For years, the nobles and merchants behind the organization called the Table have been stockpiling for the day when they would have to chart the course of Stormreach’s future themselves. Many of them hoped this day would never come. Now, on the eve of enacting their plan, the lords and ladies of the Table have gathered aboard their fleet’s command vessel for their final meeting.
Baron Holvan ir’Korsht, Warmaster of the Stonvath Tribes
The deck beneath their feet was plated in Aundairan marble, mined from the mountains north of the Baron’s tribal lands. His people had carried these stones by hand from quarry to cart, driven them to the Table’s construction yard hundreds of miles away and set them piece by piece. There had been no magic. No lightning rail. No conjured elementals or mind-bound slave labor.
Just the honesty of sweat and hard work; that was the way things were done in the North. Not here, though. Not aboard this massive ship or at this stone cold table. He looked at the faces of the people around him, allies all but none of them friends. He was not here for them, but neither was he here for himself. No, this alliance was for his people. The tribes under his father’s lordship were fractious and unstable. They needed true leadership.
That was his reason to be here. That was what kept him coming back to this damnable Table time and again. His father was an old man, his time nearly through. When he passed, as he surely would one way or another, the tribes would be ready for a new Chieftain.
Woe betide any man daring to rival him for it…
Gaersha d’Jorasco, Third Lady of the House
Healing. It was the calling of those with her mark and her blood. What many failed to understand was that a woman can heal the body and care nothing for the soul. Flesh is a business, one that trades blood for gold. That truth was something she knew well, something she had believed all her life. Many of the House offered compassion with their care, but such meant nothing to her. Compassion? Could you charge extra for it? No? Then why bother?
It was that mercantile soul that drew her to the Table. Efficiency caught their eye and what they offered caught hers. It had always been a matter of profit. She made more and stood to gain much by allying with the Table than she ever could as a Lady of the House. She could trade her contacts, her current wealth and her powers as a healer and a priestess for something greater.
Xen’drik. Its mystique had drawn her for years. The Five Kingdoms were no longer worth the effort her House gave them. There was nothing left there to take. Long war-torn and bereft, her family lands were nothing but a scrapheap with her people constantly fighting for the biggest piece of dross. Not her, though. She would have more. She would seize her own legacy. Her four children back home would be heirs to more than ruins and rubbish. She would give them the kingliest jewel of all.
She would give them Stormreach…
Chastain d’Cannith, Craftwright of the House
He would rather be anywhere but here. This room is a palace, a pretty chamber displaying gold and finery to dazzle the others. This is not his place. He belongs below, monitoring the gears and steam and power beneath the decks. He was a builder, a maker and an artificer. Steel and spell were his tools, not fine oak and barbarian marble.
But here he was, sent by patrons in his House looking to better their lot. Too young born to hold true authority, they wanted more and were willing to stake their personal fortunes to get it. Ultimately, that was all he was to his family – an asset. He was the best and brightest of his peers, able to bring materials and magic together in ways most of his classmates in Sharn had never dreamed. He was a warworker by trade and by birth. Diplomacy and deception did not suit him all.
Yet here he was, sitting as the representative of others, given a position of command he did not desire. For years, his creations had been theoretical. Now he was on the verge of seeing them in action. It gave his a certain thrill, one that seemed to please the others. They saw his excitement as confidence that his creations would work. What they could not see was his growing dread. Out there in Stormreach, there were people. Real, living people. He was not afraid his war machines would fail.
He was terrified now that they would succeed.
Orvak Blackfist, Iron Fist of the Nightfens
Weak, all of them. The soft people at this Table were the best of the lot and they were still weak. None of them knew what true strength was, except perhaps the human claiming to lead it. That one was a snake in pink flesh, for sure. He respected snakes; simple creatures with a deadly bite that did not pretend to be otherwise. Deceptive, yes, but honest in their lies. Such a man could lead him, at least for a time. There would be a day when he would break from the Table and return home as a powerful lord, but until then he would continue to reap the benefits of the coming war.
War! This was why he joined in the first place. This was why he pledged a hundred of his best orcs and gnolls, the finest in all of Darguun. Those fierce warriors had recruited by coin and by claw a hundred more, all now loaded into the warships that surrounded them now. Ten thousand soldiers, most of them strong sons of Darguun and Droaam. Some would call them monsters.
Most of them were already dead. This land was called the emerald kingdom, green like his own skin. His hands clenched over the Table in anticipation. Death would be coming, terror would follow in their wake. He knew the promise that had been made to all of them. “The End of Days is impervious. No harm can come to us here.” He prayed to the Lord of War that was not true. He welcomed the chance to do battle here at the heart of everything.
Let them come. His axes howled for blood!
Laetham d’Deneith, Courtier and Powerbroker
In the end, only one thing mattered. Power is transitive, war is fleeting. He cared for only one thing – immortality. The kind of lasting name that could only come from being part of historic events; that was what he wanted. This was his greatest work and he was sitting at his rightful place beside the man of the hour. He wanted his name in history but as his studies had taught him handily, the safest place to rule is from the shadows cast by a figurehead.
The man to his left was never his choice for such. He had wanted Raven. There was a man to rule behind. Strong, brave, charismatic, those were the traits of a proper king. This wasteful Endgame would never have been necessary if Raven were still at his rightful place. But the Table’s politics had driven the knight away, leaving them all with the man who would honestly have been his last choice.
In a way, this was inevitable and he knew it. The problem with idealists is that they are easy to admire but impossible to control for long. They could be manipulated at first, eased into acts of heroism and then steered to more profitable behavior. But idealists do not always remain blinded by the light of their own convictions. And when they open their eyes, as Raven sadly had, they can never be put back into their boxes again. Guiver’lan was the worst of all possible options, but at least he could be controlled. He had a vice that ensured his malleability.
