A Sapphire Sky is the 19th episode of The Chain. It aired on June 12th, 2019.
The Chain of Acheron rest after their extraordinary battles. In the morning, a stranger introduces himself as an ally. After some discussions about the challenges required to defeat Ajax the Invincible, the Chain of Acheron opens a butcher shop?
After the Battle
When last we left our heroes, they had just defeated a Sun Elf in Collingshill, a district in Capital. A Dwarf captain of the prince’s guard in this district, the Knights of the Word, comes around a corner, with a Halfling behind him, dressed in similar livery. He stops and demands, “What in god’s name happened here?” King explains that a Sun Elf was loose in the district. The captain demands to know who King is. He replies, “The commander of The Chain.” They explain briefly to the captain what happened, that they fought and defeated the Sun Elf.
“Chain? What are you talking about? What Chain?”
“The Chain of Acheron,” King says. “We are a company of soldiers now under the prince’s employ.”
“What? No? You’re lying to me. I would know if you were knights of the prince.”
They show their seals and without pause Captain Zorj says, “You are knights of the prince!” He introduces himself and his lieutenant, Spendthrift. King explains they have been residing in The Stays and were just travelling through, stumbled upon this scene, and took care of the problem. Captain Zorj is distraught that it wasn’t a member of The Word who killed the Sun Elf.
He’s pleased that the Chain is willing to stay and help with the clean up, asking what they’re doing as knights of the prince if they’re not members of any of the district administrations. King replies they want to unify the prince’s forces to preserve his lands. Zorj is impressed with their sense of civic duty and asks how to get in touch with them if he needs them. They give him their address in the Stays.
They ask where they can rest up after the battle and Spendthrift gives them directions to the Dancing Minstrel, a three story tavern nearby. There are a lot of people staying there, but there are rooms available. In the large common room there’s a bard on a small stage. It’s a relatively well-to-do clientele, all human, and almost all Riojan. When the Chain walks in, everyone stops -- except the bard -- and after giving them a once over, go back to what they’re doing, desperately trying to ignore the Chain. The innkeeper gives them rooms and asks if they want to eat. The guests at one of the tables get up to give them a place to sit.
During their rest, Slim suggests that King try to contact Sumat Pol to see if he understands the message the Sun Elf gave them. King writes a note and puts it in the Diplomat’s Pouch, but nothing happens, indicating that Sumat Pol doesn’t have a diplomat’s pouch to which they're attuned.King writes another note, this time to Angel, and tells him what happened.
Leech spends some time calling up a familiar and hopes that he won’t get Odie again, but of course he does. The rest of the afternoon and evening passes uneventfully. Boots joins the bard, who is serviceable, but not great, and improvises a tale about how they defeated the Sun Elf. The bard, Eduardo, is interested in their story. He’s read the broadsheets and knows who they are. During the night, King casts Divination to ask his God whether Shirome’s note would cause them problems. The response he got was, “The Raven cannot break the Chain.” They interpret this to mean that they will not come to harm from House Vorona on delivering the letter.
The Braggadocious Marcellus Scipio
The next morning, while they’re preparing to leave the Dancing Minstrel, somebody walks in. He’s a young man, though his face looks weathered and prematurely aged, dressed as a centurion from the military of the Commonwealth. He orders a drink and approaches the Chain’s table, asking if he can sit with them. He confirms that it is the Chain of Acheron he's talking to, before introducing himself as Marcellus Scipio. He says he’s read the broadsheets; “Everyone’s wondering how you got a Displacer Beast. Did you raise it from a pup?” Copper says he did. Marcellus spends some time figuring out who is whom in the Chain.
Judge says he’s the weaponsmaster and Leech introduces himself as the surgeon. Marcellus goes on to talk about Ajax. He says, “I wonder,” and looks at King, “Do you think he’s really invincible?” King replies, “Not at all.” Marcelius inquires about their day yesterday and then wants to know if they’re currently under contract. King confirms that they’re opposed to Ajax due to the events of Blackbottom and Marcellus asks if they’re really interested in defeating Ajax or his wizard, Mortum. Scipio says, “Suppose that Mortum died of old age? Would you consider your contract null and you would have no interest in Ajax?”
