The Heartstone Prophecy

Escape from Bath

Chaos as citizens flee with meager belongings, some heading for the docks, some heading to some other and likely futile destination. Many citizens are arguing and pushing, trying desperately to get through the gates that lead down to the boats, knowing that escape will be most likely if they can get aboard a ship.

A detachment of soldiers gallops into the castle courtyard, horses frothing, armor dented, bleeding. A loud commander at the front begins directing soldiers to man battlements and to start forming up for another sortie. A wizened man, bald and old but regal addresses the commander as “your grace” and protests that it is time to head for the docks. The commander removes his battered helmet and it is indeed the king. The eagle sigil of the Royal Guard is plain on many of the soldiers with him. The king refuses to be led to the docks while his city is not yet fallen, but the old man, now recognizable as Nabron Welsley, chief councilor to the king and his father before him and his father before that, argues that the city is already lost and that the king can do no good for his people if he is slain. With bitter resignation, the king agrees and begins to organize the party that will travel down to the docks, directing his guards to let some of the struggling masses through.

As the party is about to leave, Keeper Creesus demands that the party cannot leave until his acolyte, Halst, has been brought. Nobody has seen Halst and it is determined that a search party be dispatched to find him. Lt. Ilica Shelton volunteers to lead the search, but in the chaos, most of the guard and troops have been dispatched to lead the king’s party down to the wharf.

The characters are recruited as the only options she’s got.

Rather than risk the main road, now crowded with blighted, the group decides to use a smaller postern gate that leads to a warren of small neighborhoods and twisting alleyways that, if correctly navigated, will lead to the Weeping District where Halst supposedly lives. Blind Creesus cannot remember the name of the building where Halst lives, but recalls that it smells of cinnamon and that it’s near Tigerstone Library.

After finding their way through the maze of streets to the Weeping District, the party sets out to try to locate Halst. The district is mostly empty, though a few sages still attempt to flee the library with as much scholarly works as their arms can carry. When asked, most of the hurried passersby do not know where to find Halst – or even who he is. The party searches the street and finds a bakery attached to an apartment building. Figuring this must be the residence of Halst, they are able to locate his room by examining the ledgers at the front desk and proceed up to the apartment where they find that Halst is not in his room and a few empty bottles on the table indicate that wherever he is he’s likely drunk. Indeed, the neighbors confide in the party that Halst has a weakness for the spirits.

The label on the empty bottle indicates it is from The Keyhole, a closet of a bar located underneath a bridge nearby. En route to the bar, the group sees that the Weeping District is quickly being overrun by Blighted. They manage to sneak into the bar without being noticed and find Halst passed out, alone in the bar. They are able to rouse him, but he is unable to walk without assistance.

Hurrying out into the street, the group is halted by a detachment of Blighted and, after a furious fight, decide to retreat back into a nearby abandoned apothecary as more and more enemies arrive in the district. Only a matter of time before they are discovered, they search for an alternate way out of the apothecary and find a service entry into the dank sewers beneath the streets of the sodden Weeping District.

Dragging Halst and navigating the maze of tunnels, the group manages to emerge on a small ledge near the edge of the harbor where they make their way down to the docks and the waiting boats. But the Blighted are close behind. Hurrying down the quay, Creesus and his bodyguard instruct the group to get Halst safely aboard the ship while they delay the pursuing enemies. Creesus places a box emblazoned with a purple heart in Halst’s hands who’s eyes widen with surprise and shock as the group hurries him onto a boat.

Aboard the ship, the group watches as Creesus and his bodyguard fend off attack after attack, but there are simply too many Blighted and they are eventually overwhelmed as the ship pulls away to join the fleeing fleet. Halst, now sober from the weight of the situation, sits staring down at the purple heart on the lid of the box, obviously overwhelmed.

Magic flares from the departing ships, protecting them as best they can from the fiery bolts and green arcane missiles being hurled from the shore. The ghostly blue shield engulfing the fleet deflects the onslaught and it seems as if the fleet will escape when an enormous figure with a cruel horned helmet is seen to stride into the midst of the attackers on the quay. With a sound as if the cries of all of the victims in the burning city have synchronized into one terrible wail, a red tidal wave of magic, centered on the enormous figure on the quay, builds and rushes toward the escaping fleet and its protective shield. The shrieking crimson wave, it’s light reflecting off both sea and sky, crashes into the shield and, then, all light is extinguished. Everything is black and gray and white and sound ceases to exist. The sea is gone, the sky is gone, but the ships remain and the passengers aboard seem at one moment to be frozen, and the next to be sped up as if their fear and panic have materialized and inhabited their bodies like demons. The ships and their breathless passengers tumble and collide in a vacuum, even seem to inexplicably pass through each other for eternal seconds, or minutes, or years.

Then, with a rush of a returning, roaring sound, like the screaming red infernal wave that sent them here only in reverse, the sea returns, the sky takes form, and time itself seems corrected. The storm raging in the harbor is gone, indeed, the harbor is gone, replaced with endless sea and night skies. The water is calm, yet the ships bob chaotically on the glassy water as sailors, soldiers, men, women, children stare blankly at one another as if seeing another person for the first time. Awareness slowly returns as the boats stabilize, the people shaking the fog from their heads, or expelling it with low, moaning wails.

The stars are unfamiliar. The sea stretches in all directions. A child cries aboard the party’s boat and picking up the cue, the passengers erupt into startled confusion.

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