Dark Sun: The Scorched World of Athas

Black Spine

Strange Magic
As the group rested following their escape from the crypts, they questioned Delen about the magic he displayed during their combat with the undead dray. Delen explained that he was indeed trained in the arcane arts, but he explained that his magic drew energy from the Gray. Although those necromantic powers were not unheard of, they were quite uncommon and somewhat sinister in reputation. The party conceded that he had done nothing to make them suspicious of his motives and so they were willing to accept his explanations, for now.

After their rest, they proceeded up the stairs until the reached a landing which appeared to open to the main floor of the fortress…

Main Floor
The main floor was sprawling and the party took a long time exploring the many rooms. They encountered many gith fighters wearing metal armor and wielding metal spears. The gith were fierce combatants and more well-trained than those previously encountered by the party while in the Black Spine Mountains. After dispatching about a dozen of the gith, the party discovered two exits from this level. The first they found appeared to be the main exit leading to the outside, while the second was another stairway leading to the upper level of the fortress.

Most of the fortress was in ruins and appeared to have been looted. The party discovered what looked like a large vault that perhaps once held the fortress’ treasure. This too was empty and the doors appeared to have been torn away from the walls.

Although they were tempted to leave the dangers of the fortress for the more familiar dangers of the outside world, they eventually chose to continue their search for the banner and entered the upper levels…

Upper Level
The party found the upper level to be slightly smaller than the main level and infested with mindless zombies that appeared to be the missing miners and soldiers from Nibenay. Each zombie was easily defeated, but their numbers made them quite dangerous.

Gith WarriorAs Delen rounded a corner he came face to face with one of the strange gith warriors, armored in black metal and wielding a massive silver sword. Behind him a large banner with a draconic image was visible, undoubtedly the Standard of Arkhosia. With a wave of his hand, the warrior pushed Delen prone and immobilized him. With a cruel thrust of the silver sword, Delen was impaled and fell unconscious.

Gwyn, who was close behind Delen, was able to injure the warrior, but was quickly put down as well. The ease with which he incapacitated their allies greatly concerned Jarvix and Iorskan, who were barely able to keep the two alive. The warrior’s position prevented any type of direct assault and they feared they were outmatched in any event. Elleandra was able to maneuver around the warrior after Jarvix blinded him to her movement. She retrieved the standard and fled as fast as possible towards the main level and out of the fortress.

Jarvix, Iorskan, Gwyn and Delen all followed Elleandra out of the fortress as fast as they could, with Way-lynn the last to leave the warrior behind. The warrior pursued and Way-lynn feared he would be overtaken, but luck was with him and he was able to outpace the warrior.

Flight to Nibenay
The group did not stop once they lost sight of the warrior, for they feared he would keep up the pursuit. They decided to head back towards the city-state of Nibenay. They hoped that there they could rest and regroup. Although they did not have a full picture of the situation in the mines, they hoped that the templar-wives of the Shadow King would be satisfied.

As they retreated from the fortress, they discussed the possibilities of returned and claiming the fortress for themselves. The arcane circle they discovered would be a powerful tool for consolidating their forces for their eventual engagements against the sorcerer-kings and their armies. The close proximity to the ruins of Giusental made them wonder if the strange gith were another of the armies under the command of Dregoth.

They traveled with great speed over the next two days, stopping only to rest when they were too tired to continue. They used their combined skills to avoid all of the gith patrols that may have been looking for them while they were in the mountains. Once in the open desert, they made good speed back to the crossroads and came within sight of Nibenay.

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Black Spine

Black Spine Iron Mine
Before venturing into the mines, the party took a brief rest and, as usual, reflected on the current situation. The conversation had a different tone than normal because of the presence of Delen, and somewhat Way-lynn. Despite the different goals and views, each agreed that it was still in their best interest to continue working together.

Delen felt that their adventures had been and would continue to be a source of great knowledge, which appeared to interest him greatly. Elleandra still believed that her home in the Lands Within the Wind was still in danger and with her tree in the village of Kled, she had strong protective feelings towards this world. Gwyn wanted to resume her quest to stop the use of destructive magic. Iorskan felt that he was destined to unite his people and wanted the freedom from slavery at the hands of Dregoth. Jarvix enjoyed the prospect of uncovering more of the true history of the world and his loyalty to the Veiled Alliance shaped his desire to put an end to the tyranny of the sorcerer-kings. Way-lynn had seen too much corruption in his city-state of Nibenay and knew that only by preserving the little remaining nature could the death of the world be halted.

They all headed into the iron mines, hoping to discover what had happened to the Nibanese miners and soldiers that disappeared. Delen, feeling most comfortable in the dark tunnels, lead the way, constantly searching for clues and traps. Before long they ran into groups of gith miners, equipped with steel mauls for breaking the rocks. The mauls were also equally good as weapons against the party and despite their lack of training, the gith were able to inflict many injuries in the ensuing combats.

In addition to the gith miners, Elleandra encountered another of the mysterious warriors that resembled more intelligent gith. There was no conversation with it and although it was defeated, there was still no indication as to who they were or what they wanted. The party was able to defeat the gith they encountered very quickly and they hoped their presence was mostly unnoticed in the mines. They realized that the mines were far more expansive then expected based on the short time it since it had supposedly been discovered. The party was not sure if the mine had been operating longer then they thought, or if it had broken through to older tunnels.

After many hours of searching and fighting, Elleandra discovered a secret cave which lead to a tunnel rising upwards towards the center of the Black Spine Mountains. Hopeful that this might lead to the dray stronghold, the party decided to abandon the mines and see where this lead them. They followed the tunnel for many miles, going further into the Black Spine Mountains. Along they way they found increasing numbers of runes and symbols in old draconic and Iorskan’s hope began to rise that they were headed to the ancient fortress of his clan.

Arkhosian Crypts
Eventually the tunnel they were following reached a very old and broken stone door. Beyond the door was what appeared to be a crypt. The slightly larger proportions and iconography left little doubt that it was a crypt of the dray. There were no immediate signs of dangers in the dark expanse before them, but when they crossed the doorway, a number of skeletal dray rose from the ground and began to approach. Wanting to avoid conflict with his ancestors, Iorskan attempted to persuade the undead that he was on a mission to restore their clan. Although the others in his group showed respect for the dead, the dead would not let them pass through the crypts.

