Shades of Shadora

Dagaral Returns

Trish, Simon, and Susi stepped through the mirror into a room full of broken furniture and litter. Three men were looking out a crack in the door to the room. “I can’t wait to change and become more powerful,” said one, a skinny, dirty looking man.

“Ye’ll probly be one o’ them rats, by the look of ye,” the big man beside him laughed, slapping him hard on the back, “I does wonder if it’ll hurt, though,” he added quietly.

The big man never found out whether being turned to a malamorph would hurt or not, as Trish’s blade slid between his ribs and up into his heart. Simon’s katana took out the second and third man before they registered what had happened to their friend. Simon stepped towards the door and listened for a moment. He heard a voice say, “Mr. Tussman, we must away, we wouldn’t want to miss the feast of Dagaral, now, would we?” followed by raucous laughter.

Simon opened the door, and slipped out onto the landing, casting an invisibility spell on himself as he went through. He was on the second floor of a large home, and could see that the furnishings throughout the place had been carefully and systematically destroyed. Paintings hung on the wall askew, with slashes through them, furniture was smashed and piled in heaps, and the walls had been gashed, whether by weapons or inhuman claws could not be determined. Once at the edge of the landing, he could see a group of people, some who appeared to be city guards, standing on the first floor. A butler came in carrying cloaks for the man and woman who stood in the center of the guards. “Good Morning,” called Simon, letting his invisibility drop.

The man spun to face him, “What are you doing in my house?”

Simon replied, “I’m afraid you are in league with malamorphs, and I’ll have to kill you, unless you can convince me otherwise”.

At that moment, Simon realized that he had seen the man, his wife and the butler before. They had been among the townsfolk that had been released from the mirror. Simon jumped from the landing, and struck the man with his katana, wounding him. As soon as the weapon touched the man, the Malam’s bane the priests had put on his weapon while they released the prisoners of the mirror took effect, and in his place stood one of the hideous thought eaters, tentacles waving from his chin. Simon pushed the woman to the side, knocking her off balance, and killing her with a single strike of his blade. The body that hit the floor was not a woman at all, but another of the thought eaters.

Having heard the sounds of battle, Trish exited the room and ran down the staircase, and was met by one of the guards. She struck out with Oblivion, and the man transformed into a man wolf before her eyes. Susi shot at another guard, who turned into a man rat, clutching the arrow that had lanced through his throat.

With a roar, the butler dropped the cloaks and transformed into a man bear, and with their disguises now worthless, the rest of the guards transformed into their respective forms, as man rats and man wolves. A crossbow bolt slashed across Susi’s arm, and he could feel the poison from the bolt begin to weaken him. As Trish’s blade cut the lower jaw from the man wolf she faced, killing him, Simon dodged the clumsy attack of the former butler, slashing down and killing the thought eater. “Noooo,” roared the man bear, as he went berserk and landed a flurry of blows on Simon, wounding him badly.

“Bandar, heal me, and allow me to carry on the battle against the agents of Chaos!” cried Simon, staggering backwards. A golden glow enveloped Simon, who briefly took on the aspect of Bandar, and his wounds were gone!

Two man rats scrambled at Trish as she came to aid Simon, and she slashed as she stepped sideways, cutting one of the creatures completely in half, and spun around hitting the man bear with her second blade. Simon rolled under the arms of the man bear, and carved a crude ‘s’ on his leg. Trish spun low, and cut the man bear’s feet out from under him, killing it, and stood up, killing a man rat with a back swipe from her sword.

The remaining man wolf came charging up the stairs at Susi, who fired an arrow at the creature. The man wolf yelped as the arrow bit deep into the flesh of his shoulder, but continued to bound up the stairs. Susi dropped his bow, drawing his axe, and sank the blade deep into the creature’s side. As the creature dropped at his feet, the first of the priests came through the door having made it through the mirror on the other side. Father Lucan pointed at the green band on his arm, “Sorry we’re late, we decided we needed a way to distinguish us from our mirrored forms!”

The party left the house, and found themselves on the coreward side of the town, but the town was deserted. “Everybody has gone to the temple for the feast,” said Simon, “We need to get to the temple, but some of you need to go to the Menagerie to make sure they don’t release any more of the animals!”

Simon, Trish, Susi, and a group of the priests and townsfolk headed toward the temple. They could hear the activity before they saw it, with music coming from inside the temple. The palisade outside contained the majority of the town, and temple initiates stood at the doors to both the temple and the palisade, greeting the townsfolk. Susi fired an arrow at a guard nearest the gate to the palisade, and as soon as the Malam’s Bane touched him, he transformed into a man rat. People nearby began to scream and run towards the temple in a panic, and a second guard dropped his disguise, revealing that he was also a man rat. As Susi and Trish engaged the man rats, Simon used his training to go over the palisade wall, and ran across the top of the sea of people in the courtyard until he arrived on the temple steps. Simon ran into the temple proper and saw Father Vargas standing with a number of the temple priests, including Father Lucan. “Father Vargas, they’re malamorphs,” shouted Simon.

Simon teleported behind Father Lucan and cut him down with his katana, and the body turned into that of a thought eater. “You were right, Simon!” called Father Vargas.

Simon began to cut down the false priests, who began changing into their malamorph forms. As they moved to surround him, a shout from behind caused them to pause. Simon could see the form of the Jade King, spinning and leaping while he chanted a dwarven war song, as he cut down a man bear with his great axe, and the townspeople were close behind him.

Susi killed the man rat he was fighting, and as Trish worked to finish off hers, he sprang into the air, flew to the top of the gate and perched where he could better see the crowd within the palisade. Within the confines of the great wooden fence, he could see that the malamorphs had given up their charade, transforming and beginning to cut down as many people as they could. He could see man wolves and man rats consuming their still living victims, and took aim at one man rat about to kill a child, putting an arrow through the creature’s eye and killing him instantly. Another arrow took down one of the thought eaters, and he could see Trish wading into the fray, having finally dispatched the man rat guard.

Simon and the Jade King were killing machines, dropping one after another of the malamorphs. Simon could feel the stab of a mind spear hitting him, and he shouted, “I can feel the power of the Jade King flowing through me! I don’t fear your puny mind attacks,” as his katana slashed across the throat of one of the thought eaters, severing its head from its neck.

The Jade King called out to Simon with a laugh, “Well done, boy! They go down just as easy as they used to!”

