The dawn breaks over the tips on the distant mountains bringing the warmth of its golden caress down into the forests of ancient growth. Joining and mixing with a gentle summer breeze to tickle the leaves and sway the branches to case a dancing pattern of rays upon the forest floor. Dancing and twirling through the trees the wind races across the land until the trees give way to a vast crystal lake sparkling in the dawn light. Small waves flow across the surface being coaxed to life by the winds spreading across the lake to lap against and rock a small ship having just set out from the docks. This ship glides across the surface towards a distant island.
With the crew tending to the sails maintaining a steady course there remains two figures clad in metal armor reflecting the light of the morning , gazing towards the island and particularly the city upon it’s heart. Similar in height, both with identical long braids of flame red hair, yet this is where similarities cease. Upon the left stands a woman of average height encased in brilliant steel with a heavy kite shield in her left hand while a rather heavy looking mace hands against her right hip. Her counterpart stands slightly taller and without a shield, yet held in her hand base set against the deck beside her foot stands a 6.5 foot tall pole-arm with a wicked curved axe head at its tips. There names are Nemea and Venya de Villefort, divine champions and paladins in the holy order of Iomedae.
“Must we go through with this summons Sister?” Nemea asks as she gives no attempt to hide a yawn of boredom.
“It is the will of our order Sister, the High Council requested to meet with us. I know not what to expect but a summons from the Council is not to be ignored.” her sister patiently replied, her gaze not breaking from the distant island.
“Yeah… Yeah… But the others inside…. They say they have also received the summons and look at them…” Nemea mutters under her breath as she gives a short glance over her shoulder, back towards the main part of the deck.
Back behind the twins in the center part of the deck, three other members have begun their journey to meet the Council. The three however could be no further apart in appearance. An older man, grizzled and grey stands eyeing the crew and the others on board. He stands straight backed, his uniform kept in pristine condition arms folded across his chest.
“Come now, you upon the Mast! Adjust the rigging twelve degrees to port to capture more wind.” his gruff voice calls out from the deck.
“Oy! Who do you think you are giving orders upon my boat?!” the angered voice of the captain calls from the stern of the deck. “The Misty Maiden by my ship and this do be my crew. Keep yer trap shut else you wish to swim to Fal’Morrena yourself.”
“Hrumph” We are summoned to the High Council. That means no delays” His words fall upon deaf ears as the crew continues their normal work
“They do travel these waters daily.” A voice of a higher pitch with a subtle squeak comes from the bench against the port railing. Hidden within blackened emerald green robes sits a small, well 4’2″ thank you very much, creature with a pointed muzzle and a pink tail wrapped around its furry feet. “Let them do their job without interference from us”
“Well… I suppose if I must but they will know my anger if they make High Captain Ben Vimes late for an official summons.” The gruff officer known as Vimes grumbled as he walked towards the small figure. “Who are you Sir?”
“I am known as Itzal de Dijon, a student of the Arcane Arts” the small creature known as a Ratfolk replied while pulling out a heavy leather tome and beginning to read.
“Ruddy Wizards…” Vimes sighs as he turns off to study the last passenger upon the vessel. “So have you received one of these Summons as well?”
There is no answer as the hooded figure sits with his back to the stern castle holding a well aged longbow in his lap. Reaching a hand into the pack set beside him, producing a folded parchment bearing the seal of the High Council.
“This came to me guardsman. So I respond to the summons” a low voice emits from the folds of the cloak hood.
“Ahh… I see, and that is Watch Captain Vimes not Guardsman” Vimes responded “And you are?”
“Roland” The human face within the shade of the cloak answers.
“Ahh … A man of few words eh Hunter? Well at least you aren’t one of those ruddy magic fools.” Vimes comments as his gaze sweeps across to the bow of the Misty Maiden. “That just leaves those two as unknowns.”
“Sisters of Iomedea, both in duty and in family. Holy warriors judging by their armaments.” Roland utters quietly to the fussy Watch Captain. “I may be of quiet disposition yet these eyes are keen and sharp.”
