Heat. That’s the first thing that hits me as we adjust from our sudden passage through the rift. The Hunger is no longer chasing us, but it takes a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the new surroundings. It is extremely bright, and quickly it becomes apparent we are exposed. I look around, noting what looks like a dry lake bed – but it seems to never end. A flat expanse of desolation leading in all directions as far as the eye can see. The others are adjusting and looking around too, still adapting from the shock of emerging from the chaotic rifts to the blazing heat. Based on the size of this lake bed I know there are only two places we can be. Either The First Rains or Domora’s Pool, also called the Pool of Dryzad.
Distracted by my reasoning, it is Lucius who points it out first – a small bump on the horizon to the northwest. I study intently, trying to cut through the haze of the heat on the horizon and catch it too, though I should have caught it first. The Inquisitor is good at tracking his foes, but I am no doubt better – I cannot be distracted from my observations in the future. I decide to take a better look and cast a spell that lets me see from the vantage point of an eagle. The new angle cuts out the haze, and I can see a city. So it is Domora – or what’s left of it – and it is about a four hour walk away.
It is then I realize I am starting to sweat – profusely. We will not survive a four hour walk in this heat if only after a few minutes of idle observation we are starting to feel its’ effects. The devil-worshiper is immune of course, as is the tiefling. How odd that they have something in common… Nevertheless, I have to seek Aldrick’s assistance, and he casts a spell on myself and the holy halfling which will allow us to handle the heat for the next day. Beltran uses a wand to cast a similar spell on himself. Once ready, we set off for Domora.
As we travel we pass into an extremely cold air mass – a sudden drop of around 80 degrees with a biting wind – but after a very short time we come back into the heat. We cross through several of these “rivers” of cold air, moving like currents of water – only in the Worldwound. Off to the east we notice a low dark cloud, ignoring it at first we soon realize it is closing on us rapidly, and will intercept us at about the third hour, though we still don’t know what it is. As we keep moving I feel a subtle change in the wind – it is an approaching sandstorm. We hasten the pace but know we won’t outrun it. As the storm closes I get a tingling sensation, and starts to feel an electric charge on the air, noticing static in the storm along with an intermittent yellow light. Relaying this information to my companions, I suggest we hunker down as the storm is nearly upon us.
Aldrick tells us to get close as he begins chanting, then creates a stone hut for us to shelter in with a very small vision slit on the leeward side. The storm hits, and we hear the sound of sand and small debris hitting the shelter. There is also the occasional louder thud accompanied by an electric discharge. The heart of the storm passes quickly and without any incident. We wait for it to die down and pass completely, taking about 30 minutes until we feel it is safe to emerge. Aldrick opens the hut with another spell and we notice damage to the front of the structure – gouges with electric burns, but it survived intact. One less thing we had to deal with.
We regain our bearings and head off, but notice the storm suddenly shifts South as we head Northwest. Curious, we don’t realize why until was pass through another wind current. We near the city as the sun is setting, discuss our approach and decide to wait until dark to cover the final mile. It is a dark night with no natural light, and no light coming from the city. I have no problems moving in this environment, but my greatest advantage of range is taken away, as I can barely see my companions beside me. Hopefully we can handle whatever awaits us up close and personal.
As we wait for dark, Beltran tells us the city once was a popular stopover for migrating and nomadic people, with a large common area for tents to setup. This was in addition to the static population that mostly relied on fishing the lake prior to the Wound emptying it.
We circle around slightly, climb the slope of the lake bed and approach the city from the side. Lucius, able to see in the dark, sees an outer layer of single story buildings and an inner layer of two-story buildings. We move in to the first ring to explore, the buildings are simple, either very basic residential or small workshops.
Across the street from us, second floor. I can hear someone breathing – the steady breath of someone attempting to stay hidden. I whisper a warning to my companions. Lucius looks and sees what appears to be a scout. Renli reasons there would also be one on our side of the street. He steps out, cloaked, with his arm raised in greeting. “I seek an audience with your chief.” I hear the scout knock his bow and whisper something but I don’t understand or recognize the language – I don’t think any of my companions caught it either. Renli continues, “Shall I come up and join you?” and I can hear him start to move toward the building. I hear the unmistakable twang of a bowstring followed the the thump of an arrow hitting the ground… than the scout shouts something in Hallit. Oh how I wish I could see, because there would be an arrow right next to that scouts head right now…
Apparently none of us are unable to understand the language but Renli guesses the intent and drops his cloak, identifying himself brazenly. I can see him again – barely – because his armor gleams so much. The scout hollers something else, and Renli sees two more scouts approaching down the street with bows drawn. The scout says “No Iomadaen” wanting him to leave. Renli indicates there are six of us with with hand gestures.
