Chapter 04 - Above and Below

Cut Scene

At a large, posh, and comfortable house, on the outskirts of White Haven, two elven figures are busy packing up things. Fizbin's father, Elluntann, pauses for a moment and walks downstairs to his private study, unnoticed by his wife Arudiel, who is busily rummaging through many of the dust-covered boxes and crates that used to be stored in the attic. He closes a heavy wooden door, making sure no one is listening, and pushes a bookcase near the large fireplace, revealing a small hidden alcove.

Inside the alcove, on a round black pedestal stands a statue of a Naga covered in dried green blood and odorless incense dust. She is an odd apparition - part beautiful woman, part snake. He kneels beside the statue and prays for only a few short minutes, not willing to risk exposure.

As he closes the hidden passage, his wife walks in and asks what he was doing. With a blank look and untwitching stare, he lies “Just straitening up”. Not noticing anything and accustomed to the cold stare, she responds “I hope Fizbin is OK”. Elluntann snaps back “He’ll be fine”, and ushers her back upstairs to continue packing, following closely behind.

Scene 1 - The Keepers

Arthus sits in the long office of David Talbot. The room is about 3 stories high filled with tomes of varying age, size, and color. Scanning the room quickly there must be thousands if not tens of thousands of tomes - clearly a great achievement in its own right, and capable of matching any royal library.

Instinctively, Arthus searches for a nearest door, but even his keen eyesight reveals none. Though he is puzzled by this briefly, he guesses there must be hidden passages behind the bookcases, and his instinct is shortly confirmed when a servant walks in from behind one of them. The bookcase moves noiselessly, and the servant is as quick in pouring the drinks as he is removing himself from the room. There is beauty to the professionalism and level of detail that seems to be applied to everything around this place.

At the end of the long hand-carved mahogany table sits a middle-aged man, with white and gray hair betraying the young face and keen eyes. When he sits still, it seems as if he’s not moving at all: it’s almost eerie. He sits in front of a large marble fireplace with a symbol carved into the back plate of the fire chamber. It is a triangle with a symbol similar to the Egyptian eye in its center. Before him lie odd objects of dubious interest: a half-used candle, a dusty cross, a long fang of some wild animal, a lump of glittering ore, and a closed book with a smooth red leather cover, clearly worn from age, and faded silver letters.

The man looks Arthus up and down, measuring him with a quiet gaze, and after a moment he opens the red book to a bookmarked page, revealing a detailed picture of Arthus and some notes too small to read from a distance. He smiles at that, re-reading a passage from the long entry, and looks up at Arthus, as if ready to speak.

At first both men sit in silence, but soon a pleasant, if somewhat cryptic, conversation ensues. Arthus, not being one to beat about the bush, gets straight to the matter of his current situation. The man, somewhat amused and altogether unphased, introduces himself as David, and then takes time to answer the questions of the young adolescent. Quickly Arthus gets a sense that the man he speaks to is much more than he appears, with wisdom of countless years and knowledge of many sages. Connecting the dots, Arthus surmises the man to be David Talbot, leader of The Keepers. As the highest ranking member of this secretive order, David humors and answers many of Arthus' questions. Clued in to many of the machinations of the world, David reveals the following facts to Arthus:

  • Varlin has been instructed to watch over the Instrumentality, which was hidden in White Haven, by the Draconian King. Sirilius, once a mage of great renown and now a terrifying boogey-man (lich) feared by many throughout the world, was the first watcher many human lifetimes before. Ever since then there has been five watching over it. David was there two-and-a-half millennia ago when the stone Obelisk, the hiding place of the Instrumentality, was grown from a stone seed.
  • Arthus has done well in finding out information about the Instrumentality (although it seems David knew most of it already). Without much fanfare, Arthus is elevated to a rank of a Seeker and given a new ring. This ring can sense any item the Keepers have studied or documented within a 3ft radius. The level of power in the item is also the total amount of draw it has.
  • In the Summerset Isles; where the Blood War wages there is a mythal, which was created when a member of the Kings Court, a druid of great renown by the name of Gillian Greenbeard, sacrificed himself to contain the war.
  • Godsteel and Tokens all come from the same place. When a deity slumbers even for a moment, its merest whims can become reality. These items are made from the dreams of the gods and can be forged into Tokens OR into artifacts.
  • There are two forges that are hot enough to forge Godsteel. One is in Morrowind and the other in Yokuda.
  • The Keepers have sent out their elite team called Retrieves. These people are also looking for the Instrumentalities.

