The Legacy of Heroes

Meanwhile...

   Zemilay Lyks rose from his bed, "They're on their own now", he thought. The aged druid had no intention of staying on the wayside during the children's sojourn however and after donning a delicate pair of reading glasses, prepared a list of contacts he would intend to approach in his quest to aid the Legacy. As he made his way downstairs, a complex array of delicious odors overtook his senses. George had stepped back the intricacy of his meals after his body began to rapidly age without his deceased lover's magicks to support him, so surely, someone else had to be in his kitchen. To his surprise however, the grand and sumptuous feast that lay waiting for him had in fact been concocted by his faithful manservant. "Good morning sir, it's good to see you", George declared with a rasp to his voice that spoke to his present physical condition. Zemilay returned the greeting and commented glowingly on the lavish meal that lay before him. "With the children gone, I thought it might be nice to do something special for you..", George spoke before his works became broken by a fit of coughing. "Sit down George", the druid demanded. "No,no, no, the tea is still on the stove", George said irritably as he shuffled towards the kitchen, "Don't make me fight you". The words were spoken with an upward curl to his lip, the smile betraying his jest. He returned shortly clasping the expertly engraved teapot that Zemilay's absent wife, Xanti, had purchased for their fifth wedding anniversary. "Where is Burbis?, inquired the servant. "He'll be here in a moment, just please sit down", the druid asked pleadingly. George grunted and groaned as he slowly shifted down into his seat. After taking a moment to fix a cup of tea, George asked "How are you doing with them gone?" "It's been difficult but it has also made me realize how much I need to do." the druid replied. "To that end, I'm going to be bringing in someone to help around the house." "No, no, no, we've had this discussion before", retorted George. "Absolutely not". Zemilay interrupted him, "George, you are my longest friend here are you not, and you know how much I care about you, you are my family and you need to let me take care of you as you have taken care of me for so many years." The housekeep seemed incensed, "Sir, it is my place to say when I'm no longer able, this is my charge." "How would you like it if the Grand Druid came to you and told you it was time to quit?" "We'll have someone take your place and you just sit back and watch as they perform your duties", George intoned as a surrogate for the Great Druid. Zemilay considered this for a moment. "I would laugh and say that I had become quite the senile old man", he replied. "I am not senile", George protested. "I know this", the druid replied, "you are a valuable ally and I still need you here." "This person would take just a small fragment of your duties." After considering this for a moment, George replied, "I would like to meet this person first." Zemilay assented, saying that he would of course allow his request. "I'm sorry to be so difficult in my old age", the servant shifted his gaze away from his master, "I know I haven't been the same since Mellsandre has been gone." The mention of George's slain lover let Lyks know that the wound still ran deep. The aged druid, feeling responsible for her untimely death, whispered, "I'm sorry, it was my fault." "It's not. I've never blamed you, sir", George said in reply. Before he could continue, Zemilay interrupted, "All of this is my fault and it's up to me to make it right." "Fate is fate", retorted George., "I follow Lady Istus, I believe that to be true." Lyks seemed surprised, "George, you've never spoken of your religion before", he noticed. "Ah", George snorted, "religion and politics are best left from the dinner table sir." "I am an employee, my beliefs are of no importance, only my ability to serve matters." Zemilay took issue with that and said gently, "George, you are my family, my friend and my ally" He took a pause before continuing, "Do you remember the old days, when everyone was here, Drayden and the others?" "You made this house a home and that is why your name is upon it." George seemed bowled over by the sentiment, "I thank you sir" He paused a moment before exclaiming, "It does seem empty these days doesn't it?"

 

   The thought hung in the air for a moment before the silence was broken by bounding footsteps coming down the stairs. Burbis Baggleton hurriedly made his way down the winding staircase, "Heyguyswhat'supwhydoeseveronelooksosad?" he asked. "Lookatallthisfoodhowcouldanyonebesosadwithallthisfoodhere?, the gnome seemed overwhelmed by the display. "WowGeorgethisisalotbetterthanitsbeen…" Suddenly, Lyks cuts off his companion, "Don't say that Burbis, this is a wonderful display and I'm very appreciative of all the work that George put into this." After scratching his eyebrow ever so briefly, Burbis replied, "Noit'snotthatIdontappreciateitit'sjustsomuchitslikewaytoomuch." A wry smile crept upon the face of the now feeble manservant, "Help yourself Master Burbis", he instructed as he drew out the gnome's undersized chair. The presence of such unbound enthusiasm served quite well to lighten the mood and as the little man chattered on, the two masters of the house finally found the will to relax. George Pimpleton took a moment before speaking to Zemilay in a low tone, "Thank you Master Lyks, if I could just meet with the candidate first?" "You're welcome George and of course," the druid replied. The three men then settled down at the table and made their best work of the expansive feast, drinking well into the evening.

