Dark Sun, The Scorched World of Athas

To Kalidnay

A New Journey

House Shom

Kalidnay

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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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Ashes of War

Race Against the True
The group moved deeper through the Ziggurat, Morg and Vinara noticed they were moving from beneath the Ziggurat and likely near the Golden Tower. They eventually found themselves before a room that looked to have once contained a great wealth of items, but was now filled with debris. Badly burned bookshelves, empty and broken chests and stone tables with broken items were all that was left of the room’s contents. As they took in the scene, two bloated mummified heads appeared from behind a bookshelf and floated a little closer to the party.

“Looks like they need our help, Sacha.”
“Most certainly. We know what they need to know, Wyan.”
“We saw him pass… quite some time ago… you need our help to catch him.”
“We know what he is up to, yes. Terrible.”

Curious and disgusted by the foul creatures, the group wanted to know about what the help they offered. The heads promised to show them short cut through the passageways so they could catch up with Merric. They claimed that without their help, it would be too late. When asked what the help would cost, they licked their lips and replied…

“We are so hungry. We need to drink from you.”
“A curse.”
“A terrible curse.”
“Not our fault. The treachery of others.”

Nobody in the party felt particularly comfortable with letting the creatures drink from them, nor were the heads willing to bargain with Morg. Feeling they were at an impasse, the group cautiously moved passed Sacha and Wyan, who continued to beg for a drink and to try and convince them of the need for help. However, they did let them pass. While moving through the room, Jarvix noticed an unusual bone scimitar and collected it, suspecting what he had found, he gave it to Kelvor.

The group made their way slowly through the maze of tunnels and rooms. They encountered many traps and narrowly avoided wandering shades. The dark energy flowing through the passageways served to guide them, but also took its toll, beginning to tax their stamina. It was difficult for them to tell how long they traveled and they began to question their decision to not accept the offer of assistance.

The Return of the King
Finally reaching the end of the twisting, horrifying corridors, the party came to a long hallway, the walls of which were covered in murals made of gems and bone. The murals depicted a male human in black metal armor battling brutish humanoids, with what looked very similar to the city of Tyr in the background. As they moved down the hallway, the human took on more and more draconic features, almost transforming iuntil he matched the image on the amulets of the True. The archway at the end of the hallway had a human figure on one side and a full draconic one on the other.

The archway opened into a large, circular room filled with a swirling cloud of ash. At the far side of the room they saw Merric and three robed figures around a pitted basalt alter. On the altar were four intact obsidian spheres and several broken orbs. Elleandra could feel one of the orbs calling to her orb. Also visible on the altar was the seed from the Tree of LIfe. Off to the sides, partially obscured by the ash a dozen or so True guards could be seen as well.

Morg announced their presence and combat ensured with the guards attempting to stall the party long enough for Merric’s ritual to be completed. Kelvor moved to engage Merric while Gwyn and the others focused their attacks on the guards. Using his skill with the Way, Jarvix slipped passed a number of the guards and pulled the seed from the altar to himself. The guards proved relatively easy to dispatch, but the robed defilers caused a great deal of trouble as the hurled ashen bolts.

Kalak RebornNot long after the combat started, the altar erupted, sending the orbs scattering and a large draconic figure emerged – a resurrected Kalak! Emboldened by his presence the True followers surged forward in a more vigorous attack. Aided by Elleandra and Kelvor, Morg swung his dwarven axe and struck true on the sorcerer-king, causing a massive wound that would have killed any normal person. So strong was his magic, that the wound, while painful, did not slow the beast down.

Kelvor was able to distract Merric with his scimitar and used a spike of psionic energy to cause him to harm himself. The blow from his own short sword was fatal and he collapsed to the ground. Elleandra summoned a jet of silver flame burning Kalak badly and forcing him to start draining the life energy from the robed cultists to restore his own health. The attacks of the sorcerer-king caused Gwyn and Jarvix to fall, but through the magic of Elleandra and Vinara, they were kept from death.

Morg struck the fatal blow on the former king of Tyr, causing his body to fall to the ground and crumble into dust. Elleandra recovered the orb and Kelvor retrieved the short sword form Merric’s corpse. Weary, wounded and grateful to be alive, the group found there way out of the Ziggurat, without encountering Sacha or Wyan, and prepared for a much needed rest.

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Ashes of War

Moon Chamber
As Morg, Vinara, Kelvor and Gwyn were recovering from their encounter with the exploding zombies each could feel the Ziggurat come “alive” in different ways. It appeared as if massive amounts of arcane, primal and psionic energy were being channeled somewhere. Although none knew for sure what was happening, they all agreed that it was bad and that there wasn’t much time.

Jarvix and Elleandra moved into the Ziggurat through dim passages. The pair stumbled into their friends and everyone was relieved to see that their friends were alright, at least for the moment. Everyone had a sense of unease and urgency about continuing into the Ziggurat and attempting to stop Merric from resurrecting Kalak.

