Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

Beneath the Dust

Eyes in the Dark
Castri’s watch over his friends in the traveler’s camp of the Silver Spring Oasis was interrupted when he felt like someone or something was watching him. Nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, but, just to be sure, he woke Morg and then slipped into the shadows and tried to determine who might be spying on them. Neither were able to discover who, if anyone, was observing them. The rest of the night passes without incident.

Oasis MarketIn the morning, the others in the group were informed of the night’s events as they prepared to leave the Oasis and travel in search of the Tree of Life. Gwyn finally realized that she had been sensing magic from the oasis market and decided to take a quick trip to see if there was anything of interest. While most of the merchandise was junk, at worst, or poorly crafted, at best, there were two items that caught her attention – a suit of scorpion scale armor and a set of scrolls.

Although she was unable to tell what the scrolls contained, she was able to sense strong magic from them. With the help of Vinara and Castri she was able to purchase the scrolls after some hard bargaining. Upon further study she found that it contained an enchantment that would sharpen the perception and other senses of the one who read the scrolls. Although she offered the scrolls to her friends, they all agreed that it would be more beneficial for her to use their magic.

The suit of armor was not only magical, but possessed power of the Way as well. Although Gwyn was able to bargain with the seller of this item, he would not go as low as they had hoped. Ultimately they pooled the last of their cash and used it, along with two of their kanks, to purchase the armor. Kelvor found that the armor was a perfect fit and that the power imbued into it would help protect him from some attacks against his mind.

A Storm of Revelation
For three days the group traveled south and east out of the Silver Spring Oasis and into the rocky badlands. Kelvor and Merric took the bulk of the supplies that the kanks had been carrying. Morg help clear a path at Vinara’s direction while Castri and Gwyn kept an eye out for any pursuit or trouble. Each had become accustomed to the harsh travel conditions, and they all made their way through without incident.

On the morning of the forth day, while the crimson sun was still low on the horizon, the wind began to steadily increase. Guided by Vinara, they headed towards something flickering on the horizon, what appeared to be towering cyclone of dust, confined to a small area. Moving closer still, two large rocky outcroppings could be glimpsed in the circling dust.

The group was forced to cover their mouths to shield against the choking dust as they moved into the edges of the storm. Sparks of energy were seen flickering throughout the dust, but quickly disappearing. Occasional gaps in the dust allowed them to make out a flat area between the rocks. Suddenly, from the whipping dust, a snarling tembo emerged. It is emaciated, scarred and slightly unsteady on its feet, but its eyes gleamed with ferocity. A second tembo, much healthier looking than the first emerged from behind the party.

Having faced a tembo before, the group knew their nature, but two tembos was something that was extraordinarily rare. The fight was intense and required an unprecedented amount of teamwork, with Morg engaging the wounded tembo and Kelvor keeping the rear tembo occupied. Vinara and Bear help against both tembos, tending to the wounds of their companions. Castri and Merric concentrated their attacks on one tembo at a time. Gwyn used her magic to disguise her allies from the tembo’s senses. The group emerged victorious from the fight, but injured. Unfortunately the howling winds prevented them from taking a moment to rest.

The Vault of Darom Madar

A Not-So-Peaceful Night
While the group was resting from the long battle and tending to their wounds, they went through the stolen backpack and examined the map. The map appeared to be a mundane map of the tablelands and the backpack contained various supplies and several survival days, and a green crystal. Gwyn could tell that the crystal possessed some form of arcane magic although she wasn’t completely familiar with it.

While the rest of the group decided what to do with the captives from the House Tsalaxa caravan, Gwyn moved off by herself and attempted to discover how to use the crystal. As she concentrated on it, attempting to use its powers, she detected strong divination magic. Shortly thereafter a face appeared in her mind, as though he was recently awoken from sleep.

“What is it? Is everything okay? Who are you?” the man asked, clearly not expecting Gwyn.
Quickly thinking, Gwyn answered, “Everything’s fine, I’m Esmerelda.”
The man grunted, “Tell Haneth that he shouldn’t let his whores go through his belongings, now put that away and stop bothering me.”

Gwyn, recognizing that she had narrowly avoided a potentially awkward situation, decided to put the crystal away and return to the camp. There she found the others in discussion about what to ask their captives. They had also decided that they should return to the House Tsalaxa camp and recover any other supplies. It was agreed that Gwyn, Merric and Kelvor would interrogate their prisoners and that Morg, Castri and Vinara would go raid the camp.

Morg, Castri and Vinara found their way back to the camp without incident and were able to get the three kanks under control. They picked up all the equipment and survival supplies they could, loaded the kanks up and headed back. Along the way, Castri spotted a female elf, perhaps the one that they had captured, in the distance. Acting on instinct he fired a shot and struck her down. When the searched her body, they found some survival supplies and a several gold in ceramic coins. They continued back to their camp, unsure as to what really transpired.

