To the H.I.L.T. and Just the T.I.P. hangs out in the past - smacking mystics and taking names.
Meli! The tiefling alcoholic druid that has caravan with a brewery on the side. Super pale, antelope horns, dark purple hair, silver eyes.
Vani: Aquatic Halfing, energetic, fondness for shiny things. Likes to hack at things when standing on people’s shoulders
Ren: Half orc barbarian, former sailor. Might have called her a pirate, but she’s not a pirate! She’s a sailor mates! Ren is BIG! Styzling of the sea. Has a net shawl and not too hairy. Very good swimmer. :) Weapon is an anchor. Loves to drink, passionate, and FIGHT! Very passionate person.
Olive: Halfling rogue. Apothecary cart called the apothecary on that she can throw on her back if she needs to. Grew up as an orphan on the streets of Malkara. Throws up snakes. Wary of new peoples…. Not into melee. Party is convinced she is a pot dealer. :) She smells like sage. Shoal halfling. Greenish hair and overcoat with lots of pockets. Collects things that might be of significance, vials of viscera. Just in case. You never know when anything could be of significance.
Narcel'Uss - Tielfling Grue Tempest domain cleric. Lawful evil. Very much into her God and worshipping her God and very righteous. She’s a bit of a bitch. Very overbearing. Assertive. Knows what she wants. Has the right opinion of how things should go. Comes from nobility, she’s used to getting what she wants.
Jovi Buffed - Traveling with Meli since forever. Bard half-orc. Not ranked on the bard list. BUT SHOULD BE. Is a huge JEFF fan… BUT HAS OVERTAKEN THE MASTER. conflicting emotions that she didn’t get an autograph after a one-night stand. DAMN IT. JEFF traveling as Geff. Loves to tell stories of great heros. Life is very choatic and that’s okay. She loves people personal expression. SHE HATES STOPPING THAT! EMBRACE THE CHAOS!!! She’s a sailor. Was explorers expanding the map to where the monsters are. She yearned for the sea, growing up in a landlocked land. Sea is cool. Cooler than MELI. Can make people laugh relentlessly.
Balionz - Oldest son of a family who gave up his inheritance to wander the world for wisdom. Travels with a donkey damas on which he built a shrine to the great lan frank. Donkey top shrine is all enclosed made of cedar, inside you hear stuff clanging around in it. It sounds like some fairly elegant wind chimes not many have seen the languages within. The only human of the gathering. Always going on about the appropriate balance of things. Against blood sacrifice. Has a straw hat and is always indoors. Is a human monk. Has one white glove that is on the left hand. Which is the shomidiang white glove. This guy did bad stuff to kids. In a puff of formal logic.
The god of the game (the storyteller? The all-seeing eye?) decrees we may not trade our trinkets.
Narcel'Uss pointed at Meli.
Narcel'Uss and Meli met! Narcel'Uss, upon picking up odd jobs, pre-Ildan, wandering aimlessly, cut off from her nobility life, readjusted, unhappy about odd jobs. Picked up a job had to do with invading plant species on a small village that nobody wanted to deal with that nobody could deal with, like cursed grass. She was employed, but Meli got the job too. Eyeballed the each other, but then hesitantly worked together, actually talking and working together to bring knowledge bases to destroy the plants species! Instead of destroying, Meli got them to redirect. :) Because in harmony with chaoes of nature. Meli convinced Narcel'Uss that it was easier. Because Narcel'Uss can't really embrace chaos.
Olive the apothecary mets Balionz the aesthetic. Balionz was preaching at a crossroads and they are luminous where materials collected are more potent magically speaking. As he;s preaching, olive finds some shiny pebbles. The harmony of the ordered universe happens to have caught her ear and she wanted to hear more of the fabulous discoveries. Olive assessment was, this guy isn’t going to kill me as we continue, case absent of faces. Olive is of the mindset that there is always more to learn, a sponge of knowledge, and is cool to accompany to fill brain with interesting information. Balionz was interested in her wise words. Surely we’ve all seen wise men along the way! Also Olvie thinks he might have cool samples of things to check out. She has deaf dog viscera. And blood from a lizard creature.
Vani and Olive: Olive and Vani met through Manta Ray. Olive has spent most of her life living through the city, doesn’t go into the water. Wasn’t surprised to run into a halfling, but this hyperactive halfling is odd…. Vani just automatically wants to be friends. With Olive, undercurrent of commonality with Vani. Been a long time since she’s met anyone who she can connect with on a base familial level. Vani invites Olive to check out her cool swim haunts! Olive politely says no….
