The Beginning of the End

The Beginning of the End
3rd April, 1371 DR

Two days after the Challenge of Champions, the party plane shifts to the domain of the elven demigod Aranel Hawkeye. They arrive to find him speaking with 4 solars, 3 of which are dismissed into the woods immediately. The 4th solar approaches the PCs and thanks them for keeping their promise to return the fragments of the soul totem, and to have dealt with her honorably while on Pandemonium. She then follows her fellow solars into forest. Aranel then addresses the party and tells them about their quest.

Aranel explains that there is an elf, a “favored son of the Seldarine”, who needs their help. He tells them that by aiding this elf is his quest, they would also be doing a great service to all of Faerûn through their actions. Aranel tells the PCs to be in front of a certain flower shop in Baldur’s Gate at midday the day after tomorrow. If they are there when they should be, they will find the elf. He also gives them each a ring, and tells them to never take it off as long as they are with the elf. Aranel then asks them to spread out in a line, and tells them that some of the deities wish to speak with them, and give them each a gift to aid them on their quest.

Hucknor’s patron deity, Baervan Wildwanderer, presents him with a morningstar that will help him be stronger in battle. Dugmaren Brightmantle, the one who introduced runesmithing to the dwarves, gives Valkor a greatsword that will increase his abilities as a spellcaster. Labelas Enoreth comes to McSquid with an amulet that will turn him into a werebear and give him full control over his various forms. Kevros is given a pair of kukri by Tymora, goddess of good luck. After speaking briefly with the PCs, the deities depart back into the trees.

Aranel gives the party one last thing before sending them on their way: a bag of horseshoes. He tells them that these horseshoes will allow whatever horses they procure to travel more quickly. He asks them to see if they can find out anything that might be helpful to their quest in the two days that they must wait, then sends them on their way.

Arriving in Baldur’s Gate, the party finds an inn, then they split up to see what they can learn. McSquid goes to a bar and talks to a couple of off duty guards. After listening to countless pointless stories while they become increasingly drunk, they tell the elf about something that happened just a few days ago. The guard says that he was put in charge of the night watch at the south-east gate that night because the regular watch captain was ill. In the middle of the night, a carriage started coming down the street straight toward the close gates. Before it got there, four guards, all relatively new, opened the gate and let the carriage out, without the horses even stopping. When he asked the new guards what they were doing, they told him that they had orders to let that particular carriage out.

The next day, the PCs are talking to folks down by the docks when they decide to speak to the dockmaster. After offering to pay him for information that would help in the investigation of a stolen item, the dockmaster tells them about something that happened the same night that the night watchman talked about. He said that a boat docked in the afternoon, but they didn’t lower the gang-plank at all until the middle of the night. Then a few people got off and walked straight into a carriage which took off into the city. Then one man pulled up the gang-plank, and he hasn’t seen anyone leave the ship since. In fact, the only person he’s even seen on the ship since is the man who pulled up the ramp, patrolling the deck at night. After learning that the ship was still at the docks, the party goes to check it out. They learn nothing from their investigation, other than to confirm what the dockmaster said; there only seems to be one man on board. Not knowing what else they can learn, they rest up until noon of the following day; the day in which they will meet the elf they are waiting for.

In the hours leading up to midday, they notice a near-circular cloud formation approaching the city from the west. Shortly before noon, the storm clouds come to rest with about half of the mass over the city, the rest over the water. About 15 minutes past twelve, a bolt of lightning leaps down from the clouds toward the docks. Even from a few blocks away, the PCs hear the sound of splintering wood as the lightning strikes a ship at the docks. A couple of minutes later, as crowds of people rush toward the docks, two figures walk quickly up the street away from the harbor. One is clearly an elf by his build and stature, the other appears more human until he is close enough that his pointed ears and slanted cheekbones can be seen. The shorter of the two is carrying a metal staff and appears to have a constant electrical current passing through him. He stares straight ahead as he strides down the middle of the street, wearing an expression that dares anyone to get in his way. The taller one follows just a step behind, one hand on his sword hilt, eyes searching every inch of the streets around them. As they approach the party’s location, Hucknor steps out in front of them and greets the elves. The shorter one just moves around without breaking stride, but the taller one hesitates just long enough for the PCs to tell the elves that they were sent by Aranel to find them. The bigger one places a hand on the shoulder of the smaller, and turns him toward the PCs.

After a moment of explanation about their quest from Aranel, the party asks to accompany the elves. The shorter, lightning-covered one stretches out a hand toward McSquid, awaiting a handshake. McSquid takes his hand and feels a painless tingle as an electrical current rushes up his arm. Seeming almost disappointed that the jolt did not hurt his new acquaintance, the shorter elf agrees that they can travel with him, then turns and continues to walk deeper into the city. The taller elf beckons for the party to follow, then sets off after his companion. As the party falls into step beside him, the bigger elf says that his name is Kinson, and the shorter, grumpier one is Jolinar. When he learns that the PCs know very little of their quest, Kinson tells them that they are here from Evermeet to find Jolinar’s wife, a powerful elven spellcaster who was captured and taken to the mainland.

Before much more can be explained, they all arrive at the south-east gate to find it closed and guarded, and the whole area around it empty of people. In a small storage shed to the side, the PCs spot a couple of bloodied bodies wearing guardsmen uniforms. After a short conversation in which one of the guards in front of the gate tells them they are under arrest, and Jolinar warns them multiple times to stand aside, all of the guards blocking the gates turn into werewolves or wererats, and battle ensues… At least, it appeared that it would, then everyone disappeared. With everyone invisible, tactics had to change on the fly. Jolinar throws a couple of lightning bolts through the enemies in front of him and into the barred gates. Hucknor and Valkor cause shards of earth and ice to burst out of the ground in front of them, damaging many of their foes, and leaving the bottom part of the gate splintered. McSquid shifts into hybrid form, then runs to the gate and begins to lift the massive beam securing the gate. Giant balls of fire and rock smash the city walls and set them on fire as Valkor attempts to slay the last of their assailants. Then, with most of their enemies either dead or on the run, Valkor (with more than a little encouragement from Hucknor) uses a cold spell to put out the fires on the ruined city walls. With the fires out and the beam removed, the invisible party sets off through the open gates with their two companions from Evermeet, and try to get as far away as they can before the invisibility wears off.

Realizing that horseshoes of speed are of no use without horses, Kevros heads back into town wearing a hat of disquise and finds 5 horses suitable for travel across the Realms. Once the horses are purchased and shod, Kevros rejoins the group outside the city. The next day they are attacked on the road by 5 huge beasts; a dire bear, 2 dire tigers, and 2 dire wolverines, all with glowing green eyes, and all far larger than normal. As the animals charge toward the party, a 200 ft long stone wall appears immediately in front of the charging creatures, separating them from the targets of their hunt. Charging forward, Kevros uses the magic of his new weapons to put a large hole in the wall so he and his companions can get to the other side more easily. At the same moment, the beasts come around the wall from both sides, making Kevros’s hole pointless. The PCs form up and prepare for the beasts to attack. About the same time the beasts arrive, McSquid’s body collapses in on itself, and he drops to the ground in a crumpled heap. A couple of seconds later, his body returns to normal and all of his wounds are healed. Before anyone has time to marvel at this strange occurrence, the same thing happens to Kevros; first imploding, then returning to normal.

The party thinks that the green-eyed beasts are the cause of the powerful death magic until Valkor looks up and sees a winged man floating in the air above them. After locating their foe, the heroes are able to deal with him quickly, but not before he slays Kinson, completely destroying his body. As soon as their flying enemy falls, Jolinar begins insisting that Hucknor resurrect Kinson as soon as possible, and offers to pay for the expensive spell components. Hucknor agrees that he will resurrect the slain elf once he has had a chance to rest and prepare the spell. The next day’s spell is successful, and Kinson rejoins the party.

After reaching the River Reaching within the Reaching Wood, Jolinar tells the party that the path he is following reaches straight across the river. After some experimentation, the party finds that the horseshoes that Aranel gave them allow their horses to walk across the surface of the water. When they are about half-way across the river, 4 large whirlpools appear in water and move toward the party. The PCs urge their horses into a run and reach the riverbank before they are trapped in. As the whirlpools reach the shallows near the bank, they turn into huge water elementals. As the party turns to face the threat, the river bank forms into a wall of dirt and mud, creating a barrier between the PCs and the elementals. As Hucknor converts the wall into a hulking earth elemental, Kinson and Jolinar see 3 figures emerging from the trees behind them. Valkor and Hucknor focus their efforts on the elementals while the elves and Kevros take on the longsword-wielding werewolves that are attacking from behind. The battle ends quickly, and the only friendly casualty is Hucknor’s earth elemental.

After traveling into the woods for the remainder of the day, the party is approached by a man bearing a torch. The man asks them why they are sneaking into the Sunset Vale where there is no road. After trying to explain that they are just passing through, they notice that the man is wearing black leather armor and a metal brace on his arm. When they ask him if he is a member of the Shadow Guard, the man steps closer and quietly asks them where they have heard that term. When they explain that they knew a Shadow Guard named Darin, the man asks them if they would be willing to go with him to speak to “Lord” Darin. After getting approval from Jolinar (and learning a bit of backstory about Darin that they didn’t know), they travel to a small underground guard post with a teleportation circle scribed on the floor of one of the rooms. The circle takes them to a cave, where they are met by another shadow guard that takes them down into what appears to be a war camp.

When the party reaches the center of the camp, their two shadow guard escorts approach a large tent and speaks to the men standing guard at the entrance. One of them ducks inside, and a minute later Darin emerges from the tent and walks over to greet his friends. After a friendly welcome for Hucknor and Valkor, Darin is verbally assaulted by Jolinar. The argument ends with an agreement to work together to save Preia.

Darin takes the party into the command tent where they see two people they don’t recognize standing across a large map-covered table from Balian and High Lady Respin Qualtaine of Iriaebor. After a brief exchange with Balian, the PCs are introduced to Vangerdahast, the former royal magician of Cormyr, and Alusair Nicasia Obarskyr, the rightful Queen of Cormyr… and very much alive despite the reports to the contrary. Alusair is preparing to reveal her presence to the people of Cormyr, and see how Althon (or whoever is pretending to be Althon) reacts when his claim to the throne is challenged.

After plans are hashed out, the Queen’s troops march toward Cormyr, while Balian’s men take a slightly different route in order to remain hidden, but still be available to support the Queen’s men if necessary. The path that Balian’s troops take is almost the exact path that Preia took and that the PCs have been following.

