Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

The Road to Urik
The Threat of War

Lost Treasure
Morg spent the next day going around the city, looking for anyone with more knowledge on the failed House Wavir expedition. Much what he heard confirmed the rumors of a failed journey to find the Vault of Darom Madar and the economic hardship that the house was was under. Eventually he was able to locate the only other survivor, a man named Kelvor. Kelvor told Morg the story of the caravan being ambushed by members of House Tsalaxa and the death of all the members except himself and Rhotan Vor.

Kelvor was asked to look out for Morg and his friends in the hope they would take the opportunity to find the caravan and return the treasures to House Wavir. By doing so they would help restore House Wavir and punish House Tsalaxa, who is well known for nefarious deeds. Morg, keenly interested in helping Rhotan and recovering the treasure, agreed and the two started making arrangements.

Morg was still concerned about the difficulties he and his friends had in overcoming the lightning traps in the Face in the Stone. He felt that if they continued to explore the ancient ruins in Athas, they would surely need assistance to deal with other such obstacles. With a little luck, he found a few candidates that appeared to have the talents for such adventures. One in particular, Merric, stood out as competent and possessing the right personality.

As the two agreed upon a fee for his services, Merric proposed an intriguing offer: He had discovered secret entrance to the Ziggurat of Kalak. Merric felt that Morg and his companions were better suited to deal with the dangers that likely lurked within, while he was the most skilled to deal with the traps. They could explore it together and share in whatever treasures were found. Morg, while extremely interested, felt it might be best to wait before embarking on that exploration.

The Veiled Alliance
Gwyn spent most of her time exploring the city and making contact with the other tattoo artists. Her natural charm was more than enough to over come the distrust that any had because of her elven ancestry. She was pleased that, in a small way, she was a part of the resurgence of art in Tyr.

As the evening approached, Gwyn made her way into the Under-Tyr to meet with her Veiled Alliance cell. The focus of the meeting was Divulgence – should the alliance end their secretive ways and go public. Both supporters and opponents of divulgence spoke with great passion but they could not reach an agreement on how to proceed. Gwyn felt that divulgence should happen, but suggested caution to make sure public would not react violently, after years of being told to hate all arcane casters. It was clear that the debate would continue for some time.

After the formal meeting, Gwyn spent time with her main contact, Jarvix whom she told of the adventures at the Face in the Stone (although nothing was mentioned about the Crown of Dust). The appearance of Yarnath was disturbing, as defilers such as he are the primary reason wizards are outlawed and hated. Jarvix introduced Gwyn to another member of the cell, an elf named Kivrin. Kivrin knew something of Yarnath and suspected that he was searching for the Crown of Dust, and may have already obtained one piece of it. Anxious about such a powerful artifact in the hands of the defiler, Kivrin thought that a small group might be able to sneak aboard Slither and steal the artifact. Gwyn said that she would consider such a quest, but needed to confer with her friends.

After several more hour discussing various magical principles and how she might apply them to her tattoo work, Gwyn, Jarvix and Kivrin let the Alliance meeting and went drinking at the Stiff Wench. They drank broy late into the night and the next morning Gwyn awoke with a massive hangover, and a new tattoo.

Communing with Nature
Vinara spent two days in the desert outside of the city-state conversing with the Wastewalker. The enemy turned ally was most interested in her story of the Face in the Stone, uncovering the fragment of the Crown of Dust and the appearance of Yarnath. The Wastewalker knew a little about Ul-Athra and thought that the creature could be a powerful ally against the Dragon, but cautioned that the primordials are creatures of chaos and very unpredictable in the actions.

The pair was joined by a halfling that the Wastewalker introduced as Nok. Nok had traveled far to bring news of a possible ancient Tree of Life that might exist outside of the sorcerer-king’s control. Such a tree could be used for nearly limitless power for a defiler, such as Yarnath, and must be found and protected at all costs. The Tree might also be used to construct a Heartwood Spear that would be a powerful weapon against the sorcerer-kings. Vinara was to be mindful of signs and dreams about this tree and seek it out, before it is discovered by the wrong people.