 

   Some days later, Zemilay sought out another on his list of potential allies, the husband of his lost and most treasured companion and father to Moira and Barth, the cavalier Vortis. Finding himself at the retired knight's door, he rapped upon it with leather clad knuckles. "Go away!" came the sharp reply from inside. Sensing this would be his greeting, the druid spoke loudly, "It's Zemilay." Some rumbling was heard from behind the door before it swung open, "Zemilay, good to see you." The cavalier had seen better days. Since his retirement from the city guard's training facility, he seemed diminished, even purposeless. This dark gloom was pushed away for a moment however as he greeted his old friend. Lyks passed a bottle of wine to the old soldier, which was received with appreciation. "I could use this, my knees aren't what they used to be." Vortis groaned as he settled into his chair and Lyks, sensing an opportunity, suggested that perhaps his friend could use some help around the house. This was, of course, waved off with a scoff. "I prefer the solitude and I need to stay busy," he said before his countenance softened, "I can't be allowed time to get lost in my own thoughts, it's too painful." The druid considered this, "You need a hobby to keep yourself busy," he implored. "I have a hobby, I still sharpen my swords and practice what forms I'm able," Vortis retorted. After Zemilay observed that it was obvious that he kept up with his martial studies, the cavalier said with a snort, "This tunic hides much my friend, old age is creeping up on me faster than I'd like to admit but..", he paused and looked skyward, "if it means I get to see my dear husband again, so be it." Vortis then turned to Lyks with a stern look upon his face, making direct eye contact, he swore, "I'll tell you what though, this old goat isn't going anywhere until I see my son and daughter come home…and your son…and the sons and daughter of our friends." A discussion of Vortis' departed husband then dominated the room, with both men regretting not doing more to dissuade Drayden from his quixotic quest to find and save the corrupted son of the two warriors. Turning to the plight of the children, Zemilay let his plans to find and aid the children be known. The cavalier seemed incensed by the idea, insisting that they had sent the children on the task because they found them capable. Lyks insisted that the blame for the entire situation was his and that had Kr'zzt been properly stopped, he could have his family back instead of having his lovely wife, Xanti, living in exile while his son was off in a strange land to confront an enemy, their enemy, who has only grown more powerful in his torpor. Moved by his friend's emotional plea, the warrior stood from his chair and made way to his children's quarters, gathering mementos of importance to the twins and in a surprise gesture, granted to Zemilay the first sword of their departed companion, a blade forged by the Steelshaper patriarch long before he was brutally murdered by the eternal enemy, K'rzzt. "I want you to find someone worthy to wield this blade," Vortis asked of his friend. Zemilay balked at the idea of taking such a treasured memory but the retired soldier insisted that Drayden would have wanted it in the hands of a capable warrior. Lyks accepted the gift before apologizing for being a foolish old man. "There's nothing but foolish old men in the world." replied the cavalier. "We think we can be ourselves forever…" The thought hung in the air for a moment before the druid spoke, "Forever is never long enough." The two shared a brief warriors embrace before Zemilay asked of Vortis an oath swearing that if he did not come back from his sojourn, that the cavalier would watch over his son, Trisoll. Vortis replied that if they did this right, the whole Lyks family would stand reunited. With a crooked smile upon his face, Zemilay Lyks opened the door and stepped out into the night.

 

