Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

Ashes of War

Moon Chamber
As Morg, Vinara, Kelvor and Gwyn were recovering from their encounter with the exploding zombies each could feel the Ziggurat come “alive” in different ways. It appeared as if massive amounts of arcane, primal and psionic energy were being channeled somewhere. Although none knew for sure what was happening, they all agreed that it was bad and that there wasn’t much time.

Jarvix and Elleandra moved into the Ziggurat through dim passages. The pair stumbled into their friends and everyone was relieved to see that their friends were alright, at least for the moment. Everyone had a sense of unease and urgency about continuing into the Ziggurat and attempting to stop Merric from resurrecting Kalak.

The group wandered through the passages and descended a flight of stairs sized for something much taller than a human. The eventually reached a large chamber that appeared to be carved from a single enormous block of obsidian. Holes in the ceiling revealed focused beams of pale green moonlight which bounced off of smooth obsidian mirrors. The floor was covered in mosaics of draconic figures in various states of metamorphosis. The room contained numerous clay urns carved to resemble a creature contorted in pain, trying to push the lids free.

Cautiously the group entered the room and moved towards the only exit. As they did so they began to feel energy stir as if the shadows were shifting within the stone. Foul apparitions rose from the clay urns and obsidian floor and walls. Their baleful gazes turned towards the party and the reached out with deadly intent. A few of the specters, sensing the power within Gwyn, Elleandra and Jarvix fled, but the rest proceeded to engage the party.

Most of the spirits were swiftly dispatched, but their large numbers proved to make them a difficult challenge and they moved in and out of the walls surrounding the group. Two of the wraiths were significantly more powerful then the others, radiating a foul cold that pierced flesh. The immaterial forms continued to regenerate and took little damage from weapons and spells used against them. The group eventually felled the spirits, but took many wounds. Vinara was able to heal the group, but they decided to push on deeper into the ZIggurat, rather than loose more time resting.

Fly Trap
Weary, but determined, the party descended more stair covered in tiled obsidian. The obsidian all around them began to glow as if humming with power. The passageway opened a larger room containing a half-dozen cells of various sizes and shapes, their bars composed entirely of obsidian. Each cell contained several gaunt bodies apparently pinned to the the walls, as if the obsidian was slowly absorbing them.

As the party surveyed the room, the tortured voices of the captives gasped and pleaded to be set free. With everyone talking at once, it was difficult to make out what was being said, but several phrases were repeated again and again.

“He left us here!”
“Merric traded us the these reavers for safe passage.”
“They are consuming us.”
“Free us from this torment.”

Wary of traps or deception the group questioned the captives attempting to determine if they were telling the truth. Several of the captives did actually appear to be member of the True, sacrificed by Merric for quick passage through this room, but about a half dozen did not. While the party debated what to do with the members of the True, the other bodies became insubstantial and moved from the walls, through the bars and began to attack. Not completely surprised by this turn of events, the party reacted quickly, but the reavers were empowered by the obsidian and proved to be more dangerous they expected.

Kelvor did his best to keep their attention and was successful although he suffered several nearly-fatal injuries, which only appeared to strengthen the foul undead. Elleandra’s magic kept her opponents distracted allowing her allies to maneuver into better positions, but still the fight took far longer than anticipated as each hero mainly attacked separate foes.

Although the creatures were defeated the combat consumed precious time and forced the to rest and tend to their wounds. The group pulled the members of the True from the walls and they all fled the chamber as quickly as they could. As they rested, the party began to wonder – “Are we too late?”

Ashes of War

Foil the True
Left on their own, Jarvix and Elleandra took a few minutes to rest in relative safety. The continuing attacks of the True could be heard around them. Although she still felt drained and queasy, Elleandra was able to compose herself enough to travel. Jarvix was not much better, still weakened after his near-death experience. The cries of the inhabitants of the Warrens spurred them into action. The decided that it was up to them to put an end to the rampaging True.

Elleandra was able to use her charms to good effect and the people they found in hiding were convinced to follow them and find more secure shelter. Jarvix, having spent a lot of time in the Warrens, was able to point out safer locations that could hide people from the attackers. The pair worked furiously to hold back the attackers and counter their defiling. After what felt like hours they were able to route the attackers.

True DefilerJust as it looked like there would be no further trouble, a defiler with several human and half-giant bodyguards came into view. Calling Jarvix and Elleandra by name he offered them a chance to surrender. Refusing his offer, the two prepared for a deadly conflict.

Weakened by their exertions, they were slow to react, Jarvix took a deep wound from one of the Half-Giant’s bone greataxe. The humans moved in quickly and slashed with obsidian greatswords wounding both. Although they were caught somewhat unprepared, Jarvix and Elleandra were not about to go down without a fight. Jarvix used his powerful abilities with the Way to daze and distract his foes, while Elleandra harried her attackers with her spells. The defiler, pulling life energy from the ground, let loose blasts of fiery darts and crimson fire, causing more injuries to the already wounded heroes.

The guards quickly fell as both Jarvix and Elleandra unleashed powerful mental attacks, Elleandra aided by her newly acquired orb. Despite the loss of his guards, the defiler sensed his advantage and continued to press his attack, drawing more and more life energy to fuel his spells. The constant mental assault eventually proved too much for him and he collapsed to the ground blood running from his ears and eyes.

Into the Belly of the Beast
After the fight, Jarvix cautioned Elleandra with regards to her orb. Although he wasn’t completely sure, he felt that there was something dangerous about it. While they were recovering from their combat, a strange blast of energy erupted from the Ziggurat and Elleandra could sense the powerful defiling energy. She also felt a new wave of nausea that seemed to be coming from the Ziggurat.

The two picked themselves up and headed towards the Ziggurat. Jarvix’s knowledge of the pyramid and the Veiled Alliance, along with Elleandra’s arcane skills, allowed them to quickly locate another secret entrance to the pyramid. This one appeared to have been recently opened as there were disturbances in the dust and sand in the passageway. The pair entered to dark and twisting tunnels, hoping they would find Merric or their allies before it was too late.

Ashes of War

Rending the Veil
The group emerged from the Veiled Alliance safe house into the Warrens. The extent of the True’s attack was evident – the entire district was in chaos with True agents attacking and destroying everything in sight. They reasoned that the only way to track down Merric and the stolen seed was to get out of the Warrens as quickly as possible. Everyone suspected that he might be heading to the Ziggurat, but it was impossible to tell.

They felt the best course of action was to make as quiet an exit from the district as possible towards the Elven Market and then assess the situation. They all prepared for what the thought would be an inevitable fight with the True. As they started to move out, Elleandra suddenly became weak and faint. She was barely able to move at all, and had to be helped by Morg. No one knew what had come over her and they didn’t feel as if they could spare a moment to figure it out.

