“He’s stunning me!” I hear behind me, over the clangs and shouts of others in the party, deep in the heart of the halls of command inside the Tower of Despair.
The tanking fighter, immobile from a glancing blow, was saved from death by the hands of the pit demon Horoth only because another fighter began striking the monster, drawing the thing’s attention away.
I leapt over to the fighter, now revived from his stun, while beginning the rhythmic motions that attuned my ki to energize the party briefly in Grasping the Earth Dragon to ward briefly against future stunning attempts.
The pit fiend’s eternal orthon guard reappeared again. You could kill them again and again yet they reappeared. I wiped a bead of sweat and blood from the corner of my mouth and ran toward the closest one.
By now the party had been taxed in luring a second pit fiend, Suulomades, away from the main fight against Horoth, quickly consuming time, elixirs and health. More than once has a cleric nearly exhausted their divine resources in keeping the fighters alive and restoring life to two others in the party. In a few minutes, if we did not send Horoth into the abyss, none of us would live to discuss our failure.
I positioned my hand in the correct orientation for the Tomb of Jade and struck the orthon solidly in his chest. The creature froze as a wave of jade stone encased him solidly in place, hopefully for a minute or so.
With my Vampiric Stonedust Wraps in place, I positioned myself in the Greater Mountain Stance as another orthon threatened a spell caster, his attempts to slow or stop the stampeding beast failing each time. I chased the orthon, throwing strike after strike until it finally petrified, encased in unyielding stone. I looked about; two other enterprising spell casters had stoned the two remaining orthons. We bought a little more time for the fighters before these unkillable guards would revive and charge us again.
Just as I was assuring that the bulk of the party would not get stunned again, the unearthly scream of the dying pit fiend filled the hall–the party had vanquished him. Suulomades saw Horoth fall and chose not to meet the same fate, disappearing into the ether. It was over.
After the party cared for the injured, we sorted through the bounty left by the pit fiends. Much of it was treasure they had gathered from other failed adventurers. In one ordinary pile, I found what I sought. It was a knife-like relic, probably as old as the halls from where it rested. I helped get the party to safety, back to the floating fortress of Amrath, and then asked the planescaller to send me back to the plane of Ebberon.
In my dojo, I studied the act of crafting a special ring left to me by a monk of long ago that once fought in the fields of Shavarath. It gave Shintao Monks extra strength and wisdom. From my treasure I removed a necklace from my recent victory in the Tower. The ornate dark metals and single green stone showed a kindred with my ring. The necklace offered greater mental clarity for ki and better health.
I equipped both ring and necklace and felt a surge of energy. I’ve felt it before but only when wearing Pure Good handwraps. Together the ring and necklace allowed me to channel Good-aligned energies without additional equipment. Combined with my training in bypassing Silver and other metals by fist alone, I should have felt satisfied in my prowess against the forces of Shavarath.
But I knew better. I have seen warriors, with three times the might and strength I have, fall to the power of Shavarath. My skills may have made me dangerous, but I greatly doubted I was worthy of bringing ultimate victory for Ebberon.
I gazed at Kyosho’s ring, found something I had never seen before–an inscription that told me to “Unleash” a hidden power inside it. This would take more study than my dojo could offer, so I took to the roads to visit the training halls in Stormreach. Many new students were training there, stumbling and fumbling as they tried to master the simplest finishing moves. I found the one I searched for.
“Abbotess Syncletica,” he said, as we bowed to another. “It pleases me to see you still in one piece.”
“Glad to see you as well, Master. I wanted to ask you about this,” I said, showing him the ring.
The master nodded. “Ah, yes. You own one of Kyosho’s rings, too.”
“‘As well?’ I thought these were unique.”
“They are, in as much as very few of them were forged by the old master. Have you something to ask about it?” the master asked, stepping away from the training floor and walking into a hallway, motioning me gently to follow.
“Is there more to these rings than wearing them with the Cord of the Shintao? An inspection of the ring suggests there is more than meets the eye.”
The master frowned. “It’s not like you at all to seem power-seeking at all, Abbotess.”
His comment took me off-balance before I recalled, “The foes of Ebberon are not concerned with my lawful adherence to peace while they attempt to remove my head with a vorpal blade and turn the world into cinder,” I said in as neutral a tone as my frustration would muster.
“True, true,” the master nodded, stopping in a small room filled with scrolls. From a hidden alcove, he pulled out one scroll and unrolled it.
“I can recite the procedure for unleashing the Incredible to you, Syncletica, but I cannot give you this scroll.”
Many of the great monasteries in Ebberon were lost to the Quori wars, and scribes to make copies were harder to find. “I understand,” I said, taking a seat to prepare my mind, channeling my ki for eidetic memorization of the master’s words.
– – – – –
Two hours later, I was alone on the fields of battle in Shavarath. I declined a guide or a mercenary healer. If I were to fail, I did not want others to die with me over what might have been folly.
The crafting ingredients rested in my pack. All that was needed was to make my way to the altar.
As expected, the altar of subjugation was well guarded. As hoped, the small regiment of tieflings guarding it put up an insufficient fight.
I knew I was of little skill with crafting most things, and artificers would not be of use here. After a moment of recitation, I placed the ingredients on the altar, followed by the ring of Kyosho.
A flare of light erupted from the ring for a moment as the ingredients ignited and turned to ash. The ring looked unchanged.
I took it from the altar and put it on my right hand. The sensation of light weighed on every finger, as if I was holding a Holy Kama. The master’s instruction successfully added Holy Burst to my ring, stacking with my natural abilities as well as any other handwraps or weapon I could wield.
“This is among the most ancient of fighting knowledge, Syncletica. There is little left for you to learn in this life,” the master had told me.
I had never considered, until now, what the master meant, days after receiving the crafted ring. My charges in the dojo were maturing well, Lynncletica most of all. It would not be long before I would be able to grant her the status of Grandmaster.
But even as a Grandmaster myself, my resources still seemed inadequate against the forces of darkness. There had to be more than this. More than my training. More than this ring.
Before I left Stormreach, I read through another scroll in the library. Before she left this world, it was said that the great monk Kyosho had found the secret of reincarnation, enabling her to return stronger and larger, at the price of relearning her training. The scrolls say that this, combined with her ring, was what enabled her to defeat the evil pit fiend Arryitrekos in a pitched battle, ages ago. Her fight gave the world quite some time to catch its breath, for the pit fiend had taken many years to return from his imprisonment in the abyss.
I stood up to look at the nighttime sky. Soon, if I were to fulfill my destiny to save Ebberon, I must return to the beginning as well. But there was much to be done, particularly in keeping Lynncletica from killing herself before she masters her stances and becomes ready to teach others in my stead. Dead monks make poor abbots.