We returned to the road from Geb’s Rest into the Mana Wastes, with battle already in progress. Last time, the group was in a bad situation: Kazeer pinned down and grievously wounded, Sven and Lama blinded, and another hellcat preparing to pounce on Sven (previous recap here). The battle soon became a tug of war between the party’s healer and the hellcat repeatedly eviscerating Kazeer – the cat would rip open Kazeer’s midsection, and Nolan would magically heal the wounds. Snapper was able to remove the Blindness affecting Lama, and she bent to the work of saving her friend.
But that, alas, was not to be. Although Lama finally put down the hellcat with a scimitar chop to the spine, she wasn’t able to before the creature had ripped open Kazeer and dipped its maw into his chest, tearing out a section of heart, lung and intestine, which it swallowed whole, dripping blood. Kazeer’s head fell back against the ground, his lifeless eyes staring up at the desert sun.
But the party had no time to grieve. With Lama’s war-cries reverberating off the fallen pillars and broken cobbles, a third cat stepped into the Invisibility Purge zone, it’s intention to come surreptitiously from behind was perfectly clear. Leinard let loose with a Fireball, targeted behind the creature to ensure that any more of them, sneaking in behind, would get caught in the blast as well. Fire, the elf knew, would have limited effect on a hell creature, but every little bit of damage helps.
Lama managed to kill the second hellcat, the one that had started on Sven and finished on Snapper, while the group consisting of Phineas, Beltran and Leinard clustered together for protection. Leinard summoned a pair of air elementals, which immediately began flying sorties against the hellcat, while Lama looked for an opportunity to extend her kill count to three. Nolan, however, was able to keep that from happening, by spearing the thing from behind.
The heat of battle now over, the party sobered at the realization that Kazeer, who had traveled with the group for so long, was now gone. He’d died a warrior, but his corpse left an rude stain on the sand. No one knew what gods Kazeer revered, but the three clerics each said word of sending over his body, and after retrieving those items from him that might aid them on their journey, they interred him in the sandy earth. No marker other than a few loose paving stones marked Kazeer’s final rest.
The party rested a bit after burying their friend, but soon saw something that drew their attention: a pair of riders, coming up the road from Geb’s Rest. Suspecting more trouble, Lama hid herself behind the overturned wagon, preparing to deliver an ugly surprise to anyone that came upon them with evil intent.
As the riders drew closer, more detail could be made out: one rider was large, clad in plate armor and astride a destrier. The other, a much smaller humanoid, bald, atop a shaggy pony. The party allowed them approach to within 50 feet, at which point they dismounted… and waved.
“Greetings strangers!” yelled Phineas. “Hello! How the hell are you??”
“Hey there!” said the halffing. “You look like you’ve been in a fight!”
Soon, the party was introduced to two travelers: Bjorn Skarsgaard, of the Andoran Eagle Knights, whose nickname “Half-Giant” was well-earned due to his six-and-a-half foot height; and Fiat Flatfoot. a hobbit scout of some repute, whose air of genuine concern put the otherwise suspicious party at ease.
The two had come from Geb’s Rest, where they’d hope to hire on to one of the caravans crossing the waste. What they found, however, was a mystery. “I’d expected to see people, innkeepers, food and drink,” said Bjorn. “What I found was no people, and some undead things in the sand.” Once the pair had ascertained that the party was not the cause of the empty village, they group began comparing notes about what could have happened.
Introductions went well, the party briefed the newcomers on why they were there and what they were doing, and all agreed to keep moving toward Rijanna’s campsite until nightfall, and the group passed the evening without incident.
After traveling most of the next day, the party finally spotted what they suspected was Rijanna’s camp – a large pavilion, a couple hundred meters from the road. The headed over to investigate, discovering several interesting things: a 4-5 foot tall pale carved monolith, covered in runes; a couple books on the ground and covered with sand a reddish dust; a long-dead firepit; and a collection of well-tended camping gear, also overblown with the reddish desert dust.
Fiat, an avowed bibliophile, offered to examine the books, which he determined were large-format journals: Translations of the Mana Wastes Stele and Flora, Fauna, and Hazards of the Mana Wastes, both authored by a Rijanna of Osirion. In the back of Translations was the last entry, dated nine weeks previously: “Making my first attempt tomorrow. I’m worried that if I activate the stele and don’t like the results, may not be able to deactivate it. Pretty sure the incantation I’ve copied on the next page, when read backwards, will return this stele to normal if performed backwards. Will test later.”
Fiat proposed the idea that Rijanna might not be dead, but simply jumping through time, although this idea was refuted by the party, citing the body in the fountain at Geb’s Rest. All agreed that more information was needed.
Leinard cast Detect Magic on the stele, which radiated strong Evocation magic and, further, gave every indication that it was the thing responsible for ensuring that magic worked in the immediate vicinity.
Leinard decided to do the reverse incantation written in Rijanna’s journal. After backing everyone off about a hundred feet, Leinard and Fiat began the spell. Immediately the crackle of magical energy sprang forth, and the runes on the stele began to dance with a purplish energy. As Leinard continued, the stele began to glow and, although it was difficult to see, the party farther away could see rays of purple energy coming off the stele and striking out into the sky.
And then the incantation ended, and while the ozone tang of magical energy hung in the air, the energy that had infused the stele seemed to dampen and, finally, to end. Fiat approached the stele and examined it with a critical eye, but found nothing but a solid piece of stone.
Settling in to reconsider their next move, the party strove to recall what the Rijanna had told them, back at Geb’s Rest:
Question 1: We are travelers commissioned by Master Bashir and we need to know some things from you. First, what were the circumstances of your death?
Rijanna: I was performing the ritual, the Keleshite ritual, but I mispronounced the names – Kelish is not my native language. I must have made some sort of mistake, for I was thrown backward in time, hundreds of years, and I found myself among the Gebites on some demi-plane, who are planning to return here and make their claim! I ran from them as best I could, but their priest sent me back to this time, this year. But because of the spell that was required, I aged every year, all those hundreds of years coming back to this time. That is what destroyed me. If only I had done the invocation correctly. They are coming! THEY ARE COMING TO GET US, YOU MUST STOP THEM!
Question 2: Where should we look for the other three books that you were writing, that were entitled:
Translations of the Mana Wastes Stele Demi-planes, Pocket Dimensions and the Mysteries of Geb Flora, Fauna, and Hazards of the Mana Wastes
Rijanna: My work! You speak of my life’s work. They were at my camp. I was writing in them when I did the invocation and was transported. They remain at my campsite north of Geb.
Ask your final question and send me back to Pharasma!
Question 3: What are the detailed instructions to your camp?
Rijanna: Take the north road from Geb’s Rest, two days into the Mana Wastes, there you will find my camp and the rest of my materials.