Stop hitting yourselves

Darhe’el, Ahava, Craig and TC return from their excursion to the forest with an adult phase spider an anchorstone in tow. Seras leads them to deposit the items in the designated laboratory and receives a message that they are to meet with another mage in his workshop. Seras guides the party to a small workspace where a bored looking human mage is idly tinkering with some alchemical equipment. He introduces himself as Clem, and explains that the Rift Committee has asked him to provide the party with some enchanted items to aid in their work. He provides the party with a magical couter and magical gloves, and tweaks the enchantments to fit the items to the Darhe’el and TC.

While chit-chatting with Clem, the party notice that he seems dissatisfied and frustrated with what he perceives as menial work, and the Arcanum’s lack of interest in his research. There are numerous vials of mana oil in his laboratory but upon questioning, he reveals to Darhe’el that they are all ordinary and do not possess the unusual qualities of the mana oil from Lake Yelta. Seras explains that Clem is doing research into the applications of mana oil in enchanting magical items, but has not made much progress. He was previously working on using mana oil as a conduit to facilitate destination focussing in magical teleportation devices, but due to the recent events has been forced to halt his research. He complains that the Arcanum now mainly requests him to test previously enchanted magic items to ensure they still work properly, which is a tedious process.

As Clem finishes his adjustments to the items, they hear a knock on the door and see Gelros poke his head in. Gelros greets the party brightly and asks if they are leaving to the Adventurer’s Guild. He has been looking for them, as he is planning to head to the Guild to have dinner with his old friend Rodin and would appreciate the company on his walk there. The party agree to accompany Gelros, and take their leave of Seras and Clem. As they walk to the Guildhall, Gelros bores the party with his tales of past expeditions and bits of Altusian history. When they reach the Guild mess hall, they find Rodin at his usual spot at the bar with scrolls surrounding him. Gelros and Rodin greet each other cheerfully and start a boisterous conversation. The party are invited to join them for dinner and drinks, as Rodin is also curious how the meeting with the committee went.

At dinner, the party give Rodin a summary of the meeting, which seems to meet his expectations. The party also question him and Gelros about the floating islands of Altus. They proceed to explain that the islands have been abandoned after the last great war as they are now unstable. The outlying islands are prone to crashing to the ground, and even the stable islands have been inhabited by vicious monsters and spirits. Drakes and rocs have established nests in the ruins, and magical aberrations are rumoured to still wander underneath the surface of the islands.

Gelros and Rodin reminisce about how they managed to clear out most of one of the main islands many years ago. They had managed to secure an area that used to be the noble district of the main city, which is now used as a staging point for Arcanum expeditions and historical tours. However, they speculate that the rifts are probably occurring on the islands as well and the safety of the islands may not be as before. Rodin also updates the party on some of the goings on in the guild in recent times. It appears that the guild has been kept quite busy, as the rifts make the surrounding areas less safe. The party are relieved to learn that the annoying Kors and his company will be away at Daru for a while on an engagement. Rodin also lets Darhe’el know that Cale would like to have a chat.

A few more mugs later, the two dwarves start singing about Bosmerta the Bearded Beauty, who could fell an army with a flick of her facial hair. Our adventurers decide it best to beat a hasty retreat.

Darhe’el decides to check in on Cale before he leaves, and finds him having a quiet drink and smoke out in the courtyard. Cale informs Darhe’el about the Slyblades Mayana and Kashik’s previous ties to the Thieves’ Guild of Th’Mall. He also brings news that since Darhe’el left Th’Mall, the guild has been in turmoil as more and more members went missing and were presumed killed. Some members, like Darhe’el, fled to Tanar but have also recently been disappearing. Darhe’el leaves Cale with even more questions on his mind.

Craig heads for his makeshift sleeping arrangements in the Clowns’ office, while Darhe’el and Ahava leave for their own rooms in Lowtown. On his way out of the Guild, Ahava is interrupted by Marek, the Guild’s resident cleric. She can sense his recent encounter with a divinity, and invites him to share his experience. Ahava decides to reveal to her all the details about the realm of darkness and the deva who empowered his sword. After performing a divination ritual on the sword, Marek tells Ahava that the deva in his vision was a manifestation of the goddess Sune herself. She goes on to say that clerics of all faiths have been having close encounters of the divine kind recently, leading many to suspect that major events are unfolding in the realm of the gods. She also makes him promise not to let the Arcanum know this fact, as she feels that magic users are misusing the energies of the land. He promises, then takes his leave.

That night, the party find themselves haunted by strange dreams. Ahava recalls the morning he discovered the unlimited supply of masks on his face and Craig dreams of being pursued by aberrant, unnatural horrors. Darhe’el relives the night his team was killed by the mysterious psionic presence, a nightmare he has had many times before. But this time, he can feel that presence again, as if it were somehow close by, beckoning him to follow…

Gasping in fear, Darhe’el jerks himself awake. To his surprise, he is not in his rooms, but in the middle of a weirdly shifting landscape filled with glowing green crystals and rocks. A short distance from him is a whirling mass of crystal shards, which suddenly projects loudly into his mind, “A/ahh, YO\U’re the o|NE TH]at go+T Aw-a!y. Th||is ti/me I AM goi\ng to ha]VE y\ou|r -fr|IE\nds FI^N[ish the j|ob.” Looking around, Darhe’el is taken aback to see Craig and Ahava standing behind the shardmind, but he breathes a sigh of relief when they charge straight for the crystalline being. Hefting his greatspear, he too joins in the assault.

The party quickly become frustrated as their blades are unable to find purchase in the rapidly moving swarm of shards. The shardmind takes this opportunity to launch its counterattack, flinging out crystal spikes that become embedded in the adventurers’ bodies. Ignoring the pain, the party continues to slash away, unaware of the true nature of the shardmind’s techniques.

Ahava is the first to fall prey to the mental domination of the shardmind; he turns to strike at Darhe’el. Craig succumbs shortly after and starts to pursue Darhe’el as well. With the shardmind’s laughter booming in his head, Darhe’el does his best to fend off his teammates’ blows. Fortunately, it seems some small part of them is resisting the domination, holding themselves back from unleashing their full strength on Darhe’el. Finally they manage to fight off the corrupting influence and regain control of their actions. Drawing on Sune’s blessing, Ahava’s sword begins to emit a radiant light, destabilising the shardmind and forcing it to coalesce into a solid form. Now that they can get good hits in, the party quickly dispose of the creature before it can take over their minds again. As the shardmind dissipates, their vision fades out and they wake up in their beds. Was it all just a dream? Funnily, Craig finds some of the green crystals in his pocket when he awakes..



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