Episode 57: the Death of Keen, Part Two
Keen’s soul sat on the Shore, watching the black waves lick the black sand. After a time, he was joined by Abel, his erstwhile partner in the Spectacular Spectacular, and perhaps, until recently, his only true friend. They sat for a while in silence. “Seen Ginny lately?” Abel asked him. “No.” “She killed me, you know.” “I wondered,” said Keen. Abel offered Keen some coffee, which was as terrible as ever; Keen poured it on the sand with a grin. He asked Abel why he was there. “I’ve been sent to put you back on your path, Keen. You’ve run for so long, there’s those as think maybe you don’t know when to quit.” Keen replied that things were different now: he had real friends now, and he was helping them with their quests and things. “You still don’t get it Keen, do you?” said Abel, “You’re – and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, it’s going to make you even more insufferable – you’re maybe the most important person in all of Telisar. Your friends? You’re not helping them on their quests, Keen; they’re helping you on yours. Listen,” he continued, getting to his feet, “Just this one time, for maybe the first and last time in your life, make this choice honestly. What is it you want?”
Yuna and Magnus were brought inside the Temple of Bahamut, which had seemingly been transformed from a place of worship to one of martial training. Small groups of soldiers huddled around braziers for warmth in the Great Hall, the vestments and trappings of ceremony pushed aside. They followed the man who had greeted Yuna by name, a human man in his 50s with short, military-style salt-and-pepper hair, his craggy face stoic. He led them into the basement of the temple, which had been converted from storage to a dirt-floored sparring circle. At one end stood a large square oak table, atop which laid a map of Uman and its immediate surroundings.
The man – Arminius, as he gruffly introduced himself – informed them that he had no interest in helping them, whatever their cause, and was speaking to them only as a courtesy to Bartok Brescht, to whom he owed a debt and who had mentioned the party to him should they come seeking his aid.
Undaunted, Yuna informed Arminius that their friend Keen had died, and was in need of resurrection. Arminius countered that even should he be so inclined, any powers he had as a Cleric of the Platinum Queen had left him with the death of the goddess. Yuna pleaded with the man, revealing to him that they had found two shards of the Heart of Bahamut. Arminius didn’t believe her story, but, to keep his word to Brescht, agreed to follow the pair back to their home, saying, “While the Reformed Martial Order of the Platinum Queen may have been abandoned by the divine, we will not abandon our debts.”
The trio arrived at Margoleth Manor just after 2am, where the remainder of the party still held vigil over their fallen comrade. When they led Arminius to the body of Keen, the dour, broken man gaped in astonishment as he felt a mote of the divine flowing within him. Tentatively, he cast the Light cantrip, and the cold yard was bathed in light. He fell back, disbelieving, casting and recasting the spell. Recovering himself, Arminius addressed Yuna and promised he would attempt a resurrection, if that was what they wanted, though he did not understand the power flowing within him. He gave Sirlius a list of materials required for the ritual, including a diamond worth at least a thousand gold pieces to act as a binding conduit for the soul to reenter the body, should it be willing. He left then, to rest and prepare, promising to return at noon the following day. He also warned them that they would first have to repair the body, since returning a body to life when it was in several pieces was not wise.
The party moved the broken stone of their friend into the house, preparing a space in Keen’s bedroom for the ritual. Yuna, Magnus and Whisper took to their bedrolls, though never without an active watch over their friend. After a short rest, Ara and Sirlius left just before dawn to begin the long walk up to the Fourth Tier of Uman to find a jeweller who might have such a valuable diamond in stock. They arrived just as Artificer’s Row was opening and secured a suitable diamond with ease, though at extortionate rates, paying more than double the gem’s worth.
Meanwhile, the rest of the party prepared Keen’s body for the ritual of resurrection. Using clay Magnus dug from the frozen earth around the well, Whisper and Yuna did their best to join together the large stone fragments. The cold clay was difficult to work and without access to mason’s tools or training the results were passable but inexpert.
Their dealings complete, Sirlius and Ara hastened to complete the return trip to the Seventh, arriving back just minutes after Arminius. True to his word the veteran had returned but a dozen members of the Order accompanied him. While Magnus was briefly concerned that their intent might be to forcibly remove Keen’s remains to the Temple, he found instead the group’s attitude to be tense with expectation; Arminius explained that he had shared his experience with another of the Order, and once word had gotten out the devoted simply refused to let him return alone. The soldiers immediately took up a defensive perimeter around Margoleth Manor and set two to guard the entrance of the cul-de-sac.
Inside, Arminius made ready the ritual, and calling the party about him began casting Resurrection. The room drew close and dark, the shadows seeming to swirl around the party as one by one, they focused their will, stepped into the summoning circle and spoke.
Sirlius called upon his black patron, a being of unspeakable infernal power, and bade him aid Keen’s soul in returning. After some discussion and gossip, the patron agreed, and a mote of his dark power was accepted by the ritual.
