Realm Runners

CHAPTER NINETEEN: The Proving Grounds: Mask and Blade

On their way South, Terrlen taps Aces on the shoulder and finding it very hard to look the mul woman in the eye, he apologizes for being unable to save Modreg. He feels horrible, and even though he tried to force the transformation to werewolf form, it didn’t come fast enough. He asks permission to make camp outside of the Well of Demons so that he may reflect on his failings as a guide. Aces makes sure that the man will be safe and allows him to return to the entrance.

The party continues and enters the doors to the south. They are greeted by three spirits of former adventurers, Valdrog the Brave, a human cleric, Sir Terris, a dwarven paladin and Mendara a human wizard. The three heroes were all done in by the dragon guardian, and ask that the heroes prove their good intentions and that they are strong enough to overcome the dangers ahead. In return the spirits promise important information about what they will face within the Proving Grounds.

Aces demonstrates her prowess in melee combat showing unrivaled strength in battle, Krushi speaks words of compassion and empathy for the spirit’s misfortune within the grounds and appeals to the three spirit’s soft side. Mentathenis dazzles Mendara and her fallen companions with demonstrations in the arcane, and The Maven and Megilwath show that love can stand tall against all things no matter how dark the world becomes.

The three spirits tell the party all that they know about the proving grounds. They speak of traps and the guardian, a Shadow Dragon named Myst. When asked about the Dracolich they saw flying under the bridge of the Horned Hold, the spirits explain that Myst is the ward of the Dracolich. Her name is Aurgloroasa, The Sibilant Shade, who’s lair lies under the Well of Demons in an abandoned dwarven city known as Thunderholm. After their questions are answered, Valdrog kneels before the heroes and begins a prayer to Selune, when he is finished, his spirit body breaks apart into wisps of energy and flies into each, reinvigorating them.

Mendara and Sir Terris are shocked that Valdrog would do such a thing, but wish the adventurers luck, bid them farewell, and fade into nothingness.

Now knowing about the locations surrounding the proving grounds, Aces and Megilwath lead the party to the west and through a northern door. Inside they find a large room filled with mirrors scattered about. As Aces enters the room, she looks into a mirror and her reflection turns to a black shadow of herself, reaching through and grabbing her, sucking her into the mirror. Worried for Aces, Krushi runs up to the same mirror, getting pulled through as well.

Megilwath, Mentathenis and The Maven make their way around the room without looking in any mirrors, and behind some curtains they discover an altar guarded by two large minotaur skeletons. Aces and Krushi find themselves in an oubliette with a single mirror facing down their shadow selves. They discover they can only hit their own shadow and that their dark reflection mimics everything they do! Megilwath rushes in past the Minotaur skeletons and turns them around, The Maven follows and Mentathenis pulls the curtains closed to avoid any attacks from the mirrors. With a little work, the two undead fall, and they locate the Face of Baphomet on the altar. Aces defeats her shadow and Krushi nearly destroys hers but is knocked unconscious before she can finish it. Aces picks Krushi up and puts her in the Bag of Holding, causing a paradox and exploding Krushi’s shadow self.

She walks over to the mirror and is transported out of the oubliette to rejoin her friends. Aces removes the halfling from the Bag of Holding and The Maven bandages her wounds.

Once Krushi is feeling better, the party makes their way around the west edge of the proving grounds through a crumbling statue gallery and into the Hall of the Crimson Axe. The Hall is filled with blood with various sized platforms scattering the area that rise five feet above the blood. Two giant bronze Minotaur Statues wielding large axes stand on their own platforms. Two small platforms across the large room each have a piece of a dagger upon it. The left has the hilt, the right has the blade.

Megilwath jumps across to the first Minotaur statue’s platform and the giant statue activates, swinging it’s huge axe in a giant arc, large enough to reach the others still by the door. Krushi, the Maven and Mentathenis focus on damaging the statues, while Megilwath and Aces make their way across the room jumping from platform to platform. Mentathenis also uses his Mage Hand and sends it out across the blood pools to attempt to grab the pieces.

Three Carnage Demons rise out of the blood and attack Aces on the middle walkway. She fights them back and they eventually move back into the blood when Mentathenis grabs the blade with his Mage Hand. One Carnage Demon springs out of the crimson lake and swats the blade out of the Mage Hand, it flies behind a Minotaur Statue platform and sinks into the blood pool. After a game of hide and go seek in the blood with the Carnage Demons, they are finally destroyed along with the statues, and without too many wounds inflicted upon the heroes. Megilwath and Aces search the blood and eventually find the blade and Mentathenis attaches it to the hilt. They form the Bloodhorn Blade and head back across the blood pools to return to the proving grounds.

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Trysta

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