Category Archives: HARP

Chapter 20 – Knights of Tymirr

As the horde of Terrors continue their charge north towards the party, our heroes decide what to do. After debating for a few moments, they plan to descend the ridge and have Galandil use his Arc-miner spells to cut a hidden trench in the sand in front of their position in order to trap the oncoming Terrors.

Following Galandil’s lead the party climbs down the ridge and readies their weapons. Galandil creates a fissure in the sand and quickly climbs into it, using his amulet to dig a 100 foot long and 40 foot wide tunnel. As before the sand at the sides of the tunnel fuses to glass, holding it open. However he figures that the weight of the huge Terrors will crack the roof of the tunnel and send them plummeting down 40 feet.

The party stands ready as the Terrors come closer. As they near it is seen that in addition to the 22 huge spider-like Terrors, two Red Tower cultists are among them on horseback. Lionel and his Tymirr knights are in hot pursuit only a few hundred yards behind.

When they are within range of Meran’s longbow he fires and scores an impressive hit on one of the Terrors. Galandil fires an elemental bolt at one of the cultists and hits her in the chest. She topples off of her horse and is trampled by the rampaging Terrors behind her. One of the archers in Lionel’s party finishes the job a second later when he buries an arrow in her back. The second cultist is skewered by Meran’s arrows moments later.

The battle commences as the Terrors come within melee range, however the first ones break through the thin dome of earth over the trench and fall down into the dark. Only a few manage to make their way across to attack the party as the dome continues to shatter and swallow more of them. As the remaining Terrors slow down to avoid the others’ fates, Lionel’s band reach them from behind and dismount their horses to begin attacking in close combat. Also, Atentir summons two dogs to his side to assist in the attack.

The party and Lionel’s group make short work of the remaining Terrors, using their superior position to rain arrows and magical projectiles into the pit. A few Terrors manage to scale or jump the slick walls of the cavern, only to be cut down seconds later by the party’s blades.

After the battle is concluded, Lionel rushes to see his sister. He hugs Neith and says that he’s very glad she is okay. When he heard that the Terrors were coming to attack them he assembled the team of riders and took off in pursuit after them for more than two days. Many members of his party we killed during the trip but they also managed to thin the numbers of the Terrors slightly.

Lionel tells the party that he and his guard will protect them as they return to Tymirr so they may get some well-deserved rest. After a while everyone packs up their gear and they start off on their return journey.

As they leave, Elowisyl and Atentir notice that their brother is looking unwell. His skin is looking a bit greenish and his eyes appear sunken, not unlike the appearance of Alexander Drem from whom they acquired the silver circlet. It is decided that they will immediately take him to see Yeador and Orunn once they reach the city.

A few miles into their journey, Elowisyl receives a message on his magical scroll from Erillas. It reads: “The Ch’zak crossed the river into the town and were assaulting the castle. The great beasts were thrashing against the citadel walls and attempting to gain entry; the east wall partially buckled from the assault. We lost many men. During the conflict we saw a bright flash of light to the South. Almost immediately we noticed a change in the behavior of the Ch’zak. They became disorganized and many of them fled. I don’t profess to understand magics, but whatever you did, it worked. Our soldiers are fighting off the ones that managed to get into the city and the groups of stragglers outside. All of you have done us proud. Come home safely and we will celebrate.”

Heartened by this news, the party continues on their long journey. There are no further Terror sightings during their three-day trek, and the land seems to already be healing. As they approach the mountainous and grassy areas of Tymirr they see that winter is in full swing. There is already two inches of snow on the ground and the air is brisk but clean and refreshing.

A day into their journey the party members notice that Galandil looks even more sickly than the day before. He is starting to feel the effects and can sense his willpower waning to the might of the circlet’s dark magic.

Finally two days later they reach the city, and can see the destruction ahead of them. The earth for miles around the city has been almost completely scorched. It can be estimated that it will take a year or more for the foliage to return here. The castle itself has sustained heavy damage and the city is now completely leveled. The east wall of the castle has smashed and buckled, and a huge 200-foot millipede lies dead in the midst of the rubble. Around the castle are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Terror corpses. It appears that most of the human casualties are inside the castle or have been removed from the battlefield.

Near the city is a huge encampment of Tall Ones. Their warriors and scouts are patrolling the area along with members of the Tymirr guard. They pay little attention to the party as they come in as they seem very busy.

As they approach the city there is activity on the ramparts. The drawbridge is lowered and they are welcomed into the city. As they come in they see all of the wounded and dead soldiers being cared for and moved to triage areas. However a huge cheer comes over the crowd and hundreds of people of all races come in to swarm the newcomers. It is difficult to move as they pour adulation and praise upon the party for their actions.

They are asked to come to the steps of the castle, where a crowd has gathered. First they visit the tent of the Elves, where the Elf brothers are greeted warmly by their mother and sister. Elowisyl asks where Orunn is, and his mother says that he is with the others at the steps of the castle.

The proceed to the citadel where Erillas (wearing the purple clothing of a Tymirr elder), Combellon, Yeador, the King’s advisors Peratus & Verak; a young dark-haired man in a blue waistcoat, Duke Rontus of East Tymirr; a balding overweight man in blue robes is Biran, the Duke of North Tymirr are all present. It seems that the priestess Eleiana and King Arayen are absent.

The four Nomads and the members of the group that went to Calese (a Tall one, a Human and a Savage) are there as well, although the party remembers that they seemed to have more members the last time they saw them. Erag and the other Kaern seem to be missing as well. The party members are given purple tabards with a stylized “T” (similar to a cross) upon them to wear. Galandil refuses to put his on despite pleads from the servants.

From the doors comes the King’s son, Prince Cortus, wearing the crown of Tymirr. He says to them in turn, “You must repeat after me: I swear to defend Honor, uphold Truth, and fight for Justice.” Each of the party members comply except for Galandil, who takes a step back.
“I am not asking for your fealty,” Cortus says. “This is merely to honor your service to our great city.” Galandil shakes his head, and Cortus continues with the others.

After the party members speak the words, Cortus gives them each a shiny master-crafted longsword. Yeador also approaches and pours a thick, sweet smelling liquid over their heads, just enough to begin dripping down their faces. They feel the effects of this oil giving them vitality. “Now rise as Knights of Tymirr!” Cortus says. He congratulates the party and the crowd cheers. The other nobles also congratulate the party, but Peratus & Verak’s greetings sound forced.

After the excitement dies down, Erillas and Combellon come to the party and usher them into an adjascent room, asking the guard to close the door. They congratulate everyone and Erillas is positively beaming. Combellon seems regretful having seen none of the action, but is happy nonetheless. Erillas names the Men (and Woman) in the party as eternal Elf-friends, welcome into their homes and into their tribe forever. He says that this honor will carry on to their children and their children’s children.

Elowisyl says that they must see Orunn immediately to assist with Galandil’s condition, but Erillas says that he wishes to speak with them for a moment first. He explains that after the King fled, Combellon searched him for several days using the best scouts of the Elves and Men, along with two of Yeador’s apprentice magicians. They came up with no trace of the King except his crown which was lying on the bed in his chambers. For all intents and purposes he completely vanished from his chambers. No trail or secret door was found.

The people of Tymirr were confused as to why the King would flee at such a dire moment, and assumed that he left in a cowardly fashion as the legions of Terrors were soon to bear down on Tymirr with their full force. They ultimately lost faith in him so it was decided that his son, Prince Cortus, due to his strong leadership during the crisis, would be named as successor and King. The coronation occurred two days ago.

Because of the bond created between Erillas and Cortus during the battle and the absence of his father, Cortus has asked Erillas to stay with him as his chief advisor until he can finish rebuilding the city and come into his own. Erillas says that he has agreed and will stay as long as necessary. Combellon seems uncomfortable with this.

Erillas charges Combellon and the rest of the party with scouting and establishing a new home for the Western Elf Guild, so the survivors of their tribe could begin anew. He then excuses Combellon so he may speak with the party in private.

Combellon, Erillas says, has matured greatly in the past months during this crisis. He will one day succeed Erillas so choosing the new site for their home is a trial that he must do. He will be under the care of the party and his combat skills as well as his leadership will be tested. Erillas asks the party to watch over him during all of this. The Humans of the party are asked to accompany them as well if they so wish.

Erillas says to think about everything he’s said, and refers them to Orunn to help with Galandil’s curse. Orunn says that they must see Yeador, and take the party to his laboratory in the citadel. Yeador examines the circlet and asks Galandil about the effects that it is having on him. Yeador studies it through a glass orb about the size of an apple, and he and his apprentices search through large volumes of magical reference for clues as to its origin or source of its powers.

After several hours Yeador says that it obviously is powerful and has a link to the magical plane, but he does not have the means to remove or de-power it. He suggests that the party seek the help of a Thaumaturgist, a master of magical items, who lives near Calese. Yeador says that he has met this man and trusts him, but he does not know where to find him now. According to his measurements Galandil has less than a month until he falls completely under the control of the circlet. The party thanks him and returns to the Elf tent.

Elowisyl retuns to the man who had promised to carve him the symbol of his clerical order, and retrieves the piece. It is of exquisite quality and helps Elowisyl focus his magical powers.

Later that day they visit the smith that was making the armor for the party out of monster hide. He has all of their pieces completed, and has made several soft and rigid leather armor sets out of the hide. The sets include helms, aventails (the piece which goes over the shoulders), bracers, gauntlets, greaves, boots and cuirasses (chestplates). The man says that there is quite a lot left over and if he can use the rest of the hide for making armor for the soldiers and townsfolk, he will refund their money since the party saved the city from the Terrors. The party agrees and he refunds their money, fitting them for their armor and sending them on their way.

Galandil begins searching for Erag and is directed to the triage tent. The Priestess Eleiana and her clerics are there working overtime to assist all of the wounded soldiers and refugees. Elowisyl quickly begins to help with the wounded as well. The priestess stops only for a moment to congratulate the party and says that she must be on her way. She shows them to where Erag is and returns to her duties.

As they enter his room, Erag looks very somber. Apparently he has not allowed anyone to heal him since he returned from his journey and his arm is at his side, broken. He still carries many bruises and other hastily patched wounds, and is standing over the bed of Gorn Rockfist. He explains to the party that the Red Tower Cult had many of their powerful necromancers working to assemble the Gate in the north mountains, and their resistance was fiercer than the cult’s group in the mines near South Tymirr.

They were ultimately successful, but Bogder Shale, the Kaern warrior that the party initially met, was mind-controlled by one of the necromancers and Erag and Gorn were forced to kill him. Erag and Gorn traveled all the way back together, but as they arrived at Tymirr Gorn finally succumbed to his wounds and died. He is currently watching over Gorn’s body before he has to bury him. Elowisyl heals Erag and tells him that he must take care of himself and honor the memories of his friends by continuing on.

Erag thanks Elowisyl for his supporting words and for healing him. He congratulates the party on their success. Galandil tells him of the cursed circlet and that he will not be able to accompany him back to Tymirr to take the trials of the Arc-miner. Erag tells Galandil that he will be waiting for him at Kaern and he believes that he will definitely one day pass the trials. Erag says that before Galandil leaves the town he must visit the Kaern tent to speak with the elders. He then asks to be left alone to mourn his friends.

Later that day, after Elowisyl assists Eleiana in the triage tent for a while, the party visits the Kaern tent. There the elder who lent Galandil his amulet asks for him to return it. Galandil complies, and as the amulet changes hands the elemental emerges from the amulet’s crystal just as it had done in the first conferring ritual. The elemental nods at Galandil before returning to the amulet.

The other Kaern recognize Elowisyl and ask him if he needs more lichen beer. Elowisyl says that he does and one of the brewmasters bring him a quarter barrel of the foul-smelling drink.

The party stays in the city for another few days to rest and tie up any loose ends before they leave. Meran visits the tent of the Nomads, trading stories and sharing a meal. During their conversation they ask that Meran accompany them back to the Erstland Wastes. There is much work to be done, and a man of his skill would certainly be useful.

Neith is approached by Lionel, who says that he is returning to Merrill and asks her to come with him. She declines and says that she would rather stay with the party for the time being. He honors her wish and says that he will not tell their parents that she is alive; rather he will lie and say that his search was unsuccessful. However he says that they are very worried about her and have almost lost hope. Neith gives her a piece of her clothing and says to show it to her parents, giving them some hope that she may someday return home alive. He agrees and says his farewells to her.

A week or so later, Combellon comes to them and says that it is time that they must leave on their quest to search for a new home for the Western Elf Guild. The other party members (except Meran) agree to come along. Meran tells the party that he will be leaving with the Nomads, but perhaps he will rejoin them at a later date. Elowisyl says that they say that a detour must be made to Calese to see the Thaumaturgist about removing Galandil’s circlet, and Combellon agrees.

Just before they leave Yeador visits the party and gives Galandil a handful of 15 peanut-like Isre nuts, which will help keep his stamina up as he fights against the influence of the circlet.

The party says their good-byes to their family and Meran, and ride off with Combellon towards Calese.

Chapter 19 – The Silver Circlet

After gathering their gear, the party moves to the next cavern in the northern portion of the mine. This room is seemingly empty except for a pair of inert miner skeletons. The party takes no chances and destroys the skeletons in case they might arise.

The next room to the north has two zombies in it, but they quickly fall to the party’s attacks. However, with the recent pulse of mana the spellcasters are almost exhausted of power.

Moving on to the final room, the party finds amongst piles of rubble a group of eight ghouls and the ethereal form of Christopher Drem. Christopher appears as an translucent emaciated floating form with long dark robe on. His face is sunken and greenish, however his most striking feature is the brilliant silver circlet worn on his head.

The ghouls seem eager to attack, but he holds them back with a gesture. His voice is an ethereal whisper as nebulous as his form, and he says “Do not attack them, my children. We have not had visitors for many years.” He then turns to the party and says “Who are you? Why do you tresspass in my father’s house? Why do you kill my children?”

Galandil explains to him that they are here to research the wonders and mystery of Selena. Christopher does not seem to believe him. Galandil then asks why he is here. Christopher replies, “I am here to safeguard all that we have built here, along with my grandmother. Years ago I was a member of the Red Tower Cult, but during my training I was killed. Later I was resurrected by the cult and became as you see me now.” Galandil asks him who his father is, and he replies “You have not heard of the great Alexander Drem?”

During this time Meran moves to attack one of the ghouls, but Alexander tells him to stop or he will have his ghouls kill them. Soon after Elowisyl casts an invisibility spell on himself and begins charging straight towards Alexander. The specter seems to still be able to see Elowisyl and tells him to stop. When he does not, he sighs and tells his ghouls to kill the party.

Elowisyl continues to rush Alexander, but he and his sword pass right through him without causing damage. Galandil fires a magical earthen bolt at him and it does seem to cause him some pain.

A battle ensues and the party kills the several of the ghouls in the room. One of them is swallowed by a chasm opened by Galandil, and Meran tosses a flask of oil down upon him and lights it with a torch. Christopher flees from the flames and passes through Elowisyl’s body to get to the other side of the room.

Meran is struck savagely by one of the remaining ghouls and falls down, bleeding from his neck. Elowisyl rushes to heal him and uses the last of his magical power to do so. The rest of the ghouls are killed by melee attacks, but Christopher continues to pelt the party with cold spells, causing some damage. Melee attacks on Christopher continually pass through him, so the party decides that their attempts are futile. Elowisyl pulls out the magic scroll and begins to scrawl a message to Erillas.

Finally Meran runs for the door, telling the others that they must follow him or they will all be killed. At that moment Galandil has the idea to try and strike the circlet from his head. After several attempts from three party members and arrows from Meran, Galandil finally knocks it off and it clatters to the ground.

Christopher yells “No!” He seems to have become more corporeal without the circlet, and rushes to retrieve it. Before he can do so, Neith slashes him through the waist with her rapier. Christopher fades into mist and dissipates, the only remainder being his ragged robes which fall to the ground.

Immediately Galandil rushes for the circlet and puts it on his head. It seems to bond itself to him immediately and he can’t seem to move or remove it. Elowisyl searches Christopher’s robes and finds nothing there.

Galandil looks around the room and sees that his awareness has changed. All around them he sees a blue glow, which appears to be the magical leyline coming from the north to the south. Also when looking at his companions he sees that they along with their magical items are also glowing. Granted also to him by the circlet are two spells, both of which are related to cold magic. In wonder and awe by the new world he is seeing, he looks around the room as if he is drunk. The others are not sure what to make of his behavior.

