The Secret History of the Greater Good, Act II

This is the third piece of The Secret History of the Greater Good. See Act I for the earlier story.

A little more than two months passed following the escape from Korith Isle, during which time the members of The Greater Good largely tended their own interests. Songbird continued developing his information network; Max met Q, a refugee from Modniir, and the two of them renamed Grunt’s to The Bear Den, and opened a soup kitchen to help the Modniiri refugees; Thogdor, acting on information from his file, adopted an earlier name Kimtor, and together he and Thaddeus opened an underground fighting ring in their home; Co-nan continued his street fighting.

The forces of Rhodin faced their own challenges. The Ghost Crusade took up residence in Fort Cerad, a day north of Modniir, after severe fighting. Skirmishes between Lokiiri and Rhodine navies continued, with no major battles. Rumor of an attempt on Ermossen Seron’s life emerged, but were quickly silenced.

After these two months of silence, Tolix Korr sent out a message looking for Songbird, and offered him a job: to find the missing Duality crew and net them both political standing. He explained that the Duality had been the first Rhodine merchant ship sunk in exchanges with Lokiir, and that survivors were yet missing. They decided to take the job, and added Hercule Smashbur and Edmund Teor to their numbers to do so.

They set sail aboard the Perdition, under captain Serranor, and traveled to the last known location of the Duality: The Brekang Shoals. The experienced crew and the group quickly discovered the sunken ship. Aboard it, still sealed tight, Kimtor found a sizable alcohol shipment still in good condition, but few human remains. Since the lifeboats were missing, they deduced that survivors must have launched to one of the nearby islands. The ship was attacked by a pod of kuo-toas, and one, Brak-Brak, was taken prisoner.

On a nearby sliver of an island, they discovered survivors from the Duality. However, these survivors could not leave because an aboleth had charmed and abducted some of their number, including children. A faction among them wished to abandon them, led by Jailaaz, though they were fiercely opposed by Norem and those like him whose children were missing. The Greater Good chose to confront the aboleth, and slew it, rescuing the children and the remaining captives.

They returned to Rhodin with the survivors. Norem and the others began to piece their lives together again, while Jailaaz demanded to be taken to his things still aboard the sunken Duality wreck. Songbird hired Kimbaasi and her ship, the Dewerron Calling, to recover the contents of Duality. To oversee this operation, Carte and Kimtor were sent along; Jailaaz wheedled aboard as well.

Meanwhile, Co-nan and Thaddeus, both left diseased after the fight with the deadly aboleth, went to the temple of Kord to seek a cure. The expense was too high, but the priest offered to reduce the cost if they performed a favor at the temple of Hieroneous. True to his nature, the priest performed the spell, but warned them of the wrathful gods should they abscond on their debt.

The duo met with Brother Tommen at the Heironeous temple, and assisted him on his cleanse of the catacombs, a rite which had been harder to maintain since the Ghost Crusade had drawn so many clerics away. On the deepest floor of the catacombs, they were challenged by reanimated flesh monsters. Tommen banished them, but one spirit emerged from the largest of these creatures, hovering in the air. It gazed down on them with menace glowing in its eyes, saying “a power is rising in the south, and it will consume you all,” before disappearing.

Shaken, Tommen revealed that the spirit bore a resemblance to Zyraxes, a devil prince and ancient foe of the city from the time of Sogarth. He admitted that he owed the duo a debt, since he surely would have perished if alone. He sent them to the Library of Ever-Increasing Knowledge, to research more about Zyraxes.

There, they met Thorbauld Aldom, the wise and wizened curator of the library, who agreed to delve into the ancient tomes in search of information that could combat whatever evil aims the devil prince held.

A mysterious woman calling herself only T approached Thaddeus soon after, citing his pre- reinitiation life as an assassin for the Maces of Pelor. She hired him to eliminate Tanser Edwa, a leader among the Tidesmen. He gathered the others together, and they agreed that hurting the gangs could only be good for Rhodin. They successfully killed Tanser on his own estate, and then stole the body, avoiding detection by his bodyguard Gharon, and the wizard Keltennas. However, they were spotted leaving the compound, revealing the assassination.

