Who Opened that Portal?
It wasn’t clear where they were, although this certainly wasn’t the Springdale they were hoping for. Soldiers’ corpses, the rubble of golems, and the bodies of civilians decorated the landscape. Soon, however, they were greeted by what seemed to be the leader of the militarist force, accompanied by a human princess, her wolf, and a skilled paladin. Our group of adventurers were accepted into the force; the princess’s escort willing to accept any help they could get, and unwilling to let more innocents die. A solider reported an exit to the North; not one of the gates, but rather something else. As it was just a rumor, he had little else to tell…but it was clear time was of the essence.
They dodged battles already underway and demonic forces from an unknown place, with unknown goals. With the princess in tow, the group eventually made their way to the courtyard, where soldiers were doing their best to keep the beasts at bay. With a moment of rest, Ghorrd tried to ask why the chaos was happening.
One soldier explained that the “statues” in the courtyard (thought to have been placed there as ordered by the royalty) came to life. They were caught off guard, and so the attack commenced. The second-high captain theorized some disruption of “portal magic” was to blame here. The group kept quiet, though horrified.
The rag-tag band of soldiers, guards, royalty, priests, and the group eventually formulated an improvised plan. The priests needed to open the portal in the courtyard (through the archway recently built) to transport the princess safely. To do so, at least one priest would need to stand on a sun tile on the courtyard’s pathway and keep the spell’s connection strong. With only four priests, the warriors would need to make sure at least one man of the cloth was still standing.
With three possibly points of entry into the courtyard, the group immediately divied up responsibilities and took to different directions. The spell needed a great deal of preparation time, and as the monsters set in, everyone did their best to hold the golems back.
The battle was particularly gruesome. As the three groups fought on, it quickly became apparent that more healers were needed. Some of the priests left their posts to give aid…eventually, only two priests remained for the spell.
They soon realized that, in order to survive, the sentinels would need to stand in the way and take some hits from the enemy weaklings, thereby blocking the path of the far more dangerous enemies. This strategy paid off, as they were mostly able to wait out the spell casting.
Towards the end of the battle, though, things took a turn for the worst—an enormous titan appeared at the entrance of the very portal they hoped to escape into. With the group on their last legs, they bravely clashed against the titan briefly. With no hope of actually killing it, brave men of the court distracted it as the princess made her escape.
The group once again tumbled into the unknown.
Back in Springdale
After moving through the world of between, the group soon found themselves inside Springdale once again—the very same tavern they stayed in, even. After assuring each other they were all okay, they were also delighted to be reunited with Gregory and Ekor. It wasn’t long before the party had to explain to Gregory that Air was dead. Predictably, Gregory was crushed over this revelation, and blamed himself.
Remembering the reason for all the trail nonsense in the first place—to obtain information about Black from Miss Ale—they soon met with her again and began to ask what happened. She explained angrily that her underground room had effectively been destroyed, and that she didn’t know anything about the darkness or the strange things they had seen. After saying some insensitive things about Air’s death, the group decided not to push for information.
The group then spent their night having a drink or two and trying to make sense of everything. Gradually, they went to their respective rooms for the evening.
The next day, the group debated whether or not to go to the masquerade party or seek other leads about Black. During the course of this, Vira discovered that someone had sneaked into her room in the middle of the night and stole her shield (a rare artifact). Enraged, she vowed to seek out those that would take her property. Meanwhile, a message was sent to the party—from Black himself. He offered a truce to the group, along with an invitation to meet him in person. Having just seen the vision of him scheming during the underground adventure, the group was weary of such a prospect. It read:
You know of me, and I of you. However, I believe both of our perceptions of each other have been distorted by the rumor mill that Springdale is so infested with. For example, the Fran’Miri witch, so I am told, walks among you, and the demon-horned monster with his demon-axe from the Blood Lands? I imagine such is not the case, and so I hope we can put our fictitious notions of each other aside and let one another tell the tale of ourselves. If you agree to meet with me, I will promise on my word and on my honor that no harm will come to you from myself or my agents during your trip—even if you choose to not understand me and who I am, and crucify me with your words to my very face.
I wish you to understand how serious I am about your safety and right to freedom. Further, I will make no motion to restrain you, keep you on my premises, or invade your sense of privacy and independence with any measure of force or arcane bindings. I hope you will pay the same courtesy to me if you choose to accept my invitation.
This being the case, I do safeguard my location closely, and I will defend myself from an attack if you attempt such on my person, or those trusted to my care. I sincerely wish you will hear me out, but will make no efforts to force you. Perhaps you can accept this and not trust the rumor mill. If you wish to accept my invitation to meet, simply stand in front of your inn’s door, and rip this letter in half.
I will be in contact with you once more. No matter what you may think of me, no matter your action in regards to this letter, I wish you the best, and hope that someday the gods may bless you.
While pondering this over, one by one the party decided to begin arriving at the masquerade party.