Dark Sun, The Scorched World of Athas

City by the Silt Sea

Giustenal
As the silt skimmer approached the ruins of Giustenal, Jarvix had some time to review what he had learned from the writings recovered from Waverly. Although he found no mention of dragons, avangions, or Rajaat, there were some discussions of other champions. Dregoth was mentioned as the Ravager of Giants and Kalid-Ma was named as the Minotaur Terror. One champion, Myron, was called the Troll Scorcher and he was apparently killed and replaced by Manu who took on the same title. None had heard the name Manu, but it had a striking similarity to Hamanu, the sorcerer-king of Urik.

When the vessel finally arrived at Giustenal, it slowed to maneuver among the ruins of the city which stretched out into the Sea of Silt. The hordes of undead were unloaded and sent off into the ruins and the party and the other captives were escorted up to the surface. There they could see the massive city of Giustenal half buried by the Sea of Silt and positioned at an odd angle, as if the entire city had been sunken. Off in the distance a haze created by boiling tar pits blocked most of the view of the ruins.

The party waited on what appeared to be an old wall and was told that they would be momentarily taken to Absalom. The dray captain cautioned Jarvix about using the Way and informed him that their books and other heavy gear would be carried down for them. The party was tempted to escape, as there were only nine guards including the captain, but decided against it as their options for getting off the wall were not apparent.

Within a few moments a platform rose from the ruins of a tower connected to the wall and another party of dray, half of whom appeared to guards joined the first group of guards. The other half of the party appeared to be outcast dray and were assigned the menial task of carrying the books and mundane gear of the party. Once all were positioned on the platform one of the guards, who appeared to be a defiler, spoke words of magic and the platform began to descend through a series of tunnels.

Morg studied the walls and was amazed to find they were not constructed by any craft known to him – they appeared to almost have been grown. Jarvix was studying the walls as well when he suddenly appeared to dissociate and then collapsed to the floor of the platform, visibly shaken by something. There was no opportunity to discuss his condition as the platform moved through a series of tunnels. After a few minutes, the platform leveled out, moved horizontally and then stopped at the entrance to a massive cavern.

New GiustenalNew Giustenal
The entrance to the cavern was secured by a massive gate and two towers. The gates were made from a combination of stone and large bones, giving the entry way a grand and ominous appearance. Dray guards could be seen in the towers and as the party approached, the gates appeared to open on their own. As they approached, the more observant members noted that the bones of the gates appeared animated as some horrific golem and that was what caused the gates to open.

Beyond the gate the adventurers were amazed to see a small city spreading out before them. As they were escorted through the city, they saw sights that they might see above the surface. Merchant shops and other businesses were mixed with residential areas along a large central avenue. Although the buildings were familiar, the inhabitants were all dray.

The party could make out a magnificent structure made from gray stone with crimson scales, trim and other draconic decorations. In the center of the building a large steeple could be seen, decorated with dragon scales. The doorway was carved to appear to be a dragon’s mouth, with the portcullis being formed by the creatures teeth. This was a temple of the Dragon, where the faithful gather to hear the words of Dregoth.

The wonder continued as off in the distance the party could see fields of strange plants and pens of even stranger beasts. The most amazing sight was a large river of cool, clear water, flowing through the center of the cavern. The river was over 200 feet wide and numerous floating ships could be seen moving up and down the visible section. This was another of the many gifts that Dregoth had bestowed upon his chosen people, according to their guards.

Beyond the river were more homes and shops but as the avenue rounded to the left a strange forest was visible on the right. Trees were growing from the ceiling, their limbs reaching down and stretching out into a canopy of leaves, their roots winding their way upward. The trees were bearing fruit.

More wonders of the city were revealed to the party as they continued. A beautiful building of ivory sandstone was capped in black obsidian, as towers of similar design rose behind it at varying heights. The party’s eyes were drawn away from that structure to their final destination: a stark and oppressive structure set behind a wall of black obsidian, its surface decorated with giant bones. A huge ribcage of bones made a walkway from the gates to the palace.

Absalom
The guards led the party through the ribcage of bone and up through a massive set of doors into an entrance hall. The massive doors were opened and the party was taken into a huge chamber made of gray marble inlaid with a turquoise image of a dragon. Atop a stepped platform sat a throne of polished marble. The guard captain left them in the company of the other guards to go find Absalom.

Although their guards were attentive, the did not appear to care if the party explored the room or talked amongst themselves. Jarvix took this time to tell the party about the vision he had on the platform. They had a brief discussion but it was cut short by the arrival of Absalom. He was a tall dray with black scales and appeared to be not entirely alive. He carried a large sword in one hand and an obsidian Orb in another.

He greeted Li-Am and Iorskan, thanking them for delivering the party. He promised that Iorskan would be the general of the outcast dray, and that Li-Am would be the high templar of Dregoth. The party was taken aback and unsure of where the loyalties of their two friends were. Without warning Li-Am and Elleandra dove for the Orb, attempting to wrest it from his hands. Neither was able to secure the Orb but it created a momentary distraction and Kira shifted from a small lizard into her favorite form of a tiger and pounced on Absalom, savagely ripping into him.

