Shades of Shadora

Prisoners!

The dark shapes quickly materialized into large snakelike creatures, approximately fourteen feet long. As they approached, they opened their mouths to reveal a second mouth and row of teeth inside, and their tongues popped forward tasting the water to help them locate their prey. Simon and Susi each killed a snake as it came towards them, and Trish killed two of them as they came into her range. Nothing further seemed to be coming at them from the depths of the pond, so they continued their search of the area. Simon pulled the lever again, and the slab went back up, revealing the door once again. He swam over to look at the wheel set into the door as Susi swam under the pillar, where the snake creatures had come from. Susi could see a stone column under the pillar, as well as cages with bones and other remains in them. Apparently dropping the slab over the door also released the snake creatures. At that moment, a horrible screeching noise reverberated in the water, causing Susi to swim back up, just in time to see Simon trying to turn the wheel on the door. Simon said, “Looks like it’s stuck”, and rolled the wheel back to the position it started from.

Simon rolled the wheel again, and this time it broke through whatever obstruction had caused it to stop before, and this time he could tell that the wheel had completely gone around. He tried to pull on the door, but the weight of the water prevented the door from moving. Simon tried the lever one more time, but the only thing that it did (other than opening the cages) was to drop the slab back over the door. Simon swam up to the door, cast a spell, and became intangible. He went through the door and came out on the other side to find himself in a dry corridor. Down the hallway, he could make out a figure silhouetted in the dim light, and it was obvious that the figure was watching him. “Greetings,” said Simon.

At the sound, the figure bounded down the hall, and Simon could hear a gruff voice calling, “Intruders!”

Moments later, a large humanoid came charging around the corner at Simon. As the creature came charging towards Simon with its head lowered, Simon was astonished to see that the face had the features of a pig! The impact of the man pig hitting Simon in the midsection drove him to the floor and momentarily drove the wind from him. As the man pig backed up for another run, Simon turned intangible and went through the door to the relative safety of the pond. He swam to the pedestal and sat down to recover from the attack, and as he told the others what had happened, he noticed there was a spring set into the lower part of the lever. Simon stood and worked the lever again, this time pressing in on it as he did. A passageway formed over the pathway from the pedestal to the door, and all the water drained out, allowing them to walk straight up to the door. Simon pulled the door open and rushed in, with Trish close on his heels. Trish smashed into the man pig, hitting him with her swords hard enough to send him flying into the wall at the end of the corridor. She stepped into the hallway beyond, and as she did, she heard the twang of a crossbow as two bolts hit her, bouncing off her armor hard enough to momentarily stun her. She could see man rats with crossbows to her left and man wolves to her right, as she fought to steady herself.

Simon went invisible and went to the wolf men, and killed one with a swift attack from his katana. Another man pig and a man bear came from the darkness behind the man rats and attacked Trish. Trish swiped at the man pig, but the blade merely glanced off the beast’s hide. One of the man wolves near Simon tilted his head back and let out a mournful howl, and Susi shuddered, “What was that?”

The man pig swiped at Trish, stunning her, but he stepped too far to the right in his attack and the man bear’s paw hit him in the head, causing it to cant off at an unusual angle with a grotesque snapping sound. The man pig dropped to the ground, dead. The man wolves attacked Simon, wounding him, and as he fought off his attackers, he saw another man rat behind them, frantically loading a crossbow. A streak of light whizzed past Trish’s ear, coming to rest in the form of one of Susi’s Heaven’s light arrows quivering in the chest of the man bear, who staggered backwards under the force of the impact. Trish backed down the corridor to limit the number of foes that could come at her, and the whole party could hear men’s voices wailing out from the cells that were now illuminated with the light from the arrow, praying for death to take them.

Trish snapped out with her sword, wounding the man bear, and spinning him around with the force of the blow, and she could see another man bear loping from behind the man rat archers headed towards her. The man bear with the arrow in its chest swatted at Trish, his claws tearing along her body, wounding her. Simon teleported behind the rat men archers, and killed one and stunned the other before they knew he was behind them. Susi aimed carefully at the head of uninjured man bear and though the shot missed, hit it in the arm. The man bear then felt searing pain as Simon stabbed it in the back and became intangible.

Finally locating Simon, the man wolves advanced on him, as Susi fired another shot at the man bear. Trish cut down the man bear on her right, who dropped to the floor with the light arrow in its chest. She then wounded the second man bear, and stepped further back into the corridor as another of Susi’s arrows whizzed past, coming to rest in the eye of the man bear who fell to the ground lifeless.

Simon went through the door of the cell and saw an emaciated man with blood crusted around his mouth, nose and ears. “What have they done to you?” he asked.

Screaming, the man cowered in the corner away from Simon, “Go away! You’ll change, I know you will. Stop the torture, just give me the sweet mercy of death, I beg of you!”

Having lost sight of Simon, one of the man wolves rushed at Trish over the bodies of the man bear duo, and Trish’s sword cut clean through its neck as it approached. Another swiped at her and she counterattacked, stunning it as her blade hit flat against its head. A third leapt over Trish’s head and loped down the corridor towards Susi.

As the man wolf attacked Susi, stunning him with a pawed fist, Trish wounded two more man wolves as they leapt in and attacked before leaping back into the main hallway. Suddenly, a flurry of crossbow bolts came up the hallway, striking her, and she fell to the ground, her left arm mangled as the bolt tore through armor, muscle and bone and exited the other side. As she lay on the ground bleeding out, Simon came out of the cell and killed a man pig and attacked a man wolf from behind, slitting his throat, but not deeply enough to kill him.

Susi attacked the man wolf in front of him with his axe, and cast hotfoot on the creature, but neither action seemed to faze it. As Simon was attacked by man wolves on two sides, he could see a green mist rising out of Trish’s sword. Her allied spirit, Gilliam, formed from the mist and cast heal wounds on Trish and she sat up spitting out blood as he went back into her sword. She cast another heal wounds spell on herself, then realizing her left arm was useless, sheathed Keller’s Razor and stood with Oblivion in her hand and a fiery gleam in her eye. Stepping forward, she killed the man wolf directly in front of her, and the man rats in the corridor dropped their crossbows and drew their swords.

The man wolf attacking Susi swiped at his face and Susi fell to the ground unconscious, with a huge cut across his eye. Simon struck one of the man wolves near him, breaking its jaw and then turned invisible as the man rats rushed Trish. Simon killed the man wolf that was still bleeding copiously from its throat and engaged the man rats as Trish attacked the man wolf that had dropped Susi. Simon appeared again, and killed both man rats, then leapt over Trish to finish off the man wolf she was fighting. They turned around quickly and realized they had finally killed all of their beastly attackers.

Simon summoned Telpurr from his sword, and he went to work mending Susi and Simon’s wounds. Once this was complete, the party began to search the area. Simon went into a few of the cells to try to talk to the prisoners, but it was soon obvious that they had been completely broken. As they went through the cells, they noticed that all of the animal creatures had turned completely back to humans. The last cell that they came to contained a man chained to the wall who laughed manically as they approached. “Dagaral no longer dwells at the temple…They are all already dead, they just don’t know it yet,” he said, before lapsing into another fit of laughter.

“I know what needs to be done, Simon, leave it to me,” said Trish, and she walked back to the first set of cells. Susi and Simon began to systematically search the other rooms and tried not to think about Trish dispatching the poor, demented souls in the cells to the Halls of Silence, where Artol awaited them with open arms.

They found a room with supplies marked for Wolfdale, before moving into another room that appeared to have been some sort of office. There was a map on the wall, showing the Dagaral temple complex, showing the village of Wolfdale to one side with eight red ‘x’ marks. There were two more ‘x’ marks in the menagerie and a total of ten in the temple proper. A search through the papers showed missives that talked of “everything going according to plan”, and other vague references to something called “the mirror”, but two letters stood out. Susi found one that read, “We have the codes, we will release the creatures tonight”. Simon found a letter that read, “The prisoners are getting weak, we will need more thought slaves soon”.

The final room in the complex appeared to be a bedroom, with furs heaped everywhere, Susi dug through the furs as Simon went intangible and walked through the walls to see if there were any other entrances or exits to the complex. When Simon returned, he found Susi with a leather satchel containing three divine scrolls (resist fire, entangle, and quickness), as well as a pouch containing one hundred silver talons.

Trish finally finished the rites for all of the fallen, and as the party headed back to the surface of the pond, none of them noticed that not all of Susi or Trish’s bites had seemed to heal…

View
The Mines of the Jade King

As Father Vargas, High Warden Teren, and the party discussed the best way to attack the hydra, a cry arose from Father Vargas’ mercenaries. Simon turned and saw the hydra burst forth from the woods at the edge of the road, snapping up a guard in one of its mouths as it charged the group. A moment’s time saw Two-Feather and Father Vargas rally their men, and begin to attack the hydra from all sides, wary of the many snapping jaws that were thrusting at them. Trish rushed forward, and with a duo of quick swipes, lopped off one head and stunned another. “No!” yelled High Warden Teren, “We must try to take it alive if we can, leave at least two heads intact!”

Susi launched himself in the air and dropped the battleball, which grew in size as it dropped to the ground, and began rolling towards the snakelike creature. Simon ran to the hydra, dropping a lasso around one of the heads as he came, then flipped around underneath the creature and tied the lasso around one of its rear legs, taking that head out of the fight. Trish dodged the heads coming at her, and one snapped and closed briefly around her armored torso, but the armor was too hard to crack, and the creature’s teeth simply slid off and the mouth slammed shut with a snap.

