**Editor’s Note: We will be featuring some character backstories & recaps from our Phoenix Dawn Command actual play series. Be sure to watch the adventure LIVE every Saturday night at 5p PDT/8p EDT on twitch.tv/savingthrowshow!**
by Mac Beauvais
Varya was back in the Crucible. She was back in the fucking Crucible!
She tried to shriek at the darkness but it came out more bestial howling than human cry.
How had she failed so badly again? Yes, she’d saved a few lives, but the creature had not been destroyed and it was possible that they now lay slain. And what of her Wing? Had they survived?
She prowled angrily through the darkness, screams of failure ringing her head so hard it seemed to be vibrating her skull. Once again, she came upon the mirror from her last trip, the only thing of substance in an unceasing oblivion.
She studied her reflection as it changed before her. Her bones shifted sickeningly. Her hair took on more grey. Her nails were more claw than before. She studied their edges protruding from the base of thick fingers and noticed a dull steel gleam like that of her axe. She looked at her weapon, but it seemed there was somehow less of it than before.
She tried to think. To remember when she’d last used her axe in battle. It seemed to her that whenever she was wounded and the beast sank its teeth into her that it had disappeared and that her claws had become more deadly in response. Perhaps in another time or two, it will completely transfer to be a piece of her.
She sank against the mirror. She had failed. Had any of it mattered at all?
Her thoughts drifted to Ink’s intrusion into her mind and what he saw there, of the looks from passengers on the ship when Beans was telling her story, of the fearful look in Talib’s eyes. What was she becoming? Was it possible she was no longer fit for true compassion? Perhaps not, but if she was fit for anything, it was to take as much of The Dread down with her as possible, even if it meant more failure.
With that resolved in her mind, flames sprang to life around the mirror and she stepped back into Pyre.
Marshall Winter wasted no time in dispatching the Wing to investigate an odd occurrence. So odd that she had no details to tell beyond that fact the sight of it had disturbed the soldiers who had come upon it.
The Wing set out and after many hours of walking, they came upon a strange sight. Over the crest of a hill was a village. Everything seemed in order at first glance, but none of the people there seemed to be moving. Varya sniffed at a current of air…no smell of people either.
They cautiously approached to find that what had seemed to be people at a distance were nothing more than some sort of perverse scarecrows made from bits and pieces of debris and equipment. A few branches for an arm. Perhaps a shovel for a leg. A flour sack head.
The whole place showed distinct signs of abandonment. What livestock had been present had since left their pens and wandered away into the surrounding fields and forests. The only clear trail led away into the woods, so that is where they went, traveling through the night only to approach another village in similar condition.
As they progressed through the town, following vague tracks to a mine nearby, they noticed that the figures seemed to be moving. It was imperceptible at first, tiny shifts of position. But as they approached the mine a swarm sprang to life and attacked.
Fortunately, the figures were relatively easy to dispatch, breaking apart into piles of their component parts. Yet it seemed given enough time that they would reform, so the team made haste for the mine and hopefully the source of the mystery.
In an attempt to move more quickly to the heart of the mine, Eerie and the others jumped into a mine cart to speed down the tracks leading deeper into the dank stone hallway. Varya followed on foot, surprising herself with how easily she was able to run on all fours as her legs had become more digitigrade in the Crucible. And it turned out to be a good thing that she was not in the cart as it went veering off course. She managed to help snag Idalia before she was thrown into a wall.
They had, however, reached the location from which the enchantment was emanating. A few errant pieces of metal at their feet were pulled by an unseen force into the adjoining room. They stepped into what appeared to be the most bizarre of displays. Dioramas lined the room, all made from the same bits and pieces of refuse and stolen parts. And in the center of it all was an orb, it’s blue glow highlighting the scenes around it.
Ink stepped forward and was able to ascertain that it was a memory contraption of some sort. But it had gone a bit mad during its time sealed away until the miners had reawakened it. To their great misfortune, it powered itself on their essence and that of the two now vacant villages. There was not a spirit left for even Idalia to save as it consumed the life forces utterly.
The memory orb did not care for being touched and caused the nearby constructs to spring to life and attack. Varya and Eerie worked to stem them as Ink and Idalia focused on the orb itself.
With each blow she took, Varya sank deeper into beast until at last in a rage she snatched up a stone altar and flung it into her opponents, sending their parts scattering. They were unable to reform before Idalia destroyed the orb.
Task completed, the Wing returned to Pyre, thoughts weighing heavy in their minds. It seemed as though old magics were waking up in response to The Dread. Just what else was out there waiting for them in the dark corners of the world?