Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

Red Moon Hunt

Entrance to Gulg
Although the party had recovered some of their strength from the fight with the Gulgans, they were in no shape to contend with the well-trained Nibenese forces. The keen eyes of Elleandra and Kira gave the party enough warning to leave the area before the troops arrived. They quickly gathered the clothing of the nganga and judaga foes and Kira summoned the bird spirits to take them to safety. They flew northeast above the Crescent Forest towards the city-state of Gulg. After about an hour, the spirits began to fade and the party set down.

Morg told his allies all that he knew of his former city-state as they donned the gear of the Gulgan warriors. They decided that the safest course of action would be to leave Way-lynn and Iorskan outside the city as dray and half-giants were rarely seen. The rest of the party would enter the city-state by the Queen’s Gate, meet up with the Veiled Alliance contact, procure survival days and spell components and then leave the city.

The spirit eagles landed a few miles outside the city and the party headed towards Gulg from the south. Their first sight was the 20 foot tall hedge of tightly woven razor-sharp brambles, the Mopti Wall. As they approached numerous guards could be seen but the group was allowed to enter the city without any significant challenge. A feeling of unease came over Elleandra as she moved closer to the city – she could feel the anguish of the nature spirits enslaved by the sorcerer-queen. Jarvix directed them to the House of Outsiders where he was to make contact with the Veiled Alliance.

After arranging the meeting and purchasing some supplies they waited for the Veiled Alliance contact to show in a secluded section of the dagada. As they waited, the light crowd dispersed until they were all alone. Suddenly a large group of judagas surrounded them and demanded that the party accompany the warriors to have an audience before the Oba. Out numbered and still weakened from their earlier encounters, the party did not resist.

As the party was escorted deeper into the city, they were awestruck by the lushness of Gulg but also its primitive appearance. The city itself consisted of circular mud and thatch huts arranged into the dagadas – small community groups. Along the way, the party passed near to the city’s arena – the Field of Spears, but their attention was quickly drawn to the center of the city, where an impossibly gigantic agafari tree could be seen. Perched in its highest branches was a wondrous sight – Lalali-Puy’s palace. Beneath the bright and beautiful palace, deep in the shadows, the party could make out the houses of the nganga – foreboding and grim, decorated with ghoulish embellishments, bones, dessicated trophies, and the like.

Entering through the trunk of the mighty tree the party was led up winding stairs. At length, they entered a gleaming white, high-ceilinged chamber. Various slaves, courtiers and soldiers stood around the room, and at one end grew several large, gnarled trees which the party recognized as trees of life. “Abase yourselves in the presence of the Forest Queen!” bellowed a voice. At the other and of the room, seated on a throne carved from the wood of the agafari tree, was Lalali-Puy herself.

“Welcome bold adventurers!” She began with a heavy accent. “We have been told of your bravery and many adventures. We would hear one of your tales as told by you.” There was no mistaking her words as a request and Jarvix told of their encounter with Abalach-Re and her transformation. His tale was slightly embellished to downplay their involvement and ended with Lalali-Puy defeating the dragon. The sorcerer-queen and others in the hall appeared pleased with the story.

“Ah!” She breathed, “It is everything we had hoped for. Please, brave adventurers, accept our hospitality for a few days as an expression of our gratitude. Enjoy your stay in our palace. Everything you see is for your use and pleasure.”

Trouble in Paradise
City-state of GulgWith that the party was escorted to a guest suite where they were reunited with Way-lynn and Iorskan, who had been discovered earlier by a patrol of Gulgan soldiers. Although they were unharmed and allowed to keep their weapons, it was clear they were prisoners and would not be allowed to leave the palace. Jarvix attempted to use the Way to get help, but it was blocked by some power greater than his. Elleandra assisted Kira in communing with nearby plants and animals and received confirmation that the sorcerer-queen and her templars were controlling most of the spirits of nature for their own dark purposes.

They next day the group roamed throughout the palace. Compared to all the other area of Athas they had seen, this was a lush, tropical paradise amid the broad branches of the agafari tree. They found large, luxurious huts, vast meeting chambers, pleasant sitting chambers, and a magnificent view of Gulg and the Crescent Forest beyond. Colorful birds filled the air with song, and iridescent lizards and insects decorated the mighty tree’s trunk and branches. The party was housed in great luxury, and were offered numerous delicacies and as much water and wine as they could drink.

As they rested back in their rooms, they had a visitor who introduced himself as Habban the Fetish Keeper, chief Nganga. Habban was very interested in Elleandra, her background and her magic. They conversed for several hours and it became apparent that he was much more interested in gaining information than giving it. Although he appeared confident, Elleandra sensed that he was rather insecure in his position and nervous about her and her companions.

The discussions were cut short when the party was interrupted by Mogansho the War Chief who was sent to bring them before the sorcerer-queen. They were asked to tell another story and this time Iorskan spoke about their encounters with the forces of Dregoth from the island of Waverly to the ruins beneath Giustenal. He mentioned the return of Kalid-Ma and the mirror they used to escape, both of which the queen and her court listened to intently. At the conclusion of they story, they were dismissed again.

The next day passed much as the previous day had and once again they were summoned before the queen and her court. This time Jarvix told the stories they had learned about the Cleansing Wars, the champions and their tasks. He used many of the sorcerer-kings’ true names during the telling and this caused Lalalai-Puy to become visibly annoyed for a few seconds. There was a brief moment when the party was tempted to start a slow clap, but the mood of the queen stopped them quickly. One member of the queen’s entourage, Shala the Hunt Mistress, spoke up apparently taking offense at the implication that the Oba was anything other than the Forest Goddess. She suggested the party be punished for their disrespect, but the request was not granted and the party was allowed to leave once again.

The following day Kira assumed the form of a colorful songbird and attempted to scout some of the areas of the palace they had not been allowed to enter. She uncovered a library filled with spellbooks of dragon magic and other mundane tomes. Another room held artwork of ancient origins, showing places and creatures never seen in modern times. The last room was a menagerie containing creatures from all over Athas. She returned shortly before the party was summoned before the queen for next story.

This time, the queen’s throne room was almost empty except for the queen, Habban, Shala, Mogansho and another woman. The queen addressed the party with a severe tone in her voice, “So, you have chosen to reject the hospitality that we so generously offered. What are the charges?” Habban spoke first accusing Elleandra of being an evil spirit of nature sent as a spy. According to him the rest of the party was guilty of treachery by not reporting her to the templars. The other woman, Taibela the Chief of Thieves, accused Kira of violating the restricted areas of the Palace and communing with evil nature spirits. Then Shala the Hunt Mistress slyly interjected, suggesting they give the prisoners a fighting chance by having them participate in the Red Moon Hunt in two nights. At this Lalali-Puy smiled and nodded ordering the party to be taken to the dungeons.

