Link to part one if you haven’t read it.
Session Zero: DM’s Archived Notes
NO SNOOPING MORTHOSE
- Current year– 19,084 (Years After Transferal, not yet Heronmal Years System)
- Elf politics
- Current ruler is Hastios Ulazumin
- He’s going to resign in a year. Many people are preparing to run for kingship as he has no heirs. The main contenders are the Psidove Family (Bellas Psidove) the Lyrona family, (Yhendorn Lyrona) the Sylfir family, (Elion Sylfir) and the Mithrandir family, (Paran Mithrandir) (Disqualified due to being murdered)
- Ancients – Elves who have completed the required (200 year) training of the oral history and who are over 4,000 years old. They can become judges, politicians,, living historians, librarians, and almost all of them hold prominent positions in society. Many of the notable families have Ancients among their ranks. A very few Ancients are as old as 13,000 years, and date back to the original doses of immortality serum. Ancients are, as a whole, very much ‘status quo’ oriented politicians.
- Dwarf Politics
- Current ruler is Dwenk Laird
- Other major political players are the Worse family (Their head is unfortunately named Baddore), the Radcart family (Piop Radcart), and the Kingard family (Maddox Kingard). Pay attention to the Kingards because they’ll be important later.
- Notes on war– currently at a standpoint. Ulazumin and Laird are very proud of the temporary peace they’ve established. Ulazumin bet that this will be one of the lasting reminders of his reign. And, true enough, this will be one of the few times this sort of temporary peace happens throughout the combined history of elves and dwarves. Don’t worry, it won’t last that long.
* * *
Smay was silent as DM explained to him what had happened with Morthose and the guards, and why he never came back in. After he was finished, Smay was silent again, but only for a few seconds.
“He was arrested for murder? Why didn’t you help him?!”
“Morthose chose to go with them. The guards said we could meet him though. If you really want to talk with him, we’ll have time to talk to him in prison before the trial for murder.”
“Of course I’ll want to talk to him!” Smay retorted, “And stop saying that word, Morthose didn’t kill anyone.”
“If you insist.” DM said mildly. “Anyways, I asked, and the visitor days are nine to five every Saturday. We should probably pack up here, it sounds like we’re going to be in Meyan for a while.”
“Wait, but Saturday is today!” Smay exclaimed, “Right?” He asked, suddenly doubtful, “It is today right?”
“Exactly. So we have to get packing so we can follow the guards and visit Morthose Haulding as soon as he’s in prison. Hopefully that will be before five p.m. tonight. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait a week to ask any questions.” He turned to stare at Smay questioningly. “I’m assuming your character has plenty of questions to ask?”
“OF COURSE!” Smay announced, clearly upset. “But most of my questions are for the guards. Why in all the skies would they think Morthose killed someone?! Where’s the evidence?! How did they even know he was here?! What’s going to happen to him if he’s convicted?! How can we stop that from happening?!”
“I can answer at least one of those questions.” DM walked over to his bedroom, into a closet, and pulled out three large trunks. “If Morthose Haulding is convicted of murder in the Elven Territories, current law states that the punishment is execution.”
“He’ll be killed?!” Smay snapped, years of translating DM’s strange speech patterns paying off to instant recognition of the point he was making. “Give me one of those bags, I need to pack my things immediately!”
“What do you have to pack?” DM asked, seemingly genuinely curious. “Dragons don’t wear clothes Smay.”
“Snacks!” Smay announced, “My collectibles! You know, the important things!”
“I forgot that unfortunate pack rat personality trait.” DM muttered under his breath, but handed over the trunk. Smay stared at him. He heard what DM had said, and got the feeling it was unpleasant, but had no clue what ‘pack rat’ meant.
Whatever. He thought to himself. It’s probably not important anyways. Seeing as DM was now entranced in his spellcasting to summon and fold all his clothes for neat transport, Smay decided to make his exit.
Smay was more than impatient to leave when DM was finally done ‘attempting’ to pack all of Morthose’s most important belongings.
“Come ONNN DM! We’re over three hours behind them now! And Morthose was the only one who could teleport!”
“You can’t rush me Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll. This sort of consideration of a character’s actions and personality traits requires careful thought. I’m attempting to figure out which items Morthose Haulding would deem most necessary.”
“Does he really need five hats though?” Smay frowned as he observed DM’s fully stuffed trunks, with said hats tied on on top, be pushed out the old door.
“I’ve never seen Morthose Haulding go anywhere without at least this many” DM defended, locking the door to his tiny hut. Smay didn’t really understand the purpose of such an action. No robbers would ever care enough to come this far up the mountainside, and nobody would ever suspect such a small derelict looking hut to be hiding the entrance to such a gigantic and well furnished set of caverns. However, he had long ago learned it was useless to try and question DM on his slightly odd habits. Even if he was a little strange at times, he was one of the best friends a dragon could make, always willing to put up with his and Morthose’s eccentricities, and Smay didn’t want to strain that relationship.
“Oh, did you mean to imply that carrying me and Morthose’s and my luggage along with your own luggage, would be too much for you?” DM asked, breaking Smay from his thoughts.
“Woah-woah-woah. Hold up DM. I only agreed to carrying you and Morthose in the outside world because, well, it was the outside world. There was no one around! Nobody to see us, and no other way off that Island!” Smay protested violently.
DM’s eyes widened. “No! No! I didn’t mean it like that!” He groaned, “I shouldn’t have said that. I thought you would see it. Can we just pretend that interaction didn’t happen?” But it was too late for that. Smay’s mind was already racing.
“I mean, I get why you suggested it, flying is far quicker than walking. Forget that three hours behind thing entirely, we’d probably make it to the tele-landing before they’re even halfway down the mountain, and have a nice room rented out with dragon access by the time Morthose is settled in prison, but I’m not budging on the—” He hesitated, realizing something. “You wouldn’t even suggest such a thing normally DM. Even if it was faster.”
DM groaned again in response. “Please, don’t think about it, we can just walk. It really is no problem.”
“Hang on! I think I’m near a breakthrough!” Smay called out to his friend, but DM was already levitating Morthose’s packs, and, after hitching his own to his back, walking down the mountainside.
Smay sighed, and followed him.
“I was this close to making a breakthrough!” He muttered holding his talons close together, “This close!”
After about two hours of walking, and one lunch break, he finally figured it out as he allowed DM to tie Morthose’s packs to his back (apparently, DM was running low on spell slots, and couldn’t lift them magically anymore).
“You wanted me to carry you in my claws didn’t you?” He asked, knowing that DM wouldn’t need any elaboration. Sure enough, DM caught on immediately despite the numerous other conversations they’d had on their trip already.
His lips turned paler, and he nibbled on one. “I told you you should stop thinking about that. I broke the rules by suggesting something you hadn’t thought of yourself.”
“Yeah, but living life according to the rules isn’t always the best. I mean, look at me and Morthose!” Smay offered, trying to be helpful. “We break rules all the time, and we’re much happier because of it!” DM snort-chuckled at that. “Besides,” Smay added, sensing he was winning DM over “it wasn’t that great of an idea in the first place. It would be fast, sure, but what about the landing? I need all four of my claws for landing, I’d have to drop you!”
DM muttered something, but Smay didn’t quite hear it. “What was that?”
“This NPC body has feather fall.”
After a few seconds of attempting to decode what exactly that meant, Smay thought he had it figured out. “So you’re saying I can drop you early, and you’ll fall slowly? Like a feather?”
“Yes, exactly.” DM confirmed.
“Well, then. What are we waiting for?!” Smay called out, excitedly taking to the air, feeling the cold fresh wind under his wings as he spread them and leaped upwards, gliding into a curve so he could circle back around to grab his friend. Honestly, he thought to himself DM was probably planning for this sort of moment, why else would he choose an unforested part of the mountain for lunch? He smiled as he completed the curve and shouted “Prepare for liftoff DM!!”
“Wait! I still have my lugg–” DM shouted, but the last part of his protest was lost to the howl of the wind as Smay carefully grabbed him in his claws, and tucked him close to his underbelly for the long flight down.