As the battleball rolled harmlessly against the hydra’s side, Simon ran up its back, but his second lasso missed the head as it ducked down to snap at Trish. Trish retaliated, and subdued two heads with the flats of her blades. Colby charged in and using his rapier, slashed two of the creature’s toes off, enabling one of the mercenaries to cut another head off. As that one fell away, two more heads sprouted from the stump of the one that Trish cut off at the beginning of the fight.

Simon threw his lasso again and it dropped neatly over one of the remaining heads. As he tried to pull the lasso underneath the creature, it snapped its head up, leaving Simon dangling from the end of the rope as the head snapped down at him. Colby slashed one of the heads from the body with his sword, dancing away as the skull dropped down where he had been standing moments before. Realizing that the battleball wasn’t damaging the creature (and Simon had almost been drug under it when the head snapped him forward), Susi recalled it to his hand, and began shooting at the hydra’s body, but the arrows just glanced off the creature’s heavy armor. Trish and Simon finished subduing the remaining heads, and the creature fell heavily on its side, unconscious.

The hunters moved forward and singed the heads that had been lopped off with fire, to prevent them growing back and starting to attack again before the creature could be subdued. Runners were sent to the temple and the party moved on down the road, continuing to head towards the area marked previously on Colby’s map. In the late afternoon, as the group set up camp beside the road where it crossed a river, Simon taunted Two-Feathers good naturedly. “Sneaking about in the woods is great until it comes to blows, eh? Where were you and your braves today?”

Two-Feathers laughed and said, “Come Simon, let us take first watch, and I will tell you of the Thicket”.

During the watch, Two-Feathers told Simon that the Thicket was recovering from the invasion and that the dragon was recovering from his injuries. They then talked of their adventures since they had last seen each other. As the dark folded in on them, the tales gave way to a companionable silence. Sometime later, Simon heard the crackling of a branch snapping, and he rolled off the rock they were sitting on, dropping to one knee and drawing his katana. He glanced behind him, and he could see Two-Feathers’ feet poking out from around the rock. He then heard movement in the trees.

The sounds of movement woke Susi, and he saw that Simon was looking into the tree, which was now noticeably shaking. He fired a Heaven’s Light arrow into the tree, which was then illuminated like day. The creature in the tree looked like a floating ball with many eyes. It was a Devil Eye. Susi cast multimissile, then let fly with a couple of arrows, which missed. Simon cast fire blade on his katana, but the flame simply ran up the blade, then went out. He cast missile defense, but it didn’t seem to work either. Simon remembered that Devil Eye’s have powerful anti-magic surrounding them, and launched himself in a furious attack that stunned the beast.

Father Vargas, High Warden Teren and the trolls woke up from the commotion, but Trish and Colby remained asleep, with Trish snoring quite loudly. “Try not to kill it,” called High Warden Teren, “It is our green Eye Tyrant”.

Three of the eye stalks turned to look at Simon, and a pink ray, grey ray, and arc of lightning flew out of them to strike Simon. The damage from the lightning stunned him, but he shook of the effects of the other two rays. Two of the eyes looked at Susi, and a black ray hit him in the chest, and he could feel his heart stop, then start again. A second ray, this one purple and oily looking struck him wounding him, and causing him to drop to the ground.

Colby woke up, saw the creature and quickly fitted a rock in his sling. It hit the creature squarely in the main eye in its body, but the Eye Devil shook its head and opened its central eye wide to try and locate where the rock came from. Susi noticed Trish still snoring as he stood up, and let loose with a hawk scream which brought her to her feet. He then shot an arrow at the eye that had hit him with the black beam, hitting it, and causing it to droop down against the beast’s body. Simon whipped his cape over the eye stalks, jumped on the main body, kicking it, and then cut it with his katana. The beast fell out of the tree with Simon riding it on the way down, and coming to his feet lightly beside it when it hit. The hunters ran up and secured the eye stalks by tying burlap sacks over them, and secured the main body. Simon went over to the rock where Two-Feather still lay, next to the rock they had been sitting on. He had been turned to stone.

As Father Vargas healed Susi’s wounds, High Warden Teren came to where Simon was looking at the stone figure of Two-Feathers. “You have brought us the very beasts that we were looking for, and we certainly couldn’t have done it without you and your group, Simon,” he said, “You are released from my service. We will have some priests come to take care of Two-Feather, although they will take more time to arrive than the ones coming to recover the Eye Tyrant. What are your plans now?”

Simon thought quietly for a moment. “I believe I will wait here until the priests come to heal Two-Feather. Then we will probably accompany him to the temple”.

“As you wish,” said High Warden Teren, “You have certainly earned your place at the temple, and I’m sure Father Ray will be eager to hear from you directly about your exploits”.

Later on in the day, as the party was doing maintenance on their gear, Colby was pacing through the camp. “What’s the matter?” asked Simon.

“Well, it’s just that we’re almost to the place marked on the map,” said Colby excitedly, “We could be looking through ruins for treasure instead of sitting around guarding a guy that’s been turned to stone.”

As Colby talked, he continued to pace, but suddenly stopped in his tracks, his eyes wide. “That hill, on the left side of the creek, it just moved”.

Susi walked over to the river and looked. “You’re right,” he said, “It is moving!”

After a quick scouting mission by Susi, the party decided to follow the game trails upriver. When they told Father Vargas, who was still at camp about their plan, he said, “Be careful. There have been many rumors in the past few seasons about demons and such. It could be very dangerous!”

After gathering their gear, the party followed behind Susi, who scouted up the game trail, and before long, they came to the area where the mountain had been seen moving. Colby and Simon snuck to the edge of the clearing, where there was a ruined settlement. Inside the settlement, were a couple of giants and a couple of earth elementals digging in the area that appeared to have previously been a mine. The giants were covered in runes, and looked as if they had been carved out of stone. As they stood looking at the giants, a voice that rumbled across the ground as if it had been torn from it said simply, “We are not alone”.

Simon looked towards the sound, and was astonished to see the head of a dragon. The moving mountain had actually been a part of the dragon, which was lying in the valley near the settlement. “Take cover in my pocket, Colby,” said Simon, and the Lir nimbly climbed in.

Simon ran over to the dragon, deftly avoiding the giants and the swings of their picks. “Greetings, Great One,” he said.

The dragon didn’t seem to take notice, so Simon stepped closer. One of the massive eyes opened a slit. “Sleeping here,” said the dragon, “Why are you pestering me?”

“I’ve met dragons before,” said Simon, “and I was curious what you were looking for and if I could help.”

“There are things that the Journeymen made that should not be used. We seek one such thing here,” said the dragon, “Even the Lazuri seek for a sword that can’t be drawn, but this task is more pressing at the moment.”

“The World Ender?” asked Simon.

The dragon’s eye opened wider. “What do you know of the World Ender?” he asked.

Simon said, “The sword was broken into many pieces and each of the pieces has a compass that directs it to one of the other parts.”

The dragon’s eye opened fully and looked directly at Simon. “I feel that you are withholding information from me. What is it?”

Simon stood quietly until the tension in the air grew to great. “I have one of the compasses,” he said, holding it up where the dragon could see it.

“You will leave this with me,” said the dragon, who spoke a word of magic. Suddenly a gnome appeared next to him with its hand outstretched to receive the compass. Simon put the compass back in his pocket.

“What are you doing?” asked the dragon, his voice rising, “You defy me? You would draw the sword that must not be drawn?”

Colby took the distraction of the compass, and jumped out of Simon’s pocket. He ran to the pond that the map had marked as a prison. He could see rusty chains coming out of the water that led down to a block of mossy stone on the bottom of the pond. He began creeping towards the stream that fed the pond.

“I will compensate you for the compass. I will also help you with your quest if you will help me with one task. There is a Journeyman relic buried with the Jade King, in his tomb. A spear named Calamity, which can rend the Earth itself,” said the dragon, “We must find it.”

Susi flew around the dragon, having made a circuit of it, at the same time that Simon dropped the compass into the hand of the gnome. Susi had noticed that the area was littered with the corpses of a lot of the animals that were still missing from the menagerie, and wondered if they had wandered here accidentally, or if they had been drawn here. He flapped down and landed on one of the giant’s shoulders and said, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”

Colby muttered under his breath, “Yeah, he wants a cracker…”

Colby spoke up to the giant Susi was perched on. “I have a map that shows this area, and it shows a prison in the pond,” he said.

The giant spoke with a rumbling voice that sounded like a rockslide, “You intrigue me. The Lir were around at the same time the Journeymen were, though not many of your kind remember it. I will tell you the story of the Jade King.”

The giant began telling the story of the Jade King, and the scene was enacted in the air before them, as if they had a portal to the actual time that the events were happening. Trish and the others walked up while the giant was telling the story and watched it unfold as well. The Jade King had become a collector of Journeyman artifacts, and when he found the spear named Calamity, it unhinged his mind and drove him crazy, leading to his obsession with the magic contained in Jade. His guards finally turned on him, and though they were killed, they managed to kill him as well, and they were all buried together, along with Calamity. “I don’t think this tomb could be where you think it is, little one,” concluded the giant, as the scene faded away.

“I think it might be worth a look, though!” said Colby.

