Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

The City that Waits

The Tower of Discipline
Although the companions were eager to get moving, Banoc was in no shape for travel. The injuries he sustained during the fight with Krampus had nearly cost him his life. Reluctantly, the group retreated into the relative safety of the tower and tended to his wounds. During there rest, they saw the passing of several groups of undead, but none approached their position.

When they were ready to head out, they noticed that Delen was no longer with the group. Those who were on watch did not recall seeing him leave. Although they were concerned about his departure – for many different reasons – they could find no trace of him and so decided to head out towards the southwest most tower. They trusted that he would catch up with him at some point, and most suspected he was more than capable of surviving in Moil.

As they were leaving the tower and heading out onto one of the lower bridges, Daqiq spotted a group of banshees approaching their position. They retreated into the tower and attempted to hide, but the banshee’s ability to track the living proved potent. Banoc jumped forward and, presented his holy vial of water, channeled elemental energy to force the spirits back and all but one of them fled. With Way-lynn’s new weapons and Gwyn and Banoc’s magic, the banshees were defeated one at a time as they continued to flee across the bridges.

Forsaken Tower
The banshees moved to the east, away from the party’s intended destination, but by the time the banshees were defeated they were almost to another tower. They decided to investigate, guessing they would not come back this way again.

The tower at the end of the the bridge was windowless and featureless and, unlike many of the other towers, the entrance was blocked by a door of rough granite. Above the entryway was a carving of the head of horned animal, beneath which was an inscription that read “Ware the weaver in her lair”. There was a brief discussion, but the consensus was to explore the tower.

Way-lynn opened the heavy door revealing a long passageway filled with webs of inky blackness. The strands were clearly magical in origin, but none knew what could have created them. Jax and Banoc used their magic to create magical light that appeared to burn away the strands and the party slowly entered to tower. They found many dead ends and passageways bricked off creating a maze. Had it not been for their light, they would have certainly become hopelessly lost.

At some of the dead ends, there were bodies that were broken and hideously emaciated. Banoc and Daqiq found that each had a single large puncture wound and that their interior organs and fluids had been drawn out in some terrible bloodletting. Everyone in the party was uneasy about the prospect of facing a creature that could do it and Banoc almost convinced them to leave, but they persisted and chose to head to the upper level of the tower.

The webs of darkness thickened and it became more difficult to move against the darkness. They began to hear a sound like dry leaves scraping on a stony surface and they knew something was stirring in the heart of darkness. They began to hear whispering and all tried to prepare for what they felt was an inevitable attack. The inky darkness made preparation quite difficult and it was too late when they saw a many-legged creature apparently made or or plated in metal emerge from the darkness.

RetrieverThe creature attack with beams of darkness and stabs with its front legs. Way-lynn, Jax and Banoc took the majority of the attacks, with Banoc becoming paralyzed for most of the combat. The creature itself appeared to be immune to most of the party’s attacks, with Gwyn’s fire and Jax’s sonic attacks proving to be the most damaging. Way-lynn hacked with their weapons, cutting off portions of the legs until landing a mighty blow that severed the creatures head.

While Jax tended to Banoc’s wounds, Daqiq searched the chamber finding a significant amount of treasure among the numerous corpses. He also found a belt that was in remarkably condition and suspected that it might be enchanted. Without Delen, they could not identify any powers that it might have. The rest of the tower was empty except for the ever-present strands of shadow and the party moved back outside and headed to the southwest most tower.

The Tower of Health
They encountered nothing but cold and ice on the way to the tower. Above the arched entrance to this tower a single image was inscribed upon the stone: a humanoid figure wrapped in many lengths of cloth, about which two dragons were intertwined. About the head of the wrapped figure, the serpents stared at each other eye to eye. They entered the lower level of the tower, and found mostly empty rooms with the remains of beds. They suspected that the tower was a place for the sick or injured.

In the lower level of the tower Daqiq found a single room that was illuminated. He approached carefully, scanning the room while trying to remain hidden. He saw a bed crumpled against the far wall and a wooden armoire smashed almost beyond recognizability. What was once probably a mirror had been reduced to reflective splinters. Squatting in the middle of all this destruction was what looked to be a youthful woman wearing a gray robe with a long white coat over it. Her skin was grayish white and her hair platinum blonde. She supported her head in her hands, as if she were suffering or sobbing.

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The City that Waits

The Tower Of Discipline
The party decided to finishing exploring the Tower of Discipline before continuing on to other towers in the of the city. They had little to go on, except for Banoc’s vision of key in the southwest portion of the city. They left the torture room and moved up to the middle level of the tower. Delen’s undead servants carried the body of the slain dray, Torakas.

The middle level of the tower contained mostly empty rooms that had decayed over time. Nothing of interest was discovered and the party was about to move on, when they stumbled upon a pie-shaped room that was decorated with Headsman’s axes. A jumble of broken and smashed wooden chairs and other cluttered debris filled most of the room. As they surveyed the room, they saw a stone dais upon which was set a large block of stone that showed many nick and cuts. Standing menacingly behind the stone block was a humanoid figure wearing a sack like black hood and wielding a nasty-looking headsman’s axe in gauntleted hands.

While everyone else kept their distance, Daqiq moved around behind the figure and attempted to grab the axe from the figure. As he did so, the armor animated and they began to struggle. Although the construct was powerful, it was no match for the group and eventually collapsed into a pile of armor scraps. Its axe was claimed by Way-lynn and determined to be powerfully enchanted when Delen examined it.

The group decided to rest in the secluded chamber, tending to their wounds and hopeful that they would not be disturbed by the denizens of Moil. The hours past with only a single interruption – a group of Moilian zombies approached but when they came within sight of the party, they stopped, bowed respectfully and departed. None in the party knew what to make of it, but were pleased and their good fortune.

While the rested, they could hear a storm beginning to rage outside and eventually heard scraping and clawing sounds on the outside of the tower. The sounds were not like those of the Vestige and the party moved to the roof to investigate further.

