7 Desnus, 44 NC
The small army marches to the unnaturally-leveled top of the mountain and begins to set up a light camp within sight of the walls of Fort Tablenhelm. The fort itself had stone walls surrounding the original timber structures hastily assembled twelve years prior after Banagher the Breaker leveled the mountain. It had a single approach that was covered by a dozen Bubblesneezer rotary cannons.
The troops set to making meals and constructing a light palisade to prevent sorties from the fort. Everyone knew an assault would have to happen within days before reinforcements could arrive from Flett or Penshin.
The party observes Muerdetta and Mengst working at a map table among the officers, and then approaches when Kagdir arrives on a somewhat put-upon donkey. While explicitly not giving much away, Muerdetta says the plan is to assault the fort. She, Jacob, and Ralben will stay together, and the party with Moriel and Sanorin will stay together, increasing the chances that one of their “weapons” will make it to the Ringwielder and, ultimately, the Waygate. Mengst, Muerdetta, and Ralben will travel through the Waygate, disabling it in the process, taking the Rings with them.
A few hours later, after a light meal, an airship arrives to the cheers of the troops in the fort, which then turn to shouts of dismay as Vane’s airship diverts and comes to land behind the Society lines. Vane disembarks, and greets Matten warmly. He questions Muerdetta and Mengst on their plan, and points out that they’re very clearly not telling them everything (which Muerdetta freely admits), but Vane accedes to join the assault.
Upon some unseen signal, the troops begin to form battle lines and prepare for an assault. Vane, Matten, and Moriel step clear of the lines for a few minutes to make sure the troops on the walls see that they face three Etu’Sauri masters, which is fairly unprecedented. In the relative privacy, Vane asks Moriel why he had been drawn into the conspiracy. She responds, “Why, you were to be Emperor. Now, I don’t know.” Vane seems somewhat taken aback by this, but they reform with the party without further comment.
As the battle lines form up, the roaring screech of Avengers can be heard from inside the walls, at least three, which comes as a shock even to Vane. A short while later, a flaming appratition rises above the fort, which is then assaulted by a huge stone hand.
“That’s two,” mutters Muerdetta. Moriel draws the Weeping Blade, causing clouds to form and rain to begin falling. A moment later, the clouds begin to swirl unnaturally.
“That’s three.” And Muerdetta uses the wand to activate the arcane net, trapping the Ringwielders on the mountain.
As if on cue, another airship approaches from the West, moving at extremely high speed. At it nears, the party recognizes it as the one they captured in the skies over the Ar’Avariel forest. It zooms over the troops and smashes into the gates of the fort with a massive explosion, opening a breach and destroying the cannons. The party and the Society charge.
The team manages to stay together in the fight, but loses sight of Muerdetta, Mengst, and Ralben in the fighting. With Moriel, Vane, and Matten in the lead, they rapidly push through the fighting into a relatively calm inner bailey. Cutscene.
You get clear of the fighting and push into an inner bailey. There, in the center of the courtyard, stand two Avengers. Eight feet tall, heavily armored with huge greatswords, wisps of black smoke escaping from the eye slits of their helms. Their roar seems to tear your souls to shreds. But one of you wasn’t watching. One of you noticed the platoons of riflemen hiding behind the barricades. Noticed them all train on Sanorin. Flambeau’s soldiers are ordered to kill halflings first. Sanorin…time seems to slow to a crawl…as Faun blocks your vision of the Kisharan demons and wraps you in an embrace. You feel the impacts as shots enter her small body…one, two, five, nine, twelve…. You try to heal her, but it’s too much too fast. She whispers “it’s okay” to you until the light leaves her eyes. And then you’re yanked bodily from her dead embrace as Gidget and Syl try to pull you into some semblance of cover.
The battle is vicious, but the party finally succeeds in bringing down the Avengers while under the withering fire of the musketeers. The surviving musketeers flee back to the Kisharan lines on the walls. The party enters an antechamber of the fort and barricades themselves in.
In the lull, Vane confronts Moriel again. “It still doesn’t make sense. Ironfist needed me here. You needed me here for more than just this…” Moriel responds with an unreadable look before pushing into the next room.
In the next chamber, the one adjacent to the Waygate, stands Cyan Marinetta, the Lady of Penshin and Ringwielder of Water with her back to the party. “Ah, Lord General, it would seem your gambit is paying off…” she says as she turns, but then stops when she sees the whole of the party. The look of surprise on her face twists into horror when she sees Sanorin among the pack. While she’s stunned, Vane realizes the end-game and roars in horror as a halfling-sized shadow detaches itself from the back corner of the room and plunges a dagger into the Ringwielder’s back. She roars and flings Poppy Sockeldodge against the wall with a sickening crunch.
Moriel grabs Sanorin and tosses him in the direction of Poppy, which serves to take his zone of influence closer to Marinetta. She draws her Blades and attacks Marinetta. Matten and Vane rush to the Ringwielder’s defense. During the brief exchange of blows, a dying Poppy pushes Mengst’s Dagger into Sanorin’s hands and tells him to go “do his job”.
