Dusk Riders of Chondath

Pt. 45 - Unspeakable Horrors

Sensing threats from the wretched ruin all around them, the Dusk Riders determined it prudent to take a moment, assess their situation, and collect themselves before continuing. Seeking some semblance of protection within a lost city overrun by demons, the Dusk Riders determined that the ground floor of a partially leveled tower was their best bet. As they made their way towards this makeshift shelter, howls of the damned mixed with those of their victims as the Dusk Riders did their best to focus on the tasks at hand. Their immediate goal was to still collect the Oynx Shard for The Coyote so that they may collect the axe of Dwarven legend in return, but that goal felt more and more fleeting with every passing moment. Hoping to better prepare for the challenges that obviously await them, the Dusk Riders began ascending the decrepit tower that, thankfully, was marked with an Onyx Star.

The Riders were quickly surprised to learn that the Tower was not as devoid of live as it first seemed since multiple voices could be easily discerned inside. Seeking to gather more information before revealing themselves, Mathis and Nyria quietly made their way closer to the din. As they both made their way up the stairs, two Red Wizard Acolytes ventured down from an upper floor unaware of Nyria and Mathis’ presence. Nyria and Mathis coordinated a quick strike and dispatched the two sinister mystics with ease. Pausing to gauge whether or not they had made their presence apparent to all, they halted to listen for sudden activity. Still hearing conversational noises above their position, Nyria and Mathis decided to disguise themselves in the cloaks of the Acolytes before venturing further. Now masked as Red Wizard students, the two Riders led the other Riders further up the stairs.

Upon reaching the next floor, Mathis glanced about and quickly recognized that this floor of the Tower was being used as a makeshift academy for dark magical arts. Disgusted by this perversion of the mystic arts, Mathis exchanged a silent agreement with Nyria to move forward with their ruse, so they both subtlety entered the classroom while silently praying that they had blended in undetected amongst the other Red Wizard Acolytes.

The assemblage of Acolytes were receiving instruction from a ominous individual wearing an ornate red robe adorned with highlights created from black silk. Both Mathis and Nyria did their best to make their way into the classroom unnoticed, but just when they both thought it time to somewhat relax, the Instructor boomed out a question to them both. “Done so soon, Klymar?” Without hesitation, Mathis answered, “Yes, Master” and took a seat at the back of the chamber as if nothing were out of the ordinary. Seemingly satisfied, the Instructor collected a small silver bowl which appeared to contain the blood of the innocent. The Instructor liberally dipped three of his fingers into the bowl and then knelt down to begin drawing a summoning circle. Upon completion of the circle, the Instructor then began a chant for the “Servants of the Plague” to join them on this plane and revel in wonton malice. As the other Acolytes rose and began to join in with the uneasy chants, Mathis feared what might be summoned should they pause too much longer and unleashed an attack. Acting in near lockstep with her valued compatriot, Nyria followed Mathis’ attack with a deft arrow strike towards the Instructor. Only too eager to join this fray, Munn barreled into the room administering his devastating acid breath weapon attack. The coordinated attack by the Dusk Riders cleared the room of evil and halted the demonic gate from being realized.

With that class of Red Wizards dismissed permanently, Mathis and Nyria resumed ascending towards the next floor of the tower, but found it masked in darkness – a wholly unnatural and sinister darkness. Cautiously, the Dusk Rider approached the top of the stairs, but suddenly, it was all too obvious that the Riders were being watched. Despite the darkness cloaking all other aspects of the chamber, two hellish eyes could be seen piercing through the blackness. As the Riders realized that they were not alone in this dank room, they reddened eyes narrowed and suddenly bounded towards them. The darkness cloaked this otherworldly horror as it attacked, but it only too quickly became apparent that this abomination was not alone, but paired with another equally foul denizen of the abyss. The other Dusk Riders joined the fierce exchange and worked fast to collectively dispatch the demons. After the exchange had completed, the toxicity of these demons was readily apparent as symptoms of Abyssal Plague became obvious on Mathis. Knowing the horrific pain and madness that could quickly befall him if left untreated, Baern and Mathis worked together to halt the disease and cure Mathis before he could be afflicted any further.

