We begin as each of the PC’s receives a letter, sent directly to them, at whatever address they are currently at, summoning them to appear at the Magistrate’s Hall in seven days time, promptly at 7:00 am.
Sky Summerwind, elven soldier, promptly gathers the necessary traveling items and makes her way there.
Ren Westerling, after advising his various “ladies” that he will be away for a bit, does the same.
Oliver Marx gathers his things – like many mercenaries, he owns no more than he can carry – and begins the journey.
Amaril Liandon, elven fletcher and bow maker, notes that he is to be in town around that time anyway, dropping off some comisioned shortbows and a supply of arrows to Lord Merrokhine’s guard, and plans to remain a bit longer than he originally intended.
While Pieter, after a long night singing and carousing, wakes up at the crack of noon and notes that the Hall is only a few blocks away from where he is staying this week. He then, promptly, falls back to sleep.
On the appointed day, each of them arrive, some quite early, some right on time, and one…just a touch under unfashionably late. They present their summons, and are asked to wait in a room nearby. Once all have arrived, a young human girl, blind, arrives to escort each of them to a small private room, where they are provided a light breakfast and, should they require it, a bath. When the dishes are cleared away, they are advised that they will be called upon, “soon.”
It is 7:00 pm when they are finally escorted to a windowless meeting chamber. A long table is laid out before them, upon which sits a small feast. There is a chair for each of them, and three more besides. Mere moments after they are all assembled, they are joined by two others – the blind girl from before, now dressed in fine clothes with a veil of dark blue lace over her eyes, introduced to them as Kahmsa, and a tall, regal, elf of advanced years – Chancellor Erynor Khaalindaan.
“Our apologies,” Chancellor Khaalindaan says. “Matters of the court have delayed this meeting long beyond what we expected – indeed, one of our number is still absent. Please, sit. We shall eat, and then discuss the matter that has summoned you all here today.”
The meal is excellent. Once it is finished, the Chancellor gathers everyone around the fireplace, offering freely of his tobacco pouch to any who wish to smoke. “I had hoped to have all of us here for this – my knowledge is limited in certain areas – but I suppose it cannot be helped.”
He takes a long draw from his pipe, exhales slowly, and turns his eyes to the assembled guests. “You know that there was a Cataclysm, one that all but destroyed the old world. You know that the Protectorate we live in was protected from the chaos that persisted in the days following by the stone walls that surround us. We have lived here, safely, for centuries.
“But that is coming to an end.
“A day approaches where the land and the water will fail us, when there will not be enough – not enough food, not enough water, not enough lumber, not enough space – to support the numbers that live here. I cannot say for certain when it will be here – but I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that it will.”
He draws on his pipe again. “I am certain of this, because of young Kahmsa.” The girl nods and smiles to the assembled group. “She is seer, and she has glimpsed the future many times. And while the when of it may change, sometimes sooner, sometimes further away, the what never does.”
“I see war,” she says. “The whole of the Protectorate, divided and tearing at each other’s throats.” She sips from a small cup of tea. But of late, I see fragments of something else – faint slivers of hope, that this future may be pushed further and further away.
“In these fragments, thee tiny moments of hope, I see a figure. Not always the same one, but all of them are part of a set, like pieces on a chessboard.
“I see each of you.”
The Chancellor leans forward, his voice low and conspiratorial. “That is why you are here. The future is made, I believe, by the choices we make now. There is a plan, a sliver of hope, the the future can be, if not changed, then postponed. One that involves each of you.”
The door at the far end of the room opens, and a figure walks in – the missing member they have been waiting for all day.
Prince Tarvek Merrokhine.
Dismissing with the usual formalities, Tarvek grabs a plate of cold food and joins everyone at the fire. The Chancellor brings him up to speed on the discussion so far.
“I’ve no doubt in Kahmsa’s visions,” the prince says. “We’ve already seen it beginning – as Sgt. Summerwind and Cpl. Marx can attest. Both of them became involved in a conflict between Viscount du Loque and Duke Ramon Tulku that only recently ended. And while du Loque was a power hungry bastard, and a genuinely horrible example of humanity, he did understand the nature of supply and demand – more specifically, that the lands entrusted to him could only supply a portion of the grain that he ego demanded. He absorbed three smaller fiefdoms before Duke Tulku stopped him.
“Still and all, the Imperial Court has more members who agree with du Loque than with Tulku.”
