[My gaming group resumes on Saturday with the players having skipped exactly one week ahead in time. Over the next several days, they will learn what happens over that week. To make things fair, and to reward all the combat they all were in over the break, everyone is promoted to the next level. Adjust your characters accordingly. Remember that if you wish to switch to a different (or new) character for the next session, you should tell me within the next two days as I set up the prep. The level adjustment will not apply to new or different characters...it's for your combat during the war.]
The sun rose on the day of the eclipse wide and hot, deep red, with clouds heavy on the shoreline and deep fog rising from the Mistforge, up from the depths in noxious clouds. It was the type of morning where it hurts to breathe, where mages close up the libraries and lurk in the basements to get out of the oppressive heat. It was early in the year for such heat, but it was hardly unheard of. At mid day, an hour before the eclipse was due, the people began to mill about in the areas where the intelligence said the dark forces would appear. The city mages were convinced the shields would block off the teleportation, but the city watch was taking no chances, sending a unit each to surround the places the spies said the attack would come from, one hundred men with the new arrows designed by the queen and a specific toxin developed by one of the assassin’s guilds. It wouldn’t kill them—her Majesty wouldn’t hear of that— but it would render their spellcasting useless.
At the first bell past noon, the sky began to darken, the larger of the two moons visible at the bottom of the disk of the sun, looking enormous and bloated, and angry red disk growing huge to the east of the city. From their choice spots around the city, the guild of the dragon (as you’d come to be called while you were away) watched it as it flowed over the sun like blood out of a wound.
The moment the sun disappeared, the chanting of mages could be heard. The glass windows of the city’s great marble insulae shook with the throbbing noises for ten minutes as almost a thousand mages, thieves, bards and anyone who could read a scroll with even a scant chance of accuracy joined in. The moment it was finished, a hot breeze came in from the east and whipped the trees, and another sun blossomed in the sky, a bright fiery font in the center of the ring of the sun, looking down on the city like a great eye.
There was silence, then, and then a low, deep shaking set the windows off again, before the air finally erupted with the sound of far off thunder, rolling across ocean waves too still to be natural. It seemed as if people held their breath, waiting for the drow to come crawling out of every hole and every crevice. At the south end of the wall, near the Elven quarter, the top of Darinna’s head could be seen above the well-manned wall, Dukon’s improved enlarge making her bigger even than the great war wagons that lined every public street, offering swords and light armor to any hand capable of holding them.
Then it seemed as if, all at once, the sun began to move. A strange dawn took the sky as it moved, both red and blue near the bizarre second sun. In the future they’d call the eye “Prince Dukon’s Fiery Folly,” marking the first time most of you would hear him granted that title, and the unfortunate first time it’d be seen as a colossal failure. For the residents of the mage’s quarter, however, it was a small victory, because the mass spellcasting, although apparently pointless, was still a rousing success. If they could do such a spell from a scroll with so little preparation, they reasoned, then creating stronger, and better, magical defenses for the city should be no problem at all. For the first time ever, the alumni of the School of Mystic Arts, the wild mages, the rogue spellcasters, the self-taught and those who learned from teachers in the city saw themselves as one group, a mage’s guild, which would come to call itself the Order of the Eye , after the magnificent folly they’d been able to come together to create. Good, evil, neutral, all the mages of the city were now working together as one. They were Crossmen all, no longer at each others throats, but working together as one. It’d be said later that the Convocation at the school trembled the moment The Eye was formed, because here, at last, was a group strong enough to take all but the Mage Protectorates on, and they’d come to count at least one of the three as a member.
As the moon moved clear of the sun, a rapid morning passed. The nightbirds sang, then the morning, then the raucous caws of crows and ravens, and the cooing of doves and pidgeons, both trash-eaters and messengers. From their places on the wall, the city’s defenders found no enemies coming, just a hard, black-gray line of clouds on the easternmost horizon.
Then, from the lighthouse came the Druid’s Bell, first one long, low —DONG— that shook the walls and windows again. Danger was coming, it warned. One for a storm, then, again —DONG—, two for a gale and then finally, again —DONG—, three for a hurricane, a sound that hadn’t been heard in over fifty years.
At first the men on the walls looked around in confusion. They’d manned these locations—the tops of the walls, the tops of the watchtowers, the crenellations of the buildings of the rich and powerful —because they’d been told a vast army of evil was approaching, a thousand or more drow, nightmare fiends from beyond and who knows what else, here to wrap the city of Misty Cross in the chains of slavery, drag its women and children and strong young men down below to serve evil masters. Surely the Druid’s Bell was a mistake, or a distraction, to get the Eastern City defenders all to higher ground, and drag them away from the walls and roofs.
The commanders of the walls sent dragons to the castle, brasses, coppers and bronzes with messengers on their backs. Atop the building, from the pavilion tent of Morgan’s temporary war room, they landed as she met with Galen Ap Rhian, one of the city’s engineers and most well known of the city’s druids. It was, he assured the queen, most definitely a hurricane, and a large one at that. As far as his people could tell, it was utterly natural, and the Ard-Druid had already ruled out interceding on the city’s behalf. The attack during the eclipse had vanished, either because of the steps they’d taken or through some divine agency, but the city had a larger problem to face, and probably a more dangerous one, and with the walls closed and the city mobilized for war there was little chance the normal preparations would be enough. They had, at most, twenty hours before the storm would strike, and the people were all facing the wrong way.
Morgan demanded to know if there was any possible way the hurricane might not be natural, and if the druids could say with certainty it was not. When Ap Rhian hemmed and hawed, she cut the air with her hand and silenced him. “Tell my people that the drow have decided to harness nature’s fury to attack us,” when Ap Rhian began to protest she held her hand up again and cut him off. “If the Queen says it is true it must be true,” she dictated. “And if it is not true, may the gods have mercy on us all.”
[TO BE CONTINUED]