One month ago…
The Last Alliance
Banoc could not believe what he had just heard, something he’d hoped to never hear. After nearly twenty years in Balic, the Veiled Alliance had been compromised. It was time to leave the city or face the harsh punishments that the templars of Andropinis would surely dole out.
The previous day, he had learned through the usual channels that the rumors of a band of adventurers entering the Ivory Dungeon were true. An Alliance member, Maserak, whose cell was based at the Thespian House had sent them on a dangerous mission to rescue or eliminate a captured Alliance member, Zaldanis. Maserak had always been a bit too bold and reckless, especially with those he had a relationship with, and now it looked liked they all might pay the ultimate price. The Alliance cells were compartmentalized to protect the members from just such an event, but there were always flaws that could be exploited.
As he quickly packed his belonging, he paused to send out messages to the members of his cell, to pass along the information and warning. He received only a few short replies, far fewer than he expected and he feared that many of his cell members were already captured or in hiding. Although he despised each and every one of the sorcerer-king’s Praetors, he did respect their speed and efficiency.
Banoc finished his packing and had sent his last message and prepared to leave the city. The problem was now where should he go. He realized that he hadn’t been outside of the city in nearly a decade and had little idea where to go. Fortunately, he knew a couple who would be able to help and would likely be interested in leaving the city, given the current events. He sent them a message and headed out to the meeting point, hoping that he had time.
Jax heard the message from Banoc and quickly woke her husband Daqiq. They always traveled light and were ready to leaving if business got bad. Business had been good lately, and the couple had just placed a large down-payment on information that would be needed for some future heists they had been planning. That would have to wait for the time being, because both knew that they couldn’t do more business if there were stuck in the Ivory Dungeon.
They met up with Banoc and when they heard the details, their curiosity was peaked, along with their self-preservation instincts. Although neither was a member of the Veiled Alliance in Balic, they had done some jobs for them in the past and they could be exposed if the wrong Alliance member was captured, Banoc for example. More interestingly this group was without a doubt the same adventurers from Tyr that Jax had become slightly obsessed with.
For almost a year, Jax’s contacts and information brokers had been passing her stories of a band of adventurer’s from Tyr. This group stood out because they were linked to a large number of extraordinary events that had occurred in the Tyr Region. The troubles in the new forest near Altaruk and the birth of a new dragon, the strange events in the Ziggurat of Kalak and the change of heart of the Wastewalker – this group was somehow involved in all of them.
Daqiq, Jax and Banoc agreed to head out of the city together, for safety, and journey in search of these adventurers, to satisfy Jax’s curiosity and learn more about the events outside of Balic. Jax and Daqiq adopted their alternate identities, quickly becoming to two new individuals.
Jax did not know where the adventurers had gone after their flight from Balic, she did know where they had been. Their patterns suggested that they could move quickly in the southwest and often ended in Altaruk. She also knew that the adventurers had been at the trade fort of House Shom, near the ruins of Kalidnay. If the sightings were accurate, they had traveled long distances very quickly which made her suspect they could have a base of operations in that region. On a hunch, she decided to head towards Altaruk and then Fort Melidor to learn more about the adventurers.
The journey took a turn for the worse when it became obvious the Balic’s legionaries were also headed towards Altaruk. None of the party relished traveling alongside those who were searching for them. Jax decided the best course would be to head towards Celik, where they were less likely to encounter the forces of Balic and could possibly gain information. After five days, they turned southwest at the fork leading to Altaruk, and traveled for another five days to Celik.
They found the ruins of Celik to be a refuge for outcasts, escaped slaves and other seeking refuge – their group fit in perfectly. Jax was able to secure an audience the a human trader named Korsun of House Mareneth, who controlled the city. Korsun kept tabs on all who went through the city and what business they conducted. After a few drinks and some coin, he mentioned that a group partially matching the description of the adventurers had passed through about a month ago.
Jax and Daqiq also learned that the adventurers were low on supplies and sold off some artifacts to purchase food and water. Normally this business would not have been remarkable, but some of the artifacts were clearly from the ruins of Kalidnay and the trio agreed that that would be the next best place to look. Daqiq was also eager to explore the ruins for the possible treasures they may uncover. Knowing that others had been successful, emboldened him to the concept.
The following morning, the trio set out towards the ruins of Kalidnay and after five days of travel over the Gian’ts Ribs Mountains and the salt flats on the western side, they came within sight of Kalidnay. None of them had seen the city before although Jax knew the legends of the disappearance of the population seemingly overnight. They agreed that discretion was best and only made a brief foray into the ruins before nightfall when they retreated a safe distance.
The next day they began their search in earnest, looking all over the city for any signs of the adventurers from Tyr. They encountered some signs of activity, corpses perhaps a 3-4 months old, around the ziggurat. Throughout the rest of the city they found some creatures that had taken shelter in the ruins and strange shadows were seen, always just out of view. The recovered some trinkets of value, but there were no signs of the adventurers. Night came quickly while they were deep in the ruins and they were forced to make shelter in the lair of a beast they had defeated.
That night a strange mist rolled through the streets and came upon the trio from Balic while they slept. In the morning when the awoke, they found themselves in a different Kalidnay, one that was still inhabited. Confused at the change, but not entirely surprised (thanks to the rumors that Jax was familiar with), they moved quickly to hide themselves. They were found however, by a strange man who introduced himself as Kezmit and he had been waiting for strangers. Although they were suspicious, they had no better option and accompanied him to the outskirts of the city into a small compound of warehouses, the home of resistance group similar to the Veiled Alliance.
From the resistance leader, an undead preserver named Laylon-Ka, they learned that the adventurers from Tyr had been in this version of Kalidnay and they had fought and defeated the former ruler, a templar of Kalid-Ma named Thakok-An with the aid of a group from a distant land. With her death, the adventurers split up and went separate ways for a time. They learned of the new lord of the lands, the mother of Gwyn, an elf templar of Nibenay named Marisol, who converted the population into zealous followers of the shadow king.
The trio was saddened to hear of the death of the druid Vinara by the dominated barbarian Morg. Kezmit told of his adventures with the others in the shadowy realm of Moil and their encounter with an aspect of the sorcerer-king Dregoth. Kezmit recounted they last time he saw the adventurers from Tyr, attempting to rescue Morg from his enthrallment by Marisol.
After resting and having many of their questions answered, the trio was urged to be cautious, as Marisol was keenly interested in finding and destroying any outsiders who entered this realm. The trio had no desire to stay, but also no real means of escape. Laylon-Ka was prepared to assist them, in exchange for their aid in some attempts to destabilize Marisol’s hold on the population. The party agreed and spent the next several days working to undermine Marisol’s power structure through theft, sabotage and assassinations – all talents the trio possessed in abundance.
At first there was little resistance to the trio’s activities, but with each passing day, they faced more and more challenges. The trio’s activities were further hampered by the population’s xenophobic tendencies and soon the found themselves dodging traps set for them. When Laylon-Ka had finally determined out how to best get the trio out of Kalidnay, and hopefully back to Athas, the pressure from the templar’s forces was intense. The trio barely made it out into the mists as a wall of heat began to close the borders of the land.
After an indeterminable amount of time in strange mists, the trio was able to begin to distinguish features. Instead of the familiar dunes and rocky badlands of their home, dark buildings against a dark sky with gray clouds. As this new land came into focus, rows of tombstones were visible, standing in silence to the left and right, in front and behind, like a sea of the dead. Some were crumbled with the weathering of centuries, some were smooth marble with new black writing and laid with floral tributes. Most though, were overgrown and unkempt.
Wherever they were, it was not Athas…