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 Campaign #3
The Beginning of the End

[PCs] [NPCs]

After the slaying of Inisrya, there was a gap of about 20 years in which the characters were free to do as they pleased. Some continued adventuring, some settled down and started families (by design or otherwise), others took the road less travelled…

The World Changes

 The most significant changes probably occurred in the west, where the Jandarr Empire fell at the hands of the Dwarves. The details are sketchy, but it seems that the dwarves believed the Jandarrens were funding a terrorist group and deliberately keeping them out of the war between Jandarr and Rapata. When the Dwarves found out, they were inspired to great fury and thus invaded the Empire. With their military might stretched thinner than a very thin thing, they couldn't defend against the four armies who were attacking them and so they crumbled - their great buildings torn down and their female King slain. Years of uncertainty followed, and many leaders rose only to be killed by other ambitious usurpers. But eventually one man rose to unite the peoples of the old Empire: he is the Priest-King, Cornelius.

The Dwarves of Dwan-dur were not without their own part of history, though, as their leader Thax Brandheart was assassinated by his own honour guard. This led to an internal conflict, deepened by the fact that there were three main choices for a new leader, a terrorist group and no way to affirm anyone as a leader. In the end a new alliance was forged between two of the potential leaders, Morgrim and Orin, resulting in a joint leadership.

In Lanixa, the Czar appointed a young man by the name of Gethirah to the new position of Inquisitor General. This young man then set about establishing the Inquisition - a non-religious body designed to eliminate undesirable and anti-establishment members of society: witches, demon-worshippers, innate magic-users, the corrupt and those they do not like. The Inquisition become heavily embroiled in warfare when one of the southern nations, Rankorr, foolishly invades the might of Lanixa, drawing Gethirah and his forces south and away from the corruption of the north.

In Epratium, Sorcerer King Platir takes a new bride for the first time in more than three hundred years - a local warrior woman and head of his personal guard, called Frayer Hal'Baird. It is a happy time for the nation as they have a child - a son they call Ral'Partha.

In the Elven Republic of Amir'Shaan, a new Warlock was raised to the Council of Three - an albino elf, not yet come of age and already with a child from a human woman. He has a trying time bringing his son up and forging better relations between the humans and the Elves. Despite what might have been expected, Alcaerathil does not take the human woman as his bride and eventually she marries the Sorcerer King of Epratium. Instead, the young warlock marries a half-Elven girl called Sarah Marelle, the sister of one of his old adventuring companions. It is a happy time for the leader, but a mixed feeling runs through the traditionalist population.

Also in the western continent there has been a sudden appearance of Undead forces spreading throughout the lands, led by a Necromancer mounted on a red dragon. All who fall before him rise again to join his army and things look hairy for the nations of the west.

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Dragon Mountain

The arrival of Prince Ral'Partha into the world results in a celebratory party for dignitaries from all over the world. From Amir'Shaan comes Gau'breven Alcaerathil and his bride, Sarah, while from the lands of Dwan-Dur visits High Warpriestess Morwen Gallandor, chosen of Iaphre. From the Academy of Adventurers in Lanixa come the four co-founders: David Gomez, Barnabus Scorupco, Taloreth Shiar and High Priest Zane DuPuis of Kalir. There are a number of personal friends of the Sorcerer King and his Queen among the crowd, too, including the Queen's adult son, Marcus, from a previous partner. Standing out most among the crowd are the gnomish ambassador, a warrioress called Dalbarwan, and an accomplished gladiator of renown; Alyia. The celebration is blighted slightly by the arrival of a young woman with bat-like wings and her manservant. She introduces herself as Serenity, daughter of Inisrya, and her manservant is none other than Corman Melthiss, ex-Lord of Morle.

However, this party is a cover for a secret meeting with Beltar Than'cor, Keeper of the Chronicles of the Seal under StormTop (dubbed the "first" seal). Her explains to the assembled adventurers and ex-adventurers that Dragon Mountain has made it's appearance after an absence of 20 years. The Mountain is supposed to be home to some items of interest and relevance to the situation with Lucifer, although the ancient elf is not certain what they might be. He thinks that perhaps there is a copy of the Prophecy if nothing else. Some refuse to go, but there are enough who agree.

The party that leaves for the distant mountain is as follows: Alyia, Dalbarwan Smallone, Kaer El'tarrieth, Marcus Hal'Baird, Morwen Gallandor, Sarah El'tarrieth, Tal Shiar, and HP Zane DuPuis.


A Brief Synopsis of Events

No one knew where Dragon Mountain was, although Beltar had teleported them to the rough area that he knew it was near to, so the party had to first locate the venue before conquering it. This was quite tricky, for although they managed to get a name - Lothar the Shiv - tracking down that man proved to be difficult and in the end, fruitless. Although they left a bloody trail in their wake, the adventurers were seething that they had wasted so much time.

On their travels, they encountered Marcus Grendall for the first time in 20 years - he was seeking the Mountain in order to plunder its artefacts and expand his collection. However, his presence in the party did not last long once it became apparent that he and Morwen could not peacefully co-exist.

They managed to cleverly procure the first piece of a map to the mountain from the Thieves' Guild and without shedding much blood. Hell, they raised the only guy they killed to show how little they wanted to engage in the violence. They left the head of the Guild to deal with the local paladin of Sulon who was staying the in town to rebuild the local tavern (destroyed when a hydra walked through it). Perhaps they were still seething when they went to get the second part of the map from Lord Cavius, an evil overlord of the area, as very few of his men and very little of his possessions survived their onslaught. They handed the castle over to the people as they rode away.

Morwen received a message from a paladin of her faith called Lita, who replaced her as Morwen returned to her homeland and whatever matters her goddess considered more pressing than this Mountain.

A local witch helped them locate the parts of the Amulet of Dragon Warding - an artefact alleged to have amazing powers in facing Dragons and their kin. The first part was in a local tow, the next part in a haunted manor and the final part in a crypt. Staggering out of the crypt, the party were faced with a dozen basilisks and a cleric of Mornan, god of Vengeance, who demanded the map pieces and amulet in exchange for the lives of his hostages.

He walked away with the amulet, but all was not lost as he fled to the castle of another local lord… who turned out to be rather against this abuse of his castle. His name was Xenthorn and he inadvertently assisted the party in taking down the priest, Hewell. There was a bloody fight in an inn, and as Hewell fell they finally had all the parts to make their way to the hidden Mountain.

Getting there was easy, although they nearly succumbed to the dangers of a thousand kobolds pouring down on the village at the base of the rock face. Eventually, though, they made their way up. The dungeon itself was an old Dwarven Stronghold that had somehow fallen to hordes of kobolds. These little critters had made the place their home and, with the protection of the Dragon, thrived. They were used to adventurers and used to disposing of them, but they didn't bet on this lot… they walked through the place, slaughtering and burning and massacring wherever possible. Sarah left early on, to be replaced by Aeren who had ventured into the Mountain and somehow lost his friends.

