Some Flare Out

Session 18

The Final Assault: Part 1

Infiltration

.Kah and his Thuul Company Mercenaries stand before the party, barring their path to the ruins beyond. He offers no explanation beyond that he and Arturus have a “deal,” and the party is unable to sway him with words. Assuming that he has the superior company as well as the element of surprise, .Kah commands his troops to attack while he uses psionics to bolster himself and increase his size to huge proportions. However, the party initiates the tactics they had planned the night before with Archibald, and with a cruel pincer attack and a heavy rain of arrows and bolts, they begin to cleave into Thuul Company on two sides. Before long, .Kah is battered enough to consider offering them a truce and an explanation, but no sooner do the words “Let’s talk” escape his lips than Sim buries his silver sword deep into .Kah’s skull. With their leader dead, the Thuul Company Mercenaries choose to fight to the last man; they manage to take a few Green Scale men to the grave with them.

As the party cleans up from the battle, gathers what they can from the dead, and tends to the living, an unfamiliar man approaches them. He introduces himself as Grant, and this claim is verified by Loren, who cannot contain his happiness at a reunion with his mother’s former right-hand man. Grant is shocked to find Cassandra’s son in the thick of the battle, but as he quickly states there is little time to discuss or pause. He asks the party to accompany him, saying that the mercenaries ought to stay behind; there are friends on the way to assist them.

Grant leads the party to a familiar hole in the ground, and they make haste through the underground cavern. Before long they start to hear a ringing in their minds that borders on painful. Sim feels this ringing and the subsequent pain more acutely than his companions, but they all press on through the caverns and the underwater tunnels that link them. They emerge into a large chamber with a perfectly smooth shining crystal cone ascending from the floor in the center to just barely touch the ceiling. Grant forms a mindblade and stabs the crystal, commanding Sim to do the same. Upon doing so, Sim is assaulted with a familiar psionic pain, but it soon subsides. Grant explains that Arturus has erected a null psionics zone and that contact with the crystal will allow one to ignore the effects of the zone temporarily.

With their first task complete, they continue into the ruins, finally coming to a two-way split in the path. Grant urges them to split up into two teams in order to better maximize their chances of at least some of them avoiding traps and cutting off Arturus before he can retreat further into the complex. They agree, and split: Grant, Lawrence and Loren take the left path while Khaber, Sim, and Petra take the right.

Grant’s team faces a coatl, but unlike the ones Lawrence had battled with on their first trip to the complex, this one appears to have been modified into a more keen weapon: it lacks the strong skin that Cassandra’s models had had, but its offensive capabilities are much more formidable. They make short work of it and continue onward.

Khaber’s team presses on until Petra spots a strange area where the walls appear to be melting like a liquid. She bids them to stop and attempts to discern the magics used; unsurprisingly she discovers that the magic is of the illusion school. She warns Khaber and Sim that this is an illusionary trap, and the three of them see tentacles flare out from the wall. Petra sees clearly that all but two of them are illusionary, and follows the two that are not to their origin. They originate from a spot in the floor below where she stands, and she determines that they need to run as fast as they can to avoid whatever the real trap is; the tentacles are obviously meant to hold them until it can be sprung. The three of them begin to sprint away and as they look back, they see the walls folding in on themselves, forcing the space where they used to be into a horrifying toothy mouth in the floor below, before returning to normal walls.

Meanwhile, Lawrence spots an open door ahead on the other side. Attempting to rush past it, they hurry on, but the light emanating from the door encompasses Lawrence as he and Woolf speed past. The rain falls heavy on his face despite the brightness in the sky, and the throbbing pain from the wounds he received in the scuffle with the bandits on his way today flares from the cold of the wind. The road stretches forward off into the horizon and a small hut is visible off to one side of it. In the doorway stands a beautiful woman who beckons him into the warmth, out of the rain. He calls out to her, but her response is drowned in the crack of thunder. Lawrence is soon overcome by a sense of unease, as he reaches for supplies he doesn’t have and companions who aren’t there. His trusty dog is beside him, like always, but he is unable to ride him towards the safety of the hut; his bow is with him but all his skill with it seems a dream. As he approaches the hut, the woman’s voice becomes audible, and she calls out to him as “Lawrence.” The utterance of the name resonates so violently with him: there is no way that any stranger would ever know him by that name. As the world slowly starts to fade, the woman throws a single dagger at him, wounding him violently. In turn, he fires an arrow which strikes true, shattering the illusion and returning him to reality, where Grant and Loren have been frantically trying to rouse him. Without time to explain, they press onward.

