Monthly Archives: January 2013

SOW Chapter13: Tyranny

Tyranny

Tyranny

From
The


Journal of Danasus



“Once more unto the breach, I return to sweet sorrow past, in hope of brighter
future, Klarn I am yours again. And if I am marked to die, so be it, enow!



 



Here in the land which did give rise to dragons rule, wherein kingdoms rise and
fall at the point of sword yet again. Legendary quest beckons promising danger
and glory calling to a brave few to answer the call; and whether for honor or
vengeance, armed with steel and sorcery, we will sally forth to battle merciless
hordes for whom, death is but a distraction. And be we are done we will bath in
the blood of the dragon or be consumed by it.



 



So Klarn, I ask, which of your finest will answer this call?”



 


 



Now in control of the Well of the World, a select few of the world’s defenders
have taken up residence in the bivouac of this facility; among them, Finellior,
Bingus, Vani, Rikar, and Shaden; the half-orc warrior having only just joined
them, finally returned from his undertaking within the Court of the
Stone-skinned King. Others Bejam, Amyria and Haryssus are staying there too, but
in heart of the facility; and still others come and go; Odos being the most
frequent of them, but arriving unexpectedly an envoy from Mendelland has also
recently arrived and he has been granted a private audience with Vani, the
envoy, Quill the Lion, arrives bearing a package. 


“Vani Firestorm, I assure you, there is no mistake. You are to be the Globe
Keeper of Mendelland; certain lords appear to hold you in high esteem, maybe
there is more to you than meets the eye, and I don’t mean in the way we all are,
no, I mean specific onto you!”


 


“I believe Ishtar would have come here in person if he were able, but not to be,
not in this place. You have found your way to the one place where the lords dare
not tread, and yet you still insist on thinking of yourself as a simple hobbit.
Why you refuse to even perceive the blessing of greatness upon you befuddles,
what has so addled your mind?”



 


Confused
Vani interrupts, “Hey didn’t we find out you’re not real? I mean weren’t you
Jeroen and isn’t he dead?”


 


“There a many mysteries within Mendelland, and oft times each is more bizarre
than the next, but no I am not dead, and I am not that imposter Jeroen, my name
sir, is Quill the Lion, but if it pleases you, by all means, call me what you
will. Your word-play will not distract me; I am here to give you this package,
and to advise of your duty to attend to it.”


 


Still perplexed, the halfling looks to the large rectangular box carried by
Quill and asks, “How will I carry this, it is much too large, it’s as tall as me
and it doesn’t look like an orb at all?”



“This is but the box, and the orb in not for carrying, it is for watching. You
are to stay here within this sanctum sanctorum where you will simply watch the
orb and offer a warning to others whenever warranted. Here let me show you.”


 


Quill produces a sharp dagger, slicing through the box’s bindings in a rush and
then carefully opens the box revealing more packing; Quill quickly tosses the
packing exposing a strange piece of furniture, a display case standing on three
cherry-wood legs.  


 


The bard advises, “The three legs are  to remind you of the ‘Rule of Three’


which says whatever energy one puts out into the world, positive or negative, is
returned to that person three times over. In Sage-speak there is another saying,
‘omne trium perfectum’ that means, everything that comes in threes is perfect,
but I believe it is simpler than that, I believe things tend to happen in
threes. That principle governs reality itself but I digress. What I am supposed
to tell you is this most special orb, when called by you, will rise from this
‘Cask of Concealment’ and clairvoyantly reveal any who might, by means
extra-planer seek to invade the realm of Klarn. Oh, it can also be used for more
mundane scrying but it much more than that; it can match the appearance of Klarn
allowing you to pinpoint out danger. I myself had heard a rumor that the orb had
been lost, yet here it is, and I am here to pass its care onto you.”


 


Vani hesitates as a chill of fear or excitement passes through him, but soon
enough, overcome by curiosity, the intrepid sorcerer approaches, in response the
etched cover, a domelike cap of darkened glass opens revealing a misty crystal
globe that levitates from the container as Vani nears. Upon the sphere’s
surface, the halfling spies a stain, and as he instinctually tightens his
focuses on the mark the stain spreads clarifying enough for Vani to recognize
the old inert Lord’s Gate located in near proximity to Thiradith; the same gate
where the githyanki bodies had been



found
.
As Vani tries to understand the vision his view is suddenly, purposefully
blocked.