Ren and Jovi - Looks up to Jovi because not many people have the chance to be explorers. Ren’s expeditions was like freights, not much exploring. Jovi;s hit song was ;Wasting away on margarita island;. Ren LOVES this song, doesn’t sing it very well, but always wants to be alive. Ren is pretty poor, being a sailor type. Ren would be the type to see you walking around in-between adventures, be a little bit afraid because BIG IDOL but fangirl.
Meli and Ren - Meli was looking for Jovi, and knows Jovi went to be a explorer (pirate), so went to that area, because she thinks, that’s where Jovi is. Heard Ren singing and thought, HEY! You are a fan! Do you know where she is? Meli told Ren embarrassing stories about Jovi. Ren says everything she knows, and is all, Can we Meet?!?!?!? YAY! They are happy to hang out.
Balionz and Narcel'Uss - Both are lawful… they have that in common. Balionz and Narcel'Uss got into a theological debate that lasted a very long time. That distinguishes means from ends. It required more than one pint of mead to sort out. Did it ever get sorted out? No one remembers. They are still trying to figure it out, a battle of wits! They correspond to try to figure it out. Since Narcel'Uss hasn't done anything in his presence, he doesn't mind. There is plausible deniability.
Jovi and Vani - Jovi spends time in the water. Docked in a small town, there is a manta ray, jovi has a conversation with the manta ray, it responded to the sound of her voice. Your talking to my manta ray! We hit it off because song about manta ray, ‘the last manta ray in paradise’. Vani sings it to sleep to comfort her when she is away from the sea.
Well west of Isard, out in the plains of Axevale, sits the Valakut Inn, a way stop for travelers. It’s a typical place that resupplies travelers, dispenses drinks, and has a medic on staff. There is also a hospitalier presence there. Think of it as a last haven before venturing into the frontier. We are all there for some reason. Why are you there?
Jovi - playing a set, traveling with two biggest fans. This is Ren’s first time seeing Jovi playing live and first times very far from sea. Ren is a little lost in her ways and far from home and doesn’t know much of what’s going on, but there is something familiar, her favourite performer, and that makes her feel like home. Vani is traveling with them, trying to be helpful and not always.
Elsewhere, Balionz and Narcel’Uss were walking and talking and somehow ended up at the frontier! The bickering went something like this: How did we get here? I thought you know where we were going? GODDAMN IT. Donkey grates on my nerves!
Very shortly after Olive met Vani, Vani tells Olive about the concert. Vani is super excited about it - perhaps overtly so. Olive, looking to lay low for a bit, considers this and thinks, “Fine, as good as any place rightr now, suree, I’ll go to this concert.” Olive doesn't have a better place to go, other than checking out Jovi’s "Salty Piece of Nowhere" Tour.
This area is by a small town. Balionz has heard of a certain hilltop hermit that is said to be a Master of the Wind and that is why he went there. Meli also interested in the hilltop hermit, joking about who they might be - perhaps a master of farts, living on lentils and water? The monk and druid hold a discussion on whether this would actually cause farting. Is this an urban legend? Needs deep discussion and debate. Breaking wind is loss of soul. Damn hermit man. Deep stuff. Narcel'Uss is not amused by this distraction, and instinctive twists her ring, with her family's sigil embossed. Straight up BLINGING.
At the inn, Jovi is playing on stage. It is sparsely populated, with only the travelers, the barkeep, and the occasional rattle of kitchen staff emanating from behind the bar. The two priests - Narcel’Uss and Balionz, can be heard arguing in the corner. One is scruffy with a straw hat, the other, ignoring the music, blocking it out to continue the debate. Jovi’s entourage, Meli, Vani, Ren, and Olive, is riveted to apathetic. The barkeep shares Olive and Meli’s apathy, whereas Vani is throwing flowers on stage and Ren is just FREAKING OUT!
As the evening winds down, everyone prepares to part their separate ways. Out of the corner of his eye, Balionz notices a shape slithering across the floor. Its skin is pebbly and unnatural, but nobody else notices. Narcel'Uss is annoyed since Balionz is distracted, not giving her his full attention, spouting some rhetoric such as, “Without sacrifice, your god won’t give you any return! You need to pay out to get a return on your investment.” Balionz gets up to check behind the bar, with Narcel'Uss staring at him. Maybe this mean she wins? Balionz grabs his staff and declares, ‘just a moment…’ takeing a peek behind the bar.