The party displayed cunning military tactics and generally overpowered even the most prolific stream of kobolds. The little creatures did what they could to hamper the party, slow them down, kill them, stop them, discourage them or something - and they nearly succeeded. The constant stream of traps and attacks and assorted rubbish began to take its toll on some of the characters. But still they forged on.

They slaughtered a whole clan, obliterated whole sections of wall, laughed in the face of Dwarven construction, polymorphed kobolds, befriended prisoners, avoided traps, negotiated for their lives, avoided almost every ambush and managed to get to the Dragon's lair in one ragged piece. The Dragon was a different matter, however. In that fight she managed to kill most of the guards, Lita, Zane and Aeren and nearly plastered the others into bloody smear across her impressive hoard… but in the end she fled and the party was victorious.

They found amongst the riches a stone swordhilt covered in the symbols of the gods, and a torn copy of the Prophecy… Xenthorn walked away with the Amulet of Dragon Warding, the remaining two guards gleefully nobbled the magic carpet, Dal got hundreds of her beloved gems and Tal and Zane returned with the corpse of Aeren Stiege, Paladin of Death.

But there was one small matter to fix first… Sarah had a little battle to fight with some undead, which would have been difficult except that the staff of the Academy showed up and pulped the walking corpses until there was nothing left with a newly raked field… and then they all went home, to await Beltar's next call to arms.


Product Analysis

As a GM I didn't really like Dragon Mountain. I thought the concept was really cool but I found that all their suggestions didn't work in practise. Perhaps the module was designed for gamers a little less clever and original than my lot, but it seemed that whoever designed the dungeon didn't talk to the pre-dungeon writer guy. You see, the Amulet of Dragon Warding detected ambushes and the kobolds best form of attack was the ambush… which meant that one of their huge advantages was completely negated by the writers themselves. Stupid, huh? Also, there were no less than TWO swords of red dragon slaying in the adventure - one in the hydra's lair (which my group never bothered with because it was a silly way to make them have a fight) and one just lying around in an abandoned weapons shop at the foot of the Mountain. Now, was this fate, or was it just that the writers thought 15th level characters would need the damned dragon handed to them on a plate just like the rest of the adventure? The Dragon was the hardest thing in the dungeon, and a jolly good scrap and I'm glad I didn't let the group have any red dragon slaying swords, or they might have not felt like they did anything at all to earn the riches that they did.

The traps were hard to place because you didn't want to draw on the maps and putting in random kobolds became frustrating for me because the players insisted on slaughtering them to a man. Oh, and the ceilings were unfeasibly low at 5'. Humans don't build ceilings at 6' so why would Dwarves build them at 5? I made them all 6' high except the kobold runs and then only the tallest characters struggled and not one person was foolish enough to enter the warrens alone.

The cleverest combat in the place fell on its face and that was disappointing but a good example of the problems suffered. The idea is that the party are ambushed by kobolds armed with pole arms, from two sides. Well, for a start the party aren't going to run knowingly into an ambush… still, they end up in a combat situation with the pikemen. The thing about ranks of pikes is that anyone running into them is automatically hit 6 times. This does stop the characters running in, sure, but it doesn't stop them eliminating the poor kobolds with a hail of magical fire that reduces them to unrecognisable smears. With three mages, the party were never low on spells.

Arrows, even poisoned ones, hardly ever touched the party, even with bonuses to the little creatures and the party were hardly struggling to hit them, even when they were hidden behind pillars and AC2. Even when blinded by fog and being shot by kobolds, fireballs worked quite well in reducing the kobolds threat. It seemed that, in spite of everything, the kobolds simply couldn't stand up to a party of level 10 characters - as well they shouldn't. I found it tedious to run as they walked through corridor after corridor and really weren't much interested in the politics overall, although they used it to their advantage once.

The dungeon itself was nicely written, a cool idea and well designed to force the characters to walk through a large amount of dungeon before facing the bad guy. And it really did wear the enthusiasm out of people, including me. Combats became mechanical, which was a shame, and although I considered ditching the Amulet of Conquering Dragon Mountain, it would have been tough considering it was at least one character's driving force for being there. The adventure prior to the Mountain was cool and much harder than the Mountain itself, although the false lead was frustrating. Leading people down the garden path is fun, but when they get absolutely nothing out of it at all, they get pretty mad.

The best thing about the dungeon is definitely the trap-puzzles at the end. They are so clever and sooooo deadly. I was well impressed and only the ingenuity of the whole group managed to get them all through alive. These traps are utterly inspired and whittle the group's morale as much as their hit points. It's always fun to watch people panic…

So I thought it was a great concept but badly converted from idea to paper - perhaps better suited in it's current form to lower level characters who don't have unlimited magic. I'd take the amulet out if I did it again for high level characters - they don't need that kind of help.

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The Cataclysm of 1273

The days before the cataclysm occurred were unusual, you were to reflect later, but not indicative of the turmoil and confusion that they brought. According to the best sources available to the world at large, it all started with the Vanyak, and indeed the burden of this whole series of events has been comfortably placed upon their furry shoulders. For indeed, they brought about these events, and the subsequent changes.
But I shall start at the beginning or at least as close as anyone can rightly calculate.


Riktus scratched his muzzle and gave Gomez an apologetic look, or at least something interpretable as such, and then shrugged. "I don't know when I'll be back," he said quietly.
"Don't know, or won't tell me?" asked Gomez, lowering his wiry frame from the table where he was perched, to floor level.
Adjusting his gaze now that his employer was at his level, the Vanyak bared his long teeth. "Don't know. But I'll try not to be long." If he was smiling reassuringly, it was almost impossible to tell.
Nodding, the slightly green skinned man walked around the table and opened a drawer. "Who will teach in your absence? One of the other Vanyak?"
"...No. I'm taking them with me." The rat-man fidgeted with his cloak, as if nervous. "I've left several different people in charge of the different tasks. Ewan is willing to cover staying hidden, Tarracyn's got climbing sewn up and no one else can get through a lock like Daryl."
Straightening up, Gomez stopped nodding. "You're taking all the other Vanyak with you?" he frowned and stepped round the table, holding a scroll in one hand. With an apologetic smile, Riktus nodded.
Taking a deep breath, Gomez walked past him and opened the door to his office, stepping out into the corridor, still clutching the scroll. "Well, you'd better not be too long. We need all the staff we can get at the moment what with us watching Jason's back..." he tailed off and disappeared down the corridor. Riktus paused in the doorway for a moment, watching Gomez's receding back, and then silently skulked off in the opposite direction.


