed was just some ordinary guy about to be sacrificed. However, the man slipped away, and I was conceived. My mother tried to sacrifice me to demons, and I was cast into the planes of hell. When I arrived, the King of Hell, Azmodeus, took pity on me and raised me as his own. After many years of hell, he released me into this world. In exchange for my freedom, I must kill the people that belong in hell."

     Stormdrake raises his brow. "And now you're a hired blade?"

     The doppleganger nods her head. "Pretty much. My contracts fit perfectly with Azmodeus, quench my thirst for blood, and I get to fulfill my doppleganger freedoms."

     Tharyn sighs. "So who hired you? Can you take us to them?"

     The woman smiles. "Ofcourse! However, you'll need to be tied up first."

The Guild of the Vault Guardians



     The woman takes the five heroes down into the sewers, where they are seated down in the middle of the room, guns pointed at them from all directions. The doppleganger pulls up a chair in front of them.

     Tharyn looks around at what the guild is doing. She sees that several of them are just cleaning out the barrels of their guns. Tharyn looks over at a large chunk of sunstone, which is being used to power up the lighting inside the room. A worker pushes a cart past them, filled with both darkstone and sunstone crystals.

     Eventually, a large goliath with pale white skin and black stripes across his face and torso takes a seat across from the heroes and the assassin.

     "So, I see that you brought me more people. Why do you keep bringing me more people?" He asks, peeling apart an orange as he sits down in a chair.

     The doppleganger crosses her arms. "You act like I'm not doing you a favor. Don't you recognize three of them?"

     The goliath squints at Warsch and Tharyn, but shakes his head at Stormdrake. "An Aasimar and a Moon Elf, matching the Hammers. But the blue dragon? He's supposed to have scales made of brass..."

     Stormdrake takes off the magic hat, his scales immediately returning to their yellow hue. The goliath's eyes widen.

     "Oh! Well hey, that's the Hammers. What are they doing here? I thought they only did Thalumend's bidding?"

     Warsch speaks up. "Actually, that is true to a certain extent. We are hunting down Prag'tar, who is playing around as-"

     The Goliath interrupts him. "As Qwo'jar, yes. But do you know why?"

     Stormdrake speaks up. "Because he is a vile coward! He killed my kin, my brothers and sisters of Talos! He-"

     "Sought an item that would have made him a god. And you brought it here, didn't you? A large brass swordspear that channels the power of the storms? Has an inscription on the side that reads 'They who wield this spear shall be named Stormdrake.'"

     Stormdrake's face is stiff. "Well, at least you know how to read. Let's play a game! I'm thinking of a number between one, and oh let's see... how high can you Goliaths count? eight? A number between one and-"

     "This is no laughing matter!" The Goliath shouts, his eyes bloodshot and rage brewing in his mind. A laidback scout walks up to him, with yellow hair and leather armor strapped to his torso.

     "Strongar, those people are still wandering around the sewers. Should I have Pinky drown them?"

     The Goliath named Strongar looks over at the Hammers. "Do you know of these people? Two humans travelling with two angels?"

     Blackwing nods his head. "Yar! They be ours! You... Scout! Send them in, please and thank you!" He says, leaning back in the uncomfortable wooden chair.

     After some time passes, the rest of the group is brought into the chamber, seated near Strongar, who gets up from his seat and offers it to one of the twins. He walks around the Hammers, thinking.

     "Do any of you know what is at stake here?"

     Eranah smiles at the man. "The Vault, yes?"

     "Yes! The damned vault! We can't destroy it, we can't bury it. And more Scepters just keep showing up and end up in Prag'tar's hands!"

     Selene raises her brow at him. "You act like it's our faults. Just who are you people?"

     Stormdrake leans forward in his seat. "What are the Scepters?"

     The doppleganger rubs her temples. "This mission is so not worth the coin."

     Strongar places both hands on the assassin's shoulders. "The Scepters are keys that, when all joined together, grant the user a single wish. Our informant tells us that inside the tallest tower of the Judge's estate lies a store room lies a series of symbols and patterns carved around a small golden disk, which has five slots, one for each scepter. Each Scepter takes on a different form: A glaive, a greatsword, a giant key, a rod, and finally, the swordspear. Each commands an element: fire, air, light, darkness, and finally, lightning. They are the guardians of the vault. Prag'tar has four keys, which is enough to open the vault a tiny crack. He uses his power sparingly, but mostly just rewrites recent events. Instead of an assassin breaking into his sanctuary, she is instead captured EVERY time and executed."

     Stormdrake looks around. "So how do we stop him?"

     Strongar looks at him, and shouts with sarcasm. "Well, I tried to come up with several plans, but couldn't think past eight!" He walks around the group some more, calming down a bit. "Our plan is a collection of data, which Scarlet Wind has collected for us over the course of several deaths. He can change the course of certain events, but no matter how far back he returns events, he can not bring back the dead. Another thing we learned: this chamber is immune to his power."

     Tharyn looks up and closes her eyes. "We're right beneath the Altar of Hruggek, aren't we?"

     Strongar shakes his whole body. "Yup! The divine protection of a goblin-god. It's our last and only hope."

     Tharyn pulls out a notepad, writing down a collection of information. "How far can he reset events? Is there a range to what time periods he travels to and to what area is affected?"

     Scarlet Wind, the doppleganger, rises from her chair. "His range is limited. I dragged my shadowblade through the dirt from the gates to the sunstone forest, and then tested his power within two days. His power is not growing, but it is great: setting the tower as the center, I deduced that his power extends halfway towards the sunstone forest. As for the timespan, it affects only two days."

     Tharyn nods her head. "So, we have a timespan of two days before he can wipe our memories clean, a dome of goblin protection, a range that consists of several miles, and the final Scepter. So, how do we truly stop him?"

     Spider speaks up. "I'll gear up, and then I will sneak into the tower and remove the Scepters."

     Scarlet Wind shakes her head at Spider. "No way. They can't be removed. Believe me, I already tried."

     Spider looks at Strongar. "This guild of yours... how long has it existed?"

     "Since the vault was discovered at the dawn of time. The keys were scattered and we stayed, passing down the duty to the next generation." Selene tilts her head, looking at Eranah. "I don't remember that bit. We just took the keys and threw them into a volcano, the deepest ocean, places where mortals couldn't get them."

     Strongar cracks his knuckles. "We were born to defend. If you do not believe me, then you may meet our senior leader. However, if he breaks free, then our mission is jeopardized."

     Warsch looks at the party, and shrugs his shoulders. "Let's meet him!"

The Everlasting Guardian



     The party are taken even further below ground, to a thin stone chamber set with several holy symbols, where a large coffin rests at the end of the hall.

