After gathering themselves up, it was decided to leave the ruins and return to civilization in order to research the nature of the tor, the trods, and the enemies they now face. Ravan was chosen as the destination, as Nala’s diplomacy had earned a letter of introduction to the captain of the guard there which could help efforts to notify the local rulers of the threat some suspect is approaching.
All went as planned for the first few days. The party went unharassed. Jeton and Hadarai descended upon the temple of Ioun’s libraries and learned much of the fey trods. With the aid of an object reading, Katherine was able to puzzle out where the Arkhosians stole the Hands of Retribution from. Nala learned what has passed while they ventured through the wilderness (nothing good: Mazara and Tortosa are on the verge of war over merchant ships lost at sea, each blaming the other for piracy; Tensions are simmering between Ravan and Casalle over settlement rights to lands vacated by the mysteriously dissapeared darklings). Tim earned good will with the city guard and a bit of coin hunting down criminals on the street, and learned of increased activity from all walks of less-than-legal life, as thieves guilds, gangs, cultists and guild ruffians clash. Vorlakk.. drank a whole lot, and Halgar replenished rations hunting out past the city walls.
And then on the way back to the coachyard where the wagon was stored, Hadarai spotted a familiar face crossing the street: Wyrallin, the wylden warden, last seen guarding the Maiden’s Tomb in Three Forks. Worryingly, the wylden also seemed to be carrying the precious blade that sealed the portal to Mag Tureah on it’s back. The next morning on returning to the temple, Jeton swore he spotted the black-eyed elf, the disguised form of the quickling that had set the assassins on their heels, ducking into a shop along a back alley.
The party met that evening, and after sharing the results of their research, it was decided that the next day they would split the band in two and search the city for their errant companion and determine just what had happened that had it leaving it’s post with the artifact it was meant to protect.
After only a few hours roaming the city Tim spotted the wylden speaking quietly with a merchant at a streetside stall. Wyrallen didn’t seem at all surprised to be confronted by the warlord, and instead simply hissed, “Are you mad, moving about so openly? Don’t you realize there are assassins after you?” The wylden had more to say, it claimed, but would not speak in the open with so many ears to overhear. After gathering the party together again, Wyrallen’s suggestion of it’s own safe-house was rejected by those suspicious of it’s motives. Wyrallen in turn rejected the idea of returning to the wagon, as their enemies would have too easy a time finding them there. Nala demanded to hear it’s story before going anywhere with it, and Katherine demanded it turn over the sword. The sword was handed over, and Wyrallen related that assassins had set upon it in Three Forks, and though it defeated it’s attackers they had already slain the boy Feder and his friend and arranged for the wylden to take the blame. Rather than risk failure, it seized the sword, confident that fortifications put in place over the fey door would keep the town secure from formorian invasion, and fled to Ravan. Though some argued for trusting their former companion, suspicion lingered.
In the end, it was decided to take Wyrallen to a quiet location Tim had scouted out in his rounds about the city: a block at the end of Riverside Street which a recent tenement fire had left largely abandoned. There they set about casting a Silence over the area in order to speak securely of assassins and conspiracies. Seconds before Jeton could finish the ritual, though, Nala noticed that the muddy ground near where Vorlakk paced had grown oddly smooth, shedding bootprints and wheel-ruts marking the rest of the courtyard. Hadarai blasted the suspicious patch with magic missiles, and the way the mud splashed upwards and then hung thickly before settling again rather than falling under gravity’s power confirmed that something was afoot. At that moment several figures draped in heavy purple robes stepped from concealment around nearby corners and began to fling lightning and ice at the party. Wyrallin tossed aside it’s hammer and drew a shortsword from under it’s cloak and called out in confusion, “That’s not what.. Cormack!!” Suspicion enough for Tim to lunch forward and hack at the wylden, who rounded on him in shock, shouting, “I’m not with them!” Then all descended into chaos as the ground erupted all around them, elemental mud lashers rising from the ground and pummeling at anyone nearby. Wyrallen was grabbed in a muddy embrace and dragged towards the back of the courtyard while others were pounded by lashing limbs of soil.
As a wraith-like figure emerged from the cliff-face at the back of the courtyard and the robed mages rained down more magic on the party, Jeton turned and, his body erupting with blood and darkness, transformed into a great black tiger with bloody rents for stripes and lunged at the thing holding Wyrallen, flinging the bulk of the mud-monster away. One of the mages, struck down by Hadarai’s magic with the aid of the Hands’ vengeance, rose again as a shadowy specter as the wraith declared “Your service to me is not yet over!”. The specter disappeared, and seconds later an impenetrable blackness consumed the center of the courtyard while Wyrallen tried to flee the scene. The wrath of the entire party descended on the apparition, with Jeton demanding, “Name yourself, creature!” The wraith laughed and snarled in return, “I am the Lord of Secrets, █,” the last syllable an unpronouncable phrase in what seemed to by Abyssal.. a name that struck a chord with the deva. It continued to laugh even as it was destroyed, the apparition fading away.
Just as it did, a female voice screamed outside the courtyard, and moments later was heard crying, “No, no I’m not the one you want!” The party made quick work of the remaining mage and mud-creature while Hadarai and Tim ran to catch up to the mage and mud-lasher they spotted ducking through the nearby alleys with the unconcious Wyrallen in tow. As the wizard and warlord set off in hot pursuit, exchanging magic missiles and fireballs with the tiefling mage, Katherine discovered that the dead mages both wore unholy symbols in the form of a child’s mummified hand with a tiger-eye gem set into a slit in the palm and wrapped in silver chains: the symbol of the Lich-God Vecna.
Tim and Hadarai chased the fleeing mage and his victim into a nearby warehouse, pushing past fleeing laborers. The trail of mud led towards the back of the warehouse, but as they followed it a horrid stench greeted them, and their heads filled suddenly with Abyssal howls and screams..