Red Sand & Black Sun

Enemies in the Black

Sorin reeled from the effort of removing the curse from the judaga mask. It had been a difficult process with a powerful aftereffect, the mask had forced her to witness a psychic imprint left upon it by it’s former master, the act of defiling. The eladrin was now suffering from a vague sense of defiling withdraw and feels the urge to defile whenever she casts a spell. The party discusses the possibility of the judaga returning in the night to finish them, they believe the judaga could easily kill the party in the physical world. Therai gives the party a reason to believe he will not return when he tells them that during his psychic battle in Sorin’s mind he was able to instill a bit of his own fear within the gulgian warrior, the judaga responded very well to that fear and became quite scared of the situation and the party before fleeing. Therai thinks that the fear he felt will keep the warrior away for the time being. Tom states with some trepidation that the judaga can still find the party wherever they go since he was able to find them out in the middle of a dangerous desert. Sorin is able to calm his nerves about that as well; having felt the power of the mask in full she tells Tom that Lalali-Puy herself placed a special enchantment on the mask that allowed the judaga to find fey creatures over great distances, and Sorin herself is a fey creature. Now that he does not possess the mask and it’s enchantment he can no longer find the party so easily. Tired for the time, the party lays down to rest. In the night Kacha speaks to his ancestor through a psychic connection. The ancient keen asks his bodkin if he feels more ready to clutch with the group, since it will be needed for the fight against Bejein. He also reminds the ranger that with a kreen empress in cocoon, he is not just fighting for vengeance, but for the kreen races future. Kacha’ak says that he feels a deeper connection to the party but is not quite ready for the clutching. He also asks why the clutching is necessary for killing a demon. The ancient spirit tells Kacha’ak that Bejein plays off the weaknesses within a creatures mind, and Kacha’ak’s lack of clutch is a great weakness that the demon will exploit. When Kacha’ak asks if having a clutch will also be a weakness since he will have more people to care about then just himself, Kacha responds that the scenario Kacha’ak speaks of is possible, and that is why he needs strong clutch-mates like Sorin, Abraxas, Tom and Therai. Kacha seems satisfied that he has grown more fond of the party and lets the subject rest. In his sleep, Abraxas murmurs in a strange language and seems to be dreaming.

Later in the night, very near dawn, Tanark receives an important message from Tassa in Nibenay through the twins psychic connection. He wakes the group and tells them about what she said. Bejein has become more paranoid as of late because of the party and is in the process of preparing a ritual deep in his manors basement, a sacred space that no one but him is allowed to enter, and the reason Mezabran does not allow guards into his home. He is also soon to be wed to Tassa and keeps telling her that they will consummate their marriage in a far away place. When Tanark describes a few of the ritual components to Sorin she is able to tell that the ritual is of the teleportation variety and seems capable of crossing planes. With that knowledge the party thinks the demon is going to take Tassa to somewhere terrible. In Mezabran’s paranoia he has hired on a psychic guard to keep Tassa from communicating with Tanark, but while trying on wedding dresses Tassa managed to slip away and send the communication to Tanark. The wedding will be one week before the tournament in Nibenay beneath the gaze of the palace. Tanark states his intention to stop Bejein at all costs from taking his sister. The party begins to plan, maybe of crashing the wedding itself, but their sure to be many guards, or attacking Mezabran before the wedding. Then a possible idea presents itself; during the wedding Mezabran will bring the majority of his house and personal guard to keep the ceremony safe, leaving his house unguarded; the party can sneak in and down into his sacred space. When he returns to the house they will ambush him in a place where no reinforcements will be called. Not decided, the party sees the sun begin to rise and breaks camp. Just as they are making ready to leave the group sees one of the eyed black zombies who Sorin quickly blasts away with a magic missile. Tanark manages to cleanse the black stone inside the zombie. Tom comments that Sorin seems very worn from all the ritual casting of yesterday (he is noticing her surprise at casting a spell due to the feeling of desiring to defile. She seems off). The party leaves camp. After a while of traveling the group begins to see strange cactus plants. Kacha’ak determines that they are club-foot cactus but they have been warped by this place and have a few extra limbs. Sorin can sense that they have a minute amount of defiling done to them but seem to be combating the defiling, weakening it overtime. As the group heads through the cacti Kacha’ak and Brokenscale see off in the distance that limbless and eyed zombies have been placed in the limbs of the cactus, creating a seeing wall between the group and the way out over a far mound of dirt. The group discusses how to proceed since they do not wish to be seen and have the zombies call something terrible. They eventually decide to send Tom, Sorin, Kacha’ak, Tanark and Clem ahead to cut a silent swath through the wall and let the rest of the group come through the gap. On the way through Kacha’ak kills a zombie wearing a tabard, he notices that it is more fresh then the others so he takes the piece of ripped cloth and brings it to show the party. After two and a half hours of work the party has completed their goal and are now on the other side of the cactus and zombie wall without alerting any listening ears. The moment the party breaks through the wall they hear the mysterious bell ring in the distance three times once again. Not knowing what do to about that, Therai takes a moment to probe the simple mind of one of the fresher zombies and discovers latent memories about how that man died. He sees in it’s mind frozen forever the image of it’s killers, four armed zombies wielding scimitars. It sends a shiver up the parties collective spine.
Kacha’ak takes a moment to show the tabard to the party who thinks upon it. Abraxas and Tom know that the tabard belongs to the sundry footpads mercenary guild, a group of cutthroats and robbers, and that group would have no reason to be in this ruined city unless they had heard tale of riches to be found. Abraxas convinces the group to check a few of the other tabard wearing zombies in the area just to make sure their isn’t some kind of treasure map left on their persons. Sorin agrees and heads forward to do just that. Her first missile misses the head but a quick second finishes the job before it has time to speak. She finds no map, but instead something far more disturbing, a giant piece of a tooth is broken off in the zombies chest. The tooth is black and defiled, and seems to be made of hundreds of smaller teeth. While Sorin is off checking the body, Tom turns to Clem, Maul and Irastus and asks if they are going to do anything about Sorin being disturbed from the fight last night with the judaga (Tom believes the aftereffects of the mask are the work of the battle). Irastus responds that Sorin is capable and he is no psychic. After cleansing the defiling, Sorin shows the tooth to the rest of the group and they are able to determine that it belongs to the largest silt-shark they have ever heard of. As the party is discussing the possibility of a shark that big Clem tells the party that they are being followed and points to a rolling cloud of dust far behind the party in the cityscape. Kacha’ak is not so sure that it is a caravan after all and climbs up onto a rock and, using the spyglass he sees that it is indeed a megalodon-sized shark heading towards the party. The party begins to run away towards the mound in the distance that seems to be the edge of this territory when something suprising happens. The shark seems to go underground for a moment, or drives towards the ground then turns about and heads back the way it came, leaving the party. Theories abound but the party is more interested in getting far away from this place then figuring out why they are not shark-chow.

