Dark Sun, The Scorched World of Athas

The City that Waits

City of the Dead
The party was trapped by the zombie patrol, but Kira and Gwyn finally caught up with the rest of the group and were flanking the zombies. Most of the zombies were easily taken down, Kira in her tiger form was able to quickly dispatch three of them. However, their limbs continued to grasp and harass those that had slain them and inflicted several wounds before they were finally quieted. Other zombies had chilling breath which sapped the strength out of those that felt its touch. During the fight Kelvor used his crown to summon a spirit of wind to buffet several of the zombies. Elleandra likewise gave into the temptation to use the crystal and utterly destroyed one of the more powerful zombies, using some of its energy to reinvigorate herself.

During and after the fight, Kezmit noticed that the deep chill of Moil was dampening his healing magic. The precariousness of the situation was not lost and they resolved to move through the ruined city as quickly as possible. As the party continued to explore the ice-shrouded city of shattered spires, hoping that each turn ultimately lead them closer to their destination – whatever that might be. As they traveled the city, they saw another group of ghosts moving parallel to them, however, the paths never crossed.

On one bridge, they came across a force of skeletons hauling crumbling stone in an effort to rebuild the bridge. Although they took notice of the party, neither the workers nor the overseers made an aggressive move. Jarvix used his skill in the Way to dispose of the majority of the workers and Li-Am helped mop up the rest quickly and efficiently.

As they moved through the ruined city, gray lightning continued to provide poor illumination but allowed for glimpses of the hundreds of spires spread farther across is the distance, their shattered bridges out of reach. Flying high above a great winged shape could be seen, however it either did not notice the party or care, as it never investigated.

Dark Barrow
Moilian Barrow The next large tower that the party encountered had been sheared off at an angle, as if it had been struck by another spire. As they approached they noticed movement in the rubble – bones and body parts began to knit themselves together into a larger humanoid figure which approached them.

Li-Am was able to use his magic to lock down the creature, preventing it from moving into a more advantageous position. However, Kelvor drew the brutes attention and it began to crush him with its huge hands. Elleandra conjured a sphere around the creature making it experience pain with each of its attacks. Jarvix was finally able to deal a killing blow to the creature. After the fight, the group was exhausted and risked a short rest, although the lingering cold of the city prevented anyone from truly regaining all of their strength.

Moving on from the battle with the stitched monster, a quick series of lightning flashes allowed them to glimpse a boiling sea of black mist surrounding the base of the towers a hundred feet below. Far below the party spotted a group of zombies marching along one of the bridges. They were too far away to pose a threat and the group decided not to linger.

The Shadow Gate
At last the party reached what they assumed was their destination. The fallen spire before them was open to the darkness. Its central stone core appeared to have been cleanly broken to create a platform of glowing black stone. The party moved closer to the glowing platform but stopped when they realized powerful spellcraft was protecting the portal against access. Those familiar with warding magic all agreed that the wards were newly made, perhaps a few weeks ago.

As they continued to study the glowing platform, they determined that it was imbued with powerful planar and teleportation magic. Although they were convinced that it was a portal to somewhere else, they could not determine the destination. Hopeful that if they could breach the wards, they would know more, they started to work on taking down the defenses.

Before the first attempt could be made, they were interrupted by a sound from behind them. Turning they saw a massive shape composed of dead creatures climbed up from beneath the platform to block the bridge. Close to 20 feet in diameter this horrible swarm of death moved quickly to attack, with tendrils of bone and flesh flailing around it. A host of voices screamed in a twisted chorus of pain and fear.

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The City that Waits

A Parting in the Mists
The unlikely collection of individuals stood in the Mists unsure of their surroundings. Eventually Laylon-Ka spoke and asked Vinara and Morg to join her and a number of the surviving members of her resistance group to determine the final fate of Kalid-Ma, for she was not convinced that he had truly died. She asked that two of her newer members, Kezmit and Li-Am to stay with Gwyn and her allies for their protection as well as a possible means to keep communication open.

Vinara and Morg accepted her invitation and they walked off into the Mists. Those that remained behind were very confused regarding the final events and what happened to shadow Kalidnay. Evan Moreau attempted to explain although the fine details were lost. He suggested that the lands are tied to powerful individuals and if they die without another suitable replacement, the lands, and sometimes people, disappear into the Mists.

Intending to make good on his bargain he made with Jarvix and Elleandra, Evan invited them back to his library where he could research a way to send them back to Athas. After all agreed, Evan created a glowing circle of sigils on the ground nearby, and a hazy vision of dark room lined with books could be seen. Kira Javed, Kazandra and Melantha stepped through together with the others following them.

The Moreau LIbrary
They arrived in a cool, dark, slightly musty room filled to the ceiling with book shelves, a sight that few had ever thought possible. Melantha quickly and quietly escorted Kazandra out of the room without so much as a word to the others. Evan told them that they were in his private library in the ruins of his families estates in a nation called Dementlieu. He then excused himself to research how to get the party back to Athas. Kira escorted the group around the library while they waited for Evan and the group too advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as they could on a number of topics that were of interest.

Kelvor was keenly interested in what they could find out about the gods. They learned that in this land they gods were real, or at least those who worshiped them were granted extraordinary powers. They learned of Moradin, the god of dwarves, and found some cryptic and disturbing information on the Chained God. They also learned that the primordials lost the war with the gods in this land and thus their power remained.

Kezmit was very curious as to how Kalidnay appeared to exist in two places with two different histories. Kira explained that there were many tales of outsiders to her lands that appeared out of the Mists. They sometimes spoke of strange sounding lands that none here had ever heard of. Kira and Evan believe that strong events of evil can draw the Mists into other worlds and rip the lands into their own. Thakok-An’s betrayal of her family and the powerful magic of Kalid-Ma could certainly have been strong enough to attract the attention of the Mists.

There was also interest in the nature of Kazandra and the similarity between her hunger for blood and that of Sacha and Wyan. Kira did not think that the two were the same type of creatures, for in her experience, a beheaded vampire was a dead vampire. They still wondered what would have happened had they allowed the floating heads to drink from them in the depths of the Ziggurat of Kalak.

Evan returned from his research and they discussed his findings over a meal of strange foods with strange customs. The formality and decadence, compared to most meals they were accustomed to, was amazing, as was the metal utensils used to eat the food. Although it was strange to them, they found it agreeable and this small comfort after so many hardships was very welcome.

