The Brazen Peaks
The 28th day of Arodus, 4713 AR – just before dawn
A bit of time is spent recovering after the battle with the Bone Merchant assassins. During this time Akorian and Kymrych interrogate the lone surviving captive of the group, one Necabias the Visionary. This Garundi male is a skilled evoker, or so he claims. Thusly you know to keep him firmly bound and gagged. Interestingly enough, the mage seems eager to cooperate; he knows you have little reason to let him live, so he believes it is in his best interests to offer you anything he can to remain breathing.
With this in mind he is only too happy to relate the fact that he and his band were hired by one Yanam Prim, with the sole purpose of slaying your group to a man. He also claims to know where she can be found in Sothis, the gilded imperial capital of Orision. Akorian files all this information away for now, and makes sure that the wizard’s bonds are tight. Then the group packs up and prepares to move on. The chance of another attack is just too great, you decide. And so you move on, still heading south. You have been on the trail for perhaps an hour before you realize that both of the surviving slaves have slipped away. Perhaps it was fear of another attack that drove them hither, you decide. The more pious of you offer up prayers to the gods that they find only peace and plenty in the days ahead.
The day’s journey is difficult, but necessary. The sun beats down, sapping your strength. But onward you march, with each step taking you just a little farther away from the dangers behind you. It is Halitah who holds the captive’s leash when the escape attempt occurs. And when it happens, it happens quickly, and with an explosion of confusion and mischief.
Halitah rides beside Necabias, who is also mounted, and with his hands tied to his saddle horn. He is also gagged. She sees a blur of sudden movement, and turns to see a small, leathery and winged demon-like creature land upon the shoulder of her captive. The creature’s eyes flare at her with vivid hate. Then a tiny claw strips away the gag, allowing Necabias to utter the words to some arcane charm. She reaches for her blade, and screams an alarm. Then, there is a rush of warm air, and sudden flash of light – and Necabias and the tiny demon are gone, leaving his mount behind.
You search the surrounding hills for the wizard, of course. But there is no sign of him. Erumaren was close enough to both see and hear the mage cast the spell, and suspects it was a very powerful teleportation charm. If so, it is entirely possible the mage is many hundreds of miles from this place. This, you know, means there is little you can do about him at the moment. It is nearing high noon when you decide to stop; a low ravine to the west offers you a safe camp site, just out of sight of the trail south. Thusly you stop, camp and light a fire. Night falls quickly in the deep desert, and soon you slip into a restful silence as the moon rises, and prowling hyenas are heard on the distant wind.
Guards are posted, and the night passes quietly enough. As dawn creeps slowly across the surrounding mountains, Sanaya rises from her blankets and nods to Igmar, who had the last watch of the night. She drinks from a waterskin, reveling in the abundance of fresh, clean water provided by the priest of Sarenrae. Then she spies Kymrych standing at the edge of camp, staring off into the distance.
She caps the skin, and slings it across her shoulder. Then she strides over to him, and nods a friendly greeting. “Here, Kymrych. Drink. You look parched, and one should never turn aside an offer of water in the desert.”
Kymrych does not answer. Instead he continues to stare up into the hills to the east. Towards a strange rock formation that Sanaya had not noticed earlier. To her eyes it was long, and so oddly formed that it reminded her of a rough outline of a prancing stallion. She turns to him once more, and reaches out to gently touch his right shoulder.
He steps off then, ignoring her. She calls out to Igmar, who in turn alerts everyone else. Sanaya follows after Kymrych, moving quickly. She is forced to dash along to match his long strides. Behind her the rest of you rise quickly, and ready yourselves for trouble. Athera, Halitah and Whisper are left behind to guard your camp. Omari is the first to catch up to Sanaya, and whispers a query to her. She explains what has happened so far; the rest of you hear this, and follow along as quickly and quietly as you are able.
Kymrych seems not to notice a bit of it. Soon he crests the top of the nearest rise, and pauses. The rest of you join him, and stand as one, looking below:
From the desert wastes springs a seemingly impossible paradise, a miniature jungle of lush leaves, flowering fruits, and rustling brush surrounding a pool of crystalline water. A rise of ancient rock lifts what looks like the remains of a gleaming marble temple above this verdant sanctuary – the remains of a small brass dome glint amid the cool shadows cast by the gently swaying palms.
“What is this place?” Talathel asks.
“I know it wasn’t here last night,” Erumaren replies. “Halitah and I scouted this area just before dark, and saw nothing here at the time.”
“Could it be an illusion?” Akorian asks. “For all we know—”
“It is no illusion.” Kymrych seems to shake himself, as if awaking from a long dream. “A vision came to me just now,” he says, looking perplexed. “It was an old friend of mine, a woman named Nadine. She told me that the oasis below is tainted with dark evil, and that my father was involved somehow. And that the Fates had decreed that I should be the one to deal with this evil – if that was my choice.”
“So…. What do we do? Are you to go on alone?” Igmar asks.
“No,” Kymrych replies. You cannot help but notice the tears running down his cheers before he wipes them away. “She specifically said I must bring you with me. If we go, that is. For the challenges below are more than any one man can possibly face.”