War of the Burning Sky

Session LXII

21 Almsberth 459

“Father, wash my feet… Of the sins of idleness and complacency… For never shall I seek my rest… But in the halls of thy eternal destination…”

The words which had launched the true journey of his life, both as a man of the cloth and of the road, tumbled quietly from his lips as Kiernan raised his hand yet again and evoked the power of his gods. Farlaugn smiled upon his servant from the far end of the Great Road and touched the earth beneath his feet, sending holy power through his limbs and into the bones of his skeletal enemies. With an explosive burst of bone dust, the creatures disintegrated by the dozen, scattering their pieces to the earth around him.

“Mother, watch over me… As the road doth stretch before me… In the twilight of thy vast embrace… Devotion unto thy rede my guide and post… Unto the journey’s end…”

Kiernan’s gaze swept the chamber, a broad cavern encapsulating the narrow entrance to the castle itself. Battle raged around him, most of his compatriots focusing on a pair of animate statues trying deftly to slice them to ribbons with massive blades. Jasmine tumbled by, sparing an appreciative glance for the priest as the common undead fell in growing numbers in his wake. Kiernan coughed a bit, trying to wave the dust aside to better see the actual fight.

“Brother, guide my hand… As in trade and trial I weight needs of men… And give of the fruits of my travels… To slake the thirst of those who know not the road… And line my seams with kind words and the means to travel on…”

Kiernan smiled grimly, loosing his mace, and stepped into the battle. His journey would not end this day.

In the sheltered court outside the gates of Castle Korstull, the heroes do battle with the magical guardians of the fortress. Once they are vanquished, the party proceeds inward and examines the broad magically-illuminated chamber which serves as the castle’s entry hall. Clan Millorn immediately separates from the group, examining a stable and equestrian track to the south of the entrance, while the heroes check the northern doors, which open into an enormous barracks.

Complete with guards.

More than a dozen fire-weeping skeletal warriors lie throughout the chamber, as if sleeping. They immediately rise to their feet and draw their swords. Between Kiernan’s holy radiance and the warriors’ blades and maces, the bones of the castle’s defenders soon return to a state of rest.

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Session LXI

21 Almsberth 459

Arlyn ran his fingers across the barren earth. The ever-present layer of ash and soot was thicker here, but less substantial, reminding him of the rare dry snow which would blow through the mountains back home. He grimaced. He didn’t think that he would ever get the taste out of his mouth. Goblin senses were not a blessing.

The firestorm raged overhead, twisting around Castle Korstull like one of his mother’s more elaborate confections. After the things he had seen in recent months – the fire forest of Innenotdar, the hurricane in Seaquen, the perpetual storms of the monastery’s forbidden valley – it was hard to imagine being swept away by the grandeur of anything, but the heart of this fiery tempest which spread for leagues in every direction was so distracting that he almost failed to notice the other visitors to the castle just ahead, situated beyond the skeletal remains of a great battle.

The wagon was diminutive, an enclosed contraption similar to the one they’d seen in the depths of the gorge in Innenotdar, and crawling with gnomes and halflings. A strange viscous substance, which he could smell from here, seemed to coat the wagon’s exterior. Similarly coated fabric was suspended over the backs of the beasts who pulled it. The entire picture was compelling enough to pull the ranger’s attention away from the storm overhead.

His sister caught up to him, leaping nimbly from the rocks behind him, and stared openly at the unusual group of diminutive adventurers. That is, at least, what they appeared to be, as they shifted supplies and unloaded weapons, sacks and tiny chests from the back of the wagon.

Arlyn shook his head. Typically gnomish.

Before he could do more than raise his hand to alert his companions behind him, his attention was drawn to a parting curtain of flame several dozen feet overhead. Arlyn squinted against the fiery glare. There appeared to be a window of some sort beyond the flames, and he felt the unmistakable sense that he was being watched.

Without warning, a black bolt of lightning fell from the sky above, leaving dark impressions in his vision as it struck the ground between them and the wagon. As his companions surged forward to gain a better vantage, Arlyn’s eyes were drawn immediately to the human remains which surrounded them. Some of them were starting to move….