The giant stomped over to the pond and looked down. He bent over and then taking one chain in each of his hands, gave a tug. The chains came loose from the bottom, and the giant placed them beside the pond. “Nothing but old mining equipment,” he said, “and now, I must get back to work.”

The party sat beside the pond and discussed their next move. Colby said, “We still have the seashells, so we could always go take a look”.

The party agreed that it would be worth a look, and even Susi was finally convinced to swim down. They placed the seashells in their mouths, and swam to the bottom of the pool. There was a pedestal, with a stone walkway or bridge that led to a door. There was a large lever on the pedestal. Susi pulled the lever, which caused the slab of the door to fall, and a number of dark shapes began swimming up from below the pedestal.

View
The Menagerie

As the party entered through the massive gates that flanked the path, they could see the actual site of the temple of Dagaral in the distance.

Colby remembered the graffiti they had seen in town and said, “Dagaral is no longer in his temple”.

Without warning, the Lir slipped out of his backpack and slammed it to the ground. “Something’s moving in there,” he said.

He opened the pack and pulled out the book that Urzul had previously identified as a mapmorph. Instead of looking like a book, it now looked like a spongy surface that continued moving as he pulled it out of the pack. “Ewww,” he said, and dropped it on the ground, and within moments it ceased flopping, and had become a large map printed on the skin of some animal that none of them had ever seen.

The map on the surface showed the area around Dagaral temple, but also showed areas of old construction from the Journeyman days. After studying the map, Colby said, “Dagaral is no longer in his temple,” and the map transformed back into the book it had been originally.

Colby placed the book back in his pack and the party looked once again towards the temple with a new sense of foreboding. After taking in the view for a few moments, the party began trudging down the trail, which showed signs of heavy, recent use. After about an hour on the trail, a voice hailed the party, causing them to stop in their tracks. “What ho, travelers, are you hunters on the pilgrim’s trail?” called the voice from the trees.

Colby said, “We are hunters of a sort, but not pilgrims”.

At that, a tall man clad in the leathers and furs of a hunter stepped silently from the trees in such a way that no one could tell exactly where he had come from. “All hunters are welcome at the temple of Dagaral, I am High Warden Teren,” he said, then held a horn to his lips, sending out a single clear note that bounced from the surrounding forest.

Just as suddenly as High Warden Teren had appeared (although not quite as silently), four more men clad in hunting garb stepped out of the forest, followed by a loud crashing sound. Moments later, a priest came stumbling onto the road brushing debris from his robes and muttering, “I hate skulking around in the forest like an animal. Give me my cloisters any day!”

Simon recognized the priest as a follower of Bandar, and likewise the priest recognized him as a Rune Lord. “Ahhh, a fellow follower of Bandar,” said the priest with a sly grin, “and a Rune Lord, no less. What brings you to these parts, Rune Lord, and more importantly, are you under orders from our cult?”

“I am here of my own accord, priest,” replied Simon, “I am not under any assignment but my own.”

“Excellent,” said the priest, “I am Father Ray, and as you are not under assignment at the moment, I must insist that you take the assignment I am about to give you.”

Simon groaned inwardly, being a Rune Lord was not turning out as he had planned, “And the assignment is?”

“You are to assist High Warden Teren in the capture of the creatures that have gone missing from the Menagerie of Dagaral. He will give you the details of what he needs. I will be awaiting your report back at the temple,” said Father Ray.

“What is this Menagerie,” asked Simon.

High Warden Teren said, “As hunters, we are required to study different animals, some of which are difficult at best to study in the wild. For many years, we have hunted down representatives of different species, and kept them in captivity for study. About a year ago, the wards holding the animals suddenly failed. They escaped, and we’ve been rounding them up ever since. The problem now, however, is that some of them have taken up residence near here. They have been harassing and sometimes killing pilgrims as they make their way to the temple for the holy festivals.”

Simon turned to the rest of the party, “What do you think?” he began.

“What do they think? Are these adventurers,” Father Ray spat the word out as if it had a bad taste, “under your command or not, Rune Lord? Why are you asking their permission, when you should be demanding their compliance?”

“They are my companions, not my retinue, and though you can demand my compliance, I cannot demand theirs. In any case, it would seem that a risky task such as this would require the services of a full time priest for healing, in case something should go wrong,” replied Simon with a calm that he did not feel.

Father Ray’s face turned bright red before he spluttered, “Very well then, perhaps I should tag along to ensure that you are complying with the will of Bandar in an appropriate manner. Rest assured that I will call the cult spirits of reprisal if you are not!”

Father Ray stomped off to the side of the trail in a huff and refused to look at Simon or the party further. With a small smile on his face that the priest could not see, High Warden Teren said, “We were on the trail of one of the escaped animals when we saw you and thought we would warn you of the danger. Now you are going to help us recapture the beasts…Well met!”

The party followed the hunters up the trail for no further than fifteen minutes, when one of the younger hunters came running up breathless, “I think we found her,” he panted.

After a moment to catch his breath, the hunter led the group to a grove of trees on the edge of a cliff. “We must sneak up to the edge of the cliff to see. No one with metal armor should come forward,” he said, looking back pointedly at Trish and the trolls.

The hunters, Simon and Colby crept up to the edge of the cliff and were greeted by the sight of the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex that Simon had ever seen. “Isn’t she a beauty,” whispered the hunter as the dinosaur ripped the hindquarters off a deer it had killed, and flipped it back to swallow it whole.

The party crept back from the ledge and High Warden Teren conducted a small class on the habits of the T-Rex and how to subdue it. One of the hunters pulled out a bottle of poison, and said, “This will put her to sleep fairly quickly, but she doesn’t like the smell or taste of it, and it will drive her crazy until it knocks her out.”

Gnorl went to pull up some trees for use in defense against the dinosaur, and returned shortly with two fairly large tree trunks. At that time, the hunter assigned to watch the beast came running to the party, “She’s finished her meal and is about to leave”.

Simon took the poison and ran down the cliff towards the T-Rex. Sensing the movement, she turned towards it. Colby cast a befuddle spell on the creature, but it didn’t seem to work. With a loud roar, the dinosaur leapt forward, but Simon dodged out of the way at the last instant and ran up the side of a tree. With a daring leap, he jumped at the head of the T-Rex, throwing the poison down her throat as she snapped the air where he had been a moment before. Simon landed lightly in front of her and readied to receive her next attack.

Gnorl shouted, “You need help Simon?”

At that, the T-Rex spun towards the cliff where the spectators were standing. “Uh oh,” said Gnorl as the dinosaur charged the cliff. Gnorl swung the tree trunk he had, but it glanced off the creature’s face and seemed to make her angrier. Everyone on the cliff was attacking as the giant head darted in and snapped, but no one could seem to do any damage, and the beast seemed to become more frenzied with every attack. “The poison is working,” shouted High Warden Teren.

Simon slapped at the creature with the flat of his blade, then became intangible, ran around and became solid again in time to hit it again in an attempt to distract and subdue her. Gnorl scored a good hit with a wildly swung tree and Trish was briefly pinned in the mouth of the creature, until the dagger like teeth slid off her armor, causing her to pop out of the dinosaur’s mouth. Simon did a spinning kick, hitting the T-Rex in a sensitive area, and it was finally too much for her. She swayed, then her eyes rolled back in her head and she dropped to the ground with a tremendous crash.

The hunters scrambled down the cliff face and began securing the beast as High Warden Teren applied healing salves to the areas that were injured in the scuffle. “She will be fine,” he assured Simon, and began conducting a class for the assembled hunters as a runner went to bring more from the temple to transport the beast back to its enclosure.

Father Ray was heard muttering as he went off to wait by himself, “Luck shot. I’m certainly not impressed by this Rune Lord. At all.”

That evening, as the party camped, Teren shared more about the creatures they were hunting. “We have many creatures that are unaccounted for, so we aren’t entirely sure which ones are doing the killing. Some of the creatures that left have certainly either died or headed back to their normal habitats. We’re only concerned at the moment with the ones that are making it unsafe for the pilgrims.”

Simon looked at the list the high warden had in his hand, “Herd of minotaurs, hydra, black dragon, giant serpents. This is a list from a bad nightmare, and we have to bring them in alive?”

“Alive is preferred, Simon,” said High Warden Teren, “It’s not the fault of the creatures that they were in captivity, or that they escaped, or that they are now put in close proximity with people. That is our fault, and Dagaral frowns on unneeded killing. Our wards are restored, and we have a team investigating why they failed, but now we must do the right thing for these animals who are simply following their own urges.”

In the morning, as the party was breaking camp, a familiar voice came from the woods. “So Simon, you are still a babe in the woods,” it said.

Simon turned to see Two-Feather. “I haven’t seen you since the Thicket! If I am a babe in the woods, it is because you weren’t good teachers”.

Two-Feather grinned, “I think perhaps it was because you were a poor student, more interested in dancing near the campfire than walking in the woods like the Yatahay.”

A half day’s travel took them to the next area where reports had come in about a creature. As they came close to the area one of the scouts came back to report that the creature in question was a black dragon, and it had been spotted in a camp not far from where the party currently was. A discussion was held between the hunters, and they came back with leaves from some of the local plants that would protect skin and armor from the acid breath of the dragon. “I am not trusting leaves against the breath of a weapon,” said Trish as Gnorl began strapping the leaves on.

