By Jamey Martin
The Curse of the Azure Bonds
Arriving to find Tyros, Corwin, Airovistus and Harmoth all gathered together there, Hector asked what was so important. Tyros warned the mage to stop playing games and out with it himself, so Hector's produced the noticed, written in Tyros' "very own handwriting". And yet Tyros had only just begun to learn how to read and write under the influence of Corwin and Hla'thair of Deneir.
Before any of them could even draw their weapons, the band was ambushed by an unseen enemy and rendered unconscious. When they at last awoke, it was no longer winter, but spring, and upon the good arm of each of them was an azure tattoo highlighted with a handful of specialized symbols ... the wizard mark of Drexle Hlanstad amongst them.
Thus it came to pass that the band awoke in the clearing within Darnarest's Wood in the early spring of the year 1367 DR. They immediately identified one of the symbols that made up the azure tattoo that each sported on their swordarm as being the personal wizard mark of Drexle. Tyros identified another as being the personal sigil of Fzoul Chembryl, but the other three were a mystery. When Hector attempted to work a divination spell upon them, he was wracked with pain so unimaginable that he went into seizures and lost consciousness for a time.
And so the band returned to Ordulin, touched base with friends and acquaintances, and then called upon the help of Hla'thair of Deneir in determining the nature of the tattoo and the identity of the other symbols. With a bit of time and research the servant of the god of glyphs was able to determine both the nature of the tattoo and the identity of the symbols that made it up. The tattoo was itself a bond of some form meant to enslave the wearer to the will of those who participated in its creation, indicated by the adjoining symbols. Of them, and beyond those of Fzoul and Drexle, there was the symbol of Ordulin's dominant thieves guild, known as the Rot Grubs, the symbol of a mage from the Moonsea region named Hretzelvang, and finally the symbol of a terrible power named Tyranthraxus that had long been considered dead and vanquished.
It soon came to pass that the band found themselves present for a chance public encounter with the Overmaster of the High Council of Sembia, Elduth Yarmmaster, as he made his way through the streets of Ordulin surrounded by a throng of guardsmen. At the sight of the elderly politician, each member of the band was overcome with the sudden desire to slay him, and made their way through the crowd to launch a brash and thoughtless attack. Elduth was promptly teleported away by an alert servant-mage, and with that the overwhelming desire subsided. And so the heroes promptly laid down their weapons and surrendered to the Overmaster's bodyguards.
They were taken and detained in the Tower of the Guard, and questioned extensively, but after nearly a week of explaining, re-explaining, warning against tampering with the azure bonds, and name dropping, the charges against the band were at last dropped. However, they were "offered" a shot at taking down the leader of the Rot Grubs. It was explained that traditionally the Rot Grubs were believed to be led by a secretive man known only as Dirge. Recently however word leaked out that this Dirge was actually a nobleman named Sergius Rendrassle III. It was further leaked that Sergius ruled the Rot Grubs through a secret inner circle, unknown to lesser members, which held as it's ultimate goal the toppling of the present regime in Sembia and the establishment of a Cormyrean-style Monarchy. Few of the Rot Grubs that heard this news appreciated its significance, and it was from amongst these that the Guard had recently come acquired this information.
Knowing that they needed answers regarding what was going on, the band accepted the offer. With the help of their Rot Grub allies, they located the secret meeting place of Sergius' inner circle, and slew the lot of them in a violent last battle. With Sergius' death, the symbol of the Rot Grubs disappeared from their arms.
Before leaving, the band turned the meeting place upside down, finding a map, apparently leading to Hretzelvang's abode in the forest southwest of Yulash, along with a goodly amount of information on the evil named Tyranthraxus. Amongst this, they found mention of two items that potentially had the power to defeat the daemon, the Blade of Lathander and the Flask of Imprisonment. Of these the band learned virtually nothing of the Flask, save that it could be used to imprison the essence of various beings. Of the Blade of Lathander however, they learned considerably more. According to reports it was lost some two years ago in the western reaches of the Moonsea when the Zhentilar sunk the ship carrying a thief that had stole the Blade from one of the Lord's of the Keep and sought to escape with it.
Soon after their battle with Sergius Rendrassle III and the "Inner Circle", it was learned that Dawnpriest Drallus had been founded murdered, and Hector's entire testimonial stolen. This did not bode well, as the Azure Bonds had been found to prohibit the band from speaking/relaying information to outsiders about the CoT.
And so, within the week the band departed Ordulin, making their way northward along Rauthauvyr's Road in search of the small hamlet of Hap. Apparently, Drexle had once mentioned this rustic getaway of his to Hector, saying that the area was rich in cult-relevant history and that great things might one day be unearthed there. As such, the band decided that this Hap was the best place to begin their search for the elderly mage.
With the help of the simple folk of the roadside of hamlet of Yokeluk, the band at last made their way to Hap, where they found a small community of Lathanderites living in fear of the mage atop Haptooth Hill. They told how long ago Lathander had appeared to vanquish the evil of Sammaster the Mad, founder of the Cult of the Dragon, and that during that battle a drop of the Radiant One's fell to the earth. Not long after the epic battle, a humble shrine was erected on the very spot that Lathander's blood was said to have touched the earth, and it had been tended to well by a long line of simple dawnpriests. With the coming of the mage and his gang of dragon worshippers however, the shrine was vandalized and it's stained glass window shattered. None, not even its keeper, the Dawnpriest Mumfrey Mimly, had dared go there since.