As Balionz follows around the edge of the bar to investigate, a horrible shape dips up at him. The creature reveals itself with long talons at the front, no eyes, and a long jagged beak. Scales shot through with purple veins throb through its long, wormy form, and as it rises, it catches the attention of the entire bar. Narcel'Uss quips, “Is this normal for here?” as talons open up and the creatures opens its maw with row after row of teeth!
‘“Huh.. guess this isn’t normal for here, isn’t it...” Narcel'Uss quips a second time.
Balionz sees the monster, and since it got right in his face and feels like it might CHOMP him, focuses inward and summons a mystical buffett, projecting a Fist of Unbroken Air at it! The creature doesn’t catch the full impact of the blow, but the monk’s technique resonates through the space with a whipcrack’s intensity. The creature rears back momentariuly, then captures itself and lunges forward, clasping upon Balionz’s extended hand. It catches but has to withdraw, with the monk struggling away, but his arm is torn and throbbing from the grater that is this creature’s set of jaws.
Vani springs to action, and scrambles on the shoulders of Ren, throwing a dagger that strikes its target! After hitting, she climbs up to survey the scene more effectively.
Meli, consulting her natural knowledge of the surrounding environment, concludes that this creature is a Grick. But something is amiss, they are normally not predatory, and it is strange to see it indoors. It’s abnormally large and coloured, especially with the notes of purple throughout. Jovi is inspired by this and conceives of a new song, ‘Breathe in, Breathe Fire, Move on,’ as Meli turns into a big black panther and attacks! She moves and transforms, bounds off a stool, up the bar, and leaps onto the monstrous beast. However, the creature senses the imminent danger and turns to Meli, clasping the feline with its gaping mouth. It turns out that Meli had a lot to drink and didn’t quite get the motions correct, leaving her in significant duress.
Ren sees a panther pounce and wants to do the same thing! She charges in, and as she’s charging, an ethereal smoke emanates from her, forming the shape of a running wolf. Ren snarls and leaps, taking her anchor and targeting the now exposed neck of the Grick. The sharpened edge cuts decisively and straight through the beast, freeing Meli from its grasp. Before Meli is released, she notices that the creature’s innards contain a lot of bones - an unreasonable amount of bones. It seems like the kitchen staff were attended to first by this creature.
Balionz feels an additional shot of pain from his fresh wound, before turning cold and numb. This is an unnatural affliction, and he looks around for help. Begrudingly, Narcel’Uss looks at the wound and sees what can be done. It seems to be cursed, not poisoned. Olive sorts through her apothecary’s case for some ointment, but can’t find anything suitable. She ponders what can be done as well, and is intrigued by this new development. Balionz’s arm pulses and purple veins trickle throughout, but Meli seems unafflicted. It might have to do with her druidic heritage.
Guards come into the room and see the whole space upturned and coated in viscera… what the… thanks…. Good job. There is a frontier ranger and hospitaller and they cover the dirty work.
Jovi congratulates the group and asks around for some antitoxin, which the remaining staff grab.
Meanwhile, Ren, is fangirling and squeaks, "Meli, do you think Jovi saw what I did?" Meli smirks,
"Yeah, she might make a song out of it."
"Really!?" Ren squeaks again.
"Yeah, she definitely saw it." Jovi turns to her half-orc brethren and gives Ren a huge thumbs up. Ren proceeds to freak out.
The medic from the frontier rangers heals Balionz. They examine him and let him know that they saw cases like this recently with travelers and local wildlife, with carcasses and the like in the road. Unfortunately, this is a curse and not of mundane means. The medic has heard rumours about these sorts that are making pilgrimages further to the west. They’ve been seeking a mystic in the foothills, a so-called master of wind, because mystics have great, albeit unpredictable power. Will Balionz last this long? Medic will give him something to slow down the poison, and Balionz resolves to investigate.
Ren goes to Balionz and observes his unnatural wound, like a netting of blight. Ren says,
“That was mighty courageous of you. Looks like you need a hand. I’ll help you out if I can!”
Balionz introduces himself, and shares his original reason to come out this way - he seeks the Master of the Wind. Ren and Meli look at the monk’s wound, and know that something must be done. Ren asks, “Do you know where this mystic lives?” Balionz responds, “Somewhere in the hills, a day and a half away? Perhaps two.”
