This time on the Anduwin Chronicles…

The party passes through a local market on route towards the city gates. Siala buys a series of arrows, which are poison tips. Abraxos, Granuaile and Orryon purchase some healing potions, knowing the potential risk of their next course of action.

Stoven leads the way to the gate, ready to meet with and question Ofrid, the humanoid ratman. On their arrival, they meet up with Krint, and the whole party is reunited. Aspal is also present, with a number of Greyborn guards. The atmosphere is one of nervousness. There’s an uncertainty about this Ofrid figure, and his imminent arrival. The large iron gates creak open, as a platoon of Greyborn, flanking a humanoid rat march into the city. His appearance is of a rat, walking on two legs; his hind feet. He leans on a staff, which bares a clear glow crystal. His lean is not one of age, but more habit of having the staff. Appraising this individual, he doesn’t appear to be a great fighter, or to pose much of a threat. A solider hands over Ofrid to Aspal, as the rest of the platoon leave.

Abraxos welcomes this ratman, and introduces himself. Ofrid tells he is looking for the leader of his people; the Raticama. He has exerted a great effort in arriving here, and needs to rest. The group leave to the nearby barracks to speak more privately. He is wounded, with a shard of metal sticking from his arm. Granuaile removes this, and Orryon applies pressure to heal him. Though the physiology is strange, there is enough similarity to make a serviceable amount of healing. He then perks up, surprised by the sheer number of people he has met. Ofrid tells that his people have a prophecy of a true leader, who may not be of the same people. The Raticama were meant to monitor the great slumber of the thing that slept within The Monolith. However, since the Sundering, and Nezhar waking, the Raticama were put to work. Enslaved until she was able to break free in her Cataclysm. Ofrid tells of some called The Architect who initially made the prophecy. Abraxos thinks back to Kaine being thought of as the Anduwin who was most linked with the build of Anduwin machines. Abraxos suggest Granuaile try to use the Chalice to reach Paz, and Brant to magically contact Y’Shai, in the hope that either can reach Kaine. Ofrid mentions that there is a pulse underground and that with each pulse the risk to his people increases that they may be buried alive. Orryon assists Granuaile in her meditation. Meanwhile, Cato speaks with Ofrid about his illness and weakness. Most of the Raticama are starving, or were killed in the initial impact. Ofrid is radiating with an overwhelming amount of magical energy. So much so that he is near cancerous with the damage. Orryon clears the room, to conduct an examination. When the room is clear, Orryon administers a single use of Hope, which restores Ofrid’s exhaustion. However, the magic then begins to fold in on itself, and Ofrid begins to shrink, until he is no longer humanoid at all, but is just a Rat. His staff clatter in the floor. Picking the rat up, Orryon casts Speak with Animals, and learns that Ofrid has regressed and is much less articulate than before. But still has some of his memories.

Meanwhile, Granuaile asks Paz about what might be leaking or dangerous within the Monolith. She doesn’t get a message back, but does get a sense of information that she never knew. There is a large magical reactor and containment device which is leaking and causing the pulses which may break the country and endanger the Raticama. Brant also casts a spell to contact Y’Shai, explaining the situation, and asking for help. He gets a reply telling him that Kaine built many things, and then abandoned all of them, such is the way of intellect, remorseless, and pointless.

Cato casts detect magic, and with it notices thin blue thread from all except Brant reaching up to the heavens. Cato thinks this is linked with the vials the Exalted gifted. He shares this with the group, and encourages Brant to drink his, as he suspects it may be the protection given to enable the party to travel through the shade infected districts and into the Monolith. Whilst sensing magic, he initially gets a huge magical surge from Ofrid, but this appears to have diminished and vanished whilst Orryon’s examination is underway. 

Abraxos, feeling that this examination has take longer than expected, knocks and allows himself into the chamber where the healer and the rat remain. He discovers the elf pacing back and forth with a small rodent in his shaking hands. When the samurai takes in the room, his suspects that Ofrid has stepped out, but Orryon shakily points to his own palm, where the rat sits, expectant of food. Orryon it seems can only say that he fucked up- significantly. Abraxos calls the others into the room. Siala takes Ofrid from the healer as Orryon explains what happened and what he did. He hands over the Hope to Granuaile, knowing she is trustworthy and noble. He tells her to destroy it, as it is dark and dangerous.

