Shades of Shadora

Meeting Lord Foxrun

The group assembled at the Marlin Spike, Simon and Trish had arrived early and were chatting with Aaron
when Prospero and Roku came down from their room. Aaron wears a plain dark green cloak with a clasp in
the form of an air rune. A longsword with a gold wire wrapped hilt hangs from his belt the cross piece
is engraved with lightning bolts and storm clouds. A large round shield leans against the wall with a
huge piece of true-stone in the center. A ring of air earth and water runes are inscribed in a circle
around great stone and are inlaid with silver.

The atmosphere was grim, no doubt from the suicidal plan that the team had put together. Thoughts drift
back to the meeting the with the Lord and Lady Raven the previous night. Lord Raven waved the team to
their seats and and remained standing to address those assembled. My friends the mission we are about to
embark upon will most likely get us thrown into the dungeons of Ard and may even see us rotting in the
pirate cages at the entrance to the port. We must risk this if we are to drive the Lazuri from our lands
before they can occupy and fortify their position. I have word from spies in the employ of Broadshoulders
that even now Lazuri troop ships are on their way to Ard to occupy the city and fortify their hold on the
Duchy of Foxrun. We are out of time and must free the military might of Foxrun to drive the Lazuri from the
city and sink the ships as they enter the harbour.

Simon you and your party will enter the palace as members of my retinue. At this Lady Raven rises and hands
out hooded cloaks embossed with the Black Raven on a field of Yellow. Once in the palace proper General Essa’s
men will lead you to hiding places used by servants and retainers that surround the audience chamber. The
servants will not betray you as they are both loyal to the duke and deathly afraid of Aida the mistress of
kitchens whom I believe you met. Mother Tessa will hide with you, but as the Lord Generals wife she must also
remain neutral. We will seek to reason with Foxrun but I must say that I am not hopeful that we will be rewarded
with a peaceful outcome. Other lords have tried before us and they either had deadly accidents or have gone
missing. Volini and the Lazuri scum that he has allowed to take up residence in the palace have too great a hold
on him. This I fear, is where you come in. You have been strong allies to the duchy and despite the Lazuri
attempts to spread lies that twist your great deeds, the people of Broadsholders speak of the White Lion and the
Grey Lady with both awe and hope. Even Broadshoulders has asked for news on your deeds and where-abouts now and
again. However it is with a heavy heart that I ask you to risk both your great renown and the headsman axe to
save Ard, the Duchy, and perhaps the region itself. If you manage to save Foxrun he may grant clemency, but if
he dies the kingdom will need a scapegoat to prevent a destabilizing civil war.

So you can see that the breakfast discussion was anything but cheery. To save Ard the Duke’s support of the
Lazuri would need to be withdrawn. If he decided against us or if his Lazuri handlers were able to kill him
the party would be the likely scapegoats. Without the Duke there would be political chaos and civil war, Ard
would be easy picking for the Lazuri. Lord Raven, Mother Tessa, and the Lord General would get us into the
palace. They would try to convince the Duke of the folly of aiding the Lazuri. It was rumoured that the Lazuri
and their Chaotic allies were planning on occupying Ard. If the Duke refused to change his position the team
would need to attack to kill the Lazuri and their allies while protecting the Duke. Unless the Duke could be
convinced of our Honourable intent for Ard this would be Treason for Raven, Tessa, and the Lord General. The
Duke’s youth and inexperience would work against us, he is the rightful ruler of Ard and loved by the people
but is indecisive and a bit cowardly. He seems not to understand the dangers of dealing with the Lazuri. He
like his forefathers are worshippers of Artol, if he is killed resurrection is out of the question.

The only good news came when Dane joined the group, although her demeanour was of one already
condemned, she put a full wineskin in the center of the table. “The antidote, drink up but beware it tastes like
horse piss. Lady Ratimir says I am to accompany you on your fools errand. At least death will be quick, no
battlement crow cage for me.” She carried three hand crossbows at her belt, one she passes to Roku, “you
were asking about these. I had the weapons-master rig one up for you, it can be cocked one handed by
snapping the slide like this.” She also pushed a bandoleer with a small quiver and four throwing knives to Roku.
“I also procured this for you Master Roku. The quiver has 10 bolts coated with our best sleeping poison. The
weapons-master thought you could use the hooks for your bolas or bangers if you have them. There are a lot
of one handed thieves in the guild and our weapons-master has had to learn to be innovative.” Roku thanked
her with a simple nod and smile, the first of the morning.

When the Lord and Lady Raven enter all stood. The team marvel at the Lord’s raiment, his helm is topped by
the head of a great black bird. His armor is carved with golden raven motifs and the runes of Dagaral.
A two handed greatsword hangs across his back and you see runes of earth fire and darkness engraved on the
cross guard. The pommel holds a fist sized white true-stone that shimmers in the light. Lady Raven is no less
stunning both because of her beauty and her amazing black cloak made of raven feathers sewn together in a
way that make her seem ready to take flight. She carries a staff that appears to be made of coral and is topped
with a huge blue topaz. The dark blue robes she wears under her feathered cloak mark her as a water mage of
the college of the mists. The team is surprised as Lady Tessa steps into the room behind lord and lady raven.
She seems well rested but wears a concerned frown on her normally kindly face. She set her oaken staff
engraved with ivy leaves against the wall behind her chair.

The Lord Raven speaks gravely I had have hoped to have found an empty tavern when I arrived this morning,
I knew in my heart the hero’s you are. But I offer you this one final chance, If you would like to back out it
would be no dishonor to you. There was a shuffling of feet, but no more, the die was cast the team and its
allies were committed. “As I expected”, which way will we take through the city queried Dane, “I have a surprise
for you there. I will not be held at bay by petty bureaucrats in the employ of the Lazuri. To the roof.” The team
follow the Lord Raven up the stairs and into an open air balcony. He pulled a strange ivory whistle from his
cloak and blew three long screeching blasts. After a moment a large form blocked out the sun, four giant
ravens with 40’ wingspans descend to the roof of the Marlin Spike. The roof groaned under the strain and Itch
looks nervous, the ravens wear saddles with one more ornate that the others. “Oh no – not this!” mutters
Aaron, Lord Raven teases him about last time. But that was combat and this is just a simple flight to the
palace. While strapping into the safety harness, the giant birds leap into the sky and are soon hundreds of feet
above the city. Ahead lies the palace and three dark shapes rise up from the great castle and your heart sinks,
Lazuri on Wyverns.

The Lord Raven was able to lure away one of the Wyverns while the the other two headed for the teams three
mounts. The Lazuri fired off a series of spells, primarily Sun Spears. While Simon was carving the wing off of
one the the Wyverns, Prospero’s mount practically exploded, quick healing by Gurgle prevented a deadly
plunge but still the bird was grounded. As Simon and Roku prepared to attack the final Wyvern Lord Raven’s
Mount attacked from above, its talons ripping the Lazuri from their Wyvern and dashing them to the ground,
the riderless mount fled. Fortunately those upon Prospero’s bird were uninjured in the crash and the bird was
healed. Together the four Ravens continued to the Castle and the meeting with the Duke.

The Ravens landed in the Palace courtyard, aided by the Duke’s retainers and the Lord General’s soldiers the
team easily pushed past the senschals, the noisy ones were quickly shut away in closets. Essa’s (the Lord
General) soldiers quickly guided the team into positions around the Throne Room. As the characters readied
for their assault they could hear the argument already in progress. Raven called out Violini as a traitor, Igmar
accuses Aarin of associating with known criminals. The Duke defends his choices and knows what’s best for
duchy and accuses the Ravens and Aaron of conspiring against him. As they peer into the Throne room they
see Volini lean over and whisper to the Foxrun, he seems confused but with the whispered comments his face
tightens and he orders their allies imprisoned with the other trouble makers. The guards seize them and lead
them towards an exit. Volini calls after strip them and put them in the deepest dungeon until the Lord Foxrun
decides their fate.

At this point the attack should have started but Simon could not bring himself to launch it. He is no assassin,
and the Duke is the rightful ruler. Killing off his court of Lazuri, assassins and the traitor Volini would only
alienate him against our just cause. Instead Simon simply walked into the Throne room with weapons
sheathed, the others were taken aback with surprise.

My Lord Foxrun, I Simon Telgarth, White Lion of the Dawn, I seek an audience. The Lazuri drew weapons. The
Duke replied “I have heard of your crimes and you can say nothing that will sway me, you will be seized and
imprisoned”. As the Lazuri guards started to move towards him Simon replied “My Lord I have been slandered
by Fools, Traitors and the Lazuri. I come before you as a Windlord of Bander, your lands are in danger, I am
here to aid you.” Volini replied “The fool has walked into our grasp my lord execute him and be done with this
farce”, Simon replied, “Volini you are a fool and traitor, I challenge you to single combat, let the elements
decide”. Volini turned pale, you are a trained warrior I but a simple adviser no doubt you would enjoy cutting
me into small pieces, I reject your offer, GUARDS!". Simon, “Of course if you are afraid you could always select a
champion, to save the honor of Ard and Foxrun”. As Volini was about to shout for the guards once more he
was overruled by the Duke. “Yes, yes, a champion could settle this right now. Igmar, would you be my
champion?” Simon smiled grimly as the Lazuri formed a fighting circle and Igmar stepped forward. The Duke
dropped a scarf to start the duel, Simon flitted forward and slashed Igmar. Igmar responded with a counter
stab, around Simon four mirror images burst into being, while Igmar’s spear burst into flames. After several
strikes and counter strikes Igmar was seriously wounded, Volini stepped forward and shouted “Igmar you fool
end this”, raised his hand and shot a lighting bolt at Simon. Waiting for the treachery Simon was uninjured, and
Volini had been unmasked and the honor of Foxrun stained. Now was the time for the attack.

Simon shouted, “Protect Foxrun!”, and the chaos of battle ensued.

A letter to the Lord General

From the information the team gathered over the past few days it seemed that the leader of
Ards army might be able to influence the Duke. Prospero and Roku decided to seek out the Lord
General Essa. They wandered the city discussing possible avenue’s of approach, all were
far fetched and quickly discarded. As they wandered through the market place they stopped to
listen to a young female priest named Batul hiring guards for a spirit journey to the underside
of the disk. To Prospero’s surprise he spotted the Brine listening raptly to the priest while
carrying a large basket of fish. When Brine spotted Prospero he immediately let out a shout and
approached. Moving out of the area Prospero introduced Roku and questioned Brine on what he was
doing. He said that the Lord Raven hand provided a letter for Aaron with a basket of Raven Lake
Trout, Aaron had passed the materials to Captain Ward who had assigned the task of delivery to
Brine. Prospero and Roku joined the mission seeing it as a possible way of seeing the Lord General.
The group stopped to buy additional baskets to lighten Brine’s load and explain why all three needed
access to the castle. While they were haggling over the baskets they listened to a madman predict
the end of the world in twenty days.

Outside the castle was a long line of petitioners, and it was scarcely moving. Regulars on the
street said we had come to late and would better return tomorrow. Roku, began a kerffle drawing
the attention of the guards some 50 yards ahead. Soon a private was on his way to investigate.
He tried to take the basket of trout no doubt with the intention of delivering it to the kitchen
but the team refused. The private left and returned with a corporal who left and returned with a
Sargent who left and returned with the captain of the guard. The captain agreed to our request to
deliver the Trout to the kitchen in person. Upon reaching the kitchen we meet the head cook Ada.
It seemed that she regularly accepted correspondence for Essa and wanted to know if we had a
message to transmit. We requested paper and quill and added a brief note of our own to be delevered.
“We are working on a cure for what Ails Ard. You may reach us at the Marlin Spike, seek the sign
of Prospero”. After Ada treated them to the best meal in months they departed at dusk.

Outside the gate the team saw winged worms alight upon the temple of fire, Roku said Igmar is in Ard.
The team headed for the Marlin Spike alert for assassins only to be ambushed by dwarven pirates. Adair’s
dwarven alchemist first mate was seeking revenge. He launched a tangle-foot potion catching Prospero
while Roku dodged clear. Prospero quickly got out of his robes clearing the gunk while pistol shots
from the pirates rang out. Brine and Roku attacked the near pirates while Prospero summoned Sentinels.
Soon all the pirates had fallen and the villainous First mate fled, Prospero perused and just before
he rounded a corner escaping a bolt sped from Prospero’s hand killing him. The team quickly searched
the bodies finding six flintlock pistols, a musket, 60 rounds and six potions (Power Restoring,
Greater Healing, Binding-gnome, Binding-salamander, Confusion, and Smoke). We also had the first mates
Fine Silver Chain mail and a silver dagger. Roku took the Power Restoring Potion, the Smoke Bomb and
the silver dagger. Prospero passed the other materials for Brine to carry.

Upon arriving at the Marlin’s Spike they meet all their allies in Ard. Lord and Lady Raven, Aaron, and
Dane. It was decided that the team would call in the Rune Lords (Trish and Simon) to join the retinue
of Lord Raven. Tomorrow we would enter the castle and confront whoever was controlling the duke.