     "This here is our leader, an immortal being known as a vampire. We had to take extra precautions after the last time he was free. He turned our previous leader, who accidentally scratched one of the holy symbols on the walls and was turned by the creature, then became lost in his thirst for blood and shed his duties. If what I heard is true, then you faced him and killed him."

     Warsch grabs onto his wrist. "Yes... he put up a great fight, but died as a monster had to."

     "Well, I'd thank you personally, but that man could have been saved. The vault could have restored him."

     Tharyn makes a rude comment. "If so, then how come you don't cure your secret vampire lord?"

     Strongar grabs onto the coffin lid. "He doesn't want to wish for it." He opens the lid, revealing a larger than normal skeleton, it's arms crossed across it's chest and the skin barely attached to the bones. It's eyes have decayed, causing blindless, and it's lips have pulled upwards, revealing multiple razor sharp teeth. As Strongar peels the lid back completely, a cold voice fills their minds and sends chills up everyone's spines, except for Warsch and the twins.

     "Blood... feed me! Gods, please feed me!"

     Strongar takes a step back. "Stay away from him, and do not grant any request he may ask!"

     The decrepified being leans forward out of it's coffin, but cannot move any further due to silver bindings. "Ah... the bindings! They hurt me! Bite into my bones... but that smell is so pure! Is that the blood of an Aasimar?" He sniffs some more. "A Warlock, an elf, a stormborn dragon, two angels, and... the descendent of the paleblood! Aaaahhhh... such sweet blood. Please! Lend me thy succour, paleblood!"

     Warsch looks at Crow Lord. "What is a paleblood?"

     The vampire opens it's jaws at Crow Lord. "Paleblood, those who are forever cursed for being the children of the Darkborn. When the world was wiped clean, the Great Old Ones were cast into a seperate dimension, along with all of their darkspawn. Except for one, who then mingled it's blood with humans. They were each cut down, thought to be extinct. Ahhh... but one still lives!"

     Strongar waves his arms. "That's beside the point. Tell these people about the mission!"

     "The mision? Oh... yes! To keep the Old Gate from opening! Unlimited power, to grant a single wish. I am curious, as to what the next one will be. It must be prevented at all costs."

     Tharyn looks into the sunken eyes of the creature. "What lies behind the gate? People keep saying 'unlimited power,' but what does that mean? Is it energy, a realm, objects?"

     The vampire looks into her eyes. Although it is blind, Tharyn can feel the creature peering into her very soul. "The vault is unknown, even to me. Some... speculate... that it is a door to another dimension, where the old gods are trapped. Others would say that it contains the source of magic. Neither angels, demons, devils, or gods know the true answer, for they were all created afterwards. I begged Oghma to answer, but he gave me nothing."

     Strongar turns his back to the beast, and ushers everyone away. "I think he's had enough. Back to your coffin, master. Please."

     The vampire struggles against the chains, which pull him back into his prison. "No! Wait! Just one drop of that paleblood! Please! The hunger... The thirst! Pleeeeaaase!"

     The lid of the coffin closes with a loud, and struggling can be heard within it's confines.

     Warsch looks back at the coffin. "Why do you keep him prisoner like? Wouldn't it be easier to kill him?"

     Strongar turns towards the Aasimar. And what would we do if Prag'tar somehow removed our memories? How would we be able to rebel and overthrow him if there was a zero chance of stumbling across one who knows all? No, he must live on."

Stormdrake



     Stormdrake listens intently to everything the vampire is saying. As he walks away, Stormdrake can't remove a single thought from his mind: A single wish can be granted. A wish that could wipe the whole plane clean. Stormdrake has the final piece of the puzzle, and a solution to end it all.

     Stormdrake tries to pretend like he is paying attention to what Strongar is saying, regarding a plan to blind Prag'tar from the magic of The Vault. It sounds like a good strategy, but too many would die in the process.

     The party exits the guild's hideout, travelling back to their ship to gear up. However, Stormdrake stays in the back of the party, and then ducks into an alley. Stormdrake does his best to remain out of sight, sneaking his way towards the Judge's estate, even though stealth is not a dragonborn's specialty. However, being able to levitate is quite a talent, for Stormdrake can climb up a wall and glide across stone without making a single sound.

     "Man, I really wish this could've been Spider..." thinks Stormdrake, who sees several guards patrolling the courtyard. Stormdrake looks around the area, counting four guards total: one by the front entrance, one over main gate, and another two walking opposite of each other around the perimeter of the wall. Stormdrake eyes up the estate, finding a tower with an open window, where he sees several workers in a kitchen. He continues his gaze upwards, seeing the tallest tower, which is surrounded in gray brick. "Perhaps I could cut through the roof," He thinks. All of a sudden, Stormdrake feels a strong grip on his shoulder.

     He flips around midair, trying to kick away, but the woman pulls him by the ankle and pins her elbow below his chin. "Spider!" Stormdrake groans.

     "What are you doing!" She whispers. "You aren't suited for this line of work! What is your plan!?"

     "I'm going to kill Prag'tar, then I'm going to-"

     "No! That's the dumbest idea yet! You'll be giving the enemy exactly what he wants!"

     "But-"

     "No buts! You're coming back with-"

     Stormdrake slaps his hand on top of her head, then zaps her with a quick and quiet bolt of electricity that knocks her unconscious. Stormdrake carries her into an ally, and dumps her inside a barrel. "I'm sorry!" He says, and then makes his way towards the backside of the castle.

     From there, Stormdrake easily shimmies up the side of the estate and onto the roof of the tallest tower. Stormdrake uses his swordspear to cut through the stone shingles like paper. After cutting a large square pattern, Stormdrake thrusts his blade deep into the center of the freshly cut square. He lifts upwards, charging the staff a little bit to grasp the block and pulls the slab out, cutting a nice hole into the ceiling. He drops down, but finds himself in a strange room with barrels.

     "Barrels!" He thinks. "But where is the vault?" Stormdrake wanders around the room, looking for a golden disk. He focuses his mana, and begins detecting the presence of an evil creature in the room below him.

     "Prag'tar!" Stormdrake thinks. However, he doesn't detect the presence of any other creatures in the room. All of a sudden, Stormdrake hears loud thudding below him, like someone is crawling up the trap door.

     Stormdrake levitates up onto the ceiling, right into the blind spot of the trap door. As the door opens, a large ogre squeezes through. Although Stormdrake has no actual idea as to what Prag'tar looks like, he doubts that this ogre is him.

     The ogre pops out of the hatch, and knocks over a bunch of crates. He closes the door, and tries to fix the barrels, which are now leaking a purple fluid "Uhh! I am still so clumsy! But I sees nothing up here, like Prag'tar ordered. Unless..."

     As Kovark prepares to turn around and look at Stormdrake, Stormdrake flies forward and punches Kovark hard in the face, sendig him flying against the far wall. Dazed, the ogre tries issue a question.

