Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

Forest Maker

Ruins of Kalidnay
After the nausea faded, the party found themselves in the outskirts of Kalidnay on Athas. The familiar bright sun and oppressive heat was a welcome change from the Gray. Exhausted from their ordeals, the party took rested in one of the more intact buildings. They discovered that all of the metal they had brought from the Gray had turned to wood, making it mostly worthless. Their sleep was fitful and each shared their experiences with each other in the morning…

  • Jarvix had a vision/dream from a member of The Order
  • Elleandra had dream of a forest in the middle of the desert and a being of light.
  • Kira dreamed of her friends back in her world
  • Li-Am was unable to sleep
  • Morg looked disturbed and mentioned his “past mistakes”
  • Iorsakn dreamed about the ruins of Giusental

Although reluctant to spend more time in the ruins, they decided to head towards the Ziggurat and see what had happened to the laboratory used by Tethrades. Along the way they noticed some of the silvery-red crystals that they had seen before in the caverns beneath Kemalok. The occurrences of the crystals increased as the party approached the Ziggurat.

At the Ziggurat they found that the equipment had been destroyed and they layers of sand and dust over the remains suggested that more time time had passed on Athas then had passed for them in the Gray. Morg estimated that about 6 weeks had passed here for the 1 week that they had experienced. Morg took a few of the canisters that remained avoiding the red crystals and finding many of the dead shaqat beetles.

The party debated on how to get to Altaruk, which they agreed was the best place to go for supplies and information Although the route via Fort Melidor was more direct, there was concerns about how the party treated Dalem Shom and what kind of reception they might receive. The ruins of Celik provided another option, but the path was less direct and the current state of Celik was unknown. Eventually it was decided to head to the Lost Oasis then Fort Melidor before making the long journey to Altaruk.

The Lost Oasis
Lost Oasis After a day of travel from Kalidnay through salt flats the party arrived at the Lost Oasis. The mud pots, geysers and sparse trees were a welcome relief from the barren salt flats. At the Oasis they were able to find food and water to help provide for the journey to Fort Melidor.

At the Oasis, they encountered a man who introduced himself as Lionus. Jarvix remembered a story of a Veiled Alliance member who journeyed from Tyr to Balic and then vanished, although he was uncertain if this was the same individual. Lionus appeared to be somewhat excitable and incoherent, but Li-Am suspected him of having all manner of deviancy.

In their conversations with Lionus, the party learned that he was the only inhabitant of the Oasis although it was occasionally visited by someone called Durwadala. They also discovered that he had strong emotions regarding the ruins of Kalidnay and had claimed to recover several “trade documents”. Upon closer inspection, Li-Am was able to decipher part of the documents before Lionus decided he needed to leave. The documents were notes apparently from the sorcerer-king Kalid-Ma himself.

The rest of the evening and night was uneventful although the strange sounds of the Oasis were disconcerting. They party moved out in the early morning and made the day-long march to Fort Melidor without encountering any trouble.

Fort Melidor
Their arrival at Fort Melidor was anything but eventful as the little outpost of House Shom appeared even more sleepy than on their previous visit. The party was allowed to enter without any trouble and the party decided to split up. Elleandra and Iorskan headed to find supplies for the long trip to Altaruk while the rest headed to the Broken Tankard, the only bar in the fort, to try and gather information.

At the House Shom warehouses, negotiated for a weeks worth of food, water and other survival goods for each member of their party – sufficient to supplement their existing supplies and get them to Altaruk. Although the cost was quite a bit higher than normal, the remote location and desperate need of the party left little room for negotiations. Elleandra paid for the goods with some of the gems recovered from the wreckage of the Shadow Engine.

Morg and Li-Am struck up a conversation with a guard named Ridorn who was in the Broken Tankard. After buying him a drink, they learned that he was rather bored and disgruntled at the lack of activity in the Fort. There appeared to be little trade traffic to the fort recently and everyone was concerned about the effect that would have on House Shom.

