The Dusk Riders followed the woman into the secret passage beneath the Inn, but after sealing the cask door that hid this tunnel, the Riders wouldn’t go further until they had a chance to regain their breath and composure. The Riders expressed their desire to find their dear friend and mentor, Ashby Hammersmith, as soon as they could, but they knew trouble would face them soon. The girl said that she believed that she knew of a tunnel that could get them close to Ashby’s position and the Riders were pleased as they knew their collective “Dusk Sense” would then allow them to find their friend from there. Despite the protection of the tunnels, the woman seemed uneasy while waiting there but indulged the Riders as they rested and asked her various questions.
Once wounds had been wrapped, arrows knocked and incantations prepared, the Riders continued through the earthen tunnels. The girl, in the lead using a dim torch, did her best to take the Riders towards their friend, but once the air became as foul as the stench above ground, Munn and Banner moved to the lead of the group.
Ultimately, the Rider’s Dusk Sense made their newfound proximity to Ashby palpable. The fact that their friend was so extremely close elated the Riders and made them all the more eager to rejoin with one of the fabled “First Riders.” The Riders pressed forward despite the fact that their enthusiasm was masking that the stench of these passages was worsening with every step. Finally, in a minor cavern, The Riders there found Ashby Hammersmith pummeled and bloodied on the ground.
Baern and Horatio moved close in order to assist Ashby immediately. Covered in a sad, yet extensive timeline of bruises and scars, Ashby fought to raise his head in order to see whether he should be preparing for yet another beating, or if finally he could enjoy a reprieve. Upon seeing his proudest achievements standing before him caused Ashby’s face to shift abruptly from joyous astonishment to one of terror. Pulling tautly at a hidden chain that held him in place, Ashby grabbed Baern’s hand and made an emphatic cry of “RUN!” from his bloodied lips.
Not an instant after Ashby had expressed his concern than did a multitude of undead arms rip through the ceiling of the tunnel and grab for the Dusk Rider’s throats. As the Riders contended with this sudden hazard, seasoned Orcish soldiers spilled forth from connecting tunnels ready to fight. The young girl that had inadvertently led them to this trap let loose a panicked cry that was immediately and permanently muffled by a bolt of necrotic energy from a staff held by none other than Queen Leonare herself. Distraught by the death of the girl, the Riders quickly channeled their grief into a unbridled battle rage once they heard the maniacal laugh of Gurgan the Reaver who was gleefully wielding Ashby’s weapon of choice, “The Justice of Chondath.”
None can truly say which slight it was that day – their excessively battered friend, an innocent girl murdered by the beautiful betrayer, Queen Leonare, the tremendous damage caused to the capital city of Arrabar by Gurgan and Leonare or even just the blasphemy of seeing their most despised foe, Gurgan the Reaver, ironically utilizing “The Justice of Chondath” against them – regardless of what stirred the heart of each Dusk Rider as they faced their gravest challenge, each member of the group was ready to showcase their collective fury and battle readiness once and for all.
The battle between the Riders and The Reaver’s wretched task forced raged for hours. But each time it seemed like Gurgan would land a killing blow or Leonare would syphon the soul of another innocent, the Riders regrouped and rejoined the battle more steadfast than before. Finally, as Gurgan’s forces dwindled, Leonare’s necrotic energies dispersed and the champions of Chondath became ever more convinced that victory would be theirs this day, the Riders pooled their attentions toward the Reaver and collectively felled him. Gurgan’s body fell with a dim thud that struck the room silent. The Riders, each exhausted from expending any and all of their abilities towards this grand goal had finally defeated their Kingdom’s greatest assailant. Sadly, any feeling of achievement was brief as now seeing her fallen beloved, Leonare let forth a combined shriek and piercing bolt of necrotic energy that savaged each Dusk Rider and knocked them prone. While the Dusk Riders were struck from their feet, they slowly collected themselves and stood ready to stop the Necrotic Queen as well, but it quickly became obvious that Leonare had escaped. With Gurgan dead, Leonare now gone, the Riders could finally afford a breath of relief while they removed the shackles which held their dear friend.
With Leonare’s attentions now certainly elsewhere, the living dead that plagued Arrabar vanished. The Orcish forces holding the city, now without their leader, began to be routed and scattered by King William himself (but, it is worth noting, some outlying farmland was “liberated” by Prince Geyar). At long last, the “Lion of Chondath” had returned home! Arrabar was once again the throne of Chondath and the work of restoring the kingdom’s greatness could be done in earnest by all Chondathians. As soldiers and freed citizens rejoiced such an epic victory, the tenor of the evening quickly changed.
As King William presided over Chondath’s makeshift court so that he could celebrate the triumph earned this day by The Dusk Riders, Fandall Jurdek made his way forward demanding satisfaction. Jurdek reminded the Riders that as part of their contract to secure the Eyes of the Mongoose for the Serpent Society, Jurdek had been promised amnesty along with the guarantee that the Riders would not harm either Jurdek or anyone in his employ upon penalty of death. Shockingly, Jurdek produced a contract that he had made with Gurgan the Reaver himself which meant that Gurgan was not just an employee of Jurdek at the time of the deal, but also that much of Gurgan’s raiding had been managed by Jurdek himself! But despite such horrific treachery, as a result of the amnesty deal, Jurdek could never be punished for these crimes against the throne and, under Chondathian law, the Dusk Riders had forfeited their very lives for slaying the Reaver!
Aghast, the King knew not what to do at all with this information. Ashby’s head dipped low over the notion that even on this glorious day of victory, somehow Jurdek had found a way to steal the joy from each and every Chondathian. Then too, was Prince Geyar, who was gleefully biting his lower lip in order to continuously prove to himself that what was transpiring was indeed real and not a dream.
As Jurdek began to make suggestions for the collective execution location, Horatio stepped forward and offered him a deal. Since Jurdek was now without a champion due to Gurgan’s death, perhaps Horatio could step in and act in eternal servitude in exchange for his friend’s lives. Jurdek would spare his fellow Dusk Riders and Horatio would serve and enact Jurdek’s will without question regardless the circumstances. After careful deliberation, a smarmy grin spilled across Jurdek’s fat face as his pleasure towards such an offer was too much for even him to hide discreetly. So, knowing that few could match Horatio’s mettle – and even less outside of the Dusk Riders themselves – Jurdek accepted the offer and ordered Horatio to his side. In his last act of defiance towards Jurdek, Horatio and his dear friends exchanged farewells along with an unspoken promise that somehow, someday the Dusk Riders would find a way to release Horatio from this servitude so that he could rejoin the Dusk Riders once again.