Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

The Ruins of Pluton

Liquid Night
The party was able to tend to their wounds and recover their strength without interruption in the ruins of the rusted tower. As the hours passed, the intensity and pulsing of the colors, now only red and blue noticeably increased. Once they were ready, the group hurried towards the red beam, however, it was too late…

Just as they reached an area filled with dead vegetation where all of the grass and the few trees were dried and brittle to the touch, there was one final flash and the beams stopped. Those that had recovered gems saw that, although they still shone, their light was diminished. Unsure what to expect, the party continued on with the earth beneath their feet leaving puffs of dust ans ash.

They approached the nearest structure and found a small shrine and graveyard with a circular wall and a twisted and rusted gate. There was no red beam coming from the structure and when they entered they found a dull gray gem resting on the floor. The room was filled with shelves containing nick-knacks that were mostly decayed and nothing of value was found. Jax took the gem, which appeared to be utterly mundane.

There was a great debate on whether or not to grab the last gem or head back to the skull mountain. While they argued, several saw a large shadow move across the land. They could not be sure, but Way-lynn believed that whatever created the shadow was flying and ended at the skull mountain. Finally a decision was made to head towards the mountain, and they did so with haste and dread.

Reaper’s End
They reached the skull mountain and found it to be dark and lifeless. The once bright device that merged the individual beams was now floating above a central air shaft and a narrow staircase could be seen leading down. The party tried their gems in the various sockets in the floor and found a few that would fit, but when nothing happened, they stopped trying and headed down.

They followed the cramped staircase down for several hundred feet, eventually arriving in a chamber of red and black stone. Another crowned skull image was carved into the floor and the skull’s mouth was positioned to receive the beam of white light from above.

Out of one alcove stepped a tall dray with decaying black scales that Gwyn recognized as Abaslom. In one hand he wielding a large black blade – The Blade Perilous. The party was unwilling to talk or listen and simply launched an attack on the dray. The battle was fierce for Absalom was a powerful master of the Way as well as a Templar of Dregoth. The earth shook and fire rained down from the sky as he swung the evil blade, but the combined strength of the party was too much and he was defeated. For good measure, Way-lynn used the Headsman’s Axe of Moil to decapitate him. Banoc wrapped the black blade in his cloak and carried it, careful not to touch it.

After the fight, they wondered how he got the blade and how he had returned from the dead – questions that they would likely never get answers to. They also searched the room and found that there was a shimmering portal in the skull’s mouth. Although they could see nothing through it, it appeared to be the only exit from the room. There was some discussion, but eventually they all went through the portal.

Astral Engine
They passed into a vast chamber whose floor as covered with bones. Arcs of lightning illuminated the enormous eldritch engine that was floating in the center of the chamber. Tightly wound cables and rods of silvery metal twisted along rune-covered walls like a spider’s web. Beneath the engine was an enormous dragon skull with two large glowing rubies for eyes. From behind the skull stepped a massive dray with blue scales, a swirl of energy moved between him and the skull.

Dregoth's Phylactery

As they feared the dray was Dregoth come to complete this part of his plan for godhood. Despite herself, Gwyn simply laughed at the dragon king. Banoc cast aside his hood and revealed himself for the first time as a agent of the element of water. However, Dregoth did not appear to be impressed. Lena attempted to contact him using her skill with the Way, but he was ready for such an attack and battle ensued.

The party felt their life being drained by Dregoth to power a spell and with a single word, Lena fell over dead. Gwyn summoned an incendiary cloud which burned away some of Dregoth’s flesh, but he appeared to take little damage. With another word Jax dropped lifeless to the ground, enraging Daqiq. Banoc started throwing tears from his vial at Dregoth and, although the tears struck true, the sorcerer-king did not succumb to their power.

Gwyn, Way-lynn and Banoc shifted their target to the giant skull and quickly began to damage it, chipping away at bone and gem. Way-lynn was the next target of Dregoth, but they were able to resist the magic, Daqiq died shortly thereafter with another word of power. Suddenly the skull exploded in a powerful flash of energy, knocking everyone to the ground. Daqiq and Lena rose up from the ground, having been restored by the energy of their gems.

Enraged, Dregoth used his magic to drain the life out of the party and teleport away. Although the dragon king fled, the effect of his magic was too great and only Way-lynn and Daqiq were left standing. Jax remained dead and Banoc, Gwyn and Lena were an inch away from death. They appeared to have thwarted Dregoth’s plans, but the price was higher than they could have imagined.

The Ruins of Pluton

Wild Game
Having exhausted the staff’s power, Gwyn and the other could find now way to the island with the pyramid and decide to move further inland towards the purple light. They found the violet beam to be coming from a tower that was overgrown with vines and other plant life. Gwyn could feel the energy of the Feywild radiating from the tower.

The interior of the tower was easily accessible and consisted of a large ground floor chamber and an array of wooden platforms and walkways which provided access to the violet gem floating in the center of the tower. As they took in the sights and attempted to figure out the best way to reach the gem, a garishly dressed figure appeared out of thin air. He introduced himself as Hespotherad and insisted that the party play a game with him. He agreed to let the party retrieve the gem if they bested him in a contest call the “Cones of Dunshire” an obtuse game of strategy, bluffing, resource management and luck.

While the party played Jax learned that Hespotherad was from the Lands within the Wind and that it had continued to deteriorate despite the destruction of the Fey Engine. Hespotherad spoke of a new primordial tree of life that started to grow but recently had begun to wither. Only Gwyn knew of Elleandra’s tree of life beneath Kled, and she feared for what the dying tree might mean for her friend. Hespotherad became irrationally angry when he was out-maneuvered and even more upset when he thought the party deliberately tried to throw the game. In the end the party was able to best him and the close final score, as well as Lena intimidating presence, caused him to storm off instead of attacking the party.

