Every day in captivity, blood was taken from the Stars and dozens of survivors of other captured Silverwatch teams. After weeks, the cult began sacrifices, murdering at first a prisoner a day, then two, forcing everyone to jump into action.
After over a month of captivity, the Stars finally managed to break out of their cells, locate Nimbles, and disrupt the sacrifices, realizing that they were being used to power a magical orb.
A hectic few minutes and the Stars had opened the cells of every prisoner, who rallied around Wyverna. As Janos saved a would-be sacrifice, while Corvus used a makeshift weapon to to lead the others toward a corner of the large chamber, to a door Wyverna was convinced housed their gear and weapons – their only chance of escaping alive.
Vorle joined them and he and Corvus went to work on the armory door. After a few minutes, it started to splinter.
“Almost,” Wyverna said. “Almost.”
The other prisoners and teams were amassing at the door. The Stars recognized many familiar faces of those around, including Perrath, Smed, and Barl. Janos arrived a few moments later, helping the elven girl from the altar, who he introduced her as Ayn, setting her down to rest.
More and more pale creatures came out of the walls, the tunnels, everywhere, it seemed. There were dozens of them. In the center of the room, the blood well bubbled and erupted, shaking the room and sending rubble and dust down upon everyone.
Finally, the door opened.
“Inside,” Wyverna shouted. “Everyone, inside.”
Nearly thirty or so prisoners spilled into the large room, which was covered from floor to ceiling with weapons and gear. Vorle and Perrath grabbed spears and blocked the door, giving everyone time to arm themselves.
The others ran to the walls, reclaiming their equipment, finding their packs, armor, and weapons scattered in a corner, and quickly readied themselves for battle.
Wyverna paused for a moment, tossing her spear aside and grabbing an ornate, golden spear from the wall. The tip was glowing slightly, and covered with elven markings. She tested the heft of it, looked satisfied, and headed to the door.
Janos found a desk covered in dust and bottles. He scrutinized the labels, peering inside, then dumped five of the potions into his bag. He grabbed a few others, filled with glowing red liquid.
“Alchemist’s fire,” he said, carefully handing one to each of the others. “Don’t drop it.”
Corvus shoved the dragonsteel sword into his bag, along with a few small throwing axes found nearby.
Once everyone was armed, Wyverna jumped on a crate near the door.
“Games are over,” she said. “We’re fighting our way out. Stick together. Protect each other. And when you swing that sword, you better swing it to kill.”
There were grunts of agreement. Some looked scared and were shaking. Everyone looked weak. The door splintered again and again as the creatures heaved against it. It wouldn’t last much longer.
“Fight!, Wyverna shouted. “Fight for your lives!”
The door broke in half, and dozens of creatures flooded through. The teams roared, lashing out with swords and axes. Arcane missiles shot from the back of the room as archers hailed the creatures with arrows.
The Stars and the others pushed the creatures out of the armory, into the main chamber, fighting off the endless swarms. In the middle of the chamber, the ceiling was beginning to collapse. The statue of Gormahoon cracked and fell to pieces, breaking apart the altar and crashing into the blood well.
Vorle pushed to the front of the fight.
“How the hell do we get out of here?,” he asked.
“There,” Quinn shouted, pointing toward a door with twin torches.
Vorle nodded, then shouted at the army to follow him as they fought their way toward the exit.
Suddenly, an inhuman wail pierced the air, and shadowy, screaming tendrils shot from a doorway. Nimbles dived out, carrying something in his arms, running across the chamber and climbing up a pile of rubble into a large doorway at the top of the room. Behind him came the cult leader, screaming through the air engulfed in a shadowy cloud and flailing shadow tendrils, diving through the same door in pursuit of the half-elf.
“We’ve got this,” Vorle shouted to the Stars. “Go get him. Go get that son of a bitch.”
The Stars dropped down and ran to where Nimbles and the cult leader had gone, climbing the rubble and entering through a large stone doorway. As they looked back, they saw the tall robed figure standing at the top level of the chamber, looking on.
As they rushed through the hallways and up a tall spiral staircase, they came across Nimbles, badly wounded, lying on the stairs. He no longer had the orb, and was covered with blood and strange black bruises.
Corvus dropped his axe and worked to stabilize him as quickly as possible. Once the bleeding stopped, Nimbles urged them on.
