The Third Moon of Cré

Chapter 31
A Sinister Plot

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Lying on a day bed covered in white silk and animal furs, Vuvu finds herself awakening with the smells of berries, wine and figs in her nose. Full sunlight and the sight of freshly picked flowers in ornate vases was everywhere. She notices servants off to the side, beautiful and clad in the same white silks as the chaise lounges. Looking down she sees that she is also clad in perfect white silk, and nothing else. There is a pitcher of wine next to her on a side table. She realises where she is, she’s been here before, and remembers that the wine here is exceptionally good.

“Ah good, you’re awake.” says a voice off to her left, and she turns her head to see a man, also clad in expensive looking silks, approaching her with his bare arms spread wide and a glorious smile on his face.

She stops reaching for the jug of wine and stands, allowing the silk to drop enticingly from one shoulder. “Corellon, it’s been some time, hasn’t it? I did miss you.” She greeted the god.

He stopped and looked at her quizzically “So you do remember me, Ha! I must be getting better!” and with that he swept towards her in a swirl of silk and petals seemingly coming from nowhere beneath his feet and spinning away from each of his steps. “My love, you…have the scent of others about you. You wouldn’t be sharing your bed with others of a less…regal disposition to myself now…would you?” and he pulled away from her a little to see her face. Looking into her eyes, he quizzically examined her, then looked her up and down with a feigned melodrama.

Vuvu remembered her activites the night before, in the Inn, with all those people…there was so many limbs…so much bodily fluids…

”I only have eyes for you Corellon. You are all that I need and all that I want.” she told him, with a smirk on her face.

“Well!” he laughed, pulling himself out of her embrace and heading towards the pitcher of wine standing on the white stone table and pouring himself a glass. “We shall have to make sure of that, won’t we…my love” he said with a wink and downed the hero sized cup of wine in one gulp.

Vuvu looked at him and said, without taking her eyes off his godly physique, to one of the many angels surrounding them holding platters of food and drink, “More wine.” And let her robe slip from her body to the clouds under her feet.

~~~~~~

“Patrick what are you doing!” Jalana cries across the cold and wet cave.

Vuvu is pulled jarringly from her sleep and sees Patrick walking to the two helpless Orcs with his sword in his hand. ‘I’m going to finish the job.” He replied without stopping or taking his eyes off them. Jalana went to impose herself between the Orcs and the fighter, he didn’t listen to her pleas and shoved her out of the way. Vuvu got up and sprang in his way, hand out and imploring him to reconsider, telling him that they could question the Orcs to see if they knew anything. Patrick scoffed at the idea, knowing that the Orcs were stupider than cattle and less useful. But he let them have their fun and sheathed his weapon, leaning against a wall with his arms folded keen to watch them fail.

After the group realised that they could not in fact speak to the Orcs, they asked Hemmit, who stood at the back of the room quietly not saying anything, if he could pry into their minds. Hemmit gathered himself and kneeled in front of one of them. He looked into its vacant face and felt very little thoughts emanating from its mind. He plunged right in, expecting to find a dredged and empty lake where there should be a mind. Instead he found a screaming void. He felt his consciousness being pulled from his body into a swirling maelstrom of sound and wind. He resisted with every fibre of his being to not be pulled down into the hole. Just as he thought he would fall he found a strength in his mind and resisted and just before he escaped the pit he saw, with what limited senses he had in this place, a thread, going from the creatures mind so some other place. Where, he did not know.

As his mind was violently thrust back into his body he reeled at the pain, collapsing onto the floor and muttering gibberish for some time before he came back to them. Finding the group around him seeing if he was okay, he, after some time, was able to explain what he saw. The only exception was Patrick to the side, chewing on some hard tack and having a chuckle to himself, “How goes the interrogation?” Patrick asked, adding another laugh but obviously getting a little restless.

As the group is making sure Hemmit is okay they hear a distant and crackling sound in the sending stones in their ears. Grash was trying to find out where they were and what they were up to. Hemmit answers him, saying they were in a cave some few hours to the north. He tells Grash of the small camp that the mayor and his men made and that Hemmit would meet him there to teleport him to the cave they were in.

Grash stood on the deck of the DragunShip, looking at the two new deck hands who were fighting over whose job it was to empty the latrines on the boat. Both were shoving a filthy bucket between themselves and getting a little on the deck.

“Pathetic” said Grash and made his way down the gangplank before muttering melon and collapsing the boat behind him. Just before the collapsed boat hit the water a misty arcane hand caught it and brought it to him, stowing it away into this belt for keepsakes. He thought he could hear the faint screams of the men dying but he couldn’t be sure, and couldn’t care less anyway. He ran swiftly down the docks jetty past shocked onlookers, who had never before seen a boat collapse into something you could fit in your hand, and ran towards the forest, heading north.

As Hemmit stood in the cave, readying himself for the occasional harrowing ordeal of temporal navigation, he heard Grash in his ear “Ready when you are holy boy.”

Hemmit clasped his hands, imagined the place where the mayor had made his camp and then opened his eyes to find himself there. Grash stood a half metre from him. “Well that was fast” said Grash and reached out to put a hand on Hemmit’s shoulder. Without a word Hemmit then imagined the cave, but the image of the screaming vortex in the Orcs mind washed over him and before he knew it he dragged himself an Grash into a very violent and painful trip back to the cave.

As they materialised with a bang the two stood naked with their gear scattered about the cave. Neither were ashamed of their bodies and Grash began to put his gear back on, swigging from a magical restorative potion as he went.

Jalana, wanting to give the Orc thing another try, knelt down infront of it where Hemmit had been a few minutes earlier, and put a hand on its face. She knew that the creature had little to no mind of its own, so she thought why not give it one? Putting her hands into the limited soil around her she sought carefully around the bugs and skittering creatures to find something that had more intelligence. Rats, squirrels outside and a few deer. She was sure that she could borrow their sentience for a little while and loan it to the Orc, and she began, haltingly, to draft the intelligence of a nearby buck into the Orcs mind. This had to be done very carefully and she really had no idea what she was doing, and knew it would take a while and advised the others, looking at them with her eyes a greener shade of green at this point.

“Well what in Balls of Bhaal are we supposed to be doing in the time being?” Pat slams his fist into the rock wall. “I am not a man of patience, and if I can’t kill the Orcs and we aren’t going back to the village then we need to take some action!” and with that he pulled off his sword belt, put down his shield and ran full speed, shoulder first, into the lone wooden door in the room.

The others didn’t know if it was his shoulder cracking or the door, but they all felt the collision in their bones. Vuvu, Grash and Hemmit looked on as he picked himself up from the floor, walked back for a run up and did it again. The crack this time was certainly from the door as a few of the boards came loose.

“Aha! They don’t make them like they used to!” he cried as he once more hurled himself at the door which promptly gave way. The heard metal on stone as he hit something very close to the other side of the door. Then another sound, further away this time, then another and another as they realised he was bouncing off the walls and he fell down some kind of shaft. The group casually sauntered over to the now broken door and had a look down the shaft. They could see, with help from a torch that Vuvu found, that he was a crumpled heap at the bottom of the 50foot shaft.

“Are you okay?” called Vuvu down the shaft. No reply.

Everyone bar Jalana goes down the shaft on some rope they had. Grash kneels down beside the battered and broken man, and on the pretence of checking to see if he’s okay takes his wedding ring and what little money he had on him. Patrick gets up, still a little shaky and picks up his gear that Vuvu brought down for him. He shakes the cobwebs from his head and starts down the hallway, in the dark, muttering about getting the job done.

They follow him down the now horizontal shaft, just tall enough for them to walkupright in. After about 30 seconds they hear a yelp of pain, just an echo, coming from the direction they are headed. Hard to know how far away it is due to the twisting and turning pattern of the tunnels. They eventually get to another door, very similar to the first. This time they decide to find out of there is anything on the other side. Grash uses his spectral hand to slip under the door whilst Vuvu scans the room with her magic to find any intelligent minds. She detects three minds and Grash’s hand finds that the door is barred from the other side, so there will be no quiet entry.

As they conduct their tests Patrick is already again unbuckling his sword and putting down his shield, ready for another charge. Grash goes to him and hands him a potion “Here, I’m not a hundred percent sure what this will do, but I’m pretty sure you will like it.” And, more than likely from the concussion that he had, Patrick takes the potion and downs it in one shot. Immediately temperature in the room drops and hoarfrost begins to coat Patricks increasing muscles.

His eyes glaze over and turn a frosty shade of blue. “By the Gods…I feel….incredible!” and he runs flat out at the door which never stood a chance. It shatters into a thousand pieces and as they clear the world slows. The others looking into the room see the splinters flying and a shocked looking elf stands beside a makeshift bed that had laying ontop of it what’s left of a Gnoll. The other beds had the bodies, a mixture of living and dying and dead, of Orcs and Gnolls, all connected with tubes and wires. The shocked elf had the characteristic pointy ears but its skin was dark like ash and she had half her face covered in a medical-esque mouth covering. She threw up her hands and immediately took the defensive and began shouting in a language that none of them could understand. Patrick, out of control, ran around trying to catch the elf, who was not trying her hardest to hurt any of them and kept yelling in that strange language.

As Patrick was on one side of a bed and the elf on the other, Vuvu yelled out in Elvish that they were not here to harm her. Immediately the elf looked at them and pointed her fingers and began to whisper dark words that brought shivers to their necks. A swarm of biting and stinging insects crawled from the walls and began to bite and sting them, then, before they could react, two very large spiders materialised out of nowhere and began attacking Patrick.

The fight was on, and as Grash took out his weapons and charged he called to Jalana over the sending stones that they needed her down here. Jalana hears and, frustrated, stops channelling her spell and looks for something else. Sending her mind out across the skittering insects she finds one that she likes, a scorpion called Clarence. She puts her hand down on the rock and, touching him gently, imparts upon him enormous physical strength and size. Clarence is now very large, big enough to ride on, which Jalana does and head down the mine shaft after her friends, lighting her sword and yelling her battle cries.

As the battle below reaches the crescendo, and one spider is finished off by Patrick, Jalana bursts into the room through the storm of horrible insects and greets the scene. She sees Hemmit fending off the dark looking elf and the others fighting the remaining spider. She throws herself into the fight, however, before they could do anything Hemmit is knocked from his feet and thrown backwards. The dark elf, with a keening scream launches herself from atop one of the beds and lands on Hemmits chest on her knees. Without his mace in hand and his shield thrown to the side in the melee, Hemmit is unable to stop the swinging heads of the dark elf’s flail and with his hand in front of his face trying to stop the blows he sees his death.

The others, with the final spider slain, turn around to see the dark elf kneeling on Hemmit and swinging the flail back and forth and back and forth across this face. Never before had they seen such violence enacted so suddenly and to such great effect. Hemmit was certainly dead, as half of his face had been torn and was splattered on the wall and alchemy supplies on the tables that surrounded the room.

