Juliar 12 – 14
The urban ranger Vatex splits off from the group for now to start hunting down the missing paladin from St. Gustav’s. Dziga the rogue accompanies him. This leaves Early the warblade-fighter and Emeris the draconic shadowcaster to begin their hunt for Khyron and his cohorts.
But first, Early and Emeris are weary of staying at the low-class Dragonsfire Inn and would like to find a place of their own. They find a nice single-story home in a secluded neighbourhood in Midtown which they rent from a wealthy merchant named YAVILL. Hours after they move in, they encounter Seanus, the halfling who worked with Linech Cran until the companions killed him, and who then worked with Darkwater before the Vai assassin attack that devastated the smuggling operation. Seanus moves in with them and essentially becomes the household chef.
Over dinner, Emeris and Early pore over the rest of the Book of Faceless Hate. They read of the philosophy of “deep chaos”, based on change and destruction and hate and death. They learn of the Lords of Chaos – aka the Ancients, the Galchutt, the Hylden, the Natharl’nacna, etc. – who are apparently imprisoned in caverns deep beneath the city of Elan, hence the city it is the locus of chaos cult activity. The Ancients created the “earthbound demons” called the rhodintor and the kython. To the cults, the greatest gift of the ancients is chaositech – strange ‘technology’ that uses the power of raw chaos for awesome effects, which is hidden in “vaults” in the caverns beneath the city. They learn also of the mysterious “Surgeon in the Shadows” who is Elan’s expert on such matters. It is said he possesses more chaositech than anyone else.
Additionally, they learn much about various chaos cults:
> The Deathmantle, worshipers of death and murder, allied with the Vai assassin and the undead-worshipping Forsaken.
> The Order of the Bloodied Knife, a cult obsessed with large-scale human sacrifice.
> The Crimson Coil, now largely defunct, a very destructive, secretive group more or less wiped out by the Knights of the Pale.
> The Brotherhood of Venom, politically active and fixated on revolution, death torture, and poison. Also known simply as “the Brotherhood” or “the Brotherhood of Elan.”
> The Ebon Hand, worshipers of mutation and deformity, who actually have a chapel in the Temple District. The place is the subject of many frightening rumors but the government has not shut them down for lack of evidence of wrongdoing.
> The Plagueborn, whose members seek to spread filth, decay, and disease. They commonly live in the sewers and other dirty places. They associate with ratmen, whom they consider their brothers.
> The Society of the Tolling Bell, whose goal is complete eschaton – the end of the world.
> Finally they learn of the Keepers of the Faith, not a cult so much as a clandestine organization that uses its secretive influence in matters of business, church, and state to facilitate chaos operations and obtain wealth. Dedicated servants of chaos are often recruited into the Keepers, and when that happens, they are somehow given the ability to take on a powerful new form. The Keepers are ruled by twelve overlords, who are said to be the most powerful followers of the Ancients. It is said the Keepers main goal is to uncover the forbidden lore of the Ancients, by finding a way into Jabel Shammar or the Caverns of the Galchutt.
Later that evening, the two of them head out to try and find out more about the cultists. Emeris learns from a former Knight of the Pale that Khyron allegedly abandoned the Crimson Coil and joined the Society of the Tolling Bell after the fall of the Pythoness House one year prior but otherwise there are no leads. Early tries to learn more about the “Brotherhood of Elan”, i.e. chaos cult Brotherhood of Venom, but can’t find much that is useful as the organization is quite secretive. He does however hear some interesting rumors about the war between the Empire and the Silmarians in the north. The barbarian horde is not advancing on the capital city, Tairon – they hold fast at Guardia. It is said that a large part of the barbarian army, tens of thousands of men, seems to have simply disappeared. Rumors also say that the legendary Drax the Destroyer, King of Silmaria and Unifier of the Barbarian Tribes, was slain in battle.
