The Nightmare War

Episode 10

Wherein Our Heroes Learn the Details of the Deal with the Sea Devils at the Straits

After departing Merrix's presence, the group prepares to depart. Drakeus retires to his suite to make ready for the journey to the Titan's Teeth and the sahuagin, while Zylah, Proust, and Shemhazai scatter to take care of their own preparations.

Shemhazai first sends a message to her contacts, requesting information on Vial, giving her description and the name that Vaslo has told them she went by, and begins searching for information on that subject herself. Shemhazai's contact reaches her as she is finally leaving, heading for Overlook, and gives her what information he was able to discover, which is unfortunately little: 'Vial' is short for 'Vial'vithkari', and she is a high-ranking member of The Dreaming Dark. He acts very nervous, and says he has to go. She thanks him, and wishes him well, hoping she hasn't caused more trouble than the information was worth.

She then visits the Enlightened Havakhad, requesting a few moments of his time, should he be able to spare them. Over tea and a light lunch, Shemhazai tells briefly of the journey in Xen'dric, and touches upon the dream spire. She leaves mention of Vial and their group out, deciding that she doesn't wish to drag her mentor any further into dangerous matters than he already is. Shemhazai comes to the point of her visit – the breaking of the cage that was not meant to be shattered, and the result. He had not before heard of such of thing, of an Elan becoming what she has, but stated that he would think upon it. He also gives her a message – that Selkatori has a message for Shemhazai that is regarding the person that she was searching for. Shemhazai thanks him, and respectively takes her leave.

On her way back to the dock area, where she was to meet the rest of the party in a short time, Shemhazai stops by Selkatori's martial arts studio, and waits patiently while Selkatori finishes the class she was currently leading. Selkatori has an ancient tale to tell: The quori Vial'vithkari, it is said, is the twin to a renegade quori called Val'vakri who fled with the other renegade quori to Eberron many, many years ago. These renegades merged with the Adaran humans who eventually became the kalashtar. In old kalashtar folklore, this is known as the "Legend of the Dark Twin". The Dark Twin endlessly hunts and torments her rebel sister for turning against her and what she believes to be the continuance of their race. Even though many generations have passed since the original twins, the Dark Twin always appears as a mysterious, alluring mirror-like twin of the host of Val'vakri. Many kalashtar see the host of Val'vakri as a harbringer of ill-omen, as her dark sister might be right on her heels, bringing misfortune with her. Shemhazai thanks Selkatori and takes her leave, heading to the rendezvous with the rest of the party deep in thought.

Meanwhile, Proust is doing some investigations of his own. The last time he had seen any of his old traveling companions had been a year ago in Aundair. He had been off the airship, and heard of a ruckus at the dock – and when he returned, the airship – and his companions Val, Biggs, and Wedge – were gone. He searches for information on Val'vakri, and receives multiple reports and sightings.

  • Within the past six to nine months, Val'vakri (or someone matching her description), has been seen in Northern Breland, Aundair, and Karrnath.
  • Most recently, sightings of her were in Thrane, Sharn, and Xen'dric.
  • In Northern Breland, Aundair, Karrnath and Sharn, she insinuated herself into the embraces of an older gentleman. All of these older men either had a great deal of money, power, influence, or a combination of these. Some of the individuals are now dead.
  • Some of the reported sightings were in the company of a half-elf and a very good-looking Brelish soldier who calls her "his lady".
  • She has escaped capture on a number of occasions due to a hasty retreat aboard a small, privately-owned airship. It is believed that the airship was taken from The Emerald Claw, as that group seems to have a vested interest in Val'vakri's companions, particularly the half-elf. He seems to have claimed ownership of the vessel.
  • The 'half-elf' is actually likely a changeling, given some of the reports.
  • The other individual is a very good-looking male who claims to be a soldier of Breland and brother to the half-elf. He believes that the Last War is still going on, and is fond of singing the Brelish national anthem in battle.

Given this information, Proust uses his bardic-gained knowledge to recall bits of an old legend involving quori twins, a dark twin and a light twin. He recalls enough, combined with the information he had just uncovered, to guess that Val'vakri and Vial'vithkari might be those twins. He decides to message Val later that night, and heads towards the docks to rendezvous with the rest of the party.

