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The Cabal returned safely back to the Pius from Fornost, the Realm of the Frost Elves, after having rescued those who remained of the Seven Seekers.
The Seven Seekers, and their status:
Princess Ylvana Eclipseborn, alive and well. She never doubted that her dear Gryff would come and get them.
Tomas Parlay, alive, but suffering from chest rot, a form of consumption.
Brother Augustus of the Black Friars, alive and well.
Reigald Galdgrimson of the Enæìdūn, very much alive.
Thorgrim of the Enæìdūn, also alive.
Doctor Misterio, rescued earlier from captivity at the hands of the Ministerium. Lost in madness.
A servant boy, dead.
Aboard the ship, both parties wanted to hear of the adventures of the others, and so great tales were told. Princess Ylvana told of the adventures of the Seekers's, familiar to, but not neccesarily similar to Parlay's account. They had found the portal, and Misterio had calculated that the Moon of Emmeroch would indeed shine upon the plateu only a few days after their arrival. The servant boy had snuck away from the camp one night, and they never saw him again.
When the gate opened, the Seekers had followed the same path taken by the Cabal, and they had indeed come into the forest. There they had been captured by the Elves. On the escape of Dr Misterio, neither the princess or any of her compannions could shed any light. He had vanished from their prison one night, and they were suprised to hear that he was alive and on the ship.
The Great Matter of the chapter was the option presented by Huron the White. Burn the Five Forts, and thus break the seal that kept the elves from crossing into the lands of Man. Drake and Van Zaar wanted to summon the Dragon [Storyteller's note: Three times they may call for the Dragon] and put terror in the hearts of the Presbyterians, they did not however want to break the seal -- burn one fort perhaps, but they didn't want to let the Great Hunt loose on Pendrell. Captain Galan wanted to go all the way. Here he found support in Brother Augustus, "Let him who wants to avoid his enemy walk softly; he who walks to battle shall go forth boldly, with fanfare and bared steel." The debate surged back and forth for a long time.
Brother Augustus also pulled the captain aside and informed him that as a priest he had the authority to perform a wedding. He also spoke warmly of why he felt that the marriage was a Good Thing. Ylvana agreed.
The rest of the Cabal now wanted to call upon Octavian. [Storyteller's note: The relationship between Gryff and Octavian has been a matter of some controversy. There are those who are convinced that the two have a bond deeper than friendship. While this has been confirmed once by the player (and that candedness may be blamed on Single Malt), it has been denied more often.] So, as so often before, Gryff Galan sat in the light of the Elfstone and sang Octavian's name. He found him, deep in the Underdark, beneath Mount Guthûrgoth, in a dark, dead end. His retinue, numbering three Deciples, five Apprentices and three times seven Proxima when they set out, now numbered only one Deciple and two Proxima. Octavian himself lay mortally wounded on the hard stone, wrapped in his cape. It was a very moving scene when Gryff came to him in his mind.
Octavian told Gryff that they had indeed found what they were seeking, but in the battle that followed many had lost their life, and more still had perished in the aftermath -- something old and sinister had been stalking them. Even now, all the Hermetics could do was to keep the darkness at bay. And their light was faltering.
Of course, our heroes could not sit idly by while the brave Hermetics faced a nameless terror in the bowels of this mountain of madness. So it was that the Pius Cabal mounted an epic rescue operation, preparing a great portal-spell and calling upon no fewer than two gods to aid their efforts. [Storyteller's note: two rhymes were written, one for the spell, and one for calling on Geminon]
When the door opened into the dark subterranean chamber and light shone on the survivors the darkness reacted. Drake was unable to hold it back at first, and it was like a great, primordial hatered had become aware of their presence. Arkon's Gateposts guarded the portal, and as the light seemed to go out, Geminon, in the guise of a great Corinthian swordsmaster strode into the cavern, and drawing his sword he walked to face the Dark. Drake mustered his strength and wove a powerful ward. Enæìds now ran to the exhausted Hermetics and pulled them to safety. The portal was closed, and the connection severed. Octavian was safe.