Evan informed them that he could not find a way to return them directly to Athas as such magic was beyond him, if it was possible at all. He had located what could be another source of magic from Athas and believed that if they investigated it, they might find a way home. Unfortunately the source of this magic was located in the city of Moil, know as the City that Waits, a place where the dead have consumed the living. Having no other viable options, the group decided to search Moil for a way home.

Before they left, Evan presented Gwyn and Kelvor with magical rings and also gave Kezmit a pouch of bone dust that would aid them in fighting ghosts and other immaterial creatures. Evan was able to adapt his also instructed Jarvix in the rituals to open portals between magic circles. Although of limited use at this time, should they encounter these circles in Athas, it could be a substantial advantage. With that, Evan opened another portal to the city of Moil and they bid their farewells to Evan, including Kira, who decided to take a leave of absence from her studies with Evan and accompany the party.

Moil
City of Moil When they stepped through the portal, an ice-shrouded city of shattered stone spires and decaying arched bridges came into view from out of the swirling grey mist. Gray lightning occasionally surged within the clouds providing some illumination. and a boiling sea of black surrounded the base of the tower a hundred feet below. Several other spires connected to the one closest to the group, but uncounted hundreds more spread further in the distance, their shattered bridges out of reach.

Freezing air and a sullen darkness enveloped the party as a series of fractured black columns come into view when they adjusted to the dim light. The cracked stone floor sloped steeply down toward an archway opening onto a dead black mist, and above them a partial domed ceiling framed the sky. However, the howling creatures lurching forward to attack were a more immediate concern. The experienced adventurers were able to brace themselves for the attack and made short work of their opponents. Jarvix conjured shards of nothingness to hold fast the zombies while Li-Am’s was able to conjure waves of flame that blasted his foes. Two of the creatures had powerful chilling claws and Kelvor nearly perished before he was able to shake off the effects. In fact most of the party were unable to shake off the lingering wounds in this cold realm.

The group began to explore the city, slowly making their way across the icy bridges, even watchful for enemies or signs of the magic they were looking for. Elleandra and Gwyn were able to navigate slightly within the strange dead city, but so much was ruined that there didn’t appear to be a direct path. Along the way they saw many groups of different types of undead, including a large formation of tightly packed bodies slowly making its way across a nearby bridge.

At an intersection of bridges, the party barely avoided an unpleasant surprise by a group of several different types of spectral beings. The party was harassed by the banshee’s cries, the necrotic aura of the wraiths, and the nighthaunt’s constant attempts to feed off of their very souls. Kezmit chose not to use the limited supply of bone dust on these foes and the party was fortunately able to vanquish them.

The party moved on, heading to the northeast, in the general direction of the dragon magic they were attempting to find. Unfortunately the bridge they were on collapsed partway to their destination and there was no method of crossing it. Before they could turn around, the adventurers were set upon by a group of zombies that appeared to be patrolling the city…

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Ruins of Kalidnay

The Enemy of my Enemy…
Kelvor and his allies took in the captives in the jail cell and they were amazed by their appearance – the three women appeared to be smaller and frailer than most on Athas, with paler skin (one of the captives was exceptionally pale) and their clothing had an exceptional amount of metal. The weary party was unsure what the next best course of action was when the extremely pale one suggested that they be set free.

The captives spoke with strange accents, talked of places unknown and claimed to have been imprisoned for nothing more than being outsiders in this strange land. They were ignorant of many things the party took for granted making it clear that they were outsiders in this shadow Kalidnay. The party, naturally being skeptical, was somewhat reluctant to trust them, but the sounds of approaching creatures pushed them into action. The extremely pale woman, who was called Kazandra, removed a slender metal pin and deftly unlocked the cell. Morg moved into action breaking open a cell with his axe while the third woman was freed from her cell by the other party members.

Just as the captive women had recovered their gear, several ghosts entered the jail through the walls, while a pair of devils entered through the doorway. Gwyn and her allies quickly adapted to fighting alongside Melantha and her allies, but the combination of the devils weakening aura and the ghosts ability to resist damage made if very difficult to overcome their foes.

Melantha had spotted what might have been a secret door leading out of the jail, but it was forgotten about in the heat of combat. The devils tried to focus on Morg, but Kelvor was able to keep them occupied for most of the fight. The ghosts began shrieking so powerfully that they pushed the two groups back and immobilized some with fear. They appeared motivated to slay the heroes as they had been slain by Thakok-An. Eventually Kazandra realized the futility of the combat and activated the secret door, fleeing outside the pyramid before more opponents entered the combat.

Slowly the party made a strategic withdrawal from the ziggurat with Melantha and Jarvix staying behind. The devils moved to pursue Morg, who was still carrying the head of Kalid-Ma. Hoping to stall any pursuit, Kazandra grabbed the head from Morg and tossed it to the devils, who gleefully picked it up. Jarvix was the last in the jail and closed the secret door sealing himself in. He made one attempt to use the Way to retrieve the head, but the devils had too tight a hold on it. He then disappeared, teleporting through the wall to his friends on the other side.

Going to Ground
Thakok-An searching KaldinayThe large group found themselves in a deserted section of the city, and had brief moment to discuss their next move. The Melantha and Kira appeared to be searching for a friend that they were travelling with, who they had lost contact with during their capture (something that they blamed Kazandra for). Kazandra claimed to know how to find their friend, a wizard by the name of Evan.

Kelvor wanted to locate safe location where they could form a long-term plan. He thought that there might be an area of abandoned warehouses that would serve them well. Other options and concerns were discussed but none of the other plans appeared viable at the time. Fed up with the debate, and returning with some stolen clothes, a less-pale Kazandra started out in the same general direction that Kelvor wanted to go, saying that they could follow her and live or stay and be captured again. They all decided to follow her.

For three difficult hours they made their way through the city, without attracting attention from any guard patrols, attempting to throw off any pursuers by climbing walls and muscling around the many impediments. The makeshift disguises they were able to piece together from the stolen clothes helped them blend in when they were spotted by locals. Although they were mostly successful, the group’s luck eventually ran out and they stumbled into a group of well armed individuals.