Arkhosian CryptsReluctantly Iorskan decided that moving through the crypts was the best option and so they fought their way through the Arkhosian undead. The skeletons still possessed much of the prowess they had in life and the battles were hard fought. Although the group attempted to move through as quickly as possible and avoid the crypt guardians, they were not particularly successful. During the fights, Delen displayed several unusual capabilities that they first dismissed as simply unusual gifts. However, it soon became clear that Delen was gifted with the arcane arts, although the exact nature of his magic was unclear.

During the exploration of the crypts, Jarvix made another amazing discovery – and arcane circle. This circle was similar to, but much older than the other’s he had seen in the ruins of Kalidnay and the city of Moil. With some time and study, he felt that he’d be able to use the Way to teleport himself and others to this circle from great distances. Near to the arcane circle, the party discovered a stairway leading up to higher levels of the fortress. The group had defeated all of the skeletons they had encountered and decided to risk taking a quick rest to tend to their wounds.

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Black Spine

An Early Morning
Delen was asleep in his modest dwelling and the sun had not yet risen. Suddenly a loud banging on his door startled him to consciousness and a booming voice on the other side caused him to snap to attention. “Delen wake yourself.” Delen found four very large half-giants wearing the garb of the Shadow Guard at his door. They have come to escort Delen to the Temple of Thought. Fearing that some of his evening activities had been discovered, he followed the guards and prepared himself for the worst.

Delen was escorted to the Temple of Thought near the Naggaramakam. Along the way, he saw shadows moving out of the corner of his eye, but did not recognize them. He was escorted to a large receiving chamber with a stone statue of the sorcerer-king himself. Three of Nibenay’s high consorts were present with their guards, but none acknowledge Delen’s arrival. Delen recognized the consorts as Siemhouk, Djena and Rejan.

After almost an hour, the statue of Nibenay stirred to life and its eyes flashed blue and the party appeared looking haggard. Djena asked for the Stone and Iorskan handed it to her. Smiling she left the room with her guards. The statue then spoke…

Well done adventurers, you have helped secure the safety of our city. There is another task that you will perform for me.”

There is no doubt that this was an order and not a request. Rejan spoke of recent attempts to open an iron mine in the Black Spine Mountains about 2 days travel from the city. While the initial prospects appeared good, once digging started, there had been no word from the mines. Since the loss of communication, there were increases in attacks by gith. The survivors reported that the gith were armed with metal weapons and wore metal armor, something most unusual. A small patrol was sent to investigate and they have not been heard from since. Rejan commanded the party to travel to the mine and determine the fate of the miners and investigate the strange gith activity.

A journey to the Black Spine Mountains was in line with Iorskan’s desires to find his clan’s ancient stronghold and the party accepted to mission. Siemhouk stepped forward and promised a reward for the party’s service to the city. The gift, she says, is to help Kira unlock her potential. She addressed Delen…

We shall see how much knowledge you have uncovered since your training ended. Where do souls go when the body dies?”

Delen attempted to answer the questions accurately, but not too quickly. He had guessed that he was not being brought here for punishment but for some other purpose. He felt confident that he was able to answer her questions well, but not too well.

Yes, the souls travel to the Gray where they dissolve into nothingness. It is because of this that he raising of the dead is nearly impossible and always fraught with peril. However, we have among us someone from the Gray who is not a soul from our world. She has powers over life that have not been seen on Athas in thousands of years. I will help her unlock some of her potential and a gift from the past will be yours.

Seimhouk motioned Kira over to her and laid her hands on Kira’s head. Kira felt a calming presence, totally quieting the animal rage that she had learned to control. Kira will feel Seimhouk sifting through her memories of past events, spending time on her revitalization of the land outside Altaruk and her restoration of the dead in Necropolis. Seimhouk then pointed to Iorskan and commanded that he hand over The Shadowstaff, the scrap of Gwyn’s flesh and her dragonling. With all those components, and an enormous effort of will, Kira pulled Gwyn’s soul from King and caused the scrap of flesh to reform into Gwyn! Kira then fell to the floor exhausted.

Seimhouk addressed Delen again…

Delen, you will accompany them and keep an eye on Gwyn. Make sure that there are no lingering, undesirable consequences. Kira is exhausted and may remain here with me to recover her strength and learn more of her powers. You will start your journey today and must return to the city by the third day of the Festival of the Highest Sun.

House Shom Caravan
Kira agreed to stay behind and the rest of the party retired to a dining room to rest before heading out to the Black Spine Mountains. Delen was introduced to the rest of the party and Gwyn told them of the fuzzy memories that she had from the last two months. Jarvix and Elleandra were both very excited that she had returned and Iorskan grudgingly admitted that he was impressed. Way-lynn and Delen, having never met Gwyn were more impressed with her return from death.

After resting and checking their supplies the party headed out from the city, northeast along the road towards the Black Spine Mountains. They reached the crossroads and decided to camp for the night before heading into the wilderness. As they were making camp a large caravan flying the colors of House Shom approached and also made camp. This was one of the largest caravans they had seen with three giant mekillot wagons and over a hundred soldiers.

To the party’s surprise, one of the guards approached their camp with an offer of hospitality. The caravan had been away from Nibenay for almost a month and was eager for news. They offered to trade information about the city-state of Raam, where they were returning from. The party agreed and was escorted to the camp where they met Temmnya Shom, daughter of the the head of House Shom.

Iorskan told of the dangers around Giustenal and the potential for serious conflict in the region in the near future. Jarvix mentioned what they knew of the fate of Abalach-Re, although he mentioned nothing of his group’s involvement in the events. Gwyn and Delen offered information on potential sources of profit for House Shom. Temmnya listened and responded with information on the current groups attempting to control of Raam, after the disappearance of its sorcerer-queen. The party found Temmnya to be more friendly and likeable than any other member of House Shom they had met, although they were still cautious around her.