Jarvix emanated a hypnotic ripple of psychic influence among the dray, stunning the majority of them, while conjuring a shard of nothingness to hold them fast. Iorskan let his true loyalties be know and orchestrated a devastating coordinated attack on Absalom as he called out “You did a shitty job of making these dray!” Elleandra made another grab for the Orb, but Absalom twisted away and Elleandra summoned illusory barriers around him causing him pain when he attacked. Morg called upon his reserves of strength and made a strike at Absalom at an odd angle catching the dray off guard and wounding him deeply.

Absalom teleported to a more advantageous position, slashing at Iorskan and siphoning his spirit. As Iorskan’s spirit faded, some of Absalom’s wounds healed. The dray guards rushed in attacking Elleandra and Morg. and wounding them deeply. Jarvix and Iorskan attempted to keep their friends standing despite the damage being inflicted on them. Iorskan attempted to keep Absalom’s attention on him by continuing to insult Absalom’s potency as a dray.

The battle continued back and forth until Elleandra finally managed to grab Absalom’s Orb, a look of triumph on her face. Before she could merge the Orb, Li-Am snatched Absalom’s Orb from her. The party breathed a collective sigh of relief as the all too real prospect of the return of Kalid-Ma suddenly didn’t feel like a good idea. Still urged on by her Orbs, Elleandra tried to grab the Orb back from Li-Am, but was unable wrest it from his hands. Li-Am turned her lunge to his advantage and barely managed to get a hold of her Orb. With a swift motion and a smile on his face, Li-Am combined the Orbs.

With a pulse of dark energy and a snapping sound, the Orb flared and cracked issuing forth a stream of black smoke. Helpless to do anything except watch, the smoke coalesced into an ordinary seeming man. Within a look of satisfaction on his face, his body grew and changed into a magnificent and terrifying form of a mighty dragon composed of living shadow, a being of darkness and defiling magic – a creature of nightmares. Its large hand extended towards Li-Am “Your loyalty will be rewarded, you shall be my High Templar”. Too stunned to react, all the party could do was wait to hear Li-Am’s response…
Kalid-Ma

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Flight to Giustenal

Ruins of Waverly
The crew of the Dusty Breeze began to repair the vessel, moving a quickly as possible for the presence of the large Dray force on the island. Although the ship had supplies to make repairs, they would not be able to make more repairs should the need arise. The party decided to venture into the island to gather more supplies and explore a bit while the crew was working.

The party headed out in a but quickly realized that they had very little idea where they should go. Elleandra used her magic to fly upwards and get a better idea of the layout of the island. She spent only a short time in the air to reduce the risk of being seen, but was able to see several promising areas that might provide supplies. They decided to head towards the southern end of the island, where there appeared to be more plant life.

After many hours moving across the island and searching Kira discovered a small stream of foul water emerging from behind a large pile of rubble. The rubble was easily cleared and a passageway was revealed leading under the ruins of the city. The sewer captured the interest of the party and they proceeded in after Jarvix used the Way to check in with Captain Daclimitus on the repair progress.

After an hour of so of searching, the encountered a group of Dray in a chamber. Although the Dray were surprised to see the adventurers, they were not immediately hostile and the two groups had a guarded conversation. Iorskan became the spokesperson for the adventurers as the leader of the Dray would not condescend to talk with the other party members.

The party learned that the dray were on a mission for their god, Dregoth, although they would not disclose any specifics to the party. They did appear to almost be expecting Iorskan and suggested that they present themselves to the dray encampment to be judged worthy. There were subtle intonations of other, darker, events taking place, but the party was unable to get more information, as they had not been deemed worthy yet.

Fearful that if they left the dray alone that the party’s presence would be reported to the main dray encampment the party decided to take action. The dray put up a good fight, but proved to be no match for the adventurers. Kira and Li-Am prevented the leader from casting any spells and finished off the majority of the soldiers. Morg took several serious injuries but Iorskan was able to keep him alive.

Lost Lore
After recovering from the fight, the party spent several more hours in the sewers attempting to discover what the dray were up to. Their investigations were yielding no results and they were just about to give up when a faint glow caught their attention. Following the light, they came upon a large room off of the main sewer line occupied by a half-dozen spectral figures.

Ghosts of WaverlyExpecting trouble, the party was relieved to find that the spirits were not immediately hostile to the group. Elleandra spoke with the spirits and discovered that they had perished almost two thousand years ago when Uyness, the ruler of the city, betrayed them and left the city in ruins.

Elleandra was able to convince the spirits that she and the rest of the party were on a mission to restore the world. The spirits offered the party their choice of either riches or knowledge. Although some were tempted by the riches, they eventually decided that the knowledge would be the best choice. The spirits lead them through twisting passages eventually arriving at an apparent dead-end. Iorskan and Li-Am were able to uncover a hidden door which opened into a large room filled with books and scrolls.