Patrick runs to the two, barrelling into the elf and coming to his feet immediately swinging his sword taking the head off the elf and watched as it soared across the room, smashing into several of the vials and bottles that lay about, steam and gases hissing off of it.

The group stands in the relative silence, looking at the body of Hemmit, clearly bereft of life. Patrick solemly picks up his body and starts making his way out of the room without saying anything. Vuvu takes the chance to look around for loot and sees a bottle, the only one that seemed to be complete as it had a stopper and label on it. Jalana grabs some documents that weren’t on fire and they both, with Grash, ran from the room, hearing the fire and more explosions as they ran.

They exit the tunnel climbing up the shaft and lay Hemmits body in the cave. Patrick says that they should probably head back to the village, and the group tells him to fuck off. He goes outside to give them a minute, they are obviously pretty upset at the time. Jalana says that she would like to see if the gods would permit his spirit to come back to his body. They all agree and she kneels down by his body, hand on his chest and trying not to look at his mangled and bleeding face.

The room gets noticeably darker, and the group can see the earth below Jalana begin to churn, earthworms and cockroaches and other eaters of the dead begin to tunnel up, squirm and die, their little bodies coming in droves. A sweet smell of blooming flowers reaches them and then turns to the stench of decay and death. Jalana leans her head back and opens her eyes and they see that they have gone black. A wind picks up, a wind that is not of this world, seeming to tug at their spirits, pulling them towards Jalanas kneeling form.

After some time, the wind stops and Jalana closes her eyes and puts her head down. Then after some time she stands and opens her eyes.

“I can’t find him.”

As she goes to stand up from the body hundreds of bats come flying into the cave and their vision is obscured. When the bats finally exit the cave again Hemmits body is gone. After their shock subsides they sealed up the cave so that the poison doesn’t get out.

They left the cave and the mountain on the way back to Mallac’s Rest. On the way back to the town they see a bunch of animals running north away from the general direction of the town. They see a giant badger running with the animals, it’s the only one that stopped when it saw them. They then see a small hairy dark humanoid come out of the forest to the side. It stops, sees them, and calls to the badger. It comes back to him.

The little humanoid speaks to the badger, the thing gets into the back of the badger. It cannot speak common so he introduces himself by pointing to a leaf flowing on the wind. His name is leaf-on-the-wind, or Leaf, he explains in Elvish, which Vuvu can understand.

He says he’s looking to find the disturbance of the animals and asks if he can tag along with them, as they seem harmless enough. They agree. They get to the village, speak to the hag a bunch about some small topics. They give her the papers they found in the Drows den. She said they’d need to find someone that knew more about necromancy to help them with that.

Jalana, looking for Damien to ask about the funeral was walking about town. Vuvu spoke to Jalana through the sending stones, telling her to not worry. Damien doesn’t want people meddling in his daughters funeral. Jalana made a wreath of flowers and put it on Damien’s door as a token of her penance.

As she exited she saw Leaf. He spoke to Jalana saying in broken common that Jalana thinks she knows nature, that she can control it, but that he thought she was naive to think so. She replied saying that the IS nature. He is amazed at her audacity and leaves her to it.

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Chapter 30
Wild Orc Chase

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As the downpour continues and the thunder in the distance sound like the feet of giants, rain dripping from the down-pointed tip of Patricks unsheathed sword, the team stood in silence looking out towards the forest. Some guards stood idly by, some at attention but mostly there lacked an air of urgency about them. Many of the men were simple townsfolk, drafted to the militia in times of need, but none of them were seasoned fighters and many had very little time to spend away from their crafts to learn the proper ways of war.
Through the muck and the dark came a kerfuffle. A rotund man was making his way to the group with a gaggle of men about him, one holding a cloak above the man’s head to keep the rain off. The lumbering and obviously authoritative man came up to the group.
“Here here! What’s going on then, what’s all this about?” he asked the assembled men in the rain.
Patrick didn’t reply, he kept his eyes on the edge of the forest, looking to almost dare something to come out of the limbs and leaves. One of the guard captains (also working part-time) came up to the man, greeted him by way of acknowledging that he was the mayor, and advised of the tracks that were found. The mayor seemed to take this as good news and told his men to get some horses together and they’d all go out together to have a look. For the time it took for the exchange to happen and for the men to gather horses and equipment, Patrick just stood there, looking out at the forest and sometimes at the people around him. After some time, the mayor and his contingent set off into the very dark and very wet forest, torches lit and singing some inspiring songs on the way to the forest edge to lift their spirits.
Jalana, Hemmit and Vuvu looked out into the forest, then back at Patrick and then back at the forest. They were happy to stand back and watch someone else take control of the situation for once. However Patrick seemed happy to play sentry.
“Uh…are you not going out after them?” Asked Vuvu, who was standing under an alcove out of the rain, with a glass of wine in her hand.
“Huh? Oh uh… I suppose.” Patrick was pulled from his reverie. “I need to go get my horse.” And with that Patrick began to walk back to his house to get his horse.
The group stood there, looking about and kicking stones and whistling for a while until Patrick got back.
Before they all left, Jalana, without any word, turned into a midnight black panther and charged into the forest, really scaring out some guards. They thought either they were seeing things or that one of the newcomers just turned into an animal and ran away.
The group rustled up some horses, Hemmit asked Patrick if he would like to ride pillion, to which Patrick agreed. Hemmit then leapt deftly onto Patricks horse, in front of Patrick. “What the!” yelled Patrick, pushing Hemmit from the horse.
“You said you were okay riding pillion!” said Hemmit lying in the dirt with his hand up in exasperation, the most animation any of them had seen from him in a while.
“I didn’t know what you meant. Get your own horse, priest.” Replied Patrick, a little flustered and turning back to look at the forest.
After the group then waited further for a horse to be brought for Hemmit, the group then set out into the forest to look for the mayor and see if they were still alive.
Meanwhile Jalana was scouting ahead and found the mayors party after doubling back after a bit and heading south back towards the town. Hemmit, Patrick and Vuvu came up behind the mayors group from the south, with Patrick going ahead and telling them to only approach on his signal (waving his arm above his head).
Jalana turned into a human and approached the camp from the north, keeping herself hidden in case there were any abuscades, with Patrick coming up from the south. They saw lights and heard music, the group was obviously having a good time and didn’t seem at all worried about Orcs. Patrick then literally rode his horse into the camp, knocking over pots and tables and drinks he trod right up to the mayor. The men in the camp looked up at Patrick as he rode his horse through the camp, exasperated but knowing that they couldn’t possibly stop him or do anything about it.
“What’s going on, what did you find?” asked Patrick, staring down at the mayor from his lofty perch. “Why have you stopped your search for the Orcs?”
The mayor, still sitting and craning his neck up to see Patrick, replied “Well my good boy! Why don’t you come down off that horse and have a drink! There are no monsters out here you big goof!”
Patrick was not impressed and rode his horse to the side of camp and tethered it up. Knocking over more tables that had just been righted. The men standing once again with wine on their laps and bending over to pick up the cups and bowls that they had just put back on their up righted tables.
Patrick looked back, about to call the other two to the camp and saw Vuvu and Hemmit on their respective horses, already at the camp and dismounting from their horses. “Hey, we thought we’d just come up as it seems pretty warm and nice here.” Said Vuvu, with a wink to one of the more handsome villagers. “Oh! Wine!”
“You are all fools” said Patrick looking back at the mayor, “There are Orc tracks, the trackers saw them” said Patrick, coming back to the mayor and staring at the small table of trackers, identifiable by their hastily put together camouflage that consisted of sticks and one of them actually had a dead owl on his head.
The men began to laugh, “You silly billy, we found the tracks! They are from a big cat! Big as you ever did see Patrick! We’re going to hunt it.” The man said, obviously happy to be out hunting a very large cat.
Whilst listening in, Vuvu and Hemmit realised that the tracks the men found were more than likely that of Jalana in her panther form, but due to the hostile environment towards shape shifters, they couldn’t say anything, also neither of them really sure if Patrick understood this either.
After some talking, they realised that the group was probably too drunk to do anything about anything. Hemmit, quiet in the back as usual, came forward and spoke with the mayor. Dredging the man’s shallow mind, Hemmit found that he was only doing this to brook inspiration in his men, and that he needed a victory of sorts to make himself more popular with the town.
“Sir, we will kill the panther for you, you go back to the town and put your feet up. You’ve done enough for one night and the village thanks you indeed. The beast out here, it may kill you! Then you will be the mayor of the dead and no use to anyone.”
The mayor, glassy eyed, replied “Yes, I suppose you are right, I am no fighter like you and what would Mallacs Rest do without me to lead it? We will go back and valiantly protect the village! Men, with me!”
The group packed up their gambling tables, wine jugs and comfortable chairs and left.
The group, now free to do what they like out in the forest, made their way further north in search of further tracks. After a few hours they found some skulls of various races impaled on sticks on the side of the road. Hemmit, on his own volition and no prompting from the group, decided to speak to these dead. After some failures they realised that these dead knew very little about this place and were more than likely brought from somewhere else.
They found a large path going up the mountain, with skulls all the way up the path. They also found some Orc footprints that seemed to be shallower than Patrick remembered. Jalana reasoned that the Orcs were more than likely famished and therefore lighter than usual. They warily made their way up the large dirt and stone embankment.
As they reached the top of the mountain outcropping the group decided to have a look at the ruins that popped up ahead of them. Looking like some kind of defensive fortress that was abandoned long ago, the ruins were a jumble of dilapidated wooden storages and partially crumbled stone fortifications. Jalana gave them the ol’ “one squawk good, two squawks bad” spiel and turned into a giant eagle to scout ahead.
Flying far above the fortifications she saw that the place was guarded by Gnolls, some hiding their locations atop the walls, and some in plain sight, the Gnolls were well armed and entrenched. Jalana squawked twice and immediately dived to one of the Gnolls on the wall, riping and tearing at its face with her claws. The rest of the group made their way up the dirt ramp to the walls and fought their way through, Patricks sword swinging in mighty arcs lopping pieces from the Gnolls. Hemmits mighty god-fire burning the Gnolls that were taking cover behind the crenulations. Vuvu stood amongst the fighters, encouraging words inspiring them and vicious words distracting and confusing the enemies, she pointed out weak points in the enemies line with the occasional bolt flying at the enemy from her crossbow.
Atop the walls Jalana swept her fiery blade through the defenders and eventually the group found, unfortunately, no more enemies alive. Jalana made her way down from the walls and met the rest inside the fortification, which was built against the hillside. Patrick stood with his sword out, hardly breathing heavily and had a very serious look on his face. “Where are the Orcs?” he asked nobody in particular.
They saw a large entrance leading further into the hillside, a large inset cave with a makeshift doorway that was open. Moss covered walls, littered bones and dry goods were about the inside. As they got to the main chamber they saw, at the very back and chained to a wall, two Orcs that had no legs and seemed to be very much like most other Orcs they had all seen; docile and non-threatening. They saw next to them some kind of stilts made out of the Orcs legs.