As this is happening, Vani and Narcel'Uss notice each other. It’s a small world, and Isard has seemed to attract several adventurers over the past little while. They note their mutual recognition, and continue looking into Balionz’s new condition.
Ren compliments Balionz for his courage and quick thinking. Balionz jokes to Meli to know how the Grick smells from the inside. Meli repsonds, “It smelled…. Not really the best view, feeling, thought in the world.”
Olive, after putting anyway her tools, apologizes. “Sorry I was too slow! I was imbibing! I was slower, apparently you are quicker.” She holds a pint glass half again larger than her own head. Meli laughs, “Sometimes, I’m a bit faster to act, slower to think.” She stumbles on her words after some imbibing of her own. Olive has had three pints bigger than her head. Olive smiles, “Happy you are okay Meli! You must have got a nice close look at your axe Ren!” Ren seemed a bit confused, “How was it?” Meli replies, “Nice and sharp! Very… very sharp. Compliments.”
Ren looks at the gunk. Meli goes to the trough and cleans up, Making sure that no gunk remains.
Narcel'Uss grumbles at the situation, “Why did you bring us here!? This place is terrible.” For the troubles, the (still living) innkeeper comps the party’s stay for the night.
The next day everyone wakes up. Balionz’s arm is still stiff, but the blight hasn’t seemed to have spread. But something is off about Meli. Her spirit is… stretchy… can feel her attunement with nature… and notices something is odd… a knot in her… something…. Like her connection with the nature and divine isn’t good. It is deeply unsettling.
Meli is concerned, “Hey Jovi. Come with me to the wind guy.” Jovi nods. Meli continues, “There is a weird sort of wrong going on with me right now…”
Balionz interjects, “Like this, but on the inside?” He points to his arm, hoping to make light of the situation.
Ren scratches her head, “But you look fine.” Vani has made her way onto Ren’s shoulders, excitedly braiding the half-orc’s hair. Vani is excited about the mysterious qualities of this development and wonders about the treasure that might be causing this.
Olive holds a vial from her pack “I collected this sample. There might be something I can learn from this. Could make for medicine.” She leers over at the other halfling, and scowls “There is a clear bond here, but Vani is a bit exhausting.”
Meli’s condition seems to fail, and Jovi decides to stay behind to make sure everything stays fine at the inn. Jovi needs to compose while the inspiration has struck - there’s a good story in here! They decide to spend some additional time at the Inn, and hope to travel shortly to meet with the Master of the Winds.
The last to decide is Narcel'Uss. She can’t find a method for profit, but that insolent monk is insistent that wisdom and knowledge will be abundant. If Balionz finds mystical inspiration and knowledge, well! That knowledge should belong to me too! She shrugs and decides to join the adventuring party without making a fuss. With that, the five adventurers move westward.
Axevale is a plain stretched wide, with sporadic forestry throughout. More obvious is that the site is the remnant of an ancient catastrophe - a battle of epic proportions from hundreds of years ago. Unlike some of the other battle-graves in Temir, Axevale’s field is of mundane means, with mechanized siege engines and other steel weaponry littered throughout, and less objects that had held magical properties before the Unravelling. Also scattered throughout are several scavengers that scour the space for valuables. It is considered an ignoble profession, taking the belongings of the dead, but this history is old enough that scholars can merely shrug about its conception. Ren doesn’t know about any of this, she just waves and says hello to the people that the party passes by.
We head past the southern edge of Axevale and eventually head into more hilly woodlands. The Kelder Steppes loom forward. The region is typically a safe-ish place, with a middling town of about a hundred people approaching ahead. The mystic doesn’t live anywhere near the town, but the townsfolk might have greater insight into precisely where the Master of the Winds resides.
Vani feels the breeze and smiles - braiding Ren’s hair. She needs to look stylish for battle, after all.
Narcel'Uss wants to stop by the town, needing a bit of shade from a day exposed in the Sun. It’s an uncomfortable feeling for the Grue priestess, being so far from home. Balionz agrees, “I know that the Master of the Wind lives in a cave or mudhut around these parts, and that it’s only reachable through a single knotted rope.” Narcel'Uss tasks the group to investigate the town for someone in the town that might know this rope.
