Shades of Shadora

The Lake of Lava

The party arrived back at the crossroads to be met by Trish, Ellisandra, and Walac. “We heard you call for Ellisandra, but with the call echoing through the caverns, we followed the trail of bodies to here, and couldn’t tell which direction you went in. I don’t think we’ll have any pursuit over the bridge. What happened?” said Trish.

Simon said, “We found Mr. Rackham. The Lazuri had been torturing him, and he didn’t make it. I swore an oath to avenge him, though, and I mean to see that carried out.”

Simon headed down the remaining tunnel, and the rest of the group somberly fell into step behind him. The tunnel began to slope down noticeably within moments, and the ambient heat in the area grew with each passing step. Before long, they could hear the sounds of rushing water, along with the odd sound of bubbles of molten rock popping and distant explosions.

Simon stepped from the tunnel into a large, steamy room that had pock marks along the floor, and a stream on one side. Before he had time to do more than wonder what they were, a blast of water and steam blew towards the ceiling from one of them. Simon turned and called back to the rest of the party, “Geysers, watch yourselves”.

While Simon made his way gracefully to the other side of the room, Brine, who had been suffering through the heat more than the others, rushed to the stream, “This water is from the surface! It’s heated, but not bad at all.”

Without a further word, Brine dove towards the water, changing to shark form in the air. There was a loud splash as he hit and then all that could be seen was his dorsal fin cutting an ominous wake through the water. Prospero sent his sentinels forward to create a path between the geysers for the party. The party then went across the room to join Simon on the other side, with Susi flying above it all, followed closely by Maelstrom, who carried Ellisandra in his arms. Walac’s small size was almost his undoing, as a jet of superheated water splashed between one of the sentinel’s legs. Only his agility and a twisting leap to one side kept him from being badly burned.

Simon scouted the new room, which consisted mostly of a lake of lava with small paths and outcroppings of rock. As he looked, he saw that there was a group of men in rags on the far side, inching around on a path that seemed much too small for them. He turned and headed back up the tunnel to the rest of the party. “I think I’ve found the men, but they are on the far side of the magma lake,” said Simon.

Susi, who had landed moments before and was smoothing out his feathers said, “Not a problem, Simon, I can fly there and let them know we are here, and maybe start ferrying them over. Which direction?”

“Straight ahead. Once you’re in the air, you’ll probably see them”, replied Simon.

Without another word, Susi launched himself into the air and saw the men immediately, but as he gained altitude, something caught his eye to his right. An altar to Guha glowed there, with a grinning dog sitting right in the middle of the platform. Susi altered his course and headed straight for the altar, landed on it, bowed in front of the grinning dog, and began to pray.

“What is that bird doing…” started Simon.

All he could see was a platform of rock that Susi had landed on. The ground beneath the rock was beginning to move, and looked familiar, like a… “Dragon!” shouted Simon, “There’s a dragon in the lava to our right!”

Susi was kneeling on the back of the dragon, deep in religious ecstasy. As the dragon moved forward to the stone path from the lava, Simon cast true spear on his javelin and threw it at the dragon. It glanced off one of the dragon’s horns and came flying back to his hand. As soon as it was secure in his hand, Simon took a running jump and landed on the dragon’s head. Ellisandra tried to cast a slumber spell, but couldn’t tell if it missed or if the dragon had resisted it. The dragon’s head rocked back momentarily, then quickly thrust forward, sending a cone of fire out. The fire singed Walac and Grimclaw’s whiskers, but didn’t damage them. The dragon then flapped her wings, knocking the sentinels down. Trish ran forward and started hitting the dragon with her swords, trying to find a weak spot in her armor as Prospero’s bolts of earth and rock exploded harmlessly against the creature’s side. The sentinels stood and began hitting the dragon’s sides, but without doing any damage. Prospero felt a presence in his mind, probing his thoughts, and recognized it as one of the dragon’s tricks. He blocked his mind to the dragon, and soon the presence faded.

The dragon reared back on her hind legs and quickly slammed herself down, breathing out another cone of fire. This one caught the sentinels and melted them down, while narrowly missing Walac and Ellisandra. Brine, in his shark form travelled down the stream that ran into the lava, and bit furiously at the dragon’s leg, but wasn’t able to penetrate her armor. Bolts of lighting and earth exploded harmlessly against the dragon’s hide, causing her to roar her displeasure. Simon, still riding on the dragon’s head and unable to get through her armor with his weapons, put his weapons away, and pulled a flask from his pouches. Moving quickly, he rolled off the dragon’s head and slammed a tanglefoot potion into the dragon’s right eye before dropping nimbly to the ground. Trish stunned the dragon with the force of one of her strikes, causing the creature to shudder. Susi came out of his reverie, and saw what was going on for the first time. He looked to his left, and saw another, smaller dragon, moving slowly out of a cave behind the dragon he was riding. Behind that dragon was the glint of a pile of treasure. He looked to his right and saw a nest full of dragon’s eggs. “Tasty, tasty morsels,” said Susi and launched himself into the air towards the nest.

The dragon ducked her head into the lava to burn off the tanglefoot covering her eye. Walac could feel the dragon inside his mind probing his memories, but was able to block her out, this time. As the dragon lifted her head free of the lava, the first thing she saw was Simon threatening her eye with his javelin. When she reacted to protect her eye, Simon leapt and rolled over her sinuous neck and landed on the other side to attack her.

As the others continued to battle with the mother dragon, Susi had landed in the nest and began to look at the eggs with avarice. Suddenly, a blast of fire rocked him, and scorched him but didn’t hurt him as much as surprise him. He spun in time to catch one of the smaller dragon’s claws across his midsection, wounding him. He swung with his axe, but the swipe only glanced off the dragon. He cast a panic spell, but it had no noticeable effect on the angry dragon.

On the other side of the room, the rest of the party continued their attacks, without doing much damage to the mother dragon at all, and at best only briefly stunning her. Lightning bolts and shards of earth and rock exploded against her sides, sparks flew where swords glanced from her armor, and a small amount of blood polluted the water where Brine continued to savage her legs. Simon tensed and threw the javelin again, this time he scored a hit, and the spear went through the mother dragon, wounding her and causing her to roar in pain, then it glanced off the smaller dragon’s armor before returning to his hand. The mother dragon breathed fire again, and wounded Simon with a swipe from one of her claws. Grimclaw had worked one of the dragon’s scales free, and raked the soft skin beneath with his claws.

Having had enough, the dragon disengaged from the fight. She couldn’t remember how long it had been since someone had fought ferociously enough to wound her in battle, and now she had been wounded twice. As she spun and leapt into the air, Walac caught her under a scale with his rapier, and the dragon roared once again. Moments later, she and her hatchling were gathering the eggs from the nest. Having secured her brood, they flew into the air, lazily riding the thermals up the shaft of the volcano to a higher ledge. Susi flew back to the shrine that was floating above the lava, and drifted into prayer again. Finally finished with his devotions, he flew to the people who had retreated along the small ledge during the fight, and along with Maelstrom began to ferry them across the lava to where the party had set up camp in a cooler portion of the area.

Once the officers had been moved to the party, Susi flew back to the dragon’s nest. A quick search revealed that there was nothing of importance there. He glanced up, and could see both of the dragons watching him very carefully. He then took to the air, and began to fly towards the pile of treasure he had noticed earlier. As he drifted closer, he could see the dragons becoming more and more tense, ready to spring. “I’ve only got one shot at this, because the moment I go there, they are surely going to come after me,” thought Susi. He used his superior vision, normally reserved for hunting to scan the horde. Selecting his target, he dove as hard and fast as he could towards the trove, his talons grabbing his prize as he flapped furiously to gain altitude. With a roar, the dragons came off their perch, but Susi’s speed and head start made him impossible to catch. The dragons quit their pursuit, and moments later, Susi was on the ground admiring his new bow and quiver while Ellisandra treated his wounds.

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Across The Chasm
After clearing the bridge of enemies the party meet to plan. Seeing that the bridge was the

only way into or out of the lower depths the decision was made to lower the portcullises on both
ends. Further Trish, Walaac, and Ellisandra would guard the crossing for a period to be
determined by Trish, just to ensure no stragglers showed up to block our path out of the volcano.
The others moved down the path with Simon taking Walaac’s normal position as scout. Creeping
along the cavern lead to a corner that lead to a crude shrine area. Around the corner Simon spied
a gray sashed Lazuri tending four shrines to the fire gods. Simon crept back to the party and
brought Grimclaw and Susi forward as back-up. Once back he leapt upon the Lazuri priest cutting
him down. The new chamber had three exits, a hole leading down and tunnels heading to the left
and right. Fess identified the tunnels, the one to the right lead to the hazardous duty area
while the one to the left lead to the discipline area. He had no clue on where the hole lead. The
hole seemed less used although there were some ropes rigged; Simon reasoned that perhaps the hole
was a back entrance to the discipline area and one that would be likely less well guarded. They
descended the hole without difficulty, Susi gently floating down on spread wings. The passage of
worked stone at the bottom lead to a lava lake. At one time bridges had spanned the lake between
small isles above the lava, on the far side of the chamber was an exit. Susi and Simon decided to
brave the blasts of heat and as they make their way across swarms of lava bats formed and
attached them. From the path Prospero was able to destroy one of the swarms and although annoying
both Susi and Simon avoided any injury and made the final jump/glide to the opening. At the
portal awaiting them were two leering flame skulls. Unguarded back door indeed thought Simon and
he and Susi crushed the two skulls. Susi and Simon moved quickly down passage, the Lava Bat
swarms remained over the lake of lava.
Down around a corner they encountered a door with Fire Speech writing. Simon read it as Tomb
of the Fallen Heroes of Lazur. With a kick the door was opened. Within was a large room with many
stone tombs. Simon cautiously moved into the room and advised Susi to remain by the door, using
bow fire to provide Simon with cover if necessary. Unfortunately Susi’s eyesight was hindered by
the darkness. Susi moved into the room to light a sconce mounted torch. As the torch sputtered
into light the tombs defenses started to move. Stone tomb lids slide off and Lazuri zombies began
to rise. A giant black slime dropped just missing Simon. A quick swipe of his katana cut it in
two; Simon looked in horror as his katana’s shinning blade dissolved before his eyes. Quickly
recovering he pummeled both slimes with his flail destroying them. In the meantime Suse had
started battle with the six zombies that had arisen. Weird shadows danced as Simon and Susi
destroyed the zombies. Once done they hurriedly searched the tombs within reach. They avoided the
many fungus and spores that were littered everywhere.
Hearing more shuffling in the back of the chamber they took what they hand found and fled
back to the lake of lava. With nary a pause they flew across, surprising the many lava bat swarms
circling about. They made the far exit and escaped up the hole rejoining Prospero and the others.
Since the detour hadn’t worked the team decided to rescue Mr. Rackum, the left hand tunnel was
taken.
As they advanced they heard screams ahead and encountered red sashed Lazuri guards.
The treasures found in the Tomb were put to good use. Susi tossed the spiked ball which grew huge
and rolled around smashing our foes. Simon grabbed the superb javelin from Susi and tossed it, it
passed through two of the Lazuri before returning to his hand. A battle line formed with Brine,
Susi, and Simon facing the Lazuri. A sorcerer appeared with a pack of berserk lizard demons that
joined the fray. The sorcerer exchanged spells with Prospero, a failed spell caused him to flinch
and he was quickly crushed by the pouncing Grimclaw. Viewing past the final corner before the
torture chamber Grimclaw saw a second sorcerer and a final red sash Lazuri. Feeling out matched
he bounded back to the main group pouncing on the Lazuri blocking the parties advance. The final
Lazuri raced around the corner and was quickly cut down. The second sorcerer was nowhere to be
found. Mr. Rackum was tied to a table, Simon shouted for Ellisandra and fumbled with a potion but
he was beyond help. Before he died he spoke telling Simon of Lord Igmar and making him swear to
save the other officers and men. As Rackum died Simon swore to Bander to free the others and
avenge all who had died at the Lazuri’s hand.