An elven bard named Jarvi was in such a state of depression that he had no stories to share with Kira. The Shom family members at the fort were no longer interested in social events and spent all their time within the walls of their garden and had not entertained for several weeks.

The bartender was a scarred female mul named Thera who was a former gladiator. She had little information to offer the party as the fort appeared to be waiting for something to happen. The loss of the caravan the the party was a part of undoubtedly hurt the fortunes of House Shom and as a consequence the fort has had little activity.

The party was able to secure food and lodging for the night and took turns on watch, although nothing disturbed their rest.

Shortly before dawn the party headed out for a long journey to Altaruk. With the heavily armored companions and the absence of Gwyn, the party moved more slowly than they were accustomed to, but still made good time. They were able to forage for supplemental food and water along the way and Morg and Kira were particularly successful.

The party traveled around the south side of the Giant’s Ribs Mountains and into the sandy wastes until after three days they found the remains of the trade road. Turning eastward they followed the road for two days through stony barrens and rocky badlands until the expanse of the Great Alluvial Sand Wastes stretched before them. Three days of following the remains of the road through sandy wastes, that were mercifully free of large dunes, brought them to the trade road between Tyr and Altaruk.

They party turned southeast and followed the road. Along the way they came across several groups of pilgrims who appeared oblivious to their surroundings and ignored all attempts and communication. Their tattered clothes and sunburned skin made it obvious they were not taking care of themselves as any normal traveler would. The party overtook a caravan from Tyr and inquired about the pilgrims and learned that they had starting appearing about a month ago from all parts of the Tyr region and they were generally headed in the direction of Altaruk.

After two more days of travel, the party reached Altaruk and saw a huge number of pilgrims congregating outside the high walls. Concerned about the state of things, Jarvix sent a message using the Way to the Veiled Alliance in Tyr, hoping that they had more information…

Forest Maker

Arrival at Altaruk
The trade fortress of Altaruk loomed in front of the party. With walls about 15ft high and 10ft thick, it was an impressive sight. Each corner was capped with a 20ft high tower and guards with spears could be seen patrolling the parapets. Roughly every third guard was watching the interior of the fort, instilling a sense of safety uncommon in the harsh land. They party approached and could see the south gate standing open in the early afternoon. The huge doors, fashioned of granite and metal, had exteriors carved with reliefs of merchants doing business.

Outside the fortress a vast throng of pilgrims could be seen milling about at the walls, sitting on the ground, and staring in to space. The assembly is eerily quiet; the only noises come from the fort’s normal occupants as they go about their business. It seemed as if the citizens were determined to ignore the pilgrim hordes.

At the front gate there was a short wait before they reached the guards. Morg took the opportunity to inspect the pilgrims a little more closely, but he learned little more than they already knew. The pilgrims here were as unresponsive as those they passed on the road and none knew what to make of them.

When their turn came, the guards asked basic questions and took payment for entry into the fort. Although Morg had been an arena star here, the guards did not recognize him or give him any special consideration. Perhaps it was the many months that had passed since he was last here, or perhaps it was the eye patch he now wore. As the party moved through, the guards consulted a crystal and asked that Elleandra and Li-Am demonstrate their magical skill. As they did so, the guards payed close attention to the thorny bushes planted along the wall. The guards were satisfied and allowed the two to enter.

News, Rumors and Shopping
Inside the walls of the fort, Altaruk could be seen to be bustling, prosperous trading village. The party decided that the best places for information would be the inn, The Four Bits, the market area and the keep and home of Arisphistaneles the governor of the fort and Veiled Alliance member.

The keep guards refused to allow them entry as the captain was occupied at the moment and could not be disturbed. As they chatted with the guards the party learned that the thorny bushes were part of a green test to ensure that no defilers were allowed inside the fort. Altaruk had begun openly supporting the Veiled Alliance and arcane spellcasters were now welcome as long as they were not defilers. After some some time, Selonius emerged from the keep and greeted Morg. He arranged for the party to have dinner with Arisphistaneles later in the evening, giving the party more time to explore the fort.