Shortly before…

Gwyn, Kelvor and Merric began by interrogating their human captive. After several threats to him, he revealed his name – Tyron Tsalaxa of House Tsalaxa. He claimed to be heading out of Tyr after closing up their operations before the armies of Urik arrived and heading to Raam. With further pressure applied he claimed to have no direct knowledge of the Vault of Darom Madar or what happened to the House Wavir caravan. Although he did appear to be telling the truth, everyone felt he might be holding back.

They switched to the captive elf, who appeared much more willing to cooperate, as she claimed to be a hired mercenary. She confirmed that they were heading to Raam by way of the Silver Spring Oasis but claimed to be ignorant of anything else regarding House Wavir or the Vault. Kelvor gave her some coins for her trouble as well as some supplies to help her survive the trip to the Oasis and let her go. Her journey was cut short by an arrow from Castri…

When the whole group got back together and the truth about the elf captive was revealed, there was little remorse by anyone other that Gwyn and Kelvor. Castri lead a brutal interrogation of Tyron but not additional information was gained. They all felt he would be too much trouble if he were set free and so bound him to a kank.

The group had a lively discussion on how they should proceed from their current location. Morg pushed for continuing to search for the treasure, but none of them knew where to start looking. Kelvor wanted to head north to Kled to aid the dwarves, repay their debt to the merchant houses of Tyr, and possible disrupt the forces of King Hamanu. Gwyn and Castri were concerned about the activities of Yarnath and his search for the other pieces of the Crown of Dust. Eventually they agreed with Vinara, that finding the Tree of Life would be the best option and that they could regroup at the Silver Springs Oasis.

Silver Springs Oasis
Silver Spring OasisIn the cooler morning air, they headed east towards the Oasis and three days later they arrived at the gates to the Silver Spring Oasis, the looming fortress-like stone walls providing protection against the desert creatures. After paying a large fee for entrance of their caravan, the group was admitted into the interior of the compound. Free to explore around the group split up, each trying to accomplish their objectives while spending as little time in the Silver Hands’ compound.

Vinara made her way to the actual oasis inside the compound and began to commune with her spirit allies, attempting to ascertain the location of the Tree of Life. The abundant life around the Oasis filled her with hope for the future of Athas and allowed her to start searching for the Tree. After many hours she felt a strong primal presence to the southeast and felt the call of a primal spirit in need. Feeling sure that she could guide the party to the location, she felt a renewed sense of purpose.

Gwyn wandered about and, after seeing tents clearly intended for use by defilers, she made her way into the Tent of Delights to listen to general gossip. She discovered that the Silver Hand elves’ chief, Toramund, was actively recruiting defilers to help defend the compound. What she found more disturbing was that most of the people there were more concerned with the fact that none of their own had the power he wanted and that he was looking outside of the tribe. The Oasis had been attacked in the past by their main rivals, the Sun Runners, and Toramund wanted to be able to defend the Oasis better than they had in the past.

Castri and Morg attempted to ransom Tyron to Toramund, hoping the elf chief would be interested and find him to be a valuable captive. Merric stayed behind to guard Tyron until the deal could be struck. After bribing their way past his guards, the pair were admitted to see Toramund. With some negotiations, they agreed on a reasonable price for Tyron and the deal was struck and Tyron was released into the elf’s custody. Tyron was silent throughout this entire ordeal.

Kelvor wandered around the traveler’s camp and a few other areas attempting to make contact with mercenaries and learn anything he could. A lot of the discussion was on the war between Urik and Tyr and the increased danger creating good opportunities for guard duty. He attempted to sell the kanks, but was unable to arrive at a price that was satisfactory.

When they met back up at their tents, they shared their activities and the coins from Toramund. Gwyn and Kelvor found their purses to be lighter than they expected, undoubtedly the victim of their hosts light fingers. They all slept well that night, getting a much needed rest, except for Castri who stood watch the entire night.

The Vault of Darom Madar
Return to the Great Road

Evening Preparations
The rest of the evening was mostly uneventful for the group, as they prepared for the journey the following morning. Gwyn opened the tattoo shop and had some customers; gladiators who were inspired to join the army and wanted a tattoo for their regiment. She carefully used her magic to aid her work. After the shop had been closed, Morg asked Gwyn about the possibility of repairing his magical axe, having broken it during his fight with Quick Wenzer. Gwyn, becoming more experienced in her magical abilities, knew that it could be repaired and arranged for it to be worked on while they were away.

Merric set about gathering information on House Tsalaxa in the hope of finding out something useful before they started to follow them. He was only able to uncover rumors of the house’s involvement in espionage, assassination and blackmailing schemes. They also had a reputation for dealing in “recovered” cargo, furthering their suspicions that they were responsible for the attack on the House Wavir caravan and Kelvor. During this time Castri went to the Artisan District to check on the statue that he had commissioned. With the war effort going on, he found it would be at least a few weeks before it was finished.

House Tsalaxa
House TsalaxaIn the early morning the group gathered their belongings and headed out of the city, while Castri waited near the House Tsalaxa warehouses. Shortly a group emerged from the warehouses and headed out of the city. The group consisted of three kanks, a pair of half-giants and a half-dozen men. Castri joined up with his companions and they followed about a mile behind them.

