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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Lone Wolf 29: The Storms of Chai

After 18 years:

Lone Wolf 29: The Storms of Chai - Cubicle 7 Entertainment Web Store

Via Joe Dever:


It is early Spring in the year MS 5102, and you are a Grand Master of the New Order of the Kai, the warrior elite of Sommerlund.

It is a clear moonlit night and you are staring out across the crystal clear waters of the Sea of Dreams from the high window of your chambers in the Kai Monastery of Lorn. The crunching sound of footfalls on loose gravel draws your attention to the parade ground below. A pair of diligent young Kai Warmarns, clad in black and yellow chequered tabards, is patrolling the perimeter with spears on their shoulders. Your eyes wander towards the centre of the parade ground, to a low circular wall of white Kirlundin stone. It encompasses two sturdy Sommlending Oaks. You are reminded of when these trees were transplanted here during the inauguration of the monastery, on the Feast of Fehmarn, two years previously. They were transported all the way from your homeland by sea. The oaks represent the two Sommlending Kai Monasteries with their roots inextricably entwined. The moon is full tonight. Ishir’s Blessing casts its ashen light upon the battlements, towers and gleaming porticos of the new monastery. You take great pride in what you see, for the sweat of your own labour contributed to the construction of this magnificent fortress. Your pride is tinged with apprehension for you have much on your mind. Sommerlund suffered greatly during theperpetual winter and heavy thaw of last year. Fortunately, before his untimely death in MS 5101, King Tor IV had wisely made provision for the storage of food and fuel throughout Sommerlund, and these caches saved the lives of countless thousands of citizens. You are confident that your homeland will surely recover from the Long Winter of MS 5101, but it will likely take two years or more before life there returns to normal. However, this is the lesser of your present concerns.

The greater is something less tangible. For the past two weeks, you have been haunted by a feeling that the forces of darkness are poised to unleash an assault upon Magnamund. You are not alone in your feelings. Blazer, one of your fellow Grand Masters, confided to you this evening that he, too, has been having similar feelings of foreboding for no apparent reason, as have several of the more-psychically gifted Kai Masters in the monastery. The events of tomorrow should allay or confirm your fears. Supreme Master Lone Wolf is expected to arrive by skyship from Dessi at noon. You and Grand Master Blazer will formally greet him when he disembarks upon the monastery parade ground. You have personally overseen the arrangements for the docking of his skyship, and an honour guard of Kai Masters has been drilled to perfection is readiness for his inspection. Satisfied that everything is prepared for tomorrow’s duty, you close your window and retire to your bed.

You awake at dawn and breakfast with a dozen Kai Masters in the mess hall. Then you make your final preparations for Lone Wolf’s return. As noon approaches, there is a buzz of anticipation on the parade ground as eagerly you await the imminent arrival of Supreme Master Lone Wolf’s skyship. Together with Blazer, your fellow Kai Grand Master, you make one last inspection to check that everything is ready. The lookout in the Tower of the Moon spots two skyships approaching, and he informs you of this by a telepathic message. Hastily, you issue orders to the Kai docking crew to prepare to receive this second, unexpected skycraft. A further area of the parade ground is cleared, and mooring points for the second craft are quickly installed and made ready. The skyships make a slow and simultaneous decent towards the parade ground from out of the blue cloudless sky. They come to hover, side by side, no more than a few feet above the ground and their sorcerous engines are powered down to a soft hum. Mooring lines are attached fore and aft of each vessel, and wheeled stairs are positioned against the gunwales of their main decks. The larger of the two skyships is Skyfort, Supreme Master Lone Wolf’s personal vessel, which he received as a gift from Guildmaster Banedon two years previously. Lone Wolf appears at the head of the stairs, and behind him you can see four Kai Grand Masters: Black Hawk, Star Lynx, Steel Hand and Swift Sword, each dressed in their distinctive personal uniforms. The smaller skyship is named Comet, one of the Brotherhood of the Crystal Star’s new fleet of fast aerial vessels. Standing on its main deck, you recognize Lord Rimoah and Guildmaster Banedon. With them is a small humanoid creature with greenish skin and crimson eyes. It shuffles impatiently and tugs at the brim of its tall felt hat to shield its sensitive eyes from the glare of the noon sun. Although you have never seen a creature like this before, you know enough about the myriad races of Magnamund to deduce that this is a Kloon Sage of Chaman.

