JOURNEY THRU THE SEA OF FALLEN STARS

Chapter 23

CHAPTER 23

It´s now the 4th day of the 2nd week of Ches, and the Swift White Dragon Company has to quickly decide what their next move will be……..
So , a quick plan is elaborated between them , and urgently set it in motion.
Znog, Brastil , Mindartis and Nebin, after searching the stables , quickly find good horses , previously owned by Bronlin ,and with the cover of the night , set out in pursuit of the runway guards that have already left town. Using their low-light vision and tracking skills , the “Hunters” pick their frightened preys one by one , using to their advantage the disorder in wich they are. This quick action , that nevertheless took them the rest of night , serves their purpose perfectly , wich was to try to stop the news of what happened in Ondlespur to reach the Fraternity before they are better prepared. The surprise factor also works on behalf of the “Hunters” , and so , they are able to reach the Hedge Wall, and the Main Tower/Gate of it , before their enemies , leaving behind on the road more then 20 guards dead , and storming it before the 10 Guards on post there could react. With the Entrance secure , and with Znog and Mindartis on guard there, pretending that everything is normal with the 5 members of the Ondlespur Guard made prisioner , so as to illude any stray fugitives that were still able to get there, Brastil and Nebin stealthly start going to the others Towers to kill any Guards there. When the first light appears thru the canopy of the trees in the East, the foursome are in the Main Gate , with 30 Guards dead , and 5 prisioners to maintain an air of normality at the gate. Brastil and Znog are left to tend the Entrance , and Nebin and Mindartis trace back to Ondlespur , going thru the Forest and Farms on either side of the road assuring no one is there. They still are able to find and kill 5 other fugitives.
Meanwhile , it´s time for Nermathed ,Aethan, Gonsarth and Perryn , start their hunt also , but they´ll do it in the village , the Gatehouse to the Lowerfields , the Lowerfields and the Mines.
Before they start , at Salma´s suggestion, she goes to the Auditorium , wich is a magical altar , that makes whoever is speaking there heard all over the village, and conveys to the population their good intentions. So after leaving her at the Mansion with some faithful servants ,they set out to liberate the village.
In town , they do a quick search, and besides a few Halflings and a group of frightened Gnomes that live there imprisioned ,find 5 drunken guards who hadn´t heard the commotion , and capture them. And at the cemetery area they find also 2 Ilmater priests , Lark and Rorim , at their Temple tending the wounded. They offer all their help to the party, because their dogma impels them to help whoever is in need , even characters like Bronlin , but they were never happy with it , being allowed to stay in town , only because of their healing powers for the prisioners . If they could somehow contact Temples of Ilmater in other places , they could sure use the help of more acolytes of Ilmater.
In the mines , when they arrive there , they see 15 guards,some bounded and others killed ,at a corner , and some Halflings dead all aroundand a tough looking Halfling , named Took , that appears to be the leader of the pack of 40 Halflings there ,waiting for them . Took quickly thanks them for this moment of joy, and offers to help them free their families that live in the fields below.
So , when the group finally arrives at the Gatehouse to the lower fields , they find another 5 guards , offering surrender to them , and opening the gates to the passage below.
Leaving behind at the gates some Halflings , they set out downward.
The search in the area below turns out to be quick , because as soon as Salma had spoken , a rebellion emerged amongst the Halflings Farmers, lead by a beautiful Halfling named Anya , and they managed to kill all of the 35 guards patrolling this region, dispite the death of 43 of their comrades. Neverthless , Anya urges them all to leave the lowerfields area , because there are still a lot of Demons , set free by Bronlin to hunt , in there. So the best choice , for the time being , is to retreat to the Gatehouse , and isolate this area , containing the Demons within.
With this settled , at the end of the night ,Nermathed ,Perryn , Gonsarth and Aethan get back within the walls.
When they get there , they see at the gates some more Halflings. The force of Gnomes , Halflings and Humans left behind , lead by Salma , managed to discover 10 more Humans , ,Nobles that were hiding in safe chambers in their houses ,and made them prisioners.
Now that the gruesome task of catching all of the Cultists and securing the village is done , it´s time fo Nermathed , Perryn and Gonsarth to purify the Altar of summoning , to prevent any further wrong doings there.
