Five Pillars of the Sun

The Flight Out of AnvilGuard

Several dwarven women scream a blood curdling cry of treachery at the sight of their dead dwarven lord in the hands of the adventurers. Guards begin to surround the town square but before they can reach the party, several dark figures appear along the rooftops of the shops and inns. The skulking figures dash nimbly as they throw their smoke bombs into strategic spots in the crowd, concealing the party. Several of these shadow beings reach for the party and pull them into an alley, where they have prepared a wagon full of hay. They quickly slip out of their dark uniforms and into commoner’s clothing. They command that the party hide within the pile of hay and, although hesitant, the party decides to trust them given the situation. They are then carted off, far away from the commotion. The party remain hidden for several hours until the wagon stops. The driver of the cart instructs the party that they have few minutes to rise from the hay and change into different attire. Each of the adventurers is handed a knapsack with a commoners clothing that suits the style of Cyriil better than their foreigners clothing.

The group of individuals tell the party that their associates have prepared Zerik’s body for the trip to CopperLeaf an that it has been loaded as part of the cargo in another wagon that arrives half an hour later. The party then takes this wagon and the skulking figures reveal themselves to be an organization that goes by the name of The Black Company and that they have been commissioned as a favor to Galadriel. They give the party a map with instructions for getting to CopperLeaf village. The Black Company also informs the party that they will be watching from the shadows to ensure that the body of the dwarven lord is safely delivered to its destination, and if the party strays from their path, they will be seen as enemies and quickly dispatched by The Black Company. As they begin their journey West from Anvil Guard, the party finds that they have not eaten in a long time. After several hours of nonstop traveling, the party finally decides to stop to rest after traveling for 70 miles during the week. Finally exhausting the few rations that they had along with what few scraps they could gather from the food on board the wagon, Martelm decides to hunt for some food late that night. He spots a quivering bush and a fluffy fleece like bundle behind the bush. Martelm shoots an arrow into the bush and strives the animal behind it, only to hear the scream and curses of an old woman. As he realizes his fatal mistake, he runs over to the site of his grizzly failure. Several other vagabonds emerge from nearby bushes and one of them runs over to the dying woman yelling “Martha!! Oh no!! My sweet Martha!!”. The arrow had struck Martha and was now protruding from the side of her head. As her eyes rolled over, the vagabonds began to utter curses at Martelm for his most heinous act. A small girl ran from the group of vagabonds and charged at Martelm, striking him ineffectively, screaming “You monster!! You bad man!! Give me mommy back!!”. Overcome with grief, Martelm headed back to the wagon and informed the party of his actions. He returned to help bury Martha, however, the vagabonds all exploded into a cloud of smoke, and when the smoke cleared, Martelm and the party notices a member of The Black Company sitting and watching from atop a tree branch. He nimbly jumps down and introduces himself simply as Oliver. His garments are a navy blue, rather than jet black, and the party notices that the scabbard of his katana is quite magnificently decorated. He transforms and reveals himself as a kitsune, a race of foxfolk that have the ability to shift shape into a human disguise at will. Oliver apologized to Martelm and informs him that he was merely conducting a test of character because he wanted to know if the party was trustworthy. Martelm attempts to strike him but Oliver gracefully dodges all of his attacks and replies with a mere chuckle. He backflips into the shadows and from the branches, a bomb hits the ground and after the smoke fades away, the party finds a giant banquette table has appeared before them with candles and a feast of several delectables and aromas that make the party lick their lips. Traumatized, the party begins to feast but soon forgets the cruel trick as their stomachs begin to fill.

As they enjoy the meal set before them, a dwarven thief begins to look through the crates in their wagon. The party quickly dispatch him but the struggle results in Oscar becoming possessed by the dwarf’s ring beast that used Oscar’s Staff of Necromancy against his own allies. The possessed Oscar destroys the wagon along with killing the donkeys that were pulling their wagon. Eventually, Jose’s Blessed Blade animates and, as it feasts upon demons, it aids in destroying the ring beast that had attached itself to Oscar’s hand. When the commotion dies down, Oscars hands have become horribly maimed and his spell casting is no longer possible, so any hopes of casting mend on the wagon are instantly shot down. The party contemplates making the journey back to AnvilGuard to acquire some means of transportation, but, remembering the threat of death by The Black Company, Jose decides to carry the crate containing Zerik’s body within his Bag of Holding.

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The Depths of Death

The sunlight from outside shot down the long staircase down, gradually dimming as their descent carried them deeper and deeper into the throat of the dungeon. Now within the belly, the light seemed to be far behind them, as though they had entered another world. Not being able to see beyond where the dim morning light poured through from the entrance, the party proceeded cautiously, lighting a torch to guide their way into the depths of this black new world they now found themselves in. Several tiny red glowing eyes filled the room and flickered in a disgusted rage, but being sure to avoid the light of the torch’s flame. The party ventured across this vast room and into a narrow hall where they dispatched two rust monsters. At the end of the corridor, the party halted suddenly as they found themselves on a cliff made of old worn out tiles in a large room where most of the ground had collapsed into a glowing green pit of acid, filled with swarms of strange leech like creatures. After carefully maneuvering and anchoring themselves with ropes, the party carefully inched their way along the side edges of the room on what was left of the floor. Making their way towards another hallway on the eastern side of the room, the party indadvertedly triggered a trap that caused the entrance from where they came from to collapse at the sudden sound shockwaves caused by a sequence of explosives. Without a way back out, the party proceeded deeper still within the dungeon that seemed to be set on swallowing them up. At the end of the hallway, the party finds themselves descending further into the earth and into a room that has been partially destroyed. The earthen wall splitting into three different tunnels, the party decides to map out the tunnels and tread carefully. Within this labyrinth of tunnels, the party eventually reach a chamber at the end in which a single stone coffer rests. Hearing the sound of a women yelling for help, the party naively pry upon the coffer only to find a succubus within its confines.