Suddenly, a confused look came to the face of the Jade King, and he looked down at the sword blade that had burst through his chest. He fell to the floor lifeless, and Father Vargas looked Simon in the eye as he pulled the sword from the dwarf’s body, then turned and ran. Simon threw his sashi in the air, rolled past the claws of a man wolf and grabbed the Jade King’s axe, which he then lodged in the creature’s spine. He dropped the haft of the axe and caught the sashi in his off hand , walking towards the temple entrance without looking back as the body hit the ground behind him.

Priests rushed to the side of the Jade King, but he was beyond their help, the assassin had done his job well. Father Vargas couldn’t be found and all of his mercenaries were gone as well. Prospero and Ellisandra came back to the temple some hours later, and that was when the party found that there had been some trouble at the menagerie. Some creatures had been set free, but they were quickly contained, and the ones responsible dealt with swiftly and harshly. The Jade King was given another burial, this time in a prominent place within the temple. Simon took his axe to bring to the dwarves as proof of his death, so they could recover his body.

Over the next tenday, the freed priests and the townspeople began to restore the temple to its former glory. The party helped with the cleanup, and largely due to their efforts, the townsfolk also helped Father Ray to restore the Temple of All Faiths in town. Simon gave Father Ray a sizeable amount of jade from the tomb of the Jade King. “Thank you so much, Simon,” said Father Ray draping an arm around Simon’s shoulders, “Now, let’s talk about gilding for the sun dome”.

“I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do,” said Father Lucan. “We’ve tried everything that we know, but we can’t cure the disease in Susi and Trish. We will supply you with as many of the leaves as we can, but eventually, the curse is going to take you. I am truly sorry”.

“We also don’t have more time to stay,” said Prospero, “Captain Ward won’t wait forever, we need to get to Horn Cove and deal with the pirates and the necromancer. If there’s nothing more we can do here, then we must be away”.

The party gathered their things and went to the homing platform. There were a number of people there, either waiting to go, or wanting to see them off. Two Feathers met Simon as they walked up the path to the platform. “Old friend, glad to see you again,” said Simon, “Perhaps you and your men could come and train recruits in the Kingdom of Broad Shoulders to be scouts.”

“Only if they are better students than you, Simon,” agreed Two Feather, “We will come as soon as the way is clear.”

Gnorl and Urzul walked by on their way to the platform, “And should you ever have need of us, we will bring Calamity with us, along with as many warriors as will come!”

As the party waited for their turn at the platform, a voice called out from behind them, “Come here, I would have a word with you”.

Simon and the others turned and saw the old man, Ian leaning on his staff. They followed him into the room he was standing in front of. “So, it appears that Dagaral does dwell in the temple?” he said with a chuckle.

The air rippled in front of him with raw power, and suddenly Dagaral himself stood before them! “You have saved my temple, and restored the faith of my people. This is a gift not easily given. First, I will cleanse you of the curse”.

Dagaral waved his hand and Trish and Susi could feel the curse lift from their souls. “Additionally, you will each gain aid from the beasts of the forest, and I grant you each a companion”.

An eagle flew from the rafters and perched on Susi’s shoulder, a ferret poked its head out of Simon’s pouch, and a wolf walked from behind Dagaral to Trish, licked her hand, and sat down beside her. “I thank you again for your service…”

“I request a boon, Dagaral,” interrupted Simon.

Dagaral looked at Simon, “Really? What would you ask for, follower of Bandar?”

“One thing,” replied Simon, “Give me the ability to track Father Vargas, I would pay him back for his treachery”.

Dagaral chuckled, “Well asked, Simon. Father Vargas is due to pay for his transgressions”.

Dagaral held out his hand and gave Simon the compass he had given the dragon earlier on. “Now, it will track both the Sword Which Should Not Be Drawn, as well as Father Vargas. You can decide which. Bless you all.”

Dagaral vanished in a flash of light, leaving the party and their new companions alone in the room. They went to the homing platform, and when it was their turn, they stood on the platform and Prospero and Ellisandra began their spells. As they began to fade out, Ellisandra cried out, “No, Wait!”

View
Mirrors!

Free from the choking smoke and the swarms of insects, Simon and Trish crept down the narrow hallway. They came to a set of columns with two of the now familiar braziers smoking outside of them. Through the columns they could see two sarcophagi and a chest in the back of the room. “Should we check out the chest?” asked Simon.

Trish thought a moment before answering, “No, let’s keep after the ones we’ve followed. There will be time enough to check for treasure later, but we’re running out of time to find our enemies. Besides, if they come back while we’re in a trap, like the last room we were in, we’ll be in real trouble”.

Simon nodded, and continued down the hallway, following the tracks in the dust. After turning left at the junction of the rooms, they found Colby standing outside a room that appeared to be an armory. In addition to rows of weapons in racks along the walls, there were various jade statues, all in martial poses. Four were in the corners of the room, and the one in the center showed a bearded man holding aloft a sword triumphantly, as if he had just vanquished a host of foes. The party continued on, aware that time was running out for Trish.

The next room, to their right, had an unbroken layer of ancient dust covering the floor, and the braziers were not lit, so they continued on to the next one. This room had four statues, again in the corners of the room, each holding a lit brazier, and there was a pedestal against one wall. The hallway took a right turn, and ended at a cavern wall. Colby searched for a secret passage, as the footprints stopped at the wall, but if there was one, he wasn’t able to locate the trigger. “Let’s see if there is a trigger in one of the other rooms,” suggested Trish.

The party cautiously entered the room with the book, stepping in the footprints left by the others that had gone through the room. “Lift me up, I want to see the book,” said Colby.

Trish lifted the Lir up and he began to read aloud. “I, Cedric the Sage, proclaim that we have laid the Jade King to rest on this day, may the Elements watch over him. In the twilight of his life, our master’s purpose in life was to locate such tools as the Journeymen left to the world. When he had collected such of these as he deemed necessary for his works, he began to search the world for mirrors. His retainers cried, ‘O, Great King, why are you searching for mirrors?’ to which the Jade King would reply (if he deigned to notice their pleas), ‘The mirrors reflect life, but they are also portals to immortality. I must have more’. In his final days, our Lord had his pallet laid in front of the mirrors, where he would stare at his reflection and hold conversations, as if with an old friend….”

“There’s more here, but I need to get closer to turn the page,” said Colby.

Trish moved away from the pedestal and placed the Lir on the floor, “Better that we don’t touch it, Colby, we’ve already sprung one trap that almost got us as it is”.

