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Prophecy: Janus Farron
You are persistent my brother, I will give you that. It was only a matter of time before you decided to come north in search of me. I did not expect you to bring the might of your entire army. The Bane sworn you command have done an efficient job of routing my army so I must give credit where it is due. You Tristan Farron are truly the champion of Bane, you have earned your title well, and have to be one of the best generals of this age. Your god would be proud of such a worthy disciple. However your greatest weakness is that you are a Farron.

You will overreach in your attempt to destroy me, putting everything at risk for one final fight. A battle so vast and epic, the heavens themselves will be watching. Your ego will be appeased with nothing less than Armageddon.

So I sit back in my frozen kingdom, reinvigorated by the challenge that awaits me. The Brothers of blood pitted against each other in a final fight. Your have the stronger army brother… superior numbers, and the best tactical minds of the Realm, and yet you do not know what I have become….

I am an enigma even to myself, not fully understanding the powers I posses. The divine energy has overtime distorted my human shell, tearing rivets in my body trying to release its self. Light leaks from open wounds illuminating the darkness of my solitude. It doesn’t hurt anymore, and maybe soon I will no longer have to contain it.

Either way I accept your challenge. I will send what is left of my troops to meet their bloody end at the hands of the Bane Sworn. I will watch you cut my army to ribbons, hopefully giving you a sense of glory before you face me.

May your gods be with you Tristan Farron and bare witness to a truly terrible war…
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Epilogue of a Champion: Tristan Farron
Tristan sat behind a desk overwhelmed with documents and papers of import. All of them relaying various forms of information from supply lines to troop advancements to his own army’s moral. Tallyn stood in front of him talking in a matter of fact tone regarding what their next plan of attack should be, but he blocked it out. He turned his gaze towards Dierdre, who was going through training motions in the courtyard with some of the new recruits; she loved to punish those poor fools, especially the ones who didn’t learn quickly enough. Tristan couldn’t help but smile, anything that brought her pleasure equally did the same for him.

“Ser?...ser!” Tallyn snapped,” you’re not listening, if we moved he-“

“Yes, yes Tallyn, if we moved south and blocked off the road from these savages then we would be able to deal a nasty blow to them, capture their supplies and potentially claim all the territories north of our position. I’ve heard the story before.”

Tallyn pursed her lips, a definite scowl adorned her face and continued to darken with every word that Tristan spoke.

“You are the champion of Bane…m’lord. Not some simple warmonger or second son of a rightful heir-king. You are destined to conquer…to rule those weaker then yourself.”

Tristan nodded absently, and glanced at the map of his domain. He traced his fingers along the border of his ill-gotten kingdom, already vast compared to what accomplishments most men had made in these lands in their own lifetimes. While the heat of battle and the quickening that made his blood race was always inciting him to move from one skirmish to the next he never felt quite the same that he did that day with Skater….with Janus.

“Send a truce, and a messenger Tallyn.” Tristan said, turning away from his general as he spoke.

Tallyn simply blinked. “A…messenger…ser? Surely you jest?”

Tristan stopped abruptly and sighed, a deep heavy thing that racked his entire body. “No, Tallyn I do not. The lord of battle loses favor with me. Though I send fresh souls to the underworld daily, it as if I am leading lambs to the slaughter. These warriors hold no challenge for me, and I do not feel that I claim ownership of the title while I kill so easily. “

Flashes of his almost death at the hands of Sather and his brother crossed his vision. “I am to conquer… conquer. What good is such a thing if I sit atop a horse and watch as I carve out a kingdom for myself with the blood of others? No more.”

Tallyn raised an eyebrow, but Tristan could see that she was beginning to understand.

“I’m getting older Tallyn, and I do not wish to die a fat drunkard. War is the only wife I shall know… “ Again his gaze was cast towards Dierdre but broken easily as thoughts of a true conflict entered his mind. “I need a challenge; I need a true offering to Bane…but what? The world has grown soft in the absence of strife; shall I be the man who brings it back to this world? Is that the cost of my thirst being sated?”

Tallyn said nothing although Tristan knew the answer.

“So be it. Let us find a true war then Tallyn…what say you?”
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Tags: Retirement
Becoming a God: Janus Farron
I watched from afar as Tristan delivered the final blow to Scather. His sword being the focal point for a bolt of white lighting that burnt and scattered the mass that was Scather. It was over; I had seen it through to the end. The sun had risen, and Scather was nothing but ashes.

Upon his death, power rippled forth and exploded across the battlefield. It whisked past Janus, circling around him , teasing him like that of a lovers caress. Whispers played upon his ears, speaking of power and control. Speaking of even greater revenge to those who had wronged him… Janus reached out and wrapped the threads of power around his hand and pulled them close.

Ironic… They never seemed to figure it out. Scather had known that it is extreamly difficult to kill an immortal, the best solution is to simply imprision them. Otherwise the power will find someone else willing to accept it.

The threads of force wrapped tightly around Janus as two sources of energy tried to unite. Primal force and hellish rage bound into one being. They twisted around each other, only touching slightly at first, testing one another. Then suddenly they formed, gathering together in a pattern that only Janus could see. Bright vivid colors of charcoal black, emerald green, and blood red swirled together. In a rush they entered back into his body leveling him to the ground.

In this body the two sources would be at home. Both raged through Janus’s mind like a storm, burning away what was left of any conscious or remorse. He was empty, no regrets. He would no longer be bothered by the betrayal of his comrades, or the harsh reality of his failure… He just didn’t care anymore.