Aboard the Dewerron Calling, the recovery was well underway of the sunken spirits. Finally allowed to leave the ship, Jailaaz used his magic to swim to the ship and recover his effects. Kimtor and Carte captured the strange man and grilled him for the truth of his actions. Captain Kimbaasi tried to intervene, but ultimately relented to their authority over a passenger, as representatives of Songbird.

Regardless, the ship came under fire from a pirate vessel, the Jester. While they exchanged cannon fire, a cruiser, the Enterprise, appeared and joined the attack on Dewerron Calling. Despite driving the Jester away, they were outmatched, and Kimbaasi called a ceasefire to surrender.

Kimtor volunteered to negotiate, and he boarded the larger of the pirate ships, where he met their captain, an elf called Eltring. The elf laid out stark terms for their surrender, and hope had faded when a voice called out in recognition to Kimtor: Erisenda, a pirate met on the Isle of Tides, stepped forward to vouch for Kimtor. Yet, before new arrangements were made, the Rhodine Navy appeared on the horizon, and Eltring ordered the Enterprise to retreat.

The three Rhodine ships, Maiden from the Sea, Akdanyr, and Grinning Aboleth, sailed up alongside Dewerron Calling. Admiral Vaulden checked in on the crew, and then gave pursuit after the pirates.

Safe and full of cargo, Dewerron Calling returned to port, where the shipment was sold. Jailaaz was taken into the sewers for further interrogation, where the Greater Good decided he was a Lokiiri spy and subsequently executed him.

Using their profits, they officially, and publicly, revealed the Greater Good, and elected to convert an abandoned building into the Guildhall of the Greater Good; they commissioned a connection across the street to The Bear Den, and deposited the gold for construction. A young tiefling sorcerer, Kamas, joined the Greater Good shortly thereafter.

Thaddeus and the rest decided that “T” was most likely Tiaona Njaro, the wife of Dentai, head of the Maces of Pelor. Together, they cooked up a plan to betray her at their next meeting.

They returned to “T’s” outpost, and quickly came to blows with the woman and her unit. The City Watch arrived, and yhe Greater Good were forced to withdraw; however, Max surrendered to the possibly-corrupt authorities, and Kamas was captured during the escape. “T” gave chase after Thad, so he turned to face her in an alley. She died in a hail of arrows, and he took her head as proof of her death.

On the run, they spirited the body of Tanser Edwa to the Heironeous Temple, to Brother Tommen, and asked him to revive the fallen gang leader. He did so, paying off his debt to Co-nan and Thad. Returned to life by his assassins, Tanser eventually agreed to provide aid to the Greater Good in the future, in exchange for allowing him to live. He told them that he was being pushed out of the Tides regardless, since he had been in charge of the Isle of Tides when it was ransacked, sparking all of the new conflicts. He insinuated that his counterparts within his gang may even have made a deal with the Maces to have him killed.

The following morning, Songbird learned that Max and Kamas were in a caravan being shipped to the Rhodin Stone Quarry, to serve out a sentence of five years of hard labor—largely regarded as a death sentence at the quarry. After discussion of what to do, whether to free them on the road, or perhaps to pay for their release, a new, more insidious plan took hold: to instigate a prisoner revolt.

The Greater Good turned its fledgling resources upon purchasing large quantities of supplies to arm the prisoners. They hired Osallah, a talented smuggler, and eleven subordinates, to aid them in delivering these supplies successfully. Final preparations came to an end, and they set out toward the quarry one day behind their arrested companions.

A few days into the journey, the Greater Good and the smugglers came upon the prisoner transport wagons, empty, with clothes strewn about. They could not find any sign of struggle, nor of where the entire contingent had gone. They chose to set up camp and wait. That night, a great light filled the sky, and the whole group was transported away.

