The party waited in their cell. After a few hours, a group of ten more guards entered the room outside the cell and stood nervously, eying the party. Eventually the guard who had escorted them to the cell returned. "We require your belongings for inspection. You will not be harmed, and your items will be returned to you, excepting stolen goods and contraband." The party agreed to hand over their items but, in turn, demanded to know why they were being held. "You have been accused of entering Ashara under false pretenses and attempting to destroy our nation. The Elder of Spring will stand as judge at the trial. If you wish to make a statement, I shall relay it to him." The party claimed to have been following the instructions of their prophecy, and the guard walked away with this information.
When he returned, the guard gave back all of the party's items... almost. Addy's vial of glowing paint and (more worrisome) the Daelon Mark were both missing. "They have been kept as evidence", explained the guard. As he departed, another figure rushed in to speak with the party: Master Villarr, the old man at the entrance hall to Ashara who had guided them through the prophecies. "What's going on?" Villarr explained that rumors in the city were suggesting that the party had summoned the dragons' eggs and were plotting to attack Ashara. He was sympathetic, though, and agreed to observe the trial firsthand and offer support, as was his right as a Master.
The main guard returned yet again to announce that the trial would begin, and the entire contingent of guards surrounded the party as they ascended the staircases of the tower. A few stories up, they reached the door to a wide room and saw none other than Keeper, the deva who had originally let them into Silverport, walking out. Keeper smiled at them briefly before seeing Master Villarr, who exclaimed "Keeper?! What are you doing here?" "You will see in a moment" replied the deva before walking past the group.
Inside the room sat a single elderly elf on a raised seat. The guards closed the doors behind them and fanned out around the room. The elf, who the party assumed was the Elder, began the trial: "I have heard your statement. Our evidence disagrees, suggesting instead that you are a powerful group of clerics of the dragon god Tiamat... although I will admit that you are far less powerful than I would have expected." The party protested, pointing to the absurdity of the claim, considering their obvious professions and humble powers. The Elder quickly continued on, presenting his evidence.
"First, you were involved with the summoning of five devils on the eastern portion of Silverport. Do you deny this?" "Umm... yes," Alfred replied incredulously. They explained the events with the young mage from the day before. "Ashara is protected by the gods," said the Elder. "Do you mean to suggest that these protections were defeated by an inept student?" "Or perhaps this protection is not as strong as you think," suggested Dela. After an uncomfortable silence, the Elder agreed to take their story into consideration.
"Second, our loyal servant Keeper informs us that you revealed yourselves as instruments of a foreign king. Do you deny this?" Not at all, the party replied. "Then what is your aim in Ashara?" The party explained their vague mission: to form the bonds of alliance, as they had seen through divine vision that the lands of Arena were troubled. The party protested at this point that their innocence was manifest in the fact that they had destroyed the eggs in the sewers. "It is alleged that you were merely covering your tracks after having been discovered." The party protested that they had killed the white dragon that had hatched; how could they be reproached now?
"Third, Keeper tells us of how he suspected your motives and followed you. He witnessed you entering the sewers accompanied by a group of kobolds. There, he found you tending to a white dragon. When you saw yourselves discovered, you fled, and he narrowly managed to defeat the dragon before returning to report to us. Do you deny this?" Alfred immediately remembered the changeling that had attacked them at the sewer precipice, but the Elder did not understand at first. The party told the story from their point of view: they followed the kobolds, killed them, and defeated the dragon themselves. "You were found with a vial of liquid firevine, and yet none of this poison was found in the veins of the dead dragon, which would have been especially vulnerable. How do you account for this?" Addy pled ignorance, handing a copy of their prophecy as evidence. Yurgrim spoke up: "Didn't the dragon's body show signs of our swords and spells?" A pause. "Keeper is of many talents. And the body was difficult to examine; it had been stripped of many of its scales." The party noted that they, not Keeper, had the scales. "Yes!" exclaimed Master Villarr from the side of the room, "it wouldn't make any sense for them to have the scales if Keeper had killed the dragon!" The Elder thought for a moment. "Are you suggesting, Master Villarr, that your Keeper lied to us?" "I think I should have some words with him, at the least," said Villarr. He hurried out.
"Guards, you may leave us," pronounced the Elder. The party stood still as the guards filtered out behind them. When they were alone, the Elder hopped down from his seat and approached the party more casually. "You're right. It doesn't make sense." There were no clerics of Tiamat in Ashara, the Elder believed. Rather, the eggs had been placed by Tiamat herself. The Elder returned the Daelon Mark and the vial of fiery paint, and explained: the Pact that bound Ashara to its gods was understood by the Elders to be a temporary arrangement. Over time, it would weaken the gods' power in Arena, and now it seemed that their protection was not enough to protect Ashara even from the simplest of summoning spells. The Pact would have to end.
He thanked the party for their actions and arranged for a reward: 4000gp worth of residuum and enough gold for a ticket on a ship to another continent. "Your prophecy clearly did not intend for you to stay." Dela asked if he would ally with Tyrell. "I will support you, but I cannot promise armies or whatever your king desires," the Elder replied, "and I cannot even be sure what Ashara will look like when the Pact is broken. But Sehanine, Melora, and Corellon will be strengthened. Live by their teachings, and perhaps you will have their blessing."
The party took their reward and their leave. On Dela's suggestion, they decided that the first order of business was to track down the imposter Keeper, lest the changeling corrupt Ashara after its upheaval. On their way through the gate hall they found an agitated Master Villarr running back into the city, shouting that "Keeper is dead!". He was found hours dead and stripped of his clothes and belongings, confirming the party's suggestions. Dela devised a plan: pretend that they had just gotten out of the trial and taunt the changeling through a Sending ritual. They would pretend to be arrogant and overconfident, hopefully leading the changeling back to them.
