Dark Sun, The Scorched World of Athas

Forest Maker
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Forest Maker

Scorched Earth
Following the attack on Kira and Elleandra, there was a flurry of activity at the inn. The guards who showed up first questioned the party about the incident and appeared confused about the specifics of the attack. The party became somewhat angry and defensive, but the situation calmed down when Arisphistaneles and the captain of the guard, Zul, arrived.

It was quickly realized that the half-giants were the same ones that the party saw earlier with Tethrades when he attempted to enter Altaruk. The party was taken to the north wall and shown a defiled section of ground where it was likely that Tethrades used his magic to allow the half-giants entry into the inn. Zul also informed everyone that a small section of wilted bushes was found near the south gate and that he suspected a defiler had slipped into the fort.

Kira was studying the defiled earth and as she walked into the center of the zone, her feet began to take root into the soil. The others watched in awe and disbelief. Kira had a look of pain and elation on her face as she stood in the defiled land. Then, with a surge of power, the land began to change into a rich earth with small plants rapidly growing from it. With another surge, the area of fertile land expanded to nearly 100 feet in diameter.

Amazed at what they witnessed, Arisphistaneles ordered the area sealed off until he could determine the best course of action. The rest of the party was moved into the barracks where they could discuss what to do next without being overheard by the citizens of Altaruk. Morg inspected the dead half-giant and discovered that he had some of the silver-red crystals on him. Iorskan questioned the captured half-giant who revealed he had been hired by a man matching Tethrades’ description to steal the crystal. The half-giant had been paid in advance at Grak’s Pool and Iorskan examined the coins that he was paid with.

The party eventually decided that they would head out and follow a group of pilgrims while the Veiled Alliance agents Birk and Arnye would attempt to track down Tethrades. They learned from the captured half-giant that the most likely route for Tethrades was north along the road towards Silver Spring, although his ultimate destination was unknown.

Desert Madness
At dawn the party headed out from Altaruk, following behind a group of about two dozen pilgrims. Li-Am trailed after the party, keeping to himself and keeping an eye open for trouble. As they followed the pilgrims Morg brought up his concerns that this may be part of the Dragon’s Levy, which was due to occur soon. Jarvix used the Way to probe the pilgrims minds again, and all he saw was a vision of a forest. Iorskan shared with the rest of the group that some of the coins carried by the half-giant were ancient metal coins of House Madar and wondered what the implications were.

The day’s journey had been an exhausting one for the group, both physically and mentally, as the pilgrims took no rest, marching on through the hottest parts of the day. The party marched on for nearly nine hours, heading east and southeast through the shifting dunes. The desolate sands began to change into sparse grasslands and on the horizon a forest was barely visible, a forest where none should have been.

Without warning, an odd noise came from behind the party and as they turned to investigate they saw a figure on an immense bird. The figure appeared to be a human female, and she appeared to be wearing brown armor of some sort and clutching a large sword. As the giant bird flew closer, the group could make out some words the woman was screeching…

Away! Away, servants of Rafernard! Your blasphemous devotions shall not reach your master! Death to the Forest Maker! Death to her followers!

With this, the woman dismounted the bird and the two charged at the party. Jarvix used his powers on the woman, who the party recognized as the missing ranger Culler Aktryn, and determined that something had unhinged her mind. Although the ranger and her bird were worthy opponents they ultimately were no match for the battle-hardened adventurers. However, the bird’s tactics of grabbing and dropping its prey was too much for Li-Am who fell unconscious after his second fall. Iorskan finally knocked out Culler, causing the the bird to flee, and then revived Li-Am.

Culler was tied up in some modest shade and Jarvix sent a message to Arisphistaneles letting him know where his friend could be found. Jarvix had recognized the ranger’s sword as one of the fabled Swords of Tyr, and Iorskan claimed the blade for himself.

Kira, who had adopted the form of a tiger during the combat, noticed an odor coming from Li-Am and it was discovered that the remains of Gwyn that he carried were beginning to rot. Kira used her skills to treat the remains and keep them from deteriorating further. After a few minutes rest, the party raced to catch up with the pilgrims.

The Forest of Rafernard
Rising up in front of of the party was a beautiful forest, with varieties of trees both commonplace and legendary. The forest was several hundred yards wide and shrubs and grasses covered the ground, extending far beyond the borders of the trees. The grassland and bushes extended about a half mile to their left and right. The sounds of birds singing in the leafy green trees, and an unexpected but nonetheless refreshing cool breeze wafted over them, carrying the scent of fresh flowers.

Rafernard Before the party could enter the forest, there was a great rustling, followed by a burst of bright light. Before anyone could react, a humanoid with radiant skin and gossamer wings appeared from the trees and hovered in the air above, its wings unfurling majestically.

As a tremendous feeling of well-being flooded the party, a melodic voice, soft as a summer breeze, yet impossible to ignore, addressed the party…

Welcome to the Forest Reborn, you poor, mere mortals! I am Rafernard, and I have created this impressive miracle you see before you.

Well done, worthy pilgrims, on your surviving the grueling trek! For now, wander the woods at your leisure; eat of the fruit of the trees, drink the cold, clean water. Follow the path to the right and you shall find places to sleep built on the branches of the big trees.

There is still much to be done, and we have enemies who would see this forest destroyed. Rest for now, for soon we must decide what actions to take against our oppressors. The battle will be difficult, but the end result, the reforestation of your land, will be worth the struggle.

Once again, welcome! Eat and rest now. You are safe. Any questions you have you may ask of me tomorrow.

The party had questions and didn’t want to wait until the morning. Rafernard listened and answered for a while, before declaring that further questions would have to wait until the morning. She declared that she was an Avangion and the restoration of Athas was her objective. The enemies spoken of were the sorcerer-kings and their boot-licking templars who would oppose a shift in power. She had no idea why the pilgrims were compelled to seek out the forest, but has welcomed them and provided for them.

After Rafernard’s departure the party headed to the right through a curving trail between the trees. They occasionally passed a small group of pilgrims who appeared to be in much the same stupor although there was a look of contentment on their faces now. After a few hundred yards, the party reached a fork in the trail, they headed to the left, towards the center of the forest.

The woods ended at a circular plaza measuring almost 200 feet in diameter with paved stone and low-slung benches for visitor’s comfort. Around the circumference of the plaza were various statues of numerous races all with the look of wisdom on their carved faces. The party noticed that there were a number of races they could not identify, the dwarven statues had beards and there did not appear to be any statues of Dray.

In the center of the plaza stood a massive tree growing in and around a short stone tower. The tree’s appearance left no doubt that it was a Tree of Life. Song birds could be seen picking at seeds scattered on the tiles and flitting from statue to statue. The area emanated a quiet power of peace and tranquility unlike anything ever seen in the world.

The party looked around the plaza for a few minutes and found that the tower had a door in the floor leading down into the earth and a staircase leading upwards. They decided to rest in the trees and discuss what they should do next. Although the forest was a miracle they remained suspicious of the situation which appeared too good to be true. Before falling asleep, Jarvix sent another message to Arisphistaneles informing him of the forest and its location.

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Forest Maker

Arrival at Altaruk
The trade fortress of Altaruk loomed in front of the party. With walls about 15ft high and 10ft thick, it was an impressive sight. Each corner was capped with a 20ft high tower and guards with spears could be seen patrolling the parapets. Roughly every third guard was watching the interior of the fort, instilling a sense of safety uncommon in the harsh land. They party approached and could see the south gate standing open in the early afternoon. The huge doors, fashioned of granite and metal, had exteriors carved with reliefs of merchants doing business.

