Following the fight with the Jehuthra, we found Trejack in a concealed back room. He immediately threw down his clubs and stated flatly that he surrendered. I smiled, and was about to mock him when suddenly Skram sprung forward. He shouted and brought his hammer down on Trejack with crushing force. Trejack was knocked to the floor, badly wounded by the devastating hit. Skram then accepted Trejack’s surrender, but we could all tell he wanted the man’s blood. None of us could blame him, the man certainly deserved death if ever a man did. In the room we discovered a huge pile of ancient pre-scourge books. There were a number of other items, including a large iron bound chest, but there was one which simply called to me. Today, looking back, I know Rashomon guided me to it, a Blue Mantle which lay neatly folded and covered with dust on a stone table in the center of the room.
After a few minutes we had Trejack bound hand and foot with a pair of shackles I kept in my pack. It was then that Vridich pointed out to us that Trejack was horror infested. Literally it looked in Astral Space like a horror no larger than a gnat was living in him. Urgral thought the horror may have been contained in an urn, one of several in the room. One had been recently knocked over and it was filled with what appeared to be sand. After some discussion we decided that it would be best to send Urgral topside to get a book from our Ward Room, which he thought would help us.
He left, and roughly an hour later we heard him cry out. The last remaining Jehuthra had come out of hiding and attacked Urgral as he came back. We charged out into the main room, all except Skram and Suulin who stayed behind to guard Trejack. The Jehuthra, having learned its lesson in our last fight, tried a new tactic. Instead of fighting us directly, it was clinging to the ceiling and shooting us at a distance with its dangerous webbing. After a few minutes of this, I’d had enough. I charged forward as fast as I could and leapt into the air with a Great Leap, then I wrapped my arms around the creature’s spider-like body and ripped it from the ceiling. It shrieked in surprise as we fell to the floor. I landed on top of it, and then rolled it over exposing its belly to a charging Urgral. The beast howled as it saw its death coming in the form of Purifier, Urgral’s sword. Urgral gutted the beast, its black blood spewed out on the floor as it died, legs twitching.
After the fight, we discovered that Trejack had been trying to escape from Suulin and Skram. Suulin came walking out of the back room in a daze. Vridich and I made our way over to her, and she appeared to be talking to herself. It was soon apparent she and Skram had kicked up some of the horror infested dust in the room while trying to subdue Trejack. Skram had blocked the entrance to the back room with a cloak, warning us of the danger, telling us that he was horror infested. We could hear the fear in his voice.
Vridich placed a Radiant Circle in the entrance keeping the horrors inside. Skram then threw his weapons into the circle, and Urgral and I helped Suulin tie herself up. We both felt bad for the girl, as we knew well enough her background. I then threw my other pair of shackles in the back room to Skram so he could keep himself out of trouble. After Suulin and Skram were secured, Vridich discovered several of the horrors floating lazily in the air of the room we were in. He killed each of them with a spell which zapped them with a tiny pop. Each fiend let out a tiny, high-pitched shriek as it was destroyed. I remember feeling a small bit of satisfaction as each one died. His Radiant Circle kept the rest at bay while he did his work.
After just a couple of minutes, Urgral found information in the book about the horrors which turned out to be invaluable. He discovered that they were called Dread Iota and that they thrive in liquids but are immobile outside of it, only able to be blown around by a breeze, like dust or sand. In addition it was discovered that only questors of Garland have the ability to destroy the horror once it has afflicted a creature. That was bad news for us as we did not have such a questor among our entire crew. We discussed this, and decided that we had to do everything in our power to keep the horrors contained in the temple.
After Vridich had zapped all of the exposed Dread Iota we moved into the smaller room and tied up Skram, Suulin and Trejack. Urgral had a good idea to tie them onto the stone table in the center of the room to keep them immobile, which is what we did.
We loaded up the large chest in the room with all the books, weapons and items there, including Skrams hammer. It bothered me to pick it up. for I was deeply worried for my friends.
Once they were all secure and everything loaded into the chest, Dagmar used his Uplandal questor powers to form a wall of stone blocking any possible escape. It was an impressive thing to witness, the stone wall formed from thin air. I hoped we would not need that wall for long.
Once the wall was formed we immediately set about finding out what happened to the crewmen upstairs. Dagmar and I carried up the chest. Dremnin was the first out of the temple, and he immediately picked up the tracks of our crew and another pair of large, iron-shod boots.
Those tracks could only belong to one name-giver, Ned… the head jailor. The bastard was alive afterall… I had hoped him dead.
There was no sign of struggle, which could only mean one thing; our men had been infected by these horrors. I had thought our men were safe positioned there, yet I had been wrong. I should have used more men to guard this position, but we had been stretched so thin with all of the prisoners, and I was in such a hurry to catch Trejack, that it wasn’t an option.