Looking about the main chamber they saw a heavy set door to the northeast side of the room and a door at the back that seemed to be hastily opened and used with signs of much and recent foot traffic.

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Chapter 29
Like tears in the rain...

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As the suns rose above the horizon, and the surrounding trees began to root themselves back into the freshly aerated ground, Vuvu couldn’t get the irritating sound of a man crying out of her ears.

“Well I suppose we’d better help that guy.” She noted to Grash whilst looking at Damien sobbing on the floor. Jalana came from the area behind the altar holding a large glass ball and trying to see what it was.
“That’s a scrying ball, be very careful with that Jalana, who knows who is looking at you right now.” Said Hemmit. Jalana looked at the ball in her hands, squinted real hard at it, but got nothing. She popped it into her bag and went off looking for more plunder, as was her way.
Grash stood with arms folded, ‘I don’t want anything to do with this place, let’s go.” And he turned on his heel and started heading back to the ship. Vuvu watched him leave, happy that he’d gotten the weight of the last failure off his shoulders. She knew they had to fix all the broken pieces though, so she headed over to the sobbing Damien and kneeled down beside him. Damiens face was covered in filth and the tears had made tracks down his face. “Damien, we need to go now. We’re heading into the halflings forests, is there somewhere we can take you and your…daughter?” she asked, whilst placing a consoling hand on his shoulder.
Damien sniffed, brushed his daughers face and looked up at Vuvu. “Yes, we come from a place downriver about half a day, called Mallacs Rest. It’s on the way to the forests.” And with that he began to stand, carrying his daughter in his arms, back towards the DragunShip.
The group hoisted the sails, and with the help from their two new shipmates, Gerald and Arnold, the group got the ship out into the main waters failry quickly. Vuvu gave her room to Damien so that he could be with his daughter. Vuvu helped him clean the body and cover the girl in some linen.
As the hours pass a strong wind comes up from the east and brings rain and a larger swell, Grash retreats to his cabin with Vuvu at the helm and Jalana watching the way and navigating.
About a day later they arrive at Mallacs Rest, some guards come up to them and are hesitant but Damien tells them that everything is okay, that these are friends that helped him find his daughter again, if only for a little time. As the crowd is muttering and speaking of strangers and scary boats, Vuvu leaps down from the ship and gets onto a soap box and beings to play music and recants the tales of Damien the Hero, telling the town how brave he was and how they helped him defeat the evil Sorceress that had kept his daughter prisoner, and how his poor daughter suffered some malady by the sorceress that made her succumb to death. The crowd is pleased with the performance and, whilst he gives her a hand down from the soapbox, Damien asks for one last bubble bath from Vuvu before they depart, she declines.
The group comes down the gangplank onto the small jetty at Mallacs Rest, with the majority of the town now happy to see them due to Vuvus song. At the end of the jetty they decide that they need to see a carpenter to fix their ship as over the last few fights it had received a bit of a beating. Hemmit and Vuvu head up to the inn to get some grub and Grash and Jalana head to the carpenter after a few enquires as to his whereabouts.
Up the hill and into the shop they go, with the ring of a bell they enter and on the counter sits a little girl. She seems to be playing with a piece of wood, witling at it. She calls out for her father and scrurries out the back of the shop and a man in his early forties comes out, grey at the temples but of strong build. He introduces himself as Patrick Boatman and they discuss the ship and it’s requirements. He agrees to see them first thing in the morning for the quote and bids them good day.
Hemmit and Jalana decide to head to the inn and meet the others. Easy enough to find in the small town of Mallacs Rest, nestled at the edge of the forest and right next to the 100metre wide river running by it, the town seemed to be a sort of frontier settlement heading towards the Halfling forest. The inn was lively as there is a monthly shindig happening. Hemmit goes to the fire and strikes up conversation with some of the elders, swapping stories and learning some things about the town. The door opens and Patrick walks in, weary of the week and looking for a drink. He sees his wife there and approaches her, speaking about the visitors and their strange appearance. She assures him that they certainly aren’t the strangest people that have passed through but they sure are a funny bunch.
Vuvu is playing some music and making a few coppers, the crowd is regaled with stories of Dragunship Suddenly! and love every minute of it, generations will sing these songs!
As the night progresses Hemmit finds out that there is an old witch in the village, the villagers jokingly advise that he should get his fortune told. He summons her, like the little lord he is, and sure enough, after about an hour, she shows up. She comes into the inn out of the now pouring rain outside. Nobody seems too flustered at the old hags entry, even with her large staff and half her face covered by her long grey hair. She sits by Hemmit in a recently vacated seat and orders a drink, which is brought to her immediately. Hemmit asks her some mundane questions that don’t eventuate to anything. The old hag offered some good advice, saying that the group had amongst them a blade that was known as the Fate Carver. She also mentions that Baer had a child. The group listens not, and basically tell her to leave. The old hag feels like she was not treated well by the group, and does leave. On her way out into the rain Jalana ran out after her and offered apologies, the witch advised her that “Even those that cannot stand have their own paths to walk”. Jalana, in the rain and watching the lady disappear into the night, realises that she has had too much to drink and goes to find a tree to sleep in.
The evening progressed with Patrick beating everyone in feats of strength and getting very drunk. He woke the next day with the sun in his eyes and his daughter waking him up. “You’re late, daddy.” she said. Patrick sprung out of bed and went downstairs to his wife and grabbed some bread and immediately headed to the docks and found the group waiting for him.
“You’re late.” said Grash, sitting on an empty barrel on the deck.
Patrick inspected the ship, and after some time came across the claws that were attached to the ship, he knew them as Ursus Claws, great magical artefacts used by the Orcen Kingdoms as siege weapons. He had no idea how such a relic would have been brought here, but he knew that there was a way to control them, he just needed time to find a way, and magic was not his strong point.
He looked over the rest of the damage and advised that he could get it sorted for them in a month. He explained that much of the materials needed would have to be sourced from closer to the halflings territories if not from inside their boundaries. Which meant higher costs and longer repair times. They haggled and agreed on a price, but they wanted to bring Patrick with them to go get the wood needed to fix the obviously magical ship. He said he’d talk to his wife, as it was a dangerous journey, but promised nothing.
The heroes stayed on the ship, and Patrick went back to his family. That night, as he was discussing the issue with his wife, there was a knock on the door. Patrick got up and went to see who it was, it was a guard advising that there were prints found nearby the village, half a day’s ride north. The prints were those of Orcs, and they were headed to the village, but not getting any closer than a few miles. Patrick grabbed his sword and assured his horse that everything would be okay and headed out. After a quick assessment he advised the guards to ring the bells and muster the town defences, and for everyone to stay inside.
As he was organising the guards Vuvu and Jalana ran to his house and kicked down his door and tried to kidnap his wife, the woman resisted and screamed and kicked to be free of their grasping hands. The woman could smell wine and spirits on their breath and thought they’d come to kill her. Guards showed up to the screaming and told Jalana and Vuvu to stand down. Vuvu tried to explain what was happening and that they only wanted to help, but it all came out in a mumble and slur and the guard basically threw them both out of the house, letting them know that they would have to pay to repair the door.
Eventually they stopped trying to kidnap Patricks wife and left to find Patrick himself. They found him at the north side of the village, the opposite side to where the river swept past, and he advised them that orcs were nearby and the group prepared themselves.
A guard approached them, “Patrick, please, what do we do? We’ve never had to deal with this before! Actual Orcs! Do we sally out and find them before they cause more harm?”
Patrick stood in the rain, sword in hand, seemingly humming with latent violence.
“No, we wait here.”

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Chapter 28
Out of the Frying Pan...

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The lamp light was bright, but for some reason, as it sat on the large mahogany desk in the captains cabin the light seemed to go everywhere except Grash’s face. As he sat on his tilted chair, one foot up on the desk and arms crossed, he sometimes stared at the others talking, and occasionally to the two daggers that sat in their sheaths on the table. As his eyes flickered away from them he thought he could see the faces, The Mermaid and the Gryphon respectively, leering at him.

“The forest weeps, I hear its cries even from here. We need to go back and stop whatever unnatural practises are that woman is doing.” Jalana was standing, leaning against the bulkhead from the other side of the deck. Looking about the group to gain approval of her plan. “We go back, at night, and kill her. My claws will stop any more of her filthy magic.” And she spat on the floor.

Vuvu looked at Jalana and the spit on the floor, then to Grash, expecting some backlash from him. He seemed distracted. “You think,” said Vuvu looking back to Jalana “That we can just waltz back in there and give it another go? She pants’d us, hun. Let’s get out of here and find a nice city, by the way, we’re almost out of brandy.” And she went over to the side table to get another glass of brandy, swishing the bottle in Grash’s direction to see if he’d like a glass. He wasn’t looking at her, his eyes were locked onto the knives on the table. “Suite yourself” she said, as she downed a hefty sum.

Hemmit stood in the corner, silent as always, keeping this thoughts to himself.

“I will leave the waltzing to you, bard.” Replied Jalana, “But I am going back”.

“Something on your mind, Grash?” asked the statue like Hemmit. The two women looked first at Hemmit, surprised that he said anything, and then to Grash, who was looking at the speakers.

Grash stood and took up the belt with his knives on it, “We’re going back, and we’re going to kill that bitch. Get your rest, I’ll take first watch.” And with that he took his leave and manned the helm.

“I don’t think he’s very happy that he had his arse handed to him.” Said Vuvu, “but he’ll get over it. Seems we’re going to be giving it another shot, in that case I think I might have another drink!” and with that she, Jalana and Hemmit had a few drinks and with that drinks came the great idea to partake of the Sapphire Weed.

Hemmit is in the practice yard with his two keepers, those that have guarded him his entire adult life, they are pure blood elves, and have a disdain for him as he is half-blood.

One of the personal bodyguards of his father, a Night-Hand comes to them. Hemmit refuses to kneel and avoids the Keeper of the Minds mental powers commanding him to kneel but the Keeper of the body, with her quarterstaff, lands a vicious blow to the back of his knees and he falls.

“That’s not good enough.” says the keeper of the body, Sho-Pan.
“Not good enough at all.” says the keeper of the mind, Leinarune.

He goes unwillingly with the Night-Hand to his father’s office. His father seems preoccupied, moving some papers on his desk and fiddling with a small black sphere.

His father explains, with minimal detail, that the council had been given word on what he had been up to. Hemmit doesn’t want to go to the “stupid council meeting” and tells his father. His father looks at Hemmit, with something that could be confusion, however he never knew his father to be confused. His father is adamant that Hemmit will attend, Hemmit then refuses further. Guards are called and Hemmit is restrained.
Hemmit spits on the guards on the way out. He is taken out of his father’s room whilst defecating on himself and vomiting, straight to the council room.

