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Apologies for the slowdown - our youngest is currently in the process of transitioning from 1 nap to 0 naps... which means he's up till 11:00 most nights.
Continuing upon your slow and sticky passage Eastwards through the mire, you find yourself beset by claustrophobic confines in the dark. Nothing comes to bite you, no foulness befalls you... bar some slipping feet and soiling of garments. You do feel a pulsing presence before you from three directions - the North East, East and South East. It is an alternating wave of cold and heat, not powerful enough to harm, but easily felt.
The pooka narrows it's eyes at the humans then shrugs "Here madness walks and wears friendly faces
"But taller and less hairy have no ill
Gregori steps out from cover as the remainder of you unleash a fusillade at the perversion of Nyserian. The combined weight of five forceful missiles, Harrol's well aimed sling stone and finally Eudocia's loosed arrow drive the beast first to a knee before sending it then crumbling to the ground, the external form bloodied and bleeding - while the demon within is clearly near to death. Nyserian's head lolls open like a flower, split down the center line into grotesque flesh-petals.
The other beast turns to face you...
Vermlek: 1d20 - 1 ⇒ (3) - 1 = 2
Harrol: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (10) + 4 = 14
Eudocia: 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (4) + 2 = 6
Joneth: 1d20 + 4 ⇒ (14) + 4 = 18
Gregori: 1d20 + 1 ⇒ (15) + 1 = 16
Theodric: 1d20 + 7 ⇒ (6) + 7 = 13
...though it's reactions are far too slow to act meaningfully to arrest it's likely demise...
Action Tracker (Round 1): Joneth, Gregori, Harrol, Theodric, Eudocia, Vermlek
Moving beyond the threshold of the darkness you find it somewhat malleable. What previously seemed a wall of black is now pushed to be around five feet before you. Stepping into the centre area you also sink thigh deep in sucking mud that drags like lead upon your muscles as you attempt to move. It is with labored effort that you force yourself onwards... as of yet there is nothing that either checks your passage or draws your eye.
Terrain is as per deep snow - 15ft of movement to move 5ft.
Rest, sleep, another meal of hearty stew and you are then called to present yourself unto the sand again. Moving through what seemed to be a slightly different set of tunnels than the ones you came through you arrive on the Western side of the arena - and find it much changed. Much of the arena is blanketed with a 15ft height of inky blackness - bounded in the two corners that you can see by 20ft tall pillars of stone.
In the Northern viewing box is just the dwarf this time, who calls to you "I heard you asked after more equipment... so this is your chance. Face the black, find the tokens and return and you'll get your kit... but beware the sting of what else you might find in there." before smiling and gesturing to you to begin.
You think you catch the slightest movement atop one of the pillars, but even after narrowing your eyes you can't see any more.
Noonan and Juro:
Though the darkness cloaks much of the sand - you can see that the area within the cloud is wet at the edges, suggesting that it may be muddied or similar within.
Was just wanting an acknowledgement of the receipt of sack more than anything else.... because no-one had actually IC posted that they took it. Yes it's a railroady bit... but there's still a bit of scenery going past...
The librarian smiles and nods to Eudocia as she passes over the bounty before seeking refuge within the inn. With that Irabeth looks over to seek a sign of readiness before leading both you and the crusaders away. Picking through the streets with scouts ranging ahead to plumb and safeguard the way Irabeth reasons "We will stay with you until we reach Old Kenabres, then we will separate. Wait for the sounds of battle before making your approach and the way should be cleared... Fight well, our hope is with you."
The remainder of the way is passed in silence as the outskirts of Kenabres are passed through and you reach the cusp of the inner district of Old Kenabres. Irabeth gives you a final nod before moving off at pace with the crusaders. A span of minutes stretches before faint sounds of conflict can be heard. Giving another couple of minutes for good measure you stealthily take your way through the last few streets before coming upon a scene of abject ruin and destruction...
A large stretch of buckled ground and rubble stretches before the Gray Garrison, an aptly named structure that squats across from the open ground that once stood before the Cathedral of Saint Clydwell. That cathedral is no more—nothing remains but a towering mound of rubble and a deep, jagged rift in the ground. Seared into your memory is the sight of the fallen Terendelev... but no corpse remains.