     "Uhhhh... Who dares to strike at Me?!" Kovark looks dazed across the room at the brass-scaled dragonborn. "You! You were always a bully to me! Treated me like an idiot, like a slave! Prag'tar will-"

     Stormdrake zaps Kovark with several bolts of lightning, immobolizing him. As Kovark lays there motionless, Stormdrake ties him up and gags his mouth.

     "I should've killed you when I had the chance, but I can't kill you now. Not unless I want everyone on my ass."

     Stormdrake punches Kovark softly across the cheek to leave a bruise, then makes his way down the trap door, where he comes to a room filled with an assortment of weapons, such as three greatswords.

     "There's a wide assortment of weapons, but no vault here..." Stormdrake thinks, analyzing the room.

     Stormdrake peeks through the keyhole of a door, seeing a chamber with a bed and several closets. "This must be the bed chambers of Prag'tar," deduces Stormdrake. He searches through each closet and drawer, looking for a journal or a map... something to guide his path.

     After searching through and finding nothing of importance, Stormdrake walks to the door, peeking through the hole before opening it. He walks down a hallway, which takes him to a set of stairs that lead up and down. Stormdrake ascends the stairs, which lead up into a large, wide room with the tapestry of a large bloodshot eye hanging from the ceiling on the far wall.

     On the far side sits Prag'tar on a throne, which has four weapons inserted into the back in an odd order. "The vault is the throne!" Stormdrake relays back to the group with the ring, but there's no answer or sign of communication. Stormdrake tries to levitate, but finds that he is weighted to the ground. He tries to channel lightning from his spear, but nothing happens, almost as if everything magical about him had suddenly vanished.

     Prag'tar rises from his throne, and beckons to Stormdrake. "Ah... how good to meet you, Stormdrake! I've heard so much about you: the great battle at Onatar's Gate, the thunder of a god that you wield like a toy. That spear you have, it belongs to me. Hand it over."

     Stormdrake feels a presence inside his mind, a voice convincing him to relinquish his weapon. Stormdrake grabs onto his holy symbol, trying to remember why he hates Prag'tar. Then, the voice of Stormdrake's fellow priest fills his mind.

     "Prag'tar killed your people, your brothers and sisters lie dead because of him!"

     The presence in Stormdrake's head exits his mind, the bodies of his father and fellow priests littered upon the ground, the rocky soil red with their innocent blood. Stormdrake will avenge them!

     Prag'tar smiles at him, and waves his hand. "Resisted, eh? Not very many can do that, especially after their magic is nullified. Assassin! Eliminate this... Lizard. Bring me his weapon, and I'll grant you what was promised!"

     Stormdrake sees a shadow appear between him and Prag'tar. A misfigured woman rises from the shadow, her face dark and her features are grotesque. Her black eyes and gray teeth are shrouded in the shadows, but Stormdrake sees her for who she is.

     "Scarlet Wind, why are you working for Prag'tar! What is he offering you: gold, an estate, fame?"

     The shadowed doppleganger smiles at him. "He offered me so much more than gold: a chance to find my father. All I gotta do is serve him faithfully and undo the Vault Guardians, and then I will have my reward!"

     Stormdrake twirls his spear. "He is a vile worm and will likely betray you the moment you complete your task. You will never find your father this way, assassin!"

     She laughs at him. "Says the fool who wandered away from the safety of his allies and came here alone, with the very weapon to unlock the vault's true power!"

     Stormdrake charges at her, the power of his thunder removed from his body. He thrusts his spear forward, trying to stab in the doppleganger, but his spear pierces through smoke. Stormdrake lifts up his weapon just in time to block a slash from the shadowblade, which sends him across the floor. Prag'tar releases a sickening laugh.

     "Ha! The poor fool is nothing without his lightning!"

     Stormdrake looks around for the source of the nullification, but can't find any relics that would be doing this, aside from the throne.

     Stormdrake diverts his attention back to the assassin, who brings the blade close to his chest, then cuts across it. The wound on Stormdrake's chest is wide but shallow, sending little blood onto the ground. Stormdrake grunts in fury, and then swings his spear in an upward arc, but only manages to cut through smoke again. He rolls sideways, dodging impalement from a sword that rises from the ground.

     The doppleganger floats up from the surface of the ground, a sick smile across her disgusting lips.

     The two charge at eachother, but Stormdrake flips his spear around and smashes the end of it into the assassin's face, who turns to smoke and leaps above him again. The woman slices her sword into Stormdrake's back but Stormdrake leans forward and thrusts the blade of the spear behind him upwards, stabbing into the doppleganger's stomach.

     "Gaaah!" screams the dark assassin. She flies back across the room, her black blood spilling across the ground only once, before her stomach seals shut. Stormdrake spins the spear down, thrusting it into the ground. He looks over at the shadowy assassin with a challenging smile across his maw.

     "Oh, that's right! How could I forget? You're undying! But I'm curious: Is that immortality, or just the tempororay nullification of death? Is there a limit to the amount of blood that can be spilt?" says Stormdrake, his chest and back stinging, but the bleeding stops when he doesn't move. "I need to find a way to free my lightning reserves," he thinks. Stormdrake tries to channel lightning from his body, but feels his energy crash against a wall.

     Stormdrake tries to remember what the limitations of energy is, and what can block them. Before his thoughts can get carried away, the doppleganger stabs her blade into the ground, which summons a large blade from the ground. Stormdrake backflips away from it, planting his spear into the ground and using it to flip even further away, dodging another spike that rises.

     A single thought occurs to Stormdrake: The assassin said she was raised in Hell, which means that the shadows must have demonic origin. Stormdrake was never very concerned with the aspect of purification rituals in his youth, but he knows that any holy verse can be used to exorcise . Without his lightning, exorcism may be his best shot at winning.

     Stormdrake humms peacefully, like the calm before a storm, trying to keep his mind empty of any distractions. A single prayer comes his mind: The Passing of Storms. Stormdrake groans, ready to begin his sermon.

     The doppleganger rushes forward at Stormdrake, her blade ready to taste his throat in a few seconds.

     "There are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.

     "As they were sailing along, Talos fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger.

     "And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Talos Himself was asleep.

     "When the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along."

     The assassin's shadows begin to flow against her, pulling her away from Stormdrake, who continues his prayer.

     "Talos got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Hush, be still.' And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.

     "Oh, afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted. Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, And your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Let this storm pass, and any ill will be gone from this moment!"

     The shadows begin pulling away from the doppleganger, but before they can escape, a great crackle of lightning surrounds the shade, and pulls down her shadowy smoke into the floor, which begins to char as more smoke is pulled under. Her blade falls from her hands, seperating into the air like dust.

     "No! But... how! You're powers... they're supposed to be sealed away!"

