Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

City by the Silt Sea

The Dread Palace
With a look of satisfaction Li-Am took Kalid-Ma’s hand and accepted his offer, revealing his true intentions to continue serving as the sorcerer-king’s templar. The rest of the party was shocked at his betrayal, although there was little time to ponder this, as the battle continued.

Kira switched from Absalom and attacked Li-Am, wounding him greatly, but he still found the strength to stand. Kalid-Ma swept the room with his claws and then began to draw the life out of his enemies. Elleandra was overwhelmed, fell unconscious and then died. Although blinded by Kalid-Ma’s attacks, Jarvix sprinted out of the room, as if answering a call that only he heard.

Iorskan and Morg continued to attack Absalom, eager to finish what they had started. To everyone’s surprise, Elleandra rose from death, an odd light about her. Completely restored to health by a lingering blessing from her time holding the Crystal of Ebon Flame, she tried to attack Kalid-Ma, but found herself unable to break through his defenses with her magic.

Li-Am turned on his former allies and attacked them with his spectral weapon and magic. He wounded Kira, Iorsakn and Morg, and killed Absalom with his combined attacks. Kalid-Ma continued to attack, biting into Iorskan and Morg, and knocking Iorskan to the floor. Only Morg’s incredible toughness allowed him to keep fighting.

The room rumbled and the main doors opened to reveal another massive dragon, whose decaying form could only be that of Dregoth. He let loose with a blast of necrotic energy aimed at Kalid-Ma, but that was large enough to injure most everyone in the room. Li-Am fell to the ground, unable to keep standing with his injuries.

The party was on the verge of despair, when a large portal opened in the room and they could see Jarvix on the other side, concentrating hard, but motioning them towards him. Not wanting to die again, Elleandra used her magic to become insubstantial and slip past the few remaining dray guards. Along the way she stopped by the unconscious Li-Am and grabbed the Skull of Dorag Thel.

Morg, having seen too many foes return from the dead, moved over to Li-Am and proceeded to hack at him with his Axe. Satisfied that he was truly dead, he grabbed the Shadowstaff and moved through the gate dragging the unconscious Iorskan with him.

The Planar GateThe party found themselves in a large room with walls covered in bookshelves overflowing with books and scrolls. One wall was dominated with the large ornate mirror through which they had just stepped. Jarvix appeared to be in contact with the mirror and began to concentrate to try and change the mirror’s focus. Kira grabbed several nearby books, having learned the potential value of the information contained within them. Before Jarvix could complete his work, Dregoth stepped through the portal squeezing his massive form into the library.

Dregoth let loose a blast of defiling magic and the entire party doubled over in pain as their life energy was drained from them. Unwilling to risk further attacks by the undead sorcerer-king, the party joined hands and jumped through the portal, which was flashing seemingly random locations that they had visited. With a scream of rage, they left Dregoth behind and hoped that he would not be able to follow them.

Rafernard’s Forest
The adventurers opened their eyes and looked around, immediately recognizing their location – they were in the central plaza within Rafernard’s Forest. It looked much as it had when they had left it following Abalach-Re’s transformation over a month ago. The land surrounding the skull tower was still defiled and there were remains of hundreds of corpses.

They quickly retreated into the forested areas and found that food and water were still abundant. After tending to their wounds, taking stock of their gear and getting some much needed rest, they started out towards Altaruk, where they hoped to find friends and get information on what had been happening in this part of Athas since they left.

Their rest was not interrupted and their journey across the hot desert between the forest and Altaruk was dusty but otherwise uneventful. When they reached Altaruk, they found that it had changed significantly. The walls were badly damaged and instead of the usual guards, the Legions of Balic now stood watch. Elleandra used her magic to charm one of the guard captains and learned some of what had happened here.

According to the guard captain, Abalach-Re had attacked the fort and was driven away, although when she attacked again the defenders fell. The vast majority of the guards were slain in her attacks as were several prominent leaders. The guards also told how Abalach-Re was defeated by the combined efforts of Andropinis of Balic, Lalali-Puy of Gulg and the Shadow King of Nibenay. Lastly the party learned that they were wanted by Andropinis for breaking into The Ivory Dungeon several weeks back. Fortunately Elleandra’s charms prevented these guards from turning them in, but they decided to not linger and headed out on the road to Tyr.

City by the Silt Sea

As the silt skimmer approached the ruins of Giustenal, Jarvix had some time to review what he had learned from the writings recovered from Waverly. Although he found no mention of dragons, avangions, or Rajaat, there were some discussions of other champions. Dregoth was mentioned as the Ravager of Giants and Kalid-Ma was named as the Minotaur Terror. One champion, Myron, was called the Troll Scorcher and he was apparently killed and replaced by Manu who took on the same title. None had heard the name Manu, but it had a striking similarity to Hamanu, the sorcerer-king of Urik.

When the vessel finally arrived at Giustenal, it slowed to maneuver among the ruins of the city which stretched out into the Sea of Silt. The hordes of undead were unloaded and sent off into the ruins and the party and the other captives were escorted up to the surface. There they could see the massive city of Giustenal half buried by the Sea of Silt and positioned at an odd angle, as if the entire city had been sunken. Off in the distance a haze created by boiling tar pits blocked most of the view of the ruins.

The party waited on what appeared to be an old wall and was told that they would be momentarily taken to Absalom. The dray captain cautioned Jarvix about using the Way and informed him that their books and other heavy gear would be carried down for them. The party was tempted to escape, as there were only nine guards including the captain, but decided against it as their options for getting off the wall were not apparent.

Within a few moments a platform rose from the ruins of a tower connected to the wall and another party of dray, half of whom appeared to guards joined the first group of guards. The other half of the party appeared to be outcast dray and were assigned the menial task of carrying the books and mundane gear of the party. Once all were positioned on the platform one of the guards, who appeared to be a defiler, spoke words of magic and the platform began to descend through a series of tunnels.

Morg studied the walls and was amazed to find they were not constructed by any craft known to him – they appeared to almost have been grown. Jarvix was studying the walls as well when he suddenly appeared to dissociate and then collapsed to the floor of the platform, visibly shaken by something. There was no opportunity to discuss his condition as the platform moved through a series of tunnels. After a few minutes, the platform leveled out, moved horizontally and then stopped at the entrance to a massive cavern.