Janus stands up and grabs Exodus. He walks from the edges of the battlefield toward the throne that awaits him. Borghilder is not that far away..
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Chapter LI: The Fall of Zehir
The eve before the battle was met with cautious optimism. They had their armies. The Warmaster, Titus Garibaldi, had returned. Banesworn, Rankans, and Hawkmasks stood together. And a new army approached from the east. Their leaders entered the camp and approached the heroes, “I see a number of wyvern’s on the horizon. The way I hear it, rangers are a dragon’s bane.” Titus was dumbfounded, “Gaelen..how?--” “Pov, the Hawk. I am Gaelen’s brother, come to honor his pact with you. Our leader wishes to speak.” An older man lifted his hood, “I am no longer a mere kittykat. My mongoose rangers are prepared to finish this war.” Prince Kafen Theron, heir to the Rankan Empire stood before them. Titus was renewed with confidence, “We welcome your aid, old friend.”

Aase was not as confident as his companions. He slipped into the forest to commune for a time. Iceclaw and Lairleaf approached to speak, “I owe you an apology, earthfriend. I believed you were no better than the monsters you fight. You have proved me wrong time and again, and I thank you for that insight. My brethren will fight for you in this battle.” Aase shook his head at Iceclaw’s promise, “No, my brother. You may fight alongside me, but you do not follow me.”

All was well until Janus' arrival. His lust for vengeance was palpable. He could sense in Dawn the glow of Pelor, “You. You took it from me. You betrayed me!” Dawn shook his head, “I am sorry you feel—“ “YOU KNOW NOTHING OF WHAT I FEEL! Each of you have betrayed me. Aase called me friend, then labeled me a thief, only to hand you the power that you craved—“

“ENOUGH”, Tristan stepped out of the tent, wielding Achra, “Janus, your whining is not welcome here!” “Brother. You, most of all, betrayed me. You killed our…my mother and did nothing to atone for it. You said nothing when the truth was revealed. I tire of this talk. I am the path to victory. You are pebbles in my way. Dispater! Let us end this!” Dispater appeared, sending leagues of fiendish warriors to attack the army. Njoror rushed from the portal, “Aase! Fight me!”

Janus acted with deft precision, locking down Tristan, drawing Titus into fire, and ultimately felling Dawn, “Bow to me, or Dawn dies. I am vengeance!” Tristan saw in Titus the doubt that nearly took him, “No! Titus, do not give in!” He leapt forward, slicing the ring from Titus’ finger. Titus gasped in agony, “Thank you…old friend..I never told you that…” Exodus plunged into Dawn’s chest, drawing the light from his body, “You should have bowed. I have succeeded!” A flash of light blinded Janus, and before him stood Raylos, Ohderik, and Sarah

Raylos
No, Janus, you have not succeeded. I failed. I failed to be there for you. Failed to raise you up and give you the life you deserved. Your path is my greatest failure…my legacy.


Ohderik
I failed to be the father you needed. I was too frought with lust to be honest with you. I trained you in a lie and set you on this path. I failed you. You are my guilt.


Sarah
My boy. I sought, in you, vengeance. I failed to protect you and nurture your love. You never knew kindness or love. You only knew my vengeance. You are my greatest sorrow.


“No! You’re wrong… You are all wrong! I am vengeance! I am the scion! I will…”, Janus looked at Dawn’s lifeless body, “No…. this was never my goal… Dispater, I must think. Finish this, and then seek me out.”

Aase continued to struggle with Njoror while Tristan fought Dispater. He retreated to a nearby river crossing, hoping Njoror’s weight might send him down-river. Titus lay dying on the ground. He reached for his old sword, “Sol… you think you have enough in you to save that kid? I should have died many years ago. Thanks to you, I saw my wife once more. That was more than any man should hope for.” “You were a worthy celebrant, Titus. It was an honor to serve you.” The sword drew Titus’ soul from his body and poured it into Dawn’s corpse. The monk drew in breath. He could hear the sound of battle. Hobart spoke softly, “Get up. I will see you in a moment. This was never your time.” “Get your sorry ass up and help, Dawn!” He could hear Tristan loud and clear.

Dawn sprang into action, assaulting Dispater with a flurry of blows. In a moment, it was over. Dispater made a desperate strike that was easily deflected by the monk, “You deserve so much more than death, but you’re not worth the effort.” With that, dawn crushed the Lord of Deceit’s throat beneath his boot. He then rushed to aid Aase against Njoror on the bridge.

“Raaaugh!!”, Njoror bellowed, “I shall kill you like I did your bitch of a woman! Say hello to Aggrona for me!” Aase’s eyes narrowed. This was no time for tears, no time for sorrow. The behemoth had to die. An assault of strikes left Njoror stunned for a volley from Dawn. With Dispater dead, Njoror was weakened… The final strike sent him over the bridge and into the river.

It was over, for now. Melerra rushed through an open portal to see her husband’s body. Tallyn and Kafen entered from the main camp to see the slaughter, “We suffered heavy losses, but the devils were defeated.” Tristan turned to Tallyn, “Prepare the troops. We march now.”

-=-=-=-


The armies met on the plains of battle. Thothamon offered them the chance to surrender and leave for the North. “Not this time. It ends here. Skather dies, or we die; nothing less.” The heroes nodded at Dawn’s grim words, “If you wish to avoid needless death, we’ll challenge Skather and his champions to a duel. Winner takes all.” Skather appeared, all too suddenly, “I accept your offer, Monk.”

The heroes united against Skather, Thothamon, and his Ssarpacala. Hobart arrived to aid in the battle, “She has an interest in the outcome. Tristan broke the lines of fate, thus she has asked me to intervene and aid you.”


Hobart struck true against Thothamon, watching him bleed out on the battlefield. Aase and Melerra dominated the Yuan-ti, while Tristan and Dawn struck telling blows against Skather. Skather, however, was a formidable enemy. Between his spells and Thothamon’s power, Dawn fell, Is this it? Is this where I die, Kalnor?