When the party tried to enter the room they found that Li-Am and Elleandra were unable to enter the library. The ghosts explained that the library was warded against arcane magic users. Those two waited while the others searched the library for any useful information. The majority of the writings were historical records of Waverly and it appeared that Uyness of Waverly might have been another named used by Abalach-Re. Other records appeared to have more information related to the Cleansing Wars but the party did not spend time to review everything they found. While the literate adventurers were scouring the books, Morg noticed that there were a large number of metal candlesticks, scroll cases and other paraphernalia and helped himself to as much as he could carry.

After gathering all that they could, the party started retracing their steps through the sewers and back to the landing point of the Dusty Breeze. The day had been long and the party pushed themselves hard to reach the landing as quickly as possible. When they reached the ship, they found it destroyed and the crew missing. It was not difficult to put together what had happened as there were numerous Dray footprints near the wreckage. Jarvix risked attempting to contact the captain with the Way and was relieved that he was still alive. Daclimitus said that he and the crew had indeed been captured and were being help and the Dray encampment.

The Dray Encampment
The party took some time to recover their strength and formulate a plan for rescuing the crew and getting them all off the island. Once they had agreed, the party began marching west towards the Dray encampment, with Kira shape-shifted as a songbird and scouting ahead. They encountered nothing but a few wild animals on their journey until they were near to the camp and a patrol spotted them.

Iorskan demanded to see the camp commander and pretended to be delivering the rest of the party to the camp commander. Much to the surprise of the party, the ruse appeared to work and they were allowed entry into the camp. Li-Am and Iorskan were escorted to a comfortable tent while the rest were hauled into a pen on the north side of the camp where many other prisoners, including the crew of the Dusty Breeze were being held.

Kira remained shape-shifted and was able to move about with relative ease. She relayed information to those in the pen. She reported that Li-Am and Iorskan were being treated well and had toured the camp with several disturbing revelations. Firstly, the Dray forces were amassing an army of undead and dray to begin to lay siege to Balic and the other city-states. These Dray were of a different breed than those seen in the Tyr Region (which they called outcasts) and had the outcasts performing all sorts of menial tasks for them. Secondly, the undead that they were creating were from the former inhabitants of the island as well as any non-humans that this army had captured. They were being interrogated and then slain and raised as zombies to be disposable troops. Finally, the humans that were captured were being sent back to Giusetnal to undergo transformation into Dray. The party learned that Absalom had perfected this process and they believed he was so successful by using an Orb of Kalid-Ma.

Before too long the captives and a large number of undead were loaded into one of the Dray ships and the vessel began its journey to Giustenal. Iorskan and Li-Am were aboard as well and being treated as honored guests. Kira, still assuming animal form, followed along, unsure where the loyalties of Li-Am and Iorskan were and unable to help those help prisoner by the Dray. After a week-long journey the vessel came within sight of the ruins of Giustenal.

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Flight to Giustenal

Swift Departure
Early in the morning, the party was awoken by Maserak telling them that it was time to go. They were to meet their contact, Captain Daclimitus, at the eastern most dock. He would take them where they wished to go. Maserak cautioned that the Captain was trustworthy, but not a member of the Alliance.

Maserak was visibly shaken and informed them that time was of the essence because he believed that a group of Templars was on their way to the hideout. He feared that they had learned of his location at the Thespian House. The party suggested that he come with them, but Maserak was unwilling to abandon his post. The party had no wish to get involved with a fight and left him behind and they fled.

Although the morning was still early and the winds had picked up blowing fine silt into the town, the party was unlucky and the Templar patrol spotted them. A swift pursuit ensued with the party heading towards the Harbor Precinct. The party made excellent progress, pushing themselves to the limits of the endurance. Although not very familiar with the streets of Balic, they were able to distract their pursuers.

Elleandra made use of her magic skills while within sight of several local shopkeepers setting up for the day and she was not careful enough to disguise her abilities. The phobic shopkeepers were horrified by the display of arcane power and a small mob quickly formed around the party, attempting to overpower the party. Li-Am, Jarvix and Morg attempted to escape the mob, while the rest turned to face them. Their intent was to not harm the people and eventually they demonstrated that they were beyond the abilities of the mob and it dispersed.

The short engagement with the mob did not allow the pursuing Templars to catch up to the party and the group was able to reach the eastern most dock. They found their ship waiting for them as promised and were greeted by a man who introduced himself as Daclimitus. Daclimitus provided some basic ground rules for the voyage and then they set out on the Dusty Breeze, a craft powered by a psionic orb and capable of levitating above the silt.

The Sea of Silt
Out on the Sea of Silt, the party settled into a routine. Most stayed out of the way of the crew as much as possible and kept below deck. Jarvix was keenly interested in the psionic helm and spent his time learning how it worked. Iorskan spent his time above deck, for he alone was made uneasy and somewhat ill by the Journey. During the first day the vessel rounded the Dragon’s Palate on the south side to avoid the majority of the outposts of Balic and then headed into more open silt.

