Avesta

Adventure Ten: Dance of Acamar

Part One: Chasing Sienna

Aych is taking an evening stroll, stepping slowly over land beneath a deep, dark night. She feels as though something is watching her, hairs standing up on the back of her neck. Turning her head upwards, she recoils when she spies a skull, larger than the moon, gazing down from the night sky. Its cold gaze chills the sorcerer to the bone but the Sarosh arcanist isn’t frightened… until a bloody sluglike creature that must be the size of a mountain pushes its way out a gap between the skull’s clenched teeth.

More and more of these slugs crawl out of the skull and make bloody trails over its face. Soon it seems like the skull will burst from all the slugs struggling to escape, and just as that thought crosses the Aych’s mind, it explodes, erupting into the heavens a cascade of bloody slug things. As the masses of blood slugs begin to rain down upon the world like a million falling meteorites, obscuring the night sky with fire, Aych can barely make out the shimmering of an unfamiliar constellation of thirteen stars above. She only has a brief moment to contemplate the star cluster, before a slug-meteor comes hurling down through the atmos, crashing towards her, bringing with it inevitable doom.

Once again, the sorcerer snaps bolt upright in bed, slick with cold sweat, and burning afterimages of the destruction echoing with each blink. When Hidnaan and Sebastian knock on the door, inviting her out for a drink, she happily accepts.

The adventuring business has been quiet as of late, with the excitement of Luca’s lizard tribes, blackstone temples, Scathebeasts, corrupted daeva and soul eating infiltrators almost a distant memory. Life has become possibly dull over the last month, as the wondrous experiences you’ve had make what once seemed interesting now dull and trivial. So it is to the pub that you find yourselves coming back to, in an effort to rub shoulders with other mercenaries of note, with the secret hope, deep down, that trouble will come and find you.

The group meet up at the tavern Khavaar, a fixture of Bokhtaar, a haven that allows men and women of the blade to indulge in the hedonistic pleasures of drinking, wagering and other activities not suitable or accepted on the streets, or across the road at the Sattar Mu’izz. The namby-pambies in robes are given a few raised eyebrows, but any opinions are kept to themselves.

Drinks are served promptly as the party settle into their seats, letting out heavy sighs of boredom. As Dharzon raises his cup, he looks down at his coaster and notices a familiar design. Three stars and an image of a snake, the calling card of the Stars of Shilavahr. Without a thought, the warlock picks up the coaster and crams it down his throat.

A second later, Dharzon wonders if there might have been a message inscribed on the underside of the coaster. A few attempts at regurgitating the coaster later, Dharzon produces a withered, crumbled piece of card, almost fully dissolved by the acidic bile in his draconic throat. Going straight to Plan B, the warlock wanders over to the bar, locating one of the waitresses, Gabbi, noting a red ribbon she wears around her ankle. After a brief exchange where the dragonborn solicits her staff, books a function and invites himself to a meeting that doesn’t exist, he settles for the wench’s suggestion that another round might just have to do.

Meanwhile, Sebastian has wandered upstairs to befriend the local militia, regaling them stories of ‘That was me!’ and ‘Are my exploits awesome, or brilliant?’ while patrons play Quill-Ball, a variation on pool, but using a live quillrat and spears. Gavri’el enters a ‘friendly’ card game, and quickly flushes a jumpy halfling of all his cash. He engages an elderly barfly, attempting to extract a story or two. The ranger and warlord both hear of the preparations for the upcoming Sattar Mu’izz arena fights, noting it down as something they’ll have to sign up for.

A second round of drinks are served, and as the waitress Mindy places a cup for Dharzon, she whispers softly in his ear. “This was taken from the House of Sufi.” As Dharzon cautiously sips at his mulled wine, he finds at the bottom of his empty cup, a drowned scarab. After conferring with his friends, the group agree to find out who or where the House of Sufi is, and why the Stars have directed you to them. Gavri’el takes them to visit his friend Japal, a well-connected merchant.

Japal welcomes you into her home, and informs the group that the House of Sufi is a wealthy family who reside in Varoon. The matriarch, Lady Sufi, is a widow with one daughter, a rebellious hedonistic thrill seeking teenager if the rumours are anything to go by. She confirms your suspicions that the Stars obviously have something for your group to accomplish, and probably already have a reward set aside.