A few minutes later, Galandil hears a low, booming voice speaking into his mind: “Ah, I recognize you now. You were one of the men I saw through the gate — one of the ones who murdered Duke Perius. Very interesting that you’ve made it this far.” The voice then fades away.

After only two hours of rest with Neith standing watch, the party decides to continue on and try to find the Gate. Remembering that Corrina Drem told them the Gate was above the Red Tower Cult’s lair, they journey back into the mansion and go to the third floor. As they pass through the tunnels they seem much less dreary now, more like a mine and less like a tomb.

Upon reaching the third floor they search the ceiling for clues, but are unable to find any. They decide to exit the mines and approach from the top of the slab at the peak of the ridge. Traveling to the north end of the mine where they entered, they again use the unbroken amulet to pass through the door, and find that Galandil’s tunnel is still intact.

Climbing up using the ropes they had tied, they ascend to the top of the ridge and survey their surroundings. Several of the party members see a dust cloud to the east, and Elowisyl is able to see that it is a group of Terrors coming towards them at incredible speed. Pursuing behind the Terrors he sees a group of riders on horses.

Finally reaching the slab, the party clears the accumulated sand off of it and begins searching for any clues. As Galandil approaches it he sees the two local ley lines, brilliantly blue, intersecting inside the slab. The whole area is aglow with ethereal light. In the center of the slab he sees a small area that is glowing orange rather than blue, and discovers a tiny slot. He places the ring that Corrina gave them into the slot, and the marble cube begins to quickly melt away.

The party members scramble to get off of the slab and on to the rock ridge, and they turn around to see a giant orb of orange light ascend out of the hole where the slab previously was. Within the light they see a landscape of pitted gray rocks and a purple night sky. This image fades and flickers, and sometimes they are able to see the normal landscape of the Erstland Wastes through it.

Galandil sees the ley lines feeding into the orb, but also a clear bubble around the orb itself. The source of this bubble is unknown.

Underneath the orb a platform raises up to ground level, with curled claws of reddish metal protruding from the edges. Around the platform are carved intricate runes which Elowisyl translates as “SELENA’S GRACE CAPTIVATES AND PURIFIES THE WICKED.” He speaks this aloud, but it doesn’t seem to have any effect.

At this moment Galandil again hears the voice in his head, which says: “You know what must be done. Kill your friends, for they are about to betray you!” For a moment Galandil resists the urge to act, but then succumbs. He turns and opens a fissure in the rock under Elowisyl’s feet. The elf falls and hits the bottom ten feet below with a thud.

The others swarm to attack Galandil and manage to restrain him. Meran hits him with the flat of his axe and sits down upon Galandil, holding him down and binding his hands. He also stuffs a piece of cloth into his mouth so he cannot speak.

Elowisyl climbs out of the fissure and decides that the spikes of the platform must be destroyed. He breaks them one by one, and the orange orb grows larger and larger. Galandil sees the clear bubble fade away as Elowisyl is doing this. Soon all that can be seen around them is the rocky landscape of the Ch’zak plane, and the tear seems to be continuing to grow in size.

Many feet below them they see spider-like Ch’zak crawling over the rocks. Some of them seem to be able to see the party through the tear, and start coming towards it.

Finally able to resist the spell that was cast on him, Galandil stops struggling and Meran removes the gag from his mouth. “I think I know how to fix it,” he says. Meran lets him up and he focuses his will through the circlet, attempting to close the tear in the nexus point.

At first it is very difficult, and he is only able to close it a few feet at a time. After several minutes of concentration, the tear is reduced to its original size. Neith turns and sees that the Terrors coming across the desert are only a few minutes away.

Using all of his willpower, Galandil shrinks the tear and it finally disappears with a flash of light. He sees the nexus point glow fully blue again, and the alien landscape is gone. Also gone are the pulses of magical energy, so the ambient mana is now stable. The voice in Galandil’s head subsides, and he yells in elation.

However, their attention turns to the matter at hand, with Meran suggesting that they flee into the caves. Elowisyl says that they must stand and fight alongside the pursuing riders. As they are coming closer they see that there are twenty-two Terrors, and eight riders. At the head of the riders is Neith’s brother Lionel.

Chapter 18 – Return to the Salt Mines

After defeating the undead in the first chamber, the party decides to rest. Setting up watch to allow the magic users to sleep, they stay for six hours and are not disturbed during that time. As they awake there is a fluctuation in the ambient mana, causing the magic users to feel as if their power has increased dramatically. Not wanting to waste this opportunity, they quickly move on.

In the second chamber of the south portion of the mines, they find two huge zombie trolls and two skeletons. Meran rushes forward quickly to attack the trolls, and is knocked flat (perhaps killed) by one of them as he counter-attacks. The rest of the group rushes into the room and they also attack the trolls with little success.

Meanwhile Galandil uses his magic to create a chasm in the ground underneath the skeletons, and they fall helplessly in. After a protracted combat the trolls are finally slain and Elowisyl rushes to assist Meran.

Just in time he is able to heal Meran’s wounds and saves his life. Atentir helps heal the also wounded Elowisyl as the others turn their attention to the skeletons. During the attack Galandil botches his spell attempt and knocks himself out cold. Meran and the others finish off the skeletons and start searching through the bodies of the trolls.

Atentir finds a large piece of gray cloth tied to one of the trolls’ loincloths, and sees that it is a cloak of some sort. Unable to find out what it does, Galandil takes it and finds that it is a Cloak of Shadows, able to shroud an individual in darkness.

Further searching the room, Elowisyl spies a large pond on the north side of the room. He senses magic here, and probes his sword around in the muck to try and discover what it is. He finds a small silver bracelet. Putting it on, he sees that it creates grants protective magic to the wearer.

Elowisyl also sees a hole, or tunnel, in the bottom of the pond, which disappears to an unknown depth. Neith volunteers to swim through and disrobes down to her knickers. A rope is tied around her ankle to pull her back if there is trouble, and magic is cast upon her by Elowisyl to give her the ability to hold her breath for a longer period of time.

The water is frigid, but Neith makes it through the opening and swims through for about 100 feet. She emerges in another room which not only smells terrible, but seems to have the contents of some kind of nest. It is currently uninhabited so she peeks around for any items that may be laying around. She finds two swords and an armored shirt, although it appears that there is a torso still in the shirt. She ties these items to the rope and is preparing to swim back when she hears footsteps shuffling up the cavern’s only entrance.

Neith jumps back into the water and pulls on the rope, signaling the others to pull her back through. A few seconds later she emerges sopping wet but heavier the swords and armor. They do not appear magical, however, and are discarded.

It is decided that the room is probably not on the map, or it could be one of the rooms further to the south. The group gathers their belongings and they move to the south area, somewhat weary from their battle with the trolls.

In the first cave they see six ghouls, and immediately attack them. The battle is swift and the ghouls fall, but two more come in through an adjascent cave. These are also killed. This cave does not seem to have any items of interest except a few silver pieces.

The group moves into the adjascent cavern and Neith identifies it as the one she ended up in after her swim. Indeed there is a large pool at the back of it. Two more ghouls assault them here but they manage to destroy them as well. The corpses are dragged down into the main room and burned.

It is decided that they must rest, especially the magic users, so they bed down for the night. It is quiet for the first four hours, but suddenly Elowisyl feels the magical parchment emerge from his bag and open to a letter from Erillas. The message reads:

“This will be my last writing for a while. With the King gone, things here are in turmoil. The King’s fool advisors, Peratus and Verak, are of little help and I have assumed many duties. The people here are uneasy as the army of Ch’zak are nearly on our doorstep, having broken through our first line of defenses. They will likely be here within the hour. Reports from the front lines say that some of these Ch’zak beasts are more than 100 feet tall. Orunn and Yeador are attempting to construct a magical barrier to hold them off for as long as possible. Our friends the Tall Ones have arrived in time to help, but this threat may be more than all of us can handle. It appears that you are our last hope, if sealing the gate will remove the cult’s influence on the Ch’zak. May the gods be with you.”

The party decides that they have no time to waste, so they prepare to leave for the other chambers to find Corrina’s undead grandson and relieve him of the circlet. Just as they go, however, the magic users feel a fluctuation in the local mana that reduces their spellcasting abilities.

Chapter 17 – Selena’s Will

Continuing their conversation with Corrina Drem, the party asks her repeatedly what her grudge is against King Arayen, but she refuses to answer. She says that she made a promise to her son to keep the secret, and if they want to know they should ask him or Arayen themselves.

Atentir makes a comment about Corrina being responsible for bringing her son, and this evil, into the world. She responds cryptically that she never said she was his natural mother. Galandil asks if Arayen is his father, and she responds “No.”

Elowisyl once again challenges her, saying that her deity could not possibly be asking them to kill so many people. He and Galandil finally cow her and she begins to cry.

Finally giving in, she agrees to help them if they will promise not to harm her son. She takes from her finger a silver ring with the crescent moons symbol on it. She gives it to Elowisyl, saying that it is one of the keys to gain access to the Gate. She does not know how to use it, however. Elowisyl asks her where the gate is, and she points upward. “It is right above us,” she says.

She explains that there is another item, held by her grandson, that is needed to gain access to the Gate. Several years ago he was killed while active as a member of the Red Tower Cult, and he was resurrected using the cult’s dark magic. He has since existed as an undead, and currently haunts the caverns of the salt mines. He is the other “gatekeeper,” and wears a silver circlet that will help them access the gate in conjunction with the ring.

Corrina breaks down in heavy sobs, and the party decides to leave her. As they exit the room they examine the bodies of the fallen troll zombies to see if they carry any interesting items, and talk amongst themselves to decide their next action. Meran reiterates that he wishes to kill Corrina, but after a moment a terrifying scream is heard from the room. Upon checking the party sees that Corrina has killed herself with a shard of the shattered mirror. The party decides to move on.

They quickly check the rest of the rooms on this floor before descending, and find that the one closest to the stairwell was some kind of laboratory. On a shelf they spy several vials of different colors. They take them all and distribute them amongst the party members.

The party goes down to the next floor and finds a kitchen, and several ghouls inside, but nothing else of interest. On the lowest floor they find several items in the guard quarters, of which is a magical axe in the false bottom of a foot locker. The axe is given to Meran. They also find a map that appears to be of the salt mines. With these items, they proceed down to the salt mines.

As they reach the salt mines, Elowisyl receives a message from Erillas. It reads:

“The King is missing — he has been nowhere to be found for the past several hours. My son has taken it upon himself to organize some of the Elf rangers and search for him in (and outside of) the city.

“I have spoken to Yeador concerning the information you related from Corrina Drem. He says that though he does not recognize the name, this is the key to the mystery of the Terrors.

“It was known that the Ch’zak (as Corrina called them) are obviously not from this dimension, but from another plane of existence. So far no sorcerer, no matter how powerful, has been able to open a gate between this plane and another for long enough to bring this many beings through, enough to create an army. The “event” that occurred in Jerech, most likely when this “Red Tower Cult” was attempting to control the nexus point in Jerech, must have caused a “tear” in dimensional space that created a permanent link.

“Most likely that tear is still there and is providing foot soldiers for the cult; it must somehow be sealed off. As far as the magic that is controlling them, Yeador is unsure how they are able to do it over such long distances. It may have something to do with the nexus points.”

He also mentions that no word has been received from the party pursuing the Terrors that broke off from the main group towards Jerech, but to assume that they are not far from the city. The army of Terrors advancing towards Tymirr has destroyed their outer defenses and is encroaching on the citadel; they must move with all haste to discover the secret of the Gate and if there is a tear in the nexus point.

The party ventures quickly towards the first cavern, and finds several ghouls and mummies. They defeat them but sustain some injuries, and rest before moving on.

Chapter 16 – The Gatekeeper

Before moving on, it is decided that the spellcasters require rest before they can continue because their mana has been exhausted (due to the fluctuations in the ambient magic here, as well as the recent battles). Meran listens intently at the nearby cave exits to see if there is a safer place to hide. He hears moaning and scratching at all of the caves except the one they came from and the one to the south. It is decided that they will stay in the main area for the night.

A few hours into their rest, as Meran is standing watch, Neith wakes to find two ghouls shambling towards Meran to attack him. Meran is obviously unaware, so Neith yells that they are being attacked and jumps into the fray. The ghouls are defeated after a few moments, and everyone goes back to sleep.

In the morning Elowisyl’s magic scroll opens up and a message from Erillas is seen. He says that Yeador is still researching the ley-line magic and does not know anything further as of yet. However, they received word that the mission to Calese was successful; agents of the cult were attempting to build a Gate in a forest near the city, but the party that was sent killed all those involved and destroyed the gate before it could be activated. They were also able to convince the Council in Calese that it is in their best interest to help Tymirr fight the Terrors, and they are supposedly sending an army of Tall Ones to Tymirr to assist.

Erillas also relates that the large force of Terrors amassed at South Tymirr is beginning to move towards the city. There have already been several small skirmishes outside the city but they are continuing to push towards the river. However, several large groups of Terrors were seen breaking off to the north and east. It can be assumed that the cult knows of the plans to disable their network of gates and are sending Terrors to kill any interlopers at the nexus sites. King Arayen has dispatched 10 riders to pursue and kill each group of Terrors, but they hold little hope that the riders will be able to reach them before they get to Jerech.

Erillas’ final note emphasizes that speed is of the essence. “You must discover the secrets of Jerech and return to the city as soon as possible,” he writes.

Armed with this disturbing news, the party readies for their journey and decides which way they should go. Meran is able to discern that the roughly hewn passage (which does not appear to have been dug by miners) has the most traffic, though it looks like great care has been taken to cover their tracks. The party chooses this route, and they pack to leave. They taking nothing of the supplies in the room, as they are planning on returning for it.

The party notices that the passage does not contain part of the rail system they noticed in the rest of the caves, and since it was cut quickly into the rock and with little skill, pieces have broken from the ceiling and it is difficult to maneuver. After nearly a half mile, the passage ascends quickly and they find their way up a set of roughly hewn stairs.

They emerge into a room that looks like a sub-basement of a building. There is a large steel door in front of them with a circular hole 6 inches in diameter on either side. Galandil remarks that these are probably “murderholes” designed to help defend this area from attack. They wait and listen and hear no one on the other side, so they decide to proceed.

Atentir turns himself into a bat and flies through one of the murderholes. Searching around on the other side, he sees nothing save a bunch of tables, four rooms to the left with closed doors, and a large steel door ahead. There is also no latch on the door; only a keyhole from either side. Returning, he tells the others what he saw.

Celeb attempts to pick the lock and though it is very difficult, he is successful. However when the door opens Elowisyl and the other spellcasters sense that a powerful magic has been deactivated. They continue through the door and begin to search the floor.

Finding little in the open area, which appears to be a guard station, they move towards the large steel door. Meran feels that the door is very cold, and sees what seems to be mist coming from underneath it. Celeb picks this lock as well, and everyone moves cautiously in.

It is even colder in here. It appears to be a holding area, and the main area splits off into six cells. The party looks into each of the cells, and sees skeletons of dead prisoners as well as some rags in the cells. The second-to-last cell has two zombies in it, and they move towards the bars when they see the light. The last door is made of wood and seems to be the source of the cold; the portion cut out of the door for viewing is completely frozen over.

Galandil senses magic in the last cell, as well as the one with the zombies. The party decides to try and gain access to the last cell first. Meran uses his axe to smash away the ice from the door, and they see inside that there is ice piled up several feet high, the highest point being in the corner. On top of the ice Meran can see something protruding, and it looks like the hilt of a sword.

Elowisyl uses the Tree Knife to cut through the wooden door, and pushes it open. He and Meran venture into the room, and see a dead man’s skeleton wearing leather armor sprawled out to the left on the floor. Very carefully, Meran climbs up to the top of the ice and attempts to pull out the sword. He pulls mightily, but it does not budge.

Elowisyl uses his Beast Belt to increase his strength, and yanks with all of his might. The sword comes loose, and he sees that it is a gigantic two-hander. It is made of the whitest silver, and the air around it crackles from the cold it creates. He has found the fabled Frost Blade!

