Ahmisa was whisked away by Jimmy and several members of the Kage-Suna and the inferno of the tea shop had spread to several other buildings. The group was considering following Ahmisa to make sure he was okay but from around the corner came several guards yelling and running.
“Cease and assist!” one of them called.
Their guilty conscience made them brace for a fight, but when the guards repeated their request for assistance the group hesitantly followed. The guards were doing their best to fight the fires whilst being battered by the sand storm. The guards were commanding people away from the buildings. Jalana grabbed a few buckets and sneakily filled them with water using her magic. The guards, when they say the group using the buckets of water to put out the fire called out to them and told them not to waste water like that. Jalana went ahead and used the water anyway.
Vuvu thinking that smothering the flames and starving them of oxygen would be helpful sent a stinking cloud of magic into one of the buildings. This didn’t work but did ensure that everyone’s job became a little more difficult.
As they got the flames under control Baer and Grash decided to go into one of the buildings that wasn’t too damaged and have a look around. They found no people, thankfully they had made it out, but did find a few soot covered gold pieces.
As the group was standing around and receiving congratulations from the residents one of the guards approached the group. “Hey, you’re Dragunship Suddenly, right? Funny seeing you guys here, thanks for the help. You probably don’t remember me but I was there during the rebellion, I was in the throne room when Leo fell. We fought hard that day, and it was an honour to fight by your side.”
“I remember you,” began Baer “You took a spear to the chest towards the end, how did you survive such a wound?”
The man was surprised that Baer remembered, “You have a sharp memory, lord. I remember the wound and woke up hours later on a pallet. My men said that our illustrious lady Marjora was making her way around the throne-room healing those with grievous wounds after the battle. If it weren’t for her I would surely have perished.”
From around the front of the shop came a voice, calling to them. Rama and his men were coming to collect them. “Friends!” Rama called, “We must make our way back to the Palace before we are swept away in this storm!”
The group thought it best to follow along, and after a tough walk through the city they got back to the palace in one piece. As they got inside they shook most of the sand off themselves in the antechamber then made their way inside the palace proper.
Rama is approached by a guard and they converse for a moment. Rama then turns to the group and advises that Marjora will see them that evening, at the council.
The group retire to their rooms and get ready for the council.
As they make their way to the council rooms, having been aquinted with the place several times now, the guard stops them and asks “Where is she?” and the group pauses.
The guards looks at them funny, “Your cat, where is it?”.
“Oh!” says Vuvu, “My pussy won’t be in attendance this evening.” and brushed past the blushing guard.
As they entered there people milling about and speaking with one another. Some old faces and some new. When they got to the middle of the room a guard behind them cleared his throat and called to the room "Please, I am proud to introduce heroes of the realm, the right hand of the Empress, the glorified – "
As the list went on Baer began to puff out his chest and hike his pants, Vuvu positively glowed with the admiration. As they did a guard came up to them, “Please could you move to the side a little?”
“What the-” replied Grash.
" – The illustrious Ishka Baha, the Fire Walkers!"
With a polite round of applause a group entered the room, a group that they had last seen in Corundum. A team of well polished and obviously wealthy people of different races entered the room to take their seats at the table.
Dragunship Suddenly took their places at the opposite side of the giant round table.
At the council the merchant lords and war mongers discuss the dangers of the sandstorm and how it will cause even more devastation among the populace.
“Our scouts say that the Sand Elves are the only ones that are able to traverse the storm without extreme difficulty.” says the Minister for War.
“The gardens under the city that make a lot of the food have run out of supplies and the outlying farms will run out of water and even if they had water, they cannot transport food to the city. Someone needs to help them. Dharma will begin to starve after some time.” the Minister for Agriculture advises.
“The people of Dharma blame the elves for these calamities, and the anti-Elf sentiments are becoming higher.” advises the Minister of Information, which turned out to be Rama.
The council speaks of the Sapphire Weed, their stores are running low, but they will use what they have to bend the minds of the far-seers to try to find the remaining stores. They found some in a warehouse on a river on the way to the West, but their mages have picked up a scent, and will continue their meditations.
As the evening wraps up and many of the lower lords and ladies leave, there remains Marjora, Rama, Dragunship Suddenly and The Fire Walkers.