   A fortnight passed before Lyks sought out the next of his past companions, the mechanical man imbued with a soul of warmth and joy, Tic-Toc Individual at his place of employment, the cabaret belonging to Lady Silhouette, Friendly Strangers. In the daytime Friendly Strangers was filled mostly with tourists, not the hard drinking, boisterously rejoicing locals who populated the place at night. Tic-Toc was just finishing up introducing the last act of the night, a jester named Obligon, when he spied his friend enter the room from the back. Suddenly, the mechanical man's introduction grew more bold and he began to punctuate his sentences with flourishes from his twin rapiers. The visitors to Greyhawk ooohed and ahhhed with each thrust of the blade and Tic-Toc, ever the consummate professional, whipped the audience into a veritable frenzy. After sufficiently stoking the viewers' interests, he exited the stage with a full somersault forward flip before making his way to the back of the room. The two old friends greeted each other warmly, a firm embrace enveloping them both. "You're just as nimble and dexterous as you were when I was a young man", the druid volunteered. Tic-toc's wondrous and robotic visage, infused with true human feeling, smiled warmly before quipping, "Well, I do have the benefit of these mechanical limbs." Lyks then revealed his reason for visiting: the eternal enemy had returned. A look of fear washed over Tic-Toc's golden face, "The last time we faced him….I…died." Zemilay comforted his friend, reminding Tic of the failsafe within him that would not allow Kr'zzt to possess him again and that the aging ranger was gathering other friends and allies in his quest to bring the drow sorcerer to justice. Tic-Toc considered his friend's proposal before softly speaking, "I had Drayden tell me what happened, you know?" He paused for a moment before continuing, "Kr'zzt is a monster." The druid reassured the man he helped rescue from a dungeon in a different realm and welcomed Tic's forceful pledge of assistance. Tic-Toc then looked hurriedly at the stage and quickly excused himself before bolting to the front of the theater. He took to the boards and launched into his closing speech, punctuated as always with a call for glasses to be raised to Modius, Reizhodd, Ix, Lyks, Jor-Mak, Drayden, Vortis, Isrygrad, Dablova, and Madryk along with a wish to deliver the soul of Ba’th Moara to Cortox upon her passing. Lyks bowed his head in respect to all before making his way into the warm afternoon sun. 

 

   Some time later, Zemilay made another important visitation. The Church of Cortox were to play an important role in helping him achieve his aims and in order to facilitate this, a visit to the present head of the church, Gemmen, was next on his list. Lyks found himself greeted by a one legged woman with short cropped blond hair. After introducing himself, he noticed that the young woman began to stammer. "There, there girl. I'm just an old man." he said. He was used to this around the church, his association with the reconstitution of their god generally brought awed looks. "No, no sir", the girl interrupted. "Are you the father of Trisoll Lyks?" her eyes began to well with tears. "Yes, you know my boy?" Lyks asked. The girl then tells Zemilay a tale of heroism. Apparently his son and his companions saved this young woman and her friend from certain death. She is Aulis Grainkeeper and when Trisoll and the other children came upon her she was quite literally being eaten by an ogre. She lost her leg to the monster's hunger but she owed her life, and the life of her friend, to the ranger's son. Sobbing, she was embraced by the old druid until she regained her poise. Aulis then began escorting Lyks to Gemmen's chamber. Their progress was halted by the presence of a dark haired halfling woman however. Aulis called out to her, "Geria! This is Zemilay Lyks…father of Trisoll Lyks!" The halfling ran up to the elder ranger. "Is it true, is it true? Are you his father?" Zemilay replied that yes, he was in fact Trisoll's father. "You should be so proud of your son, he saved my and Aulis' lives." Geria exclaimed. She looked down at her tiny feet before concluding, "We were prisoners." Lyks shook her hand and thanked her for the kind words while Aulis left to see if Gemmen was available. The one legged priestess returned shortly and invited Zemilay to continue on to the head priest's chamber. Lyks entered the grand chamber and planetarium to find Gemmen seated at his desk. The priest's colossal observation glass rotated slowly behind him, scanning deepspace for threats and anomalies. Gemmen stood as the druid entered the room, "Greetings Zemilay Lyks, it is good to see you, though I fear your presence portends something." The two spoke of Trisoll and the other children's actions and how they had brought several converts to the church, Moira's dilemma of faith, and Gemmen's attendant, Norrin. Norrin was barely recognizable to Zemilay for the last time he had seen him, Norrin was a mere lad. A lad who happened to have brought home the sword Starshine, the blade of his fallen friend and companion Drayden Steelshaper. The boy was now a man, he stood tall in his well shined plate armor but spared not a second to bow to Lyks as he stepped into the chamber. Zemilay assured the paladin that such formalities were unnecessary despite Norrin's need to show reverence. Lyks again thanked Norrin for his tenacity as a boy while the two recounted Drayden's bravery and sacrifice. The druid then returned his attention to the head priest of the Church of Cortox and explained his reason for visiting. Gemmen seemed skeptical as Kr'zzt hadn't been heard from in quite some time and was reported to be destroyed. The aged ranger explains that though the enemy's body has been incinerated, his spirit has escaped and found new form elsewhere. He explains that Kr'zzt lays in wait for the church's most decorated paladin Moira, the acolytes that accompany her, and the other children of the Champions of the Stars. Very deliberately, he appeals to the elder cleric, saying that the church has the best way to transport a number of men to the other side of the world. When Gemmen once again appears doubtful, Zemilay asks him to have his acolytes commune with Cortox before he makes a final decision. The sovereign curate tells the druid that there is some madness in what he speaks and that if it were anyone but he asking, he would refuse the request but he assents to an augury before passing final judgement. Gemmen assures Zemilay a reply within a fortnight. Before departing, Lyks bestows upon the church a fragment of the robe of Reizhodd as well as similar swatch of clothing formerly belonging to the other of the church's minor powers, Modius. The head priest is stunned by the gifts and assures Zemilay that barring a straight no from the spiritual inquiry, an airship will be his to use in his endeavor. Norrin, hands shaking, takes the holy relics to be properly interred as Gemmen and Zemilay conclude their business. Satisfied that he will have the outcome he desires, Lyks takes his leave from the church. Fourteen days later, his answer arrives. Cortox's blessing has been received.