Gwyn and Morg were able to maneuver past a few True with Vinara acting as a lookout and Kelvor using the Way to help bolster the group’s stamina. About halfway out of the Warrens, they came upon a body that they recognized at Jarvix. He appeared to have been badly beaten and was almost dead. Vinara gave him one of her healing berries which was enough to bring him back to consciousness. Gwyn told her friend of Merric’s betrayal and Jarvix voiced his concerns that Merric may be attempting to use the seed to restore Kalak to life. He recommended attempting to break into the Ziggurat with all haste. To aid them he told them of a secret entrance on the south side that they could recognize by an arcane sigil – the same sigil that Gwyn had tattooed on her back.

Into the Belly of the Beast
Leaving Elleandra with Jarvix, the remaining four companions continued to make their way out of the Warrens. The group made their way quickly out of the Warrens and as the entered the Elven Market then ran across Kivrin who was seeking to escape the chaos as well. The group didn’t share all the details with Kivrin, but were eager to know what he had uncovered regarding the crown. Kivrin told them that he believed the final piece of the crown might be held by Ewalu, a great silt horror consort of Ul-Athra. The crown could be used to restore Ul-Athra and although it could be an ally against the Dragon, the primordial has no love for Athas. If the crown itself could be returned to the Elemental Chaos, and might prevent Ul-Athra from returning to the world.

Free from the Warrens, the heroes quickly made their way towards the south side of the Ziggurat and began to search for the hidden entrance. It took all of their cunning to quickly search for the sigil without drawing too much attention to themselves. The Ziggurat was built to channel powerful arcane energies which clouded her ability to sense magic, but eventually Gwyn was able to help locate the entrance. Morg’s strength, along with Gwyn’s magic was able to open the sealed door.

Dead End Beginning
Withering OneThey entered to Ziggurat and lit torches as they began to wander through a series of twisting and turning passageways. Before venturing too far, Gwyn used her magic to seal the door behind them, not wanting to have anyone sneak up on them from behind. Before long they came across a grisly scene. A small shaft of moonlight illuminated the room before them, revealing dozens of bodies. The corpses faces were contorted in agony with blackened tongues visible between foam-flecked lips. Some of the bodies had the amulets of the True.

Several warped forms were hunched over the bodies, and they slowly turned towards the group as it entered the room. The creatures eyes were unfocused and bits of flesh fell from their mouths as they consumed the bodies on the floor. Gwyn and Kelvor recognized these creatures as Withering Ones – zombies that are used to hunt preservers and who react violently to arcane energies.

Kelvor, Vinara and Morg all moved up to block the creatures advance towards Gwyn. Each struck the creatures with their weapons, but only slightly slowed them down. Kelvor was able to defend himself against their attacks, but Morg was grabbed and the Withering One began to eat at his arm and shoulder. Gwyn conjured a sparkling mist that swirled around and covered some of the zombies, attempting to lock them in place and obscure their vision. When the mist made contact with the creature’s flesh, a blast of necrotic energy emanated from it. This started a massive chain reaction which ultimately destroyed all of the zombies and knocked Morg and Kelvor down, draining them to within an inch of true death. Only Vinara was unharmed, a benefit of the life giving Heartwood Spear.

Vinara quickly used her healing spells to restore Kelvor and Morg, but the group was forced to take another quick rest before venturing further into the Ziggurat. They were hopeful that not too much time had passed for them to stop Merric from completing his objectives.

Ashes of War

Return to Tyr
After a few days of much needed rest, the companions decided to return to Tyr ahead of the first shipment of obsidian from Kled. It had been too long since they left the city and everyone was keenly interested to learn the outcome of the recent war with Urik. The dwarves supplied them with fresh food and water and reminded them of their promise to keep the secret of Kemalok.

Before departing Gwyn was given a magnificent platinum tiara as a gift for her translation of the Book of Kemalok Kings. The crown was imbued with magic that allowed her to retain the knowledge of the ancients, according to the dwarves. Kelvor was given a ancient steel shield of the Knights of Kemalok to defend himself and his allies. Morg was allowed to keep the Axe of Rkard and was given the title of Knight of Kemalok. Elleandra had recovered the orb used by Maetan Lubar and had begun to unlock her talents with the Way.

The four day trip from Kled to Tyr was uneventful during their march through the stony badlands and sandy wastes at the foothills of the Ringing Mountains. Along the road, they met no travelers and began to fear the worst. When Tyr came into view, they stopped to try and observe the state of the city. To their pleasant surprise the banners of the free city could be seen and all looked normal.

Not seeing anything to fear the group made the journey to the Caravan Gate and awaited their turn to be admitted into the city. As they waited they drew many stares for they were clearly no ordinary travelers with their steel weapons and exotic armor. The group was reminded just how far they had come since last leaving the city. As they were allowed to enter, they paid their fees with a single gold metal coin, a rare sight in Tyr, or any other city.

Recent History
Merchant District Eager to find out what had transpired in their absence, the group split up and began to learn as much as they could. They all agreed to meet at the end of the day at Free City Tattoo to share what they had uncovered. The tattoo parlor was opened and Gwyn gave Elleandra a tattoo similar to the ones they had received from the halflings of the Forest Ridge. The Veiled Alliance had become more open, following Gwyn’s suggestion and their participation in the war against Urik had given them some popular support. Gwyn was able to make contact with Jarvix from the Veiled Alliance, who the group shared their tales with. Although he was unable to answer all their questions he agreed to set up a meeting that night with Kivrin at an alliance safe house.

They learned that war with Urik initially went well and the army was able to turn back the forces of Urik before they were able to lay siege to the city. A few days after the heroes left the army marched forth under the command of Rikus. He led them into the plains and surprised the Urikites with their numbers and ferocity. The main army was routed with some of the survivors fleeing to regroup at Kled while the others returned to Urik. Rikus, a former slave in Urik, pursued the forces to the city walls. Emboldened by his victory he lead the army to assault the city itself. Although skilled, he was no match for Hamanu and the few survivors could not tell of his fate, only that they last saw him fighting the sorcerer-king.

Merric was able to arrange brief meetings with several key individuals of the city, attempting to tie up several loose ends. Quick Wenzer, one of the few survivors of the attack on Urik, confirmed the rumors of Rikus’ death at the hands of Hamanu. Wenzer was not actively trying to recruit and train new members for the Tyrian Guard. Master Sintha was pleased and surprised to hear of the upcoming shipment of obsidian from Kled and promised to send a unit of guards to escort the caravan safely to Tyr. Much of the economic turmoil within the city had settled following the war, but the iron mines had yet to fully open making the future of the city uncertain. Agis was pleased to see that the companions had survived their ordeals and was happy to report the the Cistern of Aravek was supplying the city with much needed water. He reported that the king, Tithian, was increasingly absent from city meetings and that the Council of Advisors was starting to push through laws without his approval. No one knews what was occupying Tithian’s time.