     Stormdrake spins his spear, and slices off the assassin's head, which rolls across the floor. "You can never seal away my faith." Stormdrake says with confidence, feeling a surge of electricity flow through his body.

     "So, somehow she was sealing my power? Care to explain that bit, Prag'tar?"

     "Hahaha... She was not sealing away your power. It was I, Prag'tar, who curved the battle in her favor. Even with your power returned, you are still no match for me!"

     Prag'tar rises from his throne, and pulls two greatswords from the side of his throne. The large ogre is decked out in steel plates, with a large black diadem in the form of a hell-hound's head secured around his temple. Despite ogres being fat and gluttonous, Prag'tar is slim with large muscles pressing against his skin. He lacks the large gut of ogre-kind, and stands like a hero from an Olympian tale. He looks twice as strong as any ogre, and wields the two thick greatswords with ease.

     "Foolish dragon! You have no idea the kind of power I control in my hands!"

     Stormdrake crackles with energy, floating off the ground. "We'll see about that!"

     Prag'tar smiles at him, his tongue licking his lips around his large, iron-plated tusks. "Go ahead! Give me your best shot!"

     Stormdrake hovers off the ground, a massive surge of lightning coursing through him and the swordspear. As lightning courses over his weapon, Stormdrake shouts:-

     "THUNDER!!"

Hunger and Betrayal



     The party returns to the ship, realizing that Stormdrake is missing. Spider immediately slaps on her suit, and then charges off to find him.

     As she hunts him down, a loud series of explosions can be heard below ground. Smoke begins to rise up through the central sewer grates in the town, and the remaining party all charge down into the sewers. They come across and pass through a large hole, where a sewer gate used to be. As they rush into the large chamber, flames are everywhere and rise up into the surface of the town.

     Tharyn takes a deep breath at the destruction, and summons a large quantity of bones from her satchel, which surround her flesh like armor. As the bone forms around her jaws, Tharyn feels the presence of Stormdrake, who is shouting something about a throne and the vault.

     As she tries to absorb this information, an orc charges at Tharyn with a large club, but Tharyn summons a bone blade from her satchel, which flies through the air into the orc's chest. Tharyn walks over his corpse, pulling out the sword. Several steel arrows fly from her right, but each bounces off her bone armor.

     Tharyn tilts her head pathetically at the three gnome archers, who try to flee. Tharyn summons many razor-sharp teeth from her satchel, and sends them forward to kill the gnomes, who are repeatedly eviscerated until they're forms are akin to beaten tomatoes.

     The bones return to Tharyn, hovering around her. As she she continues forward, she comes across an ogre who picks her up and slams her into the ground. As the air escapes from her lungs, Tharyn explodes in frost, freezing the ogre's fingers, which shatter. Tharyn remembers what the vampire rider did to Warsch and grabs onto the ogre's arm, trying to pull all the heat from his arm.

     However, Tharyn's understanding of pyromancy isn't as great as Crow Lord's, but Tharyn understands ice magic exceptionally well, and instead creates a powerful frost through his arm. The ogre screams out in pain, and then Tharyn raises her sword into the creature's throat, severing his spine from his brain.

     Crow Lord controls the flames around the area to dispatch enemies, but despite the massive flames roaring about, he feels a chill in the air. He turns around, seeing a certain ancient vampire licking blood off the ground, spilled from a nearby orc. As the blood trickles down his throat, the vampire's flesh begins to restore. Color begins to flood the surface of his flesh, which is dark like a drow. His ears begin to straighten, however his hair and defining features are still decayed.

     "Paleblood..." Crow Lord hears in his mind. With the party distracted by enemies and helping Stormdrake, it is up to Crow Lord to dispatch or trap the leader.

     Crow Lord pulls the flames around him to keep the vampire at bay, then releases a large jet of flame at the creature, which covers it's entire body. Crow Lord keeps the jet going, hoping to reduce the beast to ashes, but then a somewhat reformed creature steps forth from the flames, which bite at his flesh but unable to wound him. Crow Lord diverts the flames, and forms many blades out of each flame, which surround the vampire in a large dome and home in on his target.

     The vampire smiles, standing in a single spot as each blade flies into his body. However, neither blood nor ash fall upon the ground, the flames extinguishing against the flesh of the unholy monster.

     Crow Lord tries to release another jet of flame, but as he reaches forward with his hand, the vampire appears before him and sinks his black nails into his arm, pushing ice cold fingers under his skin, opening his veins. Crow Lord falls to the ground in pain, feeling his blood draining from his body into the unholy creature. As the vampire's features restore to perfection, the vampire withdraws his hands and catches Crow Lord. Crow Lord looks into the vampires dark red eyes, the being's black hair falling over his face and blood-soaked fangs glimmer in his mouth.

     "You must forgive me! I couldn't control myself... The hunger..."

     Crow Lord feels a great cold growing through his body as he falls unconscious. The room appears like a tunnel, at the end of which stands Selene, with two axes that drip crimson upon the floor.

     Selene sees the vampire draining Crow Lord of his blood, setting him down gently against the ground. She dashes over, and pushes the vampire away from him.

     "Wait!" The vampire says, his arms in the air in surrender. "Please, wait! I stopped myself! He still lives! I lost control, but the paleblood... I have my senses for awhile!"

     Selene stares at the vampire with deep-rooted hatred. "You... Hurt... You... Die!"

     Selene feels a great rage begin to seep into her mind. A wave of dark energy bursts forth from her; bone wings burst from back, and a wave of terror radiates from her. Her black eyes roll into her skull, consciousness fading. She finds herself sitting in a dark corner of her mind, then comes to her senses a few seconds later.

     However, what seemed like seconds for her were minutes in the real world; the flames all around are extinguished, many of the remaining party members down on the ground, their wounds spilling blood upon the ground. Eranah holds onto Selene in a very strong grip, holding her arms behind her body and pinning her legs. Selene doesn't resist, for she knows what she becomes when her frenzy awakens.

     Selene falls limp and Eranah lets go. Selene rolls onto her belly, a large open wound on her shoulder closing. She looks over at the vampire, who had been impaled upon a large wooden splinter, with several crystal shards impaling the creature through the arms and legs. Despite it's massive wounds, the creature gasps for air, still alive. It looks over at Selene in fear, and begins pulling itself free from it's impalement.

     Selene pounds the ground, still very angry at the damned creature's existence. "Why he not dead!" She says, still somewhat distant from her normal state of mind.

     Warsch sits in front of her, and places his hand on her shoulder. "He hurt Crow Lord, but stopped. His hunger lasted for centuries, starved for eons to be honest. The fact that he stopped means that he is not a monster. Now that he is conscious and free-thinking, we will need his help getting to Stormdrake and stopping Prag'tar.

     Selene takes deep breaths, trying to calm down. "Crow Lord?"