Mogansho began to lead them down from the throne room into the dungeons beneath the great agafari tree. The party began looking for an opportune time to escape…

Red Moon Hunt

Prison Escape
The Forest-Queen’s guards escorted the party deep into the interior of the great tree, down narrow stairs carved from the living wood. Mogansho and the muls kept a close eye on the party allowing them no chance to form a plan. The corridors were numerous, and their ability to observe and mentally map them was limited. Twisted corridors and gnarled passageways followed the giant tree’s roots and finally they reached the dungeons.

Dungeons of GulgMud and entangling roots hung from the ceiling in places, and the dampness was most unusual. Many prison cells were carved out of the roots with strong wooden doors barred from the outside. The passageway they were traveling lead to a heavy, guarded door. The door itself is made of thick wood and reinforced with a fortune in iron bars. The mul guards wore steel armor and had steel weapons in their hands and kept a grim eye on the party as they were lead up to it.

Mogansho ordered the party to surrender their gear as, according to the law in Gulg, the sorcerer-queen owned all property. The party, especially Morg, was unwilling to release their weapons and they charged the guards and Mogansho hoping to catch them by surprise. They guards were anticipating such action and were ready for trouble. A fierce battle began in the dungeons with the party attempting to defeat the guards and find a way out. As excepted the steel-clad muls were expert warriors and Mogansho was a battle-hardened commander. Way-lynn did his best to keep the guards focused on him, but as the fight continued, the party became separated from each other and were unable to present a unified front.

Several of the mul guards were defeated but more entered the fight, altered to trouble by the sounds of conflict or some other means. The battle turned against the party when Lalali-Puy herself appeared in the dungeons and proceeded to attack Morg. Kira was cursed by the Forest-Queen and suffered the same injuries as Morg. Iorskan and Jarvix did there best to keep the party standing under the assaults, but they were quickly becoming overwhelmed. Mogansho was eventually knocked down by Morg but Morg fell under the magical attacks of the queen.

Elleandra discovered what appeared to be a way out of the dungeons and the party moved with great haste to leave. Elleandra and Jarvix were able to distract the guards with their magic and powers of the Way, allowing the rest of the party to move past them without fear. Jarvix was the last to leave the dungeon and they hoped the distractions would give them a few moments head-start.

The Crescent Forest
They party found themselves outside the Mopti Wall in the Crescent Forest, surrounded by thick, tangled vegetation growing in a rich loamy soil with insects and birds everywhere. Like the Forest Ridge, the forest is a reminder of how Athas once was. Way-lynn knew that the isolated nature of the forest makes it a highly competitive environment and creatures in it were prepared to fight to survive and cautioned the party to be ready for anything. The setting sun gave the party a rough idea of the direction of Nibenay and they decided to head there as quickly as possible. The hope was that the unknown dangers in Nibenay would be better than returning to Gulg.

Kira used her magic to cloak them in the colors and textures of the forest, hoping that they would be much harder to track. Although they were tempted to have her summon the bird spirits again, Lalali-Puy’s affinity for nature made them reluctant to use such magic. They pressed on through the dense forest moving as quickly as they dared. As they traveled, they were constantly tempted to investigate areas of the forest that they came across and sent Kira in first.

The party stumbled into a patch of Blossomkiller plants and had to fight their way out. They party encountered a group of runaway slaves from Gulg, who did not trust the party, and a party of half-giants who attacked the party on sight. Kira found a spring in the forest with restorative properties, helping to refresh them after a long night of travel. After about 10 hours the party reached a clearing and decided to risk stopping to rest and recover some of their strength.

After a few hours their rest was interrupted when a group of well-armed warriors emerged from the forest. Way-lynn immediately recognized them as soldiers in the army of Nibenay, including half-giants of the Shadow Guard. They were shocked that Kira’s camouflage was penetrated and even more shocked when a woman in templar garb stepped forward and addressed the party…

“I am the templar Marika of Nibenay. We are here to escort you to the Shadow King!”

Red Moon Hunt

Guests of the Shadow King
As they emerged from the forest into a clearing, the party was confronted by a large number of well-armed warriors. A young woman in the garb of a templar of Nibenay stepped forward.

I am the templar Marika of Nibenay. We mean you no harm – we know you are enemies of the Forest Queen, and only wish to escort you to meet with our king.

The party was too tired and injured to fight and, as they detected no deception from the templar, they agreed to be escorted to Nibenay. Marika gave them each some fruits, which restored their vitality, letting them continue despite their weariness from their escape from Gulg. As they traveled, the party was surrounded by the human and half-giant soldiers, presenting not opportunity for escape. Marika pushed the party hard, moving for 12 hours a day and the forest made it difficult to move quickly. Along the way there was some brief discussions, but little information was gained from the Templar. The party came within sight of the city-state of Nibenay around on the third day.

Meeting the Shadow King
The vast walled city of Nibenay was before the party, every structure intricately carved with dancing figures, fantastic monsters and elaborate scenes. Rising from the center of the city was a fantastic form of the Shadow King’s palace, the Naggaramakam, carved in the shape of an enormous head. Passing through substantial rice paddies that lay around and even within the city itself the party saw a legion of slaves tending the fields under the eyes of overseers.

City-State of Nibenay

Inside Nibenay seethed with activity. Ordinary citizens hurried from place with place under the watchful eye of the Shadow King’s warriors. Slaves were hauling goods for merchants with crodlu and inix crowding the streets. As they were lead to the center of the city, they noted that even the paving stones were carved individually, although most of the decorations had been worn down by centuries of traffic. As they approached the palace, Marika spoke.

No mortal my enter the Shadow King’s demesne. His majesty will speak with you in one of his lesser palaces.

The interior of the palace was every bit as impressive as the exterior. At one end of the chamber was a massive statue with glowing blue eyes, recognized as that of the Shadow King. Waiting in the chamber were two of Nibenary’s consorts, one human and one mul each one wearing nothing more than some jewelry. A pair of half-giant guards stood beside each of them. Way-lynn recognized the mul as the High Consort of War, Bamandji.

The stone busts lips began to move forming words in a deep booming voice…

There have been many rumors regarding your little band of trouble-makers. There are many questions to be answered. Speak truthfully or there will be consequences most dire.

The party was questioned for a while about their past exploits – Kira’s restoration of the land around Altaruk, their encounters with Dregoth, Kalid-Ma and Abalach-Re. Their goals for all of their actions were as important as their actions themselves. For the moment, the Shadow King pondered their conversations..

If you truly wish to make this world a better place, you will perform a task for me, one which I think you will find to your liking. The Forest Queen is in possession of an artifact that will enable her to completely dominate the spirits in the forest, increasing her power dramatically.”

I will transport you into the dungeons of Glug tonight. Lalali-Puy will be engaged in her Red Moon Hunt and her defenses will be weakened. Make your way to the iron door and retrieve the Stone of Abraxas which is held in the room beyond the door. Once you are in possession of the crystal, my connection with you will be amplified and I will be able to return you to this room.