Picking your way through the streets of the affluent northern ward of Varoon, the group ignores the sidelong glances, and find the fenced and gated estate of Sufi. Deftly picking the lock, you enter the manor’s grounds and as Aych and Sebastian stroll up to the door, Hidnaan and Gavri’el skulk into the shadows of the garden. Banging on the large door, it is a while before Lady Sufi answers, and gives the sorcerer and warlord a scowl, which quickly turns to anger as she looks behind them to see the unlocked gate.

Sebastian defused her rage quickly, calming her a little, but Aych nimbly steps into the delicate situation. “Ignore my friend, Lady,” the Sarosh silver tongue speaks “We are here at the request of an associate you may or may not know, about a problem you may have, and we can help.” Breathing a sigh of relief, Lady Sufi relaxes. “Now, I know this is a delicate matter, so we best talk inside. If you will allow me to call in my men, who were hiding in strategic positions, for you never know who is watching…” Aych continues, voice dripping with honey. “Yes, yes, of course, come on in” the noble ushers you all in “I was hoping you would come soon.”

Sitting in one of the manor’s parlors, the sorcerer continues to eke out information with ambiguity. Sufi responds immediately, telling the group of her daughter Sienna, who has been missing since yesterday. The girl had been sneaking out often at night despite her mother’s forbiddance. She’s worried Sienna might have been kidnapped, or led astray by the unsavory elements of the city she may have been hanging around. Sebastian requests to look at Sienna’s rooms to hunt for clues, and Hidnaan nods in agreement, as he swipes a gold-plated candelabra and shoves it down his pants.

As you climb the stairs to Sienna’s room, you can hear crashing sounds. Rushing forward, Sebastian pushes through the door and is met with an unexpected sight. Rummaging through the sitting room of Sienna’s chambers are two pale skinned humanoids, with eyes like lustrous black orbs. Clad in strips of black leather and dark chainmail, iron studs and piercings adorn their body, while the shadows seem to darken around them.

The shadow warriors leap at the warlord, pinning him in place and keeping the rest of the party trapped behind the doorway. Aych conjures up icy teeth from the ground, striking the dark fighters, as Sebastian pushes past, letting Hidnaan slip through to attack with a flurry of piercing stabs. Dharzon steps through fey portals and appears on the steps to the next room… just as the door opens and another warrior emerges, slashing at the warlock with its katar blades. A witch clad in swirling shadows sends blinding rays at the party as Hidnaan falls under a rain of heavy blows, Sebastian’s armour too, not enough to defend the precise strikes of the shadow warriors. Focusing their fire, the ranged heroes break apart the lines, and create an opening to push the witch back into the other room as Dharzon attemps to run down the corridor, dismissing Nebrakazool… only to find the other door locked.

Dashing into the bedroom, the party are amazed to see no trace of the shadow fiends, onlny the dissipating wisps of thick shadows. Dharzon detects the magical residue of teleportation magic, a planar rift having just been created. The only evidence of the shadow’s presence is an iron earring, ripped off by a tearing slash from Hidnaan’s dagger, which is etched with a peculiar design: a four-eyed hound baying to a crescent moon.

Ignoring the mystery of the creatures they just battled, the party set about searching Sienna’s rooms, through her wardrobe, cabinets, make up and under her bed, pocketing anything that’s smaller than a pygmy. Sebastian is sad he can’t take the pygmy.

Gavri’el discovers a false drawer, and finds Sienna’s diary. Flicking through it, he reads a tale of a misunderstood girl, angry at her mother for being so out of touch, sad that her father is no longer around, and joyous for the friends she has made, who must truly love her for who she really is. It reads much like a self-centered collection of emo poetry, but the ranger notices a few key points.

Sienna has been sneaking out for some time now, to revel in the night with a man named Sinihs and his friends, dancing under the moon and to candlelight. She yearns to ‘get away from it all’, and Sinihs has promised her that one day she will, that he has a way. The last entry in the journal is a hurried gushing of excitement, Sienna’s overjoyed proclamation that Sinihs has finally agreed to teach her the Dance of Acamar and grant her freedom from this world that she feels so trapped in.

