Pressing on, they found another Ethari blocking their path. This was a problem as Merlynar had no magic left - and without Prayer couldn't empower mundane weapons to damage it. Mohimas provided a working substitute, and Merlynar startled even himself by killing the demonspawn with one arrow, straight through the eye.
Once clear of the city, the Queen's escorts set off across the Bretonian countryside as unobtrusively as possible. Their objective was to cross the Breton Ridge and reach the Forest of Maldrik, known to house elves and probably a Willowstar temple, from which they could step across to Rosengrad and get the ex-Queen home. For a while things went well, with the lady's maid Vali screening them from a patrol with illusions, and Keros'ean the druid dissuading some hunting dogs.
After that, though, the opposition became more serious.
Craf, tutor of the best warriors in Gundren's bodyguard, turned up to 'execute' her. Merlynar killed him with a single arrow in the eye.
Two of his protoges followed up. Pelmas Webbed them, and Merlynar killed them with a single arrow each in the eye.
Their path was next blocked by the insane necromancer Vorg, an ex-suitor of Gundren, who was raising the dead to oppose them. Merlynar killed him with a single arrow in the eye.
Clearly, the Goddess was guiding his aim that day!
After that, however, things began to go wrong. First came the news, by dream, that brave Mohimas had been captured in Gren Breton by Illeum Runesabre, and expected to be tortured and converted to some sort of dreadful undead set to pursue them. He recommended a route over the mountains to the Forest of Maldrik, but the group discareded this advice as unsafe. Instead, they turned along the coast looking for a boat.
At Halstran they discovered a dreadful yellow plague wiping out the inhabitants. A demon named Cobryllia, disguised as a sorcerer helping fight the plague, was actually spreading it, and by scrying with his Reflecting Pool spell Merlynar discerned a young woman with a golden katana aiding him - similar to the one described by Mohimas as aiding Runesabre. They cornered the demon and assaulted it, despatching it after a tough fight. Keros was left with an unused Call Lightning spell, which hadn't been ready in time when they caught sight of the mystery swordswoman atop a nearby hill. Without hesitation, Keros blew her off her horse and trapped her under it, and brained her with his quarterstaff when he reached her. Only then did it emerge that this was Miralis, Runesabre's daughter. A dangerous enemy had been made!
After a long period of airborne travel, the group reached the coast and took a ship south. The captain attempted to double-cross them, but they fought free although at price of sinking the boat. Reaching the Forest of Maldrik at last, they were welcomed by the friendly but diminutive and backward Lokus elves. Driven by the thought of reaching a temple and saving the Queen, Merlynar pushed the party on, in the face of growing evidence that there wasn't a full temple in the Maldrik at all. In fact there was nothing; Runesabre had got there first and the Lokus elves' shrine was destroyed. Lung, Valli and Gundren flew off at this point but Merlynar, Keros, Pelangar and Pelmas were trapped in a hastily Stone Shaped bunker by Runesabre himself. Things looked all up when the cavern started bleeding; but unexpectedly they were rescued by Elena, daughter of Malkar and Willowstar, who seemed to have taken quite a shine to Merlynar, although her dark brother Malakar was scornful of her compassion.
Escaping, they retreated west again to the city of Sallik. Merlynar made a point of apologizing to his comrades; he'd led them astray based on his mistaken hopes for the Maldrik temple, and nearly got everyone killed. It seemed that striving for Rosengrad was unwise at this point, so the decision was taken to follow Lung's quest for his people to Sharok, and hope to fall out of the perception of those warring over Bretonia.
Taking ship from Sallik, they waved farewell to the incendiary craven Keros, who elected to remain behind, and headed for the island. It became apparent that the waters were thick with privateer vessels belonging to Runesabre, but they were unmolested by mortal hand. It was a storm that sank the boat, slaying the captain and (it later emerged) Queen Gundren. The adventurers were cast up on a tiny island with the five surviving sailors.
There they remained for nearly a month, hiding out from Runesabre's searching ships and biding their time, in a concealed bunker wrought with Stone Shape spells. Finally, however, a Bretonian ship brought a female demonologist named Rayenna to Gundrend Isle, who raised an awful demon and bade it bring her Gundren's body. This was impossible, because our heroes had vaporized it days earlier, and for some reason this broke her control of it, and it consumed her before taking its' form. Merlynar was only just restrained from charging out to try and stop it escaping, disguised as her, to wreak chaos elsewhere.