The following morning the two groups went their separate ways; Temmnya headed towards Nibenay and the party venturing into the foothills of the Black Spine Mountains.

Black Spine Mountains
The party decided to search for the dray stronghold, much to the excitement of Iorskan. All throughout the day, they searched for signs of the fortress, each helping as best they could. Way-lynn focused on searching for natural features that might indicate the presence of trails or roads used long ago. Delen, who appeared to have an excellent head for history, spent the day pointing out features in the mountains that he recognized from ancient legends.

Elleandra attempted to move quickly about the mountains in an effort to scout out as many locations as possible. She relied on her magic to ease the effort less but drew the attention of a small patrol of gith, including a gith adept with the Way. The party easily defeated them and discovered they were indeed using metal weapons and wearing metal armor.

Jarvix and Gwyn moved about the mountains together. Jarvix keeping his keen eyes open for the fortress or markers that might indicate they were headed in the right direction. Gwyn used her strength to push past the numerous piles of stone that blocked their way. Unfortunately she was apparently still recovering from her death and carelessly caused an avalanche of rock which drew the attention of another gith patrol. It was larger than before and included a strange gith knight wearing metal armor of an outlandish design. Once again the party was victorious and continued their search.

Delen eventually was able to sense the location of a strong source of arcane magic and directed the party to what he hoped was the stronghold. He uncovered what appeared to be the entrance to the mine instead. Since the day was spent and the party did want to investigate the mine, they made camp for the night with the intention of investigating the iron mine in the morning. They only had three days to explore the mines, find the stronghold and travel back to Nibenay by the third day of The Festival of the Highest Sun.

Black Spine Iron Mine

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Red Moon Hunt

Guests of the Shadow King
As they emerged from the forest into a clearing, the party was confronted by a large number of well-armed warriors. A young woman in the garb of a templar of Nibenay stepped forward.

I am the templar Marika of Nibenay. We mean you no harm – we know you are enemies of the Forest Queen, and only wish to escort you to meet with our king.

The party was too tired and injured to fight and, as they detected no deception from the templar, they agreed to be escorted to Nibenay. Marika gave them each some fruits, which restored their vitality, letting them continue despite their weariness from their escape from Gulg. As they traveled, the party was surrounded by the human and half-giant soldiers, presenting not opportunity for escape. Marika pushed the party hard, moving for 12 hours a day and the forest made it difficult to move quickly. Along the way there was some brief discussions, but little information was gained from the Templar. The party came within sight of the city-state of Nibenay around on the third day.

Meeting the Shadow King
The vast walled city of Nibenay was before the party, every structure intricately carved with dancing figures, fantastic monsters and elaborate scenes. Rising from the center of the city was a fantastic form of the Shadow King’s palace, the Naggaramakam, carved in the shape of an enormous head. Passing through substantial rice paddies that lay around and even within the city itself the party saw a legion of slaves tending the fields under the eyes of overseers.

City-State of Nibenay

Inside Nibenay seethed with activity. Ordinary citizens hurried from place with place under the watchful eye of the Shadow King’s warriors. Slaves were hauling goods for merchants with crodlu and inix crowding the streets. As they were lead to the center of the city, they noted that even the paving stones were carved individually, although most of the decorations had been worn down by centuries of traffic. As they approached the palace, Marika spoke.

No mortal my enter the Shadow King’s demesne. His majesty will speak with you in one of his lesser palaces.

The interior of the palace was every bit as impressive as the exterior. At one end of the chamber was a massive statue with glowing blue eyes, recognized as that of the Shadow King. Waiting in the chamber were two of Nibenary’s consorts, one human and one mul each one wearing nothing more than some jewelry. A pair of half-giant guards stood beside each of them. Way-lynn recognized the mul as the High Consort of War, Bamandji.

The stone busts lips began to move forming words in a deep booming voice…

There have been many rumors regarding your little band of trouble-makers. There are many questions to be answered. Speak truthfully or there will be consequences most dire.

The party was questioned for a while about their past exploits – Kira’s restoration of the land around Altaruk, their encounters with Dregoth, Kalid-Ma and Abalach-Re. Their goals for all of their actions were as important as their actions themselves. For the moment, the Shadow King pondered their conversations..

If you truly wish to make this world a better place, you will perform a task for me, one which I think you will find to your liking. The Forest Queen is in possession of an artifact that will enable her to completely dominate the spirits in the forest, increasing her power dramatically.”

I will transport you into the dungeons of Glug tonight. Lalali-Puy will be engaged in her Red Moon Hunt and her defenses will be weakened. Make your way to the iron door and retrieve the Stone of Abraxas which is held in the room beyond the door. Once you are in possession of the crystal, my connection with you will be amplified and I will be able to return you to this room.

By performing this task you will demonstrate to me that you are not merely anarchists who wish to see the remnants of civilization burn. You will also have revenge upon the Forest Queen for you imprisonment and there is a good chance that you will be able to recover what you have lost.

The party discussed their options and felt that to defy Nibenay at this time was not in their best interests. Jarvix and Iorskan were eager to get revenge on the Forest Queen as well as have a chance at the treasure they thought might be hidden in the dungeons. Elleandra performed an augury which revealed that either option presented danger, but aiding the Shadow King in recovering the Stone of Abraxas was the least dangerous path. “Delightful” was the only word spoken by the statue after they agreed.

Dungeons of Gulg
The party was treated to an excellent meal of meats, rice and exotic fruits from within the Crescent Forest. There was only a little time for social interaction with the High Consorts, but Nibenese culture frowned upon discussing outside business in the evenings. The party was allowed to rest until near midnight, when they were summoned again to the statue chamber. The statue’s eyes flashed blue and the party found themselves back in the dungeons of Glug.

The somewhat familiar mud and entangling roots were still confusing as the adventurers worked their way through narrow passages trying to find their way back to the iron-bound door they had seen during their last time in Gulg. They soon discovered they were not alone and encountered several mul guards while they wandered to dungeons. Elleandra and Way-lynn helped to control the guards and prevented them from surrounding the other party members.