In the Most Noble House of Tharuun, there debates men and elves on the matter of unsanctioned work that had been found to be happening. Hemmits father, The Shadow Behind the Stars, has been found to be meddling with power beyond his control (according to the council), and whilst that isn’t exactly illegal in the Twin Cities, it is frowned upon. The uneasy alliance with the City States of Dharma and Dwarven Citadels of Mahayana are tentative at best these days, and a representative from both countries has been sent to confer with the Twin Cities.

The Dwarf representative hasn’t much to say (only because nobody has really told the outsiders exactly what the work being done was), only that they have always had good relations with the Twin Cities and that they are sure that they have everyone’s best interest at heart. He knows that the people of Dharma are all about their “cosmic law and order” and doesn’t think they should stop doing whatever they are doing on their account.

The representative from Dharma speaks, “Garrum Mashalla, may The Twin Suns forever hold your greatness in their gaze. My Lord, the Sha-Khan of Dharma, first Flame of the Empress, bringer of the conflagration and last of his line, sends with me his most humble greetings.”

The dwarf representatives laughs at this. The dark skinned human looks slightly disgruntled but continues;

“My lord has seen in the flames the path that you take here, and does not condone it.”

Whispers come from the people attending, some for and some against.

“He, in his infinite wisdom, knows where this path will take you, and wishes, with your best interest at heart, that all work being done on the Crystal Soul is stopped immediately.”

A shout at the back of the room, a man yelling “You’ve betrayed us Shadow Behind the Stars! How could you?! Your family has always been on the wrong side of the Gods!”

An Elf at the table with Hemmits father stands, “Too long have the WAR states of Dharma meddled with our Cities! I don’t know what this one is talking about but they have no right to meddle with our business.”

Clamour as those presiding over the chamber try to regain some peace.

The delegate from Dharma goes back to their seat. Hemmit sees a slight grin on the man’s face. He also notices the man reaching into his pocket and fiddling with something, a small tube.

Shadow Behind the Stars stands and clears his throat, people settle down and listen. Before starting he looks at Hemmit, a mix of anger and love cloud his face. Hemmit has never seen anything but barely concealed irritation on his father’s face.

“Noble folk of the Twin Cities, the shining beacon of hope for the future is us. We are the ones that all look to when the world outside darkens. However, there are some powers that believe that we shouldn’t be meddling in such things, and they believe that we should acquiesce to their reasonable demands. On the other hand, some of the Deneierian priests argue that all knowledge is our realm. I agree…There is some knowledge best left unknown, but this is not one of them. I will continue the work that I have begun.” He finished with a hard look at the Dharma emissary then at Hemmit.

A large clamour comes from this, largely from the cheers of the Priests of Deneir, of who Hemmit was only recently initiated into as an acolyte.

As order is trying to be brought to the room, Hemmit notices the delegate from Dharma being very quiet in the stands. The man was looking intently at Hemmits father and seemingly muttering to himself, turning the small tube in his hands over and over again.

His attention is taken from him by a dozen human guards coming in through the front doors. The captain of the guard comes to the front “Shadow Behind the Stars, you are under arrest for the unsanctioned use of Necromancy, you will come with us immediately and answer to the Sattva.”

Shadow-Behind-The-Stars stood solemnly, it seemed he knew that this was coming and he raised his hands, palms up in front of him, ready for the shackles. In his right hand appeared a short metal tube, he looked down at it with furrowed brow, then up to the guard and then finally Hemmit. Hemmit stood, looked into his father’s eyes, and then to the Dharma delegate, who sat with their eyes closed, empty handed and with a beatific smile on his face.

The explosion that shook the room killed most people in the first four rows instantly. Hemmit was thrown backwards with the force and lost consciousness.

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Grash swung open the door to the captain’s cabin of the DragunShip with the door hitting the wall and making a loud crack. He saw the other three; Hemmit, Vuvu and Jalana sitting at the table, heads swinging up at the sound of the door. They’d been getting some much needed rest, with Jalana lying on the small bunk to the side and the other two with their heads on the desk but now sitting upright, hands on their weapons.

“What is it?” asked Vuvu getting to her feet, the threads of the dream floating around in her mind like leaves in the wind.

“There’s another ship.” Said Grash, turning around and heading back to the deck.

The three in the cabin looked at each other, each weighing what they saw in the dreams of Hemmit.

“That was intense” said Jalana, and with no further ado the group made their way to the deck to see what was happening.

Grash was on the mid-deck, looking through a spyglass towards the north, the group could see the sails and hear a faint noise of people and some musical notes. Vuvu listened to the notes, letting them flow through her and looking for a cosmic string, finding nothing. Just music.

“I want to have a look, don’t do anything rash.” Said Jalana, casting a sidelong glance at Grash. He returned her scowl and then shrugged.

Running to the railing and leaping off of one foot into the air, the group saw her fall below the horizon of their ship railings, they heard no splash, instead a large shag appeared and flew off towards the other ship.

“One call for baddies and two calls for goodies, Jalana?” said Vuvu. “We need to know if they mean us harm, else we can just stay here under the shadow of our magics and hopefully they can just pass us on by”.

As the ship gets closer they can pick out a few words of the on their air

Remoraz, Remoraz – lurking below
Please do not eat us, we’re not your foe
We’ll drop you a snack and promise to not stay
Please do not eat us, and we’ll be on our way

The ship gets closer and they see that it was probably about half the overall size of their ship, a transport of some kind. The ship has no undercroft and is being oared by men and women chained and gagged. They decide to intercept it so that if it comes to a fight they will have the upper hand. As the Dragunship leaves the mists of their concealing magics the first thing the other ships occupants see is a large head of a dragon coming out of the smoke and shadow, appearing seemingly out from behind a small rocky island that it couldn’t possibly have been hiding behind. The crew of the other ship steps down the tempo of their rowing and a man that seems to be a captain comes to the bow to greet them.

The captain of the other ship tries to explain that they are simple merchants transporting criminals. As he is speaking his crew starts to move about the ship, standing near the ones that are gagged and tied to the oars.

Grash gets antsy, whether because of their recent loss, or his wanton lust for violence, he raised his stump to the other ships sail and let out some dark words that threw a ball of fire towards the other ships sail.

The captain of the other ship whipped out his sword immediately and yelled “It’s them! The dragon ship ones!” and tells yells instructions to his crew who immediately execute the prisoners they were standing behind with a swift slice across their throats.

The supposed captain whispers into his hand and turns invisible. Grappling hooks shoot from the enemy shit and grasp unerringly into the side of the DragunShip, claws like a large bear claw into the hard wood. The men run across the ropes and try to board them and, although they are terribly over-matched, fight like demons on the deck.

The enemy ship is on fire and most of the captives are dead or dying. Jalana is flying and hacking at the men that are fighting on the DragunShip, Vuvu had her sabre out, slashing at them and laughing with Grash by her side, just like in the old days. The mast of the enemy ship, weakened by the fire now raging, snaps and begins to fall. At the last minute Jalana swept down to the enemy ship and, as a giant eagle, swept up one fo the survivors in her claws and took off back to the DragunShip. The fiery mast smashed into the deck of the other ship, spreading fire and destroying most of the boat, the ship began to sink and was only held slightly above the surface by the hooks that were embedded.

With the sound of battle subsided they realised that the captain was missing, and listening carefully they hear some movement in the captain’s cabin. Vuvu and the group had killed all the invaders bar two, who were knocked unconscious and tied up at the bow.

They chase the man into the captain’s cabin, who had by then fled below decks. They find him with his head down and his arms splayed across the giant wheel device that they took from the Rakshasa that apparently controlled his portal. The man laughs, and begins to speak “Haha, you don’t even have it..” and Grash knocks him across the head ending his speech.

They tie the man up and interrogate him by prying into his mind with spells. They learned that they were taking villagers by the dozens to Feena, the sorceress. He didn’t know much about the sorceress but he did have knowledge of DragunShip Suddenly! and felt disdain for them. Then they kill him.

They made their way back to the deck and approached their new prisoners. Grash advised them that one had to kill the other. One of them asked for a dagger and Grash gave him one after untying him, gleeful that he’d convinced a man to kill his friend.
The man took the dagger and began to cut the ropes of the other man saying “If we are to die, old friend, we’ll do it on our feet.”
Grash scowled and was about to kill them both however Jalana stepped up and advised that they would live, and their lives were in her hands.
She put the men to work on their boat, cleaning the blood and grime from it.

The group then put their attention on the prisoner they saved from the raiders. The man was huddled in the crow’s nest where Jalana the giant bird had dropped him so that he would be safe. Jalana climbed up and helped him down, he was clearly shaken and terrified. Grash immediately punched him in the stomach and demanded that he give them all his gold. The man didn’t respond, only doubled up on the deck and vomited, defecated himself in terror and began to cry.

The group collectively put their hands on their hips and shrugged. What were they to do with this guy?

Vuvu had an idea and took him into her room and gave him a nice bubble bath. Scrubbing his back and talking pleasantries and trying to feed him some nice dates. The man didn’t reply much so she left him there for a bit and joined the others on the deck.

The band of unlikely saviours then took stock of their situation. Knowing that if they wanted to cure the forest of the darkness that had infested it, and to learn more about these Pillars that Feena had spoken of, that they would need to go back to the cathedral.

They took the man from the bath and questioned him, nicely for once, about the situation and asked him what he knew.

He explained that there had been an increase in raids the last few years and that they were all taken from a nearby village. His beloved daughter had been taken not three years ago. His beautiful little angel, Feena. The group made a collective gasp with their hands on their mouths. He explained further that she was but a child, and that she could not be the one that they spoke of, an older one, with lines on her eyes and darkness in her heart.

“Please, take me to her! I can reason with her!” the new friend the farmer Damien pleaded, thinking maybe these people weren’t so bad after all.

They said “no” and gagged him, put a sack over his head and dragged him down into the hull then shoved him in a chest as tears streamed from his eyes and sadness gripped his already broken heart.

The other two, recently found to be named Gerald and Arnold, were also tied up, gagged and put into a different room to Damien. Now that the ship was fairly secure they made their way back to the cathedral to face Feena again. And this time they’d be ready.

As the group docked at the end of the pier the group ruminated over what Gerald and Arnold said. The the woman Feena disappeared at night, being sent somewhere magical by the priests. They knew that to finish the ritual the priests would need Damien’s blood, and they were determined to not let them have it. The group walked up the way, with the trees uprooted and wandering around, which were pressing in on them from all sides, seeming to peer at them.

They got to the giant metal doors, which they knocked on. They opened magically and the group saw a very different scene than they had found last time they were here. The blood stained walls were replaced by an immaculate scenario, beautiful colours and lights with seven priests chanting underneath a giant floating copper coloured seemingly-metallic like sphere 3 metres in diameter, enough to house a person, hanging above the altar and humming slightly.

Now it was time to hatch their genius plan. Grash, disguised as Damien and lead by Vuvu as his supposed captor, went to the bowl on the altar below the floating sphere and as the priest asked him to add his blood to the bowl, he did. Nothing happened.
