Beyond Britannia's Borders

It has been a while since I've told a tale about Britannia. That's not to say that things have not been happening. Rather, I've been busy digging up treasure of late, and have tired myself so much that I am unable to hear the call for Britannia's heroes.

This night, however, I heard. Untold riches were left to rest a little longer as I joined a cluster of warriors in the Royal Guard Headquarters.

"Hail everyone. The news I have is grim." Kalis Sevren started with his typical directness, as usual.

I accused him of never having good news, which he denied. Our leader bantered with the assembly as we waited for the numbers to increase. Kalis got to the heart of the matter a few minutes later.

"I am glad to see so many of you making it this eve, especially on such short notice."

"The last time we gathered we retook the Court of Truth." This must have been a mission I had missed. I hadn't any idea that Yew was clear!

"Reinforcements that he had hoped to have did not arrive," Kalis was saying, bringing me to the present. He could only be talking about Belo Ondariva.

"A messenger arrived a short time ago telling me that Zento was under attack," Kalis continued, bringing us to the matter at hand. "Now, this does not fall within the established realm of Britannia, but I felt we should attempt to help them. A show of good faith and friendship to that strange land."

"It may also be that Minax is involved as Dupre's journal stated." Yet another thing I missed, it seemed, as well as mention of Clainin's love-life. So much has gone on that I've missed!

The Royal Guard were getting restless, so Kalis moved forward to open a gate to the Skara Brae moongate, through which we'd reach the city of Zento on the island of Makuto.

While it is not uncommon to see warriors wander the streets of Zento, it was obvious which did not belong and only meant to cause mayhem. Ronin and ninja appeared from the shadows and engaged the Royal Guard without pause.

Those bards out there probably know that we're quite ineffectual against the ninja and ronin, for they've honed their mental strength as well as their physical, and thus are immune to the enchanting effects we have with music. This made me somewhat helpless during the battle, and the enemy seemed to sense this, for they were after me many times. Only by using some ninja-like skill of my own -- Hiding -- was I able to survive.

Attempting to use my investigative instead of combative powers, I headed south through town to see what else was happening. There I found Kalis who had in turn found ... Dupre!

With him was a shrouded figure, and this figure seemed to be controlling one of Britannia's greatest heroes.

"Look Dupre, we are discovered." the red figure murmured calmly to his vacant-eyed companion. "Let us sail away."

"Gather the others," Kalis said quietly to no one in particular. His eyes were locked on the mysterious figure, and his body seemed to tense a bit. It was obvious that Dupre meant something to Kalis Sevren, and that anyone that would harm Dupre was going to have to answer to the ranger.

I attempted to follow Dupre and his captor, but the streets were once again filling with ninja and ronin. More than once I had to backtrack and stay in the shadows to avoid certain death.

At the docks, I found the sorcerer and Dupre aboard a ship, and Dupre was casting some unknown spell.

"The poor souls do not know what is in store," the sorcerer was saying to Dupre, but Dupre did not respond. His face was expressionless, and it was painful to see such a great man be controlled like a puppet.

The boat sailed off to the south as the rest of the Royal Guard approached. I told them what I saw, and Kalis asked if anyone knew of the waters around this area.

Some told that there were many islands in the area, to the south, and to the west. I quickly bought a boat from the shipwright that had miraculously survived the attack, and placed it in the water for others to board.

Through all the noise of people getting on and off such a small vessel, I thought I heard Kalis direct us west, and so I asked the tillerman to set sail. We did indeed find an island to the west, but it was populated by only a few homes, so after a bit of searching, everyone was back aboard.

Realizing that Kalis wasn't with us after all, that it was just someone with the same colorful inflections in their speech, I took suggestions from all those gathered on where to go next. North and west was suggested, and that was indeed the destination of Dupre and his enslaver.

Many ninja and ronin were fought on this island, and our boatload of heroes were at times near defeat. Moving inland, I found Kalis and the group that he had sailed with. From what I gathered, I was not the only one with a bad sense of direction.

Redeeming himself, Kalis soon tracked the sorcerer down to a small house in the jungle on this island, and there the shrouded one's minions were appearing in number.

As I stood hidden, I found time to look closely at the enemy, and peered within the cowls of the scarlet cloak. Was that... could it be a woman?

The sorcerer's voice always seemed to have an otherworldly sound to it, so I wasn't able to easily assign a gender to it. I had just assumed it was a man as it was men, lately, that were causing the most trouble in the lands.

I wasn't able to dwell on this much further, however, for a horrible sight caught my eye: Dupre was attacking the Royal Guard! His legendary prowess on the battlefield was seen firsthand by many of Britannia's heroes as they were struck down by one of their own.

