The wizards sat, having gathered the conclave together, matters needed to be discussed, matters of import to the world the rapid changes that were occurring. To the mages of the conclave, who preferred the slower, more gradual change of time, the events taking place were altering the worldscape at a much faster pace than any present cared for.
The conclave consisted of the council of seven. Chosen by members of the Guild of Sartii Magi from their midst, they were some of the most powerful arcane spellcasters Warj’Arune had to offer.
The meeting was held atop the tower in the center of the Sartii capital city, Sartarus, and was heavily protected against intrusion or spying. The first to speak was the eldest among them, an ancient Elven mage, Falthrans; he rose from his chair at the head of their circle, the others sat at each corner of a six pointed star.
“I believe that we all know of which we are about to speak. The omens have fortold a great strife, conflict that will enter all corners of Warj”arune, conflict to rival, perhaps, even the Tanar’ri Wars of our past.” A murmer arose from the seated mages. “Please, please, this should not come as a surprise, the magnitude of these events. Lord Mishtar has left Sartarus, creating his own nation to the South, his nation of Ravannah. I have been shown, by the grace of my lord Boccob, the consequences of his succession. I have seen the rise of the Ravannah nation-state, and its fall into the hands of the Champion of Evil himself, Hextor.”
At this point another mage stood up, he was a human by the name of Tronar. “This is not for us, Falthrans! We are not to interfere in the battles of the gods, their conquests and defeats upon this plane. Even if such a thing does come to pass, which, by the way, none but you have seen any hint of Hextor’s dealings in the fledgeling nation; even if it does come to pass, if it shall be, it shall be, that is the way of things. Our duty is to continue despite the machinations of others, the magic, Falthrans, our duty is to the magic.”
Murmurs of approval arose from some of the gathered members. Falthrans merely looked sadly upon his fellow mage, “Tronar, you know it cannot be that simple. Let us say that evil is able to gain its hold here, offsetting the balance as it threatened to before. Let us say that such things come to pass, can you expect to have the freedom you take for granted now? Do you think that Hextor, or Erythnul, or especially Vecna will allow us to carry on independently? Do you honestly assume that we will be given the opportunity to carry on as we do now when any power not under control of their priesthoods will be seen as a threat? No my friends, that is not the way. As we would soon find our studies disrupted by clerics of good, seeking to end our studies into matters they see as “evil”, so too will those of evil try to take control of that which they fear or see as something they can use to their advantage. Seeking balance is not a matter of allowing things to fall as they may, no; I say it is a matter of making sure that when things fall, they fall evenly. If they do not fall evenly, then it is our duty to cull that which weighs too heavily upon either side.”
Again the gathered mages murmured in approval. Tromar, still standing, began anew, “Then what would you have us do? Join with military, under the command of King Gashan, to be guided by their principles? And what happens afterwards? Are we to merely break away, continuing where we left off with no lingering ties? And what about when “good” has won the day? Are we to then abandon our comrades in Sartarus to come to the aid of the floundering forces of “evil” so that the balance remains once again? The answer is most clearly no. We can only allow the world to carry on its own course, while we carry on ours. All will work out as it will work out, and only when it has worked out. The balance drops from one side to another as it continues on its way towards immobility, so too will the world find its own balance when the time has come, regardless of who tries to alter that. We are powerless to stop it, but we are still able to focus on what is truly important, the magic.”
“Fine, let us take a vote then,” Falthrans conjectured. “Let us two not control the decisions of the many. We have voiced our concerns, now let our learned brethren make up their own minds. What say you? Who would keep the freedom we now know by aiding Sartarus in quelling the rebellion to the South? And who would allow things to continue as they will, maintaining their position as that of a disinterested observer?” Chairs scraped softly against the stone floor, as mages rose, filing to one side of the table or the other, behind either Falthrans or Tromar.
“The voices have spoken, the Guild of Sartii Magi have chosen to aid Sartarus by a vote of four to three. We will –“ but Falthrans was cut off by Tromar.
“The council has spoken its dissent! A matter such as this requires an overwhelming majority, at least two thirds! One that involves our brothers and sisters so heavily in the politics of the nation-states cannot be a split decision.”
“No Tromar,” Falthrans spoke slowly, measuring his words. “In the case of a split decision, as it clearly is, three to three, the final vote shall fall upon the feet of the council chair. As it has, I have made my decision. The voices have spoken –” again Tromar broke in, this time the murmur of those who sided with him rose to match his pitch.
“This council does obviously does not speak for the entire Guild anymore! Corruption! What has Gashan promised you Falthrans?” Echoes followed, “Corruption!”
“What are you talking about Tromar? I have received nothing from Gashan! He does not even know of this vote. How dare you insinuate that I am being paid off. You will watch what you say, or I will have you removed from this meeting!”
“So this is how the council is to be run?” Tromar’s voice was a soft hiss, “Falthrans will run off those who do not side with his political orientations. How far have we fallen? How has this council of free speech and communication turned into a breeding ground for corruption and political gain? For shame, Falthrans, for shame. Come, those who will not fall victim to the political machinations of Falthrans, join me, let us form a Guild in the shadows of what this Guild once was!” Those standing near Tromar seemed to murmur in agreement, those by Falthrans could only stare wide eyed at what they knew was about to happen yet they were powerless to stop. “Come, my brothers, we will be the Guild of the Baleful Night, to commemorate this darkest of evenings, when our shining Guild fell to darkness.”
“Please, Tromar, do not do this. This is absurd. I have no ulterior motives other than what has been shown to me by my Lord Boccob! Please, brothers, listen to reason! You must hear me! As the country has split into factions, so too will the world fall into fragments, all battling for control, all powerless to stop the combined forces of evil. So do the Gods of chaos and evil divide those who might stand against them! Don’t you see what Tromar is trying to do? Don’t you see the shadow hanging over his shoulder? Don’t you feel the dark presence behind him drawing you towards it as insects to a flame?”
“Falthrans,” Tromar spoke from the midst of his followers, “how can you try to turn this against me? Do you think it will draw attention from what you are doing? It will not, I will not let it. Come, I cannot stand for his lies one moment longer.” Tromar began chanting, Falthrans and the others all recognized it as a spell of transportation.
“Then the division has begun. I pray to Boccob that you who follow will see the shadowy threads moving Tromar before it is too late.” Falthrans bowed his head, broken, defeated, and began casting a teleportation spell of his own.
Deep within a castle far from Sartarus, Tromar stands and lets his spell of disguise fall away. A woman moves from another room, softly sliding her arm around his waste. “All is as you have requested my Lord Vecna,” he calls out. “The Guild of the Baleful night has broken from the Guild of the Sartii Magi, they will not present a united front upon your return.”
This is good news indeed. Who is to lead this fledgling organization? It would not be you, would it?
Laughter bounces from the walls, but comes not from either person in the room. And when the time comes you shall see your reward Astor. That I promise.