The Fellowship of Phoenix Flame
Part I: Becoming a Part of Something More
Terius sat a moment to cool his paws in in a nearby canal. Sandstone pavement could get as hot as Dralk’s volcanoes given enough sunlight. Close by Terius’s constant companion Merdyl took long draughts from the same canal.
“How can you drink that? Merrasat only knows what people step in before they walk through that!” Terius seemed quite appalled at the dragon’s propensity to ignore healthy eating and drinking habits.
“Really Terius, I’m a dragon. Have you ever seen a sickly dragon? No, Drulkar takes care of his own. Even when Zymosis Morbidae swept across Istaria we were spared its ravages." Merdyl asked aloud, with the self assurance only dragons have, "What harm can drinking this water really do?”
“Given your size after completing your Rite of Passage I suppose you did need a copious drink after all. Just try not to drink the canal dry. I’m sure the Empire has a committee of bureaucrats just waiting to fine us for any tampering with the great city of Tazoon,” scoffed Terius.
“Actually, young saris, we do. I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation, with my elven ears and all. I wouldn’t worry too much though. When signing the accords to create this Empire, Valkoth, Lunus Elder, dictated that if in joining this Empire he diminished his food source so dramatically, he and his would be allowed water from anywhere they like. This very canal system included. Please accept my apologies, for I can be, at times, a bit long winded; Linis, Imperial Courier at your service.” Linis bowed slightly to the companions. After nodding greetings, the two adventurers looked nervously on, wondering what to do next. It wasn’t often adventurers met Imperial officials, so to have one approach and speak to them, much less show respect, felt awkward.
“Clearly I have disquieted you, my sincerest apologies. In return, I’ll allow you to be the first to hear of some interesting news,” Linis said with a bit of flourish, obviously proud of his profession. “First and foremost, young Gifted, we are at war. The Withered Aegis continues its offensive upon us with powerful generals and ferocious troops attacking from all sides of the Empire. Our eastern lines need the most protection, but no outlying cities are safe." Merdyl and Terius were about to speak when the Courier carried on flourishing about and not the least bit bothered by the heat even in his layers of plush purple robes.
“War and dragons, they always seem to find each other. I for one am glad to have the Lunus and Helian factions at our back and front lines. In fact, a new opportunity to strike in the war against the Withered Aegis has presented itself recently. Perhaps you young Gifted know some brave souls willing to risk life and limb to aid the militia in Delgarath? I hear they are trying to revive that old mining town. The dwarves seem to think it is quite dangerous out there. Ah, the looks on your faces tells me I bore you with things beyond your scope. Ha! Worry not young friends, I have news that every citizen of this Empire can and should take part in. The Imperial Relief Foundation. Have you heard of it?” The two friends exchanged a curious glance before shaking their heads in confusion. To an outside observer the look on their faces made it clear they thought it both awe inspiring to hear they were needed by the Empire, but felt it was very droll to hear this official blabber on.
“Of course you haven’t! It's new! Since the freeing of the Satyrs, the Imperial Council feels more responsible than ever for the continued growth and prosperity of all races. We have determined that it is up to us to ensure their continued survival as well as their safety as new communities are built across the Empire. Why, some races have no home to call their own any more!. It is quite tragic really. We elves, of course, opened our city to these refugees with open arms. Despite having been occupied by Aegis forces, Feladan perseveres! It galls me to say that some of my own people are also in need of the assistance this program is designed to provide. Rachival fell, the dwarves were besieged, and many races of Istaria need help. Who better to help them but the Empire and the Gifted? I dare say no one! Indeed, no one. Would you like to hear how you can help?” Again the two partners nodded slowly, still in shock… did this elf have no need to breathe?
