After stopping the invasion of Wroat, the Eclipse Collective returned briefly to the former Glyphstone Keep, now Eclipse Keep. Construction had already begun, and the party gave some loose specifications for the rebuilding before calling a brief meeting among their own ranks. Their business as an adventuring company basically concluded for a while, they decided to take some time apart to pursue their own interests. This led to the span of about a year in which the Collective, while not disbanded, was not acting together for the most part.
After an initial night of binge drinking, Zil’dejin Firebane travelled north, first to Karrnath, where he met with an old ally of the party: Nimozaran the Green, self-proclaimed “high septarch” of the Lakeside Mages Guild, of which he is one of three members. Nimozaran introduced him to a summoner in Vulyar who brought a powerful fire archon into Zil’dejin’s presence, who offered to remove the Fire’s Foe curse placed upon him in exchane for a small favour. The archon demanded burning of a large portion of the Gray Wood in the northeast section of Aundair. Zil’dejin ended up complying, and from then on some rumors spread about beings made of living fire dwelling within the ashen part of the forest.
From there, he went south, to the still-rebelling city of Thaliost. Thrane forces were coming close to completely suppressing the rebels, who had received only slight support from Aundairian military. Zil’dejin gathered a large portion of the rebels, as well as isolated Aundairian soldiers and Thrane deserters, and formed a mercenary group that would be named “Titan’s Aegis.” Titan’s Aegis became known for their ferocity in battle and wild, risky combat tactics. They established a foothold for Aundair in the city and held it until Aundairian reinforcements arrived with enough strength to take part of the city. After this, Thaliost would be split into north and south regions, the former kept by Aundair and the latter held by Thrane.
After this, Zil’dejin, answering to “captain” when addressed by his subordinates, took Titan’s Aegis south and began to establish himself in the political landscape of Khorvaire. He stopped drinking, took up painting as a hobby, and became involved in the affairs of New Cyre, attempting to build a new settlement for them (specifically, a military settlement). He has also helped cool relations with the Coalstriker clan, and after the Collective’s fame spread somewhat, he offered a number of them jobs in the Eclipse Keep forge.
Meanwhile, Garmeth reestablished contact with the other members of the Order of Labyrinths he previously encountered in the Eldeen Reaches, and through them established a small but effective information network, with the ultimate goal being to locate Raveth. During this time, a section of the Eclipse Keep that was under construction became used as a sort of haven for travelling monks.
His former master, Ornal, was an advocate of becoming a master of multiple monastic traditions, so Garmeth went west to study with the Tiger Claw monks. Before long, he had achieved a good degree of competence in their style of fighting, involving unarmed strikes where the fingers become like claws, and furious charging attacks. While he was learning this new style of combat, the other monks – Druar, Cobb, Shamai (who Garmeth still does not really remember and suspects may never have been a monk), and the recent rediscovery Grenim – have obtained positions of some import within different nations.
After leaving the Tiger Claw monastery, Garmeth journeyed northeast to search for the lost diary of Master Ornal, which had been taken by looters after their Order’s fall. He tracked it to the town of Tantamar in the Lhazaar Principalities, where it had fallen into the hands of a prominent “businessman” well-known in the town for his shady dealings. Garmeth stole it from him without much care, and attracted the attention of numerous criminal gangs in the area. He received word that the Eclipse Collective was to gather at Eclipse Keep, and soon after left Tantamar for Breland.
Immediately after the battle with Remelius Artauche, Elyas had a prophetic vision, and heard a divine calling directing him to the east. He took the road northeast of Wroat and traveled without direction for some time before finding some monks of Aureon on the southern shores of Lake Brey. Elyas convinced them to accompany him, describing his vision in detail, and soon received another, directing them to the Seawall Mountains to the south of New Cyre. There, in a long-sealed section of the ancient Seven Caves, he discovered a vault of lost knowledge established by the Dhakaani Empire during the Age of Monsters, containing a wealth of information about Xoriat, aberrations, and the horrible daelkyr.
So pleased was Aureon, his patron deity, with his acquisition of this knowledge and his ambitions to spread it that his successes in the name of his god were finally recognized. It was after uncovering the vault that Elyas began to regain some of the angelic power that had once run in his blood millennia ago. The discovery of Elyas’ nature as a deva and his slow regaining of angelic power inspired most of the Aureon-worshiping monks, who now follow him, believing him to be a living conduit their god.
During the year apart, Zan-kyri scarcely left the Eclipse Keep, except for a few months studying under Baron Merrix d’Cannith of Cannith South. He discovered among Artauche’s possessions, before House Cannith cleared the keep, part of a blueprint for a very old and very powerful eldritch machine. After learning to improve himself by any means necessary from Merrix d’Cannith he returned to his newly-built lab in the Eclipse Keep, where he set about studying this blueprint.
It was here that he realized he could no longer be satisfied as a thing of flesh. He was imperfect, and so his creations were imperfect. With the mantra handed to him by the Baron of Cannith South, in a fit of dedication Zan-kyri severed his right arm, and replaced it with a mechanical one of his own creation, becoming a living embodiment of the rumored “self-forged” artificers who were so dedicated to their craft, they turned themselves into magic items.
Like Zil’dejin, Stahlstrauss sought a way to remove the Fire’s Foe curse. He summoned a fire archon named Horrath, who agreed to free him of the curse in exchange for the book he carried relating to the Council of Azuun. The pact was sealed, but Stahlstrauss was nearly torn apart in the ensuing maelstrom of fire.