A Conflict of Interests
Castri stayed behind at Free City Tattoo and studied the fragment of the Crown of Dust. He had hoped to learn more of its secrets but all he received were strong urges to seek out the other fragments and use the Crown to restore Ul-Athra. Feeling that he had learned all that was possible for the time being, he left the parlor and wandered around the street of Tyr heading towards the Artisan District.

Tyr MarketplaceIn the district he used some of the money he received from Karlen to commission some art work for the tattoo shop – a statue of himself. He found a skilled Mul stone cutter named Xalos who was looking for work and the two arranged a fair price. As he was leaving the artists shop he was approached by well-dressed man who greeted him by name. An agent of Murter Dyan, the man, asked if Castri could be of service to House Dyan, an enemy of Castri’s former noble house. The service was to search out a potential water source that had come to the attention of Murter, a place call the Cistern of Aravek, so that the water could help the citizens of Tyr. In exchange for location of the Cistern, House Dyan would furnish Castri and his allies with a precious metal weapon each. Cautious, Castri agreed to look into it.

On his way out of the Artisan District, another familiar face Khalos, an agent of Agis, hailed Castri. The pair made their way outside of the city to the House Asticles estates where he met with Agis himself. Direct and to the point, Agis asked if Castri could help locate the Cistern of Aravek, located in the foothills of the Ringing Mountains. Agis desired to control the renewable water source so that all within the city of Tyr could benefit from it. Agis promised to reward Castri and his allies with favors from his House.

Intrigued by the turn of events, Castri made his way back to the tattoo parlor where he was reunited with his companions. Each explained their day’s activities and discussed how best to proceed with the many options in front of them. After a lengthy discussion, they agreed that searching for the Cistern of Aravek was the best choice, after which they would head to the east in an attempt to find the House Tsalaxa caravan.

Marauders of the Dune Sea
Return to Tyr

Leaving the Face
The elves appeared shocked to see the party emerge from the Face in the Stone and hailed them. The group claimed to have seen the collapse of the dust storm and went to investigate, looking for ancient treasures, asking the heroes if they had uncovered anything inside the Face. The heroes claimed to have have been simple guards who fled into the Face when the dust storm arose and didn’t venture far into it.

Stating a desire to return to their leader with treasures, the elves proposed that the heroes could search some additional locations that the elves would provide, and all could share in the profit. Vinara sensed that the elves might be stalling, but Morg went over to them to check their map. Without warning Morg was attacked by the elves and the zombies servants, as a group of Tarek raiders appeared over a nearby dune.

Morg fell to the zombies who began to feast on him after the dune striders severely wounded him in the surprise attack. The zombies and the elves suffered under the hail of arrows from Castri, who also unleashed the power of the Crown of Dust to create a whirlwind of sand striking at those nearest to Morg. One of the elves managed to reach Castri who suffered a serious wound before finishing off the elves.

Vinara and Gwyn and bear combined their attacks systematically taking down one Tarek after another. Gwyn conjured blast after blast of fire, slowly cooking them as they pressed their attack. Both of the ladies suffered greatly, but held their ground against the brutes. Vinara was able to work her way towards the dying Morg and eventually used her healing magic to revive him.

Finally on his feet again, he charged the remaining two elves and took them down with a mighty swing of his axe. The elf peddler, Parleth was barely alive and Morg and Castri learned that the group worked for a raider named Yarnath who was rumored to be a powerful defiler. Having learned all they could, the two put the dying elf out of his misery.

The Crawling Citadel
SlitherBefore they could catch their breath, Vinara spotted a colossal object grinding its way across the sandy desert. The animated skeletons of several giant desert creatures have been fused together into a ghastly structure, well over a hundred feet in length. Built within and upon the animate skeletal construct was an articulated citadel of bones and quarried stone. Humanoids could be seen standing on lookout platforms and peering form turrets and spires. It crawled closer to the Face in the Stone, making a sound like distant thunder.