It is obvious that Sienna has been consorting with Dervishes, and as the sun slowly sets, the group head to the Prayer Obelisk where the homeless fanatics of the Sun God rest for the night. Attempting to talk with the dervish’s ‘leader’ is useless, as the dancers extol that all men and women are equal under the eyes of the creator. Looking at the dervish’s hounds, and their painted four eyes, Sebastian quizzes the dancers about images of the hound aspect of Vairya and the moon. The dervishes are tight-lipped, speaking only of their worship of the sun, and fealty to the Creator. They do however, learn that Sinihs and his troupe of dervishes often take rest on the northern shores of Avesta.

Through the dim streets, the party eventually find a smaller group of dancers taking refuge in an unoccupied stable. A lone dancer twirls slowly around a small fire, soft sounds of bells ringing from the baubles around her ankles and wrists. When asking after Sinihs, a young handsome, sandy-haired man steps forward with practiced grace.

Bickering amongst themselves, the party slowly decide on their angle of questioning. Sebastian and Gavri’el drill the serene dervish on his relationship with Sienna, his allegiance with the dervishes and his knowledge of the Dance of Acamar. Sinihs calmly deflects the hammering queries, admitting openly that he considers Sienna a friend with the talent and potential to dance with the dervishes, but he has not seen her in days. He concedes that he knows the Dance of Acamar, but informs the group that it is not a one-man show, that it requires many dancers all in synchronized synergy to execute, and requires the most skilled dancers as it drains the body and the mind of vitality. Finding Sinihs to be a dead end, Dharzon suggests they speak with the diviners at the Dias of Sarosh for direction.

The dark streets lead the party south-west around the oasis, but it is through this dim light that you can spot a figure ahead. Stepping out of the gloom, you hear the faint tinkling of bells with each footstep, and Sinish appears in the flickering torchlight at the edge of a small town square you just entered.

Sinihs’ innocent smile has a more sinister touch to it now, as he approaches. “Too close you are, so your death beckons.” he sighs, as dervishes from behind food stalls and around corners leap out and attack. Surprised, the party scatter, and find themselves isolated from each other. Whirling dervishes spin violently, hurling waves of force and befuddling the mind, making you reel with aftershocks of psychic bedazzlement.

Sinihs strides confidently into the fray, and entrances Alheck and Sebastian with a burst of confusing twists and twirls, sending their minds into unconsciousness. Trying to gain the advantage of height, Gavri’el leaps onto the roof of a merchant house, attempting to snipe the dancers from the tiled canopy, but the nimble dancers dodge all incoming bolts. Their healers compromised, and Sinihs’ long, arcing waves of forceful movements press the ranged heroes back as Aych and Dharzon struggle to find a safe distance from which they can retaliate.

The sandy-haired dervish attacks relentlessly, pinning and pushing, echoing proclamations of the party’s doom under a starry sky that burns with your blood. Finally, Sebastian leaps up, and holds Sinihs still, providing brief respite for the arcane artillery. They do not waste the opportunity, quickly combining their firepower to blast away the skulking dervishes down the dim streets, and leaving Sinihs all alone. Focussed attacks wither the young dancer’s defenses, who is forced to pull back a moment. With a flurry of motion, Sinihs spins so rapidly that he becomes a blur, almost impossible to make out. The wheeling acrobat retreats onto the statue d fountain, before seemingly disappearing into the ether, leaving behind only a lingering whisper of his now-ragged voice. “Your souls will be forfeit soon enough, by Acamar you shall be engulfed.”

In the dark light, it seems that Sinihs has somehow eluded you, but the ranger’s keen eyes have cut through the illusion. The terpsichorean gambit made the party’s eyes flutter and dizzy, to make them fail to realise the true movements of the dancer. Gavri’el steps forward to the fountain, and after a moment of investigation, finds a sliding panel at the base of the statue that leads below the square.

Group XP: +650 xp (10,312 total) Prepare level 7 character sheets!

Gold: +1650 gp (4650 total)

Treasure: Boots of Free Movement (Aych), Boots of Quickness (Seb).

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Ainsoph

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