Thanks for the notes, Freddy!
The party awoke from a sleepless (and presumably Memphun-less) night to a town on edge. The massive explosion over the horizon had not gone unnoticed. Seeking answers from their only friendly contact there, the innkeeper Greiz, the group became privy to the talk of the town: a shipment of the Ivory Clan was expected from the city and search parties were being dispatched to retrieve it. After bellowing a few questions about the coming apocalypse (to which Greiz merely shrugged), they left the Ambersand with just enough purpose to not flee the land.
The party took this opportunity to resupply and inquire about the goings on of Desheb, namely the details of these search parties, naming them competition. Visiting such esteemed shops as the Stuff Shack, they accomplished these two goals. They had water, sand masks, chain mail (one of which was painstakingly selected to match Elythia’s fine color requirements), grenades of acid and fire for Rooke and Musushi, and Thomas left with the flirtatious favor of the half orc shopkeeper, Kayras. However, when questioning everyone they came across, the group came up short in the way of apocalypse news (much to Musushi’s frustration). It was noted that the wererat’s sword was of elvish make, though its creators had passed through far too long ago to remember anything of note. Also, the armorer noted that the Sun had been dimming of late (whatever that meant).
Most importantly, the group came across two other groups. One was dispatched from the Ivory Clan itself to safeguard their cargo, led by the warrior Ahabef. The other, a dusty band of loot-seeking mercenaries led by a brute named Uzigal. With a streak of megalomania, he had apparently named it Uzigal’s Company. Finding more kinship (and fewer fleas) with the expedition of the their former employers, the party agreed to set out with them in a few hours time. The favor and resources of the dominant merchant clan would be most welcome in seeking any answers.
They were suddenly blessed with the hope of news. A rider, now blinded by what he saw, had witnessed the destruction of Memphun! The group rushed to his side and Layla healed him of his miscellaneous burns. With eager ears, they begged him to tell them what he knew. They were disappointed. Beyond confirming the destruction of Memphun, the man was a yokel, screaming and gesticulating vaguely of unnamed gods who were totally pissed with us because reasons, man. The gang bade him half-hearted well wishes and made for the desert with Ahabef.
The road to Memphun was (expectedly) incredibly sandy. The sand masks came in handy when faced with a sandstorm on the second day of traveling. In addition to choking several of the party with dust, the sandstorm also revealed a hidden cave. With a desperation for clues leading to rashness, the party descended into the cave. And were immediately attacked by scorpions.
The battle with the scorpions when comically poorly. Though victorious, Thomas had a brush with death before being saved by the healer Layla. Ahabef’s twin brother Befaha, was not so lucky. In fact, he was quite unlucky. Dead. He was dead. He died. Furthermore, scanning the cave revealed nothing worth taking for their troubles and the destruction of the scorpion family. All things considered, Ahabef took it pretty well (he did not attack the party).
Disheartened but hopeful, they pressed on. When they arrived at Memphun, the battle in the cave seemed a mercy. It was a city of death. Once great towers and humble shops lay shattered on the wide boulevards. Fires yet burned after days ablaze. And the corpses. Rotting, bloody things; burst apart on rock and clay as though flung by demons. A yellow dust lay upon them, mercifully obscuring faces frozen in shock and agony, true; but also completing the theft of their humanity. And there was yet more dust in the air. It could take months to come down.
It was a grim sight. Some of the party were stunned to silence and disgust. What could they possibly hope to find here? Eventually, Ahabef took charge. He’d remembered the task he owed his guild. He bade the party to press on to find the expected Ivory clan shipment.
What they found was wholly unexpected. Figures who yet lived rummaged through the corpses. Hoping to question survivors, the party cautiously approached… to find Uzigal and his unwashed band of raiders. The two groups bantered, attempting to find out about each other’s motives. Finding no competition, our heroes attempted to hastily retreat before any was discovered. They were, unfortunately, too slow. As Ahabef came into view, bearing the mark of the Ivory Clan, Uzigal became triggered and old, untold feuds roused his crew to violence. A fight broke out and could not be forestalled by intimidation or diplomacy.
As luck would have it, the fight was also short lived; if the blinded horseman could be believed, by divine intervention. A shadow passed over the group. Looking up, they saw that it was a rock of immense size descend menacingly upon the city. So massive and so far it was that it appeared to take forever to impact. But when it did, miles away, the shockwave was enough to toss those left standing asunder. Debris soon crashed down among the warriors, killing the lucky ones outright. All ran, crawled, and dove to cover, but by the end, only the adventurers were left alive.