As the light faded, the Greater Good and the smugglers realized they were all naked and divided into sterile, pod-like rooms. Max, Kamas, several orcs, the other prisoners, and the guards were in similar pods. When Co-nan tried to reach them, he was stopped by an invisible barrier.

A thumping and banging behind a paneled wall heralded the arrival of Fobnobble, also naked, who described their captors, the Sky Beings, and their incredible technology. He possessed some of the technology, already reworked for his purpose, and he freed the Greater Good and all the other captives. From there, they wriggled from room to room within the enormous pearlescent vessel, attempting to disable or destroy whatever they could. Their first major blow against the machine control room set them all to floating, with no innate sense of up or down left to them.

The Sky Beings sent fighting machines to halt the released captives, and to help combat them the Greater Good agreed to an uneasy alliance with the prisoners, the guards under Alka Theliiz, the orcs under Broaak of Losurr, and the hill giantess called Klonka. With these forces united, the coalition fought their way to the vessel’s bridge, finally coming face to face with the Sky Beings themselves. Many of the Sky Beings escaped in a small pod ship, leaving behind a strange morphing symbol on the window. The Greater Good frantically pounded on buttons, accidentally launching an attack on the Sky Beings’ pod, which exploded. Further explosions rippled throughout the vessel, which tipped precipitously towards a blue orb, before fire covered their vision and they were all forced to retreat further within. After a sickening fall, the Sky Being Vessel crashed into the Brekang Sea, not far from Muskerry.

On top of the rapidly sinking Vessel, the survivors of the crash argued about how to proceed. Broaak ordered Klonka to fashion a boat from the hull material, and offered to take Co-nan and Max, both orc-kin, with them to shore. Max agreed, going along to learn of their purpose.

Alka and the remaining guards requested help to deal with the remaining prisoners, but Osallah and the Greater Good abandoned them; Jack Flannigan morphed himself into a whale and the others climbed atop him, riding to shore.

Meanwhile, Max learned that Broaak and his Bloodband were scouts from the Losurr, sent to gather intelligence for her half-brother and his impending horde. She left them once they reached the shore.

Instead of heading to nearby Muskerry, they instead traveled down the coast, avoiding roads and settlements. Thaddeus]], Edmund, and Co-nan stopped to tell local fishermen about the stranded survivors, while also stealing some clothes.

They traveled all evening and all night at the fastest possible pace, finally arriving at their abandoned caravan at dawn. Most of their things were still present, but still Edmund took off down to road to find missing items. He came across the thief riding north, and the dueled. Edmund returned with the stolen horses and missing things, leaving the thief dead in the road.

Fully restored, the Greater Good decided to press on with their scheme to incite a prisoner revolt at the Rhodin Stone Quarry, employing the smugglers as the prisoners and themselves as the guards. After a brief rest, they continued north, where they encountered the reanimated body of the thief on the road. Upon slaying him a second time, a Boar Spirit appeared for just a moment.

Shortly thereafter, they set up camp. In the middle of the night, the Boar Spirit appeared at the edge of camp, but disappeared without incident.

Upon arriving at their destination a few days later, Osallah dispatched two of his smugglers with Thaddeus to the cliffs behind the rock quarry bearing bows and ropes long enough for a possible escape. The Greater Good, disguised as guards, pulled off their cunning plan to infiltrate the quarry. The quarry warden, Eddan Rhodis, fell for their ruse and allowed them entrance.

Once within the walls, they split up, trying to learn what they could for a possible revolt. Kamas and Osallah met Galend, the defacto leader of a group of amputees who dubbed themselves Broken Things; he agreed to store their smuggled supplies within the cave network.

Songbird discovered a vicious hobgoblin called Va’chek feasting on the bones of lesser inmates; he appreciated the moxie of this demented creature and earned his loyalty with a promise: that Va’chek would yet feast on the warden himself.

Edmund approached an inmate turned blacksmith, a dwarf called Tervesh Ironsong, and tried to insinuate the plan in motion. Tervesh, however, chose to stay out of it, but admitted that he yearned for freedom.

