Category: RPG

Return to Rivermeet

Previously, the heroes went on to explore the the vault at the bottom of the ziggurat at the bottom of Wyrmblood Lake, finding it filled with riches and many curious items, as well as several dragon eggs, gestating in a noxious vapour.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

After having explored the vault and having taken many curious items from the dragon’s hoard, the heroes went back up to the large, circular hall and found some rest. It was at that moment that they discovered that the large, red gemstone which they had found among the remains of Xamael was still there. It was at that moment that one of the heroes decided to remove it from the blanket they had wrapped it in and touch the stone.

The darkness that swirled deep inside of it seemed to respond to the touch almost immediately and a multi-vocal voice filled the minds of the heroes;

We are impressed by your dedication to retrieving our sight, young ones.

It was at this point that three, tall figures materialised from the darkness on the edge of the circular hall. Each stood as tall as a hill giant, but slender, with bony arms. One had mottled, grey skin, and was shrouded in red robes. The hood of the robe was deep and horns stuck out from it like a glaive. The face buried deep in the hood was long and alien and did not appear to have any eyes.

The second figure had mottled skin as well, but this time ranging from light purple to a deep crimson. She was shrouded in a gossamer veil which covered her eyes. Her face seemed fair, but her limbs were long and menacing.

The last one had grey skin and was wearing a gown of flesh, bound together by coarse rope. She wore a skirt around her waist which was made of long arms with bony hands at the end of them. Her face had hard angles and her hair seemed to have been constructed of flesh, which lay drab across her forehead and eyes.

A singular voice filled the mind of the heroes, which pleaded:

Let me touch the heartstone and claim my sight. After I have taken what is mine, we will undo the magicks which have cursed that ugly child which sits on your throne.

The heroes hesitated briefly, but finally agreed. The horned and red-robed sister walked forward and her long, bony arm reached out to the red stone. The swirl of darkness drained away the moment her eager fingers touched the stone and she let out a sigh of relief. The stone crystal turned dull and was left behind.

It was then that the other two sisters silently stepped forward. When they had reached Memra, who had just regained her sight the stood together and reached out to one another, holding hands. The started turning in a circle, like young children might, when singing nursery rhymes.

The weird sisters, hand in hand
Posters of the swamp and land
Thus do go about, about
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again to make up nine.
Peace! The charm’s wound up.

Once their strange dance had ended, they each let go of one another and faded away into the darkness. Three, pristinely clipped, ghost orchids floated down to the ground and came to rest where the good sisters once stood.

The ward has been lifted. Take the heartstone and bring it to the diviner. It might help the amateurs at the circle speed up their search for a way to break the curse. It might show them what real magick looks like.

For your troubles, young ones. Sacrifice awoke the magics in the old soil of the grove. Each flower has been impregnated with the blood of hundreds. They may prove useful to you in the future. Let your masters know that the good sisters continue to remain neutral in the blood war.

After the good sisters had disappeared and the heroes believed that they were once again alone, they took some rest.

Fourth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon in high sanction.)

When the heroes had rested up and processed all that had happened, the conversation turned towards Azsharastrasza’s brood, which still lay at the bottom of the vault. The decision was made to lock the vault back up, utilising another one of the lyrium crystals the heroes had with them.

Before locking the vault back up, however, the heroes went down one last time to investigate the many books and scrolls that had survived the ages. James picked up two books, and Luca managed to snatch one as well. Emrys kept himself to the different scrolls that he saw laying around, and Quentin was handed a book on old Celtician lineages which may come in handy later.

There were so many things that the heroes had to leave behind that Emrys decided to commune with Toruviel one last time before leaving the ziggurat, asking them if there was anything of importance to the elves of the Verdant Kingdoms which they might be leaving behind. The sword responded dreamily that the only thing which it thought might be of value was the petrified rose which Quentin had taken.

Before going back up to the surface Emrys made sure to harvest some of the dragon scales from Kalauranthalasis’ broken bodies. Afterwards the heroes made their way upstairs. As they made their way up James took point to navigate them through the submerged room once again, and they found themselves in the stairwell leading up to the top of the ziggurat. They noticed the same discarded clothing and the elaborately decorated abandoned lantern they had noticed on the way in.

