Rise of the Rune Lords
An Oracular Dream
GM: It begins with something familiar, a thought perhaps? Something not quite in memory, but faintly present. A breeze brushes by your face and your name is spoken very softly.
The wind brushes past you, stirs your liripoop slightly, and then fades; only to grow stronger in your mind. It turns your sight inward.
From the depth of dream comes memories. Of a familiar glen, ancient trees grown tall and still in the fullness of their life. The wind is a gentle breeze that carries with it the smell of the sea. It is a place Aubry has never visited, but it is familiar. From tales and stories it is easily recognizable as the place that Desna’s court is said to gather.
The glen is a vibrant place. The grass beneath your feet is fresh and thick, yet not quite long enough to cover your feet. There are bundles of wildflowers in full bloom, their heads full with color and perfume. The trees along the outer edge of the glen are giants of their species: oak and ash, pine and dogwood. Their boughs are full of leaves and nuts and flowers.
A sigh. The wind brushes by you, gently pressing you forward, towards a large oak tree. Its silver bark sparkles in the light. It’s then that you realize that, while the glen is flooded in bright sunlight, there is no sun in the sky, and almost no shadow in the glen. Even the shade of the giant trees is a pale gray rather than darker black. The light is constant across the glen.
A beautiful woman steps out from behind the trunk of a giant silver oak. She is tall and slender, her skin is very pale and her hair white mixed with green. Her ears are elongated and she wears makeup to accent her natural beauty. She smiles and her hazel eyes focus upon you.
“Autumnal Aubry of Simplerose, guardian of the liripoop, friend to Ainsel, seeker, beloved of Desna. I greet thee.” Her voice is soft and lyrical, and is by the breeze that fills the glen. Her mouth maintains a constant smile and, while the words are clearly heard, she does not speak them.
Aubrey: OOC: Is this Queen Desna?
GM: This woman wears very little, if anything, and has silver and green hair. Desna has black hair. They could be sisters, but this woman’s feet are planted firmly on the ground, and she leans lightly on the tree. She’s more likely a dryad.
GM: Seeing you hesitate, she speaks. “I be Selune of the Silver Bark. Planted by my Lady’s hand before the gnomes left this place for the other. I be her speaker, her herald in her court, and in this case, her messenger.” She places her hand over her heart and bows deeply. “Come. Enjoy mine shade and relax amongst the grass.” She offers.
Aubrey: Aubrey tries to recall the formalities involved in courtly etiquette. He stalls for a moment by pulling his liripoop off of his disheveled head, twirling its length dramatically before sweeping it down across the grass as he bows low. “Your Grace, my Lady of Oak. I am honored by your presence and I heed your call. By oak, ash and thorn I serve the court.”
GM: “Thou dost honor me.” The wind speaks for her. She dips her head in acknowledgment, and then sits on the grass before her tree. She demurely crosses her ankles and places her hands in her lap.
Her hands rest there for a moment, before she begins to fidget with them, in some distress. Her left hand reaches out to brush at a partially exposed root while her right she uses to balance her body. Her motions, while graceful, are distracted.
Aubrey: Aubrey steps forward tentatively with his cap in his hands.
GM: “Thee art on the verge of the greatest of adventures and the stench of our Lady’s nemesis be around thee.” the wind whispers her disquiet as she tries to settle herself, and fails.
Aubrey: “I-I offer apologies. I and those I currently travel with have found ourselves caught up in the machinations of the Queen of Air and Darkness. Life blood has been spilt liberally in her name and her darkness yet threatens many other mortals. I fear that I shan’t soon be free of her miasma.”
GM: She glances up at this and smiles anew. “For this thee dost apologize? Oh gentle one – this be your adventure.”
Aubrey: “If my scent does offend thee, then I am ashamed.”
GM: At this she laughs. The wind picks up in the clearing and the nearby flowers dance. “T’is a misunderstanding of mine flowery language I be sure.” she assures you. “Come. Sit. And I shall speak plainly.” She pats the grass beside her in the shade of the giant silver tree.
Aubrey: Aubrey offers her a brief nod and scampers over to the dryad’s side.
GM: She takes Aubry’s hand in hers, and clasps it gently. “My message be this: She hath seen thine actions, thine adventure ongoing, and she dost approve.”
Aubrey: Aubry appears confused for a moment before understanding dawns on him as to who the dryad is referring to. “I’m happy that my actions doth please her majesty. I wouldn’t have expected such matters to come to her attention.”
GM: “She hath seen more of thine adventure than just thine counting of days—and she wouldst offer you her blessing and assistance, if thou wouldst be willing to accept a position within the court.”
Aubrey: Aubry appears pleased though guarded at the suggestion of a royal appointment. When dealing with monarchs one isn’t always free to refuse politely. Still, intrigued, the gnome can’t help but wonder what the dryad is proposing.