At the gates of Castle Korstull, the heroes encounter a Sindairi troupe of gnome and halfling treasure-hunters with an alchemically treated wagon, newly arrived at the heart of the storm. Their initial contact is delayed, however, by the rising dead which surround the parties, intent on preventing their entry to the castle. Scrabbling amonst the remains for more effective weapons, the heroes join battle with the skeletal undead, unique both in their uncanny combat skills and the flaming tears which pour from their eye sockets. When the battle is through, the heroes greet the treasure-hunters with caution and suspicion, though the presence of a halfling paladin in their midst seems to set them somewhat at ease. Like the heroes, the Clan Millorn, led by a gnomish diviner by the name of Jorrina Waryeye, are seeking entry to the castle, though they profess no interest in the Torch of the Burning Sky. Agreeing to go their own way after achieving entry, the parties join forces to make their way inside.

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Session LX

19 Almsberth 459

Jasmine strode through the village streets, taking in every detail around her and storing it for later consideration. Despite the group’s recent victory, she could not shake the cloud which hung so heavily above her. She found herself looking for Joshua every time she turned another corner, as if determined to believe that he had simply fallen behind and would soon be catching them up. She longed to see him again, to lose herself in his quiet strength.

To beat him to a pulp for leaving her alone out here.

The Sindairi kept a respectful distance, as if they were aware of her loss. Perhaps they were… her companions were not always the most discrete individuals. It was for the best. She didn’t feel much like socializing, and hero worship made her sick. Of course, she was still carrying a naked blade in her hand… that might have contributed, as well.

Rolling her eyes, she willed the dagger back into her body, shuddering slightly at the tingling in her arm. It hadn’t seen any use, anyway, since the Ragesian soldier she’d been interrogating hadn’t wanted to test her skills. A pity, really. She had that entire book left behind by the inquisitor in Bresk, full of inventive torture techniques.

She came to the village green, drawn by the smells of roasted fowl and freshly baked bread. A feast was underway, and most of the townsfolk were drifting toward the long tables in the square. There was something truly satisfying about villagers who refused to be stomped into the ground by Ragesian boots. Many of the refugees who had poured into Seaquen had lost everything, and she had made it her personal goal to see them pull themselves together and make a new life for themselves. But these people out here on the Sindairi frontier… they reminded her more of the men and dwarves she had fought beside at Gallo’s Fend. People who loved their land and weren’t about to give it up.

She knew that Elessar had already spoken to their leaders about doing just that. After the disappearance of the garrison and their decision to shelter and feed their rescuers, the nearby Ragesian army was likely to roll through the valley and simply reduce their village to rubble. It was time for the villagers to leave.

Jasmine nodded. Even that, they would do with determination and poise. A strong people, these Sindairi.

Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she made her way to the tables and found a chair near Charmalina, who was studying a carved wooden rose. Jasmine smiled at the artistry, realizing that it was likely a gift. It was extraordinary. Derek was seated on the table in front of it, his tiny spellbook in his lap. She glanced about. Kiernan was ministering, Elessar talking strategies… even Arlyn was present, though most of the villagers kept their distance.

Jasmine sighed. Their unusual company had many challenges ahead of them, and she and Elessar would have to find a way, between them, to lead them in the right direction.

Without Joshua.

After a single night in the Sindairi village of Gathin, the heroes move on, making their way toward Castle Korstull. At the edge of the firestorm, Elessar activates Longinus’s orb of storms, and a path begins to clear. The twenty mile stretch from the edge of the firestorm to the castle is a scorched and barren plain, and the party is often required to circumvent fiery pits and pools that dot the landscape. The corridor that opens for them shows no immediate sign of closing behind them, leaving them more confident of their chances of escape, but concerned about its discovery by Ragesian outriders. At last, they reach a canyon which serves as the entry to Castle Korstull.

Where they find that they are not the only group on approach to the Sindairi fortress.

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Session LIX

19 Almsberth 459

Basil’s breathing was loud in his own ears as the shadows closed in around him.

The battle raged in every direction. Jasmine and Elessar had led the charge, the swordswoman madly launching herself from the saddle to bear her enemy to the ground. There were men on horseback, men on foot… even some sort of devilish beast loping about the battlefield. Basil had wasted little time climbing from his horse and sinking into its shadow, wrapping himself in the magic of the Dance of Shadows to conceal himself from the enemy. Much of the world outside his cocoon seemed to swell and diminish with every breath. As he waited patiently for an opening, their newest companion Kiernan suddenly grew to an immense size and waded into the conflict, swinging his enormous mace in the direction of the fiend.