Colby led the way into the next room, which was empty, except for two jade statues standing in the corners. He went between the statues through the door to the other room. As Trish entered the room, a door crashed down behind them, shaking the floor. The statues to her right began to move, bringing their spears and shields into a fighting stance as they lumbered from the corners of the room. Moments later, both statues had been shattered, their broken bodies added to the rubble on the floor. “Hey guys,” called Colby from the next room, “I’ve got a problem here!”

Simon and Trish rushed to the door, and could see two more statues moving towards Colby, only these had what looked like veins of lava in them. Simon attacked the closest one, but barely dodged out of the way when it leaned towards him and vomited a stream of lava at him. The lava hit the floor and spread out, making a large heated puddle towards the middle of the room. Simon’s next attack shattered the statue’s face, sending it to the ground with a concussion that broke its body apart. He followed up with his sashi and a kick that crushed the remaining statue. Trish went back to check the door behind them, and Colby called from the next room, “Simon, we have more statues!”

Trish ran past the remains of the defeated statues, coming into the room where Simon was already engaged with the new enemies. These statues were made of metal, with sparks crackling from their eyes and mouth and steam coming from their ears. Thick, oily smoke poured from a hole between their shoulder blades as they staggered unsteadily forward. Trish engaged the one closest to her, but her blades merely sparked off the metal skin of the statues. With a flurry of attacks, Simon destroyed one after another of the statues, until there were none left to fight.

Colby scampered to the upper wall of the room, “Look! A chest!!”

He pulled out his lockpicks and set to work on the chest. There was a click, then the lid of the chest flew open, and tentacles sprang from the sides of the chest. It was actually a living creature, which was dragging Colby into its open maw. A few swift strikes with Simon’s katana left the creature dead and sagging on the floor, and Colby safe, but panting, beside it. When the creature died, all of the treasure it carried inside it spilled out, with at least 3000 talons worth of small pieces of jade, as well as a potion and a suit of chainmail. Simon placed as much of the treasure as he could into his pack and the party exited the room into the corridor.

A few feet into the corridor, and the party could make out a shape in the darkness ahead. Trish’s Journeyman candle didn’t reach far enough for her or Simon to make out what it was, but Colby’s night vision could. “Gnorl,” he called, “How did you get here?”

The figure was indeed Gnorl, who was kneeling over a badly injured Urzul. The big troll sighed, “Our temple sent us to get the spear, Calamity. We can’t enter the room, though, it’s protected against Darkness. That’s how Urzul got hurt. Her staff can turn off the automatic defenses, but can’t do anything against the ward”.

“Why did you leave us?” asked Simon.

“This was our task,” said Gnorl sadly, “Also, when we heard you strike the bargain with the dragon, we were afraid that would be the end of our mission.”

“I haven’t made up my mind about the dragon yet, and I’m still mad about him taking the compass from me,” said Simon, “Where is the spear?”

Gnorl took the party a short way down the hall, to another open room. Through the columns, a sarcophagus was visible, with a chest on the far side of the room. Simon pulled a rope from his pack and secured it around his waist. “If something happens, pull me out,” he said to Gnorl as he handed him the end.

Simon walked across the room without incident. He looked into the sarcophagus, and saw a humanoid creature, which had become mummified over the years. It was wearing armor similar in style to the statues they had seen, but its head looked like an octopus; bulbous on one end with tentacles on its chin. After looking at the corpse for a moment, he continued across the room and came to the chest. It was rotted with age, and as he put his hand out to touch it, the chest crumbled, spilling its contents across the floor. There was a fortune in jade, a nice dagger and a wand with runes carved on it. The prize, however, was a four edged spear tip that radiated power. This had to be Calamity. Simon scooped up the dagger, wand, and as much jade as he could. He carefully wrapped the spear point in the chain mail they had found earlier, and exited the room.

Urzul, who had recovered somewhat, met Simon as he came out of the room, “Simon, please let me have the spear point, so we can complete our quest,” she said pleadingly.

Simon looked at her and said, “We still have to find the rest of the spear, this is only the point”.

Urzul shook her head, “No Simon, we don’t. My staff is the shaft of Calamity!”

“I will consider it, but for now, we still have some unfinished business with some malamorphs,” said Simon.

Urzul reset the traps, and suppressed a few that they hadn’t tripped. They found themselves once more at the end of the corridor that Colby had searched before. Everyone began to search for a way to open the passageway they were now sure was on the other side of the wall. Trish ran her hand along the wall, and found a portion that was indented slightly. She pushed at the indentation, and it moved, causing a door to open at the end of the corridor with a grating sound. The party entered the corridor, and began to creep along as quietly as they could. It was too small for the trolls, who kept scraping their backs along the top and sides of the tunnel, but it was like a highway to the Lir. Eventually the tunnel led to another door, which was easily found and opened from this side. The party stepped out, and found themselves in the lair beneath the pond where Trish and Susi had been bitten. As they stood in the sleeping area of the lair, a secret door on the other side opened, and a man rat stepped out into the sleeping area, carrying a plate of food and a flagon. He looked up, and seeing the party, dropped what he was carrying with a clatter, and ran back through the secret door, without bothering to close it. Simon looked at the secret door and said, “Well, we should leave and go warn the temple”.

Simon began walking back the way they came. “Where are you going?” asked Trish.

“To warn the temple,” said Simon mechanically.

Trish reached out and slapped Simon across the face with her gauntleted hand, “Snap out of it Simon”.

Simon looked at her and said, “But, we have to warn the temple”.

Trish said, “Simon, you like to kill the man rats”.

“I do like to kill the man rats,” said Simon with a smile.

“Let’s go kill the man rats, Simon,” said Trish.

Simon shook his head as if he were just waking up. “What are we doing? Let’s go get that guy!”

Simon reached into his bag and handed Urzul the head of Calamity. Urzul’s face lit up and she began to attach the head of the spear to her staff, as Simon and the others followed the man rat down the secret tunnel. There was a door at the end of the hallway, and Simon kicked it open, only to find himself staring at what appeared to be thousands of himself. He had found a room full of mirrors. Simon tied a rope around himself, and Trish tied the other end around her waist. Then Simon cast invisibility on himself, and closed his eyes, using his blind fighting technique to walk through the maze of mirrors. After about ten minutes walking through the maze, a crossbow bolt zipped towards Simon, but he shifted slightly at the twang of the bowstring, and it sailed harmlessly by Simon’s head.