The 9th hour of the 14th day of Ches , finds Nermathed running thru the forest ,leaving Ondlespur in search of the old men , Mattaus , that they learned to be the unofficial “leader” of the prisioners , so that he can help them get the trust of the population. He eventually finds him in Mistrenpost , and as soon as Nermathed relays what has happened , finds himself hugged by him ,and all the humans with him, in happiness . They gather their things and decide to return to Ondlespur immediately . But Mattaus , before leaving , goes to the Mayor of Mistrenpost , who he knows to be trustworthy and anti-Fraternity of Tharos , and tells him what occurred . The Mayor agrees to help them, in secrecy , in anyway he can.
Meanwhile , Perryn ,after a quick look on the lighthouse ,where he finds the Portal and some things of no importance for the time being, , begins the ritual of opening the Portal back to Andhova´s Tower .
Nebin , also back in Ondlespur starts to talk to his fellow Halflings , gaining their trust , especially from Anya , who looks to him mesmerized , while Aethan does the same , along with Salma , to their fellow Humans.
Gonsarth and Mindartis , get the job of securing from the population ,and inspecting, all of the locations of interest ,or of danger, in the village .
It´s almost the 18th hour of the day , when all of the party , at the exception of Znog , who is still at the gate along with 5 Halflings and their prisioners , gathers at the Mansion. With them , is Mattaus , Anya , Took ,Phlentar (the leader of the Gnomes) ,Lark and Rorim ( the Ilmater Priests) , Salma and Andhova , who passed thru the Portal into Ondlespur as soon as Perryn ended the ritual.
This improvised council , decides that their freedom is to be never again questioned, to stop the work at the mines for the time being until better miners can be found , and to continue the work at the farms, but on the safer higher grounds , so as to keep feeding them all. They also decide to keep this “rebellion” secret as long as possible , so they all can better rebuild the village. Contacts will be made , by all of them , to find allies and trustworthy individuals to populate the village once again. It´s also decided that the run of the village , for the time being , will be made by the “Council of Freedom”, wich is made up of Took , Mattaus, Phlentar , Salma, Lark , and 2 representatives of the Company. But since Salma is Bronlin´s widow, who died of “natural causes” ,she will inherate all of his possessions , and that should be the “disguise” they all must keep on pretending.
The Company , taking one of the Noble Houses as their own , can finally sleep and rest.
Morning finds the village hard at work.
Andhova has finished the work at the Portals , and can now open up a way to Lyrabar , so that Gonsarth and Brastil , along with Salma , can go there and put Frestil updated on everything, and get the reward for the 2 new demon heads they have.
Andhova , Perryn and Mindartis examine the Old school of magic , and discover that it´s much bigger then it appared , because it´s inside is like a “dimensional hole”.They find themselves unable , for the time being, to break all the magical seals that keep it´s rooms isolated , managing only to get thru the first seal, wich nevertheless turns out to be a veritable “chest of wonders “ with a lot of magical items stored inside. Andhova, promises to look into this seals , as soon as she get´s back to her tower , where she must first find a cure for the curse the Company has upon them due to the gold of the Dwarves.They also check upon all the magic sites , making sure that none of them has any particular demonic energy upon them, and to their relief , the magic in this places , is still intact from the days of the zenith of the Old School of Magic. Only the Garden Maze was tainted by the Fraternity , but that was taken care by the cleasing ritual made by Nermathed , and so now , Andhova thinks that this place is a good place to do the Banish Ritual upon their Aberrants foes.
Nermathed finds at the Observatorium some strange claw marks that make him very agited , because all of his knowledge points to the marks belonging to a Dragon. He uses his time also , to send a message to New Sarchel , and his friend Kara Marsk , where he asks her help , and her uncle´s , in discretly finding if news of what happened in Ondlespur reached the city and the Fraternity , before he visits her in a few days time.
Nebin keeps his work of gaining the trust of the Halflings , and much to the Company surprise , they notice that the once frantic Halfling likes this calmer work a lot.
During the rest of day , Nermathed checks up on Znog , and realizes , to his surprise , that he is teaching the 5 Halflings miners with him to became warriors , using Orc tactics , while Aethan helps secure the Gatehouse to the Lower fields , because of what they´ve learned of the Demons lurking there , in search of food , Halfling food.
In Lyrbabar , after going thru the Portals , Brastil and Gonsarth accompany Salma to her father´s house, wich is extremely thankful for their help ,and where they receive their reward , but , Lord Guntelov is taken back , by the news from Salma, that says that she pretends to move to Ondlespur where she will help rebuild the community and where she wants to establish a new commercial trade post for their family. She also tells him , that since she is Bronlin´s widow, who died of natural causes ,she will inherate all of his possessions , and that should be the “disguise” they all must keep on pretending. Guntelov at first is a little reluctant about her plan , but , eventually agrees with it, and sets of to start working on it. Salma says goodbye to Gonsarth and to Brastil, and promises she´ll be in Ondlespur in 5 days , with her retinue , goods , and 20 armed guards of her father´s best ones.