 

   A quick diversion to the bazaar with Burbis proves fruitful in two ways. The pair first visit Malvar's potions where Burbis attempts to open negotiations with the notoriously prickly owner. After rebuffing the chattering gnome, Malvar turns his attentions to Zemilay. A number of common and uncommon potions are purchased but an inquiry about special stock reveals two items that Lyks immediately purchases; a potion of regeneration and a potion of spelljamming. Later on the pair stop at the table of Galbeth Goldstacker, the "mad gnome" of the bazaar. Though Galbeth has a number of items, only one immediately appeals to the druid, a ring that fires bolts of magical energy. A price is haggled out and paid in full. On the way out Burbis remarks to Zemilay, "I don't like that guy, there's something strange for a gnome about him." "He doesn't seem happy." Lyks interjected, "Maybe he had a bad life?" Burbis brushed off the suggestion, shaking his head. "Gnomes have great lives!" he boasted. Zemilay narrowed his eyes and furrowed his brow slightly. "Maybe he's not a gnome at all?" he queried. Burbis pondered the thought for a moment before looking up at the druid wide eyed. "Whoaaaa….you just blew my mind boss." he answered in a puzzled and raspy tone. Satisfied with himself, Lyks stood up straight, smirked a little, and carried on his way.

 

   Several days later Lyks sought to acquire the assistance of the Mage's Guild, presently fronted by Lyssa's tutor, Ebeviria Yzmari but found that the guild was entertaining no visitors. He left a note asking for an audience with her and went about to more important business. Back at home, Zemilay prepared his rituals most carefully. If he were to successfully contact his ascended friends, Reizhodd, Modius and Jor-Mak, he would need to make sure that no detail went overlooked. He decided that Modius would be his first attempt and using a small personal possession of the wizard's as an anchor, reached out into the void with his mind. The attempt proved fruitless however and Lyks turned his attention towards his other lost companion, the priest Reizhodd. Again he finds himself thwarted by fate and circumstance, the appeal fails. Vowing that his last contact not fail, the druid quickly filters through his items collected from his past as an adventurer and pulls out a yak's horn, clipped at the end and polished. Lyks takes off the ornate cap at the top of the horn and a yellowed parchment slides out, a scroll of plane shift, perfect for taking Zemilay to where he thinks he has the best chance of contact with the celestial high ogre, the Astral Plane. Lyks carefully intones the spell and finds his spirit slipping away from his material form while the world fades away, leaving him in a misty and immaterial realm. No stranger to the Astral Plane, Zemilay begins his search by casting a spell of thought broadcast. Within a few minutes a stirring contact is felt. "Lyks?" asks the formless voice. In the blink of a hummingbird's eye he is there, Jor-Mak, the high ogre demi god son of Cortox. After a tearful and boisterous reunion, Zemilay spares no time in bringing up his need for contacting him. He assumes that the demi god knows the situation by means of mind reading but Jor-Mak informs him that he would never violate his thoughts without permission. That permission is granted and Jor-Mak furrows his brow and knows in an instant. "He has returned." the ogre thinks. Lyks turned to his friend, "Will you help me?" "He needs to be defeated and I feel as though I'm not powerful enough anymore." It seemed a rare admission of weakness from the druid and Jor-Mak sought to comfort him. "I do not sense him on the astral plane." he thought. Zemilay looked frustrated, "He's not here, he's reconstituted himself elsewhere." Before he could finish his thought, Jor-Mak took his hand and the pair moved at the speed of thought away from the astral plane before finally settling on lush, green hills. The druid questioned what had just transpired and Jor-Mak explains that some natural predators of the plane had begun stalking them and that they now find themselves in the relative safety of the Elysian Fields, one of the many extra planar resting places for the hallowed dead. "Given your upbringing, I thought this might comfort you." Jor-Mak thinks before continuing, "And we will face no threats here." Zemilay then allows the demi god to pry further into his mind, revealing Kr'zzt's gambit when the drow perished. Retreating through the astral plane to the safety of a magic jar had saved Kr'zzt's hide the first time but Jor-Mak vows it will not happen a second time. He tells Lyks that he can prevent Kr'zzt's spirit from entering the plane but will also need to expend his strength to prevent the dark elf from gating in any further assistance and therefore, would have to concentrate his power fully in that way, preventing any further support. He warns Zemilay that Kr'zzt's soul would be unbound and reminds him of what happened when Tic-Toc's mechanical form found itself housing the drow's wretched spirit. Lyks replies that he is aware of the risk and is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice and will attempt to bind Kr'zzt to himself. Jor-Mak rejects this notion but the withered ranger insists it is his place to make it right and that the fault lies in his failures. The demi god places his hand upon his friend's head and in a moment Lyks knows it is not truly his fault that Kr'zzt exists to menace the children. He knows this yes, but he chooses to believe otherwise.