     Warsch moves over to him, removing his mask and healing him. "He's lost a lot of blood, but with my help he will be fine in a few hours."

     The vampire, who has the gray skin of a drow and blood red eyes, makes his way towards Crow Lord and the party.

     "My name is Warren Kal'tar. I do not mean any further harm: the pale blood will sustain me for several days, and we should use this time to get the upper hand on Prag'tar. Your friend, this... Stormdrake, is trapped in a time loop created by Prag'tar."

     Warsch runs over to Tharyn, and begins healing her right leg, which was fractured by Selene. As her bones pop back into place, Tharyn grunts in pain. After he is finished, Tharyn grunts. "You know... I could've restored it less painfully!"

     Warsch softly pats Tharyn on the cheek, then pulls her off the ground. He turns around towards Warren.

     "How did you get free? I thought those chains were unbreakable by vampires, and the holy symbols should've been strong enough to keep you at bay for awhile."

     Warren puts a cold hand on Crow Lord's temple, monitoring his vitals. "The assassin, Scarlet Wind as many called her, came into the hall, but the runes banished the darkness surrounding her. She pulled out a steel knife, and destroyed each rune. The silver chains weakned me, preventing my immediate escape. However, blades rose from the ground and cut through my restraints, freeing me. Then, she vanished in a poof of smoke before I could get my hands on her. Then... the call of blood came to me."

     Warren looks at the ground, embarassed at what he had done. "We must get to the castle!" He gets up off the ground, and charges out of the sewers.

The Hell Hound



     Prag'tar returns to his throne, and laughs at Stormdrake. "Come on! What are you waiting for? Aren't you going to kill me?"

     Stormdrake is out of breath. However, he must keep attacking. He lifts up his spear, which weighs heavy. "Thunder." He calls, very weakly. A small amount of lightning fills the spear and his body. He walks over at Prag'tar, but blinks and finds himself back at the entrance of the room.

     "Impossible," He thinks. "I ran forward... but it's like I never moved!"

     Prag'tar continues laughing in his smug tone. "I sent my minions to kill your people. I even told them: 'spare no one.' You know who I am. You know what I've done. In your heart, you feel you must defeat me, but you're so terrified of the power that I wield that your body subconsciously resisted you in self preservation."

     Prag'tar remains seated on the throne, his two greatswords seated across his lap. "You brought the Scepter of Energy to me like a good boy would. I had my suspicions when you first entered town, so I used my power to influence the mind of every dragonborn in the city, which mostly just included you! Sneak into the castle, spare the opposition, and charge in. They walked to their deaths, quite literally... but you! Never thought that I was actually correct in thinking that the wielder of the final Scepter would wander into this town! Let alone, would be dumb enough to come here without a plan!"

     Stormdrake props himself against his swordspear, and looks over at the seated ogre. However, Stormdrake notices that Prag'tar is breathing quite heavily, and that a few driplets of sweat coat his forehead. Stormdrake sniffs the air and can tell that despite his strength and constitution, the ogre is tiring. But he doesn't move? How can he already be tired?

     Stormdrake thinks about what the ogre is doing. Issuing commands? Forcing Stormdrake backwards? What is his range of powers, and for how long can he keep this act up? What power is he using?

     Stormdrake props himself off his spear, ready to fight the sweaty ogre. "You possess magic, untrained and undisciplined! It will... gah... lead to your undoing!"

     Prag'tar laughs at him, then glides his swords across each other. "On the contrary, small dragon! You think I am stupid! I am the smartest ogre- no... the most intelligent organism on this continent! Perhaps even the plane! I have bound vampires, robots, demons! I alone control thought and time, rewriting both as I see fit!"

     "Quite a talker," Stormdrake thinks. "Pride... it will undo him!" Stormdrake looks over at his diadem: The Hell Hound. If I can just remove that from his head, then this fight will just be a matter of strength! A difficult fight, but I've suffered worse," Stormdrake thinks.

     Prag'tar rises from his seat and charges at Stormdrake, his two blades raising up over his head and ready to crash down upon the smaller fighter.

     Stormdrake still has reserves of energy and leaps backwards to avoid his blades. Stormdrake steps forward to trap one of his mighty swords, but as his foot touches the sword, it vanishes.

     Stormdrake raises up his sluggish spear instinctively and prevents Prag'tar's blades from slicing him into three pieces, but the force of the blow sends him down to the ground.

     Prag'tar raises his foot into Stormdrake's chest, and kicks him several meters away into a far wall. Prag'tar kicks away his swordspear, and then begins moving towards Stormdrake.

     "Talos... Could really use some help here!"

     Stormdrake and Prag'tar hear a loud rumble coming from outside, but after a few seconds nothing happens. Prag'tar looks over at Stormdrake, a confused expression on his tusked face. "Was something supposed to happen? Or..."

     All of a sudden, The swordspear rises of it's own volition, and begins to fly blade first at Prag'tar. The ogre slashes forward with his greatsword, but the Swordspear slices through the solid steel like paper, leaving him with a flat-tipped shortsword, the weight of the sword unbalanced towards the hilt. Prag'tar tosses aside the broken sword and focuses on dodging the blade. He takes a step back, forcing the blade to follow him, then warps through time and reappears behind the swordspear, grabbing onto it with both hands, trying to wrestle the thing from whatever force had possessed it.

     As Prag'tar is pulled across the room, trying to gain control over the swordspear, a throwing dagger slices into Prag'tar's leg, sending him onto the ground. As he falls, the swordspear slackens in his grip and Spider appears in front of him, grabbing the dagger and slashing upwards into his throat. Prag'tar grabs onto his throat, then vanishes and reappears where he originally grabbed onto the spear. His wounds are gone, and

     blood no longer lingers on Spider's knife.

     Spider dances with the knife in her hand, but Prag'tar uses the swordspear's resistance to his advantage, letting the spear carry him away from Spider as it glides through the air unpredictably. As the spear carries him towards Spider, Prag'tar kicks out with his foot into Spider's chest, kicking her a considerable distance away. She throws the dagger and uses her Ki to create a distance fight, and begins punching gusts of wind and fire at Prag'tar. However, Prag'tar cannot be defeated and grows aggravated.

     "Enough!" Prag'tar shouts, and slams the spear onto the ground. A large quantity of electricity flows out from the spear, hitting everyone in the room, but mostly flowing into Stormdrake, who is basically a conduit for the energy.

     Stormdrake passes into a different realm of unconsciousness, where he stands before a large brass dragon. His body feels weak, his lungs small and lacking in the strength that they used to.

     The dragon opens an eye at him, which is larger than Stormdrake's entire body. Stormdrake looks down, and finds that he is no longer a dragonborn, but has reverted to his previous Kobold form.

