Original Sin

Epilogue: Bright Echo / Monster
In Which Rayne Finds What She's Sought.

Bright Echo

Posted by Jozh

Rayne walked close to Lesallai as the group made its way out of the desert and to a rise overlooking the Free City-State of Tyr. The massive stone walls shined brightly as the red sun dipped toward the horizon, and overshadowing the smaller buildings visible within the confines of King Tithian’s demesne were the relics of Kalak’s rule. The Golden Palace seemed aflame in the light of the waning day, glimmering in the richest and warmest colors the assassin had ever seen. It was such a sight, that it almost distracted her from the ziggurat standing silently beside the glorious structure. When her eyes fell upon the tiered edifice, however, Rayne’s mouth went dry. Each of the seven layers had been painted one of the colors of the color spectrum, with red at the top and violet at the bottom. The garishness of the decorated ziggurat was not the disturbing part for her, however. It appeared to be an exact scale recreation of the pyramid in Kalidnay. The ancient structure in the ruined city had been split open by a massive crack by forces no one living remembered or understood. Finding an apparently brand new and intact version of the ziggurat alarmed the assassin.

And then a familiar voice spoke in her mind.

Your Shadow calls upon you.

Startled, having always been the one to initiate contact with the darker aspect of herself, she answered hesitantly:

And I…answer?

You have reached your first destination. It is time to go to work…



Monster

Posted by Darth Krzysztof and Gnomesplosion

Rayne’s focus on her new assignment had allowed her to get over the shock of seeing the ziggurat by the time the group had talked their way past the Tyrian Guards at the Caravan Gate. Their story would have sounded better coming from Lesallai, but the eladrin still hadn’t returned to herself since facing the Wastewalker. After the others went their separate ways, Rayne practically led Les by the hand to a modest inn at the edge of the Caravan District, saying that a nice meal and a soft bed would do them both a world of good. She also explained that they could afford better accommodations by sharing a room, but the eladrin heard little, staring into the distance the whole way.

Rayne made arrangements with the innkeeper, then sat down to eat. Les seemed to have little stomach for the surprisingly good food, only picking at it until Rayne forced her to have a little more. The eladrin didn’t touch her broy, either. Rayne had never cared for the drink, but the fermented kank nectar soothed her nerves after her long, hot, stressful day, so she drained Les’s cup, as well as her own.

Rayne made a few attempts to engage Les in conversation, but to no avail. She could only get the eladrin’s attention by touching her, and even that was fleeting. As the sky grew dark, Rayne led Les to their room, sending her through the doorway before coming in behind her.

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Session 9: Something Worse
In Which the Heroes Face a Reckoning

Highsun, Year of the Defiant Priest

The remaining gith begged for its life in a pidgin form of the trade tongue. It groveled on the stony, sandy pathway leading up from the chasm. Rayne approached the creature and pointed down the path. “Are there any more gith that way?” Its eyes jerked up to the human, and its face strained, like it was desperately trying to understand. She sighed. “I don’t suppose anyone here speaks…whatever language is common to these things.”

Hawk frowned and shook his head. “Sorry…Vrack only speak normal,” offered the gladiator.

“My people have a hard time with language,” said Kikrik. “The speech of other races is too different from our own.”

Rayne nodded. “I just want to be sure that, if we let him go, he won’t lead another gang back to us.”

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Session 8: And Through the Woods
In Which the Party Battles Their Way Out of a Mystical Forest

Highsun, Year of the Defiant Priest

A crack in the floor opened up into a tunnel that promised a way out. The bruised and exhausted adventurers agreed to rest for a few hours before attempting to make good their escape from the ancient tomb. Their rest went undisturbed.

In the morning, they squeezed through the crack, and made their way through the tunnel below to emerge…some place strange. There were…well, they had to be trees, but they were unlike any trees any of them had ever seen in their lives. Rather than long, bare trunks with wide fronds at the top, these trees had countless limbs covered with green needles. After a few moments of stunned amazement, they surveyed their surroundings to try to figure out where to go next.

