Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

The City that Waits

City Entrance
The party cautiously moved up the walkway but before they had gone very far, the encountered a patrol of spectral warriors. The patrol appeared to be random but the party wanted no witnesses to their entrance into the city. A brief combat ensued and the spectral warriors were defeated without much trouble. Gwyn, the only member of the group that had been in Moil before, directed them as best she could. At the first intersection they turned right and headed towards a tall spire.

Towers of Moil

The Tower of Portals
An arched opening provided access into the side of the spire. Above the archway there was a line of symbols partially obscured by the ubiquitous ice. This tower was hollow and the spread of the darkness above was matched by the mystery of the black depths below. The bridge arched out from their position at the tower’s periphery toward the wide central support shaft for the tower. The bridges connected to this central walkway formed a network above and below.

Gwyn recognized this as her arrival point on her last visit to the city. Having a starting point, she guessed that the portal they took out of the city to the Tomb of Shadows would be in the eastern portion of the city. The layout of the rest of the city was unknown to her.

They explored the tower and found mostly empty rooms. The brief glimpses of the city showed movement of groups of undead moving around. To their horror, they even saw the Tortured Vestige on one of the bridges, but it appeared to be moving away.

The Tower of Webs
The bridge terminated on the eastern side of a silent spire. An undecorated arch allows entry into what appears to be another hollow tower. However, there is an unmistakable, greenish fluorescence shining up from below, highlighting the edges of the arch with a sickly hue. Gossamer strands of gleaming emerald wove impossibly delicate designs against the dark. Space was tight between the strands, the largest openings in the mass were no more than 5 feet wide. There was nowhere to stand except upon the glittering weblines themselves. The pale light of the webs seems to chill rather than warm; heat is only a fading memory.

Delen sent one of his skeleton servants climbing down to investigate and it found no danger in the weblines, but also nothing of interest. Delen called it back before it was too far out of his sight. Although there was some debate about trying to burn down the webbing, the group decided, at Banoc’s insistence, that it was best to leave them alone and they moved back and down another bridge.

The Shattered Tower
Time or some more destructive force had shattered most of this cyclopean tower of stone. Only a few shards of stone stood where walls once were. The entire structure appeared to be on the verge of collapse, but it was somehow still standing. Numerous catwalks provide access to what remained of each floor. The party explored this tower from top to bottom and only encountered a work crew of skeletons on the bottom floor. They avoided a confrontation and moved on to a connected tower.

The Weak Tower
This structure of stone and steel had not held up to the stress of thousands of years in the Gray. All of the metal appeared to be heavily corroded and nearly every stone was fractured in numerous places. The purpose of this tower appeared lost to time. As they explored this tower, they encountered strange creatures that appeared to be voids in space. They were susceptible to magic and Gwyn, Delen and Banoc had little trouble vanquishing them.

In the bottom of the tower they discovered a gathering of spirits that had luminous, wispy forms with wild hair that wreathed their feminine features. Delen was enamored with them and approached them while the rest hung back unsure about the wisdom of the plan. Delen conversed with them in a strange language that no others understood. Without warning they approached him and started wailing. So terrible were the cries that Way-lynn ran in fright with Jax and Daqiq chasing after him. Delen fared far worse, turning an ashen white and collapsing to the ground.

Overcome by some emotion, Gwyn moved into the room, the spectral women started to approach her and then stopped and simply stared. Gwyn dragged Delen from the room and Banoc stabilized and cured him as best he could. The two groups met back up and decided they needed time to rest and regain their strength. They found a secluded area of the tower and hoped that they would not be noticed.

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The City that Waits

New Directions
They debated on where to go next while sitting in the strange graveyard. Gwyn was very interested in pursuing the clues about Yarnath as was Banoc. Delen and Daqiq were more interested in the city of Moil which they could still see off in the distance. Way-lynn and Jax were somewhat indifferent to their travel plans, although the Gray made Jax very uncomfortable and she was eager to get out as quickly as possible.

Eventually they reached a consensus and started their journey towards Moil. Delen convinced the others that it would be in the city where they had the best chance to find equipment (which they were sorely in need of) as well as information and a possible way back to Athas.

Gwyn gathered what she could from the graves – a few daggers and a fallen branch from a tree. The others did their best as well to find equipment, although most of the objects in the graveyard had suffered the ravages of time and had little value. Delen used his magic to animate two of the skeletons, which drew mixed reactions from his companions. None challenged him too much, likely as a practical conceit that extra hands would be helpful, regardless of how they were obtained.

Heading towards the City that Waits, Daqiq lead the way, hoping that his keen eyes would be sufficient to see any danger before it was too late. The strange landscape and general disorientation they all felt slowed their progress somewhat, but the city became ever closer as they moved south towards their goal.

Daqiq was altered to something unusual when he spied a strange green glow off to the side. Leaving a signal for the others, he veered off the rough trail and headed towards a structure that may have once been a temple of some kind. It lay mostly in ruins, but intact enough to be a shelter. Daqiq noticed a very large number of grave stones surrounding it. Peering through the windows, he spied what appeared to be a human spellcaster performing some ritual in a circle of runes carved into the building’s floor.

When Delen arrived, he decided to confront the spellcaster while the others prepared for battle in case the individual was hostile. As Delen entered the structure, he could tell that the ritual was necromantic in nature and it didn’t take him long to decide that it would be best if the spell was not completed. He attempted to counter the magic of the necromancer but was unable to do so before the spell was complete. The floor of the building cracked and giant skeleton arose from the ground slashing with giant rusted swords. Outside a small army of skeletons broke from the ground and started to engage the party.

Daqiq found an advantageous position on the roof and started to attack the skeletons, while Banoc used the power of his elemental patrons to annihilate many of the lesser skeletons. The Necromancer proved a most challenging foe as he used his magic to simultaneously harm his foes and heal the wounds that were inflicted upon him. Delen used his magic, amplified by as he recklessly channeled the energy from the Gray to power his spells.

Eventually the necromancer and skeletons were defeated and the party, while exhausted, was still alive. They decided to rest in the building and tend to their wounds before continuing towards Moil.

The Gray Goes Ever On
Delen recovered a priceless treasure off of the necromancer – a spellbook. Although he couldn’t read the language, he greatly desired to unlock its mysteries. Jax offered to help him decipher the writing as they continued their travels. That night Delen had strange visions and when he awoke his eyes burned at the intensity of light, a light that only he could see. He wrapped his eyes to diminish the effect. As he thumbed through the spellbook, he found that he could read the writing and began to decipher the spells contained within its fleshy covers.

