The Bottled City
August 14-15, 2004.

Reviews
Synopsis
Character Intros


"Magic is hard!" — Neren the Fey

Reviews

"I went into SOT1 seriously excited about every one of the characters. I was skeptical, however, about Justin's ability to tie them together in any meaningful way. He successfully tied them together by narrow threads of circumstance, and then seven fantastic players took over and MADE the party work. Player skill is essential in a game like this... the ability to finesse the fine line between being true to the character and furthering the plot by active cooperation, or at least participation... and this group has that in spades! The story itself is engaging and wonderfully narrated and, as with COB, the sound really adds a whole new dimension to it. The bottom line for this game is really that we get to gather and game with close friends from all over the country for a whole weekend of drama, suspense, emotion, and good ol' dice rolling. It just doesn't get any better than that."
— Keith
"I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for making this weekend so memorable and making it possible! Your personal sacrifices to fly me out have endeared me so much more to our friendships (if that is conceivable). The addition of Larry and Adrian to the fellowship only served to heighten the legendary portrayals reminiscent of Edion games. What a fantastic treat it was to have Kat provide her talents to further the enjoyment and fluidity of the game and remain ever-sexy all the while! And of course to our grand storyteller, wondrous creator and beloved friend... unearthly delights and immortal gratitude e'er should you live in our hearts and words for dreaming up and continuing to author the best epic fantasy sagas known and including us in your stargazings and woolgatherings!"
— Marcus
"And what a start to a campaign! From the word 'go' it was the table interaction that grabbed me. The music added emotional depth to many scenes (particularly the music for entering Granitehome), and the minis brought some visuals home for me (like how fantastically outnumbered we were in the glassworks), but all of that just spices the meat of the game: role-playing in a rich world. The fabric of Edion as lovingly and grippingly presented by Justin simply begs to be lived in. The relationships (for good and ill) between our characters cry out to be explored. The characters are fascinating. We could have a session where all we do is hang out and tell knock-knock jokes and I'd love it (fortunately, we have all of Edion—and Thariom and Phandiom—to explore, so the knock-knock joke session is on the back burner). I can't wait until Mabul explodes on someone, or until political tensions finally boil over, or until the orcs show up and throw a big Thard-Harr-sized wrench in all our petty little lives and we have to deal with that. This game is a happy marriage of masterful role-playing of characters and phenomenal storytelling art. I want more. Now. It's a drug, this game, and I'm happy to be hooked.
— Adrian
"To those who sat around the table this weekend: thank you for the most enjoyable gaming session I have ever had the honor to play in! ...The depth and richness that each of us has put into our characters is phenomenal to the point of danger. With so much history and depth it is hard to bend them to a linear story. As it turns out, our creations and abilities were flexible and well up to the task. That alone amazes me. Justin: At the risk of inflating your ego further still, I must say that you are without a doubt the finest storyteller I have ever known! Your descriptions bring life to a non-existent world such that our imaginations can interact with it completely. Your descriptions of Granitehome and Ffluedder's tomb were raw with emotion and power. You're portrayal of Dram and the Gnomish Gods were superior in every aspect—Bravo!"
— Larry

Synopsis

There are many marvelous tales of Edion, untold, unwritten, never to be recorded or remembered, lost beyond all divining and all imagining. And strange are the many tales withheld by the ancient races, full of unsurmised and forgotten wonder. But none is stranger, none more marvelous, than the tale of the Shards of Thariom...

Seven unlikely companions forgather at the Monastery of Atân atop Mount Farastu. They are tasked by the Archon Talqavist and the Godking Seviamos to recover the Bottled City of Yoros from the crypts of Granitehome, and return it to Talqavist at Fanal-Tîrun. This must be done before Tharthammon, ancient god of the Gith, can acquire it for himself. For trapped inside the Bottled City are the fabled Shards of Thariom: remnants of the World Stone cast off from the making of Thariom, which promise Tharthammon great power (see Legend of the Artifex).

Before departing, Hatame of Agollos, a hero from Azalan, pleads with Seviamos to return Lior's Bow to the god, from whom it was stolen by Marvalen:

"It is said that His Majesty has commune with the powers in Solaris. May that I could return this godly gift and retire to my homeland and serve as mariner in Emperor Gento’s fleet."

Lior answers the King's summons and bluntly refuses Hatame's plea, saying in mickle wrath to Seviamos:

"Thou art hardy, King Seviamos, as to harken to the guileful persuading of this fool. This devil hath overcome me by craft, doing that which is forbidden: to commerce with gods! If Hatame thinks with his swaggering that he can bear away Lior’s Bow unpunished, and thinks by cheats and subtleties he can avoid my wrath, hard shall it be to abide my avenging sword."

