The pyre rages through the night, giving the fallen civilians their rites and letting their bodies’ burn in the only respect that could be given to them in the time the party had. The smoke towers upwards alerting any who look upon it that something is happening there. In the early dawn light, the black and grey plume is beginning to thin, and a number of people arrive in the now ghost town. They investigate the fire, and the bodies neatly piled up, as well as the incense around. This, they think, is clearly not the handiwork of the greyborn who seem to care so little for the other races of the world. This may be something more humane. The party hear the fire settling, and noises above them from their cellar. They make their way outside to investigate the sounds, before being spotted. Brant Goldust had snuck ahead to see what was happening, but then revealed his hiding place, having recognised at least one of the men now trying to douse the fire, and end the smoke signalling their location. The man he approaches is an older human. He is missing an eye, one of his arms, and a leg from the knee down. Brant introduces this man as Half-Dead John, so named because he has lost more body parts that anyone else known, and really ought to be dead by now. Goldust tells the other party members that John is a member of the Silver Assault who had set Brant on this mission in the first place, a well trusted and old ally. With introductions made, Half-Dead John leads the rested six, along with his own men away, to an abandoned temple to Y’Shaj. Owl insignia and reliefs can be seen in many places throughout the masonry.

John leads the six through the temple, and deeper into the earth to a series of catacombs beneath the religious structure. John reveals a hidden wall, and introduces the party more fully to yet more members of the Silver Assault based here in Majorai. John and his men shepherd the party through the dark network of caves and tunnels into a settlement far beneath the earth. This appears to be the base of the Assault and their families, and whilst here, the six are asked to keep their magik use to a minimum, as the non-magikal folk may find it unsettling. Orryon speaks with a blacksmith named Kale and expresses his recent horror at being shot at, and wonders if there is any way to reinforce the cloth of his robes to be more bullet resistant. Kale is impressed by the party, and so agreed to begin a micro-weave mesh and sew this into Orryon’s robes as a way to soften the impact of bullets. Kale explains that the Silver Assault learned about this after a few of their own battle mages were gunned down, not wearing armour, due to needing the movement of their hands and arms for more effective spell work.

Granuaile and Magnus both ask John about Anton Quinn, but very little is learned, other than a meeting will be held between the party and the Assault to consider the next steps. As the party are lead through the settlement, there are a range of faces seen. Some in noticeably better living conditions than the Macedonia or the rest of the Rises. So much better in fact here, that the civilians even appear to be merry in the way they interact with the world. Much of their way of life is seen as the group pass through byroads and pass merchants and homes.

Eventually, John brings the precession to an end, and welcomes the party into a larger chamber, to discuss Anton in more detail. John shares that Anton used to be a part of the Silver Assault, and assisted them on many missions over the years, until recently when he had left their organisation, and joined forces with the Rozen Croits, having become entwined with the Rozen Croit’s leader – an individual referred to as The Seer. Anton then left the Assault in favour of the Rozen Croits, offering few parting words to John, other than claiming he had a job to do. John informs the six that Anton was kept an eye on, as the Assault hoped he would one day return. He was last seen in the mines, as Maurice had suggested, with a rebel group from the Rozen Croits, forming, and assembling an assault group to surge against the greyborn. John also explains that Autarchs, greyborn clan leaders, have been seen near the mines, overseeing the work. The enemy is looking for something. Searching for a weapon they didn’t have before. John warns that although the greyborn do not appear to cast magik, their firearms more than make up for this arcane shortcoming. Some of the higher ranking Assault members provide the party with maps of the scouted location of where Anton was last seen, as well as information of a source of powerful magik in the area. John offers a place for the group to rest and resupply before they set out to find Anton.

