Dravago 15, 1001 YK
When the Twice-false Archmage defends his mantle against the Rightful Pretender, an Awakening will take place.
It is decided that this probably concerns Saal Perryn‘s earlier challenge to Rilic’s title as Archmage of Breland, which Rilic was supposed to answer by meeting the apprentice of the late Jovi ir’Kade in Wroat. The party goes to answer this, stopping briefly to learn about House Cannith’s use of the Chains of Balance in the “Balance Engine.” Saal Perryn is met in his tower, and he explains that an Archmage must undergo eight trials by tradition in order to hold the title. Rilic will face these trials tomorrow, as Saal only needs one day to prepare.
The party returns to the Eclipse Keep, allowing Rilic to prepare a kit of items to use in faking magic while Kaleth, Zil’dejin, and Conlon visit the Eldritch Proving Ground to provide just enough sabotage to make the trials feasible for Rilic.
Dravago 16, 1001 YK
The party (besides Rilic) disguise themselves as various sorts of Arcane summons, and hide in the bag-form of the Rainbow Scarf of the Traveler. Saal Perryn then arrives at the Eclipse Keep and teleports Rilic to the Proving Ground, where he successfully passes inspection and enters the ground, allowing him to “summon” his party members. Each of the eight trials concerns a different school of the eight conventional schools of magic.
Gradually, the Eclipse Collective works together to pass through all eight challenges, culminating with the defeat of a competent warmage in powerful magic armour. Once this is done, Rilic Ascends, and from the Path of the Deceiver and the Path of the Duelist, he takes his first step down the former.
Dravago 15, 1001 YK
One day following the Eran assault on Metrol, the Eclipse Collective has returned home to Grey Titan’s Hold. Arrangements have been made to destroy the damaged wall in Metrol, and the Legion is busy restoring order to the recently-annexed Magebred city. The Dragon Prophet has translated a fragment of the Draconic Prophecy concerning Rilic Balendal‘s Ascension, gleaned from a combination of many factors in numerous copies of Rilic’s various biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. The translation is given as follows:
When the Twice-false Archmage defends his mantle against the Rightful Pretender, an Awakening will take place.
Rilic believes this to relate to Saal Perryn, the apprentice of Jovi ir’Kade, the late previous Archmage of Breland — a title Rilic now holds. Saal visited Grey Titan’s Hold previously to issue a challenge to Rilic’s title, believing that he was unfit to hold it, but was run out of the city for slandering Rilic. He asked the “Archmage” to meet him in Wroat to settle the matter, which Rilic has not yet done. While preparing to leave for Wroat (by exiting the Eclipse Keep through the Breland exit and taking mounts the rest of the way), the party meets again with Derli d’Kundarak, who returns to Eberron from the Cinder Furnace for the first time since taking his position as the Horseman of War.
The party gathers mounts (mostly generic horses, although Zil’dejin rides on Rumham while Derli rides on Ruin) and rides into Wroat. Kaleth, concerned about Metreus’ mention of House Cannith‘s use of the Chains of Balance, decides to visit the enclave of Cannith South. He is joined by Derli in this endeavour, while the others go to the small tower that belongs to Saal Perryn. They split up at Eclipse Square, which still proudly displays statues of the members of the Collective present at Remelius Artauche’s defeat.
At the Cannith enclave, Kaleth and Derli ask to meet with, the Baron of Cannith South. They are taken in to his workshop-office, a huge space with an office suspended in the air in the middle of the room with magic. Here, they await his arrival. Kaleth transforms one of the cushioned seats into a Chronocracy chair. When Merrix enters, they inquire about his use of the Chains of Balance, which he makes quite plain: since acquiring the artifact in 998 YK, he has been working on a way to harness the Chains’ power, and has finally (mostly) completed a way to do so. The Cannith Balance Engine, as he calls it, is a device used to massively amplify the artifice techniques used by scions of the House, allowing creation on a massive scale. Use of the device can only be carried out by those with the Mark of Making, and is rented out as a service to nations capable of paying the steep price. Kaleth remains somewhat uncomfortable with this, but the answer is direct and satisfying enough, so the two leave.