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “Get the orb. Get the orb or it’s all for nothing.”
The party resumed their brisk pace, and emerging from the stairwell to the loud baritone voice of the cult leader barking orders to someone, they knew they were close. Glowing red eyes and daggers cut them off from their pursuit, slowing the party down while they cut their way through a handful of empowered pale creatures.
Back on the trail, the Stars noticed the hallways were now almost entirely restored, the architecture and quality of a high elven castle of some sort. Emerging into a small room with a deep, elaborately carved stone fountain, the Stars were temporarily stopped by the cult leader’s magic, which lit the doors with shadow flames, sealing the party in.
As they made their way to the other side, fighting off more of the pale creatures, the fountain bubbled and boiled with some sort of black, thick liquid, finally releasing an enormous abomination, a shadow of one of the creatures, covered in magical tar, which began to spin around the room, pulling Janos and Corvus into the shadowy whirlwind.
Janos teleported out of the madness, and Corvus fought his way out, turning to the creature and cutting it in half with two powerful cleaves from his axe. As the creature faded away, the doors opened, and the Stars steeled themselves, continuing on.
After many dark hallways and stairwells, the Stars emerged into a giant hall, surrounded by a staircase, leading hundreds of feet up to a door framed with sunlight. In the middle of the room was the cult leader, floating some fifty feet in the air, holding the orb and surrounded by a shadowy shield.
Below him, on the stone floor, were several shadowy runic circles, shielded and releasing shadowy, wispy forms of screaming faces and creatures. The cult leader shot magical tendrils at the Stars, trapping them within shadowy walls of dark energy.
The Stars spread out, trying to assess the situation, and the shadowy forms attacked at the cult leader’s command, trying to pull them through the shadowy walls, which scratched and clawed at them as they neared.
Exhausted from the captivity and weakened by the fighting pursuit, the Stars began to fall, one by one, but not before they managed to disperse some of the shadowy creatures. Seeing that their deaths removed the shields around the runes, Quinn shouted to the others to destroy them, and they went to work.
Those that were too weak to walk, crawled, and finally the Stars managed to destroy each of the runic circles, disabling the cult leader’s shadowy shield and disrupting the spell cast through the orb, destabilizing the magic and causing an explosive force which knocked the cult leader away. Quinn quickly secured the orb with a ghostly magical hand, and Wyverna limped to the cult leader, who crawled back toward the orb with frenzied anger, brandishing a dagger.
Without ceremony, Wyverna lifted her spear high and impaled the cult leader to the floor, as he uttered his final word: “Gormahoon…”. Inspecting the body, the Stars discovered the cult leader was a dark elf, like Saze, and carried a strange silver medallion known to the former empire of the Darktide.
Sensing the destructive magic of the orb, which Janos told the others was a shadowy force called an Abyssal Key, he wrapped it in his cloak and moved it out of sight.
As they recovered, Nimbles made his way into the room, holding his sides and ensuring that the orb was recovered. He then led the Stars up the stairs and out the door, which thrust the party back into the fresh air and greenery of Farhoon Forest. The door itself was perfectly hidden within a tree, and nearly vanished once they had exited.
Nimbles said little about the previous month, only that his task was complete, but he seemed to be regretting his part in it, and none too happy about what had happened, saying only that it had gotten far out of hand.
Before long, Nimbles and the Stars heard voices that led them to Vorle and the other surviving prisoners. Vorle proudly asserted that none had lost their lives in the escape, and the Stars let him know that they had sealed the cult leader’s fate, as promised.
Suddenly, disturbing the reunion, a loud crash of plate mail announced the arrival of a black guard, which drew its broad sword and began to rush at the vulnerable resting teams. Before it could take a step, it was impaled through the center by a glowing spear and dropped to the ground. Standing above it was the mysterious robed figure, who pulled back their hood and revealed themselves as Saze of the Darktide, dark elf and leader of Halberd House.
She quickly approached the group, snatching the orb away from Janos, unwrapping and inspecting it.
“It’s not enough,” she said to Nimbles.
“Trust me,” he assured her. “It’s enough. It’s all been enough. Too much, in fact.”
“It better be,” she snapped, rewrapping it and tucking it into a satchel. “If not, we won’t be the only ones to pay the price.”