Basil glanced toward the village, if you could call it that. There were twenty houses, maybe. The swordsman sighed, adjusting his grip on hilt of his rapier, hoping fervently that there was tavern somewhere in its midst.

He was going to be thirsty after this.

Just east of the Village of Gathin, the heroes join battle with a Ragesian patrol. The combat is brief, and the villagers are soon liberated from the oppression of their local Ragesian garrison.

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Session LVIII

12 Almsberth 459

The halls of the monastery were broad and quiet, the echoes of armored footsteps seeming intrusive against the vaulted ceilings. Black- and white-robed figures walked the corridors, engaged in hushed conversation or personal contemplation, only occasionally glancing up to take note of the unusual troupe.

Elessar strode forward with pride and purpose, following a respectful distance behind their guide. It was satisfying to know that this place of enlightenment remained an undisturbed haven for its residents because of the deeds of he and his companions. Eresh was safe, at least for the moment, from trillith magicks and Ragesian encroachment alike. The masters of the monastery knew this as well as he, and had graciously offered their aid during their previous encounter. They were here today to retrieve the item which would allow them passage through the firestorm to the west.

They came at last to a sparse chamber inhabited by two men, the masters of the East and West Winds. Elessar blinked, still unaccustomed to the strange new wisps of light that so infected his vision. These figures seemed somehow different, brighter perhaps than the people around them. Longinus, the peaceful master of the West Wind, was masked and hooded, his body hidden by alabaster robes trimmed in gold and black feathers. In contrast, Pilus’s face was visible, but he seemed persistently distracted and slightly amused. Elessar was accustomed to the detachment of enlightened men, men of the cloth who spent only a part of their will focused on worldly events. He waited patiently for acknowldegement as his compatriots filed into the room behind him. A sidelong glance revealed an agitated and impatient Jasmine. A dangerous combination, to be certain.

Their wait was, fortunately, quite brief. Longinus’s voice, when he spoke, was soft and strained.

“I have finished the orb,” he offered, motioning toward a small crystal globe situated on a nearby pillow. “We remain,” he continued, “in your debt. I hope that this effort bodes well for our combined resistance to the Ragesian threat.”

Elessar glanced apprehensively at the orb. Without hesitation, Jasmine snatched it from its resting place, studying its stormy interior before casting yet another suspicious glance toward the monks. “This looks familiar,” she stated, and Elessar suppressed a sigh. She was becoming increasingly moody since Joshua’s disappearance, but he had been thinking something similar since first laying eyes on it. Jasmine glared at the monk she could actually see. Somehow, in the face of her anger, Pilus remained unmoved, his smile fixed.

“I’ve seen one of these before,” she continued, brandishing the sphere. “It nearly destroyed the city of Seaquen.”

Pilus nodded slightly. “A regrettable decision,” he offered, not looking particularly regretful. “It was necessary to lull Ragesia into a temporary alliance, however false. I did not realize, at the time, how valuable a role Seaquen would play in events to come.” His smile did fade somewhat, and he actually seemed contrite for the briefest of moments. “I do apologize for that.”

Jasmine radiated fury, and Elessar swallowed slightly as he touched her arm. She hesitated, then nodded.

Like it or not, the monastery was their ally. For now.

With warnings of Ragesian troops roaming the wilds of northern Sindaire, the party leaves Eresh by a northerly route from the monastery’s postern gate, making their way down the mountain. Their first stop is the village of Ronda, where they procure horses and basic supplies and entertain the locals with tales of faraway places and grand adventures. It is three days of hard travel before they reach the town of Gathin, the nearest community to the eastern edge of the firestorm surrounding Castle Korstull.

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Session LVII

8 Almsberth 459

With an explosive fit of coughing, Kiernan stumbled forward as he reached his destination. His broad hat tumbled to the frosted cobbles at his feet, its edges heavily singed. The young priest frowned, giving the rest of his raiment a brief examination. The protective spells he had invoked to keep himself and his belongings safe during teleportation had apparently failed in only one regard. Kiernan retrieved the hat, batting out the tiny flames that licked at the edges, and glanced around.

Eresh was a tiny village nestled deep in the mountains bordering Ostalin and Sindaire. Colorful pendants flew from the rooftops nearby, a broad defiance against the endless blankets of snow that otherwise coated the streets and structures. High atop the nearby mountain, the Monastery of Two Winds kept quiet watch over the whole of the vale, its high walls a testament to the mystery and poise so obviously buried within. Kiernan could not help but smile, breathing deeply of the crisp mountain air.