By performing this task you will demonstrate to me that you are not merely anarchists who wish to see the remnants of civilization burn. You will also have revenge upon the Forest Queen for you imprisonment and there is a good chance that you will be able to recover what you have lost.

The party discussed their options and felt that to defy Nibenay at this time was not in their best interests. Jarvix and Iorskan were eager to get revenge on the Forest Queen as well as have a chance at the treasure they thought might be hidden in the dungeons. Elleandra performed an augury which revealed that either option presented danger, but aiding the Shadow King in recovering the Stone of Abraxas was the least dangerous path. “Delightful” was the only word spoken by the statue after they agreed.

Dungeons of Gulg
The party was treated to an excellent meal of meats, rice and exotic fruits from within the Crescent Forest. There was only a little time for social interaction with the High Consorts, but Nibenese culture frowned upon discussing outside business in the evenings. The party was allowed to rest until near midnight, when they were summoned again to the statue chamber. The statue’s eyes flashed blue and the party found themselves back in the dungeons of Glug.

The somewhat familiar mud and entangling roots were still confusing as the adventurers worked their way through narrow passages trying to find their way back to the iron-bound door they had seen during their last time in Gulg. They soon discovered they were not alone and encountered several mul guards while they wandered to dungeons. Elleandra and Way-lynn helped to control the guards and prevented them from surrounding the other party members.

As Jarvix wandered the dungeons he encountered Mogansho, who had recovered from their previous fight. Jarvix ensnared him with a thought and began hurling him about like a living weapon. Mogansho was knocked unconscious and Jarvix left him to rejoin the rest of his party. Taibela was also stalking the party and attacked Iorskan from the shadows. She disappeared and struck Elleandra, knocking her unconscious. When Taibela appeared again, Kira was ready and pounced on her, taking her head off.

Way-lynn located the iron-bound door and found it still guarded by the steel-clad Mul warriors. As they were engaged, the rest of the party moved towards the door, eager to acquire the Stone and any other treasures they might acquire. Mogansho was able to recover from Jarvix’s attack and made a desperate attack on the party. Iorskan turned to meet him and after a brief exchange Mogansho fell, this time for good.

The iron-bound door was protected by physical and magical protections and although there were keys found on Mogansho which opened the lock, it still took the group some time to bypass the other protections. With the door open, they saw a large room before them filled with all types of treasures. The center of the room contained a large pedestal, on top of which was a stone that could only be the Stone of Abraxas.

Way-lynn searched the room and discovered some of Morg’s gear and Elleandra searched for anything of significance. Elleandra, Jarvix, Kira and Iorskan worked feverishly to bypass the protections around the Stone, suspecting that they hadn’t much time before more guards, or worse the sorcerer-queen herself, showed up. Luck was with the party as they were able to acquire the stone before any more Gulgans arrived. Moments after the Stone was in their possession there was a flash of blue light and they were once again in the chamber with the stone statue of Nibenay.

Black Spine

An Early Morning
Delen was asleep in his modest dwelling and the sun had not yet risen. Suddenly a loud banging on his door startled him to consciousness and a booming voice on the other side caused him to snap to attention. “Delen wake yourself.” Delen found four very large half-giants wearing the garb of the Shadow Guard at his door. They have come to escort Delen to the Temple of Thought. Fearing that some of his evening activities had been discovered, he followed the guards and prepared himself for the worst.

Delen was escorted to the Temple of Thought near the Naggaramakam. Along the way, he saw shadows moving out of the corner of his eye, but did not recognize them. He was escorted to a large receiving chamber with a stone statue of the sorcerer-king himself. Three of Nibenay’s high consorts were present with their guards, but none acknowledge Delen’s arrival. Delen recognized the consorts as Siemhouk, Djena and Rejan.

After almost an hour, the statue of Nibenay stirred to life and its eyes flashed blue and the party appeared looking haggard. Djena asked for the Stone and Iorskan handed it to her. Smiling she left the room with her guards. The statue then spoke…

Well done adventurers, you have helped secure the safety of our city. There is another task that you will perform for me.”

There is no doubt that this was an order and not a request. Rejan spoke of recent attempts to open an iron mine in the Black Spine Mountains about 2 days travel from the city. While the initial prospects appeared good, once digging started, there had been no word from the mines. Since the loss of communication, there were increases in attacks by gith. The survivors reported that the gith were armed with metal weapons and wore metal armor, something most unusual. A small patrol was sent to investigate and they have not been heard from since. Rejan commanded the party to travel to the mine and determine the fate of the miners and investigate the strange gith activity.

A journey to the Black Spine Mountains was in line with Iorskan’s desires to find his clan’s ancient stronghold and the party accepted to mission. Siemhouk stepped forward and promised a reward for the party’s service to the city. The gift, she says, is to help Kira unlock her potential. She addressed Delen…

We shall see how much knowledge you have uncovered since your training ended. Where do souls go when the body dies?”

Delen attempted to answer the questions accurately, but not too quickly. He had guessed that he was not being brought here for punishment but for some other purpose. He felt confident that he was able to answer her questions well, but not too well.

Yes, the souls travel to the Gray where they dissolve into nothingness. It is because of this that he raising of the dead is nearly impossible and always fraught with peril. However, we have among us someone from the Gray who is not a soul from our world. She has powers over life that have not been seen on Athas in thousands of years. I will help her unlock some of her potential and a gift from the past will be yours.

Seimhouk motioned Kira over to her and laid her hands on Kira’s head. Kira felt a calming presence, totally quieting the animal rage that she had learned to control. Kira will feel Seimhouk sifting through her memories of past events, spending time on her revitalization of the land outside Altaruk and her restoration of the dead in Necropolis. Seimhouk then pointed to Iorskan and commanded that he hand over The Shadowstaff, the scrap of Gwyn’s flesh and her dragonling. With all those components, and an enormous effort of will, Kira pulled Gwyn’s soul from King and caused the scrap of flesh to reform into Gwyn! Kira then fell to the floor exhausted.

Seimhouk addressed Delen again…

Delen, you will accompany them and keep an eye on Gwyn. Make sure that there are no lingering, undesirable consequences. Kira is exhausted and may remain here with me to recover her strength and learn more of her powers. You will start your journey today and must return to the city by the third day of the Festival of the Highest Sun.

House Shom Caravan
Kira agreed to stay behind and the rest of the party retired to a dining room to rest before heading out to the Black Spine Mountains. Delen was introduced to the rest of the party and Gwyn told them of the fuzzy memories that she had from the last two months. Jarvix and Elleandra were both very excited that she had returned and Iorskan grudgingly admitted that he was impressed. Way-lynn and Delen, having never met Gwyn were more impressed with her return from death.

