Sunday, Harvester 9, 552 CY (50 AN)
Their missions complete, the Shields of the Sorrowfell and the Mourners of Saerun Road return to the Purple Man village. The Mourners of Saerun Road begin taking their leave, saying their farewells to the purple tribesmen. They then thank the Shields for their assistance and similarly say their farewells. Valna takes the opportunity to hug each as they leave, and Peren takes the opportunity to flirt again with Prulove Soundinghorn of the Mourners. She rebuffs him, suggesting that he “ought to stick to [his] swords,” and casting a knowing glance at Valna, she further suggests that “the best way to get over someone is not to get under someone else.”
After farewells are exchanged and the Shields’ sending stone is returned, the Mourners of Saerun Road filter out of the room and presumably make for the portal chamber to return to Sigil. The Shields of the Sorrowfell, however, decide to stay a little bit longer, no doubt partially fueled by the desire to participate in the villagers’ festivities over the newly-cleared top level of Skyfall delve.
While the Shields and the villagers are feasting and drinking, Bosabrieln takes the opportunity to speak with She of the Dying Light. He learns that her mother was the previous leader of the village when they lived in the woods to the east; when a large ooze, impervious to their weapons, attacked the village, her mother died in the conflict and the villagers were forced to flee. She further explains that she, as with many members of her family, are considered chosen by the Sun, as marked by their flaming red hair and predisposition to psychic talent. When Bosabrieln mentions that the Shields have previously met a Bone Man in their travels, she warns him about cavorting with the other colors — particularly Bone Men — and she also explains about the fourteen races of men. She subsequently learns that the colors of dolm, jale, and ulfire do not exist where Bosabrieln lives.
As Bosabrieln tells her about himself, she seems fascinated by the benign deities and commonplace magic of his world. Conversation continues until Bosabrieln makes the suggestion that they relocate to elsewhere, and she suggests they go for a brief walk through the mountains.
Several of the others note they do not return until late the next morning.
During the night, Bezaldooz takes the opportunity to examine Peren’s helmet — The Helm of Seven Deaths — and try to break the curse on it. After about an hour, he is successful, and Peren can again remove the helmet.
With celebrations ended the next day, the Shields take their leave and approach the portal to return to Sigil. When the guard concentrates and the gate opens, the Shields are pleased to be back in relatively civilized lands.
After speaking with guards and the receptionist at the Planar Trade Consortium offices, they are informed that Estevan is in the office, and they are sent to him. He congratulates them on their job well done, gives them an astral diamond as payment, and tells them that he will be in touch if he requires work done in the future.
With the day ahead of them and no demands on their time, the Shields decide to go shopping in the Market Ward before bedding down at the Silver Tankard in the Temple Ward. The innkeeper, the angel named Aratha, remembers the Shields, and says that she will waive their fee if Bosabrieln will grant a performance later in the evening. He agrees.
While Bosabrieln is preparing for the night’s concert, the rest of the Shields rest and eat in the inn’s common room. Although the others certainly notice him, Peren is particularly interested in the man cleaning the bar; despite his vapid expression, he seems somewhat interested in the Shields. He finally sits with them and introduces himself as “Scruffy,” the janitor. He notes that the Shields are known, even in Sigil, and he cryptically notes that “the first taste is free.” When the Shields ask for clarification, he purchases them drinks and offers to drink to their health. Peren refuses, but Torinn readily drinks his drink. Bezaldooz also deigns to take a drink, and Peren definitely suspects something is afoot when Bezaldooz finds himself sluggish and unable to walk. For that matter, Torinn seems particularly inebriated given the amount of alcohol he had. After Torinn helps Bezaldooz upstairs to his room, and Valna has similarly retired to bed, Peren speaks with Scruffy, determining that he is offering his services. The implication is that he is some manner of poisoner or assassin. Peren agrees to take him on.
Meanwhile, Bosabrieln continues his performance well into the evening. As the crowd dies down, he finishes and goes to speak with Aratha. He talks a little of traveling, and asks about her; she explains that she was once an angel of the goddess Sune on the world of Toril, but that she began questioning her parameters and fell. All things considered, however, she left her service on good terms.
As things progress, both parties decide to retire to Bosabrieln’s room. Aratha pauses first, whispering something to one of the staff, and then the two go upstairs. When they arrive in Bosabrieln’s room, they find that a spread of food has been prepared. Then they retire for the evening together.
The next morning, everyone awakens and breakfasts in the common room. As the rest of the Shields inquire about what happened last night and who is the strange person breakfasting with them, Peren introduces the group to Scruffy and indicates he will be adventuring with them for a time. Once everyone is satisfied, they leave the Silver Tankard and return to the alleyway to return to Scandshar. As they approach, Bosabrieln presents the desert rose and the portal opens, returning the Shields to the Sorrowfell Plains.
