Report Filed: Raining Leaves 12th, 3126
Raining Leaves 11th, 3126
The Alpha Team woke in the ruins of the ancient village starving, barely hydrated. We had a source of wet sand, meaning water. But, extracting water from sand is a difficult process and we could only collect enough for a days worth of quarter rations every nearly 8 hours. Hard work for little payoff. And without food…
Lieutenant Volstagg ordered the team to spend the first 16 hours of the day working in shifts to pull as much was as we could. We pulled enough for two days at quarter rations. Evening was just falling, and rather than stay pulling water till we died of starvation or exposure, the Lt. ordered the team to “grab our shit”, and get moving…
…And that’s when the Xaos fire ripped through Volstagg’s body and turned the sand to glass.
A second shot ripped through the growing dark, punching through the other side of Volstagg’s chest. The towering Olaran went to one knee. Before the team could react, figures formed from the sand and surrounding us, drawing scimitar shaped weapons from the very sand. I have heard of the fabled Sand Warriors of the desert, though never faced them before. While the sand warriors pinned us down, the assassins crouching in the ruins launched crossbow bolts, and worse, that Xaos gun into our ranks.
Lt. Volstagg ordered a line, and Sgt Volstagg ordered cover. I dropped the two Sand Warriors around me, only to have more rise out of the sand and stagger toward me swinging their sand-glass scimitars. As the second rank of Sand Warriors rose around us, two robed and masks assassins sprinted around our flank on my end of our line, and I could hear another warrior assaulting Sgt Amaroth on the far end of the line.
Ranks of easily summoned and disposable troops held us in place, while their heavier forces flanked us. All this under the constant assault from their range assault. These Xaos cultists were acting far too tactical for a group of religious zealots. To my right, Grendel took an assassin’s blade to the knee. From his grimace, I could tell the blades were poisoned. More arrows hit Volstagg and winged toward Zathlan. Sgt Audric cleaved the commander on his flank, but the caster hit our line with spells to sap our strength while pressing hard with the sand warriors.
In the midst of battle,Tempari summoned his Tempest powers, firing off lightning bolts at the Xaos sniper who respond by snapping off shots which crackled against the Tempest Legion armor. Tempari’s return fire blew most of the ruined wall apart, the Xaos sniper with it. Their heaviest hitter down, Ranna sniped the second crossbowman.
Ignoring orders to maintain cover, I scrambled over the ruins, ducking blows from the Sand Warriors. Grendel dropped one of the assassins, and Ranna winged the Xaos commander. The rest continue to struggle against the Sand Warriors.
I cleared the first ruin, and closed on the enemy caster’s position. Half a dozen yards away, a staff appeared over the ruins of the wall we had taken shelter in the night previous, and the Xaos wizards unleashed a torrent of angry reddish gold fire. I manged to roll past most of the shot, but one clipped my shoulder staggering me. From behind, RFC Grendel roared and RFC Danica appeared, staggering toward the same target. Moments before she arrived, there was a flash of arcfire-like energy.
By the time we reached the Xaos wizards blind, he was gone. Teleporter. Instead, I snipped the last crossbowman. Seconds later, the Xaos caster dropped his spell, and the sand warriors disintegrated, falling back into the sand from which they sprang. Only one assassin remained. Someone had claimed the Xaos commander.
The assassin, stabbed Grendel and tried to run, but the ogre chased him down and knocked him out with a blow to the head. When I returned to the others after sweeping the ruins for straggling enemy forces, I found Corporal Daynore on his knees frantically digging into the sand around what appeared to be an obelisk. Sometime in the fight, the Xaos commander had lobbed a blast potion. Apparently, it had revealed the top of some black obelisk that now Daynore was insanely trying to dig out.
Others help while the rest of us took stock of the enemy provisions. We had food for the party. We hadn’t eaten in some time, so the food provided would last us…a couple days. Water, we had for maybe 3. I heard the others talking about this location being a supply or staging point. But, why? The only “water” source is wet sand 20 feet under the dunes. There is precious little cover, and no sign of any activity for…maybe years. No, my money bets that our departure from A’Tora did not go unnoticed. This group has been tracking us since we crossed the Black Sand Wall.