After resting and checking their supplies the party headed out from the city, northeast along the road towards the Black Spine Mountains. They reached the crossroads and decided to camp for the night before heading into the wilderness. As they were making camp a large caravan flying the colors of House Shom approached and also made camp. This was one of the largest caravans they had seen with three giant mekillot wagons and over a hundred soldiers.

To the party’s surprise, one of the guards approached their camp with an offer of hospitality. The caravan had been away from Nibenay for almost a month and was eager for news. They offered to trade information about the city-state of Raam, where they were returning from. The party agreed and was escorted to the camp where they met Temmnya Shom, daughter of the the head of House Shom.

Iorskan told of the dangers around Giustenal and the potential for serious conflict in the region in the near future. Jarvix mentioned what they knew of the fate of Abalach-Re, although he mentioned nothing of his group’s involvement in the events. Gwyn and Delen offered information on potential sources of profit for House Shom. Temmnya listened and responded with information on the current groups attempting to control of Raam, after the disappearance of its sorcerer-queen. The party found Temmnya to be more friendly and likeable than any other member of House Shom they had met, although they were still cautious around her.

The following morning the two groups went their separate ways; Temmnya headed towards Nibenay and the party venturing into the foothills of the Black Spine Mountains.

Black Spine Mountains
The party decided to search for the dray stronghold, much to the excitement of Iorskan. All throughout the day, they searched for signs of the fortress, each helping as best they could. Way-lynn focused on searching for natural features that might indicate the presence of trails or roads used long ago. Delen, who appeared to have an excellent head for history, spent the day pointing out features in the mountains that he recognized from ancient legends.

Elleandra attempted to move quickly about the mountains in an effort to scout out as many locations as possible. She relied on her magic to ease the effort less but drew the attention of a small patrol of gith, including a gith adept with the Way. The party easily defeated them and discovered they were indeed using metal weapons and wearing metal armor.

Jarvix and Gwyn moved about the mountains together. Jarvix keeping his keen eyes open for the fortress or markers that might indicate they were headed in the right direction. Gwyn used her strength to push past the numerous piles of stone that blocked their way. Unfortunately she was apparently still recovering from her death and carelessly caused an avalanche of rock which drew the attention of another gith patrol. It was larger than before and included a strange gith knight wearing metal armor of an outlandish design. Once again the party was victorious and continued their search.

Delen eventually was able to sense the location of a strong source of arcane magic and directed the party to what he hoped was the stronghold. He uncovered what appeared to be the entrance to the mine instead. Since the day was spent and the party did want to investigate the mine, they made camp for the night with the intention of investigating the iron mine in the morning. They only had three days to explore the mines, find the stronghold and travel back to Nibenay by the third day of The Festival of the Highest Sun.

Black Spine Iron Mine

Black Spine

Black Spine Iron Mine
Before venturing into the mines, the party took a brief rest and, as usual, reflected on the current situation. The conversation had a different tone than normal because of the presence of Delen, and somewhat Way-lynn. Despite the different goals and views, each agreed that it was still in their best interest to continue working together.

Delen felt that their adventures had been and would continue to be a source of great knowledge, which appeared to interest him greatly. Elleandra still believed that her home in the Lands Within the Wind was still in danger and with her tree in the village of Kled, she had strong protective feelings towards this world. Gwyn wanted to resume her quest to stop the use of destructive magic. Iorskan felt that he was destined to unite his people and wanted the freedom from slavery at the hands of Dregoth. Jarvix enjoyed the prospect of uncovering more of the true history of the world and his loyalty to the Veiled Alliance shaped his desire to put an end to the tyranny of the sorcerer-kings. Way-lynn had seen too much corruption in his city-state of Nibenay and knew that only by preserving the little remaining nature could the death of the world be halted.

They all headed into the iron mines, hoping to discover what had happened to the Nibanese miners and soldiers that disappeared. Delen, feeling most comfortable in the dark tunnels, lead the way, constantly searching for clues and traps. Before long they ran into groups of gith miners, equipped with steel mauls for breaking the rocks. The mauls were also equally good as weapons against the party and despite their lack of training, the gith were able to inflict many injuries in the ensuing combats.

In addition to the gith miners, Elleandra encountered another of the mysterious warriors that resembled more intelligent gith. There was no conversation with it and although it was defeated, there was still no indication as to who they were or what they wanted. The party was able to defeat the gith they encountered very quickly and they hoped their presence was mostly unnoticed in the mines. They realized that the mines were far more expansive then expected based on the short time it since it had supposedly been discovered. The party was not sure if the mine had been operating longer then they thought, or if it had broken through to older tunnels.

After many hours of searching and fighting, Elleandra discovered a secret cave which lead to a tunnel rising upwards towards the center of the Black Spine Mountains. Hopeful that this might lead to the dray stronghold, the party decided to abandon the mines and see where this lead them. They followed the tunnel for many miles, going further into the Black Spine Mountains. Along they way they found increasing numbers of runes and symbols in old draconic and Iorskan’s hope began to rise that they were headed to the ancient fortress of his clan.

Arkhosian Crypts
Eventually the tunnel they were following reached a very old and broken stone door. Beyond the door was what appeared to be a crypt. The slightly larger proportions and iconography left little doubt that it was a crypt of the dray. There were no immediate signs of dangers in the dark expanse before them, but when they crossed the doorway, a number of skeletal dray rose from the ground and began to approach. Wanting to avoid conflict with his ancestors, Iorskan attempted to persuade the undead that he was on a mission to restore their clan. Although the others in his group showed respect for the dead, the dead would not let them pass through the crypts.

Arkhosian CryptsReluctantly Iorskan decided that moving through the crypts was the best option and so they fought their way through the Arkhosian undead. The skeletons still possessed much of the prowess they had in life and the battles were hard fought. Although the group attempted to move through as quickly as possible and avoid the crypt guardians, they were not particularly successful. During the fights, Delen displayed several unusual capabilities that they first dismissed as simply unusual gifts. However, it soon became clear that Delen was gifted with the arcane arts, although the exact nature of his magic was unclear.

During the exploration of the crypts, Jarvix made another amazing discovery – and arcane circle. This circle was similar to, but much older than the other’s he had seen in the ruins of Kalidnay and the city of Moil. With some time and study, he felt that he’d be able to use the Way to teleport himself and others to this circle from great distances. Near to the arcane circle, the party discovered a stairway leading up to higher levels of the fortress. The group had defeated all of the skeletons they had encountered and decided to risk taking a quick rest to tend to their wounds.

Black Spine

Strange Magic
As the group rested following their escape from the crypts, they questioned Delen about the magic he displayed during their combat with the undead dray. Delen explained that he was indeed trained in the arcane arts, but he explained that his magic drew energy from the Gray. Although those necromantic powers were not unheard of, they were quite uncommon and somewhat sinister in reputation. The party conceded that he had done nothing to make them suspicious of his motives and so they were willing to accept his explanations, for now.

