The heroes were about finished with this island. It had tested them in many more ways than they had cared to admit.
Several still felt crushed over the recent loss of their friend Eremes. Others wouldn’t allow themselves the feeling of remorse until after they had managed to escape from the island. But before they could manage that, they had to find out what side the Green Dragons were about to take.
They went back outside the Library of the Phoenix to find out.
Sindri Stribog made distant eye contact with their green dragon host and, through the use of the message spell, found out that the green flight had met with the red dragon ambassadors. The Green Dragons had decided to stay neutral but warned Sindri that the reds knew the heroes were on the island and why they had come. Even at that moment they were hunting them down.
Knowing that they couldn’t argue their case while being hunted by members of the enemy, they made the decision to leave and to do so quickly.
Back inside the library they made their way to the portal gateway. There they debated on what move they should make next. Sindri argued that heading straight to “Earth City” which was closest to the lair of the black dragons made the most sense. Others in the group disagreed, pointing out that they had taken too many losses and still had no idea where Al’ev “Olive” Reldin and T’lemya had disappeared to. And they weren’t sure what all the ash in the bag of sharing meant. Was everything okay with the guild hall? And why hadn’t Groatal responded to their letters recently?
Eventually they elected to head straight back to Trinity. One by one they went through the portal that Sindri had created only to wind up in a very familiar, ill scented tunnel. They were once more in the sewers of Trinity, and something smelt even more off than usual.
It smelled faintly of burning lumber.
The reason for this became quickly apparent when they emerged from the underbelly of the city. Destruction is what met their eyes and after talking with a few people who were busy trying to take care of what remained of the city, they learned it was a dragon attack conducted only three days prior. Most of the fires had been put out but the death toll was said to be very high.
Perhaps most interesting of all the information they obtained was a rumor of a large caravan with strange robed beings leaving the city prior to the attack.
They also learned that the guild hall, while mostly still intact, had not made it through the attack unscathed. They decided to see this with their own eyes as they were worried about Goat’s survival.
When the heroes finally arrived in the center of trinity, after some difficulty navigating debris still littered about, they were relieved to see that Goat was just fine.
They also saw a very familiar half-elven magus and a Tiefling helping with repairs to the guild hall.
It was a bittersweet reunion. Al’ev learned of all the troubles the group had encountered on their journey. He learned of Captain Crunch’s downfall during a strange storm and Eremes’s demise at the mouth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
At the mention of both these items, he seemed particularly dismayed and to anyone who really knew the magus well, they would have known the look to be as though he were remembering something.
The magus wasn’t the warmest of people to be around however. It may have come as a surprise to his friends as they had always known him to be kind and caring. He now seemed distant. Nobody was willing to ask why.
Crim decided that then was a good time for the heroes to have their secrets out in the open. If they were going to be staying together and looking out for one another, they had better know each other.
Al’ev commented quietly that there was some wisdom in the ninja’s words. To know each individual’s adversity and be prepared to face it together would prove to make the group much stronger.
But when the group first asked Al’ev about why the red dragons were after him in a manner that wasn’t quite as kind as it could have been, he visibly struggled with himself, absently scratching at his arm. Instead of answering, he walked off to talk with Goat as there was something he was worried about still.
Meanwhile, Sindri was off getting himself into trouble at the Hall of Doors. Or so the heroes found out as they were swapping a bunch of information and making the acquaintance of another Arbiter, a monkly looking fellow who refused to give his name. Their information swap and introductions were briefly interrupted when Sindri came running down the step of the nearby Hall of Doors.
Sindri pulled Al’ev aside after the magus returned to the group and asked him several questions about where a good place to find a drink and some good looking women would be. They began walking off and Al’ev explained as best he could exactly where to go, as it had become apparent that the halfling had actually wanted to speak with the elven woman whom Al’ev had spoken with in their secret meeting a few months prior.
Noting that they were being followed by T’lemya, Al’ev decided to let the halfling continue alone. If he had wanted Al’ev to remain with him, he would have asked. T’lemya trailed the halfling to his meeting.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the group continued to swap stories and when Al’ev returned, he briefly explained why he had had to leave the group before they set off to the island.
Desira told him never to go off on his own again and that appeared to confuse the magus for a moment, especially when she went off on her own into the city shortly after telling him that.
Eventually the group all reunited back at the guild hall and decided to immediately make their way back to the portal.
When they arrived there, Sindri prepared the portal and when he was finished, they saw nothing but darkness beyond. Caramel, on the other hand, saw something different, something shiny, and when she tried to get to it, she was blocked by what turned out to be a bookshelf that was in the way of the portal on the other side.
Al’ev was growing impatient. He walked over to the portal and pushed the bookshelf over….onto another bookshelf…which dominoed onto two more bookshelves and eventually stopped with a very loud noise as the final bookshelf struck a large gong.
Wincing, the magus stepped through and illuminated the room with a quick spell.
It was full of treasure. Gold piled up on either side of the small room and the only exit was behind the door on the other side of the room. Several group members went over to inspect this door as it appeared to be the only way out. They found that it was rigged with several alarm spells as well as protective runes designed to dish out a lot of pain should anyone attempt to open it.