Meeting the Thieves of Ard
Two plans that worked, amazing.

After consultations with Simon and the Bander Priest, Prospero and Roku decided to search out the
Thieves Guild of Ard. The first destination was Aaron’s Manor and a talk with his Majordomo. While
en-route as Prospero was revealing the secrets of Earth Magic to Roku, two assassins assailed them.
Roku spotted them on the roof top and tried to parley thinking they were thieves, the crossbow bolts
they shot corrected his thinking. The first shot nicked Roku but skittered off Prospero’s hidden
armor. Roku was off like a shot and climbed a nearby ladder, the chase was on. After several alley
jumps Roku’s bolo brought one down. Roku quickly secured him as Prospero and Wallac came up and
to ask some questions, he freely admitted and that he was an assassin and that he would meet us
again, then his skin smoked and fumed and acid ate a hole in the roof we were standing upon. He
dropped through and disappeared, shouts for the city guard came from hole. As the team stated to
move on Roku dropped to one knee, his breath coming in ragged gasps, the bolts had been poisoned,
Prospero pulled the antidote he had gotten from Simon and gave it to Roku curing him. The
team moved on before the city guard arrived and made it to Aaron’s Manor without further incident.

At the manor the Majordomo had no thieve contacts for us but suggested that the Marlin Spike Tavern
was a reputed hangout for the thieves. Also a young thief named Dane had been apprehended and was
being held in the city jail. Prospero and Roku decided that a visit to the city jail was in order.
While passing a market a Lazuri slaver with a dozen slaves and two guards passed them. Roku
immediately moved into the shadows becoming invisible. Prospero thought to free the slaves without
blood shed, offered the merchant gold for them. Like most Lazuri he was arrogant and vile, when he
tried to foist off one of the silver coins on him Prospero knocked his hand away, when Roku’s blade
came though his chest the market was hit by pandemonium. With a quick spell Prospero freed the slaves
of their chains, who then overpowered and killed the guards and escaped. The team quickly moved on
blending in with the ensuing confusion and headed to the jail.

The jail break consisted of paying of a wide cast of city guardsman from the door watch to the Master
of the Keys. Roku, used his magic and followed Prospero through the various encounters, Wallac rode in
the hood of Prospero’s cape. Ten gold pieces later we were outside Dane’s cell. We questioned her
quickly, she didn’t believe that escape was possible. But when Roku appeared, his magic exhausted she
was impressed. Wallac opened the cell door, Prospero cast invisibility on Roku and Dane, together they
summoned the jailer and where shown out. Once clear of the jail Prospero released the spell with a
small margin of power left. Dane quickly lead them through the alleys of Ard and then into the sewers.
After a winding underground journey we arrived at the thieves lair. After some argument the guards
agreed to take the team to Ratimir the guilds leader. This is what was learned.
1) Lord Routh is head of the Assassins guild within the city. Prospero took a note to mention this
to Trish and Simon.
2) The new coin was likely some type of alchemy not magic. Why it wouldn’t infect everyone indicated
some type of protection or antidote.
3) The pressure on the thieves guild was because they had the best alchemists in the city and if
an antidote was possible they would find it. Unfortunately the coinage affects were like nothing
they had ever seen before so without a sample of the antidote they were helpless.
4) Lord Volini was the Duke’s consular, people believed that he was giving the Duke bad advice.

From the information Prospero and Roku came up with a daring plan, they would capture or at least
retrieve the bodies of a merchant and his guards. It would be likely that they would have the some
of the antidote on them or possibly some type of charm. Dane was assigned to help and since the
Assassins were on our trail Ratimir provided two poison antidote potions. Prospero ordered Dane to
find them a location for an ambush and a street waif would could act.

They departed the guild early moved to a section of street Dane had selected. They rehearsed the waif,
Timmy, on his lines. When the Lazuri arrived at the market he was sent, Prospero and Roku took
cover in man-holes about 10 meters apart. Dane moved to the roof and hid herself. Wallac rode in the
waif’s bag. Timmy ran to the Lazuri merchant (priest) and shouted how a drunken Lazuri guard had been
robbed and when he awoke started attacking people for the new coin. This brought them on the run. The
waif and Wallac disappeared down a child size sewer hole. Roku started the ambush with a silence spell.
This signaled Prospero and both rose from their manholes. The guards were oblivious but the priest
understood immediately and summoned a salamander. Not to be out done Prospero summoned a pair of
sentinels. The silence was eerie, as the Stone Sentinels, Lazuri, Salamander and Fel exchanged blows.
Prospero waited outside the silence seeing if any further Magic would be needed. Roku’s attack and
the sweeping blades of the Sentinels quickly toppled the Priest but through his magic he recovered.
Again the attacks went in and again the priest fell and again he rose, Prospero stepped up as Roku
did a third killing blow to the Priest, with Kindred he neatly separated the Priests head form his
body, he arose no more. The guards were dropped as the last sentential was destroyed and as Prospero
prepared a banishing spell for the salamander Roku destroyed it with a slash of his Rune blade.

A quick search found nothing of interest. As the team gathered the bodies and gear moving them into
the sewers Dane notice that they all carried water bottles. Perhaps that is the answer. Prospero was
vigilant on the journey through the sewers, watching for signs of the Priests allied spirit or any
other follower but he saw none. Now it was up to the thieves to see if we had recovered an antidote.

Freeing Aaron and return to Ard

The party prepared for the assault on the Goblin Kings Throne
Room by attaching the severed Medusa head to one of the Hobgoblin
shields. Kubuto carried the shield with the head covered by a goblin
Simon launched the attack by doing a great leap to the nearest
hobgoblin, while in flight he tossed the last of the dwarven grenades
at the alcove where Ice Witch’s minions waited. The toss missed the mark
and bounced off the corner of the targeted alcove. The explosion did
catch two Winter Wolves in its blast stunning them. Simon landed and cut
down the hobgoblin. From his position Simon could see the Rune Lord chained
to an iron post, and a torturer taunting him with a whip. Kubuto moved in
and crossed the far side of the room. Roku moved towards the alcove to wait
the onslaught of the Ice Witch’s creatures. The others fired a volley with
their missile weapons and downed a Winter Wolf.
The surprise ended, a host of Kushna, Winter Wolves, Wargs, and giant
rats charged the party. The Ice Witch summoned some type of icy demon to
engage Simon and Goblins quickly grabbed their bows while the hobgoblins
drew their swords. The Goblin king summoned a Black Knight that confronted
Kubuto. Roku confronted two winter wolves killing one while the second let
out a blast of cold, Roku was able to dodge but Gergle and Tuck took the blast
and went down. Storm Crow moved forward to aid Roku while Simon quickly cut
down two goblins and then summoned his gnome to engage the ice demon. Kubuto
exchanged blows with a Hobgoblin. More blows were exchanged between the
combatants and the Ice Apes engaged Roku and dropped Stormcrow with a mighty
strike. Two Hobgoblins were turned to stone as Kubuto lifted the covering cape.
The Goblin King shouted to his torturer to kill the prisoner and Simon
saw him drop his whip and draw his sword. Simon ported to Aaron and cut down
his captor. As the others fought on the Goblin King summoned a second demon
of some type as a guard while the Ice Witch and a goblin archer each wounded
Simon with missiles as he was freeing Aaron from his chains. As Ruko and Trish felled
the Apes and wolves Kubuto was downed by the Black Knight. Simon gathered up
Aaron in an arm and ported back towards his allies. Unwilling to allow her prey to
escape the Ice Witch rushed to the side of the room and cast a spell encasing
Simon and Aaron in a block of ice. Simon called to Bandar “Master of Light and
Dance my plight is great, my enemies have deprived me of the dance, my light
dims, your aid I seek.” The block of Ice exploded pelting the Ice Witch, and
where had stood a single Simon now there were a dozen, each with a spell of
light turning to face his foes. The cowards fled, Mother Taessa quickly healed
Aaron and with his magic ported to the team to the Wind Sanctuary in Ard.
An old priest was stationed at the circle, but he knew Aaron and after
exchanging greetings Aaron requested our arrival go unannounced. The priest
agreed and the party split with Trish and Simon going to their temples to
renew their spells. The others remained with Mother Teaessa to be healed while
Prospero and Roku left with Aaron to get a feel for the city.
The feeling in the city was bad, Aarons estate was being watched. A guard
was captured and questioned, it appears that some Lazuri trick was in the works.
A new Lazuri coinage was available and it appeared the people where in thrall to
it. Aaron departed to gather intelligence with a visit the Duke of Fox Run an ally.
Prospero and Roku ventured further into Ard and discovered that Prospero, Trish, and
Simon were wanted and had prices on their heads. They returned to Simon’s temple
where he was being held under house arrest. They discussed their options to unravel
the mystery of the coinage. They had two possible courses of action they needed to
decide upon, they could attempt to contact the thieves guild or talk to the Priests
of Salor. A conference was called to decide the teams next actions.

Through The Thieves' Den

Simon cast cat’s eye on himself, as Telpurr cast shield on him. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see one of the snake women fixing another arrow into her bow, standing at the base of a stairwell leading up. He rushed her and cut her down to expose a male snake person behind her. He was different in that the humanoid portion of his body was more snakelike than the women, including a hood like a cobra that fanned out behind his head as he spun, dodging Simon’s attack. As Simon and the snake man faced off with each other, a disturbance in the pond grew into a large serpentine figure that lashed out at Simon, clamping its teeth down on him. It tried to lift him off the ground, but Simon’s struggles kept it from getting enough purchase to fully lift him. Simon turned his attention to the creature that bit him, his katana and sashi striking home to wound the creature enough to let him go. A voice came into his head saying, “You should stop struggling, it’ll be much easier if you don’t struggle”. The male snake man attacked with his scimitar and spit a glob of goo at Simon, but Simon managed to dodge both. More arrows came out of the darkness and he heard one of the snake women hiss out a prayer of some kind. He glanced behind him at a noise there, and could see a swarm of vipers falling from the ceiling of the cave. The giant serpent rose and struck at Simon again, but he teleported away, behind a snake woman just behind the snake man he had been fighting. A quick slash from his katana dispatched her, and he threw three shuriken with deadly accuracy at the snake man, killing him. He then looked to the next closest threat, and jumped to the back of the serpent in the water with all the grace of a rune lord of Bandar. His attacks came swiftly and before long, the serpent had been cleaved from brow to chin, and sank beneath the surface of the water, thrashing as it died. Simon ran across the top of the water to the other side of the cavern, encountering another snake woman with a bow on the other side. His hasty blow glanced off her scaly hide as she recoiled from his advance. As he shifted his footing on the sandy outcropping, more arrows came out of the darkness, one of them striking him well in the side and burning unbearably. He glanced down as he flicked it away from him, but he could see the dark ichor of the poison that had been on the barb staining his clothing. He killed two more of the snake women and continued to try and move away from the pond, casting a spell as he went to make himself intangible. Two of the snake men came out of the darkness at Simon, but he managed to kill them both before they could get close enough to attack him. More arrows clattered around him as he moved deeper into the cave. In front of him, he saw three of the snake women behind which he caught a glimpse of a giant snake woman with snakes for hair. He clamped his eyes shut and harnessed his Bandar training, killing the three snake women in front of him. He became intangible again as he could sense the giant creature rush up on him, then scream in rage as she couldn’t grasp him in her coils. Simon began to feel woozy as the poison in his system started to take effect, but in his most cavalier voice, he said, “You’re quite attractive. Would you mind standing still so I can take in your beauty?”

The creature screamed and slapped the water with the end of her tail as she vented her fury, “I’ll never be a prisoner again, you’re just like them!”

Using her voice as a guide, he lashed out with his blades, severing her head from her body. He then turned and ran back the way he came in an attempt to find his comrades before the poison took him.