The tracks led from the temple in three directions. One went North toward the Serpent River, the other two split off West toward each of our ships. There was no time to lose. We immediately set off for the ships. When we arrived things looked normal at first. I was relieved to see Hakka, Wheeler and Korack standing by the camp fire. Draiden, Arrius and a group of men were standing by the ramp to the Stag, eating. I saw Tekil walking aboard the Albatross, while Thom was aboard the Stag. Each had a pot used to serve supper to the crew. We were in the trees at the edge of the clearing and none of the crew had seen us yet.
I was not alarmed at first until Vridich whispered that the men on both ships were infected, while Thom and Tekil appeared to be infected and horror marked. My blood went cold at that statement.
Urgral then whispered that Korack, Wheeler and Hakka were not yet effected and that the food Thom and Tekil were serving was swarming with the tiny horrors. It was then we leapt into action.
I strolled forward with Dremnin and Urgral at my side and the others following. I walked up to Draiden, Wheeler and Hakka. They turned to look at us, and I sensed the infected men on both ships looking at us as well. I was certain the horrors were filling all their minds with reasoning for misdeeds.
“Why did you men leave your post?” I said loudly. I wanted the horror infested crewmen to think we had not discovered their condition yet, and I needed to buy time to get to the three uninfected men.
Wheeler and Korack looked glad to see us. Hakka, with his always stoic expression unchanged; answered in his usual emotionless tone;
“My lord, Kerick relieved us about an hour ago.”
Wheeler then added in a hushed voice; “Tekil and Thom took our places, but they came back shortly afterwards. They told us that you sent them back.”
I could tell Wheeler sensed something was wrong. He was always a bright lad. It made sense. The horrors used Ned to possess Tekil and Thom, and then used them to infect the others. Now we had to figure out a way to subdue the crew without the horrors driving them to attack us. I looked at the three men in front of me and smiled, pretending to be relaxed.
“Well done.” I said loudly. “All is handled now. The temple is sanctified.”
Korack and Hakka began to turn back toward the fire. Then I added in a hushed voice;
“Listen. The rest of the crew are under the influence of horrors. Form up with us, stay defensive and whatever you do don’t let them spit or bleed on you. Follow my lead.”
They looked confused but did as ordered. I started forward toward our air ship but I really didn’t know what I was going to do… I just knew I had to do something. Everyone formed up behind me. I wager everyone thought I had a plan, but I could think of nothing at that moment. No weapons were drawn but our group, Dremnin, Hakka, Urgral, Wheeler, Dagmar and Vridich, closed ranks instinctively.
Urgral then wisely added; “The horrors infest through liquid. Be careful.”
As we moved forward the crew began to move out in front of the ship in two groups, obviously wary of us. Our group would have been quickly outflanked if we had kept going so I stopped, and the group stopped with me.
Thom then hopped down from the ramp of the ship, and then Dremnin acted. He dashed forward and ran up the ramp of the ship, then he wheeled around and brought his shield up, blocking the ramp.
I smiled. It was a brilliant tactical play. The crew in front of us were now blocked from retreat back onto the ship, and the ship was secure. The only way they could get back on it was to turn their backs on us… something the horrors, fearful of their host being subdued, could never do. Dremnin had the high ground, an with the ramp blocked could only be faced by one crewman at a time coning up the ramp. The crewmen looked confused, not knowing how to react. The horrors in them were surely screaming all kinds of things at them. The men were still loyal to me, to The Unchained, and to each other. The confused stalemate seemed to last minutes, but in reality only lasted for a second or two. Then things changed.
Taran, Suulin’s retainer, just a boy really, had been vomiting over the side of the deck since we first saw the ship. I think we all kind of forgot about him. Now seeing Dremnin a few yards away, he turned and, wiping the puke away from his mouth, took a step toward Dremnin.
“Dremnin, help me.” He said.
Dremnin kept a wary eye on him, and with authority shouted; “Get back!”
All eyes on the group looked up to the encounter above. Taran repeated his plea for help and stumbled closer to Dremnin. Dremnin again ordered him back but Taran, likely just confused or maybe at the behest of the horror in him, ignored Dremnin and kept coming. Just as it looked like Taran would be able to make contact with Dremnin, Dremnin whipped his axe forward and smacked the youth in the side with the flat of it, nearly knocking him over the rail and off the ship. Taran hit the rail, nearly tottered over, and then collapsed in a heap with a wail.
Draiden, my sworn man and faithful friend and ally, looked back at us with what I could only call a wild and crazed expression. He drew his sword and shouted.
“Look! They were right! They mean to kill us!”
The others drew weapons and before we could do anything, they attacked. Luckily the best fighters were on our side. Wheeler, Hakka and Korack were among the best soldiers among the entire crew. Plus with Dagmar, Urgral and I, we were a formidable bunch. We closed ranks, all except Dagmar who rushed forward.