During their second day, a terrible silt storm raged halting them for the day. It was during this time when all were below deck that the party had an uncomfortable series of conversations. Li-Am was confronted about his past and his recent actions. Jarvix lead the questioning but the others in the party supported him. The primary concern was his recent obsession with the Skull of Dorag Thel and his intentions regarding it. Jarvix felt that it would be better in another’s possession. Only Morg spoke out in support of Li-Am, to the surprise of Jarvix, and pointed out that nobody was questioning the motive or Kira or Iorskan, who they had known for the same length of time. Li-Am said that he would have none of the conversation and refused to take part in any further discussion. As a show of trust Morg presented Kira with the Heartwood Spear that he had been carrying since Vinara’s death.

Silt HorrorThe third day was calm and the Dusty Breeze was able to get underway again. However, their travel was briefly halted when the ship came under attack by a giant Silt Horror. The beast latched onto the ship and started to pull it apart and attack the crew and passengers. The party was able to successfully defend the ship and prevented any of the crew from being dragged into the silt. Daclimitus surveyed the ship and found it to be capable of travel, but suggested they make for the island of Waverly for repairs and supplies. Trusting the Captain’s judgement, the party did not argue.

The remaining journey to Waverly took another four days. The winds continued to swirl up silt, but the ship was able to continue moving. During these days, the party mostly kept to themselves, as there was still tension regarding their earlier conversation. There was a brief discussion on where exactly to go after Waverly. Li-Am suggested making landfall sooner near the Pristine Tower and making an overland journey to Giustenal through the Beastbarrens. Another option was to round Giustenal and land in the trade village of Cromlin. A decision was not reached by the time they reached Waverly.

Isle of Waverly
According to Daclimitus, the Isle of Waverly was a long abandoned city that was commonly used by Silt Sailors for resupply of fresh water. There were no permanent settlements on the island and an unspoken covenant allowed sailors to come and go with little fear. When the isle came into sight, things were not as the captain said they would be.

A large encampment was visible on the western beaches and dozens of humanoids could be see seen moving about a large number of carefully laid out tents. The humanoids were large and could barely be made out to be Dray. There were banners laid out in the encampment each with the symbol of a large dragon skull with its eyes closed – the sigil of Dregoth.

Confused by the presence of the Dray, Daclimitus rounded the isle to the south and made landing on the western shore. Hopeful that they were not noticed, the crew began to make repairs as quickly as possible.

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Flight to Giustenal

Arrival in Balic
The outlying farmlands were some of the most lush and productive lands the party had ever seen. Grain fields, vineyards, olive groves and pastures stretched as far as they could see. The Road was well maintained and patrolled. In the fields slaves and land owners could be seen working side-by-side. The differences between Balic and Tyr were too numerous to count and almost too much to comprehend.

At the Great Gate, the party was stopped and briefly questioned by the Legionaries and Praetors on duty. Although the party knew the officials were searching for something, it did not appear to be them and they were allowed to enter the city with a casual warning against causing any trouble within the city. They first sight inside the walls was over the Megaleneon, towering above the rest of the city.

The Megaleneon Inside the city they hired a guide and transportation to take them into the Market Precinct to meet their contact in the Veiled Alliance. As they traveled across the city from west to east they became familiar with the different precincts and their guide was happy to answer some of their questions. They moved through the Arena Precinct and the slave market of House Jarko eventually ending at the Criterion. Turning northwards they entered the Harbor Precinct and were able to get a good view of the Arsenal and The Slave Auction. Finally rounding the base of the Megaleneon they moved into the Market Precinct, through the Agora, near the Elven Market and passing the warehouses of Wavir, Rees and Tomblador.

The Thespian House
Without any trouble the party located the Thespian House and entered, hoping that their luck would continue to hold and they could arrange for passage out of the city. The party entered the common room outside of the performance hall and took seats. When they could do so discretely, they asked for Maserak and within a few minutes a half-elf approached their table and gave the sign of the Veiled Alliance, which Jarvix returned. After a few more formalities Maserak was satisfied with their attitude and appeared more willing to answer their questions. The party was still somewhat on edge as Maserak appeared to be very reserved and somewhat paranoid.

The party received very little information from Maserak about Tethrades. Although he know of him, Maserak had no current information or idea about his whereabouts. All he knew was that he hadn’t been seen in the city for quite some time. The party, especially Morg, was frustrated by this apparent dead-end. Somewhat taken aback by their anger, Maserak said he would check in with some others who might have more information.

The transportation out of the city was equally frustrating for the party who had hoped for a quick exit from Balic. Maserak said that he could help them arrange passage on a silt skimmer but that it would take several days before the vessel was ready. His explanations about the need for discretion in a city-state still ruled by a sorcerer-king appeared to fall on deaf ears. Eventually the party accepted the reality of the situation.

Maserak then asked for a show of good faith by the party and had a mission for them. A Veiled Alliance member in Balic had gone missing months before and was believed to be held in The Ivory Dungeon. Fearing that she would eventually crack under torture, Maserak wanted the party to enter the Dungeon through a secret entrance, locate the operative and eliminate her before she revealed any of the Alliance’s secrets.

