After cleaning out Five Eyes Temple, Skye was approached by the dragonewt priest Silver Whispers Descending and Hu Bao Yi who made some enigmatic remarks to her, before Hu presented her with an amazing curved blade, which he called a katana. Hu showed Skye the basics of using the blade, but then left with the dragonewts. Ronegarth’s watchmen said that the strange party went north for about a mile before reversing course and heading south, retracing their steps exactly before heading further south along the river bank.
During the next few weeks, the heroes became increasingly concerned that Duke Raus of Rone had fallen completely under the influence of the Lunar agent Stalethia the Moondancer, in whose company he was spending all day and, they feared, all night. Nothing they could do could persuade him to listen to them rather than her. It became apparent that he now intended to follow the orders of Sor-Eel, Count of Prax, to the letter rather than treating them as guidelines. Eventually, Stalethia, speaking for the Duke, sent the heroes off on a sequence of what they felt were inconsequential missions, including some to New Pavis, which involved a series of side adventures (see next few posts).
During a trip to Horn Gate the heroes learned a bit more about the oasis. The oasis was currently ruled by the Sable People who had displaced the Rainbow Bison some while ago, but the Hospital there was guarded from them by a sisterhood called the Daughters of Azundati, who were skilled swordswomen of Oasis People stock. The current leader of the Daughters was a beautiful woman in her 40s called Dzhingi who had lost a hand in battle at some stage and so had an artificial golden hand in its place. Once they became a Daughter, the women swore celibacy, but before she had become a Daughter following the death of her husband at the hands of Bison riders, Dzhingi had borne a daughter, called Dyala.
On their way back to Ronegarth, the heroes were ambushed by a contingent of Lunar hoplites, led by Stalethia the Moondancer, who used her strange dancing magic to create some trouble for the party. However, Grom and Skye made swift work of the hoplites, while Xaraya hit the Lunar agent with a barrage of arrows, sufficient to kill any mortal. Stalethia, was however, accompanied by a Lunar priest, who called on the Red Goddess for aid. His request was granted, and Stalethia and the priest ascended to the Moon itself, drawn by a red moonbeam.
Next the heroes went to Corflu to see if they could find a new water priest for Five Eyes Temple. While calling at the “city” (village in a swamp more like it), they encountered a strange crew of seafarers led by the legendary Barran the Monster-Slayer. His ally, Amur An Zed, suggested that he needed help finding something in the Rubble, but the heroes had too much on their plate, what with needing to find a priest. They found one called Loka, a dashing, long-haired, bare-chested young man of dark complexion, whom Skye found more than a little attractive. To cleanse the temple of the magics of the newtling shamans, the heroes engaged on an upriver heroquest with Loka. As always, Grom Ashbringer fell out of the quest half-way, developing an overriding fear of drowning. Skye and Xaraya Greatbow however made their way through the obstacles in their way and helped Loka tame the Water Horse spirit of the temple. For their efforts, Zola Fel blessed each of them with the mark of the Water rune, which would be of aid to them in future watery encounters.
Returning to Ronegarth, the heroes found Duke Raus of Rone freed from the influence of Stalethia, and being visited by Xaraya’s former fiance, Moharo Blessed-by-Waha, who had a plan to drive the Sables from Horn Gate if Duke Raus would agree to it. The trouble was that the Sables had a powerful shaman, who possessed magic knives that could turn the battle against the allies if he used them. Duke Raus asked his champions to scout out the town, secure the alliance of the healers and the non-intervention of the Daughters of Azundati, and to remove the knives from the shaman. On talking to Dyala, it quickly became apparent that Dzhingi would stand with the Sables, but Dyala did not know why. Grom renewed his acquaintance with the beautiful healer Marcilla and secured a promise that the Healers would try to use their influence to stop the Daughters from intervening. Skye, meanwhile, discovered that the shaman had a weakness for pretty girls and wine, so she visited the shaman with several amphoras full, and proceeded to get him drunk while rebuffing his advances. When he finally belched one last time and fell asleep, Skye relieved him of the knives. While this was going on, Xaraya had scouted out the market and discovered a Lunar merchant and painter named Munkaar. Growing suspicious of him, she searched his hut to discover not only that he was a Lunar agent, but also paintings of a naked Dzhingi and further evidence of an amorous relationship between them. Xaraya took this evidence to Dyala and the Healers, but before they could demand an explanation, Munkaar and Dzhingi fled, leaving behind the Sword of Azundati. Dyala took up the Sword and agreed to lead the Daughters in a flanking attack on the Sables when the battle came.
Returning to Ronegarth, it was agreed that there would be a pincer attack on the Sables. Grom would lead Raus’s mercenaries and begin the attack with a hail of fire from Duke Raus’ bows. When the Sables were drawn out, Moharo would lead a bison charge, coordinated with the attack of the Daughters. Everything went as planned. Grom, Skye and Xaraya all distinguished themselves in the fighting, with Grom striking down the Sables’ Storm Khan. However, once the Sables had been driven off and the Bisons had taken their place, victory celebrations were cut short by the news that Dyala had been killed in the fighting.
Marcilla explained that she could not resurrect Dyala as the souls of the Daughters went beneath Horn Gate to join Azundati, their ancestral queen, in her last resting place. If the heroes wished to save Dyala, they would need to venture into the ancient caverns to find her soul before she joined with Azundati permanently. The heroes did so without hesitation, and encountered numerous amazing things on their journey. First was an enormous minotaur, obviously inflicted with chaos, which thankfully did not infect the heroes before they disposed of it. Further on was an enormous cavern, guarded by a little old man, which contained vast animal spirits, which they learned were the Protectors of the tribes, angry male spirits always fighting with each other, which had been placed here by the god Waha to keep them from keeping the tribes in a state of eternal war, but where they could be released shoudl the Devil return to Prax. Xaraya found the Ibex Protector, and learned some things about her tribe.
Going further, the heroes were ambushed by Dzhingi, her golden hand replaced by a cruel iron spike, angry beyond belief at the party for ousting her and, to her mind, killing her daughter. She was accompanied by Munkaar, evidently a powerful sorcerer. Eventually it became apparent that his and Xaraya’s magic were too closely matched, and that Dzhingi, while more than a match for Grom, could not prevail against both Grom and Skye, and the angry lovers teleported away. Finally, the heroes found Dyala’s soul, still making her way to the Cavern of Azundati. When they reached the cavern, they found a thousand souls in torment, tortured by a powerful, godlike spirit – Azundati herself. The great queen’s spirit had been corrupted by chaos (there was speculation later that the minotaur had had something to do with that) and rather than providing a peaceful resting place for her daughters, she had been torturing them for generations. Unequipped to do much against spirits, the heroes were on the verge of having their souls ripped apart when Xaraya managed to smash a jewel in the statue of Azundati that was in the center of the cavern, which destroyed the evil spirit and freed the tormented souls. Dyala, who had helped the heroes, agreed to return with them to her body, having had her hopes of solace dashed.
With Dyala returned to life, she said that henceforth the Daughters would be the Daughters of the Hospital, and gave the Sword of Azundati to Grom. Moharo thanked the adventurers, and made one last attempt to persuade Xaraya to be his number one concubine. The heroes swiftly left Horn Gate and returned to Ronegarth, where they received bad news from the Duke. His enemies in the Lunar Heartland had apparently had all his family assets seized, leaving him unable to pay his debts to the party. He therefore released them from any obligation they might feel towards him, but suggested that with Sacred Time approaching, the party might like to visit Garhound for the famous contests there.