In the Luminous Society , the duo receives their reward, and asks Kelrek to start a new trade line with his wagons to Ondlespur ,where Bronlin´s grieving widow is reestablishing commerce. He agrees to program one in a few days time.
Finaly , they go to Frestil , and start telling their tale.
Frestil , is delighted with the news , and sets in motion his agents . Kavash , thou devasted by the confirmation of his clansmen death , promises to go to his family and to be in Ondlespur in 15 days with 40 brave Dwarves , able to fight and mine. Codruta stays in town to continue her work amongst the city´s thieves guild, and with orders to recruit able mercenaries willing to work for the counsil of Ondlespur. Frestil , gathers his belongings , and says he will go to Ondlespur with the duo . Along with him and his new bodyguard , a though looking Minotaur named Bjorkus, there will be coming 3 new aventuring parties , inexperienced ones yet , but making it 19 strong arms willing to fight.
Finally , to the surprise of Gonsarth and Brastil , he sends a a courier , to one of the Thieves guild , the “Shadowy Lurkers” , with a message to their leader , where he asks him to send some warriors to meet them all in Ondlespur.
In that same day , under the disguise of the night, and with some very well paid Gate guards looking the other way , the group leaves Lyrabar on horses , reaching Ondlespur at midday on the 16th day of Ches.
In the next day , with their plans all in motion, the Company prepares for their journey to New Sarchel.
Many call New Sarshel the Last Light of Impiltur, the only metropolis that seems to have avoided the nation’s inexorable decay. Having only been in the city for a few days, it is apparent that the “last light” of which many speak glows dimly indeed and, judging by the conditions within New Sarshel’s poor district, may have already burned out.
They quickly make their way towards Sergor Marsk Shop ,and when they reach there , Nermathed is greeted warmly by Kara. She tells the group , that as far as she , Haldar and Van Desbrock were able to discover , no one yet knows of what happened in Ondlespur , corroborating their suspicions that Bronlin had a long” leash” from his masters.
The Company tells them of their plans for Ondlespur , and their need of a good Weaponsmith there. Sergor tells them , that he would be delighted in leaving behind New Sarchel and establish a new shop there , he still has a lot of new weaponry and items , bought with the financial help of them , but , to do so , he would need to close the affair with his deacesed wife´s soul. The party , not wanting to waist anymore time , decides to go and speak with the Priests of Ilmater , the only clue Sergor has of this. The leader of the sect , in the Temple of Ilmater in the poor district , Brother Sollus , should help them out.
The poor district is nothing more than a cesspool of poverty and disease. Sewage flows freely through the streets and beggars litter every street corner, pleading for spare copper, some more insistent than others.
As the gray stone pillars of the temple of Ilmater come into view, shouts of terror and screams of pain can be heard coming from within.
The temple doors open to reveal a scene of utter carnage. Bloated demons wielding glaives accompanied by human cultists run rampant throughout the temple interior, slashing and stabbing at the resident priests, a number of which already lie motionless on the floor in pools of freshly spilled blood.
A large, bird-like demon sits on its haunches before the altar with its back turned to them, cackling and chattering at a priest lying prostrate before it. “Hand over the worm and this will all be over. Tell us where he is and we won’t have to return. Your death will be quick, old priest, and perhaps we will spare some of your followers.”
The Company , with no time to waiste , jumps into action , with Znog and Mindartis quickly heading for the birdlike creature , a Vrock. But , he was not alone , and a second Vrock jumps on them from the ceiling , with Nebin and Gonsarth having to deal with this new opponent . Meanwhile , Perryn and Brastil , wreak havock amongst , the 5 human cultist , and later , they all join in to fight the 3 Kalakas that remain. It turns out to be an easy fight dor the Company, managing even , to avoid more killings amongst the priests of Ilmater.
As the final demon falls, the party notices that the priests have already spread out, tending to the wounded. Some intone prayers to the Crying God over the fallen while others begin cleaning up the temple. One of the priests greets them warmly. “You are truly brave to join a fight that was not yours. You have saved many lives this day
and for that I am thankful. My name is Brother Sollus and if there is anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask it of me.”
