The three strangers woke to a thin band of light cast by Leif’s magic, an inactive portal behind them, a completely blackened world in front, utterly unknown. Unknown, but not perhaps uninhabited: a monument directly in front of them bore an inscription for new arrivals:
Welcome to the Pit
All is Not Yet Lost
Proceed to Fort Rebellion
Beware the Snatchers
Very quickly, Hurmanus caught the scent of blood in the air – fresh enough to raise his hackles. Deenie noticed old braziers in disarray. As their eyes adjusted to the gloom, they caught distant shadows – or imagination’s cruel tricks – dancing just beyond sight. With a sense of vertigo, they discovered that they stood atop the precipice of a small mountain, with rough-hewn steps leading downward, past the monument.
They had taken only a few steps down before they met their first denizen of The Pit. Tumbling and dashing down the hillside into the black, they escaped with minor bruises and made their way along a well-trod path toward this supposed fortress. The world streched into infinity to their left, and to their right lay a dim greenish cloud.
Yet, it should not be said that the world lacked a certain bleak beauty.
Long before they reached the fort, the group decided to be on watch for an ambuscade. It was known to one of them that a bandit group had been exiled recently, and in a spectacularly bloody and daring fashion. Leif explained this, and advised caution.
They soon saw it: a monolithic structure that appeared to have been raised whole out of the ground, bearing great and sweeping beams of light, and well in advance of that structure, a much less impressive watchtower. The small watchtower was manned by an individual who claimed to represent lawful, sovereign forces, but the group was largely unconvinced. Nonetheless, they made their way to the fort.
It was there that the facade dropped. Floodlights blinded the party, and chuckling silhouettes invited them in even as arms were raised against the party, leveled behind the turrets of the fort. Things appeared to be heading toward a quick and bloody end, when Deenie mentioned that she was a healer.
The tenor of the discussion quickly changed, and a mustachioed man identifying himself as Graves was lured outside by Hermanus. It appeared that an exchange of hostages might occur… and then everyone attacked one another instead. Hurmanus in particular distinguished himself as well, felling the leader with a single blow. All pretenses were discarded and the bandits attacked with what strength they had.
Eventually, in part due to a miracle performed by Deenie on one of their enemies, in part because the bandits were losing, the heir apparent to the bandits agreed to take their number and leave the fort in exchange for a ceasefire.
The party liberated the survivors of Fort Rebellion: a man also identifying himself (albeit more believably) as Lt. Graves, an old woman wearing plain grey robes, and two younger scribes. All four were in terrible shape, and not in much of a position to do anything other than to beg the party to traverse the Craggy Narrows and request reinforcements from The Sovereign. The party agreed – or at least appeared to.
Reasonably provisioned, Deenie, Hurmanus, and Leif headed to what they magnanimously termed the North, watching the distant edges of the cavern close in around them as they did so.
An opening in the wall the size of a manor house blew warm winds in their faces, and while their light did not shine far, what it did illuminate looked treacherous: a winding, narrow pathway surrounded on all sides by chasms, sinkholes, and steep hillsides, stretching into the dark.
They might have begun to question their resolve, when they saw a sprinting figure with a faltering source of light surging toward them, two Snatchers in pursuit. A fierce melee ensued. The newcomer, covered in a fine layer of cavern dust and the markings of the Necromancers, wielded a trident with incredible skill, but without the aid of the party, he likely would have perished. The man, who called himself Brek, thanked them for their aid, and explained that the way ahead was blocked – likely, or so it seemed – by more of the same bandits that the group had so recently encountered.
Without much discussion or argument, Brek was accepted into their number. Although they knew little of him, and he displayed distrust of Leif’s magic, dark circumstances make for desperate allies, and he was good with a weapon.
After a short rest, aside from one minor inconvenience, the party was able to recover, and was ready to press on.