When they reached the tele-landing, Smay questioned the guards there as DM recovered, and eventually realized they wouldn’t tell him anything. Not if a group of guards and a certain wizard friend of his had passed through here recently, not if they were expecting them to come soon, and not even if anyone else had passed through in the recent months!
Disappointed, he briefly considered questioning the Ancient running the tele-landing. After all, since they were this far from the capital, in a pretty much deserted part of the territories, there was no way they were that powerful. However, an Ancient is still an Ancient. He thought to himself. Any one of them who have been taught the secret spells of teleportation and given the knowhow to control an entire landing station, even if it is a very rural one, would be far more powerful than I am comfortable asking probing questions to.
He had never figured out how Morthose had learned said teleportation spells in the first place, and Morthose had never elaborated, but it was clear he wasn’t supposed to have them. Such spells were new, dangerous, and one of the main reasons a peace treaty had been able to be reached with the dwarves in the first place. They didn’t much like the idea of Elven armies teleporting into their capital whenever they wished, and although Smay didn’t think that sustained teleportation without a tele-landing at both ends was possible yet, much less on such a grand scale as to transport armies, the threat of it was enough to make the elves have very enviable terms on the temporary peace treaty.
Glancing back towards DM, Smay realized that while he questioned the guards and mused, his friend had disappeared. Suddenly, someone tapped his leg. He spun back around, and saw DM standing right in front of him.
“Thank goodness!” He exclaimed. “Where were you? I was about to get worried!”
“Chatting with the NPC in charge here.” DM said, “His name is Tarron Elathria, and apparently Morthose Haulding and his guards passed through here less than an hour ago. On another note, roll perception more often. Your wisdom modifier isn’t high enough for your passive perception to do anything. I wasn’t even stealthing intentionally, and yet I still managed to somehow sneak up on you.”
Smay sighed. It was moments like these where he truly hated DM’s little system. Besides its general incomprehensibility, sentences like that just struck a nerve. He knew his friend meant well with the advice to pay more attention to his surroundings, but it still rankled him when he said stuff like ‘your wisdom modifier isn’t high’ because it gave him the feeling that he was being called dumb. Even if it wasn’t meant like that. Well, if he was honest, especially when he knew it wasn’t meant like that. And when Morthose chimed in with his slightly condescending voice, that really was mostly an accent and a habit that he meant nothing by, it somehow made it ten times worse.
“Shall we head on after them?” DM asked, not seeming to realize Smay’s discomfort.
“Of course! Was that ever in question?” Smay asked.
They walked up to the tele-landing’s main platform, stepped onto the giant rune on the ground, and DM told the guard their location. A flash of brilliant white light and a few seconds later, they were blinking their eyes to clear them, and being told to step off the platform in Meyan. It took a lot longer than a few seconds to find an inn that would house a dragon though, even a medium sized dragon who could fit through doors “just fine thank you very much!” However, they managed to find one on the city outskirts by around four p.m., which meant…
“We still have one hour left!” Smay called out excitedly as they left the inn, “Where do we go to find Morthose?”
“Roll investigation.” DM advised, handing Smay a D20. Smay rolled it on a nearby barrel, and was delighted to see a twenty come up. Showing the roll to DM he said, “so, what do I know?”
DM smiled. “Morthose Haulding was arrested by the guards.”
“Yes?” Smay prompted him further.
“Where would you go to find a lot of guards?” DM prompted him back.
It didn’t even take Smay a second to make a connection. “The guardhouse! We can ask about him there, and figure out where they took him! But wait, where is the guardhouse?”
“You have two options as I see it. Either persuasion or survival.”
Smay frowned, confused. “Persuasion is easy enough, just ask someone for directions, but what does survival have to do with anything?”
“Tracking falls under survival.” DM explained.
“Tracking? In a bustling city?” Smay asked, “Yeah, no. I’ll ask for directions.” He went up to one of the shop owners on the bustling street, and after a few moments of conversation, came back to DM, who had successfully rolled a fourteen for him.
“I know where to go!” Smay announced cheerfully, “The dude was quite nice, he explained everything!”
Eventually, with Smay’s guidance, and a few more requests for directions, they arrived at the guardroom, where they were redirected to the holding cells, where they were then redirected to the holding cells for dangerous criminals, where they then finally found Morthose.
“DM! Smay! I knew you would come and find me.” He greeted them. “Although, I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting you till next week.”
“We rolled well.” DM explained shortly.
“Isn’t that always how we roll?” Morthose joked. DM and Smay just stared at him, not comprehending his joke. “Dammit. I thought that one was funny.” Morthose muttered into his hand.
“We don’t have time for funny!” Smay retorted, overhearing the last part and finally realizing that Morthose had been trying to make a joke. “We have to get you out of here! Or the other Elves will kill you! How do we break you out?!”
Morthose stared at him. “Uhhh… I thought proving innocence was much more up your ally?” He asked, confused. DM chuckled softly.
“Aren’t those two the same thing?” Smay asked innocently. “We get evidence that says you didn’t kill anyone, and then they break open this cage, and you’ve broken out?”
“DM, what did you tell him about the Elven legal system?” Morthose asked, looking amused and slightly bemused.
“He rolled a two.” DM said shrugging. “He earned that information.”
“Wait, did you lie to me?” Smay looked at DM, shocked, and slightly hurt.
“Not lies, just a bit of inventive fabrication.” Morthose defended. “But DM, in the future, it might be better just to tell him nothing, rather than tell him something that isn’t entirely true. Smay, yes, technically, you should go gather information to prove I’m innocent, but the other way to get someone out of prison, the illegal way, which is much faster, is to break them out.”
“Ohh…” Smay frowned, “Wow, that was dumb of me. I can’t believe I fell for that, DM.”
DM shrugged, “You rolled a two, and you’ve never had to work with any legal system before. Together, well, you can see the results.” Smay sighed, and shook his head. Dice rolls were not excuses to play practical jokes on people, but he didn’t have time to try to convince DM of that now, by his calculations, they had less than five minutes remaining to chat with Morthose.
“So, Morthose, we have to prove your innocence right? How do we do that? Do we find the person who did it? Or do we just prove that you couldn’t have done it?
“To convince the Ancients?” Morthose snorted, his dislike for them made abundantly clear in that one gesture. “You’ll probably have to do both, and make sure all the evidence is legal in the courtroom. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, ever since I was heading down the mountain with those stupid guards. Our plan of action, well, I suppose your plan of action, should definitely start with interrogating the victim’s family, the Mithrandirs. Paran was a notable politician, so you need to find out who his main rivals were. I haven’t been involved in politics for quite a while, so I can’t think of anyone who would hate him enough to assassinate him in the first place, but you need to look beyond that sort of simple grudge. What sort of person was Paran? Who benefits from him being gone? Would anyone want to kill him for revenge? Or perhaps, to get rid of a rival?”
“Wow, you really thought this through, Morthose!” Smay exclaimed.
“Of course, not much more to do when none of the guards would talk to me, or even tell me what sort of evidence they had on me. All the information I could get out of them was that my trial is in one week. If you hadn’t managed to make it to me today, I don’t know what I would have done.”
“Impressive, especially with your persuasion bonuses. Someone set their DCs very high indeed.” DM claimed, but Smay’s thoughts were in an entirely different realm
“Won’t your family help you out? Well, help us out? You said they lived in Meyan.”
Morthose snorted. “Them? Oh Smay, they’d probably eat popcorn while I’m getting beheaded! We don’t get along.” His smile is ice. “They never really understood me, not like you guys do.”
“Oof.” Smay said, “Must be awkward whenever you go home for family dinners.”
“Which is why I don’t anymore.” Morthose said, his smile thawing a little. “See you guys later!”
“Wait, is it time to go already?” DM asked, as a guard walked in. “I suppose it is.” He answered himself as they were shooed out.
“Bye!” Smay called, waving excitedly. “See you in a week when we prove your innocence!”