Gnorl looked at Trish and replied, “May not work. But if it does work, better than nothing.”

Trish chuckled as she began putting the leaves on herself, “Maybe, but I never thought I would die as a fighting shrub.”

Simon and Colby snuck behind the dragon, which was eating the partially melted remains of a family of pilgrims whose camp it had ransacked. When they were in place, Gnorl looked at Trish, “Ready little woman?”, then roared his battle cry and rushed the dragon with a club made from a tree stump.

As Gnorl’s attack smashed into the face of the dragon, Urzul cast blindness on the dragon, but without noticeable effect. “Damn dragons and their high resistance to magic,” she muttered as she began another ritual.

Simon went ran in behind the dragon, and with a single kick, he managed to hit a weak spot on the dragon that had been discussed the night before around the campfire. The dragon bucked once, and then dropped to the ground unconscious. Hunters secured the dragon and High Warden Teren shook his head and told Father Ray, “I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life, Father Ray. I’d say that was definitely worthy of a Rune Lord.”

Father Ray walked up to Simon and said, “Well done. Definitely Rune Lord material there. I would say that the hunters are in great hands with you, and with that, I will be taking my leave. I hereby bind you into service to High Warden Teren until this current crisis is done, and I will await your report at the temple. Do not fail Bandar in this, Simon!”

Colby began gathering dragon scales as Trish performed last rites for the dead pilgrims. A camp was prepared for the night and in the morning the party set off in search of the next animal. As they traveled, the hunters and Yatahay taught classes in stealth, woodcraft and survival, and the party learned much from these. Late in the day, they came upon a clearing, where they could see a large group of soldiers standing in the road. They had their backs to where the party was coming up, and due to their lessons in stealth, they were not heard. The High Warden said, “These look like Father Vargas’ mercenaries.”

“Father Vargas! I know him,” said Colby, and he scampered up the road to the guards.

Colby arrived at the group at the same time as Father Vargas. “Why Colby, finally decided to become a worshipper of Dagaral, have you? Delighted to see you, my dear Lir. You’re just in time to help us with the hydra that’s down the road here.”

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The Road to the Earth Temple

Captain Ward and the party surveyed the freshly captured Avenger. A staff with water runes was located near Sarma, and he was wearing a ring with water runes. The staff was given to Brine, and the ring was placed with the stash of loot that Prospero kept for party use. The only thing that was found to be carried in the hold were curious containers in the fore and aft of the vessel. They had water and arcane runes inscribed on them, but no one could discern their purpose. Susi flew Prospero over to the Avenger, and when they grew close to the ship, each received a shock as they passed through the field that surrounded it. “I would say that whatever is causing that field is within these containers,” said Prospero, scratching his chin, “but beyond that I can’t say for sure what might happen if we tamper with the seals”.

“Well, I hate to just leave the ship here to founder,” said Captain Ward, “It’s bigger and better armed than the Fallen Oranna, and sure to draw a pretty penny in dock, if only for the cannons and the gunpowder. I’ll offer a position on my crew and a share of our trip earnings to the sailors that survived the fight. With them, we should be able to tow the Fallen Oranna behind the larger ship and get them both in safely. Once we arrive in a port, we can decide whether to sell her or not”.

A short while later, the ships made landfall, and as the crew anchored in a sheltered cove off the coast, Simon, Trish, Susi, Colby, and the trolls prepared to depart. “Hopefully you’ll still be here when we get back,” joked Simon to Captain Ward, as they boarded the boat to be rowed to shore. Captain Ward laughed appreciatively.

A short time later, the party watched as the boat rowed through the water back to where the ship was anchored. At length, Simon shrugged and said, “Susi, could you scout ahead on our path and make sure we aren’t walking into danger?”

“Sure,” said Susi as he launched himself into the air. The next few hours consisted of the party hacking their way through the thick jungle. Finally they came to a trail and after taking a short break, they began to follow the trail with Susi scouting ahead from the air. After about an hour of travel, Susi heard the clash of a battle coming from a clearing up ahead. He changed altitude to better see and have less chance of being seen. As he swept past the clearing, he saw a lion headed Fel standing in the clearing, katana drawn, and surrounded by a pile of bodies. “Cowards! Come out and fight!” roared the defiant Fel.

Susi banked around and glided to where the rest of the party was coming up the path. “There’s a young Fel in some sort of fight ahead,” he said as he lightly touched down.

“A Fel,” said Simon, “Let’s go help him! Which direction?”

Susi looked at Simon unblinking, “Straight up the path. There are plenty of bodies around, but I couldn’t see anyone as I flew by”.

Without another word, Simon leapt forward up the path towards the battle. Susi took to the air, and the rest of the party came running behind. Minutes later, the party burst into the clearing just in time to see a group of human brigands rush the Fel warrior as arrows rained around him from the surrounding forest. Susi landed on a thick branch on the outskirts of the clearing, casting a spell as he drew his bow. Moments later, two arrows quivered from the chest of one of the attacking brigands. Simon ran forward, taking out another of the humans as another rain of arrows came in, wounding him slightly. The Fel warrior spun and gutted the attacker nearest him with a vicious roar, as Trish ran into the hail of arrows killing another with a slash of her runeblades. Arrows continued to fall around them, and Susi launched into the air in an effort to locate the hidden archers.

Simon rolled backwards and cast a spell, turning himself intangible. With arrows passing through his body harmlessly, he cast heal wounds on himself and moved to a better position on the outskirts of the clearing. As he touched down on the top of a small hillock, two men leapt out of hiding at him, but their swords passed through him as harmlessly as the arrows had. The Fel warrior, having dispatched the bandits closest to him sheathed his katana and ran on all fours towards where Simon was being attacked. Leaping into the air, he tore at the throat of the nearest bandit, killing him before he hit the ground, and staining his muzzle red with blood. A second bandit stepped forward to attack, but the Fel’s claws tore through his midsection, spilling his guts on the ground before he could swing his sword. The man’s hands went to his broken stomach, his face going pale as he dropped to the ground.

As Trish advanced on the remaining bandit in the middle of the clearing, a centaur charged out of the woods towards her with his lance lowered. Trish sidestepped the lance, but the centaur wheeled around before she could turn and attack and drove the lance through a gap in her armor and into her side. Trish dropped to her knees as the centaur yanked the lance free and another hail of arrows fell all around her. The centaur scored another hit as Trish tried to stand, casting a heal wound spell as she struggled to her feet. She swung Oblivion in a wide arc, trying to catch the centaur, but the superior reach of the lance won out, and he drove it home once again. Trish dropped to the ground, her blood mingling with that of her fallen enemies as her consciousness faded.

The bandit that Trish had engaged before she fell rushed the Fel warrior, surprising him and wounding him with a slash across his furry back. He unsheathed his katana, drawing it and cutting the man in half with the same motion then turning his back on him like the dying man was inconsequential to him now. Simon, seeing Trish fall, rushed the centaur, executing a flip and summersault that took him over the head of the centaur, and saw him landing on the creature’s back. Simon cut at him with both his blades, scoring small cuts, then bounced off his back, landing next to Trish and scooping her into his arms. As his allied spirit cast a heal spell on her, Simon teleported away to one of the nearby hillocks, where he left Trish to recover. He then ran towards the centaur again, flipping onto his back like a rodeo rider, but this time his blades sank home into the heart of the creature, which dropped to the ground. Another teleport took Simon to one of the archers that had stepped from behind cover, and as his dead body hit the ground, Simon’s allied spirit cast invisibility on Simon.

Susi killed an archer that had sprinted to where Trish was recovering from her brush with death, and handed her a health potion before leaping back into the air to rejoin the fight. Trish quaffed the potion, and rolled into a position of cover to see where she might lend a hand. Before she could do anything, a booming voice called out, “Fall back! Fall Back! The centaur has fallen!”

The party caught fleeting images of the archers as they retreated from the battlefield, but it was quite obvious that they were very skilled at woodcraft and also were familiar with the area. The Fel walked over to where the centaur lay dying, grabbed the creature’s shoulders and looked at him. “You are not the one I’m looking for,” said the warrior.

“You are right, Fel,” said the centaur, laughing weakly, “’tis my cousin you seek. Don’t worry, though, because he’s looking for you too!”

The Fel stood and with a swift motion freed the centaur’s head from his body. Cleaning his blade, he turned to see Simon approaching and offering a traditional Fel warrior greeting. “Why did you join the fight, stranger?” asked the warrior in the Fel language, “I was winning!”

“We were unsure of the outcome, and as a Wayfarer of the M’Yow Lin, I am always eager to assist my brethren,” replied Simon in Fel.

“I see. I am Takono,” said the warrior, sheathing his weapon and giving Simon a slight bow, “I had been following the centaur for some time; his clan has been marauding against my village for a number of months, and I would stop them if I may. This one is not the leader that I seek my revenge on. I was not aware of the bandits before they attacked. however. Why are you in this area?”

“We are headed to the Dagaral Temple,” replied Simon.

Takono looked at Simon through narrowed eyes, “It’s easy to get lost if you don’t know the way”.

“Do you know the way? Would you lead us there?” asked Simon.

“I know where it is, and I can lead you there in light of your assistance, but I won’t go in. I have no business with the humans there,” said Takono.

Simon switched to slavetongue so that everyone could understand, “Is the centaur you are tracking anywhere near?”

