So, this week in the Anduwin Chronicles….

As the flesh burns away from 428’s hand, he falls to the ground in agony. Lady Granuaile stands, still frozen in place by the same dark magik that is lurching through the barbarian. Small piles of muscle and skin and veins on the sand below still burn and immolate themselves with some dark magik. His hand exposed as raw pearly white bone with not a single remnant of it ever having been alive. The bone continues up the arm, as it always has, but just beyond 428’s wrist, his full giantkin form resumes, with powerful and thick layers of muscle that have always been there. The transition between bone and flesh is jarring, and sudden. As though the hand has been fully cut off, the arm healed to a stump, and then the hand’s skeletal form forced into the healing skin at the centre of the stump. His pain is audible, as the party start to hear his cries as they continue to give chase.

Journ’ee and Sivaras set off from the family with their new born son, to rescue Granuaile and 428 from the unknown foe of the girl with the skeletal wings. Brant Goldust completes his alchemy and successfully produces and administers a tonic to cure the younger child of the paralysis whilst this is all taking place. A dark shadow seems to cover the area around 428 and Granuaile. Darkness pours out of the girl, and the sand is turned to shadow, as though midnight has set in. Granuaile finally manages to push through the magik holding her back and reaches 428’s side, almost acting out of habit, rather than on any training, she applies healing salves to try and stabilize him, as he continues to writhe about in pain. The shadow brings a cold sense of dread to Granuaile, as she works, but isn’t enough to break her focus from saving her ally. She draws on her skills as a solider in combat, but also as a member of the Bladed Magi unit, and conjures a small ball of fire. Nothing as powerful or flashy as those that Magnus has demonstrated, but enough for her needs. The flame helps her to see what she is doing in the dark, but even a magikal flame doesn’t seem to be able to penetrate the darkness much further than a small circle around the orb of fire.

Riding Julio Journ’ee and Sivaras edge closer to the darkness. The dwarf ignites his hand, and hurls magikal energy into the shadow, creating a bonfire in the shade, which seems to barely hit some sort of creature. A shadowy entity apparently made of many smoky faces. 428 rouses from his hurt and in his revival Granuaile tries to drag him away from the shadowy creature towards relative safety in his weakened state. Once she is close enough, Sivaras manipulates the rune on the haft of her staff to trigger healing magik which flows through the air and shade, surrounding the giantkin and starting to knit wounds together. His hand remains skeletal. As her spell takes hold, she leaps from Julio, and rushes on foot into the skirmish. Journ’ee sends his fiery eldritch energy from his daemonic patron into the creature, but he misses with the darkness playing tricks on him and his aim. The energy somehow misses and his spell hits Granuaile with its full force. Noticing that their allies have all joined this combat in the area of shadow growing out of nothing, and Brant having finished his tonic, Magnus and the bard begin to make their way towards the fray.

Granuaile attempts to swing her warhammer through the many faced shade-creature as a second entity starts to manifest from the darkened ground like an unnatural and twisted form of vegetation. 428 tries to summon his fighting anger, but finds he is frozen in fear by the pain, as well as the shadow around the party that seems to be all encompassing. The druid, Sivaras pulls water from the now midnight air, and freezes it. She batons her staff and as it twirls, the frozen water is flung towards one of the shadow faces of a creature harassing Granuaile. The sharpened ice shatters on impact with dense shadow. Journ’ee in the saddle of Julio makes his way to the blue skinned woman offering her help. Granuaile draws on more of her Bladed Magi training and sprays a small cloud of poison into the darkness, and as she does so, one entity vanishes into the ground, though it is unclear if it has been defeated, or if it was lurking in a false retreat to strike again later. Granuaile and Sivaras turn to flee, having healed 428 as much as they are able, and not knowing if they have the ability to vanquish this foe. On route, Sivaras cries across to Journ’ee, having declined her help, but she orders the dwarf to save 428. As the party continues to flee the field two more smoky entities burst from the sand in a midnight spray of broken earth, silt and shadow.

As the foes increase in number, Magnus and Brant are nearing the scene of the fight. Whilst approaching, Brant spies a figure wielding a huge radiant weapon charging towards the darkness. As 428 gets on the horse with Journ’ee, a huge humanoid shadow rises from the sand, and starts walking towards 428. The humanoid figure is darkness personified and has a single face, drawing all light into it, forming a void and a lightless vacuum. The figure Brant saw earlier reaches the fight and brandishes a lantern at the smoke monsters, swinging it, and banishing shadow with each pass. The light passes over one monster and draws it into the lantern, with the radiance consuming this shadow completely. The party begins to dispatch the entities, as the stranger’s lantern and light bolsters the group’s attacks. The light beams and helps the slaying of shades and the stranger commands the creatures to go back to wherever they came from. With this an orb of blinding light is emitted from the lantern leaving Brant and 428 temporarily blinded by the sheer power of the glow. The humanoid shade is banished by this last luminance not absorbed by the lantern, but pushed back into a single shadow of darkness on the ground, before the whole blanket of night is pushed deeper, into the earth itself, and out of sight. Magnus eventually manages to catch up with the group, seeing they are worse for wear from their ordeal in the dark. The stranger joins the party as they leave the now quiet dunes and he introduces himself as Hugh Hapsburg – an old acquaintance of Brant’s. His elven feaures look even more unnaturally beautiful in the radiant light of his lantern.

