The Coalition's War

The Adventure that Wasn't (Chapter 17)

Erdanen rejoiced as Kome brought Blank back through the portal, but her mood looked sour. She wasted no time in bitterly explaining how the cleric had traded Amyria for her, then absconded to gods-knew where. Legion laughed, mocking the kalashtar’s supposed “wisdom”… one thing led to another, and the party came to blows with the warforged.

Fueled by infernal magic, Legion shrugged off each spell and weapon that was thrown at him. Even striking him with a sword like Ruin Silme Megil only left scratches. But even his metal body wasn’t perfect, and bit by bit, he was worn down… only to rise again. At least twice, the party felled him, only to watch him stand up and continue his onslaught! Kome’s darker nature had started the fight wishing for his death… but he came to realize that his power as the Indigo Fox had faded, and his new place as a Saint of Ioun was far greater. He spoke a word of peace, binding the seemingly unbeatable foe so that he could not engage in violence unless he was struck first.

The Champions stood down, watching in horror as Legion’s fury grew, fire seeming to lick out of every joint, blazing behind his artificial eyes. “Fight me… FIGHT ME!” he demanded, striking his fists impotently on the ground. Silently, the party turned and left.

Seeking advice, the party struck out for the realm of Moradin, whose Aspect greeted them with caution. Bahamut’s unofficial successor, Dakranad, had come to him recently, and warned of the party’s ill intentions, but with careful words they were able to convince him they were allies of Bahamut. Sadly, the Aspect explained that the mithral dragon’s trickery had fooled even he – Dakranad spoke lies of wishing to revive Bahamut, and so the god of dwarves had given him a divine spark, fresh from his godforge. To most, it was usless on its own, but combined with a deity’s essence, it could revive a god or perhaps even create a new one.

Putting the pieces together, the party raced for the bridge of al-Sihal, atop the highest peak of the mountain Chronias, the Radiant Throne. There, the Archangel Zachariel stood eternal watch over the radiant gateway that led to the Great Beyond.

Before the bridge stood Dakranad himself, snarling before a small force of demons led by Dispater himself; the dragon held a creation spark, while Dispater’s minions held Amyria. From their arguing and threats spit back and forth, it wasn’t hard for the party to realize that Amyria’s body held a small piece of Bahamut’s essence. If she and the creation spark were carried through the golden doorway, their bearer would re-emerge as a god!

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Chapter 15: Legacy of Io
All that remains of Bahamut is the tiniest scraps of Io...

Following the death of Onthorirfel, our heroes returned to *Sayre, their spirits dampened by the death of Bahamut. So much effort and planning had gone into their excursion to the Shadowfell, all in the hope of discovering Tiamat plot. Discover it they had, only to learn that they were born hundreds of years too late to have any hope of stopping her. As powerful as each of them had become, they were still barely even pawns in the greater conflicts between the deities.

Amyria felt the Platinum Dragon’s death more keenly than anyone, both due to her dedication to her patron’s noble cause and the total removal of her powers. She knew that the removal of the god of justice would plunge the world into a torpor of greed and revenge from which it would never recover. Crime would see a sharp increase across the realm, and left unchecked, it would undo the once-mighty Coalition.

Sayre was no exception. Though outwardly it appeared a wealthy, cultured center of enlightenment, the Champions knew better. Sayre had always had an unruly homeless population, many of them members of the now-shattered cult of Tiamat. Lord Erdanen Torrance could do little but sit and watch in the days that followed while the people he’d been chosen to lead stole from and attacked one another, his own guards no longer interested in the oaths they’d sworn to protect and serve. All the while, Erdanen muttered promises to his dark sword, swearing that he’d find a way to return himself to glory and wreak his vengeance on the Dragon Queen.

It did not help his mood to discover that Mr. Paradox, ordered to impersonate him in his absence, had been unable to halt the advances of a number of young women who’d sought to gain the young mayor’s favor. Saint Kome and Ionen laughed to see the bard so flustered, but Blank was oddly infuriated at the sight of such shallow flirtations made on her traveling companion. Low on patience, Erdanen had Dox banished from his sight, forbidden to return to the Torrance estate.

At length, Amyria called the Champions to her once more. She was deathly pale, yet a glimmer of hope burned dimly in her eyes, for she’d once again received a vision that she claimed had come from Bahamut – a last gift to his beleaguered children. In it, she saw herself pierced by an arrow of bone, silver-chased blood dripping from the wound. She believed the arrow to be the most important part of the metaphor-laden message, and begged the heroes to do what they could to discover more about it. Kome suggested they head to the greatest source of knowledge available to research the vision: the Swan Tower in the astral dominion of Hestavar, the seat of Ioun herself and the location of her greatest library.

But even traveling to the home of the cleric’s patron would still be a perilous journey. For starters, none would be able to accompany the Champions on the Sacrifice, not even Dox or Tok’kit. The homes of the gods were not designed to accommodate the welfare of living followers – only the celestial essences of angels and the exalted, faithful mortals who’d been gifted with new life for their service. Normal mortals who made such a foolish journey found themselves undone by the mere proximity to such beings of unfathomable power. The Champions, however, could surely resist such an effect at least for a time.

Upon landing on Hestavar’s ivory shore, the Sacrifice was attacked by what appeared to be a contingent of Bahamut’s angels, accompanied by a pair of silver dragons. Kome refused to fight, his saintly example giving the dragons pause. Erdanen, however, flew into a rage, dealing death to those he might have called allies under different circumstances. Jett decided he’d seen enough and demanded that his friend finally relinquish his hold on the Sword of Kas and come back to his senses. Erdanen vehemently refused, even after being confronted mono-a-mono in Ruin Silme Megil’s pocket dimension.

The bard unleashed a terrible string of spells which, augmented by the traitorous blade’s magic, felled the genasi in moments. Jett’s gamble was not in vain, however, as Erdanen reappeared in front of his other allies with few tricks left to best them. Blank prevented the bard’s escape, psionically dragging him back after he tried to run while Ionen pummeled him with arcane might. In the end, the sword was sealed in a Solace Bole, and Erdanen’s personality seemed to return to normal.

After making it to the Swan tower unchallenged, Blank encountered Scramandar, offering his aid in research. She convinced her friends to accept the cambion’s offer, in exchange for disclosing their findings to him. After ingratiating themselves with the library’s keepers, the party’s search bore fruit: Hestavar records spoke of an ancient treaty between its three rulers (Pelor, Ioun, and Erathis) and Asmodeus, lord of the Nine Hells.. The devil’s followers were allowed safe passage through the domain, provided they kept their intentions peaceful. As a To seal the treaty, the four parties sealed away a great weapon: the Arrow of Fate. It was an artifact from the Dawn War, rumored to be a part of Io that did not meld with either of the dragon siblings, and it had great power over both the divine and base.