As they group wandered through Trader’s Row, they stopped to do some shopping and gather more information. Kira purchased clothing more fitting for the desert environment and she and Elleandra both obtained clothing suitable for dinner. Jarvix acquired components for his rituals and looked over the selection of books but found nothing of interest much to the dismay of the elf proprietor. Morg commissioned a high quality traveling cloak and metal clasp, paying extra for fine details and for it to be completed quickly.

Four Bits Common Room After shopping the party headed to The Four Bits to get rooms and to clean up before dinner. They found the common room inn to be crowded with all manner of races and occupations. The cool room was abuzz with conversation and merriment, with plentiful food and drink. Without too much difficulty the innkeeper, Gelrade, was located and three rooms were reserved with Kira and Elleandra, Jarvix and Iorskan and Morg and Li-Am sharing. The party cleaned up and did their best to be presentable and then met down in the common room.

When they returned to the common room it was a little less crowded and they found a table. Jarvix noticed that the elf who was selling books in the market place was now here and appeared to be making numerous advances on the three half-elf barmaids. Hoping to spare the bar maids any further trouble, the group got his attention and learned that he was a bard named Twon. After a few drinks he told them the Nomad’s Tale and when they appeared interested he offered to tell them another tale – a legend of the Valley of Dust and Fire.

Afterwards Twon announced that he was in possession of the Journal of Galek Sunstrider. After much negotiation, they agreed on a price and Jarvix took possession of the journal. Following the transaction Morg told his tale, which he called the tale of the Knight of Kemalok. Twon listened politely although it was obvious that he wasn’t focused on the story. After he was finished Morg sensed that his Axe was displeased.

Although they would be a little early, the party decided to head to the keep and their dinner appointment with Arisphistaneles. Along they way they came within earshot of the south gate and there appeared to be a disturbance. They were shocked to find that Tethrades was there and demanding entrance to the fort. The gate guards had blocked him from entering after he had refused to take the green test. Morg offered his assistance, as he was eager for revenge on the defiler and former praetor of Balic, but the guards refused his help and ordered him back.

In the end Tethrades left with his guards and party was torn between following him and keeping with dinner. Morg initially lobbied for following the defiler while Kira and Jarvix wanted to keep their dinner plans, as they thought the governor would be a useful source of information. Eventually it was decided that the dinner plans would stand and the group headed to the keep.

Dinner with Arisphistaneles
The party was let in to the home of Arisphistaneles and found it to be richly appointed, tastefully decorated and achieving a fine balance between opulence and functionality. The party was greeted by domestic help (servants, not slaves) and provided with water and face cloths to clean and refresh themselves. The party asked to see the governor as quickly as possible and they were shown to a spacious dining room where Arisphistaneles greeted them.

They discussed a variety of topics as they ate and drank. The encounter at the gates with Tethrades did not appear to concern Arisphistaneles too much as the fort was accustomed to dealing with defilers. Still the extend of Tethrades’ dealings did give him pause and he promised to look into it more. While they discussed the defiler and his possible involvement with the pilgrims they were served cool wine and dates.

The numerous pilgrims outside the fort was a topic of conversation that carried on through a lavish dinner of fine Asticles wine, rare faro fruit, and mouth-watering chathrang steaks. He confirmed that the pilgrims had been showing up for about a month or so and that they are completely unresponsive to any outside stimuli. He suspects that they are caught up in a fervor toward some unknown goal or they are being controlled somehow. He was able to get a single word – Rafernard – out of one of them, but has been unable to determine who or what that is.

Arisphistaneles said that he had never been able to follow the pilgrims as they head to the northeast, but he sent a ranger and Roc rider by the name of Culler after them. She was now missing and Airisphistaneles was beginning to worry about her fate. The party decided that the best course of action would be to follow the pilgrims and hope that they lead them to answers and possibly the missing ranger.

As the meal concluded with large helpings of bulis berry, Arisphistaneles changed the topic and wanted to learn about the party’s adventures. He was saddened to learn of the death of Vinara and Gwyn and was very interested in Kira and Elleandra, as they had experiences and knowledge of places he did not know existed.