Although curious about the change they had come over Delen, his companions decided to once again not press the issue. Daqiq lead the way towards Moil and for the next two days they traveled south, the city growing every closer. Eventually they reached their destination. Along the way Delen animated additional skeleton servants, the previous ones having been destroyed in the battle with the necromancer.

Moil

A vast roof of roiling black clouds hung above them, periodically limned with silent electrical discharges on unimaginable magnitude. Spread out below this ominous skyscape was a city of slender towers thrusting up form an impenetrable abyss of darkness below. The tower bases were hidden in absolute blackness, almost as if they were erected upon the darkness itself. The heights of the spires were sleek and enigmatic constructions of stone and metal, repeated illuminated the actinic lightning play above. Thin spans and fragile bridges connected many of the slender towers at various levels in a maze-like array. A large stone archway, covered in a thin layer of hoarfrost provided access to the network of bridges.

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Gray Graveyard

A New Beginning
Gwyn, Delen and Way-lynn found themselves in a formless gray void, devoid of any substance or sense of direction. They could see each other, barely, and nothing beyond the few feet that separated them from each other. There was no sign of Kira, Elleandra, Jarvix or Iorskan. Nor was there any sign of their gear, for each of the three appeared to be clad in nothing more than tattered burial rags. None had any idea what was happening, but each remembered their deaths at the hand of Nibenay.

After some indeterminate amount of time, a collection of voices could be heard by each of them, although there was no source of the voices. The voices all said the same thing, but the experience was somewhat overwhelming and did nothing to put them at ease.

The fel-touched’s call for aid is answered and the debt is repaid. Your fate is yours to make as is your companions.

The voices did not speak again, but they all assumed it was the enigmatic Zwuun that Jarvix had called to during the final fight. They knew only a bit more than the did before and had more questions regarding their own circumstances and the fate of their companions.

More time passed, but none could say how much. Shapes began to materialize out of the gray color surrounding them. Indistinct at first, they slowly took on defined shapes. Soon ground beneath them was visible and they found themselves in a vast graveyard. Unlike the Garden of Graves which Gwyn had encountered in the Lands Within the Wind, this was dark and foreboding, with no hint of underlying nature. In the distance flashes of lightning illuminated a city, and Gwyn could see the unmistakable spires of Moil.

The ever practical Delen began to search the graves and surrounding areas for spell components, fearful to be without his magic. The Gray was the source of his power, and he could feel the energy flowing into him. Gwyn and Way-lynn were more concerned about their missing friends and how to get out of this place and thought Delen to be a bit more odd than usual.

In the distance they saw several shapes appears out of the darkness….

The Graveyard

New Friends
The intense heat closing about the trio from Balic nearly prevented them from taking a breath. Eventually it subsided and was replaced with cooler air that smelled faintly of death. The found themselves in strange surroundings; dark and foreboding. All around them were gravestones, tombs and crypts similar, yet unlike those of Athas. The distant skyline was illuminated with flashes of lightning that revealed a strange city of tall towers and bridges.

Closer at had, just at the edge of their vision, they could see another group of three wandering around near a large ruined building. As they approached them, the figures in the distance appeared wrapped in burial shrouds and they thought it was some form of undead. As they moved closer, ready for a fight, Jax recognized the elf as none other than Gwyn, the adventurer that she had been seeking for many weeks.

There was some underlying suspicion as the trow groups got to know each other, but that quickly passed as they formulated a plan to try and escape the Gray. Their plans were interrupted when a large group of undead, lead by a grave golem literally crashed through their gathering. The foul creatures were set on adding to their numbers and attacked immediately.

The trio from Balic was better equipped than the recently deceased, but Delen’s magic was amplified by his presence in the Gray and was more potent than usual. Banoc elemental power was very effective and the lesser undead were easily defeated, but the golem proved more tougher as it was invulnerable to non-magical attacks. Daqiq in particular found his contribution was in creating a distraction to aid his allies. However, when all the attacks were concentrated on it, it didn’t take long for it to crumble back into stones.

With the immediate danger out of the way, they tended to their wounds and continued the discussion of where to go from here. Things became a little more complicated when they noticed the undead were branded with a snake skull, a brand that Gwyn recognized as the mark of Yarnath. Gwyn believed Yarnath to have been destroyed on Athas months ago. Gwyn was the only one who had been to Moil and most thought that there would be information or a possible way to return to Athas. During their conversations, Gwyn also learned that her mother, Marisol, was alive and ruling the shadow version of Kalidnay.

Their discussions lasted a long time…

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City of Sails

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.

Kalidnay
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.

Kalidnay

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.

The Gray
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…

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Marauders of Nibenay

The Reckoning
Nibenay sat motionless on his throne and listened carefully as Siemhouk told him of the party’s actions during the cataclysm. Everyone attempted to overhear what she was saying, and although they couldn’t catch it all, she appeared to be favorably about them. When she finished, the towering dragon king tilted his head, looking down at the group before him.

It would appear that you have some explaining to do.

Nibenay stares each of the heroes in turn. Only Kira, Jarvix and Iorskan could hold his gaze. The sorcerer-king was silent for a few moments, but none dared to speak. After a few moments Nibenay spoke…

I foresaw that a time of great change was coming. I was shown a time in which the internal struggles of the city were diminished. I assumed that this meant the destruction of my enemies and the cleansing of the rebels from my city. I see now that I was wrong. Throughout the city, I sense great suffering and torment. Truly, this is the darkest day of my long reign.

Gwyn spoke, casting the blame for the cataclysm on Nibenay, to which he barely responded with a snort of disbelief. He then spoke with almost a hint of joy and hope in his voice.

I sense, however, that it is also one of the brightest. Throughout Nibenay, people who should be battling each other worked together to heal the wounded and rebuild that which has been destroyed. Perhaps this is the way of the future.

When he spoke again, there was sadness in his voice and a hint of anger.

Then again, perhaps it is not. I have seen you and I have seen your actions. You who claim to want to bring about a new Green Age, yet cause scant more than chaos by overthrowing the rightful rulers of the cities. I am reminded of the true way of the world.

The anger in his voice, rising with each word, could now be heard and almost felt.

You meddle in events that are beyond you in every way and you seek to undo a history that you know nothing about. You try to inflict your will upon the world without knowledge of, or regard for, the consequences. You are but children at play.

Iorskan dared to speak during a brief moment where Nibenay contemplated his next works, but the dragon king was unmoved.

You worked against my interests by aiding the Veiled Alliance and their plot to destroy me. Had you not aided them, my magic would have finally torn apart the Zwuun and peace would have settled across the land. It is because of you that the cataclysm happened.