“That is unknown at this time, as we have killed the centaur I was tracking. I have as much chance of running into him taking you to the temple as I do any other way, so I would discharge my duty to you and be back on the hunt,” said Takono.

After the trolls took care of healing the remaining injuries and Trish had conducted appropriate rights to prevent any of the dead from rising, the party followed Takono down the path into the jungle. A few hours travel brought them to a small clearing, with a small stream flowing through it. A bridge spanned the stream, and led to stone steps that formed an old watchtower. Just outside the clearing, large spider webs clung to the trees of the forest like torn drapes. Takono headed over the bridge and up the stairs, “There are many of these structures in the forest. They fell long ago, but sometimes they have items of interest for seekers.”

As Takono made his way up the stairs, Susi flew to the top of the structure and began looking around. On the second landing, Takono saw a small pool with a white mist swirling around it. He thrust his hand into the mist and felt a stinging bite. The mist turned pink and began to spill out of the basin, expanding as it came. At the same moment, sticky globs of webbing shot from the woods, entangling the trolls and Simon. Trish, who was standing on the bridge over the stream, saw skeletons begin to rise out of the loamy earth on the hill where the watchtower loomed.

Simon cast fireblade, and sliced his way out of the webs that entangled him. As he stepped free of the sticky strands, he caught sight of where the webs had originated. “Spider goblins!” he cried as he rushed to the treetops to engage them.

Susi, from his perch on the top of the tower, saw the skeletons rise from either side of the structure. He quickly flung his battle ball to the left, where it expanded and rolled over the skeletons on that side, crushing them and sending them back to the Halls of Silence. He recalled the ball and watched as Takono and Trish charged the skeletons on the other side. As they engaged the skeletons, the now red mist moved over and bit both of them. As Trish shattered a skeleton, a voice came in her head and told her, “They are attacking your children! You must stop them!”

Trish turned and saw Simon kill two of the spider goblins at once. Rage filled her and she charged down the slope, even as the remaining skeletons opened fire with their arrows at Takono. Takono was so surprised by Trish’s reversal that he didn’t mount a defense against the arrows, and all four hammered home into his stomach. He dropped to the ground, bleeding from the arrows which had penetrated straight through his body. As Takono fell, Simon looked down to see Trish rapidly climbing the tree below him, quite an impressive feat for being in full armor, and carrying two swords! He jumped into the air just in time as Trish leapt onto a branch below him, her face full of fury, and swung her blades at him. A well timed cut from his katana severed the branch, dropping her in a heap on the ground, and he used his Waymaster abilities to run along to the treetops to kill another spider goblin with a powerful kick. As the body of that creature hit the ground, the remaining spider goblin fled the scene, chittering horribly.

Susi dropped the ball on the remaining skeletons, and as it crushed the unlife from them, landed near Takono, who was bleeding from all over, to include from his eyes and face. The red mist appeared to be drawing the blood from him and growing more powerful by the second. A burst of imploding air caused Susi to jump to the side, as Simon suddenly appeared in front of him. Simon slashed wildly at the red mist, both weapons trailing fire. As the weapons touched the mist, there was a wild, wailing scream, and then it burst out of existence. The remaining skeletons dropped to the ground, no longer animated by the evil power that had brought them to life. Trish collapsed in a heap at the bottom of the steps, where she had been trying to catch up to Simon.

The trolls and Simon’s allied spirit healed the party, to include the grievous wounds that Takono had received. They cautioned Takono, “There is permanent damage there that we can’t fix. You will need to find a more skilled healer than either of us to heal it. Perhaps there will be one at the Temple”. A search of the area revealed a sarcophagus that held a skeleton with a stake through the chest area, and a skeleton nearby that Trish tentatively identified as an Elf. The Elf’s equipment had decayed beyond usefulness, with the exception of a cloak and his boots, which were both determined to be magical. Simon took the cloak, with Takono taking the boots, while Trish set about making sure that none of the undead could ever walk the surface of Shadora again.

“Thank you for saving me from my own curiosity,” said Takono to Simon, “If not for you, I would be dead now. You have my loyalty.”

“You are more than welcome, Takono,” said Simon, “Welcome to the family!”

Three hours travel saw the party standing before the gates to the Earth Temple.

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Finishing Captain Adair
The whooshing sound in the hold of the Fallen Oranna was heard and felt by everyone on the ship. “Arm yourselves and follow me!” cried Captain Ward as he rushed below deck to find out what new horror was attacking his ship.

Flinging the door open, he found Trish, Ellisandra, and Walac lying on the deck breathing hard. “How the hell did you come to be here? We left you at Port Labor!” asked Capt Ward incredulously.

Trish got to her feet slowly, while Ellisandra and Walac didn’t move, only groaning occasionally. Trish ran her gauntleted hand through her red hair, revealing more clearly the white streak placed there by her brush with Chaos. “I will never get used to travelling that way,” she said, looking a little unsteady.

She noticed Captain Ward at the door, standing slackjawed. “Sorry to scare you, Captain, we got word that you were in trouble, and the wizards at Port Labor teleported us here to help,” said Trish. “I’d have to say though, that they were probably ready to be rid of us. We had cleaned up the pockets of Lazuri that were left and were mostly sitting around waiting for something to happen or a way to try and catch up with you. When we got the message from the soothsayers that Captain Adair was following you, they decided to send us on our way. I hate teleportation!”

Captain Ward came into the hold and checked on Ellisandra and Walac. The beautiful young sorceress and the Lir scout still hadn’t done more than groan. He said, “Lads, take these two to my cabin and let them sleep off the effects of the teleportation. Lady Trish, would you like to join them?”

“No, thank you, captain,” replied Trish as members of the crew carried Ellisandra and Walac out. “I think I’ll be fine if I can just get to the deck and get some fresh air. I can give you more news on what the soothsayers told us at Port Labor.”

Trish walked past Captain Ward to the upper deck and settled near the bow. After about fifteen minutes, she stood, stretched and came back to where Captain Ward had been joined by Simon, Prospero, Brine, and Colbin Jackart. Prospero introduced Colbin to Trish, and she smiled at the resemblance he bore to her own companion Walac. She looked at Simon and said with a slight bow in his direction, “I see you are now a Runelord. Congratulations on your achievement.”

“The soothsayers in Port Labor told us this before we were sent,” Trish began, “Captain Adair has a grudge against Simon, even going so far as to name his ship ‘Avenger’. He is currently about a half day’s travel behind you, and his ship will likely overtake you within the day. His ship is not much larger than yours, but it has much more armament, they estimated eight cannon.”

Captain Ward paled. “Eight cannon? We can’t outrun them, and we’re certainly outgunned. Our best bet will be to engage her on our terms. Maybe our boarding party and Captain Adair’s anger will work to our advantage.”

Captain Ward left and came back with charts that he laid out on the deck. He studied them for a moment, then stabbed at the map with his finger. “There,” he said, “I’ve anchored here before, and if we run it properly, it will keep him from maneuvering around us, because the reefs are dangerous. Even as mad as he is, Captain Adair won’t scuttle his own ship in the middle of nowhere, because he won’t be able to repair the kind of damage he’ll get with running aground.”

He did some quick calculations, then shouted, “Half sail, and be quick about it!”

Rolling his charts up, he said to the party, “If we cut back to half sail, he should come on us at about the same time that we arrive where I mean to ambush him. If not, we’ll drop anchor and wait. It’s time to end this!”

As Captain Ward predicted, the call indicating a ship behind them came from the crow’s nest at about the same time that the ship arrived in the area he had indicated on the map. The crew went about their business professionally, but the tension in the air was thick.

“Quarter sail, lads, and prepare for a fight!” shouted Captain Ward as the crew crawled over the ship readying for the battle to come.

Trish emerged from below decks and crossed to where the party was standing. “Walac and Ellisandra still have teleportation sickness, so they won’t be any use during this battle,” she said flatly.

The tension on deck continued to grow as the following ship came closer with every minute. When it had gotten close enough that the crew and passengers of the Fallen Oranna could make out people on the decks, Brine rushed to the side of the ship and jumped over the railing, transforming to his shark form before he hit the water with an enormous splash. Simon shook his head, “We’re never going to get that boy home in one piece.”

There were now three shapes that seemed to detach themselves from the Avenger and started towards the Fallen Oranna. “Undines,” said Simon.

“Come about boys, and full sail!” shouted Captain Ward, as he hauled on the wheel as sharply as he could to turn the ship on its pursuer.

The sails snapped and billowed as they filled fully with wind. A shot rang out from the Avenger as the Fallen Oranna turned, and the fore cannon shot burst through the bow, creating a hole well above the waterline. There was a silvery flash as Brine leapt from the water, biting one of the undines in half with his mighty jaws. The undine fell apart, the body becoming indistinguishable from the surrounding ocean, even as Brine sank into the depths to prepare his next attack.

As the ships drew close, Captain Ward gave the order to fire. The cannon ball bounced off of the side of the Avenger, and the ballista arrow stood quivering from the side, having inflicted minimal damage to the ship. When the ships were side by side, the boarding crew threw grappling lines across the gap between the ships, and began drawing them closer. Colbin came on deck, rubbing his eyes, “What’s all the noise?”

With the ships briefly secured to each other, Simon leapt across the gap, followed quickly by a now wide awake Colbin and one of the trolls from the Fallen Oranna. Trish hesitated, and with a quick prayer to Lord Artol jumped across, almost losing her balance. Trish felt an almost electric tingle, as if she had passed through a magical wall, but since there was no ill effect from it, shrugged it off. There were enemies to send to Lord Artol!