Whilst resting, 428 amuses himself. He finds a gladiatorial pit, and challenges one of the stronger looking blacksmiths. The two come to blows in a friendly spar as a way to blow off steam, and release stress. The rival’s eyes darken, as two skeletal and ethereal wings creep out of the smith’s back. The sight is enough to instil fear into those watching, as this human is wreathed in a dark shroud, with his bony wing structures stretching to either side, incapable of flight, due to the lack of feathers or a membrane, but still an impressive, if somewhat horrific display. 428 steels his nerve, and enters into a fighting rage, to shrug off the most serious of strikes, as well as becoming so angry with bloodlust that the fear is overwhelmed, allowing the giantkin to overpower the smith, without too much difficulty.

At the same time, Rhogar and some of the others had entered the local watering hole, for lodgings to rest whilst the group plan. Rhogar speaks to a dwarf by the name of Baxter, who has a candle balanced or melted onto his head. Baxter does not give Rhogar much more information, but does point out that of Anton’s last group of soldiers before he left, only a few had survived, pointing out Jay sat on a table alone. The bugbear shares this information with the party allowing Magnus and Brant to approach Jay to make their respective enquires. Jay tells that he was a part of Anton’s unit, but he had seen changes starting to occur in Anton, and so refused to join him on his last mission. Anton had already started to work with both the Silver Assault and the Rozen Croits at this time, and was rumoured to be rallying slaves to a rebellious course. Jay’s friend and lover, Kim had joined Anton’s mission, and is now missing. Orryon manages to make a trade barter with some poorer women for some blank books, and ink they may be able to find. The women continue their needle work, and whilst one sewer looks for the items the giantkin returns from his sparring. 428 approaches the youngest seamstress. A girl no more than 8, who tells 428 she is called Tracy. The books and ink are brought back to Orryon, who pays for them using his natural healing talents, and without any magik. Magnus and Brant then return to the table the group have been using as their base, and share that Jay had advised a route through the North Western passage, as this would likely give the best chance of an undetected entrance to the mines. Whilst thinking about this, ideas are branded around, where it is considered what the greyborn may be searching for in the mines. Possibly for iron tin or copper are thought of, as strong metals to work into their weaponry. The conversation goes on, as more theories are explored and considered, with Magnus, Rhogar and Brant leading the way with ideas whilst 48, Orryon and Granuaile start to rest. Eventually, the three that are awake join the sleeping trio, to prepare for whatever adventure tomorrow will bring.

Still safe when we woke we were met by more allies who were able to offer me further protection against greyborn weapons. Though I’ll admit I’d prefer to avoid being injured in the first place.

 

Our allies gave us information about the men we seek and how to find him. He is allegedly the leader of the Rozen Kroitz, and we are to escort him home. Then our mission will be over. Whilst I would like to deliver the letter to him, and head home, I fear that without my father’s skill without my skill, Magnus and his allies and companions would fail in their endeavor.

– Orryon Ma’talli

Orryon has an uneasy night, as a dream comes to him. Each time he conjures his wings into being, he is gifted with a dream. This being the second time that that has happened, after a fight with greyborn. In this dream he sees himself in a clearing, looking down. A young grey dragon lands besides him. The dragon is tangled in ropes and struggling. The landing was not gentle or graceful, but appears to be feral and wild with a haunted animalistic quality to it. The hand Orryon perceives as his own reaches out and touches the snout of the dragon, and waits, as the beast slowly calms and its eyes begins to regain their focus. The dream starts to end, before repeating over and over throughout the night.

Were it not for the Assault’s settlement being beneath the catacombs, sunrise would have woken the six. As it were, the steady building of noises of work – forges, and smiths outside the tavern, as well as the tankards and flagons being collected from the night before. The group wake, some having slept better than others, but all relatively rested.

