The Starhunters disperse, scrambling away from the vivid heat of the elemental furnace that has erupted before them. An air elemental has also emerged, however it soars into the sky, eager no doubt, to join with its natural territory. Aodh darts for cover behind a nearby boulder as the party mounts a defense. Arrows fly into it from Aodh and Fendrys. A’Kelah and Leonidas blast it with shocks of sound and frost.
Just as swiftly, however, the veer witch is engulfed first as the being draws a fiery zig-zag across the forest floor. The competing elemental power of A’Kelah’s ancestral bond with the Lurker is all the prevents her from being charred to a lifeless cinder inside the living flame. Aelish is swatted at by a firey appendage as the flame races to Fendrys next where he too is all but dead inside the conflagration. Leonidas meets the same fate and is engulfed while Aodh scurries from one hiding spot to the next, fixated on escaping the burning gaze of the elemental. It is Aelish who saves her companions both with the Healing Word of Eladriel and by bringing forth water, dousing the fatal combustion like a great votive candle. All that remains of the fire elemental is a column of steam and smoke rising to the wind.
The Starhunters rest to soothe their burns before getting under way once more as soon as they can. Simple Aodh, unfamiliar with magic, does not yet understand the nameless feeling he has is drawing him inexorably to the next fallen star. During their travels, Leonidas catches A’Kelah being dragged away from their shelter by an unseen force. This obviously reminds everyone of the specter from the lantern-lit graveyard. Concluding that the key claimed from that incident is the cause, A’Kelah is cajoled into tossing it away into the deep darkness of the forest.
Days later they come to a river, the name of which escapes Leonidas’ long and learned recollection. Each step west they take brings them all closer to the fringes of civilized Rynas, to places on their map with names that are only memories. Not wishing to risk any more trouble with the halfling who is prone to drowning in river currents, they head downstream as the bard reckons there is an old bridge in the area. Sure enough, they find an ancient stone-arched bridge from the second millennium of Rynas, built when kings were yet men, when a tame dragon patrolled the skies, before even the sage Almdor came to this land. Now, the bridge is half-collapsed and with no toll-man. Only a pitted and mossy shrine to Myrnoch stands here amidst rusty offerings. No one takes or leaves an offering. The Starhunters cross the river and step into the barony of Vorhon. A’Kelah notices, when she elects to instead swim the river, that her accursed key has returned to her. She does not tell her companions.
Despite keeping away from trails and roads, they are found in the early dawn hours by one Mr. Jarol and his dwarven valet Gostan, a cointhane of Kathoom. Jarol is the father of Andre, a commoner wed to Baroness Vorhon. They listen to Jarol’s story who tells of a prayer to Eladriel that led him to Aelish. He knows the Starhunters by reputation. It seems the demoness Małgorzata has beaten them here and is up to her usual tricks. She has beguiled the baroness, using the noblewoman’s influence to have Jarol’s son Andre and others jailed unjustly.
Aelish and her fellow Starhunters debate vehemently about whether or not to pursue the fallen star or to help Jarol free his son. Unfortunately Aodh is still unaware of his ability to precisely locate the ‘new orb’. At length, it is agreed, Jarol will lead them to Castle Vorhon to free his son. He warns: the Baroness has departed her residence with loyal knights in tow—they seek the fallen star. A second group of her gendarmes is also searching for the Starhunters. Both parties likely have been tipped off about them by Małgorzata.
They approach the castle near twilight, devising a plan to have A’Kelah swim the moat and scout it. Her reconnaissance leads the group to send Aodh with A’Kelah back into the moat. In this way, the halfling can use his diminutive size to scurry up the filthy chute of the garderobe. Meanwhile Leonidas and Fendrys take Jarol to approach the drawbridge. Glib and persuasive, Leonidas has no trouble talking his way into the castle. The posted guard speaks of a curse within and shadows that move. He lowers the bridge and abandons his post with exasperation.
Inside the castle, Jarol is set upon by the moving shadows they were warned about. He lets out a scream which summons Aelish and A’Kelah from over by the moat. Not far from the foyer, all of the Starhunters reassemble. The shadows are indeed alive and malicious, only A’Kelah’s mystic lights are keeping them at bay. The group makes haste for the kitchen which is the best way down into the dungeon below.
Aelish 2500 (Inspiration Award: Roleplaying)
Aodh 2500 (Inspiration Award: Heroism)