Yuna focused her own divinity and spoke to Keen directly, begging the soul of her friend to return to them, his family. Though all were moved to tears by her words, whether by the intensity of the ritual or her own roiling emotions she was unable to hold her focus, and the ritual rejected her.
Next, Magnus attempted to focus his arcane will by means of a prayer-necklace of risidium, forcing a sympathetic resonance with the diamond focus and hoping to force open a path for the soul to re-enter the Prime Material thereby. He was successful, and the sympathetic vibrations of magon radiation emanating from the strange crystals were absorbed by the diamond, which glowed visibly brighter.
Ara stepped forward next and spoke a prayer to Rillifane, beseeching the Elven god for aid on behalf of his fallen friend, offering surprisingly apropos wisdom from scripture read amongst his travels. But Rillifane did not look kindly upon Keen, and Ara’s plea went unanswered.
Arminius, visibly struggling now to maintain the ritual, urged the party to try again and call their friend home. Whisper edged into the circle then and spoke simple words, kindly and true. “More to do, more to do,” she said, “Not finished yet.” The warmth of the old Kenku filled the room, and pushed the shadows back a moment as the ritual accepted her will. The voice of the Whisper King came to her then, a first for many years; “Well done,” it said.
Keen observed the ritual from the Shore; the spectral images of his friends surrounding him, their words coming to him as if on a wind. Death, the alabaster halfling in dark leathers and black makeup, approached from the waiting Ferryman and his boat, the sand crunching under her boots. “Well, Keen, the boat’s waiting, but your friends have given you a way back. What is it you want?”
“I think I want to live,” said Keen. And as he spoke the words, he felt the shadows close in on him, pulling him away from the Shore and into darkness. He screamed, and his scream became for an instance the draconic roar of creation, the roar that set the universe in motion. And then he was bound tight in darkness and suffocating.
The diamond shone brilliant white through Arminius’s clasped fingers before it shattered into dust, which sank into the clay-molded form of Keen and disappeared. Arminius opened his eyes, sweat pouring from his face, and said, “I think it’s done. But the stone… he should be… he’s suffocating!” And with a few swings of his mace, Arminius cracked the clay around Keen’s head and shoulders, pulling it away. Keen gasped lungfuls of air and dust, and broke into a fit of coughing. He was alive. The relieved party rushed to his side, embracing him. “My friends,” he exclaimed, “I’m so glad to see you, I’ve missed you so much! I feel terrible.”
Arminius fell back against the wall, exhausted, offered a prayer of thanks to the fallen Bahamut. To his surprise, Keen heard the prayer echoing in his mind along with, he realized the pleading voices of the faithful from all over Telisar.
The Order of Bahamut soon took their leave, Arminius clearly uncomfortable in Keen’s presence, but they left two guards “To ensure Keen’s protection and keep the peace.” Keen slipped the ring of bliss onto his finger and went to sleep, mind, soul and body all exhausted.
Their friend safely returned to them and resting, the rest of the party turned to thoughts of celebration on this, the final day of the Festival of the Hunt. Yuna was able to complete the gauntlets knit from yarn made of the spun fur of Stella, and Whisper was able to find mostly suitable gifts for her friends in her Bag of Hoarding.
Magnus’s gifts for the party arrived in the form of deliveries of various goods arranged at great expense the day before: an immense dining room table and chandelier, a solid, heavy front door and food enough for a feast. Each delivery was accosted by the guards, who seemed determined to keep all comers from the house, but was convinced by Magnus to allow them through. Migas, the carpenter who delivered the door, choked on one of Magnus’s appetizers, though was able to recover.
Magnus tipped the two final deliverymen with a few green scrip. The two fell to arguing over the tip as they left the house, and broke into a fist fight. One of the Order of Bahamut intervened, catching an errant punch to the jaw. The guard then drew his halbred down the pair, splitting one from collar to sternum. The other quickly fled.
As the party recovered from the shock of this outburst, Sirlius remarked that weird misfortune seemed to be following the party lately, and not just Migas and the dead deliveryman: the dining room table was far too big for the room, everything they’ve purchased since discovering the platinum hidden in the basement was wildly overpriced, even Whibraxis chipping his tooth on one of the coins. “You don’t think we’re cursed, do you?” He asked. Magnus pulled out one of the coins and inspected it. He realized then what he had overlooked previously: the Drow were a vicious, matrilinear culture that treated males as little more than chattel. Why would these coins have the face of a very male Drow king stamped on them? Using his arcane focus and casting a spell of identify, Magnus confirmed Sirlius’s suspicions: “This money is cursed.”
The party discussed what this might mean; did the curse somehow extend to everything bought with the money? “Hey, maybe that gnome at the Bank will have his shoes filled with sand because we deposited that money,” grinned Sirlius.
To which Yuna replied, “We bought the diamond we used to bring back Keen with that money.”
Resurrection Ritual Rating: Nerve-Wracking
Curse Probability: High, in Retrospect
Secrets Revealed: 2
RP Rating: Awesome!