Cato searches Ofrid’s possessions, an finds brittle papers, and ancient writings on worked leather. He sees a depiction of an item in two halves, with one part glowing. Two parts to be unified. He conjures his unseen manservant 189, and instructs it to begin copying the papers onto less brittle parchment. Brant approaches the hollow version of Orryon, and asks if he has used this Hope before. The healer answers honestly. Three times. Twice on himself when exhausted and it restored his strength, and some youth. Once on Rhogar to try to restore the bugbear’s missing arm. In all three instances, nothing like this happened. He has followed Caleem’s guidance from the Arboreum, and used it sparingly. Brant thinks back to rumours he has heard from following up the fallout of Imperius, who were funding the Arboreum at that time, and recalls some scientific papers an Hope. It was made by harvesting unwilling souls and somehow compressing them into a liquid. Imperius had plans to sell it into the world as a “wonder cure” and a miracle way to reverse ageing. Learning this for the first time, due to his time away from Menosophia, Orryon is horrified he would ever use it at all.

Outside the barracks, Aspal beats on the door, asking Abraxos what is taking so long. Choosing responsibility, nobility and honesty, the samurai steps out and tries to explain to Aspal what has happened. This doesn’t go down well, and Aspal warns the samurai that as this figure is the first glimmer of hope the Greyborn have had in a loosing battle against the shades of the Monolith, many people, including the Empresses wanted to speak with Ofrid. Aspal is dreading having to tell Venracka in person about this event.

The samurai asks for time, and Aspal grants it, allowing Abraxos to come back into the room. Inside discuss is had about Ofrids magical exposure. He was positively radioactive with arcane forces. Someone suggests that Ofrid be brought to the Monolith, hoping that being brought back into the area where the exposure happened may help to restore Ofrid to his previous true form.

No one sure sure what to do, and Orryon’s eyes haven’t left the rat. Siala instructs Abraxos to hug the obviously distressed healer, as Orryon begins to murder “it’s happening again”. Granuaile recalls years ago when Orryon started to struggle with his actions and choices, as well as her own decent into a different kind of darkness. Siala hands the rat to Abraxos and takes over the hug herself. In an effort to help show Orryon that he was trying to help, and this wasn’t his fault, Granuaile tries to take a shot fo Hope. However, Abraxos manages to react fast, taking hold of the half-orc’s wrist, and Brant tries to slap Granuaile ‘s hand to knock the vial to the floor. His strike connects, but her powerful strength allowed her to keep hold of the vial, and tells she wants to prove things to Orryon. Brant mentions again that it is harvested souls, and Abraxos reminds Granuaile she has only just been reunited with her father. She agrees to wait for Abraxos to get a horse. She stoppers the vial and waits for the horse. She tells Orryon she will administer to the horse to help prove that Orryon did nothing wrong. The beast is brought at the ambassadors request. The fastest horse In Yeilderon. Granuaile administers a does. There are no visible changes, but Orryon asks, still able to communicate with animals, and the animals tells him he feels slower and younger. The horse feels that he wasted years training to get so strong and fast, and is saddened by this experience. This does little to help Orryon, as the Hope clearly regressed both Ofrid and this horse. The healer repeats that the vial should be destroyed, but Siala steps in, begging this not to happen. She recognises that the unwilling harvested souls were also victims, and so begs to find a way to release them, so that their souls may eventually find rest and peace. Hearing this, Orryon agrees. Brant argues that destroying the vial would release the souls in a single instant. He is not sure they carry on after death. He now doesn’t trust Granuaile to be the vial’s keeper, after she tried to use it herself, and administered it to the innocent stallion. Frustrated, Brant leaves, making his way back to Abraxos apartment.

Abraxos steps out, and invites Aspal in, who sees Ofrid in ray form for the first time. The ambassador does damage control. He tells that the group need to speak to Venracka- Now! They set off with an escort, whilst soldiers are sent to the apartment to collect Brant for an audience with the Empress, by royal request. The party reunites at the Dragons Perch, as the grand citadel. The whole way across Yeilderon, Siala doesn’t leave Orryon’s side. She tries to help lift him from his current mood and mental state. This has some limited effect.

The Dragons Perch itself still appears dark, and unwelcoming. As it has done in several party members pervious visions of the place. It’s decor hardly updated since the Emperor was defeated. Venracka having more important tasks than interior design. The large iron gates open into and impressive, regal but imposing throne room chamber. The throne itself formed of dragon bones from the previous ruling Drakes. Behind the throne, and along the chambers walls, is illuminated by small red flames. At the room’s heart is a grand carved stone well. Abraxos tells the party in hushed tones that this well is used to anoint Grey Drakes when they ascend to their full dragon form.

