:: Dungeons & Dragons - The Threshold Party - A Meeting of Minds ::

A Meeting of Minds

“Don Sylarin?” The elf looked up from his book into the eyes of a middle aged human, dressed in fashionable Glantrian style clothing. The man sported a gentleman’s beard much like Sylarin’s own, and his short, dark hair was grey at the temples with a shocking streak of white reaching from his forelock to his crown. The man grasped an impressive staff in his left hand, a shaft of ash topped with a carving of a jackal head.

Sylarin stood up and grinned at the human, extending his hand. “It’s good to see you again,… errr…” he found himself at a loss to recall the man’s name, but he felt sure he knew the human… they had been the best of friends, hadn’t they…?

The human shook his hand and returned the smile. “Karnus Perdissium, old friend – it’s a forgettable name! I was told by Adriana that you were in Belcadiz, so I thought I’d pop by and see how you were.” He gestured to the seat opposite Sylarin. “Do you mind if I sit down?”

Sylarin gestured enthusiastically to the bench opposite him as he resumed his own seat. “Please.”

Karnus lowered himself into the booth, nodding at a serving girl who brought him a glass of dark, red wine. “How have you been?” asked Sylarin, eager to catch up with his friend.

“Very well, thank you,” replied Karnus, “and you? Are you keeping busy?”

“Oh, yes! All this work with Rheddrian has been keeping me and Dudley very busy.” The elf furrowed his brow for a moment before continuing, “I mustn’t have spoken to you in an age – have I told you about all that business?”

Karnus smiled at the elf, “no, I don’t believe you have. Why don’t you tell me all about it?”

Sylarin glanced at the human sat opposite him and seemed to consider his response. “Well,” he began slowly, “my friends and I have been working with a gentleman named Rheddrian, trying to ascertain what’s behind the escalating war between Alphatia and Thyatis.”

“Really?” Karnus’ eyebrows arced upward, “and what have you discovered?”

”It’s our belief that this war is being engineered by… higher forces… Forces that are manipulating the conflict for their own devices.”

”That’s an interesting hypothesis. What evidence do you have?”

Sylarin glanced around, conscious of the risks of discussing Immortals within Glantri. “The patrons of many nations and causes have become more militant of late, encouraging their follower to adopt a stance in the war, and even urging their clerics to adventure in order to increase their power…”

Karnus shrugged his shoulders, “so the patrons of the countries involved are supporting their nations. That’s nothing to be alarmed about, is it?”

“Not in and of itself, but some of the immortals involved are normally more… global in their outlook, and have now moved to support a particular country… Furthermore, we’ve uncovered disturbing evidence that a third faction is seeking to escalate the conflict, accelerating the war to further their own plans.

Karnus raised an eyebrow at this. “And these immortals are…?”

“Bozdogan, the immortal patron seemingly allied with The Master, and Hel, who seems to be…”

”The Goddess of Undeath, Enemy of Odin and ally of Loki,” interrupted Karnus, evoking a look of impressed surprise from Sylarin.

”You’ve heard of her, then. Her manipulations seems to involve the corruption of otherwise noble individuals, deceiving good people into doing her evil deeds.”

Karnus fixed the elf with a piercing glare “You speak from experience?”

Sylarin paused for a second before nodding and continuing. “Her schemes seem to involve her adopting the identity of local heroes, recently elevated to immortality. She then directs those who follow these new patrons in performing deeds which seem honourable, but in fact serve her own dark agenda…”

“Have you any examples?”

“In Darokin, the clerics of an immortal named Balthac unwittingly aided The Master’s invasion plan by aggressively persecuting the thieves guild in Akesoli. They backed the guildmasters into a corner, upsetting a balance which had lasted for years, and forcing them to ally with The Master in order to ensure their survival.”

Karnus considered this and nodded slowly, “so the clerics thought they were doing good works, but in the long run their actions were detrimental to Darokin?”

“Exactly! And Balthac’s cult has an even wider influence than Darokin. We met a cleric named Kelter on our travels, a good man who was devastated by grief when Hel’s true plan was revealed to him. Then there’s Helskir, where an immortal named Drrynden had been gaining support before a friend of mine destroyed Hel’s operations there.”

