The single bound volume recording the saga of the struggle against Lord Soth has eleven chapters. Here I present chapters two and three, in which the Lords of Krynn begin to gather and prepare for the imminent conflict with the dark lord, whatever form it might take, and in which Lord Soth confronts Lord Connor.
I mentioned in my last introduction the death of Lord Dor, a kender. Since I have not completed my research, I am still unsure of the final outcome of this interesting character. In this chapter the name Dor is used not only to refer to an individual, but also to describe a large segment of kender society, perhaps to a whole clan or to a religious sect. I am not native to Krynn, and I have never met a kender personally, and I have not seen enough material on them in my research, so my footing is uncertain in trying to analyze the events presented here. Look for more on this in future installments of this epic.
I always find some technical question in my research, and this time is no exception. In referring to Lord Soth, one of Lord Pirvan's subordinates refers to him as "MECH." What this is, I have no idea; if anyone else does, please send along a correspondence to me here on Krynn. My studies do not allow me the luxury of coming back to Britannia any time soon, so please utilize whatever magical courier you might have access to.
Thanks, as always, to everyone who recounted these fine stories. Someone once said, "A man might be considered wealthy if someone were to draw the words of his deeds, so that he might be well remembered." I strive to fulfill this charge to the best of my ability.
Until we meet again, at the Inn of the Last Home.
Guild Scribe, Lords of Krynn
Apprentice to Astinus of Palanthas
The Gathering Forces
Connor walked the halls of the Ranger Keep, checking on the preparations of the rangers and their friends. The elves had come; this was good. Now for the hardest part. He used his superior abilities to disappear in the keep. He knew that the rangers would not agree with his next actions, but he knew he must do this.
"Kal Ort Por," he muttered, disappearing. He reappeared far away from the keep, in a dark cavern. Into the blackness he descended, into the dungeon. Connor's fear returned, and for a second the Ranger Lord almost stepped back, but then he summoned his will, and forward he went. There was the giant sleeping form of an ancient green dragon. He slowly approached it, stepping with the foot of a very slow, careful ranger.
One green orb opened, and in a weary voice that rumbled throughout the dungeon, the dragon said, "Who is it that brings you here to die?"
The ranger turned towards her, standing straight and proud. "Old one, Melikki sent me here to request your help and your kind's assistance. This world is about to come upon hard times and we need you."
The dragon laughed. "And why should I be concerned about the world of man?"
Connor was flustered, but he continued on. "I do not think you understand. The KoT wants to destroy the world and make you Takhisis' slave."
At those words the dragon stretched out its neck and opened its mouth. Long sharp teeth and fangs closed towards the old ranger. Green breath filled the air, but still Connor stood straight and proud. With a hiss, the dragon swallowed the Ranger Lord.
Speaking to her horse quietly, Tambra began packing her gear. "Duncan, we have a long journey ahead of us. You have always been faithful and true; the danger in the land increases every day and we must find all who will help." Tightening up straps, she continued, "I looked for Silver to say goodbye but I could not find him. He has always been there to hold my hand and help me when I am troubled."
A single tear rolled down her cheek. "I awoke from a terrible nightmare; my beloved Connor disappeared into blackness and green smoke, and now I cannot find him, either." She stroked the mane of her beloved horse, trying to find some comfort. "I pray this mission doesn't fail; we are going to need everyone's help."
Mounting Duncan, Tambra turned and looked one last time at all that was familiar and comforting. With a nod of her head to say goodbye, she rode away.
The man groggily woke up on the doorstep of a building to find that he had been looted. Nothing remained on his person, not even his underwear. He had been stripped clean, so to speak. He took some uneasy steps and staggered toward the door. He turned the knob and found that it was open. He wondered about the security of this dwelling, or any other place in this strange world.
The room had been as equally vandalized as the outside walls. Blood stains draped the walls as rats scurried amongst the bones of the dead. The stench was horrible as rotting corpses took the place of the stuffed target dummies. Flies were all over the place. This place has certainly been abandoned, he surmised. No one would be coming here. He had to do it on his own.
The targeting dummies laid strewn about. One of them even had a topknot for hair; many holes dotted the head of it. He ripped apart the dummy to fashion some clothes, to at least hide his nakedness. He stepped out of the building where people gawked at him, yelling, "Newbie!" Many heavily armored citizens passed by him, probably because he didn't have anything of value on him. This is a very cruel world, he thought, very dark and violent. He would have to make his stay here short as he wandered this land...
It was night as Dark Legion rendezvoused with two talons of mounted Knights of Takhisis. He had already spoken to the ranking officer and had been informed of Lord Soth's preparations and progress. He spit on the ground out of disgust and muttered, "Mino dung!" Lord Soth is going soft on these piddly kenders. Leaving Oaktar, of all retarded things, to gather the nuisance kenders. Oaktar will die along with those of his clan. He relished the thought for a moment, but that had to wait, as more urgent matters were at hand.
"Mount up!" he said as he climbed onto his black mare, Nightmare. Perhaps the rumors were true, as had been spoken amongst his knights; maybe Soth had been turned into one of the low-life SoDs, Slaves of Dor. The thought sent chills down his cold spine as images of Soth kissing the Dor's toes appeared. "Onward, my knights! We shall strike the heart of this false god!" The dark knights galloped forth until they reached the so-called Shrine of Dor. Shirak has certainly gone senile while I was gone; he thought, proclaiming Dor a god was an indication of it.
The shrine was built of white marble bricks with a small hole in the wall as the only entrance. It forced anyone who traveled to this misbegotten place to crawl on their knees in supplication to this "god". The dark knights dismounted and tied the horses to trees. All the knights went prone as a lone Thorn Knight pulled out a scroll and intoned the words, "In Vas Por". The earth violently shook as the seismic waves struck the shrine. All of them stood up to see that the shrine still stood, but had a weakened structure.
Dark Legion approached the wall and unleashed his fist on it. Bricks and debris exploded inward into the shrine. When the dust settled he found jabbering kenders, telling each other the excitment of having an earthquake. "Too easy," he snickered, as he was flanked by his knights to block of any avenue of escape.
"Wowsers!" one of the Dors exclaimed.