After a bit of debate, Morg convinced Vinara that hiding within the Face would be a poor choice and the group fled, attempting to evade the citadel and make their way back to Tyr. Gwyn used her magic to summon a mirage about the group, in an effort to obscure them from sight. It took all of the groups strength and endurance to move across the desert quickly, but Castri faltered several times, the visions from the Crown he still wore, causing confusion and disorientation.

Still suffering from the earlier fights, the group stumbled into a patrol of seven Tarek raiders, who set upon them, thinking they had found easy prey. Gwyn’s magic bathed them in sheets of fire while Castri launched arrow after arrow into the oncoming group. Morg summoned every ounce of dwarven endurance in his blood and charged in, swinging his axe wildly. Vinara focused her attacks on Bear’s foes, while attempting to aid the group as best she could.

Miraculously the group survived, but their wounds continued to sap their energy and the week long march back to Tyr would have been too much if they had not happened upon a caravan as they approached to main trade roads.

The Caravan Gate
The entrance into Tyr was slowed by long lines at the Caravan Gate. The Half-Giant guards were thoroughly searching everyone entering the city and assessing new taxes. The group managed to get inside without incident, but found trouble within the city walls. The crowded streets were filled with angry merchants and citizens. In their absence the fragile economy of the free city was beginning to falter.

The precious iron mines had not reopened as it was too expensive to operate without the slave labor used in the past. The iron, which all the other city-states depended on, had stopped flowing and rumors flew about an army marching from Urik to seize control of the city and the mines. In addition, House Wavir had abandoned its position in Tyr, after a failed expedition into the desert left them financially devastated. All of the assets, including a large amount of Morg’s money, had been moved out of the city. Few knew the details of the expedition, but only a few people survived and made it back to Tyr alive.

The heroes were relieved to find that Free City Tattoo had survived the recent turmoil within the city and they all got some much needed rest. Castri visited his friend Karlen to deliver the relics he had found at the Face and collect his cut of the pay. Morg went out to try and find more information about the survivors of the House Wavir expedition and to hire a henchmen who could assist the party in future dungeon explorations.

Marauders of the Dune Sea
The Face in the Stone

Crown Wyrm
As Morg, Vinara and Gwyn were making up their minds about which way to go, a rumbling sound was heard in front of them. The wall in front of the group began to shift and Castri appeared, torch in hand. He informed his allies that he had grown impatient waiting and located a secret door while searching for artifacts for his friend Karlen. Once Castri was brought up to speed on the encounters they had, the group decided to investigate the western door.

Source of MagicThe doors to the room were heavy, but unlocked and with a little effort, they were pushed open to reveal a cavernous chamber, illuminated with a flickering purple light that shone up from a pit in the floor. The source of the light could not be seen from the doorway. The room also had two large fountains on the northern edge, from which water could be heard. To the south there was a large obsidian slab, from which Gwyn detected powerful defiling magic.

Castri and Gwyn moved into the room and were lowered into the pit by Morg, while Vinara went to investigate the fountains. Gwyn could detect magic, but not defiling in nature coming from the source of the light – a fragment of a golden crown. Castri decided to pick it up and as he did so, the room was plunged into darkness. All at once, the party shared a vision…

Through the vast desert a gigantic worm with numerous tentacles traveled at great speed, approaching a rocky outcropping. A golden crown was visible on the worm’s head. Perched on top of the rock loomed what could only be the great Dragon of Tyr. As the worm neared the rocks the Dragon took flight and the two were quickly engaged in a titanic battle. The land around the Dragon turned to ash as it’s powerful magic assaulted the worm. Eventually the Dragon dealt a fatal blow to the worm, shattering the crown. As the dragon flew away, the worm and the crown were swallowed by the desert.

