hat really happened
Being an attempt at an objective version of events
Written by Dana (so far...)

Session 1: The Gathering of the Party
Session 2: Siege on Skeletown
Session 3: Marching the Wrong Way
Session 4: Cashing in on Success
Session 5: Into the Cold Depths of Terror
Session 6: Once More into the Depths
Session 7: Here comes the Cavalry!
Session 8: The Mad Mage
Session 9: Nightmares and Farewell
Session 10: The Impossible Happens
Session 11: Fire in the Hole

he Gathering of the Party
12th of Midsummer, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
September 22, 2001

The party gathers in Marrowglen. Most of the characters know a few other like-minded adventurers, but none know all the members of the party-to-be.

Rommel, a very young but fearless human warrior meets Yama, an older human scholar who studies the undead and works magic. They also meet Jilas, an elven ranger devoted to riding the forest of the undead. Together, these three plan to head north to the capital of Whitehall and seek their fortune. After talking to a egotistic town guard at the gate, they decide to find others to join their adventure. They meet Nikolaus, who appears to be a well traveled human merchant.

Meanwhile, more party members are making each other's acquaintance. Gladriel who has been sent by the Order of the Sunbrand to investigate the rising dead has already met fellow wood-elf Vlage, a druid of the forest. Gladriel also has met Argyle, a holy dwarven cleric from across the waters, sent to help fight the undead. These three seek out Jilas, who is a friend of Vlage. The two groups meet and thus the party is formed.

Vlage and Jilas have just investigated an undead disturbance in the forest. Others have heard rumors that something horrible has befallen Talport, the major port city to the south of Marrowglen. Upon further discussion, the group believes the fate of Talport is related to the undead disturbances and they decide to investigate. In the course of preparing, the party meets some merchants looking for escort, and take them along for a fee. Argyle buys a donkey named Duncan to haul his heavy gear. Thus equipped, the party sets off towards Talport.

On the march to the port, Vlage's hawk flies above to keep watch. There are several false alarms between the hawk catching lunch and Duncan periodically getting spooked. In actuality, the party is being followed by bandits. During the night, Vlage and Jilas see something during their watch in the woods and leave to investigate. They follow tracks which lead back to a bandit's camp, which appears deserted... but are then attacked while searching the hut. It is a tough fight, but the elves finally win after Vlage uses an obscuring mist to provide cover.

The next day, shortly beyond the edge of the forest lies a tower on the other side of a bridge. Once a king's toll bridge, it is now inhabited by skeletons armed with fearsome crossbows. Rommel and Jilas charge the tower, but are badly hurt by the bolts. Upon arriving at the door, two skeletons form from the bones on the ground, and Rommel is knocked unconscious battling the abominations. Gladriel and Vlage charge to the tower to aid their friends. Gladriel heals Rommel while Vlage summons an obscuring mist. Unable to force the door open, the group gathers wood to burn the door down. While the door burns, the skeletons shoot and kill one of the merchants' horses. The merchants all flee leaving some silks and paintings behind.

Together, the party breaks the door down and engage the skeletons. Gladriel calls on the power of the Sunbrand to turn the skeletons, which after a few attempts finally works. More skeletons show up, which are defeated but only after Rommel again takes great injuries. Nikolaus searches the tower and finds some scrolls which say a local baron is raising forces to attack the king, and another regarding an outlaw in the area. Unbeknownst to the party, Nikolaus also finds a bunch of gold which he keeps for himself. While further searching the tower, the party stumbles upon a powerful skeleton in the basement, which badly wounds those who attempt to fight it. Vlage uses his face as bait to get it to come out and is mauled in the process. Gladriel and Argyle are both unable to turn it. Eventually the party burns the tower down to destroy the evil lurking below as well as make sure the tower is never used again by undead forces.

Bloodied but triumphant, the party heads to Talport. Upon arriving, they find the town in ruins, with many boats sunk in the harbor and bodies lying in the streets. The adventurers take refuge in the still intact light house on the edge of town and watch in trepidation as the sun sets. At night, thousands of skeletons climb from the sea and wander around the town, slowly destroying it further. The unholy abominations are unable to force their way into the lighthouse but the party is glad when the skeletons retreat at dawn. In the morning, the group searches the town for clues and Argyle's dwarven companions who were supposed to be arriving in Talport. It appears that the dwarves never arrived, and Argyle leaves a secret note for them in case they dock in the future. Upon further inspection, the town appears to be thoroughly looted, though the party does find a hidden stash of dwarven mead in a church - a sad commentary on the faith of the local clergy.

The party searches the keep, where a tragic last stand took place. The defending forces fell to the last man after the mighty walls were breached. Ballista bolts in the walls around the citadel tell a desperate tale of their last attempts to hold the fort. The party searches the citadel for clues. Yama finds a library of books that are interesting and one of the elves discovers a secret trap door in the floor Jilas opens the door, but it is trapped with a poisoned bolt, which critically hits Jilas in the head. Below is the personal hoard of the commander, further guarded by a trapped ladder. The hoard includes treasure, magic elven chain mail, a magic sword, and some potions. Nikolaus is able to deactivate the trap on the treasure chest before opening it.

While dazzled by the treasure, the party is attacked by the thieves who have been looting the town. It is a hard fight, especially since the thieves have poisoned knives. While the battle rages on above, Nikolaus hides in the treasure room below and throws coins into the air in an unwelcome attempt to appease them. Rommel shouts "Dead Bandits Need No Gold" and tumbles through the door in a brave yet dangerous move. Yama calls upon his magical powers to blast the thieves with magic missles. The party manages to kill all the thieves but one, who flees pursued by a celestial dog summoned by Gladriel.

On Gladriel's insistence, the party cremates the bodies of the keep's fallen warriors in a giant funeral pyre. Weary of the stench of death which hangs heavily over Talport, the party heads towards Osskit, a fishing village to which Talport's survivors seem to have fled.

Players present: Dana, John, Mike, Aaron, Drew, Martin, Jason
Role Playing Bonus: Rommel
All characters progress to second level

iege on Skeletown
22nd of Midsummer, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
October 6, 2001

The party heads towards Osskit. Yama insists upon staying in the lighthouse to further study the undead, as he believes the books found in the citadel will help him better understand their rising. Vlage stays to guard Yama during his studies.

The rest of the party continues south east towards the fishing village. On the way, the group is followed by the thief who fled the citadel. About a day's march from Talport, the party finds a case of fire honey mead buried near the road, which was apparently abandoned by a fleeing merchant. Later one of the elves spots a flask buried near the road, which is marked in elven as a healing potion. Despite some disagreement on the likelihood of it actually being a healing potion, Argyle puts it into Duncan's saddle bags, only to have it explode in a poisonous cloud later that day. The group figures it is a "gift" from the remaining thief, whom they realize is pursuing them.

At night the party looks for a secure place to camp. They find a cave that leads back under fallen boulders. Upon closer inspection, Jilas discovers that a brown bear is living in it, so the party gives the cave wide berth and instead camps in an enclosure of rocks. Late at night, noises are heard near the camp. Fearing the thief, Jilas investigates. The bear has woken up and is looking for dinner. Upon seeing Jilas, it charges, but Jilas' excellent animal handling skills allow him to calm the beast down and end the conflict peacefully. The rest of the night passes uneventfully.

Upon reaching Osskit, the party meets the captain of the guard. Rommel, Argyle, Jilas and Gladriel join (or are conscripted into) Baron Traftar's army to destroy the undead in Talport. Nikolaus avoids conscription by continuing to play the part of a merchant. The clerics spend a long time teaching the Osskit militia how to prepare for and fight the undead. The party's adventure slows to painful crawl as various members try to gather information from several different sources.

Rommel and Jilas make friends with some elves of minor nobility. Nikolaus wins a knife throwing game in a tavern and is rewarded with a very sizable prize. The spoils from the last adventure are sold and the gold divided up. The party members also commission masterwork weapons and equip themselves at the elven merchant. With the gold found in the citadel, the group also buys horses to speed their travels.

In preparation for the assault, Rommel, Gladriel, Argyle and Jilas head to Talport with a few commanders to do reconnaissance and show them the grave danger that awaits Baron Traftar's men. To the party members, this trip makes it painfully clear that being part of an army sucks. The commander rudely orders the party around and the members come to regard Traftar's men with great hostility.

After witnessing the nightly rising of the undead from the harbor, the party heads back to Osskit accompanied by Yama and Vlage. Yama has learned more about the foe, but has little useful advice. Upon reaching Osskit, Rommel is put in command of fifty militia troops. His men can hardly be called warriors, so Rommel sets about training them while Argyle and Gladriel focus their spiritual powers to create large supplies of holy water to protect the troops.

Upon further consideration of the poor caliber of the troops and the overwhelming odds that lie at Talport, the clerics become sure that the army stands no chance against the undead. There remains but one week before the army marches on Talport, so the party desperately tries to figure out a plan to stop the militia from marching to their slaughter. Rommel finally has the best suggestion, which is to simply destroy all the skeletons before the militia reach Talport. As crazy as this sounds, his daring plan makes sense if the lighthouse isn't breached... and if there is a finite number of skeletons.

Racing against the clock, the group heads back to Talport with Rommel's squadron of men. With the squadron is brought materials and tools to build the "Anteater", Rommel's machine to destroy the skeletons from within the safety of the tower. Rightly fearing the complete annihilation of the party in Talport, Nikolaus stays behind in Osskit with a very friendly widow and continues to gather intelligence. Vlage and Yama also wisely stay in Osskit.

The party arrives shortly after dawn in Talport, and spends the day fortifying the lighthouse and assembling the Anteater. On Gladriel's suggestion, a small hole is cut next to the door with a removable block to allow the clerics to defend the doorway from within. As night falls, the legions of death again rise from the harbor and march on the town. Those that approach the lighthouse find a rope dangling from the top, and hear the noises of men on the roof. The skeletons mindlessly climb the rope to attack the men, but as soon as several are upon the rope, the fury of the Anteater is unleashed. A heavy counterweight descends inside the tower, pulling the rope and clinging skeletons to the top of the tower at an alarming rate. At the end of this upwards journey, a steel plate abruptly stops the ascent of the skeletons. Bone dust rains down from the Anteater as it is repeated used to destroy the skeletal abominations. During the night, the crew of the Anteater rid Talport of over four hundred skeletons, and a small hill of bones grows aside the tower.

Responding to the destruction of so many skeletons, some controlling intelligence directs the skeletons in Talport to lay siege on the tower. Soon a battering ram is readied and brought to sunder the tower doors. Gladriel and Argyle stand inside the front door and call upon the power of their deities to destroy the on-rushing waves of skeletons. Together they destroy almost another two hundred skeletons, but the undead are too numerous to stop. Knowing that they only have minutes before the ram's work is done, the party retreats to the second level... and worries if they can hold the tower before the sun rises. Soon the ram bursts the tower's door and in rush the hordes.

The battle for the second level is hard fought. The clerics continue turning the rushing skeletons but are almost out of attempts. Holy water is poured on the skeletal troops, and many of Rommel's squadron brace the door against the oncoming ram. Sensing the only way to stop the skeletons is to take their ram, Gladriel calls upon the Sunbrand for a greater turning and destroys all the skeletons on the stairs. He, Rommel and Argyle rush through the door to secure the ram. Rommel holds off the hordes while Gladriel ties a rope onto the ram, and the men start hauling it up into the second level. Rommel is knocked unconscious by the undead masses, and Gladriel springs to his defense. While Gladriel holds back the skeletons, Argyle cures Rommel, and the party retreats again into the second level.

The battle lulls while the skeletons leave to find another ram. In only a handful of minutes, they return with a tree stump, and the party's spirits fall. Yet the sun has mercy on the party, for just as the ram is put to the door, dawn breaks over the misty waters of the harbor. Abandoning their fight, the skeletons slowly retreat to their watery garrison. Unfortunately, the night's carnage seems to have left the hordes undiminished, and the tower is no longer defendable.

Relieved to be alive, but saddened that their efforts won't turn the tide of the impending battle, the party heads back to Osskit.

Player's Choice award: Argyle
All characters progress to third level

arching the Wrong Way
22nd of Latesummer, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
October 10, 2001

The party returns from Talport only to find that the army is marching that same day. Before they are forced to march again, the members of the party are reunited with Nikolaus and Vlage, who bear ill news. Soon after the party left, the Baron declared martial law, and hung a few men who attempted to desert. Men in gray cloaks have been showing up at night in the harbor and quietly reinforcing the army's command positions. Their leader is a man in black whose face is always hidden. Nikolaus suspects that these men may be elite troops sent by King Belvader, though it's unclear why they are concealing their origin.

More ominous are the changes at the weapon smiths. Until recently, at the cleric's suggestion, the smiths have been producing maces, morning stars, and other blunt weapons to effectively combat the skeletal hordes. However, in the week that the party was gone, the smiths have been ordered to produce pikes and cross bows, weapons which are hardly useful against the undead.

The party also learns that the elves to the north east have agreed to aid the humans in their battle to regain Talport, though they are suspicious of the Baron. Rommel and Jilas meet with their elven friends, and learn that while the elves plan to fight, they won't be part of a losing battle. The party takes this to mean that they will pull out if the humans are unsuccessful, and that the elves won't lead the assault. The elven army has already begun it's longer march to Talport, unwisely leaving their homeland undefended.

That afternoon Baron Traftar's intent becomes clear when army leaves Osskit and marches north instead of west. To the north lie the elven lands, which are now an easy target... and the explanation of the smiths' orders. The troops are informed by their commanders that the road to Talport is blocked, and the northern march is a detour, but few of the men truly believe this explanation, especially since the party has just returned by the western route. Gladriel secretly warns the elves by sending a note by way of a bird animal messenger.

While marching, the party meets Quinn, another conscript in Baron Traftar's army. Quinn is a half-elven sailor with magical talents. He has a brightly colored parrot on his shoulder who seems strangely intelligent - when Quinn talks to the bird, it meaningfully answers him in the common tongue. That night, the army encamps in scrub land. Seeking more information, Rommel speaks with two gray cloaked guards who are particularly unfriendly. Sick of their verbal abuse, the boy warrior challenges the more vocal guard to a duel. The battle does not go well for Rommel, who is taught a lesson by being quickly knocked unconscious.

In the middle of the night, the army is attacked by waves of skeletons. It appears more than a coincidence that the skeletons appear exactly where the party is camped. True to his calling, Gladriel charges forward and turns the first rank of undead warriors to dust. Another wave rolls forth from the scrub, which Gladriel also destroys. More march forward, this time armed with crossbows. Argyle attempts to turn the skeletons, but can't move forward fast enough to get within range before Gladriel destroys the bowmen. More skeletons appear, these armed with polearms.

Before Gladriel finishes off the final wave, Rommel and Jilas charge the skeletons on horses with a rope tied between them. In an act of foolish bravery, Jilas attacks the heavily armed skeletons with his sword, and gets impaled on a halberd as a reward. All the while that the attack is underway, the army of men fire their crossbows at the skeletons with little effect... except hitting Gladriel in the back. Overcome with fear, one of the militia deserts and is shot down by a gray cloaked commander. After destroying the final wave of skeletons, Gladriel rushes to the dying man's aid and heals him, much to the guard's displeasure. By the time the bone dust settles, Gladriel has destroyed over fifty skeletons.

In the following confusion, Argyle inspects the weapons of the skeletons, and is suspicious that the crossbows were made in Osskit. Jilas and Rommel back track the skeletons trail to find where they rose. After a long search, they find the spot where the undead originated, which surprisingly isn't a grave site. Instead there are footprints of three or four men, and wagon tracks. The party now suspects that the man in black is a powerful necromancer, maybe even a drow. It appears he summoned the skeletons to kill the party, though all he actually did was bolster the party's reputation in the eyes of the army.

While Rommel and Jilas are out tracking the skeletons, Vlage and Nikolaus arrive and meet the warrior and ranger far away from camp. Vlage and Nikolaus plan to secretly follow the army, and be ready to aid the party when needed. The next morning, Baron Traftar calls his troops together to addresses them. He tells an improbable tale of the elves being the true enemy, and how they have used evil magic to raise the dead to sack Talport. At the end of his speech, he holds forth a glowing green amulet, which makes the Baron strangely convincing. He manages to gain control over almost all the army with Argyle, Jilas and Gladriel effectively resisting. Falling under the power of the amulet, both Rommel and Quinn are enthusiastic about attacking the elven village. The army continues its march towards the elven lands, then camps after a long day.

That night, Gladriel, Argyle and Jilas decide that the source of the evil must be the man in black, who seems to hold control over the Baron. Despite the long odds, the only way the party can keep the army from killing innocent elves is to subdue or kill the black commander. They plan a sneak attack on the necromancer, and enlist the aid of Vlage and Nikolaus. Gladriel is able to convince Rommel and Quinn that they will be furthering the aims of the Baron by fighting the suspected drow.

Near midnight, the man in black leaves camp in a wagon loaded with boxes suspiciously similar to coffins. After he is far from the army, the party ambushes the dark commander and his guards, and a mighty battle ensues. Vlage uses his entangle spell to great effect, slowing down the guards. The necromancer casts some arcane magic and sucks much of the life force out of his nearest guard. This greatly strengthens the man in black at the expense of his loyal ally. Gladriel fires an elven arrow at the commander, which has a silence spell cast upon its head. The arrow misses but sticks into the ground near enough to the necromancer to stop his spells. The man in black fights his way through the entanglement to leave the silenced area. Nikolaus and Gladriel wound him with knives and arrows, but he finally gets clear of the silence.

In retaliation, the man in black calls forth a fireball, and badly injures Vlage, Jilas and Rommel. Argyle uses a hold person spell to disable a guard, then closes with another guard near him. Gladriel charges the man in black as he finishes fighting his way out of the entangle spell. Nikolaus makes an excellent tumbling attack on the necromancer, badly wounding him. Opening a coffin, the man in black raises a dead body to fight for him, but Gladriel turns the zombie and it runs mindlessly from the battle.

It is a difficult fight, but Nikolaus and Gladriel finally vanquish the necromancer. In a another move of foolish bravery, the very badly wounded Jilas closes in on the guard fighting Argyle. Likewise, Quinn rushes the same guard and ineffectually attacks him with his club. Returning the favor, the guard cleaves through both Quinn and Jilas, knocking both of them unconscious. Gladriel disables another guard with a hold person spell. The rest of the party is able to finally overpower the remaining guard, and the battle is won.

The clerics question the surviving guard with their zone of truth and command spells, but learn little new information. The hood of the necromancer is pulled back to reveal that he is actually a human with black face paint. He carries on him a few different potions and his cloak seems particularly protective, so Nikolaus takes it. Fearing the necromancer may rise from the dead, Argyle dismembers him and buries the remains. Only after the messy deed is done does he realize that Quinn should make a sketch of the commander for future reference. Quinn does so, but only after losing his dinner.

With the man in black out of the way, the party plans to capture the Baron. Rommel and Nikolaus disguise themselves as the man in black and a gray cloaked guard and head to the Baron's wagon. After effectively bluffing their way past the guards, Rommel subdues the Baron and Nikolaus takes the amulet from him. As soon as the amulet is removed, the Baron goes insane. Hearing the commotion, the guards burst in just as Nikolaus puts on the amulet. He tells them that he is the agent of the king and that there is a traitor amongst the Baron's men. Nikolaus presents the guards with a cleverly forged letter proclaiming him the king's representative. Between the power of the amulet and Nikolaus' cunning papers, the guards completely believe his story and put him in control of the army.