“Lana Budanter?”

The elf replied enthusiastically, “yes! You know Lana?”

“I was in Helskir with her during that time. I know all about Drrynden…”

“Of course – now I remember! You were there when we first met Lana in Athenos. I forgot you were a friend of hers as well. She’s working with us, and has proven a great help in our investigations. She was in New Alvar a few weeks ago, as it happens.”

The elf leaned on the table and regarded Karnus thoughtfully. “You know, I don’t know why I never asked before, but you’d be perfect for our organisation as well.”

Karnus smiled. “Well, perhaps you’d better tell me more about your organisation, and the man who runs it…”

Sylarin smiled at his friend. “I wouldn’t want to go into too much detail,” he laid his hand on the side of his nose and winked, “these things are ‘need to know’, after all…” The elf smiled and leaned back.

Karnus regarded the elf for a moment, smiled, then toyed with his signet ring, causing it to catch the light from the nearby candles. He began to speak in a monotonous voice, “Of course, of course. I wouldn’t want to impose. It’s been too long since we spoke, and I can understand that you can’t trust me to reveal everything…”

As Karnus spoke, the elf’s smile slipped slightly, and his eyes became fixed upon the wizard’s signet ring. For some reason, Sylarin felt suddenly… tired… almost like he was on the verge of… sleep…

“These are, after all, dangerous times” continued the wizard, “and you never know who might be listening in. I myself have been investigating things along similar lines, however, and I think that if you consider it more closely, you’ll be more than willing to answer any question I might pose to the best of your abilities.”

As Karnus finished he looked up into Sylarin’s waxen features. The elf continued to stare at Karnus’ hands and the wizard smiled.

”Now,” began Karnus, tell me everything about this Rheddrian.”

Sylarin began to speak in slurring tones. “Rheddrian arrived on Mystara millennia ago. He served on board a… a vessel that sailed between the stars. The vessel crashed on our world, and the magic that powered the ship could not be restored. The crew tried contacting their home for help, but none came. Eventually the crew split into factions – some sought to use their magic to dominate the primitive peoples of Mystara, others wished to enter a magical sleep and await their rescuers. There was mutiny. The Captain of the vessel quelled the rebellion and decreed that they would sleep.”

Karnus stared at the elf, barely believing his ears. The hypnotised Sylarin continued, “Rheddrian slept with his crew for many years, before awakening to find them all betrayed – one of their number had allowed the natives to plunder the ship. Rheddrian was unable to undo the damage they caused and sacrificed himself to lessen the impact of the explosion.”

“Rheddrian survived, however – he was… absorbed… into a device and imprisoned in it for many years. We released him from the mirror and…”

“Wait, wait…” Karnus leant forward and rested upon his elbows, rubbing his temples. “What mirror? What happened to his ship? How did he survive?”

Sylarin’s brow knitted together in confusion. Karnus sighed, frustrated by the limits of his hypnotic power and its need for clarity in interrogations. He straightened up, sighed again, and then asked, “where did you find this mirror?”

”In Corran Keep.”

“Where you met Crackle?”

“Yes”

“Tell me about your adventure there.”

Sylarin proceeded to describe his party’s adventures in the keep; how they had fought their way into the keep past the zombie guards; how they had found Crackle in the library; how they had battled Lord Kazaak. Sylarin blinked as he recounted the tale, eventually reaching the part where the group had assembled in front of the strange sentient mirror they had found.

“This mirror,” interrupted Karnus, “Rheddrian survived… inside it?”

“Yes.”

“And you released him.”

“Yes.”

“What happened then?”

“He… changed.”

“How so?”

“He seemed to grow… taller… He started to glow… Then he cried out and vanished…”

”Vanished? How?”

“He later claimed that the explosion had… somehow granted him the ability to use magic.”

“So he’s a magician now?”

“I think so.”

“Did he ever elaborate on the source of his connection to magic?” Karnus leaned forward in excitement.

“Yes?”

“What did he say?”

“That… the ship’s explosion had… connected him to magic.”

“Nothing more?”

“No.”

Karnus leaned back, musing on this revelation. Yet another denizen of Corran Keep demonstrating a remarkable connection with magic… The wizard mulled this over for a second before returning to the interrogation.