There is another pause, before Nibeany addresses the party again, where the party could speak. There is no more emotion in his voice, only cold logic.

Your attack on my Templars can be overlooked, as can your petty thefts. Truly such events help me to separate the strong from the weak. However, take care that you do not deprive me of anything that I do value, or the cost shall be very dear.

Nibeany arose from his throne and moved towards the party. His heavy clawed feet making a horrible scraping sound on the tiled floor. Siemhouk remained still and continued to intently watch the party.

He approached Delen who remained face down on the floor.

Your assistance with Siemhouk’s ritual is appreciated and it shall be rewarded. You will be allowed to live. However, you are dismissed from my service and will never be allowed to access that which you cherish most – the libraries of this city are forever out of your reach.

Delen could barely express his gratitude for being spared and remained facing the floor. Nibenay turned to Way-lynn, speaking with anger once again.

You were once my guard, sworn to protect me and the interests of our city. As payment for your service you were released from my service. In any other city-state you would have been a slave your entire life. You abandoned your home when you found your new sense of morality. And today you attack me while I was defenseless. Well, as defenseless as I can be.

Nibenay then turned to Kira, his anger rising.

I had you trained in powers that you could only have dreamed of, powers over nature that none on this world have possessed for millennia. Those gifts would have allowed you to restore the vitality of Athas. You repaid my generosity with treachery and have proven that you are more trouble than you are worth.

Nibenay finally faced Gwyn, his anger was now mixed with sadness.

You had the spark of a dragon in your soul and I have watched you for many years. You persisted when Dregoth’s construct destroyed your mortal form. You alone out of all my children have had the potential to make real change in the world. But what kind of king would I be if my own child could defy me?

Endgame
Nibenay’s intentions were clear – Gwyn, Kira and Way-lynn were to be punished for their actions with death. The others knew that if they did nothing and let their friends die, they would live. Only by working together could they have a chance of saving their friends, but the sorcerer-king would be unlike any foe they had tried to overcome.

After the many adventures and shared dangers, the party decided to fight. Even Delen, who had been the most loyal to Nibeany, decided to tempt fate and try and defend his friends. The battle that followed was intense as the group endured assaults from Siemhouk, newly conjured fire and air elementals and the sorcerer-king himself.

Kira assumed the form of a primal wolf and pounced on Nibeany, catching him by surprise and knocking him to the ground. Elleandra used her magic on Siemhouk and, although the child resisted, she eventually was overcome and placed in an enchanted slumber for the rest of the fight.

Iorskan found himself in combat with the air elementals and he fell to their attacks. Jarvix attempted to enlist aid from the Zwuun, sending out a message for help. He heard nothing in response and assumed that the enigmatic being simply did not care. He attempted to stay out of the way while aiding his friends and taunting Nibenay. He even went so far as to sit on the throne in defiance of the sorcerer-king.

Delen attempted to stand his ground against Nibenay, but the sorcerer-king had little patience and Delen fell. Gwyn fell next, her mind crushed by her father’s attacks. Kira was unable to sustain her attacks and Nibenay defeated her next. Way-lynn attempted to leave the throne room with Elleandra, and both were defeated when Nibenay teleported next to them. Jarvix was the last to fall to the sorcerer-king.

Everything faded to gray for the adventurers…

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Marauders of Nibenay

The Throne Room
The room before the party was immense with massive arches supporting a great domed ceiling painted to resemble the night sky with diamonds, emeralds, and other jewels marking the positions of various stars. The far end of the room was dominated by a step pyramid and a great obsidian throne resting at its peak. Seated in the throne was the mighty sorcerer-king Nibenay. His face set in a grimace of pain as he struggled silently against the cloud of mist and energy that could only be the Zwuun.
Nibenay
Siemhouk strode forward into the room with the rest following her. As she did, the air in the room swirled about two of the pillars coalescing into vaguely humanoid shapes. Siemhouk quietly stated that the air elementals were some of the defenses Nibenay had created for his throne room. She then moved up closer to her king and entered a trance-like state focusing on her activity to the exclusion of all else. Two different pillars burst into flames which moved of their own accord toward the templar.

Iorskan, Jarvix and Way-lynn moved up and focused their attacks on the right hand air elemental. Gwyn and Elleandra followed them, attacking the same elemental with their magic. Kira turned back into her human form and tossed an orb of energy at the elemental which burst causing the elemental to dissipate.

The fight against the air and fire elementals continued as the party wrestled internally, trying to determine who they should be helping. Iorskan was reveling the the combat, taking particular joy when an elemental was defeated. Gwyn used her magic to briefly transform into a dragon, breathing fire hot enough to even injure the fire elementals. Her allies were simultaneously impressed and concerned about her increasing draconic power.

Siemhouk was completely focused on her task, and the party could only guess at what she was trying to accomplish. Delen, while attempting to avoid being attacked by the elementals, was trying to figure out what Siemhouk was up to. Although exactly what she was doing was still eluding him, Delen did surmise that she was attempting to affect the Zwuun. He trusted the child-templar enough to try and lend his aid to help her complete the ritual sooner.

The tide of battle slowed briefly and Way-lynn and Gwyn, still in the form of a dragon, were far removed from the elementals. Acting on instinct more than rational thought, they both launched attacks at Nibenay himself. Way-lynn’s axe was unable to damage the supernaturally tough hide of the sorcerer-king. Gwyn’s magic, more powerful than ever, was still unable to affect the distracted Nibenay.

Iorskan, Jarvix and Way-lynn were able to defeat the last air elemental, giving the group a brief reprieve from the combat. Jarvix attempted to contact Siemhouk to determine what she was trying to achieve with her ritual. She responded that she was fighting for Nibenay. Seeing no other threats, the party decided to try and defeat Nibenay is his somewhat-vulnerable state. However, their conviction was short-lived and Delen and Elleandra continued to help Siemhouk complete her ritual while the others defended her from additional elementals that appeared.

The Dragon Triumphant
Gwyn moved too close the Zwuun and became affected by the rage of the creature, lashing out at Kira with her magic, and nearly killing the druid. Kira was forced to attack Gwyn, as there appeared little chance that she could break free of the creatures control. Gwyn was pulled away from the Zwuun and knocked unconscious just as Siemhouk completed her ritual. Jarvix used his powers to heal Gwyn and she regained her senses in time to see the results of the ritual.

The ritual Siemhouk was performing calmed the rage of the Zwuun and Nibeany rose to his feet and released a terrifying scream. The days of conflict with the Zwuun were over. Siemhouk moved next to her king and softly spoke to him of the party’s actions over the last few days. Nibenay remained quiet, lost in thought or perhaps using his great power to survey the city.

