Episode 100: El Zikrin, Part I
As the captain raised his greatsword to split Keen in two, Magnus popped the top of his Iron Flask and captured the creature within. The party quickly dispatched the remaining two soldiers. They made a sweep of the grounds but found no further threats, though Magnus did discover the gristly remains of the farm’s former occupants buried in the pile of burning rubble. They dragged the slain soldiers and their infernal weapons into the fire, and resumed course for the town of El Zikrin.
A short time later, Ara observed a streak of green light flashing down from the heavens, as if a meteor had struck the ground in the road ahead. From their vantage point they observed another solider appear where the light struck home. It appeared momentarily stunned, but soon recovered and immediately began running in the direction of the town. Over the next several minutes they realized that similar streaks of light were occurring throughout the area. An invasion of El Zikrin was under way.
Realizing that they may be outmatched, the adventurers debated calling for assistance, but could not decide on who to contact. Keen suggested they contact Tak, the bard who had betrayed Levani in the catacombs of Dis. The party captured him and surrendered him to the city guard in Uman, but he had later been freed by the Trajte ur Flasch raid on the city. Whatever else he was, he was clearly connected to current events and may know something. Yuna pointed out that he was unlikely to voluntarily help them even if he could.
In the end, they decided to contact Stu, Herald of the Whisper King, whom they had last encountered in a dance contest in the Palace of Ice, Nobody had a sending spell prepared, however; Ara then realized that he could ask Aleh Xa Akiir, the ancestral spirit residing in his staff, to do it. When he summoned her, however, she berated him for not yet completing the task of reuniting the five Fists of the Akiir. They argued. Ara asked her if finding the five Fists would help them save the realm from Graz’zt’s plan. She said it would, but something in her tone made Ara, speaking to her for the first time since being granted a boon of great intelligence from Rillifane, suddenly wary. He realized that the spirit might not be always telling him the truth.
Eventually, Aleh Xa agreed to send a message to Stu asking him for help. The response came quickly: the Herald advised them to seek out another Court member, the Archivist of the Whisper King, a man by the name of Gulë Bluestone. Magnus recognized the name – Gulë used to work for the El Astrum Public Library, in the Acquisitions Department, before being dismissed. The rumor was he was selling artifacts meant for the Library. Ara then sent a message to Banu, the only other surviving member of the Library’s Arcani Extus, to see if he knew of Bluestone’s whereabouts. Banu could not remember precisely, but thought “Old Gravelteeth,” as he called him, might be in one of two places: El Qatra, a town six days north of the party, or El Zikrin.
While the party was hesitant to enter El Zikrin given the dangers, they realized that if Bluestone was there, they couldn’t afford to risk his safety long enough to detour to El Qatra. Their path set, they approached the outskirts of the town.
Modern El Zikrin was built upon the foundations of an ancient Elven city – one of the Pentopolis, the five great cities ruled over by Orinanthi the Deceiver and policed by the Five Fists of the Akiir, before they rebelled and brought their civilization to ruin. Little of the ancient structures remained saved for the immense wall that ringed the original settlement. Over the centuries the town had expanded beyond the wall and spread, haphazard, into the fields and farmland beyond. The party now crept quietly through these outskirts, avoiding the main gate and seeking another entrance. As they approached the base of the wall, a streak of green light flashed not fifteen feet away and a stunned soldier suddenly appeared. Ara, Magnus and Keen pounced and in seconds had dispatched the creature.
Leaving the body in the dust, Ara raced up the side of the wall to alight upon its top and threw down a rope to his companions. From their vantage point atop the wall they could see El Zikrin proper before them: four districts separated by the crossing of two large trade roads bordering a wide town square. Directly below them was the Haystacks, an agricultural district with an abundance of livestock trading, farm stands, carpenters, and crafts of all types. To the east was a quadrant devoted to trade, commerce, and enterprise. Keen well remembered his exploits in the Knife and Lantern Inn therein. To their north lay the winery whose vineyards had flanked their approach to the city for some miles; warehouses, barracks, offices, and a great manor house atop a small hill could be seen. Across the town square far to the northeast was the residential district. It was here where the bulk of the invasion seemed to be focused – smoke and flame licked the sky above the district, and the distant screams and songs of battle could be heard.
The party descended the ropes to the empty streets of the Haystacks and began to quietly move their way north, intending to trace a path east and then north around the town square, to make for the battle. Ara led the adventurers forward. They had only gone a few minutes before he realized that they had lost both Whisper and Sirlius, the former to shiny metal objects on display in a blacksmith’s forge and the latter to investigate an apothecary named Juus. The tiefling found the door disappointingly locked, and was just pondering how to get inside when he felt the heavy footfalls of a very large creature behind him.
He turned to see a… mount, of some sort, emerge from a long stables. It resembled in stature a huge war destrier, 6 feet at the shoulder, but its musculature was twisted and wrong. The creature stepped forward with too many joints in its legs, the light catching on patches of thick scales about its head and upon its flanks and haunches. A segmented, ball-spiked tail curled above it, but most alarming of all was its skull: long, wide, and flat, more like a crocodile than a horse. It voiced something between a growl and a hiss, and then its entire snout split into four, peeling open like a flower of flesh and teeth, and two long, thin tongues snaked out to taste the air directly in front of the terrified warlock.
Flask Usage Levels: 100%
Mysterious Ancestor Spirit Agenda Rating: Suddenly Suspicious
Sending composition time/word ratio: significant
RP Rating: Awesome!