Shades of Shadora

The Lights of Ard

Regrouping after having killed the beast, the party made camp for the evening. An uneventful night passed, and they began their journey again, with Gergle swimming ahead of the ship at a speed only an Agulan could maintain. Within an hour, Gergle returned to the ship and told Simon, “Our course is taking us near to Sentinel Island, from which Sentinel Swamp gets its name. The remains of a giant statue are all that is left of the civilization that lived here in Journeyman times.”

As the ship floated downriver with the current, Simon and the others gathered at the railings to catch their first glimpse of Sentinel Island. As it hove into view, the only remaining legacy of the Journeymen was an enormous carved, sandaled foot. “Brine, pull in closer,” said Simon, “There’s something odd at the bottom of the foot.”

Within moments, the ship was anchored adjacent to the island, and the party stood at the entrance to a cavern system that had been dug underneath the foot of the statue. There were bones of various animals strewn around the entrance of the cave, and such light as filtered into the cavern showed that more bones were within. One curious feature of the bones was that there appeared to be no complete skeleton anywhere. All were missing at least one element, a head here, a torso there, indicating that the bodies had been torn apart. A brief search of the exterior area of the cavern revealed manacles lying in amongst the bones; some were broken and rusted, but others were newer, and had what appeared to be blood stains on them. “Looks like someone has been leaving sacrifices,” said Trish.

“Let’s check it out,” said Simon, “Gergle, is this the same direction the creature came from yesterday?”

“It would seem that it might have come from this direction, but once it hit me with the fear spell, I sort of lost track of a lot of things,” replied Gergle, “but I would certainly deem it possible that this is its lair.”

Entering the cave, Simon could tell that it wasn’t a large system, but it would take the party a few minutes to search, due to the carpet of bones that blanketed the room. Nothing was found in the main cavern, but to the rear of the cave was a room that had no bones of anything that was once flesh and blood. It contained a treasure trove of bones of magical equipment. Shields, armor, swords, tomes, wands and various other implements lay scattered around the room, all of them obviously magical at one time, and each one just as obviously damaged beyond repair. The creature apparently relished the destruction of things, whether living or crafted. A detailed look through the discarded equipment revealed that the only piece in the room that had not been irreparably damaged was a horn, carved from ivory with iron bands on the ends, and covered in Journeyman’s runes. Simon put the horn to his lips and taking a deep breath, blew into the horn. The horn produced a melodic note, which made the entire party have an overwhelming sense of well-being, but no other effect could be found. The euphoria wore off quickly, and turning their back on the lair of the beast, the party boarded the boat and continued their journey down the river. The rest of the morning was filled with the calls of the colorful birds that flitted among the canopy of trees over the waterway. Brine pointed to the birds, naming them in the Agulan tongue and even showed the party how to watch for the larger reptiles that were sunning themselves on the banks of the river. Around late afternoon, Simon and Walac both had a feeling that something was wrong, and even as they were standing up to try and get a bearing on what was amiss, Gergle shouted and disappeared under the water as creatures leapt out of the surrounding water onto the boat. The creatures looked like some strange combination of human and fish, and as they boarded the boat, they tried to grab whoever was closest to where they landed. Put on alert by Simon and Walac’s initial alarm, the party, while not ready, were not as surprised as they might have been otherwise; Trish even managed a stunning blow to the side of the head of the one nearest her, as she lashed out with Oblivion. Trish sidestepped and brought Oblivion down in a sweeping arc, and cut the fishman in half. Meanwhile, a spell cast from somewhere on the bank narrowly missed Simon, exploding in a cascade of multicolored sparks when it hit the mast. As Simon attempted to locate the spellcaster, a skull came flying from the bank to shatter at his feet, with a ghost rising out of the shards and reaching for him. Before he could engage the ghost, an enormous, sticky, pink tongue flicked from the bank and wrapped around Simon’s midsection and began to pull him off the boat. Using the tongue as a point of reference, Simon could now make out a fishman shaman sitting in a saddle on a giant toad, whose tongue was rapidly pulling him over the side. Quick as a thought, Simon teleported to the bank, and cut down the toad before the creature could pull his tongue back from the railing of the ship. Simon found himself immediately surrounded by a group of enslaved humans, armed with sharpened sticks that thrust and jabbed at Simon halfheartedly at the insistence of the shaman. As the shaman dismounted his now dead toad, Simon somersaulted over his head, landing behind him, and wounding him with a swipe of his flail.

Trish rushed into the space vacated by Simon when he teleported and a slash from her runesword caused the ghost to dissolve with a mournful howl as it was banished back to the halls of silence. Walac gutted one of the fishmen with his rapier, and avoided the attacks of the other near him as the body of the one he killed toppled into the water. As he engaged the remaining fishman in the bow of the boat, the one he killed leapt back aboard, having regenerated itself in the water. In its haste to hit Walac, the regenerated fishman missed the scampering Lir, severing the head from its hapless comrade. Lasheur shot and killed the fishman that was attacking Itcherat, and the goblin hacked the head from the creature as Trish killed the one that remained with Walac in the bow of the boat. Drawing his bow, Walac fired an arrow, distracting the shaman when it lodged quivering in his armor. Brine flung his anchor over the side, and moments later followed it into the water, coming up on the bank near the shaman and attacking with his trident. Simon reached into his pouch, and flung a vial of acid at the shaman. The vial broke, with smoke rising from the wound where the acid hit the shaman’s arm. Simon then blew the horn he’d found from the stash earlier, inspiring everyone near him, as Lasheur loosed a fatal arrow into the skull of the shaman, dropping him instantly. As the party watched the death of the shaman, two of the once dead warriors leapt over the railing back into the ship, and badly wounded Itcherat, who fell to the ground bleeding from a slash that went up into his guts from his genital region. As the slaves began to continue their attack on Simon, the shaman stood up, pulled the arrow out of his head and advanced once again on Simon. The shaman began casting another spell, and Simon lashed out with his katana and the rune metal flail and began cutting the shaman to ribbons. He kicked the pieces of the shaman away from each other, but he could see them slowly sliding across the ground towards each other. Aware that the shaman was finally defeated (if not dead), the slaves dropped their sharpened sticks and fell to their knees around Simon, bowing and thanking him for saving them. Simon looked up from the slaves in time to see one of the warriors that had critically injured Itcherat catch Walac with a chance swipe of his sword. Lasheur downed one of the warriors with an arrow as Simon teleported back aboard and cut the last standing warrior in half. Simon then went to Itcherat’s side, and cast a heal wound spell to stabilize the wounded goblin. With all of the combatants out of the fray, the party went to the shore to help the slaves to the boat, and search the body of the shaman. The only thing the shaman had on his body was another of the ghost skulls, and Trish destroyed it with her rune sword. While they were completing their search, Gergle arrived back, having killed the fishmen who had ambushed him. “Gergle, perhaps you could use some more crew members for your fishing, once Brine comes with us?” asked Simon.

“That’s an excellent idea,” replied Gergle, “if it is something that they would be interested in. Where do you hail from, my good man?”

The leader of the slaves said, “I’m not sure. The only thing that I can remember with any certainty is the fact that the Lazuri sold us to the fishmen about a week ago and were making promises to them about riches and more slaves.”

Simon shook his head, “This is not uncommon with the slaves of the Lazuri. They use a combination of drugs and magic to keep their slaves in line. If you can’t remember where you’re from, it lessens your desire to escape, because you have no idea where to escape to. It’s one of the many crimes that I will enjoy making them pay for!”

Once again underway, it was about dusk when Gergle came back to the ship and told Brine to beach it as quickly as possible. Clambering aboard out of the water, he told Simon, “There’s a warship ahead.”

Walac, Gergle and Simon crept up the beach to check out the warship, and once they were close enough, could see that it was a Lazuri vessel. There were Lazuri warriors on board, as well as many of the human slaves, with the same Yatahay markings as the ones they rescued from the fishmen. Gergle did a quick underwater check of the river, and found that the area where the warship was anchored was next to an island of sorts. Simon and Walac went back and got the rest of the party, leaving the still injured Itcherat with the slaves. Following Gergle, the party came to an area where they could observe the beach without being seen. There was a small hill with a cave in it, and the slaves and Lazuri were going into and coming out of the cave. It appeared that they were carrying a large number of crates and supplies in, possibly for storage. After about a half hour of this, the activity started to taper off, and a Lazuri female, wearing a grey sash, arrived and talked to the lead of the detail working on the cave. After a couple of minutes of discussion, the camp leader shouted some orders, and the slaves were beaten into a line. Then the slaves and Lazuri followed the grey sash off into the swamp. Moving up to the cave, the party could tell that it was a supply cache for the Lazuri. It appeared they would be in the area for months, at least, based on the amount of material in the cave. Prominently placed in the cave was an ornate looking chest. Walac’s whiskers were twitching as he walked up to the chest, and he checked around it for traps. He couldn’t find any, and he sat on his haunches and began working on the lock with his nimble fingers and lockpicks. There was a small click, and suddenly gas began to pour out of the chest. The gas rapidly filled the cave, and Walac, Simon and the others came running out of the cave coughing at roughly the same time as a surprised Lazuri patrol came around the side of the cave area. Within minutes, the Lazuri patrol was lying dead on the ground outside their supply cave, and Simon decided to go a more direct route to open the chest. Taking a vial of acid from his pack, he applied it to the lock of the chest, which fell off within moments. Opening the chest, he found it to be full of gold. Simon had Brine assist him in moving the chest away from the cave, as Trish and Walac began to destroy the supplies in the cache, with Lasheur on top of the hill as a lookout. As Trish and Walac completed their sabotage, another Lazuri patrol came from the beach and attacked. The trio made short work of this patrol, and before long Simon returned with Brine. “Go get your father, and bring the ship. I don’t think there are too many Lazuri on the ship now, and it would make me very happy to destroy their transportation,” said Simon. The party went to the ship, found that there were no Lazuri left on board, and that it was a slaver ship, with a hold full of manacles and space for about one hundred slaves or so. There were only about twelve slaves left on board, and as Trish and Walac worked on freeing them from their manacles, Lasheur and Simon worked the ship out into the current after pulling up the anchor. After about twenty minutes of drifting with the current, Gergle and Brine caught up with the slaver ship, and after transferring the former slaves to Gergle’s ship, Simon set the slave ship on fire and let it drift with the current. It wasn’t long until the flames of the sinking ship were extinguished and became the bright lights of the port of Ard.

Millglade Finale

The party patched up their wounds, and Tolus told them of what had befallen his party since they parted. “I spent a few hours praying over the bloodslaves, and Itcherat. The goddess saw fit to bring Itcherat back to life, and the slaves back to health. We then went to the tombs, and found them to be well looted, but one had been left, through oversight, or the province of the gods, I’m not sure. There, we found this!”

Tolus held up a smooth stone that glowed with an inner light. “This is a true stone, a powerful relic from the old temple, so our expedition has been a success!” He replaced the stone in his pack with a grin.

“After that, we found a tunnel into the sinkhole. The chimney is riddled with side passages, but we kept going downwards. Once we were at the bottom, we heard the battle, and came running,” Tolus finished, and began to look at the scroll.

“This can’t be happening!” exclaimed Tolus, with a shocked look on his face.

“This scroll…These are Journeyman runes, and it appears to be a part of a larger work, the Hexi Lexicon, that the Chaos worshippers are using in an attempt to create Chaos as a new element! I’ve heard rumors of it before, but this scroll would appear to confirm its existence! The book is rumored to define the rituals used to draw the sixth element into existence through creating a gate opened in each of the existing contested elemental realms, as well as Emancia, the realm of submission. This will weaken the elements enough to allow Chaos the foothold it needs to exist in this world.” Tolus leapt into the air with a shout of glee, “What a blow against the forces of Chaos! We have closed one of the thirty-six gateways required for Chaos to enter our world! What a triumph!”

“This scroll should be taken to Emancia to be studied by the college there. It is final proof that the Hexi Lexicon exists! This may give the scholars there an opportunity to figure out how to combat the rest of the rituals, and could even give a clue as to where the other gates are.” Tolus shook his head in disbelief.

Simon related to Tolus how the party had made it to the gate as he rolled up and secured the huge Chaos scroll, and Tolus bowed his head. “Mistress Yarella. Still alive and fighting on after all these years. We were raised on tales of her and her companions, but who would have imagined that she would have spent this long still defending the world from Chaos. Simon, I would be honored to ensure that these relics are brought to the temple in your name.” said Tolus.

Tolus went and talked to the gnome in earthspeech, and after getting visibly excited said, “The gnome has agreed to assist us by carrying these treasures out of here. He also told me about the rocket packs. Were you not going to tell me of these? My brothers and I used to play with these when we were boys. Such fun! And our way out!”

Tolus pulled the rocket packs out of the cache the gnome had been carrying. Trish and Walac expressed grim doubts about flying with them, but in the end had no choice but to go along with it, since they wouldn’t be able to fight their way out alone. Tolus gave a quick tutorial on how to use them, explaining that they were ignited by a fuse on the back, and then controlled by use of sticks that were held in each hand. The packs would carry only one dwarf at a time for a long distance, but for a short flight, the party could double or triple up with no problem. “And the best part is,” finished Tolus, “We shouldn’t have to fight the wyverns at the top of the chimney. We’ll be past them before they know what happened! Landing can be a bit tricky, so try to steer them towards the river, that’ll make a bad landing much softer, and maybe a bit safer.”

With that last word of advice ringing in their ears, the rest of the party rigged harnesses for the packs out of the last of their ropes. After everyone had strapped into the packs, Tolus said, “Let a dwarf show you how this is done!”

Without another word, he reached back and pulled out the fuse, gave it a tug to light it, and with a roar and a bright belch of flame from the back of the rocket pack, he and two of his elven companions took off skyward like an arrow shot from a bow. Alorrah, carrying a terrified Trish and Walac followed closely behind, with Rory, Itcherat, and Simon bringing up the rear. It took Itcherat and Simon both two tries to get their packs ignited, because of the awkwardness of the angle of the fuse. The roaring of the accelerating packs startled the wyverns from their roosts, and they were circling around the chimney trying to figure out what was happening. One wyvern swooped low, causing Rory to flinch, and suddenly he and the two elves he was carrying were accelerating towards the chimney wall. Screaming in terror, Rory wrenched the controls to the right, and spinning, the pack changed direction just before he slammed into the wall, and they continued spinning until they exited the chimney into the startling blue of the morning. Meanwhile, Tolus gently came to land his pack at the edge of the river, like he had been flying rocket packs his whole life. It had been nearly a hundred years since he last flew one, but he still hadn’t lost his touch! Simon, however, was not so lucky, as he came in at too steep an angle, causing the whole bundle to skip across the water like a giant skimming a stone across the river. With a final skip, the pack, Simon and Lasheur tumbled head over heels into the water, and began sinking. Cutting themselves free of the harness, Lasheur and Simon surfaced, spluttering and coughing in time to see the rest of the party removing their harnesses after having landed safely. Within minutes, Igni came riding up with the horses, and the party was on their way back to save Millglade.