They travel without incident until they reach the Marsh of Tun, where the trail leads directly into the marsh. Balian leads his men around the marsh while the party must now pass through it. When the reach an area of the marsh that is almost completely submerged, hundreds of arms reach up from the water to grab hold of the PCs’ horses. Hucknor grasps his holy symbol, and dozens of zombies die. Then Jolinar jumps down into the muck and sends electricity flooding through the water. With all of the lesser undead out of the way, the really enemies begin their attack. The two nightstalkers and four liches are led by a cleric of Myrkul with large antlers growing from his bald head. Hucknor destroys all four liches and one of the nightstalkers within the first 20 seconds, and the rest of the party deal with the cleric quickly.

After exiting the swamp, Preia’s trail leads them straight through Brindford. Hucknor and Valkor are hesitant to enter due to the murder charges out against them, so they head around the city with Balian’s men while Jolinar, Kinson, Kevros, and McSquid pass straight through the city without incident. They pass through a secret tunnel under the Stormhorns and reach Cormyr about a week ahead of Alusair’s army. Balian’s men wait in the foothills while the PCs enter Suzail.

As the party passes through the city toward the palace, they notice that some of the Purple Dragons have a slight grayish tint to their skin. When they are stopped at the palace gates, Hucknor and Valkor present the writ signed by Althon naming them honorary Purple Dragons. They say that they have urgent information for the King. They are allowed to approach the palace entrance where they are met by four of the grayish-skinned Purple Dragons. They fetch the guard captain (also gray-skinned) who listens to their story, then tells them to wait while he talks to the King. He returns about 10 minutes later and tells them that the king will speak with them.

… Ok, to make a long story short: Althon isn’t Althon; he’s really Kazgaroth The Beast, a very old and powerful minion of Bhaal. After a lame attempt at pleasantries, he changes into his real real form (which looks something like a tyrannosaurus with larger, fully functional arms) and the battle begins. 3 powerful spells rain down on the party every few seconds as they try to bring down The Beast. Valkor circles around Kazgaroth and almost stumbles into Preia, who is lobbing spells at the party in rapid succession. Valkor moves in close to the elf woman and creates an antimagic field around himself that prevents her from casting further spells. Preia just stands there shaking, seeming having some sort of internal struggle for control, while Jolinar runs over and takes her staff out of her hands, explaining that with it she could still cast spells, even within the field. The rest of the group finished off Kazgaroth, but not before he swallows Kinson and McSquid whole.

The battle is won, “Althon’s” treachery is revealed, and the throne is ready to receive the queen. All seems well and right, … but something Kazgaroth said to the PCs leaves them feeling that whatever evil plans have been set in motion have only just begun…

“You fools have no idea what is happening. Defeating me will not be the end of this.
This is just the beginning of something marvelous. It is … the beginning of the end.”
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Challenge of Champions IX
1st April, 1371 DR

Arriving back in Waterdeep, the PCs do some last minute preparations for their upcoming mission. With their preparations complete, they turn their attention to the 9th Annual Challenge of Champions. They arrive to discover that another betting pool has been started, with the prize going to the winner amongst the participants. No one is willing to let the defending champs participate however.

Farthingale, the guildmaster of the Adventurers’ Guild, welcomes everyone and informs the Obliterators that they will be going first this year. After swimming, sliding, reading, swinging, eating, and running their way through the scenarios, the party climbs out of the final challenge victorious once again. While they did not achieve a perfect score like last time, they were still the clear winners, earning 390 out of 400 possible points.

Continue to the Next Adventure

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Bastion of Broken Souls
17th March, 1371 DR

As the party exits the portal from Rigus, the guards ask where they’ve been for the last year. Stunned by the question, the PCs look around to see a light dusting of snow covering the new growth of early Spring. As the full weight of what they’ve seen and heard hits them, they now understand why Brian the Swordmaster had said that he had been in Imperagon’s fortress for a few weeks rather than just a few days. Whether it took a year or a day, the outcome is the same: they saved a few dozen forgemasters from an eternity of service to Imperagon, and they saved the Realms from an imminent invasion. (They also rescued some treasure from imminent dust)

After returning to Waterdeep and speaking again with Lord Piergeiron, the party takes a few days to rest and redistribute their wealth. During this time, the party hears two very interesting and disturbing rumors: 1) A number of babies in The City and the surrounding areas have been born “soulless”; the infants are alive, but unresponsive. 2) Cormyr is expanding its borders. They have already taken Sembia and are slowly conquering the Dales one by one.

Having traveled through Cormyr, Hucknor and Valkor find the second rumor to be unlikely at best. The first rumor is troubling though, and Piergeiron asks the party to investigate. He sends them to ask Malchor Harpell if he has any helpful information. They prepare to set off, then teleport as close as they can to the Twilight Tower. Within seconds of their arrival, another creature teleports in close by and charges (slithers) quickly toward them. Their enemy is a six-armed woman with writhing chains wrapped around her body and a long snake’s tail instead of legs. As combat ensues, the creature ruthlessly wields her chains against Kevros, then catches and constricts him in her tail. Through a combination of well placed blows, timely spells, and sizable about of luck, the party slays the creature in just moments. Their victory could not have come at a better time as the thief was already unconscious and at the brink of death.

As the creature drops to the ground, the PCs hear someone else approaching. They turn to find a man in leather armor standing in amazement with his short sword still raised to attack. After a few minutes of explanation, the party learns much about this man and the creature they killed. The man’s name is Nurn. He serves a being named Hethradiah as a spy of sorts, tracking and monitoring the Cathezar (the creature they just killed). The Cathezar serves a Demon Lord of the Abyss named Aameul. The Cathezar herself is half-demon/half-devil; born of the Abyss and the Nine Hells, but shunned by both. Nurn explains that the Cathezar has been trying to find and capture a descendant of the famous druid Dydd. Nurn doesn’t know exactly why the descendant of Dydd is so important to Aameul, but he did overhear the Cathezar make mention of something to one of her lackeys. She said that the descendant was needed at a place called The Bastion of Unborn Souls so that" the wyrm might be tamed". While Nurn doesn’t know what any of this means, he knows that Aameul believes he can increase his power through this quest he set the Cathezar on, and a Demon Lord gaining power is never a good thing.

Nurn asks to work together with the PCs to solve the mystery of the soulless newborns and stop Aameul from growing more powerful. They accept and travel together to the Twilight Tower. When they arrive, Malchor is waiting for them. After chastising the party for not having done their own due diligence on the situation, he answers what questions he can and gives them some good information to work with. He tells the party that the reason Waterdeep’s clerics and mages were unable gain any information about the soulless children is due to an ancient edict called the Ban of the Unborn. The Overpowers decreed that deities were in no way allowed to interfere or involve themselves with pre-incarnate souls. This, Malchor believes, is why the deities are silent on the subject of the soulless babies. Malchor vaguely remembers reading something about a deity who was banished by his fellow deities for attempting to claim unborn souls as part of his portfolio, but he does not remember the name of the deity, nor how long ago this was. Malchor suggests that the PCs go to the Church of the Elements in the High Forest for further information

The party teleports to the location Malchor described and find themselves standing at the bottom of a treeless hill with a circle of large stones near its top. They climb the hill and speak with Dorus, the current guardian of the mystic sapling Semphelon. She explains that the tree has all of the knowledge of every Druid who ever lived, but only one of their order may speak with it. Through Dorus, the party asks the tree a number of questions regarding the Bastion of Unborn Souls, how to get there, and what the significance of the descendant of Dydd has. Semphelon can give very little information about the Bastion, but says that if the descendant of Dydd is involved, the “wyrm” the Cathezar mentioned must be Ashardalon. Kevros is told that he is a descendant of Dydd, and he can play an important role in defeating Ashardalon. If he faces Ashardalon, he can gain a small advantage over the dragon if he says “In the name of Dydd, whose blood is my blood, who slew your heart, feel again the pain of your heart’s demise.” The dragon will be lessened slightly in his presence, and Kevros cannot be harmed by the wyrm for a short time if he does not engage it in combat. Since the gods will not speak of anything concerning unborn souls, the druids, and therefore Semphelon, have no further information on the subject. However, the tree does recommend that they visit “the Dreamer” in the Guild of Sleep near Zazesspur in Tethyr, for “the Dreamer can reveal what the deities must conceal.”

The party teleports (again) to Zazesspur and find the Guild of Sleep on a rise outside the city. Inside they find a number of humans, gnomes and halflings sleeping in alcoves throughout the building, all watched over by a trio of elves. One of the elves approaches as asks if they are here to “enter the dream”. When asked about the Dreamer, the elf states that “Dreamer Prime” is currently in the dream and should not be disturbed, but that if it is truly a matter of great urgency, they can attempt to address her briefly while she yet sleeps. They are warned, however, that she may not react well to someone distracting her from the dream, and will resist being awakened. They are directed to a large-ish room near the back of the building with fanciful paintings on the walls and vaulted ceiling. An image of a beautiful woman appears floating in the air in front of the them and, when asked, tells them that she will only answer their questions of awakened, but she will not wake herself and will fight the PCs if they attempt to wake her. So, of course, combat ensues. She casts a number of different spells attempting to control the party, but to no avail. Balian’s ghost touch axe strikes solidly at her incorporeal form and she is brought to bear quickly. As the image of the beautiful woman fades from sight, many of the fanciful creatures painted on the walls begin to emerge from the paintings prepared to attack. Before they can strike however, a trapdoor opens in the floor of an adjoining room and a harsh female voice rings out calling off the attack. As the creatures reenter their paintings, an object similar in appearance to a coffin rises from beneath the floor. When it stops at floor-level, a woman emerges and speaks with the party, … but this woman is far from beautiful.

Dreamer Prime is a night hag; a blue-skinned, straggly-haired, wart-covered woman. She tells the PCs that no one has defeated her projected image in many years, and is intrigued by what questions they may have, though she is still unhappy at being awakened. They party asks her about the Bastion of Unborn Souls, and she tells them everything they need to know. The only way to gain access to the Bastion is with an artifact called the Soul Totem. It was once carried by the deity Desayeus, who thought to claim pre-incarnate souls as part of his portfolio. Fearing that they might all be punished by the Overpower for violating the Ban of the Unborn, a coalition of deities captured Desayeus and banished him to the outer plane of Pandemonium. The Soul Totem was broken into 3 pieces during the struggle. Each piece has lost the power held by the complete artifact, but each still has the power to grant entry to the Bastion of Unborn Souls. One piece has been lost, another was found and used by Ashardalon, and the final piece yet resides with Desayeus in his prison. If the party wishes to gain entry to the Bastion, they need to parlay with the fallen god for his piece of the Soul Totem. The only way to gain entry to Desayeus’s prison is through the prison’s gatekeeper, Eco, a silver-skinned celestial being who was set to guard the prison. Dreamer Prime also reveals one other interesting tidbit of information: Aameul is the name of one of the two aspects of the Demogorgon, Prince of Demons.