The succubus attempt to seduce the party at first, but they know all too well the stories of the she-demons and their deadly kiss. Ignoring the offers of pleasure and passion, the party is nearly overcome when she summons another demon to fight along side her. As the party finally turns the tides, it is Jose’s dagger that brings the adventurers victory as it pierces the abdomen of the seductress, frantically absorbing her innards as she had tried to do to the party earlier before. Leaving the succubus an empty dry husk as well as slaying her assistant, the party then proceeds into the rest of the dungeon. Beyond a corridor, they find themselves gobbled up by another shadow giant that had been awaiting their arrival there. Within the shadow giant’s belly of illusions, the party seemingly enters an ice cold chamber and battles a weakened ice dragon. After defeating it by having it become enraged so that it impales itself on a hot metal spike protruding from the ceiling, the party is spat out by the shadow giant. They see its corpse become visible and, although none of the rest of the party can identify what kind of creature it resembles, Jose is able to recognize that this creature bears a resembles to the kuo-toa from his realm. Eventually, the party manages to retrieve a key from the chest at the bottom of the pit where the shadow giant was, which they take back to the acid pit room. Once again, the maneuver their way into, this time, the northern end of the chamber where they use their strange stone key to open the closed stone walls that blocked off the path here. Upon entering the room here, the giant stone doors quickly slammed behind them, sealing them within the strange round chamber alone with the statue of a strange creature, with a metal plate with dwarven inscriptions. Having some knowledge of older scripts, Oscar and Martelm happen to decipher the message as saying “Wealth, Courage, Power”. Confused by this riddle, the party spends a while attempting to comprehend its meaning. The statue before them seems to be some strange humanoid shape wrapped in wings with its head down, face buried in the cocoon of arms and wings. At the top of its head, the statue has some strange curved glasslike stone embedded in its skull, pointing at the party as though it were an eye. Oscar uses his magic to cast a light spell into the eye and to the party’s surprise, the statue begins to tremble and with a sudden mechanical jerk, the statue reacts by unfolding itself. The statue’s new form reveals a frightful image in this darkened chamber. Several strange glyphs fill the room and glow with a gloomy blue hue and reveal the shape of the statue in a ghastly light. The statue seems to have a tall female body in ceremonial garments with the head and wings of a manticore with a large and open mouth. Two of the arms spring up with open palms as though they ought to hold something. At first, the party manages to deduce that the old dwarven inscription at the foot of the statue means that they must place a weapon (Power) and a golden coin (Wealth) into each hand. It is then that they figure that one of them must place their arm into the mouth of the statue to represent Courage. Grognak volunteers for this, however, having placed the coin and weapon in the wrong order in the statue, the statue reacts by biting off Grognak’s arm.

The party then realizes that they must place the items in the same order as presented in the inscription. Doing so, the party manages to activate the mechanism of the chamber, and it begins to rotate downwards clockwise. They exit the elevator chamber and find that the chamber leads to a dead end room with a pool of water filled with several snakes. However, before returning into the elevator chamber, they all freeze when they notice the sounds of the tumbling gears come alive from the direction of the elevator. After several tense minutes of planning, Oscar and Grognak decide to enter the elevator while Jose and Martelm elect to stay behind. They all agree that Oscar and Grognak are to return within 3 minutes for Jose and Martelm. Soon, the doors on the elevator close and the elevator room rotates back up to its initial level. As the entire room rises, Jose and Martelm, still in the corridor, see that beneath the elevator is a giant cylindrical chamber that goes far down. They see that chamber has a spiral staircase along the edges of the wall and they await or the return of the rest of the party. Once the party is together, they wait for the elevator to leave them behind and the staircase down is revealed once again. The whole party takes the staircase down and at the bottom, they find yet another corridor. This corridor leads them to a minotaur labyrinth and after defeating all the creatures within it, they reach the end of the maze. They descend down a staircase and find themselves in a highly decorated burial chamber, with two large stone statues at the side of a beautifully carved stone coffin. They approach the tomb and hear the feint, haggard plea of a weak Zerik Runeseeker within the tomb. The party uses their full strength to remove the lid of the coffin, freeing Zerik from his prison. Zerik Runeseeker is hardly recognizable and has been beaten within an inch of his life. The vast majority of his bones broken, his beard ripped off, and his eyes receding deep into his face. Within the coffin, the party also find the remains of an ancient dwarven king from long ago. Suddenly, as though a reaction to party opening the coffin of the dwarven king, the two giant stone statues begin to move. In an epic battle that nearly costs everyone their life, the party narrowly escapes being ripped apart by the mighty stone guardians. They realize that the only way to escape is by returning from whence they came, however, the stone statues beat the ground with their stone axes, causing the staircases out of the chamber to collapse into the ground. The party fights valiantly but in the end, they retreat into the cliff now formed by the missing staircase. They desperately climb out and the statues return to their watch at the sides of the king’s coffin. After rescuing Zerik, they manage to find a teleportation chamber room with several strange red glowing glyphs forming an intricate spell circle on the floor. At the center of the spell circle is a cast iron statue in the shape of a dwarf. Zerik explains that this type of spell circle is activated by sacrifice, and that their only way out is to place him within the iron statue and drive a sword through a slit in the heart of the statue. He tells the party that they will be teleported out if they do this and that they must take his body to be resurrected by a cleric named Augustine at a village named CopperLeaf in a forest where the season of autumn never ceases. With several ogres aware of their presence and hot on their tail, the party regretfully agrees that this is the only way they can succeed. With sword in hand, Martelm buries the sword deep into the statue. A grizzly scream can be heard from within the statue and the sword wrenches itself deeper still as the slit rotates the blade, causing fountains of warm dwarven blood to fill the chamber. The red glyphs on the spell circle glow a violent red and the party is engulfed in a nauseating crimson light. The party is then teleported into the center of the town square in AnvilGuard, with Grognak nowhere to be found and the corpse of Zerik Runeseeker in their hands.

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Rescue Zerik!!