Once at Millglade, the party was brought by outriders in to where Mother Taesa and Lord Arrin were waiting. Mother Taesa took the mushrooms, and then went inside to brew the antidote, while the party took a much needed rest. As they rested, they told Lord Arrin of their quest, but did not reveal any information about the void gate. On the ride back, Simon and Tolus decided that it was a matter best not let out to the general public. It could create a panic amongst the populous, and possibly bring reprisals against Millglade by their enemies as having caused the destruction of the Chaos artifact. Later in the evening, Mother Taesa came out with a stew that had been brewed from the fungus, and began distributing it to the infected townspeople. “The healing broth appears to be working. Some of the townspeople who were a little further infected than the others are having to be chased down and force fed, but they should come right in the end,” said Mother Taesa.

The townspeople threw a big party to celebrate their liberation from the curse of the undead, as it had come to be known. During this time, the party rested and recuperated from their injuries. Trish’s gut injury still troubled her, but Mother Taesa gave her a paper one evening after dressing her injury with healing salves. “This is beyond my ability to repair, Lady Trish, but if you give this note to the healers at the temple in Ard, they should assist you for a lot less of a donation than is usual in these cases. They know me, and this note, which bears my seal, tells of the service you have given the people here in Millglade.”

On the morning of the second day after their arrival back at Millglade, Tolus and his party bid farewell to Simon and the others. “I will take these relics back to my temple, Simon, and all shall know the part that your band has had in their recovery. You may even become as famous there as some of the warriors whose relics I take back!” Tolus chuckled, “If you are ever again in the Stonerim Mountains, please come by for a visit. Things will likely seem dull with you leaving the area now!”

With this, Tolus and his party (which now included most of the bloodslaves liberated from the vampire) headed home towards the earth temple. Finally rested and resupplied to the best of the small town’s ability, Simon and the others prepared to leave. Rory, Lord Arrin, and the outriders led the party out of the town, as the townspeople lined the road cheering. An uneventful few hours ride brought them to the edge of a lake. Rory pulled up his horse, and said, “This is as far as I go, Simon. I understand that you can get passage across the lake there where the buildings are located. I must go with Lord Arrin and his brethren to quell a goblin uprising that we were brought word of just before we left, but I wanted to ensure you were well on your way. Good luck on your travels.”

With a sharp salute, Lord Arrin wheeled his horse, and within moments, the party was alone on the road again. A couple of minutes ride brought them to the structures Rory had indicated on the side of the lake. One building was obviously a small, well kept living area, and the other was a building that served as a smoke house and drying area for fish. There were many fish and eels drying in the sun, as if to confirm their guess to the use of the building. A short search showed that there was no one around, and they built camp in a clearing a short way from the house. As dusk began to fall, the sail of a small ship could be seen coming closer, and when it was close enough to see the men on deck clearly, one of them threw an anchor overboard, and shortly followed it into the water. More quickly than the party would have expected, the man surfaced near the shore, and called to them. “Who are you, and what is your business here?”

“We are adventurers, come lately from Millglade, and we seek passage across the lake to the port of Ard,” said Simon.

A few minutes later, the man swam back to the ship, pulled up anchor, and the boat docked near the house. As he came out to greet the party, they could see the reason he was so quick in the water; he was a merman, or Agualan. “My name is Gergle,” he said, extending his hand, “and my crew is my son, Brine. Please come into our home, and I’ll make some dinner.”

As Gergle worked on making dinner, Brine sat and asked Simon about the party’s adventures, wide eyed. “Pa was in Thenga Sheru when it was attacked by the Lazuri,” he said, pointing at the armor made from the shells of sea creatures, and a trident, which were hung on the wall, “They summoned creatures from the sea to help destroy the Lazuri fleet, and as a result, the Lazuri haven’t tried to invade again!”

After a light dinner, Brine resumed asking the party about their travels until it was quite late, and his father finally sent him to bed. “We will have a long day tomorrow to get them to the port, and you will need your sleep.”

In the morning, Brine was up before the party, working happily on the deck of the ship, preparing it for the voyage. Simon went to where Gergle was watching him, and said, “We didn’t talk about the price for the trip to Ard. How much will you charge us?”

Gergle didn’t turn his head from watching his son, “It will cost you simply a favor, Simon. As you heard last night, my son is enamored of the tales of adventure and war that the bards sing. He is old enough to leave home, and soon, I believe that he is going to do that, with my blessing, or without.” Gergle turned and looked at Simon, “My terms are this, take my son with you on your travels, and look out for him. Let him have his taste of adventure under the tutelage of someone who has survived on their own. He will have a better chance of survival this way, and if you could send me word from time to time, it will do my old heart good.”

“We would be happy to have your son as a companion, and we will look after him as best as we can,” replied Simon.

After all the preparations were made, the party boarded the ship, and started their voyage across the lake. While in the deep portion of the lake, Gergle was on deck with Brine, working to make sure the ship stayed on course, and with the wind. Towards the later part of the day, as they approached the far side of the lake, which was mostly swamp, Gergle jumped overboard, and guided Brine through the shallow shoals, scouting ahead for the best routes. As dusk was falling, the party heard a horrific scream come from where Gergle was scouting ahead, and within seconds, the form of Gergle could be seen swimming frantically up the course as fast as an Agualan could go in the water.

“Follow your father,” yelled Simon.

Brine turned the ship to follow the path his father was taking, and as he did, a voice came from where Gergle had been, “Tresssssspasssssersssss. Verminnnnn. You will DIE for this transgression.”

As the ship began to pick up speed, a form appeared out of the depth of the swamp. It was a creature floating above the water. It appeared to be a giant ball, with an eye in the middle of it, and small eyes on stalks placed at random intervals around its head. As it got closer, Itcherat and Trish shot at it with their bows, missing completely. Lasheur and Walac had better luck, each of them hitting the creature, but the arrows simply bounced off. One of the eye stalks whipped around and looked at Trish, and another at Itcherat. Trish felt a feeling of dread and horror come over her, but managed to fight it off. Itcherat became numb, and fell to the ground, unable to move. Simon cast mirror image, putting an image of himself at the front of the boat, and then he ran to the rear. The creature’s eye looked at Simon’s image, but nothing apparent happened. Lasheur shook off the feeling of lethargy he got from the eye that looked at him, and planted a shot in the middle of the creature’s central eye, which caused it to slow and kind of shake itself, flinging its eyestalks every which way. Each of the party with ranged weapons continued to shoot at the creature, but no one managed to damage it, until Alorrah sent a shot that found a weak spot and sank into the creature’s flesh, just before the ship made landfall. The party clambered out of the boat to take the onslaught of the creature, as one of the eyes looked at Alorrah, causing her flesh to burn, and she dropped to the ground, momentarily stunned. Lasheur shot the creature, hitting it near where Alorrah had hit with her arrow, wounding it and causing the creature to float lower, and closer to the surface of the water. With the creature now at a level where she could hit it, Trish rushed into the water, and slashed with her blades, stunning the creature, as Simon followed and wounded it with his katana. As Trish slashed out with her blades, killing the creature, Brine’s trident flashed up from underneath the beast. No force on earth would ever convince Brine that he hadn’t landed the killing blow.

Sealing The Void Gate

After they finished picking the mushrooms that they needed, the party returned to the altar room. The ancient earth priestess greeted them warmly, all trace of her earlier sadness gone. “We’re sorry for all the loss and pain you’ve had to endure, Yarella,” said Simon, not really knowing what else to say.

“It’s fine, my friend,” replied Yarella, “The losses were long ago, and the pain of my comrades loss is much less sharp than it was when they died. Still, being so close to their resting place brings back the memory of that loss more sharply than at other times, and I prefer not to spend much time there.”

She cast a spell, and with a flash of light, a gnome stood before the party. “Give this gnome your excess goods, and it will carry them for you until you find the Void Gate. Once you find it, command it to destroy the gate and it will do your bidding. It will follow you, but it will not be able to help you in any way other than these.”

The party were almost finished loading the gnome down with the treasures they were bringing back from the sunken earth temple, when without warning, the cavern began to shake, and Yarella grabbed her weapons from where they lay near her bed. “To arms, to arms!” she cried, “This is a sign of the forces of Chaos breaking through.”

With no further words to the party, she sprinted to the corridor, and took up a defensive position near where Simon had first encountered her, where the earth standard was planted in the chamber floor. The party gathered their equipment and joined her. Moments later, the sounds of scurrying could be heard coming from the corridors leading towards the Void Gate. Three giant scorpions burst from the tunnel in front of them, and Simon reacted, rushing in and skewering one with his katana, as the flail held in his other hand pulped the second one, and a lethal kick destroyed the third. Another scorpion came barreling up the tunnel towards Simon, and Rory, Walac, and Alorrah took hasty aim at the creature, with only Alorrah’s arrow finding its mark. Just then, three black forms, limned in flickering black flames dropped from the ceiling into the fray. The new combatants, giant spiders, pulsed with a dark energy, and Simon, Rory and Lasheur barely avoided their snapping mandibles and thrashing limbs. Yarella leapt forward, and her javelin pierced the hairy exoskeleton of one of the beasts, wounding it, and Lasheur finished it off with a swipe of his sword, killing a second spider with the backslash. Trish rushed the last one, and Oblivion cut through the spider’s carapace, killing it instantly. A well placed arrow from Alorrah killed the last scorpion, and suddenly, the tunnels were quiet once more. Panting with the exertion, Yarella said, “Now go, adventurers, close the Void Gate if you can, and I will remember you fondly to my brethren when I reach the halls of silence. Perhaps we will meet there again, gods willing, and I will be able to raise a cup with you under kinder circumstances. Godspeed, now go!”

“We will do what we may, Yarella,” said Simon, and the party bade farewell to the earth priestess, who leaned on her spear watching them descend towards Chaos. Walac looked back one last time before they turned the corner, and he never told the others of the tears he saw streaming down Yarella’s face as she watched them go.

The party journeyed down the tunnel in a slow spiral, with only one path in front of them, and the laden gnome lumbering behind them. There were small alcoves and branches, but a quick glance inside revealed them to be blocked by rubble. The further down they went, the more rubble was apparent, and mixed in with it were the remains of creatures. Some of the remains were readily identifiable, but some of them matched nothing that the party had ever seen before. After about an hour of travel through the inky darkness, they came to a landing that opened out into a tunnel. As they stopped to catch their bearings, Walac heard a woman’s voice that sounded as if it were right next to him on the landing. “Ratrona, aid me!” it cried.

Walac started when he heard it, but realized no one else had jumped. “Did you hear that?” he asked.

“Hear what?” asked Simon.

“I could have sworn I heard a woman’s voice call out to Ratrona just then,” replied Walac.

After finding that no one else had heard anything, Walac gave a quick, silent prayer to Ratrona. “My Lady of Darkness, if there is something you want me to know, please give me a sign.” There was no apparent answer as the party continued on.

The tunnel opened out into a natural cavern. To the coreward side of the tunnel, the party could hear something moving in the darkness, but the cavern was so large that the torchlight didn’t illuminate the roof. As they spread out to search the cavern for a way to proceed, Simon was suddenly attacked by a creature swooping from the darkness. The creature looked like a twisted serpentine hybrid of a bird and bat with a vaguely horse-like head that had tentacles sprouting from its chin. It hit Simon with the weight of its body, and launched itself back at the roof, stunning him momentarily. Walac jabbed at it with his rapier, but the creature had retreated to the darkness of the cavern roof too quickly. As it came swooping back from the roof, Simon tried to distract it with the flail, and managed to hit it with his katana as a result of the tactic, wounding the creature. Trish finished it off with a quick double slash from her rune blades. Before the party could catch their breath, another creature came flying from the darkness; this one was a faceless creature with great bat-wings, a horned head, leathery gray-black skin and a barbed tail. Its hands ended in great oversized claws with slender, razor-sharp points. Its sweep missed Simon, but as it passed, Simon cut it out of the air with his katana, causing it to die with a horrendous screech. Another of its brethren came swooping down from the roof, attacking Walac, who parried with his rapier, his riposte causing it to crash to the ground, where Alorrah finished it off with a quick swipe from her katana. Four more of the beasts hurtled towards the ground, and after a short, but decisive battle, they all lay dead on the floor. As they caught their breath, Simon heard the voice of a Fel as if it were coming from just beside him, “Bandar, allow me the strength to carry on!”

After confirming that the rest of the party had heard nothing, Simon said, “Perhaps this gate has something to do with the gods, or else someone has laid a trap for us, hoping that we will be lured in by the use of the names of our gods!”

Answers were not forthcoming, however, so the party fanned out and continued to seek their path towards the Void Gate. They found more bones of unidentifiable creatures, and also found nests where some of the things had lived. After about fifteen minutes, Simon found a small tunnel that after a short distance opened into another large cavern. As they came around the corner, the party was face to face with two disturbing creatures with the form of a reptilian horse with rotting fur, oozing scales and oversized bat-wings. Trish froze momentarily as the sight of the creatures filled her with dread, but Simon rushed in, crushing one of the creatures’ skull with his flail. Regaining her composure, Trish followed Simon, and dispatched the second creature without any further thought, but as the body hit the floor, she heard a voice whisper weakly, “Lord Artol, I come to the halls of silence willingly.” Trish had no time to wonder about the voice as another horse creature flew out of the darkness to attack her. She stepped back and slashed, ending the life of the vile thing of Chaos. In the aftermath of the battle, both Walac and Trish could feel a breath of fresh air moving in the cavern, and the group decided to move towards the source of the air. A couple of minutes walk brought them to a rubble strewn area, and as they looked up, they could see a chimney open to the night sky about a quarter of a mark away. Dark, winged shapes blocked the stars briefly as they circled around the interior of the chimney. “Hey, I can smell water,” said Simon, and he started coreward from the chimney, with the rest of the party following him. After a short while, the party halted at the edge of a pool. Suddenly, the peaceful surface of the pool exploded in a frenzy of activity, and huge tentacles reached out at the party. Trish was caught in one of the tentacles, which lifted her from the ground, and another tentacle wounded Rory as it crushed him under its weight, but it failed to grab him as it had Trish. The creature came closer to shore, and it was apparent that the giant being was another of Chaos’ jokes on the universe, for the tentacles of an octopus were melded to the horrible body of a giant crocodile. Alorrah and Rory shot at the crocodile portion of the creature without noticeable effect, while Trish managed to free herself from the tentacle that had wrapped around her, dropping to the floor and attempting to ready herself for an attack. Almost as quickly as she had hit the ground, she was in the air again, as a different tentacle lifted her into the air and off balance. Walac’s shot bounced harmlessly off the creature’s scaly hide as Simon lopped off a tentacle, causing the animal to bellow in pain. Lasheur’s arrow hit the creature between the eyes, not causing any damage, but causing it to pause and shake its head as if trying to clear it. Simon used this to his advantage, calling upon his training to run across the surface of the water, strike the creature, and run back to land, but the katana strike didn’t damage the creature at all. Trish fought free of the tentacle once again, and summoned the undine bound to her ring. “Your wish, master?” came the watery voice of the elemental.

“Kill that creature,” said Trish, pointing at the croctopus.

“As you wish,” stated the elemental emotionlessly, and it turned to fight the creature in the pond.

As the elemental and the Chaos creature thrashed about in the pond, the party continued towards the Void Gate. A short way from the pond, they saw a tunnel with light coming out of it, but in front of the tunnel were two enormous writhing masses formed out of ropy, black tentacles with large mouths dripping with mucus-like slime and ooze. At their bases, they had short legs ending in black hooves which allowed them surprising mobility for their size, which was apparent as they darted backwards and forwards, trying to draw the party to them. Alorrah, Walac, and Lasheur all loosed arrows towards the creatures, but the arrows merely disappeared into the black tentacles. Simon ran forward, hitting one with his flail, stunning it briefly, but its partner attacked Simon with lightning speed, grazing him, but doing no real damage. Walac tried to Befuddle one of the creatures, but the spell had no apparent effect. Trish stepped forward, killing one of the creatures, and Simon killed the second with ease. As the party walked towards the tunnel with the light coming from it, Lasheur heard the voice of an elf, “Ah, the sadness of the end of a story. It comes far too soon to us all. Death is the great equalizer, it comes to the rich, the poor, the weak and the strong.”