Morg went out of his way to contact Castri’s former friend Karlen and inform him of his treachery and loss. Karlen was sad to hear that his friend had succumbed to the temptations of power. He also mentioned that Castri’s mother had been by looking for him shortly after they had left the city. He promised to inform her of the loss of her son.

Kelvor spent some of that afternoon learning of the history of the Ziggurat and the fall of Kalak. He heard the stories of Kalak’s mad desire to complete the Ziggurat nearly bankrupting the city. He learned of the gladiatorial games held on the day of its completion where virtually the entire city attended and was subsequently locked in the area. He heard the stories of terrible magic drawing forth the life of the spectators. He heard how Sadira, Agis, Rikus and Tithian fought the sorcerer-king, killing him inside the Ziggurat after driving him from the arena.

Veiled Surprise
After meeting up at Free City Tattoo and exchanging what they had learned, the entire group left for the Veiled Alliance safe house and a meeting with Kivrin and Jarvix. Each of the heroes was hoping that their questions would be answered at this meeting. Kelvor was hoping that Kivrin might provide him with more knowledge regarding the Crown of Dust. Jarvix had promised to look into the strange Fey Engine that had been discovered in Elleandra’s home, the Land Within the WInds. Merric was hoping the the mysterious sword they had recovered might have some of its secrets revealed. Morg simply wanted his original axe back.

They arrived at the safe house a little early and while they were waiting for Kivrin and Jarvix, the pondered over the rumors of the upcoming levy to the Dragon. The annual event would be the first when the city would not pay the tribute of 1000 slaves since Kalak came to power several thousand years ago. There was a certain amount of fear regarding the consequences of not paying the levy and without a sorcerer-king to defend them, the threat of Urik was but a fond memory.

Jarvix and Kivrin became severely late, something that was quite out of the ordinary for a Veiled Alliance meeting. Just as the group was deciding to investigate, the wood and leather door burst forth and a group of humans and half-giants started to come into the room. Sounds of serious conflict could be heard once the magically warded doors were opened. Somehow the safe house had been compromised!

A vicious battle ensued with the companions temporarily trapped in the safe house. One of the humans made no secret of his defiling ways, withering the plants in the room with each spell he cast. Vinara made a mighty thrust with her spear, a burst of primal power trailing after it. The spear struck true, leaving a mortal wound in his chest. Focusing her mind through the obsidian orb, Elleandra unleashed a psychic assault on the half-giants, the intensity of the attack weakening their defenses.

Although the combat was intense, the battle-hardened heroes were able to easily dispatch their attackers. It was only after the fight was over did they realize that Merric was nowhere to be found. They recalled him moving about the room to attain an advantageous position near Vinara, but after that he disappeared. Vinara quickly realized that the seed from the Tree of Life was missing. They all concluded that Merric had betrayed them and taken the seed for his own purposes, whatever they might be.

As they exited the safe house, the group saw the extent of the conflict in the city. It looked as if the entire district was on fire with total chaos in the streets. Numerous other groups of marauders could be seen moving through the streets. There was no sign of Merric.

Village in the Sand

To Save the Village
When they returned from the catacombs, the party was met with a mixture of awe and respect. They had clearly demonstrated that they had the best interests of Kemalok as their concern. Lyanius agreed to lend their support in the hero’s attempt to overthrow the forces of Urik occupying the village of Kled. After their combat in the quarry, the forces of Urik were alerted to the heroes activities. They were now fortifying their position in the village.

Before they left, the corpse of Rkard, the last king of Kemalok presented Morg with his axe, a magnificent steel weapon. Morg felt the weight of the responsiblity of the gift more than the weight of the weapon itsefl. Rkard gave to Gwyn a tome written in an ancient dwarven language that none alive could translate. Her magic would allow her to decipher the ancient text, given enough time.

Morg and Vinara were each given their own group of dwarf soldiers for support and went out into the village, moving into the city towards the central well. After securing the well from a group of templars who appeared to be attempting to poison the water supply, a crashing sound from the north, the direction of the obsidian quarry, shook the village. They moved into the mine and prevented the Urikites from collapsing the entrance. Along the way they were able to recruit more dwarves, but also lost many in their fierce combat.

Kelvor, Elleandra and Gwyn took their dwarves and moved around the south edge of the city towards the detention area. They were forced to move slowly as they encountered heavy resistance from the Urikites and their halfling scouts. After picking up additional dwarves who were willing to fight, they stormed the detention area to find a great many of the dwarves had been slaughtered by their captors. In one cell they found the body of Chai-Tak, who had apparently been taken captive and executed.

The two groups eventually joined up outside the commanders tent and proceeded in. Having secured the important village locations and cut off all escape routes, they felt confident that the command would have not option but to surrender or fight.

Final Confrontation
Maetan LubarThe dwarf soldiers were left to prevent Urikite reinforcements from entering the battle. The heroes found the Urikite commander surrounded by a number of robed allies and a small group of halflings armed with viscous looking weapons. Introducing himself as Maetan Lubar, he offered a chance to surrender and be spared, which was declined. A deadly combat ensued with many dwarves sacrificing themselves too keep the Urikite troops away from the combat.

Maetan and his robed allies proved to be powerful masters of the Way, causing a great deal of harm to the heroes. His mental powers manifested in their minds taking form of numerous serpents all striking with deadly precision. The halflings used poisoned weapons whose slightest nick caused debilitating pain. The mindbenders used their powers to blind and confuse their enemies.

During the fight both Merric and Kelvor suffered nearly-fatal injuries but managed to not succumb to death. As powerful as he was, and with the assistance of an enchanted obsidian orb, Maetan eventually fell to the group’s attacks. WIth their leader defeated, the remaining Urik army scattered to the deserts. Although tempted to pursue, neither the dwarves nor their leaders were in any shape to make a pursuit across the desert.

Village in the Sand

The Crypts of Kemalok
Tasked with quieting the restless spirits of the ancient dwarves of Kemalok, the group cautiously entered the crypts. If successful they would convince the dwarves of their good intentions and would gain their support in overthrowing the forces of Urik. If they failed, they would likely become the dead themselves.

They found the crypt to be a large central chamber with four side chambers that were partially collapsed from the passage of time. The central chamber had a number of small graves along the walls and one large monument to the dwarves of ages past. All was covered in a thick layer of dust, sand and dirt, with much rubble strewn about.