The party returns to Waterdeep to prepare for their journey to Desayeus’s prison in Pandemonium. After learning what they can about Pandemonium itself, they ask Hucknor to commune with his deity in hopes of gathering more information about Eco and her location. The next day, the party plane shifts then teleports to arrive in Pandemonium near Eco and Branam, Eco’s planetar companion. No matter how much the party attempts to persuade her, Eco refuses to allow entry to Desayeus’s prison. Just as the PCs are about to give up hope of finding a peaceful solution, McSquid notices that for a brief moment Eco’s eyes focus on a point behind the party before a scared look appears on her face. The monk whirls around to catch a brief glimpse of a figure in a dark green cloak and leather armor standing at the edge of the shadows before the being disappears. Eco ignores McSquid’s questions about who they saw, but tells the party that they may enter the prison under two conditions: They must not allow Desayeus or his followers to escape, and should they obtain the soul totem, they must return the piece to Eco once they have completed their quest. When the party is ready to enter, Eco transforms into a large portal that grants entry to Desayeus’s prison.

They party enters to find 4 lillends relaxing on assorted pillows and cushions in a large chamber. They draw longswords and question the party about why they are there and how they got in. The PCs state that they are there only to speak with Desayeus. The lillends escort the party back to the chamber where Desayeus rests while remaining vigilant in a circle around them. When they are brought before Desayeus, he is very curious about why they are there and how they were allowed entry. When they ask him for the fragment of the Soul Totem, Desayeus bitterly refuses to give it up. It quickly becomes apparent that if they want to get it, the PCs will have to slay the fallen god. Desayeus give the party and ultimatum: leave in 1 minute, or fight. Valkor and McSquid decide they’re going to leave, while Hucknor, Balian and Kevros decide to stand and face him. As the minute ends, Desayeus raises his hammer to attack, and his minions engage the separated party. After a couple rounds of punishment from Desayeus, Hucknor summons an earth elemental, then grabs the half-ogre and the thief and dimension doors over to his other two companions. Together they finish off the lillends near the entrance, then prepare to face Desayeus as a group. When he arrives, they hit him with everything they have. The do bring him down, but not before Kevros (once again) falls unconscious from loss of blood. The party retrieves the Soul Totem fragment, then depart the prison.

The party rests to recover their spells before traveling to the Positive Energy Plane and the Bastion of Unborn Souls. Before they leave, Nurn comes clean and tells the whole truth: he serves the other head of Demogorgon. However, he wants to kill Ashardalon and his heart at much as the PCs, if for different reasons. He asks the party if he can still fight with them, and they agree.

Utilizing a greater plane shift, Hucknor takes them 100 yards away from the entrance to the Bastion, then casts a spell to allow everyone to adjust to their environment. When they reach the Bastion, a gigantic mass of crystal easily 10 miles across, the party finds an unfriendly welcoming committee of demons. Four wolf-crabasaurus-rexes accompanied by a Nalfeshnee, a Hezrou, and a larger than normal retriever, attack the PCs on site. The battle is long, but not too painful for the party thanks to many failed saving throws against Hucknor’s and Valkor’s spells. Their toughest enemy, the retriever, never even had a chance to attack. When the battle ends the PCs finally take notice of their surroundings. They see a smooth 40-foot-wide section of crystal with a circular indentation in its center.

The markings within the indentation match the markings on the piece of the soul totem that they have, so they place the stone against the symbols. As soon as they do, the section of crystal in front of them shimmers and fades, … and five cones of fire blast toward them. Only Kevros is able to avoid the flames completely, but everyone else takes only minimal damage. The party faces four half-dragons: a kobold, a chimera, an ettin, and a dire bear. The PCs look horribly over-matched for about 2 seconds. Then the ettin falls on his face, the bear takes 200+ damage from sneak attacks, and the chimera and kobold get teamed up on. The battle is ended fairly quickly, but a lot of damage is dealt out by both sides. While the party lets the Positive Energy Plane heal them, they search the bodies and collect a hefty amount of loot.

Choosing not to enter the bright light at the Bastion’s center, the party starts to make their way through the rooms surrounding the Core. In the first room they find a long-dead paladin with an impressive collection of magical items, including an incredibly powerful greatsword. In the next room, they are attacked by two crystal screamers. One makes a crystal tree explode, dealing damage to all nearby. The other shrieks at Balian, causing quite a bit of harm. Big and powerful as these creatures are, they cannot stand up to the might of the Obliterators, and they die quickly. As the party explores deeper into the room, they find that this may not be a room at all, but instead an endless forest of crystal trees. After walking for a couple of minutes, they find a half-dragon satyr that gives them some good information about Ashardalon, his demon heart, and the Bastion’s denizens. At the end of the conversation, he asks for the party to take him with them when they leave the Bastion and return home. The heroes agree to return for him… after they kill his father.

The party returns to the area where they fought their last battle, then continues to the next room. Here they find two incorporeal creatures (named soul marauders by the satyr) who let out fearsome roars. Balian and Nurn are weakened with fear, and McSquid is deafened. As the PCs engage in combat, the marauders begin attacking Valkor and Nurn. As their incorporeal tendrils strike, they attempt to rip away their opponent’s soul. They are successful at de-soul-ing both Nurn and Valkor before the battle ends. Nurn’s and Valkor’s souls return to their bodies, but they are very much weakened by the ordeal. As the party discusses how best to recover, an incorporeal creature that looks a four-armed person made of light appears. It restores the whole party to full strength and wishes them luck as they attempt to slay Ashardalon and cleanse the Bastion.

As they head toward the southernmost “room” of the Bastion, Valkor’s Dragonhammer -induced spidey-senses begin tingling, indicating that a dragon is near. As they approach the entrance to the area, Kevros hears a slight scrape and a brief rushing of air. Kevros silently halts the party, and the PCs each take a brief moment to prepare for an ambush, including a disappearing Nurn. Sure enough, a red dragon (slightly smaller than the blue dragon they encountered in the Sunset Mountains) sticks its head around the corner and fills the area with fire. A fearsome battle ensues, lasting a torturous and grueling 24 seconds. The dragon casts a spell that damages the entire party, while they attempt to encircle their foe. Before the dragon can begin tearing his enemies apart, McSquid lands a powerful blow to its tail (yes, tail!) that leaves the dragon stunned (it only needed a 3 on its saving throw!). The pummelling commences and dragon takes a serious beating, including some painful stabs from a now-visible Nurn on his back. The dragon can’t recover from being stunned quickly enough, and is slain before he can retaliate.

As they head toward the next room, the PCs notice the charred and mangled remains of 6 vrocks and 2 glabrezu (wolf-crabasaurus-rex). In the next area, they hear two balors arguing over whether they should go take on the dragon again or not. While they are distracted by their discussion, the heroes attack. After attempting (and failting) to dominate the minds of their assailants, the balors attack with sword and whip. While their swords never reach their decapitating potential, they still strike home consistently. Kevros get wrapped up in a balor whip and drawn against the demon’s flame-wreathed body. Even with the devastating potential of the balors, the battle ends almost before it’s begun, and the demon’s explode in blaze of light that burns everyone around them. In the makeshift tower the demons had constructed, the party found 3 potions and some much needed (NOT!) platinum pieces.

The last room (North East corner) contains two large incorporeal lionfish; at least, that’s what they look like. Sensing fresh souls, they immediately fly through the trees (literally) to attack the party. Unlike the battle with the soulmarauders, these “soulsippers” are easily dealt with. Having dealt with a number of powerful foes, the party feels even stronger than before as they turn toward the Center and Ashardalon. As they gaze into the light, they notice that it has dimmed slightly, and a huge dark shape can be seen moving inside the Core.

Before entering, Hucknor and Valkor cast a half-dozen spells each in preparation for the battle ahead. After entering into the Core, the party comes face-to-face with the largest creature they have ever seen; a red dragon easily 3 times the size of the one they encountered earlier. Ashardalon begins to greet the characters and ask them what business they have there, but then Kevros declares his intent, curses the dragon, and all pretense of hospitality is dropped. Kevros begins to glow red and the great wyrm is left stunned for a few seconds as the battle commences. Ashardalon is unquestionably the most powerful creature the party has encountered to this point, so if course that battle is over quickly with PCs left virtually unscathed. (Again! How could this happen again!)

As they emerge from the Core, the heroes are met by five brightly glowing figures just like the one that helped the party after their encounter with the soulmarauders. They thank the party, then send a burst of energy into the PCs that leaves them tingling for a few seconds, but does no harm. With that they disappear. The party gets the satyr as they agreed, then leaves the Bastion by way of a greater plane shift spell. …except when Hucknor begins casting the spell, someone or something else takes control and sends the five heroes and the satyr (good-bye Nurn) to a forest clearing that they have never seen before. There they are met by a tall cloaked elf who apologizes to Hucknor for hijacking his spell. After allowing the satyr to go off with two dryads and a half-nymph, the elf addresses the party. McSquid tells his companions that this is Aranel Hawkeye, a newly raised (13 years ago) member of the elven pantheon.

Aranel tells them that he has been watching them for some time, and asks them if they will accept a task from the Seldarine (the elven deities) that will help to restore order to troubled lands in Faerûn. They accept without much question other than to ask for time to rest and to express a desire for equipment appropriate to the task. Aranel tells them that they will be provided with equipment fitting for such a task, and tells them to return two days after the Challenge of Champions. He also tells Balian that there are others who need his help, and that when they find him, he should go with them. He apologizes again for taking over Hucknor’s spell, then returns the PCs to Waterdeep.

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Lord of the Iron Fortress
6th April, 1370 DR

Upon arriving back in Waterdeep, the party notices a commotion in front of Brian the Swordmaster’s shop. When they investigate, Brian’s store-front manager, Jarish, invites the PCs through the line of guards surrounding the shop and explains what happened. He says that he returned from eating lunch to find Brian slain, lying on the floor of the shop in a pool of his own blood. Jarish leads the party into the store where they find tables and display cases broken and strewn about. Near the counter across from the door two clerics of Lathander kneel near Brian’s body. Off to one side stands a heavily-armored dwarf who seems to be staying out of the way while trying to observe everything that is happening. Jarish explains that the dwarf was overseeing the protection of an adamantine shipment that Brian had been expecting, but that never arrived.

As they survey the scene, Hucknor and Kevros notice deep gouges in the floor that look like large claw marks, and a few pieces of steel that look out of place. The party speaks with the clerics, who say that they have tried resurrecting Brian twice, but his soul cannot be found and will not return to his body. At this point they also notice that Brian seemed to be reaching for an adamantine sword when he died. Then the PCs speak with the dwarf, who says his name is Zyzyxx. Zyzyxx tells them that the caravan he was guarding was enveloped in total darkness and attacked, and that the adamantine was stolen. As the sole survivor, he felt it was his duty to return and report what had occurred.

