Chapter 6, Part I: Platinum Talons, I Choose You!

The Platinum Talons finished their heroes' tour of Boymin by putting on a great benefit concert in Platinum City: Boy-Aid. Their efforts to fundraise and build awareness saw them overflow the venue's capacity, resulting in a huge swell of support for the Darkness-ravaged town of Boymin.

Following the success of their benefit concert, they ventured into Platinum City where they heard a familiar voice yell out to them: Crete, the minotaur administrative assistant from the Warden's Coliseum. He asked them why they were out in the street when they should be prepping for their big match, with a cheeky grin. He explained that the Platinum Talons have become a sensation following their victory in the Tiny Baby Bracket during the Warden's Festival. He encouraged them to follow him to the coliseum where the biggest match of the Gladiatorial Grand Slam was about to get started.

Inside, the arena was packed full of people, and the cheers and jeers were echoing through the room. There were people calling out for the next battle and chanting various things as the Talons followed Crete into the stands.

As the battle started down in the arena, the announcer's voice boomed throughout the coliseum. "Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen to Gladitorial Grand Slam! For our headlining match today we have Blake 'The Rake' Jobberts vs. our heroes, our saviors, Mira Braveheart and Sean Goodingtonboy."

The crowd erupted with applause and cheering. Mira and Sean sprinted towards Blake to start the match, weapons raised and wasting no time to put the pressure on.

Blake guards himself and makes a few futile attempts at attacking the duo. Finally with a swift kick to the stomach by both of them, Blake is thrown back falling prone. Blake stands back up reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a whistle holding it high above his head. The crowd goes absolutely wild.

"Ladies and gentlemen, what could that possibly mean?!" Blake blows into the whistle letting out a loud sound that rings throughout the coliseum. The crowd falls silent for just a moment, nothing seems to happen.

"What are you trying to call a time out Blake?" says Sean. "The only time you'll be needing is recovery time!" yells Mira.

They both run in to deliver a final blow and you hear the sounds of hundreds of unseeen arrows being launched into the arena. Mira and Sean quickly disengage and hide behind a shield wall of their making.

"Where are those arrows coming from?! I can't see anybody firing them...NO, it couldn't be...!" the faint sounds of a lute begins to play as smoke fills the arena floor. "Ladies and gentleman what is happening?! This can't be's the Platinum Talons! They're not supposed to be here until later!"

You look over at the side of the arena where the alleged Platinum Talons are. You see four very small looking children dressed in shoddy clothes fanned out to protect the large, intimidating bugbear. Blake stands now with hands on hips, laughing at the duo and issues his first command.

Each of the "Platinum Talons" launched a signature attack against the rivals across the arena.

"Use your fireball, Xerxes!" and without hesitation the young lad takes an aggressive stance and shoots a bolt of flame that, with your discerning eyes, peters out just before it hits Mira. But something happens and she flies into the air and lands on the ground face first.

"Go for the eyes, Bart!" is heard next and from behind Blake, a small orange tabby cat appears. It begins to advance and then becomes distracted and starts licking its paws. You begin to hear the boos from the crowd, "DO SOMETHING". Bart continues to ignore everyone.

"Kill them from the shadows, Drez!" the noise of arrows fills the stadium again and you can hear the clanging of them hitting the duo's shields." But Drez and the arrows are nowhere to be seen? When you take a closer look from the arena floor at the duo, they seem to be hitting the inside of their shields to create that clanging noise.

"Cut them down with your witty words, Vance!" you hear a strum from the lute as little "Vance's" cracking voice lets out the phrase "your mom" over and over again. The crowd goes wild and Mira and Sean look a bit saddened and hurt. Over and over again Vance yells "Your mom" and strums his lute causing visible stress for the duo.

"Bring on the lightning, Firebrook!" Little "Firebrook," dressed in heavy woolen clothes, runs up to the shields and begins what looks like a formidable attack. "OH NO, It's the lightning hand! Mira and Sean better watch out or they'll be done for!" Firebrook begins to rub his arms all over his clothing and you can see his hair begin to stand up straight. He reaches forward and ever so gently places one finger on the shield letting out a small blue spark. You hear the anguished screams come from the duo as they seem to be filled with electricity.

"Go for the legs, Nohki!" The small child begins to run on hands and feet like a feral animal towards the duo. He herds them together, circling round and round faster and faster until he is nothing but a blur. Nohki suddenly lunges forward striking both of them at their ankles knocking them to the ground.

And for Blake, this is just another match day at the arena. His fight contract for the day stated that he would go at least three rounds with the duo before being defeated.

