Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

Festival of the Cooling Sun
The City of Tyr

Crodlu Racing
The fourth day of the festival opened with a series of crodlu races as the individual contests began. Morg, Gwyn and Castri found themselves competing against each other and two other gladiators. The objective was simple, be the first to guide their crodlu across the finish line after two laps around the area.

The three friends vowed to work together to help Morg win the competition, knowing that only he would be available for the final day of competition. Morg pushed his crodlu hard trusting his athleticism and endurance to help his lizard carry him across the finish line. Gwyn pushed her crodlu hard, while hanging on with all of her strength, all the while maneuvering to prevent the other gladiators from overtaking her friend. Castri had more difficulty keeping up, being unused to the animals, however his skill with the Way caused a great difficulties for the others as he caused debris from the track to blind and hinder them.

Near the finish line Castri collided with another rider sending both of them tumbling across the finish line just behind Morg who finished first and Gwyn who finished in second place. After the race, the three collected their winnings and stayed at the arena to watch the other races. Members of the Red Cord were eliminated but an elf of the Moonrunner tribe showed impressive skills in the racing and looked to be a top contender for the final match of the festival.

Across the Wastes
During the fourth day, Vinara left the city to journey with the Wastewalker to a hidden location to receive training on the ways of a primal guardian. After a day of travel, where she listen to the Wastewalker discuss how all aspects of nature were interconnected, they arrived at a hidden oasis in the foothills of the Ringing Mountains.

The spirits of fire challenged her to destroy the defilers and their allies in order to prevent more damage to the world. The spirit of earth warned her that she would need to endure great hardships if she were to take up the task of restoring Athas to its former state. The spirit of water tasked Vinara with healing the world that had suffered so much at the hands of the sorcerer-kings. Finally the spirit of air challenged Vinara to be cautious in her approach to restoring Athas, knowing that the entrenched power of sorcerer-kings and their allies would not be easily overthrown.

Accepting their challenges and demonstrating her ability to overcome her adversaries, the spirits invested her with the power to become a primal guardian. She learned the power to summon a new companion to help her in quests – a living zephyr that could obscure the vision of her enemies and push them about. Satisfied that her training was complete she began her journey back to Tyr.

The Veiled Alliance
Gwyn journeyed back to the The Warrens to meet her Veiled Alliance contact Jarvix and complete her initiation on the night of the fifth day of the festival. They traveled deep into the Warrens and down into the depths of an abandoned building. From the basement they traveled down into the Under-Tyr, the ruins of the old city of Tyr.

At the gates of an ruined building Gwyn demonstrated her skill in preserving magic by opening the door without harming the fragile lichens nearby. Inside the building she found other members of the Alliance who tested her moral character and dedication to the cause of preserving magic.

More than satisfied with her responses, she was inducted into the Veiled Alliance. She learned that the cells were currently debating divulgence – whether to maintain the secrecy that has protected them for so long, or whether to reveal themselves to the population and capitalize on the death of Kalak to promote good-will towards their members. With the future of such actions uncertain, Gwyn returned to the surface to watch Morg’s final match.

Agis of Asticles
Castri to the estates of Agis in the hopes of learning more about the events surrounding the death of Kalak. Although initially suspect about his motives, Agis eventually divulged much that was previously unknown, hoping that Castri would use such knowledge to help bring about a positive change to the world.

We journeyed to the Forest Ridge where the halflings granted us the use of a Heartwood Spear, pulled from an ancient Tree of Life. They told us that Kalak was attempting to transform into a powerful dragon, and if successful he would bring great destruction to the lands. They instructed us that only by working together could we hope to overcome Kalak’s potent defenses.

During the gladiatorial contest, we struck at once; I used by talents with the Way to weaken his mental defenses, Sadira used her arcane powers to breach his other defenses. Rikus then threw the spear and landed a mortal wound, one that should have killed him, except for the massive life force he was draining from the crowd. We, along with Tithian, followed Kalak into the Ziggurat of Kalak.

Once inside, we found Kalak in the midst of his transformation and attempted to finish him off, but he was too strong, still empowered by the life forces he had stolen. Only the quick actions of Tithian, who began smashing the obsidian orbs around his chamber cut him off from the energies and allowed him to be finally defeated.