At one point, Matten and Vane engage both Moriel’s Blades at once, and Marinetta uses the opening to reach into Moriel’s chest and tear out her heart. The Ringwielder roars more powerfully than the Avengers, forcing everyone but Sanorin back. Black smoke streams from the Ringwielders wounds as Sanorin slowly approaches with the dagger. As he approaches step by step and his influence begins to impact her, Marinetta falls to her knees and shakes her head in denial. Right as Sanorin raises the dagger to strike, a shot rings out and strikes the Ringwielder in the head, killing her. Syl sets Alton’s Rifle down and sighs in exhaustion.
Several moments later, Muerdetta, Mengst, Ralben, and Thane Ironfist arrive. Ironfist is badly burnt and suffering from dozens of wounds, all streaming black smoke. “Pawn takes Queen,” Thane says, leaning heavily on the wall.
“Fuck you, Thane,” responds Vane, sitting on the floor next to Marinetta’s corpse.
Matten and Nimue accuse Muerdetta of lying to everyone and using them to double-cross Marinetta. The Society members are unapologetic, repeating that their oath was to free Khevoran from all of the Kisharan influence. Eventually, the confrontation is defused when the rest of the party beseeches for peace.
Mengst takes the Ring of Water and adds it to his necklace while Thane retrieves the Weeping Blade from Moriel’s body and hands it to Vane. Thane takes Moriel’s body (and, notably, the Mad Blade as well) into the Waygate chamber. When he returns, he kneels in front of Snot and says, “I’m truly sorry for what happened to your people, and I’m sorry for my part in it. All is not lost, listen for the horns.” When he moves to lift Poppy’s corpse, he breaks down and weeps for a moment. When he finally rises, lifting Poppy with him, he looks to Ralben.
“Arogho,” he growls, “you swear to protect your charge?”
“Until the end of m days,” the old wizard replies.
Thane snorts. “I suppose that’ll have to do.” He takes Poppy’s body into the Waygate chamber, where he holds the bodies of his friends close, then raises his left hand to the entrance as if in warning. Stone reaches up to encase all three, leaving a statue, both a monument and sepulcher, with the Ring of Stone left hanging on an outstretched stone finger.
Mengst retrieves the ring while Ralben begins to manipulate the gate, removing a small piece of it in the process. Muerdetta gives the wand to Jacob in the hopes that he can use it to fight his way free of the fort. With very little additional conversation or fanfare, Ralben opens the gate and the three go through, leaving the party and Vane alone in the antechamber. Soldiers begin trying to get through the door. The party hears them call for the Avenger to come break it down.
After a brief time, the party takes a collective breath and assembles at the door and prepare to fight their way free. There’s a deep rumble in the earth, then the high-pitched sound of a bone horn rings out over the fort, followed by another, and another, until finally the air is full of hundreds of horns. The soldiers out the door flee in a flurry of shouts. The party hears the sound of tens of thousands of tiny voices chanting “Stra Ka, Stra’Chik!”. There’s a brief sound of a battle, and then a soft banging on the door.
When opened, the party is greeted by a chamber packed full of hundreds of goblins, who all bow to Snot. One goblin pushes his way to the front and pushes a dirt and limestone-encrusted Etu’Sauri blade into Snot’s hands, chittering “found one, finally found one!”. Vane chokes in exclamation and notes that it’s the G’Kar blade, missing for centuries. Snot holds the blade over his head, and the assembly charges out into the light.
The soldiers at Fort Tablenhlem surrendered almost immediately once the gobins came over the walls, and after a short but brutal battle the horde managed to pull down the remaining Avengers.
From Perupi Dentkettle’s liberation of Riverton, to Thane Ironfist’s capture of the Ring of Earth and Banagher the Breaker’s burying of the Waygate, to Sanorin the Unbroken’s slaying of the last Ringwielders: after nearly forty-five years, Khevoran was free.
Peace came remarkably swiftly. The North didn’t have any fight left in it, and the South went on operating as if nothing much had changed but a softening of some laws. Bands of Kisharan cultists popped up here and there for generations, and one such uprising in Lachtanburg required a military response, but for all intents and purposes, the Kisharan occupation of the world ended abruptly with the Ringwielders.
The bureaucracies of Penshin, Teribain, and Erebor almost immediately started calling Isaac Vane the new Emperor, but he staunchly refused the title, instead spending the remainder of his days struggling to create a parliamentary republic.
Etu’Sauri Matten Rassk never left his former master’s side. He became the right hand of the Prime Minister, acting as an emissary, diplomat, and occasional enforcer. After Vane’s death, he went on to create what would eventually become the parliamentary secret service, where he served as Inspector General until his death decades later.
Vane also worked to ensure Nimue Levinsdaughter eventually took command of his standing army. Together they converted the wartime force to peacetime garrisons. She retired young though, having lost interest in maintaining constant vigilance in an unending peace.
