Ten Stones of Shyj

How Not To Attend The Opera

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With Thane leading the way, the group sought the pauper that they had been told to seek. They felt as if they were grasping for straws at this point. Unsure of who pursued them or why their friends were gone or dead at every turn.

The pauper was not hard to find, an orc male with a gray beard and who walked with a limp was found nearby in a market square shouting at those who passed by. He spoke of very specific predictions to those who he approached.

Erak approached the supposed prophet, paid him a small fee and was told to seek a lady of silver at the opera house. They were warned to be cautious. The old orc seemed to truly believe what he told them.

The opera house was to be found in the Palace District. On their way there the group was wary but did not get the sense that they were followed.

The house itself was a large building towering over all the other structures in the area, with the exception of the palace. It housed popular entertainment for both the rich and the poor of the city of Fortoss. Typically there could be found two shows a night, six nights a week. The current showing was apparently titled “Alensela Lumen Amentillo”. Perhaps an Elvish title? Unfortunately, we were all too uneducated to know.

There were three tiers of seats, each costing 3, 5 and 10 silver for seats. The story itself was relatively well known. A love story, which took place 100 years ago in a made up place.

Erak chose to stay outside and watch the rest of the people coming and going from the opera house. Leukos attempted to bluff his way into a balcony seat (which had been sold out) and while he was fairly convincing unfortunately all the patrons had already arrived and were not about to be evicted. He ended up purchasing a 10s seat. Thane meanwhile bought a 3s seat. As the doors shut Erak took up a place across the street where he could watch the entrance.

The opera house floor seated about 100 people while the balconies could contain another 40-50. Leukos section seemed to be made up of mostly respectable middle-class while those in Thane’s section appeared to mostly be the lower working class.

Erak began a slow circuit of the opera house keeping an eye on the entrances.

An announcement was made that the show would be starting soon and everyone took their seats. The opera primarily consisted of a male orc and an elven woman with silver hair whose voice seemed almost magical and put Leukos and Thane at ease. It’s fairly clear this is the woman they had been told to seek.

Throughout the performance both Thane and Leukos felt as if they were being watched. Little glimpses out of the corners of their eyes seem to confirm that some of the patrons are not watching the opera but are instead keeping their attention on the pair despite being in different sections. Outside Erak continued his circuit unaware of anything going on inside and not seeing anything suspicious outside.

Leukos counted about 10 people, very spread out who seemed to not being paying attention though it was hard to tell if they were just bored or focused on something else. There seemed to be no apparent commonality between race and attire.

Thane meanwhile noticed similar traits but could tell in his section they appeared to be thugs. They did not appear to have any formal military training and while they were armed so was most everyone else at the opera.

Erak as he made his circuit walked up to one of the service entrances, tried the door and found it unlocked. He continued on his way.

The warforged had bought a 5s seat and was fairly close. Thane could see everyone from where he was seated in the back. During the intermission, Thane, Leukos and the warforged all met in the lobby and compared notes. They tried to pay attention to who was coming and going, but it was hard in the bustle of the crowd. Some seemed to hang around and act casual, while others flat out left. Meanwhile, others who they had thought were watching them closely simply stayed in their seats.

Erak sees no one else leave other than the few who had passed through the lobby. He had no reason to be suspicious of them though so he simply noted it and continued his observation. Leukos headed outside and filled Erak in.

As the show began again the warforged and Thane returned to their seats. Every one else did as well with the exception of those had left outright.

After about 5-10 minutes, the two who had left returned with four more. They walk up to one of the service entrances and walk inside. Erak stealthily moved after the group and go in the same door as them. Peering inside he sees the six standing in the lobby with their weapons drawn and peaking through the doors into the opera house itself. Erak waved Leukos over as he leaned back out. They both continued to observe.

It looked like they were scanning the crowd looking for specific people. However, they seemed to be confused, as if they were looking for someone in particular but did not see that person.

One of them started glancing around and noticed Erak and Leukos at the side entrance. He shouted and raised his crossbow. They must’ve been trying to account for Leukos and could not see him in his seat.