Kalnor
It is possible. You have done much. Some might say too much. Death does not mean you failed. No one expected more of you than you gave.


No, that’s not true. Anthony believed we would succeed; he gave his life for it. Aase believed we would succeed; he gave me the tear to do so. Tristan believed we would succeed; he lost everything but his convictions. Even Janus, for a brief moment, believed we would succeed; that is why he asked me to take his place. No. Failure is not an option; not here, not today.

Kalnor
Then get up.


“Get up, Dawn! We’re almost through!”, he could hear Aase’s words. Lightning struck his chest, Huh…even Bane thinks I have a chance…

Dawn stood, “Let’s dance.”

Tristan struck true with Achra, plunging the blade into Skather’s chest, “You fool. You have no idea what you’ve done.” Skather laughed, and then unleashed his true form, a mountain of snakes creating a beast of unspeakable horror.

Hobart watched Thothamon. His eyes began to wander, “It’s time, Thothamon. Follow the spirits. Go home.” Life escaped Thothamon with his last breath. His body hit the ground, never to move again.

All turned their attention to the vassal of Zehir. Each took a flank and began hacking through the endless mass of snakes. Tristan screamed in defiance and clambered atop the pile, “You die here and now!” Lightning struck his blade before he sundered the face of Skather.


Skather lay destroyed. The power of Zehir was fading. Was it possible? Did they actually succeed? Without Zehir’s dominance, the yuan-ti lost their lust for battle. With a nod from Thariss, the yuan-ti began their long journey home.

The Raven Queen was almost sated. Only one more immortal remained. Dawn turned to go home, “I promised I would release the power. Can I do so where it all started?” Hobart shook his head, saddened, “I am sorry, but she demands the line of immortals ends here.” His blade dove deep into Dawn's chest, releasing the pact with Pelor.

As he lay dying, he had one request, "Tristan...Take me home."

Quote: Dusk
[color=”cyan”]
You are home, my brother. Our fate was sealed the moment we were born. With Skather defeated, we can return to the sky. You as protector of the Sun, scion of Pelor. Me as protector of the Moon, guardian of Selune.[/color]



Aase picked up Dawn's body and began walking east. Iceclaw moved beside him, "This is not a burden you will face alone. Allow me to carry our savior for a time." Aase tried to smile, “I welcome your company, my friend. By the way, where was Bastigen in all of this?” The wolf chuckled and shrugged, “She sleeps through winter.”

Melerra looked down at the lifeless body of Thothamon; Wizard; Blue Star Adept. Though dead, his thoughts lingered....A way into the Quorum laid only a few leagues to the south.

Tallyn addressed Tristan, "There are more battles to fight, Champion. You seek an empire; we are the blades you will carve it with." "And you will do it with me at your side", Dierdre, no longer a devil nodded to him, "I believe it is time you let down your guard and kissed me."

Hobart smiled. Had he known all along that he was destined to kill Dusk, he probably wouldn't have apologized.
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Janus Farron: Exodus
Memories are like sharp daggers in my back.
They replay through my mind like the ever turning pages of time, allowing me to only see the “what could have been”.
A future once illuminated, now darkened and consumed by hate and failure

The dagger which killed me is a blackened ugly thing.
Composed of my closest friends and family.
The armor that should have saved me was trust, but it rusted and fell to pieces long ago.

Now I ride in this new world with my head held high.
With regret as my steed, and she never tires.
The cobblestone path we follow is my faith, which crumbles beneath us with each step we take.

My world is now a song of vengeance.
Doubting any chance for Penitence.
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Don't Gloat: Aase
Hobart, we all have our reasons for what we have done. You have accomplished what you set out to do. It is honorable. Yet, my people are still enslaved. I would have thought that Dispater's powers would be tied to Asmodeous, but it seems not so. In my eyes, you have redeemed yourself. The primals do not have to keep guard of what lies beneath. To them, an old friend has been returned, by you, and another by Dawn.

For all that we have accomplished, still I find myself in disarray. Without the Yssge, who will honor the primals? The Raven Queen has been revived to her former self, yet the Yuan-ti still are without Sset. All will have to rebuild, but some without a foundation. We head North to fight two armies. I cannot imagine killing more Yssge. The mighty clans of Yssgeland are no more. We have even lost a primal father. Victory may shine from your heart Hobart, but mine is still defeated.
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Hobart: A simple thank you would be nice...
Hobart watched The Raven Queen leave through the same portal he had just appeared from. Smiling, he turned towards his companions, once more he felt at home.
"Aase, when last we spoke you said some very hurtful things to me. I understand why you said them, and I'll never ask you to take them back. But you must understand I did what I did for a reason. I knew long before then that I would kill Asmodeus. I just did not know how. It has been my goal all along, since I was a child when HE first came to me. He told me I would worship him, that one day I would grow to love him as a child loves his father. It was then that he showed me the powers I possess. But I did not grow to love him, quite the opposite, I hated that man, for I did not know he was a God not for some time. But once I found out who HE was and what HE stood for I stopped using my fiery powers. For that was how HE tracked me. A long time I hid. And until we all found each other in Rivertown I promised myself I would never use them again. But fate had other plans for me, for us all."
Hobart slowly walked towards Dawn placing his hand on his shoulder.
"Dawn, once again I have killed your sister."
Hobart was on his knee now, looking down at the ground under Dawn's feet.
"I'm sorry, I gave her life back to her but only to take it once more. I pray you understand she sacrificed herself to help me. To save us. She loved you very much, she asked me to tell you that. And to tell you she voluntarly laid her life down, to bring me Achra. She believed in me, knew I would slay that Bastard." And with that word he spat on the ground, he stood and nodded at Dawn, as to say 'I understand you may hate me, but please understand.'
Hobart turned once more, looking for Tristan. "Tristan, my brother, even in death you would not leave me alone." Hobart took the letter from his belt and showed Tristan. "Thank you, even after the shit I said to you, you believed in me...Thank you."