The party continued into the tunnel towards the light. They came to a cavern where the light was coming from, and found what appeared to be an ancient stone table with a giant scroll which had been made from the rib bones and skin of an unidentified creature laying on it. There were runes in a circle around the table, and outside of where the runes were drawn were the dried up husks of five sorcerers wearing what were once fine robes in a variety of colors. Lying across the table on top of the scroll as if he had fallen asleep on top of his studies and never woke up, was the husk of another sorcerer, this one in a black robe. Behind the table was a black stone with a surface that was polished to a mirror sheen. The Void Gate! Within the Void Gate a swirling maelstrom raged and blood red eyes hung suspended in its center. The eyes moved to follow every motion of the party as grey-black lightning arced across the surface of the gate. Perhaps most unsettling of all was the complete lack of sound in the chamber; it was so quiet they could hear their hearts beating in their ears. As the party watched, a voice could be heard coming from the area of the Void Gate. “Vorthod, I need your assistance!”

There was a brief pause, and then the same voice could be heard to say, “Thank you, Vorthod, I shall prove worthy of your blessing!”

No sooner than the voice quit speaking, a black knight stepped forth from the swirling gate. “I know what this is,” said Simon, breaking the stillness, “The concordance was made between the gods not to interfere with the disk. Everytime someone receives a divine intervention, one of these things, or the creatures we encounter, enters from Chaos to balance things out.”

The black knight, hearing Simon, began to move towards the party, but Simon met it halfway, killing the knight with the flail, the creature’s armor rusting even as it hit the floor. “Gnome, destroy the gate!” cried Simon.

The gnome shrugged, and all of the packs it had been carrying crashed to the floor with a bang. As it made it to the obsidian edifice and began to crumble it, the maelstrom burned white hot, and the red eyes became a face, which grew into the head of a helmeted warrior. As the party watched, the tall humanoid figure stepped silently from the gaping maw of the Void Gate. The Void Lord carried a wicked looking axe of bone and a giant shield that danced with the twisted faces of the tortured souls it had killed in the years it had been serving Chaos. The party closed around the Void Lord, as Rory and Lasheur got off quick shots at him. The shots bounced harmlessly off the armor, causing him no damage. Trish got close enough to attack, but one of the souls on the Void Lord’s shield burst forth and attacked Trish, barely missing before it was drawn back into the shield. Walac attempted to cast Spirit Shield, but the whether it was bad luck or the influence of the Void Gate, the spell didn’t come off. Simon cast Shield, and attacked the Void Lord, wounding it, and as his sword and flail hit the creature, black fire ran up the weapons, stunning Simon with a black flash when it hit his flesh. Alorrah began to taunt the Void Lord, drawing its attention and causing it to pause in its onslaught. Shaking his head, he cast a spell, and all of his wounds magically closed. He then swept out with his giant axe, narrowly missing Trish, and hitting Simon, wounding him. When the axe pierced his skin, Simon could see images and feel the pain of all the souls the weapon had taken. It was too much for the warrior of Bandar, and he fell to the floor, unconscious. The Void Lord nodded his head, and when he did, a group of demon soldiers materialized across the room, near the rest of the party. Lasheur cast Slash on his sword, and cut one of the brutes in half, even as it dashed towards him. One of the demons rushed up and caught Trish in the belly with its wickedly curved blade, and she dropped to the floor, unconscious and bleeding to death. As the party engaged the creatures, Tolus and his elves, along with Itcherat came barreling down the tunnel. “I heard you guys were having a party and we decided to crash it,” shouted the dwarf with glee as he cleaved a demon soldier in half.

Walac killed one of the demon soldiers with his rapier, as Rory cast a healing spell on Simon. Alorrah ran forward and healed Trish with a potion of healing, as the gnome continued to work on collapsing the Void Gate, with large chunks of black rock flying away from the surface. Alorrah killed another of the soldiers as Lasheur shot an arrow at the Void Lord without effect. Simon stood up, and threw holy water at the Void Lord, and when it had no noticeable effect on the creature, hit it with his flail for good measure, stunning it. The Void Lord swept out with his axe, this time catching Trish full on in the guts again, and she dropped to the ground and began bleeding out. Seeing her injury, Tolus rushed forward, casting a healing spell, and Trish stood shakily, unstoppering the vial containing the bound shade. A pulsating bit of darkness appeared before her and whispered, “Your wish?”

“Kill all our enemies, shade,” said Trish, “beginning with that one,” and she pointed at the Void Lord.

The gnome had finally managed to destroy enough of the gate that it began to collapse in on itself. The Void Lord glanced at it nervously, and his armor began to lose its sheen, and ghosts popped free from his shield with relieved looks on their face, as they sped towards the halls of silence. With one last sweep, the Void Lord dropped Trish to the ground, once more mortally injured. Alorrah rushed forward, wounding the Void Lord, and the shade and gnome both attacked the Void Lord as well. As the once mighty creature tried to fend off the attacks of the elementals, Tolus came forward and administered the coup de grace before attending to Trish’s nearly fatal wounds.

The Old Earth Temple

The party arrived at the bottom of the shaft, and found the worm still convulsing and slowly lashing its tail. By keeping an eye on the rhythmic movements, the party was able to avoid being crushed by the massive beast, and quickly took stock of their new surroundings. There were a number of giant eggs in the chamber, presumably belonging to the worm.

“Over here,” shouted Simon to the others, “There’s a tunnel, and I can hear running water.”

The others moved to join him, the dark unknown being better than waiting in close quarters for a giant purple beast to regain consciousness and try to kill them again. A short way down the tunnel, the party came to a drop off that was only about eight feet deep; nothing hard to negotiate, but it could have been fatal if they had stumbled over it in the darkness of the cavern. Not far from the drop, there was an underground river of blue-grey water running coreward from an unknown source. Simon exchanged his fighting claw for the runemetal flail Trish and Alorrah had found earlier, in the hopes that it might have a better time hitting the enemies that had thus far proven hard to hit with normal weaponry. Simon then strode into the cold, briskly flowing water and began trudging to the far bank. “It’s not too deep here,” he called to the others. He paused at the bank to let the others catch up, and with a little leap, he and Trish were on the sand. As Walac stepped up to join them, a scream came from the rimward side of the bank. A legion of small, feral humanoids with sharp teeth and long claws came rushing out of the darkness towards the band, screaming and laughing at the same time, crazy with the thought of the coming battle. Trish lashed out with Oblivion and Keller’s Razor, each blade taking down one of the creatures, who collapsed to the ground in a heap before turning into a puff of black smoke lazily drifting towards the ceiling. Walac and Rory took careful aim with their bows, but their arrows simply bounced off of the heavily armored creatures without noticeable effect. Meanwhile, Simon’s flail killed one that his katana bounced off of, while a carefully timed kick ruptured another. At that moment, a larger humanoid, clad in black plate armor stepped out of the darkness where the others had burst from, swinging a two handed great sword in slow figure eights, letting the black and silver flames burning from the blade trace a pattern in the air in front of its advance. Its eyes glowed a brighter shade of green as it locked in its target, rushing to attack Trish. Trish sidestepped as the blade came down, causing the wicked sword to glance harmlessly off her armor. Alorrah began a steady stream of abuse at the knight, causing it to glance her way momentarily. That was the only opening Trish needed, spearing the knight with Oblivion, causing it to topple over into the shallow, swift running water. As Simon and the others continued to battle the smaller creatures, another of the larger humanoids stepped forth from the shadows and engaged Trish, this one landing a glancing blow that stunned her momentarily. As the last of the initial wave were killed, the party formed a ring around the remaining knight. The knight chuckled out loud, and swept his greatsword in a long arc, hitting each member of the party, at least a glancing blow. Trish ducked under a second swing, and sent Oblivion through the unarmored area under the arm of the knight, sending it to the ground, dead. An examination of the armor showed it to have begun to return to its natural dilapidated state, with a rotten, dried husk of a corpse inside, now that whatever chaotic power that was fueling the creature had dissipated.

Simon decided to follow a tunnel that was located on this bank of the river. “Thank goodness for that,” purred Alorrah as she smoothed the water from her fur, “all this water was making me nervous. I thought you might mean to go downstream in it.”

Walac began scouting ahead of the party, and came to an area that smelled of rotten eggs, or of something that had died and been left to decay. He scampered back to Simon where he and the others were waiting at a fork in the tunnel and told him what he had found. “I suggest we investigate this further,” said Simon, “I’d like for us to rest, but if there’s something hiding in the darkness, I’d prefer to meet it on my own terms.”

Simon led the way up the tunnel, with Trish beside him. As they got to a cavern just past the portion of the tunnel where Walac turned around, a grey, oily looking mass came out of the darkness towards them. There were things in the substance, that looked like they might once have been bodies, and it pulsed an energy out of its body that forced everyone back towards the tunnel. Simon launched an attack, but only the runemetal of the flail seemed to do any damage to the thing. Trish finished off the creature with a double attack from her swords, and as the goo seemed to melt away, she fell to the ground in a stupor, and no one could seem to wake her. Walac stayed with Trish, as Simon and Alorrah investigated the rest of the cavern. As they reached the back of the cavern, another of the creatures reared out of the darkness, and this blast of force caught Simon off guard, blowing him backwards into one of the cavern walls, knocking him prone, and stunning him momentarily. “Thank the gods that doesn’t happen too often,” thought Simon, as he picked himself up and ran forward to assist Alorrah. Rory, realizing that his arrows had been of no use against the formless creatures, grabbed Oblivion from where it lay on the ground next to Trish, and rushed forward to help with the fight. The creature rippled and pulsated, as pseudopods formed, lashed out, and were absorbed back into the creature. Rory made it up to the creature, and swung Oblivion, but he would swear later that the sword twisted in his hand, as if it didn’t like being used by someone other than its mistress. Simon finally landed a solid blow on the creature with the flail, blasting it into jelly like pieces that melted away into nothingness.

Walac kept watch over his friend Trish, while he heard the others fighting the second creature. At about the same time as he saw Simon land a killing blow, his whiskers started twitching, warning him that danger was imminent. Just as he ducked and spun to look at what was causing his nervousness, what appeared to be a crossbow bolt came out of the darkness, narrowly missing him. “Over here,” Walac cried, “I’ve got someone with a crossbow firing from out in the tunnel!”

Simon came running and went down the tunnel a little way before coming back. “I couldn’t find anything. Let’s go back to the fork in the tunnel and consider our next move. As they carried the unconscious Trish back to the fork, Alorrah told Simon, “I could sense another of those creatures in the cave, Simon, although I couldn’t see it.”

When they arrived back at the crossroad area of the tunnel, another bolt came from the darkness of the path they had not taken. Simon rushed into the tunnel, and more bolts came. “Everyone get your bows out,” cried Simon, “The bolts are coming from the ceiling!”

Simon came back, grabbed one of the torches, and ran into the tunnel that opened out into another cavern. He tried to see what was shooting at them, but the roof of the cavern was too high. As he stood gazing at the ceiling, movement from his left side caught his eye. Turning his attention to the new arrival, he found that he was gazing at the monstrous pairing of a bear and an owl, and it had a partner. As he confronted the beasts, another bolt came from the ceiling, grazing him and taking his attention off the creatures. Alorrah came around the corner, and hastily fired her bow, wounding the closest creature, and taking its attention off Simon. Simon stepped back, snatched an armor potion from his pack and quickly drank it. Walac and Rory came around the corner, brought by Simon’s cry, and their hastily aimed shots did little damage to the beasts. Alorrah fired another shot, this one piercing the heart of one of the owlbears, dropping it to the ground, dead. Simon’s katana lashed out, severing the head of the second beast. Hearing a shuffling sound in the darkness, Simon used his training in blind fighting and leapt forward, killing a third owlbear with a well placed kick. A swipe from another of the beasts connected with Simon’s head, causing him to see stars and stagger backwards. Rory and Walac shot at the remaining owlbear, as bolts continued to rain intermittently from the ceiling into the group, not doing any damage, but adding to the general sense of confusion. Regaining his senses, Simon feinted with his katana, and delivered a killing blow to the last owlbear with his flail.

Simon cast a heal body spell on himself, instantly healing all of his wounds and fatigue, and began to explore the rear of the cavern. He found yet another tunnel at the back of the cavern, and saw, to his amazement, that there was torchlight coming from up the tunnel. He went up the tunnel, and saw a woman wearing old fashioned clothing, standing by a standard that proclaimed her allegiance to the earth temple. “What manner of trick is this…” began the woman.

“I have no time to mince words with you, but I am a wayfarer of Bandar. My friends need your help, follow if you will help us,” interrupted Simon.

He paused just a moment and ran back into the cavern, with the woman just behind him.

As Simon began to look over the back portion of the cavern, Rory and Walac went back to get Trish and Lasheur. When Rory came around the corner, he was face to face with another of the formless blobs they had fought earlier. Surprised, Rory was frozen in fear, and tears began to stream down his face as he stumbled backwards away from the horrifying creature. Walac rushed past him, and grabbed Trish, pulling her as far and fast as he could, with her being more than twice his size. Alorrah came running past the insensible Rory, and helped Walac drag Trish into the cavern, away from the beast. Finally regaining some of his composure, Rory cast a lightning spell on the creature, stunning it. Seeing the creature falter, Alorrah rushed forward and attacked it with her katana, while Walac continued to drag Trish away. A bolt from the ceiling struck Walac stunning him. Suddenly, a bright light burst in the cavern, as the woman with Simon cast a sunbright spell at the ceiling of the cavern, revealing the manticores on a ledge above. The creature began its forward momentum again, causing Rory to flee back into the cavern. Alorrah slashed out with her katana, wounding the beast, as the strange woman called out to the earthen gods for assistance. In answer to her prayers, the walls of the tunnel formed into gigantic, earthen arms, which grabbed the gelatin like form of the creature and crushed it, causing it to melt away into nothingness, like the others before it. The woman then removed a javelin from a quiver on her back, and speared one of the manticores with a quick throw, causing the others to flee. The javelin then grew arms, pulled itself free of the dead beast, and flew back to her hand. The woman replaced her javelin, and said in a voice with a thick earthtongue accent, “My name is Yarella, the earth tells me that there are no more enemies here, come with me to somewhere that I can hear your story, and know if you lie.”

The party followed Yarella through the tunnels to an area that had been turned into a small earth temple, with a sleeping area, and an altar, which glowed with a green light. “Now, tell me your story,” demanded Yarella.

Simon told her of his quest to find his sword, of the people of Millglade, of the party’s mission to find the mushrooms, and of the journey to the caverns where they met Yarella. “Your story has the ring of truth to it,” said Yarella, “Let us tend to your friend’s injuries, then we will speak more.”

