Stone Thief Aftermath

You sat amidst the rubble of the Stone Thief for what felt like hours. It became obvious that your hearing wasn’t going to come back on its own, if at all.

The last thing you remember hearing was the thunderous explosion of the living dungeon breaching the surface; the final battle against the Stone Thief’s dragon form took place in eerie silence for you.

After an indeterminate amount of time, several imperial dragon riders from Axis arrived on bronze dragons, accompanied by priests from Santa Cora itself. With them were two wizards from Horizon as well; it seemed that the Icons of Civilization had your back. The priests took to looking at your wounds, while the dragon riders secured the area, guarding against any other threats. The wizards set to immediately examining the remains of the Stone Thief. They were not nearly done when the clerics suggested that you return to Santa Cora with them to see if more powerful divine magic could restore your hearing. Not really having much else in the way of option, you agreed.

You spent a week in the Cathedral of Santa Cora, receiving great medical care. At least, you think it was a week; time didn’t seem to pass at a normal rate within the Cathedral. Several rituals later, your hearing was restored, and perhaps even improved; you could hear the melodic hymns that seemed to permeate throughout the Cathedral but only when you concentrated on it. Puki surmised it was there to subconsciously encourage a more meditative, peaceful mindset.

Each of you, at some point, were disturbed from your sleep by a gentle touch on your forehead or cheek. You did not wake with a start; in fact, you aren’t certain you woke up at all. You just remember the following morning the Priestess at your bedside, calm and serenity emanating from her, putting to rest any lingering anxieties and fears you still carried with you.* You’ve never had a better sleep in your life.

You were given free reign to wander the Cathedral. You could have been given a thousand years, and you aren’t sure you would have seen it all. Puki quickly changed his thesis regarding the background hymns; while they seemed generic within the halls, each shrine within the Cathedral had music appropriate to the god it was designated for. You all knew that the Cathedral stretched into the Overworld, but it didn’t strike you as something you wanted to explore, at least not yet. Instead, you took advantage of the opportunity for a real break, something that you had not done since first meeting in Eldolan all that time ago. Simple, but good food; counseling; prayer; libraries for reading; and simple quiet conversation filled the days as you recovered.

Near the end of your stay, you were made aware that there was to be a celebration in Axis regarding your victory over the Stone Thief**, and the final destruction of the Cult of the Devourer. It was to be filled with pomp and ceremony, with all the major noble houses in attendance. The 3 Icons of Civilization were also supposed to be in attendance together, a rare enough event. While the desire to be feted was not strong within you after your time in the Cathedral, you understood the importance of what you had done, and how it was important for the people of the Empire to have a victory to celebrate, “especially in these times,” one priest had said. When you pressed him for further explanation, he only responded that there yet remained threats to be dealt with, including the legacy of a previous Archmage from another age. He wouldn’t say more, only that there were others, such as yourselves, that were dealing with it. Your work was done.

Was it, though? On some level, you felt like you could easily retire from the adventuring life and engage in…calmer…pursuits. On another, however, it felt like it would be irresponsible to simply retreat away to a beach and live out your days when there was so much more you could do.

That last feeling began to take hold even stronger as you spent time in the capital. The Emperor had requested your presence in Axis, and though the ceremony was still several days away, you were put up in the finest guest manor the city had, complete with servants, horse-drawn chariots, etc. It was obvious the citizenry was aware of your presence, both because you were sometimes sighted, and because it seemed the city was engaged in preparation for the ceremony. The only ones who it seemed weren’t directly involved were the representatives from the noble houses of Axis, and the reason you knew that is because there was a near constant stream of them knocking at your door, or “accidentally” running into you at a market or winery. House Boulton. House Ivrhea. House Warrensin. House Exalt. It went on and on, nobles trying to curry favour with the Undaunted, famous killers of the Stone Thief. You attended lavish dinners, got the best seats for gladiator matches, invitations to prestigious balls…all pleasant experiences, but all with the subtext of something else.