If you hope to defeat other sorcerer-kings you will have a much harder time than we did, for the other sorcerer-kings will not be distracted by the rituals that Kalak was attempting when he was slain. Even at your peak, you will need all the help you can receive, you should look find powerful artifacts to aid your quests, but where to start looking is unknown to me.

Armed with this knowledge, Castri returned to watch the final games of the festival.

The Final Duel
Aric of the MoonrunnersThe final match of games was between Morg and and elf named Aric, from the Moonrunner tribe, had earned a reputation for ruthlessness. The two gladiators closed on each other taking cover behind pillars as they did so. When they were close Morg stepped out from behind the pillar and taunted the elf into attacking.

Happy to oblige, Aric charged forth swiping with his massive obsidian blade and landing a deep wound on Morg. The wound began to sting and burn from the poison that was coated on the blade, clearly showing his intent to kill. Morg became enraged and his fury gave him the strength to ignore the wounds and continue fighting. Both gladiators maneuvered around the pillars and patches of brambleweed. The elf’s use of poison and magic during the attack gave him a slight advantage, but the crowd clearly favored Morg. A couple attacks that were parried by Aric appeared to be the turning point, but the combat ended quickly as a massive swipe from Morg’s axe removed the elf’s head.

After the celebration, Morg and the others collected the winnings from their bets and began to prepare for their next journey. They decided to search for the Face in the Stone as the urgency seemed greater. They let a disappointed Rhotan Vor of House Wavir know that when they returned, they would help him search for the lost tomb.

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Marauders of the Dune Sea
Finding the Face

Desert Trek
Morg, Vinara and Castri headed to the Merchant District to purchase supplies for their expedition into the desert. Eager to start their trip, the trio did not spend much time listening to news or gossip, but rather made their purchases and headed back.

While the others were busy procuring supplies, Gwyn opened their shop and attempted to attract some business. The day was slow, with only one patron, a merchant named Dalem Shom, of House Shom. While inking his house symbol onto his arm, Dalem expressed concern over a missing caravan and a dramatic increase in raider activity. Gwyn mentioned that when they were in the desert, they would keep a look out for the lost caravan.

The group set out the next day, guided only by the shared visions of Vinara and the Wastewalker, they headed towards the rising sun. Watchful for the vague landmarks seen in the visions, the group struggled against the harsh terrain, with Gwyn suffering the most as they crossed ravines and escarpments.

As the group moved through a particularly narrow section of the badlands, thin strands of nearly invisible crystal suddenly became apparent. As they got closer, it was apparent that the strands formed a large web stretching between several of the boulders. Having seen this type of web before, the heroes were not surprised by the appearance of two large crystal spiders. The battle against the spiders was not difficult for the seasoned adventurers, although the blinding light reflected by the spiders caused Gwyn to be blinded for a short while.

After eight grueling days of travel, the group finally reached what they assumed could only be their destination; a dust storm hanging in place over a cliff wall. The stationary storm, a twisting pillar of blowing dust and sand ascended over 50 feet into the sky. The screaming wind promised stinging death to those who entered.

Storm’s Edge
Dust StormFrom their vantage point, the adventurers could see more than a dozen humans and humanoids among the jumble of rocks and dunes ahead of them. Their ragtag and eclectic dress suggested they were raiders. Some were perched atop the rocks as sentries and other gathered farther away, partly sheltered by a large boulder. Numerous bound human captives lay near the edge of the stationary dust devil. While they assessed the situation, three of the raiders began to drag a captive across the sand and tosses him into the swirling dust. The captive screamed and was gone.

Acting quickly to maintain the element of surprise and prevent more of the captives from being killed, the group sprang into action. Castri launched a volley of arrows across the boulder taking out one of the tarek raiders who was throwing captives into the storm. Morg charged the nearest raider while Gwyn used her magic on a tougher looking tarek. Vinara and Bear moved to position themselves but were unable to take down any of the raiders.

Gwyn summoned claws of arcane energy to tear away at the raiders foolish enough to close in with her. Vinara drained the lifeblood from her opponent to heal Morg who had been wounded battling several of the humans. Castri continued to launch arrows into the raiders switching to those near the captives after they tossed another into the storm.

