Returning to the town of Daora, the adventurers were able to find out that mounts could be obtained by following an elven trail. This information came from the pair of guards who had stalked them throughout the town the previous day.
Hoping they weren’t being lied to, the adventurers found the trail and followed it through the forest. They wound up at the egde of a meadow filled with tall grass. Nothing was visible. Fearing they had been deceived afterall Crim set foot into the grass but was stopped by a voice that seemed to be come from directly behind the group. An elven druid showed himself and told them all that there was a small herd of dear resting in the meadow. The adventurers told him why they were there and eventually they managed to convince both the druid and the deer to carry them through the forest to Caori.
They spent the rest of the day riding the nimble creatures through the forest. Eventually they stopped in a clearing to make camp after noting that it would be unwise to continue forward without first resting up. They checked the bag of sharing for any messages from Groatal and did find one. The mages had studied the wands a bit closer and had found that they were actually made of some crystalline substance and not a wood as they had originally thought. He also informed them that another arbiter, Grif, had gone to Kassadin to help the clerics there in purifying the water. With this knowledge in mind they agreed to let Crim take first watch, the rest of the group quickly found the embrace of sleep.
Shortly after, things started to go wrong.
Crim didn’t have a chance before things started to get strange around him. The forest appeared to warp before his eyes. And perhaps what was stranger still, it didn’t seem wrong. For those who were sleeping, it was worse. It can’t be known exactly what each had seen while in their dreams. But everyone except Al’ev “Olive” Reldin didn’t take long to wake from whatever nightmares had been placed in their minds. Sindri Stribog felt the magic around them. This was clearly and illusionary spell, the kind that didn’t simply just exist. They attempted to awake a now screaming Al’ev and were somewhat successful, but something was still wrong.
Al’ev saw what Crim saw. The trees were attacking them! Why didn’t anyone else seem to be reacting to this?
To everyone else, it appeared as though Al’ev and Crim were dancing, diving and dodging something they couldn’t see. The two appeared to be hit several times being tossed a bit by invisible forces. Eventually the adventurers snapped them both out of it. They had enough time to wonder at what had happened when a salvo of magic missiles came flying from the tree tops of several trees. The missiles were all aimed at a single person, but just before they connected they veered straight at Al’ev and everyone, except the magus, saw these missiles fly straight into his pants appearing to just dissolve.
Silently thanking his mother again and clenching the pebble in his pocket he began to search for what had attacked them all. The whole group was startled to find that someone had appeared right in the midst of them all. Their problems were further complicated when a recently awoken Desira was transformed into a newt. It clicked in the minds of the travelers then that they were dealing with the witch who had been talked about in the bar back in Daora. The drunken elf wasn’t lying after all!
Crim had seen enough, he took a swing at the intruder and missed. The intruder looked straight at him and he too was turned into a newt.
This wasn’t good, the witch appeared to be a very powerful caster. Magic of this level wasn’t something that anyone could master. With this in mind the group was able to recognize the intruder as yet another image which then disappeared.
“Disbelief is the key to defeating illusions.” Al’ev had heard his mother say long ago.
Laughter filled the night air and only Velius was able to pinpoint from where exactly. He pointed it out to the rest of the group and all took in the sight of the witch.
Almost right when Al’ev made eye contact he began to feel his skin start to transform. But it was quickly reversed again by the pebble in his pocket. With this in mind he took the pebble out and decided to see what affect it would have on one of their transformed members, and how the witch would react. Moving over to Desira, he placed the pebble against her skin. Nothing happened to the newt. But the gasp from the trees was quite audible.
The witch seemed suddenly very interested in what Al’ev had in his hand. Smirking, he looked back to the trees and said he’d answer her questions if she’d turn his friend back to normal. She agreed but only on the condition he would blindfold himself and head off into the forest alone so that the two could talk. He nodded and ripped a piece of his tunic from under his chainshirt. Placing it over his eyes, he walked off into the forest, aware that he was taking another gamble. Behind him, he heard the gasp from the rest of the group as their companions slowly returned to normal. He silently apologized to Crim and Desira. They’d be returned to normal, true. But they wouldn’t have much to protect their modesty until they could don their clothing again.