Nearing the end of their route, Khaber, Sim, and Petra pause briefly as a swarm of beetles rushes forward out of the darkness at them, covering the floor, walls, and ceiling in a writhing, surging mass of blackness. With little option but to charge, Petra wreathes herself in the flames of her god and begins a mad dash, dragging her spiked chains against the walls to clear the path for Sim and Khaber. They continue their charge until they come to a gorge, from which the beetles seem to be coming. The three of them leap across and find safety on the other side; the beetles are unable to cross the span.

No more traps lie in wait for either of the two teams, but due to Lawrence’s time spent trapped in the illusion, the other team arrives at the opposite side first. They find a set of double doors leading into an enormous round chamber. The chamber has two exist, and inside, at the center, wait two Al’Rashid agents. They are the blindfolded monk and the bard that the party met on their first trip into the facility; Khaber freezes with anxiety at the sight of them. The bard begins to play a beautiful battle song, and the monk charges forward to engage them. They sustain a brutal assault from the monk and despite their best efforts, they are unable to land any significant blows on him, or even to lay so much as a finger on the bard. After a few agonizing attacks, the doors on the opposite end of the chamber swing open to reveal Lawrence, Loren, and Grant.

Seeing the battle already underway, Grant screams out “Rahin!” in a tone that conveys surprise, recognition, and dismay all at once. The bard acknowledges this but continues his song. Unable to fight them directly, Lawrence, Loren, and Petra coordinate their efforts towards interfering with the bard’s song, while Sim attempts to push the monk out of balance with the rhythm, hoping to interrupt his battle dance. They succeed in this and soon Petra is face to face with Rahin, who points to the lute he gave her long ago and, without a word, challenges her to play it. In response, Petra places the lute on the ground, and gives Rahin a cold stare. He sighs, clearly disappointed, but he does not resume his battle song, and the monk’s dance grinds to a halt. He comments that it is strange to see Petra choose the path of peace.

Though he does not intend to fight the party any longer, Rahin calls Khaber before him to pass judgement for the murder of Rakhoum. Khaber is unable to speak, and Rahin offers the party one chance to speak on his behalf: as they are all one cell, like Rahin’s group was, they may select one member among them to defend the actions of Khaber. As Sim searches for a solution, and Lawrence fights to keep his emotions in check, Petra steps forward and offers her voice in Khaber’s defense.

Rahin begins to question Khaber’s actions since he joined the party, and asks her to demonstrate the ways in which he has protected them, taught them, and guided them. Petra responds succinctly that it was Khaber who taught her to set aside her lute. Rahin is clearly taken aback by the sublime answer, and now on the defensive, demands proof that Khaber is innocent. Petra invokes Rahin’s pre-existing friendship with Grant, and has Grant probe Khaber’s mind to find out if Khaber truly did not strike down Rakhoum. Watching this, Lawrence fights his own will to scream out in defense of his friend, and take the blame that is rightfully his. But Grant chooses to not reveal the true killer, merely stating that it was not Khaber. Rahin is satisfied, both at learning that Khaber did not break his oath to the Al’Rashid, and at not knowing the true identity of the killer: this way, he is not forced to raise his hand in vengeance. He absolves Khaber of guilt and allows the party to pass, telling them that what they seek lies beyond the final door of the chamber. Without another word, the two Al’Rashid agents depart, leaving the party a brief moment to recover before they begin their final push into Arturus’s compound.

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