The group suffered a bit under the hail of javelins and stabs of spears, but eventually they emerged victorious. Although one of the raiders was alive, the heroes tossed him into the storm. The surviving captives were discovered to be the missing House Shom caravan and promised to tell of the heroics of their saviors upon their return to Tyr. Although there was little to be found on the raiders, they did share one thing in common – a tattoo of a snakes skull. None knew of the significance.

Dust Devil
After taking a short rest and seeing the merchants of House Shom off, the heroes decided that the only course of action was to attempt to penetrate the sand storm in the hopes of finding the Face in the Stone. Acting on Castri’s advice, the group lashed themselves together and entered the storm with Morg and Vinara leading the way.

Each was challenged to endure the rigors of the dust devil while helping their comrades through the worst parts. Simple brute strength to push through the sandstorm was not enough, in order to withstand the rigors of the dust devil, each had to avoid getting turned around in the swirling sand. As they pushed further in, the intensity worsened and the punishing winds caused sand dunes to form and shift, threatening to bury them.

Suffering many small wounds, the party eventually emerged from the storm to find a hollow area of still air along a high cliff face. The cliff contained the relief carving of a massive humanoid face – clearly the Face in the Stone. The empty eyes were black shadows, but the gaping mouth was set with two granite obelisks that appeared to be massive teeth. There appeared to be flashes of movement within the cave, but who or what it was, was not possible to determine at the distance.

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Marauders of the Dune Sea
The Face in the Stone

The Face
The Face in The StoneThe heroes cautiously approached the entrance to the face and as they did so, it became apparent that the movement within was caused by a small group of hejkin. Castri decided to remain outside the face, standing guard in case any of the marauder’s allies attempted to breech the dust storm surrounding the Face.

Gwyn moved forward past the obelisks, which crackled with lightning, striking her. Not seriously injured, she continued in and attempted to intimidate the hejkin into fleeing, bu they were not routed and battle commenced. Morg and Vinara rushed into the cave as the hejkin unleashed lightning attacks of their own. Despite her magic claws tearing into the hejkin, Gwyn suffered the worst under their attack. Two of the hejkin were defeated by Vinara and her entourage, while Morg and Gwyn slew the others.

The group retreated out past the Obelisks, which eventually went dark again. Carefully approaching them, they attempted to discover a way to disable the trap. Unfortunately their actions caused the traps to explode, causing further injuries.

Hejkin Lair
Venturing down the left-hand passage, the group heard a strange sound, akin to a breeze through a fine crystal chime. The source of the sound was found to be the most unusual sight the adventurer’s had seen – running water. Free running water falling down one side of the corridor, pooled in the center of the runnel and flowed away down another constricted channel. Vinara’s keen eyes spotted a shape resting 10 feet below the surface of the water. The creature, resembling a scorpion with tentacles in it’s mouth, was recognized as a chuul. Wary of disturbing the beast, the group vaulted over the stream and continued on down the corridor.

Past the pool of water, the twisting corridor ended in a wide chamber stinking of rotting carrion and spoor. Piles of debris were scattered like nests, and large hole was visible in the center of the chamber. Barely visible in their flickering torchlight, several more hejkin were visible.

Hurt and tired, the heroes charged in to try and make quick work of their foes. Gwyn summoned a blast of fire, burning the hejkin chief as he rang a gong near the entrance. Vinara and Bear took down two of the hejkin quickly before being attacked by the chuul who approached from behind. Morg charged the chief and knocked him into a pit in the room, but its quick reflexes saved it from certain death. Pulling itself out of the pit the chief tossed Bear into the pit and savagely tore into Morg with its claws.

Eventually the hejkin were defeated and Bear was able to climb out of the pit. The group, now completely exhausted was forced to rest in the foul lair of the hejkin. During their rest they uncovered some coins that the hejkin were hoarding, but very little else of value.

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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 lost to the world, fragments of the Crown remained.