In the thieves’ training room, Trish struggled and finally broke free of the grip of the undine that had been drowning her. She stumbled backwards towards the wall, and felt a familiar warmth as Mother Taessa healed her wounds. Trish rushed back into the fray, willing Gilliam to cast an endure spell to relieve the fatigue of fighting through the undine’s attempts to drown her. A bolt of inky darkness shot past her into the undine which shuddered with the pain of the wound. Trish thanked Artol that Roku’s magical aim was steady as she heard Gergle and Tuck overcome the undine they had been battling behind her. The sound of the other undine dying distracted her as the undine she was fighting sent a wave against her that knocked her to the ground and sent her skidding back to Roku’s feet. Roku cast another shadow bolt at the undine, then helped Trish to her feet. As she stood, Trish saw a snake man come out of the darkness and knock Gergle down with its scimitar. She lost track of the snake man as the undine sent another wave of water at her and Roku, but they sidestepped it easily. Trish rushed forward and attacked the undine again, wounding it, as one of the snake people sent arrows into Tuck who fell forward and didn’t move. One of the creatures let loose with a shrill hissing noise, and snakes began to drop from the ceiling near Roku. The swarm was forgotten when the snake man approached Roku, swinging his scimitar and spitting. Roku dodged both attacks, and the spit sizzled, steamed and popped from where it hit the cavern wall. Trish finished off the undine which dissolved into a puddle of water on the floor, and heard Mother Taessa’s scream as the snake man advanced on her. Storm Crow and Roku fought with one of the snake men as arrows fell around Trish, missing her completely. She rounded the corner, and saw one of the snake men raising his scimitar to strike Mother Taessa, and she rammed her sword through his chest, killing him on the spot. As his scimitar clattered to the floor next to his lifeless body, Trish ran back to assist Roku and Storm Crow. As she rounded the corner, she saw Storm Crow lying on his back in a swarm of snakes, as Roku struck the snake man a glancing blow with his katana. Trish ran behind him, stopping long enough to cut him down, then she went hunting for the source of the arrows. She went back into the room with the pickpocket practice dummies, and located one of the archers, who she killed without remorse. Storm Crow stood up, and as he did, Roku pushed him out of the way, activating his crown and burning the swarm of snakes to crisps. Trish saw the final snake woman in front of her, and as she advanced, the creature fired an arrow at her, but it caromed off her armor into the darkness. Trish struck her a glancing blow as the snake woman attempted to retreat, and suddenly Simon was behind her and ran her through with his sword. “There’s two more archers around the corner, and I’m poisoned,” he gasped through clenched teeth.

As if to confirm what he had said, arrows clattered around them from out of the darkness. Trish had Gilliam cast healing on Simon to remove the poison, then moved into the room Simon had just came from to search for the archers. As she moved into the room, the desecrated statues spun on their bases and spewed forth a cloud of gas. She held her breath and ran past them into the pool of water, staying to the edge. She was suddenly surrounded by a swarm of snakes, and a lightning bolt arced out of the pool behind her, narrowly missing her. Simon rushed into the room and attacked the giant serpent that had risen out of the water behind Trish, wounding it. Storm Crow moved into the room, but inhaled some of the gas from the statues and began choking, which ruined his shot at the serpent. Within the blink of an eye, the serpent disappeared.

The party waited for several minutes to see if the serpent would reappear, as Mother Taessa worked her magic on Tuck and Gergle. She then saw to the wounds of the rest of the party. Trish went up the steps on the side of the pool furthest from the gas statues, and as she reached the top, saw two snake men. She killed one reflexively as it came towards her, and the other struck at her with his scimitar, the blow glancing off her armor. She counterattacked and stunned him with a strike from her pommel. Without warning, a roar filled the cavern and struck fear into the hearts of all that heard it. Simon recovered first and bringing his horn to his lips, blew a sweet even tone that filled everyone’s hearts with courage. Trish regained her composure and killed the snake man in front of her. Simon joined her on the ledge, which was flanked on this edge by statues of Ratrona, the goddess of thieves, and by the snake statues on the other side. Roku went to recover the head of the giant snake woman, believing her to be a medusa. Simon moved across the wooden bridge, followed closely by Trish. About halfway across the bridge, it turned into a creature, with the planks becoming gnashing teeth. Trish attempted to move across the bridge to the other side, but couldn’t quite make it. She spun and struck down with both her blades, wounding the bridge creature. The roar came out of the darkness again, striking fear in Trish’s heart, and she paused in her attack. Simon tried to use his teleport ring, but the bucking of the creature prevented him from being able to concentrate enough to activate it. He drove his blades home into the creature, which convulsed even harder than before. It was also secreting a sticky substance that was hampering his and Trish’s movements more with each passing second. Storm Crow attempted to shoot the creature, but the arrow clattered harmlessly against the side of the beast. He then pulled a rope out and tried to throw it to Trish and Simon, but it mostly landed between the two of them, and just out of reach. Simon finally was able to concentrate enough to get the ring to work, and he appeared on the far side of the bridge, spinning and stabbing the creature with his blades and killing it. The creature, bereft of life, began to slip down the walls and into the pond. Trish managed to catch Simon’s arm and the rope as well, and stood on solid ground as the body hit the pond with a splash below. The snake statues began to emit gas, and Trish and Simon held their breath as they worked to topple them into the water after the bridge creature. While they were doing this, lightning arced out of the darkness, striking Trish solidly, and hurting her badly. Trish and Simon sent out Gilliam and Telpurr to cast enhance attribute on Storm Crow and Roku to enable them to jump the chasm. They made it without problems, and then helped the rest of the party across using the ropes they brought across with them.

The party decided to take a rest a bit further up the path, to help prevent more lightning attacks, and Mother Taessa finished healing the latest damage to the party members as Simon explored further up the path. The next room in the cavern held a pile of garbage that was just beneath a natural shaft headed up into the ceiling. “This looks like the place,” said Simon to himself, “They said we’d be looking for a garbage chute, and here it is”.

As they climbed the shaft, Roku heard a voice in his mind, “You killed our mother, we will kill you for this. Watch for the hooded ones who will dog your steps!”

At the top of the shaft, the party found itself in an area that was part storeroom and part garbage heap. There were smells of waste, sulfur and decaying food all around them. Light filtered into the room via torches placed at strategic intervals in the room, and they could see dim lighting in the distance down the hallway. After a brief discussion, Roku volunteered to scout, and headed out the door into the darkness of the hallway beyond. He came into a large room, but he could see the hallway in front of him seemed to go straight with small alcoves offset from the main thoroughfare. In the first alcove on either side of the hallway, he could see a sleeping kushna. Quiet as a mouse, he crept by them and further down the hall. The hallway ended at a short stairway that led down to another hallway, and as he got closer to the top of the stairs, he could hear raucous laughter, the crack of a whip, the cry of someone in pain, and even more laughter. Once he gained the top of the stairs, he could see more kushna as well as hobgoblins, who all seemed intent on what was happening in the room just beyond his vision. He snuck back and told the rest of the party what he had seen. “I can put the kushna to sleep,” said Mother Taessa, but you can’t kill them if I do this for you. I will not put them to sleep if you don’t agree”.

Trish said, “Kushna are too dangerous to be left behind us to possibly be awakened. I don’t like that plan”.

After some discussion, an ambush was planned out, and Simon and Roku crept out to the sleeping kushna who died before they woke up. Near the end of the hallway, Simon, Roku, and Trish hid in alcoves as Kabuto went to the top of the stairs and began clicking and making high pitched noises to attract the kushna. The devil dogs’ ears began to twitch, and they finally turned and started up the stairs. They passed Roku and Simon, but one of the kushna turned on Trish as it passed her hiding spot. It snapped at Trish and missed, but she slapped it in the head with the flat of her blade as she dodged. Storm Crow loosed an arrow that killed that kushna, Tuck shot and killed the second one, and Trish rushed the final one, killing it with a double swipe of her swords. The party moved back to the alcoves at the end of the hallway, and Simon picked up a piece of crusty kushna dung. He flung the horrible missile at the nearest hobgoblin, where it hit with a sharp snap, and blood appeared on the back of the hobgoblin’s neck as he whirled around. As Simon retreated to the ambush site he chuckled to himself, “If that had been a rock, I’d have severed that bastard’s spine with that shot”.

Roku and Trish took the hobgoblin down quietly, then Roku and Simon scouted to the room that where it had been standing outside. Simon’s stomach sank when he saw not only hobgoblins and kushna, but giant four armed ice apes and winter wolves. The ice witch was definitely here!

The Tavern

Though the battle in the square was over, alarms continued to sound throughout the city. Tuck guided the party to the cellar of a building within a few blocks of the tavern’s location. “This is one of our safe houses that we use when scouting through the city for information,” he said wearily, “one of the few that hasn’t been compromised by the goblins yet. I’ll set up some surprises for the goblins, should they get too close to our hiding spot”.

The party rested as Tuck left the cellar, and Mother Taessa saw to their wounds. The minutes ticked by slowly, but eventually Tuck returned with a grin. “I used some of the dwarven bangers to lay some traps for the goblins, Simon. Best to rest for now, we’ve still got a long way to go before we’re through with this adventure!”

About ten minutes later, there was a sudden explosion, followed by the sounds of goblins shouting. Then it sounded like a large brick wall fell down and the voices were silent. Tuck grinned, “Looks like that got most, if not all, of those buggers”.

Within the hour, Tuck looked at the party and said, “All right! Time for us to try and make the tavern. It sounds like the goblins have moved to another part of the city to look for us, and our next objective is close, we have to go now, before they decide to come back and do a more thorough search. The inn was a fancy place before they sacked Glynn. It was two floors tall, and I’d imagine the goblins have put it to the torch. That is likely to make our search for the entrance to the thieves’ guild…interesting”.

The sun was going down as the party moved to a ruined tenement building. Tuck motioned for the party to climb up a ladder to the roof of the building. “The roofs will be watched, but less chance of running into someone out for a stroll this way. Remember, goblins can see in the dark!”

The party moved across the rooftops, avoiding the few goblin archers they saw on the way. Suddenly, Tuck stopped and hissed through his teeth, “By my father’s beard!”. Pointing at a building in front of them, he said, “They didn’t burn it down at all! The bastards are using it as a tavern!”

Coarse goblin laughter and flickering light spilled out of the windows into the cobblestone streets as Tuck led Roku, Trish and Simon around the building to try and find a back entrance. Gurgle, Storm Crow, Kabuto and Mother Taessa all stayed on a nearby rooftop where they would be out of any direct combat, but could see what was going on in case the others needed assistance. As Tuck turned the corner, he froze and backed slowly away from the corner. He turned and told the others, “There are some windows there, but I couldn’t get a good look. The thing I did see was the kushna standing guard”.

Simon crept around the corner to look at the devil dog, then sprang lightly to the rooftop behind him. He pulled a rope from his pack, fashioning a lasso from it, before he snuck to the edge of the roof and with a perfect throw dropped the lasso gently around the kushna’s neck and jerked it off its feet. Trish could hear the kushna start whimpering, and charged around the corner, swords drawn. A swift double cut ended the kushna’s life, and Simon came back down from the roof, coiling his rope and placing it back in his pack.

Simon looked through one of the windows and could see a number of goblins swilling ale, as well as a few kushna napping at the feet of their masters. There was a small open beer garden area where some goblins were absorbed in a dice game. Tuck snuck to the corner of the beer garden, looked around the corner, then swiftly returned. “More kushna,” he said.

Simon said, “I’ll check and see if there’s a way in through the second story”. Without another word, he scaled the wall and was soon looking through a second story window into a once fine bedroom, now filled with debris from the goblin occupation. He saw a woman crouched in the corner to his right and at the same time heard the gruff voice of a hobgoblin come from the hallway directly in front of him. “Don’t be coy, my little pink morsel,” said the hobgoblin, “I enjoy the chase, because it whets my appetite, but if you make me work too hard, I’ll let you feel the full brunt of my anger”.

Simon shifted just as the hobgoblin looked out the window. “Huh,” grunted the hobgoblin, rushing forward, “Who’s out there?”

Simon scrambled to the roof as he heard the window crash below him and the woman began screaming. Simon did a flip, catching the edge of the roof and used his momentum to drop neatly through the now broken window behind the hobgoblin who was dragging his now captive slave off down the hallway. Simon’s katana butchered the creature quickly, and the slave girl ran down the hallway screaming. Goblins burst into the hallway from adjacent rooms, and Simon’s sashi caught one in the throat as it tried to comprehend what was happening.

Trish heard the screaming start, and then heard the crunch of gravel as the kushna came around the corner. Seeing Trish and Tuck, the kushna reflexively let loose with a blast of fire which Trish avoided, but caught Tuck flatfooted. Tuck dropped to the ground without a sound, unconscious, and horribly burned. Trish rushed the kushna, driving her sword deep into its chest, and then stood abruptly as a hobgoblin came around the corner, driving her second sword through his chin and into his brain. A kushna in the bar began to howl, and the goblins that had been in the beer garden came swarming through the shutters on the windows into the alleyway with Trish and the unconscious Tuck.

A kushna charged Roku, but arrows from the rooftop brought it down before it could harm him. He melted into the shadows and watched as a trio of goblins came out of the bar, and began to scale the walls to the second story of the building. Roku stepped forward out of the shadows and willed the crown to send a gout of fire towards the goblins on the wall. The one nearest to him caught the full brunt of the flames and died with a shriek. The next closest dropped to the ground and began rolling about to put the flames out, but the third reached the roof and disappeared from view.

Trish advanced on the nearest goblin, killing it, and then spun on two more of the hapless creatures that had tried to rush her, cleanly severing their heads from their necks. Arrows arced out of the darkness, lodging in her armor, but doing no damage. A second volley of arrows came from the darkness, this time finding chinks in her armor and wounding her. She killed a kushna as it rounded the corner and cut down another of the nearby goblins. Gilliam cast a shield spell on Trish, as she killed another goblin which overbalanced when he swung his sword at her, then dodged as another kushna breathed fire at her. She clambered through one of the shuttered windows of the beer garden, killing a kushna through the window as she put her back to the wall of the garden to take cover from the arrows.