The reinforced robes are collected by those who ordered them, and the six make their way out away from the settlement and towards the north western passage, out of the cavern and go over ground, back to the mountain’s surface. The descent down is as difficult as anticipated, but at least there are no dreadbats or greyborn on this leg of the journey.  Long and heavy is the hike down to search for Quinn, even with a rough idea of where to look. The group continue onward for a few hours, until the sun once again begins to set. It is surprising how quickly routine sets in. 428 collected wood to a fire whilst Granuaile began to prepare a meal, with Orryon magiking seasoning. Magnus consulted his maps and confirmed the correct direction of travel. Rhogar cleaned his mechanical arm and began to tinker with some sort of clockwork device and Brant told stories to the group of his own adventures. Night fell, and sleep came, with each member of the group taking a shift at keeping watch for possible greyborn or smugglers.

I didn’t sleep easy. A dream came to me last night. I haven’t had one like that for many years. I never told you, or anyone. I suppose I should let you know what I saw in the dead after father died.

 

The first dream: The sky and sands were red. There was no life in sight around me, save for yellow corn. The sun was eclipsed and all light vanished in a torrent of wind. There was a distant flash and a huge explosion of light over the sea. It forced huge waves and kept expanding. I flashed upwards and found myself on top of a mountain with someone by my side. They said “it should be built here, it’ll be perfect”. I flashed to another place. A sombre day. I stood before two huge ancient doors, slowly closing. As they close, someone took my hand.

 

That’s the end of the first dream. It bothers me sometimes but I’ve stopped trying to figure it out. Honestly, I’d almost forgotten about it until last night’s dream;

 

I saw myself in a clearing. A young grey dragon landed before me. It was tied in ropes and looked to be struggling. Almost feral I think, but obviously I have nothing to compare it with. A hand, mine I think, touched the dragon’s snout and it calmed. Its eyes focused and I heard a voice say a name. Volfalus, I think. Odd. If I have more dreams I will be sure to note them down as well.

– Orryon Ma’talli

The camp was cleared by dawn, and the long road continued. After a few hours, the party arrive at the mining fields before entering yet another chasm. This second chasm does have greyborn patrolling, and unfortunately, the party are not yet used to their reinforced robes and armour, and so their skills with stealth are reduced, alerting the dragonoid to their presence.

Granuaile draws her warhammer, as 428 ready his axe. Rhogar’s arm transforms from its metallic state into a firearm of his own, whilst Brant brings his ukulele into position to perform his unique style of musical magik. Magnus rifles through his component pouch for spell ingredient, whilst Orryon stays back, as a healer, not a fighter. The fight ensues with spells thrown, shots fired and weapons swung to slice scales and bludgeon heads, teeth and claws. The greyborn fight well, but call on some sort of zombie greyborn to do their “heavy lifting” rather than risking their own lives. The undead greyborn prove to be quite the match, having maintained their awesome strength and fighting skill in death, allowing the greyborn forces to start to push the six adventurers back. Hope seems fleeting at its best, until a tall man in armour arrives to help turn the tide. The undead are returned to their still and lifeless forms, and the living greyborn are dispatched. The knight and his two allies join the fray, with Brant recognising the knight as the target. Anton Quinn.

He warns about killing additional greyborn, or moving their bodies after death as this could upset the very delicate truce and ceasefire held between the greyborn of The United Empire of Máurdorne and United Protectorate of Oskiliath.

Anton then takes charge with his allies, Karmel and Sally. The six join this trio and together they continue deeper into the mines, coming across an ancient temple far beneath the mountain. No one is able to work out to which Anduwin the temple is dedicated as the age of the place feels impossible. Entering the religious structure, the now nine warriors trudge through a pool or stagnant water forming a foot or two of coverage across the temple floor. To one end up a short series of what look to be marble stairs stands a shiny altar resting in the middle of the raised dais the alter too is old, with difficult to interpret depictions of the Anduwin, but again, remaining unclear as to which of the Six deities it is. At the altar’s centre is the item emitting such a strong magikal aura. A dark or black glass orb with swirls or red orange energy beneath the ceramic structure.