Moving quickly, before he returned, the group studied the gem and felt sure that in order to master it, someone would need exceptional strength. Way-Lynn was the obvious choice and grasped the gem in his large had. Although Way-lynn was by far the strongest, there was a backlash of energy and Way-lynn was thrown back and crashed to the floor. The others rushed to his side and watched as his body contorted and began to shrink. Within moments, the once gargantuan half-giant had shrunk to the size of a halfling. After a few minutes, Way-lynn came back to consciousness and although very confused, appeared okay.

Unsure if the condition was temporary or permanent, and having no ideas on how to correct it, Way-lynn soldiered on and attempted to obtain the violet gem again. This time Way-lynn was successful and he attuned to the gem. Once again the energy beam ceased.

A Prayer For He Who Was
Island Pyramid
Back outside, Banoc said a desperate prayer and was able to summon several strange winged-creatures that they used to travel to the island with the pyramid. The creatures waited at the edge of the land although Banoc knew they would only remain for short period of time. They group entered the pyramid and followed the orange light as it reflected off of polished mirrors to go around corners. Eventually they reached a large central chamber.

The chamber had a wide pool of red liquid in the center, above which floated the orange gem. The slanted white marble walls of the chamber are decorated with corpses of numerous humanoid species. Their blood once flowed in small rivers down the walls and into the pool. In the shadows behind it, a half-dozen alcoves can be seen on the back wall of the chamber.

While the rest of the party was discussing the ominous nature of the room and trying to determine the best way to obtain the gem, Lena moved into action. Before anyone could stop her, she struck the nearest mirror with the haft of her spear and shattered it. The resulting breaks sent numerous small orange beams firing off in random directions. Way-lynn and Gwyn were hit hard and fell unconscious, nearly drained of all their vitality. Banoc and Lena were hit by a lesser strength beam and were only severely weakened.

In the chaos following the destruction of the mirror, five women emerged from the shadows. They moved unnaturally fast and had very pale skin an long fangs. Their murderous intent was obvious. Daqiq shot the lead creature with an arrow and although the aim was true, the arrow only wounded the creature. Banoc rushed to the aid of Gwyn and Way-lynn attempting to bring them back to life. The wounded creature compelled Lena to start to position herself against the wall next to the corpses and she was powerless to resist.

Gwyn and Way-lynn were able to stand and the group began a fighting retreat. They were able to lure the lesser creatures out and barely defeated the leader before her ritual was completed on Lena. Once she came to her senses, Lena was able to attune to the orange gem and took possession of it, although she was badly injured during the attempt.

A Slime Party
Heading back to the center portion of the island, the group followed the yellow beam to the mouth of a cave. As they descended into the cave, the walls became damp and dripped with a viscous slime. The rough cavern had several pools of slime and the yellow gem was floating in the air above one of the large pools. A woman was seated next to the slime pool and rose to her feet when the party entered.

The woman appeared to be a human female with long blonde hair and a shimmering, flowing blue gown made of many layers of thin cloth. She spoke in an excited tone…

“I’m so glad that you are here, there was nothing to do for the longest time. Nothing fun at all since Ania was taken away. But now that you are here you can play with Elsia!” She is clearly referring to herself in the third person. She continues, “What are we going to do?” They party made several suggestions, all of which she rejected. At last she spoke excitedly again – “Oh, of course. We can have a slime party. This will be so much fun!” As she spoke, the slime on the walls and from the pools began to move. “Woah, there is so much slime!”

The group found themselves surrounded by animated puddles and cubes of slimes that moved threateningly towards them. Elsia start to hum a tune and twirled around, a spray of slime issuing from her and striking the party members. The woman and the slimes were much harder to defeat than they looked, being resistant to most of the weapons and spells the party had prepared. Elsia was eventually struck down by Daqiq’s arrows and the slimes were burned awayed.

Banoc was able to retrieve the yellow gem of insight and the exhausted party retreated to the rusted tower to tend to their wound and get some much needed rest.

The Ruins of Pluton

New Allies
After a few tense moments, the survivor and party started to talk. The group learned that the Urikite warrior, a woman named Lena, had been controlled by the Draxans for quite some time. Her memories were hazy and she was unable to recall a lot of information about her past, however she claimed to have deserted the army and taken up as a freedom fighter against slavers. Although wary, the party detected no deception and they accepted her.

The group headed towards the skull-shaped mountain and entered through the mouth. The passageway descended several hundred paces and runes consistent with dragon magic were seen along the walls. The chamber the found themselves in with likewise covered with runes and from six arches, six beams of light converged on an apparatus blazing with white light. Two shattered obsidian altars, each with a statue behind it, lay in ruins on either side of the apparatus. The floor of the chamber was decorated with a large skull and crown with six empty sockets.

The party started to explore and was somewhat caught off-guard when the statues animated and attacked. Although resistant to damage, the combined strength of the party was more than enough to overcome the statues and turn them into rubble. Way-lynn’s axe was very effective at carving up the statues, as was Jax’s blade.

The party spent some time exploring the room and trying to make sense of the situation. They discovered that the beams of energy were striking the apparatus, which appeared to be suspended over an air shaft, that they could not see. They had no luck in disrupting the beams and Lena was struck twice by the green beam causing her massive headache and dulling her wit considerably. They came to believe that each of the obsidian altars were connected to the Shadow Engine and Fey Engine that Gwyn had encountered. The device in the center of the room did not appear to be of similar construction was was likely not the Astral Engine.

Having no other ideas on how to deal with the machine, they party decided to follow the beams to their source and see what they could find there. Although they were operating in the dark with regards to the purpose of the beams and devices, they all agreed that if Dregoth was using them, they should be destroyed.

Chains of Binding
The followed the green and orange beams into a new region of the land. The expanse was filled with ruined tombs, tattered clothing and the ashes from offerings burned in tribute to unknown entities. The green beam originated from a tower on the edge of the land. On an island, many hundreds of feet beyond the main land, a pyramid with visible with the orange beam issuing from it.