For three days they trailed the House Tsalaxa group, making sure that they appeared to be nothing more than a small group that happened to be travelling in the same direction. While they did encounter other travelers on their journey, most were hurrying on their way and did not stop to talk. After the third day the group turned east, following the road leading to the Silver Spring Oasis.

One caravan that was encountered during the fourth day was a House M’ke caravan headed west towards Tyr with a load of nuts and spices. They stopped to talk for a few moments when Gwyn hailed them as they passed. They had nothing of value to say about the group from House Tsalaxa nor did they have any knowledge of any recently uncovered ruins. They did mention that their caravans were having a number of run-ins with raiders bearing a snake skull mark, but they mysteriously stopped recently.

Night Terrors
On their fifth night, they group decided to investigate the Tsalaxa camp and try and learn more. Gwyn and Castri crept up to their camp and saw two of the men discussing a map while the others were either resting or taking turns watching with the half-giants. After observing them for a while, they overheard them mentioning it was a week further until they reached the “fort”. Shortly after they put the map away into a large pack and settled in for the night.

Castri started to head back to his camp, but Gwyn, in an impulsive moment used her magic to turn herself invisible and moved into the Tsalaxa camp. She reached the large pack without being noticed and rather than try to search for the map case, she grabbed the entire pack and started to run. One of the goliath’s noticed the missing pack and just caught sight of Gwyn as her magic faded. Rousing the camp, they all chased after Gwyn into the night.

Gwyn’s long elven strides allowed her to slowly gain ground on her pursuers, but several of the guards were able to keep pace long enough to fire arrows, several of which wounded her. Before too long she caught up with Castri, who had turned around when he heard the commotion and realized that Gwyn had stayed behind. The two continued to run, hoping to rejoin their group before having to face the wrath of House Tsalaxa.

Vinara, Morg and Kelvor had heard the sounds of trouble and, fearing that Castri and Gwyn had gotten into trouble, began to run to help them. They met up with each other near some low rocks and quickly took cover and the House Tsalaxa forces descended upon them. Kelvor lured a robed human into a poor position and he was quickly cut down. The half-giants and the other human proved much harder to take down and the party suffered many serious wounds. Vinara and Morg were both briefly knocked out during the fight and everyone, except for Castri were badly wounded before the fight ended.

Things took a turn for the worse when the archers arrived and began pelting the group with arrows. The party was not able to concentrate on any one particular target effectively, causing the fight to last a long time. Eventually they wore down their opponents and the House Tsalaxa forces began to fall one by one, with Merric dealing most of the final blows. Exhausted and bloody, the group subdued the human instead of killing him, hopeful that he would rather answer questions then be put to death.

The Road to Urik
Rallying the Troops

Blood Lust
Morg, Castri, Vinara and Kelvor journeyed to meet up with the gladiators and try and convince them to wait to march until the rest of the army was ready. They found the gladiators assembled near the arena being addressed by the veteran gladiator Quick Wenzer. He was talking to the gladiators and encouraging them to leave Tyr early and march out against the army from Urik. Tired of waiting on the “fat nobles” and eager for action, the gladiators were clearly in agreement.

Quick WenzerWhen Morg and his allies attempts to sway the gladiators opinion met with mixed success. While the crowd acknowledged Morg’s skill during the Festival of the Cooling Sun tournament and their fame at killing a tembo swayed some, most were not convinced that such a young gladiator knew more than the veteran.

Muscling his way onto the stage where Wenzer was speaking, Morg challenged him to a duel, to prove who was the superior warrior. A long and bloody battle ensued, with both combatants having their share of successes and failures. Morg’s rage kept able to fight, despite Wenzer’s more mobile style and precise strikes with his swords. Several times Morg fell as his legs were targetted, but each time he managed to get up and keep fighting. When both combatants were nearly exhausted, Morg dealt a powerful blow, shattering his axe and knocking Wenzer down. Mercifully, Morg allowed Wenzer to live, and the gladiators were convinced that the best course of action was to wait and fight with the rest of the army from Tyr.

While the others were off trying to keep the gladiators under control, Gwyn met with some of her contacts in the Veiled Alliance to discuss the matter of their divulgence. The hotly debated topic had been debated since the fall of Kalak but no agreement was reached. Many feared that openly announcing their magical ways would invite violence again them by the citizens. Others countered that in a free society they wouldn’t need to fear such reprisals and could do more good then they could as a secret society.

At her cell’s meeting Gwyn met with Jarvix, Kivrin and others to discuss their plan for going forward, hoping that if they could reach a decision, it might inspire the other cells to follow their lead. Gwyn argued that they should not be forced to simply survive as outlaws but that they deserved to thrive and work to change the opinions of common people. She felt that with the gladiators of Tyr as their allies (not knowing that Morg would be successful in his quest), they would have less to fear. She also suggested that if they publicly defended Tyr against the invading Urik army, that they would do well to show their good intentions.

Easily swaying her associates to her way of thinking, the group decided to go public and lend their support to the war effort. They meeting broke up and the members went to meet their other cells and spread word. Hopeful that the decision was correct, Gwyn left and went to meet up with her friends back at Free City Tattoo.