Boots says that yes, if Mortum died the contract would be null. Marcellus presses him, wanting to know if they would still be opposed to Ajax in the event of Mortum's death. Leech asks, “What business is it of yours to look for the answers to this question?” He says, “Good question. I’m surprised you didn’t ask it earlier. I’ve been a student of war at the War College and my family has a long tradition of public service.” Judge asks if he’s on a school assignment and he says, “You could say that. It’s interesting to meet someone who has been in the broadsheets and to find out if they think the same as my friends and I. I think I’d like to introduce you to my friends.”
King says that Ajax is no friends of theirs and that he has made an enemy of the Chain. Judge notes that Scipio isn't wearing the Old School ring associated with the Military Academy. King uses Insight to determine that Scipio seems genuine, but he also seems to have a secret that he can’t wait to share. He seems to want to tell them, no matter how they answer. Scipio says he’ll tell them about his friends, but they want to meet the Chain in person. Scipio asks Judge where he was from originally, and Judge tells him Alloy. “So, in other words, Hell.” Judge says, “It depends on who's asking. As far as you know, it’s Alloy.”
The Knights of the Sapphire Sky
Scipio takes off his ring, a solid sapphire band, and spins it on the table. Judge becomes concerned that he’s trying to cast a spell. He attempts a counter spell, slamming his hand down on the ring to stop it spinning. “What are you doing?”, Marcellus asks. When they look around, they realize that they, along with Scipio, are standing in another world. Scipio grabs the ring, which is now hanging in air, and puts it back on. They recognize that this is similar to a pocket universe. The sky appears to be solid sapphire. It’s not like a normal sky, appearing more like a solid gemstone stretching from horizon to horizon. There are green hills, and they’re standing in front of a thin white tower. Scipio says, “I have some friends I want you to meet.” He lays a hand on King’s shoulder and says, “You’re not alarmed, are you?” Judge warns him against touching the Commander, but King says, “Well, we’re here now. Tell us about your friends.” Scipio says, “She will”, leading them to the tower.
Scipio says, “Please don’t be alarmed. This is what you might call a pocket realm. I know that you served in Alloy for a while, but they haven’t told me everything. Please follow me.” As they walk into the tower, Scipio asks about yesterday’s battle with the Sun Elf, making small talk. Judge suggests they should wait until they get where they’re going so they don’t have to repeat themselves. Boots starts singing part of the song he composed last night.
There are a lot of people working inside the tower, which appears to be a wizard’s tower. They pass libraries and people of most races except for Tieflings. After they climb several flights of stairs, they find a pool similar to the pool on the Isle of Madness. Behind the pool is a silvery being -- tall and shining like the Sun Elf -- that appears to be meditating. They notice an Orc, who looks older and is wearing a breastplate with a dragon on it. Scipio calls out and the Orc turns around and says, “Ah-ha, it worked!” Marcellus says, “I was very persuasive.” The orc steps forward and introduces himself to King as Darengar the Vilesilencer.
Slim asks about the silvery creature and Marcellus tells them that’s their patron. Darengar says that the Sun Elf was quite mad and that they just had the bad luck to meet into him after he escaped from Ringwell with an artifact. Darengar says, “Welcome to the resistance. The war against Ajax begins here. Marcellus has been bringing me the broadsheets.”
King asks what drove the Sun Elf mad and Darengar sends Marcellus off for refreshments, saying this would take a while.
Discussion with Darengar the Vilesilencer and Marcellus Scipio
The Sun Elf
Darengar says that the Sun Elf, named "Sun Reflecting Off a Lover's Eyes", had agreed to be interred in Ringwell because he was a good friend of the Emperor Octavius Maximus, who ruled the Caelian Empire many years ago. In Ringwell, he played a role in powering the wards that protected the dungeon.
They hand the note with the words the Sun Elf spoke to Darengar and he translates it. He says, “In The Sun Reflecting Off a Lover’s Eyes' perspective, it has probably only been a short period of time and that he was trying to find his friend, not knowing that the Emperor has been dead all these centuries.” That is why he said "The forbiddances fail! The seals are broken! The Emperor must restore them!"
Darengar explains that Ringwell is a dungeon that Octavius Maximus cleared out long before he became the Emperor, which he used to store many items he found in his adventures. Later, wanting to preserve the Empire, Octavius sealed Ringwell and its contents from the world and from memory, locked with wards and magically scrubbed from living memory and written record.