Before the squat garrison stand two hideously obese, naked men armed with scythes.
Knowledge (Local or Nobility) DC 12:
One of the men is a grotesque version of Kandro Nyserian, while the other is a bloated version of Lord Hulrun the man that was once the leader of Kenabres!
Knowledge (Planes) DC 15:
The beasts that stand before the garrison appear to be vermleks - demonic parasites that make puppets of corpses and dwell within them. They are bolstered by negative energy, and bear the typical strength of demonkind.
There is a span of ~70ft between where you are and the front of the garrison. The distance is covered with both clear ground and some rubble.
Knowledge (Nature) DC 20:
You know that the fey often covet gold or gems, but equally would crave for sweets.
A stipend of a few coins in gold a day would seem fair
Tutting with it's tongue "Oh but Tassius cannot tell
Upon Hilde's shoulder the rest of you see a tiny winged creature with smooth skin and bulbous eyes fade into view. It is a creature of the fey, and those of you knowledgeable of such creatures identify it as a pooka - a trickster for certain, but lacking much of the malicious bent that plagues other fey.
It replies in tinkling voice to Hilde's whispered words "Tassius Fooled-the-Fire is here, and here is his place. Much he knows, more he has forgotten than you will learn... but what price, what price to pay..."
Ran out of time tonight - but will update tomorrow with a fresh map.
Also, if you used any consumables of value (ie. not just arrows) please ensure your profile is up to date.
Padrym proves theory with a low toss of a pebble into the pile of gold... to hear the wet liquid smack of a mudhole.
You notice a slight movement of air as though a tiny creature flew past you.
You feel a light press of weight on your shoulder and whispered "Not so silly, not so dumb... why does the smart one walk with the smelly and unwashed?"
Noonan and Juro:
The man nods "Time will come for that... but for now you struggle on with what you brought in with you... it's his way of seeing how well prepared you were when you arrived. Soon enough you'll get some credit for our stores... we're reasonably well stocked."
I'm assuming from the complete and absolute lack of banter we're pretty much ready to rock into the next combat?
Relaying your intentions to move immediately Irabeth nods gravely and adds "We'll approach with you until we're near, then we'll split off and raise some hell to draw some of the defenders away from the Garrison."
When you emerge a squad of crusaders have been assembled, a mixture of all those that remain as part of the resistance against the demonic infestation. You notice a contingent of mongrelfolk among them as well, armed with bows and while still keeping to a knot of their own kind they appear to have integrated into the defence force reasonably well.
Just after you emerge one of the librarians that you rescued in the remains of the Blackwing. Out of breath she drags a sack across the square and flags down Eudocia's attention "Wait, I'm glad to have caught you. Aravashnial sends his regards... and what remained of the caches of supplied that only the Riftwarden's knew of. Use it well."
Within the sack are: eight potions of cure serious wounds, four potions of lesser restoration, 10 +1 evil outsider bane arrows, a chime of opening, a wand of magic missiles (CL 5th, 31 charges), and a wand of daylight (24 charges).
Noonan and Juro:
Noonan doesn't need to travel far before he encounters an older man who looks like the sort of chap that used to have significant strength before age took it's course. He eyes you appraisingly before asking "New recruits? What are you doing wandering around? - weren't you shown to your room?"
Juro comes upon the pair just after the man finishes speaking.
Quednys narrows his eyes to take a measure of Eudocia's words, before pursing his lips and giving a measured nod.
Irabeth simmers for a stand of seconds before adding in a calm voice "Take under advisement also then that it is only by the blood we will be shedding, and lives we will be giving up that you may reach what remains of the wardstone. Measure that weight of sacrifice as you ponder your decision." holding gaze for a few more seconds before sighing slightly and standing "We will be ready when you are to depart, until then" she gives a curt bow and moves off to leave you alone with your companions.
Noonan heads out the sole entry into the room.
The passageway splits left and back towards where you came (which is the only direction with lit torches) and also to the right and into darkness.
Straining your ears you think you hear some voices in the same direction as the light.