The Elder agreed to act in their scheme, "so long as you hurry." The Sending was prepared and quickly delivered, but the reply was disheartening: the changeling claimed to have already left Ashara, though he promised they would meet again.
The party decided that it was time for them to depart, and selected a ship that would leave for Eszayr the next day. As their negotiations finished, however, the ground began to vibrate, then rumble, then shake violently. Everyone on the docks watched in amazement as the mountains surrounding Ashara slowly crumbled and crashed into the sea with spectacular force. With the mountainous wall gone, the gate of Ashara stood foolishly, as curious sailors began to simply walk around it to enter the city that now stood naked before them. The captain of the party's vessel announced that they would be departing NOW, and so they did.
A few hours passed before Dela received a Sending from Ander, the leader of the Agents. Wave hit Highrock. Harbor and all ships destroyed. Hundreds dead. Suspect Artha hit as well. What happened? What are your current plans? Dela answered with a carefully constructed reply, explaining Ashara's fate and their current passage to Eszayr.
The ship was crewed by colonists of Reeveold, and some seemed upset to have a shifter on board. One spat on Winter, though she maintained her composure and got her satisfying revenge by fraying the ropes of his hammock, causing a satisfying thump that night. The rest of the voyage passed uneventfully, though, and the party landed in Reeveold a few days later.
It was immediately clear that the streets of the ramshackle "city" were emptier than they ought to be, and the few men and women in the streets were rushing to the center of the city. The party followed and found a massive crowd in the city's central square. In the center was a raised platform with a human man and a female shifter, naked and with her hands bound behind her.
A woman approached the party and tapped on Alfred's shoulder. "Excuse me, did you just come of that ship from Tyrell?" she asked. "From the city? By any chance do you know my friend Ander?" "Why, yes, we do!" answered Alfred. The woman took the party further out of the crowd to speak, and introduced herself as Arille, an Agent of Tyrell like them. She explained that this was a public execution in reprisal for the murder of a colonist.
The man on the platform reached down and took what looked like a damp blanket from a man in the crowd and held it up to raucous cheers. The crowd began chanting. The party made a call: this did not look right, and it should be stopped. Winter, distraught at the sight, had tried to sneak away from the party, but was seen. Dela and Alfred began to scheme up some sort of distraction, while the rest of the party listened to Arille's explanation of events: The shifter had, indeed, killed a colonist. A band of colonists had attacked a shifter camp on the border of the desert and taken this one captive. When one of the men tried to rape her, she killed him and broke free, but was quickly recaptured and brought to the city as an example. Here, she was to be given a cloak coated in flammable materials and set ablaze for all to see. The executioner was none other than Reeve, the most powerful of the colonists. It was his name, they realized, that the crowd had been chanting.
The shifter stood proud and stoic as Reeve shouted indistinguishably to the crowd and drove them to further cheers. Dela and Alfred settled on a plan: they would light a flour silo alight and use it as a distraction, hopefully thinning the crowd enough for the shifter to make an escape. The other party members decided on how they could be of help and left to find their places.
Alfred had the honors. He crept to a silo south of the town square, lit a torch, and hurled it into the silo, hoping for a blaze. He got a full fireball instead, the force of the blast almost knocking him to his feet. The crowd stopped chanting as they noticed, and Alfred ran towards them, shouting "Fire!" in mock panic.
The crowd began to shift to the south and spread out. Reeve cursed and stepped off the platform. Yurgrim moved through the proposed escape route, pushing men aside where he could. Dela then struck, moving near the shifter and telepathically telling her to make a break for it. The shifter deftly dropped to the ground and accelerated to a mad dash to the north. Dela began creating balls of psionic energy amongst the crowd, distracting and dazzling them. Still, some saw the shifter and led a pursuit.
Winter met the shifter at the north end of the square and shouted for her to follow. They ran north as fast as they could, but some of the colonists kept pace all the same. Addy followed as well from a nearby rooftop and fired an arrow in the ground in front of the pursuers, putting at least one on his back in surprise. One of the colonists tried to fire an arrow at the shifters, but missed wildly in his run. The chase carried on past the tents on the outskirts of the city and into the vast farmlands beyond. Eventually, the colonists found that they were no match for the endurance of the desert shifters and dropped their pursuit. The exhausted shifters, with Addy, found a spot in a nearby field to hide, covered their tracks, and slept.
Meanwhile, Dela, Alfred, and Yurgrim stayed back. Yurgrim went searching for a seedy underground bar, without much success. Dela and Alfred asked for directions and went to Reeve's manor. They bluffed that they were merchants from a newly opened Ashara and wished to set up a trade deal. The gullible guard let them in, and Reeve invited them to sit down and have drinks. The man was friendly, then hostile, then amicable, then threatening, never revealing his true feelings. He listened carefully to the party's story, asking pointed questions throughout. But in the end he dismissed them, explaining that Reeveold is an open market, and they are free to trade with the merchants of the city with or without his permission.
After a good night's sleep and an early start the next day, the three in Reeveold bought some clothes set out to the north. Winter and the others kept a watch and met them on the road. The shifter took the clothes gratefully and introduced herself as Jherakasa:ke, a warrior from a desert tribe. She offered to take them to her tribe after they escaped the farmlands, and the party readily agreed. With that, they set off to the north.
Next Session: ON SEAS OF SAND