The priest looked at Grash, then the blood filled bowl, and then back to Grash. The priest squinted from beneath his hood…

…and saw through his disguise! One of the priests began to chant and located the real blood, Damien, in the boat. A running fight ensued where the priests tried to run to the boat and Jalana, Grash and Vuvu tried to stop them, after only a few moments most of the priests lay dead on the ground, putting up little fight to the seasoned adventurers.

The group, unhindered by the trees which seemed to be controlled by the priests, approached the men and dragged them back in, killing one and dragging the other to the giant floating sphere, which was now raging against its tethers like a washing machine with a brick in it. The priest, with his final words “Poor girl” and with a smile he died seemingly of his own volition.

Jalana approached the altar, and with giant strength took the runed brass bowl from its place, the marble seemingly flowing away from it upon her touch. Once the bowl was removed the sphere began to drop, slowly, towards the altar. As the ball touched the altar, it ended, blinding them all with a light born of another world, and in its place was a girl, no more than 16 years old, laying naked on the altar.

“…father…are you there?…” she whispered.

The group looked around, wondering what they were supposed to do. Comfort the poor girl? Jalana, standing off to the side was gingerly trying to take a sip of the blood in the bowl, failing to do so gracefully and sloshing a bunch of it across her face and the front of her jerkin, spilling the rest on the floor. Vuvu took it on herself to go get Damien from the ship, and she did as the other patiently waited.

As Damien arrived a small amount of life entered Feena. “Father, I’m so cold, am I going to die?” she managed as her life was slipping away before their eyes.

Damien wept openly, holding his little girl in his arms on the floor next to the altar. “Oh my beautiful girl, you died many years ago…” and with that she passed.

The group, after wiping their hands of dirt and blood and congratulating each other on a job well done, left Damien crying on the floor and headed to the back rooms in search of loot where Jalana found, amongst the junk and blank scrolls, a beautiful crystal ball that seemed to resonate when it got closer to the brass runed bowl.

They made their way out of the cathedral to the new dawn, both suns rising brilliantly in the east, and a sense of calmness about the surrounding forest. As Jalana stood there, giant bowl in her hands and once again covered in blood, she knew that saving the forest was the right thing to do.

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Chapter 27
A pillar of strength

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Heading downriver to Datura, the team were enjoying a litte downtime on the Dragunship, the fresh night air and the sounds of the wind and bugs in the air was revitalising.

As they head around a bend in the river Jalana notices, from the crow’s nest, that there is a fork in the river up ahead. One heads more to the west and seems to be cluttered with overhanging branches and vines, being closer to the bank and the river is narrower.

The other bend, heading slightly more towards Dharma, seemed to meander to an open loch some ways up ahead.

They discussed the theoretical, which way they wanted to go and if they wanted to risk getting the sails caught in the overhanging branches. Whilst they were talking, Vuvu (who was currently at the helm) felt a strong hand on her shoulder moving her to the side. She looked and saw Hemmit, with bloodshot eyes and breathing heavily, his forearms covered in sweat and his neck muscles bulging. “We’ll be going towards the Loch” and he took the helm, moving the wheel to the port side.

VuVu looked at the near hulking Cleric with confusion, then shrugged and moved off to the side and began tuning her loot. As she finished she heard a noise from below and saw Grash come out from the captain’s cabin. He went and got a bucket, slung it over the side and pulled up a pail of river water. He moved to the middle of the boat, got on all fours and began scrubbing the deck.

VuVu looked up, plucking all the while at her lute, and saw Jalana peering intently south towards the Loch ahead, crouched like a cat on the edge of the crow’s-nest, agile and purposeful. VuVu could tell that Jalana was comfortable on a boat. She looked to her side, seeing Hemmit, a mist of sweat coming off his evidently overheating body, his skin flushed and his eyes darting to the sides. He’d obviously taken some potion of his, the large and heavy steering wheel groaning and creaking every time he so casually turned it to avoid some rock or another ahead.

As they make their way they see another boat coming up the river. As it passes they notice that the ship has a beautiful figurehead on it in the shape of a Halfling woman. There are about a dozen people on the deck, all lanterns alight, not fearing any kind of attack. The group is wary, as they should be. The boat got closer, and Jalana leant her mystic stealth to the team, and left VuV at the helm, alone. The others hid as best they could.

As the trading ship was passing them, the apparent leader of the ship saw the state of the Dragunship, with dried bloodlines coming off the side of the ship and a giant, half rotted Dragons head attached to the bow. “Ho the ship!” he called.

“Who you calling a ho?” VuVu called back.

The captain was confused, but then noticed her at the helm, alone on the giant and foreboding ship. VuVu and the Captain exchanged pleasantries whilst Grash moved to the side of the boat and looked at what they were carrying. It seemed to be bags of trade goods such as grain and foodstuffs, with the stamp of Dharma on the bags, they were probably heading to the tradetown they had just departed. The people in the boat tell them that up ahead there is trouble in the water and in the forest but they are the only two ways to go. As the boat goes by Grash lets his phantom hand drift behind them and it floats up to their sails, using his small dagger to cut a large line through their main sail.

The captain yells for all hands to stop, drop the anchor and they begin o assess the damage. Grash wants to board and raid them, VuVu advises, firmly, that that isn’t going to happen. They float on past, and as they are about to go about their business they see a scuffle happening on board, and there is yelling. They all look back, from the stern of their Dragunship and see a lone person standing on the front of the boat holding something in their hand by their side.

“Grash!’ yells the voice, harsh and spikey holding up the thing in their hand.

Grash doesn’t reply. Just stands there looking at the figure.

“Your mother is sick, you’re to return home immediately.” And he holds up the severed head and throws it towards the Dragunship missing it by a considerable margin. The figure then kicks over a lantern and dives into the water, heading towards the shore.

Nobody says anything. They all know that Grash has his secrets, and there is no point trying to get him to reveal them.

They keep sailing and make their way to a large inlet, a loch so to speak, and when they are in the middle of it, a giant water beast, lizard like and made of teeth appears in the water below. Grash ties a line about his waist and, as the bait, leaps into the water behind the boat and is dragged along behind. He sees the beast coming for him, and breaches the surface “Pull me back in! It’s hyuge!” Vuvu begins to reel him in whilst Jalana starts to summon a water elemental. Grash eventually gets up and the beast rears up behind them gnashing its huge mouth and trying to eat them.

The battle rages, with valance and courage, Grash and Vuvu atop the railing fighting with dazzling shows of swordplay just like in the old days! They strike the beast hard and it’s skin burns them with every hit, just before it died it grabs Vuvu in its giant maws and tried to drag her down to the depths, but the help of the elemental and Hemmits holy flames destroyed the beast. Vuvu was rescued by Grash.

They saw a smaller fishermans hut some way off in the distance and decided to dock there to make repairs of the ship and their bodies. They undocked, with the flickering shapes of beings like an after-image fading almost immediately, whilst unsettling to them as they had the feeling that whatever those things that were on the boat for a brief second did not have their best interest at heart.

Grash had lugged the beast behind them on a rope, and dragged it to shore, and began skinning it.

After eating they decided to get some rest in the hut. Grash went for a walk, after feeling unsettled and Jalana telling him that she felt an unnatural presence about the place. He got into a tree and looked around, seeing some funny looking trees, like they were looking at him. He got down, accidentally stepping on the face of the tree “ouch” it said. “What the fuck” said Grash, and went back to the cabin.

“Let’s get out of here, guys” said Grash and they all agreed. On their way back to the boat they found a tree there, it explained that there was a terrible evil perverting the nature around the area, and that there was a powerful being in the south in a cathedral that was causing it. They decided to go there and check it out themselves.

Getting in the boat and heading north they saw an ominous building, full of darkness and an apparently clear way to the front doors. As they got closer they felt a pressure building in their minds, a feeling of being pushed back, mentally.

They hesitantly made their way and knocked, with no answer. They opened the doors themselves and saw a room of madness, writhing supplicants and blood, arcane and evil runes adorned the blood covered walls. A beautiful woman in pristine white robes stood atop a dais, with her arms covered in blood to the elbows.

“Please, come in.” she said, and with her magic pulled them in and shut the doors. “Why have you come here? Jalana, Grash, Hemmit and Madame Vavuzel”. They were not surprised that she knew their names. As she moved her arms away from a bowl in front of her, filled with blood, they felt a lessening of the pressure in their minds. This bowl was obviously an artefact of some power.

She explained that she was making “a pillar of her own”, and that they would not be able to stop her. The group thought otherwise and attacked. At first she was standing on the altar smiling at them, the next second she was in front of them, glowing and surrounded by arcane runes and swirling currents of magic, hideous and beautiful at the same time, drops of blood flowing around her along with motes of fire and power.

They began to try to assail her, but spells bounced off her magical shields and daggers were turned aside. They thought it best to leave, so they retreated and gathered about Hemmit, who used his helmet of teleportation to get them outside, it just worked and they appeared on the trail to the cathedral and began to run back to the boat. They looked behind, seeing dozens of the zealots chasing them, being spurned on by the sorceress, who was apparently not willing to leave her fortress.

The got to the boat and made a hasty getaway, sailing back to the middle of the loch, to rethink their plan.

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Chapter 26
A leader lost

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They walk through the ruins of Corundum, most have fled, but many perished.
They see a small band of looters and just before they engage they see a flurry of blades and magic destroy the looters.
Wyne and a short woman name Gwendoline Blackfoot sees them. They explain about the dragon brood that came. They explain that they rallied some and got them to safety.

They ask about Wyne, Lilac says “Follow me.” and brings them to a hill. A few people are about, they move out of the way and they see a pyre. Wyne is laid upon it, with his mighty sword across his chest and many wounds on his body. They conduct the ceremony and burn his body, sending his spirit to the gods to judge him.

He explains that a group that has existed for thousands of years to ensure The Pillars of Eternity, that hold up the emperor to the gates of heaven, stay there, so that the emperor can ascend to heaven. He is part of a group that is investigating, but they are always thwarted at the last minute. He knows that there some kind of pattern, and he’s pretty sure the Paladins have a lot to do with it. He asks them if they know anything about it.

The group speak with Gwen, she is angry that Wyne is dead and believes it to be somewhat their fault. She loved Wyne.

They spend the night (Vuvu with Lilac) and Hemmit and Jalana spend the night smoking sapphire weed. They experience a strange thing, they catch glimpses of each others dreams. Jalana sees the spires of the Twin Cities. Hemmit seed Jalanas grammy
They also experience the dreams of a man sitting near them, of how he worked on the field of the sapphire weed.

They leave after a tenday, after having their ship fixed.

They pop the boat on the river and set sail. Vuvu almost missing the boat again.

They stop at a port and find that they are selling the sapphire weed. A huge shipment arrived destined for the palace of the ShaKhan Majora. The group decides it’s in their best interest to steal it.

