Friday, 6 September 2013

Dark Sun Marauders (Season 3, Chapter 9)

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game.  The current adventure is a return to the world of Dark Sun.  In the previous seasons (the first run by me, the second run by Richard), the party were involved with hunting through Kalak's pyramid, confirming if the Sorcerer-King was truly dead, and retrieving the Orb of Dust.  This month, the group takes a brief journey to Raam, in a final ditch effort to gain an edge over the invading Urik army.

No one made any movement to head back to Tyr.  They may not have liked working with the dray - and undead dray at that - but the hopelessness of Tyr's defences was only so apparent.  If they retreated within the city walls, death was a matter of when, not if. 

The group huddled together in the cave, with the Braxats watching over the entrance.  Once Alyshialynn and Valentin were reacquainted, the pair set to determine their next step.  Their work was noisy, but still allowed everyone to get at least a token rest in, and around midday, the group was once again all awake, and ready to hear out Valentin's plans.

"We know where the second hero is," he started out, confident and hopeful of his as-yet-unrevealed plan.  "Sadhbh, the Storm's Wrath, was lost nearly two and a half centuries ago, fighting the armies of Abalach-Re." None of the party had visited Raam, but they all knew enough about the distant city-state. Its population was over 40,000 strong, with almost as many living in the surrounding warlord-dominated estates within a day's walk from the city.  Instead of being a boon, the huge populace actually made the city-state weak, for Abalach-Re, the Sorcerer Queen residing over the city, took little interest in its upkeep, allowing the city to fall into chaos and almost open rebellion.  Their mines and quarries are exhausted, and only the large, deep water reservoirs below the city allow it to continue on; without them, the city would be forgotten within a generation. 

Eagerly, Valentin continued. "Though we lost track of her, we are confident that she still is out there, and that she, just like Alyshialynn, can be revived and brought to your cause."   As it is, even if there was some chance they could find the champion's remains in Raam, the trip would take roughly two weeks - and countless supplies they did not have - each way!  How many in the city would die before their return?

The news didn't bring anyone the same hope and excitement that Valentin showed; that is, apart from Alyshialynn herself.  "No - don't worry!" she comments, sensing the group's general mood shift.  "I have recovered further whilst you have rested.  I can get us there quickly, though it will weaken me somewhat.  But I can get you there, and whilst you find Sadhbh, I will prepare to take us back, as soon as you have recovered her." Leading the group to the rear of the cave, Alyshialynn showed them a large arcane circle drawn on the rough ground in inks, waxes, and paints.  A multitude of symbols criss-crossed over the circle, with strange runes that none had seen before.  "Using this, we can all travel to Raam instantaneously, and I can make another one there to get us back.  If you are ready, we can go now?"

"Absolutely, great one. I and my companions stand ready to recover your comrade, that together we may save Tyr from its impending doom." Liet, for one, eagerly welcomes this opportunity.

Alyshialynn stepped into the centre of the arcane circle.  The pair of dray had been up all night preparnig it - another advantage to not being alive, it would seem - but only Alyshialynn was coming with the group to Raam.  Valentin was to stay behind, and Kulo, was chosen to remain with the dray and 'watch over' him.  The rest were travelling into the distant city, and helping fuel the travel.  Liet was only too happy to allow himself to be used, but the others had varying reactions to the defiling magic.  Sure, it was the only way to get themselves to Raam in time, but the drain it took on each individual, and the arcane stench it left behind, was almost too great. 
Staggered and momentarily sick from the trip, it took them a few moments to notice the destruction their arrival had caused.  Two buildings had been torn in half, a rough hemispherical hole stretched up and around them.  Fires burned towards the edges, where pieces of the building not fully consumed had been thrown and scattered.  There were signs that a few bodies may have been there, too, but the layer of soot and ash was confusing, and everyone felt it better not to investigate the disturbing scene further.  Especially when the guards arrived.
A scene this damaging, this noisy, was sure to bring attention.  Four squads of mansabdars, the local guards / marauders for hire, quickly came to deal with the interlopers.  They didn't last long, being more used to dealing with small riots or the occasional pick-pocket.  Once their position was no longer under attack, Kuoroar!, Beren, Liet and Paelias moved off to find information on the missing dray; the rest of the party, weakened from their trip and further injured in battle, had to be left behind.   Alyshialynn also stayed, making preparations for their return trip.

The most likely place for a prisoner was a prison, so that was the first thing the team looked for.  The lower ring of Raam held no such place - they had landed in the low quarter, but as they scouted northwards, they only found markets and poor housing.  Their first obstacle - guards at the gate to the second ring - gave them pause for a while, but after luring a few foolish troops into a darkened and abandoned ally, they had the (almost) perfect disguise!  Trailing a large group of locals through a checkpoint, they were able to bluff their way through, and head towards the actual prison complex.
Trekking their way through the lower two rings of Raam had taken quite a lot of time, so when faced with another few guards - and, in particular, overweight and inattentive guards - Liet suggested brute force was necessary.  Boren quickly dispatched the two guards, and together, they dragged the bodies inside, removed their keys, and set about searching for any imprisoned undead dray. 

Fortunately, there was little opposition, as no one seemed to remember locking away the dray 250 years ago.  The final cell had simply been locked and left alone - whilst, inside, Sadhbh sat, chained to the wall, her powers negated by an intricate enchantment.  Intricate or not, Liet was more than a match to disperse the energies, freeing the champion from her bonds, and now, with her weapon calling to her, they charged forth from the prison, and into the final circle - the palace garden.  Within that haven, within the forest of trees, the rolling plains of grassland that would have taken more water to keep alive than most towns had for their population, stood a small stone structure.  Within that structure stood a statue.  And lying before that statue was Sadhbh's spear.
The dray took on the gate guards, urging the others to run ahead and secure the area.  They managed, but paid for it dearly, as two of Abalach-Re's High Huotagha lay in waiting, each backed up by a squad of crossbow-wielding archers.  When the last of them fell, the group approached the statue, seeing it for the first time for what it really was - not a work of art, but a prize taken in battle. The statue, another dray, was far too realistic to have been carved: what they had found was the petrified form of Rhyleighi, the third missing champion.

There were more guards flooding towards and into the garden, and Sadhbh feared that Abalach-Re herself could be called in, since they were now taking not one but two of her captives.  "Run now, make for Alyshialyn." she instructed, "I will keep them busy here, then take to the air with Rhyleighi and meet you there."  They didn't need to wait for Sadhbh to repeat herself.
The race was then on, the group fleeing through streets, into sewers (a bad decision), and even across a rooftop to leap from the second ring's wall.  At one stage, the guards had almost caught onto them, but a quick ploy by Kuoroar! saw them thrown off their track, and allowed the group to make one final sprint towards the awaiting portal.  By the time they were closing in to the area where Alyshialynn waited for them, they could see the bright form of Sadhbh streaking through the darkening sky; she landed moments after they arrived, weary and breathless.  The magic this time threatened to tear years from their lives, but in a moment, it was over; Raam was thousands of miles away, and Urik's army was now the immediate threat.  The sun had set, their bodies were exhausted and drained, and they had a statue to un-petrify. But tomorrow, when they were joined by the three dray champions, they would win back their city.

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