But now the Champions needed it to fulfill Amyria’s prophecy, even if it meant upsetting the peace in the dominion. To get it, they would have to break four seals. The first was made into a great bell by Pelor to welcome the dawn each day. The second was paved into the very streets of Methion, Hestavar’s busiest market and pride of Erathis. The third was hidden in a secret library of Ioun’s, along with lore too dangerous to make widely available to her followers. The final seal could only be broken after the first three were breached, and was said to be guarded by a shackled Primordial…

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Lair of the Perfidious One
Nothing can stop the Champions, and yet, so much is lost...

After descending to the Citadel’s dungeon, the black exarch, Mornujhar was found to be watching over an angelic prisoner. He proved to be a stealthy, underhanded opponent, but much more formidable was the chaos-addled beholder that served him. Saint Komè Banished the aberration back to the Far Realm by calling on Ioun’s power – without its help, Mornujhar was doomed.

Capitalizing on his foe’s sudden misfortune, Ionen, Io Reborn ordered the fellow dragonborn to surrender in the name of the one true god of dragonkind. Mornujhar relinquished his sword and armor, vowing fealty to the one who had defeated him. He freed the prisoner he’d kept in the dungeon, an angel of Bahamut by the name of Agyrturyte. Between her story and his (as well as the records found in Onthorirfel’s library), the party was able to determine that Mornujhar had served Onthorirfel for some time now, and had infiltrated Bahamut’s home in Celestia long ago to steal a ritual that could summon the Platinum Dragon himself. The lich, swayed by offers of wealth and promises of innumerable favors for helping her scheme against her brother, was seduced away from Vecna’s service and went into hiding in Vaerothim, slowly corrupting the ritual until it could be used by Tiamat herself… though it would take a millennium to complete!

Bahamut, ever wary of Tiamat’s schemes, sent his spies across the planes for many generations, but didn’t discover Onthorirfel’s involvement until nearly 25 years ago. Agyrturyte was sent to discover the nature of the lich’s research, but was discovered by Mornujhar and imprisoned. With much disagreement from Erdanen, Ionen decided to send his new follower back to Sayre in the angel’s custody.

Komè repeated his displeasure at seeing the bard continuing to rely on the vampire’s evil sword, though his reasonable arguments only incensed the ‘vacationing’ lord of Sayre. He became uncharacteristically abrasive at the suggestion that he should give up his greatest treasure, even going so far as to utter vague threats to his friends until they relented.

After a series of battles that seemed quite simple to the incredibly-skilled Champions, they finally reached the top of the Citadel, where the ritualist seemed to be expecting them. He laughed as they questioned his intentions – it seemed he had an insatiable lust for power, and lending his skills to Tiamat to bring down her brother was too tempting to pass up. Not only would he be infamous for helping in the downfall of the god of nobility and justice, he’d also be richly rewarded by the god of greed, able to pursue whatever ends he saw fit for the rest of his unnatural existence. His face lit up in a lipless grin when the crystal ceiling flooded with an expansive image of the corrupted ritual taking place, putting a weakened Bahamut before Tiamat at the height of her power.

The heroes fought well, besting Onthorirfel even while under the debilitating enchantments of the Citadel’s walls that made them more susceptible to his spells. Unfortunately, Bahamut did not fare as well. The Platinum Battle Standard toppled as the dragon god fell, its power utterly spent.

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The First Floor
The battle for answers begins.

As they passed the threshold into Onthorirfel’s stronghold, a wave of sickness passed over the heroes. Blightful energy suffused them utterly, paling their skin and lowering their bodies’ ability to stave off necrotic magics. Saint Komè’s blessings and Jett the Incinerator’s mask shielded them from the effect to an extent, but it was clear to the group that undead foes would have a serious advantage against them here.

Even so, there was nothing for them to do but press their luck by moving onward. As they came to the end of a short hallway, a door opened up into a mid-sized chamber strewn with pits, the roof extending some thirty feet above their heads. A huge chain golem awaited them, restlessly snapping its lash-like appendages back and forth. With it were two man-shaped clouds of grey smoke that Blank the Many identified as ritual-born killers, likely created by the lich himself using rare magical processes.

Jett laid into the golem, but its long reach made it nearly impossible for him to keep it from striking his friends. Ionen, Io Reborn was soon cast into a pit by a mighty sweep of the golem’s arms. The ritual-born, sensing the swordmage’s distraction, circled around him and made a beeline for Blank.

While Komè tried to remedy the situation, a flaming skull ascended from a pit at the far side of the room and immediately began lighting up the darkness with storms of flame and glowing yellow rays of heat. Sir Erdanen, brandishing the Sword of Kas, called down spells of baleful light and eldritch power, intent on slaying it before any other foe.

With a gust of desert wind, Ionen rose up to rejoin the battle, though not from the same pit he’d fallen into (he’d found a system of tunnels that connected them). From his new position near the ceiling, he cast storms of elemental power down upon his melee-oriented opponents. With Blank’s helpful telekinetic repositioning and the support of the others, the guardians soon shattered under the powerful onslaught.

The battle was won, but it had frustrated Jett. He was tired of risking his life to defend a cleric who never actually fought anything, and openly questioned the kalashtar’s worth to the party. Finding his normal assurances rebuffed, Komè did something unexpectedly drastic: he invited Jett and the others to continue without him. At first, the others were flabbergasted; how could he simply quit after coming this far with them? But the saint explained that he was merely trying to prove a point – and that he would rejoin them after the next battle. Jett suddenly loathed the idea of leaving the most skilled healer behind, but was unable to articulate his thoughts to win the argument. In the end, his temper mastered him – he screamed in frustration, defaced one of the walls with his weapon, and stomped to the next room.

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Chapter 14: Grasp of the Mantled Citadel
Entering Vaerothim proves to be only the beginning of the mission...

Upon entering the portal, Saint Komè found himself bathed in moonlight, far brighter than the darkness of Arantor’s cavern. He quelled the aura of light that he emanated as he surveyed his surroundings. He stood in a teleportation circle at the top of a rocky hillside, surrounded on all sides by a sea of trees. He recognized the landscape as the Forest of Twisted Souls, which he’d seen illustrated on a tapestry in one of the caverns above Arantor’s lair. His friends were nowhere to be seen.