As the group explored the ruins it became obvious that the monument had become damaged at some point in the past. Speculating that restoring the monument would help quiet the spirits of the dwarves the group began searching for the pieces that would restore it. Morg was able to shift rocks and debris from a large pile in one of the rooms and unearthed what appeared to be a religious icon. As he took it, the ground shifted and an undead dwarf emerged and began to move towards him. Kelvor intercepted and kept the creature occupied as best he could with only his shield.

Undead Dwarf

Morg was unable to determine how to fit the icon onto the monument, although Elleandra had little difficulties working it out. As the party worked to uncover additional pieces, more undead dwarves began to appear and it became apparent that those best suited to restoring the monument were also the best suited to fighting the increasing number of undead. Gwyn with her magic and VInara with her Heartwood Spear were the the most capable fighters, but the undead were ferocious and quickly began to wear down their strength.

Although Elleandra was badly wounded, she was able to slip past one of the undead to search for the final piece to the monument. Kelvor fell to the constant attacks of the undead, although Vinara was able to revive him with her healing magic. Eventually finding it, Elleandra raced back to finish the repairs on the monument with the last of strength. As she did so, the undead halted their attacks, gave a nod of acknowledgement and departed the tomb.

Alone on A Hill
Chai-Tak had been alone in the hills overlooking the village of Kled for many hours. He had at first enjoyed the wonderful meal that was the remains of his former opponents, a patrol of the forces of Urik, but soon the boredom set in and he missed his new clutch. He began to wander in the hills, careful to stay out of sight on the off chance that another patrol was nearby.

Without warning Chai-Tak nearly ran into a halfling wearing the red tunic of the army of Urik. Equally surprised to see a lone thri-kreen, both stood starring at each other for a moment. Suddenly the halfling launched a javelin at Chai-Tak, but it flew wide. Chai-Tak drew back on his greatbow and loosed an arrow, striking the halfling squarely in the shoulder. A fierce combat ensued with the halfling charging into melee and Chai-Tak attempting to keep some distance and use his bow.

Chai-Tak was able to land a number of hits on the halfling without suffering too many injuries himself. The toughness of the halfling was such that he appeared to ignore most of the wounds. Eventually the scout landed a series of blows with wicked daggers and another javelin, which was tipped with a poison. Chai-Tak was quickly worn down and eventually collapsed, his last sight was the halfling looming over him with a hungry look in his eyes.

Village in the Sand

An Occupied Village
After leaving the Lands Within the Wind, the group found themselves standing beneath an arch of golden sandstone, taking what shelter they could find from the white-hot sky. Below them was the dwarf village of Kled. The blazing heat was comforting to all in the group except for Elleandra, who was unaccustomed to such conditions.

Dwarves of KledThe central plaza of the village, with a jagged edge of curving salients that resembled tongues of flame, could be seen from their vantage point. The circle was paved with cobblestones of crimson sandstone and a small windmill with slowing spinning sails could be seen in the middle of a round plaza. With each rotation, the mill pumped a few gallons of cool, clear water from a deep well and dumped it into a covered cistern.

The residences of the village were arranged in a series of concentric circles enclosed by a single low wall of red brick. The huts themselves were made of rounded red flagstone walls. The buildings stood only about five feet high, and none were covered by any semblance of a roof. Their interiors were visible and stone tables, benches, beds and other furnishings could be seen.

Looking out of place were several huts constructed of wooden and cloth just outside the city. The banners of Urik and House Lubar could be seen fluttering in the afternoon breeze. A large number of soldiers, all wearing the red tunics of Urik were marching in and around the village. Kelvor estimated the there were about 200 soldiers occupying the village of about 400 dwarves.

The group quickly realized that there was virtually no chance of a successful assault on the village and so they decided to ambush a patrol and sneak into the city to attempt to contact, or start, a resistance to the occupation. After moving to a better location to ambush a patrol, they waited patiently under the hot sun until their prey appeared. Although they were hidden well, the patrol was alert and ready for trouble. A brief combat ensued between them and the forces of Urik, lead by a templar and his half-giant guards.

Gwyn dressed herself in the templar’s robes and Morg and Kelvor made makeshift outfits from the half-giant’s tunics. The rest of the group donned the garb of the soldiers and they all headed into the village. Because of Chai-Tak’s size and appearance it was decided that he remain behind. Kelvor was able to lead the party past several Urikite patrols. Morg used his gift with the Way to eavesdrop, attempting to find the dwarves they had freed from the Urikite templar on the way to the Cistern. Eventually they heard that Niva and Marok were being forced to work in the obsidian mines.

The Obsidian Mines
Still disguised as a templar and guards, the group made their way from the city into the foothills of the mountains towards the obsidian mine. They were briefly stopped along the way at a guard station, but Gwyn was able to bluff her way past the guards with very little difficulty. Once the mines were reached, more guards were convinced to fetch Niva and Marok for “interrogation” by the templar.

Taken out of sight, the two dwarves were relieved to see Morg and his companions and told of the occupation of Kled by a powerful psionicist named Maetan Lubar. Although the dwarves did not like the occupation, they were unwilling to cause trouble for the forces of Urik or do anything that would endanger their village. During this exchange an mine Overseer challenged Gwyn for taking away his workers during their shift. She put on her best act and succeeded in turning him away with an arrogant flip of her hair. Confused by this stubborness and illogical attitude the group started to make their own plans for attacking the forces of Urik. The dwarves were adamant that nothing endanger the safety of the village.

Just as the the group was about to leave the mines and head back towards the village to start trouble, the Overseer returned with a number of guards, prepared for combat. It appeared that Gwyn was not as convincing as she thought. Although the skilled forces of Urik fought well, they were little match for the seasoned veterans of the desert and the combat was over quickly. Niva and Marok were in awe of the the groups skill, especially that of Morg who they claimed fought like a warrior of legend.

The dwarves escorted the party out of the mine area and south of the village. Just as the sun was setting, they arrived at a hill of sand partially covering a section of ruins. What they saw at the hill was barely comprehensible – two dwarves wearing full plate armor made of steel and holding steel great axes were standing guard over two enormous bronze doors. With a few words the guards allowed the party to pass through the doors and into a cool tunnel.

The Ruins of Kemalok
The tunnel they moved down was lined with wide strips of animal hide, gray and cracked with age. The lining was supported with wooden beams to keep the sand from cascading in an burying the excavation. The corridor was so low that everyone had to practically crawl through it. Eventually the tunnel opened into a small chamber, where a makeshift camp had been set up.