Fearing another combat, Jarvix and Gwyn were relieved to see one of the individuals make a sign of the Veiled Alliance. When they reciprocated, they were escorted into an abandoned villa and asked to wait. The party noticed a number of tattered banners with a black diamond on them, the symbol of House Vordon. After a small wait, an undead creature, who looked to have once been a human female came out of one of the buildings. Seeing the resemblance to Yarnath, they prepared for a fight.

The undead bowed to them, introduced herself as Laylon-Ka, and invited them into a building for rest and discussion. Unsure of her true intentions, the party was eventually convinced that she might not be out to kill them, having appeared to taken great offense at the accusation that she might practice defiling magic. They entered what appeared to be a meeting hall and found several individuals seated around a long table eating and discussing. Kira and Melantha recognized one of them as their friend Evan.

Answers and Questions
Pleased at being reunited with their friend, Evan explained how, during their capture, he was pushed aside by Kazandra so that he wasn’t captured. He had been found by Laylon-Ka and only recently had he been strong enough to start planning a rescue. When asked how they had come to be in Kalidnay, he told of his discovery of an powerful magic object that hinted at being of great power. He was searching for the power to break free from the grips of a powerful wizard in his own lands. He produced an obsidian orb from beneath his cloak – an Orb of Kalid-Ma.

Elleandra was very interested in acquiring the orb and eventually a deal was struck – Evan would give the orb over to her, in exchange for the tomes recovered from the Ziggurat. Although reluctant to hand over such information to a stranger, Jarvix was convinced that he had no intention of becoming a sorcerer-king, even if the books contained enough information to do so. Evan also offered to help send the party back to Athas, although he wasn’t exactly sure how to accomplish it.

They all took a much needed rest and learned a bit of the events that transpired in Kalidnay. Laylon-Ka, was a member of the Veiled Alliance and House Vordon, 200 years ago, when Kalidnay shifted into the Gray. It was because of the actions of his high Templar, Thakok-An, that the sorcerer-kings transformation into a Dragon failed. She had no knowledge of the other sorcerer-kings marching on the city, nor was there an explanation in the apparent differences between the passage of time, for on Athas it is believed that Kalidnay was destroyed some 1200 years ago.

The rest and discussions were interrupted by a commotion in the courtyard, apparently the forces of Thakok-An had breached the defenses and begun an attack. Everyone rushed to the courtyard, except Evan, who’s magic was useless in this land. A massive army surrounded the templar who appeared quite pleased. Neither side wasted time with with false pleasantries.

Jarvix hoped to used his skills with the Way to ensnare many of the weaker soldiers found that Thakok-An’s own templars were projecting auras that blocked him. While the others made subtle maneuvers to get into an optimal position, Morg charged in towards Thakok-An. Her half-giant guards intercepted him and quickly knocked him down, barely alive. Thakok-An moved over him and jabbed her spear into his chest, calling out…

“Accept this sacrifice and aid me as you have in the past, destroy my enemies and feast upon their souls!”

A cloud of black smoke gathered around Morg’s lifeless body and a terrible demon emerged. Looking hungrily at his enemies, he waded into battle quickly reaching the larger group. They threw weapons and spells at the beast and slowly began to weaken it, but it gave as good as it got and severely wounded many of those in combat, including some of its allies. Kira finally defeated the foul creature as she assumed the form of a large tiger and decapitated it with a savage bite.

Melantha and Kazandra skirted the main fight and worked their way around to try and attack Thakok-An from behind. Their strategy proved very effective, but Thakok-An dominated Melantha’s mind with her own, forcing her out of position, attacking her friends instead. Eventually the Melantha was able to break free of the domination and she and Kazandra, who had once again become pale and bore fangs, were finally able to strike at Thakok-An, who somehow managed to stay on her feet.

Vinara was efficiently dispatching the defilers and their guards during the fight with her spear. She also managed to get Morg up onto his feet and back into the fray before he truly died. Gwyn magic was strong and she wrapped her enemies in fiery serpents, binding them together, while her dragon scales help her resist the attacks of the soldiers.

Thakok-An finally fell as Kira transformed into her human form again and hurled a radiant ball of energy, striking the templar squarely in the chest. As she fell a strange transformation of the land began to occur with mists rising up from the sand. Kira, Elleandra and Vinara felt a disturbing sensation as if the land itself was being erased. Not only the land, but also many of the inhabitants themselves were consumed by the Mists. When it was over only a few dozen people remained around Vinara and her allies.

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Ruins of Kalidnay

Secrets Revealed
Although the party was unsure what to make of the possible relationship between Kelvor and the defiler Tethrades, they knew they didn’t want to simply hand him over without answers. Jarvix used the Way to summon motes of nothingness to hold the House Shom troops in place. Elleandra’s magic caused they to experience visions of hordes of flesh-devouring sprites and she summoned a small tornado to lift one of the muls into the air. Gwyn wrapped her foes in fiery serpents dragging two of the guards and holding them together.

The House Shom forces were well trained and caused many injuries to the party. Morg was overwhelmed by the three warriors he was facing and briefly fell. Vinara was able call upon her primal powers to keep Morg and the rest alive, but it was a deadly combat. Kelvor engaged Tethrades with a passion – his focus on the defiler was an indication that there may be some relationship between the two.

During the fight Tethrades provided critiques on Kelvor’s use of the Way, praising him for his abilities and taking credit for helping him reach such power. Dalem and Marisol remained mostly neutral in the conflict, apparently each being confused by the turn of events. Only when Gwyn was severely injured by some caravan guards that came in to investigate the disturbances did Marisol use her powers of the Way to defeat them.

Finally free of some of the restraining magic that was affecting him, Dalem made a break for it and disappeared through a secret door behind of the statues in the room. Along the way he grabbed one of the metal cylinders containing the plague infested shaqat beetles. Marisol broke free from the combat and headed after him, saying nothing to the others.

As the tide of the battle had clearly shifted away from the forces of House Shom, Tethrades used his magic to open a doorway and disappear from sight. The party quickly mopped up the remaining forces and the additional caravan guards that had just entered dropped their weapons and fled from the ziggurat. Although they wanted to pursue Dalem, Marisol and Tethrades, the party demanded answers from Kelvor.

Kelvor reluctantly explained that his true name was Dravus and in his past he had been a member of the Balic navy as was tradition in his family. He had been approached by Tethrades, a praetor of Andropinis, to be recruited for a special project and to defy a preator meant death. The special project was designed to unlock psionic potential in its subjects, but was more akin to sadistic torture than true research. Eventually he fled the city and adopted a new name and life for himself.