"Home!" Dark Legion screamed, as he charged toward the group. A mace magically materialized into his hand as it smashed into the skull of a kender. Bone bits and brains were oozing from the crater left on the dying kender. The other Dors had a horrified look on their cherub faces. He picked up the kender as other knights joined the fray. He contemplated drinking his blood, but the mere thought of kender blood revolted him as he flung the body against the wall. The kender were dying in a bloodbath filled with shrilled screams. White wisps of energy seemed to flow from the kender bodies, lighting up the crystals that each of the knights had brought with them.
"Where's Elrick?" one screamed, as Legion's mace disembowled his stomach. Screams of "Nooo!" echoed through the air as the red blood flowed. Echoes of "Me God" were yelled as they pulled out silver forks that did little against the dark knights' cold steel. All these mortal screams of pain and death seemed to play like a musical symphony in the night.
When the massacre was all over, the earth soaked in dark blood and bone. Legion estimated over forty kenderkin were dead, most of them Dors. Broken arrows, reagents, and swords were then strewn about the shrine. Finally they torched the place, giving the worthless kenders a funeral pyre they did not deserve, to destroy any evidence of their purification rites. They galloped off in three single file lines to mask their numbers, and covered their tracks behind them.
In the shrine, the blazing light of the fire fought against the darkness of night until it, too, flickered out.
A wandering Dor entered the sacred grounds of his shrine. Seeing how it was all covered in black soot, he began to wonder if hadn't gotten lost again. He climbed through the hole, which was bigger now, and looked around. The kender fell to his knees and began to cry from the carnage that he saw around him. His home away from home was defiled with kender-sized bones and weapons all over the place. He picked up a silver fork and put it in his pouch. He took up handfulls of dirt in his hands and stood up.
"If Me is me witness, whatever baddie did dis ta me god shrine, DEY GONNA PAY!" The ashes slipped through his tiny fingers as he stomped off in defiance... Then got tired of stomping and just walked around.
BEWARE THE WRATH OF A KENDER SCORNED.
Soth rode the giant black nightmare out of the tunnel leading from the mountain caves where the meeting of evils had taken place. Every leader of the mosters of Britannia had shown up with their personal escorts at the "wishes" of Lord Soth. Some, however, had shown up to try and show Soth that his "wishes" meant absolutely nothing to them.
The first opposition came from the rather disgusting Srqueekwa, Queen of the Harpies. She entered the chamber and immediately confronted Soth face-to-face, screaming that she would never take orders from some two-bit lich. At the horror of even the most evil hearted in the chamber, the Death Knight gripped her face in his hands and slowly melted it in his hands, her writhing screaming body being held almost still by the Death Knight's strong grip.
The second opposition came from Prince Graz, a Daemon Prince of Britannia. He tried to use soothing words and quick wit to try and tell the "ignorant" Lord Soth as to how life was going to be under his command. The prince was going through his orders when he suddenly realized that all but one of personal escort remained. The others lay scattered about the chamber, mutilated. The prince turned his head back and forth looking at his downed brethren. When his head turned back towards Soth, he found the Death Knight's sword in his belly, up to the hilt. Soth let the body slump to the floor, nodding to the last remaining daemon as to how this meeting was to continue. Gulping, the daemon guard grudingly accepted.
The rest of the meeting went exceptionally well, except for Soth having to repeat his words several times to some of the less intelligent beings. Lord Soth was a master of persuasion, and his promises of power, riches and human massacres placed them loyally under the Death Knight's service before the night was over. Once he knew they were his, Soth gave each leader their instructions and left.
Riding all night back to the Temple of Takhisis, Soth arrived near dawn. Hearing of Dark Legion's attack on the group of kender placed the general in an excellent mood for the remainder of the day. Legion's scouting missions and kender round-ups had the temple dungeons bulging with the little beasts. At first, Soth had had second thoughts about keeping kender in the dungeons so close to home. But his own magical traps and lock spells had reassured him. Personally circling the castle courtyard that day, General Soth prepared flights of dragons, troop movements and tactics, and generally supervised all preparation for what was to come. After watching and giving orders all day, the general was rather pleased with the way things looked, and would be even more pleased after tonight.
Night approached and Soth once again mounted Nightmare. Leaving through the front gates of the temple, he rode for many miles until the night was halfway gone and the moon was full. The Death Knight walked the giant black horse to the top of a small hill. The hill overlooked a large cemetary. The cemetary was covered only a couple of inches high in fog. The grave stones stood out clearly in the moonlit fog, and so did the massive crypt in the middle. This was Soth's true home. During the destruction of Neverwinter, Soth was one of the last to leave, and when he left it took nearly all of his strength to bring a few "old friends" with him. A long time ago, Soth had approached a similar cemetary right before he had nearly brought the Lords of Krynn to their knees in a war.
Soth rode Nightmare down into the cemetary and stopped in front of the giant crypt. Taking a minute to pray to his Queen, Soth asked her for the necessary power. Feeling her response granting it to him, he commanded the gates to the crypt as only he could. The doors slowly opened and a hissing wind blew from within. "Rise, Ancient One; I am in need of your assisstance once again."
From the inside a cloaked figure emerged. The hands were skeletal. The clothes were from another time. The body was undead, for this was the lich commander from the war on Neverwinter. The lich whose name was known only to himself and Lord Soth. In the previous war he had led the undead forces, and he would do so again if it came to that. The lich commander came from another world, just as Soth and many of the Lords of Krynn had. His power made the Britannic liches look like pathetic beings. He was perfect for the job and he fell into step behind Lord Soth without so much as a word.
Walking to the edge of the cemetary, Soth turned Nightmare and held his hand out, palm upward. "Rise," he hissed. The fog covered field came to life with undead hands tearing the ground apart, rising from their sleep. Before long, the cemetary was "alive" with zombies and skeletons and other undead horrors: Soth's legions. "Go to the other cemetaries and gather the others, commander," hissed Soth. "Have them ready at the Temple of Takhisis. Two days from now we approach the Lords of Krynn with our proposals."
Soth returned to the temple late that night, when the moons had disappeared over the mountains and only a few hours were left before the sun made its appearance. After making sure Nightmare was stabled correctly and all matters were taken care of, he retired to his quarters with a heavy heart, for he knew what was to come this evening.