After a long pause and many glances around he spoke again..."Where is Janus, and Anthony? I was truly hoping to see them alive and well...but...I did not see them in Hell..." with a laugh "have you pissed them off so badly they left you as well? However, Robb its good to see you again. Glad you could help them out again. I see after I leave it takes 'many' to fill my place. Forgive me," he looks at Melerra and Logge, "I am Hobart Longbow, brother to the Farrons, the Raven Queen's Hearld, and her Archangel of Death, but these titles mean nothing. Nothing compared to this, I am a friend." Glancing around at everyone now, "It's nice to be home again."
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Chapter LIV: Old Enemies -- New Allies
The temple was silent. It was an obvious trap--one that the heroes could not choose to avoid. As they ascended the stairs in the final room, they spotted Skather's tear. Only, this tear was different. Something had been done to increase its size and trap something within. Dawn and Tristan quickly rushed up the stairs to get a better view of the ominous crystal. They were stunned at the sight.

"Titus?", gasped Tristan louder than he intended. This, of course, sent Melerra running up to see for herself. Held within the corrupted crystal was her husband and the Dawn-Celebrant, Titus Garibaldi, "Titus..."

The great doors on the opposite side of the citadel flung open allowing Rathamon his grand entrance, "And so I say once more; Who will be the first to bow?" Tristan drew his blade, "I've met with the Raven Queen. I know your fate ends here. With my father's blade, I shall kill you."

Yuan-ti and Beysibian guards flooded the room and attacked from all angles. Aase and Dawn kept the top of the citadel clear of enemies while Logge and Robb made short work of Rathamon's minions. Tristan and Melerra worked in concert to bring down the tyrant.

Melerra. She heard her name calling from beyond. Melerra! Titus? He was alive! Turning her focus toward the crystal, Melerra let out a wave of emotional power, cracking the obelisk. A rush of radiant energy began to fill the room. "Dawn, is it? You better perform that ritual." Titus stood, air filling his lungs. How long had it been? Melerra and Tristan looked no different, yet there was something...

Tristan seized the moment, leaping down to finish a promise he made in another time. As they battled along the floor, Aase and Logge finished off the remaining minions, leaving only Rathamon. His focus, however, was no longer on Tristan. He battled past the champion with a sudden surge, "[FONT="Impact"]You will not summon the Sun! We will not be defeated again![/FONT]" The warlord lept into the air bringing the full force of his fullblade down upon Dawn's head--

--"BAAAAAANE! Suffer this coward no longer!", the scream filled the cavernous hall. Tristans howl brought down radiant lightning, repeatedly striking Rathamon, "[FONT="Impact;">...no...
"

Light filled the room, then focused inward on Dawn. The monk absorbed all light until everything went black. His head arched to the heavens as he expunged the radiant power of Pelor, hurling it toward the sky. The clouds rolled back freeing the Sun from his imprisonment. The ritual was completed. Two ghostly images from Rathamon's past appeared before him. Tempus Thales bound his left arm. Raylos Farron bound his right. "It is done", Raylos looked to his son and smiled.

Behind Rathamon another appeared. She was clothed in black, with a dark raven upon her shoulder,


The Raven Queen
Well done, Tristan. Now for the second part of our pact.


As she turned her attention toward Dawn, another gate opened. This time, one from the Hells. Hobart stepped through. In his right hand was Achra, burning his arm to a crisp. In his left was the head of Asmodeus, "You need a godsweapon to kill a god...or one that's tasted the blood of a god. Thank you for trusting me. Here's your sword." Hobart tossed Achra to his brother. "As for you, mistress. Asmodeus is dead, your domain awaits. Would you come home?"

The Raven Queen turned to Hobart,

The Raven Queen
Impressive, young Farron. You have done something none thought possible, least of all myself. In life you sought an army, but it is in death that you will succeed. Be my herald, my Angel of Death.


"I would be honored to lead your army." Hobart smiled wide.

As The Raven Queen departed, one more revelation was witnessed. Asmodeus was dead. He no longer claimed Sarah's soul. Raylos cried as his love was returned after death and hell. They embraced as they were lifted into the sun.

The heroes stood victorious, yet there was still more to do. Dispater yet lived, and had an army of his own. Thothamon marshalled the Beysibian army toward Northwatch with Skather in tow. It wasn't over.... but it soon would be.
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Chapter LIV: However Long the Night, the Dawn Will Break
The defenses in Northwatch were pitiful. Aase surveyed the land with a heavy heart. They will not survive this battle. He lept off the guard's wall and began shaping the earth. If Skather wants a battle, I will give him the greatest battlefield. Should he live, he will remember this place.

Meanwhile, Dawn and Melerra spoke with Alphonse on the plans for defense. Alphonse, though burdened with leading the last remaining Rankans to their death, was cautiously optimistic upon meeting the heroes, "Tell me, did you succeed at gaining aid from the Yssge? How many should we expect?" Dawn still looked stunned, "We will have warriors... But they will not be Yssge. They have been corrupted by Dispater. Janus brings them south for the battle."

"Janus? What happened..", Alphonse did not finish his sentence. The look on Tristan's face said everything; Janus knelt before Dispater. "...Then we are doomed."

"I do not believe so. We have lost Janus, yes. However, we can still perform the ritual and free Pelor." Dawn stood confident, "I will have everything required when I leave here. There are those who would fight against the Beysibian army if they could see again. We do require aid from the Blue Star, however."