Emeris and Early stop by a tavern to discuss their findings. There, Early is confronted by an old northern man named VEGARD who claims to be Early’s uncle. He claims to have known Early’s father, and even knows Early’s name given at birth – Sigurd Thorvaissen. Vegard challenges Early to a duel in the middle of the tavern, in order to see if Early is worthy of carrying on his father’s legacy. In a furious melee that sends the other patrons fleeing from the building and the manager cowering behind the bar, Early defeats his uncle. Vegard tells him that he carries the Blade of the Silver Wolf, “Cryssaegrym.” Early’s bloodline is honor-bound to carry on the sword’s legacy and fulfill its mission. Early’s father, Dodend Jakter I Monshin (which translates as “Death Hunts by Moonlight”), failed however, and Vegard took up the task. However, after being captured and imprisoned in a vampire’s “pantry” for three years, most of Vegard’s power was drained away. Although he escaped, he did not feel he could fulfill the sword’s purpose, so he spent the last few years seeking out Sigurd aka Early. He tells Early how to complete a ritual that will reveal the mission of the sword him.
Emeris is summoned to Saharasahla to receive a gift – a magical rod that empowers the shadowcaster’s mysteries. Saharasahla asks how goes the search for the Book of Inverted Shadows – Emeris admits it is not going well. The strange old shadowcaster seems to care nothing of the situation with the chaos cults and equally uninterested in what they found beneath the Pythoness House.
The next day, the friends get their remaining chaos items identified, and Emeris is particularly taken with the skull of chaos, which can be used to conjure up a blast of chaotic energy. Early and Emeris get some horses and head out to the forest to complete Cryssaegrym’s ritual. That night, while Early sets up camp, Emeris seeks out an appropriate glade for his friend’s task ahead. Upon finding it, he finds he is being stalked by a pack of worgs and hurries back to camp. Him and Early are forced to fend off the ravenous monstrous wolves, which they do but they suffer great injuries. The next they, they kill time fishing and Early meditates in preparation for the ritual. That night, under a full moon, Early feels the power of Cryssaegrym and has a vision of himself running alongside a massive silver wolf on a plain of silver grass. The silver wolf spirit reveals that that wielder of Cryssaegrym must defeat a being known as Kyuss, or “the Worm that Walks”, and promote the natural order of nature against the force of destruction and chaos. This ritual seems to unlock some of the Silver Wolf Blade’s powers, while taking a bit of Early’s own strength to do so, and the warblade learns that as he himself grows stronger, more rituals can unlock greatest powers.
Emeris and Early return to the city. Early visits the Bull and Bear Armory to check on a helmet being fitted with the rhodintor horns. It is ready, but upon handing it over, HIRUS SHON, the armory’s owner, asks Early a favour. He says Itumar, his adopted son, has been hanging around with some sketchy characters that are part of the Brotherhood of Elan. Hirus asks him to talk to the boy and convince him to stay out of trouble. Hirus obviously disapproves of revolutionary types, but Early knows now that this Brotherhood is actually a chaos cult. He finds Itumar at the Ghostly Minstrel adventurers’ tavern that evening.
At first the boy is indignant and denies knowing anything about the Brotherhood. Eventually he confesses that he has actually been getting involved with them even before Early asked him to investigate the group several days ago. But Early is unable to convince the boy that the Brotherhood is more dangerous than he could imagine. Emeris, silent until now, takes the Book of Faceless Hate from his pack and places it on the table. He shows Itumar the relevant passages about the Brotherhood of Venom, and the wannabe adventurer is immediately convinced. He reveals that two nights from now he was supposed to attend a secret meeting in Midtown where he would officially be inducted into the Brotherhood. He gives them a ring with a broken square symbol, an item he was to use to gain access to the meeting.
Emeris and Early think this is a startlingly good lead on hunting down Khyron. From Itumar they learn that most members of the Brotherhood don’t know each other’s real identities, so they convince the young man to help them infiltrate the meeting two nights hence.
Next: The companions versus the Brotherhood of Venom! And the group receives a proposition from the Inverted Pyramid!
Random Elanian Factoid: Elanian people know of chaos cults. Cultists are apprehended and executed by the Commissar frequently enough that it's just a regular fact of life. They don't know much about them though. The situation is similar with the Forsaken, however they are probably the most reviled of all. They are known for repulsive acts far too violent and depraved to be mentioned here. Worse still, the Forsaken reside in the Dark Reliquary with some of Elan's most awesome evils -- Lord Archanfel's demons.
But the Keepers of the Faith are different -- few people believe they exist. A Keeper has never been brought to justice publicly. Rather, they are said to exist only in the most unfathomable of conspiracy theories. People who believe in the Keepers of the Faith are frequently regarded as paranoid and deluded.