"That's the third sighting this week," Barnabus muttered, looking around the room at his assembled colleagues. "You have to admit, that's a bit strange."
"Of course," agreed the raven-haired beauty. "But we can't interfere. It's some cultural thing."
Shaking his head, Barnabus leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. "Cultural or not, I think it's worth a look."
There was a general murmur of consent from around the table, and the scraping of chairs as someone stood up. "For once, I think Tal's wrong. We should look into this. There's too much weird stuff going on at the moment to let this slide."
Rolling her eyes, Tal gave the speaker a tight smile. "If you think it's such a good idea, you can limp after them yourself."
"I won't heal you next time you get stabbed in the ribs with a foil if you're going to be like that," threatened the purple-clad man with a slight smile.
Another chair scraped as Gomez got to his feet. "Tal! Zane! There's no need to fight. We all think we should go after the Vanyak - except Tal that is - so the point is who not whether." He looked at the two warring factions, who were busy smirking evilly at each other across the table.
"I'd be willing to go," offered a new voice from the end of the table and everyone turned to look at the young wizard sat stroking a black squirrel. "I'd quite like to do some adventuring again."
There were a few raised eyebrows from the different faces, but no objections. "I think that's a good idea," said Zane with an encouraging nod. "But you can't go alone." Gomez laughed loudly at this and sat down again. "Well, of course he's not going alone! Whose squirrel do you think he's stroking?" Laughter rippled around the table, breaking the tension somewhat, although Delphinius blushed slightly and felt a sudden need to put the squirrel down where it couldn't incriminate him.
"Who will you take, Delphinius?" asked Barnabus as the laughter died down to sporadic giggles. "It's probably a good mission for Akima as we don't anticipate much violence." Zane nodded, "In fact, her whole adventuring group would be ideal. They've done some investigating before - in Vortis City. They stopped some half-drow setting Lolth loose on the city or something."
"It was Laveth," corrected Tal quietly. "The half-drow was trying to free her from the Daemonweb." Zane gave her an evil look, but Gomez grinned and muttered something under his breath.
Delphinius shook his head, though, and poured himself a drink. "The problem with that idea is that Brigette is still on her honeymoon and Tarracyn is covering for Riktus. But then again, if Yliruin will come then we get Laconfir and Brookes."
The conversation was disturbed by the door opening as Peace came in, looking a little windswept but no less gorgeous. She smiled at the assembled people and then pulled up a stool. "Okay, fill me in," she demanded in a tone that brooked no arguments.


Gliding elegantly across the room, Sarah laid cool fingers on her husband's broad shoulders and massaged his aching muscles with an enigmatic smile on her face. Sighing deeply, Kaer looked up at her, then took her left hand and gently kissed it. "I don't think the coffers will take much more of this," he murmured with a smile.
"They will, my love," Sarah replied reassuringly. "Have faith in the treasury and do what has to be done."
He nodded and looked down at the scroll again, red eyes transfixed upon it. "Do you know anyone who might be able to help? My own contacts in adventuring circles are a long time cold."
Sarah nodded, and took a seat next to him at the table. "This isn't exactly Dal's outfit... I need to go to Chunn to pay a visit to Frayer and the baby anyway, so a little detour to the temple district won't hurt," she said cryptically, but Kaer seemed to understand. "I think I know a one-man army who won't break the coffers to look into this for us, and I'm sure that Platir and Frayer will sub some of the cash."
"It could be an international venture," agreed Kaer. "I'll join you and that will give me a chance to check in on Marcus as well."


He unhooked his gauntlet from his wrist and pulled the leather glove off his hand before carefully unrolling the yellowed vellum to find a rather lengthy letter written in neat, legible handwriting.

To Plathyn Verreken, Patriarch of Betram
Due to the sensitivity of this issue, and the potential risks to your own safety, I ask that you do not reveal the contents of this letter to anyone whose trustworthiness you cannot vouch for personally.
In recent months we have been witnessing some unusual behaviour on the part of the Vanyak. All those who normally reside within the city have left, heading north or west, and our intelligence shows that the same is true across the nation. The Vanyak are travelling in groups, up to about a score, with wagons and pack beasts - activity which, I'm sure you are aware, is totally uncharacteristic for this race.
We have, of course, had these groups followed, but they have been unable to infiltrate the Vanyak, and most have never returned from their allotted missions. We have been working closely with the Elves of Amir'Shaan, as the Vanyak have been travelling into their lands en masse. Their own scouts have generally met similar fates to our own, but one of them has returned with news that the Vanyak tracks cease abruptly in a clearing.
The obvious assumption is that they have used magic in some manner to facilitate their escape - either by some kind of teleportation, or by disguising their tracks. Where they are going, what their intentions are and what has been happening to our people are questions that require answers. I have been in contact with other world leaders and received confirmation that this is a virtually global effect.
I have received a personal recommendation of your skills as an experienced adventurer and soldier; as a result I would like to invite you to the Palace as a personal guest of myself and the Queen, where we might discuss this matter further, including the specifics of the mission we need you to undertake and the generous donation to your temple from myself and the Amir'Shaan Triumvirate.
Sorcerer King Platir and Queen Frayer of Epratium

He read it twice, a frown creasing his partially Elven features, before he snatched the gauntlet and glove up from their resting place on the table, and strode out of the room purposefully, calling for his squire as he went.