The town’s name is Astarte, a humble village of farmers. Vani describes some of its history, surprising the party with her deep knowledge of the topic. Astarte was resettled about ten years ago because something nearby woke and killed everyone in the village. Everything was gone. Despite the outcome, it’s still unclear what exactly happened. The prevailing rumor is that a dragon was involved somehow; that it was a captain of the army of the great dead dragon. We’ve heard of a great dead dragon slayed in the north a decade ago, but nothing this far south. There were horrors buried in the ground of Temir. Storytellers and bards say that it destroyed the town and raised its inhabitants using necromantic magic as an undead army, but that army was destroyed by a band of adventurers. And yet, the creature survived, retreating from the battle.
Today, the town has been resettled. The land is arable, there are buildlings there, and what was there is now gone, with only the town hall holding reasonable fortifications from any outward invasive sources. Strangely, the town’s inhabitants don’t have much of an interest or understanding of the region’s history, but this is because they’re immigrants, settling into the space over the past ten years or so.
We head to the village. It is quaint, active. A few dozen buildings. All clustered close together. A town-hall doubles as an inn. The village is open, the townhall is fortified, made of stone and very well fortified. There is a stream that runs into the town from the foothills and shrines in this town.
Vani busks and attempts to find an audience, trying to get to know people.
Balionz and Narcel'Uss go to a farmer. Narcel'Uss tries to stand in his way. She accosts the simple farmer, Do you know of a wind man? There a wind man with a rope. Do you know the story? You must know. Tell us, we need to find the rope! The rope!” The man stares blankly at Narcel’Uss, which causes a fit to pass through her. She turns to the party, “Tell this man.”
Olive stares blankly, “I don’t think you are saying it right.” The farmer seems confused and blinks, revealing purple eyes. He responds robotically, “I don’t know. Who is the windsman?”
Narcel'Uss peers into the man’s eyes, “The man of the wind,” to which Olive interrupts, “It’s the Master of the Wind.” Narcel’Uss shrugs, “That’s what I said.” Olive nods.
“What can you tell us about the Master of Wind.”
“He lives in the hills? You need to ask the Burgher.”
Balionz nods in approval, his purple eye gleaming in the Sun. Was that there before? Narcel’Uss looks at his face in disgust, “Your face is different.”
As the bickering continues, the farmhand points out the Burgher of Astarte. He’s a rotund man with a walrus mustache and purple eyes, along with a deep scar on his face. Olive is suspicious of the administrator and questions him,
“Where did you get that scar?”
The Burgher guffaws, “That’s kind of personal!” Olive’s questioning intensifies,
“What’s your name!?” demanding an answer from the man.
He twitches his mustache. “Chocolatcake. Why are you here?” Balionz attempts to defuse the intense situation,
“We are looking for the Master of the Wind.”
“Go away!” the Burgher grumbles, a deep emanation from his large chest. Ren smirks and strolls into the space, featuring prominently. Sunlight glistens from her hulking frame,
“I think we’ve got off on the wrong foot, friend!” she smiles and leers down at the man. “We’re just looking for a little help.”
Chocolatcake stiffens and responds, “You are very large!” He sits down, “Do not go away my friend. Why do you seek the Master of the Wind?”
Balionz is satisfied with this development “We seek wisdom and a solution to this,” as the monk points to his arm and eye. Chocolatcake scoffs,
“You look fine!” to which he scratches his scar. Upon a closer look, the Burgher seems to be coated in pulsing purple veins as well, and in fact, other passersby seem to be afflicted as well. The blight has seemed to infect much of the town.
Narcel'Uss quips at Balionz, “See, you’re fine! I knew it.” She is convinced that Balionz is being a big baby. But Olive seeks more information,
“Is there something that preceded this condition?”
Chocolatcake turns to the halfling, “I don’t know, this is normal. I got this scar years ago from some tentacles in the woods. See? No problem. Nothing has changed with me.” Olive is skeptical, but the Burgher continues, “Look. We are flourishing here. There are less predators now,” he twitches his mustache and looks like a boardgame capitalist, “but maybe it is a good idea for you to go visit the mystic.” There is a bit of a change of tune in his voice - perhaps even a glint in his eyes. It’s hard to say.
Balionz doesn’t notice. “That was the original plan before.” He slaps his donkey on the shoulder in satisfaction. People look into the clickety click of the creature.
Olive finishes her questioning, “Any words of advice if we go to the wind master?”
Chocolatcake nods, “Climb the rope carefully and make sure you are open to the wisdom.” Balionz decrees how open he is to wisdom, throwing some names around and commenting about things like nudity for their wisdom. It is part of their platitudes you see. Burgher says there is no wisdom like this, at least not from the Master of the Winds.