Once in his quarters, he sat down on the throne to the one side of the room. He hadn't waited for more than twenty minutes when he felt their presence. The presence of the undead elven women that were cursed to walk eternally in darkness with the Death Knight. When Soth had visited the cemetary this night and raised the dead from the ground, he knew full well that these elven women would rise as well. For some reason, Soth had brought them from Neverwinter along with the lich commander and the others. He didn't know why he had brought them, he only knew that he felt that he needed them, too, as if he had no choice and there was no other way.
He had spent his longer than 300 years "alive" wishing to be rid of them and of their terrible song that they exist to sing. Soth had needed the lich commander for his battle plans. Aside from himself, no one was better qualified to keep Soth's legions in line than the lich. Bringing him back also brought back the curse of the banshees to Soth. Watching them approach, he had to accept their presence as his sacrifice for what was to come. The banshees formed a semi-circle around the base of his throne and began their terrible wailing song.
Once again, for the first time in a long time, Soth relived the pain of his beautiful wife and newborn burning before his eyes. They burned because of his faults, his treachery, his jealousy, his failure to stop The Cataclysm. It all came back to him in full force, with shocking clarity and pain. Soth listened to the song and realized he would hear it again and again, every night forever. If the undead could cry, Soth just might have.
White dots blurred Father Murphy's eyesite, obviously a side effect of a night's drinking. Through years of devout training, Father Murphy calmed himself and leveled his breathing, the dots subsiding. Pulling forth a rune from his pack with the words "Commons" etched on it, he prepared the reagents for the spell that would send him through time and space and land him at the steps of the LoK Commons. "Kal Ort Dor!"
A strange green and red cloud appeared. "OH!" Father Murphy cried, as a Dor was summoned forth from the bowels of hell.
"Hiya, Father Murphy! Why they call you Father anyways?" the Dor asked, apparently unfazed by his sudden transport.
Father Murphy spat forth the correct words this time, "Kal Ort Por!" and instantly teleported to the Commons, leaving the confused Dor standing there with the father's change purse in his hands.
"Hmph. He left this on the ground, so I'll hold this for the father until he gets back." An ogre growled nearby, drawing the kender's attention, sending him skipping off in the direction of the noise...
"Oak, open this blasted door! I forgot me keys again!" Father Murphy yelled as he banged on the oaken doors to the two story building.
"Ahhh, Father Murphy, good to see ya. Want an ale?" Oak asked, as he opened the doors to let the aging father in.
"Nay, Oak. I bring bad news that will sober you quickly, as it did me." He gathered his crimson robes about him as he sat down on a chair to catch his breath. "I'm afraid he has returned, friend."
A look of puzzlement crossed Oak's face. "Who's back?" Murphy caught his breath and proceeded to tell Oak of the nightmare and showed him the wound that he had recieved. "Aye, friend, this is news indeed. I think it might be wise to summon everyone for a meeting and consider our options." Oak reached for a bottle and uncorked it, took a healthy draught from it, then handed the bottle to Murphy who in turn did the same.
Pirvan's avatar looked over his assembled troops. "Good; very good," he muttered to himself. They weren't much; his priesthood had never been large, but they were ready and willing. At the head of the army stood Ion Lalor, the head of Pirvan's clergy. "Ion, come here," Pirvan said, beckoning the priest to him. Volumes of white and gold robes covered Ion's body. Pirvan knew what he looked like under, but no one else did.
"Yess, masster?" Ion asked Pirvan. Ion looked straight into Pirvan's eyes, something most priests wouldn't dare to do. But Ion knew his god too well; Pirvan wouldn't harm his followers for something as simple as meeting his avatar at eye level.
"Ion, give me a report on the state of my forces." Pirvan looked over his assembled army. There couldn't have been more than 100 people. Ion could have mustered more, but he would not risk the younger priests or Knights of the Wrong.
"We have fifty priesstss, all of Inssurrection rank or higher. The other thirty are Knightss of the Wrong. We have eighty troops total. The priesstss are armed with Wrong Crusherss, the knightss armed with Wrong Sslayerss. Iss that ssufficient?" Ion reported.
Pirvan nodded. Not as many as he thought, but it would do. He just hoped that it fulfilled the bargain. "Yes, it's quite enough. Are they ready to step through the portal?" Ion noded and made a gesture of "at your command." "Very well, then. Ion, I give you full control of the army. You know the plans; follow them exactly unless I, myself, give counter orders. Not even Tinalanthalaxius can reprimand them." Pirvan knew this was unnecessary; Ion and himself had gone over the plans several times before. "March forth, brave followers. May your only Wrong be choosing me to follow!"
The priests and knights chuckled uneasily at Pirvan's jest, then turned and headed towards the portal. The portal flashed with light as Ion stepped through first. The small army followed him and they disappeared.
"If only I was jesting, my followers. If only I was..." Pirvan muttered as he flashed out of existance. It had truly begun.
On the other side of the portal, Ion looked around. "Well, on to the keep of the Lordss of Krynn!" he declared to the troops. He unfolded his map, got his bearings with a spell, then headed in the direction of the keep.
Within a few hours they arrived. A sentry spotted the approaching body of troops and sounded an alarm. Ion called out, "Excusse me for our unexpected vissit, but we have pressing bussiness. May I sspeak to your leader?" Ion waited for the reply.
Connor knew pain like nothing before. Chlorine burned his lungs and his eyes, but he knew that it must be here. Brought from an age past and another world, he was sure that it was here. In another cave, close to the dungeon, a silver arrow shot out of the sky. Arching towards the green dragon's cave the silver arrow barelled through the sky. Connor's skin burned like fire, but he was almost there-just a few more kicks. Down into the gullet of the dragon the ranger slinked. There was the orb! His hand closed around it. Free came the enchanted blade.
The entire cavern brightened like a shaft of pure sunlight. The silver dragon struck. Claw and fang, combined with the shear velocity of the assault bowled the green over. Then the ranger inside struck, cleaving from the inside of the dragon. His sword cut the soft, pliable stomach and apart it came, splitting like an overripe melon. Out spilled the bowels of the beast and the severly damaged the Ranger Lord.