"They've vanished." Yliruin landed next to Laconfir with a frown on her face. "The tracks just stop about a mile up the road."
"That's not possible," muttered Delphinius and spurred his horse on a little faster, followed in short order by the others. With a shrug, Yliruin took to the air once again and sped on ahead.
The other four caught up with her again by the side of the road, where she was stood with her hands on her hips. She pointed to some rut marks in the road and Laconfir leapt nimbly from his horse and bent down to take a closer look. After a moment's pause, the others also dismounted and stood around watching the young elf for some kind of reaction.
He spent a few moments on his haunches, staring at the ruts, and then shifted slightly further along the road, forehead furrowed with concentration. The tension was palpable as he touched the dirt gently with his fingers, and then carefully lowered himself until the ground was at eye level.
Eventually he rose to his feet and looked at the assembled adventurers with a frown of concentration on his fine features. "They did stop here alright, but not for long. There is a lot of movement around the wagon here," and he indicated a slightly more scuffed area towards the edge of the road. "The horses were not comfortable with the stop - they kept shifting about," once again gestured at the slight piles of dirt that had revealed this information.
"But where did they go?" asked Akima as she fed a nut to a black squirrel perched on her shoulder. "Did they turn back or did they vanish?"
With a deep breath, Laconfir turned back to the road and looked at it for another few moments. "I think they vanished. Unless they lifted the horses and cart into the air - which we would have seen."
"I can't see any other options here," agreed Delphinius. "You'd need a big flying carpet to hold all those Vanyak. Do you think there were any more of them here than the ones we've been following?"
The elf shook his head. "Perhaps one or two, but in that case they came from off-road because they have no tracks. What's of particular note is that they stopped the cart for a short while and then moved it a little further down the road, but then the tracks come to an abrupt end."
Delphinius nodded and took a closer look at the terminal tracks. "They must have gated away."
"Like that thing High Priest DuPuis can do?" asked Yliruin, intrigued.
The wizard smiled, and nodded. "Probably. Spells like teleport don't really have this kind of capacity. I would be surprised if the Vanyak had a wizard that powerful and we didn't know about it."
"But why would they teleport away? Because we were following them? Why didn't they do it sooner if they could do it all along?" The sun elf flapped her fiery wings in irritation and glared at the tracks.
"Maybe it was a last resort," offered Akima quietly. "Maybe they were only supposed to do it in an emergency."
Laconfir nodded and walked over to Delphinius, who was still studying the ridges of earth. "Or maybe they met someone here who teleported them away. Maybe this is where they were coming to all along."
The others stared at him for a moment, and then Brookes laughed in his booming voice, breaking the silence. "There's only one way to find out," he rumbled. "We'll have to follow some of them more closely."
Akima laughed then, and gave him a sweet smile. "You make that sound so easy," she said.
Brookes shrugged. "We don't have any options; either we stay here and wait to see what happens, or we go and find some more Vanyak and take a closer look."
Yliruin and Laconfir nodded, but Delphinius had a thoughtful look on his face. "Do you mind if we stay here for a day or two?" When his companions gave him quizzical looks, he just smiled. "Humour me."
Akima shrugged. "Alright. But I do have one more question... if they did meet someone who teleported them away, what happened to that person afterwards?"
The tents went up swiftly, just off the road where they would not immediately be visible, and the different people took up their favourite places to watch the road and rest. The day drew gently to a close, and Delphinius sat quietly, occasionally casting a spell and frowning as the runes faded into the dusk.
"Nothing?" Akima wrapped her arms around him as she sat down, watching as the leaves in her lover's hand were burnt to ash by magical fire. He shook his head but otherwise said nothing, listening to the gathering gloom and the distant cry of a hunting wolf pack.
"What are you looking for?" she probed further, squeezing his ribs a little tighter.
He glanced back at her then, and half-shrugged. "I thought it was possible that they had used magic to jump into the future, making us think they had gone, while in reality they were still here."
"That has to be powerful magic, surely? And if they can do that, why wouldn't they just gate away?"
He shrugged again and shifted until he was more comfortable on the dry earth. "I don't know. It's just a possibility I thought of. We'll move off in the morning and find some more Vanyak."
Akima nodded sleepily and rested her head on his bony shoulder. "We'll certainly look for some," she murmured through a smile.


The forest was quite dense here, and the half-elf had no problems following the Vanyak as they climbed over roots and scrambled through bushes with all their equipment on their backs. They had been forced to abandon the wagon and the horses a few miles back, but they had done this without worry or remorse, although by now with their bleeding flesh and aching muscles they would be wishing there had been an easier route.
For his own part, torn skin was nothing new, although he regretted carrying his armour rather than wearing it. Still, it made him more manoeuvrable and he was better able to camouflage himself when he wasn't blue and shiny.
Up ahead, he heard voices and the majority of the Vanyak came to a halt. There was some rustling and the voices continued to converse, but they were too far away to be heard properly. Moving as quietly as he could, the half-elf eased himself forward, hoping to find a good vantage point to see what had brought the Vanyak to a halt.
Finally finding a slightly less dense patch of foliage, he crouched down low, peering through the branches and leaves towards the assembled group. There were about a dozen of them, all with dark fur, matted with sweat and darkened here and there by blood. Their clothes were wound around them, and about half also wore wooden splinted armour on their torsos, carrying long knives and shouldering heavy packs. They were crowded together, talking to each other in low voices, and glancing around the vague of clearing as if they were expecting someone else to reveal themselves at any time.
Taking this opportunity to check his pack was still secure, the dark-haired man lay on his belly and slowly crawled towards the group, carefully avoiding making any sudden moves and using loud points in the conversation to navigate the more dense areas he encountered. As he got closer, he began to make out the conversation somewhat. They were definitely waiting for someone, although they seemed unwilling to discuss that in any detail, and they were a little uncertain about something - possibly whether they were in the right place or not.
The closest he could get to them without exposing himself was about 20 feet, but it was a distance at which he could clearly see and hear virtually everything. He stopped and waited for something new to happen.
After about half an hour, a voice drifted through the thick brush, "Tarl?" it asked, and it could only be assumed to be a name - a matter that was confirmed when one of the Vanyak stepped forward.
"I am here, Gratta. And I have others with me." The one called Tarl looked round at the others, an unreadable expression on his rodent features.
There was a rustling of leaves and branches, and then a thin, grey-furred Vanyak stepped into the half-clearing, clad in a long green cape and brandishing a spear with a curved blade. To all appearances he hadn't had to fight his way through the brambles like the others, and in comparison they looked like poor serfs grovelling at their master's feet.
Tarl stepped forward and saluted formally, his wooden armour creaking slightly with this uncharacteristic movement. The remaining Vanyak looked at one another and then variously bowed, saluted and nodded in respect - a rather messy combination of styles. However, if Gratta was unhappy with their appearance and shoddy reception of him, his black eyes revealed nothing of it.
"Are you ready?" he asked of the group in general, and they murmured in assent, once again glancing around the clearing as if expecting someone else.
The grey-haired Vanyak levelled his spear at Tarl, and then brought it round in a sweeping arc, to no apparent purpose. The group stepped back a pace, looking a little nervous, and Tarl rejoined them by taking a few paces backwards. Gratta bared his teeth at them before reversing his spear and thrusting the blade into the soft earth with a dramatic flourish. Then he closed his eyes and spread his clawed hands before him, fingers twitching as if the muscles were spasming.
In the bush, the half-elf began to get his hands and feet underneath him in case he had to make a swift exit. All this mystery and magic had him on his guard, and he was certain that when the flames scorched the earth, he wouldn't be in the path of destruction.
Gratta began to make a whistling noise, like he was breathing heavily through his long fangs, and a gem at his belt began to glow a gentle green colour. The assembled Vanyak looked at each other, obviously perturbed, but held their ground, even as their green-robed rat-man sank to his knees and began shaking violently. The gem at his belt glowed brighter and brighter, until it was almost as bright as a torch. In front of his outstretched hands, a dark area began to form, gradually expanding to almost seven feet in height and breadth.
"You... should go now," he gasped to the other Vanyak. "I don't know how long I can hold this." Without hesitation, Tarl took three strides forward and disappeared into the void. The rest of the group paused for a moment, and then they filtered through one at a time. As the last one stepped into darkness, the dark-haired man launched himself out of his hiding place at a dead run.
Gratta must have heard him, for his head jerked round in some surprise to see a tall, muscular humanoid pelting towards him. Instinctively he leapt to his feet, and the gate began to close, but his assailant was not put off. As the Vanyak stumbled back, the half-elf swung a meaty fist at the rat-man in an uppercut, connecting with his bony muzzle and sending the creature sprawling.
The gate wavered and continued to contract as Gratta reached for his spear, but something grabbed him from behind and hauled him off his feet. He thrashed out at his attacker and felt his claws slice through flesh. The man stumbled slightly, and then he felt air whistle through his fur as he was thrown bodily into his own portal.
Although injured and off-balance, the half-elf forced himself to dive into the closing portal, barely eighteen inches wide, and was swallowed by the velvety void.


