When last we left our heroes …
“It has been a weird couple months for the band of performers known as Barrel of Rapiers.
“First, a young noble woman approaches you in the marketplace and, out of nowhere, asks you to rescue her fiancé by infiltrating a high society party in the capital city’s most elegant district.
“That led to most of you skipping town for a couple weeks, waiting for the heat to blow over, during which you lent your aid to the town of Flatwell, defeating a hag that had kidnapped several of the townspeople.
“On your way back, you ran into the Red Aces – a trio of performers whose show you had stolen at that high society party. But you became friends and they invited you to join them in the upcoming Battle of the Bards.
“You did well at the competition – until all hell broke loose when the apparently possessed Royal Rhapsodist unleashed mass confusion by playing a dark flute. You raced together to stop him from doing the same to the whole city, and were successful – with the help of a golden woman who suddenly appeared before you.
“Those of you who were present then received visions – weapons, armor, cloaks – that were out there in the world, strangely calling to you. The exception was Luzzarai, who received the cursed flute itself – but with a temporary golden seal on it, and a plea that she find some way to cleanse it. And the rest of you were warned to beware of the waking Shadows.
“After that, it was research and shenanigans in the Royal Archives and the Temple of Mendo, where Schwartzy helped out. You gained some allies at the Lancers Guild, and some enemies amongst the Circle. Then, it was north to the Elven capital, where you hoped to acquire the cloak in Nehiri’s vision.
“Unfortunately, things did not go as planned, and you ended up in jail and as less-than-willing participants in a ritual of balance that demanded sacrifices of many of you – and revealed you to be something called “snags.” However, by some miracle, you worked out a deal wherein you killed a dragon and retrieved a pendant, and thus, the cloak is to be yours.
“And of course, many other things happened on your journey so far. But for now, here’s where we pick up – just as the sun has set.”
“Gwyn. You’re frustrated. Not only did you spend last night in what was basically the stocks – tied to a tree where any random passerby could stop and throw fruit at you, and some did – but you spent most of today in an exhausted haze because of it and missed out on a lot of action. But … you keep your fists at your side, very aware that you’re surrounded by, well, if not enemies, then the elves of this city are at the very least not friends, no matter how friendly they act at the moment.
“Hildy. You’re nervous. You’re walking next to Vandros, who is talking a constant stream of excitement and magical theory that you’re mostly tuning out, a skill you honed to perfection when he was your teacher. But you’re distracted by thoughts of … what was in that bottle? What is this presence, this other that you’ve begun to feel pressing against your own mind?
“And Mavoi. You’re focused. As your friends walk ahead of you, entering a large platform amongst the trees that seems to serve as a city square, maybe even a small park – you feel the Hunter’s Mark that you had cast on that odd passing bat vanish, as if a string had been snapped. At the same time, you hear the distant clang of bells. Next to you, Lev – your elven guard escort – stops, eyes widening, as he hears it, too. At your side, Puddles lets out a high-pitched whine just at the edge of your hearing.”
- Lev rounded them up, asked if they had anything to do with this
- Lev’s necklace glowed (modified sending stone) – received word that the Hanging Prison had been destroyed and fallen in a massive fireball
- Sentinels began rounding civilians up and sending them home, planned to take party to their lodgings
- the Steward of Death – a dark-skinned teenage girl, sans black blindfold this time – was near and warned that the Sentinels should probably get Barrel of Rapiers away from their people
- three winged figures – like large abnormal bats – descended upon the group
“… the flying creatures hurtle toward you … when they are almost upon you, there’s a puff of shadow, and – slam! slam! slam! – three figures, humanoid, but very tall, their outlines blurred, as if they were made of constantly shifting shadows. The elf woman behind you screams as the creatures advance on you, pinpricks of sharp red light where their eyes should be.”
- Vandros cast magic weapon on Gwyn’s swords
- Hildy heard a childlike voice bubble up in her head saying it could help – the presence tried to overwhelm Hildy’s consciousness, but Hildy held it back, much to the voice’s disappointment
- monsters revealed they were after Luzzarai’s flute, called it a “Beacon”
- the lead monster was revealed to be the creepy pale prisoner, now in its true form, that Nehiri and Hildy encountered in the Hanging Prison
- monsters mentioned an “Awoken Master”
- with the help of Lev, the Steward of Death, and Vandros, the Whispers were defeated
“Nehiri and Tryvsgar. After your visit to the prison and your conversation with Maldoc, you were escorted to your temporary lodgings by your own elven guard, and have been waiting there for Advisor Elduin to return from verifying that the pendant you brought back did indeed belong to the matriarch’s son, and to fulfill his end of the bargain by delivering his cloak to you.”
- room was simple and clean, grown out of the treetops, hammocks instead of beds
- Nehiri felt nauseous at the moment of sunset, a strong sense of foreboding
- dour elf guard – Fennian – received message via sending stone, said he needed to leave and for them to stay there
- before he could leave, Advisor Elduin arrived, wearing the cloak, hood up – the cloak seemed to stretch with an unnaturally long shadow behind him
- Elduin was acting strange, seemed to be in no hurry, said pendant was valid and bargain would now be fulfilled
- Elduin closed door behind him, shadows grew about him, and he kept saying how hungry he was
“Advisor Elduin turns his gaze on you, and you can barely make out his face except for his eyes, which flicker with an unnatural red flame, as the shadows of his cloak reach out for you.”
- Nehiri and Tryvsgar battled Elduin with Fennian’s help
- Elduin’s cloak consumed Fennian
- they managed to defeat Elduin, but in its death throes, the cloak consumed Nehiri
- Maldoc, newly escaped, arrived to find Tryvsgar, alone, standing over the body of the dead advisor, bloody rapier in hand
- Maldoc took the rapier and told Tryvsgar to get out of there, then fled himself
- Tryvsgar seized the cloak and ran off to find his troupe
- Steward of Death eagerly stepped forward and cast speak with dead on one of the fallen Whispers
- dead Whisper revealed it was working for Tykvaris
- dead Whisper said they were seeking the Beacons because the purpose of the items was to drive back darkness
- Tryvsgar arrived with cloak, investigation revealed that hitting it hard enough (while it was being worn by a person) might make it “regurgitate” its most recent victim
- Hildy let down her guard and the water spirit inside her took over, rising like a second figure high over her head and forming a protective shell around her
- water spirit declared it would henceforth be known as Amaryllis
- group had Amaryllis!Hildy wear cloak, took turns attacking – it worked, Nehiri was released from a dark, cold dimension
- Lev decided enough was enough – decided the best course of action was to take them directly to Matriarch Umelynn for an audience
- arrived at Umelynn Tree Palace, brought to small sitting room, felt enchantments about that would make it difficult to cast spells
- Matriarch served them tea, revealed she had been having visions of them, didn’t know what to make of them
- focused on Gwyn, said she was feeling particularly drawn to giving a certain gift to her – gave her a dark, curved kris blade