A venerable dwarf emerged from a tent and greeted Niva and Marok, he was introduced as Lyanius, the village Urhonomus. The previous exploits of Morg and his companions were retold as well as a description of the fight with the mine overseer. Nodding throughout the telling Lyanius welcomed the group to the ancient dwarven city of Kemalok

“I found Kemalok 200 years ago when I happened upon a short section of parapet the wind had uncovered. I knew instantly that I had uncovered a dwarven city form the time of the ancients. The merlons were too short for your people, and the stonecraft was far beyond anything the paltry mason or our age can achieve."

“I spent the next century and a half excavating the ruins, first working alone and eventually coming to be a leader of an entire village focused upon eventual reestablishment of Kemalok.”

“Since the arrival of the Urikites, our work on Kemalok has nearly halted, robbing us of our focus. We cannot let them discover its location and plunder its treasures. The spirits of our ancestors have become restless with the presence of the Urikites, futher hindering our ability to make progress.”

“I believe that you may have the ability to calm these restless spirits and if you can, you will prove that you are truely heroes and we will fight the Urikites along side of you.”

Morg was especially unnerved by his comments, but the group agreed to follow the old dwarf. The tunnel opens up into a small chamber. The path they took lead to a small stone walkway that looked as though it had once been a bridge. Beside the causeway lay more than a dozen weapons of various materials. Several of them looked to be quite ancient, judging by the rot of their wooden handles or the yellowed brittleness of their bone blades. Lyanius commented often as they made their way through the excavation.

“The remains of those who entered here uninvited.”

On the other end of the bridge, there was an arched gateway in a magnificent stone wall. Inscribed into the stone were several strange runes which none could read. A few feet above the gateway hung a portcullis of rusty-red iron. It was supported by thick iron chains that disappeared through a set of openings into the gatehouses that flanked the pathway. The walls of these buildings were constructed of white marble, so finely cut and carefully fit together that even a sliver of torchlight could not have slipped between them. The group was impressed with the craftsmanship from another age.

“Beyond this gate, place your trust in the strength of your friendship, not the temper of your blade. You may go no further unless you leave your blades behind.”

The group deposited their daggers, axes and sword outside the gatehouse, except for Merric who refused to go unarmed. As the group moved through the archway, a chest-high figure steped from around the gatehouse corner. It wore a complete suit of black metal plate mail, trimmed at every joint in silver and gold. In its hand the figure held a battle-axe of polished steel with scintillating lights and its helm was capped by a jewel-studded crown of galeaming white metal. The only thing visible of a face was swaddled in green bandages, and the eyes burned with a glow as yellow as the afternoon sky.

“This is Rkard, the last of the dwarven kings. Show him you bear no weapons and he will let you pass.”

On the other side of the gatehouse, a confusing warren of tunnels branched off in a dozen directions, leading down what had once been the grand avenues and hidden alleys of a sizable metropolis. The greatest part of Kemalok still ay buried under mounds of sand, but enough of it showed to see that most of the buildings were constructed of granite block. The five-foot doors and narrow, chest-high windows left no doubt that this had indeed been a dwarven city.

Eventually they came to another bridge leading to a gate. This bridge was made of wooden planks, half-rotten and patched here and there with the wide, flat ribs of a mekillot. An immense set of iron doors blocked further passage once the bridge had been crossed. Lyanius pushed open easily, as much a testament to his strength as the engineering. A short tunnel lined with chest-high arrow loops leads to a series of vaults, revealing the outer bailey of a once great castle.

Passing through this area, the party was able to peer into what had been the shops and homes of the castle’s smiths, tanners, fletchers, armorers and dozens of other craftsmen. Their tools, made mostly from steel and iron, still hung in the racks where they had been neatly stored thousands of years ago. The amount of metal the party saw was staggering and beyond anything they had ever seen, or dreamed.

Moving through another gate and into the inner bailey, they arrived at a courtyard before a square keep of white marble. The keep rose high overhead and the roof was lost in the sand overhead. At each corner of the keep stood a round tower, its arrow loops commanding much of the courtyard below.

“The Tower of Buryen, home to the dwarven kings for 3000 years.”

On each side of the entrance foyer sat a pair of stone benches, one sized for the short legs of the dwarves and one for the longer legs of humans. In the corners stood full suits of dwarven plate mail, the shaft of a double-bladed battle-axe gripped in the armor’s gauntlets. Both the armor and the weapons were made of polished steel, gleaming as brilliantly as the day they had been forged.

Vinara noticed that there was no sign of life in the suits of armor and that they were much too small for a dwarf. Although they were about the right height, they were far from broad enough for the massive shoulders and bulging limbs typical of the dwarven race.

“Our ancestors were not as robust as we are today. They even had some hair.”

The next area they moved through was a huge hallway running the perimeter of the keep. The floor was arranged in a pattern of polished black and white squares. At even spaces along the walls, tall white columns supported the vaulted ceiling above. Between each set of arches was a mural painted directly onto the wall.

The first painting before them portrayed a dwarf dressed in a full suit of golden plate armor, a huge warclub cradled in his arms. From beneath his golden crown cascaded a huge mop of unruly hair that hung well past his shoulders. That was not the “worst” of it, either. His face was lost beneath a thick beard that started just below his eyes and tumbled in a tangled mass clear down to his belly. The party was shocked as such a depiction of a dwarf.

“Come along! I didn’t bring you hear to mock my ancestors.”

Dwarf of the Green AgeThe other murals in the hallway portrayed grossly bearded dwarves as well. The paintings usually depicted dwarves standing in the somber halls of dimly lit keeps or in the dark chambers of some vast cave. The last mural in line depicted the guardian of the city, King Rkard. Like the figure that met them at the city gate, the dwarf in the painting had golden-yellow eyes and wore black plate mail trimmed in silver and gold. His helm was crowned by a jewel-studded crown of strange white metal. In his hands, the picture king even held a battle-axe identical to the one carried by the gate-guardian. Behind Rkard, the ground sloped down a gentle hill blanketed by the green stalks and red blossoms of some broad-leafed plant. At the bottom of the slope, a wide ribbon of blue water meandered through a series of lush meadows. In the fields grew food crops of every imaginable color and shape. In the far background of the painting, the river finally disappeared into a forest of billowing trees ranging in color from amber to russet to maroon. Behind this timberland rose a mountain range, its peaks and high slopes strangely covered with white.

“Dwarven artists painted only what they saw.”

Finally the group reached a pair of massive wooden doors so infested with dry rot that it was surprising they still hung on their hinges. Despite the deterioration of the doors, the strange animals carved into each one remained handsome and distinct. The snarling beasts resembled bears, save that, instead of the articulated shells armoring the creatures, these were covered with nothing more protective than a thick mat of long fur.

“Beyond these doors lie the crypts of Kemalok. Here the spirits of our ancestors are unquiet. Go forth and put their souls at ease. If you convince them, then you shall have earned our help against the forces of Urik, and proven that you are heroes.”