Voice of the People
On their way back to Free City Tattoo, the encountered a mob a people near their shop. The mob was listening to a human speak and as the group moved closer, they could hear his words…

People of Tyr, hear me! You are being deceived! In your blindness for freedom you have only traded one tyrant for an-other. Gone is Kalak the Murderous; here is Tithian and his lying council. Even now they lie and plot against you.

“Were you not told that an army marched upon Tyr, intent on destroying you all? That if you did not rise up and take arms the evil King Hamanu of Urik would slaughter your men, torture your women, and enslave your children? Was this not the truth, you say? I tell you these were lies! Who among you has spoken to King Hamanu of Urik? Who among you has asked him why he comes to the aid of riot-torn Tyr? Only those, your councilors, who claim he is an enemy —only those whose wealth and power is threatened!

“King Hamanu comes not to enslave but to free you from your slave-lords. Even as far as distant Urik, he has heard the cries of the oppressed and injured and those cries moved him. Who among you feels safe at night from the gangs and thugs of our ‘elected’ councilors? Who among you will speak out against this tyranny and stand against this unjust war? Resist injustice! Fight the true enemy!”

Castri, having no patience for such speeches, loosed an arrow from his bow and struck the speaker dead. Stunned and enraged, the crowd turned towards the ranger with malice in their eyes and moved to attack him and his friends. Soothing magic from Gwyn stalled the crowd long enough for Morg, Castri and Kelvor to stop the crowd from assaulting them. However, it was only when the clothing of the man, named Puram, was found to be matching the robes of the Templar of Urik that Morg carried, was the crowd finally convinced that they were deceived by his speeches.

Although some were embarrassed by such deception most turned their anger towards Urik and many left the gathering to enlist in the army. Able to finally return to their home, the friends took a much needed rest, although morning would come far too soon for most.

Supply and Demand
The following morning the group traveled to the merchant district to try and solve the dispute between the craftsmen and the merchant houses. The Caravan District was in total chaos as tensions between the craftsmen and the merchant houses had reached new peak. The craftsmen, convinced that the merchant houses were gouging the prices because of the war, had blocked the doors to the merchant emporiums, trapping the merchant house representative Sintha in his offices, with only a handful of guards keeping him safe. Out from the storefront, the craftsmen representative, Turloff, could be seen standing on a wagon, haranguing the crowd.

Accurately gauging the mood of the crowd and the mercenaries (who were wearing the markings of the Red Cord), the party moved quickly to try and diffuse the situation. First going to Turloff, they listen to his accusations of the merchant house’s price gouging and the hardships that the craftsmen are having to endure. He reluctantly agrees to another meeting with Sintha, with the party as moderators.

It took more effort to get to Sintha, as the Red Cord guards were unwilling to let them pass into the emporium. Eventually the party bribed them to let them pass, appealing to their mercenary nature. Sintha was quite displeased at the intrusion and refuted all of Turloff’s claims, stating that is was an unfortunate reality of the impending war. With some convincing, he was convinced to meet with Turloff.

Their meeting was hot-tempered and filled with a great many accusations of corruption and unfair business practices. Eventually the party was able to find a compromise to the situation: Obsidian. One of the steepest cost increases was on the supply of obsidian, as Urik had stopped shipments and now occupied the dwarven village of Kled. Sintha’s merchant houses were forced to raise all their prices to compensate for the extreme losses they were having to take. The party agreed that they would work to secure obsidian shipments from Kled if Sintha would lower the prices somewhat.

Lost Treasure
While the rest of the group rested, Merric uncovered an interesting piece of news – the local House Tsalaxa representative recently received a message and shortly afterwards, started to make preparation to leave the city. Most thought that he was heading out to avoid trouble with Urik, but Merric wondered if they might be heading out to help deal with the treasure recovered from the Vault of Darom Madar.

Having no other leads on how to find the caravan after so much time, the group decided that they would follow the House Tsalaxa expedition and hope that it will lead them to their objective.

The Lost Cistern of Aravek
The Lost Cistern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lost Cistern of Aravek
The Trail of Aravek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Road to Urik
The Threat of War

Lost Treasure
Morg spent the next day going around the city, looking for anyone with more knowledge on the failed House Wavir expedition. Much what he heard confirmed the rumors of a failed journey to find the Vault of Darom Madar and the economic hardship that the house was was under. Eventually he was able to locate the only other survivor, a man named Kelvor. Kelvor told Morg the story of the caravan being ambushed by members of House Tsalaxa and the death of all the members except himself and Rhotan Vor.

Kelvor was asked to look out for Morg and his friends in the hope they would take the opportunity to find the caravan and return the treasures to House Wavir. By doing so they would help restore House Wavir and punish House Tsalaxa, who is well known for nefarious deeds. Morg, keenly interested in helping Rhotan and recovering the treasure, agreed and the two started making arrangements.

Morg was still concerned about the difficulties he and his friends had in overcoming the lightning traps in the Face in the Stone. He felt that if they continued to explore the ancient ruins in Athas, they would surely need assistance to deal with other such obstacles. With a little luck, he found a few candidates that appeared to have the talents for such adventures. One in particular, Merric, stood out as competent and possessing the right personality.