As Jarvix wandered the dungeons he encountered Mogansho, who had recovered from their previous fight. Jarvix ensnared him with a thought and began hurling him about like a living weapon. Mogansho was knocked unconscious and Jarvix left him to rejoin the rest of his party. Taibela was also stalking the party and attacked Iorskan from the shadows. She disappeared and struck Elleandra, knocking her unconscious. When Taibela appeared again, Kira was ready and pounced on her, taking her head off.

Way-lynn located the iron-bound door and found it still guarded by the steel-clad Mul warriors. As they were engaged, the rest of the party moved towards the door, eager to acquire the Stone and any other treasures they might acquire. Mogansho was able to recover from Jarvix’s attack and made a desperate attack on the party. Iorskan turned to meet him and after a brief exchange Mogansho fell, this time for good.

The iron-bound door was protected by physical and magical protections and although there were keys found on Mogansho which opened the lock, it still took the group some time to bypass the other protections. With the door open, they saw a large room before them filled with all types of treasures. The center of the room contained a large pedestal, on top of which was a stone that could only be the Stone of Abraxas.

Way-lynn searched the room and discovered some of Morg’s gear and Elleandra searched for anything of significance. Elleandra, Jarvix, Kira and Iorskan worked feverishly to bypass the protections around the Stone, suspecting that they hadn’t much time before more guards, or worse the sorcerer-queen herself, showed up. Luck was with the party as they were able to acquire the stone before any more Gulgans arrived. Moments after the Stone was in their possession there was a flash of blue light and they were once again in the chamber with the stone statue of Nibenay.

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Red Moon Hunt

Prison Escape
The Forest-Queen’s guards escorted the party deep into the interior of the great tree, down narrow stairs carved from the living wood. Mogansho and the muls kept a close eye on the party allowing them no chance to form a plan. The corridors were numerous, and their ability to observe and mentally map them was limited. Twisted corridors and gnarled passageways followed the giant tree’s roots and finally they reached the dungeons.

Dungeons of GulgMud and entangling roots hung from the ceiling in places, and the dampness was most unusual. Many prison cells were carved out of the roots with strong wooden doors barred from the outside. The passageway they were traveling lead to a heavy, guarded door. The door itself is made of thick wood and reinforced with a fortune in iron bars. The mul guards wore steel armor and had steel weapons in their hands and kept a grim eye on the party as they were lead up to it.

Mogansho ordered the party to surrender their gear as, according to the law in Gulg, the sorcerer-queen owned all property. The party, especially Morg, was unwilling to release their weapons and they charged the guards and Mogansho hoping to catch them by surprise. They guards were anticipating such action and were ready for trouble. A fierce battle began in the dungeons with the party attempting to defeat the guards and find a way out. As excepted the steel-clad muls were expert warriors and Mogansho was a battle-hardened commander. Way-lynn did his best to keep the guards focused on him, but as the fight continued, the party became separated from each other and were unable to present a unified front.

Several of the mul guards were defeated but more entered the fight, altered to trouble by the sounds of conflict or some other means. The battle turned against the party when Lalali-Puy herself appeared in the dungeons and proceeded to attack Morg. Kira was cursed by the Forest-Queen and suffered the same injuries as Morg. Iorskan and Jarvix did there best to keep the party standing under the assaults, but they were quickly becoming overwhelmed. Mogansho was eventually knocked down by Morg but Morg fell under the magical attacks of the queen.

Elleandra discovered what appeared to be a way out of the dungeons and the party moved with great haste to leave. Elleandra and Jarvix were able to distract the guards with their magic and powers of the Way, allowing the rest of the party to move past them without fear. Jarvix was the last to leave the dungeon and they hoped the distractions would give them a few moments head-start.

The Crescent Forest
They party found themselves outside the Mopti Wall in the Crescent Forest, surrounded by thick, tangled vegetation growing in a rich loamy soil with insects and birds everywhere. Like the Forest Ridge, the forest is a reminder of how Athas once was. Way-lynn knew that the isolated nature of the forest makes it a highly competitive environment and creatures in it were prepared to fight to survive and cautioned the party to be ready for anything. The setting sun gave the party a rough idea of the direction of Nibenay and they decided to head there as quickly as possible. The hope was that the unknown dangers in Nibenay would be better than returning to Gulg.

Kira used her magic to cloak them in the colors and textures of the forest, hoping that they would be much harder to track. Although they were tempted to have her summon the bird spirits again, Lalali-Puy’s affinity for nature made them reluctant to use such magic. They pressed on through the dense forest moving as quickly as they dared. As they traveled, they were constantly tempted to investigate areas of the forest that they came across and sent Kira in first.

The party stumbled into a patch of Blossomkiller plants and had to fight their way out. They party encountered a group of runaway slaves from Gulg, who did not trust the party, and a party of half-giants who attacked the party on sight. Kira found a spring in the forest with restorative properties, helping to refresh them after a long night of travel. After about 10 hours the party reached a clearing and decided to risk stopping to rest and recover some of their strength.

After a few hours their rest was interrupted when a group of well-armed warriors emerged from the forest. Way-lynn immediately recognized them as soldiers in the army of Nibenay, including half-giants of the Shadow Guard. They were shocked that Kira’s camouflage was penetrated and even more shocked when a woman in templar garb stepped forward and addressed the party…

“I am the templar Marika of Nibenay. We are here to escort you to the Shadow King!”

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Red Moon Hunt

Entrance to Gulg
Although the party had recovered some of their strength from the fight with the Gulgans, they were in no shape to contend with the well-trained Nibenese forces. The keen eyes of Elleandra and Kira gave the party enough warning to leave the area before the troops arrived. They quickly gathered the clothing of the nganga and judaga foes and Kira summoned the bird spirits to take them to safety. They flew northeast above the Crescent Forest towards the city-state of Gulg. After about an hour, the spirits began to fade and the party set down.

Morg told his allies all that he knew of his former city-state as they donned the gear of the Gulgan warriors. They decided that the safest course of action would be to leave Way-lynn and Iorskan outside the city as dray and half-giants were rarely seen. The rest of the party would enter the city-state by the Queen’s Gate, meet up with the Veiled Alliance contact, procure survival days and spell components and then leave the city.

