Chapter 4, Part II: It's Trelawny Bych

The Platinum Talons embarked on another leg of their journey, their goals closely intertwined with the forces they sought to unravel. Nohki, a member of the Talons, set forth to Wiltspar to help with reconstruction and to learn more cooking skills from Edwina, the Wiltsbar's proprietor, leaving the rest of the party to continue their daring escapades.

In the pursuit of profit and nobles, Vance's curiosity drove him to seek out Bart's guidance. Boymin held many questions for this collection of adventurers, and Bart, a seasoned local, proved an invaluable source of answers. Conversing with Bart, the party learned that nobles were known to frequent The Wrecked Racket Tavern, making it a likely destination for Vance to sell his wine.

Among the tales exchanged during their voyage to Boymin, Xerxes told tale of a training mishap - a humorous tale of sword and shield mishandling that led to unexpected camaraderie. The tale solidified bonds among the party, their shared laughter weaving a brighter tapestry.

In a moment of whimsy, Drez regaled the group with a peculiar memory from his youth - a fleeting encounter with a flying horse and its riders. Laughter and incredulity danced in the air as the story unfolded, evoking curiosity about the naked figures on the phantom steed.

However, Vance's calm inquiry took an unexpected turn, inadvertently sparking a heated exchange. In an attempt to connect dots, Vance suggested that Firebrook's sister may have been the one on the flying horse, a notion that ignited Firebrook's ire.

As the party shared stories, fears, and dreams around the campfire, the weight of Bart's family reunion hung heavy in the air. The prospect of returning to her kin stirred a blend of apprehension and anticipation, a poignant reminder of the personal stakes they all faced.

Intentions and goals converged in their shared pursuit. Xerxes's reminder rekindled their focus, directing their gaze toward the encroaching darkness that cast its pall over the land. The piece of Solana they sought remained entangled with the ominous shadows, a challenge that beckoned their mettle.

Their journey led them to a fateful night under the stars, where Vance's watchful eyes met an unexpected visitor. A brawny half-elf woman emerged from the darkness, a deer slung over her shoulders. Her unexpected presence held an offer - half the deer in exchange for fire and rest. Vance agreed, and had a moment of connection with this traveler before she left, leaving a heaping mound of rations for the party.

The night's embrace faded as dawn broke, and the Platinum Talons resumed their path. Darkness, both literal and metaphorical, encroached as the shadows deepened. At a crossroads, the party noted that the forest to the west beckoned them with a towering but familiar arboreal friend: the jet black bark of a Wiltspar Sapling. They took turns watching the horses and carriage and going into the forest to harmonize with the sapling. As they turned to go, Firebrook noticed a cloaked figure in the depth of the trees, and then a thick ring of impenetrable darkness wound around them.

The forest echoed with a clash of shadows and sparks, as figures emerged from the abyss to challenge the Talons. The battle against the unknown unfolded with a mix of strategy and teamwork, an embodiment of their collective strength.

Vance, ever resourceful, cast his magic, spawning a trio of illusory decoys around him. As the shadows coalesced, a flurry of strikes and spells ensued. Firebrook seized an opportunity, igniting the scene with his concocted blasting powder, unleashing an explosion that illuminated the woods.

Drez and Xerxes joined the fray, their attacks punctuating the obscurity. Yet, the malevolent darkness pressed closer, enveloping Vance and Xerxes, unleashing psychic torment upon the latter.

In the wake of the chaos, Firebrook took careful aim, silencing one of the shadowy interlopers. Xerxes's firebolt lanced through the obscurity, a beacon of defiance against the engulfing dark. A rustle from behind alerted Bart to a new threat, prompting swift action from the group. Drez's precision strike felled the emerging figure, halting its advance before it truly began.

As the shadows deepened, a profound realization struck the adventurers. Firebrook sensed a divine presence in the very heart of the darkness, while Xerxes's intuition screamed of impending danger. The forest itself seemed to cower beneath the all-encompassing cloak of obscurity, leaving the party momentarily blind as the darkness tightened its grip briefly around them.

A moment's respite was granted as the shadows relinquished their hold, only to reveal a monstrous visage lurking within. A colossal shadowy dragon emerged from the abyss, its malevolent aura a testament to the power it wielded. Battle cries mingled with the roars of the beast, as the Talons rallied to face their formidable adversary.

The dragon's onslaught left no room for hesitation. Xerxes, although wounded, unleashed a powerful strike upon the creature, imbuing it with the curse of Bane. His relentless endurance brought him back from the brink of unconsciousness, rekindling his determination to strike back. As spells and arrows found their mark, Drez's sharpshooter prowess aimed true, piercing the dragon's heart with a single, fateful arrow.

As the dragon melted into an inky pool, the obsidian curtain that had shrouded the forest began to retreat. Amidst the dissipating gloom, a hooded figure materialized, poised to leave the clearing. In the echoes of the night, strange words reached Firebrook's ears, a cryptic encouragement laced with a sense of challenge. Simultaneously, Bart received a whispered praise of, "That's my girl."

With the battle concluded, Drez's healing touch mended some of Xerxes's wounds. Amid shared relief, Firebrook recounted the hooded figure's presence, a mystery the party now sought to decipher. As darkness withdrew, leaving the clearing illuminated by the setting sun's rays, the Platinum Talons continued their journey into Boymin.

Upon their arrival, the Platinum Talons found themselves in a town wrapped in an eerie silence, its once-bustling streets now boarded up and abandoned. Amidst the desolation, the heart of the city held a beacon of familiarity: the AGI, standing steadfast as a reminder of their purpose.

Xerxes, undeterred by the town's unusual state, ventured into the AGI and struck up a conversation with Jodi, the AGI Concierge. Seeking information, he learned that the Watsons, the prominent family ruling over Boymin, had been absent for a week. Suspicion lingered around their manor, with whispers of a hooded visitor bearing the Sianfete Family crest.

Vance mused about the possibility of Firebrook's rather colorful relatives meddling in the Watsons' affairs due to the encroaching darkness.

With their plans for the night settled, the party sought refuge at the Thistle House, securing rooms for themselves with their AGI Discount. But Xerxes, ever curious, ventured into the less privileged parts of town to engage the locals in conversation. One particular encounter took an unexpected turn, as a perplexing individual responded to the mention of "Bart" with suspicious distress. A failed attempt to charm led to a chilling conclusion, as the man's abrupt self-inflicted demise left the sorcerer stunned.

As they reconvened at the Thistle House, Xerxes shared the grim encounter, prompting Firebrook's unsettling suspicion that a greater evil was at play, capable of influencing the minds of Boymin's inhabitants.

Their attention shifted to the innkeeper, Dr. T, a quirky individual who admitted to the town's plight. The inn's name belied Dr. T's true identity as a graduate of the Arcademy, with a penchant for transmutation theory. The exchange prompted Xerxes to probe deeper, contemplating the possibility of mind control in the town.

Questioning Dr. T about the Watson family's recent activities and the peculiar visitors, the innkeeper's lack of information only deepened the mystery. He disclosed that some visitors came and went from the AGI, yet never returned, adding to the town's air of uncertainty. Mentioning a persistent figure in the inn's basement, Dr. T's words left an intriguing puzzle for the party to solve.

With a final gesture of hospitality, Dr. T offered them a chest to secure their belongings, an unspoken acknowledgment of the stormy times that had swept over Boymin. The Platinum Talons stood united, bracing for the mysteries that lay ahead, poised to unravel the intricate threads that wove through the shadows of the town.

Completed: August 2023