As the two agreed upon a fee for his services, Merric proposed an intriguing offer: He had discovered secret entrance to the Ziggurat of Kalak. Merric felt that Morg and his companions were better suited to deal with the dangers that likely lurked within, while he was the most skilled to deal with the traps. They could explore it together and share in whatever treasures were found. Morg, while extremely interested, felt it might be best to wait before embarking on that exploration.

The Veiled Alliance
Gwyn spent most of her time exploring the city and making contact with the other tattoo artists. Her natural charm was more than enough to over come the distrust that any had because of her elven ancestry. She was pleased that, in a small way, she was a part of the resurgence of art in Tyr.

As the evening approached, Gwyn made her way into the Under-Tyr to meet with her Veiled Alliance cell. The focus of the meeting was Divulgence – should the alliance end their secretive ways and go public. Both supporters and opponents of divulgence spoke with great passion but they could not reach an agreement on how to proceed. Gwyn felt that divulgence should happen, but suggested caution to make sure public would not react violently, after years of being told to hate all arcane casters. It was clear that the debate would continue for some time.

After the formal meeting, Gwyn spent time with her main contact, Jarvix whom she told of the adventures at the Face in the Stone (although nothing was mentioned about the Crown of Dust). The appearance of Yarnath was disturbing, as defilers such as he are the primary reason wizards are outlawed and hated. Jarvix introduced Gwyn to another member of the cell, an elf named Kivrin. Kivrin knew something of Yarnath and suspected that he was searching for the Crown of Dust, and may have already obtained one piece of it. Anxious about such a powerful artifact in the hands of the defiler, Kivrin thought that a small group might be able to sneak aboard Slither and steal the artifact. Gwyn said that she would consider such a quest, but needed to confer with her friends.

After several more hour discussing various magical principles and how she might apply them to her tattoo work, Gwyn, Jarvix and Kivrin let the Alliance meeting and went drinking at the Stiff Wench. They drank broy late into the night and the next morning Gwyn awoke with a massive hangover, and a new tattoo.

Communing with Nature
Vinara spent two days in the desert outside of the city-state conversing with the Wastewalker. The enemy turned ally was most interested in her story of the Face in the Stone, uncovering the fragment of the Crown of Dust and the appearance of Yarnath. The Wastewalker knew a little about Ul-Athra and thought that the creature could be a powerful ally against the Dragon, but cautioned that the primordials are creatures of chaos and very unpredictable in the actions.

The pair was joined by a halfling that the Wastewalker introduced as Nok. Nok had traveled far to bring news of a possible ancient Tree of Life that might exist outside of the sorcerer-king’s control. Such a tree could be used for nearly limitless power for a defiler, such as Yarnath, and must be found and protected at all costs. The Tree might also be used to construct a Heartwood Spear that would be a powerful weapon against the sorcerer-kings. Vinara was to be mindful of signs and dreams about this tree and seek it out, before it is discovered by the wrong people.

A Conflict of Interests
Castri stayed behind at Free City Tattoo and studied the fragment of the Crown of Dust. He had hoped to learn more of its secrets but all he received were strong urges to seek out the other fragments and use the Crown to restore Ul-Athra. Feeling that he had learned all that was possible for the time being, he left the parlor and wandered around the street of Tyr heading towards the Artisan District.

Tyr MarketplaceIn the district he used some of the money he received from Karlen to commission some art work for the tattoo shop – a statue of himself. He found a skilled Mul stone cutter named Xalos who was looking for work and the two arranged a fair price. As he was leaving the artists shop he was approached by well-dressed man who greeted him by name. An agent of Murter Dyan, the man, asked if Castri could be of service to House Dyan, an enemy of Castri’s former noble house. The service was to search out a potential water source that had come to the attention of Murter, a place call the Cistern of Aravek, so that the water could help the citizens of Tyr. In exchange for location of the Cistern, House Dyan would furnish Castri and his allies with a precious metal weapon each. Cautious, Castri agreed to look into it.

On his way out of the Artisan District, another familiar face Khalos, an agent of Agis, hailed Castri. The pair made their way outside of the city to the House Asticles estates where he met with Agis himself. Direct and to the point, Agis asked if Castri could help locate the Cistern of Aravek, located in the foothills of the Ringing Mountains. Agis desired to control the renewable water source so that all within the city of Tyr could benefit from it. Agis promised to reward Castri and his allies with favors from his House.

Intrigued by the turn of events, Castri made his way back to the tattoo parlor where he was reunited with his companions. Each explained their day’s activities and discussed how best to proceed with the many options in front of them. After a lengthy discussion, they agreed that searching for the Cistern of Aravek was the best choice, after which they would head to the east in an attempt to find the House Tsalaxa caravan.

Marauders of the Dune Sea
Return to Tyr

Leaving the Face
The elves appeared shocked to see the party emerge from the Face in the Stone and hailed them. The group claimed to have seen the collapse of the dust storm and went to investigate, looking for ancient treasures, asking the heroes if they had uncovered anything inside the Face. The heroes claimed to have have been simple guards who fled into the Face when the dust storm arose and didn’t venture far into it.