Simon feinted with his sashi, then ran across the wall and dropped behind it. He killed the goblin, then spun and killed two more goblins in the hallway. He stopped dead in his track at the figures he saw coming up the stair. Lazuri! The lazuri gave the remaining goblins the courage to rush Simon, but he cut them down in short order, narrowly dodging a spear thrust from the lazuri who had set up a shield phalanx at the top of the stairs. The lazuri in the back of the phalanx threw javelins at Simon, one of which caught pierced him in the side. Telpurr cast a shield spell on Simon, who then teleported behind the lazuri and stabbed at them from behind. They appeared to have anticipated this, and he wasn’t able to make contact. Simon dropped down the stairwell, and as he gained his feet, he could see Igmar sitting next to a slaver, flagon in hand, and surrounded by lazuri.

Roku was burned badly by the kushna that had rounded the corner on him. He swung a frenzied attack with his katana, catching the beast a glancing blow with the flat of the blade, then following up with a diagonal slash that severed the dog’s head. The goblin that had been on fire growled like an animal as he stood and rushed Roku. Roku’s katana cut the air, but the goblin parried the blade away just as two feathered arrows burst into his chest, seemingly from nowhere. The goblin dropped to the ground, the light in his eyes dimmed, and Roku looked to the rooftop and nodded at Storm Crow and Gergle. He then moved to the wall, and climbed to the roof, and moved to where he could see Trish. He cast a shadow bolt, killing one of the archers that had been shooting at Trish, then dropped below the crenellation of the roof for cover.

Igmar grinned at Simon, his forked tongue flicking between his teeth disconcertingly. “Ssssimon, fancy meeting you here. Unexpected, but delicioussss…Get him!”

At Igmar’s word, the lazuri in the bar rushed Simon. Simon wounded a red sash that arrived slightly ahead of his fellows, but in no time, he was surrounded, and had been wounded by their weapons thrusting in from all sides. Simon glanced to his right and saw a window. As soon as he saw it, he activated his teleportation ring and teleported to the outside of the building. Quickly reaching in his pouch, he pulled out a dwarven banger, and threw it into the center of Igmar’s table. The banger went off, killing the human slaver, and one red sash, while injuring most of the other people at the table, including an ogre.

As Trish caught her breath with her back to the beer garden wall, she saw an ogre step through the opening from the bar area, holding a large tree trunk as a club. With a deep breath, Trish ran at the creature, slashing at it and wounding it severely. She could see goblins lining up behind the ogre, but they couldn’t get through the doorframe around its huge body. A kushna jumped through one of the windows of the beer garden, but Trish cut it in half before it could land. She wasn’t so lucky with the second one, but she managed to dodge the flame just in time. She spun back to the ogre, and could see that the wounds were beginning to heal over, and her next swipe lopped three of the creature’s fingers off.

Watching Igmar stand up from the ruined table and brush himself off without any apparent damage from the banger, Simon called to him, “What are you doing here, Igmar?”

Igmar grinned again, “I was talking to my alliesss, and the goblin king. I brought slavessss with me to provide for the goblinsss sssport. We will, however, be taking the pitiful Rune Lord Arrin back with ussss to gain the ssssecretsss of the missst”. With that, Igmar motioned to his guards, stepping on the body of the dead slaver on his way out the door.

Roku cast shadow bolts at the goblins that were still firing at Trish, killing one. He then dropped to the ground level behind another goblin, killing it, before taking cover. Simon killed a kushna and a hobgoblin as Telpurr cast enhance combat on him. A second ogre crashed through the window trying to find Simon, who had unleashed a flurry of strikes that killed the first ogre. Goblins swarmed over the ogre’s body into the beer garden, where Simon and Trish made short work of them. Trish then stooped down and severed the ogre’s head to keep it from getting up again any time soon.

Another ogre came over the wall, and Simon wounded it, while Trish caught it a glancing blow with her blade. A few moments later, the beer garden was silent again, the second ogre slain. Trish worked on setting the ogres on fire to permanently kill them, and Mother Taessa worked on Tuck, healing his burns and bringing him back from the brink of death. Horns were blowing in the distance again, and they could hear murmuring voices and shuffling on the second floor of the inn. Tuck and Roku searched for the entrance to the cellar behind the bar, finding it, and as Tuck went to tell the others, Roku snuck into the darkness of the cellar. Meanwhile, Mother Taessa healed Trish’s wounds and Telpurr cured Simon’s wounds.

Roku crept through the cellar, and could hear goblins up ahead. “If the hobgoblins knewed we was down ‘ere…” began one.

The second said with a guttural laugh, “Yeah, but they don’t knows, does they? Have another drink on me!”

Roku rounded the corner, where he saw the backs of the goblins. They never knew what killed them.

Simon took several bottles of spirits from behind the bar, smashed them on the rugs and splashed them on the wall hangings. He then grabbed one of the burning lamps and flung it into the spilled spirits, where it caught almost immediately. “I won’t have these foul beasts using this tavern for their own purposes anymore,” he muttered as he closed the door to the cellar behind him.

The party used the water from the fountain to open the tunnels to the thieves’ guild. As they climbed down the ladder that led to the tunnels, Telpurr floated beside Simon. “You have to be more careful with the lazuri, Simon,” he said, “Especially when they’re all bunched up like that. You know they have mastered the phalanx and they are very dangerous if they can get their shield wall up. I also think that Vargas is going ahead of us and warning our enemies that we’re in the area”.

At the bottom of the ladder, there were two foul smelling, rotting bodies of goblins. Mother Taessa looked them over, then said, “That’s odd; it looks like they drowned”.

Trish moved further down the tunnels, her armor catching and enhancing the light of her Journeyman candle. Ahead of her, she could see what looked like scarecrows hung from the columns of the room. They were covered in bells and fancy clothes. She could hear splashing water rimward, and Simon went past her, deeper into the tunnels. Roku went down a side tunnel, where he saw dummies much like the ones in the room Trish was in, only these were bristling with rusty knives. Trish reached out to one of the pouches hanging from the dummy with her sword and severed the ties holding it to the belt. The pouch hit the floor with a crash, spilling gold and silver coins, and one of the small bells tinkled. From either side of her, Trish saw undines form and a wave pulsed out from each of them. Trish barely managed to keep her feet as the waves washed over her smashing her back into the rocks and crushing her. Roku came back down the hallway just in time to have a wave hit him as Gergle leapt into one of the undines and began stabbing it with his trident. Trish attacked the other undine and Gilliam cast shield over her to help with the damage they were dishing out to her. Roku fired a bolt of darkness that hit the undine stunning it briefly. It shuddered, then flowed into the space where Trish was standing and began to force itself down into Trish’s throat, drowning her. Kabuto threw his hammer at the undine Gergle was fighting, and Mother Taessa cast a banish spell. The undine grew smaller and less powerful with each spell. Trish wounded the undine and Gilliam cast an endure spell on her. Roku cast another shadowbolt, then took cover around the corner and quaffed a potion to regain the strength to continue casting spells.

Simon’s ferret jumped out of his pouch and went running ahead of him into the darkness. He came to an area where there were six columns, and he could see where statues of Ratrona had been cast down and replaced with snake figures. As he looked at the statues, humanoid figures rose out of the pond behind the columns and advanced on him. Their top halves were female, but their bottom halves were snakes! Simon rushed the creatures, decapitating one with his katana, and disemboweling the other with his sashi. He killed two more of the creatures, then picked up his ferret. He heard a hissing sound as the area around the columns filled with gas. Holding his breath, he ran from the area, as the surface of the pond began churning. Arrows came out of the darkness and struck all around Simon…

Into the Village of Glynn

That evening, after discussing strategy with Rory, Simon began carving runes onto a flat rock he found near the camp. He carved runes into the night, finally finishing the next morning. “What is this you’ve been working on?” asked Rory.

“It’s a device to determine if we have any enemies in the camp,” replied Simon, “I’d like for everyone to come, lay their hand on the stone and swear fealty to the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders. If anyone is a spy, they will burst into flames if they try to lie while holding the stone”.

“Powerful magic, my friend,” said Rory.

With Trish, Roku and Rory leading the way, all of the people in the camp swore fealty while holding the stone, and none were harmed, which satisfied Simon. The group mounted up and Rory led the party out of the camp, while going over the plan with Simon once more. “You’ll need to sneak or fight your way through the plains gate while we conduct a diversion by the temple quarter,” said Rory, “Get a flask of water from the square that holds the Fountain of Three Veils, then go to the cellars of the nearby tavern. The water from the fountain will open a secret door, allowing you to enter the caverns beneath the city. The caverns themselves were part of the old Thieves’ Guild, and lead underneath the old palace where the goblin king has set up his throne room, and where he is holding Arrin.”

“The goblins outnumber us ten to one, so the more stealth you can use, the better it will be for you in the long run. Mother Taessa will come with your team to heal any injuries Arrin may have received, as well as some spare gear for him, in case what he was captured with isn’t nearby. Don’t take too long with getting into the gate. Any diversion we make won’t last any longer than it will take for them to ride out to confront us, because we can’t cover a sustained assault. Tuck the scout will guide you through the city, and once you’ve recovered Arrin, he has a guided teleport spell that he can use to get you back to Ard and safety,” said Rory.

As the party traveled through the swamp, one of the outriders came back to Rory and whispered a message to him. Rory spoke to him briefly, then the outrider cantered off. “It appears we have some company,” said Rory quietly, “an Agulan appears to be pacing along with us. My scouts will attempt to capture him and discover what he’s up to”.

Suddenly there was a commotion from the left of the main group, and minutes later the outriders came up leading an Agulan with ropes tied around him and a sour look on his face. As soon as he saw Simon and the others, his face brightened. “I thought it was you, Simon!” he exclaimed, “Do you not remember me? It’s Gergle! Where’s my son, Brine?”

Gergle was released as soon as Simon vouched for him, and the next hour of travel was filled with the stories of Brine’s adventures with the party thus far, and how they came to be split up. “At least he is with Captain Ward, and that’s something,” said Gergle.

A short time later, Roku noticed some figures moving in the swamp ahead, but the gathering darkness was making it difficult to make out much more than movement. Rory called a halt, sending Storm Crow and Tuck ahead to scout and the rest of the party dismounted, preferring to meet any enemies on foot rather than on horseback.

A howl split the silence in front of them, and the scouts appeared from the gloom at a full run. “Goblin scouts. They’re riding wargs!” cried Tuck as he turned to make his stand with the rest of the party.

With a sound like falling pieces of glass, a burst of ice detonated in the middle of the party, catching Trish, Kabuto and Gergle, but fortunately, none of the shards of ice hit their target. A wolf appeared in front of Simon, who killed it, throwing the goblin rider towards Trish. Her hasty swing missed due to the disorientation from the ice burst, and she only struck the goblin a glancing blow. Arrows came in, hitting Simon, Trish and Roku, but none of them causing more than a scratch to any of them. Roku stabbed forward, skewering the goblin that Trish had stunned.

As the warg rushed in, Simon rolled under the snapping jaws of one, slicing its underbelly with his sashi, gutting it, then hacked the warg and rider to his right with Inferno’s Edge, killing both wargs and one rider. The second rider leapt from his warg, and Trish caught him on the way down with a sweep of Obsidian. She then cut to her left with Razor, and killed the warg, causing it to tumble to the ground where Tuck made short work of him.

Roku moved up closer to the charging goblins, and fired the circlet into them, burning two of the wargs and their riders. They spun around confused, and Simon went up the other side, leaping into the air, and catching himself on the head of an incoming warg, grabbed the goblin rider and backflipped, throwing the rider into the path of another warg, which snapped the hapless rider’s throat open with its slavering jaws. Trish made short work of another warg and rider, just as a blowing horn sounded from the darkening swamp in front of them.

The warg Simon pulled the rider from spun on him, but he danced just out of the way of the snapping teeth, stunning it with a kick as another rider missed him with an arrow. Kushna loped into view and breathed fire at Simon, Roku and Trish. Simon leapt into the air over the rush of fire, while Roku and Trish shifted away from the main force of the attack. Simon rushed the Kushna, cutting them down, but more appeared from the left of the ambush, breathing fire, which seemed to part when it hit Trish’s armor. More arrows came from the distance, lodging in Trish’s armor as a shape swooped down from the sky, passing over Trish. A wyvern lashed its tail towards her, but was thwarted by her armor as another ice bolt came out of the darkness, narrowly missing Simon. Roku cast a darkbolt at the wyvern, and Trish hit it with a glancing blow at roughly the same time, but the wyvern flew past to set up another pass.

Roku fired another darkbolt at the wyvern, which blasted off its scaly hide, and Trish struck it another glancing blow as it flew past her. On the next pass, Trish’s blade sliced open the stomach of the creature as it passed over her, slowing it enough for Roku’s darkbolt to hit it squarely, blasting it to the ground, dead.

Simon killed another couple of goblins, wargs and kushna, and the rest ran off into the gathering dark with Tuck and Rory hot on their tails. As they waited for the return of the scouts, the party searched the dead, coming up with about thirty silver talons for their troubles.

