After being tasked by the archangel Naphrem to prevent the oncoming apocalypse, the group of reluctant heroes decided to make haste back to Desheb to resupply and hopefully recruit allies. They had only a week before the next date listed in the mysterious Codex of Duri. Musushi thoughtfully prepared a breakfast for his companions—however none dared try it, skeptical of what ingredients he could have scavenged from the corpse-strewn city. It was during the ensuing bickering that Sir Thomas wandered away from his fellow adventurers.
Layla spotted Sir Thomas as he clutched his throat and collapsed, but could not identify his ailment. Luckily, Musushi recognized the rare Postofficius fungus growing where Sir Thomas had fallen. Inhalation of the spores sometimes lead to a condition colloquially referred to as “Going Postal.” Thankfully it was not a fatal illness, and Musushi knew that most people recovered in approximately 8 to 9 hours. Sometimes longer, if it was near a holiday.
The party fashioned a stretcher for Sir Thomas, and headed out. Not long after, they observed a band of looters digging through the rubble, with four horses tied to a post and tantalizingly unattended. Thanks to a few clever spells from Elythia and Musushi, the adventurers were able to make away with the horses before the looters knew what was happening.
Despite living underground for the majority of his life, Musushi proved to have a strong sense of the cardinal directions, and was able to lead the party out of the ruins of Memphun. The hot sun and arid climate took its toll on the party.
Pillars of smoke were visible as they approached Desheb. Bloody, armed corpses littered the outskirts of the small village, and sounds of battle carried from further in. The adventurers recognized some of the deceased as members of the Ivory Clan. They decided to look for Kayras at the Stuffshack first, to gather more information about the situation before engaging. That plan didn’t work out too well, however, because they almost immediately stumbled across Greiz facing off with a man in a dark grey cloak.
Although his weapon was coated with blood and had obviously been used to deliver grievous wounds, the ex-adventurer was looking worse for wear. His opponent appeared unharmed, and even had an air of enjoyment. The adventurers called out inquiries and demands to cease the violence, which went largely ignored. While Rooke ascended to the roof of a nearby building for a better vantage point, Layla stepped forward and used her sun shield to temporarily blind both combatants. This seemed to have a greater impact on Greiz, who started slashing wildly at invisible enemies. Greiz would only answer “kill him!” when asked again what the holy hell was going on. Since their attempts to end the conflict peacefully had failed, the party decided to take Greiz’ advice.
With the prowess and agility of a masked vigilante with a penchant for hoods, Rooke jumped from the roof of the building, broke his fall with a roll, and popped up to fire two arrows at his foe. The first entered the cloaked man’s temple with such force that the point emerged on the opposite side. The second lodged itself in the man’s chest.
Once his opponent was dead and he was no longer fighting for his life, Greiz was more forthcoming with information. The man they had defeated was known as Black Marten, head of a group of mercenaries that resented the Ivory Clan’s power. Some in the group were unsure whether they had just put down a vicious usurper, or a civil rights leader.
After another bout of bickering, the adventurers decided to report their findings to Muini. If she was suspicious of their return sans shipment and sans Ivory Clan companions, well, they could fight their way out if necessary.
Muini was indeed displeased with their news, but chose to believe that they truly had not found the shipment and were not keeping it for themselves—because they would have been idiots to return if that were the case. Nonetheless, the decorated woman paid them each 100 gold for their efforts. The group pried for more information regarding the mysterious shipment, but learned only that it was meant to go to Lady Seema Idhan on the Salt Coast. After the destruction of Memphun, Lady Idhan was likely next in line to rule Raduun.
While uninterested or unable to provide the group with resources for their quest to find the Heart Stone and prevent the decimation of all life, Muini did procure a flask and a request for orc blood. It adds a nice spice to wine, apparently.
The party decided to look again for Kayras, hoping her affinity for Sir Thomas would convince her to accompany them north, into the orc-inhabited Salt Flats. Kayras was found in the Stuffshack, wrapping her impressive wounds from the town skirmish. She was happy to see them, particularly Sir Thomas. His state of limited consciousness did not dampen her mood. “The last thing he said before passing out was your name,” Rooke lied.