It was at this point that they heard a familiar tingling noise and saw that Wynn came racing down the stairs. He explained that the coast was relatively clear and that the heroes were able to make their way to shore without problem. After a small discussion about Wynn’s future, he decided to come along with the heroes, explaining that he had no reason to stay, and solidified that decision with an eager jump into James’ bag, where he made himself comfortable for the trip.

They once again left the discarded items on the stairs behind and made their way to the shore. Emrys made sure that both himself and Quentin made it to shore through a new enchantment he had recently acquired, which allowed both to fly, but the rest went by way of the boat they took from the shore to the ziggurat. The lizardfolk in the villages around Wyrmblood Lake seemed to have gone into a strange trance since the death of the dragons, wailing away in a strange song. This allowed the heroes to make an easy escape without being confronted.

The trek through the swamp was an arduous one, but a few hours later the heroes found themselves at the bank of the river once again. It was the heroes’ hope to come across an Acadian family who would bring them down to Rivermeet by boat.

Eventually the heroes saw an Acadian family travelling upriver and managed to strike up a conversation with them. It took every ounce of charm the heroes had to convince them to turn around and go back to Rivermeet. The family was very reluctant and spoke of a great plague in Eastray. They would bring the heroes to the outskirts of the confluence of rivers, close to Rivermeet and the start of the estuary, but no further.

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waning.)

When the heroes were finally dropped off at the next day they saw that Rivermeet was almost empty and that the quay was almost empty of boats. The few boats that were there were being guarded by red robed members of the custodians. There were only three days left until it was believed that the royal abjurer would lose control of the curse that the queen was under.

The Vault of the Senhadrim

Previously, the heroes managed to defeat Xamael the Dreadlord deep in the the centre of the ziggurat at the bottom of Wyrmblood Lake, where Kalauranthalasis had made his lair. But not without paying the steep price of Astrid’s life.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

Luca’s keen sense of time told him that it was very late in the day, but he didn’t have to tell the rest of the heroes that; the fatigue had seeped into their bones. Each of them felt hollow inside when the adrenaline of the fight with Xamael faded away. There was an added sadness when the death of their friend Astrid descended down on them.

James took out a bottle of brandy, sat down next to Astrid and poured two cups. He sipped the drink in silence, letting the faux-warmth comfort his cold bones. Quentin sat near, shivering from fatigue, sadness and exhaustion; Emrys came to put an arm around him for comfort. The hooded lantern stood close by, giving Quentin just enough light to look upon Astrid’s body.

Slowly, the dreadlord’s body withered away with incredible speed, leaving behind some wet, organic sludge and several items. When the heroes returned from their introspection, they inspected the items. It was a simple, wooden box with a choker inside. The choker was made from blood coral, fastened by a golden lock depicting the banner of house Valois; two angelic warriors holding a shield between them with three lilies, topped by a crown.

There was also a leather scroll case with a letter inside that James retrieved and read. He found the text to be illegible and asked his companions whether they understood it. Luca, who was busy preparing a ritual that would allow him to detect the effects of the weave of magic upon things around him, would later confirm that the letter was written in the infernal tongue of the Nine Hells. It read as follows;

To our most wondrous and resplendent Master,

I am pleased to state that, after a lengthy study of our rivals, I have completed my observations. Please accept this briefing in advance of my complete report, which shall follow forthwith.

We anticipate that certain of our targets will be more challenging to topple than others. But each is prone to manipulation in different ways, and our agents have already woven themselves into their very fabric. Others are being eliminated by our assassins.

This is, after all, the solemn duty for which you sired us. As you are fond of saying: Once a desire is understood, it can be exploited.

Enough prologue. Allow me to summarize our findings.

In many ways, the celestials will be the easiest to manipulate. Their singular goal is to impose structure upon everything they see. Show them a force that opposes their drive for Order, and they will be consumed by their urge to eradicate it. Their choirs, so seemingly united in purpose, is vulnerable to fracturing.