Supreme Master Lone Wolf descends the stairs to the parade ground, and a fanfare of cornets is sounded when he first sets foot on the gravelled surface. He makes a swift inspection of the assembled ranks and commends the Kai Masters on their turnout. Then he dismisses them in order that they may return to their teaching duties. As they disperse and leave the parade ground, Lone Wolf calls you and Blazer forward and informs you both that a special conference will be held in his personal chambers in one hour’s time. You are both instructed to attend. Supreme Master Lone Wolf’s chambers occupy the top two floors of the Tower of the Moon, the tallest of the monastery’s crenulated towers. The lower of these two floors contains the Grand Hall of the Supreme Master, and it is here that the special conference is convened. The hall is a magnificent exemplification of Sommlending architectural design. Its gold-veined pillars of marble support a buttressed ceiling embellished with a vibrant mural depicting famous events in Sommlending history. The walls are draped with the war banners of the Kai, and several glass-fronted display cabinets, set around the hall, contain trophies, medals, and mementoes collected by Lone Wolf during his many quests. You and Blazer pass through the hall’s great door which closes behind you and locks with a muffled click. Gathered in a circle around a large table set before the Supreme Master’s alabaster throne, you see the illustrious and dignified group who arrived at the monastery an hour ago. Lone Wolf beckons you and Blazer to join them. Spread upon the table’s polished surface is a detailed map of Magnamund.

“Now that our company is complete, I call upon Lord Rimoah and Sage Chastan to give their report of the unprecedented events that have prompted me to convene this special meeting,” says Lone Wolf.

“Thank you, my Lord,” responds Rimoah. He picks up a steel pointer from the table and uses it to aid his briefing. Tapping its tip upon his homeland of Dessi, he begins.

“The High Council of the Elder Magi has become aware of several threats to the security of Magnamund that have demanded our urgent attention. Whereas, in the past, the agents of darkness have confined their attempts to corrupt sovereign nations in one or two specific regions, we are now convinced that an orchestrated effort is underway to overwhelm the goodly nations of Magnamund. Several sizeable and coordinated attacks have been launched simultaneously. We believe their express purpose is to overwhelm us before we are able to gather our allies and mount an effective counter-offensive. Here, in Dessi, from the depths of the chasm of Gorgoron, a vast horde of Agarashi has awoken. They have emerged from the chasm and spread throughout the central jungles of my homeland. Our magicians and our brave Vakeros are now locked in battle with this horde as I speak.”

Lord Rimoah moves the pointer across the map and taps several other places where sinister uprisings are taking place.

“The Maakengorge, the Kraknalorg Chasm, The Dark Realm of Ruel, the ruins of Cragmantle, Ljuk, The Danarg, the city of Shadaki and the Doomlands of Naaros. All of these places have now become mustering points for the forces of darkness.”

Lord Rimoah lifts his steely gaze from the map and looks to the slight figure of Sage Chastan.
“Our learned allies in Chaman forewarned us late last year. I very much regret that the High Council did not heed their warnings sooner, and for that I owe our learned ally a sincere apology.”

The Kloon blinks his crimson eyes and accepts Rimoah’s apology with a gracious nod of his head. “Our fears have become real,” he replies, in a softly rasping tone. “But there is still time enough to stem this tide of darkness, though precious little time it is.”

“Precious little time, indeed,” says Lone Wolf, solemnly. “If we are to prevent this resurgence of evil from overwhelming the Freelands of Magnamund, we must strike swiftly and effectively at the enemy’s main mustering points. By preventing the reinforcement of their hordes, we shall stem this flood before it converges and drowns us.”

Lone Wolf casts his eyes upon each Kai Grand Master in turn as he continues speaking.
“With the aid of my wise and learned councillors, I have prepared missions for each and every one of you.”

From the pocket of his golden battle tunic, Lone Wolf produces six furled parchments, each tied with a silk cord of a different colour. One by one, he hands them out to you and the five other Kai Grand Masters assembled here.

