A SMOKING RUIN
As Kari, Nammosi, and Elrian helped Peron’s father, Palant Dalanthan, escape the ravaging fire consuming the elf village, Nodnal passed by Peyton and lightly lifted the magical ring from his possession, intent on seeing an end to this once and for all.
Peron, however, was faced with confronting his former companion in the Underdark, Keldor Tor’urden. Through dark magics and offering himself to the service of the imprisoned goddess, Kiaransalee, his power had grown immensely. Once, he was humbled by Peron’s artistry and cunning, but with his new ally, Keldor had become something far more.
Concerned with his family’s safety, Peron did not fall for the trap and disengaged, racing to aid his father and siblings, but the drow was faster. Taking flight, he raced ahead of the ranger and took the fight to the Lionshields and the weakened Dalanthan patriarch. Palant fought well beside the Lionshields, but Keldor’s blade found purchase and severed the elf lord’s head from his body.
Peron, enraged, moved through the conflagration, solely intent on getting revenge against this former friend who had become a monster. As he pressed forward, all the while, a voice whispered to him. “Bring me close to the warrior. Weaken him. Be the instrument of his downfall.” And as the whispers became more demanding and fervent, Peron felt a vibration in his pack. Quickly, he drew out the cause — the red gem of Choronzon! As Peron and his companions hammered their foe, the drow weakened, and the gem began to grow brighter. “Yes, at last!” the gem cried out.
Meanwhile, Nod fought his way the elven great hall where the Daranthains had barricaded themselves inside. He enthralled the guards outside the hall, then Misty Stepped within and took the fight to the gathered elven nobles. Utilizing the ring, Nod incinerated the renegades, showing no mercy.
Elsewhere, Keldor had collapsed and the gem focused its energies on the fallen drow. Suddenly, the dark-skinned elf began to transform, with horns sprouting from its head, with a third eye between, and another mouth taking its place upon a transfigured face.
There was no denying who now stood before them — wearing the drow’s reconfigured skin — Choronzon.
“Go,” the demon said, “see to the villains who wrought this destruction. I will see to the fire and your family’s protection.” With a wave of his hand, the flames were extinguished.
“But my father…” Peron said, looking at Palant’s headless body far below.
“Think nothing of it,” Choronzon said soothingly. With another gesture, Palant rose from the ground and, lifting up his severed head, returned it to its rightful place. “Now go. We shall join you soon.”
Fighting their way to the elven hall, Peron, Elrian, Kari, and Nammosi found Nodnal exhausted, surrounded by the consumed bodies of the Daranthain Court. Choronzon and the Dalanthan family teleported into the room soon after and Nod removed the prototype ring from his finger, offering it back to Peyton, but Choronzon interceded and took the ring, melting it into slag with a touch.
“No,” he said, “I don’t think so. It has done enough damage.”
The Crown of Arantar was recovered and Palant was ceremoniously rechristened High King of his people, but as the celebration subsided a dark shadow fell upon the hall. Entering came a solemn figure clade in black leather armor, his long silver hair framing a weathered and scarred elven face.
“Sardonis Gentari,” Choronzon growled.
“Away from here, demon,” the elf barked. “Your meat suit is not welcome in my presence.”
Chrononzon bowed. “Very well,” he said, adding, “Remember our bond, Dalanthan. Fell the lich and bring me the Ring of Infinite Winter that it might be destroyed properly.”
The demon disappeared in a cloud of sulfur and brimstone and Sardonis came before the gathered throng.
“I am Sardonis of the Blood Brotherhood and I bring grave tidings. Soon this village will be engulfed by the crush of Infinite Winter. I offer a respite for the survivors of this village, a place of safety, high in the mountains of Drakkarsys. I have prepared a sanctuary for all the elves of Enochia and I offer you, Palant Dalanthan, a honored seat at the table of this new kingdom. You shall retain sovereignty over the elves of this village and of all the elves of Kettlebree who agree to settle there. Your House will be a valued addition to the elven court as we ride out the long winter.”
After a brief discussion, it was settled and agreed upon. The survivors all gathered in the courtyard where Sardonis created a portal to traverse the vast distance between Albatheos and the Isle of Drakkarsys. Palant asked Peron to go with them, but the Gloom Stalker knew he must stay with his companions and see this quest through to its end.
“I will join you, Father, once the Ring of Summer Flame is destroyed and I ensure the safety of all our kind.”
“Be wary of the Infinite Winter,” Sardonis said to them. “It’s cold sting means certain death, but the Lute wagon is magically enhanced and will protect you from the unnatural elements. Take care and be well and true. My final words of advice, trust not this demon, for I have had many dealings with him and he is a scion of lies, especially when he’s telling the truth.”
The Lionshields watched the last of them depart, then gathered their things as Raben stockpiled the Highwayman’s Lute caravan for the long journey to Cold Harbour.
As the Lionshields made their way out of the razed village, Elrian came and sat close to the Tabaxi with a concerned look.
“Nod, my feline friend, do tell about what happened back there, when you “brought justice” to those inside the tree. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around when, how, and why it happened. Here are some of the questions that I’m trying to understand — Why did you pocket the ring from Peyton? When did you pocket it? Why did you feel it necessary to go on your own? I’m concerned that one day we may not be in a position to help.”
“Well, my halfelven friend,” Nod replied. “I took the ring as Peyton passed me by in the branches of the great tree, as he was on his way to aid his family’s escape. My thinking was that the power of the ring would be able to destroy all the elf lords within the great hall. I could not foresee the limitations of its power. But I had to try…for justice. And everyone here has a right to do what they feel necessary in times of crisis, such as when you went to pick a lock within Barthan’s general goods, only to be poisoned and brought to the very brink of death by an insidious trap.”
“Cymric,” Peron spoke up, overhearing their conversation, “the thieving of my brother’s ring like a simple bandit is not a trivial thing. However, you stole something far more precious from me and my entire family. You robbed us our opportunity to avenge a grievous wrong that was done to us by the Daranthains. The justice you speak of was not yours to take. It was ours”
“You make a fair point,” Nodnal said after a moment of reflection, “for while I would rejoice at the death of an old foe such as Dirk Flisten, I would rather see him dead by my paw. I was hasty and full of wrath, for I too had been wronged by that house—though to a lesser extent than you. I feared our escape was imminent, and justice would be lost. For that I am sorry. Lastly, I am surprised to hear that my ‘theft’ of the ring has upset you so. In my culture necessity demands a bit of theft now and again, even from a friend. In the future I will remember this slight difference in worldview.”
to be continued