Damir entered after hearing that, "And what more could we do for you? We made an agreement that defied our laws, only to see Janus betray us. How can you ask more of us?" Melerra spoke up, "If I could see my son, he could provide us with everything we need." Damir shook his head, "You should stop referring to Duomar as your son. He is no longer Anthony. The magic that keeps him going will consume the very essence of Anthony Garibaldi. He is dangerous. That is why we locked him away. I cannot permit you to see him."

Melerra's anger was growing, "Let me see my son."

"That I cannot do, I am sorry. I will, however, provide you with the travel you require to Ranke. We can use the quorum to do so."

After Damir left, Melerra quietly stood and retired to her room. The next hour would be spent breaking everything in her path.

The final key was in the courtyard. As Dawn approached Ohderik, he questioned how to make such a request, "Ohderik, if I could have a word. We are departing on a dangerous mission and--"

"--And you want to know if I will sacrifice myself to reform the Lightbringers?" Ohderik was nothing if not Laconic.

Dawn was a bit taken back by his grim interruption, "...Yes. It is a burden I would not ask anyone to accept. Unfortunately, the circumstances are dire." Ohderik faced the monk to look directly into his eyes, "I have prepared myself for this task the better part of thirty years. It was my only goal. Now that the time comes, I will say yes. Not because I wish to save the world or defeat Skather. No, I only do this because it means that I cease to exist. I do not wish an afterlife where I cannot see Sarah, Janus, or my son...Hobart. I care nothing for this world, but I will see to my duty." Dawn nodded, "That is all I can ask. We leave shortly."

-=-=-=-=-

Once prepared, the heroes stepped through the gate created by Damir, "Do as I say. Do not open any doors unless I instruct you to do so."

The metaphysical world of the quorum was akin to never-ending vertigo. The heroes walked down a spinning corridor filled with doors. As they passed one, Melerra felt the presence of the quorum members. She opened the door and lept through.


Quorum
Why have you entered our domain? You are not permitted here.

"I must speak with my son. Please...

Quorum
what is the purpose? You cannot undo what he has done. Duomar will not let him go. Rather, he will make the same offer to you, which you would accept, falsely believing you could save him.

"Please.. I must see him. If only for a moment. I have to know there is nothing more I can do."

Quorum
Very well. But do not stay long, for he will not want you to leave. Duomar needs a new body, and will ask for yours.


Melerra found herself standing in a dusty library, across from an old man. He was preoccupied with a book and failed to see her arrival.
"Anthony? Is that you?" Melerra stepped forward slowly, mindful of the quorum's warning. The old man turned toward her, showing a pallid face living well beyond its time. There was no eye in the left socket, instead a pale yellow glow emanated from within, "Mother...Are you the-our-my mother? I-we-are-should-be-me-I am surprised to see you? Why are you here?" Duomar struggled for control of his host, "Do you have secrets to share? Knowledge, maybe? We-I love knowledge. Or do you come seeking my-our knowledge? Would you trade us-we-me-I for it?"

"I am so sorry, Anthony." Melerra reached out and touched the face, as Duomar called his guardians to restrain her. "I love you." Duomar blinked at that statement, "Mother? You succeded? I-we are-am happy to hear....please, go save dad.."

"Titus is alive?!!?" Before she could say anything further, the quorum pulled her from the library. She was back in the hallway with the others as they walked through the gate into a bar in Ranke.

Two Beysibian guards moved toward the party, but fell silently before they could raise an alarm. The bartender motioned them over and poured some drinks, "Fancy entrance. I'm a bit surprised to see you all alive. Melerra."

Melerra gave a curt nod, "Matilda." "Jubal?" said Tristan. "If we can dispense with the formalities, I suspect you are here to do something drastic and stupid. Lucky for you, I specialize in both drastic and stupid."

Dawn spoke up, "We intend on freeing Pelor. Also, there are some captives we need to free. Would you know where they are located?" Tilly smiled, "Matter of fact, I do. They will be located in the Barrack's jail, south of here. You will need our help to get there." Melerra, once again, spoke up, "There is one more thing. I believe Titus may still be alive, held captive somewhere in the city." Tilly's eyes narrowed, "If you were anyone else, you'd be dead for saying that."

A quick and quiet trip through a maze of tunnels brought the heroes to the barracks. "We will provide a distraction for you. Once we begin, there is no turning back. Head directly for the temple after you finish here. We will provide the path."

The guards never saw it coming. One hundred explosions rocked the city as the heroes ascended the steps to the jail. With fierce efficiency, the Beysibians were brought to the floor. The guards inside were more resilient, but still no match for the party's rage.

Once all were dead, Tristan freed Na'Kar, "I've come for my sword." "Only way to have it is to take it." replied a smirking Na'Kar. Tristan's voice lowered to a deep growl, "I do not wish to dance with you again, but I will."

"That will not be necessary, Tristan", said Dusk, appearing from the shadows. In her hands, wrapped in a blanket, was his sword. It called to him, "My sword." Dusk stepped back, "Do you trust him, Tristan? He wanted me to ask you if you trusted him." The champion of Bane stared at Dusk quizzically, "Hobart? ...Yes. I trust him."

"Good. Do it, my love", Dusk replied. Na'kar moved quickly, thrusting a blade into Dusk's chest, "It's the only...way to reach him."

"I said I trusted him. I didn't say I thought he'd succeed", Tristan Jested, "To the temple?"

The city was bathed in chaos. For the first time in thirty years, the Rankan's had something to fight for; hope. Na'Kar led them through the streets to the massive temple, "Prepare for a trap.. the guard elite do not leave their posts, ever." With weapons drawn, they entered the ominous ziggurat.