Arthus, thanking David for a 'pleasant meeting', is drugged once again by his own volition. He drinks his drink of fine wine and briefly notices a pearl inside before passing out. Some time later he wakes up back in the Inn and Tavern from which he was 'borrowed'.

Scene 2 - Midnight Shopping

Arthus, feeling the rush of a big city once again and naturally inclined to explore beyond the permittable bounds, decides to sneak back towards Abe's Scripts and Tomes. Not having had a chance to browse through the clearly enchanted book under the glass dome, it was a nice opportunity to take a closer look without Abe's glaring looks.

Thus, under the cover of night and avoiding the ever-watchful Kingsmen, guarding every corner of the city, Arthus makes his way to the back of the store. The looks look old and rusty, too easy a score to even be an afterthought. Even the guard dog, initially a risk, is quickly mitigated with a fresh piece of meat and a few kind pets on the back. The dog, an old black labrador retriever, wags his tail happily as Arthus makes his way through the basement and into the store proper. There, clearly visible and seemingly unprotected, lies the object of Arthus' interest.

He studies it for a moment, noticing a thin blue ribbon clasped by the glass dome, and with a few nimble adjustments Arthus removes the additional 'security' protecting the tome. The Tome, clearly marked “The footsteps of Gods; Tokens” lies closed before him, and unable to contain himself he grabs it hastily and opens the ancient text.

The tome splits in the middle and one half is made of wood and has a circle of runes engraved on it. The other half is just blank pages. He is initially surprised and disappointed, but at that instant he accidentally runs his hand over the wooden block and his ring passes above the circle of runes. The pages on the left begin to fill with letters as if someone is writing at a furious pace. It outlines that this item ISN’T a token but the gem in the center is 1/1000th from the Eye of Azir, which is a seer tool (Artifact Class). Arthus now knows what the book does but opts not to steal it. Realizing that the disappearance of such item would attract undo attention to their already risky situation, he elects to leave it behind, knowing where it is and 'available' if need be.

Making his way out, he passes the still amused dog and once again pets him on his head. The dog, pleased with himself, continues to gnaw on the dried meat as Arthus quietly slips out of the basement, resets the locks, and makes his way back to The White Nest.

Scene 3 - Divine Intervention

The next day, William decides to go to a Mass right before sunrise, taking advantage of the presence of a majestic cathedral known as the White Cathedral of Pelor right in the central district of the Imperial City. He prays as usual and remains after, taking in the sights of the huge structure, with large, beautiful stained-glass windows, and flawless polished mirrors, reflecting the sunlight into every corner of the building. Shortly after the mass his presence is noticed by the Archbishop Thomas Alveras, and after brief introductions they pass blessings and sit down, speaking for a while.

William, having heard from Arthus the true nature of the King's condition, and being aware that the Archbishop of the White Cathedral has traditionally been the King's healer and herbalist, decides to pursue the matter through his own means. Being cautious and vague, William begins talking about his "very sick uncle" who was been cursed into unending slumber. He asks if the archbishop, a healer and herbalist by position and rank, might know of any cure for such an odd ailment. Thomas, both amused and relieved, sees through this simple guise and challenges William with a wry smile: “you don’t strike me as blue blood, young paladin”. It is clear he understands that William is asking about the ailment the King is inflicted with.

