Sabatine the 19th, 1216
After escaping with her life, Valentia crawled out of the tunnel with a glowing orange stone that now contained the Salamander. She pocketed the stone and met entered the large room where Strength and Grammorn had defeated the fleshless ones.
They decided to follow the small stream further into the cave rather than head back after their encounter. Valentia casted Witchsight to sense any magical energies and found some type of aura coming from above them. After following the stream, they emerged from the cave back into the Forest of Saard.
The air was filled with a murmuring coming from within the deep trench where they had first entered the cavern. Grammorn and Strength went to the right and Valentia went off to the left of the cliffs overlooking the trench. A group of fleshless ones and a man wearing a large headdress with skulls, twigs, and bones were circled around the altar just beside the pile of corpses. They hummed in unison and the sound of clanging bones on the man’s headdress echoed throughout.
Quickly, they engaged the group, fearful that their ritual would signal the end of Grammorn and Valentia’s souls. Strength pushed over a large stone that fell and crushed a number of the fleshless ones. He ducked behind the rocks as the lunatics hurled spears and knives in his direction. Some of the lunatics began climbing up the cliff side and Grammorn began to chuck rocks down at them, giving Strength the cover to climb down the cliff as well. Valentia, opposite side of them, readied her bow and fired off an arrow that just grazed one of the lunatics climbing the cliffs on her side. They were getting closer, and the mysterious man in the headdress began casting a spell, drawing energy to himself as he chanted an ominous phrase over and over again.
One of the lunatics jumped on Strength, trying to drop him off the cliff, but Strength managed to kick him off. A loud thud signaled broken bones and a dead combatant. Grammorn began to climb down himself at the sight of the mysterious energy the caster was summoning. One of the lunatics reached the summit on Valentia’s side, but was quickly cut down with a couple of quick slashes to the chest from her saber. Strength reached the ground and began to run for the caster, but was intercepted by a lunatic who held on to his arms. Grammorn ran past them as fast as he could to approach the caster.
Before Grammorn could reach the caster, the mysterious man finished his spell. A dark portal appeared between Grammorn and himself. The portal emitted a mysterious frost, but Grammorn was set on seeing an end to this. He jumped over the portal, but as he was above the portal, an enormous fiend emerged from the portal and grabbed Grammorn from mid air. over 15 feet tall, goat-like features, sunken beady eyes, and large claws, the creature resembled something from nightmares. Then, as soon as it had appeared, it disappeared into the portal with Grammorn. The rest of the lunatics dispersed at the sight of the demon and the only ones left in the trench were our adventurers and the caster, laughing maniacally.
Unable to be questioned, Strength ended the madman’s life. Valentia looked through his possessions and found a smoky black sphere. It called to her… for something… but for what? Hopeful that destroying the stone would restore her soul, she crushed the stone against a nearby rock. Nothing. Grammorn was gone, and now she had nothing to go off of… was this it? Is she to suffer an painful slow death?
Plashkis 15th, 1216
Nearly an entire month had passed since that day. Valentia and Strength had returned to Thyrta in search of some information, but nothing substantial had been recovered. Slowly, Valentia became less capable and was appearing ghastly and worn. Her skin developed dark cracks and she became pale. She had recurring nightmares of a dark misty forest where she ran endlessly to no avail with no goal. Then one morning she woke and found something that stopped her dead in her tracks: the smoky black stone. It looked exactly as it did a month ago. Dark, smoky and mesmerizing, she stared at the stone for some time before reaching out to Strength.
Together, they were able to uncover it’s secret. The nightmares she had been having and the conversation Valentia had with Bossip Yester, it all made sense now. Gau had taken their souls to another realm, a realm within dreams. This stone was somehow a portal, a method of entry into his domain: The Hunting Grounds. That night, they spent the night in Valentia’s room with the stone between them. When they awoke, they were no longer in the cozy seaside bedroom in Thyrta. They were in The Hunting Grounds.