X. A New Order for a New Land
The drow’s eyes popped open the to the sight of Aerie and Jaheira before her, blue light disappearing from their hands into her.
“Where…” Viconia sighed. “You should have left me…Abyss…”
“No,” they corrected together, “And that is not where you would have gone.”
“Drow…we are destined…to be enemies…”
“No,” they corrected again, “When you took flight from them, you made your destiny your own.”
“Your world, and mine, are destined, then…”
“But now you and Sarevok have begun reclaiming the Underdark. He, too, has changed. And when you return, you will have the chance to make a new destiny for your world.”
The bounty hunter’s eyes popped open to the sight of Imoen before him, cradling his head, and Onyx before him, the last wisps of a soft blue light trailing out the paladin’s bracers into his body.
“Am I…are we…no…the light…am I really…” Yoshimo sputtered.
“Yes, alive, Yoshi,” Imoen smiled tenderly.
Onyx laid a gauntleted hand on Yoshimo’s shoulder. “You once lost your heart as a traitor,” he began warmly. “This night, you lost it as a true and brave ally.” He gripped Yoshimo’s shoulder and pulled him to his feet. “Now, brother, come received the gratitude due a hero of a new world.”
The ranger’s eyes popped open to the sight of Aerie before him, a soft blue glow fading from her hands.
“An angel…I’m…” Kivan sighed.
“No, alive and well, as is Suldanesellar,” she corrected gently. Shadows fell over him and two more faces, one half-elven and one drow, appeared beside hers.
“Torture and death. You lost a love. I know how this feels,” Jaheira whispered.
“You have wandered for years, bitter and alone, consumed by anger. I know how this feels,” Viconia whispered.
“You thought what you lost could never be replaced. I know how this feels,” Aerie whispered.
“And now it is over,” they proclaimed in unison. “Your quest is fulfilled and you must journey on to better things. You can begin your life anew. You have been today, in both body and spirit, reborn.”
The knight’s eyes popped open to the sight of a clear azure sky. A single eye loomed overhead.
“Helm…I failed you…” he moaned.
“No, Anomen,” boomed the omniscient god’s voice. “Thou led thy forces to victory. Maztica is freed by thy leadership and Yamash is destroyed by thy hand. A world owes thee thanks. But thou owes thy continued guidance. And love.”
“Am I…was I…”
“No, thou healed thyself ere thy life gave out, and there hast thee lain unconscious but well. And now, return, Anomen, to a new world.”
The last Zhentil troops inside Suldanesellar had been felled, those outside had died with their battalions or scattered into the forest, only to be hunted down by the rangers. Within the city, the Palace of Suldanesellar was packed with leaders of the Seldarine and many of those who had fought bravely just hours before.
A lucid Ellisime was bestowing the highest honors of the Seldarine upon humans and elves alike, as well as an occasional halfling. Mazzy, Valygar, and Kivan stood arm in arm off the one side, already wearing necklaces signifying the courage and mettle of the warriors. To the other side stood Aerie, Xan and other elven mages and Cowled wizards wearing similar necklaces. Druids and priests now came before Ellisime and lowed their heads to be adorned by the queen. At last Aerie came forward again with Jaheira and Viconia, and the three bowed before her.
Ellisime wordlessly bequeathed two of them, but then paused before the drow. “You shall be the first of your kind to receive this honor, Viconia. Despite the flag under which you came to this city, your actions in the final moments of this battle may yet indicate the direction you will henceforth take. If this be so, consider the possibility of a new life among us, a new home in the Tree of Life.” She laid the necklace around Viconia’s shoulders and drew back.
The drow nodded in appreciation, moved by the gesture and considering the offer. After standing still for a minute while those gathered watched in silence, she eventually merely bowed deeply to Ellisime and silently left the palace and Suldanesellar.
As dawn broke over Temactitlan, the victorious forces of Helm and Qotal finished the laborious battle aftermath of freeing the enslaved citizens of the city, tending to their wounded and fallen, and burning the bodies of the Zaltecans. The waters of the Fountain of Youth and Lake Temaclac had returned to their natural colors and the effort had left Jade, Luna, and Imoen weary, until they had bathed in the repurified fountain and found their fatigue and wounds washed away and their power renewed.