As soon as the vision ended, Vinara screamed in pain. Still in total darkness, Gwyn and Vinara attempted to light torches while Castri climbed out of the pit, assisted by Morg. When the torches were finally lit a massive serpent could be seen biting at Vinara, while around the room nearly a dozen wraiths were seen moving out of the walls.

Morg charged into the nearest group of wraiths, defeating them with several swings of his axe. Gwyn, surrounded by wraiths as well used her magic and was propelled out of the pit on a thunderclap, destroying the wraiths in the pit and those near where she landed.

Vinara, her zephyr and Bear struck back at the wyrm, while Castri fired arrows into it. Although the beast was struck many times it kept attacking Vinara and Bear. Morg enraged and joined the fight while Gwyn let loose bolts of lighting at the creature. The worm latched onto Morg’s chest, sucking the life out of him and healing its own wounds.

While the group continued to attack the creature, another wave of wraiths appeared. Castri turned on them and managed to destroy them all with few volley’s from his great bow. Eventually the wyrm was defeated by Gwyn, who blasted it with an orb of fire as Morg’s axe nearly took off its head.

After the long fight, the party’s wounds were too great to continue, so they rested for several hours before continuing on. During this time they all searched the room, looking for any secrets, but none were found. They decided to finish the exploration of the Face before heading back outside.

Rot Bloom
As the heroes made their way out of the room and headed towards the other unopened door, the air became slightly damp and began to smell of rot. The passage ended at a door which was covered in an uneven layer of slightly phosphorescent fungus. Opening the door they were surprised to see fungus blanketing the floor. The moist cavern walls and ceiling were glowing dimly in cool tones of green, blue and yellow. The rotted detritus of barrels, crates ans shelves littered the side walls. Fungal stalks, a few of which read 5 or 6 feet in height were growing from the debris. The floor appeared to have collapsed, leaving a dark cavity in the center of the room.

Seeing nothing unusual and curious about the fungus, Morg ventured into the room and moved to cut down some of the stalks to investigate further. Just as he was about to strike, the fungus turned and released a cloud of spores, temporarily pacifying him. Another clump of fungus moved towards the Mul and released spores as well. Morg, severely wounded, was still unable to act because of the spores.

Only able to see the moving fungus creatures from the doorway, Gwyen rushed into the room and attempted to communicate with the creatures. One of the larger creatures appeared to be able to communicate telepathically and demanded why they were attacked. Although they were angry and being disturbed and attacked, Gwyn was able to convince them that it was a misunderstanding. The heroes promised to leave them in peace and left the room cautiously, in case they fungus creatures changed their minds.

Storm Seat
Curious about the sections of the Face in the Stone that they passed by, the group retraced their steps through the Ancestor Hall and back towards the Storm Seat. Along the way the noticed the the braziers had gone out. They investigated the large stone urns, and heedless of the warnings, opened them. After an explosion of blinding ash, all they found inside were dust and bones.

In the Storm Seat, Morg wanted to investigate the cauldron more and ventured too close to the statues. With a powerful gust of wind, he was tossed into the cauldron and was immediately wracked with pain as if his very essence was being pulled out of his body. At the same moment, the giant skeleton moved from its resting place and hurried over the the cauldron, ready to strike at Morg.

Castri opened fire on the skeleton as it marched towards the cauldron, but failed to dissuade it from attacking Morg. Gwyen stepped into the room and used her arcane magic to damage the skeleton and make Morg invisible to it. Vinara moved in as well, hurling stones from her dejada. Morg became enraged and with fresh vitality he struck a mighty blow with his axe, causing bone fragments to fly out from the skeleton. Within moments it succumbed to the assault of magic and weapons and as it fell, another blast of bone shards hit the party.

While they were searching the room, Castri felt an urge to sit upon the throne and did so. When he did so, he saw a vision of Ul-Athra – a massive worm slithering across a green Athas. The worm wore a a crown that shone with gold and shed whirlwinds of spectacular grandeur. Castri couldn’t help but be impressed by the vision of the Green Age.