Satisfied with Kelvor’s answer, for now, the party decided to search the ziggurat.

Betrayal
The first floor of the ziggurat contained a spiral staircase heading up to the second floor. There were two other rooms on this level, both open to the outside through large cracks in the structure. One room was completely filled with rubble, its contents and purpose unknown. The other larger room appeared to be a laboratory where research was being conducted, likely on the shaqat beetles. The crack in this room appeared to be a mix of natural and worked stone, suggesting a passageway may have once connected this room to the outside.

The second floor contained four small rooms around the central stairs that continued up. A throne room and dining room were in obvious disrepair, but not open to the outside. The large crack in the ziggurat did break through in to the other two rooms. One of which had a large crack and hole in the floor the purpose of which was not readily understood. The final room on the floor appeared to hold a number of writings and tables but the weather and time had all but destroyed the contents.

On the third floor there were only two rooms, neither of which was affected by the crack in the side of the ziggurat. One room appeared to have been a library of some kind, but the contents were is complete disarray and it would have taken a significant amount of time to piece together anything, time that the party did not have. The second room was relatively intact but empty. There were strange markings on the floor but that was all. The central staircase ended here, but a secondary staircase continued up.

The fourth floor was a single large room with an arcane circle on the floor. The exact nature of the circle was undetermined, but it appeared to be for some type of summoning magic. The circle appeared to be inactive and possibly damaged. From the roof of the ziggurat above, sounds of a struggle were heard and the party ascended the stairs quickly.

On the top of the roof Dalem and Marisol were locked in a struggle and as they fought, the party could overhear what they were saying…

“You promised to help my family regain their fortunes!” Dalem cried out “We both could have been rich beyond measure. How could you betray me?”
Marisol retorted with a stony look in her eyes, “Yes I promised Dalem, but I lied. The Shadow King will not allow your plan to succeed!”

The party was more confused than ever to have Marisol invoke the name of the Shadow King, the sorcerer-king of the city-state of Nibenay. Noticing her daughter for the first time, Marisol called out to her, “Gwyn, help me defeat this scum and make your father proud. Not that fool Jalek. Haven’t you wondered about the source of your draconic nature?”

Unable to hold back any longer, the party attacked Marisol and Dalem. Gwyn pleaded with the party to subdue Marisol so she could be answers she needed. Her friends didn’t appear to care that much and some of their attacks were lethal in nature. Dalem was the first to drop, nearly pushed over the edge several times. Gwyn’s magic finally hurled him and the canister off the top of the ziggurat. Marisol called out to Gwyn one last time; “Your father will reward you for your assistance. Now convince your friends to join us in the service of the Shadow King or they will perish.”

As the fight continued a hot dusty wind began to blow around the ziggurat, intensifying every moment and obscuring the ruined city below. Vinara’s magic was able to keep the storm off of the ziggurat itself, but outside here influence it became stronger and stronger every moment. The speed and intensity of the storm was clearly not natural.

Gwyn and the party had no desire to serve any sorcerer-king and combat continued, again with Gwyn pleading to capture Marisol and not kill her. Kelvor and Elleandra showed restraint in their attacks, but the others appeared more eager to dispatch an agent of a sorcerer-king. Kelvor was overwhelmed by Marisol’s use of the Way and fell. However, eventually Marisol fell to their attacks, Elleandra’s psychic assault knocking her unconscious.

Ziggurat of Kalid-MaAs they tended to Kelvor the sand storm dissipated as quickly as it started and the party was shocked to see that beneath them was a city that appeared to be inhabited. The ziggurat, that moments before was cracked and ruined, appeared to have been repaired. Although it was difficult to make our from this height, there were no signs of the House Shom caravan and the people below appeared to be dressed in archaic clothing. It was then that the party noticed Marisol was not to be found.

The Descent
A small commotion below alerted the party that their presence on the top of the ziggurat was likely noticed. Rather than attempt to scale down the side of the steep structure, they descended down into the ziggurat through the stairs. Elleandra noticed that her tree felt incredibly distant and that Morg was unable to clearly hear the spirits that usually spoke to him. The party suspected that the strange storm had transported them to some different place and time.

The summoning circle on the fourth floor was intact and clearly active. The entire room was protected by physical and magical wards, nothing like the ruined room they had just left moments before. The party was able to locate and suppress the wards long enough to exit the room safely.

On the third floor the found that the library was intact and well stocked with books, scrolls tablets and other writings. Jarvix investigated this area and found several intact works that were of interest to him. Elleandra’s orb was confused, excited and terrified but it urged her to investigate the other room on this floor, the door to which was closed and warded as well. After bypassing the protection, she, Vinara and Morg entered a room to find a closed sarcophagus where nothing had been before. Cautiously opening it, they found a body inside, completely still, and Elleandra recognized it as the body of Kalid-Ma. Vinara gently poked the body with her spear and seeing no response, she slid the spear into his chest as Morg used his axe to chop off the head. With his typical style, he took the severed head as they left the room.

The rooms on the second floor were closed in this ziggurat and the group took a few moments to investigate. The throne room was intact and dusty as if it hadn’t been used too frequently. What had been the room with the hole in the floor now held a large cistern of water – a precious treasure. Where ruined tables and papers had been there was an organized collection of documents that appeared to pertain to the normal operation of the city. Strangely the dates on the paper showed the current year to be Mountain’s Reverence in the 176 King’s Age. Some commotion could be heard from the first floor, but nothing specific could be determined.

The party cautiously headed down the to main floor and discovered that the secret door to the main entry hall was closed. The small room contained a large brazier and it was obvious that the crack had been repaired. Instead of a laboratory, it appeared that a holding area or jail was in the larger room. The broken wall in that room too had been repaired offering no exit from the ziggurat. The party could make out some of the content of the conversation in the main entry room – there appeared to be a disagreement about whether or not intruders were in the pyramid. A slight shuffling could be heard and it was then that the party noticed that in the jail cells were three women…

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Ruins of Kalidnay

A New Journey
Following The Festival of the Soaring Sun, the group prepared to head out from the village of Kled to the find the ruins of Kalidnay. The weeks they had spent training the dwarves appeared to have been successful, and they felt confident that the new Tree of Life was in good hands.