On the streets around the restored Pyramid of Qotal, Minsc and Yoshimo were reorganizing and assessing the remaining rangers, priests, and knights. At the apex of the pyramid, Imoen sat between her brothers. Within the pyramid, Eryx and Luna were out of sight in a lovers’ embrace. Across the apex from Imoen, Jade sat alone, staring out to the horizon, her head slumped in her hands.
Imoen perked up even though her brothers sensed nothing. “Hey, I just got an ‘instant message’ from Aerie! Suldanesellar is saved!
“So, brother,” Onyx inquired, “Looks like your plans got foiled again.”
“It’s just as well,” Sarevok sighed, “Then I’d have to devise some scheme to ‘lose’ the city without looking like I’d really gone soft. I need to keep up the whole Dark Overlord image – hard to get anything done as Lord of the Zhentarim otherwise. You ever try asking those bums nicely? Doesn’t work. If they stop fearing me, they’ll stop obeying me, and then it’s work, work, work all day long. Say, wasn’t there a dread pirate who said something like that?”
“Yeah, it’s some old quote. Roberts, I think his name was. Sure was around a long time for a human.”
“Anyway, if you hear some story about me razing some villages, don’t worry, it’s just the Zhentil propaganda machine at work.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“Well, I’ve still got Zhentil Keep and my holdings around Ust Natha. Maybe I’ll try sating my powerlust with some more Underdark campaigns. I hear that Mezoberranzan is nice this time of year.”
“I can dig it. Don’t suppose I could convince you to raise capital by liquidating your surface land trade cartels?”
“Actually I was sort of thinking of a little streamlining and restructuring. I think I can make them profitable without resorting to slaying or kidnapping the competition. The great market share we got was barely worth the cost of hiring all those gangsters and thugs anyway. Don’t suppose you could look the other way if we stay ‘black market’ to keep evading taxes?”
“Well, Don’t expect me to come after you for cutting a few corners, but I can’t make any guarantees for Chancellor Nalia.”
“Bah. Well, I suppose I’ll be getting back. Viccy is pretty high-maintainence, you know.” Sarevok stood up and walked back to the portal through which he’d come.
“Hey look, bro!” Imoen pointed down to the street below. The crowd that had been milling around with Yoshimo and Minsc in front of the pyramid had gathered into an organized array and seemed to be listening to a group of figures standing above them on the first level of the pyramid.
Onyx and Imoen walked down the stairs to the gathering, Jade trudging lethargically behind them. The twelve disciplines of Anomen, having all fought bravely the night before and survived, stood in a semicircle addressing the crowd before them.
“Empress Jade!” they turned and bowed as the long-faced lady stood behind them.
“I see,” Jade began, “that you are no longer mere warriors of Maztica, but now also clerics of the gospel of Helm.” She looked down at the mixed Faerunian and Maztican crowd below them. “A new days dawns over the True World, and the faiths of Helm and Qotal may henceforth coexist here. Any warriors of the True World -” she exchanged glances with Onyx, who nodded, reading the question in her eyes, “or the Far, who would defend this land in the name of Helm, come forward.” Other Mazticans came up the steps, alongside many of the knights of the expedition. “You shall be a protective order of knights established in Anomen’s name. A – “
Jade noticed the disciples suddenly were looking past her. She turned to see the top of the pyramid awash in a sourceless bright white light that made all in its aura look clean and pure. Out of it, down the steps, marched a single figure. He wore armor, a shield, and a mace of polished white, adorned with depictions from the battle the night before. His hair and beard seemed clean and trim, and his bright teeth and eyes smiled at them as he came majestically down the steps.
“It is him!” the disciples cried after a minute of awed silence. “He has risen!”
Onyx and Imoen hugged with joy, Yoshimo and Minsc danced in the street, and Jade walked up the last few steps to meet Anomen, who immediately swept her up in his arms and kissed her as he bounded down the last few stairs. He set her down and looked past her at the crowd gathered on the step, watching his twelve disciples walk about them, dipping their hands in bowls of blue dye and then pressing their palms upon the foreheads of the others and then waving a finger over them, leaving blue handprints that seemed to have eyes drawn in the palms.
“And what honors are this?” Anomen inquired with a satisfied grin and wrapped an arm around Jade’s waist.
“They are the first Helm knights of Maztica,” she answered while leaning in to him and looking over the new force. “The Order of Delryn. A new order for a new land.”
X. A New Order for a New Land
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