Morthose smile lasted until his friends and the guard were out of sight, and then it lapsed into a familiar frown. He wished they’d never made it in time. If only they’d arrived fifteen minutes later…
Smay and DM spent barely any time talking to the Mithrandirs. They clearly were distraught, didn’t have much information about any investigations into his murder, and, when pressed, wouldn’t give any details on their son’s habits, likes, and dislikes or who might have hated him enough to kill him. The best information Smay and DM could get was the name of some of the friends, and that was only because Smay had the forethought to sign the guest book, and take note of who kept coming around a lot.
Of those names, the one that was listed the most was a certain Farlell Wynjen, and after a 13 on persuasion, Smay got DM to tell him where Farlell lived.
“14 Gayway Alley. And don’t ask me how I know.” DM claimed. “Playing with only one PC is ridiculously hard.” He muttered under his breath.
“Yeah, I miss Morthose as well.” Smay sighed, overhearing the complaint “I’m sure he would have gotten something out of those stingy parents. I’m honestly surprised Paran stayed with them all these years, surely if he was going into politics he could have gotten his own place. He was certainly old enough.”
“It’s not that strange for elves actually. Especially for their upper class. They like to stick together, so that they can all benefit from one person’s success. It also means that they can afford really nice houses since they’re all paying in towards one. I’m honestly surprised they didn’t have any uncles or cousins around the place.”
“Why are you referring to elves as a ‘they’?” Smay asked his friend. Aren’t you an elf?”
“Yes, this body is elven.” DM said. “But I was giving you worldbuilding information, something your character should probably know because you’ve been living here for thousands of years.” Seeing that Smay was still staring at him confusedly, he sighed and elaborated. “Just know that it’s fine for me to speak like that, even though I am an elf.”
“Okay.” Smay said, content, even if he didn’t fully understand everything. That was how DM worked after all.
They headed over to Gayway alley, and after a few mishaps, finally found Farlell.
“Who’s there?” He asked, his green eyes cold as he peered through a crack in the doorway. “I’m not interested in buying— wait, are you a dragon?!” He opened the door wider, staring openly at Smay.
“Yes?” Smay asked back, exchanging confused glances with DM, and then turning back to the spiffly dressed elf with green eyes. “Why do you need to know?” He shook his head, “nevermind that, we need to talk to you about Paran Mithrandir.”
“Paran? A dragon and his companion want to know about Paran?” The young man smiled. “You should come in and sit down. Let’s share some tea.” Smay and DM exchanged glances again. Most people were intrigued when they saw Smay, but going from coldly glaring at them through a door, to cheerily inviting them in for tea was the quickest turnaround Smay had ever seen.
“Sure.” Smay said, only slightly hesitant. If Farlell was willing to talk because Smay was a dragon, Smay would happily take that advantage. After drinking some tea and nibbling at proffered cookies, Smay went straight back to the point. “So you knew Paran? You visited his house quite often over the past few weeks.”
“Of course I– wait did you say knew? As in past tense?” The green eyes widened, “Oh no! Did something happen to him?”
“He’s dead.” DM explained helpfully. Farlell’s unwrinkled face twisted into a pained look of shock.
“What? But how?”
“He was murdered, and our friend’s being framed for it.” Smay said. “We need your help to find the real culprit. Do you know anyone who might have held a grudge against him? Who might want him dead, or at least would benefit if he’s out of the running for Kingship?”
“I–I–” The young man stuttered, “You’ll have to forgive me. It’s such a shock. I think I need some time to process this.”
“Of course,” Smay replied politely, while DM sipped his tea. “Take all the time you need.”
A few minutes passed in a slightly uncomfortable silence for Smay as Farlell went through several different emotions in front of him. He cried, he clutched his head, and at one point he even laughed. Smay was completely creeped out by him. But eventually, Farlell put his hands down flat on the table in front of him and said. “I’m ready, you said you needed information right? To prove your friend’s innocence and catch the true killer?”
Smay and DM both nodded. “That’s the plan.” DM confirmed.
Farlell nodded back, determined. “I’ll do whatever I can to help.”
So, they shared information. Farlell told them about how he knew Paran– apparently he’d been studying the Mithrandirs for a class assignment into notable families and their histories at his political training school. He’d gotten close with the other elf, despite Paran being nearly twice his age at 1,400. He was set on voting for Paran, but now… Anyways, because of his research into the family history, he knew a lot about the grudges and grouping of the Mithrandir’s family’s friends. In fact, he already had a few suspicions in mind, but first, he needed more details on how Paran had died.
“Where was he killed? Did they find the weapon that did it? Or any traces of the perpetrator?”
Smay was about to reply that no, they had not, getting that sort of information would have been very smart but it was unlikely that the guards would just hand it to them, but DM cut in before he could even open his mouth.
“You’ll have to roll for that information.” At Farlell’s confused expression, DM handed him a D20.
“Just roll.” Smay advised, “He’s like that sometimes, and it’s better to play along than to protest.”
“Oh? What happens if I don’–” Farlell began, but at Smay’s adamant head shaking, and mouthed NO, he didn’t finish his question and instead took the dice and said, “Alright, but you keep very strange companions for a dragon Sir Smay, an eccentric and someone who’s being framed for murder?”
“Why are you obsessed with me being a dragon?” Smay asked, and Farlell hesitated, stopping his hand mid dice-toss.
“I wouldn’t call it an obsession.” He said, smiling embarrassedly “More of an admiration. Dragons are so strong. You can fly, you’re super strong, and amazingly loyal and generous to your friends. Even though you’re nearly extinct, –records say there are probably less than ten of you left– you aren’t hiding away in an attempt to recuperate your strength, you come out and fight for your friends when they need you.” He flipped his hand over and his polished nails let the dice drop. A nineteen spun on the table.
“Huh,” Smay said, feeling flattered. Beneath his thick scales, he could feel his skin warm a little. He liked Farlell, even for a politician in training, the elf had a way with words.
“So?” Farlell asked DM “Did I roll high enough? Or was I supposed to roll low?”
DM shook his head, “Roll again.”
Smay stared at him. DM rarely asked people to roll a second time, and it had never turned out good when he did. But Farlell didn’t seem to realize anything was wrong, and let the dice clatter against his wooden dining room table once more. This time, a seventeen was face up. Smay breathed a sigh of relief. It couldn’t be too bad if it was a seventeen. Farlell stared at DM as DM considered the die.
“Do you need me to roll once more?” He asked.
“No, this is enough.” DM confirmed. “No murder weapon was found at the scene, which was in an alleyway near his house five days ago. There were lacerations on the body, but apparently they were ridiculously clean even for the sharpest of blades. The investigator suspected magic, but of course, there wouldn’t be any residue from that to detect. All other notes were classified.”
“Interesting.” Farlell said, mulling it over.
“How did you even know all that?” Smay asked DM. “We never asked the guards for such details.”
“Roll.” DM replied. Smay took the die from the table, and sent it skidding and bouncing to the very edge. A seven faced up, and, after staring at it for a few seconds, DM said “I wasn’t with you the whole time; I did a little investigation of my own.”
“Huh.” Smay said, feeling unsatisfied with the answer, but knowing he wouldn’t get anything more out of DM with a roll like that.
“I’m guessing your friend who was accused, they were a magic user, yes?” Farlell’s green eyes probed Smay and DM questioningly.
“Yeah.” Smay confirmed. “I think he’s pretty famous for creating new spells, but he never really talks about it.”
“Naturally, who would want to in this political era?” Farlell said offhandedly. Smay wanted to question the elf about that comment, but he kept talking. “We should probably narrow down the list of people who would want him dead to magicians then, or perhaps just to those capable of such violent spells.” He frowned, and Smay could imagine him knocking people off a mental list in his head.
“I hate to say it,” Farlell said eventually, and hesitated. DM sipped his tea and Smay leaned forward.