Hugh is invited back to the camp that was set up in the now fortified house, to rest. Through conversation, it is discovered that Hugh is a founding member of a group called Imperious, who have in recent years appeared to be more villainous with an unclear objective. Whilst this takes place, Sivaras seeks out a pair of gloves for 428, as his right hand is now fleshless and skeletal. Brant exchanges firm words with Hugh, and Journ’ee demands to know what the connection between 428 and the smoke creatures is. Tensions begin to rise, as the party members all appear to have their own questions they want answering. Magnus finds a bottle or two of wine leftover from the houses previous tenants and shares this around to settle peoples’ nerves in the hopes that the drink will encourage more amiable conversations. It transpires that Hugh has been working with the greyborn, in a manner of speaking. He is selling his trade to the highest bidder with little loyalty or allegiance, openly admitting he will swindle governments, and sell to soldiers, civilians, friend and foe, and even the greyborn. Brant argues with Hugh before stealing a notebook from his hands suspecting Hugh may have been making notes about the party, including a former and fallen member Rhogar Sandlewood. The swindler offers the party a deal to smuggle them into the capital city. Hugh shares the king is being held in the citadel for another day before his public execution.

Meanwhile, Journ’ee, 428 and Sivaras have a discussion about 428’s past. He is given the gloves by Sivaras in exchange for providing honest answers about what just happened on the sand dunes, and what has happened in his own personal life. 428 shares that the smoke entity used to be a “friend” who helped save 428 from a tower where he was being held in and experimented on from a very young age. Journ’ee shares the origin of his powers and burn scars. He tells the party that he is unsure how, but he found himself waking up in a strange realm. Journ’ee in his own early year, before he got his burns was in a different realm and says he saw a red dragon fighting with a Phoenix on another plane. Journ’ee shares that the dragon seemed to be turning grey and was defeated, and as its blood splattered the ground, it burned Journ’ee where he stood. Journ’ee opening up about his own physical transformation in terms of his scars seems to convince 428 that both he and Journ’ee were changed in some way, in a manner that was outside of their control. 428 agrees to share his experiences and what he knows with Journ’ee. Slowly, the quiet barbarian takes out a worn leather notebook, which Brant and Granuaile recognise as a book that a previous party member, Orryon, gave to 428 some weeks ago, to help him explain himself, using his limited language skills. His skeletal fingers wrap around the tome and cautiously hand it over to Journ’ee, to better explain his own story, his experiences and part of the reason why the shadows attack him. Journ’ee and 428 have an open conversation about their various early life experiences, and the difficulties they have had, leading to a strong bonding moment.

Hugh asks the party to retrieve one of the legendary Anduwin artefacts for him. The party knows of the six in existence. Each powerful item representing one of the Anduwin themselves, and rumoured to have been made by them. A’Dal’s Flute of the Whispering Winds; Kaine’s Lantern of Light; The Sword of Marr; Paz’s Chalice of Eternity; Vollabuke’s Courage; and The Ice Stone, representing Y’Shaj. As soon as he mentions asking the party to retrieve such an item, Brant realises that the powerful lantern Hugh carries simply must be the item of Kaine. It seems he wishes to gain more items and so more power for himself, perhaps as a means to protect himself in the newly restarted war with Máurdorne. He asks this in exchange for powerful magiks and for getting the party into the capital city. As the party had initially been asked to collect all six items to be able to overthrow the greyborn emperor, there were mixed thoughts about how the party should proceed. Hugh warns that the King of Bukká Mortainé is currently being held captive by the greyborn invaders, and that the party will likely need to infiltrate the city to stage anything that resembles a coupe or rescue. Brant is concerned that the king is important, and could be a powerful ally to the party and the world in repelling the greyborn advance, and that the group should try to reach the city to save him and maintain the line of succession. Hugh offers to guide safe passage from this ruined village into the capital city.

The group gather themselves and discuss a plan to get to the capital. With no one openly wanting to travel in plain sight, and risk further greyborn or raider attack, Journ’ee asks if anyone knows any other ways into the city. Thinking back to his family home, and of growing up in Quel Ce La Mon, Magnus admits he knows of some entrances to a cave network, his local knowledge and cartographer skills coming to light and use once again. The group knows there is potential to travel across and above the ground, using Hugh’s offer. However, Magnus suggests that the alternative may be through a network of caves that rest between the surface not quite habitable, but somehow a realm of their own. No clear agreement is reached and the battle weary group settle into the fortified house for one more night of relative comfort and rest, choosing to decide a route in the morning.

And that’s where we left off…