At last his eyes focused on the party and he tilted his head towards the group, who could do nothing but wait. With a deep, inhuman voice, Nibenay finally spoke…

It would appear that you have some explaining to do…

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Marauders of Nibenay

The Orrery
With the golems defeated, the party moved into a large rectangular room which was completely given over to one of the most amazing machines they had ever seen. The heart of the device was a large, spherical clockwork mechanism that contained thousands of delicate looking metal gears, wheels, and springs, all moving with what appeared to be absolute precision. A dozen slender metal rods jutted out from the massive central sphere, each ending in an assembly of globes that appeared to move in circles, about each other and then (as a group) about the mechanism itself.

The convolutions of the machine made moving around the room a very difficult task, but Delen was impossibly curious about the workings and the knowledge it might hold. Unfortunately his eagerness for the power of the Orrery outweighed his caution. As he attempted to work his way inside the device, he misjudged the timing and was struck by one of the moving arms. He was hurled across the room and the resulting damage caused the device to start throwing random components inside the room. Elleandra, Iorsakn and Jarvix dove back into the crystal hallway, while Way-lynn, Gwyn and Delen dove the opposite direction into the next room. The device continued to break itself apart so the two groups each headed out to try and meet up in another part of the fortress.

The Bone Hall
Delen, Elleandra and Gwyn found themselves in a narrow chamber stretching nearly 150 feet in front of them. Three pairs of very slender, hourglass-shaped pillars rose from the floor of the room and stretched all the way to the ceiling some 50 feet above. The columns were built from some sort of unusual crystal and glowed so brightly that they were difficult to look at directly. The walls and floor were tiled in elegant white marble that gleamed brightly in the radiance of the six pillars.

As if all this were not wondrous enough, the room was filled with the skeletons of great animals. The largest of which was roughly five times the height of a man and looked something like a giant silt runner. The smallest was twice the height of a man and resembled a hejkin with an extra pair of arms. All told, there were some three dozen skeletons standing there.

The ever impulsive Delen used his magic on one of the skeletons to animate it, knowing that they would need more muscle if other golems were encountered. His spell was a success and the skeleton started to move under his control. A fraction of a second later, he lost control to the force of rage that had animated the dead of the city into zombies. The skeletal monster charged him and knocked him down into unconsciousness. A fight ensued with Way-lynn using every trick they had to keep the beast immobilized while Gwyn and Delen assaulted it with their spells. The beast fell into a heap of bones and they moved on.

The Southeast Tower
Back in the Jade Hall, Jarvix, Iorskan and Elleandra headed toward the east door and when they were about to open it, a flash of lightning struck the floor and two golems appeared blocking their path and attacking the party. As before, the party was able to defeat them, but not without suffering injuries themselves. Once the golems were defeated, the group passed through the doors without hindrance.

They entered a large domed chamber some 100 feet in diameter and 75 feet high. The floor and walls were tiled with hexagonal slabs of obsidian, making the entire chamber seem dark and foreboding, like an open grave. Dozens of cages, each fashioned from polished obsidian cylinders and large enough to hold a thri-kreen, hung from the ceiling on long bone chains. The lowest of these were some 30 feet over their heads, and the majority of them hung some 10 to 20 feet higher. It was difficult to see what the cages contained, but moans of suffering and agony drifted out of them, giving the entire area a heavy, macabre atmosphere.

Having had their fill of strange necromantic magics, Jarvix and the others turned away from the room and headed down the hallway eventually meeting up with Way-lynn and the others.

Old and New Friends
A wall of sparkling energy hung across the entrance to the northwest tower. Through the translucent barrier, a magnificent dome some 100 feet in diameter and 75 feet in height could be seen. The floor and walls appeared to have been cut from a single sheet of charcoal gray granite. At the center of the room, a bone tube jutted some 20 feet into the air, where it unleashed a cloud of blue-white fire that provided an unnatural illumination. The place was adorned with harsh, utilitarian furnishings fashioned mainly from bone and hardwoods. An uncomfortable bed and several other items gave the impression that that this place might be the living quarters of Nibenay himself. A great maze of shelves and cabinets fills the far half of the room, providing storage space for countless scrolls, trinkets, and macabre-looking devices.

Delen attempted to enter the room but only succeeded in burning his hand when it made contact with the barrier. He was tormented by the items in the room, but knew that it would take far more time than they had to breach the barriers, if it could be accomplished at all.

They reached the northwest tower and saw a sprawling dome some 100 feet in diameter and 75 feet in height. Comfortable furnishings and pleasant adornments gave the place a look of intimacy that belies the vast openness of the chamber. From the nature of the items in this room, it was clearly a private living area. Near the center of the room was the body of a young girl – Siemhouk. She lay crumpled on a sleeping cushion, her unmoving, willowy form was draped in a shimmering black aura.

Having some experience with the various wards around the Naggaramakam, it was not terribly difficult for Elleandra and Delen to undo the magic that kept Siemhouk asleep. When freed, she was even more strange and ethereal than when the encountered her the first time. She gave only vague one-word answers to the questions she was asked. Eventually the party learned that she knew where Kira was and they were lead to a nearby room.

The party entered a poorly lit room some 50 feet wide end three times that long. The walls and floor were polished to a rough, dull finish the color of slate and they seem to absorb all the light that fell on them. The entire place is filled with a maze of ornate wooden shelves holding en incalculable umber of clay tablets. Asleep at one of the tables, was Kira. When the magic keeping her asleep was lifted, they found that she was only slightly more coherent than Siemhouk. They learned that she had been studying for the past week but had been asleep since the strange lightning storm happened.

The Throne Room
Although her friends were concerned about her mental state, Kira did not want to discuss the matter and so the group decided to move on. Delen attempted to acquire some of the books, but Siemhouk simply said “no” and he decided to not press the issue. Siemhouk lend them to the southwest tower, where they saw yet another wonderful sight.

Nibenay's FountainThe floor was tiled in 6-inch hexagonal slabs of turquoise, while the walls had been polished smooth and painted a pleasant aquamarine. In the center of the room was a grand fountain seemingly fashioned from a single piece of blue-white marble. Clear, sparkling water shot high in to the air from the center, then splashed into a broad basin some 30 feet in diameter. The echoes of the cascading water were relaxing and comfortable, but they made quiet conversation impossible. Something about this place seemed to lessen the feeling of hatred and anger that had been gnawing at them ever since you entered the fortress.