This mission did not sit well with most of the group and they felt as if there was more going on then they were told. Eventually Maserak was able to convince the party that it was necessary and that the Veiled Alliance simply didn’t have the resources to conduct a raid – the presence of an experienced group of adventurers was too good of an opportunity to waste.

The Ivory Dungeon
Maserak’s directions were vague at best, but the party headed into the Agora late at night to try and locate the secret entrance the Ivory Dungeon. Kira used her shapechanging abilities to locate the secret door after Jarvix had narrowed down the possible entrance points. The door was protected by both physical locks and arcane wards. The locks were beyond the skill of Iorskan, but Li-Am was able to bypass them without too much difficulty. Elleandra was unable to get past the arcane protection, but with the help of Morg, Jarvix and Li-Am the protections were burned out, although each suffered some injuries as a result.

Once inside the Dungeon, they began to search for the operative, Zaldanis, without attracting any attention. Jarvix’s knowledge of building designs allowed them to make good progress towards the prison cells while Kira was able to navigate some treacherous sections of the Dungeon with ease. As they traveled through, the stark beauty of the white marble walls and polished bone bars was not lost on them. At any other time, this building would have been a wondrous sight. Eventually the party reached the prison cells and Iorskan attempted to get the location of Zaldanis out of a prisoner with threats. The prisoner complied, fearful of the powerful Dray and the party found the operative with relative ease.

Knowing what to expect, the party was able to bypass the protections on her cell and freed Zaldanis. There was a brief debate on what to do with her. She had obviously suffered much in the prison and the majority of the party felt sorry for her and decided that the right thing was to return her to Maserak alive. Just after reaching the decision, a half-dozen guards arrived, apparently tipped off to the party’s actions by the prisoner that Iorskan threatened.

A deadly struggle ensued between the party and the guards. Although the guards were well-trained and well-armed, they were no match for the experienced adventurers. Elleandra personally slew two of the guards and the rest fell to the combined attacks of the party. The last guard used some arcane talent to disappear as the combat concluded. They party could not detect where he had gone. The party decided to make a run for the secret door and flee the Dungeon before more guards found them.

As they readied to leave, the rest of the party found Li-Am over the corpse of Zaldanis – he had slain her during the fight. Horrified by their “friend’s” actions there was a brief confrontation. Li-Am’s explained that he completed the job they agreed to do and that there was nothing more to it. Had they not been ready to flee for their lives, they would have pressed the issue, but for now they grabbed the body of Zaldanis and ran.

The party ran faster than they had thought possible and managed to avoid any other patrols, although they were exhausted when they reached the secret door. Exiting back into the Agora, they closed and attempted to seal the door before heading back to the Thespian House. Safely arriving they informed Maserak of their success and presented him with the body. Visibly saddened by the loss of his friend, he nonetheless congratulated them on accomplishing their task, something that the Veiled Alliance in Balic needed but was unable to accomplish themselves.

House Wavir
The party rested that night in the safe house beneath the Thespian House and in the morning Morg and Iorskan headed to the House Wavir compound to make some additional inquires about leaving the city. They were also eager for any additional news and Morg was hoping to be able to recover some of the money that he had loaned the merchant house months ago to fund the expedition to find Vault of Darom Madar, which had ended in failure.

Morg was pleased to be reunited with Rhotan Vor who appeared to genuinely happy to see the mul, despite some lingering bad feelings between the two. Rhotan had apparently returned to Balic after closing shops in Tyr and had been doing well for himself. Morg was frustrated to learn that his money was gone and there was no way to get it back. He was ready to leave when Iorskan struck up a conversation.

Although they had never met, Iorskan had some dealings with House Wavir before and appeared to be on good terms with them. Iorskan produced the coins from House Madar that he had taken off the half-giant assassins sent by Tethrades in Altaruk. After some discussions and much speculation, Iorskan and Rhotan arrived at an interesting theory – Tethrades may have a connection to House Tsalaxa.

House Tsalaxa ambushed Rhotan’s expedition to recover the treasure from the Vault of Darom Madar. It was always suspected, but never confirmed, that House Tsalaxa found the Vault later and recovered the wealth, explaining how their influence had increased so quickly. The only known source of House Madar coins would be House Tsalaxa and with the agents of Tethrades in possession of those coins, it reasoned that Tethrades was working with House Tsalaxa.

Rhotan Vor knew of the approximate location of a House Tsalaxa compound between Raam and Draj. The party’s current plans were to enter the ruins of Giustenal, just on the other side of the Bay of Maray off the Sea of Silt. Rhotan happily gave the location to Morg and Iorskan, hoping that they could deal a blow to House Tsalaxa, which would indirectly aid House Wavir.

That afternoon the party quietly purchased supplies for a month-long journey across the Sea of Silt. Deciding to not draw too much attention, they spread the purchases across several merchant houses. The rest of the day was spent in the Thespian House, in case there were any Praetors searching for the group that had infiltrated the Ivory Dungeon.

