Wow I am behind. Sorry. Trying to get caught up on my writing.

Dealing with the slaughter they had found, The Cradle journeys in pursuit of the darkness on the Rezean plain.

Session XXXII

Riders on the Storm Part II

Ashlin’s Reports

Report from Ash, decoded by Kait, sent 11 Gaeleth

Well, things just got more complicated and much simpler, all at the same time. I have to stay, as someone who usually falls on the deceive-er side of things, see-ers make me nervous. Visions of cannibalistic storms can be handy, when we’re riding towards one, but I always have this fear that they somehow know more about me than I do, and that’s unnerving. Tanith generally doesn’t set me off that way – I think she lacks an element of gravitas that the certain Adepts have managed to garner. Still, Opal is a dear, and her information is certainly going to keep us from riding pell mell across all of Rezea ‘that way’.

We’d only ridden for most of the night when we heard voices. Jarim had joined us after sneaking away from her clanmates, and Lao and Shang stayed with us of course. Kallyian joined us eventually true, seeing through Jarim’s clever disguise by dint of the cousin playing her part not snoring, but not until after we had our first encounter with the enemy. The voices we’d heard were coming from ahead of us, however, and were speaking in something like Rezean – Jadzia and Maria said it was an old, old dialect, spoken by an elemental making threats. We approached carefully to find the red rags man from Tanith’s scrying yelling at Opal, who stood calmly, with no sign that she that she was intimidated in the slightest. I got the impression she was expecting us. I’m glad we showed up in time.

We put paid to fire djinn (yeah, I’m cool, I’ve thrown knives at fire djinn. Ice knives even, cause Maria is the greatest) almost before his backup showed up. His backup was particularly scary, one of the incredibly large tentacled monsters we encountered under the mountain. And by ‘encountered’, I mean, saw behind glass prisons and honestly, I prefer that kind of distance. I wasn’t even the one it tried to give a hug too, that was Jadzia. Apparently they are called Soul Harvesters, so it’s probably very good we killed it before it could give her a kiss to go with it.

We even remembered to not kill the djinn. It turns out, it didn’t have any information that Opal couldn’t give us, so it wouldn’t have been much of a loss, but Jadzia was able to get a bit of closure, at least. It had been with the Seeker the night she massacred Jadzia’s clan, and so Jadzia executed it.

Before that though, we had a long talk with Opal. Turns out, the Seeker (which is what the sorcerer behind all this has been called since the Blackstar artifact took her name) was once Opal’s apprentice, but Opal cast her out for the sorcerer’s ruthlessness and ambition – after the Seeker fell completely to darkness, Opal exiled herself for her shame in not doing more about the sorcerer. Anyway, Opal knew that the Seeker’s plan was to bring the four Elemental Lords to heel to serve as her army to set herself up as a new Sorcerer Queen. But we knew something the Seeker didn’t know (pst, it’s about that fire guy we killed, you know, the one that was in a volcano and was one of the Elemental Lords? Yeah, we’re awesome). Anyway, once we take out the Seeker’s storm giant, Opal has plans to set a trap for her in the volcano, and has apparently seen the Seeker’s downfall there. After that, it’s going to be up to us to bring the Blackstar to Drunoc in order to destroy it, as Opal has foreseen that she will succumb to it if she tries.

But, as Jadzia so wisely said, one quest at a time. Opal knew about a pair of towers, the Eastern one roughly a days ride from where we met her, and the Western one in Drunoc. The Seeker is using something about them to feed the Stormeater (her storm giant thing), and if we got to the Eastern Tower, and deactivated it (whatever that means) she would come to check it out, or at least send the Stormeater to deal with it. Opal had more advice for dealing with that, as a large enough fire would cause enough smoke to thicken the Stormeater’s clouds, which would make it easier to hurt. Thankfully, Lao has Fireshaping, so it’s a good thing she was along. Maria’s weather magic will also be helpful, as this is a tall as fuck tower, and I don’t want to get blown off of it again.

See, we’ve arrived. Here, at the tower. It wasn’t too hard to get in, though I didn’t get some nice practice with the lockpicks. Only broke a couple of pairs on it too, and it was a doozy. Inside was a bunch of soldier darkfiends, a watcher darkfiend and two air djinn. My friends dealt with them handily, and I even managed to tickle one to death right before the end. Then we climb up. And up. And up. On the top of the tower, we found more djinn, an air and two water, as well as another watcher. We, uh, won? I mean, it’s not really a question, cause when I re-achieved the top of the tower, all the baddies were dead. It’s just that I spent most of the fight either falling down after being blown off by the air djinn, catching myself on various architectural outcroppings, and then climbing back up all those stairs. No worries though - I did look super cool parkouring my way down.

