With the exception of Darius the wise, a well behaved crowd gathered at the Lycaeum to assist Professor Yusef Ad-Din. It was widely known the higher ups assigned him the task of studying the Exodus Nexi popping up all over Sosaria. Some knew of his reluctance in doing so. During the inspections he witnessed the devices summoning evil creatures which made up close examination virtually impossible. When he relayed his findings to the staff they cared more about their inquisitive nature than for the Professors safety. It was rumored The Dean himself had said there was no price that is worth more than the truth, sadly that included Yusef’s life as well it seemed.
Upon his arrival he appeared rather eager. Eager to get the dangerous task at hand completed and get back home to Theresa. Those in attendance soon found out there would be no simple walk around those homes infested with the Nexi but would be journeying to the heart of the Power Core it’s self. A few in the crowd looked more than a little worried, while a smaller group seemed to have been longing for that type of news. Some of the smaller group had already made their opinions of Exodus well known, and had even made veiled threats to some of The Crux Ansata leadership because they had the nerve to disagree with their opinion.
Armed with his scimitar, and some type of magical buckler that was designed to detect and record the magical signals of the Nexus devices, the Professor had high hopes he would be able to decode the signal if he could get close enough to the source. When asked if we would accompany him not a person in attendance turned him down. With a reminder for us to stay close to him Yusef forged ahead of the mob to open a portal to one of the locations.
With anticipation, excitement and concern the legion of ragtag companions waited. They looked around for the portal and waited even longer. With concern for the Professor’s safety we all looked around to each other wondering if he had met his demise too quickly. Thoughts began to creep in that the portal would never come. Dread filled more than a few who were wondering if we would have to break horrendous news to Theresa. Finally word began to trickle through the crowd about how the Professor, in his zeal to get the job done, had cast the wrong spell. He was alive and fine! He was merely doing his best to remember the incantation needed to open the portal. Finally the magical portal opened, and with a couple of complaints which were being drowned out by much laughter at the Professor’s expense, the mob entered.
As we trickled in the Professor was already hard at work trying to record and decode the signals. Out of thin air appeared a machine ghost that was trying to attack Yusef in attempts to stop him. The mob took it down without even breaking a sweat. As we continued along more of the ghost’s appeared along with Exodus Lords, each of which were put down faster than the town drunk can down a shot or liquor. Most were relieved as we were seemingly in for an easy night. Too many times the good Professor had called us to his aid, and a bloodbath ensued. A nice leisurely stroll with him with an occasional rogue that could be knocked off in seconds was a nice change of pace.
Things were progressing great. Yusef appeared to have the reading under control, and we had the beasts under control, until one of the dreaded golden exodus lords reared its nasty head. The thing about Ilshenar is just when you think you have things handled, it loves to throw a curve to you. All Kill could be heard almost in unison from many tamers in the crowd. To which the pets shook their heads and walked off as if they were saying, “Hell no! You handle it.” Left with their spells, weapons and wits everyone rallied and eventually overtook the golden rascal.
The Professor began explaining some of the coding and how it started off with a bunch of ones and zeros, but also had another layer of coding along with it. Seeing as how we had things under control to a fair degree he began chatting to us about the technomancy as he called it, and wondering about the power and how it fuels it’s self. It was at that time everyone in the group began wondering. In unison we all wondered how we would survive. Out of the darkness stepped a huge red Exodus Dragon. I am not, nor have I ever been a linguist. But during our battle I came to understand that Mur Kal Ort is Exodus Dragonese for “You will fry”. Every time the red abomination uttered those words people would definitely fry. We eventually slayed the beast, but the fires still raged. Quite a few died in the inferno as they tried to retrieve their spoils of victory. One everyone was resurrected by skilled healers and dressed for more battle it was time to journey to another location.
Immediately upon arriving you could not avoid noticing the lone person standing in the open area. Arlem Dudro stood motionless. When the Professor approached and began examining him he noticed his heart was where a Gargoyles heart would be, however the man seemed to be human. That would only be the tip of the iceberg when it came to strange things about Arlem. He rambled on about his machine father Exodus transforming him into the being he is now. He babbled about his father representing diligence, and how Ver Lor Reg would be the first but not the last.