Around the fountain the party rested for a bit and tended to their wounds. The fountain water was cool, clear and refreshing and did much to invigorate them after their many battles. Nothing further was learned for Kira and Siemhouk stared quietly into nothing while the party rested. Eventually, she announced it was time to see the throne room and they moved back into the Jade Hall.

As they drew near the north door of the Jade Hall, the hanging orbs grew dark. The only light in the room now came from the doors; which radiated a pulsating emerald aura. Siemhouk stepped forward, her frail body trembling. As she reached the door, the priest child stretched out a slender arm and touched the surface of the portal. Suddenly, all lights were extinguished and the area fell into absolute darkness. For a second, all was still. Then a minute trace of blue light appeared before them as the mighty doors began to open. Blinking, they looked into the strange room beyond, gasping at the sight.

The room itself was an immense rectangle, easily 200 feet wide end 150 feet deep. A great domed ceiling extended up nearly 100 feet above they floor, supported by a pair of massive arches. The inside of the dome was painted to resemble the night sky with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other jewels marking the positions of various stars. A step pyramid some 40 feet high was beneath the center of the dome, and a greet obsidian throne stood at its peak.

Seated in the throne was a mighty figure. If it was to stand, the creature could easily be 12 feet tall and might weigh 700 pounds. Although more or less humanoid in shape, its body was a mess of tightly packed muscles covered with the scaled skin of a black reptile. A whip-like tail curled around the base of the throne, gripping it tightly, and a slender neck lifted an almost serpentine head some 2 feet above the shoulders.

The beast did not seem to notice their presence. Its reptilian features were set in a grimace of pain and its mouth was open as if to scream. A great sphere of energy and mist hung about the creature, pulsing and throbbing with electrical discharges that filled the room with an unending cacophony of hissing static and booming thunder. A veritable storm of hatred hammered into their minds with such force that they almost believed they were under attack.

In a barely audible voice Siemhouk said: “Behold the sorcerer-king, Nibenay.”

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Marauders of Nibenay

The High Road
The party left the meeting of the Council of Peace and followed the main road through the city and to the Naggaramakam. It was a wide avenue, grandly decorated for the aborted Starlight Pageant. The many colorful banners and ornate decorations that hung there contrast sharply with the shattered buildings and scattered corpses, giving this place a terrible, macabre appearance.

They reached the Bone Gate, the mighty portal now standing twisted and broken in the wake of the great disaster. The proud stone towers flanking the gate were cracked, splintered, and half-collapsed. The bodies of several templar-wives could be seen partially buried under fallen debris of the gatehouse, but no living guards stood to their entrance into the mysterious Naggaramakam.

The High Road passed through a terraced garden that was once quite splendid. The grounds on both sides of the road had been tilled and planted with colorful, decorative grasses. There were flower boxes lining the walls, and ornate urns, filled with the most delicate of flowers, hanging from crossbars overhead. Sadly, the violent tremors that so recently swept the city left the place in ruin, and the fall of the burning rain poisoned even the plants that survived the first calamity.

As they looked around this area, several shrubs decorated with brilliant blossoms caught the attention of Way-lynn who peer closer. Unlike the other plants in this place that were withered, faded, and dying, those flowers dazzling. In the split second that it took Way-lynn to realize how out of place this plant is, a
burst of prismatic light exploded from the bloom, showering him and his friends is a bust of fire and poison. None were seriously injured and the party moved on.

The High Road ended abruptly at a mighty stone gatehouse with a pair of great, ornate doors that appeared to be fashioned of solid iron. A faint vibration was visible in the air around the doors, marking them as magical. The arcane glyphs, sigils, and runes that covered the doors seem to burn like brilliant sapphires. Despite being cracked and damaged, this structure seamed to be largely intact. Like the outer bone gates, however, there were no signs of guards to keep intruders out of Nibenay’s sanctum. Seeing no obvious way to open the doors or bypass the protections, the party decided to move around the outlying structures.

Exploring the Naggaramakam
The Houses of Commerce were a claustrophobic array of low stone structures. Many of the buildings had collapsed, no doubt killing those inside. The bodies of dozens of Nibenay’s templar-wives littered the streets. While many were obviously killed by falling debris, others appear to have been tom apart by savage creatures. The party found little here except for scores of the undead.

The Houses of Education were neat and orderly rows of low buildings fashioned from smooth slabs of stone. Although the earthquake and the burning rain had destroyed many of them and littered the streets with scores of bodies, it still retained a look of calm symmetry. After dispatching more of the undead, the party discovered a few sets of scrolls that appeared useful.

The Houses of War were squat stone buildings that were all marked with the emblems and devices of war. Some great firestorm, one that must have spared the rest of the city, appeared to have swept through this place, for the walls were scorched and nothing flammable remained. Blackened skeletons, clearly those of countless templar-wives, were strewn about. Paying extra attention to their surroundings, the party was able to discover several items of interest along with more zombies.

Most of the buildings making up the Houses of Law were shattered and collapsed. Most of the streets, narrow to begin with, were choked with fallen stone and the bodies of the templar-wives. Scattered fires burned around the area, marking the last remains of temporary wooden structures or stores of combustible materials. Only undead creatures were found by the party, despite their best efforts.

Houses of MagicThe Houses of Magic were twisted and confusing. Like the other area that lay between the inner and outer walls, it was a maze of narrow, claustrophobic passages, but here the turns and angles were difficult to focus on or to follow with the eye. This was clearly the home of Nibenay’s defilers, for only the effects of magical spells could have created the wild and impossible paths that snaked through this place. Here there were no undead but inside the shell of a half-collapsed building was a whirling pinwheel of light some 3 feet across, hanging quietly in the air. While the object was magnificent and beautiful, there was something darkly disturbing about it. Elleandra, Gwyn and Delen were able to destabilize the magic and a crystal cube fell toward the ground but was caught by Delen. Although it appeared to contain something, none could figure out how to open it and so they moved on.

The Houses of Agriculture were a tightly packed maze of narrow streets running between countless low stone buildings. Most of the structures were still standing, although heavily damaged from the earthquake. Many bodies, all of them Nibenay’s templar-wives, were scattered among buildings and although a few seemed to have been killed by falling debris or the burning rain, but most showed signs of having died very violently at the hands of something terrible. The undead encountered left little doubt as to what that something was.

Outside the Palace
The group returned to the iron doors and found them to be still closed and warded by magic. After a while, Elleandra tried a use her magic to simply fly over the walls. To everyone’s surprise, she encountered no difficulties and safely landed on the other side. Using the Skull of Dorag Thel, she created a number of vines to help her friends climb over the walls and into the courtyard of the Naggaramakam.