Nikolaus turns the army around and marches the troops back to Osskit. The undefended elven village is saved and the forces of good are triumphant. But the party is unsettled by the fact that King Belvader is somehow behind the strange plot which is slowly unfolding.

Players present: Dana, John, Mike, Aaron, Drew, Martin, Chet
Role Playing Bonus: Nikolaus
All characters progress to fourth level

ashing in on Success
26th of Latesummer, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
October 18, 2001

While army marches back to Osskit under the leadership of Nikolaus and his new amulet, Gladriel, Rommel and Jilas ride very hard to intercept the elves on their way to Talport. With them, they bring the insane Baron Traftar. Argyle, being the strongest of will and protected from the power of the ancient artifact by his own amulet, stays to watch Nikolaus. Before they ride, Rommel wishes to take the necromancer's horse as his own, since it is a most magnificent beast. Instead, Nikolaus claims it, which is very unlike himself before the amulet.

After a hard ride, the party finds the elves lying in ambush and are stopped in their tracks as three fireballs detonate near them as a warning. The party is willingly taken captive by the extremely suspicious elves. During their interrogation, Gladriel's diplomacy comes to bear and he manages to gain great favor with the elves. Gladriel recounts to the elves the party's great deeds and rescue of the elven lands. He also tells them of the Baron's amulet and treachery.

As a reward for their great feats, the elves make all the party members honorary members of the elven army, and grant each their choice of magical armor and weapons. Most choose elven chain mail, though Jilas chooses enchanted leaf armor which conceals the wearer. The elves also identify several magic items which the party has acquired during its adventures. Most are fairly mundane, but the elves are horrified to learn that one potion from necromancer is actually the blood of an immortal. The party gladly surrenders this unholy vial to the elves.

After much discussion about the amulet and several attempts to restore the Baron to sanity, the elves become quite worried about the ancient artifact. The party also starts to greatly fear for Nikolaus. After more discussion, the party heads back to Osskit in an attempt to free Nikolaus from the amulet's power. The elves send along a powerful mage to aid in their quest.

Back in Osskit, Nikolaus has become more like the Baron. He starts drilling the army very hard and becomes paranoid. The situation is going from bad to worse when Argyle saves the day in true dwarven fashion. Argyle cleverly gets Nikolaus very drunk on dwarven mead, then casts hold person on him in his weakened state. It works, and Argyle removes the amulet. Argyle also manages to convince the guards that an intruder has attacked Nikolaus, and that he has come to his aid. Of course, Nikolaus goes insane the moment the amulet is removed. Calling upon his great will, Argyle resists the temptation to put on the amulet.

The party returns to Osskit, and meets with Argyle and the insane Nikolaus. They take the amulet to the elves to see if the elven wizards can figure out its secrets and restore Nikolaus. Despite their powerful magic, the elves are unable to help, and the party sets off to Whitehall to seek answers there. On the way, Rommel claims the necromancer's excellent horse for his own since Nikolaus doesn't need it now...

Player's Choice award: Argyle
No level gained due to it being a short game

nto the Cold Depths of Terror
2nd of Fall, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
November 4, 2001

Fearing that King Belvader might be sending reinforcements to retake control of Osskit, the party decides the village is no longer safe. The group also believes that answers to the strange plot which is slowly unfolding might be found to the north, and perhaps a cure for Nikolaus, so the party prepares to head to Whitehall. While they are away on this trip, they think that Nikolaus will no longer be safe in town, so they plan to leave him in the care of the elves. They also plan to bring along Nikolaus' good friend the widow to look after him.

Before the party departs Osskit, they realize they are being followed through the streets by a strange elf. Tired of being tailed, Gladriel turns and hails him and the party makes acquaintance with Lanfair. He is a gray elf sorcerer, extremely charismatic, and despite his lack of a straight answers, he is able to gain enough favor with the party to join them,. After further unproductive conversations involving the word "friend" far too many times, the clerics get so frustrated that they cast zone of truth and command to force the truth out the sorcerer. It comes to light that Lanfair is trying to find more information about the amulet. He believes that some answers may lie in Whitehall, an opinion shared by the party. He is interested in journeying there with the party, and will fight if needed. With the new member being carefully watched, the party leaves town and heads north towards the elves.

That night, the party is stealthily attacked by thieves when Jilas and Vlage lapse into meditation during their watch. They are clearly targeting Nikolaus, who is badly wounded. Argyle and Rommel are also badly injured by the sneak attack. However, once their surprise is lost, the party proceeds to soundly defeat the bandits. Argyle and Gladriel use their divine magic to hold two of the thieves, one of which is quickly dispatched by an irate Jilas. The other is allowed to live, and the party questions the survivor in the standard clerical way.

Being unable to lie, and forced to answer as well, the bandit divulges that the local thief leader Arnquist sent them after the party to steal the amulet. Argyle "lets slip" that the party has already destroyed the amulet, hoping that this lie will return to Arnquist and he will leave the party alone. Gladriel and Rommel return the thief to Osskit for justice, then rejoin the party as they continue on their trek to the elves.

The elves are glad to see the party again, and agree to tend to Nikolaus. They still have no clue how to cure him, but suggest that answers may lie to the north. Leaving Nikolaus behind, the band of adventurers heads towards Whitehall. Along the way, they pass through Marrowglen, the town in which they first met. There is little news to be had, so the party continues on northwards. A few days from Marrowglen, Quinn's parrot spies a caravan heading south on the road. Fearing the group may be reinforcements sent by King Belvader, the party hides in a small stand of trees off the road. The caravan passes by without noticing the hiding group, thanks in part to the concealing elven armor.

After more uneventful traveling, the group reaches the small town of Blaine on the edge of Lake Chilblain. Stopping for the night, the party meets some locals in a bar and learn the town's history. Legend has it that there was once a great elven city on the edge of the Blaine river. Fantastic magics were worked there, but something terrible happened in the Great War and the city was completely flooded. It now lies on the bottom of the land's coldest lake, which is fed by the Blaine river after it flows over the Frost Falls. Given the ancient ruins that still stand on the bottom, a few brave locals have taken to dredging the bottom for artifacts, which men from Whitehall eagerly purchase.

The locals wonder if the party has come to Blaine in response to the "troubles of late". Apparently, fishermen have seen strange lights in the lake at night, and recently a local dredger and his boat disappeared. A few nights later, something marched out of the lake and right through several buildings, including the house of the dredger as well as the smithy.

The next day, the curious party investigates the damaged buildings and talks to the smith. The smith is very cooperative, though he sheds little light on the strange events of late. His business has picked up considerably once he started working the metal dredged up from the ancient city, and he has some samples of materials from the ruins. While the party talks with the metal smith, Quinn secretly casts detect magic and discovers an enchanted rod in the scrap heap. The writing on the rod appears to be similar to the runes on the amulet. Not realizing its value, the smith gladly parts with the scrap, though he is very interested in the mithril armor worn by the party. The smith shows the party a metallic orb dredged up from the lake, which Quinn determines is also magic. Despite the party's best bargaining efforts, the smith won't part with the orb for anything but a link of the mithril mail. Fearing that intentionally removing a link might break the enchantment of the armor, the party leaves without the orb.

While inspecting the damaged house of the dredger, and the nearby damaged warehouse, Jilas is able to detect some faint tracks. He follows them back to the lake, and realizes that something walked out of the water then went in a straight line through the buildings only to return again to the lake. Strange forces are indeed loose in Chilblain, and the party intends to seek them out. Quinn, however, has the good sense to remain safely back in Blaine.

The group rents two boats and a dredge with the goal of discovering more about the mysteries of lake Chilblain. The boats are lashed together and the band of adventurers row over still water into the dead of night. Soon, glowing lights appear under the surface and flash by the boats. Curious, the party goes "fishing" with floats and sun rods tied to stout rope. A glowing form grabs the rod and heads swiftly for the depths. The party gets a glimpse that appears to be some sort of very fast, glowing fish shape. As the rope quickly pays out, Rommel wisely lets go instead of trying to land the beast.

The party arrives at the spot where Jorge disappeared and starts dredging. After considerable effort, they pull up some ancient items, including the top of a tower spire, and an old clock-like mechanism. Their next attempt to bring up something interesting is a little too successful as a rotting water zombie climbs up the rope. Instinctively, Gladriel turns the disgusting creature which jumps back into the water. Rommel is unhappy to miss a fight, but the party keeps dredging in hopes of finding more clues. Little more is found except the same zombie, which the party handily dispatches.

After the fight is over, the party realizes they are over a glowing city. Gladriel remembers that the group has water breathing potion they found in the citadel, and suggests they use it. Convinced that answers may lie in the ruins of the ancient city, the foolhardy group decides to explore the depths below. The potion is divided amongst whole party, which should give each member about an hour underwater. The clerics cast endure cold on the party to protect them from the freezing waters, and the group descends into the terrifying blackness.

As the party reaches the lake bed, they find themselves surrounded by very ancient, glowing towers. These appear to be high elven, and some are in perfect condition while others lie in ruins. The group heads to the nearest tower which is untouched by the ravages of time and the lake. Entering the portal, the party is shocked by a powerful warding glyph protecting the entry way. They explore the tower and walk up a long spiral stair. On the walls are murals of the local area long ago, when the city once lay in splendor aside the great river Blaine. Upon reaching the top of the stair, the party finds a concealed door. But despite their best efforts, they can't figure out how to open the portal, or any of the others they later discover in the tower. All have a silver disk in the wall near the door, with strange undecipherable runes. In frustration, the party finally gives up and heads to a ruined tower hoping it will be more accessible.

Near them lies a tower with one side cracked. Unlike the steadily glowing intact tower, the light flickers on this damaged building. Near the top, the party enters an ancient kitchen filled with seaweed. There is not much of interest except some ceramic mugs, which Argyle takes. The party next finds a room which has a giant crab trapped in it. They wisely avoid the crustacean, and continue on to the lowest level, which is only accessible through a narrow crack.

The chamber appears to be storeroom, but the crack is so narrow that only the elves can squeeze through, which they do. Vlage finds the remains of a book, which disintegrates as he touches it. Acting rapidly, Gladriel catches some fragments in a bag and later reconstructs a few pages with a Make Whole spell. Gladriel then proceeds to open a chest which is magically warded by a glowing, howling demon. The elves vanquish the demon, but only after being significantly wounded.

Gladriel, Jilas and Vlage continue to explore the room and unwittingly release two more of the demons from another chest. While the battle rages on within the store room, several water zombies shuffle up the stairs to battle those outside. Argyle and Rommel defend themselves against the aquatic undead, but the fight doesn't go well. The zombies are very tough and fast, making them formidable foes. Rommel is badly wounded in the fray. Meanwhile, the elves finally defeat the last demon, and turn their attention to aiding their comrades.

Just as Jilas manages to squeeze back out of the crack to join Rommel and Argyle, a huge unholy terror trudges up the stairs. It is the most horrifying abomination the party has ever faced, with eyes that are glowing embers and a gaping maw that yawns oblivion. It is immensely powerful, and knocks the zombies out of its way, killing one in the process. The terror then attacks the party. It knocks out Rommel with it's first blow, then turns its fury upon Argyle. Opening its sinister mouth wide, the abomination completely engulfs Argyle's head, almost killing him outright and draining a level in the process. Things do not look good for the party...

Gladriel manages to free himself from the crack to see his fellow cleric fall. Calling upon Corellon and Elohna, he attempts to channel their energy to turn the terror back, but it is too strong for him. Jilas puts up a valiant fight, and the monster narrowly misses him. Shouting "By the righteous might of the Sunbrand, I banish you back to hell!", Gladriel again calls on his gods to aid the party in their moment of need... and his plea is miraculously answered! The glowering creature slowly backs down the stairs and the party is saved.

Jilas, Vlage and Gladriel grab the bodies of their fallen comrades and desperately try to swim to the surface. Argyle is too heavy and Gladriel can't quiet get him back to the rope. With Jilas' help, they both finally manage to return to the rope and start climbing towards the surface. Looking down, they are horrified to see that the abomination has found them, and is heading for the rope. Quickly, Jilas manages to cut the rope beneath them to keep it from following, but he loses ground in doing so.

The monster starts climbing another rope, while Jilas gets onto the third line. It is a frantic race to the surface, but Gladriel beats the abomination back to the boat. As soon as he gets out of the water, Gladriel hacks through the rope he believes carries the terror. The rope parts just as the creature breaks the surface, and it sinks slowly back into the depths with hate glowing it its eyes.

As the party furiously rows towards town, a new day breaks. Gladriel cures Rommel, and then turns his attention to the gravely wounded dwarf. Argyle's wounds are healed, but he remains lost in a trance of death. As the party finally sets foot back on dry land, they are grateful to be alive.

Player's Choice award: Gladriel
All characters progress to fifth level, Gladriel's bonus points bring him to sixth, Argyle would also be sixth, except his level was permanently lost to the undead abomination
Players present: John, Mike, Drew, Dana, Chet, David, Aaron

nce More into the Depths
23rd of Fall, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
November 18, 2001

The party returns from the icy depths of Lake Chilblain, thankful to be alive after their last encounter. They row hard back to town, and gratefully get out of the boat. Argyle must be led, as he is almost catatonic. Gladriel attempts to heal him with restorations and other powerful divine magics, all to no avail.

The group heads to town and Quinn spends several hours identifying the items the group has found. While Quinn works his arcane arts, Jilas visits the smith again, and ends up trading him a mithril arrowhead for the magical orb. Jilas also gives the smith the clock mechanism the party dredged up from the lake on the condition that the smith give Jilas a sword made from the metal. Jilas returns to the room where Gladriel prays over Argyle and tells the elf of his actions at the smithy. Hearing that Jilas has parted with the clock, for which Argyle had specific plans unbeknownst to the party, the dwarf is revived from his state and leaves the room... heading rapidly towards the smith with Gladriel and Jilas following closely. Back at the smith's shop Argyle is surly but manages to take a piece of the clock for his own.

Argyle slowly returns to normal, though he remains quiet. Seeking answers and a cure for their friend Nikolaus, the group continues on their journey to Whitehall. It is a blessedly uneventful trip. As the party nears a guard bridge, the group decides it best to send Lanfair ahead to negotiate and determine if the King's guards are looking for the men that freed Osskit. Fortunately, word of the party hasn't made it back to King Belvader, and the party is free to pass after they pay the special toll Lanfair negotiated. The fee is a steep 20 gold each to cross, which the group later finds out is usually only two gold, thanks to Lanfair's unique "way with words."

Outside the great walled city lie many small farms, and abutting the walls stands a great camp of tents. As the party walks by a tent that sounds of a tavern, a man comes flying through the wall. Helping the ruddy human up, Rommel recognizes him as his favorite uncle and a happy family reunion ensues. The party buys Rommel's uncle a drink, and sits to discuss with him the events of late. The group is struck by how unconcerned the folks of Whitehall are of the happenings to the south, and seem almost unaware of the rising undead menace.

Rommel's uncle is part of the town guard, and has heard some interesting rumors recently. It's told that a powerful mage recently broke through the wards guarding an ancient castle in the mountains, but was killed by the powerful magics he unleashed. The ancient keep supposedly holds great treasure and magical artifacts. Rommel is of course very interested to investigate the ruins with his uncle and any who wish to join them. Gladriel doesn't particularly believe the tale, and feels compelled to aid his companion Nikolaus instead of go off on what he believes is a wild goose chase. This leads to a heated debate amongst the party which finally ends with Rommel, Vlage, Lanfair and Quinn heading off to seek their fortune in the mountains and Gladriel, Argyle and Jilas continuing on their current quest.

While waiting for the city gates to open the next morning, the dwarf and elves are stunned as Nikolaus rides up with Yama! Though Nikolaus hasn't been fully cured by Yama's potions, he is at least functional. As the group recounts their respective tales, Yama tells of his exploration of an ancient ruin near Marrowglen where he found components to make a partial cure. Further research has uncovered the true cure which requires three powerful things: firepowder, distilled ethereal spirits, and a mirrormoss gem. His research also indicated that these things most likely lie in the ancient high elven city of Lantrindril, which was a center of magical research. Alas, for the city was flooded during the Great War, and now lies at the bottom of a lake, though Yama knows no more.

The description of Lantrindril sounds very much like the city the party explored at the bottom of Lake Chilblain. Yama is ecstatic as they tell him of their adventure, for he is sure that the things he needs lie at the bottom of the icy waters, and he even knows where to look within the city. He believes they will likely be in either the Tower of the Grand Mage located in the center of the city, the Mage's Quarters, or in the Enchantment stores which hold great stockpiles of magic in a reinforced keep. While pleased that Yama knows where to get the items needed to heal Nikolaus, the party is none too eager to head back into the frozen depths of terror. But after much discussion, the group decides it is the only way to aid their friend, and prepare for the dangerous return to Chilblain.

In Whitehall, the party sells the gems and jewelry they found in the tower and buy several healing potions and salves. They reprovision and in the course of doing so, Nikolaus fortuitously finds a mirrormoss gem for sale, which the group buys at a high price. In the course of the day, Yama also tells them that the cursed amulet which blighted Nikolaus is of ancient gnome design, as is the rod of keening the party acquired from the black smith in Blaine. He is unsure of the orb, however, and Quinn was never able to determine its purpose either.

Nikolaus' condition is deteriorating, and the party doesn't have much time to heal him. Without delay, the reunited party rides hard towards Blaine, pushing their horses beyond normal endurance and relying on Gladriel and Argyle's divine magic to keep them healthy. During their first night in camp, the party is attacked by zombies lead by powerful undead "commanders." Calling upon the power of the Sunbrand, Gladriel turns over fifty zombies, but they keep coming. So too does Argyle destroy many of the undead, but to little avail as more quickly take the place of those fallen.

Finally, the group realizes that the commanders are summoning more zombies each round, and so the only way to stop the waves of attackers is to destroy the leaders. As the commanders close in on the group, they set off Gladriel's perimeter wards, and three celestial bears materialize to join the fray. Using his animal empathy, Jilas attempts to get the horses to defend themselves against the zombies, but fares poorly and spooks them instead. It is a hard fight but the bears help swing the tide in favor of the righteous, and the party prevails.

Jilas quickly tracks the zombies back to a flat plain where they rose. By studying the disturbed earth, the party concludes that each commander was surrounded by about twenty zombies in a circle. The commanders lay roughly in a line or perhaps in the perimeter of a very large circle. The party digs up their graves for clues, and find four sets of magical elven chain mail and swords plus some rusted remnants of shields with identifiable crests. The crests aren't recognizable to any in the party, though Gladriel takes note of them. The party continues to dig and finds more bones, but no more clues or items.

Without further incident, the party returns to Blaine. In town, the group is followed by a thief. When hailed by Gladriel, he runs into a nearby house. Yama attempts to stop him, but the thief locks the door. Most of the party circles around the back of the house while Gladriel bangs on the front door and demands the thief surrender. After a few rounds, Yama becomes impatient and attempts to kick in the back door, much to the party's disbelief. At the same time, Gladriel more successfully kicks in the front and is caught in a poison cloud. He quickly casts delay poison on himself and continues into the room while Yama and Jilas break down the back door. The room is empty with a ladder leading up to the second floor. Gladriel suspects another trap, so he summons a celestial bear at the top of the stairs to rout out the thief. The bear sets off another poison trap and is incapacitated. Still warded by his protective spell, Gladriel charges up the ladder.