New GiustenalNew Giustenal
The entrance to the cavern was secured by a massive gate and two towers. The gates were made from a combination of stone and large bones, giving the entry way a grand and ominous appearance. Dray guards could be seen in the towers and as the party approached, the gates appeared to open on their own. As they approached, the more observant members noted that the bones of the gates appeared animated as some horrific golem and that was what caused the gates to open.

Beyond the gate the adventurers were amazed to see a small city spreading out before them. As they were escorted through the city, they saw sights that they might see above the surface. Merchant shops and other businesses were mixed with residential areas along a large central avenue. Although the buildings were familiar, the inhabitants were all dray.

The party could make out a magnificent structure made from gray stone with crimson scales, trim and other draconic decorations. In the center of the building a large steeple could be seen, decorated with dragon scales. The doorway was carved to appear to be a dragon’s mouth, with the portcullis being formed by the creatures teeth. This was a temple of the Dragon, where the faithful gather to hear the words of Dregoth.

The wonder continued as off in the distance the party could see fields of strange plants and pens of even stranger beasts. The most amazing sight was a large river of cool, clear water, flowing through the center of the cavern. The river was over 200 feet wide and numerous floating ships could be seen moving up and down the visible section. This was another of the many gifts that Dregoth had bestowed upon his chosen people, according to their guards.

Beyond the river were more homes and shops but as the avenue rounded to the left a strange forest was visible on the right. Trees were growing from the ceiling, their limbs reaching down and stretching out into a canopy of leaves, their roots winding their way upward. The trees were bearing fruit.

More wonders of the city were revealed to the party as they continued. A beautiful building of ivory sandstone was capped in black obsidian, as towers of similar design rose behind it at varying heights. The party’s eyes were drawn away from that structure to their final destination: a stark and oppressive structure set behind a wall of black obsidian, its surface decorated with giant bones. A huge ribcage of bones made a walkway from the gates to the palace.

The guards led the party through the ribcage of bone and up through a massive set of doors into an entrance hall. The massive doors were opened and the party was taken into a huge chamber made of gray marble inlaid with a turquoise image of a dragon. Atop a stepped platform sat a throne of polished marble. The guard captain left them in the company of the other guards to go find Absalom.

Although their guards were attentive, the did not appear to care if the party explored the room or talked amongst themselves. Jarvix took this time to tell the party about the vision he had on the platform. They had a brief discussion but it was cut short by the arrival of Absalom. He was a tall dray with black scales and appeared to be not entirely alive. He carried a large sword in one hand and an obsidian Orb in another.

He greeted Li-Am and Iorskan, thanking them for delivering the party. He promised that Iorskan would be the general of the outcast dray, and that Li-Am would be the high templar of Dregoth. The party was taken aback and unsure of where the loyalties of their two friends were. Without warning Li-Am and Elleandra dove for the Orb, attempting to wrest it from his hands. Neither was able to secure the Orb but it created a momentary distraction and Kira shifted from a small lizard into her favorite form of a tiger and pounced on Absalom, savagely ripping into him.

Jarvix emanated a hypnotic ripple of psychic influence among the dray, stunning the majority of them, while conjuring a shard of nothingness to hold them fast. Iorskan let his true loyalties be know and orchestrated a devastating coordinated attack on Absalom as he called out “You did a shitty job of making these dray!” Elleandra made another grab for the Orb, but Absalom twisted away and Elleandra summoned illusory barriers around him causing him pain when he attacked. Morg called upon his reserves of strength and made a strike at Absalom at an odd angle catching the dray off guard and wounding him deeply.

Absalom teleported to a more advantageous position, slashing at Iorskan and siphoning his spirit. As Iorskan’s spirit faded, some of Absalom’s wounds healed. The dray guards rushed in attacking Elleandra and Morg. and wounding them deeply. Jarvix and Iorskan attempted to keep their friends standing despite the damage being inflicted on them. Iorskan attempted to keep Absalom’s attention on him by continuing to insult Absalom’s potency as a dray.

The battle continued back and forth until Elleandra finally managed to grab Absalom’s Orb, a look of triumph on her face. Before she could merge the Orb, Li-Am snatched Absalom’s Orb from her. The party breathed a collective sigh of relief as the all too real prospect of the return of Kalid-Ma suddenly didn’t feel like a good idea. Still urged on by her Orbs, Elleandra tried to grab the Orb back from Li-Am, but was unable wrest it from his hands. Li-Am turned her lunge to his advantage and barely managed to get a hold of her Orb. With a swift motion and a smile on his face, Li-Am combined the Orbs.

With a pulse of dark energy and a snapping sound, the Orb flared and cracked issuing forth a stream of black smoke. Helpless to do anything except watch, the smoke coalesced into an ordinary seeming man. Within a look of satisfaction on his face, his body grew and changed into a magnificent and terrifying form of a mighty dragon composed of living shadow, a being of darkness and defiling magic – a creature of nightmares. Its large hand extended towards Li-Am “Your loyalty will be rewarded, you shall be my High Templar”. Too stunned to react, all the party could do was wait to hear Li-Am’s response…

Flight to Giustenal

Ruins of Waverly
The crew of the Dusty Breeze began to repair the vessel, moving a quickly as possible for the presence of the large Dray force on the island. Although the ship had supplies to make repairs, they would not be able to make more repairs should the need arise. The party decided to venture into the island to gather more supplies and explore a bit while the crew was working.

The party headed out in a but quickly realized that they had very little idea where they should go. Elleandra used her magic to fly upwards and get a better idea of the layout of the island. She spent only a short time in the air to reduce the risk of being seen, but was able to see several promising areas that might provide supplies. They decided to head towards the southern end of the island, where there appeared to be more plant life.

After many hours moving across the island and searching Kira discovered a small stream of foul water emerging from behind a large pile of rubble. The rubble was easily cleared and a passageway was revealed leading under the ruins of the city. The sewer captured the interest of the party and they proceeded in after Jarvix used the Way to check in with Captain Daclimitus on the repair progress.

After an hour of so of searching, the encountered a group of Dray in a chamber. Although the Dray were surprised to see the adventurers, they were not immediately hostile and the two groups had a guarded conversation. Iorskan became the spokesperson for the adventurers as the leader of the Dray would not condescend to talk with the other party members.