The tower was closer and easier and it was not difficult to reach it. It was mostly in ruins with the green beam shining from a large hole in one side. The main door was blocked by rubble likely fallen from an upper floor that was no longer there. Daqiq scouted the tower and found it filled with rubble from collapsed floors, a green gem was visible floating in air.

Chain DemonThe rubble blocking the door was easily removed, allowing access to the ruined tower. The floor was covered in rubble and rusted metal. As the party approached the floating gem, the stench of sulfur and brimstone filled the air. A rattling of metal quickly became painful as a large mass of rusted and spiked chains animated around the gem and started lashing out at the party.

The group battled the chain which attacked both physically and conjured the worst fears into the minds of the party. The stalwart adventurers were able to shake fear and push the images out of their minds as they battled the chains. The chain demon was able to resist Gwyn’s fire magic and Lena’s simple weapons were unable to harm it until Thea used her magic to enhance it. Eventually the chains collapsed as the animating entity was driven off.

Banoc tried to grab the gem without touching the beam and although he was successful, his intellect was not able to overpower the gem and he only managed to burn his hand. Daqiq was eventually successful and pried the gem out of the air. When he did so, the beam stopped immediately. The party guessed that the six gems might be keyed to different attributes and that by taking possession of all six, they might be able to foil Dregoth’s plans.

Death of an Angel
The party took cover outside the tower and tended to their wounds before heading out to search for the other gems. They were awoken by horrible coughing and retching sounds coming from Thea. It appeared that she took a turn for the worse during their rest.

She was wrapped in her wings, but pools of sick, most with blood revealed that all was not well. She uncovered herself and many of her feathers fell off her wings to the ground. Her body was covered in sweat and her skin was red and peeling. More of her hair had fallen out and numerous blisters covered he exposed flesh. With tears of pain, she looks up at the group…

“Its okay. The device gave me more time that I was supposed to have and at least I was freed from that awful place.”

“I don’t know if Dregoth will be successful in his quest, but I know that countless innocents will suffer in his attempt and that he must be stopped. I’m afraid that I wont be able to help you any longer.”

“I hope that I was able to help enough to make up for my weakness and giving Dregoth the information he needed. I only wish that I had been able to stop Torakas from staying behind. He would have most helpful in dismantling Dregoth’s last engine.”

Thea stretched out her hands to Gwyn and Banoc…

“Keep the others on the right path. I don’t know who placed such a heavy burden on your shoulders, but I believe that you’ll be able to save your world by working together and realizing the good in yourselves and others.”

Her hands clenched tightly as another fit of coughing started. When it passed, she turns to Banoc.

“Its okay. Believe in the gods, they do exist. Take my tears, perhaps they will make a powerful weapon against your foes.”

Thea took Banoc’s vial of elemental water and held it to her eyes. Several of her tears mingled with the water, which started to glow. She handed the vial back to Banoc who took it reverently.

“Its okay. It doesn’t hurt that much anymore. And soon I hope I’ll be back with Lathander.”

“Its okay… I’m ready now… Oh no!”

With that her eyes became dull and lifeless and she slowly dissolved into nothingness, with not trace of her remaining.

The Ruins of Pluton

The Hunted Lands
The party spent a bit of time trying to get information out of Rhys, but he had little to say and even less patience for the group, now that their money was spent. Daqiq asked about his experiments and, sighing as if talking to a child who doesn’t understand, explained what he was doing. None of what he said made sense to any of the party.

The group moved west, following the ravine and looking for a way to cross it. The lands before them appeared to be dotted with the ruins of courtyards and possible gardens. Numerous shattered stone tables and benches were arranged around what once might have been tranquil settings. Empty pools and shattered statues conjured images of long destroyed fountains. As they moved further west, the area slowly became covered with slime, fungus and other signs of rot.

With little notice the Daqiq found himself face-to-face with five humanoid creatures that appeared to be walking diseases. Their green bodies were covered with all types of sores, wounds and other signs of disease. They spoke in the language of dragons, and Gwyn translated for the group.

Who has drawn us to this land? Who smells so sweet? Who carries the sickness? We will not hurt her, we want to save her from death. She will live with us and we shall tell you a secret of this place?

Thea did not know these creatures but could tell they were demons and thus not to be trusted. Although the party wanted to know the secrets of this place, none were willing to sacrifice Thea to learn them. The creatures foul intentions were made more clear when they revealed they wanted to keep Thea alive forever and worship her and her sickness.

The plaguebearers would not take “no” for an answer and moved to try and take Thea when it became clear she would not go willingly. Banoc and Way-lynn moved to protect their ally and Daqiq and Gwyn attacked with bow and spell. Gwyn stayed back, too weak to aid in combat and used her magic to try and cleanse the rot of the demons. The foul beasts were surrounded by a horrible stench and biting flies, making it difficult to engage them in melee. To make matters worse they were exceptionally resistant to magic and Gwyn’s fire was useless. Eventually the constant attacks wore the creatures down and they were defeated.

They continued to explore the land and the ravine but found way to cross even the narrowest gap. The ravine floor was covered in a haze and appeared to be about 400 feet deep. There were no easy ways to make the descent as the party left all of their rope in Moil. Daqiq thought he spotted some movement in the haze, but couldn’t tell what made it nor did he see it again.

The Dead Gods Tomb
The party decided to take a rest to tend to their wounds and discuss the options.Thea’s conditioned worsened and she became feverish and dizzy and her nausea and skin conditions intensified. Daqiq and Gwyn familiarized themselves with their new items and Gwyn discovered that her staff was capable of being used to create a wall of force that would be large enough to span the ravine. The group also noticed that the northern lights were pulsing faster and faster as time progressed. None could guess as to what that meant.

Dead Gods TombThe ruined courtyards containing shattered fountains and benches became slightly less common, but as they moved through this area a large feature that appeared to be giant skull-shaped mountain became visible. The strange, multi-colored glow was coming from the far side of the mountain. As the party moved nearer to the mountain, they realized that what appeared to be the multi-colored glow was light from six different beams of energy coming from distant structures into the skull mountain.

