Dark Sun: Desert Secrets

Sands and Spirits

Having defeated the bulk of the tarek forces, the adventurers used the overturned tables to bar the heavy southern door in the hope of keeping the occupants of the next room trapped while they descended into the pit to rescue Finnan.

Tying their ropes to the massive cauldron, the characters lowered themselves into darkness. The pit descended farther than any of them could have anticipated, and as the darkness grew deeper and more oppressive several of the party despaired of finding their friend alive. Finally, however, Crawn touched the bottom – an unstable floor that seemed to shift beneath him as he stood.

As the rest of the party arrived, Bhean Tine used her mastery of the elements to create an eerie red light, revealing a massive and ancient chamber built of entirely different stonework than the ruin above. Cracks along the walls slowly trickled sand into the room, and a sloped floor led to a narrow crevice through which the flowing sand fell. Barely visible in the dim light, a small halfling form lay with one arm caught in the crevice, surrounded by shadowy figures that seemed to be almost caressing him.

Whenever one of the shadowy forms touched the fallen halfling, his flesh seemed to briefly turn translucent, a vision which sent Crawn into something akin to a blood frenzy. With little choice but to join their companion in his effort, the adventurers attacked the shadowy wraiths with some of their most powerful abilities, upon which the wraiths vanished, leaving only the still form of Finnan.

As the party approached their friend, the wraiths returned, appearing behind them and touching them with long fingers that seemed to emit cold. Unlike the party, the wraiths hovered above the shifting sands, resulting in a difficult battle that saw the companions attempting to revive their Halfling associate while Ceol tried to staunch the flow of sand into the room.

Eventually the wraiths dissipated, and this time did not return. Finnan was revived through the combined healing skills of Ceol and Spartacus, though after his experience he found he had acquired some strange new capabilities. The touch of the wraiths left him with access to unnatural powers, the full extent of which none in the party were able to discern.

A careful exploration of the cavernous chamber revealed a partially-blocked passageway to the north, and after several hours of clearing away rubble the party proceeded down a narrow passage to find themselves in an ancient tomb. Sitting upon a central platform was a massive stone sarcophagus, while ancient braziers in the corners glowed with a strange blue flame, illuminating the room. Upon an altar in the north end of the chamber were several ritual items, though they predated the historical knowledge of even the most educated members of the group. Curious as to the contents of the tomb, Genna tried to pry open the sarcophagus, making little progress before freeing a Raaig Tomb Spirit.

Individually, the party members were no match for the spirit – it took a concerted effort just to survive long enough to devise a strategy. Over and over again the spirit unleashed its vengeance upon them, but time and time again the party rallied thanks to the inspiring presence of the dray Spartacus and the elven healing of Ceol. Holding off and eventually defeating the ancient spirit, the party discovered within its sarcophagus the remains of a humanoid in priestly vestments, the body mummified by the desert environs. Safe for the time being, the bold adventurers prepared themselves to face the remaining tareks in the ruin above.

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The Slave Pens

Having cleared the entryway of hostile Tareks and successfully fended off their rivals, the party cautiously proceeded into the next section of the ruin, confident now that the cargo they sought was deeper within.

A small flight of stairs separated the entry from the room they now found themselves in, and once Raeth noticed changes in the stonework, Ceol determined that the ruin was itself built atop the remains of an even older structure. Progressing into the ruin, the party found that at the bottom of the stairs the floor was entirely made up of older stonework, while the walls of the current chamber were newer despite their own apparent age.

Within the room the party found a group of tareks guarding animal cages of reinforced bone, within which were a number of emaciated humans and muls. In the far corner of the room was a raised and fortified platform with arrow slits allowing whoever was inside to oversee the main section. Beyond the fortification, a short stone hallway led to a battered stone door. Initially the tareks in the main room failed to notice the adventurers coming from the entryway, engrossed as they were in the game they had scratched into the stone floor, but a cry in giant-tongue from the fortified section alerted them to the presence of the intruders and the savages leapt to the attack.

What followed was a difficult skirmish against the angry tareks, while from the fortification a hail of arrows peppered the adventurers (and even occasionally the tareks). The party was very nearly overwhelmed, with multiple near-deaths, but eventually they managed to defeat the tareks and storm the fortification. As the party licked their wounds, Finnan, disgusted at the tareks’ slaving intentions, bashed through the cages holding the prisoners and provided them with a small amount of food and precious water.

The would-be slaves were led by a human wearing a tattered cloak and calling himself Jem Arganos. Happy to have been released, Jem and his people asked who had sent the adventurers, at which point it was revealed that they were the survivors of the Ianto caravan. The party informed Jem that Belgrom Vor hadn’t sent them searching for survivors, but rather for the cargo the caravan held. At this news, a thoughtful look came over Jem’s face, but he said nothing.

Too fearful to travel across the desert unescorted, the caraveneers holed up in the fortification while the party proceeded down the stone hallway and deeper into the ruin.