I did not want this to turn into a blood bath. I shouted to our group; “Don’t strike them, stay defensive!”
Then I began to use my Eminent Forbearance questor power. I began talking to the crew, my words calm and cool in spite of the fact that my friend and brother, Draiden, was striking at me repeatedly. I parried his blows and kept talking. I have long forgotten my exact words, but i remember telling them not to listen to the horrors inside them. We were their allies, not the fiends in their heads. We fought together, bled together and fought for one another. Skram and Suulin, I said, were in the temple now, also effected by these horrors, and they fought the horrors hold and shackled themselves to keep the horrors from using them against us, their friends and allies. As spoke these words, they flowed effortlessly through my lips and I felt Rashomon’s power ebb through me. I felt peace and calm in spite of the fear and frustration of moments ago. I willed that upon our men, and after a few moments of speaking I felt it take hold. Suddenly all combatants stopped and looked at me, some slack jawed, as I spoke to them, urging them to fight the powers of evil that would divide us. Swords were lowered. Men, on both sides moved closer together, and I felt Rashomon instilling unity and peace among us, countering the infection of fear and division of the horrors.
Once the battle ceased and my audience captivated I began to futher use Rashomon’s powers to inspire the men to persevere over the horrors who would seek to destroy and torment us all. My words again flowed, and I could tell many of the men were immediately impacted. In front of me, Draiden threw down his blade with tears on his face. He swore and apologized over and over. I pulled shackles out of my pack, and handed them to him. He began to put them on, and I kept talking using Rashomon’s power to keep the men entranced. Hakka and Wheeler helped To tie up Osrak, and then our time ran out and the effect of Eminent Forbearance wore off. Still, it had worked to buy us precious moments and remove two of the endangered men from the situation. It had also helped me get Rashomon’s inspiration in place to aid the men in their resistance to the horrors. Now it was up to them.
Suddenly several of the men broke into a choppy, random movement that Vridich would later tell me was a bone dance. A last ditch effort to escape capture by the horrors. A couple of others simply broke and ran, having failed to repel the horror’s influence and they were now horror marked. Among those were Harrod, Womax and Arrius. The non-adepts among us. We quickly detained and tied up the men who were nearby and then we went after the three missing ones. Dremnin and Dagmar went after Harrod and Womax. Hakka and I went After Arrius.
I look back on the aftermath of this chase sometimes, and feel regret. Arrius ran like a man possessed. And he was possessed by one of those bastard horrors. Hakka and I tried to keep up, and I tried to stop him by calling to him and using my powers of Rashomon again, but to no avail. Eventually Hakka and I lost site of him in some woods and not only did we lose him, we were thoroughly lost. It took us a long time to make our way back to camp. We were sullen and worried. Arrius was our friend, a brother from the Stoneclaw Moot who had been a loyal comrade. It took us a long time to make our way back to the ship.
When we got back I was relieved to see Dremnin and Dagmar had returned with Harrod and Womax. The effected crewmen were tied up and laying on the ground below the Albatross with bags over their heads. This included Suulin, Skram and Trejack. I noticed the bag over Trejack’s head was a bloody mess. I assumed he had tried to escape again, but later learned Skram, under the influence of the horror, had tried to beat him to death and had been held in check only by the heroic actions of Suulin and a timely intervention by Urgral and Vridich. Luckily, most of the crew, including Kerick, had not been effected. When Thom returned to the Stag from the temple, he locked Kerick and several of the crew below decks. Dremnin had freed them after searching the ship for Quinn, who was still missing.
The rest of the crew and the men from both ships had been saved. But we still had a major mess on our hands. We needed questors of Garland and we needed them quickly. We had more than sixty people infected by these horrors and again, we were stretched very thin on man power.
After some discussion we decided to divide our forces and have some of the slaves help the Stag fly to nearby K’Nteshin in the hopes of finding some questors of Garland. Instayed behind with Urgral, Vridich and part of our crew while Dagmar, Dremnin and Kerick took the ship. While they were gone I took the time comforting our men and encouraging them to hang on.
That night I would learn from Vridich that Arrius was dead. Vridich sent a spirit to track him down in the hopes we could catch up to him. The horror had led him to the Serpent River and to an ignoble death. Arrius had been an oarsmen on a merchant vessel in Kratas before being made into a newot of the Steelskull Clan. He was made into a full member of the moot two years later, and was proud to be a member of the Stoneclaw Moot. He had a moot family back in The Reach with a two moot fathers, four moot mothers and a handful of brothers and sisters. He had longed to become a Sky Raider like his moot fathers. In keeping with Stoneclaws tradition, as his leader it would be my responsibility to tell them of his death.