Co-nan learned of an old wizard long held captive in the quarry, and sought him out. He found the old man, bent from hard labor and in a near-catatonic state. He was trapped in a pair of Antimagic Manacles, which prevented him from casting any magic. Co-nan managed to snap the old wizard out of his trance, and make introduction: Javodo agreed to help in the riot and breakout. When pushed for information, he admitted that he had once been apprenticed to Lord Silas, but would not elaborate.

The Greater Good disabled the guards’ ability to call for wizard backup, then set off their smuggled explosions, sparking the revolt. With the lightly armed inmates to help them, they quickly took over the quarry compound, taking a handful of guards captive. Meanwhile, Kamas rained fire on the gate, cutting off reinforcements and driving the remaining guards back to the manor.

Songbird delivered a rallying speech to the gathered prisoners, calling on them to follow him to a new life beyond the walls. Though some of the prisoners fled, many of them stayed, swayed by his charisma.

The Greater Good, with Va’chek, Jolix, and a handful of the strongest prisoners, stormed the guard manor and barracks. Once they cleared the first floor, they found the armory, and distributed better gear; as they worked their way up, the remaining defenders called for a parley.

Carte listened to Warden Eddan offer surrender in exchange for the lives of all remaining guards. However, while his guard was down she instead attacked, throwing a dart precisely into his eye. Fighting resumed, and in the end all remaining guards were slain. Va’chek feasted on Eddan’s remaining eye.

Thaddeus took the Rhodis Family Sword from Eddan’s corpse as plunder. The Greater Good took all the supplies from the guardhouse, and distributed the 60 sets of armor and weapons to those capable of handling them.

The former prisoners of the quarry followed The Greater Good on a march to Brookside. While they camped outside the town, Songbird and the others met with Job, who was upset at the notion presented: to settle these former prisoners as members of Brookside itself. However, an agreement was reached, and the north-west bank of Brookside was made into a new settlement for the quarry residents. In exchange for loyalty and good behavior, The Greater Good promised to prevent Rhodin from enslaving them again.

The Greater Good returned to Rhodin, but were stopped on the western road by Q, who warned them that the city watch was still seeking them for their actions before leaving the city. She informed the others that their carpenters, as well as others directly associated with The Greater Good, had been arrested, and so their guildhall was left unfinished. All this to force them to come to justice.

In response, they made plans to steal into the city, to meet with Councilman Korr.

While they were denied an official meeting with the councilman, they were given instructions to wait in a nearby building. Korr arrived shortly thereafter. Songbird pleaded their case about “T” and their fight with the Maces of Pelor. The councilman offered to sweep it under the rug for a small amount of gold.

Then Songbird dropped the real news: about the Rhodin Stone Quarry and the freed prisoners, and rehabilitation in Brookside. At this news, Korr became visibly upset and worried, warning them to be careful. He departed, asking that the Greater Good lie low for a few days while he worked things out.

After laying low for a day, they returned to Councilman Korr in the morning, where they interrupted a meeting he held with a projection of Dentai Njaro, the head of the Maces of Pelor. Dentai was impressed at their savvy and daring, saying that he wanted to lay eyes upon those who had performed the breakout from the quarry and to wish them “the very best.” With that, his projection faded, and they were left alone with the councilman.

Councilman Korr demanded to know how they had acquired the “backing of the other major gangs” in defending their new settlement, but it was news to the Greater Good as well. Regardless of how it came about, they found themselves in elevated attentions, but absolved of their recent problems, and unsure of what exactly that would mean.

The Greater Good searched for Barnaby, and learned that he had not been in to work for weeks. They met his wife, who described him as being broken, and perhaps in the throes of insanity. They tracked him to the shore of the Tancha River, where Barnaby sat watching fishermen.

He seemed incapable of remembering them, and the paladins were incapable of helping him. Finally, Max thought of a greater restoration, which finally cleared the clouds from his mind. However, he still described a gap in his mind that he could not penetrate.