Krampusnacht
On the roof, there was a swirling storm of ice and snow a lone figure stood in the middle, attending to some business of its own. The figure was large and cloaked, with chains wrapped around it. Horns protruded from its forehead and cloven feet could be seen on the ends of strong legs. At the group’s arrival, the being turned its attention to them.

KrampusGwyn met the creatures gaze and fell under its power – she was compelled, for some basic reason she did not understand, to do no harm to the being. The creature shouted at Delen, “you’ve been a very naughty boy!” and attempt to use some type of magic against him, but Delen resisted. Jax and Way-lynn moved in, avoiding an icy blast that destroyed most of Delen’s undead allies. Daqiq stayed at ranged and fired arrow after arrow into it, but the creature was barely slowed.

Banoc too moved in and engaged the beast in melee while attempting to keep the others alive and fighting. Delen eventually failed to resist the creatures magic and found himself trapped within a magically constructed cage of rusted steel. Gwyn finally escaped the compulsion and launched a fireball at their foe, burning him badly as it was unable to resist her draconic fire. Delen freed himself, only to be trapped again within the cage, but managed to use some of his magic to weakened the horned fiend. Banoc fell under the onslaught of attacks, but Jax seized the opportunity and landed a blow with her psychic blades.

With a howl of rage, the creature collapsed into a pile of ash, only a large bag and the chains remained. WIth the creatures defeat, the storm subsided quickly. Banoc was stabilized and his wounds tended to. Delen examined the chains and bag, finding them both magical. Way-lynn recovered the axe, which the beast had stolen from them during the fight.

Battered but alive, the group contemplated where they would go next…

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The City that Waits

The Weak Tower
Many hours passed without interruption, enough that the party was as rested as they could be given the increasing cold and dread they felt. It was clear that their life was being drained away with each passing hour they spent in Moil. None knew what would happen if they stayed too long, but all assumed that it wouldn’t be good.

Banoc shared that while they rested, he had a vision from his elemental patron. In this vision he was drawn to a tower in the southwestern portion of the city where he saw a key that he believed to be a key to exiting the city. Having no other incentive to travel to any other portion of the city, the group decided to follow his lead and sought out the tower from his vision.

The Tower of Test
The thin trestle connected to the side of a nearby tower leading to an open archway which beckoned with its quiet darkness. Above the archway, the unmistakable symbols of martial implements have been inscribed into the metallic surface; a sword, an axe, a gauntleted fist and a cocked crossbow.

They moved through the archway into the middle of the tower and after some exploration they discovered a room with the exterior wall of the chamber missing. The held dozens of 2-foot-diameter colored glass spheres strung from the ceiling on corroded copper chains. A barely audible hum filled the area and no other exits from the room could be seen.

Daqiq was the first to enter the room and others followed, with only Banoc staying outside the room. A series of musical tomes started to play when the room was entered, rising to a chaotic din. The orbs shimmered in time with the storm of sound and their ears started to pound as their stomach’s churned. Each tried to master themselves and deal with the sounds in their own way. Delen and Way-lynn tried to destroy the orbs but found that had little effect. Gwyn and Daqiq fared much better using their discipline and self-control. Jax tried her best to sing with the music of the orbs and ease the effects for herself and the others.

After a few moments of concentration, the sounds stopped for Gwyn and Daqiq. Eventually they realized that destroying the orbs had no effect and only caused the process to reset. Banoc noticed that a circular icon became illuminated when the first person stopped hearing the music. He began to suspect the nature of the tower.

When they moved to the upper level of the tower and found it to be almost completely bare; an echoing space tiled with wide slabs of white marble. The walls of the massive chamber seemed to be the curved walls of the tower itself. Swords, axes, polearms, dirks, spike gauntlets, and more esoteric weaponry hung along the wall in a display that traced the entire circumference of the room. Against the far wall, three curved walls blocked a direct view of a circular arena in the center of the chamber. On each wall, was a single icon – a sphere, a scythe blade and a pillar. The spherical icon was illuminated.

The other two main levels of the tower contained two other tests – one involving dozens of scythe blades suspended on lines of magic and the other a massive room that had its floor composed on dozens of moving pillars. In each case the objective was to cross the room and Daqiq was able to do so with ease. Each success caused an icon to illuminate and after the third test was complete and the party returned to the upper level, they saw that a lone figure stood in the arena.
Lord High Exultant
The figure spoke…

You have passed the three trials and now must face me, the Lord High Exultant. Succeed and you shall be granted fame, loose and you shall not be remembered at all.

Never a group that backs down from a challenge, they decided to face the Lord High Exultant and tried to best him. He proved to be a formidable master of weapons and magic, but not a match for the combined power of the party. He was defeated, collapsing into a pile of bones, his large black sword clattering to the ground. The group recovered weapons and armor from the room and Way-lynn claimed the sword.

The group determined that the most direct route to the southwest tower was going outside the towers and bridges and braving the dark, shadowy land itself. Along the way the encountered a skeletal work crew and a patrol of zombies. Both of which were quickly dispatched without serious injuries to the party.

The freezing cold outside made the passage exhausting for all as the very warmth of their souls felt as if it were being drained away. They reached the nearest tower and proceeded in to the ground floor.

The Tower of Discipline
The lower level appeared to contain empty prison cells. One cell had a humanoid figure shackled below a dim light. The shackles were positioned such that the figure’s arms were stretched straight out to each side. The figure was wearing a voluminous brown robe of frayed cloth. A hood of leather was drawn over its head and appeared to be securely fastened with a silver chain under the chin. The figure was unmoving, and the head lolled down upon the chest.

Delen used his magic to summon an even larger number of undead servants – skeletons and ghouls. They party decided to free the chained prisoner who turned out to be a dray, named Torakas, who claimed to have been imprisoned here by Dregoth because he knew too much about the work Dregoth was trying to accomplish. The party decided to free him but when the did, Way-lynn attacked and slew the dray before the others could interrupt.

Way-lynn claimed that the sword they recently acquired had controlled them and forced the attack. Delen was allowed to examine the weapon and confirmed that it possessed some amount of intelligence and will. The party took the dray’s body with them and Way-lynn appeared to regain control of their actions.

