The Night of Fire
The three companions trudged out through the gates of Specularum. The sun setting in the west spread an ominous glow across the landscape of farmland and copses before them. It was against their better judgment that they chose to leave behind the safety of the city walls on this night which they had heard referred to as The Night of Fools.
None of Drewen, Threy or Lana doubted that peril awaited them that night. Karnus had declined the invitation to accompany the party on their evening's exploits; being of Thyatian descent he dismissed the event as little more than Traladaran superstition and an over-publicised calendar event. The tales of lost treasure glowing on this one night of the year, while tempting, held little sway over Karnus. Instead the blue-robed mage confined himself to the musty interior of the Magicians' Guild in a continuing attempt to unlock the workings of the Continual Light spell. Vasily too was absent, having been granted the dubious honour of escorting the Patriarch of the Church of Traladara, Alesciev Nichelnevitz (or 'Father Nicky' as many preferred to call him) on a ceremonial tour of the city's perimeter.
Darkness descended and the trio found themselves wandering aimlessly through light forest. Thinking they should seek open ground to catch sight of any telltale glows, they headed for a small hillock in the distance. Shouts arose as a flare of orange magic lit the sky. The fireball illuminated a string of merchant wagons careering in the companions' direction. The caravan was surrounded by flitting black shapes which became identifiable as they drew closer. Bats and wolves. In the midst of the bats were three who dwarfed those of their fellows. Lana, Drewen and Threy exchanged knowing glances. On such a night as this, such creatures could only be vampires.
The fireball erupted into the midst of the bats, setting one of the larger creatures alight. It shrieked and spiralled downward onto a wagon which promptly ignited. Spooked, the horses attached to the burning wagon whinnied and charged forward. The three companions ran forward to cut free as many of the horses as possible from their restraints. To their horror they found that at least half the guards and horses bore fang marks, and were beyond saving.
Lana aimed her newly acquired Wand of Fire into the bats' midst and a second explosion occurred. The two larger bats caught fire and fell to the ground. Then there came a crashing sound as two clerics came bounding out of the nearby shrubs - here were Vasily and Father Nicky. With their spirits renewed at the arrival of reinforcements, the companions put their heads together to come up with a plan before engaging the undead beings in combat. Threy and Vasily extended their holy symbols and willed the creatures to remain at bay. This they did, but a third appeared which they could not hold back; a great dire wolf morphed into the form of a man as it padded toward them. Father Nicky bellowed a prayer and outstretched a finger in the thing's direction. The companions watched in awe as the dead flesh stripped from the vampire's body, and its skeleton glowed red before exploding. The force which bound it to the Prime Plane had been disrupted.
One of the remaining vampires closed, its proximity sending shivers along each of the companions' spines though its attention was directed at Father Nicky. It evidently sensed the power which lay within the old man's frame. As the heroes closed with their melee weapons readied, the vampire threw up its cloak as a shield and closed to lay both its hands upon the Patriarch's face. The cleric stiffened and gave a silent scream as years of his lifeforce drained away in an instant. Lana’s magic and her companions' weapons tore the creature to shreds. Having viewed the demise of both his associates, the remaining vampire turned to mist and willed the bats overhead to renew their assault on the party. As they dove in their dozens, Lana muttered the words to a spell and an Ice Storm ravaged the vampire's hazy outline. The bats dispersed as the gaseous cloud fled into the undergrowth.
The companions turned to the Patriarch and asked in earnest what they could do to help. Shaking and visibly traumatised, he replied that little could be done save complete the night's ritual. Calling Vasily to his side, the pair took off to resume their holy ceremony, leaving Threy, Drewen and Lana to recoup the missing horses from the caravan and return the steeds to their owner. It transpired however that the owner was already dead, having failed to heed advice that he should not travel the open road on such a perilous night. The arrogant Thyatian merchant had been the first to fall victim to the vampires.
Voices were heard coming from behind the blazing shell which just a short while ago had been the caravan's thirteenth wagon, laden with supplies from far-off lands. Two men emerged into the lantern light. The first was young in appearance, clad in robes, and introduced himself as Amar, the resident mage of the merchant caravan whose Fireball had caught the party's attention. The second man remained in the shadows for a short while, his voice sounding oddly familiar to Lana before she set eyes on him. He emerged at last, slightly stooped with age, wearing long flowing brown robes, with rich golden brown hair and amber eyes. Lana instantly recognised him as Aurellian, her old tutor from the village of Glaston.
Aurellian (or Aurax as his pupils had always named him, few of them having being able to remember the man's lengthy Thyatian surname, which ended in –ax) had been travelling the world since Lana had left Glaston over five years ago. He now brought back with him a wagon stocked with ancient books, maps and assorted devices. He was looking to settle in Karameikos for a while before setting off again. As a reward for rescuing the caravan, he gifted those present with items of particular interest. For Lana he revealed the secrets of her Hutaakan beads. To Drewen he gifted two maps leading to lost treasure in the Kingdom of Ierendi. Threy requested a potion from the sage, while Vasily and his Patriarch received a potentially invaluable item – a map indicating the resting place of an ancient Traladaran warrior, rumoured to have borne with him a magical sceptre capable of destroying armies of undead. The party's heart skipped a beat as Aurax indicated where the map would lead them. To a land where magic was revered above all else, dwarves were viewed as little more than labrats, and clerics were sentenced to death upon being discovered. The Principalities of the Wizard Princes. Glantri.
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