Hawk looked around, confused, “I’ve…never seen such a thing before.”

“How… pretty,” Les commented, a forlorn look on her face. She brushed a hand along the needles of a nearby tree.

“Unbelievable,” Rayne said breathlessly. “This must be the Forest of the Ringing Mountains.” She reached out to touch the same tree as Les. “I think these are…pine trees.”

Kikrik nodded and said, “I have heard of such a place in legends.”

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Session 7: Spirited
In Which the Protagonists Confront a Defiling Spirit

Highsun, Year of the Defiant Priest

Rayne patted the eladrin gently on the cheek. “Les… Les, wake up.”

“Mrrmmm…” she murmured, coughing once. Her eyes fluttered open and at the sight of Rayne, she offered a small smile. Then her eyes flicked to Kikrik and she frowned, confusion wrinkling her brow. The kreen simply nodded and moved away to tend to his own injuries. Les watched him go, then looked back to her friend and smiled again. “Thank you,” she said softly before repeating it more loudly for Kikrik’s benefit.

“Sure,” said the assassin. “Don’t get up just yet. You scared me to death there.” Les lay back for another moment, resting.

Hawk breathed a sigh of relief. “I am glad to see you up. I was worried.”

Still fairly unscathed, Rayne pick up the pieces of the disc that had fallen from the golems, keeping a wary eye out for any more pressure plates. Spotting several more, she marked the edges of each with whatever debris she could scrounge, then turned her attention to the relics. The others heard her gasp from across the room.

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Session 6: Crystals in the Dark
In Which Beatings are Given, then Received

Highsun, Year of the Defiant Priest

“The only way out is up. That seems promising,” said Les.

Hawk looked up at the two ledges and shrugged. “I suppose one is as good as the other.”

Rayne approached the bottom of the ledge on the right side, but could not find any handholds that would serve. She slumped at the foot of the cliff, her sailor’s background evident in her colorful commentary.

Les looked over to Vrack. “Would you?”

“Huh huh. Vrack help. No problems.” The half-orc stepped up and easily scaled the short ascent, finding himself on a small, dead end ledge. Before he could even comment on it, the bard stepped through the shadows to end up by his side. “Uh…there is no where to be going,” he reported.

“Ah,” she said.

Hawk scratched his chin. “Then I guess that leaves us the other path to take.”

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Interlude: Preservation
In Which Rayne Learns More Than She Reveals

Posted by Darth Krzysztof and GnomeSplosion

Rayne allowed Hawk and the others past her, reaching out to Lesallai. Though her touch was gentle, it was enough to stop the eladrin. Rayne tilted her head toward the rest of the group, and Les nodded, allowing some distance to form between themselves and the others before they stepped into shadows cast from the sunrod.

“Careful…” Les said without looking at Rayne, though the tone was quiet and gentle. “Kikrik will think you’re conspiring with the enemy.”

“Let him,” Rayne replied, which drew a cautious glance from the eladrin. “Like I was trying to say back there, I’m sorry. About what happened before. I had no right to feel entitled to your secret, and I didn’t mean to hurt you with the things I said. And it wasn’t fair of me to assume that all defilers are like Kavros.” That didn’t feel like enough, so she added, “I’m sorry,” again.

Les hesitated, turned, and finally looked directly at Rayne with a shy-looking half-smile. I think she’s surprised, Rayne thought. I wonder if anyone’s ever really apologized to her before. Rayne’s years as a slave had certainly taught her how… She had the definite impression that the apology made the eladrin happier than Les was willing to show.

“I… I accept,” Les stated quietly with a slight bow that might have looked silly under other circumstances. “Um…” The eladrin looked almost at a loss for words for once. “For what it’s worth, I’m… I’m sorry, too… If you felt betrayed. I never meant to hurt you.”

“I know,” Rayne said. Les’s words were genuine, not like the sneering lip service the eladrin had paid to Kikrik before. Les is so good at telling lies, Rayne thought, yet she stumbles over truths. It takes her real effort to share with me like this. Not that it’s easy on me, either… “It’s all right. We’ve got to stick together, after all.”