The group wandered through the passages and descended a flight of stairs sized for something much taller than a human. The eventually reached a large chamber that appeared to be carved from a single enormous block of obsidian. Holes in the ceiling revealed focused beams of pale green moonlight which bounced off of smooth obsidian mirrors. The floor was covered in mosaics of draconic figures in various states of metamorphosis. The room contained numerous clay urns carved to resemble a creature contorted in pain, trying to push the lids free.

Wraith
Cautiously the group entered the room and moved towards the only exit. As they did so they began to feel energy stir as if the shadows were shifting within the stone. Foul apparitions rose from the clay urns and obsidian floor and walls. Their baleful gazes turned towards the party and the reached out with deadly intent. A few of the specters, sensing the power within Gwyn, Elleandra and Jarvix fled, but the rest proceeded to engage the party.

Most of the spirits were swiftly dispatched, but their large numbers proved to make them a difficult challenge and they moved in and out of the walls surrounding the group. Two of the wraiths were significantly more powerful then the others, radiating a foul cold that pierced flesh. The immaterial forms continued to regenerate and took little damage from weapons and spells used against them. The group eventually felled the spirits, but took many wounds. Vinara was able to heal the group, but they decided to push on deeper into the ZIggurat, rather than loose more time resting.

Fly Trap
Weary, but determined, the party descended more stair covered in tiled obsidian. The obsidian all around them began to glow as if humming with power. The passageway opened a larger room containing a half-dozen cells of various sizes and shapes, their bars composed entirely of obsidian. Each cell contained several gaunt bodies apparently pinned to the the walls, as if the obsidian was slowly absorbing them.

As the party surveyed the room, the tortured voices of the captives gasped and pleaded to be set free. With everyone talking at once, it was difficult to make out what was being said, but several phrases were repeated again and again.

“He left us here!”
“Merric traded us the these reavers for safe passage.”
“They are consuming us.”
“Free us from this torment.”

Wary of traps or deception the group questioned the captives attempting to determine if they were telling the truth. Several of the captives did actually appear to be member of the True, sacrificed by Merric for quick passage through this room, but about a half dozen did not. While the party debated what to do with the members of the True, the other bodies became insubstantial and moved from the walls, through the bars and began to attack. Not completely surprised by this turn of events, the party reacted quickly, but the reavers were empowered by the obsidian and proved to be more dangerous they expected.

Kelvor did his best to keep their attention and was successful although he suffered several nearly-fatal injuries, which only appeared to strengthen the foul undead. Elleandra’s magic kept her opponents distracted allowing her allies to maneuver into better positions, but still the fight took far longer than anticipated as each hero mainly attacked separate foes.

Although the creatures were defeated the combat consumed precious time and forced the to rest and tend to their wounds. The group pulled the members of the True from the walls and they all fled the chamber as quickly as they could. As they rested, the party began to wonder – “Are we too late?”

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Ashes of War

Foil the True
Left on their own, Jarvix and Elleandra took a few minutes to rest in relative safety. The continuing attacks of the True could be heard around them. Although she still felt drained and queasy, Elleandra was able to compose herself enough to travel. Jarvix was not much better, still weakened after his near-death experience. The cries of the inhabitants of the Warrens spurred them into action. The decided that it was up to them to put an end to the rampaging True.

Elleandra was able to use her charms to good effect and the people they found in hiding were convinced to follow them and find more secure shelter. Jarvix, having spent a lot of time in the Warrens, was able to point out safer locations that could hide people from the attackers. The pair worked furiously to hold back the attackers and counter their defiling. After what felt like hours they were able to route the attackers.

True DefilerJust as it looked like there would be no further trouble, a defiler with several human and half-giant bodyguards came into view. Calling Jarvix and Elleandra by name he offered them a chance to surrender. Refusing his offer, the two prepared for a deadly conflict.

Weakened by their exertions, they were slow to react, Jarvix took a deep wound from one of the Half-Giant’s bone greataxe. The humans moved in quickly and slashed with obsidian greatswords wounding both. Although they were caught somewhat unprepared, Jarvix and Elleandra were not about to go down without a fight. Jarvix used his powerful abilities with the Way to daze and distract his foes, while Elleandra harried her attackers with her spells. The defiler, pulling life energy from the ground, let loose blasts of fiery darts and crimson fire, causing more injuries to the already wounded heroes.

The guards quickly fell as both Jarvix and Elleandra unleashed powerful mental attacks, Elleandra aided by her newly acquired orb. Despite the loss of his guards, the defiler sensed his advantage and continued to press his attack, drawing more and more life energy to fuel his spells. The constant mental assault eventually proved too much for him and he collapsed to the ground blood running from his ears and eyes.