With that, the woman laid Trish on her bed to sleep, and took Lasheur’s broken body and laid it on the altar. She began to pray, and soon a spirit formed above the altar. The prayer continued, and suddenly, Lasheur’s spirit appeared above his body with the earth spirit. The earth spirit pointed at Lasheur’s body, and Lasheur shook his head and crossed his arms. The earth spirit began to gesture with more intensity towards the body, and Lasheur’s posture got more stubborn as he continued to refuse to go back to his body. Finally, the earth spirit leapt forward, and began to battle with Lasheur, finally forcing Lasheur’s spirit back into his body. Lasheur sat up, sputtering and disoriented. Yarella cast a few healing spells to help him transition back to life. Trish sat up on the bed and looked around after a few minutes within the healing radius of the altar.

“Once, we were many, now I am one. We moved the temple here when the city fell, and continued the fight from here. Then, one day, there was a rumbling and a portion of the earth collapsed. We sent an expedition out to find out what happened, but they were all slain, all but one. He returned in a madness, talking about a gate that had opened in the blast; a gate that lets Chaos into our world. He died not long afterwards.” Yarella looked around sadly. “Every day, I fight the Chaos let in by the gate. In the evening, I return to the altar, and am healed, even of the most grievous wounds. Food is provided for me, and none of this taxes the altar, as I am now the only one it has to provide for. I know not how long I have been here, but I feel that it is not chance you have come.”

“Do you know where the mushrooms we seek are?” asked Simon, “Also, do you know of a path to the surface?”

Yarella replied, “I do know the mushrooms you seek, and will gladly take you to them. They are but a short distance away. As for the surface, the quickest way would be through the sinkhole, but that would also take you to the Chaos gate, which would be utter madness. Unless…”

With that, she began opening chests, and pulling out some of the most wonderful armor and equipment the party had ever seen, “Yes, Krippa’s leather, with its speed, no one could catch her, Benghwa’s Saber, and Denk’s Battle Axe.”

She let out a sudden laugh, as she pulled four odd looking backpacks from the chest. “Denk made us carry these dwarven rocket packs with us when we fled the temple. He called them Teral’s Wings, we called them suicide packs.”

She turned to the party, “I will gladly let you take your pick of the equipment that I have here from my fallen comrades, if you will take up the holy quest to destroy the gate. You may stay as long as you like, but when you leave, I cannot allow you to return. The creatures of Chaos use treachery to try and break through to the surface, so I won’t be able to trust that it is you returning. If you shut down the gate, I believe the temple will finally allow me to have my rest.”

“Lady Yarella, if we may take even the equipment we can’t use, we would be honored to take it to the earth temple in Ard, when we arrive. If possible, I would like to get an account of the equipment, its owners, and their heroic deeds so that the recipients of the equipment, and indeed, all of Shadora, might never forget the bravery and sacrifice of the people who lived and died here,” said Simon.

Yarella’s eyes misted over with tears. “I have an account of the early years, done by one of our chroniclers. You are welcome to take that and such equipment as you can carry with you. Now, follow me, and I will take you to the mushrooms you seek.”

Yarella stood and led the party through a series of tunnels to a nearby cavern. “The cure you seek is within. Return to the altar when you are finished here,” and with that, Yarella turned and headed back to the altar.

Simon stepped into the cavern, and the torchlight revealed row after row of crudely carved headstones, with some of the names that they recognized from Yarella’s account of the equipment. The party wandered through the cemetery, until they came to the back of the cavern, where the mushrooms they needed grew fed by the blood and spirit of the heroes of the earth temple.

The Burrowing Zoo

The party descended the spiral staircase that Tolus had directed them to as a means of finding the burrowing zoo. After sinking about 100 meters into the inky darkness, the faint light of a torch burning at the lower landing of the stairs could be seen. Spinward from the bottom of the stairway was an entryway of sorts, which turned coreward down a series of large stone steps. Examining the torch, Simon said quietly, “Journeyman make, no telling how long they’ve been burning. They may have even been burning since before the fall of the city.”

Walac descended the stairs warily, staying in the dark and using the ambient light from the torch behind him to illuminate his way. With barely a sound, he came out at the bottom of the large stairs, and stepped into the ring of light shining from another Journeyman torch. The spunward tunnel had been caved in, and he could see that there was no way through. Signaling the others, he headed towards what appeared to be another Journeyman torch in the distance to the spinside. As the rest of the party moved down the stairs, Simon continually scratched arrows in the thick dust on the floor to indicate to Tolus which direction they had taken. Before moving down the hallway after Walac, Trish sheathed Keller’s Razor and lifted the Journeyman torch from the sconce on the wall to help illuminate the way for the rest of the party. Walac waited by the next torch for the party to catch up, and as they arrived, he motioned for them to stop. Walac’s whiskers twitched nervously as he strained in the silence to catch any sounds that might give away an enemy, but he couldn’t hear anything. “I have a feeling that someone is watching us,” he whispered to Simon.

“I have the same feeling,” replied Simon, “Be wary, there’s every possibility that something is watching us!”

Walac moved once again into the sea of darkness, swimming steadily and quietly towards the next oasis of light in the hallway, when he felt a breath of air stirring from the coreside of the hallway. It appeared the wall had collapsed, forming a possible tunnel. He shifted forward to check it out, and looking through the hole in the wall could see a cavern disappearing into the darkness below. There appeared to be a labyrinth of corridors and stairways within the cavern, they might possibly even be the tombs that Tolus had said he would be searching for the relics he had been charged to return. Walac turned and cast his mindspeech spell on Simon. “Simon, bring the torches, you should see this,” he said in silent communication with Simon’s mind.

Simon directed the party forward to where Walac was standing, and Lasheur brought the Journeyman torch from where they had been at to help light the hallway. The light from their torches shone through the hole to show the vastness of the area beneath the temple where those faithful to the earth temple had been buried for many centuries. Suddenly, a scurrying sound coupled with the sound of loose stone falling from the spinward side of the hallway caused the party to go to alert, drawing their weapons, but nothing could be seen, and nothing emerged from the darkness to confront them. Simon moved the few feet through the darkness to the next pool of light and grabbed the Journeyman torch from the wall. He could see the dried out husk of a figure that might have once been human lying at the foot of a pile of rubble, which was the general area where the sound had come from. With a swift movement, he then threw the torch to the pile of rubble. The torch spun end over end, finally coming to rest beyond the body, but at the feet of a giant centipede, which reared up on its hindquarters and dodged around the fire to charge at Simon. Simon concentrated and launched a kick into the air in front of him. His spell caused a concussive force to spread out from the snap of his kick, and the front half of the centipede burst into a red ruin as it connected with its heavily armored body. Out of the darkness, two more centipedes crawled through the remains of their fellow, heading towards Simon.

A crash came from behind the party as part of the rimward wall fell into the hallway and a grey creature with a heavily armored body, toothy maw and tell-tale fin on its back advanced on the party. “Landshark!” cried Rory as he backed up the hallway away from the creature, fitting an arrow to his bow. The landshark lashed out with its claws at Lasheur, even as its jaws snapped shut on empty air. One of the claws caught Lasheur a glancing blow, spinning him backwards towards Rory, but Alorrah rushed in, her katana slashing the creature badly across the head. Rory’s shot finished the beast off, causing it to collapse to the ground in a heap.

The centipede’s mandibles clacked together with a horrible hollow sound as Simon jumped out of the way of the attack. Its tail arched up through the air, and a sticky liquid flew through the air, hitting the wall next to Walac. With a sizzling sound, the rock of the wall began to melt and flow to the floor. Trish rushed forward, hitting the second centipede, stunning it, and Lasheur fired an arrow that pierced the head of creature, killing it instantly. Simon cut the head from the body of the centipede facing him, and another centipede rushed forth from the darkness. Trish stepped in front of the centipede’s rush, and stunning it with Oblivion, she thrust the Journeyman torch into its mouth, causing the pitchlike saliva of the creature to burst into flame. Within moments, the flame from the burning insect was illuminating the hallway brightly, reflecting from something in the corpse’s hand. Trish bent over and retrieved a stoppered vial. When she picked it up, the vial began to glow, and Trish could make out eyes with yellow irises staring through the glass at her. “We should probably be moving along now,” said Lasheur, “I can hear things moving from where the landshark came through.”

If the area beyond where the centipedes attacked was ever a part of the burrowing zoo, it showed no evidence of it now. From all appearances, it was nothing but a series of tunnels, probably made by the animals released by the mages during the war. Walac went to scout ahead for the party, but as he topped one of the nearby piles of rubble, a large creature emerged from the ground below him, toppling him over as it came up. The dirt hulk was humanoid, about eight feet tall, and five feet wide, with buglike mandibles on either side of its face, and compound eyes like a beetle. Simon rushed forward and attacked the creature, but his katana glanced off its carapace. His fighting claw cut a small groove through the chitinous armor without really injuring the creature. Another creature burst out of the ground in front of Trish, and it was only luck and instinct that prevented her from being caught in its massive jaws. Trish smashed Oblivion against the dirt hulk’s skull, stunning it, and dropped her torch to enable her to draw Kellor’s Razor. A swift follow up thrust from Oblivion separated the head from the torso of the creature, and as it hit the floor, she swept her second rune sword from its sheath. As Simon killed the dirt hulk he was engaged with, a blind, reptilian creature with gills came from behind the party, opened its mouth, and a pulsing sound came forth with such force that it stunned Alorrah. Lasheur shot at the creature, but his arrow missed the mark, going wide of his target, as Alorrah covered her ears and staggered backwards under the onslaught of sound. As Alorrah moved further away from the blind creature, another dirt hulk burst from the ground blocking the sound. Acting entirely on instinct, Alorrah cut clean through the middle of the dirt hulk with her katana, killing it instantly. Lasheur fired another arrow at the blind creature, this one finding its mark, and Trish finished it off with a sweep from her swords. Simon killed the dirt hulk he was fighting and before the party could catch its breath, Trish and Walac were blasted by the sonic attack of another of the blind creatures. Rory and Lasheur both fired shots into the beast, and it sunk to the ground dead. “Simon, I found this on the dead body back there,” said Trish, holding up the vial with the yellow eyes, “Maybe the creature inside would be useful in helping us get through here.”

“Sounds reasonable,” said Simon, “Since it was found in an earth temple, perhaps it would be best to have Lasheur command it. That way if there’s some affinity required to the earth temple to control it, it won’t be so likely to tear us to bits.”

Trish handed the vial to Lasheur, who pulled the stopper out and poured the contents onto the ground. As the liquid hit the ground, it coalesced into a large humanoid creature, made entirely of flame. “What is your wish, master?” it asked in a raspy voice that crackled like a log on a fire.

Lasheur replied, “We are searching for a fungus in the lower reaches of this area, can you lead us to it?”

“I know not this area, I cannot help you. Is this what you wish of me? May I go now?” said the salamander.

“If you cannot lead us, can you accompany us and illuminate our way?” asked Lasheur.

“As you wish, master,” replied the salamander.

“Maybe we should ask it to assist us in fighting if any more of those creatures show up,” suggested Trish.

“It’s too late, the command has been stated and accepted,” said Simon.

“Which direction are you headed in, master? I would be done with this quickly” said the creature sullenly.

Lasheur pointed rimward, “This is where we are headed, until we can find an entrance to the lower levels where the fungus may be found.”

“As you wish,” said the creature, and it began to lumber slowly forward, leaving flaming footprints which cooled to reveal glass on the sandy floor of the tunnel. The party followed the creature down the tunnel until it opened into a large cavern. Inside this chamber, were millions of eggs on the floor, walls and ceiling. As they entered the room, some of the eggs came open with small popping sounds, as small fist sized centipedes hatched. The salamander continued moving through the room, looking straight ahead, making it to the exit on the far side of the chamber and continuing through, when a centipede, even bigger than the giant ones the party had killed before, came into the chamber from a side passage. The queen centipede rushed forward to kill the intruders in her brood chamber, but was momentarily slowed as Rory and Walac unleashed their bows on her. This gave Simon enough time to cast a tanglethicket spell, causing a swath of vines and thorny growths to spring from the floor in front of the centipede queen. “Follow me while she’s trapped,” shouted Simon, “I have no idea how long that spell will hold her,” and he headed towards the passageway the salamander had recently travelled down. With a shifting of the floor, a dirt hulk burst through the ground in front of Simon, who cut it down with a swift strike of his katana. Rory and Walac, near the rear of the group, were being swarmed by the newly hatched bugs, hungry for their first meal, and desperate to protect the nest. As the queen tore and dug furiously on the other side of the barrier, Rory and Walac ran through the swarm to where the rest of the party were making their way through to the passageway beyond. Lasheur was in the lead, when a dirt hulk reared out of the ground directly in front of him, locked his mandibles around Lasheur’s midsection and began to shake him like a dog shakes a mouse, all the while hitting him with his clawlike hands. The swarm overtook Alorrah, and as the baby centipedes began to bite and sting her, she felt her strength ebbing away from the effects of their poison. Trish turned back to help Alorrah just in time to see the queen tear through the wall of the cavern around the tanglethicket, and head straight down the tunnel at them. The queen struck out at Trish, but she dodged at the last second, narrowly avoiding being grabbed by the mandibles of the queen. Simon ran forward to help Lasheur, but another dirt hulk rose up from the ground in front of him. Simon rammed forward with his fighting claw, killing the beast, and spun away as the corpse fell, to engage the dirt hulk that was still bludgeoning Lasheur’s body. Simon lashed out with a kick that caused the creature to drop Lasheur to the ground, where the elf lay motionless. While Simon prepared to attack the creature once more, a blast of sound caused him and the dirt hulk to stagger away from each other as one of the blind creatures entered the fray. Before Simon could recover, the dirt hulk dove at the ground and burrowed away at amazing speed, while one of its bretheren popped up behind Simon. Knowing that he couldn’t survive another of the sound blasts with the dirt hulk so close, Simon rushed the blind beast and separated its head from its neck with a single swipe of his blade. An arrow from Rory dropped the dirt hulk dead, leaving only the queen and her swarm.

Walac launched himself into the swarm, and lashed out with his rapier, sending baby centipedes flying away from him, skewered through, or hacked into squirming pieces. Against this determined assault, the swarm of centipedes dispersed, and fled back to the brood chamber. Meanwhile, Alorrah’s katana connected hard with the armor of the queen’s head, stunning the beast briefly, but the queen reared back and a quick slash with her mandibles got through Trish’s defense, and wounded her. Alorrah hit the queen with her katana again, but it glanced off the heavily armored side of the beast, even as she scored another hit on Trish. As the queen drove in for another attack, Trish leapt forward, driving Oblivion into her brain, killing her instantly. Trish and Alorrah went past the queen’s body and began destroying the eggs in the brood chamber with their swords and fire from the torches. As they moved through the cavern, they came across a moldering mass of bones and equipment from people who had been killed and eaten by the centipedes in the past, and saw a shield and flail that seemed miraculously undamaged. They didn’t stop to examine their find, though, as the sounds of movement from behind them prompted them to leave as soon as their job was done.

The party regrouped, and as they quickly took healing potions, cast spells and bandaged each other, it was clear that Lasheur was beyond the skill of anyone in the party or any of the magic that they carried. “I will carry Lasheur,” said Simon, “but we should not wait much longer before we start moving again.”