Eventually the evening came to and end and the party returned back to the Four Bits for much needed rest before their new journey the following day.

Midnight Intruders
Kira’s sleep was interrupted and she woke with a start and she quickly realized that she and Elleandra were not alone in their room – three large half-giants were present and rummaging through her belongings. Kira shifted form and bit into the nearest thief with jaws of ice. Elleandra woke and quickly charmed them into attacking each other for a moment.

The commotion woke their friends who came to investigate with Li-Am and Morg the first to arrive and Iorskan and Jarvix taking a bit longer to wake up and realize the situation. The half-giants focused their attacks on Elleandra knocking her unconscious. Li-Am killed one of the half-giants with his conjured scourge and Kira was able to knock a second one out. The third managed to grab something from the unconscious Elleandra and then flung himself into the shadows and disappeared.

Iorskan tended to Elleandra’s wounds and the Altaruk guards, along with several guests at the inn, showed up moments later attempting to determine what was going on. Elleandra quickly realized that the half-giant had stolen the Crystal of Ebon Flame from her…

Forest Maker

Scorched Earth
Following the attack on Kira and Elleandra, there was a flurry of activity at the inn. The guards who showed up first questioned the party about the incident and appeared confused about the specifics of the attack. The party became somewhat angry and defensive, but the situation calmed down when Arisphistaneles and the captain of the guard, Zul, arrived.

It was quickly realized that the half-giants were the same ones that the party saw earlier with Tethrades when he attempted to enter Altaruk. The party was taken to the north wall and shown a defiled section of ground where it was likely that Tethrades used his magic to allow the half-giants entry into the inn. Zul also informed everyone that a small section of wilted bushes was found near the south gate and that he suspected a defiler had slipped into the fort.

Kira was studying the defiled earth and as she walked into the center of the zone, her feet began to take root into the soil. The others watched in awe and disbelief. Kira had a look of pain and elation on her face as she stood in the defiled land. Then, with a surge of power, the land began to change into a rich earth with small plants rapidly growing from it. With another surge, the area of fertile land expanded to nearly 100 feet in diameter.

Amazed at what they witnessed, Arisphistaneles ordered the area sealed off until he could determine the best course of action. The rest of the party was moved into the barracks where they could discuss what to do next without being overheard by the citizens of Altaruk. Morg inspected the dead half-giant and discovered that he had some of the silver-red crystals on him. Iorskan questioned the captured half-giant who revealed he had been hired by a man matching Tethrades’ description to steal the crystal. The half-giant had been paid in advance at Grak’s Pool and Iorskan examined the coins that he was paid with.

The party eventually decided that they would head out and follow a group of pilgrims while the Veiled Alliance agents Birk and Arnye would attempt to track down Tethrades. They learned from the captured half-giant that the most likely route for Tethrades was north along the road towards Silver Spring, although his ultimate destination was unknown.

Desert Madness
At dawn the party headed out from Altaruk, following behind a group of about two dozen pilgrims. Li-Am trailed after the party, keeping to himself and keeping an eye open for trouble. As they followed the pilgrims Morg brought up his concerns that this may be part of the Dragon’s Levy, which was due to occur soon. Jarvix used the Way to probe the pilgrims minds again, and all he saw was a vision of a forest. Iorskan shared with the rest of the group that some of the coins carried by the half-giant were ancient metal coins of House Madar and wondered what the implications were.

The day’s journey had been an exhausting one for the group, both physically and mentally, as the pilgrims took no rest, marching on through the hottest parts of the day. The party marched on for nearly nine hours, heading east and southeast through the shifting dunes. The desolate sands began to change into sparse grasslands and on the horizon a forest was barely visible, a forest where none should have been.