As you go to land one of your contractually obligated strikes to your heroic opponent, a strange sensation comes over you, and time feels like it slows down. You begin to think about your life and the life of your family. The constant teasing growing up as a bugbear in areas of the world where they were few and far between. You resigned yourself to playing the villain; it's how people noticed you, and respected you. You got so good at it that you made a career out of it and made it to one of the most famous arenas in all of Fynali: the Warden's Coliseum. Here you gained a following of fans and foes and finally found a place to belong. You've been playing the heel for so long that it is second nature. But even though you've been content, you suddenly feel restless. Like there is a raging torrent hidden within, begging, pleading to be embraced. A part of you that has been long since forgotten begins to swell within you, awakened by this polarizing feeling of heroism. You think for a moment: it could be me, I could be the good guy. And you begin to feel the cage you've placed yourself in for all of those years break down. There you are, your true-self, free to be whoever you choose to be.

Just as you make contact with your opponent, a deep hunger, a yearning for more over takes your whole being and you find yourself spiraling in an empty black void. Spinning and spinning out of control until you catch a faint object in the distance. You focus all of your willpower at that object and you begin to hurdle towards it. Before you stands a giant gate beckoning you closer. A soft voice is heard, "Blake, it is time for you to prove to the world how heroic you truly are." The gate opens and you continue through to another gate. Another voice this time, it sounds older and comforting, "Blake, you are more important to Fynali than you realize. Take my power so that it may guide you to others who share your same goal. Until we meet again".

This surge of power and renewed sense of self cracks away the villainous facade that once was your entire life. And suddenly, you are back in your body, in the arena, your mace halfway through its swing. The momentum continues forward and the blow from your weapon slams down on the challenger. A frosty blue star of light bursts from the end of your mace and ice begins to coat your opponent. This wasn't supposed to go over and tap on the frozen combatant to see if this was their doing. As you tap their face, the ice cracks and shatters leaving nothing but a pile of frozen shards where the body once was. The crowd is stunned, "Blake 'the Rake' Jobberts killed Sean!?" The confused announcer shouts.

The crowd erupts in a frenzy as hundreds of spectators all begin to cheer for Blake. "I knew he had it in him! Way to go! That guy sucked anyways! You're the true hero!"'re a hero? You've never been called that before and you certainly don't feel like one. In fact you're panicked. You just killed your friend, furthermore... you broke your contract and you know what that means. as you finish that thought you see five figures jump down onto the arena floor and draw their weapons: it's Farraday's Blue Chippers.

Frightened, the mini Platinum Talons rushed out of the arena and away from the rather real danger that was suddenly unfolding, leaving only Blake in the ring to defend himself.

The real Platinum Talons then decided it was time to show the coliseum what being real heroes looked like-- they headed into the champions' ready room and queued up a theatrical entrance of their own.

Xerxes decided to use Sending, asking Blake to blow his whistle again. Blake, panicked and with no better ideas for how to get out of his situation, blew into his whistle again.

As the Blue Chippers immediately descended on Blake, Firebrook whipped up a gust of wind, creating a cloud at the entrance of the arena. The beat of Vance's drums rang out through coliseum as Drez loosed a bundle of arrows that began to rain down around the Blue Chippers. From the cloud of dust, the real Platinum Talons emerged, their presence gaining a roaring round of applause from the audience in the stands.

The problem with bringing true flesh and blood gladiators into a Gladiatorial Grand Slam event was instantly obvious. The Platinum Talons were there, not just to neutralize the threat in the ring, but to kill them. Which, for someone like Blake, who was already in fairly deep trouble with his employer, was stressing him out in a big way.

They kept two of the chippers alive, wanting to question them. They seemed obstinately unwilling to tell the Platinum Talons anything. The group brought the chippers into the streets of Platinum City, trying to figure out what to do when the Warden's Shield began to shudder and call to them. Typhon's voice called through the shield, asking them to please hurry to the citadel.

Bringing the two chippers, the talons arrived at the citadel, greeted quickly by Typhon who has the chippers placed in holding. He brought the Talons somewhere they would not be over heard and offered his sincerest apologies to them about the death of Bart. The group assured him that she's not dead anymore, and she was returned safely to her home in Boymin to spend time with her family. The Talons then offered, in return, their condolences to Typhon about the death of his friend, Tali.

Typhon and the group debriefed about the previous events surrounding The Darkness and the Order of Righteous Conflict. He explained that The Order are hunters of the powers given to the Blessed, and that they have been seeking access to these abilities since their inception. With the information given to him from the Talons, Typhon proposed that the Order was potentially trying to use the Solana abilities to create their own version of The Blessed.

He explained that no one had ever been able to get close to the essences of Solana before, and that he was concerned that the reason so many were potentially accessible now was that they had gotten much too strong to hide any longer. He feared they would be a beacon to those who sought to use them instead of destroy them

Typhon also explained that the Shard of the Forgotten Darkness that the Talons found following their battle was a powerful but containable remnant of the essence, and that if they found a smith talented enough-- he believed the only ones would be those from Zaltara-- the shard could be forged into a powerful weapon or armor.