A quick tour of the cell block seeking for the sorcerer or anything of use turned up a caged

sailor. He claimed to be a Captain. Simon freed him and asked him along, if he turned out to be
an enemy he would die quickly enough. The captain went to a hidden cache and armed himself with a
Cutlass and two dwarven pistols. With haste the party returned to the room of four shrines.

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The Lazuri Mines, Part 4

Prospero tapped Trish on her shoulder and had her move to the opposite corner of the room, while the rest of the party continued to search for anything that might be useful in their further travels. “I’m worried, Trish,” he said, “I think the minotaur we’ve been fighting might be a priest of Barnor.”

“Barnor? I don’t know that I’ve heard of him before,” said Trish.

Prospero looked grim, “He’s one of the Chaotic Gods. His followers exist only to destroy the works of other creatures. It’s only through my studies as an Earth mage that I’ve ever heard of him, but earthquakes, such as the one that brought the tunnel down earlier, are a hallmark of his priesthood. This minotaur is going to be tough to kill.”

With the room thoroughly ransacked, the party began to move again, with Walac in the lead as a scout. The way became hotter and brighter as he pressed further through the passageway. He soon arrived at a turn in the tunnel, and as he crept up and looked around the corner, the source of the light became apparent. Before him were four yellow sash Lazuri, with two standing on either side of a portcullis which had been lowered into the floor. Behind them, there was a tunnel, probably constructed by dwarves since it was made out of well laid stone, that spanned a lake of lava that bubbled and spit out fiery tendrils of broken rock as the bubbles popped. All of the Lazuri had their attention focused on the tunnel where Walac was, but he managed to avoid detection and slipped back to the party to tell them what he saw.

After a quiet, hurried discussion, Prospero cast invisibility on Ellisandra and himself, and they crept around the corner. A moment later, a burst of lightning from Ellisandra exploded around the Lazuri, killing one outright and dropping another to the ground, stunned. Prospero cast a bolt spell, but the deadly clumps of earthen rock spun harmlessly past the stunned Lazuri as he slumped to the ground. Ellisandra cast another blast spell, but in her haste stumbled over the words, causing the lightning to go off harmlessly against the wall. Susi ran around the corner, firing an arrow, and wounding one of the Lazuri on the other side of the gate. When the Lazuri Ellisandra had stunned stood completely up, he found Simon in front of him, and he went down again, dead this time from a swipe of Simon’s katana. The Lazuri on the other side of the gate began backing away, and as the party came further down the tunnel, a couple of guard towers and a second portcullis were visible on the other side. Two Lazuri priests on the far side of the portcullis finished casting a spell, and suddenly, two fire elementals erupted into being on the bridge in front of the two retreating yellow sashes. Prospero cast a bolt spell, and shards of rock and earth rocketed towards the two elementals and the Lazuri that Susi had wounded. The Lazuri and one of the elementals were killed by the earthen bolts.

Simon teleported to the top of the guard tower on the left, and in a flurry of attacks killed both hobgoblins that were there. He noticed a mechanism at the top of the tower that he thought might be used to move the portcullis, but was unable to activate it. Ellisandra cast a bolt of lightning at the remaining fire elemental, causing it to cease its advance, and stand swirling just beyond the gate. Susi moved closer to the gate, and took a shot at the remaining Lazuri, but the arrow went spinning away into the lava underneath the bridge. The color of the fire elemental brightened, and a cone of fire came roaring out. Susi and Trish jumped out of the way of the flame; Susi’s bright plumage was soot streaked and Trish’s armor was smoking like an overheated pan pulled off the stove. The priests at the far gate cast another spell, and a plume of fire slowly arced out above the bridge and to where the party was grouped. Trish, Susi and Prospero narrowly avoided the fire, but the strain of fighting in the heat was beginning to show. Walac shot at the retreating Lazuri, but when he only narrowly missed Brine (he actually nicked his ear), he ceased shooting until he could get a better shot.

Unable to work the gate’s mechanism, Simon jumped from the guard tower to the floor, and cast mirror image, creating three images of him. He attacked the priest closest to him and killed him easily. He then cast berserk on himself and killed the second priest. A hobgoblin jumped from the tower and attacked one of Simon’s mirror images, while the one remaining in the tower shot a crossbow at Simon and missed. The minotaur leapt from the passage and swept with his axe, the momentum of the attack throwing Simon against the portcullis and stunning him. The axe continued around, destroying all of the mirror images and the hobgoblin, leaving only Simon and the minotaur on the ground, facing each other.

Maelstrom passed through the portcullis and shot a cone of plasma at the Lazuri on the bridge, but the Lazuri dodged, causing the cone to dissipate. Walac followed the sylph through, using his small size to his advantage. As he was squeezing through, he saw that there was a ledge on either side of the portcullis, each with a Lazuri standing by it. He rushed to the side, and attacked the Lazuri, missing with his first swipe, but following it up with a quick thrust through the groin, killing the lizard man. Prospero cast summon ally, creating two constructs on the other side of the portcullis. As Simon continued to fight the minotaur, two arbalests fired their bolts at the constructs stalking towards the Lazuri on the bridge. One bolt missed the construct, and the other caught the Lazuri square in the back and pitched it over the side of the bridge into the lava.

Walac attempted to move the mechanism that he found behind the Lazuri he killed, without success. “It takes two people to move the gate, have one of the constructs go to the other side and work the mechanism,” he shouted to Prospero. Prospero sent a telepathic command to the constructs, sending one to help Simon, who had just cast an impede chaos spell against the minotaur, and sending the other to work the mechanism and kill any enemies it might find there. He followed that up by sending a bolt at the minotaur, but the spell didn’t hit. The construct reached the mirror alcove to the one Walac was standing in, but its swipe missed the Lazuri guarding the mechanism. Maelstrom swept in behind him and captured the Lazuri within his form, and began to lift him off the ground, suffocating him and moving him closer to the edge of the lava field. The construct worked the mechanism and suddenly, the portcullis began to move into the ceiling.

With the gate gone, the party began running towards the other end of the bridge to help Simon where he and the minotaur were exchanging blows. The construct reached the second portcullis before the rest of the party, and began yanking on it, trying to force it up. Just before the arrival of the party, there was a shriek of tortured metal as the mechanisms finally gave way, and the construct held the portcullis open over his head, allowing the party to pass. Susi took a couple of shots at the red sash Lazuri who was firing one of the arbalests, and killed it with an arrow to the face. Trish rushed under the gate, and attacked the minotaur, missing with both blades. The Lazuri that had been firing the other arbalest rushed her, and she spun, impaling him on Oblivion, even as she ducked under the sweep of the minotaur’s blade. Simon spun one last time, his katana and flail working in perfect unison. The minotaur fell, mortally wounded, and as he hit the ground, one of his horns, which was covered in runes, snapped off under his weight. Simon landed, and kicked the final Lazuri in the throat, causing it to drop to the ground to drown in his own blood.

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The Lazuri Mines, Part 3

With all of the enemies in the immediate area down, Prospero ordered his remaining ally to go down the hall. He telepathically contacted his familiar, Grimclaw, and told him to wait until the remaining hobgoblin he was stalking shot at the construct, then to spring from hiding. A purr rumbled forth from Grimclaw at the thought of the coming kill. Moments later, as the ally’s ponderous footsteps drew near, the twang of a bowstring preceded the clatter of a bolt falling to the stone floor. Grimclaw ran around the corner and pounced, landing on the hobgoblin and snapping his neck as the momentum tumbled the great black cat and his adversary to the floor.

As Grimclaw padded towards the other, Maelstrom went a little further down the side tunnel to see what lay beyond in the darkness. He could see three torchlit areas in the distance, but the intervening dark made it impossible to determine exactly how far away they were or how to get there. As he sent this information to his mistress, who in turn relayed it to her master, Prospero, three tore out of the darkness and passed through his ethereal body to hit the wall behind him. He retreated back down the hall to regroup with the party.

Simon could hear the sounds of digging and metal hitting stone coming down the tunnel that the dwarves had fled down. “If only there were more light here, we could see what we are walking into,” he said.

Fas nodded grimly, “Yep, the Lazuri keep it dark in the tunnels to make it harder to escape. Their minions can see in the dark, but the miners can’t, so it’s a great sport for them to play if someone gets separated. Line the halls quietly, and whoever the miner touches as he gropes his way out in the dark gets to rip him apart. I’ve heard the guards talking about it, and some of the older miners can attest to having seen it.”

With the party regrouped, they moved cautiously into the tunnel. Ellisandra cast a barrier behind them and let her original barrier drop, sealing off the tunnel they were in from the inevitable pursuit. “Better for the fight to come at our front than our back,” she said.

Maelstrom and Ellisandra were the first to turn the corner and see the miners, interspersed with a few of the sailors they had come for. One of the sailors shouted, “Look, it’s Maelstrom”

The miners dropped their picks and turned at the same time that two lizards came rushing out of the darkness to attack Ellisandra. Simon leapt over Ellisandra’s head, coming to rest between the two lizards, beating one to death with his flail. Trish rushed past Ellisandra and easily killed the second one. A movement caught the corner of her eye, and she lunged forward, killing a third that had been hiding in the shadows. “Where did the dwarves go?” Simon asked.

“They rushed through here a few moments ago, and headed around the corner there like something was chasing them. Looking at you now, I guess something was,” said one of the sailors. “We thought we were doomed. What do you want us to do now?”

Simon thought for a moment, then said, “Grab what you can, weapons, or shovels and axes. We’re headed forward to rescue as much of the crew as we can find and take back our ship. Guard our backs.”

The men grabbed what they could find and gathered into a group to follow the party down the tunnel. “Not too closely, though,” cautioned one of the miners.

Walac scouted ahead, and soon came to a small cavern to his left side. He looked in and saw that there were heaps of mined obsidian waiting to be brought out of the mine for sale by the Lazuri. He called back to let the party know the side tunnel was clear, and continued down the passage. As Walac approached the entrance of what appeared to be a large cave, bolts came down the hall at him, causing him to scamper back up the hall to the party. Prospero ordered the ally down the hall, and Simon followed closely behind, using the construct as a shield. Bolts bounced off the construct as it got closer, and Simon sprinted around the ally, closely followed by Trish. Simon burst into the room, saw a group of hobgoblins in front of him, and attacked the nearest one, killing it. As Trish rushed in beside him and killed another, Simon noticed that there were a couple of dwarves, a few minotaurs, and one minotaur in the corner that was bigger than the rest. This minotaur shouted, “This is as far as you get little ones!”

As the minotaur began casting a spell, Simon turned and began to advance on him, “You have the stink of the Lazuri on you,” he growled between clenched teeth.

At that moment, the floor began to crack and debris started to come down from the ceiling. Simon and Trish dodged out of the way, just before the ceiling came down. Trish sat for a couple of moments as the dust began to settle, and her journeyman candle lit the darkness around her with its small light. She started to check the rubble, and realized that there was no way she could go back into the room she had been standing in moments before. “Not even if I was a dwarf,” she said aloud to the darkness.

