The moments after the battle itself were somewhat of a haze. Edulwulf, Aubron, and I had finally managed to fell the foul, otherworldly creature which had been the power behind the horrors of the Arkona household. The few thrusts of Aubron’s rapier seeming to do more damage than the mighty swings of Edelwulf’s greatsword. The hellish creature had the lithe body of a beautiful woman with the snarling, vicious head of a fox! It had been a horrible sight! Worse, the foul creature used the skills and talents of a monk! Never before had it occurred to me that my monk talents could be used as a tool of evil! The discipline and dedication to order it takes to gain my abilities are intense! I sacrificed so much to become what I am. My entire world view is changed. I will have to speak to the priests of Irori to understand what this means. I am sure I looked the dullard; staring at the corpse as Edulwulf and Aubron stripped it of its valuables. The overwhelming “wrongness” of the entire scene had overcome me. The deathtrap which was the labyrinth overhead; the monstrous, animated corpses of the behemoths which moved the very floors above; and this shape shifting monster. It had been too much. The foul creature even controlled shape shifting minions! How long had Meliya’s spy been among us? Disguised as Droskar’s dagger, what foul secrets had it been whispering into Fancy-britches’s ears? He would bear some watching for a while. Even now, Droskar stood apart from us, apparently something unsettling had passed between him and Aubron in the room beyond the illusionary wall. No telling what tricks those two were up to. The naturalist, Reka, snapped me back to the present. Aidan had secreted Vencarlo and Neolandus to safety. We had to make our escape.
Working our way back to the main caverns, we found Aidan and the two men preparing the ship. Aidan’s careful spell use had surely been our salvation in the catacombs behind us. The evil monk was skilled in our martial craft as well as in the use of spells. her agility and powers may have been too much for us if he hadn’t overcome her with his powers. I will no longer look on his books and robes with disdain.
Settling into the craft, I noticed that there was no clear passage out of the cavern. Aidan pointed at one of the walls and I took another look. Sure enough, there was yet another illusion! These rakshasas were creatures of a thousand deceptions! Setting free from the dock, we made our way towards the wall. No sooner had we left the dock than a wicked roar revealed the largest reefclaw I had ever seen emerging from the deep pool at the base of the cavern. As usual, Aidan was the first to react, he let fly several balls of magical energy from one of the wands in his robes. Edelwulf bellowed a challenge at the creature as Reka began chanting one of her prayers. Neolandus took cover in the ship while Vencarlo defiantly readied his rapier in arms barely strong enough to hold the weapon steady. Aubron disappeared into the shadows as Droskar reached into his robes for a rod, saying, “This thing is NOT immune to fire!” And the world exploded in a wave of heat and steam as the fireball exploded just behind the reefclaw. It seemed to take everyone a few moments to recover from the shock. Even the creature reeled in combined pain and fury. In the reprieve, Edelwulf and I appear to have had the same thought as we both reached for the remaining two javelins Meliya Arkona had used to such drastic effect earlier. When we turned back to the beast, Aidan had managed to temporarily ensnare the beast in magical webs securing it to one wall of the tunnel. With such a precarious position, we knew that would not hold it long. Turning and throwing in swift motions, we let the javelins fly. In mid air the flying steel turned into bolts of lightning striking the creature with thunderous claps! It was wounded, severely, but not quite enough. It began tearing at the webs. In a moment, it would be free and our escape route would be in peril of falling to its monstrous claws. Edelwulf and I stared at each other as we realized we were out of ranged weapons.
With a firm nod, Edelwulf drew his great sword and went to the aft of the ship, bellowing challenges at the beast, Vencarlo at his flank, rapier gleaming with an inner light. I took up a position near the dock, my fists glowing with crackling energies, ready to distract the beast if it came towards the boat. Reka, understanding my intent, joined me on the dock and let loose a cloudburst at the creature. It seemed to chitter its annoyance. as it closed on us. “If it snaps the mast or cracks the hull, the ship is done for!” I yelled, “Protect the boat!” Just then, another bolt of lightning sped from the boat to strike the reefclaw exploding its head in a shower of exoskeleton and sizzling gore. Looking for Droskar or Aidan, I saw Aubron standing with an outstretched rod and a look of surprised wonder on his face.
“I didn’t know it could do THAT!” he said. Edelwulf exploded into laughter as Droskar and Aidan grumbled something about “wild magic.” Making our way to the ship again, we departed for the ocean. With Droskar, Aubron, and I navigating, it was a simple matter to avoid the patrols in the dark. Once the main danger was over, I turned my attention to the seneschal. The rags and grime covering him do not effectively eclipse the regal bearing of the man. Sensing my gaze on him, he turns and regards me carefully. He looks each of us over, then looks to Vencarlo. The two of them nod at each other, and then Neolandus clears his voice to speak.
“You are just the kind of heroes I was hoping to find! Only heroes of great skill and noble purpose can use what I have learned about the Queen to bring her terror to an end! What I know is far too dangerous to the Queen. She will not suffer my return to the city. We must travel elsewhere. Vencarlo has suggested we journey to the nearby town of Harse, where he has allies to keep us safe while we plan our next move. " For some reason, Aubron perks up at this bit of news. Surely, it is something nefarious. I will have to keep a special eye on him among the simple village folk. Neolandus continues, “But first, tell me what has transpired in the city since the death of the King. I must know!” Aidan and Droskar go through a collection of our adventures since the death of the King. At the retelling of the failed assassination attempt by the head of the guard, both Neolandus and Vencarlo are in shocked alarm; Vencarlo curses under his breath. Neolandus nods sadly to himself, “It is as I suspected. The Queen has become something more than human. She has found a way to channel the power of a draconic warlord long thought to be dead.” Droskar leans in a little closer. “As long as she wears the Crown of Fangs, she will retain great power! There may be no way to defeat her,” he looks out over the water as the sun begins to rise. “Unless…” he starts and then pauses to gathers his thoughts, “Many years before the Cheliax came to Varisia, the region of Korvosa was tribal land of the Shoanti.” Droskar’s eyes gleam with interest. “They believed that this area was the seat of a great evil. The keepers of this knowledge, if they still live, are hidden among the Shoanti tribes of-”
“The Cinderlands!” Droskar finishes for him.
“Yes, they are who we must seek, if we are to uncover the secret to undoing the Queen’s power.” With the rising of the sun, we make our way to the shore. We do our best to hide the ship and make our way inland towards the town of Harse.