|Blood of Wintersbreath|
The morning after their encounter with the orcs at the Aevarstead farm, Sloan and Ashera headed out to catch up to the orc horde. After assessing a map of the Fangwood, the pair decided to head off to cut straight through the forest and cover more ground. Unfortunately, after a few hours it became clear they Ashera and Sloan had become lost. After climbing a tree to try and get a better look at their surroundings, Ashera spotted a large gathering of fires to the north near an abandoned lumber camp and the pair decided to investigate.
On arriving at the site of the fires, Sloan and Ashers stumbled upon a gathering of over sixty orcs and six slave carriages containing a little over forty captives in total. The clearing the orcs camped in was an ancient druidic ruin of tall, granite standing stones centered around a barrow mound. The orcs gathered in this menhir circle, hailing from disparate and rival clans, were too busy bickering with one another over how long they should stay at this site to notice the intruders sneaking up on them. After some reconnaissance, Sloan spotted her mother Iandra in one of the carraiges and set about a plan to break her free.
Using the distraction of the orcs argument as cover, Sloan managed to get a few words in with her mother, only to discover that the orcs — led by a shaman named Gamorrak — had taken a dozen people of Wintersbreath along with Sloan's father Dannor into the barrow mound. Sloan hastily rescued both her mother and a Wintersbreath native named Arnon from the slave carraige before the orcs noticed their escape. Fleeing into the woods to rejoin with Ashera, a hasty decision was made to use Iandra's still-memorized dimension door spell to escape into the barrow mound and avoid capture.
The dimensional magic whisked the four away and secreted them inside of the ancient barrow mound that the orcs unearthed. Here, Sloan was confronted with more unusual runic writings as seen in her dream the day prior. Iandra confirmed Ashera's suspicion about the writing, that they hailed from the same lost civilization that left countless megaliths across the country of Varisia. Though Iandra had never seen the writing up close and could not decipher the meaning of the faded glyphs.
The four came to investigate this barrow mound's uppermost level, encountering four orc laborers who had assisted in unearthing the ruin beneath the barrow mound. Though they were quickly dispatched, it was not before one of them struck a lucky blow against Arnon with a shovel, rendering him unconscious and forcing Sloan and the others to leave him tucked away in an antechamber while they explored the rest of the ruin.
On the second level of the ruin, Iandra discovered an unusual phenomenon snaking its way through the heart of the ancient stricture — a ley line. Described to Sloan by her mother as "arteries of magic," the two were able to tap into this conduit of magic to increase their spellcasting power while within the barrow mound. This increase in power aided them in their encounter with restless dead reanimated by Gamorrak to guard the ruin, as well as several deadly traps and well-trained orc warriors.
At the deepest level of the ruin, Sloan and her companions came face-to-face with Gamorrak, who was in the process of sacrificing citizens of Wintersbreath in a blood-magic ritual that appeared to be somehow manipulating the ley line of the barrow. Worse yet, Dannor was held fast high above the nexus point of the ley line, enshrouded in Gammorak's insidious magic. A pitched battle was fought here, one that nearly claimed the lives of both Ashera and Iandra, pushing all to their very limits. Finally, Sloan was able to deliver the killing blow on Gammorak by channeling negative energy into him, devouring the life in his body. However, when Gammorak perished, the ley line he had been manipulating suffered a catastrophic backlash and was unmade. In the ley line's unraveling, a tear between planes was ripped open and swallowed Dannor within along with all of the energy of the ley line.
This catastrophic event sent shockwaves through the ruin, causing it to begin to collapse. Together with her mother, Sloan carried Ashera and Arnon out of the ruin as it crumbled around them. On emerging from the barrow mound, they found the orc troops had fled — likely from the terrifying discharge of energy from the ley line's destruction and the resultant earthquake that followed.
With her father lost to her, Sloan looked out on dozens of prisoners crying out for release. People who would need a strong shoulder to carry them in the days to come, and a direction to guide them to safety.
|Previously||A Lonesome Road|