The Lost Ember
There were four artifacts hidden in four cities of unknown purpose which had existed since time immemorial. These were not small items, being about 8 feet across, and they emitted a faint yellowish glow. Their purpose had become unknown, but scholars speculated on what it was. Perhaps they were some remnant from the creation of the universe, or some ancient altar to the gods.
Over a thousand years ago, there were a group of adventurers. They were skilled, and became renowned, and had obtained magical rings giving them the ability to return from death, as if their ring was put on another, they would take control over it and it would change into their own. So great was their power the elves called them the Afluxir, or "exalted ones".
It was not meant to be. They had a falling out over some disagreement over the Ember of the Elven City of Nelfathyr. The Elven Kingdoms and the great empire of Xiem were drawn into this disagreement resulting in a war lasting hundreds of years.
The war only ended with at a stalemate when one of the adventurers, Zaleiria, performed a ritual which summoned the Frost Giant King, and sent the lands into a long winter. This winter only ended when a new hero appeared, Odahardt, who slew the Frost Giant King, and he reunited the lands to reform Xiem as the Kingdom of Xiemia. In time, Elves came to rule these lands.
The Advisor's Tasks
The loremaster for the Queen, Samriel, grew concerned by rumors indicating that the Afluxir had returned.
To the north, a cult had appeared who were aiming to repeat the winter ritual. This seemed to indicate Zaleiria's return. To the south, Evelin had reappeared in a land she had once involved herself in, and had defeated an invading orcish army. Near Xiem itself, Jilla had also appeared briefly with the village of Klioberg being destroyed by demons seeking her, before she disappeared again.
It was unclear if Tygnus or Kaelton had reappeared as well. Kaelton had been the primary driver of the war, with Tygnus supporting him, so if either of them appeared as well, things would probably get very problematic.
Samriel began recruiting both existing royal agents and new to try to prevent the worst. Several existing agents were sent to Salkire to investigate Evelin's reappearance, and several powerful adventurers were recruited to deal with the cult:
- Susan "The Black Wolf", who was searching for missing sisters.
- Max "The Black Tongue" Xanith, who had served the interests of the crown for many years.
- Lerissa Wolfe, who had recently lost a friend to Jilla, one of the Afluxir
- Leriele Brightwood, who was caught around the Ember beneath the palace, and was convinced to find out more about them.
The Ritual on Mount Galen
The group of adventurers teleported to a small town near Mount Galen where rumors of the cult's activity was.
They found evidence that the cult was preparing to perform the ritual, but there was important component to the ritual which required a sword which had been called several things, including the "Sword of Opening" and the "Sword of Woe", because what it opened tended to bring destruction, and it had been used the last time the ritual was performed. They also found Evelin, who had her own suspicions about Zaleiria's involvement.
They group learned that this weapon was in the possession of the Queen of Night and Magic, and they entered the portal into the Feywild in order to try to obtain it from her. The Queen of Night and Magic allowed the group to try to win in competition, as several cultists had already come asking for it.
The task given was to play a trick on the Queen of Night and Magic's estranged husband, the Moonlit King. The group succeeded in the task, but they were too late, and the sword was already gone when they had returned. They did not go without reward though, as they were given Odahardt's hammer, which the story goes, had been used when the frost giant king was slain.
The group hurried back to the peak of Mount Galen, but arrived just too late. There they reunited with Evelin, and together, they slew the frost giant king. Evelin swore she would find Zaleiria, but they also learned that Jilla had been involved in the cult as well.
The Ruins of Nelfathyr
Not far from Mount Galen is the Elven Kingdoms, and there is the birthplace of Zaleiria, and where one of the Embers was rumored to be located. On their way, they met up with with two of Leirele's cousins, Ciel and Penne, who had gotten in themselves in some trouble with the locals.
From there they made their way to Nelfathyr, which was protected by a enormous barrier which Ciel had a solvent which dissolved enough to make a door way which they could enter.
The city had long sunk into the earth, but the group found their way into several parts of the city. There they discovered the ember was actually long gone, but they did discover that a lorenorn still lived in the ruins, and that one of the things the Ember could do was create lichlike lorenorns, who were scribes to important elven councils. The lorenorn claimed he had moved the Ember somehow, and asked for the players to take his life so that he would be gone when Kaelton arrived.