Meanwhile, the others arrive at Perryn’s tower. They are met by a vaguely humanoid paper golem that acts as the mage’s servant, and are allowed into a sitting room at the tower’s base. Saal arrives before long, and quickly clarifies the party’s misconception that a duel is in order. According to tradition dating back to the Kingdom of Galifar, any appointed Archmage of the Five Nations should be required to complete a series of eight trials to determine their worthiness for the position. Because of the fervor whipped up in the parliament at the time of Rilic’s appointment, the necessity for his trial was bypassed at the time, but Saal wishes to carry it out now. He firmly believes that Rilic will not pass, as he is certain that Rilic is a fraud.
As with all such trials before it, this one will be held in the Eldritch Proving Ground in the Eldritch Groves, a forest in Aundair. Perryn tells Rilic that they will leave tomorrow by way of teleportation, and to prepare himself tonight. The party is dismissed from the tower, and meet up outside with Derli and Kaleth. Kaleth insists on learning more about the trial, and goes back into the tower, but fails to learn much more as Perryn is almost hostile towards the chronomancer. He does learn, however, that candidates are inspected beforehand and must pass through a wall of suppression before beginning the trial, and that the only companions allowed to the candidate are those that are summoned within the Proving Ground in full view of the public. Additionally, the Ground will be warded with dimensional locks and walls of force to prevent teleportation from outside-in or inside-out and any physical movement into or out of the area.
Together, the Collective returns to the Eclipse Keep and hold an impromptu meeting. Nimozaran the Green is present as well, and mentions that at one point a previous candidate participating in the trials brought a close companion of hers by disguising that companion as a golem. This incident prompted the use of the wall of suppression thereafter. Carrying this idea forward, the Collective hatches a plan: they will disguise themselves as various sorts of arcane summons and hide in the dimensional space that can be created by Rilic’s Rainbow Scarf, to emerge within the grounds. To ensure this is a safe plan, however, they decide they must investigate the Proving Ground more closely.
While Rilic works on a kit of alchemical items, fireworks, and other visual effects to create the appearance of magic in the coming trials, Kaleth uses magic and the Keep’s teleportation circle to transport himself, Conlon Ostrennar, and Zil’dejin Firebane — disguised by the Keep’s magic mirror — to the Eldritch Proving Ground. The scrying tapestry is used to discover the appropriate sigil sequence. They find Saal Perryn rushing around giving directions to various members of the Arcane Congress and the Twelve, both of whom participate in establishing the Proving Grounds for a trial by tradition. Kaleth attempts to conceal himself and Zil’dejin with invisibility. The three try to sneak away before he notices them, but another mage in the entry hall of the grounds notices Kaleth casting the spell to turn them invisible and points this out to Perryn, who goes to investigate. Conlon masquerades as a mage of the Arcane Congress, but Perryn becomes incredulous and prepares to send him to go on a mundane cleaning task when Zil’dejin attempts to sneak away (while invisible) and is also caught.
Perryn uses magic to give himself truesight, allowing him to see Zil’dejin and Conlon as they really are. Conlon takes the blame for the fiasco, and the two come up with a half-hearted explanation for their presence there while carefully avoiding mentioning Kaleth, who has successfully removed himself from the area. The two are instructed to leave the Proving Ground, and they comply, setting up a small camp just outside to await the trials in the coming day. Kaleth pretends to be part of the setup crew and joins a few members of the Arcane Congress who are preparing the wall of suppression and convinces them to let him help. Instead of actually creating such a wall, he manifests an illusion of one, such that half of the “wall” is actually fake in order to allow Rilic to pass through without feeling the wall’s effects. With this, he leaves the Proving Ground, meets up with Zil’dejin and Conlon, and teleports them all back to the Keep.
They briefly meet with Rilic again, as well as Derli, who has been in the forge making weapons for the lieutenants of his army of crusaders (now called the Hammer of St. Derli). They explain the false wall of suppression and talk about what they have seen, and also mention that they have learned that the eight trials each cover one of the conventional schools of magic. With this knowledge, they finish various mundane tasks and rest for the night.
Dravago 16, 1001 YK
The day of the trial comes around. In the early morning, the participating party members (outside of Rilic) disguise themselves using the magic mirror:
- Zil’dejin disguises himself as an iron golem
- Derli disguises himself as a shield archon
- Kaleth disguises himself as a planetar angel
- Conlon disguises himself as a shadow
- Kaleth’s time-clone is disguised as a copy of Rilic
Rilic then folds the Rainbow Scarf into a bag, and the four squeeze into it. Shortly after, Saal Perryn arrives at the Eclipse Keep with a few other mages to take Rilic to the Eldritch Proving Ground. They use the Keep’s teleportation circle for this, and arrive in the entry chamber. Saal has evidently rallied a huge crowd to witness Rilic’s trials, and has paid considerable expense for House Lyrandar airships to ferry interested spectators to the large structure.