As he turned the corner, a force began to drag him down the hall, pulling Trish around the corner. Trish dug in and pulled back on the rope with all her might until whatever was dragging Simon gave up and he fell to the floor in front of the mirror he had been being pulled towards. The slack in the rope caused Trish to fall over. As she stood up, she turned towards the mirror behind her, reached out and touched the surface. Trish disappeared, and the rope fell to the floor in front of the mirror she touched.

As Simon stood and tried to determine where Trish had gone, a voice echoed through the room, “You won’t find her,” it said.

“I think I will,” replied Simon, but there was no further reply.

A couple of moments later, Trish came around the corner, holding her head. Simon rushed up to her, “Where did you go?” he asked.

“I dunno,” she said.

Simon bent down to retrieve the rope, and saw Trish in the mirror frantically waving her arms and shaking her head “no”. Simon turned and found the creature he had thought was Trish was the same type of tentacled monstrosity that he had seen in the sarcophagus. Simon began to grapple with the creature, but the tentacles were reaching out for his nose, mouth, and ears. Realizing that he couldn’t break the monstrous creature’s grasp, Simon went limp, pretending to pass out. As the creature leaned over him, Simon leapt over its head, coming up behind it and drawing his weapons in a smooth, practiced motion. He slashed one of the tentacles from the creature’s face and kicked it in the sternum, wounding it severely. The creature waved one of its arms and Simon’s head began to feel as if it would explode. Simon kicked out at the creature, hitting it in the head, and it dropped unconscious to the floor. Simon’s head felt better immediately. He looked at the mirrors around him, and saw the figure of the shopkeeper in the one to his right. She was pointing at the unconscious creature, se he went over and began searching. He found a couple of keys in a pouch, which he put into his pocket. He then lifted the creature and threw it against the mirror Trish was in. Trish popped free of the mirror, and she and Simon could see the creature lying in a heap on the other side.

“Where were you?” asked Simon.

“In the mirror, as far as I can tell,” replied Trish, “There was nothing there, except a doorway that I could see out of. There was mist, but other than that, there was just…nothing. I didn’t feel hungry, or tired, or thirsty at all, I just was.”

After they resecured the rope around their waists, Simon went through the hallway using his blind fighting technique, and Trish looked at the mirrors as they past. She saw many of the townspeople, to include wardens and priests, as well as one large bearded dwarf with green robes, wearing a jade crown. Before long, Simon came to the end of the mirrors, as well as another door, and they removed the rope from their waists, replacing it in his pack. “We should fight to subdue, in case they need to be alive to come out of the mirrors,” he said.

Simon took one of the keys from the creature in the mirror and unlocked the door. An altar was visible as he pushed open the door, and when he entered the room a flight of crossbow bolts impacted the wall and doorframe behind him. The room was full of malamorphs and men with octopus heads. Simon subdued a man pig near the door, and wounded another on the other side, then cast a shield spell. The man rats ran to the stairs on Simon’s left and began to reload their crossbows, as the man pig attacked Simon. The man pig’s club came in, missing Simon, but impacting the wall, causing a slight break to form in the weapon. One of the octopus men was standing near a statue and said, “If you drop your weapons, I shall save his life”. He held up a hammer, and Simon could tell the statue was Two-Feathers. Suddenly, Trish flashed across Simon’s field of view. She had come through the door and was rushing the octopus man, who had to parry Trish’s attack with the hammer he held. The man pig swatted at Simon with his club again, wounding him, but Simon grabbed the club, ran up the wall, and dropped behind the man pig, knocking him unconscious with the flat of his sword. Simon then willed Telpurr out of the sword.

Trish cast true sword on Oblivion, then attacked the octopus man, knocking him senseless with the blade. There was a flurry of activity as Gnorl rushed into the room, grabbing Two-Feathers, with Urzul hot on his heels. She stabbed the now assembled spear into the ground. Electricity began to run up and down the length of Calamity, the ground began to shake, and there was a roaring sound in the air as the power built around the weapon. Trish cast true sword on Keller’s Razor, then rushed over to kill the octopus man Simon was engaged with. They dragged the bodies out into the corridor just as Calamity’s magic took hold.

Lightning bolts lashed out of the spear, striking all of the remaining creatures in the room. A thunderclap pealed out, stunning them, then a hole in the floor opened wide like a giant stone mouth, causing them to fall in. Lava filled the hole, and the creatures began smoking and screaming as the ground slammed shut over them. Calamity quivered in the stone, smoldering with power.

Simon and Trish began rescuing people from the mirror, using the stunned enemies they had subdued. Once they had freed as many as they could, they went back to the last room, and found that it had been a throne room. There was a mirror behind the throne that looked very much like the portal that they had gone through to get to the temple they were in. There was a desk that Colby began to search. “Hey, here’s a list of names and pass phrases,” he said.

Simon and Trish talked with the newly freed warden, while Colby and some of the others worked on freeing the prisoners of the mirrors, including the Jade King and some of his retinue. Once everyone was free of the mirror and the situation had been explained, Simon touched the mirrored archway, which began to glow. Then he, Colby and Trish stepped through, with the others following closely behind.

View
The Plot Deepens

Simon watched the dark figures on the edge of the wood fade into the forest. A quick search of Ian’s room showed that nothing of value had been left, and everything had been thoroughly, if quickly, searched by whoever had ransacked the room. Simon went downstairs to the innkeeper, with Colby and Trish following closely behind. “Innkeeper, the Earth priest, Ian, seems to be missing”.

The innkeeper looked at Simon with bemusement and said, “That old man was a troublemaker at the temple, and now he’s bringing his trouble here. You should probably let the guards know, there’s one just outside the door”.

Simon exited the inn and found the guard sitting on a bench outside. “The Earth priest Ian is missing and it appears that someone broke into and ransacked his room”.

The guard stood, “Strange. No one came past me. Let’s see his room, then”.

The guard followed Simon to Ian’s room and looked inside. “Looks like something tore through here in a hurry, that’s for sure,” said the guard, “Did you see anything?”

Simon paused a moment before answering, “There was a rat in the hallway, and the door was ajar when we came up the stairs. We entered the room and saw it jump out the window. When we got to the window, we saw the rat run to a group standing near the forest. They then turned into the forest, and we came down to get you.”

“Let’s go to the edge of the forest and see what we find,” said the guard.