Within the room, are a few hooded greyborn, collecting water from the Well. The Queen’s guard file up on both edges of the throne room. On the throne itself, sits a female Greyborn with a silver crown, wearing white silk robes in direct contrast with the darkness of the room. She warmly greets her son, Abraxos. Granuaile stands at parade rest in military style, whilst the other bow in accordance with their own home nation customs. Abraxos explains the situation to the Empress, who begins confused about the rat, and has a growing frustration or anger about the consequences of this. She was expecting Ofrid to give answers about the Monolith, and hope to her people that the evil within could be defeated. He soldiers are weak from years of fighting, and morale is running lower by the day. The party explains that they still plan to investigate, and have spoken with the Anduwin. Venracka scoffs this until Lady Granuaile summons her Jackal and Chalice, and tells she is representative of Paz, and that she made contact with him. Paz told her of the magical leak. Granuaile explains her theory that exposing the rat once more to the radiation may help to restore him as she believes the Hope removed all magic and returned Ofrid to what he was before he was exposed. Brant argues all knowledge of radiation having this effect, as it is purely speculation. Venracka, passed off now, wonders how the party expect to investigate this place, when no one, other than this ratman have ever survived being in the districts or the Monolith. Abraxos explains the power granted to them by the Exalted, supported by Cato explaining his own detection of the magical threads from each of the party. Venracka tells Abraxos her men are losing the fight to repel the shades and so she has ordered the Andromeda in orbit, with all weapons targeting the mouth of the Monolith. She tells her son that she has no choice but to fire soon, in order to protect her people and the wider world of Menosophia. He begs for time to investigate and fix this mess, and she offers the party a week. She then sends her son and his allies to the Archmage, who may be able to teleport the group beyond the first wall.

 On their way to the magister, Siala is worried about the radiation leak, and how the Andromeda open fire will effect it. Orryon speaks of a dyke or dam, and how when these leak there is a constant steam of water but when the dam breaks there is an initial surge before a natural balance is restored. He is unsure if this will help, but tells of a quote he remembers from 428. 

If you can do something, you should, as there are plenty of people in the world who can’t.

Orryon doesn’t know where 428 is now, but hopes to meet him again one day. Granuaile says he is on his own journey now. Brant agrees to come on this investigation as he can send messages to the Empress to update on the party’s progress, and possibly gain additional time before the warship opens fire. Brant talks to Abraxos, asking for someone who can supervise Mr Graves. Abraxos tells that he only trusts three people without question; his mother, Patch and one other. The third is in a safe place where Mr Graves can be taught and supervised. This place is with his family who raised him. His adoptive nephew. Hidden and unknown to the Greyborn people. Abraxos suggests sending Mr Graves to Frostheim.

Archmage Dram agrees to teleport the group as far as he is able. He first sends Mr Graves, with some instructions from Brant to not use his powers or to Immobilise anything. Dram then instructs the party to hold hands, and stand over a circle rune inlaid into the floor. The spell is cast and the world and surrounds begin to dissolve in a smoke. The smoke then clears and the world beyond reappears, but different. The party have moved.  then reappear in new place. High above are sheets of warped metal, and broken corrupted stone. They find themselves in a alcove. The air is horrifically humid, and the ground holds an unnatural shimmer of vibrations. The very land here appear sick with the level of radiation and raw arcane force. Checking their surroundings, and looking behind them are four distinct walls, and layers of fighting heading down the mountainside. Just up ahead rests the remains of a ruined structure. A fallen building, spanning a massive site. Four corners remain, but the rest destroyed. Monolithic stone strewn about. With the walls behind them, and the mouth ahead, the party guesses this is district four. 

They form up, with Abraxos and Granuaile in front, and begin to move upwards. Their pace is slowed by the rough terrain. They pass more ruins and spy several eerily still pools. Each they pass getting larger. Pools of black ichor cover the landscape. When stones or similar skitter in, they sizzle instantly. Granuaile casts a firebolt into the nearest pool. Fire erupts and keeps burning long after the party has moved beyond the ichor. Siala extends her magic over her allies. The shadows move up and cling to her party. Sounds are muffled and it’s suddenly harder to see her ground moving. They continue their ascent far more stealthily.

Before too long a feeling of dread and anguish washes over the six adventures. The whole party freezes and hides behind stones or ruins. They wait as something wounded passes by, breathing heavily. Daring to glance, they see a huge shade, floating past. The size of a house, drifting downhill towards the battle. Once it’s passed, the party carefully restarts it’s journey upwards. Over the next hour there are four more instances, the shades getting larger each time, as the fly down hill towards the walls and lower districts. 

Whilst it is still light, the party arrives at the mouth. Standing on the lip, looking in, they see flashes of odd coloured light. Each flash illuminating the rough looking metal stairs down into the darkness beyond. Cato conjures his manservant once more and sends 189 onto the stairs to check their strength before the party, in case of traps. As it is his country, Abraxos goes down. He reaches the first platform, and it lists under height weight. He warns the group to move carefully and to travel one at a time. They progress like this for a time. The heaviest going first to test the platforms, as the party advances, with lighter traveler moving next. They keep moving until they reach a fallen platform, they is too steep and smooth to climb down. They are forced to slide. As they begin to do so there is a bright light from beneath them. A  massive surge of energy from underneath. All the platforms begin rattling, as party members are thrown into the air. Brant and Cato manage to hold on to railings. Abraxos also holds on, but Granuaile, ties to his waist isn’t as fast and she falls off the platform. Orryon too falls, but just barely holds on to the railing from the wrong side, whilst the dextrerous elf manages to keep her footing. Granuaile falls, and her tether to Abraxos tightens. He holds on with mirth to stop him from being hauled into the pit.