Just as we were wrapping up, Daynore suddenly snapped up, started saying something in a bizarre language, then he stood up, grabbed his kit and started walking into the desert. I’ve seen sleepwalking and this was similar. Lt. Volstagg went to stop him, but ended up choosing to let the mad adept lead us out into the night. Fortunately, though storms surrounded us, none struck that night. We walked until about 10PM before Daynore, stopped, and started pantomiming like he was drawing water.
Digging into the sand, Grendel found the remains of what might once have been a well, several thousands years ago. Then, Daynore lay down and went to sleep… Nothing doing, we made camp.
While we had a moment, I managed to patch myself up, then stitch up Lieutenant Volstagg’s chest. Alpha team are surprisingly competent warriors. When it comes to basic survival skills, they could use training. Once those of us still bleeding out were sutured, our attention to turned to the prisoner who had been unconscious a dangerously long time. I suppose that is to be expected after getting brained by an ogre with a club?
It took some doing, but I managed to bring the assassin back to consciousnesses. He looked around confused for a moment, before his eyes glazed over and he began to chant something in an older form of Aradish. Volstagg translated via the medallion lent him by the Emmisary.
“Red sands stained,
Lord of Xaos and war,
We stand before the storm,
Preparing your arrival.”
In older Aradish, he kept repeating the same phrase. Until, Volstagg to his head with a swift slice. I don’t blame him. Last time we let some crazed lunatic chant, he blew nearly killing Volstagg and Zathlan. Efficient and expedient.
That done, we slept in shifts. Though the storms raged all around, we were not hit that night.
Raining Leaves 12th, 3126
Off again in the early AM. Corporal Daynore, now completely sunstruck gathered his kit and just started walking, like he was following some ancient road. Lieutenant Vosltagg made the call not to stop him, so we all trudged into the growing light, and heat of the day. Apparently, at night, and while under cover, Tempari could shield us, but in the full force of the day, he could only shield most. Two Alpha Team members had to volunteer to enter the desert unprotected by Tempest magic…
Naturally, Lieutenant Volstagg sacrificed himself. And, Grendel. So, we trudged. By mid day, both Volstagg and Grendel were suffering bad heatstroke. By late the in day, Corporal Daynore veered off north and then entered a cluster of small and large dunes. He dropped his stuff, and began to pantomime…shopping? If what we all suspect is true, whatever was done to him back in Paradise had cursed him with visions of the Eternal Sands as they were during the Age of the Empire of the Golden Sun. Whatever this place once was, obviously there was community here.
So, with Corporal Daynore dreamwalking, the rest of us started searching the area. It didn’t take long to realize that the odd shaped dunes were covering something deep in the sands. So, we broke into teams and started digging… That is when Tempari warned us another storm was coming. I was working with Grendel and Sergeant Amaroth, frantically scrapping sand, when there was a loud crunch sound. Then, a hole opened in the sand, sucking the three of us down. We landed hard, half a dozen yards below. Fortunately, the sand provided limited cushion. Mostly.
However, with the storm approaching “above sand,” we had nowhere to go but deeper in. Tempari scooped up the others and deposited them down the hole. Moments later, the air was thick with swirling sand and the dying light from dusk was snuffed out like a life. About the time the lights went out, Corporal Daynore, “woke.” Whatever spell he was under broke. While it was good he was not longer a dazed liability, I still worried what power led him here. I fear the Adept is far more compromised than we know…
We broke out small lamps from our Ranger Kits and starting making our way deeper into this underground maze. The walls were rough cut sandstone, and the air was dry, slightly musty…like old sand. Hard to describe. I took point, and when we came to a junction, Lieutenant Volstagg ordered me to go left. The passage was narrow. Sergeant Amaroth posted at the entrance while I crept inside, their lights at my back.
The next chamber was larger…and smelled of old, dry rot. That’s when I heard to snuffling and crunching… Ghouls.
They were on me almost before I could react. I managed to reach the party down the narrow corridor, the snarling ghouls on my heels. Amaroth took the brunt with Volstagg and the archers, me, Ranna, and the support cast. The fight was intense, both Lieutenant Volstagg and Sergeant Amaroth got clawed badly, but everyone made it through alright…or so we thought.
With the ghouls down, we proceeded into the next chamber. Again, I was ordered left, so I proceeded left, then right. The chambers were connected by small corridors. The further in we went, the older, and mustier the place smelled. I was on point, Lieutenant Volstagg, Sergeant Amaroth, and RFC Zathlan with me when shouts and sounds of battle echoed from our rear. I stopped to wait for orders, when skeletons clattered out a side tunnel and attacked. Fortunately, RFC Zathlan snatched me back, but she almost went down.