Awed by the sight of a smaller version of what must have killed Memphun, the team abandoned their quest for the shipment and made for the impact crater, looking for clues as to the meteor’s origin. Memphun once again proved to be the ruined city of surprises. Halfway to the crater, they were attacked, not by the living, but by the dead. Or undead. A trio of skeletons, reanimated to be mindless killers, stalked toward the party. Initial resistance was (shall we say) error-prone, but Layla came to the rescue. As a cleric of Pelor, she raised her hands and unleashed holy fury. With a word, the skeletons burst apart, clearing the way forward. Puzzled, the group hid behind Layla and proceeded forward.
Before long, the group found their clue to the meteor’s origin. Or rather, an obvious sign hit them in the face. Out from behind the remains of a building, they witnessed a high speed chase. A man had survived! On a cart pulled by a horse! The… thing… chasing them could only be described as a blue mist with a hint of the demonic. The man valiantly fled, but the mist was too fast. It caught the cart. It killed the horse. It flung the man into the dirt. And revealed itself for what it really was.
In the blink of an eye, the mist was transformed. In its place stood a hulking behemoth. Demonic and foul in nature, it let loose descriptive threats and arcane wordspells, identifying itself as Hol Beloth, the Gravewalker of the Nine. And it had a bone to pick with the now prone rider, who was armed only with a spellbook. It was pretty clear who the party should help and Hol Beloth knew it too. Thus, he unleashed a score of skeletons to keep them at bay.
Luckily, the party hid behind Layla. She once again raised her hands and the skeletons burst apart. Musushi followed up with an Entangle spell, binding Hol Beloth to the dust on which he stood. The rest of the party attacked the demon, which interrupted his chanting and earned them his ire. With a swipe of his hand, the broken skeletons reformed and stood and stalked forward once again!
Two can play at that game. Layla raised her hands a third time that day and burst the skeletons apart once more. The rest of the party moved to finish off the surviving skeletons. During the battle, the former rider had not been idle. He too, was chanting. But at this time, Hol Beloth could address the man unmolested. The magic was quick. A celestial portal opened beneath the man and pulled him in. Halfway. It snapped shut with a sickening crunch and the man left this world amid cries of agony. The group watched in horror as the light left the man’s eyes. That horror was amplified as they received the full attention of Hol Beloth. He raised his hand to once again raise the dead. The party looked to Layla, but she could only stare back. Her spells were spent for the day. It was clear: The group raised their weapons; their only defense against the wall of bone that promised to overwhelm them.
A flash of light drew all attention. The world appeared to peel back and admit a single entity. It was an entity of contradiction. A peaceful visage of a normal man with unbridled power behind eyes as calm as a pond in Spring. He was at once as weak as any mortal man and as tall and radiant as the Sun itself. The few words he whispered boomed across the dust. Hurling insults, Hol Beloth was dragged back to the void from whence he came.
For the first time that day, all was quiet. Even the wind seemed to rest in deference. Finally, the man spoke. He was Nephrem, angel of Pelor, and made the mistake of offering to answer questions. Bombarded by a torrent of the party’s pent up confusion, he revealed that he had come as an agent in a war between gods. One side, the side of Hol Beloth, sought to erase the world. The side of Nephrem and Pelor, his lord, sought to preserve it. The leader of the enemy was a god once imprisoned, known to the Mortal realm as Cyric. Rooke noticeably reeled at the mention of this name, but would say no more.
Nephrem denied offers to rally kingdoms to the cause, but assigned the adventurers one mission. Find the Heart Stone in the Ilecin Delve to survive the apocalypse and hopefully tip the balance. He bestowed gifts to the party, each playing to the strengths of the receiver. A circlet to thwart arrows aimed for Elythia. A ring to shield Rooke from mind readers and a fire axe to hit them with. Layla received a shield with the radiance and blinding power of the Sun. Thomas received boots of speed, to cover great distances or attack twice as fast. Musushi received a cloak to aid in hiding in the dark.
But most importantly, he bade Rooke take the tome that summoned him. The Codex of Duri. Blank, but for a single, prophetic page. With that, the veil between worlds regained its strength and Nephrem returned to his realm, leaving them alone to face the coming night.
Eager for supplies and other aid, the party elected to return to Desheb before heading to the Delve. Though they did so weary of their Ivory Clan patrons, who may find it suspicious that they return without their own agents. Relieved, then troubled by this new information, the party set out once more to an uncertain future.