He warns about killing additional greyborn, or moving their bodies after death as this could upset the very delicate truce and ceasefire held between the greyborn of The United Empire of Máurdorne and United Protectorate of Oskiliath. In among the bodies of the dead, Granuaile finds a dark wand that reeks of evil magik. She conceals this from the party, fearing their reaction to the evil.

Brant, Magnus and Anton inspect magik orb, and are all hit with the sheer power of the device. Capable of communicating across impossible distances, as well as being rumoured to see the history of the world, and more over its future. Brant, knowing these rumours from the stories he has heard and told on the road, grabs the orb. He is met with darkness, and a pair of giant red eyes, glowering at him. The eyes seem to whisper to him, begging for release before the magik causes Brant to collapse into a fit of unconsciousness, before his body stills. Magnus and Anton both wearily touch the orb at the same time, and share the magikal strain between them. This allows them to see those same red eyes and talk its voice. As a dialogue is about to start, 428 reaches the orb. The giantkin places a hand on the device, and it shatters instantly, releasing the arcane hold over Magnus and Orryon. 428 explains that he did this because he saw the orb knock Brant out, and he was fearful of the magik effecting Anton and Magnus in the same way, as he looks over to a still unconscious and near paralysed Brant, who has now soiled himself.

With the orb now destroyed, and the greyborn threat to this temple removed, the nine leave the temple, with Brant still paralysed. Anton, Karmel and Sally lead the way to their own encampment. On arrival, there are a number of graves, which Anton explains are now inhabited by his fallen soldiers. After a short rest, owing to their ordeal, Orryon takes out his healing equipment, considering poultice’s, and bandages as well as more magikal healing. The elf draws on his knowledge and closes his eyes. He more feels than acts, as he reaches out towards where Brant’s body rest. Orryon plucks a faint golden thread from the air over Brant. Its centre is turning into a black thread, but Orryon is able to straighten the thread and in doing so pushes some of his magik into it, to cleanse the blackness and restore what Orryon now realises to be Brant Goldust’s soul. When his interaction is complete, the bard awakens from his paralysis, and near death.

Once Brant is healed from his stupor, Anton reveals he wants to continue exploring the points on his map, as he believes that there is another more powerful magik buried in these mines. Anton explains that he believes that one mine will lead to a tomb, where the Sword of Marr rests. A weapon of legend that most scholars believe to be fairy tale. But if it is true then surely magik built by the Anduwin of Strength may be powerful enough to achieve what he needs. He hints at his belief that the dead can be brought back to life in a real way, and not as undead puppets. Anton explains that he believes this as The Seer, the leader of the Rozen Croits, is able to share experiences, allowing people to experience past events, or move them through time, and that this may be partially linked with the rumours of returning people to life. He tells that he lost his daughter, but that The Seer may be able to bring her back to life. Anton’s allies pack the camp, and say farewell to the graves of friends and loved ones before the nine move on, following Anton to another point on his map, which may be the mine where the Sword’s tomb lays. After the day’s events, dusk is beginning take hold, and so the group stops to make camp for the night, on a ledge overlooking a watch tower, and a repurposed prison at the edge of a mine entrance. From the camp Brant, Karmel and Sally infiltrate the slaves’ quarters in the prison, and sow the seeds that tomorrow; the rallied slaves begin their revolt.

A lot has happened since I last wrote. Brant managed to mess with ancient powers and was petrified. I undid it. I’ve never done anything like that before. It felt like I was pulling his very soul back into his body. Somewhere between medicine and faith. It made me think of mother’s faith, and father’s teachings. Everyone seemed shocked that it could even be done, and I’ll admit, I too was surprised it worked. Also, we did find the man we were looking for.

 

There are a lot of strange things in this world. Some things that I really don’t know much about. A mage – The Seer – claims to be able to bring back a dead child. She’s important. Whilst I’ve heard of these kinds of magik, they always come with a price and I fear for who will be left to pay it.

– Orryon Ma’talli