After their rest, they proceeded up the stairs until the reached a landing which appeared to open to the main floor of the fortress…

Main Floor
The main floor was sprawling and the party took a long time exploring the many rooms. They encountered many gith fighters wearing metal armor and wielding metal spears. The gith were fierce combatants and more well-trained than those previously encountered by the party while in the Black Spine Mountains. After dispatching about a dozen of the gith, the party discovered two exits from this level. The first they found appeared to be the main exit leading to the outside, while the second was another stairway leading to the upper level of the fortress.

Most of the fortress was in ruins and appeared to have been looted. The party discovered what looked like a large vault that perhaps once held the fortress’ treasure. This too was empty and the doors appeared to have been torn away from the walls.

Although they were tempted to leave the dangers of the fortress for the more familiar dangers of the outside world, they eventually chose to continue their search for the banner and entered the upper levels…

Upper Level
The party found the upper level to be slightly smaller than the main level and infested with mindless zombies that appeared to be the missing miners and soldiers from Nibenay. Each zombie was easily defeated, but their numbers made them quite dangerous.

Gith WarriorAs Delen rounded a corner he came face to face with one of the strange gith warriors, armored in black metal and wielding a massive silver sword. Behind him a large banner with a draconic image was visible, undoubtedly the Standard of Arkhosia. With a wave of his hand, the warrior pushed Delen prone and immobilized him. With a cruel thrust of the silver sword, Delen was impaled and fell unconscious.

Gwyn, who was close behind Delen, was able to injure the warrior, but was quickly put down as well. The ease with which he incapacitated their allies greatly concerned Jarvix and Iorskan, who were barely able to keep the two alive. The warrior’s position prevented any type of direct assault and they feared they were outmatched in any event. Elleandra was able to maneuver around the warrior after Jarvix blinded him to her movement. She retrieved the standard and fled as fast as possible towards the main level and out of the fortress.

Jarvix, Iorskan, Gwyn and Delen all followed Elleandra out of the fortress as fast as they could, with Way-lynn the last to leave the warrior behind. The warrior pursued and Way-lynn feared he would be overtaken, but luck was with him and he was able to outpace the warrior.

Flight to Nibenay
The group did not stop once they lost sight of the warrior, for they feared he would keep up the pursuit. They decided to head back towards the city-state of Nibenay. They hoped that there they could rest and regroup. Although they did not have a full picture of the situation in the mines, they hoped that the templar-wives of the Shadow King would be satisfied.

As they retreated from the fortress, they discussed the possibilities of returned and claiming the fortress for themselves. The arcane circle they discovered would be a powerful tool for consolidating their forces for their eventual engagements against the sorcerer-kings and their armies. The close proximity to the ruins of Giusental made them wonder if the strange gith were another of the armies under the command of Dregoth.

They traveled with great speed over the next two days, stopping only to rest when they were too tired to continue. They used their combined skills to avoid all of the gith patrols that may have been looking for them while they were in the mountains. Once in the open desert, they made good speed back to the crossroads and came within sight of Nibenay.

Marauders of Nibenay

Return to Nibenay
The party entered the city-state of Nibenay without any trouble as Delen’s credentials allowed them to bypass much of the bureaucracy. None of the party felt comfortable walking through the city with the Standard and it was decided that they would store the it at Delen’s house. Jarvix felt the most uncomfortable with this plan and attempted to contact the Veiled Alliance in Tyr, hoping to set up a meeting with the local Alliance, which might have a more secure location for the Standard. Oddly, he did not receive a reply from Mathias in Tyr, which left Jarvix very nervous.

Having no better option, they left the Standard and proceeded to the Temple of Trade. There they met with a lower-level templar named Caletta who questioned them about their trip to the Black Spine Mountains. Although she agreed that they fulfilled the letter of their agreement, she was obviously displeased that the source of the unusual gith was not discovered and dealt with. When she was asked about the other templar-wives and Kira, the party was given vague and curt answers. They were simply told that Kira would be busy until after the Starlight Pageant concluded.

Recognizing that they were unlikely to get any better answers, they decided to rest for the remainder of the day and then head out into the city at dusk to experience the Starlight Pageant.

Starlight PageantThe Starlight Pageant
As the crimson sun fell beneath the horizon, the gates of the sorcerer-king’s sanctuary opened and dozens of female dancers poured into the streets. As they moved down the High Road toward the Reservoir Gardens, crowds of people joined the celebration. At last, amid the pounding drums and blowing horns, they entered the gardens and begin a series of dance performances that were to last until dawn. The various presentations recounted the history of Nibenay and the mysterious ruler who bestowed his own name on the city.

Iorskan and Way-lynn headed to the Kank’s Den where Iorskan knew the drinks would be cheap and the patrons dangerous but useful sources of information. The festivities of the Pageant were in full swing and the pair were caught up in drinking games where Iorskan won some ceramic coins but Way-lynn lost a large wager. Iorskan was able to meet with some of his contacts and found that there was a general glut in artifacts as much of the trade was being diverted away from Raam. During the night thieves attempted to pick their pockets. Way-lynn caught a thief in the act and felt that a punch in the face was fitting punishment, however, Iorskan was not so observant and lost most of his winnings. Way-lynn quickly grew tired of the Pageant and returned to Delen’s house early.

Gwyn and Jarvix headed to a more upscale drinking establishment, the Silty Mug, and proceeded to catch up on the adventures of the group, which Gwyn only had fuzzy memories of. They also discussed the implications of being unable to contact the Alliance in Tyr. The two friends were happy to be in each other’s company, but as the drink flowed, they found themselves participating in drinking games. Each was an accomplished drinker and was able to best their opponents, earning more than enough coins to cover their drinks for the evening. Numerous pick-pockets were in the Silty Mug as well, but neither Gwyn nor Jarvix lost any coins to them. Gwyn was satisfied to send the would-be thief off with an evil look, but Jarvix felt more villainous and used his skills with the Way to dominate the thief.

Elleandra decided to spend some time alone and was swept away with the dancers in the gardens. Along the way she spotted a pick-pocket attempting to rob her and sent him off without turning him in to the Templars. At the gardens, she watched the dancers as they performed intricate maneuvers and told the history of their city-state. She attempted to join in with the performers but was not familiar enough with the dances to participate without mistakes. Although she made many errors, the crowd was mostly forgiving of her mistakes.

Delen did not join his new friends and instead took advantage of the distraction caused by the Pageant to sneak into a number of libraries that were forbidden to him. He had made such expeditions before and was able to sneak past the guards. He spent the majority of the festival night reading in dim light.

Tired from the dancing, Elleandra started to make her way back the Delen’s house when she happened upon a fortune teller. Having an interest in divination, she agreed to have her fortune read. The astrologer told her…

Born in the month of Breeze, under the sign of Hortle the Spider; get organized because later you’re going to be more scattered. If you start with a solid plan for how to tackle the day’s tasks, you’re more likely to accomplish everything. If you don’t remain strong and on task, other people will take advantage of your generous nature. You could end up doing more favors than you would prefer.

