Sanction of the Athar

The South Road

Part One: Relic of the Old Gods, Session Three

Encounters
Treasure
  • 2000gp in mixed coin and valuables
  • A level 9 magical neck slot item
Experience
  • 8228xp Total (1371xp Each)

With the Abbess kidnapped, the party found themselves well and thoroughly lost in the extensive works of the mines beneath castle hill. The tunnels extended for miles, and it took them hours to find their way out, but they did. As they made the trek, they interrogated a young Adept of the Ferrous Order of Knights, whom they had incapacitate and captured at the conclusion of their previous battle.

His knowledge was limited – even under magical compulsion to answer, he had little enough to offer them – but they did learn at least two important things: First, they learned that the Abbess and her relic were likely being held in either Caer Baen in the North, or Fort Dust in the South. But second, and more ominous, they learned that the Sanction possess the arcane means to track them. “Any time you can see the starts… the stars see you…” said the Adept.

As they neared the exit of the mine, the party happened upon the unconscious form of another of their foes. The young Sanctioner from their previous battle had apparently fallen from a higher tunnel, broken her leg badly, and passed out from the pain. Planning to question her the next day, when they had secured shelter and rested, they gathered her up and made good their escape.

The party headed South-East from Castle Hill, leaving the town under a pal of smoke, and evading the Athar presence in the area as they moved cross country. Knowing that they needed to find shelter before the stars were out, they pressed quickly on. Bael suggested they might find a cave to shelter in, amongst the wooded foothills, and once away from the town lead them onto a country road that would take them there.

The country they passed through that afternoon was anything but safe however. Though the road they traveled was no major thoroughfare, it was locally known to be the domain of a band of highwaymen who prayed on the passing traffic and local farmers. A small group traveling on foot was likely to draw their attention, and did, though the creatures that attacked the party where not quite what anyone had expected.

From the woods on either side of the road, the party was set upon not by men or monsters, but by a force of canine constructs, and their Warforged master. Indeed the only two typical humanoids in the enemy group were a pair of Gnoll archers, apparently in cahoots with the animate brigand. The pack of constructs engaged the party while their masters fired in on them from afar, but the lot of them were no match for such the adventurers, and soon enough the highwaymen were no more.

In the wake of the highwaymen’s ambush, it was suggested that the bandits’ own camp might prove a useful enough shelter for the oncoming night. It could not be far off, and so the party set off cross country again, following the trail their attackers had left behind as best they could, until they approached – by stealth, as it happened – the mouth of a cavern, disguised behind the brush and bracken.

Not knowing what to expect in the hidden cave, the group ventured in with care, and found their caution well justified. It seemed a small tribe of Gnolls was resident in the place, and that the raiding party that had been encountered by the road had been working with their assistance. Though they had the element of surprise, the party was discovered, and chose to fight, wiping the Gnolls out in a ferocious battle that saw their resources thoroughly spent.

During the battle in the Gnoll’s lair, there was a single non-Gnoll present. A green robed man – human, and wearing the mark of the Athar at his neck – joined with the Gnolls against them, wielding potent magic. Though the adventurers avoided the worst of his powers, one thing at least was noteworthy about him: his powers, though channeled like those of a Warlock, through arcane means, were fueled by raw, divine energy. A strange thing indeed for a missionary of the philosophy of the Godless to wield.

Comments

Now that the fighting was over Ellicia found their shelter for the night leaving much to be desired. A small part of her had thought there would be something to salvage here. Maybe some bedding or some dried food. But, there was no such luck. The straw in the various rooms was filthy, smelling of urine and sweat, while anything that might have been considered food was half rotted. So, as Bestrafe and Zarp cleared the bodies away Ellicia busied herself burning the existing straw and meat, as well as the viscera they had sprayed all over during the course of claiming this place.

By the time she had cleared enough that her nausea had finally passed Asael returned. The Deva had volunteered to scout out the area to make sure there were no additional surprises waiting for them. The good news, not only had he not seen anything particularly threatening, he had also located a nearby stream that the gnolls had been using for fresh water.

A few minutes later Ellicia was kneeling at its shores. The little brook was barely four feet across, but it was fine for the warlock’s purposes. After pulling her hood away she then slid the ivory mask off of her face and turned her eyes to the afternoon sky. The wrapping didn’t bother her anymore, but she was always happy to be free of the mask. The way it trapped the stagnant air was hardly pleasant. Lowering her gaze back to the stream she cupped a handful of water and splashed it on her face. With a sigh she repeated the process twice more before rising again.

For a moment she simply looked around the woods, savoring the unobstructed view for as long as she could. For a time she was even tempted to return to the cave as she was, most of them had seen her face by now, but the presence of the sanctioner complicated matters. With Mara’s help the woman was likely to regain consciousness tonight. And no matter how distinctive the mask and wrapping were, the truth was even more so.

With no small amount of resignation she removed the mask from her belt, returned it to her face, pulled up her hood and set off for the cave.

The South Road
 

Mara rubbed the trinket she found on the Athar Ur-Priest, a device similar to her own, but more powerful. She pondered the possible reasons and ramifications of a sworn enemy to the gods wielding almost divine powers. If the enemy could make at least a forgery of divine power, how far along were they in their grand design, and how much further did they get with their latest victory?

She barely recalled memories of people she met who were able to lead others to victory and keep them alive through arcana, spirit, word, and song, but none held a candle to a vessel of the gods. She felt echoes inside of truly believing that a long time ago and having a great deal of pride in it. Those thoughts only amplified the demoralization and despair that was slowly starting to creep in since the setbacks earlier that day, and the scope of the enemy’s power. She looked outside to the waning sun and felt antsy waiting for Ellicia to return before the sky became her enemy. Mara vaguely recalled that she once looked down on children of men who disrespected the gods, and how she felt that they should have looked at the sky in terror as she was starting to. The irony was not lost on her.

Her attention shifted to her other fallen foe, the Sanctioner. Mara needed material, and salvaged the area for wood and usable cloth. She knew this charge wasn’t like the others, she was party to an assault on Theundine’s sanctuary, the slaughter of his worshippers, and the capture of a valued servant as well as an important artifact. And this blasphemer, this sacreligious bitch was right in front of her. By the time she was self-aware of the anger welling up, her vision was starting to blur.

Mara opened her eyes, and realized she had blacked out for a second. She looked down and saw her hands around a blade salvaged from one of the Gnolls, against her prisoner’s throat. She shrank back, dropping the blade, and looked around to see if anyone was watching. Seeing no eyes on her she set about her original task. She cleaned and dressed the open wounds and set the broken leg, and bound it stiff with splints. She made sure the leg was thoroughly immobilized, making a restraint as well as a dressing. Once again she thought about the day’s events as she worked. This woman’s own father abandoned her, and her prospects did not look good. She found herself developing a degree of sympathy. She imagined her allies, not to mention her patron, would not take her sentiments well and wondered why she was having such thoughts.

She suddenly recalled her disincarnate period within confinement, her immaterial form unable to even mark the passage of time on the walls. And the barest glimpse of events leading to it, as a loyal servant willing to do anything for Theundine, even if it got her hands dirty, and committed to rooting out and destroying enemies of the faith. For her zeal she was held accountable for means she was convinced were justified by the ends. Her pleas as a loyal servant fell on deaf ears as she was found deserving of punishment and sealed away. Already exhausted and burdened, the sudden recollection proved too much, and she doubled over nauseated. Everything started going black…

The South Road
ChainsawXIV

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