Before moving closer, they decided to explore the lands a bit further to the west, in hopes of not missing something important and getting a better perspective on the skull-mountain.

The Draxans
The landscape gave way to ruing battlefields covered with the remnants of wars. Rusted armor and weapons are next to skeletons on the ground that is still red with spilled blood. Some of the fallen warriors appear to still be in a state of decay. The landscape had another large circular ravine similar in depth to the others and just as obscured by a dirty haze.

Daqiq spotted a group of a half-dozen humanoids, clearly of Athasian origin. Their clothing, weapons and armor were unusual, appearing to be of an old style, but clearly new and containing metal buckles. He could not place the city-state that they might have originated from. Although Daqiq was quiet and attempting to remain unseen, the other saw him and turned. In a strange dialect, of which he only understood half the words, they ordered him and the others to join them with the supplies they had requested. Clearly the group though that the adventurers were someone else.

Thea and Jax attempted to reason with the Athasians, and learned the they were servants of the Dragon and intended to make them their slaves. Gwyn attempted to intimidate them with her draconic form, and although they were confused, they called her an imposter that would submit like all the others.

Daqiq answered back by whispering words to him bow and firing an arrow at the templar, the arrow struck true and the templar fell to the ground. The other Athasians became enraged and charged in. As they moved closer, one of the Athasians stood out from the rest – she appeared to be moving stiffly and her clothing was that of the city-state of Urik.

A fierce battle ensued with the Athasians using spells, the Way and raw skill effectively. However, without their templar, the group was no match for the battle-hardened adventurers. After the initial barrage of flame and necrotic energy, Gwyn did her best to counter their magic and was mostly successful at nullifying their abilities. Way-lynn took many hard hits from a psionically enhanced warrior and an assassin, but was kept standing by the powers of water that Banoc commanded.

The last of their opponents was the Urikite, who, upon the death of the others appeared to come out of her trance and dropped her weapons… The adventurers surrounded her and contemplated their next move…

The City that Waits

Race to Freedom
In the library, the group had finished their preparations to fight the hordes of undead and opened the door to see dozens of skeletons and zombies amassed outside. Both sides were prepared for a fight, but the party was faster and used their magic and weapons to quickly defeat the hordes. Gwyn summoned walls of fire that incinerated her foes and Banoc channeled the power of his elemental patrons to destroy dozens at once and drove away the giant skeleton after his had been injured by a powerful attack from Daqiq.

During the fight Thea, held back to finish her reading of the last writing they uncovered another volume discussing Planar Travel. During the fight Torakas was compelled by the Blade Perilous and started towards Thea, but fortunately Jax was able to use her magic to neutralize the influence the sword had over him. They collected their belongings and found that there was a large stash of valuables in the library. Gwyn filled up up the Krampus’ sack and Way-lynn carried the rest of the coins.

With Daqiq leading the way and attempting to avoid any encounters, the party raced towards the Spire of Black Ice and the portal out of Moil. Although they weren’t exactly sure what they would find in the Realm of the Dead Gods, they doubted it could be worse than Moil. For eight hours they made their way through the towers and across the frosty bridges of Moil, seeing several groups of undead, but never getting close enough for and encounter.

When the reached the Tower of Salt they traveled up into new areas. The upper levels of the tower were rusted and corroded much as the lower levels. The smaller rooms, which the party assumed were once residences, gave way to larger and larger rooms that appeared to have once been used for storage. At the upper level they finally discovered the bridge leading out of the tower and, to their horror, found that it was being guarded by the Tortured Vestige, which stood in front of a massive iron portcullis.

They backed away quickly and the Vestige did not appear to notice them. Searching the surrounding areas, they could find no other way to leave the tower. The group was tempted to try and travel the ground between towers again, but felt that it would be too much for Thea to handle in her deteriorating state. Not wanting to spend more time searching for other options, the group decided to try and defeat the mass of undead once again.

Rushing in, Gwyn unleashed a blast of multi-colored light striking the creature with two rays and immobilizing it. The others came in and were preparing to draw it away from the portcullis so that Way-lynn could try and open it. Daqiq landed a deadly blow on the creature, which recoiled in pain, but before anyone else to do anything it was overpowered by Gwyn’s spell and it disappeared. Although she wasn’t sure where, she knew that it was likely on some other plane of existence and shouldn’t trouble them again.

Nearing exhaustion from their journey across the city, the group decided to rest before heading out. Although time was precious to them, they didn’t know what to expect and wanted to be as ready as they could for whatever they might find on the other side of the portal.

During the rest Banoc and Thea spent a lot a time together trying to determine the nature of her sickness and discussing matters of faith and gods. Banoc tried his healing magics but was unable to make Thea’s condition better. During the rest she started vomiting up blood and it was obvious that large clumps of hair were starting to fall out. She tried her best to remain optimistic about the future, but everyone could tell that her time was limited.

The Spire of Black Ice
Spire of Black IceWith great effort, Way-lynn was able to lift the gate once Torakas had used his skills to remove the rust from it, and they headed out towards the spire of black ice. Their first obstacle was a ruined tower that had only the smallest ledges for walking. Moving slowly and carefully, they crossed through the tower without serious difficulty. After getting back onto a more normal bridge they saw below them the Tortured Vestige. Some how it had returned or another had formed. Luckily, it was far away and not a threat at the moment, but its reappearance was disturbing.

The bridge connecting to the spire ended on a small landing built from the same material as the tower – ice. Deep within the ice of the tower, the party could see a structure of stone and metal which was the skeleton of the tower. Suspended in the ice were countless frozen corpses.

The landing had neither an entrance nor any other means of ingress and no window or opening was visible on the surface of the tower. From the landing there were a set of steep, narrow, ice-covered stairs that had been cut into the outer wall of the spire. They descended down the side of the tower towards some questionable destination below. The far limit of the stairs was lost around the side of the tower.