As she checked her immediate environment, she realized that she had jumped into one of the tunnels that branched off the way they had entered, or so she thought. She heard a cracking noise from the ground behind her, and went into a defensive stance with her swords drawn. Prospero’s head popped up from the ground, followed by his body. “Stop fooling around with those swords, and come on,” he said, “the others are waiting.”

A few moments later, courtesy of Prospero’s burrow spell, Trish was reunited with the rest of the party. A quick counsel began on which direction to go, but Fas ended the debate when he said, “Well, you can go down that tunnel there and get where you’re going, but the most direct route for what you’re trying to do is on the other side of that pile of rock, and there’s a lot less fighting that way to boot. You go the long way, and you’re going to have to kill almost everything that ever lived here, that way, and it’s only the guards between here and the lower levels.”

With that information, Prospero gathered Trish, Simon, Grimclaw, Brine, and Walac, and concentrated to cast his burrow spell. While he did that, Ellisandra cast a courage spell on Simon and Trish. Prospero and the others sank into the ground, and moments later came up in front of a very surprised minotaur and two hobgoblins. Simon spun around and before the party could completely untangle themselves from each other, he had already killed all three adversaries and stood in the middle of the room looking for more. The rest of the room was empty, and Prospero asked Grimclaw to try and determine which direction the dwarves went. After a minute of sniffing the air and ground, Grimclaw indicated the tunnel nearest to where they were standing. “Makes sense,” said Fas, “that’s the direction to the guard room that leads to the lower levels. Prospero burrowed back to where Ellisandra and the miners were waiting. “I can’t take all of you, so you’ll need to try and find your own way out. You have weapons, move slowly and quietly, and get out of the caves. There are a number of others outside holding that area, so if you can make it out, you’ll be safe,” he said.

The miners nodded and started back up the tunnel. “Good luck,” said one of the sailors over his shoulder as he followed. Maelstrom seeped through the rocks as Prospero and Ellisandra went underneath. Regrouped, the party started down the hallway with Walac in the lead. As they moved deeper into the mines, hobgoblins would take shots at them as they rounded corners. One took too long getting out of sight, and Walac sent an arrow into his brain for his trouble. They reached a fork in the tunnel, and Walac went down the left branch, which turned out to be a dead end. He checked quickly to see if there were any secret doors or such, but if there were, they eluded him. While he was checking the walls, Simon went further down the tunnel to the corner. As he peeked around the corner, arms began to come out of the wall in front and behind him, followed moments later by the bodies of the gnomes they were attached to. Simon wounded the gnome in front of him, as the rest of the party rushed the one behind him. Trish killed the gnome behind him, and Prospero was suddenly at Simon’s side, killing the one in front.

Walac returned and began scouting again, coming to a set of stairs with a portcullis at the bottom. “I’ve got a door down here,” he called back up the hall, just as a bolt from a crossbow hit him in the chest, knocking him down and knocking the wind out of him. After he caught his breath, he took aim at the hobgoblin standing behind the portcullis, but his shot went wide, and the hobgoblin retreated around the corner. Maelstrom came down the corridor, and seeped between the bars. As he began lifting the latch, he started jerking, and Ellisandra cried out, “They’re hitting him with banish spells!”

The door swung open, and Walac ran around the corner. He could see two dwarves, one hobgoblin and the large minotaur from before. As he entered the room, a minotaur that had climbed on top of some casks to the side of the door jumped down and used his momentum to swing his axe at Walac, but Walac’s size and quickness got him out of harm’s way and allowed him to score the minotaur with a swipe of his rapier. Trish rushed in behind, and lopped off the head of the minotaur before it could recover. The large minotaur in the corner cast a spell, and Maelstrom, Walac and Trish were all stunned briefly. Ellisandra came around the corner, casting a blast spell, and lightning arced out, flashing around the hobgoblin and dwarves. One of the dwarves was blown to the ground and the hobgoblin’s chest erupted in a smoking crater as it fell, dead. Prospero, not to be outdone by his apprentice, cast a blast spell, killing one dwarf and stunning the other as a blast of stones filled the area they were standing in. Simon tumbled into the room like a gymnast, and the air hummed suddenly as shuriken pierced the dwarf, making him cry out. The cry was cut short as another blast from Prospero killed the dwarf. The large minotaur exited the room, and by the time Simon got to the hallway, there was no trace of the beastman to be found.

A quick check of the bodies recovered a fine silver dagger, which was given to Ellisandra to replace the one that had been stolen in Emancia. There was a potion of blade venom, and a iron ring that Prospero identified as one of the lost rings of shielding from the second dynasty. Simon slipped the ring on his finger, “This should come in handy,” he said.

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The Lazuri Mines, Part 2

The party went into the mining office and looked at the maps there. They showed cutaway views of the mountain and various pieces of the mines, but it would take a dwarf to sort out what was going on with them. “Besides,” said Fas, “I can lead you where you’re going anyway”.

The last building prior to the mine entrance appeared to be a barracks. Susi and Walac went inside, grabbing bedrolls up from the ground and shaking them and doing as quick and thorough search as they could given the fact that they were far into enemy territory. They quickly swept together their findings, which amounted to about 50 copper pieces, 15 silver and a scroll that neither of them could read. “Prospero might be able to read this,” said Susi, tucking the scroll into his pack.

Just as Walac and Susi rejoined their party, a large javelin and a couple of crossbow bolts came whizzing by from the mouth of the tunnel. After a brief discussion, Prospero cast invisibility on Brine and Simon, who then stealthily entered the tunnels. A few more crossbow bolts whizzed through the entrance, a bit too close for Simon’s comfort. He reached into his pack, and pulled out his last three poison grenades, lit them and sent them swiftly into the darkness in front of him. Moments later, he was rewarded for his efforts by the sounds of the now choking Lazuri retreating. The tunnel was deadly dark, as the Lazuri had extinguished the torches as they fled into the mine. Brine shadowed Simon as best as he could, considering they were both invisible and in the pitch dark, but it helped that the entryway was fairly narrow.

The rest of the party entered the tunnel cautiously. Susi’s head seemed to be on a swivel, and his wings fluttered open and closed nervously. “I can’t open my wings in here. I don’t like this at all”.

Trish pulled some of the Journeyman candles she had out of her pack, lit them and handed them out. “Affix these to your armor, it’s not much to see by, but better than nothing, and they will keep your hands free in a fight.”

The party then went down the tunnel, where they found a fork that went to the left and the right. “Now, you’ve got a choice to make. Your men are scattered all over this mine; we can try and round them all up, or go after your first mate, it’s your choice,” said Fas.

Simon thought for a moment, “Let’s get the first mate”.

Fas said, “Then you need to go to the left. Be careful of the overlords, they’re large, look like men with the heads of bulls”

“Great, minotaurs…” muttered Simon.

Simon went a short way down the hallway and saw four hobgoblins with crossbows. They apparently could see him as well, as a bunch of bolts suddenly buzzed in the air around him. Brine ran up behind Simon and missed the nearest hobgoblin with a wild thrust of his trident. Walac and Susi came up the tunnel behind them, but were too far away to engage. The two hobgoblins in the rear turned and ran down the tunnel, as the two in front drew blades and attacked Brine and Simon, missing them completely in the darkness. Bolts whizzed by Susi and Walac, coming from behind them. Prospero cast a Summon Ally spell, and sent his creation down the tunnel to the right to take care of the archers who had fired on Walac and Susi. One of the allies wounded the nearest hobgoblin, and Trish ran up beside and killed a second one. The two hobgoblins in the back retreated from Trish and the ally down a side tunnel.

In a frenzy, Simon killed both of the hobgoblins standing in front of him, and as he started down the tunnel after the ones that fled, more bolts twanged out of the darkness towards him. Trish stepped over the fallen ally, and killed the remaining hobgoblin in front of her. Walac, seeing that the fight was over to the north where Trish and the ally were standing, decided to follow behind Simon, from a safe distance of course.

Simon moved a little further down the hall, and could see a group of hobgoblins standing by a set of stairs leading down. As Trish and the ally moved to the south to try and assist Simon, Grimclaw moved to where the hobgoblins had recently been killed to lay in wait for any of them that might decide to return. Grimclaw heard the snap of a crossbow string being released, and a bolt hit the wall near him. He retreated down the hall to the tunnel the party had entered from, and laid an ambush for the hobgoblin archer.

Simon and Walac moved down the hall towards the hobgoblins, when suddenly, there were a couple of thuds at their feet. Grenades! A puff of smoke went up, with a smell of sulfur, but even as they wondered if they were duds, Walac realized, “Simon, I can see you”.

Simon looked down, “Damn, must have been magic neutralization grenades”.

As he stepped forward, he heard a sound behind him and watched as a minotaur stepped through the wall of the tunnel, which had briefly turned to a liquid state to allow it through. Further down the hall, another stepped through the wall and engaged Trish and the remaining ally. Simon wounded the minotaur with a quick flurry of attacks, as Trish and Brine fought with the one up the hall. Walac came from behind and wounded the beast man with his rapier, causing it to bellow. Simon killed the distracted minotaur, then sprinted up the hallway to kill one of the hobgoblins by the stairs. Walac followed Simon, then lunged forward and his rapier slid through the hobgoblin’s ribcage, piercing its heart and dropping it to the floor in a heap. Trish and Brine had wounded the minotaur they were fighting. Ellisandra’s bolt spells flashed brightly in the dark against the minotaur’s skin, but didn’t seem to damage it. “Here’s how that spell goes, apprentice,” said Prospero as shards of rock exploded against the minotaur, striking it dead.

Suddenly explosions and quick blooms of light came from the area at the bottom of the stairwell. Simon recognized it for the sounds of dwarven gunfire, even as some of the shots ripped into him wounding him. Walac took a shot at one of the dwarves, but missed. Simon flipped down the stairs, coming to a landing in front of the dwarves as he whipped out his fire wand. He activated the wand, and as he did, all but the lead dwarf jumped out of the way. The last charge in the wand wasn’t very impressive, and the lead dwarf patted out the fire in his beard with a look of disgust at Simon. He then grinned and stepped forward to attack, but suddenly, there were two mirror images of Simon, and he wasn’t sure which one was the real one anymore. Simon and his two mirror images managed to avoid the attacks of all the dwarves that surrounded them as a gnome materialized through the wall. Trish began running down the hall towards Simon, and Brine moved closer to the battle, and pointing at one of the dwarves, cast a Drown spell on him. The dwarf started coughing up water, but continued to battle. Prospero ran down the hallway, coming up next to Ellisandra as the dwarves in the front attacked Simon and his images, and the ones in the back began to reload. The gnome was confused by the images and attacked one of them, missing and hitting the tunnel instead. Walac tried to draw the creature’s attention, but without a magic weapon, it didn’t even notice him. Simon cast heal wound on himself, then attacked the dwarves, but his concentration on the spell caused him to miss. Ellisandra reached out and grabbed her master’s sleeve, and cast a teleport spell. A moment later, they were standing at the top of the stairs. Prospero cast a blast spell, killing two of the dwarves, and injuring another. Trish ran up and killed the gnome with a sweep of her sword, but missed the nearest dwarf with her follow up attack. Ellisandra tried to cast a blast spell, but it didn’t go off properly, leaving her stunned, and not hitting anyone.

As Susi came down the hallway, he heard bowstrings twang from a side tunnel. He went up the tunnel, and found two hobgoblins that were reloading their crossbows. He shot one of them, but the arrow glanced off the creature’s armor.