 

   After some mutual soul searching, Jor-Mak reaffirms his commitment to the cause and waxes nostalgic for the "old days of Greyhawk" and the Widow Rohl and how she had taught him the virtue of patience. Zemilay tells his friend that he visits the Widow's grave regularly and that he thinks of him often as well. The two share a tender moment and embrace. "You're a good man Zemilay Lyks, let me take you home." Jor-Mak thinks softly as the two are once again transported instantaneously, this time to Greyhawk. The bustle of the street came as a shock coming from the peace of Elysium and Jor-Mak psychically remarked, "Greyhawk, I haven't seen you since I left, nothing has changed and yet much has changed." The druid agreed, speaking of George's rapid aging and his wife, Xanti's situation, finding herself exiled and unreachable in order to protect her from Kr'zzt's agents. Jor-Mak infoms Zemilay that he can see in his mind's eye that she is safe. Joy wells up in the old half-elf's eyes and he asks of his friend, "Will you tell her I love her?" The demi god smiles and offers outstretched arms, "Take my hands and tell her yourself." Lyks's eyes fill with tears and he begs his friend not to do this, that she's at too much risk if they see each other. The high ogre's golden eyes open wide as he looks upon his friend, "I am more powerful than Kr'zzt," he thought with absolute confidence, "Now take my hand." The pair are hurtled through the astral plane before their astral projections settle upon a simple farmhouse hidden away in a lost grove of trees. The contact is instant. "Z..Zemilay is, is that you?" The emotion is too much to bear for the couple and the tears come easily. "How is this happening?" wonders Xanti. Her husband swells with affection when he replies that Jor-Mak is making this possible while she remarks upon his ever giving soul. Xanti then asks about their son and with deserved pride, he tells her what a good man and great hero he's become and recounts the tale of Aulis and Geria. "We did well, didn't we?" the aging but still beautiful fortuneteller mused. Lyks assured his wife that they would soon be together again and that this memory would be most treasured until the pair were reunited. Xanti tells Zemilay that her every dream will be filled with thoughts of him and her family made whole once more. The two share a spectral kiss before the druid feels himself pulled away to Greyhawk once more. Lyks embraces the half ogre as Jor-Mak tells him that he hopes that the experience eased his mind. The old ranger nods, a widening smile upon his face. Jor-Mak then thinks to Zemilay that he must go but that he will leave himself receptive to contact and to lay his plans well. Thanks are given and the demi-god departs through the astral plane leaving Lyks as happy as he's been in quite some time, a quiet peace in his mind.