Once the Shields arrive back in Scandshar, they discuss what to do. Bosabrieln indicates he wishes to send a message to Vianibrar, while the others wish to look for work. As such, Bosabrieln goes to find a quiet little watering hole where he can perform the Sending ritual, while the rest of the Shields go to find Scarlet Jax in the hopes that she may have some manner of paying job for them. Bosabrieln gives the rest of the group the other sending stone in case contact is required.
Bosabrieln finds an appropriate spot and casts the ritual, sending a message that he is back in Scandshar and wishes to speak with Vianibrar. Shortly thereafter, he is approached by three figures — Scarlet Jax and two of her “boys.” She indicates that she missed his show the other night, and she asks if the offer of a copper piece for a kiss still stands. He agrees to this, although he tells her that there is no charge for her. They kiss for a little while, and Scarlet uses the opportunity to attempt to unfasten the choker from around Bosabrieln’s neck, but he notices the action and grabs her hand. She shrugs and says that one cannot blame her for trying. She then takes her leave, although before she exits, Bosabrieln invites her to the show he plans on performing tonight.
Meanwhile, the Shields of the Sorrowfell arrive at the Troll and Fish. Scarlet Jax and two of her associates are missing. They take seats and order ale. Peren addresses the large goliath at the bar, asking if Scarlet Jax is around and if there is anything that needs to be done, as the Shields are in search of work. He answers that she is not around, and they would have to wait for her to return.
After a bit of waiting, Bosabrieln receives a mental response via Sending from Vianibrar, saying, “I am in Duchy Jepson. I believe the Headmaster wishes to speak to the lot of you when you have a chance.” Bosabrieln then uses his sending stone to contact the rest of the Shields of the Sorrowfell, relaying this information.
Satisfied that they will find work elsewhere, the Shields of the Sorrowfell take their leave of the Troll and Fish and begin walking to rejoin Bosabrieln.
As Bosabrieln waits for his companions, Ekaterina enters the bar and joins him. They speak briefly about events — Ekaterina has been doing well, although she has been keeping her head down after the Shields’ business with the Menagerie of Peacocks — while waiting for the rest of the Shields to arrive.
As the Shields are walking the streets of Scandshar, a carriage pulls next to them. The door opens to reveal the Lady Léopoldine de Rais, whom Peren saved during the primero game. She says she wishes to speak with him alone, and although the Shields are wary, they agree. She agrees to drop Peren wherever they are meeting. The rest of the Shields continue to walk across town while Peren rides.
In the carriage, Lady de Rais indicates that she owes Peren her life, and not wanting to be in anyone’s debt, she offers to help him and his fellows in any way she can. She gives him a point of contact and drops him off at the inn where the rest of the Shields are meeting.
Reunited, Ekaterina is introduced to Scruffy and the group makes certain that everyone is fully aware of all the information at hand. Bosabrieln explains that the Headmaster wishes to speak with them in Duchy Jepson, implying that he has some manner of task for them. With nothing further to do in Scandshar, the group decides to leave for Duchy Jepson. Before leaving, Bosabrieln asks the barkeep to contact Scarlet Jax and let her know that his show will be relocated to Duchy Jepson.
The group transports by magic circle to Duchy Jepson. Upon arrival, they are treated as old celebrities, given ready access to whatever they need. The Shields make their way to the Wizard’s Tower to meet with the Headmaster, noting from a distance that the sailing ship hanging from the side of the tower is gone. Along the way, they are stopped by a lovely young woman with a black parasol. She indicates that Magister Remegni wishes to meet with Bezaldooz at his earliest convenience. The rest of the Shields inquire about the young woman, about whom Bezaldooz feigns ignorance, before they continue to Headmaster Jepson’s office.
When they arrive, they give greeting, and Bosabrieln presents the Headmaster with another talking gecko, this one from the ruins of Carcosa. The two creatures begin communicating, and the Headmaster seems amused. The Shields also ask about the missing ship, and the Headmaster indicates that Adeptus Spellweaver is on an errand — apparently, there is some manner of transplanar slave trade perpetrated by the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. It stretches to Rockulon Prime, and the Shields’ acquaintence Dr. Dagger Nazareth was apparently helping Spellweaver reach the place.
The Headmaster is also introduced to Scruffy, and seems to examine him for a long while.
With pleasantries out of the way, the Headmaster gets down to cases. He explains that giants have been sighted in distant settlements in the Hoarfrost Ridge. They appear to be mobilizing en masse. Reports even suggest that some distant settlements have been attacked. The Duchess Jepson and the Wizard’s Tower have no particular reward in mind for getting to the bottom of these events, but aiding the inhabitants of the Sorrowfell Plains will no doubt bring its own reward. Also, salvage rights are a distinct possibility.