Another gnome rose from the ground behind the remaining dwarves. Prospero cast his Summon Ally spell again, creating them behind the dwarves, and near the gnome. The ally’s sweeps killed two more of the dwarves that were still trying to reload their rifles. One of the dwarves finally hit one of the mirror images, and then the golem destroyed the last one. More arrows came from further down the hall, and Prospero yelled, “Apprentice, put a wall across the hallway down there.

Ellisandra concentrated briefly, and a barrier appeared in across the hallway, blocking off the attackers down that tunnel. As Simon, Trish and Prospero finished off the remaining gnome and dwarves, Walac and Maelstrom ran up the tunnel to assist Susi. Maelstrom thundered, stunning the hobgoblins, then Walac and Susi finished them off with bow and rapier.

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The Lazuri Mines, Part 1

As the party caught their breath, the slaves began exiting their pens and formed a crowd around their liberators. Three of the sailors from the Fall of Orana pushed their way through the milling crowd, and one of them spoke up, “There were one o’ them big lizards askin’ a lot of questions. Mr. Rackham, him and the other officers resisted them, and wouldn’t answer their questions.”

“They was askin’questions about him,” said the sailor, pointing at Simon. “Them officers, though, they didn’t break. Never told them nothin’. The slaves here said that they’ve taken him and t’others to do hazardous duty in the mines. Folk don’t come back from that work, or so they say.”

“What happened on the ship, and how did you wind up here?” asked Trish, fixing the man with a steely glare.

The man blanched at the sight of the warrior woman, whose still unsheathed blades were dripping with ichor from the Lazuri. “Troublemakers, Ma’am. The crew were kinda upset at Captain Ward,” the man nodded at Captain Ward, “beggin’ yer pardon, sir, but they was upset about how them fish fellers came on deck and gutted two of our own, and ye never batted an eye. Waite, Graham and Oxley convinced us that we was better leaving that cursed place. One night, we rose up and took Mr. Rackham and the others unaware, and locked them up. We thought we was just going to get out of there and start trading again, but Waite and them had other plans. They had made a deal with the Lazuri. Nex’ thing we knows, we’re in chains and bustin’ rocks. The bastards.”

Captain Ward said, “By all rights I should gut you like the Sargosi did those other men, but I need people to sail my ship. If you help us recover it and don’t set another foot wrong, I may yet let you live.”

The man nodded, and took a step back. Simon stepped forward. “You men, start checking bodies for weapons, and items that will be useful. Go to their barracks and arm yourselves and bring what supplies you can find. We’ll need you to form a line to contain any Lazuri that slip past us when we enter the mine. Your lives and ours depend on it. Is there one among you who would act as our guide?”

“I will,” said one of the slaves, who seemed in slightly better condition than the others. “My name is Fas, and I will be your guide against the Lazuri.”

Simon looked him over, “What can you tell us about their defenses?”

Fas considered for a moment and said, “The front of the mine is gated. There is a fence of logs enclosing the main entrance to prevent us from escaping. The gate is pretty heavily guarded.”

Simon directed the defenses, quickly showing the former slaves where to set up and how to assist each other against the Lazuri if any slipped past. “Whatever you do, do not let them past you to sound the alarm in the town, or we’re all dead,” he said.

Susi took to the air, scouting the area ahead, as the rest of the party picked their way carefully up the hill. Once the party was in a position where they could see the entrance, Susi fluttered to the ground quietly and folded his wings around him as they pondered their next move, saying only, “That cave is dark…and scary.”

The mine entrance was a tube that had formed around liquid magma as it spilled down the hill from the heart of the volcano. The gate Fas had told them about was easily seen, as well as the palisade that enclosed the rest of the entrance. There were two watch towers on either side of the gate, with a Lazuri on the top of each, as well as two standing ready on either side on the exterior of the palisade wall. Behind the wall, other buildings could be seen, but it was impossible to tell at this distance and angle what they were, or how many might be inside. After a quick conference on tactics, Prospero cast invisibility on Simon, who was to go up the left side and kill the exterior guard there. He then cast armor on Susi, who was taking the exterior guard on the right. Maelstrom was to move to the gate and blast it open with his winds.

The team moved quickly to their tasks, and there was a shout as Simon and Susi engaged their targets, who seemed to sense them right as they engaged. The element of surprise was on their sides, though, and within moments, the two Lazuri on the outside were dead and Maelstrom had blown the gate open. A hastily thrown Lazuri javelin passed closely between Susi’s wing and his body, clattering to the ground beside him.

The rest of the party began advancing quickly on the gate, and Prospero ran forward, grabbing Brine by the arm and suddenly disappearing with him into the ground. Before the duo reappeared on the other side of the gate and behind the enemy, Simon ran up the side of the tower and hacked down the Lazuri there as he came over the top of the wall. Prospero and Brine popped out of the ground behind the Lazuri, and Prospero wounded one with a slash of his sword, and stunned a second one with the flat of his blade. Maelstrom thundered at the wave of Lazuri trying to crowd through the gate, but it was ineffective. Trish charged to the nearest Lazuri and killed it with a quick slash to the throat, and caught another that had charged too close with her backswing.

A Lazuri wearing a red sash came around the corner of the building just inside the gate and his spear burst into flame as he thrust it at Brine. Brine dodged out of the way, but the heat and fire from the weapon dazed him momentarily. Simon cast an enhance weapon spell on his katana, and with a backflip off the tower, landed next to the red sash, missing him with a slash from his blade. Prospero cast a bolt spell, and a spear of stone impaled one of the Lazuri nearest him, dropping him to the ground lifeless. Brine’s trident stabbed forward, wounding another Lazuri near him, as he took a step away from the red sash who was now engaged with Simon. Susi flew to the top of the tower and wounded the guard there, as Walac put a well placed arrow into the heart of one of the tracker lizards that was moving towards Simon and the others.

Simon gave into his rage, and with a flurry of attacks, the red sash was on the ground, with his life’s blood ebbing out of a myriad of wounds. Prospero looked past the spectacle of Simon crushing his foe and saw reinforcements coming from the right side of the building. Moments later, boulders and rock came flying down on them, killing two yellow sashes and a green sash as they rushed to help their comrades. Trish’s blades silenced a green sash and wounded another, as she rushed towards the last pocket of Lazuri from the initial rush.

As the battle raged on, a group of dwarves came from the left side of the building, and began chanting. Moments later, the giant, rocky forms of gnomes began to rise from the stone floor. Prospero cast a blast spell on the dwarves, and rocks rained down on them, killing two, wounding one, and dazing another. Fully formed, but moving shakily, the gnomes took swipes at Prospero and Simon, but they dodged easily out of the way of the newly formed creatures. Ellisandra cast a blast spell at the dwarves, but her attention wandered as she cast it, and the lightning burst forth to one side of the dwarves. Trish cut down another Lazuri as Simon and his weapons entered a dance with the gnomes, leaving both of them and one of their dwarven masters dead. A shower of rocks from one of the dwarf’s blast spell rained down on the area where Simon and Prospero were, injuring Brine, but killing one of the Lazuri in the area. Walac sent an arrow into the open mouth of the Lazuri Susi was fighting, killing it. Brine ran to where Ellisandra was to seek healing, as Simon ran up the wall of the building, flipping into the middle of the remaining dwarves. Prospero’s bolt spell killed one of the dwarves, and stunned another, as Trish killed one of the last Lazuri opposing the group. Another carefully placed arrow from Walac killed one of the tracking lizards, as Trish finished off the last one on the stairs of the palisade watchtower. Ellisandra cast a bolt spell, and the lightning killed the two remaining dwarves, as a couple of Lazuri who had been running towards the sounds of battle saw the carnage and turned to run the other way. While Ellisandra used her healing skills on Brine, the party searched the area, finding two superb shields on the bodies of the dwarves, as well as maps of the mines and the mountain in the building which wound up to be a mining office.

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The Slave Camp

As Captain Ward cast healing spells on Maelstrom to cure the injuries he had received from the magical sword of the knight of Chaos, he became aware of the sound of approaching voices. The party readied itself for another attack, but it soon became apparent that the voice belonged to a disgruntled Simon. “…and it wasn’t a Journeyman ruin at all! Those spiders were as big as my hand! Big as my hand, Prospero!” Simon complained, “I can still feel those cobwebs wrapped around me like a cocoon.”

Prospero strolled up to the group with Simon close behind, still grumbling. “Trish, did you get new armor?” he asked after looking at her oddly for a moment.

Reunited, the party decided to make haste to the port area. Stopping on the top of one of the rises, the group peered into the distance. Captain Ward pulled out an eyeglass covered in farseer runes, and the party took turns looking through the glass to see what they were up against. On the tip of the peninsula, where the ship was docked, there was a large fort overlooking the bay. Lazuri could be seen in watchtowers along the fort, as well as along the battlements and going to and from the port. Further up the hill, near the foothills of the mountain could be seen three slave pens with watchtowers in front of each pen. Additionally, there were caves nearby that seemed to serve as barracks for the guards. A road wound muddily between the pens and the surrounding foothills towards a hole in the mountain, which was obviously a mine. As Walac looked through the glass, he observed four Lazuri on riding lizards acting as outriders for a group of slaves bringing a wagon of obsidian towards the port. One of the slaves slipped on the muddy road and fell underneath the wheel of the cart, breaking his leg. As the rest of the Lazuri continued following the rest of the slaves and the wagon, one of the lizard men stayed with the slave who had a broken leg. He lashed out with his whip, striking the man in the face and body, and when he tired of the game, allowed his mount to devour the man, eating him alive in two gulps before continuing down the hill.

“They’ve turned my ship into a slaver,” said Captain Ward sadly, “Our way is clear. I can’t sail the ship without men, and it’s likely that most of them are now in the mines. We’re going to have to rescue them or this whole trip is for naught.”

While they discussed various tactics and ploys for making it to the slave pens and rescuing the crew, a man came running around one of the hillocks near them. As he ran stumbling through the rock formations, a group of Lazuri on riding lizards rounded the corner, following smaller lizards that were acting like a group of hounds after a fox, sniffing the air, then scurrying after their prey. The man had stopped in the lee of one of the hillock to catch his breath, clutching his left hand to his chest with a cloth stained red with his blood wrapped around it. As the Lazuri closed in on him, suddenly a rain of boulders burst from the sky, killing one of the Lazuri and his riding lizard, wounding another as well as killing both of the tracking lizards.

“That will teach those filthy beasts,” said Prospero, pleased that his burst spell had killed at least one of the Lazuri.

With a slight popping sound, Simon teleported into the group of Lazuri, spinning like a top as he lashed out with his weapons and a kick, killing another two of the chaotic creatures. The rest of the party began to run to the conflict and arrived just as Simon killed the last Lazuri and mount.

“I don’t know who you are,” said the man as he clambered down from his perch on the rock, “but anyone that fights the Lazuri the way you do has got to be a friend. My name is Grodd.”

“Well met, Grodd,” said Prospero, slightly out of breath from the sprint over to the fight, “How did you come to be chased by those creatures?”

Grodd replied, “I was a slave. I hurt my hand, and saw a chance to run for it while I was in the pens unable to work. I have to get out of here, though. The Lazuri put escapees in a pit with some sort of thing, if they bring them back alive.”

“What sort of thing?” asked Simon.

“I don’t know, the ones that go there never return,” replied the man.

“Sounds like Igmar,” said Simon, his disgust evident.

Grodd’s jaw hung open as if on a weak spring, “You know Lord High Overseer Igmar? He tortures prisoners for fun, turns them loose and hunts them for sport. His cruelty knows no bounds!”