Moving up the tower to access the bridges, the party discovered an elongated, pie-shaped room that had bare walls, but held many strange devices, some two dozen in all. Each device was different from the next. Most of these constructions seemed to be designed to restrain human-sized creatures so that some sort of infernal rig could be connected to them. Some devices were immediately recognizable as torture equipment. There was a rack for stretching of limbs, a table positioned beneath a set of mechanical arms outfitted with various razors and pincers, a steel harness suspended above a fire pit, an iron maiden, and a seat fitted with foot, hand and head-screws.

One of the device near the center of the chamber appears to be occupied by a corpse. Jax risked using her magic on the corpse in the hopes of getting some answers. They learned that this individual was a warrior who was attacking Moil for making pacts with a demon named Orcus. The warrior was captured, tried for sedition and died while being tortured. The spirit faded before more information could be obtained.

The party debated their next move…

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The City that Waits

City Entrance
The party cautiously moved up the walkway but before they had gone very far, the encountered a patrol of spectral warriors. The patrol appeared to be random but the party wanted no witnesses to their entrance into the city. A brief combat ensued and the spectral warriors were defeated without much trouble. Gwyn, the only member of the group that had been in Moil before, directed them as best she could. At the first intersection they turned right and headed towards a tall spire.

Towers of Moil

The Tower of Portals
An arched opening provided access into the side of the spire. Above the archway there was a line of symbols partially obscured by the ubiquitous ice. This tower was hollow and the spread of the darkness above was matched by the mystery of the black depths below. The bridge arched out from their position at the tower’s periphery toward the wide central support shaft for the tower. The bridges connected to this central walkway formed a network above and below.

Gwyn recognized this as her arrival point on her last visit to the city. Having a starting point, she guessed that the portal they took out of the city to the Tomb of Shadows would be in the eastern portion of the city. The layout of the rest of the city was unknown to her.

They explored the tower and found mostly empty rooms. The brief glimpses of the city showed movement of groups of undead moving around. To their horror, they even saw the Tortured Vestige on one of the bridges, but it appeared to be moving away.

The Tower of Webs
The bridge terminated on the eastern side of a silent spire. An undecorated arch allows entry into what appears to be another hollow tower. However, there is an unmistakable, greenish fluorescence shining up from below, highlighting the edges of the arch with a sickly hue. Gossamer strands of gleaming emerald wove impossibly delicate designs against the dark. Space was tight between the strands, the largest openings in the mass were no more than 5 feet wide. There was nowhere to stand except upon the glittering weblines themselves. The pale light of the webs seems to chill rather than warm; heat is only a fading memory.

Delen sent one of his skeleton servants climbing down to investigate and it found no danger in the weblines, but also nothing of interest. Delen called it back before it was too far out of his sight. Although there was some debate about trying to burn down the webbing, the group decided, at Banoc’s insistence, that it was best to leave them alone and they moved back and down another bridge.

The Shattered Tower
Time or some more destructive force had shattered most of this cyclopean tower of stone. Only a few shards of stone stood where walls once were. The entire structure appeared to be on the verge of collapse, but it was somehow still standing. Numerous catwalks provide access to what remained of each floor. The party explored this tower from top to bottom and only encountered a work crew of skeletons on the bottom floor. They avoided a confrontation and moved on to a connected tower.

The Weak Tower
This structure of stone and steel had not held up to the stress of thousands of years in the Gray. All of the metal appeared to be heavily corroded and nearly every stone was fractured in numerous places. The purpose of this tower appeared lost to time. As they explored this tower, they encountered strange creatures that appeared to be voids in space. They were susceptible to magic and Gwyn, Delen and Banoc had little trouble vanquishing them.

In the bottom of the tower they discovered a gathering of spirits that had luminous, wispy forms with wild hair that wreathed their feminine features. Delen was enamored with them and approached them while the rest hung back unsure about the wisdom of the plan. Delen conversed with them in a strange language that no others understood. Without warning they approached him and started wailing. So terrible were the cries that Way-lynn ran in fright with Jax and Daqiq chasing after him. Delen fared far worse, turning an ashen white and collapsing to the ground.

Overcome by some emotion, Gwyn moved into the room, the spectral women started to approach her and then stopped and simply stared. Gwyn dragged Delen from the room and Banoc stabilized and cured him as best he could. The two groups met back up and decided they needed time to rest and regain their strength. They found a secluded area of the tower and hoped that they would not be noticed.

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The City that Waits

New Directions
They debated on where to go next while sitting in the strange graveyard. Gwyn was very interested in pursuing the clues about Yarnath as was Banoc. Delen and Daqiq were more interested in the city of Moil which they could still see off in the distance. Way-lynn and Jax were somewhat indifferent to their travel plans, although the Gray made Jax very uncomfortable and she was eager to get out as quickly as possible.

Eventually they reached a consensus and started their journey towards Moil. Delen convinced the others that it would be in the city where they had the best chance to find equipment (which they were sorely in need of) as well as information and a possible way back to Athas.

Gwyn gathered what she could from the graves – a few daggers and a fallen branch from a tree. The others did their best as well to find equipment, although most of the objects in the graveyard had suffered the ravages of time and had little value. Delen used his magic to animate two of the skeletons, which drew mixed reactions from his companions. None challenged him too much, likely as a practical conceit that extra hands would be helpful, regardless of how they were obtained.

Heading towards the City that Waits, Daqiq lead the way, hoping that his keen eyes would be sufficient to see any danger before it was too late. The strange landscape and general disorientation they all felt slowed their progress somewhat, but the city became ever closer as they moved south towards their goal.

Daqiq was altered to something unusual when he spied a strange green glow off to the side. Leaving a signal for the others, he veered off the rough trail and headed towards a structure that may have once been a temple of some kind. It lay mostly in ruins, but intact enough to be a shelter. Daqiq noticed a very large number of grave stones surrounding it. Peering through the windows, he spied what appeared to be a human spellcaster performing some ritual in a circle of runes carved into the building’s floor.