 

   Weeks later, a correspondence that the druid sent to the frozen north is finally answered. A peaceful afternoon is broken by a triplet of heavy thuds upon the door of pimpleton manor and Zemilay, suspecting the identity of the visitor, rushed to the door with as much quickness his old bones could muster. "Isrygrad!", the ranger called out. "I wasn't sure you would come." His former companion had bulked up over the years, the throne of Granrud keeping him from the rigors of adventuring but he still cast an impressive and regal silhouette. Once the house has been cleared for entry by King Talthraudii's royal guard, the Queen Teela makes her entrance. As lovely as the day she met the future king, it was hard to believe she had a son as old as Zemilay's own. "Greetings m'lady", Lyks bowed as he addressed her. The ravishing brunette bid him to stand, kissed his cheek gently and excused herself from the room so that the men could get down to what could only be serious business. Before that could happen however, the barbarian king clapped his hands and servants came pouring into the room bearing gifts, exotic fruits, cheeses and meats. The smell of foreign foods attracted the attention of George Pimpleton who made his way from his bedchambers to pay reverence to the quiet man who had become a sovereign. Isrygrad waved off the attempts at protocol and told the manservant how much he missed his cooking and that despite the many skilled cooks the king had at his disposal, they could never get the spices quite right. Once settled, the frost king and the druid of Greyhawk discussed the childrens' situation and what Zemilay intended to do to help them. Within the structure of the conversation Isrygrad asks without asking, his son Vetnik, is he on the path to heroism? Lyks replies that he is and that the king should be proud. The lord of the frozen wastes hesitates for a moment just as his lovely bride re-enters the room. "Just tell him you miss your son, don't be so cold," the former trainer of great cats implored. Despite the longing inside him, the monarch could not bring himself to speak the words aloud but instead nodded with a low head. Lifting his gaze, the lord turned the topic of conversation first to Zemilay's son and then to days of their adventuring past. Feeling the opportunity to genuinely relax, Isrygrad's now soft fingers sought the crown from his head and cast it upon the table. "I miss the days of adventuring, so simple, so satisfying," the king said longingly. "I am constantly settling my people's petty squabbles and insignificant problems…it is tiring friend." He seemed convincingly exhausted by the duties of his stature, Isrygrad had always been a humble man and he wore his authority uneasily. Suddenly the king shrugged off such thoughts and clapped his hands one more. "Wolf's blood wine!" he exclaimed as servants brought in several large silver jugs, ornate from lip to bottom, dire wolves adorning every side. Beckoning George from the kitchen, Isrygrad insists that he join them in drink. George takes note of the king's knowledge of his love of the grape and gladly joins them for a chalice of Bacchus' favorite libation. Noticing that one house guest is missing from the table, the monarch asks if the gnome, Burbis, is in his quarters. When Zemilay confirms this, Isrygrad suggests that perhaps that is for the best and the trio commence to indulge. Lyks feels his blood awaken as he consumes the sticky red concoction as his visitor raises his glass. "To two fine warriors," the toast rang out. The butler chuckled softly before answering dryly, "I only ever fought a battle with the bottle sir."

 

   After enjoying several glasses of the nordic inebriant, the druid asked his long time friend if he would like to suit up for one last adventure. The king straightened up and retrieved his crown from the table, the ornate band finding its perch one more. "My duties are such that I cannot afford to leave for too long." he almost sighed as he said it, "This sojourn was all I could afford at this tumultous time." Isrygrad's eyes searched the room seeking a servant. Finding one's gaze, he snapped his fingers and within moments a small locked case was brought into the room. Producing a small gem encrusted key, the lord opened the coffer to reveal several bottles of powder. "These dusts represent the advancements of my people, you will find them well improved." the monarch beamed with pride as he spoke. Lyks accepted them with absolute gratitude and began to ruminate on the task that lay before him. Isrygrad would have none of this and demanded that since they had little time face to face, that it should be used for celebration. At first Zemilay tried to beggar off from the idea of drinking to unconciousness but as Isrygrad helpfully reminded him, the former barbarian was now royalty and his requests were not to be refused. "You're not the king of Greyhawk." Lyks protested. Squinting at his friend, Isrygrad could barely contain his joy as he retorted, "Oh yeah?…Well, I'm the king of you!…now drink up." The wolf's blood wine proves to be a potent potable and both the aged ranger and the frost king slump to the table before too long, leaving George Pimpleton to chuckle softly to himself as he drank on well into the night.

 

   Nursing a significant hangover in the morning, Lyks finds that the king, queen, and his entourage have departed in the earliest part of the morn. He is saddened at first but George, who seems quite unfazed from the previous evening, suggests that perhaps Isrygrad finds goodbyes difficult. Zemilay nods in agreement while perusing the generous gift he was given. "Thank you dear friend" he thinks as the throbbing in his head thankfully, finally begins to subside.

