A gentle nudge to his arm awoke Lord Sergonar from his slumber. Clearing a final snore from his sinuses, he squared his shoulders and straighted his back in the chair, looking out across the council chambers. Assembled were all the members of the High Council of the Myth and Peace Lords, Sergonar's armored militia, Salthook's worn-handed crafters and Woodwalker's colorfully-robed students of magic. All were waiting for him to start the round table of speeches to mark the passing of the year. Amongst these men and elves were loyal ostards, mindless beetles, prancing ki-rin and even a great looming dragon, listening with attentive patience. "It has been a long year my friends, full of triumphs and tragedies", said Lord Sergonar slowly. "It took us a very long time to return to these lands after our escape from the fall of Magincia. It is a sad sore upon the land and although I have not traveled widely in this year, I have taken some time to battle the corrupted souls that still haunt its ruins. It is a reminder to us all of the price of failure and the cost of pride." With that, the late hour seemed to drain the aging warrior of his remaining energy and he slid back down in his chair. Lord Salthook, wearing his ceremonial suit of valorite and dragon scale, stood next with a ancient hammer at his belt. Retired from day-to-day crafting, he pointed to a number of new pieces of armor on the younger members of the guild, especially suits of mages tailored with enchantments to summon forth reagents for their spells. Lord Woodwalker stood next with a collection of seedlings carefully arranged on the table before him. Also retired from day to day adventure, the sage was now tending the guild's modest garden. He also reported on the small but respectable sales of his books, admiring a freshly acquired tub of dyes gifted from the nobles enchanted to cling to runes. Around this man clung a glamor of elven wisdom, his gardening mind attuned to nature through a now-legendary command of arcanist lore. Lord Maplestone arose next. Unlike the speakers so far, his worn outfit showed more wear and tear than ever. With him were several freshly-inked, rolled-up wall maps, a pair of strange pink scrolls wested from imps and a collection of gems torn from between the scales of crimson dragons. From small pink bunnies and cards of friendship exchanged with noble ladies, to prizes won at auction and rewards for donations to the springtime fund for refugees of Moonglow, Maplestone had more than ever become the public face of the guild and an accomplished combatant in the wars against incursions by minions of the shadowlords. Sadly, his duties upon the field of battle had meant hard choices, and so before the crimson flames, he had reluctantly been forced to retire his fishing pole. Lord Tempest was the first elf to speak, looking more confident than ever. Still changing his mind on a regular basis about his path in life, he was half-heartedly experimenting with slight of hand against lizard men and mongbats, much to the consternation of town guards who would much prefer he simply offed their heads. Lord Tempest spoke of becoming active in the field, slipping through dark and deadly corners of Ilshenar where for many years even Lord Maplestone's peaceful songs could not bring safe passage. However, in the arts of ninjitsu and stealth, he still saw much room for improvement despite is grandmastery of these arts. Lord Eternos stood last of the high council, shadowed by the loyalty of the great Volcanus Rex, son of Suldiva. Having now achieved legendary status in commanding the loyalty of beasts as well as in healing and understanding them, Eternos now stood modestly amongst the most esteemed tamers of the land. Having provided fire beetles for several friends and done battle with several terrible beasts, he felt a contentment with his small accomplishments, although he still avoided the major fields of battle. Although not members of the High Council, several adopted students of the elders of guild were now recognized as lords of the land in their own right, a status to which all aspired. Lord Alfalfa Sergonar, adopted orphan from the ophidian invasions of Vesper now wielded Sergonar's old soulseeker to mighty effect against ogre lords. Several times, he had fought off incursions of orc-aided warriors within the walls of Trinsic. Under his care, Sergonar's small crystal-capped watchtower had been relieved of its library and the first hints of a larger garden added to the surrounding fort's roof. Lord Hickory Sergonar was the youngest of Sergonar's students, an orphan of old Haven who took the place of a disgraced student who had been slain by ratlings after trading away the blackrock that was used to destroy Haven. A focused student, he often tangled with orc brutes with great efficiency and had a passion for gargoyle pickaxes which he had used to summon and battle paragon elementals, retrieving more than one piece of dangerous blackrock himself along the way. Lord Emerald Salthook, steward of the crystal forges of Lord Salthook nestled high in the snowy, lonely peaks of Malas, rose to speak of the growing skill of Salthook's students. He himself had turned in a great many fine crafts, earning many a runic hammer - even once a bronze, as well as fortifying powders. He spoke of increasing efficiency in his his harvest of ores and gems and now a slowly growing stockpile of stone. He humbly acknowledged he still had much room to grow before he could equal the feats of his master. Finally rose Lord Firewalker, a wizard who chose now to describe his robes as crimson rather than red for fear of being mistaken for a criminal. He spoke of his fruitful battles against the liches of covetous and the success of the modest study at Minoc's moongate which Lord Woodwalker had entrusted him. A trained scribe and wizard of growing aptitude, he now assumed the role of being the guild's primary battle wizard. Each lord of the guild then committed themselves anew the principle of Truth and Love ... and, to a lesser extent, Courage. Those who were not yet lords whispered wistfully of joining the list of accomplished lords in the year to come. One last moment of silence was observed for the passing of Lady Phoenix and a request made to find some way to honor her memory within the ranks. Lord Firewalker promised to consider changing his attire and title. A respectful sympathy was expressed for the terrible fate which befell Lady Damia's estate in the chaotic aftermath of the Royal Council assassination. A glass was lifted to toast all those who had disappeared quietly in the night, in the hopes that they would one day find their way home. In all the business of reflection day, the dire evens of war engulfing the land could not be ignored. From the catastrophe at Moonglow that freed the shadowlords, through the murder of the Royal Council save only for Casca, through to outright invasion from Felucca by armies of the shadowlords led by terrible crimson dragons. The war, having settled into a destructive stalemate, was leaving the old cities in rough shape. Lord Sergonar roused himself again to close the night's formalities as chocolates and fresh milk were passed out. "This war must be won, but the shadows are not mortal beings, no mere sword will truly cut them unless it can be backed by virtue. Falsehood must be faced with with wisdom of truth. Hatred must be defeated with the light of love. Cowardice must be confronted with the sound of courage. To do not be deceived, angered or frightened by the challenge, for this is the destiny of our time. Across our many lands and many fragments of our existence, we are the lords of our own fate. Go forth this new year and be the light in dark times."