Outside the fortress a vast throng of pilgrims could be seen milling about at the walls, sitting on the ground, and staring in to space. The assembly is eerily quiet; the only noises come from the fort’s normal occupants as they go about their business. It seemed as if the citizens were determined to ignore the pilgrim hordes.

At the front gate there was a short wait before they reached the guards. Morg took the opportunity to inspect the pilgrims a little more closely, but he learned little more than they already knew. The pilgrims here were as unresponsive as those they passed on the road and none knew what to make of them.

When their turn came, the guards asked basic questions and took payment for entry into the fort. Although Morg had been an arena star here, the guards did not recognize him or give him any special consideration. Perhaps it was the many months that had passed since he was last here, or perhaps it was the eye patch he now wore. As the party moved through, the guards consulted a crystal and asked that Elleandra and Li-Am demonstrate their magical skill. As they did so, the guards payed close attention to the thorny bushes planted along the wall. The guards were satisfied and allowed the two to enter.

News, Rumors and Shopping
Inside the walls of the fort, Altaruk could be seen to be bustling, prosperous trading village. The party decided that the best places for information would be the inn, The Four Bits, the market area and the keep and home of Arisphistaneles the governor of the fort and Veiled Alliance member.

The keep guards refused to allow them entry as the captain was occupied at the moment and could not be disturbed. As they chatted with the guards the party learned that the thorny bushes were part of a green test to ensure that no defilers were allowed inside the fort. Altaruk had begun openly supporting the Veiled Alliance and arcane spellcasters were now welcome as long as they were not defilers. After some some time, Selonius emerged from the keep and greeted Morg. He arranged for the party to have dinner with Arisphistaneles later in the evening, giving the party more time to explore the fort.

As they group wandered through Trader’s Row, they stopped to do some shopping and gather more information. Kira purchased clothing more fitting for the desert environment and she and Elleandra both obtained clothing suitable for dinner. Jarvix acquired components for his rituals and looked over the selection of books but found nothing of interest much to the dismay of the elf proprietor. Morg commissioned a high quality traveling cloak and metal clasp, paying extra for fine details and for it to be completed quickly.

Four Bits Common Room After shopping the party headed to The Four Bits to get rooms and to clean up before dinner. They found the common room inn to be crowded with all manner of races and occupations. The cool room was abuzz with conversation and merriment, with plentiful food and drink. Without too much difficulty the innkeeper, Gelrade, was located and three rooms were reserved with Kira and Elleandra, Jarvix and Iorskan and Morg and Li-Am sharing. The party cleaned up and did their best to be presentable and then met down in the common room.

When they returned to the common room it was a little less crowded and they found a table. Jarvix noticed that the elf who was selling books in the market place was now here and appeared to be making numerous advances on the three half-elf barmaids. Hoping to spare the bar maids any further trouble, the group got his attention and learned that he was a bard named Twon. After a few drinks he told them the Nomad’s Tale and when they appeared interested he offered to tell them another tale – a legend of the Valley of Dust and Fire.

Afterwards Twon announced that he was in possession of the Journal of Galek Sunstrider. After much negotiation, they agreed on a price and Jarvix took possession of the journal. Following the transaction Morg told his tale, which he called the tale of the Knight of Kemalok. Twon listened politely although it was obvious that he wasn’t focused on the story. After he was finished Morg sensed that his Axe was displeased.

Although they would be a little early, the party decided to head to the keep and their dinner appointment with Arisphistaneles. Along they way they came within earshot of the south gate and there appeared to be a disturbance. They were shocked to find that Tethrades was there and demanding entrance to the fort. The gate guards had blocked him from entering after he had refused to take the green test. Morg offered his assistance, as he was eager for revenge on the defiler and former praetor of Balic, but the guards refused his help and ordered him back.

In the end Tethrades left with his guards and party was torn between following him and keeping with dinner. Morg initially lobbied for following the defiler while Kira and Jarvix wanted to keep their dinner plans, as they thought the governor would be a useful source of information. Eventually it was decided that the dinner plans would stand and the group headed to the keep.

Dinner with Arisphistaneles
The party was let in to the home of Arisphistaneles and found it to be richly appointed, tastefully decorated and achieving a fine balance between opulence and functionality. The party was greeted by domestic help (servants, not slaves) and provided with water and face cloths to clean and refresh themselves. The party asked to see the governor as quickly as possible and they were shown to a spacious dining room where Arisphistaneles greeted them.

They discussed a variety of topics as they ate and drank. The encounter at the gates with Tethrades did not appear to concern Arisphistaneles too much as the fort was accustomed to dealing with defilers. Still the extend of Tethrades’ dealings did give him pause and he promised to look into it more. While they discussed the defiler and his possible involvement with the pilgrims they were served cool wine and dates.

The numerous pilgrims outside the fort was a topic of conversation that carried on through a lavish dinner of fine Asticles wine, rare faro fruit, and mouth-watering chathrang steaks. He confirmed that the pilgrims had been showing up for about a month or so and that they are completely unresponsive to any outside stimuli. He suspects that they are caught up in a fervor toward some unknown goal or they are being controlled somehow. He was able to get a single word – Rafernard – out of one of them, but has been unable to determine who or what that is.

Arisphistaneles said that he had never been able to follow the pilgrims as they head to the northeast, but he sent a ranger and Roc rider by the name of Culler after them. She was now missing and Airisphistaneles was beginning to worry about her fate. The party decided that the best course of action would be to follow the pilgrims and hope that they lead them to answers and possibly the missing ranger.

As the meal concluded with large helpings of bulis berry, Arisphistaneles changed the topic and wanted to learn about the party’s adventures. He was saddened to learn of the death of Vinara and Gwyn and was very interested in Kira and Elleandra, as they had experiences and knowledge of places he did not know existed.

Eventually the evening came to and end and the party returned back to the Four Bits for much needed rest before their new journey the following day.

Midnight Intruders
Kira’s sleep was interrupted and she woke with a start and she quickly realized that she and Elleandra were not alone in their room – three large half-giants were present and rummaging through her belongings. Kira shifted form and bit into the nearest thief with jaws of ice. Elleandra woke and quickly charmed them into attacking each other for a moment.

The commotion woke their friends who came to investigate with Li-Am and Morg the first to arrive and Iorskan and Jarvix taking a bit longer to wake up and realize the situation. The half-giants focused their attacks on Elleandra knocking her unconscious. Li-Am killed one of the half-giants with his conjured scourge and Kira was able to knock a second one out. The third managed to grab something from the unconscious Elleandra and then flung himself into the shadows and disappeared.

Iorskan tended to Elleandra’s wounds and the Altaruk guards, along with several guests at the inn, showed up moments later attempting to determine what was going on. Elleandra quickly realized that the half-giant had stolen the Crystal of Ebon Flame from her…

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Forest Maker

Ruins of Kalidnay
After the nausea faded, the party found themselves in the outskirts of Kalidnay on Athas. The familiar bright sun and oppressive heat was a welcome change from the Gray. Exhausted from their ordeals, the party took rested in one of the more intact buildings. They discovered that all of the metal they had brought from the Gray had turned to wood, making it mostly worthless. Their sleep was fitful and each shared their experiences with each other in the morning…

  • Jarvix had a vision/dream from a member of The Order
  • Elleandra had dream of a forest in the middle of the desert and a being of light.
  • Kira dreamed of her friends back in her world
  • Li-Am was unable to sleep
  • Morg looked disturbed and mentioned his “past mistakes”
  • Iorsakn dreamed about the ruins of Giusental

Although reluctant to spend more time in the ruins, they decided to head towards the Ziggurat and see what had happened to the laboratory used by Tethrades. Along the way they noticed some of the silvery-red crystals that they had seen before in the caverns beneath Kemalok. The occurrences of the crystals increased as the party approached the Ziggurat.

