Leaping down into the hidden well beneath the city’s fountain, Gavri’el leads the group through a dank tunnel, following the soft tinkles of Sinihs’ ankle-bells and towards the soft glow of light ahead. Strafing around a bend in the underground passage, they discover the beaten and battered dervish.
Cursing you with bloody lips and haggard breaths, he pulls himself across the ground, nails digging into the stones of his secret basement, crawling to the opposite side. A quick glance around the room finds it covered in shelves, random minuitae, and painted murals across the floor and ceiling. Sinihs struggles to his feet, pulling himself into a circular design encapsulating a pattern of thirteen stars, mirrored by the image of a looming full moon above.
“We will all be welcomed into the arms of Acamar soon,” Sinihs spits as the party funnel into the dingy room “But while you will be ripped and torn apart, devoured by the Corpse Star… I shall stride triumphant, blessed and anointed, gifted with a deathless body.”
The dervish springs into dance, his injuries causing obvious discomfort, but the dancer pushe sthrough the pain, desperate to complete whatever the terpsichorean ritual is. His feet deftly step between each stellar motif, bells singing to the heavens.
Two bolts fly out, the ranger’s enchanted bowstrings singing in the darkness, but they are deflected by unseen walls of force that emit from the magical dance Sinihs performs. Growling in anger, the elf hurls himself into the ritual circle, ducking and rolling, spinning acrobatically to avoid the force shields that Sinihs’ dance throws out, before sending a crunching blow with his clenched fist, flinging the dervish out of the painted circle, crumbling to the ground.
Alheck steps over the dancer, and with surprise, notes that Sinihs is dead; his body simply shutting down from the shock and exhaustion of trying to perform such a difficult dance solo. A small slug, the colour of blood, slithers out of the dervish’s slack mouth, and crawls away.
Searching the basement comes up with no clues of note, but the elves heightened awareness spot a secret wall that leads to a set of steps, leading up. Pushing forward, they discover an entrance into the back of a merchant’s shop. Alarmed shouts can be heard outside, as the party realise they are in one of the residences bordering the fountain square, and no doubt people are jsut now discovering the slain bodies of the dervishes who attacked them.
Gavri’el slinks upstairs to the bedrooms, intending on questioning the owner of the house they’re in; suspicious activity holding a secret basement that harbours an evil dancer! Joined by his peers, they execute an impromptu plan:
Sebastian grabs the sleeping wife, restraining her as Gavri’el crossbow smashes into the merchant’s chest, cracking a rib.
“We have a great many questions for you, so you better start answering them real quick. If you lie to us, we’ll kill you. If I think you’re lying to us, we’ll kill you. If you tell us something, then we find out later that you were lying, we’ll kill you.” the ranger threatens, to the backdrop of screaming children from the other room.
As the merchant splutters and denies any knowledge of the secret basement, having just moved into the shop months before, Aych grows bored and suggests they merely just kill them all, starting with the kids. Dharzon counters the suggestion with his own; maybe the merchant should be shown the basement to jog his memory, or see if he can identfiy Sinihs.
The merchant recognises Sinihs, but only as a dervish who frequented the northern shores of the oasis. Frustrated, the party head back up to the shop, where the commotion outside is increasing. The city watch have arrived, and suddenly there is a thundering knock at the door. While bickering about what to do, the party are suddenly caught in a compromising position as the door is bashed down by the guards. Surrendering their weapons, they agree to be taken to the guardhouse to sort out the matter.
A grizzled detective, cloaked in a heavy coat and wide-brimmed hat, grills each of the party. Despite their claims of self-defence against the assailing dervishes, there remains a merchant with a set of broken ribs, a terrorised wife and conspiracy of murder against two minors. The group petition the detective to seek out the dervishes near the prayer obelisk, giving him the steel earring of the moon-baying hound.
It isn’t until the late morning that the detective returns. He merely glares at each of the party, before flicking the earring back into their cell.
“You best talk to those dancers, then.” he grumbles, before walking off.
Waiting a few minutes, theg roup realise the guardhouse is completely empty. A push on the cell’s door finds it swinging open. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, the party get the hell out of there and head to the oasis shore.
Finding the dervishes, they are ushered aside quickly, away from the rest of the group and the praying citizens of Avesta. It seems you have stumbled upon a secret that the dervishes wish kept that way, and information spills from the dancer as he speaks to you, answering your questions, if only so that, once armed and informed with this knowledge, you won’t go about asking questions and alerting the whole world of the dervish’s secret.
Apologising for not being more upfront, the dervishes concede that there may be some trouble with the dancers of Ahura Vairya, and that Sienna may somehow be involved. The Dance of Acamar is explained: it is an ancient ritual that is performed to transport the blessed and chosen of Ahura Vairya to the plane of Acamar, where they might join the Shadar-Kai and better serve the Creator.
The Shadar-Kai reside within the City of the Dead in Acamar’s realm of evernight. They are warriors against the deception, corruption and destruction of Angra Mainyu. To protect themselves against the eternal war over mortal souls that Angra and Ahura battle for, the Kai destroy their living essences through devotion, ritual and ceremony. Armed with no fear of death, for nothing awaits for them beyond, they can hurl themselves against the powers of He Who Sleeps Beyond the Stars, empowered by their zealousness.
The dervishes normally gather together to perform the difficult Dance of Acamar, as a celebration of their faith. If Sienna is missing however, and given the events of the past few days, it appears Sinihs has been sending people to Acamar without the dervish’s knowledge. For what purpose, they cannot fathom. The party are asked to assist the dancers, to travel to Acamar and discover Sinihs’ ambitions.