Prospero cast a spell, and moments later, two stone sentinels appeared on the deck of the Avenger, sweeping away the sailors nearest to them as the deck groaned under their ponderous weight. The first person that Simon encountered was Mr. Waite, who had escaped his wrath previously. “I’ll take care of this right now,” said Simon through clenched teeth, even as his katana drove home through Mr. Waite’s sternum and out through his back, with a kick killing a sailor behind him even as he drew the blade free from the now dead body. Brine leapt through another undine dismissing it from this plane of existence, even as Trish lashed out, killing a pirate with each of her blades. One pirate sent a hasty shot that dented Trish’s armor, and she lashed out with her backslash, catching the sailor in the head with the flat of her blade.

Three sailors rushed up to Colbin, all discharging their pistols in his direction. One of the musket balls tore through the Lir’s side, causing him to grunt in pain. Gnorl the troll was targeted by the sailors due to his large size, and was briefly stunned by a strike from behind by a belaying pin. One of the sentinels crumbled to dust under the determined attacks of a group of sailors, even as Simon was briefly stunned by a stray bullet that grazed his skull. As he reoriented himself, Captain Adair stepped into his field of view and sprang at him. One of the sword thrusts caught him across the ribs, and Simon collapsed to the deck, his strength sapped by the arcane magic used by his opponent. “Ah, the great runelord, brought down by a humble captain he wronged,” laughed Captain Adair as he leered down at Simon, “Your death will not be as slow as it should be, but it will suffice!”

Colbin ducked behind Gnorl, popping out and driving his rapier into the ribcage of one of the sailors before rolling around the troll and stabbing another with his dagger. The remaining sentinel swung its sword in a large arc in front of it, killing one crewman, but just missing Captain Adair. The sailors of the Avenger had managed to cut the grapples from the Fallen Oranna, and the ships began drifting apart. Prospero had watched Simon topple to the deck and cast a dispel magic spell on him. Simon began to feel the power returning to his legs. “It’s not over yet, Adair,” he growled as he began to stand. Captain Adair backed up, drawing a second pistol from behind his back, missing Simon with a hasty shot, and slashed at Simon with his sword. Simon parried the attacks easily and moved forward.

In the middle of the chaos on deck, a mysterious blue hooded figure moved across the surface, going to sailors who had been taken out of the fight but not killed, and healing them to go back to the fray. Prospero took note of him as a possible priest, but decided Captain Adair was the bigger threat, casting nerves of fire on the crazed man, who cried out in pain when the spell hit. He then looked again at the hooded figure, and recognition flooded his brain. “Sarma!” cried Prospero, suddenly realizing that this was the water priest who had tried to sacrifice Simon after his resurrection.

Sarma stood, and his hood fell backwards when he heard his name called. With a horrible grimace, he healed another fallen sailor. “I will also have my revenge on you, sorcerer!” he shouted with a laugh. Without another word, Prospero cast a bolt spell, which hit Sarma squarely in the chest, driving him to his knees.

Trish heard Prospero’s shout and after dispatching the last of the sailors near her, charged to where the water priest was regaining his feet. She wounded him with a swipe of her sword, but it wasn’t a killing blow. Prospero cast dispel magic on Captain Adair, but could see no immediate effect from the spell. Simon grabbed a rope and swung around behind Captain Adair, and dropped to the deck with a flip, attacking as he landed. Captain Adair spun around, landing a lucky hit on Simon with the flat of his blade.

Sarma cast a healing spell on himself, then stabbed out at Trish with a wand. When the wand made contact with her armor, the warrior dropped to the ground, paralyzed. Brine, having dispatched the last of the undines jumped on deck just in time to see Trish fall. “Nooooo!” he screamed and launched his trident into the air, hitting the priest, and stunning him briefly. He then ran across the deck grabbing his trident on the way and attacked the priest again, missing him. Prospero cast a dispel magic on Trish, who leapt to her feet in a rage, and executed a scissor chop with her blades that separated the priest’s head from his body. She paused briefly and looked at where Simon was fighting with Captain Adair. Simon leapt into the air, catching the rope he had swung on earlier, and flipped over his opponent, cutting Captain Adair with his katana and catching him with a kick one the way down as well. Trish ran across the deck and slashed at Captain Adair, who ducked right into the sweep of her sword. The force from the blow dropped him clean over the side of the ship and into the water.

After the last of the sailors had been subdued, the party had a meeting with Captain Ward about their next move. After much discussion, it was decided that the group would go to Dagaral Temple. It would provide everyone a chance to replenish their rune spells and Captain Ward would be able to sell one of the ships and outfit the one he decided to keep. Simon said, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a bad feeling about the fact that we haven’t been able to find Captain Adair’s body”.

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Discovering the ritual

The party pushed on deeper into the cave. Not much further they stumbled upon another guard post of the goblins. They spread there number on both sides of a canyon, among their number were some dwarves with muskets.

When Simon leapt over the canyon a tentacled creature reached from the depths to entangle him. Susi put a few arrows in the beast and it released Simon.

Just as the goblins were being driven back reinforcements came charging in from one of the side passages crying vengeance for their slain prince. Prospero’s magic blasted them as they emerged en masse from the tunnel.

Simon began to explore deeper into the cave while the rest of the party finished off the remaining enemies. He came across a solitary goblin banging a gong as it quickly ran down a set of spiral stairs down a dark hole. Simon used a spell to knock it from the steps and send it tumbling down the hole into the darkness.

The party climbs down the stairs. At the bottom is a tunnel with flickering light at the end. It leads to a massive chamber where a large group of wizards is performing a ritual. They are grouped around an altar inside of a intricately drawn circle. Among then are the missing sailors chained to stone pillars.

Prospero says this is something he read about in the hexilexicon. That chaos book described a series of rituals that will create a new element. The vile chaos sorcerers intend for this new element be chaos. This looks to be one of those ceremonies.

The group hastily forms a plans and sets it into action. Susi flies over and drops the battle ball onto them, while Simon grabs Colby and teleports near to the sailors. The party tries to make quick work of the wizards while distracting their apprentices and familiars, while the sailors can be freed.

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Deeper into the cave

At the end of the large underground cavern was a dark cave with narrow openings. Colby went ahead to scout the area, intending to mark targets for Susi’s bow. He quickly came upon wolves guarding where the cave forked. He dropped a glowing coin and waited while arrows pelted the wolves.

While the wolves were distracted Colby went deeper into the tunnels and was soon greeted by goblin archers. Prospero and Simon quickly followed Colby’s advance and using the jutting rocks for cover quickly reached the archers and cut them down.

Susi and Brine became pinned down at the entrance to the tunnels when more of the winged ghouls swooped in from behind. They held their own and soon managed to drive off the ghouls and make their way into the tunnels following the others.

Simon, Prospero, and Colby had already made their way through several chambers of goblins and were chasing down the goblin prince shouting orders to the others. Simon had gone off alone to the rimward, while Colby and Prospero chose the coreward passages.

Suddenly all of them were set upon by new cave denizens, who lurked in the shadowy ceilings and dropped down in ambushes. These lurkers were easily frightened off, clearly unused to prey that would fight back.

Once this challenge was overcome Colby and Prospero finally engaged the goblin prince. After an exchange of blows he fled deeper underground. Colby ran after him and caught him just as he reached more reinforcements. Prospero brought up his golems pinning down the prince and quickly finishing him off.

Just as the prince was brought down Simon entered the chamber from another passage and finished off the remainder of the goblins. Once the fight is over Simon summons up Telpur to heal wounds, while Prospero searches the prince’s corpse. He finds a runed shield which Susi makes use of.

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Setting out from Sword Village

After the celebration the party sets sail on the Fallen Oranna toward the Horne Cove. As the pass through the Sea of Steam the crew is amazed to find a snow storm centered on some island. Captain Ward had never seen such weather here, nor had an island existed here before.

The fresh snow was an appealing source of water, so Captain Ward stopped to fill up. The crew went ashore to collect water, but spent a good amount of time goofing around in the snow drifts.

As the effort finished it was noticed that some of the crew were missing, the headcount was short by 4 men. The party had all the crew return to the ship and set out to find the missing men.

Susi spots some bipedal animal tracks leading away from where the men were working. Following the trail brings the party to a small wooden bridge spanning a frigid stream. As they are about the cross a pack of four armed apes leap out of the snow drifts and attack.

Once these creatures were subdued the party continued down the trail the tracks made. At the end they come to a icy bridge crossing a ravine. At the far side was a cave into the stone face of a mountain. Colby urged the group on to find the missing men.

Susi spotted some chains hang down from the far side and reaching beneath the bridge. He flew down to investigate. The chains lead into another cave concealed below the bridge. When he looked inside he heard a roar and a blast of fire drove him out again.

Despite this Colby began across the bridge. He hadn’t gone far when a team of goblins rushed out of the cave to defend the entrance. As the party rushed forward the goblins released the chimeras chained in the lower cave. The party battled through all of this and gained entrance to the cave.

As the walked through the cave a pair of giants and several winged ghouls ambushed them. After another dangerous fight the party continued on through the cave that stinks of goblin.