When Delen arrived, he decided to confront the spellcaster while the others prepared for battle in case the individual was hostile. As Delen entered the structure, he could tell that the ritual was necromantic in nature and it didn’t take him long to decide that it would be best if the spell was not completed. He attempted to counter the magic of the necromancer but was unable to do so before the spell was complete. The floor of the building cracked and giant skeleton arose from the ground slashing with giant rusted swords. Outside a small army of skeletons broke from the ground and started to engage the party.

Daqiq found an advantageous position on the roof and started to attack the skeletons, while Banoc used the power of his elemental patrons to annihilate many of the lesser skeletons. The Necromancer proved a most challenging foe as he used his magic to simultaneously harm his foes and heal the wounds that were inflicted upon him. Delen used his magic, amplified by as he recklessly channeled the energy from the Gray to power his spells.

Eventually the necromancer and skeletons were defeated and the party, while exhausted, was still alive. They decided to rest in the building and tend to their wounds before continuing towards Moil.

The Gray Goes Ever On
Delen recovered a priceless treasure off of the necromancer – a spellbook. Although he couldn’t read the language, he greatly desired to unlock its mysteries. Jax offered to help him decipher the writing as they continued their travels. That night Delen had strange visions and when he awoke his eyes burned at the intensity of light, a light that only he could see. He wrapped his eyes to diminish the effect. As he thumbed through the spellbook, he found that he could read the writing and began to decipher the spells contained within its fleshy covers.

Although curious about the change they had come over Delen, his companions decided to once again not press the issue. Daqiq lead the way towards Moil and for the next two days they traveled south, the city growing every closer. Eventually they reached their destination. Along the way Delen animated additional skeleton servants, the previous ones having been destroyed in the battle with the necromancer.

Moil

A vast roof of roiling black clouds hung above them, periodically limned with silent electrical discharges on unimaginable magnitude. Spread out below this ominous skyscape was a city of slender towers thrusting up form an impenetrable abyss of darkness below. The tower bases were hidden in absolute blackness, almost as if they were erected upon the darkness itself. The heights of the spires were sleek and enigmatic constructions of stone and metal, repeated illuminated the actinic lightning play above. Thin spans and fragile bridges connected many of the slender towers at various levels in a maze-like array. A large stone archway, covered in a thin layer of hoarfrost provided access to the network of bridges.

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Gray Graveyard

A New Beginning
Gwyn, Delen and Way-lynn found themselves in a formless gray void, devoid of any substance or sense of direction. They could see each other, barely, and nothing beyond the few feet that separated them from each other. There was no sign of Kira, Elleandra, Jarvix or Iorskan. Nor was there any sign of their gear, for each of the three appeared to be clad in nothing more than tattered burial rags. None had any idea what was happening, but each remembered their deaths at the hand of Nibenay.

After some indeterminate amount of time, a collection of voices could be heard by each of them, although there was no source of the voices. The voices all said the same thing, but the experience was somewhat overwhelming and did nothing to put them at ease.

The fel-touched’s call for aid is answered and the debt is repaid. Your fate is yours to make as is your companions.

The voices did not speak again, but they all assumed it was the enigmatic Zwuun that Jarvix had called to during the final fight. They knew only a bit more than the did before and had more questions regarding their own circumstances and the fate of their companions.

More time passed, but none could say how much. Shapes began to materialize out of the gray color surrounding them. Indistinct at first, they slowly took on defined shapes. Soon ground beneath them was visible and they found themselves in a vast graveyard. Unlike the Garden of Graves which Gwyn had encountered in the Lands Within the Wind, this was dark and foreboding, with no hint of underlying nature. In the distance flashes of lightning illuminated a city, and Gwyn could see the unmistakable spires of Moil.

The ever practical Delen began to search the graves and surrounding areas for spell components, fearful to be without his magic. The Gray was the source of his power, and he could feel the energy flowing into him. Gwyn and Way-lynn were more concerned about their missing friends and how to get out of this place and thought Delen to be a bit more odd than usual.

In the distance they saw several shapes appears out of the darkness….

The Graveyard

New Friends
The intense heat closing about the trio from Balic nearly prevented them from taking a breath. Eventually it subsided and was replaced with cooler air that smelled faintly of death. The found themselves in strange surroundings; dark and foreboding. All around them were gravestones, tombs and crypts similar, yet unlike those of Athas. The distant skyline was illuminated with flashes of lightning that revealed a strange city of tall towers and bridges.

Closer at had, just at the edge of their vision, they could see another group of three wandering around near a large ruined building. As they approached them, the figures in the distance appeared wrapped in burial shrouds and they thought it was some form of undead. As they moved closer, ready for a fight, Jax recognized the elf as none other than Gwyn, the adventurer that she had been seeking for many weeks.

There was some underlying suspicion as the trow groups got to know each other, but that quickly passed as they formulated a plan to try and escape the Gray. Their plans were interrupted when a large group of undead, lead by a grave golem literally crashed through their gathering. The foul creatures were set on adding to their numbers and attacked immediately.

The trio from Balic was better equipped than the recently deceased, but Delen’s magic was amplified by his presence in the Gray and was more potent than usual. Banoc elemental power was very effective and the lesser undead were easily defeated, but the golem proved more tougher as it was invulnerable to non-magical attacks. Daqiq in particular found his contribution was in creating a distraction to aid his allies. However, when all the attacks were concentrated on it, it didn’t take long for it to crumble back into stones.

With the immediate danger out of the way, they tended to their wounds and continued the discussion of where to go from here. Things became a little more complicated when they noticed the undead were branded with a snake skull, a brand that Gwyn recognized as the mark of Yarnath. Gwyn believed Yarnath to have been destroyed on Athas months ago. Gwyn was the only one who had been to Moil and most thought that there would be information or a possible way to return to Athas. During their conversations, Gwyn also learned that her mother, Marisol, was alive and ruling the shadow version of Kalidnay.

Their discussions lasted a long time…

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City of Sails

One month ago…

The Last Alliance
Banoc could not believe what he had just heard, something he’d hoped to never hear. After nearly twenty years in Balic, the Veiled Alliance had been compromised. It was time to leave the city or face the harsh punishments that the templars of Andropinis would surely dole out.