The aberrant lords all but welcome us with open arms. They are so preoccupied with their thousand truths that they ignore the lies we sow in their very midst. I believe we can leverage their vast reach to position them as a foil against our other rivals. We remain wary, though. Since they are observant of multiple outcomes, it is conceivable they could anticipate our coming.

Similar to the celestials, the fey and their keepers are singular in purpose. Their adherence to a linear path is an obvious shortcoming. They savour nothing more than being proved right, so if they believe they have converted one of us to their precious light, they will trust that agent implicitly. The adherents to life are the most insidious of opponents, perhaps because their nature is so antithetical to our own.

Still, we learned much from observing the link between their plane and the Winter Court, and we have high confidence that a vulnerability has been identified. Our operative has already gained the trust of her target. And as previously discussed, our position within the plane of Disorder is proceeding flawlessly. Consuming fel energy is not a pleasant process, but a necessary one.

The deception you have architected will bear fruit in the ages to come.

As ever, we shall serve as your unseen hand. We will poison every cohort foolish enough to invite us into their midst. Despite our setbacks with the Steady Hand, I am confident we will root out the vault of the Upright Man and find his tablets before the Demon of the South Western Winds gets to them.

I remain, as always, your faithful servant.

Xamael

The third item was the whip that Xamael had been carrying and using to deadly effect, while the last item was a large, red gemstone, roughly cut and about the size of a human head. There was a darkness swirling inside of it.

When Luca had finished the ritual he had prepared he found that neither the box with the choker, nor the letter were magical. The gemstone, however, and the whip, exuded strong magic. While the whip was a complicated mixture of different magics, predominantly evocation, the gemstone was a primordial type of magic that Luca had come to associate with the magic of the good sisters.

Besides the items, Luca also noticed that there was a lingering background magic in the Senhadrim hall, left behind by the dragons and Xamael. The crystal pillars on the balconies, however, had gone dormant.

In the meantime, Quentin and James searched the rest of the Senhadrim hall, finding the original key in front of the first portal that gained them entrance. They had also found that the circle in the middle of the hall which had held the trap that caught Azsharastrasza, made from a similar stone as the portal, also had a hole in it that seemed made for the key. When they tried to fit it in, however, they found that the groves and etches along the side of the conical statuette did not line up and James, wise in the ways of locks, immediately recognised that a different “key” would fit this “lock”.

The heroes remembered that Azsharastrasza, while in the guise of lady Asha, had a key in her possession when they met her in Eastray. She had expressed concern for her brood, which the heroes had not found yet, so they reasoned that perhaps the key she had in Eastray fit in the lock they had found. Quentin went to investigate the body of Azsharastrasza and with some help found the key was underneath her corpse.

James cautioned against inserting another Lyrium crystal to power the key and inserting it in the lock. Quentin reminded Luca that Blackstar allowed him to search for any souls around them, and Luca found none he couldn’t account for.

Still, the heroes decided to move to the southern balcony and make themselves comfortable. They rested for a while and with the aid of a healer’s kite, which they had found in the southern chamber where the assassins had stayed, managed to heal some of their wounds.

During their rest, the conversation came up on what to do next, and how long it would take for them to return to Blackbough and report to the good sisters. At best they still had five days left before Dr. Arkenward, the royal abjurer who watched over the queen, would succumb to the curse he was trying to contain, and the heroes simply didn’t know whether they had the time.

Eventually, the heroes ended their rest and Luca conjured an eerie spectral hand which carefully guided the key, activated by another lyrium crystal, to the lock. Once the key slid into the lock the stone of in the centre of the hall began to shift with a shifting of dry stone as a mechanism was spurred into action. As the stone of the floor opened up like a diaphragm it revealed a shaft going even further underground. The floor opened up so much that the corpse of Azsharastrasza limply slid down the side and towards the bottom.

As it turned out, there was a long, winding staircase which spiralled along the side of the shaft to the bottom. The dragon’s plummeting body had caused a partial collapse of the staircase, but nothing that the heroes couldn’t navigate.

