Return to Pride Rock. The wemic tribes, after having spoke to Duncan, left trusted men behind in case we found king and queen, so they could get word quickly. Duncan informs them of the king being found, some of them head for their tribes. He also has word from Grumpet's animal messenger that Grumpet has the queen. He does not know yet about her being lost again, then found again, so informs them that the queen and cub are safe as well.
Night, Archileus et al return! Duncan talks with the Master of Heat and Flame and details the mysterious figure spoken of by the King. He does not know personally, but he has been around since the Masters, quite old. His cloak makes him unable to be seen directly on. Otherwise, just a powerful arcanist. Where this man is hanging out, can't be sure, but likely with wemics or watching us. Could be looking for former king/queen. He is called Ssark, highly intelligence. Avg charisma at best, nor the mastermind type. He is being guide by someone else. Not clever enough of a strategist. Nor are the brother kings. He is a subtle man, almost an assassins mind in that sense. Does not like drawing attention to himself.
I Duncan "Can you counter the cloaks effect, even for one person, even temporarily?"
"Not counter, but because I'm a master of illusion which the cloak works by, I could use a form of a baleful mirror imaging. They stay around where he is, so it will show you where he is. You'll be able to look at the illusions, but as soon as you look right at him, he'll disappear but that will allow you to target his spot! The servant of the Masters in the temple, where I have been staying a lot lately, to the south may be able to do better. He is very powerful."
Animal messenger arrives from Grumpet with all that has happened there. Duncan sends the Rakasta out to meet them immediately to take them to a friendly tribe.
Late, Ship group arrives Pride Rock.
As does Grumpet et al.
Duncan talks to Brillstagg privately, with Callimachus, about:
Ssark: evil as evil can be, but also not very clever. Let's just say he has never won a game of chess in his life. He was there to make sure the king lost, for certain. The king should be dead, so there must be something special about him. No reason why he should have been allowed to escape. Old king is either very powerful and has something special that kept him alive, or he has someone looking out for him. Ssark's mission therefore did not come to full fruition. He is likely tracking down the King, or hanging with the 2 brothers.
Servant of the Masters: a conundrum. Only person who went under that title was a First who is kinda one of the originators of the Covenant of the Return, had no particular single Master, was loyal to them as a whole. During their rule centuries ago, one of the 2 great schisms between teh masters. In this one the 2 greatest Masters went to war (Imbrun and Peldan), brothers, in Celestine Empire. One was overthrown by the other. Celestia, chosed First of Imbrun, was the wife of the emperor who was was cast down. Her sister, Luna, chosed First of Peldan, and the sister's consort (a Malakhaz) took over the Empire for a short period. The Servant of the Master believed all Masters were divine, favored no one above another. Just a regular guy at this point. He gained a lot of power, on his own, around this same time. Eventually the Celestia side regained the Empire. As time went on, the Servant remained humble.
The 2nd schism, the Masters War, then happened later. The Servant was linked by some to the events that caused it. Not intentionally though. Once the war was over he fled and vanished. No one knows where he went since then. If this is the same servant, he still feels terrible, it broke him. He came here to hide out and worship alone. Now, not all Masters were the same. There was a group called the Veiled Masters who made pure monstrosities, not elves nor even orcs. Only those masters was he never a servant of.
He was a great guy, but all that he went through? He may be the bad guy. He may have gone over the edge.
He has no idea what he has locked up in those basement rooms.
Master of Heat and Flame: If there is one think I have learned in his long long life, it's that you never trust a Malenko. This one here is definitely a Malenko. The Master Malenko had a falling out with the Master Keraptis (possibly brothers). K had found a way to get past the coming doom via some means. Malenko, a bit of a schitzophrenic, also supposedly did, by shattering his psyche, spreading his personality and power among a bunch of Malenkos. How they are chosen and why he has no clue. Something to do with stars and birth signs. All have some sort of psychosis. Even the best of them can't fully be trusted. All have a personal goal that they work towards, their one obsession. Could be a life goal to protecting a person or group, anything.
So he could be the enemy, could be a true ally, could be doing this truthfully but for secret personal reasons, or anything in between.