The party realized the first of many difficulties with the two week journey – survival. The food, water and other supplies for such an extended journey we’re now than they could carry, and they didn’t know if there were any friendly places to really on the way. Jarvix provided the solution as he was able to create a floating disc using his powers with the Way which could support the weight.

The group traveled for three days through the stony barrens around Kled and then for a day along the road south. The party passed several small caravans but there was little to distract them during their travels.

House Shom
Along the road the party slowy overtook a large caravan of kanks and mekillots, bearing banners of three dragonflies on a red and black background – the symbol of House Shom. Having helped House Shom in the past, the party hailed them as the passed by. To their surprise, Dalem Shom emerged from the caravan. Gwyn and Kelvor were particularly surprised to see a member of the Shom family outside of a city-state. They struck up a brief conversation that was interrupted by another surprise – an elf emerged from inside the howdah who addressed Gwyn by name. Gwyn introduced the elf as Marisol, her mother.

The party learned that the caravan was headed to Fort Melidor, near the Lost Oasis, on a secret project devised by Dalem that would help restore the fortunes of House Shom. Marisol was working with Dalem to allow the Sky Singers tribe to get a cut of the profits. The party joined with the caravan as they were curious about the project, Gwyn and Marisol were eager to catch up, and the Lost Oasis was close to the rounds of Kalidnay. Vinara was the least eager to join with them, wanting to stay focused on their goal, but agreed nonetheless.

The next few days were mostly uneventful, with the regular House Shom employees taking care of the mundane tasks. Marisol and Gwyn spent most of the time talking. Although Marisol had a harsh view of arcane magic, Gwyn was able to reconcile most of their differences and a better understanding was reached between mother and daughter. Morg and Kelvor spent most of their time outside on guard duty, unsure about the nature of the cargo and what dangers it might attract. Vinara tended to the caravan’s animals, that were being pushed too hard by indifferent caravan handlers.

Jarvix spent the days pondering the nature of the cargo. One day he used his talents with the Way to gain access to the cargo. Although he only had moments, he was able to determine the caravan was hauling hundreds of metal cylinders – a precious cargo. He was not able to determine what the cylinders’ purpose. That night the party was approached by Marisol. She confided with them and revealed that she was not with the House Shom caravan as a member of the Sky Singer elf tribe, but rather as an agent of The Order. She asked Gwyn and her allies to help uncover Dalem’s true objectives and they agreed.

One afternoon the caravan was set upon by raiders from one of the many nameless bands. The caravan guards were aided by the party and repelled the dozen or so attackers. Only a few of the guards suffered critical injuries. Jarvix stayed out of the fight and looked into the caravan’s cargo again. He was able to determine that the cylinders were hollow and had screw-caps. However, their true purpose was still unknown.

Later that night, the group was attacked by a dozen or so abyssal plague zombies and a larger demon. The plague zombies were the remains of the raiders that attacked earlier and were quickly taken down by the party. The larger demon was more of a threat, but it was destroyed before the caravan guards could respond. Dalem was so impressed by them that he offered them employment with his House to guard the caravans. He revealed that his associates were altering Shaqat Beetles to carry a disease that inhibited a persons use of the Way. He planned to sell the weapon and use it against rivals or uncooperative customers. The party agreed to his terms when he mentioned the source of the disease was in the ruins of Kalidnay, which was their final destination.

Kalidnay
Fort MelidorAt last the caravan arrived at Fort Melidor, a sleepy outpost on the edge of the verdant belt north if the Lost Oasis. The fort was surrounded by earthen ramparts and a ditch filled with brambleweed. The caravan was let into a dusty square and everyone waited for Dalem to conduct business at the palatial manor inside a lush garden at the center of the compound. Once finished the caravan headed south for the last leg of their journey.

As the afternoon wore on, the caravan started passing ruined buildings and small fortifications, ancient fields and the defenses of the city. Skeletons of hundreds of people were visible, scattered along the weathered road. The skeletons could be seen slumped in their seats, suggesting that whatever happened to Kalidnay struck swiftly and without warning. The city itself was almost completely ruined, but the looming shape of a ziggurat in the center of the city could still be seen.

The caravan followed the main road to the center of the city and stopped outside the ziggurat. Dalem’s crew set about unloading the caravan while he, Marisol and the party entered the main floor of the ziggurat. The central chamber contained cages full of shaqat beetles along the walls and a strange apparatus on a central table. Several guards stood around the room and agents worked over the apparatus.

One of the agents approached Dalem and the two began discussing the logistics of the operation. As they talked the party got a good view of the process. The agents passed shaqat beetles into a glass box, operate the device and then transfer the beetles to a metal tube which is then sealed. The whole process appeared to take only minutes and the number of beetles in the room could easily fill the containers brought by the caravan.

The conversation between the agent and Dalem abruptly halted as the agent starred at Kelvor. A look of recognition could be seen on both their faces. The agent addressed Kelvor…

“Dravus, it has been a long time my friend. I was disgraced when you left us in Balic, but now that I have you and my project here, Andropinis will reward me greatly.”

Confusion spread quickly to everyone in the chamber. Dalem appeared panicked about the possibility that his plans were in jeopardy and kept asking the agent, who he addressed as Tethrades, to explain what was going on. Kelvor was shocked at the situation and was unable to answer his friends questions. Kelvor’s friends rejected the assertions that Tethrades would take Kelvor against his will, although they were confused as well. Only Marisol remained silent, observing the situation as it unfolded. The tension broke when the guards moved towards Kelvor and Morg charged to intercept them.

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Festival of the Soaring Sun

Reflection
The battle with the demons had been intense and while they recovered, the group came together to reflect on what they have been trying to accomplish over the last few months. They discussed their individual goals as well as their overall objective of trying to help restore Athas to the Green Age. Although everyone had their own reasons they reaffirmed their commitment to each other. Morg in particular attempted to set forth a strategy of gathering allies and weapons that would be essential to the success of their endeavors, framing it in the context of a gladiatorial combat.

While recovering from the battle with the demons, the group recalled various stories they had heard about similar creatures and the strange red crystals. While most of the legends were vague and shrouded in the distant past, they commonly referred to a disease called the Abyssal Plague; a highly contagious disease that gives the infected great strength but also an insatiable hunger for destruction. Each of the party had come into contact with the disease while fighting the creatures, but only Jarvix and Elleandra showed signs of infection.