Without warning, an odd noise came from behind the party and as they turned to investigate they saw a figure on an immense bird. The figure appeared to be a human female, and she appeared to be wearing brown armor of some sort and clutching a large sword. As the giant bird flew closer, the group could make out some words the woman was screeching…

Away! Away, servants of Rafernard! Your blasphemous devotions shall not reach your master! Death to the Forest Maker! Death to her followers!

With this, the woman dismounted the bird and the two charged at the party. Jarvix used his powers on the woman, who the party recognized as the missing ranger Culler Aktryn, and determined that something had unhinged her mind. Although the ranger and her bird were worthy opponents they ultimately were no match for the battle-hardened adventurers. However, the bird’s tactics of grabbing and dropping its prey was too much for Li-Am who fell unconscious after his second fall. Iorskan finally knocked out Culler, causing the the bird to flee, and then revived Li-Am.

Culler was tied up in some modest shade and Jarvix sent a message to Arisphistaneles letting him know where his friend could be found. Jarvix had recognized the ranger’s sword as one of the fabled Swords of Tyr, and Iorskan claimed the blade for himself.

Kira, who had adopted the form of a tiger during the combat, noticed an odor coming from Li-Am and it was discovered that the remains of Gwyn that he carried were beginning to rot. Kira used her skills to treat the remains and keep them from deteriorating further. After a few minutes rest, the party raced to catch up with the pilgrims.

The Forest of Rafernard
Rising up in front of of the party was a beautiful forest, with varieties of trees both commonplace and legendary. The forest was several hundred yards wide and shrubs and grasses covered the ground, extending far beyond the borders of the trees. The grassland and bushes extended about a half mile to their left and right. The sounds of birds singing in the leafy green trees, and an unexpected but nonetheless refreshing cool breeze wafted over them, carrying the scent of fresh flowers.

Rafernard Before the party could enter the forest, there was a great rustling, followed by a burst of bright light. Before anyone could react, a humanoid with radiant skin and gossamer wings appeared from the trees and hovered in the air above, its wings unfurling majestically.

As a tremendous feeling of well-being flooded the party, a melodic voice, soft as a summer breeze, yet impossible to ignore, addressed the party…

Welcome to the Forest Reborn, you poor, mere mortals! I am Rafernard, and I have created this impressive miracle you see before you.

Well done, worthy pilgrims, on your surviving the grueling trek! For now, wander the woods at your leisure; eat of the fruit of the trees, drink the cold, clean water. Follow the path to the right and you shall find places to sleep built on the branches of the big trees.

There is still much to be done, and we have enemies who would see this forest destroyed. Rest for now, for soon we must decide what actions to take against our oppressors. The battle will be difficult, but the end result, the reforestation of your land, will be worth the struggle.

Once again, welcome! Eat and rest now. You are safe. Any questions you have you may ask of me tomorrow.

The party had questions and didn’t want to wait until the morning. Rafernard listened and answered for a while, before declaring that further questions would have to wait until the morning. She declared that she was an Avangion and the restoration of Athas was her objective. The enemies spoken of were the sorcerer-kings and their boot-licking templars who would oppose a shift in power. She had no idea why the pilgrims were compelled to seek out the forest, but has welcomed them and provided for them.

After Rafernard’s departure the party headed to the right through a curving trail between the trees. They occasionally passed a small group of pilgrims who appeared to be in much the same stupor although there was a look of contentment on their faces now. After a few hundred yards, the party reached a fork in the trail, they headed to the left, towards the center of the forest.

The woods ended at a circular plaza measuring almost 200 feet in diameter with paved stone and low-slung benches for visitor’s comfort. Around the circumference of the plaza were various statues of numerous races all with the look of wisdom on their carved faces. The party noticed that there were a number of races they could not identify, the dwarven statues had beards and there did not appear to be any statues of Dray.

In the center of the plaza stood a massive tree growing in and around a short stone tower. The tree’s appearance left no doubt that it was a Tree of Life. Song birds could be seen picking at seeds scattered on the tiles and flitting from statue to statue. The area emanated a quiet power of peace and tranquility unlike anything ever seen in the world.

