Shields of Sularil: Book Four
The Shields of Sularil return from a much needed holiday to meet an old enemy who pleads with them to save the island of Starfall from sinking. They knew such an outcome was possible, and now that the reality approaches, the Shields begin gearing up to take on the Seven of Shadow, primordial fiends who desire nothing less than the destruction of the Light. As the Shields hunt down the Seven, they gather new allies, uncover old secrets, and discover the Sunforged – powerful weapons and armor blessed to beat back the Shadow. But will they be enough to save the world from Lashteroth?
In the four-book Shields of Sularil series, journalism and fiction mingle to tell the tale of a role-playing adventure years in the making. Author and game master Adam Thomas builds the world, the players live in it, and these pages contain the final chapters of the chronicle of their missions, as they face seven archdemons bent on calamitous purpose.
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The door banged open and in strode King Galthran Deepcarver. He looked exactly as Elendithas remembered, wide as he was tall with a bald pate and thick gray beard. Before he was fully through the doorway, the king was already talking: “What’s the meaning of you summoning me all the way out here to the Overcity, Riswyn? Or summoning me at all, for that matter? You disappear a week ago with no farewell and now you turn up with a wee slip of a human –”
Galthran stopped halfway up the hall. “Wait a fuse-eating moment. Have we met before, lass?”
“We have, your majesty.” Elendithas made an elegant bow. “The business with the orcs a few years ago. Lady Elendithas Day of Thousand Spires and the Shields of Sularil.”
“You’re Lord Sondal’s daughter.”
“Ha, see there, Riswyn, my old memory isn’t as bad as you say. A steel trap this old skull of mine is.”
“But Daddy,” Riswyn said, “Don’t you remember sending me to Thousand Spires, to the War Museum?”
“Do I? I don’t remember anything like –”
Galthran stopped short again and peered at his daughter, as if seeing her for the first time. “And what are you doing wearing my armor?”
“I borrowed it.”
“Oh, she borrows the most prized suit of armor in the world, the First-Forged of Raven herself, so she can traipse off to what – a museum? Doesn’t borrowing involve asking, my gel?”
“Don’t you remember? You were half asleep but you said I could take it.”
“Did I? Well, I won’t say it doesn’t suit you.”
Elendithas interjected, “And she’s already used it in one battle to heroic results, your majesty.”
“You had a battle at a museum?”
“No, after the museum,” Riswyn said. “We went to the Three Sisters.”
“You went to the Three Sisters? Are you mad? The islands are overrun with orcs and worse.”
“We met the worse,” Elendithas said. “But Riswyn was instrumental in helping us vanquish it.”
“Aye, she’s always been a fighter, my gel. Takes after her old dad in that way and her mother in her magics.”
“Since I’m coming clean, I might as well show you this too, Daddy,” Riswyn said, and she called forth the Sunforged greatsword.
“My sword too?” Galthran said. “I’m surprised you left me my underthings. I suppose you asked to borrow that as well.”
“I assumed it went with your armor. You really don’t remember me asking?”
“I’m a heavy sleeper.” The king reached both hands out to grasp his child’s armored shoulders. “But I could never say no to you, favored daughter.”
“Only daughter,” corrected Riswyn.
“Your mother would be proud of you, taking the initiative. And it seems you’ve fallen in with a perilous lot. Back in Thousand Spires, Miss Day here and her friends helped me trick a hundred thousand orcs to turn tail and flee.” Galthran broke out into a deep laugh that shook his beard.
“They’re here, supping at the Endless Cask.”
“Ah, I should like to see the big dragonborn again. Now there was a fighter I could respect.”
“Nadarr’s no longer with us, milord,” Elendithas said. “He’s taken charge of Dragonclime. He’s a king like you now.”
“Couldn’t be more deserved,” Galthran said. “I shall have to reach out to him. So my daughter has taken his place on your team, is that it?”
“Not officially,” Elendithas said. “But our goals are aligned at the moment. The Darmings here in Anvilcairn are part of a larger problem we are facing – the Seven of Shadow continuing to break into the Material World.”
“Ach, Riswyn has been on about the seals weakening for a while now. I’ve seen no evidence to support it.”
“Daddy, Darmings have been reported in the deeper tunnels.”
Galthran shook his head. “The Shadow Dwarves were lost to history. Now we just use them to scare young’uns into eating their supper.”
“History has a way of repeating itself,” Elendithas said, thinking about Raine and Starfall.
“You wouldn’t give me dwarven aid to seek out the invaders,” Riswyn said. “So I went and found a powerful group of allies who take the threat seriously. Please, allow them entrance to Anvilcairn.”
“Are you daft, gel? Only dwarves are allowed Below. You know that.”
“These are desperate times, Daddy.”
“The answer is no.”
Elendithas was about to speak, when Riswyn talked over her. “We went to the Three Sisters to find the body of Ranel Softstep. We discovered her in a swamp guarded by an undead menace, which we slew in a difficult battle. The Shields of Sularil brought her body back to Anvilcairn for proper burial, but it must be done tonight.”
“Softstep? The legendary scout?” Galthran turned away and spoke to himself, “Our first casualty in the war, lost all these years. How do you know it’s her?”
“She was well preserved by the fel magic of the swamp. But now her body is decomposing. We must let her meet the fire tonight.”