With Mathis cleansed of the plague, The Riders then continued upward towards a steel door. The Dusk Riders paused to listen at the door in hopes of getting a better understanding of what awaited them on the other side. As they did, beyond the reinforced portal, both powerful energy and an evil incantation could be heard. Remembering the earlier summoning circle they had disrupted and the two foul demons they had just overcome, no member of the Riders believed that there was any further time to collect information, but instead mightily forced the door open so they could better assess the threat within the room.

Inside this vast chamber, eight pillars filled the room. Each pillar was bristling with arcane energy that crackled and emitted energy beams which seemed to be suspending two items in the air. From those two suspended items, even greater energy poured forth into the room. The catalyst for this arcane energy stemmed from the two items held aloft – one a stone emblazoned with a rune, the other object appearing to be onyx in composition. Collectively, the two items appeared to be acting as an intensifier which was focusing an overwhelming energy beam towards a large summoning circle. Unlike the previous circle the Riders had disrupted, sadly, this one was not just active, but currently being used as a passage unto this plane by a horrifying three headed dragon. The Riders could not help but gasp at this woeful monstrosity which was feverishly clawing its way through the circle in the hopes of fully entering this plane. As if the presence of the most fearsome wyrm they had ever encountered was not enough, the Dusk Riders quickly learned that the tri-headed dragon was not their sole threat when a wickedly giddy madman called out to them.

An individual devoid of sanity glanced at the Dusk Riders with nary a care and seemed perversely happy over seeing such a monstrous evil pour forth from his summoning circle. With his prideful eyes watering over being the individual that caused this wretched event, the red robed madman hollered out, “YOU’RE TOO LATE! CALASTRYX IS HERE!” Following this confounding statement, the Madman further punctuated the dread by raising his arms and triggering multiple summoning spheres to appear adjacent to each of the pillars. “This is a cause for further celebration, so let us welcome even MORE GUESTS!” Then, from each of the summoning spheres, minor demons began spilling out ready to do the bidding of the fevered mad man that had brought them to Thay.

Seemingly recognizing Baern, the lunatic called out toward him, “You cannot hope to stop me, minion of Corundum! I have PROVEN that I no longer need all rune stones! Go tell Magmar that I have outsmarted him!” Not understanding this statement in the slightest, Nyria gave up on trying to discern his crazed words and instead shot the Runestone out of the air. With the runestone no longer empowering the summoning circle, the disruption immediately caused Calystryx, the three headed dragon, to be trapped between worlds and the ferocious wyrm thrashed about violently as a result. Furious at this attempt to undermine his evil will, the red robed lunatic angrily rushed to the fallen Runestone and lofted it back into the energy field thereby restoring the summoning circle.

Emboldened once more at seeing his circle restored, the crazed Red Wizard then shouted out at The Dusk Riders further gibberish. “THE SHATTERSHIELD BLOODLINE IS DEAD! DEAD! AND ALL TOO SOON, EACH OF YOU WILL JOIN THEM!” The Dusk Riders still were woefully uncertain what this lunatic meant, so they instead focused their attacks on the Rune Stone and Onyx Shard, causing them both to become dislodged multiple times. But despite the momentary success, whenever either or both items became knocked loose, the senseless mage would immediately restore them and continue allowing the dragon Calastryx to move between realms.

Devoutly hating being trapped between worlds, the dragon, Calastryx, signified its massive displeasure by lashing out wildly at any within its grasp. As the Dusk Riders continued to try and thwart the circle, Calastryx would fire its infernal breath weapon, gnash out with its razor sharp teeth or rend a poor victim with its claws. After sustaining horrific damage from Calastryx, Mathis bravely obliterated one of the eight pillars and thereby halted the stream of energy stemming from it thereby destabilizing the arcane portal. Realizing that The Dusk Riders had now recognized the linchpin to his nefarious plan, the possibility of his ultimate undoing became apparent to the Mad Mage causing him to become incensed: “NO! MINIONS OF CORUNDUM, YOU WILL NOT HALT MY EFFORTS TO RELEASE CALASTRYX INTO THIS REALM!”