Balionz asks the Burgher one more question, “Is there a marked trail?” The Burgher summons a guide to aid the adventuring party to the mystic, gesturing to a nearby child that was looming in the background. Chocolatcake tells the child to guide them to the Master of the Wind.
Her eyes are a much deeper purple than any of the other, and has no visible scarring. She is stoic and unaffected by her surrounding, almost in an unsettling way. She possesses no scars and no markings, standing at about the same height as the two halflings in the party.
Ren asks for the girl’s name. She responds calmly and deliberately “Anita.” With this she starts to walk, with the group following. Despite there not being a trial, Anita knows the way. The group is unsure how this is so.
The path leads through a ravaged forest, with scarred trees and enormous footprints abundant throughout the space. Balionz asks Anita why this might be.
“It was a very long time ago. It was creatures. I didn’t see them. My mother and father told me about these things. The creatures have moved on, as have my mother and father.” She seemed unperturbed by this reveal, distressing the party. Something is not normal with this young girl.
Ren asks her if she’s seen the Master of the Winds before. Anita responds,
“Then how do you know the way?” Anita points intuitively, as if it’s obvious. Balionz nods and agrees; everyone knows the way. It becomes increasingly clear that the blight is affecting Balionz in ways he is not aware.
Ren is confused but given his conviction, continues to follow. Olive grips a dagger. Narcel’Uss turns to Olive and nods to be wary, and to keep together.
Balionz feels in control, it’s all fine. Totally fine.
We approach the cliff face and there is a single rope made of dried sinew. Vani leaps off of Ren and scrambles up the rope. Balionz follows right away, with the others a bit more hesitant. How is it on the other side?
A cave is on the other side. There’s moist, purple moss growing inside. Bits of the moss glow like phosphorous. Vani pokes around, looking for interesting things, with moss staining anything that she touches. Pustules burst upon contact and are reminiscent of the veins emerging from the townsfolk and Balionz. Vani is freaking out a little, with Olive being a bit more excited. She scraps the phorphous moss into the vials after climbing up. Ren follows after Anita climbs up.
Narcel'Uss waits at the bottom for a moment, before conceding to her party’s whims. She also follows.
As the party descends deeper, Balionz consults his deities and gives an offering - a dance of sorts - intricate in its steps and motion. The group proceeds deeper into the cave.
Vani heads forward. Anita walks forward a bit and stops when we aren’t immediately following. Pauses and looks confused. “Aren’t you here to see the Master of the Winds?” she asks. Her face is illuminated by veinous growths.
Deeper within the cave, the group notices a deep rumbling, rhythmic, much like breathing. It is strangely large in the interior, perhaps unnaturally so. It’s hard to say. In the interior, there is a collection of great beasts surrounding the cave’s centre. All of these great predators are intact and inert, save one, who seems to still be alive, albeit subdued by its surroundings. Vani scrambles back when they enter the cave and hides behind Ren.
In the centre of the chamber is a tall lanky figure, wrapped in huge leather skin and a plate cloak. It sits hunched by a radiant red flower, tending it as the adventuring party enters. The flower is raised on a loamy pedestal and blazes red, opposing the violet environment surrounding it. On closer inspiration, its petals resemble those of a violet.
Narcel'Uss calls to the cloaked figure, “Wind man! Wind man, we have found you!” Olive continues the point,
“Master of the Wind? Is that you?”
The figure turns. It too is shot through with purple veins. One of its arm hangs dead, a purple husk, on its side, where the other clutches a long wooden staff. The mystic glances at us and reveals its face. One of its eyes isn’t purple but the other is entirely purple, a purple-within-purple that has completely overtaken its face and swells out of his head, throbbing. The blight has consumed this bearer of wisdom. It murmurs briskly.
Vani leers at the indecipherable speech, “What? I can’t actually hear you.”
The mystic continues making guttural noises, counteracting the sounds from the cave, itself. One of the creatures seem to be subdued by an enchantment. It’s hard to tell if it is suffering. Narcel'Uss asks about the flower in the centre of the room. The Master of the Winds replies,
The party asks about how Balionz is doing. The mystic and Balionz alike seem unconcerned, which is very, very concerning. Ren, remembering Balionz’s original mission, asks the Master of the Winds about wisdom and knowledge, to which the mystic replies,
“Do you have secrets? I can show you them.”