At the Ziggurat they found that the equipment had been destroyed and they layers of sand and dust over the remains suggested that more time time had passed on Athas then had passed for them in the Gray. Morg estimated that about 6 weeks had passed here for the 1 week that they had experienced. Morg took a few of the canisters that remained avoiding the red crystals and finding many of the dead shaqat beetles.

The party debated on how to get to Altaruk, which they agreed was the best place to go for supplies and information Although the route via Fort Melidor was more direct, there was concerns about how the party treated Dalem Shom and what kind of reception they might receive. The ruins of Celik provided another option, but the path was less direct and the current state of Celik was unknown. Eventually it was decided to head to the Lost Oasis then Fort Melidor before making the long journey to Altaruk.

The Lost Oasis
Lost Oasis After a day of travel from Kalidnay through salt flats the party arrived at the Lost Oasis. The mud pots, geysers and sparse trees were a welcome relief from the barren salt flats. At the Oasis they were able to find food and water to help provide for the journey to Fort Melidor.

At the Oasis, they encountered a man who introduced himself as Lionus. Jarvix remembered a story of a Veiled Alliance member who journeyed from Tyr to Balic and then vanished, although he was uncertain if this was the same individual. Lionus appeared to be somewhat excitable and incoherent, but Li-Am suspected him of having all manner of deviancy.

In their conversations with Lionus, the party learned that he was the only inhabitant of the Oasis although it was occasionally visited by someone called Durwadala. They also discovered that he had strong emotions regarding the ruins of Kalidnay and had claimed to recover several “trade documents”. Upon closer inspection, Li-Am was able to decipher part of the documents before Lionus decided he needed to leave. The documents were notes apparently from the sorcerer-king Kalid-Ma himself.

The rest of the evening and night was uneventful although the strange sounds of the Oasis were disconcerting. They party moved out in the early morning and made the day-long march to Fort Melidor without encountering any trouble.

Fort Melidor
Their arrival at Fort Melidor was anything but eventful as the little outpost of House Shom appeared even more sleepy than on their previous visit. The party was allowed to enter without any trouble and the party decided to split up. Elleandra and Iorskan headed to find supplies for the long trip to Altaruk while the rest headed to the Broken Tankard, the only bar in the fort, to try and gather information.

At the House Shom warehouses, negotiated for a weeks worth of food, water and other survival goods for each member of their party – sufficient to supplement their existing supplies and get them to Altaruk. Although the cost was quite a bit higher than normal, the remote location and desperate need of the party left little room for negotiations. Elleandra paid for the goods with some of the gems recovered from the wreckage of the Shadow Engine.

Morg and Li-Am struck up a conversation with a guard named Ridorn who was in the Broken Tankard. After buying him a drink, they learned that he was rather bored and disgruntled at the lack of activity in the Fort. There appeared to be little trade traffic to the fort recently and everyone was concerned about the effect that would have on House Shom.

An elven bard named Jarvi was in such a state of depression that he had no stories to share with Kira. The Shom family members at the fort were no longer interested in social events and spent all their time within the walls of their garden and had not entertained for several weeks.

The bartender was a scarred female mul named Thera who was a former gladiator. She had little information to offer the party as the fort appeared to be waiting for something to happen. The loss of the caravan the the party was a part of undoubtedly hurt the fortunes of House Shom and as a consequence the fort has had little activity.

The party was able to secure food and lodging for the night and took turns on watch, although nothing disturbed their rest.

Altaruk
Shortly before dawn the party headed out for a long journey to Altaruk. With the heavily armored companions and the absence of Gwyn, the party moved more slowly than they were accustomed to, but still made good time. They were able to forage for supplemental food and water along the way and Morg and Kira were particularly successful.

The party traveled around the south side of the Giant’s Ribs Mountains and into the sandy wastes until after three days they found the remains of the trade road. Turning eastward they followed the road for two days through stony barrens and rocky badlands until the expanse of the Great Alluvial Sand Wastes stretched before them. Three days of following the remains of the road through sandy wastes, that were mercifully free of large dunes, brought them to the trade road between Tyr and Altaruk.

They party turned southeast and followed the road. Along the way they came across several groups of pilgrims who appeared oblivious to their surroundings and ignored all attempts and communication. Their tattered clothes and sunburned skin made it obvious they were not taking care of themselves as any normal traveler would. The party overtook a caravan from Tyr and inquired about the pilgrims and learned that they had starting appearing about a month ago from all parts of the Tyr region and they were generally headed in the direction of Altaruk.

After two more days of travel, the party reached Altaruk and saw a huge number of pilgrims congregating outside the high walls. Concerned about the state of things, Jarvix sent a message using the Way to the Veiled Alliance in Tyr, hoping that they had more information…

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Shadow Kalidnay

One week earlier…

The New Kalidnay
Laylon-Ka Laylon-Ka, Morg and Vinara set out into the Mists with the remaining member of the resistance cell in the hopes of finding out the true fate of Kalid-Ma. Their sense of time and distance was distorted by the Mists, but it felt like they had been traveling for days before Laylon-Ka announced that she had picked up the trail of the sorcerer-king.

The group arrived quickly at the outskirts of a city they knew well – Kalidnay of the Gray, a place they thought had been absorbed by the Mists. Unsure as to where, or even when, they might be, the group set out to investigate the present situation by making contact with the resistance cell that Laylon-Ka commanded. As they moved through the city, careful to avoid any inhabitants, they noticed subtle differences from they city they had known before. However, Laylon-Ka was able to quickly locate members of her resistance cell.

Once getting to a safe house, they learned some information that raised more questions then it answered. None of the resistance members had any memory of the lands dissolving into the Mists, it was as if the event never happened for them. Although they remembered the fight at the resistance compound the destruction of the land apparently never happened for them. A new high Templar had stepped up to bring order to land – an elf named Marisol.

What they learned about Kalid-Ma only added to their confusion. Marisol had taken over following the death of Thakok-An and proclaimed that the city was now under the protection of Shadow King of Nibenay. Marisol had proclaimed that with the power of the Shadow King, she had defeated Kalid-Ma and his body was mounted on the top of the Ziggurat as a warning to those who would defy her.

The Ziggurat of Kalid-Ma
Intrigued and concerned about these events, they decided to try and sneak into the Ziggurat and verify the claims. Morg and Vinara knew of the secret passage from the outside into the jails on the main level and felt that they could sneak in, confirm the fate of Kalid-Ma and possibly deal with Marisol.

In order to minimize the chances of meeting heavy resistance, they hatched a plan to create diversions across the city and draw out as many guards as possible. Vinara used her training from the Wastewalker to create a storm of obsidian shards while other member of the resistance group started fires and other disruptions throughout the city. As expected many groups of guards were seen moving from the Ziggurat out into the city to restore order.