The previous day, he had learned through the usual channels that the rumors of a band of adventurers entering the Ivory Dungeon were true. An Alliance member, Maserak, whose cell was based at the Thespian House had sent them on a dangerous mission to rescue or eliminate a captured Alliance member, Zaldanis. Maserak had always been a bit too bold and reckless, especially with those he had a relationship with, and now it looked liked they all might pay the ultimate price. The Alliance cells were compartmentalized to protect the members from just such an event, but there were always flaws that could be exploited.

As he quickly packed his belonging, he paused to send out messages to the members of his cell, to pass along the information and warning. He received only a few short replies, far fewer than he expected and he feared that many of his cell members were already captured or in hiding. Although he despised each and every one of the sorcerer-king’s Praetors, he did respect their speed and efficiency.

Banoc finished his packing and had sent his last message and prepared to leave the city. The problem was now where should he go. He realized that he hadn’t been outside of the city in nearly a decade and had little idea where to go. Fortunately, he knew a couple who would be able to help and would likely be interested in leaving the city, given the current events. He sent them a message and headed out to the meeting point, hoping that he had time.

Jax heard the message from Banoc and quickly woke her husband Daqiq. They always traveled light and were ready to leaving if business got bad. Business had been good lately, and the couple had just placed a large down-payment on information that would be needed for some future heists they had been planning. That would have to wait for the time being, because both knew that they couldn’t do more business if there were stuck in the Ivory Dungeon.

They met up with Banoc and when they heard the details, their curiosity was peaked, along with their self-preservation instincts. Although neither was a member of the Veiled Alliance in Balic, they had done some jobs for them in the past and they could be exposed if the wrong Alliance member was captured, Banoc for example. More interestingly this group was without a doubt the same adventurers from Tyr that Jax had become slightly obsessed with.

For almost a year, Jax’s contacts and information brokers had been passing her stories of a band of adventurer’s from Tyr. This group stood out because they were linked to a large number of extraordinary events that had occurred in the Tyr Region. The troubles in the new forest near Altaruk and the birth of a new dragon, the strange events in the Ziggurat of Kalak and the change of heart of the Wastewalker – this group was somehow involved in all of them.

Daqiq, Jax and Banoc agreed to head out of the city together, for safety, and journey in search of these adventurers, to satisfy Jax’s curiosity and learn more about the events outside of Balic. Jax and Daqiq adopted their alternate identities, quickly becoming to two new individuals.

Kalidnay
Jax did not know where the adventurers had gone after their flight from Balic, she did know where they had been. Their patterns suggested that they could move quickly in the southwest and often ended in Altaruk. She also knew that the adventurers had been at the trade fort of House Shom, near the ruins of Kalidnay. If the sightings were accurate, they had traveled long distances very quickly which made her suspect they could have a base of operations in that region. On a hunch, she decided to head towards Altaruk and then Fort Melidor to learn more about the adventurers.

The journey took a turn for the worse when it became obvious the Balic’s legionaries were also headed towards Altaruk. None of the party relished traveling alongside those who were searching for them. Jax decided the best course would be to head towards Celik, where they were less likely to encounter the forces of Balic and could possibly gain information. After five days, they turned southwest at the fork leading to Altaruk, and traveled for another five days to Celik.

They found the ruins of Celik to be a refuge for outcasts, escaped slaves and other seeking refuge – their group fit in perfectly. Jax was able to secure an audience the a human trader named Korsun of House Mareneth, who controlled the city. Korsun kept tabs on all who went through the city and what business they conducted. After a few drinks and some coin, he mentioned that a group partially matching the description of the adventurers had passed through about a month ago.

Jax and Daqiq also learned that the adventurers were low on supplies and sold off some artifacts to purchase food and water. Normally this business would not have been remarkable, but some of the artifacts were clearly from the ruins of Kalidnay and the trio agreed that that would be the next best place to look. Daqiq was also eager to explore the ruins for the possible treasures they may uncover. Knowing that others had been successful, emboldened him to the concept.

The following morning, the trio set out towards the ruins of Kalidnay and after five days of travel over the Gian’ts Ribs Mountains and the salt flats on the western side, they came within sight of Kalidnay. None of them had seen the city before although Jax knew the legends of the disappearance of the population seemingly overnight. They agreed that discretion was best and only made a brief foray into the ruins before nightfall when they retreated a safe distance.

The next day they began their search in earnest, looking all over the city for any signs of the adventurers from Tyr. They encountered some signs of activity, corpses perhaps a 3-4 months old, around the ziggurat. Throughout the rest of the city they found some creatures that had taken shelter in the ruins and strange shadows were seen, always just out of view. The recovered some trinkets of value, but there were no signs of the adventurers. Night came quickly while they were deep in the ruins and they were forced to make shelter in the lair of a beast they had defeated.

That night a strange mist rolled through the streets and came upon the trio from Balic while they slept. In the morning when the awoke, they found themselves in a different Kalidnay, one that was still inhabited. Confused at the change, but not entirely surprised (thanks to the rumors that Jax was familiar with), they moved quickly to hide themselves. They were found however, by a strange man who introduced himself as Kezmit and he had been waiting for strangers. Although they were suspicious, they had no better option and accompanied him to the outskirts of the city into a small compound of warehouses, the home of resistance group similar to the Veiled Alliance.

Kalidnay

From the resistance leader, an undead preserver named Laylon-Ka, they learned that the adventurers from Tyr had been in this version of Kalidnay and they had fought and defeated the former ruler, a templar of Kalid-Ma named Thakok-An with the aid of a group from a distant land. With her death, the adventurers split up and went separate ways for a time. They learned of the new lord of the lands, the mother of Gwyn, an elf templar of Nibenay named Marisol, who converted the population into zealous followers of the shadow king.

The trio was saddened to hear of the death of the druid Vinara by the dominated barbarian Morg. Kezmit told of his adventures with the others in the shadowy realm of Moil and their encounter with an aspect of the sorcerer-king Dregoth. Kezmit recounted they last time he saw the adventurers from Tyr, attempting to rescue Morg from his enthrallment by Marisol.