Giving their equipment back, the dervishes allow the party a period of rest. The Dance of Acamar must be performed at night, under the moon, in paradox to their worship to the sun. The dance will be both physically and mentally exhausting, and there is no telling what dangers await them in Acamar. After taking sojourn and restocking supplies, the group make their way to the towering shrines of Ahura in the middle of the dark night, stepping up to the roof of a small temple where a small band of dancers await.
Carved into the shrine’s rooftop is the increasingly familiar pattern of a thirteen star constellation. Dervishes take their positions upon the cosmic markers, and begin to dance. Surrounded by the whirling forms of the zealous and pious, the mystical energies of the Dance of Acamar begin to take their toll on the party, and the dancers. Waves of nauseating pain sap the body of mental and physical strength, causing many the falter and lose balance. A dancer topples, exhausted, and one of the dervishes cries out for someone to take his place. Gavri’el steps into the circle, and attempts to match the intricate movements of the dervishes, but he cannot emulate them well enough, as more dancers falter, their vitality strained. As the dervishes continue to fall, and the group cry out in anguish as the cosmic and planar energies tear at their bodies, ripping them in two, it seems as if this is the end…
You open your eyes and see the inky blackness of a sunless sky, studded with silver specks of stellar fragments. Stretching out across the night’s shroud are thirteen stars, shining prominently against a backdrop of alien galaxies. In the distance, across a great plain of waste and glassy sand, bracken and bleak rock, a soft illumination extends its beacon of civilisation. The shadow of a metropolis is cast beneath the distant light, of which must lie the home of the Shadar-Kai, the City of the Dead.
Between the city and the group lies a jagged escarpment, a sheer barrier of stone and slate that blocks the way. A depressed pathway flows down into the rock, cutting into it, a corridor of darkness. Not wanting to hazard the perilous cliff with the less athletic arcanists, the ranger guides everyone down.
After an hour or so of spelunking, steering clear of unseen chasms and avoiding the pungent sprays of unidentified moulds, mosses and mushrooms, the party descends into a great cavern. A streak of platinum light pierces the dark from above, a slit through the rock’s ceiling, peering cautiously out to the night. The walls are peppered with alcoves and openings, the chamber echoing with their footsteps as they edge forward. As the light of the sunrod creeps around the chamber, it slowly and partially begins to discover an outline of a great beast before them.
The echo of thundering metal and screech of sundered iron cries out, deafening the party. A large dragon, all metal, rivets and spikes struggles ahead, bound and contained within four great black chains that wrap and encase the flailing wyrm. The chains pin the captured beast to the rock, behind it the cavern funnels out into a further, smaller path.
The party speak with the dragon, who defines himself as Calmachia, an adamantium wyrm bound and trapped by the chains of the Kai. Centuries he has spent so restrained, and release is all he demands. He is irritable, and insulted by the mundane words and questions the party task upon him. Almost as much as he furies over the injustices brought upon his noble form by the flocking Kenku who tease and bully him, always remaining out of reach from his chained claws.
Bellowing moans from the tunnels beyond, increasing in volume and intensity. Calmachia glares at the group.
“The Kenku come now. Pray you are competent to meet them.”
The deafening and terrible cries erupt into the cavern, held aloft by winged ravenmen, three foot tall and weilding blades and chains, their beaks uttering mimicked bestial roars. Dark feathers blow in summoned winds as they ambush the party, attempting to surround and overwhelm. The biting bolts and chains of Gavri’el and Sebastian draw them close, and dispatch of the brawlers quickly. Dharzon and Alheck pepper the Kenku rays of light, both eldritch and radiant, while Aych attempts to lure them close to the dragon’s claws, but falters, unknowing of whether the claws will distinguish between Sarosh and Kenku. In brief moments, the Kenku are scattered, and the group victorious. Calmachia sighs, unimpressed, but acknowledging.
On the promise of a favour, the party agree to free the wyrm. Inspecting the chains, they appear magnetised and sealed with binding rituals. Breaking the enchantment, and removing the magnetic blocks releases the chains, and they fall limp to the ground like soggy pasta.
The favour asked of Calmachia is information on gaining entrance into the City of the Dead. The dragon grunts, and concedes he knows little, having never been inside, nor wanting to, the walls of the Shadar-Kai. He informs the group however that passage is only through the gates, which are surely protected.
A little annoyed by the lack of information, the party press on with extra questions, which raises Calmachia’s ire. He tires of the pesky chirpings of the humanoids, and whips his tail around and utters a frightening roar, stunning and shaking the group.
“Centuries long I have been contained in chains, but now my hoard of treasures shall begin anew.”
Cracking booms of thunderous power spew from his metallic throat, shocking and deafening all around. Tremorous aftershocks echo and shake the room as Calmachia begins his rampage.
Between dodging thundering roars and raking claws, the party quickly run to the chains, and begin to renew the binding enchantments on the chains in an attempt to immobilise and imprison the dragon once more. This proves a difficult task, as Calmachia smashes one of the chains, but before long, the other three chains are re-bound and the enraged wyrm yields, conceding the group’s strength.
Upon promise that no harm by its claws will come upon the group, and an offer of a gift, the party cautiously free Calmachia again. Tearing off the metallic scales around its eyes, the adamantium beast presents Gavri’el with a wearable visor. Ignoring further questions and requests from the party, he beats his powerful wings, and breaks through the cavern’s roof, spiralling into the evernight sky.
The party stroll further through the tunnels underneath the wasteland of Acamar, and before long find the surface once more, welcomed by the sight of the City of Dead.
Group XP: +650 xp (10,962 total)
Gold: +800 gp (5450 total)
Treasure: Calmachia’s Visor (function as Goggles of the Bone Collector), Battle Standard of Healing and Honour (upgrade)