Storm Seat
Resting BonesContinuing straight down a hallway, ignoring two side doors, the group found themselves in front of another pair of doors. Tired of caution, Morg flung open the doors and walked inside of a large natural chamber. In a niche in the southern wall, a massive, vaguely humanoid creature made of fused bone was resting on the ground. Four statues, apparently carved from the floor were visible in the chamber. A great stone cauldron was visible on the northern side of the chamber.

As the heroes moved into the room, they could hear low whispers coming from the cauldron. The ghostly mutterings continued without end, mixing words from many languages without meaning. As Vinara moved towards the cauldron, she avoided getting too close to the statues, as the air around them seemed disturbed. The cauldron was large enough to hold the entire party, but was empty except for what appeared to be a faint mist.

Ancestor Hall
Deciding that their need to find the artifact was greater than the need to satisfy their curiosity, the group moved out of the room. Once again they avoided getting too close to the statues. The hallway was light from the far end and had two side passages that each had a large stone urn at the far side.

The southern passage had a snake design decorated on the floor tiles in what appeared to be charcoal. The northern passage was similarly decorated, but the design was painted in a dark green fluid. Both hallways had strange writing which Vinara translated as the phrase “Our ancestors require obeisance” etched in the walls. The large urns remained untouched as the group ventured towards the source of the light.

Wide steps lead down into a grand chamber. Crackling fire burned in two braziers that flanked the stairs. The flames bathed the room in oddly inconstant light, throwing shadows across a floor covered in skeletal and mummified humanoid remains. Vinara moved forward, heading to the southern doors leading out of the room, when she was wracked with pain.

With a shriek, several bodies scattered across the floor began to rise, the sickly sweet odor of decaying flesh blowing through the chamber. A snake sigil, previously obscured by the bodies began to glow with a scarlet light. Around the sigil, a number of ghostly figures appeared moving towards the immobilized Vinara, caressing her with shadowy hands. Morg charged the wraiths, cleaving them with his axe. Vinara and Bear defeated the remaining two with a combined attack.

Gwyn flung her arms in a wide arc spraying the zombies and skeletons with liquid fire. Although Vinara was in constant pain as the sigil continued to drain her energy, their remaining foes were dispatched quickly. Gwyn used her magic to disrupt the sigil long enough for the group to leave the room and head deeper into the Face in the Stone. The exit from the room eventually forked with doors visible at the end of each branch.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Lost Cistern of Aravek
The Trail of Aravek

An Early Morning
Although their course of action had been decided earlier, Morg made one last-ditch effort to convince the group that they should head directly for the House Tsalaxa caravan. The rest of the heroes were still firmly set on finding the Cistern and the all-important water it might contain. Morg sent Merric out to find information on the Cistern of Aravek while he and the others prepared to venture out into the wilderness. Merric found only a little, stories of dwarf tribes in the desert that use a type of “wind trap” to cool their stone dwellings. He thought that, with a bit of magical aid, the traps could collect water. However Merric doubted that a sufficient amount of water could be collected in a reasonable time.

At the same time, Gwyn, still recovering from her wild evening, found her Veiled Alliance contact Jarvix and inquired about what he might know. Jarvix knew something about Aravek, as he was a preserver and a member of the Veiled Alliance in Tyr many centuries ago. Although he was reclusive, his obsession with creating water was well known. Many suspected he was successful, as Kalak, ordered his tower in the Ringing Mountains destroyed and the preserver killed.

Armed with the information and equipped for a journey into the harsh desert, the group set out attempting to find the Cistern as quickly as possible.

The Trail of Aravek
Ringing MountainsThe sun-scorched hills of the Tyr Region stretched before the group as they exited the gates of Tyr. A shimmering heat mirage painted the false lure of water across the horizon before giving way to the soaring peaks of the Ringing Mountains to the west. Compared to this desolate wasteland, the chaos of the great thronging city-state behind you seemed a virtual paradise.

The group made good time through the rough terrain, however, Gwyn’s exertions the previous night slowed her down considerably and Morg needed to support his elf friend for the first few hours. Every vigilant about the dangers of the desert Vinara and Kelvor kept a close watch on their surroundings. When some signs of possible pursuit were noticed Castri quickly (and quietly) located the pursuing group about an hour behind them. The group, a half-dozen strong, was clearly following them and it was decided to set an ambush, should their tail prove to be hostile or competition.