Erak charged the man with the crossbow and let out a yell. Leukos took the opening and immediately struck the minds and will of the attackers. The sounds of battle could be heard over the opera and as people realized what was happening they began to flee in a panic. Thane and the Warforged engaged a number of other thugs who stood amongst the fleeing patrons. After some skirmishing back and forth, surprisingly the male orc and the elven woman who were still on stage entered the fray. The elven woman floated gently down from the stage before pummeling one of the attackers to death with her fists. The male orc’s stage weapon appeared significantly less like a prop up close.

After finishing the thugs in the lobby Erak and Leukos entered the opera house proper to assist Thane, the warforged and the two opera house actors finish the rest.

The assailants were dead or unconscious and scattered throughout the opera house. The elf and orc still had theirs weapons drawn and looked at us suspiciously. The elf actress approached and spoke.

“I have sensed your coming, or someone like you, but I have not sensed the reason why. These men that attacked you are disgusting creatures who commit foul acts in service of their master. That he considers you a threat endears you to me, but do not think us friends. The guards will no doubt be here in minutes and you will leave in shackles if I see fit. So tell me, why have you brought this conflict into my sanctuary?”

Erak, slowly approached the two and spread his hands wide showing his palms.

“My lady, please accept our apologies. We came here not to find conflict but in search of advice.”

Looking at his companions the monk continued, “the four us were attacked a few weeks ago aboard a ship bound for this city. While concerning in and of itself, we have been searching for answers since we walked out of the desert and have been led to believe you may be able to assist us in this endeavor.”

“We are not even sure who it is that have attacked us, but we know they have been watching us for some time.”

Thane wiped the blood from his axe on a nearby corpse and took a few steps toward the two, axe lowered. Unwilling to put it away completely, the Goliath held his weapon firm but without aggression. Looking up with equal parts defiance and curiosity he spoke.

“We are four strangers with seemingly nothing in common before we were attacked. Fate has drawn us together, it seems and we have, everyone one of us, bled for each other.”

“Fate has now drawn us to you. We appear to have a common enemy and it has been prophesied that you may have answers that we seek. In our short time here we have already witnessed destructive power that has not been seen for an age.”

Finally strapping his axe on his back without taking his eyes off of the Elf and Orc, Thane also spread his arms apart, palms facing out. “What would you have us do?”

“That I revile them does not make them my enemy any more than a child who swats a hornet off his arm. As to who attacked your ship or what this destructive power you have spoken of, neither answer my question. Why have you sought me out? I am a bard, gentlemen. I sing of deeds great or foul, and while I have a great skill in such, I can’t say that adventurers have ever sought me out for advice for such a thing, so I ask again. Who or what has told you to seek me out?” the elven woman appeared to have little patience.

Erak said quietly, “A mad man, perhaps? Or a prophet? I know not truly which he was.” The monk seemed embaressed to admit this.

The elven woman rolled her eyes, “I ask what you want from me and you don’t know? Are you prone to following the meanderings of mad men? You have told me nothing, either deliberately or because you are nothing more than fools.”

She motioned towards the orc. “Grep, see them to the exit.”

She turned towards us, “If I didn’t revile those slain in my house today then you’d have joined them for such a pointless interruption. Leave here and do not return.”

Raising his hands defensively, Erak said, “We’re looking for a dragon, though not one of the three.”

The goliath takes a step forward and points a bony finger at the orc. “Not so fast.”

Turning to his companions Thane continued, “Clearly our silver lady does not appreciate flowery language or ambiguity from strangers. Let us be blunt.”

Turning back around and keeping one eye on the orc, Thane spoke to the elf woman, “For bringing violence into your sanctuary, we apologize. A beggarly prophet pointed us to you, clearly we were followed. We seek the council of dragons other than the Three. Will you help us?”

The elven woman sighed, “Hold, then. Those seeking dragons rarely do so outside of the Dragon District. That you have come to me in this matter has piqued my interest, yet you continue to be vague. I’m not one to fault another for their lack of trust, I have known the sting of betrayal on more occasions than I’d like to say. However, let me remind you that it is you who came to me. My patience will only extend so far.”