The brothers Nimlinor and Neren ("that's short for 'Nerenethos'") are reunited at Atân. Nimlinor, a necromancer entrusted by Talqavist and Dendwaru to recover the Bottled City, thinks little of his brother, and tries to convince Neren to abandon the quest, but Neren refuses. Nimlinor is accompanied by the elf Valandil, who is bound to Nim as protector. Valandil has never set foot in the world of men, nor have men seen his kind before. The barbarian Mabul is also out of his element, having come to Atân from the harsh South to plant a small Ontam tree in the garden, as a favor to his friend Dasari.

Yngvarr Yngvildir's Son is given a particular task by Seviamos the Sunblessed, to speak the word Amân-Gothriel and dismiss the Watcher of Granitehome, the Siva Kartadza, appointed by Seviamos to defend Granitehome from thieves and raiders.

The companions are led by Narntay of Adelland (a cleric of Geyon) and his dog Amicus down the mountain and across the Marsh of Madness, following the old Bog Road. Nimlinor is followed by an absurdly laden camel, bearing the most essential components of his laboratory and library on the quest [pic]. Along the way, they are ambushed by the hungry giants Figg and Fráli, who corner the troupe in a narrow ravine [pic]. Figg has powers over verminkind, and summons a monstrous scorpion to attack the heroes. Figg's giant viper companion harries Narntay, who is caught in a snare trap, whilst Fráli pounds the ravine with hurled boulders. Hatame ends up in Figg's meat sack, where he is subdued by a fungus that thrives there.

The heroes prevail over the giants and go west into the mounds and hassocks of the Marsh of Madness. It is a perilous environ pocketed by great tarns of water, dark and dull as clotted blood. After many days travel, Narntay loses the trail and the company is assaulted by hordes of miserable dretches, upon whose backs a loathsome Aspect of Yôzar, the Demogorgon, comes at them amid the vapors of Pandesmos.

The demon is tall and serpentine, with the faces of two monstrous baboons thrust forward on lengthened necks, turning and tossing restlessly. The malign body is covered with an imitation of short fur, giving somehow a vague suggestion of both a bat and a sloth. The demon’s lids are half-lowered over globular eyes; and the tips of queer tongues issue from its sneering mouths. It has two long tentacles instead of arms, dangling grotesquely to either side. Mephitic odors as of mold and rotting flesh issue from the demon as it bounds and slithers toward you with an unbelievable speed and celerity of motion.

Narrowly surviving the demons of the marsh, the company emerges from the tarn-waters after eight days of delirium and hard travel. At length, they reach the Barrows of Fortnait, which lie on the western rim of the Marsh. Here they encounter roving gangs of ghouls:

Without the least warning, the street swarms with the hideous bodies of a wild and half-bestial people, who appear instantaneously on all sides, leaping wolfishly from the crypts or flinging themselves like panthers from the high ledges. Uttering no sound, other than a sort of hoarse coughing and spitting, and armed only with their double rows of pointed teeth and their sickle-like talons, they pour over the street in a climbing wave. Ever they rise and multiply, till the cemetery teems with the vomitings of the riven charnel.

In life, these were soldiers of Prince Calehar who perished in the Godswar battling the Hezroim. Nimlinor commands the ghoul Habrescorn—a sallow and bloated ghoul who consumes whole cadavers in single voracious bites—to take them across Fortnait [pic].

With the ghoul's help the company navigates the barrows and emerge from the high ridge onto plantation lands near Galantir. The ghoul is then destroyed by Narntay, who bargained for its destruction with Nim.

In Galantir, the company is stopped by a tax controller who wishes to assess their haul from the barrows. Having the stink of the marsh upon their clothes and possessions, the Azalim bureaucrat doesn't believe their story of travail and assesses a fine of 70 snakes for failure to obtain a proper license before entering the Barrows. Neren pays the fine and they enter the city.

Beyond the gates, the city of Galantir is a prosperous and bustling place having all the effete wealth and sophisticated polish of Azalim cities, while being home to a rigorous trade in tobacco. Many wealthy plantation owners and merchant lords have lined the river with their huge, colonial mansions. The city is home to many adventurers as well, who have gotten rich plundering the tombs of the Fatarim dead.

Apart from the mansions, the city has many smaller squares and well-built houses: tall, close-crowded buildings with high-pitched roofs tending to four stories in height. The buildings are made of gray and pink granite, hauled from the quarries beneath Granitehome, with grassy courtyards and walls festooned with rose-vines and trailing flowers. Many dogs can been seen around the city; indeed Narntay’s trusted companion Amicus came from these crowded streets.