The apparent leader of the group approached them and looked Grash up and down. Well well well, if it isn’t the boogeyman himself. I heard what you did for Marjora after we took the city." the man called Finn said, then leaned in conspiratorily, “Grizzly work” and fained a pained wince.
After some brief introductions to the others that hadn’t met them before Marjora approached them and explained that she needed a favour. As she did so Shun cast a minor spell of spider climbing and crawled along the walls to take his place above the main doors mantle. Marjora, and the rest of the group watched him as he did so.
“Please, continue.” Said Shun with his characteristic levity.
“Well…yes…There is a disturbance outside the city,” began Marjora “One of our closer townships has gone silent and I need to find out what the problem is. Also, a little closer to home, there is a problem with water-bearers going missing in the lower levels of the city well. We rely on that source of slowly diminishing water to feed the city’s thirst.” explained Marjora.
“We’ll find out what’s going on with the water-bearers, I prefer working in the city. These fools can go out into the desert and get sand in their boots.” said Grash, nodding absently towards the Fire Walkers.
Finn gave a big laugh and then folded his arms, “Dragunship suddenly taking the easy job? Would never have thought of it.” he laughed again and bowed to Marjora, his team following suit. “It will be done, Empress.” The Fire Walkers made their exit.
As the group made their way under Shun hanging from the wall above the door, the wizard of the group looked up to Shun, “Still as weird as ever, aye old friend?”
Shun dropped down in front of the man, looking him up and down. The man hadn’t aged much in the 2 hundred years or so since last he’d seen him in the academy of the Twin Cities. “Why do you follow these starchy and preened sycophants around? You should come with us instead and leave them -”
The other wizard, realising that Shun was trying to enchant him and imprison his will immediately plugged his ears and hummed to himself, following his friends out.
At last, it was only Dragunship Suddenly and Marjora, with Rama having left through one of the rear doors.
“Marjora, we..uh, have some good news.” began Vuvu, “When we were travelling we found a small pile of bags and in the bags were some different things, and we just got around to looking in them and I think we…well..have your Sapphire Weed.”
Marjora looked at Vuvu with a stunned expression, then her face shifted almost to something she could consider to be hostile the back to friendly.
“Friends! This is good news indeed. How much of it do you have? This is going to make my mages very happy indeed. This is cause for celebration.” Marjora clasped her hands and smiled broadly.
“Well, it’s a fair bit. I think maybe several dozen pounds of it.” said Baer humbly.
Marjora looked shocked again, “Well this is glorious, where is it kept, I will have my people collect it immediately and we -”
“One second.” interrupted Vuvu, “we have a few requests before we hand over the plant.”
Marjora looked even more stunned than before, “You have demands for me?”
“Not demands,” clarified Vuvu, “we would like an assurance that we will still be involved in the cultivation of this powerful and expensive ’erb, also we would like -”
Marjora interrupted after unclasping her hands and lowering her head slightly, looking at the ground “You hold my possessions hostage and demand of me assurances that you will still profit from my stolen property?”
“Marjora, that is not what we mean, it’s just that -” began Baer, trying to quell some of the tension in the room.
“No.” Marjora raised her face back to the group and her eyes seemed to darken, “I will not be dictated to by the likes of you to bargain for the release of my property. I am the Empress of the Burning Sands and Twin to the Second Spark. I command the legions of Vyapara and have command of heroes beyond counting. I demand the immediate handover of the Sapphire Weed and will not negotiate.”
The room was silent.
A heavy darkness about Marjora seemed to lift and she came back to herself as a half dozen Paladins of the Sapphire Throne entered the room from one of the rear doors with Rama in tow.
“Now, hand it over.” Marjora commanded, pointing at the table.
Grash reached into the bag of holding and began pouring the entirety of the sapphire weed
onto the table.
Marjora nodded and left the room with the doors closing behind her.
“There is is, all of it. We will go now.” growled Grash.
Rama smiled at him, “I am sorry, but we cannot take your word for it. The Paladins have ways to ensure that you aren’t lying. It will only take a moment and then I will come back and ensure that you are left alone.” Rama nodded at them and went to the rear doors. They could hear a locking noise behind him. They seemed to be locked in the room with the Paladins and the herb.
Two of the Paladins went to the table, their heavy spears strapped to their backs. One reached into a pouch at their side and pulled out a small alembic and burning apparatus.
