Esmeria Aeterna

Bread and Games, Food for the Soul

5th of Eleasias, 1526

On a hot sunny day during Highsun, two good friends and three strangers find themselves seated next to each other on a bench in the Arena Stadium in Minghonda. The War of Redoubt has ended only a few months ago, and after taking the city and settling in, the Minghondian government called a Grande Festival and invited travelers from all over Hanaa. Their publicly stated motivations for this are to celebrate their victory, but word in the street has it that they hope for foreigners to bring in some coin to boost the economy after the heavy damages incurred by the war.

A group of rowdy and drunk locals are cheering on the fights below, as a group of quiet refugees next to them eyes them warily. A lone, black hooded man sits down on the bench above. Closer to the stadium grounds, a Half-Orc guard is shouting commands at other guards that start to scramble when they hear him. Darion loudly proclaims his wonder at the amount of people gathered here. When the stadium fights turn to the final event – a mortal struggle for a sentenced Hanaian terrorist – the locals get into a fight with the refugees. The scuffle is peacefully broken up by the friends Darion and Noa, although Darion receives a rather painful punch in the face.

A guard called Jared approaches after noticing the situation, and after verifying everything is under control again he thanks the party for the peaceful resolution. He apologizes as well, and states that the guards are severely understaffed because of the chaos of the city takeover, the influx of foreigners for the Grande Festival and also the huge wave of refugees that are actively feeling from the unnaturally spreading desert to the east of the lands. He mentions that the guard post is always looking for hands to help out with reports that are lower on their priority, and they can say Jared sent them.

After Jared leaves, the black hooded man starts making sickly coughing noises. Noa, Andrea and Lumivarax attempt to talk to the man, but he appears to be more focused on his ailment, looking pale, sweating and staring at the floor. Suddenly, he starts puking up a thick, black mucus and the party jumps back away from him.

As the hooded man expires, Lumivarax delves into his medicinal knowledge and recognizes the disease as Swampy Demise – a highly infectious disease that, after infection, grows progressively worse over a week and clogs up the patient's organs from the inside if medical intervention is not sought. For this man, it was clearly too late to find help. Lumivarax states that the disease is also highly infectious and can be easily transmitted through contact with the black mucus.

A larger group of guards arrive after the crowd realizes someone has died and there is a risk of infection. They quarantine the five, along with the refugees, the rowdy Minghondians and some others. The drunk Minghondian that punched Darion in the face had very quickly left the scene, however. The guards maintain the quarantine until a few temple medics arrive, who examine the group and clear them one by one.

Lumivarax asks one of the medics, who identifies himself as Jonas, what he knows about this disease. Surprisingly, Jonas tells him that the disease is ancient, old medical texts say it has been around for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years. It appears that infection usually starts in dark and damp places, like sewers or caves, but what exactly causes it is very much unclear. It is somewhat of a rare occurrence these days though, but always dangerous when it shows up.

The events for the day being over, the quarantined group leaves the stadium. Outside, they gather around for a bit to discuss the unexpected experiences. Lumivarax, Noa, Darion and Ulfgar all make hearty acquaintances, while Andrea warily stays at somewhat of a distance. They discuss the offer of the guard to work for incidental rewards, with Ulfgar showing an unexpected and somewhat unsettling interest in monetary rewards and artifacts, but some of the group state they are rather hungry. Noa, who – living not too far from The City is the most familiar, offers to pay for some baked goods as snacks. They move to a bakery where he treats everyone to Cream Buns, and the baker persuades Noa to buy a 6th bun, offering him a 50% discount.

Andrea states she does not like this sweet human food and that she is very hungry for an Elven dinner, as it is already early evening. After some deliberation, the party agrees to eat out at a restaurant that specializes in Elven cuisine. Although that vast majority of Minghonda is Human, Noa knew there was an Elven place not too far from the bakery.

The restaurant, called the Bright Apple, was a fancy place. The host welcomed the party readily and handed them the – slightly overpriced – menu. As Noa and Darion splurged on a large meal with a few small glasses of the exquisite spirit Elverquisst. The others settled for more affordable meals, ale and mead.

As the host enquired about the party's plans for lodgings and presented his pricing, the party decided it might be a more financially healthy decision to find another place to sleep. Instead, they opt to visit the guard post to enquire about work – under protest of Andrea, who proclaims she would hate being a guard. The remaining party members convince her to at least check it out.

As they enter the guard post, a tired and grumpy-looking guard greets them at the front desk. The party makes a monumental mess about who actually sent them and start bantering among each other, instead of letting the guard getting a word in. After the guard face-palms and attempts to suppress an oncoming migraine attack from having dealt with too many idiots in a day, he shares information about the current reports and tasks that the guard post needs support with.

The first task being reports of the League of Archeologists about a ghost interrupting their research into the ruins of a temple to Eldath, that was destroyed by the Minghondian military at the end of The War of Redoubt. Apparently the ghost shows up after the sun goes down and will not stop screaming; it is proving to be very problematic for the efficiency of the archeological teams, who had intended to work in day/night shifts. Because the guards did not have the time to help, the League had offered a reward of 250 gold pieces to anyone who would be able to deal with the ghost for them.