Before he could examine the place any further, one of the trees near him stirred. It pulled its roots from the ground, trudging towards him on column-like legs. As a hateful black maw opened in the center of its trunk, the kalashtar caught the smell of rotting wood. It was a Blackroot Treant, a former primal guardian, now twisted by unlife. Komè had heard of them from the tales of the other Champions – they’d fought one before in Cachlain’s arena, where they defeated Virizan.

Luckily, before the treant could do much harm, Ionen appeared, driving it back with gouts of flame. As it howled in pain from the embers spreading along its limbs, two warriors carved from black stone appeared to challenge the duo – blackstar knights, servants of Kas the Betrayer. Ionen briefly considered spreading out in order to divide the enemies among them, but Komè noticed an enchantment on the trees – a deadly trap that would activate as soon as a living creature stepped out of the circle.

The two of them held their own until Jett and Blank arrived. The swordmage kept the treant occupied with his aegis, while Blank scattered the knights and used her telekinetic mastery to repeatedly topple the unwieldy treant.

Finally Erdanen came, bumping into Ionen as he walked backwards into the crowded circle. With five bodies fighting for space in the fifteen-foot-diameter sigil, Erdanen did what he could, elbowing past his friends so he could bring radiant energy to bear against the necrotic-fueled foes. The cramped quarters enraged Jett, who threw caution to the wind and marched outside the circle to bring his sword to bear against the blackroot, which was just out of his reach otherwise. Venomous magic began to rain down from the inanimate trees in the area, so Ionen focused his efforts on burning them down.

Finally, all threats were eliminated, and the Champions lay down for a well-deserved rest on the thrice-blasted earth of the hillside. They slept uneasily at best, each mulling over the stress of facing their own moments of betrayal, and coming to terms with the betrayals committed by their friends. More blurted confessions had reared their ugly heads in the final rooms of the cavern, including Jett’s condemning Ziggy to a trollish fate, Blank’s provocation of Trethix, and a mysterious phrase from Komè – “Do we accept? Of course we do!”

When they awoke, Komè summoned his cloud chariot once more, steering it toward a dark tower that loomed over the trees some ten miles distant. Normally, picking their way through the forest on foot would take all day, but the cloudy steed could bear them above the canopy and arrive in just over an hour’s time.

On the way, the group passed over numerous twisted black trees until they came across a grand oak that still retained some of its leaves, though they appeared yellow and sickly. Her curiosity piqued, Blank summoned her dream form to the ground below to have a look around. There, she spied a beautiful eladrin woman, her eyes wide in terror. As their eyes met, Blank was able to see through her illusion – she was actually a hideous creature with skin like bark and claws like thorns. As the crazed plant woman lashed out, Komè hurriedly brought the chariot down to help. Ionen deduced that she was once a dryad, but had since been changed into an undead, much like the treant. He believed that the barely-alive tree acted as a phylactery would to a lich, and so he breathed a cloud of flame into its dying branches. Komè saw the anguish in her eyes, begging the sorcerer to stay his hand as they attempted to reason with her. Jett attempted to distract her fury away from his friends, while Erdanen reached out to her in the elven tongue. After extinguishing the blaze, they were able to calm her down.

She shakily introduced herself as Naiethar Traihel, and begged the heroes to release her from her undead existence by planting a branch from her tree in untainted soil; in return for their kindness, she let them copy the rituals that had appeared on her tree over the years. They accepted her request and apologized for attacking her, though Ionen later refused to admit any rashness on his part. “Why should I apologize?” he asked. “My actions are justified. She was undead, and eager to harm us. I knew the tree was the source of her power, so I sought to destroy it before she could make use of it. If anyone here is to blame for the harm I brought on her, it is you, Komè! Next time you wish to try to save something that is clearly an enemy, you might at least inform me of your intent.”

The kalashtar fumed at Ionen’s outlook – it was as if he cared nothing for anyone but himself. Secretly, he confided in Erdanen, voicing his doubt as to whether it would be truly wise to aid someone as tyrannical as him in reattaining godhood.

Before the group could set out again, a large group of creatures could be heard approaching through the thicket of trees. Erdanen and Jett barred the way to the oak tree, while the other three took off in the cloud chariot to gain an aerial advantage. As the figures came into the light, Ionen recognized one of them: the bluespawn that he had spared in Tu’narath, when he’d first met the Platinum Champions! He was accompanied by a small pack of fey wolves, and a sullen-faced mage.

As Komè drove the chariot forward, Ionen let the bluespawn know of his displeasure with a rain of elemental energy that lit up the night sky. Though wounded, the brute refused to be frightened by Ionen – he was out for revenge for his previous embarrassment.

Blank aided the assault by slamming the mage with her telekinesis, hitting him so hard that his face flew off! Actually, it was only a mask… and beneath it – to the tiefling’s disgust and horror – was a mass of dark, writhing worms. Even with her mental defenses, she was unable to shake the feeling of disgust and utter wrongness that the long-dead mage exuded, and she wasn’t able to meet its gaze. Ever resourceful, she decided to compel the bluespawn to fight it instead.

Erdanen managed to get the killing blow on the larva mage, while Blank helped Jett fend off the wolves that he found himself nearly overwhelmed by. The bluespawn’s dying words were: “You think you’ve beaten me, but I promise you’ve not heard the last of Donaar...” Ionen seemed disappointed by this turn of affairs, but said nothing.

After dealing with Tiamat’s servants, the Champions piled into the Chariot once more and resumed their course toward the Mantled Citadel. Just after the oak tree faded from sight, a reaper ascended from the trees below, silently beckoning for the group to follow him. Komè was reluctant to follow a servant of Vecna, but equally disliked abandoning the opportunity to learn more of the Maimed God’s involvement, both here and in Monadhan. As the chariot landed, the reaper crossed a black stream, where it joined a man-sized figure with a bald head and mummified skin who raised a single hand in greeting.

The figure introduced itself as Rithkerrar, but the cleric quickly identified his true nature after noticing the absence of a left eye. This stranger was an aspect of Vecna himself! Rithkerrar reassured the heroes of his intentions, saying that they shared the same enemy – Onthorirfel. He revealed that the ritualist had betrayed Vecna long ago, and that Vecna had dispatched an aspect of his to see to the lich’s destruction (though obviously, Rithkerrar was unable to succeeded on his task). He claimed they would benefit from a sharing of information pertaining to their foe, even if they were not willing to make a formal alliance against him. He proposed a fair exchange – he would answer one question of theirs for every question they answered for him. Komè knew that while Vecna was the sworn enemy of his goddess, he also held information unknown to anyone else in the cosmos, and the opportunity to use his knowledge against Onthorirfel was invaluable. This, coupled with the kalashtar’s aversion to unnecessary violence, convinced him to agree to Rithkerrar’s terms.