The next morning they prepared to depart Balic…

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Flight to Giustenal

Retreat to Kalidnay
When the nausea passed, the party found themselves in the ruins of Kalidnay, where they were several weeks earlier. Relieved to have escaped from certain death at the hands of the transformed Abalach-Re, they were nonetheless discouraged about their failure to stop her and their need to retreat. The party made camp in a nearby building to try and determine their next course of action.

Jarvix sent out several messages to his contacts in the Veiled Alliance to inform them of the new threat that Abalach-Re presented. Arisphistaneles in Altaruk, Mathias in Tyr, Lyanius in Kled were all contacted by Jarvix and thanked him for the warning, although they were barely able to comprehend the danger.

Iorskan had a long private conversation with one of the survivors from the battle at Rafernard’s Forest who was brought along with them when they fled. He appeared to know the female Dray named Heskan, but did not divulge the subject of his conversations to any of the other party members.

After much discussion, the party decided to travel to the city-state of Balic via Celik, hoping to avoid any further encounters with Abalach-Re and follow-up on Tethrades. They also hoped that they could perhaps find passage to the final Orb over the Sea of Silt. Jarvix made contact with Maserak, a Veiled Alliance member in Balic, to let him know of their impending arrival.

At the end of their rest Jarvix contacted Arisphistaneles again to find out any news regarding Abalach-Re. He was horrified to learn that the sorcerer-queen had attacked the trade fort and amazed to learn that she had been repelled. There was little detail about the encounter but casualties sounded severe.

Demonic Messengers
Demon Servant of MarisolAfter finishing their rest, the party headed southeast out of Kalidnay’s ruins towards the settlement of Celik. As they were approaching the edge of the ruins, the unnatural quiet was disturbed and the party came face to face with a horde of demonic creatures lead by a large being which bore a striking resemblance to the fiend that was summoned by Thakok-An. A brief parlay was had and the demon demanded Morg for its mistress – Marisol.

Without hesitation, the party came to the defense of Morg and a brief but intense battle ensued. Although the party suffered some injuries, they emerged relatively unscathed. Kira once again focused her attacks on the larger demon and was able to cripple it early in the fight. As they recovered from the fight there was much speculation on the current state of affairs in Shadow Kalidnay and how Marisol was able to exert her influence over these foul creatures. However, there were no answers.

Journey to Balic
The journey from Kalidnay to Celik took the adventurers six days to complete and mercifully was uneventful. The settlement of Celik lived up to its reputation as a gathering of slaves, outcasts and criminals seeking refuge and opportunity. The party paid an exorbitant entry fee and managed to find reasonably safe accommodations.

Li-Am, Morg and Kira spent their time attempting to learn any information about the current events while the others gathered supplies for the remainder of their trip to Balic. The supplies were of dubious quality and overpriced but Elleandra was able to charm the merchants into a better deal.

The talk in Celik was mostly about dragons – the Dragon was believed to be in the north on its journey to collect its levy from the various city-states. There were many rumors about another dragon in the west going on a rampage destroying the land and many small settlements. There was also some talk about rampaging giants from Silt Sea and the Legionnaires of Balic continuing to search for something – although none knew what they were searching for.

Thankful for avoiding trouble in the settlement, the group left Celik behind and made the 10 day trip to Balic without incident. A day outside of the city-state the land turned to verdant farmlands of grain fields, vineyards and olive groves – a sharp contrast to Tyr. As the party moved along the Road of Legions they approached the Great Gate, the western entrance to the city.

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Forest Maker

Second Chances
Perplexed by their lack of progress, the party decided to head back up to further investigate the pit. Before making the decision on whether to enter the pit or not, the party threw one of the gith corpses into the pit, to see what would happen. Elleandra and Kira noticed that the shadows appeared to move a bit which increased their wariness. Next Morg tossed a torch into the pit doing his best to land near the corpse. Although his aim was a little off, he was close and the shadows recoiled from the light.

Kira decided that the risk was worth the possibility of discovering any secrets in the pit and changed form into a large raven. She began to slowly descend into the pit and saw that the metal inlaid into the walls was arranged in distinct patterns. Although she was not familiar with it, there were some similarities to the various protection runes that she had seen Evan use in his rituals. As she neared the bottom, about 20 feet up, she spied about a half dozen large, horned and scaled creatures that the party had described to her as tembo. These beasts looked well fed and were watching her intently.

Not willing to risk a confrontation with so many powerful creatures, she flew back up to the rest of her companions and reported in. The group decided that they should not risk a fight at this time and returned to exploring the underground structure.

The decided to start at the top and take another look at the murals in the entry way. Jarvix examined the walls looking for any signs of illusions or other concealed features in the images of the Avangion. Li-Am and Iorskan also examined the murals and estimated that they were hundreds of years old. There was nothing else discovered in the room.

There was much speculation regarding the presence of Tembo, traditionally beasts of the sorcerer-kings, the well-equipped Gith with coins from Raam and the nature of Rafernard, a being who appeared too good to be true. While they continued to be suspicious, they felt there wast little else to do except explore while they waited for dawn and their meeting with Rafernard. The party went down to try their luck at the warded doors on the lowest level.