Stating a desire to return to their leader with treasures, the elves proposed that the heroes could search some additional locations that the elves would provide, and all could share in the profit. Vinara sensed that the elves might be stalling, but Morg went over to them to check their map. Without warning Morg was attacked by the elves and the zombies servants, as a group of Tarek raiders appeared over a nearby dune.

Morg fell to the zombies who began to feast on him after the dune striders severely wounded him in the surprise attack. The zombies and the elves suffered under the hail of arrows from Castri, who also unleashed the power of the Crown of Dust to create a whirlwind of sand striking at those nearest to Morg. One of the elves managed to reach Castri who suffered a serious wound before finishing off the elves.

Vinara and Gwyn and bear combined their attacks systematically taking down one Tarek after another. Gwyn conjured blast after blast of fire, slowly cooking them as they pressed their attack. Both of the ladies suffered greatly, but held their ground against the brutes. Vinara was able to work her way towards the dying Morg and eventually used her healing magic to revive him.

Finally on his feet again, he charged the remaining two elves and took them down with a mighty swing of his axe. The elf peddler, Parleth was barely alive and Morg and Castri learned that the group worked for a raider named Yarnath who was rumored to be a powerful defiler. Having learned all they could, the two put the dying elf out of his misery.

The Crawling Citadel
SlitherBefore they could catch their breath, Vinara spotted a colossal object grinding its way across the sandy desert. The animated skeletons of several giant desert creatures have been fused together into a ghastly structure, well over a hundred feet in length. Built within and upon the animate skeletal construct was an articulated citadel of bones and quarried stone. Humanoids could be seen standing on lookout platforms and peering form turrets and spires. It crawled closer to the Face in the Stone, making a sound like distant thunder.

After a bit of debate, Morg convinced Vinara that hiding within the Face would be a poor choice and the group fled, attempting to evade the citadel and make their way back to Tyr. Gwyn used her magic to summon a mirage about the group, in an effort to obscure them from sight. It took all of the groups strength and endurance to move across the desert quickly, but Castri faltered several times, the visions from the Crown he still wore, causing confusion and disorientation.

Still suffering from the earlier fights, the group stumbled into a patrol of seven Tarek raiders, who set upon them, thinking they had found easy prey. Gwyn’s magic bathed them in sheets of fire while Castri launched arrow after arrow into the oncoming group. Morg summoned every ounce of dwarven endurance in his blood and charged in, swinging his axe wildly. Vinara focused her attacks on Bear’s foes, while attempting to aid the group as best she could.

Miraculously the group survived, but their wounds continued to sap their energy and the week long march back to Tyr would have been too much if they had not happened upon a caravan as they approached to main trade roads.

The Caravan Gate
The entrance into Tyr was slowed by long lines at the Caravan Gate. The Half-Giant guards were thoroughly searching everyone entering the city and assessing new taxes. The group managed to get inside without incident, but found trouble within the city walls. The crowded streets were filled with angry merchants and citizens. In their absence the fragile economy of the free city was beginning to falter.

The precious iron mines had not reopened as it was too expensive to operate without the slave labor used in the past. The iron, which all the other city-states depended on, had stopped flowing and rumors flew about an army marching from Urik to seize control of the city and the mines. In addition, House Wavir had abandoned its position in Tyr, after a failed expedition into the desert left them financially devastated. All of the assets, including a large amount of Morg’s money, had been moved out of the city. Few knew the details of the expedition, but only a few people survived and made it back to Tyr alive.

The heroes were relieved to find that Free City Tattoo had survived the recent turmoil within the city and they all got some much needed rest. Castri visited his friend Karlen to deliver the relics he had found at the Face and collect his cut of the pay. Morg went out to try and find more information about the survivors of the House Wavir expedition and to hire a henchmen who could assist the party in future dungeon explorations.

Marauders of the Dune Sea
The Face in the Stone

Crown Wyrm
As Morg, Vinara and Gwyn were making up their minds about which way to go, a rumbling sound was heard in front of them. The wall in front of the group began to shift and Castri appeared, torch in hand. He informed his allies that he had grown impatient waiting and located a secret door while searching for artifacts for his friend Karlen. Once Castri was brought up to speed on the encounters they had, the group decided to investigate the western door.

Source of MagicThe doors to the room were heavy, but unlocked and with a little effort, they were pushed open to reveal a cavernous chamber, illuminated with a flickering purple light that shone up from a pit in the floor. The source of the light could not be seen from the doorway. The room also had two large fountains on the northern edge, from which water could be heard. To the south there was a large obsidian slab, from which Gwyn detected powerful defiling magic.