A short time later, two men enter from the back of the shop: Lord Piergeiron Paladinson, Open Lord of Waterdeep, and a man in black robes carrying a black, intricately-carved staff. Lord Piergeiron speaks with Jarish, Zyzyxx, and the PCs, while the other man speaks to the clerics. Zyzyxx gives the Open Lord a more detailed account of his travels, from which the party learns that the adamantine shipment was coming from Rigus (which the characters had never heard of). Sharing all of their thoughts and observations in hushed tones, Lord Piergeiron and the man in black seem to reach some sort of decision. They approach the PCs and Zyzyxx and ask if they will travel to Rigus to investigate the missing adamantine, believing that there is a connection between the ore and Brian’s death. The party agrees to set out the next day after they’ve had a chance to rest.

The next morning, the five of them set out for the portal leading to Rigus. They find the portal about a half-mile outside the walls of Waterdeep. After arriving in the Outlands, the party travels the remaining 5 miles to Rigus. As soon as they enter the city, the PCs are approached by a group of soldiers who insist on making them wear plaques which denote them as visitors. The party then seeks out the man who Brian purchased the adamantine from. As they were searching, they see what looks like a large metal cat prowling into an alleyway. The PCs go to the mouth of the alley, and Kevros sneaks silently behind the creature as it pads down the alley. At the end of the alley, the cat-like construct enters a small smithy and quickly slays the dwarven smith at his forge. Turning back toward the alleyway, the predator spots Kevros and freezes, watching his every move. The rest of the party begins to move slowly toward the rogue while their enemy remains perfectly still at the entrance to the smithy.

Without warning, Kevros dimension doors behind the creature, causing it to act. It charges straight at Balian, clawing and biting in an attempt to defeat its prey. At the same time, another of the creatures drops from the roof of an adjacent building, landing directly behind Balian and attacking him as well. The two metallic beasts fight ferociously for a time, focusing all of their attacks on the half-ogre, until they are too damaged to continue. The PCs decide that these creatures must be hunting those who are skilled in weaponsmithing.

As they emerge from the alley, they see a fire giant walking down the street, leading the way for a large, red-skinned humanoid riding upon what appears to be a 12-legged, wingless dragon. Zyzyxx indicates that the red-skinned creature is an efreeti named Varachus, and that he is the merchant they seek. After finally getting Varachus’s attention, the PCs discuss with him who may have taken the adamantine, and where they may have taken it. After convincing him that they had no interest in the adamantine, only in investigating the theft itself, Varachus, and those he manipulates, gather what information they can. The party learns that someone in Acheron is collecting adamantine from across the planes and transporting it to “the lost cube” (Kolyoral) on Avalas. Valkor is given a scroll by Varachus that will allow the party to “cubehop” straight to Kolyoral when they reach Acheron.

The PCs decide to rest for the remainder of the day so that Valkor can learn and prepare the new spell. In the morning, they descend the mile-long staircase down to the portal that will take them to Acheron. As they pass through, their ears are filled with the sound of clashing metal, and their eyes widen as they see a red-eyed spider with a 40-foot leg-span moving toward them. Astride the colossal spider is a drow preistess, who seems just as surprised to see the PCs as they are to see her (and her mount). The party’s surprise only increases when drow asks (politely!) if she can pass. Seeing an opportunity to glean some information from this “friendly” drow, Hucknor and Valkor begin asking her questions about the missing ore and the metal cats.

Still cordial (though with a hint of sneering displeasure), the drow imparts a few nuggets of useful information: 1. She had just been meeting with Imperagon, a half-duergar, half-red dragon who has plans to build an army and conquer Faerûn; 2. Imperagon can be found on the “lost cube” of Kolyorol, which is the cube the party sought in the first place; and 3. Imperagon claims that he is a descendant of the great dragon Ashardalon.

After watching the drow depart through the portal, Valkor casts cube hop and takes the party to Kolyorol. Upon arrival, they are attacked almost immediately by a pair of rocs. Though the giant birds succeed in dealing a small amount of damage, they posed no serious threat and were eliminated quickly. After inspecting the harsh and forbidding landscape around them, Valkor, Kevros and Zyzyxx think it would be a good idea to split up. Hucknor and Balian set out together, while Valkor, Kevros, and Zyzyxx head off in the opposite direction. They will teleport back to their original starting point after 10 hours.

Hucknor and Balian find nothing for nearly eight hours until they reach the edge of their face of the cube. Looking “down” upon the other face, they see hills and crags; a vast difference from the flat land they were standing on. At the end of their appointed 10 hours, the gnome and half-ogre teleported back to the meeting point, where they heard quite a tale from their three companions. After six hours of travel, Valkor, Kevros, and Zyzyxx saw a flicker of movement in the haze in front of them. The dim light and constant sounds of clashing metal in the distance masked the movements of whatever was out there in the gloom. A couple of minutes later they saw two larger shapes in the distance in front of them. At the same time, they noticed horse-sized beasts charging at them from the sides, and two small boulders flying toward them. One made solid contact with Kevros, and Valkor grabbed his companions and teleported them directly behind the two creatures in front of them. The two fire giants turned to face their tiny foes and began pounding on the taller, poorly armored one instead of his smaller, more heavily-armored allies. Just as Kevros decided that they (he) will die if they stayed and fought, he turned to grab the two dwarves, giving the giant next to him an opening to attack. The blow landed solidly, and just as the rogue felt his legs grow weak, Valkor touched his arm and his strength was renewed. Activating his helm, Kevros took his companions away from the battlefield where he could lick his wounds while waiting for Hucknor and Balian.

After sleeping and preparing, the PCs all set out together. Hucknor teleports the party to the spot where he and Balian had reached the edge of the face, and they stepped over onto the new face. After spending the entire “day” travelling over ridges and ravines, the party notices a large crag rising up before them, and the dark maw of a cave near its base. Deciding it would be better to explore while fully rested, they each get their needed sleep before striking out for the cave. When they arrive at the cave mouth, Kevros is sent sneaking in to explore the dark interior. After taking a slight turn about 80 feet down the passageway, two steel predators leap down from their hiding places and begin to punish the rogue for trespassing. After what seemed like hours, Kevros called out to his companions. Rushing in, the rest of the party finds one of the predators blocking their way, and past the metal beast, Kevros, lying in a pool of his own blood. Thinking quickly, Valkor considered a dozen possibilities (well, 7 or 8… and not too quickly) before deciding upon one option that would definitely work. Reaching his fallen companion, Valkor pulled Kevros back from the brink of death, then placed him a protective bubble where he could stay safe until the battle had ended… and just in time! Shortly after, a steel predator nearly twice the size of its two brethren emerged from the darkness and issued a bellowing roar. While its sentries posed little threat to the four remaining adventures, this creature was a different story. He succeed in dealing more than enough damage to kill Balian before he himself was finally brought down. Were it not for the healing skills of Hucknor, the half-ogre would have fallen just as Kevros had.

After exploring the cave and finding nothing of interest, the party decides that they should take some time to rest and recover before determining where to go next. Unfortunately, they don’t have much time to rest as two huge tigers charge out from the darkness. Balian loses more than half his hit points in the first round and Hucknor is forced to heal him. Just after the tigers attack, an arrow flies out of the darkness and strikes Kevros, dealing a substantial amount of damage. In the next round, another arrow strikes him, and this time he is slain and drops lifeless to the floor. (wow, twice in less than half an hour!) Hucknor casts revivify (another 1,000gp gone) and another arrow flies at Valkor. Now that his own life is threatened Valkor decides to take action. He calls up a blade barrier to separate him and his friends from their assailants. One of the tigers gets caught in the barrier and takes substantial damage. Valkor then calls fire down upon both tigers, killing the one in the barrier, and wounding the other. Dismissing the blades that are hemming in the party, Valkor heads off after Balian who charges the archer, while Zyzyxx and Hucknor try to bring down the wounded tiger. The tiger dies quickly, and when the archer (a hobgoblin) realizes that he cannot escape he drops his weapons and begs for mercy.

He is very forthcoming in order to save his own skin, and provides good information for the party. He draws a map of the cube and shows them where they are, where the iron fortress is, and where to find a blue dragon’s lair. The party then makes him walk in the opposite direction that they will be travelling and keep an eye on him until he is out of sight. They travel for as long as they can before needing rest. They make camp about 10 miles from the iron fortress and get their much needed sleep and preparation before traveling the last few miles to their destination. When they arrive at the door to the fortress, they find a recessed archway flanked by steel predators. They are dealt with quickly, but their battle to reach the door isn’t over yet. As they step in front of the archway, a large blade-armed golem steps out to attack them. The party deals with it quickly, but again Balian is wounded, thought not severely. Passing through the front doors into the sweltering heat within, Kevros pokes his head around a corner, and almost gets it knocked off as a red-eyed, bat-winged cloud giant attacks him with an enormous morningstar. Kevros is forced to retreat to the back for healing while Balian and Zyzyxx engage the giant. Thanks to some fortuitously low attack rolls by the giant half-fiend, they suffer very little damage before their enemy is killed. They search the giant’s room (and find a handful of gems) before continuing deeper into the fortress.

They head down a hallway with doors on either side. The choose a door on the right, then hear high-pitched screams of pain from a door on the left. Zyzyxx charges in with Balian on his heels. In the room they find a small, dust-covered, winged creature, and a human-looking figure covered in chains, torturing what appears to be an elven female with a serpent’s tail instead of legs and a set of multi-colored wings. As the PCs enter the room, the dozens of chains hanging from the walls and ceilings animate and begin to attack the intruders. The dusty creature turns invisible while the party engages the chain-covered torturer, who quickly becomes blinded and almost useless thanks to a spell from Valkor. Meanwhile, Hucknor is able to keep track of their other enemy’s position thanks to his blindfold. It moves into a corner of the room closer to the door and creates an impenetrable darkness that covers the room. In the next round she casts another spell, but remains in her corner while Hucknor fires a searing light spell in her direction. The following round, the creatures descends toward Valkor, who is blocking the door, and strikes hard with her dagger. Unable to kill her target, and unable to flee by normal means, the creature leaves the room by way of a dimension door.

Still cloaked in darkness, the party extricates the tortured prisoner from her bindings and leads her into the hallway. Once again in the light, the party hears the Lillend’s account of her capture and imprisonment. She also tells them that Imperagon has captured the souls of many forgemasters and reconstituted them as petitioners, spirit beings that can still perform physical acts. When the party asks if she would be willing to accompany them, she states that she is too week from the past few days’ ordeals and does not have the strength to be of any assistance. After she departs the fortress, the party continues down the hallway, deeper into the stronghold’s hot interior.