She looked to Grep, “See that the guards are let inside, I will take our visitors backstage until their business is complete.” As she walked towards the stage, she motioned for the group to follow and continued. “I will give you a task to complete, this is not a task on my behalf, but on yours. I will give you the name and location of the man who sent thugs to end your life. I admit I am curious to know as well. I will give the information to you at no cost, however know this, if you find the need to return to me once the task is complete then I will not abide any further ambiguity. You will either trust me fully or else you will get nothing further from me.”

Thane looked to his companions to see if any looked opposed to the Bard’s requirements. Turning back to the bard he said with a nod, “We accept.”

“So be it” the monk said and folded his arms across his chest as he followed the woman and his companions.

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How To Not Search For A Dragon

Leukos and Erak spent a day searching the grounds of the cursed monastery and found some information that led them to believe Ubada the former headmaster of the school had stumbled on some evidence of concerted Neiage theft.

Thane and the Warforged successfully tracked down the shop of Thane’s friend Voz only to find that he was long gone and an enchanted ring with a message had been left for Thane encouraging him to seek the advice of the dragons though not one of The Three.

They made sure to bring with themselves, Ash‘s letter written in Giant, examples of Ubada’s investigation evidence and samples of the letters from her lover. Thane also thought to bring a vial of sand from the monastery’s training pit on the off chance it could provide evidence related to the curse that had decimated the school.

As they traveled the Dragon district that day, they sought to find a way to acquire an audience with a dragon.

Unfound dragon

Erak learned that the three dragons currently occupying seats on the council of The Three were Verz, Kvar and Nugri. Leukos heard rumors of dragons walking the streets in human form and Thane embarressed himself and his marks by trying (rather obviously) to eavesdrop on some of the people who were waiting for an audience with one of the Three.

Taking what they had learned Erak attempted to bluff his way into the confidence of one of Nugri’s guards and proceeded only to make a fool of himself. Meanwhile Leukos found the local library and checked for historical records of other dragons but found only encyclopedic texts on the generic subject.

Thane continued to walk the streets and tried to find a pattern to the gifts being brought to the dragons though he had difficulty discerning what any of the gifts were let alone any patterns to them.

Frustration mounting the three returned to the orc merchant who had initially expressed concern over the state of the local Iron Soul monastery. They imparted to him the sad news about what had transpired within the monastery’s walls and though saddened the orc thanked them for cleansing the monastery and avenging his friends. As the conversation continued he told the group that the Silver Serpent Dragoons had lost some of their honor and trustworthiness amongst the people of late and that they should seek a nearby pauper who though he appeared disheveled, homeless and crazy on the outside appeared to know more of truth than anyone else the orc had seen of late.

As a parting favor the orc also translated Ash’s letter which contained the following:

Sir Ash,
The rumors you may have heard are true. Prince Syd was murdered. That he was
killed in his own bed leaves only two contingencies, our fellow Dragoons are either
corrupt or inept, I am unsure at which of them I fear more. Despite the manner
which you left the Dragoons, I know that above all else you are a man I can trust,
perhaps the only.

I need you in Fortoss. Bring the cargo with you. I will say little more than that
for I fear whether or not you will be the first to read this message. Protect the
cargo on your life. Do not send me your plans, just get here alive. I will watch
the docks.

Your brother in arms,
Mulgin

The group spent some time discussing their options and decided to continue to seek the council of a dragon as they suspected Mulgin may not be immediately trusting if they showed up out nowhere with Ash’s letter, but no Ash or princess. Alternatively, Erak wished to also send word to the head monastery and Leukos expressed interest in linking up with his local contact back in the Port District.

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Ubada's Repose

Searching from room to room the group found the monastery deserted. The library, the headmaster’s living quarters, the kitchen and the common room all appeared to have been deserted a week earlier. No sign of a struggle, it was as if everyone had just stood up and walked off in the midst of whatever they had been doing.