At the top, the thief is gone, but Gladriel finds a trap door leading to the roof. In opening it, he sets off yet more poison. Outside the thief has fled down the side of the building. Yama, who left the building earlier, sees the fleeing bandit and gives pursuit. The whole party chases the thief into a bakery, where he has taken the baker hostage. Displaying amazing stealth, Nikolaus sneaks up behind the thief and knocks him out cold with a sap. The baker faints and the party wastes no time in tying up the thief. A crowd of townsfolk has gathered during the commotion, and seeing the bodies on the floor, they believe Nikolaus has killed both men in the bakery. Gladriel uses his diplomacy to calm down the mob and successfully explain that Nikolaus is instead the hero of the day. The clerics interrogate the thief in their standard fashion and find he was sent by Arnquist to harass the party. The bandit is then turned over to the sheriff for justice. Later in the day, the party finds the thief hanging in the gallows.

The party rests the night, then heads out to the lake in very early morning before dawn. Gladriel casts water breathing on the party, and just as the sun comes up, the party descends once more into the depths. Yama suspects the components may be in a few different places, and the party heads first towards the enchantment stores, a depository of ancient weapons and magic. The tower is intact and looks perfectly preserved. As the party attempts to enter the main door, which is sealed with steel, a horrifying aboleth attacks. The giant fish-like beast is guarded by four sharks, which ferociously attack the party. The sharks move too fast and are soon discovered to be illusions, though Yama and Jilas continue to believe them as real.

The tentacled aboleth is a seemingly unbeatable opponent, and the fight is very bloody. From his crossbow, Yama fires a pebble bolt which Gladriel has enchanted. The bolt hits with great power, but the mammoth fish barely notices. Gladriel summons a water elemental to take up the fight, which the aboleth quickly dispatches before it can even strike a blow. Waving its tentacles, the beast casts a spell upon Jilas, which transforms him into a small aboleth. Fortunately, Jilas is able to keep fighting, since the beast's magic is merely an illusion. On Argyle's suggestion, Gladriel decisively ends the battle by casting water walk on the aboleth. The terrible fish rockets upwards, leaving the party unmolested as it dies a painful death a few inches above the surface of Lake Chilblain.

The party is unable to enter the enchantment stores since it is protected by the same silver discs that stymied the party during their last adventure on the lake bed. However, Yama is able to decipher the runes, which say that the portal will open only when a high elf places his hand upon it. The group decides to head to the mage's quarters to look for the components there. After a long aquatic hike, they arrive and discover a tower which is sufficiently damaged to allow entry. Inside, Gladriel uses a locate object spell to track the fire powder to a mage's dormitory room. When the door is opened, a glyph on the portal starts to glow and whine. The party quickly finds the powder and some other components, as well as a perfectly preserved book, then leaves as glowing demons appear inside the room. The party shuts the door and quickly retreats down the stairs as the demons slowly start to push through the door.

As the party descends, Yama does his best to read the runes on the doors they pass, and finally finds a storeroom. Inside, Nikolaus locates the ethereal spirits, the last thing needed to cure him. Like the previous room, opening the door summons more demons. However, unlike the previous room, the party is unable to flee fast enough and must fight the spectral beasts. To aid in this difficult battle, Gladriel summons a water elemental and calls the spiritual sword of his divine master Corellon. It is a very hard fight and more demons keep joining the fray. The glowing beasts do no damage when they strike, but they attack the will of their prey. Jilas is struck repeatedly, with his wisdom finally being knocked down to that of a beast. Unable to control himself, he flees up the stairs and swims out of the tower.

Gladriel is hit many times, but his faith protects him and he is only affected once. Argyle's amulet makes him untouchable to the demons, but his safety comes at the cost that he can't attack or his protection will be lost. Gladriel's water elemental and spiritual sword help turn the tide of battle in favor of the party, but as more demons appear, the party decides to flee back up the stairs. The demons are slow, but each is presented with attacks of opportunity as the party must flee past them. Yama cleverly casts mirror image on himself and takes the lead - many of the demons' attacks are wasted on his images and the party finally gets to safe water.

The group returns to the surface and walks back to the boats compliments of a water walking spell cast by Argyle. They row back to Blaine to the continued surprise of the inhabitants. Using the components recovered from Lantrindril, Yama brews a powerful potion which fully restores Nikolaus to health. The party then uneventfully journeys back to Whitehall, where they meet Vlage who has returned from Rommel's quest to find the castle.

With disdain in his voice, Vlage begins "You won't believe what happened..."

Player's Choice award: Jilas
All characters progress to sixth level, Gladriel to seventh
Players present: Mike, Aaron, Martin, Dana, Phil (Darren & Dana's brother)

ere comes the Calvalry!
2nd of Midfall, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
December 15, 2001

It was the second of Midfall, and reunited with the group in Whitehall, Vlage tells the party of his adventure. Rommel, his uncle, Lanfair, Quinn and Vlage all went searching for the ancient wizard's keep supposedly discovered in the mountains near the Dry Plains. After several days march, they came upon a burned out tower with little of interest in it. But instead of accepting the rumors as false, Rommel and his uncle insisted that the real keep was still waiting to be found and plundered.

After several more days searching, Vlage discovered the rare plant for which he was looking and departed back to Whitehall. The rest of Rommel's band continued to fruitlessly search for the keep. On his way back to Whitehall, Vlage came across a village through which the locals said a large group of dwarves had passed recently. Scanning the ground for tracks, Vlage found a single link of andamite mail. When Vlage rejoined Argyle, Jilas, Nikolaus and Gladriel in Whitehall, he gave the ring to the dwarf. Argyle was overjoyed, as the link was clear proof that his brethren had arrived at last from the dwarven continent.

After their reunion with Vlage, Nikolaus gathered intelligence from the local rumor mill. He learned that King Belvader was ambitious, and one day may be emperor if he has his way. He also heard that the kingdoms to the north and the west may be banding together with Belvader, possibly against the elven kingdom to the east. Relations were certainly chilly with the elves in any event, and it was rumored that the border would be closed soon. Most interestingly, Nikolaus heard that Talport was cleansed of its undead hordes by an army of holy men, though he could find no clues as to their identity. However, given Vlage's discovery, the party was sure the dwarves were responsible for this great feat.

Determined to find his brothers, Argyle and the rest of the party set out for the Dry Plains. The group made good time on their steeds, and got to the village Vlage spoke of with little difficulty on the seventh of Midfall. The locals had scant new information to offer, though Jilas was able to confirm the tracks were left by a large party of mounted dwarves. The group followed their trail, which headed towards the mountains surrounding the Dry Plains.

As the group traveled, Jilas told them that it was near the time of year that the wild elven clans gather for their seasonal festival near the Dry Plains. Sixty years before, Jilas went uninvited to this gathering. As he approached a gathering of elves, their camp fire became huge and engulfed Jilas, who swiftly fled unharmed. The event left quite an impression on the elven ranger, and as he told the tale to the party, he could still vaguely remembered the haunting music he heard that night. As a wild elf himself, Jilas knew that very powerful clans attend this gathering, and he suggested that if the party wished, they might obtain aid from the elves.

The party continued on the trail of the dwarves for another day. It was not a difficult task, as the dwarves trampled everything in their way, and left a wide path for any to see. Towards the evening, the party noticed that a stranger was following them. Fearing yet another thief, the group split up with Vlage assuming the form of a bird and flying quietly behind the stranger. Jilas and Nikolaus stealthily circled around to flank, while Gladriel strode towards the hiding figure and hailed him. Surprised, the stranger demanded to know who the party was and what they were doing in these lands. Gladriel told him, then demanded the same of the stranger.

The shadowy figure threw back his hood to reveal a wild elven face, and introduced himself as Grey, protector of these lands. He had heard rumors of a force of dwarves marching through his territory, and was investigating when he found the party and decided to follow. After much conversation, Grey decided to join the group in their quest to find the dwarves, though Grey's main concern was making sure they left the area swiftly. Always glad to have another warrior in their midst, the party welcomed Grey and headed off on the dwarven trail again.

That night passed uneventfully, but the next morning Vlage's hawk Kiri spotted some men hiding near the trail. Using his druidic magic, Vlage sent Kiri back to spy on them while looking through Kiri's eyes. Several bandits had set up an ambush on the trail, waiting for travelers or more dwarves to come marching along. Grey was familiar with this tactic, for he had long hunted bandits and thieves in this land. Upon Grey's and Gladriel's insistence, the party decided to fight the bandits to prevent them from harming any who traveled through the forest.

The party started working on a plan to flank and surprise the bandits, but Grey became frustrated with the delay and simply headed off to kill the thieves. Gladriel cast silence on an arrow, and the party quickly ran after Grey, though they couldn't find his path. Before the party caught up, Grey surprised the bandits, who had two fighters on the ground, and two crossbow men in the trees, plus a few more thieves nearby gambling. Grey charged the men on the ground, and so the fight began. The rest of the party arrived shortly on the other side of the trail, and since they were silenced, they caught the other bandits by surprise. Gladriel shot one with the silenced arrow, and the group sprang into combat.

It was not an overly tough fight for the party, for the thieves were expecting unwary travelers, not battle-hardened warriors. Nikolaus managed to flank-attack a thief with devastating results, but was in turn critically hit by a crossbow man. Vlage used his magic to good effect, and Gladriel summoned a celestial bear to drag the bowmen out of the trees. Argyle and Jilas both fought valiantly, and after less than a minute of battle, four of the thieves lay dead, with the other two surrendered. They were questioned, but had little to tell other than the obvious. Stripped of their weapons and equipment, they were let free with the warning that the bear would be sent after them in one minute, so they had better run fast and far. With that, the party continued on to find the dwarves.

The next day, the group came to the foot of the mountains, and the end of the dwarven trail. Their tracks went up to a smooth face on the a cliff wall, then ended as if they had marched through the stone. Jilas deduced from their tracks that they had tethered their horses, then entered through a door that the party could not find. The horses had been led off by light footed men towards the Dry Plains. Upon further inspection, Jilas also found some strange tracks originating from the cliff that Argyle instantly recognized as Orcish.

Much to the party's surprise, Argyle performed a strange magical dance and when he finally stopped, he told them that his companions were near, though deep underground. He also knew that they were in trouble. Gladriel attempted many magical ways to gain entry into the cliff, but all failed, and finally the party left to follow the trail of the horses to see if any egress could be gained elsewhere. Soon it became clear that wild elves had led off the horses, and their trail headed toward the gathering of the clans. The group decided that the elves might be able to help the party rescue the dwarves, and agreed to have Jilas and Grey, who are themselves wild elves, approach the gathering.

Fearful from his last encounter, yet sure that the elves he met before were powerful enough to help, Jilas hid near the camps of many elves listening for the music he remembered. He thought he heard the same music, but his memory was vague and he was unsure.

The music of the Wild Elves
Recreated by Garmarna on Vittrand

Jilas and Grey returned to the party, where Gladriel cast an intelligence enhancing spell upon Jilas to help refresh his recollection of the music. Thus aided, Jilas and Grey returned to the camp, and correctly picked the camp of the fire elves. As the ranger and fighter approached, the music stopped, and a great moat of lava flowed in front of them. From the fiery lava sprang a giant flame dragon, which swooped down and engulfed them. Jilas and Grey both fell unconscious.

They soon awoke with a start as a group of very amused wild elves stood over them laughing. The elder slapped another elf on the back proclaiming, "We sure got them good!" Most of the elves wandered off to continue their drinking and the music started again. Jilas and Grey sat up and introduced themselves. The elder offered them a drink, and they soon spoke of the party's mission to find the dwarves. The elder insisted that Jilas relate his tale as a song, which he did in a surprisingly good voice. After a while, Jilas and Grey were allowed to leave and retrieve the rest of the party. As the party approached, the lava sprang up and the dragon appeared to swallow the party. Gladriel and Argyle saw the magic for what it was, and strode into the camp unperturbed. The rest of the party wasn't as fortunate, and also awoke to the laughing of the elves.

After introductions and many strong drinks of elven mead, the party learned that the wild elves had helped the dwarven warriors gain access to the cliff, for beyond it lay a sub-elven breeding pit. The sub-elves, such as orcs, goblins and ogres, were originally created by the Drow in their war against the High elves. Huge underground dens were built in which sub-elves were not so much bred as magically grown. After the Drow were driven from the land, almost all the remaining pits were destroyed and sealed. But recently, a local pit had become active again, which the dwarves had discovered from notes found in Talport. Thus they had headed north and enlisted the aid of the elves to gain entry to the sealed pit.

The elves were glad to hear that the dwarven warriors still lived, for they hadn't returned for two weeks and were presumed dead. More incredulous were the elves when the party said that they intended to aid the dwarven warriors, and wished to gain access to the breeding pit. The elder told the party he had a key which could grant them entry to the pit, but that "Anything worth having must be won" and challenged the party to a game. If any of the party could win 30 of his gold pieces, the elf would give them the key. And thus ensued a very strange dice game in which the elf played with candy gold coins to which the party lost their real gold and gems. Eventually the party lost over 250 gold coins but gained the key.

The drinking and merriment went on throughout the night, and great fun was had by all. Most of the party became quite drunk, and Nikolaus passed out. Argyle woke him with a spell, whereupon Nikolaus was handed more drink and soon passed out again. Gladriel was overcome by the mead, and aided by his divine magic, started dancing in the air, covered in purple flames. The elves were greatly amused by this, and began a fireworks display, which culminated in a massive electrical storm. After the show had died down, and the elves became quiet for the night, Gladriel sung the song of Mirithrond's great fall. This moved the elves, and the elder bade Gladriel return the next season to share more tales of the Sunbrand.

The elder also insisted that Vlage stay with them another night, for they had much to learn from one another and there was little place for a druid in the depths of a breeding pit. The elves also agreed to care for the group's horses, and attempt to identify the mysterious orb found in Blaine while the party descended into the dank pit. Finally, before they left, a fair elven women spoke cryptically to the party. She said that the group would be succeed where the dwarves had failed because the party used magic whereas the dwarves' very nature was non-magical. She didn't know the exact meaning of her words, but was sure that the party should heed them. And so departed the party from the gathering of the wild elves.

As day broke, the party ventured back to the cliff face and prepared to enter it using the key from the wild elves. Given their late night, they first rested and prepared themselves for the coming battles. When ready, Nikolaus strode to the cliff face and traced a large rectangle with the elven key. Within the perimeter he traced, the stone became semi-transparent and glowed with a warm golden light. Through this strode Gladriel and Argyle, with the rest of the party following closely behind. Within the cliff opened a great hall that extended beyond the light of their magical torches. Cautiously, the party ventured forward, with Jilas tracking the trail of the dwarven warriors. As they moved forward, they discovered many hacked and hewn orcish bodies. Soon they descended a great stairway, which lead down to an enormous room.

In the great room, many more sub-elven bodies lay dead amongst the pillars. As the party marched through the carnage, a terrible stench overcame a few members who became weak from the smell. Near the center of the room lay a gory monument to the unwavering ferocity of Argyle's brethren. The party's light fell upon a great ring of orcish bodies, nearly eight feet tall, and over eighty feet across. A might battle had taken place there, and hundreds of orcs and goblins had fallen to the mighty dwarven fighters as they stood together in a circle.

Down more stairs the party journeyed, into another vast room with pillars. In one wall, they found the burial chamber of two dwarven warriors, the sad cost of the orcish slaughter. After a moment of prayer for the fallen, the group continued past a damaged wall. The elves found it odd that one section of the wall was perfectly smooth, while the rest lay in rubble. Argyle did not see the smooth section, only the ruins. Upon further inspection, the group realized that some sort of concealing magic was in play, and they removed the debris to expose a passage way. While the dwarves had clearly not gone down the newly found corridor, the words of the elven woman came back to the party, and they thought perhaps this might be to what she eluded.

Heading down the new way, the party soon smelled a powerful odor of earth, rotting matter and blood, and heard burbling noises. Rounding a turn in the corridor, they stepped into a large room surrounded by a bubbling red pool containing humanoid shapes. The party had found a breeding pit. In the middle of the room stood a score of orcs and goblins plus four ogres, all motionless as if frozen in time. As the party started to back up, the sub-elves came to life and sprang to attack.

The party held the doorway, using its narrowness to their advantage. Into the doorway leapt many orcs and goblins, all of which were swiftly cut down. As each fell, another took its place, and soon their mangled bodies began to pile up. The ogres were tougher foes, though Grey struck them with tremendous blows and soon their bodies joined those of the lesser sub-elves. As the battle raged on, the bodies of the fallen piled up so high that the remaining orcs had to climb up it to attack down upon the party below. The sub-elves attacked without any regard for their own lives, and all were slain within a minute of the party first entering the room.

Leaving the breeding pit, the party headed back to the room with the ruined wall, and picked up the trail of the dwarves again. Following their path, the party headed down yet another great stairway. Halfway down, the dwarven footsteps suddenly disappeared. Before the party could turn back, the stairs collapsed into a slide, and the group was plunged into a vast and deep pit. Over seventy feet they fell before finally hitting a hard stone floor. All were badly wounded by the fall, and they staggered to their feet to a terrible sight. They had fallen near the middle of another huge room, with a great chasm to one side and a bunch of stone rubble surrounding a small tunnel on the opposite wall. However, the party did not have much time to take in their surroundings, for around the tunnel stood a dozen orcs, a half dozen ogres, and another half dozen giant ogres. The giants stood over fourteen feet tall and carried swords bigger than any member of the party.

As the party stood up, the monsters turned and charged. Acting quickly, most in the group drank healing potions, or cast healing spells upon themselves so that they might withstand the onslaught of the beasts. Within seconds, a mighty battle began. The party fought valiantly, but they were outnumbered, and their opponents were powerful indeed. The giant ogres dealt massive amounts of damage with each blow, and the group was unable to withstand their fury for long. First Nikolaus went down unconscious, then Jilas. Argyle managed to revive Nikolaus, who broke free from the fray to flank another giant. But the party was losing ground and it appeared that the group would never leave the breeding pit alive.

Just as things were looking particularly dire, a glad sight was had by the party. Out of the tunnel rushed a wave of mighty dwarven warriors. They too had been trapped in the room, but had been working on a uniquely dwarven escape route by slowly tunneling their way out. Ogres and orcs had been fighting them constantly for almost two weeks, but in the confined space of the tunnel, the dwarves had been able to hold them off. With the arrival of the party, the stalemate was broken, and the dwarves burst forth to battle their foes on open ground. Singing a mighty dwarven battle song, the hardy warriors joined the fray, hewing and hacking their hated foes.

Aided by fifteen dwarven warriors, the tide of battle swiftly turned in favor of the party. Surrounded by giant ogres, Gladriel was knocked unconscious, but he was quickly revived by a dwarven cleric, as was Jilas. With all the party back in the fight, the giants soon started falling, until they and all the orcs finally lay dead on the floor.

And there was much rejoicing.

After a heartfelt and noisy reunion between Argyle and his brothers, the group turned their attention on getting out of the room into which they had all fallen. Gladriel's suggestions of using spells to dig back out of the pit were rejected, as the dwarves had already tried. So the elves turned their attention to the chasm and the thin, shimmering bridge that spanned it. The dwarves could not see this bridge, and had no idea of what the elves spoke. Again heeding the words of the elven woman, Gladriel tested the bridge and found it would hold his weight. But it was as if it didn't exist for the dwarves. With a rope around him, Gladriel crossed the bridge and anchored the rope to the far side in a corridor that continued beyond the range of his light. Next came Grey and Jilas, followed by Nikolaus. While Grey kept guard, two more ropes were anchored to form a crude rope bridge. Argyle started across the rope, with Jilas on the bridge to steady him.