Moving to the door that they originally chose to open, the party finds a room that is decorated in stark contrast to the rest of the fortress. Fine tapestries hang on the walls, a large rug covers the floor, and four plush armchairs sit in a circle near the middle of the room. Continuing through the sitting room they find a set of stairs leading upward and another door, which they choose to open. Inside they find two mind flayers and their thralls; a shield guardian and an elven monk. As the party charges into the room Balian lands particularly powerful blow on the closest illithid and cleaves it in half. Freed from the mind flayers’ control, the monk attacks and kills the other illithid with a ferocious flurry of blows. Surrounding the shield guardian, the party attacks and destroys the construct. They then turn to the elf, who explains that he had been under the control of the mind flayers for quite some time, and was painfully aware of all that he was forced to do at their bidding. His former masters were here to meet with Imperagon to discuss an alliance. He is able to give no new information about the fortress or its denizens, but is able to confirm all that they have learned thus far. He offers to join the party as they seek to end Imperagon’s machinations.

Continuing through the fortress, they enter a room with three steel predators who are quickly dealt with. They then encounter a duergar monk who takes considerable damage before vanishing from the room by way of her monk abilities. (Now there are two enemies on the loose that know the party is here.) At last they find stairs descending below the fortress. They can tell immediately that the intense heat and loud noise that permeates the keep both emanate from below. Guarding the stairs are two blade golems. Defeating them was more time consuming than the PCs would have liked due to the golems’ thick steel exterior, but eventually they are brought to bear without any wounds that Hucknor and Valkor couldn’t easily handle.

Relegating Kevros to the back of the group, the party descends the stairs to the subterranean forges. As soon as Balian and McSquid step foot on the first landing, McSquid and Hucknor feel their strength decrease dramatically. Promoting Kevros to the front, the party continues down the stairs into the enormous underground forge. There they see 40-50 people seemingly made out of force working hard over an assortment of weapons and armor. Watching over the petitioners are what appear to be two flame-covered dwarves, a humanoid creature with metal spines protruding from its entire body, and perched on ledges high above, two dragon-ish, lion-ish things. The party deals with the assortment of creatures quickly… or so they they think until unholy fire rains down upon them. Locating the flame-wreathed cleric near a door at the back of the forge, the PCs charge over to deal with the threat. In the midst of pummeling the cleric, Kevros slips behind him to stab him in the back. He ends up being the one to take damage from behind, however, as three fire elementals punish him for entering their territory. The rogue barely escapes alive just as the azer cleric is brought down.

As the battle ends and they start to take notice of their surroundings, the party sees that each of the petitioners is watching them while continuing to work… except for two, a human and a dwarf, who exit from the fire elementals’ room and approach the PCs. The human stops 10 feet away, surprise on his translucent face as he recognizes the party. The dwarf continues until he stands in front of the PCs, then asks them what they are doing in the Iron Fortress. After telling him that they are here to free Brian (who seems to finally rouse himself from his stupor at the sound of his name) and recover the missing adamantine, the dwarf become friendly and helpful. He says his name is Durgeddin, and explains that the only way to free Brian would be to slay Imperagon and his cronies. He also informs the adventurers that they have mere hours to do this, as the last piece of Imperagon’s plans of conquest will be complete by the end of the day. Brian explains that he and Durgeddin have been working to reforge the legendary Blade of Fiery Might. With this weapon in hand he would lead his army into the Realms to begin his conquest.

Deciding that rest will need to be put off until Imperagon is vanquished, the party ascends from the floor of the pit to find an enormous golem blocking their way. As the PCs charge up the stairs to engage the golem, Kevros tumbles behind it in order to allow space for his friends to fight the construct. As soon as he does this, the golem turns and lays the smack down on the one that managed to get past him. Barely alive, the thief tumbles back behind his friends and waits for the battle to end. Balian and McSquid take substantial damage and require immediate healing, and even Zyzyxx takes a few solid hits from the golem. As the battle wears on, Valkor casts a couple of spells to add his own share of damage to that of the melee combatants. When combat finally ends, all but Hucknor and Valkor are bloodied and weak. More healing ensues, then the party continues up the stairs to ground level.

As soon as Kevros reaches the first step past the landing that the golem guarded, he senses a trap. The rest of the party runs back down stairs and around the corner before Kevros attempts to bypass the trap. A few moments later, they here incoherent mumbling coming from the stairwell. The party moves to the bottom of the stairs and see Kevros staring at nothing and murmuring nonsense. Suddenly the rogue turns and charges down the stairs, weapon’s drawn. He makes one attack against his friends, then drops his weapons, eyes wide. He explains quickly that he doesn’t know what’s going on and can’t control himself. Hucknor quickly dispels the magic that is confusing the thief, and Kevros returns to normal. They then continue up the stairs again.

As Kevros checks for traps at the top of the stairs, everyone feels a faint tingle pass through them. The rogue indicates that he accidentally triggered a magical trap, but since no one notices anything wrong, they continue through the door. They find a curtain to their right that separates them from whatever lays beyond. The monk decides to take a peek past the edge of the curtain to see what awaits them. He sees a large chamber with a high ceiling rising all the way to the top of the 2nd floor. Another curtain lies opposite the one the party stands behind, and above curtain, a balcony which seems to be empty. Hoping for a better look, McSquid puts on some slippers of spider climb and walks up the wall to the 20ft. high ceiling where he can better see what may be on the balcony. He catches a brief glimpse of four figures standing on the balcony before the whole area around the party erupts in fire.

All pretence of secrecy gone, the party charges into the main room. The duergar female that they faced earlier leaps from the balcony and charges into their midst. Just behind her, what appears to be an angel flies down to fight alongside her. Wielding his massive greatsword, the angel lays into the party with impressive force. The duergar monk holds her own for a moment, but is soon overwhelmed and slain. Now surrounded and getting pummeled, the angel transports himself instantaneously back to the balcony to stand beside a figure that can only be Imperagon. The Lord of the Iron Fortress is built much like his duergar kin, but bears physical attributes that are clearly draconic. On Imperagon’s other side stands a large red creature which must be the pit fiend that Durgeddin mentioned. As the fiend launches another fireball down on the party, Hucknor gathers up Balian, McSquid, and Zyzyxx and casts dimension door to transport them all to the balcony where they can engage their foes.

The balcony erupts in chaos as 7 combatants try to fight in the confined area. Before McSquid can get in position to attack, an unseen assailant buries a dagger in his neck, killing him instantly. Hucknor revivifies the elf, slides his blindfold into place, and prepares to fight the invisible dust mephit the party encountered previously. After being healed, McSquid walks along the wall to the stairwell, where he engages Imperagon from his perch on the banister. By this point the fallen angel has already be slain, and Balian and Zyzyxx have begun weaken Imperagon and the pit fiend. In the meantime, Valkor and Kevros remain on the ground floor. The dwarf fires spells up at his enemies, while Kevros shoots his bow at the angel until it dies. At that point the thief drops his bow and runs back behind the curtain, apparently looking for something. Confused and frustrated with his crazy companion, but unwilling stop stop fighting to find out what is wrong, Valkor continues to fire spell after spell up to the balcony.

When Imperegon has nearly fallen, the pit fiend retreats a step, shimmers, then curses in Infernal before retreating through a doorway. Kevros flies quickly up to the balcony telling everyone that if they kill the fiend, they will all die. Hesitating only a moment at their friend’s words, Zyzyxx and Balian pursue and finish off the pit fiend quickly. The thief then realizes that the voice in his head was the fiend, and apologizes to the party for his behavior during the battle.

Knowing that there is still one more enemy out there somewhere, the party sets off the search the remainder of the upper level. They finally determine that they can’t reach the rakshasa’s room from this side of the tower, so they descend to the ground floor and go up another set of stairs. They find their enemy in his bedroom, and he welcomes them with a fireball. Valkor summons a blade barrier to force the sorcerer out toward them, then the rest of the party rushes in. A few rounds of pummelling ensue until Balian realizes they aren’t really hurting him with their weapons, and Kevros convinces Valkor to drop his barrier so he can flank their opponent. With the rogue adding in his sneak attack damage the rakshasa finally starts to be weakened… and finally starts casting damaging spells. It is too late for him however as he is quickly killed after that.

Once they verify that the petitioners and elementals were actually released, the PCs loot the fortress before deciding on their next course of action. After a heated debate about whether to return to Waterdeep or seek out the dragon that the hobgoblin mentioned, the party decides (after they all have a strange vision of their den with THREE large dragons) to return to the City of Splendors.

Upon the PCs arrival back in Rigus, Zyzyxx takes the portion of the adamantine that doesn’t belong to Brian and returns it to the efreeti merchant. He then bids the party farewell, stating that he has enlisted in the US Army… I mean, that he has decided to return to his previous employment and will not be returning to Waterdeep with them. After saying their goodbyes, the PCs head out of Rigus to the portal leading back to the Toril.

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Matters of Vengence
4th April, 1370 DR

After their shopping spree was complete, a messenger from the Adventurer’s Guild asked the party if they would please come to the Guildhall for a meeting with a potential employer. The PCs are taken from the Guildhall to an inn where they meet Erim Holden, a middle-aged man who is the last descendant of his great-great-uncle Kaiius Holden. Erim wishes to reclaim the land that once belonged to his ancestor, and holds the deed to the property. When he arrived at the property however, he found “the living dead wielding swords” and “living shadows” all throughout the buildings. Lastly, he saw an armored figure standing in front of the manor with red lights shining where his eyes should be.

After fleeing back to Waterdeep, Erim sought out adventurers to rid his land of undead. The party agreed to the task, and set out the next morning. They arrived in late afternoon to find the small village more shadowed than the sun should allow at that time of day. As the party approached the buildings, shadows emerged from the unnatural darkness to confront them. Valkor and Kevros each lost a significant amount of strength, to the extent that they could barely move at battle’s end. After a couple of restoration spells, the party continued onward. More shadows were encountered throughout the smaller buildings untill all the village had been searched except for the manor itself.

As the PCs climbed the low hill toward the manor, armored, sword-wielding creatures attacked and were quickly slain. Guarding the manor’s entrance were four mercenaries; three bearing shield and sword, the other in wizard’s robes. After brief and futile diplomacy, combat ensues. The fighters engage the party while Valkor takes down the wizard just before he can enter the manor for reinforcements. The battle ends quickly and the party prepares to enter the manor.