At the wooden door, Li-Am was able to finally disable the traps and working together, Morg and Iorskan pried open the door. The large room beyond with filled with numerous haggard looking individuals who appeared equally surprised to see the party at the door. After much commotion, the story became clear. These were about two dozen individuals who had followed the pilgrims to this forest over the last month or so. They had not been compelled to do so, but followed for their own reasons. All of these people had been attacked and subdued by gith or some unknown force and found themselves here in a dungeon. Some of the people who had been in here previously had been taken away and not returned.

Among the prisoners were several Dray, one of whom Iorskan recognized – a female named Heskana. She claimed to have information for him about their clan, but that now was not the time for the story. She and about half of the others were willing to join with the party and stop Rafernard, who they believed was not truly what it claimed. The others were demoralized by their captivity and only desired to escape. Elleandra was able to convince them that staying and fighting was the only hope they had of being free. The prisoners were equipped with the gear from the slain Gith.

While Morg, Jarvix and Kira saw to the needs of the prisoners, Li-Am Iorskan and Elleandra attempted to break through the other door. Although similar to the wooden door, this metal door was more difficult to break into and they were unsuccessful in bypassing the physical protection placed upon it. Elleandra attempted to use her powers to slip past via the Lands Within the Wind.

Moving through the metal door felt cold and unnatural to her but she was successful. The room on the other side was magically illuminated and filled wall to wall with chests, urns and bags all overflowing with golden coins. Many tens of thousands of coins by her estimate were in the room and they had all manner of markings on them from many different city-states. She gathered a small pouch of them and after a short rest moved back across the door too rejoin the party.

Although the party was eager to gain access to the treasure, they were unsuccessful at breaking into the room. Eventually they decided to head up to the forest and wait for Rafernard. They positioned themselves around the perimeter of the plaza with the prisoners and waited for dawn. Jarvix sent another message to Arisphistaneles informing him of their suspicions and discoveries.

Rafernard’s Last Spell
At last dawn broke over the lush forest and Rafernard appeared atop the intertwined tower and tree. With her appearance the party and their allies felt an overwhelming power calling them to attention. They were not alone as out of the forest hundreds of pilgrims arrived at the plaza. Morg, Elleandra and Iorskan became entranced and could do nothing except stand as zombie-like automatons.

When the push of the pilgrims stops, Rafernard reveled as the center of attention. She pulled forth a glowing human skull with gem-packed eyes and vines wrapped about it. For a moment Rafernard existed as the great avangion that the party had seen before. Then she changed.

The illusions fell away revealing a tall regal, evil-looking woman in ornate robes. “Who am I?” the woman called out. “Sing my name before you give me your lives!”. The pilgrims began to sway in time as if to some unheard song. They then began to chant, slowly at first then faster and louder.
Abalach-Re, Sorcerer-Queen
“Abalach-Re! Abalach-Re! Abalach-Re!”

The party realized the terrible truth – before them was the sorcerer-queen of Raam, Abalach-Re!

Abalach-Re lifted one claw-like hand and utter twisted words of dragon magic. In an instant the Tree of Life turned to ash and the stone tower transformed into a pillar of stone, carved to resembled giant human skulls. As she emphasized each terrible syllable, seven obsidian spheres rose out of the ground and began to twirl about. Uttering phrases that were actually painful for the party to hear she turned to look at the few who have been able to ignore her summons. There was a smug look of triumph on her draconic features. Then crackling black energy issued from her hands, slamming into the oblivious pilgrims and bathing Abalach-Re in energy.

Those that were free of her compulsion moved quickly, attempting to prevent her spell from being completed. Morg’s Mul heritage allowed him to break free of the charm and he charged forth and swung his axe at the nearest obsidian orb striking true but not shattering it. Abalach-Re summoned that orb to her and consumed it, her mouth opening unnaturally wide to swallow it in a single gulp. As she did her form grew and became more draconic.

Kira and Li-Am attacked the pilgrims hoping to slay them and perhaps prevent Abalach-Re from drawing their energy for her foul magic. Jarvix used his talents with the Way to try at attack Abalach-Re from a distance, but her defenses simply deflected the attack towards the pilgrims.

The battle continued with Iorskan and Elleandra breaking free from the terrible magic, but everyone’s life was being drained by the dragon magic. Kira, already weakened from her restoration of the land was knocked unconscious and only Iorskan’s healing was able to keep her alive.

Although the party fought well Abalach-Re was able to stay one-step ahead of them, consuming more orbs and becoming more draconic. Just as the last of the pilgrims was slain, she consumed the final orb and with a roar of triumph her change was complete – she was now a dragon-queen.

Abalach-Re, Dragon Queen

Morg hurled the Heartwood Spear at her and he succeeded in wounding her and drawing her attention. She teleported down from the tower of skulls and began to rip him apart with her claws. None of the attacks of the party were able to do more than minor wounds to her.