Concerned for their health, but unable to do anything at the moment, the group collected their strength and returned to the surface. Having overcome the hazards on their way to the cavern of the Crystal of Ebon Flame, it was relatively easy for them to make it out without any hardship.

Planting the Tree
Upon returning to Kled the group met with Lyanius to discuss their discovery and their plans for planting the seed. Once again they were treated as heroes for surviving the perilous caverns and returning with news of the missing dwarves. Lyanius was very wary of the crystal, even though it could contain a divine spark, the curse by the primordials made him unwilling to have it remain in Kled. It was agreed that the crystal would remain with Morg and his allies and that the dwarves would seal off that section of the caverns.

When they presented their case for growing a Tree of Life in the ruins of Kemalok, Lyanius was initially quite concerned about the attention that it might draw to his city. The secrecy of Kemalok was paramount in his mind. The group was able to convince him that they would be able to help protect the tree and Kled while ensuring the safety of Kemalok. Jarvix offered to enlist the Veiled Alliance of Tyr to provide training and to help defend the dwarves.

Eventually Lyanius was swayed and they decided that the seed we be planted outside the Tower of Buryn where Rkard could also watch over it. A small group of chosen guardians accompanied Lyanius and the party into the ruins of Kemalok where Rkard allowed them to pass into the courtyard. Vinara planted the seed of life in a small mound of sandy earth and precious water was sprinkled upon the ground.

When the seed was planted in the sandy earth, silence fell upon the courtyard. Within moments a tiny pale green shoot could be seen rising out of the small mound in which the seed was planted. It began to sprout and take root quickly growing into a small sapling. However, the growth slowed and stopped as suddenly as it began. Knowing that the seed had been drained during the resurrection of Kalak, Vinara, Gwyn, Morg and Kelvor all sacrificed some of their life force to the seed to allow it to continue to grow. The sapling grew into a sturdy tree about 15 feet tall before settling down.

ElleandraVinara announced her intention to become the guardian druid of this tree of life. She hoped that by protecting and nurturing this tree, more trees could be grown, potentially creating more Heartwood Spears to be used against the sorcerer-kings and other defilers.

A change came over Elleandra as well – she became elated and began to dance around and climb on the tree. As she did so, she shed her clothes and changed her physical form to match that of the tree – barky skin, leaves and vines. Nothing like this had happened in Athas for thousands of years.

Festival of the Soaring Sun
Elleandra needed time to bond with her new tree and the others utilized this time to help train the dwarves to better be able to defend their home. Lyanius requested the Morg stay through the upcoming festival of the soaring sun, which was just over a month away, and he agreed. During the following month, each of the party members worked with the dwarves.

WIth the efforts of Jarvix and Gwyn, the Veiled Alliance sent a small group to establish an outpost in Kled to speed up communications in the event of trouble. A few of the dwarves even showed some aptitude with the Way or preserving and the Veiled Alliance worked to train them to use their powers.

Elleandra and Vinara spent most of there time with the new tree and showing the dwarves how best to care for it. The new tree took root quickly, and over the weeks, flowers spring across the cavern floor, vines began to snake across the slopes, and the tree of life began to flourish.

Morg and Kelvor saw to the organization of the dwarves into a more well-defined fighting force. Much to Morg’s surprise, he discovered that when he was holding the Axe of Rkard he was able to now read the dwarven writings, and the two also spent time pouring over the many of the old writings that had been discovered in the ruins.

The festival itself was a very important time for the dwarves, who practically revered the sun. The festival marked the turning point where the sun began to be higher in the sky and shine more intensely. Lyanius felt that this change in the seasons coinciding with the possible change in Athas that started with the planting of the Tree of Life was no mere coincidence, but rather a sign confirming the party’s role in the restoration of Athas.

On the last day, as the party began their preparations to head south to the ruins of Kalidnay, Lyanius presented Morg with the Belt of Kings as a gift for dedication to the protection of the Kemalok.

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Return to Kemalok

Ancient Discovery
Upon their arrival at Keld, the group was escorted to meet with Lyanius, the village elder. With typical dwarf brevity, a few pleasantries were exchanged and then he got down to business. A few weeks earlier a new excavation in the ruins of Kemalok opened a passageway that clearly had not been open in a very long time. A group of explorers ventured in, but were not heard from again. A second group went in to locate the missing dwarves but only located ancient scrolls. Leaving the scrolls behind, they went back in to try their luck, but were not heard from since.

Lyanius tasked Morg with going in and searching for the missing dwarves and discovering if there were any threats to Kled in the tunnels. Morg and the rest agreed and sought to use this opportunity to look for a suitable location to plant the seed to the Tree of Life. Before departing, Kelvor asked if they had any information relating to the Swords of Tyr. Unfortunately the dwarves had nothing to share on those weapons of the Veiled Alliance.

Curious about the recovered scrolls, the group examined them, but found that the language was not familiar to any of them. Using her ritual magic, with the assistance of Jarvix, Elleandra and Vinara, Gwyn was able to translate the writing on the scrolls, which were referred to as the Scrolls of the Sonlinor. With new insight into the history of their world and possibly the sorcerer-kings, they felt as prepared as they could be.

Travelling Underground
Escorted by dwarven guards, the group passed by the Tower of Buren and headed into the newly opened areas. At the entrance to the tunnels, they left their escorts behind and began their search. The tunnels all began to look the same and they risked getting lost, but Vinara’s keen eyes kept them on the trail left by the dwarves. Their path led them to a section of the tunnels that had sharp rocks jutting out from the floor and walls. The brute strength of the party was sufficient to push through and not suffer too many cuts, although a few injuries were taken.

Not far beyond the sharp rocks, a sinkhole had formed in the passageway, blocking their progress. Although the hole didn’t appear too deep and Gwyn’s dragonling was able to bring ropes across without trouble, most of the group ended up in the pit and suffered some injuries, although mostly to their pride.

Their wanderings led them deeper into the earth and although the trail became more difficult to follow, Gwyn and Vinara were sure they were headed the right direction. The path before them became slightly obstructed with strange red and silver crystalline growths. These crystals were unfamiliar to any in the group and appeared to be solid and liquid at the same time. Unsure of how to proceed, Gwyn tried touching one of the crystals were her hand; immediately regretting it as it caused her intense pain. They managed to pass by the crystals without suffering to much, although they found that completely avoid contact was virtually impossible.