This was enough warning, and the castaways left the island by means of a Plane Shift (to the Elemental Plane of Water and back) for the Elenorian Forest. There, Pelmas was healed of his maiming, and Merlynar alerted his old teachers among Illyanth's demon hunters to Rayenna's doings before Callion the high priest of Willowstar took him off, apparently to be brought before the Queen.
There he was told some more details of the nature of his companion Vali, and the dangers surrounding her. None were to be trusted, he was told, not even Archibald of Rosen. Assuring the Queen of his commitment to the Valinari's safety, Merlynar left - only to run head-on into Malakar, bastard son of Malkar and Willowstar. This godling - not a nice boy - made it clear that he disaproved very strongly of Merlynar having any contact with Elena, and threatened him if he spoke to her again. Merlynar threw this back in Malakar's teeth; “That said, I am a servant of my Mistress. I strive in the cause of my Goddess, and I may fall; anyone may. But I say to you, Son of Andurien, that my course is not to be deflected by threats of being made ‘an example’ of. Were I to fail my trust for fear of that then I would deserve it. I fear you not; while I wield her power, the Lady of the Elves approves my work, and it is not your place to change it.”
Malakar spat and left. Merlynar then encountered a strange, plain human man, who declared himself Merlynar's "only friend", and strongly advised him to seek the ruins of Erlain's Point, north of the Elenorian Forest.
On leaving the forest, the companions did just that, travelling across the icy plains north of Elenoria with the aid of Merlynar's Endure Cold magic. The Point turned out to be just the ruined stub of a tower atop a hill, but a peerless obersvation point with a 60-mile view in every direction.
The group settled in and fortified it, laying in pentacles of travel for escape, and aStone Shaped bunker in case of unpleasant events. This proved wise, as within a few days they were surrounded, by Archibald of Rosen, three of his best scouts, three Ethari, and Illeum Runesabre himself.
Archibald tried to talk them down, and persuade them to hand over Vali to his "safe keeping". While not wanting to start a fight with Archibald, the group refused him and sent him away.
Next to attack was Runesabre, who created a pentacle half a mile away and began sending demons against the Point. With a mixture of appropriate magic, deadly archery from Merlynar, a dash of necromancy from Vali and courageously wielded blades, the demons were thrown back, and defiance expressed to Runesabre.
The Ethari then performed a slick bit of magic that teleported them directly into the Point, and things got a bit hairy for a while; but the heroes had fought Ethari before, and they were despatched fairly easily.
At this point, a huge body of elven cavalry travelling at an unfeasible speed appeared from the Elenorian Forest and headed towards the Point, clearly ready to attempt a rescue. Runesabre stepped up his efforts.
Then the simplest trick in the world seemed to turn the battle. Merlynar spelled a Silence 15' Radius on a small rock, and Vali's familiar flew up over Runesabre and dropped it on his head just as he was summoning something nasty. The effect was better than expected, as a blast of misdirected energy blew Illeum over onto his back, seemingly stunned. It was too good a chance to miss and Merlynar, Pelmas, Pellangar Vodin and The Mighty Flying Lung charged down the Point to personally attack one of the two living mortals entitled to be called Godslayer. With hindsight, this may have been unreasonably optimistic...
Vali, correctly concluding that as the objective she should not get involved, Shapechanged into a bird and overflew the battle, heading for the oncoming elves, clearly now led by Elena herself.
Runesabre, of course, had either recovered or been shamming all along. Leaping to his feet, he drew a golden katana nod dissimilar to Vali's and laid about him. Pelmas was struck with a Death spell and blasted down, to lie sizzling on his back in the snow, barely clinging to life. Pellangar was killed soon afterwards, leaving just Lung and Merlynar battling with the dark Necromancer. For a while it looked as if they were gaining the upper hand, but then another Death spell, though resisted, wounded Lung seriously, and Runesabre's next strike finished him off.
Facing him alone, Merlynar was surprised and rather offended when Runesabre, having disarmed him, offered him a chance to surrender. The young elf priest's faith and commitment was better than that, though, and he made ready to die for his principles. Runesabre, perhaps aware of the onrushing elven horsemen, turned his back and walked away instead of killing the priest. Merlynar recovered from his startlement and siezed his bow, sending four arrows hammering straight into the necromancer's back, to no effect; they glanced off and the evil wizard vanished.
