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.
16th of Zephyr, 1075 AE
Bluffing their way through the rough-and-tumble dirt streets of Blacktide Den—a near-lawless collection of scoundrels, criminals, and outsiders—the party took their first steps into the dreaded Lahtenda Bog, inhabited only by witches, swamp creatures, and necromancers for over four-hundred years. Knowing their quarry was meeting near the ancient Sunspear Guard mausoleum deep within the mosquito-infested morass, they steeled themselves against all manner of attack, whether from human or beast.
Coming across freshly-killed swamp creatures, the Sunspears fell upon a group of corsairs resting and healing themselves, leaving only Captain Ironfist’s envoy—who wisely surrendered—alive. He explained that Ironfist neither trusted General Kahyet nor wanted to spent time in the bog, and so had procured his services. He proposed a trade, in that he could lead the Sunspears—still disguised as assorted corsair pirates—to the site of the meet and give them all of Ironfist’s gold, as long as he could walk out of the exchange freely. The party agreed, not liking their options.
After several hours walking and battling through the swamp, they came across General Kahyet, making no effort to hide her identity, handing over a bag of money to another corsair crew, lead by Captain Besoz. Displeased at Ironfist not meeting as agreed upon, but ultimately accepting the envoy’s smooth-tongued explanation, she gave him a similarly large bag of coin, which he handed to Tancred with a knowing nod. Starting to depart, he broke out into a run when the party fell upon the General; consorting and paying corsairs to raid Istan’s shores was a crime worthy of arrest in and of itself, let alone the terrible destruction those under her command had wrought with the waking of the Apocrypha and the release of undead across the isles.
With sword strikes, arrows, and divine magic all lancing toward the aged Kournan general, her frail form belied the strength and conviction which fueled her spirit. Emboldened by her faith and confidence in a being she named “Abaddon,” she shrugged off the mightiest of blows while bringing her terrible magics to bear upon the Sunspears. All felt the lash of her arcane might save Akeela, who sprinted after the envoy, determined to not let him escape, for his part in Ironfist’s crimes against the people of Istan.
Grevious wounds were traded on each side of the pitched, swamp-sodden battle, but ultimately the power of rightenousness began to overpower Kahyet’s dark master. Surrounding herself with a protective field, and knowing her options were few, the general began casting a truly powerful spell, the effort of which ate at her very flesh, as if to fuel and give shape to the terrible energies she channeled.
Tancred called out “In the name of Balthazar, Halt” in his most commanding voice, channeling the divine energies of the god of war, putting as much force be himself could funnel into the word. Remarkably—and in a surprise even to himself—the demand worked, and Balthazar sapped Kahyet’s will to continue casting. Unfortunately for her, and for all others in the middle of the terrible Lahtenda morass, the pent-up energy of Kahyet’s powerful casting had to go somewhere.
An explosion rocked the wooded swamp, larger and louder than any the Sunspears had heard ever before; it was as if the air itself was cracking in half. The blast rendered the general’s body into vapor and sent the collective Sunspears reeling, deafened and blinded from the concussive force of her failed spell.
Picking themselves up, painfully, from the marshy ground, they looked around for any trace of their quarry. “Got the envoy!” came Akeela’s cheery voice from deeper within the swamp. “Did I miss anything?”
Picking themselves off the soggy ground and seeing no trace of the murderous General Kahyet, the Sunspears regrouped and, with the Envoy in tow as their prisoner, began the long march back to the Great Hall, where they hoped to meet with Spearmarshal Kormir.
Unfortunately the Spearmarshal had not yet returned from attempting to gather support for official action against the Kournans for their continued assault on Istani independence, and—not wishing to face First Spear Jerek alone—met with Castellan Puuba, their long-time mentor. He listened to the story of their trek into the bog and the information acquired therein, mostly corroborated by the Envoy, and sighed heavily into his calloused hands.
A Kournan general was dead on Istani soil, at the hands of young Sunspears, while on a mission designed to keep them out of trouble. “I’ll speak with Jerek,” he ultimately decided. “Get some rest; tomorrow is going to be very long, I guarantee it.”
The Envoy, quite put out at not having been left to his own devices back in the Bog like he was promised, grumbled epithets at his captors all the way to the Great Hall’s prison block.
20th of Zephyr, 1075 AE
A joint tribunal between Istan and Kourna was called to determine the truth of the Sunspears’ claims and their culpability for the death of General Kahyet. Calling witnesses from across the isles, the Sunspears faced General Morghan who—representing Kourna—laid into their credibility and the actual value of their testimony. To everyone’s surprise he openly admitted that Kahyet was behind the corsair attacks on Istan, but staunchly presented the argument that she was working alone, without knowledge of or permission from Warmarshal Varesh Ossa.
The outcome of the trial seemed to loom disfavorably for the Sunspears’ claims when Spearmarshal Kormir, returned from travels both to the mainland and to empires far abroad in search of allies, burst into the courtroom and demanded to know the meaning of the proceedings—she had witnessed Varesh’s heresy with her own eyes, and demanded that the Kournan leader present herself for proper trial and condemnation.
General Morghan scoffed, insinuating that if Kormir wanted the Warmarshal, she’d have to come to Kourna and herself. With nothing more to say, and nothing more to be said, the court adjurned with whispers of war on everyone’s lips.
The following morning saw one of the largest assembly of Sunspears in recent memory; troops had been recalled from Kourna both for their own safety and to aid in the assault of Gendara, the Moon Fortress—the seat of Kourna’s military and political might.
Vareh’s crimes were laid out to the crowd by Raidmarshal Mehdara, from the death and misery caused by the corsair raids to the pursuit and worship of dark, malefic forces. With Kormir by her side, she ordered the smiths to tend to their forges, the loremasters to study all maps of the Kournan capital, and for the most pious to seek the blessing of the five gods themselves.
Their foes were not the rank and file of the large Kournan army—they would be defending their homeland and following orders to protect their Warmarshal, and there is no shame in that—surrender would be accepted, and the Sunspears were ordered to be surgical in their assault; this conflict was not an excuse to succumb to wild emotion rather than calculated precision.
War had come to Elona, and the Sunspears were determined to show their true mettle. All knew this fight, this conflict, would enshrine their legacy as the true and rightful defenders of all the kingdoms, and their victory would be so complete as to prevent any from raising their hand against the peace and good order of society again.