“But??” Smay pressed
Farlell sighed. “Pointing fingers like this makes me uncomfortable, but Bellas Psidove is the only one I can think of who would fit the requirements. She and Paran were close until a few decades ago, people even talked of them getting married– but they had a falling out recently, and their relationship has only gotten worse since.” Green eyes flickered up to assess their response. “Paran confided in me once about her– on the promise that I wouldn’t include their relationship into my essay of course. I agreed, duh, and he told me that they’d broken things off because they had a disagreement about him going into politics. She was planning on running for queen– trying to be the first female ruler since the transition, and she claimed that him running against her would be really hurting her chances because they appealed to the same base. Neither of them could budge. Bellas was driven by her determination, and Paran’s family wouldn’t let him back down after the announcement.
“Basically, it would have been really easy for her to lure him into a secret meeting claiming she had a solution that his family could get behind, or a change of heart. She was also magically talented, an inventor of some sort. And she would benefit a lot from his death. All the pieces fit.” Farlell grimaced.
“We should go question her then.” Smay said simply. “See what she has to say about things.”
“Wait! You can’t just go and talk to a suspect!” Farlell shouted as Smay rose from his position on the floor. “You’ll spook her! Cause her to destroy any evidence she has hiding around as soon as you leave! Make her realize that she is in fact a suspect!”
“I suppose… you have a point.” Smay admitted, sitting back down. DM gulped down the rest of his tea and smiled.
“So, what are we going to do?” He asked the room as a whole.
“I have a plan.” Farlell said confidently.
The next day Smay and DM went to a house that Farlell had pointed out on their ‘casing mission’ as he’d called it. Smay carried a very large backpack, and DM had a notebook and quill in hand. They knocked on the door, and it was opened by a servant, who looked very surprised.
“Hey, we’re here to talk to Bellas Psidove, is she in?” Smay asked.
The lady looked at them, probably shocked by DM’s strange outfit– it was the fanciest set of robes he had, and they were more than a little eccentric– and Smay’s scaliness. Slowly she answered. “Bellas is unavailable. Unless of course, you represent the authorities, or you have a previous appointment.”
“But we really need to talk to her, it’s about something important!” Smay begged, determined not to be shut down this early in the plan. They needed to buy time for Farlell at least.
DM rolled a D20 on mage hand and muttered “We could really have used Morthose Haulding’s help with this one.”
“I’m afraid, even if it’s urgent, you’ll have to make an appointment and come back later. I can put you down for next week at the same time if you wish.” The maid said, confidence in her authority regained with Smay’s begging.
“Marlene, you can let off on the guests.” A rough female voice called out. Down the stairs and into the foyer came an elegant looking brown haired elf with red eyes. “You of all people know, I can’t stay in my room forever.
“If you say so Miss.” Marlene replied docilely. “Shall I take them to the drawing room?”
“Please, do.” Bellas said, her voice still rough. Smay realized it was probably hoarse from crying. Very good acting. He thought. Forcing herself to cry till she’s hoarse is dedication.
Marlene escorted them to a lovely room covered with elaborately embroidered drapes, and then, after seating them, stood back at the corner. After a few minutes, Bellas joined them in the drawing room, and they were served fresh spring water, whereupon Smay began questioning her practically immediately.
“Where were you when Paran Mithrandir died?” Was his opening question.
Shocked at his bluntness, Bellas nearly dropped her cup. “What is it to you?” She asked, obviously becoming more defensive. “I’ve already given my statement to the investigators.”
“Our friend is going to die in six days if we can’t prove his innocence.” DM explained, trying to calm things down a little. “We know he didn’t do it, but we currently can’t prove that, we’d be ever so grateful if you could help us.” A die slipped out of his sleeve, and although he attempted to catch it before anyone could see the results, Smay noticed the one.
“Oh?” Bellas says coldly. “And how are you sure he didn’t do it? And why should I answer your questions when you seem all too eager to point fingers at me instead?”
Smay frowned. This wasn’t going at all the way he’d expected it to. She was way too defensive. Fortunately, Farlell had warned him this might happen. They just had to keep her and the servant, Marlene, distracted a little while longer…
“He’s been with us for the past few weeks.” Smay lied easily. DM kept trying to collect the dice that spilled out of his sleeves. “But since we’re his friends and confidants, and everyone knows us as such, there’d be no way our testimonies would even be considered. People would just assume we’re lying. And as for why you should answer our questions, well, if you’re innocent, you’d have no reason not to answer them. And if you provide evidence that you weren’t there and have no information, we can go question the next person on our list and not waste anymore time here.”
“You want to find the culprit within the next six days, just the two of you?” Bellas looked incredulous, and Smay didn’t blame her it certainly sounded a little insane when she put it that way, but…
“We’ll do whatever it takes to help our friend.”
“Even if he is guilty.” Bellas mused darkly.
“He’s not!” Smay replied hotly. DM stayed silent, not offering any sort of defense, and Bellas noticed.
“Apparently not all of you are convinced.” She said, smirking. “You both, of all people, should know that Morthose dabbles in forbidden magic. It would be easy enough to create a duplicate of himself for a few minutes while he went and killed someone behind your backs–”
“But he wouldn’t!” Smay interrupted her, “And how did you know it was Morthose?”
“I put two and two together.” Bellas shrugged coldly. “Rumors that he was escorted under armed guard back into Meyan, plus a dragon and an escaped asylum patient wandering around trying to collect evidence to free someone. It wasn’t that hard.”
“Rude.” DM muttered under his breath.
“Anyways,” Bellas continued, pretending not to notice. “I’ve decided. I’m not going to give you any sort of information. I’ve already given my statement to the guard, and if they think that the evidence leads to Morthose Haulding, it probably does. I’ll put my faith in the public system, not in some wackos who are more worried about their friend than they are about the deceased’s family or the danger of an unregulated mage running about the city killing people.”
She gets up from her seat on the couch, her half-full glass of water abandoned on the table. “Marlene, you can show our guests out.”
Smay rose off his haunches, swinging his backpack off his shoulder. Farlell had mentioned it, as sort of a last resort option, but he really hadn’t wanted to use this. However this looked to be their only option to get any information out of Bellas. And besides, they hadn’t yet gotten the signal. Farlell wasn’t done yet, he needed more time. Carefully he undid the drawstrings and pulled out the white, strange box he, Morthose, and DM had discovered in that even stranger building.
“What are you doing?” Bellas asked, hesitating halfway to the door.
“Morthose said this thing was a weapon that could destroy the world when activated. If you don’t come back right now and tell us what you know, I’m going to activate it.” Smay said firmly.
Three pairs of eyes in the room popped as DM, Marlene, and Bellas turned to stare at him. Smay glared at Bellas. Technically, what he was saying was true. It could destroy the world, but it could also just shoot lightning at his enemies. He was really hoping for the latter, or better yet for Bellas to just give up and tell them everything.
“You’d destroy the world, because your friend may or may not die in a few days?” Bellas said, obviously more than a little desperate.
“I won’t have to if you’d tell us what you know.” Smay shot back.
“You can’t get away with this, Marlene and I might be the only people in the house right now but–”
“If you make me activate it, neither of us will have to deal with the consequences,” Smay said simply. “And if you sit down and tell me everything, both you and Marlene can walk out of this unscathed and go complain to whoever you want.”
“I already told you! I won’t!” Bellas shouted at him.
“Then say goodbye to life!” Smay yelled back, getting rather desperate. She has to concede, she has to realize that it would be dumb to press me any further when I’m holding this thing. He thought, fiddling with the wires in the back to get them lined up the way Morthose had showed him. He glanced at DM, hoping for some sort of encouragement. But DM wasn’t looking at him, he was staring at something behind him.
The Signal?! Smay thought, twisting around. Sure enough, there it was, a small blue handkerchief tied to the sign across the way. In those few seconds while his attention was distracted though, Marlene moved like lightning, streaking across the room and desperately attempting to wrest the device from Smay’s claws.
He was too strong to pry it away, but with her sudden weight on his arm, his hand slipped. The few wires Morthose had pointed out to him ages ago connected.
The world didn’t end.
Nobody got zapped with lightning.
However, there was a strange humming noise, and the inside of the box started to glow blue. Within a few seconds, it was producing cool air.
“We’re still alive? You were just bluffing all along?!” Bellas said, somehow even more infuriated.