Merlynar then hurried to heal his friend, and Pelmas' life was saved.
After thanking Elena for her rescue, Merlynar, Vali and Pelmas, accompanied by two from among Elena's following, once again took to the Astral Plane to travel to some further place of refuge. Waiting there, though, was Malakar, and he poured scorn on them. This went on until he said something unforgivable about Willowstar, at which point both Vali and Merlynar went for him. Completely overfaced, it looked as if Merlynar was going to die for his faith again today, but Vali shifted back to Greyhawk and brought Elena to upbraid her brother. He retired, and the companions travelled on to Aldegarde.
There, they met the Darklander Izuko, the new head of the great sword school, and accepted his offer of hospitality - and training. While the others trained to learn various combat skills, Merlynar, aware of his limitations with a blade, spent his time praying, consecrating his bow, and scrying their enemies - learning that Runesabre and Korven, in leauge, had invaded Bretonia.
A visit to the Gallant Prince, a very good but very overpriced restaurant, brought some interesting events, not least the death of Huthar, Rosen ambassador and pretty-boy, who would not take Vali's "no" for an answer.
The New Year celebrations were only a couple of days away. Various signs indicated that Vali's transformation was likely to happen then, and the group felt certain that they would be attacked then. They made plans to fort up in the school on the night, protected by a shrine, four pentacles, and a hundred crack kenjutsu masters. As a blind, Merlynar went around conspicuously buying up tickets for several of the events planned for the new year.
One of the highlights was to be a swordfight between two of Greyhawk's best blademasters, and one of these, Maligan, was staying at the school. He was arrogant and offensive, and on a whim Vali bumped him to see what happened. He reacted angrily, and the pair drew; Vali was faster, but placed her blade so as to warn rather than harm. Maligan did not take the warning, and made to strike, but found that all his fingers had disappeared. Izuko had come up behind him, and no-one had seen his attack.
The festival of New Year turned out fairly spectacular in Aldegarde that year. Reversing their earlier decision, the party elected to 'hide in plain sight', and set up a performance, using their skills and powers to enthrall a growing audience while fending off increasing attacks by their foes.
Finally, Barabian, the King of Kulland himself, came to investigate - with Runesabre as a guest! Incredibly, Belgaroth the assassin managed to wound Runesabre and break his hypnosis of Barabian.
Barabian took Vali and her comrades (including Izuko) into his palace for their protection, and entrusted them to his daughter, the strangely-elderly Sarena, and Chancellor, Heruldar.
These promptly betrayed the party into a trap prepared by an insane Kull called Mayak, who wanted a drop of Vali's blood to raise some prophet. Refusing, the party were able to kill him easily (though he slew Izuko) but came very close to death from being trapped in his crypt and having to climb out.
Leaving Aldegarde, they returned to Elenoria, where a council called by Illianth debated Archibald's invasion of Myrid and what Bishop Elralulith called Vali's 'ripening'. Plans were made. Present were, among others, Valadain's son Brendil, Elena and Malakar. Merlynar was very pleased to see Elena, as the pair were falling hopelessly in love, but concerned at Malakar's prescence. He distrusted the godling and considered him a spy in the council at best.
During a recess, he met the stranger again. Naming himself Ferreziel, he identified himself as an exiled Echeronian, dedicated to hunting down Muziel - and told Merlynar that he, too, originated there! He clearly expected Merlynar to drop everything and take up the cause; but a lifetime spent as an elf and a priest was not so simply set aside. While sympathetic to Ferreziel's cause, Merlynar remained committed to Willowstar.
Back at the council, the Queen had decided to send Malakar, Brendil and Vlaslar, the young king, to Estallia, to check on possible threats there, and Elena, Merlynar, Vali and their comrades to Van Myrid to try and head off a war. Privately, Merlynar did not expect either Brendil nor Vlaslar to survive this experience, and in a way he was right.
The siege of Van Myrid eventually brought Archibald to the walls with an offer to negotiate. In the course of this he tricked the party into letting him get Vali alone. Inevitably, he kidnapped her to Hell. By the time Merlynar managed a Plane Shift to retrieve her, diabolic things had happened; Archibald was dead and Vali apparently pregnant.