They all had the sense that the creatures they had fought were what remained of the former monks.

While Erak and Leukos debated the timeline of events that had brought them here. Thane and the Warforged pressed on down a hall way. In the center of a courtyard was a small open area with open grass. Doors lined the edges leading to the simple private rooms of the monks.

However, more hex knights and the ghost of the former headmaster Ubada were also found. Erak rushed forward and attempted to reason with his former friend and colleague. Even going so far as to recite a Litany of Calm that all novitiates of the order learn during their introduction to meditation. The ghost seemed to pause for a few moments as the echoes of her former life were recalled, but soon the rage of our death overcame her and the anger of the dead crept back into her face.

The adventurers retreated into the hallway behind them hoping to lure the shades into disadvantage but soon found themselves hard pressed and surrounded.

The noise of their battle brought more ghostly warriors from the surrounding rooms and the group suffered for the onslaught.

After killing the lesser spirits, the group encircled the ghost of Ubada and pressed her into a corner. Thane rushed forward when he saw an opening and finished the ghost off.

A small key, 50 gold and two potions of healing were found. Leukos found a pair of bracers that fit him quite well.

The curse did not end after Ubada’s death and Leukos recalled from his study of history that only once before had there been a curse this powerful. It too had been cast against a religious order of knights and had occurred shortly after the War of the Stones. The cost to the caster must have been immense. It would most likely have occurred over a period of time and the last few days of it must have been agonizing the to the monks.

Erak decided to spend the next day searching the grounds for any evidence of the attack, records of the progress of the curse or anything unusual that might lend a clue to either the caster or the method of the curse. Leukos decided to remain and assist in this endevour.

Thane took the Warforged to meet with his old friend Voz to whom he is now two days late.

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A Monastery Profaned

The adventurers found the city to be heavily patrolled. They made their way to the Dragon’s Breath an inn built in the remains of ancient blacksmith’s shop that had been popular for the past 30-40 years.

They tried to be discrete and not draw attention to themselves. The inn was fairly rowdy as port taverns go. The inn-keeper a dragonborn answered their questions and then set them up with a room and dinner. Thane gave the innkeeper an extra large “tip” for some additional information on the recent death of the prince. Oddly enough it had been reported that the prince was poisoned. It was a subtle hit, as the source of the poison was unclear, no marks, none of his tasters died.

After a good night’s rest the adventurers moved further into the city past the checkpoints that were open during the day. They headed to the Dragon district to find the local Iron Soul brokerage. It was found on the secluded end of a street, almost on a hill. There were trees lining the road and small tended gardens interspersed along the road.

However, the gates to the monastery were shut and no one was in sight. Thane rang the bell and glanced between the bars of the gate. He saw no one inside and as the group turned to look at each other with concern an orc merchant approached them.

He told them that he owns a shop nearby and had been keeping on eye on the monastery. The students had been coming and going as normal but had seen no one as of a few days ago. He had notified the city guard, but they were understandably busy. He had rung the bell a number of times over the last few days with no response.

The adventurer’s tried a side door, but found it also locked and as they touched it they felt a dark presence, so overwhelming that it felt like poison to the touch.

In the quiet, the sense of a dark presence began to grow. Leukos closed his eyes and felt the arcane energies gathered in the locale, from what he could discern it seemed that the monastery had been the victim of a curse. He told the rest that it was not a lingering curse, they weren’t in any danger from it and that all they felt was the lingering echo.

Thane, much to the surprise of the rest used a magical ability to phase shift through the wall and then stealthily approach the gate from the inside. He felt the pain of a burning sensation but it did not do more than make him uncomfortable.

In the process of attempting to remove the bar that locked gate Thane dropped one end of the bar cause a loud crashing noise to echo through the courtyard. From nearby rooms grew the sound of something stirring.

A group of specters and hex knights emerged and the group found themselves pressed under the attack. A cold chill crept up their backs and the specters would vanish from sight from time to time. The hex knights fired hand crossbows at the group from a distance before charging across the courtyard still scattered with the practice weapons in the training pit.