He chuckles and says that he was the King's horticultural expert of the Arboreum, and the personal healer and herbalist once upon a time. He explains that he had tried to call upon the King's guard to go and seek a cure for the ailment, but was promptly removed from his office and sanctioned, forbidden to speak to any of the Kingsmen. The King's vizier and magical advisor, a man by the name Gerald, had replaced the King's personal guard with his own men known as the Blackguard, so Thomas never got a chance to talk to any men that might have listened.

However, before he was removed, he had managed to learn the nature of the poison. He reveals to William that the source is a plant called “Nightshade”, found only in the deepest valleys of Hammerfell. To counter it, he says, there is another plant called “Morning Light”, which grows in the same region, but only on the highest hills and facing the sun. Excited to see the young boy seriously concerned and willing to take up the cause, Thomas offers this information to William in hope that perhaps this young boy will take up the cause, since the archbishop is too old and could never make the trip.

William, thanking the old man, stands up and gets ready to leave. As the Archbishop looks up at him, he feels the strong, bright light emanating from the paladin and squinting his eyes decides to offer him a simple but beautiful bastard sword, engraved with all the sigils of Pelor, and blessed by the congregation for over fifty years. In exchange, William bestows his blade upon the Archbishop, for the next paladin in need.

As William leaves and passes through the door, stopping for a moment to glance back at the beautiful cathedral, the Archbishop follows the boy with his old and wise eyes. What he sees, unbeknownst to William is an almost entirely black figure surrounded by the light of the sun. His aura is “God-Touched”, and any true believer can see William in that light, invoking immediate respect towards the young paladin.

Scene 4 - Of Birds and Prizes

Fizbin, having not found as much information about the Sun Roc, decides to go straight to the merchant who was bringing the bird into the city in the first place. Remembering the various fliers on the man's cart, he heads towards the Great Arena and eventually finds the man's stall with various goods and wares. A short, round man, Juria, the proprietor, greets Fizbin cordially, catching the scent of a potential sell. Unphased, Fizbin questions the seller about the Sun Roc. He learns that unfortunately it is not for sale, and that it was in fact delivered to the Arboreum for the sole pleasure of the King. Juria never saw the King himself, but did pass on the purchase to his guards.

Juria explains that the bird is a special type of animal. As a rumored descendant of the Phoenix, it has the ability to imprint upon someone, creating an emphatic link with its owner. This imprint makes this creature a permanent familiar. To imprint oneself with the Sun Roc, one must walk up to the animal with no fear in his heart and bow to it, and if one is worthy the bird will return the bow and drop a feather. From what the merchant knows, however, the King has yet to imprint the bird to himself, and the bird was let free to fly around the Arboreum.

Fizbin thanks the merchant for the information, but unwilling to purchase any lesser fare, walks away empty-handed. Walking around the arena, Fizbin also learns more details about the gladiatorial competition, with hefty prizes of gold, armor and runes. Indifferent to that sort of sport, he walks back towards The White Nest, pondering the likelihood of making the Sun Roc his.

Scene 5 - Arthus and Alec's Story

Sitting at a corner table of The White Nest's tavern, Arthus and Alec resume their previous conversation about their adventures and the "the way things are in the real world."
Arthus tells Alec about things he’s done and how dangerous the catacombs of the city will be, now that they are contemplating using those to get into the Tower of Gates. He tells stories of some of the places he's been to in the last few years as part of his growing up. Lowering his voice, he recants one particular tale of a catacomb beneath a now-forgotten town, where he faced black, ickor-dripping skeletons and animated corpses, chained to the walls and ceilings of a clearly horrible and evil-shaped tomb. Arthus seems shaken just telling the story. He's worried about his mostly-innocent friends having to face a much darker world than it seems.

Alec seems to perfectly understand Arthus' worries. He tells him a story about when he was in the forests in-and-around White Haven, how once he and his companions hunted down and killed a monstrous “spider-like” creature that had abducted a child from the nearby cottage. He tells how despite his older, more skilled companions, they had failed to rescue the child alive. It is a cold realization that the good guys don't always win, and he's not sure how his friends, having to face that, will react. William, the ever-cheerful paladin, Alisaar, a warrior that never backs down, and Fizbin, the ever-so-smart book worm, are each going to have to adjust their attitude, if the recent events are any indication.

