When we last left our heroes, they were making their way across the great desert, following the trail of a band of Eladrin raiders. Eventually, the party caught up with the bandits. A heroic moon-lit battle on the dunes left Mika gravely wounded, but provided the location to the raiders’ encampment.
The sun rose in blood and set in fire, the companions followed the trail until it led them to the edge of an emerald oasis. The trees and strange flowers were bursting with a thousand varieties of birds, from sparrows and swallows to great plumed hawks of turquoise and bronze. Rerith and Anton decided to hide Mika, still clinging to life, with their supplies while the duo searched for the elusive Eladrin.
They moved quietly through the midnight oasis alive with cold desert breezes and the faint twittering of seen and hidden birds. Eventually they found the encampment: a delicate construct of purple silk tents lit warmly by lanterns within.
As they approached the side of a tent, there was a sudden shift in the breeze and three grim-faced Eladrin warriors emerged from the shadows. Without a word, they swung their scimitars as one, steel rang on steel as Anton’s rapier lept to meet them. Rerith, thinking quickly, unleashed an incantation of dark fire. The entire encampment awoke screaming, all was confusion and flame as one by one the tents went up in a brilliant blaze and panicked camels laden with supplies fled in every direction. Rerith and Braavos used the chaos to their advantage: terrified Eladrin were met by flashing blades and flesh-withering spells that appeared suddenly from the swirling ashes, only to vanish as their victims fell to the leafy floor.
One tent remained undisturbed and silent. Anton and Rerith burst inside, only to be met by the calm gaze of a slender Eladrin woman. She sat cross legged upon the embroidered cushions, a great machete with runes etched in bronze lay across her lap. “So, my guests have arrived”, she murmured. The utter serenity of her face was marred only by the cold fury that flashed in her eyes.
“We’re looking for two prisoners”, Rerith said slowly.
“I know nothing of prisoners. I am merely here to wipe out a few pests”, the Eladrin replied, her face showing no emotion.
Anton gave a little smile, “And that would be us, wouldn’t it?”
The woman rose in a single, fluid motion that ended in a rapid twist of her body, sending her machete screaming toward Anton in an overhand cut. The blow resounded up Anton’s sword arm as he blocked the attack, then responded with a series of whirling counter attacks. The Eladrin’s machete spun downward with lightening speed and knocked the rapier aside. She ducked just as a whirling orb of energy flew through the space where her head had been a moment ago. Anton rolled beneath her guard and drove his offhand dagger deep into her foot. He pulled the blade out and up across her chest and was rewarded with a thick line of blood spreading from beneath her ruined silks. The woman reeled backwards with a cry and vanished.The tent was silent, the noise of battle ending as suddenly as it began.
“Well”, said Anton, “I guess we…” –
the machete exploded through the back of the tent, spinning like a horizontal windmill. Rerith jumped sideways a second too late and the heavy blade barely clipped him on the side. It wheeled through the air in a half circle and, as though guided by an unseen hand, flew back from where it came. Through the gashed, thinly fluttering cloth, they could see the Eladrin woman standing at some distance away.
She clutched her wound with one hand and reached up with the other to pluck the spinning machete from the air. Anton leapt through the ruin of silk, sword in hand, to meet her. As she turned to face him there was a reverberation from the tent. A solid beam of crackling eldritch energy flew from Rerith’s outstretched hands as he stepped outside. The Eladrin raised the flat of her wide sword, catching the spell: her feet slide backwards in the dirt and the runes on the machete glowed with a waning light. Her face was a mask of pain as she pushed back with everything she had. Rage and black flame flickered in Rerith’s eyes, “Enough”.
The golden symbols flickered once more under the onslaught then winked out. A high keening filled the air, the machete splintered into a thousand metal slivers.
The woman was convulsing on the ground, her hands clutched to her face and blood welled from between her fingers. She shook and gasped wetly, then lay still.
One raider remained alive. He was a meager thing, dressed in tattered woolens under stained leather. As Anton approached he scrabbled backwards in the dirt, begging weepily for mercy. With a little coaxing, Anton and Rerith learned that the bandits had had two prisoners that matched the descriptions of the missing sage and blond half-elf, but that they had sold them a few days back to what the man described as a “Sphinx”. He pointed vaguely off to the west before resuming his blubbering pleas for compassion. Anton decided to spare the raider, but first he made him vow to make a new life and to never again keep another in servitude. Before he scrambled off, Braavos gave the man an iron coin. On one side was engraved the words, “Valaar Morghulis” and on the other, “Valaar Dohreas”.