     "You have wielded my spear with both tenacity and courage. The body that was given to you, the strength and power of lightning and thunder, is it not enough to combat this ogre?" The dragon speaks, it's voice shaking through him like thunder. Stormdrake looks at the great dragon in awe, his jaw slack open.

     "What power could ever be enough? I brought it to battle, fighting witches, Demonic Princes, resurrected evil, and used it to dispatch justice. But Prag'tar... his power could make him a god! Have I been not worthy of the power?"

     The dragon humms with delight. "You're worthiness was never in question. However, the power that you lack is. The spear held in the hands of one whose body isn't strong enough causes dramatic changes. For you, it turned you not into a Dragonborn, like so many thought of you. You became a half dragon, sharing of my ancient blood."

     Stormdrake looks at his form, which feels like an offense to the great dragon. "But, even with half of your power, I still couldn't stop the vault from being opened! Prag'tar has the scepter, and is preparring to open it!"

     The dragon smiles at him. "Opened? The vault remains closed. I suppose it is very near to opening, but you still have time."

     Stormdrake sighs, his hope fleeting from his body. "How do I beat him? Any wounds that are inflicted become nullified, like time is completely erased. My energy has run dry, I can barely stand before you as it is!"

     The dragon rises up off the ground. "Are you not the chosen priest of Talos? Did He not select you for this task?"

     Stormdrake shakes his head. "I don't know what to think. Everytime I think I've got what it takes, the world overpowers me. Hags, super-zombies, vampires. And to add to the list, I've been defeated by a time-warping ogre!"

     The dragon crackles with energy. "What would you give for more power?"

     Stormdrake looks confused. "Can dragons issue pacts like demons or gods? Am I a warlock?"

     The dragon hums with confirmation. "Those who are deemed worthy of wielding this weapon become bound to it, similar to a pact. However, the ancient power that lies dormant, the power of brass dragons, can be obtained with further sacrifice. The only thing this pact requires is the mingling of our blood."

     Stormdrake hesistates. "What will I become?"

     The dragon smiles, his glistening white fangs the size of mountains. "You will become Stormdrake, a brass dragon, although your form will be weak at first. The power will grow as the years pass, but you will be a dragon that rides the waves like a bird in air. Lightning will flow like blood, and thunder will be your voice. The ground will quake under your feet. All you must do is take it."

     Stormdrake feels the presence of the dragon fall away from him, blackness surrounding him. "What do I do?"

     All that remains is the dragon's eye as darkness fills in. "Touch it."

     Stormdrake is completely enveloped in darkness, then a light reveals the world to him once more. Prag'tar walks towards the throne with the swordspear in his hands. He rises from the ground, feeling recharged and lightning coursing through his body. Stormdrake flies foward at Prag'tar, who is focused on Spider, firing off powerful blasts of lightning from the spear into her. Stormdrake shouts as he flies, and punches Prag'tar in the face, who is unsuspecting of the blow, which opens him up for the assault.

     Stormdrake reaches for the spear, but feels a strong fist grab him by the neck and fling him away. Before Stormdrake can recover, Prag'tar plants his foot onto his chest and stabs him through the gut with the swordspear. Stormdrake gasps as blood fills his diaphragm, but that is what he was hoping for.

     Stormdrake channels a great surge of electricity into the swordspear, which accepts his energy and returns a thunderous rebuke throughout the room. Prag'tar is sent back against his throne, seated into it like a child ready for dinner.

     Prag'tar tries to warp time to appear back at Stormdrake, but waves of energy pulse from the half-dragon, which causes him to fly back into it. As time lingers, increasing waves of power push him back into the throne with force.

     Stormdrake feels everybone in his body break. His back sprouts brass wings, a thin orange membrane like the fruit flows against the air. Stormdrake's body slumps forward, his arms snapping and stretching at the same time. His tail extends as well, and the spines on his back jut out, pulling out blobs of his blood as well, dripping down his back. As he screams in pain, his voice turns into a fearsome roar that thunders throughout the room, cracking the stone around him.

     The spear flies out from Stormdrake's gut, which is now thick with muscle and scales. As he rolls over onto his stomach, Stormdrake feels that his arms have become like legs, his hands built like a paw with a thick thumb attached to the side.

     Stormdrake bats his wings, which carry him off the ground easily. Stormdrake's neck is much longer than he remembers, his snout extending from his face.

     Stormdrake stands on his hind legs, and looks at his new form. He has become a brass dragon, although he certainly lacks the size of one, only standing about fifteen feet long with a wingspan of twenty. He looks at his hands, which function similarly to his previous hands, but has difficulty closing them. He slams back down onto all fours, and roars at Prag'tar with a tickling sensation at the back of his throat, which fills his throat with an intense energy. Lightning escapes through his mouth, forking through the air and striking randomly across the room.

     As Prag'tar pulls himself off his throne, several of these bolts strike him, breaking his armor, tearing his skin, and revealing his muscles. The ogre sits on the throne, dazed by the power of the dragon's rage, but finds that he cannot heal himself! How? Why!?

     Prag'tar looks up, seeing several of the scepters removed from the throne. He looks over in anger at Spider, who is twirling them through the air like she's some sort of carnival act.

     "You damned wretches! I am Prag'tar! King of ogre-kind, Judge of Hruggek! I will-"

     Stormdrake, blinded by his rage, chomps down onto Prag'tar's right shoulder, causing the intelligent but powerless ogre to scream in terror as every bone is broken under the dragon's powerful jaws. As the fangs tear into his flesh, bolts of lightning zap into Prag'tar, causing wounds upon him that would remain open for the rest of his life.

     Stormdrake lifts Prag'tar in the air like a ragdoll, then throws him across the room into a stone pillar, shattering the surface of the stone masonry.

     Prag'tar turns himself over, and leans against the pillar. "I dont understand. I had power. It was inside ME! Why is it gone!?"

     Stormdrake's throat rumbles, but his voice is lost to him at the moment. Spider walks forward, running two fingers along her friend's back, soothing him. Stormdrake wags his tongue in his mouth, which causes him to realize why he cannot speak: his mouth completely reformed. As Spider takes control over the conversation with the ogre, Stormdrake practices speech.

     "We were hoping to keep you on that throne; We wanted to see just what exactly would happen if we were to close the gate with you on it. We figured that the doppleganger was lying about a few things, especially regarding the Scepters and the Vault. Think of yourself as a log removed from a great flame. We could have put the flame out, but you would still be on fire. So, we put you back in, and extinguished the whole lot. Now, you're just a charred, broken, and damaged piece of charcoal. Breaking against the wind."

     Prag'tar grunts in despair. "That can't be. My power, my influence... I'm empty."

     Stormdrake thinks he has speech figured out. His voice carries out loud and deep, like a warrior of pure brawn that always rises to the top of the crop. "Oooo Yea!"