As it moves to address Ren, it seems to change incrementally. Eyes grow out of its flesh and fixate on the rest of the group. When Ren hears this, she redoubles, crying no, and seems visibly startled. She draws away with her weapon at the ready and shouts out,
“What are you!”
As the party prepares its defenses, an array of eyes open in the moss. The Master reveals its power, “Once I held the wind, but now I hold change in itself. Growth. You will see. We will heal you.” Ren turns to Anita to make sure she’s doing okay; Anita is watching curiously. Ren demands from the mystic, pointing at Anita,
“Is that healing?”
“Not yet. But soon.” The creature smirks.
Rage boils within the barbarian, and she charges forward to protect the innocent child from this disease. The mystic turns to face its new enemy, and stands up - its cloak turns more into its body and reveals terrible wings and other growths as it hovers in the air. This is an aberration that in no longer a bearer of knowledge and wisdom, and is corruptible just like any other being around. Something is enslaving these things, and it must be snuffed out! Ren cleaves the mystic and removes the Master of the Wind’s dead arm. It slumps and spawns some vestigial tentacles from the remaining socket, oscillating wildly. Ren snarls at that and stays put, a wrapping of uncoloured smoke cloaking her from the purple abomination around.
Narcel'Uss sees her new companion come into this disgusting creature and casts a shimmering field of purple energy, interlacing a projective shield within Ren’s canine cloak. The field shimmers with brilliant energy; a BETTER purple, a royal purple compared to this abomination’s surroundings.
Vani is inspired by Ren’s heroic act! She runs in after Ren and strikes true at the creature’s intact arm; a trio of tendrils erupts from the wound. She’s there to help her friend! However, with each blow, the creature seems to adapt, a dervish of limbs whipping around to become increasingly dangerous.
Narcel'Uss follows this by conjuring a royal purple flail out of magic - a symbol to her God! She places it adjacent to the creature, and calls it to smash one of its wings. More tendrils emerge from the creature, it becomes clear that this vessel merely needed some prodding before becoming its true self.
The creature calls to the ground using its staff and more tendrils burst from the cave. They are growing from the depths. Ren looks at the creature dead in its original eye. The eye bursts and throws a volley of sharp daggers to her. A splatter of gore and teeth braces against Ren’s ethereal armour, penetrating through and scratching the skin of the half-orc. It utters a question,
“Change?” no, a command, and Balionz is compelled to move.
Balionz summons corrupted power and lays an unprovoked strike on Narcel'Uss, clearly controlled by the former mystic. Anita sits idle and observes the scene, entranced by not hostile.
Olive sits resolved and aims true, firing an arrow into the creature’s eye. However, the arrow is plucked by another eruption of flesh, deflecting the wooden projectile with a sickening snap.
The mystic rebukes, “You don’t understand…”
Ren is unfazed and strikes again, slashing upward and severing more tendrils. It gurgles and moans in pain. “You’re damn right I don’t!”
Narcel'Uss summons her deity’s power and projects a blessing into a guided bolt. The energy hits its target, but is deflected by the staff into the flower, which pulses with the injection of new energy. Vani sees this happening and an impulse takes control: she must pick the flower.
She rushes to the plant and plucks it from its pedestal, but as she touches it, she becomes a conduit for a terrible power. A volcanic eruption of natural energy burns and projects outward from the flower, searing the surroundings with intense fire. The blast is instantaneous, and in that moment when Vani is able to sever her connection, the power remaining in the flower detonates in a fireball. Everything in its wake is seared, with the mystic, Vani, Ren, and the surrounding landscape coated in flame. Vani screams in pain, with Ren diverting some of the energy into the surrounding environment. The space itself is not so lucky, becoming instantly immolated by the blast. The power surges through the ground and a ripple of green grasps the moss, a reverberation of natural power invigorating the cave. The smell of the cave changes, from a cancerous gangrenous dankness into a fresh, loamy scent as the corruption is scorching away. From the edge of the cave, one of the creatures stirs, and ignites in eldiritch flame as new life pours into its body.
This creature, a predator born of an eldritch flame, charges through Anita and Olive. Balionz, snapping out of his beguilement, looks appalled at what has happened. Olive and Anita nimbly dodge away as the beast goes past them and looks at them through the mouth of the cave, blocking the exit.
Olive backflips and traces her new prey, pulling out a bow and launching an arrow at the new foe. The arrow catches between armoured plates on the creature and burns away. Seeing this as a terrible threat, Ren rushes to face the beast and serve to distract it for her friends to make an escape. She screams,
“Run!” with Narcel’Uss and Olive heeding her call.