The party makes it to the mounded dirt which serves as the border of the ancient city and runs along a ley-line which Sorin knows could be useful for casting powerful magics to those who are attuned to it. Beyond the mound is the endless stretches of black sand for which this place is named. As the party crosses back into the desert they notice that the relative moisture in the air vanishes suddenly and is replaced by a bitter dry wind. The eladrin swordmage can feel a particular energy on the horizon and knows the the party is approaching defiled land near the core of the black sands. They rest for a night a reasonable distance away from the cities ancient border and during their camp they discuss their options. They can go around the defiled land and risk running into monsters, or head directly through the defiled land and meet no other living thing but face the terrible consequences of the defiling; finally they could try to straddle the line between the two, running towards defiled land when attacked and away from it when they are safe. They choose the middle rout even though it is difficult. The group continue on the following morning after preparing themselves to resist possible defiled lands through magical augment of their own natural stamina. During their two day journey they see dune reapers, a beast giant and his slaves, a cathrang and a tribe of nomadic elves who hold crooks but have no heard to be seen. When the party sees the huge hive of dune reapers in the distance and begin to make haste upon their inixes, Brokenscale’s foot-stirrup snaps and he topples off his inix and hits his head hard on a rock, cutting open a gash from which blood spills. He claims to be alright and shakes off offers of help, but Sorin insists, calling the powerful warrior a “young-ling”, begrudgingly the dray agrees to accept Therai’s healing. The party is suspicious of the snapped strap and wonders at the battles and hardship they have endured, or perhaps it is a more sinister trap- sabotage.

On the night of the second day beyond the cities ancient border the party stops in a rocky area to camp and sets up tents and a fire. In the middle of the night Sorin tries on the judaga’s mask after thinking upon the terrible possibilities that very act could bring. Kacha’ak is next to her, poised to strike her down if some corrupting effect should occur. At first the object tests her magical power, and when it finds the eladrin worthy, it settles to hovering in front of her head. It shrinks slightly for her smaller frame, and etchings of vines and leaves form upon it’s once barren surface. Sorin found that the mask not only increased her magical powers but also allowed her to see in the blackest night. The mask was built to cause a uncontrollable psychic horror in the wearer’s enemies and it still possessed the ability to do just that. After admiring the masks power, Sorin and Kacha’ak set to the duty of watch. Near morning, their mostly silent watch was broken by the sound of loud gusting winds sweeping towards them on the sands. A pair of dune golems rode the winds towards the party and, after being seen, burrowed down then rose up to attack with powerful arms and grasping sand. Brokenscale and Tanark took the brunt of their first attacks, while the parties own weapons seemed to do little against their shifting bodies. The battle was only second in when the party realized the golems were not alone, ugly undead men with husk-like forms and sunken eyes screamed out from the shadows and grasped outlying fighters with iron-grips. These creatures were thrax, water vampires who with a touch sucked the moisture out of whatever they desired, and this moment they desired the water in the parties flesh and water-skins. It was a confusing and frantic few moments of fierce battle and Tom had been grabbed by the white hands of a thrax, who whispered apologies to the half-elf, “but I am just so thirsty!” the undead said as he began to drain the water from Tom’s flesh. He pulled up Tom’s head as they fought and the Thrax saw into Tom’s face. The reaction was instant and intense, the Thrax threw back his head and roared a feral beast roar then tried to rip Tom limb from limb rather then steal his water. The roar was echoed in all the rest of the thrax and one even yelled “the enemy!” and the now feral undead converged on Tom as the half-elf used every ounce of agility he possessed to slip from their grasp and hide in the midnight. Drokan was nearly crushed mid-fight and lay unconscious on the ground for the remainder of the struggle. The party struck hard against the thrax and finally felled the final one, as the fifth thrax died the dune golems collapsed into useless dust. The party found a five-part symbol on each thrax’s back that formed a rune that allowed them to control the golems. In the battle’s aftermath, the party wondered over the thrax’s sudden hate for Tom but could find no answers. With the sun rising in the sky the party broke camp and decided to ride onward towards the Stormclaw mountains.

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