On the poor dead fellow, besides the leather armor the party finds a large scabbard. The designs on the scabbard seem to match the sword, and it indeed fits. Elowisyl decides that he should carry it, since he has skill in wielding large blades.

Elowisyl decides to try out the frost blade on the nearby zombies, since they cannot attack through the cell bars. He stabs them with it and they are frozen from the insides as the blades pierce them. While searching the zombies, they find that one of them wears a pair of brown leather boots. Upon removing them, Galandil certifies that they are indeed magical.

Meran tries the boots on warily, hoping that they are not somehow cursed. However after attuning himself to these new items, he finds that they are very useful. Called the Boots of Featherfall, they allow him to fall from any height and they will slow his descent. Also, if he has fallen headfirst the boots will right him. Pleased with their new finds, the group decides to move on.

As they are leaving the holding area, the party hears a great cracking from behind them in the last room. A few moments later a huge troll, covered in ice and frost, angrily attacks them. He seems intent on killing Elowisyl, since he is currently holding the Frost Blade (which the unlucky hero in the leather armor had stabbed him with and undetermined amount of time ago).

The troll swipes at Elowisyl and does massive damage to him, and Atentir attempts to grab him out of harm’s way. The others stab at the troll and Galandil fires an Elemental Bolt at him, and finally he falls. The party healers attend to everyone and then they move on.

Skipping the rooms to the left, they ascend the staircase and find themselves on another sub-level. There is a dining area here, and a large room straight ahead. The place looks hastily evacuated, with chairs thrown about and papers laying around. Galandil finds a couple of books that pique his interest: “Creatures of the Deep Desert” and “Mysteries of the Brain and Thinking Organs.” Another smaller room is to the left.

They walk into the smaller room and find that this was a practice area. Empty weapon and armor racks line the walls, and there are two sparring circles on the floor. The party searches around and Galandil uses his ability to sense magic to scan the room. He finds a magical source behind one of the bookshelves, and looks behind it to find a small dagger in a scabbard.

The dagger looks ornate but normal enough, though when it is drawn Galandil is very surprised: it immediately grows to the size of a short sword. Atentir has skill with a short sword, so he takes the blade. After studying it further, he finds that it will also block any melee attacks directed at him.

The party moves on and finds another staircase at the end of the hall. They ascend it and find themselves on what appears to be on the top level, because above them is a thick layer of white marble, the same as they saw on the top of the ridge. Meran checks the map and determines that they are most likely directly beneath the slab they saw.

This floor has a hallway to the left, and one straight ahead that goes all the way to the end of the floor. The party listens intently and hears grunting sounds coming from the hallway ahead of them. They make their way to the end of the hall and go into the first door. This is a library, and it is ransacked just as the other areas on the floor below were. Galandil finds a few other useful books, entitled “Performing Surgeries on the Dead,” “Planes of Eternity” and “The Collected Wisdom of Our Lady Selena.” He puts these into his backpack.

The next room they enter is the last one on this floor. They listen and hear the deep grunting sounds again, but decide to head into the door anyway. In front of them they see two huge beasts that were once trolls, but are now undead ghoulish versions. Behind them is seen a set of bars and behind them is what once was a lavishly styled bedroom. It is now horrible and filthy, and the stench is nearly unbearable. There is a large bureau with a cracked mirror, and several other pieces of furniture. A filthy feather bed is occupied by the emaciated form of a woman in her 70’s or 80’s. She has a crazed expression and is as filthy as her surroundings. As the party enters the room she cries “Thieves! Murderers! Kill them all!”

The undead trolls bound out of the room and attack the party, except for Galandil who is still in the library. Atentir changes into a dog and begins to attack them, and the other party members follow with blade and arrow strikes. One of the trolls lands a heavy fist on Atentir, smashing him to the ground and knocking him out completely. Blood pours from his canine snout and he looks like he might be dead.

Powerful sword strikes take down the trolls, but as Galandil rushes from the library to assist, he hears two more trolls smashing their way out of the room by the stairs to attack. The party is able to take them down in record time, however, and they step over the corpses to the room with the cell.

The woman inside is now completely hysterical, screaming that the party is a group of thieves and murderers and that they must be killed. Galandil attempts to calm her down, and explains that they are not there to kill her, but to rescue her. She calms down a bit but it is apparent that her surroundings and long tenure here have driven her somewhat mad.

While still glaring angrily, she calmly explains to Galandil that she does not need rescuing because this is her home. She asks why they have come, and Galandil explains that there is an evil here that is a plague upon the land.

The woman asks what this plague is, and Galandil explains about the Terrors. She scoffs and says “The Ch’zak are not evil. They are mindless vessels for Selena’s will. They were sent here to help us in our crusade.”

Galandil asks us who she is referring to as “we,” and what their crusade is about. She reveals that she is a member of a group called The Order of the Red Tower which follows the Goddess of Purity, Selena. She refers several times to their goal of cleansing the Colored Lands of those who are impure. She explains that this was their lair, but they had to move on to a different location. She was left here to “guard” the lair, she says, and that her son Alexander led the rest of the group to the deep desert.

Meran states his opinion several times throughout the conversation that the party should just kill the woman and be done with it. The other party members ignore him.

Galandil says that the Terrors are mindless, and that they will kill her and those in her Order as well. She says that her Order has very powerful members, and they have found ways of magically controlling the Terrors to do their bidding.

After conversing for a few minutes she exclaims that they have revealed themselves, and that she knows who sent them. “You were sent by that fool Arayen, were you not?” The party asks her what her relationship with Arayen is, and she replies “Arayen’s relationship to my son and I? Betrayer.”

Elowisyl opens his scroll and writes to Erillas, telling him to ask the King about this woman. Erillas replies that the king has no idea who this woman is, and to ask her her name.

The woman realizes what the scroll can do, and she says “You can use this thing to communicate with Arayen?” Elowisyl nods and asks her to tell them her name. At first she refuses, but then seemingly a realization comes to her, and she says “This is perfect. Almost poetic. My name is Corrina Drem.”

Erillas writes back a few moments later that after he spoke the name to the King, he seemed somewhat overcome and left the room. The party asks him to find out more, but Erillas responds that the King has locked himself in his room and will not answer his knocks.

Elowisyl asks the woman again what her relationship with Arayen is, and she says to ask him. Erillas reports that he smashed through King Arayen’s door with his sword, Steelslayer, and that the King is nowhere to be found — he must have escaped through a hidden passage.

Attempting to reason with the woman, Elowisyl tells her that “Look around you, this town is dead, as is everyone in it.” She replies that “But we survived the event that brought the Ch’zak to us. We were chosen by Selena to carry out her will.”

Elowisyl tells her that the god he follows has very similar tenets to Selena, and that she must search inside herself and understand that the destruction of the Colored Lands and its peoples cannot be Selena’s will. The woman appears at first that she is going to falter, but she looks suspiciously at all of them and says “You are trying to trick me into betraying my Order! Selena’s Grace will purify the Colored Lands! You will never discover our secrets.”

Since it seems that though they have gleaned much information from her, their attempts to reach her have failed. The party discusses what to do next.

Chapter 15 – Dread in the Salt Mines

After defeating the six undead, the party burns the corpses and Atentir and Celeb return from their panicked flight. They sweep off the rest of the white marble slab, looking for any other clues. The magic users in the group feel a great magical presence in the area; after a few moments another fluctuation occurs and they feel their spellcasting abilities decrease. Finding nothing of interest, they attempt to dig down under the sides of the slab, and see that it extends underneath the ridge’s rock face an undetermined distance.

Our heroes decide to descend the ridge face to the west and set up camp for the night, since many of them are hurt and exhausted. They have dinner and then go to sleep, setting up watches through the night so the spellcasters may sleep and regain their magical power. The night is quiet, and the next morning they wake, water the horses, and continue exploring.

Meran crawls to the top of the ridge, scouting the area for signs of Terrors and the openings to the salt mines, which are supposed to be in this area. He sees small (2-3 foot) humps in the sand at the bottom of the ridge, which are most likely the larvae-like Terrors burrowed in the ground, but cannot see a sign of the salt mines. He surmises that he is in the right spot, but the mine entrances have been buried by the sand.

He returns to the group, and they decide to accompany him back to the top of the ridge to see if they can help find the entrance to the mines. After a while they find several large cracks extending down the rock face and beneath the sand at the bottom of the ridge, and assume that they are from the mine entrance. Since the Terror larvae are blocking their path to attempt any digging, the group asks Galandil to use his amulet and dig straight down through the rock into the mine.

Galandil agrees and activates his amulet, sending the earth elemental to dig through the rock. The elemental emerges, but after a moment turns back and disappears into the amulet once again. Galandil attempts to use his tunneling spell to dig through the rock, but this is also ineffective. The party notices, however, that some of the sand was removed when he cast the spell.

They ask Galandil to try and dig through the sand to the entrance, and he obliges. This time the elemental is successfully able to excavate; the sides of the tunnel are fused into glass so the sand cannot collapse in. They peer below and see the entrance to the mines 20 feet down.

Since the sides of the tunnel are slippery due to the fused sand, Atentir ties a rope to a rock at the top of the ridge and everyone is lowered down. Meran goes first, but his hand slips on the rope and he lands on his rump. Everyone else climbs down without difficulty, and they light torches before advancing down the tunnel.

The place smells damp and musty, more like a tomb than a desert mine. There are many cobwebs in here, and the overall sense is that this is a foul place. Underfoot there is quite a lot of rubble, and what looks to be the remnants of a metal track. After 50 feet or so, the party comes upon a door made of white marble, very similar to the slab at the top of the ridge. It appears very solid, and also has an inscription on it.

Atentir ascertains that it is the same inscription as the one on top of the ridge, but below it instead of the two crescent moons is a circular impression shaped like the “tower” amulets worn by the cult members they previously encountered. Elowisyl produces one of the broken ones they found, and places it into the impression. Nothing happens.

Atentir is told to read the inscription aloud, and he obliges, saying “SELENA GUIDES OUR HAND” in a loud voice. Almost immediately two skeletons wearing dark robes emerge from behind them in the tunnel and begin to attack. They are easily beaten, but after they fall Atentir notices a glint of metal around one of their necks. He sees that it is one of the amulets, and it is unbroken.

Elowisyl grabs it from the pile of bones and goes to place it in the similarly shaped impression on the door. As it leaves the pile of bones, however, it breaks apart and becomes useless. Elowisyl turns and begins to search the other skeleton for an amulet. Finding one, he wraps the chain around a few of its bones and carries the amulet over to the door. This one does not break. He places the amulet into the impression, and the door melts away.

They continue through the cavern for quite a distance, they estimate about a quarter of a mile. They come upon a large open cavern with several exit tunnels. The metal tracks all converge in this room, and are fed out the other exits as well. Five mining carts are in here, and piles of mining gear and supplies are stacked in every corner. They see picks, shovels, gloves, helmets, rope and quite a lot of other items here, and several barrels. Two very small barrels say “OIL” on them, and Meran opens them to find that they are indeed filled with oil. He refills his oil flasks quickly.

There seems to be no life in here, and they decide not to take any of the gear with them save some rope. The party discusses which way to go, and eventually decides on the leftmost path. They ascend through the tunnel and walk another quarter-mile or so.

They soon come upon a room similarly as large as the one they were previously at, this one also with several exits. They move slowly into the room, with Meran at the head. Meran hears the groaning and wheezing of several creatures in the room, and runs straight to the center to hopefully take them off guard.

There are eight ghouls in this room, three in a corner on the left and five in a corner on the right. As he runs into the room they shriek at the light of the torch, but move to attack. The rest of the party joins in the fight, although the ghouls’ frightening appearance gives them all the chills.

Atentir transforms himself into a dog, biting savagely into several of the ghouls but also himself becoming hurt badly. All of the ghouls are finally put down, and everyone gets patched up by Elowisyl’s spells.

The room is searched, and they find similar items to those found in the previous cavern. It is noticed that the tunnel ahead of them (to the south, according to Meran) is more roughly hewn out of the rock, and was most likely not dug out by miners. They rest a few moments before exploring further.

Chapter 14 – Jerech’s Remains

While the group continues to travel towards Jerech, Meran (using the map and his Ring of Direction) decides that they are still too far south, and must travel to the northwest.

Camping another night before they reach the city, the party decides to take shelter on the side of a dune. They build no fire, and therefore are very chilly during the night. While Elowisyl is on watch, he sees some movement a few feet away as sand from the dune appears to be sliding down. He takes up arms and wakes the rest of the group in time to see a humanoid being with ghost-white skin, black eyes, and huge claws and teeth emerge from a tunnel in the side of the dune. It is quickly joined by three others, who move to attack the party.

As the ghouls approach, their presence terrifies some members of the party causing them to react more slowly. The ghouls are soon defeated, however, and the party searches them for any useful items. While they are doing this the disembodied torso of one of the ghouls attacks Meran, biting savagely into his leg. As it does so, Meran feels the life force being sucked out of him and into the ghoul. Galandil reacts quickly and sends an elemental bolt towards the beast, exploding its head into many pieces.

Searching the nearby area, the group finds a small tunnel and a “nest” inside the dune where the ghouls were apparently living. They see some rags and destroyed armor, but little else. It is decided that they should move the camp to the other side of the dune in case there are more of the undead in the area.

In the morning they pack up their gear and move on towards the city. On their way they encounter an area entirely of rock, with small and large holes honeycombed into the ground. They skirt the edge of this and continue to the west, but two large Terrors stir and emerge from the holes, moving to attack. They are soon defeated, and the party decides to move further to the south to avoid the rocky areas.

Later in the day they finally see the ridge to the west of the city, and soon come upon the Salt Oasis. The Oasis, and indeed the entire area, has almost completely covered with sand; the ridge itself only is 50 feet high, and the only visible structure is the top of the city’s colosieum. Any animal or plant life that once existed here no longer remains, and the Oasis itself is only a foot or two of water at its deepest.

Meran sees ahead of them, apparently covering the whole area to the north, rows and rows of small bumps in the sand. Remembering from the warnings about the city that these are likely small (cat-sized) larvae of Terrors that will leap and attack if disturbed.

Atentir transforms himself into a crow and circles the area, looking for any threats or entry points. He is unable to see anything except that the small bumps cover the entire area of the city except for the ridge. He flies over the ridge and sees nothing of note.

The party decides to circle around to the west and ascend the ridge. As they reach the midpoint, they see part of a structure protruding from the sand and rock at the top of the ridge. It looks to be a slab of pure white marble, unharmed by the elements but covered in several inches of sand. They begin to sweep the sand off of it, and see that it is a rectangle of about 100×150 feet. In the center there are a number of runes encompassed in a large circle. The runes translate to “SELINA GUIDES OUR HAND.” Below the inscription is a symbol of two crescent moons facing each other.

As the inscription is read, immediately six mummies ascend from around the slab and begin to attack. Their faces are wrapped, but they are clothed in full armor and carry longswords and shields. As they approach both Atentir and Celeb are terrified, Celeb taking flight to the south and Atentir to the north. The others are similarly scared, but manage to stand their ground.

After a protracted battle, Galandil is beaten into unconsciousness as well as Meran. Elowisyl and Neith continue attacking and Elowisyl manages to heal Meran, who helps them defeat the last of the mummies. After the battle Galandil is healed and the others return. They search the pile of destroyed mummies and find that they carry nothing but their weapons and armor.

Chapter 13 – The Erstland Wastes

Late the next morning, after our heroes have rested well from their busy night, a servant awakens them and announces that the the king once again called all of the refugees to the gates of the castle. Bleary-eyed they get dressed and emerge from their tent.

This time King Arayen has a great smile upon his face as he says, “Truly we are blessed with heroes in our midst! Last evening these brave souls single-handedly saved our city from the snake-like terrors that attacked through the sewers.” He makes a broad gesture towards the party. “I have sent many soldiers and a group of Kaern Arc-miners to seal the sewers off so they may never be breached like this again. So, these brave souls, who will leave us soon to complete an urgent mission, must be thanked by us all.”

The crowd cheers as the King retreats back into the castle. Elowisyl seeks out any maidens that are cheering for them, and gives many hugs and squeezes. They throw their hankerchiefs after him, and he catches a few. After the crowd calms, a servant approaches the party and asks them once again to come into the castle.