Laetham had ruled Raven through nobility. With Guiver’lan, the only handle he needed was pride…
Seryath, Agent of Many
So many masters, so little time. The Table, the Chamber, the Undying Lords; all of them had a stake in him and none of them knew about the others. If he was not sending a message to one, he was killing someone in a distant land for another. It was a busy life and there were times when he wondered how he ever found time for himself.
Not sleeping helped. He had long since given that up. Being an elf, it really was not so difficult, and magic helped. He was always awake, a string of sleepless nights stretching back longer than he could remember. While others were in their beds, he was stalking the streets of countless cities. How long had it been? A decade? Three? Perhaps a century? The humans had a saying; time flies when you are having fun.
And it certainly had been fun, most of the time. The Table was only the most recent of his allegiances, earned by his work for them as an independent contractor and approved by his others. They wanted to know what the Table was doing with so many resources and so many soldiers. Were they serving one kingdom over the others? Were they seeking to overturn the Thronehold Accords? He had worked his way into their midst, reporting all the while. Every step of the way had been paved in violence, murder and pain. His promotion to the Table itself had come on the heads of hundreds.
Was it wrong of him to have enjoyed it so very much?
Borlin d’Medani; Guardian-Major of Wroat
Was there anything he would not do to just go home? All he wanted was to be in Wroat again, back in his home with his wife in the job he had before all of this began. Years had passed and things were so different now. The Table was different, greatly changed from when he was brought in by Laetham. To be honest, he was hard pressed to find a way in which these changes were good. Everything he had seen for some time now suggested quite the opposite.
There were so many soldiers. There were so many weapons. This was not at all what he had agreed to support. He never should have accepted that money. He never should have looked the other way while the Table set up their deals in Wroat. He was the city’s chief protector and he had literally sold away his duty and honor.
For months now, he had been able to fool himself into thinking they were still doing the right thing. Was it wrong to wage war for the purpose of peace? The Five Kingdoms certainly thought so; who was he to argue with them? But this had gone far past what he had been told. A war fleet? Thousands of soldiers? A ship of cultists, worshipping who-knows-what, channeling power so hellish it had already warped the vessel’s crew into… into things too hideous to contemplate. But all of this he could accept. None of this was what kept him awake at night, trembling in his bed.
Every time he closed his eyes, he saw it. Bound in chains, roaring like the void of Khyber itself…
Veleste, Silken Blade of the Table
Doubt. It was something Veleste had never felt before, not to any real degree. She had always been so sure of herself. From her time as a homeless child living one meal to the next in the spired shadows of Sharn to the night of her first kill, there had never been any doubt. Everything in her life had been the simple transaction of want combined with action. That was how a person survived in her world; that was how she had survived. Emotion was irrelevant.
Even worse, feeling anything was a detriment. Life had served to beat compassion from her, often literally. She cared for nothing and no one but herself. If it helped her get from one day to the next, she did it, no matter what the deed or who the victim. That was the rule. That was the law, the only law that mattered. Joining the Table had been an easy decision. Some of its members needed things done and she was eminently qualified to serve. Eventually, she earned a place among them. Simple survival; nothing more.
Then everything got complicated. She started to feel, something that terrified her to the point of madness. When he left, it was a sting of betrayal, one she had tried to soothe by taking her pain out on him. But that had failed. He left, alive and well, even forgiving her for what she had sought to do. How was she supposed to live like this? And now that she knew the truth, now that she knew he had never lied, what now?
Where does she go from here?
Guiver’lan d’Tharashk, Master of the Table
Every morning, he rose with the same short prayer to the Dark Six. “Thank you for fools and noble men.” Both made his life so much easier and granted him so much power. Surveying the table, he took pride in what he saw. All these people, powerful in their own right, serving his will just as he had served before recent events hastened his ascension into the Master’s chair.
And not a moment too soon, he felt. The Table’s mandate had grown soft. Too many of them had become complacent with dividends and gold, power behind the scenes. It had long since been time to take a more active role in Stormreach. The Storm Lords were intolerably hard to manipulate past a certain point. They were obstacles in his way and, like all obstacles, the only way to overcome them was to remove them by any means necessary.
And now, thanks to the traitor, he had the means and the motive. He could not have asked for a better excuse for Endgame if he had planned the whole thing. Half of him wanted Raven dead and torn apart. The other half wanted to shake his hand and thank him for making this all possible, then kill him. It was all coming together. Everything was ready. The cabal lords were gathered and focused in their special vessel behind them. The End of Days, the Table’s flagship, was at the heart of the armada and at its head, chained and bound by ancient rites of power, the beast that would lead them to victory.
“It is time,” he told the others, the crystal in his hand sending his words to every ship.
“Launch the fleet!”
Strange Weather Cloaks the Shargon
Stormreach Scryer News for Olarune 15, 999
The calm seas of the past few weeks have already begun to change, waves now reaching higher up the city shores than they have in years. Sailors blame strong winds from the north for the shift in the sea, citing dark clouds that hint at a coming storm. While city mages assure us that they can prevent any harsh weather from affecting the city directly, Stormreach citizens are advised to remain in their homes whenever possible for the next few days.
This level of alarm is also fueled by reports that deep ocean fog has been seen by the few airships still traveling between Stormreach and Sharn. Conditions in the air are making even skyship journeys precarious and all such trips are being postponed until the approaching storm front can break.
“We will know it is safe to travel again once the fog reaches us and fades away,” says Aldai Kayden, the Storm Lord’s current spokesman. “Because the coming storm is likely to be violent enough to make even foot traffic in the city difficult, all citizens are asked to remain indoors and city patrols will be limited to wall duty and indoor posts away from the docks.”
He concluded by saying, “Once the fog clears, the storm will pass. There is no cause for alarm.”