The Warden Lands

11 - The Path to Salvation

A mission to resurrect A'ari and Umbar takes the party on a perilous mission

Akura walked across the cold stone courtyard of Arcanum Academy; a dark, cloaked figure in a crowd of colourful wizard apprentices. In the top pocket of his robe was a note for the magician Lychor Zandramus, penned by Aaaz, explaining the conspiracy in Renstake and requesting his aid on behalf of Lord Andar Swift.

The Asuran navigated the college with ease and before long found himself in the presence of Lychor, who seemed unsurprised by the visitation and similarly accepting of the ranger’s explanation for the underhanded murder of Baron Wolhem and the false accusations of his companions. Lychor gathered some scrolls and curious magical components for the Asura to take to Aaaz and agreed to travel with haste to Lord Swift to offer his services.

In the stinking sewers beneath the city, Cale, Vetch and Aaaz lay in wait for Akura’s return. In the dark, fetid catacombs, the approaching voices of grumbling Nachtgreed guards announced unwanted company to the scene. Cale immediately moved through the shadows, sword in hand to meet the foes, as Vetch and Aaaz cautiously drew in upon their prey with magic readied. Akura’s return was timed moments before the ambush was triggered and he deftly slunk through the manhole and rushed to the aid of his fellows.

As the Nachtkreed emerged from a narrow tunnel into the main sewer canal Cale unleashed a powerful stroke across the shins of the first guard, snapping the bone and sending him reeling into the filthy stream of waste. Aaaz let fly with a pair of excessively showy magic missiles which sent the crippled guard reeling and Akura set his crossbow and fired, the bolt narrowly missing his target.

The four heroes fell upon their prey, seeming to have the measure of the two hapless Nachtkreed, but another foe had been drawn to the furious sounds of melee in the tunnels; a grotesque abomination of slithering flesh, mouths and eyes, gibbering madness and threatening violence with a dozen lamprey-like maws. Vetch’s Bloodhound stones struck the creature true, but it pursued Akura regardless, first latching on with three suckering mouths before smothering the Asura and sucking pint after pint of blood. Aaaz was caught in the spell of the chattering voices from the Mouther and set about cleaning his shoes rather than attack it. Cale was still caught in a drawn out battle with the remaining Nachtkreed, their blades parrying and armour catching most of the blows.

When Aaaz shook the state of confusion from his senses he realized Cale was needed to deal with this slavering beast and turned his attention to the Nachtkreed to release Cale from the melee. One swift strike from behind with his quarterstaff caught the guard by surprise and he crumpled to the sewer floor unconscious.

Vetch’s missiles had worn the Gibbering Mouther to the point where it began to retreat from the fray, leaving a badly injured Akura in its slimy wake. But the ranger was in no mood to see his adversary escape and finally struck true with a crossbow bolt, killing the creature.

Vetch tried to heal Akura but was himself drained of power, barely able to seal the savage wounds. The Asura’s determination drove him on however, and he proceeding to trace the Mouther’s trail to its lair, where he was rewarded with a glut of coin as well as a scrollcase.

The others availed the Nachtkreed of their armour, realizing the potential of such disguises in a city that was out to find them. The four then made for sanctuary, figuring the trap room in which A’ari met his demise was as good a safehouse as any and would allow them to rest up as well as recover some of the Satyr’s remains. For eight hours the party rested, giving Vetch and Aaaz time to ready new spells and heal Akura somewhat.

That evening they made through the sewers (which Aaaz was growing intimately familiar with by now) and scouted the tower walls where Umbar’s head was spiked. They monitored the Nachtkreed patrols and planned how to retrieve the head before agreeing the attempt should be made later, once they had secured the papal crown from the church’s treasury.

Risking their disguises they crept from the drains and spent a while cleaning themselves off in a trough behind The Iron Tankard, an upmarket tavern near Wolhem’s keep. Akura, (the only member of the four not wanted for the Baron’s murder) bought food for the others and they greedily devoured the pastries before descending into the sewers again to travel unseen to the church.

As the wee hours drew in, so did a heavy fog, giving the heroes cover to creep through the church courtyard and directly to the cathedral’s front door. Aaaz drew forth Agven’s key and they made into the darkness beyond.

The cathedral was empty. A few tired candles made meagre offerings to the vast blackness and their sputtering were engulfed by heavy silence. The stillness was somewhat comforting to the midnight intruders however, and after collecting some cleric’s robes from hooks by the door they made for the staircase into the crypt.