The group found themselves hard pressed and fought bravely against the grave like chills emanating from their opponents eventually vanquishing the undead and shadowy creatures.

Collecting themselves after a few minutes they set out to explore the rest of the monastery.

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Arrival In Fortoss

After the long race across the wastelands, the party’s pursuers finally caught up with them. The grueling nature of their trek had lessened the pursuers’ numbers and carelessly had allowed the companions to see them coming at a distance.

The group spread out amongst the rocks lining a switchback approaching the city and waited for their arrival. As soon as they were within range. Erak and Thane both charged down the cliff. Leukos stayed at a distance striking from cover. The warforged fought from a corner through the foremost of their pursuers back to where Erak and Thane were having a hard time in the thick of it.

At one point a kank rider scrambled up the cliff to try and get at Leukos but fell before his determined attacks.

The attackers appeared to be a mixture of the pirates who had initially attacked their ship and minions of the Warlord Vax.

The party then continued on to Fortoss where they were able to talk their way past the ground camp guard and secure passage up to the city proper by means of a balloon. While the balloon slowly made it’s ascent the guard engaged in small talk revealing that during the past week Prince Syd had been found murdered. As the last of the royal line this has caused quite a stir and there was a bit of a power struggle going on amongst the rest of the royal family.

Upon arrival in the city of Fortoss the companions laid eyes on the busy Port District and paused a moment to take in the city bustling with commerce.

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Many Maps Were Drawn

During the night the companions rested. The sounds of the desert wastes drifted up to them in their cave, but their rest remained undisturbed.

After a short discussion it was decided to travel toward Fortoss. They each had pressing need to reach the city. Though they knew it would take many days and traveling the wastes were deadly even in the best of situations.

Led by the Thane, the next morning, the nameless warforged and Leukos climbed higher and attempted to plot a course. Erak tried to help but his lack of familiarity with the subject resulted quickly in his realizing he could help better by staying out of the way.

Using the supplies he had found earlier in the wreckage of the cabins Leukos began drawing maps of the surrounding area in the hope that as the group traveled they might be of use.

They traveled as quickly as they could across the wastes for a day and Leukos updated his maps when they rested. As night fell Thane searched the area for food and water but found nothing in the desolation. Erak searched as well for anything of interest but the land was so barren as to be unremarkable.

The second day the group saw passing caravans far in the distance, clouds of dust that rose into the sky marked their passage. During their travels that day they came across a broken, narrow chasm that seemed to extend as far as the eye could see in either direction. There used to be a bridge that crossed the chasm, but it had collapsed. All that remained were a few posts on either side of the expanse.

Though the caravans appeared to go around the chasm, despite it not being particularly wide. Thane, Leukos and Erak all jumped across successfully. However, when the warforged tried, due to his metal construction and the heavy equipment he bore he fell in. A rope was cast down and the Warforged pulled out.

The second night, Leukos continued his map making, Thane found a river nearby where they refilled their water skins as well as some edible roots that supplemented their rations nicely. Erak found a growth of mushrooms that were incorporated into their dinner and everyone felt reinvigorated for the next day.

Good progress was made on the third day though the journey did appear to be wearing on the group. Mirages played tricks on their eyes. Though one turned out to be very real. As they stumbled forward they came upon a halfling who leaned casually against a rock. He smiled and greeted them announcing to the companions the they were in the territory of the Takht and asked them their purpose.

After some deliberation the group decided to pay the halflings to escort them through their territory. It was also revealed that the halflings had observed another group about a day behind them who appeared to be tracking them. For an additional fee the halflings agreed to frustrate the following groups efforts.

The halflings escorted the group safely through the Takht tribal territory. Upon reaching the border the halflings bid the group farewell and they continued on until they found a safe place for the night. Setting camp Leukos added finer detail to his maps with advice from Takht tribesmen. Thane and Erak went hunting and tracked a solitary Kank scout, a kind of large ant like creature good for food. That night they ate well and their foodstores were restocked.