“This mirror. You said it was a piece of Rheddrian’s vessel?”

“Yes.”

“What happened to his ship.”

“It was obliterated. The fragments were scattered all over this world.”

“And the mirror was one such fragment?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know of any others.”

“No, but Rheddrian is looking for them.”

“Why?”

“He fears that they are unstable and are somehow draining the lifeforce of our world. He believes that they are in danger of being tampered with by men and immortals. He feels that they are the true cause of the global war.”

Karnus sat back in astonishment. In his head, the various pieces of the puzzle fell into place – it all made sense! Rheddrian, his ship, Crackle, these fragments, the immortals involvement, the ‘forbidden magic’ accusation of the Alphatians, the war itself… suddenly it all came together in the wizard’s mind. He sat back and stared at the ceiling, chuckling to himself.

After a moment basking in the epiphany, Karnus turned back to Sylarin, who still stared off into the distance.

“Does Rheddrian suspect that Glantri harbours more of these devices.”

“Yes.”

“Is that why you’re here?”

“No.”

Karnus was surprised. “Well, then why are you in Glantri?”

“We are looking for Lady Lillith.”

“Who is that?”

“The leaders of the Cult of Balthac.”

“And she’s Glantrian?”

“She studied at the Great School.”

Karnus mused on this for a moment. "This cleric of Balthac you mentioned - Kelter? Did you meet him in Darokin."

"No."

"Where, then?"

"Aegos."

Karnus raised an eyebrow. He had seen Aegos on some maps but had never had cause to investigate it. "What were you doing there?"

Sylarin's eye twitched. "We were sent by Rheddrian."

"Why?"

The elf's brow furrowed, as if trying to recollect. "He... the people there... they..." he trailed off and stopped, looking confused.

Karnus leaned forward with interest. Even a strong will should not have been able to defy his mesmeric power. "Aegos," he repeated, "what did you find there?"

“The people… weren’t there…”

“Where did they go?”

Sylarin's eyes suddenly sharpened, focussing on a point over Karnus' shoulder. The wizard followed his gaze but saw nothing there. When he turned back, Sylarin's face was contorted in confusion, his furrowed brow damp with sweat. "No..." mumbled the elf, meekly shaking his head.

"Interesting," murmured the wizard. He calmed his voice and started reinforcing his hypnotic control, talking in soft, reassuring tones to the elf. "Sylarin, you obviously do not wish to tell me of your time on Aegos, but I think it would be much better for you if you were to heed my voice, the voice of a friend, a confidant, a trusted companion and," Karnus adopted a steely, commanding tone, "tell me what you found on Aegos!"

The elf reeled back from the table as if struck, his eyes staring maniacally at the wizard. He bent forward again, clutching at his head and making groaning noises, before banging his forehead against the table violently. When he drew back again, the shocked wizard watched as the elf moaned and grunted, grinding his teeth and clutching pathetically at his head with clawed hands, his eyes rolling back in his head.

The other elves in the tavern turned to see what the source of the noise was, a few moving towards the booth and placing their hands on their sword hilts. One elf, a short fellow with a luxuriant moustache, addressed Karnus. "Is there a problem here, senor?" His eyes narrowed suspiciously at the solitary human.

"No, no," Karnus tore his horrified gaze from the now flailing, shrieking Sylarin. "My friend here seems to have... a bad reaction to the wine. I'll see if I can't... snap him out of it."

Before the Belcadiz elf could intervene, the wizard leant across the table and slapped the spasmodic Sylarin full on in the face, drawing gasps from the onlookers, but instantly stopping the elf's episode.

"See," Karnus smiled to the elves, "all better now!"

With suspicious glances, the elves withdrew back to their own seats, muttering to one another about the strange behaviour of humans and foreigners. The barmaid gave Karnus a significant look and he knew that he had overstayed his welcome. He looked down at the gently moaning Sylarin, now reclining upon the bench and blinking up at him in confusion.

"K... Karnus?" the elf tried to sit up. "What happened?"

The wizard took the elf by the shoulder and pulled him up, glancing around at the other elves and grinning inanely. "You had a bit too much wine, old friend," he said as he pulled the elf towards the door, "time for some fresh air, eh?"