“One day I will find you again, to collect that coin and to see if you’ve kept your promise. Be sure you don’t lose it”, Anton finished with wry grin.
The two made their way back to where they had left Mika and the camels. The paladin had worsened: his face was gray and clenched and his wound stank of rot. Rerith leaned over him and extended an arm. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again they were like obsidian orbs. Dark veins spiraled up his arm. “He is near the edge of this world”, Rerith muttered, “If we do not find aid soon, he will die”. They decided to press on and to keep Mika alive as best they could.
Departing from the camp, the group headed west, towards a mountain in the distance. The group prayed it held what they seeked: Stellaris, daughter of Scythe. Along the way the met a band of slavers escorting a cart full of shackled Genasi and one worn Warforged. The company freed the slaves and sent the genasi away with Mika, he would not be safe where Anton and Rerith were headed.The Warforged shambled after the two, silent and immune to all questions. Initially, the mountain appeared still and lifeless, but as they grew closer, the opposite was seen to be true. Flocks of huge eagles circled the cliffs, their droppings dotting the red rocks. Shortly after beginning their trek to the summit, a dark and foreboding passage appeared before them as they rounded a corner.
“Shall we proceed?” asked Rerith.
“I suppose we must, Watcher would not be able to scale the mountain.” said Anton.
The group cautiously entered the dim cave and soon encountered a large, ancient bridge across a gaping chasm.
“Looks like we’ll be needing to cross this, but I’m not sure if it can hold Watcher’s weight.” spoke Rerith.
“Aye. Watcher, wait while Rerith and I cross the bridge, then you will cross after us.” said Anton.
With a simple nod from Watcher, Rerith and Anton began their cautious walk across the bridge. The stone was narrow and slick, but they made it halfway with no trouble. Suddenly, a green blur flew from the wall straight at Rerith. He lost his footing and began to slide off the edge. Anton lunged for him, but was he was too slow and they both plunged down into the murky waters below.
“Curse it all!” cried Rerith as he grabbed at the strange eel like creature wrapped around his shoulder.
Suddenly, Anton felt something brush up against him. Drawing his rapier with incredible speed, he decapitated it with a swift motion. Disgusting amphibious creatures covered in a dark ooze began swarming them.
“We should be going,” said Anton.
More appeared, and Anton and Rerith began their ascent upwards. With adrenaline pumping through both of them, they managed to barely make it out with only a few scratches as the wails of the disgusting creatures were heard below.
“Remind me never to go through caves like this again, Anton.” remarked Rerith as Anton chuckled and cleaned his blade.
The group finally reached the summit of the peak and was greeted by an immense host of birds. Behind this vast array was a small sand colored tent, no doubt holding what the group sought.
“These birds are of a very violent nature, it would be unwise attempt a direct battle”, said Watcher, the first he had spoken since they began their ascent. They decided to destroy one of the nests, hoping that it would distract the birds or at least enrage them into confusion.
As the eggs went tumbling down to the rocks below, a sudden voice pierced the ears of the entire group with a bird like shriek: “Who dares disturb me?”
A creature, half-man half-bird, shambled out of the tent.
“What the hell are you?” demanded Rerith.
“Your kind would know me as a Magi, and that is all I will reveal to you. I know why you have come. You seek the daughter of Scythe, but I can offer you something much better.” said the Magi as he pointed toward an old, seemingly entranced man writing upon a parchment with a golden quill.
“You see, I am in possession of a prophet. He has been filled with the light of Avandra and can now only write truth, poor man. His knowledge can be yours, or you may take Stellaris. The choice is yours.”
“The knowledge to stop Scythe, or perhaps the power. Let us leave it to fate then.” stated Anton as he pulled out a bronze coin. Heads for the prophet. Tails for Stellaris.
Anton flipped the coin and the group looked on: Tails.
“A wise choice, a very wise choice.” spoke the Magi with a slight shift of its misshapen beak that might have been a grin.