On the fourth day they found the wastelands to become increasingly harsh. All was barren and a literal sea of sand stretch out before them. As they travelled the dunes a sand storm came upon them and within a set of sand spirits attacked them. Though the flying sand made visibility poor they defeated them easily. The spirits fell back into the sands as the storm moved on.

That night Leukos tried to map the dunes as best he could but found it very difficult. Thane tried to find something to forage but the desert was so barren that nothing could be found. Erak tried in his own way to cover their tracks but succeeded in only making a large mess that did nothing to cover their passage.

The following day the barren sand dunes continued and though it was a bit windy during the morning they died off about mid day and the sun beat down upon them with a vengeance. Their strength flagging both Erak and Thane struggled to continue.

When finally the sun began to set, they found a place to camp and fell to the ground exhausted. Leukos continued working on his maps by the light of the fire and Thane and Erak attempted to lay some traps along their path in the hopes it might slow down their pursuers. They slept fitfully and awoke tired.

The following morning they saw ahead of them different terrain, low rocky mountains. They found a path leading up to a mountain pass where they also found a tunnel.

Deserttravel

Cautiously entering they followed the labrynthine paths quickly and found themselves on the other side. They climbed a bit further before breaking camp for the night. They discussed laying in wait and ambushing their pursuers but quickly decided against it. Leukos appeared more tired than usual and his maps were less detailed that night than usual. Thane and Erak attempted to lay traps but found themselves too exhausted to make anything noteworthy.

The seventh day Thane climbed up a hillock that was taller thant he rest and with the assistance of Leukos’ maps found that they were only a few days away from Fortoss. The day passed uneventfully as they travelled through the rocky lands. That night they found nothing of value but Leukos found with all the extra time he could add details to his maps that had previously escaped him. There was still plenty of kank meat in their stores though their water skins were beginning to feel a bit light.

On the eighth day after a few hours of hiking they at last spotted the floating city of Fortoss in the distance. It was at least another full days journey ahead possibly more. As they walked they noticed more vegetation growing. Low brush and hardy grasses now crept up amongst the rocks.

Shading their eyes they turned from the welcome sight of Fortoss behind only to see that the group tracking them has finally caught up. A group of eladrin riding kank mounts moved in front, they appeared to be in service to the warlord while behind them came a different group who bore a stiking resemblance to the pirates who had attacked their airship.

Their pursuers had not seen the crash survivors yet but they were gaining fast and the companions made ready to fight. They quickly moved into the rocks along the path and prepared a surprise attack.

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A Desert Sunrise
A bellyflop is one way to exit a ship...

As The Venture continued to plummet towards the desert a pair of orc sailors rushed to the edges of the ship and frantically cut the ropes that bound their ship to the two smaller attacking ships. Another shoved the corpse of the captain aside and attempted to pull the ship up, but succeeded in only leveling the ship out before skidding into the desert.

The warforged walked across the deck to the dwarf. They whispered to each other and then the dwarf walked to the middle of the ship, going down on two knees and began a chant. A glowing green sphere enveloped the ship and all aboard began to see scenes of places that none recognized.

Yet, even through the changing scenes, every present is the Rotleij Desert as it moved closer.

A place of shadow appeared, so dark it seeped into the sphere. None could see the ship, the ground or even their own hands. One would think they were blind if not for the dwarf still visible while he chanted.

The adventurers were gripped with terror. Yet, the darkness whispered to those who still lived on the deck of the falling ship. It whispered thoughts of safety, that it was not there to harm anyone. They felt a sense of calm and somehow, irrationally, knew everything was going to be just fine.

Then everyone blacked out.

The adventurers felt the sun on their faces. The sun has just reached above the horizon. Since it was night when they fell, the adventurers knew that at least a few hours had passed.

With a sudden snap, everything moved from slow motion to fast forward, in actuality they were just coming back to reality to find it was not the sun, but the shouting that had awoken them.

The warforged, seeming to have found his voice, was shouting at everyone to wake up. Next to him lay a sailor, dead from an arrow sticking out of his head.