As the two were halfway across, chanting was heard from the wall above the chasm. From a small fissure sprang three magical missiles, which struck the ropes and severed two of the three. Argyle fell, though he retained his grip on one rope and swung down onto the cliff face. In attempting to help Argyle, Jilas lost his balance and fell too. Fortunately, he also kept his grip, and ended up next to Argyle on the cliff. As both began to slowly climb their way up, Gladriel summoned a thoqqua. The strange glowing worm-like beast began boring straight through the rock of the tunnel, heading upwards to find and kill the spell caster. Grey raced down the corridor, soon followed by Gladriel.

Halfway down the corridor, a giant blade sprang from the wall and wounded Grey, but he continued undeterred. Soon, he entered a large room with a raised ledge along the back side. Two heavily armed and armored orcs defended the stair leading up to the ledge. At these he charged, and a mighty combat began. Gladriel raced into the room, cast protection from evil on himself, and then also charged the orcs. Nikolaus was still cautiously heading down the corridor when Argyle and Jilas managed to finally climb back up their ropes. Together, all three ran down the hallway towards the room in which Grey and Gladriel battled the orcs.

The stranded dwarven clerics in the other room summoned two air elementals, and sent one to guard Argyle and another to find the spell caster. Horrible crashes, bellows, and rending noises were heard above the corridor as the thoqqua and air elemental met with more creatures summoned by the evil spell caster.

Soon, the whole party was in the room with the ledge, with Gladriel and Grey fighting the orcs on the stairs. Suddenly, the corridor they came through was filled with a raging fire, preventing any hope of escape. A large fire elemental then materialized through the wall at the end of the ledge, shortly followed by a large xorn. Nikolaus headed to a door in the room, and thinking it might be an escape, opened it. He was flung back by a powerful trap on the door. Behind it lay another smaller door, which when later opened, was also trapped. Another smaller xorn appeared on the ledge, and soon after a dretch appeared as well.

Gladriel realized that the party's best hope against the evil mage was to find him quickly before he could summon more monsters. The holy warrior jumped past the orc at the top of the stairs and called upon Corellon to aid him. A brilliant long sword sheathed in white fire appeared in Gladriel's hands and he started running towards the wall at the end of the ledge. A giant dire rhinoceros charged through the same wall and straight at the elf. Gladriel kept charging, protected by his divine magic. The beast futilely attempted to attack, and Gladriel charge past it and the fire elemental, which were both unable to touch the warded cleric. Gladriel ran straight through the illusionary wall, and stopped in long corridor.

A dead orcish warrior lay on the ground, and Gladriel suspected the evil mage had sucked the life from his ally, much as the man in black had done back in when they marched with Baron Traftar's army. Gladriel started down the corridor, but then thought better of it, and turned back to where he entered. Thinking the mage invisible, he started swinging wildly to catch him, but was unsuccessful. Soon Gladriel heard chanting which sounded like it came from beyond the wall, so the elf charged through another illusion... to find nothing beyond but an empty corridor. Out in the main room, a dire boar materialized and charged the party.

Sure now that the mage was invisible, Gladriel reached into his belt pouch and withdrew the diamond dust he used to cast magical glyphs. He flung this where he thought the wizard stood, was but fumbled and hit the wall instead. The wizard laughed and struck Gladriel with a ray of enfeeblement, bringing Gladriel's enhanced strength down to its normal level. But in casting the ray, he gave away his position, and Gladriel successfully threw his last pouch of diamond dust at the spell caster. Shouting glory to his gods, Gladriel fell upon the now visible evil mage and struck him a powerful blow with the Sword of Corellon, which disappeared in a mighty burst of flame.

Out in the room, the party was having a harder time dealing with the mage's summoned creatures. Argyle, who was also protected from the summoned creatures, attempted to jump past the rhinoceros, but fell. Grey finally got past the beast but was wounded by the fire elemental and xorn. Jilas and Nikolaus were having a hard time with the other xorn and boar. The party split up, and while alone, Jilas was knocked unconscious by the xorn, which fortunately then headed for other victims.

Grey made it through the first illusionary wall, but failed to get through the second. Argyle had finally made it past the rhino, and soon joined Grey in the corridor. Unlike Grey, Argyle walked straight through the illusion, and thus Grey was able to follow. At the end of the corridor, Gladriel was battling the evil mage, and both Grey and Argyle raced to aid him in the fight. But before Argyle had gone more than a few paces, he heard Nikolaus scream then go silent. Fearing his friend unconscious or worse, Argyle turned back to aid his fallen companion.

The mage had used up the last of his spells, and drew forth a flaming staff. He swung this at Gladriel, but fumbled and threw the staff behind the elf. Cursing mightily, the mage drew forth a potion and drank it. A terrible transformation took place, as the magic user grew and became almost bestial in appearance. Huge muscles rippled beneath his now taught robes, and he pulled forth a glowing sword. Down upon Gladriel he came, with mighty blows pounding. Grey arrived to join the fray, but the large xorn also appeared through the floor and attacked the wild elf, knocking him unconscious.

Gladriel stepped back from the fearsome mage, and healed Grey, who wisely grabbed the mage's flaming staff and ran back down the corridor to safety. The xorn attempted to attack Gladriel, then disappeared, its summoned time gone. The battle between the mage and Gladriel continued, with the cleric calling forth a spiritual weapon to aid him, and casting down a roll of silk. The mage came forward over the silk and triggered its glyph, summoning a celestial bear behind him. Flanked by the bear, the mage kept fighting, landing powerful blows upon the holy warrior who faced him. Grey drew his bow and fired into the mage, wounding him further, but Gladriel was losing ground and needed more help than a bow could offer. Grey ran from the corridor, and back to the room to get some of Jilas' healing potions so he could rejoin the battle against the mage.

Calling again upon his gods, Gladriel brought forth a holy shield of fire that covered his body. The mage knew that to strike Gladriel would cause great damage to himself, so cursing he drew a poisoned dagger to throw instead. But the mage's hands slipped on the blade, and nicked himself badly. The terrible venom coursed through his veins, at the same time that his stolen life energies ran out, and with a look of surprised dismay, he fell to the floor dead.

The mage's summoned creatures continued to wink out of existence over the next several rounds. Argyle had revived Nikolaus, who was at death's door when the cleric got to him. However, the boar and dretch attacked the dwarf and his patient, and Nikolaus was again knocked unconscious. Argyle dispatched the dretch and continued to fight the boar until it finally disappeared. Thus ended the battle against Zyryn the Paranoid, and his summoned minions.

Player's Choice award: Argyle
Players present: Mike, Aaron, Martin, Dana, Phil, Drew (for 1st half of game)

he Mad Mage
15th of Midfall, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
January 12, 2002

After the terrible battle with Zyryn, the party bound their wounds and searched the fallen mage's quarters. Suddenly, the world blurred and the somewhat dazed members of the party found themselves together in small, round room. But they were not alone, for the room contained their friends Yama and Rommel... plus four wraiths and three zombies.

Disoriented but aware of their jeopardy, the party attacked the vile undead. The party was still weak from their battle with Zyryn, and the spell casters depleted, so the battle was tough. The holy men in the party called upon their gods, and the undead fell before them. The fighters sprang into action with little effect against the incorporeal wraiths. Then much to the surprise and unease of the party, Yama cast a spell which made the undead stop their fighting and obey his commands. The party took this opportunity to leave the fray, as Yama said that there was a powerful wizard in the tower that would take care of the undead.

As the party ascended the spiral stair outside the room, Yama explained that they were in the tower of the arch mage Nymriell, Yama's current master. When asked why they were there, Yama confessed he summoned them to aid his master... and apologized for accidentally summoning the undead as well. Some members of the party found it quite odd that Yama would have done this, or even that he could do this. And Yama also seemed to have a distinctly different personality from the last time the party had adventured with him.

The party met with Nymriell, an ancient elven wizard with little social graces. When the party informed him of the undead in his tower, he abruptly left the room to dispatch them. Rommel and Argyle followed to observe as the arch mage called forth awesome magic to bend space and burn the undead to ashes.

While the mage was performing this task, Nikolaus confided in Gladriel, Jilas and Quinn that he had noticed some things in a room on the way up the stairs. He quickly took the members aside and showed them a map of the local mountain range that had symbols of towers on it and a red river running underneath them all. One tower was marked "Zyryn" and had very recently been crossed out. Nikolaus has also noticed some arcane notes, and made out a few words, including "immortality".

Nymriell returned shortly, and the party wasn't able to discuss this discovery further. The wizened mage told them of a potent mineral he required for his latest research. This component was located deep in the tunnels beneath his tower, and he was unable to fetch it personally. His understudy Yama has suggested calling the party forth to aid his master, and the mage had agreed.

Nymriell also spoke of the tunnels being recently reinfested with orcs, which caught the attention of both Argyle and Gladriel. While the mage promised great rewards to the party should they succeed, the holy men were both intent in destroying yet another sub-elven breeding pit. Both clerics insisted that Nymriell aid Argyle's dwarven companions, who were still trapped in the bowels of Zyryn's lair. At this, the mage chanted some arcane words and waved his hands in a complex gesture. The tower shook slightly as an enormous stone elemental rose from the floor of the room to hear its master's bidding. Nymriell commanded it to go forth and set the dwarves free, and it sank back into the stone to carry out the task.

About this time, there came a knock at the door. At Nymriell's gesture, it swung open of its own accord, and in walked Quinn. He said "I hope I'm not late" and was promptly greeted by the party glad to see their sailor friend. They told him quickly of Nymriell's mission. With the dwarves soon to be freed and another breeding pit waiting to be destroyed, plus the lure of a substantial reward, the party agreed to undertake the mission. To aid them Nymriell gave each a small leather sack which contained miniature crystalline dice. He then spoke these words to the group:

In numbers lie thy aid: A hundred gold to ease thy woe, A score and ten to burn thy foe. A dozen creatures from my shelf. Eight heightened aspects of the self. And four the battered body.

With that, he bid them leave and return the next morning to set out on the mission.

The party followed Yama out of the tower down a treacherous mountain path to a small hut. A fierce storm blew in, and the party took what little shelter they could in the leaky old building. While Argyle fashioned a shield out of the hut's door for Jilas, Quinn summoned up a magical shelter within the hut. Within Quinn's wondrous shelter, the party was warm and dry. Much discussion took place as the group tried to figure out the odd events of the last day. Quinn also told them of his newly learned talent for imbuing tattoos with magical spells. In honor of his debt to Argyle for repeatedly saving his life, Quinn tattooed the dwarf with a hammer imbued with a feather fall spell. The rest of the party was eager for similar marks. Though Quinn was unable to imbue further magical tattoos that night, he practiced his art with ink and paper.

While Argyle was being decorated, Gladriel conferred with his divine masters. He asked if undertaking Nymriell's mission would aid the cause of the Sunbrand. His deities spoke thus, "In awesome power lies the roots of great good or terrible evil. Choose wisely." The holy warrior took this to mean that he should continue with the quest. These words, plus the knowledge that more foul sub-elven enemies of the Order lurked beneath the mountains, increased his resolve to venture into the tunnels on the morrow.

The party also related their adventures to Rommel, who had himself been traveling near Nymriell's tower in search of the ancient castle the guards had spoken of. He and his uncle had found a few different burned out ruins, but nothing containing the treasures for which he quested. The group took the opportunity to divide up the magic items they had found in Zyryn's lair, with Quinn and Yama getting most of the mage's treasures. Nikolaus was quite happy with a set of magical throwing knives, and Jilas was better armed with Zyryn's powerful sword. For the clerics there was little, other than their obligation to destroy the poisons and evil scrolls they found.

As day broke, the group headed back to the tower to start their mission. Nymriell greeted them, and gave them a magical loadstone to help them locate the rare mineral that he desired. After some more conversation with the wizard, all of the party was ready to embark... except for Nikolaus. Convinced the group was foolishly heading to their death, and quite through with breeding pits, Nikolaus wished them well... and left. With that, the world shifted again around the rest of the party, and they found themselves on a narrow ledge in the dank depths beneath the tower.

The group clung to a precarious ledge which slowly spiraled both up and down the wall of a giant pit. From below rose a dull red glow and a sulphurous stench familiar to Argyle as the smell of lava. The group roped themselves together then headed down the path. After a few steps, the trail collapsed and the party was barely able to recover their footing. Argyle attempted to use the tattoo Quinn had scribed, but his innate dwarven resistance to magic rendered it useless. Quinn suggested that Argyle take the lead since his dwarven knowledge of stone working would help find more unstable sections of the trail. Foolishly the party continued forward once more without heeding this advice, and again their footing gave way. Quinn cast feather fall, and the party was able to pull up the members that had fallen off the trail.

Argyle took the lead, and the party's progress was much smoother. The dwarf pointed out numerous areas where the path was weak or intentionally trapped. After a few more close calls, the party found an opening leading off the trail into a corridor. The lodestone gave no indication as to which direction to go, so the party decided to investigate. As the group ventured back into the corridor, it widened into a nature cavern with stalactites on the ceiling and soon a familiar earthy-blood stench told them that a breeding pit was nearby.

As the party cautiously headed forward, Argyle set off a trap that caused many of the giant stalactites to fall down upon the group beneath. After binding their wounds from the trap, the party continued onwards towards the smell of the pit. The cavern widened into a vast room, and the party followed the right side around. In the center, they saw a pillar with a large gem on it. Fearing another trap, they left this untouched, and ventured beyond it. Soon they found a glowing pit with grotesque humanoid shapes floating in it. Nearby stood several motionless orcs and ogres, frozen like those in Zyryn's dungeon.

The party opened fire on the largest of the ogres, then took up a defensive position against the wall to shield the mages. As soon as the arrows and magic attacks struck the brutes, they sprang to life and charged at the group. A hail of arrows announced there were far more orcs lurking in the dark than the party had realized. And several giant ogres strode into battle wielding clubs made of entire trees. While the defensive circle around the mages was effective against the orcs, it didn't stop the giants from reaching over the heads of the fighters to smash the wizards with their giant clubs. Quinn was knocked to the floor and Yama was badly wounded. And the bowmen continued to rain a deadly hail of arrows upon the party.

Quinn used his new found Staff of Fire to summon a wall of flames. The great burning barrier bisected the room, cutting off the archers from the fray. The tide of battle turned, and soon the ogres and their comrades lay dead at the feet of the very wounded party. The group quickly healed, as the wall of fire was soon to come down. As the flame abated the fighters charged into the orcen archers and another great fray ensued. Quinn cast forth fireballs to great effect, and Yama became invisible to evade more enemy fire. A few orcs attempted flank the party, but were soon dispatched. Yama then created magical lights which swept through the room and disclosed the last few archer's positions. The few sub-elves left in the room were dead within seconds and the party stood victorious amongst the gore.

Yama and Quinn created flaming spheres which rolled across the surface of the pit, destroying it and the partially formed beasts within. Their work done in the cavern, the party headed back out to the path and descended once more. After more tedious descent, the group found another opening leading back into another corridor. The lodestone again indicated nothing, so the party decided to head downwards instead of exploring the tunnel. As the group passed the opening, an ogre sprang from the darkness and knocked Jilas from the ledge. Fortunately, he was still tied to the others with the rope, so he did not plummet to his death. But he did knock Argyle and Grey off balance and they started to slip as well. Thinking fast, Jilas drank his potion of spider climb and clambered back up the wall. The party attempted to fight the ogre, but only a few could reach the beast in its well defended position.

As the ogre briefly stepped out to swing at the nearest party member, Yama cast a hold monster spell which froze it in its tracks. The group quickly pushed the immobilized brute off the ledge to its death in the lava below. Curious what the ogre was guarding, the party ventured into the tunnel which led to a large room with a grate in the middle. The walls were covered by a dense moss that seemed to flourish in the moisture laden hot air coming from the grate. As the group investigated the room, another ogre came trundling down the corridor pushing a large wheelbarrow. Seeing the party, it turn tale and ran back out the tunnel and out of sight.

Quinn gave chase, and was rudely surprised that the brute was laying in ambush outside the entrance. The ogre struck him a mighty blow with a shovel, and the mage might have fallen were it not for Jilas quickly grabbing him and climbing up the wall. Soon the party was engaged with the beast, and it was not long before its body joined that of its comrade in the lava below.

The party headed out of the room and down the path again. They came to another chamber in which a newly formed breeding pit was being fed the moss. The group decided to save their spells and destroy this pit on their way out. After more descent, the party found a prison chamber, with the sad skeletal remains of a small party of adventurers chained to the wall. From the skeletons, the party took a suit of magical scale armor, a pouch with two potions and three scrolls, and a magical earring. Gladriel preformed a brief burial blessing and the group headed again downwards.

After more treacherous descent, the party finally reached the floor of the great pit. In the center of the vast room bubbled a fiery cauldron of lava. Around its edge was a narrow path, which the party followed. The magical lodestone was starting to point towards the right, so the party headed that way. They came to an ornate door inscribed in precious metals with Drow runes. Yama was able to make out enough to tell the party that beyond the door lay the Realm of Fire. In many other languages, including dwarven, was blazoned a warning for all to read. To tamper with the portal would open a gateway to the plane of fire, and destroy all who dare violate it. Wisely, the party gave the door wide berth and continued to follow the lodestone.

The stone pointed to another door, with much fewer runes and no terrible warnings. The group opened the door and walked down the corridor beyond. At a branching of the corridor, the lodestone pointed left and the party marched that direction. The group stopped short as Argyle realized there was a trap in the corridor ahead of them. He had noticed small holes in the floor that appeared to flood the floor with lava if activated. The group used another spider climb potion to skirt this danger, and headed onwards. A spiral stairway led off from the corridor, but the stone pointed ahead, so the group continued.

A few more steps down the hallway and the party noticed a strong sulfur smell. The gas got stronger and stronger as they moved forward, until many could barely breath. Tying wet cloth over their faces, the group continued on but it was a difficult struggle, especially for Grey. Finally the group found a small storeroom, and the stone pointed to a pile of rocks in which lay the magical mineral Nymriell desired. Yama scooped up the rock and the party swiftly departed the noxious fumes.

Backtracking towards the vast lava room, the party made great haste. As they neared the portal to the room, they felt the floor rumble. A great mass of lava welled up outside the door and tentacles made of molten stone formed from the enormous blob. With the great lava guardian blocking their only escape, the party was trapped. The beast began spewing lava, and Quinn was knocked unconscious by a blob of molten rock. Argyle revived him, and Rommel shouted for him to use his teleport scroll to get aid from Nymriell. Quinn wisely took the opportunity to leave, and the party faced the beast.

Yama called down a hail storm on the lava monster causing blinding clouds of steam to erupt, and the party did what it could to attack. Recalling the words that Nymriell had spoken when giving them the crystal dice, the party threw their ten and twenty sided dice at the lava creature to great effect. Each dice turned into an impressive and different energy effect and blasted chunks out of the monster. The lava beast was unable to effectively attack through the dense fog, and instead belched forth several gaseous creatures that swooped in to attack the party.