After a couple of hours rest, morning came, and with it, the need to be on the road. Close to evening, they came on the gates of Glynn. “Here is where I must leave you, Simon,” said Rory, “I will lead the diversion. I wish you luck on your mission!”

The party got closer to the gates of the city while they waited for the diversion to start. They could see that there was a guard near the front gate that had two giant rats on leashes. Additionally, there was a goblin on towers on either side of the gate, as well as patrols on the battlements. Shortly, there was the sound of horns in the distance, along with a couple of shuddering explosions. About half of the visible guards left their posts and headed towards the other end of town.

Simon teleported behind the goblin to the left of the gate, killing it silently and lowering it to the ground. He then moved to the next goblin on the battlements, killing it as well. While he was wreaking mayhem on the top of the battlements, Trish rushed out of the darkness, killing both rats, and as their goblin handler rushed at her, she cut him down mercilessly. The remaining goblin guard sank to the ground with Tuck and Storm Crow’s arrows protruding from its chest.

Simon could hear someone in the courtyard shouting, and Trish rushed through the gate. As Trish came through the entrance, she saw an ettin directly in front of her. Knowing that surprise was still on her side, she charged the two headed giant, swords swinging. Roku stepped through the entrance behind her and shot his wand at her, causing her actions to speed up.

Simon ran to the courtyard, killing a kushna and a hobgoblin as he came through. The ettin howled in fury, swinging at Trish, but missing. A kushna breathed fire, missing Trish, but burning the arrows that had been fired at her by the goblin archers nearby. Trish wounded the ettin, and Simon spun by her, killing a kushna, cutting the ettin deeply with his blades, and killing it with a well-placed kick to the chest which stopped its foul heard mid beat.

Roku came all the way through the gate, firing his circlet at the warg, and killing one with his sword. The two remaining goblins hastily fired arrows then turned to run away. “The goblins are running away!” cried Roku.

Trish looked up and saw the goblins, running and overtaking the nearest one, cutting it down with her swords. Simon teleported in front of the last two goblins, killing them both. Roku, Tuck and Storm Crow finished off the last of the wargs, and the party quickly searched the dead, finding 100 silver talons and a potion that Mother Taessa identified as a poison antidote.

The party left hastily, heading towards the location of the fountain. When they arrive there, the square was bathed in light, hobgoblins with whips conducting a slave auction on a makeshift stage on one side of the fountain. Even from a distance, the runes etched onto the foreheads of the slaves is visible. “The enthrall ceremony,” said Mother Taessa through clenched teeth, “The sorcerers of Emancia have banned this spell. Knowledge that these creatures of Chaos use it will help us to convince them to join our cause”.

Simon sketched out a hasty plan, then he and Tuck moved to the other side of the square to position themselves to attack the hobgoblins nearest the stage and the archers on the far side of the square. Trish moved to the corner of a nearby building as Storm Crow and Roku moved to the other side to take care of the archers there. Once she could see Simon in place, Trish cried out to Artol and rushed the nearest hobgoblin, cutting it down before it could react, and missing the nearby goblin with Razor.

The hobgoblin near the stage that Simon was targeting disappeared, and kushna rushed out from buildings nearby the fountain. An ice bolt came out of the darkness, bursting against her armor and stunning her briefly. The kushna unleashed their breath, and she dodged one while the second burned around her armor, frying the goblin near her, who screamed as he died.

Roku made it to the top floor of the building he was infiltrating, and killed the goblin archer there; dropping prone once the deed was done. Simon had Telpurr cast second sight on him, and once the spell took hold, was able to see the hobgoblin that had vanished. He rushed forward and killed the hobgoblin, who regained visibility as he died, then leapt to the stage and attacked the goblin who dodged the incoming kick.

Two goblins came running around the fountain at Trish, and she cut them both down before they could get close enough to attack. A volley of arrows came flying out of the darkness, landing all around her, and Simon. Three of the arrows stuck in her armor, but didn’t cause any damage to her, but Simon wasn’t so lucky. Roku rolled a dwarven banger out into the square at the kushna, and when it blew up, pieces of demon dog rained down in the square. Simon killed the goblin on the stage and yelled at the thralls, “Run!”

As the slaves ran away, Simon took cover from the archers, looking for his next target. Trish killed two wargs in the square, and another volley of arrows sailed through the air, adding an arrow to her armor, and a number of arrows to the wall near Simon. Simon blew his warhorn and moved to Mother Taessa to have her minister to injuries he had taken from the archers.

Roku came down from the tower and moved to Trish, firing a shadowbolt at a nearby goblin. “Over there,” he called to Trish, “another hobgoblin!”

Trish charged the hobgoblin, killing it before it could cast another spell, and she spun on her heel, killing a rat that had tried to charge her. The nearby archer goblins fired at her, adding more arrows to the collection gathering in her armor. One of the goblins was so frightened at the sight of the blood covered warrior that he didn’t aim his arrow before he loosed it, and it went unerringly into the back of the archer in front of him, killing him instantly.

The goblin near Roku on the other side of the fountain wounded Roku as another hobgoblin fired ice bolts at Trish. One of the spells backfired, and his head exploded in a burst of crimson while his body slumped slowly to the ground. A second hobgoblin fired a series of ice bolts at Roku, and they speared him through the guts. He fell to the ground, and a puddle of blood began to form around his unconscious body as the ice began to melt.

Another rat rushed forward to die beneath Trish’s blades, and six more arrows came out of the darkness and lodged in her armor. She called on Gillam to cast heal wounds on her, because she could feel the burn of poison from where one of the arrow tips had caught her. As her wounds knitted, she killed the hobgoblin that had injured Roku. Simon brought Mother Taessa nearer to the battle, then ran out, grabbed Roku and teleported him to her so she could use her healing on him.

Meanwhile, Trish killed two more goblins, and stunned a third with a glancing blow. Roku rushed out, healed by Mother Taessa, and stunned two more of the goblins. Simon rushed the shaken goblins, killing them both, then stopped briefly by the fountain to fill his flask with water. Mother Taessa ran after the slaves as another goblin attacked Trish. Her counter attack dropped him like a sack of flour, as another arrow stuck in her armor from the retreating goblins. Horns sounded nearby, and the party ran through the now deserted streets towards the ruined tavern.

The Grey Lady of Xaar and the White Lion of the Dawn

The followers of Artol finished the last remaining remnants of the horde that Dreymoor had assembled and the party headed through the piles of bodies towards the temple. They came upon an initiate helping a limping Edderick to the temple. “What happened, Edderick?” asked Trish.

Edderick turned wearily towards Trish, “I saw you and Simon dispatch Dreymoor! Well done! I was injured fighting with the vampire battlemaster. He dominated one of my initiates and had him run me through with his sword. My armor turned the blade enough to keep me from being killed, and I taught the vampire the folly of subverting Artol’s chosen! I’ll be right as rain as soon as I can get to a healer, though”.

Trish helped the initiate get Edderick to the healer, and after many reassurances as to Edderick’s health, she finally went to the hall where a feast was already in progress. Kabuto, Roku, and Simon were already eating, having been seen to by the healers themselves. Trish sat at the table with them and used her dagger to cut the leg from a dish that appeared to be some sort of bird that she didn’t recognize and began eating. Just as she finished with the leg, a commotion began at the head table, and she could see a healthy Edderick stand up on the head table. “Attention, attention!” he cried.

The entire room became silent. Satisfied that he had everyone’s attention, and pausing for just a little longer than necessary for dramatic effect, he said loudly, “I have an announcement. On the morrow, at dawn, Lady Trish will undergo her Runemaster Trials!”

A cheer went up from the crowd and those nearby clapped Trish on the shoulders as she gaped at Edderick. Trish shook many hands in the next few minutes and answered many congratulations until she finally had the chance to move close enough to talk to Edderick. “Ah, Trish, many congratulations!” he said.

“I’m not sure that I’m ready for a Runemaster Trial, Edderick,” she said.

“Well, it is a bit unorthodox, and we would normally want you to have some more, ah…formal schooling, but I’ve spoken to Darius, and we both feel that if you can bring the victory to the temple that you and your companions have brought us, while killing a Journeyman lich, no less, then we can certainly…ah…temporarily waive some of the requirements and let you go through the testing process,” he said with a grin, “I’d go and get some rest, if I were you, before the trials”.

Trish found a corner of the temple, removed her armor, laid out her bedroll and was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. She woke to a gentle shaking on her shoulder by Zelnos, one of the initiates that had survived from their adventures together with Edderick in the Mines of Tessen’s Folly. “Lady Trish, the trials will be soon, you should make haste”.

She stood and stretched. “Thank you, Zelnos, I will be there as soon as I can don my armor”.

Within minutes, a fully armored Trish walked into the feasting hall, where Edderick and the rest of the members of the Artol cult were waiting for her. They led her to a practice area, where there were three zombies tied to stakes. She entered the area and Edderick said, “This will be the test of fighting”.

The ropes holding the zombies were cut and they rushed Trish, but her blades were out faster than the crowd could follow and the zombies fell, one after another, their state of undeath ended forever. The crowd cheered, and Edderick announced, “The test of fighting has been passed!”

For the next test, a horse was brought out for Trish to attack from. She was to charge on horseback down a list with a training dummy at the end. She mounted the horse clumsily, because it had been years since she’d been on horseback. She readied herself, then spurred the horse forward, swung mightily at the dummy at the end of the list, missing it completely and almost unseating herself in the process. Shaking her head, she dismounted, and Edderick intoned, “The test of horsemanship has been failed”.

The next test was of marksmanship, but she failed that one as well as the tests for finding hidden initiates and identifying the undead. “No problem, Trish,” said Edderick as they set up the next test. You will have to pass both of the next tests, but they should be no problem for you. We understand that not all people can be proficient at all of the tasks”.

The next test was for throwing, and she sent three daggers tumbling end over end into the bullseye, with barely any space between the blades. “The test of throwing has been passed,” cried Edderick with a smile.

For the final test, Trish was placed in the middle of the practice circle, and three spirits were summoned for her to prove her prowess at spirit combat. As the ghosts closed in on her, she knelt and cast a quick spell. Obsidian and Keller’s Razor shimmered with Artol’s Blade and the crowd murmured its approval. Quick as a striking snake, the swords danced out three times as she stood, and each time it did, one of the spirits was banished back to the Halls of Silence. “The test of spirit combat has been passed,” cried Edderick, and the crowd roared its approval.

Edderick came down from the stands with Darius and they led Trish to secret door. Stopping outside it, Darius turned to Trish and said, “You have done well with the battle yesterday, but it is obvious that you can still use some work on your skills. You have passed the minimum number of trials to be brought before Artol, but before you go, I must caution you. You have been touched by the hand of Chaos, and it may be that Artol will not grant you Runelord status. It is in his hands now, but you should know before you go in”.

Trish nodded, and with that, Darius pressed a hidden switch and part of the wall fell away to reveal the hidden door leading to the skull sanctum of Xaar. As they entered, Trish noticed that the entire corridor, from the floor she walked on, to the ceiling above was covered with skulls and bones of fallen initiates of Artol. At the end of the hallway was a chamber with an altar consisting of an anvil that held a black sword, hilt upward. Edderick and Darius knelt at the end of the hallway, and Trish stepped forward, laid her swords on the anvil and knelt in front of the altar. The sword stuck into the altar transformed into the form of Artol, who stepped forward to where Trish knelt. A deep, gravelly voice spoke, “You have done well, my daughter. You have been true to your faith, and you have done great things in my name. Chaos has touched you, but you have overcome its taint”.

He reached out and laid his gauntleted hand on Trish’s bowed head, “I remove this taint from your body, but leave the white streak it caused to give you the means to remember what Chaos is capable of”.

An additional surge of power came through Trish, and she felt a link to Artol that wouldn’t be severed, even in death. Artol turned to the swords on the altar, “These were excellent swords for an initiate, but as a Runelord, I believe you will need something better”.

Beams of darkness left his hands and burst around the swords. He bid Trish to stand, and when she did, he picked up one sword, looked it over and said, “Oblivion, serve your mistress well!”

He then slid Oblivion into its scabbard, picked up the second sword, and said, “Ah, Keller’s Razor… No, no longer Keller’s Razor, you are now Trish’s Razor! Serve your mistress well!”

Artol slid Trish’s Razor into its scabbard and said, “Trish, your place in the Halls of Silence is ready for you when you have completed my work on the disc. Continue to represent me well”.

With a burst of darkness, Artol was gone.

Darius and Edderick stood, and Trish followed them out of the room to the feasting hall. On the main table, a series of large blankets hid what lay on the table. Edderick went to one edge, and said, “When someone is made a Runelord, it is traditional for the cult to give gifts to the one so chosen”

He uncovered the first gift, a set of ring mail that caught the firelight and glittered from within, “This ring mail was made by dwarven craftsmen out of a single diamond. It was worn by a general of Xaar, and now will be worn by a Rune Lady of Artol”.