The city is a mart of trade, were merchant folk come on barges to sell their wares: market-gardeners from the environs, warpers and weavers, carters in their huge carts and ample tilts, and vinedressers upon handsome mules. The largest jewelsmithing guild in Sol-Fatara is based here, and everywhere can be bought smoking tobacco, rich and fragrant from local fields.

Galantir may once have been a Fatarim city, but the gentlemen here now hail the Emperor Gento. A few have grown rich in exchange for their loyalty, but most of the Fatarim live simply on the outlying farms, working the fields and earning an honest day’s bread. Others work in the mills, or keep small shops in the labyrinth of narrow, crooked streets. Once the toy stores of Galantir were operated exclusively by gnomes; the Fatarim keep their tradition alive, doing what they can to imitate their works. Many of the shops are named after famous gnomish toymakers.

Before they can secure a stay for the night, Nimlinor becomes aware of a scrying sensor watching them from a nearby rooftop. Moments later they are apprehended by a Stone Warden, a hulking construct of stone, standing more than 9 feet tall. Its steel gray body is cut from pitiless granite, shaped into a massive, almost perfect humanoid form wielding a huge, double-edged blade of dark obsidian stone.

Some of you recognize the construct as a Stone Warden, one of the emperor’s great siege engines, though confessedly you have never seen one up close. Its bulk and remorseless attitude are qualities well suited to urban pacification. The energy of Palatum flows through its veins—the energy of pure law—making it the ultimate partisan in the Emperor’s military. Tales are told of the stone wardens laying waste to entire cities, pulverizing their defensive walls and melting the very stones beneath their feet.

With a voice like grinding rock, the warden urges the company to follow it and delivers them to Owlswick Manse, home of Uergus Warmanes, Mayor Intendant of Galantir, who is chief political officer of the Azalim in this province.

Warmanes tells the company that he has grown weary of the trivial harryings of Fornait. The chasings of ghouls has eroded his interest and he seeks greater spoils worthy of Azalan's great name and renown among the nations. His spies have informed him of Yngvarr's charge to banish Kartadza, the siva who watches over Granitehome. In exchange for the company's reluctant cooperation, Warmanes issues the company an exclusive license to plunder Granitehome, granting them twelve days plus one to raid the halls without competition. In exchange, Warmanes receives a 40% tax on the haul, to be assessed in Galantir by the Cult of Matravus. The deal includes provisions and supplies for the company, including horses and a twelve man escort led by Sheeral Warmanes, the mayor's cousin. A witness at this meeting is the tomb raider Skyndyn Skayn, who runs the successful Iron Coffer adventuring ring. Skayn will no doubt be competition for the Fellows of Atân in the days to come.

The company spends the night in Growzee's Gambol, a well-worn, low-beamed place, crowded with retired fighting men. They depart two days later after amendments to the license are drawn up and signed by both parties. Departing Galantir swiftly on horseback, the company wins to Granitehome after three days travel through the wide tilth and many orchards of the riverlands between the Fal and Trale. They witness sunrise over the green dales of Granitehome and wonder at the beauty of the four towers of Lookinghaven. Standing upon the nearmost tower like an eagle armed, shadowing with wings, gracious as the morning star of heaven, is the almighty angel Kartadza, whose body is silver, and whose wings are the colors of rainbows. Wondrous bright is his face in the sunshine, yet frightening to behold.

Says the angel from afar, his voice coming down the mountain like thunder, "Behold, wonder, and lament, that the innocent eye of day should be enforced still to look upon the raiders of Granitehome."

Reluctantly yet purposefully, Yngvarr says the words that will dismiss Kartadza and open Granitehome to plunder. The company sets up camp and explores the hillside burrows, choosing to enter Granitehome via the residence of Pirabby Bridlegoose, 11 Bridlegoose Burrow. After some investigation, Neren finds a magic hat, cloak, and walking stick left by Pirabby for his guests (these shrink users down to gnome size, making it easier for clumsier races to get around Granitehome). Neren also finds an alchemical treatise with references to a golden egg kept in some place called the 'Philosopher's Round.' Nim finds a cache of scrolls; investigation of which leads to the baleful polymorphing of Nimlinor into a goose! Fortunately, Neren can speak with animals, but all efforts to return his brother to human shape fail, and the wizard is forced to waddle clumsily behind the party as they explore Granitehome. (Nim refuses to be held, and takes to preening himself while the others make decisions.)