Sure enough, Kaelton had found his way into the city, and he was accompanied by the crown prince of Leruvia, and his twin sister. The players fled back to Xiem.
At Xiem, the group gave their report, and Leirele deduced that Samriel was another Lorenorn. Penne and Ciel returned to theRoyal University to make their own report.
The group that had been sent to Salkire had not reported back, so the group went there next to see what had happened to them. Surely the missing agents had not met Evelin, as the group had already met Evelin.
There they first discovered the small kingdom had been plunged into war due to uncertain succession. They also discovered a group of hags which also seemed interested in Evelin. These hags, uncharacteristically, seemed to be taking orders from another coven, and had been responsible for the deaths of all but one of the agents.
This elder coven seemed very old, and had shrouded themselves in a labyrinth. The players dealt with most of the hags of this coven as well, and recovered a vampire who had been trapped within.
Eventually the vampire revealed that long ago, she had also been sent on a similar quest to uncover the nature of the Afluxir, during the winter. What she had uncovered is that the rings which empowered the Afluxir had come from the hags who had believed the rings were cursed items, and it seemed unlikely they had understood the full power of them.
Jilla in Sheth Saeris
The group returned to Xiem without having any other major leads. Lerissa found a magic dealer, and coincidentally, heard rumor of the names Atterbury and Nembinger in Sheth Saeris, who was a known associate of Jilla. In time, Lerissa also trained and helped the magic dealer's son make his own pact with her patron. Lierelle was also visited by a black cat, which offered its own cryptic hints.
Sure enough, Jilla was in Sheth Saeris, and the group ambushed her and killed her. On a following day, they returned to determine what Jilla had been doing, and discovered there had been later some sort of meeting between Jilla's associates and Kaelton and Tygnus, which the exact nature was unclear. Additionally, an agent of Nephmeros, the demon lord of destruction, had been involved somehow. Atterbury remained at large, but his hatred of Lierelle was his own downfall, when the group was forced to confront him.
With Jilla's ring in their possession, it was unclear what to do next. Lerissa's research had indicated it may be possible to expel the soul from a ring, but it would take powerful ritual to perform which required the grace of a celestial as one of the reagents. Meanwhile, Max, who belonged to a secret society of mages within the Royal University, also had some sort of plan to deal with the ring.
Lerissa attempted to recover the grace of celestial, but was unsuccessful and ended up in a soul gem when Max had to rescue her, so Max's plan won out. However, he ended up betraying the secret society when their plans for the ring appeared far more sinister, involved in empowering the ring with souls in an attempt to study it. He recovered the ring and hid it. Due to a strange coincidence of events involving him possessing Lerissa's body, the mages in the secret society ended up blaming Lerissa for the betrayal, believing Max had actually been earlier slain by Lerissa.
The mages then raided Lerissa's shop, but not before the black cat appeared briefly to warn the party.
Samriel told the players he had not seen Vander Xilvaris, the Lord of Magic, in several time, but his counsel was required, and suggested he may be in Valentia. Additionally, he had heard that Serveil of Eastwood, one of Susan's old enemies, was also in Valentia.
Vander was not in Valentia, but Serviel was expecting them, and the group slew him when he attacked them. Furthermore while he had memories of the war temple where Susan's sisters had disappeared, they appeared to be false memories, likely by Haria Venfiel, a warlock.
While in Valentia, there was also a martial arts tournament, which Lerissa won by turning into a giant carnivorous lizard monster. There were other powerful contestants, including Jacoby, and "The Bladed Construct", which seemed to have been associated with Odahardt long ago.
Chaos in Xiem
The group returned to Xiem at Samriel's urgent word via sending stone, and upon returning, the group found the city was under attack by a small group led by Tygnus. Samriel was slain, and the queen was kidnapped, but Vander returned briefly to tell the party that he believed that the incompetent spymaster had been involved, and suggested how Tygnus might be found.
Max and Lierelle confronted Tygnus, discovering him as one of the top crime lords of the under council, but was not able to recover the queen, the best option being to turn her into an insect in hopes she would get away. Unprepared to fight Tygnus, they left. The black cat was seen again, briefly, apparently to observe.
Meanwhile, Lerissa and Susan went to Kitzsee to check in on Lerissa's sister. Lerissa's sister was fine, but Kitzsee was not. It appeared, however, that the mages of Kitzsee had survived the antimagic plague on the city, and had a plan to deal with it. Lerissa did also uncover that the Lord of Magic had some yet unrevealed plan for her.