Walac followed the tracks of the salamander through the passageway into the largest cavern they had encountered yet. There was no sign of the fiery creature, other than his glassy footprints across the cavern floor, but whether he considered his task complete, or had fled with the death of Lasheur, was unclear. The footprints led to a pit in the floor, which went down as far as Walac could see, and exuded a foul, moist smell. Once the rest of the party got to the edge of the pit, Simon lit Lasheur’s Journeyman torch and threw it into the hole. As the torch fell, the ground of the cavern began to quake, and the torch bounced and disappeared against the flesh of a creature that was rising up from the bottom of the pit. The party backed away from the pit, and as they did, the earth colored, armored flesh of a giant worm erupted from the mouth of the hole. Rory and Walac both launched arrows, but neither did any apparent good, then the worm slammed down to where the party was standing, trying to crush them with its bulk. Everyone dove out of the way, narrowly avoiding being slammed by the worm, and as it reared back for another attack, none of their counterattacks seemed to harm the creature. It slammed down to earth again, trapping Simon against the ground for a brief moment, but Simon managed to find a chink in the worm’s armor and the only thing that hit him was the soft, malodorous flesh of the creature. When the beast rose again, Simon grabbed two poison grenades from his pouch, and after swiftly activating them, he threw them in the gaping maw of the worm. The party continued to attack the worm without noticeable effect, when the worm began to weave and then suddenly went completely limp, and slid back into the pit from whence it came. Simon dropped a couple of smoke bombs down the pit to try and suffocate the creature, in case the poison didn’t kill it completely. Rory, furthest back from the pit, said, “I hear something coming.”

Without further consideration, the party tied ropes off and began their descent into the pit.

Reclaiming the High Temple
The party confronts Melizes in her lair

With a horde of skeletons coming down the stairs, Tolis summoned his gnome and ordered it to
clear the passage in front of us and to block the stairway. The party agreed with the decision,
if we survived the encounter with Melize we would likely be able to locate a second way out
of the temple area.

Beyond the blocked passage was a large wooden door. Walac and the dwarf quickly scanned it for
traps and saw none. It was unlocked. From the blocked passage behind us we could hear the
skeletal horde digging towards us. Trish and Walac volunteered to guard the rear as the rest of
the party moved into position to attack through the door. Archers and fighters ready, the dwarf
flung the door open. We were meet by a horde of chaos. Thirty skeletons, flaming heads, ghosts,
the monstrous chimera and Melize herself sanding within the ruins of the Earth Temple.

The battle opened with the twang of Lasher’s bow, the arrow shattered a skeleton’s head, there
were many more. Simon moved to engage a flaming skull. The skull responded with a fire ball
engulfing the party. The Elves and Rory destroyed the second flaming skull while Tolis and
Alonhe attacked the skeletons. The ghosts attacked Tolis and Alonhe. Simon destroyed the second
flaming skull, moved up and sent a fiery blast from his dragon’s breath wand. He destroyed
ghosts and skeletons. His move was meet by the advancing Chimera. It moved forward and blasted a
gout of flame from its dragon head, again reaching most of the party.

From his vantage point Tolis shouted out that the statues of the gods in the temple had not been
destroyed and their guardian spirits would likely aid in the defense of the temple if it could
be requested. Simon teleported to the far side of the temple and prayed for aid from Naturala
and Xarandar and received divine spells. Unknown to the party Melize materialized from a pile of
rubble and mesmerized Lashur. As Lashur struggled Itch fired a deadly shot with his crossbow
quickly followed by a shot from Rory’s bow. Together they killed the Chimera. As Itch was
reloading Lashur fired a arrow into his back, the party saw but thought it was nothing but
poorly made shot. Then Melize attacked Itch and he screamed for help as the Vampire reached out
for him. Simon leaped across the room and requested aid from the far end of the temple and
prayed to Peral and Dagaral, again he was heard and rewarded with more spells, one sun bright he
cast upon Itch, catching Malize in the spell she burst into flame, she quickly became gaseous
and sank back into the rubble. With her control of Lashur she ordered him to shoot Simon, he
complied striking and wounding Simon in the chest. Rory and one of the elves realizing that
Lashur was possessed seized him pinning his arms to his side. A skeleton attacked Itch and
delivered a killing blow. Tolis surrounded by skeletons shattered seven with a single sweep.

Melize rematerialized in the shadows out of sight of the party but within view of Simon. Using
her entrancing powers she called out to Simon, “Together we can rule the Disk”, the party
watched Simon aghast as he lowered is sword and moved out of their line of sight. What the party
and Melize didn’t see was that as he approached the Vampire his hand dropped to the cross bow
bolt he had slipped into his belt after their first encounter. As Melize gazed on he approached
and with the speed of a Waymaster his Katana sang out slashing her twice across the torso. She
staggered back and he stabbed her with the bolt, it caught on her armor. With a surge of
adrenaline he raised the bolt and stabbed her twice more both penetrating her armor. As Malize
looked down to see the bolt embedded in her chest, Simon said greetings from my Lord Bander. An
inhuman shriek issued from Malize as her spirit was ripped from the body, that turned to dust.
With her defeat the remaining skeletons returned to lifeless bones.

The party worked to heal the wounded, but Itch was beyond the help of healing or spells. Simon
beseeched Tolis to intercede with Xarandar to resurrect Itch, he was a faithful member of our
party and had defended the Temple wounding the Chimera. Tolis agreed to try but made no
guarantees being only an acolyte he thought the magic was beyond his abilities.

The party searched the temple area and discovered Melize’s blood slaves. They were in very poor
condition. At Tolis’s direction the party gathered them and placed them at the feet of the statue
of Xarandar the Healer. On the Vampire the party found the following.
Superb Short Sword
Potion: Bound Horror
Potion: Bound Spirit
2 Potions of Healing

In the Temple Library the party found.
Map of a the Chamber of Wyrms
Map of Area – Once out of the ruins it will aid our traveling out of area for 20 marks.
Letter of Credit worth 542 Silver Talons at the Fire temple in Ard
Melize’s Coffin.
296 Copper Scales ( 2.96 lbs )
96 Silver Talons ( 1.92 lbs )
35 Gold Fangs ( 1.75 lbs )
7 Gems and Jewelry worth 371 Silver Talons

Trish insisted that the coffin be burned and all agreed. Before the fire was started Simon using
a hand axe cut six stakes from the coffin, for the next vampire we meet. With that the remains
of the coffin were torched.

Tolis announced that he was staying and would take charge of Itch’s remains and the blood
slaves. He pointed the party in the direction of the burrowing Zoo warning them that the beasts
kept there were very dangerous. Dirthulks, earthwyrms, landsharks and the like. Tread lightly.
He vowed to follow and catch up once his work is done.

One healing potion was used to get the party back to full strength the second was given to
Trish. The Superb Short Sword was left for Itch, should Xarandar be merciful and he rejoin the

The copper and silver were left with Tolis for the blood slaves likely they would need the coin
when we were clear of the ruins. The party reformed, ready for the next stage of their mission.

To The Earth Temple

Trish took a few moments to hide Hespa’s body in an effort to keep the enemy from desecrating it. “Not the burial place you deserve, but at least they will not be able to defile your body by turning you into the undead,” said Trish as she finished covering the Chaos fighter with debris from the ruined city.

With her mission finished, she joined the rest of the party in the street, and began to run with the others as she heard the Lazuri getting closer. The sounds of Melize flying overhead and calling directions to the pursuers spurred them to greater speeds as they ran for the safety of the Earth temple.

Tolus led the party with an unerring sense of direction, through the twisting streets of the city. He seemed to have an intimate knowledge of the roads, avoiding patrols and ambushes by going through sidestreets and alleyways. “We’re lucky to have the dwarf leading us through the city,” said Rory to Walac during one of their infrequent rest stops, “If we didn’t, we’d be dead a dozen times over from the ambushes we’ve avoided. His knowledge of the city is uncanny!”

The sounds of pursuit finally stopped, and the party took the opportunity to catch their breath, walking at a more normal pace through the rubble strewn streets of the ruined city. “Perhaps we’re in the clear, and they’ve given up the pursuit,” said Itcherat hopefully.

Tolus laughed, “Never fear, Melize and her filth await us at the temple. They are only taking the time to set up a proper welcome for us.”

“Hail, warrior of Bandar”, came a voice from the darkness, causing the party to assume defensive positions. The lithe figure of one of the catlike Fel stepped toward the party from the shadows. She was covered in copper colored fur, and moved closer to Simon. “My name is Allorah Fireheart,” she said, “I was a prisoner of the vampire, Melize, held as a blood slave deep within the Earth Temple. I escaped, grabbing my gear as I fled, coming through a large tunnel leading to the surface. I’ve been in hiding until I saw you, but there is no mistaking the grace of a way master of Bandar. Knowing that followers of Bandar are powerful warriors and great Chaos fighters, I decided to make myself known to you, and offer to join your fight.”

“You may certainly join us, Allorah,” said Simon, “We are on our way to the Earth temple now, to fulfill a quest. I will give you details of our efforts at another time when we are not so hard pressed by our enemies, but for now, know you are welcome.”

Introductions were quickly made, and the party began moving again, soon coming to the top of a small rise in the street they were on. “There it is,” said Tolus reverently, pointing at the ruins of the temple compound, “The lost Earth temple of Glynn. It fills my heart with sorrow to see the once mighty temple in ruins. These vile beasts will pay dearly for their treachery!”

A few minutes of travel saw the party at the outskirts of the temple, moving between the ruins and burned out husks of great outbuildings and shrine areas. Leading the party through the temple gate and into the main avenue to the temple, Tolus said, ‘We must move to the high temple to gain access to the caverns…”

Tolus was cut short by an all too familiar laugh. The voice of Melize echoed through the courtyard, “Come, claim your prize if you dare. I promise that you will be dead before dawn. Dead like the rest of the fools that sought to keep this temple from me. Dead before dawn and mindless slaves of my will for all eternity. Come ‘heroes’, come claim your prize. In fact, let me send you greetings from my children.”

As she said this, noises began coming from the depths of a nearby well and a burned out building on the other side. Suddenly, a horde of rats burst forth, streaming out of the well and the building, heading directly for the party. Simon heard a whirring noise from the tops of the nearby buildings, as if many creatures were beginning to take flight.

“We’ve got to make it to the main temple, we can’t stop to fight – If we do, we’re finished,” shouted Tolus, as he began to run down the avenue towards the steps of the temple.

Within seconds, winged ghouls had filled the air around the party, howling like the damned and attacking them. The archers began shooting wildly around them trying to hit the creatures, without much success. One of the creatures swooped down in front of Lasheur and hit him across the face with a savagely taloned claw, and only the elf’s combat honed reflexes saved him from getting a nasty slash. With a buzz like a hive of angry bees, arrows began striking around the party as goblins positioned on the rooftops of nearby buildings opened fire. Walac shot down one of the flying ghouls with a well placed arrow through the heart, as one of Alorrah’s shuriken tore through the wing of another, causing it to crash to the ground and break like a rotten fruit. The swarm of rats from the well surrounded Simon, Rory, Itcherat, and Resh. Rory and Itcherat stomped and kicked at the swarm, as Resh swept around him with his bow, finally dispersing the swarm without anyone suffering any injury. Simon reached into his pouch, and grabbing a poison grenade, rushed the second swarm just emerging from the building. With a swift throw, a cloud of poison rose from the dwarven device, killing many of the rats, and dispersing the swarm. Trish rushed a ghoul hovering behind Lasheur, just before it latched onto his back, cutting it in half, and letting its dead body hit the ground and flop like a fish out of water. One of the ghouls swooped in and landed on Lim, knocking him to the ground, and as Trish ran to kill it, another grabbed Alorrah from behind, and began to rise into the air, flying towards the steps of the temple. The party began to make headway against the onslaught, and as the ghouls in the air became fewer than the ones on the ground, Rory paused for a moment and observed the scene. His eyes fell on Itcherat fighting one of the flying ghouls near him to his right. Rory looked at Itcherat and the ghoul, then swiftly pulled his bowstring back and let fly with an arrow, which appeared almost magically in Itcherat’s back. Rory was set upon by another flying ghoul, and without any time to think about what he had just done, he was concentrating on fighting again.

Alorrah was fighting for her life as the ghoul carried her closer and closer to the entrance of the Earth temple. She turned and twisted as only a Fel could, and finally succeeded in turning to where she could face the hideous flying ghoul. With the cobblestone streets whizzing by beneath her she realized she was in trouble if she fell from that height. She reached into her pouch and fished out a flying potion, and guzzled it quickly, before the ghoul could stop her. Discarding the bottle, she extended her claws and began to flail wildly at the ghoul holding her. With its hands full trying to carry the enraged Fel, the ghoul couldn’t effectively defend itself, and soon one of the clawed hands connected full on with the ghoul’s head, snapping its neck. Alorrah and the now fully dead creature began to plummet towards the street below. Frantically, she tried to remove the ghoul’s hands from her, so that she could fly and prevent hitting the ground. Alorrah released the creature’s hands, and with a swift spin, she found herself floating a few feet from the street, where the crushed body of the ghoul lay. Panting from the exertion, she looked around her and saw the party still battling the last of the ghouls to her south, and looking up, she saw goblins on the rooftops above her trying to get a bead on anyone that might stray into range. Realizing they hadn’t yet noticed her, Alorrah floated higher, towards the rooftop, and threw a shuriken at the goblin sergeant looking at the battle away to the south. The shuriken glanced off the helmet of the goblin, which turned and saw Alorrah.

“You’ll regret that, you overgrown housecat,” said the grinning goblin, as he raised his bow and shot at Alorrah, narrowly missing her.

Alorrah cast a shimmer spell on herself, as she threw another shuriken that went wide of the target. Realizing what was going on, the other goblins joined in with the sergeant, shooting at Alorrah, as she dodged this way and that, trying to avoid the arrows. She drank a vigor potion to help with her defense, as she continued to twist and dodge and fling shuriken at the goblins, but soon she was completely on the defensive, and before long, her body, studded with arrows, was floating about six feet off the cobblestone streets, and the goblins turned their attention back to the battle to the south.

Finally, the party seemed to have killed most of the ghouls, and Tolus shouted, “Follow me”, and began running up the cobblestone street towards the temple ruins. A well placed shot from his repeating crossbow dropped a goblin archer from a nearby rooftop as the bolt pierced his skull. The party began to follow as best they could, shooting and cutting down the remaining ghouls in their pathway, as well as taking shots at the goblins they could see on the rooftops. As they moved up the roadway, a group of goblins riding on the backs of wargs came pouring out of the alleyways in front of them. Simon rushed forward, killing one of the wargs with his katana, and a second with his fighting claw. One of the riders jumped clear of his beast, just in time to take a spinning kick from Simon that sent him straight to his death. Near the back of the group, Lasheur yelled, “The Lazuri are coming around the corner, they will be on us in minutes!”

With the word that his mortal enemies, the Lazuri, were finally within striking distance, Simon quit moving forward, “It’s time we end this”, he said, as he stood his ground.

From one of the rooftops, one of the goblin sergeants threw another of the now familiar skull bundles to the ground, causing a ghost to begin to rise. Trish saw it hit, and without a moment’s hesitation, cast ghost blade, and ran forward to attack the almost formed spirit. Oblivion swept through the air with a hiss, hitting the ghost squarely, and banishing it back to the world of the dead before it had even finished forming. Tolus continued running towards the temple, firing this way and that with his crossbow, toppling goblins from the rooftops as he ran. The rest of the archers had formed a semicircle around Simon as he awaited the approaching Lazuri. The remaining warg riders were upon the group, and the party made short work of them, as the archers on the rooftops continued to rain arrows on them. With the riders gone, the party archers now turned their attention to the goblin archers on the roofs, dropping them one by one to the street. Itcherat and Rory were both struck by arrows during the exchange of fire. Itcherat dropped to the ground, writhing in pain and foaming at the mouth, and Rory staggered. Pulling the arrow from his side, Rory looked at the arrowhead and said, “Poisoned arrows.”