The burrows are connected together via numerous tunnels, and investigation reveals a hidden door leading down to the lower levels of Granitehome. Unfortunately, the stairwell is trapped and the company slides down (Nim squawking) to a deeper level than intended. After defeating a series of traps and tricks, the company learns that Granitehome is being invaded by kobolds tunneling in from below ground. A brief clash with the reptilian fey urges them to move quickly. Pressing downwards, they discover an alchemical lab identified as the Philsopher's Round. Passing through the doors to this room unbinds all enchantments, and Nimlinor is restored to his normal self. "Don't touch anything!" warns Neren, but no sooner is Nim restored than Neren is turned to stone! For the golden egg—a large, golden shell like a chicken egg, but the size of a small boulder—lay unhatched in the room, and, well, Neren just had to touch it...

When you touch the egg, it cracks in two. And springing from it, strutting erect on its two legs, is the strangest avian creature you have ever seen. It has the legs of a rooster, and a rooster’s head, with rosy comb and wattles, but the face of it is like no fowl’s face of Edion. Black shining feathers grow on its neck, but its body is like a dragon with bright scales, and a scaly crest stands on its back; its wings are like bats’ wings, but its tail is the long tail of a lizard with a sting in the end thereof, and from its beak its forked tongue flickers venomously. But the stature of the thing is little above a turkey.

The cockatrice lives only briefly, but before Hatame runs it through with arrows and Mabul finishes it off with a deft glaive-stroke, it snaps at Neren and turns him to solid stone. And lo, the cockatrice hops madly with its head cut off, knocking potions and combustibles off the shelves. Four elementals are set loose in the chaos, and before the dust settles Valandil is nearly slain in a riot of explosions and elemental fury. Nimlinor inventories the rare chemicals and unguents that survive the battle, finding a cure for Neren: a pot of stone salve. "I was turned to stone once..." grins Neren, adding the incident to his list of incredulous stories.

Further exploration reveals a strange arboreum, wherein the light of Solaris shines bright as day. The fellows marvel to see pure heartrendingly beautiful light in the heart of this deep mountain. All save Nim and Neren rejoice to stand in the light and feel its warmth on their head and shoulders. The beams cure all wounds and wipe away afflictions, and to Narntay the beams are a source of divine inspiration, bolstering his faith. To Yngvarr the experience is intensely religious and personal.

Mabul discovers a laboratory adjoining the Philosopher's Round, wherein the caged homunculus Dram is found. Dram begs for his freedom, citing how his master forgot about him and left him caged for hundreds of years. The clay familiar tells the adventurers how to win to the crypts, explaining that first they must acquire the Eyes of Garl by petitioning the gods of the Pyramid. Dram is freed and the company heads up two levels following Dram's advice. The homunculus is a master of keys and assembles a ring with keys to every lock they will need to bypass.

En route to the Pyramid, the company is ambushed by gangs of kobolds prowling the old glass foundry. Assailing them with movements that the eye can barely follow in their snaky darting, the multitudes of short, reptilian monsters surround them in wild career. Standing half erect, with their reptilian heads about their thighs and hips, snarling and snapping like dogs, the kobolds soon take every niche of the corridor in assault. And coming through the kobolds like roaring beasts are great companies of troglodytes, strong and war-hardened [pic]. But a greater horror than this are the two rust monsters joining the fray [pic]:

Entering the room are two of the most loathsome creatures imaginable: horrid like some blasphemous dream. Their main portions are squat and pedestalled on queerly tilted legs. The heads are beaked like cuttlefish and lined with long oblique slits where the eyes should be, and from the skulls two long proboscides slope tautly to the ground. The things are furnished with curious tails arched obscenely behind them, which end in bony projections like double-ended paddles. A slimy dew exudes from their pores and rills sluggishly down in endless drops. And mounted atop these clammy terrors are fierce kobolds, induced to frenzy, driving them forward with bony spears in hand!

Mabul's devil-glaive is destroyed in the battle, the fighting-end corroded by the rust monsters. Neren ignites smokesticks and other alchemical wonders, concealing his companions from volleys of crossbow fire, whilst the company is surrounded on all fronts, fighting for their lives. When at last they prevail, the company moves quickly from the foundry, ascending many flights to the Armory. Dram forgets to utter a password, and without warning a dozen weapons fly off their racks, animated by unseen hands. Already bloodied by battle, Neren and Valandil fight the oncoming weapons, whilst Mabul threatens Dram, convinced of the homunculus' betrayal. Dram scurries for cover in Nimlinor's garments, but the wizard is no good at calming it down. At last, Neren takes Dram and coaxes the password from him. The animated weapons fall to the ground inert.

A secret door reveals a strange rock maze, where the earth is made incorporeal by beams of daylight. Yngvarr lights a taper from the monastery and leads the company into the heart of the mountain, arriving at length to the Pyramid, an immense granite-walled room, featureless except for the monolithic figureheads of four gnome gods, staring down at the party from a height of 35 feet.