They disembark the Dragunship downriver under the cover of darkness and creep back into town. Making their way behind the warehouse and into the room was no small task, with Hemmit’s clanking armour. A lone creature in dazzling robes sits atop a pile of hessian sacks full of the plant. They ambush him, knocking him out and take as much as they can before escaping back to their boat, and immediately set sail, with Hemmit enjoying the fruits (or flowers) of their labour.

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Chapter 25
An Old Friend

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As the forcefield surrounding the fighting pit desolved the groups of Chaaya began to run hysterically away, with some of the guards rallying and pointing their spears at them ready for an attack. Rather than attacking, the group ran along a path that seemed to be less populated by their captors.

As they ran they noticed that they were in some kind of small village or outpost, and that there were small groups of the creatures, with babies, hiding in small holes in the ground and under the roots of the large trees.

They ran, with minor and insignificant scraps of fighting slowing them down slightly. The Chaaya certainly didn’t expect them to be escaping today (or tonight; they couldn’t tell as it was always so gloomy due to the thick canopy).

As they ran they found that they were heading towards some kind of temple area, the ancient structures that had seemingly been half swallowed up by the ground were more prominent. One in particular stood out to them, and they made their way towards it as it seemed that it might give them a height advantage whilst they figured out what they were going to do.
The temple had a long and narrow staircase leading to its entrance, the ramp seemed to be about 80 feet on a 45 degree angle up. They began to run up the ramp and as they were sure their pursuers were gaining on them Grash stood on a pressure plate.

A giant boulder came rolling at them from a hidden side chamber, 10 feet high and across the things gained momentum quite fast. They all scrambled up the side of the ramp onto the wall that ran almost the entire length. As the boulder passed them their pursuers were too slow and many of them were crushed or flung aside.

They all ran up the length of the wall and halfway along the ground behind them fell off and tumbled down the embankment. Most of them got to the other side however Hemmit began to fall, he tried unsuccessfully to grab the rope that Grash had left trailing behind him then reached to grab VuVu’s hand and succeeded. At this time Jalana looked to the canopy and, against all reason, turned into a giant eagle and flew upwards, half flying and half scrambling through the branches and leaves towards the open night sky.

They scrambled up the rest of the ramp and stood at the entrance of the 40 foot high temple. The entrance was surrounded by intricate, yet ancient, writings and carvings of some form of dragon race. They hesitantly entered and immediately felt a presence in the room. They noticed sconce’s along the wall, four of them, that held balls of white lights, hovering in the sconce’s.

They moved in more and two figures seemed to hunch under a statue of a twin headed beast. The forms came forward and revealed themselves to be powerful Oni; terrible and ferocious ancient guardians of the temple.

They battled.

During the fight Hemmit found parts of the statues that he remembered from an old story that a Dragunborne had told him. They told of an ancient race that was a common ancestor of all Dragon-kind, a godlike beings that were allied with the now-banished Trickster Gods. This particular beast was named Mishi’Ini, who was one of the smaller gods of the time and that had gone missing before most of the other gods were banished.

As the fight neared the end, Jalana was just breaking through the tree tops after fighting her way through. She broke through to the brilliant night sky, and immediately felt a sense of relief. The wind blew on her face and the brilliant light from the giant heavenly body beamed seemingly right into her spirit. She had never seen something so beautiful, something so radiant and full of life as the…the…moon. She didn’t realise it straight away but she was in human form, bare but for her seashell around her neck, arms out and facing the moon, underneath her the planet seemed to stand still, every though was focused on the moon and she felt it’s power surge in her. Before she knew it she was falling again, crashing back through the canopy towards the ground. She didn’t worry though, as the branches whipped at her face and the animals screeched as she flew past.

Just as the group was beginning to worry if they could defeat the two might Oni, Jalana soared into the room on wings of squirrel and landed in front of one of the Oni, quickly assuming her human form and swinging Wax and Wane and spilling it’s entrails.

The last Oni was quick to fall, with Grash taking its life with several punctures to its vital organs. It died in pain, slowly.

“What are you all doing fucking around in here?” demanded Jalana, to the surprise of the others, who were wondering where she had been this entire time. Nobody replied.

As they stood there, they noticed the whites of the Oni’s eyes had gone and the lights of the scones on the side had moved to the Dragon-like figure on the wall, lighting up the twin sets of eyes. The temple began to shake, with the walls that held the Dragon creature beginning to crumble. The creature, free of its prison shook off the last of the stone that it’s flesh had been imprisoned in.

thank you

The group stood in front of the beast, not sure if they should attack or speak to it.

The group looked at him, and as Grash continued to look in wonder at the being it began to dissolve, it’s shape seeming to blur into the background. After a moment or two there stood in its place a short half-ling, very different to the ones that had entrapped them.

“Michi’Ini” whispered Grash.

Grash…I want to go home…

The expression on the beings face was melancholy. Grash, for some reason knew why. He knew that she would ask too much of him, that what she took would never return, could never be given back.

A single tear fell from Grash’s one good eye onto the marble below as the being shimmered out of sight, Jalana looked at Grash and saw the tear fall. It fell to the floor, landing right where Grash’s left leg used to be.

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Chapter 2 4
...flow

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Standing on the steps of the Bailey looking down at the town folk the group see that some of the townsfolk are listening to the soothsayers and town criers but mostly they mill about in groups, speaking in hushed tones and looking at the adventurers. They approach one of the criers who is standing atop a soapbox. Jalana asks the man if she can say a few words and they see that he is obviously insane. He garbles some nonsense and then falls off the soapbox. A blacksmith who was fixing the front sign of his shop sees them, stops, and approaches them.

‘Be careful with that box, it’s mine’ tells them, and goes back to mending his own business.

The group discuss amongst themselves who should be the one to deliver the news to the people of Corundum. Who amongst them has the eloquence and empathy required to properly explain the complicated turn of events that arose from their actions. They decide that Jalana is the best option.

Climbing defty onto the soap box, with it’s previous occupant still raving in the mud beside her, Jalana cries to the people, with raised arms covered in blood.

‘Peasants! Harken to me! We killed Arryn and took his heart from his chest and will be taking it to the Halflings in the forest of Datura!’

Unsurprisingly, quite a few people in the crowd start arming themselves. The blacksmith behind them picks up his smiting hammer and many of the traders about feel the rise of simmering violence. Jalana, happy with her pronouncement steps down from the makeshift pulpit and looks to Vuvu, ‘Well that wasn’t so bad, was it?’

Many women and children are rushed away as a large contingent of guards rush to them, pulling Jalana off to the side and asking her what in the blazes she was talking about. The guards convince the adventurers to come with them, to see Wyne immediately.

They are lead back to the keep, to Wyne, who is speaking with many town officials. As they enter he looks up from some papers on his desk that he was discussing with a nobleman, ‘Ah, the heroes are here. Please excuse me, I must attend to them.’

The nobleman exits Wyne’s company with an irritated bow and the guard accompanying them explains to Wyne what occurred outside. Wyne is not happy, but he’s not surprised either. ‘Please, for the love of all that is right in the world, leave all public relations to me from now on, would you?’ he implored them. They didn’t take kindly to his accusations that they couldn’t woo the crowds as well as him, and a few insults were traded, however they agreed. ‘Now, tell me everything that happened down there.’ he continued.

They agree, and tell him everything that happened in the tomb downstairs. He is upset that they were all deceived by the demon masquerading as Arryn, but as a stoic man of resolve, he didn’t let it get in his way. He advises that he has many of his people inspecting the portal down there, and a few have gone missing. Wyne explicitly forbids them to go anywhere near the strange happenings in the dungeon.
The group then asks for and is given full access to the library of Corundum to better understand the history of the Throne and why this is occurring, with Vuvu convincing him that they could at least help with research. What harm could a few books do?

They learn a few things; firstly of the Prophecy of Second Spark. This speaks of a time where the world will be changed so thoroughly in order to instigate the return of an ancient and malevolent power that will consume the world.

Secondly, knowledge of the demons of the dark woods of Datura, millennia ago;
The half-lings, calling themselves the Chhaya, had a sprawling empire of beautiful steppe-pyramids and towers, a very successful water trade and spent much of their time on the rivers. Then one day their entire civilisation fell.
Some say they went too far with their magic, and they let loose some darkness hidden below their great temples. Since then the paladins of the realm patrol the area and keep whatever darkness there is Datura at bay.
Obviously, one got out. If more were to escape, who knows what would happen?

They then make their way from the library to the infirmary to see how Li-Lac was doing. They find him asleep in the same bad that Grash was put in. They leave him be, he looked like he needed some rest.

They make their way back downstairs and come to the decision that they will be sneaking down to the portal and have a look. They walk down, Vuvu charms one of the guards to let them pass and as they make their way in the mages sense them and order them to leave. Instead, they charge and throw themselves into the portal.

Coming out the other side they find themselves in a dense jungle environment, full of life and animals and critters. They look around and notice that they are being watched.
Nagas begin to stream in from all sides, the fighting is intense and the Naga don’t go down easily. As they fight, the group finds in their Nagas mind that they are fearful of retribution should they fail, the Naga are not angry at the group, they are slaves.

They fight persists, however they realise that they are being watched. They are surrounded by figures in the underbrush. Tattooed and holding spears like they have never seen, adorned with relics, trinkets. They overpower the group, even going so far as to put Vuvu into a death-like sleep.

They awake some time later, in a fighting pit, surrounded by the creatures that they assume to be the half-lings. They are tied with an Elf, who seems to be armed, and they soon realise that they too are still armed.

The chanting begins and the Elf tells them that they need to put on a good fight, else they will die, forever. As they ask him what he means by that he mentions that he has died too many times, and he doesn’t know who he is anymore.

The fight begins and the group slaughters the elf, but the fight is not over. They realise that the fight has only just begun.

Quote that the group read on a small stone tablet:
And the lord stood upon her hinder parts,
And with his merciless club he smashed her skull.
He cut through the channels of her blood,
And he made the North wind bear it away into secret places.

They fight until they are exhausted, not knowing how much time has passed. Eventually after many nights, they are brought face to face with an animal like Baer.
He thinks they are tricking him, and lashes out, they fight him and VuVu eventually defeats him by throwing him magically into the surrounding wall of Chayya who skewer him.

A monk is then brought out, and it turns out that he doesn’t want to fight, he tells them that he has a magical amulet that can turn off their forcefield prison. They do so and begin the escape.

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Chapter 23
Ebb...

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“Get me some coconut water!”

Wyne yelled as he made his way to the mess in the the throne room, where the command centre for rebuilding the city had been setup. Several mages were working on the throne, now released from their former Paladin master, they were free to study it.
As Wyne sat at the breakfast table with the group and began to feed himself boiled eggs and a few cuts of ham, he drank his coconut water and felt sorry for himself.

Hemmit gets up from the breakfast table to go and have a look at the throne and what the mages are doing to it, he’d never seen a chair so ornate, and never one giving off such an arcane aura.