He removed the blanket from the next item and lifted up a grey cape. The cape was emblazoned with grey silhouette of woman in a dress holding 2 crossed swords over her head. Three white skulls float outside the resulting “X” “This cape, along with a banner and pennant with this heraldry will signify our newest Rune Lady; you will be known from now on as Trish, the Grey Lady of Xaar. The cape has special powers to amplify your presence and help you in combat, may they serve you well. The skull clasp is also a true stone, which is charged with turn undead, consecrate, sharp sword and shield of Artol”.

There was cheering from the people in the hall as Edderick stepped down from the table and walked over to Trish, “And this is from me. I know you can’t read, but perhaps this will be helpful to you”.

He handed her a book titled “Z is for zombie”, which was a well-known children’s picture book primer for teaching undead lore to the younglings of the cult. Trish smiled as she accepted the book, placing it in her pack to look at later. “Follow me, Lady Trish,” said Edderick.

Trish followed him outside where a jet black warhorse stood pawing the ground impatiently as Talacir, the other survivor of Tessen’s Folly stood holding him. “His name is Balbereth, and he is directly descended from the ancient line of warhorses of Xaar,” said Edderick, “and he is yours”.

Edderick led Trish back inside where the crowd had begun to disperse. Simon came forward and spoke with Edderick. “We could sure use you and your priests to assist with removing the Lazuri from the Fire Temple, Edderick”.

Edderick shook his head sadly, “While we would be happy to help you, thanks to your efforts and the death of the lich Dreymoor, we now have a chance to cleanse these crypts of their Chaos taint once and for all. I have made arrangements for Talacir and Zelnos to accompany on the next stages of your journey, and when you are ready to attack the fire temple, we will rally to your banner”.

“Great,” said Simon, “only I don’t have a banner, so that’s going to be problematic”.

“Oh, is that so?” asked Edderick, “Then I guess you won’t need this, then”

He reached under the blankets that had held the gifts from the temple to Trish, and pulled out a battle standard consisting of a white field, with a red sun and a white rearing lion. “You are henceforth known as the White Lion of Dawn to the followers of Artol, Simon. This is your banner, and we will rally to it when you have need of us”.

A war council was convened, and it was agreed that the party’s best hope would be to travel to the Sentinel Swamp and seek out Rory Storm to rally the scouts of Mistvoice to the cause. “Be careful of the Plains of Mistvoice, wayfarer,” said Darius, “seek high ground at night. The mist that comes from those old battlefields hold naught but Chaos and madness”.

A few days later, the party was ready to leave the city of Xaar to seek Rory and his scouts. Trish was astride Balbereth and each of the other members of the party had their own horses. The priests had given them supplies for the journey, and the dwarven smiths had been able to alter Trish’s old armor to fit Kabuto.

In the afternoon of the day, they spotted movement coreward of their position and took cover. Leaving the horses in the charge of the initiates, the rest of the party moved forward and saw minotaurs hunting a small herd of deer. Their path would bring them near the party’s hiding spot, so they decided to ambush them when they got closer. As they waited, the wind shifted, and one of the horses whinnied in fear at the smell of minotaur. The group of beast-men stopped and began to look near where the party was hidden. Simon drew Inferno’s Edge and tried to go invisible, but the spell failed. The minotaurs saw Simon, and charged across the field. One pulled a horn to his lips and blew on it. The earth shook, and a number of cyclopes rose from the ground. The charging bull men threw javelins as they rushed up, with one of the javelins catching Simon a glancing blow. Trish wounded both the minotaurs that rushed her, and as they spun on her, she killed one and knocked the other down. Roku rushed out of his hiding spot, and attacked the minotaur that had attacked Simon, but his sword slid off the horn of the beast. Simon cut the distracted minotaur down with Inferno’s Edge, then teleported to and wounded the minotaur who summoned the cyclopes. Simon killed the minotaur, but as he spun to face the cyclopes, one threw a rock that missed by a great distance, and the other fired a lightning bolt, striking Simon, and wounding him.

Kabuto threw three axes at the cyclops, hitting it, but not noticeably damaging it. The cyclops attacked Kabuto as one of its brethren called upon their dark gods and caused dirt and gravel to erupt from beneath where Trish, Roku, and Kabuto were standing. Kabuto was wounded and Roku stunned by the debris, but Trish’s new armor stopped it from touching her. One of the remaining minotaurs rushed Roku, swinging his axe in a large arc. Roku dodged out of the way at the last minute and the axe bit deeply into the flesh of a nearby cyclops, which roared with pain. Roku spun his bolas, but the weights on the end spun out of control, mashing his fingers and causing him to drop them. He drew his sword, and killed the minotaur.

Trish wounded the minotaur that had attacked her, pushing him backwards with a brutal flurry of blows. She pressed her attack and slashed him across his exposed midsection, and the minotaur began to bleed profusely. A cyclops popped out of the ground next to Trish, and she spun, bringing Oblivion down through the one eyed creature’s skull, killing it instantly. Continuing her spin, she turned back on the minotaur who had lunged at her exposed back, and ran her blade through his ribcage, with the end of the sword cutting through his collarbone and impaling his skull. She withdrew her sword and the beast man fell dead at her feet.

Roku threw a bola at the cyclops nearest him, tangling him up and dropping him to the ground. He swung his sword and caused fire to erupt from his circlet, but neither attack hit as the cyclops struggled against the bola. Kabuto moved up and killed the cyclops on the ground, as lightning crackled though the air at Simon. The bolt struck the ground nearby with a smell of ozone, but Simon didn’t have time to wonder at the near miss as he ducked under the tree trunk the creature swung at him. Simon rolled to his feet from his dodge in time to see Trish kill the final assailant.

Trish pulled out a healing potion to cure Kabuto’s wound as Simon had his wounds tended by Telpurr. They conducted a quick search, finding two grey potions and about 200 silver talons. Having taken a brief rest, they travelled the rest of the day, finding a hillock to set up camp on for the evening. As the sun went down, a mist began to rise, and everyone began to hear voices muttering just low enough to be heard without being able to hear what was actually being said. Zelnos stood and wandered to the edge of the hill and tendrils of the mist reached out for him. The party had to restrain him from going over the edge of the hill into the mist. “They’re calling to me, can’t you hear them?” he screamed.

As dawn broke, the voices and the mist faded away. The party travelled that day without incident, but late in the day, they heard shouts in the distance. Drawing up their horses, the party saw a herd of centaurs charging at them! Simon had Talacir unfurl his banner and called to them, “Hail centaurs of the plain, what news?”

The lead centaur shouted, “Run, you fool, run!”

Now, easily visible above the running centaurs, the party could see the forms of griffins chasing the centaurs. The horses began to buck, throwing Simon and Roku. Trish got off her horse, and directed the initates to take the horses to the nearby hill, because it was beginning to get dark. Simon teleported to the back of the lead griffin, and held on for dear life. Roku shot a beam from his wand at Simon, who seemed to move a little quicker than normal. When it felt the weight on its back, the griffin Simon was on began to spin and climb higher into the sky.

Roku whispered into the shadows, “We could use some help here!”

Kabuto used his sling against the new lead griffon, hitting it, then threw three axes, hitting two more griffons, who all turned away and headed back the way they had come from. From spunward, a group of riders came in and engaged the griffins. The ground began to mist over as the sun started to sink under the horizon.

Roku threw his bolas at one of the griffins, tangling it in the creature’s wings. It plummeted to the ground near him, and he rushed up to kill it with his sword while it was stunned.

Simon had Telpurr attempt to possess the griffin he was riding and finally the creature’s flight levelled out as Telpurr took over its mind. He flew the griffin to the hill where everyone who was able were gathering. As he drew closer, the riders, not realizing he was on the beast, opened fire, killing it. Simon teleported to the hill and watched as one of the centaurs slowed, then put his hands to his ears and screamed. He spun and ran off into the darkness and rapidly gathering darkness. The last of the surviving men and centaurs made it to the hill and everyone gathered together.

The lead centaur came to Simon, “I am Anoosh, thank you for your assistance; we would have all been killed but for your assistance. Who am I addressing?”

Simon said, “I am Simon, the White Lion of Dawn, and this is Trish, the Grey Lady of Xaar. Why were the griffins chasing you?”

Anoosh grinned sheepishly and brought a large egg from his pouch, “These. We were on a quest for griffin eggs. It is a coming of age ritual for us. My friends here are Voski and Siran”.

One of the riders came over and said, “Are you Simon?”

Simon said, “I am”.

“I am Abel,” said the rider, “One of the scouts of the plains send to look for you by Rory. Looks like we showed up just in time to be of assistance”.

“I’d say so,” said Simon, “Where is Rory?”

“He is in Sentinel Swamp,” said Abel. “We can take you to him, but Arrin has been taken by the goblins of Glynn. They are torturing him for his secrets. Rory will be able to tell you more I’m sure, but we must make haste as soon as the sun rises over this accursed land”.

After another restless night, the sun came up and burned the mist off again. Anoosh came to Simon and handed him a black eagle feather. “This is the symbol of our blood debt to you for saving us from the griffins,” he said, “Your friend, Storm Crow, knows where our tribe may be found. When you are in need of our assistance, have someone deliver this token to our tribe, and we will answer your call. They will recognize the sign you carry”.

Anoosh turned and with a wild yell, the centaurs galloped off into the dawn. A short time later, the party followed the scouts into the swamp. About midday they arrived at Rory’s camp, and dismounted. Rory and Mother Taesa came out to the entrance of the camp. “Greetings Simon, welcome to our camp,” said Rory.

Rory led the party to the middle of the camp and had scouts take care of their horses. “The situation here is grim, Simon. Arrin has been taken by goblins after being ambushed on patrol. He stayed behind to delay the goblins while the patrol escaped,” said Rory.

“What secrets does Arrin hold that they are trying to get from him?” asked Simon.

Rory looked grim. “When Glynn fell, Arrin led the refugees into the mist and got them through with no injuries or losses. He is being tortured for the secrets of travelling in the mist. With that secret, the goblins could expand their dominion much further than the day’s travel they are held to now. King Baylor is holding him,” said Rory.

Simon said, “Baylor? That name is familiar to me. We broke up a circle of sorcerers with a Prince Baylor…”

“That’s the one,” exclaimed Rory, “He is king now, having killed his father upon his return. He brought with him an ice queen sorceress with a scar on her cheek.”

“I definitely remember her,” said Simon, “I gave her the scar!”

The Catacombs of Xaar, Part 6, Out of the Catacombs

The minutes ticked away endlessly as they waited for the fallen initiates to return. The stillness was broken by the initiates talking to each other as they approached the hidden door. “Did you know that Dreymoor told me he was a Journeyman before he became a lich?” said one of the initiates.

“I don’t care where he gets his power from, as long as we get our promised immortality,” said another, as the hidden door slid open.

The party waited until the first two initiates had entered, when Simon struck like a coiled snake, snatching Karl from his feet and slamming him into the wall behind him. Unfortunately, Simon slammed him a little too hard, and the sound of bones breaking filled the silence caused by his attack. Trish stepped forward, and with swift slaps of the flat of her blades rendered the remaining two traitors unconscious. “What is happening,” came the voice of Jurian from behind her, “Did you catch them, initiate?”

Trish sheathed her swords and reached out to the floating sword and grabbed its handle. “As she looked at the incapacitated initiates, Jurian screamed, “Oathbreakers”, and the sword lunged forward to impale Peter.

Trish struggled to regain control of the blade. “Jurian, we have questions that need answering, we can deal with them later!”

The blade ceased trying to impale the last initiate, and Trish moved it back and released it to float behind her as Simon finished tying Vince up. When Vince regained consciousness, the questioning began. “Who had the keys?” asked Simon.

Vince replied, “I…I..I have them, they’re in my pocket.”

Simon grabbed the keys, and Trish moved closer. “When is the attacked planned?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” replied Vince, visibly paling as he realized the blood on Trish’s armor belonged to his friends. “We were told to move them out into the ruins and prepare for the raid, but I don’t know when they plan on releasing them.”

“When and where do you contact Dreymoor?”

“We don’t. He finds us, he has homing circles all over the lower levels,” replied Vince, visibly shaking.

“Are there homing circles on this level?” asked Simon.

“No,” came the sullen reply.

Trish asked sternly, “What became of Jurian’s head?”

Vince looked as if she had struck him, “We gave it to Father Vargas, I don’t know what he did with it, though”.

Simon checked his compass, “Vargas is still above us, I’d guess he’s in the ruins”.

Simon gagged Vince with a scrap of cloth from one of the corpses. “You’ll be happy to take us to where you hung out with your buddies, won’t you?”

Vince nodded vigorously with tears in his eyes. “I’ll take him outside,” said Roku, “The less he knows about our plans, the better”.

Simon and Trish began to discuss their strategy as Roku guided the former initiate outside the hidden door. “I’m going to remove your gag,” said Roku, “you need to be quiet though, do you understand?”

Vince nodded.

“Where is the room that you normally wait in?” Roku asked.

“Just up the path from here, two lefts, then the first right, and you’ll come to another hidden door,” replied Vince.