“This is a blessing unlooked for, but sweeter for its surprise,” Galthran said. “Go, retrieve the body. I shall call for an honor guard.”
“Daddy, since the Shields of Sularil helped me retrieve her, I think it only proper that they witness her cremation.”
“Aye, lass, you’re right. And now you’ve played your old dad like a fiddle. They can enter Below, but only for the ceremony. Then it’s back to the Overlanders’ Respite for them.”
“Thank you, Daddy. And I can keep borrowing your armor and sword?”
Galthran smiled broadly at his daughter’s nerve. “Ah, I never could say no to you, could I?”
“You return it to my throne room the moment your mission is through.”
“And not a scratch on it.”
Riswyn nodded and began backing away with Elendithas at her side. They bowed and hurried out of the hall. They gathered the others from the Endless Cask, which Tarric, after four drinks, had not found the end of. Thankfully, they had been eating the whole time, and none of them was too far into his cups. They returned to the Sparrow and brought Ranel Softstep’s body out. Rigor had set in and holding her now felt like holding a heavy plank of wood. Riswyn, Gaius, Norros, and Tarric each took hold of the deceased war hero and processed back into the Overcity. Elendithas followed playing a half-remembered dwarven dirge on Finley’s flute. As they walked to the great arch, they gathered a following of dwarves. Other instrumentalists picked up Elend’s tune – drums and pipes, as well as a few horns – and their song echoed off the mountains as they honored the fallen. The centuries of waiting made the song all the more mournful.
King Galthran Deepcarver met them at the arch and ushered them into Anvilcairn. After a lengthy procession, they reached the crematory, a repurposed forge, the chimney of which rose into the dim heights of the cavern.
The king spoke on Ranel’s behalf, ending with the words, “And now the last of our honored dead of the Three Sisters War will be laid to rest, as her body mingles with the ash of our forges and the air in our lungs.”
He leaned to Riswyn and whispered. “Would you do the honors, favored daughter?”
Riswyn sniffed away her tears. She had not expected such a ceremony to touch her so, but remembering all the uncles and aunts she had never met because of the war brought her to tears. She nodded and splayed her fingers toward the body. Fire shot from them and the dried wood of the pyre caught at once.
After the ceremony, the king reminded Riswyn to return their guests to the Overcity’s finest inn. But Riswyn took them the long way around by way of the Monarch’s Forge, reasoning, “You can’t come this far without seeing something.”
They passed the nearest Cataract, one of the tremendous waterfalls coursing ever downward into the earth. At each level it turned massive wheels which powered the pumps of the forges’ bellows. The intricacy of the Grenadin’s mechanical genius was on full display, but nothing filled them with awe like the chamber of the Monarch’s Forge.
The circular space was lit by glowstones embedded in the walls. The forge itself stood in the center of the room, and a bath fed by the Cataract stood nearby. But what caught their attention was the band of friezes encircling the room: beautiful relief carvings of dwarves wearing armor and holding weapons. Below each frieze a name was etched in Dwarvish.
“You wanted to learn about the Sunforged,” Riswyn said. “Here they are. Raven’s ten masterworks, which helped her beat back the threat of the Shadow a thousand years ago.”
The Shields walked around the chamber gazing at the relief carvings. “Here’s your breastplate, Elend,” Norros said. “And Gaius’s leather.”
“And Riswyn’s sword and armor,” Tarric said.
“And Grem’s battleaxe,” Elendithas said. “If only Nadarr had been using it instead of Ohengrave.”
“Ohengrave was a powerful weapon too,” Norros said.
“Powerful and cursed,” Elend shot back.
“Sort of like you and me.”
Gaius called out, “The other five pieces are shown here too. Riswyn, can you translate?”
The dwarven princess stepped forward. “The Dawnlight Dagger, the Circlet of the Sun. Also a Sunforged shield and shortsword. And here’s Raven herself wearing her wristguards. What I wouldn’t give to see them in person.”
The Shields gathered around her and gazed on the sculpted visage of Sunforger, legendary queen and smith of Anvilcairn.
“Elendithas, can your magic find these items?” Riswyn asked.
“I’m better at finding people. But perhaps. I can certainly try.”
“Study the carving of the dwarf holding the Dawnlight Dagger. Brillin Farfire fell fighting Waythar’s Darmings in the time of Raven herself.”
They spent as much time as they dared in the Monarch’s Forge and then Riswyn led them back out to the Overcity and the inn called the Overlanders’ Respite. Gathering in one sumptuously appointed room, they watched Elendithas concentrating on her scrying magic.
“Brillin has been dead a long time, but I feel a resonance. He must have been a powerful user of magic for his essence to remain this long. I see a large chamber. Octagonal columns run in two rows along it. Everything is dark.”
“That could describe half of Anvilcairn. Do you see anything else?” Riswyn prompted.
“It’s empty, and the emptiness is pervasive, like no one has set foot there for a long time.”
“That certainly narrows it down. Let me think on it overnight. I will see you all in the morning, and we will attempt to get you back Below.”
The Shields bedded down for the night, and Gaius tied Norros to his bed frame. When the time came for Uxanilor to invade his mind, Norros could not fight off her presence. But Gaius’s knots held. As the influence ebbed away, Norros felt the shadow demon’s ire fill his mind.
You tarry. If you do not fulfill your role in one week’s time, I will gather you back to myself.