The events of the night before still weigh on camp and I notice the odd look some give Nik as he moves about his day. Even stops to enjoy the sun on his face when he thinks no one is looking. Being killed can have that effect on you.
Last night while we were planning to reveal Primrose for a fraud, apparently Nik had begin to see through Celia rouse as well. In a moment of panic the bitch bit and poisoned him, leaving him dying on the floor as she stepped out to turn the entire camp against us. When she caused the firey explosion during our battle, it had finished what the bite started. Nik had died.
We could not, would not except that. During our travels we had found a powerful piece of magic. A scroll to heal the body and rejoin its soul. It was one of a kind, ultra rare. He was more than a fellow castaway with an occasional barbed tongue, he was our friend and trusted ally. He was one of us. Thus It was an easy decision to make to use the scroll to return Nik to the living, Moneva willing.
We had gathered as Grune led us through the words and we opened our minds to give whatever spiritual aid was needed. It reminded me of the ritual to cure me of my curse. It was unclear how many truly gave mental support to the effort, but the Alliance did. I for one felt… something. Like a moment skipped. However before I could dwell further, Nik took a deep intake of air and then coughed. The spell had worked and he was returned.
But as great as bringing back Nik was, we have much to deal with now. A handful of Farstryders left in the night and moral in camp was dangerously low. We tried to keep people busy to repair the damage and re-secure the camp but the truth was with numbers so low, we were no longer able to properly defend it AND send out exploration parties. Not to mention we now believed the Aspari threat was not just the work of a few serpentfolk trying to bring back a dead civilization, but the beginning efforts of true conquest by a race both alien and ancient. No, the stakes have been raised to an incredible level and if we are to combat this threat it is time to draw our allies to us. Starting with The Boss.
For the first time since the very first visit we went to camp Veritas with little regard for stealth. We knew others may smell weakness in our camp so I plan was to join with the Boss and collectively move to the Artist district. With the remains of the Farstryders, Veritas and the elves, we would be a combined force to be respected by the others. First step was to secure this alliance and have Almaran use the All Seeing Eye to ensure all were who they seemed to be. After passing that test, thankfully, it was fairly direct matter of updating the Boss on recent events and our plan. He saw the logic and agreed, giving orders to begin breaking camp. They would arrive to Chimera Keep the next morning and begin preparing to move all to the Artist District. Approval for which we still needed to get form the Muse. Now seemed like the right time.
On the way to the elves we stopped at the keep and updated Julivar and Nik. Nik seemed please about giving up his role as a camp leader. We grabbed a couple of porters and a lot of captured gear (arms, armor, scrap metal) and head to the elves. Although we had done several good deeds we though an additional gift of materiel they could re-purpose would go play well. It did, and Osond was able to negotiate approval with the Muse with some stipulations.
The area she has giving us is on the lake side adjacent to the Statue of the elven hero Jacara. I thought that a fitting location as it will serve as a great reminder of why we are here. To defeat the Aspari and keep their alien god from rising!
We agreed to the terms and after checking the site we decided to use the remaining daylight to pick up the undead’s trail from the Necro Manor. Believe it would be a more direct line to the Vault Julivar had fled from and hoping it was somewhere in this district or and adjacent one.
Leaving the porters behind to start prepping the new camp site, we left and found then followed the undead tracks for the better part of an hour before we notice something significant. Around 80’ up a nearby cliff-side a face was curved in the stone, severely overgrown with vegetation. We had noticed this in passing prior, but what made it unique this time was half the face was “swung open” like a large door. We could just make out an opening behind it. A cave perhaps?
We continued to follow the tracks which lead to a series of switchbacks. The elements had worn away most signs but we were able to make out the remains of stone stairs here and there. The path took us up the cliff face with the last switchback fallen away leaving us 20’ below the stone ledge that was right in front of the elven facade which we could clearly see was a stone door.
We climbed, while Almaran flew, up the distance and I cautiously peered inside. It was dark but the smell of a recent camp fire was evident. Clearly someone was home and were trying to remain hidden. I warned my companions and then stepped inside. I instantly felt observed and uncomfortable and called Moonshadow to follow me and protect my back. I knew I couldn’t count on the others to do it for me. Khaine with his wild tactics and I really didnt know Grune or Almaran very well. I can’t believe I have given them so much trust in the past.