The passageway came to an end where fresh boulders appeared to have fallen, blocking the way. Gwyn and Morg were able to pry many of the rock out of the passageway, while Jarvix made sure that they would not cause a further cave in. When enough of the rocks were moved, they could see a large chamber ahead of them, with a faintly glowing crystal on a raised pedestal.

The Crystal of Ebon Flame
The chamber before them was empty except for a few traces of the crystalline material found earlier. Feeling they had found what they were looking for, and seeing no immediate danger in the room, the group moved forward towards the pedestal. Still seeing no threats Morg moved up on to the raised platform and grasped the crystal. He looked distracted for a moment and then tossed the crystal to Elleandra, who caught it instinctively. She too looked distracted for a moment, and then stowed the crystal.

When the crystal was removed shuffling and skittering was heard in the previous silence. From around several pillars, a dozen dwarves moved out into sight. It was obvious that the missing dwarves were no longer alive, as these could be seen to be grey and decaying with red crystals protruding from their skin and dark red liquid oozing from their eyes, mouths and open wounds. Between the dwarves, swarms of tiny red beetles with barbed pincers dripping red liquid from their crystalline bodes.

Crystalline SpidersThe party quickly formed a ring around bear and began to defend themselves against the deadly creatures. The battle was joined by four 10 foot tall creatures resembling crystalline spiders. Elleandra, Jarvix and Gwyn attempted to destroy the swarms and dwarves with their spells, while Kelvor and Morg concentrated on the larger creatures. Vinara assisted where needed and used her healing abilities to keep the party from being overcome by the deadly creatures.

During the attack, the swarms approached and, horrifyingly, entered Elleandra, Morg, Kelvor and Jarvix who briefly turned on their allies. Fortunately, they were able to shake off the effects of the beetles and expelled them from their bodies. Kelvor used his abilities with the Way to attract and keep the attention of as many of the creatures as possible, but he was overwhelmed at one point, briefly dropping unconscious.

In the end, the group was able to defeat these foul beasts and was able to take a brief rest before returning to the surface.

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Return to Kemalok

Journey to Kled
After tending to their injuries from the conflict with the Broken Builder cultists, the group set out towards Kled early the following morning, well before the heat of day set in. Eager to plant a new Tree of Life quickly, they tried their best to make good time on their week-long journey. All of the group, except Elleandra and Jarvix were accustomed by now to the rigors to overland travel, but the speed at which they attempted to move at was taxing to all of them.

Ringing Mountains FoothillsAfter about four days of travel, Jarvix thought he recognized a particular landmark in the foothillls of the Ringing Mountains, one that he had read about. Certain that he could save some time, the party followed his lead. Unfortunately, his information was somewhat outdated and the group reached a dead end. Having to backtrack quite a ways, the frustrated group was startled when they came under attack by swarms of scorpions which were quickly joined by a single gigantic scorpion.

Morg moved quickly to engage the swarms before they could cause too much damage and Kelvor moved to get the gigantic scorpions attention while Jarvix also befuddled it. Several well-timed spells by Gwyn and attacks quickly wore down their attackers, but Elleandra was held in the pincers of the large scorpion. Vinara used her magic to lift her to safety as Bear was overcome by the swarms. Morg dealt a fatal blow to the massive scorpion and the rest of the group finished off the smaller beasts.

Yarnath’s Return
Vinara coaxed Bear back to health and the others had only enough time to notice that the largest scorpion was unnatural in origin before a disturbance on a nearby hill drew their attention from the remains of the creatures. Behind a company of skeletal archers were two familiar figures – Castri and Yarnath.

With little pleasantries, Yarnath demanded the return of the Crown and Kelvor declined. An opening volley of arrows from the archers was targeted at Vinara, attempting to neutralize her. Both sides having faced each other before, each new how to counter the other’s strengths. Jarvix used his powers with the Way to weaken Yarnath’s defenses. Eventually Vinara landed a massive strike with the Heartwood Spear, crippling Yarnath. However it was a spell from Elleandra that finally finished off the terrifying undead defiler. Vinara dealt the final blow to their former comrade and Castri finally found peace.

Arrival at Kled
The group rested in the foothills as best they could and buried the remains of Castri. Yarnth’s body was dismembered and burned to prevent his return from death, again. The following morning they group moved on towards Kled. The rest of their journey was uneventful, although in total it took them nine days to reach the village.

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Interlude

Rest and Recovery
Several weeks passed after the events at the Ziggurat, giving the heroes time to take a much needed rest and plan out their course of action. Life in Tyr settled down after the defeat of the True, although the leaders of Tyr still had not returned.

Vinara communed with the Wastewalker and the elemental spirits in an attempt to determine the best location to plant the seed from the Tree of Life. She received conflicting advice but one thing became clear, they had less then a month to plant the seed before it would die. After discussing with her allies, they decided to travel to the village of Kled and plant the seed there, hoping it would be safe in the hidden city and also help restore Kemalok to its former glory.

Morg made contact with Quick Wenzer to try and gain more insight into the whereabouts of the leaders of Tyr. Unfortunately no new information was gained, simply that they had disappeared before the events at the Ziggurat. In the king’s absence, the ruling council has begun to pass laws and take a more commanding role in the governing of the city. The hottest topic is what to do about the Dragon’s Levy, which is coming due in a few months. Morg’s personal interests in the events at Kled aligned with Vinara’s, and he was eager to join her.

Kelvor spent a good deal of his time trying to research the history of the Swords of Tyr and Jarvix was able to provide some of the answers he spoken. All of the indications were that the remaining swords were not likely to be in Tyr. His friend Karlen did not have any leads on swords matching the general description, but did pass along information that Castri’s mother had been by looking for him. Kelvor also learned a bit about the route the Dragon was likely to take when collecting the Levy and that there was an increase in patrol from the city-state of Balic. The knowledge likely to be contained in the ruins of Kled was of great interest for Kelvor, so he agreed to join the others on the journey to Kled.

Jarvix was able to use his influence in the Veiled Alliance to gain access to some of the restricted materials in the Golden Tower. In addition to helping get information on Kelvor’s swords, he found some records pertaining to the Orb of Kalid-Ma, once owned by the sorcerer-king of the city-state of Kalidnay. He also uncovered some additional lore regarding the Dragon’s Levy and the strange magic seen in the Fey Engine. Although somewhat unsure, Jarvix agreed to travel to Kled in the hopes of learning more and helping his friends.