Leaving the Face
After a quick rest to treat their wounds, the party journeyed further back in the the Face, through the room that held the whipping skeletal tail. Here too the braziers that had once been burning, were now dark. Down the southern hallway they moved until they came upon the last two unopened doorways.

Through the eastern door was only a large empty room with a stone basin in it. Inside the basin was an aquamarine colored liquid. Behind the western door they found any empty room with a basin containing a maroon liquid. The group took samples of each liquid into their water skins and tried mixing them, creating a foul smelling purple liquid. The effect was the same when mixed in the basin or when they tried to mix it in the whispering cauldron.

Confused as to the nature of the fluid or its purpose, they kept the samples and made their way back into the Face so as to avoid the lightning traps and headed out through the secret passage uncovered by Castri. As they emerged from the dark corridor into the bright sunlight, they immediately noticed that the awful roar of the dust storm that had raged outside the Face in the Stone had ceased.

The outside air was clear and free of whirling sand; the cloaking wind storm had collapsed. They then noticed several raiders arrayed around the entrance to the Face. They all appeared to be elves, with a tattoo of a snake skull branded on their forehead. Behind the rocks came several shambling human forms, each caked in what looked like salt.

The Vault of Darom Madar
The Great Road

Rhotan’s Caravan
Almost a week had passed since Rhotan Vor of House Wavir had asked Morg and his companions to help him search for the fabled Vault of Darom Madar. The dwarf was getting impatient as he felt sure that other were searching for the Vault as well, given that the drunk that gave him the information would certainly have talked to others. Unwilling to wait any longer or to give up on finding such lucrative treasure, Rhotan began to search for other adventurers.

The tough times were getting tougher in Tyr as the economy continued to sink and envoy’s from the other city-states demanded that the iron mines be reopened. Rhotan gathered a half-dozen guards, only one of which had seen any real action, a man named Kelvor. All required their pay up front and the expense of preparing a large caravan taxes Rhotan’s finances to the limit.

The next day, the caravan set out, the hired guards moving quickly ahead to scout out their path. The rest of the caravan consisted of three sand skiffs. Each of the three-wheeled vehicles was propelled by a single sailed and manned by a pilot and a couple of deck hands. The group headed towards the elven village of Silver Spring Oasis to resupply and gather more information.

The Crimson Oasis
The journey across the deserts taxed the caravan’s members as they suffered under the relentless heat of the crimson sun. Kelvor and the scouts tried to keep the caravan headed in the right direction despite the blowing winds and dangers of the wilderness, but they faltered several times. Eventually they reached a small oasis where they made camp.

The oasis was not much more than a muddy hole in the ground surrounded by desert scrub, but even its foul tasting water was a welcome relief from the desert. Before the first sip of water was taken, the oasis erupted into violent action as three armed men burst from cover and charged the caravan. Safely behind the cover of some rocks a dwarf and halfling emerged and slowly moved towards the battle.

Although Kelvor tried be organize a defense, the other guards were caught by surprise as the raiders ran several of them through with their spears. The dwarf called down a blinding ray of light into the melee, hampering the defense of the caravan, while the halfling used the Way to confuse the befuddle the guards.

Kelvor’s whirling defenses kept the raiders attention on him for the remainder of the skirmish and his harmony of body and mind allowed him to survive several deadly attacks by the wilder and sun priest. Eventually the bandits were defeated, although half of the guards had perished and several more were severely wounded.

Wasteland Assassins
AttackUndeterred by their struggle at the oasis, Rhotan continued on towards Silver Springs, confident that they could resupply there. He thought that with some luck they might even be able to hire on replacements. As the caravan moved through a ceaseless blur of sun-scorched sand and rolling dunes, there was little to break the monotony of heat and thirst. When the barbed arrows began hissing form the sky, fired by a trio of dark shapes on the crest of a nearby dune, it was almost a welcome break to the drudgery of travel.