The god-statues animate and hear the party's demands. The Eyes of Garl were hidden by Master Kithkini in one of the four floating towers of Lookinghaven, but before the gods will lower a tower they must all be appeased. Calladuran Smoothhands, the gnome patron of the deep underground and mining will be satisfied with the confession of a secret. Yngvarr reveals that he harbors bitter hatred toward some of his companions, without revealing whom. Rill Cleverthrush, patron of invention and creation, will be satisfied with a show of creation. Neren appeases him with a poem written for his one true love Syra:

In Ithiltaen...

In Ithiltaen I saw her last
And her lips paid the prince’s bill
In Ithiltaen I found my love
I feared my heart, as children will,
In Ithiltaen I ran from love
I find in truth I am there still
In Ithiltaen forever still

Sheyanna Flaxenstrand, patron of love and beauty, is smitten by Neren's poetry. "Sing me a ballad!" she commands. "Praise my beauty!" Neren obeys, and performs a second composition especially for Sheyanna.

Love is not a word

Love is not a word
That I shall speak so free
Love is not a gift
I buy and bring to thee
Love is not a pearl
I win from deepest sea
Love is who I am
When you are here with me

The goddess is satisfied. All that remains is Baravar Cloakshadow, patron of illusions, traps, and tricks. The cowled god will be satisfied by the answering of a riddle:

A gnome walks up to you and says, “everything I say to you is a lie.”
Is he telling you the truth or is he lying?

Valandil is not confused by such logic. "He's lying," says the elf without contemplation. "Indeed so!" says Baravar. The gods satisfied, the companions must now choose a tower, for in the correct tower Kithkini hid the Eyes of Garl, but in the wrong tower a loathsome basilisk was imprisoned. Thus a final riddle must be answered: which of the gods would have the Eyes of Garl... a patron of miners, of makers, of lovers, or deceivers? Neren chooses love, for Sheyanna is Garl's wife in gnome lore, and who better to have the Eyes of Garl than Garl's lover? Mabul has never known or understood love, and argues strongly against placing any faith in such a transient and powerless thing. But the others convince him, and Sheyanna's tower is lowered to the mountain like a ship to mooring. A terrible convulsion rocks the mountain unexpectedly, as the tower collapses sideways tumultuous heavings into the mountain rock! Huge rivers of debris and dirt pour into the pyramid. Sheyanna apologizes for the mishap and the company ascends the wrecked tower.

Reaching the pinnacle, which lay sideways atop the highest slopes of Granitehome, they discover the Eyes. But they are too late! A trog tyrant clad in corroded plate armor, such as devils might wear in the service of Nilzabar, lifts the paired ruby-stones from their magic chest [pic]. Combat ensues, as troglodytes and bastanaks—war lizards specially trained in the South— pour forth from tunnels into the wreckage.

The company is hedged behind a collapsed floor, but Nimlinor levitates into position over the swarming trogs, and Narntay strides through the opposition armored with the gold skin of a siva.

A breach is won, and the trog tyrant is prevented from fleeing by a sleet storm, now raging in the tunnels thanks to Nim. Desperate combat leaves the tyrant dead and the Eyes of Garl recaptured: two paired ruby-stones, the size of fists, said to have a facet for each living gnome.

Returning to the lower levels in haste, the company enters the temple complex and moves purposefully to the Temple of Garl Glittergold: the Joker, the Sparkling Wit, Watchful Protector of All Gnomes. Inside, an idol of pure gold depicts a tall, handsome gnome in a jacket with long tails and hose. His hands are held forward, making a cup. Inside the cup are hundreds of flawless gemstones: diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and opals of such brilliance and clarity as to stun the heart. In place of eyes, the idol is carven with deep recesses, notched and multifaceted, as if to hold gemstones. Around the room are rich carpets and open braziers overflowing with gems.

Neren affixes the Eyes of Garl to the idol and studies the mechanism. A counter-clockwise rotation of one of the Eyes will open a door through the idol, but which one? Any other rotation—either the wrong eye, or the wrong direction—will trigger a series of traps. Neren decides. He and Nim place their hand on the right Eye of Garl and twist. The statue opens down the middle, revealing a secret double door and a stairwell going down to the crypts.

An eerie sighing wind blows through these strange halls, hewn from the gray, fundamental rock of the granite-heart. An idol bearing the likeness of Segojan Earthcaller, the Lord of Burrows, watches over the crypts. Moving purposefully to the Fflamtalligon crypts, they encounter the tomb of Gudmunder Fflamtalligon, Ffluedder’s great-great-grandfather. Further on is Knorf Fflamtalligon, Gudmunder’s brother, and Growzee Fflamtalligon, Gudmunder’s uncle, whose marker reads:

At rest behind this slab
Lies stingy Growzee Fflamtalligon.
He died one morning just at noon,
And saved a dinner by it.

