The Real Theis Prose
Nephbis Avenue was crowded the day the Antagonist was slated to depart. New Ward was thronging with the poor and impoverish, jostling amongst themselves to steal a glimpse at those privileged to board the sky galleon hung up high beside the Merit Tower. As the company produced their passes to enter the Merit Tower, they spotted a rather large contingent of servants winching luggage and cargo up the tower.
“Someone important on-board?” Jett asked.
“Merchant Prince or something,” replied the guard as he checked the passes. “I’m paid to guard. Not to ask questions.” Jett nodded and motioned the company to enter the Merit Tower.
As expected of House Lyrandar, stepping into the tower was akin to stepping into another world. Plush carpets covered the stone floors, a neat row of marble statues lining up towards the central lifter1. The lobby of the platform itself was astounding, the walls covered with scenes of victorious battles, both of Karrnathi and Lyrandar origins sculptured in high relief. Merit Tower, it seemed, was indeed an extravagant gem stabbed within a puddle of muck.
The lifter slowed to a halt at the top of the tower. The company exited out into the docking area and saw the Antagonist for what she was—a long, sleek galleon with a larger than normal cargo bay, replete with comfortable private suites and sleeping quarters. The flight from Vulyar to Sharn would take the better part of a fortnight and the company got down to settling into the Antagonist.
The Antagonist hummed to life, and with a gentle lurch, glided northwest. Having left the vicinity of Merit Tower, the ring of fire around the sky galleon coughed and cackled and the ship picked up speed. The Antagonist was on her way.
Dinner was served, after which, Janna decided to feel the “pleasant” wind on the upper-deck. Dusk was upon them and the sun washed the Karrnathi landscape in a wintry orange. The company kept to the center of the deck where the heat from the elemental ring was the most comfortable. It was then, when Janna was bathing in the winter breeze that Aramil heard a commotion in the lower decks.
The door to the lower decks opened, and an elegantly dressed woman came out onto the deck, flanked by two bodyguards. Selora ir’Methas, Aramil thought to himself. Should have known. But the womans’ eyes were not those he saw during the caravan, not that of a merchant princess. No. It was the eyes of a predator. Though he knew little of arcane matters, he could sense something dark and powerful writhing in her left hand.
“I’ve just heard,” Selora said, her voice silked with venom. “That you were onboard the Antagonist. How convenient. Now I don’t have to go out of my way to plan for your deaths. Carrick, my dear Carrick was such a sweet man. But you have to go and ruin it all!” She revealed the object in her left hand. It was a fist sized gem, a tear drop of shadow that seemed to drink in all light. Dark energy flickered across it’s surface, arcing out to strike the three other passengers on the deck.
“Delores!” Sidnar hissed.
“Consider this payback!”
Necrotic energy fouled the air. Immediately, the innocents bloated up with noxious gases. There was a terrible ripping sound, and the fleshy bags exploded. The deck was splattered with blood and gore, but yet the broken remnants of the victims still stood.
“Kill them!” the Emerald Claw necromancer screeched.
With unexpected agility, the husks leapt and bounded towards the company, seeking flesh and bone with their skeletal claws and broken jaws. Delores began a chant, and the entire deck lit up with a ghostly pale light. The floorboards creaked, and from beneath the deck’s floor boards, half a dozen wraith-like apparitions seeped out. Each of the apparitions wore a porcelain white mask, their mane pale white hair were insubstantial tendrils that drifted around with a will of their own.
“Pale Ravers…” Sidnar spat. From behind the masks came the terrible moans and shrieks of the Reavers’ last moments.
“Are these ships flammable?” Jett nudged Sidnar. “Doubt so. They do use fire elementals to power their flights.” Sidnar replied. “Glad to know the Lyrandar gave thought into their construction,” Jett grinned. He opened his hand, revealing a growing ball of fire in the centre of his palm. “It sure is cold. I guess we need to warm up.”
The wind was pulling at her dress and hair as she hung onto the wrong side of the railing.
“You think you’ve got me cornered. Don’t you,” Delores gave Aramil a bloodied smirk. She laughed.
It lasted only a heartbeat. The wind whipped her dark hair across her elven face. Aramil moved to snatch at her. But it was too late.
The necromancer released her grip and the sky swallowed up. She plunged from view, her laughter ringing sharply in the air. Aramil turned around. Jett and Cynthia were mopping up the rest of the Pale Reavers. Only a husk remained on deck.