Komè began. “What are Onthorirfel’s defenses like?”

Rithkerrar answered. “His lair is guarded by many creatures both living and undead, and his halls harbor a few traps as well. Most notable of all, however, are the enchantments that permeate the Mantled Citadel itself. All those with beating hearts should fear its power, although you, a saint, will fare better than most.” The aspect smiled as it asked its question. “Why do you seek Onthorirfel?”

Komè truthfully replied, “We were sent to investigate his dealings with Tiamat, and his involvement in the recent war against the world.” Electing not to explain further, he asked his second question. “How can we break or foil the enchantment on the Mantled Citadel?”

“You cannot. As I said, you will fare better than most. What of this war you speak of, and how does Onthorirfel relate to it?”

“We know Onthorirfel aided a shadar-kai merchant known as Sarshan in the destruction of the village of Talar, though what he has been up to since then remains unclear. Sarshan acted in the interests of the githyanki, who were under the indirect control of Tiamat. The githyanki are defeated now, but we have reason to believe that we’ve not seen the entirety of her plan – Onthorirfel is the best lead we have to finding out her true intention in attempting to destroy the world she once defended from the primordials. Now, I’ll ask you one more time, as clear as I can: is there any way to mitigate the effects of the enchantment on the Citadel?”

“You would be best served by a resistance to necrotic magic. Now tell me, how did you come to Vaerothim?”

“We used the key to pass through Monad—”

“I know that, idiot!” growled Rithkerrar. “These word games benefit neither of us. I mean how did you come to know of Vaerothim?”

The kalashtar smirked ever so slightly. “We were told by someone.”

At this, Rithkerrar became unruly. “Enough! Answer me straight or forfeit the opportunity to parley. WHO. SENT. YOU. HERE?”

Komè hesitated, unsure if he should reveal the identity of their ally. Telepathically, Erdanen suggested that they should just kill him already, while Blank practically begged him to allow her to mislead Vecna with a clever lie. In the end, Ionen blurted out the truth impatiently. “We were sent here by Rachaela, an angel of Kord.”

“Rachaela?” A look of realization dawned on Rithkerrar’s face. “So it was Rachaela that told you? That explains everything…” The aspect grinned evilly as it turned to the reaper, who’d remained silent during the proceedings. “Kill them all.”

It would be doing the Champions a disservice to say that they were truly surprised by this, but even though they suspected all along that they’d have to fight Rithkerrar, he was just a little too fast for them. In the blink of an eye, he summoned a web of necrotic energy, binding the chariot and all its occupants to the ground while the reaper tore into them with its scythe. Jett managed to teleport free and used a spell that doubled his size. Blank summoned her dream form away from the web, then swapped places with it. Erdanen managed to tear himself free, and chased down Rithkerrar, neglecting to draw his sword. As he closed with the aspect, he shouted “I bring greetings from an old friend, Vecna!” and plunged the Sword of Kas into the aspect’s side, which had been invisible in the bard’s hand all along. The wound glowed with radiant power, and Rithkerrar struggled to get away from the blade, only to be confronted by the towering form of Jett. With Blank and Erdanen speeding up his attacks, he reduced the aspect to dust in a remarkably short battle.

Blank looted the robes it wore, while Erdanen openly told Ionen of the conversation he’d had with Komè earlier that day. Ionen was indignant that anyone would dare think of denying him the power that he was born to reclaim, but surprised everyone when he listened to the concerns the kalashtar had about his tyrannical behavior. Komè seemed upset that Erdanen chose to expose all this to the dragonborn, but Erdanen claimed he was simply doing away with confidences within the group in an effort to weaken any power that Vecna might try to gain over them as the god of secrets.

Finally they came within sprinting distance of Onthorirfel’s domain. There, they encountered a group of wraiths guarding the entrance, but they offered only minimal resistance (especially compared to their recent opponents). Erdanen continued using Kas’ weapon, which had an unusual affinity for the radiant energy he supplied it. Eventually, the spirits were vanquished, and the door to the Mantled Citadel stood before them…

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The Lower Caverns
The walls themselves betray the party as they descend into the earth.

Leaving the Solace Bole, the group somehow got turned around and returned to the entrance, where they fought death giants that Ionen swore vengeance against for their ancestors’ part in the Dawn War. The giants drained them of much of their vitality, but were ultimately unable to best them. The party debated a long time on how they’d manage to go in a circle, and how best to avoid getting lost again, eventually settling on a combination of the Hand of Fate and Whispers of The Edifice rituals. They discovered that the walls themselves shifted whenever they reached a dead end or stalled for too long, making further rest stops unwise.

The Hand pointed the way to a statuary decorated with magnificent (and expensive) tapestries, depicting vast cities and vistas, as well as the maps of long-dead empires. The statues themselves displayed the forms of several figures, engraved with names familiar to the group, including Sarissa, Mornujhar (both in a dragonborn and black dragon form, oddly), Onthorirfel, Arantor, and a strange angel named Niuria, who bore a striking resemblance to Rachaela. The art was guarded by a trio of cambions and a pair of nothics, favored pets of Vecna cultists. After slaying the devilkin and rendering the nothics powerless with another Word of Peace, they stowed the stuff in Komè’s giant chest and moved on. Blank stole a brazier.

Next was a room filled with sulfur cones and three undead, including one of Vecna’s Abhorrent Reapers. They were beat into the ground after some minor difficulties, and the Champions hotfooted it out of the room, glad to be rid of the smell.

Finally, they made it to the lowest chamber, only to be stopped by Bahlik Gur, leader of Arantor’s death giants. He was greatly intimidated by Ionen, fully believing him to be the reincarnated slayer of Erek-Hus, but fought the group anyway. He and his men lost rather quickly, but not without giving them some grief.

Wandering into the enormous cavern, none of the heroes could see Arantor, and so turned on all their light sources and flew around in Komè’s new cloud chariot, following the sound of skeletal wings. A raspy, conniving voice cursed their intrusion, and before the party could react, Jett turned his blade on the party, rocking the chariot with a burst of force energy. As Erdanen snapped him out of it, the psychic presence moved to Ionen, who unleashed a blast of fire upon the group.