The Garden of Graves

The Double Doors
The enormous set of double doors stood in front of the group as they took a few minutes to recover from their battle. The combat and the subsequent spell from Vinara to bring Merric back from the Gray had exhausted the party and their rest only helped a little.

Gwyn and Elleandra were quite sure that the doors were magically reinforced, making any attempt to physically open them futile. They found nothing but rubble and the remains of their foes in room after a thorough search. Merric braved getting close to the doors to examine the lock, fearful of being shocked as they saw the man depicted in the tapestry. His fears came true as he was hit by a blast of lightning from the doors. Although in pain, he finished his examination of the lock before backing away from the door.

Remembering the poem the group attempted to not follow their “common sense” in different attempts to open the door. Gwyn thought to throw a rock at the door, but was so badly hurt that she wanted someone else to throw it. None of these solutions caused the doors to open and Kelvor was badly injured in the process. Seeing no other option, the group decided to head back to the game room and search the outside for any clues or for the key itself.

Pool Chamber
Outside the main structure, there were many ruined mausoleums and other structures. The group split up and began searching for anything that might help them bypass the doors. An hour of searching revealed no signs of a key or anything else of interest in the graveyard. Only one other building was found to be mostly intact with small amounts of water issuing forth. The group ventured inside, wary of trouble.

The walls within the chamber were covered in the same peculiar runes. A stone-rimmed pool was burbling at one end, with water overflowing. The overflowing water ran down the side and trickled in various rivulets across the floor. Instead of randomly flowing through the rough floor, the water made twisting, snaky patterns that appeared to have the same eldritch designs.

Water Serpent Vinara approached the pool, intending to take a drink (having quite enough of the riddles in this place), but she noticed a pale metal key laying at the base of the pool. It was slightly distorted by ripples in the water. Vinara was able to see past the surface distortions and grab the key. As she did the rippling in the water intensified and a strange watery serpent formed and lashed out at her. She deflected the attack with her spear. Morg rushed in slashing it with his axe and disrupting the serpent. A brief combat ensued with a constantly appearing water serpent. Each successful strike on the entity caused it to disappear. Only Morg was struck by the serpent and when he was, he disappeared from the room.

The party discovered that the water serpents range was limited and when Vinara left the building with the key, the serpent ceased its attack. About the time that the party returned to the main building, Morg rejoined them, drenched. He told the group that he had been transported to a fast moving river and was barely able to stop himself before plummeting over the edge to a 60 foot fall. The group re-entered the structure and quickly went to the double doors. Vinara walked up to the door and tried the key, only to find that it didn’t fit. She quickly backed away as the lightning from the doors blasted at the floor behind her feet.

Frustrated by another set back, the party was unsure of what to do. Elleandra suggested they try putting the key into the tapestry and so the group moved back to the tapestry. With the key in hand, it was obvious that the key depicted in the tapestry was the same one that was in their hand. They also realized that the lock on the door in the tapestry was too large. Although the door and the figures beside it were almost life-sized, the lock was fully life-sized. Vinara inserted the key into the lock on the tapestry and heard an echoing click as the key made contact with the fabric lock.

There was no visible change in the room or in the tapestry, the sound obviously coming from some place else. They returned to find the double doors opened, revealing another hallway. They lit their torches and proceeded down a twisting passageway.

The Fey Engine
The chamber ahead of the group was clearly the heart of some sort of eldritch design. Runes such as those that had been seen elsewhere in the complex spiral along the walls and floor in various intertwining patterns, all finally culminating in the precise center of the room. An intricate contraption of iron rods and wooden shafts, crossing and crisscrossing each other stood at that point. At each intersection, a rune could be seen on wood and metal, and several of the larger joints were adorned with gemstones. At its top, the device came to a pyramidal peak, with prongs holding a gleaming emerald.

Although Gwyn and Vinara had no doubt that the device was the source of the draining energy they had all been feeling and experiencing, neither had any idea how the device functioned. It was magic far beyond their abilities. One thing was certain, the device, although powerful, was likely to be quite fragile. Kelvor stepped forward and swung a mighty blow with his scimitar.

A sudden flash of energy erupted from the emerald, nearly blinding the party with the intensity. The engine began to shatter and collapse in upon itself as the iron bars began to rust and gemstones turned to dust as they fell to the group. From an unimaginable distance, they heard what sounded like a shriek of frustrated rage, cut off in mid breath.

Admist the wreckage of the engine, Vinara located several precious gemstones that survived the destruction. In addition, one piece of the engine that was apparently obscured by the wood and iron survived. The piece appeared to be a staff made of twisted strands of smoky black glass, but it was obviously harder than the iron supports. Vinara gave the staff to Gwyn who felt strengthened by the shadowy energy the staff infused her with.

Morg took all of the iron bars that appeared to be mostly intact from the wreckage and the group headed back out of the complex. As they did so, they noted that the structure appeared to be decaying rapidly – the remaining tapestries were fading, the game room was in disarray with the boards and pieces broken and lying on the ground.

A Well-Deserved Rest
The group made camp near the pool and enjoyed an uneventful evening with Morg and Kelvor on watch. The following morning they met Paelias along the trail and exchanged news of their adventures. Paelias confirmed that the destruction of the engine had halted the destruction of the land and appeared to be returning the creatures to their normal temperaments. He invited all of the group to join him in the nearby village of Dempsy before returning them to Athas.

At the village they restocked their supplies of food and water and were able to take some time to pursue some individual activities. Although not all had much that was acceptable currency in Dempsy, they were able to secure enough provisions to make the passage to Kled. Kelvor asked Paelias if he had any advice or knowledge regarding the crown. Unfortunately, the only assistance that Paelias could provide was generalities about the difficulty in destroying powerful magic artifacts. Morg and Merric spent some actual gold coins on buying a metal weapons.

Gwyn and Vinara tended to the recovery of Elleandra, who was still under the effects of the Crone Statue. Paelias provided Gwyn with instruction on a power ritual that could remove her affliction. With Vinara’s assistance, Gwyn was able to complete the ritual and restored Elleandra to her original health, although it took her a bit of time to recover fully from the ordeal. Gwyn’s companions had not realized how powerful she was becoming in her magic studies and were impressed.

The Village of Kled
Eventually the group decided that it was time for them leave the Lands Within the Wind and to return to Athas so they could continue their quest to free the dwarves of Kled. Elleandra decided to join them, feeling that the connection she felt to Vinara, the spear and the seed was no mere coincidence. Paelias, with the assistance of Gwyn and Elleandra was able to send them back to Athas much closer to Kled then they had origianlly thought.

