Our story opened as Zayn showed Ghomesh to Oxyr aboard the Seachild, having retrieved her from Tulesa shortly before. Ghomesh was able to confirm that Oxyr was lucid, at least for the time being, and did appear to be the genuine Oxyr that she had known and followed the Aridesa. She wasn’t able to get much more out of him, but that was enough information for the party to decide it was worth the risk to take him with them to hunt down Sadeesh within the Singed Halls, deep behind the borders of Khasif.
A short time later, the band of adventurers clasped hands and teleported to the bloodbath that Zayn had scried upon earlier. They found it much as she had seen it, but no living people were present. Footsteps in the adjoining hallway announced that was about to change. Bristling against impending attack, the party relaxed when they saw a soldier wearing the same garb Daso Enna had worn. He announced that he was with House Enna, and the party was expected. He quickly led them through the fortress to the planning room where his master waited. Along the way, he explained that this fortress was occupied by the Regent’s forces, taken at swordpoint years ago from the Enna family. Daso had just taken it back, and started an insurrection in the process. Even as they walked, the banners of Daso’s house were unfurling again above Ennavere Fortress for the first time in years. The party’s meeting with Daso Enna was relatively short, but he was open about his intentions to challenge the Regent and put the Khasif throne back in properly decided noble hands. He was able to supply the party with rudimentary maps of the nearby regions, outlining the best paths north to avoid most people in the intervening countryside. With that, the part headed out.
A short while later, spotting smoke rising in the distance, the party closed with the anomaly to discover a village being burned by troops wearing the Regent’s colors. Deciding that it was worth risking potentially catastrophic contact with army forces to save the village, the party made their presence known and called out the soldiers. As things turned out, the unit attacking the village was relatively small and poorly trained to engage such powerful heroes. About half their number died before their morale broke and they surrendered. The party allowed them to leave on foot, reasoning their mission in Khasif would be over one way or the other before the troops could report back to any garrison that might mobilize a truly dangerous number of troops. Turning over the balance of the soldiers’ equipment and mounts to the villagers, dousing the fires and providing healing where they could, the party mounted back up and moved on; taking only an improved and more current map of the countryside in payment for their services. The map guided them to the point along the northern shore that came the closest to the northern island of the kingdom. The gulf of ocean to cross was still massive, and no bridge or boat was in sight. The overlook did have a single statue built near the railing that guarded the steep drop over the seaside cliffs. Standing nearly nine feet in height, the statue looked familiar to the group. They quickly sorted that the garb and the not-so-subtle symbolism indicated this was a statue of Mithras. Still, something was off. Soon enough, Finn hit upon the source of the eerie feeling. The face on the statue was the face of his companion, Tarsus. A statue easily a thousand years old had the face of a living man standing next to him. The Mithras they had spoken to several times already had mentioned that he moved around the timeline the way they moved around a room.
Unsure of how one goes about revering a shrine to a man that will apparently one day be a demi-god, the group simply enjoyed some silence in the air of discomfort, before Zayn touched the statue and got to preparing a spell to get the group across the water. Power passed into her, energizing her spell casting and granting access to much more powerful versions of the spells she knew. Her communal phantom steed spell could last longer now, and access the ability to fly. If they hurried, and if Sindar could measure a map accurately, it might last long enough to get the whole group across the gap. The group took to the air, crossing the sea in a short while and finding themselves soon safely back over land. They were able to continue on to Zacat unmolested.
Arriving near the town, the party surveyed decent defensive walls and a relatively large guard contingent, compared to the other intact settlements they had visited recently. An evening of sneaking through orchards and fields outside the wall ensued as the party made use of Oxyr’s ability to roughly sense Sadeesh’s presence when nearby. After a couple of hours the group felt they had enough information to triangulate Sadeesh’s location to a compound in the south section of the city. Easily clearing the wall through the well-testing invisible floaty ball method, the group quietly set down near the building in question. The structure was a ruined church of some kind, now little more than a camp for urchins and the drug addled shiftless of Zacat’s streets. Moving quietly through the ruined building, they quickly found a way down to a cellar. Meeting only slight resistance along their way, the group eventually found a storeroom at the center of a small labyrinthine collection of twists and turns. Investigating, Finn located a hidden hatch and ladder, and the group descended once again.
The bottom of the ladder opened into what looked like an ancient and mostly unused storeroom, not terribly different from the one above. Outside, the room opened into a rough hallway interspersed with sublimely crafted stretches of finished stone wall. The craftsmanship and age pointed clearly to elves. Slowly, the gang started to explore the mysterious halls, moving from room to room. At every turn, they found more of the same- old rooms, some recently disturbed, some untouched for at least decades. Finally, in a small complex that resembled an inn of some sort, they made contact with the enemy. The combat was over quickly, such a small contingent unable to present a serious threat to the party. By now, Sindar was beginning to see a pattern in the various glyphs adorning the floor of the hallways near each door. They were markings intended to guide someone unfamiliar with the complex, at least in its original design. It seemed this might have been first intended to be a public area of some sort.