He admitted that his recent ordeal was consistent with Reinitiation; a troubling notion that it was being used to cover up a conspiracy. Barnaby related an overview of the Reinitiate Charter, and that Solomon Arvaunt was the head of the Ministry of Reinitiate Oversight, and thus must have a list of which wizards performed the procedure.

Several days later, the Greater Good intercepted a Ghost Crusade Letter, which detailed the costs of the Ghost Crusade three months into operations. Among the information, they learned of the rise of Lord Branat Belhain to Battalion Commander, and Kiyazani to his second-in-command.

The same day, Songbird received word that Rhodine spies reported the Lokiiri Navy formed and sailing west across Brekang Sea. In response, the King ordered Rhodine vessels to form a defensive battle cluster.

As evening fell, word arrived that Muskerry had been attacked by a ragged group of orcs, men, and at least one hill giant. The Northern Company had already ridden south to disperse these hostiles, but most of the orcs and the hill giant had escaped into the wilderness.

Co-nan, Kimtor, and Thaddeus met with Fobnobble at his garish tent, as requested. He paid them for their stake in Thogdenim, but admitted that sales of the strange material had slowed. They offered to test new devices for him, and he assured that such things were coming soon.

A few mornings later, a messenger brought word that Thorbauld Aldom wished to see the Greater Good at his estate in Commons. Upon arriving together, they discovered the Bronze Men stationed at the estate.

Inside, they met Azat Redstar removing the last of his armor. He greeted them, and explained that he and his Bronze Men had been out training when the received word from Thorbauld. They asked what the summons were about, but Azat only shook his head and trudged into the bedroom, where they found Carstein Marten sitting beside the bed, and Thorbauld laid upon it.

Thorbauld revealed that he was dying, but wished to impart the last information he found about the Oblivion Cult to the Greater Good. He delivered a book, The Founding Elements, written by a scribe some few centuries after the fact, which described the original Oblivion Cult and The Final Battle for Rhodin.

He told them that his apprentice Osayla would take over the Library of Ever-Increasing Knowledge, and that he had already informed her of their quest.

Finally, he asked a favor—the “final wish of a dying man”: to travel with Azat deep into the earth to find the Crystal Growth described in the book, which is the source of the Oblivion Amulets, and to destroy it with the Spear of Destruction.

Then the door opened, and in came Belteryxa, a beauty with silver hair and the unimpeachable youth of the elves. Surprised, Thorbauld exclaimed that he did not believe she would see him. She smiled, saying,

I would not have it end as distant strangers, nor the long rest overtake you without saying goodbye.

Carstein ushered them all out of the room, leaving Thorbauld, Azat, and Belteryxa alone within.

Once outside, they asked Carstein for clarification of what they had just witnessed. He described their history from more than thirty years prior, when they had formed Dungeon Busters, and had been five members. However, the devastating loss of Voladra during the Siege of Gol and the defeat of Uthoq the Conqueror had finally broken their camaraderie. He refused to go into further detail.

Songbird asked him why Thorbauld did not use his magic to extend his own life. Carstein admitted that he likely could do so, but in his later years he had grown to believe that mortality was part of being human, and that it was inherently wrong to artificially extend it beyond the confines of old age. With a chuckle, Carstein finished saying he and the other Dungeon Busters had enjoyed a long period of acclaim and adventure.

The following morning, Azat met the Greater Good and they traveled together to the lesser Temple of Pelor, and made their way through the catacombs and further down into the cave they had discovered months before. Azat ordered the Bronze Men to guard the entrance of the cavern.

Deep within, they stumbled upon a path, and followed it to an enormous open cavern with a giant statue of Kurtulmak, the kobold god; they saw a multitude of kobolds beneath near the statue’s feet, mingling in a makeshift market. Kimtor and Kamas rained fire upon them, scattering them into caves.

The cave led deeper to a rough-hewn stair, full of simple traps. This protruded into an ancient dwarven stairway, which led ever deeper. Along the way, they were attacked by kobolds, which they quickly drove away. However, the Greater Good did capture one, renaming him Flopper, who was Yimkip. Kimtor converted Flopper, tricking him into believing that Kimtor was actually the kobold god. Thus indoctrinated, Flopper, who was Yimkip insinuated that a “false god” lived among the kobolds of the cavern.