Mindartis , then questions him on the reasons of the attack.
Brother Sollus is a genuinely compassionate man of strong faith. He believes that it is his duty to bear the pain of the innocent upon his shoulders. He says he knows why the demons have been attacking them , and it´s because they want to retrieve an ex-member of the Fraternity of Tharos that turned to Ilmater. One of Brother Sollus’s disciples, a recent convert named Bor, belonged to the cult of demon worshippers before he saw the error of his ways and found a new path. His former master, a cultist named Pelgor, has been trying to hunt
him down. He believes that the demons have been summoned by Pelgor to find Bor and to
punish Brother Sollus for interfering and converting him. Bor spoke of an altar – an item of great evil that had come into the possession of his former master – that he had seen used to perform
terrible acts. Sollus suspects his former master wishes this altar to remain a secret. Bor
would not say what the altar did; he would only weep at the very mention of it.
The first demon attack occurred five days ago and the attacks have continued every day since.
Sollus helped Bor escape during the first attack and sent him into hiding. He does not know where he is but prays that he is not found. He believes that Bor’s faith is not yet strong enough for him to walk the path of a painbearer.
Brother Sollus does not want to appear hopeless in front of his priests or his followers – what hope can he give to the hopeless if he appears to be hopeless himself?, so he believes that the Party´sarrival was pre-ordained – a blessing from Ilmater for his unflinching faith and that Bor is destined to be an example for the many in this city that have strayed from the right path.
Sollus knows nothing of Bor’s former life, nor does he care to, but he can, however, provide the Company with directions to Bor’s old home.
The party agree to help stop Pelgor ,because Sollus believes this altar might be the reason behind the lost souls , like Sergor´s wife , and because he agrees to send some acolytes to Ondlespur as a “reward” for their effort.
The group says farewell to him , and with the few informations they have , sets out to discover the whereabouts of Bor.
With the information they received , they go to Bor´s house and discover a note mentioning Haldar. Later , the Halfling confirmes knowing Bor for a long time , and that he was a friend of him , dispite the gambling problem he had. Haldar directs them to a shady Inn in the cities poor district , called “The star´s retreat”.
When the party approaches the Inn , cautiously , they sense a something moving in the darkness , although, even with their best skills , they can´t pinpoint the location of this entity in the darkness. Nermathed and Znog enter the Inn and try to mingle with the clients, and as they are inquiring the tabern keeper , they hear a muffled cry from behind a wall in the back. They quickly jump in to find the the source of cry, but , the time they all took in trying to find the entity in the darkness , makes them arrive to late to save Bor´s life. When they enter the room in which he was hiding , all they manage to see , is a human figure , with a jeweled dagger , phasing thru the wall.
The Company , in search for answers , takes the body of Bor back to the Ilmater Temple , and there , Sollus makes a Speak with the Dead Ritual. From it , they discover that Pelgor was a low-level servant of the Fraternity of Tharos , that came across an altar, that could imprisionate souls , and free them , at his command. This power helped him establish himself as a person of influence within the Fraternity , but also made him madder by the day. With fear of others stealing the source of his power , he moved the altar to a mausoleum below the city hospital , where it could easily feed from the souls of the dying.
Night has fallen as they reach the graveyard below the hospital. The mausoleum doors described by Bor stand firmly ahead. Wide, stone stairs lead down into a dimly lit
passageway before them. Broad scratches in the stone indicate that something hard and heavy was dragged down the stairs not long ago.
The stale odor of human sweat and the metallic tang of human blood fill their nostrils as they reach the bottom of the stairs. Ahead, amidst crumbling sarcophagi, men wearing red robes kneel on the cold stone floor while a number of armored enforcers stand facing the party, brandishing battleaxes eagerly. They wear horned helmets that grant them the appearance of some combination of man and beast.
On a ledge beyond them stands a gaunt man wearing a black robe, his face contorted in a hateful sneer. The altar described by Bor sits behind him, bathing him in a fiery glow.
The party then starts tha battle against Pelgor and his 4 armoured Knights. Mindartis takes the lead of the fight , quickly aiming for Pelgor, while the others deal with the Knights , this proves to be a dangerous moves , as Pelgor eventually deafeats him , but , since the rest of the Company was able to dispatch of the Knights , they come to his recue , and manage to defeat Pelgor.