The spirit eagles landed a few miles outside the city and the party headed towards Gulg from the south. Their first sight was the 20 foot tall hedge of tightly woven razor-sharp brambles, the Mopti Wall. As they approached numerous guards could be seen but the group was allowed to enter the city without any significant challenge. A feeling of unease came over Elleandra as she moved closer to the city – she could feel the anguish of the nature spirits enslaved by the sorcerer-queen. Jarvix directed them to the House of Outsiders where he was to make contact with the Veiled Alliance.

After arranging the meeting and purchasing some supplies they waited for the Veiled Alliance contact to show in a secluded section of the dagada. As they waited, the light crowd dispersed until they were all alone. Suddenly a large group of judagas surrounded them and demanded that the party accompany the warriors to have an audience before the Oba. Out numbered and still weakened from their earlier encounters, the party did not resist.

As the party was escorted deeper into the city, they were awestruck by the lushness of Gulg but also its primitive appearance. The city itself consisted of circular mud and thatch huts arranged into the dagadas – small community groups. Along the way, the party passed near to the city’s arena – the Field of Spears, but their attention was quickly drawn to the center of the city, where an impossibly gigantic agafari tree could be seen. Perched in its highest branches was a wondrous sight – Lalali-Puy’s palace. Beneath the bright and beautiful palace, deep in the shadows, the party could make out the houses of the nganga – foreboding and grim, decorated with ghoulish embellishments, bones, dessicated trophies, and the like.

Entering through the trunk of the mighty tree the party was led up winding stairs. At length, they entered a gleaming white, high-ceilinged chamber. Various slaves, courtiers and soldiers stood around the room, and at one end grew several large, gnarled trees which the party recognized as trees of life. “Abase yourselves in the presence of the Forest Queen!” bellowed a voice. At the other and of the room, seated on a throne carved from the wood of the agafari tree, was Lalali-Puy herself.

“Welcome bold adventurers!” She began with a heavy accent. “We have been told of your bravery and many adventures. We would hear one of your tales as told by you.” There was no mistaking her words as a request and Jarvix told of their encounter with Abalach-Re and her transformation. His tale was slightly embellished to downplay their involvement and ended with Lalali-Puy defeating the dragon. The sorcerer-queen and others in the hall appeared pleased with the story.

“Ah!” She breathed, “It is everything we had hoped for. Please, brave adventurers, accept our hospitality for a few days as an expression of our gratitude. Enjoy your stay in our palace. Everything you see is for your use and pleasure.”

Trouble in Paradise
City-state of GulgWith that the party was escorted to a guest suite where they were reunited with Way-lynn and Iorskan, who had been discovered earlier by a patrol of Gulgan soldiers. Although they were unharmed and allowed to keep their weapons, it was clear they were prisoners and would not be allowed to leave the palace. Jarvix attempted to use the Way to get help, but it was blocked by some power greater than his. Elleandra assisted Kira in communing with nearby plants and animals and received confirmation that the sorcerer-queen and her templars were controlling most of the spirits of nature for their own dark purposes.

They next day the group roamed throughout the palace. Compared to all the other area of Athas they had seen, this was a lush, tropical paradise amid the broad branches of the agafari tree. They found large, luxurious huts, vast meeting chambers, pleasant sitting chambers, and a magnificent view of Gulg and the Crescent Forest beyond. Colorful birds filled the air with song, and iridescent lizards and insects decorated the mighty tree’s trunk and branches. The party was housed in great luxury, and were offered numerous delicacies and as much water and wine as they could drink.

As they rested back in their rooms, they had a visitor who introduced himself as Habban the Fetish Keeper, chief Nganga. Habban was very interested in Elleandra, her background and her magic. They conversed for several hours and it became apparent that he was much more interested in gaining information than giving it. Although he appeared confident, Elleandra sensed that he was rather insecure in his position and nervous about her and her companions.

The discussions were cut short when the party was interrupted by Mogansho the War Chief who was sent to bring them before the sorcerer-queen. They were asked to tell another story and this time Iorskan spoke about their encounters with the forces of Dregoth from the island of Waverly to the ruins beneath Giustenal. He mentioned the return of Kalid-Ma and the mirror they used to escape, both of which the queen and her court listened to intently. At the conclusion of they story, they were dismissed again.

The next day passed much as the previous day had and once again they were summoned before the queen and her court. This time Jarvix told the stories they had learned about the Cleansing Wars, the champions and their tasks. He used many of the sorcerer-kings’ true names during the telling and this caused Lalalai-Puy to become visibly annoyed for a few seconds. There was a brief moment when the party was tempted to start a slow clap, but the mood of the queen stopped them quickly. One member of the queen’s entourage, Shala the Hunt Mistress, spoke up apparently taking offense at the implication that the Oba was anything other than the Forest Goddess. She suggested the party be punished for their disrespect, but the request was not granted and the party was allowed to leave once again.

The following day Kira assumed the form of a colorful songbird and attempted to scout some of the areas of the palace they had not been allowed to enter. She uncovered a library filled with spellbooks of dragon magic and other mundane tomes. Another room held artwork of ancient origins, showing places and creatures never seen in modern times. The last room was a menagerie containing creatures from all over Athas. She returned shortly before the party was summoned before the queen for next story.

This time, the queen’s throne room was almost empty except for the queen, Habban, Shala, Mogansho and another woman. The queen addressed the party with a severe tone in her voice, “So, you have chosen to reject the hospitality that we so generously offered. What are the charges?” Habban spoke first accusing Elleandra of being an evil spirit of nature sent as a spy. According to him the rest of the party was guilty of treachery by not reporting her to the templars. The other woman, Taibela the Chief of Thieves, accused Kira of violating the restricted areas of the Palace and communing with evil nature spirits. Then Shala the Hunt Mistress slyly interjected, suggesting they give the prisoners a fighting chance by having them participate in the Red Moon Hunt in two nights. At this Lalali-Puy smiled and nodded ordering the party to be taken to the dungeons.