Jalana, finished with her meal, got up to join him. Whistling and kicking at debirs on the floor from the fight the night before.

They’d never seen it so close, noticing that the throne was made of a hard wood, infused with sapphire, almost running through the wood like water through cracks in the floor.

As Jalana got near to it, she notices a sense of pervasive magic about it..a kind of unnaturalness. A mage was performing a complicated magical spell that seems very complicated to her, with much hand waving and incantations and concentrating. She tried to ask him some questions, but he chided her, telling her to stick to her herbs and dirt.
She punched him, hard, in the ribs.

The spell hovers in the air for a moment, like a burning wheel of flame, multiple runes moving about seemingly random. Jalana, always inquisitive, puts her hand through it.
As she does so she sees, almost in slow motion, tiny flames begin to lick out of the broken spell and, just before it explodes, she remembers a story her grammy told her.

Look, little one, see the serpents in the waters, see how they coil, like flames in the fire

Jalana was in her grandmothers lap in the family boat, looking into the ocean waters at the sea snakes lurking just below the surface

See girl, they are fast, but you can be faster

The old woman put her hand above the waters, and just as one of the snakes rose to biter her hand she pulled it back, faster than the eye could see. Jalana stared at the snakes and hoped she could be that fast one day

Jalana grabbed Hemmit and jumped backwards, flinging her body backwards and towards the floor as the magical Rune exploded fire about the room, conflagration engulfing several of the mages and singing Hemmit’s cleric robes. The mages died in pain on the floor beneath the throne.

“Foolish child!” yelled Lil-lac, as he pushed forwards past Wyne, who stood transfixed, staring at the throne and a redness that spilled from marble beneath it creeping upwards, the smell of copper filling his nostrils.

OUT! came a booming voice from Lilac, magically amplified, which all guards obeyed.

The adventurers stood transfixed.-
All except Jalana, who ran for the nearest exit, like a cat that had upturned a bowl of water and fled the room. -
The throne seemed to shudder and glow, the blue of the sapphire turning a blood red from the ground up. As soon as he deemed he was close enough Lil-lac cast his hands ahead of him and a boom echoed across the throne room. Chanting words from another world spilled from his lips and a weight engulfed the man, seeming to darken the room.

They all witnessed time itself begin to slow down for everything within a few yards of the throne. So slow that a butterfly that was passing by could move it’s wings once a minute.

Wyne came up to Lilac and, still looking at the throne asked him what was happening. Li-lac explained that the throne seemed to be connected to something within the castle, in the crypts beneath, he could feel the power coursing up through the ground.

Wyne turned to the others, they had gotten up from the breakfast table, weapons ready and alert (besides Grash, who remained seated, and Jalana who who just poked her head back into the room, looking sheepish). He explained to them Arryn had never let them inside the catacombs before, it had been forbidden. Wyne advised how Arryn seemed to hide death from them, protect them from it. Wyne explained that Paladins should never fear it, but should understand it, accept that it is of the natural order of things.

Wyne, through the help of Li-Lac, explained to them that they needed to investigate the source of the power, whatever was causing such corruption of the throne, but that they had mere hours to do so before the time-stopping spell ran out of juice. After some further discussion, The group decided that they should be the ones to go down there.

They followed Wyne into the lower reached of the castle, as Jalana tentatively made her way back into the room and followed them, leaving Lil-ac behind to buy them as much time as they could.

They passed the armoury from the night before where Hemmit was allowed to take his pick. The group stopped in front of the door and ask Wyne if they can have some cool things from inside.
“Don’t be preposterous, you aren’t beggars looking for scraps right now! We have important business to take care of, come on!” and kept going down the stairs.
They discussed that they’d like to steal some items from the vault anyway, as they felt like they were entitled to it. After deciding to do so, Grash kicked the door but surprisingly it didn’t open.

Hemmit suggests that they use his Helmet of Teleportation. They all enter the vault, besides Jalana who stays guard outside, and grab as much as they can before twin gargoyle statues begin firing beams of energy at them. Knowing that they wouldn’t be able to survive much longer they teleport out but end up outside the bailey and in the streets.

Jalana advises Wyne, as he’s coming back up the stairs wondering what the hold up is, that the group had gone into the room to take some things against his best advice. He is incredulous, and upset at the news as there was important business to attend to.
Jalana is confounded as to why he is upset and gets upset at him.
As they are arguing, the group is walking down the stairs seemingly fine, and Wyne asks Jalana why she said that they were in the treasure room, she says that she never said that. They continue.

They get to the bottom of the stairs after a few minutes and Wyne turns to them.
“I cannot go any further, I have sworn an Oath to one day become a Paladin, and cannot enter the catacombs with you.” he advises all of a sudden.

The group is upset at this and consider forcing him to go in. They think about it for a while, whilst Wyne stands in disbelief, then reconsider. They don’t need him anyway.

“Good luck to you, and may the light show you the way.” he says, and unlocks and opens the large wood and steel doors, apparently fixed with some kinda of glowing magic aura.

The group stand there looking down a stone hallway, none of them can see very far at this point, but all there is is stone and darkness.

Grash shrugs and steps past the threshold and is immediately hit by a dart in the neck. He stands stunned with one foot in the door and Jalana takes the dart out of his neck.

“Yes, be careful of traps, my experienced adventurers” mumbles Wyne as he folds his arms across his chest.

They group, more warily, make their way into the dungeon.

They make their way down several corridors until they enter the main room in the catacombs. A statue ahead of them is basked in magical light from Grash’s dancing lights.

Hemmit comes forward, looking at the statue, and even though it is quite tall, notices that the statue is standing on a plinth and that it is of the Halfling Godess Yondalla, one of the godesses of the Halfling Race. He goes to the statue and begins to study it, wondering why it would in such a place.

As some are studying, and some are debating whether wrapped up skeletons are mummies, or whether they require flesh to be named so, VuVu walks up to the statue and notices that there is an inscription in the common tongue.
“_Death is unyielding, Death comes for thee. Grasp with both hands, and bend at the knee._” She whispers to herself.

“What did you say?” asks Hemmit, who was taking charcoal rubs of some of the runes on the statue.

“I said, Death is unyielding, Death comes for thee. Grasp with both hands, and bend at the knee.” she replied, much louder.

As she finished speaking, the hairs on the back of her neck rose and her blood quickened, noticing a spell when she heard one. “Uuugh, not again…” she mumbled.

“Um, this ones moving” said Jalana, backing away from the bones wrapped in cloth, as it lazily got out of it’s resting place.

As the group realised that they were now being surrounded by Mummies and Skeletons, they backed together towards the statue of Yondalla. Hemmit took out his Holy Pencil and a burst of light shone from it, immolating the nearest skeletons and turning their bones to ash. The Mummies were unaffected.

“Quick! Someone do something!” yelled Jalana as she tried to grab the candle out of the statues hands, but it didn’t budge. “Did you say something about kneeling?” she yelled at VuVu.

“Yeah! Grasp with both hands, and bend at the knee.” Vuvu replied, as she loosed a quick bolt at the nearest Mummy.

Jalana kneeled down in front of the statue, out of the corner of her eye she could see Grash slipping into the shadows, and tried to reach up to take the candle. She realised that kneeling she couldn’t reach the candle, it was too high.

“Damn it! It’s impossible!” she said, readying her weapons and facing outwards.

VuVu thought about the riddles complex components and realised what the had to do.

“Grab with both hands and then kneel!” she said as she did so.

The candle slipped from the statues hands and for a second felt like a normal candle, then after a moment became impossibly heavy and a light began to hum from it, and VuVu felt the darkness around them all retreat a little.

I will always protect you a faint voice was heard in the room, to who it was directed was not apparent.

As Vuvu stood and looked at the fight around her she saw Grash pour from the darkness and strike a mighty wound to one of the Mummies, but it did not fall. As Jalana cut pieces from their bodies with Wax and Wane Hemmit’s holy fire reached them and burnt their unholiness from their rotten bodies and Grash struck from the shadows, never in the same place twice.

“They keep coming! We have to move!” yelled Hemmit, blasting more and more of the monsters as they rose from their graves.

Vuvu began to walk, and realised with a pang of fear that she could only carry the candle with great effort, and was walking very slowly. The others realised that the light of the candle was keeping the darkness, and the screaming noises, away from them. They began to shield Vuvu as they made their way across the room to the other side, more of the undead poured from their holes, bent on destroying the interlopers.

As they reached the end, Vuvu couldn’t carry it any further, the weight was just too much on her body, and she could feel the candles weight even in her spirit. By this point Jalana had become a wolf, tearing at the undead from just inside the candles light so as to not be consumed by the darkness.

“Jalana wolf-thing! I don’t know if you can hear me but- CATCH!” and Vuvu threw the candle.

Grash leapt again from a dark corner and slashed at a Mummy, beheading it whilst smiling. Hemmit stood, his holy symbol in one hand and his mace in the other, fending off multiple undead and wolf-Jalana’s ears perked up as the candle, end-over-end was flung towards her. She backed up watching it fly through the air, backed up so she was against the furthest wall from where they entered, and jumped into the air, catching the candle in her mouth, singeing not a single hair on her head, for the fire did not burn her.

All of a sudden the room shifted, the half where they entered remained, however the other half shimmered and shifted, seeming to melt away and all that remained were plants, vines, tree trunks, leaves and undergrowth. The smell of wood and moss and life assaulted them. As this happened the undead in the room seemed to wither, melting back into the corpses that they were, losing the power that animated them.

“What…what’s happening?” Vuvu exclaimed as she looked around at the dying and the dead.

“I don’t know, but whatever it is, he doesn’t look too happy about it.” laughed Grash, pointing his sword towards a child pinned to a trunk of a tree, the sharp branch, covered in symbols, piercing through his chest.

They all looked where he pointed, towards the shimmering area of green. They saw the person, a Halfling, seemingly concious, looking at them. They went closer, still on guard and wary of any tricks.

“By the gods, it’s….Arryn.” stated Jalana, as she went closer to him. “What is he-”

The Halflings eyes shot open, and in a voice thick with a melodic-yet-harsh accent, “Please…you have to listen. I am Arryn, champion of my people, sent here to find the darkness that escaped our lands, I-” his eyes went distant, seemingly confused- “- I’ve been here a long time…I think…I need you to take my heart back to my people. I came from Datura, a land in the West, they sent me here…Where? Where is here? Please!” – he became more animated now – “Please take the Dark Heart of the Forest back to my people, they will need to send another champion to kill the Demon That Changes, I have..failed…”

As he spoke the group stood transfixed, noticing that the tree that he was pinned to had a red gem-like structure to it, that the roots seemed to be taking minerals from the ground and adding it to it’s physiology. The roots from the tree were traversing the shimmering barrier and making it’s way up through the catacombs walls into the ceiling, possibly beyond.