The witch’s voice stopped him a bit into the forest. It was there they had a chat. Several things were discussed. Where he had gotten the pebble and what he knew about it were the first of her questions. After answering a few questions about the pebble, Al’ev asked a few of his own. She answered most of the questions, though she held back on a few answers. She did mention there were other stones like it in existence and that this particular stone had been found in the center of the desert. He filed away that knowledge and made his last request of the witch, to allow himself and his companions passage through the forest to Caori. She accepted on the condition he’d hand over the stone. Saying that he couldn’t do that as it was the only thing he had left of his mother, she seemed to accept this and told him that that was the right answer. She vanished and Al’ev was left to return to his friends.
Meanwhile, a bit of a commotion was occuring on the roadway between the very desert the witch had mentioned and the forest in which the adventurers were in. Caramel was making her way down the road when she attempted to go around another traveler on the road. In doing so she had slipped into the tree-line and almost walked into three more men. Highwaymen no less. And they seemed more than willing to take her money as well as more, given the chance. She summoned her pet, Elysia, from the tree-line and the highwaymen showed shock at first, then drew their weapons. It always came to a fight with these types.
The men were quick to act and one managed to connect with a sword, hitting Caramel on the shoulder. It was a glancing blow, however. These men didn’t seem to be very skilled. She retaliated by casting a sleep spell on one of the men. He dropped to the ground, fast asleep. Elysia too made her move at the command of her master. She tore another highwayman apart.
It was about this point when Eremes came upon the scene. Hearing the sounds of battle, he followed them into the forest and found the girl, a large cat, and the highwaymen in combat. Quickly sensing their alignments and finding the men to be exactly that which he was opposed to, he took out his crossbow and fired. He pegged one of the men and dropped him.
Seeing this, the last conscious adversary began to run. Eremes fired again and was disappointed to see his arrow not drop the blasphemer, though it did connect. Knowing that chasing him would do no more good he walked over to the sleeping man and placed another arrow in his face. Justice had been done. Finally he turned to the girl and what appeared to be her pet.
They agreed to travel together, after all she had attracted trouble once, perhaps Eremes would be able to deal out more justice in time. They set off in the direction of Caori. After a little while of traveling they were stunned to see several deer riding people come flying onto the roadway. Fully grown people riding deer? Things were strange around these parts weren’t they?
The adventurers had finally made it to the road after a long morning of travel. The conflict with the witch behind them now, they were alert. But the deer appeared unwilling to go any further when they reached the road. Knowing that this must mean their destination was near. They thanked the deer and began to discuss which way was the correct way to reach Caori.
It was Sindri Stribog who first noticed Eremes and Caramel on the road. He decided to ask them which way and the rest of the group followed the half-ling. After a short introduction, they didn’t even exchange names, they all agreed to travel the rest of the distance to Caori. The two agreed to join them on their task from the Guild of Arbiters, though they didn’t say why.
Eventually they found the elven capital. It was much the same as Daori, only much much larger. The sounds of the city could even be heard from the ground beneath. Finding their way up via a tree-well, they asked the guards where they could find a portal to Trinity. Noting that they were Arbiters, the guards pointed them to the palace where they were told to check in.
It was this point when Garyuu Reddaile split off from the rest of the group and decided to look for some items that may help him in the future. Everyone else did as the guards suggested. They checked in and were told that the elves would try to arrange something for them to get them on their way to Trinity and eventually Kassadin. They stayed the night there in the palace, eventually being joined by Garyuu who had been unsuccessful at finding anything he could use.
The following morning they were told that the elves had amazingly arranged for two portals to be used by the arbiters.
Al’ev wondered what this would cost them. He was well aware that nothing in life was free after all. He wouldn’t be surprised if the elves requested their help someday in exchange for this service.
They were led to the portal where, as was becoming more and more common, they were met with several guards and mages. Al’ev decided to just get this over with and stepped through the portal. He almost made it through when he felt something grab his ankle. Falling forward, the guards on the Trinity side pulled him through the rest of the way.