When the the timing was right, Morg, Vinara moved into the Ziggurat with Laylon-Ka and a few other resistance members. They were able to access the secret door and enter the jail room without trouble. However as they moved through the Ziggurat, they encountered a few guards. The battle-hardened party was able to defeat them without much difficulty and without raising any alarms.

At the top of the Ziggurat, the party came upon the body of Kalid-Ma, staked to a wooden frame, his head reattached with only a scar to indicate it had previously been removed by Morg’s axe. His body was still in the same preserved, catatonic condition as when they last saw it. Before they could act, Marisol materialized with a number of half-giant guards.

Marisol Recognizing Morg and Vinara, she wasted little time and sent her guards in to attack, while she remained at a safe distance. The brutal half-giants were able to defeat the resistance warriors without difficulty. Marisol was able to overcome Laylon-Ka and the Kaisharga collapsed to the floor. Once Morg and Vinara had defeated a couple of Marisol’s guards and moved in to attack her, wounding her with a devastating strike that left a large cut on her face. She was able to use her considerable talent with the Way and focus on Morg, dominating him.

Morg was forced to turn on Vinara and the two friends battled each other – Morg attempting to kill Vinara while Vinara attempted to defend herself and break the control Marisol had over him. In the heat of the combat, Vinara lashed out at Morg with her Heartwood Spear and it jabbed his face, taking out one of his eyes. Despite the injury Morg and the half-giants were able to wear down Bear and Vinara, and under the command of Marisol, Morg landed a killing blow on Vinara. Morg collapsed to the floor, tears streaming from his eyes, while Marisol watched with a wicked smile on her face…

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Shadow Kalidnay

Outskirts
The group took in their surroundings and recognized that they were in the northern outskirts of the city, a relatively deserted section. From their position they could see the Ziggurat of Kalid-Ma and noticed that the top of the structure was slightly different from what they remembered, although no details were visible at this distance. There was still some general confusion as they were all under the impression that the land of Kalidnay in the Gray had dissolved following the death of Thankok-An. Kira had no answers other than that the Mists work in mysterious ways.

Outskirts of Shadow Kalidnay Eager to find Vinara and Morg, Jarvix sent out a telepathic message to Morg, telling the Mul of their location and asking him to come find them. Within a few minutes Morg replied, asking Jarvix to stay put and letting him know that the resistance would be coming with Morg. Feeling they were safe, for the moment, the group set about tending to their wounds and recovering from the fight against Dregoth. During their rest, Kira heard heavy footsteps approaching their position.

Instead of Morg and Vinara, the party was surprised to see a templar and a retinue of half-giant and human guards. The templar asked for the party’s surrender and although she was refused, she didn’t order an immediate attack. Elleandra attempted to ask questions of the templar but was dismissed. Similarly Iorskan’s attempts to intimidate them were met with failure as well. During the conversations, Jarvix noticed that all of the guards and the templar were wearing identical symbols, one that reminded him of a piece of jewelry worn by Gwyn’s mother, Marisol.

After the templar mentioned in hushed tones that she would take them to the resistance, the two groups agreed that the party would be allowed to keep there weapons as they were escorted through town. Although suspicious, the templar appeared sincere so they set out. Their winding path through the back streets of Kalidnay were taking them closer and closer to the Ziggurat. Kira was the first to notice that atop the structure several bodies were apparently on display. This observation was shared between her, Jarvix, Li-Am and Iorskan before the half-giant guards caught on.

Feeling they had been duped, Jarvix used the Way to control one of the half-giants and make him attack another. Chaos quickly ensued but the party was able to defeat the templar and her guards quickly, although Iorskan was badly injured during the conflict.

As they took a quick rest in an abandoned building, they realized they were close enough to the Ziggurat to make out the differences. Several bodies had been staked to the top, on display for the entire city to see. There appeared to be two women and one man, along with an insect of some type.

The Ziggurat
The group moved out of sight and pondered the strange turn of events. Jarvix was certain that he had contacted Morg and that Morg had replied to him. Iorskan suggested that Morg, whom he had never met, might have betrayed the party. None of the party was willing to entertain such a notion. While they rested they took the patrols clothes for disguised, with Kezmit and Li-Am posing as guards and Elleandra masquerading as the templar.

Jarvix sent another message to Morg using the Way, asking what had happened and for them to meet back at their initial location in the outskirts of the city. Morg quickly replied that the templars are everywhere and that he and the resistance members had to deal with a patrol. Again Iorskan scoffed and voiced his concerns that Morg had turned on them. Again the rest of the party dismissed the notion.

The party head back towards the edge of town, avoiding any encounters with the population as best they could and pretending to be a templar and her prisoners when needed. They were successful and their subterfuge appeared to work. At the last minute, they decided to go to a different building and see if there was an ambush at the original meeting place. Kira was able to change forms and sneak into the building, discovering another templar patrol, larger than the last.

Upon Kira’s return, the party could no longer deny that they were compromised in some way, although none, except Iorskan, were willing to believe Morg had turned on them. Jarvix sent another message to Morg, for final confirmation, saying that they had been held up by templars and needed to meet at a new location. Much to everyone’s dismay, the templar group waiting to ambush the party moved out within a few minutes.

They decided that the Ziggurat would be the most likely place to get answers, as they were determined to know who or what had betrayed them, as well as to confirm the identity of the bodies atop the Ziggurat. As they marched through the streets they overheard a few conversations and learned a bit about what had been happening over the last few weeks.

Marisol had risen to power following the death of Thakok-An and the entire city had been converted to be followers of the Shadow King. Marisol had been instrumental in defending the city against demon attacks, so the populace said, and had squashed a minor revolution. She had reopened the games and a new champion of her, a mul, had been undefeated. Many of the citizens were eager to see a match scheduled for that evening.

Deciding that the best course of action was to infiltrate the ZIggurat, the group used their knowledge of the secret entrance into the jail to slip past the main guards. Once inside, they were able to use Elleandra’s charms to get past the guards and head to the top. The Ziggurat was not heavily occupied, so they had little trouble reaching the top. There they found answers they didn’t want to find. The bodies of Vinara, Bear, Kalid-Ma (whose head was attached once again) and Laylon-Ka were impaled upon spears.

Within moments of setting foot on the top of the Ziggurat, Jarvix and Elleandra sensed a psionic alarm sounding and suddenly the top of the Ziggurat was filled with a large number of new arrivals. Marisol was at the center of a group of half-giants, templars and guards. In addition there were a number of gladiators lead by a Mul with an eye patch wielding a large metal axe and a spear – Morg. There was no time wasted with false pleasantries and viscous combat ensured.

The party focused everything on taking down Morg so that they could use the Orbs of Kalid-Ma to escape once he was unconscious. Their opponents were attempting to divide and conquer the party and the combination of military training and gladiatorial skills were quite effective. Marisol briefly dominated some of the party, but her control over Morg only allowed it to be temporary. During the fight Kezmit was knocked over the edge of the ziggurat and fell down several levels. Just after that Morg was knocked unconscious and the rest of the party joined hands while grabbing him and Elleandra used the orbs, leaving Kezmit behind.

The Ruins of Kalidnay
The world was whirling about them and everyone was briefly overcome with a sense of nausea. The world quickly settled and they found themselves in the outskirts of the ruins of Kalidnay looking towards the center of the town at the Ziggurat. There were no bodies impaled atop the structure, the sun shown bright and the pervasive sense of dread and fear that all experienced while in the Gray vanished. They were back in Athas.

