10th of Zephyr, 1075 AE
Learning from Melonni that Kournan troops, likely agents of the secretive General Khayet, stormed into the ruins of Fahranur, the First City, and escaped with a hidden artifact of some kind. The party met with Spearmarshal Kormir and the first team of archaeologists from the Istani Society of Engineers and Architects, planning their next moves and questioning what plots the Kournans could be up to.
Their rain-swept, evening rendezvous was cut short however, when a harried cry came from the darkness. A young miner, one of the crew tasked with putting up tarps to protect the freshly-unearthed diggings from the driving storm, stumbled into the camp, bloodied and near to collapse. On his heels was a shambling undead, who less than an hour prior had been a respected member of the dig team. Purple arcane runes glowed in its skin, and though one zombie was no match for the Sunspears, the report that there was something within the ruins that could create undead was troubling indeed.
Tasking the party with identifying—and if necessary, destroying—the cause of the corruption within the First City, Kormir and Melonni made plans to depart with the remaining miners back to Champion’s Dawn, and then travel on to Kamadan. Pushing through rain-soaked jungle flora, the Sunspears took their first steps into the once-fabled city which served as the seat of royal power across Elona.
They saw more purple runes, this time etched into the weathered stones of the city, and found fresh remains of several Kournans, left behind by their companions. The weary spirit of a long-dead Sunspear Guard warned them that “The Apocrypha” had been awakened, and that naught but death stalked the halls beneath the great cathedral. Thanking the appirition for its guidance, the party pressed on into the darkness that awaited them.
Discovering a long-dead but newly-arisen spectre hovering in the wan azure glow of candles lit by an unearthly force, they attempted to calm and befriend the lost ghost, Kabede Meseret, who ultimately revealed that the crypt had become a hospital—or jail—for those first stricken with the Scarab Plague some four-hundred years earlier. In and among the fallen rulers of the Primeval Dynasty, malevolent forces, fueled by or focused by the Apocrypha, had reanimated many corposes, bringing a foul end to their once-peaceful slumber.
Following Sunspear Meseret to the Apocrypha’s room, once a vault holding many powerful artefacts of antiquity, they were met with a swirling, chaotic cloud of stone, each piece with strange arcane glyphs not unlike those they had seen on the surface, and etched into the bodies of the risen. Tancred realized it was the alphabet of Ancient Orr, the continent of the gods which disappeared in their great Exodus. He could not discern what the forming and re-forming stone was trying to communicate, but when it lashed out with stony talons, the party set their resolve—and their spears—and put the beast to fight.
Shifting into a massive, serpentine figure, the Apocrypha continued its heavy assault, punishing the Sunspears with stony claws, fangs, and horns. Little by little they were able to pick the thing apart, stones dropping from its body as their spears, spells, and arrows found their mark between its massive armour plates. Bellowing with rage, the golem-like construct contracted into a tight ball, still nearly five feet in diameter, and its glow brightened, casting the party in a new, seemingly cruel, sickly green light. Not wasting their chance, the group laid into the creature, sending more stone pieces falling to the cold ground beneath.
Emerging from its chrysalis, the Apocrypha took on a more defensive position as a hulking, animated wall, bristling with reinforced plating and vicious spikes. Again and again it pummeled the Sunspears—particularly Issa and Akeela, who stood toe to toe with the beast—as they tried to put its foulness and influence to an end. With one final, piercing rapier strike from Issa, the beast shuddered and collapsed, all light winking out as the magics which fueled the creature from time long forgotten winked out. Standing in the darkness, breaths ragged in their tired throats, they heard the sound of undead collapsing, falling once again into inanimate rest.
The stony basement wasn’t completely safe however, as grasping claws emerged from the dark—a lone skeleton, unaffected by the Apocrypha’s defeat, gave rise to the fear that what the Kournans had unleashed in their careless ransacking of the forgotten First City would have farther-reaching consequences than they had expected. Renewed with purpose, the Sunspears set their sights on rejoining with Kormir to give report of their success, and their fears.
Verifying that the miners stationed at the Jokanur Diggings had indeed vacated the camp with Kormir and Melonni, the Sunspears began the long trek through the Cliffs of Dohjok, sights set on reaching the Great Hall, where they would resupply and give their undoubtedly eye-opening report to the Spearmarshal. They moved with caution, fearing the emergence of further undead from the dense underbrush.
Arriving at the pious and strictly traditional Mebanyah Village, with its houses placed up in the trees so as to not defile the ground praised long ago by the Primeval Dynasty, the group was waved down, and were asked to settle a dispute regarding a strange “visitor” that had shown up early that morning, wounding one of the town’s farmhands. Approaching the circle of elders debating what to do, they saw a mindless undead lashed to a large tree, chomping and gnashing toward the crowd gathered around. Dispatching the beast, and allaying the village’s fears that it had been a portent signifying the gods’ displeasure with their offerings, the Sunspears investigated further and discovered a second, more powerful undead attempting to wriggle out of an ancient grave previously unknown to the hamlet.
Putting his martial upbringing to full effect, Tancred lead the other Sunspears in assembling a nightly patrol, made up of the most hale and hearty members of the town, to watch for any further “visitors” that may come calling in future nights.
Saying goodbye to the odd little town, they turned their attention back to the task at hand—reporting their intelligence to Spearmarshal Kormir, who could start putting pressure on the Istani government to reject the presence of, or at least restrict the free movement of, the seemingly blasphemous and ill-intentioned Kournans which had set so much pain and disunity into motion.
Instead of finding friendly faces and an open ear, they instead found that the Sunspear Great Hall had been placed under command of First Spear Jerek, a capable soldier but one who had an enormous chip on his shoulder after being passed over in favor of Kormir for Spearmarshal, and who seemed to be taking out his frustrations on the assembled Sunspears in his first acts as leader. Kormir had traveled on to Kamadan, Jewel of Istan, and Jerek didn’t want any of her “favored pupils” sowing discord among “his” troops. Saddling them with the task of disproving the accounts of a Vabbian girl who had been speaking out against General Kahyet and the rest of the Kournan High Command, he dismissed them, wanting to be rid of their presence.
Meeting with Tahlkora, the group of rightfully put-out Sunspears found they had uncovered much of the same evidence as she. What they had not learned however was that Kahyet was due to meet with corsair leaders and pay them off for the continued raids against innocent Istani coastal villages. She didn’t know exactly where the meeting was to be held, but she knew that Captain Ironfist was to be part of the exchange, and that his crew were planning on using a smuggler’s cover in the Cliffs of Dohjok the very next day. She had arrived with this intelligence three days prior but the First Spear refused to meet with her; she had to barge into his chambers to give her report, only to be met with derision.
With no chance of making the trip overland in time, the party, along with their trusted companion Dejen the sure-footed burro, chartered an overnight ship to an isolated beach near the Cliffs of Dohjok, coming across several members of Ironfist’s crew breaking down their camp. Setting upon them, the Sunspears learned that their much-surprised captives were supposed to be additional guards for an envoy who was meeting with Ironfist’s employer for payment—the corsair captain did not make the trip himself, it seemed. Releasing them on their own recognizance, unarmed, the party took their corsair uniforms and small boat and endeavored to make their way to the meeting instead.
Header image from Guild Wars: Nightfall concept art
More information about this ongoing story arc can be found in this post