During the conversation, Bezaldooz attempts to sneak away to visit with Magister Remegni, but is spotted as the rest of the Shields wish to know what he is doing. He explains to the Headmaster that he has business with Magister Remegni, but says he will stay.
With the Shields agreeing to this endeavor, they say they will probably start investigating on the morrow. Bosabrieln, however, has plans to put on a grand spectacle that evening. The Headmaster recommends the Addled Alchemist as a potential spot, and since Bosabrieln is looking for thespians, he recommends inquiring with gnome illusionist Boovdoc Thespianoratory with the Wizard’s Tower.
With their discussions ended, the Shields go to the Addled Alchemist to acquire rooms and make their preparations. Afterward, Bezaldooz goes to speak with Magister Remegni.
When Bezaldooz knocks on the door, it opens and Bezaldooz shuffles within. Bent over a desk is the severe frame of Magister Remegni. He greets Bezaldooz as the door closes behind him. Remegni proceeds to explain, in a somewhat roundabout way, that he sent initial contact with the Lady Jansaadi Claasen — the mysterious woman of Bezaldooz’s acquaintance — in the hopes of recruiting him. As the bounds of mortal life are not enough to achieve Mastery of the Art, Remegni sought another path — vampirism. Remegni indicates that he recruited Bezaldooz not just for his keen mind but for his sojourning ways. As it is inevitable that the Wizard’s Tower will eventually learn of this duplicity, Remegni hopes to find another property where he and his students may continue their magical research. If Bezaldooz is able to find an appropriate site, he will be rewarded.
Bezaldooz, for his part, is amenable to the idea of searching for a base for Remegni and his ilk. He agrees, and says he will do the best he can.
Meanwhile, Peren, Torinn, and Valna find respite at the Addled Alchemist. Scruffy, for his part, starts cleaning the common room as if he works there. While they rest, Bosabrieln goes and finds Vianibrar, also staying at the Addled Alchemist. Bosabrieln reveals that he has been wondering about his past — who was his mother and why did Vianibrar choose him as a student? Vianibrar reveals that, a long time ago, he traveled with Bosabrieln’s father, Arhuil. Arhuil went through an iconoclastic phase, as some elves do from time to time. Arhuil and Vianibrar found themselves in Scandshar, and Arhuil had a fling with a local harlot by the name of Amandine Fenn. When Arhuil learned that she was with child, this amused him as a way to thumb his nose at those in Nainimdul. Amandine died in childbirth, and as Arhuil insisted upon keeping the child, Vianibrar requested that he be able to take over the child’s education as recompense for his part in these events. Arhuil agreed, likely expecting Vianibrar to never collect.
Bosabrieln is shocked to learn that his meeting with Vianibrar when he was young was not just subject to chance. Vianibrar further explains that none of it was left to chance — he saw the heavy signs of fate around the boy, and hoped to help the boy along. He admits that he was motivated, in part, by previous dealings with the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks — their sudden rise to power was unnatural, and he is certain they have fell designs for the Sorrowfell Plains. He hoped to not only train the next generation of bard, but to forge someone capable of confronting them. He also subtly manipulated events around the rest of the Shields to bring them together, although he apparently had nothing to do with Bezaldooz, who arrived by happy accident.
Bosabrieln asks about his mother, and Vianibrar says that she worked at a brothel called the Sisterhood of Sharess. Despite the name, it is not a temple of sacred prostitutes, but a high-class brothel. He indicates it still exists, at least when last he heard.
Despite learning that he was manipulated, Bosabrieln is pleased, as his potent destiny suggests that he may achieve even the loftiest of goals. He even notes to Vianibrar that Vianibrar may well be the consort of a deity some day.
Bosabrieln also takes the opportunity to ask about where Vianibrar got the participants in his charade in the primero game back in Scandshar. Vianibrar notes that the retinue of “Princess Jawahir al-Taqiyya” is merely composed of local prostitutes and rentboys — Vianibrar has gathered a network of contacts in his long life. He recommends doing the same, or hiring actors, or whatever he might need for his designs.
Satisfied, Bosabrieln decides to spend some time with Vianibrar. He then takes his leave and makes arrangements with the proprietors of the Addled Alchemist to host a show that evening. They begin preparations, including building a makeshift stage.
Bosabrieln then travels to the basement of the Wizard’s Tower to speak with Boovdoc Thespianoratory; Scruffy accompanies. Several students seem to be engaged in rehearsal for some manner of avant garde performance. The instructor, a short, frenetic, gnome woman, is directing them. Bosabrieln interrupts to introduce himself and ask for Boovdoc Thespianoratory, whom the woman reveals to be herself. After a little back-and-forth, with some interruption from Scruffy, Bosabrieln gets down to cases and reveals his request — he wishes to borrow several of the students to dress themselves in body paint and masquerade as the multicolored human natives of Carcosa. Since the alien colors of dolm, jale, and ulfire cannot be replicated, Bosabrieln will take nine students to represent Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Purple, Red, White, and Yellow humans. A tenth will require magic to appear as a transparently-skinned Bone Man. He offers to pay. She and the students agree to these terms, and begin preparations to appear with Bosabrieln later that evening.
