Gathered at the Place that Was

The Lawkeeper stood at the edge of the huge bowl left where the City of Eldermont, and its bay, used to be.  One hundred soldiers stood in formation behind him, dirty and a bit winded from the forced march from the City of Order.  Once the dead had been driven back and cleared from their city, Hugo Croft had insisted on personally leading whatever troops they could spare to assist Eldermont in any way that they could.  The Truthteller had advised against it.  The head of the Lawkeeper's personal guard had filed a formal protest, for later investigation and resolution by the Council of Law.  

But the Lawkeeper would not be dissuaded.  The unexpected hoards of undead had nearly wiped the City of Order from the map.  Hugo Croft worried for his Queen...and his King.  He worried for his allies, and the many citizens of Eldermont.  His decision to come had not been an orderly and logical decision.  It had been one of soul-wracking emotion.  The Kingdom of Eldermont must not fall.

The Lawkeeper - Hugo Croft


Hugo Croft studied the great empty bowl before him.  It was clean cut from the earth, its circumference a perfect circle, and its inner surface a smooth half-sphere cut into the ground and sea.  The sea!  He wondered at the deep sea, and what held it at bay?  Why did it not flood into the quarter-mile deep hole in the surface of Kempin?

Across the gaping hole, figures were exiting the jungle on the King's Road from the west.  A cry rose up among the Lawkeeper's troops, but he held his hand in the air and they quieted down.  He called out in a loud voice to his men, "They are living beings!  See how they move!  They are no enemies of ours!"

The distant figures, numbering more than fifty, but less than a hundred, left the King's Road before it ended at the edge of the empty bowl that was once the seat of power for the Kingdom of Eldermont.  The group traveled around the edge of the bowl, in the direction of the Hugo Croft and his men, occasionally stopping to look into the hole and take in its wonder.

As the group of men got closer, the Lawkeeper recognized the tall armored man leading them.  It was Baron Carson Rike of Cold Whisper.

The Baron, called "Mongrel" by most, walked out in front of his men, some forty feet, and approached the Lawkeeper alone.  "Please tell me the City of Order still stands."

The Lawkeeper nodded.  "She does.  And what of Cold Whisper?"

Mongrel's face was grim.  "At great cost, and by a whisker, we repelled the dead.  My people live.  Our fortress in the sea cliffs was not breached."

Baron Carson Rike of Cold Whisper - "Mongrel"


Silence fell between the two men, and both of them glanced out over the great void in the surface of Kempin.  Mongrel's attention was drawn to the east and he pointed.  "We are joined by the Baron of Stonehill, himself."

The Lawkeeper looked to the east as well, and saw a group of about 25 men traveling along the edge of the great bowl in their direction.  At their lead was Baron Theodore Smythe.  The Lawkeeper glanced at Mongrel. "Hopefully Stonehill made it through the assault.  I'd hate to think these are refugees...and that these are the only survivors."

"No,  Theodore is a clever man.  I visited Stonehill a few weeks ago.  His defenses are well-designed, and well-built.  I have to think Stonehill stood well against the dead."

Baron Smythe approached Mongrel and the Lawkeeper, and held a hand up in greeting.  "I suppose we all had the same idea...the same duty."

The Lawkeeper nodded.  "A duty to our King.  A duty to our friends and allies.  What news of Stonehill?

"Our defenses held.  We took some losses, of course.  But, we're safe for now."

The Lawkeeper gestured with a sweeping hand at the great emptiness before them.  "What do you make of this, Smythe?"

Theodore raised a viewing device consisting of a number of glass lens, with fine silver gears designed for small adjustments to their focus, and he studied the depths of the bowl.  "I see it as good news.  It means they had time to activate the Celestial Seed."

This answer took Hugo by surprise.  "The what?  The seed?"

Theodore lowered his viewing contraption.  "Long story short, a failsafe.  A great artifact brought back by the Heroes of Eldermont from the Astral Plane, during the mission to stop the Gith and the Forlorn attack on Eldermont.  Set up and triggered properly, it transports a huge sphere of matter into the Astral Plane.  Looks like it took a portion of the Underdark tunnels beneath the Keep with it."