     Prag'tar laughs. "But.. why me? I was working on good things with the vault! I was going to cure death, remove the evil that YOU all brought into this land. I could've remade everything! My family... deserved a world like that!"

     The rest of the party charges into the throne room, led by the vampire Warren. They look over at Stormdrake, horrified at his new form. Stormdrake turns away from the party, but Spider holds his head, and turns him back towards them.

     Warsch walks forward, horrified at his friend's transformation. "My friend... what happened to you?"

     Stormdrake grunts a low deep "awoooo" but cannot speak as swiftly as he used to. Warsch places a soft hand upon the dragon's scales, petting them. Stormdrake tilts his head at him, and grunts angrily.

     "I'm sorry! You're not a pet, I get that. We're going to fix you, no matter what it takes!"

     Spider speaks to the party. "Prag'tar got his hands on the spear, and was blasting us with powerful lightning. The bolts crashed around the room, but found their way to Stormdrake, who erupted in a terrible energy and became a dragon. If it weren't for that happening, I don't think we would have lived."

     Blackwing bursts past the group and punches Prag'tar in the face with his small kenku fist, which to no surprise does nothing.

     Prag'tar looks at him, fatigued, but still manages to pull a toothy smile at him. "Now, I don't know who the hell you are, but who are you to punch me-"

     Blackwing focuses on his magehand to punch Prag'tar in the jaw, which breaks off one of his tustks. "Yer gon' tell me everythin' ye know 'bout dragon turtles, or else... I'll show you what my other hand can do!"

     Prag'tar sits back up. "Dragon Turtles? Oh, you mean like the one that attacks the merchants of the south sea?"

     Blackwing pulls out his saphire dagger and throws it into Prag'tar's shin. He places his foot over it, digging the blade further into his shin. "Aaahhh! What about it, huh?"

     Blackwing spits words out of his beak at the ogre. "How do I find it?"

     Prag'tar grunts in pain as the dagger works it's way through his leg. "Gah! There's a small island! Shaped like a cresent, southeast of Kraken's Port! Light a flame at night, and bring it at least ten thousand gold! Gah.. Ah! It can... smell the treasure!"

     Blackwing pulls the dagger out of his shin. "Any one gonna object to killin' 'im? No? DIE!"

     Warsch charges forward, grabbing Blackwing by the forearm. "Revenge... isn't the answer! This man must be held before the city to answer for his crimes! Let his people decide his fate!"

     Stormdrake growls at Warsch, who turns his head at him. "Stormdrake... NO! We've been through this! Revenge is not-"

     "It... Is!" growls Stormdrake, his fangs glistening with blue sparks.

     Prag'tar begins laughing. "Yes! I wish to be held accountable for my actions! Take me before the people of this town! let them decide my-"

     Warren throws Warsch and Blackwing far away. "I will decide his fate. Qwo'jar, you have deceived the people of this city, warping their minds, turning friends and families, and your bandits brought nothing but death across the land. You are a monster. You are worse than me!"

     Warren's fangs glare in the light, like a shard of the moon that drips with the venom of a vampire's spit. Warren's red eyes flare up like flames, glaring at Prag'tar's body. Warren tears into Prag'tar's neck, and rips off a large chunk of his throat, opening it up like a turkey. Warren spits away the large flesh chunk, and proceeds to drain him dry in a split second.

     Despite the murderous scene, there is hardly any blood on the floor. Warren wipes his mouth, disgust upon his face.

     "I've never liked ogre. Nutritious, but tastes like filth."

     Warsch rises off the ground, slightly angered at the vampire's decision. "Is death by fang really necessary?" Warren turns around to look at the paladin with glaring red eyes.

     "Death by vampire is reserved for traitorous scum. Always."

     Spider lays out the five scepters on the ground, thinking about their next step. The party stands around them, and Warsch begins the debate:-

     "We should cast each weapon to seperate planes. If we beckon, the gods may answer and- "

     Tharyn interrupts him. "Power this great should not be trusted. These weapons need to be destroyed or cast to oblivion."

     Stormdrake tries to speak, his voice shaking the room. "Weee... ush. Tthhppt. Awooo!"

     Everyone turns to look at him, unable to understand what he is saying.

     Eranah places her left arm on the side of his head, reading his mind. "He's trying to say that we should wish the vault away. If there's no vault, there's no problems."

     Selene shakes her head. "That might be true, but we have no idea as to what powers the vault itself has. Prag'tar had the ability to unravel time and modify memories. Perhaps the vault could do the same, maybe even erase any intentions of destroying it?"

     Spider pipes in. "My networks should be able to hide a few of these relics in discrete locations. So long as we keep at least one on our main group, the odds of all five finding each other is very unlikely."

     Warren licks over his teeth, trying to think. "We should divide the Scepters. Destroying them is not possible, however, hiding them is. It took centuries, eons maybe, before they came together. So what I recommend is the following:

     "Spider hides one among her network. Stormdrake carries the spear on him, as he was the chosen wielder of the weapon. It may still benefit him. As for the other three, we'll keep one inside the guild, and the other two we can sell."

     Alethra raises her eye brows and shakes her head. "You want to SELL them? Why?"

     Warren crosses his arms. "It's a good idea. The people will just treat them like legendary relics. After they are sold, they'll just end up in the hands of some wealthy merchant who will keep it locked up safe, or perhaps a thief will steal them. Either way, they'll be far from here, perhaps ending up on another continent."

     Warsch nods his head, then looks at Tharyn and whispers into her ear. "What about your reality marble?"

     Tharyn looks her fiance in the eyes. "Too risky. Anyone who attunes themselves to this can grab it's contents out at will. We can't take that chance."

     Warsch tilts his head slightly and raises his shoulders. "Yeah, but how would anyone know about that? Would magic be able to detect it?"

     Tharyn shrugs her shoulders. "Honestly, it could work, but I think we're better off with Warren's plan."

     Warren smiles. He looks over at the two and nods, getting their attention. "So, what do we think? Can we all agree on my plan?"

     Selene shakes her head. "This is rediculous. Let's give it the night to think about. In the mean time, we'll split possession of the Scepters. Spider takes the Staff of Darkness, The Guild takes the Key of Light, Stormdrake keeps the Swordspear of Storms, and the other two we will just keep on the throne. Speaking of which, who is going to protect this town now? It has no Judge."

     Warren nods his head. "I am unfamiliar with the events of this century, but if this town requires protection, it'll have to find someone besides me. Crow Lord's paleblood will sustain me for three more days, but after that I'll revert to normal vampirism, and I'll have to begin feeding once more. I will be sealing myself away, again."

     Tharyn lifts up her index finger, a great idea forming in her mind. "Or, instead of running from your problems, we find a magical scientific solution to your problem!"