The King, Erillas and Combellon greet them, and the King says “You are true heroes, and since you are our last and best hope, our prayers go with you. Here is a little thing for you,” he gestures to Atentir, and hands him a tiny bottle with a leaf inside. “Yeador tells me that this is an Aska leaf, and has great healing powers. Use it well.”

Erillas approaches Elowisyl and gives him a very old looking parchment. “This is an enchanted parchment. I carry its twin — when you write upon one, the words appear on the other. We will use this to keep in contact on your travels.” Elowisyl is excited to receive this gift, but his brother Galandil scoffs in jealousy for having received nothing.

“Now,” the King says, “We have arranged for you to speak with a man who lived in Jerech. He is very old, so you must not excite him too much. This is a very delicate subject for him.” The party is taken to an adjascent room where an old man named Grees lies. He has scraggly white hair and a long beard, and is covered with liverspots. His sightless eyes are white with cataracts.

“They told me you would be coming to ask me questions,” he croaks in a weak voice. “What do you wish to know?”

“What can you tell us of Jerech?” Elowisyl says.

“I grew up there, working in the salt mines. When I turned fifteen, I started working in the salt processing beds, where we harvested the purified salt so it could be exported.”

“How old were you when you started?” Meran says, a bit surprised.

“Eight years old. I had a large family and we had to feed everyone, you know.”

“Were there any landmarks in the city that you could tell us about?”

“Oh, yes, there is the great ridge on the west, where the salt mines are located. On the south side is the Salt Oasis. We called it that because of the high salt content — not enough to make it impossible to drink, but our water was saltier than that of the Blue River.”

“Anything else?”

“The city had a grand colosieum, I saw many battles there as a young man. It was in the northwest part of the city. Also there was the temple of Selena, the Goddess of Purity, in the southeast portion. The market was near the center of the city, and Queen Helen II’s manor was in the south-east portion.”

“Can you tell us about what happened there?”

“Things started getting strange about 10 years ago, after my wife died of Tuberculosis. A local man named Drem, the son of a miner, built a large mansion at the top of the ridge. Everyone thought he was crazy for living up there, and no one knew how he got the money to build it, but there it was. We heard of strange things going on there; everyone had their suspicions. But it wasn’t until kids started disappearing that I knew something was going on.

“The city guard told us that it was wild animals, or some Nomad bandits that did it, but I didn’t believe it. I wanted to get my son’s young daughter out of the city, but he of course refused. I went to his wife and I was able to convince her, and my granddaughter and I left secretly one night, bound for Tymirr.

“Once a few miles out of town, we looked back to see a flash of light, like a bolt of lightning coming up from the ridge. Then there was the worst sandstorm I’d ever seen; we barely made it to Tymirr alive. I later found out that no one in the city survived. No one has been back there since. All those families…women and children. But I’ve said enough now, I must rest.”

The party thanks Grees for his help, and returns to their tent. A few hours later, one of the scholars from the library visits and speaks with Galandil. He gives him a map of Jerech and the surrounding area; the only one that they can find so far. The map seems consistent with Grees’ memory.

That evening it is announced that the sewers have been sealed and no other Terrors may get through. Both the party and the Kaern are set to leave for the next morning. The party does some last-minute shopping, purchasing several large waterskins for their horses and themselves.

At the break of dawn, the party prepares to leave. Lionel tells Neith that he is planning on staying in the city, since Neith has proved that she can take care of herself. He wishes her good luck on her journey.

After a tearful goodbye from family and a somewhat large send-off from the city’s refugees, the party leaves and travels north along the Blue River with the four Kaern. Things seem quiet for the first two days of travel, although they do notice that the life here is fading quickly. There is almost no plant life and they come across few animals.

On the second night, while Meran is on watch, he sees several shapes approaching from the west. Watching them for a few moments, he sees that they are a group of four zombies. He awakens everyone else and they begin an offensive. The zombies are killed and their bodies burned. From their remains the group finds some old armor, rusted weapons and a dirt-caked buckler.

Galandil senses that the buckler is indeed magical, and Neith takes it. The next morning she washes it off in the river and finds that it is highly polished and very well made. Galandil sees that it is made of a very high-grade steel. They also find that it is unnaturally bright — Neith finds that this is its special property, to shine so brightly that it blinds one’s opponent.

They continue through the next day, and when they believe they are close enough, they turn west. The Kaern bid them farewell, and Erag tells Galandil that he hopes to see him in Kaern after this whole thing is over. He also thanks the party one last time for saving them in the mines.

The party begins traveling into the deeper desert, and the plant life here is even more sparse. After walking for a few hours, they come upon a large depression. They decide to walk around it instead of going down into it. As they are going past, they see movement in the center of the depression. The party attempts to move quietly, but a few party members slip and send sand tumbling down into the depression.

Further movement can be seen under the sand moving towards them, and they ready themselves for battle. Two large worm-like creatures emerge and begin attacking them. They whip their heads about like huge clubs, and spit acid. The party manages to defeat them, though a few of the party members are injured.

After healing and having a midday meal, they move on towards Jerech.

Chapter 12 – Terror Below

The party members are told that their trip will not begin for several days, since the maps of the Jerech area are buried in the castle’s library. The city’s library was hastily moved into the castle’s library when the city was evacuated, so all of the books are in disarray. Furthermore they are looking for people who escaped the devastation in Jerech 8 years ago to interview them about the city’s specifics. Galandil volunteers to help the city’s scholars search for the maps in the library.

That evening while Meran is on guard duty, he is approached by one of the Dark Tribes men that he had previously met. The man tells him that he and his group are leaving that morning, and that he wishes Meran luck on his journey. Meran returns the sentiment, and asks where exactly they are going. The man tells him that they are to journey into the deep desert, where even the nomads rarely travel. Later that evening Meran sees a group leave the castle, and an hour or so later another group departs.

The next morning Meran returns to the tent, and explains what he heard from the Dark Tribe man the evening before. Afterwards Galandil returns to the library, Elowisyl to the Priestess’ tent to continue helping to heal the wounded, and Celeb wanders the courtyard helping where he can.

Lionel comes into the Elf Guild’s tent a while later, bearing a pair of practicing rapiers. He asks Neith if she would like to spar a bit, and she accepts. However, after only three moves she penetrates his defenses and hits him badly. He submits and asks her to teach him the technique.

Later that day, a servant is sent to each of the party members’ locations and tells them that King Arayen is about to speak to everyone. As they come to the front of the castle, the King appears at the lowest part of the castle wall just next to the great doors with two guards beside him. “My friends,” he says in a loud booming voice that fills the courtyard. “These are dark times, true, but we have brave men to help us. Plans have been set in motion to combat the threat of the Terrors. This morning the first groups of these brave men have left the castle and risk their lives for our safety. Pray to the goddess Irina for their protection. That is all.”

As the party is returning to their tent, Galandil is stopped by a servant who says that the head of the guard, Trellicus, has requested his presence. Galandil is not sure why he has been summoned, but he goes along anyway. When he reaches the Guard Tower, he sees that Trellicus is a battle-worn man in his mid 50’s. Trellicus introduces himself and says that he was asked by the Warmaster, Verak, to speak with Galandil. Galandil asks why Verak didn’t speak to him directly, and Trellicus responds very plainly that Verak does not like Elves. Galandil tells Trellicus his idea for using the castle’s oil to create a moat around the castle to be lit on fire when enemies approach. Trellicus says that he will take his idea into consideration.

Later that evening Galandil visits the Kaern tent, and is greeted cooly by Erag who asks if he had suggested to the Captain of the Guard that they dig a huge trench outside of town. He says that they are Arc-miners and should not be treated as slaves. Galandil annoyedly defends his decision, but leaves soon afterward without tasting the lichen beer set in front of him.

The next night Meran is again stationed at the wall, and this time three Terrors attack in his area. He drops one immediately with an arrow from his longbow, and helps kill another with his axe but is wounded in the process. They see that these things attacking them seem to be genetically altered in the shape of humans. Meran is healed by one of Yeador’s mages at the guard tower, and then he and his men drag the corpse into the courtyard. Yeador is summoned and looks over the dead insect curiously. He tells his apprentices to take it to his laboratory to be further studied.

Over the next couple of days, everyone continues on their duties. Galandil finds three books while he is searching through the library that seem interesting to him, so he decides to “borrow” them. One is entitled “The Subtle Art of Influence,” another is “Rock Formations of the Western Lands,” and the third is “Arc-mining in High Magma Zones.”

Neith is again challened to a sparring match by Lionel, who seems intent on beating her after she gave him a swift lesson the first time. He gains the initiative and attacks, but Neith dodges and strikes him soundly. Lionel holds his side in pain, but his pride seems more wounded than his person and he yields.

The next evening, Meran is again doing guard duty when he hears a slight rumbling coming from inside the city. Suddenly a huge water snake, not unlike the one they fought in the farmer’s barn, bursts from the sewer and begins to attack. Three more pop up in other places around the city, sending the populace into chaos.

Four alarm bells sound, and the rest of the party awakens to assist with the attack. Elowisyl casts several protective spells on himself and the others before he leaves the tent. They rush towards Meran’s position and see him firing arrows at the thing; they come forward to attack and are able to defeat it without it hurting any of the party members.

Nearby another one is attacking several guards, and as the party moves closer two of the guards are eaten in front of them. The snake coils and springs upwards, attacking Meran savagely. Galandil summons a huge boulder which crushes the snake. Elowisyl sees Meran fall and rushes to his aid while the others move towards the third snake.

That one defeated with a strike from Celeb’s scimitar, they see that Meran is running towards the fourth and has been enhanced by some spell of Elowisyl’s. He slices the snake apart with his axe, killing it instantly.

Just then Yeador and his men descend from the castle in time to see the chaos come to an end. Several guards are sent into the sewers to clear out any remaining Terrors and block the entrances to the sewers.

Later that day the maps of Jerech are found, and the party eagerly begins preparations for leaving on their mission.

Chapter 11 – City of Refuge

Our heroes, along with their traveling companions the Kaern-folk, reach the city of Tymirr just as the sun is setting. The castle’s four signature gray towers shimmer in the sunlight. As they near the citadel, they see that on either side the outlying town has been burned to a smoking ruin and appears abandoned. As they come to the great bridge, they see that it has been raised at the mid-point to form a giant drawbridge and twelve soldiers are stationed at the fore portion. The river is unnaturally high due to the recent storms. Helmets of soldiers can be seen at the wall 100 feet above where they stand; a call goes out that strangers approach the castle.

The two soldiers closest to the party approach, one of them short and fat and the other tall and skinny. “What be your business here?” says the short one. Elowisyl explains their situation, and the soldiers check the party and their belongings with scrutiny. But before they can move forward, a tall man, previously unseen, approaches them. He is wearing a green cloak and is completely bald except for a substantial black beard protruding from his chin. His lazy eye is most definitely fake (probably made of wood) and he carries a large staff. “I am Yeador, High Magician of Tymirr. You must be Elves from the Western Guild. Your King awaits you at the castle.”

The party begins to explain who they are, but Yeador waves them off. “This is better discussed in the comfort of the castle. You must be weary from your travels,” he says. He then gazes at each person in turn, seemingly taking special note of those with magical ability and items. He then makes a signal to the men on the wall to lower the drawbridge and let the party in.

Once inside, the party sees that what was once a bustling city with many shops and markets has become a mass refugee camp. Hundreds of tents can be seen set up in every possible spot, surrounding the buildings. People of all races and cultures are here, and though the hour is late and many are eating their supper, many more are milling around. Some look worried, as they seem to be trying to find someone, and others are obviously looking for food for themselves or their families. Babies can be heard crying. Farm animals are wandering around as well. The mood here is obviously depressed, but everyone appears to be working peaceably together. Groups of different cultures can be seen huddled in their tents. A party of ten Dark Tribes men are around a campfire doing a murmuring chant. As the party passes they nod to Meran, and he returns the gesture. A woman in courtly dress and her two daughters are handing out loaves of bread and fish to grateful people nearby. The horses literally have to push their way through the crowd to make any progress, so it is slow going through the city.

After walking for more than a half hour, the party sees a large tent with the Western Elf Guild’s signature symbol of a tree with a sun symbol inside it. Their family members greet them with tears and hugs all around. They begin asking questions, but Elowisyl tells them that he must assist the farmer and his family with finding a place to stay. The group leaves again and rides further around the city. After a while the farmer points to a group of people, saying that they are also farmers from the area. He descends from the wagon and begins speaking with some of the men. After a moment he turns around, nodding, and says “They have some room here, we will stay with them.”

Elowisyl disconnects his horses from the wagon and everyone says their goodbyes. Just before they leave, Elowisyl gives the man’s wife several silver. She says that she cannot accept it, but Elowisyl insists and says that it is not actually his money. “You are thieves?!” she says loudly. He explains that they have helped people and have come across money in the past, so they are not out any by giving her a few silver. She finally agrees to take the money and thanks everyone profusely.

The party continues on with the Kaern men, and after a while find a group of Kaern that they seem to know. Some of the men Elowisyl recognizes from the tavern in Ransburgh. “Hard drinkin’ Elf!” they call at him, and he laughs, greeting them. Bogder, Gorn and Erag bid everyone farewell. Erag thanks the party and says that without them, all three of them would have perished, and if they need anything to just let them know. He also turns to Galandil and says that he should return to see them in a few days’ time. Elowisyl gives Gorn some silver to spend for food.

Presently they reach the castle at the center of the citadel, and they see that the front gate is guarded by eight soldiers. The two at the fore are elite guards, with shiny pauldrons on their armor and large helmets. On their breastplates and shields is the blue “T” symbol that they have come to recognize as Tymirr’s insignia. They ask the party what their business is here, and Elowisyl tells them that they seek an audience with King Arayen and King Erillas. The guard nods and sends a servant up the stairs. A few moments later the servant returns and whispers into the guard’s ear. The guard says to them, “You are to return in the morning for an audience with the King.” The party agrees and departs.

After returning to the Western Elf Guild tent, the Elf-brothers talk to their mother and sister for a while. Their mother comments that she has seen the Queen out giving bread to the hungry. Elowisyl says that they saw her when they came into the city, and is surprised that the Queen would be doing such a thing. Soon everyone turns in for the night. They are not long on sleep, however, before they are rudely awakened by the sound of a tolling bell. A voice from one of the walls is heard saying “Six at the north wall!” Immediately the party grabs up their gear and rushes out of the tent, ready for battle.

Two guards with lanterns stop them a few feet from the tent, asking them where they are going. The party explains that they are on their way to help fight against whatever is attacking the citadel. The guards tell them that they need not worry, since these attacks happen almost every night and the perimiter guards always take care of the threat before it can get into the castle.

Elowisyl tells the night watchmen that they would like to assist the guard if they can, and the watchmen say that they appreciate any help that can be given, but they should only be worried if they hear more than one bell toll at a time. Elowisyl comments to his brothers that it has never crossed his mind to be “worried” since their own city was destroyed.

Our heroes return to bed, but are awakened again a few hours later when a call goes out that four more Terrors are at the east wall. The party is again startled, but decide to let the guards take care of the problem. There are no more disturbances that night.

The next morning during prayers, Orunn arrives. He congratulates them on completing their journey and is eager to hear what they have found. He says that the specifics will have to wait until the summit with the King, which will occur in an hour or so.

Meanwhile Meran seeks out the Nomad group that he saw when they entered the city. He finds them at their campsite and recognizes that four of them are the miners from Ransburgh that he previously met. He asks them about which route they took to the city, and what dangers they faced. They explain that they took on several Terrors and were triumphant each time. Meran gets the feeling that they are embellishing a bit too much, and therefore thanks them and leaves rather quickly.

Neith also wanders from the tent for a while, looking around the area. Suddenly out of the corner of her eye she sees someone turn to stare at her. She wheels and sees that it is her brother, Lionel. He rushes towards her, but she turns away. He grabs her by the shoulder and says “Wait!” She brushes him off and begins to flee towards the tent, but he calls out “Espere!” loudly. She turns again and glares at him. “What do you want?” she says.

“Are you okay? Mother, father, all of us thought that you might be dead! We found out that you had been kidnapped…but I suspected, correctly it seems, that you had faked it to shirk your duties as possible future Duchess of Merrill. Please, take me with you, whatever your reason for being here, I need to make sure that you stay safe.”