The other motioned towards the table and the group, not too worried took their places at the table near the alembic. A Paladin put some of the weed onto the burner and after some time the room filled with smoke. They all dropped into their own divination soaked dreams, except the Paladins, who stood staring malevolently at them through their helmets.
A small writhing worm, they are all small writhing worms. They see the mother speaking to the brood. She is speaking to the children in a demonic tongue, someone comes into the room and disrupts her, Grash whilst this is happening, finds and eats one of the other lizards. The intruder comes and looks at the brood with a smile on their face and pulsating sickly green magic coming from their hands. The mother says to the intruder, with deference “They will sow discord amongst the land, they will pave the way, they are yours.” The intruder smiles, and his dark green face and large tusks break out in a smile. “Perfect”
The magic pours over the brood and they writhe into even higher levels of orgiastic feeding on each other and the flame, ash and shadows grow darker around them.
The crowd is cheering and howling, the bars of the cage are adamantium, Baer knew that was the only thing that could hold him. His teeth, filed down to sharp points, were bared and his face marked with dark runes, was dark and brooding behind his long and matted grey hair. The humans, or were they elves, their faces kept changing in his sight, were throwing things at him as he was carried down the streets of a ruined city in his cage by large Orcs. As the head of the procession stopped he knew that this was where it ended. He always knew this was how it would end; one too many mistakes, and he had made so many mistakes. The cage was hoisted alongside a wall, higher and higher, the chains rattling and the cage swinging slightly as he went up. As he came to the top of the wall he saw a statue, of him, arms raised in the sky and covered in what seemed to be fresh blood. The plaque below had some of the words scratched out, but one word remained…killer
Sitting in a crows nest, surrounded by fog again. A large figure is again climbing up the mast, and comes in to sit with her. Barely sees his face, but large antlers come from his head. “Even for me it is hard to find you here, I find it strange that this is the place that you go to. So, baren, sterile. Where is the wind? The stars? The water? What are you doing? Where are you going? You seem, adrift.” He takes out from his vest small cups of tea and offers her some. They chat, and relax. “You must take care not to become the animals who’s spirits you borrow. You are human, never forget that. And you can make mistakes.”
Standing beside his father, the room is empty, it’s just him and his father. “You’re late” says Shadow-Behind-The-Stars, without looking up from his workstation. His fathers voice is slurred and the room is darker than Shun remembered it being. The small candle on the desk showed some of his fathers face beneath the cowl, the skin covered in scars and burns. “Hand me the etherium tuning fork” he says, and Shun does so, the object in his hand feeling as real as his own body. This was some strange divination indeed.
They speak of what Shun is doing, where he’s been and if he has found anything that can help them with the Crystal Soul. Shun advises him that he has yet to complete his mission. Shadow-Behind-The-Stars asks about Hemmit, and shows no emotion when Shun advises of his apparent death. “We can save our people from what is coming, Shun-The-Light-Bringer. I need you to redouble your efforts, find me a Druid, and we can save everyone. Now, begone.”
The smell of musty earth and the sound of cooking utensils fills their senses. Rosemary, thyme, onions frying in a pot. The dappled sunlight coming in through the open wooden shutters hits the eyes as Vuvu turns her head. The man, much taller than her, is at her side watching her cook the onions. “Be careful Alissa, don’t let them burn.” he says angrily.
The man turns his back and goes to the other side of the kitchen, to retrieve the rabbit that mother had caught that morning. He comes back and you watch as he skins and butchers the creature, then throws the meat and bones into the pot. The smell makes your mouth water. The man sits on a small wooden stool, groaning as he sits, and running his hand through his grey hair and taking out his small flute, you watch as he puts it to his lips and listen as the music floats through the kitchen, through the main room of the house and out through the door. The notes flow through the small village and out towards the fields, past the small hills that surround and up towards the forests edge. The notes reach the ears of a man covered in ritual scarring and tattoos. His ears perk up, and his horse senses it too. So do the several dozen hardened warriors at his side. “Kill the god-spawn.” The music stops and the man looks to Alissa, she looks at his face and sees love, and sadness. “Be careful Alissa, don’t let them burn.” she turns back to the pot, where the rabbit is charred and the smell of burning meat assails her nostrils and the sound of screaming fills her ears.
They all wake up, and look about. They are alone in the room with the double doors open and nobody else in sight.
Dragunship Suddenly, after getting a few deep breaths of fresh air, decides to make all due haste to the cities underground waterways, guided by a guard from the citadel. Once entering the entry-hall to the dungeon they found a room that would house the water bearers and their buckets and carts.