The party rendezvous on board The Zephyr, a wind galleon captained by Ispa, a scion of House Lyrandar. She has heard of the group's exploits from Captain Tyrian, of The Tempest, the party's original ship on the trip from Sharn to Xen'dric. Captain Ispa welcomes the group on board; it seems that the party are the only passengers to be ferried this trip. When asked, Captain Ispa just says that there were a number of last-minute cancellations. She invites the party to dine at the captain's table for dinner the next day. As The Zephyr sets sail, most of the party retires to their finely-appointed state rooms to rest in comfort.

Proust, on the other hand, retires to his cabin and attempts to scry both Val'vakri and Biggs – both of which, unsurprisingly, fail. He then casts a spell to message Val'vakri, counting on it to bypass whatever protections she might have manifested. "Hello. It's Proust. Where the hell are you guys? And do you have an evil twin? Alternately, if you are Vial'vithkari, please disregard this message." He doesn't have long to wait before receiving a reply: "Hello – this is Val'vakri. We are in Starilaskur. Sorry about Aundair. I do have a twin, but it seems you know of her. Need help?" Proust, having little spellpower left, decides to wait until the next evening to respond.

The next morning, the party gathers for breakfast, securing a quiet table to themselves – not a difficult task, considering they are the only passengers. Shemhazai starts to explain what she had learned of the "Legend of the Dark Twin", and Proust mentions that he had recalled something of that. They discuss what each had learned the day before, including the fact that Vial'vithkari is a powerful member of the Dreaming Dark, and that Proust had contacted Val'vakri to confirm what he had heard. He did state that she offered assistance, but that he would rather not have additional complications, and that he would likely contact Val again that night and decline her offer. Shemhazai does ask to meet Val at some point, to discuss the twin issue… as she had never heard of such a thing before, and given how quori are 'born', didn't think it was possible. Shira – through RaE – mentions that in her time, twins were very rare, but not totally unheard of.

During the discussions, Muroni asks Shemhazai is asked to explain a bit more about The Dreaming Dark and The Thousand Eyes – as Vial is a member of the former, and the latter have been mentioned at least once, via Mother Scorpion's auguries. Shemhazai explains what she knows to those interested:

  • The Thousand Eyes: The Thousand Eyes are supposed to police Riedra from within, but they do maintain a covert spy network outside of Riedra in order to deal with foreign matters just as swiftly. Public agents are identified by green uniforms and golden badges of office – common Riedrans take comfort in the sight of these guardians. Secret members could be anyone, though agents are typically human, Chosen, or changeling. Most members are observers, while more capable agents are rogues, monks, psionicists, lurks, psychic warrior monks, soul knife assassins, or any combination of the above. There are rumors of even more specialized agents as well. Agents can appear anywhere and receive reinforcements frighteningly quickly within Riedra. The high minister of the Thousand Eyes is Lady Sharadhona, an extremely powerful telepath. After a moment of thought, Shemhazai adds that Lady Sharadhona may not necessarily be a danger to the group, as long as they don't cross her directly.

The Thousand Eyes maintains a vast spy network throughout Sarlona, though beyond Sarlona its resources begin to spread thin. This does not mean that they should be taken lightly, however, as they will likely focus their efforts on areas, groups, or individuals that believe deserve more of their attention, such as this group and the Dragonmarked Houses.

  • The Dreaming Dark: Officially, the Dreaming Dark does not exist. Most people in Riedra have never heard of it, and never will. Shemhazai pauses, then continues, explaining that the Dreaming Dark is the ultimate power behind the quori. Ultimately, all quori serve the Dreaming Dark, though a select few have managed to resist their influence and power. It has agents throughout all of Sarlona's organizations. Most of its agents operate outside of Riedra, in the rest of Sarlona, but also in Xen'dric and especially Khorvaire as of late. Agents of the Dreaming Dark are mainly Inspired Chosen, though they use mind seed to subvert members of other races. After a moment of thought, Shemhazai mentions that the overlord of the Dreaming Dark goes by the pretentious name of The Devourer of Dreams.

It is said that the Dreaming Dark's ultimate goal is to maintain il-Lashtavar, the current state of Dal Quor, and to do so it must control the dreams of all beings on Eberron that can dream. Within the past 1,200 years, they've managed to control the dreams of nearly an entire continent – only Adar and a few other remote places remain free from their influence. Though they do not officially exist, they are the true power behind Riedra. Those Chosen families bred to become members and hosts of the Dreaming Dark are called the Shadow Lines.