The second task involved investigating many confused reports of strange occurrences in the small town of Aradyl. The guard post was not sure what was actually wrong there at this point in time though, as the reports provided more confusion than clarity.

The last task involved investigating and potentially dealing with a dragon flying around Cape Merton recently. According to reports it had been terrifying the townsfolk, but not exactly causing any damage to the town itself or attacking anything other than a few animals for food.

After some consideration and discussion, the party – especially Ulfgar - feels persuaded by the reward from the League of Archeologists and resolve to visit a contact, Maikel, in the Minghondian office of the League, in the west of the city. As it became late however, they sought out a modest and affordable inn to rest for the night. Andrea stingily opted for the cheapest room available.

6th of Eleasias, 1526

In the morning, the party gathers and leaves for the office of the League of Archeologists. Once there, they are greeted by Maikel, the female receptionist. Maikel explains the problems with the ghost as having started a few days into the start of the archeological dig at the temple ruins, and that two researchers had become so terrified that they came back to The City. She led the party to one of them who was there that day, and introduced the stocky Dwarven archeologist as Yornick.

Yornick talks about the reasons for the archeological dig being that they had uncovered very old books in the Library of Minghonda that showed tunnel systems beneath Minghonda and beneath other places like the temple to Eldath as well. They were not so much researching religious artifacts there as much as they were looking to find far older things. Yornick proceeded to tell the party that they heard the ghost scream every night, and after a week or so he just could not take it any more.

After leaving the office of the League of Archeologists, the party goes to stock up on rations at the nearest general store, called Happy Concessions. Noa manages to barter 20 silver pieces off the price, arguing for bulk discounts. A quick trip for Noa to a remote bank branch office let him exchange some gold for platinum coins, and with that the party was off. Stepping outside the gates of the city, the party sees the vast refugee camp comprised of many worn, small tents.

There was some debate among the fresh band of adventurers about which route to take towards the temple ruins, as taking the main road would be a journey of about three days. Going through the wilderness would be faster, about two days, but also somewhat more risky. Being a ranger, Andrea's refusal to take the main road eventually led to the party agreeing to take the faster route, reasoning it would save them money on their rations as well.

As the journey progressed, the party did not run into any trouble. After all, these parts were – even the wilderness – were rather well traveled and close to the major city. The foraged for food after the day's walk, showing Andrea had a particular knack for finding whole day's food for even more than one person.

7th of Eleasias, 1526

At the end of the second day, later on in the afternoon, the group arrived at the archeologist's encampment. The leader of the team confirms the information in their reports, but also adds that last night the ghost actually attacked one of their members. The victim, Viral, immediately fled and is now resting in the medical tent to recover from his wounds.

Lumivarax and Noa enter the small medical tent to try and get some information out of Viral. Viral tells them he was excavating a specific part of the ruins where he found some unusual symbols that did not seem to be related to Eldath in any way. He describes them as a 5-point twisted star, but the party does not seem to recognize the symbol either.

Lumivarax proceeds to examine the blackened wounds on Viral's chest and confirms they are caused by necrotic energy. He decides to heal Viral's wounds with his Divine magic, and Viral immediately jumps up out of the bed to thank Lumivarax profusely.

One theory that came up during the party's investigation was that perhaps the archeologist's took something from the temple that angered the ghost. They requested to inspect the artifacts that the League had so far uncovered, but found only common religious items, many marked with a waterfall, the main symbol to represent Eldath.

As the sun went down, the archeologist's examining the ruins rapidly returned to the camp. The party noted that the League of Archeologists appeared to be comprised of many different races; Halflings, Dwarves, some Humans, and so on. The team leader explained that the main office of the League was situated in Lareya, a multicultural melting pot.

Finally, the group resolves to sit down and observe the ruins. Somewhere around 22:00, they started hearing the wailing and screaming of the terrifying visage, and seeing an immaterial form drifting through the ruins. They decide to move closer and spread the party out over a long distance. As Darion and Andrea move closer, the ghost somehow notices them, freezes and stares right at them, never stopping her screaming.

Andrea attempts to communicate with the ghost, but this only momentarily distracts it, after which it continues its screaming. As she and Darion move a little closer still, the ghost suddenly rapidly starts flying towards them.

As Noa calls for the party to regroup, he is the first to strike an arrow into the ghost; morphing it's anguished cries to cries of rage. What follows next is a rapid scramble for the party to get closer to each other while the ghosts attacks and hurts Darion. As the fight progresses, the ghost eventually wails in a ghastly rage, striking fear into more than half of the party, especially the somewhat dim-witted Darion. After this, the ghost flies back towards the temple ruins it came from, the party raining arrows after it as well as the distance and their fear allows them.

The ghost, having been fended off remarkably well, disappears through a stone wall in the distance.

 

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