The bard’s festival had just ended, and the Custodian of the Prima Bravura stood before the victors. He bowed politely, and asked if they would like to be escorted to the Grand Maestro’s private suite to celebrate the evening. They had a few guests in the audience who were eager to celebrate their victory and were waiting for them there. The party, tired from the day’s events, gladly accepted the chance for some revelry, rest, and relaxation.
Upon entering the large, open performance room of the suite, the group were greeted with several familiar faces. Sam Knightsbane, Princess Wilamena DePelorgras, Magnus Wolfschild, and Tessa the Tactless stood together in a small group. Then Malyk and his personal Illithid servant Patrick, along with Pol, Lah Rhee and Bah Rhee. Even the gigantic giff Heironomous H. Topot waited for them with their goblin friends Clarence and Gwinny. All had come to see the show, and most were very surprised to see team Skullfuck enter and win the competition. Having been completely exhausted from the events of the day, however, Andrew and Elaina excused themselves to rest in their rooms.
There was some diplomatic tension when Malyk, Pol, Wilamena, and Heironomous all stepped up to greet them at once, but the tension was released when Ethan scooped up Pol like a baby and almost crushed him, Bah Rhee, and Lah Rhee all at once in a bear hug. It was this that caused the group to begin mingling and speaking to the friends they hadn’t seen in a long time.
While the others were visiting with each other, Sam, Bryan’s original mentor, took him aside and the two exchanged some hushed words. After their exchange, Bryan shifted to the shadows and shadowstepped behind Magnus, grabbing him from behind and pressing his hand over the wizard’s mouth. Bryan renounced him for having sent assassins and bandits to kill them, and declared it was time to sort things out once and for all. A dispel magic, then a silence spell were requested, and Shannon granted them. Bryan released Magnus’ mouth and readjusted to hold both arms in one of his, and a knife against his neck with the other. Mike and Ethan set to disarming the wizard, and Ben offered his handy haversack for the disposal of the myriad magic items the wizard had, including a “ring of engorgement,” which Ethan may or may not have kept.
Magnus stated his case, which was that he felt it was selfish of Team Skullfuck to squander their eggs like they did, preventing Magnus and his wizards from examining them, even taking control of them. He had offered them a veritable fortune, and yet they denied him the chance to study what would have inevitable become a permanent pathway between dimensions, a gate which could allow even the nonmagically gifted to traverse great distances in an instant. A game changer for commerce and conquest alike. The team sensed that Magnus, like Hitler, would have used the eggs to further his own agendas and strike down any who stood in his way, dismissed his claims as the trash they were.
They had all but decided to kill him when Magnus pulled his trump card. If he was released, he could give them a map of the labyrinth they would encounter when they finally reached the Valley of Nox. The Outsiders, he said, would not let just anyone into the Library of All Knowledge. No, they would only allow those clever enough to be worthy of the knowledge to enter, and had surrounded the Library with a Labyrinth of traps and puzzles which would keep all but the most capable from reaching their goals.
The team deliberated, and agreed only to release him if he also released his contracts on them, and cancel any orders he had given against them in the process. They brought up a contract, to be signed in blood, and with a little negotiation, the terms were set. Magnus would draw the map before he left, and the team would not kill him this day.
To add insult to injury, however, Ethan decided it was time for Magnus to pay for his wrongdoings in some way, and had Mike secure his head while he pulled out his knife. He would remove the treacherous tongue from Magnus’ head, and then be done with it. At the last moment, however, Ethan relented, and allowed Magnus to go free. Magnus, unwilling to accept Ethan’s mercy, stuck out his tongue as far as he could, and bit it off, spitting it at him before turning and leaving to the drawing room.
Mike picked up the tongue, and thought about keeping it in case they needed to do some kind of blood magic, but Bah Rhee politely asked for the morsel, and Mike obliged. Bah Rhee gobbled it up, and asked if they could go ahead and cut just a little more off ‘for later,’ but the group declined. Clarence and Gwinny excused themselves from the group, and one crisis dealt with, the group decided it would be a good idea to take up the mantle of figuring out who would be made the next ruler of Sanguinous Imperium.
Before the meeting, Ethan went to provide Magnus with some clothing, and noticed Clarence and Gwinny leaving Magnus’ room. Magnus accepted the clothing, and made his way out to the table where the Summit was beginning. Heironomous went to go take a bath, as he didn’t really care who took the throne. He was an Outsider himself, and Skytown could always be moved if he didn’t like the looks of the local government.
Finally, all parties at a table together, the group began to speak of the benefits of having one ruler over the other, whether it would be better to leave people to their own devices by putting Malyk on the throne, to bring them to value good over all things, even the law, or even the possibility of ruling without a descendant of Wolfschild on the throne. The latter was dismissed because the throne required a DePelorgras to maintain the treaty with the dragons, and each in turn was ruled out as Wilamena’s tendency to ignore law would result in chaos, and Malyk’s likelihood of being influenced by the Illithids was high. It was determined, in the end, that each region, guild, race, and religion would need representation in a ruling council, and Malyk would be best suited to sit the throne as he would exert the least influence and act as a Neutral figurehead and tiebreaker for the council.
The group was getting into the grit of whom exactly would need representing, when a frightful presence fell over the room. Loud crashing was heard in the anteroom, and the doors to the hall burst open as Maximus the Dead and his honor guard arrived.
“And who will represent the undead?” He asked the stunned room. Shannon began to answer with “me,” but as she looked into his eyes, Maximus exerted his influence, and Shannon became his puppet. “You,” she said, before lowering her head in disgust.