“We’ve met before,” said Simon, “and when we meet again, I’ll make him pay for his atrocities. Has there been a recent influx of slaves to the mines?”

“Yes, there was a ship that brought in a lot of sailors. Some put up a fight, and those were put on hazardous duty in the mines. The ones on that duty don’t tend to last,” said Grodd.

“What can you tell us about the slave pens and the guards there?” asked Simon.

Grodd grabbed a stick and squatted down to draw a crude map of the mine entrance area and slave pens in the dirt with his good hand. “There are guards in the towers in front of the slave pens. Riding lizards and tracking lizards are kept in pens behind the slave area. The yellow sashes do regular patrols to and from the mine. That’s about all I can tell you,” he said.

“Will you come with us and take revenge on the Lazuri?” offered Simon.

“Not on your life. I’m never going back there, at least not under my own steam!” exclaimed Grodd vehemently.

A short time later found the party near the pens planning their assault, and Grodd on his way out of the Lazuri lands with a spare weapon and some food and water. One thing that they saw once they drew close to the slave pens was that there were also lookouts on the tops of the hills in around the pens. That would complicate matters once the fighting started. Prospero cast burrow on everyone but Simon and the party dug into the ground like a bunch of well armed moles. Simon gauged the time that it would take to reach the barracks cave, then teleported himself there. Simon killed the single Lazuri guard that had been lounging in the sun outside as the rest of the party popped out of the ground next to him. As they popped out of the ground, the party could see small nests of sand where the Lazuri would sleep, as well as a couple of Lazuri who were completely surprised by a human warrior of Bandar appearing in their midst and apparently summoning a group of adventurers from the very ground beneath their feet. Trish attacked the closest one, missing him as Grimclaw pounced on its neck, snapping it instantly. Ellisandra cast a blast spell, and lightning arced out killing the last Lazuri as Simon killed a small tracking lizard nearby. A quick search of the barracks revealed a sack that had three heal wound potions, but none of the armor or weapons were worth anything to a non-Lazuri.

Catching their breath, the party readied the next step of their plan. Walac snuck behind the nearest Lazuri watchman and tried to stick his rapier through him. The Lazuri moved at the last minute, and was surprised as Walac’s rapier buzzed by the side of his head. Simon ran up the hill and killed the Lazuri guard, but the one further up the hill from the fighting had already begun sounding the alarm.

The yellow sash patrols began casting spells as they ran to the barracks, and Simon cast a shield spell on himself. Walac shot an arrow at one of the yellow sashes, but missed. Prospero rounded the hillside from the barracks and cast a blast spell, crushing one of the yellow sashes under an explosion of rock. The rest of the party came out of the barracks to assist in the fight. Simon cast fire blade as he ran down the side of the hill, and as his katana burst into flame, he slashed down two of the closest Lazuri. Trish killed one of the small lizards that came running up as she dodged the attack of one of the yellow sashes whose weapon burst into flame. Prospero cast another blast spell on a group of Lazuri coming from the rear, but they managed to dodge out of the way without taking any real damage. Grimclaw pounced at one of the green sashes, but missed as it twisted out of the way and caught him with the flat of its blade, stunning him momentarily. Trish cast true sword on Oblivion, and caught the yellow sash a stunning blow to the head, but didn’t do any real damage, while Grimclaw batted at the green sash that had stunned him. Simon ran forward, and cutting with his blade cut one of the lizards in half, then teleported into the middle of a group of Lazuri, killing one green sash with a kick to the throat as he popped into existence in front of it.

Walac noticed from his vantage point that the slaves had begun to move closer to the guard towers in the commotion, and taking the time for an aimed shot, he sent an arrow into the eye of the Lazuri lookout on the hilltop with him. His next shot took out the guard near the prisoners, and one of them, who he remembered as a sailor from the ship, grabbed the sword of the fallen green sash and went through the gates of the pen. Meanwhile, Grimclaw killed the green sash he had been fighting as Simon killed another, and wounded a yellow sash. Prospero cast a bolt spell, but something went wrong, and the feedback from it stunned him. Trish killed the yellow sash near her, then ran forward and stunned one of the lizards with the flat of Keller’s Razor. Simon killed another green sash, as Ellisandra and Prospero both cast blast spells killing two more of the Lazuri. One of the green sashes entered the slave pen and began to kill the slaves there, sinking its fangs into their necks and ripping their throats out in a great spray of blood. Walac sent an arrow through his head, as Trish killed another yellow sash and Simon killed three more of the green sashes. Routed, the remaining Lazuri began to run. One leapt on the back of one of the riding lizards and headed towards the fort. Trish ran up and killed the mount and then the rider as it tried to jump from the back of its fallen mount. Three green sashes ran towards the mine, but only two entered as a flurry of Simon’s shuriken stilled the heart of the third.

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The Trip to Port Labor

The party wasted no time in preparing for the journey. Spells were recharged at the temples, healing was received, and Prospero bought each member of the party a healing potion from the group’s cache of gold. While Captain Ward, Prospero and Simon tied up some loose ends, the rest of the party went to the inn for a meal while they waited. As they entered, Trish’s eyes were drawn immediately to a stranger in the corner who was eyeing them intently while the group arranged themselves around one of the larger tables in the inn. The stranger was tall, and covered with a red robe, but the thing that held Trish’s attention was the six inch long black tipped, yellow beak poking out from within the hood. A Vrawk! Trish had heard of them of course, but this was the first she had seen, and based on the bright color of the plumage poking out randomly from its robes, it was a male. Trish’s reverie was broken as a few members of the inn crowded in on Ellisandra as they were want to do when they saw her harp, since that gave the local lads an excuse to come up and talk to her. “Lass, could ya play us a tune?”

Without much coaxing, Ellisandra said, “I’d be delighted to play,” and moved to the front of the bar.

Taking out her harp, Ellisandra checked that it was still in tune, then, with a meaningful look in the direction of the Vrawk began to play a ballad about the great Air city of Orana and how it fell. The Vrawk, as soon as it heard the opening strains of the song, awkwardly stood, and moved towards where Ellisandra was playing, his wings flapping involuntarily and bumping into people as if he were not used to being inside a building. Finally settled in at the front of the crowd, he listened intently as Ellisandra sang of the Lazuri conquest of Orana, how the people of Air were driven into the Talon Mountains to escape their enemies who razed the city as they advanced, and of how the city of Air would rise from this defeat, throw off the yoke of Lazuri oppression and rebuild their glorious city. Applause filled the room when she had finished, and the Vrawk drew close to Ellisandra. “You know the history of my people,” he said, clicking his beak.

Ellisandra looked at him kindly, “Yes, I studied in the College of Air in Emancia. We often had your people and others from Orana come in as guest speakers.”

“I’ve noticed that you appear to be preparing for a journey,” said the Vrawk, “I too am on a journey and wonder if you need someone to fill your party?”

“I’m not in charge,” said Ellisandra with a chuckle, “I’d guess that would be Trish at the moment. I’ll take you to her. I’m Ellisandra, what is your name, so I may properly introduce you?”

The Vrawk cocked his head to one side and looked at her intently, then said, “My name is Susi. One thing, though, I’m not sure I can associate with the mouse that seems to be your companion.”

Ellisandra laughed at this, and brought him to the table where Trish watched them approach. “Lady Trish, this is the Vrawk Susi, he is wondering if we have space in our party for him to accompany us,” said Ellisandra.

Trish looked at the birdman and said, “We might have space, Ellisandra. Master Susi, where are you going and what is your profession?”

Susi replied, “I am an initiate of Guha, and I am on a quest to find his lost temples.”

Trish frowned, “I’m not sure if we are headed the same direction. Where are these temples supposed to be?”

Susi made a gesture somewhere between a spasm and a shrug that set his wings flapping out and said, “Guha is a trickster, as you may know, and his temple may be anywhere. I don’t have any firm idea on where the next temple may be, and your path has as much chance of leading there as any other I might take, although it would be arguably safer with your group than alone.”

Satisfied, Trish introduced Susi to the rest of the party. When she got to Walac, the Vrawk clicked his beak rapidly and said, “My people just love mice!”

Before long, Captain Ward and the others returned, and Trish made introductions. Captain Ward said, “Well, let’s be off. I’m ready to take my ship back from those scoundrels, and that’s not going to happen here in this inn!”

It was just past midday when the party reached the outskirts of the port. The area quickly became a dismal swamp, with moss hanging down from the trees like horrible green dreadlocks. There wasn’t any kind of road to speak of, because the swamp swallowed up any attempts to tame it in short order. Captain Ward had decided the night before after studying the maps that staying closer to the coast would be their best course of action. As long as they could keep the ocean in view, they ran less of a chance of getting lost in the swamp, or worse, finding the things that called the swamp home. As the evening came along, the party found a rare dry spot to pitch their camp, but as they were making preparations for the evening, Susi spotted something in the tree above them. He flew up and within moments, a corpse that had been hanging in the upper limbs of the tree came plummeting down into the middle of the camp site. Trish examined the body, and called Gilliam forth from Oblivion to see if he could determine anything about the body from the other side. When he could not find anything supernatural with the corpse, Gilliam returned to Oblivion and Trish began making preparations to bury the corpse. The mood was subdued that evening as everyone wondered what would have put a corpse twelve feet into a tree.

Between the discovery of the corpse, the bugs, the oppressive heat and the humidity, no one slept much that night. After a quick breakfast that did little to raise anyone’s spirits, the party continued to hug the coast. Around noon, Walac could see the remains of an old stone two story manor house rising out of the forest. “We’ve got to go check it out,” Walac said, whiskers twitching, “Who knows what treasure might be inside!”

The party continued, following something of a path that had formed and seemed to lead to the house. As they drew closer, it was clear that the house had been there a long time, but it was also clear that it wasn’t ancient, or Journeyman, in make. “I think I can smell the ocean,” said Brine, sniffing the air.

Walac scampered up the pathway ahead of the group. Susi spread his wings and launched himself into the air, “I don’t trust that little rodent,” he said under his breath, “I’d rather make a stew out of him.”

Walac could see the house clearly now, and could also see the ocean ahead just past an outcropping of rock that seemed to mark the edge of the beach. Seeing movement on the rocks, Walac froze in place and watched, unaware that Susi had caught sight of the movement too. A large scorpion was crawling over the rocks, its tail whipping in the air as it searched for food. A second scorpion came from around the rock and came near the first, and Walac noticed that the tails of both creatures seemed more like a whip than a normal scorpion tail. It was both longer and more limber. As he watched them move around the rocks, Susi saw something Walac hadn’t and circled back to tell the others about the half scorpion, half man creature on the other side of the outcropping. Walac moved closer to the building, looking at the architecture and trying to decide how he wanted to enter, when a whirring sound caused him to duck. A curved piece of wood passed close over his head and clattered against the stone wall, falling to the ground. Walac turned around to see a scorpion with the torso of a man charging at him.

Susi circled back while pulling his bow and shot at the creature, but the arrow simply skittered along the creature’s carapace without effect. As Trish charged into the fray, the creature bellowed a command, and the scorpions from the rock scurried towards the rapidly advancing party. One of the smaller scorpions reached Trish, and cracked its tail like a whip, sending ichor spraying towards her. A glob of it landed on her mail shirt and began to bubble and hiss, while smoke rose from where the poison was eating the metal away.