The green bellowed in pain. Knowing its time was at an end, it dove at the Ranger Lord. The silver was there, blocking the green's assault of death. Flashing fang and silver claw made short work of the evil dragon. The silver dragon murmured some words over the fallen ranger and he fell into a sleep. She caressed him with her claws and picked him up. Away they flew towards a high mountain close to Skara Brae.
Some time later Connor awoke to find a group of dragons, Silver and Gold and Bronze, all arrayed facing the ranger.
"Ranger Lord, it has been some time," said the gold.
"Yes, lass, that it has, that it has. I am sorry to have summoned thee this way, but there was no other choice. The Dark One has returned, and his power is great indeed," Connor said in respectful tones.
"Ranger," the silver said, "you know that we shall assist you as before. Does he know of our presence?"
"I think not," Connor explained, "for he believes you all destroyed in the fall of Neverwinter. That will be his undoing." With those words, Connor turned and left the cave.
Mounting Symphony, he uttered the words, "Kal Ort Por," and felt the magical energy whisk him away to a barren plain. He stood there for a long time, watching and feeling the approach of a very dear person. Kianne rode up to the Ranger Lord and bade him greetings.
"Hail, milord Connor," Kianne greeted, reigning in her mount beside that of Connor's. A small smile played across her face when she remembered from where her silver-coated mare had come.
She remembered that day she had told Connor not to worry about a horse for now; that she did not have the cash to spare buying one and could handle walking on foot until she made the necessary gold. Then he had disappeared and reappeared with a beautiful steed in tow, which he then gave to her. Connor had been thick-headed as usual, but it had come in handy that day.
Coming back to the present, she said, "I am sure ye know how to proceed against this evil,for you know it better than I. But I vow that it will not take me long to master it as well, for I am a fast learner. So, speak; tell me what we are up against, and how we might vanquish it."
Oakbow listened to Murphy and his expression soured as Murphy filled him in on recent events. Lord Soth again. This is serious trouble. Even knowing Lord Soth was back was not knowing nearly enough. LoK had no idea on what the KoT might be up to, and had relaxed recently after Lord Soth's apparent demise. He digested Murphy's words and spoke to him gravely. "Old friend, I need to retrieve more aid for us, and I would be grateful if you would stay here with Sage and coordinate further events while I am gone. I hate to leave when I want nothing more than to share good ale with ye and pass the time swapping tales of adventure, but I know I can count on you to take care of the youngsters, hehe."
Murphy nodded his head slowly. "'Tis a pity we can't share more ale together, but I will do as you ask. That old coot, Sage, needs someone to keep him straight. Make haste, young 'Bow, and bring back some of ye father's ale why don't ye?"
Soon Oakbow sat at a desk in the Ranger Keep, running the latest string of events over in his mind. Nicodarious was busy preparing healing droughts and other essentials for the coming conflict. Connor, Kianne, and Tambra were off making their own preparations. Silverwind, Sage, and Murphy were present and awaiting further developments, as was he. Oakbow knew there was need for more help...
Suddenly, his reverie was interrupted by a sentry's warning and the appearance of a large group of men and women outside the keep. Oakbow heard a strong voice ring out, "Excusse me for our unexpected vissit, but we have pressing bussiness. May I sspeak to your leader?" Oakbow quickly went outside to meet the group.
"Hail, my friends! I am Oakbow, AGM of LoK. May I be of service?"
A self-assured and powerful looking man replied, "I am Ion, ssent here on behalf of Lord Pirvan, with hiss followerss, to aid LoK. Our priestss and knightss are ready to aid in the coming battle."
Oakbow blew a silent whistle, glad indeed that Pirvan had lent his aid. "Welcome, dear Ion, and to all those who have come! On behalf of LoK, I thank you indeed, and can not tell you how important your aid will be in the days ahead. Please come inside our keep and make yourselves at home."
After ushering the priests and knights inside, Oakbow filled Ion in on everything he knew and the latest events. The information was not much more than Ion already knew and the amount of activity alarmed Ion, for there had not been much. Beside some of the rangers currently working to prepare, too many LoKs still did not know of the coming danger. Both Oakbow and Ion knew that the forces were most likely counting on surprise, and that LoK had to be prepared sooner rather than later.
Leaving Ion in Sage's care, and hoping Shirak would be on the scene soon to calm everyone's nerves, Oakbow prepared his things quickly and made haste from the keep to do his own preparations. Oakbow had made many friends and accrued many favors during his time in this land and others, and he knew now was the time to call on his friends and call in his favors owed. Walking from the door, Oakbow heard a booming voice.
"Hoho! If it isn't my son, Oakbow! Well, my boy, close that gaping mouth and give your old man a fittin' hug!"
Oakbow couldn't believe his father Oakeye stood before him. Oakbow hadn't even been sure Oakeye was alive after the great split in Neverwinter, and this was the first he'd seen of him since Oakeye had tried to seduce Takhisis and sleep with her. Sputtering, Oakbow said, "Po...Pops...jeez-jeeezus! You're alive!" and with that threw his arms about his dad in a bearhug.
Oakbow quickly filled his dad in on everything, and Oakeye's smile became wider and wider when it became apparent that action and carnage and adventure and evil looking women were on their way to meet the Lords once again. Among other things, Oakeye was an excellent ranger and shared an understanding with most things wild, so Oakbow knew it would be good to have him along. Taking a moment to inform Sage and Silverwind that his father Oakeye had returned and would be helping, and that the two of them would return soon with help, Oakbow and his dad set out from the Ranger Keep.
Oakbow only hoped that more LoKs would sense the coming danger and head home to the keep. He had sent the call to arms through the new powerful guildstone, but it was new and he knew many LoKs weren't connected to its power, yet. He still did not fully understand its full range of powers. Sage would continue to use it to try and gather more LoKs at the keep while he was gone. Oakbow prayed that LoK was not moving too slow on this threat.