The Misty Maiden continued her morning voyage across the gently rolling waves, the cool morning breeze bringing the fresh scent of the lake to the air. With a gentle thump the hull of the Maiden bumps against the small travel dock. As the Crew busied themselves with lashing the boat to the dock and lowering the boarding ramp down to the deck. The Captain steps down from the stern castle towards his passengers. “There be a carriage there to take you to the city. Enjoy your travels and your time here at Fal’Morrena.”
Making their way down the docks to wards the awaiting carriage the Watch Captain trying to scurry the other passengers along as if they were mere guards under his command, of course they are having none of it and make their way without marching to his step.
“Well now, ladies of the Holy Order. Good to see that there are some well trained members that the council decided to summon.” Vimes boasted as he takes a seat inside the carriage across from the twin sisters.
Rolling her eyes Nemea scoffs”Don’t get too friendly there old man.” With a shake of her head she laughs, checking to see if her sister is laughing with her, of which she is not. “So for all we have heard is your constant spout of nonsense about your disdain for the more magically inclined.”
“See here little girl, it is common sense that a group all having received the same summons before the High Council that we will all be tasked with the same objective. As such it is then wise to learn about the allies one has before actual combat begins.” Vimes sighs as he straightened his coat after the carriage bounces over a rather deep rut in the road. “One would have expected better roads at the capital..”
“Do you not know hot to speak without being condescending?” Venya asks as her eyes move from the window to stare at the Watch Captain. “As for everyone else here I am Venya De Villefort, Paladin of Iomedea as is my sister Nemea.” She performs a small salute with with fist to chest.
“Anyone ever been here to the Capital before?” Nemea asks bit of a sparkle showing in her eyes. “We have been cooped up at the temple for years. This is exciting to get out and see more than the polished walls.”
“I have not been back to the guild hall there in years but Fal’Morenna is a triple tiered city. ” the smaller voice of Itzal says, only slightly muffled by the book he is reading. “The lower ring is the Market District where the farmers bring their stock for sale. The second level is the Guild District where you can find craftsmen of types, also where the best inns are. The third tier is the Council District, also where the temples are located Goes without saying that is where the Council of Seven meets. Oh.. and it’s Itzal by the way.”
“Sounds like a boring level…” Nemea sighed and turned her gaze back outside as the city of Fal’Morenna came into view. The stonewalls surrounded by farmland as the fertile land is being used to best effect as the capital ensures to be able to feed its citizens with minimal imports. As the carriage passed through the first tier gates the Market district comes to view with the dozens of hawkers cries about fresh pies or fruits off the vine, the scent of blood faint upon the breeze suggesting a butcher just down the street.
The carriage continues up a gentle rise passing many blocks of smaller streets, homes for the shop owners and market workers as well as some of the lower class citizens who call this capital their home. Buildings of solid wooden construction only rarely having a second floor to them and of those most are in fact inns for workers in from the coast.
Passing up through the second sets of gates to the Guild District the buildings still have their sturdy wooden construction with the majority of the tiled roofs reaching two and sometimes three stories. The smell of charcoal fires and the ring of hammer upon anvil can be heard from across the district between armor crafts, weapon-smiths, and general tool makers. The streets are a little more organized here than in the lower level yet still bustling with the busy morning routine.
With a distinct change to the sound of the carriage as the third tier of Fal’Morenna is cobblestone streets and much more space here than in the lower levels. Mostly the third “Council” Tier is reserved for diplomats here to visit with the members of the Council of Seven. The large central hall known as the “Hall of Trials” made of marble walls and red clay stone stands before the carriage as it comes to a rest. doors opening as a porter gleefully announces “Welcome to the Hall of Trials. Jewel of the United Kingdoms and home to the Council of Seven.”
“Right! Fallout everyone, rude to keep the council waiting.” Vimes proclaims as he jumps down from the Carriage to the cobblestones.
“He sure likes the sound of his own Voice.” Nemea scoffs as she followed after Itzal.
“As do you dear sister.” Venya chuckles as she steps down placing a golden coin in the hands of the driver holding the door open. “Iomedea’s blessings be upon you lad, thank you for the trip.”