 


“This isn’t working! I thought I saw something, but now I can’t see a thing.
Something is happening, I am certain, something is wrong. I’ll have to go.”


 


“No, that is not your task, yours is to watch and tell others what need be done,
and my job is to protect you. We all have our own roles to play in this play of
passion. I will gather the others, you stay here.”


Amyria and Bejam Call on the Bivouac


 


“Friends, I apologize for dropping in unexpected, but events force my hand
again, I’m afraid. There is a disturbance at the Lord’s Gateway, and we have
need of your aid, if you would look in on it for us, but I cannot tell you what
is waiting there, only that it should not be.”


Bingus answers, “I will go.”


“And we are with you!” answers the others.


“Which gate do you mean?” asks Finellior.


“The Thiradith gate,” answers Amyria.


“Isn’t that gate dead?” asks Fin.


“It was,” agrees Bingus.


“No longer,” responds Bejam.


The
heroes are rushed into the Sovereign Gate of the Well of the Worlds without
delay, as they enter Fin calls out, “Try not to put us down right on the gate,
give us some room to


figure things out.”



The heroes appear upon the thawing mountain path as it emerges from the forest
of jack pine and climbs into the misty cleft in the mountainside that conceals
the old Lord’s Gate. Along the path stream vents from rents in the path issuing
from hidden springs buried underground. The mist obscures their view along the
path and more so at the mist covered gate beyond. The heroes advance cautiously
and as they do the mist thins enough to revealing a figure standing on the road,
looking quite terrified, a tallish pale-skinned elf, dressed in finery and
wearing a distinctly crafted, partial mask of brass upon his face. Then they see
two giant muscular, four-armed humanoids, tall as the smaller trees, with blood
red skin and long claws and fangs menacing the elven traveler from the nearby
mountain ledges.


The
heroes stand witness as the monsters attack. The first flies through the airs
towards the newcomer, its claw ripping through the air as it makes a grab for
the elf, but he ducks; then the second monster lands towering behind the elf his
four razor clawed hands rake through the air where the elf stands, but the elf
vanishes in a puff of black smoke reappearing behind the fiend in the arch of
the Lord’s Gate.  Shaden and Rikar begin racing across the path closing
distance quickly, still knowing full well the monsters would be on the elf again
before they arrived. Finellior and Bingus approach more slowly, following the
others at a measured pace. Bingus calls out, “The attackers are blood fiends,
abominations of Elemental Chaos, they feed on the blood of the living.”


Ignoring the approaching heroes the fiends each turn their attention to the elf
who responds by pointing his finger at the closer fiend. The elf disappears
again, dissolving into a smoke which jets forward vanishing into the monster.
With no warning, the creature turns and begins tearing into the other monster.
The second blood fiend tries to escape, but he is too late, the first monster’s
claw had sunken in deep securing the first monster’s grip. Shaden and Rikar
attack, and in seconds the trapped monster dies. As it does, its body fades
away. Finellior notices the elf reappearance on the path as the monster dies.
Taking advantage of the space granted by Rikar’s attack Bingus casts a spell
trapping the remaining fiend within a shell of illusion, as the monster attacks
Riker, phantom claws rips the blood fiend’s body asunder and that monster also
fades away.


The elf approaches bowing low, “Many thanks my friends, had not you interceded
on this humble servant’s behalf, I may well have found the Raven Queen’s
unwelcome embrace, but not before enduring the equally unpleasant teeth and
claws of those terrible brutes. In exchange for your heroic intervention to save
this unworthy life, I am duty-bound to return the favor, not only to you here
now but to this realm if you will allow me. But first, introductions are in
order. As my errant arrival may have indicated already, I am at least in part
responsible for the mayhem taking place here within your realm of Klarn. I am
called Danasus; I have come that I may be of service.”


As inductions continue Amyria appears in a flash of light. Two deva mages in
gray robes and carrying staffs accompany her. She looks around as if gaining her
bearings, and then with a glance towards the elf and a silent greeting for the
heroes, she smiles, conveying no joy, her eyes hard, fierce, and filled with
worry.


“Greetings traveler, I believe your arrival here may have been foretold. Can you
tell why, and by what means you have arrived here?”


