Previous Update: Return to Argyre
by drmigit2 and Wizard996 (edited by CupcakeTrap)
From the third round of island explorations.
18 November, 24 CLE—Inside the council chamber for the Shadow Isles, Summoners gathered, chatting amongst themselves as skeletal servants brought them their refreshments. The ghoul-scouts they had sent to Neritum had returned to give their wheezing report.
The rolling hills of Neritum are strangely peaceful compared to the rest of Nyroth’s islands. The humans there have dominated the forest and its wildlife, beating it into submission. Reptiles the size of oxen move heavy logs under the direction of villagers so gaunt and weathered as to be easily mistaken for undead thralls of the Shadow Isles at first glance. They denied hunger or famine, insisting that the great Kaius ensured a plentiful supply of food, and indeed their larders overflowed with all manner of nutritious bounty. The Summoners who accompanied the party sensed some deeper current draining the people’s life force away into the ground, mortifying their bodies in the process. The people indeed showed little joy or levity; though they could recount many beliefs, traditions, and cultures, they spoke with fervor only when expressing their loyalty to Kaius, who united them all.
The ghouls’ heavy cloth wrappings did not fully conceal their twisted countenances, and some of the villagers showed apprehension at these unnatural visitors, but nonetheless pointed the way to Kaius’ castle. The final stretch of path leading to its massive battle-gates was bordered by the burnt wrecks of what must have been great houses, now scorched to their stone foundations; the villagers explained that they once belonged to traitors who opposed Kaius, and that their ruin remains a monument to both their dark deeds and the richly deserved punishment they met at their emperor’s hands. Fresher signs of rebellion surrounded the castle: the heads of treacherous nobles and scheming bureaucrats, impaled on spikes. (Some time later, the socuts learned of an attempt to assassinate Kaius.) While those outside the castle had been fierce in their devotion, those within stank of suspicion and duplicity. The guards, the clerks, the treasurer, and even the Emperor’s own dog watched the emissaries of the Shadow Isles warily. Everyone seemed acutely aware of what might be standing behind them, or who might be seeking to plunge a dagger into their backs.
Emperor Kaius granted them an audience in his great hall. His face was hard and uncompromising; his scale armor fashioned from the hides of the great reptiles that roamed the island. He knew what the coming of the Valoranians meant, but showed no fear. He spoke directly: the power of the Shadow Isles was great, perhaps enough to threaten him, but the Isles would do so only at their considerable peril. He remarked that none had thus far proven so mighty as to topple him, and that it would be to the benefit of the Valoranians to come to a peaceful agreement. He provided a letter, already written, to be brought back to the ghouls’ masters.
“Greetings, Summoners of the Shadow Isles. I am Kaius, Emperor of Neritum and soon of Nyroth. I have heard that your League has given you domain over my island: a curious notion, that pen scratchings from so far away could know such presumption. Understand this: Neritum belongs to me and me alone. With your aid, I can restore Nyroth to glory. We could join our forces, and show those who would hide among ruins the meaning of true power. I have discovered a means of resisting the miasma which plagues the Nyrothian mainland, and I could share this knowledge with you. We can remind them of the sound of Neritian steel being drawn, and we can show the world that we are not to be trifled with. Or, we could stage a war, clash swords, and your hopes of an Empire would be dashed upon the shores of my island. The choice belongs to you now. Woe be unto Nyroth if your power exceeds your wisdom.”
The ghoul put the parchment away. The one to his left then continued the narration. One of the scouts, a Yordle named Kelt, managed to sneak ahead of the main group, the original intent of this was simply to see if Kaius had any ulterior motives, but what he discovered was much more interesting. Kaius’ chambers contained a massively powerful sub-nexus, which appeared to grant the owner a seemingly unending pool of life-force. How long Kaius had possessed it was unknown, but if he was to be believed, he had ruled Neritum since the cataclysm a thousand years ago. It seemed that the gauntlet he wore on his left hand served as a focus for this energy.
Neritum is ruled by Kaius, a tyrant who has reigned since the cataclysm hundreds of years ago. It seems that the nexus beneath his castle has become attuned to his own life force, drawing energy from the other inhabitants to sustain his life. This same process seems to be toughening his subjects somehow, almost as though it were draining some of the life out of them and replacing it with the inhuman strength and resilience of the undead.
The thaumic matrix that permeates the Nyrothian mainland was distorted by the cataclysm, rendering it lethally toxic to all Nyrothians ever since. Kaius says that he has devised a means of shielding his soldiers from this thaumatoxic field, which would allow them to retake Nyroth. He requires something from the mainland to complete the enchantment.
The first question is whether or not to overthrow Kaius. This then leads to other questions.
Overthrow Kaius? The Shadow Isles has rebuilt a significant share of its military. It could likely overthrow him, especially if it commits Champions to the cause. It could also seek an alliance.
- Regime change. If Kaius were to be deposed, the Shadow Isles could either seize control of the island itself or return power to its people.
- The gauntlet. The tyrant’s magical gauntlet appears to bestow the power to rule over others. Should the gauntlet fall into their hands, Syndra would immediately approach them and ask for it; with such an artifact, she could likely extend her dominion to encompass a small piece of Ionian territory. The Isles could also make use of the gauntlet itself (Military) or hand it over to the League for study (Favor).
- Conquest. If the Isles does not depose Kaius, it could help him complete his protective enchantment. This would allow Neritians to travel to the mainland (and survive) for the first time since the cataclysm.
There are also a few secondary decisions to make.
Champions. The Isles can send up to three Champions, as usual. Each Champion has a 10% chance of going MIA, but increases odds of success considerably.
Offer help to Ionia? Ionia is currently exploring a spooky haunted monastery. The Isles could offer to help. (It can also decide whether to genuinely help, or to betray Ionia.)
Ask for Bilgewater’s help? Whatever you do, Bilgewater’s navy would be quite helpful.
(The Shadow Isles resolved to overthrow Kaius and seize his power for themselves. They sent Elise, offered Ionia their assistance with Sannig Kloster, and requested naval bombardment from Bilgewater. Ionia accepted their offer, and Bilgewater granted their request.)
Mordekaiser’s undead army walked across the sea floor, up to the coasts of Neritum. Kaius proved a more dangerous adversary than he had expected; even after civil war broke out among the Neritians, the capital’s defenses held. But the walls fell under Bilgewater’s naval bombardment, and Elise led the final assault. The last survivors of Kaius’ royal guard cut down the last of Elise’s ghouls, only to succumb moments later to their necromantic venom. For all his power, Kaius was swiftly overwhelmed by Elise, who chose this moment to reveal her monstrous form. Her fangs pierced his enchanted armor, and she devoured him on the floor of his throne room, emerging in her human guise bearing his gauntlet. The Isles’ necromancers raised slain Neritian swordsmen to escort Elise onto her waiting ship, whereupon she delivered the gauntlet to Mordekaiser, as promised.
Next Update: Mag Mell