The creature stabbed at Walac with his spear, tried to grab him with his claws, and impale him with his tail, but Walac dodged like a dervish until the spear caught him a glancing blow to the head, stunning him briefly. The creature called again, and a swarm of more normal sized scorpions came from the rocks, coating the path like a blanket. Ellisandra cast a blast spell, and with lightning crackling out from her point of aim, the swarm and one of the whip tailed scorpions exploded in bursts of light. In an instant, Maelstrom stood beside her, ready for action. Susi continued to fire at the chaos creature while Walac danced around thrusting with his rapier. None of the damage they were doing seemed to affect the scorpion man at all, though rivulets of blood were trickling down his torso from a dozen cuts from near misses by arrow and sword. A final swing of Oblivion brought the rune sword down on the whip tail, cutting it in half, freeing Trish to rush to the scorpion man and miss with a hastily aimed swipe of Keller’s Razor. The creature cried out again, and was suffused with a green glow.

Trish’s reflexes kicked in and a spear thrust from a second scorpion creature, this one a female, barely missed from behind her. Susi cast a hotfoot spell against the creatures, but there was no noticeable effect. Maelstrom shot a cone of air at the male creature, but it simply hunkered closer to the ground and let the air pass over it. Meanwhile, Ellisandra cast a blast spell against another swarm of scorpions approaching from the rear of the building, blasting them apart with a healthy dose of lightning. The female creature cast a spell, and began to glow green in the same manner that the male had done. The male feinted to the right, and caught Walac with its pincher when he tried to dodge. With a quick movement, he cried out and whipped his tail over his head, wounding Walac. Walac slumped against the pincher, too hurt to continue to resist. Susi swept in and strafed past the scorpion, causing a distraction with his attack, but not enough damage to hurt it. Maelstrom passed over the combat, coming to rest on the far side of the combatants, and compressed himself briefly, releasing with the sound and fury of a thunderclap, stunning the female, who had just clamped her claw around Trish’s midsection. Trish wrenched herself free and took a step back. Reversing her momentum, she swept in with Oblivion, taking the head clean off the female scorpion’s neck. As Walac cast a healing spell on himself where he was pinned in the creature’s claw, Susi and Captain Ward unleashed a flurry of attacks on him that prevented him from killing Walac outright. With another flash of lightning, Ellisandra’s blast spell killed the scorpion man, freeing Walac from his grip.

While Ellisandra patched up Walac’s wounds, Susi launched himself into the air, and scouted around the sides of the building, locating and landing near the entrance way. As he stood there trying to pierce the darkness with his gaze, Brine walked up to him. “Whatcha doing?” he asked.

Susi looked at the Agulan, cocked his head to the side and said, “Trying to see inside. Perhaps you could move closer and see if you can smell water in the building.”

Excited by the prospect of another adventure, Brine rushed to the entrance. “Smells bad…” he called back as he stepped over the threshold into the darkness.

Brine stood just inside the doorway as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. He could hear scurrying noises that were making him uncomfortable, but he took a step forward. As he cleared the doorway, he could see the edge of a massive nest against the wall. Brine turned and ran back outside.

Once Brine told Susi what he saw, the Vrawk flew to the top of the building and landed on the edge. As he looked inside, he could see the nest that Brine had located, but he could also tell it was laden with eggs and had at least two of the whip tailed scorpions crawling around it as if guarding from intruders. He could also make out at least three bodies in the dirt near the nest. It was unclear whether they had been brought there as food for the newborns, or had died after encroaching on the scorpion’s territory. Susi pulled a torch from his pack, lit it and threw it into the middle of the tinder dry nest. Within minutes, the fire was blazing, and it spread quickly from the nest material to the dry wooden beams of the building. He landed on the ground, and told Trish about the bodies.

While the party waited for the fire to burn itself out, Trish searched the bodies, finding only a single potion of true sword in a pouch on the male creature’s belt. Brine went up the road and jumped into the ocean to sooth his skin, which had become dry through the party’s travels. Trish removed her chain mail and tried to repair the holes the acid had rent in the garment, but was unable to. Once the fire had died down, Maelstrom entered the building, sending a shower of sparks and soot billowing from the top of the building. He came out and told Ellisandra that there were no more enemies inside. Walac went in to search while Trish performed burial rites for the unknown adventurers. Walac found some money scattered through the building near where the bodies had lain, though it couldn’t be collected until he brought water to cool it down. He also found a total of four gemstones.
Not far from the house, the party set up camp for the night. They could see the glow of Mount Labor in the distance, and there was a constant plume of smoke rising from the mountain’s molten core. After a quiet night, the party set out with the goal of making it to the port before the day had ended. The swampy ground began to give way to dry grassland before suddenly becoming a treacherously convoluted landscape of dried lava flows. Walking became more difficult, both due to the sharp ragged edges of the rock and the fact that the trail was becoming steeper. A misplaced step here could result in torn clothes at best and a nasty gash at worst. Suddenly, a thunderclap filled the clear sky, the sound bouncing around the ledges of the volcanic gullies they were walking through. Dark, ruby red clouds formed quickly in the sky, and soon a heavy downpour began. As they slogged forward through the cloudburst, Susi looked at his arm where the heavy red drops were falling, then opened his beak to taste them. “This is blood,” he said.

There was no place for them to get out of the rain, here on the lava flows, so the party continued on. As they rounded a bend, the party stopped short as a chaotic horror appeared in front of them, standing eight feet tall, wearing jet black chain mail, wielding a large black sword with a flame running the length of the blade, and radiating pure evil. Brine gasped in fear, the gills in his neck working oddly as he fought with his body’s instinct to run. “This is my mountain, and you shall not pass. If you leave now, perhaps I’ll let you go back down the mountain,” said the creature ominously, “but then again, perhaps not.”

“So, Trish, is that your dad?” muttered Susi quietly.

Trish cut a look at Susi that made his wings flutter, and then with a roar, she rushed the knight of chaos. As she approached and swung Oblivion and Keller’s Razor in a double chopping motion, her action was cut off by a skeleton dog that leapt at her from nowhere. The knight riposted nicking Trish in one of the new holes in her armor. Walac yelled from behind her as his bow twanged. “The blood, it’s turning into blob creatures, be careful!”

Maelstrom moved closer to the knight, but was too far away to assist as Ellisandra cast a blast spell. Lightning flickered out of the spell and around the body of the dog, stopping it in its tracks momentarily. Captain Ward rushed the knight, missing with a savage sweep of his sword, as Susi and Brine fired arrows that harmlessly glanced off the creature’s armor. The dog shook itself, and lunged at Trish, who sidestepped and smacked it broadside with Oblivion, sending bone chips flying. She launched another attack at the knight who stepped easily out of her range and then used his black sword to cut through Maelstrom. Maelstrom howled in pain as the magical sword tore through his ethereal body, seriously wounding him. The knight spoke a command word and a legion of demonic creatures burst into being in the clearing. They were slender and green, with large, gaping mouths filled with three rows of teeth, and they were all armed.

Another hit from Trish destroyed the skeletal dog, sending the bones cascading from her like dice from a careless hand. One of the blobs swung a pseudopod at Brine, missing him. Brine cast an enhance weapon spell on his trident then missed with a mighty swing. Walac stabbed the demon closest to him with his rapier, and the creature opened his mouth to show all his teeth as he laughed at the stalwart Lir. Susi cast a hotfoot spell, causing the creature nearest him to yelp in pain and fall over, but he was unable to close the gap to take advantage of its helplessness. Trish swung Oblivion in, hitting the knight and smoke poured out of the wound the sword created. Ellisandra cast a teleport spell on Maelstrom drawing him back to her, and then had him enter her harp to stay away from the knight’s sword. Captain Ward cast true weapon on his sword, and taking advantage of the hit Trish had scored on the knight, drove his weapon in through the knight’s breastplate. More smoke roiled out from the hole his sword left when he withdrew it, but still the knight stood. Hearing movement behind her, Ellisandra looked over her shoulder and saw another of the blobs moving in on her. She concentrated briefly, and was standing on top of one of the nearby hills overlooking the clearing she had just left. As Trish wounded the knight again, Walac sent his rapier through the eye of the creature in front of him, causing it to vanish in a puff of smoke. “I guess that stroke was better than the first one, huh?” he asked grimly.

Moments later, the knight, two more of the demons and one of the blood blobs were lying dead in the clearing, as the party worked to clear the rest. Trish rushed to the remaining blob, and swung Oblivion, which passed straight through the creature, leaving the rune blade smoking as it came out the other side. As she looked at the blade incredulously, the blob lunged forward, enveloping her. Once inside the creature, she could feel herself beginning to be digested, as the acids in the creature began eating away at the metal of her armor and her clothing. The others finished off the last of the demons, as Trish continued to struggle to get out of the creature. Captain Ward swiped forward with his sword, cutting the creature in two. The second creature then engulfed him briefly, but he powered out of it, clothes and weapons smoldering. Ellisandra brought Maelstrom back out of the harp, then cast a couple of blast spells at the blob, but only injured Trish with the blasts. With a roar, Trish broke free of the creature, but by now, all her armor, all her clothing, and all of her equipment except her two rune swords was gone, completely eaten away by the creature. She stood panting, naked, and holding two smoldering rune swords for just a second before the creature engulfed her again. Susi lit a torch and hit the creature with it. It caught fire and began to burn, but not quick enough. Ellisandra teleported into the stomach of the creature, wrapped her arms around Trish, who by now had lost consciousness. She channeled the pain to Maelstrom so she could be clearheaded enough to teleport back out. Moments later, she and Trish were lying on the hill she had teleported into the creature from.

Within a few minutes, the party had finally killed the creatures with fire and Maelstrom’s assistance. Ellisandra worked on healing Trish while the others searched the immediate area. Captain Ward called to the others from the mouth of a cave complex near the clearing. Susi flew over the area, but couldn’t see anything. Walac went into the mouth of the cave and said, “There’s some stuff in here, I’m going to need some help!”

Susi landed at the cave entrance and said, “I swear if something comes rushing out of here, I will eat you, mouse.”

The cave held scores of bodies that had been sacrificed in what appeared to be Chaos rituals, based on the drawings and signs on the walls. Walac and the others searched the bodies, and came up with an enchanted suit of plate armor, an enchanted battle axe, an enchanted bow, and a necklace that Captain Ward recognized as a divine magic focus. When Trish came down from the hill, ill-fittingly wrapped in one of Ellisandra’s spare robes, she was pleased to take possession of the armor, Susi took the bow and battle axe, and Trish took the divine magic focus. Trish conducted a burial ritual for the bodies, to ensure their trip to the Halls of Silence, and then the party continued up the hill. Once they reached the crest, they could see Port Labor, as well as Captain Ward’s ship sitting in the harbor.

View
Foxport

Leaving the Sargosi, the party followed the shortcut given to them by Krimma. Towards evening, they set up camp in the hills and spent a much needed and restful night there. Morning came, and after a quick, cold breakfast, they turned their feet towards Foxport, hoping to catch the Fall of Orana before it weighed anchor again. As they entered the lowlands from the hills, the road kept them close to the shore, with a marsh sprawling sluggishly to their left and the ocean on their right. Topping a small rise in the road, Prospero began to become visibly excited. “Look there,” he said, pointing, “Journeyman ruins, they have to be! Let’s go!”

As Prospero started towards the ruins, which were situated across a small bridge over a stream that emptied into the ocean, Walac hissed, “Wait! Look to the left of the bridge, newtlings!”

