The unmistakable sounds of gunshots echo in the distance, followed by a chilling howl of agony.
“Gunshots? Here?” gasps Lenata.
“It myst be the Scro looking for the key,” barks Ef Utan angrily as he draws his sword. “Come on, Kenari!”
I leap down from the roof and roll to the ground with a snarl as I sheath my hands into my clawed gauntlets. “Maybe they can answer some questions!”
Vedis summons her mindblades to her hands as Lenata draws her guns and we run through the brambles towards the sounds of the gunshots. Crazy, I know…. We come to a clearing some 500 yards away and I wave to the others to hault as I scout around the clearing. Unfortunately Vedis was a little too eager and the noise she made crashing through the bushes alerts the four Scro clad in red and black armor standing over the body of a cloaked halfling with a strange hand comprised of keys for fingers.
I take a moment in my hiding place to draw “The Locksmith” card from my sash as I recognize the man from the vision, and as the tell-tale energy falls over my head I am blessed with the knowledge that his strange hand is actually a minor artifact called “5 Fingers” that allows you to cast magical unlocking spells… so long as you’re willing to sacrifice your hand in its place.Hmmn… I like my hands the way they are… but I still wouldn’t mind having it. You never know when it might come in handy after all.
I edge around the clearing in an attempt to flank the Scro as one of them draws a wicked looking rifle and the most well-dressed of the bunch swings about a shining staff in the direction of my friends. To my dismay, I find them all much easier to see as a blue fire seems to outline them all. Crap… Fairy Fire!
I reach into my haversack for one of my last thunderstones and hurl it into the clearing when the Scro rifleman wheels about and with one shot introduces me to one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt as I fall to the ground trying to staunch the blood coming from my upper thigh with my scarf. Damn… going to have to go to Spiral again someday when it’s not occupied by these bastards and get a new scarf! Red is so not my color!
With a yell, a wave of energy pulses out from Vedis and all but the well-dressed Scro fall to the ground unconscious. Ef Utan leaps into the clearing wielding his sword and mug and attacks as I scan the clearing looking for Lenata. There… that flash of white… next to the unmistakable hat of Melchior.
I chuckle to myself and with a grimace concentrate on the gunslinger as I focus my power. “Sorry, Mel… but at least you’re not blind or sick this time.” With a pop of air I’ve switched places with the gunslinger and suddenly find myself next to the cleric across the clearing. Hopefully Melchior will be able to get the drop on the Scro from his new position.
“Oww,” I groan as Lenata crouches down and shakes her head in admonishment.
“What would you do without me?” she jokes as her hands glow with healing energy.
An ear-splitting shatter rings out as Ef Utan’s katana shatters against the wizard’s staff. The Scro then reaches back with a glowing hand and lunges forward with a lightning bolt to Ef Utan’s stomach, knocking him to the ground in a crackling heap.
“Be Celestian’s blood!” Lenata swears as she runs to help him. Vedis screams as Ef Utan falls and the Scro grunts in pain as he grabs his head from her psionic attack, giving Lenata the precious moments she needs to heal Ef Utan with her magic.
With a grunt the bodyguard rises and leaps back into the fray with his wakizashi as red energy begins to swirl around the Scro wizard. “Blood magic!” Lenata warns as his body seems to grow in mass.
I slip my hands into my gauntlets with a snarl and pounce on the wizard’s back, slashing across his shoulder blades. I catch the the signs of Vedis’ attack just in time and manage to push off and roll out of the way of her Energy Push as a beam of fire rams into him. I can’t help but feel a chill despite the heat as I notice that the wizard was barely moved. Ef Utan leaps again at the Scro, but this time is launched backwards into the briars by a viscious backhand as Lenata bombards the Scro with an array of magic missiles from her fingertips. I swipe again at his chest with my claws and roll away as an enraged Ef Utan unsheaths Flametongue and with a blast of magical fire rearranges the wizard’s face into something much more appealing – a dead Scro.
Melchior and Vedis patrol the edges of the clearing for any more of their party and I keep the cleric busy searching the wizard as Ef Utan goes about finishing off the still unconscious Scro from Vedis’ psionic sleep attack.
“Ooo… now look at this, Lenata!” I say as I clean off an intricately decorated staff with runes dedicated to divine powers enscribed in silver bands around the top. “This is a Staff of Revelations! This Scro was apparently a priest… of Grummish, maybe? But anyway, I think clerics use these to help them communicate with spirits, gods, that kind of thing.”
“Indeed, this is a precious find, Kenari. Thank you. Once I have cleansed it in Celestian’s divine light, this should become useful.” Lenata runs her hands along the staff in admiration and then straps it securly to her pack. As she leans over the Scro I notice that the Heart token around her neck seems to be tugging towards a large emerald on the wizard.
“Aha! What have we here?” I remove the emerald and toss it to Ef Utan. “I think that makes six!”
“Bloody fantastic,” he replies. “Finish up what you two are doing, then we’ll see what these babies can do!”
After a few minutes with Lenata’s help we’re able to sort out any items of worth, and quickly divy them up. Melchior lays claim to the rifle that causes me such pain as Lenata takes the staff and a starchart describing the Shadowsphere. Ef UTan takes a Pouch of Holding and some spell components, and I take a new healing wand, as well as the 5 Fingers artifact.
Vedis looks at me curiously as I pick up the hand. “Do you want it? All you have to do is cut off your hand…” I flop the fingers in her direction with a jingle of keys and grin.
“Oh no… you can keep your sick treasure,” she laughs and steps back with a wave of her hands.
“All right, these tokens seem to be pulling in an eastern direction when we have them all together… so if that’s going to take us to the Walking Castle, perhaps we should have a quick camp away from this clearing to prepare for whatever battle is sure to come.” says Ef Utan matter of factly. “I figure four hours tops for any prayers or meditations for spells?”
The rest of the party quikly agrees as we could all use a breather after that last fight. We move 100 yards to the east and set a quick fireless camp as Ef UTan, Lenata and Vedis conduct their prayers and meditations, and Melchior and I go about cleaning our weapons.
Finally… the Walking Castle. I can only imagine what we’ll find. Is the Patchwork Lord holding Melchot’s other half along with the Dream Stone in order to conduct a ritual to bring him and the Dreamjammer into existence in order to fulfill the 10th Pit’s multi-planar conspiracy? What of this red-skinned bard… does she have the power to make the Harrowing right again? And what of the Witchlight Marauder Key? Even if we do manage to find it… can we in all good conscience hand such a weapon to anyone, even if they say it’s to use against the Scro?
Gods… it’s a good thing I have that ring to sustain me, because I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep anyway.