Walac moved to where Itcherat lay, and cast a healing spell on his friend, counteracting both the injury and the poison, as the Lazuri on their iguanodon mounts rounded the corner, and began to charge up the street. As the lizard men rode up the street, the leader, wearing a yellow sash, chanted a short spell, and the spear he was carrying burst into flame. He rode straight towards Simon, who moved to the middle of the street to meet the onslaught. Trish charged towards one of the outriders, and soon the melee with the Lazuri had begun. Simon threw another of the dwarven poison grenades into the midst of the Lazuri and their mounts. Coughing and sneezing, the creatures seemed relatively unfazed by the cloud of poison. Simon swept forward with his katana, cutting the mount from underneath the leader, but he sprang from his saddle effortlessly, wounding Simon with his spear. The Lazuri spread out, with two on Trish, the leader and his wingman on Simon, and one on Rory. Simon slapped the spear out of the way with his fighting claw, and slashed down with his katana, killing the yellow sash Lazuri. A moment later, the green sash with him and his mount both lay on the road dying, as Simon moved to assist Rory with the one fighting him. Trish cut her opponents from the saddle with a nimble double thrust of her rune blades, leaving only the mounts to deal with as another group of warg riders came from the north.

As the group of wargs burst onto the scene from the north, Tolus arrived to where Alorrah was floating above the cobblestone street, and with a mighty leap, he caught her along the midsection, and drug her to the ground with his weight. “I wish I could help you lass, but I guess the best I can do is take out these bastards that did this to you.”

With that, Tolus opened fire at the goblins on the rooftop, dropping them one by one, as he kept his body between them and Alorrah. Minutes later, the last of the enemies were dead or had fled from the wrath of the party, and Trish and Simon went to work on the wounded. Simon healed the wounds Itcherat had taken from a sword hit by one of the warg riders, and Trish removed the arrows from Alorrah, and healed her. Once everyone was healed up, Simon gave Alorrah a healing potion he had found on the Lazuri leader when he quickly searched the Lazuri bodies.

“Let’s get up the temple stairs,” said Tolus, “The temple proper is below ground, actually in the Earth. It helps for the worship”

The party ascended the stairs, and once they got to the top, the enormity of the destruction of the city was brought into sharp focus as they stared at the hundreds of skeletons scattered around the top of the temple, where its defenders had made their final stand. Tolus led them to a spiral staircase, big enough for four people abreast that led deep into the earth. When they arrived at the bottom of the stairs, they could see that the tunnel that would lead into the temple had been collapsed, and in front of it stood Melize on a pile of rubble.

She smiled disdainfully at the party. “So, here you are, panting on my doorstep, and you still think you can win?” she laughed.

With that, she turned to mist, which rapidly dissipated through the collapsed stone in front of the party, and a scraping noise started behind the party.

“The dead are rising,” shouted Lasheur from near the top of the stairs, as the skeletons of the temples defenders began to stand and march down into the earth.

A Difficult Arrival

After hastily cleaning their weapons, the party mounted up and travelled another hour or so towards the ruined city of Glynn. When they arrived at the crossroads in the trail they were taking, Lord Arrin reined his horse up and dismounted, giving the bridle to one of his men. He motioned for Simon and Rory to dismount and join him. Once they arrived, he knelt in the road and sketched a quick diagram of the city.

“As we talked about before, you will be going in on the southern side near the river gate. My men and I will create a diversion, but it will take us about an hour to get in place. It is imperative that you be ready to go when the fireworks start, because there is no way our small group will be able to hold off what is going to come out once we hit this bees nest,” said Arrin, “Rory, you’ve been in this area before, so you need to lead the rest to an area advantageous to you gaining entry. I would suggest coming in on the eastern side of the river, due to the outbuildings around that area on the western side.”

Rory nodded his head in agreement, “There’s a tower on either side, but that river will keep any of the goblins who may be camped in the ruins on the other side out of our way. There’s a powerful current there that will sweep anyone foolish enough to jump in away far downstream before they can get across it, at least, without magical aid of some sort.”

Arrin stood, “You will know when our diversion has started, because there will be a great amount of noise and light, but even so, it will not protect you from the sharp eyes of a goblin scout. We will make it last as long as we can, but I will lose no men in a diversion if I have any say in the matter. Igni and Hesta will both be accompanying you on your mission. This crossroads is where we will part. I wish you and your party great luck, Simon. The lives of many of the people of Millglade are depending on your getting this fungus for their cure.”

“We will see you back in Millglade as soon as we possibly can, Arrin. Thank you for all your help,” said Simon.

The two companies parted ways quietly, wondering when, or if, they would see each other again. It did not take long until they reached a spot where Rory stopped the party and had everyone dismount. “We are very close to the enemy now,” he whispered, “Someone will need to stay with the horses, or it will be a long road back once we have completed our quest.”

“I’ll stay with the horses,” said Igni, “My father ran a stable when I was growing up, I can manage the beasts, and make sure we are all still here when you return.”

“Agreed,” said Rory, “For the rest of you, make sure you move swiftly and quietly when the time comes. The diversion will help, but we are still far from where it will happen, and it is possible a set of wary goblin eyes may pierce the darkness and find us if we aren’t careful. Simon, I will get you near to the towers, but after that, it will be up to you on how you wish to proceed.”

Simon nodded, then he and the rest of the party followed quietly behind Rory as he led them towards the heart of the goblin held city. It was treacherous going, flitting from cover to cover, now behind a rock, and then in a copse of trees, but shortly, the party could see their goal. To their west, a swift, dark river ran noisily towards the tall, but jagged walls of the once magnificent human city. Not far from the wall stood two towers on either side of the river, commanding an excellent view of the broken lands where they approached the wall. To the north, Simon could just make out a large pond of some sort near the wall. While they waited for the diversion, the enormity of the task ahead snapped into focus, for they saw movement around each of the ruined buildings near where they lay hidden. There were at least three goblins in the tower in front of them, made visible when the eldest and fattest of the three lit a pipe as he looked out over the battlements and spoke quietly with his comrades. Closer to them, across the river, two more goblins, illuminated by a small, cheerless campfire sat just outside the ruins of a building, throwing dice against the wall, and occasionally arguing about the outcome. Simon passed out windberries and a single flying potion to the others, to help with the ascent of the wall. Just when it seemed that they could wait no longer, a sudden flash of light burst across the sky far to the west. Seconds after the flash, the sound of drums and horns started in the distance. From his vantage point, Simon could see the goblins in the tower move closer to the edge to try and make out what was happening. Simon motioned to the others, and the party began making their way, quickly and silently to where the wall had been broken down during the siege of the city. After a few tense minutes, the party made it to the wall and hid in the shadows at the base. As they moved up, Simon noticed that there were campfires on the top of the wall where they had intended on going over, with a number of bodies moving about in the firelight, straining to see through the darkness and find out what was happening on the western wall. Simon motioned for Walac to come to where he was.

“Walac,” whispered Simon, “There are too many here, I want you to scout up the wall and see if there are any better places to go over.”

With a silent nod, Walac scampered quietly northeast along the bottom of the wall. A few minutes later, he returned. “The wall is in better repair further up. I can tell there are campfires along the top, but I can’t tell how many guards there may be on top of the wall.”

Simon looked around as he considered the situation, and froze as he realized the guard with the pipe on top of the tower was pointing straight at where he and Walac were on the wall. The other two were shaking their heads and peering through the darkness while the guard continued to point, becoming more agitated with every passing second. Simon reached into his pouch, and with one swift movement, threw a smoke grenade right into the campfire above them. Smoke began pouring from the campfire, causing shouts of confusion upon the wall as the goblins there attempted to figure out what had happened. Now all three goblins in the tower were pointing in the direction of the wall, and drew their bows to try and get a long shot off if they could make out a target. The party crept swiftly up the wall away from the confusion the smoke bomb had created. A few hundred feet up the wall, and Hespa brushed against a loose brick, causing it to fall, and take a few others with it. The party froze against the wall, as they heard movement coming from up above. Thinking quickly, Itcharat stepped away from the wall and started stumbling around as if he were drunk, saying loudly in darkspeech, “Where ish the damn latrine?”

The head of a goblin sergeant came into view, “Soldier, why are you off the wall,” he shouted.

“Jus’ looking for th’ latrine,” slurred Itcherat, “Can’t sheem to find it.”

“Get back to your post! Go back to the river where you are supposed to be,” shouted the sergeant in a rage.

“Geesh, keep your armor on,” muttered Itcharat as he snapped a sloppy salute and stumbled towards the river.

“Stupid recruits,” said the sergeant, and went back to his place by the campfire.

Itcharat came back to the wall a few minutes later; having circled back once he saw the sergeant was no longer watching him. Simon looked back at the party, and once he had their attention, pointed to the top of the wall and nodded. As the rest of the party was eating their windberries or drinking their flying potion, Simon ran up the wall, barely touching it with his feet. When he popped over the edge and onto the wide walkway on top, he jumped right in the middle of a three man goblin patrol. Fortunately, he came up behind two of the goblins, and before the sergeant facing him could react, Simon had already cut him in half with his katana. His fighting claw slashed the life from the second goblin, and a well placed kick broke the back of the third, stopping his heart when shards of his spine punctured it. Simon spun to a stop, and noticed the goblins to the north of him getting to their feet, pointing at him and the guards he had just killed. Quick as a thought, Simon activated his ring and teleported behind the goblins who stood staring at the spot he had just vacated. Simon’s katana and fighting claw repeated their eerie dance of death, killing two of the goblins, but his kick merely stunned the third goblin, which through luck or instinct moved out of the way of the killing blow just in time. Spinning, the goblin flailed his arms wildly at Simon, trying to grab him, but a swift cut of his katana silenced the guard forever. By this time, the rest of the party had made it to the top of the wall, but there were no more defenders waiting for them. As the party regrouped, Lasheur heard a voice from the darkness below them.

“Be a good fellow and throw us a rope,” said the voice, in a stage whisper.

Looking over the edge of the wall, Lasheur could make out the form of a dwarf and two elves below them. Taking a rope from his pack, he tied it off to the battlements and threw the end over. Moments later, the newcomers were on the wall next to the party.

“I’m Tolus, and looking for Simon and Lady Trish,” said the dwarf.
Simon came over, “Time enough for introductions later; let’s get off this wall before a patrol comes by to check on these guys.”

With that, the party made their way down to the ground, and stopped where it was marginally safer, away from the wall. “I am Tolus, acolyte of the Earth temple. My compatriots and I arrived in Millglade shortly after you left, and Mother Taesa told us of your quest. We hastened after you, hoping to catch up with you before you had gotten too far.”

“Why have you come so far and fast to help?” asked Simon.

“Well, the short of it is that there are certain artifacts and relics which are rumored to be in the ruins of the Earth temple here which we would like to recover for our head priest. We’ve wanted to mount an expedition for years, but no one was ever foolish enough to go in. Now that someone is, it would be a right shame not to come along,” replied the grinning dwarf.

Simon made quick introductions of Tolus, Lim and Resh, who were his elven associates, to the party. About twenty minutes of travel later, they came to the beginnings of some streets. There was rubble where the buildings that used to stand there had been mostly torn down, although whether it happened during the taking of the city or afterwards was hard to tell. They had seen a few patrols moving around, but they seemed to be quite relaxed and not particularly alert, lucky for the party. Just as they made it to the pavement of the first street, Simon heard a whirring sound coming closer.

“Scatter, get under cover, something’s coming”, hissed Simon.

The party scattered, with Tolus, Lasheur, Lim and Resh taking cover behind the remains of a collapsed archway, while Walac, Trish, Rory, and Hespa took cover between a broken wall and a collapsed building. Itcharat and Simon hid on the opposite side of the broken wall from Walac and Trish. Moments later, a form flew over them about thirty feet off the ground and on bat’s wings, causing each of them to experience a moment of panic as it went by. With an inarticulate scream, Hespa bolted from his hiding spot, running to the eastern side of the compound. With a screech, the flying form began to turn, swooping lower, and allowing the party to get a better look at what they were facing. The creature looked like a smaller form of even the youngest dragon, but as it locked in on the tiny figure of the running man, the party could see it whipping its tail with a venomous spike on the end violently from side to side in anticipation of the coming kill. Hespa, seemingly coming to himself, took cover by a ruined hut, but it was too late, as the wyvern had already spotted him. As it came closer to where Hespa was desperately searching for a place to hide, the creature screeched again, and suddenly its edges became less distinct and began to blur. Itcharat drew back his bow and hit the wyvern, but the arrow merely glanced off its now indistinct hide. Simon drank a shielding potion, and took a shot at the creature with his petrification wand, without effect. The wyvern landed on the remains of the roof of the building Hespa was hiding at, and began snapping down at Hespa. Hespa dodged, and in anger the wyvern whipped its tail over its back, striking the ground between Hespa’s legs as he scrambled to get away. The party’s archers began firing at the wyvern again, but only the shaft that Rory sent into its face seemed to do any damage, and that just caused the creature to scream in rage. Trish pulled Oblivion and Keller’s Razor and rushed the beast, but its sinuous body slipped just out of the reach of her blades as she got close.

“Kill it quickly, we have to get out of here, I can see goblins on wargs coming from the north to investigate the noise,” shouted Tolus from the eastern side of the compound.

Simon cast another shot from the wand of pertification at the wyvern, finally hitting it, as the wyvern suddenly froze in place, and quickly became stone, perched upon the top of the ruined house like a grotesque weathercock. Turning their attention to the incoming goblin patrol, the archers began sending arrows their way once they came within bowshot. On the eastern side of the battle, Resh, Lim, and Tolus all shot wargs out from under their riders, killing two of the riders, with the third making it off his dead mount without injury. To the west, Trish and Simon both ran out and met the column head on, each killing a warg, with the goblin on Simon’s breaking his neck in the fall off his slavering beast. Rory and Walac both came around the rubble and began shooting into the ranks of the goblins and their mounts, killing them where they were able. Lasheur was out in front of the dwarf and other elves, when a bundle flew towards him from the back of the oncoming column. The bundle landed near him, and he could see it was a bundle of skulls which had been tied together with cord and the ragged remnants of their hair. Immediately after it hit, he could see the forms of ghosts rising up from the bundle, and reaching for him. At nearly the same time, another bundle hit at Simon’s feet, and as the ghosts began rising out of the skulls, he went running up the pillar next to him, and came off it some distance away from the ghosts, attacking the leader of the goblin force. The goblin leader cast a spell, and there was a blinding burst of light, as he moved away from Simon. The ghosts had fully formed now, and began spirit combat with Trish Simon, Rory and Lasheur. Lasheur could feel his will to live being sucked from his body as the ghost continuously assaulted him. Lim and Resh attempted disruption spells on the spirit, but there was no noticeable effect on the ghost. Tolus cast an impede Chaos spell, which seemed to slow the attacks some, and gave Lasheur the time he needed to make a concerted effort of will, banishing the ghost before it possessed him. Trish cast ghost blade, and with the help of the spell, banished the ghost on her back to where it had been summoned from. Rory banished his ghost through sheer force of will, leaving only the ghost attacking Simon. Hespa ran towards the melee surrounding Trish in an attempt to help with some of the remaining goblins, missing with the wild swings of his sword. The goblin leader cast another spell, hitting Simon with a pulse of blue light, then hitting him with a sweep of his sword. The cut wasn’t deep, but blood was coming out of Simon’s side as if he had been hit much deeper. Simon also began to feel a great sense of weariness sweep over him. For the second time tonight, Simon activated his teleportation ring to get away from the ghost and the goblin leader.