Mongrel stared into the bowl.  "The Crepis were transported away as well?"  Mongrel then turned to the Lawkeeper, "Theodore is correct about the Celestial Seed, though I had not yet made the connection with what we see before us.  It makes sense.  I believe the portal to the Deadlands was very close to Eldermont, and they triggered the failsafe to save the people of Eldermont."

The Lawkeeper's spirits seemed bolstered by this news.  "So they will return!  This is but a temporary condition...a pause in the struggle.  Our King and Queen will return."

Theodore frowned, and his forehead wrinkled. "I do believe they are safe.  They are alive.  But I am not certain at to their return.  When I designed the mount for the Celestial Seed under the old Keep, I took some time examining the device.  I brought in a few experts, including Kari from the City of Order.  But, its magic...its methodology...was completely foreign to us.  I have no idea how it works.  Only what it does.  Based on the position and extent of this bowl, I believe a new mount was built for the Seed under the Castle Crimson, as that appears to be the center-point of what has been subtracted from the topography."

Theodore Smythe
Baron Theodore Smythe of Stonehill


Mongrel stroked his beard absent-mindedly.  "So they may be stranded.  Cast adrift."  He looked to the Lawkeeper, and then Theodore.  "We must mount a rescue party.  Find them.  Bring them back!"

Theodore stepped forward, and raised a cautioning hand.  "I am not certain that is even possible.  The Astral Plane is an infinite space."  Theodore considered his choice of words, and took a different tact.  "It is a place without end.  You could travel in any direction forever, and never reach an end to the gray expanse.  We cannot find them.  We WILL NOT find them, no matter how long we look for them.  And that's assuming we can find a way to get to the Astral plane."

Mongrel scoffed.  "We'll employ a wizard of two, or a dozen if need be.  We'll storm the Council of 13, and demand their help, if that's what it takes!  We can't sit by and do nothing!"

Theodore did not answer Mongrel, but simply cast his eyes down at the ground.

The Lawkeeper saw this, and took its meaning.  "Mongrel, my friend.  Even the steps you suggest would most likely end in failure.  We will do something.  We'll do what our King would want.  he entrusted us with communities within his Kingdom, and he entrusted us with the power to lead and protect those communities.  And that is what we will do."

Mongrel was quiet.  His mind racing with desperate ideas to find his King and his friends.  Theodore and Hugo respectfully waited in silence.  Finally Mongrel spoke.  "They are truly are lost to us, aren't they?"  He looked out over the great bowl in the earth.  "We might never see them again."

The Lawkeeper spoke up immediately.  "I would not go that far, Baron.  Time and again, the Heroes of Eldermont have shown themselves to be a resourceful lot.  Stubbornly so.  They are lost to us for now...but I believe we will see them again.  I believe the Red King will return."

Mongrel smiled a smile tinged with sadness.  "Yes.  I believe that too."

Theodore looked back at his men, and then back to Mongrel and then the Lawkeeper.  "You are the Royal Preceptor.  You are in all probability the highest ranking person from the Kingdom's government left on Kempin.  So set a course, and I will follow. What should we do now?"

The Lawkeeper seemed to gather himself up, and stood tall and confident, all of his grief and exhaustion pushed deep down inside himself.  "We do our jobs, gentleman.  We'll contact the King of Toroga.  We'll form a working relationship with him, and a defensive alliance.  We'll manage the Kingdom, and improve the lot of our people.  That is what our King and Queen would want."

Theodore looked into the shadows of the jungle around them.  "What of the dead?  This gate is closed, but so many of the dead remain."

Mongrel laid his hand on the pommel of his sword.  "We'll kill them.  No...we'll hunt them down...and kill them.  We can train units of men to sweep the jungle along the coastline...and to patrol the King's Road.  We'll contact the Takti, and their War King, and we'll see if the one remaining Lion of the South is willing to work with us.  Bottom line...we clear every last dead motherfucker out.  Whatever that takes...that's what we do."