After resting and having many of their questions answered, the trio was urged to be cautious, as Marisol was keenly interested in finding and destroying any outsiders who entered this realm. The trio had no desire to stay, but also no real means of escape. Laylon-Ka was prepared to assist them, in exchange for their aid in some attempts to destabilize Marisol’s hold on the population. The party agreed and spent the next several days working to undermine Marisol’s power structure through theft, sabotage and assassinations – all talents the trio possessed in abundance.

At first there was little resistance to the trio’s activities, but with each passing day, they faced more and more challenges. The trio’s activities were further hampered by the population’s xenophobic tendencies and soon the found themselves dodging traps set for them. When Laylon-Ka had finally determined out how to best get the trio out of Kalidnay, and hopefully back to Athas, the pressure from the templar’s forces was intense. The trio barely made it out into the mists as a wall of heat began to close the borders of the land.

The Gray
After an indeterminable amount of time in strange mists, the trio was able to begin to distinguish features. Instead of the familiar dunes and rocky badlands of their home, dark buildings against a dark sky with gray clouds. As this new land came into focus, rows of tombstones were visible, standing in silence to the left and right, in front and behind, like a sea of the dead. Some were crumbled with the weathering of centuries, some were smooth marble with new black writing and laid with floral tributes. Most though, were overgrown and unkempt.

Wherever they were, it was not Athas…

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Marauders of Nibenay

The Reckoning
Nibenay sat motionless on his throne and listened carefully as Siemhouk told him of the party’s actions during the cataclysm. Everyone attempted to overhear what she was saying, and although they couldn’t catch it all, she appeared to be favorably about them. When she finished, the towering dragon king tilted his head, looking down at the group before him.

It would appear that you have some explaining to do.

Nibenay stares each of the heroes in turn. Only Kira, Jarvix and Iorskan could hold his gaze. The sorcerer-king was silent for a few moments, but none dared to speak. After a few moments Nibenay spoke…

I foresaw that a time of great change was coming. I was shown a time in which the internal struggles of the city were diminished. I assumed that this meant the destruction of my enemies and the cleansing of the rebels from my city. I see now that I was wrong. Throughout the city, I sense great suffering and torment. Truly, this is the darkest day of my long reign.

Gwyn spoke, casting the blame for the cataclysm on Nibenay, to which he barely responded with a snort of disbelief. He then spoke with almost a hint of joy and hope in his voice.

I sense, however, that it is also one of the brightest. Throughout Nibenay, people who should be battling each other worked together to heal the wounded and rebuild that which has been destroyed. Perhaps this is the way of the future.

When he spoke again, there was sadness in his voice and a hint of anger.

Then again, perhaps it is not. I have seen you and I have seen your actions. You who claim to want to bring about a new Green Age, yet cause scant more than chaos by overthrowing the rightful rulers of the cities. I am reminded of the true way of the world.

The anger in his voice, rising with each word, could now be heard and almost felt.

You meddle in events that are beyond you in every way and you seek to undo a history that you know nothing about. You try to inflict your will upon the world without knowledge of, or regard for, the consequences. You are but children at play.

Iorskan dared to speak during a brief moment where Nibenay contemplated his next works, but the dragon king was unmoved.

You worked against my interests by aiding the Veiled Alliance and their plot to destroy me. Had you not aided them, my magic would have finally torn apart the Zwuun and peace would have settled across the land. It is because of you that the cataclysm happened.

There is another pause, before Nibeany addresses the party again, where the party could speak. There is no more emotion in his voice, only cold logic.

Your attack on my Templars can be overlooked, as can your petty thefts. Truly such events help me to separate the strong from the weak. However, take care that you do not deprive me of anything that I do value, or the cost shall be very dear.

Nibeany arose from his throne and moved towards the party. His heavy clawed feet making a horrible scraping sound on the tiled floor. Siemhouk remained still and continued to intently watch the party.

He approached Delen who remained face down on the floor.

Your assistance with Siemhouk’s ritual is appreciated and it shall be rewarded. You will be allowed to live. However, you are dismissed from my service and will never be allowed to access that which you cherish most – the libraries of this city are forever out of your reach.

Delen could barely express his gratitude for being spared and remained facing the floor. Nibenay turned to Way-lynn, speaking with anger once again.

You were once my guard, sworn to protect me and the interests of our city. As payment for your service you were released from my service. In any other city-state you would have been a slave your entire life. You abandoned your home when you found your new sense of morality. And today you attack me while I was defenseless. Well, as defenseless as I can be.

Nibenay then turned to Kira, his anger rising.

I had you trained in powers that you could only have dreamed of, powers over nature that none on this world have possessed for millennia. Those gifts would have allowed you to restore the vitality of Athas. You repaid my generosity with treachery and have proven that you are more trouble than you are worth.

Nibenay finally faced Gwyn, his anger was now mixed with sadness.

You had the spark of a dragon in your soul and I have watched you for many years. You persisted when Dregoth’s construct destroyed your mortal form. You alone out of all my children have had the potential to make real change in the world. But what kind of king would I be if my own child could defy me?

Endgame
Nibenay’s intentions were clear – Gwyn, Kira and Way-lynn were to be punished for their actions with death. The others knew that if they did nothing and let their friends die, they would live. Only by working together could they have a chance of saving their friends, but the sorcerer-king would be unlike any foe they had tried to overcome.

After the many adventures and shared dangers, the party decided to fight. Even Delen, who had been the most loyal to Nibeany, decided to tempt fate and try and defend his friends. The battle that followed was intense as the group endured assaults from Siemhouk, newly conjured fire and air elementals and the sorcerer-king himself.

Kira assumed the form of a primal wolf and pounced on Nibeany, catching him by surprise and knocking him to the ground. Elleandra used her magic on Siemhouk and, although the child resisted, she eventually was overcome and placed in an enchanted slumber for the rest of the fight.

Iorskan found himself in combat with the air elementals and he fell to their attacks. Jarvix attempted to enlist aid from the Zwuun, sending out a message for help. He heard nothing in response and assumed that the enigmatic being simply did not care. He attempted to stay out of the way while aiding his friends and taunting Nibenay. He even went so far as to sit on the throne in defiance of the sorcerer-king.