There was a crack of thunder from below and a bone piercing screech. Something big rushed right past Aramil. Before he knew it, he was down on the floorboards, coughing blood. Another staccato of blasts. Another wave of pain. This time, he felt he might have broken a rib or two. He turned to face his attack. The silhouette lowered, and he saw Delores for what she had became.
Delores’ dress fluttered like tattered rags in a raging vortex of energy. In the centre of her chest gleamed the shadow gem. Dark veins pulsated from the gem across her body like an infested web of corruption. Her eyes glowed golden and her skin leeched of life. Fangs sprouted from her mouth and her hands were elongated talons. A fog of shadows roiled behind her like amorphous wings.
“With your deaths, The Queen will favour me once more!” The abomination screeched.
“Not anymore,” said a quiet voice. Two arrows cut through the air with a whistle, one to the throat, the other to the forehead. The form-changed woman gurgled with surprised. She could barely move again when two more arrows sped towards her. The impact made the woman stumble, and Delores look at the arrows protruding from her chest imploringly. Time seemed to slow. Her broken body pirouetted lazily in the air as gravity took hold of her. Without so much as a sound, Delores plummeted.
“No good here,” Sidnar said.
“Their souls have been reaped,” Janna said softly.
“Most likely to create her Pale Reavers,” the priest sighed. “These people did not have a chance.”
“How are the helmsmen?” Aramail asked.
“Fine, they can probably get us to Karrlakton but any further…”
“This place stinks of necromancy,” Jett snorted.
“Considering what we fought before, little surprise.”
The common lounge was a scene from an abattoir. Twenty or so corpses laid around, killed by the same explosions that created those shambling husks. The carpets were sodden with gore and blood.
Cynthia and Janna began riffling through the private suite that belonged to Delores, or rather her alias, Selora ir’Methas. The sorceress felt strong ætheric pulses within the cabin but could not discover anything. The elf, however, found a letter penned by a woman’s hand. It was partially burnt but Cynthia was able to make out most of it. Delores had planned to kill the company before heading east into the Shadowmount Forest into the Ruins of Gthys. It would seem that she had receive yet another letter but the Emerald Claw agent had burnt it.
At the other end of the ship, Sidnar had revived the fallen crossbow man who helped defeat Delores. The man, slight of built and starting to grow a beard, woke groggily, squinting into their faces.
“Who are you?” Aramil asked.
“What?” Jett nearly drew his sword. Sidnar stayed the genasi’s hand.
“I’ve been following you since you entered Vulyar. I was to contact you after you left Vulyar,” the man groaned and tried to sit up.
“That could mean either you are a fake, or the Theis Prose in Vulyar was a fake,” Sidnar warned.
“We had to be sure that you were who you said you are.” The man coughed, his blood tinged with blue.
“Changeling…” Sidnar hissed and backed away.
“Is it so surprising to know that a spy would be a changeling?” The man’s face melded into that of a featureless changeling face, before it resumed it beaten up form. Theis shook his head. “Theis Prose is our code-name. A code-name for certain cells of Dark Lanterns. I am Theis Prose. He is Theis Prose. We are Theis Prose.”
“Prove it.” The priest demanded.
Theis nodded at his sword and told them of a hidden clasp at the pommel of the sword. The clasp undone, there was a soft whir of cogs within, before the pommel came off, revealing a chamber with a golden ring – a ring bearing the sigil of the King’s Citadel.
“Even if we trust who you are, we still can’t trust you.” Sidnar said and handed Aramil the sword. “We will need to lock you in here.”
“Cautious bastards,” Theis spat. “But I don’t blame you. I would do the same too if I were you.”
The room locked from the outside, the trio went to tell the two ladies the truth about their allies.
The sky galleon shuddered and then came to a halt. The company disembarked with the rest of the survivors, two Lyrandar pilots and an engineer. “Theis Prose” introduced himself as an House Orien courier, providing an official signet ring to as proof of identity. The ring raised a brow from Aramil.
“Senator Jurian is waiting for you in the Sentinel Tower,” the changeling whispered. “I’ll will try to divert the Deneiths from you as long as possible.”
“Why are you helping us?” Janna asked.
“Because I was ordered so.” And the House Orien courier who called himself Percavale Dinir joined the Lyrander workers who just discovered the carnage lower deck.
“Jurian ir’Strarik,” Jett thought aloud. “Let’s get this over with. This report has been three years late.” With that, the company set off for Sentinel Tower.
1 An arcane equivalent of an elevator.