Eventually they got the door open after a bit of effort and in so doing, created enough noise to make themselves known. Beyond the door they saw lines of statues and several indications of more rune defenses protecting the room they had arrived in.
Then there came a bit of yelling from down the hall. The yelling was in no language most could understand. But those who could knew that it was demonic.
The next sound they heard was in a language they all understood though. An explosion which indicated that somewhere down the hallway one of the rune traps had been triggered.
Then came the sight of what appeared to be a dwarf running into the open down the hallway and being engulfed in flames. When the light cleared, the heroes saw it get back up despite damage that would have killed any normal being.
There came a low laughing noise with a hint of evil behind it accompanied by more voices yelling down the hall in demonic. This was enough to prompt the heroes to close the door.
When they got it closed they listened as more and more of the runes protecting the hallway and door were set off. It was disturbing when, every now and then after an explosion, they’d hear a confused voice or two say something in common and then go silent.
Something very wrong was going on here.
When there was no further sounds for a few moments, the heroes cautiously opened the door back up and found several heavily wounded bodies of dwarves scattered down the hallway. Many appeared to have numerous cuts inflicted by sharply edged objects. Not the sort of wounds that these explosions should have caused.
They attention was stolen by the sight of one of the dwarves slowly crawling towards the group, determined to reach them. The body was in terrible shape, yet it was still moving. Particularly strange was the sight of several small holes in its forehead, of which currently one of them was occupied by a strange glowing crystal. A crystal that felt much like the wands did back in Crustakin Hold.
Al’ev had apparently seen enough when he realized this. A searing ray flew from just behind Neo‘s shoulder and drilled into the crystal, instantly dissolving it where it sat in the dwarf’s head.
As it did, there came a ghostly voice in common one again, “Mother why are we leaving? What’s going o….” then the dwarf’s body started moving again with the low evil laughter they had heard before.
Al’ev thought he knew instantly what they were dealing with then but he was too sick to do much more at the moment, for if he was right, he had just destroyed an innocent child’s soul. His father would be proud.
While he was hunched over sick with the thought, the rest of the group was quick to react to the still approaching dwarf and forced it eternally still with little further effort. They then decided to explore the rest of the place to shed some light on what may have been going on.
Desira was eventually able to determine that they were indeed in the dwarven city of Shurg, but it was deserted. There appeared to be signs of struggle throughout the building in which they had entered. This building turned out to be the palace and when they found the throne room, nothing was to be seen except more signs of a fierce struggle.
Al’ev had been quiet for a while before he explained what he guessed was happening here.
He theorized that the dwarves had been attacked by armies set upon them by the red dragons and their allies. These armies consisted of the already dead bodies of dwarves in this case. These dead bodies were powered by the stolen souls from Crustakin Hold and other places across the land. He didn’t elaborate on why there appeared to be demons inhabiting the bodies, but he guessed that the demons used the power emanating from the souls to control the dead bodies, thereby providing them with a potentially endless army.
It was a very vile use of magic, one that found its home in the school of necromancy.
While Al’ev’s mind raced at the implications of this discovery, the heroes continued searching for any survivors withing the dwarven capital. Eventually they were drawn towards the bell tower when Crim thought they saw someone near its summit.
Before they got there, however, they came across a building with numerous ghoul bodies piled outside a window n the second story. They investigated. Crim when in and, calling out in dwarven, discovered someone was still alive inside. Curious, Sindri joined him while the others strained to listen to what was happening inside while keeping an eye out for trouble on the outside.
Inside, the person they found claimed to be bleeding to death and was in need of aid. Al’ev was highly suspicious, however. He looked at the pile of bodies and saw that they all had appeared to have been dead for at least a day. If someone were truly bleeding to death after a fight with these things, they’d have been long dead by now.
He decided to try and call the being’s bluff by playing on a long held dwarven hatred towards arcane magic.
“Would you accept help from a practitioner of arcane magic?” he had called out in dwarven.
And when the being inside answered in the affirmative, he had enough information to know that whatever was inside, couldn’t be dwarven, and shouldn’t be alive.
Sindri found this out when he cast a spell on the being, which appeared to be a dwarf, and it cried out in pain. This spell should only affect undead creatures so why did this…
And then it attacked Sindri and Crim. While they were battling inside, Velius had made his way to the roof of this house and saw that the buildings surrounding the main road through the city had several sentries stationed upon them.
The rest of the group had circled to the front of the building and were trying to force the door open while Desira channeled positive energy, damaging the undead creature within.
Back inside, Sindri and Crim both got in several good shots on what turned out to be yet another dwarf ghoul. But it was still standing.
Finally growing impatient enough, Al’ev told everyone to back away from the door and used a spell to breath intense flame on the reinforced wooden barricade. It dissolved instantly, and with it, so too did the dwarf ghoul. But not before it had a chance to call out to it’s allies.
Velius saw the sentries near the main road turn and run towards the building. They were going to have company soon. He informed the heroes and they began to run. Desira again proved highly useful as, when they began to run, she used some divine magic to hide their presence from the undead.
The heroes continued from the building towards the bell tower, hoping to find some good news soon…