Safe, but not out of danger yet. Drake has been studying the Arcana of Life for a while, though at this point he was still only an Apprentice. He has also been dabbling in Mythos matters (amongst other things, he stood face to face with Shaitan, the Drowned Man, in the dark storm) and when he examined Octavian's wound he found it poisoned. Something dark was deep in the wound, and it meant to kill him. Having consulted both Banzel and the ship's surgeon, dr Toombs, he believed himself capable of saving Octavian's life, although his left arm and shoulder had to be cut off.
This was Drake's Deciple-test. Assisted by the surgeon he cut deep into the flesh, so deep that they saw things no man is meant to see in any living human. Van Zaar, having offered to love Octavian on behalf of the captain, never left the patient while they cut. The captain sat in his quarters, praying to Arkon with Ylvana. At length Drake closed the wound and proclaimed the operation over. He had saved Octavian's life, and become a Deciple of the Arcana of Life. He then went on to promptly cure Parlay of his chestrot.
In the elated state of mind that followed, the Cabal decided to go to Five Fort Vale and call upon the Dragon, and leave it to the Dragon to decide what the Dragon would do. The marriage between the captain and the princess should also be performed there. Thus the Cabal again left the Pius by means of great magic.
The Vale lay peaceful in the hour before a bright winter dawn. The five forts, arrayed with some great and unknown design along key points looked peaceful and serene. The captain had scryed the valley earlier, and discovered that the forts lay upon ancient Hallows, and that apart from the structures themselves, there were no other apparent defenses.
There, on a hill overlooking the valley, by a caern built by Galan when he went hiking in the Vale three years earlier, Brother Augustus bound Gryff and Ylvana in wedlock. Then the Prince called the Dragon's name. Once. Twice. Three times. And then it came.
Coming out of the sun rising behind the mountains the Dragon flew over the Vale and landed infront of the Cabal. "You called," it said. The magicians now found it difficult to answer. Some tried flattering the Great Wyrm, others tried appearing powerful, most bowed their heads and felt insufficient. The Dragon looked at them like an enormous cat who is deciding whether or not to play with them. In the end the Prince had to speak. [Storyteller's note: His player wasn't at the table this evening, and so in effect they pawned the responsibility off on an NPC. Tsk-tsk.] He said: Break the Seal.
The Dragon took flight and circled higher and higher over the peaceful valley. Lazy as a bird of prey deciding which of these fat sheep it would devour first it soared in great circles, high in the air. Then it dived out of the sky. Like a star falling to the earth, a great comet, trailing bright fire it struck the first fort. Stones were shattered, and flames rose high in the air. Then it took flight again, only to gain altitude before again throwing itself on another fort. Now bells started ringing in the valley, and leaving the second conflagration the Wyrm flew low over the farms and villages, spreading death, fire and fear beneath its enormous wings.
The third and forth fort fell. Screams and bells ringing frantically rose to where the Cabal stood aghast. Some of them cried out to make it stop, and some might have wept. From the forest on the oher side of the River Manshield sounds could be heard, as if the forest itself was awakening. Landing infront of the last of the Five Forts, the valley burning around it, the Dragon seemed to have gotten warmed up. Spreading its wings, it seemed to draw in air, then it breathed a vast cone of fire. Fanning it with its wings it continued to breathe, whipping the flames to such a great heat that even the stones melted.
Then, as a horn could be heard from the forest, calling the Hunt, the Dragon took flight for the last time. It passed over the Cabal, standing in shock and awe on the hill, and flew off into the rising sun.
After this, the Cabal returned to the Pius, and then to Rederhafen, where they were dubbed Knights Arcane of the Order of the Golden Dawn.
Storyteller's note: Dragons kick ass! I've always loved them. And when my players leave it to an NPC to input the launch-data... Well, if my memory serves me, the Prince confessed some sympathy with the Elven Prince…
I must confess it felt extremely liberating to unleash such destructive power on my world. I want to go again ;)