The party learned that the dray were on a mission for their god, Dregoth, although they would not disclose any specifics to the party. They did appear to almost be expecting Iorskan and suggested that they present themselves to the dray encampment to be judged worthy. There were subtle intonations of other, darker, events taking place, but the party was unable to get more information, as they had not been deemed worthy yet.

Fearful that if they left the dray alone that the party’s presence would be reported to the main dray encampment the party decided to take action. The dray put up a good fight, but proved to be no match for the adventurers. Kira and Li-Am prevented the leader from casting any spells and finished off the majority of the soldiers. Morg took several serious injuries but Iorskan was able to keep him alive.

Lost Lore
After recovering from the fight, the party spent several more hours in the sewers attempting to discover what the dray were up to. Their investigations were yielding no results and they were just about to give up when a faint glow caught their attention. Following the light, they came upon a large room off of the main sewer line occupied by a half-dozen spectral figures.

Ghosts of WaverlyExpecting trouble, the party was relieved to find that the spirits were not immediately hostile to the group. Elleandra spoke with the spirits and discovered that they had perished almost two thousand years ago when Uyness, the ruler of the city, betrayed them and left the city in ruins.

Elleandra was able to convince the spirits that she and the rest of the party were on a mission to restore the world. The spirits offered the party their choice of either riches or knowledge. Although some were tempted by the riches, they eventually decided that the knowledge would be the best choice. The spirits lead them through twisting passages eventually arriving at an apparent dead-end. Iorskan and Li-Am were able to uncover a hidden door which opened into a large room filled with books and scrolls.

When the party tried to enter the room they found that Li-Am and Elleandra were unable to enter the library. The ghosts explained that the library was warded against arcane magic users. Those two waited while the others searched the library for any useful information. The majority of the writings were historical records of Waverly and it appeared that Uyness of Waverly might have been another named used by Abalach-Re. Other records appeared to have more information related to the Cleansing Wars but the party did not spend time to review everything they found. While the literate adventurers were scouring the books, Morg noticed that there were a large number of metal candlesticks, scroll cases and other paraphernalia and helped himself to as much as he could carry.

After gathering all that they could, the party started retracing their steps through the sewers and back to the landing point of the Dusty Breeze. The day had been long and the party pushed themselves hard to reach the landing as quickly as possible. When they reached the ship, they found it destroyed and the crew missing. It was not difficult to put together what had happened as there were numerous Dray footprints near the wreckage. Jarvix risked attempting to contact the captain with the Way and was relieved that he was still alive. Daclimitus said that he and the crew had indeed been captured and were being help and the Dray encampment.

The Dray Encampment
The party took some time to recover their strength and formulate a plan for rescuing the crew and getting them all off the island. Once they had agreed, the party began marching west towards the Dray encampment, with Kira shape-shifted as a songbird and scouting ahead. They encountered nothing but a few wild animals on their journey until they were near to the camp and a patrol spotted them.

Iorskan demanded to see the camp commander and pretended to be delivering the rest of the party to the camp commander. Much to the surprise of the party, the ruse appeared to work and they were allowed entry into the camp. Li-Am and Iorskan were escorted to a comfortable tent while the rest were hauled into a pen on the north side of the camp where many other prisoners, including the crew of the Dusty Breeze were being held.

Kira remained shape-shifted and was able to move about with relative ease. She relayed information to those in the pen. She reported that Li-Am and Iorskan were being treated well and had toured the camp with several disturbing revelations. Firstly, the Dray forces were amassing an army of undead and dray to begin to lay siege to Balic and the other city-states. These Dray were of a different breed than those seen in the Tyr Region (which they called outcasts) and had the outcasts performing all sorts of menial tasks for them. Secondly, the undead that they were creating were from the former inhabitants of the island as well as any non-humans that this army had captured. They were being interrogated and then slain and raised as zombies to be disposable troops. Finally, the humans that were captured were being sent back to Giusetnal to undergo transformation into Dray. The party learned that Absalom had perfected this process and they believed he was so successful by using an Orb of Kalid-Ma.

Before too long the captives and a large number of undead were loaded into one of the Dray ships and the vessel began its journey to Giustenal. Iorskan and Li-Am were aboard as well and being treated as honored guests. Kira, still assuming animal form, followed along, unsure where the loyalties of Li-Am and Iorskan were and unable to help those help prisoner by the Dray. After a week-long journey the vessel came within sight of the ruins of Giustenal.

Flight to Giustenal

Swift Departure
Early in the morning, the party was awoken by Maserak telling them that it was time to go. They were to meet their contact, Captain Daclimitus, at the eastern most dock. He would take them where they wished to go. Maserak cautioned that the Captain was trustworthy, but not a member of the Alliance.

Maserak was visibly shaken and informed them that time was of the essence because he believed that a group of Templars was on their way to the hideout. He feared that they had learned of his location at the Thespian House. The party suggested that he come with them, but Maserak was unwilling to abandon his post. The party had no wish to get involved with a fight and left him behind and they fled.

Although the morning was still early and the winds had picked up blowing fine silt into the town, the party was unlucky and the Templar patrol spotted them. A swift pursuit ensued with the party heading towards the Harbor Precinct. The party made excellent progress, pushing themselves to the limits of the endurance. Although not very familiar with the streets of Balic, they were able to distract their pursuers.

Elleandra made use of her magic skills while within sight of several local shopkeepers setting up for the day and she was not careful enough to disguise her abilities. The phobic shopkeepers were horrified by the display of arcane power and a small mob quickly formed around the party, attempting to overpower the party. Li-Am, Jarvix and Morg attempted to escape the mob, while the rest turned to face them. Their intent was to not harm the people and eventually they demonstrated that they were beyond the abilities of the mob and it dispersed.

The short engagement with the mob did not allow the pursuing Templars to catch up to the party and the group was able to reach the eastern most dock. They found their ship waiting for them as promised and were greeted by a man who introduced himself as Daclimitus. Daclimitus provided some basic ground rules for the voyage and then they set out on the Dusty Breeze, a craft powered by a psionic orb and capable of levitating above the silt.

The Sea of Silt
Out on the Sea of Silt, the party settled into a routine. Most stayed out of the way of the crew as much as possible and kept below deck. Jarvix was keenly interested in the psionic helm and spent his time learning how it worked. Iorskan spent his time above deck, for he alone was made uneasy and somewhat ill by the Journey. During the first day the vessel rounded the Dragon’s Palate on the south side to avoid the majority of the outposts of Balic and then headed into more open silt.

