The Travelers of Terra

Chapter 6

Alliances

The Travelers, along with their Terran compatriots, approached the great doors of Farfang Keep after making short work of its inhospitable entrance guards, one of which, seemed to have gotten away. The severe, ancient stone walls loomed high above, dimly lit by a starry blanket of twilight. The wind whistled through the surrounding trees, and occasionally shook loose a rotting shingle or piece of crumbling rampart.

Inside, even more dangerous perils awaited them. Yolanda bravely heaved against the massive entry door, and it swung open with a splintering creak. As they expected, an ambush complete with heavy artillery greeted the Travelers in the main entrance hall of the keep. Astride the far end of a grand, oaken banquet table, hovered two gleaming spheres that pulsed with an electric crackle, and through the eyes of a perceptive warlock, shone with a powerful arcane brilliance. The party soon learned the might of these arcane ballistae, as they fire off fierce blasts of lightning that gave the air a smoldering, metallic smell. Some dodged out of the way of the relentless bolts, some, like Dassarius, took higher ground atop the oak table, leaping up and kicking cobwebbed place settings out of his way. Others were not so lucky. Another pair of Shadar-kai, joined by yet another pair of shadow hounds, flanked the warriors, applying pressure from every direction. One Shadar-kai danced about the hall with an unerring grace, swinging a vicious looking barbed chain as if it were an extension of her arms. The chain came down upon many unfortunate enough to misjudge its path, rending their skin and painfully tearing into flesh. After a fearsome battle, the enemies were vanquished, carnage indoors to match the gruesome sight in the courtyard.

The party, after catching their breath and recovering their strength, moved on to explore down the dark corridors that led out from the main hall. To their shock, they found shambling husks of what used to be potters, cooks, farmers, fathers, mothers. The stench of death and decaying viscera filled these chambers, which appeared to be soldiers’ or servants’ quarters. The party put them to rest with eldritch blast and blade, setting the vile forces free from within their fleshy prisons.

To the west of the main hall, was what seemed to once be a lush garden terrace. Trees and other topiary lined a shallow pool, dotted with lily pads and wild blossoms. The serenity of this spaces design lay in dissonant contrast to the grizzly spectacle on the other end of the still water of the pond. A ferocious beast, which carried the vague personage of a black pit bull, stood guarding a pile of corpses. One body, carelessly piled over another, like hunks of meat. Flies swarmed, the beast snapped its jaws, and from beneath the bodies flew a trio of ghastly apparitions, that let go a chilling scream that sent the party reeling backwards and twisted their minds, wringing the composure out of them like blood from a soaked bandage. The dog, with an acrid exhalation, breathed life into one of the rotting corpses, and it slowly came to life to help defend its new master. Arjhan, wielding his divine influence like a battering ram kept the undead foes at bay, while Dassarius and Quolema rained pain down from afar, and Yolanda and Asura closed in on the hell hound. This battle too was won, but not without a price. The group was badly wounded, and their hearts shaken with the fear of what horrors might still lurk upstairs.

They cleaned their blades and cleared their minds before forging ahead, up the ornate marble staircase that led up to the higher reaches of the keep from the rear of the main entry hall. What lifted their spirits and kept one foot moving in front of the other was the hope of home, comfort, and answers to the mystery of who Kelmar was, and how many of her arcane secrets these walls protected.

Fighting and exploring up through the keep, the party arrived at a landing which seemed to function as a waiting area. A grandiosely decorated door filled the eastern wall of this room. The door, after careful search, was found to be thoroughly locked, and bore an elaborate vine-trellis inspired motif wrought in fine silver. The top-most chamber contained a square altar with a round cut out in the center. Guarding this room were two more Shadar-kai, an Orc bloodrager who glared with bloodshot eyes, and a pair of Shadar-kai witches, who appeared to be examining the table, as if trying to discover secrets held within.

After valiantly felling the leader of these unwelcome guests, and just when they thought they were safe at last, a shadar-kai ambushes Yolanda, and reaches around her neck with a boney arm and a foul looking blade. Immediately after, a shtuck sound reverberated from the walls of this small chamber, the sound of the back of the shadar-kai’s skull being split open. Eyes rolled to the back of his head, mouth gaping, while a splash of dark crimson dotted that floor.

