Far, Barrakas 13, 998 YK (Day 27) (take that, hiatus!)
During the night – or, again, perhaps early in the morning – Lythanis becomes wracked with horrible, vivid nightmares. This is not unusual for him, as he has been plagued by nightmares of this sort since his hopeless battle with the Inspired at Dar Mirn several years before. The difference tonight was that he would not wake from his haunting visions. As the time came that he was roused from sleep, the dreams did not stop. He had at last succumbed to the illness he had contracted back in Riedra, and was no longer in control of his own body. His psyche trapped in a whirling hellscape of nightmares and his body under unknown influence, Lythanis departs while the rest of the party sleeps. He leaves behind only his journal, and with it, the last remnants of his former life.
As the rest of the Eclipse Collective awakens, this recent departure remains initially unclear, and there is no reason to suspect that things are not completely as normal. The main floor of the Halfmoon Inn is, as usual, relatively empty. Rendil Halfmoon and his aunt are seated at the counter, and the cloaked form of Talbot is seated across from a bald man, who is drinking sourly and tending to noticeable wounds. Curious by this new arrival, the available members of the collective sit at a table nearby to eavesdrop. They catch the tail end of what seems to have been a fairly serious conversation, about a contract of some sort for Mr. Artauche that the man has failed to meet his terms upon. Unless he can somehow assure Talbot that his contract is still viable, it will be considered void.
Soon, Talbot notices the party and indicates to the man that they are to be his replacements. They learn that he was part of another adventuring group, called the Reclaimer Company, that was also hired by Mr. Artauche to find the Rod of Order. Believing them to be a liability and a high risk of failure, he sent the Eclipse Collective after them. His mistrust was well placed, as the entire Reclaimer Company save this man was killed in an ambush in the Labyrinth. Seeing no other options, this stranger – who is introduced by Talbot as “Cecil” – asks to join with the Eclipse Collective temporarily, just until they retrieve the Rod. A discussion about this ensues once Stahlstrauss finds that Lythanis is gone, and ultimately Cecil is accepted as a temporary member, then caught up with the party’s current business. Talbot lays out a plan based on the map they found in the merchant post and directs them to go to the central location on the map – the Horned Hold – and look for slaves in order to find Paldemar. Cecil also marks the location on his map where his companions were killed.
Suddenly, there is a clamour outside. The Collective goes to investigate, and Talbot stays inside. In the Hall, Rendil is propped against the wall of the Inn and watching a gathering mob some distance away. He informs them that a duergar convoy, come to pick up food rations from the outpost, has discovered their companions dead and have rallied the Mages’ Enforcers against the Eclipse Collective. Their numbers are great, and Rendil urges them to start running. After Eshunu has a sudden and dark prophetic vision about what is to come, they run out into the Labyrinth through the exit nearest the inn. Cecil expresses his regret for joining.
The enemies give chase, and the Collective quickly attempts evasive action. Stahlstrauss begins charging forward blindly to clear a path, while Eshunu rides atop his back and attempts to use his knowledge of Minotaur labyrinth systems to point him in the right direction. The charging is more than effective and clears aside much debris and rubble, forming a clear path, but Eshunu’s directions leave something to be desired. Meanwhile, Lucan stays back to clear aside footprints while Cecil attempts to knock debris into the path of their pursuers, but Lucan lingers too long and is shot by a crossbow bolt, and Cecil strains himself in his attempts. After running a while, with the duergar and Enforcers still in tow, they come up with a plan to stop the pursuit. Zil’dejin contemplates lighting a fire using his alcohol, but has a hard time parting with his spirits. Eventually Eshunu knocks the bottle from his hand, and Zil’dejin lights it and runs, claiming Eshunu now “owes him one.” The charging duergar are caught in the fire and with no alternate route, stop to tend to their wounded. The party escapes, but Garmeth has been lost in the confusion. They leave him be, knowing he will catch up before long.