There are crypts for Gally and Wally Fflamtalligon, whose relationships to any Fflamtalligon are uncertain, and old Banzuth Fflamtalligon, whose epitaph reads:

Stop by here, my friends, as you pass by
As you are now so once was I.
As I am now so you will be.
Prepare for death and follow me.

But beyond these crypts, the passageway is contorted and gloomy. .And where crypts should be, only dark recesses stare back, their depths filled with impenetrable darkness. Someone, or some thing, raided these tombs, and took their contents to another plane. The breach is still open, spilling warm ethereal vapors into the corridor. Streaked with gossamer colors, the vapors make the rock transparent as they billow past.

Further on, the darkness grows, and the way is barred by dense-woven strands of web. Valandil hews the web-strands with wide sweeping strokes of his flaming blade, cutting the fibers like a scythe through grass. A rent is made, and the company wins to a ledge overlooking a profound abyss. Across the width and height of the abyss a vast web is spun, attached to the verge at intervals, seeming to span the gulf with its multiple crossings and reticulations of gray, rope thick strands. The ground below does not show of stone, but of a flickering darkness… some other world where malign and potent entities reside. In this abyss, chaotic vapors eddy and clash, driven to howling gusts that smite the cavern walls. Overhead, the upper strands of the web blow and sway like a loose veil in the ethereal wind. An unseen cloud of paralyzing evil hangs removeless upon all things.

There is an ever-deepening oppression, the adumbration of a monstrous menace crawling from the dark rim of the world. But far over the abyss, a shaft of heavenly radiance falls in a single ray upon an island of stone, held aloft by the webs, whereon a single crypt-coffin is bathed in the light of Solaris.

Peering over the abyss, Nimlinor is suddenly vanished from sight, as if taken by invisible hands into the gulf. And rearing over the ledge is a great jointed monster, the Travesty Thameera [pic]:

The enormity that comes before you now is both woman and star-born monster, and for the space of a long breath, you cannot believe you are really seeing it. Most like a spider she is, but larger and more terrible. Two small hornlike organs are set above a semi-human face with obliquely slitted eyes. Strong mandibles indicate her fang-revealing mouth, dripping with ooze. Her face is old—incomputably old—and its lines and wrinkles are those of unreckoned years of lust; and its look is filled with the slow, unceasing increment of all the malignity and corruption and cruelty of elder ages.

A matted mass of coarse, animal-like hair flows down her rubbery neck, set atop a huge swollen body upheld by knobbed legs ending in slashing claws. Her great bulk is black, hued as with the purple of decay: a color that refuses the luster of light.

She utters a language unknown to this world. Only Narntay, who has the power of tongues, can understand the monster's words. They treat. Thameera cannot bear the awful light of Solaris, sent down by Garl to protect Ffluedder's sarcophagus and the bottle within. She demands that the company cross the webs running to the threshold of Ffluedder's tomb and recover the bottle for her, in exchange for Nimlinor's life. Narntay refuses her terms at first, but is cowed.

“The Bottle is mine!" proclaims Thameera. "Such an eventuation cannot be forestalled permanently. If you but cross me, even in argument, I shall flay Nimlinor from thigh to shoulder.”

With these words, the spider-fiend withdraws her bulk from the web and vanishes into the gulf. Fearing for his brother's life, Neren sets out to Ffluedder's tomb, his footsteps testing the strength of Thameera's weaving. The others follow, some reluctantly. Reaching the other side, they encounter a rock island devoid of furnishment, save for a sarcophagus of red granite graven with scattered vignettes in sunk relief. The beams of Solaris fall upon the crypt, lighting an inscription that reads:

I am not dead, although my spirit's gone,
For it returns, and is both off and on:
Now I have life enough, more than some.

Neren defeats the lock and together the seven companions lift the lid and break the plaster seal. Inside they discover a youthful gnome, dressed in cerements worked with gold, and holding in his pink hands a slender myrtle-berry wand. There is a note attached to the wand, reading in Common:

Use this against Her.

—FF

Tucked beside Ffluedder's corpse are two vessels: an alabaster lamp, and a tall caster of some greenish-black material, stoppered with a silver seal: the Bottled City of Yoros. Mabul takes the lamp, Neren takes the Bottled City.

