(19/6/2389) 11:00 - 11:10: The universe spins around them, their bodies racked by agonising pain, confusion and nausea. The stink of roasted flesh mingles with the stench of cooked stone, burning wood and roasted blood. Above, the skies are turbulent with lightning and boiling clouds, a hot wind gusting around them, whipping ash and dust into their faces with biting, stinging force. Grigori is the first to stir, his mind reeling, barely able to process anything after the dizzying journey he has just endured.
Vague flashes of recall dart through his mind – the blinding relucence of the shift mines, the prismatic ropers, the barbarian lying on the ground, his entrails steaming in the crystal light of that place....the bags of holding....the sudden light and darkness and...
Grigori opens his eyes, and sees that he and the rest of the group are prostrate in the bottom of a crater of blasted earth, almost 15' deep and twice as wide. The sides of pit are smoldering soil, stone and freshly blasted pine wood, the stink of the resin overpowering as it cooks in the heat. Beyond the top edge the priest can see clouds of smoke being ripped from trees that blaze, swaying in the winds that tear through the area, adding their smoke and cinders to the painful airborne detritus.
Grigori looks around and spots Shnecke lying on his back, his necrotic entrails pulsing weakly in the air, dirt and ash settling on them. He scrambles over to him, and whispers a word of power, the air shimmering as he draws on the local magics to heal the Ulnyrr. As he completes his spell a weird sensation thrills through him, for although the magics he calls upon work perfectly well, they feel – different – somehow; subtly altered, like wine that has had water added to it. Shnecke arches his back in agony as the priest moves around the others, quickly healing them with words of power, his anger surging through him as he recalls his fall at the tentacles of the roper.
“Bastard thing!” He roars, swaying to his feet, “I'll...errr...where...”
A spear sails from beyond the horizon of the crater's lip, missing him. The rest of the group, still badly wounded (and the assassin and warlock still unable to see past the floating clouds of glowing light that cloud their vision) turn to regard the spear dumbly, only now hearing the croaking voices that cautiously growl and yammer at each other, dimly audible over the roar of the flames and the wind.
“Gorgryn!” Hisses Varracuda, shaking his head as he comes round, a fine platina of sparks flickering and dancing along the edge of his sword.
“Dead gorgryn.” Corrects Shnecke, spotting the first of them coming close to the edge of the crater, “Very, very, dead gorgryn.”
There are about fifteen of them in all; wretched, long-limbed greenskins, filthy and emaciated. They have cruel faces with hooked noses, wide mouths filled with sharp, rotten teeth, and red-glowing eyes that scowl from beneath beetling brows. They wear badly tanned fox and badger hides, and wield crude weapons – spears and axes made from flint or salvaged steel, or, in the case of several (that also wear the polished skulls of giant rats), made from the carved bones of slain humanoids.
The Gorgryn charge with jubilant, idiot howls of savage glee – though their enthusiasm quickly evaporates when Shnecke chops one in two with a single swipe of his brutal axe. They are weak opponents, and even with their eyes out of action, the assassin and warlock have no problems landing blows. Soon half the number lie dead, and the others slink away, screaming with fear, running to the east...
11:11 - 13:15: With the gorgryn slain, the party discuss what to do next. Several options are bandied around – though they are distracted by the savage horns, thumping drums and then terrible, bestial roars (which Jaeger fearfully states sound like the calls of the Dracane) that begin to sound from the east. The first order of the day is to get Jaeger and Thatari able to see once more, and whilst the rest of the group keep watch at the top of the crater (an ancient forest of Densewood and Red-Leaved Candle Trees – species that Varracuda realises have been extinct in their time for thousands of years, harvested to oblivion during the epic conflicts of the hoary Guild Wars – stretches away beyond the zone of devastation to the east, whilst to the west, a wall of snow-capped mountains majestically marches from the south to the north, a week or so's walk away), Grigori begins a potent ritual intended to cure them of their ills.