So, we’re here and none of us have slept for a couple of long days. So we’re going to try to get a decent chunk of sleep with watches before turning off the tower and setting the trap. I wonder what ridiculous weapon this Elemental Lord will be wielding. My fingers are crossed for a lightning whip.

[Cloven hoof mark]


Jadzia’s Horse Sense

(Whispered haltingly in Rezean before three small stone monuments just outside of Fallen River)

“I apologize for my brief absence. This is… difficult for me.

“Much about the last few days has been difficult, though in some ways the hours we spent at the Rihan camp were among the most difficult. For the first time since your deaths, I knew both who was responsible and where she was located. To ask me to sit idly, and talk, and eat, while that witch strayed ever further from my righteous vengeance… it was nearly more than I could bear, no matter how necessary the delay. Tanith and Jana sat to either side of me while we dined, and their presence was a comfort.

“Jarim wished to join us as we hunted the witch and her compatriots, but her clan would not hear of it. Some of my companions wished to speak up on her behalf, but I cautioned against it. They mentioned that we had allowed the young Prince Gregory to join us in the fight against the Magma Titan so that he might prove himself to his people, and I was forced to admit that they made a valid point. Still, I suggested that it might be best if Jarim slipped out from under her family’s guard on her own, and then joined us later on the road. Darcy liked that idea, and passed it on surreptitiously to Jarim herself.

“There was one further delay before we could set out. Tanith asked for ten minutes so that she could… modify Terra’s memory. The young princess wished to have the sight of her parents’ corpses removed from her mind. Not the knowledge of their deaths, mind you, merely the image itself. Though this seems… wrong to me on several levels, I cannot fault her for this desire. I have often wished… but no. My memories are a part of who I am. They galvanized me for the trials I have faced in my life, and for the trials yet to come.

“We rode out with the setting of the sun; the six of us who comprise the Cat’s Cradle along with the sisters Shang and Lao. It was not long at all before Jarim caught up with us, eager as ever to prove herself. Though she is boastful and untried… the girl has a good heart, and despite myself I was pleased to have her with us.

“We paused a short time later as the sounds of a one-sided argument drifted back to us from somewhere ahead. The voice that we could hear was speaking Rezean… after a fashion. It sounded like the language of the oldest songs sung by the bards on the plains. I could make out most of what was said, though it was difficult to divine sense from the words.

“The argument was between a fire djinn and a witch… but not the object of our pursuit. The djinn was familiar to us all from Tanith’s vision; a tall thin figure wrapped in red rags. The soft-spoken woman with whom it was arguing was none other than Opal, the witch we last saw on the island of Arax. When their disagreement looked as though it might become violent, we intervened… though Ashlin cautioned us to leave the creature alive so that it might be questioned.

“We would have made short work of the djinn had it been our only foe in that encounter. But no, the witch’s other servant, the tentacled beast from Tanith’s vision, appeared in our midst suddenly, as though from thin air, and lashed out at all of us simultaneously. I rode into the fray upon Salkhi, piercing it with my lance and hurling imprecations at it. In this way I hoped to raise its ire and prevent it from using its foul magic to slip away from us. It hissed in pain and turned its full attention upon me as I rode out of the reach of its limbs.

“Its teleportation abilities proved just as effective at short range, unfortunately. It zipped across the battlefield and slipped one of its foul appendages around my torso, plucking me from Salkhi’s back like a child’s doll. I thrashed in its grip, but my struggles came to nothing. It drew me ever nearer to its gaping maw, and its fetid breath blew across me like a wind from a charnel house. The others came to my rescue, with Maria landing the final blow.

“The creature dropped me to the ground, and an instant later Tanith’s arms were around me and she was kissing the top of my head and muttering tearfully that she loved me and had feared that she would lose me. After indulging for a few seconds, she pulled back sheepishly, but left a hand upon my shoulder. I raised my own hand to give hers a squeeze; I am not ashamed of our love and will never blame her for such displays of affection. It is an honor to be loved by such a woman.

“Jana also expressed her relief that I was unharmed, albeit in a more sedate and quiet fashion. The group of us advanced upon the unconscious djinn, and I placed my boot upon its throat. Once it was awake, the questioning did not take long. It quickly became apparent that the djinn could tell us nothing which we could not learn from the witch Opal. She told us that our quarry currently goes by the name of ‘the Seeker,’ her true name having been devoured by the Black Star of Drunac. The Seeker had once been a pupil of Opal’s, but the elder witch had turned her away when her studies led her to sorcery. The Seeker hopes to take command of the four Elemental Lords, starting with the Storm-Eater. She does not know that we have already destroyed Dark Magmus.