They found themselves on a large hill overlooking the village of Kled. None had been to it before and were shocked to see that the squat buildings had no roofs and that the entire town was arranged in a series of concentric circles. Clearly visible, even from the hill, were the banners of Urik – a golden lion walking like a man on a red background. Also visible were green banners with a red emblem of a two-headed snake. Kelvor recognized those as the crest of House Lubar.

The Garden of Graves

The Path of Broken Stones
After the long fight against the fey creatures, the party decided to take a few hours near the pond to recover their strength. Instead, the found that something was draining their energy while they tried to rest. Gwyn and the others recognized this as a tell-tale sign of defiling magic. Unwilling to wait longer, the group continued on through the thick woods and waving grasses, seemingly without a definite directions.

Finally the trees began to thin somewhat and they spotted an enormous ridge of dark stone looming ahead. The sounds of rushing water could be heard in the distance, but the dense trees prevented them from finding the source. From where they stood, a narrow tunnel could be seen piercing the dark-hued rock. Some writing was chiseled into the stone, a form of Elven that only Elleandra was able to translate.

Like lustful swain or panicked child
Who beg another’s gentle hand,
The fool delves heedless through the wild.
The wise are not so soon beguiled.

Let art and image point the way,
Abandon all you think you know,
For common sense leads fool astray
The key is simply this: Obey.

The wise must ever strategize;
They never play, unless to win.
They see the harm in comfort’s lies,
And seek to open weary eyes.

You’ve fought your way, you’ve risked demise,
To view the ivy heart within.
Now as the soul within you dies,
This knowledge is your only prize:
You’d never have come, were you truly wise.

Although they were unsure of the true meaning of the poem, they saw no other way to get to the Garden of Graves and so entered the tunnel.

The Cave of Entry
The adventurers found themselves in a simple cavern in the rock cliff that looked as though it hadn’t been used in some time. Not all of the stone was natural, however. A trio of statues stood along the far wall, forming a portion of the wall. Each statue depicted a humanoid female clad in rags and tatters with her right hand out, palm up, as though expecting to receive some gift. The figure on the left was a young female, her beauty apparent even given the poor condition of the stone. The center figure was older, her face kind and matronly. The figure on the right was stooped with age, her face a maze of lines and wrinkles.

Three Statues

Gwyn and Elleandra could sense powerful magic within the cavern, coming both from beyond the carved figures, and from the statues themselves. The magic coming from the statues was not the powerful defiling energy they had been feeling, that appeared to be coming from beyond the cave. The group was unsure on how they could get past the statues, knowing that it was some type of puzzle.

They decided and Elleandra placed a small number of gold coins in the palm of the middle statue. They disappeared but the crone statute moved to attack, placing her hand of Elleandra who began to wither and age. The group battled the animated crone statue, attempting to appease it with coins, but not being successful. Kelvor too suffered the touch of the crone statue, but was able to overcome its withering magic.

Once the statue was battered down, it reformed and continued to block their way. Eventually the group decided that the gift should go to the crone statue and when Kelvor placed a few gems into her open palm, they disappeared and the statues moved aside, allowing them access to the the exit from the cave.

Twisting Passages
As they emerged from the passage, they found themselves at a crossroad. A path lead to the left around the base of the cliff and it appeared that their other option was to make a climb up the 60 foot cliff face to reach the top. They could not see the top of the rocky cliff, but felt that the climb might be too dangerous, especially given the condition of Elleandra.

The path lead to a series of old tunnels that cut their way into the living rock of the cliff. These tunnels were obviously quite old, and appeared to be unused. They group explored the tunnels for a few hours, making note of many dead ends and finding no other exit than the entrance they used. Just as they were about to give up and attempt the treacherous ascent, Vinara noticed that one of the dead ends had as small amount of light coming from above and with Merric’s help a secret door was located which lead to a narrow staircase leading upwards.

Game Room
They emerged from a trap door into a room that appeared out of place. The chamber before them was luxurious, sporting a rich carpet, a gleaming chandelier in the cent of the ceiling, and five large tables each with a haphazard collection of dice, cards and gaming pieces. Every surface of the floors, walls and ceilings were covered in carved eldritch runes. There were two sets of massive double doors providing exits from the room.

As the room and tables were explored, each felt a compulsion to sit and play one of the games. Heeding the suggestion of the poem, none resisted this compulsion. Although none had ever played these games before, they knew the rules once they sat at the table and began to play against their unseen opponents. Merric and Chai-Tak had no game to play and each took up a position near one of the doors.

Vinara played a card game whereby the winner is determined by the ranks and combinations of their cards, some of which remain hidden until the end of the game. For her game, Gwyn moved around a game board buying or trading properties, developing them, and collecting rent from their opponents, the ultimate goal being to drive them into bankruptcy. Morg played a comparing card game against a dealer where a specific number was reached but not exceeded. Elleandra played a game on a board depicting a political map of a fictional land where the primary object of the game was to occupy every territory on the board and in so doing, eliminate all other players. In Kelvor’s game, he assumed the role of a settler, attempting to build and develop holdings while trading and acquiring resources.

Each person eventually won their games, however, each player suffered as mistakes were made, the game punishing them. However, as each game was overcome, one of the doors leading out of the room opened slightly. With the last game completed, the door opened all the way, revealing a passageway headed deeper into the building. The other door easily opened to the outside, where the graveyard could be seen.

Chamber of Tapestries
The group followed the interior hallway, which was also covered with the same strange runes. They found themselves in a chamber adorned with about a dozen tapestries. One had an image of fey dancing in a ring of toadstools as thunderclouds gather overhead and another showed a young man weeping over the corpse of a murdered maiden in a glade.

One tapestry against the western wall shows an almost life-sized double door, bounded in iron and silver and covered in arcane runes. A figure clad in black is being hurled back from the door by a bolt of lightning, with obvious lock picks flying from his fingers. His companion, who is dressed in chainmail, is leaning forward as though to stop him. The second figure is holding a key in his open hand. It’s the only tapestry that shows an indoor scene.

The room had no obvious exit, but behind one of the tapestries was a hidden door. The door opened easily enough and the group proceeded on. The power of the magic growing steadily stronger as they moved through the rune-etched hallway.

Wild at Heart
A much larger chamber opened before the group when they exited the hallway. A raised dais on one side had a large pile of stones resting atop it. It looked to be a cairn, but if so, it was the resting place of something truly enormous. Three smaller cairns lay clustered on the floor on the far side of the room. Like the other rooms in this structure, the walls and floors of the chamber were covered in runes. Vines and other plants could be seen growing throughout this room as many cracks and holes in the walls and ceiling allowed ample sunlight through.

