As a heavy snowstorm picked up, the party killed off the remaining gnoll prisoner, and returned to Vol-Thagoryx.
Heralds in the Streets
As they strode down the main roads of the First Walk district, they came upon a large group of citizens, gathered around several figures who wore clerical robes. It was revealed that these were members of the Heralds of Rakashir, the local sect that formed in the past decade or so. Among them stood a figure in imposing, yet ornate armor; this was Gheist, one of the five Dekarii prophets, leaders of the sect. The Heralds were passing out warm clothes and supplies, proclaiming: “This harsh winter, and these dark times, are but temporary trials. Rakashir will deliver you; Rakashir will bring power to the lowly.”
It was apparent that this sect had a lot of popularity among the impoverished lower classes of Vol-Thagoryx.
An Audience with House Gardelaine
Heckle was waiting for the party, when they returned to the Fold’s Rest Inn. After hearing what had transpired earlier that day, he invited the party to meet with Lady Anissa Gardelaine, the noblewoman who had hired the Consortium in the first place. She was in need of information to bring to a meeting of the Thagoryne Council, taking place the very next night. The party agreed to this, and reported to her at The Grey Heron, an upscale inn on the city’s main island.
Along the way, it was noted that there were a lot of citizens trying to cross the bridge to the island districts of the city. When the party asked a city guard about it, he explained that a lot of folks were afraid that the mainland districts of the city would fall to the invading army. They were doing their best to keep such refugees to a minimum.
At the Grey Heron, the party met with Lady Gardelaine, and explained to her what she had learned, including the internal threat posed by Ninaran, Irontooth, and Gargonnas. She was concerned, but said she needed proof before she could bring anything to the Thagoryne Council.
It was at this time that an unexpected event occurred. In a flash of purple light, a portal opened up and deposited a large, confused, and angry half-orc. The portal closed just as quickly as it had opened, leaving behind an acrid stench akin to vinegar.
The half-orc brandished his weapons, and shouted, “Who are you? Where am I?”
For a moment, it seemed that the room would become a bloody scene, but the party was able to talk the half-orc down, and eventually got him to talk. His name was Tongar, and he had been pushed into the portal while tracking down his missing friend, James Astrom. He had been told that an organization known as the Blighted Stars might be behind his friend’s disappearance, but he knew little more than that. Of the person who had pushed him through the portal, he knew little, other than that he said the words, “Ral Fayn appreciates your cooperation.”
Lady Gardelaine assured the half-orc that she would have her agents help investigate matters concerning James Astrom and Ral Fayn. However, she needs evidence of the internal threat to the city, first. By dusk, the next day, she needs solid proof, or the council won’t hear her. Reluctantly, Tongar agrees to cooperate, with the promise that the party will help him find James once the more immediate threat is dealt with.
Tracking Down the Enemy
The party split up, searching for information throughout the city. In a variety of locations, and from a myriad of shady characters, they obtained the following information:
• Ral Fayn is a frequent customer of the Butcher’s Block, a group purported to specialize in the creation of customized undead monstrosities. Ral Fayn has also been known to purchase magical components for use in necromantic rituals.
• James Astrom is scheduled to be taken to the Butcher’s Block in a couple of days.
• Gargonnas and Irontooth are involved with the Aucharine Cabal, a secretive group of warlocks. They have a safe-house in the Auld Vedolis district. From outside the safe-house, Suneun was able to detect the presence of a demon in the basement, as well as desecrated artifacts.
• Two hours past nightfall, Ninaran would be meeting with someone at the pier by Waldorf Imports, in the Azure Bay district.
The most pressing matter, from this information, was the opportunity to catch Ninaran.
Confrontation on the Pier
The party arrived at the pier in advance, giving themselves time to hide out before Ninaran and her contact arrived. The elf woman’s contact was first to arrive; a tall, imposing figure, shrouded in a large cloak. As Ninaran arrived, walking down the pier, Eohric gave the signal for the party to spring into action. His signal was flawed, however, and Ninaran saw right through it. A battle ensued.
Ninaran went right after Eohric, loosing several arrows in his direction. Eohric swung down from the mast of the docked ship he was hiding on, striking hard at Ninaran. Suneun uttered words laced with power, commanding the ranger to grovel before her; Ninaran succumbed to the magic, and was brought to her knees. Eohric held a blade to her neck, the very longsword that had been taken from her at the Keep on the Shadowfell.
The mysterious contact immediately started fleeing the scene, but the path was blocked by Tierriaryi and Tongar, whilst Faydra unleashed a barrage of spells from behind. The stranger would not go down so easily, however. As magical flames burned away the heavy cloak, a terrifying figure was revealed – scarred and twisted, yet rippling with power.
“You have no idea what you’re getting involved in,” the stranger said to Tierriaryi, as he removed the blades the rogue had stuck into his chest.
Tongar struck at the stranger, but failed, stumbling to the ground. The half-orc was lifted off his feet, as the stranger said to him, “So disappointing. We expect so much more of you, in time,”
Tossing aside the half-orc, the stranger leaped at Tierriaryi, red flames forming around his fists.
At that moment, Tierriaryi heard a whisper in her mind, “Step through fey, step into shadow.”
The eladrin rogue heeded the advice of the strange voice, stepping into the feywild to get out of the way. However, Tierriaryi did not emerge from the feywild as usual, but was instead enveloped in shadows, hidden from the sight of the others. The torc Tierriaryi had found in Ixis was suddenly cold.
Faydra assumed the form of a lion, and pounced on the stranger, knocking him flat. Eohric struck at him, as well. Finally, Tierriaryi burst from the shadowy realm, planting both daggers in the stranger’s skull.
In a conflagration of red flames, the party was thrown back and badly burned by an explosion centered around the fallen stranger. When the smoke cleared, the stranger was standing, seemingly unscathed.
He looked to Ninaran, still pinned beneath Suneun, and shook his head in disappointment, before disappearing in a flash of red fire.