“Just so.” Les’s gaze flicked down the tunnel, where the rest of the group had wandered out of sight, before drifting back to Rayne. “If… If you like,” Les said, tentatively, “I could tell you more about my time in the Lands Within the Wind.” Les looked down at the ground for a moment, obviously struggling with the words and the thoughts, as though they were something never spoken before. “It’s only fair, I guess…”

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Session 5: Awakening the Dead
In Which Tensions Rise in an Ancient Tomb

Highsun, Year of the Defiant Priest

“Well…” said Les, arching a brow. “So, you just…live here?”

The man shook his head. “I was taking shelter from a sandstorm that blew through here.”

“The same storm that chase us?” Vrack asked.

“Then be welcome,” Rayne said cautiously. “What brings you to the middle of nowhere, though?”

The man said, “I was traveling to Tyr when the storm hit. I decided to wait it out here. Then those creatures came, so I stayed here longer.”

Vrack grunted. “Hope you don’t mind us sharing the cave with you. It has been a tiring journey for us.”

The man lowered his hands. “Not at all. I am called Hawk.”

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Session 4: Backs to the Wall
In Which the Storm Catches Up

Highsun, Year of the Defiant Priest

After Ralo’s gifts for saving his life, he bid the group good luck and farewell, disappearing into the desert as is the way with most hermit mystics. Rayne watched him disappear into the distance. “So. Back to it, then?” she commented, as the obsidian sandstorm howled, growing ever closer.

“We should be off once more,” Les agreed. Kikrik sighed.

Clavis hopped up onto a rock and began to search for a good path. Rayne scouted Clavis’ suggested course, seeking any hidden dangers it might possess. The eladrin held a hand out in the direction of the storm, seeking arcane inspiration. S/he finally settled upon manipulating the desert heat to create minor illusions – distant diversions to throw off their pursuers. Vrack blazed the trail once more, while Kikrik’s unflagging endurance proved an inspiration to all.

As the sun rose, they began their northwest trek once more, trying to outpace the sandstorm and elude the ssurran. Cutbacks, blind canyons and the other trials of the foothills of the Ringing Mountains were cleverly navigated. They paused briefly for lunch, since breakfast had been interrupted, but they ate swiftly and pressed on some more. By mid afternoon, however, they found their path blocked by the sheer face of a cliff that towered above them, and before them lay an area of black sand.

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Interlude: Shadow Touches All
In Which Rayne Reveals More Than She Learns

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

The scimitar slipped from Rayne’s fingers, but she took no notice. Once sure that Vrack was free of the silt, the assassin turned away from the scene of the battle and walked away, not stopping until the others were well out of sight.

She turned her face to the newly-risen sun and squeezed her eyes shut, wondering how she could feel so cold in this place. Had she ever come so close to death? Had its face ever been this familiar?

She struggled to control her breathing, to will her heart back into stillness. The strength of the Hidden lay untold miles away, under the sundered pyramid at Kalidnay, but their teachings were with her. Her Shadow came when called, and left after its counsel was heard. When Rayne opened her eyes, she had stopped trembling.

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Session 3: Restless
In Which the Protagonists Fight On Past Exhaustion

Highsun, Year of the Defiant Priest

While the adventurers looted the food and water supplies of the strange desert men, full night fell over the badlands. There was still no sign of the storm, but they couldn’t be sure when it might catch up.

“Shall we set up watch and try to get some sleep?” asked Les. “I’ll only be four hours, so if anything happens, we can be ready.”

“Would be best,” Rayne replied.

“Vrack will take first watch,” asserted the half-orc.

The others volunteered for a turn at watch except for Clavis who offered to sleep. He hunkered down beside the lone tree and was dozing in minutes. Kikrik got out of the wind, while Les hummed a quiet tune to lull the companions to sleep. The half-orc set his gear down and climbed atop one of the boulders to take his watch. The bard kept an eye on Vrack, to make sure that he stayed awake and that nothing attacked him from behind.

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