An hour passes, during which the drumming and roaring to the east reaches a crescendo, twisted columns of smoke clawing into the turbulent skies from the same area, and Grigori completes his ritual, a flash of energy enveloping the warlock in a healing mantle of power. The assassin's restoration however does not go as smoothly, and a pulse of wild magic surges through the priest, ripping into him, opening deep wounds across his body – though his sight is fully restored. He arcs his back and yells, the pain almost too much. However, he stops as he hears, from the southwest, a heavy, rhythmic thumping – mechanical and ponderous, which he knows he recognises.
“Warforged titan!” He hisses, rolling over, “RUN!”
13:16 - 14:30: The group run. Now their attention has been brought to it, they can hear the rumble and thump of the massive war machine that slowly makes its way towards them, and remembering the ones they saw near Peregrine, they realise that they have no desire to meet it. As they run, entering the strange forest that cannot exist, they argue about where to go. In the end it is decided to head northward, away from both the titan and the roaring.
The forests are ancient and tangled, the trees reluctant to allow the invading adventurers through their domain, and the group worry that the unseen machine will catch up to them. Whilst the group run on, the assassin teleports to the top of a tree, and looks back the way they have come. There, in the distance, he sees an immaculate warforged titan, gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight. It looks brand new, its chrome armour mirror polished, its surface covered in elaborate glowing sigils and markings – nothing like the ancient, battle-scarred thing they saw in the past. It is a true monster; hunch backed and seemingly top heavy, it has a huge sword on one arm, and a strange tube, connected to an armoured tank on the thing's back by ribbed, reinforced pipes on the other. Its eyes shine with white light, and on its back rides a warforged dressed in pristine turquoise robes, edged in gold. Jaeger notes that like the titan, this warforged appears brand new; pristine and free from scars or dents.
Fear rises in the assassin's heart as he realises that for whatever reasons, his group are being hunted by the deadly construct and its ally. As he watches, more warforged, all newly made it seems, emerge from the forest to sweep the crater, and the titan raises the tube, and hoses an area with coiling alchemical flame, ghostly clouds of smoke smudging the air above.
When he reports back to the group, confusion reigns, as they begin to realise that their latest dimensional shift has moved them through time as well as space. Thought none want to admit it, the evidence is stacking up – species of trees that went extinct during the ancient Guild Wars, machines that are brand new, that would have only been so during the ancient Guild Wars, the strangely different and yet same feel of the magical energies. With both fear and wonder, they conclude that they are now in the storied time of the great Guilds – and pray that the wars that will throw this plane into turmoil for countless centuries have not yet started...
Deeper and deeper into the forest run the group, their adrenaline giving them the strength to go on. However, as time passes, Thatari, Shnecke and Jaeger all begin to flag, and after a solid hour, the group are forced to stop, each retching as their bodies, pushed now beyond their limits, begin to shut down. Their flight has taken them far into the ancient forest, and the only sound now (other than the harsh breaths of the gasping swordmage and warlock), is the creaking of the tangled trunks, the susurrus of the winds through the upper canopy and the quiet throb of insects swarming unseen in the green gloom.
“W-w-we lost them...” Gasps Varracuda.
“Thank...the.....ancients.” Wheezes the Ulnyrr.
“We make camp.” Snarls Grigori, his eyes alight in the shadows.
15:00 - 17:30: The priest moves around the area, chanting and casting small handfuls of glittering residuum into the air, weaving a protective circle around the camp, whilst Jaeger instructs the rest of the group in constructing a hidden shelter. Varracuda heads into the forest, and comes back with some edible roots, mushrooms and grasses. With the protective circle (backed up by invisible magical eyes that can see in the dark, and warn Grigori of any approaching enemies) cast, the shelter built and dinner cooking, the group gratefully settle down for a rest...
21:20 - 21:30: ...However, only a few hours later, before anyone has truly rested, the Eyes of Alarm send an urgent psychic message to the priest, and he spends a moment concentrating, allowing their vision to fill his mind...