Castri and Gwyn moved into the room and were lowered into the pit by Morg, while Vinara went to investigate the fountains. Gwyn could detect magic, but not defiling in nature coming from the source of the light – a fragment of a golden crown. Castri decided to pick it up and as he did so, the room was plunged into darkness. All at once, the party shared a vision…

Through the vast desert a gigantic worm with numerous tentacles traveled at great speed, approaching a rocky outcropping. A golden crown was visible on the worm’s head. Perched on top of the rock loomed what could only be the great Dragon of Tyr. As the worm neared the rocks the Dragon took flight and the two were quickly engaged in a titanic battle. The land around the Dragon turned to ash as it’s powerful magic assaulted the worm. Eventually the Dragon dealt a fatal blow to the worm, shattering the crown. As the dragon flew away, the worm and the crown were swallowed by the desert.

As soon as the vision ended, Vinara screamed in pain. Still in total darkness, Gwyn and Vinara attempted to light torches while Castri climbed out of the pit, assisted by Morg. When the torches were finally lit a massive serpent could be seen biting at Vinara, while around the room nearly a dozen wraiths were seen moving out of the walls.

Morg charged into the nearest group of wraiths, defeating them with several swings of his axe. Gwyn, surrounded by wraiths as well used her magic and was propelled out of the pit on a thunderclap, destroying the wraiths in the pit and those near where she landed.

Vinara, her zephyr and Bear struck back at the wyrm, while Castri fired arrows into it. Although the beast was struck many times it kept attacking Vinara and Bear. Morg enraged and joined the fight while Gwyn let loose bolts of lighting at the creature. The worm latched onto Morg’s chest, sucking the life out of him and healing its own wounds.

While the group continued to attack the creature, another wave of wraiths appeared. Castri turned on them and managed to destroy them all with few volley’s from his great bow. Eventually the wyrm was defeated by Gwyn, who blasted it with an orb of fire as Morg’s axe nearly took off its head.

After the long fight, the party’s wounds were too great to continue, so they rested for several hours before continuing on. During this time they all searched the room, looking for any secrets, but none were found. They decided to finish the exploration of the Face before heading back outside.

Rot Bloom
As the heroes made their way out of the room and headed towards the other unopened door, the air became slightly damp and began to smell of rot. The passage ended at a door which was covered in an uneven layer of slightly phosphorescent fungus. Opening the door they were surprised to see fungus blanketing the floor. The moist cavern walls and ceiling were glowing dimly in cool tones of green, blue and yellow. The rotted detritus of barrels, crates ans shelves littered the side walls. Fungal stalks, a few of which read 5 or 6 feet in height were growing from the debris. The floor appeared to have collapsed, leaving a dark cavity in the center of the room.

Seeing nothing unusual and curious about the fungus, Morg ventured into the room and moved to cut down some of the stalks to investigate further. Just as he was about to strike, the fungus turned and released a cloud of spores, temporarily pacifying him. Another clump of fungus moved towards the Mul and released spores as well. Morg, severely wounded, was still unable to act because of the spores.

Only able to see the moving fungus creatures from the doorway, Gwyen rushed into the room and attempted to communicate with the creatures. One of the larger creatures appeared to be able to communicate telepathically and demanded why they were attacked. Although they were angry and being disturbed and attacked, Gwyn was able to convince them that it was a misunderstanding. The heroes promised to leave them in peace and left the room cautiously, in case they fungus creatures changed their minds.

Storm Seat
Curious about the sections of the Face in the Stone that they passed by, the group retraced their steps through the Ancestor Hall and back towards the Storm Seat. Along the way the noticed the the braziers had gone out. They investigated the large stone urns, and heedless of the warnings, opened them. After an explosion of blinding ash, all they found inside were dust and bones.

In the Storm Seat, Morg wanted to investigate the cauldron more and ventured too close to the statues. With a powerful gust of wind, he was tossed into the cauldron and was immediately wracked with pain as if his very essence was being pulled out of his body. At the same moment, the giant skeleton moved from its resting place and hurried over the the cauldron, ready to strike at Morg.

Castri opened fire on the skeleton as it marched towards the cauldron, but failed to dissuade it from attacking Morg. Gwyen stepped into the room and used her arcane magic to damage the skeleton and make Morg invisible to it. Vinara moved in as well, hurling stones from her dejada. Morg became enraged and with fresh vitality he struck a mighty blow with his axe, causing bone fragments to fly out from the skeleton. Within moments it succumbed to the assault of magic and weapons and as it fell, another blast of bone shards hit the party.

While they were searching the room, Castri felt an urge to sit upon the throne and did so. When he did so, he saw a vision of Ul-Athra – a massive worm slithering across a green Athas. The worm wore a a crown that shone with gold and shed whirlwinds of spectacular grandeur. Castri couldn’t help but be impressed by the vision of the Green Age.

Leaving the Face
After a quick rest to treat their wounds, the party journeyed further back in the the Face, through the room that held the whipping skeletal tail. Here too the braziers that had once been burning, were now dark. Down the southern hallway they moved until they came upon the last two unopened doorways.

Through the eastern door was only a large empty room with a stone basin in it. Inside the basin was an aquamarine colored liquid. Behind the western door they found any empty room with a basin containing a maroon liquid. The group took samples of each liquid into their water skins and tried mixing them, creating a foul smelling purple liquid. The effect was the same when mixed in the basin or when they tried to mix it in the whispering cauldron.