Before long, Rilic is taken to the preparatory chamber preceding the entrance to the actual trial grounds, separated by an open archway with the half-fake wall of suppression. An older mage of the Twelve inspects him carefully, accompanied by a younger apprentice, and decide that his magic items are acceptable and that he is not concealing anything of note. He is allowed into the trial grounds, passing through the illusion and still carrying the Rainbow Scarf with him.
The First Trial: Conjuration
The first chamber is circular with an open ceiling, allowing the Ground’s spectators full view while Saal Perryn and a second mage broadcast commentary by magically carrying their voices. This area features six platforms with glyphs and a large, circular stone door marked with the same glyphs. After some brief experimentation, Rilic discovers that all platforms must be stood upon (or weighed down) at once, and so he decides to perform his “summoning.” He makes a big show of casting Rilic’s quintuple summoning, which mostly involves the use of blue-coloured smoke to disguise the opening of the Rainbow Scarf, allowing his companions to pour out.
By the time the smoke clears, all six stand in the Ground and Rilic has gathered and re-concealed the Scarf. They take their places on the platform and open the door, allowing easy access to the next trial.
The Second Trial: Abjuration
The second chamber is long and narrows to the width of an average corridor in three places. In each of these corridors, some threat is present. In the first, arrows, darts, and other physical dangers fly back and forth. In the second, magical threats like jets of flame, lightning bolts, and ice jump between the walls. In the last, a tremendous demon (identified as a shemhazian, a type of demon which preys on other demons) is chained in place, allowed only enough movement to threaten what is near to it.
For the first leg, “Rilic-clone” summons an adamantine crate from a Chronocracy warehouse in a fake spell he calls Rilic’s box of travel. There is enough space in the crate to allow four of them passage through. Conlon uses his own magic to very quickly summon his sword and drives it into the ground, causing the blade to shatter into a hundred glittering black fragments that swirl around him, creating a shield. This is commented on by Perryn as seeming suspicious, but nobody seems to care. Rilic himself uses an alchemical item that creates a bright flash of light, making it difficult for the spectators to see that he is actually just tumbling very nimbly through. Afterwards, he claims to have used a spell called Rilic’s arrowcatch, much to the delight of the audience.
The next section is taken care of easily enough using a globe of invulnerability, allowing simple passage through. This leaves only the shemhazian demon, which Rilic attempts to paralyze, but fails to do so. Kaleth tries the same in his angel guise, but fails as well. Finally, Zil’dejin uses his paralyzing breath, holding Rilic aloft to make it seem as though Rilic is casting a spell which he calls Rilic’s paralyzing cone. This, finally, is a success, allowing the party to pass by the demon unharmed and into the next trial.
The Third Trial: Divination
This trial is a relatively small space, consisting mainly of a large table on which has been laid 28 keys: 4 each of colour, which are further divided into four differently-shaped handles. At the end of the room is a door with a magical lock, though the keys themselves are mundane.
Most of the initiative in this trial is taken by Conlon, who summons Eltimar and asks him questions to guide the use of their keys. They pick the correct key to open the door — and indigo one with a triangular handle — only to find another door behind. They consult Eltimar again, but end up with a vague answer and a choice of two keys. They apparently pick the wrong one at first, causing a dangerous spell effect to emanate from the lock, and soon realize that the keys can be snapped in half and recombined in this part of the trial. They combine the two ambiguous keys, granting them access to the next trial.
The Fourth Trial: Transmutation
The next trial involves three obstacles: the first is a door fused to its frame, the second is a wall covered in arcane markings with the outline of a door drawn on its surface, and the last is a wide chasm. The party crosses the first one by Kaleth casting the stone beneath the door somewhere into the future, creating a shallow tunnel that enables passage. The next can be crossed on the Ethereal Plane, and magic is used between Kaleth, Conlon, and Derli (using his armour) to pass through. Finally, the chasm is crossed by Kaleth ripping a bridge out of the past and Rilic making a show of doing it himself by showering the area with prismatic sand, calling the “spell” Rilic’s prismatic bridge. They pass to the next trial.
