Summary: This is the oration I gave before handing out the base-plots to the characters, the night I took over this campaign. Note that Giles is the dragon known as Enerithan. Anything else, well, I'm not reading back through it right now, only posting it, I may (if it is requested) go through it and explain certain bits with annotations.
Wildspace. Eternal, Lawful. The Phlogiston: Shifting, Chaotic. Through both have you flown, but neither is as great a challenge as the events since you first left the Rock of Bral. The merchant house of the captured tradesman claimed you and your crew had attacked it, and faked the undead. The gouged marks found on the walls, where the crew were supposedly horribly slain, were suspiciously the same size as Blaine's claws. While the Bralian navy was not convinced of your guilt, the other merchant houses blacklisted you, forcing you to purchase low quality or common goods, and keeping your profits low, while your running costs high.
After several months, you found trading at greater distance to be the bet. Travelling to a sphere known as Pirtelspace, you traded upon the Arcane outpost known as Refuge. Here, a place filled with as much political intrigue as the Rock, you managed to make a decent living, trading between Spiralspace (where the Rock was), Pirtelspace, and several other well-known ports, including a handful of planetbound ports. There was also a space-station, which you docked at for over a week, while Giles visited the planet below, bringing back with him several sealed, metal crates, which he had Blaine help him move near his quarters, and then mysteriously disappeared shortly after, even though they were bigger than the doors. What any of this was, or what he did during his time below, none of you know, as he would not speak of it.
That is, you made a decent living, until the incident piercing all of your hearts, the encounter that caused a rend in your party, that brought about the pain and sorrow that haunts many of you in your sleep. The attack of The Lich.
He came without warning, one day in the flow, on the way to Pirtelspace. He and his undead minions swarmed upon your ship, from what looked like a small manta-ray type ship - coloured black, with white sparkles all over. The only hint at the ships origin was a very old, dented and rusted metal identification plate, most of it's letters faded or rubbed away - showing only "S*R**'S ***R".
It was not the ship, however, you were concentrating upon. It was The Powerful Lich, and the dozens of deadites at his command. They slaughtered many within your crew. The elven fighter/mage helmswoman was slain first in the attack, as a wraith flew straight through the side of your ship, slaying her while on the helm, and thus disabling your ship. The thief, Shiela, died from a horrible wound to the stomach, given from some type of undead you did not recognise, as she leaped in front of Amber to save her life. Her death, in particular, haunts you all, for you never thought she would do such a selfless action, and she died a slow, horribly painful death.
It was not who died that was the shocking problem, nor the goal of this attack however. It is clear to you, from the brief research you have been able to do, that The Lich needed him for some sort of ritual - some sort of dark, demonic summoning. For this reason, undead swarmed around Giles, rendering him unconscious (but clearly alive) and dragging him to the ship. As soon as this goal was achieved, the undead fled, their ship shooting off at more than thrice the speed of any you had seen before, and your Mage companion, Kindred of One, Love of another, and friend to you all, was gone.
For weeks you searched the flow, tracking their course.. Blaine could feel the distant pull of his companion, as far away as he was, but knew he was getting further, and further away. Sadly, the were much faster than your ship, even at full spelljamming speed, and after only several weeks Blaine felt the bond fade, still there, but much further away, and he was unable to discern the direction.
On the way back to Refuge, you encountered a dozen IEN warships in the flow. Much had happened, they said, in what was two months since you had been at port. They searched your ship, their huge, butterfly man-o-war's hovering menacingly around you. After they were satisfied there was nothing on-board, they provided you with the knowledge a war had begun, known as the Unhuman War II. Several planets had been destroyed, countless colonies and outposts of the good aligned races slaughtered, and even more shockingly, to these military elves, dozens of IEN ships had been defeated.
The enemy? Known only as the Scro. Never heard of by any of you, tales spoke of them being brutes, but very intelligent, with incredible tactics, and ships made of solid iron and steel plating. For several months, you kept running your trading missions between Spiral and Pirtelspace, until Bral's orbit took it to the edge of it's crystal sphere, and it left into the flow, continuing it's mutli-sphere orbit of many years. It now lies within Krynnspace, a cold, deslote sphere, on the outskirts of common routes, one of the most external points of Bral's route. The Scro have, not yet, come this far, but it is rumoured they are closing. The elven navy is hoping to enlist the aid of Krynn's massive draconic population to aid in the war effort, but they are currently embroiled in their own war, and their good dragons have only just returned from some sort of hibernation 9or so the rumours say).