They think they have found the dungeon, and they believe the Chain were very close to its entrance when fighting the Sun Elf, Sun Reflecting Off a Lover's Eyes. He says that he thinks Copper, as a ranger, can probably help them find the entrance. Slim wonders if they couldn’t just destroy the entrances, but Darengar says this is impossible without breaking the seals and making Ringwell accessible to all.
The Chain wants to know what initially broke the seals and let Sun Reflecting out. Darengar says they don’t know. It could be that they degraded naturally, but that seems unlikely. They think the Sun Elf was one of the power sources that kept the wards powered. Now that the Sun Elf is no longer there, they think other wards will begin to fail.
Judge asks if they want to find Ringwell just to keep those items safe. Darengar says they hope the items inside can be employed to defeat Ajax, and he names some items believed to be in the dungeon. He says that they want the items brought from Ringwell to this tower. Judge says it might be useful to split up the powerful items to keep any one person from having access them. Darengar shakes his head and says, “Our only concern right now is stopping Ajax.”
Ajax and the Jade Hand
Boots asks whether the Sapphire Sky believes Ajax is breaking the wards and taking items from Ringwell, since he has the Jade Hand, one of the Wards of the Last Emperor. Darengar says they thought so, but they recently learned that the Jade Hand was not in Ringwell, but rather with the Pharaoh in Khemhara. Darengar confesses that they have been acting on conjecture since they cannot know what's inside Ringwell.
King tries to clarify why the Moon Elf opposes Ajax and Darengar says he can’t really say, except that the Knights of the Golden Cross quest across the world to stamp out evil, which he defines for Slim as “cruelty, selfishness, questing for power with no limit.” Slim challenges him, saying, “Maybe Ajax’s vision is for the good.” Darengar says Ajax would wash the world in blood. Slim seems confused by someone who would want to rule a world destroyed and asks if Ajax is mad. Darengar says, “Not yet.”
Pale White Light Glitters Off the Ripples of the Pool
King asks who is in charge here, and Darengar gestures to the Moon Elf meditating. He says her name is Pale White Light Glitters Off the Ripples of the Pool.
They ask if she’ll wake up and what this group's connection is to Ringwell. Darengar says the Knights of the Golden Cross are sworn to oppose evil, which leads them to oppose Ajax. She stayed here to give them a base when the rest of the True Elves left to live with their god in Arcadia. The sapphire realm is nested within and concurrent with the city, which she cannot leave.
The Black Iron Pact
While talking about the failing seals, Marcellus leans forward and says, “There is always evil, and even now Ajax’s allies in the city may be what caused the seals to fail.” King asks if they know who his allies are and Marcellus says, “They are protected from our oracles, but we know they employ shadows in Capital.”
Boots recounts to him the events at the Prince’s Footstool. The detail of the iron bar left on the floor causes a reaction from Scipio and the Vilesilencer. They say, “We believe they call themselves the Black Iron Pact.”
King says, “We are interested in this job, but we’re a mercenary company. We have a contract for Mortum, but if we assist you we’d need some recompense or aid for our time.” Darengar says, “We’re not in the habit of paying people to do the right thing.” They talk a bit, negotiating the terms of the contract, until Boots says, “If we help you, will you help us kill Mortum?” Darengar says, “Yes.”
Discussion with Pale White Light
The Moon Elf’s eyes open and she descends from her dias. She stops, looks at Judge, and opens her mouth. The sound that emanates from her sounds like someone playing a wine glass. Darengar listens and then says, “You are the first member of the Order of Desecration to enter our tower. Many other members of the order have died trying. We hope we have not made a mistake allowing you here.” Judge has a feeling of an engine in his mind that had always been there winding down and then he has a moment of clarity. He relives a number of memories, from his early days through to joining the Chain.
The Moon Elf speaks and Darengar says to Judge, “Your grace, I’m sorry to have doubted you.” Judge says, “I’ll allow it this once.” The Moon Elf retreats and goes back to her dias. Darengar says, “This is not news to you, I’m sure, but your friend derives his power from the antithesis of our patron.” Boots says, “Well, he doesn’t know what he’s doing with it anyway.” Slim says, “Does that not make him your enemy?” The Vilesilencer says, “As long as Judge serves the Chain, no.” Boots says, “Well, when someone joins the Chain, they leave their past behind. Isn’t that right, Judge?”
Judge says, “Mm-hmm.”