In the entry hall they find a few more mercenaries, as well as more swordwraiths. While Balian, Kevros, and Valkor take down the undead, Hucknor parleys with the mercenaries, and convinces them to flee rather than fight. Continuing further into the house, the party finds a row of cells, one of which is occupied by Erim Holden. Erim tells them that he was kidnapped from Waterdeep within an hour of speaking with the PCs. As they speak with Erim, two more mercenaries enter to retrieve their prisoner. Hucknor again tried to convince these mercenaries that they were serving a monster and should surrender their weapons. He was obviously very persuasive as the mercenaries agreed to be locked up in the cells while the PCs hunted the lord of the manor.

After entering the rooms serving as the barracks for the mercenary company, and convincing nearly the whole lot of them to join their comrades in the cells, the party finally finds the room where their enemy was waiting. The death knight was not alone, but most of his minions were eliminated almost immediately. The undead tyrant and the mercenary leader were a little harder to take down… and I emphasize the word “little”. Bolt of glory again proved it’s worth, dealing some serious damage to the death knight, while Balian and Valkor quickly beat down the leader of the mercenaries.

After fulfilling their promise to unlock the mercenaries from their cells, the party stays with Erim Holden until his followers arrive from Waterdeep, having set off looking for their kidnapped leader. Once sure Erim would be safe, the PCs returned to Waterdeep to rest.

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Challenge of Champions VIII
1st April, 1370 DR

The party convinces Balian to join them in their travels, and they set off on the 4 month journey to Waterdeep. When they arrive in the City of Splendors, they are told that they must register a charter with the Adventurers Guild. While there, they also discover that the Guild will be hosting the 8th Annual Challenge of Champions in two days. Intrigued, the PCs decide to test their wits in the Challenge. When registering, the guildmember asks for the name of their adventuring party. Having not really considered this before, there is quite a bit of discussion before finally settling on The Obliterators.

The day of the Challenge of Champions arrives, and the party takes on the 10 scenarios. Whether by dumb luck or sound reasoning, using up most of their time or figuring it out in seconds, the PCs successfully complete all of the scenarios. While waiting for the final teams to finish, an arrogant band of dwarves called the Squad of the Skull places a wager with the Obliterators that they would finish with a higher score. The PCs wisely accept and receive 400gp as a result.

The PCs become the first team ever to achieve a perfect score and are named the undisputed champions. The characters are now lifetime members of the Adventurer’s Guild. With the Challenge complete, the shopping begins…

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City of Shadows
3rd November, 1369 DR

After collecting all of the treasure that was left behind in Nightfang Spire, the wealthy party traveled to Iriaebor to find an armorer capable of repairing Valkor’s armor. When they reached the Chionthar River, they have to wait nearly 3 hours to cross over into the city as each traveler and merchant was questioned by the bridge guards. After a suspiciously long and awkward interrogation by the guard, the party is finally given access to the city. They are told that “ole Grik”, the dwarven armor- and weapon-smith, has disappeared. The party is directed to the barracks where a man named Balian might be able to help them. They are also told that he might be able to find buyers for a number of the magical weapons and protective items that they wish to sell. They find Balian, and he agrees to fix the armor, so long as the PCs are willing to share stories of their travels and buy him a drink or two. They met with Balian that evening and swapped stories of their adventures well into the night.

Late in the evening, everyone in the tavern hears yelling in the street outside. One of the windows at the front of the common room breaks inward as a member of the city guard falls through. The party runs outside to see a madman fighting with a member of the watch. When the PCs emerge from the building, the man casts cloudkill and kills a number of city guardsmen. Hucknor grabs three militia-men that are avoiding the toxic cloud and takes them near the caster via a dimension door spell. In moments they are slain as another cloudkill is cast by the madman, killing himself as well. After a very brief thought for the men he doomed, Hucknor joins Balian to discuss what took place. They each noticed that the dead man before them looks different than he did while alive. Balian says that this man’s name is Alanar Kane, a member of the Shield assigned to guard the “deeper dungeons” beneath Qualtaine Keep. He also says that while alive the man appeared to be Marquis Querchard Qualtaine, the ruler of Iriaebor who has been missing for a few months.

In the morning, a messenger comes to invite the PCs to the home of Algorthas the Seer; a man known in Iriaebor for his knowledge and foresight. The party accompanies the servant to a large manor up on the ridge where they find two half-orc soldiers near the front doors. They are taken into a study near the back of the house where they find Algorthas speaking with Balian. Algorthas then tells the party that he believes something to be terribly wrong with the city, and that answers may be found in the deeper dungeons. He tells them of a secret entrance to the dungeons in order to avoid attracting the attention of the Marchioness or Verbane, the chief wizard, just in case either of them are involved.

The motley crew reaches the deeper dungeons and finds them seemingly deserted. After some time exploring, they are attacked by a strange mist that coalesces into a creature of the Abyss called a hezrou. They defeat this demon and continue their search. A short time later they find a large cell that appears more throne room than prison. Inside is the Marquis, muttering about the power and wisdom of “the Dark Master”. When the party tries to talk with him, he continues to spout gibberish until he begins to cast a spell. A well conceived plan involving a silence spell keeps the mad sorcerer from harming anyone, but greater shadows emerge from the walls to attack the party. Just when all seems lost, the battle finally goes in favor of the good guys, and the party survives; greatly weakened by the shadows’ strength draining, but unharmed.

Unsure of just what to do with Querchard, the party ties him up and gags him to prevent any spellcasting attempts. While searching his cell, the party finds Querchard’s journal, which gives them clues to what has befallen the Marquis and his city. A demon named the Malgoth, tied here by a frost giant demon priest named Ilkharis, corrupted Querchard and cast a darkness over the hearts and minds of Iriaebor’s citizens. The journal suggests that finding Ilkharis could be the best first step in discovering how to defeat and banish the Malgoth. After much debate, the party decides that the best thing for everyone, including the Marquis, would be to kill Querchard. Hucknor dispassionately shoves a dagger in the throat of their helpless captive.

The party decided that it would probably be a good idea to tell the marchioness that they just killed her husband, so they exited the dungeons through the same tunnel they entered through, then approached the keep at the front doors. Balian was permitted to enter, and a short time later returned to fetch Hucknor. The two of them explained to the marchioness what happened, and showed her Querchard’s journal. She asks them to keep all of this a secret, and inquires if the gnome and his friends would accompany her Captain-General in his hunt for Ilkharis. The cleric said that he would only seek to rid the world of the foul demon attempting to gain dominion over Iriaebor if he was paid. Hucknor was curtly dismissed and escorted out of the keep. Balian told the marchioness that he would do what he could to recruit the party’s aid, but she no longer cared if they helped or not.

The party then sought out Algorthas, only to find that he could not be found. According to his servants, he had never left his study, and yet he was missing. Unable to think of another way to find Ilkharis, the party rests so that Valkor could prepare a scry spell and Balian could see to some things, including finishing Valkor’s armor. The next morning they go to Algorthas’ house to cast the spell and determine that he is in the Temple of Lathander, not more than five minutes away. When they reach the temple, they find the interior strangely dark.

Awaiting their arrival is a tall, thin humanoid completely encased in armor and leather. It questions them about who they have told about the Malgoth. After Balian tells it that they have only told the marchioness, the creature prepares to attack them. Kevros surprises the creature by flying to it quickly and attacking. Balian then rushes to join the fight while Valkor casts magic missle and Hucknor fires a crossbow bolt. The creature casts dimension door and teleports behind the casters where he attempts to dominate Valkor and fails. The creature does not react fast enough after his failure and is slain by Balian before he can flee again.

After locating Algorthas and wakening him from his stupor, the party returns the seer to his home where he provides them with the likely location of the frost giant Ilkharis. The PCs spend the remainder of the day preparing for their journey to the Sunset Mountains, then set off the following morning. On the way, they pass by Kragmere, where they stock up on a variety of arcane spell components, and the “Oestral Abyss”, where a contingent of the Shield guards a known entrance to the Underdark. Late the next day, they arrive at a small city called Asbravn, a farming community guarded by a branch of the Shield called the Riders in Red Cloaks. Here the party rests for the night and gathers rations for the trek into the mountains.

The next afternoon, as they pass through the foothills, the PCs hear a commotion over the next rise. Kevros sneaks up to the top of the hill and peeks over, while the rest of the party quickly, and not quietly, rides to the top of the hill and starts down the far side. They find a group of 7 mounted men around a small campsite where an older, disheveled-looking man clutches a longsword and handaxe. The leader of the mounted men claims that the older man was trespassing in the Vale and has stolen gold found on the Marquis’ land. The mounted men’s leader, “Baron” Teusele, argues with the party when they try to intervene… until he realizes who Balian is, at which point he does his very best not to wet himself while Balian undermines his authority completely in front his men and tells him that if he hears even a whisper of “Baron Teusele” again he’d makes sure the Marquis learned the truth of Teusele’s false claims to title.

After Teusele and his men ride off with their tails between their legs, the party speaks to the old man, Amos, who turns out to be a retired guard captain from Sembia spending his retirement prospecting in the Sunset Mountains. He is familiar with the giants in the area and knows quite a bit about them. Apparently the fort where Ilkharis can be found is fairly close, but Ilkharis isn’t in charge any more. Recently, a hill giant cleric named Velikar rose up against Ilkharis and took over. Also, it seems the giants at the fort in question have been receiving visits from people with “elf-like” footprints, but when the party asked if they could be drow, Amos said that he didn’t know for sure who they are. The party asks the old man if he will lead them to the fort, but he says that he isn’t physically what he once was, and would prefer not to get involved. He openly offers detailed directions, and warns them that “Little Sister”, Velikar’s younger sister(?), is scouting in the area.

Sure enough, later that afternoon the party runs into Little Sister while making their way through a pass as they near the mountains proper. The frost giant begins hurling large rocks at the party from behind the cover of huge boulders. Valkor wisely drops a maximized fireball on her head, dealing great damage, not only to her, but also to her dire tiger pets hiding next to her. Little Sister and Balian confront each other one-on-one and deal a huge amount of damage to each other before Balian is victorious. The rest of the party, including Hucknor’s black bear, finishes off the massive tigers. After Hucknor delivers some much-needed healing to Balian and Kevros, the PCs continue on toward the giants’ lair.

After some time traveling through the wooded mountains the party arrives at the border fort. The fortress is built into the side of a mountain, and a 300 foot area around it has been cleared of trees. Valkor teleports the party up next to the wall where they hide while Kevros flies up to have a look around. He sees the frost giants patrolling the walls, as well as some dire tigers down below. Unfortunately, he is spotted in the process and the battle preparations begin for both sides.