The party went to the area where Simon had seen the figures and began to use the tracking skills taught to them by Two-Feather and the adherents of Dagaral. It was easily apparent that there had been mounts waiting in the area, both from the hoof prints and the horse manure that liberally spotted the area. “Over here,” said Trish.

Simon came over and looked at the tracks Trish had found. They belonged to a large dog or wolf. “Well, I can’t stay here, and I’m not going into the forest in any case,” said the guard, “I’ll report this up my chain of command, but I’m not sure that they’ll do anything about it. Ian wasn’t well liked at the temple, but he was always decent to me”.

As the guard departed, Trish, Simon and Colby decided to follow the trail. Between Trish and Simon, they tracked their quarry through an old temple complex, and confirmed the tracks that they were following belonged to the malamorphs. “If they aren’t malamorphs,” said Simon, “they are the biggest rats I’ve ever seen. I’m glad Prospero isn’t here, or you can be sure we’d be exploring the ruins here too.”

Further along, the trail split, and so did the tracks. “It looks like the main party went this way,” said Simon, pointing down the left hand path.

Trish couldn’t find a flaw in his reasoning, so they followed the left branch until they came to a waterfall. Simon danced over the top of the waterfall effortlessly with Colby in his pocket, while Trish slogged clumsily across. On the other side, they came around a blind corner, where Simon touched Trish’s shoulder and whispered, “Up ahead, man rats”.

Simon stooped and pretended to remove a rock from his shoe, “I’ll act like I’m going to the woods to pee, stay here”.

Simon stood and walked into the woods, while Trish pretended she hadn’t noticed the man rats. Once he was a short distance in, Simon cast a silence spell, and crept in a large circle to come up behind the one on Trish’s right. As he came up behind the man rat, he noticed that there were actually two on the other side of the trail, and they were waiting with crossbows out for Trish to come a little further down the trail. A quick swipe of his sword silently removed the head from the man rat’s shoulders in front of him, and he eased the body to the ground. He cast invisibility on himself, and snuck behind the man rat standing in the rear, and killed him, but the creature gave a grunt as he died. The lead man rat spun around in time to see his compatriot fall dead to the ground and catch Simon’s foot in his face. Simon began working to subdue the malamorph, but it let out a screech, and suddenly two gigantic swarms of rats burst forth from the forest around Trish. Simon knocked the man rat out with the flat of his blade, and then assisted Trish in dispersing the rat swarms.

When Trish and Simon returned to the unconscious man rat, he had returned to human form. “Who are you, and what happened to Ian?” asked Trish.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” replied the man, crying. “I’m just a farmer, why am I here? Who are you?”

The man wouldn’t give any more information, so Colby popped his head out of Simon’s pouch, “Hey, I can walk this guy,” he said, “You know, sit on his shoulder with a knife to his throat. He’ll be my own human steed!”

A few minutes later, the party set forth again, with Colby riding the former man rat. A short way up the trail, Simon spotted a group of wolves. The party halted, and as they watched, they saw a man wolf come out and give commands to the wolf pack, which bounded out into the forest. A man pig walked up behind the man wolf, and it was obvious they were setting up an ambush. As Simon cast invisibility and stealth on himself, Trish secured the man to a nearby tree with the rope that bound him. Simon circled around behind the man wolf, and as he dropped from a killing slash, Colby ran down the trail towards the battle, and Trish charged the man pig, wounding him.

Wolves bounded out of the forest, causing Colby to stop, spin and skewer the closest one on his rapier. Another wolf leapt at Trish, but was cut in half by the backswing of her sword after she attacked the man pig. Simon, Colby and Trish surrounded the man pig, who continued to fight ferociously. Suddenly, the man pig squealed loudly and swept his large sword in a large arc. Simon and Trish were able to dodge out of the way, but the blade came crashing down on Colby, wounding him. Simon stepped forward and speared the man pig through the chest with his katana, and the creature fell lifeless to the ground. Trish’s swords clattered to the ground and she dropped to her knees. Simon came over to her and could see sweat beading up and rolling down her face. “Can’t… see…well,” gasped Trish.

Simon pulled one of the leaves the Dagaral priests had given him. “Put this under your tongue,” he said.

Trish put it under her tongue and could feel her vision clearing. “Damn, that burns,” she said as she stood, spit the leaf out, and sheathed her weapons, “I can still feel the presence at the back of my mind, but that’s better.”

“If you two are done talking about spices, we have another problem,” Colby called to the others, holding up the gnawed ends of a rope, “Our prisoner is gone”.

The party followed an uneven path to the bottom of a hill, where they spotted a cave. There were a couple of wild boars rooting around in the underbrush at the sides of the cave. Simon went invisible, and snuck behind the boar on the left. The boar on the right suddenly spun and lifted his head to sniff the air. With a squeal, it charged to where Colby had been sneaking down the path towards the cave entrance. Simon killed the boar near him, and Trish rushed forward and killed the boar that charged Colby. The noise had done its job, as two bears and two man bears rushed out of the cave towards the party. Colby’s rapier went through the eye of the bear rushing at him, and it dropped heavily to the ground. One of the man bears roared, causing Trish to lose her concentration, and the other man bear took advantage of the distraction, swiping her with a big paw. As blood welled from where the man bear’s claws cut her skin, Trish lashed out instinctually with her swords, killing the creature. Simon killed the other man bear and his familiar, then summoned Telpurr to heal Trish’s wounds.

As Telpurr tended to Trish, Colby went into the cave. There was a small entrance that opened into a large room at the end. It was obviously a lair for the creatures, based on the ragged furs scattered around the sleeping area. There was an old cook fire that had been allowed to die, and on one wall, there were stones set in the shape of an arch big enough for a man to go through. Colby reached out and hesitantly touched the area within the arch, but nothing happened. He looked at the runes and muttered, “Where is Prospero when you need him”.

Seeing nothing else of interest, he scurried back out to the mouth of the cave, where Telpurr was melting back into Simon’s sword. “Guys, I’ve found something you should probably see,” said Colby.

A few minutes later, the party was standing around the archway, and Simon had brought Telpurr out of the sword again to look at the structure. “It’s old, certainly,” said Telpurr, “But it is very crude. Absolutely not Journeyman work, but I can’t tell you more than that.”

As Telpurr went back into the sword once more, Trish reached out to the archway and touched it. The runes began lighting one by one, and once they were all lit, a grey void formed in the middle of the archway. In a swift move, Colby jumped forward, and disappeared. “Well, I guess we’re going through now,” said Trish as she and Simon followed Colby through the portal.