Danasus responds, “My Lady, I am humbled and gratified to make your
acquaintance. I confess actions of my previous life may well have given cause to
this most grievous war upon your realm and yet I am here now, ironically,
because I believe you might benefit from my assistance. By now, some of you may
believe you now know your enemy, but I have seen the worst the githyanki offer,
and they represent a threat far greater than you might imagine. I have discerned
that the githyanki are only a piece, integral though they may seem, they are
only players in a greater drama orchestrated by the Dark Lady as part of her
greater plan for your realm. I am here now, because you have been afforded an
opportunity to change this, and a chance to deliver a terrible blow to the
Chromatic Dragon if you are but willing. As for the means of my arrival, I have
a passing familiarity with this realm and in times past, I had an opportunity to
research from Lord Ishtar’s own Treatise of Gates and Portals, that research
allowed me to access this portal (pointing out the Lord’s Gate); unfortunately I
was followed, unfortunately the Dark Queen’s spies has no shortage of spies.”


Amyria replies, “Why have you come now and why would they be
following you?”


“A few days ago, a githyanki emissary came before me with an offer. He came to
me representing a group of Separatists, a rebel faction growing within the City
of Death, Tu’narath – Their city has different names that echo throughout the
planes, such as the One in the Void, each name carries with it a message of
death and conquest, as well stories of the merciless warriors that call it home.
What this emissary described was troubling; he claimed Tiamat now rules
Tu’narath through a puppet emperor named Zetch’r’r who uses the city poorly,
draining it of resources to supply Tiamat’s war machine here. He acknowledged
his people have no love for the realm of Klarn, but he also advocated that this
war was not a thing of their making; regardless if his message is true, he
describes a growing sentiment this war has proven too costly to continue.”


Amyria pauses as if considering the ramifications of what Danasus had described,
then with a glance towards her deva advisors and their silent affirmation she
answers, “If you would allow it, we would rather continue this conversation
within the Well of the Worlds where we would like hear everything you have come
to tell us, beyond the range of prying eyes.”


“A wise consideration, but you have my assurance, I have been attentive; our
words here have not been eavesdropped. Still, I am gratified by trust your
invitation implies and I humbly accept.” answers Danasus.


The transport is instantaneous, all those present on the path vanish leaving
Klarn behind and reappearing within the chamber of the Sovereign Gate of the
Well of Worlds. Exiting the chamber, the meeting is continues within the
bivouac.


“May I suggest for now, as we continue, that we agree restrict those present to
only those of you who already know of my arrival, this is more for their own
safety and the hope of a successful resolution than any concern for myself?”
asks Danasus.


Amyria Agrees.


“Thank you for this consideration, I am afraid that we are all at risk simply
due to our presence here now, and the fewer who know that of what I speak, the
greater will be chance of success. Friends, these Separatists want an alliance …
And while it seems suspect, even too good to be true, I have certain insights
which grant me confident that the Separatist’s emissary spoke true. I would be
here if I did not believe the messenger, and I do not believe you can afford to
turn away the prospect of an alliance with this sect. It is true that githyanki
are devoid of mercy that is their nature; they are not and they never will be
our friends, but they are not of one mind, not now, not anymore. They are of
many and varied opinions and they hold their opinions firm, firmer than most,
maybe any man can comprehend, and they are not liars, nor are they given to
flights of fancy. My goal in coming, if you but allow me to serve, is to take a
group of your representatives to meet with their representatives. Given the
developments within Tu’narath, and your incomparable successes, the Separatists
have already agreed to such a meeting. With these rebels assistance, it may yet
be possible to get the githyanki out of this war entirely bringing an end to
this conflict. I hope to achieve this on your behalf, on the behalf of all of
Klarn. By this service I may, at least in part, atone for the failures that have
brought us to the fearful precipice, and victory may finally be within your
grasp.”


Amyria holds up hand, palm open towards Danasus signaling for pause; she turns
towards the group inviting discussion. “This seems like a risky enterprise, I
would hear your thoughts.”


Both Shaden and Rikar are quick to offer their support, but Bingus seeming
unconvinced asks, “Why are we focusing upon the githyanki, if they are indeed
but pawns of Tiamat. I myself have long suspected as much. Should we not be
focusing upon the evil Queen of Dragonkind?”


Danasus responds strangely saying, “That is not dead which returns to
life, against
silver swords even death may die.”  


Then without explanation continues, “I assure you, the githyanki’s hatred of
Klarn is real, and if this war continues, as successful as you have been, it is
a war you cannot win, nor do the githyanki believe in taking prisoners, and
mercy, well that is completely foreign to them. Klarn cannot survive an extended
war with the githyanki, as a hundred, hundred, dead worlds give testimony now.”