“Thats right,” Maximus preened. “Now, imagine my surprise when I am greeted by a loyal servant who tells me ON MY WAY to see the new Grand Maestro play, that the Grand Maestro herself and her companions are currently sitting in the hall of MY VERY OWN Grand Maestro’s suite in MY VERY OWN capital city with ALMOST ALL the enemies of the realm plotting my demise and discussing terms for a new government!? IMAGINE IT!”
Most of the group was stunned, but the Illithid Patrick was not amused. He looked to Lisa and asked if this thing was Maximus the Dead, and when she responded, turned and launched Maximus accross the room with a powerful Psionic blast. Then, as suddenly as he had attacked, he grasped Malyk in his arms and disappeared, leaving the group to fend for themselves.
Magnus ran around the table and grabbed hold of Wilamena, Sam, and Tessa, and then that group teleported away. Pol, Bah Rhee, and Lah Rhee, began to back away from the table, having no tricks to conceal themselves or retreat. Heironomous had retreated to his bath, Gwinny and Clarence had retreated to their rooms, as had Andrew and Elaina. The only ones left at the table were the remaining members of Team Skullfuck.
Before anyone could act, one of the members of Maximus the Dead’s entourage raised his hand, and stopped time. Within moments, he had erected multiple inescapable nasty barriers around the team, and revived Maximus. When time resumed, Maximus dusted off his coat and spoke again.
“I could kill you, but I’d rather you did the job you came here to do. But you have misused the tools I gave you, so I am taking those away.” He checked something on his wrist, and each and every Egg bearer felt their eggs regain their weight. Those with eggs in scabbards or attached to them felt themselves being dragged to the floor. Others lost the ability to retrieve them from their places. “I also need to teach you a lesson.”
Maximus and his entourage began to mutter. Spells of enervation, telekinesis, freezing touch, and polymorph raked over the group. More spells were prepared, but none of the group were left standing or defiant. Another of the entourage walked forward, tossing a bomb into the enclosure, which exploded with gas, choking them and obscuring their vision. “Do what I asked of you, and do it now, or there will be worse consequences than the loss of your weapons.”
What had started as a celebration ended… well it ended pretty much the same way the celebration would have, with almost everyone passed out on the floor, and feeling much the worse for wear.
Pol, Gwinny, Clarence, Heironomous, and the others, who had been trapped in their rooms by a locking spell, came to the aid of their friends after Maximus’ departure, healing wounds and reviving group members. Stephanie felt as if she’d had a brush with death itself, but with luck she had managed to remain whole. Bryan was just happy to have retained his limbs.
Ethan realized, suddenly, that though the eggs had been removed from everyone else’s possession, his was safely tucked away in his shadow, and though it now weighed several hundred pounds, his connection with it had not been tarnished, just dulled. Proximity was now key for the effects of the egg to emerge, but otherwise their connections were still untarnished. The weight problem, though, was a real problem. Ethan decided to cash in his influence.
Having not come from the realm of Sanguinous Imperium, Ethan and the others did not have the inherent knowledge of the deities of the realm and how they interacted, so when he began to prey to Asmodeus, the leader of the Arch Demon’s of Hell, having the demon’s favor for that of Muradin the god of the Dwarves, he did not notice his mistake until he disappeared in a puff of smoke and sulfur, and reappeared before a split hooved red horned devil looking creature. Asmodeus, ruler of the 9th ring of hell, seemed amused.
“I hear you need some weight taken off your shoulders?” He grinned. Ethan, having begun to realize his mistake, began to talk. And talk he did. And Asmodeus listened, but so did another. Of course, the other could only hear a few choice words, but they were enough. To him, the discussion taking place sounded a little bit like “Orcus, orcus orcus…. orcus orcus orcus. ORCUS! Orcus orcus orcus, orcus orcus?”
Finally, having heard his name enough to be sick of it, Orcus himself appeared before his lord Asmodeus. Before him stood a human who was claiming his rights as the grand lieutenant of Orcus’ armies on earth. Asmodeus looked on, amused, and the two began to have a psychic conversation over the human’s pleas and demands for help.
Whatever they decided together, it must have favored Ethan, because he was given the gift of a lighter egg in exchange for demolishing a building. A certain building, in a certain place, but a building nonetheless. An easy task, for certain. But the human wanted more. He wanted to be able to summon Orcus without consequence. The absolute BALLS on this one! It was hilarious to them, so Orcus agreed. One time, but not for the destruction of the temple. Only after it was done. Ethan agreed. The devils then left him standing in the darkest corner of the darkest pit of hell to see if he could figure his way out. Luckily, Ethan works pretty well with darkness, and made it out with pretty much no effort at all, now that he had his egg, which now glowed slightly red, like a roiling black surface of magma and shadow.
When he returned, the group was discussing what to do to get the eggs back. Shannon wanted to kill herself, to reincarnate at the eggs, so she could bring them back with her. Stephanie and a few of the others did not like the idea. Ethan made mention that whatever they were going to do, he had to go destroy a building really quick first, and Bryan and Mike offered their aid in the task. Shannon, who had decided it was time to make a decision, came to Ethan and told him her plans, and asked him to help her complete her plans. Bryan, who had been speaking with Shannon about the matter, nodded, and Ethan proceeded to crush her skull in with his demonic hammer. Rather than collapse to the ground, Shannon burst into ashes, and immediately began slowly traveling to the West. At that rate, it would be more than a week, maybe even 10 days before she would be able to reach the eggs, but it was a start.