Morg slowly regained his senses and looked around with a great sense of confusion…

View
The Shadow Tomb

The Shadow Engine
The broad circular chamber before the party had its floor sunken 20 feet below the doorway in which they stood, with the ceilings rising 20 feet above. The Shadow Engine stood supported on a pillar of necrotic energy in the center of the chamber. The rest of the chamber was littered with small amounts of rubble and bones. The room appeared to be old with new elements added, although the exact age was difficult for them to determine, for as they watched parts of the room were decaying under the stress of the terrible energy being channeled in the room.

The party descended to the floor on Kezmit’s flying hook, mindful of any changes to the room as they did so. To their relief nothing reacted to their presence. Elleandra was certain that an Orb of Kalid-Ma was present in the engine and her Orb was eager to be reunited with it. Further inspection of the room confirmed what they had already suspected – much like the Fey Engine, this device appeared to be channeling the raw energy of the Gray to an unknown location. The similarity of design left little doubt that the architect of the engines was the same being.

Feeling there was little other choice, Elleandra leapt into the air and, borne aloft on wings of magic, landed on the Shadow Engine’s platform. When touched down, the bones around the room quickly started to swirl and formed into a monstrous skeletal dragon, as it did so each of the party heard a sepulchral voice in their heads and most appeared taken aback by what they heard, but Jarvix fell the the ground unconscious.

Dregoth

Iorskan moved up to the Engine’s base and attempted to destabilize the device by tampering with the arcane stones. Kira conjured a brightly shining orb of swirling color and threw it at the creature, striking true and dazing it. Li-Am joined Iorskan in his attempts to disrupt the workings of the device, apparently making some gains as the column of energy became less stable. Kezmit conjured a spirit to assist his companions and, following the advice of the whispers, was able to partially disrupt the transfer of energy at a basic level, hastening the decay of the engine.

Atop of the Engine, Elleandra, took her Orb and thrust it into the machine, attempting to merge it with its twin inside. The joining was successful, but the combined Orb remained inside the machine. At the moment of the merging, she knew that the final Orb was in the possession of a being called Absalom who was currently in the ruins of Giustenal. She also knew that the Orb was now powerful enough to transport her and her allies, if they were close enough, to either Kalidnay on Athas or the shadow Kalidnay in the Gray.

The dragon, who they suspected was the sorcerer-king Dregoth, focused on Gwyn and, managing to break free of Kira’s magic, took flight and charged while breathing a blast of necrotic energy over the party. Although the breath injured several in the party, only Kira was immobilized by it. His great claws struck home on Gwyn and severely wounded her.

Gwyn retaliated by summoning an orb of shifting energy which hurtled toward the dragon exploding with a blinding yellow light, dazing it again. Iorskan spotted a possible weakness in the dragon and called it out to his allies, hoping to make their attacks more effective. He then called out a challenge to Dregoth, who moved towards him allowing Kezmit and Li-Am to make attacks of their own. With a mighty effort Iorskan was able to make a few probing strikes before landing a blow that caused the dragon to reel, making it more vulnerable for a few moments.

Kira caused barbed vines to whip out of her totem attempting to ensnare Dregoth, but they were unable to hold onto the massive creature. Li-Am attempted to follow Kezmit’s example and disrupt the energy column itself and, although initially unsuccessful was able to reach into the Gray and pull some of the energy into himself causing an instability to form. Kezmit attempted to continue his own efforts to destabilize the Engine while using his spirits to heal the wounds of Gwyn and Kira. Dregoth took advantage of his concentration and struck Kezmit with his tail, knocking him off balance for a moment.

Jarvix was able to regain consciousness and stood up and focused his will onto the dragon, ensnaring it with his mind and tossing it backwards into the pillar of energy. Although Dregoth appeared unharmed by the energy, it did cause damage to the supporting structures, further weakening the device. Able to keep her balance atop the Engine, Elleandra desperately struggled to free the Orb and although unsuccessful, she did manage to break some of the intricate devices on top.

Enraged by the assaults, Dregoth once again took flight and moved towards Gwyn with deadly intent, savagely cutting her with teeth and claws. Although hardened by life on Athas and her draconic nature, Gwyn collapsed under the furious blows. The party was stunned by Gwyn’s collapse and hoped that Iorskan or Kezmit would be able to tend to her wounds.

Finding himself out of position, Iorskan moved towards Gwyn’s body, attacking Dregoth with his dejada as he did so. At Kira’s command, dark clouds formed within the chamber causing lightning to rain down upon Dregoth, splintering some of his bones. Li-Am used his templar training to command Dregoth to submit, crushing its spirit and slowing its flight. Although the sorcerer-king would not submit so easily, Li-Am’s allies were filled with with brutal zeal. Kezmit’s efforts to disrupt the energy flow finally stopped having any effect and he changed tactics, summoning a great gust of winds allowing his friends to move freely about the room. Jarvix was able to force Dregoth back into the column of energy once again, causing more damage while at the same time, he focused his powers with the Way to further disrupt the Engine.

With a horrible, evil intent in his eyes, Dregoth continued to slash as Gwyn’s body, tearing her into pieces, leaving no doubt that she was beyond help. He then turned his attention to Elleandra, still atop the Engine and still causing damage to the device, ever closer to freeing the Orb in her hand. Iorskan breathed a gout of fire onto the underside of Dregoth causing some remaining bits of flesh to burn and fall away. He then hurled himself at the stones forming the base of the engine, hoping to cause enough physical damage to destroy it. Although it was weakened, the Engine was still intact.

Kira’s thorny vines finally grabbed ahold of Dregoth pulling him out of an optimal position to attack Elleandra. Li-Am rushed over to the remains of Gwyn and grabbed the Shadowstaff and the gruesome remains that held the tattoo given to her by the Veiled Alliance. Kezmit summoned forth spirits that started to consume Dregoth, passing that energy to his wounded allies. At the same time he fanned the flames created by Iorskan’s breath further charring him while the warmth given off comforted his injured allies. Jarvix unleashed a massive torrent of psychic energy at Dregoth and so intense was the assault on his mental pathways, that he became stunned and unable to for a few moments.

Things began to look even worse for the party as Iorksan was unable to cause further disruption to the Engine and Kira was unable to latch a hold of Dregoth again with her vines, although she finally broke free of the immobilizing cold from his breath weapon. Li-Am continued to recover some of Gwyn’s other belongings, this time taking the steel swords she was carrying and the tiara given to her by the dwarves of Kled. Kezmit attempted to continue to have his spirits attack Dregoth but the Dragon was able to resist their attacks.

Jarvix focused all his will into another massive attack, but this time struck the Engine and with a thunderous explosion the device blew itself apart showering gems throughout the room and plunging the room into near darkness. An energy feedback surged from the engine towards Dregoth, sending him spinning as shards of bones were blasted from his body. Elleandra, grasping the Orb in her hand came flying down summoning Illusory barriers around the dragon and collecting the gems from the room.

Furious at the destruction of his device, Dregoth cut her deeply with his claws. Iorskan made a powerful strike against Dregoth and called to his comrades, lifting their spirits and restoring their battle lust. Kira, finally able to move, shifted into the form of a tiger and pounced onto Dregoth’s back, sinking her teeth and claws into his foul body. Li-Am swung with his spectral scourge striking the dragons hind quarter. Kezmit’s spirit companion lunged in for a viscous attack while the fire spirit moved in and exploded causing the room to fall into total darkness.