“Good. I’m giving you a second chance, because everyone deserves one,” said the Fel with a fanged smile as he untied Vince, “Get out of here, and don’t ever let me see you again.”

Vince rubbed his wrists, staring at the Fel as if he thought he was toying with him like a cat with a mouse, then he turned and ran into the darkness of the sewers. Roku gathered the rope in his one hand, then with a small chuckle returned to the secret room. Trish and Simon looked up at his entry. “The last one escaped. He incanted some spell under his breath, then he was free and I couldn’t catch him,” Roku lied.

Kabuto signed, “How will we find the lair, then?”

Roku said, “Before he cast his spell, he was quite talkative. I know the way.”

Minutes later, the party stood in front of the door of the room where the trio of initiates had spent their time between tasks. Trish opened the door and walked into the room, which was full of supplies. A table with an abandoned card game stood in the middle of the room, and there was a pile of documents to one side of the table. Simon came up and looked through the papers, finding two of note. One was older, and read:

Lord Dreymoor,

I beseech you to rise from your long slumber and awaken the sleeping hordes in crypts of great Xaar once more.
Build me an army to bind the Artol priests to their temple. Send the restless dead to the surface to harass and distract the death priests. For if they were to join the fight with Broad Shoulders, we may lose our grip on the Flame Temple at Mistvoice.

My man Vargas will be in contact with you shortly to coordinate our efforts and provide future guidance.

I realize that you may be set upon by terrible hunger after such a long sleep. Accept these messengers as the first of many hearty feasts to regain your strength.
Towards a world engulfed by flame,
Lord General Volmog,
High Commander of the Burning Horde

The second message contained instructions for the initiates to launch a feint in the Rimward district while Father Vargas and Dreymoor exit the crypts coreward, leading a huge Chaos horde. This horde will contain dozens of bone lords destined to swell Volmog’s ranks at the fire temple.

While Simon examined the letters, Trish moved to the door coreward of the one they had entered. She opened the door, and could see a shrine in the back of the room with candles flickering all around. She could see a small pyramid of skulls placed on the altar. “Sinooth,” she said between clenched teeth. “Initiate, let me see with your eyes,” said the voice of Jurian.

Trish took the handle of the sword and looked at the altar, “By the black horse of Artol,” exclaimed Jurian, “You are correct, initiate. It is indeed a shrine to Sinooth”.

Trish moved closer to the shrine, but the sword exerted pressure against her to keep her from moving forward. “Wait initiate,” said the voice, which had turned fatherly, “You don’t want to attack this without protection”.

As Jurian cast a shielding spell on Trish, the rest of the party went back to the card room and turned the table over to take cover from anything that might happen with the shrine when it was destroyed. When the spell was completed, Trish slammed Jurian’s sword through the shrine. Energy began pulsing around the room, and one spell hit Trish full in the face, but it bounced off the shielding from the spell Jurian had cast. As the altar crumbled and fell in on itself, three ghosts began to form in the room. Trish released Jurian’s sword and drew her two runeblades while casting Artol’s Blade. The ghosts fully formed, and one reached out to touch Trish, but she stepped back, and Oblivion cut through the ghost sending it back to where it had been summoned from. Trish then executed a slash that killed a second ghost, while Jurian’s sword skewered the third.

Roku, who had moved to the door when the magic had died down, saw the last of the ghosts dissipate. “Hmph,” he said, “Never mind, I guess you didn’t need my help”.

Kabuto signed, “Well, considering our current plight, there will be more chances.”

As Trish went to leave the room, she saw that one of the barrels had been broken by the magic. She knelt down and looked at the fluid coming out of it, and recognized it as blood. She opened the lid of the barrel, and saw that it had been full of blood. There were Chaos runes inscribed all around the inside, and at the bottom of the barrel, sat Jurian’s head, also covered in Chaos runes. “By Artol, you’ve found my head,” said Jurian, and the sword clattered to the ground, as his spirit was freed.

Trish brought the head and the sword into the card room and conducted a ritual to Artol to ensure that Jurian would be accepted to the Halls of Silence. She then emptied a burlap sack of vegetables and placed the head within. Kabuto exited the room as the rest of the party got ready to follow, and he noticed there was fresh grass lying on the ground near his feet. He looked around and saw a series of handholds leading up from where he was standing. He climbed up and halfway up the wall, hidden from casual observation, he saw that rungs led the rest of the way up. At the top of the rungs, he could see light coming through the outline of a trapdoor. He threw the trapdoor open and began to whistle for the others to come join him.

A short time later, the party stood once more on the surface of the disc, in the grey light of a cold, gloomy afternoon with a soft rain falling from darkened skies. Around the party is a massive, soaring, ruined city. They got an unsettling feeling as they spotted dark shapes moving in ruined windows and doorways from the corner of their eyes. When they looked, they always found nothing. Crumbling statues of dwarven lords and ladies adorned cracked alcoves of ruined buildings of grey granite and milky white marble. The craftsmanship was unparalleled and the detailed statue faces conveyed a people with a stern and grim purpose. Many of the statues were of great warriors, no doubt the famous chaos fighters of lost Xaar. These are the same faces, twisted and warped, that the party has been seeing on the bone lords called forth by the lich Dreymoor. “By Artol, I will avenge you, fighters of Xaar,” Trish cursed under her breath.

Simon looked around himself and said, “I thought that I had seen everything when I saw Emancia, but this place, even in ruins, is more majestic by far!”

The party walked down what was once a grand avenue admiring the sights when suddenly they found themselves surrounded by stern, black garbed men and women that rose like shades from the rubble. Rock steady crossbowmen appeared on the roof tops and sighted the party down the length of their bolts. A tall, grim man wearing a grey cape clasped with a silver chain in the form of Truth, Death and Darkness runes, drew a shining scimitar and points it in your direction. “Know that you are but moments from death strangers and only the truth will spare your lives. What business do you have in the ruins of Xaar?”

Trish stepped forward, “I know that sword! Edderick, it’s me, Trish!”

Edderick looked closely at Trish, “By the gates of the Halls of Silence, it is! Trish, how did you and your companions wind up in the crypts of Xaar?”

“It’s a long story, Edderick, possibly better told next to a warm fire and with a full belly,” replied Trish.

“Of course, of course,” said Edderick, turning to one of the initiates on his left, “Zepherus, run back to the temple and advise them that we will be bringing guests to dine with us this afternoon!”

The initiate took off at a run, and Edderick led the party in the same direction at a slower pace. The other priests fell into step beside the party, and it was then that they realized that a number of them were dwarves. A short time later, the party was brought to a brooding structure of grey and black stone, with a huge statue of a dwarven Artol, his sword poised to strike. Columns surrounded the statue, carved with bas relief depiction of epic dwarven battle scenes. The party was ferried inside, then downstairs, where they came to a hall where the fires had been stoked in preparation of making a meal. As they were led before a group of three dwarves and a human woman, Kabuto signed to Roku, “Oh great, more of Trish’s blade first, death and glory brethren”.

Edderick went to his place at the head table, and began introductions. “I give you Darius the Fatal, our high priest”.

A dour looking dwarf nodded at the party. “Thord the Stoic, our Rune Priest and skills trainer, Ragnar the Righteous, our Rune Lord and weapons master, and finally, Catlin the Stern, our archivist and master of the lists. The empty chair you see was once filled by War Captain Jurian, whose loss is greatly felt these past few months,” finished Edderick.

Kabuto signed to Roku surreptitiously, “Thord the Uninteresting, Rarnar the Uppity, Darius the extra blood thirsty, and Catlin the has the power and position to treat others like garbage”.

Darius looked at the party and said, “Tell your tale, and perhaps you can give a good reason why an initiate of Artol is keeping company with such a…motley group of associates, to include a fire worshipper of all things!”

Trish began telling the tale of how they came to be in the catacombs of Xaar, but before she had gotten far, Catlin’s eyes widened, and she pointed at Trish, “She holds the sword of Jurian, have you found him?”

“After a manner of speaking, we did. It would appear that he was murdered by three failed initiates,” said Trish.

“She carries the sword, perhaps she killed him as a way to trick us,” said Catlin.

Edderick said, “I have fought alongside Trish and she is worthy of your attention my brothers and sisters”.

Ragnar the righteous waved at the party, “I say cast them out brother. They would distract us from our path. Trish may have once walked our path and impressed swordpriest Edderick, but she travels now with the cruel and bloodthirsty Fel, the secretive and manipulative Xern and a light dancer. A wayfarer, trickster and godless sorcerer are her boon companions. As well I say they are tomb robbers; see how they adorn themselves in the sacred relics of our ancestors? The judge of the dead would wisely rule that they are grave sinners and should be cast out. All praise to Artol”.

Kabuto signed, “Sure, cast us out, lose out on what we saw in the crypts, like zombies being aligned against you or the giant severed hands of gods!”

“We are all sinners and all of us redeemed in death. The rulings say the truth will emerge. Let her speak and then we may judge her story,” said Edderick.

Trish began her story again, and when she got to the part where they found Jurian’s head, she pulled it from the burlap bag it had been contained in. The mood of the room instantly changed. “This…” began Darius, “this is why your words have twisted in our hearts. This is why we have been being thwarted in our efforts at every turn. Catlin, please, take care of what is left of our brother’s remains. The Chaos magic will no longer cloud our judgment”.

Catlin took the head and spoke enchantments over it, and the mood of the room lightened again. Darius said, “Trish, I ask that you begin your tale once more so that we may listen to it with our ears and minds unclouded with Chaos magic.”

Trish began telling the tale for the third time, and Kabuto signed to Roku, “Were this a collection of Guha followers, there’d be much more bathing, drinking, and maybe after some sort of bawdy fun, then we’d talk about the damnable crypts”.

“Well, we’re in it now,” said Roku quietly to Kabuto.

Trish finished her story of the group’s travels, and when she finished, Darius said, “Impressive, you have seen Dreymoor? Few have lived to tell that tale. We have heard you out, please bathe and eat, I will consider your story, and then I will make my ruling”.

After the meal, the death priests were gathered once more. Darius looked around him and said, “What do you have to say, my faithful advisors. I would hear your counsel”.

Thord the Stoic stood and said, “Why should we risk the entire temple on their word alone? They are strangers here, and she is corrupt. You can see the hand of Chaos has touched this one of you view her aura”.

The assembled crowd gasped at this revelation, and Thord continued, “Darius, I beseech you my brother, do not let their words distract us from our duty to the steward of the halls of Silence and his temple. All praise to Artol”.

“My glory is but a shadow though I sell my life dearly,” intoned the priests.

Ragnar the Righteous slammed his gauntleted hand down on the table, “Leave the temple unguarded to be devoured by the gaping maw of the crypts while we are away on a fool’s errand is most likely what will happen! We can’t afford to take the chance!”
Catlin the Stern stood and addressed Darius, “I am keeper of the archives here. The scrolls say we may not abandon our post. However, that does not prohibit us walking outside the temple gates. She is giving us the upper hand for the first time in recent months”.

Edderick said, “In the rulings of the keeper of souls it is said that the truth is our true duty brothers. Your words are wise and your caution just, but I would deal our enemy the most grievous blow that we may, now that we have information to act upon”.

After his advisors took their seats, Darius looked around the room. He looked at his advisors at the table to his right and left hands, then looked out at the remnants of the forces that had come to put down the undead in Xaar which had been plaguing the region. He saw the tired faces, the worn equipment and the tattered remnants of the martial finery they had brought with them to the crypts. With a sigh, he stood and addressed the group. “I agree that caution is advisable when on a military campaign, but I also know that when you have a chance to gain the upper hand on your enemy, it is advisable to take it. I know which way the wind blows within my own mind, but I ask this before I speak my truth – Do we have the wherewithal to take the enemy? I look around and see that we are not so well equipped as we were when we began our task. Many of our brethren lie in their own tombs and will not leave Xaar once we banish the hordes of undead. Do we have the strength to tear them down?”

Roku said, “We may be able to help you there,” and he handed Trish the book and piece of vellum they had found in the crypts.

Trish brought the items forward, “The book has locations of caches of dwarven weapons, my lord,” she said.

She laid the book in front of Darius, then unrolled the vellum, to reveal that it showed the locations of their enemies within Xaar. Catlin looked over the book, “There are at least two caches here that we haven’t seen before”.

Darius’ eyes glinted in the firelight. Catlin, take a party to the caches and see what we can bring back to equip our men with. Edderick, gather a scouting party and let’s check that this map isn’t bringing us false news. I will give my decision once we have that information”.

Kabuto signed to Roku, “You know, were it not for the gate failure, I’d not have been pulled into any of this you all are not bad people”.

Roku laughed and clapped the Xern on the back, “Ah, same here friend, funny the tricks fate plays on us all”.

A few hours brought everyone back to the meeting hall. Kabuto had found some chain mail armor that the blacksmiths were able to slightly modify to cover his carapace, and he and Roku had equipped themselves from the one weapons cache that had not been looted. The rank and file of the death priests were considerably better equipped, with fine dwarven weapons and armor. Darius stood and called for silence, “Good fortune has smiled on us, and Artol’s hand has guided us. I believe that the signs from above are very clear, so we will ride at dawn to destroy the enemy! My glory is but a shadow though I sell my life dearly!”