Li-Am saw through the battle field carnage the skull that had been held by Abalach-Re but was dropped when her transformation was complete. He raced towards in and picked it up off the ground. Transfixed by it for a moment, he then cried out to his companions they they must flee or they would perish. Realizing the truth of his words, the party converged on Li-Am and Elleandra used her orb to transport them all to the ruins of Kalidnay.

View
Forest Maker

Unquiet Night
The party decided to rest in the trees of Rafernard’s Forest 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. As they rested they decided to keep a watch and Morg, Li-Am and Iorskan volunteered for the duty. The party decided that they would explore the tower as soon as they were rested, curious about what secrets it might hold.

The night passed without incident until just after midnight when the party was waking up and preparing to head towards the tower. With barely any warning, a group of Gith emerged from the forest, surrounding the party wielding spears and clad with insect shell armor. They Gith appeared to be much hardier than those that had been encountered previously and the quality of the equipment was visibly better than was typical.

The Gith engaged the party at range hurling many spears at the group, a tactic that proved effective for a short time while the party grouped up to make a defense. The Gith used their a mastery of the Way to augment their attacks and caused many injuries to the party. Iorskan was able to keep his allies alive and the Gith were eventually defeated with only two survivors feeling into the woods.

The fallen Gith were examined and found to have nothing particularly remarkable although they were carrying coins bearing the marking of the city-state of Raam. After treating their wounds, the party decided to continue with their plan and investigate the tower at the center of the forest.

The Underground
The party approached the tower with even more caution after their attack by the Gith but found it unguarded. Along the way they passed several small groups of pilgrims who still had the vacant expression of happiness on their faces. As before the pilgrims were unresponsive to the presence or actions of the party.

At the tower, the party found a trap door leading down into the earth and stairs winding upwards. Feeling that there was little that could be in the upper ruins of the tower, they decided to go down. When the trap door was opened, they saw stairs made of gray granite winding downward. The air was cool and comfortable as they made their way down the spiraling staircase, although there was a feeling of ancient power that could be felt by all.

The stairs descended the only sounds that the party heard were the echoing of their footfalls. After they had gone about 20 feet down into the earth, they reached a landing which was lit by a soft, magical light. The stairs continued down, but the party stepped off of them to explore the small room. Without the echoing of their steps, some slight background noise of unknown nature or origin was heard.

The small landing contained no furniture or objects, but each of the four wall was decorated with murals showing an illuminated, winged being restoring the earth to a green paradise. The being had a remarkable similarity to Rafernard. The party quickly searched the room and found nothing else.

Seeing no other exits, the party descended deeper into the earth. The granite stairs continued to wind down about another 20 feet until reaching a second landing. The stairs continued down from this level as well.

The room was roughly twice the size of the previous level and contained a large number of chairs and tables of fine quality. The walls were decorated with similar murals as the room above, but appeared to be more faded. The entire room was brightly illuminated with magical light. The chill in the air was deeper than at the previous level and the indistinct noises were louder.

A thorough search of the room revealed nothing out of the ordinary and although the party felt they were missing something, they were unable to determine what that might be.

Pitfalls and Perils
After following the stairs downwards another 20 feet the party reached a small landing with two short passages, one to the north and one to the east. The stairs continued further into the deep earth.

The party followed the northern passage a short way before it opened onto a huge pit about 30 feet across and about 80 feet wide, with the party on a small ledge in the center of the long side. In their torch light, they guessed that the pit was about 70 feet deep, although they couldn’t make out the bottom clearly. In the shadows at the bottom of the pit they could see numerous skeletons and what appeared to be discarded gear. There was something imbedded in the walls of the pit that reflected light like metal, but none could get a close look at it. There was no obvious way to investigate the pit, the party moved to try the other passageway.
Gith Drone
The eastern passage quickly reached a wooden door bound in iron. Trying the door the party found it to be unlocked and the proceeded in to the room. Rounding a corner of the room the party came into what was apparently the barracks of a large force of Gith. Over twenty armed Gith were present in the room and immediately took to arms when the party came into view.

The battle was quick and the close quarters favored the party with Jarvix and Elleandra able to affect large numbers. Kira, who shifted form several times attacking with her magic and claws, was able to bring about the death of many Gith as well. Only when Gith reinforcements came from behind the party was there a real threat, but this was quickly overcome as well.

Beds, chests and table suggested the room could accommodate over 40 gith. The corpses and room were searched turning up more ceramic coins from Raam, but nothing else of any value. The party discovered nothing else in the room. The heroes took a few minutes to recover their strength and tend to their wounds.

Dead Ends
Returning to the granite stairs once again, the party moved downwards. This time the stairs descended some 40 feet before reaching the bottom. At this level there were doors on the west and east side of the stairs. The western doors were 10 feet wide and made of stone reinforced with metal banding and the eastern door was made of iron.

The party discovered that both doors were locked and trapped with Iorskan and Morg receiving electrical shocks from arcane wards placed upon them. The party was unable to overcome the locks and wards by any means they could think of. A feeling of frustration began to build as they felt something and been missed but they didn’t have a clear idea what to attempt next.

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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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