The day of the ceremony, you were still struggling with what your plans would be, exactly. It was obvious that many people, from the common people who shouted your names in the streets to the nobles who looked on and even some of the Icons themselves, all thought you would continue to be active in the world as adventurers; heroes of the people for some, direct agents for others. Perhaps the notoriety that came with being the Undaunted was not entirely a good thing…would you be able to rest, if you so chose? Would the Icons even allow it?

With dragons flying in patterns in the sky above, and knights in resplendent armor below, there was little to fear that something terrible would happen during the ceremony, even if the presence of the Archmage and the Priestess, alongside the Emperor himself made for a particularly inviting target. The details of the ceremony got a bit lost in the shuffle for you; the Emperor said some kind words (amplified magically by the Archmage, no doubt), the Priestess offered a blessing (though it felt more of a public service for the people in attendance than the one she gave as you recuperated in Santa Cora), and there was plenty of epic music, toasts, and whatnot. While not there themselves, there were also representatives from the Dwarf King and the Elf Queen, largely due to the presence of Puki and Nidalru, respectively. You felt a bit like a prized animal on display at some points, the way some of the nobles interacted with you, but you knew that overall, this was an honest celebration of your accomplishments. The Emperor offered each of you a boon; anything you wanted. Some of you replied immediately, some asked for time to consider his generosity.

You retired to your quarters to change for the post-celebration dinner. There was a gift waiting for each of you. You opened the package, but were a bit confused as to what it was; it was a reflective surface, pretty enough with its azure frame, but cut at odd angles. You met up with the others to find out they all had received a similar gift, though the shapes of the surfaces were all different. Nidalru suggested it might be a puzzle of some kind, so you set to see how they fit together. Two of the pieces had beautiful sapphires in them, almost as though they were eyes. Suddenly, as Merian was about to put her piece in to complete the puzzle, Legion had a thought flash across his mind, leapt from his chair screaming for her to stop but…it was too late. The last piece placed, it took the form of a dragon head, and the sapphires flashed with a brilliant light. A presence, familiar to you from when you investigated Casila’s tower outside the village of Dwardel, was suddenly pounding inside your heads:


The mirror shattered, and the presence was gone.***

At the post-celebration meal, which was the most lavish thing you have ever attended, many people asked about your plans. The most obvious one, the one that had the most tension behind it was: where were you going to live? Here, the competition between the various noble houses was on full display, each jockeying and maneuvering to be the ones to set you up in style. It was difficult to navigate; while there were certainly advantages to each of their offers, there were some difficult-to-predict consequences to each of their offers as well. Of course, it was also difficult to accept one offer without offending the others…as you returned to get more food or wine, another possibility presented itself in the form of Elsa Whiterose, the cleric from the commons in Eldolan. She wasn’t invited per se but had somehow managed to get into the dinner party. She asked if you might be willing to settle down in Eldolan, as it was the place that first brought you all together. She even mentioned that there was now a teleportation circle within one of the colleges that went straight to Horizon if immediate access to the city should be required. It was definitely something to consider.

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur. As you reconvened, just the five of you, over a glass of brandy, you shared your impressions.

13 things you noticed included:

  1. Legion is certain the Archmage was not in attendance but was rather there through a spell that allowed him to project his image. In fact, every time Legion tried to speak about the Archmage, people seemed quite reluctant to do so.
  2. Nidalru caught Seren Vi out of the corner of her eye several times but couldn’t find her when she was actively looking for her. That Vi should be there is no surprise; she was a liaison between the Undaunted and her Immortal Majesty after all…but Nidalru just remembers a look on her face. An unmistakably sad look.
  3. More disturbingly, Merian also thought she saw familiar faces in the crowd, but these faces always disappeared when she tried to track them. They were familiar because they were faces she remembered from Dungeon Town…it couldn’t possibly be them, as they were now buried alive. It is only with great coaxing that Merian reveals that one of the faces she saw was the Provost’s.
  4. The competition between the noble houses goes beyond mere aristocratic one-upmanship. You all had a sense that there are dangerous games afoot. At one point, Idris was looking for Judith and saw her in the company of a noblewoman from House Ivrhea. Judith explained how she had been cornered by two nobles from House Boulton who were hoping to leverage her to gain the services of Idris when the Ivrhean noblewoman intervened. Idris was warned that House Boulton had recently fallen out of favour and were now desperate…
  5. More than a few representatives of the Archmage asked about Quillgate Library. Their inner pain was palpable when you explained that it must be one of the pieces of the Stone Thief that was sloughed off in the Underworld as it tried to throw you off after being stabbed in the heart. They made mention of a new magical device they were working on that allowed someone to journey into the subconscious of another, and that if you were willing to participate, it might give them a lead on the library’s location. You told them you’d think about it…
  6. While none of you ever told another soul that the Stone Thief had swallowed the Great Gold Wyrm’s treasure hoard, there was one dwarf who had approached Puki, with a knowing wink, about an expedition to find it, details to follow. Puki found himself quite interested…
  7. One drunk noble was immediately hushed and carried away by guards; Merian was closest when it happened and all she could make out is that the noble was talking about the Emperor’s ancestry.
  8. Another nobleman, Peter of House Aerling, kept his hand on his coin-purse the whole evening and warned anyone who would listen that the Prince was amongst them at the party. One of the guards, before carrying him away, turned to you and said “It’s not the Prince, but someone just as stealthy…and more dangerous. You know what I mean, right?”
  9. Notably, not a single representative of the Crusader attended the ceremony or the dinner afterwards.
  10. The representative of the Dwarf King left early; some say it was after a heated discussion with the Elf Queen’s representative.
  11. A magical archeologist by the name of Stephen Huth was excited to tell you that the Wild Garden, the flying realm you encountered when dealing with the Knights of the Sun Citadel, has stopped its random fly patterns. In fact, it seems to have disappeared from the Overworld completely.
  12. An elven wizard casually informed you over a drink that the storm giants of the Inverse Observatory were actively scanning for you all, but that there was nothing to worry about; the Archmage had shielded this entire affair from them.
  13. A concerned father approached you and asked for your help. His story is that his daughter is seeing a man, and he doesn’t approve. He pleaded with you to end the union. The only catch: the man his daughter has been seeing died two years ago. You couldn’t be sure if he was drunk or if something else was at play, but before you could answer, he was shooed off by a steward.

There was a calm after the celebration that lasted for several days; you continued to allow the generosity of competing nobles to house you and spoil you while you pursued your own projects, largely the details of the boons you requested. Your sleep was violently disturbed one night, however, along with the sleep of everyone else in Axis, and possibly throughout the Empire; a thunderous explosion followed by a flash of bright red light over the horizon to the west.

It wasn’t long before a squadron of knights, in gleaming black plate armor were outside your door, waiting to escort you to the palace. You dressed hurriedly, and in the dead of night followed the unwavering soldiers to the palace grounds. You were brought to a secret chamber where one of the Emperor’s advisors, as well as a famous knight of the Crusader, Ser Daxam, awaited you. They explained how the event was consistent with a new hellhole opening, though none had ever manifested quite like this. What was even more concerning, however, was that an envelope addressed to you all had appeared on the gates to the palace grounds…clutched in the hand of a crucified young man with distorted features. The following was written on the vellum that you suspected was human skin:

Tik Tok, Tik Tok!
Goes the Primordial Clock!
Keeping the Ancient a-slumber.
Persisting in their sleep,
From those who delve too deep
And those who seek to plunder.
Tik Tok, Tik Tok!
Goes the Primordial Clock!
But now… ticks no longer!
Those who were in dream,
Now awaken to scheme!
And return to the world, all the stronger!

It was signed The Mistress of Chaos and Lusts Unleashed. Idris knew all too well those were some of the many titles claimed by the Diabolist.

  • * What anxieties/fears or psychological damage did your time under the Priestess’ care heal? We’ll share stories about it, and after a vote, the winner will get a permanent Icon Die with the Priestess

  • ** You may change any one of your Icon Dice to a Positive relationship with the Emperor

  • *** You may change any one of your Icon Dice to a Negative relationship with the Three
Author: Eric