It was then that he noticed that he had drawn some attention from the locals.

His grin broadened as he immediately recognized Elessar, approaching him warily with sword in hand. Waving the tendrils of smoke from his ruined headgear, the young priest stepped forward from the mire of melted snow in which he had arrived and moved to meet the paladin halfway, offering a jovial nod to the other soldiers who were maneuvering to surround him from every direction. Elessar did not, of course, return his smile, but Kiernan understood that perfectly.

He didn’t know him yet… that’s all.

“Elessar!” he exclaimed, bringing the knight up short. “Well met, my friend!” He smiled all around, taking note of all the bared weaponry within immediate reach. There must have been a battle of some sort. Kiernan nodded. They would doubtless be even happier to have another priest on hand in the wake of a battle. “I am Kiernan of Faring House,” he added, offering the Thaeosian an open hand. Elessar didn’t immediately move to accept his gesture of greeting, and Kiernan’s smile dimmed slightly for the very first time. He realized abruptly that he should more clearly explain himself. He schooled his expression and met the paladin’s gaze.

“I am here to follow the Stormborn.”

Kiernan of Faring House arrives in Eresh just a few days after Joshua’s mysterious disappearance. The heroes have helped the villagers recover from the Ragesian assault and are awaiting a summons from the Monastery as they prepare for the next leg of their journey. During their first meeting with Longinus and Pilus, the masters of the Two Winds, the monks agreed to fashion an item which would provide them access to Castle Korstull to the west, secreted in the midst of a massive firestorm.

The party enjoys a few days of relaxation while they wait, during which Jasmine pursues a further education in crafting poisons from a local herbwoman with a shady past. While running errands in the village’s backstreets, Arlyn, his body that of a goblin wizard, encounters an oily character who seems to be one of the goblin’s colleagues. Mistaking him for Azgar, the enigmatic sorcerer’s obtuse greeting leaves the ranger feeling uncomfortable. He reports the incident to Elessar, who is in the midst of questioning the young priest who recently arrived looking for Joshua. Shortly thereafter, Arlyn grasps a trinket sent by Azgaar’s mysterious compatriot, and the resultant explosion nearly levels the house in which they are lurking. Everyone survives, but it becomes obvious that the goblin has enemies, and that those enemies have now become a problem for the party.

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Session LVI

4 Almsberth 459

Jasmine wasn’t sure what she expected when she walked back into their make-shift headquarters in the library, but the bookshelves tossed carelessly to the side of the room, charred paper fluttering through the air, the blast mark on the floor with a steaming Sharakas in the middle… that was not it. For the second time in less than fifteen minutes she found the world turned upside down, her mind stripped of thought and awash in disbelief.

“Joshua,” she whispered into the destroyed library as her companions filed into the room behind her. In some distant part of her mind she could hear them moving, reacting to the devastation. Their words washed over her, distorted by her own surprise and grief.

This could not be happening. Not here. Not now. They’d only left him alone for a few minutes, and it hadn’t been alone. Regaining some sense of the plight they might still be in, she scanned the room, looking for the men she had left with their leader, searched for some person to blame. And then kill. Her anger rolled over her in waves, guilt fueling the loathing that needed some sort of release.

This would not be forgotten. This would not be forgiven. Someone would pay for the pain that tore through her heart at the loss of Joshua, her only confidante. This pain would be the fuel for her hatred and revenge and their deaths would be the balm to her wounded soul. With grim determination, she started sifting through the debris for clues to identify who some cruel god had set before her to die.

The battle in Eresh is over, the Ragesians captured or killed. Joshua, however, has disappeared, only a blasted room and his cherished weapon left behind. Three Weeping Ravens, who was nearly incapacitated by the exposion, recalls spying a man who looked like an older Joshua, in the company of sort sort of fiend.

The heroes tend to the needs of the villagers, whilst Jasmine steadfastly scans the wreckage for further clues. With a quiet prayer for his brother’s safe return, Elessar retrieves Sharakas and strides from the library, intent on organizing interrogations and patrols to clean up any stragglers.

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Session LV

4 Almsberth 459

Azgaar was miserable. He’d expected the cold mountain terrain to remind him of home, but there was little comfort there. His home in the Ragesian northlands was not a happy memory. He’d been intending to return for the past few years and show his appreciation to his kinsman. He’d imagined various tactics for doing so, but his favorite thus far involved turning the whole mess of them into undead slaves. That way he could enjoy his retribution for years to come.