During their second day, a terrible silt storm raged halting them for the day. It was during this time when all were below deck that the party had an uncomfortable series of conversations. Li-Am was confronted about his past and his recent actions. Jarvix lead the questioning but the others in the party supported him. The primary concern was his recent obsession with the Skull of Dorag Thel and his intentions regarding it. Jarvix felt that it would be better in another’s possession. Only Morg spoke out in support of Li-Am, to the surprise of Jarvix, and pointed out that nobody was questioning the motive of Kira or Iorskan, who they had known for the same length of time. Li-Am said that he would have none of the conversation and refused to take part in any further discussion. As a show of trust Morg presented Kira with the Heartwood Spear that he had been carrying since Vinara’s death.

Silt HorrorThe third day was calm and the Dusty Breeze was able to get underway again. However, their travel was briefly halted when the ship came under attack by a giant Silt Horror. The beast latched onto the ship and started to pull it apart and attack the crew and passengers. The party was able to successfully defend the ship and prevented any of the crew from being dragged into the silt. Daclimitus surveyed the ship and found it to be capable of travel, but suggested they make for the island of Waverly for repairs and supplies. Trusting the Captain’s judgement, the party did not argue.

The remaining journey to Waverly took another four days. The winds continued to swirl up silt, but the ship was able to continue moving. During these days, the party mostly kept to themselves, as there was still tension regarding their earlier conversation. There was a brief discussion on where exactly to go after Waverly. Li-Am suggested making landfall sooner near the Pristine Tower and making an overland journey to Giustenal through the Beastbarrens. Another option was to round Giustenal and land in the trade village of Cromlin. A decision was not reached by the time they reached Waverly.

Isle of Waverly
According to Daclimitus, the Isle of Waverly was a long abandoned city that was commonly used by Silt Sailors for resupply of fresh water. There were no permanent settlements on the island and an unspoken covenant allowed sailors to come and go with little fear. When the isle came into sight, things were not as the captain said they would be.

A large encampment was visible on the western beaches and dozens of humanoids could be see seen moving about a large number of carefully laid out tents. The humanoids were large and could barely be made out to be Dray. There were banners laid out in the encampment each with the symbol of a large dragon skull with its eyes closed – the sigil of Dregoth.

Confused by the presence of the Dray, Daclimitus rounded the isle to the south and made landing on the western shore. Hopeful that they were not noticed, the crew began to make repairs as quickly as possible.

Flight to Giustenal

Arrival in Balic
The outlying farmlands were some of the most lush and productive lands the party had ever seen. Grain fields, vineyards, olive groves and pastures stretched as far as they could see. The Road was well maintained and patrolled. In the fields slaves and land owners could be seen working side-by-side. The differences between Balic and Tyr were too numerous to count and almost too much to comprehend.

At the Great Gate, the party was stopped and briefly questioned by the Legionaries and Praetors on duty. Although the party knew the officials were searching for something, it did not appear to be them and they were allowed to enter the city with a casual warning against causing any trouble within the city. They first sight inside the walls was over the Megaleneon, towering above the rest of the city.

The Megaleneon Inside the city they hired a guide and transportation to take them into the Market Precinct to meet their contact in the Veiled Alliance. As they traveled across the city from west to east they became familiar with the different precincts and their guide was happy to answer some of their questions. They moved through the Arena Precinct and the slave market of House Jarko eventually ending at the Criterion. Turning northwards they entered the Harbor Precinct and were able to get a good view of the Arsenal and The Slave Auction. Finally rounding the base of the Megaleneon they moved into the Market Precinct, through the Agora, near the Elven Market and passing the warehouses of Wavir, Rees and Tomblador.

The Thespian House
Without any trouble the party located the Thespian House and entered, hoping that their luck would continue to hold and they could arrange for passage out of the city. The party entered the common room outside of the performance hall and took seats. When they could do so discretely, they asked for Maserak and within a few minutes a half-elf approached their table and gave the sign of the Veiled Alliance, which Jarvix returned. After a few more formalities Maserak was satisfied with their attitude and appeared more willing to answer their questions. The party was still somewhat on edge as Maserak appeared to be very reserved and somewhat paranoid.

The party received very little information from Maserak about Tethrades. Although he know of him, Maserak had no current information or idea about his whereabouts. All he knew was that he hadn’t been seen in the city for quite some time. The party, especially Morg, was frustrated by this apparent dead-end. Somewhat taken aback by their anger, Maserak said he would check in with some others who might have more information.

The transportation out of the city was equally frustrating for the party who had hoped for a quick exit from Balic. Maserak said that he could help them arrange passage on a silt skimmer but that it would take several days before the vessel was ready. His explanations about the need for discretion in a city-state still ruled by a sorcerer-king appeared to fall on deaf ears. Eventually the party accepted the reality of the situation.

Maserak then asked for a show of good faith by the party and had a mission for them. A Veiled Alliance member in Balic had gone missing months before and was believed to be held in The Ivory Dungeon. Fearing that she would eventually crack under torture, Maserak wanted the party to enter the Dungeon through a secret entrance, locate the operative and eliminate her before she revealed any of the Alliance’s secrets.

This mission did not sit well with most of the group and they felt as if there was more going on then they were told. Eventually Maserak was able to convince the party that it was necessary and that the Veiled Alliance simply didn’t have the resources to conduct a raid – the presence of an experienced group of adventurers was too good of an opportunity to waste.

The Ivory Dungeon
Maserak’s directions were vague at best, but the party headed into the Agora late at night to try and locate the secret entrance the Ivory Dungeon. Kira used her shapechanging abilities to locate the secret door after Jarvix had narrowed down the possible entrance points. The door was protected by both physical locks and arcane wards. The locks were beyond the skill of Iorskan, but Li-Am was able to bypass them without too much difficulty. Elleandra was unable to get past the arcane protection, but with the help of Morg, Jarvix and Li-Am the protections were burned out, although each suffered some injuries as a result.

Once inside the Dungeon, they began to search for the operative, Zaldanis, without attracting any attention. Jarvix’s knowledge of building designs allowed them to make good progress towards the prison cells while Kira was able to navigate some treacherous sections of the Dungeon with ease. As they traveled through, the stark beauty of the white marble walls and polished bone bars was not lost on them. At any other time, this building would have been a wondrous sight. Eventually the party reached the prison cells and Iorskan attempted to get the location of Zaldanis out of a prisoner with threats. The prisoner complied, fearful of the powerful Dray and the party found the operative with relative ease.