On the floor, slumped against the wall under some lit torches, were two wounded men being administered to by a third.
“What’s happened here?” asked Jalana as she walked towards the wounded men and kneeled beside them.
“I’m not sure, they came limping up from the wells and have since collapsed, their wounds did not seem that severe but have gotten worse. I sent a runner for a healer but they are taking too long and I fear that – " the unwounded man started.
“Silence!” said Jalana to the mumbling man, and looked at one of the men with bandages across his face and body. “You, what is wrong with you, what kind of wounds are these? What attacked you? Answer me.”
The wounded man gurgled and moaned, a stench arising from his body. Jalana grasped him by the shoulders and called louder to him, “I asked you a question! What wounds are these!” and began ripping at the bandages. At this point the unwounded man tried to interfere, saying that she was hurting the poor man. “Begone!” said Jalana shoving the interfering one away with one arm and she went to rip off more bandages.
“Jalana, please, let me help.” said Vuvu as she came forward and put her hand on Jalana’s back, Jalana looked up and then back at the man she had been shaking. “Ok.”
Vuvu sent her healing magics into the men and, after a few minutes they seemed to stabilise. They interrogated them and learned that it was more than likely some kind of undead that attacked them judging by their words and wounds.
The group readied themselves and made their way deeper into the tunnels, eventually coming across a small army of linen wrapped and animated corpses. The group worked to defeat the horde, and after several spells and swings of weapons later they had. Looking into what seemed the main room the group found a few nice trinkets and made their way back to the citadel.
The guard captain debriefed them, with the help of a man named Lucius who introduced himself as the court mage assigned to magical disturbances in the city, and they learned that should mummies be a problem then there is most certainly a Mummy Lord or at least a necromancer that is responsible for animating the dead. They group also learned that the items they took would be cursed, and that they are sure to be ridiculed by the Fire Walkers should they not fulfil the job properly.
As they were leaving, Shun used a little sleight of hand to put the Oil of Speed that he had taken from the cursed Mummy lair into the pocket of Lucius the mage.
With a few sighs and hunched shoulders the group made their way back to the cities wells. They made their way back to the lair and had a look around, finding nothing of note. Shun closed his eyes and opened the eye of arcane in his mind. He saw latent necrotic energies in the room and using this found a few pages of what seemed to either be a mage’s book or journal. He also saw a sheen of magical oil leading to where the pages were and then back out towards the surface.
They took the pages and saw that they were the almost mad and raving words of someone that was upset with the “new order” of the city’s rulers and much preferred the “old leader” who let him do what he wanted with the bodies. The group found this disturbing and rekoned that they were dealing with a necromancer of some sort.
They followed the footsteps (with Baer’s superior tracking abilities) back to the citadel and surprisingly back to the room where the guard captain had given them the debriefing. They then saw the footprints with the faint sheen of oil to the rooms where some of the more influential staff slept.
The tracks went to a door and Baer, leaning close, heard heavy breathing inside. Vuvu raised her hands readying a spell of sleeping and the rest took out their weapons and readied themselves. Bear counted to three (as best he could) and bust down the door. The scene in front of them was as concerning as it was horrendous. The mage Lucius was there, prone and naked on top of a corpse that had expired a while back. Lucius was as surprised to see them and Baer took the opportunity to leap forward yelling and grappled the mage. With Bear grappling Lucius from behind the mage gave one large shudder before he went still.
Bear, disgusted, yelled to the man as he tried to bring him to his feet, “You monster, you will pay for your crimes!”
Lucius, naked and filthy tore an arm loose and raised a pointed finger to his neck, “If I go down, I’m taking you all with me!” and a bright light appeared under the mans chin and blossomed into a raging inferno inside the small room. Baer was thrown backwards in the short lived yet very powerful maelstrom and smashed into the now on-fire cupboard. The rest of the group was thrown backwards through the doorway into the hallway.
The ringing in their ears stopped them all from hearing the guards and stewards racing towards the scene. After the fires were doused and the group brought to their feet they saw the guard captain looking about. “These are Lucius’s rooms, what have you all done here? It was you wasn’t it!” he yelled, pointing at Shun, “Elves are causing mischief in the Citadel, guards arrest him!” and the guards took out their blades and converged on Shun.