None relished the idea of traveling down the outside of the building then back up through the interior. The information they had on the tower suggested they would have to deal with a gauntlet of undead. Gwyn decided to fly up to the roof level and see what was up there. She found it to be empty except for a large stone archway covered in frost.

Thea and Gwyn flew back to the top and secured the last of their rope to make assist in the climb. Although it was not easy going, the entire party eventually made it with only a few minor bumps and bruises. The party found the roof level to only have a set of stairs leading down into the interior and the archway. The arch was set at the top of a small flight of stairs and they could see a small, silver panel on one side.

Jax approached the gate and put the silver key into the key hole…

A building sound of energy started from the portal and the runes carved into it started to produce a golden glow…

The gate flashed with orange light and a portal opened leading to an unfamilar land with a starry sky…

Warmth flooding into Moil and the ice of the tower started to melt, threatening to expose the trapped corpses…

Thea began to glow and her spectral wings transformed into feathered wing and although still sick, she was radiant…

Jax wasted no time and moved through the portal. They other started to as well when Daqiq wondered how the portal would be closed…

The sound of cracking ice filled the air and several corpses were freed from the ice and started to move towards the party…

Everyone rushed through the portal with Torakas being the last. He removed the key and tried to jump through the portal, but the instant the key was removed the portal closed. He muttered “ah butts” to no one in particular…

By this time several dozen corpses were freed, but with the portal closed, it appeared that no more were going to be free. Torakas dodged out of the way of the zombies and tried to make a run for the stairs. He quickly discovered the internal passageways were lined with frozen zombies that started to drain the life from him. He quickly reasoned it would be virtually impossible for him to make it out of the tower. He fought off a few of the zombies, but the numbers were too great and he knew he wouldn’t be able to survive. Gripping the sword and key tightly, he backed off and fell toward the ground at the base of the tower. As he fell, he hoped his sacrifice would make up in some small part for the work he did for Dregoth.

The Astral Sea
On the other side of the portal, the party helped Thea down the stairs from a nearly identical gate. The surrounding area was a crumbling courtyard. They stood at the center of a field of blasted dark red stones, beyond which was a field of gray stone.

They saw the portal close as Torakas removed the sliver key and waited for the gate to reopen. When it didn’t they feared that Torakas had fallen. With no silver key to open the portal on this side, there was nothing they could do at the moment. Thea in particular was devastated that Torakas sacrificed himself when her life was measured in hours, or days at the most.

The sky overhead was a bright starry field and filled with swirling with colors never before seen by their eyes. Behind them was a steep drop-off into the swirling void, suggesting they were at the edge of an island. They saw before them a shadowed landscape where pulsing colors shone like a beacon on the horizon, its distance impossible to determine.

The explored the area a bit and a large canyon to the north and a steep drop-off the the south and east. The proceeded to the west. The new region appeared to contain scattered ruins of tombs and mausoleums. Most were damaged, perhaps broken into and looted, and it looked as if nothing more than tattered cloth and rubble remained. In the distance, towards the southern edge of the land, they saw a faint blue glow, separate from the other light sources.

As they approached the source of the blue light, they see a rather odd sight. In the middle of a clearing, there was a large wooden chair with intricate carvings and a strong blue aura. Sitting next to the chair, cross legged on the ground, was a blue-skinned humanoid figure.

The party approached, with Thea in the lead, to take with the the blue humanoid stood up to a surprising height of about 12 feet. As he did so, his elongated features became quite apparent, as did his hands, each with six fingers and an extra knuckle. He cleared his throat and speaks slowly…

“Greetings… travelers. It is not often that I encounter your kind… let alone two groups in as many… days. Perhaps you will have… currency?… and an interest in trade? If you are… like your kinsmen… with nothing of real value… then I will bid you a good… day.”

They discovered that the individual, Rhys, was a merchant and interested in buying and selling magical items. The previous group he mentioned appeared to be another party of Athasians, but as all they had were ceramic coins, he had no interest in them. He also confirmed that they were on Pluton, but provided little useful information.

After some negotiations, the party arrived at a deal on a staff forGwyn, a sword for Way-lynn and a bow and bracers for Daqiq as well as a few potions. The party was unsure where to go next in this strange land…

The City that Waits

The Search
The group quickly discovered that their task of finding knowledge about Dregoth’s plans would be hindered by enchantments placed on the library. The books and other writings could not be removed from the library and they appeared to be enchanted to return to the shelves after about an hour or so. Finally, the information on a particular topic appeared to be spread out across several different works, requiring both to be found and brought together for translation. Only then could the meaning of the work be determined and hopefully provide useful information.

The party started searching for writings until pairs were found after which the difficult task of translating the works fell to Torakas and Jax. Torakas, Thea and Gwyn had the difficult task of comprehending the esoteric knowledge described by the writings. Banoc and Way-lynn spent the majority of their time searching for writings. Daqiq was instrumental in organizing their findings to help them remember where various writings were located for future reference. The task was slow and exhausting, both mentally and physically, for everyone.

After being interrupted by a skeleton work crew, they spent some time checking on the entrance to the library and trying to secure it against more interruptions. They found, however, that the spectral undead of the city were easily able to move into the library and a second fight almost destroyed several of the writings after Gwyn unleashed are blast of fire.

During that fight, Thea gave into the urging of The Blade Perilous, and attacked Torakas. Horrified by her actions she surrendered the sword to the dray artificer who agreed to take up the weapon, as he had wanted all along.

Things That Go Bump in the Night
After about 12 hours, the party decided to stop and rest. The physical stress of running around the library, the mental exhaustion from the reading and the constant threat of attacks had taken a toll on them and they decided it would be most productive to take a break and rest. They posted guards at the library entrance and, mercifully, they had no spectral visitors to interrupt them.

After eating a bland meal prepared by Torakas, they resumed their work. The party also felt the effects of the Gray and they each knew that they were dangerously close to being overwhelmed. Thea’s condition worsened although she did not let on to the others in her party and carried on as best she could.