Part II to follow...
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Letters to the Damned: Tristan Farron
The rain fell, the sun shone, the food tasted better and the air didn’t linger with a foul scent of snake. The days before I failed to stop this onslaught once before, yet here I am again in the eye of the storm and I feel powerless to change the fates that have been drawn for me.

After the evening meal Tristan bothers Logge for pen and parchment, then sits down and begins to write.

Quote:
Hobart,

my friend…and regardless of what you may think; my brother. You has more Farron in you than you would like to admit. You made a choice and Dusk spoke of things to come regarding some plans you have. I can only hope to see you on the field of battle, with the army that you so fervently fought for at your back. The choices we make for ourselves most times are selfish, but I cannot disagree with your logic brother. You are young, you are brash…and you are stupid. But if this is the path that you feel must be walked, I honor your choice.


Quote:
Janus,

The scion… of Asmodeus. When one doesn’t learn from the mistakes of others they go ahead and make the same ones. You bore witness to both of your brothers make horrible choices, but the difference is nobody else in the world gives a shit what we do. Every Lightbringers son just cried tears of blood when you agreed to side with Dispater rather than side with Pelor. I understand that you think this is the path that will bring back the sun, but at what cost? Do we replace the Yuan-Ti with demons and devils who can make pacts for the souls of our children? Sarah never damned Hobart…you did. My words are hot and careless, but that is only because those are the only types of words you ever seem to listen to. You seek counsel from others before asking those who have been or have known. I see your path is parallel to Hobarts and it makes me laugh…


Closing his eyes Tristan set down the quill and tossed both letters into the fire… “It seems the best way to deliver a letter to those two.”

“Aase…what do you think of asking the Bluestar to teleport us to Ranke? It is likely that the city would be empty of all the real warriors. And with Achra we would have an army with which to march North…if Northwatch can hold for a few days we could crush them between us. What say you?”
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Thoughts of A Broken Man: Janus Farron

It all made sense logically, he was the better follower. A more perfect image of what a scion should be. He had stayed true to his code through adversity and trying times. When Dawn agreed to take my place as the true scion, I knew what had to be done.

Thinking back to times not so long ago, I’m reminded of our companion Hobart. Hell was speaking into his ears with temptations of greatness. We had all accepted him and abandoned him at the same time. He was rescued by hell with our own hands, yet we left him alone with his tormented thoughts and allowed the devil to creep through. He was promised armies, he was promised conquest, and a future that he could not resist. Hobart gave into the curse and I damned him for it.

My blade was drawn, and I was ready to strike him down, but I knew I would be killing an ally. Even though he accepted a bargain with devils he was still a good person, and his intentions were for the greater good. In this thought I could relate completely, and secretly I admired Hobart for his decision. Thinking back it is laughable that I damned him, that I drew my blade upon him, when I followed in his exact footsteps…

Like Hobart I have chosen to get my hands dirty, and damn my moral high ground. If it ever existed it clearly did me little good. Lies, death, and betrayal now form my moral foundation. Vengeance feeds my ambitions, and I dream of the day where all who wronged me will pay. You see.. We of the Farrons and Longbows are cursed sons, destined to destroy ourselves for the power to save others…
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Interlude: Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moon light?
Hobart and Bel circled each other, their gazes locked, not even noticing the devil blood covering the armor of themselves. Bel had been stripped of his rank as the Arch Duke of the first because of Hobart. Hobart had something up his ripped and tattered sleeve. It didn’t matter now, Bel was about to rule over him, again.

Asmodeus watched with great interest. It was he who took Bel’s title and offered it to Hobart, but only if he could slay Bel. He knew it was impossible though, it was just a ploy to piss off Bel. Bel had been his Sword for far too long, almost since the beginning. Asmodeus would almost consider him a friend, if the Warlock-King had friends…

Asmodeus also knew it was Hobart who convinced Bel to betray him. But he wasn’t sure how Hobart was able to do it. That would have been a very impressive conversation to listen in on. “To convince an Arch Duke of Hell, to challenge his own god, very impressive indeed. But why? “ But alas, He would never know now, as Bel was going to slay him within seconds.

The fight was taking everything out of Hobart, he had used every little trick he knew of and many he had made up on the spot. He was being dominated, he couldn’t lift his shield to protect himself anymore so he dropped it. Walking backwards dragging his sword, he fell to the ground. Head swimming, vision blurred from the blood in his eyes, he laid on the ground. So close to death he may as well have been.

Bel had never fought so hard in his life, and being a devil, it was a very long life. But never had he denounced his god either, but this …mortal… had tricked him into it. And now he would take his head. Blade raised, Bel walked towards the motionless body. The sword he had given Hobart lay 2 arm lengths away from his hands. Not even a threat. Bel is within inches of Hobart now, going to his knees he whispers in his ear, first in one then moving to the other and back to the first. “You were nothing, a piss-ant, a bastard child, no one to care for you, and you cared for no one. But before you die, I want you to know, you won’t. I’m not going to kill you. No no no, I’m throwing your worthless ass back into the pool.” Hobarts eyes opened, even on the verge of death he knew he WOULD NOT go back in there. With a great yelp, he pushed Bel over, rolled to the body next to him and grabbed the horn from the devil’s skull. With a loud crack he had broken it off and it was in his hand. Leaping through the air, towards a shocked Bel he mashed the horn into Bel’s throat. Bel being so amazed at the little man’s pure will, was taken by surprise and didn’t see his own death. Bel, the former Arch Duke of the First was dead, by a mortal’s hand. And for an instant…Hell was silent, even if only in Hobart’s mind. Hobart looked up at Asmodeus. “My liege” and collapsed to the ground.