The plain was vast, a basin between two ridges of mountains; an isolated and forgotten land without agriculture or native peoples. Today, however, it was home to a population of Vanyak. Hundreds of thousands of them, teeming across the plain like flies on refuse. It was as if a single vast shanty town had appeared overnight, constructed exclusively of tents and wagons; the essential brown quality of the denizens broken by the occasional white horse or coloured flag.
The Vanyak were not alone, however. Far above them, perched upon a ridge, was a group of adventurers, watching the swarming rodents with a mixture of amazement and disgust. There was some obvious friction in the group, mostly centring on a heavily armoured half-elf in a blue surcoat and his grey-furred Vanyak prisoner.
"Have you managed to find out where we are yet?" asked Akima of the armoured man, as he knelt on the floor, head raised to the sky in prayer.
For a moment there was silence among the group, and then the armoured man moved, rising to his feet. "Somewhere south of Caldium, as far as I can tell. I'm not familiar with the place name."
Frowning, Akima looked down at the sea of rodents, ebbing and flowing. There was a great deal of activity a few miles away - they were building some sort of stage out of wood and had chopped down virtually every tree they had found to do it. Laconfir hadn't been pleased about that, but there was little he could do against such a horde.
"I've never heard of Caldium," Delphinius said loudly, joining Akima at the edge of the overhang. "Are you sure you heard correctly, Plath?"
Plath gave the wizard a long look but didn't furnish him with an answer. Instead he strode over to his captive and hauled him upright. He was looking a little worse for wear after the fight and the subsequent trip through the vortex he had created: his clothes were dirty and torn, and his facial features were distorted with swollen bruises.
"Do you know where this place is?" he demanded. "It's called Braa-Lant. Sound familiar?" The rat shook it's head, black eyes watering, and sagged weakly in his grip. The half-elf put the Vanyak down and turned back to the edge of the rock where he could watch the frenetic activity below.
There was a short period of silence before Delphinius spoke. "How could he have opened a gate to this place if he didn't know where it was?"
Plath shrugged. "It wasn't any sort of magic I've seen before. It could have been a device - I took this gem off him after he opened the portal." The half-elf reached into a belt-pouch and handed Delphinius a green gem. "It glowed while he was opening the portal, but I assumed it was a one-use item as it has no magical residue on it now."
However, the wizard was shaking his head. "That's because it was psionics, not magic," he said with authority.
Plath nodded in agreement, "Mental powers, huh? That would explain a lot." He glanced over his shoulder at the tied Vanyak, who seemed to have lapsed back into a fitful sleep. "But how does the gem fit into that theory?"
"Psionic power can be stored in gems - in the same way that magic can be stored in wands. The psionicist can then draw on that power to boost his existing resources." Delphinius held the gem up to the light. "The gems have to be of exceptional quality, though. This emerald must be worth a small fortune, especially if it had to hold enough power to teleport you here. Should cover all our expenses for this trip anyway."
There was a hoarse shout from below and a number of Vanyak could be seen fleeing from the wooden stage as a section of it collapsed, engulfing hundreds of the rodents in a cloud of dust as the logs disturbed the dry dust of the bowl. Brookes laughed aloud - his distinctive booming laugh - lightening the atmosphere somewhat.
"We really need to find out what they're doing," muttered Laconfir impatiently, looking thoughtfully at the prisoner. "I don't think it's wise to wait and see when they're finished."
His beautiful partner smiled at him, and flapped her wings slightly. "Well, whatever it is, they're not too bothered about us being up here, or they'd have tried to dislodge us by now."
"Not necessarily," Plath replied quietly. "They may be waiting for night to fall. Their eyesight is far superior to ours in the dark."
Suddenly Delphinius started, leaping to his feet with a horrified expression on his face. Akima half-rose with him, looking perplexed, but the wizard turned to the dark-haired man sat next to him, eyes wide and staring.
Plath looked at him for a moment, while the wizard just stared at him, and then he, too, got to his feet. The rest of the group was watching this with a certain amount of caution, not certain of what might be happening.
Slowly, Delphinius turned so his back was to the rest of the group, and only Akima and Plath could see his hands, and then he made a few small gestures. Where his fingers passed through the air, they left a shimmering trace - a message. It said: If the rat is psionic he could be telepathic.
For a moment the trio didn't move, and then Plath turned on his heel, once again striding towards his prisoner. This time, though, he didn't speak to it. He simple lifted its head and smashed it into the ground, rendering the creature unconscious, before turning to the others. "I think we should move."