Trish and Simon materialized next to Colby. They could see the giants digging for the Jade King’s tomb in the distance, but they were standing on the top of a ziggurat a short distance into the jungle, but completely obscured by vegetation. There was a large jade statue of a man holding a bowl in front of him in his hands. Simon looked into the bowl, and seeing nothing, pulled out a flask and poured water into it. The water appeared to soak into the bowl, but nothing else happened. Trish dropped some coins into the bowl, but nothing happened, so she pulled them back out and put them into her pouch. Colby pulled out a dagger and pricked his finger, then squeezed some drops of his blood into the bowl. The statue shivered, then the entire structure slid to the side, revealing circular stairs going down into darkness.

The party cautiously went down the stairs, which were very dusty and covered in recent footprints. As they reached the bottom, they found a desiccated corpse lying on the ground. It was obviously ancient, and it was equally obvious that there had been several large creatures of some kind through the area recently. Simon searched the body, and found a set of lockpicks which he gave to Colby. Trish pulled out a Journeyman candle and affixed it to her helmet.

Colby crept down the corridor in front of Trish and Simon, putting his capability to see in the dark to good use. He came to a T junction, and went left, following the tracks. He came to a doorway, and looking inside, saw another corpse, as well as a bunch of boxes and a burning brazier. Trish and Simon followed and entered the storeroom. Simon began to search through the crates and barrels, determining that they were workman’s tools, probably from when this area was built. Trish was standing near the doorway, and suddenly was thrust into the room by an invisible force. The brazier began to smoke heavily, and the shock of being forced into the room caused Trish to take a large lungful of the smoke. As she started to choke and cough, bugs began swarming out of the crates and barrels in the room. Simon grabbed a barrel that started coming apart in his hands and threw it on top of the brazier to block the smoke. He and Trish then began stomping the bugs. Simon worked his way over to the door and slashed at the invisible barrier with his katana, and with a flash of lightening, the barrier was gone. Simon killed the rest of the bugs as Trish used a healing spell to cure her of the effects of the poison smoke.

With no way of knowing that his friends had been attacked, Colby had continued down the hallway, coming first to a room that had columns as an entryway. He could see the floor had begun to turn to jade, and there was a sarcophagus and a chest to the rear of the room. Turning from the room, his curiosity led him up the hall to another T junction, where he turned left. He moved forward to the next room and stood, gazing into an ancient armory.

View
Searching for Dagaral

Simon was frustrated. He could feel in his bones the attack that was coming but had wasted hours
convincing Father Ray. In the meantime the team had convinced Father Vargus that something
sinister was a foot, we just couldn’t say what or who was responsible. Every lead the team
followed lead no-where. The merchant’s aura turned out to be normal. The goods found in the
Were-lair were from a shipment that was hijacked. Or at least that was what all the witnesses
claimed. No one knew or understood the term mirror’d and further the team didn’t see any hint of
recognition in the people they questioned. The tour of the Zoo brought the only hint that the
party wasn’t on a wild goose chase. When the ceremony was held in the temple two of the Earth
Wardens had agree to guard the Zoo against further unexplained animal releases. The documents
form the Were-lair mentioned two within the Zoo that had been mirror’d. Simon quickly volunteered
to join the Wardens in their vigil.

The only good news of the day was the appearance of Prospero and Elisandra. The team explained
the current situation, Prospero’s comment, “What a confused situation”. Returning to the Inn to
plan the Simon spotted a rat slip under the door of the wayward Earth Priest’s room. Opening the
door the party found the room deserted and ransacked with no sign of the priest or the rat. From
the window the party sighted two strangers in the woods. They were some distance but pursuit was possible. What to do, Dagaral provided no answers.

View
Malam and Dagaral

After swimming to the surface of the pool, the party left the area of the mines. The giants did not speak to them or acknowledge them leaving, except perhaps a momentary look of relief from the one that was closest to the pool. After arriving back at camp, Father Vargas looked at the wounds that wouldn’t heal with some distress. “It is apparent to me that you have met the cursed ones, Malamorphs, or possibly skinwalkers,” said Father Vargas, “We must leave immediately and get you to the temple with all due haste.”

Father Vargas began packing his things and set a group to stay with Two-Feathers until someone could come with a wagon to pick up the petrified warrior. “We will take the wagon if we can find it on the way out to increase our speed to the temple,” he said, “so you may have to wait longer than expected.”

As the party started down the path towards the temple, Father Vargas asked, “Have any of you heard the story of Dagaral and his sister, Malam?”

After determining that none of them had, Father Vargas said, “I thought as much. It’s not an uncommon story among followers of Dagaral, because we must know of the powers aligned against us. Listen closely to the following tale, because it is now a matter of life or death for you.”

Father Vargas then began to speak as if he were giving a sermon, “Dagaral was given dominion over the beasts and the birds of the world. Many of the animals that we hold as beautiful belonged to him, creatures such as the bear, the wolf, the deer, and the elk. His sister, Malam, who preferred the shadow, was given dominion over the reptiles and fish. Malam saw her brother’s creatures and was jealous of their beauty, even as she loved the efficient beauty of her own creatures. Dagaral and Malam would often show each other their newest creations, and there was certainly an aspect of sibling rivalry between them. One day, Dagaral paid one of her creations a compliment, and Malam repaid the compliment by offering to give some of her reptile’s power to Dagaral’s creatures. Dagaral laughed and said that he was content with his creations, and that he would prefer them to remain beautiful even at the cost of the power of Malam’s reptiles. His off-hand words stung Malam’s heart, because in her eyes her creatures were also beautiful, just in a different way. Malam decided to repay the hurt her brother’s words caused her, so one day when he was out amongst his beasts, she went to the Maker’s Table cloaked in his form. There she made large, perverted versions of some of his creatures, Guha breathed life into them, and she sent them into the world where they began to wreak havoc, because she had put that desire into their nature when she made them. The elements saw the destruction the creatures were making and called Dagaral to them. They told him he must destroy the creatures before they unraveled the world they had created. Dagaral looked and saw the mischief his sister had wrought, and told the elements that he would destroy the creations. He called to the beasts and they came before him. He told them what must be done, and all but four, the bear, wolf, boar, and rat submitted to his will. As he was destroying the others, these four rushed Dagaral and bound him, because Chaos had taken hold of them since Malam set them loose on the world. The four dragged Dagaral to a deep cave and left him there to escape once more into the world. As they left, Dagaral cursed them, binding them in darkness and consigning them fully to Chaos in his anger. These cursed creatures continued to pursue their wicked ways, and once they encountered man, or any of the races of Shadora it was discovered that the bite of the Malamorphs would turn them into what is termed “skinwalkers”. Their bite will also infect others, and that is how this evil of Chaos spreads throughout our world.”