Needless to say perhaps, Hrek was outraged at the story, and this quickly led to a confrontation between the band and a number of CoT warriors that were in the area. The cult warriors were easily defeated, and with their defeat, the band next set out for Drexle's tower atop Haptooth Hill, where they fought their way past a number of wyverns, a black wyrm, and a chaos giant. In the end however, Airovistus was slain and Drexle managed to escape.
Prior to his escape, Drexle mocked Hector, saying that ultimately he was to blame for this entire fiasco. Not only as a result of his senseless betrayal of the CoT, but because he had awoken something when he fell into the Pool of Radiance, feeding it and making it strong once more with his life essence, even carrying it back to the lands of men. He had awoken the daemon Tyranthraxus, and it was he who conspired this "Alliance of the Bonds".
Returning to Hap with the body of their friend, the band laid claim to the tower, other buildings, and all grounds both atop and within Haptooth Hill, and then made sizeable donations to both the hamlet and the shrine of Lathander with the loot they carried out of the hill. Not long afterwards, they were invited to the shrine and told to bring their slain friend. Once there, they learned that when Lathander's blood had been shed in his battle against Sammaster it had somehow become encased in amber and that this holy relic had long been guarded and kept secret by Lathander's servants in Hap. Mumfrey Mimly had been no exception. But now Drexle was gone, and the cult driven out. And so it was that Dawnpriest Mumfrey brought the radiant Blood of Lathander out of hiding and used its power to restore life and health to Airovistus.
Making their way back to Ordulin, the band lingered for a time (in training), before once again striking out north along Rauthauvyr's Road, this time bound for Hillsfar and thence the abode of Hretzelvang.
And so it was that the band found the tower of Hretzelvang, who had prepared for, and eagerly awaited the bands arrival. At least one of them was to act as a sacrifice in some obscure spell for some insane self-empowerment ritual that would meld the wizard's being with that of some fiendish, underworld power. As things worked out, the lot fell to Corwin, whom Hretzelvang sacrificed as the others contended with the dark wizard's fiendish minions. When all was said and done however, Hretzelvang and his minions were defeated.
And so the band left the tower with both Corwin's corpse and something they gathered to be the Flask of Imprisonment. Making their way to Voonlar, they soon found a shrine dedicated to Lathander, and met the beautiful Dawnpriestess Salleece. She told them of how the forces of Cyric had been driving her flock away, vandalizing both their homes and the shrine itself in night time raids that were consistently written off as Red Plume raids by the High Constable of the area.
And so it was that Hrek and Hector, spent the night in the shrine's back room, only to be awakened in the middle of the night by a terrible commotion. Arming themselves, Hrek and Hector investigated the noise and found themselves confronted the biggest, ugliest gargoyle they had ever seen. Despite a tough scuffle, and with the help of Salleece, the two men managed to drive the fiend off. And when the High Constable was summoned, they told him what they had seen, with Salleece adding that the fiend strongly resembled the ghoulish figures depicted on the Temple of the Dark Sun and suggested that they were no mere carvings. While the High Constable listened with feigned concern and claimed he would look into it, he left advising Salleece to, perhaps, find a safer place to lay her head at night ... further into town ... perhaps a little closer to the, ahhh, "law".
Soon enough the band found they had to depart and get on with their quest. And so they departed for Zhentil Keep, but not before Hrek and Hector had hired a handful of merc.'s to ward the shrine and it's priestess, promising that they would soon return themselves.
Making their way to Zhentil Keep, Tyros immediately guided his fellows to the citadel of Lord Orgauth. While a certain cool constraint on both men's behalf was evident, it was clear that both were happy to see each other again and they talked long into the night. At length, Tyros explained the situation he and his friends were in. To make a long story short, with a bit of help from Orgauth, the band at once convinced Fzoul to dispel his symbol from their arm and "acquired" the Blade of Lathander. In the process they angered Cyric's High Inquisitor Xeno Mirrormane, but Orgauth helped them to safely escape from the Keep ... gifting Tyros both with a magical longsword and a ring with the power to restore Corwin to life.
Arriving back in Voonlar, the band found the shrine in flames. Many of the mercs they had hired lay dead on the grounds about it, while the surviving few sat bound and weaponless on the ground at the mercy of two margoyles. Furthermore, a gang of Cyricists in black platemail was preparing to have their way with a battered Salleece. And so it was that the band fell upon the brutes, placing aside any thought of lesson teaching, and killing the bastards with extreme prejudice.
Rough and shaken, but otherwise well, Salleece thanked the band for rescuing her, and told them that she had placed Corwin's body in the safe keeping of a friend of hers. Explaining that it was no longer safe for Salleece to remain in Voonlar, the band collected their friend's corpse, used the power of the ring to restore him to life and health, and then invited the Dawnpriestess to accompany them. Accepting the offer, the lot of the rode for Hillsfar.
From Hillsfar, the band next made their way to Myth Drannor, where they found Drexle all cloaked in Tyranthraxus' signature cloak of fire. A great battle was fought, but luck was entirely on the side of the heroes, and in the end Drexle was slain, along with the daemon's minions, while Tyranthraxus himself was sealed with the Flask of Imprisonment. However, while the daemon's defeat caused its symbol to fade from the tattoo, Drexle's symbol did not.
And so it was that the band used the gate they knew of to return to Ordulin, where the Flask of Imprisonment and the Blade of Lathander were both given into the keeping of the Dawn Tower, whom they also informed of the Blood of Lathander.
The content of And Dragons Shall Rule is the property and copyright of Jamey Martin, and is not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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