The Bloodtide and Hurgen continued to lead their motley collection of half-giants northwards away from the city-state of Arrakis, eventually they planned to make their way to a rumoured dwarven settlement in the far north, but first they would stop at an oasis that Hurgen had visited when she had originally escaped from Arrakis and slavery herself.
Meanwhile in the city-state itself Tk’Tak was attempted to buy supplies from Athrialix’ uncle, the trader Kallisto, the shrewd businessman was less than keen to see the Thri-Kreen, especially given that he was still owed a number of rampager body parts by them, but grudgingly he agreed to help arrange for Tk’Tak to purchase some supplies. The mantis man had agreed to help Athrialix conduct a ritual to purge Arrakis’ underwater reservoir of the green plague that had transformed the water to a viscous emerald coloured sludge. Athrialix needed a sample of pure water to begin the ritual; having purchased his supplies Tk’Tak set out to meet Hurgen and the Bloodtide at the oasis, planning to collect a sample of clean water from there and convey it back to Athrialix in Arrakis as quickly as possible, hopefully before the city died of dehydration.
Meeting with the others a day south of the oasis Tk’Tak delivered his supplies to his associates and the waiting half-giants, Hurgen expressed her wish to give her fellow half-giants a chance for survival; Tk’Tak transformed into a small serpent and slithered north ahead of the main group to scout out the oasis. In the oasis a number of lithe figures with slightly pointed ears, wearing light desert robes moved around the area, one of them, a figure festooned with bones and shells, seemed to spot Tk’Tak despite his diminuitive form and the mantis man druid quickly slithered back to his friends. Hoping that the elves were not necessarily enemies, Hurgen approached, holding her sword out in a gesture of peace and asked if they might take some water from the oasis; the elven response was an abrupt “If you can trade?”
Hurgen and the Bloodtide told the elves that they were leading a group of escaped slaves from Arrakis and would die without water, the elves appeared to be sympathetic towards this and allowed them to drink without further antagonism; during this time it became obvious that the elves had about a dozen Rampagers nearby, despite not being shackled or restrained in any way the creatures appeared reasonably docile, certainly not the brutal, berserking monsters that had attacked Arrakis so recently. One of the elves talked, in broken common, about how Arrakis had enslaved some of their kind and that they would use the Rampagers to take revenge, Hurgen seemed comfortable with this idea, Tk’Tak and the Bloodtide less so (privately Korvin the Bloodtide wondered how many innocents would be sacrificed on the altar of the elves revenge). Quashing his worries for the moment, Tk’Tak collected a small ceramic flask of pure water and, changing form into a desert bird, began to fly the water sample back towards Arrakis, where Athrialix was waiting for it.
Athrialix was walking through the College of Philosophy in Arrakis when he was stopped by the wheezing old figure of the aged philosophy student Coptarix, the old man congratulated Athrialix on being accepted into the ‘Trial of the Magi’, when Athrialix expresses ignorance of this the old man seemed surprised saying that a Templar was waiting for Athrialix in his quarters, the old student had just assumed (given their recent conversations) that it was connected with the mage trials. Politely excusing himself, Athrialix rushed to his chambers where indeed an azure robed Templar (who introduced himself as Themiclés) waited for him; the Templar explained that, without it’s ancient waterworks, the city was dying and that he had been investigating ancient rumours and legends looking for anything that might help. In a series of ancient scrolls Themiclés had discovered mention of a water demon trapped below the ancient dwarven city of Sandstone to the north and had secured permission to take a small party north to investigate, although not clear exactly on his reasons for wanting to recruit Athrialix the Templar implied that he was away of the young philosopher’s budding magical talents.
Flying back towards Arrakis Tk’Tak spotted the devastated remains of a massacred caravan littering the desert sands; swooping down and resuming his normal form the mantis man found a single survivor, a man called Remu. After feeding Remu a restorative tonic, the injured man was able to relate how the bandits attacked the caravan and stole their supplies, Remu took one of them down before he himself was laid low; searching the body of the dead bandit Tk’Tak found a number of coins on him, all of Pharnish origin. Sharing his water rations with Remu, the man departed saying that he was returning to the city of Shades, he thanked Tk’Tak once again and told the mantis man to look him up if he was ever in Shades.