Rising from their binds in the HammerPalace of Correction, the party exits to the streets of AnvilGuard and make way towards the northernmost exit out of the city towards their destination. They manage to successfully sneak their way past several guards who are on high alert as news of their escape seemed to have traveled faster than river water across the chain of command. Upon arriving at the gate, they are stopped by a group of several of the cult’s brainwashed dwarven guards. Jose manages to use his rogue guile to impersonate an elite ally of the cult being sent out on a special mission to the dungeon north of AnvilGuard. Intimidating the dwarves with this commanding persona, and threatening to contact their superiors while feigning insult at the doubt held by the dwarves, he manages to successfully lead the party out of the city and into the restricted mountain zone. As night quickly approaches during their journey, they decide to set up camp behind a natural barrier of standing stones and brush. During the night, the party notices a small flickering light not too far ahead in the middle of the road they are on. As they approach with more caution, they realize that the flickering light is actually a campsite of a dwarven patrol.

Unaware of their purpose but with a rash necessity to investigate, Jose and Martelm decide to skulk off away from their own campsite and sneak along the shadows until they have come close enough to see and hear the patrol more clearly. Not to their surprise, they are greatly drunk and seem to be shouting things in Abyssal. Martelm farts and garners the attention of one of the dwarves. He begins to stumble over to the bushes by the boulder where the two are hiding and as Jose readies his daggers, they notice that the dwarf has not actually noticed them, but rather, he begins undoing his trousers and begins to relieve himself upon the bushes. As Jose and Martelm feel a sudden sense of relief that they narrowly avoided an altercation, a sudden voice emerges from one of Jose’s sheathes and makes a snide remark at the dwarf’s “sword” size. The dwarf is caught by surprise and half drawing his weapon, half pulling up his trousers, he alerts his comrades at the camp. As Jose and Martelm leap out of the bushes, Jose realizes his dagger, the Blessed Blade of Exertion, has become animated and he wields it to attack the dwarf. As blood is spilt in the thick of battle, a sudden voice fills the skies with a booming presence that says “Thou hath spilt thine filthy blood upon my hallowed home!!! Unworthy villains!!”.

A pillar of fire violently shoots down from the peak of the PhoenixSpire Mountain and descends upon the dwarven camp, leaving nothing but a burning crater in its wake. The crimson flash then swiftly returned to the top of the mountain peek. Confused as to what had just occurred and frightened for their lives, Jose and Martelm made way to the camp where the others were only to find their allies fighting their way out of their collapsed pavilion tent, now ruined by the shockwave and stray embers created by the attack of the flaming beast. Opting to sleep outdoors with a scheduled watch, the party soon rested up and prepared to search for the hidden dungeon at the start of the next day. Upon waking, the party set forth once again on their quest to rescue Zerik Runeseeker from the clutches of the cult. The following day, after scanning the landscape thoroughly, their inspection brings them to a sunken ruin that has been mostly worn away by time. Sensing that this may well be the dungeon Galadriel spoke of, the party decides to descend into its mouth.

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Heroes of the Sun

An old man with leathery skin steps out from the shadows and presents himself as the last remaining great mage of Northeriin. The party finds that their magical items do not work outside of the magical house, except for Oscar’s spellbook, and they ask him why that is. Galadriel tells the party that the house they have been staying at is his house, and the reason the items don’t work is because he magically programmed them not to work outside of his house before he was taken by the black robed gang and thrown into the dungeon to ensure they didn’t fall into the wrong hands. He had been working on those weapons as he had been commissioned to craft those weapons by the Sword Lords of Kathos, an organization of secret heroes from around the world (Note: these items are the Sheath of Vorpal Honing, the Missile of Volatile Weight, the Flute of the Twin Gales, and the StormFeather Boomerang. The spellbook Rashandra and the Spectacles of Inspection were personal items of Galadriel, and are thus, unaffected and fully functional).

Galadriel informs the party that he is a specialist of the divination school, and that he has forseen his capture and willingly accepted it. He informs the party that Brenda Songsteel and her father Yennen Songsteel, the owner of the Trader’s Guild, are part of a cult and conspired to bring the party to the mouth of the shadow giant that swallowed them up. He also tells them that the Zerik Runeseeker they met was an imposter, a doppleganger, disguised as Zerik to fool the citizens of AnvilGuard into thinking nothing is going on. The real Zerik Runeseeker has been taken to a dungeon to the North of AnvilGuard, where no non-dwarf may enter. Furthermore, several of the guards have been brainwashed by the black robe gang, which Galadriel reveals is actually a cult that goes by the name of the Withering Hand. The party asks Galadriel why they have been involved in this mess, and Galadriel responds by asking Grognak about the dream he has every night. This dream is of a beautiful elf woman who tells Grognak whether he is getting closer or further from him. Recently, since arriving at Cyriil’s main harbor city from his homeland, the Blemished Wastes, the dreams have become more and more intense, and the elf woman has told him he is getting ever so closer. Grognak is surprised by the extent of Galadriel’s knowledge by this point, and the party asks what the dream has to do with them being swallowed up by a shadow giant and a cult. The old mage tells the party that the dream Grognak has been having is a distress signal being sent out by one of five very special persons, and that for some reason, she has chosen Grognak as the recipient of her message, or perhaps, he is the only one able to listen. Galadriel tells them that the shadow giants are ruthless predators, and that they do not usually associate themselves with anyone, so it is strange that they are helping the Withered Hand.

The party asks him what he means by this and he tell them that the one of the Withered Hand’s shadow giants had managed to sense the link between one of the Five Pillars of the Sun, and Grognak, and that the shadow giant reported it to the Withered Hand, causing them to set out to kidnap Grognak in order to force him to reveal the whereabouts of the elf woman from his dreams. However, little does the cult know that Grognak himself is unaware of anything beyond what Galadriel has revealed. The elf woman in Grognak’s dream is one of five elf women who are avatars of the sun goddess, Saranrae. Galadriel reveals that Gorm has encountered one, the spirit of a young elf princess named Lyanna, who has recently died at the hands of the Withered Hand cult. He admits that even he does not know why the cult is after the Five Pillars of the Sun, but he does know who is seeking them out. There was once a queen of a distant land of an ancient civilization, who had fallen madly in love with a soldier from a neighboring kingdom. He promised to return for her once the conflict in his kingdom was settled, but he never returned. Every day, she sought out to look for him and her kingdom eventually fell because of her obsession. She vowed to find him and she became a lich to gain an eternity to dedicate to finding out what happened to her lover. She founded the Withered Hand cult after she made a deal with a fallen god named Rovagug. He promised her that he would resurrect her lover and return her beauty and mortality to her, but that first, she had to find the Five Pillars of the Sun for him.