Inquiring Pelgor , after the fight , proves to be difficult , since he is obviously mad, but the nevertheless manage to know , that he is only a servant of Malgur , a demon trapped in a dimension within the altar , and that feeds from the souls of the dying. Not managing to get any mor information ,Mindartis , in rage , kills Pelgor in cold blood just as Brother Sollus enters the mausoleum , crying to them not to destroy the altar.
Sollus managed to discover from is arquives that the souls trapped whitin the altar , can only be set free , by destroying the altar from whitin , and that means that a sacrifice must be made by one of them , since they killed everybody , so that the altar can open the passageway to the inner dimension , and in the vacuum created by it , their ethereal souls , set free from their bodies in a ritual he will perform , can enter.
Gonsarth agrees to sacrifice himself , and Brastil and Nebin are elected to stay behind guarding their bodies while they enter the altar.
As soon as the soul of Gonsarth leaves his body , after him killing himself in sacrifice , the portal open up , and the souls of Nermathed, Znog, Mindartis, Aethan and Perryn are sucked in with him.
As they enter the portal, a breath of hot air washes over them and suddenly the dank mausoleum is gone. A barren landscape stretches before them, flat stone plains etched with narrow gullies tinged with red. Dark clouds roil overhead. Undulating across the ground is a sea of writhing spirit-husks, reaching for them mindlessly with expressions of rage and anguish. Standing a quarter mile ahead beyond the spirits is a cyclopean stone structure encircled by a ring of cleared ground, as though the spirits know to avoid it. Above the structure, hundreds of souls not yet consumed float freely in a state of false perdition.
The souls then come rushing in towards them , trying to feed on them and preventing them from reaching the stone structure. Only thru sheer willpower and great skill, are they able to make it thru.
Once they reach the structure, they suddenly hear a spirit calling out to them, saying “I can feel your presence .You do not belong here.And I can smell on you the essence of my husband Sergor”. They try to respond, and she floats down from amongst the souls floating above them to speak with them. Tarana’s spirit speaks briefly with the party. She knows very little, but she knows the “keeper” of this place dwells within the stone structure immediately behind her, and that he is some sort of a demon. She also relays to the party that the spirits on the ground are what remain of souls that are consumed by him and that can only be set free with the destruction of Malgur.
The Company enters the stone structure.
A short passageway leads to an immense cave-like chamber. Sweat beads their forehead as a wave of oppressive heat washes over them. A hulking, bipedal demon with enormous tusks rises from his stone throne and grins as they enter, exposing rows of jagged yellow teeth. Beside him on a pedestal sits a black chest , throbbing with energy. Arcane runes encircle its surface. Three disembodied human skulls wreathed in green flames float above him, bathing the chamber in an eerie, flickering green glow. “It has been centuries since the living have stood before me. I will enjoy consuming your souls while you still live to feel it.”
Once again , Mindartis takes and lead, but this time he focus on the chest , trying to destroy it , sensing the conection of it with Marlug. Aethan deals with two Flameskulls , while Perryn fights the other , leaving for Znog and Nermathed the difficult task of facing the brute Marlug.
Dispite the lot of wounds they receive , the Company , once again manages to kill all of opponents and the chest.
But , as they kill Marlu , a tremor reverberates throughout the chamber and rips in the very fabric of this dimension, that begins to open all around them.
Like a sudden whirlwind, waves of souls rush all around , like themselves , exiting the dimension through the dimensional tears.
As they open their eyes , Brother Sollus stands over them, smiling as they are deposited back in the dank mausoleum. The once dreadul altar is now a mere ruin. And the party retrieves the , now normal , diamantes encrusted in it , giving one to Sollus. During the walk back to the temple of Ilmater, where they will raise Gonsarth back to life, a light drizzle begins to fall over the city. Is it their imagination, or do the rain drops carry a hint
of saltiness – as though they were tears?
In the Temple , Gonsarth his resurrected , and to their surprise , the receive a blessing from Ilmater himself , in the form a tiny bluel tear tattooed near they right eye.
Sollus , agrees then to send more acolytes to serve in Ondlespur , and help rebuild the village.
Back at Sergor´s shop , they relate what happened , and the Smith thanks them ,clearly happy for knowing that his wife´s soul is now resting peacefully. With this seattled , he agrees to move his shop to Ondlespur , along with his niece Kara , asking only that the Company waits for 2 days , so that he can arrange for everything.
The party agrees to that , using their time in New Sarchel to buy new items, and to gather more information with Van Desbrock , Haldar , and Darlaxle.
So , on the 22th day of Ches , the entourage , reaches the Outerwall of Ondlespur.

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