“Fine,” she says curtly, and allows him to follow her into the tent, after telling him to hide the insignia of Merrill on his jacket and to make sure and call her “Neith.” When he enters, the Elves within all stare at him. He is a finely dressed man, a few years Neith’s elder, with a red waistcoat and long dark hair. Meran (who had just returned) immediately thinks that they look alike.

“Who is your friend?” asks Elowisyl. Neith introduces him as Lionel, a friend of hers from Southernton, the farming town that they found her in. She says that he is the one who taught her most of her fencing. “Hanging around with a bunch of Elves?” he says incredulously, but she silences him. The party seems a bit put off by his cheeky manner.

Orunn announces that it is time to go and see the king, and everyone packs up to leave. “Oh, am I not invited to your secret meeting?” Lionel says, without a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Neith tells him that he’d better stick around here.

The party leaves for the castle, and the Elite Guard lets them in. Once inside they see a huge room ahead with pillars reaching fifty feet into the air. In here there are over a hundred dignitaries (Galandil, using his “count” cantrip, sees that there are 103) talking excitedly and arguing. They all seem to be talking about the problems in the area with the Terrors. Elowisyl talks loudly about the beasts that they have killed as they walk by. Some of the dignitaries gasp and one exclaims to one of the others, “Who are these ruffians?!”

They are led up several flights of stairs and through several corridors to the King’s chambers. Once inside they see that this is another immense room, filled with plush pillows and ornate decorations. Several low columns line the walls, each with some sort of rare piece of art atop them. At the center of the room is a large circle of chairs, with a larger one at the rear upon which sits the king. He is a man in his late 50’s, with shoulder-length silver hair and a braided gold circlet upon his head. His pale blue eyes study the party. He rises and approaches them, shaking everyone’s hand. He says “Ah yes, here are our brave Elves. And a member of the Dark Tribes, as well, a Water-Elf and a Human? Quite an eclectic group you have here. Congratulations on completing your task successfully, you must have faced many dangers. Please sit and we will talk.”

As they sit they see Erillas and Combellon around the table, as well as the Cleric of Irina, Eleiana (from Ransburgh) and the High Magician Yeador who they had met the day before. Also there are two older men that the King introduces as his advisors, Peratus and Verak; a young dark-haired man in a blue waistcoat is introduced as Duke Rontus of East Tymirr; a balding overweight man in blue robes is Biran, the Duke of North Tymirr; and a well-dressed man in his early twenties is the King’s son, Prince Cortus. The party takes in all of the new faces, but none of them particularly like the look of the King’s advisors, who seem rather shifty.

The King announces to the group, “Now that we have all gathered here, we must all share our information. This is what we know. A large force, made up mostly of insectoid beasts, has been ravaging our countryside for months. They come from the direction of the Erstland Wastes, which seems to be creeping closer every day. In daylight and darkness they come, and attack our towns, kidnap our children. In the past three months the attacks have become so frequent as to overwhelm our outer defenses, forcing us to evacuate and abandon the city and to cower in our citadel as the beasts endlessly thrash against our walls.

“The towns and farmlands near here have been largely evacuated and we have upwards of 25,000 refugees camped in our city whose towns have been destroyed. Apparently Duke Perius of South Tymirr was either in league or being controlled by whomever commands these beasts. He took our friend King Erillas as his prisoner, and was defeated by our brave party here. He had constructed a sort of “gate”, to communicate with the one who commands these beasts. When he was defeated an army of the Terrors emerged from the gate and swarmed the castle, where they are still. We just received word that Ransburgh, the city to our south, has been burned. Allusions to Jerech are unavoidable — as most of you know, our sister city to the west was “swallowed” by the desert eight years ago. As King Erillas traveled here he tasked his brave group of Elves to discover what Perius was doing in his mines. They have succeeded and are before us today.”

The King then asks the party to explain what they found in the caves to the group before them. After hearing the story the assembled group is fairly stunned, with the King’s advisors whispering excitedly. The King interrupts the din by saying “That is quite a story, and something I am sure you will tell your children. You have given us much information and much to think about. Take a rest for a few days while we discuss this, and spend time with your families. But do not wander too far, we have need of skilled men…and women (giving a nod to Neith)…to help us in our continued battle for survival. People like yourselves may be the last hope we have against the Terrors, since our army has been decimated in the continued attacks.”

After a few more moments of discussion and questions, Galandil approaches the King and offers to help with creating more defenses against the Terrors. The King thanks him for his offer and says that he should speak with his Warmaster, Verak. Galandil speaks briefly with Verak but it seems that the oily man doesn’t respect the Elves very much. “If you need our assistance you know where to find us,” Galandil says. The man nods and snickers something to his companion, Peratus. Soon after the party leaves the castle.

That night at supper, Lionel joins them and the party seems curious about him. “You are from Merrill?” says Elowisyl coyly, obviously aware of Neith’s secret past. “Uh, I’m from Southernton,” Lionel says. “And what is it that you do there,” says Galandil. “I’m a…grain farmer,” he says, slightly annoyed and glaring at Neith. Neith begins to explain that she met him in Southernton, but the lie is obviously fooling no-one. The truth comes out that Lionel is actually her brother, and Neith is actually Lady Espere of Merrill, a duchy of Aten in the south. Meran and Elowisyl seem to know what is going on, but Galandil is totally confused. Apparently Meran and Elowisyl surmised from the MISSING poster they found that it was indeed Neith to which it was referring.

Lionel asks if he may accompany them on their “secret mission,” to make sure that Espere is safe. The party agrees, but tells him that Espere has been able to protect herself just fine. Lionel takes note of the impressive rapier that she carries, and asks where she got it from. She says that she defeated Sir Diego de Lunagalia, and he is very impressed. “He was swordfighting and swindling people out of their money when we were only children,” he says. “Most impressive indeed.” He asks her if they could have a sparring match sometime, and she agrees.

After supper that evening, Meran approaches some of the guards and asks if he can assist them in evening watch. They say that he may, but he must pass the test before he can become part of the watch. He agrees, and three men accompany him to a clear area in the couryard. All three men strip to the waist and throw down their swords, and Meran is instructed to do the same. The men attack him, and Meran punches the first in the stomach, sending him immediately to the ground. The second man kicks Meran in the chest, but Meran retaliates quickly and delivers a devastating blow to his face. He, too, slumps earthward. Meran and the third man fight for several moments, but Meran finally defeats him as well. They agree that he may help them with the watch, and ask if he can swing a sword or fire a bow. “I can swing an axe,” he replies.

That night Galandil stops by the Kaern tent — they greet and give him some lichen beer to drink, and he nearly vomits but manages to choke some down. It tastes somewhat like gorgonzola cheese. Later Erag talks with him for a while. He tells him that he has learned much about the ways of the Arc-miner, and though he is certainly still an apprentice (as full Arc-miners usually study for years before they may take the Oath), it has been decided by him and one of the elders that is also in this town that due to his progress and extenuating circumstances, he will be temporarily inducted into the Order and given his own amulet. After he has completed his adventures, he is to return to Tymirr and take the Oath if he feels that he is worthy. Galandil can hardly contain his glee at this statement, but still manages to remain silent. He nods and thanks Erag.

Concurrently Elowisyl seeks out Eleiana, the high priestess of Irina they met in Ransburgh. Along the way he sees several sick and hurt people, and stops to help them. Eleiana is at another tent in the city, and is tending to several ill people herself. He asks her how the journey was from Ransburgh to Tymirr, and she says that amazingly they only lost 6 people due to Terrors attacks. He offers to help her with healing the wounded, and she gratefully accepts, saying that her clerics are exhausted from working many hours a day. Elowisyl stays the night in Eleiana’s tent.

Later that evening Meran is assigned to watch on the south wall, and there are no creatures encountered that night. A group of four Terrors attacks the east wall, however, and Meran sees that three of them are spider-like, and one of them is a large ogre-ish beast like the one they fought in the caves. The other guardsmen take care of the problem, and Meran remains at his post.

The next evening after supper Erag stops by and tells Galandil, “It is time.” Galandil tells his brothers and the others, “I have to go.” A while later he reaches the Kaern’s tent, and waiting inside are all the other Kaern, lined up on either side of the tent. They are wearing dress robes, and there is a wizened old man, obviously the Elder that Erag was speaking about, in the middle. The Elder speaks a long incantation, the rites for transferring the responsibility of an Arc-miner to Galandil. Afterwards a pint of lichen beer is thrust into Galandil’s hand and he drinks, again nearly choking. The Elder removes the amulet from around his neck and puts it around Galandil’s, still incanting the sacred words. Galandil notices that the amulet is very worn and has marks from years of use. As the Elder finishes his incantation, he instructs Galandil to summon the elemental within the amulet. “NUR-AM-HARAS,” Galandil speaks, and the earth elemental springs from the jewel. It gives its old master a low bow, and then returns to the jewel with a crackle of magical energy.

A celebration follows, and all of the Kaern congratulate Galandil on his provisional ascension. They give him some more of the lichen beer, and soon he feels very sick. He does manage to ask them if they have any extra for Elowisyl, and they respond by having the Brewmaster bring out a quarter barrel of the stuff for Galandil to take back. He returns to the Guild’s tent after a few hours, and on the way gets sick to his stomach. Elowisyl is delighted to see the quarter barrel of beer, and heals Galandil of his wounds while concealing a smile.

The next morning at 6am, much to Galandil’s dismay, a page comes by the tent and announces loudly that the King requests their presence. They comply, and at the King’s chambers they see all of the men from the last meeting, as well as several other people in attendance. The group of Nomads that Meran previously met (Afshar, Farrokh, Kayvan, and Javad) plus four additional men are there, as well as the Kaern men (Bogder Shale, Gorn Rockfist and Erag Stonecutter), who seem none the worse for wear after their night of heavy drinking. Also there is a group of individuals they have not seen before, consisting of a Tall One (a warrior in armor), two Humans (a cleric and another warrior), a Savage (rogue, from the looks of him) and a Water-Elf (mage) make up this group.

King Arayen announces, “Since Tymirr’s guard is short quite a few men, we are recruiting all of you in small teams to accomplish the first debilitating strikes against the Dark One, as we have begun to call him. We have found that the Dark One controls his army of Terrors by using some sort of mind control magic, which is strengthened by the existence of the “gates” he is building at magical nexus points. Study of the existence of these ley lines and nexus points is only in the beginning stages, but a rough estimate of where the nexus points are has been established.” The King shows them the map of the nexus points, and several appear in the area. One goes through South Tymirr, another through the nearby mountains, one exists northwest of Calese, one goes through the Erstland Mountains to the north, and there are three in the Wastelands: one goes through Jerech, and two are in the deeper wastelands.

The King says that it should be assumed that these nexus points are already under the Dark One’s control, especially in the deep desert where no one can oppose him. The Tall One’s group must travel to Calese to disable the gate there; the Kaern men must go north to discover if there is a gate constructed in those mountains; the Elves (plus Meran and Neith) must travel to nearby Jerech to see if there is a gate constructed there; and the Nomads must travel into the deep desert to scout the area. Elowisyl looks to Erillas for his approval on this tact, and the Elf-king nods his head.

The King says that they must leave within the next few days, and asks if they have any questions. Meran asks if they have maps of this city or any further information. The King says that they will be provided with maps of the city before they leave, but no one has set foot there since the disaster so there have been no personal accounts of what it looks like now.

Before they leave the castle, the party members are given special cloaks that protect against the heat of the desert, as well as specially designed waterskins. They return to their tent for breakfast and morning prayers, and to speak about their mission.

Chapter 10 – On to Tymirr

Upon reaching the elevator shaft where they descended, the party sees that the ropes they used are still hanging from the pulleys. Howerver it appears that the insect’s shell, which they still carry, may have trouble fitting through.

The Arc-miner Erag is lifted to the top first, and he uses his magical amulet to widen the shaft so the shell may fit through. It is lifted up next, and then the rest of the party follows.

Their first breath of fresh air in five days is slightly chilly; it seems that autumn has set in. Though it is midday, the sky is dark with clouds and they hear a rumble of thunder. The party finds their horses as they left them, although they appear hungry and are certainly excited when they see their masters.

As they are packing up their gear, the rain starts. It is decided that they must move quickly if they are to make it to the camp they had set up a few miles from here.

While exiting the forest, they see on the road what looks to have been a wagon, but it is completely smashed. Elowisyl catches a glimpse of something moving near the pile, and he believes it to be an insect-like being feeding on something. The party rushes to attack, flinging arrows and magic at it, and it scurries into the forest after taking a hit.

They approach the wagon to check it out, but as they come nearer Elowisyl notices that the insect (which appers to be a smaller version of the scorpion they encountered in the caves) is circling around and attempting to flank them. The party turns to attack it and deals several crushing blows, but the creature manages to wound two party members severely.

Finally the beast is defeated and the party looks over the remains of the wagon. Apparently the wagon was carrying several Northmen miners, and was attacked by kobolds — the scorpion was feeding on the corpses of those who had fallen. The party searches through the wagon and finds a couple of purses with some silver and gold in them.

Meran decides that these people’s bodies must be treated with honor, and he sets the wagon ablaze. The party then hurries to the west toward their shelter, to avoid the worst of the storm. Even so, it is raining very hard and the way is difficult. Along the way they see a strange orange glow from the area to the south, and are able to surmise that Ransburgh is burning. The fire is so large that the rain seems not to be affecting it.

As the shelter is neared, Meran notices insect tracks all over the area. Some of them are a week or more old, and they have moved in and out of the hideout area. Torches in hand, the party descends into the cave to see if any insects remain.

They reach the bottom of the cavern and see, huddled together, several zombies. They seem to be torn apart badly, ostensibly due to battle with the insect Terrors. They recoil slightly from the light of the torches, but soon strike angrily at the party with their fists and the rusty blades that they carry.

After a few moments the zombies are dispatched, although it appears that their remains are still moving. Meran suggests that they be burned, and a small fire is set to destroy the remnants. The party sets up camp on the other side of the cavern, and are finally given some time to talk with the Kaern-folk.

The Kaern ask they how they got involved in this mess, and the party relates the story of how they met. Also told is how Erillas and Orunn were captured by the Duke and how they found that he was in league with the evil that is plaguing the land. The Kaern are appalled by this story and saddened. The party invites them to come along to Tymirr, as they may find their other Kaern friends there. The stout miners agree.

In the morning after breakfast and prayers, they begin their trek towards Tymirr. The rains from the day before have subsided, but since the ground has hardened with the cold there has been some flooding. As they pass the castle at South Tymirr, they see legions of insects in formation off in the distance. The castle has apparently become a permanent residence for the bugs.

Soon they see that a large pool of water, several feet deep, has covered part of the road and they must go around. They opt to go to the west, further away from South Tymirr and the insect armies. While circumventing the pool they pass several farms, most of them uninhabited. The third farm that they pass seems to have several people on the roof of the barn. Moving closer to investigate, it seems that the barn is flooded in several feet of water, and the farmer and his family are huddled on the roof under blankets.

The party approaches and calls to them, asking if they can help. The farmer stands up on the roof and, waving a hay fork, yells at them to get off his land. Elowisyl tells them that it will be much safer if they came along to Tymirr with them. The man refuses and adds several racial epithets against Elves. Elowisyl asks him if there is another reason that they are on the roof besides the water. The man replies, “Naw, there’s somethin’ in my barn!”

Elowisyl asks him if the party can take care of it for him, and the farmer says that they would probably die if they tried, and he doesn’t want “Yer Elvish brethren knockin’ on my door accusin’ me of killin’ their kind.” Meran assures him that “This is what we’ve been doing for the past month.” The farmer finally agrees to let them try and kill the creature.

Leaving the Kaern on a hilltop nearby with most of the horses and gear, the party approaches the barn. Peering inside using her newly acquired Dark Vision, Neith sees a huge creature perhaps 100 feet long and 4 feet in diameter — something like a giant water snake. The others consider alternatives to attacking the beast straight-on, but Elowisyl flings the barn door open wide.

The beast is startled and thrusts its huge head through the door, attempting to bite them. Elowisyl slices him hard in the face with his sword, the beast responds by biting him savagely. Meran then gashes him with his bastard axe. Writhing in pain, the beast submerges its head and is seemingly trying to flee. Neith ends his pain by expertly striking him with her rapier. Blood quickly fills the water.

