Monday, November 4, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 6

Mysteriarch Atael
A distant, harsh sound of stone grinding on stone cut through our debates about how to proceed. Someone was at the entrance to the tomb! Despite my enfeebled state, I ran out of the crypt, leapt the chasm, and ran up the long narrow stairs, only to discover that someone outside had pushed the stone slab closed, sealing us in. Still weak from the wicked strength-draining sorcery of our now-dead foes, I could not budge it. Fortunately, Bakari made it to the scene and managed to shift the slab aside. We emerged into the daylight only to find three new figures in the grove, apparently waiting for us to emerge. The leader was a tall, gaunt, man whose flesh was stretched taut over his bones — almost a corpse he seemed, yet not quite dead. He knew of Alinestra and seemed disappointed to learn that she was not with us. He offered to spare our lives if we gave him Synast instead. When we refused, he ordered the others to kill us all and bring him Synast's dead body. Then he simply vanished.
      His two followers attempted to carry out those orders, and very nearly succeeded. One of them, some kind of demonic spell caster, further enfeebled me to the point that I could no longer bear any weight other than the clothes on my back — not a particularly harsh fate for a monk like myself, but galling nonetheless. He further used foul magics to create a dense cloud of fog and to incapacitate Bakari, Synast, and myself with nausea. Fortunately, by this time I had succeeded in disarming his comrade, a horribly scarred woman wielding two scimitars who wounded Bakari severely before he managed to return the favour, bringing her down. One of Melusine's arrows finished off the demonic magic user. He had with him a strange holy symbol, but otherwise their possessions gave us no clues as to their identity or purpose.
      Our next discovery threw us into despair: while we were fighting, someone (or something) had descended into the tomb and removed Oeridien's bones. All our efforts to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands had been in vain.
      Synast, upon being questioned about the gaunt man's interest in him, revealed that our vanished foe was none other than Mysteriarch Atael of Ifium, one of the seven Southern Holds currently at war with Artuare. We guessed that he had taken Oeridien's bones back to his stronghold, Arcuiara, far to the east.
      Despondent and troubled, we returned to the cave where we had sheltered the previous night and licked our wounds. I could not help but notice that Devlin was beginning to seem quite taken with Melusine, whose proficiency with the bow he did not cease to extol. Bakari assumed the ranger's interest was carnal in nature and did not fail to make a number of sexual innuendoes on the topic. For my part, I think the man sincerely eager to improve his own skill. That evening we weighed our options. I suggested that, given the power of the Mysteriarch, we seek the support of a patron or powerful ally. Given that Artuare is currently at war with Ifium, the Shadow King seemed a natural choice. Devlin, however, seemed quite opposed to the idea — he apparently fears that Artuare's ruler would only seek to acquire the power of Oeridien for  himself. I agree of course great power corrupts, but I also found Devlin's instant distrust of the Shadow King intriguing. He proposed instead seeking help in AlassiĆ«l. Unable to come to a decision, we resolved to seek further counsel in Koidarra, where Bakari naturally wished to consult his brothers of St Cuthbert and where the librarian Angrim Filkins could provide perhaps further information.
       As bad as things were, I found myself looking forward to our return to Koidarra, the town we'd so recently freed from the grip of Nerull's cultists. But worse awaited us there, for in our absence the town had been cruelly sacked, its inhabitants left dead in the streets. Blades and magic had
After the sack of Koidarra.
(Credit: streamline69 at deviantart.com)
massacred those innocent folk, including the priests of St Cuthbert. We had only just begun our search of the smouldering ruins when a mounted party of Artuarean soldiers appeared. They too were investigating the destruction. Their commander, obviously inexperienced, was suspicious of our story and decided to take us into custody for questioning by his superior. I acquiesced, eager to speak to someone with real authority. Bakari did as well, though with considerably less grace. Devlin, however, wheeled his horse about and escaped, while Melusine and Synast, previously scouting stealthily, elected to remain hidden.
      Now Bakari and I, disarmed, ride with the soldiers to their fort. Will Devlin, Synast, and Melusine attempt to deliver us, or merely trail us and await the outcome of our interview? Or will some other twist of fate intervene?