Mogansho began to lead them down from the throne room into the dungeons beneath the great agafari tree. The party began looking for an opportune time to escape…

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Red Moon Hunt

Taking Flight
Before the party turned around and headed southwest towards their goal of Rafernard’s Forest, they had a serious discussion about what they were trying to to and how they were hoping to accomplish their goals. The sorcerer-kings were the problem and through their reckless use of defiling they had destroyed the world and the group felt that diminishing their power and influence would help start the restoration. Jarvix complied what they new about the various sorcerer-kings and attempted to rank them in terms of power.

Jarvix received a reply to the message he sent the Veiled Alliance in Tyr. Mathias said that Tyr was fine, although the political infighting continued, Kled and the Tree of Life there were still safe and it appeared that the Dragon had finished its collection and returned its domain. Mathias also passed along a Veiled Alliance contact in the city-state of Gulg – a woman named Narissa.

The discussion moved to whether to take the road, making better time but risking more encounters with the forces of the sorcerer-kings, or to travel more slowly overland. Kira reminded her friends that she could possibly summon bird spirits that could move them at great speed through the air, as she had done in the Shadow Tomb. With the help of Morg, Elleandra and Way-lynn, Kira was able to summon enough spirits for the entire group, although they took the form of kestrekels and gave everyone an uneasy feeling.

Kestrekel Spirits

The Battle of the Sorcerer-Kings
The spirits took them swiftly east towards the site of the battle of the sorcerer-kings, where they hoped to gain more information on what happened with Abalach-Re. They made the 125 mile trip in just over 8 hours and touched down in an area of scrub plains on the edge of a verdant belt on the southern end of the Crescent Forest. They located the battle site with ease, as the land had been turned to ash from defiling magic and the corpse of Abalach-Re still remained.

Kira used her magic to speak with the surviving plants and few animals that remained in the area. They related much of what happened during the battle of the sorcerer-kings that took place here. Kira relayed the information and they were all horrified to learn that the three sorcerer-kings knew much about them and their activities. The actions of Lalali-Puy put their minds at ease regarding the possible return of Abalach-Re, but the entire description of the time left them uneasy.

Kira also saw images of the sorcerer-kings and was shocked that although Lalali-puy and Andropinis appeared to be human, the Shadow King of Nibenay was very draconic in his appearance. There was only speculation as to why he was allowed to progress in his transformation when Abalach-Re was being hunted.

Headhunters
While processing the information and preparing to take flight again, a dozen individuals emerged from the nearby scrub brush and quickly surrounded the party. Morg immediately recognized them as judaga (headhunters) and a nganga (witch doctor) from Gulg. Without a word the two groups started attacking each other.

The battle was bloody, with the Gulgan forces far stronger than the party anticipated. It was all that Jarvix and Iorskan could do to keep everyone else alive. Way-lynn proved capable of keeping most of the judaga focused on him, his body assuming the form of unworked stone. Morg struck hard and often at the judaga, a fierce sirocco scouring even the distant enemies. Jarvix used the Way to move his enemies about consolidating them into one area where Elleandra could unleash her magic upon them. Kira shifted in and out of her tiger form, alternately attacking them with spells and claws.

The judaga lasted far longer then the party expected and they came dangerously close to being defeated, but eventually the headhunters of Glug fell. The party took a moment to catch their breath and Elleandra rose up on wings of magic to check if the area was clear of other hostiles while Kira prowled around as well. Their hears sank when they spotted a group of soldiers clad in the raiment of Nibenay. By the time the party regrouped, the Nibenese forces were on them, although they did not appear immediately hostile…

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Rampage of the Dragon Queen

Attacks in the Night
Moving as quickly as possible the adventurer’s headed out from Altaruk towards Tyr. They had already been marching for many hours, but they pushed on as best they could. After three hours they decided to stop and take shelter in the rocky terrain. Morg took watch while the others rested and regained their strength. After a few hours Morg spotted a patrol of Balic legionaries that were following the same path and heading into the rocks. Morg woke his companions and they prepared for battle.

Rocky Badlands

The legionaries consisted of praetor, a half-giant and half a dozen soldiers. Jarvix briefly contemplated attempting to talk with the praetor, but at the last moment he changed his mind and lashed out with the Way, catching the soldiers off guard. The rest of the party followed his lead and unleashed a flurry of attacks. The soldiers were tough and stood their ground neither running nor being overwhelmed.

Morg was immobilized by the praetor’s magic and the soldiers surrounded Kira and Iorskan knocking Kira unconscious at several points. Elleandra kept working her magic and distracting the soldiers with visions of flesh-devouring spirits while the rest of the group continued to eliminate the soldiers.

In the heat of the battle, the half-giant turned on the Balic soldiers and started attacking the praetor. The party was thoroughly confused by this, but gave the half-giant space and watched him carefully. With only one soldier left, Jarvix made obscene thrusting gestures towards him as he tried to use the Way to finish him. Either as a result of fatigue from the long march or extreme overconfidence, Jarvix slipped and fell off the rocks injuring himself instead of his target. However, with their new ally, the Balic forces were finally defeated and the party was able to catch their breath and meet their new ally.

New Allies and New Directions
The half-giant introduced himself as Way-lynn and told Jarvix and the others how he had been in the army of Nibenay and more recently a guard in Altaruk, but now was looking for a way to help stop the sorcerer-kings. He witnessed and survived the attacks of Abalach-Re on Altaruk so knew first hand the magnitude of his self-appointed task. The party realized that they had seen Way-lynn before in their visit to Altaruk before heading to Rafernard’s Forest. Happy to have another strong warrior with them, Iorskan and the others accepted him into their group.

Way-lynn filled in the party about the attacks on Altaruk by Abalach-Re and the deaths of Arisphistaneles, Selonius and Culler. Way-lynn also confirmed that the three sorcerer-kings did fight and kill Abalach-Re between Altaruk and Gulg. Jarvix contacted Birk and learned that the party was wanted by the forces of Gulg, Balic and Nibenay. He also learned that Birk and Arnye had defeated Tethrades and recovered the Crystal of Ebon Flame, but that it was lost in the turmoil following the attacks on Altaruk.

