Dark Winds II: Return to the Dark in Ambria | World Anvil

Dark Winds II: Return to the Dark

The sun had already set, and darkness clung to the forest like an oppressive blanket. All was still in the Spider God’s realm, save for the scurrying of smaller prey trying to escape detection in the darkness.   A sputter ... a spark ... a creaking of something straining under pressure. Then a great rushing of wind and sound as a Gateway tore itself open into the clearing, whirling and widening as dozens of warriors poured through, weapons and wits drawn, ready for the danger they knew they were stepping into. Fortunately, they found themselves very close to the expedition crew’s campsite. Here they met with the Sect of the Flame, the Undying and Captain Quinn, as well as the Lizardman they had met last time and a new friend, Issi. This forward force had already begun to secure resources - food, water, warmth, and medicine - that would be essential to their survival. Knowing that they only had two days to find and rescue their lost friends before the Gateway re-opened for them to leave, the Ambrians joined the camp and settled in.   But the peace did not last long. In the dark of night, ghouls came for them all with tearing claws and teeth and hundreds of skittering legs and eyes. Not even hiding in tents could keep them safe. Screams and growls echoed long into the night and eventually the monsters were repelled, but not before the first victim of the raid had been taken: Reverend Nikolai of the Sect of the Flame. Knowing the importance of their mission, the Undying used a mote of her own power to bind the Reverend’s soul to herself. With a gasp, the Reverend returned to consciousness. He could die and return again but, with his life force relying on the Undying, he could never again leave this realm.   Dawn broke - a cold sunlight crept over the land and the warriors discovered their supplies had been spoiled in the night by the ghouls. The Ambrians set out again to scour the forest for berries, mushrooms and nuts to try to fill their bellies. They searched, weapons and shields held ready for attacks from monsters, but forgot to check the sources of food and water themselves.   The screams began anew as many friends fell victim to the traps laid by the Spider God… flesh melting sprays of acid, magical smoke that blinded, and traps of springs and steel that broke bone. They stumbled back to camp, finding that their usual methods of healing were not enough, and had to resort to using their hard-earned resources to invent new methods of treating these traumatic wounds. Honourable and quick thinking as ever, the Ambrians treated their wounded friends with what little they had left, only to realise that, with their food and water expended on the wounded or spoiled by the horrid realm, their throats were parched and their bellies rumbled. Many started looking pale, drinking more of the water in hopes to feel better. Some went to the bushes after saying they felt sick, never to come back. In the space of one hour, nineteen of them fell to the foul waters of the Dark Winds, and the Undying parted with nineteen more pieces of her power, for the good of the mission.   The next day the Ambrians came across Ethan, one of their allies lost and left behind, shackled and bloodied. Though they were quick to action and found many clues, time ran out and the ghoulish Butcher returned to finish the job. The Ambrians rallied, shields up to protect Ethan. But the Butcher proved too strong, too brutal - Ethan was slain before their eyes and they were forced to retreat.   Back at camp, a half burned clue was found in the coals of their fire. The missing clue that would have helped save Ethan. Sabotage. The word got around and soon the Ambrians realised there were traitors in their midst. Grief and loss turned to suspicion and anger… who could they trust?   Another trapped ally was found, the Stutzeldar Luc. His soul was separated from his body, but not yet lost to the Spider God’s hunger. The warriors gained some wisdom from the Undying, and learned they needed a magical focus to recall the soul. The immediately went on a ghoul-slaying crusade until the magical gem was in their grasp. Led by the Ranger Erana, the Ambrians poured their faith into this gem, drawing in the lost soul and returned it to Luc’s physical body.   Enraged by the success of the Ambrians, the ghouls kidnapped two fighters in retaliation and chained them to a tree full of giant bees. The buzzing was so deafening that it hindered any attempt at rescue, until the Seeker Ghescan realised they could smoke the bees out by using dry grass kindling. This thick smoke held back the bees long enough for them to get close and free their friends.   Reinvigorated, a band of witchhunters together with the Nord Rogvir scoured the land until he found his lost brothers, Freki and Bjorn; both bound, gagged and strung up at the gallows. The Emissary of the Spider God stood nearby, offering Rogvir the terrible choice to release one but not the other. The choice was made and, good to their word, the ghouls released Bjorn from his bindings at the same time that they pulled the trigger to hang Freki. By some luck, Freki’s neck didn’t break and Rogvir raced forward, lifting the still-bound Freki so he didn’t strangle, while the witch hunters dived upon the ghouls, slaying them and taking the keys. Gasping for air but finally out of immediate danger, the three Nords reunited in relief… but there was still one Nord brother yet to be found.   A big battle was fought on the fields and it was discovered that the ghoul dubbed Watcher in the Woods, was indeed the former Captain of the Rangers Arradir.   A magic circle had been discovered, in the shape of the Church of Ambria sigil. It was here that healers and mages could replenish their spells. And more than that, with the power of the Gods invoked, Issi regained her lost memories. Instantly, it was revealed that the Spider God was planning to escape the realm when the Gateway home was reopened. There was no rest on the second night, with more raids and fighting. The Spider God themselves appeared, humming a disconcerting tune and laughing at all the misery and fear.   The last day came and saw more trapped allies. One of the witch hunters was bound in a nightmare, and her friends were forced to recapture Aspects to repair the Church of Ambria sigil. In order to heal the witch hunter, the healers needed to capture a monster alive and slay it before the victim's eyes, to prove they could be killed. And so it was that they went after the Emissary of the Spider God and chained him, then shot, stabbed, axed, and finally splattered him with a greathammer by the victim herself. An invisible maze trap had ensnared the Captain of the Rangers, Amros. Multiple Rangers and others were needed to rescue the Captain, who, when saved, scolded them for risking their lives to come back for him. The Nords finally came across their last lost brother, frozen in a river of ice. Rogvir jumped in to save the body of his brother Ungvir but became trapped himself. The other Nords cast Divine Strikes to smash the ice and reach Rogvir, and drag out the bones of their last brother. Meanwhile, in camp, friend turned on friend and it was revealed not all those who had died had been connected to the Undying. Their motives were aligned with the Spider God instead, and they had been sabotaging all efforts to save their allies.   With all Ambrians rescued, they prepared for a quick exit through the Gateway the moment it opened, only to be ambushed by the Spider God and his minions blocking the way. The Spider God revealed his secret pact with Captain Quinn, asking for him to hand over the Undying. A fight broke out in the Undying’s defence, but she was grabbed and taken to the Spider God who stuck his claws into her and began to drain her soul, and with it, all the souls of those the Undying had kept alive. Her body crumpled. Now it was a mad dash to the Gateway and most of those still living made it out. The last person through the Gateway was Captain Quinn, who took one breath of Aeos Island air, smiled... and dropped dead from poison.

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