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[personal profile] keleren
The years had become something of a blur.  Politics at court blended with fighting against the Nightmare in the woods of Silvenesti.  I have been busy -- always busy -- but I suppose I should talk, at least briefly, on the high points of the last several years.

Tomas, Oskur, Alexis, Daniel, Samkin, Adam, and I returned from Sanctuary with Gwynnion.  We raided the lair of Mephisto and fought our way past the slavering things that had once been priests of the Zakarum.  Gwynn and Daniel...well, a Daniel Devir from another version of our reality...were both in the world, as were the Chaos-Shadows.  At some point during Blue Dragon Highlord's assault on Palanthus, Gwynnion finally confronted her Other.  Both disappeared.  Kitiara died in the Tower of High Sorcery, killed by Dalamar and Raistlin Majere.  It seems that Kitiara's brother had prepared a ruse, luring Kitiara in while even, if the vague rumors I've heard are true (and I must stress, they are vague), the Dark Queen was duped. 

Tomas spearheaded his vision, economic and otherwise, for the reconstruction of Palanthus.  Kalshann mourned the passing of his wife, Gwynn, while trying to care for their twin children, Shane and Genevieve.  Oskur returned to Ergoth to do whatever he does there.  Samkin went to the Solamnic fronts.  Alexis continued to avoid the Path of the Rose Knight.  And I returned to Silvenesti to continue fighting against the Nightmare, Chaos, Cyan Bloodbane, and the Dragonarmies.

I had heard tales that the heir of Heartlund and the throne of Solanthus sought to recover the entirety of his birthright.  Solanthus had, years ago, fallen to the Dragonarmies only to be liberated later.  However, the city and lands had not been liberated by the Solamnic Knights but by a mercenary warlord known as Gythe and his lunatic elven compatriot, Talthanos.  I was passingly familiar with Talthanos via his reputation alone.  It seems that he had come to Krynn from elsewhere with Gythe, and they had an unsavory encounter with (I believe) Marius of the Black Robes.  Ultimately, Talthanos led an invasion of the Tower at Daltigoth, opening a gate so that the Grey Robes, yet another group of Chaos-tainted renegade mages, could take the Tower.  Through a series of misadventures, Talthanos eventually erred on the side of not-the-Grey-Robes-and-with-the-Conclave, and he managed to save the Tower.  Somehow.  The Conclave considered the whole debacle his Test of High Sorcery, though they made the...price of his Test especially harsh.  Though not so harsh as some.

However, Gythe had sought to establish a republic in Solanthus, and the realm was on uneasy footing with Solamnia.  The heir of Heartlund, Lord Alexander di’Caela, Knight of Solamnia and cousin of Gunther uth Wistan, had begun adventuring in the hopes of reclaiming his birthright with the least bloodshed.  I was surprised to discover that he had been accompanied on many of his travels by a cadre of childer:  Kir'Essidil tr'Ashartin N'rin, Essidil of the House of Crystalthorn of Silvenesti, son of Kir'Aragean; Kai'Genevieve Ilestil, Gwynnion and Kalshann's daughter; Kai'Amuril Silverwood, daughter of Kai'Athica and Chaos-Daniel, of the Red Robes; and a cleric of Paladine known as Telis Shan.  In a bold, reckless, and foolhardy move, Alexander took Solanthus without so much as having to loose blood, yet the city fell into chaos in the hours after his "triumphant" arrival.  He even somehow managed to talk Gythe into accepting the situation, offering Gythe and his soldiers those lands in Lemish they could conquer as a "vassal state."  They started picking up the pieces in Solanthus, and by winter's end, I received word that King Alexander wished to explore ways of forming a Solamnic navy on the New Sea, dominated by the Dragonarmies of Sanction.  We were introduced by letters from an aunt of mine, and I met him initially in Qualinesti to discuss options, considering my family's shipbuilding holdings.

Meanwhile, the summer had been terrible.  Hot, dry weather was found all across Ansalon, and the only rain seemed to be that conjured by arcane or divine agency.  Even then, such conjurings were strained and much more difficult than they should have been.  At the same time, the son of Duulket Ariakus (and supposedly the goddess of storms, Zeboim), Ariakan, had formed a militant order known as the Knights of the Lily, modeled to some degree on the Knights of Solamnia and nominally in service to the Dark Queen.  Ariakan's forces were united and spurred on by something they called "the Vision," granting them uncanny coordination in the field of battle.  I had heard stories of Ariakan the previous year when he encountered Adam Crownguard, the High Clerist, in a duel over the acquisition of some magical blade.  Ariakan won the duel, though the High Clerist survived.