Three days passed eventfully, being a series of bloody skirmishes and heated arguments. Sleep was hard to come by, and everyone's capabilities were stretched to the limit. The prisoner had been freed by a carefully planned Vanyak assault, which was a blessing in many ways as then the rat-men lost their ability to pin-point the group and they could move faster. Plath's faith protected them at every turn, Yliruin's scouting was vital to their survival, while Laconfir could track down anyone hiding or fleeing through the rocky terrain. Delphinius and Akima wore themselves out of spells within hours, although Akima rarely actually harmed anyone seriously. They found a satisfying tactic involving Akima putting their assailants to sleep while Plath gated the group across to the other side of the bowl.
Activity among the Vanyak continued, though, in spite of the persistent intruders. Setting aside initial setbacks, the stage building proceeded, even through the night, and the fact that it could easily be seen at a distance of several miles was a testament to its size. There was still no obvious indication as to what the gathering meant, but more Vanyak arrived every day to swell the already-thronging masses.
The event organisers became more apparent as time went by: these were usually grey or white of fur and dressed in long robes - factors that marked them out among the others. There were also a number of interesting beasts present: huge, hulking rat-men standing 7 to 8 feet tall, and bulging with muscles. They looked less intelligent than their pureblood counterparts, and seemed to be acting as bodyguards and labourers. The adventurers dubbed these "rat-ogres" and were fortunate enough not to face any in combat.
On the dawn of the fourth day the watchful group were greeted with the sight of a completed stage, upon which several grey Vanyak were setting up braziers. Someone had painted a large red triangle on the floor of the stage, perhaps 15 feet across, and the assembled rat-men were judiciously avoiding stepping on or over it.
The sight had the adventurers generally unnerved and they really wanted to destroy the stage, but even magical fire had no effect on the wood - they had already tried that and failed - so unless they were willing to die to destroy it, they had no choice but to sit and watch.
As the day drew on, the number of Vanyak on the stage decreased, but the crowds slowly began to gather around. The stage had been built at a significant height above the heads of the onlookers, so that the vast majority would be able to see the proceedings. Even so, the number of Vanyak present must have been running close to half a million, and the throng filled an area more vast than any city in the world.
Despite the focus of activity below, raiding groups were still seeking the unwanted intruders, and they had to relocate several times during the course of the day, only resorting to combat once when they were assaulted shortly after they gated to a new location. Weary and tattered, the six adventurers managed to find a reasonable vantage-point high above the stage, where no Vanyak could climb without being clearly visible. From here they decided to observe the crowds and be prepared for a swift departure should such a thing become necessary.
Late in the afternoon a lone figure stepped onto the stage and a hush settled on the crowd like a mantle. The figure was a Vanyak with white fur and pink eyes. It was wearing a long black robe and was armed with a short spear, but when it spoke it was immediately apparent that the creature was female.
Frustratingly, for the adventurers crowded round a small fire on a rocky ledge high above the assembled rats, the words of the orator were too quiet and distant - quite how the entire population of that valley were supposed to hear her was baffling. But hear her they did, as they swayed in rapt attention, the distant murmur of her voice broken only by the sound of dry twigs crackling in the flames of the fire. Close observation realised that the other grey and white-furred Vanyak were dispersed evenly throughout the crowd, and probably amplifying the voice of the speaker to the others nearby them.
The female spoke for two hours, and no one else said a word. Night fell and she lit the braziers, all the time talking to the masses in a voice that rushed from a whisper to a battle cry and back, sometimes sounding more like singing than anything else.
Two hours after the moons had risen, swollen and pregnant twins in the sky, the crowd began to chant with her. Quietly at first, as if they weren't sure of the words, but as time wore on they grew more confident and thus louder, drowning out all other sounds for thirty miles. If they were chanting intelligibly, though, they were using a language that none of the assembled non-Vanyak were aware of.
It was an unsettling sight, half a million Vanyak swarmed together as a single entity, swaying rhythmically in the pinkish light of the full moons and chanting loudly in unison, like a beating drum marching into battle.
On stage, the white Vanyak was pacing back and forth between all the braziers, dropping incense into them as she reached them, resulting in a shower of green sparks. She chanted along with the crowd, but while their attention was on her, her attention was on the red painted triangle on the stage. After she had dropped all the incense into the braziers, she turned her back on the crowd and stood at the point of the triangle, her arms raised above her head. She stood like that for several minutes while the crowd chanted and swayed and the adventurers fidgeted with worry. Then she began to make gestures in the air - gestures that left a lingering trace behind them, like the visual afterimage in the wake of a sparkler. And as she gestured, the red paint began to glow and throb ever so slightly.
Plath began packing up his equipment at this point, readying himself for flight in the light of what must be some kind of summoning. Delphinius, however, was rapt with fascination, watching the creatures below without blinking or moving. The half-elf put a hand on his shoulder, but found it shaken off by the wizard. "We can't go now, without knowing what they are doing," he whispered. "This is possibly the most significant event in recent history." Akima gave him a strange look and tugged at his arm, hoping to distract him from his new obsession, but although he looked at her, he obviously wasn't willing to leave. "What they are doing down their is group psionics. At least, I think so. Using the community mind to summon up something, although I don't know what."
"You'll find out first hand if you stay here," Plath said darkly, but just then there was a sudden change in the pitch of the crowd's chanting, and he found himself kneeling next to the wizard, staring intently at the crowd.
Below, the swaying of the brown mass had ceased, and the chanting had changed - the meter of the words had altered, and the tone, too, and the vast majority had their black eyes closed. The non-brown Vanyak were the most interesting to view at this point, though. Each was staring intently at the stage, and their fur was glowing ever so slightly with a dim red light, similar to that of the pulsating red triangle on the stage. The white figure on the stage had stopped gesturing now, and was holding her arms in front of her, hands open and palms upward. The triangle's light bathed her in warmth such that her fur looked bloodied and her wide, staring eyes glowed as bright as torches.
Very quietly, as if expecting to disturb someone by speaking, Laconfir whispered, "This is about to get messy." And for once, Brookes didn't laugh.
The new style of chanting went on for some minutes, and as it did the glowing of the white and grey Vanyak intensified, until they were each illuminating hundreds of their kind in their radiance. Strangely, the crowds paid them no mind, as if glowing were an anticipated effect. The painted triangle continued to pulsate and throb, becoming ever more bloody coloured and bright. Its rhythmical beating was that of a heart.
The light of the glowing figures intensified until it was painful to look at, and the chanting began to reach a crescendo. On the stage, the red light engulfed the white Vanyak and the braziers, so bright was the blaze, and the metallic tang of blood could be tasted on the air, far above.
Then suddenly, the light receded into the triangle. It was as if someone had simply sucked it in like smoke. The crowd instantly stopped chanting and, as one, they opened their eyes. On the stage, the red triangle had become a solid column of light, bright in itself, but not radiating. The braziers had extinguished and the tiny figure of a white furred Vanyak could be seen at its base, kneeling with arms raised above her head.
For a moment, everyone was frozen in tableau: the vast swarm of Vanyak were stood stock still, eyes rigidly fixed on the stage. On their rocky ledge, the intruders were barely breathing, hands on weapons, spells on their lips, the urge to run bubbling just below the surface.

And then there was an explosion.

This was an explosion like no other. Visibly, the red light simply exploded outwards in all directions, engulfing all the observers in a warm light. As one, the Vanyak collapsed to their knees, while on the stage a creature was born into the world. It was curled up like a child at first, but after a moment it found its monstrous feet and slowly, unsteadily, rose to its full height. It stood fifteen feet tall, and was some kind of giant Vanyak, with a pair of deer horns protruding from its head. It roared, but no one heard its roar for everyone was unconscious. The creature surveyed the sprawling mass of subjects and roared again, before taking a step outside its blood-splattered triangle. It looked down at the fallen and sad-looking bundle of bones that was the white female Vanyak, and stopped. With a single gesture of its hand it raised her body to head height, and with another it awakened her. She opened her pink eyes weakly, and looked into the face of her god. The Horned Rat had come into being.

This was an explosion like no other. It rent through the very fabric of the world, altering it, changing it. The force of so much psychic power compressed into a single event - the birth of a god - was too much for anyone to take. As the psionic wave ripped through the consciousness of the world, living creatures everywhere fell to the ground, unconscious, their systems overloaded by it.
People were not the only things affected. The birth of a god is a traumatic thing, and all the gods were touched - jostled, if you like - in their positions. The essential magic of the world changed and warped: it fuelled itself into maintaining the structure of the planet. The psychic shockwave changed everything and everyone in the whole world. Without exception.

When the adventurers came round, their heads throbbed mightily and it took them a few moments to realise that they had been unconscious for several hours. Below them, the piles of unconscious Vanyak were stirring, waking up to much the same hung-over feeling that the adventurers were. The stage was empty, save for four upturned braziers and a large quantity of red paint and blood splattered everywhere.
It took a while for anyone to feel confident enough to talk. Everything felt inherently different - there was something intangible about the feeling, but it was definitely there. The quality of magic had changed, reduced somehow, and in many ways intensified. Even the gods seemed to have been affected by it, not responding as expected.
Realising that there was little more they could do with the Vanyak, the group wordlessly agreed to return home. This was going to be a little awkward, they knew, involving finding a town and getting a map so they could show Plath where they were. It was venturing into this wider world that they began to understand that this feeling of change was not localised. Returning to their respective homes, the realisation began to sink in that these changes were intrinsic to the world and the very manner in which it functioned. It was a few weeks before they realised that there was a new god in the pantheon. Now nothing would ever be the same.