The shadar-kai fell with a lifeless thud, a greataxe still wedged deeply in the back of its skull, revealing a massive figure standing behind it. “Mine” and bending over to reclaim his axe, “I am Keothi, Thaneborn son of Rumal.” In response to many quizzical looks, some from those who have never seen such a person, “I am from a nomadic tribe who have lived along the western coast of the Dundran Mountains for many generations. Our shamans sensed a grave disturbance recently, emanating from the springs that originate deep within the Dundran and empty into the sea. I was sent to investigate the possible cause of this distubance, and the trail of blood led myself and my companion here. I travel with Aukan, my faithful retainer and friend. He is searching the lower floor for any information about our cherished White Lotus.”

After some greetings and mild pleasantries, the Travelers briefly describe the purpose of their quest and share with Keothi the location of the White Lotus and why it was critical to use the Lotus to revive Dr. Cain and recover important information pertinent to the safety of Terra. After discovering a circular inset in the top of the marble table, they place the Mithril bracelet into the groove.

The Mithril bracelet clicks into place, slowly levitates, spins, and projects an image of the three original Travelers. Kelmar appears exuberant and adjusts the “lens”, Marin smirks, shaking his head, and Rideon looks stoic. She backs into position and in a bubbly voice, “Greetings! If you are seeing this, I must welcome you to Farfang Keep and the headquarters of our Plane Gate Project! (Introduces herself and others) It isn’t much, but I hope you enjoy your stay. Heehee, I assume you found my Linking Loop (eyes roll behind her) in your world, and now you get to go on a tour of ours! To get back to your world once you’ve had your fill of all Terra has to offer, simply bring your Linking Loop to any one of our three world gates, (Rideon, “If they’re still standing” she elbows him) and woosh! off you go, back home! Enjoy!” She turns back to the others “was that good how did i sound?” With a wave, she shuts of the recorder. The view crackles and distorts and blinks out. Shortly after, the picture comes back into view. As Kelmar sets up the “camera”, Marin looking around, “There doesn’t seem to be any intelligent life here.” Rideon strokes his chin, “I’m beginning to doubt the fruitfulness of this venture.” Kelmar, jumping back in front of view, “Don’t be silly…(now waving happily at the camera) maybe one day there will be people here, and when they find this Linking Loop, I’m sure they’ll want to know where it came from! Maybe we’ll have better luck with the next world…” The three march into the temple on earth, cast three runes outside the entrance, and scene blinks out as the door closes behind them. Other scenes randomly blink in and out that depict the flow of time and evolution on earth, through prehistory, then an ice age, then cavemen, then a medieval scene, then various members of Dr. Cain’s ex’s lineage, and finally a scene where Dr. Cain is seen trying to convince her not to go, bags of archaeology/camping equipment packed and ready scatter the ground. Fade to black.

Then a holographic globe suddenly appears labeling the locations of the three World Gates, Gridan City, Arnvald Castle and Valdarian City.

Among the broken remains of this room’s former inhabitants, a silver key was found among the belongings of the Orc, which was decorated with light silver filigree. Quickly connecting the silver design on the key to the silver vine motif on the door below, the party proceeded to unlock the door and burst into the room. This time, they were met by the usual suspects of poltergeists and shadar-kai, but they were joined by three shambling undead who seemed to chill the air around them. This room was a master bedroom, with furniture and finely woven linens lining the four-post bed. Lush, velvet sheets and pillows beckoned all to a good night’s sleep, or at least a short rest. On the wall above the bed hung a grand oil painted portrait of the Three Travelers in a luxurious looking frame. Those with keen eyes and careful attention to detail noticed that the bracelet being worn by Kelmar in the portrait was a brilliant gold, and not the silvery mithril that they carried. This led them to conclude that Kelmar’s bracelet and the loop they carried were not one and the same, and that perhaps Kelmar’s bracelet was still hidden somewhere in the lands of Terra.

After rejoining with his retainer, Aukan, Keothi and the others marched back to Gridan City, to report their findings to Mayor Eldin and have a guarded emissary return the White Lotus to the people of Keothi’s tribe.

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