Shadow of the Past
The party is on the verge of panic as Ro-Rex’s stone galleons begin converging from all directions. They draw closer and a distant humming is heard approaching from the direction of the wall. Everyone fears the worst. Suddenly the buzzing crescendos and a massive swarm of red and black giant bees emerges over the wall and converges on the approaching stone ships. As the fight erupts overhead, a single bee lands on the mast of the skiff.
Malharath bows in greeting and the semi-sentient insect begins communicating telepathically with him.
“We heard your mind scream across the sands.”, it says, “The burning sky raged in the minds of the sensitive. Many heard. We came to grant you passage. You must hurry. Others will come.”
“How can we escape?”, Malharath asks.
“Take to the deep waters. They will not follow you there.”, it replies, and continues“The queens sense the alien mind and have joined the fight, but some continue to advance. Many hives have died.”
Malharath repeats the mental messages to everyone, and with that, the party loads into the skiff with Andal at the helm. There is barely room for everyone in the small vessel as it sets course for deep waters. Onshore, the battle rages. One galleon looses control, smashes into the wall, and then crashes to the ground. Volleys of chaos energy fly overhead and splash into the silt sea, but the galleons do not pursue. Soon, night falls and the party is trying their best to rest on the cramped deck.
It is not long before a concerned looking Boroff stands and makes his way to Andal.
“The Rasha is comatose and the chaos has infected his bones. He will need healing. I must find herbs and materials in the mountains. We can search along the way.” the old hermit pleads.
Andal checks the stars, and turns course towards shore. The night passes without event, and it is during the following day, when the vessel slams into something hard, jarring everyone and throwing Malharath to the deck. Noone is lost overboard and the damage is minor. The voyage continues without event until dusk, when landfall is made. The party makes camp along the ancient Marlone coastal road and sets watch.
Early on, Rannor hears the sounds of a single person approaching from off the road. He wakes the party, who readies for the worst. Instead, a young unassuming woman greets them warily. She is remarkable in the fact that she shows no signs of the Sun-Warp, and is without fear in the face of the rag-tag band of travelers. They ask her purpose and why she is alone on such a dangerous road.
“I am a scholar and I am travelling north.”, Mika replies, “The city has grown too tiring, and I am taking my pursuits to the old places of this land.”
Her arcane training allows her to sense The Secret and Boroff’s powerful half-soul, but she says nothing about this to the party. They can sense nothing dishonest about her, so she is welcomed to the camp and to travel the road north with them and eventually to join up with QQ.
During the evening she entertains the party’s questions and the conversation shifts to the Wodewick’s incapacitating wounds. Boroff explains the he is seeking a rare fungus, shadow bloom, and the mineral, green stone. Mika knows of both of these. The first is a mushroom from the fey wild that survives in isolated pockets of shade and shadow in the nearby mountains. Green stone is a luminescent mineral commonly used as a base in healing potions. Everyone is suitably impressed, and glad to have her along.
The journey continues north, with occasional forage found along the way. Luckily there are no delays, and the party is hopeful they will reunite with QQ before he heads inland to Kantan. They only unusual event is the discovery of a stone with strange engravings upon it during a short break for water. On the third day, the tower is sighted, and the party is eager to see QQ and his men as they approach at dusk. Instead, they realize something has gone horribly wrong. Under the shadow of the old tower, the ground is littered with the signs of battle. There is a smashed wagon wheel, many smears of blood, and signs of a pyre. Among the refuse are many sets of large post-hole-like tracks, apparently from five creatures. Mika has a vague idea that they belong to a giant flesh-golem like construct. It appears that one was slain in the battle.
Although night is fast approaching, the party is concerned for QQ and his men, and so turn eastward into a narrow canyon in pursuit of the post-hole tracks. Pau leads the way, guiding the party as darkness falls.
Not long after night swallows the canyon, Pau spies a single torch wielding human ahead. He is dressed in an intricate suit of scale mail, with a well crafted obsidian sword. On his brow is the mark of the God-Emperor. He immediately hails the party.
“Ho, travelers! I am glad you have come to return what is rightfully mine. If you hand over both of my possessions, we will part ways as good company”,he bellows.
Rannor steps forward, contempt for the God-Emperor’s thrall, barely held in check. “Greetings, fine sir. What are these things you speak of? Perhaps you are confused, for we are but poor pilgrims in search of lost friends.”
The soldier chuckles and gestures. At his motion a very full bag of coin falls from the darkness of the canyon walls above. “You have ”/campaigns/dark-skies/items/the-secret-of-lir" class=“wiki-content-link”>the chest and the hermit. Both are mine. Return them and leave well rewarded for your troubles."
Mika then steps in, intent on spinning a tall tale. She begins, fumbling “…Well, you see, you must be mistaken. We saw the men you seek at the tower, and they are heading north.”
But, before she can continue further, The Gloaming shouts “They Lie!” and swipes Pau with his giant axe. Immediately, the party springs into action and sling stones rain down from the canyon walls high above. Garret and Pau draw first blood, the first with a massive blue chromatic orb that snuffs out the soldier and his torch, the other by flying up the cliff face and dispatching one of the snipers.
Andal confronts his old friend, “Why Gloaming! How could you betray us!”, he screams, dealing a deep wound to the warden. The Gloaming replies with a feral hiss, that is quite unlike anything Andal has heard him make before. Several more merciless blows land on the giant, mortally wounding him, while Garret and Mika move for cover and continue dispatching the snipers.
Suddenly the chill of the night deepens and a voice booms from above, “My master is gracious, but his enemies are my enemies!”, and a massive winged beast swoops low to unleash a terrible blast of shadow.
Towering over the party is Val-Drek the Speaker, shadow draconian of the God Emperor. A pitched battle is fought. Val-Drek blasts the party twice with his shadow breath, and rends foes with his claws at every turn. The party fights back valiantly. Then, the unspeakable happens, and the dragon savagely tears into Andal, impaling the hero through the heart with one clawed hand and eviscerating him with the other. Having the lifeless body, and therefore The Secret, in his grasp, he turns to flee into the night. Before Val-Drek can make his escape, Rannor hurls himself at the fiend and slashes Andal’s pack free, liberating the chest. The furious dragon drops the savaged corpse, intent on slaying more of the heros, when Pau lands a series of mighty blows in its ribs. Suddenly, the dragon realizes that he alone remains and that the risk of death is too great. He launches himself into the air while the party, lead by a furious Rannor, pursue with whatever ranged weapons and insults they have. In only a few moments, Val-drek has escaped, carried into the darkness on wings of shadow.
When the party is at last certain he is gone, they turn to their fallen comrade. Andal, slave hunter, chosen by Mur as the first ward of Lir’s Secret, slayer of Pyre, is dead. Not even the ancient healing skills of Boroff can revive him. His remains are entombed where he was slain, in an unmarked cairn.
Along with Andal, are the bodies a half-dozen of the God-Emperor’s soldiers, including the remains of one of his Blood Changelings, formerly in the guise of The Gloaming. It was he who lead Val-Drek to the party, by dropping directional markers carved into small stones all along their trail. The God-Emperor’s fallen are quickly pillaged, unceremoniously piled in a heap, and burned.
The dirty work done, the party takes shelter on a nearby pillar of stone, and awaits the dawn.