It was a short time after my first meeting with Alexander di’Caela that I received news that he was to be married to Genevieve in the early spring.  Of course, the reaction to the engagement was to be expected:  "much too soon," "improper," "where is her dowry," and so forth.  I decided that I would attend the wedding since I had often adventured by Gwynnion's side, and we had saved each other's lives often enough to be friends.  I arranged for one of my vessels to be dispatched to Palanthus -- my gift to the couple.

The ceremony itself was in Solanthus in the Temple to Paladine in that city.  I saw many familiar faces in attendance:  the Master of Goodlund and the bride's uncle, Lanthinel Devir; Daniel Devir, Lanthinel's half-brother and current Master of the White Guardians of the Conclave; the dwarven mastersmith Thorn; Kalshann, the bride's father, and recently reinstated as a member of the Conclave and Master of the Red Guardians; Samkin, Alexis, Oskur, Tomas, Gunther, and others, of course.  Telis Shan, newly installed Prior of Solanthus, performed the ceremony.

Afterwards, I learned that Genevieve had recently taken the Test of High Sorcery after a series of convoluted political maneuverings within the Conclave on the issue of Kalshann and his "druidic practices" required Genevieve to Test and join as a Guardian.  During her Test, a Chaos element had managed to infiltrate the Testing Grounds, summoning a cursed creature known as a lycanthrope that infected Genevieve with its feral shapeshifting curse.  Although the blessings of Solinari had blunted the worst of the curse, Genevieve knew that she had to remove it somehow to be fully free from its shadow.  The creature -- or what was left of it -- was somewhere deep within the Nightmare in Silvenesti, and divinations revealed that it was at a place called Kasa'Anath.

I had seen this tower several years previously when I probed the memories of the Chaos sorceress and thrall Sorrow's Thorn after her capture by the Conclave.  Sorrow's Thorn had been responsible for corrupting the three elven sisters of Lord Soth's elven bride Isolde, and they were doomed to an eternity as banshees, singing their song of Soth's failures and fall.  In her memories, I had seen their physical corpses arranged in a garden as if they were having tea, and this garden was just outside the Spire of Kasa'Anath.  At the time, I had thought that Kasa'Anath was wholly within Chaos -- indeed, that it was the "elven" heart of Chaos.  When I realized that it might be possible to journey to Kasa'Anath, to retrieve the corpses of the banshees so that they could be laid to rest (perhaps granting Lord Soth a...calmer and more sedate eternal damnation), as well as the opportunity to help remove the curse that afflicted Genevieve, I offered my assistance to her, Alexander, and her companions.  I was also interested in spending time with Amuril and Kir'Aragean's son (as I soon discovered). 

I made my way to Nightlund first to tell Lord Soth of what I hoped to do.  He offered the assistance of one of his mortal archivists, Athura, to help act as a guide and expert on what we might encounter along the way into the Nightmare.

We journeyed towards Silvenesti from Palanthus aboard two of my vessels (including the ship I had gifted to Alexander and Genevieve).  We ported on the eastern coast at a small fishing village and made our way inwards into the Nightmare.  I will not report much of the journey there save that we were deeper into the Nightmare than almost anyone among the untainted had ventured.  Deep into the cursed wood, we were beset by several packs of lycanthropes.  Athura told us of a place she had heard the chaos creatures dared not venture towards, an ancient tower deep within the woods.  Riding quickly, we managed to make our way to the sanctuary.

The tower was an ancient, ancient academy of sorts that predated the formation of the Conclave almost three thousand years ago.  Chaos was strong in the place, but something kept the lycanthropes at bay.  As we explored, we encountered the tower's spectral guardians, until we found the source of the ward:  a gigantic astrological device whose version of the heavens seemed radically different from what we knew.  Piecing together clues and wild hunches, we determined that the device could reproduce, within a confined area, astrological conditions by manipulating the astrological configuration of the device.  We also discovered that someone, likely Galan Dracos' dragons, had manipulated the device for their own purposes, arranging the device at an in-between state so that the symbol -- the constellation -- of Dracos formed from where Paladine and Takhisis intertwined.  Knowing the device had some role in their schemes, I asked Amuril, who is much more skilled at astrology than anyone else I know, to reset the device to a much older astrological configuration that predated Dracos' activities in the world.  Ultimately, we set the device to reproduce an ancient Night of the Eye.

The werewolves and other half-beasts seemed to go mad and fell into agony and confusion at this; we believe that we had, unknowingly, drawn the full attention to the three gods of magic -- the three Moons -- to the aberrations in the woods near us, and the moon-beasts knew the displeasure of the Gods of the Moons.  We thought to reclaim the tower for our own, or at least the Conclave's, use, and we were in communication with Justarius after discovering three stones bearing the sigils of the gods of magic.  However, Amuril -- who also possesses the curious ability to "know" where Dracos' dragons are -- realized they had all journeyed to Kalaman since we had manipulated the tower.  Suddenly, I realized that the dragons were scrying upon us collectively, and Justarius told us to destroy the tower as best as we could and flee. 