Further along, they were attacked by kobolds on the backs of giant bats. While Azat and the Greater Good dealt with this new interruption, they were interrupted by a rumbling, which erupted into a giant purple worm. The worm devoured Azat while plunging over a cliff into a worm cave. The Greater Good finished off the kobolds, then gave chase after the worm.

They were reunited with Azat, who had escaped the maw of the worm, but upon resting they discovered that the Spear of Destruction had been lost within the beast.

They tracked the worm down through the labyrinthine caves and did battle with it, defeating it. The Spear was recovered, covered in slime, along with a handful of gems.

They returned to the cavern and passed into the ruins of Old Falgorrah. The pathways of the decrepit dwarven city were lined with Luminescent Mushrooms, and though it disturbed the faeries living beneath them, Kimtor picked several handfuls of them for later. As they walked through the gloom, skittered whispers from the dark all repeated the same thing: ahead, they would find “him.”

Shadow appeared to Kimtor and warned him to be careful ahead. Just then, the figure of Kurtulmak emerged, but they saw through the illusion to the fearsome beast beneath: a massive black dragon.

Kimtor asked the dragon for his name, and received it: Arkimos zak Zoran tosh Gharmazzerak. Azat told the wyrm that he was breaking “the convention,” but was ignored. Arkimos bandied with the Greater Good, but took interest in Kimtor as a devout dragon shaman. He demanded worship and service from Kimtor, and in exchange granted passage to them. As Arkimos flew off, he called back saying, “when ruin comes to your city, I will be there.”

The Greater Good continued on and found the Gates of Falgorrah, and sundered the great stone bar with the Spear of Destruction; the ring of it echoed throughout the ancient ruined city. Below, in a cavern full of scattered crystals and the Crystal Growth, they ran across cultists, and broke into conflict immediately.

A woman with a shaved head used a crystal staff to manipulate the crystals, and seemed even to control the cultists directly. She created an energy crystal around herself and the Crystal Growth, which protected both from harm. Azat tossed the Spear of Destruction to Co-nan, shouting, “aim for her head!”

With all his might, Co-nan hurled the Spear into Olsanna’s magic barrier, shattering it. A portal opened behind her, and a hellish figure pulled her through in escape. Recovering the Spear, Co-nan plunged it into the Crystal Growth, which exploded along with every other crystal scattered throughout the cavern.

After the dust settled, they saw that the haft of the Spear of Destruction had again been broken. Azat and the Greater Good returned to the surface without further issue.

News emerged that Ayelda Corbaro, descendant of Pallen Corbaro, had replaced Thorbauld Aldom in the Chamber of Wizards. As her first act on the supreme council of Rhodin, she ordered the replacement of all Navy Wizards, installing a new younger group to each vessel.

Three days later, on the first day of Winter and the beginning of the new year 999DI (TR.7028), the Martial Prowess Competition came again.

While the tournament was still performing the opening ceremonies, Kimtor waited to see King Achdel I Holenmos Seron, to inform him of the cult activity. Azat sent word ahead to the King, affording Kimtor an earlier slot.

Once given audience, Kimtor presented the evidence of the Oblivion Cult, the Oblivion Amulets, and the potential Reinitiation coverup. He laid out his entire case, and then demanded an investigation into the magic community of Korith Isle.

Unsurprisingly, this audacious request was met by initial rejection. However, Aziza and Achembe Seron, princess and prince, swayed their father to reconsider. King Achdel agreed to investigate, to the chagrin of his advisers. Further, he appointed Kimtor to head the investigation, granting him a monthly stipend. He ordered Kimtor to report to Zel’dren Preoler with updates.

With that, the Winter Martial Prowess Competition began in earnest.

Continued in The Secret History of the Greater Good, Act III

The Secret History of the Greater Good, Act II

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