Heading back across the web, Thameera attacks, her vast belly rearing overhead suddenly. Her malice falls on Neren, who is phased to Nim's location, somewhere hidden in the vast web. The brothers are bound together in cords, wound about them from ankle to shoulder. Meanwhile, Thameera severs the strands to her web-bridges, sending Yngvarr and Narntay into the abyss. They hang on perilously, clutching the dangling webs above the yawning ethereal. Mabul, Hatame, and Valandil gather on the crypt island.

Thameera returns to Neren and Nim, demanding the bottle. But Neren has escaped the strands, and holds up Ffluedder's wand. A greenish ray springs from the tip, covering Thameera in a shimmering emerald field. Annoyed, Neren drops the "useless wand" and brandishes Steel Leaf. But the spider is trapped. She can no longer phase between planes and must face the Fellowship of Atân in battle.

At last she is cowed, shrunken in defeat, jerking and quivering as she hastens from Neren's final blow. Catching wildly at the broken, dangling strands of her web, she rolls back into the abyss and is gone. Now the cavern rocks violently, and the webs shake and belly like the blown sails of a vessel in storm. The rock bearing Ffluedder’s sarcophagus falls away tumultuously into the ethereal, and the light from Solaris goes out. The companions are left in the dark, with the ethereal plane swirling beneath them.

And so after much toil the Fellowship of Atân defeats Thameera and wins the Bottled City of Yoros from Ffluedder’s grave. Their path now turns to Fanal-Tîrun, where the wizard Talqavist awaits delivery of their prize at the Collegium Magica. Many are the struggles that lie before them, and long the days, for this tale has only just begun. Thameera has yet to win her revenge, and beknownst to few, the orcs are now unleashed from Shargol-Bogra, and the dark tide of their armies moves West.

But that is a story for another day.

The End.


Go to SOT2.


Character Introductions

Hatame

Hatame’s hair is dark and lustrous, its curls silken and agleam from months at sea. Hatame’s chest and arms are well-muscled from a youth of games and labors alike. He is a full inheritor of the Pathenian spirit; a paragon of his people. Hatame’s skin is a color between honey and tea. Despite his travels, Hatame’s hair and skin have the same texture of youth. Hatame’s eyes are pearl blue, like the waters near Pathenes. His nose, cheeks and mouth are pronounced and angular, token of his Azalim heritage.

Hatame is adorned in a mariner’s full dress coat. The coat is of blue wool and has a stand-up collar edged with gold lace, as are the button back lapels and front edge of the skirts. The sleeves terminate in an extremely narrow round cuff with two rows of gold distinction lace and three Flag Officers buttons (a gift from Emperor Gento himself!). Embroidered twist motifs in gold thread are mounted on both sides of the shoulder. Quite a lavish coat, it is lined with white velvet at the collar and white silk twill at the breast and tails.

Before Hatame, nigh to his hand, lay the godly bow of Lior. This giant bow is carved from the horns of the great stag, Tannuu. The bow’s limb is a single-piece and stands a man and a half tall, its whole length a-shimmer with enamel and white ivory. Intricate carvings of lined and circular glyphs layer the entire shaft. A rigid thong of the stag’s hide is used to string the bow. The cusps of the bow are tapered in mithril alloy.

In addition to Lior’s bow, Hatame carries a cutlass. It is a Royal Azalim Naval cutlass, the hilt of the which consists of a steel half-basket guard. The cutlass has a brass lion's head pommel and back-piece with a black shark-skin grip. The slightly curved flat steel blade has a double-edged spear point. The obverse of the blade is engraved with a shield, along with a motif of a rayed hammer over an anchor, all of which are surrounded by foliage motifs. The cutlass is held in a brown leather scabbard that has one brass locket and chape.

Mabul

Mabul stands just inside the great doors of the immense chamber, along the stone wall directly beneath one of the many windows, as though attempting to hide in the glare of sunlight pouring through the window above. His simple loincloth and supple boots, though clean, are well traveled and practical. On occasion his jeweled gauntlets catch the sunlight and cast miniscule displays of prismatic light on the floor, the wall, or one of the many columns that line the chamber. His entire body is laced with scars of various age and size; a trio that appear to have come from an animal run from his left shoulder across his torso to just above his right hip. His right cheek displays a brutal wound poorly healed. His nose has oft been broken.

In his hand he holds a glaive, its dark wood and blade seem to drink in the light rather than reflect it. The glaive is sinister and otherworldly in appearance, almost a blasphemy on such hallowed ground. He seems uncomfortable holding such a weapon, shifting its weight from one hand to the other. He makes as though to set it against the wall, then shaking his head he settles for cradling it in his left arm, butt down, the blade resting against his shoulder.

