Prologue: Gates of Stone

Independence Day
Cuthberta Eoselunday

Extracts from the journal of Domaldi

We proceeded with haste to the tram only to find that we had to wait to descend to the Lower City because it was so busy. The Eye of Independence would be revealed and we were stuck waiting while Plake continued to be in danger. We bought our tickets for the tram at seven of the clock and would wait for half an hour for our seats. Arek and I decided that we would use this opportunity to learn what we could about Iron Tusk. We went to the infamous "Billy Goat and Broadsword", well known for its excellent views over the City.

I approached the barkeeper, Minos Hanrahan and said, "Do you know Plake at the Bell and Dragon?" He was typical of his kind - a surly, balding human in his middle years they enjoys too much roast pork and ale. Oddly, though his left eye was brown and his right eye green. He was also missing two fingers on his left hand but certainly proficient at his trade.

"Yes, why?", he grunted.

"He has been kidnapped and a half-orc named Iron Tusk is somehow involved. Have you heard of him?", I responded.

"Never heard of him… Plake is missing, eh? I wonder if his bar is up for sale yet…", he said as greed glistened in his eyes.

"Plake's tavern is still open and rest assured he will be behind its bar this very night, by my sword."

"Ya, ya, whatever", he said , but unconvincingly to keep his façade of toughness. I know he believed me.

Arek was also unsuccessful so we went back to the remainder of our group as the Eclipse began. Tiberio and Nimbus had managed to collect a small crowd and were collecting a few pennies. Only Thalazzar was missing. We were moving to line up for seats as he approached.

Suddenly a wave of fear passed through the crowd and Thalazaar and several others fell to the ground. They all began convulsing and speaking a kind of gibberish. Tiberio was able to determine that Thalazzar was speaking magic words, as if to cast a spell. We heard explosions and screaming from neighbouring districts.

The crowd started to become tenser and Panic was near at hand.

I remembered a religious ceremony once in Cauldron after a military victory where the crowd started our festive and became unruly in only a few minutes. There is some kind of smell in the air that proceeds it just as night follows and it was that time now.

Arek and I picked up Thalazzar and began carrying him to safety in a parked wagon. Nimbus jumped into the wagon as we pulled it out and began speaking to the crowd. As a master of oration myself from a line of orators, I continue to be amazed by how well he can combine his phrases, gestures and tones to have such effects. Tiberio joined in with music and the crowd began to calm down. My reinforcing comments from "the street" happily added in a minor way to the situation. The progress of the Eclipse did also lighten the mood somewhat.

As Thalazaar woke and became coherent, our hopes of a peaceful exit from the District came to naught suddenly. Another wave of fear passed over the crowd, followed by more explosions. Appearing above us were two winged creatures of vast magical power. They fought as if in a storybook. Tiberio said he had vaguely heard of such a legend from 40 years ago of a battle between a Nephilim and an Infernal but it was always dismissed out of hand whenever mentioned. Their battle began to destroy the tram station and its complex mechanology.

At the end of one street, a vicious dinosaur several winged creatures appeared and the crowd wildly panicked causing death and injuries. We blocked the street with a wagon and were able to start moving that crowd nearest us away from these vile creatures. More appeared; creatures from books and campfire tails suddenly among the crowd of Innocents. A Fiendish Dire Wolf, Fiendish Dire Ape and Everitts Black Tentacles caused widespread suffering and panic.

But not that clever Frankie - Frankie began to study the Station with keen interest. She stopped briefly, mumbling to herself and said, "The tram cars descending from the Station have stopped but the damage will soon cause them to fall. There must be forty score of people trapped that will fall to their deaths." "What can we do!?" "I can fix it", she said as she bolted off into the wrecked building even as the Winged Creatures continued to battle. I yelled after her, "What do you need?" She said, "The only thing I do not have in my pockets, your strength!" I ran after her. The Eclipse is at its nadir and it is as dark as a pit in spite of the fires.

She reached a great, infernal machine that was obviously damaged and began repairs. I had a sunrod in my pouch and held it as she worked. Then I heard the screams of the crowd as they fled the horrors on the street.

I was torn to my soul by the screams of women and children not twenty feet away for help while I stood, sword in sheath, only useful enough to hold the light. I remember the face of my Father and recall his first lesson to me: find the Greater Good and work for that in All Things - individual glory is too little to truly last.

I watch as Frankie is proceeding like a quartermaster in her favorite storeroom: counting and checking items off an invisible list in her mind with ease and precision as her hands move over objects I cannot describe much less divine.

"How long until you are finished?, I gasp. She says, "In less time than it takes you to count to ten". I give her the sunrod and launch out into the street to assist the Innonents. The crowd has fled away from the Dinosaur but I see a small boy of two years abandoned in the panic between the beast and myself. I launch towards him and pick him up just as the foul creature turns to charge. I run to a narrow alleyway that I know it cannot get the boy.

All goes black. It feels like the sky itself has landed on my back. As I fall, I push the child farther into the alley and crumple to the ground. I smile as I see the boy is out of reach and the Beast will not get that Satisfaction. I only feel detached satisfaction as I see that terrible Lizard rise for its final strike only to see the Sun itself rise like a golden thunderbolt. It continues to rise as if flying but certainly not according to its wishes. I am surrounded by Darkness like a wool blanket. Ahead is a light and I begin walking towards it. My Father is walking with me and says, "While you bring honour to our name with your bravery, your work is not done: it has only begun. Wake up, sir! Stand up for those that need you. You are not yet at the Clearing at the End of the Path"


I can see his face so clearly and it fades away and become that of a man I have never met but know instantly - Woden! He smirks and says, "the Keeper's Son, I should have known." I stumble to my feet like a drunk while saying, "Woden, we have been looking for you". "Ah, the Companions of the Mysterious Missive. I might have known. We have much to talk about but not now."

