Weary from the unrelenting horrors of the ruined city of Glarandar, The Dusk Riders made their way back to Coyote’s Retreat. Ever present in his watchtower, The Riders were able to witness The Coyote’s astonishment of their return despite being hundreds of yards away. As The Riders made their way into the camp, they could see The Coyote hurriedly make his way down the tower in order to begin badgering them with questions.
Whereas previous conversations between The Coyote and The Dusk Riders were quite dismissive, this time there was a marked difference in how The Coyote spoke to The Riders. After now returning from the lost city three times, it was only too obvious that The Coyote had woefully misjudged the tenacity and ability of The Dusk Riders, so his comments were now far less snide and far more respectful. The Coyote first made mention of not just how shocked he was to see The Riders return, but also a slight complaint regarding the amount of gold coin The Riders were costing him. It seemed that he had made three bets with Terris Halfjaw, Barman of The Dancing Lizard, that the Dusk Riders would never return and obviously he had been spectacularly wrong each time. As a last ditch attempt to invalidate his bet – a tremendously significant “double-or-nothing” offer, The Coyote made certain to count all members of the group so that he could verify that none has “secretly perished.” To the dismay of his coin purse, all Riders were present and they were each eager to complete the deal that they had made prior to last departing The Refuge.
The Coyote quickly ushered The Dusk Riders inside of his shop before Terris could see and come to collect his coin. Once inside, The Coyote expressed his amazement that The Dusk Riders had not just returned, but had also brought with them the item required to complete their trade – an Onyx Shard. Since The Dusk Riders had made good on their word, The Coyote pledged to make better on his – in addition to provision of the Axe to the Dusk Riders, The Coyote also offered, “Thomin’s Fury,” a helm that belonged to Thomin Shattershield, a member of the royal family from the fallen Dwarven kingdom of Shanatar. The Coyote said that he couldn’t stomach separating the Axe and the Helm, so he wanted The Dusk Riders to have both items. Once Baern handled the Helm, it’s great power was subtle to a non-Dwarf, but amazingly obvious to him. While Baern looked over the Helm, Munn further scrutinized the Axe. Like the Helm, the Axe’s prowess in battle was obvious, but when Baern further studied it, he realized that it contained a special power – the Axes could cast forward an immense energy wave called ‘The Heartline Fissure’ which could wreak havoc on enemies and even liquefy rock! After detecting these additional powers, Baern did his best to restrain his astonishment and just wait until the deal was complete so he could alert his fell Riders. With the Onyx Shard surrendered to The Coyote, group exchanged further pleasantries before parting company so that The Dusk Riders could return to both the Watchwall and the kingdom of Aglarond.
As The Riders were making all haste to get back to the Watchwall, Mathis detected that they were all being watched and followed on their way back to the wall. Not wanting to betray their ties to Aglarond, The Riders quickly looked for a location where they could hide and wait until those following them came closer and, ideally, stumbled into their ambush. The Riders quietly waited within their ambush location and prepared themselves as feral searching noises became more audible. When it was finally time to strike with surprise at their side, The Dusk Riders leapt out to strike, but instead of Watch Guards or Mercenaries, The Riders were momentarily aghast to see that no mortal was stalking them, but instead a huge monstrosity baring both a silver mane and long sharp claws. Undaunted, The Dusk Riders joined the creature in combat despite its otherworldly ferocity. Grimly complementing its razor sharp talons, The Beast was also able to assail the Dusk Riders with pockets of darkness that obscured actions contained within them thereby leaving the group vulnerable to further attack. When Mathis later spied during battle a Red Wizard nearby coordinating the attack, Mathis made certain to alert his fellow Riders. Munn wasted no time in trying to discourage the Red Wizard by liberally spraying him with his breath weapon. The Red Wizard cried out in agony as the acid seared his face and robes before he began stumbling away from the fray. The Dusk Riders desperately wanted to pursue the Red Wizard, but numerous bloodying exchanges they had made with the demon made immediately following the Red Wizard impossible. By the time that the creature had finally been killed, it was too late; the acid scarred Red Wizard had run too far away.
