In the morning after preparing to rescue Chiron, the group met with King Ixthion once more to hear his farewells. With everyone assembled, Ixthion called Salvador forward to recognize his accomplishment as one of the most decorated Olympians in the country’s history. A family heirloom, the Firestorm Arrow, an artifact of supposedly great power. Two sets of magic arrows – the Fire Bane and Frost Bane – were also awarded to Salvador. With accolades presented, Ixthion wished everyone the best of luck and sent them on their way.
After two days of traveling north from Olympia, the group were greeted to a flickering image of the Marshal over their encampment one evening. He bore grave news: the finest warrior of the Imperium of Man, known only as the Champion of Humanity, had been sent to kill the Hero of Byblos. He could be anywhere from the border with the Confederacy to the capital of the Imperium so it is impossible to gauge when he would find the group. From the Marshal’s sources, it was apparent that the Champion only sought the Hero.
After a brief exchange of gathered information and well wishes, the image of the Marshal faded. This was disturbing news but the group elected to nonetheless press onward to rescue Chiron.
Following another few days of travel, they passed into the lush, temperate forests of the Thri-Keen lands and found the hive to which they were directed. It towered over the landscape like a great glacial horn without the snow. Shortly after this came into view, they happened upon a field within which was a rock on which sat a funny looking High Elf. He was fidgeting with his clothes and arms, looking impatient, but instantly perked up when he saw the group approach with the Hero and Catullus up front.
Greetings were amicable. Nefertai taking a liking to his desire to preserve nature and the others endeared by his eccentric behaviour. After the odd elf expressed his great pleasure over meeting the Heroes of the Confederacy, the conversation steered to why he was there. He implored the group to assist him in the Thri-Keen hive, which he knew they were hoping to infiltrate. An explanation of the situation was given.
This particular hive was not like the others. It had become infested with metal elementals known as Ferach. These small metal spiders had taken over the Thri-Keen’s home and rendered them barely living husks of their former selves, apparently under direction of some mysterious group of which the traveller knew little. The plan was for the group to be a distraction on their way to saving Chiron while the traveller went deep into the hive to rid it of the elemental pests. This would apparently have explosive results and he urged the group to steer clear once they had accomplished their task.
After attempts to discern the traveller’s intentions with insight and telepathy, as well as fervent offers to accompany him to the inner parts of the hive, they eventually agreed to the plan. With this the traveller suddenly pulled an ornate metal crossbow off his back and fired a blue magic bolt into the floor. A portal formed on the spot.
Breaking through to the other side, they were met with a somewhat clean cavern space with a single stone slab showing signs of a way out. The traveller approached this and pushed it down with his wand. In the next room was a wooden plank that blocked the path, which the traveller failed to remove with his wand. Frustrated, he simply kicked it down to continue on his way.
With the group assembled in a much larger chamber with a clear river going under a stone bridge, the traveller explained the details of how to navigate the hive to Chiron and the way out. After all had been said, they went their separate ways – the group to rescue a prince and the traveller to do gods know what to solve the infestation.
After a few quick turns, the group found themselves in a vast chamber with only a statue at its center, Aegon having scouted it out beforehand with his familiar. The statue seemed to be of a large man falling to the floor with a look of fear and his arm outstretched to block something. Aegon and Byron debated the possible scenarios. It could be the victim of a Gorgon, but that was unlikely in these parts. Byron considered the possibility that it would be a Pygmalion, the common earth elemental, but these were statues that moved and this one evidently stood still. Tests were performed on the statue to determine that it was rock and would not answer to anything related to the elemental races (neither their language or religion).
These concerns were soon overshadowed by the presence of a Thri-Keen on the far side of the room. At first, it charged toward the group, lusting for sustenance, but seeing their numbers and feeling their power first hand, it almost as quickly retreated back down the tunnels. Byron gave chase but even as he knocked out his quarry, he found three more Thri-Keen in the room beyond. All these creatures were heavily equipped with some type of large throwing star. On closer inspection, it appeared that many of what seemed like weapons were actually metal plates that were like flat spiders latched onto their bodies.
Behind Byron, the rest of the group followed. When everyone had moved to one side of the room, away from the statue, a wind was felt from behind. Salvador turned around only to be greeted by the ugly face of a savage gargoyle, itching to take a piece of him. Suddenly, the pursuit to the next room gained an air of urgency. Everyone piled into the thin connecting corridor taking pot shots at the gargoyle. Only moments after its stone form had crumbled, did the other Thri-Keen also fall. One in particular tried to jump at Byron, astride Warhorse! but he was struck down with a swift interruption by Nefertai. As the insectoid died, the metal plates separated from his body and landed beside Byron. These were easily dispatched. However, Nefertai’s attempt to burn the Thri-Keen and the Ferach spiders with them, found that fire melted the metal drones, burning deep into the Thri-Keen. This gave them a quick death.
Attempts to communicate with the Thri-Keen that Byron knocked out were unsuccessful. They only seemed to react peacefully to Catullus’ sweet melodies. Telepathic intrusion, however, did confirm that the Thri-Keen were being directed by a hive mind. By analogy, trying to send thoughts to the Thri-Keen was like trying to make waves in water in which a whilrpool already raged. This last bug received a quick and painless death. In the last battle, Mark had mercilessly finished off the gargoyle, igniting the power he had long trained to use. Its soul was drawn forth from the body into a his arm, only to settle into the shape of a dark crystal in his hand. Mark had taken the final step toward becoming a Soul Thief.
Knowing that the Thri-Keen were immediately killed when their hosts are exposed to fire, the group easily took the rest of the traveller’s directions to where Chiron was supposed to be held. There they found a perfectly cubic chamber many feet wide and long. At the far end, a centaur lay prostrate upon the ground. Nearby was a table with metal tools for an unknown purpose. With the power of Avandra, Byron healed the wounds of Chiron – wounds that Nefertai surmised to be the result of beating, biting and poisoning. The prince expressed his thanks to the Hero for healing him and for the group for coming to his rescue. Meanwhile, Aegon and Catullus were busy collecting the tools they found on the table for later analysis. At the moment all prepared to leave with haste, a segment of the far wall – directly above the exit – collapsed, releasing four of the Ferach drones. They swarmed Mark, inflicting painful bites but Salvador gave more than they could give.
After clearing a path through the metal bugs, Salvador sprinted for the opening that was their ticket out of the hive. Mid stride, before any of the others could follow suit, he found himself face-to-face, only inches away, with a horrendous half-man, half-scorpion completely composed of metal. This disgusting creature looked him dead in the eyes, showing no signs of any emotion or thought behind his own. Right when the task seemed at an end, the fight had only just begun…