You yourselves have, not yet, seen anything of these Scro, but you have fought a few small goblin warships, outside crystal spheres, lying in wait for people to use pre-existing portals. Both times, knowing they were doomed, they used the very uncommon (for goblins) last resort maneuver of attempting a ram, but missed, scraping some of your rigging, and smashing into the crystal sphere. Nothing was salvaged, except a few bits of broken wood from the shoddily made ships, and several pieces of goblin. You ship feels very tense now-days, the extra crew you have hired on constantly looking out the windows, having heard of the undead attack upon you, and having lost a few of their ranks to the goblin marauders.
A month or so after, Pirtelspace was cleared of several secreted goblinoid outposts, with temples to Dukagsh within - by your group. It is rumoured that this Dukagsh is the god of the scro, but you found only goblins within its confines. Perhaps they were constructors sent to establish a front, or perhaps these rumours are untrue, just the product of fear by those close-by. In any case, the decks of your ship screamed with the violent battles with the goblins, who proved to have been well trained, even to the point of revealing no information when Blaine "questioned" them. Shortly after, due to a conflict of interests with several crew-members (particularly Blaine, with his not quite un-violent nature), your Helmite friend Sir Kraag left, trying to find his own way in the universe, and a meaning for his faith, after Helm refused to speak to him once his quest was completed.
There is one part of the ship, however, that is deathly silent. A part none of you have ever actually been into, and didn't realise until it was too late. At the end of the foremost corridor, on the slave deck, stands a door that has not been opened in some six months. None of you have had the heart to enter, nor the courage, assuming Giles' has protected his belongings. There is a very tangible feel to this room, even as it is closed. It speaks of silence.. of loss.. yet of hope.. and courage, as each time you look at it (never walking past), you remember Giles's last stand against the small undead horde attacking him, throwing fire blast after fire blast, and not screaming once as he was struck. Even Lorry, his rainbow lorikeet companion, was fighting, swooping around The Lich's head, attempting to rip pieces off him. He too, was captured, The Lich himself spinning quickly and slugging him in the face, knocking him out.
Oh, did I mention you haven't been able to get rid of that kender? Every time you get to a port they seem to know he's there before they even see him, and check to make sure he's with you when you leave. Once, Blaine tricked him into guarding an "all-important" asteroid, and the small would-be-knight stood stoically on the asteroid for the entire 3 hours it took all of your conscience's to make you return for him. Not once did he move, even though he knew he had no food or water, and would soon run out of air. All he requested was that you look after his cat Avatar, who seems to mysteriously change appearance, age, sex, and sometimes general health, everytime you leave a port (once, a moggy Avatar seemed to loose a leg, but then it was back after he turned into a ginger kitten). Allowicious maintains he is a knight, trained upon krynn in the solamnic ways, and even speaks solamnic sometimes, when he runs into someone else from Krynn.
Most seem to ignore him or soon leave, however. He has also, constantly, and much to everyone's annoyance, tried to explain the glories of the great kitty to you all, and several times you have even found him preaching to a bunch of other kender, gnomes, children, hadozee, hurwaeti, and even once an Arcane, about the glories of his god.
You also found, in the captain's area, a sealed box, almost magically appeared, that held a message written by Giles. It stated that, if this box had been found, it meant he was dead, or worse. All authority is, thus, given to you, and any of his blood family, who may arrive for his possessions. He apologises for any inconvenience his death etc may have caused, and wishes everyone a safe journey. He suggests you also bring a fifth person into the authority, as to have a balanced, and odd-numbered vote, and finally, says to keep your cloaks up. He says nothing in the note of his quarters, or his belongings, other than that.
Now, over a year since The events above began, you are, once again, upon the Rock of Bral. The merchant houses still have you black listed, and so trade is slow, but this isn't such a bad thing, as with the war going on, trade has slowed anyway, and you and your crew are used to the poverty side of trade (low value cargo's etc), and are actually beginning to be the most successful of any single-ship traders. Only a week ago a strange, crotchety man claiming to tell prophecies gave you all a good laugh, covered in rags and smelling of refuse, and mumbling something incomprehensible to Amber. The IEN embassy, knowing of you from having searched your ship before, have sent you a request for a meeting in their sacred halls upon Bral, for some sort of secret mission. There are rumours of scro decimating worlds, and forcing their way closer to here, the edges of what is known as the center of all things.
Perhaps it has something to do with this, or perhaps the rumours of the IEN running low on military strength are instead true, inciting a recruiting seminar? Maybe they require your expertise at finding cheap cargo etc, or need you for escort of even diplomatic missions. There are so many rumours about the war - about beholders siding with the scro, about the scro not actually killing people other than those that attack them, about the neogi allying with the IEN, about drow being seen working with the IEN troops, about dwarven citadels amassing in a remote sphere, about various races across the spheres disappearing, or retreating into safeholds. So many rumours abound, that only investigation, time, and truth, with enlighten you, and possibly secure your safety.
Let alone help you find your friend.