Elleandra found the reading to be vague but detected no deceit from the astrologer. Her questions sparked a conversation with the astrologer who was interested in Elleandra’s foreign ways of telling the future. Elleandra performed an augury, with unusual results – an unearthly voice issued forth the following prophecy…

When the brides of death become the marauders of Nibenay, the dead must die, the unsleeping must wake, and the Dragon must stand triumphant.

The meaning of the words was not readily apparent to the fortune teller, or Elleandra, and she decided to tell her companions when then met up with each other.

The Alliance Offer
Gwyn and Jarvix decided to attempt to find the Veiled Alliance in Nibenay on their own and took to starting up a street performance with the unwilling help of Jarvix’s thrall. After locating an ideal spot they started to perform, attempting to strike a balance between showing enough arcane magic to draw the attention of the Alliance, but not so much as to enrage the crowds.

As the night passed, the twin moons of Athas leisurely traced twin arcs across the dark sky. Gradually, Gwyn and Jarvix begin to suspect that they were being watched. A slender man seemed to be watching their performance. His thin features gave him a look of keen intelligence, but his frail physique made it difficult to think of him as a threat.

When the opportunity presented itself, the man approached Gwyn and Jarvix, moving his hand down his face, a common sign of the Veiled Alliance. They discovered that the man, Johrd, was indeed an Alliance operative and was willing to provide some assistance but needed a show of trust before divulging any information to Gwyn and Jarvix.

Johrd told them that a band of elves was bringing a magical object into the city, an object that the Alliance needed to help defend themselves against the attacks of the templar-wives. He told them that any significant gathering of Alliance members would likely be noticed, but that they, as a third party, would have an easier time making contact. Johrd simply wanted them to make contact with the elves in the Hill District at dawn and exchange a pouch of herbs for the magical object and return the object to him.

Gwyn and Jarvix detected no deception from Johrd and agreed to perform the service in exchange for a safe place to hide if needed and additional attempts to contact the Alliance in Tyr. Not wanting to make the rendezvous by themselves, they went to Delen’s house and met with their friends. All agreed to help make the exchange and they caught a few hours of rest before heading to the infamous Hill District.

As the sun began to lighten the eastern sky, the time came to carry out their mission for Johrd. Moving quickly through the crowds of celebrants, they arrived at the alley where the elves were supposed to appear. While they waited the inspected the pouch of herbs and found them to be Nahre Lotus, magical plants that can satisfy an individual’s daily need for water.

The elves arrived on time and produced a canvas sack, containing a large crystal. The exchange happened as expected and, as the elves turned to leave, a team of templars dropped from the surrounding rooftops and attacked. The elves fled without a word and the templars did not appear interested in apprehending them. The fight was brutal but quick and in the end nine templars lay at the feet of the party.

Delen was horrified at the consequences of their actions and urged them to get away from the scene as quickly as possible. The party split up and headed out in different directions, with Gwyn and Jarvix making their way to the meeting with Johrd. They were relieved to find him safe and recounted their encounter with the templars. Johrd took the crystal and agreed to try and contact the Alliance in Tyr and help cover up the bodies in the Hill District. Promising to be in contact, Gwyn and Jarvix left and returned to Delen’s house.

The Holocaust
The party woke late in the morning the following day and spent the day around the city on various tasks. Delen, still shaken by his part in the death of the templar-wives, made arrangements to sell most of his belongings, in preparation for a quick escape from the city if needed. Most of the other party members acquired traveling supplies.

Gwyn returned to the Hill District and made contact with her elf tribe, the Sky Singers. Her family was not currently in town. However some of her extended family was and they agreed to pass on messages to Gwyn’s father and sisters.

The party made a trip to the Temple of Thought, hoping to find out more information on Kira and perhaps a way to sneak her out of the city sooner than expected. At the temple they were kept waiting for a long time and were eventually greeted by Kadya, a assistant to Siemhouk. She provided no new information about Kira, simply stating that she was going to be occupied until the end of the festival. Delen was visibly panicked during the exchange and Kadya appeared to notice.

As the sun set, the party made their way to the Pageant once again and tried to act normally, despite a collective unease. Iorskan and Way-lynn participated in games of strength and were more successful than not, earning money to pay for the traveling supplies. Delen and Elleandra participated in games of skill and were also very successful. Gwyn and Iorskan had their fortunes read and were generally unimpressed with the astrologers words of wisdom…

Jarvix, you were born in the month of Sorrow, under the sign of Scratch the Basilisk; unexpected people, especially women, will surprise you with what they say. Be open to ideas that you hadn’t even considered. Perhaps your emotions get stirred when you recall something that a significant woman in your life said. Your feelings are bouncing from your heart to your head and back again. Take the feelings into account, but don’t let them dominate your decisions.

Gwyn, you were born in the month of Bloom, under the sign of Pyrus the Wheel; you’re at an emotionally climactic time, and your feelings are erratic and perhaps unmanageable. Don’t feel pressured into making logic out of anything. Your job is to take a deep breath and relax. Remember that life is an exciting adventure full of twists and turns. Erratic emotions are a reminder of that. Enjoy the ride.

Suddenly, the evening sky was shattered by a brilliant blue flash. Without warning, a tremendous fork of lightning sprung from the Naggaramakam, Nibenay’s mysterious citadel at the center of the city. It raced across the sky, unleashing a deafening roar of thunder in its wake. With a great explosion the lightning slammed into the Plain of Smoking Waters south of the city, sending a great shudder through the earth and causing a great cloud of sparkling steam to rise up into the twilight sky.

The ground heaved and buckled. Cracks ripped across the land, forming a great lattice work of fissures, and through these burst clouds of scalding, white steam. Buildings swayed and rocked, wells crackle and shattered, towers collapsed in greet explosions of stone. The cheerful sounds of the Starlight Pageant faded away, the din replaced by screams of agony, torment, and fear.

Marauders of Nibenay

Cracks of Doom
Suddenly, the evening sky was shattered by a brilliant blue flash. Without warning, a tremendous fork of lightning sprung from the Naggaramakam, Nibenay’s mysterious citadel at the center of the city. It raced across the sky, unleashing a deafening roar of thunder in its wake. With a great explosion, the lightning slammed into the Plain of Smoking Waters south of the city, sending a great shudder through the earth and causing a great cloud of sparkling steam to rise up into the twilight sky.

A great hush fell over the city. After the shock wore off, the average citizen of Nibenay believed that this display was simply part of the Starlight Pageant. In the streets, a cheer gradually built into a great explosion of appreciation.

Suddenly, the ground began to heave and buckle – cracks ripped across the land, forming a great lattice work of fissures, and through these burst clouds of scalding, white steam. Buildings swayed and rocked, wells crackled and shattered, towers collapsed in greet explosions of stone. The cheerful sounds of the Starlight Pageant faded away, the din replaced by screams of agony, torment, and fear.