Ilithid: One of the Veiled Masters, the original in fact, was a horrible abomination upon the world, by the name Ftagn. He showed up here as a Master thousands of years ago, in the early days. A competitor to many other masters. Was banished or destroyed by their combined efforts. His spawn lived on. One day, long time ago, there was a falling star that came to the earth. Upon it was a band of superheroes and many different peoples with them. They stopped here, did great deads. One of them was slaying the spawn of Ftagn on this world. These heroes called them Ilithid. The Nugenacers by Thorangia are descendents of some of them, one of the heroes in particular. The vast majority of that campaign happened in this area, especially a bit further east.
Callimachus uses the Crystal Ball, it works!! He sees Ssark, and the cloak gives him no benefit! Ssark stands close to a river, speaking to some snake men. They parlay with gnolls. Ssark himself does little, but for a few words here and there to the head Yuan Ti who looks to be a human type like the one who turned on Arisaan. One of the gnolls is massive, next to him stands a shaman. We bring in Hrok and the other 2 wemics, but as we figured the pic is too small for them to recognize anything at all. Ssark's masterminds may be the Yuan Ti themselves. Arisaan says that, via their body language, Ssark is subservient to the Yuan Ti. The gnolls have several bugman bodies, mangled in a fight and torn up. Arisaan concentrates on the lips of those talking facing us. Even considering they are non human, she has xp both gnolls and Yuan Ti recently, she picks up some stuff. The negotiation is almost a battle plan, but generally. Like 'we need to start acting soon' type of stuff. Also, apparently the bugmen are north of the river but came in a wave from east like locusts. Pushing gnolls westward. Something unknown south of the river is holding the bugmen from crossing it in some fashion. Gnolls and Yuan Ti have made an alliance, Yuan Ti have convinced the gnolls to cross south instead as a cultural mass and clean out the wemics, taking that land as their new home. Pressure on the gnolls is mounting. The gnoll shaman turns his back to us, says something to the Yuan Ti, and the snakeman leader and Ssark both look right at the sensor.
Mulligan flips them off, 2 handed.
They cease the meeting. The king looks at the ravager and mentions meeting again at the appointed time. Then they all split up.
Confronting Malenko: why are you here? Personally, he is quite fond of cats. A kindred he feels with them. The original master Malenko was dealt grievous mental damage, one of oldest though not most powerful Masters; Every Mal has a part of the collective of original Mal whether they conciously realize it or not. I particularly have a hatred for the Veiled Masters as he did. No Mal has ever worked with them. Not that I know they are around here, but their works are.
Whereas the Masters created things of nature and beauty (which he would include even orcs in, so…), all which fill a niche, the things Ilithid created did not fill such a niche so much as took over niches.
His name is Pollux.
Callimachus "An invasive species artificially dropped into an environment within which they don't belong."
Example is the ankheg. Boon for farmers but if not satiated and properly handled, can kill a lot of creatures. All Ilithid creations are like that.
Duncan "Should I be worried about this warforged then?"
No, they are not a created life, not a species that procreates. They were task fillers, not niches.
He thinks the bugmen, Thri Kreen he calls them, may be their creation. He is not holding them back, he does not know who or what is. The yuan ti he hates, not created by the Ilithid but changed themselves using Ilithid inspired systems. So he wants them destroyed for that and that they threaten his cat people.
Going to the caves was a hope to find something there that could help.
Concerning the Servant, even when he stays there briefly, they don't talk much. The Servant does not do chit chat, only talks about big things. We tell him the veil comment. He says could have been just a random word he used as symbolism, or not. We should speak with him directly, and listen carefully to his own words.
What does he have locked up downstairs? Mal is not sure. Never investigated it himself
One thing to understand: the 3 chambers, wings of the temple, are dedicated to beings greater than the Masters. They were effectively gods on earth. But, they had 3 gods that they worshipped. The Masters got their power via worship by men, and their worship was a conduit to those gods. A select few humans can have connection directly. The Servant was a regular guy at first. What made him revere the Masters as a whole was that he discovered, in his absolute unimportance and that level of humility, allowed him to gain the ear of those gods. He once questioned one of them as to why the state of mankind had to be how it was, all men servants and slaves, constantly at war, greed, etc.
He asked the god to fix things. Most of the earth was then dominated by an uber Master, setting the world at peace but didn't make things better. Absolute tyranny. He then asked to god to set things right again, back how it was. The world broke out in war. Masters fighting each other. Eventually all came to a head in the masters' war. All put into motion by the Servant just trying to do the right thing.
So, quite possible the Servant has turned evil, siding with the Veiled Ones out of loss of all hope. Or, maybe not.
We have to go and find out for sure.