Seeing more with his mind than his eyes, Jarvix found Dregoth and focused on the weakened Dregoth. The sorcerer-king was finally overpowered and his consciousness faded into nothing while the entire chamber became to crumble and collapse. In the darkness, the companions found each other and joining hands, Elleandra used the Orb to transport them to Shadow Kalidnay.

Shadow Kalidnay
When their sense of nausea faded and their visions cleared, the group found themselves in the outskirts of the city of Klaidnay then had been in a week prior. The heat and dryness was in stark contrast to the cold frozen atmosphere of the Shadow Tomb. There was some confusion as well, for they had thought the lands were destroyed with the death of Thakok-An. Of them, only Kira was familiar with the strange nature of the Gray.

While they took a moment to compose themselves and remember Gwyn, they also reflected on, and shared with their friends, the words that Dregoth had spoken to each of them.

The voice in Kira’s head said…

You are an outsider here – I have no quarrel with you and you should have none with me. Stay out of matters that do not concern you and you will lead a longer life.

Dregoth told Iorksan…

Why do you align yourselves with these lesser creatures? I expect more from my progeny. Help me defeat these interlopers and I shall show you wonders of knowledge and treasure that you cannot possibly imagine. You can lead my armies if you so desire, but you must aid me now.

Kezmit head the following when the dragon spoke…

I know the longing in your heart, the hope for something more than the dreary existence you know so well. I can be what you are looking for, I will be what you are looking for. Join me and you shall be my prophet, my herald, my chosen one. Help me defeat those you call friends and I shall be a God, and you shall search no more.

The voice in Elleandra’s head told her…

Poor little forest daughter, you and your kind are relics of ancient days. My coming will burn away the last of your kind and a new world shall rise from the ashes. I will consume you and drain your precious tree of every last shred of life.

Jarvix heard the following before falling unconscious…

One of the Lord of Winters bloodline seeks to defeat me? Your sire was imprisoned long ago by us and I thought his line was wiped out long ago. I have been absent for far too long. No matter, you and your friends will no longer be a thorn in my side. Now my little gate-hopper, sleep…

Li-Am declined to share what he heard and none knew what Gwyn heard, but they remembered her calling the dragon a liar during the furious combat.

View
The Shadow Tomb

Feywild Ruin
The rest of the party followed Kira through the misty archway and with a lurch, they found themselves in another passageway facing a weathered wooden door. The passageway was illuminated with luminescent gray moss which was growing between the stones of the walls. Flickering firelight shone beyond the wooden door.

Although the group briefly debated on whether or not to take a rest, they decided to push on and see if they had indeed been transported to the Lands Within the Wind. The door opened easily enough and a rotting shambles of a laboratory was revealed. Sheets of red-gray mold were lining the walls and an oily black fungus appeared to have consumed most of a few large tables. Three stone vats stood on the far side of the room.

The group began to examine the room and made several interesting discoveries. Kira and Kezmit determined that the black mold was foul, but not harmful but the the red-gray mold had many spores and could be quite harmful. Li-Am searched the tables and Jarvix searched the rest of the room being careful not to disturb the molds. He found a slight draft in one corner, and believed there to be a concealed passageway. Heedless of the dangers, Iorskan set some of the mold on fire with his torch and partially revealed the concealed door.

The burning of the mold didn’t harm Iorsaskan, but it appeared to enrage the room’s inhabitatnts – strange fungus men similar to those encountered in the Face in the Stone. These however appeared to be twisted and could not be reasoned with. The fight was not long, with Li-Am burning the fungus creatures with power hellfire. Jarvix used his skills with the Way to move the creatures around but in doing so disturbed one of the vats, releasing swarms of angry scarabs.

In the aftermath of the combat, Gwyn discovered a gem-studded mithral key in the vat containing the beetles. Elleandra looked over the contents of the tables and book shelves, but found nothing of any value. The group finished clearing away the mold around the concealed door and moved down a short section of hallway before coming to another obstacle. An open pit about 10 feet deep and forty feet long filled the passageway in front of them. A thick layer of dripping yellow-green fungus could be seen covering its floor.

After a bit of discussion Jarvix summoned a floating disk to help ferry the group across the pit, avoiding the dangerous molds. Once safely across a quick search of the remaining sections of hallways discovered only one exit, a stone archway. Suspecting it was the way out of the tomb, the group entered the archway.

Dark Laboratory
The party found themselves back in the hallway with three stone arches in the Shadow Tomb. Having only one arch unexplored, the party decided to venture through it. Once again there was a lurching sensation and they appeared in a small hallway ending in a weathered wooden door. This hallway was filled with unrecognizable glyphs and sigils, some vaguely reminiscent of holy symbols. The symbols were flaring with a violet light along the walls.

When the door was opened, a dark laboratory could be seen with cluttered shelves and over-sized table strewn with equipment and scrolls. A faint haze of mist could barely be seen twisting above three stone vats set across the chamber. As the party was taking in the room and attempting to determine the next course of action, they were set upon by a trio of ghouls.

Although the party was surprised, the ghouls were quickly finished off. Jarvix ensnared them with a shard conjured with the Way while Elleandra assaulted the creatures already unstable minds with images of flesh-devouring sprites. Gwyn finished off the last as she channeled her magic into her dagger, striking true.

A thorough search of this room revealed many interesting piece of information. Elleandra discovered the remnants of what appeared to be plans for the Fey Engine discovered in the Garden of Graves as well a plans for a different, but similar device that they suspected could be a Shadow Engine. She also discovered another strange key around the neck of one of the ghouls. Satisfied with their findings, they proceeded out of the room and down a flight of stairs.

They came upon a shimmering bridge of force that was covering a 30-foot-long and 10-foot-deep pit. Hundreds of sharpened spikes could be seen at the bottom of the pit. Jarvix discovered the hard way that the force bridge would sometimes give out and he found himself trapped in the pit for quite some time. Eventually the party was able to use the magical hook they had discovered earlier to traverse the trap and they discovered another archway leading back to the hallway.

Boneyard Bridge
Boneyard BridgeBack in the shadow tomb, the party retraced their steps to the only unexplored passage they were aware of. Following the hallway for a short distance, they came across a foul ossuary filled with shattered bones, dismembered bodies, and the stench of death was before the party. The boneyard was crossed by twisting bridges of flesh and bone rising 20 feet above the floor.

Elleandra moved out onto the bridge, holding tight the the hook and rope, trusting that if she fell, her allies would be able to save her. Faint at first, an unearthly moaning began to rise. From the boneyard, ghostly shapes began to take form in tight ranks, shrieking as they soared onto the bridges. Several dozen phantoms stood along the bridge blocking all the avenues of escape.

The party determined that the ghosts were intelligent guardians protecting the sanctity of this mass grave, when the spirits were willing to discuss rather than simply fight. The spirits did not trust that the party’s intentions were good and Li-Am’s attempt to convince them with promises was not well received. After a bit of debate they spirits were finally convinced when the party offered up a magical rod that was discovered earlier. This, somewhat symbolic sacrifice, was well received and the spirits moved aside to let the party pass.

Sepulcher
Rough walls of black stone glistened with necrotic fluid and the sounds of its steady drip echoed in the darkness beyond. The party moved through a series of twisting passageways, leading to many dead ends. There appeared to be many buried within the walls and small chambers, but nothing of value was immediately detected.

Li-Am discovered a small pouch that appeared to be intact and containing coins and possibly gems. Tempted by the treasure, he eventually decided to leave it be, much to the relief of his companions, who reminded him of the encounter with the ghosts that they just had.