Asmodeus stood above Hobart, glaring down irritated, and lost in wonder. “What is your next move is Hobart?”
Hobart knelt infront of Asmodeus, looking at the floor of his great throne room, hiding a smirk. Hobart thought to himself, “With any luck Dusk would have it and be on her way back… then… “ and with that last thought, he looked up into HIS eyes. And grinned…

Hobart, Arch Duke of the First. Bel’s executioner. And now Asmodeus' new Sword and Protector.
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Chapter LIII: A Scion No More
The party was exhausted. Janus could barely stand, yet he kept walking. They needed to rest and regroup before reaching the Nord Stones. Aase set up camp while Dawn and Melerra attempted to help calm Janus. Dawn physically drained Janus through a series of katas while Melerra entered his mind and cleansed the hellish taint. Logge placed a protective barrier around the campsite to block out Dispater's presence. "Thank you, my friends..." was all Janus could utter before falling into a deep sleep.

When he awoke, Aase was tending to some breakfast. The bacon smelled delicious. Janus stepped into the circle of heroes to address them, "I know you all think I am losing it--that I have gone insane--but I need you to understand that nothing I do is for my own gain. Dawn, you have followed your faith from the beginning. Your unwaivering beliefs have proven to be far more worthy of the title scion than mine. It is you who should bring back the sun. Aase, I know we have had words and mistrust. I need you with me on this. If we use the Tear of Pelor to make Dawn the celebrant, we can defeat Skather, take his tear and cleanse the Yssge. Until then, we need them in this battle." Dawn nodded in agreement and looked at the large warrior, "Old friend, he speaks the truth. We can bring back the sun and battle this hellish nightmare. But we need you with us."

Aase stood defiantly, "Well well, here at the end the truth comes out. The yssge are just a tool to bring back a god--your god. If it is the will of the party, I will not stand against you. However, I do not believe this is the right path" He handed Dawn the tear, "Let us break camp and make for the Nord Stones."

It was quiet at the Nord Stones. Dusk stood within the circle, waiting for them. Dawn and Janus approached first, setting aside their weapons as they entered. Dawn was the first to speak, "When last I saw you... I went to Hell looking for you" Dusk smiled, "I am quite sure we both have endless stories to tell of how we both reached this place. That will have to wait. I was sent here to ensure you did not stop Janus from accepting the pact....but I will not be doing so." Dawn was surprised by her brutal honesty, "If you're not doing their bidding, why are you here?"

"I was provided with an alternative offer. I have a task to do in the south. If I succeed, Asmodeus will be no more."

"What's the difference between Asmodeus or some other devil vying for power?"

"My client doesn't agree with how the warlock-king ran things. He intends to make a change. I will see you again, brother. We are still on the same side. For now, I must go to Na'Kar. He has something I need."

Dawn wanted to reach out and say more, but she was gone. On the stone dais was a small, broken amulet. "The soultrap. Hobart's got designs on Asmodeus' crown, I see." If Dawn was not amused at the prospect, Janus was near furious. He stormed off down the hillside in a fit of rage--the kind of rage that attracts certain devils.

"Janus. It is good of you to contact me", The visage of Dispater appeared before the fallen scion, "Have you come to a decision?" Janus fumed, barely able to slow his breathing, "I have some demands. First, Sarah is to be released. Hell's hold on her must not continue. Second, I want the army ready to march south. And third, I want my sword back." Dispater considered the offer, "You will have to prove yourself to receive the sword, again. One cannot just toss that aside. However, if you are ready to negotiate, I will be waiting at Bjorghildr."

During Janus' absence, Tristan sought help from another power. He called upon the Banesworn's allegiance. With a flash of lightning appeared Tallyn, "Hello Champion. You seek the Banesworn in battle? It is good that you are finally understanding your place. However, you cannot command us, yet. The Banesworn only kneel to the Champion who wields both standard and sword. Retrieve Achra and we will follow you in victory." The determination on Tristan's face was clear, "Where is my sword?"

"Seek out the former champion in the fallen city. He will know." With that said, Tallyn was gone. Tristan turned to the party, "We should go to Ranke. Nevermind this nonsense with Dispater." His words fell on deaf ears, however. The party had already agreed to head to Bjorghildr and deal with Dispater, once and for all.

It was a quiet journey to the ancient ruins. No one had much to say... So much had already been said. They were greeted outside the ancestral lands by a group of yssge warriors. These were not the mutated, mindless brutes of before. No, these were dispater's perfection. These yssge were physically strong, but not mutated and broken. A hellish intent burned in their eyes, showing malicious intelligence. Melerra tried to reach into the mind of their leader, but found no presence of the man he was before.

The yssge escorted Janus and his companions deep into the cavernous ruins below Bjorghilder. Dispater nodded as they entered the caverns, "And so you have arrived. You have seen my army--perfect and deadly. What say you, Janus Farron? Do you accept our offer?" Janus stepped forward, "I will, provided you release my mother--" Tristan interrupted his bargain, "Janus, who do you think killed her?"

Dispater smiled, the trap was sprung, "Yes, Janus... Who was it that killed Sarah Farron? Would you like to see?" The devil waived his hand across the river showing a familiar memory to Janus.


Ohderik told a younger Janus that his mother was missing. They grabbed their gear and set out in her direction.

Sarah's wagon slowed to greet a passerby. Rankans in the North often offered help in these troubled times. The figure lashed out at the wagon guards, killing them quickly. Sarah opened the door to make an escape but he was too fast. She died on the roadside. The figure knelt over one of the guards and picked up a small pendant. Removing his hood to wear the holy symbol of Bane was Zin-Carla.


Janus couldn't take his eyes off the image, "And we see the truth. I accept your offer Dispater. Give me the army. I am ready and willing!"