“I craved other answers from the djinn. I asked if it had been present at the massacre at Fallen River three years previous. It had. I asked if it had participated in the massacre. It had. The creature stated that it had not done so willingly; it had been bound to the Seeker’s service.

“I took no joy in claiming the life of a slave, no matter what its master had commanded of it. But we could not allow the Seeker to use the djinn against us in the future. My blades bit deep and ended its life quickly.

“My mothers. My sister. You are not avenged. Not yet. But it is a start. The Seeker has been deprived of the weapon she used to burn your bodies.

“As we prepared to continue our pursuit, Kallyain joined us, riding hard upon our trail. It seems that Jarim had recruited one of her cousins to take her place in her tent, and Kallyain had seen through the deception earlier than Jarim had expected. Though she made a half-hearted attempt to convince the young diplomat to ride back to the camp with her, in the end she offered her assistance in our endeavor. I was glad to have her bow and her blades at our side.

“Opal told us of a pair of towers, which the Seeker was using to feed the Storm-Eater. One of these towers rose from Drunac, but the other was less than a day’s ride west of our present location. If we could reach the tower and deactivate it, the Seeker would send the Storm-Eater to deal with us. If its nebulous body could be thickened with smoke, it would become solid enough for our weapons to damage it. Lao reluctantly offered to help us on that count, as she specializes in fire arcana. Opal further stated that wind or weather arcana would be useful as well… in order to reach the Storm-Eater’s most vital spots, we would need to face it from atop the tower itself, and Maria’s mastery of winds would prevent the creature from simply sweeping us off it to our deaths far below.

“And so we rode through what remained of the night and the following day. We saw the tower from a great distance, and were certain that those the witch had left to defend it could see our approach as well. Like many of the old structures which remain on the plains, it was surrounded by an outer wall, pierced by only one gate. Darcy, Ashlin and I scaled the walls and opened the gates for the others from the inside.

“There was no way to circumvent the next sealed door, however. The door to the tower itself was locked. Jana and I exchanged a look and stepped forward to batter the barrier down, but Ashlin offered to attempt to pick the lock instead. We all saw the sense in this, as it would be best to keep the door intact if we were to defend the tower later. A few moments later it was done.

“The room at the base of the tower was pitch-black. Darcy used his divine illumination ability to light the way for the rest of us, which caused a few of the tower’s darkfiend defenders to flee. A Watcher and two air djinn remained. We took care of them quickly enough. Once we had softened the Watcher up, Lao lit it on fire, which allowed Darcy to release his magical light. The two Soldier darkfiends returned to join the fight, but they were not much more difficult than their compatriots had been. One of the djinn attempted to disarm me with a gust of wind. It failed, and quickly came to regret that decision.

“We ascended the spiral staircase inside the tower to the top, where we found the mystical device held against us by another air djinn (this one unusually large) flanked by two water djinn and another Watcher-type darkfiend. We engaged them immediately, and eventually came out ahead in that confrontation… though the air djinn’s ability to manipulate the wind and the Watcher’s ability to move objects – and people – with its arcana proved most troublesome. Several of my companions were nearly hurled from the top of the tower, and Ashlin actually did disappear over the edge. I cannot tell you how relieved I was when he ascended the stairs again a few moments later.

“I asked Opal how we could disable the device, which looked like a tall spire of metal rising from the roof of the tower. The others pointed out that we had not slept in some time, and our adepts had exhausted themselves in not one but three battles. We were in a defensible position, and we had the advantage of knowing that our quarry would come running when we turned off the device. As we would be facing one of our strongest foes, it seemed sensible that we should be at our best.

“I groused a bit about the harm that the Seeker and the Storm-Eater might do while we delayed, but I saw the sense in their suggestions. So I settled in with the rest of them, but resolved to remain vigilant. I was confident that I would not be able to sleep, distracted as I was by my thoughts.”