Galadriel tells the party that most likely, Rovagug lied to her and is using her for some unknown purpose, but the Wither Queen is too blinded and obsessed to consider the possibility. He further explains that part of the cargo that was onboard the caravan that they brought in to Anvilguard contained a book they stole from an Asamir in the Vermillion Forest, a tome known as the Heavenly Atlas (a book of prophecy containing the whereabouts of the Five Pillars of the Sun), which is written in a lost language known as Aetherian, which only the Cloud Giants of the Skyriil Mountain Range can read, and since the Withered Hand already has the Heavenly Atlas in their possession, the final key they need is Zerik, because his father was a friend to the Cloud Giants, who are normally extremely hostile to anyone else. Galadriel tells the party that Gorm, Locke, and the halfling in the hood they encountered earlier when they were being arrested, along with other associates are currently tracking down the Heavenly Atlas, and that the party should escape the prison so that they may find the real Zerik Runeseeker, who is being held in the dungeon to the north of AnvilGuard, where no non-dwarf may enter. He tells them that by the time they rescue Zerik, a man named Don Juan-Pierre and other cult members would have already taken Galadriel on a wagon out to the Disappearing Tower, their headquarters, to be tortured and possibly killed. He tells the party not to worry, as it is part of his plan to be captured to buy the party time and to potentially aid them by giving the cult misinformation when they question him at their headquarters. When the party returns with Zerik, they must join forces with the party that has retrieved the Heavenly Atlas from the cultists, escort Zerik to the Skyriil mountains, and find out where the remaining Pillars of the Sun are to warn them of the coming of the Withered Hand. The old mage tells the party that he fears that Don Juan-Pierre’s other henchmen will take Zerik away from where he is being kept, and transport him somewhere else before the party can reach him. He tells the party to meet up with the other group in front of his house two days from then in the evening at the tavern down the street, as that is all the time they have to rescue Zerik. Oscar, Martelm, Jose, and Grognak bust out of the prison and ascend the stairs up to the surface world, to where the danger lies waiting for them.

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Within the Belly of the Beast

Upon inspecting the odd looking plate of meat, the party members realize that it lacks both heat and scent, despite the smoke coming off of it. One of the adventurer’s attempts to touch the meat, but their hand phases through it. The cold stone walls around them seem to flicker for a second. The man that sprouted from the mouth of the monstrous mound introduces himself as Jose. The party ask him who he is and initially are not very trusting of him, however, seeing as they have little choice in the matter, they get over their suspicion and decide to put their faith in his skill. The party and Jose are summoned back after a night in the cell, and they are once again standing before the lizardfolk king Githdread. A large crowd of lizardfolk have gathered at the seats in the colosseum. When the party steps forth, Githdread welcomes them and reveals the method for selecting the first opponent of Jose’s. Raising his wand up and causing a giant twenty sided stone with names on it to appear, he rolls the giant dice, announcing himself to be Jose’s first opponent.

Each fighter is given the choice of a single weapon. Jose chooses his best dagger while the lizardfolk king opts out of wielding a weapon in order to insult Jose. The battle commences and the party is forced to watch at the front row seats of the colosseum. As the party watches on, they soon notice that the audience of lizardfolk flickers in and out of reality. The party jumps down while they have the chance and they charge Githdread together. They all hear the omnipresent voice of a woman coming from all directions. She reveals to the party that they are in the belly of a giant monster and that the only way out is to defeat the illusion. Jose recognizes her as a fortune teller from his universe. Meanwhile, the audience flickers back in and soon, they see that Jose, a mere human man, has successfully killed their king. Suddenly, the party members notice that they have all of their equipment and weapons with them, as they have seen through the illusion. The entire colosseum vanishes and they are left in a swirling dark and lonely void with the entire lizardfolk audience surrounding them. They dispatch several of them but struggle on as the lizardfolk mob appears to have no end to their numbers. The fortune teller from Jose’s universe summons the images of two heroes from Jose’s universe to temporarily fight by their side. A red-scaled lizarfolk barbarian and a human wizard with a magical staff appear in the party’s midst, and together, they defeat the numerous lizardfolk warriors at long last. The illusion begins to crumble and the ground of black stone shatters beneath the party, each adventurer being carried by ascending rocks that hurl the entire party into the dark sky of the void. The party members appear on a black stone cliff which overseas a hellish vista of volcanoes and giant evil behemoths of unspeakable horror. They ascend a land bridge across to another cliff, up a black marble staircase, defeat a flock of giant headless crows and two ogres, and enter a giant black tower. Upon reaching the top, they find themselves in a room with a purple pulsing crystal floating at the center, with several red veins sprouting from it which travel across the room’s interior.

The fortune teller appears before them and tells the party that her time is running out, and that the shifting veil around their planet of Midgard is blocking out her communication with them. She shows them a vision of their travels, revealing that they have been swallowed by an entity that has been stalking them since they arrived at WaveCrest, and that it swallowed them up as soon as they exited BlackWall field’s northernmost gateway. She explains that the shadow giant had been trying to catch up to the trader’s caravan they have been escorting, but that once they entered the BlackWall fields, the shadow giant was unable to enter due to an ancient protective barrier seal that has been in place for several centuries on the field, so it ran around the BlackWall where it waited for them to pass through the northern gate. The fortune teller explains that this seal was put in place to protect the last entrance to the sacred lost realm known as the Netherfey. She tells them that they must find a powerful mage known as Galadriel in their world who helped place this seal to protect what is left of the Netherfey from the shadow giants, as he is the last remaining wizard of the Four Great Mages of the North, and that only he will be able to explain to them why they were being stalked by a shadow giant. Jose asks the fortune teller why he has been sent to this realm, and the fortune teller only tells him that it was an unknown higher power that was responsible for him falling into the world of Midgard.