Not that Leska would approve of such extra-cirricular pursuits. Azgaar bit off a guttural epithet or two for the new empress and eyed the orcs that surrounded him. As a wizard of some renown, he measured a good deal more respect amongst his countrymen than a typical goblin. Nevertheless, he’d trade all that respect in a heartbeat for the chance to be free of his Ragesian yoke.

The alien cry of Second General Sigmus’ destrachan mount pierced the night from somewhere above. Azgaar shuddered, ill at ease with the officer’s monstrous companion. Given that its trumpeting was doubtless intended to serve as a sizable boot up his goblinoid ass, he was quick to unwrap the Icon of Kersh and set it gently to the ground. The crystalline shape immediately captured the moonlight around it, the resulting luminescence clearly betraying that it was more than simply decorative. Its aura was palpable and slightly uncomfortable to the goblin. Leska had entrusted him with the device because he was clearly capable of handling it, but that did nothing to ease his tension. Quite the contrary; it was almost as if he could sense Leska’s touch on the thing.

Azgaar sighed, barking a quick command to his bodyguards. The orcs moved a few steps away, giving him room to wield his magic. Wanting nothing more than a warm fire and hot meal, Azgaar lifted the crystalline artifact into the air and chanted his first invocation. As cold fire coiled in the heart of the crystal, it lifted free from his grasp. Adjusting quickly, the goblin planted his ashwood staff firmly into the frozen earth and changed to the second invocation. He felt a moment’s drowsiness as the magic of the icon poured forth into the night. It would reach into the dreams of every sleeping wizard in the village and keep them locked in slumber.

And in Eresh, that was very nearly a third of the population.

The destrachan hovered in the darkened skies, and Ragesian footmen formed a ragged line on the snow-covered plain. Distantly, Azgaar could sense a disruption in their ranks. Swordsmen had emerged from the houses near the river and approached the soldiers, and the goblin could clear hear the ring of steel. Men were falling beneath the blades of this new threat, and Azgaar wondered briefly if he had misjudged his chances of survival. That warm fire suddenly seemed very far away.

Suddenly, the icon blazed to life and exploded in a shower of sparks. An arrow had emerged from the darkness, somewhere to his left, and the artifact had been destroyed. Azgaar had but a moment to digest this new development as the blackness closed in. There was pain, there was light… then there was nothing.

Encountering a Ragesian patrol guarding a goblin wizard and a mysterious artifact in the field just east of the inn, Jasmine and Elessar divide their forces and coordinate an assault. As Charm and Elessar charge in from the south, Jasmine, Basil and Arlyn sneak up on the goblin’s bodyguards from the east. The enemy commander descends from above astride some sort of monstrous beast, and the enemy soldiers begin to rally. Taking the initiative, Arlyn targets the goblin’s glowing artifact and unleashes a deadly arrow.

Then… everything changes. The magic of the artifact is unleashed in a chaotic burst, and most of the heroes suffer from random transmogrifications.

Jasmine finds herself naked on the field of battle, her armor, clothing and weapons having been somehow absorbed into her flesh. A little experimentation demonstrates that the armor remains effective and the weapons can be summoned at will.

Charmalina’s flesh is turned to living stone. She is slowed, but overjoyed by the feeling of invincibility.

Elessar’s sight is changed so that the life force of others appears as a nimbus of luminescent flame. He can more easily pierce the veil of invisibility, but soon finds that the undead are even harder for him to perceive.

And Derek, who was rendered unconscious by the artifact’s initial power, has been reduced to but a sixth of his regular size.

But Arlyn suffers most of all. Immediately following his attack on the artifact, he awakens in the body of the goblin wizard. The goblin, now a halfling unrecognizable to his Ragesian watchdogs, is gone. Disappeared into the night.

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Session LIV

4 Almsberth 459

Eresh.

Joshua gazed down upon the quiet village with a sense of purpose. In many ways, as unimportant as this tiny mountain community was in the grand scheme of things, Eresh’s plight represented much of what Joshua fought for. The trillith, though she had intended no evil, had held the village practically enslaved in a desperate bid to prevent hostilities. Balance herself had desired nothing more than peace and solace, and had used her power to enforce that need. In a way, her invasion had been no less violent than the Ragesians.