“Thank you milady!” he replies with a smile and a bow of his head.
“C’mon now … Ah ruddy hell… You lot can catch up.” Vimes exclaimed as he turned and stormed off to the main doors.
The tall arched doors of aged oak are pushed open as Vimes flashed the summons to the guards awaiting everyone to catch up to him at the top of the steps. After joining him each at a less hurried pace the group of Itzal, Vimes, Roland, Nemea, and Venya make their way into the temple for the first time.
This large open room with tall windows and marble pillars is well lit with torch sconces upon the pillars. A red carpet is set forth before the entryway and leads across the halls towards the raised platform where the Seven Members of the High Council sit in their seat of power. The figures upon the seats are as different as the countries that they represent.
The smallest of the council, a halfling sits in natural colours and an armor suit appearing to be made out of autumn leaves. Collam Willowbark the representative of Faerynch a Kingdom of rolling plains, sparse mountains and the remains of the Quartz Caverns. Faerynch, the Kingdom Collam calls home is the Eastern Country of the Continent of Loc’Lunar.
A silver furred bipedal anthropomorphic cat sits with her ears twitching independently to each noise made in the grand hall. Of a race known as Catfolk Syren Dross while not wearing any armor more than a harness made of leather attached to a leather kilt. Scars across her arms and face perfectly explain the tall sword leaning against the side of her chair. Representative of the Country of Valencia, secluded up in the mountains of Dissalen. Buried deep in the mountains lies the closely guarded secret of Valencia, the secret of Black Powder.
Taller than Collam yet still short, a stocky well muscled Dwarf sits clad in bright shining chainmail armor with a talisman of a hammer slung across his chest, a matching warhammer stands beside his chair. Representative of Dranoera from the Northern half of the temperate continent of Vastrova. A land with long mountain ranges, vast forest of Emerald Crystal trees and Sapphire blue lakes. An older and greying Dwarf Martin Dagarkin sits his chair and watches the party approach.
Remarkably sitting aside the aged dwarf is the representative of Crystilix the Western Kingdom of Loc’Lunar and domain of the Elves, Caiden Silvermarch. Also clad in shining armor with weapons resting against the back of the chair. a lithe yet skilled Elvish fighter. Crystilix is where the massive Lunar Elms known to grow over 800 meters in height.. They also are where the Elves have their capital nestled among the branches.
One of the two of the strangest members of the council is Magthyra Dawntracker. With a purplish hue to the skin, eyes of pure white, a long tail lashing impatiently around the legs of her chair. A tiefling representing the Land of Tar’Nally, a land of extensive deserts, emerald forests, and smaller mountains along the coast of Vastrova. While more plainly dressed than in armor Magthyra is from untalented.
Second of the strange characters is a creature known as a Kitsune, or humanoid fox creature. Her yellow eyes vibrant against her dark red fur. Her chair has no back due to the nine separate tails she bears as a strong mark of her clan. Kyomi Moondancer, a dapper dressed woman with a thick belt slung across her chest and waist. Representative of the land of Malhaven upon the southern coast of Dissalen. While appearing unharmed there is a sparkle to her eye that hints at more beneath the surface.
Lastly sitting center among the seats is Fenrir Greymane, a large Half-Orc showing noi weapons and wearing no visible armor. The representative of Gan’Doren, the sole country of Shaedora and home to both the human kingdom and the political power of the Seven Kingdoms. A landscape as diverse as its people where the lands of the Elves and Orcs shun the ‘half-breeds’, in GanDoren they are welcomed with open arms.
“We thank you for answering our summons in such a timely manner. These are dark days…” Fenrir Greymane speaks as the group reaches the bottom of the raised dais.
“The floating mountain of Nethyris is now once again cloaked in shadows.” Syren Dross pipes up. “A shadow which has been claiming any who come into contact with it.”
Grumbling in agreement Martlin Dagarkin rasps. “Numerous trade ships and caravans have gone missing already. All attempts to locate these missing caravans have recovered the wagons and ships picked clean of drivers, crew, horses, and goods.”