Many in the party also threw their twelve sided dice at the lava beast or the smog creatures. Each die turned into a monster and joined battle with the intended target. Rommel, Jilas and Grey headed out the door and began to work their way around the pit. Gladriel and Argyle used their spells to good effect, as did Yama. After a fierce battle, all the smog monsters were destroyed and the lava beast was very badly wounded. Gladriel called forth the Sword of Corellon to smite the creature, but before he could land a blow, Rommel remembered the explosive potion the party recovered from Zyryn's abode. Rommel hurled the vial into the creature's biggest wound, causing it to explode into a shower of lava that fell upon the party.

Triumphant, but badly wounded, the party retreated into the corridor again to heal their wounds and consider their options for escape. At this point, Gladriel realized that if they were to break the seal on the portal to the Plane of Fire, it might unleash the river of fire that flowed beneath the towers he saw in the map in Nymriell's tower. Remembering the words of his deities, and sure this was the awesome power of which they referred, he became resolute that he must do this to cleanse the land of the evil festering beneath its surface. But the rest of the party was quite afraid of the consequences should they violate the portal. Gladriel prayed for guidance, but was willing to stay behind and sacrifice himself to open the gate should there be no other way.

After a bit of discussion, and Yama doing some experiments with the six sided dice and some sort of divination spell, the group heard another lava monster emerging from the pool in the room beyond. Wasting no more time, the group all gathered around Yama who used a scroll to cast a telekinetic sphere spell. The force sphere encompassed the party and they all started rising from the pit. All the party, that is, except for Argyle, whose anti-magic nature left him unaffected by the spell. Gladriel threw down a rope to the dwarf, who grabbed on and was lifted upwards.

The party spent about three minutes floating up, until they were near the ceiling of the great pit. Shortly before arriving at the top, Gladriel cast a spell then spoke to a shimmering disturbance of air beyond the sphere. It sounded as if the wind spoke back to him, then the disturbance shot downwards out of sight. Gladriel smiled and said that he had made his choice.

The group came to rest in front of the door on the ledge at the top of the pit. They opened the door and climbed many stairs which led to a small room in which Nymriell sat. Next to him stood Quinn, with tears of frustration still wet on his cheeks. Quinn would later tell the party of his arrival in Nymriell's tower to request aid for the party's battle below, only to be left locked outside the door. Nymriell had watched the entire battle in his crystal ball, and didn't want to be disturbed until he saw the final outcome.

Yama strode over to his master and handed him the mineral, much to the ancient wizard's delight. He turned to face the party, and began to speak. But his word were cut short by the most unexpected action ever taken by any member of the party. Without any warning, Jilas threw both his ten and twenty sided dice at Nymriell. A bolt of shimmering black and white static sprang forth from Jilas' hand and struck the wizard squarely in the chest.

The arch mage struggled in pain as his body was ravaged by a powerful magic of his own creation. All in the party were stunned, except Rommel who leapt to grapple Nymriell. The wizard was too quick, and dodged Rommel's lunge. Looking in utter disbelief at the party, the arch mage said some nasty words in elven and then promptly disappeared.

The party stood in shock for a few seconds, trying to figure out what had happened, and why Jilas had attacked a wizard capable of destroying them all in a matter of seconds... and a wizard that would have shortly given them their rewards. But they didn't have long to debate their impending doom, as they heard Nymriell shout from the room above, "They did what?? NO!!!" Then the tower began to shake and a low rumble came from below.

Gladriel said that the will of the Sunbrand was done, and that they should all flee as fast as possible. The group didn't wait to find out exactly what he meant, and headed out the nearest door. On the trail beyond, the party headed downwards, but Yama headed up towards the top of the mountain. Vlage wisely turned into a hawk and flew above the party. With the ground shaking and the trail collapsing in spots, it was little surprise that Argyle fell off the path. He slid for several hundred feet down a steep incline and was unable to stop his slide. He was headed directly for a sheer cliff that feel thousands of feet to the valley floor below.

Quinn quickly cast a web spell on the dwarf to stop his descent. With the time gained by Quinn's spell, Gladriel cast air walk upon himself and strode into the air as if he tread on solid ground. The holy warrior marched down and picked up Argyle, who then cast the same spell on himself. Together the clerics carried the rest of the party towards the valley below. As they did so, Vlage spied Yama on the top of the mountain. A great swirling cascade of colors swept down upon the mage and lifted him into the sky. The druid had a sinking feeling that this was not the last that the party would see of Yama or his master Nymriell.

From their aerial vantage point, the party saw a great and terrible sight. The tower of Nymriell burst into flames then launched skyward upon a great gout of lava. Gladriel had unleashed the River of Fire, and the entire mountain range before them erupted into flame. Magma spewed forth from many mountain tops, covering the slopes and forming a river of flames at their bases. As the hours passed, the earth slowly swallowed the entire mountain range in an ever widening river of lava. None in the party had ever seen a sight so terrifying in scale and destruction. All stood in silence as the world changed before their eyes. Speechless, Quinn brought forth a sketch pad and drew the unbelievable sight they all beheld.

Gladriel knew that a great good had been done that day. Over thirty orc breeding pits had been cleansed by the fire he had unleashed, and none would ever be built in this land again. As he stood silently on the ground far from the River of Fire, Gladriel was granted a divine vision. His celestial masters had taken personal note in the cleansing and saw fit to show him the glory of the deed. His gods had also shared this vision with Gladriel's Sunbrand commanders, who swiftly contacted him via a sending spell. Lieutenant commander Melinar would meet with him in person in one week at Whitehall. Gladriel replied to his commander that he'd be there.

That is, of course, if he or any of the party were still alive in seven days.

Player's Choice award: Jilas the Doomed
Players present: Mike, Aaron, Martin, Dana, Drew, John, Chet, Michael

ightmares and Farewell
16th of Midfall, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
February 9, 2002

As the party stood and watched the mountains be consumed by flames, they knew they had made a terrible mortal enemy. While they debated how to best deal with this fact, large blobs of lava started to fall near them, and several of the party were struck by splashes of the molten rock. Wisely, they ran as fast as they could from the spewing mountains, until the flames burned in the distance.

The group headed on foot towards Whitehall, the place that Gladriel must meet his commander. Whitehall also held a slim hope of someone or something powerful enough to deal with the arch mage they had enraged. As they marched, the far sighted elves noticed great fires burning in the east. Unbeknownst to the party, great forests had grown to the foot of the mountains to the east. As the mountains collapsed into the River of Fire, these forests took flame. Soon, tremendous gouts of smoke stained the sky, and the forests burned fiercely. Vlage was distraught by this turn of events and constantly looked to the east as the party marched.

That night, Nymriell has his first bit of fun with the party. As each member slept, a horrible nightmare befell them. Each dreamt of their worst fears, such as being paralyzed while being flayed alive or watching helpless as each party member was slowly killed. Jilas woke first, quite sure that he had died by Nymriell's evil hand. Most of the party woke from these awful dreams to be completely unable to sleep again. It was a morbid game that would be oft repeated in the nights to come.

In the morning, Vlage told the party that he must join his order to fight the mighty forest fires. He bade any of the party that wished to wipe clean their guilt of having caused the conflagration to join the Mobius Grove and battle the flames with him. While all were sorry that the forest burned, none accepted his offer, though the party wished him a swift and safe journey. With that, Vlage took the form of a hawk and leapt into the sky.

Gladriel used his divine magic to send word to his commander, and ask if the Order of the Sunbrand could aid him against the arch mage. Melinar replied that the gods had smiled upon the warrior and now was the time to prove their favor by dealing with the threat himself. The Order could do little until they met a week hence. Gladriel then contacted the wild elves, the most powerful magic users he'd met. Unfortunately, the wild elves were outraged that Gladriel had unleashed the River of Fire, and offered no help at all. Gladriel then contacted Nikolaus, to tell him of their predicament and that they were headed to Whitehall. Nikolaus replied that he was heading to the wild elves to recover his stuff, and was in a village to the north east.

The group marched hard until they came to a small farm. They warned the farmers of the fire raging unchecked in the forests to the east, and of the danger it posed to them. They were distraught when they learned they must flee, for they had no money to build a new farm or even with which to buy food. Gladriel handed them ten gold coins and bade them go by the grace of the Sunbrand. He also asked if they had any horses the party might use, for they were on a desperate mission.

The farmers were overjoyed from the gift of gold, and gladly gave the party their three draft horses. As the farmer looked expectantly at Gladriel again, he gave them forty more gold for the steeds, and the group made haste to the nearest village. In town, the group learned that the town's healer had taken a bad head wound as the building he was in collapsed during the earthquakes which followed the River of Fire's birth. Gladriel found the man and cured him of his wounds, and made his enfeebled mind whole again. As he regained his wits, the man cast down his eyes, saying that he was unworthy of calling himself a healer given his failure and the greatness of Gladriel's power.

Gladriel placed a hand upon his shoulder and said simply that the man's work was important enough that the gods had healed him so that he might continue his good deeds. There was no shame in that. Uplifted, the healer strode forth from the hut and began aiding the villagers again. Argyle and Gladriel helped heal some minor injuries, and soon the small community was abuzz with praise for the strangers.

The party asked if there were any horses to be had, and the town leader told them he could have three for them in the morning. The group also learned that Nikolaus had been through this village a few days before, and had left to fetch a healer from a neighboring village on his way towards the wild elves. The party took shelter in a small inn that night, though all had nightmares again. Of the group, only Argyle was able to sleep well enough to regain his spells. The rest lay awake, unable or unwilling to sleep again.

In the morning the party again set off towards Whitehall. They traveled long and hard until they set camp that night. Again the nightmares plagued them, though both the clerics were able to rest and regain their spells that night. The fighters had not slept since they had descended into the pit under Nymriell's tower, and looked pale and haggard in the morning. Quinn was also unable to sleep, and he felt defenseless without his usual complement of spells.

As the party prepared to break camp, Gladriel communed with his gods for guidance. As the holy warrior prayed, a nightmare was played out in the light of day. Two enormous spider demons appeared with grotesque bodies over twenty feet long and fangs dripping foul poison. No longer content with merely tormenting the party in their dreams, Nymriell had summoned the demons to slay the arch mage's most hated party members. The vile creatures sprang to attack Jilas and Gladriel. Their mighty claws maimed the hapless elves, and their poison worked its evil on poor Jilas. Gladriel fared a little better, though he was badly wounded by the surprise attack. Both beasts attempted to grab the elves, but were unsuccessful.

As the demons crossed the silks covered in protective glyphs that Gladriel had laid around the party, a celestial bear was summoned to their aid. Quinn drew forth his mighty Staff of Fire and called a wall of fire into being between the party and the demons. This wall unfortunately bisected the bear, who was burned to a crisp. Gladriel stopped his conversation with Elohna and instead called upon her divine grace for fire. A blazing column of holy fire roared down upon the two demons, burning their vile carapaces. Rommel and Grey sprang into the fray, landing mighty blows upon the foul creatures. Rommel critically hit a demon, wounding it terribly. Grey's blade also did good work.

The demonic spiders moved through the wall of fire and attacked Gladriel and Jilas again. In doing so, they triggered two more silks, and more bears leapt to the attack, though their claws and teeth were little match for demon armor. The holy warrior narrowly dodged the horrific maw of the creature, but was not so lucky against its claws. It tore into the elf and pulled his shield from his arm. Quinn burned the beast with a fireball from his staff and fetid smoke rose from its singed carapace. Gladriel called forth a divine bolt of searing light which tore through the creature, killing the demon.

Fate, however, was not kind to Jilas in his fight. The demon struck him with both claws, gravely wounding the valiant ranger. It then bit him, doing enough damage to knock him unconscious. Alas for its foul venom did its evil work on Jilas, and he perished as the beast mauled him. Thinking Jilas unconscious, Argyle raced to his aid with a curing spell, which he believed did some good, though the elf didn't appear to regain consciousness. The demon then turned and raced through the wall of fire... and disappeared into thin air with Jilas' body in its evil clutches.

Two smaller spider demons appeared and moved to attack the group. Rommel and Grey laid into them, and the bears proved more effective against the smaller opponents. Rommel again struck critically, dealing terrible damage to the evil beasts. The fight raged on for several seconds longer, but the smaller demons soon fell against the rage of the party. As each died, it collapsed into itself in a burst of noxious smoke and was gone.

The party stood alone in the field. Jilas was gone. Argyle raged, shouting to Nymriell that he would track him down and kill him horribly. With face averted from his companions, Gladriel wept for his fallen comrade and vowed that he would get him back. The group hastily broke camp, least more demons should appear.

While they packed, Gladriel communed with his gods again, to learn of Jilas' fate and figure out a plan of rescue. He learned the sad truth that the elven ranger was indeed dead, and he could not discern where his body was being kept. He did not share this dire news with the party, saying only that if they could find Jilas, there was still hope. For Gladriel knew that his gods now trusted him with the power to bring souls back from the dead.

In silence the party rode on, constantly thinking of their fallen friend. Argyle was so angered by the arch mage's cowardice and his own inability to protect his friend that he did not bother to heal his own wounds. Finally Gladriel stopped him and healed the dwarf's injuries, saying that if they were to help Jilas, he needed the group to survive whatever else Nymriell might throw at them. Argyle sat silently for a few hours, then remembered a clerical spell of endurance that would help the party push their horses harder so that they might reach Whitehall sooner. The spell would also have an added benefit to the exhausted party when they tried to sleep at night.

As soon as Argyle was done imparting divine endurance in the party and their horses, the group broke into a gallop, and rode hard until night fell upon them. They took refuge in another small village they found and waited for the next move by their dreaded enemy. That night, the dreams were worse than ever. He tormented each of them with the death of Jilas, taunting them with their inability to save their friend. Most of the group woke screaming again and soon the village was awake with them. One man banged on the door and Rommel opened it - the man looked took one look at the haggard and belligerent Rommel, and politely closed the door.

The next morning, the group was able to trade in their draft horses for more riding horses, and were thus able to make much better time. They again rode hard, pushing their steeds to the limit of their now divinely inspired endurance. Towards the middle of the day, the group spotted a man hiding in a tree over the path, and suspected him for a bandit. When hailed, he hid. Not wishing to waste any time on the petty thieves of the area when their friend was being desecrated on some plane of hell, the party cut a wide path around the ambush through the forest.

On through the day the party rode until they at last had to set camp for the night. As with all other nights, each member was visited by horrific dreams that left them weak and psychically injured. On the last watch, Argyle communed with his god while Rommel kept watch. After ten minutes of chanting, Argyle was graced with a divine presence to answer his questions. He asked if Jilas was dead, and the reply was "yes". At the same time he was in the trance, Jilas stumbled from the forest towards the party.

The ranger walked unsteadily, and headed straight towards Rommel. Rommel was overjoyed to see his comrade and reached to wake Gladriel to tell him of this great news. As he did, the world went silent. Jilas approached Rommel, pulled his sword, and struck him a mighty blow to the gut. Stunned, Rommel grabbed his ruined abdomen and staggered backwards. Instincts took over and he drew his great sword with which to defend himself. As he looked closer, he realized that Jilas had a vacant look to his eyes, and he moved with the shambling gait of a zombie.

Aghast at the unholy abomination that stood before him, Rommel struck out with his mighty blade, and dealt a mighty blow what had once been Jilas. Grey woke to this sight, and sprang to Rommel's aide. Gladriel also woke to see another nightmare playing out before his very eyes. In his fatigued state, Quinn woke only to believe this was another nightmare and went back to sleep. Argyle snapped out of his divine trance and beheld the worst desecration he could imagine.

The Jilas zombie and Rommel traded blows again to devastating effect. Gladriel regained his senses, and summoned the holy power of the Sunbrand to drive back the abomination inhabiting his friend's body. The Jilas zombie quailed before the might of Gladriel's gods, and as it turned to flee, Rommel cut it down. Jilas' body fell into two pieces and lay still.

The rest of the party rubbed their eyes to make sure that this had indeed happened, and was not just another horrific nightmare. Somewhere far away, Nymriell laughed an evil cackle of glee. Argyle cursed the ancient mage for his evil. Gladriel inspected the sad remains and left Grey and Quinn standing vigil while he walked over to Argyle to discuss the fate of their fallen comrade.

As Gladriel approached Argyle, the dwarf was surprised to see a gleam of hope in the elf's eyes. Gladriel said, "Nymriell has done a terrible thing by desecrating our friend this way... but he has also done us a great favor, for now we have Jilas' body. My gods have bestowed upon me the power to raise him from the dead. Let us make haste and bring him back to rejoin our quest."

At these words Argyle stood almost speechless. Unbeknownst to him, Gladriel had uttered a true blasphemy against the very foundations of the dwarf's religious beliefs. The Order of Endings specifically forbid any soul from coming back from the blessed afterlife. In their eyes, a resurrected person was an undead abomination, no better than the foul zombie the party had battled a moment earlier. And a cleric who called back a soul from the afterlife was just as evil, and should rightfully be slain.

A mighty argument ensued as the faiths of both men clashed. Argyle vehemently refused to allow such a desecration to be preformed upon any body, much less a dear friend. Gladriel argued with all his heart that Jilas' work on this world was not done, and that if Elohna empowered him to bring their friend back, it could not possibly be an unholy act. The argument turned towards the theological as Argyle protested that Colom stood at the gates of the afterworld and would not allow Elohna to bring forth Jilas' soul. Gladriel said that if that was so, then Argyle should have no fear of Jilas coming back, for surely Colom wouldn't allow Elohna to do this if it was truly forbidden.

The elf and dwarf raged on for some time, much to the disbelief of the party. But the argument was brought to an abrupt and unfortunate end when Argyle decided that he must destroy the body of Jilas to prevent any chance of Gladriel carrying out such heresy. Calling upon his god, Argyle brought down a roaring column of fire onto Jilas' fallen body. Unfortunately, Quinn and Grey still guarded their comrade's remains, and were also struck by the mighty fire. What was left of Jilas was badly burned. Quinn managed to jump out of the fire's worst force, but was still badly burned. Grey wasn't as quick, and was terribly wounded by the flames.

Realizing in horror what Argyle had just done, Gladriel reacted instantly. Obviously, Colom was truly an evil god if he allowed his followers to burn faithful friends as they stood vigil. To prevent Argyle from again drawing upon the seemingly evil might of his god, Gladriel drew his own blade and struck at the holy symbol which Argyle held in his hand. His aim was true and the symbol fell to the ground in pieces. Argyle shouted in rage at this new and even more horrible desecration. The elf then attempted to beat Argyle into submission with the side of his sword.

Rommel sprang to Gladriel's side when he too figured out that treachery of Argyle. Like Gladriel, he swung at the dwarf with the flat of his great sword, and landed a pair of mighty blows upon him. Grey regained his senses, and looking over at the battle raging on, realized that something evil must have possessed Argyle. Running to the fray, he flanked Argyle and struck him a powerful blow with his bastard sword. However, unlike the other combatants, he did not bother to use the flat of his sword, and drew much of the dwarf's blood.

Argyle drew his mace and lunged at Gladriel, aiming for the flaming symbol of the Sunbrand hung around his neck. But his swing went wide as the elf dodged back. In doing this, he opened himself up to attacks of opportunity from Rommel, Grey and Gladriel. Rommel struck him again with the flat of his sword, and Grey's aim was true as well. Sliding off the blade of Grey's keen sword, Argyle slumped unconscious to the ground. Six spare seconds after the fight started, it was over.

