Drifting Sands, Drifting Souls

After a brief rest in the abandoned fortress outside of Coelin’s walls, the adventurers awaken and head out into the fortress itself. They search through several rooms before Faruq stops the group in front of a door. He heard voices from within; it sounded as though there was only one voice. In an attempt to catch whoever was behind the door by surprise, Haidar Vattergard kicked through the door and charged in the direction of the sound, shoving a Cleric of Orthodox Se’harism against the wall, holding him up with his weight, and keeping the sharp side of his falcata against the priest’s throat.

The priest immediately recognized Ghanima as Emperor Basha’s daughter, and thought that the people traveling with her were her entourage. He was not intimidated, and believed that they were sent in response to the outbreak of illness at the fortress – despite that they were traveling with an elf and a barbarian from the Stormraven Tribe. The cleric, a man named Amed, pointed out that the three soldiers who were in a locked, almost petrified position, had been like that when he entered. He was attempting to find some way of revivifying them, but had not been able to find a way.

Noticing that these were the same type of soldiers that they had fought before, Lorien noted that they had been attacked by them in the Great Hall. Amed was unsure of the meaning of that, and the group arranged themselves in such a way to protect one another while Haidar moved forward in an attempt to shake one out of its stupor. As expected, the three soldiers sprung to life and attacked.

One soldier carried the standard fair Aritikan scytheshot – a weapon that is renowned for its killing ability in the hands of a skilled marksman, and deadly in close-quarters combat with its scythe-like bayonet. The other two were in various states of undress. The fighting was fierce and difficult, with Haidar being struck multiple times and Lorien being shot. One of the soldiers charged at Faruq who lifted his staff quickly in defense. The sling-staff pushed through the eye of the warrior and crushed his skull. Meanwhile, Lorien brought down one of the other soldiers through a barrage of arrows and Haidar and Ghanima worked on the marksman with sword and spell.

After, the party conversed among themselves. Amed brought up that there were a group of elves that were being held prisoner. Lorien insisted on finding a way to free the elves held there. They moved through the corridors until they found another room – stately and large – with a locked and trapped door. Faruq made quick worth of both while Lorien and Haidar kept look-out. Lorien noticed that one of the pillars in the far end of the fortress near the door to the prison was covered in a strange ruddy moss. He investigated it and found that it was not growing on anything in particular; the moss seemed to have implanted itself into the stone, which was wholly unnatural.

Faruq finished working on the traps and opened the door for the party. They found rooms that held the Emperor’s personal seal, and Ghanima speculated that they must have been the chambers that her father used when he came to visit. After a thorough search of the room, they found a hidden armory, carefully concealed under the floor and holding a powerful magical trap.

The group traveled on and passed through the gates that blocked the prison from the rest of the garrison. They managed to find a group of about thirty or so Elven women who were being held captive. The prisoners told them of forced breeding programs and dark experimentation. One woman in particular – an elven woman who called herself Alethien – said that her daughter had been taken below the fortress. Ghanima brought up that she had never heard of the fortress having a lower level. As this seemed strange and nefarious to the group, they moved toward the cells that held the Elven men, segregated from the women. Many of them were sick. Faruq went about freeing the Elven women and noticed that one particular cell was covered in that same red moss, and a pile of various types of blue, violet, red, and purple fungus.

At the same time, Lorien interacted with one of the male prisoners who told him that they had been exposed to some kind of plant material and that started getting people sick. Lorien immediately had everyone stand back and told Faruq to get away from the cell with the fungi growing in it.

Perhaps alerted by the sound, a group of small creatures, similar in structure to elves, but obviously some form of plant life, emerged from the doors and hallways surrounding them. They were joined by four massive purple fungoid spores that could move on their own through the use of tentacles that whipped around them like tails. Engaged, a bitter fight ensued wherein Amed lost his life and Haidar nearly lost his. They saw the true horror of the fungi as one of the purple fungus creatures leapt upon Amed’s fallen body and began to infest him with that same moss. Amed’s body exploded in a burst of spores and out came two more of those small elfin creatures made out of that same sickly-green vegetation.

The party managed to beat back their assailants, but not without severe casualties. Amed was dead; Lorien was poisoned; Haidar was incredibly poisoned; and Faruq had exhausted his grasp on magic. They decided to take this information back to town, and to find a healer.

The group turned to Lorien to ask what to do about the men. Considering that they may be infected by whatever it was that happened to Amed, he decided to leave them. The others, understanding that this was a difficult decision for Lorien and also out of respect for his race, obliged. They took Haidar and left the fortress for the streets of Coelin.

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