As you pass through the shield door you feel a brief sensation of disorientation, weightless, and of being pulled or stretched. Then the feeling passes and you step out onto the rocky ledge. The deep cold of the Orlishuz caverns begins to fade as the sunshine hits your neck and back. The weariness of long weeks of travel followed by the bruises and scrapes of battle are gone. The dank, still air of the underground is replaced by a sweet mountain breeze. You feel invigorated, refreshed, and powerful.
You suppress the urge to stretch your muscles and instead look about you. The mountain you are on looks to be the tallest of seven peaks in a chain. Far below a green sea washes gently against a strand of white sand that gives way to forested slopes. The sea stretches to the horizon where it fades to a golden aura. There is a town down there! Walls of gleaming white surround towers, docks, and a sheltered bay. It is too far away to make out more, but you see signs of habitation: ships in the harbor, smoke drifting from chimneys and banners flying from the towers.
Valsharane: “Our way is up.”
The Exarch shoulders her spear and turns to ascend a stairway cut into the stone of the mountain. Your gaze follows the stairs as they wind up and up, twisting, turning, and curving back to disappear high above into the shroud of mist.
Valsharane moves with a sinuous grace that reminds you of a hunting cat or a dragon. Her footsteps make no sound. Upon her back is a solid white shield, devoid of any emblem or decoration. Her voice sounds again in your mind as she climbs the steps.
Valsharane: “If you reference the aid I provided you in Palmatreow and Ule Inur’s Vault, I acted as directed by our Lord. There have been other times as well, more subtle than my more recent direct intervention. Long have I watched you, Targus. Your whole life. Others I have watched as well, but they have not stayed true to the path our Lord has set before them. Only you.”
Targus stops to look before climbing the stairs, taking in the wonder of the sight before him.
“Well then, if I’m to serve Our Lord, what would you have me do?”
He looks to the exarch expectantly as he fold his arms across his chest.
Valsharane does not pause her ascent but looks back over her shoulder at you.
Valsharane: “I would have you climb.”
Targus begins climbing the stairs, significantly slower than Valsharane does. After a few minutes, he speaks.
“Am I to speak with Our Lord? By the gods, Valsharane, don’t keep me in suspense!”
Valsharane has not slowed her pace and you have fallen significantly behind her on the stairs. Despite this, her voice sounds clearly in your head as if she were standing only a few feet away.
Valsharane: “Petulance ill-becomes you Targus. In a sense, you are speaking with Him now. I am Agan’s exarch and His Voice.”
The clouds hang right above you now and Valsharane disappears from view as she ascends the stairs into the mist.
Targus mentally scolds himself for his impatience and quickens his pace. He climbs quietly, save for the occasional grunt of effort.
At this height the mountainside is covered in snow but the stairs are clear. From your excursions and crossings in the North, you know the air should be noticeably thinner and breathing more difficult but here that is not the case. You reach the clouds and your visibility decreases to almost nothing. It is all you can do to see the next stair in front of you. Despite your desire to catch up to Valsharane, you must slow your pace to assure you do not step off into empty space.
You have been climbing a long time and your legs begin to burn with exertion when at last you burst through the clouds to see the most majestic view yet. The snow-capped peak above you gleams golden in the sun, an island in a sea of clouds. Across a grassy glen, nestled in a crook of the summit is a shining citadel of silver and gold. From the pointed parapets of seven towers fly banners bearing a platinum dragon.
Valsharane waits patiently at the far side of the glen near a winding gravel path that leads to the castle’s gate.
Valsharane: “Welcome Targus, to Castle Mertion. Seat of Agan; Bahamut the Platinum Dragon; Protector of the World; Wellspring of Hope; and Lord of the Just. You walk now where no living mortal has tread since the last age.”
Targus finishes off the last few steps of the climb in a hurried fashion. Bringing himself up to his feet, he surveys the island in the clouds.
“It’s pure beauty, Valsharane. Have I died and left my mortal remains behind? Am I to face the final judgement? If so, I have no regrets. I defeated Ule-Inur and his foul minions and I put an end to the war in the Midlands. My heart is content with what I’ve helped to accomplished.”
As you approach, Valsharane turns and leads you along the path.
Valsharane: “You are very much alive Targus. It is good that you have no misgivings about your life. Putting an end to Ule-Inur was a great feat for any mortal, but it was just the beginning.”
The soles of your boots crunch on the gravel as you follow her. Ahead you see the path ends abruptly at a moat of sorts. A transparent bridge of pure golden light spans the gap. Far below, the clouds boil and shift gently in the breeze where you spot several dragons frolicking in the updraft from the trench. The light glints off their metallic scales – golden silver brass and copper.