After hearing this name called out multiple times called out by this crazed wizard, the Dusk Riders finally recalled that ‘Corundum,’ was none other than Corundum Shattershield, the fallen King of the Dwarven kingdom of Shanatar. In fact, Thomin Shattershield, the former owner of the powerful axe held within the Coyote’s Refuge, was a direct descendant of that royal bloodline.

With no time to further pause and reflect upon the meaning of his crazed calls, Nyria instead destroyed two additional pillars causing the wizard to cry out again: “STOP, DISCIPLES OF MAGMAR! STOP!!! YOU WILL NOT UNDO ME!” When Baern finally destroyed the last pillar, an explosive burst of arcane forces filled the room and the blast dislodged Calastryx from this plane and back to the pitiful realm which suffered her unyielding wrath. With Calastryx banished, the Dusk Riders ignored the discomfort from the effort of both casting her away plus the unending onslaught of demons and stood ready to end this Wizard insane torment. Before The Dusk Riders could take the fight directly to that Red Wizard, the mad man soared up into the air while calling out , “FOOLS! KNOW THAT ON THIS DAY YOU HAVE MADE AN ETERNAL ENEMY OF BUHERNAR THE ASCENDANT! BE WARNED THAT I SHALL ULTIMATELY SEND YOU INTO HIDING IN THE SAME WAY I SENT THAT TITANTIC FOOL, MAGMAR, SCURRYING FOR HIS LIFE! TELL THAT FOOLISH GIANT THAT I NOW KNOW THE SECRET OF THE RUNES AND IT IS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE I RESTORE CALASTRYX TO THIS PLANE AND ULTIMATELY TOPPLE THE WORLD!” With that, Buhernar flew out of the tower leaving the Onyx Shard and the Rune Stone at the feet of the grievously wounded Dusk Riders.

Once the vile collections of evils had been overwhelmed, the Riders collapsed and did their best to regain their breath and composure. After a brief respite, a quick search uncovered Buhernar’s diary. In between crazed statements and meandering prose, the Riders learned of the relationship between Corundum, Magmar and the Red Wizards. It appeared that Corundum Shattershield feared the loss of his kingdom and began bartering with the Red Wizards of Thay in the hopes of gaining dark magic that could turn his fortune. Instead of being his salvation, Corundum was instead played as a fool. As a result of following a path of misguided treachery, Corundum’s actions caused Magmar to recognize the impending threat to Clan Shattershield and the city of Shanatar. In the hopes that he could avert a larger calamity, Magmar covertly departed Shanatar in the hopes that he could collect the Runestones before they could be jointly activated and release untold horrors on the realms. But despite Magmar’s best efforts, Corundum had provided enough of a lead for Buhernar to begin multiple macabre experiments that allowed the Mad Wizard to create a powerful summoning circle using an Onyx Shard despite not having all of the required Runestones in his possession. As a result of reading the diary, The Dusk Riders learned that the Red Wizards had been lying all along. Magmar had committed no crime but had instead acted on behalf of the realms by collecting the runestones and going into hiding. In fact, the Dusk Riders could then not help but wonder if the giant described within the diary was not the same giant the Riders had discovered when they had ventured into the Underdark through the fissure beneath the Duskholme! Now, with the Onyx Shard in hand, the Riders could collect the great axe of Clan Shattershield and determine how best to negotiate with the unsociable giant they had discovered beneath their home.

More than ready to depart these wretched city, Baern staved off the effects of the Abyssal Plague the Riders had contracted and Munn led the way out of the Tower. Finally they all understood what was afoot and were able to leave Thay and report in person to The Simbul. While it did not feel like victory, on this day the Dusk Riders had ensured that the Red Wizards could no longer use their petty lies as a justification of war.

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Stichey

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