All along the side of the wall that the staircase ran along were built-in shelves of books and scrolls; most of which had decayed over time. James, who had been taking point, took a piece of chalk and marked the walls with a simple “x” every time he noticed a book had survived the passage of time. The heroes concluded that had the dragons not opened the vault for their own benefit the books would likely have survived the time of low magic.

At the bottom of the steps there hung a noxious vapour that was so deep that all of them would be submerged in it. Quentin carefully put his hooded lantern in it and saw the vapour extinguish the flame. Seven eggs of an enormous size stood, clustered together, at the centre of the shaft. The outside looked like they were made from overlapping, green scales. Azsharastrasza’s brood, nourished by the noxious vapour.

Surrounding the eggs were untold treasures the likes of which the heroes had never seen. Gold coins of different shapes, sizes, spilling out of chests, barrels and urns. Gemstones with colours matching every shade of the rainbow. Exquisite jewellery of the finest materials; necklaces, armbands, rings and tiaras. Too much for the group to carry.

There were statues and furniture and books and potions and armours and swords. As Luca gazed across the treasure hoard and made note of the different magical items, he marked each with a simple cantrip so that his companions would know what was magic and what was mundane.

But through the magical cacophony of the hoard, two circular, stone tablets, rimmed with a red-tinged metal and inscribed with primordial runes, stood out. Each was about one foot in diameter with a small circular hole in it, along the edge. The heroes judged each tablet to weigh about twenty pounds and reckoned they were two of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye, which were mentioned in Atilesceon’s journal pages.

Using Toruviel, Emrys cast a gust of wind to temporarily dissipate the noxious vapour, scattering coins and gems away from them. Each of the heroes ran in and grabbed the items that had caught their attention. They did this several times and liberated the following items:

Luca
  • One of the two tablets,
  • A conical hat, adorned with stars and moons which resembled the pattern on Atilesceon’s robes,
  • A small globe with a miniaturised scene inside; a river, a water mill, some farms and fields with people tending to them,
  • A fine, golden necklace with a pendant shaped in two hands, made in gold, which hold three rubies,
  • A large, mundane diamond with a flawless cut
Quentin
  • The second of the two tablets,
  • A set of plate gauntlets, decorated with gold filigree,
  • A set of plate armour with pauldrons decorated with platinum depictions of winged warriors,
  • A curious, round marble that is a completely lifelike eyeball,
  • A petrified, red rose on a wooden plate, covered by a glass dome
James
  • A beautifully crafted, icy blue, leather quiver with an elaborate, silver opening,
  • A set of studded leather armour,
  • Coil of hempen rope,
  • A set of light armour, masterfully woven from a single strand of silk rope,
  • A large bottle with a miniaturised galleon inside

And together, the heroes managed to pick up each of the magical potions which they could find among the hoard, on the off chance there would be any healing potions among them.

There were many other items of interest that the heroes had to ignore, like the statue of a winged warrior dressed in furs, which base read “Marduk”. Or the ten by fifteen foot oil on canvas painting of a large, noble family. Or the gilded, wooden throne with an archaic inscription that only Quentin, with the help of his sword, could read; “Whoever holds the Throne of Leshnica is anointed by Deus, the one true god, to rule over all the Plains of Selos.” Or the set of strange statuettes of animals. Or the astrolabe of different planes with a complex mechanism that moved them in and out of conjunction. And many, many more.

Defeating Xamael the Dreadlord

Previously, the heroes had made their way into the sunken vault at the centre of Wyrmblood Lake and made it into the heart where they had found Xamael the Defiler and had confronted him and the enslaved Kalauranthalasis with the help of Azsharastrasza. With great difficulty they managed to defeat both the wyrm as well as the dark priest, only for the priest to transform into its true identity; Xamael the Dreadlord, a devil in the service of the Dark Queen.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

When Xamael had transformed fully into the dreadlord he stood twelve foot tall, on powerful, hairy legs ending in cloven hooves. His torso was covered in decorative plates of infernal armour and two large, bat-like, leathery wings sprouted from his shoulders. Two curved horns had burst from his head, his mouth had filled with razor sharp teeth and his hands had grown claws. The whip he had carried had lengthened and arcs of lightening were crawling all over it.