In all honesty, I lost track of Arlem’s rants. Everyone’s attention turned to more pressing matters. As we were all focused on the half human-half gargoyle total monstrosity that is Arlem Dudro it left our left flank vulnerable. Rather large Cult Destroyers started attacking. The Destroyers were fierce and formidable opponents, but the mob prevailed as usual. Once the assault had ceased we once again turned to this thing called Arlem.
Once again he began his spiel and this time admitted he was from the Cult of the Diligent and Exodus, his machine father, was their God. Once again our focus had been diverted. We allowed ourselves to be sucked into the drama and left an opening. Before anyone realized yet another Exodus Dragon materialized out of thin air and began frying people again. During the ensuing battle, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of Yusef wrapping tape around the mouth and head of Arlem. I guess on occasion even a very inquisitive Professor of Antiquities grows tired of babble. I could not avoid snickering.
Thankfully on occasion patterns emerge. The battle with the second Exodus Dragon went much like the first. The only difference being some of the names of the corpses littering the floor. Once we recovered we ventured to our last area of the night.
The area was a rather small one. It was dark, dank and smelled more than a little like death. Cries of night-sight please, could be heard. More than a few in the crowd began whispering about how such a confined place is never a good thing. Many, many bloodbaths have taken place in such areas. A slight sense of gloom and doom filled the air. Even the bravest of the fighters in the crowd held their weapon a little tighter and if they had shields they were moved to a better defensive posture. The tamers pushed forward and made sure their pets were ready to strike at the first sign of aggression. Some of the braver spell casters were already casting their most powerful spells, while the more timid mages were already casting the reliable invisible spell. Through the darkness we could not see the Gargoyle Stomper crouched in the corner, but it was there, waiting patiently.
When the group drew within striking distance the Stomper did not merely spring into action, he vaulted. With the quickness of lightning, the sound of thunder and the fury of Hell he attacked. He tore through our front ranks like a Succubus rips through a noob. Fortunately we were ready for an attack, just not an attack of his magnitude. The losses would have been devastating had we not been ready on some level. I am not entirely sure how, or when, we got the upper hand in the fight. But we did. Somehow, someway, we had…. Or so we thought.
We continued throwing everything we could at the savage barbarian and at some point must have made it beyond angry. Sure, the fight had been tough up to that point, but suddenly it shifted from tough to impossible. The creature bounded around the room in a fit of rage. It pummeled, bashed, and stomped everyone and anything in its path. In the wake of his attack corpses and death robes littered the ground like blades of grass. He had not killed us all, but had gotten very close to it. The battle raged as survivors fought feverishly while trying to get companions back on their feet to help. Almost every time we got back to half ranks, the vile beast would once again stomp us back into the ground. It seemed like a pointless battle. Had we not been able to see the life force being beaten out of it slowly but surely, a large portion of the crowd would have run away. Eventually more companions learned how to defend the beasts fits of rage and survive the onslaught. After what seemed to be an eternity three corpses of Gargoyle Stompers lay dead on the blood soaked floor.
Our task for the night complete we journeyed back to the Lycaeum. Once we were all bandaged up so we would not stain the floor red and coherent enough to understand Professor Yusef went into some of the things he discovered during our quest. If I understand him correctly there are two signals. One signal he is unable to decode. The other signal seemingly has two variables in it. One variable is a set of letters and numbers; it appears to possibly be coordinates. The other variable is a number but it keeps decreasing itself at regular intervals. Most in the crowd and the Professor agree that sounds like a countdown, which is seldom a good thing.
It would seem everyone’s efforts have uncovered a few things. There is a bizarre cult being led by their God Exodus. There is a probable countdown underway; for what we honestly don’t know, but most countdowns are accompanied be a rather large explosion or invasion afterwards. The main thing we have uncovered is the Professor is adept in decoding signals. When the Professor left us for the evening he gave us his thanks, and urged us to be careful and cautious. It seems only fitting that I close this out for thanking Professor Yusef for taking on this monstrous task (even in the face of The Dean’s tyranny) in hopes of helping us all. We all urge you to be careful, cautious and swift in decoding the rest of the signal. Godspeed Professor, all of our futures and lives could hang in the balance.
Until next time, may The Virtues guide our path.