Like a bright comet streaking across the sky the crashing airship had alerted all the surrounding wasteland about the fall of a ship full of valuable resources. Now every scavenger for miles around had converged on the crash site.

A band of them surround the ship, one stood up and shouted,

“Your ship and your lives belong now to Warlord Vax!”

In the center of the ship, the dwarf, Dalus, lay dead.

As the scavengers start to move in, the warforged again shouts, commanding Thane to move. The goliath leapt to his feet and moved off the ship, unfortunately tripping in the process falling flat on his back and knocking the wind out of him.

Erak jumped off immediately following Thane but landed safely as did Leukos. Erak charged across the battlefield unleashing a fury of blows but the veiled warrior he targeted dodged each strike with ease.

The battle raged back and forth on the edges of the ship, eventually moving off onto the sands below. The scavengers closde in and surrounded the adventurers. From the many missed blows and strikes so slow the scavengers easily dodge, it becomes apparent that the survivors were still suffering from the trauma of the crash.

Eventually forming a defensive line the four survivors drove the wave of scavengers back.

Tending to their wounds, the group wrapped their tired limbs with whatever they can find to staunch the flow. The combat had clearly worn them down and all stood shaky on their feet.

Just as they had caught their breath they heard shouting to the southwest. Another band of scavengers appeared in the foothills across the river. This new band spread out and begin to advance on the crash site.

The battle goes poorly again for the survivors. Blasts of psionic energy whip across the battle field. The goliath’s cries to the divine falter and the monk’s strikes hit only empty air. They continued to take wounds, growing bloodier and weaker.

Eventually they rallied around the warforged who appeared charged with divine power, they felt their wounds close slightly and their limbs take on some strength to push through to the end.

The battle raged back and forth across the river. First one way and then the other. Back up on to the ship and again back down. Leukos threw psionic strikes out, shoving opponents back and forth. Thane swung his great axe, cries of divine fury echoing into the wastelands. Erak setting himself in a strong stance, roots himself and strikes any that come near.

They finally dropped the last of their opponents. However, realizing that there are more in the distance, the group quickly grabbed some rations and stuffed them in their packs. Leukos checked the halflings while Erak checked the dwarf and Thane cut the head off one of the veiled warriors before lobbing it high and then kicking it back on deck.

Erak found a ring with a Shard of Dehzu set in it’s band. Leukos found nothing on the halflings besides their weapons. Leukos noted that the ship was still pointed north giving the band some sense of direction. The general consensus was that they should continue north towards Fortoss.

They looked sidelong at their erstwhile companions forced on them by circumstance, unsure whether to trust each other or not. The band began to move away from the campsite and found a cave to rest and recover in.

Desert cavern small

After covering their tracks and moving some brush in front of the entrance to the cave, the group collapsed in exhaustion where they stood, too tired to even light a fire, they pulled their cloaks about them, curled up and slept the sleep of the dead.

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A Shaky Beginning
Never challenge a bugbear to a drinking contest...

Nine travelers set out from Lux to Fortoss on a ship named The Venture.

An orc priestess Denola and her bodyguard, a heavily armored halfling named Ash. The halfling eyed all the other passengers suspiciously and kept a hand on his spear at all times.
A bugbear named Vra’Kray and an elf named Seldon who really had no desire than to immediately start drinking.
A dwarf, Dalus, who sat in his room and muttered spells while his finely crafted Nameless Warforged carried the dwarf’s bags on board.
A Goliath, named Thane, tattooed and spoiling for a contest.
A monk called Erak who sat in his room and recited a mantra while fingering a set of wooden beads in his hands.

The last to climb aboard, rushing and out of breath was a Githzerai by the name of Leukos.

The passengers mingled for a time. Erak watched the sailors moving about their work. Leukos asked about the dwarf and took an interest in what kinds of spells he was practicing.

The Goliath on the other hand immediately challenged the bugbear and the elf to a drinking contest. The elf ignored him with a look of disgust but the bugbear took him up on the offer, shortly thereafter drinking him under the table.