She reveals a final image of the giant creature that swallowed them up, running across a strange star filled ocean of darkness, a red star falling through this realm and being swallowed up by the shadow giant. The red star was Jose as he was being hurled through the Sea of Stars, the realm between worlds and dreams. As her image begins to wane, the fortune teller tells the party that they must strike the giant pulsating purple crystal, as it is the heart of the shadow giant. The party does so and they awaken as they are falling from a portal in the sky, crashing down into some of the wagons of the caravan. BobJoe asks them where they’ve been for the past few minutes because they disappeared right before his eyes. The party is confused as it appears that only a few moments passed in the real world while they were within the belly of the shadow giant. BobJoe casts a spell which repairs and reorganizes the broken wagons and their cargo and as it is night time and the party appears exhausted, they decide to stop at a guard’s watch post to rest for the night. In the middle of the night, a half-elf barbarian comes yelling as he is being chased by a mob of skeletons. He burries his great axe into the door of the guard’s garrison and proceeds to kill his pursuers single handedly as the guards watch in horror. Then, a giant blue star comes falling from somewhere in the sky and destroys the garrison all together. The star turns out to be a giant ice crystal with a man and an owl trapped inside.

The man seems to be a similar individual who’s image the fortune teller borrowed to assist the party against the lizardfolk earlier. The barbarian, being enraged by such a confusing sight, takes his axe to the ice cube, breaking it and releasing the imprisoned mage and his owl familiar. Jose recognizes the mage as Locke, a companion of his from Jose’s universe. He recalls the adventure they had been on and how they had been together in a war against an army of undead against a dark king. As Locke is about to be attacked by the barbarian, he swiftly produces a strange herb from his pouch and holds it up to the barbarian’s face, causing his knees to buckle as he crashes into the floor in a deep and relaxed sleep. Locke asks Jose where they are and what’s going on but Jose knows next to nothing and can only tell his friend that they are not in Kansas anymore. The party, having had next to no sleep, decide to set out for the last stretch in order to arrive at their final destination, the dwarven city at the foot of the Phoenix Spire Mountain, AnvilGuard. The half-elf barbarian introduces himself as Gorm, and both Gorm and Locke decide to journey with the party.

Upon arriving to AnvilGuard, BobJoe thanks them for their services and pays them a handsome amount of gold in thanks for their aptitude during the weeks he traveled with them. He gives each of them rings bearing the emblem of the Trader’s Guild of Cyriil and tells them that if they ever need a place to stay or extra help, that they should present those rings to the inn keepers of large cities like AnvilGuard and ForgeStone. He invites them to meet the Dwarven Lord of AnvilGuard, Zerik Runeseeker, at his palace. The party, led by BobJoe, enter the palace of the dwarven lord, and they overhear BobJoe telling Zerik that he owes him a favor for having gotten him out of some sort of situation in the past, and Zerik quickly calls for the party to step out before him. Zerik thanks them for saving BobJoe and the precious cargo throughout the past several weeks and offers the party a house in his city of AnvilGuard. The party eagerly accepts the suspiciously handsome offer and they are shown to their new home, a magical house with a special door that requires the touch of one of it’s residents for it to open. Inside, the party finds an invisible butler who shows each of them to their rooms. Each room is able to take on the appearance and environment that the owner of the room wishes, and each of the party members finds a treasure chest in their respective room. Gorm finds a magical whirlwind boomerang, Locke finds a special pair of spectacles, Grognak finds a magic sheathe that vorpalizes his weapons, Martelm finds an arrow that is as light as a feather when it’s in his possession, but becomes destructively heavy if he drops it, Jose finds a flute that can summon a bald eagle and a brown eagle, and Oscar finds a strange talking spellbook that absorbs the spells from his own spellbook, and destroys his old spellbook. The party rests momentarily only to be interrupted by the commotion of a crowd outside their home. The party rushes out but Gorm and Locke (and his owl familiar named Zarathustra) agree to stay and guard the home. Unbeknownst to the party however, Locke secretly sends out Zarathustra to watch over the party and report back if they appear to be in trouble.

The party arrives just in time to see the massive crowd gathered around a single man who has been captured by guards. The man is standing in front of a severely burned and ruined building which has collapsed in on itself. The man is BobJoe, the caravan driver, and he is wearing black robes and has a strange tattoo of a mouth with spider legs on his face. He calls out to the party and points them out and accuses them of leading him into the city. The crowd parts at both sides of the party and the guards cease them by the arms. They publicly execute BobJoe (presumably to intimidate any other potential members of the black robe gang in the crowd) and decide to take the party in for questioning. The guards notice that the party is wearing rings of the black robe gang, bearing the same insignia that BobJoe had tattooed on his cheek. The party determines that the rings are magical and somehow managed to slip on to their hands and shape-shift in order to incriminate the party. As the party is being cuffed by the guards, they notice a single short humanoid man with a hood that comes down to cover his eyes. Martelm is able to notice that the strange short man is mouthing something with his lips to the party. Martelm discerns the message to be “Galadriel awaits, go quietly.” Martelm then relay’s the message to the rest of the party, and they are wagoned off to a prison called HammerStrike Correctional Prison. They are taken down a fleet of stairs into a cold prison and thrown in a cell. The party ponders their next move, and from within a dark corner of the cell, a voice calls to them and says, “At last we meet. I am Galadriel.”

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Kidnapped!!!

October 13th, 15,827

Upon passing through the northernmost exit of the BlackWall fields, BobJoe informs the party of one last settlement they must visit to deliver goods at before arriving at AnvilGuard. The caravan arrives at the quaint town of BlackLake. Upon arriving, BobJoe leaves the party while he delivers goods to the local businesses. The party is left to rest at the Axe & Mug Inn. On their way to the inn, they encounter some vagabonds, and decide to ask them if they know of a place where they may bath. The vagabonds suggest a place in the opposite end of town called Bertha’s BathHouse. As the party heads for the inn, they notice the vagabonds laughing amongst themselves as they watch the adventurers walking away. Once they settle in, the members of the party set out to take care of their individual chores. Martelm and Oscar set out to aggravate the owner of BlackLake General while Grognak finds a nice grassy hill by a horse stable to sleep on while in the form of a dire badger.