Oakbow had filled Ion in on the events, then left him in the care of Sage. "Pirvan hass not told me much of thiss place," he said. "I am interested in learning asss much asss I can. But that can wait until later. For now, a ssimple introduction will do. I am Ion Lalor, head of the Church of Correctionss, the clergy devoted to Pirvan. Pirvan would have come himself, but it is sstrictly forbidden for powerss to interfere that heavily in the matters of mortalss." It is at this point that Ion removed his hood. What was revealed was a most unhuman face. More lizard than human, the skin was a dark green color, more scales than actual skin. Two heavily lidded yellow eyes stared back at Sage. The pupils were slitted instead of round, like a human's. The long snout ended in a pair of thick green lips, which curled back to reveal long rows of sharp teeth.
Sage let out a gasp of surprise at the sight.
"You are sstarteled that I am a lizzard man?" Ion asked.
Sage quickly recovered. "Yes, a little. I did not expect it."
Ion grinned at him. "It will not be a problem, will it?"
"A problem? Of course not. I just...well, your hands are-" Sage was going to say "human," but as Ion held them up, he saw that they were, in fact, the claws of a lizard. Sage was a bit perplexed; he could have sworn that the hands had been human.
"A sslight trick. Ignore it. I can assure you that I am a lizzard man. Pirvan alsso forgot to tell me much about Lord Ssoth or the otherss we will be facing. The only foe I have a large bank of knowledge on iss Navrip. In fact, I probably know more than any but Navrip and perhapss Pirvan know of him, for it hass been my mission to study asss much about the MECH asss posssible, in order to one day wipe him from the face of the multiversse."
Connor rode to the keep, Symphony's hooves flashing in the night. Behind him came his friends, the animals of the dales and lands. Deer, birds, panthers, and bears all answered his call. Elves flew on swift legs beside him, bows and scimitars prepared. Good dragons, nestled deeply in the clouds of above, came also towards the Ranger Keep. He rode with Kianne at his side, but his thoughts were elsewhere.
Where was his old friend, Silverwind? Now, in his time of greatest need, the druid was nowhere to be found. Connor would stake his life on Silverwind's friendship and his honor, so all that came to his mind was worry. The ranger army arrived at their keep, numbering only about 400 in all, but they were as ready as they might.
The keep guard greeted Connor with more mysterious news. Ranger Tamra had vanished. Connor's worry grew.
A half naked man stepped out of the gate of light. What a strange experience, he thought to himself. It reminded him of the portal of the Gray. This is a very strange land indeed. He continued walking toward a town. It was called Trinsic. City of Honor or something another. Every town seemed about the same to him as any other. He continued to walk around, not really knowing what he was supposed to be doing here.
There were a lot of engineers testing out gadgets and inventions. It reminded him of the gnomes of Mt. Nevermind, but, hopefully, these people would have more success. He went to the wharves to smell the air and watch the waves-something he always found relaxing, as he did this a lot on the wharves on Toril. He found a place called the Rusty Anchor. Perhaps someone here can help me. The place was filled with motley sailors of the high seas. Some were respectable while others were of the piratical sort. He took a seat at the bar, intent on asking the bartender a few questions, when a crusty looking fellow came up to him accompanied by a similar lot.
"Arghh, matey! Ya be a sittin' in my chair," the pirate said.
"There are a lot of others empty. Go sit somewhere else," he said. Some Pirate of Neverwinter reject, no less, he thought to himself.
"I'll tell ya once more, matey! Get outta me chair!"
He stood up and went face-to-face with him. "I don't really care who you are. It's been the Abyss since the first second I stepped into this world, okay? So shut up and leave me alone!"
"Well, since ya put it so nicely..." The pirate made it look like he was leaving and then slugged him in the stomach.
He buckled over in pain as the pirate and his friends gloated. He stood back up, a grim expression on his face. "That wasn't being nice." He took his attacker by the neck and threw him against his friends. Somebody started to immediately yell out, "Guards! Guards!"
Out of nowhere, guards materialized out of thin air, heavily armored and armed. Ack! Instant judge, jury, and executioners, he thought. He tried to punch one of them, but they seemed protected by a magical shield of sorts. They immediately dragged him and the pirates off to the jail without a fight.
The guards gave him some decent clothing as they took down information behind bars. "Name?" the guard asked, not even bothering to look up at him.
"Kennington Cornlen," he said.
"Any affiliations?" the guard asked, scribbling something down on a piece of parchment.
"Lords of Krynn...I think, still," Kennington said, stroking his chin in thought.
"Good. We'll have someone spread the word to get in contact with them. Somebody to post your bail," the guard informed him.
"Oh, great..." Kennington moaned.
Navrip was busy training in his quarters when a knock came at his door. Navrip growled in annoyance. He had left specific orders not to be bothered, but he was still interrupted. "Who is it?" he rumbled out.
"It's Lieutenant Embros. I have an important matter to bring to your attention," came the reply. Navrip's anger subsided. Embros had been one of the knights under Navrip's direct command when he was under trial for keeping Soth from killing Deth Vale. Embros had been the only knight who backed Navrip who was smart enough not to betray his loyalty and be killed by Soth. Navrip respected him for that.
"Come in, Embros," Navrip said. Embros opened the door and walked in. He was a tall man with powerful muscles. His hair was long brown with streaks of white in it, his eyes a piercing gray. "What is this matter you needed to discuss with me?"
"A messenger was just intercepted from the Trinsic guards to the other Lords of Krynn. Apparently, 'lord' Legion has gotten into some trouble. The guards, unfortunately, for some reason, did not kill him. They instead put him in jail and then sent a messenger to us. Since Lords Soth and Seige are too busy to be bothered with the matter, I decided to come to you."
Navrip ignored the unintentional insult implied by the statement. He had plenty of duties, he just had little to do at the moment. Getting Legion out of jail and bringing him to the Temple of Takhisis would provide a valuable hostage. Soth would be pleased by it. And Dark Legion would probably be exceptionally happy.
"Good; we can deprive the other LoKs of a valuable force. I shall get him immediately. Call my personal guard to come with me. I may need assistance to restrain him without undue bloodshed."
Embros nodded, then quickly called Navrip's personal guard. Navrip, Embros, and five other knights decided to cut the travel time by gating directly to the prison. When they arrived, a guard pointed his halberd at Navrip immediately. "Cease this nonsense," Navrip admonished, pushing the halberd aside. "I am here to retrieve one Kennington Cornlen. He is one of my guild, the Lords of Krynn."