The Fifth Trial: Enchantment
In this area, four humanoids — a human, an elf, a dwarf, and a halfling — are each trapped in a separate cage. A door is on the far end of the room. Some inspection reveals that the door requires a password to open, and it quickly becomes apparent that each of the four humanoids knows one word of the password.
The words of the password are wrested mainly by Derli’s truth-inspiring magic, as well as Kaleth and Conlon dominating the minds of those in the cages. When the password is known (lak k’dul dhuav baak, a phrase in Abyssal), it is spoken, and the door is opened.
The Sixth Trial: Illusion
The sixth trial consists of a mostly-open circular chamber divided by a wall in the dead center, spanning about half the diameter of the circle. There are two doors and a large bust above each. The entrance door features a bust of a head with an exaggerated mouth and ears, but no eyes. The exit door features a bust of a head with large eyes and a big singular eye , but no mouth. Whenever the bust on the exit side sees movement, the door on its side slams shut. It also closes the door when it is warned by the bust with no eyes, which issues such a warning whenever it hears something suspicious.
This trial is ultimately solved by hiding most of the party in the Rainbow Scarf again, and a combination of illusion magic and dry ice on the parts of Kaleth and Rilic respectively, creating a false cityscape that they pass through undetected by the busts.
The Seventh Trial: Necromancy
This room is similar in size to that of the third trial. The door on the end of the room is a white, chalky colour, and seems very smooth. A pot of black ink sits next to it. In the room’s center is an altar, on which there appears to have been laid a shrouded corpse.
Conlon uses the strange magic of Eltimar to animate the corpse into speaking, prompting it to reveal that it is the body of a recently-deceased elderly mage of the Arcane Congress, who died due to a dangerous experiment he performed. The mage evidently oversaw this particular trial in the past, and knows that the only way to pass through is to draw a symbol upon the door which only he knows.
Unfortunately, nobody among the party can actually animate the dead. Instead, Conlon focuses on getting an accurate description of the symbol, while Kaleth attempts to draw it with editing performed by Derli. Once they feel an adequate copy of the symbol has been made, Conlon and Kaleth use magic to manipulate one arm of the corpse each, and draw the symbol from the copy they have drawn. This appears to be sufficient, as the way forward is cleared.
Before they can proceed, however, Saal Perryn tells them to wait. He is suspicious of Rilic’s methods and wants a secondary inspection, and so he enters the Proving Ground with the same man who inspected Rilic before the trials began. He asks for the “Rilic clone” to be brought forward first for a second inspection. During this time, Rilic uses some very elaborate fireworks and alchemy to disguise the fact that he is hiding everybody else in the Rainbow Scarf again, while it is revealed that the so-called clone of Rilic is actually a clone of Kaleth. This clone of Kaleth is dispelled, sent back in time to wherever he came from. Rilic quickly explains away his need to unsummon the others and convinces the inspectors that all is fine, and so he is allowed to move forward.
The Eight Trial: Evocation
The final trial is a battle, pitting Rilic against a powerful mage of the Arcane Congress wearing arcane fortress armour, sometimes called mageshield armour. This is a special type of heavy armour used in ancient times by frontline warmages, allowing a high degree of protection to what is normally a very fragile group. The armour is equipped with four coloured spheres that hover around it, providing resistance to various types of commonly-used magical energy. Even without these spheres, though, the armour is extremely resistant to physical damage.
Never the less, Rilic summons the remaining companions with a slightly different “spell” called Rilic’s quadruple summon, and the fight begins. Most of the party’s efforts are focused around destroying the spellshield orbs, as these block the easiest avenue to harming the Arcane Fortress. In a lucky stroke, Rilic manages to paralyze the Arcane Fortress early on, giving the party a good opportunity to work before it breaks out again and attacks Zil’dejin, severing the “iron golem’s” right hand in the process.
Once all of the orbs have been destroyed, it becomes almost trivial to take down the Fortress. Rilic delivers the final blow with a powerful lightning bolt from his wand, toppling the warrior and bringing the trials to their end, much to the outrage of Saal Perryn. Rilic’s title has been defended, and so he Ascends, seeing before him the Path of the Deceiver and the Path of the Duelist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he takes his first step down the former.