Eventually, the party regroups. They finally decide it’s time to seek out the bath house. Upon arriving, they notice three skulking figures huddled closely, with faces pressed against the fences for the outside bath area. Grognak calls them out, instructing them to leave the area. The sounds of frightened women can be heard exiting the pools, scurrying indoors. The three figures turn to acknowledge Grognak and the party and both sides step out into the light of the moon. The three figures turn out to be an orc wizard and two rogues, one elf, one orc. The two sides do battle and Oscar decides to leave combat using the spell Expeditious Retreat, in order to gain altitude by accessing the roof of the bath house, however, his plan fails when the women of the bath house deny him entry, as he soon learns that it is a women’s only bath house. He notices that the women are unusually hostile in their demeanor towards him, and as his persists to be let in, one of them throws the door open, nearly hitting him in the process. After the party wins the battle with the perverts, resulting in some of them nearly dying, the voyours surrender. Grognak and the orc wizard (named Fairy by Grognak after the surrender) make peace, and the party is awarded with potions. Later, the party heads towards the bath house entrance when they bump into a guard as they turn the corner round the bath house. The guard questions them in regards to why they are out and about so late at night, especially near a women’s only bath house. The party is instructed by the guards to hop on to their wagon for a trip back into town. As they do so, potato sacks are flung over their heads containing a knock-out agent that instantly sends the entire party into a black haze of unconsciousness.

The party awakens to find themselves stripped of all but their undergarments, chained to the walls of a cold stone cell. A woman, one recognized by Oscar as being the tenant of Bertha’s BathHouse, is sitting outside the cell, commanding the party to head her words. She quickly reveals her true form, a lizardfolk, and explains the situation to the party. They have been captured by the lizardfolk as an offering to their king, Githdread. They have been taken far from the town of BlackLake, down a secret chamber, and into the depths of the Underdark, in a giant cavernous chamber with a single mound at its center. The party is taken by wagon over a massive land bridge that crosses the space between the prison halls at the edge of the chamber and connects to the central mound. Atop this mound is a shanty city, with several tall megafungi, which provide a dim purple illumination to the city below. Upon arriving, the party is quickly transported to the center of the mound. They arrive at the ruins of a colosseum of some sorts, which appears misplaced in contrast to the shanty town. It’s architecture is reminiscent of a long lost ancient culture of the surface world.

At the center of the colosseum, atop a stone thrown, awaits Githdread. The party is thrown at the base of his throne. Githdread reveals that the party has been chosen to participate in a game in which they select a single fighter from a series of slaves, and that their fates rest on the slave’s ability to kill the other combatants in a tournament. When presented with their options, the party quickly notice the soulless expression of the slaves, their mangled bodies; starved, heavily scarred and maimed. As the party looks through their choices, they come across a single healthy choice. A giant human with a monstrously muscular body, covered in demonic tattoos which extend up to his face. The man has a devilishly violent grin and piercing yellow eyes that reveal an entire life dedicated to murder and other atrocious acts. Feeling that he is the obvious choice, the party is quick to select this savage as their fighter. The man is brought forth, and a quick flash of terror crosses the face of the other slaves as he moves through them towards the party. Without a word, he stands before them. Githdread, with a similarly murderous grin as the human man, the lizardfolk king tells the party that it is too late to change their mind, and that the man that stands before them is their chosen fighter, but before he can finish, the man suddenly falls to his knees yelling in pain. Bright white light shoots forth from his eyes and mouth. As he yells an unearthly scream, the party can see the night sky within his mouth, and two hands come out of the man’s now dislocated jaw. As the hands struggle to spread the mouth of this man, his throat thickens and his entire body contorts violently, ending in a violent eruption that coats the party and lizardfolk king in a red mist. In the spot where the monstrous man once stood, lays a human man, writhing in pain, with a hot steam flowing out of his person. He attempts to stand, but he continues to fall due to fatigue. The lizardfolk king snaps out of his initial shock, and suddenly lets out his horrid laugh. He tells the party that it is truly unfortunate that they lost out on their previous fighter, but that he will allow this weaker looking man to take his place. Githdread orders that the man be stripped of all his possessions and clothing. The mysterious man is placed in shackles, and the king orders that they all be taken into the prison in order to better acquaint themselves with each other. In the prison cell floor there is a plate with a single piece of meat.

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The Escort Party

September 9th – October 3rd, 15,827

Martelm, Grognak, and Oscar find themselves in the bustling harbor city of WaveCrest in the region of Cyriil, in the province of Sprome. With little gold in their pockets, and each with his own story to tell and own motivations, they set off to find jobs. As destiny has it, these three unlikely heroes find themselves together simultaneously applying for a job at the WaveCrest General Good Store, owned by a muscular and burley-smoking man named Yennen Songsteel. His daughter, Brenda Songsteel, brings the three heroes to her father for mission briefing. Yennen tasks them with the duty of providing escorting and defensive services to a trade caravan, as he is also the leader of Cyriil’s very own Trader’s Guild service. He tells the party that they will be driven there by BobJoe the carriage driver, and that they ought to have their hands at the hilt of their weapons at all times, for disruptions and delays are to be expected on Cyriil’s Missionary’s Road. The party is also told that humans are not allowed into the ThunderTop Heights and that they should report any dwarves who they see wandering the Black Wall fields away from the main road. The explanation they receive for this is because in Cyriil, there are laws that prevent the human race from mining the ThunderTop Heights and laws that prevent the dwarves from settling the fields of Black Wall, with the exception of claiming a home in ForgeStone City, Cyriil’s capital. The caravan sets out.