The guard passed an eye over Navrip, then checked his guild ID. Proving that he was, indeed a LoK, Navrip pushed the guard aside. "Wait," the guard said. Navrip spun around angrily. The guard was completely unafraid. "There is still the matter of the bail money."
Navrip groaned. He reluctant pulled the money the guard requested from his pouch and handed it to him.
"Wait here," said the guard. He disappeared into a back chamber, apparently to retrieve Legion.
"Cornlen, one of your guildmembers has come to bail you out. Make it sharp!" Minutes later, the guard lead Legion out into the main room. His eyes went wide.
"Wait, this isn't right. Why would HE bail me out?" Legion asked, startled, gesturing at Navrip.
"Well, his guild ID checked out. He's one of your guild members. You're free to go with him." The guard then turned away, uninterested.
Navrip gestured to his retinue, who rushed forward and grabbed Legion, quickly pinning his hands behind his back, gagging him, and dragging him towards the gate Navrip had created. They all went through, landing back in Navrip's quarters. "You five," Navrip said to his guards, "take him to a holding cell and make sure it's magically warded by a Thorn Knight. Several of them, even." The knights saluted Navrip, then dragged Legion out of the room. Navrip then turned to Embros. "Embros, good job. I'll remember this. Now, go inform Colonel Seige. If you have trouble with his guards, show them this." Navrip handed Embros a paper. "It will allow you to get by."
Embors saluted, then left to inform Seige. Navrip smiled. It had been a good day.
The Challenge is Made
Four representatives of the Knights of Takhisis left the temple of her Dark Majesty early in the morning. Opening a portal, the four appeared about a day's ride from the LoK Ranger Keep. Traveling on horse all day, they arrived near sundown. The four rode their horses through a wooded area before the keep; it was almost within sight to them. Cresting a small hill, they came upon a young man who was out hunting. He was obviously one of Connor's rangers. Being well trained, the young man was not taken by surprise and he immediately saw the four. The young ranger's bow fell to the ground and he began to shake. The four continued to approach, riding right towards him, riding toward the Ranger Keep.
The thought of his friends and comrades at his beloved keep sent the young man into motion. When he whistled loudly, a horse appeared, running from somewhere in the woods. The young man skillfully swung himself onto the horse's bare back and continued his sprint to the Ranger Keep, yelling frantically. He tore through the gates yelling hysterically when he was met with a presence that calmed him. The Lord of the Green himself stood before the young ranger.
"Whatever is the problem, lad?" asked Connor.
"Milord! Lord Soth approaches on horseback through the woods to the east! He is accompanied by Siege, Navrip and Dark Legion!" The young man's words were hard to understand from his gasping.
Connor started to yell orders. The rangers were an effecient group, and they all started into action instantly. Suddenly, they were halted from the words outside the front gates. The voice was deep and icy, as if the Abyss and thunder had combined to speak.
"Connor! Lord of the Green! I demand you appear to hear our terms and conditions!" Lord Soth and his companions were right outside the front gates, on their horses, looking up, waiting for the Ranger Lord to show himself.
The quartet waited for a few seconds and quickly Dark Legion grew bored. He yawned and grew impatient. "I hope he's just cutting his head off now and saving us the trouble... Someone wake me up when they've all killed themselves." He made incessant snoring noises.
Silverwind sat at the forge for many days, wondering to himself, Why am I involved in this war? I do not come from their world, and hold no faith in their gods, but I realize it is due to friends I have made here on this world that I stay. Deep inside I feel wrong; I feel as if I no longer believe in what Connor stands for and I must do something for myself. I no longer trust in his judgemnts, so I now know what I must do.
Leaving the forge, he started to walk to Minoc where his transportation awaited to go to the keep. After about an hour of traveling, he saw Dor being carried in the arms of Oaktar. "Where are you two off to?" he asked.
"Me go with Oaktar, don't know where... Where we going, Oaktar?" Dor asked, in his omnipresent bad language.
"Was told to bring all Dors to my friend, Soth, to keep them safe," Oaktar explained.
That didn't sound right to Silverwind's ears. "Ok, well good journeys ahead, then," he said. Thinking to himself that this might be what he was looking for, he went into the woods and muttered the spell that would transform his appearence.
Hopefully it will be good enough to fool Oaktar, as he seemed none too bright. Out a little ahead on the trail, he headed towards Oaktar and Dor. "Where you headed, and why aren't you cleaning your room?" Silver/Dor asked. He got no response as he was scooped up and carried off. He was just glad he did, as he doubted he could have fooled Dor. Dor would have figured him out easily.
Upon reaching the keep of the KoT, he and the real Dor were escorted towards the dungeon when his polymorph spell wore off. One of the guards grabbed him and started to threaten him, asking, "Who are you?"
"Who I am and what I want here is not your concern! I am here to see Soth!" Silverwind barked.
The guard must have been taken aback by Silverwind's words, as he said, "Wait here." Instructing two other knights to stand watch over Silverwind, the guard left. Silverwind looked at the two guards, thinking that if there was trouble, the best thing would be to take them out quickly.
"Leave uss," hissed a voice. The guards tried to keep themselves composed, but both broke a sweat and noticeably tried to avoid the figure coming through the door. The figure in the doorway seemed frail and old, but Silverwind could feel the power radiate from the being as if it were something physical. The figure was robed in black and purple, its face was a skeleton, its hands bone.
"I have come to see Lord Soth," said Silverwind.
"General Soth is temporarily unavailable. I am the commander of Soth's legions. I have been placed in charge of certain duties while the general is away. Who are you, and what can I do for you?" asked the lich commander. Silverwind smiled to himself and began to explain his intentions.
The slumber of Tinalanthalaxius was interrupted. She cracked one heavy eyelid, looking out into the darkness. Even in the darkness, the lovely violet of her eyes could be seen, had anyone been looking. She let out a great yawn and stretched her limbs, slowly coming out of her sleep.
She looked at herself. She was in her dragon form. She looked around, unaware of where she was at first. Then she remembed: she was in her lair. After she was wisked away from her fighting with Navrip, Tina remembered getting into an argument with Pirvan. She had left Informatia in a fit, and had come to this island. It was small, not even marked on the map of Britannia, but it had fit her needs. She had found a small cave and promptly began to slumber. But now something interrupted that sleep. Something dark.