  • Mind Seed: Using Mind Seed on an individual can only be accomplished by some of the most powerful psions, as one must be very experienced to manifest the power. Also, it takes from the life force of the one manifesting the power, making it a weapon to be used only when needed. It takes a week for the mind seed to fully germinate; during that time, it can be removed only by very powerful psionics or spells, such as psychic chirurgery, reality revision, wish, or miracle. Protection from evil and similar effects will slow the germination process of the seed by the magic's duration. Those same effects can also prevent the mind seed from being implanted in the first place. However, once the seed is fully germinated, it is impossible to return the subject to its previous state.

It is easiest to discover a subject affected by the power during the germination process. They will slowly take on habits and mannerisms of the party who manifested the mind seed; however, being that most of those are quori or quori-controlled Inspired, this is very difficult… quori are not only excellent at hiding their thoughts and intentions, but the mind-seeded individual has all the memories of the original to work with during the germination process. However, it is still easier to detect during this process than it is after the mind seed has fully taken effect – at that point, it is nearly impossible, and the individual has almost all of the skills and powers of the individual who manifested the mind seed and the mental capabilities of the manifester, as well as all of the memories of the target. And as quori are fanatics, the mind-seeded individual, despite being a new being with no actual ties to either of the originals that created it besides memories, is just as fanatically devoted to the missions of the manifester. Sometimes, individuals mind-seeded by The Dreaming Dark retain not only the memories of the original being, but all the powers, skills, and abilities as well. Shemhazai doesn't know why sometimes they do and sometimes they don't – it could be based on the individual targeted by the mind seed, or The Dreaming Dark could have developed more than one version of the power.

After breakfast, Drakeus retires to his room to work on item creation, Shemhazai finds a quiet part of the deck to meditate, Proust spends time talking with the sailors (then entertaining Shemhazai using silent image and storytelling to describe many of the places in Khorvaire he had visited), and Zylah spends the day talking with the sailors, using her pirating experience with sailing to good use. Zylah discovers why there are no other passengers on The Zephyr – there are many rumors ranging from House Cannith not wanting anyone else on board for this trip to something about the group sailing to have a huge showdown with the sea devils who have been attacking ships.

That evening, the party dines with Captain Ispa. After some discussion of what she might be sailing into, the party admits (rather bluntly, via Drakeus) that they had heard a few of the rumors going around, but that it wasn't anything to worry about – that they were going to fulfill the terms of a previous negotiation with the sahuagin, and that The Zephyr and her crew should be in no danger. The Captain seems relieved, and the rest of dinner was spent in lighter discussion.

Before retiring that evening, Proust sends another message to Val'vakri: "No help needed. Had a scuffle in Xen'dric, but came out just fine. Everyone still alive there? If I see her again, want her alive?" Val's reply doesn't take long: "Everyone here is alive, glad you are. If you can take Vial, kill her. Avoid her if you can. Bad idea to draw her attention."

About noon the next day, The Zephyr arrives at the Straits of Shargon.

When The Zephyr reaches the appointed spot, Captain Ispa calls the party on deck. She doesn't even get a chance to drop the message stone into the water before the sea around the ship begins to churn with movement. Half a dozen Sea Devils leap up on deck, while dozens more can be seen in the waters surrounding The Zephyr. The party recognizes the sahuagin High Priestess, the four-armed warrior leader, and their assistants.

She speaks directly to Drakeus: "You have returned as you have promised. That is good. You are one who knows the meaning of honor, unlike many in your clan. They," she says, gesturing to the multitude of sahuagin surrounding the ship, "wished to see what one such as you looked like, as your kind is rare." She turns to the assembled throng. "See here what I say and do and bear witness! Mighty Shargon has given me a vision of an appropriate blood sacrifice for the loss of his favored servant, the great shark Shegokelah. This vision is of a creature from the land to the currents south of here, that the landwalkers now call Xen'dric. It is a creature legendary to them, known only as Glimmerdoom. By the power of Shargon, it is his will that they bring this creature known as Glimmerdoom back here, alive, so that we might sacrifice such a mighty creature to Shargon and take its power for ourselves! This is the Quest that has been laid upon this representative of Clan Cannith in order to end our Blood Feud!"

