Adventure Log: Dark Clouds
The day following the King’s Road Incident, SGT Accipiter Dulintaure submitted a full report of the event to W-CDR Vistelle Ihlestrielle while 1LT Talyss Mon recovered from his grievous injury. SGT Dulintaure also turned over all notable recovered items to the W-CDR, including the rather disturbing jar of seemingly sentient eyeballs. Following the report, W-CDR Ihlestrielle granted the team two days leave, then tasked them with completely and utterly destroying the cave that had housed the reanimated creatures.
The following morning, SGT Dulintaure rose at a characteristically early hour to find a subtle yet significant change in the mood of Fort Freedom: everyone seemed unusually quiet and, upon further observation, it became apparent that what little conversation was going on in the dining hall revolved around a strange weather phenomenon that had presented itself overnight: a small, dark, unmoving cloud was hanging in the sky to the south. Disquieted by this development, the SGT alerted the W-CDR of this new development, and then hurried to the infirmary to check on the recovering Lieutenant.
Now significantly less hole-y than the day before, LT Mon discharged himself from the infirmary and attempted to requisition replacement armor for himself. After failing to do so thanks to the Midweek day off, he elected to gather his troops and proceed back to Akhelbhen. After dragging CPL John Winters from the tavern he had spent the night in, the party mustered but, upon quick inquiry, it was discovered that the fourth member of the platoon, CPL Iridia ek’Batar, had left earlier that morning. Unfazed, the three others proceeded South towards the city.
By the time the party reached the city gates, the dark cloud—which had been growing slowly but steadily throughout the morning—had expanded to cover all of Akhelbhen in an ominous twilight. Although the official reaction of the military and government seemed remakrably unconcerned given the unnatural nature of the event, Sunian devotees of Pelara were quite concerned indeed. What seemed like the entire Sunian population was gathered around their main temple, maintaining a constant prayer vigil to their sun god. This event was explained to the party by two Sunians, Samuel ek’Alara and his daughter (and translator) Allie.
Out of respect for their religion, the military announced that all Sunian soldiers would be free from duty until Fast Day morning. After some consideration, LT Mon elected to allow his soldiers their two day’s leave to use as they saw fit, and ordered them to meet back up in the dining hall at dawn of Fast Day. Each of the party members went their separate ways to make use of this much-needed free time.
LT Mon visited Captain Halloway, the party’s commanding officer, and after catching up, discovered that both he and the party had been attached directly to W-CDR Ihlestrielle “until further notice.” Since the captain could not provide him with the supply requisition form he required, the LT elected to ride back to Fort Freedom to find the W-CDR herself. After some time he was able to locate her and, in addition to gaining the supply form he needed, received his long awaited promotion to captain. CPT Mon was also informed that he was now in command of a special, classified task force— Task Force Green—comprised of himself and his three other soldiers that would report directly to the W-CDR herself. Additionally, he was given special pins for himself and each of his soldiers identifying the classified nature of their knowledge. (If asked casually about the pin, the soldiers were to identify it as a “master marksmanship badge.”)
SGT Dulintaure chose to spend extra time observing and participating in the Sunian ceremony, since the depth and nature of their faith intrigued her. Following this, she sought out a mage friend she knew from the NCO Academy, CSG Arthur Winthrop. Although he pointedly refused to reveal the nature of the mysterious and unnatural cloud covering the city, he did mention that—were one interested in such things—one could do worse that read The History of Alloria, vol. 7 by the noted gnome historian Bartlesby Whitcomb. Taking this hint, Piter headed directly to the library, though she discovered yet another unnatural and disturbing phenomenon on the way: dead birds, hundreds of them, had fallen out of the sky, and their bodies now surrounded the Temple of The Golden Ram.
After staying up the night to study the book CSG Winthrop had pointed her to, Piter made several interesting discoveries:
- The Tower, one of the central architectural features of Akhelbhen and the headquarters of an elitist group of mages, was formerly known as The Thorian Academy
- The city of Briarville was not at all known for its magic. Upon becoming Akhelbhen, however, it quickly became known as the “city of wonders,” and as the home of many important mages.
- Although the book makes reference to mages having a great influence on The Battle of Briarville and the building of Akhelbhen, the author never specifies exactly what their contributions were.
- There is a rumored fact that the headquarters of The Five Rings houses a hidden portal to The Sunlit Citadel
CPL Winters spent the majority of the time with his father, mother and brother who live in the city, though he also takes time to visit a gambling hall frequented by Bobbi, an old mage acquaintance of his. He eventually catches up with her and learns that, as she was rejected for training by The Tower, she has joined the Five Rings guild of mages. After a very lucky (and not entirely legitimate) run at the dice table, John offered to buy a meal for the pair at the Boar’s Head, a very nice eating establishment nearby. Over dinner, John was able to charm several bits of information out of the mage:
- The cloud hanging over the city is indeed magic—old magic. No one knows how or why it has suddenly activated.
- The cloud contains elements of necromantic magic, but also elements of weather control—Druidic—magic. Such a combination of magical schools is highly unusual.
In return—and against orders—John revealed the nature of the creatures the party had fought in the cave off of the King’s Road. Bobbi noted that, should John be able to procure one of the creature’s eyes and bring it to her, she would have further information to reveal.
The pair spent the night together but, upon waking, John discovered that she was gone.
CPL ek’Batar spent his day at the Sunian temple, in prayer. While there, he was able to procure four talismans of Pelara and have them blessed by a Priest of Pelara.
Fast Day dawn, the party reassembled and, after a brief stop at Fort Freedom to turn in extra armor and procure a military demolitions expert (the Engineer CPL Thompson Linten) they had been allotted, they continued on their way to the cave. The journey was uneventful, although they all gratefully noted that the woods felt much more natural than they had on their previous visit, as if they had been cleansed. All of the graves—monsters and victims alike—were undisturbed.
The cave was still empty, though on closer inspection there were several points of interest that had been overlooked due to the nature of their previous visit:
- There were several rotting crates in the storage room, some of which CPL Winters elected to open by war hammer. This did not go well for the crate that was full of glass pieces, which were rendered subsequently unidentifiable. The other crates contained 60 candles (20 white, 20 black, 20 green) and several silver candlesticks; bolts of generic looking cloth, and vials with the encrusted, dried remnants of whatever they had originally contained.
- The final crate was full—to the brim—of the soupy, cast-off remnants of the cave’s victims. Oddly, none of the party was able to detect the considerable stench until the crate was actually opened, despite the crates significantly rotted nature.
- CPT Mon discovered a knife that seemed enchanted, and drawn to human flesh and/or bone
- A pile of bones—of all sizes—was also discovered. CPT Mon made a point of collecting as many identifying objects as possible (including a wedding band with inscription, a locket and a signet ring) to help bring closure to at least a few families.
- The weapons used by the creatures were particularly large and heavy, and made of wrought iron. Despite the seemingly low quality, CPT Mon was unable to sever the head of one of the war hammers from its shaft with his sword. (And in fact, slightly nicked his sword in the process of trying.)
During their search, CPL Winters was able to find and pocket one of the creature’s eyes without being noticed by his fellow soldiers.
Once CPL Linten reported that the cave was sufficiently rigged with explosives, the party was about to make their way out when CPT Mon decided that he wished to see what would happen if he reenacted the obviously horrifying and evil necromantic ceremonies that took place in the cave by lighting some of the green candles at each corner of the septogram carved into the cave floor…