     Warsch tilts his head. "You know how to cure vampirism?"

     Tharyn shakes her head. "No, that's not what I'm talking about. However, if I could create a reality marble filled with bones, then why can't I do the same for blood?"

     Eranah turns her attention towards the witch. "Creating another reality marble would require an immense source of energy. You barely had enough energy to create your first one. I could use my power, but that would be better saved against the-"

     Tharyn waves her arms. "No no no! I'm not talking about creating another one! I'm going to expand my current one. A world filled with blood and bone. All I need is a sample of Crow Lord's blood, and I've got a demon's soul trapped in my gem, which should provide enough energy to sustain the magic."

     Eranah nods her head in confirmation. "It could work. However, even if you were to be successful, creating enough blood in three days time would be difficult, even with a Shadow Demon's soul."

     Tharyn nods her head. "I've got three days. How much blood does Crow Lord have left in him?"

The Realm of Blood and Bone



     Tharyn begins her work immediately, setting up a table in the throne room and fills up a small vial with Crow Lord's blood. She spends several hours working on her expirament, however with every hour that passes, her frustration grows.

     "Gah! If I had more blood to work with, this task wouldn't be so stressful!" Tharyn thinks. "At this rate, Warren could drink an entire town dry! I have to find some way to create faster generating blood samples! But how?"

     As her spell takes effect, causing the blood to slowly multiply in her reality marble, Tharyn pours through her book of hag magics, but there's nothing about multiplication. Tharyn reflects on the creatures in the past that she had fought against that could regenerate limbs. Tharyn thinks long and hard, her mind wrapped around trolls.

     Warsch walks into the room, seeing how his soon-to-be-wife is handling the pressure. "Everything alright-"

     Tharyn screams and and knocks over an inkwell all over the table. "Ah! WHEN DID YOU WALK IN HERE!?"

     Warsch stands up stiff like a board. "I was just-"

     Tharyn waves him away. "Never mind that! Begone!"

     Warsch turns away, but Tharyn rushes around the table. "Wait! I'm sorry! I've got a quick request: I need a sample of troll blood. I need to figure out how they manage to regenerate lost limbs, and a sample would really help. If you're not busy that is..."

     Warsch nods at her. "No problem, ma'lady. I'll go hunt some trolls, I should be back by nightfall."

     

     Warsch heads out and finds Blackwing, who is passed out drunk in a local tavern. "Blackwing! I need you to fly me North so I can fight trolls! My wife demands it!"

     Blacking rolls a limp arm at the paladin, throwing the keys in his direction. "Take it 'n go, me holy *hiccup* bucky!"

     Warsch throws the keys back at the drunken bird. "I don't know how to drive - er... fly! Ah!"

     As Warsch walks through the courtyard, he sees Stormdrake sleeping in the center of town. At first, many people were scared of his presence when he first arrived. Flying out of the tower, roaring like a terror, the townspeople fled into their homes and the guards wielded steel against him. But now, the children climb up him like a playground, and slide down his glistening wings.

     Warsch walks up to Stormdrake, and tries to wake him up, however nothing can stir the great beast. Warsch tries shaking him, screaming into his ears, and finally resorts to smacking the dragon. Not very many can say they've fought dragons, but Warsch is the first to have smacked a dragon with an open palm and lived to tell about it. However, Stormdrake remains as he is, unwaking and trapped in a dreamworld.

     "Great! No ship, no flying dragon, and the nearest mountain from here is about a half day away, and that's with Agro taking me there!"

     Crow Lord taps Warsch on the shoulder. "Kaw kaw?"

     Warsch turns toward Crow Lord, who crosses his arms and opens his palm as if he is begging for a question.

     Warsch sighs. "I need to travel north to find some Trolls and collect their blood. It's for Tharyn's expirament. The nearest mountain is within a half day's trip, and I've no means of getting there quickly! Do you have something to help me?"

     Crow Lord nods his head, and pulls out a piece of paper, which Crow Lord focuses magic into to create a few words on it.

     "I polymorph myself into a troll, long enough for Tharyn to do her research."

     Warsch slaps himself on the face. "Why did I not think about that?"

     Crow Lord pats Warsch on the shoulder, then walks up towards Tharyn's laboratory.

     

     Crow Lord assumes the guise of a troll, and polymorphs for an hour, which is all Tharyn needed. She draws a sample of the creature's blood, then analyzes the sample with a magnification spell, empowering her eyes to see molecularly for a brief period of time. She then uses her magic wand to identify the properties of their blood that allows them to replicate, but finds nothing that really helps her research.

     "The blood of trolls seems to be regenerative, however that's only to a certain extent, and for good reason. Each cell contains a small trace of stored energy, which looks like fat, that allows the blood the ability to replicate."

     Warsch tilts his head. "And that's not good for your research because?"

     Tharyn looks up at Warsch, slightly annoyed. "Because even though their process is quicker than the results produced by my abilities, their process is limited. Sure, my experiment will be unlimited, but the growth is so slow! By the time that Warren's hunger returns, I'll only have enough blood produced to fill his palm! Gwah!"

     Tharyn picks up a small beaker and throws it against a wall. Warsch walks over to it, picking up each piece, and uses his Grace to piece the glass bottle back together.

     Crow Lord looks at Warsch, and idea coming to his mind. When Crow Lord lost against Cao Cao, the only reason he survived was due to the regenerative magics of Nature. Tharyn is no druid, and lacks the ability to commune with nature. However, every plane has it's own definition of 'nature,' so in her reality marble, what would that be?

     Crow Lord channels this thought out to Tharyn, who opens her eyes and looks at Crow Lord with clarity.

     "My reality marble... yes, I never thought about that! When I created it, I used the souls of many, which I assumed were destroyed in the process. However, what if instead of being destroyed, they transpositioned into something else entirely?"

     Crow Lord kaws with truimph, then relays a single thought to Tharyn: "Send me in."

     Tharyn's mouth drops open. "Crow, er... Daimon. This world I created... I don't know what kind of condition it is in. It could be a massive vortex, or some kind of infinite void that will only send you to madness, perhaps even death! And I'm sorry to say this, but you're still weak after Warren's attack! You haven't completely healed, and your blood levels are very diminished..."

     Crow Lord nods his head. "I'm a fast healer. So long as I wear this ring, you can hear my thoughts. So long as you remain in contact with that satchel, then my escape is ensured. If I lose contact with you, pull me out. Everything left of me, if possible."

     Warsch nods his head. "If he's going in there, I'm going too."

     Crow Lord puts a hand, and shakes his head as if saying "there's no sense in two of us dying."

     Tharyn opens up her satchel, unsure of what cruel horrors she is about to send Crow Lord towards. Crow Lord pulls off his hat, setting his fledgling crow upon the table, and leaps in.


Proceed to Chapter V: The Queen