Quentin was the first to engage the devil and attempted to use Róisín to summon tangling vines beneath the dreadlord in an attempt to keep him rooted in place, but Róisín, who had been resonating with her flowery side, refused to obey Quentin.

As the fight started, Xamael penetrated everyone’s mind to deliver a warning and a threat:

You poor fools. You are meddling in the plans of the Dark Queen. Your insignificance will be punished.

Azsharastrasza was still trapped in place, but Luca had a plan. He attempted to banish the dreadlord to another plane. It would be temporary, but it might give them enough time to escape the dreadlord, or at the least regroup. He knew he was powerful enough to attempt it both on the dreadlord as well as on the dragon. While he did not want to banish the dragon in order to get away from her, he hoped that it might break the spell that she was under. The result was a mixed blessing; Xamael proved too powerful and refused to be sent away, but Azsharastrasza was too wounded and too weak to resist. Almost immediately after she vanished, she reappeared, as Luca stopped concentrating on the spell. It had worked as he had intended it to; she was no longer incapacitated by Xamael’s magical trap and was free to rejoin the fight.

My life is endless. My death will be but a moment before I return.

Unfortunately, the onslaught of the newly invigorated Xamael, now in his true form, was too much for the heroes, aided by Azsharastrasza to handle. The dreadlord lashed out with his whip over and over, mostly targeting the dragon, who eventually fell under the onslaught, having already been bloodied in her fight against Kalauranthalasis.

Astrid, despite having only just recovered from the stifling influence of the good sisters, had been fighting on the front lines together with Quentin, furiously hacking away with her sword. She had already lost consciousness several times during the fight, always recovering just enough to spring back into battle. But unfortunately, she too fell under the weight of the pressure that Xamael put on the heroes, and this time, she did not get back up.

The heroes were routed and scattered in different directions in order to save themselves, and at the same time the dreadlord vanished from sight. He began to speak to each of the heroes; infiltrating their minds and offering a truce and a chance to work together in collaboration rather than in opposition. He promised he could revive the sick queen, if only the heroes would parley. Whether out of principle or out of fear, the heroes refused to negotiate but instead used the time to regroup.

Cease your attack and let us bargain. You can have your queen and I can help you stop the largest invasion of orcs this pitiful queendom has ever seen.

During this lull in the conflict, Emrys had found a severely wounded assassin in the chamber on the southern end of the complex as he was desperately looking for anything that would help the heroes tip the scales of the battle in their favour. This was likely the assassin whom they had encountered as they descended into the ziggurat. The man was slumped against the wall, clutching his side. There was blood all around him and he could scarcely register that Emrys was approaching. Displaying an unusually brutal attitude of grim determination, Emrys took out Toruviel or slowly sank it into the wounded man, ending his life. Emrys took a small crossbow, some bolts and another jewelled dagger and regrouped with the others.

Eventually Luca reached out to Xamael and said that the heroes agreed to parlay if he would show himself again. It was a ruse in order to put themselves in a position to pounce on the dreadlord, which they did. The dreadlord fought back viciously, even taking the opportunity to reanimate the corpse of Astrid into a mockery of her former self; a zombie automaton whose only goal was to pursue and clumsily attack Emrys, who had to defend himself against someone he had once called a friend.

Eventually Quentin fell, Emrys fell and James had run out of arrows. Luca was on his last legs and while Xamael was clearly wounded, it would take more effort to bring him down than the heroes still had in them. In a moment of desperation, Luca called out to Aurion, his patron, and beseeched him for aid. And for the briefest moment, there was an answer, as the tall, alien figure of Aurion shimmered into existence high above the battle, carried by wings made of pure light. His light descended down like little droplets and reinvigorated and revitalised the heroes. Quentin and Emrys opened their eyes again, and Luca and James felt less tired and more able.

As fast as Aurion appeared, he receded, and for all the aid he bestowed, only James and Luca were there to witness the strange occurrence. Xamael’s response was one of outrage, screaming; “Not again! You will not deny me, brother!”