The party pass by several farmsteads on the way out before they come to a bridge that crosses a river that flows out of the FesterRot swamp, a vile place just behind the SeaMist Hills which cradle WaveCrest in their protective embrace. Upon coming to the bridge, they are stopped by a single odd knight with an unstable posture. They battle the knight and reveal that it is actually two halfling bandits inside a large suit of armor. In their first display of skillful guardsmenship, they swiftly dispatch their attackers and continue on their merry route.
After stopping at a monastery to resupply and rest up, they set out yet again, only this time, they pass by a few caves where they are attacked by several kobolds who steal many of the caravans goods late at night. The party, now delayed and in danger of having their pay deducted, charge in to find that the kobold bandits are holed up in a meager two chambered cave in the hillside. They quickly dispatch the miserable creatures, reclaim their caravan goods, and loot the cave for gold and gems. After many weeks of travel, they finally pass through the southern entrance of the Black Wall fields, and enter the massive expanse of prairie and farmland.

The party takes notice of the colossal black walls around the fields that seem to curve into the horizon at both edges. They stay at a farmers house, where they engage some vandals who are drunk on booze. They kill one of the drunkards and the rest scatter. When they arrive at ForgeStone to deliver some packages, they are ambushed by several individuals claiming to want vengeance for the death of their cousin. The party proceeds to kick their sorry drunk asses and they run into some trouble with the law for it. Eventually, the party leaves to deliver their final round of packages at the final destination in the dwarven city of AnvilGuard at the foot of the ThunderTop Heights.

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The Barbarian

September 2nd – October 3rd, 15,827

Gorm was exiled from his tribe in Rabinastra for close to a year and has been roaming the countryside ever since. During his travels, he has ventured West along the Merfolk River from his home in the region of Rabinastra to the region of Cyriil. Following the banks of the river has led him to a small brush area where he eventually finds evidence of a heavy prairie animal nearby. The tracks, oddly enough, lead Gorm to a rope bridge that connects the two opposing cliffs that overlook the rapids of the river. Gorm, not being one to ask too many questions, begins the trek across the old bridge. It is late at night and a sudden breeze catches the bridge, causing it to sway from side to side. At once, it settles, but Gorm hasn’t a chance to recuperate his composure as the chilling hollow laughter of a child from far behind him. The elf does not stick around to find out where the laughter has come from, and bolts across to the other side of the bridge. As he reaches the end of it, a sharp warm painful sensation spreads and numbs his body from behind. As he falls, he manages to turn and look at his assailant. As his vision blurs and his consciousness winks away from him, Gorm catches the blurred visage of a dead girl with blood falling from her eyes and scattering across her blackened gums which are exposed by her vicious grin.

Gorm awakens, disoriented, during the afternoon the following day. Feeling even weaker than he had been and with great hunger overtaking him, he stands and follows the trail on this side of the river. Eventually, he finds, the trail leads into an odd forest filled with boulders and trees growing at odd angles. Continuing forward, Gorm finds the trail ends in a small clearing. At long last, he spots the subject of his tracking and the source of the footprints. With its back turned, a hefty looking cattle animal of some kind seems to Gorm to be grazing upon something red in a bundle, a dead traveler. To Gorm’s surprise, the animal suddenly turns to acknowledge his presence. It is at this moment that Gorm notices the corpses of many different people lodged amongst the branches in the trees. The cow’s eyes glow red wildly and it begins to speak, revealing itself as Hell Beef. Gorm engages the demon cow and throughout the battle, Hell Beef uses its hooves, acid-shooting utters, and throws the corpses of its victims at Gorm. Eventually, Gorm comes out on top, and finally manages to slaughter the stitched up demon cow. The necrotic energies spill forth from its body, and from within its undead bowels, the soul of a small elf girl escapes and finds refuge within Gorm’s own mind.

The spirit reveals itself as Lyanna, a small elf girl dressed in royal white garments, who’s memory, Gorm finds, has been partially wiped. What little she remembers, she tells Gorm, and she floods his mind with a vision of the small remainder of her memories. In this vision, Gorm sees the small girl, still living, being taken away from her parents by black robed men who grab her and teleport her to a large white castle tower atop a high place. Suddenly, the light of day fills the sky and the tower vanishes. Within the tower, the black robed men extract her soul from her body and they cause her body to disappear with strange magic, while sealing her soul within a crystal they use to create Hell Beef with. Gorm also sees that there were other small elf girls around Lyanna in this castle and they too endure similar horrors. Lyanna reveals that she does not know who she is, and that being inside the Hell Beef construct has done something to her memories and to her soul that prevents her from moving on to the afterlife. She tells Gorm that she has had dreams of his coming and rescuing her, and that he is to take her soul to a village within the Vermillion Forest, a wood where the season of autumn does not relent. It is within this village that a holy man lives that can help her move on to the hereafter. Gorm vows to assist her and takes off. After exiting the twisted forest, Gorm finds himself on a dirt path that leads into the autumn forest. However, he approaches quietly as he notices a camp of men resting right on top of the dirt path. Most of them are extremely drunk, but Gorm eventually steps out. The camp is a band of bandits and they attack Gorm, but Gorm’s axe is mighter than the axe of their orc leader. One theif surrenders to Gorm, another, high of skooma and drunk on ale, hallucinates Gorm as a reaper come for his soul, so he decides to take his own life by running towards the cliffside and jumping off. The thief that surrenders himself, reveals himself to be a human named Alefred, who comes from the alpine mountains in the North. Gorm collects some supplies from the bandit camp and takes off towards the Vermillion Forest.

Upon arrival, Gorm sees that the village of CopperLeaf has recently undergone an attack of some sort. Many corpses are lying about, some of normal people, some of ghouls and skeletons. He finds his way to the clerical house of Saranrae, the locally worshipped deity, and finds the cleric Augustine to be the head of town. He performs a prufication rite, allowing Lyanna to finally leave Gorm. As she begins to vanish, she leaves behind a small tear of glowing light that solidifies into an orb unlike anything either man has ever seen. Gorm slips the light orb into his pocket and Augustine informs him of a problem he needs assistance with. He offers Gorm lodging and food but that he needs the help rather soon. There has been a rising of the dead from the cemetery and several ghouls have also surfaced from somewhere within the crypt. The cleric informs Gorm that he has placed a temporary holy barrier around the cemetery but that it will fade by the next morning. Augustine employs the assistance of both Gorm and Alefred to go with him to investigate the cause for the sudden undead outbreak. Augustine tells the men that he believes that a recent major earthquake may have opened a connection between some old caverns and the crypt passages. Sabbatheus and Gorm speak that night and Gorm notices that Sabbetheus is not an old man, but that he is actually in disguise. He reveals himself to be a witch hunter and paranormal investigator of sorts who came to CopperLeaf to investigate the Vermillion Forest. He believes that there is a witch somewhere in the village.