On the way to interrogate the Blue Chippers, Blake explained who he was to the Talons. He introduced himself as the Dad Bugbear from the Tiny Baby Bracket "Take Your Daughter to Work Day," and that he had been hired to take a theatrical fall to give them a boost in the competition rankings that way. He told them about the Gladiatorial Grand Slam, which was basically a league of gladiators who created shows based on performance and characters instead of on combat prowess. He said that the league was owned and operated by Farraday Lawson, and since the GGS was still in the early stages of development, it wasn't yet the real money-maker for his boss. So, to turn a profit, Lawson created a business model that would work with coliseums and arenas around the world and provide the coliseum with gladiators who would take the fall during battles to help the coliseum boost the chances of specific teams or champions that they wanted to see do well for one reason or another.

Blake expressed that his true passion was in the GGS, and he had hoped to see it really turn into something big one day. Blake believed that due to his power being accessed at such an inopportune time, resulting in the death of one of the "heroes" of the event, that he was going to be hunted down by Farraday and his Blue Chipper, the individuals that Farraday paid to ensure that people who were supposed to lose did so.

Blake also told the Talons that he had been looking for them since the Tiny Baby Bracket. Their victory resulted in a bunch of t-shirt sales with their names and faces on them, and Blake wanted to give them their cut. He gave them all a 228 GP cut from the profits.

The Talons arrived in the holding cells of the two Blue Chippers, who refused to tell them anything. With the help of Vance's Charm Person spell, they let them know that Farraday was going to kill Blake and he wasn't going to stop until it was done. Vance learned the names of the chippers were Targus and Charli.

Vance then began to explain in detail, to the horror of his companions, that the Platinum Talons all had special powers given to them from the gods. Targus and Charli seemed to be very interested in this information, and so the rest of the Talons realized that they were probably going to have to kill these two people.

After slaying the chippers, Firebrook attempted to send them both to Vortegus. Charli was sent with ease, but when Firebrook performed the rites for Targus, a phantasmal hand from the ground reached up and yanked Targus down, a rough voice claiming that "This soul belongs to another."

The Talons finished up their day in the city, and Firebrook and Xerxes visited Toobert's book store to investigate the supply chain issue with the materials for his books. Toobert explained that there had been a sudden shortage of the material spell components he needed to make his books as it appeared someone had been buying them all up. He expressed that the books he was selling costed what they did because the price to make them was so high. He promised that he would only sell the books at a price that would allow him to make a living and continue running his business, and that if he sold them any lower, it would be a completely unsustainable business model.

The Talons retired to the guest house on the Citadel grounds, and that night when they slept, they found themselves once again in the Dream Suite of the Moonlight Carnival.

Within the sea of blurry faces, they were able to make out that of Grooge. They spoke to him, and theorized that the people in the Dream Suite were former Blessed who had since died. They then saw Deathblossom and Targus among the faces Deathblossom feigned hurt when they implied that she couldn't be Blessed. Irritatedly, she alluded that she just might be blessed by someone else.

Before they could get any more information, the environment shifted once again.

The crowd of blurry faces parts as the images of Grooge and Deathblossom and Targus fade back into the amalgamation, blended seamlessly amongst the other figures. And from the center, two new people step forth. These figures are immediately visibly different from the others, their forms solid, vivid and corporeal. One is a tall, thin elven man, his form lithe and graceful like a dancer. His hair is a dark gray shade at odds with his more youthful appearance, his meticulously groomed goatee the same steely gray color. He wears a well-fitted seafoam green suit with teal accents, and a pair of round glasses which are perched halfway down his nose. The other figure is much smaller: a female gnome with an expression that is at once painfully bored and remarkably vexed. She has a mass of thick and curly black hair that, had it not been twisted into a high, careless bun, might have reached down past her lower back. She wears spiked hide armor that is a few shades lighter and pinker than her violet eyes.

"Welcome back to the Dream Suite," she delivers, deadpan. "You've reclaimed the second level of your powers. Congratulations."

They introduced themselves as Trixie and Adalair, the owners of the Midnight Carnival. Vague and infuriatingly condescending, the pair talked around a lot of important information, giving the Talons a few bread crumbs to tide them over. With the right and wrong questions, the Talons learned that Trixie and Adalair had gotten tired of the Blessed continuously losing, and so they had done something they never did: interfere with the lives of lesser beings. They were the ones who brought all of the original Talons together to jumpstart the saving of the world or whatever, and they hoped that the talons don't mess it up. They expressed that the "heroes" were getting close to the end, and they hoped they figured out much more of what was going on before then.

Completed: January 2024