His head is slightly bowed in mimic of the monks gathered at the foot of Seviamos. He appears awkward and unsure as though uncertain of how to act in a place such as this. His eyes belie his awkwardness. They scan the room constantly taking in every detail, hovering briefly on individuals before continuing their rove. In those eyes there is a fire of sorts. Not the spark of life common to the monks and those that frequent this place, but the smoldering embers of madness and rage waiting to be fanned into life.

There is a trapped look about him, like an animal caged, his muscles are taught as though he will spring on anyone that ventures too close, or bolt at the first opportunity.

Narntay

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Neren

Bright blue eyes like cobalt butterflies, lighting on that and on that not out of suspicion, but as if everything is incredibly interesting and he wants to see it all, take it all in.

An almost hideous mishmash of a face: high cheekbones collide with an uncomplimentary broad nose and a grinning mouth with perfect teeth, but wide enough to swallow a whole turkey. His ears seems as if they are attached in the wrong place, a little too high under the mop of tousled black hair that looks like it’s never suffered the touch of a comb.

Clearly, this creature is the ugliest puppy of his litter, but somehow, he gives the feeling as if he knows he’s the one that going to be picked to go to the best home, the home with the pretty little girl who will love him bestest.

Nimlinor

The Archon’s disciple draws closer into view as he ascends the marble staircase to the Godking’s presence chamber. His silhouetted form steps onto the marble landing, like a shadowy mark against the bright morning sun.

As the wizards pass beneath the ancient portal and through the massive timbers of the gate and into the inner court of Seviamos’ presence chamber, chosen of the Sun God, the disciples shadowy silhouette retreats revealing a man of short stature.

His slight physique is secreted behind a concealing crimson robe of soft wool trimmed with black velvet and golden studs. The cowl of his robe is pulled over his head, slightly veiling the features of his face. Hanging from his neck, on a platinum chain, is a disk of pure unblemished silver.

His pace is slow, yet deliberate, his stride exaggerated to keep step with the taller Talqavist. The sounds of his footsteps are muffled under robes. His passing may go unheard were in not for the staccato click of his staff striking the marble floor and echoing through the hall, like a crier announcing his the arrival to the king’s court.

The staff in his left hand is a sight to behold. The gnarled staff is carved from a polished dragon bone etched with writing, spiraling from tip to base. At the base, it is shod with hard, cold iron. At the tip is a large device in the shape of a crescent moon made of silver. Affixed in the center of the crescent moon is large black gemstone: the shardstone Námion. Slender fingers adorned with rings of ebony and gold hold the staff loosely. His fingernails are filed into points and painted black.

Those close enough smell the aromatic yet acrid scent of burnt sage trailing from the young wizard as he passes. Another odor, nearly masked by the gentle aroma of burnt sage, seeps from the black stone affixed atop his staff, the quiet tang of brimstone.

He advances a respectful distance into the hall and stops, while his Archon continues to the sleeping Godking. Under the full illumination of Seviamos’ presence chamber, the features of the wizard’s face become clearer. His eyes, deep-set, narrow, and variegated with gold, examine the room and the audience assembled there. His gaze is dispassionate, analytical, and calculating. The hood of his crimson robe imparts a florid complexion to his oval face and furrowed brow. He wears a neatly groomed beard with two braided tails on either side of his chin, each three to four inches in length and ending with an opal bead.

The wizard remains stoic, waiting respectfully.

Valandil

The being that stands before you has a truly eldritch air about him. His pale aquiline features and pointed ears mark him as a being of legend and a subject of many childhood tales around the hearth. He is stunning to behold indeed in an almost mystical way. His youthful appearance makes him seem to be barely into his twentieth winter; yet his eyes, those ice blue orbs of intensity, tell a completely different story of times past and trials endured. His long hair seems to have been woven from the purest silver. The thin braids along his temples intertwine into a single plait that trails down the center of the rest of his flowing mane.

In looking at his garb you can tell that he takes pride in his appearance. No seamstress or tailor could have possibly crafted so fine an outfit without mystical assistance.

He shadows the Archon Talqavist’s every move clearly marking himself as escort and protector.

He looks around the room with a sense of urgency as if in recognition of a place he has seen before. He scans each of the faces in attendance attempting to recognize someone… anyone, trying to solidify his belief that he has seen this place before.

Yngvarr

One of the monks seated among the group is noteworthy for his long tresses of wild blonde hair. He remains, head bowed, among his fellows, eyes of pale blue intent upon the back of the monk in front of him.

The monks all speak in a low monotone, a prayer to Elai barely audible, but the hum of their collective voices somehow comforting. After the echoes of the quiet chant have vanished into the recesses of the stone chamber, a faint whisper adds a single phrase to their praise of The Creator... "And why is light given to him who suffers and life to the bitter of soul?"