Shields of Sularil: Book Three
As the Shields of Sularil pursue the final jewel for the Gem Defense Grid, they discover that all is not as it seems. Orcish infilitrators are positioning themselves at key places in the Sularin League, waiting for an opportune time to strike at Thousand Spires. In the south, the bellicose new leader of Kelen begins an aggressive campaign to return the country to its widest borders, putting the peaceful elves of Daen at risk. Will our heroes see through the many illusions facing them? And how will they bend the magic of illusion to their own devices?
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 a chronicle of their missions, as their power grows and they take on more dangerous enemies.
Enter the world of tabletop role-playing with the
Shields of Sularil and then create your own adventures!
Racing back to the stairs, they headed down another level and entered a large oval-shaped room with mosaic swirls of dozens of shades of blue adorning the ceiling and floor. Each swirl began at the center and arced out to the wall where it met a sluice, which was pouring copious amounts of water into the room. In the center of the ceiling the tip of the sapphire pulsed with power. And in the center of the floor was a closed grate and accompanying lever. Six stone columns, evenly spaced around the room, held up the ceiling.
“This must be the room where Grail passed her test,” said Norros. “And was given the gift of truesight. I’m staying here.”
“As am I,” said Nadarr. “I do not relish the event of loathsome orcs sneaking up on me disguised as people I know.”
“There’s the poem.” Norros sloshed over to the wall and read:
Each drop of water
An ocean of birth;
Each son or daughter
Must prove their worth.
Only the drowned will be found.
“So we must let the water take us under,” surmised Nadarr. “Only then might we meet this Riven of whom Grail Maverick spoke.”
“Looks like we’re going to have to close the door in order for the room to fill,” said Elendithas. “Good luck, friends.”
She, Tarric, and Gaius nodded their encouragement to Nadarr and Norros, and left the room.
“How long for it to fill, do you think?” asked Tarric.
“Minutes, I’d say,” said Gaius. “The flow was accelerating.”
“We can’t help them now,” said Elend. “That door won’t open again until the water is drained.”
“Speaking of drains, I have an idea as to where the one in the floor leads.” Gaius beckoned them downstairs and entered the large room on the next level down. “Just as I thought. Look, see the six fire pits, and in the ceiling, six holes. They must be chimneys for the smoke to escape.”
“I think you’re right, Gaius,” said Tarric. “They terminate at the tops of the standing stones above. That’s why they’re hollow!”
Tarric’s exclamation reached the ears of Nadarr and Norros. The water had risen to their waists.
“So how do we summon the fire elemental?” asked Elendithas.
“Perhaps we light these fire pits. The wood in them is so old and dry it will light in a trice.” Tarric rubbed his hands together and a gout of flame shot from them. The first fire pit ignited in seconds. Gaius snagged a smoldering branch from it and progressed around the room.
By the time he had all six lit, the water above had engulfed Norros, and Nadarr was barely able to keep his head above water. But then he realized he mustn’t. Taking an instinctive deep breath, he sunk below the surface.
Only the drowned will be found.
The words of the poem echoed in Nadarr’s ears, and against every survival instinct he possessed, he opened his mouth. The bubbles of air rushed out, and the water rushed in. Nearby bubbles also left Norros’s mouth. The moment the water filled their lungs, both the rogue and paladin heard a voice in their minds, the sound of a burbling brook after the snow melts.
What do you seek from Riven?
“I seek truth,” they responded in unison.
Then allow Riven to fill you with it.
Nadarr settled on the bottom of the pool and tried to relax as the need to breath built in urgency within his chest. Above him, Norros thrashed about in the water.
In the room below, flames from the six fires slithered together in the middle of the room and built in fury until they created a humanoid conflagration. The living blaze turned to Gaius, who did not flinch, despite the growing heat. Tarric and Elendithas backed to the doorway and watched in horrified fascination as the fire elemental engulfed their friend.
Gaius remembered the words from the Obsidian Citadel and saw the same writing on the wall across the way.
The heat of flame
Shall write your name
In blazing fire.
The heat intense
Shall clear your sense,
Your soul inspire.
Gaius stood his ground. The heat grew insufferable and still he remained stalwart in the face of the fire. His skin began to pucker and redden. He gritted his teeth against the inferno.
What do you seek from Agmar?
The voice was breathy and percussive, like the crack of wood in a fireplace.
Gaius could not bear to open his mouth in the face of the fire.
Are you ready to be inspired?
The swordmaster forced himself to answer. “It would be an honor.” And with the words, he collapsed to the ground with the flames of Agmar whipping around him.
In the pool above, Norros continued to thrash. Nadarr had reached a state of peace, of euphoria, and he watched Norros with passive curiosity. Only when the rogue’s body went limp and floated face down did Nadarr register that something had gone horribly wrong.
“Riven,” he shouted in his mind. “I’m here. I have drowned myself. I have surrendered to you. Fill me, please!”