The two get some sleep and rise early the next day. A local village woman brings them bread and coffee and they set off. Once they enter the barrier, they cannot exit. They all enter at once and they are instantly attacked by undead. They fight their way to the entrance of the crypt at the center of the cemetery and at long last, they enter. They clear the crypt and at the final chamber, they find that swamp water from FesterRot Swamp has leaked into the crypt and interfered with the holy water purification system that stops the corpses from rising after they are buried. An evil spirit resembling the evil girl Gorm saw at the rope bridge before he went unconscious is revealed to be the culprit of the events in CopperLeaf, and Gorm’s party lays the angered spirit to rest in an epic battle in a chamber flooding with swamp water with several undead. Alefred is lost in this battle as he distracted several undead to give the cleric time to heal the others.

After the ordeal in the crypt, Augustine sees to it that Gorm has plenty food and water to take on his journey. Augustine tells Gorm of Iomori and her situation with her grandmother’s recent death at the hands of some hooded men who stole a special book from her home. Augustine presents Iomori with a black notebook that the hooded men left behind as they ran off to the road where Gorm entered the Vermillion Forest from. The cleric tells Iomori that the notebook appears to be a dated journal of some sort, but seeing as it is in the language of Infernal, he is unable to read it. Much to everyone’s surprise, including Iomori herself, she is able to read this language. The journal details the meticulous instructions given by a man named Don Juan-Pierre to the two assassins, giving them the task of retrieving a book called the Heavenly Atlas. The journal goes on further to reveal that the assassins are to head to ForgeStone to deliver the Heavenly Codex to a caravan driver who will be waiting at the ForgeStone Trader’s Guild office to help smuggle it into AnvilGuard. Augustine reveals to Iomori that when he, Gorm, Alefred, and Sabbatheus all went into the crypt, they found that Sophie’s body had not decayed at all, and that she did not rise like the other corpses did. Iomori begins to pack her things and Sabbatheus decides to tag along to help her and Gorm find her grandmother’s assassins.

Upon setting out, Sabbatheus and Iomori get seperated from Gorm during an undead attack in the twisted forest. When they reunite, Gorm finds that Sabbatheus has been severely wounded and cannot continue. Iomori agrees to take him back to the village and that Gorm should wait for them at AnvilGuard. Gorm agrees and heads out alone towards ForgeStone to intercept the trade caravan, but instead, he finds them at the northern entrance to the fields of Black Wall. Here, Gorm joins the party and relates his stories, but he does not mention the objective of his current quest or the other two members of his party.

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The Witch

September 4th – 8th, 15,827

Iomori the witch has been living with her adoptive grandmother, Sophie, the majority of her life. However, Sophie has been gravely ill and she sends Iomori to fetch her her medicine from an apothecary in ForgeStone. During the return of one of her travels to ForgeStone, Iomori returns to find that her grandmother has been killed, laying facedown in the floor in a puddle of her own blood. After her grandmother’s funerary service, Iomori decided to run into the forest out of desperation, wishing to forget the life she had made in the CopperLeaf village within the everautumn Vermillion Forest. She trips upon a branch and crashes down hard on the floor during a sudden violent earthquake, hitting her head and passing out. She wakes up in a dream, where she is still in the forest, but at night, and the moon is a blood red, casting its crimson glow of peril upon the leaves of the forest. She is running through the wood when suddenly, she encounters a pond. From the pond bursts a pillar of black flame, and from within the flame comes a tremendous three-winged raven with bright glowing red eyes. It begins to chase and attack Iomori, but she is able to defeat it with the help of her grandmother Sophie. The raven suddenly bursts and turns into an attractive young prince dressed in all white. He tells her that the Chaos Mother has chosen her as one of her representatives on Midgard.

Her dream is filled with a bright light and her grandmothers voice tells her that everything will be fine, and that she needs to wake up. Iomori opens her eyes at the sound of a cawing raven sitting on her lap. It bears a wand in its mouth that looks like a black twig with a glowing white stone wave pattern weaved into its fibers. It flies away and tells her they shall be meeting again soon. Iomori eventually finds her way back into the village and spots the local cleric of Sarenrae speaking with an old man, an outsider. The cleric, Augustine, invites her over and introduces her to the old man. Augustine says that he is of a special order which investigates crimes, witch craft, and curses, and that he may be of some help in discovering who would want Sophie killed. Augustine offers Iomori residence in the monastery while they get Sophie’s house cleaned and purified, as the stench of recently spilled blood attracts the attention of ghouls who are constantly searching for corpses to eat. The three head back to the monastery and have dinner. Suddenly, a screaming woman comes knocking at the door, claiming that the village is under attack, and that her husband has been killed by undead.

The old man, Iomori, Augustine, and a local young man with a sword all go out and encounter a wave of undead pouring out from the cemetery’s crypt. Augustine has the other three stave off the invasion while he goes off to activate a massive holy barrier around the cemetery by ringing the bell at the church tower. After they narrowly succeed, the four head back to the monastery to heal and rest and plan their next move. Once they sit down to continue their dinner that had been interrupted, an elf barbarian steps in asking for Augustine. He and Iomori briefly greet each other as she and the young man depart for their individual rooms. It is in the early morning that the raven returns to Iomori at her bedroom window, and reveals to her that she is now a witch and that he is her familiar, and that her destiny is tied in with what happened to her grandmother. In order for Iomori to find out who killed her grandmother, she must wait for a man named Sabbetheus to reveal himself to her so that he may assist her on her quest.

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