Drakeus agrees to the quest (not that he had much choice, with the magical compulsion that had been placed upon him), and the sea devils retreat, allowing the ship to continue on its way.

Proust attempts to recall what legends and ballads that might have mentioned Glimmerdoom, but all he is able to recall is that it is a legendary creature of Xen'dric that cannot be seen, and that is best avoided – as it has been known to take out entire hunting parties by itself. Once the group arrives in Stormreach, Zylah immediately takes off to try and find out more information. Unfortunately, Zylah finds little additional information; besides being a magical creature that cannot be seen – most of the time – Glimmerdoom also reportedly turns spells back on their casters.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party attempts to seek out Deegan Barrister, to see if he was doing okay. Shemhazai, with aid from Proust, locates Deegin easily. They are directed to Temple Row, when Deegin was last seen. The group finds him conversing with a man just outside of the Keep of the Silver Flame. As they approach, Deegin says to the young man, "I will do my best to save your sister." He bows his head and turns to the party, seemingly happy to see them, and gesturing them to join him.

The group adjourns to a tavern where they can get a drink and sit while talking. While walking, Deegin explains the commission he had just taken – the young man he had been speaking to is named Jedal. He was a member of an expedition that was exploring some ruins when the group came across a grey-skinned giant. The leader of the expedition spoke with the giant about something, and the leader refused. The giant promptly killed him, and to their horror, they saw his soul sucked into a whirlwind that surrounded the giant. When the rest of them tried to flee, the giant killed them as well, adding their souls to his whirlwind. Jedal wasn't sure why he was allowed to get away, as the giant didn't even try to chase after him. His sister Lisel was one of the members of the expedition, and her soul can't find peace until it is released from the giant. Jedal asked Deegin to do what he could to try to save Lisel's soul, and Deegin agreed. Deegin mentions that from the young man's story, it's obvious that the giant wants something, and left someone alive to tell the tale. Likely, there were ruins nearby that the giant was too big to fit into. The party muses briefly on what the giant could want, but dismisses the musing shortly and begins to tell their tale.

Deegin, as it turns out, knows of Glimmerdoom, being one of the few people that has fought it and lived to tell the tale. Deegin explains that the legendary beast known as Glimmerdoom is a behir that has been mutated by the strange magics of Xen'dric. He knows of several lairs that the creature has used in the past, but doesn't know if it is using any of them currently. The party now has a moral quandary – while a behir is a thoroughly evil creature, it is a sentient being in its own right. Taking a sentient creature to be tortured and then eaten alive is not something that some members of the party are comfortable – or at all happy – with. And that is besides the fact that, even if they were able to capture the creature alive and transport Glimmerdoom to the sahuagin still alive, there was still the issue that sahuagin often gain powers from the creatures they devour in such a manner. What kind of damage could invisible, lightning-breathing, spell-turning sahuagin do?

Proust takes a moment to compose a sending to Vaslo, as the group hopes to get House Cannith's (unofficial) stance on this. Proust's sending: "It's Proust, of recent acquaintance. In Stormreach. Tribe wants us to bring "Glimmerdoom" – mutated behir. Reflects magic, near invisible. They'd gain those abilities. Scry us." Vaslo's reply, in his 'feeble old man voice': "Don't you know I'm in the middle of a lesson? Go away, don't come back! Now Jeanne, pay attention here. This next lesson is important…" Recalling that Jeanne was one of the (supposed) spies that Merrix had set on Vaslo, the party doesn't expect a response any time soon.

However, since Drakeus has been Geas/Quested to complete this, there aren't a whole lot of choices. Ideas where brought up of provoking a war between sahuagin tribes, creating a portal between Sharn and Xen'dric directly, and less feasible ideas. Drakeus argues, mostly prompted by his Geas, that regardless of the consequences, the group must follow through (although he was interested in the portal idea, were it possible). Proust secretly conveys a message to everyone but Drakeus and RaE about delaying to give us more time. Deegin assists by offering to help with Glimmerdoom if the group first assisted him with dealing with the death giant and retrieving Lisel's soul (thus giving the group more time to think about how to deal with Glimmerdoom, Drakeus, and the sahuagin). The party accepts, even Drakeus, while thinking of alternatives to going after Glimmerdoom.

The group makes arrangements to meet Deegin in the morning, and retires to find lodging and bring Zylah up to date on what they had learned.

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