Prospero froze in place at the Lir’s warning, and watched as the small, amphibian creatures emerged from the stream, carrying small bundles with them, in addition to the spears and shields they carried. Newtlings looked like smaller versions of the lizard like Lazuri, and were unpredictable, at best. Some of the clans served the forces of Chaos under the Lazuri as slaves, while others were aligned against Chaos. One thing Prospero did know, however, was that the tails of newtlings were considered a delicacy in Emancia. The party took cover by the side of the road, and Simon decided he wanted a better look, so he crept to the edge of the stream. As Simon moved closer, the party could see more newtlings, these riding giant crabs as mounts, emerge from the sea and take up positions around the ruins. Meanwhile, the first group that Walac had spotted had arrived at what appeared to be an altar in the middle of the ruined courtyard, and before long, had set up for a ritual. Drums began to pulse out a rhythm as the ritual began, and Simon impulsively ran forward from his hiding place and began to dance, whirling around as only a worshipper of Bandar could. At his appearance, the newtlings began to shout and the drummers stopped their drumming, but no one moved against him. Simon scowled at the drummers and gestured for them to continue their drumming, but they just stared at him. Seeing that they weren’t going to start playing again, Simon began to walk away when the statue on the altar caught his eye. It looked exactly like Walac, mirroring the Lir from his whiskers and tail down to the bow that he carried. Simon stopped, momentarily stunned, then pointed at the statue and said in Slavetongue, “I know him”.

The shaman came closer and said, “You know our god, Walac?”

“God?” asked Simon, “Yes, I know him, I was his bodyguard.”

“Walac need no bodyguard, him powerful warrior,” laughed the shaman, “You know tale of Walac in Thicket?”

“I was there in the Thicket with Walac,” replied Simon, confused.

“Impossible,” replied the shaman, “Walac was a great warrior. Killed many in Thicket. Grandmother told me story long ago”.

More newtlings were arriving from the stream for the ritual. The shaman continued, “Come join us. All are welcome to worship Walac, defender of the meek.”

At this, Simon waved to the party, to have them join him, and try to get to the bottom of this mystery. Perhaps the arrival of Walac to his own ritual would reveal some answers! The party began walking across the bridge towards where Simon stood with the newtlings, and as Walac came over the rise of the bridge, his name began to be whispered through the gathered crowd as they recognized their god. The newtlings rushed forward, eager to commune with Walac, and within moments, he was separated from the rest of the party and being pushed to the altar. As he got closer to the altar, he was startled to see himself as a statue on it. Once he got over the shock of seeing himself immortalized in stone, he looked at the foot of the statue, where a large egg with a crack in it was rocking back and forth. “How did you hear of me?” he asked the shaman.

“We’ve worshipped the great Walac forever, he’s a defender of the meek!” said the shaman in ecstasy.

Embarrassed, Walac turned his eyes back to the altar, where he noticed writing that he had missed before. He could make out a word in Earthtongue, and he spoke it quietly, “Sanctuary”.

The newtlings around him backed away quickly as a sound like a gong being struck filled the air. The egg began rocking harder, and as Walac looked around him he could see that the faces of the newtlings had changed and become more sinister, somehow. The egg cracked and Walac could hear the cries going up around him, “Look, how cute, a baby Lir, look at the soft fur!”

Walac turned and to his horror, he could see that the baby on the altar was not a Lir at all, but a scaly creature of Chaos, with horns and a sharp tail with spines that whipped back and forth. The baby opened its black maw, revealing razor sharp teeth in an evil grin. Walac whipped his rapier out and thrust it straight at the face of the baby, which howled in pain as the sword pierced its flesh. As Walac withdrew the rapier, the hole began to close behind it as the baby continued to howl.

The newtlings began to run around, screaming, but they could not seem to get closer to the altar than they were, as if a force kept them from being able to stop their god from killing his baby. Simon sprinted towards the altar, but bounced off an invisible wall as he got close. Unable to kill the monstrous baby with his rapier, Walac picked it up and tried to throw it away from the altar. A long, black tongue snaked from the creature’s mouth and wrapped around Walac’s arm, preventing him from being able to throw it. Reversing the direction of his swing, Walac tried to bash its skull against the statue instead, with no more effect than his sword had on it. Tentacles sprouted from under the baby’s armpits and gripped Walac with ferocious strength. Prospero, from where he was on the side, watching Walac try to kill the baby Lir, looked at the altar, “Curious,” he said, “Why would they have written sanctuary in so many different languages?”

A voice chimed in Walac’s head, “Shall I grant him sanctuary, master?”

“Yes,” screamed Walac as he fought the demon baby.

With a popping sound, Prospero appeared in front of Walac. “That’s no baby Lir at all,” said Prospero, who cast a banish spell at the creature, without noticeable effect.

Walac, seeing Prospero appear in front of him formed a desperate idea, “Say sanctuary and come to me my people,” he yelled.

With a whoosh of air, the invisible wall pushed out again, to the crumbling wall of stone that marked the outer edge of the ruins, pushing everyone out with it. “Sanctuary!” yelled Simon, and suddenly he was in the middle near the altar with Prospero and Walac.

The shaman yelled, “The outsiders are trying to kill Walac’s baby! Kill them!”

The newtlings rushed the remainder of the party, and the crab riders were trying without success to breech the invisible wall that kept them from coming to the defense of their god, who was cuddling his offspring with its cute, furry tail wrapped lovingly around his arm.

Captain Ward began running away from the fracas, towards Foxport, but he stayed close enough that he could watch what was going on. He glanced over his shoulder in time to see Trish cut down a newtling with each of her rune swords as the rest moved in to surround her.

Ellisandra cast a blast spell, which tore apart four of the newtlings, and threw a fifth to the ground, stunning it. One of the newtlings near the blast cast a disruption spell against Trish, who staggered momentarily, but then stepped forward to meet the oncoming mob. Grimclaw took a running leap, pouncing on a newtling that had come forward to attack Ellisandra. The last thing the newtling saw was the gaping maw of the great black panther. Brine, who was a little closer to the road area, braced himself as one of the crab riders came for him. A quick thrust from his trident killed the rider, and he swung the trident down to hit squarely on the crab’s carapace, stunning it briefly. Simon, seeing that none of Prospero’s spells were working against the baby, cast a sunspear spell on a group of crab warriors bearing down on Trish from behind, and kicked the baby in the head, causing it to relax its grip, allowing Walac to throw it on the ground near the altar. As more newtlings rushed her, Ellisandra cast a teleport spell, popping back into existence near where Captain Ward had stopped to watch the battle. She summoned her sylph, Maelstrom, from her harp, sending him towards a group of newtlings as she cast another blast spell against a second group. Maelstrom produced a thunderclap, throwing all six newtlings to the ground around him as the group Ellisandra blasted flew apart from the force of her magic, killing all but one. Simon leapt through the air, and landed with a katana strike that severed the baby’s head from its shoulders, causing all of the newtlings to cry out at once. The shaman, realizing the fight had been lost, called for his people to disperse. The newtlings who were not actively engaged with fighting ran back to the stream and the ocean. Those that were fighting died.

Simon watched in horror and disgust as the body of the baby crawled weakly around, looking for its head. Pulling acid from his pack, he started chopping the body into pieces and then pouring acid on each of the pieces to prevent it from being able to regenerate. Prospero cast a detect arcane spell, and within seconds, he could see the glow from the dome that enclosed the altar area, as well as a glow from the altar itself. Walac tried to push over the statue, but found that not only could he not budge it, but it wasn’t made out of stone. Since he couldn’t damage the statue, he began searching around, and found a hidden catch behind the altar. He couldn’t find any traps on it, so he opened the catch which released a doorway to a passage under the statue. Looking in, he could see a golden hallway with stairs that led to a lower level. “Hey guys, come look at this,” he said excitedly.

Prospero looked over, caught a whiff of something that had been dead for a while, and saw a grey mist pouring out from the back of the altar. He stepped around, and all he could see were skeletons and withered corpses inside a small room under the altar, at the bottom of a shallow set of stairs. Grabbing Walac by the collar, he pulled him back from the mist. Soon, Walac shook his head and said, “What is this place?”

Prospero looked around, “It’s old, but not ancient, so I can’t tell if it’s a Journeyman site or not. I’ve encountered the stuff the statue is made out of before, but there’s nothing we can do with it, and there’s no way I know of to destroy it. We should leave as soon as Simon is done dealing with that…thing.”

Throughout the rest of the trip, Walac kept talking about the ruins, and how they should have tried other things. “There could be a fortune there!” he said more than once.

Finally, during one of the breaks, Walac started sneaking back down the road. Simon caught him, and knocked him unconscious, hefting him over his shoulder. It didn’t take long to get into the city of Foxport after that, but as they neared the docks, they could just make out the familiar form of the Fall of Orana sailing out of the harbor. “We wasted too damn much time at those ruins,” said Captain Ward, casting an accusing eye at Walac. “I’ll go to the harbormaster, and see what I can turn up. Try to stay out of trouble until I get back.”

Ellisandra, using the story that her boyfriend had stolen her inheritance and made off to the Fall of Orana to get out of town was able to get some information, although not all of it was useful. “They was loading black powder, they was, m’lady,” said one dock worker.

“I dunno about powder, Billy, but they was loads of mining supplies being loaded up. Right heavy and all,” said another.

“Yeh,” offered another, “Bought rounds a drinks last night, and paid wi’ newly minted gold coins,” offered a third, “Wouldn’t let any of us into the cargo hold, either. Was odd. Made us load it to the deck, then their crew put it in the hold. I think they had a load of gold in there, and they was after keeping us from findin’ out about it.”

Further questioning at the bar revealed stories very similar to what they had already heard, except that they also gave a description of the new leaders on board. “Waite, Graham and Oxley,” said Prospero as they exited the bar, “I might have known. They were nothing but trouble on the way out. Remember how Mr. Rackham used to have to discipline them? Now they’ve apparently struck a deal to carry supplies to the Lazuri at Mount Labor.”

The party met back with Captain Ward near the harbormaster’s office and told him what they had learned. “I figured as much. Mr. Rackham is the ‘Captain’, since he has the proper documents for it, but I’m sure Mr. Waite is running the show. I reviewed the papers in the office, and Mr. Rackham left some script there for me to see. It’s an old code we devised long ago for the maps to keep our notes from prying eyes. He’s in trouble” said Captain Ward, “Fortunately, I went by the cartographers, and have the same map he gave Waite of the area around Mount Labor. We can make it there, but we’ll have to go through the swamp and foothills to get there. I want my ship back!”

View
Simon Lives

The trip back to the coast was uneventful, though slow going with the floating throne. Once, just after they started out, the throne became wedged between two trees on either side of the path, and they were only able to free the throne by chopping one of the trees down. Prospero was careful thereafter to ensure that they went around any potential obstacles. “It wouldn’t do for us to have won the throne, and then have to abandon it because we got it stuck between two rocks,” he said.

Once they got close to the coast, it was a short trip to the cliff where they were to rendezvous with their former captors. The party was weary as they crested the hill, but all drew their weapons and took positions of readiness when the heard Prospero gasp. When they could discern no visible threat, their gaze followed Prospero’s trembling, outstretched hand. The Fall of Orana was nowhere in sight! Brine dove from the cliff into the water, and returned minutes later to join the party who had moved down to the beach while he was gone. “I do not believe the ship was destroyed,” he said, “There is no wreckage that would indicate that. It looks as if they simply sailed away.”

“Well, we won’t get to the bottom of things standing here on this cliff looking at each other,” grumbled Prospero, “Apprentice, throw the stones in the water to call the Sargosi, maybe they can tell us what happened to our ship.”