At the end of the corridors stood a pair of rune-scribed mithral doors. Wide keyholes in each door pulsed with white light – one in the shape of a skull; the other, a faceted gem. Elleandra and Gwyn placed the keys they had recovered in the matching doors and with a shimmering of powerful magic, they doors dissolved away revealing a large chamber beyond.

The Shadow Engine
A broad circular chamber was revealed beyond the doors, its floor sunken 20 feet below. In the center of the chamber, a fantastic device could be seen suspended on top of a pillar of shadow energy. The fantastic device consisted of a spinning web of platinum cables and black iron rods set with hundreds of blazing gems. The crackling pillar of energy could be seen rising from the floor and disappearing into the engine…

View
The Shadow Tomb

Shrine of Skulls
After awaking from the dream the party decided to take some additional time to recover from their adventures in the dreamland. Their rest was uneventful this time and they felt ready to face any challenge that they would encounter. Before leaving the room, Li-Am and Iorskan pocketed the silverware, knowing that the metal would be very valuable when they returned to Athas. Elleandra performed another augury, curious as to the nature of the dangers they might encounter. She learned that danger was all around her, but those closest were aligned in their goals. When they were finally ready, the group moved out into the only exit from the hall of tapestries with Kira and Li-Am in the lead.

The group passed down a hallway with several empty rooms off to the sides arriving at an apparent dead end. The large room contained many cracked onyx alters set around the crumbling chamber, each piled high with a cluster of blackened skulls. While searching the room for clues or possible exits, a pit trap was located and easily disarmed. At the bottom of the 20-foot deep pit was a passageway leading away from the room. Although the pit had some amount of the necrotic seepage present, most of the hardened adventurers were able to go through it without difficulty. While the rest of the group was working on the pit, Li-Am examined the piles of skulls and found a pair of enchanted bracers that he kept form himself.

Black Well
Moving through the cramped and twisting passage the group came to a chamber that had collapsed into a great chasm. A steady outpouring of black necrotic sludge flowed over the edge from great cracks in the walls. A greater torrent jetted out from faults in the rough rock of the chasm, falling as a hissing curtain of necrotic rain. In the dim light of their torches, rough ledges jutting out form the chasm’s walls could be barely made out. The bottom of the chasm appeared to be about 70 feet down, and partially filled with a pool created by the necrotic rain. Above the surface of the pool, a circular slab of white stone could be seen with for large dragon skulls, each a top a colored door.

Iorskan and Li-Am worked together to tie off a rope and lower Li-Am down onto the first ledge. The ledge gave way almost as soon as Li-Am’s weight was placed on it, crumbling down to the bottom of the chasm. They tried to lower Li-Am again on the next most accessible ledge, but that ledge also crumbled beneath Li-Am’s weight. None were willing to risk the climb down through the necrotic rain and Kira provided a solution – using her ritual magic, she summoned the spirits of giant eagles, as she had done in the past, to fly them down to the bottom of the chasm.

Spirit EaglesAs the group descended the 70 feet, they began to notice that the necrotic rain had unnatural twists and patterns as it fell. As they circled down, tendrils of the black rain formed and lashed out at the adventurers. Kezmit, Li-Am and Kira failed to avoid the tendrils and suffered burns from the seepage. All managed to land at the bottom, with the eagle spirit patiently waiting with them. Kezmit noticed on his way down that there was an unusual echoing of the rain along one section of the wall and, hoping for the best, he directed the eagle through the curtain of of black rain.

At the bottom, Li-Am tried to open the yellow door just as Elleandra noticed the glyphs of warding around it. Too late an explosion of acid erupted from the door burning Li-Am and Kira. The door was revealed to be a fake, with no exit underneath it. Fearing the other doors were also trapped, the remounted their spirit eagles and headed to meet Kezmit who had called down saying that he had found a passageway.

Dead Tiles
The rough stone passage twisted and turned through black rock, wet the the necrotic seepage eventually opening into a ruined hall paved in 1-foot-square green tiles bearing arcane sigils and glyphs. At the far end of the hall a draconic skull could be see mounted to the wall. Cautious about further traps, Li-Am made his way down the hallway towards the skull and found no evidence of danger. The others followed him and to their relief there were no traps set off. Without much difficulty a secret door was located behind the draconic skull and it was forced opened.

Gifts From the Dead
Beyond the secret door was a wide hallway carved from black stone. The passageway had one branching path and lead to a small room that appeared to be a dead-end. After a bit of searching the party could find no signs of hidden doors or anything else unusual, so they backtracked and took the side passage which ended in a five-sided room. Carved stone pillars stood at each corner of the chamber and mystic runes wound around the walls. Weapons, clothing and armor could be seen atop a red stone dais at the center of the room.

Jarvix found his missing clothes and Iorskan noticed that his missing necklace of keys was atop the pile of gear and he went to retrieve it. Li-Am became very suspicious of Iorskan and threatened him. After a few moments of tension Elleandra reminded everyone of the her augury and their common goals. Li-Am backed down but there were some unresolved issues. Kezmit began to examine the equipment, attempting to determine their powers and who might benefit the most from them.

The room had a one exit, but instead of opening the doors, the party decided to backtrack to the fork in the passageway before the tiled hallway.

Sphere of Pain
The passageway lead to a spherical chamber with rune-covered walls and a unusual silvery sheen. The room was explored and another trap door was found on the far side. As they were disabling the trap, the silver sheen fell off the wall, covering the party. The silver substance began to eat away their flesh. Although everyone suffered painful blisters, Elleandra suffered the most.

The party took a few minutes to rest and tend to their wounds once the silver substance was neutralized. Then Li-Am dropped down into the pit followed by Kira and the others.

Planar Archways
The party followed a winding carved stone passageway with walls covered with mystic runes which came to an end with three stone archways. The archways appeared identical to those found in the entrance hall, save for the mists within were gray. Like those in the entrance hall, the mist obscured what lay beyond them. Elleandra and Gwyn could sense strong planar magic emanating form the arches.

After a brief debate, Kira decided to pass through one of the portals and vanished. Those left behind thought they detected a faint flash reminiscent of the Lands Within the Wind and decided to follow her. They found themselves facing a wooden doorway with luminescent gray moss growing between the stones of the walls. Flickering firelight was shining beyond the wooden door. They felt that they had left the Gray and returned to the Lands Within the Wind.

View
Nightmares Unleashed

Tapestries of Time
From the alcove, a great feast hall could be seen shrouded in shadow, and a fire pit blazing with a bright white flame illuminated numerous tapestries long the walls. A number of high tables were scattered throughout this area, each set with fine silver and porcelain plates and heaped high with succulent roast meats and sweet fruits. There was one place setting for each of the heroes. Kezmit and the others examined the food and although it appeared to have been created by magic, there was no sign of poison, disease or other harmful effects. Starving and exhausted from their ordeals, they ate and drank the food.

Brightly colored tapestries were hung along the walls and between the tables displaying scenes of battle, with hundreds of heroes of a dozen races rendered life-sized detail – all of them swarmed by swirling shadows as they fight for their lives. Jarvix noted that the armor and clothing of those portrayed in the tapestries was an odd mix of times and places. Ancient warriors in full suits of metal armor could be seen fighting alongside what appeared to be contemporary gladiators of Athas. In addition, many of the races observed were not recognized as those of Athas, although Kira was able to name them.

