Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Red Shield (May 07)

'Twas summer in Year 203 of the Red King's Turning when the crew of the Maelstrom became the crew of the Maelstrom after renaming the sturdy galley once captained by Jonn Demmons, who met his unfortunate end in the lair of the great black dragon Taelwoadorusten.

Our singular band of scalawags (you know the ones) decided to crew the Storm themselves, and Captain
Shanahan gave them his blessing, as is his wont with captured ships and ambitious crew. Eager from their decision, the crew split apart to various activities in the great city of Midport, mostly to buy supplies or frippery.

Of note is the encounter Dagon had with a demon assassin, who stabbed him a near-mortal hit with a Wounding blade as he staggered from an alehouse. Only his enhanced monastic speed saved him as he bolted to the Bloody Cutlass with the demon in pursuit. Dagon paused not to look, but the demon was nowhere in sight when he nearly flew up the plank to the deck, crying out for Garumph the Cleric.

Dagon thought to skulk about the Cutlass until he could join the crew on the Maelstrom when it set sail, but Shanahan had other plans. He found Dagon astride a barrel of cheap beer and bade him show "whatever it is you have" to Trogdor, the ship's wizard. Having no reason to mistrust Shanahan, Dagon produced the shield given to him by the mysterious monk. After working a few magics and making a lot of noise like "hmm" and "huh" and "aha," Trogdor gave him a brief history of the Shields Against Darkness...

In Year 1 of RKT, the Red King prepared for the inevitable war between the Redlands and its one-time ally, the Dark Domain. He trained his army and navy in tactics specifically for combat against the demons bound in service to the Dogwa, and also made special equipment for such. Using arcane materials such as orichalcum and mithral, and infusing them with his very blood, he created twenty nigh-indestructible shields that would protect the bearer from all manner of demonic assault. He had his trusted lieutenant, Colin of Whitehill, select twenty of the most stalwart fighters amongst his marines, and trained them in demon-slaying.

Most scholars and historians agree that it was tactics such as this that swung the balance in the Turning War. All of the Shield Bearers survived the war, and all are recorded by their superiors in command as having destroyed no less than 3 high-ranking Fiends apiece. Indeed, to this day all Redlander children are told the story of Angus of Dryfield, who killed a Balor with a broken sword... although his use of an enchanted shield is downplayed in the heroic tale.

It isn't entirely clear what happened to the Twenty after the war. Most historians agree that they were put into a vault or safe-away of some sort, but the Red King is not exactly forthcoming on where he hides his treasure-trove of magical artifacts. For certain, there are accounts of the King collecting his artifacts when the war was done, and bestowing various and sundry honors upon the bearers.

Trogdor surmised that however the Shield fell into the wrong hands, the fact that it has the blood of the Red King in it makes it insanely valuable to his enemies. Sadly (from Dagon's point of view) it would be impossible to sell it for it's full value, for to get full value one would have to advertise what, exactly, it is, and that would bring even more agents of Darkness after him... as well as the righteous fury of the Red King. Even to cull a fraction of its value would be a Bad Thing, for if the Dogwa got his filthy clutches on the thing he would weaken the Red King considerably, if not kill him, and cast the Archipelago into darkness once more.

Shanahan seemed somewhat relieved that Dagon was leaving, and in fact bade him to do it right then and there. Softening the blow of such abrupt ejection, he gifted Dagon a magic lantern. "In its light, the invisible becomes visible," said Shanahan. "Good luck to yeh. Now, off my ship."

Dagon collected his effects and strode from the Cutlass, lit lantern in hand. In short order he spied an imp dogging his steps, acting smug and making rude gestures, as if Dagon couldn't see it. He waited til the imp was in arm's reach and felled it with one mighty blow of his hamfist.

Meanwhile, back at the newly-christened Maelstrom, the newly-captained Winston VonWarheit was busily recruiting crew. Having an affinity for the orphaned and downtrodden, he brought on mostly teenage street urchins. While green as saplings, they had quick hands and eager hearts.

Once the ship was fully crewed and supplied, the story of Dagon's artifact was brought to light. The command crew decided it would be best if they simply gave it to the Red King... but oddly enough, the Red King isn't in the habit of entertaining a pack of would-be pirates (no matter how well-meaning they be). With this in mind, they set a goal of handing the Shield over to a high-ranking Redlander noble or general. After all, what else could be expected of them?

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