The party pleaded with him to reconsider, but Janus was stalwart in his decision. They took solace in the fact that Janus did provide them a small army...though would it be enough to turn back the Beysibian army?

The heroes exited the ruins without their companion. Logge created a temporary portal and the party was standing in Northwatch.
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Interlude: To War
As Thothamon prepared his soldiers for the march, he was greeted by A smiling Skather. Thothamon bowed in the presence of his god-king, "My lord, have you come to see us off? The soldiers will be honored". Skather waited for his warlord to stand, "No, my friend. I will be joining you on your conquest." thothamon was stunned, "...I assure you, my lord, we will not fail--" "I am not here to take command. I am simply here overseeing the end of the Rankan uprising. The scion is no more. To sit in my tower and miss this would be disappointing." "And what of the Yssge? If the stories are to be believed, they have been posessed by devils."

Skather shook his head, dismissing Thothamon's concerns, "Whatever has consumed the Yssge is not our consern. United they could be a threat, but no one has successfully done so." "Prepare my steed. We will leave when you are ready... And Thothamon, do not fail me."
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Chapter LII: No Tears For the Scion
The powerful artifact lay on the ground before them. One religion viewed it as the tear of a god, powerful enough to bathe the land in light once more. Another saw this as a natural gift; a sign of new beginnings. Sset's Egg could be used to heal the corrputed yssge or revive the dying Genru. Before the heroes could make a decision, however, they were greeted by an old friend.

"Sorry I'm late. Not as fast as I used to be." Dawn smiled, though all could see he was in a lasting pain. Over his scarred chest were roots from the Lairleaf to keep his hear beating, albeit at a much slower pace, "What did I miss?" Traveling with Dawn was a Yssge that, at first, did not appear corrupted by Asmodeus. It was quickly apparent, however, that the reasons for his freedom were he had previously made a pact with the warlock-king. Despite that, he was honest in his wish to end the devils' corruption in the Yssgelund.

One by one, each made their claim. Janus wished to perform the ritual of binding; Aase to heal the frost wolf; Melerra wanted the Yssge freed from their captors. Each had strong reasons and even stronger convictions for their choice. It fell to the other companions then, to take sides and select the best course of action. Not surprisingly, Tristan wanted nothing to do with the accursed artifact. If they couldn't win without begging a god for help, then what was the point? A bit more surprising was Dawn's reaction, "Janus, I believe you seek the easy resolution in your endeavor. How can you be sure this is not another test by Pelor? This desire for power will leave you as corrupted as those you battle against." Janus had little response for his friend's opposition. If he felt that strongly, there was no way to sway him.

Finally, it was determined they would seek Iceclaw's aid, and entreat him to take the mantle of frost wolf from his father. Iceclaw was reluctant and opposed to the idea. However, the alternative spelled the end of the winter spirits' existence and, possibly, allow a break in the prison of hell. With his brother's reassurance, Icelaw accepted, leaving the heroes with only two necessary uses for the crystal artifact.

Later, while resting, Janus was once again greeted by Dispater, "I am here to make yet another offer, Janus Farron", the devil smiled, "Join us, and we will provide you with the army you need to win this war. The ritual is nearly complete. The Yssge will make a fine army for you." Janus balked at the thought, "Are you nuts? I saw what the ritual did. It created mindless monstrosities. This is the fate you would damn our world to?" Dispater sighed, "Yes, our first experiements were...flawed. However, we have since corrected the failures and ensure a much more effective caste of warriors. And you misunderstand our intentions. Without our aid, the Yssge are a torn and separated group of clans; each vying for power over the next. With my intervention, they are a poweful fighting force that answer directly to me...or someone who takes up leadership in our name.." "Ok, fair enough. Then answer me this. Why me? What is so important that you need me?" "Full disclosure? Total honesty? In all of history, no man has ever desired vengeance as much as you. With every fiber of your being you exude it. You want revenge for your father, your mother, your people. You wish revenge for being lied to by Ohderik. You want revenge on Rathamon for killing your father. You seek vengeance, and in turn, it seeks you." "Begone, Devil. I would negotiate with you no more." Janus tried to get sleep, but no rest would come to him.

When they awoke, the party set out for Bjorghildr. Janus pleaded to visit the Nord Stones first, to find out what Dispater meant by "..you may find her at the Nord Stones...", but the party disagreed vehemently. Even if it was Aggrona or Sarah, they would be walking into a trap. It was agreed, however, that they would scout the area on their way to Bjorghildr.

As they pushed through Gordda's pass, they came upon the eaglewatch; an old set of watchtowers manned by Northwatch. Much to their surprise, it was overrun by yuan-ti. After a seemingly suicidal dive off the tower by Aase and Tristan, the party made short work of the yuan-ti and beysibian forces. Inside the tower, Tristan found Dierdre, chained in the dungeon. She had been captured by the Northwatch while returning from her mission. Dierdre was less than pleased at Tristan's light-hearted reaction, "Laugh all you want, human. The joke is on you. The beysibians are confident that although Janus lives, he is no longer the scion. They march to Northwatch with fifty-thousand soldiers, led by a Thothamon. You have inside three weeks to prepare." Dierdre's words did much to darken the party's mirth. Even with the Yssge warriors, they only had, maybe thirty-thousand soldiers to respond with, and they were two weeks away from Northwatch as it were.

Janus realized the need for urgency and asked their newfound companion, Logga, to scry upon the stones and see what awaited them. Melerra was sure the answer was, "Danger, why else would he want us there?" To their shock, however, the person that awaited them was not Aggrona, nor Sarah. As Dawn looked on in amazement, he uttered her name, "...Dusk..."
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