The musical voice of Kyomi Moondancer sings in the large hall. “And now, we have reports that the Temple of Prismatic Light has barred their doors no longer in contact with the Guild of Divine Light… This is troubling as the Temple is the resting place of the Celestial Skyknights.”
“The temple going silent and shadows enveloping Nethyris once more are an ill omen… I fear a connection…” Caiden Silvermarch mutters, his hands clasp beneath his chin.
As if these words had some magical effect the torches in the sconces shudder in a cold breeze bringing a tingling chill to the necks of all those present. Worried looks being passed between Roland and Itzal as they stood to the back of the group. Nemea and Venya catch each others’ eyes as the words of events outside their sheltered temple lives. Vimes is left standing tall and proud with his hands clasped behind his back, chin held high.
“Hrumph.. I know nothing about this floating mountain. What did you call it … Nether?” Vimes questioned.
“Nethyris you pathetic fool! Perhaps you should spend less time on your uniform and more time reading the histories Old Man.” A cold voice calls from back at the temple’s main entrance. Standing in the doorway thick shadows spilling down the stairs, creeping along the edges of the Hall of trials as mist begins to curl and lick the polished floor slabs, is the slender figure of a woman. Her billowing silver hair concealing at least half of her pointed ears and smooth ebony shin, red eyes a light as a smirk curls across her lips.
Standing in a circle around her are ten hollowed eyed warriors clad in torn and rusted chain mail armor, dented steel shields held in one hand and long slightly curved blades gripped in the other. Pale blue light emits from sunken eye sockets on faces devoid of any flesh.
“Guards! Seize this creature” counselor Greyback commands as he and the council members rise to their feet.
“Your guards are mere door mice.” The woman cackled as two more shadows emerge from the doorway both dark of skin with the lithe elven form and white hair of the Drow. In unison they toss the bodies of the two guards down the steps. As they hit the floor their heads roll down the hall towards the council.
As the council members gather their weapons to face these invaders to their seat of power. There is a loud crack as steel strikes the stone floor. Together as if on cue Nemea and Venya pivot to put their backs to the council as they step up to form a front line defense.
“Protect the Council!” Venya calls as her halberd slams into the stone floor. Nemea following her sister’s lead with shield and mace in hand she clangs them together in a challenge. “Iomedea guides and protects!” she cries out, voice clear in this large hall.
Behind the two Paladins the small form of Itzal stood eyes fixed upon the invaders, fingers already twitching and drawing symbols in the air before him. To his left Roland stands with bow in hand, arrow drawn to cheek as he looses the first strike, sending an arrow towards the male Drow at the left of the woman steel head and wooden shaft driving deep into his left shoulder.
“Alright if you want to go right to fighting without even attempting to be diplomatic.” Vimes sighed as he turned to face the doors with the others.
“They already tool the lives of the guards Vimes, or did you miss that much?” Rolland shouts as he dashes for cover behind a marble pillar a few paces to his left already nock a second arrow for flight.
“Get them my pets, let their blood spill to the floor.” The leading Drow woman laughs out of pure arrogance. The skeletons spread out advancing upon the defenders, mist and shadows seemingly flowing in behind them as they move. Jaws chattering as the corpses amble into the fray. Swords lashing out towards the twin Paladins yet the blades are either turned aside by shield or shaft else the strikes do not find penetration against the armor the twins have adorned themselves in.
“Venya! Watch the right. I’ll cover the left. Hit them hard before they spread out too far Wizard!” Nemea calls as she hoists her shield to deflect a strike responding with a vicious blow of her mace to a skeletal head which shatters beneath her strike.
“I do have a name there Paladin, and that would destroy the hall itself if I release that here.” Itzal shouted in reply before flicking his fingers and uttering a few arcane words as three glowing darts appear before his small hand before streaking off with a burst of speed streaking around Nemea and slamming into one of the approaching skeletons. Bits of bone blast apart from the impact leaving holes in the rib cage and skulls before it crumples to its knees.