When The Riders were able to find the secret cave that allowed them passage back to the underhalls of the Watchwall, they welcomed that dank air versus the stench of sorrow and desperation that permeated the skies of Thay. As they ascended the passages to the top, The Riders were reunited with Vurner Halberd, the Emissary of Aglarond that had brought them all to the Watchwall. Vurner heartily welcomed each of The Dusk Riders back from their treacherous travels and was joined in his jubilant welcome by young Collin Tannerson who was extremely excited to see the Riders again – especially Baern who had shown him nothing but kindness throughout their brief time together. As the The Riders were re-acclimating to an environment devoid of constant threat, the group couldn’t help but pause as what it is like to again see vibrant colors again while not awash in such an atmosphere of desperation. Not wanting the stench or stains of Thay upon them for a single minute more, The Dusk Riders departed in order to further cleanse themselves in preparation of gaining audience with The Simbul.
Freshly cleaned and ready to council one of the most hallowed and celebrated heroes of the land, The Riders entered The Simbul’s chamber ready to explain in detail what they had learned while traversing the accursed land of Thay. They explained to The Simbul that Magmar had not performed any treachery against them, but instead had absconded from Shanatar with numerous Rune Stones lest their great power be perverted to funnel even more demons onto this plane, or, all the worse still, Calastryx the three headed dragon. Upon hearing their full report, The Simbul was quick to emphatically thank The Riders for their bravery and the additional information provided to them by the animal messenger they previously sent. The Simbul especially thanked the Dusk Riders for providing a Runestone to her as its Dwarven origins and Shantar markings fully clears Aglarond from any accusations Thay might fabricate as an excuse for war. Ensuring that any who might question her intent The Simbul, with but a gesture, imprinted a crystal with the image of the Runestone so that any who holds the crystal would see the Runestone and recognize it as an item of Shanatar and NOT of Thay. Following creating this proof of her kingdom’s innocence, The Simbul then requested that the Dusk Riders hold the actual Runestone on her behalf as she does not want any item of such magical power too close to the Red Wizards of Thay lest they seek to steal it. In the hopes of discovering Magmar so that they could alert him and provide additional protections for the remaining Runestones, The Dusk Riders requested some method by which they could more easily seek him out. Agreeing that it would be wise to both notify Magmar and secure the remaining Runestones, The Simbul performed some magic that would cause any Runestone to sing once it became closer to one of its brothers.
Suddenly there was a great stir followed by Aglarondian soldiers rushing into the chamber to alert The Simbul that the Thayan Ambassador was demanding an audience. The fact that such a sudden request for an audience was far from the norm, The Dusk Riders did their best to assist preparations while standing ready to defend The Simbul should the Thayan Ambassador attempt any treachery. In order to allow The Dusk Riders to again stand by her side, The Simbul duplicated her previous spell that made it appear that The Dusk Riders were adorned in traditional Aglarondian garb so that they could be present for what was surely going to be a very delicate meeting with the Thayan Ambassador.