Ellisandra threw the stones into the water, and before long, the Sargosi emerged from the waves, handing each of them a breathing shell and bidding them to follow. The journey was a silent one, and took slightly more time than before, due to the throne, but it wasn’t long before the throne was settling on the floor of the temple, as Sarma the priest emerged from his chambers. “I don’t believe it, you actually found it, and returned it!” exclaimed the priest.

“Was there any doubt?” asked Prospero.

The priest looked thoughtful, “Was it difficult to recover?”

“Difficult enough,” replied Prospero, “But what concerns me more right now is the fact that our ship is gone. What can you tell us about that?”

Sarma went pale and turned to one of the guards, “What do you know of the ship?” he asked.

“The ship sailed away two days ago, my lord,” replied the guard.

“It would appear they left for some reason,” said Sarma, “and as for your friend, he is strong, and his spirit wants to stay in the Halls of Silence. I have not been able to revive him as of yet.”

Ellisandra spoke up, “And what of the guards you left on the ship?”

Before they could answer, Grimclaw informed his master that he could see Mr. Peeps, the parrot from the Fall of Orana flitting around the columns surrounding the temple. “I will see what I can figure out with my own eyes,” said Prospero loudly as he sat back on the throne causing it to float.
Sarma’s eyes widened as Prospero began to scan the area around the temple, calling out what he saw. “There’s a treasure room on the left, with coins, letters of credit and things of that nature in it. On the right, there is a study, with cots and personal effects,” he began.

Captain Ward came through the door of the study, “Treachery’s afoot! Simon’s been poisoned! The priest has been lying!”

Thinking quickly, Prospero began to bluff, “Know this, priest, while I was looking for answers, I saw a fault in the rock dome above your temple. I will bring this place down around your ears!”

Ellisandra backed his bluff and began to wail, “Please master, don’t do this to them, at least allow us to get to safety before you bring destruction on us all!”

Sarma collapsed to the ground as if his legs had no power to lift him. “Please don’t kill us. We’ll let you go, but you have to leave the throne.”

Prospero looked at the priest with distain, “Absolutely not. This throne goes with us as insurance against further treachery. If you want to live, you had best call off your men.”

“Men, do as he says! Back up, and do not harm them in any way,” called Sarma to the guards who had surrounded the party and were starting to close the circle.

The guards backed away warily, keeping their tridents ready for a rush, should they be called upon to fight. “There’s a secret passage to the surface,” said Captain Ward, “I’ve been watching them come and go while you were gone. I’ve had free reign of the temple, priests would come in and out, and they prepared a ritual for resurrection. They summoned Simon’s spirit back, but he grew weary and sick. I began to worry they had done something to him, and Mr. Peeps overheard some of the priests say that they needed him for a ritual. Something that called for a fire disciple.”

The party followed Captain Ward to the room he came from, bringing Prospero and the throne with them. “Remember priest, with the throne, I can see if you follow and wreak havoc from afar. Do not follow, or your life and the lives of your followers are forfeit!”

There were two priests sprawled on the floor of the study near a set of stairs leading up. “They looked like they needed a little nap while the grownups talked,” shrugged Captain Ward with a smile.

The party loaded Simon onto the throne with Prospero. It dipped slightly, but regained its former altitude. Walac searched through the clothing of the priests, found a couple of potions and slipped them into his pouch. The stairs led to a large room filled with maps. Capt Ward began to pull maps from where they were filed and stuff them into his bags. “A sailor lives and dies by his knowledge of the sea. I’ve had time to look through and see the ones that will help if we manage to get out of here with our skins,” he said, and under his direction, Walac and Ellisandra began putting maps into their bags as well.

Walac looked into a leather sack that had been laid on the table, “Hey, gill necklaces!” and within moments each member of the party had one and the spares were in his pack.

Prospero used the throne to look past the door, and cast blast on the guards on the other side as the rest of the party ran through the door to engage them. Ellisandra killed one with a blast, while Trish fought with a priest that was on the other side. The battle ended quickly, with Prospero killing the priest with a bolt spell. They paused as Captain Tobias cast a spell, “I don’t think I can heal him completely, but perhaps it’ll be enough for him to assist in the fight,” he said as a healing light washed over Simon.

As Simon stood, feeling better but still not himself, Walac examined the bodies, finding two more gill necklaces and some potions, which he put into his pack. As he started to turn back to the party, he said, “Wait a minute, this doesn’t look right at all! Prospero, look at this.”

Prospero looked where Walac was pointing, but even with the throne, he couldn’t ascertain the purpose of the holes in the floor and the gutter in the ceiling. Time was running short, so the party moved on. Grimclaw scouted ahead, and one of the Sargosi came around the corner, stunning him with a blow from his trident. Prospero cast a bolt spell, killing the man, and wounding another as he came around the corner. Trish’s runeblades finished the job, killing the stunned Sargosi, and as his body hit the floor, a loud, metallic sound came from behind them and a roar came from in front of them. Walac suddenly realized what the groove and holes were for. “Portcullis behind us and they’re flooding the halls! Everyone put in their gills!” he cried.

Everyone inserted their gills, and not a moment too soon, as a wall of water suddenly filled the hallway, threatening to sweep them all away. Trish and Walac both lost their grips and were sent spinning back towards the portcullis behind them, but were able to catch themselves on the walls before being impaled on the vicious looking spikes covering the gate. Once the flow of water subsided, the party began moving again, coming to a fork in the halls, with one wing leading down and the other up. The party headed up the hallway, leaving Prospero and the throne to make its way slowly up after them. Without warning, mermaids swam out of the lower hallway attacking Prospero, Simon and Captain Ward. Simon killed two of them almost as fast as they appeared, and the other two held back and began to sing. Captain Ward began swaying to the music, but Prospero swam forward with his sword, killing one of the mermaids. Captain Ward came back to himself as soon as the song was cut short by Simon’s blade decapitating the singer.

At the top of the next set of stairs, there was a stone door that appeared to have closed when the water was diverted into the hallway. Prospero used a manipulate earth spell to weaken the hinges and cause the door to fall in with a crash and rush of water. Using the throne, he could see a group of two priests and a guard slightly further up the hallway. His first blast killed one priest, his second blast killed another and before he could send a third blast, the guard had run up the hallway, away from whatever invisible thing had killed the priests.

The water had finally equalized, and the party moved back into the air and followed the passageway up. Prospero scouted the way using the throne, and within moments, they had come to a shrine with an altar. There were six guards, including the one that had fled previously, and two priests. A single blast spell from Prospero killed five instantly, wounded one, and caused all three that didn’t die instantly to run screaming from the altar. The party moved up to the altar, while Prospero cast another spell after the priest and two guards that had fled, killing the priest and one guard, and stunning the last guard and one of his fellows who had stepped around the far corner to see what the fuss was about. Walac searched the area quickly, finding another few potions, and muttering, “We ought to destroy this altar as well.”

As he stepped towards the altar with an apparent aim to destroy it, Brine laid his hand on his arm, “Walac, no. I do not feel this is a good idea. Perhaps we are the agents of Sargos’ wrath with his people. Better to leave it be.”

Still muttering, Walac moved away towards the door. Simon, having overheard the conversation, ran through the door towards the stunned guards shouting, “Defilers, we are the wrath of Sargos come to remove your hold here!”

The guard who had survived all of Prospero’s attempts to kill him ran past the group without slowing and screaming, “Flee, this place is cursed!!”

Walac shot an arrow at one of the priests coming around the corner, but missed. Ellisandra and Prospero cast spells on Simon who was almost to the corner, one to armor him, and the other to remove some of the fatigue the poison had caused. Even before the glow of the spells had faded, Simon teleported forward over the lake in the room, leaving an empty space limned with his glowing outline. He missed the priest with his swipe, but caught the guard in front of him with a glancing blow from his flail. There was a splashing noise behind him as tentacles burst forth from the lake, reaching for him, Walac and Trish. While Simon danced out of the way of the tentacles, Walac and Trish were both caught and wrapped by the slimy appendages and lifted from the floor. Reinforcements came from the room beyond where Simon was fighting and began to attack as the priests cast spells on themselves. Trish lopped a tentacle off and landed on the ground trying to catch her breath as Simon killed one of the guards. As Trish knelt on the ground panting, another tentacle came out of the water, knocking her senseless to the ground. It then wrapped around her and began dragging it towards the beak of the giant octopus that broke the water in the middle of the room.

Mr. Peeps flew in to Trish and cast a spell, healing her, as Ellisandra and Prospero began casting spells at the octopus. Brine leapt into the water, changing into his shark form as he went through the air, and began to attack the creature from below. Moments later, through their combined efforts, the octopus released its grip on Walac and Trish and its head sank back beneath the water. Meanwhile, Simon had killed two of the priests and was holding his own against the rest of the guards. Trish ran across the now harmless tentacles, killing one of the guards who was distracted trying to kill Simon. A bolt spell whizzed by her shoulder from Prospero, killing another guard, while Grimclaw snapped the neck of the last one with his mighty jaws.

The room on the other side of this entrance was apparently an alchemist’s lab, with about twenty finished potions, as well as others in various stages of brewing. The party wasted no time in filling their packs with the potions, and headed up the tunnel away from the carnage they had left. Minutes later, they emerged blinking into the sun, as the tunnel ended at the foundation of what appeared to be an old temple. As they stepped out, they realized they were surrounded by giant crabs with guards astride them. The party and the guards stood still momentarily, but then the guards began to slowly advance on the party. Suddenly a voice came from behind the guards, “Hold!”

The crabs and guards stopped their advance, but did not retreat, as Krimma came around to the front of the group. “Lady Trish, what is the meaning of this? I hear of monstrous creatures, demons and devils killing my men, and yet when these creatures emerge, I find that it is you.”

Trish stepped forward, lowering her weapons, but not her guard. “We were betrayed, Krimma. As a disciple of Lord Artos, you know I tell the truth. We returned with the throne to find our ship gone and our friend poisoned and scheduled to be sacrificed. We were forced to fight our way to the surface after this betrayal.”

Krimma bowed his head, “I too am surprised that the ship is missing. I will ask the guards to see if any knows where they may have gone. I am ashamed of the treachery you have received at my people’s hands. You will have no further opposition from us, but the high priest will answer for his crimes, make no mistake.”

Krimma had his men stand down and the party regrouped themselves and did what they could to ease their hurts. They were led to the beach from the temple foundation and given food and drink while they awaited Krimma’s return.

The day had moved to late afternoon when Krimma returned. “Truly, you are a force to be reckoned with. I have seen the damage you wrought during your escape. Never before have I seen anything like it,” he said. “I see that you are wearing the gill shells. Did they work for you? Where did you find them?”

Trish replied, “Yes, had they not worked for us, we would have likely drowned. We found them in the map room.”

Krimma nodded, “Then truly, Sargos was with you today. Those shells should not have worked for you. Since they did, I will not take them back from you, but know that they will only work for one year, and they will only work for you. I have been unable to find out anything for sure about your ship, but it is quite likely that they have headed for Foxport.”

He pulled out a map and continued, “If you follow the path here, you should be able to beat the ship to Foxport, because of the oversea route they have to take. If your ship isn’t there, this is the best place you will be able to find passage from here. We will give you supplies, but you will have to leave tonight to ensure your arrival ahead of the ship.”

“We will leave the throne with you, Krimma,” said Prospero, as he eyed the throne longingly, “we had an agreement with you as well concerning it, and Simon is, after all, alive again.”

Krimma bowed. “Thank you, Prospero. Now, before you leave, let me identify these potions from the lab for you. Perhaps that will atone a small amount for the trouble you have had today!”

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