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TWO PARTIES: Girls and Guys
Shortly after the Cataclysm, Beltar called a meeting to announce that the third seal had been broken. As a result, Gomez, Barnabus, Tal, Jason and Xunil went to the city of Toron Thire to investigate. They found a great many things there, including a shade called Waldez, who also died there, and the seal guardian, mali-Feran'us.
It turned out that the townspeople had dug deep beneath their city, and uncovered some sleeping Eleurians, and an Eleshai called Zahedi. He had wreaked havoc on the city with his undead hordes, and eventually the city had been abandoned, until recently. It seemed that Austell and Corman had been up to their old tricks, and had broken the seal using an elf's blood again. In addition, the town was guarded by a paladin of Archin, who refused the party entrance to the city, causing them to sneak in unseen. There was only one resident of the city remaining, a man called Daimon, who had no idea why he remained.
Needless to say, the party defeated Zahedi and destroyed his undead, but left the city under the watch of the paladin, uncertain as they were of whether or not she was truly their enemy. As they left, Corman rode up to them, carrying a letter from Gethirah, upon which he had scribbled a small note begging the party to talk to him somewhere where he couldn't be scried upon.
The letter told them that the families of Gomez, Barnabus and Jason had been kidnapped and were to be held hostage until Serenity, daughter of Quistin and Inisrya, was brought to Gethirah, or until 3 months had elapsed. If they provided Serenity, the families would be spared, otherwise...
However, Jason, who was reading the letter aloud, failed to understand the need for secrecy with regard to Corman's note, or possibly he made the conscious decision for his next actions. For he read the note aloud. Corman simply leapt on his horse and rode away, followed by Gomez, who simply got an earful before the ranger vanished.
The party was understandably devastated by the news about their families, and returned to Beltar, to find that a great deal had changed. The Czar had died, and been replaced by his less trustworthy son, Gomez had a granddaughter called Tranquility, and Zane had been put into a coma by Gethirah when the priest had attacked him for trying to kidnap Gomez's wife, daughter and granddaughter.
Long debates followed, and the party were joined by Lydia, a human bard who had been following the exploits of the party for a few years. She joined them in their quest to locate Serenity, who had been in Agatan, but was kidnapped by Portrathos and held near the first seal. So the party followed and braved the many lethal traps that protected Portrathos' lair, until they found him, his companions and Serenity, and finally got to explain what was going on to someone. Portrathos was a little cool towards them, but agreed to hand Serenity over. He also showed them something very interesting indeed...
His own dungeon was a few hundred feet from a complex that seemed to have been built at the time of the Great War, and the party simply had to investigate further. They found that there were six rooms, one for each of the gods Lucifer, Foria, Kedras, Mornan, Archin and Ercan. Each room contained a test before permitting them to continue. At the centre was a final room, guarded by four insectiod daemons called gelugons, which the party launched into combat with. However, they were initially unsuccessful: Barnabus and Lydia were both killed, and the party retreated.
However, they returned later, ready for anything, and defeated the hideous creatures, triumphing against the odds. They then found a hole at the far end of the room that led to a secret room, within which were great treasures and a huge pit fiend guardian called Tazeel. However, Tazeel didn't attack them, he simply spoke with them while they assessed the situation, and recognised the hilt of what could only be Gethirah's own sword among the goods. They pretended they were friends of Gethirah's, and so Tazeel allowed them to take a letter for the champion, so that he would return and collect the treasures, which had been set aside for him 10,000 years before.
On their way out of the complex, Izzabella decided to suck the power out of one of the rooms, but the power was beyond her ability to control, and she turned into a torrent of white light, and disappeared, leaving Barnabus alone in his body for only the second time in his life. The party then charged Portrathos and his companions with the task of making more traps to keep Tazeel in, and they took Serenity with them, eventually leaving her on a demiplane with Tal, hidden from Gethirah and his cronies.

After this, it was decided that Sarah, Alyia, Akima, Sesswe and Plath would form a team and investigate the second seal, to retrieve Seren and see if it was a suitable place for Tal and Serenity to hide out. While there they found that Seren had regained some lucidity, and decided to leave his prison, heading out into the wider world of his dungeon. While wandering, he had met a sticky end at the hands of Austell, while sitting in the pub he had made. As they were leaving, the party was assaulted by two tanar'ri, who seemed less than good, continually plunging the party into darkness and casting feeblemind on Alyia. While the party defeated one (Emba), they managed to convince the other to leave them alone - by giving him information about the location of Tazeel, and wisely assuming that the tanar'ri would be more interested in killing a pit fiend than some adventurers.
Reconsideration of the situation after this led to the formation of two parties: The 'guys', being Gomez, Barnabus, Nori and Tristan, and the 'girls', being Sarah, Lydia, Akima, Alyia, Sesswe and, err, Plath. They were each given a set of missions to fulfill, in the hope of finding allies and information. The guys were to go to Dhisentaer again, then to the Underdark to find the Shadow and thence the Way Watcher, because he was in the prophecies. The girls were to investigate a collection of small things, and then try and find Dal.