Still unconvinced, Bingus asks, “But what of Bahamet? Should we not be aiding
the Platinum dragon? At the beginning of this, before I ever saw a githyanki we
came across of old man with seven canaries. He seemed ill and befuddled … lost.
An avatar perhaps, a warning maybe, but I didn’t recognize him back then; since
then I have learned of folklore told in hundreds of variation each speaking of
such a man, a hermit or a sage with seven trained canaries, and I can tell you
from personal experience that I have met this man. He had a gentle voice that
filled the air; imprisoned he was unconcerned; frail, he somehow escaped his
bonds, and vanished wandering into the burning desert with only his canaries to
guide him. Is this not a sign from Bahamet?”


Thoughtfully Danasus considers Bingus’s words before asking, “So you would
challenge a Goddess? Where would you go? How would you battle her? Can we call
on Bahamet now? How might we gain his ear?.”    


Bingus strokes his beard pensively, and answers, “I don’t know.”


“Well, have you considered that perhaps this undertaking we are discussing may
be exactly the path you have described? The githyanki have been allied with the
Dark Queen longer than men have drawn breath. And if as their agent suggests,
she has now finally fully enslaved the githyanki might that not give leverage to
break the alliance? Githyanki do not worship gods.”

Amyria interjects, “Where would such a meeting take place?”


Danasus answers, “Their representatives are not willing to return here, and I
could not in good conscience suggest sending your envoys into the viper’s nest
of Tu’narath; they have agreed to meet on a neutral ground. I suggested an
alternative meeting place, the Citadel Mercane, a trade depot in the Astral Sea.
There we can negotiate for an alliance in relative safety. Citadel Mercane is
known to me, if not a home away from home, security is well maintained by the
outpost’s ruling class, but as my pursuers suggest, nowhere now is completely
safe … Tiamat has operatives everywhere and we would be well advised to be
watchful for her spies and assassins. There would certainly those present who
would rather see our mission fail. Our aim there should be to gain the
Separatist’s support, and with it, I am hopeful, we might get the githyanki to
withdraw from this war. I ask only for your consideration, and if you agree that
your choice of who to send be guided by both wisdom and weighted towards
temperance. Whoever you send must have your full confidence and the authority to
bargain with your behalf. Your world and the lives of everyone who lives here is
a weigh in the balance. If the githyanki’s offer is genuine, peace may once
again be yours.”


Again Bingus interrupts, “Lady Amyria, you are the Platinum Blade, my guide,
Scion of Bahamet … I trust you and I will do as you ask, my only request is that
you stay here where you are safe; I feel the press of danger in by bones, but I
will gladly take your place if I know you are here, safe, until I return. I will
bargain on your behalf.”


At that the bard Finellior chimes in, “Well, maybe you should leave the
bargaining to me, and in truth I would welcome your good company. And let’s not
kid ourselves, just in case we find ourselves in need in a fix who could
possibly be a better person to have with us than you Bingus?”   


“Very well.” Announces Amyria, “But if what Danasus says is true, failure must
not be an option.”


Danasus bows and says, “You have my thanks; I will need but one day to prepare
myself, wherefore the meeting has been scheduled for one day hence. Please use
the time to choose your agents and make them ready. I would appreciate an
opportunity to interview them before we depart so I might know them better.”


“Fate has intervened, for I believe our choice is made.” answers Amyria looking
over the assembled heroes.


Danasus looks over the gathering taking full measure of those present: Bingus,
Finellior, Rikar, Shaden, and Amyria, the elf’s face, a blank stare.


Guessing at the elf thoughts, the deva offers, “I will take Bingus’s counsel, I
myself sending Bingus in my place with our negotiator Finellior. I will be
staying here.”


Danasus nods in approval. “I have no doubt your heroes are well-chosen, and
correct me if I am wrong, but neither Bingus nor Finellior are from Klarn?” he
asks looking toward the chosen pair.


“No, we aren’t, answers Finellior, but then neither are you,” points out
Finellior.


“And I assume both Rikar and Shaden are coming for some added security,” adds
the bard.


“A drow and a half-orc?” asks Danasus.


“Intimidating, charming and they can fight too, I haven’t seen any better
warriors anywhere,” replies Fin.


Danasus closes, “Agreed, and my thanks for your timely assistance Master drow
and Master half-orc, I meant no offense, it has been my pleasure to meet you all
… I will soon be in repose, but I require no sleep, only a brief mediation which
grants us time for questions if any of you should desire.”


