Chapter 25: The Grey

Jolain Goldenleaf stared out over the wastelands of the Grey. The vacuum of the land pulled his skin tight against his face and only the magical protection of his amulet kept his lungs from exploding in his chest. A long lock of his jet black hair fell across his scarred face. Dirt and grime covered the normal shine of his masterfully crafted and highly magical armor, a gift from the Coldain Dwarves for his services in their war against Kael Drakkal. His blade, the golden runed outer-planiar blade Nature's Defender, was caked with the acidic blood and clay of the burrowing worms, timeless golems, and skeletal slaves put in the land by their vile masters an eternity earlier.

For a month Jolain had traveled to the vast wastelands of the Grey and for two weeks he had carved through the unliving creatures of the dead land. Five score of the beasts had fallen under his blade and Jolain was able to heal his wounds with the prayers of Tunare. For two weeks he fought outside the massive pyramid in the center of the wasteland learning much of the ancient snake-people and their minions.

Jolain felt the ground tremble beneath his feet. In an instant Jolain's blade came up in time to parry a huge stone arm swinging inches away from his golden helmed head. The strength of the blow sent Jolain to the ground, but he swung hard at the beasts legs. The fine edge of Nature's Defender cut five inches into stone leg of the beast. The rockfiend, a faceless mass of rocks and shimmering ore held together by an unnatural magnetic bond, swung a massive fist and connected solidly with Jolain's chest blasting the breath from his magically filled lungs. Another swing smashed Jolain's head and sent his helmet spinning to the ground. Jolain's vision darkened into a fading tunnel and he felt a stream of warmth flow from the side of his head as he fell to the ground unconscious.

Loral woke violently, sitting up in his bed and clutching the symbol of Tunare around his neck. The dream that woke him faded quickly from his mind as he reoriented himself to his surroundings. An hour later, Loral was bathed and dressed in his green robes, but far from rested. For three days he paced inside his small apartment the memories of dragons, giants, pain and fire filling his head instead of the cool waters and shady trees of his homeland. While he could remove himself for a short time from the constant dangers of the lands he explored, it seemed that he could not remove them from himself. Perhaps he was now a creature of the wild, a minion of the environment battling for survival. Relief from the dark thoughts came in the form of a young acolite of the Church who greeted him and escorted him to Yeolarin's meeting chambers.

Two weeks and a planet away, Loral entered the small office of Yeolarin Bronzeleaf, high priest of Felwithe. Yeolarin sat at a small table covered with many dishes of the fine foods of the church. On his left sat Tynkael, a leutenant of the Paladin's guild, and on his right sat a dark haired high elf wearing the deep red robes of an elder spellcaster but from which guild Loral couldn't guess. Yeolarin stood and embraced Loral then asked him about his travels in Luclin. The chit chat ended quickly when Leutenant Tynkael cleared his throat and Yeolarin bade Loral to sit. A plate of food was placed in front of Loral, though he mainly pushed it around as they talked.

The same time Loral was sent to Luclin, Leutenant Tynkael explained, an agent of the Paladins guild was sent to gather information on the threat of the Shissar. Shortly after reporting of his journey to the Grey contact with the agent had stopped. Yeolarin took over the conversation and explained that the church had agreed to send someone to travel to Luclin and track down this lost paladin.

Loral found the story ironic. The dangers of Luclin were well known and Loral was far from surprised to hear someone had gone missing. The paladin had most likely been killed by any number of horrors. To send a priest to rescue a single soldier didn't make much sense but Loral knew the loyalty of Felwithe. Even Loral was shocked by his own negativity towards the plight of the soldier. Loral looked to his longtime master, the high priest Yeolarin, and accepted the assignment.

Soon after his meeting Loral gathered his belongings, old friends from his days of adventure. He folded and packed away his robes and strapped on the blue shimmering chestplate of Akkirus feeling it form around him. From his locked chest he took out the Water Sprinkler of Nem Ahnk, the gift of the Triumverate avatar, and Illumina's rope bridle. Wrapped in a green cloth was his latest magical possession, a wonderous gift from the heirophant Skrabbit of Lotus Cult, the Faithstone of Nature. The carved idol could transport him directly to the church of Tunare from anywhere in Norrath. Since accepting it, Loral would never again have to be far from home, though such a place seemed to be slipping away.