Marcellus looks at the Orc and says, “The Order of the Golden Cross has been known to turn a blind eye to people’s pasts before.” The Orc just smiles. Slim says, “Well, you don’t need to do that with me. Let me tell you about my past and all the great things I have done.” King suggests they do that later.
The Vilesilencer says, “I’d very much like to go myself, but should I do so -- if any of us should so so -- the Black Iron Pact would know. The less they know about what we’re doing, the better. It would be wiser for us to employ you, given you’ve proved yourselves capable by defeating the Sun Eelf. If you need anything, just ask Marcellus.” Marcellus agrees and says he has to attend class still, but he’ll make himself as available as he can. Mostly he can act as a conduit for information, "given my access to Pale White Light.”
King asks Marcellus if he has a Diplomat’s Pouch, but he doesn’t. Judge says it will probably take them a couple of days to get their things together, but is voted down, considering that they appear to already be close to the entrance and this matter is time-sensitive. Judge points out that they still have a letter to deliver. Boots suggests they give it to Angel and have Grumbles deliver it. King says Grumbles has also been tasked with keeping an eye on the blacksmith who is making their weapons and armor.
King sends notes back to Angel explaining this meeting and asks him to send Buts to the Dancing Minstrel so they can meet up with her and take her with them into Ringwell.
Questions for Darengar
Darengar says, “As I said before, our power lies in our knowledge. This may be the last time you’re here. Is there anything else you want to know?”
Boots asks what kind of force they should take and he says they probably should take a wizard.
King asks if they know if any of the Lords of Capital are on Ajax’s side. Darengar tells them who the other Lords are, apart from Pale White Light, and says, “You should count on some of them being on his side.”
Slim wonders if they can provide any insight about who they can trust and how to rebuild their numbers. Darengar says they seem to be doing a decent enough job of that on their own.
King says, “If you get any more information about the Black Iron Pact, please let us know. They’ve attacked and killed some of our men and have made themselves our enemy.” Darengar says, “Pardon me, but it’s more likely you’ll learn more before we do.”
Judge wonders what they’re getting out of it and Darengar reminds them that there will be artifacts in Ringwell that they can keep to employ against Ajax. In the short term, they’re most concerned with keeping these items out of the hands of the Black Iron Pact, who is probably having a meeting just like this one and might be responsible for the seals being broken. They realize it’s a race and determine that they need to get to Ringwell quickly.
The Chain asks if they know what’s in Ringwell, but the Vilesilencer says they don’t, due to the spell cast to remove the memory of Ringwell from the world. King asks if they know what artifacts Ajax might have, and the Vilesilencer gives them a list.
They wonder if Ajax might have a Sky Elf helping him and Vile Silencer says they wouldn’t be surprised.
King asks if they know Mortum’s true name, but he says that Mortum’s wards broke the last Oracle they employed to try to get that information. If they knew that information, Mortum would already be dead.
Boots says the last time he saw Capital, there wasn’t a whole sector ruled by the undead. He asks Darengar to explain. He tells Boots that Lady Valetta holds the Codex Mortis and tried to resurrect her dead husband, but failed.
King asks how does one become part of their organization and the Vilesilencer says someone has to sponsor you or it can be hereditary.
Judge asks how large the resistance is. Darengar says the Moon Elf doesn’t tell him everything, but he is sure they’re not alone. They think Ballisantirax is on their side, but Ballisantirax sleeps.
King asks if they can get the word out to Khemhara that they’re looking for recruits and he says they don’t really have anyone there who could spread the word.
King asks about the Crown of the House Valetta. Vile Silencer says it’s worth a lot of money and that, aside from its value, there’s nothing really special about it.
Leech wonders if they have any items that might help them in Ringwell. Marcellus asks Boots if he can use a short sword. Boots says, “Certainly.” Marcellus gives Boots his grandfather’s short sword and says he’ll need it, that the things in Ringwell will laugh at his rapier. Scipio says he’ll want it back.
Judge asks if they have anything two handed that would work for him. The Moon Elf’s eyes open and the Vilesilencer translates: “Does this make sense to you? She says bring the demon’s heart.” They make it clear that if The Chain brings the sinmetal and the demon’s heart, they can quickly make the items the Chain will need.