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The Guys
DHI'SEN'TAER: this was their first stop, the ancient abandoned elven city. They hoped to find a dream gate and some information on the war, and they did just that - and found the source of the haunting, in the form of an undead paladin who had sacrificed herself to protect the town. They destroyed the ghost, although Tristan died, and recovered an artefact known as the Harp of Avalah - Avalah had been the god of music, dead these 10,000 years. They resolved to give the harp to Lydia, and used the Dream Gate they found to save Zane from his coma by killing two dream daemons who were keeping him unconscious by making him relive the events of the attack on the Gomez family, up to the point where Gethirah ran him through. They guys also met a female elven wizard, and stayed at her house.
UNDERDARK: The guys took a few days off and then headed to the Underdark, braving kobolds, darkmantles, duergar and kuo-toa to find the Drow and hence the Shadow. However, the Shadow was unwilling to simply join them and asked them to help him prevent the Drow from summoning an avatar of Lolth to crush their enemies. Naturally, the party agreed, and they thoroughly mullered every single preparation the Drow had made for the highly complex ceremony.
BARD: The Shadow explained that the Way Watcher had been known to reside in Bard, so that was the best place to start looking for him. The Drow had greatly revered him, but the Shadow knew nothing of his identity or appearance. So they went to Bard, where they met with a weretiger monk by the name of Mia, who asked them to help her rescue her brother from a mindflayer prison. The party offered to help without much hesitation, and so they left the Shadow in Bard and went to rescue the 7-year old boy.
MANZESSINE: The party made their way to the Manzessine prison, smashed their way in and proceeded through the complex, while at the same time, the prisoners made a prison break. They met little significant resistance from the mindflayers themselves, although the golems and Lernean cryohydra proved more of a challenge... they encountered a mindflayer warload called Abolssk, and earned his grudging gratitude for helping him out of the prison, discovered a self-pitying prisoner called Filth, who seemed to be part-beholder, part-Drow, and eventually located young Jeremy, Mia's brother. He was being held hostage by a human sorcerer and a mindflayer monk, and while the monk got disintegrated by Gomez, the sorcerer managed to cripple the party, killing Nori, with a maximised cone of cold. However, she gave herself up, and handed over the boy, and the party left the prison with their various rescuees in tow. Abolssk left them in the Underdark, Dyema (the human sorcerer) at the surface, and Jeremy at his mother's house.
BARD AGAIN: Barnabus, Mia and Nori returned to Bard to get the Shadow, as they strongly suspected that Filth was the Way Watcher (although he denied it) but they were unable to find him. They did, however, kill a rather sneaky phantom fungus and a lumbering undead dude with a warhammer, despite Barnabus lightning bolting virtually the entire party... they left a message for the Shadow and departed.
ACADEMY: They returned to the Academy, where Gomez announced his intention to refrain from adventuring for a while. He replaced himself with Church, the first of the Chosen, and his halfling friend, Thimble, both of whom were keen to save the world. Filth finally admitted he was the Way Watcher, much to the frustration of all present, and Otto decided to go to Vortis City, to try and find out what their enemies were up to. Kaer came to see Barnabus for guidance and spells against the undead, and found him to be useless, Morwen came to say that she was casting commune and to take Filth back to her fortress, and Sesswe tagged back in, replacing Tristan, who went off with Zetotha (see Girls string).
PORTRATHOS: So, the guys, under the leadership of Barnabus, were charged with their new mission: Portrathos had been kidnapped and turned to stone, and Beltar needed it investigate fast. Barny took them to Portrathos' lair, where he found all of the companions slaughtered, and wisely he decided to check on Tazeel. However, when they got there, they found that the room had been cleared out, and all that remained was a note from Austell: note. Barnabus was furious, and resolved to kill Austell at the first opportunity. However, they returned to Portrathos' lair and followed a bloody smear that lead outside - along the way they found some mysterious blue, possibly tanar'ri, blood, and Barnabus showed his hatred of carrion crawlers by killing three with a maximised lightning bolt! The trail was confused, but Nori concluded that some other people had looked at the trail and possibly even moved the bloody-smear person, but that there was way too much teleporting for him to be certain of anything. They returned to the Academy, and Barnabus scried on Portrathos, memorising the room before gathering the party, and teleporting them to the wrong place...

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The Girls
SWORD IN THE STONE: Sarah took the party back to a stone she had encountered 20 years before, which had a hole for a sword in it, and they tried to put the runed stone hilt from Dragon Mountain in the hole. To their surprise, the hilt changed shape to fit the hole, and even projected a blade for itself. This activated some kind of recording of the Final Battle of the Great War, when Gethirah and The'tani' had killed one another. There was little else to find, however.
TABITHA: They then travelled to find Lady Tabitha Chevan in the hope of ascertaining whether the Knights of the Alliance were their allies. She explained that they were, and introduced them to Isarc, who seemed to be one of Seren's golems, sent to record events. They explained to him that Seren was dead, and he opted to join them for a time, to see the events they would see. At this point Adrian turned up and explained that he had found evidence for Dal's location, but had been seen.
VORTIS CITY: The girls headed to Vortis City, and managed to discover a cube of stone in the Ethereal plane which house a gate leading to a demiplane belonging to a sorcerer known as Crane. They entered the plane, and assaulted the chaos of his tower, encountering monsters, aberrations and traps by the bucketful, one of which claimed Lydia's life (strike 2). Sarah fell in a pool of Mordenkainen's Disjunction and they got very angry at some complex door-locking mechanisms... eventaully, they found their way to the main room, where Crane was torturing Dal for information. A fight ensued, in which Crane escaped and Plath killed a helpless insane prisoner, and there was much moral debating. Once Dal was free, it emerged that Dal's personality had been submerged, the dominant personality was a tanar'ri called Zetotha, who was helping heal the damage done by the drugs and torture. She revealed that the soul of The'tan'i had been within Dal, but had departed when the torture became too much - Zetotha had replaced him. Zetotha explained that she wanted to explore a little, and Sesswe offered to go with her.
TORON THIRE 2: The girls then went to Toron Thire, to speak to Daimon and clarify the situation at the city. The paladin told them that he was the only permitted citizen, by order of the king, and when they questioned him, he expressed no understanding of why he was there, or the wider issues at hand. He refused to leave with them, and as the girls were heading off, thirteen monks appeared, led by someone called Sayloss, and told them to leave Daimon alone - that he was part of a prophecy specific to the city, and not relating to them.
MARCUS GRENDALL: Having heard that Marcus Grendall had been admitted to a lunatic asylum in Agatan, the party headed there to find the source of his madness, taking a slight detour to his home on Cimosco's Island, although that found nothing useful. They managed to determine that his insanity was due to dream daemons, but little else, and they asked for someone to look into it further for them. DEADGATE: Sarah had several visions about souls being sucked into darkness or a tower, and Alyia also had one, which prompted them to research the Deadgate, a terrifying construction that destroyed mortal souls to power other creatures, even a god. They found that one had been erected in Caldium, so in the intention of performing research, they went to have a look. Ignoring the advice of the locals, they lingered after dark, and encountered a banshee that surged out of the dark water to scream at them, which killed Sarah, Alyia, Akima and Lydia outright. Plath brought Sarah back immediately and then she, he and Isarc battled the undead fiend, ultimately prevailing. They then resurrected their friends, sending the corpse of Akima back to the Academy. They then travelled to Hal-Ravir to find the ex-frost giant, later cloud giant castle that housed the dread device, and were joined by a paladin of death, River, and her unicorn mount, Silver. Assaulting the keep was difficult, it was populated by undead, constructs and deadly simulacra, and they had barely got through the gates before Lydia had been petrified. They suffered heavily on the way, but ultimately found their way to the Deadgate itself, guarded by simulacra and a derro wizard called Eldrua, wielding a vorpal scythe. She removed Lydia's head (strike 4) and killed River, but then proceded to be beaten into a pulp by the rest of the party. Once she was dead, they demolished the Deadgate, but the spirit of Foria, goddess of Memory and the deity who was to be fuelled by the Deadgate when it was complete, possessed the corpse of Eldrua and warned the party they had made an enemy, before retrieving the scythe and showering the party with severed heads and twisted metal.
FAERUN: After the Deadgate was destroyed, a young blind boy arrived, calling himself Cleisthenes, a messenger from Ohwenn, goddess of balance. The party were being charged with a holy quest to restore balance to the world, and remove the external influences prevailing on the world, by going to Faerun and rescuing the families of Gomez and Barnabus. The girls agreed.

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