Into the Belly of the Beast
After the fight, Jarvix cautioned Elleandra with regards to her orb. Although he wasn’t completely sure, he felt that there was something dangerous about it. While they were recovering from their combat, a strange blast of energy erupted from the Ziggurat and Elleandra could sense the powerful defiling energy. She also felt a new wave of nausea that seemed to be coming from the Ziggurat.

The two picked themselves up and headed towards the Ziggurat. Jarvix’s knowledge of the pyramid and the Veiled Alliance, along with Elleandra’s arcane skills, allowed them to quickly locate another secret entrance to the pyramid. This one appeared to have been recently opened as there were disturbances in the dust and sand in the passageway. The pair entered to dark and twisting tunnels, hoping they would find Merric or their allies before it was too late.

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Ashes of War

Rending the Veil
The group emerged from the Veiled Alliance safe house into the Warrens. The extent of the True’s attack was evident – the entire district was in chaos with True agents attacking and destroying everything in sight. They reasoned that the only way to track down Merric and the stolen seed was to get out of the Warrens as quickly as possible. Everyone suspected that he might be heading to the Ziggurat, but it was impossible to tell.

They felt the best course of action was to make as quiet an exit from the district as possible towards the Elven Market and then assess the situation. They all prepared for what the thought would be an inevitable fight with the True. As they started to move out, Elleandra suddenly became weak and faint. She was barely able to move at all, and had to be helped by Morg. No one knew what had come over her and they didn’t feel as if they could spare a moment to figure it out.

Gwyn and Morg were able to maneuver past a few True with Vinara acting as a lookout and Kelvor using the Way to help bolster the group’s stamina. About halfway out of the Warrens, they came upon a body that they recognized at Jarvix. He appeared to have been badly beaten and was almost dead. Vinara gave him one of her healing berries which was enough to bring him back to consciousness. Gwyn told her friend of Merric’s betrayal and Jarvix voiced his concerns that Merric may be attempting to use the seed to restore Kalak to life. He recommended attempting to break into the Ziggurat with all haste. To aid them he told them of a secret entrance on the south side that they could recognize by an arcane sigil – the same sigil that Gwyn had tattooed on her back.

Into the Belly of the Beast
Leaving Elleandra with Jarvix, the remaining four companions continued to make their way out of the Warrens. The group made their way quickly out of the Warrens and as the entered the Elven Market then ran across Kivrin who was seeking to escape the chaos as well. The group didn’t share all the details with Kivrin, but were eager to know what he had uncovered regarding the crown. Kivrin told them that he believed the final piece of the crown might be held by Ewalu, a great silt horror consort of Ul-Athra. The crown could be used to restore Ul-Athra and although it could be an ally against the Dragon, the primordial has no love for Athas. If the crown itself could be returned to the Elemental Chaos, and might prevent Ul-Athra from returning to the world.

Free from the Warrens, the heroes quickly made their way towards the south side of the Ziggurat and began to search for the hidden entrance. It took all of their cunning to quickly search for the sigil without drawing too much attention to themselves. The Ziggurat was built to channel powerful arcane energies which clouded her ability to sense magic, but eventually Gwyn was able to help locate the entrance. Morg’s strength, along with Gwyn’s magic was able to open the sealed door.

Dead End Beginning
Withering OneThey entered to Ziggurat and lit torches as they began to wander through a series of twisting and turning passageways. Before venturing too far, Gwyn used her magic to seal the door behind them, not wanting to have anyone sneak up on them from behind. Before long they came across a grisly scene. A small shaft of moonlight illuminated the room before them, revealing dozens of bodies. The corpses faces were contorted in agony with blackened tongues visible between foam-flecked lips. Some of the bodies had the amulets of the True.

Several warped forms were hunched over the bodies, and they slowly turned towards the group as it entered the room. The creatures eyes were unfocused and bits of flesh fell from their mouths as they consumed the bodies on the floor. Gwyn and Kelvor recognized these creatures as Withering Ones – zombies that are used to hunt preservers and who react violently to arcane energies.

Kelvor, Vinara and Morg all moved up to block the creatures advance towards Gwyn. Each struck the creatures with their weapons, but only slightly slowed them down. Kelvor was able to defend himself against their attacks, but Morg was grabbed and the Withering One began to eat at his arm and shoulder. Gwyn conjured a sparkling mist that swirled around and covered some of the zombies, attempting to lock them in place and obscure their vision. When the mist made contact with the creature’s flesh, a blast of necrotic energy emanated from it. This started a massive chain reaction which ultimately destroyed all of the zombies and knocked Morg and Kelvor down, draining them to within an inch of true death. Only Vinara was unharmed, a benefit of the life giving Heartwood Spear.

Vinara quickly used her healing spells to restore Kelvor and Morg, but the group was forced to take another quick rest before venturing further into the Ziggurat. They were hopeful that not too much time had passed for them to stop Merric from completing his objectives.

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