Vani is still clutching the flower and is a little shellshocked. After a weaving of healing magic from Narcel’Uss, she stands to her feet and aids her friend Ren while clutching the violet, now purple. Around her, the cavern continues to shrink rapidly while wild growth lashes outward in defiance to the formerly hostile environment. Vani dashes forward and launches a knife into the eye of the creature, which takes the blow and seems to grow. It too becomes more powerful over time. Balionz picks his staff up, whirls it, and yells something about a hypotenuse, and then strikes!
The predator backs off and assesses its prey. It locates Ren and Olive, and charges through the small creatures! Ren sidesteps the blow, but it hits Olive with tremendous force. She’s feeling woozy… but also sees flames welling up inside this creature. Coming to her senses, she dives out of the cave for safety, deftly rolling and bracing the impact from the drop.
Meanwhile, Anita has watched the course of events transpire, as stoic as before. She doesn’t seem to have any urgency to evade the new adversary, which Ren notices. Ren yells at anita to get out, to which she replies,
“Why?” Ren runs to Anita, picks her up, and dashes to the exit. The girl is uncomfortable to hold and emits a good amount of heat, as if she has caught a bad fever.
Narcel'Uss runs after Olive, she chooses to climb, and falls, the rope comes loose with the Grue tumbling and landing on the ground like a log. Vani follows down quickly and is more acrobatic in her pursuit. Balionz jumps and misjudges the distance, landing on his feet in a puff of smoke, at the feet of the donkey.
Meanwhile, back in the cave, the beast charges through Ren and Anita, impacting the warrior directly as she sits defensiveless, protecting the girl with her life. Ren is thrust out of the cave and is thrown off the cliff, taking a heavy impact and crushing her bones. The impact knocks the air out of her briefly, but her ward is safe - Anita is intact.
The group sees Ren sailing out and the creature in close pursuit, jumping out after them. It whorls in the air and lands on the floor with a crash. It is bigger than it was before. Anita’s heat shocks Ren back and the barbarian has to let go of the child, bursting back into consciousness. Ren shouts to Narcel'Uss.
“You have to help her, there is something wrong with her!” Narcel'Uss replies,
“Is this our biggest problem right now Ren? There is a monster behind you!”
Olive swings at its underbelly, leaking fire onto both the rogue’s blade and the ground. Olive stamps her blade out on the ground.
Ren revolts from the pain of holding the child and charges at the beast and tries to cleave the beast in half attacking recklessly, missing in desperation! The ground takes a mighty gash and erupts with a smattering of red flowers, but the beast still stands.
Olive takes a moment to consider what is happening. She looks at the new growth and realizes that, from her knowledge as an apothecary, this looks less like an infection and more like an ascension - a transformation of one thing into something greater. But who is ascending? Olive glances at Anita and immediately realizes that it’s the girl who is transforming. She addresses the group,
“I don’t think she’s sick…”
The purple is cleaned out of her system but now Anita is glowing red, with a radiant crackling beginning to emanate from deep inside of her.
Narcel'Uss seizes the opportunity and hits the creature with a bolt of light. The purple blot of Nurzhul slams into the creature’s head and drops it, snuffing the life from its now dormant husk of a body.
Anita observes this and sheds her remaining skin, showing a weave of flame encloaking her figure. She calmly turns and makes her way to the creature. The group backs up behind.
Anita blows into the hole of the creature’s head, stoking an internal flame. The creature’s fire returns. She blows very gently, and tweaks her head a bit, a bit surprised that it doesn’t immediately get up. She patiently continues her work.
The creature starts to glow steadier and pick itself off the ground. It does so very slowly and seems equally mindful of us and her. The creature is calmer, more like an obedient dog than a wild mongrel.
Ren sees the change and says to Anita, “We’re so sorry,” turning briefly to Narcel’Uss. The ascended nods,
“It is alright.” Her remaining hair ignites and is carried away by a faint wind, “You should go now. Your work here is done.” The party turns and heads away quietly, with Ren looking on for a moment at the newly ascended sage. The creature sniffs and nuzzles its new companion with its nose, and with that, Ren nods and turns to her party, walking back toward the town.
The cave in the Kelder Steppes is a place of power, and is attended to by a sage. This is a simple fact, as simple as everything being beholden to the ground or that all things eventually come to an end. The last sage had run their course, and the age of wind in the Kelder Steppes was no more. An age of fire had just begun.