10th of Powerwind to 6th of Ulsicor (Year 333 The Dark)
Needrik as Swatulu Taki, Aw’Zinti Earthmage Huntress
Setho as Malygos Onyxian, half-elf cleric of Skylurk Fei’s Legacy
Glen as Tempest, human ex-gladiator of Tyrus
Gary as Kellan Warfang, half-orc barbarian of the Gruul Mountains
Dave as Manus Firebeard, dwarf mercenary from the Silverhome Citadel
We last left our heroes in the small town of Hermione, where they recently rescued Farsen Gorre from the depradations of the evil fey redcap under the Temple of Ares. Having feasted well, they replenished their supplies and gear; ready for adventure.
Later that night, Farsen Gorre had a weird dream. It was the same recurring dream he had since the redcap captured him. Farsen elected to tell the party about it the following Brightening.
“Through me is the sun. Through me is the banishment of darkness. Seek me in the heart of the stone.”
The party was puzzled by this aphorism and struggled with it for some time, but, in the end, they decided to head for Gate Fifteen in the Barrier Wall and make an inroad into San Simeon.
En route, they spied Sedumir, the brass dragon, circling overhead. The dragon landed and conversed with them for just under an hour. But Taki picked up something in her speech: “An abandoned slavehold you say? In the Wyrmlands?”
“Yes.” Sedumir replied, “a dragon’s flight north of my lair. Tyrus once used it to store their slaves before moving them to their emporiums. What about it?”
“This piques my interest.” Taki said, “Perhaps we can explore it and find some clues.”
So, the party said goodbye and thanks to the dragon as they turned around and went northward toward the Wyrmlands.
Several days later, while still in the Badlands, the party neared a few tents flapping in the dry breeze. As they got closer, a female dressed in a gauzy burkah and wearing a veil emerged from a tent. “Salutations and good journeys. We are the jann. We are bound to this land. Come and refresh yourselves for you have journeyed long and the weather is hot and dry.”
Manus at this point started for the tent, “Do you have any ale?”
“We have date wine, I hope that will suffice.” she answered.
“Don’t go in there, Firebeard.” Malygos whispered.
“What’s the big deal?” the dwarf asked.
“It could be a trap.” the half-elf responded.
Taki inquired further as other jann emerged from their tents with weapons lowered, “What do you mean ‘bound’ to this land?”
The janni retorted, “We are creatures of the earth. Outsiders, you name us. We are to wander these lands until called. We are servants of the shaitan… for now.”
And Taki to her, “Well, I thank you for your hospitality, but time is of the essence and we must be moving on. The Mother’s blessing be upon you.” Taki cantered through the camp and made her way to a cliff and hid behind it and looked on after realizing that the party did not follow her lead.
Manus Firebeard went inside the tent and drank some wine, but just as he was removing his trousers for some ‘personal attention’, the party left and he scurried out to catch up.
Leaving the jann to scratch their heads….
A few days later, the party finally reached the desert known as the Wyrmlands. There, over a sand dune, a blue, serpentine, form revealed itself. A few of its scales sparked as it made its way over the sand. A hint of ozone hit everyone’s nostrils. Taki whispered, “A behir…”
“No one crosses these dunes without my knowledge. This is MY territory. And I am hungry. Famished!” And the foul reptile lunged toward the party displaying its rows of needle-like teeth. Kellan and Tempest gave the behir some vicious hurts, its red blood spilling onto the sand. But it dealt out its share of damage, too, as it breathed ball lightning into the group on at least two occasions. Finally, the behir was worn down and near to death. Tempest, an ex-gladiator, designed a killing thrust with his sword and about to connect when suddenly… He stopped. The point of the blade was on the scales of his gullet, ready to rip them asunder with a thrust and a mere upward yank. The behir’s eyes were cast downward, cognizant of the coup-de-grace. “You have a choice, lizard.” Tempest breathed, “Stand down or be cut down.”
“I see.” the behir gulped, “Perhaps I was a bit hasty in attacking your group.” The lizard started inching back over the dune, “You have my permission to move through my territory… of course.”
The party was astonished. Cheers came from a few.
“What the hell is this?” Manus Firebeard yanked on his beard. “Is the fight over?”
“Of course.” Malygos replied, “Didn’t you see Tempest make him—”
“Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggh!” the dwarf screamed, axe in hand, running up the sand hill toward the behir.
The behir made a desperate slash with its claws, but did no harm as Manus clove the beast with a final plunge of his now bloodied waraxe.
Silence stilled the party as they saw him remove his weapon from the dead behir.
“There.” Manus said, “Now we don’t have to worry about this bastard anymore.”
“Nice move.” Tempest said, “Now who knows who or what we’ve pissed off by killing him.”
“Maybe he has a nearby lair where he keeps his plunder.” Kellan wondered.
“I could track his sign and see.” Taki added.
And so she did. With the party following behind. Not far from where they slew the behir they discovered its lair. High up on a promontory rock jutting from out the surrounding sands, a single cavern entrance. The behir’s home.
“It looks like forty feet or so,” Kellan remarked, “How are we gonna get up there?”
“Rope or magic.” Taki said. “And today… it’s rope!” She got out her fifty feet of silk rope and climbed up the incline using her dewclaws. She then secured the rope and called for the party to ascend.