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Sword Village Epilogue
the sword quest ends and a new adventure begins

The Traitor in Sword Village

You get the nod from Swardu just as Vallas lands a vicious kick on Tarmis’ knee. You hear a sickening snap and he cries out as you draw the silver sashi. You lunge forward with a fast convincing feignt to Vallas’ head and you can’t help but grin as he falls for the maneuver leaving his abdomen exposed. You step in close and slash viciously at his stomach while spinning with your whole torso. You know it will take you out of position, but you don’t care. This ends now, one way or the other. Your clever strategy pays off and you feel the sashi sink deep into Vallas abdomen stopping only when it contacts his spine. Your spin causes the sashi to scrape across his backbone and it lodges there wedged between his vertibra.

You finish your spin and stand ready to fend off a counter strike but instead you see look of relief in Vallas’ face.

“I am free.” he says in a strangely calm voice. “Tell Ashook I will see him soon.” he purrs in a decidedly evil voice. The man that was Vallas shifts his form into the hairless, featureless grey of a malamorph as a greasy grey smoke bubbles forth and settles across the corpse.

You expected a cheer of some sort to go up from the crowd. But instead they have all taken a step back in horror at the scene before them. Master Swardu is at your side taking your katana from your hands as other monks tend to your wounds.

“It is over my son. You have done it. You have saved the sword temple from the grip of chaos. The monks also tell me that your friends have saved the village from a similar fate. It seem all our eyes have been clouded by false heroes and treacherous gifts.” He looks down and shakes his head sadly. “All of which has cost us master Telpurr, the greatest and wisest among us.”

You are saddened at the news but not surprised. You thought you recognized the spirit that turned Vallas’ blade. So many questions remain for the master and now he is lost to you.
Suddenly the crowd of wellwishers and monks parts as Prospero, Susi and Colby arrive. Grimclaw is dragging a body in his jaws which lays at your feet.

“This is the wizard Ashook. He is a petty Invoker of sorts and the master of Vallas.” Says Prospero. He looks down at the featureless form in the greasy puddle and says, “I assume you made this mess?”

You smile as the wizard Ashook raises his head to look at you. You see he wears a slave collar covered with runes.

“You are Ashook?” you ask.

“I am.” He says sullenly.

“I know someone who is looking for you.” You say with a smirk

The blood drains from his face as he realizes that Vallas is now free if his hold and looking for revenge. “You must protect me.” he pleads. “I will tell you everything I know.”

“I’m sure we can accommodate that request. The monks have a lot of chores that need doing. Hauling water to the temple. Cleaning latrines and such…”

You see his face twist in rage as he rises up. “I am Ashook the Binder, master of the Third Circle and a Lord in the City of Lost Hope. You will address me with the respect …”

His rage fades as Grimclaw moves into his field of view and crouches to pounce.

“This is my friend Grimclaw. He likes to play with his food and has a fondness of the taste of wizard. The last one took days to die didn’t be Prospero?”

“Three days to be exact. And the mess was tremendous.”

Ashook falls to his knees trembling humbled and broken once more. “It will be as you say.”

“Simon, Ashook and his friends have desecrated the graves of many of the ancestors in this village.” squaws Susi. “I think these fair folk are deserving of recompense.”

“Oh? What would you recommend?”

“I saw some fine stocks on the other end of the market square.” squeaks Colby. “Very well made, and terribly uncomfortable looking.”

“Sounds like just the thing. People of sword village! Ashook is yours for the next tendy. All I ask is that you leave some life in him for me!”

Now the shout goes up and Simon smiles. No small victory this. “Come my friends. I would have you bear witness to what happens next.”

Prospero looks upward at the 10000 steps and mumbles. “Why didn’t I learn that fly spell?”

Rune Master at Last

You and Susi race up the mountain with Colby hitching a ride in your pouch. Grimclaw wanted to run ahead with you but Prospero would not allow it saying it would be undignified for a wizard to arrive without his familiar. Grimclaw had his doubts but kept them to himself.

The temple doors are thrown open wide at your approach and you all march directly in. You take your leave of Colby and Susi and head towards the main altar where Father Thury already awaits among what must be hundreds of lit candles. Munder and Jaymar go forward to light the braziers and incense. Swardu stands beside Simon as his sponsor and sniffs the air.

“You stink of demon Simon. Normally we would take our time and clean you up a bit first,” he says smiling. “But Thury and I think that you need to be placed under the Bandar’s protection as quickly as possible. Such things happen in times of war. Consider it a battlefield promotion.”

You chuckle nervously at that and reflect on the road that has lead to this moment as the priests make the altar ready. Growing up with the Fel after your village was destroyed by the Lazuri. Learning to walk the way of the M’Yow Lin as a boy and dreaming of being a Way-master some day. Fighting with the Fel against the Lazuri as a teenager and seeing you name on wanted posters in the villages near your jungle home. Leaving home to keep from bringing trouble to your pride. Traveling to the Realm of Earth, fighting in the army of the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders, honing your skills, biding your time and building your strength in order to destroy your sworn enemies, the Lazuri.

Prospero, the other candidates of the challenge, and few village dignitaries from the crafters and merchant’s guilds enter the temple as the doors are drawn closed and barred from within. Only the candles illuminate the temple with a flickering glow. Father Thury comes forward and addresses those assembled.

“My friends, this day brings us great joy. A new champion and master of the Way has emerged and will be brought under the watchful eye of Bandar the Lord of Light!”

At his cry, the walls and ceiling of the temple glow with the with what appears to be sunlight and the altar becomes too bright to stare at directly. “Behold, Bandar has banished the darkness and filled the world with his light. Bask in his greatness my friends, may it lighten your load and feed your soul. I would ask our newest champion to step forward at this time to take his oath of service and fealty.”

You stride up to the altar, resisting the urge to raise your hand to block out the blinding light. You long ago learned to fight without your eyes, a short walk to the altar with your eyes closed is trivial. You stand before the altar and notice that the top glows with a more bearable light. Upon the altar lay the last works of Swardu and Telpur. The shining katana and sashi engraved with Telpur’s sword kata as well as newly added fire and air runes. Their ornate scabbards lay above them. Arrayed in a sweeping arc around them are a six silver shurikens inlaid with runes of gold. A new leather pouch fastened with gold clasps lays to the right of the weapons.

“Telpurr knew that a great champion would soon walk among us. He foresaw it in a a vision.” continues Father Thury. “He worked tirelessly with master Swardu laboring for an entire season to create a masterpiece that will shine with Bandar’s light and last the ages. As with all our great works, we scoured the spirit world looking for a great champion of Bandar that would reside in the blades and guide it’s wielder with their wisdom. We found many candidates but judged them unworthy of the work of masters Swardu and Telpurr.”

At this moment, a spirit begins to materialize above the altar. After a bit, it takes on the familiar form of master Telpurr himself.

“The untimely death of master Telpurr has solved the problem for us. At his passing he specifically asked to become your ally Simon. It is a great honor worthy of such a great champion as yourself.”

You bow you head to master Telpurr’s ghost, humbled nearly beyond words. “I am truly unworthy of such a wondrous gift and can only pray that Bandar will guide my actions and grant me the grace to accept such a prize with the honor and humility it deserves.”

Swardu smiles and Father Thury nods in appreciation for your words. “Bandar has chose his champion well. Discipline and humility are the greatest tools of a way master. Far greater than strength or steel. Place your hands upon the altar Simon and speak the oath of fealty so that Bandar can shower his gifts down upon you.”

You lay you hands on the altar and Father Thury positions your right on the katana and the left on the sashi. A quick mind speech spell is cast and you hear the words of the oath in your mind. You speak them out in a load clear voice for all to hear.

“I promise on my soul and the souls of my ancestors, that I will be ever faithful to the lord Bandar, his priests and his temples. I will never cause harm to those friendly to his teachings and will observe my homage to him completely in good faith and without deceit. I will be an instrument of Bandar’s will when called, a holy commander in times of war, and avenging avatar in times of treachery, and a stalwart guardian of his people and his way. I make this oath freely and without duress and swear my complete fealty until I am released, or permanent death takes me, or the world shall end.”

With the closing of the oath you are bathed in the light of bandar and find yourself transformed. You are clean, wearing a new tunic of white linen and new trousers. Your scars are gone and your body feels years younger. Your new pouch appears on your shoulder and you feel the weight of the shurikens inside. The katana and sashi are sheathed and jammed into the belt around your waist. Thury turns you towards those assembled and shouts, “Behold Simon! Rune Lord of Bandar and Master of the Way!”

A great cry goes up as the onlookers rush forward to congratulate you and thank you for all you have done. Prospero, Susi and Colby also enjoy many backslaps and heart felt thanks for their role in saving the village. A procession is formed and you are led down from the high temple to the village below. The temples musicians play a variety of hymns to Bandar and you find yourself dancing down the stairs with the other monks. You will look back on this parade with great fondness for all of your years.

In the city below, a great feast has been prepared and you notice that Ashook is already in the stocks at the far end of the market covered with dung, rotten produce and many, many fresh bruises. You take your place at the head of the table and feast begins immediately. You finally get to hear of the great mystery that your friends solved while you were in the trials. You are amazed at the scope of the deceit that was arrayed out in a fine net to ensnare you and your friends. Things could have gone much worse here.