Her husband shielded her. With Sergeant Volstagg and Daynore backing them up, the quartet had this battle covered. I fell back to support RFCs Danica, Grendel, and Ranger Ranna… But, I’m not entirely sure what they were doing. When I approached, I found Grendel on his knees groping into one of the smaller passages. Ranna was right behind him…in support? Danica stood just to their left, face in her palms. And, from within the darkness, I could hear the sounds of what APPEARED to be a skeleton…dancing???
Now thinking on it, I think dehydration and heat stroke had begun to take their toll. Even so, I knelt behind Ranna and fired arrows between the ogres’ legs. Moments later, Sergeant Amaroth arrived on the “scene.”
It took some doing. The skeletons were tough, but we managed to defeat them. After which, the team closed ranks and we continued deeper into the complex. Everything was empty, though I could tell most of the chambers had once been sealed, eons ago. Tomb Robbers had long since picked this place clean.
Finally, we came to the final burial chamber. The room was larger than the others. The walls appeared to have once been covered in stone panels, likely frescoes, but they had long since been removed. In the center, was a massive stone pyramid. It was a burial chamber. We were in an ancient Desert Tomb. But, oddly, no one had managed to break through to the sarcophagus inside. Curious?
This appeared to be a dead end. The team broke up and began to search. Grendel, Sergeant Amaroth, and Lieutenant Volstagg all seemed woozy. The rest of us were exhausted. After a careful search, the only the we found was a gold coin buried in the sand in one corner of the room. It was of the same ilk Volstagg had spent in the last town… So, we were right. The coins were looted from a tomb, or tombs.
The tomb ecology was simple. Travelers, looters, adventurers and the unfortunate had managed to find this place, before the recent storms so thoroughly covered it. That explained the Ghouls, and the skeletons, being the older dead. And, even I could feel the Darkness seeping from the pyramid in the room.
But, I was left with questions. Why had no one, over the centuries, managed to break into the pyramid here? Also, come to that, if this place had been covered for the last year by Xaos storms…who, or what, had the ghouls been eating when I stumbled on them? A fresh kill meant recent visitors…
And why did I sense a concentration of darkness in one corner of the room? Examining closer, I noted the cement around the seams of the stone blocks was…different…
There was more to the maze. I suggested to Lieutenant Volstagg that he should have the Ogres break through that wall. He complied without question, though, his eyes were wide, and he seemed…feverish…
Grendel and Ranna went to work, their clubs and hammers ringing dully on the stone. For a moment, I feared I had erred, but in minutes, Grendel smashed his club through the wall.
Their was a sudden rush of wind as the sealed tomb air, fetid with rot, filled out chamber. It was foul. Grendel, taking it in the face, doubled over and started dry heaving. The Darkness oozing from the hole was palpatable.
Ranna leaned into hole, holding up a lamp, reported that there was a ramp, and smooth black walls. From atop the pyramid where I crouched to cover the Ogres, I suddenly realized we were in grave danger.
Blame it on the heat, the dehydration, starvation, exposure, or exhaustion, but, I should have seen it before.
Even as Ranna leaned in to the hole, Sir Volstagg’s eyes rolled up into this skull, and he collapsed, unconscious. Burning with fever. I slid down the pyramid to his side and started stripping plate. The stench of rotting flesh made me gag. Ghoul infection. Our commander was infected, and close to death. I looked up and could sense the heat roiling off the Sergeant. His eyes also looked glassy. Already, putrefaction was wafting up from his Ghoul scratches. He was moments from falling to Flame…or Darkness. Damn!
Corporal Daynore stood in the corner, looking…faintly off. Being here was having a BAD effect on him. He could not lead.
RFC Zathlan was in the corner. Holding up, but already…the fatigue of all of this was wearing on her. And…something about her was… Bringing her unborn here was a terrible mistake.
Ranna blinked into the dark hole, Grendel retched…
Danica stood seething. He eyes hard, as always. She was a Golden Gryphon and nearly her entire command was now tainted by Flame, Darkness, or Tempest…
I looked around…Tempari was gone. Thinking back, I realize the last time we saw him was…entered the hole. The Ghoul attack. From then on…I do not recall even hearing his voice…
We are in trouble.