Knowing what to expect, the party was able to bypass the protections on her cell and freed Zaldanis. There was a brief debate on what to do with her. She had obviously suffered much in the prison and the majority of the party felt sorry for her and decided that the right thing was to return her to Maserak alive. Just after reaching the decision, a half-dozen guards arrived, apparently tipped off to the party’s actions by the prisoner that Iorskan threatened.

A deadly struggle ensued between the party and the guards. Although the guards were well-trained and well-armed, they were no match for the experienced adventurers. Elleandra personally slew two of the guards and the rest fell to the combined attacks of the party. The last guard used some arcane talent to disappear as the combat concluded. They party could not detect where he had gone. The party decided to make a run for the secret door and flee the Dungeon before more guards found them.

As they readied to leave, the rest of the party found Li-Am over the corpse of Zaldanis – he had slain her during the fight. Horrified by their “friend’s” actions there was a brief confrontation. Li-Am’s explained that he completed the job they agreed to do and that there was nothing more to it. Had they not been ready to flee for their lives, they would have pressed the issue, but for now they grabbed the body of Zaldanis and ran.

The party ran faster than they had thought possible and managed to avoid any other patrols, although they were exhausted when they reached the secret door. Exiting back into the Agora, they closed and attempted to seal the door before heading back to the Thespian House. Safely arriving they informed Maserak of their success and presented him with the body. Visibly saddened by the loss of his friend, he nonetheless congratulated them on accomplishing their task, something that the Veiled Alliance in Balic needed but was unable to accomplish themselves.

House Wavir
The party rested that night in the safe house beneath the Thespian House and in the morning Morg and Iorskan headed to the House Wavir compound to make some additional inquires about leaving the city. They were also eager for any additional news and Morg was hoping to be able to recover some of the money that he had loaned the merchant house months ago to fund the expedition to find Vault of Darom Madar, which had ended in failure.

Morg was pleased to be reunited with Rhotan Vor who appeared to genuinely happy to see the mul, despite some lingering bad feelings between the two. Rhotan had apparently returned to Balic after closing shops in Tyr and had been doing well for himself. Morg was frustrated to learn that his money was gone and there was no way to get it back. He was ready to leave when Iorskan struck up a conversation.

Although they had never met, Iorskan had some dealings with House Wavir before and appeared to be on good terms with them. Iorskan produced the coins from House Madar that he had taken off the half-giant assassins sent by Tethrades in Altaruk. After some discussions and much speculation, Iorskan and Rhotan arrived at an interesting theory – Tethrades may have a connection to House Tsalaxa.

House Tsalaxa ambushed Rhotan’s expedition to recover the treasure from the Vault of Darom Madar. It was always suspected, but never confirmed, that House Tsalaxa found the Vault later and recovered the wealth, explaining how their influence had increased so quickly. The only known source of House Madar coins would be House Tsalaxa and with the agents of Tethrades in possession of those coins, it reasoned that Tethrades was working with House Tsalaxa.

Rhotan Vor knew of the approximate location of a House Tsalaxa compound between Raam and Draj. The party’s current plans were to enter the ruins of Giustenal, just on the other side of the Bay of Maray off the Sea of Silt. Rhotan happily gave the location to Morg and Iorskan, hoping that they could deal a blow to House Tsalaxa, which would indirectly aid House Wavir.

That afternoon the party quietly purchased supplies for a month-long journey across the Sea of Silt. Deciding to not draw too much attention, they spread the purchases across several merchant houses. The rest of the day was spent in the Thespian House, in case there were any Praetors searching for the group that had infiltrated the Ivory Dungeon.

The next morning they prepared to depart Balic…

Rampage of the Dragon Queen

Three days later…
He waited alone several miles off the People’s Road, having left his praetors and servants behind. They were carefully hidden and he had no fear that they would be found by her. They were capable, well trained and smart enough to know when they would be no help. Plus they, like all in his city, were expendable. He had no fear for he did not care for them. He did fear what was about to happen, for a threat such as this had not been seen in the last 12 centuries. He feared meeting the other two, for they had not meet since the fall of Dregoth some 1700 years ago. Still, he was a powerful defiler and master of the Way and would not be easily defeated this day. He was, afterall, Andropinis the Dictator of Balic.

Lalali-PuyHer keen eyes spotted the old man and saw that he appeared fit and well. She could tell that he had gained in power since their last meeting, the golden and slightly reptilian features gave that away. She guessed, correctly, that she had progress further than he had and felt a moment of pity for Andropinis, for this encounter might prove too much for him. She felt only a little hesitation as she stopped near him and nodded slightly. The spirits she had consulted prior to their departure all agreed that this was where the confrontation would take place. The hot sun burned down on her dark skin, but she barely noticed – she was Lalali-Puy, the Oba of Gulg and such mundane forces were not a concern.

The bright light and hot sun was a stark contrast to the dark and cool libraries that Nibenay had spent time in during the majority of the last millennia. He was loathe to leave them behind and other plans of his were coming to close to completion, but the situation demanded his attention and the others would need his assistance in order to defeat their former ally. She had tried to accelerate the process and succeeded. She neither remembered or cared about the insanity that followed such a transformation and that made her very dangerous. His path was safer, his path would not destroy the rest of the world, he only had to be patient.

Andropinis and Lalali-Puy were visibly startled by Nibenay’s appearance. They knew he had grown in power but had not realized the extent. He towered above them and wore his draconic appearance with pride. “Where is Unyess?” Nibeany asked without any attempt at courtesy.

“You know she be ’ere very soon. Da spirits never been wrong before; they no be wrong now. I sure, you know dis.” Lalali-Puy responded with not attempt to conceal her dislike for Nibeany.

“Of course I have methods, Inenek, and my results agreed with yours, which is the only reason I’m here. If this had been another of you endless attempts to deceive me, we would not be speaking now.”

“We be putin’ aside our differences Gallard. Dis be som’ing more important.” Lalali-Puy said, using Nibenay’s old name.

“We did.” Andropinis interrupted. “We agreed to deal with Uyness and put an end to her rampage before she can do any more damage. She will be here any moment, if your divination is accurate. Then we can be on our way.”