 __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Citadel
Mercane


 

As
the meeting adjourns Finellior rushes to Bejam flush with excitement, “We have
little time but can you send me to Sayre, I have a thought, no, a line of
inquiry I would pursue before our departure and they have resources there I have
need of.”


Bejam agrees, sending Finellior on his way saying, “I will retrieve you in
twenty hours.”


Bingus makes a beeline to Danasus, a-buzz with questions of his own. “What can
you tell me about Citadel Mercane?”   


“The Citadel Mercane is an ancient trade center built within the heart of
a crimson mountain set adrift within the astral sea. It was raised by planar
merchants centuries ago, but inner strife and upheavals have seen the power
shift to a group called the Society of Seven Diamonds, a cabal of merchants who
hoped to rule a center of trade to rivaling the City of Brass itself … In truth
it is a just backwater, a place for outcasts and shady operators, exiles of the
City of Brass and Sigil giving access to items not easily acquired elsewhere,
far from the control of the City of Brass’s Efreet masters. Still, the Citadel
is not without charm, it is a cosmopolitan environment, you should have little
trouble blending in and you should be able to purchase whatever supplies you may
desire there.” explains the elf.


“But there must be more to this place than that.” presses Bingus.


The name of the mountain is Blood Mountain. I would guess it houses at least
9000 souls, a diverse crowd consisting of just about every kind of civilized
creature imaginable, from angels to devils, from humans to maruts. Githyanki are
numerous since they often duck into the Citadel to trade plunder for supplies.
The Society of Seven Diamonds rules Citadel Mercane but only with the permission
of the marut mercenary companies who enforce the law there.


“Tell me about the maruts,” continues Bingus.


“The maruts protect the stronghold from attacks; they are organized into three
mercenary companies. I believe The Iron Sons is the oldest of the companies
granting them the greatest amount of influence.”


“No, what I meant was, what is a marut?” asks the gnome.


“First, I should explain the rules, or really ‘the rule’ in the Citadel is ‘Harm
no one’. The maruts are


alien creatures and their goals and aims are their own. They are single-minded
and intractable, whether tasked with retrieving an item or protecting it,
watching a location or destroying it. They are large and powerful, their
appearance is something akin to a golem in plated armor. You will not miss them
or confuse their identity. You would be wise to move in a rearward direction if
they


approach.” answers Danasus.


While they speak Bingus and Danasus talk, Shaden and Rikar get about the
business of collect healing potions, gathering three for each member of the
party, minus Danasus, a dozen in all.


Back
in Sayre, Finellior wastes no time heading directly for Sayre’s University where
immediately contacts the university’s beautiful Arch-dean Isabelle Grimaldi. The
Arch-dean had fancied Finellior since they first met, and Finellior knew he
could use that to his advantage; the Arch-dean could open any door at the
university. Soon they were both elbow deep in scrolls and tomes hard at work,
looking up any lore they could find regarding the fall of the black moon,
Nuitari 17 years past. Together they waded through myth and legend, hunting
through scrolls for any grain of truth, hidden within the written histories they
perused. 


Finellior asks, “There must be more, something uncommon?”


Isabelle replies, “There is a forbidden text, called the Book of Whispered
Truths and Futures Unseen.”


“May I see it?” asks Finellior.


Within the pages of this secret ledger Fin quickly finds reference to the black
moon:


Long
before mankind awakened, the Lords trod upon the earth worshiping other gods to
whom they called out while studying their ways, but in time the Dark Lord gained
the knowledge of dark magic and dared to use his sinister power against the
others. Their wrath kindled, the other Lords, forged new alliances both merciful
and terrible, and so the Dragon Queen came to tear him asunder earning the Dark
Lord’s mark upon her children, even so he did not die. The other Lords collected
his parts imprisoning them within the darkest recesses of the earth, his beating
heart high in fane of scale, gripped by distant dimensions lest he ever come
whole.  He lies there now in deathless sleep, dreaming and waiting for the
day when he shall rise again. For when the moons go wrong he shall awaken and
return seeking dominion over all that is, once more bringing woe and a whirlwind
of destruction upon mankind.     


