Our heroes didn’t go too far before they decided to double back a bit to see what the Aeristhyde might do. In the wilderness plains, the group was confronted by the infamous White Cloaks, who Noddyl explains are an Aeristhyde special forces corps. They were able to fend off the small scouting party, but it was clear more would come if they remained. They headed will all speed in an indirect route to Roen. Once there, Noddyl left them …
The city was like a waking dream, where the seemingly world-shaking events of the past few weeks were erased. The busy commercial trade and traffic of horse carts and people distracted them from the terrible unease that had almost become their new normal. They were questioned by guards at the gate, but it was routine. They found a nice inn and tavern to rest their weary souls, The Purple Worm, and talked a bit with the owner, Skohl, a barkeep with a stump for a left hand and a large black moustache. He was of medium height and ably built. His missing member seemed to cause him no disability as he went about his job.
After securing rooms, the party went out to check in with one of Sylus’ old friends from magic school, Redra, or Red for short, to get the scoop on local happenings. She reported that the city announced a plague had erupted in the plains and taken over the city of Laranyss. That all who came from there were subject to paranoid delusions, a first sign of the impending sickness and death they would suffer. If the person was considered delusional, they were to be considered contagious and should be reported to the city guard or self-report to one of a few medical stations set up around the city. When the party told Redra that they had come from Laranyss, she grew frightened. They quickly assuaged her fears of the plague but replaced them with the horror of their own story and the eladrin army that had chased them here.
The party decided to chance a return to The Purple Worm only to find a pair of guards standing curiously near the door, and it became clear their escape from trouble was, to say the least, short-lived. Sylus asked Redra to go ahead and find out if the guards were their for them. Redra agreed, and she was able to find out that the party was indeed the target of the guards inquiry. They were seeking primarily Sylus, but they were also interested in those he traveled with. It was known that they were from Laranyss, and apparently that was of some concern to the guards. The party discreetly made their way back to Redra’s place, where she agreed to let them hide out for the night.
Unbeknownst to them, however, they had a trail. Federin Illiwynd, an eladrin praetorian of the Roen ambassador of the Winter Court (read Aeristhyde), Szerathin Elondorith, had them marked and followed the group to Redra’s home. Only a few moments after they had settled themselves inside her place, there was a knock on their door. Redra opened it and did a poor job of hiding the fact that they heroes were inside. Federin pushed past her and threw back his hood.
Brandis was about to hurl a vase he had poised above his head, when, surprisingly, the Aeristhyde knelt before the party, introduced himself formally and laid his broad sword at their feet. “Please allow me to join you in fighting the Aeristhyde.”
“Why should we believe you?”
“Because I have information you need. Your friend, Immeral, the half-elf, has been taken into custody. He sits in the dungeon of Roen to rot on behalf of the Aeristhyde’s lie. The plague is a cover for their murder of all the denizens of Laranyss.”
The shock of the news unsettled the party, but they could not be too surprised given their enemy.
“Why did you defect?”
“The Aeristhyde have committed a heinous atrocity. Their once noble aims have become defiled by the deaths of all who once lived in the town of Laranyss and the ridiculous lie they spread in Roen. I spoil my family name if I continue to serve such an ugly cause. I now see the true objective of this war we have been waiting centuries to wage once again, to dominate by any and all means. I can’t be a part of it any longer. Let me join you in opposing the Aeristhyde, for they aim to rule all this land with an iron hand and crush it into oblivion if the people of this realm refuse.”
Distrust hung in the air, and Brandis nearly let slip the vase.
“Keep my sword as a token of the truth I speak. Check me for magics. There is no divination cast on me or my belongings.”
Varis picked up the eladrin’s sword. “I trust him.” The others soon agreed, except for Brandis, who harbored an obviously justified suspicion. “I’ll be keeping this,” Varis said, smiling at the eladrin.
“We cannot stay here,” Federin stood. “In a few short hours, my superiors will wonder why I haven’t reported back. We should flee the city.” As the party discussed this possibility, Redra spoke up.
“Sylus, please don’t leave. I’ve been having dreams, nightmares. Ever since I was a girl, after my mother died. My mother had this very same nightmare, night after night. It was of a girl, sick and pale, coughing alone in the darkness. Her coughing became violent, racking her body until a vapor escaped her lips and formed into a spiked fiendish looking being. The being claimed the girls soul and destroyed her body. Every night my mother had this dream and for a while kept the terror of it at bay, but after years of suffering she began to give in to the terrible dream. Her body and mind began to waste away until she was no longer the mother I loved. One night, she ran deep into the city park and there she was attacked by terrible, large insectlike creatures with spiny jointed plates that cover the head, back and limbs, but have reptile like skin covering the neck, sides and tails. Kruthiks, they’re called. They surrounded her, tore her to pieces, and fled underground. Ever since that day, I’ve been having the same nightmare as my mother. I can’t help but worry that this might be some kind of sign that I will suffer the same fate. This is why I studied magic. I have found a ritual that I can perform to help me undo the curse that was on my mother and now haunts me. Will you please stay in the city with me?” Redra grabbed Sylus close. “Just long enough to help me rid myself of this nightmare?”
Sylus was too much the gentleman to refuse, and, as Federin chimed in, “You guys are heroes after all.” So, the party accompanied Redra to the city park with the intention of fleeing Roen once Redra had performed her ritual. She led them to the very spot where her mother had been murdered, near a crossing over a small ravine that was filled with briarbrush. She prepared the ritual, drawing a 50 foot circle on the ground decorated with arcane markings. After the performance of the ritual, Varis and Federin noticed a shift in the air. Something had happened, but they weren’t sure what.
“Did you feel that?” Redra said. “Something went wrong. The ritual didn’t take.”
At that moment, a gang of Kruthiks burst from the ground and attacked the party. Varis returned Federin’s sword and together, Shalanwode and Aeristhyde, they held off the frontal assault of the creatures, giving time for those in the rear to secure their position on the other side of the crossing. The insectoids proved formidable foes, but with the growing strength and numbers of the party, they were soundly defeated.
What had happened when Redra performed the ritual? Were they still in the Prime Realm? If the magic didn’t work to remove the curse, how might the heroes help save Redra from her nightmare? Should Sylus bag this babe, put her to bed and leave with the party in the middle of the night? All important questions that will be answered in the next installment.