“Wait! I am feeling quite woozy,” began Vuvu, stumbling over to the guard captain and falling into his arms, “it had nothing to do with him, take these papers before I fall into the deep dark of death,” she said passing him the journal entries and feigning death in the captains arms. The man was wooed by her charms and cried out to the other guards to help him take her to a healer, with the other guards confused but obeying they raised Vuvu on their shoulders and took her away.
At the end of the corridor she swigged a bottle of healing liquor and jumped down from her man made pier. “I got better” she winked at the men and made her way back to the others.
They all decided that, with the job done, that they would try to get some sleep in with what was left of the night. As they all slumbered in their rooms (with the exception of Jalana who found a small alcove near a window further away from their rooms) Vuvu was deep in sleep when she felt hot breath on her face. She opened her eyes and saw Grash’s face leering at her.
“Grash, what’s -” she began as she saw the glint of steel is his hand and a flash as he stuck her with the blade.
“For old times, aye Vuvu?” he growled whilst grinning.
Shuddering with the pain and reacting out of pure instinct she lurched from the bed and rolled fumbling for a potion by the bedside and downing it. She felt invigorated but was still in complete darkness. She fumbled for her weapon in the dark, “Grash, what the fuck are you doing?” and she tried to hail the others on the speaking stone in her ear, which she remembered to keep in at night.
“Can’t see? Here, let me help you.” Grash called in the dark and the room lit up with fire after she heard him take a breath. She burned, but the liquid flowing through her body at the time helped her turn most of the flame aside.
She leapt for the door, taking another slice at her side when passing Grash in the dark. She burst through the door into the hallway, running and bleeding down the passage past doors that were now opening.
Bear saw the spectacle of Vuvu running from Grash and him giving chase. “He’s gone crazy! Stop him!” she called as she passed Baer.
Baer took after Grash and grabbed him from behind pinning him to the wall. WIth some struggle Baer managed to subdue and disarm the Dragunborne. Shun came to the pair and cocked his head, “Something is off here, there is illusion at work.”
Vuvu, holding her side to stem the flow of blood came up to them and grabbed at Grash, swatting him, ’What’s wrong with you!" and as she struck him something flew from his head and the illusion dropped. In front of them were a different sized Dragunborne, still smiling, but obviously not Grash.
Jalana came running onto the scene, seeing the struggle and ran straight at them hurling her fist into the Dragunbornes’ face. He collapsed to the floor as the real Grash came down the passageway.
“Hey guys, someone stole my hat, do you kno-” he began, then saw the creature on the floor, half concious looking up at him.
“Hello brother, mother sends her – " the unnamed one began before Grash came up with his unsheathed sword and plunged it into the prone ones chest, stopping him mid sentence.
“You…you stole my hat.” Grash said, bending down to pick up h is hat of disguise.
The rest of the group looked on as more guards came rushing into the hallway.
The nest evening Marjora came to Baer and asked him to go for a walk in the storm with her and Nuha.
“It’s fine, we’ll bring the mages to protect us from dangers and sand.” she smiled.
On the long walk through the city at night during curfew, she speaks of what she wants for Dharma, how the troubles with the Sand Elves are getting out of hand, and that she is worried that it will come to blood. She needs a method of how to obtain peace however, “Oh I wish they would just disappear. I am willing to bet it’s them behind the storm. Do you remember my fathers portal? Well we’ve gotten it working again, and it only goes one place now, to the FeyWilds. The Elves, before they came here, used to live there. I think they should go back to where they came from, they only cause problems here. Also, I must ask you one more favour Baer, you need to bring me the head of Falca, she is their leader and must be brought to justice for the innocent blood they have spilt on the sands of Dharma.”
They walk through the eastern parts of the city, past a ruined and burnt part of the city. They get to the gates that the group had stormed during the seige all those years ago and Marjora motions towards the top of the gates. Baer sees the figure of a man atop the gates, how he was standing in the storm it was anyone’s guess.
With the mages help the storm clears a little more and he sees that it is in fact a statue made of marble and standing twenty feet tall facing in towards the city.
The arms are raised above it’s head and a look of ecstasy is on it’s face, it is in the likeness of Baer. “Do you like it?” asks Marjora as she absently strokes Nuha’s hair. “I had it commissioned myself.”
Baer squints and he can just make out a sign under the statue; Tyrant Killer