Finally, the dragon came into view and Erdanen hit it with a light spell. Now that Arantor had lost the ability to hide in the darkness, the group immediately split up to minimize their chances of being caught in friendly fire, but the Heart of Darkness punished them for their loyalty to each other, slowing their movements. Divided and unable to support each other, Arantor wreaked havoc on the Champions until he was challenged by Erdanen. Unable to ignore the radiant rebukes that lashed his bones whenever he turned his back on the bard, he concentrated many blows onto him, the worst of which were absorbed by his shield. While he was distracted, Blank managed to regain control of the situation, but only after succumbing to the influence of her darker half. She psychically forced Arantor to leave himself open to attack, allowing Erdanen and Jett to strike. Erdanen’s songblade struck true, and his yell of triumph inspired the others to unleash a combined attack which felled the dracolich.

But they were not done. The dragon’s corpse cracked open, and the skeleton of a smaller silver dragon burst free – the Heart of Darkness. Infuriated by the interruption of the darklord’s punishment, it swore revenge on the Champions, but Ionen’s arcane fury revealed itself in full and he tore the Heart to pieces.

Upon its death, an illusory wall at the back of the cavern faded from view, revealing the dragon’s hoard. Most of the treasure was simple to divide amongst themselves, but at the bottom of the pile lay the Sword of Kas. Komè reached for it, but Jett threw his sword into the ground at the cleric’s feet, stopping him up short. After a heated debate, it was agreed that Erdanen would take the sword, wrapped in a magic cloak so as to hopefully prevent any kind of mental control the relic might possess.

Right on cue, Kas himself appeared. He gave a slow, sarcastic applause and congratulated the heroes on defeating Arantor without even attempting to disrupt the Heart’s control over him. He demanded that the bard hand his sword over, to honor the bargain made in the graveyard.

Kas didn’t seem interested in traveling to Vaerothim, and made no real attempt to reassure them that he would keep his promise. Erdanen strongly advised against trusting someone called “The Betrayer,” but no one else saw any other option – they were exhausted and bruised from the battle with the darklord, and spent of their mightiest spells – there was no realistic way they could defeat someone as powerful as Kas. Erdanen smiled, saying, “We don’t need to beat him. We just need to get by him!”

Ionen, immediately picking up on his ally’s meaning, summoned a gust of wind that sent them soaring over Kas’ head, while the vampire lord looked on in angered frustration. As he drew his weapon to give chase, Jett summoned a blast of fire, invoking the power of Ruin Silme Megil to seal him into a demiplane. He hurried to rejoin his allies as Erdanen thrust the sword into the portal. Eldritch power unfathomable twisted up the blade and into his arm, coaxing a scream of pain from him as the gate wrenched open.

Kas’s howl of fury echoed through the dimensions, but the swordmage’s spell held fast, keeping the Betrayer locked for another precious few seconds. Komè and Ionen hurried through the portal while Erdanen kept it open, but Jett refused to leave his old friend behind him. Blank, in all her practicality, mentally shoved the genasi into the portal and dove in after.

At that moment, the binding on Kas failed, and murderous eyes turned to the lone bard, inches away from escape. “NOOOOOOOO!” shrieked Kas.

In spite of his agony, Erdanen chuckled. “Sayonara, bitch,” he quipped as he moon-walked through the portal.

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Interlude: Blank's Childhood
The Chorus of Truth reveals the horror behind Blank's dual selves.

While inside, the group discussed what they’d learned. The concept of betrayal was woven into the very essence of Monadhan around them – to be the target of traitorous acts stung worse here than anywhere else in the Planes. Every attack they’d committed against each other out of error or compulsion by their opponents created a wound far more grievous than expected, while rewarding the betrayer with a mystical boon of stamina or accuracy. In addition, whenever one among them was struck with a particularly lethal blow (not necessarily originating from friendly fire), they unwillingly blurted out some detail of a betrayal they’d committed in the past.

Komè had repeated his earlier admission to Amyria: that he was once known as the Indigo Fox, deadly assassin and scourge of the Vale.

Jett had rationalized the death of Bugug, saying that if he hadn’t cut the line when he had, everyone would have been in danger.

Blank, cryptically, said only “Mommy, look what I can do!”

And in true form, Erdanen had hysterically admitted to placing Jett’s hand in a bowl of warm water long ago – Ziggy was innocent of the crime.

Ionen had steered clear of injury, and whatever betrayals buried in his past remained a mystery.

As they readied to sleep, Erdanen gathered his allies around him, expressing a wish to play them a song he’d learned. As the notes poured forth from his lilting songblade, he accompanied with sorrowful lyrics, expressing hopelessness at the lack of honesty found in the world, expressing a wish for a friend who held truthfulness above all else. The tone was sad but hopeful, and it comforted his fellows, knowing they were trapped in the darkness of the Shadowfell until their quest was completed.

Blank smiled, with the slightest hint of worry in her dull red eyes. She wore a smile as she said, “What a lovely song, Erdanen.”

He inclined his head in thanks, but there was no mirth or gratitude on his face. “I sang it with someone in mind,” he replied, launching into a cruel rhyme:

  • “There once was a tiefling who lied;
  • When asked of herself, she’d just hide
  • Behind cute turns of phrase
  • And flattering praise
  • Till all trust we had for her died.
  • But the bard, he saw through her illusion
  • Though his fellows were spent to confusion.
  • Orphaned as a lassy,
  • She never wept like the genasi -
  • The friendship we’d had was delusion.
  • So the bard set a trap diabolical;
  • Before her hidden scheme came full circle.
  • With the music he’d sing,
  • He’d prove himself social King,
  • And yank her lying hairs out by the follicle.”

As he finished the last line, he stood, staring directly into Blank’s smug, unflinching expression. “Now tell me the truth: just what is it about you that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end? I can’t be sure if you’re lying or not about your past, but what you said earlier about your parents dying… you didn’t shed a tear! And that blurted confession you gave has something to do with it, doesn’t it?”

Feigning aggravation, she turned up her nose and claimed, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Blank had honed her skill with crafting falsehoods out of necessity during her life in the Citadel Mercane, but something about the half-elf’s words made her stumble and stammer over each new fib. Komè, a master of reading others, caught on immediately.

As the two of them pressed her, she began to get more and more nervous, until her personality changed abruptly, and she grinned evilly. She gleefully admitted to murdering her own mother and father after being treated worse than livestock her entire childhood – how she’d had her birth name taken away after they’d realize she’d never amount to anything, much less become the resurrector of Bael Turath, the long-lost tiefling empire. For her worthlessness, she was insulted by her mother and beaten by her father, until one day her consciousness fractured. A darker reflection of her own psyche was brought to the surface, quietly bearing the abuses that would have shattered the former, innocent Blank.