“What?!” Smay shouted, no longer paying any attention to her. The box was cold. It was just… Cold. No weapons. No cool explosions. He was slightly glad that they didn’t start an apocalypse, but how could Morthose have been so wrong? He seemed so certain that this was a weapon of some kind.
“Get out of my house!!” Bellas raged, “And know that I’m reporting you to the guards! Even if you do get any useful information out of anyone, there’s no way the courts would accept it knowing that you got it under duress!”
Smay stared at the white device he was carrying which was still emitting cold air, as they made their way back to Farlell’s house.
“There’s no way Morthose could have been wrong.” He confided to a concerned DM. “He seemed so confident. He is always so confident. There’s no one who knows magic items as well as he does. So how could he have been so wrong about this thing?”
DM reached up and patted his friend’s shoulder, but didn’t offer any input.
“Why didn’t you defend Morthose back there?” Smay said, shaking off his hand. “You didn’t try to back me up or anything! All you were doing was rolling your stupid dice! Because of you Bellas started to doubt us- and– and–!” He began sobbing. “You haven’t been backing me up at all this entire time. You’ve only given out information when I roll for it, and I’m sure you’ve been holding things back! It’s almost like you don’t care about getting Morthose back at all!”
“I–” DM hesitated, and then sighed and continued. “I can’t interfere with the main storyline, so I can’t give you all the information I have. Also, I know I have a terrible charisma modifier. I couldn’t lie and say I thought Morthose was innocent without us being discovered immediately.”
Smay stared at his friend, shocked out of his crying fit. “You don’t think Morthose is innocent?”
DM sighed again. “Let me put it this way, Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll. I know Morthose Haulding is fully capable of murdering Paran Mithrandir without a second thought. I don’t know why he would. But I’m sure you see it too. The possibility. After all, when Paran Mithrandir was murdered, five days before this all happened, Morthose Haulding wasn’t with us. He’d gotten bored, and went off to do his own thing for a while. He only showed up the day before we went to the outside world.”
Smay stopped, in the middle of the alley they were crossing through. “There’s no way. There’s just no way! WHY WOULD HE DO THAT!! WHY WOULD HE LIE TO US!!” He went from whimpering to roaring in less than a second. And then, he was silent.
DM gazed at his friend sadly. “I can’t tell you.” He said, “Only Morthose himself would be able to answer that question. But my train of thought shouldn’t influence yours. He could still be innocent. Or he could be a liar.”
“He lied about this stupid machine.” Smay grumbled, hefting the thing up again. It was really annoying to carry it around without the backpack, but they’d left that at Bellas’s when they made their hurried exit. “That would actually make more sense than him not knowing what it is. He was probably going to prank me when it activated.”
“One lie doesn’t mean everything is a lie though.” DM said staunchly.
“True.” Smay said, lifting his head and starting forwards again. “Morthose wouldn’t kill someone. He’s too good to do that. One lie doesn’t mean it’s all lies.”
“SO IT WAS ALL LIES?!” Smay exclaimed, staring at the evidence Farlell had brought back with him.
“I’m afraid so. Your friend, Morthose Haulding, wasn’t the person you thought he was. When I was searching Bellas’s city house for evidence, I found her most recent invention. She was probably planning on donating it to the city formally right before elections started, to give her a boost in popularity.” Farlell mused, then shook his head and got back on topic. “Anyways, it’s designed to scan a crime scene, actually pick up magical residue, and identify any mages who’ve been there by comparing their magic to what the city has in their database. I had to take it down to the crime scene, figure out how to work it, and then bring it back of course, that’s what took me so long. But when I finally got it to work properly, this is what it printed out.” He held out a sheet of paper, containing Morthose’s statistics and magical levels from when he was first enrolled in a magic school. Smay remembered Morthose grousing about this test, saying it was stupid that it was necessary to have something like this on file and that it only served to make dissidents’ weaknesses easier to find for the Ancients, because it also listed close contacts in case of emergencies, places of residence and whatnot.
“Magic test?! With set levels and subject specialties?! Well I hate it, but I’ll do it to get into a proper school! But those slimy sorry excuses for compost want me to give them all my personal information as well! And then they go give this test to those who are too young to understand exactly what sort of problems could arise from this?! It’s despicable! It’s trapping people into a system they had no say in creating!” Smay remembered Morthose’s exact face when he went on this rant for five minutes straight a couple decades ago. It was full of rage, pain, and hate. One of his school friends had been killed for what the Ancients had called “plotting with the intent of treason.” and what Morthose had called “Unlicensed Experimentation into matters that the Ancients had forbidden.” Apparently they had found the friend through his listed personal contracts. He’d been hiding at his uncle’s place, waiting for things to die down a bit.
The paper in Farlell’s hand was obviously Morthose’s test results for that one test he had taken to get into school. It had his face on it, his full name Morthose Starkheart Haulding, and even a little handwritten note at the bottom saying: “The prospective student shows immense capabilities in all magical fields, including some not covered by this exam. For example, he is able to cast his soul into small objects of his choosing and manipulate them. Nowhere else in our entire history has this ability been discovered.”
Smay only knew of one elf with the soul-throwing capabilities, and it was his best friend. A stupid machine had printed out this hard evidence, that his best friend was a murderer and a liar. “It was all a lie.” He mumbled to himself, slowly accepting the fact. DM patted his back, as he curled into a big morose ball.
“Yes, unfortunately, it appears like your friend was lying to you about his innocence in this matter.” Farlell said calmly. “Ethically speaking, we should probably turn in this evidence to the guards. He can’t be allowed to get away with murder.”
“Why not?!” Smay asked, slowly uncurling himself from his depressed ball.
Farlell’s eyes widened and he stuttered, “what–what do you mean why not? This evidence proves him guilty–”
“It doesn’t prove anything other than that he was involved.” Smay said stoutly. “My friend may be a liar, and possibly be a murderer, but that doesn’t mean he should end up dead.”
“What?!” Farlell exclaimed, confused anger flashing across his face. “He’s going to be executed whether or not we turn in this evidence. The Ancients want him dead for so many reasons, they wouldn’t let him out of their grasp so easily. Why not turn in the evidence that would make so many minds sleep easier at night knowing he was guilty and wasn’t killed for no reason?!”
“BECAUSE HE’S NOT GOING TO DIE!” Smay shouted back, and then stopped surprised at himself.
“We’re going to break him out, aren’t we, DM?” He finished.
“If that’s what the player wishes.” DM said, but his broad grin negated his neutral words. He definitely approved of this idea.
Farlell hesitated, staring at the two strange characters and obviously considering things. “Save a criminal? Break him out? Are you serious?” He asked.
“He may be a bad guy, but he’s our bad guy!” Smay announced confidently. “He’s still our friend!”
“My sentiments exactly.” DM said.
“I guess I’ll join you then.” Farlell decided, teeth flashing into a smile. “You’ll owe me one though.”
The night before Morthose’s trial and probable execution, three figures, under a handy spell DM had called ‘pass without trace’, snuck into a guardhouse that two of them had navigated less than a week ago.
Narrow stone corridors, guards defeated with silent blows to the back of the neck, and a few times magic, flickering torches, all of it blended together in Smay’s mind as he focused on the one goal: Rescuing Morthose, and getting him out of the city before dawn.
They hadn’t wanted to wait till the last day before his trial, but the four preceding days were needed for Farlell to set things up with the smuggler who could help them get Morthose out. After all, with magic-prevention handcuffs on, he wouldn’t be able to teleport, and since they probably wouldn’t be able to break off his magic-preventing handcuffs quickly without going on an entirely different quest to find the Captain of the Guard and mug him for the keys…
“Finding the keys to the handcuffs would take far too long.” Farlell had explained to Smay, “He would be dead by the time we got them, and since his life is our first priority, we’ll go with smuggling him out. You can break the handcuffs on him later if he’s as good at research as you say he is. Besides, since you said Bellas claimed she would report you, there’s no way you won’t be suspects in his escape. You’ll have to get out of the city as well. Smuggling is our best bet.”