Elleandra also talked with the more knowledgeable members of the Veiled Alliance regarding dragon magic and she decided to join the group on their journey to Kled to safeguard the seed and hopefully see it grow into a new tree. Her connection to the seed was evident although the exact nature was still somewhat uncertain. He also spent a good deal of time with Kelvor and Jarvix learning to focus her abilities withe the Way.

Gwyn too decided to join in the with her friends and travel to Kled. After reviewing what she learned in the Book of Kemalok Kings, some of the pieces of the past began to fall together. She was hopeful that there would be more information in the ruins of Kemalok and that her ability to decipher the ancient dwarven texts would continue to be useful.

The Snow Queen
As the group was preparing to leave for Kled, they were interrupted by a visitor to the tattoo shop. A woman, who introduced herself as Krystin, invited Gwyn, Morg, Vinara and Kelvor to a meeting with her mistress, a lady of House Arynd. Kelvor recognized the name Arynd, but knew little about them. Although they felt a sense of urgency regarding their trip to Kled, as well as some suspicion regarding the meeting, they accepted and left for the Noble District. Elleandra and Jarvix followed behind, attempting to not draw attention to themselves.

Inside a darkened building on the edge of the Noble District and Merchant District they were introduced to Adina Arynd who provided them with water and invited them to sit down. She asked about the whereabouts of her son, Castri, claiming to want to attempt a reconciliation with him. Kelvor evaded a direct answer to her question and both side quickly realized that each new more than they were saying. Adina’s questioning became more direct and she became more upset as the conversation continued. Gwyn was the first to notice that the room felt as if it was getting colder.

Outside the building, Jarvix and Elleandra had moved as close as they could and spotted Krystin in one of the adjacent buildings. Inside raised voices could be heard as Adina became more agitated as her questions about her son started to include the Crown of Dust. The room continued to become colder and Gwyn could feel the defiling power of Adina. In a fit of rage, she proclaimed that the Broken Builders would unravel the world once they had the crown and that the heroes would meet their death if they tried to interfere.

Adina AryndElleandra moved quickly to be in position to engage Krystin or Adina, harassing them with images of flesh-eating sprites. Kelvor moved to into melee with Adina, drawing her attention away from the rest of the group. To everyone’s horror, Adina knocked over the pitcher of water and it swirled and solidified into an abomination. She called out to the creature directing to to kill the Gwyn, who she referred to as ‘stupid elven scum, like the rest of them.’ The creature slamed into Gwyn with tremendous strength, releasing a blast of intense cold that burned her.

The party quickly realized the severity of the situation as many of their attacks were dodged or deflected by the trio. Jarvix was able to engage and contain Krystin while the others worked to bring down Olafra and Adina, each surviving several perfectly placed blows by Morg and Vinara. Morg drew the attention of Olafra and was briefly knocked unconscious by the ice creature before being revived by Vinara.

Despite limiting themselves to the confines of the meeting room, the group was eventually successful at overcoming the agents of the Broken Builders. Their attackers had little wealth on them and the precious water used to make Olafra quickly disappeared as the heat returned to the room. Jarvix had heard of these cultists and passed what he knew to the rest of the group as they rested and tended to their wounds.

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Interlude

Free City of TyrIn the weeks following the death of the resurrected sorcerer-king Kalak, the heroes were able to take a much deserved rest and took time to reflect on recent events. They attempted to put perspective on events and to begin to plan their next course of action…

  • The Veiled Alliance and Tyrian Guard have once again attempted to seal the Ziggurat and Golden Tower from the general public. The strange heads discovered in the chambers beneath the Golden Tower, Sacha and Wyan, have not been encountered again. What secrets might be held in the two structures or by the two heads?
  • The seed from the Tree of Life was badly damaged when it was used to resurrect Kalak, and appears to have been drained of much of its power. The seed has begun to start to open, suggesting that it must be planted soon or risk it dying. What is to be done with the powerful relic from Athas’ past?
  • The halflings of the Forest Ridge and the enigmatic Wastewalker appear to know much of the history of Athas. What other advice and insight could they offer to help the heroes accomplish the task set before them by the elemental spirits – the restoration of the Green Age? Are the heroes willing to continue on such dangerous quests?
  • The heroes continue to ponder the strange engine that was draining Elleandra’s home, the Lands Within the Wind, but are no closer to discovering its creator. The energy stolen from her lands was likely being transferred to some other realm. Who could have created such a powerful device and why?
  • The groups collection of powerful magic items has been growing, but the true natures of many are still uncertain. The Orbs of Kalid-Ma and The Shadowstaff are among the most enigmatic and very little information has been discovered about their true origins and purposes. Can these answers be found or have they been lost to the sands of time?
  • The two Swords of Tyr now possessed by Kelvor are powerful weapons clearly designed for a purpose. Kelvor has joined to two known swords together into a single weapon. The location of the other swords is unknown but the power of the weapon created by uniting them all would be incredible, if they could be found. What are the swords true purpose and where are they?
  • The Crown of Dust still remains with the group. Will all that use it fall to the same fate of their former ally Castri? If the crown is to be destroyed, where can such a feat be accomplished? What is the fate of Castri and his master Yarnath?
  • The regular shipments of obsidian from Kled have continued, bringing prosperity to the dwarves and the citizens of Tyr. A messenger accompanied that last delivery with news that the continued, secret restoration of Kemalok has continued but that a strange discovery was made deep beneath the tombs. Lyanius has asked for help from the heroes who help save their city. What has been uncovered beneath the sands?
  • It is said that the gods have long been absent from Athas, although many doubt if they ever had any real power. In the ruins beneath Kled, there was some tangible evidence of divinity and the power that it once had, a revelation that has been weighing heavily on Kelvor’s mind. What would be revealed by searching for the gods and what befell them?
  • The leaders of Tyr have been seen less and less often. There was no word regarding Rikus after his failed attempt to siege the city-state of Urik. King Tithian has not made a public appearance since before the attack by the True. Now Agis and Sadira have not been seen is some time. What could be attracting the attention of these powerful protectors of Tyr?
  • The time of the Dragon’s levy is rapidly approaching and how Tyr intends to satisfy the Dragon is unclear at this time. Legends tell of city-states that were decimated for refusing its demand, although for the only free city to surrender a thousand souls to certain doom is unthinkable for most of its residents. What course of action will be taken?
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