The group got back together, and confronted Tygnus again, who had taken up residence in the throne room. He taunted the party, but ready to fight him this time, the group was able to slay him. The group then tied his ring to an elemental and imprisoned him on a pocket plane.
The group then found the spymaster, and interrogated him. The city had been being inflicted by a mysterious sickness that drove people into a rage, and traced it to one of the spymaster's associates, which the group also dealt with.
The city at this point was at the verge of collapse, and Tygnus's plan had succeeded, as it was all to make the city ready for an invasion by an Leruvian army. It seems also, the Queen had ended up in Hurtlepool, and was not far behind with an army of her own. The group dealt with the invading army on their own, and the crown prince of Leruvia, Cory, was killed by Lerissa who had turned herself into a dragon. To prevent forcibly end the Leruvian's war against Xiem, they they then deal with Diana in Leruvia as well, and Lerissa replaced her with a simulacrum. Lerissa turns the real Diana into a small statue.
The Ember's Purpose
The group saw alarming signs coming from the Elven Kingdoms. Elven refugees claimed that the night wall was moving inward. They also heard Kaelton had been heading east, as well.
They attempted to teleported into Nelfathyr, but ended up trapped into the decaying remnants of reality. After spending some time trying to navigate the darkening mists, they found what looked to be the destroyed remains of the Ember, as well as Vander's body.
A elven woman was there as well, but she spoke what seemed to be a long lost dialect of elvish which the group was not able to initially comprehend. With a telepathic bond spell, they were able to finally communicate with her, and discovered she had once been the sole inhabitant of the Ember, and she had spent many tens of thousands of years as if dreaming.
At last, the meaning of the Embers was revealed.
A long time ago, her people had been at the losing end of a war, and fled their world into emptiness between reality itself. With the embers they made a new reality, and what was referred to as the prime material plane was itself a fabrication. The entirety of the known world was space made real by the embers, of which there were once five.
The man known as Kaelton was a lie. His true identity was Theodred, who had inhabited another ember, and escaped. The rings themselves were pieces of an ember that had been refashioned in order to hold a soul, or possibly several, which Theodred had crafted. When the Afluxir had put on the rings, they were empty, except one which was already inhabited by Theodred, and Theodred had destroyed Kaelton the moment the ring was put on, and somehow, Theodred had kept Kaelton's form.
And Theodred...he loved this woman in the ember, who calls herself Madlyn. And out of his devotion for her, he sought to free her too. He came for her, but she fled him, and Theodred is in the mists of this decaying land still.
Theodred returns from the unreality mists, and the group escapes him.
The group returns to Xiem to find that weeks have passed since they first left, and someone was waiting for their return, attacking the tower Max had built.
To Max's surprise, the attacker is his uncle, who had been part of the secretive group of mages Max had betrayed. Apparently his uncle had become increasingly desperate to avenge his nephew and recover Jilla's ring, and had made a deal with Nephmeros.
This was a concern, as Max had stashed Jilla's ring on another plane, and upon checking it...it was gone. Lerissa had heard that Afluxir could sometimes actually recreate their bodies without needing a donor body. Likewise, the prison for Tygnus was now empty as well...and there was evidence Theodred had been able to recover it somehow.
If Jilla really had been able to return by her own will, this was a problem, because it suggested Theodred could as well. Worse, there was the number of rings Theodred had created. In total there were five rings, and originally, before Theodred had broke out of his own ember, there were five embers. This suggested he would not stop at liberating Madlyn. Lerissa did not particularly like to suggest it as a plan...but if Madlyn were dead, permanently somehow, Theodred's will to return might be broken.
Looking for more answers, Leirele spoke to a now resurrected Samriel, and he finally tells her a detail he neglected to reveal earlier. He knew Zaleiria, and he is frightened of her. He was part of a group sent to Xiem to arrest her, but instead she slew several of them, turned him into a lorenorn, and granted the others lands in the new kingdom. Zaleiria had been one of the companions of Odahardt, but with Odahardt now dead, she had seized control.
The question then turned to Vander's doings, and with his corpse, the group resurrected him, and Max used a dominate spell on him.
