As the band of heroes wing over the city, the implications of the fight in the onyx courtyard become immensely apparent. The city has been completely ravaged almost all the way to the seneschal’s perch. The remaining buildings and upright walls are few and far between and all the way is paved with bodies.
Luckily no angels spot the fleeing party. Off in the distance, a speck appears high above the cloudy landscape. It quickly becomes a white-stoned palace with tall black-topped spires floating with no visible means of support. You land at the gates to find Baron Reilan waiting, but Baroness Edara keeps flying over the outer wall on her huge shadow beast she had summoned.
“Welcome to Melindra’s Bastion, my friends. She is throwing a masquerade ball, so you’ll each need a mask… or one of ”/campaigns/shadowscape/items/mask-of-madness" class=“wiki-content-link”>these." He holds out what at first glance appears an ordinary mask, but the longer you look at it, the more sinister it seems. “It is known by our artificers as a ‘mask of madness’. It has strange chaotic powers that may be of use to you.”
Feathersong quickly produces gold to procure one such mask, but the others haven’t enough. “Edara has gone ahead to alert the seneschal of your presence. I must go report to her, but in the meantime please feel free to partake of the festivities. The food will clear the fog of battle from your war torn minds and heal you of any injuries you’ve accumulated.”
They walk through the sparkling gateway into a grand courtyard of flawless alabaster brimming with richly dressed cloaked figures. In the center an enormous fountain of champagne has been enchanted to bubble and sparkle endlessly. Surrounding it are tables heavily laden with exotic foods. This is the nobility of Shadowscape.
The pleasant banter belays not ignorance of the strife and warfare below, but indifference. Any questions are met only with blank or affronted gazes before the questioned stalk away indignantly.There is an all-pervading aura of carelessness throughout the assembly. It comes as a relief when a black-clad page spirits the heroes into the keep. He leads them through a mass of spotless white hallways, then through a nondescript doorway into an enormous, yet equally nondescript room brightly lit with no visible light source. In the center of the room, on a large purple cushion is the same purple haired little girl that was threatened in the onyx courtyard.
“You!?” she exclaims, “You’re the mongrels that were in my way!” She turns back to Reilan, who is standing uncertainly by her side. “I can’t say I agree with you, Reilan. I’m opposed to anyone waking Paulsalto, let alone these ragtag wannabe do-gooders. Now, get them out of my sight. I don’t like wasting my time.”
Reilan appears next to the adventurers and introduces them to the girl as though he had not heard the girl. She, however, displays only impatience and derision as she taps her nails against a black heart-shaped pendant. “And this, my friends, is Melindra, the Seneschal of Neutrality. She has ruled over the shadow casters since Paulsalto was put to rest nine centuries ago.”
She cuts him off with a gesture. “Yes, yes, Reilan, everyone knows who I am. Now state your case… better!” She flops onto her stomach, puts her chin in her hands, and kicks her feet impatiently.
Unfortunately, Feathersong’s temper reached its peak with this last arrogant display. “And what, pray tell, would a pitiful little snot of a girl know of the worthiness of adventurers!?”
“…I have… I think I left my guild hall on fire!” Reilan stammers before disappearing with a swish of his cloak.
An unnaturally deep growl excapes Melindra and reverberates around the room. She grows in size, slowly as first, but then faster and faster. Her limbs stretch and thicken into bunches of muscle. Her skin and clothes lighten to white and shimmer as shiny scales pop out. Her hair silvers and stretches into shimmering wings that stretch easily across the enormous room and a crest over her scaly head. You now find yourselves facing a gargantuan silver dragon. She snarls and releases a jet of ice onto the ceiling, creating a thorny mat of dangerously sharp icicles strait overhead before rounding on the shocked party.
“Now, whelplings, who dares challenge me for the right to disturb my lord and love?”
Edara comes in, dragging a struggling Reilan behind her. “The fight goes badly for us down below. We cannot hold the city without the shadow keepers. Paulsalto must be awakened for us to prevail.”
Reilan straitens up, removes Edara’s hand from his lapel, and says in a firm voice “We declare right of a trial to test our heroes. If the pass, they awaken Paulsalto… if they fail, they die and are lost souls wandering the Shadowscape for all eternity.”
Melindra growls, then thinks better of it and utters an earthshaking chuckle. She shrinks and is a young human girl again before she strides up to Reilan. He kneels, but she lifts his chin so they are face to face. “Fine… they shall have a test, and when they are doomed for eternity it will be a stain on your soul. They shall have to… hmm, they already killed Aralanda… accumulate a total of three great feats on behalf of the shadow casters. They have already proven themselves by defeating Aralanda, so next they shall quell the devil uprising. They shall kill your dear cousin Gantrark. And after that, if they survive, they shall fight ME!… or I suppose they may slay Paulsalto’s guardian. Then and only then may they travel to the city of secrets and attempt to awaken Paulsalto with my blessing.”