Templar Trouble
Morg and Kelvor remained on the trail, while the others continued ahead and then circled back to hide in the rocks. They didn’t have to wait too long before a small group of humans and dwarves, all armed, came into view and came to a halt when they saw the pair on the trail ahead of them. The group appeared to be lead by a man in white robes who spoke to Morg. Although his story of being lost from a caravan was plausible, his accent revealed him as an Urikite.

Quickly the conversation turned into combat, however, the heroes were more than prepared and not at all surprised when the robed man shouted “We shall return to Tyr as conquerors! For Hamanu and Urik! Kill them!” Castri moved quickly from the rocks and used the Crown of Dust to knock four of the group to the ground. The robed man, most likely a templar of Hamanu, let forth a blast of lightning striking Morg and Kelvor, the ground at his feet turning black with his defiling magic. Morg rushed forward, past the prone guards, and landed a might blow on the templar.

Vinara and Bear closed in as well, finishing off one of the raiders and bolstering Morg’s stamina for the retaliation he was sure to face. The two dwarves were reluctant, but under threats from the templar, they charged Castri and Morg, each inflicting serious wounds. The female, who appeared to be a gladiator, hopped to her feet while smashing Morgs legs, causing him to buckle and fall to the ground. Gwyn continued the assault on the templar, blinding him to her with one of her spells. Kelvor moved in drawing the attention of most of their foes in melee.

In short order the group finishing off their attackers, except for the dwarves, who surrendered as soon as the templar was killed. They explained that the army from Urik had seized control of their village, Kled, and that they had joined the templars group under threats of harm to their families. They confirmed that the templar, Anukim, had been following the heroes in an attempt to ambush them after they located the Cistern. The dwarves were set free with most of the food carried by the Urikite’s.

The Lost Cistern of Aravek
After their brief rest and meal with the dwarves, the heroes continued in their search for the Cistern. Although they were still cautions for signs of pursuit or other dangers, they made good time. Skillfully guided by Vinara’s nature sense and Gwyn’s sense of growing magic, they found that the endless barren landscape suddenly gave way to a lush patch of vegetation near a large hill. Although they could see no water source, there was thriving plant life. A tall rocky spire jutted from the hillside and a cave entrance was visible, yawning open, below it. The entire valley was filled with a strange noise: a thick whistling that sounded much like the world’s largest pair of lungs sucking in a single, great, continuous breath.

It was immediately apparent to the group that they had found their destination and that there was a striking resemblance to the Face in the Stone.

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The Lost Cistern of Aravek
The Lost Cistern

Gith Cave
Even cautious of others attempting to locate this cistern, Castri set out on patrol while his companions decided on a course of action. Morg moved through the thick plant life towards the mouth of the cave. There he could hear the whistling shriek of wind echoing through the cavern. Sunlight lanced down from a hole in the ceiling, painting a bright circle of yellow light over a similar hollow shaft in the cavern floor. The walls glistened with moisture and softly glowing runes around the ceiling opening pulsed in time to the intake of air. Clumps of luminescent fungi could be seen growing from the moist ground, adding an eerie green glow to the shadows beyond the bright circle of light. Morg could make out tall, emaciated humanoids, gith, lounging about the cavern, drinking water from large gourds. Their weapons were close at hand, but they were hardly prepared for battle.

Motioning for the others to join him, the rest of the group moved quietly up to the mouth of the cave as well. Unfortunately, Kelvor was not accustomed to the dangers of plant life and tripped over some fallen branches, making enough of a disturbance that the gith detected it, even over the sound of the wind. Within moments they were armed and ready for battle.

The gith leader and his savages charged into melee with the heroes, inflicting serious wounds on Morg and Kelvor. The drones attempted to use the Way to push the heroes into the pit. Although Morg initially resisted their pull, he eventually succumbed and nearly fell in, barely saving himself at the last moment. The gith hobblers lobbed one javelin after another at the melee, striking their targets many times, but never completely pinning them down.