“Happy to oblige”

The group was surprised by Jalanas comment, and a little more surprised when she stepped forward, through the shimmering barrier, and struck her knife into the Halflings chest, sawing and cutting with precision until the hole in his chest was open enough to take out the heart. Just before she did so, he looked her in the eyes, Jalana knew the pain must be unbearable, and whispered “..thank you…”. She ripped out his heart, and he died.

As the group stood in stunned silence, Jalana walked back to them, blood soaking her arms up to her elbow, and regarded the heart. She looked at it, dark and still beating, an aura of something about it she did not understand, but wanted to. As she went to take a bite from it she suddenly caught herself and took it away from her mouth.
The others still stood watching, all with shocked expressions, besides Grash, who smiled.

“We should….go” said Hemmit, and he turned back to the stairs. The others followed him out and up the stairs, back to the world above.

They got back to the throne room, where Li-Lac was unconscious on the floor, blood coming from his ears and eyes. Several priests attended him and Wyne assured them that he would survive, but the effort took a great toll on his mind.

The throne was still standing, albeit a little more red in the stones than before, and the mages that were killed in the fiery blast had been removed from view.

As they made their way outside, they see a large group of towns people about the bailey, half of them looking to see what the commotion was inside the keep, and the other half looking to the sky. The group stand on the steps with the huge open keep doors behind them, their wounds apparent, looking to the crowd then to the skies.

The fiery comets had gone but in their place a giant celestial body had taken it’s place, seeming the size of a gold coin held up to the sky, it did not burn like the Twin Suns, but was just….there…hanging in the sky. Like a giant rock.

Even with such a spectacle some of the town folk were yelling, asking the guards what ‘the Dragunship ones’ had done, what evil had they unleashed upon the world, that they were the ones to make the ‘thing’ appear in the sky but moments ago. There was fear in their eyes, but also anger.

A new age has begun! A time of peace and prosperity! yells one town crier

The end times are here! Doom awaits us all! yells another

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Chapter 22
None are Bard from this tale!

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Standing on a chair with her hair pulled up into a fighting braid, blood still fresh in her hair and a wicked look in her eye, she bedazzled the crowd with her instruments and her voice. Tales of glory and the eventual gruesome death of her last adventuring party by a clan of giants, the woman radiated charisma and all sat spellbound by her songs and stories. The entire tavern had almost completely emptied their coin-purse at her feet when the door to the establishment opened, showing the rain and muck outside.

In came a ragged figure, the dark eyes glistening and rain dripping off his scales onto the floor. He turned and began to make his way to the bar, but the musical notes peeked his interest and he looked at the woman making shadow puppets in front of a candle depicting the final battle against the giants. Just as she finished showing the crowd how she valiantly escaped and made her way back to town she noticed him watching.
Leaping off the chair she put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to the side, “Well, look what the cat dragged in! If it isn’t my old friend Grash!” and she gave him a playful slap on the arm.

“Madame Vuvuzela, a pleasure as always. What are you doing here?” he asked in his straightforward way.

“Why I’m here to play a few songs and make a few coins, my dear. Also… all my friends are dead and I’m bored” she pouted.

Grash shrugged and turned from the bar back towards the door, he opened it, again exposing the rain outside, “Come with me.” He said.

They both left the tavern and walked through the small town, making their way towards the docks. They spoke of the few jobs they’d done together, nefarious and otherwise. On the way Grash explained that he’d gotten a job as security on a ship headed to Al’Miad. VuVu note to Grash that it seemed a trivial and boring job, and that she thought he was hiding something.

“I’m always hiding something, VuVu.” He said, with his face as straight as always.

They got to the boat and as they began climbing the gangplank the Captain came rushing towards them shouting, “Hey! Grash what in the nine hells are you doing! No women on this ship!”

“Khazeem, she is a friend of mine, besides… what about her?” he asked as he nodded up towards to the crow’s nest where a wiry young girl looked down on them.
“Her? That’s different…she..uh..that’s different. End of story! Now get her off my ship!” he yelled waving his arms.

“Well, I guess that’s that, I’ll find my own way across Grash, I hear there are many treasures to be found over there.” VuVu said as they made their way back down the pier.
“No, you’ll come with me. I may need your help.” Replied Grash.

That night they stole VuVu aboard with stealth and a few bribes here and there. Unfortunatley they were found out and VuVu was thrown from the ship just as they set off. She swam back to the jetty and as she was climbing out a hand reached down to her, helping her out. As she stood soaking wet on the pier she noted that man that helped her. Short, stocky and covered in tattoos. His bodyguard behind him was much more striking; tall, musclular and completely white all over with piercing blue eyes. Very odd for an Orc, she’d never seen anything like it.

“We hear you need a lift across the Boiling Sea? Well girl, we can help you, for a price of course.” Offered the short man, with a smile full of broken and golden teeth.

= – = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = -

The sky is very pretty today she thought, as she fell backwards off the small watchtower that Captain Silna told her to take. She knew this was a stupid idea, and knew that whatever stories she could weave from this wouldn’t outweigh the fact that this fall would more than likely kill her, and if by the grace of the gods it didn’t, the thousands of Goblins and Ogres about would.

As she fell the tried turning her body, like cat. The Monk had spent most of the afternoon with her teaching that trick, after she’d spent most of the night with him teaching him a few tricks (which never got back to his monastery).

Taking her eyes off the beautiful sky oh what beauty and radiance, from death does this beauty pour only? she turned her shoulders first and with the momentum curled her legs out under her, pouring all her effort into looking at the back of a particularly unlucky Goblin underneath her. As she hit the creature she tucked in her knees and tried to roll from it’s back. Unfortunately she’d fallen almost 30 feet, and it didn’t work out. Face down in the mud and a little dizzy she felt strong hands pulling her upwards, certain of death she braced herself and was determined to die well so that the sages would forge her stories with the ink of true grit and bravery.

Luckily the hands were that of Jalana. Vevuzela brushed herself off and looked at the woman before her. She was startled, the woman was tall, over six feet tall and broad of shoulder and dark of skin, thick hari tied back into a warriors knot… but so young!.
She would seem a child to her, dropped into a warzone without knowledge, if but for the eyes. Vevuzela looked into them, seeing something…understanding, wisdom, and most of all…pain.

“You shouldn’t be here. Get to safety whilst there is a lull in the fighting.” said the dark woman before she flicked the gore and grime from her blades before pointing back to the city using one of her swords, “That way.” She then turned and ran back into the battle, running behind a rather large ogre and carving it with one of her scimitars, which had somehow burst into flame.

“You’ll get used to her.” a voice in her ear shocked Vevuzela back into the present. She turned, sword miraculously still in her hand, and saw a familiar face in the crowd.

“Grash! What in the giant-swinging-balls of Allam are you doing here?” she cried, almost relieved to see her old crewmate.

“Talk later, kill now.” he said matter-of-fact and himself ran back into the maelstrom.

Vevuzela had seen many fights in her time, a few battles but no wars. This was something else, there seemed to be no order to the fight, those entrenched seemed to be just killing whatever enemy was nearest to them at the time.
She remembered a time in the Vale of Benanou, the army she marched with outnumbered the raiders that had waylaid them, but the raiders had surprise on their side, they had fear on their side.
Suddenly Vuvu found herself running onto the body of a slain Ogre, raising her sword and rallying those around her.

Come you dogs! Come to your deaths! The Vale of Citadels will not tremble at your rumblings! We will kill you into the ground! We will kill you until you can’t die no more!

The men around her took heart and listened and, inspired by her heroic visage and voice, were inspired to greater deeds than they would have thought possible. A rallying cry was taken up and Vevuzela found herself being carried back into the fight, which had progressed further towards the Goblin Kings makeshift dais.

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“They begin to tire, we will press our advantage!” roared Wyne, surrounded by his trusted and valued comrades, and also DragunShip Suddenly.

Heroes and militia, commanders and laymen, ran towards the dais, seeing with their eyes the monstrosity that commanded this army from hell. It stank, even from here they could all smell it.

Mages to the left of them let off giant balls of withering flame, crippling the south flanks defences allowing their troops to pour into the gaps made by the carnage. Knights on mighty warhorses trampled the Goblin foot-soldiers underfoot and speared the giant Ogres with their terrible lances. The killing was unending, the screams of the dying absolute.

Hemmit saw, out of the corner of his eye, a group of soldiers running towards them, human and full of a kind of zeal he thought impossible in such a scenario. The men and women, clad in leather, mail and carrying swords, axes or pike, ran with such vigour that they inspired those around them. He felt the tide of the battle turn in their favour.

As they reached the dais, with the fresh influx of soldiers fighting with the strength of those who had just had along nights rest, they came to see that they were led by none other then the woman that fell from the tower.

“I thought I told you to go to safety?” quizzed Jalana.

“I have a few tricks up my sleeve, girl.” replied Vuvuzela with a smile and a wink.

The group, as one, charged at the monstrosity on the platform, noticing that his captain stood beside him, a hideous and especially large Ogre.
All of them dodging, as best the could, the arrows being shot at them from more makeshift towers about them.

Hemmit launched cleansing fire from the sky at the beast and his captain, then casting powerful enchantments to protect key points in the battle.
Jalana, in mid-stride shifted into the form of a great panther, eager to slice this affront to the natural order to pieces.
Grash, in the chaos, revelled. Launching deadly strikes from above, below and behind in a uncontrolled fury of stabbing and slicing.
Wyne charged head on, throwing his considerable strength behind his two handed broadsword, halving enemies and stopping ogres in their tracks.
Vevuzela shot at the archers on the towers, skewering them with bolts from ther crossbow, shouting at the others to notice enemies about to strike and disallowing them the upper-hand.

The Goblin King shot black tendrils at them, some dark magic that had no place in a Goblins hands. It writhed with every blow and screeched madly every time it struck one of the heroes. Eventually they brought it to it’s knees, at this point large pieces of it’s body were falling to the ground, not just limbs that they had severed by pieces of it’s face, back and legs that had not been hit by the melee. They saw it transform, back into its original form. They knew then that this was not Goblin, but an interloper. A disguise for a being that had stolen some form to command the control the goblin hordes.

As the word spread, by human and goblin mouth, that their hords leader had been killed, the army began to break apart. The ranks and ranks of goblin began to lose heart, and with that began to lose their lives. What was a neck-to-neck race in killing each other quickly became the forces of Corundum chasing and slaughtering the disheartened and ragged attackers.

The heroes stood on the dais, with the rotten and disintegrating body of the demon at their feet. Wiping their weapons clean and catching their breath they saw Wyne come towards them, fresh wounds and blood.

“Thank you, thank you for saving Corundum, and the Valley of Citadels. I’m sure there will be some celebrations tonight!” he yelled, and turning to the forces behind him that weren’t hunting down the escaping horde, he raised his giant sword one-handed in the air and let out a roar of defiance in the direction of the retreating army.

“Hope there’s rum at the after-party, aye Grash?” said Vevuzela, elbowing him in the ribs with a wink.

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