Tying a rope to its head, the party drags the beast from the barn to show the farmer what they had killed. The farmer’s wife is horrified and covers her children’s eyes. After a debate about leaving their “ancestral home,” the farmer reluctantly agrees to accompany them to Tymirr. The party requisitions a wagon from the nearby farmhouse and rigs it to two of their horses.

From here the journey to Tymirr is only a half hour, they can see the towers shimmering in the fading sunlight as they near the city.

Chapter 9 – The Second Gate

The two cultists and the foreman lie dead at the group’s feet. Searching the cultists, they find several curious items. Both of them are wearing a reddish pendant with the symbol of a tower, but they seem to have been cracked in half. Investigation into their magical potential turns up nothing. One of them is wearing a ring with a large claw protruding from it parallel to his finger. It is determined that the ring is used to deliver poison to whomever the claw scratches. They both also have brown weaved armor underneath their cloaks. The mining foreman has a longsword and a purse with some silver and copper pieces in it. The group takes these items and pushes the corpses down the tunnel.

Before the group continues, Atentir volunteers to check out the situation. He transforms himself into a bat once again and flutters down the tunnel. He hears a lot of commotion and hammering. The stone door is nowhere to be seen, and neither are the stone “half-walls” that Erag previously created. They were apparently blown out into the room when the stone door gave way. In the room he sees several dead bodies about, ostensibly from the impact of the stone door or the rush of water. Three robed men remain, and six workers. The robed men seem to be guarding the room while the workers that are still alive are scrambling around through 2 feet of water, picking up pieces of metal from the ground and pounding them together. In the middle of the room stands two silver metal spires curled towards each other, creating a huge gate similar to the one from the South Tymirr Castle.

The center of the Gate is glowing and two piercing yellow eyes are seen. A hissing voice is issuing commands to the people in the room. “You fools must work faster! Assemble the final pieces before those interlopers return! Too late, they are upon you!” One of the robed men seems to sense Atentir’s presence and whirles around, beginning an incantation. Atentir streaks from the room and is nearly caught in a poison cloud. He returns to the upper cavern and relates what he saw to the other members of the group.

It is decided to travel most of the way down the tunnel and have Erag create another tunnel through the wall of the cavern, hopefully catching the enemies below by surprise. Erag says the incantation and invokes the spirit, which begins to carve a 10 foot wide tunnel upward through the rock. The group follows behind Erag, hoping that the noise will not alert the enemies of their presence. As they travel down the tunnel towards the last room, the mages again feel their magical power increased. When the tunnel breaks through to the larger cavern, it is almost 30 feet from the ground. The enemies, three robed men and six workers, are completely caught by surprise and open to attack. The party begins firing arrows and spells at them, and Galandil catches one off-guard by opening a fissure under his feet. The man slips under the water and struggles to reach the surface again.

As the battle continues, the party pelts the two remaining mages with more arrows and spells, and they are driven back to defend. Galandil opens a fissure under each of the spires, causing them to nearly collapse. Several of the miners who were working on the Gate are thrown off into the water. The shadowy face in the Gate begins to distort and fade. It says nothing, glaring at the party angrily.

One of the robed men, seemingly the leader, casts a devastating poison spell on Neith, driving her back. The others strike him with several arrows, and he turns seemingly to flee. Just at that moment, however, it appears that the remaining miners have finished nailing the metal plates to the spires. The leader gestures and incants a spell, which causes the seams in the spires to disappear. The shadowy face disappears from the center of the Gate and a black orb appears in the center. Neith strikes the man with another arrow, and he stumbles forward into the gate and vanishes.

Presently the Kaern men, on orders from Elowisyl, rush down the tunnel to cut off any of the surviving miners from escaping. The spellcaster who Galandil nearly drowned resurfaces, only to be dunked again when Galandil opens another fissure beneath his feet.

The orb quickly begins to expand, despite additional fissure spells from Galandil to attempt to topple the spires. A huge beast emerges — a 20 foot tall humanoid-shaped insect with glowing red eyes and vestigal wings flattened to his back, resembling a genetically altered ogre. It roars and bares its fang-like teeth, rushing towards the party to attack. Galandil fires one last desperate fissure spell before his mana is depleted, and the spires topple. The gate implodes behind the insectoid creature.

The party begins to retreat, and the beast begins beating its wings to pursue. It takes flight briefly and lands inside the tunnel that Erag created, slashing at the party members with its claws. It catches Neith the worst, throwing her against the cave wall and slashing her armor to pieces. Atentir rushes to heal her, but he himself is struck badly.

Galandil continues to pelt the creature with elemental bolts while the others get the wounded away from the battle. He then follows them down the cavern, outrunning the beast. Meanwhile Elowisyl sees that the Kaern have defeated the remaining miners, but the last spellcaster has surfaced from the water and is attempting to flee. He catches up to and slashes the man with his sword, killing him instantly. The man slumps over and the amulet around his neck snaps in half.

Though they have the opportunity to flee, the group decides that they must face the insect beast. Elowisyl leads the charge back up the cavern Erag created to face the creature. However, he stops short when he sees that the creature is no longer pursuing them and looks very confused. His eyes are no longer glowing red, instead they are a deep black. Elowisyl tosses the insect some dried meat, and it sniffs it before devouring it. He then looks at Elowisyl as if waiting to see what he will do.

Elowisyl consults with the group and they decide that the beast must be killed so he does not escape and terrorize nearby villages. The party attacks him again and Elowisyl manages to bring him down with one of his arcane bolt spells.

After the beast is killed, the battle is finally over and the party members begin scouring the scene for any useful items. Most of the supplies and tools that were down here have been destroyed or waterlogged because of the flood, but the spellcasters’ cloaks are still intact. Broken amulets are found on the two men and also the same armor weave that the previous two were wearing.

Two magical items are also detectd here. A thin silver circlet with an ornate eye carved into it is discovered by Galandil, who finds that it is a Circlet of Dark Vision, granting the ability to see in complete darkness to the wearer. A second item is a ring with an eight-pointed star on it. Galandil finds that this is a Ring of Direction, which gives the wearer the knowledge of which direction he is facing at all times.

Also inspected is the insect creature. It appears to be some sort of ogre-insect hybrid and has a thick chitinous shell. Elowisyl decides that the shell would be useful for creating armor. Using their weapons, they cut it off of the beast and carry it with them.

The party then consults the Kaern to figure out which way to go. The cavern with the crude steps in the corner of the room will take them to the east side of the mountains, where going back will take them to the west side (where they entered). They decide to go back and are led by the Kaern through the tunnel for two days until they reach the surface.

Chapter 8 – Secrets of the Arc-miner

Deciding to camp in the cavern for the night, the party rests well and then continues on in the morning. They leave the large room where the scorpion beasts were and continue down a tunnel dug out of its side (the only other one in the room). This tunnel is considerably smaller, and looks like it was dug hastily and with little care for the surrounding ore. Streaks of metal can be seen on the walls, and it looks like the tunnel is descending rapidly through many layers. Indeed, it is becoming steeper and more difficult to walk through here, and is slightly warmer.

After walking for several more hours, dripping water is heard and another large cave room opens up ahead of them. This room is easily the size of the Ransburgh market, and has huge stalactites and a blue pool in the center of it. A pale light emanates from a house-sized hole in the ceiling of the cave, from which is dripping a steady stream of water. The floor in here is thick with a whitish substance, which the party recognizes as bat guano. As they step into the room a huge swarm of bats rushes past them, screeching. The bats escape through the ceiling and past the party up the tunnel they came from. Looking at this room more closely it seems that there are two other tunnels connecting to it, one to the right and one to the left. There is also an area to the rear that is clear of the guano and appears to have been a camp area.

Celeb peers into the pool near the rear of the room, and sees that it is the beginning of an underground river. He spies something at the bottom here, a piece of clothing of some sort. He disrobes and dives in to the frigid water, finding that the object is a leather shirt. From the shirt falls a reddish amulet with strange runes on it and a cross shaped marking, as well as a black stone or crystal in the center. He takes the amulet up to the other party members and Galandil is immediately interested. He tries to discover the amulet’s secret by attuning it to himself, but is unsuccessful. Elowisyl and Celeb are similarly unsuccessful. Galandil attempts to read the runes on the amulet, and he finds that they are word-sounds: NUR-AM-HARAS. When he speaks these words the amulet glows and he is able to attune with it.

Strangely, Meran recognizes the words as being from a Dark Tribe dialect, literally the incantation means “Spirit, I invoke thee.” After attuning with the amulet, Galandil realizes that its purpose is to assist a spell user in casting earth spells, especially Earth Tunnel. Galandil puts the amulet around his neck for safe keeping.

The group scouts both of the exit tunnels from this room, and finds that the one on the left has more evidence of foot traffic, where the one on the right smells of burning. They opt to go down the tunnel on the right.

While traveling down the tunnel, our heroes notice that they are descending in parallel with the underground stream. It gets very warm after a while, and the stream slows and becomes warmer itself. Eventually it can be seen that it has come to a boil, and the steam is making it even more difficult to breathe. After an hour of walking, a semi-large room is reached where lava can be seen in a small pool in the corner. Meran creeps close to the entrance and shrouds his lantern, looking for movement. He sees none except for water dripping from the ceiling.

Moving forward, Meran reaches halfway through the room when he feels the “water” dripping on to him — it seems like it is not water at all, but a thick black fluid. Disgusted, he wipes it off of him but is caught unaware as a black tentacle descends from the ceiling and strikes him, sweeping him off of his feet. Celeb dashes into the room to protect Meran, now prone, and tries to fight off the tentacle. Several more tentacles appear and the party fights them, Galandil being most successful with his rock-hurling spell.

The beast is defeated, and the thick fluid drops from the ceiling in large blobs and covers the entire floor. Several blobs hit the ground with suprising force, and it is realized that they are humanoid shapes covered in the black substance. Elowisyl approaches one of them and wipes the substance off, realizing that the man is still alive. He quickly heals him and Atentir heals the other. They are two Kaern miners.

The Kaern men are extremely grateful for the rescue, and introduce themselves as Bogder Shale and Gorn Rockfist. They explain that they were working in the mines until they were told that the job was finished and they were to leave. They were curious about what was going on, so they decided to stay along with their Arc-mage friend, Erag Stonecutter. Unfortunately Erag was caught, and the hooded men tortured him and forced him to seal the entrance to the last cave. Then they dragged him through the tunnels to drop him into the Pit, which as they explain is a 300-foot chasm nearby. They had followed to try and rescue Erag, but were attacked and enveloped by the Goo Beast.

The party expresses their intentions of returning down the passage to find the evil mages, but Bogder says that to try and do so would be impossible without Erag to help them. The party decides to help rescue Erag, and continues through the tunnels to the Pit.

After walking for another hour or so, the party comes upon the Pit. Apparently the underground river used to flow through here, and dug a chasm several hundred feet deep. Lava can be seen glowing at the bottom. Bogder leans over the lip of the chasm and calls out to Erag. Erag answers by groaning loudly. Elowisyl spots him about 150 feet down, lying on a ledge. It is decided that there is not enough rope to rescue Erag, so they return to the room with the Goo Beast to recover the Kaern’s equipment. Elowisyl bathes their ropes and picks in the boiling underground river, washing them mostly clean of the goo.

They return to the Pit a while later, and Elowisyl puts on the harness to be lowered down. The ropes are knotted together and Meran takes the brunt of the weight. Luckily Elowisyl is very light, so lowering him down is not too daunting a task. After a few moments Elowisyl reaches Erag’s position, and sees that he landed on a ledge and is pinned down by a large rock. He immediately heals the man, and tries to lift the rock off of him. Finding it too heavy, he activates his Beast Belt and uses its strength to move the rock. He then heals Erag again and straps him into the harness to be lifted up.

Meran masterfully pulls the Kaern to the surface, and drops the harness back down the pit to retrieve Elowisyl. As he starts climbing he gets a bad handhold and slips off the ledge, bruising himself badly. Luckily Meran is able to stabilize the rope and quickly pulls Elowisyl out of the pit.

Erag seems dazed but relieved, and thanks the party for saving him. After everyone has rested for a few moments, Galandil approaches Erag and asks him what happened to him (careful to keep the Arc-miner amulet out of sight). Erag says that five or six hooded men wearing skull-shaped amulets had captured him and forced him to use his magic to seal the tunnel to the last room. After that they dragged him to the Pit and hurled him in. He was able to slow his descent by grabbing onto the sides, but still broke his leg on the way down.

He says to Galandil that if he is to help the party get through the stone wall he created, he will need “the amulet that is around your neck.” He seems to have felt its presence. Galandil grudgingly returns the amulet to him.

Erag explains that all Kaern Arc-miners have a similar amulet to this one, which holds an earth elemental in its black crystal. The elemental can be summoned to assist with earth spells. He says that Galandil may be able to learn how to use it, one day. Presently Erag notices that Galandil was able to use it, and seems impressed that he figured it out by himself.

When everyone is rested, they travel back down to the room where the river begins. While here, Atentir studies the form of several of the bats in the area. He casts a spell on himself and turns into a bat. He flies up through the hole in the ceiling and sees the mountains above him for thousands of feet.

After spending another night here, the party decides that it is time to go through the tunnel. They descend down and walk approximately two miles, where they see the rock wall that Erag was forced to make. He uses the amulet to cut through it, and then turns to Galandil. He tells Galandil that he is of little use during a battle, so he should use the amulet for the time being. Galandil accepts it.

Looking and listening at the hole, the party sees that the cave opens up into a large cavern some 500 feet past the rock wall. They hear muffled voices speaking from the cavern. It is decided that they will attempt to lure the people in the room to them so they can kill them one by one. Erag creates two rock walls that they may hide behind while their victims are approaching. A rock is thrown at the entrance, but no one comes up the tunnel. Galandil calls out loudly, yelling expletives at the people in the room. A few moments later two men come walking up the tunnel, human miners carrying picks. The party ambushes them and they are swiftly killed.

A few moments later Galandil sees a robed shape at the mouth of the tunnel. He sees him gesticulate in the party’s direction and suddenly a cloud of poisionous gas appears above them. Galandil gets a mouthful and begins coughing violently, and Elowisyl vomits.

It is decided that since the spellcaster was well out of the range of the party’s spells but could still cast on them, that they are dealing with a much more powerful magic user and cannot win — they must retreat. Erag is asked to seal up the door once more.

Returning to the room with the waterfall, they contemplate on what to do. Celeb suggests that they divert the course of the water to flow down the tunnel, filling it up until the water pressure breaks through the rock door and floods the entire room. Everyone agrees on this and the work begins on diverting the waterfall.

Erag uses his earth shaping spells to divert the water, and it begins flowing down the hallway. A few hours later, the water has nearly reached the ceiling of the tunnel. A loud noise echoes through the floor, and suddenly the water level drops dramatically — apparently the rock wall gave way.

The party waits about 20 minutes for any survivors to try and come up the tunnel. Atentir turns into his bat form and flies down the tunnel, seeing that three people are approaching. Two are mages and one seems to be the mining foreman. The party takes positions to surprise them, and easily dispatches all three in a few moments. Meran nearly decapitates one of the mages with his axe, and Elowisyl spills the guts of the other with his sword.

Chapter 7 – The Caves

During morning prayers and breakfast, Orunn sends word that he wishes to speak to the group before they depart for the mines. He gives them several items that may help in their journey: one is a fist-sized white quartz stone, which he says will glow for 1 hour a day and provide light equal to that of a torch; another is a small silver ring with a tear-shaped blue stone embedded in it, Orunn says that this ring will grant the wearer increased endurance; lastly he gives them a small leather bag with 15 berries appearing like small green grapes. When consumed the berries increase focus during battle. Orunn wishes them luck in their task and takes his leave.

Afterward, Galandil goes to speak with Erillas. As Erillas sees him approaching, he informs Galandil that his son Combellon will not accompany them on their journey to the mines. Galandil warns that Combellon has stolen away on several other occasions to be with the group, but Erillas says that he “spoke” with his son the prior evening and is confident that Combellon will not shirk his princely duties this time. Galandil offers to have he and his brothers look after the lad, to make sure he is safe, but Erillas says that he will be busy with diplomatic matters once they reach Tymirr — perhaps afterward he may accompany the group again. Galandil agrees, and Erillas wishes the group luck on their journey.

Packing up their gear and underground equipment, the group leaves the camp by horseback. They travel up the south trail of the forest, and soon must dismount their horses due to the steepness of the trail.