Delen attempted to stand his ground against Nibenay, but the sorcerer-king had little patience and Delen fell. Gwyn fell next, her mind crushed by her father’s attacks. Kira was unable to sustain her attacks and Nibenay defeated her next. Way-lynn attempted to leave the throne room with Elleandra, and both were defeated when Nibenay teleported next to them. Jarvix was the last to fall to the sorcerer-king.

Everything faded to gray for the adventurers…

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Marauders of Nibenay

The Throne Room
The room before the party was immense with massive arches supporting a great domed ceiling painted to resemble the night sky with diamonds, emeralds, and other jewels marking the positions of various stars. The far end of the room was dominated by a step pyramid and a great obsidian throne resting at its peak. Seated in the throne was the mighty sorcerer-king Nibenay. His face set in a grimace of pain as he struggled silently against the cloud of mist and energy that could only be the Zwuun.
Nibenay
Siemhouk strode forward into the room with the rest following her. As she did, the air in the room swirled about two of the pillars coalescing into vaguely humanoid shapes. Siemhouk quietly stated that the air elementals were some of the defenses Nibenay had created for his throne room. She then moved up closer to her king and entered a trance-like state focusing on her activity to the exclusion of all else. Two different pillars burst into flames which moved of their own accord toward the templar.

Iorskan, Jarvix and Way-lynn moved up and focused their attacks on the right hand air elemental. Gwyn and Elleandra followed them, attacking the same elemental with their magic. Kira turned back into her human form and tossed an orb of energy at the elemental which burst causing the elemental to dissipate.

The fight against the air and fire elementals continued as the party wrestled internally, trying to determine who they should be helping. Iorskan was reveling the the combat, taking particular joy when an elemental was defeated. Gwyn used her magic to briefly transform into a dragon, breathing fire hot enough to even injure the fire elementals. Her allies were simultaneously impressed and concerned about her increasing draconic power.

Siemhouk was completely focused on her task, and the party could only guess at what she was trying to accomplish. Delen, while attempting to avoid being attacked by the elementals, was trying to figure out what Siemhouk was up to. Although exactly what she was doing was still eluding him, Delen did surmise that she was attempting to affect the Zwuun. He trusted the child-templar enough to try and lend his aid to help her complete the ritual sooner.

The tide of battle slowed briefly and Way-lynn and Gwyn, still in the form of a dragon, were far removed from the elementals. Acting on instinct more than rational thought, they both launched attacks at Nibenay himself. Way-lynn’s axe was unable to damage the supernaturally tough hide of the sorcerer-king. Gwyn’s magic, more powerful than ever, was still unable to affect the distracted Nibenay.

Iorskan, Jarvix and Way-lynn were able to defeat the last air elemental, giving the group a brief reprieve from the combat. Jarvix attempted to contact Siemhouk to determine what she was trying to achieve with her ritual. She responded that she was fighting for Nibenay. Seeing no other threats, the party decided to try and defeat Nibenay is his somewhat-vulnerable state. However, their conviction was short-lived and Delen and Elleandra continued to help Siemhouk complete her ritual while the others defended her from additional elementals that appeared.

The Dragon Triumphant
Gwyn moved too close the Zwuun and became affected by the rage of the creature, lashing out at Kira with her magic, and nearly killing the druid. Kira was forced to attack Gwyn, as there appeared little chance that she could break free of the creatures control. Gwyn was pulled away from the Zwuun and knocked unconscious just as Siemhouk completed her ritual. Jarvix used his powers to heal Gwyn and she regained her senses in time to see the results of the ritual.

The ritual Siemhouk was performing calmed the rage of the Zwuun and Nibeany rose to his feet and released a terrifying scream. The days of conflict with the Zwuun were over. Siemhouk moved next to her king and softly spoke to him of the party’s actions over the last few days. Nibenay remained quiet, lost in thought or perhaps using his great power to survey the city.

At last his eyes focused on the party and he tilted his head towards the group, who could do nothing but wait. With a deep, inhuman voice, Nibenay finally spoke…

It would appear that you have some explaining to do…

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Marauders of Nibenay

The Orrery
With the golems defeated, the party moved into a large rectangular room which was completely given over to one of the most amazing machines they had ever seen. The heart of the device was a large, spherical clockwork mechanism that contained thousands of delicate looking metal gears, wheels, and springs, all moving with what appeared to be absolute precision. A dozen slender metal rods jutted out from the massive central sphere, each ending in an assembly of globes that appeared to move in circles, about each other and then (as a group) about the mechanism itself.

The convolutions of the machine made moving around the room a very difficult task, but Delen was impossibly curious about the workings and the knowledge it might hold. Unfortunately his eagerness for the power of the Orrery outweighed his caution. As he attempted to work his way inside the device, he misjudged the timing and was struck by one of the moving arms. He was hurled across the room and the resulting damage caused the device to start throwing random components inside the room. Elleandra, Iorsakn and Jarvix dove back into the crystal hallway, while Way-lynn, Gwyn and Delen dove the opposite direction into the next room. The device continued to break itself apart so the two groups each headed out to try and meet up in another part of the fortress.

The Bone Hall
Delen, Elleandra and Gwyn found themselves in a narrow chamber stretching nearly 150 feet in front of them. Three pairs of very slender, hourglass-shaped pillars rose from the floor of the room and stretched all the way to the ceiling some 50 feet above. The columns were built from some sort of unusual crystal and glowed so brightly that they were difficult to look at directly. The walls and floor were tiled in elegant white marble that gleamed brightly in the radiance of the six pillars.

As if all this were not wondrous enough, the room was filled with the skeletons of great animals. The largest of which was roughly five times the height of a man and looked something like a giant silt runner. The smallest was twice the height of a man and resembled a hejkin with an extra pair of arms. All told, there were some three dozen skeletons standing there.

The ever impulsive Delen used his magic on one of the skeletons to animate it, knowing that they would need more muscle if other golems were encountered. His spell was a success and the skeleton started to move under his control. A fraction of a second later, he lost control to the force of rage that had animated the dead of the city into zombies. The skeletal monster charged him and knocked him down into unconsciousness. A fight ensued with Way-lynn using every trick they had to keep the beast immobilized while Gwyn and Delen assaulted it with their spells. The beast fell into a heap of bones and they moved on.