Lucius then passes a rod to Renli and steps out while Aldrick casts a spell to comprehend what they are saying. The scouts start talking angrily and gesturing, and we think the want us to surrender. Lucius and Aldrick can understand due to magic, and Aldrick steps out, speaking to them in Hallit and appearing like an angel. He catches them off guard, and reiterates that we want to see their chief. The are stunned by his appearance. Renli ties a peace knot on his hilt, and gestures for an allegiance. The scout in the window tells us the Red Water wants no alliance with southerners then asks where the rest of us are. I maintain my cover with Lathander and Beltran, listening as intently as possible and ready to act if Renli gives the signal.
Lathander moves to exit and Beltran grabs him, petrified because he is from Usulav and they are responsible for the Red River Massacre. Renli continues to speak in common, attempting to seek an audience, perhaps a duel, and steps forward. They call out for him to halt and still demand to know where the rest are (as understood by the others). It is apparent the scout in the window is the leader. As Renli approaches the building again, the scout gives in and says he will give an audience with Borok. He meets Renli at the bottom of the stairs and tells him to leave his weapons. Renli insists on keeping Radiance, and the scout begrudgingly agrees.
Lucius sees the other scout, who whistles and points off in the distance. When Lucius turns to look my gaze follows. Off in the distance outside the city is a reflective flickering scattered light, similar to a school of fish moving in sunlight. The lead scout curses, and hurries Renli off while the other scouts hide. I continue watching and they appears to be moths with light reflecting off their wings but without an obvious source of light. They appear to be moth demons, which excel in mental control. They have long tongues and lay eggs in the brains of humanoids. We decide to follow Renli and not worry about the demons in the distance.
We catch up quickly and are led through town to a large building, possibly a mansion, and into a courtyard within. As we pass through we notice the side of some buildings have a glowing green moss, with a low irradescence, which Lucius recognizes as Midnight Moral, which is carnivorous. In the middle of the courtyard there is a big fire pit in the middle, with jet black flames roaring in the pit so the fire does not emit light. There are other soldiers around, which the scout interacts with and they seem agitated by our presence. The soldiers wake others up, weary of our presence. I count roughly two dozen.
The scout disappears briefly then returns with Borok, an older chieftan who clearly shows his experience. He sizes us all up without speaking, then addresses us in common. He announces himself as an orphan of the Red Water Massacre, and asks why the crusade has come. He states he will not deal with us until our sins have been repaid, and asks again why we have come. Renli addresses him, stating we seek an alliance against a common foe. Borok stops in front of Aldrick, who still looks like an angel, and asks why the little one speaks for him. Then begins to talk of “alliances” and how they resulted in the Red River Massacre.
Renli begins to respond, but Lucius cuts in. Renli asks him to remain silent, and let him work, Lucius agrees but less than 10 seconds later cannot help himself. The little man can talk… and all Lucius can do is bellow. His temper and sense of “duty” may get us into trouble one day, and nearly did with the guardian of Gundrum. I still think he could have been an importnat ally… Renli, Lucius and Borok continue the conversation, and talk of fighting to the last. Borok is committed to fighting the demons, but he feels an alliance forged in hope drowned 60 years ago in the Red River. Renli argues for what is right for all, that his goals are just and righteous, that they are not self-serving but are for all living beings. He promises to pledge in blood, and speaks of our victories over the demons. He emphasizes that if we are to succeed we need to fight together and not fractured. He asks again to forge alliance.
Partway through the speech Borok stops pacing and when Renli finishes he responds. He recognizes the passion of Renli and admires it, but he is still not convinced as his men will die fighting the Demons either way. What benefit is the scant two-dozen men he has to offer. Gashgelag’s hordes will slaughter us either way. (Gashgelag is a powerful Demon who was thrown out of the Abyss for attempting to overtake an island in Ishtar). We reveal we are after an accord with Karringor, to unite the remaining fractured clans in an alliance. Borok thinks before responding, and tells us that Karringor is one who leads by both fear and respect. But their people are leery of past betrayals, they do not want to be used as a simple tool for the southerners.
Renli responds and again offers a blood oath, which Borok believes, his people taking a blood oath very seriously. But Borok reveals he is playing the other side of the coin, reminding us of the history, and trying to anticipate how Karringor will respond. Karringor is leery of what southerners do, and that is take what they want despite who is already living there. We have to make Karringor see past that history in order to get him to agree. Borok says we are welcome to stay the night while he decides whether he will take us to Karringor, and will give us his answer in the morning. In the process he reveals he recognizes Beltran as Usulavian but states he will do him no harm. Renli has done a superb job in his negotiations, and Borok’s change in demeanor as the conversation continue was evident. Thankfully Lucius finally kept his mouth shut and let the Halfing talk.
We retire for the evening, hopeful for what answers may come in the morning – only then will we truly know how Renli’s word’s affected Borok. Not only would it expedite our mission to find Karringor, but then we will not be forced to kill Borok and his men. Though it seems he will do us no harm if he declines, we cannot risk our plans and those of The Crusade falling into the wrong hands. He will either be an ally… or a foe…