The fight was resumed and by the skin of their teeth, aided by Aurion’s energy, the heroes managed to vanquish Xamael. With the fatal blow, the body of the dreadlord jerked and spasmed and the leathery wings beat uncontrollably, lifting him up in the air. His body wracked and twisted as wisps of darkness escaped his body like rats fleeing a sinking ship, and eventually collapsed in on itself, seemingly deflating and withering away. His armour crumbled and disintegrated, and eventually all that was left behind were several curious items.

Quentin found Astrid’s broken body with a small glimmer of hope that he could do something for his long-time companion, but saw that the life had long since left her. He took one of the leather bracers she wore as a keepsake and bound it to his left wrist where once he had worn something else, something important. Though he couldn’t quite remember what, or what its significance was.

Confronting Xamael the Defiler

Previously, the heroes managed to fight their way past the undead lizardfolk who were guarding the entrance to the deeper part of the ziggurat. There, they found a wide hallway which circled a large central hall with balconies looking down on it. On these balconies they found active magical crystals which seemed to be responsible for Kalauranthalasis being enslaved. And so the heroes decided to see whether they could disable the crystals and free the enormous, terrifying wyrm.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

After Luca had failed to remove the red crystal from its socle using a spectral hand and James had taken a shot at it with his bow only to have the ricocheting arrow warn whoever was in the central hall of their presence. “Rise, Kalauranthalasis,” they heard the honey-voiced man say.

James decided to scout along the north-side of the circular corridor and made it all the way to the western end, passing several balconies, each with a different coloured crystal charged with potent magical energy. He found another doorway in the western end of the outer wall, revealing a spacious room with a lit brazier against the back wall, sending sandalwood scented smoke into the air. A corridor lead north to a set of stairs that lead down into the central hall. James decided to hide and bide his time.

Meanwhile, Emrys and Luca frantically experimented with different spells on the different crystals on the eastern side of the circular corridor, slowly moving south. Luca had found that each crystal represented one of the eight different schools of magic, and using his hypothesis of using the magic of the opposing school on the crystal managed to disable the crystals and seemingly weakening the hold that the honey-voiced man had over Kalauranthalasis. The problem was that it was slow going and that each crystal required experimenting to find out which school of magic it represented.

While exploring further south, Emrys overheard commotion in the southern part of the circular corridor and when he went to investigate he was baffled to find two assassins of the Dark Queen opposed by lady Asha. She was unclothed, but seemed to have no trouble in dispatching the assassins. Before Emrys could ask her a question, she urged him to hurry down into the central hall. She said she needed to get into the vault and showed the vault key that she had showed the heroes in Eastray. She was furious with Kalauranthalasis for putting their hatchery at risk, and forged ahead towards the central hall by vaulting over the edge of the balcony, disappearing out of sight, and promptly reappearing as an enormous dragon, even larger and more fierce than Kalauranthalasis.

Azsharastrasza immediately engaged Kalauranthalasis who was still enslaved by the constellation of crystals. Occasionally, the large wyrm was able to temporarily free itself from the enslavement, but it would never last long before Xamael would put the wyrm back under his control.

For indeed, the source of the honeyed voice was a man with ashen grey skin, dressed in strange, leather vestments which reminded the heroes of the foreboding outfits of the priests of the Raven Queen. He was tall and poised and wielded a wicked whip and powerful magic. At one moment, Emrys and Luca were the target of a roaring ball of fire which exploded as they were attempting to disable one of the crystals on a balcony. It was at that time that they reconsidered disabling any more of the crystals as they were dangerously exposed while doing so.

Kalauranthalasis had been weakened from his enslavement and, while fierce, was no match to the fury of Azsharastrasza. While the dragons trashed around, the heroes engaged the dark priest, who proved to a tricky opponent. At one point Kalauranthalasis breathed in and unleashed a noxious stream of poisonous vapour which washed over the heroes’ position, burning their lungs and stringing their eyes. Astrid was battered and went down, only to be revived by Azsharastrasza’s occasional healing magic, which kept the heroes in the fight.