It happened that a faction of artificers working to generally improve warforged, called the Clashhammers, took the highly damaged Stahlstrauss in. They had designed a method of more or less rebuilding warforged, but to that point, no patient had survived the operation. Stahlstrauss, however, did. Though scarred and burned, the results were an actual improvement in abilities and, in particular, durability.
Marlamin’s year away from the Eclipse Collective was spent primarily in the presence of the Blood of Vol, mostly in the Crimson Monastery in the city of Atur, Vol’s “capital.” While here, he uncovered a dark ritual he believed would be capable of fixing the corruption rapidly overtaking his arm, requiring the sacrifice of ten powerful angels in service of a Sovereign.
Sul, Barrakas 8, 999 YK.
Zan-kyri is the first to meet the representative of the Arcane Congress. Tall for a half-elf, and dressed in the somewhat flamboyant fashion of a Congress official, the man introduces himself as Ephos. Though he insists he was a friend of the Eclipse Collective, Zan-kyri has never heard of him before, and his time spent in relative isolation in Eclipse Keep has made him somewhat wary of outsiders.
But, despite his skepticism, there is a certain urgency to Ephos’ desire to draw the Collective’s attention, and grudgingly, he dispatches messengers to bring the others back. Within a few days, Elyas arrives at the keep, rejoining the Moon’s Gate priests. He is followed shortly by Zil’dejin with a small group of Titan’s Aegis mercenaries, and finally Garmeth, who has already acquired a few dedicated monks, who train quietly in the northeast corner of the keep. This is the last of the arrivals, though the group at large has still not met in this great a number since the battle with Remelius Artauche, and there is much to be caught up on. Zan-kyri’s arm is a particular topic of interest, and though at first the group uncomfortably avoids it in conversation, Zil’dejin is eventually unable to resist mentioning it.
“Did you lose it in an accident?” he asks.
“No… no. This was deliberate,” he replies, flexing the metal limb for effect. "I was tired of human error. So, I built this – I call it a “battlefist” – and I cut off my own arm.
“Can you even hold anything with it?” Garmeth asks, eyeing the arm cautiously.
“I can, yes. I have grips.”
“And can you hold things without crushing them?” Elyas inquires, with genuine curiosity.
“I am… working on that. But I can bludgeon things with it.”
After some more conversation, which escalates to boasting in places, the four decide that they are enough to act on behalf of the Collective, and they retrieve Ephos. The group then gathers in the keep’s auditorium, a grand hall near the center of the building with a raised stage for speakers to stand upon. Ephos stands upon it while addressing the party.
“Esteemed Eclipse Collective, I am Ephos,” he begins with a slight flourish. “I am here on behalf of the Arcane Congress. No doubt you remember the last time we met, when I commissioned you to investigate the missing researchers at the Starpeaks Observatory in Aundair?” There is a general murmur of agreement. It was not the Collective’s proudest moment, to be sure. “I have grave news. When you informed me of what transpired there, I set out to meet with my colleagues at once. The Congress dispatched investigators, but they found nothing alive within the observatory. The gate you mentioned was found, but when we arrived, it was closed.”
A few worried glances pass among the Collective. The portal to Baator was open when they had fled the mountain, and a malebranche had escaped. Where had it gone? “On reading the research notes left behind by the scholars killed by the Painchiefs, we discovered that the gate was not truly closed in the first place, but rather dormant. It could be opened from Eberron, but not from Baator. I’m afraid the reverse is now true.”
“What does that mean?” asks Garmeth.
Ephos’ expression is grim. “We believe… no, we are nearly certain that the devils are planning an invasion. As it stands, there is no force that will be able to stop them if the scale is as we imagine it. The Arcane Congress believes you to be, at least in part, accountable for this occurrence. Further, you are neutral entities and not aligned with any one nation, as we are. This is why you must raise an army to fight the devils.”
There is some debate about this, but it is short-lived. Their responsibility is clear, and Zil’dejin, who has quit drinking and taken on a more political role, is particularly adamant about seeing the task through. Before long, they agree, but are uncertain on where to begin.
“Look to your allies,” Ephos responds. “Anybody who you helped, or helped you in the past year could be useful. Any small faction or group will add much to the defense. Also, try to appeal to the other of the Five Nations. Aundair is already with you, but the others must still be convinced, and their military might may be a deciding factor. You may try to deal with outer nations, but I would recommend against it; our time is limited, and most will not want to be involved.” He adjusts the collar on his robe, and begins to step off the stage. “I will stay here at Eclipse Keep for a few days, should you need me. Afterwards, I will return to Fairhaven and tell my colleagues that you have accepted.”
With this, the party finishes the last of their business in the Keep. Zan-kyri finalizes some things in his workshop, and Garmeth bids farewell to the monks who have taken to following him as a “new” sect of the Order of Labyrinths (the Orlan Monastery, as it would be called) including the monk named Halitin. He gives them the journal of his former master so that they may teach themselves in his absence. Zil’dejin asks Nimozaran the Green, the “high septarch” of the Lakeside Mages Guild (which has since been integrated into the Eclipse Collective) to make an effort towards uniting the guilds of Karrnath.
Finally, they set out for Wroat, capital of Breland, where they intend to meet with King Boranel to discuss the problem, and begin their journey once again…