Later that evening dinner was served, the guests ate, talked about inconsequential things for a short time and then wandered back to their rooms as an unnatural sleepiness descended on all of them.

Fire, the sounds of blades clashing and an explosion woke them.

As they rushed from their rooms the adventurers found themselves in the midst of a great battle. Human raiders who looked as if they had spent all their lives in the wastelands and several deadly Elven assassins were clashing with two of the Orcish sailors in the hallway in what was clearly a losing battle for the orcs.

Fighting their way down the hall and towards the stairs, the adventurers heard the sound of an explosion come from under the ship. As they passed a storage area it became apparent that the food stores had been tampered with and they could see two small airships alongside them. They found the halfling dying in his room and with a gasping breath he begged the trio to “save the princess,” before collapsing into the sweet embrace of death.

On the first floor they found several dead bodies, more elven and human attackers as well as orc sailors. The dwarf’s room had been ransacked and what looked like an explosion had obliterated the rest.

Climbing the stairs they found an array of foes already locked in battle. Bodies of both human and elf attackers as well as orc sailors were scattered across the deck. The two airships had in fact harpooned The Venture and were attempting to tow her.

The battle raged for what felt like hours, though in truth it must have been only minutes. The Githzerai teleported across next to the captain while summoning a small crackling ball of lightning that grew until it exploded catching several of the attackers in its blast. The warforged and Dalus leapt into battle as did Erak and Thane. The Goliath chanted prayers, radiant light struck the attackers burning them and driving them back. The monk walked through a series of stances that maintained his defenses while he struck in a flurry first one way and then another.

The dwarf, Dalus, summoned a fiery power through his ring and launched an impressive attack against one of the airships, setting the entire vessel on fire. Under such destruction the smaller airship could do nothing but sink as it pulled— against The Venture.

Thane summoned a brilliant temple of light on the deck of the ship, empowering his allies and causing the attackers to fall back in fear. However, a human raider, struggling against the light slipped in and struck a blow to Thane’s head which knocked him unconscious. See the Goliath fall out of the corner of his eye, Erak sidestepped and reoriented into a position between two of the attackers, first dropping the human who still stood over Thane and then with a quick reversal an elf who had pulled out his short swords to strike the monk from behind.

Leukos vaulted off the upper deck, robes billowing, over the railing and dropped into the middle of the fighting next to Thane. His opponents flew about about him as the Githzerai lashed out with invisible but very real blows. Several of the attackers barely caught themselves on the railings nearly falling off the ship. Dalus rooted about in his pack and with a grunt of satisfaction threw glass vials that exploded upon impact while at the same time shot fire from a wand while his Warforged stood motionless and then spoke a word. Well, perhaps “spoke” isn’t quite the right way to define what he did… The allies by circumstance heard a word in their heads for a moment and then much to the surprise the rest of the travelers, Thane came to. Blinking his eyes and wincing in pain, the Goliath stood back up and charged back into the fight.

Suddenly from above, a third airship descended and dropped a rope to the bugbear who was holding the orc priestess in front of him as a shield. Archers fired into the fighting below, two arrows caught the captain by surprise. Falling to his knees, the captain struggled but succeeded at locking the wheel in place before he died, all his hopes and dreams fading as his eyes glassed over.

On the newly arrived airship another warforged and a Drow reached out to meet the bugbear and his victim, pulling them on board. The Drow stared hard and if one had been close enough might even have seen his hands tremble a moment. He was clearly shaken when he saw both the dwarf and his power. Almost as if he had seen a ghost.

Erak flew across the ship landing on the smaller ship and attacked the bugbear, the drow and one of the elven archers immediately. They suffered several hits but the bugbear backed up before he charged and knocked Erak off the ship who landed with a painful thud, nearly dead, on the deck of The Venture.

As they pulled away the Drow attacked the other small airship that was still flying, damaging it. Between the two severely damaged smaller airships still attached by their harpoons, The Venture could no longer stay aloft. Her prow ducked below the horizon and began her inevitable descent towards the Rotleij Desert.

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