The Ashen Crown, the Lords of Madness, and the Queen of Death

In the Mind of Dex

A familiar chill runs down your spine and your armour shivers and squirms as something reaches through the aether and makes a connection.

You hear a sound like a voice, but it seems to come from everywhere at once. " an y h m ?" A question. “C ou ear e?” The voice asks again. Then the words seem to snap into focus. “Can you hear me?” Belshyrra’s voice, with its chilly false friendliness, echoes strangely in your mind.

He takes some mental twitch on your part as answer. “Good. Now that you have all the pieces of the crown, you must destroy them. I know you will not want to do this, but I will tell you why you must, as I suspect you may not have grasped the implications.”

“The artifact has a singularly powerful ability to bring the dead back to life. Erandis Vol, known as the ‘Queen of Death’ by her followers among the Skullborn and the Order of the Emerald Claw, is long dead. No ordinary raise dead ritual has any hope of bringing her back to life. Only the Ashen Crown or similar artifact could bring her back.”

“Erandis Vol was born into this world for one purpose: to become an avatar of death. She possesses a dragonmark of unparalleled power over death. Those who watch the prophecy saw this and worked to have her killed before she and her power could mature.”

“The artifact you possess is the only artifact on this plane that I have seen to be capable of resurrecting Erandis Vol. It originated in what you call the feywild or Thelanis. As travel to Thelanis has been disrupted since what you call the Mourning, I estimate that it will be difficult for another similar artifact to be found or forged.”

“I realize you feel a bond of some kind towards the deceased hobgoblin who contracted you to help her recover the crown. I assure you that you will not need the crown to resurrect her. She will be successfully resurrected by House Jorasco. I further assure you that she will not need the crown to become Empress of Darguun. Her bid to do so is doomed to fail with or without the crown.”

“I realize that you probably believe that the crown will be safe in her possession. Need I remind you how easily she died? How easily one of Vol’s agents gained and betrayed her trust? Erandis Vol has servants at her disposal far more powerful and dangerous than the changeling you encountered. The crown will fall into Erandis Vol’s hands in the chaos of the Darguun civil war.”

“But if you act, you can ‘save the world’. All you need to do is destroy the crown before the hobgoblin returns to life. Once alive, she will try to stop you, and thus ensure Erandis Vol’s ascendence to what you might call ‘godhood’.”

“In the chamber beneath the altar, there is a device capable of destroying the crown. Use it once you have all the pieces or the reassembled crown.”

“How am I going to tell them I know about Erandis Vol?” you ask with trepidation at the choices ahead of you.

“Be creative,” is his less than helpful reply. You roll your eyes. “Tell them it was divine revelation.” He chuckles. “Or that you are an agent of the Trust.”

“Because I have such a strong connection with Sehanine,” you think at him with sarcasm. You’re not sure he understands sarcasm, but that’s his problem. For better or for worse, your caravan’s patron goddess, Sehanine, speaks to mortals a lot less often than the creature you’re dealing with now. “And I would never stoop as low as those Trust lowlives.” You don’t tend to talk about it, but you and your family have reasons for living outside of Zilargo. Best not to think about it, Belashyrra can read your thoughts. You decide to change topics,

“If you have such knowledge about the crown, why didn’t you try and do something about it when you were in control of that damnable cult of yours?” you snap at him. “Before we took it out that is,” you can’t help but add with some satisfaction. There is a pause.

“My plans were interrupted,” he replies after a moment.

“I find that hard to believe.”

“It is the truth. I regret the loss of my followers here and most of all my eye-to-the-future which you took from me. These… were not according to my Plan. Though do not fear- I bear you no animosity. I have no need for the crude behavioural heuristics you call emotions.”

“… right. I think you bear a general animosity to all living beings on this plane simply by existing.” You can’t let yourself forget who and what you’re dealing with here.

“That is a misunderstanding,” he tries to assure you. You feel an unnatural calm flowing over your mind like a wool blanket. You quickly shrug it off,

“And how do you even propose we would go about destroying the thing? That’s assuming I even begin to believe that this is the right course of action. There are a number of parties other than the ones you named who would not want it destroyed, and I happen to be close to some of them.”

“There is a device that will allow you to destroy the crown. And I believe I have already explained the necessity of this action.”

He’s holding too much back. You suspect that he’s up to something. “I need more details as to the nature of this device. I don’t think simply crushing it with a boot will be sufficient.”

“It will work,” he insists. “I could explain the technical details, but you are not… an expert… in such matters. You would not be able to understand.”

“So you’re not even going to try to point me in the right direction. Since being forthcoming doesn’t seem to be in your nature, I’m going to assume that destroying one piece will be sufficient. Can’t reassemble the crown if there’s a piece missing. And I don’t think Ashurta would take kindly to the destruction of his sword. He is known for taking his vengeance, even so long after his death.”

“I would prefer the entire crown destroyed. I admit, the blade is not much use to Erandis Vol. The circlet, however, must be destroyed.”

You curse aloud. “Why?”

“It is the heart of the crown and contains most of its dormant power.”

“I might have a plan. Are you done buzzing around my head, or are you going to give me some sort of useful information?”

“I am finished,” he says. No such luck.

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