Vinara and the others began to examine the contents of this room. It was clear that the cairn stones didn’t belong here, as they appeared to have once lain outside. On the opposite side of the room from where they entered, a large set of double doors, similar to the ones depicted in the tapestry, were closed. These enormous double doors were covered in runes and bound in iron and silver.

During their examination of the room, one of the stone coffins was opened, causing a great disturbance. From the raised dais, the large pile of cairn stones began to move and a leathery shell of a giant emerged from beneath them. The smaller piles also shifted, revealing three humanoid figures dressed in rags and decaying armor. From all around, the vines began to shift and twist on their own as a massive plant emerged from the rubble.

Surrounded and already weakened by their encounter with the crone and the combat was brutal. Both Gwyn and Vinara were knocked unconscious at the same time and only the quick actions of Elleandra allowed them to survive. Morg and Kelvor both suffered as the giant drained their vitality to feed its own. Merric was slain by a combination of the plants poisonous vines and the zombie knights attacks. Eventually the giant was over powered and the other opponents finished off.

The group took a brief rest and Vinara used her magic to bring Merric back from death, although the ritual sapped some of the last reserves from her companions…

The Garden of Graves

Journey to Kled
After recovering from their ordeal in Slither, the group headed away from the wreckage, careful to avoid any remnants of Yarnath’s forces. The terrain they took was very treacherous, but the group was accustomed to such difficulties and had little trouble. Gwyn and Kelvor were able to locate water but discovered too late that it was unfit for drinking. Morg’s endurance and Vinara’s skill at avoiding the natural predators allowed them to press on without further difficulty.

During the first night on their journey to resupply at the Silver Spring Oasis the party was awoken to sounds of a struggle and found Merric and Chai-Tak facing off against each other. If that wasn’t bad enough, Kelvor was missing with no signs indicating where he went. The rest of the group was paralyzed with indecision and did nothing until Merric lunged at Chai-Tak who fired his bow. The arrow went wild and Merric struck true with his sword. Gwyn and Morg stepped in to end the scuffle. Chai-Tak accused Merric of attempting to steal the Seed and Merric accused Chai-Tak of attempting to poison him.

The two were separated and Vinara took the Seed herself. The group waited several hours for Kelvor who suddenly appeared, unnoticed by the others. He claimed to have been transported to the Lands Within the Wind where he traveled through a forest, across a river and battle a nightmare creature with a beautiful woman and a noble elf. Dismissing his tale as a dream brought on by the tainted water, the group finally resumed their journey to the Oasis.

Another day of hot and dusty travel brought them out of the wastes and to the gates of the Silver Spring Oasis. It had only been a week since they left it felt like it had been much longer. At the gate the hailed the guards and asked for entrance. After a long pause the guard dismissed them, saying they were not welcome at the Oasis. After a few arguments two things became clear: they were not going to be allowed entrance into the compound and that their actions with their House Tsalaxa captive had come back to haunt them.

Ashamed and dangerously low on supplies, they continued on the road towards Tyr.

Fey Crossing
The first night away from the Oasis the party fell asleep, despite their intention to keep a watch. They all awoke with a sudden feeling that they were falling. The feeling lasted only a moment and then they found themselves standing on a narrow trail running through thick grass. The air was heavy with the scent of greenery and there were large trees looming over the group. Vines and heavy foliage was strung between them and the air was cool and damp. Everything seemed abnormally clear: Colors were brighter, sounds were sharper, and objects – for lack of any better way of thinking about it – were more real.

The consensus was that they were within the Land Within the Wind, but how they got there was unknown to any of them. Kelvor was relieved that he was not going mad; that it appeared far more likely that his dream had been real. Gwyn was overwhelmed with the raw magic of the place.

As they were still getting adjusted to their new surroundings, they noticed two figures walking down the road towards them. The group prepared for trouble, but Kelvor recognized them as the individuals he had previously met here – Paelias and Elleandra. When the two were close, Paelias greeted Kelvor and told him of the continued growing evil in these lands. He had hoped that the malignant power was isolated to the dream portal, but it now appeared to only be a symptom of a larger issue. He and Elleandra had tracked down a possible source of the corruption to an ancient site known as the Garden of Graves.

Paelias explained that he believed that if the corruption of this realm were not stopped it might have drastic consequences for Athas. The group, especially Morg, was less than enthusiastic about dealing with another set of problems. Somewhat taken aback, Paelias offered Morg a small purse filled with coins as a reward for his assistance. Morg, and the othera accepted. Paelias was needed elsewhere and did not accompany them, but the group was joined by Elleandra who knew the way to the Garden.

Woodland Woes
With Elleandra guiding them, the party made good time towards the Garden. After several hours the trail they were following came upon a clearing with a crystal clear pond of water. Around the pond was a small group of humans a couple men and a woman and two small children. With them was a large white beast with a single horn and some type of hairy tail – nothing the adventurers had every heard of before. Although suspicious, there was no immediate danger so the group approached the pond and was greeted warmly by the woman.

The woman told her tale of woe: her group were refugees from a nearby village that had been attacked by creatures she called goblins. Although the descriptions were strange to everyone be Elleandra, the scenario was all too familiar – a marauding band of raiders. As the conversation was made and the cool water was had by all, Merric began to become uneasy with the situation, sensing something wasn’t right. Gwyn detected some type of magic at work, but it was Elleandra (who was far more familiar with this world) who was able to break the illusion.
Bog Hag
The two children shrank and turned into small furry creatures with antlers on their heads. The two men grew into monstrous green brutes with clubs and leathery skin. The animal remained much the same, but the pure white coloration turned to dark ebony and the horn turned a sinister red. The woman became wrinkled and purplish in color with with wild hair and tattered clothes. Without another word, the transformed creatures rushed to attack.

The unusual nature of the creatures proved to be quite a challenge to the group during the combat. When the creatures were thought to be killed, the reanimated and continued to attack for a brief period of time. This was likely another side effect of the corruption in the area. The brutes took a liking to Gwyn and knocked her out twice during the combat. They appeared to possess an ability to regenerate naturally and only Kelvor’s torch put them down for good. The small furred creatures proved exceptionally difficult to defeat and they had vicious teeth that tore into Kelvor’s neck. The horned creature’s mere presence aided its allies and it healed the woman when she was near death.

Although the group didn’t work together exceptionally well, they were able to defeat the strange creatures. Elleandra’s magic was able to distract and incapacitate many of the foes. Gwyn’s magic was a combination of misdirection with her Veiled Alliance training and powerful sorcery. Vinara was able to keep the party alive and she and bear focued on the woman and the horned animal. Kelvor moved all over the fight attempting to keep control. Morg engaged the woman and attempted to keep the small animals in check. In the end they all collapsed near the pond, in much need of a rest.