Vander had secrets. Zaleiria had grown strong enough to grant pacts to warlocks of her own, and he was her agent in Xiem. Constantly she had used him to nudge the group into different directions. She was also using him to mislead the group on one detail important to another. Zaleiria was responsible for Susan's death. Zaleiria was also in Bresso, and was planning some sort of world changing ritual. The group now had two problems to deal with.
Vander was not Zaleiria's only warlock. Haria Venfiel was one as well. So was Lerissa, and Lerissa told the group this as she now had decided to betray her patron. Things had gotten complicated for Lerissa, as Lerissa's original patron had fallen victim to Nephmeros in Nephmeros's goal to gain leverage over Lerissa, but Zaleiria had offered to make her own pact with Lerissa, cutting Nephmeros off. Things were still complicated for Lerissa.
Of course, the cat Leirelle has been speaking to is Zaleiria's own familiar.
The group agreed that ending Madlyn's life is out of the question, and even if they did, it would require surrendering her to Zaleria, as apparently permanently destroying someone's soul is yet another one of their powers.
Max used a spell to pull a detail of legendary lore out. Theodred's mission to recover Madlyn had started many tens of thousands of years ago, and in an event beyond memory, the Queen of Night and Magic had used three of her warlocks to stop Theodred. And then those warlocks kept those rings secret, and become the elder coven seen previously.
The group returned to the Feywild to seek whatever boon they could in stopping Theodred. Over the objections of another one of the other fey, the Queen of Night and Magic suggested she would provide something that would help, if only the group were to perform a task of her first.
The task was to go to a location, and kill whoever showed up there as well. When the group arrived, there was no one there, until the other fey arrived. Her name was Irene, and the group found out she was secretly the consort of Nephmeros.
After performing the task, the group returned to the Queen of Night and Magic, and she offered two things. First was a set of wooden charms to be worn around the neck which would prevent an Afluxir from consuming a target's soul. The second was words for Madlyn...as she was the one who possessed another way to prevent Theodred from wanting to return to the world.
Madlyn understood that.
Restoring the Ember
Evelin had discovered where Zaleiria was as well, and met the group in a small village outside of Bresso. The group convinced her to help with Theodred first, and then Zaleiria would be dealt with, and perhaps, Susan would be able to get her sisters back. Norla, the vampire from the coven, had come along as well, and was watching over Madlyn.
It became clear Theodred already knew where they were, and he was not going to be stopped in getting Madlyn back. The group could come out and fight him and Tygnus, or wait for them to attack, and they chose to walk out and fight him.
The fight is not long, and Theodred fails to kill any of the group, and the wooden charms protects one of them from their soul being claimed.
With Theodred's ring now in the group's possession, it is time to return Madlyn to her ember, as Theodred also had an important item in his possession which seems to be able to have some limited manipulation over ember matter.
In the reformed ember, not only does Madlyn return, but also Theodred's ring. Theodred's wish to be reunited is at long last fulfilled, but not in the way he had once sought.
There is one last loose end. Zaleiria is still in Bresso, and her ritual is at the verge of completion.
From what can be understood, the roots of the ritual are deep in the city, and attempting to unravel it is risky, likely causing the ritual to act prematurely instead. The sinister purpose of the ritual would be a sacrifice and gathering of the soul of every inhabitant of the city, which had become swollen with refugees.
And so, Susan, Lerissa, Leriele, Max, Norla, and Evelin go to confront Zaleiria.
Zaleiria does not capitulate. Susan does not get to see her sisters again this day. Max's soul is taken when he possesses one the Zaleiria's guardsmen, leaving the protection of the wooden charm. Leriele falls but is healed back up by Norla. Lerissa destroys a Staff of the Magi to inflict an explosion on Zaleiria, and is teleported away by the magical explosion.
Zaleiria is wounded, but still stands, and Evelin reveals she was given a sword by some third party. The Sword of Opening or Woe, and she stabs it into the ground, summoning a powerful fiend from the underworld.
Zaleiria falls, and the ritual activates.
Bresso is gone and replaced by a massive cloud of magic energy.
Somehow, save from Max, each member of the group has escaped.
Lerissa gets her revenge and finally takes down Jilla, although it almost blows her cover as the true power behind the throne of Leruvia.
Susan retires to the frozen north, alone.
Norla now serves Xiem, bringing with her, the now despondent Evelin.
Leriele awakens on a beach. The cat is there.