This disasterous failure of his charge to defend the Valinari was the first of several blows to fall on Merlynar.
Leaving Van Myrid, the adventurers next travelled to Rosengrad, where they planned to investigate the consequences of Archibald's death. To Merlynar's shock (but not perhaps to Vali's), they discovered that Malakar - accompanied by Brendil - was in the process of attempting a coup d'etat to overthrow Archibald's last daughter Merel, widow of Barrios Deathwalker. Vali arrived first, and was attempting to mediate things with Malakar when Merlynar and Elena arrived on the scene.
Merlynar's first move was entirely hostile, unleashing a flight of arrows, and the throne-hall dissolved into chaos. Merel died before anyone could intervene, and in the fighting that followed, Malakar struck his sister down with a flurry of fatal blows. This had a sobering effect on Brendil, who appeared fond of Elena; he turned on Malakar and frantically attacked him, fighting impossibly well.
Knowing that his chances hand-to-hand against Malakar were minimal, Merlynar was determined to do as much damage as possible with Harvester. He kept up the arrow fire, despite the (arguable) presence of allies in melee. Meanwhile, Vali had thrown herself protectively over Elena's prone form, frantically scribing a pentacle to work their escape. A moment later, they were gone.
Merlynar, Belgaroth, and Brendil fought on, but mischance saw Brendil get in the line of fire, and two of Harvester's dreadful arrows drilled into his back. Wounded, he was no longer a match for Malakar, and the godling beheaded him as Merlynar watched in horror. Even as Malakar bounded towards him with terrible glee, he felt a tugging from outside as Vali attempted to summon him from the extraplanar surrounds of Willowstar's altar in Elenoria. For a moment he resisted, his hate driving him, to strike two more futile blows. Then he allowed himself to be removed. Belgaroth was saved a minute later.
Once back in Elenoria, the terrible conseqences of the events in Rosengrad had to be faced up to. Valadain and Illyanth were heartbroken at Brendil's death, and his part in it weighed heavily on Merlynar's conscience. Vali appeared sanguine about her "disaster", but Elena's wounds were mortal, and only Merlynar's sacrifice of a portion of his soul was enough to save her.
Then Willowstar told Merlynar that when Vali's child was born as a Dark God, she, Willowstar, would die; and that he, Merlynar must not do anything about it.
To top it all, Muziel himself appeared, like Ferreziel trying to persuade Merlynar away from elves and Gods and into the Echeronian reality, and to change sides. The priest gave him little heed.
It seemed wise to get out of Elenoria for a while, and given Malakar's treachery, the fate of young Vlaslar was now a matter of some concern. The group, and Elena, therefore went to Estallia to check on him. As Merlynar had feared, he - and his entire city - was under the thrall of Malakar, and planned to build the Godling's first temple in Estal City. For her own reasons, Vali then decided to transfer herself from Merlynar's care to Vlaslar's - and by implication, Malakar's.
This was the final blow.
Merlynar had now failed of all his guardianships. Gundren, Vali, Elena, Brendil, all had come to disaster despite his care. His Goddess was determined on suicide. All he had left was his love for Elena, and his hate for Malakar. The love would never be safe while the mutual hate remained. Gathering Elena and Belgaroth, he readied his weapons and returned to Rosengrad.
Tracking Malakar to his lair, the maddend High Priest attacked him, but he had brought his own weakness with him. A spell from Malakar destroyed Harvester and stunned Elena. The Godling then slew Belgaroth, hewed off both Merlynar's arms, and made Elena and Merlynar prisoner.
With the pain of his maiming tearing through him, Merlynar was confronted by a dreadful choice. Serve Malakar as his disciple, forsaking Willowstar forever, or watch as Elena was murdered in front of his eyes. For a moment, the wild idea of agreeing and trying to renege later was born in Merlynar's heart, but when he heard the oaths Malakar wanted him to swear the last hope died.
Kneeling opposite him in tears, Elena begged him to "do the right thing,".
Merlynar looked Malakar in the eyes, spat at him, and defied him. "You don't know me at all, do you?" he said. "If you'd explained to me, reasoned with me, convinced me of reasons why following you is the right thing, I might have listened. But threats are hollow against faith. I cannot forsake everything I stand for and look Elena in the eyes again. Get on with it, you black-hearted, impotent lunatic!"
Merlynar died, unbowed, under Malakar's blade.