“Only after we exchange information regarding the adventurers who failed to stop her.” Nibenay reminded the others. “They are a variable that we have not accounted for. If what we have ascertained is true, they will have much to answer for.”

“O’ly one of us be gettin’ to them first, and da spirits say dat it be me.”

A disturbance on the horizon stopped their conversation short. Moving quickly eastward, the shape grew larger and larger. It was unmistakable, it was Abalach-Re the Dragon Queen.

Abalach-Re looked down at the three fools who dared stand against her. Despite her insanity, she knew the faces of the three but did not care that they had stood together to overcome impossible threats before. She cared nothing for their history and she cared nothing for the future. The hatred in her knew no limits and would not be satisfied until she had consumed everything. The Crescent Forest would be a fine starting place. All she had to do was eliminate these three and she would be unstoppable.

She flew down with powerful thrusts of her wings straight towards Lalali-Puy, but changed direction at the last moment and turned on Andropinis, catching him offguard. “Die old man!” she screamed and unleashed a torrent of attacks, blasting him backwards. He was completely unprepared for the power she possessed and she continued to assail him, attacking all of his defenses.

Lalali-Puy countered with her own attacks, but found that they were far less effective than she expected. Despite unleashing a gale of spirits, Abalach-Re remained relatively unharmed. Nibenay fared only slightly better, lashing out psychically and dazing the dragon queen. Andropinis managed to stay afoot and used his powers to not only attack, but also to infuse his two allies with strength and power, while summoning the spirits of loyal Balican soldiers to guard him.

Eventually Andropinis’ defenses failed and he was briefly disabled by her attacks. After regaining his footing, he worked to stay at a greater distance, outside the range of Abalach-Re’s powers but still close enough to able to affect her. Nibeany managed to keep her immobilized with his relentless attacks and his own shroud of shadows kept her from attacking him. Lalali-Puy bore the brunt of the dragon’s attacks, but it was only a matter of time before the battle was concluded.

Nibenay, Lalali-Puy and a severely injured Andropinis stood over the lifeless form of Abalach-Re. The ground around them was barren and covered in black ash which stirred in the slight breeze. They regarded her with mixed feelings, for while she had to be stopped, her death was another reminder that the world was changing and that their power was not as absolute as it once might have been.

Lalali-Puy, without a word, bent over the corpse and pulled out a long obsidian dagger. She reached down and cut out Abalach-Re’s heart from her chest. She quietly stowed it in a thick leather pouch at her waist and then returned to the others.

As they rested and tended to their wounds, they discussed what they knew of a group of adventurers. Each had heard different stories form their spies and informants. Other information had come through merchant houses and dune traders who had seen and encountered them. This group, originating in Tyr had shown themselves to be resourceful, powerful and lucky. None of the three knew what the groups goals were, but each had a strong desire to find them for their own purposes.

If the rumors were true, this group was actively working to destabilize the existing power structures and succeeding rather effectively. The sorcerer-kings had spent too long trying to maintain a delicate balance and if this group thought they could disrupt the balance without consequences, they had made a mistake. A mistake that could ruin everything.

Rampage of the Dragon Queen

Two weeks earlier…

It was early morning when the gongs sounded the call to battle. Birk and Selonius had just finished escorting the last of the non-combatants out of the fortress and into the mountains a few hours ago. The gongs could mean only one thing, Abalach-Re had returned.

Zul and Arnye heard the gongs and sprang to their feet. Fear set in among the remaining guards and those who had offered to stay behind. The two muls tried to reassure them, but their words were of little comfort. Everyone knew what was about to happen, but still had hope they would be lucky and drive the Dragon Queen away one more time.

Arisphistaneles and Culler had just finished another call for help. His contacts with the Veiled Alliance in Tyr and the patricians in Balic were willing to aid the vital trade fort, but it would be days before they could arrive. Culler had tried to reach out to the giants, for even though they were at odds, the rampaging dragon was a threat to all. They refused to help, hiding away and hoping that the threat would pass them by. Help was needed now and it would not come.

Defenders of Altaruk
They all gathered in front of the eastern walls and prepared for battle. All of them had sacrificed much to make Altaruk a prosperous trade outpost as well as a bastion of enlightenment in the harsh lands. There was little hope, but still they had to try, if for no other reason than to prevent Abalach-Re from finding the civilians and merchants who were hiding nearby.

She came again, dropping down out of the sky and using her terrible defiling magic to skill scores of the guards at a time. Already diminished from the first attack, their numbers were just too few. Arrows were unleashed, Arisphistaneles used his magic and the rest hacked at her legs, but most attacks bounced harmlessly off her thick scales. She continued to slash with claws and consume them with horrible defiling magic.

Culler was performing her own hit and run attacks on Abalache-Re and providing an excellent distraction even when her attacks missed. Then, the dragon struck Sundiver with a series of attacks, knocking him out of the sky.

Birk saw Culler torn apart, her head separated from her neck with a powerful bite. Zul was working with Selonius to keep the others fighting using words of encouragement and the Way. The injuries were coming too quickly and were too severe for them to counter. Seeking to put an end to his efforts the dragon focused on Selonius and he was her next victim. With a powerful thrust from her tail, he pierced through his chest and crumpled to the ground.

Arnye charged in to draw her attention as she was starting to show signs of fatigue. He parried several attacks, but his weapons were of no use against her defiling magic and he collapsed under a volley of psionic attacks. Birk, ever at his side, was overwhelmed shortly thereafter and collapsed, face first into the defiled ash forming on the ground.

Then the dragon landed near Zul and began to tear into him with claws, sharper than steel swords. He fell into merciful unconsciousness, his last sight was Abalach-Re turning towards Arisphistaneles.

It was no accident that Arisphistaneles was the last to fall. The Dragon knew of him and relished his agony at seeing his friends cut down. Still he continued to hurl energy missiles at her, each one causing a small wound.

Birk rose to his feet and spat blood and sand from his mouth. How long had he been unconscious? What had happened? Looking around at the destroyed buildings that were once Altaruk, the memories of the last few hours came back to him and he wished that he had remained unconscious.

Zul woke as the few survivors began to trickle back into the remains of Altaruk. He struggled to his feet and began to organize the few guards. Once word of the attack got out there would be attacks by all sorts of raiders, looking to steel anything of value that survived the attack. He would not allow that to happen under his watch.