Father Vargas looked at Trish and Susi, “I believe that you encountered skinwalkers, because had you encountered the elder creatures we would not be having this conversation – you would be dead and not they. Since they are skinwalkers, there is a cure for their bite, but it is important that we get you to the temple as quickly as possible, because with every moment of delay, this poison is working its way into your soul. It will be irreversible if we aren’t swift enough.”

Silence descended on the party then, and nothing could be heard but the crunching of their feet through the leaves on the trail. Some time later, a couple of men stepped out of the woods onto the path in front of them. “Alright, pilgrims,” said the one on the right, a tall man with a mustache and a scar on his face that turned his face into a perpetual sneer, “time to turn over your copper and gold, if you want to live.”

Colby laughed, “It might just be quicker for us to kill you.”

“Your mouse has a big mouth,” said the bandit with a scar, and he made a motion which caused two archers to step out of the brush, “Perhaps this will change his tune.”

With a popping sound, Simon teleported between the archer and the bandit on the left. Two swift strikes later, and their dead bodies hit the ground, still with looks of surprise on their face. Trish rushed the second archer that had appeared and killed him with a single strike, while Colby’s sling killed the man with a scar. A flight of arrows came in from the surrounding forest, but it was impossible to tell where they were all coming from. Colby caught a flash of clothing from one of the archers, and a fire stone from his sling both killed him and set the body on fire as it fell. Simon was wounded by the volley of arrows.

Suddenly, a round shape exploded at Colby’s feet and a swarm of wasps engulfed him, even as Simon was struck by a lightning bolt from the clear blue sky. Father Vargas cast a recover spell on Colby and Simon, and Simon killed one warrior and an archer near him, rolled across the clearing, killed the warrior attacking Trish, and killed one of a pair of archers at the far end of the clearing. The second archer dropped to his knees and began to beg, “Please don’t kill me, my ransom is 100 coppers, spare my life, I beg you”, as he clutched at Simon’s trousers with tears in his eyes.

Simon was so distracted that the Lazuri almost hit Simon. He saw him step out of the brush, and avoided the clumsily aimed attack, but as he stepped back, lightning hit him again. Suddenly, a spirit appeared next to Simon, casting a healing spell on him. Father Vargas’ allied spirit had kept him alive!

Gnorl waded into the swarm of wasps to try and help Colby out of it. Colby killed one of the archers who had been engulfed by the swarm and ran out of the stinging mass. Simon killed the Lazuri and turned invisible. Trish cast a spell and shifted into the form of a wolf. With her heightened senses, she could see an old man with objects swirling around his head. She howled and pointed at the man, who turned and ran. Trish ran up the rocks to follow him, and noticed elves flowing like water back into the forest, along with the human archers. She shifted back to human form and knocked the old man out with the flat of her blade. Urzul cast a healing spell on Simon, who scooped up Colby and ran up the hill to where Trish had the unconscious old man. They woke him up by pouring water in his face, and the old man spluttered, “My ransom is 100 silver, please don’t kill me”.

“Who are you, and why are you ambushing travelers,” said Simon, recognizing him as a shaman by the spirits flying around his head.

The old man, fear causing the whites of his eyes to show brightly said, “We fell in with Trask, the Lazuri. He’s a deserter, and said we would be rich by waylaying travelers to the temple and taking our own tithe from them!”

“Where is your camp?” asked Simon.

“A few hundred meters spinward,” replied the old man.

Trish looked at Simon, “We should give him to Father Vargas. After all, they have been robbing from Dagaral, and they’ve paid for trying to rob us.”

Trish, Simon and Colby brought the old man before Father Vargas. Upon hearing the story, Father Vargas exclaimed, “You will take me to your ransom, old man, and quickly!”

A few steps took them into the bandit’s camp, and the old man retrieved the money, which had been hidden in a hollow log. The archer whose life was spared also retrieved approximately 100 coppers from a hiding spot at the base of a tree. “Now, may we go?” asked the old man.

Father Vargas looked at him with distain, “This money will be repaid to the pilgrims that you robbed, but you will come to town with us to face Dagaral and answer for your crimes.”

He bound the prisoners and gave the rope to the troll, “Watch over these until we can get them to the temple,” he said.

After about another hour’s walk, the party scouted out a safe place to camp for the evening. Simon and Colby took the first watch, and just after nightfall, something flew out of the darkness and landed between them.

“Hello Mr. Peeps,” said Simon. A quick check of the parrot revealed a message attached to his leg. It read ‘I’m in Horn Cove. Had to flee from the Avenger. Wizards are teleporting to temple.’

His message delivered, Mr. Peeps flew into the air and headed back to his master. The rest of the watch passed without incident. They woke Trish and Gnorl for second watch. Trish hadn’t slept very well, because she had been suffering from nightmares, though she couldn’t remember them for the life of her. As the quiet of the night took over from the noise of the change of the guard, and the breathing of her comrades became deeper and more regular, Trish began to notice eyes in the darkness staring at her, and a sense of lethargy crept over her like a blanket. Quietly and slowly, one pair of red eyes turned into the form of a giant bear, which stepped from the edge of the forest. It spoke with a human voice, “It won’t be long, sister. You will be a skinwalker. You will hunt, and you will taste the flesh of men. Oh yes, sister, we will welcome you to the tribe with open arms!” With that, the bear melted back into the darkness.

Trish blinked and came to, unsure if what she just saw was real, or a dream. She turned to ask Gnorl if he had seen anything, but Gnorl, his sister, and both prisoners were all gone. Trish went into the camp to wake the others, and could see that they were all having nightmares of their own, thrashing and whimpering in their sleep. Trish woke them and told them what had happened. “This is alarming, Lady Trish,” said Father Vargas, “It means that your illness is further along than I had thought. It’s still dark, but we must press on.”

A quick check of the campsite showed the path the trolls and prisoners had taken, but there was no time to track them further than the edge of the forest. Just after dawn, they came across the wagon that had been dispatched for Two-Feather. “Go and stand watch with your brothers,” instructed Father Vargas, “I will send another wagon as soon as we get to the temple, but we must make our way there as quickly as possible.”