Shortly after the resumed work, a pounding was heard and felt on the main library entrance. It was as if numerous fists were trying to beat down the door to gain access. Way-lynn and Banoc shifted their attention to making sure the door held. While this allowed the others a safe working place, the constant pounding did little to help them concentrate. A few hours later there was an increase in the intensity, as if more creatures had arrived.

The Last Stand
Zombie HodeAfter over 30 hours in the library, they decided that it was time to go. The party had uncovered a fair amount of information that was useful, and although they knew where the rest was in the library, they felt that they were out of time. They uncovered significant information in writings…

The Ascension
The Astral Sea
The Feywild
New Worlds
Of Gods
Planar Travel
The Time of Troubles

Jax and Thea took the last remaining work to be translated and studied to the back of the library, while the rest made ready to open the doors and face whatever was out there waiting for them. With luck they would be able to defeat the creatures and make it to the Spire of Black Ice before being overwhelmed by the Gray.

They piled many of the flammable materials in front of the doors. With everyone as ready as they could be, they pulled open the doors and saw a horde of zombies which started to rush in…

The City that Waits

A New Direction
While the party rested, healing their wounds and allowing Thea to recover from the effects of the machine that brought her back to life. The debate was between leaving Moil as quickly as possible or making their way to the library of Dregoth in the Shadow Gate Tower. The party was evenly split on what they thought was best, with Thea deciding to go along with the majority. Eventually Gwyn was convinced by Torakas and Jax that the library was the better option and the group headed out towards the northeast corner of the city.

The group moved with as much speed as they could with Daqiq leading the way and attempting to avoid any undead they might encounter. He was able to avoid groups of banshees and zombies but stumbled directly into a skeletal work crew. They also spotted the Vestige, or a similar creature, roaming the bridges of the city. They were terrified by the through that they had not defeated the creature or that there were multiple vestiges within the city.

The Towers of Moil

After several hours the party moved into into a tower the Torakas referred to as the Tower of Chance. In one room, a mysterious wheel floated above a table. Although they were hurried, Way-lynn gave into temptation and activated the wheel. The wheel came to a stop and Way-lynn visibly aged from the magic of the wheel and the rest of his friends could see that his health was affected as well. Torakas provided an elixir that restored most of his lost youth, but Way-lynn still felt weaker than before.

Torakas also spun the wheel hoping that he would have better luck than Way-Lynn. Much to his dismay, the wheel did not land on the number he selected and he was wracked with pain as the device drain energy out of him, leaving him tired like he had never been before. The decided to move on, not trusting that the wheel would ever provide a benefit.

In the shadow mine tower, they encountered a strange room with obsidian eggs on an alter. Banoc detected magic within them, but was unable to determine the functions of the eggs. After the dangers in the Tower of Chance, they decided not to tempt fate and left the eggs undisturbed.

As they left the mine, they were attacked by another group of banshees and this time they had no choice but to fight the spectral creatures. The banshees’ screams knocked Banoc, Thea and Way-lynn unconscious and into a near-death state. The creatures were eventually defeated and the party was able to revive their allies and heal up.

The Shadow Gate Tower
At long last the party reached the Shadow Gate Tower and it was still as Gwyn remembered. The tower had been struck by another falling tower and the top was broken off. The faint glow of the portal to the Shadow Tomb was barely visible from the bridge as they approached. They worked their way inside and discovered a recently renovated room that appeared to have once been a chapel. The original iconography was dedicated to a creature that Thea knew as Orcus, but had been replaced by a symbol of a dragon skull within a sun – which Torakas confirmed was the symbol of Dregoth.

They also discovered that the interior of the tower had been badly damaged in the collision and there were no access points to the lower levels where the library was. They made their way to the top most level and avoided the Shadow Gate. From the edge, they peered over and saw some damaged walkways on the exterior of the tower and several access points that might lead into unexplored portions of the tower. However, they couldn’t see if the access points had been damaged from their vantage point.

Gwyn surprised all of the others as she sprouted dragon wings from her back and launched off the side of the tower to explore. After a few minutes, she returned and confidently said that if they could get down, they could access the lower level of the tower. Thea also surprised the group as she produced a set of ethereal, feathered wings and made the initial descent with some rope to help the others. Everyone was in awe of the newfound abilities of Thea and Gwyn.

The descent along the outside of the tower was treacherous and Banoc and Torakas both fell but landed on the ruined scaffolding only suffering a few bumps and bruises. Once they all reached the lowest access doorway, they entered the tower again and quickly discovered the library, which occupied a large portion of the ground floor. The room contained a vast assortment of books, scrolls, tablets and other forms of written information. The walls and rooms were demolished at one point, but recently renovated and are in rather good condition, considering the state of the rest of the tower. They realized that finding the library was only the first step and that sorting through the information contained here could take days.

The City that Waits

The Key Guardian
Although the party had seen many terrible things on Athas, the totally alien nature of the Key Guardian was enough to unsettle them. Jax collapsed to the floor of the cavern, unresponsive and curled in the fetal position. Daqiq looked at the creature and cried uncontrollably. The rest were able to master their terror and proceeded to launch attacks at it. Torakas used his skills to calm Jax and Daqiq, enabling them to fight after a few minutes.

Shortly after the creature appeared, there was a disturbance in the cavern, and Delen appeared with an entourage of undead around him. Delen sent his undead to attack and delay his former allies, while he used powerful magic against them. His betrayal was not surprising to the party, but his newfound strength was. Gwyn and Banoc attacked Delen at range as he floated above the battle. The rest of the group concentrated on his undead and the Guardian.

Delen focused his attacks on Way-lynn, disintegrating a large portion of Way-lynn’s leg. A blow from Banoc’s spiritual weapon sent Delen crashing to the floor of the cavern, alive but unconscious. Jax moved near him and with an unsympathetic thrust of her sword, she performed a coup de grâce, ending his life. His severed head rolled away into the water.