Continuing forward, the party inches through the complex over the next few hours. They discovered a number of interesting areas, and more than one trap that had been left- all of which proved far more lethal than any single cultist they encountered. After what felt like forever, the group happened into a large living area- a central cavern surrounded by a number of individual residences. Doors abounded around them, and Tarsus felt his pulse quicken at the exposure of this tactically terrible position with potential ingresses all around them. Sure enough, his instincts proved correct as cultists stormed the room, having laid in wait for the approaching armored behemoth and his companions.
Immediately, it was apparent these were the elite. They found harder and coordinated better than other cultists the group had seen. Of course, the trouble with elite troops is that there are always only a few available. Over the course of seconds, the party began to gain the upper hand, even though they had been hit hard in the ambush. Just as the party began to breathe easier, a new spellcaster joined the fray. The force of his magic revealed his identity- the party had found Sadeesh. Moments later, an orb floating through the room began to unleash hell, ripping through everyone nearby with blasts of energy. Recognizing the sphere for what it was before anyone else, Oxyr threw himself over the floating Skullsoul in an attempt to wrench it from Sadeesh’s control and render it inert. With his primary weapon now in jeopardy, Sadeesh stopped pulling punches and unleashed everything he had at the party. Swarms of insects poured into the room from his staff as he directly attacked the party with other magic. His troops maneuvered through the room, trying to get to Zayn and Finn and disrupt their spells. Tarsus put everything he had into keeping a meat wall between the bad guys and the cleric keeping him on his feet, while Sindar and Zayn went to work tearing down bad guys. As more cultists entered the combat, Sindar kept flinging a blistering barrage of bombs, keeping a nervous eye on his supplies as the fight wore on.
Suddenly, a cultist slipping around the edges of the fight found an open path to Finn and made good on it. Coupled with the wounds he had already suffered, it was enough to knock him off his feet and out of the fight, though still clinging to life. The rest of the party shifted instantly, clearing the area around Finn to get help to him. Sadeesh capitalized on the disruption, flinging up a force wall through the center of the room to split the party. The move sentenced his man trapped on the other side to near certain death, but it bought him precious moments to push back against the scrambling party. In the ensuing chaos, Zayn was knocked off her feet just as Finn was being helped up. While a confused Finn scrambled to get to Zayn, the gap in healing took its toll on Tarsus. One of the few remaining cultists drove home a well-aimed blade in a blow that would have instantly dropped any other man. While Tarsus kept his feet, it was nearly all he could do. As the rest of the party focused on bringing Sadeesh down, Zayn took a lethal blow just as she regained her feet. Finn watched in horror as the sovereign of Tulesa fell lifeless to the floor, and dug deep to find the energy for another spell. The Breath of Life and healing energy coursed through Zayn milliseconds before her corpse hit the floor, allowing her to awaken in time for the hard thump.
As this happened, Tarsus and Sindar had cornered Sadeesh, pushing through the ferocity of his attacks to wound him mortally. With his focus broken, Oxyr took control of Skullsoul from him, ending his struggle with the artifact. Coming forward as Tarsus scowled at a staggered Sadeesh, ready to end this at last, Oxyr reached out to his twisted inter-planar brother with a hand already darkening with necromantic magic. The defenseless Sadeesh, even now being abandoned by the gaze of Sayoni, offered no resistance to the spell as Oxyr tore his very soul from his body. In the room with the party, the possessive spirit attempted to take control of Zayn, still weak from her ordeal. Luckily, Zayn was yet strong enough to resist the corruption, and the spirit fled through the halls.
Wanting to pursue and destroy the evil thing, the party thought discretion the better part of valor just this once, and instead decided to consolidate their position and recover from this battle first. As they healed and rested briefly, Finn hit upon an idea for the cause of the hunger and discomfort that consumed him. Maybe the ring of sustenance was incompatible with his eleven biology. Attempting to remove the ring, he found he could not- a dead giveaway for an item inflicted with some sort of curse, unwilling to be torn from its host. Nevertheless, once identified, the group was able to suppress its effects through magic, long enough to remove and examine the ring. What had masqueraded as a ring of sustenance was actually a cannibal ring, slowly going about its work of convincing Finn to consume humanoid flesh. Well, that had almost been terrible.
Our story closed as Oxyr fought himself over a decision. He stared for an uncomfortably long time into the empty eye sockets of the Skullsoul before finally summoning the will to hand it over to Tarsus for safekeeping in the bag of holding.
The legislative delay while searching for missing Asad delegates has elapsed. A vote to officially declare the missing delegates dead has been called and passed, and the Asad has requested new delegates from their sovereigns before moving to a final vote on the future of the Empire in Riyaqa. The Khasif bloc has left the Asad, as civil war ignites within the Khasif Kingdom.