Once it became clear that no major uprisings were forthcoming, Syl liquidated her mithril ingot and purchased a modest villa on the azure coast south of Penshin. Her drinks had little umbrellas and her tan had no lines, and the ceaseless sound of waves lapping the pristine beaches was never disturbed by the sounds of war.
Starry Night over Trees became a tireless advocate for his people. Slowly, over time, tribes of goblins were accepted in communities across the world. The tiny greenskins became known for their tireless work ethic and ingenuity, but their naïveté made them targets for exploitation. Eventually, this resulted in the goblins (as well as several clans of gnomes) becoming second-class citizens. Seventy years after Liberation Day, there was a strike, which escalated into an uprising, led by a very old and very wily goblin known only as Stra’chik. But that’s another story.
After Liberation Day, Dan travelled to the ruins of Westergarde and found Smoot among the survivors, crippled from grievous injuries sustained in the immolation. It is said they had a brief conversation over coffee spiked with whiskey and rare Karpassis cinnamon. After the conversation, Dan left without another word and travelled to the old Black Rose Society encampment at Everwatch. After some searching, he found the grave of Futz Fiddlygibbet in a quiet, out-of-the-way wooded glade. There he knelt and bowed his head. He hasn’t moved since.
Sanorin Fafnir was never quite the same after his ordeal. He and Gidget returned to Karpassis and attempted to resurrect Shara Tev’s trading empire, with extremely lucrative success, but after a few years he sold the business to a Halfling elder from Brandywine’s Lament once the legend of Sanorin the Unbroken began to catch on. The two walked the land for decades, traveling at the very fringes of civilization and often quite far beyond. They became known among the people on the frontiers simply as The Wanderers. He never called another place home.
Jacob Dain, the Wizard of the Wilds, re-opened the Teribain school, then promptly closed it again and disappeared into the woods. Five years later he tried again, this time with two other hedge wizards he’d managed to dredge up to do the actual instructing. Twelve years later, he died in his sleep at the head of the banquet table at the celebration of the College Arcanum’s first graduating class since the invasion.
The Khevoran Waygate remained quiet, as well as steadfastly resistant to study, for thousands of years. It and its grisly monument of warning eventually faded to legend and was ultimately forgotten. But there were watchers. Rough folk in black, with the rose and swords tattooed to their arms. Soldiers, of a sort. Standing their post. Keeping their oath.
At the edge of the swamps North of Trinsic, there stood a farm. Vegetables grew in a small patch of land cleared between the modest farmhouse and the bay, and a few pigs idled in a small pen, being poked with a stick by an idle young boy.
A fence divided the small family cemetery on this property from the small fisherman’s shack down the shore. Against this fence, on the fisherman’s side, leaned an old man, puffing idly on a pipe, and on the cemetary side leaned a middle-aged man, troubled.
He looked up from the graves of his great-grandparents and fingered the rose and swords pin that he kept on a chain around his neck. It was beautifully crafted, seemingly from five bejeweled rings. It had been passed down for generations, but it meant nothing to him, save that his mother said he was to never take it off until he passed it to one of his children.
“Rumor has it that the Shadowclan overran Winterfell,” the man said, staring out into the bay.
The old man huffed and shook his head. “Won’t make it past Britain. Free Corps will stop ‘em.”
“Still having those dreams? With the voices?”
“Off and on. Sometimes it feels like….”
The old man waited for a moment for the other to finish. After a time, he poked the other man out of his reverie with the stem of his pipe.
“Hah…sorry Ralben. Sometimes it feels like…like I’m not living the right life…like I should be doing something more…. Do you ever feel like that?”
The old man chuckled, as if he’d heard a joke. “Not for a second, Debinani Rahl. And don’t you think it either. The universe is getting on just fine.” But the other man only nodded, still gazing out into the bay.
Both men jumped slightly as Kal shouted at the kids to come in and clean up for dinner, and then went on to further suggest, to no one in particular, that her husband and lazy old neighbor might want to do the same, as long as they didn’t smell too much of pipe smoke.
“Coming old man?”
“In a moment.”
Ralben watched the younger man stride back towards the farm, and marveled at the potentialities swirling about him. Ranger, Arch-Mage, Tyrant, Warlord, General. He snickered as the man swept up the boy from the pig pen and carried him squealing into the house.
Shara Tev appeared next to Ralben, wispy and ephemeral. “Well Uncle, I don’t know how you did it, but you managed to manipulate events enough to turn a proud line of Emperors and Generals into pig farmers. I hope you’re happy.”
Ralben grinned broadly, and somewhat smugly. “I would have been with him when he died. Broken and alone. This is better.” He looked to the North, towards the coming war, and decided he’d do something about it tomorrow. “You see, sometimes, rarely, history lets her champions rest.”
Twenty-one years ago, around October of 1997, I began telling a story. This is the end. Thank you, dear friends, for the indulgence.