Finally, the party were assembled in the behir’s lair. It was a large, yet simple cave with no other outcroppings or passages. They found the behir’s treasure trove and found some interesting things and some coinage. Malygos picked up a wardart. “Oh boy! Who the hell is gonna use this thing?” In his wrath, Malygos hurled the dart out onto the sands below.
“Hey!” Taki cried, “What are you doing?”
“What?” Malygos replied, “It’s a meaningless, masterwork dart.”
“We could still sell it.” Taki explained, “If it’s masterwork as you say, we could fetch at least a hundred and fifty gold for it.”
“Oh…” the half-elf said, “I didn’t know. Oops.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll pick it up on the way out.” Taki mumbled.
“Guess what guys?” Tempest inquired, “We now have a place to put that machine.”
“True, it will fit easily in here.” remarked the Aw’Zinti, “But how are we going to get all the parts up that incline?”
Kellan Warfang moved closer to Taki, “Rope or magic.”
Taki chuckled, “By that time I hope it’s magic.”
The party then holed up in the lair and healed their wounds and relearned their spells.
The next day, the party descended the cliff-face (Taki was sure to grab the masterwork wardart) and made their way northeast toward the Tyrusian Slave Vault.
In the distance, the party could see a lone, leaning stone tower, not more than twenty feet tall with some figures moving about on top. As they got closer, they saw that there were two of them at the top and they were armed with crossbows. They seemed like mongrelmen or mutants of some kind as their visages were grotesque to look upon.
The crossbowmen opened fire, shooting bolts at the party as they raced to the entrance of the tower and bashed the wooden door down. Meanwhile, Taki was casting magic missiles at the mutants. Tempest broke through the door and Manus burst in slicing and hacking mutants up the stairwell while Kellan worked on the downstairs mutants.
Malygos stayed behind to bolster the fighters and heal them when needed.
Manus and Tempest killed the remaining mutants on the top of the rook and cast their bodies to the ground then quickly rejoined the party as they slew the last mutant and burst the door into the interior of the vault.
After slaying a contingent of four mutants, they went to the next chamber where the party was suddenly drenched in a cascade of water from above. Thinking it a trap at first, the party rushed out of the room. But it wasn’t oil or poison apparently. Taki and Manus surmised that it is most likely a shower chamber for the slaves they bring in from the dusty environs.
The party pressed on, fighting and slaying more mutants. They made it past another chamber that doused them with white powder. At first they thought it was flour, or perhaps an anti-invisibility trap. Malygos surmised that it was alchemical in nature and was probably a de-lousing station for the slaves. So these white powder, wet caked ghosts (seemingly) were making their way to a slave chamber where they hacked off their chains and manacles and sent them out of the tower while the party moved down the stairs to the second level.
At that point, Taki yelled “No! Get them back here. Stop them!”
“What now?” Malygos asked.
“They’ll take our horses!” Taki reasoned.
The party then took time to stop the freed slaves and have them assemble outside the tower in the shade of The Dark.
“These steeds are ours. Do not take them.” Malygos made it quite clear to them, menacing them with his black, spiked plate armor, and his fearsome, horned helm. “If you dare to acquire them, you will be dealt with in a manner far worse than these mutants can devise. Understand?!”
The slaves nodded their gratitude and their understanding. Some even kneeled.
The party then regrouped and descended the stairs to the second level where it opened into a huge chamber. Inside were a small army of mutants and a couple of strange characters. Taki’s hair stood on end and she began to rasp and wheeze.
“What the hell’s up with you?” Kellan asked.
“That cat man over there is a K’zinti. My nemesis.” Taki whispered, “He must die by my hand.”
Just then, the cat man, who was conversing with a tall, blue, alien looking creature wearing bright green attire, immediately noticed Taki and hissed while brandishing his strange-looking blade. Then vanished in a blur of motion.
Taki winced. “Damn.” she said.
A general melee ensued with the K’zinti blinking in and out of visibility striking for Taki at every opportunity. Mutants were being slain like wheat before the thresher’s flail. The alien creature, a mercane, lifted a finger and announced, “To the ship!” and disappeared.
A few moments later, while the party was trying to triangulate of the K’zinti and protect Taki, Malygos (?) was struck from behind with a falchion and a “Hassan Chop!!” A critical strike by the now reappearing mercane added another threat to the combat. Malygos was felled and the mercane once again announced “To the ship!” and vanished after taking some wounds from Tempest.
In due course, Kellan struck down the K’zinti with his waraxe as Taki advanced on him.
“I thought you K’zinti were better than this.” Taki spat.
The K’zinti looked up at Taki in spite, “I’m not the only one on this world, you dolt. I am but an agent. There will be vengeance upon my blood, and my spirit will linger long enough to see it.”
“In the name of the Serpents, get out of my sight!” and with the swing of her ancestral blade, the K’zinti was acephalous.
Meanwhile, Malygos healed himself and raced outside with Manus to see where the mercane went. They found only a large crater in the sand outside the tower. Looking around they noticed that he didn’t bother taking any slave cargo with him.
All the freed slaves were then given some provisions and dispersed to go back to their homes as best they could. They took some weapons from the dead mutants and made their way back to their respective lands.
While searching the interior of the vault, Manus Firebeard found a strange puzzle lock on the wall. Taki studied it, “It’s a number square but the numbers are in a degenerate form of K’zinti numerals.” She told Manus what the numbers were supposed to represent. Then the dwarf said “Oh.” and solved the puzzle in under a minute! Even Malygos was impressed.
The lock revealed a secret passageway going deeper into the earth.