The stout Gortwood door stood at the foot of the steps, but was already unlocked. Beyond was a long wide corridor which led up to the ceremonial Pool of Aos, a round sunken pit of shimmering blue water in which a great sphere was one-third submerged. On the surrounding steps, upon which it was easy to imagine the church’s clerics gathered in prayer, two figures sat in conspiratorial whispers.

Sanbalat and Lady Margreeth spoke thus:

“That will be fine. It will allow us to build fervour against the Nari. If anything it will allow for a more unified strike with our own forces from the south. What news of our friends?”

“Still hidden I’m afraid. I have eyes and ears on every corner but perhaps they’ve fled the city. A contingent of Nachtkreed hold the Swift estate, but Andar has also escaped. I think they’ve cut their losses and run m’lady, likely to the Nari camps.”

“So be it. Death will find them soon enough.”

Cale grew uneasy when he realised it was Margreeth, knowing her infamous bodyguard ‘Mute’ was never far from her side. Warily the four retreated from the crypt and back to hide amongst the pews of the cathedral. Here they waited until Margreeth, Sanbalat and Mute left the crypt themselves. Margreeth and Sanbalat shared an intimate kiss, bid each other goodnight and parted, with the Illusionist leaving the cathedral via the front door and Margreeth and her bodyguard bound in the direction of the infirmary.

The heroes then made for the treasury. Aaaz walked up to the statue of St Euris and proclaimed rather than whispered the words Agven told him:

“I ask for aid in time of need,
I seek a path to the Treasury,
I hope it does not trouble thee,
But I’ve gone and lost my blasted key.”

…and a soft grating sound behind the figure announced an opening secret door. The narrow tunnel beyond took them directly to the treasury where a hoard of riches lay in wait. Akura duly noted none of the spoils were apparently stolen, all rather crafted for the church. All the party respected the trove and took nothing but the crown.

They then made for Umbar. Plans were made on how to gather the severed head from its pike, mounted as it was some 15ft on the walls of the stronghold and constantly in view of a pair of nightwatchmen. Aaaz then realized that it wasn’t necessary to retrieve the entire head and sent his familiar, Snowl, to claw but a few strands of the Nari’s hair from his head.
The party now had the papal crown in hand, as well as remains of A’ari and Umbar. Vetch was at this point almost whimpering in anticipation of reviving his fallen comrades and prompted the others to make directly for the Swift Estate and hopefully to Agven. Using the sewers to get as close to Constitution Way as possible, the group then hurried through the slums, with Akura and Cale adorned in Nachtkreed armour, Aaaz in clerical vestments and Vetch simply trying to keep to the ample shadows.

Halfway up the crooked, treacherous cliff-track the group encountered another patrol of Nachtkreed. With Cale’s quick tongue and Aaaz’s charming magic both Gariss and Mallon were congenial enough and allowed the fugitives on their way none-the-wiser.

Through the quiet hamlet of Clifftop and to the Swift Estate, the adventurer’s prepared to creep up to the mansion-house, wary of the Nachtkreed contingent Sanbalat spoke of. From the stillness of night came Lychor’s friendly voice, ““Aaaz! Over here you great lummox! Lord Swift has left a note for Cale up this tree and I’ve left some things for you. We’re all okay and are heading…” and then the voice abruptly stopped.

Aaaz and the others closed on the large tree from which the voice seemed to emit and the wizard surmised that Lychor had cunningly left the secret message to trigger from the tree at their approach. Snowl investigated the bowl of the tree and found a long, thin bundle of sheets with a small sheet of parchment attached. Cale boosted Akura up the tree and brought the package down to the Scourge.

The note was a heartfelt message from Lord to Knight and spoke of the Nachtkreed encroachment on the Swift Estate and how he and Lychor had made for the Nari village of Kyalassi to seek aid or at least spread word of the trouble brewing in Renstake. Andar also stated that Caretaker Agven had found sanctuary in a crypt in the cemetery down the road and was waiting for the heroes’ return. The third part of the missive pertained to the bundle and what it contained; a relic of the Swift family, a Gatesword. Swift was giving the sword to Cale rather than to his own blood, seeing the Scourge as a more worthy inheritor of the blade.

Vetch again spurred on the heroes with his incessant howls and whimpers and the group walked from the seized estate to the Renstake cemetery where Agven waited. In a cold stone mausoleum they found the Caretaker. Agven was relieved to again see the heroes, and delighted to find they had indeed retrieved all the items necessary for the resurrection of their friends.

For two hours the Caretaker summoned the primal power of Aos and drew it from the earth, channelling it through the companions and into the remains of A’ari and Umbar. A great storm rolled in and cracked the sky above the cemetery as Agven screamed his prayers. As the Gate opened on the horizon and dawn washed in over the sea, Umbar and A’ari awoke.

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