As King Codrus and his gathered allies were making their decision of returning to Saruun Khel for an audience with the waiting Yeenoghu, Kuono found himself pulled into a strange vision, where he waited by a fire, along with his patron goddess, Avandra, as Lorzod made his way, along a dirt road in an alien wilderness, toward their camp. The bugbear ranger was lost, and confused, unsure how he had come to be where he was. Kuono then realized that to successfully navigate this vision to its conclusion, he would have to help the wandering stranger make an important choice. As the conversation played out, Kuono and Avandra both tried to explain to Lorzod the very reality of the trappings of Fate—and the idea of being fated for anything, out of his own control, did not sit well with Lorzod. Kuono also found himself disturbed as well, though not by his patron’s words. It was her presence which was most unsettling, for she had not appeared in this vision in her usual form to him—a beautiful minotaur—but instead as one of the hairless apes, slaves of the invading Yuan-Ti, and seemed unwilling (or, perhaps, unable?) to cast it off.
Kuono’s divinations for Lorzod revealed that he had two choices: two walk back the way he had come, to a path of bloodshed; or, to continue forward on his current path, to a place of unknown change that left everything behind him. Perhaps for no other reason than an unwillingness to accept his fade, Lorzod chose to choose neither path, instead picking a cardinal direction not defined by the road he had walked toward the encampment, bidding Kuono and the goddess farewell as, with a raised eyebrow, she murmured in his passing, “I believe this game has just become very interesting.”
With the vision at its completion, Kuono snapped out of his reverie in time to watch as the king and his entourage gathered their things and, along with the goblin emissary Twicks, began their journey toward Saruun Khel, bidding Kuono and his companions return to Gorn and the front line of war.
Along the way, Dyrdruh asked the party questions about the city, as she had never seen one and wished to know what to expect. In turn, the party discovered that she had known their ally, Rog, in her youth, and finally learned to which tribe Rog had shared blood before making his way to Ruul and swearing fealty to Torm: none other than the Stormcrow. Dyrdruh also hinted at some dark history which may have played a part in Rog’s modern penchant for silence.
Once arrived to the city, Buteo checked in with a human slave who had been captured during the early stages of the war, and which he had taken it upon himself to build rapport with in an effort to bridge the communication gap with the apparently primitive slave species. Though a modicum of progress was made, his efforts overall yielded no major breakthroughs, and little fruit, thus far. Dyrdruh stuck closely with Codrus and Culgecka, who visited the city armor for a resupply and to arm Dyrdruh before preparing to meet with Yeenoghu. Meanwhile, Kazakorn made his way to the Kobold Worker’s Union, to check in with its leadership and make sure that the leaders of Ruul had thus far been honoring their agreement, and had begun to treat the Kobolds who fueled their forges of war with the equal standing they deserved.
Sarna had other business with Kazakorn, however. He took his kobold fellow to a local tavern, and introduced him to a minotaur named Greth, who Sarna said was a lot like Kazakorn, in that he claimed to share the empowerment of a god, much as Kazakorn had claimed to carry on behalf of Torm. Greth revealed to Kazakorn that he served Shar, and offered his services to the empire of Ruul on behalf of his goddess. Gathering the new ally, Kazakorn made to reconnoiter with Codrus and the rest of his traveling companions.
Together, they made their way to the throne room, where they found Yeenoghu and Chauntea already waiting. Yeenoghu sized up the king, and took a moment to explain to all gathered the folly of the game of empires which Torm, and even the Yuan-Ti, had begun, going so far as to cite that the dream of civilization which the people of Ruul believed to have been born with Torm was not, in fact, such a new idea at all, and hinted that times such as these had come before. The portent was dire, and Yeenoghu made his belief that, regardless of the war’s outcome, the end result of the experiment of order and empire would be apocalyptic in scope. Still, he confessed that the gnolls loved a good war, and that he could bring them into the service of the empire on one condition: that Codrus defeat him in single combat, then and there.
The king agreed, and a vicious standoff ensued. Both the king and Yeenoghu fought with all their ferocity, skill, and might, while Chauntea and the king’s allies looked on. At the long battle’s conclusion, both the king and Yeenoghu where beaten, bloodied, and bearing permanent scars. Yet, with little more than a single breath of his own remaining, Codrus brought Yeenoghu to his knees, and the fallen warrior swore the gnolls into his king’s service for the war to come.
As Yeenoghu limped from the throne room, and Codrus himself collapsed, wracked with pain and covered in blood, onto his throne, perhaps for the first time feeling as though he had truly earned the right to sit where Torm once had, the gnoll offered one last piece of jaded wisdom.
“You wish to know how to win a game of empire, King of Ruul? I will tell you. The only way to win this game of thrones, in which you and these serpents have cast yourselves, is if everyone chooses not to play.”