Suddenly, a booming female voice came from the sky above the combatants, “You fools, you actually came to the ruins? To help those plebes in Millglade?”

Above the battle, Melize the vampiress sat on a creature that had the body of a dragon, and three heads. One of the heads was a dog, one was a dragon, and one was a snake, and they each writhed around independently of the others, taking in the carnage from above.

“You have not won, and you cannot win. You gave us a setback in Millglade, and Lord Nightfang was most displeased. However, I assure you, you will never find what you seek in the caverns, our forces will never stop coming, and those tunnels will become your grave, at least until we see fit to raise you as gibbering ghouls with a taste for human flesh,” she laughed, a rasping sound which seemed as if she still had dirt from the grave in her lifeless throat.

The dog’s head let out a mournful howl, as the dragon’s head spewed forth a burst of flame, illuminating the combat below. “Even now, my forces gather to end your pathetic resistance,” and Melize laughed again. Lasheur cast a spell, took careful aim at Melize, and less than a second later, an arrow sprouted from between her eyes. With a shriek, she wheeled the chimera she was riding away from the battle.

Meanwhile, the goblin leader and the ghost moved south towards Hespa, and with one swift, brutal stroke, the goblin leader cut Hespa down in the middle of the street. As Hespa’s body crumpled to the ground in a heap, Tolus shouted, “We must away! Follow me to the Earth temple, it’s not far. We can’t afford to be pinned down,” and with that, he and his elven companions headed to the east away from the last few goblins.

“In the name of Lord Artol, we must not allow this ghost to remain,” shouted Trish as she cut down the last of the goblins that had surrounded her and advanced towards the spirit.

Walac and Rory came forward to help Trish, shooting down the remaining goblins to enable her to concentrate on the ghost. Two quick shots from Rory killed the goblin patrol leader, as the ghost floated over Hespa’s body with a malevolent grin. With a swift motion, the ghost entered Hespa’s body, and slowly, the thing that used to be Hespa rose with the same grin as the ghost. Trish watched in horror as Hespa’s body plunged his own sword into his heart and crumpled to the ground again as the spirit flew out laughing, “You’re next, bitch of Artol.”

With that, the ghost attacked Trish, but fortunately for her, she still had ghost blade up, and she banished the ghost screaming back to the netherworld from which it came. With no more enemies around, Trish grabbed Hespa’s corpse and with Rory’s help, began to follow the others, towards the Earth temple. As they exited the square, Trish looked back, and saw Lazuri riding dinosaur mounts enter the area and begin looking at the warg and goblin bodies. Later, as the group took a breather, Trish took the time to perform a quick burial ritual on Hespa’s body.

“If we had left him there, they could have used his body to make an undead creature, and they would have loved to use him against us then,” said Trish.

Lasheur said, “Well, all I can say is that you should have seen the face on that vampire when I hit her right between the eyes. She had no idea I could make a long shot like that!”

“It was an excellent shot Lasheur, but vampires are very hard to kill. The only sure ways are by using elementals, sunlight, holy water, or a stake in the chest. When we see her again, and I’m sure we will, all the damage from the arrow will be regenerated, and she’ll look no different than she did before you hit her,” said Trish sadly.

On to Glynn

“You should get some rest now,” said Arrin, “You have been up for some time, and you will need all of your wits about you for the infiltration of the city. I will send for you once our preparations are made, there will be time enough for us to discuss final details then.”

Inderica, Neeth’s daughter said, “You and your group may sleep here, Simon. We have more than enough room, and it is the least I can do if you are going to help our city. Please avail yourselves of our hospitality, to include food and baths. Without your efforts, that imposter would have dragged our family name through the mud forever.”

“Thank you very much,” replied Simon, “I would very much like a bath…”

Hours later, the party was together once again in the sitting room of the house with the rune lord Arrin, and if they weren’t exactly well rested, they were at least better off than they had been originally. Arrin spread a large parchment out on a table as the party gathered around to look. On the parchment was a drawing of a large walled city with a river running through it, separating one quarter of the circle from the rest of the buildings. “This is an old map of Glynn,” began Arrin, “It is sure to have changed by now, but it will give you some idea of the lay of the land. The top portion of the map is old town, where the thieves’ quarter was located.”

“Here,” he continued, pointing to a black mass drawn in almost over the center of the city, “is where the cavern system caved in.”

He indicated the area separated by the river, “This is where the temple quarter of the city was located, which is also near the area we call the river gate. Have you decided which area you think you would prefer to go to make this foray into the caverns?”

“Looking at the map, the obvious choice would be to go for the temple quarter; it’s close to where we are going in, and should be easier to find,” said Simon.

“I agree with you,” nodded the rune lord, “Hopefully there will be enough of the temple left to recognize. Bear in mind that we don’t know exactly where the temple was originally located, so it may be on the outskirts of the temple quarter. This is an old map, and the city fell before I was born, so a lot of information about it has been lost, and others may be inaccurate after being under the control of goblins for so long. Here, on either side of the river, are watchtowers, and though the curtain wall of the city is in severe disrepair, you can bet the green scaly bastards have watchers in these towers. You will have to take the guards out swiftly, and silently.”

“That might be a trick, with the other goblin about,” muttered Rory under his breath.

Arrin looked at Rory, “Goblin, what goblin?”

Trish stood and faced Arrin, “You recognize me as a follower of Lord Artol, and you know our reputation regarding honest dealings.”

“I do,” replied Arrin.

“Then, I tell you that one of our companions is in fact, a goblin. He has travelled with us for some time, and has proven invaluable to our service. He has saved our lives in the past, and has fought beside us against agents of Chaos without fail. You have my word as a follower of Lord Artol,” said Trish.

“Well, I’m counting on it, young lady, but you must bring him before me so I can be sure he isn’t a creature of Chaos,” said Arrin.

A short while later, the group was standing outside town with Itcherat as Arrin cast various spells on him to ensure he was not in league with Chaos. “Very well, Lady Trish, my auguries confirm what you have told me. Itcherat may accompany you on this mission.”

Rory seemed relieved to have confirmation from Arrin that Itcherat didn’t appear to be an agent of Chaos, and relaxed his guard a little around him, though he was clearly still uncomfortable being too close to him. As final preparations were made for departure, Trish discovered that many of the members of Arrin’s company were, in fact, followers of Lord Artol. “I’m not much further along in my training than they are, and yet, they’re keeping me from getting ready by asking me to ‘recount my adventures’. This is likely to be a long trip,” thought Trish.

Finally all of the preparations were made, and the party headed out once again to the wilderness to face the forces of Chaos. After a few hours travel, darkness had settled in on the countryside like a blanket, causing the group to move more slowly than they might have liked. As they came close to a tiny river cutting through a series of small hills, Rory and two of the initiates, Zaos and Igni came running to the head of the column. “We’ve run into big trouble, Lord Arrin,” panted Zaos, “Chaos patrol. It appears the goblins of Glynn have released a horde, with a lot of undead, and you know what that means.”

“Vampires are controlling them,” said Arrin.

“There were at least three flyers,” said Igni.

“And they are headed straight for us,” finished Rory.

Arrin turned to Simon, “We have a choice to make. We can go around, or we can set up an ambush. I, for one, am loathe to let these creatures be on their way; they are sure to be headed out to destroy a village or something of that nature. I would like to take the chance to strike a blow for Order.”

Simon replied, “I agree. Less for us to have to kill later on. Is there any other information about the horde?”

“There are somewhere around thirty or forty creatures in the horde, and at least three fliers, but that is all I can tell you,” said Igni.

The group dismounted, and Itcherat took the horses far enough away from the battle that they wouldn’t be likely to spoil the surprise being prepared for the enemy. The party dispersed on both sides of the river, with Arrin and most of his followers on the north side of the river, and Rory, Simon, Trish, Walac, Lasheur, Igni, and Argath on the south side. Walac and Lasheur set up on the top of a small hillock, and Rory, Igni, and Argath set up on a hillock opposite them in an effort to catch the enemy in a cross fire. Simon and Trish hid in the trees at the bottom of the hill Walac and Lasheur chose, and they all waited for the enemy to come.

The first thing the party became aware of was a whirring sound coming closer, and moments later, the smell of the undead filled their nostrils as winged ghouls came flying lazily by, scouting the path ahead for the horde. In the middle distance, a glow was steadily approaching, as the horde drew closer. Long minutes ticked by as the party stayed as still as they could, scarcely daring to breathe for fear of being heard. Suddenly, the shape of goblins riding wargs crested a hill nearby, and the source of the light was revealed to be the flaming kushna; demonic dogs known to spew flame from their mouths, riding on the outside of the goblin column. Behind them were a small contingent of varl and kur, with a few elite kur berserkers striding confidently behind. Following the dog men, skeletal archers lurched silently beside stalking ghouls and two flaming skulls floated silently at the end of the column, like the flaming eyes of a beast advancing into the darkness. The warg riders crossed the river, and as the front of the column got to the area where the last of Arrin’s men was hidden, Arrin gave a loud shout and let fly with his arrow. The air was filled with a sound like angry bees as his men let loose their arrows on the column. The four kushna were the first to fall, as the men knew to aim at them first because of the way their flaming breath could cut through large groups in a matter of seconds. The goblins began to mill about in confusion, not sure what was happening, and surprised to see arrows sprouting out of the kushnas as if by magic. The wargs, sensing the confusion of their riders were leaping about and snapping in the air at imaginary enemies, adding to the chaotic scene. The second volley saw Arrin take aim at one of the goblin riders, unseating him as the arrow pierced through his chest plate and into his heart. Two more of the goblins were killed as arrows slammed into them, knocking them dead from their wolf mounts.

Meanwhile, at the rear of the column, Argath, Lasheur, Walac, and Igni took aim at the kur berserkers, and when they heard the attack begin at the front of the column, they let fly with their arrows. The first volley saw arrows sprout out of the kur armor, causing them to crouch and look around them in surprise, but they didn’t damage the tough warriors. Rory cast a multimissile spell, and within moments, the berserker to the south of the column had three arrows sprouting from vital organs, but he was still thrashing about trying to find a target. Simon rushed from his hiding spot at the sounds of the arrows hitting the berserkers, and thrusting his fire wand in front of him, cast a cone of fire at the kur warriors and varl who were just crossing the stream. The larger kur were closer to his hiding spot, and as he rushed forward, they leapt nimbly out of the way of the flame, even as six of their smaller bretheren were incinerated on the spot. Agrath let fly a second arrow, and this one flew truer than the first, slamming into the throat of the berserker Rory had injured, finally killing him. Trish charged the berserker that was left, her rune blades cutting the berserker across his midsection as he narrowly avoided being eviscerated. Simon back pedaled and ran beside a column of skeletal archers, who had stopped in a straight line, momentarily unable to find a target. Simon coaxed his wand to light again, and flames lit the night as it blew away three of the four skeletons in front of him.

Having lost the element of surprise, Trish quickly found her and Simon surrounded by howling ghouls, and a momentary panic seized her. One of the ghouls slashed at Simon with claws like razors, and cut him down his side, wounding him badly. Trish dodged as a ghoul’s hands slammed harmlessly off her chain mail. Lasheur and Walac both let fly arrows at the remaining berserker, but the arrows flew harmlessly by as the creature dodged with an uncanny sixth sense of where the arrows were coming from. The berserker slashed at Trish, but one of the ghouls got in the way of his hit and the blow glanced away harmlessly. Rory took out a kur warrior with a well placed shot, just as a burst of flame lit up the world around him. The flame skulls had cast fireball spells at where Rory and Trish were standing. Fortunately, the surrounding brush had saved most of them from the effect of the fireball, but Igni was injured, and Agrath was either unconscious or dead. Trish was still smoldering from the blast when she slashed out with Oblivion, and took the berserker’s life, while Keller’s Razor struck down one of the ghouls. Simon’s katana and fighting claw took down two of the ghouls near him, as Rory let loose an arrow, killing one of the flame skulls in a shower of burning bone. Walac took aim at the remaining flame skull, but the arrow bounced off the grinning visage without damage. Lasheur’s shot, just a moment after, took the smile from the creature’s face for all eternity.

The flying ghouls at the front of the column, hearing the melee, came flying back at speed, and began flying around the heads of the defenders like giant, repulsive moths. Alfward unseated another goblin with a well placed arrow, and Zaos, standing next to him put an arrow through the wing of one of the flyers, causing it to swoop low to the ground and gibber horribly at him. The other Chaos fighters continued firing at the goblins, steadily unseating them as they attempted to control their terrified mounts. Suddenly, a troop of the skeletal archers began firing into the melee, attempting to kill the living without discrimination between friend and foe. The fliers began to swarm around the head of Zede and Larth near Mother Taesa, striking Larth down. Mother Taesa moved close to Zede and went into a trance to cast a group defense spell, which caused the two fliers above Zede’s head to explode in a mass of bloody, undead flesh which then rained down on the combatants. Zede carefully guided Mother Taesa to where the remaining flyers were, as she maintained her trance. Sayis paused briefly after killing one of the riderless wargs to cast a turn undead spell on the flying ghouls, and with a shriek, one of them fell to the ground and didn’t move again. As the other one turned to fly away from Sayis, it flew directly into the path of Mother Taesa’s defense spell, and with a small explosion, all of the fliers were down.

Skeletal archers began to fire at the human, elven and lir archers, wounding Lasheur, even as their numbers were being thinned by arrows coming in. As Simon was spinning around killing the remaining kur, one kur slipped in behind him and planted a dagger in his back, and through his kidney. Simon yelled and with a single cut sliced the dog man in two, but the damage was already done. With a grimace, he activated his teleportation ring and appeared at the side of Mother Taesa, who had just come out of her trance. Upon materializing, Simon fell to the ground, and lay still. Mother Taesa dropped to her knees beside him, and gently removing the dagger, began casting healing spells to repair the wound. The battle was finally finishing up, with the forces of Chaos clearly the loser. Walac and Lasheur laughed as they picked off the remaining varl who had attempted to flee the field, boasting on who had the cleaner kills. Agrath and Larth were recovered and they, along with the other wounded, were brought to Mother Taesa to be healed. As the group went around to ensure there were no enemies left alive (or undead), Alfward came up to Trish and said, “Lady Trish, my fellows and I would be proud to follow you, even to the Crypts of Xaar!”

Arrin said, “An impressive victory for the forces of Order against the spawn of Chaos. I feel certain this is a good omen for our quest to the city of Glynn!”

Millglade Part 2

The party caught their breath at the end of the hallway as Simon examined the door.

“It’s locked,” said Simon.

“Let me take a look at it,” said Walac, pulling his lock picks from his pack as he stepped forward. After inspecting the lock for a moment, he pulled the appropriate implements from amongst his tools and began to work on the lock. With a sudden click, the lock opened and a bolt of energy surrounded the Lir, throwing him backwards.