The unconscious Argyle was quickly bound and gagged to prevent any further spell casting when he awoke. The party was extremely agitated, not knowing what had actually transpired. Gladriel used his best diplomacy to calm them down and explain why the dwarf had attacked, and almost killed Grey and Quinn. After several minutes of the holy warrior's words, the group came to believe and trust him. Leaving Grey to guard the unconscious cleric, Gladriel and Rommel returned to Jilas' burned remains.

While Rommel stood watch, Gladriel knelt by the lifeless body of Jilas. Pulling forth a brilliant diamond and laying it over the heart of his fallen comrade, the holy warrior called upon the divine majesty of the Sunbrand. Channeling the greatest powers with which he had been entrusted, the elf attempted to mend Jilas' broken body and draw his soul back to the mortal world. But he was forsaken, for the body of Jilas had be desecrated by Nymriell. Returning life to Jilas was beyond Gladriel's power.

Downcast by his failure, Gladriel rose and told the group that the only hope of bringing back their fallen friend now lay in Whitehall. Wishing to be clear of the cursed ground, the party packed their things, and rode through the night. Somewhere distant, Nymriell again laughed at their pain and plight.

The next day passed uneventfully as the party pushed their steeds beyond their normal limits. Had the beasts not been enchanted, they would have dropped, but divinely strengthened as they were, they pushed ever onwards. As night fell, the party saw Whitehall's lights in the distance. Not wishing to give Nymriell the pleasure of tormenting them further, the group rode on, reaching the gates after midnight.

As the group approached the gate, the guards hailed them. After stating their business and agreeing to the toll, the group started to pass through the city wall. But as the horse bearing its sad burden of Jilas' body passed, the guard halted the party and demanded to know what they were carrying. About this time, he noticed Argyle's trussed state, and called for other guards to come forth. After a short explanation, the guards escorted Argyle and Gladriel to the prison. Quinn lead the horse carrying Jilas towards the temple of Pelor, which stood within the King's castle. Rommel and Grey both made a beeline for the nearest Tavern, to eat, drink, and attempt to sleep.

Arriving at the temple, Quinn was admitted by an acolyte who led him to the priest on duty. A kindly man of late middle age, Tobias was dressed in simple and worn garments. Quinn told the priest of Jilas' sad fate, and begged for a place to lay his body until the morrow. The priest led Quinn to an altar where he deposited his heavy burden.

Looking at the deep circles under Quinn's eyes, Tobias asked what troubled the mage. Quinn told him that he hadn't slept in over five nights, and briefly explained that he was being tormented by evil dreams sent from afar. The priest led Quinn to the Chamber of Repose, where he would be safe for the night. As the weary mage lay down his head, he feared to sleep, but was unable to fight his body's desperation for rest. He drifted off to the first peaceful night of sleep he had experienced since the River of Fire flowed from the earth.

Rommel and Grey didn't fare as well. While they were able to find a hearty meal and decent beer, their room had no protections from Nymriell's evil magic, and both woke screaming in the night.

In the prison, Argyle was kept bound and gagged as he lay on a small cot in his cell. Gladriel was allowed to stand watch along with a few of the town guards. When a meal of porridge was brought in, Gladriel cast silence on the cell, and attempted to feed Argyle. The dwarf turned his head and refused to take anything from the elf.

A wizard brightly festooned in orange robes was admitted soon after they arrived. Introducing himself as Stephan the Orange, the wizard was extremely polite to both captive and captor alike. He then hung orange amulets about the necks of the guards and explained to Argyle that they would protect them from any hostile magic. And he also very apologetically explained that if there was any mischief, he was dreadfully sorry that the perpetrator would be immediately killed in a most unpleasant manner. With that, he bade the guards unbind the dwarf and then he left. For what was left of the night, both the dwarf and elf were able to avoid the worst of Nymriell's evil sendings, though neither rested well.

The next day, Argyle was scheduled to see the magistrate, who would hear his case. The magistrate was a distracted man with little concern for the strange matter at hand. The official barely looked up from his paperwork as he read off the charges... for a different case. Gladriel worked his diplomatic charm, and asked the magistrate what sort of "fees" were usual and customary for this town. This caught the man's attention, and the small sack of gold the elf soon handed him changed his tone considerably. He listened to the arguments of both sides, took notes, and left. His deputy would be back in a few hours to declare the will of the court.

Since it would be a while before the deputy would arrive, Gladriel went searching for the temple in which Jilas lay. Entering the abode of Pelor, Gladriel was greeted by an acolyte who introduced him to the bishop Tobias. Dressed in stately robes of silk and gold, the bishop cut an impressive figure. Quinn would be later surprised to find that the man he had met in the night was actually the bishop himself, attending to his spiritual matters in the simple garments of a priest.

Speaking of his fallen friend, Gladriel enjoined the bishop to aid the land by bringing back Jilas. Using all his diplomatic zeal, the warrior spoke of Jilas' bravery and quest to destroy the undead. He told tales of the ranger's good heart and finished simply by stating that Jilas' work on this world was not done yet. Hearing the truth in Gladriel's words, Tobias agreed to call upon Pelor to bring back Jilas, but the cost would be high. However, more than just gold, the bishop required Gladriel to swear an oath to uphold the ideals of the church of Pelor. Given that the church of Pelor held beliefs nearly identical to those of his elven gods, Gladriel agreed. Tobias was asking little of the elf that he did not already gladly do in the name of the Order of the Sunbrand.

Of the ten thousand gold the bishop asked for his services, the party was able to immediately pay six thousand. The rest Tobias agreed to accept within the next year. The bishop then retired to the room where Jilas lay, and began to pray. Holy white light streamed forth from under the curtains to the room. Within, the body of the fallen ranger was miraculously made whole and undamaged.

Far away, in a happier plane of existence, Jilas' spirit was enjoying his freedom from the world's harsh cruelties. Yet as he strode through the unending forest of the afterlife, he felt a calling. Slowly he realized that he was being summoned back to his mortal coil and the pain that dwelt in the land of the living. He knew that he could resist the call and remain forever in bliss under the trees of eternity. But he also felt a deep obligation to return and make right the woes of the world. So he forsook his bliss and fell back to the painful world of mortals.

Awaking to blinding light and cold, Jilas heard the soft voice of the bishop. "Why are you here?" Thinking for a while, Jilas finally replied that he was here to help return the forest to its natural balance. The bishop then asked "What is more important, good or balance?"

Thinking longer on this, Jilas realized that if the undead menace was ever to be defeated, good must prevail, and said as much. Tobias nodded and helped the elf rise from the altar. Sight slowly returned to Jilas' eyes, and he stepped from the room into the darkened foyer beyond. Gladriel emerged from the darkness and embraced his companion, deeply glad that the force of good had regained a trusted ally. And while it was not his own gods that brought back the elven ranger, at least it was a sun god whose power resurrected Jilas.

Elsewhere, Quinn was busy finding the local mage's guild so that he might tutor and learn new powers. After a long and annoying interview, and a pile of paperwork, the sailor finally found what he sought. He made it clear that he wanted to speak with a high level wizard, as he had important information to trade. The secretary consulted her schedule and said that a meeting could be arranged the next week. With frustrated irony in his voice, Quinn said, "I don't think you understand. You see, I'm on a rather tight schedule - I'm due to have a near fatal nightmare tonight."

A small bag of gold and a few minutes later, Quinn stood in a perfectly mirrored spherical room that was impervious to scrying or other magical intrusion. With him was a member of the Wizard's Council, a vastly powerful mage who wished to know of the information to which Quinn had eluded. After much discussion, Quinn finally disclosed some of the important details of what happened under Nymriell's castle, and just who it was that was hunting the party. The wizard knew of Nymriell, who had been a member of Whitehall's Wizard Council two hundred years earlier. While there was little he could do to help the party in this matter, he suggested Quinn speak with Larnel, who was another member of the Wizard's council. And the wizard suggested that the party continue to take refuge in the temple's Chamber of Repose. In fact, an "anonymous donor" would pay for a month's stay, but that was all he could do to help.

Elsewhere, Rommel and Grey had returned to the temple and greeted their newly arisen friend. Gladriel went back to the jail to await the deputy. As he entered the room, he heard a familiar and rousing dwarven song, but much to his surprise, there were three voices in the chorus. Argyle had charmed his way into the hearts of the guards, though they quickly became silent as the elf walked into the room. After a long wait, a bureaucratic deputy arrived to read the judgement of the court. Argyle would have to sign an affidavit renouncing his belief in the tenants of the Order of Endings, or he must leave the Kingdom and never return.

Appalled that any would demand of him to forsake his faith, Argyle asked to speak with the bishop of the town. After a while, the Tobias arrived and a long theological discussion began. Similar in subject matter to the hot-headed argument that took place over Jilas' dead body, but calm and rational, the two holy men debated the fundamental difference in their faiths. To Argyle, resurrection was no better than creating undead abominations. In fact, his sect was able to affect the resurrected just as if they were undead, proving their unholy nature. But Tobias couldn't agree with this, for Pelor had just that day imbued him with holy power to bring back Jilas. There was a difference between resurrection and creating undead, and the state sanctioned the view of the church on this matter. In fact, several members of the Wizard's Guild had been resurrected and even the King himself had been brought back to life at least once.

So the decree of the court stood. Argyle had little choice but exile, and he would leave the next day under armed escort. Saddened that his former friend and ally would not see the folly of the Order of Ending's beliefs, Gladriel left the jail. His hopes of forging a great alliance between the dwarves and elves to fight together in the coming Great War were crushed. The dwarves were heretics, and they would be forever unredeemed for their cowardice in the last conflict.

Thus the paths of the holy men forever parted, never to be rejoined except perhaps in battle should they ever meet again. And from such a battle only one would walk away.

Not too far from the jail, Rommel and Grey had found Nikolaus, and soon the whole group was together again, telling strange tales of the last week and its unexpected turns. The merchant had done well selling the excellent wine of the village in which Gladriel had cured the healer. Nikolaus had also met with the wild elves before heading back to Whitehall. They held little love for the party, since they knew of the group's involvement with the ravishing of the land. Hearing this was no surprise, for Gladriel had attempted to gain their aid through his sending many days before

Upon hearing of the group's dangerous predicament with Nymriell, Nikolaus suggested that he find what he could in the local rumor mill. Perhaps there lay a route to salvation through an old enemy of Nymriell, or some weakness of the mage. Gladriel agreed, but then bade his friends farewell for he must go to meet with his commander. This said, he strode off towards the city wall, beyond which Lieutenant Commander Melinar awaited. Nikolaus also departed. Rommel, Grey and Jilas went to a tavern to see if they could learn any information. Across town, Quinn struggled through his entrance exam with the Guild's examination board. Graced with divinely inspired intelligence by Gladriel's hand, Quinn passed with flying colors.

In the dark alleys of Whitehall, Nikolaus started working his leads and garnered many useful tidbits. He learned that in the evening, a charity ball would be held, and that many important society members would be in attendance. Through his great cunning, Nikolaus soon was present at the ball, digging up what dirt he could. He learned many things, including rumors that the Queen was sleeping with someone other than the King.

That same evening, Quinn attended a Guild feast in an attempt to meet with Larnel, who might offer them aid against Nymriell. In a strange and fantastic great hall, the arcane masters of the town gathered. While most sat around mundane tables placed throughout the multi-leveled hall, some of the more ostentatious sat at floating tables while levitating trays brought them food. All sorts of powerful and bizarre spell casters were seen, including a mage in full plate mail and a group of almost naked socerrors. One man even glowed purple. Quinn finally found Larnel, and after waiting hours to get his attention, made contact. Though the encounter did not go particularly well at first, Quinn was finally able to pay the mage's assistant to set a meeting date for the next day at 1:45.

Little did Quinn realize that the assistant meant 1:45 am, and in the early hours after midnight, the young sailor was teleported from the warmth of his bed to the commanding presence of Larnel. The meeting went well, and the council member agreed to do what he could if Quinn could find information to disgrace his rival Quintas, who sat at the head of the Wizard's Council and was the King's personal protector. Thus buoyed by the first thin thread of hope he had in a week, Quinn returned to the temple and told him companions of the good news.

Earlier in the evening beyond the city walls, Gladriel met with Melinar, commander of the Western Front. As Gladriel approached the meeting spot, he stepped into a clearing. Before him was arrayed a host of white-clad holy warriors astride fine war horses draped in elven mail barding. At their head sat Melinar, a proud and scarred wood elf of great stature. Gladriel approached and knelt before the host. As one, the knights drew their brilliant blades and saluted the weary elf. Melinar's blade burned bright with a holy white flame, the brilliance of which made even the host seem grey by comparison. Gladriel rose and returned the salute. Glad was his heart to be once again be in the company of the holy Order.

"Hail exalted one!" spoke Melinar. "The gods have smiled upon your actions, and have sent us forth. Come and let us hold council." With that, he dismounted and led Gladriel to a pavilion made of fine white silk. As they entered the tent, the sounds of the world outside became muffled and quiet, for the pavilion was enchanted with powerful magics. Melinar turned and looked long at his subordinate. A gleam of pride sparkled in his eye as he said at last, "In the last several hundred years, none in the Order have risen as fast as you, Gladriel. Your deeds are known even to Corellon and Elohna, who sent me a vision of your unleashing the River of Fire."

To this, Gladriel said simply, "I am honored by your words, Melinar. But the glory of my deeds belongs solely to Corellon and Elohna, for I am but an instrument of their will." The elder elf smiled slightly, and replied that such words confirmed his mission. With that he bade the younger elf to kneel, which he did. From a fine wooden case, Melinar drew forth a long bundle, swaddled in cloth.

As Melinar unwrapped the fine damask cloth from his treasure, a bright light burst forth. In his hands, he held a Lesser Blade of the Sunbrand. Like Melinar's own sword, the sword he now held was fashioned of the finest mithril-steel. Its quillions were a crescent moon, and its pommel was an eternal flame. The blade was sheathed in holy white fire, which lit the room with its brilliance. Upon seeing such a rare and wonderful weapon, the breath stopped in Gladriel's throat.

Melinar began to recite the oath of the Order, the same words the original seven champions swore on the field by Mirithrond's funeral pyre. As he did this, Gladriel repeated the words, the same words that he had uttered as a boy back in Glimmervale Forest as he was inducted into the Order. But now the blade of the Sunbrand was touched upon his shoulders with each verse. Though the flame burned bright, its holy power did not harm him. As the oath ended, Melinar sunk to his knees in front of Gladriel.

"As your commander I have knighted you. But it is as your brother and equal that I give you this Sunbrand. You are now a Champion of the Light and all shall know you by your blade." With that, he handed Gladriel the burning sword.

Rising, Melinar turned from Gladriel and said, "I know of the grave danger you are in so far away from our forest haven. Now that you stand with me as a peer, I offer you a command back in the Homeguard. It would be a great honor... and you would be safe in Glimmervale, for even the powerful Necromancer who hunts you would be no match for the full Army's might."

"I am honored by your words," said Gladriel. "But my place is out here, on the front lines of this war against our ancient foe. I know that my days may be short, but I would not return to command our men while my duty lies elsewhere."

Melinar smiled again, this time fully. "I expected you to say as much. Your words bring honor to the Order, Gladriel. But tonight let us speak no more of the troubles of the land. For you are among friends and the morrow can hold such grave words as well as this day. Let us now rejoice and be merry, for our service means little if we do not embrace the life we fight to preserve!" With that, Melinar threw back the door to pavilion, and the two men strode into the ranks of the knights beyond. With a mighty shout, they hailed their new peer.

Soon, fine elven mead was passed around, and much merriment was had by all. For the first time since he had left Glimmervale, Gladriel was truly happy. The hard events of the last week eased their grip on his mind, and he reveled with his fellow elves until the dawn blessed them with its warm glow.

Back within Whitehall, the night held less joy for the other members of the party. Rommel and Grey continued to haunt the taverns. As the night wore thin, Grey grew bored of the drunken ramblings of those at the bar, and went outside to refresh himself. He was far from the lands he had sworn to protect, and longed to be back out amongst the forest. He cursed the day that he had joined the party, for now he was doomed to hide like a coward in the safety of the town walls.

As he paced the alley behind the tavern, he came upon a prone figure and two men bending over him. Thinking them thieves, Grey called for them to show themselves. They didn't take kindly to the stranger's orders and a brutal fight ensued. Grey's arm was badly injured, but within seconds the bandits lay still in pools of their own blood. The prone man was found to be alive, but unconscious from excessive drink.

Grey left the ugly scene and found a fountain in which to wash the blood from his clothes prior to returning to the temple. As he washed, he heard a noise high above from a tower. Turning his face upwards, he saw a lady flitting from shadow to shadow along a wall that connected the tower of Quintas the mage to the curtain wall of the castle. Thinking little of it, Grey wearily returned to the sanctuary of the temple and fell into a blissfully restful sleep.

Within the bar, Rommel bought drinks for many, though it cost him little, for the beer was cheap and weak. While talking about hunting with one of the men in the tavern, his companion let slip the fact that there was a dwarf in the area that hunted mages. The dwarf Hargan was sometimes seen at the Drunken Boar tavern, and lived outside the city in a small valley not far away. Rommel learned little else of use, and returned to the temple as dawn broke. The acolyte that greeted him was none too happy that Rommel stank of beer, but admitted him regardless.

In the early afternoon, the party regrouped and discussed what they had learned. It was not long before Quinn noticed the new sword hanging on Gladriel's belt and that fact that a holy symbol no longer hung about his neck. Upon Quinn's request, Gladriel drew the mighty Sunbrand he now carried. All were silent in the party... except Rommel who said he wanted a better sword, too.

After some discussion, the party agreed to sell the items they had accumulated in their travels and rearm as best as possible. Nikolaus suggested a local magic store he knew to be fair, so Gladriel, Rommel and Jilas headed off to take care of the business. In Leonard's Little Shop of Magic, Gladriel was able to negotiate a good price for the suit of scale armor they had found in Nymriell's dungeons, plus the swords they took from Zyryn's guards. They also traded in Rommel's keen great sword for a more powerful great sword. Gladriel sold his old flaming sword, since he had little need of it. Jilas was soon better armored with a magical shield and ring of protection, and Rommel wore a new amulet of Great Will.

Unsure of what would befall them next, nor how long they would be safe within the temple, the party waited. Between the information gathered by Quinn, Nikolaus and Rommel, they were no longer utterly without hope, though they knew that Nymriell was far from done with them. Perhaps, just perhaps, if all things went well, they would not longer be hunted men in the near future...

Player's Choice award: Mike (for playing his character true to form, despite the fact that it meant Argyle would have to leave the campaign)

Players present: Mike, Aaron, Martin, Dana, Michael, Chet

he Impossible Happens
26th of Midfall, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
March 13, 2002

The party languished in the city of Whitehall, knowing full well that Nymriell waited for them should they ever leave their refuge. In the morning of the 26th of Midfall, Vlage returned to town and found the restless group gathered in the temple of Pelor. With him was Fenris, a half-wild-elven druid. Both had been sent by their respective orders to relay a harsh ultimatum. The party must close the Portal of Fire in three weeks or the wild elves and Order of the Mobius Grove would hunt them down. Vlage was apologetic about the message, but Fenris was not, for he had lost much dear to him in the terrible fires caused by Gladriel's actions. In fact, Fenris had called for the death of the party during his order's meeting.