Between the attacks of the Guardian and Delen’s magic, Way-Lynn was overwhelmed and fell. None were able to get to Way-Lynn in time and Way-Lynn died, partially submerged in the cold water of the cavern. Saddened by the loss of her ally, Thea attacked with The Blade Perilous and managed to land a killing blow on the Guardian. The remains of the creature sank beneath the cold water.

The party was uneasy about spending more time in the cavern, but needed to tend to their wounds and decided to risk it. Thea performed another miracle and raised Way-Lynn from death. Jax used her own magic to summon the spirit of Delen to answer her questions. She learned that Delen had made a bargain with the Key Guardian and other undead in the city – in exchange for betraying the party, he learned that the library of Degoth was located in the lower levels of the Shadow Gate Tower in the northeastern portion of the city. Jax was unsettled by her contact with his spirit, but shrugged it off.

The Tortured Vestige
As they rested, eating bland food created by Torakas, the party discussed their next move. Although everyone wanted to leave Moil as soon as possible, the lure of the knowledge of Dregoth was strong. Gwyn knew the location of the tower from her last visit to Moil, and it was there that they fought the Tortured Vestige, loosing Kelvor in the battle. The party discussed for hours, but could not reach a final decision.

Their rest and discussion were interrupted by a low rumbling from the passageway, which grew louder and louder. The party prepared themselves for this new threat but were totally unprepared for the appearance of the Tortured Vestige. The mass of undead bodies squeezed its way out of the tunnel entrance and poured into the cave.

Daqiq directed the group to stay at range as best they could, moving around the outside of the lake. Gwyn used her magic to try and contain the creature with a wall of fire and was successful for a time. Unfortunately the creature was able to break free and caught Torakas and Thea in its grasp. Torakas was knocked unconscious, but Thea was dragged inside of the Vestige, to the horror of her allies.

Although the creature was immensely strong, the party had the advantage of the terrain and tactics. They continued their attacks, hoping to reach Thea before the Vestige consumed her. Eventually their efforts were rewarded and with a blast of fire, Gwyn blew the creature apart. Burning bodies and body parts flew across the cavern as the being fell apart. Amidst the carnage, Gwyn recovered many of the items that had been lost when Kelvor died. They also found Thea, but she was dead as a result of the prolonged time inside the Vestige.

The Rebirth
The loss of Thea was a blow to the moral of the party and they were unsure how to proceed. As they patched up their new wounds they realized that there was a slim chance to bring Thea back – the machine at the top of the Tower of Health. Jax had some additional information about the device from her conversation with Delen, but they still knew almost nothing about its capabilities. They decided the potential was worth the risk and when they were ready, they left the cavern, heading back to the Tower of Health.
The Device
The water was just as cold as before, but Torakas was able to create tokens that allowed them to breathe under water and their knowledge of the passageways allowed them to make it through without significant difficulties. They came near several groups of undead, but were able to avoid any encounters. They reached the chamber of the device and strapped Thea into it, then they waited…

The device came alive and started repairing her body…

When it was finished, there were a few more actions and then the machine went quiet as it returned to its resting state…

Thea did not stir…

Suddenly her eyes opened and she gasped, alive…

She was freed from the restraints and looked at each of the party with a look of happiness, friendship and love. Then, abruptly, a look of absolute terror came upon her and she sunk to the floor shaking and barely able to speak…

I remember my home – a far away place of goodness and beauty.

I remember finding this city by accident and wanting to provide peace to the inhabitants.

I remember serving a being of joy and light – Lathander, the Morninglord.

I remember having to put down many of the undead inhabitants, for there was no way to save them.

I remember a new arrival in the city – a undead dragon of power and abilities I’d never seen before – a being called Dregoth.

I remember spying on Dregoth, attempting to learn his weakness and his plans for the city.

I remember being caught by Dregoth and being questioned mercilessly about the various planes of existence and their inhabitants.

I defied Dregoth, confident that my faith would protect and preserve me.

I remember unrelenting torment by Dregoth and the pain when my wings were ripped from me.

I remember eventually succumbing and telling Dregoth of the Gods and how they gained power from worshipers or from defeated gods.

I remember retreating into my own mind to preserve my sanity.

I remember Dregoth reaching into my mind and locking my memories as he imprisoned me in a tower.

I remember keeping my sanity by knowing that there was no way Dregoth would be able to collect enough power to further his goals of becoming a true God.

Torakas stepped forward and offered a horrifying suggestion – that the devices he helped create, that Gwyn had found in the Lands within the Wind and the Shadow Tomb could be part of Dregoth’s plans to channel the energy needed to become a god. The sorcerer-king was already worshiped as one by the majority of the dray. The party agreed that if that was Dregoth’s goal, he must not be allowed to complete it.

The City that Waits

The Tower of Health
Daqiq watched the woman for a few moments as the rest of his friends quietly moved up to his position. From what they could tell, the woman did not appear to be one of the undead creatures of the city. Daqiq quietly cleared his throat and she looked up with anger that quickly turned to surprise and then a multitude of other emotions flashed across her face. She begged for them to enter the room, stating that the city was dangerous for the living and that they would be safer in her room. Although they were skeptical, they sensed nothing of genuine concern and entered.

Way-lynn was the last to enter, carrying the body of Torakas. At the sight of the dead dray, the woman gasped and started to panic. She asked that he be laid down so that she could tend to him, and mentioned that the city was not a good place to die in. Daqiq initially refused, holding her back, but with each passing moment she became more emotional and tears fell from her eyes. Again sensing no ill will, they released her and she rushed to the side of Torakas and placed a hand on his chest. A moment later he coughed up blood and began to breathe again.