Ultimately, they conclude, that the decision whether or not to pursue this crazy quest isn’t theirs to make. The group will adventure together and as men each one will face his own path. They aren’t kids anymore and Arthus & Alec cannot hide them from the dark anymore.

Scene 6 - The Catacombs

The band reunites in The White Nest, and decide to retire for the afternoon and get some rest. They plan to go to the cemetery where the supposed entrance to the catacombs lies early in the morning, under the guise of night. They have learned that the guards change watch shortly before sunrise, and that gives them a small window of opportunity to sneak past and get inside the tomb. And sure enough, come early morning, they find themselves inside a mausoleum of an old elven family by the name of Syrial. At first it seems like any small-and-cramped stone crypt, but soon Fizbin notices cold steel bindings and arcane runes in-and-around one of the sarcophaguses. Realizing that those are typical wards against the undead, he is both fascinated and frightened. Disguising his feelings so poorly that even William knows something's up, they focus their attention on the metal rods and find them to be removable. A few short moments later, William and Alisaar remove the cover stone and find a small ladder leading deep into the ground. Fizbin, knowing that the wards need to be restored, uses his magic to put the cold steel bindings back in their place behind them. Knowing there's no turning back now, they head forward through the dark and musky tunnel.

They walk for a while, encountering ever-more-complicated traps and wards, clearly designed to hold at bay whatever vile creatures might reside here. At first they move unharassed, but soon enough trouble ensues, and they are attacked by 5 flesh eaters and an ooze-covered Troglodyte. They test their steel and might well enough, and soon these foul things are dispatched. Taking a short rest, the move forward, deeper into the tunnels.

Eventually the rough stone walls and damp floors are replaced with exceptional-quality stone and metalwork, and they realize they must be in the foundations of some large structure. Based on the size and curvature, they guess that they had made it to the base of the Tower of Gates, and looking around they find a narrow, circular staircase inside one of the columns. Attempting to keep quiet as best they can, they slowly made their way upwards, with Arthus as the scout and leader, disabling whatever traps there could be.

After seemingly thousands of steps, and having passed countless of doors and passages, they finally emerge at the very top of the tower, inside the Arboreum itself. Before them is a sight of horror and beauty. They find Kingsmen, asleep and covered in thick, purple vines. It looks as if the whole garden, rumored to rival that of the Elven Court, has become overgrown by dark purple vines and flowers. They quickly realize that this flower is slowly making them very sleepy too. Arthus, the first at the top and not covering his mouth in time, eventually succumbs to the slumber but is carried on by his friends.

At the center of the Arboreum, they see a large, gold dais with a figure dressed in regal clothes laying on top. When they approach they immediately feel a great deal of respect, awe, and admiration for their true leader. But he lies still, as if in stasis, with roots and vines growing out of his chest, arms, and legs. There is no way a human could survive this, but the King is said to be immortal, and perhaps his inner strength holds him here.

William, unable to resist, approaches the dais and kneels before the King, paying his respects. As he stands up he notices the Kings eyes, for they are open and have a slightly reptilian appearance to their irises. This puzzles William, but perhaps there is more than the title to the Draconian King.

Knowing they cannot stay much longer and resist the desire to sleep, and unable to help the King at this time, they make their way towards one of the five points of the arboreum, where a blue ball of arcane magic hovers around a rune-engraved circle etched into the white stone floor. Reading the heading above, it reads Solitude, and they know this is the portal they came to use. After a short moment of hesitation, they press on and step through the portal, and are whisked away from the Arboreum, and into the Great Library of Solitude.


Chapter 03 - Imperial City

Back to Books

Chapter 05 - The Library of Solitude


last edited by SockPuppetSockPuppet

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