After further study, Finellior realizes Nuitari must actually be a prison, the
‘Fane of Scale’ rather than a true moon finding that the book later references
the black moon as the Fane of Scales, and revealing that it contains treasures
too dangerous for mortal men to possess, chief among them Darklens ever-beating
black heart. This sent Finellior’s mind racing, for he knew the black moon of
Klarn played a significant role in the tale he sought. Fin wondered …




‘What was it Simberious had said?’ … ‘The githyanki had murdered Lord Magnus and
caused Nuitari to fall from the sky?’


Regardless, Fin knew the Deacon had mentioned a group of ‘great’ heroes he had
followed into battle. Fin reads on …


Surrounded by the Queen’s consorts he lifted the mountains into the sky cursing the dragons with his last breath even as they consumed him, yet dismembered,
he lives on. 


And elsewhere he finds a description the Fane,

Within
sphere of blacken metal wove like scales of grandest measure, The ebony moon
shall remain hidden high within the dark of night, and only he with blacken
heart shall ever hear the whispers as the Fane holds fast the evil of he of who
is unspoken containing his evil for evermore, until time when man shall exist no
more.



It seemed the Lords had ripped out the ore from the flying mountain to construct
the Fane and the refuse of that mountain had become the floating Dragon Isles.
Hidden there in the sky above the Dark Lord’s evil heart still beat within the
Fane of Scales which had come to symbolize evil magic throughout Klarn. And it
was said that only those who seek evil’s power can perceive Nuitari in the blank
night sky where it remains hidden and invisible.


His distraction growing, Fin refocused his thoughts to the mystery at hand, the
enigma of Danasus. Chronicled within written a bardic canticle Finellior found
a tale relating to the Deacon’s allies, particularly those offerings from the
bards of Mendelland in those years, the years that followed. They described the
strange tale Finellior struggled to reconstruct.



He came through a door in the wood, to steal a girl, he would wed



And her name was Cecily with eyes of green, soon to become the dragon’s queen.



But the door stayed open, invitation the miss-sent, a mistake for which he’d
never repent
.


The tale goes on describe a time over fifteen years prior to the current year,
by Fin reckoning, a time known thereafter as the ‘Age of the Dragon’ when the
Fane of Scales, Klarn’s black moon, crashed into the surface of Klarn killing
tens of thousands. Within the tale a number of heroes are mentioned including:
Hal Hastings, the founder of Klarn’s Knighthood, the wanderer, Jack of the
Green, a son of Mendelland, Jack’s friend Arty, a number of monks, Lu Fang,
Serenity, someone named Silent Pete, as well as an elf wizard named Aerdaluna but
any mention of the group ended suddenly after the moon’s fall … though it seemed
they had likely survived. Neither Finellior’s nor Isabelle’s best efforts could
find any mention of them in the aftermath other than a few passing references
regarding Halfred’s family, but their story started with the gateway in another
world. It had seemed a plain arch of stone until Cecily Green, a beautiful
daughter of a wealthy aristocrat fell through the arch and disappeared.
Foolhardy Jack had followed her through, and others followed him, include Arty
and an elf scholar Aerdaluna. When they stepped through the gate they entered a
new world landing within the sky bound Dragon Isles and falling into an arena
control by a villain Drendel. The heroes escaped, freeing three beautiful women,
Cecily, Sapphire of the Mystic Isles, and Pandora. As they fled from Drendel
forces, the party fell into the trap of a self-important fairy dragon named
Mondragon who shrunk the heroes to the size of bugs and kept them in a menagerie
the dragon made out of an old way-house. The heroes eventually befriended the
dragon by killing the dragon’s master’s assassin, and in so doing they discovered
the important role the little dragon had played in the history of Klarn. He had
been the familiar of one of the realm’s lord, Lord Majere and Mondragon related
his account of a horror he had witnessed, the ambush and apparent death of
another of Klarn’s lords, Lord Magnus.


Mondragon had claimed Lord Magnus was visiting his son Zardoz within his home, a
castle built upon a cloud. Given that speedy travel within Klarn is restricted
to Lord’s gates, Magnus was carrying Ishtar’s Treatise of Gates and Portals upon
his person at the time of his visit, not knowing he was to be ambushed at his
son’s home. There an alliance of evil involving a former apprentice, the now
black wizard Ezoran, his son Tobias, the villain Drendel, and their githyanki
allies; an unholy alliance put into play by another of Klarn’s lords,
Grithstane, the Lord of Corruption. The githyanki had been offered Ishtar’s
Treatise of Gates and Portal in reward for the part of the ambush and the
recovery of this tome of knowledge had led to the heroes Fin had come to study
into a conflict with the githyanki, and ultimately to the felling of the moon,
the death of Ezoran, and the end of the evil dragons’ curse.