Locked in melee with the creatures, Morg and Kelvor attempted to keep their allies from harm, and were mostly successful. However each suffered numerous injuries and if not for the healing powers of Vinara, they surely would have perished. She and her companions held their own in melee and were quick to finish off the wounded gith. Gwyn used her magic to take down their enemies as quickly as she could, while also keeping herself shielded from attacks. Although the battle was fierce and the situation desperate at times, she resisted the urge to defile in the lush vegetation.

In the end, two of the gith ended up being pushed into the hole in the floor, while the rest will killed. When the combat was finished, the group too a quick rest to tend to their wounds and search the cave. Although none of the food the gith had was edible, there was plenty of fresh water. The gith leader carried a small quartz lens that Gwyn identified as magical, although its properties were still a mystery, as were the precise workings of the magic runes in the cavern.

The Cistern
The Cistern After recovering from the fight with the gith, Morg descended down the hollow shaft into the cistern below. The bright light and howling winds above gave way to the cool darkness of the cistern. The only light below was a wan, green glow produced by clumps of fungi that did little to dispel the gloom of the cramped space.

Although the cistern was obviously not full, Morg had never imagined that so much water could exist in one place. As Morg finished his descent, he landed in a wide, irregularly shaped pool that divided the cistern in half. The waters were still, clear and came up to his knees. The ceiling of the cistern was only about 6 feet above the ground causing him to stoop over awkwardly.

Seeing no immediate danger and no sign of the two gith that were tossed into the cistern, the rest of the group lit their torches and followed Morg down. They spread out and began to search the cave. Vinara and the rest of the group uncovered signs of a struggle and a the remains of the gith, which appeared to have been badly mauled and partially eaten. Morg, off on his own, found nothing, unfortunately, something found him.

A horrific beast, roughly the size of an erdlu, appeared out of the darkness. It was a quadruped and covered in a rock-like hide with jutting spikes of stone and crystal. Its cat-like head had large ears, reddish eyes and a wide jaw filled with dagger-like fangs. The malign intelligence behind its glowing eyes was the most horrific aspect. This creature could only be a tembo.

The tembo tore into Morg with its claws and fangs and draining him of the will to fight. It only switched to attack Kelvor when he used the Way to get the beasts attention. The beasts mere presence was draining the life from the heroes as the fought it. Its great speed and ferocity left none safe. The heroes were unable to consistently inflict damage, as the beasts hide was tough and its magical nature made is resistant to Gwyn’s spells.

The group had to use every trick they could think of to keep the creature for killing them all outright. Morg’s training in the arena and Kelvor’s use of the Way allowed them some degree of control over the creature, but it was far stronger than the realized. Vinara kept them both alive while she and her companions attempted to help take down the monster. Gwyn, although her spells were often resisted, was able to severely wound the tembo. Morg eventually fell to it and was knocked unconscious, only kept alive by his hardy mul heritage. Eventually Vinara was able to revive Morg and the beast finally fell to her staff and Gwyn’s fire.

More exhausted than ever before the group collapsed in the cistern and rested until their strength returned. During their rest, they searched the cistern but found nothing of value, other than the water itself. Morg hauled the carcass of the tembo up into the main cave in order to bring it back to Tyr as a trophy. During their rest Vinara sense that they were further from the Tree of Life then they were in Tyr.

Return to Tyr
Outside of the cave they reunited with Castri and made an uneventful journey back to Tyr. Outside of the city they stopped by the House Asticles estates to confer with Agis. They informed him of the location of the Cistern and the senator immediately dispatched his remaining personal guards to secure the precious water supply. The heroes were invited to spend a few days resting at the estates.

While at the estates Agis offered to train them, so that they would have stronger defenses against users of the Way. Those who fought the tembo found themselves strangely strengthened by the experience. Agis was able to arrange for the hide of the tembo to be turned into a suit of armor for Morg.

They also learned from Agis that the looming war with Urik was beginning to take its toll on the city. The former gladiators were anxious to see combat and unwilling to wait until all of the army was ready to march. He feared that if they weren’t controlled they would march out to certain doom and the safety of Tyr would be in more jeopardy. However, the gladiators were not the only problem – there was growing tension between the craftsmen and the merchant houses with accusations of price-gouging on war supplies and worries of a trade embargo threatened to undermine the war preparations. Morg and Kelvor agreed to investigate the situations.

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