The elven assassin’s aim was superb quickly cutting down more of the remaining guards before they could reach the top of the dune. Just as the survivors reached the top of the dune, they were wracked with pain as the ground around them turned into dark ash. Riding atop a crodlu was a hooded man that summoned a whip of fire that wrapped around Kelvor, burning his skin and leaving a trail of ash. Wounded as they were, the remaining members of the caravan were no match for the defiler assassin and his troops.

When Kelvor awoke, he was bruised and battered. There were no signs of the assassins, except for several areas of ash on the desert floor and a few bodies, already burned in the sun. As he searched the area, the only signs of the caravan were the wheel marks of the sand skiffs, already being covered by the blowing sands. All but one of the bodies, Rhotan’s, were dead and already the victim of desert scavengers. Rhotan was alive, but only barely, apparently the victim of a severe blow to the head. The vast majority of their supplies were missing, including all of Rhotan’s information on the Vault.

The Walk of Shame
With virtually no other options, Kelvor and Rhotan turned back towards Tyr. Their vitality leeched by the sun’s punishing rays and already weakened by their ordeals, the pair barely made it back alive. Word of their failure spread quickly, as did rumors that House Wavir’s long time enemy, House Tsalaxa, was likely to be blamed. Others simply pointed to the folly of searching for things that are best left alone.

Regardless of the truth to those rumors the consequences were immediate and dire. Rhotan had invested a considerable some of money in the caravan, and House Wavir had suffered for his expedition’s failure. Within two days, the merchant house had closed its operations in Tyr and moved out. Rhotan left as well, heading out to Altaruk to try and salvage his position in the merchant house.

Kelvor remained in Tyr. Rhotan thought that should Morg and his companions return, they might be able to team up and track down those responsible for the attack. A desperate hope that House Wavir’s fortunes might change.

Marauders of the Dune Sea
The Face in the Stone

Cult of Dust
The group headed back towards the entrance and then proceeded down the eastern passage. Their progress was blocked by a set of doors bearing markings similar to those found on the Obelisks out front. Cautious of a trap, Morg attempted to disable the device but found as he went through the door that the trap was still active and received a nasty shock. The rest followed him down a long hallway with a large crack in the floor, which had three sets of doors near the far end.

The door at the end of the hallway was closed, but they could hear a crackling sound coming from the other side. Wary of traps, but having no other option, they opened the door to reveal a large room light by four massive braziers, one in each corner of the room. The skeleton of a snake-like creature lay crumbling on the floor. In the flickering light, an altar of carved bone was visible along the northern wall.

When Vinara moved up to the altar to investigate a skeletal figure appeared in each of the two northern braziers, burning but undamaged by the flames. Fire flared in the eye sockets of the skeletal creature on the floor; its tail rising and lashing out sending shards of bone and stone flying. Smoke puffs in the two southern braziers appeared and then faded, revealing several shambling corpses. Two of the corpses were crusted with salt.

The corpses moved with surprising speed and surrounded Vinara, clawing and biting her. She swung her bronze staff, a halo of primal magic surrounding her, the undead quickly falling to her attacks. As the whipping tail of the skeleton continued to blast the room with poisonous bone and stone fragments, Gwyn summoned spectral claws that slashed into a burning skeleton and a salt zombie. Bear and Morg tore into the blazing skeleton and the second salt zombie, taking them down quickly. Morg hacked at the skeletal tail until nothing was left.

After the battle was concluded the group searched the room and found only writing above a picture of a massive serpent with a golden crown on it’s head carved into the altar. Vinara could barely translate the writing.

In the beginning, Ul-Athra and its siblings created the world. For a time, each primordial claimed a domain among the formless, empty regions. Ul-Athra, a creature of wind and rage, had dominion over the fury of the dust storm. It wore upon its brow the Crown of Dust, into which the primordial had invested a considerable sum of its power. When Ul-Athra was lo