Technically, we had not come back to Viscum at the time of the war. By the time we return to the forest 11 days after the fall of the Undying Temple, the battle is long over. There, after a day or two of rest, Heian and Silenius report to Heian’s father. Heian’s father asks for a detailed report of everything that has transpired the party, which Heian and Silenius do; this takes, obviously, a while.
First and foremost, the Council and, by proxy, the major Houses were, well, growing very skittish. The recent attacks, the presence of humans and drow in the forest, the being thrust into the midst of continental events – all and more had contributed to the general sense of flux, of change. The Council of Viscum is a conservative Council, even (perhaps especially) amongst elves, and change is neither welcomed nor easily dealt with. The Companions, even as they slowly went about reacquainting themselves with their homes and families, could feel the unease rippling through the entirety of the Houses, and the closer one was to the Council, the more the unease was felt.
Afterward, Heian’s father told Heian and Silenius of a couple things that had transpired while the party had been gone. First, the Elves of Viscum had sent two battalions of Forestrunners, fine woodelven archers to aid the Ravenwinders in their battle against the Undead and Drow foes. Couriers returned to the Council and reported the large battle between the human forces and the Drow as a rout by the Ravenwinders. The Sons of Stern destroyed the encroaching Drow and moved southward; however, during the engagement, a cadre of around 100 horsemen escaped and plunged into the Viscum; the Forestrunners followed, with an eye toward tracking and ambush – but amazingly, were ambushed themselves – these were no human cavalry, nor even Drow, but something… different.
The Master, it was revealed, was no human. His mission: to come to Viscum. The village of Seker, long the home for the grand, rambling temples of Labelas Enoreth, was directly and viciously attacked. Reports from Seker were… disconcerting, when they came at all.
And so, Heain’s father went on, it came to light: nearly 5000 years ago, before the Crown Wars, before the Invoked Devastation, there was a House of elvenfolk, High elves, called the Delagas. Always perverse, it eventually came to light that they had consorted with demons. the eventual result – a demon-elf hybrid, called “demon-fey,” strong, duplicitous and full of hate. The elvenfolk banded together and tracked the scions of House Delagas, perhaps five score, perhaps a few more, and imposed upon them isolation and senescence – put them in stasis and buried them. Or so they thought.
“The Master is of House Delagas, and a lord amongst it feral folk,” explained Heian’s father. Five days ago, the Forestrunners found the Master’s horsemen – leavened with fellow demonfey. Battle commenced, and the Elves of Viscum comported themselves as in history – all the master’s humans lay dead, their stinking blood polluting the sacred earth. But the Master and the rest of House Delagas? Gone, either by Teleport or some other majick, for none of the trackers amongst the ‘Runners could find print or spoor of any of the foul creatures.
And lastly, Solotharius Viscum had slipped into a coma, likely soon to retreat to his final solace. The brooch at his throat pulsed with each of his somnolent heartbeats, slowly but inexorably counting out the last days of his life. Heian nodded soberly when his father spoke the words, hardly a whisper and a glance passing between the two kinsmen.
Of the demonfey, Heian’s father could tell little. The Elven fathers of House Delagas bred themselves Outsider-touched sons, who bred even further toward the Hells. Their skills at Teleportation were extraordinary; their puissance in Sorcery second to none, and their warriors both extremely skilled and utterly ruthless. Their malevolent blood gives them much power and defense – immunities, innate majick, who could know? – and they come in a variety of repugnant forms, from those who could pass for elvenfolk in our own villages, to hideous monstrosities who would find any pit in the Nine Hells a fine home. A note: they do not practice much pure Wizardry, so far have they strayed from their noble blood; and, though Outsiders and Touched thereof, Oerth is their home plane, and they find travelling the planes difficult. While some may walk the Ether or enter the Astral plane, they a loathe to do it and will only do so for short times.
The Forestrunners reported a score and five of House Delagas – which means, of the legends are correct, that four score more may exist – either buried in stasis, awaiting the call of the Master, or released, awaiting their Lord’s instruction. And the Master’s hatred for unTouched elves showed his triumph over the Drow as well – they followed him, and he betrayed them and their undead slaves, to the humans and the elves. The Companions role in that betrayal was, even now, the toast of Viscum. And the Master bears an item of colossal power – a Token, most likely. More could exist, and might be in the hands of other members of House Delagas. Simply put – no one knows.
“Which brings me to you, my beloved son, and your compatriots,” sighed Heian’s father heavily. “Viscum shelters you today – but the Master and his House seek you, both to avenge your disrupting of his plans, and to acquire those things…” [he gestured gravely at the quiescent sword on Silenius’ hip] “…that you gathered on your travels. Tomorrow or the day next, you must leave here. You are…” Heian’s father looked at his son carefully. “You are targets, now, of House Delagas and it’s foul Lord. He will not rest until he has you, and he will burn all of Viscum to gain your deaths.”
The talk returned to Solotharius. “The Council, of course, is in an uproar,” said Heian’s father. Solotharius and House Viscum held sway for centuries – maintained the power structure, the social construct of the Houses of Viscum. The had always been opposition – collegial opposition, a philosophical counterargument that bolsters the status quo. It was ever thus. But in the last few years, Solotharius iron control seemed to slip. Attacks on the wood in recent years; disengagement with the humans despite their fecondity and territorial gains – we are a small, dwindling nation amidst a sea of humanity, something Solotharius would never acknowledge; and now, the knowledge that at least a score of demonfey slept unquietly under Viscum herself, while the Woodelves lived above, unknowing. There was more, of course – the High ones at Thornhold had not been heard from in days, not out of the question during normal times, but these were not normal times.
Silenius went then to House Varanasi, and spoke with his own father: How fare we, milord? asked Silenius of old Teledesic Varanasi. Teledesic puffed his pipe twice, blinked back a bit of water at the unearthly, opaque gaze of his son’s pearly eyes, then said: “More voices rise in opposition to House Viscum each day, and her liege-Houses as well. ‘Tis only the presence of the artifacts, especially the Sword, that moderates it. Many houses wait and see who will ascend to the Speakership while old Solo’ passes across the Sea. You – and the Sword you bear – maintain the status of House Varanasi.”
Teledesic re-lit his pipe, puffed it to life, and asked: “What will you do, my son? Take the High Cleristership from Laucien Galanodel? Assemble a regiment and declare yourself Defender of the Faith? Or – wish upon wishes! – return to our home, sit at my right hand and aid me in the continued success of our House and Concern?”
“Would that I could, father,” Silenius said softly. “My path takes me again from Viscum. I shall tarry a few days only, then my companions and I must turn our faces once more to the wind.”
“Your companions are fewer today then yesterday, Silenius,” observed Teledesic. “Ashrem abides in a tent in Low Viscum, in the care of the Druids. Liad Visat is likely to take the Forestrunner vow, he shan’t ride with you again. Chrono Hale, Ubik’s apprentice, has cloistered himself in the vanishing Tower and darkens its door for no one, elf or human.”
“You are remarkably well informed, father,” Silenius replied.
“My son’s business is mine as well,” said Teledesic simply.
Silenius paused, then said: “Indeed. Nevertheless, the day come swiftly when I must leave again…”
“… and you will stay here until then,” finished Teledesic. “Come, my son – the wine has breathed enough. Let us have a glass, and ease the approach of the eventide.”