So now, Farlell had a horse drawn cart waiting just outside the nearby marketplace, driven by a surprisingly old looking elf with short white hair, and knobbly fingers. He claimed his name was Bob, but that was obviously a fake name. It was just too weird to be a real name.
But basically, all DM, Smay, and Farlell needed to do, was get in quietly; get Morthose; and get out quietly. Everything else was covered, by the smuggler whose silence Farlell had bought, and since both he and Smay had rolled 20s to persuade DM to use his “NPC’s powers” as DM called them, he was willing to cast Pass Without Trace. With that spell, good rolls, and Smay’s ‘brick to the head’ technique that he used on all of the guards, it was actually quite easy to reach Morthose.
“Morthose!” Smay called softly through the bars, trying to stir his friend from slumber. Morthose was sitting, leaning against the wall, legs crossed, and eyes closed. Apart from the odd position, he appeared to be asleep. “Morthose!” Smay called, a little louder this time. Morthose didn’t react at all.
“DM, can you lift the spell? I don’t think he can hear me because of it.” Smay asked his friend.
“That’s not what my spell does, but okay.” With a flick of his fingers, DM dissolved the spell, and soft black sparks fell from all of their clothing.
“Since we knocked out the guards, it should be okay…” Farlell murmured, but the other two weren’t even paying any attention.
“I suggest you rip off the cell door and go shake him awake. You don’t want to yell and ruin the whole ‘sneaky mission thing’.” DM said bluntly to Smay as the dragon sucked in yet another breath to quietly shout at his friend.
“That’s… really smart actually. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?” Smay asked, going to rip off the cage door with his dragon strength.
DM shrugged, “that’s what I was wondering, that’s why I suggested it.” he replied. Smay shook Morthose awake, which took a few seconds, and then Morthose opened his bleary eyes and saw his friends faces.
“Who– wait, what are you all doing here?!” His eyes sharpened and turned hostile as he saw Farlell, “And what are you doing here?” He asked coldly.
“Easy man, we came to rescue you!” Farlell said, looking more than a little nervous. “We’re here to get you out before you get killed tomorrow.
“Well,” Morthose smirked, “That throws a bit of a dent in my plans.” He laughed, ironically. “When I heard you guys’ evidence wouldn’t be accepted in court, I thought for sure that would be the end of me, so I had a whole final speech planned out.” He stood up, his shackles on his ankles and hands hindering his movements. “Do you have a way to get these nasty boys off?” He asked hopefully. “They’ve been terribly inconvenient.”
“Unfortunately, no.” DM said. “And we need to get going. I’m not sure I trust Bob to stick around if something spooks him.”
“Bob?” Morthose’s face twists. “What sort of name is that?”
“A fake one probably.” Farlell said. “He’s a smuggler who’s going to get you and your friends out of the city.”
“Ahh…” Morthose said, moving out of the cage and following his friends as they led him out of the prison section of the guardhouse, and down towards the market. “It’s nice to breathe the fresh air again.” He smiled up at the dark sky. “When is it? Like, what time?”
“Dawn should be in a few hours.” Smay said, hurrying over to the cart, and hopping in, pausing to help lift up DM and Morthose.
“Are you not coming?” Morthose asked Farlell, still more than a little cold.
“No, they don’t suspect me, why should I flee the city?” Farlell replied with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Uh-huh.” Morthose replied, affirmative, but still suspicious. Bob started the carriage rolling, and after Farlell was left behind in the darkness, Morthose turned to his friends and said, “I’ll need you to watch my body for a moment.”
“Wait, what?” Smay asked, “what do you mean–” But Morthose’s eyes were already closed, and he wasn’t responding. “There’s no way he could be using the Spyder right now, right?” Smay asked DM. “The shackles should prevent that. Right?”
DM only shrugged. A minutes later Morthose’s eyes shot open and he started gasping.
“Morthose are you okay?!” Smay whisper-shouted, leaning over his friend.
“I’m fine, I’m fine!” Morthose said, obviously trying to be reassuring.
That certainly didn’t look fine. Smay thought to himself, Morthose was still covered in sweat. “What were you doing?” He asked, and Morthose hesitated, about to give a reply but he was interrupted.
“Stop right there, you filth!”
“Keep on going!” Smay shouted at Bob, seeing the guards chasing them.
“There in front of us too!” Bob shouted back, “they’re blocking the way!”
How did they even find us?! Smay thought wildly. We did everything right, we prepared right, we knocked everyone out, so how did they catch on so quickly?
Morthose glared at Bob, and then at all the guards that started surrounding them as their cart ground to a halt. “Smay,” he shouted to his friend, Smay lurched up. “Take to the skies! If they catch you and DM, you’ll get sent to the gallows as well!”
“I’m not leaving you Morthose!” Smay shouted back, “You, me and DM! We’ll get out of this together!”
“That’s dumb. Why would you sacrifice yourself, just so you can die with us?!” Morthose retorted angrily.
“Because you guys are my friends!” Smay fired back. And then the whole point was moot because the guards tossed a giant net over them. The fibers were strong, Smay realized as he pushed at them. He truly couldn’t escape now, not even the skies would save him.
Instead of waiting till morning and giving Smay, Morthose, and DM another chance to escape, an emergency meeting of judges was called, and they declared the three of them to be guilty of conspiracy, murder, and high treason, and said they should be executed at dawn.
Morthose laughed sardonically at the pronouncement as they were led to separate cages to await the sun’s rising. DM walked quietly, apparently lost in thought, and Smay had to be physically hauled away from his friends. He was pissed as hell that they were all going to die, and made it quite clear that if his wings and muzzle weren’t bound, and there wasn’t this stupid chain around his neck, these guards would have had a much larger problem to deal with. He would be raining fire from above! He would tear these guards and their chains to shreds with his claws! He would swoop down to the rescue, and grab his friends and take them all somewhere nobody would ever find them! He would–! He would–!
But he couldn’t do anything. And in a few hours, they were in a different cart, still driven by Bob, but heading the opposite direction of safety. Smay was still muzzled, and DM was still silent, but Morthose could talk. However, much to Smay’s surprise, he was also silent, and looked surprisingly calm for such a situation. DM’s calm silence was to be expected, but Smay thought Morthose would be raging at the obvious injustice going on here. Instead, he had closed his eyes, and the few wrinkles on his forehead suggested he was concentrating on something difficult.
Suddenly though, DM’s eyes popped and he turned to Morthose “Why–?” He asked, and then he shook his head. “No, wait, are you sure you want to do this? It could be the end of everything.” His face twisted into some unreadable negative emotion.
Morthose’s eyes slid open and he studied DM. “Sorry, Smay.” He said, “I was thoughtless, I should have done this earlier.” Leaning over he undid Smay’s muzzle. “As for your concerns, DM, Yes, it’s the only way we’ll be free from the shackles of the past.” He smirked his usual smirk, but it was touched with sadness. “That’s why I requested one last adventure.”
“But it–” DM hesitated, sighed and muttered “I can’t interfere with players’ decisions. I can’t interfere with players’ decisions. I can’t…” His hands turned white as he clutched his dice bag to his now very soiled, best robes.
“What are you all talking about?” Smay asked, glancing between his two friends. “Morthose, what’s going on?”
But before anyone could reply to his question, a set of barrels they were passing in the pre-dawn light exploded into giant fireballs. “ROLL!!” DM shouted, throwing dice towards Morthose as he was enveloped in the flames. “ROLL YOUR DEATH SAVING THROWS GOD FREAKING DAMMIT!!” Smay threw himself over DM, desperate to protect at least one of his friends from the fire, but the wave of scorching heat and light blinded him for a few seconds. “I CAN’T ROLL THESE FOR YOU!” DM wailed, absolutely desperate and struggling under Smay’s bulk. The horses spooked at the sudden flame, but Bob quickly got them back under control and heading towards their destination like nothing ever happened.
Morthose had been in the exact center of the the explosions radius, however when Smay looked up, and could finally see through the flames, he realized that they only licked around the place where their friend had been. Morthose was gone by then, floating up and out of the cart, his magic-restraining shackles broken and abandoned at the bottom of the cart. When did–? Smay began to question and then shook his head.
