As the morning rose, the party noticed that the oppressive red mist had faded off to a clear blue sky, almost as if it had been caused by some kind of reddish fog. Emerging from the cave, they were surprised to find both Shade and Bathsheba surrounded by numerous Thri-Kreen, pointed spears threatening.
With only the barest of hestitation, the party leaped into the fray, noticing that Bathsheba seemed to be able to actually communicate with the creatures telepathically. With the extra danger, the creatures called upon some heavy reinforcements, bursting from the sand, with Shade able to carefully dodge his way up and over, seeming to dance with his deadly blades, backflipping over a creature and cutting it down with expert grace.
Bathsheba, surprisingly grateful to see them, insisted that they make their way towards the nearby city, where far off, they saw a massive number of slaves, and realized that these were the remnants of the lost changeling nation of Kopul-Vul, now enslaved by the Thri-Kreen.
Upon approaching the city, they were surrounded, but strangely, Bathsheba was able to communicate with them, and explained that these were new warriors for “the arena.”
The group were escorted to the massive arena, which seemed to dwarf the surrounding area. As they entered, they were guided underneath the structure, where they were accepted into the lower holdings, though the guards and trainers were very intimidated and confused by Bathsheba’s presence, and she was carefully escorted away from the others.
Confused, the party entered, and were confronted with the truth – they were to fight in the arena, and here is where they would rest and prepare for it. WIth little choice and many questions, the party agreed, stepping into the fray. Deep in the back shadows, Vorlos noticed a warrior in the corner of the “lobby,” whom he eventually recognized as Tamond Ward, a skilled gladiator that the barbarian had faced in the Festival of Sand.
The gladiator looked several years older than the last time Vorlos had seen him, with several wrinkles upon his face. When pressed about why he was there, Ward said simply, “to fight in the Arena, same as you.” The aged warrior explained that they were now in the Red Desert, acting as if these were things that the barbarian should know.
Vorlos noted that traveling from the north of Lusionia to the far south in such a short amount of time should not have been possible, and the implications of his conversation with Tamond stuck with him.
After eating and resting, the party were scheduled the first fight of the morning, and were released into the arena, which Keyleth was not keen about. Still, the party kept close to one another and approached the center, with the shouts of the humanoids and thri-kreen twitches of the crowd nearly overpowering.
But as the arena’s announcement rang out, in loud voice, the speaker proclaimed that this fight would be overseen by the great champion of the arena.
The party looked up, and saw Bathsheba standing high above them as the gates raised.