Ascending Darkness

Dawn in Oasis

Two men sat by the fire, feeling particularly grim. The morning had not yet risen on the small town of Oasis. Yet, these military men had bested the sun in waking to the new day. Hrothgar, the older of the two, despaired over his fallen comrades. His companion, Yermahm, had no words to add to the quiet morning.

Yermahm’s head fell forward – tired from the restless nights of dark dreams he’d been having – only to be greeted by another. He awoke from the dream speaking of darkness in the fire. Hrothgar (who had been having dreams of darkness as well), eased his companion, “The fire looks fine to me.” Yermahm continued to stare into the fire, sure of a growing darkness in the heart of the flames.

Meanwhile, an experienced and well-traveled paladin named Peran awoke upstairs. He slowly rolled out of bed, yawning a wide good morning to the early signs of Pelor. While the sun had not yet crested the horizon, already Peran could see the oncoming daylight in the dry morning air. He slowly gathered himself and headed out his door to say his morning prayers outside the inn.

Kielara, a clumsy yet endearing cleric – and Peran’s traveling companion – finished preparing herself and ambled downstairs to join Peran in morning prayers (where she would again offer a much more, “traditional” morning prayer to the god of light). Having bested the paladin by about half a minute, Kielara descended the stairs to the sound of wailing and a feeling of growing darkness.

Sure of his eyes now, Yermahm lept back from the fireplace as it dissolved into a dark smoke. Hrothgar backed to the center of the room, steadying his hand on a chair, ready to fight the sounds of torturous howling emerging from the hole. The darkness continued to grow, swallowing the side of the inn and exposing the outside air. Dark mud and rock appeared where moments before green grass and inn floor (and walls) had stood.

The darkness stopped growing as suddenly as it has began, and as the smoke cleared the two men saw a horrifying sight in front of them. Two ghostly forms advanced into the room, screaming as they floated closer. A large ghoul turned to expose a dead goblin-like figure falling out of its chest. And in the center of the darkened ground lay an unconscious Tiefling – wisps of smoke rising from her lifeless body.

Hrothgar and Yermahm simultaneously charged the large ghoul. Kielara turned the corner at the landing of the stairs just in time to see Yermahm being swallowed up into the ghoul’s chest. Recognizing the wretched creature as a spirit devourer, she began summoning Pelor’s light immediately to aid the two warriors. The devourer lost its grip on one of the humans just as Peran set his foot on the ground floor of the inn.

As he wiped the last of the sleep from his eyes, Peran saw a large, dark figure being fought by two men and his cleric friend. Despite his lack of armor or weapon, he charged in to block the blows this creature was dealing to his ally (and the two men – who he assumed must be good enough if they were fighting this evil creature).

The fight began in earnest from there. Yermahm and Hrothgar took turns fighting through the paralyzing shrieks of the wraiths to deliver mighty blows to the devourer. Kielara both fought off the enemy and healed her new-found allies. Peran, in his noble efforts, appeared as if stricken with a bout of narcolepsy – being knocked unconscious again and again as Kielara struggled to keep him on his feet.

Slowly the battle progressed, as the wraiths continued to push the party away. Hrothgar, having been thrown onto the outside lawn by one of the ghosts, noticed the Tiefling – now standing – casting fire into the building. Assuming her an enemy, he quickly restrained her, only to have her quickly flung from his grasp by another scream from the wraiths. She quickly proved his ally however, as she attacked and disabled the devourer.

After a great deal of battling, the party finally won out over the remaining ghosts and a small goblinoid creature which had snuck in during the fight. The four humans stood in the inn amidst the scorched bar, splintered tables and destroyed chairs. Kielara stared at the Tiefling – on the other side of the room – with a faint sense of recognition. Though she stood amidst a dead circle of ground and appeared as a dark shadow against the brightening daylight (which now shone into the room through the missing circles of wall), all that seemed to be missing from the picture was a certain Dwarf, Dragonborn and Halfling…

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