Six warforged, all newly made, moving with caution through the growing darkness, limned in power as they activate either protective spells woven into their armour plating, or the offensive magics of their integrated weapons.
At almost the same time, the group feel a sudden pressure from the south, and a horrifying stench, like open graves gusts across the camp, sending flickering waves of light through the protective circle. As the group turn to see what has caused it, so they see a black portal, ragged and oily, yawning within the darkness of the forest. From it stride five terrible beings, magnificent in their evil. Their leader is a slender undead humanoid mantled in black luminance, whose fine bones and willowy body suggest aelwyn lineage. Clad in hugely ornate plate armour that has been fitted to his form, his armour appears to be blackened as if it has been in a terrible fire. It wields a greatsword that seems almost too large for it, the vile weapon's bloody blade carved with disturbing sigils that speak of a dark hunger and diabolical powers. It wears no helm, and has pale, waxen features, not unlike those of the two undead in the party. It would be handsome if it had eyes instead of empty pits of blackness, within which float tiny points of orange light, and if it had gums to hide the roots of its dry, rotted teeth. As it emerges, so a bone chilling wave of fear emanates from it, though it seems more amused than hostile; stiffly bowing at the waist as it views the party, a sickening smile on its ghastly features.
Accompanying the horror are five skeletal warriors. Each is dressed in dense plate armour, and though they wear great helms, the group can see their fleshless skulls through the visor slits. Each, like their master, bears a greatsword, each one's blade inscribed with prayers of eternal slavery to evil, their crosspieces crafted to resemble a skeletal phoenix.
“You have ignored my master's summons.” States the knight, his voice oddly deep, as if coming from far beneath the ground, “Surely you have heard him?”
Grigori and Shnecke are briefly taken aback, for indeed, since arriving, both have been vaguely aware of a whispering voice in the back of their minds; familiar and inviting, urging them to seek the brotherhood of some place far to the west....a voice that they both recognise as being identical to that coming from the Phial of Jantherak.
They are about to respond when brilliant, bloodless light stabs across their camp from the northwest, outlining everything in its harsh glow. A metallic voice sounds loudly from beyond it, the speaker hidden behind its brilliance.
“FOUL CHILDREN OF THE SHADE BINDER, PREPARE TO DIE!”
The armoured horror gives another horrible grin, and bows once more. Then, as lightning, glowing lines of acid, and fire begin to surge around the dome of Grigori's protective circle, he strides to meet the warforged...
The warforged are outmatched plan and simple, and whilst one of the skeletal warriors is taken down, all of the living constructs are annihilated. The waxen nightmare (which Jaeger fearfully refers to as a Death Knight) demonstrates a mastery of both martial skills (his horrible sword sows ruin wherever he swings it, seeming to drink the watery haemolymph of the 'forged as it sprays gustily from their severed limbs and opened throats), and arcane magics (he strikes foes dead with words of profane power, unleashes withering blasts of unholy fire with a gesture, and divides the forces with walls of night-black ice which chill those that come too close), and within a minute it is over. Barely wounded, the death knight turns to regard the group once more. He is no longer smiling.
“You have a choice. Come and embrace the might and majesty of the Western Guild, or be destroyed. You have seen what we can do, and must realise that there is only once choice.”
Grigori looks at the glittering edge of his circle, and seeing this, the death knight raises his blade, speaks a word of magic, and shatters it, the air briefly alive with arcing and bounding energies.
The group never get chance to reply, for they are suddenly limned in silvery energy, and feel themselves being inexorably drawn to some other place. Rage fills the death knight's face as he too realises what is happening, and backs away, shrinking from who or whatever is taking the group.
“What....now?” Wonders Shnecke out loud, his tired mind finally giving in...
The forest, the undead and the ruined remains of the warforged are suddenly gone, and the group are somewhere completely different...