A long and acrimonious debate ensued. Gladriel was unrepentant for the cleansing and outraged the druids further by saying everyone must make sacrifices in this war. In return, the druids characterized his actions as worse than the undead plague besetting the land. After many more rash words, the group returned to civil discussion. The crux of the matter was that while Nymriell still hunted them, leaving the refuge of the city will mean certain death... or worse. So even if the party wanted to close the portal, they couldn't.

After reaching an impasse in the situation, the druids left the party to attend to their own business. The party spent much of the day looking for new ways to gather allies. In a interesting departure from his hack and slash history, Rommel decided to study the arcane arts and went to the Wizards' Guild with Quinn to begin his schooling. After many long hours of filling out paperwork, paying outrageous fees and taking difficult tests, Rommel was admitted and assigned a master. Which was ironically a woman wizard who had never taught before.

That night, Vlage and Fenris decided to take matters into their own hands and attempted to scry on Nymriell. To cast this spell, Vlage needed a natural pool. Since none could be found within the town's walls, the druids left the city and ventured into the forest. Neither had taken the party's words of warning seriously so they did not know the grave danger in which they had placed themselves.

As Vlage knelt over a calm pool in the darkness, he started to chant and call potent natural energies to him so that he might see Nymriell. Yet he saw nothing, for Nymriell was powerfully warded against any such attempt. Suddenly the placid surface of the pool was broken as three zombies and a horrible nighthag burst forth. Their attempt to spy upon the arch mage had alerted him to their location, and Nymriell had sent the undead to repay the favor of announcing their position.

The fight that ensued was bloody and went badly for the elves. Fearing multiple attacks of opportunity, the druids did not turn into hawks and fly away. Instead they drew their blades and joined melee with the abominations. The tide of battle swiftly turned against them, and Vlage soon lost a hand to one of the zombies. The hideous nighthag also caused great trouble with her strength stealing powers. Weakened by the nighthag, and overcome by the blows of the zombies, Vlage fell lifeless to the ground. Fenris fought on, but was gravely wounded. Fortunately, he was able to kill the nighthag before she worked more of her evil magic on him. But one of the zombies critically struck Fenris and took his hand as well, leaving him inches from death. Fleeing for his life, Fenris realized that the remaining zombies were unable to move as fast as he could run. Once out of their reach, the wild elf used magical freezing sling stones to destroy the vile undead from a distance.

Fenris sent an animal messenger to his human mother in Whitehall, and she alerted the town guard. Five hours later, they arrived at the location where the fight had taken place. In the meantime, Fenris had done his best to preserve the two severed hands, and sat watch over Vlage's corpse.

The rest of the party soon awoke to learn of the death of their companion, and all gathered round his fallen body. Fenris negotiated with Tobias to reattach his own severed hand. While this healing took place, Gladriel drew his brilliantly flaming sword and approached Vlage's still form.

Kneeling over the fallen druid, Gladriel started to chant words of divine power. Then to the amazement of the onlookers, Gladriel grasped the burning blade of the sunbrand and put his head down upon its burning pommel. The holy warriors words became louder and he prayed for his friend's return to life. As the chanting came to a crescendo, he gripped the handle of the sword and smote Vlage's still form with the flat of the blade, once on each shoulder, then upon his chest. Then silent, he waited.

In the magnificent forest of the afterlife, Vlage felt the call back to the world of the living. Leaving the majesty of his new realm, he turned towards the harsh tasks that lay ahead in the land of the mortals. His soul fell back to earth and he awoke on the hard stone floor of the temple with Gladriel peering down at him. The holy warrior's eyes gleamed as he said, "My gods have chosen to return you to life so that you may continue your mission and aid the land. Consider this before your further condemn my deeds, for the same gods whom have brought you back have also sanctified my actions." With that, the holy warrior turned and left the room to return to his prayers.

Unbeknownst the group, Gladriel had been praying for guidance to create a dangerous (some might say suicidal) plan to kill Nymriell. But the holy warrior needed many things and help to implement his plan, and so he enlisted the aid of Rommel and Quinn by using sending spells to communicate without Nymriell's knowledge. Over the following days, each would nonchalantly gather important scrolls and items needed to carry out the plan, all the while fervently praying that they wouldn't do it, since it would probably mean their destruction.

Gladriel met with several magic merchants and again using sending, duped the scrying Nymriell into believing he had bought mundane scrolls of healing when he was really gathering a highly specialized group of spells needed to attack the arch mage. Using similar tactics, Gladriel also enlisted Tobias' assistance, who was kind enough to sell an important scroll to Gladriel on credit, and also cast a few spells upon Gladriel, Quinn and Rommel.

Meanwhile, Nikolaus was working his connections, and made acquaintance with a friend of the younger princess. He attended more parties and learned more details about the political intrigues taking place in Whitehall. He even shadowed Valmoris and followed him into the Queen's tower after the ambassadorial ball. Clearly, Valmoris was the person rumored to be overly affectionate with the Queen, though Nikolaus choose to keep this information secret.

While Nikolaus was sneaking about the places of power, Jilas decided to experience the local fare of Whitehall. He and Gladriel went looking for Hargan, the dwarf rumored to be a "mage hunter" in the Drunken Boar Tavern. While there, a beautiful woman dancer started performing on the stage in a butterfly costume. Jilas and Gladriel were both entranced by her dancing, and some subtle magics were no doubt the cause. After the first dance, Gladriel regained his composure and continued to ask about the dwarf. Jilas, however, gave in to the dance, and was soon putting many coins upon the stage. After the next few dances, she introduced herself as Gleaudra to Jilas, and they eventually left the tavern together.

While Jilas discovered civilization's appeal in Gleaudra's embrace, Gladriel found a man who represented Hargan. After paying a sizable "fee", the man set up a meeting between Gladriel and Hargan for the following night. The next morning Jilas returned to the temple. The coins in his purse had been replaced by an ear to ear grin. Of the night, he'd say little, except that he insisted Quinn tattoo him with the image of a woman with butterfly wings. Quinn agreed, but said he must see the dancer before he could create an accurate likeness, so the two planned to return that night to the Drunken Boar.

During the day, Quinn and Rommel spent more time in the Wizards' Guild. The two also met with Laranell, the arch mage with the room outside of time. To enlist Laranell's further aid, Quinn gave him the spell book the party discovered in the icy depths of lake Chilblain, which greatly interested the book collecting arch mage. As Quinn was leaving, he asked for a scroll needed for Gladriel's plan, which Laranell gladly gave him without even looking up from the high elven text. Elsewhere, Vlage and Fenris decided to contact their order, and had a bird carry a note to them.

That night, much of the party returned to the drunken boar. Jilas and Quinn took front row seats, and Gleaudra was soon dancing upon the stage. Both men were instantly entranced, and many more coins left Quinn's purse that night. Jilas too would have gladly given the dancer all his coins, but his purse was empty from the last encounter with Gleaudra. After a few dances, Quinn and Jilas went backstage into Gleaudra's changing room, where Quinn tattooed Jilas while the dancer posed. As soon as Jilas returned to the room with his fresh tattoo, other drunken patrons insisted they too wanted likenesses of the beautiful dancer. So Quinn set up shop amongst the beer mugs and proceeded to do a brisk business with Gleaudra's help. Together, they each earned over 700 gold that night, and planned to do the same the next night.

While the sailor worked his art upon the drunken flesh of the patrons, Gladriel met with the surly dwarf Hargan. After giving Gladriel an amulet to protect against scrying, their conversation was short and to the point. Hargan specialized in killing powerful wizards, as their arcane powers had little effect on his innately anti-magical person. He and his wife had killed Jerald, the former head of the Wizard's Council, which lead to Quintas filling the vacancy. Unfortunately, Hargan's wife was caught, and had been imprisoned in the dungeon ever since. He wanted her release desperately, and was certainly willing to deal with Nymriell if the party could free her.

Outwardly neutral, Gladriel was appalled at what he had discovered. Like Argyle, Hargan was a member of the Order of Endings. But quite unlike their honorable former companion, Hargan was an assassin. Hargan seemed to take orders from Quintas, who Gladriel suspected was partly to blame for the events in Osskit. Leaving the dwarf, Gladriel vowed to put his own plan in motion instead of enlisting the aid of a presumably evil assassin. The holy warrior knew it was better to die honorably than live with such a deed upon his head.

The next morning, the party gathered in the temple to discuss their options. It appeared that they had made little progress and would be unable to journey to seal the Portal of Fire. While they were discussing their options, a bird flew through the window bearing a scroll. It landed near Vlage, who assumed it bore the reply from his masters. He took the scroll and started to read it. Alas, for Nymriell had intercepted the bird and replaced its cargo with a nasty present. A strange and crazed look clouded Vlage's face. The druid dropped the scroll, drew his scimitar and attacked! Somewhere far away, Nymriell chuckled to himself as the party fought each other once again.

Quinn figured out that Vlage was somehow under Nymriell's control, and the group worked to subdue him. After a few rounds of combat, Vlage became uninterested in fighting and Jilas was able to disarm him. The party then trussed the insane druid. Gladriel attempted several mind restoring spells, but the power of the curse upon Vlage was too strong. Fenris was enlisted to watch over the addled Druid.

Gladriel decided that the time to spring his plan was nigh upon them. Using sending, he told both Quinn and Rommel to be ready, for that night they would spring the trap. Leaving the temple, he then set out to finish gathering the last items needed. Rommel returned to the Guild and finished his accelerated training schedule. He passed his final exam with perhaps not flying colors, but certainly he was now capable of calling upon the arcane arts to aid him in combat. He, like Quinn, also took an oath to never use his magic against the kingdom or any of its people.

The night arrived slowly, and with it came the beginnings of Gladriel's plan. While "praying" over dinner, he cast several spells on Quinn and Rommel, then retired to the temple to pray. Rommel and Quinn returned to the bar, and Quinn again set up his tattoo parlor. The night passed slowly, with Quinn working his art upon many more patrons, and again earning a handsome reward. Rommel sat and ogled the beautiful Gleaudra, knowing that it might be his last night alive.

As dawn broke, Gladriel wandered back to the tavern and sat down with the exhausted Quinn and Rommel. He began to talk at great length about boring historical accounts of a particular battle in which the Sunbrand's forces were greatly outnumbered yet emerged victorious after a small contingent of the army sacrificed themselves in a desperate flanking attack upon their foe's generals. Rommel grew bored with the elf's tale, and after another ale, he nodded off to sleep at the bar. Amazingly, Nymriell didn't use the opportunity to cast nightmare upon the sleeping fighter. After another hour of talking, Quinn and Gladriel woke up Rommel and headed for the edge of town under the pretense of looking for the druids.

As they got near the gate, they sat down upon a bench and again began discussing their plight, and how hopeless it was. Between his hard studies at the Guild and the long night at the bar, Rommel was soon snoring as he slumped against the wall. This time, Nymriell took the bait, and cast nightmare upon the helpless Rommel. As his dreams turned to horrible visions of Vlage's death and return, Rommel started to moan and thrash.

Taking his cue, Gladriel quickly cast dispel evil upon the afflicted fighter. The evil spell lifted from him, and he awoke quickly. Far away, in a dungeon underneath High Lake, Nymriell was stunned from the backlash of Gladriel's spell. He slumped to his dais, unable to do anything for almost two hours. But he wouldn't be alone for long.

Back in Whitehall, Gladriel cast several more spells upon himself, Quinn and the now wide awake Rommel. Gladriel then pulled forth a scroll of discern location, and calling upon his gods for luck, cast the spell. His divine luck allowed him to successfully cast the powerful magics contained on the scroll, and soon he knew exactly where Nymriell lay stunned. He communicated this to Quinn, who also pulled out a scroll. From it, he cast teleport without error upon the three, and the world shifted about them.

The bright sun of day was replaced by the ruddy glow of torches as the three stood now in the inner-most chamber of Nymriell's stronghold. Before them lay the helpless arch mage. To one side of him stood three demonic retrievers, their evil carapaces glinting in the dim light. To the other side hovered two wraiths and a mighty six armed skeleton. Wasting no time, Quinn rushed forward to cast another spell from a scroll. As soon as he neared the dais upon which Nymriell lay, flames leapt up and engulfed Quinn, Gladriel and Rommel. The holy warrior's wards protected him from the flames, but the other two party members were moderately burned.

Quinn jumped out of the flames to where Nymriell lay, ready to cast his spell upon him. But Nymriell had set a trap for such a move, and Quinn was instantly stunned. As he slumped to the ground, Gladriel cursed - this was going to be a much tougher fight than he had hoped. Drawing forth a scroll, the holy warrior cast pass the years upon the helpless arch mage, but Nymriell was fortunate enough to avoid its effects. Since Gladriel was hasted, he then used his unnatural speed to turn to the closing wraiths and destroy them with the holy power of the Sunbrand. But the skeleton came on.

Rommel leapt out of the flames, and quickly cast a spell he had just learned the day before. A magical shield of force sprung up about him, and he drew his great sword to deal with the skeleton. With a battle cry on his lips, the fighter landed a powerful blow on the skeleton and the combat began. The skeleton returned Rommel's blow with six of its own. It was a terrible opponent, and many of its swords connected. While the skeleton engaged Rommel from the front, the retrievers scurried over to attack the fighter from behind. But their huge claws were unable to touch Rommel, for he was warded with protection from evil. Their demonic howls of frustration reverberated in the room.

On the dais, Gladriel cast another pass the years on Nymriell, to much better effect. The helpless wizard suddenly aged a few years, and his already withered face became even more gaunt. But he still lived. Gladriel turned back to the skeleton, and tried to turn it again. But it was too strong,. Rommel struck more powerful blows on the six armed abomination, greatly wounding it. It again returned the favor, badly wounding the fighter. The retrievers continued to be unable to attack, and they milled about in anger.

Again Gladriel cast pass the years, and again the ancient wizard got a bit more decrepit. Without his elixir of youth, Nymriell was now dangerously close to dying of old age. Rommel fought on with the skeleton, and almost destroyed it with his flurry of blows. It returned his blows and severed Rommel's leg below the knee. Falling to the ground, Rommel cursed. Drawing himself back up, he gritted his teeth and decided to try to kill the cursed horror instead of drinking his healing potion. But it got the better of him, and soon the young fighter lay unconscious on the floor.

While the battle raged on within the room, a new foe joined the fray from the corridor. Yama's voice was heard chanting, and soon thereafter a mighty hail of ice blasted down upon the party. Quinn was knocked from stunned to unconscious. Rommel was already on death's door, and Yama's attack finished the job the skeleton had started. Gladriel cursed Yama for his evil and looking with the divine vision of true seeing, spotted the necromancer hiding in the darkness at the end of the corridor. With all the hope of the party resting on his action, Gladriel cast his last pass the years spell on Nymriell, praying it would be enough.

The arch mage aged a few years more... and passed the threshold of his life prolonging magics. As the holy warrior stood over him, the stunned wizard died of old age, the only death from which there is absolutely no return. All of Nymriell's preparations against death were worthless against the aging Gladriel cast upon him. The arch mage's soul was sucked down to hell where he would be tormented for eternity by the very demons he had once forced into his own service. Poetic justice was served.

As Nymriell died, his last contingency spell took effect, and a mighty explosion destroyed his body. The flames engulfed Gladriel and Quinn's unconscious body, killing the sailor instantly. Gladriel stood unaffected as the very air around him burned with the dying fury of Nymriell.

In the corridor, Yama let out a gasp of horror as he realized that his master was no more. In rage he cast forth a crackling bolt of negative energy at the holy warrior. But Gladriel's divine magics were too strong, and the bolt bounced off of the sunbrand in his hand. Gladriel turned to Yama, and chanted loudly while whirling his sword in an intricate pattern. He then leveled the blade at his former companion. A brilliant white beam shot forth and engulfed the necromancer in holy flames. Screaming in agony, the coward Yama ran down the corridor and was gone.

The skeleton had been utterly destroyed by the blast from Nymriell, and with their master dead, the retrievers were gone as well. All that was left of the arch mage was his staff, which Gladriel bent to pick up. As soon as his hand touched it, powerful negative energy coursed through the holy warrior's body, and he recoiled. Thinking better of spending any more time in this cursed place, Gladriel gathered up the fallen bodies of his fallen comrades and pulled forth a small metal rod. Striking it upon the hilt of his sword, it vibrated with a pure, unearthly note. Chanting in harmony with this note, Gladriel shifted between the very planes of existence.

Gladriel then stood upon the hallowed ground of the Plane of Good, the home of all celestial beings and the realm of the good gods. He was overcome with the majesty of the place. He knelt over his dead friends and wept. Hours passed. Gladriel knew that he must leave this place of grandeur, but a part of him wanted desperately to stay. For here, all was goodness and light. Holiness permeated the very air and all was perfect. But it was a trap - should he stay any longer he might never leave. And Gladriel had work to do in back in the land of the mortals. So, like his companions whom he had raised from the dead, Gladriel decided to turn away from the light and return to the world of pain and toil.

But before he could go, Gladriel focused his attentions on his valiant allies Rommel and Quinn. Performing the same rites he used on Vlage, Gladriel called his companions' souls to this glorious place. Both awoke from their deathly sleep to wonders and light. Rommel and Quinn were not sure if they were alive or if Gladriel had instead joined them in the afterlife. Gladriel dispelled any doubt as his drew forth a different rod and struck it upon the hilt of his sunbrand. Unlike the pure note of the previous rod, this one sounded more base and coarse than the other. Chanting now in a more earthly voice, Gladriel shifted the group between planes again.

The three soon stood on the mundane ground of their own world, a few hundred miles from Whitehall. Gladriel then cast a new and potent spell upon the group which allowed them to travel on the very breeze itself, and within a few hours they arrived at the gates of Whitehall. They wasted no time in finding their companions and telling them the glad news.

Finally, Tobias was enlisted to remove the insanity placed upon the druid. The spell he used was potent and expensive... and the party had little gold with which to pay. Tobias agreed to accept payment later for his services, but also made it clear that this was the end of his aid. He also made it clear that he wanted the party to leave as soon as possible, since they brought nothing but trouble with them.

But the party was forever free of Nymriell's nightmares and attacks.

And there was great rejoicing!

Player's Choice award: Dana

Players present: John, Mike, Aaron, Martin, Dana, Chet

ire in the Hole
7th of Latefall, Year 1018 of the Age of Hope
April 20, 2002

A new day:

The day started off recovering from the adventure of the previous weeks and the party members happily realizing that Nymriell was no more. Their joy only tempered by the knowledge that they would soon face another great peril and have to untangle the twisted relationship between themselves and the elves and druids of the mountains.

With preparation for the next adventure in mind. Our group readied itself by selling miscellaneous items to raise funds for other, more important ones. Other affairs were tended to as well; Rommel successfully succeeded in learning Endure Elements and writing it into his spell book and sent a letter to Talmaris letting him know about the success. He also sent a note to the elves we saved from the human army to put in a good word for us with their brethren of the wood. Assuming that he was acting not of his own free will, Gladriel and Jilas send a note to Yama asking for his return and peace. Their terms simple; surrender or die. He volunteered to give-up and join us within a fortnight. Quinn finds out many things at the guild - one of the most important is that the skin of a Naga can be used to protect oneself from the effects of lava. Given the task before us, this is extremely interesting information.