Eventually, Kalauranthalasis fell, and Xamael was left to contend with the heroes. Azsharastrasza charged at him but got caught in a magical trap which stunned her. Xamael was wounded and was bleeding from several open wounds, and shortly after fell against the onslaught from the heroes. His body was raised in the air, as if tethered by an invisible thread extending up from his chest and the blood that was pouring freely from his wounds exploded outward and for a moment hovered suspended in the air, before rocketing back towards his body. First one drop, then another, and another; each impacting his body with tremendous force, bruising him even further.

Xamael fell to the ground when all the blood had collided into him, doubled over and started to convulse, sprouting skeletal wings from both his shoulder blades, which quickly grew into leather wings resembling that of a bat. He swelled up and grew. Horns pushed from his forehead and rapidly grew from his skull as plates of armour pushed outward through his skin to protect his body, bruised purple from the horrifying transformation. When all was said and done, a transformed Xamael stood before them. No longer Xamael the Defiler, but instead Xamael the Dreadlord, his whip now scintillating with arcs lightning.

 

The Hall of the Senhadrim

Previously, the heroes had made their way through the Senhadrim quarters while descending down the ziggurat in search of Xamael who had crossed and blackmailed the good sisters by stealing Memra’s sight. Returning Memra’s sight would be rewarded by the good sisters in the heroes’ quest to defeat the ward on the cursed khazra’s head which was laying waste to the queen’s health, and potentially threatening all of Kingsport.

Second Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

The heroes were still hard at work in trying to defeat the lizardfolk zombies which had awakened from the interment inside the clay urns which were standing all around the spiralling room. At the bottom of that room was the portal leading from the Senhadrim quarters to the Senhadrim hall. The zombies had awoken when the heroes had managed to find a discarded statuette, which, combined with one of the lyrium crystals they carried on them, had proven to be the key which unlocked the portal.

With the help of the mercurial magics at Emrys’ disposal, the heroes had defeated many of the tenacious zombies already. Their momentum had slowed considerably with the disappearance of Emrys, who had been teleported away from the material plane and into the Ethereal Mist; the realm in between realms.

Astrid was spent and Quentin was wounded. James had spent many arrows and Luca had expended a lot of his magical power. On top of that, everyone was tired. Astrid and Quentin stood shoulder to shoulder, while Luca picked another star off of Atilesceon’s robes and hurled it at one of the zombies. The star transformed into several magical bolts of raw energy. Meanwhile, James was using his mobility to keep the zombies occupied while simultaneously taking shots at them with with Isalien’s bow.

When Astrid was overwhelmed and lost consciousness, it looked as if the heroes might be overrun, but the heroes kept repelling the zombies, and even Astrid miraculously regained consciousness and got back to her feet. Luca gave her one of the last two remaining health potions he had, but she held onto it. Luca also became desperate enough to use one of the lyrium crystals he still carried on him in order to fuel one of his spells. Soon after the last of the zombies fell beneath sword and arrow and calm returned. It wasn’t long until with a startle, Emrys also returned from the Ethereal Mist.

Emrys told tales of the mist and about the titanic creatures he had seen there. It reminded him of the space where the Crimson Tower had stood when the heroes first ascended it, before jumping through the collapsing portal and into Atilesceon’s nightmare realm. Emrys explained that sometimes the potency of the magic inside of him got out of control and did wonderous and unexpected things. James suggested that Emrys stay well away from the rest of the group if Emrys was to continue using his magic.

According to Luca it was late in the evening and it would be best to take rest. A safe corner in the spiralling room was hastily converted into a small camp where the heroes took rest. There was some debate about how long the rest would be, and despite James’ objections, it was decided that a proper, long rest would give people a chance to recover from the previous fight. Quentin briefly communed with Róisín and conjured up several berries which spawned from the scabbard of the blade which nourished Astrid back to some health.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

It was five days until the day that doctor Arkenward thought he could keep the curse on the queen at bay. The heroes had gotten some rest, and had found that none had come into the spiral room, or had come from the open portal. All of this felt incredibly suspicious and unlikely, but the heroes decided to continue on and go through the portal.