This couldn’t continue, he couldn’t keep traveling via portal. They’d get him someday, he’d just been lucky so far. The rest of the group made it through the portal without incident. They were lead to the next portal and everyone made it through that portal without incident as well.
They found themselves back in the shack on the outskirts of Kassadin. They made their way to the well where, after a quick talk with the cleric who was still there purifying water, they tossed the Mephitic Ivy in. This task complete they went to the mayor’s house to meet with Da Boss. They found the head cleric sipping at some alcohol. He was caught in the act, and he knew it. He attempted to play it off, but they all saw right through him. Al’ev had no patience for men of this sort. And though Al’ev was aware that Cayden Cailean celebrated the drinking of alcohol, he did not have respect for those who lounged about while those they were in charge of did hard work. The head of the church in Varalon would be hearing about this.
He left the house in disgust and set off to find Grif, the arbiter who had joined the clerics in helping the town. The rest of the group followed.
Upon reaching the hall, Desira announced their presence by channeling positive energy much the same way she had the first time. The two clerics and Griff thanked her for the break she had just given them. The group asked if Grif would accompany them to the lake. They needed to see if the condition had changed any and Al’ev had to see if his plan he had been working on would work.
They all reached the lake to find that not much had changed. Al’ev tested the pebble in the water and noted nothing happening. He then asked Desira to cast a purify spell into the stone. She did so and he was disapointed again to find that the stone felt “too full.” He was shocked to realize the reason behind this. His mother’s soul, or at least a portion of it, was within this stone. It was her soul that had protected him in the portals and from the magics of the witch.
He was taken aback. Too much from his past had hit him hard in the past two days. The nightmare from the witch had sent him back to Halar and shown him something he had locked away deep in his mind. The run in with the witch and her mentions of his mother. And now this. It was becoming too much.
He managed to explain to everyone that they now had to head to the desert in order to find a similar stone to the one he possessed. He was not willing to part with this one, even to purify the water supply of Kassadin. They had a temporary solution in place that should hold long enough for them to find this stone and return.
Some of them argued about what to do next. It was so clear in Al’ev’s mind. He didn’t have the patience he normally did to explain it to them all. Perhaps it was his father’s side in him making itself more known. But he just left them in the middle of their argument, summoning a mount and heading back to Kassadin. They’d be following him eventually anyway, one way or another.
The rest of the group, in the meantime managed to get a boat and took it to the middle of the lake where they were finally able to get a better look at the island. They didn’t find anything of note there however and headed back to Kassadin.
When they all met back up, they began to gather their supplies for their trek into the desert. Sindri then took them back to the shack where the half-ling managed to conjure a portal that lead them straight to the desert.
Al’ev jumped through…right into a sandstorm. This was the desert he had read about. The others adventurers followed after. Noting that the wind in the desert had always blown from the center, they decided to travel in the direction of the wind. They tied themselves together and set forth.
After a while of walking it was clear that day had become night. Sindri appeared tired from the spell, Al’ev could see. When the first murmurs of if they should stop or not began to be heard, he made the decision quite simple. He walked over to a dune and proceeded to glass it using several fire spells. The effect was a large wind wall, a temporary shelter where they could rest up for a little bit. They took advantage of this by resting for a bit then continued on when it appeared they had rested enough.
Eventually they found themselves staring at a very large clearing in which the sand was spouting from the ground in a sort of funnel. The effect was a geyser of sand that formed a large dome in which the air was clear. To the left of the funnel was several large pits in which sand seemed to be falling in. The the right was flat area. They decided to check out the pits closer and eventually, very cautiously, jumped in.
Straight into a scene of carnage….
Baby white and blue dragons lay slain across the room. Something had happened here.
Perhaps Garyuu was justified in his attacks on Al’ev for dragging them all out here. Perhaps he should have done this alone. But they were all in the middle of this now, he’d just have to do his best to make sure they all got out of it alive, or he’d never forgive himself. Al’ev thought these things as he cast his dancing lights spell and began to inspect the dead drakes.