“I am of course honored that her majesty would see fit to offer me a place in her court. But I am still young and new to the ways of the mortal world. I fear that I may not possess the, ah, experience to fulfill a royal mandate at this time.”
GM: Selune chuckles softly and squeeze Aubry’s hand. “She asks only that you continue what thou art doing. It is because thou art in harms way that she offers thee this. Her love for thee be great because thou dost travel and adventure; two actions that show a strong and wily heart. She wouldst grant thee abilities to see thou and thine companions survive. Thou art her knight and protector in the mortal realms. To be acknowledged thusly dost not require thou to become a lyrakien; but mayhap she canst grant thy requests for aid on this and future adventures.”
Aubrey: The gnome tries to puzzle out the dryad’s meaning; he’s had little experience in dealing with courtly speech, and so isn’t certain what she’s getting at. “Is… Pardon me my Lady, but I’m afraid I don’t quite grasp what you done me the honor to convey of the Queen’s desire. A knight protector? Is it the queen’s wish that I serve the court as some manner of thegn?”
GM: The dryad shakes her head. “To try again I shall. By the roots that give me strength… The Queen has seen thy days to come, and they doth worry her. Thou art a brave gnome, a curious gnome. And she believes thou couldst be a successful gnome, nay. Thou shalt be a successful gnome; one upon whom glory and stories be heaped. She offers thee two things—the secret to the metamorphosis that will prolong thy life, and her blessing. For this she asks only one thing: that you defeat Lamashtu and find and root out the evil that Lamashtu has started and undo the ley knot in which her servants work.”
Aubrey: Aubry’s eyes nearly bug out of his tiny head. “D-defeat the Queen of Air and Darkness?!? Metamorphosis? You mean the Chrysalis? My apologies lady, have I properly understood what you’ve said? The queen wishes me to serve as a herald and to depose her dark sister?”
GM: “Eventually… yes. For now, however, she doth want her sister’s agents stopped. Her dreams say thou art a key to her sister’s demise, if thou canst live long enough.”
Aubrey: “Her agent, you speak of the heaven-child Nualia Tobyn?”
GM: “Nay, just the mortal ones that lay upon thy path.”
Aubrey: “Nualia isn’t mortal, or she isn’t the Dark Queen’s agent?”
GM: “Not yet. She be a pawn amongst many that the spawn dost try to corrupt. And though she be a heaven-child she be also mortal.”
Aubrey: Aubrey considers what he’s pieced together of Lamashtu’s machinations thus far. “The Thistletop goblins and Nualia are mortals and agents of the Dark Queen. The immortal agent would be the Demon quasit. The queen wants only the mortal agents stopped?”
GM: Selune speaks. “The Queen wishes thee to combat all of Lamashtu’s agents, pawns, and plots. The one thou names child is committed to the dark sister’s cause, but the Queen hopes she can be yet saved. I do not hold such hopes. The quasit be not what it once was; but it is evil and hath turned to Lamashtu’s service as one of her agents.”
Aubrey: “Not what it once was?”
GM: “Long ago, it was once a familiar to a great magus.”
Aubrey: “Malfeshnakor. The Thassilonian wrath wizard?”
GM: “Nay. To Malfeshnakor’s master and creator; Xaliasa. We cannot guess the dark sister’s plans and intentions. It is likely that the quasit and the heaven-child are both part of some great plan. The quasit has great plans, but has not left the ruins in some great amount of time.”
Aubrey: “Ruins? Dost thee mean the catacombs beneath the Old Light?”
GM: “Catacombs? Aye—that be a good appellation for it.”
Aubrey: “It seemed to have been a dungeon once. But now there’s little left in it besides dry bones. Doth it really hail back to the days of ancient Thassilon?”
GM: “Mayhap before then.”
Aubrey: “It’s hard to imagine. What befell the place? What happened to Malfeshnakor?”
GM: “The owner of the … catacombs was an ancient named Xaliasa. He served under the RuneLord Alaznist. Whilst their politics be beyond my ken, it seemed that Xaliasa had truck with the Dark Sister. It be this truck that caused his downfall. For he dabbled in great evils. He called for the Dark Sister’s aid in his final days, but we know not how she did help him.”
Aubrey: “Physically corrupting him seems likely.”
GM: “The quasit hath learned some of Xaliasa’s lore.”
Aubrey: “But what of Malfeshnakor then. What’s she got to do with this place? I’d assumed that the statue we’d run across was her likeness.”
GM: “Nay. The beast thou dost name be not a woman. The statue in the catacombs… Be it of a woman in red? If so then that be the Runelord. Malfeshnakor be one of Xaliasa’s creatures.”
Aubrey: Aubrey considers what Selune’s imparted to him. “So Alaznist was the Runelord, and Xaliasa her subordinate? And Malfeshnakor a made thing of his?”