I see the small boy is safe for now but that my friends are pressed. Arek has fallen to a savage attack somewhere between the Wolf and the Ape and run to him with all my might - it is like running through sand. I focus on my Inner Eye and say the Litany of Hieroneous to heal my Friend - and nothing happens. Woden walks up beside me with another smirk and hands me a potion. I give it to Arek and he wakes.

I tell Arek of the child still crying in the alley while I draw my bow. The Dire Wolf has been fixed by Nimbus and we pepper it with arrows. To my right, I catch a glancing image: this crisis has also drawn my Friend, Corporal Freeman Pickett leading a charge to save the Citizens of the Gate. His spear is wet with blood and he stands his ground. I focus on my target and continue my attack. I noticed the Gold Dragon as I ran to Arek but only now realize that it is watching in some sort of amusement at our stalwart attack on this Wolf that, while threatens us Mysterious Companions gravely, could be dispatched with a careless gesture of this Ancient Wyrm. I realize that the sun did not rise on the dinosaur but that it was but the victim of the Gentlest Toss of Mnemonium, the Ancient Gold Dragon.


The Battle ends and Woden speaks to us:

He speaks of the Fall of the Claimers and their reckless opening of the Gate. He tells us to leave Riot's Gate to avoid another visit by the Unspoken. The Claimers' reckless pursuit of their Dwarven heritage led to their opening of an Ancient Gate beneath Axes Bithat - Anupkhaz! The word strikes my heart and it races and pulls me to the Barrows. Even as my body bleeds and aches, I wish to run to my only connection to my Father's Killer. Woden claims to know nothing of my Father's Death.

In that Opening, they released a Hateful Army of Orcs, Bugbears, Flind and Hobgoblins led by Feraln Elves and Illithid. They were stopped by Woden, Sadore, some Unspoken and Mnemonium. As a result, the Claimers were disbanded. He gives Arek UNITY, the Steel Stone Maddock of the Claimers. Woden charges him to exercise wisdom as the Head of the Claimers.

He speaks to me of my Father, once a Janissary of Jamhyria Theona'la. He says I will soon learn more of the Order that my Father rejected so long ago.

He tells us that the Opening of the Seal caused the Ley Lines to collapse, ending Magic throughout the City. It has caused untold damage and destruction - hundreds are dead across the city including most of the City council, the Orindish Family (less the hated Mahgnus Mor) and many in the Temple of Heironeous.

My heart sinks to hear that High Commander Yeoman Canchari died when the Tower of Axes Bithtat fell - May the Maker Bless the Passing of the Faithful, May They Walk into the Clearing at the End of the Path with their Shield and Spear held High.

Woden tells us that Tallum is alive and has been in Jamhyria Theona'la for ten days. She is the illegitimate daughter of the Orindish queen. Woden wants us to go after her to save her immediately.

We convince him in the strongest of terms that our goal is not the High Politics of the Realm but life of one simple and honest man. Woden promises to send Grist to sort out the Dripping Blade and find Plake. Woden then asks Frankie to heal Mneonium of wounds taken from attacks borne of some malicious mechanology. To the ever and always Clever Frankie, this is apparently easy.

The Nephilim are the cause of the Collapse of the Ley Lines and they cut a path of destruction this night as they did 40 years ago. It was kept quiet then by the Upspoken and turned into a fairytale - I doubt such a thing will happen this time.

The Companions resolve to go to Jamhyria Theona'la with some caveats: Frankie must go to Peppershot as is in danger from the Withering and the Barrows call me with equal strength. These are on our way to Jamhyria Theona'la and our Path is clear. Woden departs to arrange some details of our departure.

I learn that the boy was given to Cpl Pickett to find the child's mother. I search briefly for him and see him as I turn a corner. He is holding the boy and giving instructions to other constables. As I approach, I hear a cry of joy and a woman runs up to Freeman. She is crying and hugs the boy with great love. She then looks up to Freeman and hugs him with much exuberance. I hear her say that she is doubled blessed that night as she just learned that her husband, Senator Kline Sayre, survived the night and is on his way to this District. As Freeman tries to speak to her and denies responsibility for the boy's (Jonathan) safety, she drowns him out with more crying and ranting. She says, "Make no mistake, good sir, you have saved our son and all will know that Senator Sayre's only child was pulled from the Jaws of Death by Corporal Pickett of the Watch. Honour will not be the least of your rewards". Freeman tries to speak but Catherine Sayre leaves quickly, all the while ranting and crying and talking about "Corporal Freeman Pickett of the Watch". I laugh and start walking towards my friend again.

"Hile, Corporal Pickett." I say.

"Mr. Domaldi, I was just looking for you. That women, she, ah…"

"Freeman, you are a hero this night as I suspect you are most nights. Only this time, others know it. Relish in it this time for it brings honour not just to you, but to the whole Watch. Your days of unsung and selfless service will return soon enough in the long days to come… What were you going to say?"

"Mr. Domaldi, I… I was going to say that your friends look like they want to leave and you look like you need a tailor and a sawbones, too. I do have more work this night and the paperwork is going to break my back. Will you help us sort this crazy mess out?" "Unfortunately, Corporal Pickett my friends and I have been charged by Woden to other tasks away from Riot's Gate and we must leave immediately. My Father's Killer still walks unencumbered by Justice. Long days and pleasant nights - may you see them in the days to come", I say as I walk away.

"Mr. Domaldi may you see double and walk the straight and flat path."

That very night we begin to collect our gunna for our journey ahead. I visit Pelu and know he is ready for the Trail again.

An account by Thalazzar

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