 

   It was the third Freeday of Brewfest when death finally visited Pimpleton Manor. It started out like any other day; Zemilay and George preferred to have breakfast together, before Burbis got up. It was more for the peace and quiet in the dawn rather than any dislike of the gnome. George would spend the bulk of his day at the market, his procurement list just a little longer than usual. Back at the manor, Lyks pored over maps and letters of contact to the nation of Furyondy, the rangers of the Vevse Forest and commanders in the Shield Lands. He was determined to call in old favors. Hell, he had to. There was too much at stake. Come the evening, the mansion's namesake had prepared a meal most sumptuous. "Master Burbis has been sent on a task that should take him most of the evening sir", George offered. Lyks wondered aloud what marked the occasion and his servant brushed off any special significance while urging him to sit and eat. A fine bottle of fey wine sat breathing at the end of the table. "I much prefer the subtlety in an elven wine over that barbarian lava," George proclaimed. Zemilay nodded in agreement, remembering the aftermath of King Talthraudii's visit. The meal was magnificent, the wine flowed freely, and the old companions found themselves at no loss for words. Tales of triumph, defeat, and love dominated the conversation. Speaking of his murdered lover, George opined, "I know she could be unpleasant sometimes but where you saw arrogance, I saw strength…where you saw brashness, I saw passion," He then turned his thoughts towards Zemilay's absent wife and the ultimate gift she gave him, his son Trisoll." Lyks appreciated the kind words and once again reminded his manservant that he was much more than that, he was also family.

 

   A sip of tea, a coughing fit, blood on a napkin. Lyks knew it was coming yet it seemed so sudden. His faithful manservant suddenly looked frail, gazed up at him with yellowed eyes and spoke with a soft voice, "It's time sir." Zemilay mustered the strength to carry George up the stairs to his bedchamber and laid him upon his bed. After making his old companion comfortable, the druid pulled up a chair next to the bed and took his friend's hand. "It's truly been a pleasure serving you and yours sir," George's words were becoming less audible by the minute. Tears began to well up in the ranger's eyes, "There's no need for formality George, you are now and have always been my brother. The faithful butler's grip gradually loosened in Lyks' hand as he began to whisper, "She picked me you know?….With all my flaws and simple visage, she chose me…." Zemilay watched as his most devoted friend and companion took his final breath and passed from this realm. He took a moment and in a hushed tone, said to the wind, "Go to her friend, be together again." The druid could not stem the tide of tearful sorrow, nor did he try.

 

After mourning the loss of the man he named his manor after, the ranger knew he could spare no more time making sure that he had someone trustworthy in place to care for the home while he was gone. To that end, he decided to revisit the Church of Cortox. Perhaps Aulis or Geria might be enticed by Trisoll’s eventual presence to sign on, he thought. The walk was brisk, the winds were picking up early in the season. Zemilay’s druid training made him feel uneasy about the change. “Coincidence or portent of something yet to come?” he pondered. The front entrance to the church was different from the last time he was here. As followers had flocked to the church so had their coffers swelled. The new annex to the church appeared to be complete and the entire facade had been re-plated with silver and platinum. There was no longer a door, only a small open gateway which was attended by one of the faithful. Lyks made his way up the stairs and greeted the priestess standing at the doorway. To his surprise it was neither woman he sought but the mother of Lyssa Modius, Violetta Yragnere. Once the recognition set in, Zemilay greeted the senior acolyte warmly, noting how well she seemed to adjust in the church. Violetta praised Cortox and thanked him for healing the wounds in her head as well as the wounds to her soul. Lyks regarded the woman for a moment before he spoke, “You are a good woman and I’m glad things turned in your favor.” The priestess seemed troubled for a moment. “I was not a good person and I have to accept that but with Cortox’s blessing I realize I can move beyond that.” she replied. The druid reaffirmed the good that the church seemed to be bringing to her life before revealing his true purpose for visiting. He explains that he must go away for a time and that his most beloved servant has passed thus needing someone he feels he can trust to watch over the estate. Violetta seemed bowled over by the suggestion. After all, Zemilay Lyks was there at the re-unification of Cortox himself. How could she refuse? Her mind suddenly jumped to her many obligations at the church. “I don’t know…I have so many duties, but perhaps if Gemmen could be convinced?” she wondered aloud. The ranger assured her that he would speak with her superior while she continued with her line of thinking, “I spend much of my time in prayer..perhaps you’d be willing to convert a room into a small shrine?” she asked. Before Lyks could answer she added, “It’ll have to have roof access, I need to see the stars.” Zemilay agrees to this and offers to make any necessary adjustments to the house to make this possible. Before taking his leave, the ranger mentions offhandedly, “You’ll have a wonderful house companion by the way, a bear named Gibbs.” Violetta seemed alarmed at first but knowing Lyks’ abilities and affinity for the natural world, hesitatingly agrees to speak with Gemmen on her own behalf. Though the high priest feels that he has done quite enough for Zemilay Lyks in the moment, Gemmen eventually relents and grants Violetta leave to staff Pimpleton Manor. The elder priestess’ desire to be close to her daughter and the druid’s offer to place a shrine on the estate are enough to tip the scales in her favor. Feeling it a sign from Cortox, Violetta dutifully packs her bags while singing a hymn of thanks to her lord.