Unsure of where to go or what to do, they party made their way toward the Temple of Thought. As they did they passed a large number of stone structures about to collapse. A number of helpless, shocked people were about to be crushed to death. Elleandra, Gwyn and Way-lynn tried to save as many as they could, while Delen, Jarvix and Iorskan were more concerned with moving quickly through the streets. Sadly the efforts, while they saved many people, could not save the majority. As the party moved through one street, they notice that many of those crushed by the falling rocks bore an emblem of three dragonflies – the symbol of House Shom.

Huge fissure split the surface of the earth near the party. Several innocent people fell into the chasm, dying horribly in the steaming depths. Others, however, were more fortunate and managed to grab exposed roots or anchored rocks on the sides of the fracture. The party was more quick to react and worked together to try and save as many of the citizens as possible. Many of those saved appeared to be members of one of the noble families.

However, out of the fissures arose a new threat, a small number of corpses began to climb out of the cracks in the earth. Delen could tell at once that these were the bodies of the cities’ dead, who had been entombed beneath the streets since the city was founded. They were easily defeated, but the thought of all the dead buried beneath the city becoming undead was unsettling.

The Burning Rain
At long last, the earth stilled and the trembling aftershocks faded. Still, all was far from quiet in the city. Cries of pain and fear could be heard everywhere, fires burned throughout the city, and geysers of scalding steam roared out of the ground. The sky above Nibenay darkened as the black smoke mingled with white steam to form a sticky gray cloud. Slender traces of blue-white lightning flashed back and forth in the tumbling vapor, producing not thunder, but an eerie crackling sound.

As people begin to gather their wits there was much speculation regarding the nature of the mysterious catastrophe that had befallen Nibenay. The strange cloud of steam continued to grow and darken. After a few minutes, a spitting rain began to fall from the sky and the crowds of people rejoiced. The rain quickly increased in intensity until it became a pounding downpour. Shouts of joy turned into screams of pain once more, for this was not life-giving water, however, but a caustic chemical that burned flesh like acid.

Burning RainThe acid was too much for many people in Nibenay, many of those injured from the other catastrophes were not strong enough and perished in the the burning rain. They party, lead by Delen, ran for cover into the passages beneath the city. The brief directions given by Elleandra and Gwyn to those they passed were not enough and many people perished, including a large group of monks.

Beneath the streets the party was safe from the burning rain but encountered large numbers of the undead. These too were easily defeated, but it was clear the their numbers were growing. Delen estimated the dead outnumbered the living a hundred times over. It was clear that if not checked, the entire city could be overrun.

Delen managed to get the party out of the sewers with only minimal encounters with the undead that continued to rise. They reached the surface as the sun began to rise in the east. They could see more clearly than ever that the city of Nibenay was in ruins. Shattered buildings had strewn debris across the streets, pools of acidic rain were spread everywhere, and the bodies of the dead and wounded littered the city. They could see teams of people clearing away rubble to rescue those trapped beneath, templars using magical powers to heal the injured, and members of the city watch policing the streets, controlling lawlessness and preventing looting.

Council of Peace
Jarvix and the rest of the group were anxious to avoid the templar patrols because of their encounter the previous day in the Hill District. Delen lead them down some back alleys of the district but luck was not with them and they ran into a patrol including a half-dozen half-giants. Their anxiousness turned to fear as they realized the leader of this patrol was a surviving templar from the Hill District. The templar questioned the party about their activities and appeared to be satisfied that they were not trying to cause trouble. Delen was sure that she recognized him from the Hill District but no mention of that was made.

The Templar commanded the party to accompany her to a meeting and gave the impression that refusal would not be accepted. Having no other viable choice, they agreed. Along the way they asked about Kira, but the templar said she did not know her location or if she survived the cataclysm. They arrived at the meeting site and had some time to discuss their situation. Delen advocated leaving the city as quickly as possible, still feeling that they would pay for their attacks on the Templars. Jarvix wanted to stay and find Kira and put an end to the rising tide of undead. Iorskan speculated that if the sorcerer-king was injured, there would never be a better time to strike at him.

While they waited, the party observed the other guests and saw that their Veiled Alliance contact Johrd. In the few minutes before the meeting started Johrd told Jarvix that the Veiled Alliance has been unable to contact their ally, the Zwuun, and their attempts to scry into the Naggaramakam have been utterly futile. All those you have made such attempts have been filled with rage, and they fear that the rage may be coming from the Zwuun. Johrd excused himself and the meeting began in earnest.

The templar-wife spoke first, “I am Leaza, templar-wife of Nibenay. To the best of my knowledge, I am the highest ranking templar to have survived the cataclysm. I charge you to heed my words and obey them as you would Nibenay’s own.” With that, Leaza yielded to Johrd. "I am Johrd of the Veiled Alliance, he says. Leaza and I have agreed to set aside our differences and join forces to salvage what we can from this terrible calamity.”

Other members stepped forward and introduced themselves as well and shared information about the recent events. Temmnya Shom, representing the surviving merchants, informed everyone that there is little edible food or drinkable water left in the city. She had sent runners to divert caravans to bring emergency supplies to Nibenay.

A human male stepped forward and introduced himself as Pahleek, the representative of the School of Augurs. The Augurs have discovered that all attempts to use the Way explore the sorcerer-king’s citadel have resulted in failure. Some terrible force seemed to have infused the Naggaramakam, creating an aura of hatred and anger so great that nothing can pierce it. The effect that this might have on those within the citadel is unknown.

A man introduced himself as Kayardi, assistant Master of the Monks of the Exalted Path. He claimed to have made a careful study of the stars and recent omens. Taken individually, these portents showed nothing unusual, but when examined together, however, they were more foreboding. Kayardi insisted that all the might of the templars, the magic of the Veiled Alliance, and the wisdom of his people will not save Nibenay. That, he claimed, that a child must be the one to save the city.

A woman spoke last and introduced herself as Ahli Kiaka, head of House Kiaka. She informed the council that the vast majority of Nibenay’s most important nobles were called to meet with the king just before the disaster struck. Since no word has come from Nibenay’s citadel, she has assumed that she may be the highest ranking noble left alive in the city. “I believe that Nibenay planned to destroy the Veiled Alliance by unleashing a tremendous magical assault on the mysterious Zwuun. He had long believed that the information this creature supplied to the Alliance was a great threat to him. With the Zwuun gone, he had always said, the Alliance would crumble.”

The party described their encounters and after a robust discussion, it was generally agreed upon that the party would head to the Naggramakam and determine the fate of the sorcerer-king and hopefully stop the powerful rage that is animating the dead.