The party looked around the plaza for a few minutes and found that the tower had a door in the floor leading down into the earth and a staircase leading upwards. They decided to rest in the trees and discuss what they should do next. Although the forest was a miracle they remained suspicious of the situation which appeared too good to be true. Before falling asleep, Jarvix sent another message to Arisphistaneles informing him of the forest and its location.

Black Flame

Earlier that day…

Swift Pursuit
Birk and Arnye gathered supplies and then headed out from Altaruk in pursuit of Tethrades. The pair of Veiled Alliance members moved swiftly as the defiler had at least a 4 hour head start on them. Birk was able to quickly locate his tracks and they followed the main road north towards Silver Spring. Despite the head start, Birk and Arnye were able to catch up to their prey after about nine hours of travel.

Tethrades and his guards had made a small camp off of the main road and Birk was able to maneuver around the rocky terrain to get close enough to hear their conversations with his hearing augmented by the Way. The guards, which consisted mainly of humans, appeared tired and were complaining that Tethrades had pushed them too hard in the cold early morning hours. Tethrades himself appeared exhausted and remained slightly apart from his guards, his attention focused on the stolen Crystal.

Birk and Arnye debated on the best course of action. They were instructed by Arisphistaneles to follow Tethrades but the opportunity to attack while the guards were exhausted was tempting. They initially decided to wait until dusk, but realized that Tethrades and his guards might have recovered their strength by then, so ultimately the decision was made to attack then.

The two attempted to sneak into the camp and attack with the element of surprise, but a bad step by Arnye sent rocks tumbling and alerted the guards to their presence. Arnye and Tethrades’ guards clashed into each other and the mul was quickly surrounded but able to hold this own for a while. Birk began circling the battle attempting to assist Arnye while making his was over to engage Tethrades. Eventually his guards were defeated and both Birk and Arnye caused serious injuries. Tethrades used his magic to severely wound Arnye and then to escape. Birk tended his friend’s wounds and then the pair set out after the lone defiler.

Defiler’s End
TethradesTethrades was moving quickly and using his magic to teleport, making tracking him very difficult. Birk was able to keep on his trail and the pair eventually caught site of their prey. Knowing that he couldn’t outrun his pursuers, Tethrades began launching bolts of lightning at Birk and Arnye attempting to force them to halt their advance. Although his spells struck true, the toughness of the pair allowed them to continue despite their injuries.

The fight was quickly ended although as he was about to fall, Tethrades used the Crystal to summon large swarms of beetles which attempted to infest Birk and Arnye. Neither were overcome by the beetles but Arnye was forced to flee from the battle as Birk danced around repeatedly striking with this staff and scattering the beetles. When the last of the beetles were destroyed, Birk was able to locate the Crystal and carefully avoided touching it as he took possession.

Arnye beheaded Tethrades to ensure his death and provide a gift for Morg, who was sure to be upset at not being able to enact his revenge. Other personal possessions of Tethrades were recovered including his spell scrolls and large number of coins – ceramic coins from Balic and Draj and metal coins with the stamp of House Madar on them.

After resting and tending to their wounds again, the pair headed back towards Altaruk, eventually reaching it around noon the day after they left.

Forest Maker

Unquiet Night
The party decided to rest in the trees of Rafernard’s Forest and discuss what they should do next. Although the forest was a miracle they remained suspicious of the situation which appeared too good to be true. As they rested they decided to keep a watch and Morg, Li-Am and Iorskan volunteered for the duty. The party decided that they would explore the tower as soon as they were rested, curious about what secrets it might hold.

The night passed without incident until just after midnight when the party was waking up and preparing to head towards the tower. With barely any warning, a group of Gith emerged from the forest, surrounding the party wielding spears and clad with insect shell armor. They Gith appeared to be much hardier than those that had been encountered previously and the quality of the equipment was visibly better than was typical.

The Gith engaged the party at range hurling many spears at the group, a tactic that proved effective for a short time while the party grouped up to make a defense. The Gith used their a mastery of the Way to augment their attacks and caused many injuries to the party. Iorskan was able to keep his allies alive and the Gith were eventually defeated with only two survivors feeling into the woods.