She emerged from the cave and leapt into the air. She traveled first to the LoK Commons, but she found the place a desecrated ruin. Turning away in shame, she flew to nearby Yew and inquired into the matter. None of the peasants were able to help her, but finally she came upon an adventurer who was of help.
"I hear they have a keep outside Trinisc. You should check there," he told her. She thanked the man and teleported to Trinisc. Outside of the town, she reverted to her true dragon form and took to the sky. After an hour of searching, her powerful eyes picked out the Ranger Keep among the trees.
She landed gently on top of the keep, then shifted to her human form. In her anxiousness, she almost forgot to don her robe, but she remembered before making a fool of herself (and showing some of the men more than they should see). She walked down the steps and ran right into a large man.
"Excuse me, I didn't see you," she said to him. She dusted herself off and offered a hand to the man, who was so swarthed in robes she couldn't even tell if it was a man.
It pushed itself to its feet without Tina's assistance, then spoke. "No problem, milady. It wass asss much my fault asss yourss," he said. Tina recognized the accent, but she couldn't place it. The man passed her and headed towards the roof, and Tina was about to continue on her way when suddenly she remembered where she had heard the voice before.
"Ion? Is that you?" She looked at his hands. They seemed human at first, but her eyes peeled away the natural illusion that surrounded them, revealing the heavily scaled claws that mark a lizard man.
"Yess, milady. It iss I. It hass been long ssince I have sseen you, Lady Tinalanthalaxiuss," Ion said. He removed his hood, revealing his slitted pupils and yellow eyes.
"What are you doing here?" Tina asked him.
"Pirvan ssent me. He cannot become involved in the war himsself. Powerss rule, you know."
"What war?" Tina asked, incredulously.
"Ah, sso you do not know. Lord Ssoth has returned. Every one fearss he iss going to launch another attack. Pirvan ssent me here to aid in the fighting."
"I've been gone too long;" Tina said, "you'll have to fill me in on everything."
"Asss you ssay, milady." Ion began telling Tina of everything he knew of the events up to that point.
"Interesting. I still owe Soth for the last time. Perhaps I'll get my chance." Tina made a fist in anger of her rememberance.
"Yess, milady. It will be good to sstrike at our-my Lord Pirvan'ss enemiess."
Connor rode forth from the keep astride his Flemish horse, Symphony, riding directly to Soth standing in his gleaming armor, with the sword newly given to him by Melikki and Paladine gleaming at his side. Soth's eyes devoured the Ranger Lord as does his thirst for the ranger's demise, but the sword took him aback slightly, for it was filled with a new power; a combined might that could not be discounted.
Inside the keep, Kianne watched intently this meeting between the darkest evil she had ever known and the good and true Lord of the Rangers-the Wildrunners. Connor stopped and sat in front of Soth. "What do you wish to parlay about, Dark One?" asked Connor.
"I have come to deliver the terms of the Knights of Takhisis. We are unwavering in our demands," replied the Death Knight. His eyes bored into Connor. His hatred was barely containable.
"Why should we bow to any demands or requests you have?" growled Connor through tight lips. His hatred was also obvious.
"Why?" yelled Soth. "Because all of you seem to forget that the KoT are members of the Lords and Ladies of Krynn as well! It is something some of you refuse to acknowledge, and that stops, here and now!"
"You may be an LoK," replied Connor, "but you'll never be trusted. Ever!"
"If I am the one not to be trusted, then why was it you and the vile Talmorr who brought the fight to MY doorstep last time? Your attack last time was unprovoked! The KoT had done nothing to any of you!" hissed Soth.
"What is it that you want then, 'general?'" asked Connor dryly.
"The Knights of Takhisis demand to be recognized as members of the LoK. We have come to seek an alliance, a treaty between us, so that the KoT can carry out our actions without the fear of our own brothers and sisters hindering us." Soth could hear the gasps from many people on the walls of the Ranger Keep. "You all are incapable of believing me, I see. You are all twice the evil I will ever be! You are untrusting fools!" said Soth.
"'Untrusting fools?'" replied Connor. "We know of you consorting with dark forces from around Britannia. We know of the military build up taking place right now at your Queen's temple!"
"And of course you assume it's for an attack on the LoK? As I said, KoT is LoK. Attacking them would be attacking ourselves. It is true we amassed an army, but it is not for you wretches. We have a greater enemy. The vile Army of Darkness will pour from the north soon, accompanied by fouler creatures than we have been forced to live with at our temple," said Soth. "If you do not believe me, send spies of your own. It is not our fault that you all have been lax in watching our true enemy!
"We prepare for an attack, day and night, even now. If we fall, you will fall next! We ask that, as our brothers, you join us in our time of need, as we did for you in the war against Chaos. Send word of your decision by noon tomorrow, Lord of the Green!" The title was practically spit past the Death Knight's unseen lips. Pulling his cloak around his body, leaving only his right arm seen, and raising his right hand, Soth gave the knight's salute to one of his most hated enemies. Turning his mare around, Soth walked away, never looking back. His commanders followed him.
Dark Legion rode along Soth and grunted, "Siege, Navrip: run along home. I have something to say to m'lord Soth." Both commanders look to Soth for his command, as Dark Legion clearly broke the chain of command. "I said now!" he boomed. Not waiting for Soth's reply, the two continued onward as Soth and Dark Legion stopped in the shadows of Wildrunner Keep.
"You broke the chain of command, dark one. You will pay for this transgression," Soth said in a chilly tone of voice.
"Bah!" Dark Legion spat. "Takhisis will have your empty-headed skull for your transgression against her." Dark Legion moved his horse closer to Soth. "An alliance? Bah! You have betrayed the Knights of Takhisis, Soth. You have broken your vows to my Dark Queen. Is this how it was with Kitiara? When you conspired with Dalamar for her soul? You are a heretic, Soth! Oh, and I just loved that reference to the Chaos War, where we fought with them side by side...Ha! We crushed the Knights of Solamnia and their forces. They had no choice but to fight with us because they were our subjects. If you were referring to Steel Brightblade, ha! That mockery of a knight led to the Legion of Steel, might I add.