So invigorated by her recent battle, Kayras volunteered to accompany the party before they could even ask. Although her hands were too damaged to use her favored greatclub, she had taken a liking to a simple sword. It leaves a hand open for rude gestures, you see.
Kayras told them what she knew of the orc tribes in the Salt Flats. They were always warring one another, for territory, status, or perhaps just out of boredom. Kayras believed an orc named Drekha to be the dominant leader of the territory they would pass through. She was also familiar with their destination, the Ilecin Delve, although she referred to it as “The Great Maw.” Orc culture considered this to be the mouth of the world, and they had a practice of throwing sacrifices into the pit to feed it.
The adventurers devised a plan. They would bring a supply of weapons with them as an offering to Drekha, in exchange for safe passage to the Ilecin Delve. Failing that, they figured they might as well allow themselves to be captured and thrown in. The end destination was the same, anyway.
They filled a few sacs with weapons collected from the dead mercenaries and Ivory Clan members, and spent the night at the Ambersand before heading north. Sir Thomas still had not regained consciousness, but the party remained hopefully that he would recover at an opportune moment, and thus loaded his prone form onto a horse for an almost-certainly-perilous journey.
It wasn’t long before they encountered a group of orcs. “We have brought a supply of weapons for Drekha!” the adventurers announced immediately. Unfortunately, these guys weren’t fans of Drekha, and were very interested in acquiring new weapons for themselves and some guy named Oosgash. It appeared Drekha wasn’t the dominant orc in these parts afterall. While the more diplomatic members of the party attempted to bargain, Kayras stepped forward and greeted the orc leader with a head-butt.
Then it was on.
Two of the four orcs were dispatched in short order, leaving one standing and one gravely wounded. Rooke honorably offered the last standing orc the chance to surrender, but the concept seemed foreign to the heavily scarred brute. Layla wanted to heal the injured orc in exchange for safe passage, but he did not speak Common and Kayras informed them he would only attack again once healed. So they left him a crowbar to fend off the descending vultures, and continued on their quest. Before leaving though, Musushi collected some of the wounded orc’s blood in Muini’s flask. The bond between gourmands surpasses social niceties.
The adventurers tried their ploy again with next group of orcs they encountered (“We have brought a supply of weapons for your leader!”). The results were basically the same. Elythia surprised them all with a spell that completely removed an orc’s head. It didn’t decapitate him—no, his head just disappeared, leaving the nerveless body standing a short second before slumping to the ground.
Finally, the group looked down upon the valley surrounding the Ilecin Delve. More than a hundred orcs were gathered around the great pit, singing with deep, ululating voices and carrying their weapons unsheathed. Several metal structures had been erected around the pit, but the adventurers could not discern their purpose. Rather than confront a legitimate horde of orcs, the group decided to wait until nightfall and sneak into the Delve.
They hid when a patrol approached…unfortunately they didn’t manage to finish dragging the unconscious Sir Thomas into concealment, and his protruding leg alerted the patrol to their presence. Another battle ensued, and more orc blood was spilled onto the salty sediment.
After the sun set, Musushi artfully defiled the orc corpses by propping them up to appear standing and alive. Elythia cast a spell to illuminate the dead patrol from behind, and projected an illusion of human voices to lure the orc horde away from the Delve. Once their attention was drawn to the pretend intruders, the adventurers made a mad dash towards the pit.
The ruse didn’t work for long. The orc horde spotted the party racing across the valley, and immediately attacked. Layla and Musushi lost their horses to spears, and themselves took several arrows. All in the group managed to reach the Delve and descend by rope, save Musushi, who for some inexplicable reason decided to jump.
Musushi managed to cast an entangle spell to break his fall. Coupled with the soft, spongey fungus that coved the floor of the pit, he just managed to survive.
Moments after Rooke and the rest of the group reached the floor of the Delve, the Codex of Duri began to vibrate. Rooke flipped open the book, and they watched in fascination as another cryptic messaged appeared on the second page.