Marcellus says, “Let me show you around while we’re waiting for your friends.” Marcellus gives them a tour. It’s a combination library and magical lab. Vile Silencer takes over the tour while Marcellus goes to meet Buts, who is more than a little freaked out by the location. She says, “I think we’re in a gemstone.” Marcellus and the Vilesilencer smile at each other and say they’ve chosen the right wizard. She wants to know what she should do with these items and King tells her to give them to Marcellus. She says, “Is that a Moon Elf?” When they confirm that it is, she’s excited. She yells, “Wow,” and runs over to the dais. Buts tries to talk to her, but nothing happens. Judge says, “Sorry, Buts, but she only talks to me.” Slim says, “She doesn’t really talk. She sort of squeaks.”
They catch Buts up and she says, “Did you ask about Lady Sariel? Did you ask about what happened to Nails?” Buts has a whole list of questions. King asks about Lady Sariel and the Teeth of the Dragon. They say that they believe Lady Sariel is dead, destroyed when the Master Sword was destroyed.” King tells them briefly about Nails. They say The Pale White Light told them about it. They explain that his latent natural power just went into overload and that there was nothing they could have done. If they hadn’t stopped him, it would have destroyed him and he’d have gone mad. They say they saw something similar on the streets of Kings Cross, with the Sun Elf. Vile Silencer says, “The difference between what your sorcerer was becoming and a celestial would have been undetectable. If he had been an Elf, he might have been able to handle it.”
The loremasters convene to make Judge’s sword. They put the components in the pool and the Moon Elf’s eyes open. She converses with the loremasters and asks if they know what they’re doing. They tell her that they’re making tools for our servants, if she wills it. She closes her eyes and the pool turns black with a glowing red center. Out of the pool rises a glowing, demonic hand holding a sword. It’s still Judge’s sword, but in the pommel is a stone with a cat’s eye in it. Judge takes the sword and feels the power of the entity in the sword attack his mind, but he’s been trained to resist and the demon’s power bounces off. Judge gets the impression that the demon in his sword hates other demons and wants to slay them. Just to be sure, Vile Silencer warns Judge, “When you are weak, the sword will try to take over.” Judge says, “He can try.” Vile Silencer clarifies, “The weaker you get, the more likely the sword will take over. As long as your purposes align, you’ll be fine.”
They turn to Leech and asks what tool he needs. After some discussion, they make him a pact rod.
Vile Silencer reminds them that they’ve just invested a lot in them and that they’re the first team and he hopes they can be counted on. He says that anyone who is an enemy of Ajax is an ally of theirs. Marcellus takes his ring off and spins it and they’re back in the Dancing Minstrel, exactly where they had been to begin with. Marcellus says, “I really stuck my neck out for you. Please don’t let me down.” They reassure him that they won’t. He wants to know where they’re staying and King says they’ll either be here or the Pharaoh's Dream.
They find some traces of the Sun Elf’s blood on their weapons and give Bigcat the scent. She’s focused on the scent and lead them through the town, which freaks out the residents who either give them a wide berth or turn around and go the other way. They shortly find themselves alone in an alley. Bigcat searches up and down the alley, but seems confused, like the trail might be old. Copper uses a spell that gives him a sense of where the Sun Elf may have come from and heads off in that direction. Bigcat follows him as Copper follows the trail, which leads to an abandoned butcher shop that’s boarded over. Boots looks through the window. Everything is old and dusty. There’s a big marble counter for cutting and dressing meat and hooks hanging from the ceiling. King tries the door, which appears to be locked as well as boarded up. King removes the boards and passers-by give them a strange look. Boots says, “We’re going to reopen the shop.” The townsfolk are like, “Really?” He convinces them and they’re super interested in having a butcher shop open here again soon. Eventually, Judge gets fed up and says, “Keep moving,” and the people scurry away.
Boots tries to force the lock, but Slim misty steps in and opens the door from the inside. He hears a sound from somewhere else in the butcher shop, but he’s not sure what that sound was. He says, “Be careful, I heard something.” Copper asks Bigcat to guard the door because she’s too big to fit into the shop, then looks around for tracks. He sees humanoid tracks that lead right up to a door on the right-hand side of the shop. Copper stealthily leads the party to the door, which opens into the back of the shop where there are storage rooms. They follow the tracks to a mess hall with food on a plate and a place setting. They determine that the food is still warm and Leech recognizes it as drow food. Leech uses faerie fire to see if anything else is here because they’re suspicious that someone else might be here. When he’s done, outlined in the faerie fire is a drow assassin hiding in a corner.