Hours later, the wagon emerged from the forest path into the town of Wolfdale. It was a medium sized village, whose main claim to fame, other than being near the Dagaral Temple, was the local inn, which had been built around the skull of an enormous dragon. The owner had been an adventurer when he was younger, and brought back the skull when he retired. As the wagon rolled through the town, Simon noticed a sign that read ‘Gribbs Trading Post’. “I’ll have to check that out later,” said Simon under his breath.

As they drove past the gates of the menagerie, the party could see that there was a group of initiates washing graffiti off the walls. It mirrored the graffiti they had seen elsewhere, stating that ‘Dagaral no longer dwells in the high temple’.

The cart turned the corner, and Father Vargas said, “Behold the Temple of Dagaral”. The temple was made out of marble and was as elaborate as the wooden palisade that was being built around it was plain. Arriving at the entrance of the temple, the party got out of the cart, and Father Vargas ran to a priest standing at the temple steps. “Rithelm,” said Father Vargas, “We need your help; we have people with Dagaral’s Curse.”

Rithelm’s eyes widened, “We must get them inside the temple at once! Follow me!”

As the party followed the priests, they noticed a gigantic mosaic set into the floor of the temple. It was of Dagaral fighting a Chaotic creature, possibly even his sister Malam. The face and head of Dagaral had been obliterated. “Yes,” said Rithelm, obviously embarrassed, “There was an earthquake in the temple about half a season ago, and we have had artisans working on this and the statue of Dagaral that was damaged, but there was no way to get the work completed before the holy day tomorrow. Quite distressing, as this is a once in a lifetime pilgrimage for some of the people here.”

“There were no signs of damage in the town,” said Simon.

“Correct,” replied Rithelm, “It happened in the middle of the night, and Fathers Ardent, Wine, and Cuthbert were the only ones in the temple. They said that the earthquake was centered here in the building, and being nighttime, everyone in the village slept through it.”

Simon said, “We also saw some graffiti just like what was on the menagerie in Horn Cove, saying that Dagaral no longer dwells in the high temple.”

Rithelm’s eyes widened in surprise, but he waved his hand and said, “Malcontents probably. They are all over, merely a coincidence, I’m sure.”

“Ah Simon, glad to see you again,” came a voice from behind the party.

Simon turned to see Father Ray approaching, rubbing his hands together. “You must come with me; I have need of your services.”

“I can’t come at the moment, but can meet you later,” said Simon.

“Now, Simon, that’s no way to treat a priest! Later will be fine, but you must see me the moment that you have time. The spirits of reprisal will know if you stall,” said Father Ray as he headed down the same hallway that Simon and the others had just arrived on.

Simon walked up just as Rithelm was introducing Father Lucan. The priests then stepped into an anteroom to discuss what was to be done, and a Father Morgay began to prepare the ritual.

Colby walked over to Father Vargas, and motioned for him to move away from the group. “How well do you know these priests? I have a feeling we can’t trust Father Lucan, because he’s the one that authored the map that led us to the cursed people. I recognized the name when we were introduced.”

Father Vargas said, “That’s a serious accusation, and if it’s true, this is no place to discuss it. I would like to speak of this later, though.”

Later, when the ritual had been accomplished, Father Lucan said, “The ritual is complete, but there has been no answer from Dagaral. Perhaps you will need to complete a divine quest to gain his favor. In the meantime, we will continue to pray, and we will also attend to Lady Trish’s arm. There is no reason for you to stay while we continue, and I would suggest that you attend to your own needs in the meantime.”

Leaving Trish and Susi in the temple, Colby and Simon walked into town. Simon found out the location of the all gods shrine, and went to find Father Ray there. They walked up and saw a building in severe disrepair, but when they stepped inside, there was Father Ray.

“I need to pray before we get started…” began Simon.

Father Ray turned towards him with the beginnings of tears in his eyes, “Ah, yes. Well, there are some complications with that, actually. All of the idols are in disrepair, and we can’t worship here until they have been repaired. How are you with a hammer?”

Simon heard the voice of Telpurr in his mind, “I have never seen any shrine in this state of disrepair. This is an obscenity.”

“Fire, rain, earthquake, no one takes care of this place but me,” continued Father Ray, with tears flowing down his pudgy face and staining his robe, “I’ve been here for about a year, but no one is interested in this temple at all. There was a fire that began in one of the idol alcoves, and then the rainstorm that came in through the hole in the roof that the fire left. Even the earthquake that no one felt caused damage here. I can’t get artisans, because they’re all working on the palisade that the Dagaral inner circle insisted on building to get as many people in the temple as possible.”

Colby left the shrine, and headed towards the inn. As he walked, he could feel one of the nearby guard’s eyes on him. “Hey, you’re a Lir, aren’t you?” asked the guard.

“Why yes, I am,” replied Colby.

“Wow, what a coincidence, there was a guy looking for a Lir here recently. Name of Colbin or something like that. Wouldn’t be you by any chance?” said the guard.

“Not me,” replied Colby, “What did the guy look like, though? Could be he’s looking for a cousin or something, and I can pass the message on”.

“He was a nasty looking fellow, like he was half goblin or something, didn’t leave a name,” replied the guard.

“Ah, very well,” said Colby, handing the guard some coins, “Thank you for the information!”

“Thank you, Sir Lir,” replied the guard.

Colby entered the tavern and ordered an ale. While the bartender was drawing the drink, he noticed an old man watching him from a corner table. He was trying to watch the Lir without him noticing, but he was obviously no good at it. He appeared to be an earth priest, but looked slightly deranged, with wild hair and bulging eyes. Colby took his ale and walked over to the old man and said, “Is there a spare seat here?”

The man looked at the Lir and said, “Why yes, there is, my good Lir. However, I have ordered some lunch in my room, perhaps you’d like to come up and join me?”

The old man wiggled his fingers and a voice whispered in Colby’s ear, “We can’t talk here”.

“You sure you won’t come up?” asked the man.

Colby concentrated briefly and cast mindspeech.

“Clever Lir,” said the old man to Colby in his mind.

“Who is watching us?” asked Colby.

“The false priests. Dagaral is no longer in the temple,” said the old man.

View
Prisoners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View
The Mines of the Jade King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The World Ender?” asked Simon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View
The Menagerie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is this Menagerie,” asked Simon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gnorl shouted, “You need help Simon?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Road to the Earth Temple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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