As I moved further in, wondering why I was the only one inside, I heard a creaking then felt some loose debrief fall. It was the only warning I had to jump out of the way as a large stone statue fell to where I and Moonshadow had just been standing. I was about to yell at those untrustworthy layabouts for always putting me in harms way when the true threats revealed themselves. KECH!!
These semi intelligent pseudo simian monstrous humanoids have been nothing but a bane to us since we arrived in this city. Four from above readied bows now that they had dropped the statue, and six more stepped out of the overgrown foliage as if materializing there. An ability that still annoys me. With any luck we have just stumbled on their new lair and we can slaughter them all and bring a bit more peace to this region.
I called out to the others to move their arses, then mount Moonshadow to charge a group further in the tunnel reading bows. We sliced and claw one to shreds before Khaine even entered. He was fighting a little too close to me actually, not sure I like him on my flank like that. Least he entered, Grune and that Witch just hung back at the door while Khaine and I did all the hard work and took all the bow fire! Were they whispering to each other back there? Are they up to something? I think they are. I’m going to need to watch my back as this place is starting to get to them!
We kill the Kech and while I am eager move on Grune tries to tell Khaine and I that we are not right in the head, that there is something in the air here. Only thing in the air is his hot breath if you ask me. I feel fine and don’t appreciate long beard trying to confuse me. Ok, clearly there is something wrong with Khaine but pretty sure he was born that way.
Anyway, so the Witch starts speaking in super calm tones, and is even stops stating things with his double speak. Now I know something is wrong with him. I will keep my eye out and keep Moonshadow very close to him. If he tries something… well… lets just hope for his sake he doesn’t.
I scout ahead… again… and come upon a large cavern with a few fire pits and the distinctive smell that it has been inhabited. I peak in and see the foliage is a bit light this deep in and the Kech everywhere. This seems to be their primary camp. I smile has I draw Windsplitter and attempt to sneak up on one. I should have told my team ahead of time but they will hear the fighting soon enough. Fighting started sooner than I wanted as a Kech I had not noticed see’s me and calls alarm. I really do hate these beast. Oh well, time to slay them all.
The fighting was furious and I seemed to be a magnet for their arrows. Even when Moonshadow ran up and I fought from her back, the Kech continued to pepper me with shot after show. Khaine oddly hung back with the others and I could not help think what they were up too. Then out of the blue Grune comes running up next to me saying he needs to touch me to heal me. BAH, you’ve never needed to before. I know magic, only aggressive or mind altering spells would require him to touch me. He is up to something and sees I am injured and trying to take advantage. I’m too smart for that, and don’t let. HAH. Stupid dwarf thinks he can trick me.
The fighting continues and muscle through the pain, I will kill these creatures on my own and then will determine just what that cleric…. What the!! He healed me? He finally a touch on me and it healed me. hmmmm… Crafty dwarf, I bet he switched the spell. If he things I am going to let down my guard now he’s as dense as the granite that birth him.
We kill the remaining Ketch and I down a potion of healing as the cleric approaches. Hah, don’t need you spell now! He channels positive energy to heal us all which is what he should have been doing before. He and Almaran are definitely up to something. Khaine sees it too I can tell, but he is acting too weird for me to trust his judgement. No I am in this alone for now.
After the fighting we take a moment to catch our breathe before pushing further into this dank space. We find the remains of a Sabosan. Man-sized humanoid bat like creature. It was full of Kech arrows. Further in we find the rest of these flying vermin whom attack us on sight. We defend ourselves from the evil creatures and destroy them all. Luckily Grune stuck to healing at a distance and refrained from any more of his trickery. Although him and Almaran were still thick as thieves.
Further searching for the tunnels lead us to an antechamber protected by a stone golem. The undead tracks lead from the double doors but we had to get past this statue first. The golem itself was proving to be a problem for all of us save Khaine whose massive hits took chunk after chunk from it. In a moment of inspiration I called out in the ancient tongue of my people and commanded it to stand down. It seemed to recognize my bloodline, asking for the password. I fumbled a bit until I called Guardian in the old tongue. It stopped, and returned to its post leaving us to enter what we’ve come to call the Map Room. In it, we believe lays the portal to the Aspari City.