Arnye was found by Birk and nursed back to health over the next few days. The two friends were grateful to be alive, but deeply saddened by the loss of Airsphistaneles, Selonius and Culler. Neither knew what the future would bring for Altaruk, but it would never be the same again.

Flight to Giustenal

Retreat to Kalidnay
When the nausea passed, the party found themselves in the ruins of Kalidnay, where they were several weeks earlier. Relieved to have escaped from certain death at the hands of the transformed Abalach-Re, they were nonetheless discouraged about their failure to stop her and their need to retreat. The party made camp in a nearby building to try and determine their next course of action.

Jarvix sent out several messages to his contacts in the Veiled Alliance to inform them of the new threat that Abalach-Re presented. Arisphistaneles in Altaruk, Mathias in Tyr, Lyanius in Kled were all contacted by Jarvix and thanked him for the warning, although they were barely able to comprehend the danger.

Iorskan had a long private conversation with one of the survivors from the battle at Rafernard’s Forest who was brought along with them when they fled. He appeared to know the female Dray named Heskan, but did not divulge the subject of his conversations to any of the other party members.

After much discussion, the party decided to travel to the city-state of Balic via Celik, hoping to avoid any further encounters with Abalach-Re and follow-up on Tethrades. They also hoped that they could perhaps find passage to the final Orb over the Sea of Silt. Jarvix made contact with Maserak, a Veiled Alliance member in Balic, to let him know of their impending arrival.

At the end of their rest Jarvix contacted Arisphistaneles again to find out any news regarding Abalach-Re. He was horrified to learn that the sorcerer-queen had attacked the trade fort and amazed to learn that she had been repelled. There was little detail about the encounter but casualties sounded severe.

Demonic Messengers
Demon Servant of MarisolAfter finishing their rest, the party headed southeast out of Kalidnay’s ruins towards the settlement of Celik. As they were approaching the edge of the ruins, the unnatural quiet was disturbed and the party came face to face with a horde of demonic creatures lead by a large being which bore a striking resemblance to the fiend that was summoned by Thakok-An. A brief parlay was had and the demon demanded Morg for its mistress – Marisol.

Without hesitation, the party came to the defense of Morg and a brief but intense battle ensued. Although the party suffered some injuries, they emerged relatively unscathed. Kira once again focused her attacks on the larger demon and was able to cripple it early in the fight. As they recovered from the fight there was much speculation on the current state of affairs in Shadow Kalidnay and how Marisol was able to exert her influence over these foul creatures. However, there were no answers.

Journey to Balic
The journey from Kalidnay to Celik took the adventurers six days to complete and mercifully was uneventful. The settlement of Celik lived up to its reputation as a gathering of slaves, outcasts and criminals seeking refuge and opportunity. The party paid an exorbitant entry fee and managed to find reasonably safe accommodations.

Li-Am, Morg and Kira spent their time attempting to learn any information about the current events while the others gathered supplies for the remainder of their trip to Balic. The supplies were of dubious quality and overpriced but Elleandra was able to charm the merchants into a better deal.

The talk in Celik was mostly about dragons – the Dragon was believed to be in the north on its journey to collect its levy from the various city-states. There were many rumors about another dragon in the west going on a rampage destroying the land and many small settlements. There was also some talk about rampaging giants from Silt Sea and the Legionnaires of Balic continuing to search for something – although none knew what they were searching for.

Thankful for avoiding trouble in the settlement, the group left Celik behind and made the 10 day trip to Balic without incident. A day outside of the city-state the land turned to verdant farmlands of grain fields, vineyards and olive groves – a sharp contrast to Tyr. As the party moved along the Road of Legions they approached the Great Gate, the western entrance to the city.

Rampage of the Dragon Queen

Later that day…

Birk and Arnye had traveled throughout the early morning and at around noon them crested a hill and looked upon the trade fortress of Altaruk. Despite the blazing heat of the day, a chill ran down their spines as they saw standing before the north gate, a huge draconic figure. The battlements were packed with the fort’s archers and spread out on the sand around the gate were hundreds of guards armed with long trikals.

Leading the defenders of Altaruk were Birk and Aryne’s friends: Arisphistaneles, Zul, Selonius and Culler. Even from this distance, they could see the grim look of determination on each of their faces. It was obvious that none expected to live.

An epic battle began between Abalach-Re and the defenders of Altaruk. The archers fired volley after volley of bone and obsidian tipped arrows at the dragon queen, most of which bounced harmlessly off of her thick scales. The ground troops hurled themselves at her legs, attempting to immobilize her or at the very least wound her. Again only a small fraction of the attacks were successful in wounding her.

Abalach-ReAbalach-Re moved through these attackers and used her defiling magic to slay scores of guards at a time. Her raw power was obviously countered by her inexperience and desire to kill as many of the defenders as possible. Under the barrage of attacks Abalach-Re began to weaken, the numerous injuries began to take their toll.

Arisphistaneles and the others pressed their attacks as well, although they had little more success then the rest of the soldiers. A few well-placed hits by Culler and Zul actually caused the sorcerer-queen injuries, but her preternatural stamina allowed her to keep fighting. Abalach-Re turned her attention to the heroes and they began to fall under her attacks. Selonius, Arnye and Culler’s companion Sundiver were all knocked unconscious. Birk was also within an inch of death but Zul was able to keep them all from dying.

Just as things appeared to be taking a turn for the worse, Abalach-Re decided to withdraw from the fight, teleporting to safety and then flying away. The numerous small wounds inflicted had finally caused her concern and she retreated. The defenders of Altaruk simply watched in amazement as she flew away. Over half of the 400-some guards were dead and all of the heroes had suffered some serious injuries. While they were happy to have survived, they all wondered how well they might fare if she were to return.

Forest Maker

Second Chances
Perplexed by their lack of progress, the party decided to head back up to further investigate the pit. Before making the decision on whether to enter the pit or not, the party threw one of the gith corpses into the pit, to see what would happen. Elleandra and Kira noticed that the shadows appeared to move a bit which increased their wariness. Next Morg tossed a torch into the pit doing his best to land near the corpse. Although his aim was a little off, he was close and the shadows recoiled from the light.