“I’m ok, but I do need to remember to check for traps before I start picking locks next time,” he said ruefully as he stood and retrieved his picks, “That could have been really bad.”

Simon checked to ensure that the party was ready, and with a swift move, kicked the unlatched door open. The stone door crashed to the side, revealing a large cavern, with pits in the floor between the party and an altar on a raised dais on the far side. Creatures could be seen crawling out of the pits; some appeared to be zombies and others ghouls. Magic circles were inscribed at various points around the room, one in front of the dais, two near the north and south walls, and one directly in front of Simon. There were ghosts floating above the circles to the north and south, flaming skulls floating over the circle in front of the altar, and there were two grotesque bone lords standing in the circle in the middle, with a pit on either side. On the dais was a large, obese man and some of the city guard.
“You fools have destroyed my millstone, but you have also condemned the village!” said Neeth the Fat.

Rory exclaimed, “That’s Neeth the Fat, the miller, but… we just passed his body on the way down here!”

“We’ll have time to figure it out later, but now we must fight!” replied Walac, as he took careful aim with his bow and sent a shaft towards one of the flaming skulls. He was rewarded for his effort by watching the skull explode into a million flaming shards.

Rory shot at one of the bone lords as Trish rushed in to engage them, but neither of their attacks were effective against the large creatures. As Simon engaged the other bone lord, he could see skeletons climbing out of some of the pits, in addition to the zombies and ghouls he had already seen. Missing the bone lord with a cut from his katana, Simon concentrated and formed a mirror image of himself on the dais behind the miller and his guards. Trish and Simon both staggered momentarily as the ghosts in the magic circles attempted to cast disruption spells on them. As they recovered from resisting the effects of the spell, the remaining flaming skull flew across one of the pits and into position in front of them and opening its mouth impossibly wide, spewed forth a cone of fire. Simon dodged away from the cone, but Trish yelled as the fire engulfed her before she could completely get out of the way. The bone lord nearest Simon swung at him, hitting him a glancing blow, but doing no real damage. Trish cast a protection spell, and took a hasty swing at the bone lord she was engaged with, which cost her dearly as the flaming skull hit her again with a blast of fire.

The soldiers near the altar formed a living shield around the fat man, and Neeth completed his spell, putting a magical wall in front of him and his guards, about chest high. Walac paused from his shooting when he noticed Neeth cast another spell while touching one of the guards. The guard appeared to age and wither before Walac’s eyes, and Neeth began to glow with an eerie green light. In that instant, Simon cast a spell and switched places with his mirror image, placing him directly behind the fat man. With a flash of his katana, Neeth fell to the ground, dead. Simon swung his fighting claw around and killed the withered guard before any of them had even registered the fact of Neeth’s death. Two ghosts that looked like ancient vampires flew out of the altar and began to attack Simon spiritually as a ghoul came up from behind and took a swipe at him, missing by mere inches. Unable to attack the ghosts physically, Simon spun on his heel and cut the ghoul in half with his katana, and killed another of the guards as he came rushing in by punching through his heart with his fighting claw. The skeletons that had climbed out of the pit let fly a volley of arrows indiscriminately at anyone they could get a shot on, with one of the arrows wounding Simon, and another killing the remaining guard.

One of the bone lords stalked towards the hallway, where Rory, Walac and Lasheur were as two zombies shambled through the doorway, narrowly missing Walac with its swipe. Rory let fly with an arrow, which whizzed past the zombies, shattering the flaming skull attacking Trish. Lasheur changed his point of aim and executed a head shot on one of the zombies that was attacking Walac, dropping it to the ground, dead. Walac shot at the bone lord as it stooped to come into the hallway, wounding it just as Rory took down the remaining zombie near him. Walac and Lasheur both shot again as the bone lord advanced down the passage, missing it. Rory took careful aim and shattered the bone lord when his arrow struck it in the eyesocket and removed the skeletal head from the shoulders of the creature, causing it to fall into a heap of moldering bone.

Meanwhile, zombies and a ghoul had surrounded Trish as they crawled out of the pits near where she was engaged with the remaining bone lord. Executing a double slash from her rune swords, Trish destroyed the bone lord, and was avoiding the slow swipes of the zombies when Simon appeared nearby, having teleported away from the ghosts at the altar. Trish swept the head from one of the zombies nearest her and just missed taking the head from a second one. Simon, disoriented from the teleportation, yelled in pain as one of the zombies grabbed him and bit into his neck, wounding him severely. Trish concentrated and a flash came from the injured area of Simon’s neck as she cast a healing spell on him. Having healed her companion, each of her rune swords claimed another undead victim. As all of the heroes continued fighting for their lives, Trish yelled, “The undead keep coming up from the pits! We can’t hold them off forever, it has to be something to do with the altar; we have to destroy it!”

Walac moved out of the hallway to help Trish, casting a spirit shield spell to help her against the ghosts. Then, almost as if confirming Trish’s opinion about the tide of the fight, a group of zombies attacked Lasheur and Rory from the hallway behind them. As his companions continued to fight and kill the waves of undead crawling up from the pits, Simon teleported once again to the dais. He began to smash the altar with his katana, and after a few swipes, the altar shattered like glass with a brilliant flash of light. Arising from the debris of the broken altar, two more ghosts formed and began to wail, “Defiler of the altar! You will die!”

Meanwhile, the two vampire ghosts had chased Simon to near where Trish was, and robbed of their prey by his teleportation, they turned their attention to her. Trish’s spirit overcame one of the ghosts, banishing it, as the other reduced her will to fight slightly. As Trish cast ghost blade, she noticed that no more creatures seemed to be swarming up from the pits. With a grim smile, she wounded the ghost, but her triumph was turned to despair as one of the skeletons’ arrows thumped into her side, injuring her badly. Simon teleported back to Trish, both to help her survive and as a way to get away from the ghosts at the altar, which he could not injure either with his weapons or with his training as a Bandar warrior. Appearing next to Trish, Simon thrust out with his hands and pushed one of the zombies back into the pit it had crawled out from. Trish attacked the remaining ghost near her and banished it, running a ghoul through with Oblivion as she did so. As the ghoul dropped dead at her feet, the two ghosts from the ruined altar flew towards her, attacking her spirit as they did so. They found that the follower of Lord Artol was not an easy mark, however, as she banished each of them on the spot using her ghost blade.

Several minutes later as the last of the seemingly endless horde of undead dropped to the floor dead once again, the party took stock of its injuries. Fortunately, Rory had some skills with herbs and minor healing, and was able to patch up the worst of the injuries, including pulling the arrow from Trish’s side. While the injured were being tended to, Walac searched the enormous room, beginning with the fat man. “Hey, this guy was wearing a disguise,” he shouted to the others, “That’s why we had two ‘Neeth the Fats’!”

Walac found a note on the body, a suit of fine silver chainmail, a suit of fine leather armor under the chainmail, a crystal pendant and a wand. He laid these items off to the side of the bodies and continued to search the rest of the room, finding nothing else of value. Walac finished searching the room at roughly the same time that Rory finished with taking care of the wounded, and the party all gathered on the dais. There was a sarcophagus that appeared to have been in the process of having runes carved into it there. “I didn’t want to mess with this until you were finished,” said Walac, “With everything else in this room, who knows what might jump out of it if we open it.”

Simon went to the sarcophagus and gave the lid a shove, causing it to fall to the floor and break. Nothing was inside the stone coffin. Having determined that nothing was likely to attack, Walac turned his attention to the note he found on the false Neeth, which read: Neeth, You have done well, and are an apt pupil. Your mill wheel is an amazing artifact and a testament to your skill and dedication. The old Journeyman ruin you found below the city is a perfect breeding ground. Just fifty more souls and you will be ready for your ceremony. Are you ready to live forever in service to Mortalan? Our lord will be most pleased. In Death and Blood, Wersil the Nightfang. “Wait a minute,” said Simon, “Mortalan, isn’t that the god of vampires and the undead?”

“Yes,” said Trish, “It appears we interrupted this fellow’s plans to become a vampire. That’s probably what he was doing with the sarcophagus.”

“Well, in that case, I think we should make sure he doesn’t succeed in his designs. We should give him the same treatment as a vampire to ensure there’s no way he can come back from the dead,” replied Simon.

As Simon went to work cutting the head from the false miller and setting the body on fire, Trish inspected each of the pits, finding nothing alive (or undead) to deal with. She began to say the funeral rites of Lord Artol, as was expected when his servants were unclear on the religious affiliation of the souls they were putting to rest. After this was completed, the party examined the magic circles, and came to the conclusion that they were part of the Journeyman area, rather than something the vampires or the miller had put in place. They were unable to damage them or even make any marks in the floor surrounding where they had been placed. “If only we had a gnome,” said Rory, “Then we could have it destroy the whole area, including these foul marks.”

Simon brightened at the idea, “As it happens, Rory, I do have an item that has a gnome bound to it. I hate to lose it, but I’d hate to leave this place here for anyone to use.”

Moving the party to a safe location in the hallway, Simon cast the spell to bring forth the gnome. In a flash of light, there stood a wizened looking old man, only much smaller than a man, smaller even than Walac. “Your wish, master?” croaked the creature, “I would do your bidding quickly so I may leave quickly. I have been trapped for so very long.”

Simon replied, “I wish you to destroy the room beyond this stone doorway, paying specific attention to burying the bodies in the pits, and completely obliterating the magic circles within the room to prevent anyone from ever being able to use them again.”

With a curt bow, the creature said, “It will be as you wish it, master, and when I am finished, my service to you is ended.”

At that, the creature sank into the ground, and a shaking began in the cavern beyond the door. Rocks began to fall from the ceiling of the cavern, and the ground broke apart and thrust up from the floor through the magic circles, causing them to crackle with electricity briefly then vanish. Finally, with a booming crash, the ceiling and the floor met in the middle, sealing the cavern for all time. Having ensured that Chaos could never use the Journeyman ruins again, the party headed back down the tunnel to the stairs they passed by earlier. Simon went first, and as he got to the top of the stairs, opened the door into a luxuriously outfitted room that smelled exactly like the undead. Finding themselves on the unoccupied second floor of a manor house, the party decided not to split up and headed down the northwest stairs. Descending into the kitchen of the house, the cook saw them and headed towards them with a meat cleaver. “Who are you and what are you doing in the master’s house,” he said.

“We are adventurers who have just come from defeating creatures of Chaos,” replied Simon, “Who is your master?”
“My master is Neeth, the Miller,” replied the chef as more servants began to appear at the doorway to the kitchen, drawn by the ruckus the chef was causing.

“I’m going for the guard!” yelled one of the servants as he turned and ran out the front door of the house.

“Please do that, we’ll wait here for them,” replied Simon, “In the meantime, please accept my condolences, as your master is dead.”

At that, a girl of about seventeen near the entrance to the sitting room burst out crying. “I knew something was wrong,” she said between sobs, “Father hasn’t been himself lately, and with all of those strange men coming and going…”

The butler gently led the girl into the sitting room and had her sit on a couch. The party followed into the room to await the coming of the guard. After a matter of minutes, broken only by the crying of Neeth’s daughter, the city guard came in, followed by a man and a woman who were obviously rune lords. Behind the rune lords were two villagers who seemed to be desperately trying to avoid anyone’s notice. The male rune lord stepped forward, “I am Aarin Stormvoice, priest of Vorthod. I know that something is wrong in this village, because Sasha and Tirfa,” here he waved at the two frightened villagers, “came and convinced my commander to send us to investigate the goings on. Who can clear up what has happened here?”

Simon stepped forward and introduced himself and each of the party in turn. After being introduced to Mother Taesa, the female rune lord, Simon recounted the tale of what had transpired since their arrival in town the night before. After the discussion, Simon led them to the mill, where they inspected the destroyed millstone, as well as some of the tainted meal that had been scattered to prevent it being used again. Mother Taesa directed them to return to the house of Neeth while they examined the villagers. In the late afternoon, Mother Taesa and Arrin Stormvoice returned to the house. “The news is grim,” said Mother Taesa, “I’ve found that the villagers with the red ‘x’ on their hands have been eating this tainted bread for some time. As a result, they will die if they quit eating the bread, and become undead creatures themselves.”

“There is a slim hope, however,” said Arrin, “Beneath the ruins of Glynn there is a fungus that is reputed to grow there that would have a chance of being able to cure this village of the curse brought forth by the bread. The ruins of Glynn are controlled by goblins, and my force of ten is not sufficient to attempt to retrieve this cure.”

Rory interjected, “I’ve scouted near there before, and the goblins do not often guard the river gate. That might afford a way into the city for a small group.”

Arrin reflected on this information, “This is true. My men and I could create a diversion that would draw the goblins attention away from that gate, but it’s dependent upon you and your band, Simon. I would not abandon these people to a fate of becoming undead creatures of Chaos.”

“We will help, just tell us what to do,” said Simon.

“Thank you,” said Arrin, “The city of Glynn was built over a natural cavern system that extends deep into the earth. Once inside the city through the river gate, there are three entrances to the cave system. The first is a large sinkhole which opened up in the city square about 35 years ago. This will drop you hundreds of feet down into the caverns; the climb would be long and perilous.”

Arrin continued, “The next possibility is to go through the ruined earth temple which was said to have kept an underground zoo of burrowing creatures. The legend is that the earth priests set these creatures loose on the attackers during the fall of the city. It is thought that the earth temple priests had discovered the caverns and moved their temple altar there to draw power directly from the earth. Some of the legends state that these priests dwell there still, fighting the chaos that claimed their city and temple.”

“Finally,” finished the rune lord, “The old thieves’ quarter connects to the sewers. Legend has it that the thieves found the caverns early on while excavating secret tunnels under the city streets. The guild moved their headquarters into the caverns. This entrance is unknown and you would have to explore the ruins of the old quarter to find an entrance to the sewers and attempt to seek out the guild’s catacombs. It will be up to you to decide the best course of action, and of course we will help you plan as best as we can with what knowledge we have of the area.”

Mother Taesa said, “Now, we must make our preparations with as much haste as we can, for I fear the lives of the villagers is to be measured in days. Five, to be precise, if my reckoning is correct, for that is when the bread that is keeping them alive will run out.”

As the planning commenced, the rune lords were able to identify the items taken from the fake miller. The wand was a wand of petrification with six charges, and the crystal pendant contained a spell resistance crystal. “Let me see your ring, Simon,” said Arrin, “Tell me, where did you get it?”

Simon replied, “In the Stonerim Mountains, I found it during one of our adventures there.”

“Ahh,” replied Arrin, “That explains much, as I recognize this ring from my studies of the Journeymen. This ring is referenced in a number of ancient Journeymen documents in the Vaults of Eman. It was thought to have been forged to imprison four ancient elemental lords. The journeyman who wore it was a prince or king that could appear anywhere on the great disk at anytime and was known to rain great storms down upon his enemies. He was cornered near the Stonerim Mountains. Even though he summoned one of the elemental lords from the ring, he was slain and the ring fell into the hands of his enemies. This is a powerful relic, Simon, and though you have used it to teleport short distances, I believe that you could possibly use it to be able to teleport anywhere you wish on the disc, if the legends are true.”

“Thank you for the information,” said Simon, stunned.

“Have you ever heard of the vampire in this note?” interrupted Walac, showing Arrin the note from Wersil the Nightfang.

“That is not a name I am familiar with, little one,” replied Arrin, “But the Crypts of Xaar is a vampire nest, and it is quite close to here. Perhaps that will be a mission for another time.”


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