The fallen Gith were examined and found to have nothing particularly remarkable although they were carrying coins bearing the marking of the city-state of Raam. After treating their wounds, the party decided to continue with their plan and investigate the tower at the center of the forest.

The Underground
The party approached the tower with even more caution after their attack by the Gith but found it unguarded. Along the way they passed several small groups of pilgrims who still had the vacant expression of happiness on their faces. As before the pilgrims were unresponsive to the presence or actions of the party.

At the tower, the party found a trap door leading down into the earth and stairs winding upwards. Feeling that there was little that could be in the upper ruins of the tower, they decided to go down. When the trap door was opened, they saw stairs made of gray granite winding downward. The air was cool and comfortable as they made their way down the spiraling staircase, although there was a feeling of ancient power that could be felt by all.

The stairs descended the only sounds that the party heard were the echoing of their footfalls. After they had gone about 20 feet down into the earth, they reached a landing which was lit by a soft, magical light. The stairs continued down, but the party stepped off of them to explore the small room. Without the echoing of their steps, some slight background noise of unknown nature or origin was heard.

The small landing contained no furniture or objects, but each of the four wall was decorated with murals showing an illuminated, winged being restoring the earth to a green paradise. The being had a remarkable similarity to Rafernard. The party quickly searched the room and found nothing else.

Seeing no other exits, the party descended deeper into the earth. The granite stairs continued to wind down about another 20 feet until reaching a second landing. The stairs continued down from this level as well.

The room was roughly twice the size of the previous level and contained a large number of chairs and tables of fine quality. The walls were decorated with similar murals as the room above, but appeared to be more faded. The entire room was brightly illuminated with magical light. The chill in the air was deeper than at the previous level and the indistinct noises were louder.

A thorough search of the room revealed nothing out of the ordinary and although the party felt they were missing something, they were unable to determine what that might be.

Pitfalls and Perils
After following the stairs downwards another 20 feet the party reached a small landing with two short passages, one to the north and one to the east. The stairs continued further into the deep earth.

The party followed the northern passage a short way before it opened onto a huge pit about 30 feet across and about 80 feet wide, with the party on a small ledge in the center of the long side. In their torch light, they guessed that the pit was about 70 feet deep, although they couldn’t make out the bottom clearly. In the shadows at the bottom of the pit they could see numerous skeletons and what appeared to be discarded gear. There was something imbedded in the walls of the pit that reflected light like metal, but none could get a close look at it. There was no obvious way to investigate the pit, the party moved to try the other passageway.
Gith Drone
The eastern passage quickly reached a wooden door bound in iron. Trying the door the party found it to be unlocked and the proceeded in to the room. Rounding a corner of the room the party came into what was apparently the barracks of a large force of Gith. Over twenty armed Gith were present in the room and immediately took to arms when the party came into view.

The battle was quick and the close quarters favored the party with Jarvix and Elleandra able to affect large numbers. Kira, who shifted form several times attacking with her magic and claws, was able to bring about the death of many Gith as well. Only when Gith reinforcements came from behind the party was there a real threat, but this was quickly overcome as well.

Beds, chests and table suggested the room could accommodate over 40 gith. The corpses and room were searched turning up more ceramic coins from Raam, but nothing else of any value. The party discovered nothing else in the room. The heroes took a few minutes to recover their strength and tend to their wounds.

Dead Ends
Returning to the granite stairs once again, the party moved downwards. This time the stairs descended some 40 feet before reaching the bottom. At this level there were doors on the west and east side of the stairs. The western doors were 10 feet wide and made of stone reinforced with metal banding and the eastern door was made of iron.

The party discovered that both doors were locked and trapped with Iorskan and Morg receiving electrical shocks from arcane wards placed upon them. The party was unable to overcome the locks and wards by any means they could think of. A feeling of frustration began to build as they felt something and been missed but they didn’t have a clear idea what to attempt next.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.