After a few rounds, 4 frost giants round the corner with 3 dire tigers leading the way. Hucknor and Valkor drop fire spells on the giants, finishing off 3 of them quickly while the 4th runs for help. In the meantime, Balian and Kevros engage the tigers and make quick work of them as well. By the time that skirmish ends, the fleeing frost giant has returned with 7 hill giants who begin raining crossbow bolts down on the party. Valkor teleports with Balian to the top of the wall while Kevros flies up there himself, leaving Hucknor all alone like a sitting duck. The next round, Hucknor uses a dimension door to join the party on the wall, where they have discovered Velikar floating behind his troops. After a long and painful battle of magic and steel, Velikar and his giants are defeated, leaving the exterior of the border fort very quiet and still.

The party enters the fort to find a trap waiting for them. When they stop to investigate the trap, two Hill Giants begin throwing rocks at them. Kevros runs around a wall to disarm the trap while the others prepare to engage a large grey beast that is charging toward them. The Grey Render sets off the trap and takes serious damage. He is easily finished off, and the party moves on to finish off the giants. They then travel up to the second level where they fight a Roper and a Fiendish Advanced Dire Boar. They also find a map of this border fort, as well as a map containing the locations of each of the other border forts in the sunset mountains. The second map has annotations describing the strengths and weaknesses of each location including secret entrances. They journey onward to find Velikar’s chamber. There they find his journal that contains his plans for conquering all of the sunset vale, including allying with other giants and the drow. His journal states that the drow would only assist Velikar if he handed over Ilkharis to them. In the prison cells they find a drow agent waiting for them who attacks immediately. As they explore the remainder of the outpost, they find the floor of a very large room collapsed into a cavern below.

Kevros pokes his head over the edge of the broken floor and is greeted with a lightning bolt from below. Hair singed, he runs to meet his friends only to find that Valkor wants to take him down right in front of the creature that nearly killed him. The electrocuted rogue awaits healing from Hucknor while the half-ogre and the dwarf teleport down to face their foe. The huge blue dragon unleashed a powerful series of attacks that nearly kills Balian, and he and Valkor begin thinking that facing him like this may have been a bad idea. Desperate to escape they call for help from the gnome, who thanks to a high initiative roll, gets the party out of harm’s way before the dragon can attack again. Frighted, the party huddles in the woods until the dragon flies away.

With the dragon gone, the PCs begin feeling more confident (and greedy) and decide to sneak in and filch their enemy’s hoard. The next day, while en route back toward Iriaebor and the Oestral Abyss, the burgled dragon finally locates the thieves who took her treasure without properly defeating her first. This time, the adventurers are more prepared, and though their “tank” couldn’t seem to land a hit, the rest of the party picked up the slack and they began to weaken their foe. Hucknor and Valkor saved the day with well timed heal and “bubble” spells for the melee fighters. In the end, Balian and Valkor finally started dealing some melee damage just before a crushing blow from a gnome-wielded morningstar brought the dragon down at last.

Without fear of attack from behind, the PCs make the rest of their journey to the Oestral Abyss. Valkor flies down into the 70’ wide pit and discovers not only an unnatural darkness, but something at the bottom that is trying to shoot something large at him. He flies back up to the top of the pit, grabs the rest of the party, and teleports back down. There they encounter a demon spider who launches a web at the flying, light-filled dwarf before engaging the rest of the party. After quickly defeating the bebilith, Valkor flies around trying to find anything they may have missed, and finds 3 Gargantuan spiders that are perturbed by the little firefly flitting about in their pit. As the dwarf descends, the spider begin to climb down the walls to deal with the pesky, bearded bug. The party eliminates these threats without much trouble, but decide that they need to rest before continuing on toward the drow outpost of Mirith Glarnon.

All rested, the party heads down in to the Underdark. Thanks to Hucknor’s wise thinking, the PCs each equipped their Ring of the Darkhidden, making them invisible to most of the Underdark’s inhabitants. After a few hours of traveling through underground tunnels, the party hears noises up ahead. Kevros sneaks up far enough to see a flicker of movement, then returns to the group. When they hear his report, they send him back to get some useful information. He returns again with a description of the enemy; a drow patrol with 4 displacer beasts. The ensuing battle ends quickly as the drow and their pets are unable to see the intruders.

After a few more hours of travel, the party finds the entrance to Mirith Glarnon guarded by 14 heavily armed and armored bugbears. A maximized fireball and a sound burst later, only one bugbear is left standing (barely), and it falls quickly to an arrow from Kevros. The largest of the bugbears was clutching a nice looking morningstar that Hucknor was happy to rescue. They continue on and reach a 10’ ledge that needs to be climbed. Hucknor walks up using his slipers of spider climb and Balian boosts Kevros up … where he he gets lit up by a drow’s faerie fire. Kevros is then paralyzed by a giant caterpillar with 8 tentacles on its face. Balain quickly tosses Valkor up next to Kevros, and the drow sees the helpless, soon-to-be-dead thief transported away and replaced with an invisible (to him), axe-wielding half-ogre. The ensuing battle ends quickly as the one party member the enemies can see is paralyzed 10’ below them. In the aftermath, Valkor takes particular interest in the drow’s greatsword, which reveals not only its peculiar properties, but also confirms that the rogue would likely have died quickly had he be left where he was. (…and he never once said “thank you”)

As they explore the large area past the ledge, Valkor notices a trap door in the stone floor. When they open the door, they find the “room” below filled with light. Kevros immediately flies in to keep the lone man below from running while the rest of the party descends by rope or spider slippers. The staff-clutching man in tattered robes is named Ajakstu. He insists that he is simply a merchant and he is there to trade with the drow. When pressed about what he is purchasing from the drow, he gets defensive and angry and simply repeats that he is buying “goods” from the drow. Distracted by the interrogation of the skeptical gnome, Ajakstu never sees the rogue produce the sap that would send him to the floor in an unconscious heap. After finding large amounts of gold in his trunk, Hucknor begins feeling bad for Ajakstu, who suddenly seems to be all that he said he was. Fortunately those guilty feelings don’t last for long. The party discovers his trade ledger, which makes it very clear to them what “goods” he was dealing. Slaves! They feel very little remorse when Kevros ends the slave trader’s life, knowing that they’ve saved countless more from captivity and suffering. Valkor is certainly the happiest member of the party at this point, discovering Ajakstu’s spellbook, and learning that the staff he was holding was a staff of power.

The party extinguishes all the light in the room, then head through the heavy curtains into a large cavern with many side caves. The entire party is lit up like Christmas trees and crossbow bolts begin falling amongst them. While the PCs try to determine where the quarrels are coming from, 4 displacer beasts rush out of the darkness. While everyone shifts to face this new threat, a drow leaps from one of the side caves, attacks Kevros, Hucknor, and Valkor then leaps into another side cave on the other side of the cavern. The dancing punishment continues from the side caves for several rounds while the party finishes off the displacer beasts and engages the drow at the other end of the cavern, lead by Hucknor’s wolverine who’s adamantine claws tear through… (oops, sorry, wrong Wolverine) As the last drow Ranger falls, the drow Dervish takes off down another passageway out of sight. The PCs set off in pursuit, but they quickly reach a narrow ledge that is slick with mold and condensation. This area feels like a trap to Hucknor, so the party teleports to the cavern below the ledge.

When they arrive at the bottom, a large, fly-like demon attacks them, inflicting serious wounds upon the rogue. After the demon is defeated, and Kevros stops bleeding, the party discovers a patch of magical darkness. Kevros explores the area and finds a large hole in the floor separating them from a long flight of stairs that curves down into the dark. He leads the party to the narrowest part of the gap where everyone can jump safely across. When they reach the bottom of the stairs, the find the area lit by braziers.

The leader of the drow at Mirith Glarnon, a cleric named Derakhshan, awaits the party fully prepared. As the PCs rush to fight their 11-foot-tall foe (thanks to a righteous might spell), the Dervish they faced previously attacks them from behind. After a few rounds, the Dervish, who has finally taken some serious damage, runs to Derakhshan’s side. The drow cleric summons a blade barrier to separate the party. Balian, hurting badly after a harm spell, is the only member of the party on the drow’s side of the cavern. Valkor magically switches places with Balian in order to save the half-ogre, while Derakhshan heals himself, leaving the Dervish to try to survive on her own. Kevros uses his cape of the montebank to transport the whole party to the other side of the cave. They dispose of the Dervish quickly, then watch Derakhshan disappear.

Almost immediately they hear a drum sounding from a large hole in the floor nearby. They teleport once again and find Derakhshan standing behind a large altar that is changing color, with a swirling eye forming on front side. Everyone charges Derakhshan except for Hucknor who is mentally assaulted by the altar. Derakhshan is eventually defeated, but not before draining Kevros’ strength score down to 7. The party again teleports, this time to the cavern where their fight with Derakhshan began. Here they search the room and the bodies and find a cart-load of magical items.

Finally the time to confront Ilkharis has come. Unsure of what the frost giant’s reaction will be, the party asks a few probing questions to see if he would become hostile towards the party. They find that the once demon-worshiping cleric feels betrayed by those to whom he gave his loyalty, and in whose name he committed many unthinkable acts of evil. Now, Ilkharis wants revenge. The frost giant tells the party everything they need to defeat the Malgoth, beginning with the task of exhuming the corpse of the giant-king Glamoor and destroying the remains. All he asks in return is that his body be consecrated so that he will not turn into a powerful undead creature known as a bodak. Hucknor complies with his request, and Ilkharis dies within moments.

The party uses their last teleport to return to the surface near the mouth of the Oestral Abyss. There they find that all has not been well on the surface in their absence. Guards from the city never came to replace the soldiers on duty, and the two soldiers sent to make the 30 minute walk back to town haven’t returned nearly three hours later. In desperate need of rest, the party camps there for the night, before preparing to face whatever dangers await back in the city.

When they arrive at the city that morning, they find Iriaebor enveloped in an unnatural fog. As they enter the city, they notice that the 4 wolf statues that sit just outside the gates are missing. As they enter the cold fog they notice that the streets are deserted, but voices can be heard coming from the nearby barracks. They quickly discover that the soldiers are trapped inside. Balian breaks down the door and finds that every door and window seems to have been sealed and strengthened, trapping everyone inside for nearly 16 hours. Balian instructs all of the men to find shovels and picks and follow him to the top of the Tor.

When they reach the lawn in front of the Temple of Lathander, they know immediately where to begin digging. Shortly after the excavation begins, howling can be heard in the distance. Just a few rounds later, the wolves from the gate, animated and large as draft horses, charge into view. The party is quickly surrounded and engulfed in flame as all four wolves unleash their fiery breath weapons. Just a few short rounds later, Hucknor and Valkor finish off their foes before turning to see Balian and Kevros drop theirs. After about an hour of incessant bragging from the short ones about their combat prowess, the party hears a commotion from the bottom of the now 8-foot deep pit where the soldiers are digging.