Jana’s Letters

Dear Mother,

Given today’s activities so far it’s no surprise that the day continued with more combat. Initially we discussed whether or not we wanted Jarim to come with us or not. We decided that if she could get herself away from her keepers then we’d let her come with us. It’s no more than we let the prince of Arax do some months back. He wanted to prove himself against the big bad of the mountain and Jarim wants to prove herself against pretty much everyone. So we agreed that she could come if she could get herself away. There wasn’t much point in aiding her since this was her quest she had to be able to do it by herself. Also before we left Terra asked Tanith to remove the memory of her parents’ corpses from her mind. She didn’t want the image haunting her. I can understand that. I remember the day that you were killed like it was yesterday. They did not raise you while I was present so I have hope that they did not do that to you at all. Father didn’t seem to mind regardless. I hated him just a little bit more for that.

Later that evening Jarim caught up to us as expected. Shortly after that we started hearing voices ahead. It sounded like someone threatening someone else in an ancient variation of Rezean. At least Jadzia said that it was an old version of the language. We interrupted the pair and found the person hooded and cloaked in red rags confronting none other than Opal, the seer that we met on Arax. She didn’t seem concerned with the presence of the djinn in the red cloak. It was the same being in red rags that Tanith had seen in her vision. Needless to say we attacked. We were engrossed in our fight with the djinn so much that some of us didn’t see the arrival of the tentacle monster. It was the same monster from Tanith’s vision; like the things that we saw in that cave in Kern. It was horrendous. It attacked several of our number all at once with its various tentacles. Jarim, Shang and Lao showed up at that time and started attacking the monster. About that time the monster grabbed my Jadzia in a grapple and started to pull her into its great maw. We attacked in earnest until it was dead and my lover freed. Moments later Kallyian showed up looking for Jarim. She decided to stay with Jarim instead of forcing her to go back to the camp with her.

We talked to Opal after the fight and she told us of a pair of towers that lay far away that could be part of what the Witch was using to control the storm elemental. She also mentioned that the Witch, or as she called her the Seeker, was a former student of hers. She said that if we defeated at least one of the towers then the Seeker would come to us and we could fight her. We would also be able to finish off the Storm-Eater, which Opal said was another elemental creature like the Dark Magmus that we fought on the island. There are apparently two more of these creatures in the world, though they may not be awake yet, that the Seeker wants to gain under her control. She apparently doesn’t know that the Dark Magmus was defeated by us.

We also questioned the djinn, which we had left alive for that purpose. Jadzia asked if it had been at the Fallen River trading camp three years ago. It said that it had, and after questioning admitted that it had been the one to burn the bodies of Jadzia’s mothers and rhy-bonded horse. It did say that it was not there of its own volition though. It was bound by the Seeker, and she made it do those things. Jadzia said that fact made what she had to do a little less satisfying and she killed the djinn with one stroke of her sword.

After that we traveled to the closer tower. It had a squat first level and then the tower rose up from that. It was very tall. There was also a wall that surrounded the whole building. Ashlin, Darcy and Jadzia all climbed the wall and let the rest of us in through the gate. Once we were all through the gate we had the front door to contend with. It was reinforced so breaking it down was not really an option, so Ashlin picked the lock in short order. Darcy used his holy light and walked into the building forcing a couple of darkfiends back up the stairs. A watcher darkfiend and two air djinn were unaffected. The ensuing fight was pretty quick. Once all the darkfiends had been dealt with we started climbing the stairs to go up the tower. We reached the top of the tower and found more enemies. There was another watcher darkfiend, a large wind djinn and two smaller water djinn. That fight was chaotic and harrowing. The watcher darkfiend tried to throw Jadzia off of the tower, but my lover caught herself before she could fall. The wind djinn tried to blow several people off the top of the tower as well. In one gust Ash and Lao fell. Ash caught himself on the way down and Lao used arcanum to walk on the wind back to the tower. Tanith started to go over the side but Darcy caught her as she fell. Even one of the water djinn fell off the tower with that attack. It was not so lucky and died when it hit the ground. The wind elemental tried a second attack aimed at Darcy and Jarim, but it did not succeed. Then everyone ganged up on the wind elemental since it was proving to be the most dangerous combatant arrayed against us. Jadzia struck the killing blow. The remaining water djinn was dealt with handily by me and Darcy. Darcy essentially kept backing the djinn up until it fell off of the tower. So that took care of that.

Now we just need to rest before we pick any more fights. And we will be instigating more fights. The witch that killed my lover’s family will pay for her actions with her life. She remains free for the moment, but we will deal with her soon enough. After we rest we will deal with the Storm-Eater. We will deal with the witch after that.

Love always,

Jana

End Session XXXII

Djinni and Soul Harvesters are from the Fantasy AGE Bestiary. Opal was from Two Princes. I am behind, but I will answer any questions or comments folks have. Thank you.