“Morthose! Are you all right?!” He shouted.
“Right as rain.” Morthose replied cooly.
“Please Morthose!” DM begged, somehow managing to shove Smay’s considerable bulk off himself and hold up three sparkling black and gold D20s out towards Morthose. “Roll!!” Smay could’ve sworn he saw tears in DM’s eyes, but Morthose was unmoved.
“I don’t have time, DM. Bob will take you outside the city. I’ve given him the only safe route through the chaos I’ve got planned. I never wanted you here when this started in the first place, but at least you’ll be safe this way.”
“MORTHOSE!!” Both Smay and DM howled, but Morthose flew off, supported by his magic, a determined look on his face.
“It’s okay.” DM muttered as he collapsed in the bottom of the still slightly on fire cart. “The adventure doesn’t have to end here. I still have Smay. We can salvage this, maybe he can roll up a new character sheet and join us again.”
Smay, struggling to understand what DM was saying replied. “You’re right DM, the adventure doesn’t have to end here. Untie my wings!” DM stared at him, and slowly started moving. Far away, another explosion rumbled and a cloud of black smoke belched its way into the blue dawn sky. Grimly, Bob continued driving, even as the end of the cart rattled and fell to pieces, but Smay’s rope was now undone, and he had a plan in mind.
“We can still save Morthose from himself. I don’t know why he’s blowing up the city, but Morthose is reasonable. We can convince him to stop this nonsense. I’m going to confront him!”
DM stared at Smay emptily. “If the player wishes it.” He said, the catchphrase lacking its usual spark.
“I do wish it.” Smay said determinedly. “And you’re coming with me to help me and roll my dice.” DM stared at him quietly, no reaction to what Smay’d hoped would jolt his friend back to his normal state.
Grimacing at how stiff his wings were after only a few hours tied up, Smay shot into the air, then swooped back down and snatched DM in his claws, clutching him close as they hurtled through the smoky sky, trying to find Morthose.
They quickly caught up to the elf in question, who was staring down at the explosions, the screams, the bursts of flame shooting high enough to burn his shoes, with a small, satisfied smile on his face. Far away, though all the smoke and debris, Smay could see an army on the outskirts of the burning city.
“Dwarves?!” Smay shouted at him. “You brought dwarves straight to Meyan?!”
“It will ensure the city is completely decimated. The general I contacted, Maddox Kingard, won’t let anyone survive. He never approved of this peace, and this was his chance to end it and still be popular back home.” Morthose said, not a hint of regret in his voice. “I think he was planning a coup or some such nonsense. I didn’t really pay attention.”
Smay shook his head, unable to recognize his friend through the callously cruel actions. “You’re restarting the war with this!” He exclaimed.
“So?” Morthose said, and that one word made Smay so pissed that he nearly dropped DM.
“WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!” He howled at his friend. “What did all these innocent civilians ever do that was so bad you have to massacre their entire city?!”
Smay stared at his friend, straight into the dark depths of Morthose’s soul, and shuddered. A terrible thought crossed his mind. If this is what Morthose was like all along, was he ever innocent? Did he actually kill Paran Mithrandir? We’re my basic assumptions about him wrong?
Slowly, he asked. “Morthose, did you kill Paran Mithrandir?”
“It doesn’t really matter. Even if I did, it’s not like the Ancients can convict me of it now. They should all be dead in three… two…o—”
Smay cut off Morthose’s countdown and shouted “DID YOU OR DID YOU NOT!!?” Behind him a giant explosion went off, although it was hundreds of feet away, he could still feel the heat scorch his back.
“Fine.” Morthose said, finally turning to him. “I didn’t kill Paran. But I knew it would happen, I didn’t do anything to stop it, and I used it as a catalyst to set my plans in motion. I knew I’d be the first suspect, the Ancients were itching to get rid of me, there’s no way they’d let anyone else get blamed for it. So I planned to use my imprisonment as an alibi. History will look back at this time and say ‘there’s no way he could have started a war from a jail cell, right?’ It was an excellent way to clear my name. The real murderer of Paran Mithrandir, if you must know, was your new friend Farlell. Are you satisfied now?” Morthose asked his friend coldly.
Smay was devastated. Yes Morthose wasn’t guilty, but in a way he still was, and Farlell– Farlell of all people– had been playing him since the very beginning! He’d been the one to alert the guards! Smay had known something was wonky about the timing of it, how the guards had come so quickly after Farlell left, but he hadn’t expected– he hadn’t thought–!
“As soon as I saw Farlell with you guys, I knew your plan to break me out would fail.” Morthose said, calmly continuing with his explanation. “So, while we were being transported I contacted the dwarven commander and retimed the invasion so you and DM could use it to escape this hellhole of a city. You should probably get out now, when those dwarves attack, things are going to get a lot messier.” He sighed, and, as yet another explosion went off in the background, Smay found himself wondering how it could get any worse.
“All I wanted,” Morthose said quietly, turning back towards the city’s flames, his words nearly lost in the explosions, “was one last adventure before I ended everything for good.”
“But you don’t have to end everything!” Smay shouted at him, switching to holding a limp DM in one claw, and grabbing Morthose with the other. “You’ve gone too far, but it isn’t too late to turn back! We can still save this city!”
He yanked Morthose around, and then let go of him in shock. Morthose’s face was a mask of rage that had been repressed for too long. His eyes didn’t see his friends, they only reflected the flames of the burning city.
“Why should I?” He hissed.
“Because you know this is wrong!” Smay pleaded. “You’re killing so many innocent people, Morthose!”
“It isn’t wrong!” Morthose argued. “I’m sacrificing the present– really only this city’s present –for the sake of the future. The Ancients are old, insane, corrupt, and they’re all in this city right now! They would have us stay in the same place for thousands more years! They’ve been punishing people for new ideas! Punishing people for inventions that are outside of the very narrow box that allows them to keep control! You’ve seen how they act, they’re was originally no evidence that I did it, but they immediately went after me!”
“Because you’re suspicious!” Smay shouted. “You always have been, and you enjoy it!”
“No, because I’m the person they want to get rid of most! Because I’m a danger to them. Because I fight for new ideas, new generations of people to grow up on their own and experience the world from different perspectives. I seek progress, and they want to stay in the past!” Morthose shouted back.
“But what about all these people?!” Smay gestured below them to the crowds desperately searching for a place to run, to hide from the flames.
“Collateral Damage.” Morthose proclaimed coldly. “A necessary sacrifice.”
Smay stared at his friend, uncomprehendingly. Has he always been a monster? Did I just never notice? He wondered, and then shook his head. It doesn’t matter, I have to stop him. Tucking DM into his back claws, he charged at Morthose, determined to force him to help stop this catastrophe.
“You will stop this nonsense, Morthose!” He shouted, “Or I’ll force you to stop.”
Morthose turned to look at his former best friend sadly. “I can’t let you do that Smay.” He said. “This was my choice, and I’m going through with it. I get that you find it difficult to understand, and I’m sorry you had to get involved.”
He muttered a few words, and flicked his fingers, sending out an invisible rope of incomparable strength. He had tried this spell on Smay previously, hoping he’d never have to use it in this sort of situation, and it’d worked perfectly. He knew it would work just the same now, so he didn’t even try to evade Smay’s charge. He just stood there, and watched as Smay jerked to a halt, choking and straining against the invisible leash.
Morthose stared at his former friend as Smay’s eyes widened in betrayal.
“Morthose?” He asked softly. Morthose’s face twisted, sadness creeping in as he flicked his fingers down and sent Smay hurtling towards the burning city below.
Smay stared up at his friend, betrayal causing his mind to freeze. Because of Morthose’s spell he couldn’t even fly away. Although he could feasably survive the crash and the fires, DM– DM would die!
“I’m sorry.” He whispered to DM, knowing that he couldn’t keep the slightly crazy elf safe this time. DM, still clutched in Smay’s back claws whimpered and then said something, but the words were lost in the roar of the approaching flames. Just as they were about to hit a burning mansion, everything went black for a few seconds. Smay thought he was dead.