In time, the split began to awaken dormant psionic powers, the first of which allowed her dark side to manifest a physical body while she slept. When it grew strong enough, it compelled her father to beat her mother to death, only relenting once her corpse became unrecognizable. As her father wept over his beloved, she crushed his skull telekinetically.

Her hateful expression melted, giving way to soul-shattering tears. For years, she explained, her young mind remained ignorant of its twin. The sins it committed at night kept her alive, but at a terrible price to the people around her. It was years before she discovered the truth, and once she defeated her inner monster, she gained access to its unsettling memories. To escape her crimes, she made her way to the Astral Sea, and wound up in Scaramandar’s service.

While she was now the dominant personality, her other half occasionally got the better of her. She could even summon it in physical form, as she had during the battle with Trethix. She admitted that her other half had warned the woman of their intent, purposefully making it so that Komè’s diplomatic approach would be impossible. Now that she had the Hourglass that she had sought, she elected to continue with the Champions, hoping to gain the experience necessary to control her darkness.

Erdanen and Jett were unnerved, and Ionen was indifferent. Komè was supportive, however, noting that she’d been instrumental in their success both in Tu’narath and here in Monadhan. The group resolved to keep her around, but sleep with one eye open from that point on.

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Into the Darkness
The domain of Betrayal awaits... what horrors have befallen Jett there?

Beyond the angel’s portal lay a mist-covered jungle. As the Champions set off to explore it, they heard a voice in the distance, whispering to them over the buzz of insects and the rustling of wind through vine-covered branches:

“Inner conflict can defeat a soldier more quickly than an army.”

“What good is his blade without his breath?”

“Your friend’s very thoughts are stained with guilt.”

“A single fear can unleash a torrent of nightmares.”

“Any fool who would die for honor is better off dead.”

“His headstone is the last page in the book of his life.”

Erdanen demanded that the speaker show himself, but only laughter was heard. Just a few paces ahead, the party came upon a clearing and saw Jett, waist-deep in quicksand. Wracked with fear and grief, he pleaded with his friends to turn back, but they would not be kept away. They approached to help, but something stood in their way…

Komè saw it as Vecna himself, cackling madly.

Blank saw it as a small army of doppelgangers.

Erdanen saw it as an unmarked tombstone, his body half-buried beneath it.

Ionen saw it as Erek-Hus – the ancient primodial that slew his original incarnation.

After recovering from the initial shock, the Champions realized the creature was the manifestation of a quori spirit, a nightmare who fed off the fears of thinking beings. They summoned their courage and fought it, though it changed form many times during the course of the battle. Komè managed to free Jett from the quicksand with a well-timed prayer of summoning, and Erdanen reminded the swordmage of how much of a hero he truly was; he could never escape what he’d done to Bugug, but he had the rest of his life to better himself and learn from his past mistake. Blank aided him by saying that she, too, had lost her parents at an early age – she knew much of Jett’s hurt, and how it was easy to blame himself, but just because bad things had happened to him didn’t mean he had to give up.

Rededicating himself to his blade, his friends, and his god, Jett helped his fellows destroy the monstrosity for good, and eagerly volunteered to accompany them on their quest to find Tiamat’s ritualist.

While sharpening their swords on a heroslayer hydra (and learning that hyrdra heads may very well have the power to regenerate), Ionen carelessly struck Komè with a blast of energy, inflicting a wound far more grievous than intended. It bled with unnatural speed, and as it did so, the dragonborn felt revitalized.

After dispatching the creature, they arrived in a shantytown full of dejected, rag-wearing peasants – every one of them a traitor to their kingdom or kin. Seeking information, the group happened upon a dragonborn named Shiv, who grudgingly told them to see Sarissa the seer.

Sarissa’s hut was easily found, but the old halfling refused to give them the information they sought without a price – 100 gold per question. None of the Champions were pleased with her, but they paid the cost anyway. She said the only way out of Monadhan was to get the key of the dominion – the Sword of Kas. She also said it was guarded by the darklord, Arantor, a name which Erdanen and Ionen recognized from an old ghost story. Suddenly, a disfigured woman appeared outside the hut, asking for the seer.

The moment she laid eyes on the heroes, the woman bared a set of fangs, and was joined by a handful of similar creatures – vampires! They sought to slay Sarissa for consorting with outsiders, but Blank valiantly blocked the path of the would-be assassins until they could be destroyed. Sarissa refunded their money and more, telling them that Kas, their leader, could be found in the graveyard outside town at midnight.

On their way out of the shantytown, the heroes were ambushed by another group of vampires, this one led by Gwenth, a lieutenant of Kas’. Her gaze caused them to erupt into violence against each other, but all too soon they shook free from her power and turned their attacks on her. Wilting under their assault and heavily outnumbered, Gwenth turned and ran, but Blank followed her. Gwenth tried to hide in the grimy river that flowed through the town, but the psion daintily plucked her from the water with her psionic gifts and ended her with a thought.

Instead of Kas, the party came upon another lieutenant: Rolain. Komè convinced him not to waste time on fighting, as all he wanted was to speak with his master. He went to bring Kas the message, but the smell of living flesh lured a loathsome Desecration to the surface before Rolain returned. Though impossibly large, it fell easily.

Upon explaining their situation, Kas was intrigued. The sword had not been in his possession for some time, and he was eager to reclaim it. Kas agreed to call off his servants, if the newcomers could return his sword to him. In addition, he would personally lead them to Vaerothim, the demiplane where Mornujhar hid with the ritualist.

Komè agreed to the bargain, and Kas explained that the ritualist was actually a lich named Onthorirfel, who had been sealed in Monadhan for some time for betraying Vecna. With Tiamat’s help, though, he’d found a way to escape, and had even managed to turn Monadhan from his prison into a near-impassable obstacle barring the way to his new home.

Jett and Erdanen recognized the name. This was the same ritualist who had aided Sarshan in destroying the village of Talar more than a year ago, before the formation of the Platinum Shield Coalition!

Rolain brought them to the caverns, where they fought a naga, a troll, and a small group of cambions in a chamber housing an underground river. Further in, they found a strange chamber filled with floating platforms, guarded by a void lich and his ghostly slaves. Jett fell from the platforms and nearly broke his leg, and the group decided that fleeing was the best option.