As they rested, they discussed their next move. Their original plan to head towards Tyr now felt like a long march in the wrong direction. Although they wanted information from the Veiled Alliance, there was little else to be gained there. Iorskan told the party about his desire to find his clan’s old stronghold and try and unite the dray outcasts into an army to help fight the sorcerer-kings. The stronghold was located in the Black Spine Mountains between Nibenay and Cromlin.

Feeling that this was one of the only concrete actions they could take to further their goals, the party agreed to help Iorskan. They decided that after a good nights rest they would turn back and head towards Altaruk, but try and avoid the trade fort and any complications with the forces of Balic encamped there. With luck they hoped to reach the relative safety of Rafernard’s Forest.

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City by the Silt Sea

The Dread Palace
With a look of satisfaction Li-Am took Kalid-Ma’s hand and accepted his offer, revealing his true intentions to continue serving as the sorcerer-king’s templar. The rest of the party was shocked at his betrayal, although there was little time to ponder this, as the battle continued.

Kira switched from Absalom and attacked Li-Am, wounding him greatly, but he still found the strength to stand. Kalid-Ma swept the room with his claws and then began to draw the life out of his enemies. Elleandra was overwhelmed, fell unconscious and then died. Although blinded by Kalid-Ma’s attacks, Jarvix sprinted out of the room, as if answering a call that only he heard.

Iorskan and Morg continued to attack Absalom, eager to finish what they had started. To everyone’s surprise, Elleandra rose from death, an odd light about her. Completely restored to health by a lingering blessing from her time holding the Crystal of Ebon Flame, she tried to attack Kalid-Ma, but found herself unable to break through his defenses with her magic.

Li-Am turned on his former allies and attacked them with his spectral weapon and magic. He wounded Kira, Iorsakn and Morg, and killed Absalom with his combined attacks. Kalid-Ma continued to attack, biting into Iorskan and Morg, and knocking Iorskan to the floor. Only Morg’s incredible toughness allowed him to keep fighting.

The room rumbled and the main doors opened to reveal another massive dragon, whose decaying form could only be that of Dregoth. He let loose with a blast of necrotic energy aimed at Kalid-Ma, but that was large enough to injure most everyone in the room. Li-Am fell to the ground, unable to keep standing with his injuries.

The party was on the verge of despair, when a large portal opened in the room and they could see Jarvix on the other side, concentrating hard, but motioning them towards him. Not wanting to die again, Elleandra used her magic to become insubstantial and slip past the few remaining dray guards. Along the way she stopped by the unconscious Li-Am and grabbed the Skull of Dorag Thel.

Morg, having seen too many foes return from the dead, moved over to Li-Am and proceeded to hack at him with his Axe. Satisfied that he was truly dead, he grabbed the Shadowstaff and moved through the gate dragging the unconscious Iorskan with him.

The Planar GateThe party found themselves in a large room with walls covered in bookshelves overflowing with books and scrolls. One wall was dominated with the large ornate mirror through which they had just stepped. Jarvix appeared to be in contact with the mirror and began to concentrate to try and change the mirror’s focus. Kira grabbed several nearby books, having learned the potential value of the information contained within them. Before Jarvix could complete his work, Dregoth stepped through the portal squeezing his massive form into the library.

Dregoth let loose a blast of defiling magic and the entire party doubled over in pain as their life energy was drained from them. Unwilling to risk further attacks by the undead sorcerer-king, the party joined hands and jumped through the portal, which was flashing seemingly random locations that they had visited. With a scream of rage, they left Dregoth behind and hoped that he would not be able to follow them.

Rafernard’s Forest
The adventurers opened their eyes and looked around, immediately recognizing their location – they were in the central plaza within Rafernard’s Forest. It looked much as it had when they had left it following Abalach-Re’s transformation over a month ago. The land surrounding the skull tower was still defiled and there were remains of hundreds of corpses.

They quickly retreated into the forested areas and found that food and water were still abundant. After tending to their wounds, taking stock of their gear and getting some much needed rest, they started out towards Altaruk, where they hoped to find friends and get information on what had been happening in this part of Athas since they left.

Their rest was not interrupted and their journey across the hot desert between the forest and Altaruk was dusty but otherwise uneventful. When they reached Altaruk, they found that it had changed significantly. The walls were badly damaged and instead of the usual guards, the Legions of Balic now stood watch. Elleandra used her magic to charm one of the guard captains and learned some of what had happened here.

According to the guard captain, Abalach-Re had attacked the fort and was driven away, although when she attacked again the defenders fell. The vast majority of the guards were slain in her attacks as were several prominent leaders. The guards also told how Abalach-Re was defeated by the combined efforts of Andropinis of Balic, Lalali-Puy of Gulg and the Shadow King of Nibenay. Lastly the party learned that they were wanted by Andropinis for breaking into The Ivory Dungeon several weeks back. Fortunately Elleandra’s charms prevented these guards from turning them in, but they decided to not linger and headed out on the road to Tyr.

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City by the Silt Sea

Giustenal
As the silt skimmer approached the ruins of Giustenal, Jarvix had some time to review what he had learned from the writings recovered from Waverly. Although he found no mention of dragons, avangions, or Rajaat, there were some discussions of other champions. Dregoth was mentioned as the Ravager of Giants and Kalid-Ma was named as the Minotaur Terror. One champion, Myron, was called the Troll Scorcher and he was apparently killed and replaced by Manu who took on the same title. None had heard the name Manu, but it had a striking similarity to Hamanu, the sorcerer-king of Urik.

When the vessel finally arrived at Giustenal, it slowed to maneuver among the ruins of the city which stretched out into the Sea of Silt. The hordes of undead were unloaded and sent off into the ruins and the party and the other captives were escorted up to the surface. There they could see the massive city of Giustenal half buried by the Sea of Silt and positioned at an odd angle, as if the entire city had been sunken. Off in the distance a haze created by boiling tar pits blocked most of the view of the ruins.