He couldn’t quite make out the Ragesian camp from the narrow pass, but they should certainly have recovered sufficiently from the trillith’s power to mount an offensive by now. With luck, their initial advance would have met an unexpected resistance from the locals, many of whom had spent time at the monastery and learned to effectively defend themselves. But the Ragesian commander was likely no fool, and he would press any advantage he could.

So there it was. Eresh. Once a peaceful community well-isolated from the war, recently beseiged on more than one front. Joshua hadn’t the opportunity to interact much with the villagers, but it was likely they desired nothing more than to be left alone. But like it or not, the Monastery of Two Winds had suddenly become a major player in the conflict, as prophecy dictated that they held the key to reaching the Torch of the Burning Sky.

Joshua sighed, leaning on Sharakis whilst his companions took a much-needed breath. He was tired. It seemed like they’d been fighting for months without a break. Either fighting or walking. There’d been a lot of that too. Joshua reflexively extended his leg, relieving the pressure on his once-crippled knee. The damage had been undone, but he still felt a twinge at times, like a reminder from Holy Thaeos that the threat posed by Leska’s vile minions was far from over. The stately cleric snorted, his breath hanging in the pre-dawn air. He needed no reminder. Everywhere he went, Ragesia’s presence could be felt like a shadow across the sun. He’d begun to suspect that the unnaturally long winter was itself a Ragesian ploy.

He’d begun his journey in Gate Pass. It would not end in Eresh, but he strongly felt that there were surprises yet to come.

Surprises like the grinning gnome who now emerged from the nearby rocks…

The heroes return to Eresh from their struggles in the Valley of Storms, to be greeted by a gnomish tracker referred to as The Lynx. Their new acquaintance leads them on a circumspect journey through the village’s outlying structures, and soon brings them to the town library, where Bechus, Eril and Three Weeping Ravens have established a base of operations. As the party exchanges information with them, learning of Second General Signus’s recent assault and their suspicion that he intends yet another attack after daybreak, the library is inflitrated by enemy soldiers and a battle ensues. As the heroes dispatch the Ragesians, an explosion rocks the night, and the party empties into the street to find an enemy regiment on approach. Joshua remains behind to question one of their attackers.

It takes the heroes less than a minute to eliminate the two dozen invaders. In the distance, a roaring blaze can be seen in the direction of the inn. Realizing that their enemy’s assault has begun in full force, the heroes take to the shadows between buildings and make their way toward the heart of the village.

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Session LIII

3 Almsberth 459

Jasmine heard the woman’s voice just a heartbeat before the attack. Every nerve in her body suddenly screamed in pain as a crackling bolt of energy, not unlike lightning from a stormy sky, moved through the group gathered near the door. An acrid odor blended with that of sizzling flesh and crisped hair, and her eyes began to tear up. At her side, Joshua stumbled, as if struck by giant fist. A sharp laugh and further running commentary erupted from behind the party, as if their antagonish had somehow ridden the lightning to escape the chamber and now floated in the air just beyond the stairs. Her words were largely swallowed by the ringing of her ears, but Jasmine didn’t near to hear the woman to kill her.

With three steps and a powerful leap, the assassin hurled herself at the flying monk. A magical shield turned her blades, however, and she found herself plummeting to the ground amidst the glowing green biomancy tanks. Tucking her legs up and adjusting to her momentum, Jasmine landed smoothly with little more than a grunt and a couple of bruises, rolling instantly to her feet. Surrounded by the creepy glass tanks and their seemingly lifeless inhabitants, the swordswoman quickly got her bearings and moved into a silent crouch, making her way around a few of the vats to the base of the stairs. There, she found the battle firmly in progress. Even as she lined up for another attack, Elessar and Charmalina relentlessly laid into her. Her magical flight had somehow been dispelled, so her companions had her at a disadvantage. Before the whole of the party could marshall their resources, Caela suddenly disappeared.

An explosion of flame in the office’s upper story revealed the woman’s movements. Setting her teeth, Jasmine spurs her body into motion, ignoring the pain that wracked her slender frame with every move.

The heroes pursue the woman back into the office, Basil falling prey to a maneating rug en route, but the monk responds by shattering the glass ceiling and raining sheets of glass down on the heroes. She escapes into the storm, which immediately intensifies. The entire lab is shaken by its ferocity and begins to collapse around them. A desperate flight results as the heroes navigate the debris in an attempt to reach the crevasse through which they entered. They are successful, and soon find themselves back in the valley above.

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