The elemental’s voice trilled nearby.
You have communed with Riven. Rise and be named Trueseer. Welcome to the Disciples of Four.
Nadarr launched himself from the floor and found a narrow band of air at the ceiling where the water had stopped filling the room due to the placement of the sluices. Sucking in a deep breath, he grabbed Norros’s dead body and summoned a spell he had hoped never to cast. The grace of the Heronkara flowed into Nadarr’s body, channeled down his arm, and flooded Norros’s chest. Life returned to the rogue and he came to sputtering and coughing.
“What happened?” he managed.
“I kept hearing Riven in my mind inviting me to surrender. I could not.” Norros rubbed his hands over his face. “I failed.”
“I’m glad I was here to bring you back. Now, how do we get out of here.”
Norros spied the answer beneath the water. “Why don’t you swim down and pull the lever next to the grate. I’ve had enough underwater time for today.”
Directly beneath them, Gaius’s body was wrapped in flame. And yet the swordmaster was not consumed. He had surrendered to Agmar, and the challenge was complete.
Rise, Blazeborn, and receive your inspiration. Welcome to the Disciples of Four.
Gaius stood up and was just about to thank the elemental when a sudden deluge of water dropped from the ceiling. Agmar disappeared in a torrent of steam. Tarric and Elendithas laughed out their relief as Gaius turned to them, soaked and steaming.
Gaius wiped the water from his eyes. “I have succeeded,” he said. “I wonder what gift Agmar has given me?”
“You’ll find out soon enough,” said Nadarr from the grate in the ceiling.
“Are you two all right?” shouted Elendithas.
“A close call, but we live,” said Norros.
“Wait for us before attempting to commune,” said Nadarr. “I would like to be on hand if anything else unforeseen happens.”
Tarric gave Elendithas a puzzled looked. “Anything else?”
The five Shields convened on the floor below the fire room. It was bare save for an altar of stones in the center. Elendithas strode forward and found the writing on the wall.
The statue of stone and petrified bone
Will make you their own,
When blood and mud mix on your tongue:
Trust the dust to fill your lungs.
Like she had with the sapphire above, Elendithas placed her hand on the stone altar. The altar rumbled and stood up. It was not a table at all, but a crouching elemental of earth, long dormant in the depths of the ruins. Elendithas stepped back.
What do you seek from Lapiste?
The voice was deep and strong and inexorable, like an avalanche.
Elendithas drew herself up to her full height. “I seek the wisdom of the earth.”
Are you willing to be crushed by the weight of this knowledge?
Elendithas calmly removed her instruments from her person and slid them away. Taking a deep breath to forestall a shudder, she said, “I am.”
Immediately the earth elemental fell atop her, pinning her to the floor. She could neither move nor breathe. Every bone in her body felt broken, and she would have screamed in pain if the stone were not crushing her diaphragm. After a few moments, the last of Elend’s breath fled her body, and she lay limp beneath the living stone. Lapiste rose to reveal her broken body.
You have communed with Lapiste. Rise and be named Stonestruck. Welcome to the Disciples of Four.
Nadarr rushed forward and channeled all his remained healing power into Elendithas. The bones stitched themselves back together, and she staggered to her feet. “Thank you, Lapiste. I feel the power of the earth coursing through me.”
The elemental curled up into the altar and with a final cracking of stone on stone lay still. Norros, Nadarr, Gaius, and Elendithas looked at Tarric. “Only one more to go,” he said.
The Shields reached the bottom of the stairs, and Tarric strode out onto the pressure switches before Gaius could shout a warning. But nothing happened beyond the creaking of metal on metal. Whatever mechanisms trapped the floor must have eroded over the centuries. Tarric reached the nearest shaft and shimmied down to the sky cell. There the words that had perplexed and haunted his father in the Obsidian Citadel were chiseled on the wall.
Fill your mind with emptiness,
Let silence be your speech;
Take a step upon the air
And for the heavens reach.
Tarric took a deep breath, glanced up at his friends arrayed around the top of the shaft, and cleared his mind in the same way he did just before turning into the storm panther. Then he stepped out into open air and fell.
What do you seek from Ruarc?
The voice was wind rushing through a hollow.
Tarric glanced down at the ground rushing up to meet him. He banished from his mind all thought of using his own magic to turn into a winged creature and fly away. That would not be a surrender. He must trust that Ruarc would bear him aloft. “I seek to soar,” he said.
Every flight begins with a fall. But every fall does not end in flight. You must be willing to fail if you ever hope to succeed.
“I failed for a year to find my sister before discovering her with the help of my friends. I understand failure.”
There will be more.
For a heart stopping second, Ruarc’s voice vanished and Tarric thought himself alone and plummeting. But then he felt himself slowing.
There will be more failure. But not today. Rise and be named Skyfree. Welcome to the Disciples of Four.
Tarric grinned and let out a howl of triumph as he shot upward, racing towards the clouds.