The party waited on what appeared to be an old wall and was told that they would be momentarily taken to Absalom. The dray captain cautioned Jarvix about using the Way and informed him that their books and other heavy gear would be carried down for them. The party was tempted to escape, as there were only nine guards including the captain, but decided against it as their options for getting off the wall were not apparent.

Within a few moments a platform rose from the ruins of a tower connected to the wall and another party of dray, half of whom appeared to guards joined the first group of guards. The other half of the party appeared to be outcast dray and were assigned the menial task of carrying the books and mundane gear of the party. Once all were positioned on the platform one of the guards, who appeared to be a defiler, spoke words of magic and the platform began to descend through a series of tunnels.

Morg studied the walls and was amazed to find they were not constructed by any craft known to him – they appeared to almost have been grown. Jarvix was studying the walls as well when he suddenly appeared to dissociate and then collapsed to the floor of the platform, visibly shaken by something. There was no opportunity to discuss his condition as the platform moved through a series of tunnels. After a few minutes, the platform leveled out, moved horizontally and then stopped at the entrance to a massive cavern.

New GiustenalNew Giustenal
The entrance to the cavern was secured by a massive gate and two towers. The gates were made from a combination of stone and large bones, giving the entry way a grand and ominous appearance. Dray guards could be seen in the towers and as the party approached, the gates appeared to open on their own. As they approached, the more observant members noted that the bones of the gates appeared animated as some horrific golem and that was what caused the gates to open.

Beyond the gate the adventurers were amazed to see a small city spreading out before them. As they were escorted through the city, they saw sights that they might see above the surface. Merchant shops and other businesses were mixed with residential areas along a large central avenue. Although the buildings were familiar, the inhabitants were all dray.

The party could make out a magnificent structure made from gray stone with crimson scales, trim and other draconic decorations. In the center of the building a large steeple could be seen, decorated with dragon scales. The doorway was carved to appear to be a dragon’s mouth, with the portcullis being formed by the creatures teeth. This was a temple of the Dragon, where the faithful gather to hear the words of Dregoth.

The wonder continued as off in the distance the party could see fields of strange plants and pens of even stranger beasts. The most amazing sight was a large river of cool, clear water, flowing through the center of the cavern. The river was over 200 feet wide and numerous floating ships could be seen moving up and down the visible section. This was another of the many gifts that Dregoth had bestowed upon his chosen people, according to their guards.

Beyond the river were more homes and shops but as the avenue rounded to the left a strange forest was visible on the right. Trees were growing from the ceiling, their limbs reaching down and stretching out into a canopy of leaves, their roots winding their way upward. The trees were bearing fruit.

More wonders of the city were revealed to the party as they continued. A beautiful building of ivory sandstone was capped in black obsidian, as towers of similar design rose behind it at varying heights. The party’s eyes were drawn away from that structure to their final destination: a stark and oppressive structure set behind a wall of black obsidian, its surface decorated with giant bones. A huge ribcage of bones made a walkway from the gates to the palace.

Absalom
The guards led the party through the ribcage of bone and up through a massive set of doors into an entrance hall. The massive doors were opened and the party was taken into a huge chamber made of gray marble inlaid with a turquoise image of a dragon. Atop a stepped platform sat a throne of polished marble. The guard captain left them in the company of the other guards to go find Absalom.

Although their guards were attentive, the did not appear to care if the party explored the room or talked amongst themselves. Jarvix took this time to tell the party about the vision he had on the platform. They had a brief discussion but it was cut short by the arrival of Absalom. He was a tall dray with black scales and appeared to be not entirely alive. He carried a large sword in one hand and an obsidian Orb in another.

He greeted Li-Am and Iorskan, thanking them for delivering the party. He promised that Iorskan would be the general of the outcast dray, and that Li-Am would be the high templar of Dregoth. The party was taken aback and unsure of where the loyalties of their two friends were. Without warning Li-Am and Elleandra dove for the Orb, attempting to wrest it from his hands. Neither was able to secure the Orb but it created a momentary distraction and Kira shifted from a small lizard into her favorite form of a tiger and pounced on Absalom, savagely ripping into him.

Jarvix emanated a hypnotic ripple of psychic influence among the dray, stunning the majority of them, while conjuring a shard of nothingness to hold them fast. Iorskan let his true loyalties be know and orchestrated a devastating coordinated attack on Absalom as he called out “You did a shitty job of making these dray!” Elleandra made another grab for the Orb, but Absalom twisted away and Elleandra summoned illusory barriers around him causing him pain when he attacked. Morg called upon his reserves of strength and made a strike at Absalom at an odd angle catching the dray off guard and wounding him deeply.

Absalom teleported to a more advantageous position, slashing at Iorskan and siphoning his spirit. As Iorskan’s spirit faded, some of Absalom’s wounds healed. The dray guards rushed in attacking Elleandra and Morg. and wounding them deeply. Jarvix and Iorskan attempted to keep their friends standing despite the damage being inflicted on them. Iorskan attempted to keep Absalom’s attention on him by continuing to insult Absalom’s potency as a dray.

The battle continued back and forth until Elleandra finally managed to grab Absalom’s Orb, a look of triumph on her face. Before she could merge the Orb, Li-Am snatched Absalom’s Orb from her. The party breathed a collective sigh of relief as the all too real prospect of the return of Kalid-Ma suddenly didn’t feel like a good idea. Still urged on by her Orbs, Elleandra tried to grab the Orb back from Li-Am, but was unable wrest it from his hands. Li-Am turned her lunge to his advantage and barely managed to get a hold of her Orb. With a swift motion and a smile on his face, Li-Am combined the Orbs.

With a pulse of dark energy and a snapping sound, the Orb flared and cracked issuing forth a stream of black smoke. Helpless to do anything except watch, the smoke coalesced into an ordinary seeming man. Within a look of satisfaction on his face, his body grew and changed into a magnificent and terrifying form of a mighty dragon composed of living shadow, a being of darkness and defiling magic – a creature of nightmares. Its large hand extended towards Li-Am “Your loyalty will be rewarded, you shall be my High Templar”. Too stunned to react, all the party could do was wait to hear Li-Am’s response…
Kalid-Ma

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