Our group departs WhiteHall and thanks to Gladriel's diety, is able to wind walk to the wood-elves. (Our purpose in contacting them first is to ask if they will vouch for us and to talk to us about the Baron Traftar... If only Nikolaus was here...). We land just outside of the city center and are recognized by a sentry. He escorts us to the eleven city core. The city leaders greet us and while troubled by the news of the portal being opened, here our case and agree to vouch for our honor. We all get cleared for not being responsible for the portal (except Gladriel). The news of the Baron is less clear. The elves still question him and we will need to come back to find out more in this matte. With no further business and time of the essence, we wind walk to the mountain range where the burned out forest and blown-up mountains are. The destruction when viewed from the air is terrible and extensive. We fly towards a trail of smoke we see coming out of the west.

A chance encounter...

Getting closer, we see a large plume of smoke, a small plume of smoke and a trail of destruction between the two. At the end of the trail, we see a fire ... no, make that a magma monster... and hear a blood curdling scream. The most horrifying sight however, is a wood elf locked combat with the magma monster; A GIANT magma monster. The scream comes to our ears from the cry of the wood elf, as the magma monster's blow shatters the bones in his leg.

Landing near the melee, we charge to the rescue. We arrive to find the magma monster descending once more into the earth. Many trees are burning and a large furrow is burned into the ground. Upon our arrival, the magma monster rises back from the earth to attack the newly arrived prey. Joke's on him. However, there is no sign of the wood elf and we fear for the worse. I cast shield, Gladriel casts fire shield and Quinn releases a volley of magic missiles. Our new comrade, Fenris, fires a frost stone but sadly misses. Jilas, once again on his mission to die, charges forward putting on his helm and draws his trusty bow. The magma monster lashes out at him! It deals a great amount of damage; he survives but is seriously injured in the attack.

Quinn fires a volley of snowballs (yes, snowballs) into the magma monster - freezing a patch on its surface. Rommel readies to strike the creature with our exploding dice but waits for Gladriel to act. Gladriel runs forward and strikes the monster with a rod in an attempt to send the creature to the elemental plane of fire. Somehow, miraculously, the creature is not sent away! DRAT! Unfortunately for it, Rommel's attack succeeds, blowing huge chucks of rock and magma out of the monster. Jilas is forced to retreat, casting resistance to fire on himself as he moves to a safer position. Fenris attacks but misses again... DOUBLE DRAT! Question of the day; where can you get a +10 cold stone when you need one? From nowhere, the wood elf we came to save reappears firing arrows into the creature spawned in the depths hell. He seems a valiant warrior, which is good as he'll need all the valor he can find in his heart; his arrows burn away in mid-air prior to even striking the creature and apparently do no damage.

The creature strikes now at Gladriel. His fire shield saves him and we think deals damage back to creature. It strikes again - intent on killing the holy warrior - but misses. The next instant goes by in a flash. From just behind Rommel, Quinn sends a bolt of electricity into the creature - sending huge chunks of rock and magma into the air. Gladriel falls back and is struck by the creature. It looks as if the holy warrior will fall, but he miraculously is healed. He strikes back, creating water on top of the vile thing, doing additional damage and sending cooled magma pellets in all directions. Rommel's attack strikes a tree, fortunately not wounding himself or other party members. Jilas moves away from the group to distract the creature while Fenris strikes with his final sling stone - this one finally finding it's mark. The wood elf sends another arrow from the protection of his extra-dimension space he seems to have created in mid-air behind the magma beast.

The magma monster closes once more on Gladriel, striking him mightily and stunning him. Leaving him prone on the charred forest floor. Quinn sends another ball of lightning into the creature and blue flashes appear across it as it essentially "freezes" to death and collapses into a heap of slag. Jilas and I run to assist Gladriel, while Fenris goes to find the wood elf - or what's left of him. Fortunately, Gladriel has not been slain but rather heals himself back to a full recovery.

To our joy, we find the wood-elf alive. His name is Fon. An elf that hails from the woods near here. He appears to us as an archer/warrior. Fon was on a mission to investigate the fires and found himself face-to-face with the magma monster. His injured leg is cured by Gladriel and joins our group to close the portal and destroy all of the fire creatures we encounter.

Fire on the moutain:

However, the fires started by the magma creature are spreading and getting out-of-hand. Jilas and I decide to build a fire line to stop the spreading flames. Fenris sends a bird to request assistance from the wood elves and then turns into a beetle with huge mandibles and helps to fell trees. After the stopping the fires, Jilas and Rommel build monuments to Kord and the Arcane Guild on the smoldering pile of slag that once was the magma beast.

Somewhat exhilarated from our initial success - we head off to the source of the other plume of smoke that was viewed from the air. Hours pass as we walk down the path created by the abomination. We find no burned out trench but rather trees toppled with their roots burned - it can mean only one thing - the magma monster travels underground destroying all living flora and fauna living above the ground as it passes. This behavior is disturbing, extremely dangerous, and until now unknown to the elves combating such creatures.

Jilas's observations indicate that the monster was moving in a straight-line directly towards White Hall at about 15ft/round. Fenris thinks about things in more depth and believes that this monster escaped before the elves were able to seal the area. Just before nightfall, we find a clearing with a bit of smoke still emanating from it. The ground here is much rockier and it is clear that this is where the magma creature initially came to the surface.

Nightfall is coming and the group needs tending to. Gladriel cures Jilas and Fon to full recovery and gets some help in the form of holly berries from Fenris. While he is doing the work of his diety, Rommel tends to the immediate need of creating a secure compound for the evening and prepares for the night's watch. Amazingly, nothing attacks us for the evening despite Quinn's alert that we are being scyed. The next morning comes and we gear up for our assault on the portal.

Quinn becomes invisible and begins to fly with us towards Nymriell's castle while Gladriel wind walks the rest of the party. The night is once again approaching as we near the area we believe is the remaining bit of mountain that holds the portal and we therefore need to find a safe place to camp. Fenris solves our problem of finding a suitable area in the low light conditions by turning into an owl and scouting for a safe position to camp. Our first stop - Nymriell's ex-castle. Our findings - most excellent; total devastation! All we find are several fissures and Fenris notes that many of those have been sealed by the elves. Fenris however, spots three different fissures in the cliff that have not been sealed. Two of the fissures show evidence of fire emanating from them.

Establishing a beachhead for our assault on the portal:

We decide to camp atop a large bolder for security. Alas... to no avail. We should have known better as Nikolaus contacted Jilas through some kind of new magic (a small hand-held black talking device with little lights that go beep) to ask, "Are you dead yet?" No...not yet... however, the very next morning, six ghostly cats enter into our camp while invisible and attack. TRIPLE DRAT!

Quinn and Rommel were on watch but had little chance of seeing the cats before they pounced. In a surprise attack the cats heavily damage Fenris, Quinn, Fon, Gladriel, and Rommel. Jilas was wounded much more seriously, nearly meeting his demise and losing his right arm to the bite of one of the hell-cats. They also struck Quinn and the group a terrible blow, killing the wizard's parrot familiar. Fortunately, Gladriel had glyphs of warding that the cats triggered on their entrance into our camp. The glyphs triggered four earth elementals to help defend our position. After the first attack by the cats it was our turn to strike back. Many of us "attacked the darkness" in an attempt to smite the cats. Quinn, being the fire-wall kind-o-wizard that he is, cast a wall of fire around our position and was rewarded by the howl of burning cats and the stomp of injured elementals. However, the key problem that our foe was invisible remained... until... Gladriel's magic caused the cats to become visible.

Game time. Surrounded by fire and now visible - they were no match for our band of adventurers. Two cats were now on the boulder with us and came under a flurry of blows from our group. Rommel struck the cats twice, seriously wounding a cat just struck by Fenris. Under our onslaught, the cats decided to run away. Bad decision... their retreat provoked an attack of opportunity from our party who now surrounded the beasts. The injured cat was cut to ribbons and it's pieces held together only by Fon's arrow - which he fired at point blank range into the beast. Very interesting this Fon guy... we'll have to see what more he has up his quiver. The other cat escapes through our defenses. By the time the fire wall was taken down by Quinn all we could see were our elementals and one more dead hell cat holding Jilas' mangled, bloody, torn, ripped, mutilated, rotting, stinking, festering, maggot-ridden, gangrenous, right forearm lying in it's mouth.

The next several hours we spent watching the sun come up, mastering our arcane skills, healing and preparing for our assault on the fissures.

The Assault:

The assault begins with Fenris and Rommel going into the first fissure on point. Rommel casts dancing lights to light the way far ahead and Fenris turns into a Troglodyte. From their forward position, they come upon two demons guarding the passage. The demons are nine feet tall; hideous evil plays in their eyes as flames flicker over their foul hides and issue forth from their nostrils as they breathe. In their hands, they carry flaming swords and are very aware of our presence. At Rommel's alert, our party's first volleys issue forth. Quinn sends a ball of electrical energy into their midsts, Gladriel casts fireshield and Fon and Rommel cast shield. Rommel falls back to form a battle line with the rest of the group. Gladriel, Jilas, and Rommel hold our line protecting both Fon and Quinn. Fenris is slightly ahead on the right wall camouflaged in his Troglodyte form.

One of the creatures flys from his hiding place over 30 feet away and into our midst,, striking Gladriel with great force. A second fiend jumps from his hiding spot attacking Fenris. Apparanlty, he can see Troglodytes. His flaming sword scores a solid hit doing moderate damage to the Druid. Jilas spring attacks into a flanking position (opposite Gladriel) striking the vile creature and tearing a piece of hide from its body. At this very moment, a terrible blow tears into Quinn's back from behind. Bad move for the bad guys... Quinn moves into our ranks, turns, mutters something only to fill the dungeon entrance and area right behind us with eleven angry tentacles which emanate from the rocky floor of the fissure... Sorry hell cats. Our party is now trapped in the dungeon. We have demons to our front, a tentacle monster to our rear, and hell cats in our midst. Rommel at least seems to be in heaven.

Fon isn't. He just got grabbed by one of Quinn's tentacle's... Too much good clean fun. Gladriel's God smiles upon us once again as he makes the hell cats visible once more. Rommel strikes the demon mightily twice but takes damage each time he strikes as fire climbs up his sword, burning his flesh. The demons attack Rommel in return, brining him precariously close to death. He survives in spite their evilness - spitting in their face. Jilas attacks, hits and gets burned badly from the demon's fire. The hell cat breaks free of the tentacles and attempts to escape but decides he can't get past the tentacles and cowers against the near wall.

The fight rages on. Fon struggles in the tentacle's grasp but can not escape - that is at least until Quinn frees him by killing the tentacle holding Fon with a magic missile. Gladriel then sends a bolt of searing light into the demon directly in front of him - the light issues forth doing a massive amount of damage - dropping the creature. Rommel falls back and drinks a heal potion - bringing the mighty warrior back to full strength. The remaining demon attacks Fenris, who is now a shambling mound (what's up with this guy?! Amazing!), wounding him severely. Jilas turns his attention to the hellcat, slashing him slightly. Fenris, our mighty compost heap, delivers two HUGE slam attacks... one of them a critical doing triple damage!!! Way to go Fenris. The slam attacks a success, our walking wetland terror grapples the vile creature doing even more damage and holding it for our attacking pleasure. Yes - now Rommel seems as close as possible to Ysgard without going there!! Great fun.

The hellcat strikes but misses Jilas. Fon unloads on the demon - unleashing an arrow into its chest - killing it in Fenris' swampy embrace. Fon then unloads two more arrows into the hellcat doing a great amount of damage to the trapped beast. Gladriel strikes the beast nearly finishing the necessary work that has begun. With two blows, Rommel finishes the cat pinning the abomination to the wall. Just as a celebration is about to ensue, one of the tentacles grapples Rommel... the situation lasts only an instant as the appendage is slain by a magic missile - thank you Master Quinn.

Led by the shambling dungeon scowl, a.k.a. Fenris, we begin to explore the depths of the fissure. Moving further into its depths, our recon mound indicates that there's a noise ahead. Jilas also hears the noise and reports that it sounds like rushing water, birds, blowing wind... no one is sure. We also feel the heat in the dungeon increasing and the smell of sulfur and brimstone increasing. The passage way continues to slope down and the heat continues to increase. We stop to listen more intently and Jilas hears a high-pitched whine and notices a faint glow ahead in the darkness.

We had to look... Around the next corner we meet up with four fire elementals. These guys are so hot and bright it is impossible to look directly at them. In an instant we are surrounded and a melee ensues. Once in range, the creatures emit enough heat that we are damaged every instant we stay in their presence. Gladriel and Quinn both use their powers to send cooling waters and snow but to no avail - as all water flashes into steam before reaching our foes. Having to look away from the creatures, Rommel, Jilas and Fenris attack. Rommel's mighty great sword is guided by the almighty Kord and strikes twice; but Jilas and Fenris meet with no success.

An elemental attacks Fon but misses. Others press Gladriel and Quinn and do little to no damage. The remaining creature attacks Jilas, Fenris and Rommel - also doing little or no damage to us. Weak fools - they should flee our group as we will make quick work of them. Fon turns on his attacker, sending arrow after arrow into the flaming beast, the arrows pass through the creature striking the wall behind it. However, as they are struck, the color of their glow changes from bright red to a dull purple and much deeper red hue. . .

Just as we're having fun... Gladriel has to go and try ruin the party J. Picking up a bit of snow from Quinn's snowball attack - he attempts to banish all of the creatures to the elemental plane of fire. In a terrible howl and whooshhh! ... one of our playmates disappears. Not to be left out of all of the fun - Rommel strikes the elemental before him; destroying it utterly as it blinks out of existence. In an act of heroic valor, Quinn moves out of the fray, turns and fires a magic missile into another creature and ends it's existence on the prime material plane - only to fall unconscious from the powerful heat radiating from the remaining evil being to his side. Jilas steps over the fallen Quinn to strike the abomination, causing it to turn a deeper hue of red. The creature fights back, striking Jilas for minimal damage. Fon continues the onslaught with multiple arrow strikes and further weakens our opponent. His last arrow narrowly missing Jilas as it lodges into the ranger's shield. Gladriel steps into the killing zone and smites the final creature with a mighty blow from his holy sword. Immediately, Gladriel tends to Quinn, bringing him back from unconsciousness and near to full recovery.

On the move once again, we quickly reach the end of the fissure only to be stopped by a pool of lava ... Blocked, we decide to leave this fissure killing the remaining tentacles with our bows and head out into the light of the day and head out for the next fissure.

If you don't succeed at first, try another fissure...

We journey into the next fissure and go in to its depths at least as far as we did in the previous one. After a long exploration through the caverns, we find a corridor. It is a corridor that was fashioned not by nature, but by someone, or something's hand. The walls are of a crude stone work we've seen before - the kind of stone work found in ORC breeding pits. The corridor goes off in a separate direction from the caverns that continue onward. In one direction, the corridor goes as far as we can see, in the other, it ends nearby in a pool of lava. We press onward into the cavern continuing to explore in search of any evil denizens guarding the depths. The smell of brimstone and sulfur is similar to that of the last fissure. Ahead, Fenris hears a muddy blurping noise. Blurb... Blurb.... Blurb....

Success. Coiled in the magma just ahead, we see a creature with a human head, lizard snake-like body, bald head, with motled black and white skin. The fiend has a un-naturally evil and blood-thirty look in it's eye. The Naga lies before us!

Gladriel casts magical protection upon himself. Quinn steps forward and sends a scintillating sphere down the cavern at the cornered beast. The Naga strikes back - fire streaks out towards our position - engulfing the entire party except for Fon.

Problem... Problem... Problem...(read as the Sex Pistols song)

A fireball engulfs us - potentially dealing substantial damage. No worries, well at least from a death point of view. We all make it out except for Jilas that is injured rather badly. The problem however, is that the Naga disappears immediately into to lava before we can react.

Quinn investigates the area visually and finds a treasure chest and a saber near her lair. Using magic, Quinn moves the saber closer to the party to find that it is well made and sports a jeweled handle. The chest proves more difficult. Rommel tries pulling it towards the group with a rope and grappling hook but is unable to budge it. Gladriel and Rommel then go over to the chest to pull it to our former position. Even with our magically enhanced strength, we meet with no success. Ultimately, moving the chest isn't our goal - we hope that by moving it's treasure, the Naga will reappear once again to defend the treasure hoard.

The two keep trying to open the chest for several rounds until Rommel falls unconscious from his contact from the chest. The Naga Hag was obviously prepared for such a move on our part as it reappears just as Fenris is pulling Rommel away. Bad timing for the Naga, it also appears just in time to be attacked by Quinn's ice storm. To no avail - the ice seems to stop about ten feet short of the creature - melted by the intense heat. The Naga fights back with yet another fireball into the party. And once again, Fon is the only member of the party safely out of range. Smart guy.

This time the fireball is more devastating - knocking Quinn unconscious and grievously wounding the unconscious (and now turning blue) Rommel. Fon moves into position and fires his arrow into the Naga. The arrow sinks greedily into the Naga's fleshy chest. Jilas heals himself to full with his healing dice given to him by the once friendly Nymriell and Fenris drags Rommel to safety and away from any more fireballs. Gladriel casts a cure serious on Quinn bringing him back to the land of the living for the fourth time today. The Naga strikes again, creating a noxious cloud that tries to inflict Quinn, Gladriel, and Fon with a mind-numbing fog. Fon succumbs, his wisdom drops to zero and he falls unconscious. Rommel stops breathing....

Problem... Problem.... Problem...

Gladriel closes to attack the Naga and withstands yet another attack from the beast. Jilas casts delay poison on Rommel but to no effect, as Rommel has not yet started to breathe. Fenris (now back in his elven form) continues his check on Rommel's condition, performs first aid, and gets his breathing to resume. Quinn attempts to magically hold the Naga buts meets with no success. Gladriel charges forward scoring a solid hit on the Naga with his first hit and a critical blow on his second attack. Black icor begins to spurt from the gouge in the Naga's hid. Quinn opens up with another volley of magic missile fire only to see the projectiles ricochet harmlessly away. The Naga sinks once again into her lava lair.... A moment later, Gladriel passes out.

Problem... Problem... Problem....

Fenris keeps doing CPR on Rommel and then casts a scroll from Gladriel's belt bringing breath back to body. A cure light potion brings Gladriel sputtering back to consciousness. Gladriel then cures Rommel bringing him back to consciousness once more.

The Naga now in hiding and our group in tatters, we retreat down the roughly hewn stone corridor made by the Orcs. A short distance later, the corridor ends and our lights begin to penetrate the darkness beyond. The stillness of the air, the way the light seems to be absorbed into nothingness tells us that something... something that will shake us to the core of our existence - lies just ahead. As we pass from the end of the corridor, we emerge into a vast room and stand in horror at the site before our eyes. Before us lays the largest breeding pit any of us have ever seen or could imagine. Orcs and goblins lie dead in every direction, killed as they stood in frozen obedience as their roof collapsed upon them. The breeding slurry, broader and deeper than we have ever encounter is also a death trap for the many embryonic creatures that at one time breathed in its life-giving fluid.

A strange quietness fills the hall and party's heart. Weary from battle and with the knowledge that a very challenging quest lies ahead, the party has not the energy to be elated by the site of the dead enemy nor the knowledge that opening the portal caused the death of this (and probably many more) armies forming deep underground. The immediate thoughts of our group, turn to finding shelter and regaining our strength for the trial ahead. End of Journal.

Player's Choice award: John

Players present: John, Mike, Aaron, Michael, Dana, Chet

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