As they moved down the hallway, the adventurers could hear the sounds of revelry coming from the other end, and as they pushed through another battered stone door the party came across the bulk of the tarek force in the midst of a meal. Several short tables stood in the north end of the room, while a massive cauldron steamed in the center, and even the hungriest of tareks proved willing to set aside their meal in favor of a good fight. Thankfully, the large stone door to the south remained closed.

Using whatever they could find as weapons, nearly a dozen tareks charged the adventurers, while around the perimeter moved a pair of hunters and one of the infamous tarek earth shamans. Through clever positioning and tactics, the party held off the swarm, but in the process a trap below them was triggered and Finnan fell into a dark pit. His companions, unable to rescue him because of the tareks, focused on defeating the monsters and preventing them from running to the south before they were finally able to descend into the darkness after their friend…

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The Ruined Outpost

Arriving at the ruin, which remains mostly buried in sand, the party searches the area for entrances and finds only one, protected from the elements by an ancient and battered door. The adventurers manage to force the entry open, and discover a number of Tareks within. Through good luck and sound tactics, the first squad of tareks is defeated without alerting any farther into the ruin, though a tarek with a shortbow takes a particular toll on the group. Barring the entryway with some of the debris scattered about the room, the adventurers settle in for a rest before proceeding to the other sections of the ruin, but not without deciding who would be on watch and when.

As it turns out, the choice to rest is a good one – the characters wake to the sound of movement just beyond the makeshift barrier, and as they begin to move around and prepare to repel an assault, a male voice accosts them from beyond. He identifies himself as an officer in the Crimson Chains mercenary band, one of several (including the party) hired by Belgrom Vor to find and recover their lost caravan. The party is split on how to react – some wish to offer to join forces, others to pay the mercenaries to turn away, and still others to fight and eradicate the opposition. The latter-most option is the one which wins out, more by chance than by decision – as the party argues, the mercenary leader loses patience and has his men collapse the barrier. Faced with well-trained and numerous opposition, the party struggles to defend themselves, but eventually the mercenary leader is slain and his remaining troops lose their nerve. As they flee, the adventurers pursue them to prevent word of the fiasco from escaping, and also to protect the secret that two of their number use arcane magic, a dangerous ability likely to get them lynched by a mob or arrested by local templars if word gets back to the city.

Searching the bodies, the adventurers find that the longsword used by the mercenary commander is of exceptional quality – an obsidian blade with veins of red giving it a sinister appearance. Both templars recognize it at once as a blood obsidian longsword, issued to templar commanders who serve their Sorcerer-King particularly well. The mercenary commander had shown no inkling of templar capabilities, making it likely that the sword was stolen or plundered in the first place. Each immediately lays claim to the weapon, but after some discussion it is decided that Raeth, who mixes the power of sword and spell most effectively, should be the one to use it.

Exhilarated with their victory, the party prepares to continue farther into the ruin and confront the tareks who seem to have stolen from House Ianto…

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The story begins...

Our story begins with weary travelers, each fresh from their own exploits, taking refuge in a tavern known as The Golden Inix. Catering to travelers and traders, the Golden Inix sits squarely within the caravan district of Tyr, simultaneously a place of relaxation and refuge for those who might otherwise have nowhere.

It is coincidence, therefore, that brings all of the adventurers together in the same place on one fateful night, when a dwarf in the service of House Ianto arrives in a panic. His name is Belgrom Vor, and he is in desperate need of mercenaries to seek out an Ianto caravan expected to arrive in the city the day before. Other search parties have been dispatched, but with the House so desperate to re-establish its fortunes after slavery was outlawed in Tyr, the dwarf is leaving no stone unturned. Few patrons of the tavern show any interest, until the dwarf sweetens his offer, persuading a motley band of unknowns to assemble and pledge to begin their search come morning.

Truly, it is a strange assembly that sets out from the tavern the next day. A tiefling, a dragonborn, an elf, another dragonborn and a half-elf join a team of former gladiators made up of a goliath and a halfling, each of them bringing their own unique skills to the search. Scouring the desert east of the city, the band comes across signs of a running battle, the bodies of caravan guards but never their attackers occasionally half-buried in the sand. Eventually a poorly-disguised set of tracks leads off into a rocky defile.

The adventurers are not the only ones following the trail. Passing between low rock faces, the band is ambushed by a group of silt runners – small reptilian creatures known to be more dangerous than they appear. After a hard-fought skirmish, the silt runners retreat into the dunes, and the party continues along the tracks in search of the missing caravan.

The group’s persistence is rewarded when, climbing a low dune, they spot the shattered remains of a wagon being picked over by a small number of kruthiks. Quickly dispatching the large insects, the band discovers some broken crates bearing the markings of House Ianto, but no trade goods to be found. Searching the area carefully, they crest a dune and spot the tip of some sort of ruin in the distance. Finding nothing else nearby, the now-wary adventurers set off to the north, towards whatever awaits them in the ruin…

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