Like before, the door that led to the chamber containing the pulley platform that allowed the Thayan Ambassador to enter the Watchwall was unlocked without being touched. Unlocked before, the door opened with sudden force and the Thayan Ambassador glided through the chamber with an unexpected haste. Once the Ambassador had seated himself at the negotiating table, he wasted no time in sharing baseless accusations. The Ambassador claimed that Aglarondian soldiers had trespassed into Thay and “attacked an innocent man.” The Ambassador made a gesture and then suddenly, a lesser Red Wizard stepped forward from the Pulley Chamber and explained the “crime” perpetrated against him by Aglarondian soldiers. This Red Wizard gave his name as, Harome, and he scornfully showcased the locations where he had been “scarred with acid while pursuing his usual merchant business.” In looking over Harome’ many acid scars, it was obvious to Munn, that this dolt was not just lying, but had also been assailed with far more acid that he ever could have hoped to administer in the heat of battle. With Harome done sharing his false accounting of the exchange, the Thayan Ambassador dismissed him and demanded satisfaction from The Simbul. Knowing full well that the only truth within Harome’s story was that the exchange had indeed occurred in Thay and Harome was struck with acid, The Simbul offered nothing to the Ambassador aside from the promise that no Aglarondian soldier had harmed this man. Pounding the table with an unexpected yet still thunderous force, the Ambassador took to his feet and once again demanded Magmar be turned over to Thay lest war break out. With an even more impressive calm, The Simbul explained she had come across some evidence that clears her kingdom from these accusations while also receiving some additional intelligence that proved it was Thay that was seeking to topple the Realms. The Simbul mentioned that the Council of Nations had already been alerted to this evidence, so if Thay sought war, they would receive it from not just Aglarond, but all nations. The Thayan Ambassador’s hands shook with a subtle fury before he regained his composure. It was obvious that the plot of the Red Wizards had been undone, but he simply could not reconstruct how The Simbul had so perfectly deducted all facets of their plan. Knowing that this day was lost, the Ambassador severely analyzed the room and everyone within it to see if he might still ferret out how Aglarond had outplayed him. With a cold, steely gaze, the Ambassador began inspecting each and every individual within the room. The Ambassador drifted over towards Baern, but seemed ill at being so close to such a devout individual. Munn was next and the Ambassador eyed him carefully and even sniffed at the very air around him before moving past. After that extended, breathless moment, the Ambassador then carefully reviewed Mathis. The Thayan Ambassador raised his hand and the room clattered with multiple armored hands then reaching for their weapons but not drawing them. Undeterred, the Thayan Ambassador appeared to be feeling something in the air around Mathis. While never blinking or breaking off his gaze, the Thayan Ambassador stated, “This man…is….enchanted…” While a common occurrence within the realms, the Ambassador was disgusted since the Thayan – Aglarondian meeting chamber had supposedly been designed to prevent any and all magic from functioning within it. The Ambassador incredulously why this individual, Mathis, was enchanted, but The Simbul said nothing. Things quickly escalated when the Ambassador demanded restitution for such a grievous indiscretion, but again, none of the Thayan Ambassador’s blathering spurred anything but further silence. Exasperated, the Ambassador made his way towards the Pulley Chamber, but prior to leaving, he tosse a small red sphere to Mathis. Not wanting to touch the item, Mathis let the sphere fall at his feet rather than catch it. Once the door bolted itself following the departure of both the Ambassador and Harome, the sphere exploded into an encompassing red crystal that engulfed Mathis and trapped him inside.
A look of horror was frozen upon Mathis’ face and his fellow Dusk Riders immediately made their way over to him in order to attempt to free him. Despite their best efforts to chip away at the crystal and free Mathis, the damaged sections quickly regenerated leaving Mathis trapped within the red crystal. As more severe attempts to free Mathis were being prepared, The Simbul demanded that they stop lest they jeopardize the precious life of the individual inside. With wounded resignation, The Simbul explained that, “This is a powerful curse. One that can only be undone by the bastard that crafted it, which, sadly, mean we cannot help him right now. We can only keep him safe.” Feeling the weight of impending war on her shoulders, The Simbul offer the ultimate gesture, “We can and will pursue the Ambassador if you want…but it will mean war. A vast, bloody and unholy war, but we will pursue it if that is what you desire. Given your sacrifice on our behalf of Aglarond, we could do no less and stand ready to act on your word.” Knowing that Mathis would not want so many innocent lives forced into battle against a freshly summoned demonic horde, The Dusk Riders declined this amazing gesture and explained that Mathis so loved life, a lasting and eternal view of living and perseverance that it was not the time to act without a longer view in mind. While Mathis might be suffering now, they could wait to enact his revenge, but one day, enact it they shall.