Whole platform starts to free fall. The insides of the Monolith funnel into a smaller opening. The platform picks up speed, and eventually scrapes the sides of other pieces of platform and stairs. Against all odds, the whole party has managed to hold on to their ropes or the platform railing as it grinds to a hold, metal scraping metal and stone. It can now be seen that there was once a central column within the narrow funnel centre of the Monolith, but that this is now shattered in places. Granuaile unties herself and jumps to lower level. Orryon pushes his Will into the air, knowing the feeling of falling all to well. His magic slows her crash, allowing her to land as softly as a feather. She lands and balances her way along her new “floor” in time for another flash of energy rushing towards the group.

Cato grabs the rope, and slides down at speed towards Orryon. When he reaches the healer, he opens a purple arcane door through the air, and teleports both himself and Orryon away from the platform towards Lady Granuaile. Abraxos leaps from the falling platform, and Siala follows suite. Brant leaps too, and parkours his way down the cavern walls. Reunited, and with temporary safety, they continue to journey downwards.

A layer down there are two metal doors which the party hopes to reach before the next pulse. One is smaller, and most (other than Brant) would have to squeeze through. The other door has a panel which is sparking lightning. Beyond one door is a room of tiled floor, with several lidded jars. Granuaile takes hold of the stuck metal door, and pushes her muscles to heave them open. Abraxos thinks these jars remind him of the corruption being mined beneath Granuailes manor all those years ago. When he says this, Brant, and Granuaile also recognise the necromatic jars, used to house and contain shades. Cato spots small undressed footprints on the ground nearby these jars, and it is recalled that Nezhar in humanoid form wasn’t wearing shoes. The energy pushes again, and the party rushes further into the cavern.

An hour passes of party moving down and checking the next rooms for jars. ,Room after room after room. Some have been deliberately opened; some are still sealed. Cato‘s keen mind and mental skills allows him to keep track. So far he has counted a few hundred opened jars, and several thousand that as yet are still sealed. The shear scale of how many shades are contained in the Monolith is terrifying. Learning this, and thinking of his fight in the Lighthouse, Orryon beings to panic, once more.

After another hour traveling down, there are no more storage rooms. There is sight of the central column, with a glowing blue orb of energy at its base, fed by a range of pipes and cables. Taking shelter in a lower room, Brant begins to magically translate the notes from Ofrid, learning that the pulse may be a Dawnstar reactor. Brant also shares that one of the pages of parchment details the experimental trials that were taking place here, 12000 years ago, though he keeps the age and date to himself.

They continue further down, and get below the Dawnstar. Until it pulses down against them. No longer blasting them up, but acting as a force of weight pushing the group down into the belly of the planet. Travel is more stable, but tiring due to this new weight of the pulses. Abraxos notices skittering sounds all around them. A scuttling ahead, and a whimpering cough. Siala and Abraxos call out to the sounds, thinking these most likely are Ofrid’s people. Two rat humanoids stumble forward, one carrying the other. The woman is vomiting, and begging for help. The Raticama cannot take the relentless light and banging anymore. These rat people lead the party down a short dirt tunnel to a dwelling area.

Here there are a few dozen people living in tents. All Looking ill and somber. A leader, with a staff communicates to the party using All Speak, so each hears him in their native tongue. He introduces himself as Old One Eye, and tells that these dozens are all that is left of his people, from a few thousand innocents. Orryon begins to panic again, seeing the potential pain he has caused at taking one of these people from he world. Old One Eye suggests the party help fight the shades and bring the people to the surface, or they could go to the central consoles and shut off the pulses. Orryon’s panic escalates.  Worrying about fighting shades, or possibly hurting more of Ofrid’s people. Abraxos asks if Orryon served in the Greyborn War. He did, and so Abraxos commands Orryon to snap out of his panic and to do his duty. The samurai encourages Orryon to go where he will be most useful. He healer agrees to come fight with the party, realising that his fear of death by shade is easier to overcome than his guilt at his actions with Ofrid. He hands over her satchel of healer supplies to Old One Eye, asking him to put them to use to help the Raticama, as the party leaves the dwelling place setting out to fight the shades and save the Raticama.
The group stealth along further, and approach a huge circular door, leading towards the operations area of the lower tunnels. Light flickers red to blue, and automated voice breaks through in crackles from a display panel. Granuaile’s chalice once again grows impossibly heavy. The panel’s broken voice box gets out a single phrase, 

“Greetings Paz, you are fifteen thousand years over due for your meeting with Kaine”

And that’s where we left off…