The adventurers found themselves standing at the edge of the wraithlands as night fell, looking along the dusty expanse of death laid out before them. They chose to camp through the night in a nearby copse of trees, though with great concern for what might come out of the wraithlands during their stay.
The night passed without incident, and the group moved on into the wraithlands, their feet kicking up small motes of grayish dust. Their first day brought them to the once-living village of Hanesly, which was now morbidly preserved in the moment of destruction, with human skeletons standing at doors to knock, standing at shops in town square, laying in the shade of an equally skeletal tree for a nap. The eruption of energy from the destruction of Orcus’ ziggurat seemed to only affect the living, as the buildings here were intact, with only the passage of time serving to deteriorate them.
Careful to avoid touching any of the human skeletons, they moved on to a stables near the center of town to set up camp, inside which they found four standing horse skeletons within their stalls, and the remains of an old dog lying atop a bed of hay. After Hania Highspire cleared out the horses remains, they set up camp, using a rotational watch through the night in case of activity from the townsfolk. There was none. The following morning, they set out again.
Day two in the wraithlands brought the adventuring party to a stream of crystal clear, cool running water. Hania tasted the water and found it to be good to drink, used it to restore their depleting water supply; Henrik Von Ditronas did not trust the water and refused even to let his horse drink from it. That night, they camped in a forest of old, black trees, dead and leafless. Once again, a watch was setup, though no attacks came in the dusty night.
That night, the watch felt something strange in the air – a feeling like they were being watched. The feeling seemed to come from the ruby moon overhead, the Eye of Orcus seemingly grown in the sky overhead to swallow up the silver and emerald moons. Aiko Tai Hideaki focused on the ambient magical energy around them and found that there was still a faint prevalence of necrotic energy, interspersed with odd flickers of energy.
On the third day of their journey, the adventurers came upon the much larger city of North Ford, with a lord’s keep overlooking the clustered buildings. The group decided to go around the city, as the streets were choked with the skeletons of North Ford’s citizens, all frozen in time as they were going about their daily errands. There was some discussion as to whether or not they should visit the keep to investigate and perhaps spend the night, but in the end, they chose not to.
Finally, on the fourth day, they left the wraithlands and entered into Alaron proper. A few hours later, they finally came upon Fierburg, a rather large city that sat nestled in the shadow of a great cliff, atop which Highhelm Bastion loomed.
Following the cobblestone streets, the troupe found The Free Ranger, a tavern and inn, where they spoke with the innkeeper about their travels and learned of Darom Madar, the local lord and a writer of some notoriety. The innkeeper suggested that they visit Lord Madar, as he was a great collector of stories, but they decided to spend the day in town to recuperate before the hours-long climb that was required to reach Highhelm Bastion.
During the downtime, Hania met a gold dragonborn, Tavaar, head cleric of the grand church of Pelor in Fierburg. She told Tavaar of Tiamat’s attack on the empire’s capital, and of their quest for the aid of the Praetors of Ophirion, and Tavaar asked to join them so that he could lend aid to Everlasting Dawn as well.
The following morning, the group made the climb up a treacherous staircase carved into the cliffside, and by dinnertime, finally stood at the gates of Highhelm Bastion. They found the whole mountaintop was converted into training grounds for the Praetors of Ophirion, and were further shocked to find more than a dozen young, gold dragons training with them.
As escort of Peacekeepers brought the troupe to see the Lord of the Flight, Neoptolemus; they told him of the battle and gave him Inquisitor Regula’s summons. While Neoptolemus went to gather his war advisors, the group was brought to speak with Neoptolemus’ personal mount, Kimeryth, Champion of the Skies.
Kimeryth, an ancient gold dragon, brought the adventurers into the ant colony-like tunnels that weaved through the mountain and to his personal quarters, a giant cave full of treasure and hung with dozens of banners from around the world. Henrik was surprised to see a banner of his own family crest, and learned that Kimeryth had gotten it from the new owner of a keep to the west.
They discussed the coming war with Kimeryth, as well as the unusual closeness of the Eye of Orcus; afterwards, they were told to rest up, as they would be taking flight for Everlasting Dawn the following morning.
True to their word, the Praetors of Ophirion were mounting up before sunrise, and blowing war horns to wake the camp. The adventurers learned that the whole group of them would be riding Kimeryth, as they didn’t have enough dragons to go around, and the ancient dragon was fitted with a long saddle with five seats. They mounted the dragon, eyes turning towards the red moon as the surface seemed to crawl with spiderwebbing cracks.
The dragons finally took to the air and were moving into battle formations, as the ruby moon cracked and splintered in the sky. All eyes were on it now, as enormous slabs of red stone crashed down to earth in the distance, smashing a forest to the north, and kicking up enormous clouds of dust in the wraithlands to the east. Finally, jagged shards like huge spears rained down on Highhelm Bastion and Fierburg, cutting through the dragons and their riders and causing the huge creatures to tumble from the sky.
Kimeryth was fast and skilled, darting around the projectiles with notable agility, while Highhelm Bastion and indeed, the whole of the cliff face sloughed away from the mountain behind them as it was shattered by the rain of red stone. Unfortunately, Kimeryth could only keep them safe for so long, and as his wings were shredded, the noble dragon was finally struck with a red boulder the size of a house, the impact knocking out each of the riders on his back.
When they awoke, the adventurers found themselves scattered atop a wide, flat stone building, the air around them thick with red fog and dust, while red lightning pierced the sky and illuminated the swirling mist. The group reassembled and came to the conclusion that they had somehow come to be on the roof of Lord Madar’s keep. They rushed to the battlements to look down into the streets, where they saw human forms stumbling around blindly, while moans of pain and anger filled the air.
Needing a way down from the roof of the manor, the troupe found a hole that had been punched through the roof that fell down to a wide bed. They entered the keep through the master bedroom and moved into the hall, where they saw the servants wandering and wailing in pain. It seemed as though some terrible affliction accompanied the fall of the ruby moon, as the servants’ flesh appeared to be melting into a thick, sticky substance that was drooling off of their skeletons and leaving snail trails of slime in their wake.
The newly undead servants attacked the party the moment they saw them, clawing and tearing at them savagely while they screamed in their own terrible pain. Halfway through the battle, Lord Madar himself showed up, corpulent and richly dressed, with taut gray skin and piercing red eyes.
Lord Madar welcomed the guests and invited them to stay, in service to him forever. The invitation was promptly refused, and the wight lord was pushed back and finally forced to retreat, though not without causing Hania a grievous wound.
Having fought their way through the keep, the adventurers finally found themselves before the front doors. They pressed the doors open to step out into the thick, red mist, but were greeted by the immense form of Kimeryth, Champion of the Skies, rotting and dripping with black bile.
(Give yourself six hero points if you read this.)