“Unfurl your scroll, my lords. Read and memorise the contents,” instructs Lone Wolf.
With a tingle of anticipation, you untie the scarlet cord and open your furled parchment. It contains the details of your mission, handwritten by Supreme Master Lone Wolf personally.

‘An Agarashi horde, numbering several thousands, has emerged from the Doomlands of Naaros. Our agents in Chai inform us that it is being commanded by a powerful Nadziranim sorcerer called Zashnor. The Bhanarian city of Bakhasa has become their mustering point and it is now completely under Zashnor’s control. Bhanarian forces hungry to avenge the Massacre of Yua Tzhan, have been mobilised and are currently marching southeast towards the Chai border with Zahsnor’s Agarashi horde. Khea-khan Zhazhing, Chai’s renowned warrior king, passed away peacefully in his sleep some weeks ago, on the Feast of Fehmarn. The new ruler of Chai is Zha-zhing’s son, Lao Tin. He is sixteen years old. Although he commands the loyalty and respect of Chai’s military High Command, he does not yet possess the wisdom and martial experience of his famous father. Without Zha-zhing’s outstanding generalship, Chai is especially vulnerable to invasion at this time.

Seventeen years ago, you defeated Autarch Sejanoz of Bhanar and secured the cursed artefact called the Claw of Naar. This powerful weapon was delivered to the Elder Magi in order that they should destroy it, to prevent it from ever falling into the hands of our enemies. Alas, despite every attempt to annihilate this foul object by all means at their disposal, its destruction has not been achieved. The Elder Magi have constructed a secure prison for the weapon in a secret location in Dessi until the means to destroy it is found. After years of careful study, and with the invaluable assistance of the Sages of Chaman, we now know a great deal more about this cursed artefact than we did when you first captured it. The Claw is powerful, but it is not complete. It is but one half of a weapon that is capable of unleashing a far more intense blast of destructive energy, with power enough to obliterate an entire city at a single stroke. The missing component of this weapon is a gemlike object called the Eye of Agarash. Without the Claw, the Eye of Agarash has no innate destructive powers. However, when it is married with the Claw, it greatly intensifies and concentrates the power of that weapon several hundredfold.

The Sages of Chaman have located the Eye of Agarash. For centuries, and without the knowledge of a succession of royal owners, it has been a gem that embellishes the Grand Throne of the Khea-khans. This throne is located in the Imperial Palace of Pensei, in Chai. Your mission is to journey to Pensei and retrieve the Eye of Agarash. Once you have it in your possession, you must return with it as quickly as you are able to the Kai Monastery of Lorn. Years ago, you saved the life of the young Khea-Khan’s grandfather. For that, he will forever be in your debt. Our agents in Chai are confident that Lao Tin will willingly give you the Eye of Agarash and assist your swift return here to the monastery. However, now that Zashnor’s hordes are moving quickly to invade Chai, there is a serious risk that the city of Pensei may fall within a matter of days.

We are in no doubt that Zashnor is aware of the Eye’s location and its significance. It must be retrieved before it falls into its foul hands. We know that it possesses a personal weapon that bears a chilling similarity to the Claw of Naar. If, indeed, it has the same properties as the Claw you retrieved, then the consequences of it capturing the Eye of Agarash will be devastating. This outcome must be prevented at all costs.’

When you and the other Grand Masters have finished reading and digesting the contents of your mission scrolls, Lone Wolf instructs you to furl them and place them in the centre of the map table. Guildmaster Banedon steps forward and sweeps his hands across the pile of scrolls. Immediately, they are consumed by a cold magical fire that destroys them utterly leaving no trace. Lone Wolf calls an end to the conference and dismisses you and the other Grand Masters. Before you leave the Grand Hall, he instructs you all to gather at dawn on the parade ground in readiness for your departure from the monastery. With a formal salute, you acknowledge his order and leave the hall in single file. In silent contemplation, you each return to your quarters to make preparations for your individual missions. The afternoon is spent selecting your clothing and equipment for the mission and, after supper, you retire early in order to get plenty of rest before you set off tomorrow morning. With some difficulty, you eventually fall asleep after several hours spent in listless contemplation of your quest and the unknown dangers that lie ahead.
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