GM: “Such is mine understanding, aye.”
Aubrey: “And the quasit was Xaliasa’s familiar?”
Aubrey: Aubrey considers all that he’s learned. “Pardon my lady, but do you know what manner of creature is Malfeshnakor? We’ve found a disembodied sentience possessed of malice and wrath trapped in a cell. Might that be him?”
GM: “Malfeshnakor has a body, and be as much beast as man.”
Aubrey: “If it’s uncertain what manner of aid the Queen of Air and Darkness bestowed upon Xaliasa at his request, or what end he met, then might it be that Malfeshnakor is in fact the wizard himself transformed by the Queen’s dark blessing?”
GM: “I do hope not. Malfeshnakor be long trapped, and I have never seen him. But remember that the dark sister can summon monsters as easily as make them.”
Aubrey: “How did he come to be trapped?”
GM: Selune shrugs. “From what little I know – Malfeshnakor was some kind of lieutenant. Another Runelord’s agents captured him and sealed him away. And then, as their empire did crumble – he was forgotten.”
Aubrey: “And so he and Xaliasa’s quasit familiar have been laying beneath the ground where Sandpoint now stands for eleven millennia?”
GM: “I cannot speak to where they be, and I do not count time as thou dost. But, if I understand thee correctly, then aye. Mayhap Malfeshnakor sleeps as some do when time forgets them.”
Aubrey: Aubrey considers this for awhile. “And her majesty, the Seelie Queen, wishes me to oppose the mortals who wish to aid them, except Nualia who she hopes can be redeemed?”
GM: “Is that not what you would do without her asking? And aye. It is what she asks. But I do ask thee to be careful around the heaven-child. I fear she cannot be redeemed from her fall.”
Aubrey: “I would likely have sought to oppose both the Dark Queen’s mortal and immortal servants alike. But our queen wishes, if I understand correctly, that I should only oppose the unseelie goblins of Thistletop.”
GM: “She does not name the dark sister’s agents in her message, but aye; that is her wish – that you oppose the dark sister’s mortal agents and stop their plans from reaching fruition. I do now see that thou hast the heart of a lion!”
Aubrey: “But what of the quasit and Malfeshnakor? What’s to be done with them?”
GM: “The quasit be something thou shalt face. I suspect thou shalt know what to do when thou meet it. As to Malfeshnakor – so long as it remains trapped, thou need do nothing. It doth not currently serve the Dark Sister; but the heaven-child is determined to change all of that.”
Aubrey: “And what of her? How is she to be redeemed?”
GM: “I know not. The Queen believes she need only understand the danger and if offered another path she might take it.”
Aubrey: “She’s already given herself over to the Queen of Air and Darkness. Her arm has been transformed into that of a demon following a sacrifice to her liege. It does not appear that she seeks a different path.”
GM: “I concur, but the lady lives in perpetual hope.”
Aubrey: “May her Majesty’s hope prove fortuitous for us all.”
GM: “So, what be your answer – lionhearted one?”
Aubrey: Aubrey considers the question for some time. “Her Majesty offers me her support and the position of royal herald so that I might oppose and eventually depose her Dark Sister, but does not insist that I accept the latter to gain the former?”
GM: Selune laughs and claps her hands with glee. “And thus the seed doth bud!” she proclaims. “Aye, thou dost have it.”
Aubrey: “But if she doth offer me the position of herald, it is because she believes it wise that it be so…”
GM: Selune shrugs her pale shoulders. “She dost believe in thee. But she is also patient and can wait for thine answer.”
Aubrey: “But my companions and I are in the midst of these events. And I fear the machinations of the Dark Queen will not wait as patiently as doth our sovereign. Even now the Thisletop goblins threaten to ally themselves with their neighboring tribes to beset the town of Sandpoint like a plague of nightmares. I fear to delay and I fear to reject the timely aid of our Queen…”
GM: “Then say yes to her aide and delay answering the question of whether to join the court.”
Aubrey: “Our queen’s offer is most gracious. Alright.” With that, the gnome hops to his feet. Once more he offers the comely dryad a sweeping bow. “Then if you please your Grace, I would beg you to convey my heartfelt acceptance and gratitude for her majesty the Queen’s gracious offer of aid in this dark hour.”
GM: “Then the bargain is struck. Touch a tree in your dreams and speak my name and I shall find you; should thou need to speak to me anew or wish to accept or reject our Lady’s second offer. Come your time of need, ask and our Lady’s blessing shalt be upon thee. Fare thee well Autumnal Aubry of Simplerose, lionhearted defender.
Aubrey: “And fare well to thee, Selune of the silver bark, messenger of Queen Desna of the seelie court.”
GM: Selune bows her head and touches her brow. The wind gathers around you, and the colors blur. The glen becomes less and less distinct, and the smells of greenery and flowers fade. And once more you stand on ancient stone, below ground.