After traveling for nearly an hour, they come upon a large clearing to their left. From a dark corner they hear the cicada-buzz of Gorgers, and the sounds of battle. Meran charges the sounds, some 200 feet away, and sees a tall and ornately dressed elf fending off 2 Gorgers.

Freeing his axe, Meran slices one of the gorgers across the shoulder, wounding him badly. Neith follows on her horse, and with an expert rapier strike causes the other one to bleed. After several moments of combat the Gorgers are both killed.

The elf looks grateful for the help, but is badly wounded. Elowisyl heals him and also Meran, and they ask the strange elf what he is doing in this area. It is apparent by his blue-tinted skin that he is a member of the Blue Folk race, or Water-Elves. Neith surprises him by speaking in his own language, assuring him that the Tree-Elves may seem rough, but they are actually harmless.

The Water-Elf introduces himself as Celeb Falas, a resident of the Blue River area just south of Tymirr. He was traveling with a merchant band, and all of his companions were slain by strange beasts. He fled and found himself in this forest, attempting to hide from the Terrors.

Elowisyl tells him that he can either go on his way or accompany the group to the mines, where they plan to discover what Duke Perius was doing there. Celeb opts to go with them, as his skills may help the group accomplish their task.

They continue up the path, and an hour or so later come upon the entrance to the caves. There are several miners here, packing up to leave. Two of them Meran recognizes as the dark-skinned tribesmen that he met in Ransburgh. Meran asks them what they are doing, and one of them says that their job is done so they must leave as ordered by the Foreman. They heard about the destruction of the South Tymirr castle, and will go to Tymirr with the rest of the group from Ransburgh to seek refuge there.

The man speaking to Meran mounts his horse and begins to leave, but his companion pulls Meran aside (despite a warning look from the other man) and tells Meran that they should not go into the mines. Meran asks him why, and he says that when their two other companions got too curious, they were killed by men using some sort of magical power. Not only this, but there are other dangers in the mines, and the ropes from all of the elevators have been cut.

The man’s friend calls to him and he says that he must go, and bids Meran good luck. The miners all leave on their horses. Meran explains what the man told him to the rest of the party, and despite the unsettling news they continue on. They leave their horses at the cave entrance, tying them up with enough slack so that they may feed on the surrounding grass.

Seeing that the caves have been boarded up, Elowisyl uses the Tree-Knife to cut through the boards easily. They enter the mine, and notice that the tunnel here is very narrow, only fitting 2 people abreast. The ground is scattered with broken rocks and is very slow going — everyone must take care not to trip.

After a few minutes of walking they reach what looks to have been an elevator shaft. The elevator car itself is missing, and there are no ropes anywhere, only two pulleys bolted into the rock. Elowisyl drops a rock down the shaft and attempts to estimate how deep it is by how long it takes the rock to fall. It falls for a full 3 or 4 seconds, meaning that the shaft is 100 feet or more. Using their Elf-made rope and one of the pulleys, they tie Meran at one end and prepare to lower him down.

Since Meran weighs in excess of 300 pounds, it takes everyone’s strength to hold the ropes with Elowisyl at the fore. Halfway through his descent, the rope begins to slip and it takes everyone’s strength to slow him. The rope comes off the track on the pulley, and he slams into the side of the shaft. Luckily he only receives a bruise, but the rest of the descent is slow going. Soon he reaches the bottom, and appears to be standing on the smashed remains of the elevator.

The Elves and Neith are considerably lighter, so bringing them down is a less daunting task. Soon everyone is at the bottom, and they leave the rope on the pulley for their return trip.

In this area the cave is considerably larger and wider, and would fit 5 of them across. They move quickly with lanterns raised, and are encompassed by the claustrophobia of being so far underground. Every few hundred feet there are tunnels splitting off from the main path, but obviously they end only a few feet away. The group surmises that these must have been “wrong turns” that the miners took.

Walking for a few hours, they pass several areas that open up into larger cave rooms, some of them with pools of water. Natural gas or petroleum bubbles from some of the springs, and other are clear. Coming upon the third of these such rooms, they hear movement from the far wall near a water spring. Meran raises his lantern and sees two creatures that look like reptilian scorpions of some sort, with large jaws and a raised stinger behind them.

The creatures initially recoil from the light, but as the party nears them they move to attack. One of them stabs Meran viciously with his stinger, and he begins bleeding badly from the neck. He is able to resist the effects of the injected poison, however. Celeb is similarly wounded, and falls back to let the others take position. Neith and Meran free their blades and strike the creatures down with one hit each.

Healing their wounded companions, the group rests for a few moments before they move to the next area.

Chapter 6 – The Gate Opens

Now that Neith’s foe, Sir Diego de Lunagalia, has been defeated, his men cower and begin to retreat. The two dignitaries that were with them are dumbfounded at what has occurred in front of them, and do not speak.

Elowisyl demands that the two men explain what they were doing here, and they respond that Sir Diego was an old friend of the Duke’s, and was here to sell them some wine. They are asked if the Duke had any kin — they reply that he has a daughter, but they have not seen her since they arrived. They also mention that they were told not to enter the forest to the east. It is determined that they are not a threat and are let go.

The dignitaries are questioned and they are indignant to be spoken to in harsh tones by “Elven rabble.” One of them asks, “Do you not know the Earl of Westmoor when you see him?!” Unfazed, Elowisyl asks them if they had any knowledge of what the Duke was doing in the castle. They do not answer, but ask where the Duke is. Elowisyl responds that he has been killed. The Earl begins yelling for the guards; Elowisyl grabs him and puts his knife to the man’s neck, and knocks his companion to the ground.

Soon footsteps and the clank of armor are heard on the stairs, and four guards appear. Galandil tells them in loud tones that it would behoove them not to attack. They pour into the room and demand to know what is going on. When the answers do not please them, they attack the Elves and their companions. Combellon hurls the hand-axe he found in the Duke’s chambers at one of the guards, missing by a few inches, but is surprised to note that the axe returns to his hand like a magical boomerang.

A few swift moments later, all but one of them have been dispatched. Galandil says that the last one should be left alive, but is then brutally attacked by the man, leaving him bleeding badly. Neith disarms him, but Combellon hurls his hand axe at the man and buries it in his chest.

Angry at his disobedience, Meran knocks Combellon in the back of the head with the haft of his axe. Galandil puts his staff to the prince’s neck and tells him that he should not disobey an order in battle again. Fuming, Combellon tells him that he should remove his staff or lose an arm.

Galandil does not back down, and the two begin swinging at one another. Combellon angrily punches the cleric in the face, breaking his nose and causing him to bleed badly. He then turns to Meran as if nothing had happened, and asks him if he was able to get any information out of the guard.

Atentir heals the guard and he is convinced to help them get to Erillas’ cell without alerting the rest of the guard. He takes them through the Duke’s daughter’s chambers and down a set of stairs to the level where Erillas is being held. He and Orunn are still in their cells.

Using Steelslayer, the Elf king’s sword, Elowisyl breaks through the magical locks on the cells and Erillas and Orunn are quickly healed. Erillas thanks them, and asks what happened. Furious at the prospect of Duke Perius working with some dark being, he says that the King will hear of his treachery. The guard is awestruck that such things were occurring in the castle without his knowledge.

As they are about to leave, there is a rumbling as if a powerful earthquake is occurring. They hear an explosion and rocks raining down onto the walls of the castle. The guard leads them outside to the castle wall, and looking up they see a strange sight. The spire room, where the Duke was found, has been destroyed and a large ball of white crackling energy has now consumed the upper part of the castle.

The guard says that he must evacuate the castle, and alerts the other guards on the castle wall. Servants are quickly shuffled down the stairs to safety. The guard leads the Elves to the stables on the ground floor, and they make a hasty escape from the castle.

Looking back, they see hundreds of dark shapes — the spider-like Terrors, as they recognize them, pouring out of the white ball of energy and covering the castle. They ride to the Elf camp just to the south.

As they return, Erillas announces to his people what has occurred, and says that they will make for Tymirr in the morning to seek the safety of the great city. He is asked if the King can be trusted, and he says that he has known him for a great many years, and knows him to be a good man. He says that while he leads the civilians to Tymirr, our heroes must search out the forest and the caves to find out what the Duke has been doing there.

An evening meal is served, after which Galandil asks to see Erillas. He explains that he struck Combellon during their mission because of his disobedience. Erillas apologizes for his son and says that he should not be in the line of battle, rather he should stay and learn how to be king to his people. If he insists on acting like an insubordinate soldier, he should be treated as such. Erillas has a few words with his son, and Combellon looks very angry.

Elowisyl speaks with the cleric, Orunn, and asks him what he makes of the portal and the strange being beyond. Orunn says that he sensed great magic power in that castle when he arrived; the location of the castle must lie on a nexus point, where magical ley lines meet. The existence of these magical “lines” is still theoretical, but he has heard mention of them. No one has discovered a way of using them, but perhaps the being that the Duke was communicating with has found a way.

Elowisyl asks Orunn what the Duke may have been doing by having miners dig through the nearby mountains, and Orunn is baffled. He says that they should be very careful, in any case.

Erillas is given the Duke’s signature amulet so he may prove the man’s treachery to King Arayen. Orunn senses that it is cursed, and should not touch flesh should it corrupt the person. Atentir and Elowisyl take the two amulets found in the Duke’s chamber and realize that they add to their magical power.

Before dusk, our heroes ride south for the village of Ransburgh. They meet with the High Priestess in the Temple of Irina, and explain to her what has happened, giving her the large bag of gold they found in the Duke’s chamber. She says that she is aware that the castle at South Tymirr has been destroyed, and agrees that since they no longer have Duke Perius’ protection from the Terrors, they should flee the village. She suggests that her people should ride north with the Elves to Tymirr, and will send a messenger to confirm that they will be coming.

Riding back, our heroes take a well-deserved rest. In the morning they prepare to leave for the forest. As they do a messenger arrives who says that the people of Ransburgh will be coming by midday to ride with the Elves; the town is being emptied.

Chapter 5 – Rescue

Trapped in the darkness of the room, the party knows that they have been betrayed. Vile hissing comes from the opposite end of the room and three pairs of glowing red eyes appear. A protracted battle in the dark occurs, and the creatures are wounding the party badly.

Meran finally lights a torch, and the creatures are revealed to be similar to the spider they encountered in the woods the day before, but much smaller. They recoil from the light and the party advances, killing all of them.

Searching for an exit to the room, Elowisyl crawls into the space where the spiders were being kept. He sees vile droppings and some bones, but little else. Above him he sees light and calls the rest of the party to come into the crawlspace.

Everyone is able to climb up towards the light, which exits onto the second floor of the castle on the outside wall. Near the front of the castle they can see two guards standing watch, and also nearby there is a window that they could crawl through. Meran peers through the window and sees three nobles and three brigands. They are all drinking wine and one of the brigands is regaling them all with a story.

The party decides to dispose of the guards, and Elowisyl and Galandil use Galandil’s staff to clothesline them off of the wall. The guards fall down 40 feet to their deaths.

The rest of the party sneaks to where the guards were standing watch, and enters a small guard room. There are two guards playing cards in here; they are taken by surprise and easily dispatched.

Elowisyl locks the door and moves down the spiral staircase in this room. Downstairs is a guard’s quarters room with several beds. There are no people in here. He comes back upstairs and leads the party to the third floor.

The room in the third floor looks like it used to be a guest room, but it now has two jail cells. In front of the cells are two guards, and the party attacks and kills them. Inside the cell on the right is Erillas, and he is chained to the wall. His breathing is labored and he appears to have large burns on his chest. In the next cell is the Elf Guild’s head cleric, Orunn. He is also chained, blinded and gagged, and appers to be unconscious.

Moving to try and pick the locks, the party realizes that there are no locks on these cells, only a metal plate with a dragon embossed on it. Erillas tells them that they are sealed in here by some magical means, and they must retrieve his sword, Steelslayer, to cut through the bars. He also explains that Duke Perius used some sort of magic to paralyze them and then tortured them in the cellar of the castle. Also in the cellar, he says, are many Terrors that they had performed autopsies and strange surgeries on.

The party tells him that they will release him, and continues up to the fourth floor. They reach a large hall, and see several guards and a guard captain in this room. They move to attack and kill them swiftly, except for one guard, who they question briefly. He tells them that Duke Perius is probably in his chambers or in the Spire Room, which is reached by a spiral staircase in his chambers.

The door to the duke’s chambers is kicked in and two guard captains are seen inside. They are killed after a brief battle and Elowisyl immediately rushes upstairs to confront the Duke.

As he reaches the top of the stairs, he sees the Duke standing in front of a huge metal structure — some sort of gate. Between the pillars of the gate can be seen a strange mottling of colors like clouds, and two yellow glowing eyes. The duke is speaking towards the gate and says “I’m not sure what to do. Please Master, instruct me.” The yellow eyes from the gate fix on Elowisyl.

Elowisyl rushes the duke without hesitation and impales him with his sword from behind. As the duke falls and dies, the gate closes. Elowisyl takes the duke’s gold jewelry and returns downstairs to the duke’s room.

There are three trunks in the duke’s room, and after some trial and error they are opened. One contains a wealth of gold, another all of Erillas and Orunn’s equipment, and a third contains a hand axe and two golden necklaces that appear to be magical.

Taking Erillas’ sword, the party begins to go back downstairs to free him. As they leave the duke’s room, however, they hear voices and see the three nobles and three brigands ascending the staircase from the dining hall on the second floor.

The head brigand, a tall man with a moustache and a foppish hat, sees Neith’s rapier and challenges her to a duel. She asks him who challenges her, and he tells her that his name is Sir Diego de Lunagalia. They begin to fight and it is apparent that his skill outstrips hers by quite a bit.

The other brigands look nervous and pull their swords out, preparing to defend themselves from the party. Meran nocks an arrow in case things get out of hand.

Sir Diego seems to be toying with her at first, scoring several small fencing slash hits and parrying her attacks. Neith manages to wound him quite badly, however, and he begins to fight in earnest. After only a few short seconds, they are both bloodied but Sir Diego is much more the worse for wear. He takes a step back and salutes Neith before collapsing in a pool of his own blood.

Neith retrieves the man’s rapier and finds that it is magical in nature. It can apparently do tremendous damage, but it is difficult to wield.

Chapter 4 – Betrayal

The next morning, our heroes awaken a bit sore but none the worse for wear. After they have finished their morning prayers, one of the clerics of Irina enters the chapel and addresses Combellon. She says that the Priestess requests the audience of him and his men. He agrees and they follow the cleric to the temple.

The temple has impressive columns and a huge statue of Irina (which reads at the bottom: Love and Protection), but on the inside it seems rather dilapidated and threadbare. The Priestess greets them and introduces herself as Eleiana. The party members each introduce themselves, and Eleiana is surprised that two non-Elves are with them. Meran and Neith explain why they have accompanied the Elves, and Eleiana tell them all that she is sorry for their losses.

Elowisyl asks why the miners and the town guard acted as they did towards them, and if she condones it. She counters that Elowisyl was the one who threw the first punch, though she certainly does not condone their actions. She explains that the clerics of Irina are not given much respect, and are largely ignored by the king.

The Priestess explains that they will be safe as long as they wish to stay in the chapel, but she recommends that they keep a low profile from now on. She reveals that the mayor approached her the evening before and asked her to turn all of the Elves out, but she refused to do so.

The Elves tell her that they will soon be leaving, to move to a place outside of town. She warns them that the wilderness is dangerous and that they would be much safer where they are. When asked why the town is safer, she replies that Irina protects the town and everyone in it.

The party returns to the chapel and informs everyone that it is time to leave and that they will be relocating to a spot outside of town. The fifteen people from Neith’s village decide that they will stay in the village and say a tearful goodbye. Elowisyl gives them some money so they are not destitute, and they are very grateful.

Taking the remaining 100 Elven civilians and 20 guards on horseback and with four wagons, the group leaves to the north. As during the burial march, some of the villagers are curious or awestruck at the sight of such a large number of Elves, and the town guard is watchful and suspicious.

Finding a safe area near the road, the party leaves the 20 Elven soldiers to defend the civilians and go off to find a more permanent area to set up camp. Initial searches turn up a somewhat inadequate wood, but after a while they find a larger area of woods. Atentir notices a cave on the south-east side, and Meran sees several large tracks nearby. It is decided that whatever is in the cave must be dealt with before they can relocate the civilians here.