But then, color flashed before his eyes. Light, and speeding images. They were memories! Memories of him and Morthose! But, not from his perspective. Suddenly, they ended, and Smay felt something heavy on his back and smelled fresh grass. He opened his eyes, and saw a hilltop in the early dawn light. On his back and lying around him was all the luggage he and DM had brought to Meyan. And DM was standing on the crest of the hill, watching Meyan burn, a devastated look on his face.
“I’ve lost both my friends” He whispered, and the wind carried the words to Smay, who struggled to get up. “Smay is dead too now. It’s all my fault. This body doesn’t have Teleport. I saved him when I shouldn’t have, I didn’t give him a chance to roll Death saving throws. They’re both NPCs now.”
Smay tottered towards DM, his balance still thrown off from the crazy light travel. “This isn’t a game DM!” He shouted at his friend. “People are dying. We have to save Morthose! We have to save the city!”
DM turned towards Smay somberly, not even surprised at his actions. “It is a game. And it’s game over. You both died. “
“But I’m not dead?!” Smay asked, confused.
“Yes.” DM agreed. “But you aren’t You either. I fudged NPC Morthose Haulding’s rolls. I teleported you out and gave up on the You that was real. At that point, You died and the NPC you was born. And I can’t– I just– I can’t–” DM started sobbing. Smay tried to comfort him, going in for a hug, but his arms reached air. DM had disappeared in a shower of sparkles, and only his echoing sobs and an whimpered “I’m sorry” remained.
Smay slumped down on the hilltop, shocked. Morthose betrayed me. DM gave up on us for reasons that make no sense. I thought our friendship was more important than silly rules of perceived powerlessness. I thought we could survive anything. He stared into the burning city, watching as dwarves charged in, pillaging, ravaging, killing.
Is there anything that could have changed their minds? He wondered. Anything I could have said or done? Anything that would have kept us together? Allowed us to just be happy? Tears started to roll down his face. I wish it had been a doomsday device! That it ended the whole world before everything fell apart! No, I don’t wish that. I just– I just wish– I just wish I’d never gone on this adventure! Sobbing, he took to the skies, and didn’t stop flying.
* * *
DM’s overview of what happened to NPCs Morthose Haulding and Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll after their original PCs died.
So, soon to be HeadMaster Morthose Haulding destroyed the elven capital of Meyan to get rid of the Ancients. Both DM’s NPC and NPC Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll saw him do this. What they didn’t see however, was the magical bioweapon he released. It put a time limit on immortality, created the current ‘after 500 years, we start to go insane’ symptoms among the Elves. It was the final piece of his plan to ensure that the ancients could never rise again. After all, even though the ancients themselves were dead, and the world had been embroiled in yet another series of wars, there were still elves about that remembered the Ancients’ golden age. But if no one could reach a thousand without going insane, then nobody could reach four thousand, the threshold for Ancient status. Morthose Haulding, of course, somehow made himself the one exception from this curse. And DM’s NPC was never going to be affected in the first place because of his unique situation in this world.
Of course, although he restarted the war and killed thousands with his destruction of Meyan, Morthose Haulding, in his typical fashion, avoided all responsibility. He decided to enjoy life for a bit, helping the other Elves build their new capital, Heronmal, a lot further away from the new battlelines, according to King Hastios Ulazumin’s wishes. Yes, apparently he’d been out of town when Meyan burned, which was quite lucky for him. Morthose, believing that there had been enough death, allowed the man to retire peacefully after Heronmal was built instead of murdering him.
Morthose Haulding played an extensive part of the rebuilding because of his magical skills and out-of-the-box manner of thinking. It was actually his idea to place Heronmal in the trees, and although he explained it to King Hastios Ulazumin and the architects quite logically, I still think he just enjoyed making all the rich self-righteous survivors and poor, not quite broken yet, survivors climb all those stairs together.
Because nobody here knew that he’d been the cause of Meyan’s demise or that he’d caused endless chaos and had been on trial for murder before Meyan fell, (He had been correct, it was merely the Ancients dislike of him that had caused the trial to be held in the first place. They didn’t even tell the King or nobles because they didn’t want anyone to realize that they were corrupt enough to use the judicial system as a method to get rid of dissidents) the people only saw a benevolent hero who’d helped them in their hours of need. Morthose Haulding, of course, was very happy to go along with this perception. Especially when the new King Nasir Nericairn, (Hastios Ulazumin had retired by then) told him that he would grant any favor Morthose Haulding asked, as long as it was in his power to do so.
Since he had already accomplished his main goal, overthrowing the reign of the Ancients and ending what he believed to be their unilateral dictatorship over freedom of speech, action, and thought, Morthose Haulding took it upon himself to attempt to cultivate that same dedication towards progress in the next generations of mages. He requested to become a HeadMaster at an abandoned school of magic in a pocket dimension near the site of the old capital. It had been a prestigious school back in the days of Meyan, and although the previous HeadMaster had been one of the ancients, Morthose Haulding held no grudge against the school itself. And, under his help, the school rose to its former glory, becoming the most awarded and well known school in the entire Elven Territories.
Eventually, Morthose Haulding published a book under a pseudo name, just to mess with future generations who shared his rare and strange talent for soul throwing. He called it “Strange Talents and Ancient Arts” and his pen name was Lathseid Moughron, an anagram of his real name.
After around a thousand years as HeadMaster, Morthose Haulding even matured a little. His students must have finally rubbed off on him.
* * *
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of Meyan’s destruction, Smayhellionthostvalleysonknoll was more than disappointed in his friends. He was devastated, and, after seeing both his friends practically abandon their friendship– one in an apparent search for revenge, the other because of some ‘stupid rules’ –-he started suffering from severe depression. He flew away from Meyan, trying to put the thoughts out of his mind, and kept flying for as long as he could. After over 50 hours of aimless flying with no rest, he fell asleep midair and crashed into a mountain, falling through a crack in a glacier, and landing in his current cave system.
There, he met a bunch of other creatures that most people believed didn’t exist anymore, and some that no elves or dwarves had ever believed to exist at all. Although he was still depressed, he made a few new friends. He made some allies, some enemies, and eventually, he rose to a position of power in the mountain’s ecosystem and economic system. Slowly, over hundreds and thousands of years, the blinding pain of betrayal that haunted him faded to a dull ache.
He still misses his old friends sometimes, but he is happier now. The occasional visitor from the outside world allows him to know that if the apocalypse Morthose Haulding was planning hasn’t happened yet, so his former friends are probably doing just fine.
- Transferal/ self-isolation of Elves and Dwarves.
- War start
- Current Short/The dex defying trio
- Meyan is destroyed
- DM enters Library
- Smay enters Mountains
- Morthose becomes HMMH
- Faladel’s great grandfather wins throne, starts the Mithrandir Dynasty
- Faladel’s imprisonment
- Adamar Short
- Book one start–
- Faladel’s self rescue (with the help of Briareth)
- Faladel’s return home
- Beginning of second book/Arrival of Balderk
After-afterwards: I’m vaguely surprised but gratified that you read this far. Thank you.
“Skylar, why the hell did you put me in one of your main stories, and then stick me as a side character named BOB of all the stupid things!” Mephi shouted, more than a little upset.
Skylar slurped her well earned mint tea happily, rereading the last few lines of the Afterwards. “Hey, at least I made it obvious the name was fake. That will leave Little Brother #2 wondering who that character really was.” she replied. “And besides, you did a great job! You drove the cart! Despite explosions, storyline characters doubting you, and not actually getting paid by that jerk Farlell, you did a great job! Next time, I promise, I’ll give you a slightly better fake name and job. Happy?” She asked.
“Not really.” Mephi groused.
“Oh hush. It could always have been worse. I could have made you a cat named Bob.”
“UGHHH…” Mephi groaned. “Fine, you’re right. That would be worse.”
“Hey, don’t worry, you’ll be a main character again soon enough. Just let me finish out December and a bit more of book two first.” Skylar grinned, switching tabs.
“Thank goodness.” Mephi sighed.