“My glory is but a shadow though I sell my life dearly!” cried the death priests.

Dawn broke cold and clear that morning, and the priests gathered to ride on their enemies, while Prospero, Walac, and Ellisandra stayed to guard the temple. Trish and Simon rode in the front with Edderick and his fellows, while Roku and Kabuto were more to the middle of the formation. The war party turned the corner, and were confronted with the undead army and time stood still for a brief time as the enemies glared at each other across the field. Darius signaled for the attack to begin; a warhorn sounded, and with a cry to Artol, the death priests surged across the field towards the undead creatures that lurched out of the crypts in endless supply. Trish and Simon were soon engaged with a group of skeletons and a mummy that was casting spells to bolster the rotting army. Trish killed two of the skeletons as a third fired an arrow into her armor, and Simon wounded the mummy which pelted him with streaking bolts of darkness.

The battle surged around them and soon Trish attacked some nearby bone lords while Simon pushed his way to his target, the lich Dreymoor. Trish fended off the bone lords, barely injuring one of them as Simon danced through the battle towards the lich. “I have you now,” said Dreymoor with a laugh, which Simon answered with his own spinning blades and a kick, wounding the lich for the first time in centuries.

Roku found a potion that one of the undead had dropped on the battlefield, and stooped to pick it up as Kabuto threw three axes at a group of nearby zombies. Two of his axes were true, killing one zombie and wounding another, but the third zombie got close enough to stun Kabuto with a glancing blow to the head. One of the death priests killed the zombie before it could follow up, and Kabuto and Roku suddenly found themselves on the front lines near Trish and Simon. A mummy shuffled towards Kabuto, who cut it down with an axe, as Roku sent a gout of flame from his circlet to destroy two nearby ghouls.

Three ghouls rushed from a hidden area in the ruins towards Trish, who cut them all down in a crimson rain as they rushed in. Roku threw a bolo against a mummy and then cut it to pieces while it was prone on the ground. Kabuto feinted to the left and spun to the right, wounding the bone lord he was fighting, but the bone lord caught him with a lucky shot with one of its spinning swords, wounding Kabuto. Simon chased Dreymoor through the battle, as Telpurr cast true sword on his katana. He moved in as Dreymoor got caught in a slow moving knot of zombies, and with a series of swift cuts, Dreymoor’s circlet fell to the ground, and in the instant of his long overdue death, Simon saw Dreymoor as he was in life…A Journeyman.

With Dreymoor the lich dead, the magical energy that had brought many of the undead to life had fled and they dropped where they stood. The rest of the undead who were still mobile were no problem for the remaining death priests to mop up and finish off. When the army left the field, the undead had all been destroyed, and only one unit of death priests had been lost. The question remained however; where was Vargas?

The Crypts of Xaar, Part 5, The Hydra and The Headless Ghost

Simon had Telpurr come out of the sword and heal his wounds once again as the rest of the party explored the noxious sewer system they found themselves within. Kabuto wandered away from the rest of the party and went around the corner. He tried to jump across the water separating him from the other side, and missed his footing, falling into the water with a loud splash. Thrashing around, he found his feet and stood to see a group of serpents’ heads looming over him. At the sound of Kabuto falling in the water, Roku and Trish turned to see a creature with multiple snakes’ heads coming out of a main body lunge at something out of their sight around the corner. Roku leapt across the water onto the platform nearest the beast. He cast his invisibility spell, but a gong went off in his head as the casting went wrong somehow. He dropped to his knees, holding his head in his hand, trying to ease the pain. Trish tried to follow Roku across, but her armor held her back, causing her to fall short of the other side. Spluttering and kicking, she surfaced and saw two crocodiles swimming through the briny water towards her. She climbed out of the water and stood in disbelief, because where there had been one beast before, there were now six.

Kabuto saw the six beasts appear from nowhere and closed his eyes, trying to disbelieve in the existence of the recent arrivals. He opened his eyes, and all of the beasts were still in front of him, and one of them struck out with its heads, striking Kabuto with two blunt blows, and one bite. He staggered under the force of the blows and the bite burned. Kabuto looked down and could see some of the black ichor dripping from the beast’s mouth had been injected into the teeth marks the bite left, the outer edges smoldering slightly as if they had been burned in a fire. At that moment, Trish came from his side, swinging wildly at the nearest beast. She connected solidly with the creature, which popped out of existence. Her next hit caught another beast at the base of its neck, and it spun on her with a roar as that head dropped into the water.

Roku stood up from the shock of his misfired spell, and saw two crocodiles climbing out of the sewer onto the platform. He rushed the first one, hitting it across the head with the flat of his blade, then stabbing the stunned animal through its brain. He then twisted away from the writhing body and thrust his sword into the gaping maw of the second crocodile, killing it. Leaving the two bodies to thrash on the platform, Roku tried to find an opening to assist Trish and Kabuto with their battle.

Kabuto flicked three axes, each at a different foe. One axe went wide, but two found their mark, the creatures that they hit flickering out of existence as soon as the axes spun through them. Another couple of spear thrusts, and once again, only one monstrosity stood before them. Trish hacked off another head, and noticed that the first head had begun to grow back; this time with two heads! A gout of flame burst beside Trish, and she turned to see Roku had positioned himself in a gap on the platform between her and Kabuto. The flame burst against the hide of the serpent creature and the newly formed heads hung limp, finally killed by the fire from Roku’s circlet. The monster struck at Trish a couple of more times, but her heavy armor turned aside the attacks. Kabuto danced around in front of the beast and tried to throw an axe at one of the remaining heads. The axe went wide and caromed off Trish’s armor. Trish then began spinning and leaping, her attacks taking three more of the creature’s heads off and breaking the jaw of a fourth. New heads began sprouting from the stumps of the severed heads, but another flame blast from Roku shriveled them before they could fully appear. He then rushed forward and cut the final head from the creature’s body and it sank back into the ooze of the sewer.

“Where did the shadow clones come from?” signed Kabuto, as he wearily sat down on the platform.

Roku shrugged and said, “These creatures of the deep have surprising powers. At least that, we can count on.”

Telpurr floated over to Kabuto and healed most of his wounds. “The wound with the poison and the poison itself are both beyond my power to heal. Only magic or time will heal those,” he said before he faded back into Simon’s sword.

“I’ll scout ahead,” said Roku, moving swiftly along the platforms on the side of the sewer. As he rounded the corner, he could hear a tapping noise on the other side of the wall. He could also hear a voice muttering angrily, “I can’t believe it, if I catch those guys, I’ll make them pay.”

Roku returned to the party and told them what he had heard. They moved up and now could hear the tapping and muttering as well. Kabuto, deciding to see what was around another corner, began to explore on his own as the rest of the party tried to determine where the sound was coming from. Trish, her helm off and ear pressed against the wall heard the voice say, “By Artol’s Black Blade! Where have those boys gotten off to, this is beyond a joke!”

Trish gasped and stood back from the wall, “He’s at least an initiate of Artol, none other would use his name so freely in a situation such as this. Perhaps he’s one of the brothers from the outpost here and we can find out more about where we actually are within the crypts!”

Trish slammed the pommel of her sword against the rock, but the voice on the other side kept tapping and muttering as if it hadn’t heard the clatter. Roku continued a little way up the corridor, but the further he got away, the fainter the tapping and the voice got. He came back and told Trish, “Keep trying to get his attention, I’ll check in the other direction and see what we come up with.”

Roku followed the wall around and found another grating, but the tapping and muttering was as loud as ever. He came back, got Simon, and between them, they forced another opening in the grating. Roku crept up the walkway next to the wall, and suddenly a flight of arrows rattled around him. “Skeletons!” he shouted as he retreated back to the grate, pulling arrows out of his clothes as he went.

Kabuto heard Roku’s call at about the same time the blood crows burst out of a side feed pipe at him. They swarmed around him, and he retreated towards the rest of the party swatting and stomping at the birds. Moments later, he drove the last of the crows off, and found himself back at the wall where the tapping was still continuing.

Trish rushed up the platform into the darkness, searching for the undead she knew to be there. Suddenly, in the light of her Journeyman candle, she saw a flash of bone on either side of her. She lashed out with her swords, and two skeletons clattered to the ground as an arrow zipped out of the darkness at her. Roku tried to catch up with Trish, but when it was obvious he wouldn’t be able to, he slid quietly into the water and used the sides of the sewer as cover from the arrows. Another fusillade of arrows came at Trish as she battled the skeletons, one lodging itself in the ribs of the skeleton in front of her, and the other hitting her in a gap in her armor, wounding her. Roku came out of the sewers on the opposite side of the water from where Trish was fighting and engaged the skeletons there. Kabuto came around the corner and a skeleton lunged at him. He stepped back, then reversed momentum, swinging an axe as he spun with deadly strength and accuracy, destroying the creature in front of him.

Trish destroyed the skeleton she was fighting and continued to press forward into the darkness looking for more foes. She came upon a rickety wooden bridge across the sewer and came up behind the two skeletons that Roku was fighting. As she killed the skeleton in front of her, Roku threw a bola at the skeleton in front of him, then destroyed it with his sword.

With the threat from the skeletons gone, Roku and Trish began to search the walls, trying to find where the tapping was coming from. “Here we are,” exclaimed Roku, tripping a hidden catch and unlatching a door that had been disguised to look like a piece of the wall.

A sword flew out of the darkness beyond the door, wielded by a ghostly image of a headless man. “Are you an undead creature?” asked the sword, “or are you the traitorous one who locked me in here?”

“I think this may be a death sword,” said Trish with amazement, “Sometimes, when a rune lord of Artol is betrayed or slain via Chaos magic, their spirit can inhabit their blade until vengeance is meted out for that betrayal.”

“So my friend, who took your head?” asked Roku.

The figure holding the sword straightened, as if standing at attention, “I am Lord Jurian, war captain of Xaar. I can sense an initiate nearby, though, identify yourself, initiate, who are you and where are you from!”

“I am Trish Saturnima, initiate from Summerford,” said Trish.

“How do I know you aren’t the foul ones that killed me and locked me away?” asked the sword.

Roku said, “Well, if you could see around you, you could see all of the undead we just killed.”

“Is that so?” asked the sword, “Initiate, take me up so that I can see through your eyes.”

Trish reached out and gripped the handle of the sword, and could feel another mind inside her head as the ghostly image of the rune lord disappeared. “Nice work, initiate,” said the mind in her head.

She felt her eyes drawn to the sword. “So, this is my death blade?” said the voice, “You must find my head and body, initiate. This is your quest!”

The party went into the area where the sword had been imprisoned, to look for clues, but it was simply full of rubbish. They established that the last memory the sword had was from less than a season ago, about 50 days, if they figured correctly. The initiates that he thought were responsible for his death were Vincent, Karl, and Peter. “Lazy reprobates the lot of them! Worthless to a man,” said the sword.

“I remember hearing them around and following them below ground. I was above ground when I was ambushed. I must have followed them underground until they trapped me here in the crypt,” said the sword.

Kabuto, standing at the doorway, could hear voices coming from deeper in the sewer. “You can’t be having second thoughts now Peter. We are talking about immortality! Dreymoor has sworn an oath!” said the first voice casually.

“I know Karl, but they are raising an army – what about our folks back home?” asked a second voice.

Kabuto picked up a piece of trash from the floor and threw it at Roku, who turned to face the Xern. “I can hear voices over here. Two men, speaking of service for Dreymoor to gain immortality,” signed Kabuto.

“Caution Trish,” said the sword, “Let’s see what they’re about”

The party crept closer to the voices, and soon was able to see a chain of zombies staggering out of a hidden door at the end of the hallway. There were two people visible, and it looked like they were herding sheep, rather than a horde of the undead. “Hey Vince, those arrogant priests would be wiping those condescending looks off their faces if they could see us now!” said one of the men.

“Don’t worry about that right now, Father Vargas wants these zombies in position before sunrise, he wants things set for the raid,” said the other person as he went along with the line of zombies.

After twenty to thirty zombies had exited the door, the last person followed the zombies down the hall. Trish and Roku followed them, while Kabuto checked out the room they had exited. Trish and Roku followed the train to a corner where they couldn’t go around without being seen, and heard the clanging of the grate as it locked behind the horde. They sat for a few minutes, and could hear voices returning down the corridor. Roku and Trish made their way back to the doorway, where Kabuto met them. “Boxes and stairwell to crypts,” he signed.

“They’re on their way back,” said Trish, “Let’s ambush them in the room, then even if we have to kill them, we have the keys to the place, and the surface can’t be far from here.”

As they settled down to wait for the men to return, Kabuto saw a glint from something sitting on top of one of the boxes. He picked it up, and saw that he was holding a pendant engraved with earth and stasis runes, as well as dwarven runes. Shrugging, he slid it over his head, vowing quietly to look more closely at it later.


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