They found themselves on a section of road built from slabs of gleaming black obsidian. It lead from the Iron Door to gates of Nibenay’s fortress, passing through what was once a magnificent garden. Convolutions in
earth, no doubt caused by the earthquakes, left the path twisted and difficult to walk upon. To either side there what was once a great park decorated with tall trees, delicate green grasses, and flowering shrubs. The fall of the burning rain left it a mottled and scorched expanse of tortured plants that were either dead or dying. Here and there, they caught glimpses of movement in the withering foliage, but it was impossible to say exactly what kinds of animals might still be alive in this fortress of death. Elleandra spotted a large lake behind the fortress, but everyone agreed to try and enter the building first.

Before them stood the heart of the Naggaramakam, an incredible fortress of epic power. High atop this immense bastion, a huge effigy that was the gaunt skeletal face of the Shadow King himself. The citadel beneath this great bust was built from colossal blocks of stone, etched from top to bottom with twisted carvings of the Shadow King’s countless templar-wives, depicted as if they were locks of their master’s hair.

Their attempts to bypass the door caused them to be filled to rage and briefly attack each other. Once their emotions calmed, they searched and found what appeared to be a key hole. The crystal cube came back to mind, but no amount of effort could open it. Eventually, the simple solution succeeded and when the crystal cube was smashed against the obsidian stones, it broke, revealing and iron key. They key fit perfectly and the palace doors opened.

The Jade Hall
A great hallway with a floor of hexagonal jade tiles opened before the party. On the walls were carved countless twisted, jade-accented figures of death, suffering, and torment that could hardly have been created by anyone but a madman. There were great doors on the northern ends of the room and a pair of lesser apertures in the east and west walls. The entire length of this gigantic room was illuminated by some three dozen dimly glowing jade spheres, hanging from bone chains set in the ceiling, 50 feet above their heads. An inescapable feeling of hatred hung in the air.

The party moved towards one of the smaller doors and as they were about to open it, a great stroke of lightning burst from above and struck the jade tiled floor. The tiles were the lightning hit began to take the shape of two great figures. The jade golems moved to attack. Jarvix and Iorskan were able to use their skills to coordinate the actions of their allies, and the two creatures fell quickly, although the wounds they inflicted were severe.

The party prepared to move into the new room, uncertain of what it might contain…

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Marauders of Nibenay

Cracks of Doom
Suddenly, the evening sky was shattered by a brilliant blue flash. Without warning, a tremendous fork of lightning sprung from the Naggaramakam, Nibenay’s mysterious citadel at the center of the city. It raced across the sky, unleashing a deafening roar of thunder in its wake. With a great explosion, the lightning slammed into the Plain of Smoking Waters south of the city, sending a great shudder through the earth and causing a great cloud of sparkling steam to rise up into the twilight sky.

A great hush fell over the city. After the shock wore off, the average citizen of Nibenay believed that this display was simply part of the Starlight Pageant. In the streets, a cheer gradually built into a great explosion of appreciation.

Suddenly, the ground began to heave and buckle – cracks ripped across the land, forming a great lattice work of fissures, and through these burst clouds of scalding, white steam. Buildings swayed and rocked, wells crackled and shattered, towers collapsed in greet explosions of stone. The cheerful sounds of the Starlight Pageant faded away, the din replaced by screams of agony, torment, and fear.

Unsure of where to go or what to do, they party made their way toward the Temple of Thought. As they did they passed a large number of stone structures about to collapse. A number of helpless, shocked people were about to be crushed to death. Elleandra, Gwyn and Way-lynn tried to save as many as they could, while Delen, Jarvix and Iorskan were more concerned with moving quickly through the streets. Sadly the efforts, while they saved many people, could not save the majority. As the party moved through one street, they notice that many of those crushed by the falling rocks bore an emblem of three dragonflies – the symbol of House Shom.

Huge fissure split the surface of the earth near the party. Several innocent people fell into the chasm, dying horribly in the steaming depths. Others, however, were more fortunate and managed to grab exposed roots or anchored rocks on the sides of the fracture. The party was more quick to react and worked together to try and save as many of the citizens as possible. Many of those saved appeared to be members of one of the noble families.

However, out of the fissures arose a new threat, a small number of corpses began to climb out of the cracks in the earth. Delen could tell at once that these were the bodies of the cities’ dead, who had been entombed beneath the streets since the city was founded. They were easily defeated, but the thought of all the dead buried beneath the city becoming undead was unsettling.

The Burning Rain
At long last, the earth stilled and the trembling aftershocks faded. Still, all was far from quiet in the city. Cries of pain and fear could be heard everywhere, fires burned throughout the city, and geysers of scalding steam roared out of the ground. The sky above Nibenay darkened as the black smoke mingled with white steam to form a sticky gray cloud. Slender traces of blue-white lightning flashed back and forth in the tumbling vapor, producing not thunder, but an eerie crackling sound.

As people begin to gather their wits there was much speculation regarding the nature of the mysterious catastrophe that had befallen Nibenay. The strange cloud of steam continued to grow and darken. After a few minutes, a spitting rain began to fall from the sky and the crowds of people rejoiced. The rain quickly increased in intensity until it became a pounding downpour. Shouts of joy turned into screams of pain once more, for this was not life-giving water, however, but a caustic chemical that burned flesh like acid.

Burning RainThe acid was too much for many people in Nibenay, many of those injured from the other catastrophes were not strong enough and perished in the the burning rain. They party, lead by Delen, ran for cover into the passages beneath the city. The brief directions given by Elleandra and Gwyn to those they passed were not enough and many people perished, including a large group of monks.

Beneath the streets the party was safe from the burning rain but encountered large numbers of the undead. These too were easily defeated, but it was clear the their numbers were growing. Delen estimated the dead outnumbered the living a hundred times over. It was clear that if not checked, the entire city could be overrun.

Delen managed to get the party out of the sewers with only minimal encounters with the undead that continued to rise. They reached the surface as the sun began to rise in the east. They could see more clearly than ever that the city of Nibenay was in ruins. Shattered buildings had strewn debris across the streets, pools of acidic rain were spread everywhere, and the bodies of the dead and wounded littered the city. They could see teams of people clearing away rubble to rescue those trapped beneath, templars using magical powers to heal the injured, and members of the city watch policing the streets, controlling lawlessness and preventing looting.

Council of Peace
Jarvix and the rest of the group were anxious to avoid the templar patrols because of their encounter the previous day in the Hill District. Delen lead them down some back alleys of the district but luck was not with them and they ran into a patrol including a half-dozen half-giants. Their anxiousness turned to fear as they realized the leader of this patrol was a surviving templar from the Hill District. The templar questioned the party about their activities and appeared to be satisfied that they were not trying to cause trouble. Delen was sure that she recognized him from the Hill District but no mention of that was made.