Kira decided that the risk was worth the possibility of discovering any secrets in the pit and changed form into a large raven. She began to slowly descend into the pit and saw that the metal inlaid into the walls was arranged in distinct patterns. Although she was not familiar with it, there were some similarities to the various protection runes that she had seen Evan use in his rituals. As she neared the bottom, about 20 feet up, she spied about a half dozen large, horned and scaled creatures that the party had described to her as tembo. These beasts looked well fed and were watching her intently.

Not willing to risk a confrontation with so many powerful creatures, she flew back up to the rest of her companions and reported in. The group decided that they should not risk a fight at this time and returned to exploring the underground structure.

The decided to start at the top and take another look at the murals in the entry way. Jarvix examined the walls looking for any signs of illusions or other concealed features in the images of the Avangion. Li-Am and Iorskan also examined the murals and estimated that they were hundreds of years old. There was nothing else discovered in the room.

There was much speculation regarding the presence of Tembo, traditionally beasts of the sorcerer-kings, the well-equipped Gith with coins from Raam and the nature of Rafernard, a being who appeared too good to be true. While they continued to be suspicious, they felt there wast little else to do except explore while they waited for dawn and their meeting with Rafernard. The party went down to try their luck at the warded doors on the lowest level.

At the wooden door, Li-Am was able to finally disable the traps and working together, Morg and Iorskan pried open the door. The large room beyond with filled with numerous haggard looking individuals who appeared equally surprised to see the party at the door. After much commotion, the story became clear. These were about two dozen individuals who had followed the pilgrims to this forest over the last month or so. They had not been compelled to do so, but followed for their own reasons. All of these people had been attacked and subdued by gith or some unknown force and found themselves here in a dungeon. Some of the people who had been in here previously had been taken away and not returned.

Among the prisoners were several Dray, one of whom Iorskan recognized – a female named Heskana. She claimed to have information for him about their clan, but that now was not the time for the story. She and about half of the others were willing to join with the party and stop Rafernard, who they believed was not truly what it claimed. The others were demoralized by their captivity and only desired to escape. Elleandra was able to convince them that staying and fighting was the only hope they had of being free. The prisoners were equipped with the gear from the slain Gith.

While Morg, Jarvix and Kira saw to the needs of the prisoners, Li-Am Iorskan and Elleandra attempted to break through the other door. Although similar to the wooden door, this metal door was more difficult to break into and they were unsuccessful in bypassing the physical protection placed upon it. Elleandra attempted to use her powers to slip past via the Lands Within the Wind.

Moving through the metal door felt cold and unnatural to her but she was successful. The room on the other side was magically illuminated and filled wall to wall with chests, urns and bags all overflowing with golden coins. Many tens of thousands of coins by her estimate were in the room and they had all manner of markings on them from many different city-states. She gathered a small pouch of them and after a short rest moved back across the door too rejoin the party.

Although the party was eager to gain access to the treasure, they were unsuccessful at breaking into the room. Eventually they decided to head up to the forest and wait for Rafernard. They positioned themselves around the perimeter of the plaza with the prisoners and waited for dawn. Jarvix sent another message to Arisphistaneles informing him of their suspicions and discoveries.

Rafernard’s Last Spell
At last dawn broke over the lush forest and Rafernard appeared atop the intertwined tower and tree. With her appearance the party and their allies felt an overwhelming power calling them to attention. They were not alone as out of the forest hundreds of pilgrims arrived at the plaza. Morg, Elleandra and Iorskan became entranced and could do nothing except stand as zombie-like automatons.

When the push of the pilgrims stops, Rafernard reveled as the center of attention. She pulled forth a glowing human skull with gem-packed eyes and vines wrapped about it. For a moment Rafernard existed as the great avangion that the party had seen before. Then she changed.

The illusions fell away revealing a tall regal, evil-looking woman in ornate robes. “Who am I?” the woman called out. “Sing my name before you give me your lives!”. The pilgrims began to sway in time as if to some unheard song. They then began to chant, slowly at first then faster and louder.
Abalach-Re, Sorcerer-Queen
“Abalach-Re! Abalach-Re! Abalach-Re!”

The party realized the terrible truth – before them was the sorcerer-queen of Raam, Abalach-Re!

Abalach-Re lifted one claw-like hand and utter twisted words of dragon magic. In an instant the Tree of Life turned to ash and the stone tower transformed into a pillar of stone, carved to resembled giant human skulls. As she emphasized each terrible syllable, seven obsidian spheres rose out of the ground and began to twirl about. Uttering phrases that were actually painful for the party to hear she turned to look at the few who have been able to ignore her summons. There was a smug look of triumph on her draconic features. Then crackling black energy issued from her hands, slamming into the oblivious pilgrims and bathing Abalach-Re in energy.

Those that were free of her compulsion moved quickly, attempting to prevent her spell from being completed. Morg’s Mul heritage allowed him to break free of the charm and he charged forth and swung his axe at the nearest obsidian orb striking true but not shattering it. Abalach-Re summoned that orb to her and consumed it, her mouth opening unnaturally wide to swallow it in a single gulp. As she did her form grew and became more draconic.

Kira and Li-Am attacked the pilgrims hoping to slay them and perhaps prevent Abalach-Re from drawing their energy for her foul magic. Jarvix used his talents with the Way to try at attack Abalach-Re from a distance, but her defenses simply deflected the attack towards the pilgrims.

The battle continued with Iorskan and Elleandra breaking free from the terrible magic, but everyone’s life was being drained by the dragon magic. Kira, already weakened from her restoration of the land was knocked unconscious and only Iorskan’s healing was able to keep her alive.

Although the party fought well Abalach-Re was able to stay one-step ahead of them, consuming more orbs and becoming more draconic. Just as the last of the pilgrims was slain, she consumed the final orb and with a roar of triumph her change was complete – she was now a dragon-queen.

Abalach-Re, Dragon Queen

Morg hurled the Heartwood Spear at her and he succeeded in wounding her and drawing her attention. She teleported down from the tower of skulls and began to rip him apart with her claws. None of the attacks of the party were able to do more than minor wounds to her.

Li-Am saw through the battle field carnage the skull that had been held by Abalach-Re but was dropped when her transformation was complete. He raced towards in and picked it up off the ground. Transfixed by it for a moment, he then cried out to his companions they they must flee or they would perish. Realizing the truth of his words, the party converged on Li-Am and Elleandra used her orb to transport them all to the ruins of Kalidnay.