Finally, they came upon a torture chamber filled with rakshasas and their trained gray render. Blank matched their leader with manipulative magic, while Jett squared off against the hulking render. As they fought, blood spilled from the wounds of Champion and rakshasa alike flowed into a strange channel in the ground that gave off an unearthly power. It flowed towards a strange mosaic at the southern end of the room, but was stopped by Ionen’s flaming breath when he decided he’d rather not see the obvious trap’s effect. Komè, after watching Jett’s arm nearly torn off by the rampaging beast, calmed it with a power word of Peace. Contented, it went back to sleep in its cage, and the rakshasas proved powerless without its aid. The blood, however, flowed southward as the channel was renewed by the fighting. In desperation, Ionen threw his weight into Jett, throwing him clear and putting himself squarely in the line of the trap’s fire. The mosaic changed into a hellish landscape with cavorting demons, but nothing else happened.

Licking their wounds, the party decided it would be imprudent to proceed further without rest, so Komè opened the way to his Solace Bole.

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Chapter 13: Betrayal at Monadhan
The Champions receive news of Jett, and descend into darkness following a rumor.

Following the festival days, Sir Erdanen Torrance announced his candidacy for mayor of Sayre. Rather than put forth the normal efforts of campaigning, including the customary debates, public events, or even announcing his platform, the bard simply held a concert, where he played a special song he’d composed – the Anthem of Unity. Even those who did not attend heard his music, amplified by the Battlefield Elocution ritual so as to be heard even on the outskirts of town. He put all his charm and persuasive magic into the performance, and come election day, Erdanen won by an unheard-of unanimous vote. Even his rival politicians voted for him!

But before he could settle into his new job, Amyria called him, Komè, Ionen, and Blank. Her missive simply stated that there was a messenger awaiting them.

After assembling at City Hall, Amyria and Bejam introduced them to the newcomer: an angel by the name of Rachaela. She greeted them with bright eyes, but kept her formless face obscured by a hood. Her wings shined with radiant energy, and the design on the prayer stole draped across her shoulders identified her as an agent of Kord – god of strength, and Jett’s patron deity.

She informed them that she had come bearing news of the missing genasi – the guilt he felt as a result of Bugug’s death had drawn him into a domain of dread in the Shadowfell, a demiplane where great betrayers go to meet their punishment: Monadhan. Rachaela pleaded with them to rescue him from the realm – he had done much to please Kord, and losing such an icon of strength would be a great loss both to the world he protected and the god he faithfully advocated through his deeds in the war.

Interjecting into the discussion, Ionen believed he had related news. He believed this undertaking signified that the Champions were not yet finished with their journey, especially since they had never learned what Tiamat had been planning by starting the war in the first place. He claimed that he had read in the stars that the true destruction was only beginning, and that this would be the dragon gods’ final spat – perhaps giving him the chance to finally assume his rightful place and fulfill the prophecy of Io’s rebirth.

While none of the assembled put too much stock in Io’s perception of his own destiny, Amyria at least was very concerned with finding out just what Tiamat was up to. Rachaela advised that if the group could find Jett, they should be well-equipped enough to handle an additional task… Beyond Monadhan lay a separate demiplane, where a ritualist in Tiamat’s employ hid, working on some unknown plot, perhaps to salvage Tiamat’s schemes. He was guarded by the black exarch, Mornujhar.

Erdanen leaped at the chance to head a rescue team, and Komè eagerly accepted the quest to give aid to a former friend and simultaneously uncover Tiamat’s plot. Ionen could not resist the chance to knock Tiamat down a peg for her misbehavior in the past years, and Blank elected to tag along seemingly out of the simple pursuit of excitement. After handing off his mayoral duties to a bewildered Mr. Paradox, Erdanen and the other Champions were ready to make the journey to the Shadowfell through the portal Rachaela had prepared.

She gave them one last warning: Monadhan was created as a prison for betrayers and turncoats, and they would not be able to leave it by the simple use of rituals. Once there, they would have to find their own way to escape it, as well as find the one path that would lead them to Mornujhar and the ritualist. Fully embracing this risk, they marched through the portal undeterred.

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Interlude: End of the War
Sayre celebrates, and Amyria thanks her Champions.

Upon their triumphant return from Tu’narath, the Champions informed Amyria of their numerous accomplishments. She had only expected them to find a new ally when she sent them to the Citadel Mercane – to hear that they had ended the war entirely was almost too much to believe! However, by the day’s end, Gith’s people were in contact with her, drawing up the official treaties that would end all hostilities for the next thousand years.

Amyria immediately passed on the good news to the Coalition’s council members, who were overjoyed to hear that their lands and people were finally safe. They moved to dissolve their wartime alliance, but the deva stayed their hands. She asked them to consider all that they had accomplished while united under a common banner, and to imagine what their combined resources could accomplish now that there was no enemy to threaten them. The assembled leaders chafed at the idea of keeping their nations bent to a central power. They thanked Amyria for all she had done, and even the more stubborn members present admitted that the relatively bloodless end to the war was due entirely to her oft-disputed leadership. But now that the threat had passed, shouldn’t they be allowed to rule their own realms as they chose?

Amyria had no desire in her heart to bend the council members to her will, ruling over them like a tyrant. And so, after repeating her desire to see the nations of the Platinum Shield Coalition continue to work together to achieve great things, she declared she would step down as council leader after finalizing the githyanki treaties, leaving the council members as equals.

By her order, Sayre became the center of a grand festival to celebrate the end of the war. She declared a day of mourning for those who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the life and liberty of all those who dwelled in the mortal realm. Grave markers were erected on a rocky outcropping of the mountains north of the town, where the tombstones would watch forever over the land they had saved. Names were carved in what seemed like endless lists across the stone: Bugug, Ea, Divian Torrance, Bram Ironfell, Gallia, High Priest Durkik, Kalad, Sokaris, and Ziggy were given places of honor among the thousands of names from the battles at Overlook, Sherrbyr, Garaitha’s Anvil, and elsewhere.

This day of grieving was followed by a week of feasting, parades, and thanksgiving – the streets were filled with music and parades, and even the lowliest beggar ate like a king. The names of the Champions were cheered from every tavern and stall, and no one paid a cent for the festivities. Much of it was given freely by the thankful merchants, and everything else was funded by the eccentric Fariex.

As the festivities drew to a close, Amyria summoned all the remaining Champions to their meeting place at the city hall to personally thank them for their efforts.

To the mysterious Anton, she gave a curt nod and a brief expression of gratitude for his help in capturing the Fane of Chaniir and rescuing Jett from Sangwyr’s minions. However, she also made it plain that his presence often hindered diplomatic efforts, and his vermin seemed prone to alienating the other Champions. The druid never smiled as he accepted her lackluster gratitude and left the room, off to continue his vigil over the Feywild.