I tried to keep up with Dupre, to be a witness to the terrible power the sorcerer -- or sorceress? -- had upon him, as well as to futilely stop him. I do believe that my drum's gentle sound brought peace to him once, but the power over his mind was so great that he was right back into battle.

I lost Dupre in the thick of things, and found myself back at the hut, where Kalis and the sorcerer were exchanging words.

"He is not himself," Kalis was saying, obviously speaking of Dupre. "Surrender or perish, sorcerer! The choice is yours." I had never seen Kalis so angry.

"Dupre! Hurry and do your work!" The sorcerer ignored Kalis's threat and goaded the enslaved Dupre on. "I cannot wait all day!"

At that, the sorcerer took to battle as well, and perhaps because of my prying eyes, attacked me right off the bat. My horse needed no urging to flee, and as I headed south to avoid my attacker, I came upon other combatants running in the same direction, fleeing not from the now-active sorcerer, but from Dupre!

Not being a fighter myself, I am unfamiliar with the special attacks that warriors know, but Dupre seemed to know all of them as he struck down the Royal Guard before my eyes. I continued to follow Dupre and do what I could to try and slow him, but the sorcerer must have known what I was up to, for I was struck down swiftly, thrown off my horse.

By the time Kalis was able to resurrect me, the battle was over. The sorcerer, it seemed, was slain, though a number of folks pointed out that there was no corpse. The sorcerer's departure, however it was brought about, seemed to free Dupre from the spell he was under.

"I'm... I'm free!" he exclaimed as he shook his head to clear it. "This was torment, pure torture..." he was saying, perhaps to those gathered, perhaps to the voices still in his head.

"I could see what I was doing, all these weeks. I had no control."

There was some skepticism in the crowd, mainly, I wager, from those that had been struck down by Dupre only minutes before.

"Oh, some of it is coming back... I... I had a meeting, months ago. An informant with Minax summoned me, in the dead of the night. It was risky, but I went to meet the person. It was a trap! I was ambushed! I don't remember much..." He trailed off as his memories returned and he took it all in.

"I do remember... an attack, near Britain." Dupre sighed. "I had no control. I swear it!"

"I had such horrible dreams. I did such horrible things... were they dreams?!"

"I fear they were not." Dupre was silent for a few moments guilt written across his face.

"Wait, I remember a bit more... it's about Minax!"

"What of her?" Kalis gently prodded.

"Oh, she is close to something. Very close. She is attempting to forge something... Minax has very dark ties to Mondain's Shade." The warrior turned silent for a while as he pieced together his memories.

"Yes, and the item she is trying to forge - an artifact, nigh-equal to the Gem of Immortality!"

He sighed once more. "I was a pawn this whole time. But thanks to you all, I am now free!"

Dupre slumped in his boots, weariness hitting him at last. "Very tired now, very tired."

Kalis interrupted him before he tried to speak any more. "Dupre, ye should get some rest. I shall provide a means to the Castle."

"Yes, I must. Doubt I can get much; the nightmares are still fresh in my mind."

Through the gate, Dupre seemed to cheer up at last.

"Oh, it didn't burn as I saw..." he said to no one in particular. I assumed it was something he dreamed, and wondered at what other horrors we saw in his sleep.

He continued the same line of thought once we reached the throne room.

"Oh! All is still well! I feared some of my visions were true..." Dupre made his way onto the dais and turned to address everyone. "Thank you all, but I must retire. I am in the debt of each of you that helped save me tonight!" And with that, Dupre was off.

Kalis took to the stage, and traded some light-hearted banter with the crowd, mainly referring to his sailing escapades. He seemed to take it in stride, assuring everyone that he is a tracker on land, not on sea.

"I am, though, concerned about this news with Minax. Ties to Mondain's Shade deeply disturb me as well. Not to mention this artifact Minax is attempting to create."

Kalis frowned. "Hopefully, once Dupre has recovered some more, we shall learn more of what he knows. I assume that no one discovered this blade fragment that Dupre spoke of?" I didn't know what he was referring to, but since I had missed quite a bit lately, I kept my mouth shut.

"It must have been removed while we were busy fighting. I have a strong feeling we shall be returning to those lands again."

"As for the invasion..." Kalis continued, addressing a point brought up a few minutes earlier, "I hope it does not come to pass, but I have heard rumours of a build-up. Be prepared."

A bit more small talk took place before Kalis took his leave. The gathering ended with some questions unanswered: What and where is this blade fragment? Where is the red sorcerer? Could it have been Minax herself, or did my eyes deceive me?

And what of the invasion?

-- Crwth