Somedays are made for sleeping in, today was one of those days. Unfortunately it was also the day the party decided to set forth from Dormoor on the return to Koltara. Gimbal rejoined the party after seeking a new ally, Turine, a panther. The night of heavy rain washed the dirt road into a mud trap and the party chose to travel along side, instead. The tall grass hushing the rain to white noise as they rode for the better part of the day. As the sun set, evidenced only by a steady darkening, an anguish, feral cry ripped through the curtain of water to send shivers down their spines.
“Fiends.” Gimbal and Xander agreed together, sensing the malevolent presence. Visibility poor, they watched the tall grass for movement. A hyena emerged first, but it was twisted by dark magic, a fiend. Powerful jaws and too many teeth, it ran in, bringing a pack of Krenshar with it. The Krenshar were as terrible as the fiendish hyena. One howled, piercing the air with a shriek and pulling the skin of it’s face back from the skull beneath. Quickly the party broke into formation, mounted above the tall grass while some shook of the fearful cry. Adrik and Xander slashed at the beasts while Dixit, Gimbal and Turine worked together. Gimble maneuvered about the fight to take advantage of every opportunity when suddenly Varis found himself surrounded. Calling upon his innate powers, Varis felt pure magical force answered his will. The simple spell of magical missiles rang clearly in his mind and as he directed the projectiles to the fiendish beasts the raw wild energy within him answered ten-fold. Ten brilliant missiles of force shot forth from Varis. A precipitant power left a fading glow to his eyes and skin. Struck down by the unexpected power and scattered, the remaining Krenshar fell quickly to the party’s might.
And still it rained. Varis slumped over his horse, exhausted and the party gathered to build a camp for the night. Once they were sheltered from the rain sleep swiftly found them. Like a blanket the rain tucked them into their shelter and most slept peacefully. Dixit and Adrik however tossed and turned with a sheen of sweat across their brows. Nightmares of withering forests, plagued cities and animals being mutated by foul magic fill their night. The monk and fighter wake as if they had not slept, feeling worse for the wear. Like a plague of its own the rain continued. Another day of travel quickly passed them by with only an unsettling sense of being watched to mark it from any other. No nightmares plagued them that night and no trouble found them as they slept another damp night away.
Morning came and with it good news, the clouds had stopped trying to drown them and the King’s Peace was only a half a day away. Still following the path trodden into the tall grass along side the road, rather than in the mud, the approaching forest gave the day’s ride an optimistic feel. As the afternoon began to dim to dusk the party was riding through the few small, sparsely forested foothills before the woods. Then rolling over the next hill came faint chanting, foreboding and full of malevolence. Creeping ahead, magic silencing his foot steps, Gimble peered through a tangle of fallen trees and brush. Just off the road in a clearing surrounded by a cluster of large boulders stood three robed figures. Their arms were outstretched towards one another to mimic the triangular etching in the ground at their feet. Adrik hurried forward, his attempt at stealth foiled by his armor, to join Gimble. Covering Adrik’s advance and hoping to gain arcane insight to the ritual Varis stepped forward revealing himself to the cultists.
“Hello there.” He greeted them jovially. “…” A glare from the tall woman nearest the fallen trees was joined by a witchbolt, answering his greeting clearly, the chanting uninterrupted. The rest of the party had crept up under the distraction Varis provided forming a semi-circle around the three cultists. Rage tightened the grip on his sword as Xander realized the cultists had sacrificed a young woman to cast this ritual. Sensing the rising fiendish power, Xander looked to Gimbal confirming what he felt. “We have to stop them, they are summoning something terrible.” Varis yelled to the party. “A fiend is on the other side.” Gimbal added. Determined, the party set to stopping the cultists from unleashing this foe. As they readied their attack a hand reached out from the rune on the ground as if to climb from below. A large, gorilla-like hand clawed the dirt straining to gain purchase before sliding back into the earth. Adrik roared and charged at the tall woman, throwing her to the ground within the marked lines. Her body stuck the ground and stuck part of the way into the earthen portal for a moment before the monstrous hand appeared again. Quickly the cultist was crushed in it’s grasp, pulled down into the portal and Varis winced as a flood of power widened the passage. Pouring their full wrath upon the evil mages, the party threw them to their own monstrosity one at a time.
“No, the portal has too much power, it won’t close on it’s own any longer!” Varis yelled, “Quickly, help me to dismiss it.” Xander and Gimbal joined Varis at the portal as the others pulled the poor woman’s corpse off to the side. Willfully they poured their arcane and divine mights into the fiendish portal and it collapsed with a quiet rush. Exhausted as if they had cast many spells relief rewarded them as they looked around.
The young woman had clearly been ambushed nearby and lost her life to summon the dark beast. The casters rested nearby and the party built a pyre for the girl, giving her a respectful rest. Worn from fighting and traveling the party again set camp on the skirts of the King’s Peace. Less than a day’s travel remains to reach the capital, an end to this first excursion in sight the group finds themselves pondering their road together. Destiny calls to each in its own way, will they band together for a greater destiny or set sail on different winds?