Although Bressal Steelhoof was absent, she let it be known that he was invaluable in the defense of Overlook, but her concern for his character was profound. Since the death of Gallia, he had known no peace, and abandoned the Coalition in the middle of the war. In the weeks before his departure, his temperament had grown dark, and he had made it obvious that he had renounced Kord for Bane. This forsaking of his patron had deeply disappointed her, and she hoped he had found himself again while away from the battlefield.

Bugug’s death at Garaitha’s Anvil was sudden and shocking to everyone. Since his unexpected recruitment from the ranks of Cachlain’s slaves, he had been a tireless opponent of the githyanki, deployed in several missions and felling countless foes. His death was tragic and unnecessary, but in times of war, such is the fate of many good soldiers. His mind was never keen, but his heart was determined and his sword arms were strong. He would be missed.

When Ea had been lost to the depths of the sea of Nefelus, many Champions felt responsible for her death. She was a staunch upholder of order, who gave her life to see the civilizations of the world preserved. She was perhaps, too bold – while she wielded the raw power of Erathis’ indignant fury, she was a delicate creature, and no match for Chillreaver in close quarters. No god could ask for a more devoted follower, and there was no doubt in Amyria’s mind that she had a high place awaiting her in the Hereafter.

Guts’ part in the Coalition’s War had been small, but vital. Only through him could the gap between the mortal world and the githzerai have been bridged, and he remained constantly supportive of Amyria and her goals in the face of his elders. During the attack on Garaitha’s Anvil, he was a member of the strike team that hunted down Kada’ne, managing to defeat him and liberate his crystal key. Being an avenger, his liberal views on divine punishment did not always mesh with Amyria’s own beliefs, but his sense of racial duty to challenge the githyanki was invaluable to the cause. She impressed upon him that his heroic presence would be needed in the near future – battle prowess like his would earn respect among their former enemies, and with the help of Odos, perhaps the blood feud between the gith peoples could someday be healed.

Astonishingly, Keyleth Starfletcher walked into the room. None present had ever expected her to return, but she seemed oddly curious of what their paladin had to say of her. Amyria congratulated Keyleth for her part in destroying the Bitter Glass, but still could not forgive her for the catastrophic faux pas she had committed by drawing her weapon on Telicanthus far too early. The resulting melee put several important political figures at risk, and had things gone ill all of her work ingratiating herself with the political minds in Sayre would have shattered in an instant, and the Coalition might never have been formed. She did not regret her decision to leave Keyleth out of future missions, but only because she did not have the luxury of affording the risk the impulsive elf represented. For what it was worth, Amyria apologized for how she had treated the young archer, and hoped that she was wrong about her worth as a Champion. As Keyleth left, Amyria asked her to give the same message to Lucas.

It was Erdanen who gave thanks to Mr. Paradox for everything he’d done; between piloting the ship, enchanting new gear for the Champions, and helping out on missions, he’d proved himself an irreplaceable asset during the war. However, the bard’s heart was saddened by the child’s involvement in such conflict. He and Amyria agreed that now that Gith was on the throne, he should take a few years to enjoy the rest of his childhood, spending it in the safety of Sayre with his foster father, Gepetto. Erdanen told the changeling boy that he was the little brother he never had, and his home would always be open to him.

Sokaris had also perished at Garaitha’s Anvil, but everyone knew he was only going to meet a fate he had postponed. The dragonborn had never lived in fear of death, and his deeds during the war must have earned him high favor with the Raven Queen. Amyria marveled at his ability to turn the harsher facets of reality into positive forces of change, and his ability to redeem even the darkest of hearts to serve the higher cause.

Still grieving over his uncle’s untimely demise, Thoradin Ironfell was not present. But all who stayed listened to their leader describe his many exploits, both heroic and unusual. Few, if any, of his fellows matched his steadfast heart; even though he worshipped no god, his commitment to justice, order, and kin could be taken as the purest inspiration for any paladin. Amyria sincerely hoped that he would go on to become influential in Overlook, and lead it into the new age of peace.

Zan-kyri’s powers were instrumental in storming Zetch’r’r’s fortress, and if it weren’t for him, Komè would have been lost at sea, and Bejam may never have joined the Coalition. His goal to become as worthy a warrior as Jett was certainly fulfilled, but Amyria voiced her concern that the genasi’s impulsive nature was his greatest downfall. His lack of foresight endangered himself and his allies on numerous occasions, and he would do well to learn from his past mistakes. Even so, she was proud of him for all he had accomplished. Zan bowed deeply, and mentioned that although his reason for journeying beyond the walls of the City of Brass was done, he would never forget the friends he’d made in the Mortal World.

Lastly, Amyria gave thanks to her chosen favorites, starting with Komè. The kalashtar cleric had accomplished more with words and patience than many of his peers had with the mightiest of attacks, and for his espousal of peace, he had been blessed into Sainthood by an angel of Ioun. This marked him as wise beyond measure, and the deva was deeply ingratiated for all he had done. No one (save perhaps Amyria herself) was more devout in their belief that peace could reign once more in both the Astral Sea and the world, and few took the handful of failures suffered by the Coalition so personally. Though he often seemed detached, it was plain to the scrutinizing eye that his heart and soul went into every mission, and he never gave up hope. Amyria asked him to remain with her for a time in Sayre as she contemplated what she would do next.

Jett was still missing, but the fiery passion he brought to the Coalition had never gone out. Those he called true friends were never safer than when they were under his watch, and those he called enemy knew no respite from his fury. He was the textbook example of an indefatigable warrior, able to cut through legions, soak up the most harmful of magics without batting an eye, and swim through rivers of fire without so much as pausing for breath. The growth he’d shown over the months of battle had endeared him to everyone, and Amyria hoped that he would not define himself by his latest mistake.

If Jett was the heart of the Coalition and Komè was its mind, then Erdanen was its spirit. His propensity for levity kept his allies going even in the darkest of times, and his lofty ideals made him well-trusted by Amyria. His upbeat demeanor earned him many friends within the Coalition’s ranks, and his unique mastery over the arcane made him indispensable in the war. Amyria suggested that he take up his father’s place as mayor, now that she would no longer lead the Coalition from the heart of Sayre – but Erdanen pointed out that he was no longer a noble. With her last official act as leader of the Platinum Shield Coalition, she pulled forth her platinum sword and knighted the bard, dubbing him Sir Erdanen Torrance.

As for the two newcomers, Ionen and Blank, Amyria could not be sure of their true worth. She had heard all of their exploits, and was indebted to them for their unexpected help in the sudden end to the war. She hoped to get to know them much better now that the fighting had stopped, and had a feeling they were destined for great things…

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