“Focus on the three at the back, the minions are nothing.” Roland calls out during the frey, as he looses arrows in rapid flights towards the three still standing by the door. Arrows bouncing off of a wall of force occasionally one strikes true leaving the male on the left upon his knees clutching an arrow in his throat.
“Oh for the love of… I am tired of all this ruddy Magic!” Vimes yells in frustration. As the twins engage the wave of approaching horde, he reaches to his shoulder and tears free his cloak. A pair of leather bandoleers cross his silk shirt covered chest. Dropping his hands to his hips he draws free a pair of strange metal cylinders and aims them at the ebony skinned woman. “Taste my Magic you foul creature!”
Thunderous roars echo off the walls of the temple flashes of flame spews forth from the devices in his hands followed by twin clouds of smoke. A scream from the male drow still upon his feet as blood bursts from a pair of holes in his chest. The scream gurgles to a close as he falls to his knees slumping down to the ground.
“Oy! Warn a rat will you next time!” Itzal cries , holding his head in his hands. “These ears are sensitive!”
“How about you figure out where that damn mist is coming from.” Vimes retorts as he raises his weapons to fire again, this time however there is only a soft metallic ‘click’ from each device. “Oh you got to be kidding me!?”
Seemingly having recovered from the noise Itzal steadies himself with a wider stance, hands flicker before him as a small red ball the size of a marble appears in front of him. “Now pay attention ‘Watch Captain’ “Itzal says with a strong note of sarcasim as he looks towards the horde. “Burn..”
The red marble streaks forward to the space between the skeletons and the Woman standing in the mist. As the marble reaches the spot Itzal aimed upon it bursts forth with a loud roar spreading out 20 feet in all directions scorching the walls, carpet, floors, as well as the invaders. Smoke billowing in the area blends and pulls into the mists.
“What the hell?” Itzal stammers … “Avoid the Mists! They appear to be drawing anything close into them.
“Well Now…” A voice sounds from the mists, as they clear the form of the woman stands there, her hair partially singed and burnt away. “So… the rat appears to have some intelligence. However my pets have kept you busy long enough.”
From behind the council, the stained class windows all explode inwards as tendrils of shadow blacker than the Abyss burst forth and coil themselves around each of the members of the council. As they flail and thrash in a attempt to get free the tendrils of shadow begin to pull them out into the darker shadows outside the temple’s walls.
Hearing the screams of the council members behind her Venya turns from the skeletons grunting in pain as a rusty blade finds its mark driving deep into the back of her left knee where the armor is weakest. Enduring the pain she rushes a few steps forwards the council and takes the holy symbol of Iomedea in her gauntlet-ed fist.
“In the name of the Inheritor and by her holy light I drive back this vile darkness. Iomedea’s light come forth!” She calls, her voice ringing loud and clear as she addresses the heavens. A blazing golden light envelopes Venya and bursts forth from her causing the shadows to cringe and pull back from her. One of the tendrils gets brushed by the light and with a shriek it drops the council member it had captured. Yet the other tendrils succeed and manage to drag their charges out through the shattered windows and into the darkness beyond.
“Vimes! Whatever you did, do it again the creature is fleeing!” Roland calls from the side of a support pillar loosing arrow after arrow upon the retreating woman yet his arrows fail to strike true, a arcane shield appearing to encase her form and protect her from harm.
“The ruddy tumblers are jammed! I’m trying to get them unstuck.” Vimes growls as he kneels upon the floor a tiny tool in one hand attempting to clear the jam from the mechanism.
As the shadows withdraw from the room and envelope around the creature she smiles. “Weaklings… the council are mine now.” her voice is a laughing whisper as the shadows enclose and swallow her from view before melting down into the ground as the rays of the morning sun poke out back from behind the clouds.
With the silence now falling upon the Halls of Trials the desolation can be seen in full extent. The hall smoldering and burning with residue from Itzal’s fireball, blood sprays across the white marble walls, and smashed stained glass windows. Yet these pale in comparison to the major fact. The Council of seven has been attacked leaving only one member Martlin Dagarkin alive, breathing shallowly upon the floor of the dais, their former seat of power.
End of Chapter One.