The Templar commanded the party to accompany her to a meeting and gave the impression that refusal would not be accepted. Having no other viable choice, they agreed. Along the way they asked about Kira, but the templar said she did not know her location or if she survived the cataclysm. They arrived at the meeting site and had some time to discuss their situation. Delen advocated leaving the city as quickly as possible, still feeling that they would pay for their attacks on the Templars. Jarvix wanted to stay and find Kira and put an end to the rising tide of undead. Iorskan speculated that if the sorcerer-king was injured, there would never be a better time to strike at him.

While they waited, the party observed the other guests and saw that their Veiled Alliance contact Johrd. In the few minutes before the meeting started Johrd told Jarvix that the Veiled Alliance has been unable to contact their ally, the Zwuun, and their attempts to scry into the Naggaramakam have been utterly futile. All those you have made such attempts have been filled with rage, and they fear that the rage may be coming from the Zwuun. Johrd excused himself and the meeting began in earnest.

The templar-wife spoke first, “I am Leaza, templar-wife of Nibenay. To the best of my knowledge, I am the highest ranking templar to have survived the cataclysm. I charge you to heed my words and obey them as you would Nibenay’s own.” With that, Leaza yielded to Johrd. "I am Johrd of the Veiled Alliance, he says. Leaza and I have agreed to set aside our differences and join forces to salvage what we can from this terrible calamity.”

Other members stepped forward and introduced themselves as well and shared information about the recent events. Temmnya Shom, representing the surviving merchants, informed everyone that there is little edible food or drinkable water left in the city. She had sent runners to divert caravans to bring emergency supplies to Nibenay.

A human male stepped forward and introduced himself as Pahleek, the representative of the School of Augurs. The Augurs have discovered that all attempts to use the Way explore the sorcerer-king’s citadel have resulted in failure. Some terrible force seemed to have infused the Naggaramakam, creating an aura of hatred and anger so great that nothing can pierce it. The effect that this might have on those within the citadel is unknown.

A man introduced himself as Kayardi, assistant Master of the Monks of the Exalted Path. He claimed to have made a careful study of the stars and recent omens. Taken individually, these portents showed nothing unusual, but when examined together, however, they were more foreboding. Kayardi insisted that all the might of the templars, the magic of the Veiled Alliance, and the wisdom of his people will not save Nibenay. That, he claimed, that a child must be the one to save the city.

A woman spoke last and introduced herself as Ahli Kiaka, head of House Kiaka. She informed the council that the vast majority of Nibenay’s most important nobles were called to meet with the king just before the disaster struck. Since no word has come from Nibenay’s citadel, she has assumed that she may be the highest ranking noble left alive in the city. “I believe that Nibenay planned to destroy the Veiled Alliance by unleashing a tremendous magical assault on the mysterious Zwuun. He had long believed that the information this creature supplied to the Alliance was a great threat to him. With the Zwuun gone, he had always said, the Alliance would crumble.”

The party described their encounters and after a robust discussion, it was generally agreed upon that the party would head to the Naggramakam and determine the fate of the sorcerer-king and hopefully stop the powerful rage that is animating the dead.

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Marauders of Nibenay

Return to Nibenay
The party entered the city-state of Nibenay without any trouble as Delen’s credentials allowed them to bypass much of the bureaucracy. None of the party felt comfortable walking through the city with the Standard and it was decided that they would store the it at Delen’s house. Jarvix felt the most uncomfortable with this plan and attempted to contact the Veiled Alliance in Tyr, hoping to set up a meeting with the local Alliance, which might have a more secure location for the Standard. Oddly, he did not receive a reply from Mathias in Tyr, which left Jarvix very nervous.

Having no better option, they left the Standard and proceeded to the Temple of Trade. There they met with a lower-level templar named Caletta who questioned them about their trip to the Black Spine Mountains. Although she agreed that they fulfilled the letter of their agreement, she was obviously displeased that the source of the unusual gith was not discovered and dealt with. When she was asked about the other templar-wives and Kira, the party was given vague and curt answers. They were simply told that Kira would be busy until after the Starlight Pageant concluded.

Recognizing that they were unlikely to get any better answers, they decided to rest for the remainder of the day and then head out into the city at dusk to experience the Starlight Pageant.

Starlight PageantThe Starlight Pageant
As the crimson sun fell beneath the horizon, the gates of the sorcerer-king’s sanctuary opened and dozens of female dancers poured into the streets. As they moved down the High Road toward the Reservoir Gardens, crowds of people joined the celebration. At last, amid the pounding drums and blowing horns, they entered the gardens and begin a series of dance performances that were to last until dawn. The various presentations recounted the history of Nibenay and the mysterious ruler who bestowed his own name on the city.

Iorskan and Way-lynn headed to the Kank’s Den where Iorskan knew the drinks would be cheap and the patrons dangerous but useful sources of information. The festivities of the Pageant were in full swing and the pair were caught up in drinking games where Iorskan won some ceramic coins but Way-lynn lost a large wager. Iorskan was able to meet with some of his contacts and found that there was a general glut in artifacts as much of the trade was being diverted away from Raam. During the night thieves attempted to pick their pockets. Way-lynn caught a thief in the act and felt that a punch in the face was fitting punishment, however, Iorskan was not so observant and lost most of his winnings. Way-lynn quickly grew tired of the Pageant and returned to Delen’s house early.

Gwyn and Jarvix headed to a more upscale drinking establishment, the Silty Mug, and proceeded to catch up on the adventures of the group, which Gwyn only had fuzzy memories of. They also discussed the implications of being unable to contact the Alliance in Tyr. The two friends were happy to be in each other’s company, but as the drink flowed, they found themselves participating in drinking games. Each was an accomplished drinker and was able to best their opponents, earning more than enough coins to cover their drinks for the evening. Numerous pick-pockets were in the Silty Mug as well, but neither Gwyn nor Jarvix lost any coins to them. Gwyn was satisfied to send the would-be thief off with an evil look, but Jarvix felt more villainous and used his skills with the Way to dominate the thief.

Elleandra decided to spend some time alone and was swept away with the dancers in the gardens. Along the way she spotted a pick-pocket attempting to rob her and sent him off without turning him in to the Templars. At the gardens, she watched the dancers as they performed intricate maneuvers and told the history of their city-state. She attempted to join in with the performers but was not familiar enough with the dances to participate without mistakes. Although she made many errors, the crowd was mostly forgiving of her mistakes.

