Broken Nations

Pitch Black

The dust had barely settled on the party’s first battle with the Formians when a panicked messenger dispatched from Ibn Jafir summoned the group to the northeast side of town. Daukua and Yivellor ran north, and met the shopkeep and militia commander just behind the front lines.

The situation was grim, Ibn Jafir explained. Two groups of militia soldiers had barricaded themselves in two houses, only to be surrounded and cut off by a dozen of the bugs. Ibn Jafir asked Yiv and the paladin to rescue the militia and stabilize the battle lines. Just before departing, the pair ran into Gam, the not-so-talkative half-orc co-pilot of the sandsail.

Gam, dressed for battle, chose to assist the party. Together, the three of them ran headlong into the fight just west of one of the barricaded houses. Despite pummeling several of the Formians, Daukua and his warhorse were quickly swarmed and severely injured. Withdrawing from the battle, the Paladin downed potions while Yivellor and Gam did their level best to hold the line. Gam took a heavy blow from one of the creatures and retreated, but the pair bought enough time for Daukua to ready himself and charge back into the fray. The paladin dropped another Formian, but with wounds piling up and hit points steadily falling, the pair decided to join Gam in an all-out retreat.

Unable to save the trapped soldiers, they met with Ibn Jafir. There, they learned that Rashid had loaded a large group of villagers onto the sandsail, and was ready to carry them to safety. With the last of the defenders dying in the barricaded houses behind them, the group decided to split up. Daukua and Gam would board the sandsail and travel with the villagers to safety, while Yivellor and Ibn Jafir would fight a rear-guard holding action against the Formians.

Daukua and a group of roughly 30 women and children made it to safety. Yivellor, Ibn and a handful of defenders, however, weren’t so lucky. Soon after the sandsail departed, the small group was swarmed and Yivellor was brought down by a blow from one of the Formians.

The next morning, Daukua and Rashid, short on water and in desperate need of supplies for the survivors, returned to the village. After scavenging supplies and water, and finding no survivors or bodies in the now-abandoned village, the group used water from the oasis to collapse both Formian tunnels. Without any way of knowing whether Yivellor survived, Daukua asked Rashid to travel to the edge of the mesa northeast of Haroun. There, Rashid dropped off the paladin, the other party members and their plucky half-orc backup, then escorted the remaining survivors to the nearest town.

At the edge of the mesa, Daukua took stock of the situation, and decided to travel on foot to the ruins of Iskandar—a two-day long journey.

Some time after the battle, Yivellor awoke in darkness, trapped in a cocoon of sticky resin. After spending a moment getting his bearings, the elf discovered that he was being carried on the back of a Formian soldier, and was traveling through Formian tunnels. He soon learned that Ibn Jafir and two other soldiers had survived.

Making use of his own innate talent for escaping from sticky situations, Yivellor managed to regain some movement, and learned that he was still in possession of several of his hidden daggers. Eventually, the column of Formians came to a halt in a cavern, and Yivellor and his fellow survivors were dumped unceremoniously in a pit. There, in the darkness, they found several other survivors from the village, including a woman who told Yivellor that periodically the Formians would enter the pit and drag away a survivor.

Yivellor distributed weapons to the group, and in the darkness he was subjected to several inspections by the Formians. During one of these inspections, the Formians grabbed a survivor and dragged him toward a hallway on the other side of the pit. Always an opportunist, Yivellor followed the Formian and its struggling victim. He was seeking an escape route, but instead the elf came face-to-face with another Formian. The insect grabbed the escapee and brought him back to the pit.

A few minutes later, a Formian empath—similar to the creature the group fought in the first wave of battle at Haroun—visited the pit, accompanied by a human woman and a bio-luminescent larvae glowing an eerie green.

The woman, walking with odd, stiff movements, stopped before the survivors and spoke in a monotone voice.

“Remain obedient, and you may work for the glory of the hive. Become disobedient, and your lives will be short, but your sleep long,” the woman said. Their message delivered, the Formian, the woman and the larvae disappeared down the hallway.

Back on the surface, Daukua and Gam reached the ruins of Iskandar. During centuries of abandonment, much of the city—built from green glass and brass—decayed and was buried under the sands. But a portion of the city one half-mile in diameter remained mysteriously well-preserved. At the center of the remains, a magnificent spire, 90 feet in height, stood watch over the silent buildings.

Unfortunately, the spire was dwarfed by another construct: A 200-foot-tall hive city, built by the Formians within walking distance from the ruins of Iskandar.

After surverying their surroundings, Gam and Daukua chose to head for the top of the spire. The pair took note of a number of hieroglyphics inscribed on the walls of the spire that seemed to depict a cat-like race of beings, armed with spears and tools. In a large cathedral-like room, the two also found an altar with brass manacles built into the surface.

At the top of the spire, the pair spotted a large group of Formians closing on the ruins. Hiding at the spire, Daukua watched as the creatures entered another of the large buildings nearby. After several minutes of tense waiting, he and Gam chose to follow the Formians into the odd structure.

Exploring the building, the pair entered an ancient room filled with brass furniture and well-preserved artifacts. Their search was cut short, however, when Daukua heard Formians approaching. Watching from concealed vantage points, the two saw a troop of more than one hundred Formians march past. The column of insects was carrying a handful of injured or dead bugs.

Deciding that whatever could hurt Formians was worth finding, Daukua waited until the bugs left, then delved deeper into the building. At the center of the structure, he found a pit, lined with stairs, descending into darkness.

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