The party rode into Torfeld Palace as the Obscurati began their attack. From within, swarms of undead clashed with the royal guard, and the skeleton of the dragon tyrant Venkio brought his claws to bear on the heroes. From without, Obscurati artillery fired on the palace from a safe distance in the Bleak Gate, punching holes in the walls and harrying the innocent guests of the interrupted wedding.
Aodhan would not be swayed from his responsibility to lead his subjects to safety, escorting them to the far wing of the building to take shelter in the royal vault, despite increasing waves of deadly opponents. Between the undead, the Obscurati necromancer, a handful of Creed-like shadowskinned assassins, soldiers armed with anti-magic chaff grenades, lantern golems, flayed jaguars, and the ghost of Catherine Romana leading a detachment of Nicodemus’ Ghost Council, there were simply too many threats to navigate.
With the aide of Dame Jillian, Harkover Lee, Asrabey Varal, and the ghost of Amielle Latimer, most of the bystanders were saved… but Aodhan gave his life in the process. His two final acts as king were to elevate the heroes of Risur to the rank of dukes/duchesses, and to entrust the crown to Talon Silverhawk. “The Rites of Rulership flow two ways,” he advised the warden, “I’ve held too long to my title, clung to the hope of peace despite the doom and darkness all around us. We’re at war, Talon… a war of secrecy and ideas, but a war nonetheless, and the worst is yet to come. An old soul like me could never carry the people through that. But you… you have always strived to do the right thing, to lift up your allies and protect the innocent, showing mercy and kindness when you can. Your friends—they are frustrated, scared. They trust in their own might when they should work together. Lead them. Unite Risur. Otherwise…”
Aodhan’s hand fell from his sword. With a grim look in his eyes, Talon took the crown and joined his allies in the vault, sealing it shut behind them until the Obscurati’s lanterns burned down and the assassins vanished.
The heroes led the evacuation of the palace once the planar interference faded. On the deck of the RNS Impossible, they sorted out the particulars of their new rank. Several lords from the city and the palace’s invasion convened to make Talon’s ascension to the monarchy official, hearing each of his allies’ give testimony to his worthiness. As a result, the transfer was deemed legitimate, and Talon received the power and burden of the Rites of Rulership.
A stately coronation would have to wait. Too much was still at stake. Although Nic was likely making the necessary preparations for his Grand Design on Axis Island, his defenses would almost certainly be too strong to penetrate now. The heroes still had no surefire way to counter his powers, nor fight the colossus—and they’d likely need the whole Risuri fleet just to set foot on Axis’ shores. But there was one foe they could yet confront.
The party set sail for Flint again, hunting Roland Stanfield, revealed as a powerful Ob conspirator thanks to the visions from the Arc of Reida. As the sun set on their journey, the five heroes felt a shift in the air… though they did not yet realize it, a powerful seal had been broken, one which placed limits on the might of mortals. [each PC advances from level 20 to 22, unlocking numerous epic-level abilities] In addition, the Golden Icons Kida kept from Axis Island now flared into their full power!
Capturing Stanfield, naturally, proves more complicated than expected. On arrival in Flint, dark clouds are seen hovering over the city, though no thunder rumbles and no rain falls. Thousands of ravens circle and roost upon Cauldron Hill, fish beach themselves on the shores, Danoran ships patrol the harbor, and the people of the city watch in fear while strange activity can be seen on the roof of the Governor’s mansion, encased in a thick, golden shield that bears some eerie similarity to the defenses of Alais Primos, 500 years ago.
The heroes hatch a daring plan to wrest control of the Risuri flagship, the Coaltongue, from the Danoran forces. During their attempt, the Impossible is struck by floating mines and becomes severely damaged by an attack from the DNS Praepollens Auctoritate, led (against all logic and reason) by the ghost of Lya Jierre. Transformation into a spectral form has only advanced Lya’s anti-swarm fighting style; alongside a draconic witchoil golem, she proves a deadly adversary.
The Coaltongue’s brand makes short work of the barrier around Stanfield’s manor, and Gale’s powers easily propel the party to the roof to do battle with the governor of Flint. Somehow, the deva has managed to summon several ‘copies’ of himself: more accurately, past incarnations with a wealth of unique skillsets earned over 500 years: sorcerers, swordsmen, spies, loremasters, technologists… even his original human self, a paladin of the Clergy.
The modern-day Stanfield stands at the controls of an eldritch contraption, channeling the energies of several unfamiliar planes. Hugo’s ingenuity and Kida’s swiftness are instrumental in the battle, turning the machine’s energies against the traitor while Talon, Qiyet, and Templeton weed out his past selves.
“Folly,” Roland coughed, spitting blood at the battle’s end, “a grand folly.”
“It didn’t have to be this way,” Templeton growled, his bayonet buried in the dying man’s chest. “People looked up to you. And you could have walked away at any—”
“Not my folly… yours. Death hasn’t stopped me before, you stubborn fool, and I will continue my work even if you… even if the whole nation resists. Today… you have merely saved Risur the comfort of a smooth transition into the new world order. But Nicodemus will complete the ritual on Axis Island… any… moment… now.”
He closed his eyes, letting out a comforted breath despite his grievous injuries, and he moved no more. The night sky grew bright as the heavens shook, and the stars began to fall to Lanjyr. One of them, which the eladrin called Mishados, was headed straight for the party’s position.
Despite a heroic last-minute jump from the rooftop, the heroes were caught in the explosion of radiant energy. Miraculously, no one perished… they pulled themselves from the wreckage minutes later, battered, but mostly intact. And as they collected themselves, Roland reappeared, stepping over several of his own mangled corpses, his new tiger-like face curled into a snarl.
Templeton’s shotgun delivered a deadly spray at point-blank range, but it did not harm the new rakshasa. Hugo leveled his pistol and unleashed one of his most powerful spells… or tried to. Nothing happened! Talon and Kida found themselves similarly bereft of many of their old powers, and no weapon, magic or otherwise, seemed to cut through Roland’s fur.
“The stars!” Kida shouted in realization, remembering the old legends. “He can only be hurt by the stars!”
Qiyet drew forth the Arsenal of Dhebisu, slashing into the rakshasa and spilling his blood, but it was not a foe she could defeat on her own. Talon stood at her side, unable to do much more than share some of the monster’s blows, and Templeton roared orders to them both while Oscar, Hugo, and Kida teamed up to rifle through the wreckage. With two extra sets of hands, it didn’t take long to dig up a piece of Mishados; Kida took it in hand, set up a flank, and drove the shining shard into the traitor’s heart while Qiyet severed his snarling head.
It was the last the world would ever see of Roland Stanfield.