Alexander had brought his gold dragon companion, Aul, with him, and she made quick work of the tower as we took the magical stones that fueled its enchantments and fled as fast as we could.  In the distance behind us, we saw steady streams of lightning strike the tower, destroying anything that was left after we had finished and fled.

We continued on our path until we were met by Justarius and others.  Several Guardians were sent to distract and dissuade the black dragon from following us, while we continued on to Kasa'Anath.  As we approached, we discovered that the Spire was guarded and served by several "packs" of these shapechangers, and we formulated a ruse in which I and two other elves with us would be "captured" by the shapeshifters (actually my other companions, disguised using one of Amuril's illusions).  We proceeded in this manner, eventually managing to enter the Spire from its underways.  The others determined, through cunning magics on Amuril's part, who I should be "delivered" to so as to best acquire the remedy for Genevieve's curse.

Finally, we encountered the sorceress in question, who appeared at first as an elven woman of unearthly beauty.  At the "right" time, we pounced, seeking to recover the talisman needed (the trapped spirit of the original lycanthrope that had cursed Genevieve and that had been used to create the other lycanthropes we had encountered).  However, the elven guise was merely a flesh puppet, manipulated by a gigantic gelatinous mass -- at the center of which was a desiccated elven figure.  We eventually defeated the creature--destroying three of its forms -- until finally Amuril succeeded in petrifying the figure at the center of the gelatinous mass. 

About this time, as well, Essidil somehow managed to dispel the magic of the tower itself; its already chaotic geometries broke down, revealing the fiery maw of Chaos all about us.  Following the crumbling obsidian stairs, we found our way out again where our other allies had thrown their forces into complete disarray.  In the end, I recovered the banshees' corpses, and we departed for less tainted lands.

Genevieve succeeded in lifting the curse using the talisman we recovered.  I journeyed briefly to Kyrnesti to the temples to Mishakal for rites of purification after my time so deep into Chaos.  From there, I journeyed to Nightlund eventually, where I was present when the corpses were interred in a rite of burial.  It seems, at least for the time being, Lord Soth's nights are somewhat more peaceful than they have ever been since the Cataclysm.

And now, as is traditional, I offer my thoughts on my companions on this quest.

Alexander is a strong, capable, and charismatic Knight of the Rose.  He does not have the uncompromising, unending, unyielding rigidity and militant focus of Adam Crownguard (to borrow a phrase common in Anyr, "the steel rod up his ass"), though he is disciplined and quite an accomplished soldier.  He also seems quite a bit more...sociable, friendly...than Crownguard or even Alexis, though Alexis is sociable and friendly by turns...she latches on to, at least it seems to me, an affected sternness not borne out in practice.  Indeed, though this is an exaggeration (and I admit a humorous one to me), Alexander is akin to Samkin, were Samkin a devout, honorable, and capable Knight of the Rose.  Alexander strives to follow the best of the Knighthood, Gunther, and I have no regret fighting by his side.

Genevieve is a curious person--one can see that which is Kalshann in her and...if one looks a bit more closely...that which is Gwynnion in her.  Genevieve is, however, very much her own person--after all, she pursued and won the man she wanted.  She is an excellent tracker and woodsman, quite capable at the druidic arts her father no doubt taught her, though I must admit she seems a bit distant and withdrawn.

Amuril, meanwhile, is many things:  arrogant, insular, often petulant, ambitious, and canny.  Her command of magic is admirable, though she seems to let it dominate her, though I am unsure how accurate an assessment that actually is.  She is very driven -- particularly in regards to dealing with Dracos' dragons.  Indeed, I heard a tale of how she, surrounded by dozens of Solamnic Knights, was the only one to verbally and magically confront Dracos' Red when the Knights discovered it had been impersonating the High Warrior in Palanthus. 

Essidil is very much a Crystalthorn.  The almost gleeful mastery of magic (always underneath a "serious" surface, of course) is evident.  I am not sure what else to say of him at the moment, though.

Their priestly companion, Telis, did not accompany us, journeying instead to Kalaman on some mission, so I cannot offer an opinion on him at the moment.

For the meantime, I have returned to Silvenesti to apprise Kai'Alhana of our recent advances, especially in destroying one of the strongest fonts of Chaos within the Nightmare.  With luck, things will continue to look up for us.

--late 372 AC
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August 2006

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