“Here take this pamphlet. It details the proper people to speak with when you are ready to give aid and where the need is greatest. I can sum it up for you though. We are accepting donations of coin, any crafted items or spells, or potions, or what have you, to aid in the protection and building of new communities for homeless refugees. We need people willing to build homes and shops for these poor refugess, preferably for free, but we hope to have some funds donated to pay for the work. And we could use guards at these small towns; again we need either coin or volunteers to accomplish this feat. The Empire is devoting over 100 soldiers and 200 craftsmen to the cause. Though these men are neither masters of their trade nor veterans of war, we believe they will form the backbone of the Imperial Relief Foundation. But for the skilled work, for those capable of training others, and defending themselves in a fight, we look to the Gifted. We have asked the gnomes to create a committee to recognize those Gifted willing to help. The Imperial Rewards for Outstanding Service Committee, IROS for short…it was originally far longer, but another committee shortened it, has arranged to work with Trophy Hunters across Istaria to organize and provide rewards for those who assist with the relief effort. Yes I suppose it is all very convoluted. Ultimately, we want all the Gifted to donate time and money to the cause. Everyone making a signifigant contribution to protecting those who are rebuilding these communities will receive a special title acknowledging their support. The single most generous guild, as determined by the guild with the most members offering assistance and donations, will invited to the annual Imperial Ball. Run along now and spread the word. I may see you at the Imperial Ball, if you are as effective as I predict."
Merdyl was about to speak but was interrupted. “One more thing! The gnomes were kind enough to create water filtration devices and spread them throughout the canal. The water is quite clean, I assure you. They are a lovely shade of sandstone, quite unobtrusive, fare thee well Gift-“
“We get it! Thanks!” Merdyl bellowed, allowing his large tan wings to unfurl. The elf looked as if he saw the Lich King himself and fled with much haste. “I’ve been waiting for a chance to do that for far too many minutes.” The duo had a good laugh and continued on to the domed trading center to buy various sundries for their guild. After seeing many merchants and purchasing what was needed, the pair returned to The Fellowship of Phoenix Flame’s headquarters.
“They’re back! Did they get everything on the list?” Flintstahl exclaimed. “I hope they did, I can’t cook without all of it!” the guild confectioner raved. Gnome confectioners are rare, tending towards tinkering in general. Flintstahl however was without peer. He, of course, was just as eccentric about his passion as most gnomes.
“Leave them alone!” a jovial voice boomed down from the balcony in the guild hall. Axelrod leapt off the balcony to the floor below and clapped the saris and dragon on the shoulder, this act a testament to both his height and athleticism. As guild leader, he chose to prove his worth in all things, especially all things regarding his own physical prowess. “Of course they brought it all; this is how our new members avoid guild dues. They run errands," stated Axelrod. He then looked at his latest recruits. “You’ll owe me money sooner or later youngin’s.", he said.
“Not only do we have all the ingredients and food, but we brought news from the capital," muttered Terius. For the first time ever, he had the floor. The guild gathered around to hear what he had to say. Merdyl backed him up and passed him the pamphlet.
“Well, spit it out,” grumbled Wulfegard, their resident boisterous half-giant.
“The Empire is creating a relief effort for all the displaced citizens, the ones who lost homes, family, and work to the Withered Aegis. I know people usually laugh at the Imperial Committees, but this sounds good for once. The war effort needs more people all over, but we knew that. Terius was getting rather nervous, but managed to keep his voice steady.
“What needs to be done?” asked Ygnar the guild smith of all things metal. As a dwarf it was in his blood and he pursued his crafts with a vigor not often seen, even among his own kind. The others again turned to Terius.
“Well… they need coin, or at least would appreciate donations in order to pay for resources, militia, and any other non-volunteer work. As for volunteer work, they could use guards for small towns and escorts. Oh, and crafted goods, spells, and construction workers to teach and help build new homes. They are offering a stipend, titles, and an invitation to the Imperial Ball for the most generous. I suggest we devote some time to this, even if we don’t win the invitation to the ball."
“Not win? What guild do you think you’re in cat? Losing isn’t something this guild does. I agree with you Terius. You and Merdyl are hereby granted the rank of Coordinating Advisor, a large step up from the rank of Maggot. Your job is to make sure I know what everyone is doing and to run my decrees to other guild members. Also, you and Merdyl are a team right? Good. Help Merdyl train and bring me back any trophies you collect. Those would have been used to help stock the guild chest , but in this case we’ll gather them in one place and take them to the Trophy Hunters as a group. Stay around Bristugo and the Headquarters. If I need you, I don’t want to have to go far to find you,” Axlerod was on a roll and didn’t seem to want to stop.