Still suffering from from the effects of the portals, Gwyn attempted to use her ritual magic to remove the afflictions lingering on her and Kira. Aided by Li-Am and Elleandra, the afflictions were removed, returning Kira to her normal size and restoring Gwyn to her proper age. However, the process was very taxing and both were left tired, even with the rest they were enjoying.

Elleandra used her magic to read the mystic signs and glean a notion of the future. She and the rest of her companions were intensely curious if the path they were following to find the next orb would also bring them back to Athas. Peering into the patterns created by the bones and drippings from the meat along with a few drops of wine, she had a vision of a new orb being united with the ones she carries and a pathway to Athas opening before them. Satisfied that their present course of action was right, the group decided to get a few hours of rest and then continue to explore this new structure. They set watch and all was uneventful, however, Kira was unable to stay awake during her watch and drifted off to sleep as well.

The Vernal Grove
The party all awoke at the same time to find themselves is strange surroundings – what appeared to be the ruins of a town. They sky overhead was dark and cloudy, the town appeared to have been abandoned and the few remaining buildings that were intact showed signs of neglect. The confusion over where they were only increased as Elleandra was sure that they were in the Lands Within the Wind, while Li-Am was convinced they still remained in the Gray. Iorskan suggested that they could be a a crossing point between the two realms. Elleandra remembered vague stories of a place called the Vernal Grove that fit the general description of where they were. Kira too had some vague recollection regarding the Vernal Grove from her studies with Evan.

Seeing no other immediate options, they began to explore the few intact buildings that remained in the town, starting with what appeared to be a house. The outside was run down and as the group peered through the boarded windows, there were no signs of inhabitants. Li-Am kicked down the door and they began to search the house finding little more than rubble. Jarvix located a fragment of a journal in the upper level of the house which contained some information…

He has come again to me in my dreams, a horrible evil creature that torments me. I am sure that my parents know of him and the evil he committed in life.

I learned that he was killed by my parents twenty years ago and supposedly buried in the town graveyard. However I am not sure my parents have told me everything. I’m sure that I am being punished for their crimes.

I have arranged a carriage to carry my daughter Kristal and newborn granddaughter Redra far from this place. Hopefully they will escape my fate and the fate of the other children.

Elleandra was able to decipher a bit more information that suggested her tormentor drew strength from the fear it created. The author believed that by turning her back on the fiend, it would loose some of its strength. Nothing else was located in the house, and the group moved on to a large building that Kira described as a church.

The church also showed signs of massive neglect, although there was some evidence to suggest that a struggle took place at some point in the distant past. Kira uncovered fragments of a broken mirror as well as some church documents, one of which was coded. Together the group worked out the coding and learned more about the town’s past and a rhyme…

It is with great sadness that Sister Amelia has left us. Her choice to return to Occidental Mountain Aslyum, the site of the most unfortunate incident, is surprising. Still, the staff there might help her to deal with the recent event regarding her son.

I can’t help think that I should not have told her of the trouble with her son. The adopted parents at 1428 appeared to be a good fit, but the troubles he is having too cannot be denied.

We must trust that there is a reason for all this, but to have so many buried so young is our graveyard is so tragic.

Now I lay me down to sleep, the Soul Collector my life shall keep. In the reflection of my minds eye, evil will see itself and it shall die.

The Iorskan surmised that they could use the mirror as a weapon and Jarvix used his talents with the Way to reforge the mirror using some of the items they found in the church. They headed out to the large intact building with a growing sense of apprehension.

The large building appeared to be the Aslym mentioned in the church notes. They found that it was unlocked and began to search. A few pages from what appeared to be a log book were found, providing more of the history of this place.

941: A terrible tragedy occurred over the holiday weekend – Sister Amelia was trapped with the inmates and brutally assaulted. She is now with child.

966: Sister Amelia has returned to us following the death of her son at the hands of an angry mob. She has locked herself away in one of the unused rooms and will not see anyone.

999: We are overrun with adults who are overcome with grief at the loss of so many children. The parents blame themselves and a supernatural force they refer to only as the Soul Collector. Our new administrator knows little of the town history.

1025: The last of the town has moved away or died, the Asylum will be closed.

In the uppermost floor of the asylum, the parts found a locked room and when it was opened they saw the dead body of a woman in white, kneeling as if in prayer. They assumed this to be sister Amelia, and when Kira examined her, she saw the spirit of Amelia. She silently responded to their questions by pointing to the house, the church and the graveyard, then to the center of the town. Her spirit departed, but Elleandra felt sure that she would be a help in the fight against the mysterious Soul Collector.

The party made the trip to the graveyard and found a massive number of graves having deaths between the years 981 and 995. Most of the dead appeared to have been between 12 and 20 years old. Many of the gravestones had been damaged by what appeared to be three cuts or slash marks. Finding nothing else in the graveyard, they moved back into the center of town. Throughout the investigation of the town most of the party began to find themselves preoccupied with fears from their pasts. Only Jarvix and Gwyn appeared to be untroubled by their fears.

The Soul Collector
As they explored the center of the town, several creatures appeared and moved towards the party, with obvious evil intent. Each of the creatures appeared to be one of the fears that they had been dwelling upon… Kira was approached by a being that appeared to be Evan Moreau, Elleandra’s fear too the shape of a twisted version of her tree, Li-Am was approached by Thakok-An, Iorskan by Yarnath and Kezmit by a great nothingness.

The party reacted quickly thanks to Iorskan’s encouragement and Gwyn’s magic. Although these creatures were born out of their fears, they did not hesitate to act, although Kira refused to attack Evan and helped to bring down Yarnath. Gwyn disposed of the Thakok-An after it was damaged by Li-Am’s magic. During the fight the fears were joined by a being in a dirty brown hat, tattered red and green sweater and a bladed glove in his right hand – the Soul Collector.

The Soul CollectorThe Soul Collector moved towards Gwyn calling out to her that she was the last left and that the bargain she made was over. He pushed away Gwyn’s nearby allies and brutally slashed her with his clawed glove, leaving three cuts in her back. The group largely focused on the Soul Collector who proved to be incredibly resilient to injuries. Eventually Iorskan was able to defeat the fear of Evan, allowing everyone to concentrate on the Soul Collector.

The Soul Collector had been pushed closer to Elleandra and called out to her that she wouldn’t escape like she did in Dempsy. He was able to push away her allies and nearly killed her with his glove, but somehow she managed to cling to life. Iorskan and Kezmit used their powers to heal the majority of the injuries and bolster their friends but their resources appeared more limited than the Soul Collectors.

Using what they learned in the town, Iorskan and Elleandra were able to seriously injure the Soul Collector. Iorskan was able to force him to look upon the mirror carried by Jarvix causing the creature much anguish as it looked upon its own hideous nature. Elleandra called for the spirit of Amelia whose love for the creature drained away its power. Summoning her our courage, Elleandra turned her back on the Soul Collector in an act of defiance, causing it to scream in rage and once again set its sight on Gwyn. Screaming “I’m what’s up Bitch!” he cut her again with the balded glove.

Li-Am unleashed a blast of hellfire that burned the already burned creature and he was eventually defeated, collapsing into a heap with only the sweater, hat and glove remaining. Kira collected the hat as a memento of the event, thought about taking the glove for Evan, but decided to leave it alone. Moments later, the party awoke back in the feast hall. The entire adventure appeared to have been a dream, but they all bore the scars the suffered in the encounters and Kira had the dirty brown hat in her hand.

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