Confused as to the nature of the fluid or its purpose, they kept the samples and made their way back into the Face so as to avoid the lightning traps and headed out through the secret passage uncovered by Castri. As they emerged from the dark corridor into the bright sunlight, they immediately noticed that the awful roar of the dust storm that had raged outside the Face in the Stone had ceased.

The outside air was clear and free of whirling sand; the cloaking wind storm had collapsed. They then noticed several raiders arrayed around the entrance to the Face. They all appeared to be elves, with a tattoo of a snake skull branded on their forehead. Behind the rocks came several shambling human forms, each caked in what looked like salt.

The Vault of Darom Madar
The Great Road

Rhotan’s Caravan
Almost a week had passed since Rhotan Vor of House Wavir had asked Morg and his companions to help him search for the fabled Vault of Darom Madar. The dwarf was getting impatient as he felt sure that other were searching for the Vault as well, given that the drunk that gave him the information would certainly have talked to others. Unwilling to wait any longer or to give up on finding such lucrative treasure, Rhotan began to search for other adventurers.

The tough times were getting tougher in Tyr as the economy continued to sink and envoy’s from the other city-states demanded that the iron mines be reopened. Rhotan gathered a half-dozen guards, only one of which had seen any real action, a man named Kelvor. All required their pay up front and the expense of preparing a large caravan taxes Rhotan’s finances to the limit.

The next day, the caravan set out, the hired guards moving quickly ahead to scout out their path. The rest of the caravan consisted of three sand skiffs. Each of the three-wheeled vehicles was propelled by a single sailed and manned by a pilot and a couple of deck hands. The group headed towards the elven village of Silver Spring Oasis to resupply and gather more information.

The Crimson Oasis
The journey across the deserts taxed the caravan’s members as they suffered under the relentless heat of the crimson sun. Kelvor and the scouts tried to keep the caravan headed in the right direction despite the blowing winds and dangers of the wilderness, but they faltered several times. Eventually they reached a small oasis where they made camp.

The oasis was not much more than a muddy hole in the ground surrounded by desert scrub, but even its foul tasting water was a welcome relief from the desert. Before the first sip of water was taken, the oasis erupted into violent action as three armed men burst from cover and charged the caravan. Safely behind the cover of some rocks a dwarf and halfling emerged and slowly moved towards the battle.

Although Kelvor tried be organize a defense, the other guards were caught by surprise as the raiders ran several of them through with their spears. The dwarf called down a blinding ray of light into the melee, hampering the defense of the caravan, while the halfling used the Way to confuse the befuddle the guards.

Kelvor’s whirling defenses kept the raiders attention on him for the remainder of the skirmish and his harmony of body and mind allowed him to survive several deadly attacks by the wilder and sun priest. Eventually the bandits were defeated, although half of the guards had perished and several more were severely wounded.

Wasteland Assassins
AttackUndeterred by their struggle at the oasis, Rhotan continued on towards Silver Springs, confident that they could resupply there. He thought that with some luck they might even be able to hire on replacements. As the caravan moved through a ceaseless blur of sun-scorched sand and rolling dunes, there was little to break the monotony of heat and thirst. When the barbed arrows began hissing form the sky, fired by a trio of dark shapes on the crest of a nearby dune, it was almost a welcome break to the drudgery of travel.

The elven assassin’s aim was superb quickly cutting down more of the remaining guards before they could reach the top of the dune. Just as the survivors reached the top of the dune, they were wracked with pain as the ground around them turned into dark ash. Riding atop a crodlu was a hooded man that summoned a whip of fire that wrapped around Kelvor, burning his skin and leaving a trail of ash. Wounded as they were, the remaining members of the caravan were no match for the defiler assassin and his troops.

When Kelvor awoke, he was bruised and battered. There were no signs of the assassins, except for several areas of ash on the desert floor and a few bodies, already burned in the sun. As he searched the area, the only signs of the caravan were the wheel marks of the sand skiffs, already being covered by the blowing sands. All but one of the bodies, Rhotan’s, were dead and already the victim of desert scavengers. Rhotan was alive, but only barely, apparently the victim of a severe blow to the head. The vast majority of their supplies were missing, including all of Rhotan’s information on the Vault.

The Walk of Shame
With virtually no other options, Kelvor and Rhotan turned back towards Tyr. Their vitality leeched by the sun’s punishing rays and already weakened by their ordeals, the pair barely made it back alive. Word of their failure spread quickly, as did rumors that House Wavir’s long time enemy, House Tsalaxa, was likely to be blamed. Others simply pointed to the folly of searching for things that are best left alone.

Regardless of the truth to those rumors the consequences were immediate and dire. Rhotan had invested a considerable some of money in the caravan, and House Wavir had suffered for his expedition’s failure. Within two days, the merchant house had closed its operations in Tyr and moved out. Rhotan left as well, heading out to Altaruk to try and salvage his position in the merchant house.

Kelvor remained in Tyr. Rhotan thought that should Morg and his companions return, they might be able to team up and track down those responsible for the attack. A desperate hope that House Wavir’s fortunes might change.