A fire is built in front of the cave to flush any vermin out, but after 20 minutes nothing has happened. Suddenly everyone notices a large black shape in the forest resembling a huge spider. It approaches them and begins to attack. After a few moments and some minor injuries, it is defeated. The corpse is burned where it lies.

Inside the creature’s borough is found some old bones and tattered clothing, as well as a purse with 15 silver and a fine short sword. It continues along a bend and surfaces to another opening at the east side of the wood. The party cleans out this area so it may provide a safe haven if the civilians are ever attacked.

They return to the encampment and stay the night, setting up a rotating watch. The evening is uneventful and in the morning they relocate everyone to the forest and cave area to the north. Some seem uncomfortable with the prospect of hiding in a dingy borough, but everyone’s spirits are lifted now that they are in a wood where they belong. The woodworkers are asked to begin making furniture and new wagons, and Elowisyl assists with the tree knife.

After another uneventful evening, it is decided that it has been too long since Erillas left, and it is time to go and find him. Combellon asks the guards to stand watch until they return, and if they are attacked to retreat to the cave.

The party leaves for South Tymirr, and arrives there a few short hours later by horseback. The South Tymirr castle is flying the purple colors of Tymirr, and the dragon insignia of Duke Perius. After introducing themselves to the guards, they are welcomed into the castle and are taken to a room to await Erillas and Duke Perius.

The guard who accompanied them shuts the door, and suddenly the braziers retract into the wall, plunging the room into darkness. Thundering is heard as a stone door slams shut over the wooden one, blocking out any remaining light and trapping them in. From the darkness across the room, sinister hissing can be heard.

Chapter 3 – Ransburgh

Still sore from the battle the evening before, our heroes awaken early and (after morning prayers) start towards the small town to the north. On the way, Galandil approaches and greets a farmer tilling his field. The farmer seems friendly enough, and explains that he saw the caravan of Elves move into the city the morning prior. He says that they seemed rather somber.

Continuing into the town, called Ransburgh, they are greeted by a number of passers-by. The people here seem to be cheerful, and many of them appear to be miners due to their clothes and their head-to-toe grime. They appear to be getting off of third shift, and are filtering into the nearby inns and taverns.

Moving into the center of the city they see a large and lively market, with vendors selling all sorts of things and minstrels singing and playing instruments. Nearby the Elves spot some of their kinsmen, who tell them that the wounded from the caravan are being taken care of at the Shrine of Our Lady Irina, which is in the north part of town.

The Elves go to the shrine and are told that the caravan was attacked while it was moving through the Gray Forest by several Gorgers and the giant millipede, and barely escaped while the Elf soldiers fought them off. They find that their sister and grandmother were killed in the battle, and their grandfather is still in grave condition. Elowisyl and Atentir work quickly to begin healing their grandfather and other wounded Elves, while Galandil comforts their mother.

Meanwhile, Meran visits the local blacksmith and leather-working shops in the town, and is fitted for a suit of armor. Neith visits the market square, speaking briefly to one of the minstrels. The minstrel says that he is confident that Duke Perius, lord of the South Tymirr fiefdom (in which Ransburgh lies) will protect them all from the Terrors.

A short while later, Meran visits the nearby Inn and sees several miners having breakfast. He recognizes four of them as being from a similar tribe to his own, and strikes up a conversation. They explain that they were traveling just west of the river when a huge group of undead beasts started coming from the west. They fled across the river and came upon this town. They got work as miners and have been here for almost a month. The men say that they receive a good wage working in the mines, but they confide to Meran that there is something strange going on — it seems that the miners are not actually excavating any ore or gems, but are digging a tunnel through the nearby mountain. They have asked the foreman why, but he would not answer them. The men also mention that the townspeople here believe that Duke Perius has some means of protecting them from the Terrors.

After expending all of their magical energy on healing their kinsmen, the Elves take a well-deserved breather. Combellon approaches them and says that his father is at the castle just to the north, speaking with Duke Perius. They are to tend to the wounded and stay in the village until he returns.

Elowisyl suggests to Combellon that they take their dead, over 50 people, to a nearby forest to bury them. He agrees and it is decided that they will leave at dawn for the forest.

The Elves leave the temple and go to the market to get some food for dinner. They purchase a large amount of fruit and vegetables and have them delivered to the chapel. They then go to the nearby Inn to purchase some wine.

Upon entering the Inn, Atentir suddenly notices a missing poster hanging on the wall near the entrance. The penciled drawing looks strikingly like Neith, and it reads: “MISSING: Lady Esp

Chapter 2 – The Gray Forest

As our heroes approach the forest to the east of the destroyed Kobold camp, they see many tracks leading around and through the forest. They can discern that the caravan went through the forest. They realize that this is the Gray Forest, a dark and dangerous place.

They enter the forest, and immediately feel a sense of dread about them. The forest is dark, and a foul wind blows through it. A gray moss grows over most everything, giving the forest its name. Nettles and poison bushes are everywhere. They see signs that the caravan has passed through here. As they progress further, they see supplies and clothes strewn about. They also see signs of a battle and pools of blood, but no bodies.

As they move further, Atentir hears strange clicking sound coming from ahead, like buzzing insects. They slow their horses and move further cautiously. Ahead they see two strange looking beasts blocking the path ahead. They are about man-sized, and can be described as hideous gorilla-like reptiles. They have glowing red stalk-eyes, and huge mouths with hundreds of sharp teeth. Their teeth are clacking together, making the sound that Atentir previously heard.

The group dismounts and attacks the beasts, driving them back into the forest. After several moments they are finally killed. Nearby is spotted their lair, and next to it a cache of items hidden in a hollow tree stump. Found there are a rusty dagger, a battered short sword, some ruined armor, a large belt with an engraved lion on the clasp, a quiver with 30 arrows, a waterskin filled with wine, a reddish bar of metal, a purse with 35 silver, and another purse with several small jewels.

Galandil takes the belt and examines it. Pressing the engraved lion apparently gives the wearer great strength, and causes the visage of a lion to appear around them. He puts it on and finds that it shrinks to fit his waist. Elowisyl takes the reddish rod and presses the switch at the base. It suddenly expands to an 8 foot staff. Galandil and Elowisyl agree to trade items, since Galandil is adept at using a staff as a weapon.

They move on, and soon afterward see a disturbing image — above them one of the caravan’s wagons is perched upon a large branch. There are swords laying around and the ground beneath them seems disturbed. Elowisyl’s horse is spooked and takes off running back down the trail. Atentir spurs his horse and rides after it.

Suddenly the ground shakes, taking 3 of the party off their feet. A huge insect, what looks to be a millipede, emerges from the ground nearby and begins to attack them. It is roughly 4 feet tall and about 25 feet long. Several attacks are aimed at it, but Elowisyl draws his sword and does a mighty strike to its head, killing it instantly. Atentir returns with Elowisyl’s horse and they continue on. They spend a night in the forest and are not further harried.

In the morning they continue on and soon find themselves at a crossroads. They decide to continue north, as Meran is able to determine that the path leads to a nearby village. By midday they are out of the forest and continue on the road.

They camp another evening before they reach the village. During the last watch, they are assailed by two youths with longbows. Elowisyl is hit in the arm by one of the arrows, and becomes angry. Meran attempts to attack them but is badly wounded, an arrow breaking his arm and another wounding him in the leg. Elowisyl runs full-tilt at the two bandits, brandishing his bastard sword. Galandil hits one with an elemental bolt, breaking his arm and sending him reeling.

Combellon, eager to join the battle, gets up and starts to run towards the others. Atentir grabs him and refuses to let him go. Combellon becomes angry and swipes at him with his hand-axe. Though he misses, he is able to get away and run towards the battle.

Elowisyl finally reaches the two youths and slashes the remaining one in the groin with his sword. They search and find a small amount of money on the youths, as well as a very nice looking longbow.

They gather their supplies and continue on towards the town.

Chapter 1 – Exile

The once grand Elven city stands before our heroes in ruins, torn asunder by an unknown force and a cadre of hideous undead.

Erillas thanks the party for looking after his son, Combellon, during the battle. He chides Combellon for fighting alongside the deployed forces like a common foot soldier. Combellon apologizes but protests, saying that he wishes to be a fighter and not a prince.

Erillas tells the party to look help in the city and look after their own families. He then tells Combellon that he wishes to speak to him in private.

The three Elf-brothers rush quickly to their family home, and the Desert Ranger, Meran, accompanies them. They find that their home is burning, and they hear cries of their family members from inside. After Meran tries to scale the burning tree and falls onto his backside, Galandil and Atentir manage to climb up the trunk of the tree and get inside.

After breaking down a heavy door, they manage to get to their family members inside. Their father, it seems, has succumbed to the smoke and heat and has passed on. Their other family members, including their mother, sister, grandmother and grandfather are suffering from smoke inhalation.

The family members are lowered to the ground and tended to. The father’s body is also removed from the burning building, and given to the town’s cleric for a special healing rite. After a long while the cleric returns with sad news — the father has passed on and nothing else can be done for him.

Later that evening, Erillas addresses the remnants of his people and announces that this day will be a day of mourning for the homes and the lives lost — sadly, his wife Shanni was killed in the battle. On the next morning, they will leave their ancient home and travel north to the Human city of Tymirr to seek refuge. King Arayen of Tymirr has long been an Elf-friend, Erillas says, and he will welcome them there.

The next morning the Elf brothers bury their father in a brief ceremony. Elowisyl, although the oldest child, is too overcome to speak. Galandil mutters a prayer under his breath. Meran plays a sad tune on his lute to honor him, and the sister says a few short words.

Packing what belongings they have, the Elves set out for the long journey to Tymirr on horseback and in wagons. The band departs (made up of our heroes, Erillas, Combellon, 150 civilians and 50 Elf-soldiers).

While traveling it is noticed that the ground on the nearby plains has been eaten away by the oncoming threat, leaving little but dead grass and dirt. It is nearly impossible to follow the road north, and navigation must be done by compass.

Soon after the caravan leaves, their path takes them to a small village that appears to have been attacked by a similar band of undead that ravaged the Elf Guild’s city. There are only a few remaining survivors, one of which is a young woman who appears to be dressed as a warrior. She introduces herself as Neith. Elowisyl invites these people to join their band traveling to Tymirr. They gladly agree, and they all pack up their belongings to leave. Neith also decides to go with the caravan.

Another evening passes without incident, and the band enters a mountainous area that does not seem to be affected by the surrounding scourge. The weather turns to rain, and they camp that evening in a rocky hollow with some trees for shelter.

While scouting the perimiter, Meran hears a noise off in the distance. Silently approaching the area from which the noise originated, he sees a man in his mid 50’s, exhausted and wounded. Meran attempts to help him to the camp, though the man’s horse cannot get up and after a few moments, it expires.

The man introduces himself as Aesmos, a resident of a small town about 20 miles east of their position. He explains that he was out riding earlier in the evening and was attacked by undead. Meran takes him back to the camp and the party attempts to heal him, but a large wound on his neck remains open. The party calls for the cleric, but before he can arrive the man displays strange symptoms and then attempts to attack Elowisyl.

The party attacks the man, Atentir finally slicing him apart with his javelin, but not before he can strike a brutal blow on Neith. She is soon healed, but is worried that the attack would cause her to become an undead. The cleric checks her wound and says that it is not infected.

Erillas, hearing of what happened with the man, asks the party to scout out the area for any other dangers that may threaten the camp. With a few Elf rangers as escort, they ride out and make sure that the man’s horse has not become an undead. Finding that it is indeed dead, they ride up to the north over the ridge to search for any other threats.

As they crest the ridge, they see campfires to the north. Moving closer they see a group of at least 20 kobolds making camp in the area. While attempting to sneak back to camp to warn them, the party unwittingly makes a sound that alerts the kobolds to their presence.

They race back to their horses, the kobolds hot on their heels. They manage to get back to camp to alert the guard, and see that the kobolds have turned back and are not attacking the camp.

Elowisyl attempts to convince Erillas that they must mount an offensive on the kobolds before they could plan their own attack, but Erillas refuses, saying that he will not waste the lives of his people. Instead he says that they will leave early the next morning and give the kobold camp a wide berth — but to make sure that there is no further threat, he volunteers the party to ride up and check the camp to see if the kobolds are still there, while the caravan continues north.

Later that evening, Elowisyl further examines the strange blade that he recovered from one of the undead that attacked their village. It seems very dull, and does not cut human flesh. Atentir also examines the blade, and is able to divine that it is used for cutting wood. Elowisyl tests it on a piece of wood he was carving for a bow, and it cuts through it easily. He then tries it on a dead tree, and it slices through it as though it were a hot knife cutting through butter.

In the morning they follow Erillas’ plan, but Combellon hears of the plan and takes the place of one of the guards set to go with the party. They advance on the kobold camp, but see that they have been wiped out by a group of undead. Meran finds the tracks that the undead left, and (using a spell) finds that the trail originated in the southern Wastelands and ends a few miles north at another village.

Traveling north in pursuit of the caravan, the party crests another ridge and sees the village to the west, already destroyed. They surmise that the caravan moved further to the east to avoid the town, and have entered a heavily forested area. They follow with all haste.

Prologue – A Land Under Siege

Our story opens in a Tree Whisperer (wood-elf) city southwest of the Human city of Tymirr. Over the past few months their defenses have been eroded by increasing numbers of undead and other foul beasts, all seemingly coming from the Erstland Wastes to the west.

Another threat are the so-called “Terrors”, a mysterious force that have the local farmers and city-folk talking. Strange disappearances and deaths are blamed on this unknown entity or entities, but nothing has been sighted in the area.

Erillas, the silver-haired leader of the Western Elf Guild, makes a grim proclamation to the gathered masses at the Guild’s largest city. “Our outer defenses are all but destroyed and the Enemy advances on our city. We have received reports of hundreds of undead and other menaces only a few miles away. Logic tells us that these “Terrors”, whatever they are, are not far behind. Prepare to defend yourselves for true!”

Erillas’ wife, the beautiful and waifish Shanni, steps up next to her husband and addresses the crowd. “We will hold fast. Have faith, brothers and sisters, that the Gods may deliver us from these evils.”

Erillas continues, “I have divided our forces into four groups. Two will defend the city from within, and two will flank the enemy as they approach. To your stations, and the Gods be with you!”

Our heroes are among those of the 3rd Guard, taking left flanking position against the oncoming threat. They notice that Erillas’ son, Combellon, has snuck into the group and stands with them to fight.

Presently a rider appears in the distance, a swarthy Western nomad. He introduces himself as Meran Al’Sahiri, and he warns that the enemy is not far behind him — a force of kobolds, zombies and skeletons, more than a thousand in number. He joins the group to defend the area.

After moments of terrifying silence, waves of enemies appear and begin to attack, trying to corner and drive back the Elves. Strangely they appear as if they have already been attacked; zombies have large chunks of flesh and limbs missing, and skeletons are only slightly better for wear. The archers fire upon the attackers, taking down several before they reach melee range.

The battle is joined, and our heroes fell many kobolds, zombies and skeletons. Several of the rangers and townsfolk who had joined the group fall in the battle, but the Enemy are finally struck down.

While searching through the remnants of the battle for survivors, Elowisyl finds a strange looking dagger. It is made out of an unknown alloy and appears to be dull. Galandil confirms that it is indeed magical.

Meran notices that the boy, Combellon, is missing. Galandil finds him nearby caught under a fallen zombie. His arm is broken and he is bleeding badly. Atentir uses spells to stop his bleeding and mend his broken arm.

Just then a earthquake rips through the ground in the area, sending Elowisyl toppling to the ground. Galandil tries to analyze if the quake was caused by a magic spell, but he does not believe it was so.

The survivors are gathered up and they continue back to the Guild city, aware of the eerie silence after the earthquake.

As they crest the final hill on the way towards the city, they see droves of mauled undead and slaughtered kobolds. Meran ascertains that some of the undead were men from Nomad clans when they were living, some of which he recognizes and some of which he does not. Approaching closer, they see more Elf corpses, many of them familiar.

The city itself is a smoking ruin, the immense tree that was at the center of the village completely uprooted and snapped in half. What evil could have done this?

Nearby a pile of zombies shifts and Erillas emerges, covered in gore. “They will pay for this,” he hisses.