At the oassis Hurgen was talking with Bloodtide about the elves plan to attack Arrakis using the Rampagers but the human gladiator remained unconvinced, saying that Rampagers could not be wielded like a weapon, they are indiscriminate beasts; one of the elves who seemed to have taken a shine to Hurgen asked them to join their quest for vengeanes, saying that, with their help, the conquest would occur more quickly and less innocents would die. Hurgen seemed sympathetic and with a laugh, the elf handed Hurgen back her own healing fruits that he had stolen from her pockets without her realising, grinning Hurgen handed him one back for his people.
Heading out of the eastern city gate riding atop a Crodlu, Athrialix, the Templar Themiclés and two guard began their ride northwards towards the rumoured dwarven settlement, Athrialix pausing briefly to leave a message with his uncle for when Tk’Tak returned with the water sample. As they travelled a desert bird trailing silt flew overhead, at first the avian form of Tk’Tak didn’t recognise Athrialix amongst the party (swaddled as he was in light, desert travelling robes) but eventually he realised that the philosopher was accompanying the group and began to follow them. Later that night when they made camp and Athrialix excused himself, Tk’Tak landed nearby and, resuming his normal form, met up with Athrialix and explained that Pharn seemed to be sponsoring bandits to prevent merchants getting supplies through to Arrakis, he also told his friend about the elves, their control over the Rampagers, and their planned attack on the city.
Athrialix mused on the news for a moment, he had heard rumours of the elves, thieves and conmen of the deep desert, they had shaman who had ways with the beasts of the sands but would not hesitate to break the spirit of a deal if it suited them, hearing that the others were also planning to head to the dwarven settlement Athrialix frowned, “This could be trouble.”
The group at the oasis woke in the morning to find that the entire elven encampment had apparently moved on during the evening and, after hunting some Rampagers in the desert, the party set off in pursuit tracking them to a camp of hide tents a few days southwest of the oasis; Bloodtide spotted the bone decorated elf entering a tent and attempted to follow him but was barred access by a surly elf warrior, things looked like they might get violent for a moment, but the shaman emerged when he heard the Bloodtide’s booming voice. Bloodtide explained that he could not support an attack on the main city since too many innocents would die but perhaps the elves could attack the Blackrock fortress just north of the city, disabling the Templars, striking a blow at the Sorceror King of Arrakis and avoiding many innocent deaths?
The elf shaman said that he would consider Bloodtide’s advice and showed him into the previously barred tent, on the floor were sat a circle of elves, all holding hands with their eyes rolled back into their heads, “This is how we control the Rampagers” said the shaman before leading the Bloodtide back outside again, he also warned Bloodtide that their spies had seen a Templar party heading north from Arrakis.
Travelling back towards the oasis the party were set upon by a wild Rampager, it burst out of a dune biting deeply into Hurgen’s neck; with mighty sinews straining the half-giant grabbed hold of the creatures neck and twisted, feeling vertebrae grind beneath her powerful hands. Bloodtide slid below the belly of the distracted creature, slicing upwards with his assortment of weapons, screaming “The tide is rising!”
As the Rampager howled and reared up, pulling free of Hurgen’s grasped, she gripped her weapon and cut deeply into the creatures chest, spilling steaming innards onto the hot desert sands, the body collapsed atop Bloodtide; moments later the gladiator exploded out of the corpse, his punch daggers shredding him an exit through the creatures spine, his blood splattered face grinned, “Well that seems to sort out our food problems.”
Meeting up with Tk’Tak the group rested and began heading north towards the dwarven city; the Templar party had already arrived at Sandstone and found little more than a ramshackle stone tower surrounded by mountains, eager to resolve Arrakis’ water problems, Themiclés rode forward and announced himself as a King’s Templar, his reward was a barrage of arrows and spears throw from the tower; as they clattered around the Templar, Athrialix threw caution to the wind and hurled arcane fire up at the stone edifice as a distraction.
Suddenly there was a sickening thump as one of the spears pierced Themiclés’ body, his Crodlu bucked wildly and the Templar toppled to the floor.