“Sir,” Darla, his second in command and if rumors were correct an old flame, interjected, “We don’t have a position called Coordinating Advisor.”
“Sure we do. I just created it. They’re it. Anyone wanna contest it? We have the 'Circle of Death' out back for a reason.” The guild almost immediately all muttered “no” and consented of the new position. “Good to hear. Now then, you two have your orders, get some chow for the road from Flintstahl and get a move on.” With that Merdyl led Terius to the mess hall. “Furthermore, I need to talk to our treasurer. Darla, get the whole guild in here as soon as possible, as in yesterday. We’ve got a lot of planning to do.” Axlerod was in his element and the guild was mobilizing, big things were set in motion
The adventuring duo set out along the road from the travel gate hub that is Bristugo, only to be met by indecision. It was always a gamble on how lucrative any hunting excursion could be versus the risk involved. Suddenly an idea occurred to the young Saris ranger. Terius turned to his constant traveling companion, “Why don’t you fly everywhere now?”
“I think my legs would atrophy, then I couldn’t use them much, that’d be no good,” replied Merdyl.
“Well, we’re supposed to be gathering valuable trophies from our foes in this area. Can you go get a bird's eye view?”
“Bird’s eye view? Have you seen a bird in Istaria outside of a chicken? Fine I’ll take to the air. Just try to keep up, huh?”
“Will do. What happened to all the birds? Seriously, did you guys eat them all?”
“Who knows? Forget about the birds. I see wolves, beetles, and golems from up here,” called down Merdyl. “Ruxus on the cliffs as well.”
“Let’s go after ruxus, I can outrun those.”
“Figures… Very well, but I need to kill golems later.”
After firing an arrow fitted with a note detailing their hunting itinerary for the day into a nearby tree, Terius followed Merdyl up Dalimond Ridge. They were expected to let their guild know where they would be and Axelrod would have his hidefor a rug had he not left directions to find them. The ruxus were in no short supply, nor was the action and bloodshed. Terius had to stop and admire the sleek and destructive qualities of his Helian companion. What Merdyl lacked in raw power he made up for in quick strikes and cunningly timed magical attacks. Not to be outdone, Terius too sprang into battle with the ferocity known to the feline warriors of Kion. Though he used no blade, his arrows almost always struck true and were imbued with natural energies that often struck foes dumb. Whilst dodging between Merdyl's legs and using his ally's tan flanks for cover Terius too made short work of these grotesque foes.
Terius claimed many shark like jaws from the corpses left in their wake. When the duo began to tire of fighting ruxus, he placed them in Merdyl’s scale pack, and watched as the great beast took flight. Terius had but little choice to use his Saris speed to try and keep up. After a short flight, and what felt like an incredibly long run to Terius, his companion rapidly descended to the amethyst quarry below. Here they found constructs made entirely of the gems.
“I wonder what the others are doing,” Terius asserted.
“No time for idle chat naka!” roared Merdyl. With that rather bold interruption, he shattered the scything arm of an amethyst golem, likely saving Terius serious head trauma or worse. Even for the dragon, golems were no easy foe, but he felt safer knowing Merdyl was with him. Using similar tactics as before, the duo found great glory in battle. Terius shared the shiny trinkets found in combat with his scaly ally, and in return Merdyl helped carry all of the heavy trophies. Eventually Merdyl’s quota of crushed golems was met. Upon a ledge high above the quarry, they began to divvy up shares of the loot. The heavy beating of wings was heard over head just as they were about to argue over who could keep the intact golem chips.
“Merdyl! Terius! There has been an accident with Wulfegard , he got in too deep this time! Axelrod is calling everyone home. Split your loot and head back to Phoenix HQ as soon as possible,” called Xarfax. As one of the leaders in the guild, he waited for no response and clearly expected the order to be followed. The rather deadly but young duo looked at each other before quickly tossing the chips into the pouch tagged 'guild donations' and began their journey back to Bristugo.