The Southeast Tower
Back in the Jade Hall, Jarvix, Iorskan and Elleandra headed toward the east door and when they were about to open it, a flash of lightning struck the floor and two golems appeared blocking their path and attacking the party. As before, the party was able to defeat them, but not without suffering injuries themselves. Once the golems were defeated, the group passed through the doors without hindrance.

They entered a large domed chamber some 100 feet in diameter and 75 feet high. The floor and walls were tiled with hexagonal slabs of obsidian, making the entire chamber seem dark and foreboding, like an open grave. Dozens of cages, each fashioned from polished obsidian cylinders and large enough to hold a thri-kreen, hung from the ceiling on long bone chains. The lowest of these were some 30 feet over their heads, and the majority of them hung some 10 to 20 feet higher. It was difficult to see what the cages contained, but moans of suffering and agony drifted out of them, giving the entire area a heavy, macabre atmosphere.

Having had their fill of strange necromantic magics, Jarvix and the others turned away from the room and headed down the hallway eventually meeting up with Way-lynn and the others.

Old and New Friends
A wall of sparkling energy hung across the entrance to the northwest tower. Through the translucent barrier, a magnificent dome some 100 feet in diameter and 75 feet in height could be seen. The floor and walls appeared to have been cut from a single sheet of charcoal gray granite. At the center of the room, a bone tube jutted some 20 feet into the air, where it unleashed a cloud of blue-white fire that provided an unnatural illumination. The place was adorned with harsh, utilitarian furnishings fashioned mainly from bone and hardwoods. An uncomfortable bed and several other items gave the impression that that this place might be the living quarters of Nibenay himself. A great maze of shelves and cabinets fills the far half of the room, providing storage space for countless scrolls, trinkets, and macabre-looking devices.

Delen attempted to enter the room but only succeeded in burning his hand when it made contact with the barrier. He was tormented by the items in the room, but knew that it would take far more time than they had to breach the barriers, if it could be accomplished at all.

They reached the northwest tower and saw a sprawling dome some 100 feet in diameter and 75 feet in height. Comfortable furnishings and pleasant adornments gave the place a look of intimacy that belies the vast openness of the chamber. From the nature of the items in this room, it was clearly a private living area. Near the center of the room was the body of a young girl – Siemhouk. She lay crumpled on a sleeping cushion, her unmoving, willowy form was draped in a shimmering black aura.

Having some experience with the various wards around the Naggaramakam, it was not terribly difficult for Elleandra and Delen to undo the magic that kept Siemhouk asleep. When freed, she was even more strange and ethereal than when the encountered her the first time. She gave only vague one-word answers to the questions she was asked. Eventually the party learned that she knew where Kira was and they were lead to a nearby room.

The party entered a poorly lit room some 50 feet wide end three times that long. The walls and floor were polished to a rough, dull finish the color of slate and they seem to absorb all the light that fell on them. The entire place is filled with a maze of ornate wooden shelves holding en incalculable umber of clay tablets. Asleep at one of the tables, was Kira. When the magic keeping her asleep was lifted, they found that she was only slightly more coherent than Siemhouk. They learned that she had been studying for the past week but had been asleep since the strange lightning storm happened.

The Throne Room
Although her friends were concerned about her mental state, Kira did not want to discuss the matter and so the group decided to move on. Delen attempted to acquire some of the books, but Siemhouk simply said “no” and he decided to not press the issue. Siemhouk lend them to the southwest tower, where they saw yet another wonderful sight.

Nibenay's FountainThe floor was tiled in 6-inch hexagonal slabs of turquoise, while the walls had been polished smooth and painted a pleasant aquamarine. In the center of the room was a grand fountain seemingly fashioned from a single piece of blue-white marble. Clear, sparkling water shot high in to the air from the center, then splashed into a broad basin some 30 feet in diameter. The echoes of the cascading water were relaxing and comfortable, but they made quiet conversation impossible. Something about this place seemed to lessen the feeling of hatred and anger that had been gnawing at them ever since you entered the fortress.

Around the fountain the party rested for a bit and tended to their wounds. The fountain water was cool, clear and refreshing and did much to invigorate them after their many battles. Nothing further was learned for Kira and Siemhouk stared quietly into nothing while the party rested. Eventually, she announced it was time to see the throne room and they moved back into the Jade Hall.

As they drew near the north door of the Jade Hall, the hanging orbs grew dark. The only light in the room now came from the doors; which radiated a pulsating emerald aura. Siemhouk stepped forward, her frail body trembling. As she reached the door, the priest child stretched out a slender arm and touched the surface of the portal. Suddenly, all lights were extinguished and the area fell into absolute darkness. For a second, all was still. Then a minute trace of blue light appeared before them as the mighty doors began to open. Blinking, they looked into the strange room beyond, gasping at the sight.

The room itself was an immense rectangle, easily 200 feet wide end 150 feet deep. A great domed ceiling extended up nearly 100 feet above they floor, supported by a pair of massive arches. The inside of the dome was painted to resemble the night sky with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other jewels marking the positions of various stars. A step pyramid some 40 feet high was beneath the center of the dome, and a greet obsidian throne stood at its peak.

Seated in the throne was a mighty figure. If it was to stand, the creature could easily be 12 feet tall and might weigh 700 pounds. Although more or less humanoid in shape, its body was a mess of tightly packed muscles covered with the scaled skin of a black reptile. A whip-like tail curled around the base of the throne, gripping it tightly, and a slender neck lifted an almost serpentine head some 2 feet above the shoulders.

The beast did not seem to notice their presence. Its reptilian features were set in a grimace of pain and its mouth was open as if to scream. A great sphere of energy and mist hung about the creature, pulsing and throbbing with electrical discharges that filled the room with an unending cacophony of hissing static and booming thunder. A veritable storm of hatred hammered into their minds with such force that they almost believed they were under attack.

In a barely audible voice Siemhouk said: “Behold the sorcerer-king, Nibenay.”

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