Leaving the sand both Noonan and Juro find their forward direction guided by muted torches lit within the darkened passages that guide you eventually to a largeish room with six cots at one end of it. The other end has a small area of empty floor and a single trestle table and chairs. The trestle has a stack of bowls and cups and a pair of pots - one with a hearty stew, and the second a creamy soup of some description.
The dark stained faces of the other two humans are marked purely by confusion "What... dancing... no, there was no dancing."
Padrym assesses the reaction and notes that the action is similar to one who has been affected by mind-controlling spells... but the expression on the face of the human suggests that the control is not complete. Almost as though an irrefutable suggestion had been given to the man to dance... and there was a compulsion to obey...
The dwarf gives the assembled freshly minted gladiatorial trainees a curt nod in return before gesturing towards the now opening exits from the arena sands "Good... go, rest, eat, sleep - I'll see you back on the sands come daybreak" with that he pauses a few moments to see if there are any words or questions in return, before turning and departing himself - leaving the group upon the sands.
The man who Agna chooses to receive the darkvision initially shies away from her touch, but after the spell takes effect blinks his eyes to acclimatize. He holds his hand before his face and moves his fingers as though in disbelief that he is actually witnessing them in complete blackness... but nods his acceptance of the means of travel.
It is then that you set off, slowly and with some stumbling upon your way. After a number of stubbed toes and scraped knees the humans begin to get the hang of the means of travel... though your speed is limited by those still without sight, and you are unlikely to sneak up upon anything with decent ears due to the sounds emitted.
One day passes, and then the most of a second when something entirely unexpected happens... While travelling through a near identical series of tunnels as you have for the last day or two, the human man blessed with the power of darksight stops dead in his tracks... before dropping his ragged pants to the floor and beginning to dance a rudimentary jig as best he can manage. From the look of abject fear and confusion on his face - it's clear that he has no clue what is going on, and is terrified.
One point - take notice of the initiative order when you're posting. Elijah - at your action there is not any bugbear with it's attention split, unless you delayed - which you didn't.
Elijah slashes with his blade, scoring a solid hit that threatened to cut deeper but was softened by the resistance of armor. That still was enough to wound the already bloodied bugbear sufficiently to send it to the arena's floor.
Juro repositions to aim more clearly, but his single shot does not draw a dodge from the beast - arcing past and through open air.
Yldrath redirects himself towards the second and sole remaining creature - a well placed thrust finding a gap in the bugbear's armor to draw blood.
Then the other three gladiators upon the sand converge upon the melee... which gives the dwarf in the private box cause enough to turn and give a muted nod to the gnome beside him. With a short focus of his attention both bugbear and portal fade from the arena. The near fey then stands, stretches and walks off into the arena's structure and out of sight.
The dwarf stays to address you "A fair showing, and better stamina than I expected on first looking... some issues to address, but nothing that couldn't be worked on." moving forward to lean on the railing "So... still interested?"
Irabeth and Quednys take no outward offence or reaction at the words being said... but the half-orc is careful to ask "So then, all of you will fight with us upon this?" noting without stating that Eudocia had yet to either volunteer or speak her intent to join.
"When would you have us strike? Now, or would a final rest hold you more ready to face what lies ahead?"
"The demons succeeded in doing most of the work, when the Kite exploded in fire and force it was broken." Quednys reaches within his robes and withdraws a thin rod made of light blue crystal, placing it upon the table. "This rod is charged with powerful abjurative magics... and with what fragments remain of the wardstone in a weakened state we can only hope that it will be enough. I would be cautious with it though... the rod will drain the arcane auras from whatever comes into contact with it."
Detect magic and examination will confirm that it is a rod of cancellation.
As the group turns and regroups to face the bugbears, Yldrath's bottled spark expends itself harmlessly into the sand.
Upon the balcony the blood being spilled seems to have attracted a bit more attention from the dwarf, though if Morgan risked to look above he may have caught derision aimed at the cowering priest.
The bugbears quickly glance at the oncoming gladiators, but remain focused first upon attempting to drop the first foe before them...
Action Tracker (Round 5): Jason, Bugbears, Elijah, Juro, Yldrath, Noonan, Morgan