Delen did not join his new friends and instead took advantage of the distraction caused by the Pageant to sneak into a number of libraries that were forbidden to him. He had made such expeditions before and was able to sneak past the guards. He spent the majority of the festival night reading in dim light.

Tired from the dancing, Elleandra started to make her way back the Delen’s house when she happened upon a fortune teller. Having an interest in divination, she agreed to have her fortune read. The astrologer told her…

Born in the month of Breeze, under the sign of Hortle the Spider; get organized because later you’re going to be more scattered. If you start with a solid plan for how to tackle the day’s tasks, you’re more likely to accomplish everything. If you don’t remain strong and on task, other people will take advantage of your generous nature. You could end up doing more favors than you would prefer.

Elleandra found the reading to be vague but detected no deceit from the astrologer. Her questions sparked a conversation with the astrologer who was interested in Elleandra’s foreign ways of telling the future. Elleandra performed an augury, with unusual results – an unearthly voice issued forth the following prophecy…

When the brides of death become the marauders of Nibenay, the dead must die, the unsleeping must wake, and the Dragon must stand triumphant.

The meaning of the words was not readily apparent to the fortune teller, or Elleandra, and she decided to tell her companions when then met up with each other.

The Alliance Offer
Gwyn and Jarvix decided to attempt to find the Veiled Alliance in Nibenay on their own and took to starting up a street performance with the unwilling help of Jarvix’s thrall. After locating an ideal spot they started to perform, attempting to strike a balance between showing enough arcane magic to draw the attention of the Alliance, but not so much as to enrage the crowds.

As the night passed, the twin moons of Athas leisurely traced twin arcs across the dark sky. Gradually, Gwyn and Jarvix begin to suspect that they were being watched. A slender man seemed to be watching their performance. His thin features gave him a look of keen intelligence, but his frail physique made it difficult to think of him as a threat.

When the opportunity presented itself, the man approached Gwyn and Jarvix, moving his hand down his face, a common sign of the Veiled Alliance. They discovered that the man, Johrd, was indeed an Alliance operative and was willing to provide some assistance but needed a show of trust before divulging any information to Gwyn and Jarvix.

Johrd told them that a band of elves was bringing a magical object into the city, an object that the Alliance needed to help defend themselves against the attacks of the templar-wives. He told them that any significant gathering of Alliance members would likely be noticed, but that they, as a third party, would have an easier time making contact. Johrd simply wanted them to make contact with the elves in the Hill District at dawn and exchange a pouch of herbs for the magical object and return the object to him.

Gwyn and Jarvix detected no deception from Johrd and agreed to perform the service in exchange for a safe place to hide if needed and additional attempts to contact the Alliance in Tyr. Not wanting to make the rendezvous by themselves, they went to Delen’s house and met with their friends. All agreed to help make the exchange and they caught a few hours of rest before heading to the infamous Hill District.

As the sun began to lighten the eastern sky, the time came to carry out their mission for Johrd. Moving quickly through the crowds of celebrants, they arrived at the alley where the elves were supposed to appear. While they waited the inspected the pouch of herbs and found them to be Nahre Lotus, magical plants that can satisfy an individual’s daily need for water.

The elves arrived on time and produced a canvas sack, containing a large crystal. The exchange happened as expected and, as the elves turned to leave, a team of templars dropped from the surrounding rooftops and attacked. The elves fled without a word and the templars did not appear interested in apprehending them. The fight was brutal but quick and in the end nine templars lay at the feet of the party.

Delen was horrified at the consequences of their actions and urged them to get away from the scene as quickly as possible. The party split up and headed out in different directions, with Gwyn and Jarvix making their way to the meeting with Johrd. They were relieved to find him safe and recounted their encounter with the templars. Johrd took the crystal and agreed to try and contact the Alliance in Tyr and help cover up the bodies in the Hill District. Promising to be in contact, Gwyn and Jarvix left and returned to Delen’s house.

The Holocaust
The party woke late in the morning the following day and spent the day around the city on various tasks. Delen, still shaken by his part in the death of the templar-wives, made arrangements to sell most of his belongings, in preparation for a quick escape from the city if needed. Most of the other party members acquired traveling supplies.

Gwyn returned to the Hill District and made contact with her elf tribe, the Sky Singers. Her family was not currently in town. However some of her extended family was and they agreed to pass on messages to Gwyn’s father and sisters.

The party made a trip to the Temple of Thought, hoping to find out more information on Kira and perhaps a way to sneak her out of the city sooner than expected. At the temple they were kept waiting for a long time and were eventually greeted by Kadya, a assistant to Siemhouk. She provided no new information about Kira, simply stating that she was going to be occupied until the end of the festival. Delen was visibly panicked during the exchange and Kadya appeared to notice.

As the sun set, the party made their way to the Pageant once again and tried to act normally, despite a collective unease. Iorskan and Way-lynn participated in games of strength and were more successful than not, earning money to pay for the traveling supplies. Delen and Elleandra participated in games of skill and were also very successful. Gwyn and Iorskan had their fortunes read and were generally unimpressed with the astrologers words of wisdom…

Jarvix, you were born in the month of Sorrow, under the sign of Scratch the Basilisk; unexpected people, especially women, will surprise you with what they say. Be open to ideas that you hadn’t even considered. Perhaps your emotions get stirred when you recall something that a significant woman in your life said. Your feelings are bouncing from your heart to your head and back again. Take the feelings into account, but don’t let them dominate your decisions.

Gwyn, you were born in the month of Bloom, under the sign of Pyrus the Wheel; you’re at an emotionally climactic time, and your feelings are erratic and perhaps unmanageable. Don’t feel pressured into making logic out of anything. Your job is to take a deep breath and relax. Remember that life is an exciting adventure full of twists and turns. Erratic emotions are a reminder of that. Enjoy the ride.

Suddenly, the evening sky was shattered by a brilliant blue flash. Without warning, a tremendous fork of lightning sprung from the Naggaramakam, Nibenay’s mysterious citadel at the center of the city. It raced across the sky, unleashing a deafening roar of thunder in its wake. With a great explosion the lightning slammed into the Plain of Smoking Waters south of the city, sending a great shudder through the earth and causing a great cloud of sparkling steam to rise up into the twilight sky.

The ground heaved and buckled. Cracks ripped across the land, forming a great lattice work of fissures, and through these burst clouds of scalding, white steam. Buildings swayed and rocked, wells crackle and shattered, towers collapsed in greet explosions of stone. The cheerful sounds of the Starlight Pageant faded away, the din replaced by screams of agony, torment, and fear.

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