On the other side of the portal was a room with two corridors which lead away. There were two braziers with curious and intricately script carved in the metal surface. Embers were glowing inside of the braziers, and smoke trickled up and along the ceiling of the room and filled the room with the soft fragrance of sandalwood. Despite the curious nature of the braziers, Luca assured the heroes that there was nothing to be concerned about.

The room beyond seemed to have been the scene of some heavy battle, evident by the broken tiles on the floor and the faint traces of dried blood which seemed to be heading to one of the two corridors before fading away. James reckoned the blood dried up about half a day before.

It was agreed that James would scout ahead and the rest would trail behind. James found that the corridor lead to what turned out to be a wide halfway which circled a large central hall. James explored the circular hallway about halfway, discovering a small number of larger rooms along the outer wall, and a large number of doorways along the inner wall which lead to balconies that overlooked an enormous, cavernous hall. The inner wall was decorated with intricate carvings which James recognised as very well preserved Senhadrim murals.

In the centre of each of the balconies stood an elaborately crafted metal pillar, standing over six and a half foot in height. There was something elven about their design. Each was topped with a huge, glowing crystal, held by delicate metal prongs, gently cradling the crystal like a child would be cradled in their mother’s arms. Little tendrils of energy crawled over the crystals; each was pregnant with magical potentiality. Each of the crystals had a different colour.

Across the dark expanse between the balconies, the soft, coloured glow of each of the eight different crystals could be seen. Luca and Emrys went to investigate one of the crystals, which appeared to be red in colour. When the stepped out onto the balcony they were acutely aware that there was something in the darkness below as they could hear the rhythmic breathing of something very large. As they peered over the rim of the balcony they could the enormous form of a green serpent laying on the stone ground below, curled up like an armadillo. They were immediately filled with a sense of unnatural dread. Every instinct they possessed commanded them to run away; back to the surface; back to Kingsport; back to the Riverlands; back to the Elder Foothills; back into the arms of their mothers so that she may shield them from the dangers that lurked in the forgotten halls at the bottom of murky lakes in the centre of a swamp which was clearly forsaken by all the gods.

The two retreated immediately and told the others of the dragon laying at the heart of the hall. Quentin was curious to see a dragon, having only heard about heroic tales of cavaliers and knights vanquishing them. He was fortunate enough that his eyes couldn’t penetrate the darkness and he never laid witness to the dragon. As he peered into the darkness he did hear a voice. He concentrated on the voice and heard it hold a sermon of sorts, about Asmodeus, the dark angel, and the Pact Primeval. It was enough time for Emrys and Luca to regain their courage, and Luca used that opportunity to get Quentin back from the balcony. As he did so he, too, heard the tail end of the sermon, and the words were very familiar to him; he had read them in Kalina’s prayer book.

Blackstar furiously protested the sermon, exclaiming that the nature of devils was to corrupt souls so that they may fuel their fight against demons. Blackstar was reaping souls in order to prevent souls from falling into their hands. Some of Luca’s dialogue with Blackstar escaped his lips and alerted Quentin who wanted to understand more, but it wasn’t the time to get into it.

The heroes decided it was imperative that they understood what these pillars were, as they believed it might be responsible for the enslavement of Kalauranthalasis. If they could free the wyrm, they might have an ally in the fight against Xamael the Defiler. Luca prepared a ritual of identification, which he had used several times to divine the nature of some of the magical items that the heroes had found. Using an owl feather to mix a crushed pearl into some of James’ potent alcohol, he drank the liquid down and discovered that each of the pillars were connected and meant to act like a beacon. However, their power had been corrupted and changed to act like a soul trap; not unlike Lauriel’s earrings of whispers which Luca and James often used to communicate over long distances; that too had the ability to trap a person’s soul.

Luca conjured up a spectral hand and at a distance attempt to take the red crystal from its socle. Unfortunately, the moment the hand came into contact with the magical energy it was dispersed. At this point, James loosed an arrow at the crystal, hoping to knock it off the socle, instead. The arrow hit the crystal but was deflected off one of its facets and went flying into the darkness beyond. At that point the heroes heard the strong, honeyed voice that was holding the sermon say; “Kalauranthalasis, it is time for you to awaken,” and they heard the wyrm stir.