Two days later in the underground city of Shadowhaven, Loral met his friends and fellow members of Healers United; Juror Truespirit the powerful Shaman of the Tribunal, Raom Spirithealer the battle-hardened Paladin of Marr, Cymil Sylvanshot the graceful and deadly ranger, and Wrenne Celtes the fierce druid of Tunare. Loral felt at home again among his old friends, relaxed and excited at their future adventure.

For two weeks the party traveled through the abandoned tunnels of Netherbian's Lair, the hilly grasslands of Dawnshroud Peaks, the barren plains of Marus Seru and the dangerous canyons of Mons Letalis. Before they knew it they stood staring into the howling mouth of the cavern to the Grey. The next morning the adventurers put on their magical rings, necklaces and cloaks of enduring breath and stepped past the shimmering barrier that contained the vacuum of the Grey.

The adventurers moved cautiously through the cave and into an ancient crypt. While magical air filled their lungs, the vacuum removed all sound from the space around them. The eerie silence drew many concerned looks between the party as they climbed the stairs and stepped outside into the great wasteland of the Grey. All around them the cracked earth was split apart by giant rocks that seemed to fall from the bright blue sky above. Great hulking beasts made of stone and clay lumbered between the fallen rocks. The party made its way carefully among the fallen rocks and over a large ridge. There they saw the temple of Ssraeshza.

Loral could feel the screams of a thousand generations of torment when his eyes beheld the horrific temple. To see such a construction in the center of such a desolate land was terrifying enough, but the dark aura of the place chilled the companions to the bone. Quietly the party walked closer to the finely crafted walls of the temple, built by the hands of a thousand skeletal slaves.

Without warning the Revenants attacked, their rotten serpentine bodies pushing them quickly across the ground. Loral gasped in horror when one of the beasts de-hinged its jaw to clamp down on his throat, but Loral was saved when the great stone blade of Raom's axe cleaved through the creatures back. Even the mighty stomach of Raom, hardened under a lifetime of ale, turned over when the creature twisted against the severed spine and silently hissed. Raom and the Shissar Revenant clenched together and Raom's feet slid as the creatures venomed claw closed in on his face. Raom's left hand let go of the axe handle and with a powerful magical blast he smashed the half-snake against the temple wall. Loral held his symbol of Tunare and whispered a prayer calling great tendrils from the earth around the serpentine body of the rotting horror. Another prayer sent rays of light bursting from the creatures broken chest and it slid to the ground, it's evil spirit departed.

Loral turned in time to see Cymil's whirling blades finishing the second revenant. In a wide circular cut of the blade Earthcaller, Cymil sliced the throat of the beast and then sliding his arm tight to his body he stabbed through the beasts torso with twin blade Swiftwind. The party was stunned to see the green blood boiling off the ground around the dead revenant.

As they looked in horror, a great shadow of an enormous golem fell over the weary party. The beast stood as high as a hill giant, it's great fists as wide as Juror's shoulders. Juror was the first to act, channeling a cloud of insects around the beast while Wrenne called upon the powers of her Nature Walker's Scimitar, snaring the giant with roots of the earth. Loral called a blast of magical energy rocking the ancient creature on its heels. Raom's axe cut deep into the thick skin while Cymil's twin blades sliced pieces of clay and stone from the servit's chest and abdomin. With a silent roar, Juror stabbed his etherial tipped spear deep into the knee of the beast bringing it down to their level. Wrenne pointed at the beast and wildfire coursed over its body. Raom cleaved deep into the back of the creture's neck, almost severing it's head from the great body. Cymil dove out of the way as the five ton monster fell to the earth.

The companions spoke little that night, huddled in the cave of Mons Letalis sharing blackened bread, fish rolls, and magically summoned water from Loral's powerful boots. The following morning Wrenne would be heading back to Norrath along with Juror. Cymil and Raom would be returning to Shadowhaven to learn more in the inns and taverns of the newly discovered city. A snicker broke the heavy air when Juror asked how much they planned to discover at the bottom of a keg of porter, but Loral's mind was elsewhere. He told them of his plans to study the lands more, and they knew that was a half-truth at best. Loral had little choice if he wished to follow through with the orders of the Church. He would have to enter the temple of Ssraeshza and face whatever horrors lay within.