Valsharane: “The Midlands have enjoyed a brief respite, but I fear the world has not seen the end of war, and it must be you that brings it to them.”
“What evil befalls them now? The people of the Midlands deserve peace and prosperity. Regardless, I’ll do as commanded and smite evil in Agan’s name.” Targus says.
Valsharane does not answer you right away. She crosses the narrow bridge of golden light. You follow carefully. The roiling clouds visible beneath your feet through the transparent span causes a brief sense of vertigo and you force yourself to concentrate on the solid ground of the far side. Just as you begin to wonder if she heard your question, Valsharane’s voice sounds again in your head, startling you.
Valsharane: “In the last age, the mortal realms enjoyed a time of enlightenment. Worship of the goodly gods with our lord Agan foremost amongst them, was widespread under the rule of the Inurian Empire. The empire was a beacon of light and hope. Citizens enjoyed peace when order and law protected them. Our lord was at the height of his power with the mortal realms united under his guiding hand.”
Now the world has fallen into darkness. Empietine’s far-reaching plots have fragmented the once great empire into city-states ruled by petty kings. The temples of the goodly gods are rife with corruption and fueled by greed. The world has forgotten."
Passing beneath the open gates of the castle it occurs to you that Valsharane did not exactly answer your question. Beyond, you see a long courtyard, its far end shrouded in mist. In stark contrast to the gleaming magnificence of all you have beheld here on the mountain, the courtyard is bleak and weathered. Untended weeds grow between cracked grey flagstones. A long row of towering statues flanks either side of the yard depicting noble-looking men and women in heroic poses, however they are covered in moss and lichen. The ones closest to the gate are so weathered as to obscure some of their features.
Valsharane: “Behold, the Court of Heroes.”
She points to each in turn, calling them by name as you pass.
Valsharane: “Here stands Agrill the Wise.
There Eligrath the Sea King.
This is Verbinark the Conqueror, and there Hathilas the Builder.”
Targus touches the statues as he walks by, looking at them in wonder and awe. He pauses a moment to examine the courtyard.
“Does not Father Agan have a godly groundskeeper? What’s happened here? Did Emptietine do this?” he asks.
Valsharane: “In a sense, yes. Through her treachery and deceit, Agan’s followers have been diminished, and thus so has his power. If the world falls further into darkness and the last of the true believers vanish from the land, our Lord will become powerless and unable to hold Emptietine and her allies at bay. Agan chooses to focus his waning influence elsewhere, and thus this place has been allowed to fall into decline, and perhaps to act as a reminder of the dire consequences of failure.”
The statues look on as you and Valsharane pass beneath them. After several long minutes of walking side by side between the solemn giants you reach the wall of mist at the far end. Here Valsharane stops and gazes up into the opaque shroud. A strong silver light begins to emanate from the center of the mist, growing steadily closer. You feel a sense of expectation, as a great presence approaches. Valsharane speaks aloud for the first time, her strong melodious voice echoing through the court.
Valsharane: “Targus, you have been chosen and found worthy! You must unite the mortal realms and restore order and hope to the lands in our Lord’s name. You must forge a new empire to push back the darkness and usher in a new age of enlightenment! It will be no easy task and all the dark forces of Emptietine and her allies will be aligned against you. Do you agree to commit yourself fully to this great duty set before you?”
Targus drops to his knees and bows his head.
“If this is my Lord’s wish, then I do solemnly swear that I will forge this new empire, devoted first to Father Agan, then to his goodly allies. I will be Agan’s champion and reintroduce his good works of law, compassion, kindness, sacrifice and order to the world. I will do this or I will die trying.”
As you conclude your vow, the silvery light intensifies to near blinding radiance as the head of a great platinum dragon bursts from the mist. The head snakes upwards on a serpentine neck, the rest of its impossibly huge body concealed in the shroud. The majestic draconic visage gazes down at you for a moment and you are frozen in awe as your eyes briefly meet. There is a moment of eerie silence before a great intake of breath. The massive jaws open wide and Agan exhales. You are engulfed by searing flames, frozen with mind-numbing cold, pierced by a thousand spears. You are wracked by the greatest pain and experience the most exquisite exultation as your body, your soul, and all that you are is torn asunder and remade.
You awake with a start in your cot, staring at the crystalline ceiling of the Vault of the Gods.
OOC: You gain:
Your Epic Destiny
Bahamut’s Protective Ward (level 23)