Tarvek took a bite of honey bread before he continued. “I have access to the Imperial Archives. I’m not supposed to have access, mind you, but I do. There’s much less there about the Old World than most people believe, but the history of the Protectorate…that goes back almost 2000 years. And wars like the one Kahmsa is predicting are far less rare than I would like to say.”
“It’s a matter of population, in the end,” Chancellor Khaalindaan says. “Humans, and most of the beast races here in the Protectorate have far more children than do the elves, gnomes, or dwarves – and have them much more frequently. Eventually, the resources are stretched far too thin to support everyone, and people begin hoarding what they have. It does not take long for their neighbors to begin coveting the supplies of those around them. And it is a short step to go from there to conflict, neighbor on neighbor, then family on family.”
“And on and on,” says Tarvek. “Until most people are dead – elf, dwarf, and gnome included – and the survivors huddle back and wait, now with enough resources for their own needs. And as those survivors expand, it all starts again. A bleak cycle, decades or centuries long.
“But. There may be a way to damage the cycle, if not break it outright. It will be dangerous, and in many ways it’s something of a desperate plan, but the benefits are…substantial, regardless of how successful this venture is.”
Tarvek looks at the individuals before him – a fletcher, a wandering vagabond, two soldiers, and a musically focused mage. “We – the Chancellor, Kahmsa, and I – have discussed this plan at length. Kahmsa as looked forward, to the best of her ability. The future prefers to be glimpsed on accident, not studied on purpose, but she has been able to divine the potential success or failure of the plan. Based on her visions, the best chance of success…is if we send the five of you out. From the Protectorate.
“Beyond the wall.”
After a few questions, Tarvek led the players to a hidden chamber beneath the Hall. They entered a domed chamber, one hundred feet across and 75 feet high. In the center there stood a massive octogonal patform made of green marble, shot through with blue and black veins of crystal. There were four pillars of blue crystal situated in the center of the four slanted edges, with a pair of black crystal pillars between them. A pathway of white oak strips woven together and bound in copper wire. Nearby there stood a pedestal of stone, with an inset of the green marble, a large black crystal, and 24 smaller blue crystals set into the face.
“This platform, Tarvek said. “Can send you to another platform. I can guarantee that it works; I found records regarding its use in the Imperial Archives.”
“I remember it,” Chancellor Khaalindaan said. “My uncle and two of his friends were chosen. They maintained contact for three months. Then nothing”
“The Emperor knows about this,” Tarvek added. “As does the majority of the Imperial Court. But they don’t speak about it, and they make sure no one else knows about it. They keep this hidden.” He frowned. “I’m not sure why.
“Regardless, the platform works. Based on what records I have been able to…borrow…”
“Steal,” Kahmsa clarified.
“…steal,” Tarvek continued. “We know how to operate the platform, if not how it works. There’s a limit on how much weight it can send at one time. This pedestal lets us activate it; the blue crystals are platforms that could be sent to. If it lights up when you touch it, that specific platform is functional. At least partially.”
“It appears,” the Chancellor added, “that the platforms can always receive, regardless of how much damage they have sustained. Sending is…another matter.”
“Once the destination is chosen, touching the black crystal activates the platform,” Tarvek said. “As the Chancellor said, any platform can receive, no matter how damaged. But if there is an obstruction on the platform – large quantities of water, piles of stone, what have you – there you get re-routed to another nearby platform. Nearby being relative.
“There’s a map on the wall here that shows the location of other platforms, or at least where they were in the Old World. They glow faintly when their respective crystal is touched. We might aim the platform here.” A blue light appeared on the map. “But you might end up there.” A second light appeared, this one on the far side of the map.
“This is how we get you out,” Tarvek said. “Getting back…that’s up to you. There is no guarantee that the platform you land at will be able to send you back. And from what we can tell, each platform points to 12 additional platforms – but the map shows 108 possible destinations. So should you find a platform that can send, that doesn’t mean it can send you back here.”
“If you choose to go,” the Chancellor said. “We will see to it that your families are taken care of; taking this assignment will make you direct employees of the Prince, after all, with a more than modest monthly stipend.”
“There are also a handful of magical items we can use to communicate with,” Tarvek added. “Not quickly, perhaps, but still…better than not being able to at all.”
He sighed, and turned to face the players. “So. That’s the task at hand. The choice is yours.
“Will you go?”