Several weeks later Lyks’ allies have assembled. In addition to Tic-Toc, Burbis and Jor-Mak, nine druids have answered the call. Led by Orunoll Jozran, the druid of the Vevse Forest, these priests of nature are experienced in battlefield warfare. Also hailing from the Vevse, four rangers have signed on to the cause. Zemilay is taken aback to find them led by Fanden and Faelin, a pair of twins cursed to never be separated. The druid had met them early in his career and though he felt sorrow for their continuing curse, compared to the scores of now-dead friends he’d had, he was glad to see they’d made it this far. Visits to the Shield Lands and Furyondy yielded Qualen Metryk and Prince Kyren Belvor respectively. Metryk was a seasoned commander in the Shield Land’s army and had fought at Lyks’ side at the battle of Arachnia while Prince Belvor was the cavalier son of King Belvor and as it was rumored, next in line to replace his father. Zemilay was surprised to find that Isrygrad’s gifts had not yet ceased, a dozen barbarian warriors of Granrud came to show solidarity, led by the warrior hero Galthranyr Guleegha while the Wolf Nomads, hearing of Granrud’s commitment, send a dozen warriors as well. Led by Kry-tok, son of Cha’tok, these soldiers seemed every bit as competent as their Eastern brothers. Not entirely satisfied with the forces he’d assembled, Lyks realized that time was short and that he’d have to make his move regardless. Gathering the disparate groups at the Church of Cortox proved to be less of a bother than initially thought. The remodel of the church also removed the spelljamming vehicle launch site from the main building and into an annex. Zemilay was glad for this, it’s bad enough he was going to put these barbarians on a flying ship, he didn’t need them crashing through the chapels like a herd of bulls. Once loaded onto the ship, a hammership by the name of Star Chaser, the rival barbarian tribes were lured below deck with promises of wine and non lethal combat while Lyks looked for the helm. Not finding one in the usual spot, the druid double checked with the ship master, Yewt Kofe, who explains that Star Chaser is powered by a helm of the stars and hands Zemilay a thin platinum circlet. She explains that this will allow him to control the ship while being able to move around on it, and not be bound to a single spot below deck. The ranger thanks her and climbs back aboard. Slowly, the conical roof of the annex began to part as the ship started to levitate. Being no stranger to piloting a spelljamming vehicle, Lyks is able to take the ship above the clouds with minimal danger. Some of the others, who had never been on a flying vessel before, marveled at the sights far below and the majesty of their airbound transport. Flying westward, Zemilay was puzzled on how to actually find the children and the land that claimed them. No amount of scrying had shown a thing and all attempts at contact, religious and magical, similarly showed nothing. Hours passed as he pondered his options. The sea was now beneath them, he had easily avoided a dead magic area in the desert, it was on all the church’s maps now but still no sign of land. His frustration was beginning to build to a tipping point when Burbis Baggleton happened on the bow of the ship. “What’sthematterboss?Youseemupset.” he spat the words out faster than a dwarf picks up a loose coin. Even in his exhaustion, Lyks had no problem understanding the excitable gnome. “I’m just a little frustrated about what we do next Burbis…I couldn’t find any land mass on any map I consulted and I..I just don’t know what to do.” The gnome could see the dissatisfaction on his friend’s face. "Maybewestoplookingforitboss? he muttered. “IknowthatwhenIlosesomethingIalwaysfinditthesecondIstoplookingforit.” Zemilay figured Burbis was spouting his usual nonsense when he stopped and really thought about it for a moment. Perhaps he was onto something? Zemilay relaxed, opened his mind to all things, all possibilities and thought of the children. Suddenly the very clear skies started to grow obscured by rapid cloud accumulation. Zemilay made a hurried attempt to steer the ship around the mist but it was no use, within moments the Star Chaser and all its passengers were lost beyond the veil.

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