The majority of the party was shocked by her miraculous touch, but Way-lynn drew The Blade Perilous and charged Torakas. Banoc moved to intercept and tried to use his elemental powers to break the sword’s hold over the half-giant, but the bond was too strong. Jax used her charms to convince Way-lynn to let Banoc break the curse on the sword, and Way-lynn agreed, standing down once free of the weapon’s influence. The woman was shocked, appearing incapable of believing that someone would want to harm the living.

The tension of the situation lasted for a time, but ultimately calm emotions prevailed and everyone began to discuss recent events. The woman, who introduced herself as Thea, was unable to recall anything beyond this room and was discovered to have two large vertical wounds on her back that Banoc was unable to heal. She claimed to be trapped in the room and a careful inspection revealed the room was indeed a prison formed by runes of dragon magic inscribed in the walls.

Torakas claimed to be the chief artificer of Dregoth and responsible for most of the modifications and additions to the city of Moil at the request of Dregoth. Although he spoke of the sorcerer-king of Giustenal reverently, he appeared willing to aid the party, but demanded the Blade Perilous in return, for he did not trust anyone else to wield it. At the end, it was decided that Thea would hold the blade, for everyone agreed that she was the most trustworthy, and she expressed no interest in wielding it. Torakas set to work dismantling the prison with the assistance of Gwyn and Banoc. Daqiq scouted the rest of the tower and reported several interesting finds.

The ground floor of the tower was a mess of debris and crumbling walls. Throughout this level there was little to take notice of. At the end of one long passageway there was a single intact door that was ajar. The room beyond held shelves along every wall and stood in two high rows down the center of the chamber. The shelves were filled with all manner of containers, but the frost gave every vial, bottle, packet and pouch the same ominous, crusted while pallor. Here and there, some past disturbance had toppled bottles and vials to the ground as evidenced by debris on the floor of the chamber. In the southern corner of the room, an entire shelf unit had toppled forward. The former contents lie in a heaped pile of glass, ceramic, cloth and bone beneath the shelf unit.

Given the potential dangers, the group rested in Thea’s room to tend to their injuries and recover their strength. Each could feel the pull of the Gray weakening them further, but Torakas and Thea appeared to be resistant to this effect. Torakas spent the time searching the shelves and selected a large number for himself, promising to share, but arrogantly assumed the party would not understand what they were.

In the middle level of the tower, the group discovered a room containing a bulbous-looking metal container. It was about 5 feet in diameter where it rested against the floor and expanded to a 10-foot diameter near the ceiling, 12 feet above. Small glass pods protruded from the surface, and most of the glass pods shone with pinpoints of green light, but some were shattered and dark. On the facing side of this apparatus, there was a deep indentation visible, shaped like a humanoid body. The once comfortable-looking leather padding within the cavity was now cracked and peeling.

There was a single zombie patrolling the room and it was easily dispatched by Daqiq. Torakas examined the device and declared that it was used for curing injuries although he could not guarantee how effective it would be given the damage. To test it they decided to put the zombie into the device. It whirred to life, repairing it’s most recent injuries, but nothing else happened. The party tried to convince Thea to try the machine out, but she declined.

The Tower of Salt
Having fully explored the Tower of Health the group decided to move on. Torakas took great pride in explaining the name and purpose of the major towers in Moil, and his contributions to each. One nearby tower he described as the Tower of Salt, for the basement was flooded with icy cold saltwater. This description closely matched Banoc’s vision of where the key to escaping the city might be and the entire party decided to head there and investigate.

Along the way they encountered a group of wraiths and were easily able to dispatch them. Thea wielded the sword with far more skill than expected and her attacks were filled with a radiant energy that obliterated the spectral foes. This convinced everyone that there was much more to this woman than was first apparent.

The bridge ended at a dark opening within the side of a tower constructed of steel. No symbols or glyphs marked the entrance to this tower, and an unmistakably briny odor emanated from the dark portal. There was no bridge or support beyond the tower portal, just a black chasm of the tower interior. The noise of what sounded like waves lapping against a shoreline echoed up from the darkness below with a relaxed rhythm. The sharp odor of salt hung heavy in the air, its source not immediately apparent. Immediately to the right of the portal was an iron ladder bolted to the interior of the tower. The ladder, pitted and rusted in spots, lead down into the blackness below.

The cold, murky depths seemed to pull the heat from everyone’s bodies and the light from their eyes. The party saw what appeared to be a wide cave mouth in the rough salt crystal wall. A closer looked revealed a narrow passageway leading under the water. Torakas worked his magic and produced tokens for each of the party members that allowed them to breathe underwater.

Daqiq lead the group through the freezing water and after several hours they emerged into a grotto formed from discolored salt. Daqiq was exhausted and barely able to move. Torakas produced a vial that he had found in the Tower of Health and with one sip, Daqiq was invigorated and able to carry on. On the far north wall was a perfectly circular hole with bits of rusted metal attached to the stone walls of the cave, an odd sight that none in the party could make sense of.

Underwater GrottoFollowing a twisting passage, the party found a very large cavern. Unlike the barren, salt-enclosed expanses encountered up to this point, this room contained something of interest – a large mound of glinting coins, gems, sculptures and other finery on a small island in the middle of a frosty lake. Rising from the center of the pile was pillar of salt, atop of which was a large key. This was the location of Banoc’s vision and the key was the key to their escape.

The party, ever cautious, checked the room and although they could not see anything Banoc’s magic revealed two interesting facts. First, there was an aberration beneath the water – a creature not of the normal world. Secondly, Thea was a celestial – a creature from the outer planes. No more information was gained on either discovery, and the mystery of Thea remained.

As the party stepped into the cavern, each received a telepathic message. The voice that spoke to them felt like a thousand needles in their minds and attempted to convince them to leave without disturbing the key. Each message was unique and played to their individual fears and desires. However, the party was unconvinced to heed the message, as they so strongly wished to leave Moil. Jax used her magic to try and grab the key from the island but before she could the water erupted and a gigantic creature with numerous eyes and tentacles burst forth from the water. It was likely they would have to defeat the guardian before they could safely obtain the key.

The City that Waits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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