Evening falls, and the crowd begins gathering as Bosabrieln is set to begin. Word has traveled quickly; the whole town, including the Duchess, seems to be in attendance. He creates a grand spectacle — calling the Carcosan “natives” to the stage, he begins to recount the Shields’ adventures in Carcosa before recounting other tales of their exploits in the Sorrowfell Plains. Bosabrieln segues into a description of the Shields’ battle with the white dragon Vilustuminen the White; at the climax of the tale, Bezaldooz sets off a fireworks display emulating the appearance and serpentine movements of a white dragon. Bosabrieln responds by pulling out his wand, and as he sings at the apparition, it explodes in a dazzling light display.
The crowd goes absolutely wild. The raucous performance gives way to a town-wide party. People drink and carouse, and Bosabrieln and his mentor Vianibrar are noted to retire to their rooms with the Carcosan “natives.”
The next day, everyone awakes to find the town strangely clean despite the previous evening’s festivities. When the Shields have fully gathered, they make their way to the Wizard’s Tower to speak again with Headmaster Jepson. He congratulates Bosabrieln on the previous night’s performance, saying he watched it from the Tower, and then they get down to business. The Headmaster charges them with investigating the borderlands and the foothills of the mountains for any giant activity.
The Shields of the Sorrowfell and Scruffy start heading for the mountains, passing through farmland and over dirt paths. The farmers are excited to see such celebrated heroes wandering through, and speak with them briefly as they pass. As they approach some of the forests, they see smoke rising in the distance. They start approaching, and see that the smoke is originating from a clearing in the forest. A huge boulder blocks the view of the ground, but the trees in this area appear to be on fire, generating intense heat despite not being consumed by the flames. Scruffy scales the rock and surveys, seeing several creatures amidst the flaming trees. Three creatures appear to be large beings of living flame, accompanied by two large creatures of moving rock. A man-sized humanoid, clad in armor and wreathed in flame, is with them. Five man-sized motes of flame antagonize a large, leonine humanoid; the creature appears to be clutching a scroll to its chest. It is wounded and is weakly attempting to fight against the creatures.
Battle is joined. Peren moves around the side of the large rock and is intercepted by the flaming, armored humanoid. The rest of the Shields, determining that they likely ought to help the enormous leonine humanoid, send Bezaldooz around the other side of the rock, prompting him to use the portal gun he retrieved on the Sentinel to open gateways on both sides of the battlefield. Torinn and Valna leap through the gateway, joining the leonine humanoid in its desperate battle against the fiery motes. Bezaldooz and Bosabrieln, meanwhile, use their magics to antagonize the fire and earth creatures while Scruffy jumps down from the rock to engage them in melee.
As the fire creatures begin setting more of the meadow ablaze, Peren manages to defeat the fiery humanoid as the lion-thing, Torinn, and Valna destroy the flaming motes. Sufficiently freed, they turn their attention to the other elementals. Although potent, the elementals cannot withstand the combined onslaught of seven combatants and fall one by one.
Once the creatures are slain, the fires throughout the wood dissipate, returning the forest to normal. The creature introduces itself as Rrowthar, a creature known as a “Torrian” from the city of Argent. When asked how the Torrian came to fight these elementals, it explains that it was attacked while seeking the Shields of the Sorrowfell. It then gives the Shields one of its scrolls, reading:
Stand forth and be recognized! The invitation has been given, the choice has been made!
As heroes of your realm and warriors without equal, you have been chosen for the singular honor of serving the great and ancient city of Argent and becoming a champion of all that civilization encompasses. The ritual scroll provided will take you to Argent, and to your destiny.
A new threat gathers, and it has been too long since new champions last walked Argent’s hallowed streets. The borderlands stretch thin, and the world stands defenseless. An ancient tradition has been set aside so that this call could go out.
Accept this honor, this duty, this privilege beyond measure. Argent needs you. The world needs you. Do not allow the foundation to fall.
— Obanar, Last Guardian of Argent
The other scroll is apparently a portal ritual allowing the Shields to access the city of Argent. Unlike most gate circles, Argent is accessible anywhere in the multiverse. Rrowthar proceeds to explain that its master, Obanar, wishes to meet with them. The Torrian knows little of Obanar’s wishes, only telling them that the city is mostly abandoned now, with the other Torrians scattered. He advises them to move quickly.
As they proceed to arrange themselves and use the gate ritual, Scruffy takes his leave to clean the forest damaged in their battle.