The dirt at the bottom of the hole has begun to rock as something begins moving underneath. Balian and Kevros quickly help the soldiers to exit the pit as Glamoor’s corpse rises from its grave. The giant mohrg quickly slams and paralyzes the rogue, leaving him wounded and helpless. While Hucknor removes the paralysis, Balian begins doling out the damage to the undead giant. The next round, the angelic statues surrounding the nearby temple animate and hover toward the party. As soon as Glamoor is defeated, the statues fall to the ground and crumble. The fog blanketing the city coalesces above the corpse, and the final battle with the Malgoth begins… then ends… very quickly. How do you turn a CR 16 creature into a two round kill? Simple! Have your mage cast ghost trap so the fighters can punish it, have your cleric cast protection from evil on your now dominated mage so it can’t end the spell that’s making it corporeal, then beat it in initiative so it never has a chance to attack.

In the aftermath, the city immediately feels like a better place. People return to the streets, happy for the first time in years. Amidst the celebration in the days that follow, the PCs are handsomely rewarded for their deeds. Hucknor receives an impressive suit of breastplate, while Valkor is given a magnificently looking suit of solid gold half-plate. Kevros and Balian are presented with a Belt of Dwarvenkind and a Ring of Gnomekind respectively. The marchioness, now calling herself the High Lady, foots the bill and the manpower to have all of the party’s magic items identified. With the city returned to its pre-demonic-influenced state, the party continues on through the winter to their original destination: Waterdeep, the City of Splendors.

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Heart of Nightfang Spire
12th October, 1369 DR

The party returns to Proskur to find an excited welcoming committee of two. The PCs see a man return to the town badly beaten, bringing rumors of a tower in a ravine in the wilderness guarded by giants and a dragon. The party decided to investigate and were ambushed by stone giants. After reaching the tower they discovered no entrance and were forced to climb to the top where they found “the dragon”; really a freaky squid thing with bat wings.

Descending the interior of the tower, the party came across four-armed gorillas, an assortment of undead, and a woman who got turned undead, killed Clad and turned him into an undead creature who then tried to kill his friends. In the short time with the woman before she died the PCs found out that the person/creature in charge of the tower is a vampire named Gulthias. His symbol, a dying tree, has been in a number of locations throughout the tower. Amid the wreckage in one of the rooms, the PCs found an enchanted dagger that has helped them fight the ghosts and shadows they have encountered.

The party rescued a poor, helpless, defeated young rogue named Kevros Fletcher who tags along with the group. The PCs continue to descend and fight more girallons and 3 flesh golems. They encounter a large, freaky, bird-like demon that offers his aid, and the party decides to let the demon tag along. (Did I mention that he’s a DEMON?) The vrock tells them that Gulthias was the leader of a cult that worshiped the red dragon Ashardalon. When the dragon was defeated and banished, Gulthias became a vampire in order to prolong his life and await Ashardalon’s return. Gulthias convinced the whole cult to drink special kool-aid and has since raised many of them as undead.

Travelling down to the next level, the party encounters zombies, gorillas and a mohrg. As the battle begins, the demon attacks the party from behind. (What?!? Who saw that coming?!?) In the end, the PCs were victorious and feeling very good about themselves until they got the snot beat out of them by an Elder Fire Elemental. 10 minutes and a couple dozen spells later the party comes against the fiery threat more prepared and destroys their foe.

The party then descends into the catacombs beneath the tower to seek out the pieces of the “dragon key” that will allow them access to the core. They are immediately confronted by literally hundreds of skeletons and zombies in the bottom of an underground cavern, with a slender stone pillar rising in the middle supporting a statue of a dragon with a piece of the key in its mouth. After a great deal of sneaking, hiding, planning, and general wimpiness, the party devises a plan to retrieve the key. After the new rogue barely avoids hurting himself setting off the trap guarding the key, the group is attacked by spectres and scares most of them off. They then continue on and see the rogue successfully disarm two traps in order to obtain another key piece, and they begin thinking that the rogue’s previous failure was a fluke… but then he triggers two more traps and fails to detect another, and 30 damage and a poisoned monk later the party begins again to question the skill of their new companion.

The next area presents a new challenge, a large humanoid shape made up entirely of tombstones. After more fearful sneaking and hiding in total darkness with a silence spell, the party surrounds and attacks the golem. The party is able to do a great deal of damage to their foe thanks to a golembane scarab that they just found and an adamantine sword located previously. Unfortunately, they couldn’t destroy the golem before it landed two powerful blows on Darin and killed him. In the following round, Darin disappeared and Valkor struck the final blow to kill the golem.

After taking a chance to rest and regroup, the party takes on 4 mohrgs and continues to explore the catacombs. The PCs then encounter a man traversing the catacombs with a torch. After the dwarf tips him off to their presence, the party discovers that the man is Fervor’s twin brother, Din’katsu, who has been searching for his brother for 3 years. Shortly after meeting “Din”, the party encounters a group of girallons who choose to talk and help rather than smash and pound. The leader of this tribe of girallons, Thiff, allows the PCs to take a number of magical items that her people accumulated in their explorations.

On the far side of the girallon complex, Thiff shows the party a room that ignites with fire any time someone tries to leave. The rogue successfully detects two traps, not just one, that are a part of an altar to Ashardalon. After three attempts to disarm, all unsuccessful, Kevros notices writing on the now charred altar and calls Valkor in to translate. Valkor discovers that the writing is a riddle, and answers the question correctly (accidentally) by providing no answer at all. As a reward, a yellow beam shoots from the altar and strikes the dwarf in the chest, causing no small amount of pain. He leaves the room and no fire erupts. After three more failures by Kevros, Valkor has an idea that if the trap is magical, he may be able to dispel it. The rogue, however, pridefully insists that the trap is mechanical and continues trying to disarm the fire trap. After another ten failures (yes, that’s 16 total failures! …with a 45% chance of success!), Kevros finally admits that the trap is magical, and the dwarf walks in and dispels it on the first try (with a 15% chance of success!). This experience has taught us two important lessons: First, foolish pride makes you lose your credibility (and your hair, and your clothes…). Second, if there was ever any doubt why rogues need evasion… On the bright side, Valkor is now the newest member of the Cult of Ashardalon.

The party continues on in search of the fourth (and final) piece of the key that will grant them access to “the Core” where Gulthias awaits. Kevros fails to disarm yet another trap, but fortunately this one can only be tripped once. The noise caused by the trap put the girallons and night hags in the next room on alert. As soon as the door is opened, the girallons attack, while the night hags remained invisible until the most opportune moment. Once everyone is engaged in combat, the night hags materialize behind the dwarf and the thief. Valkor escapes practically unscathed while Kevros is bitten by one of the hags. As the party is finishing off these foes, more girallons and two mohrgs enter the fray. Ultimately, all enemies are defeated with little damage done to the PCs.

They then investigate an alcove that the thief is afraid of entering (due to a “1” roll on a Search check). Hucknor bravely enters and promptly disappears from sight. While the rest of the party dithers, the gnome explores the area he was transported to. After exploring a few empty rooms, Fervor arrives and joins Hucknor at a set of double-doors. The rest of the party quickly travels the catacombs searching for their lost companions. They arrive just as the statue holding the final piece of the dragon key attacks. After a disappointingly short battle, the party continues on to encounter five mohrgs, one of which is equipped with a necklace of fireballs. This mohgr chooses the moment before its certain death to activate the necklace and blow-up everything in the room, including its allies. One mohrg survives (thanks to a ring of fire resistance), but doesn’t last through the next round. With the whole of the catacombs cleared, the PCs decided to return to the rooms controlled by Thiff’s tribe in order to rest and prepare prior to facing Gulthias.

After casting numerous (perhaps excessive) defensive spells, the party uses the dragon key to access the core. During the excruciatingly long 24 seconds it took for the core to rotate, the PCs were attacked by vampire spawn who appeared out of nowhere. (Well, maybe attacked isn’t the right word. The vampires popped into the room and were promptly obliterated by Hucknor.) In the following round, an invisible assailant dealt a painful blow to the monk. Fortunately, thanks to a well placed death ward spell and immunity to poison, Fervor succeeded on all three saving throws. No further attacks come, and the core finally opens, so the party rushes in.

They find a large, more-or-less “circular” room with a trapdoor in the middle of the 50 foot high ceiling. Kevros immediately flies up and unlocks the trapdoor while Valkor begins the 30 second process of extending his rope to the ceiling. A couple of rounds later, Valkor and Fervor are plunged into total darkness. Valkor is then attacked by the same invisible attacker and, like Fervor, succeeds on all of his saving throws. The dwarf flees the darkness in a cone of flame, and the monk is attacked by the saving-throw-generating assassin. At the same time, a lightning bolt comes through the trapdoor and hits the gnome and the swordsage. Din appears next to the invisible lightning-wielder, and the thief flies up after him as the dwarf and the monk begin climbing the rope. The crafty vampire then flies directly above the trapdoor, firing another lightning bolt down through the thief and into the two poor saps climbing the rope.

At this point, Gulthias is feeling pretty good about himself; his foes are weakened, he’s only cast a few of his many spells, his defenses would keep all but the most lucky of attacks from striking home, and in another moment he would become invisible again. Things seemed to be going well… Little did he know that the Master of Godly Might, Bane of All Undead, was firing the previously unheard of, but aptly named, Bolt of Glory in his direction. In the instant before the utter destruction of his very essence, he gazed wide-eyed at his diminutive foe, and vowed that if he somehow lived again, he would forever flee the presence of all gnomes.

(I’d sum up what happened next, but after that, does anything else even matter?)

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Environmental Impact
6th October, 1369 DR

The party left Cormyr on their way to Waterdeep and arrived in Proskur with a literal wagon-load of treasure. How do you keep your things safe in a town run by thieves? Befriend the owners of an inn whose son is missing. The PCs set off into the mountains to a town that supplies Proskur with ale. The weather was strangely warm for the fall, and the townspeople were on edge because of a local druid gone mad. It turned out the druid was killed by evil plants. Yep, evil plants. The PCs eliminated the threat and the weather returned to normal. They found the innkeepers’ son and returned to Proskur with the missing ale (and an inebriated dwarf).

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To Rescue a Princess
27th September, 1369 DR

The mind-flayer and its minions are defeated, but Princess Eriana is kidnapped. The PCs set out after her and are confronted by a band of mercenaries, led by a member of the Shadow Guard, who attempt to arrest the party for the murder of of both the princess and the king. After defeating the kidnappers, the party is attacked in the night by werewolves and warned to turn back. The party continues on and finds an abandoned keep guarded by more werewolves and a black dragon. Their final enemy turns out to be the princess herself who was being controlled by an unknown being. She tells the party as she is dying to not try to avenge her death because the one who caused all of this was too powerful for them to defeat. She tells the PCs to leave Cormyr and return when they are more experienced and better equipped.

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