The feasting, dancing and singing go on late into the night and at one point the crafters guild pulls the party aside and offers to reward the group for saving the village and the guild. Susi asks for some lightweight flexible armor that will not impede his flight. Colby asks for some size appropriate armor and a new sling. Prospero asks for some silver armor for him and Grimclaw if it’s not too dear. The guild masters are excited about the challenges of filling such a wide variety of offers. They smile conspiratorially and say, “We have just the thing. We’ll start tomorrow and within the tendy you will have your wishes with our thanks.”

You also note that Helmund has no shortage of offers for apprenticeships and he has all or you to thank for that.

The party finally winds down and you stumble off to the common house to find your bed. The next day finds Simon in communion with Telpur to learn the ways of his new weapons and skills.
The rest of the party is called to the Street of Hammers and measured and fitted for hours. The evening finds more more parties and celebrations and the ceremony is held at the low temple to allow everyone in the village to meet the new rune lord. The third day you assemble in front of the stocks to extract what you can from Ashook. You find that he holds a wealth of information and shares it willingly. His former arrogance is gone replaced with a keen desire to do anything to improve is current situation. In exchange for his information, you decide to free him from the stocks and turn him over to the monks of the temple.

From Ashook you learn the following:

  • Igmar is a lazuri rune lord that is a sown foe of Simon. He last post was Mount Labor and Ashook has heard that he is leading an expedition into the WedgeIron mountains. For what is not known.
  • Volmag is a lazuri general who rose to power by driving the fel to the verge of extinction. He is known to both Simon and Telpurr. It is thought that he burned Simon’s village and killed his parents.
  • The lazuri wanted to seize the awakened weapons in the Hall of Blades to force the Fel to surrender and end their guerrilla warfare campaign against the lazuri empire. It was thought that the Fel would do anything to protect their fallen ancestors bound into those swords.
  • Vallas was a chaotic horror bound into a malamorph. The morph took on an appealing shape to woo the villagers and temple folks. He had to be rebound every day as he was most powerful. Ashook shudders when he speaks of this. The god of morphs also leant his magic to Vallas to disguise his aura and hide his true nature.
  • The agents of the lazuri are everywhere in the earth fire realm so it is not unlikely that they have been in Nyca sowing deceit and villainy.
  • If you take the Fire Temple from the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders it will hurt the lazuri badly. They are marshaling a great force there.
  • Volmag is preparing for the siege on Thenga Velu – the great city of earth. It is said that the he is in possession of some great Journeyman relic, a iron sarcophagus of some sort. Finding him and destroying his source of power would keep Thenga Velu out of the hands of the Lazuri for good.

Exodus Plans

Over the past tendy five ships have approached or docked within the harbor of sword village. The first is the Fallen Oranna. Captain Ward was in a hurry to leave after the trial was complete but decided to stay on once he learned the true nature of the schemes surrounding the village just in case Susi, Colby, and Prospero needed a few more men at arms. He reluctantly agrees to stay the full tendy after the trials once the smiths say they are willing to trade the bulk of Ashooks ore for a very low price. Ward is eager to return to his home port of Ard and is willing to drop the party off anywhere along the spinward coast of the Sea of Steam. He will not venture further out to sea as he has learned from the other captains in port that Black Jack Adair is hunting his ship.

The second ship was a lazuri slave ship that sailed to the harbor but did not enter. It stayed at sea circling for two hours and then departed. When questioned Ashook explains that the villagers were all to be sold into slavery once the plan was complete. The ship was waiting for the all clear signal which never came. At this point the lazuri are aware that the plot has failed and that Simon has prevailed. Simon flies into a rage that this part of Ashooks plan was not divulged and throws Ashook back into the stocks. Ashook seems sincere in his denial of any treachery saying that his mind was addled earlier in the tendy from the battle and the beatings of the villagers. Simon begins to doubt the wisdom of keeping Ashook alive.

Simon and Telpurr decide that the safest place for the blade of the Sword that Must not be Drawn is in the tiger temple. He and Swardu enter into the caves beside the temple and hide the blade in a deep corner after which Swardu places powerful illusions over the hiding place.

“No one that does not know where to look will ever find that blade.”

The third ship is a sleek yacht called Thorne’s Pride. It’s captain is an elven noble named Waltin Thorne. He is a big game trophy hunter on safari trying to round out his collection. He is in Sword Village to pick up a weapon order of masterwork harpoons, balistae with giant killer bolts, masterwork battle axes and fine armor. Only the best will do. He chats up the party in the common room while his cargo is being loaded by his men. Thorne seeks to add a roc, a sea serpent, a cyclops, and a tyrannosaur to his collection on this trip. He looks capable enough but his plans are sheer madness. Who would seek such things on purpose? When he lays out his maps showing you the islands where he plans to hunt, you note that his dinosaur hunt is in the Shran jungle Rimward of the Wedgeirons. He is indifferent about taking you on but he insists that you help with all four hunts as payment for your passage.

The fourth ship is of an odd design you have not seen before. Her captain calls it a modified blockade runner named the Wind Dancer and she is bound for Orrana, the Sargasso Sea and the forest home of the Storm Elves. Her captain is Jetta the Red a gorgeous outspoken woman with a firey spirit to match her flaming red hair. She is a storm caller, a powerful air wizard and she takes an immediate liking to Prospero. She has a fondness for spouting sexual innuendos at Prospero in public just to watch him blush. Through your conversations in the common room you learn that she is an exile of Thenga Oranna like captain Ward. Unlike Ward however, she is a key figure in the resistance that still thrives within the shadows of the great city of spires and spans. She has heard of Simon’s work in the thicket and of the party’s deeds in the sea of steam. She is here picking up whatever arms the village can spare to deliver to the resistance. She seems well informed about the latest movements of the lazuri and she confirms Ashooks tale about the massing of troops and a secret lazuri weapon. You gather that her spy network must be vast indeed. She is eager to take you all on board and bring you to the front lines of the fight against the empire.

The fifth ship is a sturdy vessel called the Silver Manatee and it is on a voyage of exploration. It’s captain is a bookish looking dwarf named Farin Aghar. He is heading Rimward as far as he can in hopes of finding a route between the Stonerims and the Ringrange. He also hopes to detour from his quest Inge enough to gaze spin the celestial stairway. He is taking on supplies and his crew consists of guides, surveyors, geologists and musketeers. He could use a few more scouts and hired swords and is willing to give each of you a full share in the party’s fortunes, whatever they may be. He speaks of the potential of mineral deposits, trade routes, forts, and holy wonders. The ring range remains largely unexplored to this day, a true frontier.

The eighth day of feasting finds the party alone in their suite of rooms taking a late lunch on the balcony. Prospero pulls a scroll from his sleeve and lays it on the table.

“We have some choices to make my friends. Where to next and possibly who’s going where? I have listed our options on this scroll. Let’s have an honest discussion about our next steps.”

  1. Sail with Captain Ward back to Ard and the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders perhaps to attack the fire temple
  2. Sail with Captain Thorne to make our way to Igmar and the direction the silver compass is pointing
  3. Sail with Captain Jetta to fight against the Lazuri empire on the front lines perhaps to destroy Volmogs secret weapon
  4. Sail with Captain Farin to explore the Ring Range
  5. Find Father Vargas and investigate the problems with the Earth temple and solve the riddle of Colby’s Book of Birds
  6. Travel to Horn Cove and seek out the Necromancer that kept Dora enslaved
  7. Explore the Crypts of Xaar and help Trisha make Runelady
  8. Travel with Prospero and Elisandra to Emancia to walk the Conundrum once again
  9. Add something more to the list to discuss…
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Sword village is saved!

While Simon is stretching and preparing for the final trial, one of the town guards approaches Swardu. He says a few words and Swardu a wakizashi. Another guard does the same with master Jaymar.

Swardu exchanges the wakizashi the guard gave him with Simon’s blade and says, “The guards need time to get in position. You’ll need to toy with him a bit; you and Tarnis should work together against Vallas.” Then the gong sounds and Simon is thrust into the melee.

As Brine, Colby, Prospero, and Susi are headed to the trial Helmund and a guardsman run up begging for assistance. They claim zombies are attacking the village and will soon overrun the barricade.

The town guard used an over turned wagon as a crude blockade to hold the undead horde back. They tell the party to slip around down a side alley and find the source of the undead.

Susi takes to the air and sees Ashook in the distance driving the zombie’s onward. He immediately begins to fire arrows at him. Brine and Colby start cutting a path through the zombies. Brine loops around to flank the zombies that are beginning the overwhelm the guards, while Colby presses on and attacks Ashook.

While this is going on Simon evades Vallas’ attacks until Swardu gives him a sign that all is ready. Then Simon launches a flurry of attacks which break down Vallas’ blocks and slice him open. The scars on Vallas’ body begin to glow and then peel open revealing some sort of demon beneath the skin. This vision lasts only a moment before dissipating.

Not long after, pierced by Susi’s arrows and Colby’s blades, Ashook slumps to the ground incapacitated. Once their mast is dead the undead are quickly finished off by Prospero and Brine.

Once all the battles are done the village celebrates and lauds the party as heroes and saviors. Ashook is questioned while a celebratory feast is prepared.

Ashook reveals that his main goal was the hall of swords in the high temple. The collection of awakened weapons was a treasure with immense value. He also wanted to gain control of the smiths as well. Ashook says he was under the command of a Lazuri named Volmag, who also commanded Igmar, and also gave orders to stop Simon from becoming a Rune Lord.

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