"When we came here to 'negotiate,' you told me it was for unconditional terms for their surrender. Fighting side by side with them is revolting! You have betrayed my trust in you, Loren, and Queen Takhisis' trust as well, no doubt. In my Dark Queen's name and for the honor of the Knights of Takhisis, I will end your miserable existence. She gave me life to replace yours, weak one. Truth hurts doesn't it?" Dark Legion grabbed the metal insignia of the Knight of Takhisis off of Soth and threw it to the ground.
Dark Legion dismounted his horse and turned to face Soth. "Home," he uttered and his magical mace materialized into his hand. He squared his body with his mace raised and gave a grim look toward Soth. "I've never forgotten my friend...my love's head rolling on the floor by your sword... This is for Katalen..." Dark Legion whispered, his eerie magic carrying the words to Soth's ears.
Dor just happened to be wandering around Wildrunner Keep. "Lookie dere gonna be a fight between Sothie and bad Legion!" He scampered up closer to get a better view of the two. He took two mop heads out of his pouches and began shaking them with his hands. "Go! Go! Go! Baddie Legion! Go! Go! Go! Go! Baddie Legion! Go! Teach dat meanie Sothie dat he just not good enuff! Fight! Fight! Fight! Gimmie an 'S'! S. Gimmie an 'O'! O. Gimmie a 'T'! T. Gimmie an 'H'! H. What does that spell? Loser! Rah! Rah! Sis bam boo bah! Who do we appreciate?! Baddie Legion! Who do we appreciate?! Baddie Legion! Gooooo Baddie Legion! Kick Sothies plated behind! Yaaaayyyy! Saawwwwthieeee...Saawwwwthieeee...Saawwwwthieeee.. ." Dor chanted, showing his obvious support for one evil over another.
Soth dismounted his mare and sent it away. Turning to face Legion, he drew his own sword. "You are a fool, Legion. I have brought you back from the Abyss myself. I can easssily send you back," hissed Soth.
Neither advanced; they studied their opponent carefully, both knowing the first move would probably be the most important.
"You have gone soft, 'general;' Takhisis will not be pleased with your actions!" spat Legion.
"Do you think the Dark Lady would send me back if she did not agree with my course of action?! I brought you back because I thought you knew how to follow orders. You were once a good soldier; I see now that your mind has rotted. Your body possesses power, but do you honestly think you have a chance of defeating me?"
Legion responded by grinning and circling his opponent, raising his mace.
Watching Legion circle, Soth readied himself. He was going to provoke Legion to attack, and he knew exactly what to say. "I remember Katelen," hissed Soth. "I remember my sword sliding right through her, her blood on the hilt, and the look on her face that you didn't save her in time!"
Dark Legion tipped his head back and let a hyenic laughter bellow from his lungs. He began circling around Soth. He watched as Soth pivoted likewise to counter the threat. He began muttering his sad stories to Soth. "I wasn't there to save her you say? I sacrificed my life for the those lazy LoKs, disabling one of those bombs my dragonspawn of a twin placed underneath their worthless keep. I sold my soul to Takhisis to bring me back to life so I could be with the woman I love-who rejected me for my brother. Heh. Here's the real kicker! YOU KILL HER BEFORE I CAN WIN HER BACK! She was surrounded by LoKs and they didn't save her, 'specially Talmorr!"
He charged Soth and swung his mace. Soth easily parried it with his sword. They feinted, struck, and parried back and forth.
Dark Legion's legendary mouth still motored on. "Where was I? Abyss! I was wrecking the Temple of Paladine while fighting that old geezer Ariakan. Heh. Then my best friend, Oakbow, kills me. And THAT really hurt." His mace smashed into Soth's groin. "Too bad nothing's there, anymore." He gave a wicked grin. "Then you bring me and Kat back to life as undeads. Heh. The only problem is that I only get a part of her soul into her body. She's a stuttering mindless zombie!"
Soth's sword pierced his left shoulder. "Then Arcsen kicked your stinkin' butt. Then Neverwinter falls and YOU LEFT ME THERE TO DIE AGAIN! Didn't you THINK I would be a little PEEVED WHEN YOU BROUGHT ME BACK?"
Dark Legion purposely maneuvered his body and impaled himself, using the right side of his ribcage, on the sword. The sword became trapped between his ribs, and the hilt was wretched out of Soth's mailed hands. He felt the pain, but knew it wouldn't affect his undead body. Soth, now defenseless, just stood there. "Now you be soon begging at the feet of my Queen." He raised his mace high in the sky and continued to hammer Soth's body.
The undead body that Soth had aquired for Dark Legion held incredible power. Soth had promised his knights power, and in this case he had come through. The mace struck the Death Knight's ancient breastplate with incredible force, knocking him back some. Legion, following in a clean reverse stroke, backhanded the mace across Soth's helm. The force of the blow sent him reeling backwards against a huge tree. If the Death Knight were alive, the breath would have been slammed from his body permantely.
"Takhisis..." Soth whispered a prayer. The mace was only a split second away from another deadly blow when it nearly fell from Legion's body. Legion stumbled and clawed at his flesh as the feeling of thousands and thousands of unseen needles plunged into his body. His scream tore across the countryside.
Rising as quickly as he could, Soth placed both hands on Legion's face. Casting a spell, his hands began to burn with incredible intensity.
Dropping the mace, Legion fell back several steps, holding his burned and mutilated face. His eyes had been seared by the attack, rendering him blind. The wounds were repairable but it would take time and blood-two things he didn't quite have at the moment. Soth had the advantage now and didn't want him to capitalize on them. He let out a whistle that summoned his horse to his side. He reached out for his horse and found him. He muttered the words, "I'm home," knowing that his mace would dematerialize into the air once again.
Dark Legion climbed on to the saddle as a fireball hit him in the back. The pain was incredible, but it did not daunt him from his task. He prodded and urged his horse onward. He didn't care which direction it was, only that he was as far away from Soth as possible. He would have to finish off Soth another day. He removed Soth's sword from his chest and placed it on the saddle. Even now his body was healing itself. Takhisis' will shall be done...if not today, then another.
Soth turned and summoned Nightmare to his side once again. "The coward Legion will pay for his actions," Soth swore. Snapping the reins, he headed back for the Temple of Takhisis.