The confused elf shook his head and wiped at a trickle of blood running from his nostril. "Yes, air... that's a good idea..."

Karnus helped the stunned elf out of the tavern and into the busy streets beyond. The Belcadiz elves relished their night life, and many of them were still partying in the well lit streets. As the pair wandered away to find a quiet spot, Sylarin regained his strength, then suddenly stopped and stared at Karnus.

“Was I,” began the elf, “was I telling you about Rheddrian?” His face was suddenly full of worry.

Karnus met the elf’s panicked gaze. “Yes.”

Panic spread across Sylarin’s face. “Why did I tell you all that? I haven’t seen you for years and I blurt out all of Rheddrian’s secrets. I’ve betrayed him!”

Karnus was silent for a second, mulling over his options, which included disposing of the elf there and then, but decided against any violent action. “Calm down, Sylarin. Its okay – you know you can trust me.”

The elf looked up into Karnus’ eyes, and nodded, holding his gaze.

“I think you just needed to talk to someone about all of this – the responsibility of carrying these secrets was obviously weighing upon your conscience.” The wizard moved away to lean on a nearby railing, looking out over the streets of New Alvar. “I can’t imagine what it must be like…” he murmured, momentarily aware of the weight of his own secrets.

“Besides,” he turned to the elf who had joined him at the railing, “I’m one of the family now. If Lana’s joined your gang, then that’s good enough for me. I’m established here in Glantri, with plenty of connections, so I’ll get right on top of finding these devices you spoke of. You can leave the Glantrian investigation to me.” The wizard beamed at Sylarin, who seemed placated by his friend’s words.

The elf smiled back and stuck out his hand, “welcome to the club then, Karnus.”

“Thankyou,” replied the wizard, taking Sylarin’s hand. “I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of this in no time.” Karnus’ steady gaze betrayed not one hint of the triumph the wizard was feeling.

“So,” continued Karnus, leaning once again on the rail, “are you returning to Darokin soon?”

Sylarin sighed, “Easier said than done, I’m afraid. The road through the Broken Lands was destroyed by the meteor, and has yet to be remapped. I suppose we could risk it, but it could take months of exploration…”

“What about magical transportation? Teleportation?”

“I suppose it’s an option, but it’s an expensive one – to transport three people would be costly, and there are the risks, of course… Lana offered to send us back, but our business wasn’t concluded by the time she had to leave.”

“Hmmm,” agreed Karnus, hiding his desire to get these Darokinians out of Glantri as soon as possible.

Sylarin continued, not noticing Karnus’ scowl. “In an emergency I could send one of us back to the City. I have a scroll with the Teleport spell upon it, but try as I might I can’t seem to get my head around it’s workings in order to scribe it into my spellbook.”

“Really,” Karnus’ eyebrows shot up. “Well, in that case, your problems are solved, my friend. I am more than capable of casting such a cantrip many times.” The wizard’s face adopted a hungry aspect, “given a day or two I could easily prepare the spell and send the three of you home. We could do it the day after tomorrow.”

Sylarin regarded his wizardly companion with interest. “That’s… not a bad idea, actually. But what about the risks?”

Karnus waved a hand dismissively, “I spent months living in Darokin City – I’ll be the safest Teleport caster you can get…”

Sylarin drew the scroll out from his pocket and handled it fondly, “well, I suppose it makes sense, but I had thought the spell would come in handy when I was able to cast it.”

Karnus gritted his teeth for a second, then resumed his friendly smile, “tell you what. When you reach the stage when you can cast class five spells, come back here and I’ll teach it to you. No problem.”

“You’d do that?”

“Of course! You can consider the spell ‘on loan’ if you like.” The wizard beamed. “It solves your immediate problem, and I get the use of the spell as payment for three castings. Everyone’s happy.”

Sylarin mulled the wizard’s offer over in his head for a moment, then smiled at his friend and handed over the scroll case. “Thanks Karnus,” the elf smiled warmly, “with friends like you I know we’ll be able to save the world.”

Karnus smiled back at the elf, caressing the spell scroll. “When would you like to leave..?”

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