Marauders of Nibenay

The High Road
The party left the meeting of the Council of Peace and followed the main road through the city and to the Naggaramakam. It was a wide avenue, grandly decorated for the aborted Starlight Pageant. The many colorful banners and ornate decorations that hung there contrast sharply with the shattered buildings and scattered corpses, giving this place a terrible, macabre appearance.

They reached the Bone Gate, the mighty portal now standing twisted and broken in the wake of the great disaster. The proud stone towers flanking the gate were cracked, splintered, and half-collapsed. The bodies of several templar-wives could be seen partially buried under fallen debris of the gatehouse, but no living guards stood to their entrance into the mysterious Naggaramakam.

The High Road passed through a terraced garden that was once quite splendid. The grounds on both sides of the road had been tilled and planted with colorful, decorative grasses. There were flower boxes lining the walls, and ornate urns, filled with the most delicate of flowers, hanging from crossbars overhead. Sadly, the violent tremors that so recently swept the city left the place in ruin, and the fall of the burning rain poisoned even the plants that survived the first calamity.

As they looked around this area, several shrubs decorated with brilliant blossoms caught the attention of Way-lynn who peer closer. Unlike the other plants in this place that were withered, faded, and dying, those flowers dazzling. In the split second that it took Way-lynn to realize how out of place this plant is, a
burst of prismatic light exploded from the bloom, showering him and his friends is a bust of fire and poison. None were seriously injured and the party moved on.

The High Road ended abruptly at a mighty stone gatehouse with a pair of great, ornate doors that appeared to be fashioned of solid iron. A faint vibration was visible in the air around the doors, marking them as magical. The arcane glyphs, sigils, and runes that covered the doors seem to burn like brilliant sapphires. Despite being cracked and damaged, this structure seamed to be largely intact. Like the outer bone gates, however, there were no signs of guards to keep intruders out of Nibenay’s sanctum. Seeing no obvious way to open the doors or bypass the protections, the party decided to move around the outlying structures.

Exploring the Naggaramakam
The Houses of Commerce were a claustrophobic array of low stone structures. Many of the buildings had collapsed, no doubt killing those inside. The bodies of dozens of Nibenay’s templar-wives littered the streets. While many were obviously killed by falling debris, others appear to have been tom apart by savage creatures. The party found little here except for scores of the undead.

The Houses of Education were neat and orderly rows of low buildings fashioned from smooth slabs of stone. Although the earthquake and the burning rain had destroyed many of them and littered the streets with scores of bodies, it still retained a look of calm symmetry. After dispatching more of the undead, the party discovered a few sets of scrolls that appeared useful.

The Houses of War were squat stone buildings that were all marked with the emblems and devices of war. Some great firestorm, one that must have spared the rest of the city, appeared to have swept through this place, for the walls were scorched and nothing flammable remained. Blackened skeletons, clearly those of countless templar-wives, were strewn about. Paying extra attention to their surroundings, the party was able to discover several items of interest along with more zombies.

Most of the buildings making up the Houses of Law were shattered and collapsed. Most of the streets, narrow to begin with, were choked with fallen stone and the bodies of the templar-wives. Scattered fires burned around the area, marking the last remains of temporary wooden structures or stores of combustible materials. Only undead creatures were found by the party, despite their best efforts.

Houses of MagicThe Houses of Magic were twisted and confusing. Like the other area that lay between the inner and outer walls, it was a maze of narrow, claustrophobic passages, but here the turns and angles were difficult to focus on or to follow with the eye. This was clearly the home of Nibenay’s defilers, for only the effects of magical spells could have created the wild and impossible paths that snaked through this place. Here there were no undead but inside the shell of a half-collapsed building was a whirling pinwheel of light some 3 feet across, hanging quietly in the air. While the object was magnificent and beautiful, there was something darkly disturbing about it. Elleandra, Gwyn and Delen were able to destabilize the magic and a crystal cube fell toward the ground but was caught by Delen. Although it appeared to contain something, none could figure out how to open it and so they moved on.

The Houses of Agriculture were a tightly packed maze of narrow streets running between countless low stone buildings. Most of the structures were still standing, although heavily damaged from the earthquake. Many bodies, all of them Nibenay’s templar-wives, were scattered among buildings and although a few seemed to have been killed by falling debris or the burning rain, but most showed signs of having died very violently at the hands of something terrible. The undead encountered left little doubt as to what that something was.

Outside the Palace
The group returned to the iron doors and found them to be still closed and warded by magic. After a while, Elleandra tried a use her magic to simply fly over the walls. To everyone’s surprise, she encountered no difficulties and safely landed on the other side. Using the Skull of Dorag Thel, she created a number of vines to help her friends climb over the walls and into the courtyard of the Naggaramakam.

They found themselves on a section of road built from slabs of gleaming black obsidian. It lead from the Iron Door to gates of Nibenay’s fortress, passing through what was once a magnificent garden. Convolutions in
earth, no doubt caused by the earthquakes, left the path twisted and difficult to walk upon. To either side there what was once a great park decorated with tall trees, delicate green grasses, and flowering shrubs. The fall of the burning rain left it a mottled and scorched expanse of tortured plants that were either dead or dying. Here and there, they caught glimpses of movement in the withering foliage, but it was impossible to say exactly what kinds of animals might still be alive in this fortress of death. Elleandra spotted a large lake behind the fortress, but everyone agreed to try and enter the building first.

Before them stood the heart of the Naggaramakam, an incredible fortress of epic power. High atop this immense bastion, a huge effigy that was the gaunt skeletal face of the Shadow King himself. The citadel beneath this great bust was built from colossal blocks of stone, etched from top to bottom with twisted carvings of the Shadow King’s countless templar-wives, depicted as if they were locks of their master’s hair.

Their attempts to bypass the door caused them to be filled to rage and briefly attack each other. Once their emotions calmed, they searched and found what appeared to be a key hole. The crystal cube came back to mind, but no amount of effort could open it. Eventually, the simple solution succeeded and when the crystal cube was smashed against the obsidian stones, it broke, revealing and iron key. They key fit perfectly and the palace doors opened.

The Jade Hall
A great hallway with a floor of hexagonal jade tiles opened before the party. On the walls were carved countless twisted, jade-accented figures of death, suffering, and torment that could hardly have been created by anyone but a madman. There were great doors on the northern ends of the room and a pair of lesser apertures in the east and west walls. The entire length of this gigantic room was illuminated by some three dozen dimly glowing jade spheres, hanging from bone chains set in the ceiling, 50 feet above their heads. An inescapable feeling of hatred hung in the air.

The party moved towards one of the smaller doors and as they were about to open it, a great stroke of lightning burst from above and struck the jade tiled floor. The tiles were the lightning hit began to take the shape of two great figures. The jade golems moved to attack. Jarvix and Iorskan were able to use their skills to coordinate the actions of their allies, and the two creatures fell quickly, although the wounds they inflicted were severe.

The party prepared to move into the new room, uncertain of what it might contain…

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.”