[This section is long, broken up into chunks for easy reading --- and lazy posting.]
In Valeria, change is an unwelcome visitor — a hard-scrabble beggar pushed to the curb, by the proud families of magic that reside under the ancient purple-tiled roofs. But in the aftermath of the Grand Wizard’s death — and the horrible discovery that two members of the Council had aided the devil’s schemes — the city grabbed the beggar by the hand, and pulled him into the parlor and introduced him to their daughter.
“Is the Council met?” Jopra the Kingbinder asked, the columns of the chamber white and cool.
“It is.” Icewick the Soulsteel said calmly.
“And we are agreed?” Jopra’s white mask moved to scan the gathered wizards.
“We are.” Song the Ender intoned.
“Then we are most pleased to welcome our new members. Master Abjurer, step forward.”
Adamantine teeth shining, Gorton stepped forward, picking at the hem of his new green robe.
“Your wards are stronger than any we’ve ever seen, we can think of no better master to instruct the College of Protection — and the courage you displayed in the Battle of Bard’s Gate is already legendary.” Gorton puffed up at the Kingbinder’s words. “And it will serve you well in your hunt for the former Master of the Green District, the villainous Tumm the Madwand. Stand and be true, Master Gorton the Unbreakable.”
Gorton looked like he was about to faint or throw-up, but managed to slip the plain green mask over his face and slide into his chair.
“Master Evoker, step forward.” Jopra continued.
With a sword strapped to his side, the tall gray-haired form of Darm Rookwood seemed most out of place..and did cause a small murmur from Marigold and Lord Asmos. The magus stepped forward proudly, and picked up the red mask of the High Evoker.
“This is a high honor, and I will serve this city well.” Darm said. “But I will not cover my face. I am who I am.”
“If that is your wish, then we will not fault you. We have sinned against your school, First Magus, in ignorance, if not in deed. We have much to repay. I hope that the construction of your new academy is a good first step.” Jopra replied. “Stand and be true, Master Darm the Blade.”
He slipped the mask on over his head, leaving it cocked to the side, covering the right side of his forehead. Master Graham snorted in amusement. “Nice hat, kid. Back up to eight, but aren’t we the Council of Nine?” the gnome said rhetorically.
Jopra stiffened, his dignity ruffled, but continued on. “Yes, Illusion Master – we are one short, but none of us can replace the Grand Wizard, not in wisdom, power or knowledge. So instead, I say we add a new seat, as he would have wished — to welcome in the new, the strange — the magic for which there is no school. Step forward, Master Summoner.”
A deep, bass roar filled the quiet council chambers as the new council member was proceeded by a gigantic red boar, flames rippling through it’s fierce mane. Ham Sandwich hopped into the empty chair at the table and proceeded to much on the complimentary bowl of nuts and fresh bread. The half-elf, Vondes covered his eyes with a hand in embarrassment,and stepped forward ruefully. He laid his other hand on his eidolon’s shoulder with affection. “It will be my honor to serve the council, and Valeria.”
“The summoners are to be your main charge, but also the strange magics unknown in Valeria. Witchcraft, the mystery of the oracles, the shamans, the mystics….the City of Lore will open its doors to all that travel the river of magic, regardless of the craft they use. Take your place, Master Vondes the Mindforge. Stand, and be true.”
Vondes slipped on the freshly crafted gray mask of his office, and nudged Ham Sandwich over on the seat, and perched on the edge next to the noisily munching eidolon.
“And now. A weighty task lays before us.” The Kingbinder reached into a white pouch at his side, and pulled forth a small mirror, no larger than two-handspans — the back seemed to be made of amber, the front was pure silver reflection.
“Ah. The Dragon’s Eye.” Lord Asmos said with avarice. “ A most powerful tool for the council.”
“That must be removed from our hands.” Jopra said firmly. “It is too great a thing for any of us here to master – I have barely dipped my hands below the surface of its power, and have nearly been pulled in time and time again. Total knowledge of all things — all time and space, everything that ever happened, might have happened,is happening, may happen. All at your fingertips. Too much for any mortal, too much for the gods.”
“But we could…” Asmos interjected, only to be immediately cut off.
“No.” Master Song said.
There was an awkward quiet, as the Djinn’s face grew tight with anger, but then subsided under the Necromancer’s flat gaze.
The white-robed Kingbinder began again, smoothing over the break. “ I have already arranged for our servant to take it from our hands.”
From the shadows stepped the grey-leather rogue, Sideways. He waved nonchalantly.
“By the Dark Pact, by the honor of his tribe, by the First Magic, and the death-curse of the Grand Wizard. He will remove the Dragon’s Eye forever from this world.”
“Yup. I got it.” Sideways leered comfortingly.
“Tut-tut-tut” Master Graham the Liar said, standing up in his chair. “That’s all well and good, but surely it wouldn’t hurt to take one last look, now would it?”
The Council of Nine exchanged glances.
“Would it?” the gnome demanded.
Jopra sighed, and held the mirror forward. The white mask dipped down on his breast as he concentrated. Sideways craned his neck to get a better look, each of the masters leaned in eagerly.
“Just a glimpse, the final threads of this age as it draws to a close. The ends unravel and fray, and spin off into the future — and there I will not dare to gaze. One last glimpse through the Dragon’s Eye.”