Arbach awoke half buried in sand. He looked around, trying to figure out where he was. He could see the remains of the crashed gasbag. There were bodies everywhere. As he watched he saw movement in the wreckage. Kizmet came staggering out of the piled wood and canvas that had once been a flying machine.
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As he dug himself out of the sand he noticed a gnome wandering around checking the bodies. Arbach staggered over to the ship and found his backpack. Checking inside, the bottle of fine whiskey was intact. He removed the cork and took a long pull.
Kizmet was relieved to see Arbach up and around. She needed his skills. A voice in her head kept telling her to brave the storm and travel to the Vault of the Fallen as soon as possible. As she scanned the horizon she saw that the bubble of magic that had kept the storm at bay was still intact, but seemed to be shrinking.
There were other survivors moving around in the wreckage. In addition to Arbach there was a gnome checking bodies; there were a lot of bodies. She could see a tiefling, some sort of priest, searching for something in the sand. She could feel The Vault of the Fallen calling to her.
Kizmet found Peter tangled in the wreckage, alive but unconscious. The gnome ranger brought over some sort of herb he’d found in the waste and put it under Peter’s nose. Peter opened his eyes. “Worms, worms, worms”. He then passed out again.
She also found Lord Rallin, still breathing but gravely wounded. As she considered whether she could kill him without anyone noticing, Asarkor the house mage came staggering out of the ruined ship. “Worms, worms, worms, worms”. He then stood staring off into the distance.
Tak-Ansiik had to find his shield. It was much more than just physical protection. It was the holy symbol of his dark faith. As he searched he felt its pull and rushed towards it. The shield was flat black with no decoration or adornment. There were cracks and fissures that ran throughout the surface.
Tak picked up his shield and headed back towards the ship. He gathered some of the dead and laid them on his shield. As he did the cracks began to spread. Tak knew that the cracks changed based on his actions but this is the first he had seen something like this.
He saw another body, a large man in shining armor. As he got closer he started to feel angrier and angrier towards this man. He couldn’t explain it but as he dragged the body over to join the pile he began to hate him. When Tak laid the newest body near the shield he saw the cracks start to heal, getting smaller and farther from the center. He dragged the body away, threw it down and started yelling at it.
Arbach watched the strange Tiefling priest yell at Farrow’s body. Needing to know if his companion was all right he walked over and checked him out. The priest saw him coming and went back to his body collecting, muttering imprecations at Farrow as he left. Arbach checked Farrow and, finding a pulse, dragged him over to join the rest of the wounded.
He then motioned the priest over to Lord Rallin. After a brief discussion, Arbach placed his foot on the Lord’s head and pulled the shaft out of his chest. At the same time Tak cast a healing spell on the lord. Lord Rallin opened his eyes, gasped; “Worms”, and fell unconscious. Arbach was surprised since that spell should have gotten the lord back on his feet.
Terry the gnome was checking for casualties, and perhaps emptying the pockets of the dead as he went. He saw the pile of wounded growing as more survivors were located. Several of the crew were still alive, five or six it seemed. There also seemed to be other hirelings like him and Tak. The others appeared to be in two groups. There was a tall, beautiful dark elf with a staff and a thin half elf. They were tending to two of the casualties. There was also a group of four others, a large human, a Halfling, a half orc and an elf. The large human and the half elf began to discuss their options and Terry drifted nearer, as did Tak.
Mulgo, the human, was talking as Terry got within earshot. “We should leave anyone who can’t walk and go to the Vault now”. Asarkor broke in. “We have to go to the Onyx. That’s where the healing drafts are”. “They are all on the Onyx”. He then passed out. Arbach didn’t like Mulgo much so he argued the Mage’s side. “We need to get to the Onyx and get the healing drafts”. “Lord Rallin is the leader of this expedition and we need him alive”. As the discussion got more heated between the two they squared up on each other and began to finger their weapons.
Kizmet recognized the signs. Arbach was about to get them in trouble again. Sure enough “You want to settle this now”? Mulgo bellowed out. In answer Arbach drew his scimitar and a tomahawk. “Let’s do this”. The half-orc came up and grabbed Mulgo’s hand. She whispered “This is not the time. Later”. Arbach was close enough to hear her. Mulgo took his hand from his sword. The half-orc looked around at the survivors; “We should go to Taj. We can get supplies and rest there”.
Terry was inclined to honor his contract and save the lord. He interjected himself into the conversation. “We should go to the Onyx and get the potions”. Mulgo just looked at him. “Why are you talking gnome”?
While they were all arguing Tak pulled Arbach’s scimitar out of its scabbard and walked over to the ship. He stood at the rail and started to try to chop through the lines secured there. Arbach walked up to him, took the scimitar out of his hands and flicked him on the nose. Tak’s reaction was subdued, he just kept trying to cut the lines with empty hands. Looking around, Terry noticed that the crew all seemed to be going about their duties as if everything were normal. Something odd was definitely happening.
Arbach, seeing that Mulgo was just interested in looting the Vault made a new suggestion. “Mulgo, why don’t you see what we can salvage from the wreckage, then we’ll all follow you to the Vault”. Mulgo didn’t want to appear to be following Arbach’s orders but he liked the plan, and his implied leadership in it, so he led his team into the wreckage to start searching.
Arbach immediately gathered broken spars and line and rigged up four litters. Terry and Tak dragooned the surviving crewmen into pulling them. They loaded up Farrow, Peter, Lord Rallin and Asarkor onto the litters and headed out into the storm. They were headed directly away from the direction the gasbag had been travelling. They were going to the Onyx.
Arbach was able to guide the party in the direction that the Onyx had gone down. Due to his familiarity with the Waste the party was able to avoid difficult and dangerous terrain and move quickly. The storm continued to rage around them. At one point both Terry and Tak were struck by a lightning bolt, leaving a web of burn marks on their skin, like the veins of a leaf.
As they travelled, Terry and Arbach noticed that they were following the trail of a group of goblins. The goblins were travelling in single file to avoid giving away their numbers but Terry, who hated goblins, was able to figure out that there were sixteen of them.
The party continued along the path until they saw it split up into several different groups. They left the litters and their bearers behind a dune and moved forward to where they could see the goblins attacking the wreckage of the Onyx. There were still people alive and fighting back in the ship. As they reached the fight the storm died down and both the goblins and the defenders started shooting at each other.
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Arbach took aim and let fly at one of the goblin archers, missing wide. Tak, who was behind Arbach, readied his crossbow and fired a bolt directly into Arbach. Arbach spun with the impact and loosed his arrow into Tak, gravely wounding him and knocking him unconscious.
In the meantime Kizmet and Terry were engaging the goblins in a more effective manner. Kizmet exploded one of the goblins with the Staff of Empty Boots. Terry was moving forward, slowly through the loose sand, and firing his crossbow at the right flank goblins who were the closest.
The crew of the ship and the goblins continued their duel, with casualties on both sides. The crew were using small rail mounted ballistae. They were slow and clumsy but devastating when they hit. Arbach was hit by a second arrow, this time fired by a foe. He shrugged off the damage and, reaching down, pulled the arrow out of Tak and fired it into the skull of one of the goblin archers. He then began to down goblins with his longbow while moving quickly towards the left flank, unaffected by the difficult terrain.
Between the fire of the crew and Arbach and Kizmet, the central group of goblins was wiped out. Two of the right flank goblins rushed the wreckage and got inside. Arbach finished off the left flank and then shot one of the right flank goblins. The last one was inside the wreckage, where he was killed with a blood curdling scream.
On the dune Tak managed to regain consciousness but was too weak to get up.