The evil alliance was eventually defeated but only at an unimaginable cost of
lives; the evil defeated by this obscure, forgotten, group of heroes that had in
all likelihood saved the world. In the aftermath of their exploits Klarn’s
Knighthood had been fashioned, and there had been fifteen years of relative
peace. Simberious Inogo, Halfred’s Squire had risen to become the Deacon of Pax
Tharkas, but here today, now, no one even knew the Deacon’s fate, only that Pax
Tharkas had been destroyed, with every man, woman and child who called her home.
The more Finellior discovered the more certain he became that Danasus and
Aerdaluna were one in the same, and that it was a near certainty that the Dark
Queen of Dragons and her lineage had returned to their evil ways and were even now
scheming, along with their githyanki allies, their vengeance was in play across
the face of Klarn. Had not the great white dragon,



Chillreaver

and Jeroen’s, evil form



Veri-zan

said as much?  Hadn’t both called out to the Dark Queen? With his
time
running out, Fin returns to the Well of the Worlds.

Blood
Mountain



 



Fin finds the others waiting pensively within the bivouac of the Well, Rikar
hands him three of the potions of healing, saying, “Just in case…”



Bingus asks if he is ready, and after the bard nods affirmatively, the gnome
leads them into the chamber of the Sovereign Gate. They spread themselves evenly
throughout the small circular room, squeezing in so everyone can fit: Bingus,
Danasus, Rikar, Shaden and finally Finellior. Amyria’s voice rings within the
chamber, “Listen! The darkest hour of Klarn has past, and you have earned our
fullest confidence. Go then, meet with their representatives. Given their recent
troubles, and your own incomparable successes makes you uniquely qualified to
negotiate an alliance with these rebels on our behalf; succeed and you will get
the githyanki out of this war. If you can achieve this, our victory will follow
in your footsteps.”



Light fades, and then explodes in a brilliant kaleidoscope, then suddenly
stabilizing reality reasserts itself and they find themselves elsewhere having
passed once again by means of the Sovereign Gate. The party of heroes looks out
upon a desolate landing. The ground beneath their feet has the crimson color of
blood-soaked earth and the landscape is haunted by wreckage of an ancient war,
everywhere there are littered piles of bones.

They stand upon a broken red shelf overlooking a jagged slope that eventually
gives way to loose bits of rock and debris hanging in the air as if they weigh
nothing. Towering above, the red mountain rises toward a distant peak, itself
obscured by petrified trees, jutting protrusions, and roiling smoke. Suddenly a
strange vessel emerges from the dark plume, sleek and fitted with sails,
non-sensible spheres crackling with lightning, and other spars, and then it
vanishes in a flash of light.


Danasus says, “According to legend, the mountain was an ancient battlefield
where gods and primordials fought and died. Their spilled blood turning the
mountain its crimson color. This place is by no means safe, because in the ruins
that cling to its surface and over there, beneath those petrified trees lurk
astral stalkers, other-planer fiends, and worse. To find the Citadel we must
first pass through one of the clefts in the mountain, and then we will travel
some distance, perhaps a quarter, or as much as a half of a mile until we reach
the center of the mountain; there deep within we will reach the outpost. It is
accessible only through these enormous fissures in the mountain’s surface. In
the core waits Citadel Mercane, built centuries ago by planar merchants to serve
as a trade hub for their enterprises. The Citadel still serves in this capacity,
but now it is refuge for exiles. We will take no bridges, nor will we need a
transport to descend … The astral sea’s nature will allow you to fly into the
mountain’s core. You have but to will it, to make it so. Follow me!”    



After a sketchy start, it takes about five minutes of continuous flight to
descend through blinding smoke to cross through to an enormous chamber easily a
mile in diameter. Red crystals as long as towers encrust and thrust from the
walls. Suspended in the chamber’s center is a spheroid architectural mass of
minarets, walls, stairs, and bridges. Steel struts emerge from this fortress and
extend to the walls keeping the structure in place. Piers bristle from these
supports, looking like hairs from afar; and they can see an astounding
assortment of vessels, ranging from tiny skiffs to astral hulks crewed by
hundreds. Traffic moves through yawning gates constructed to resemble toothy
mouths, clearly a half-dozen facing the party’s direction.



Just inside the outer wall of this massive chamber is a floating Bazaar, an
insane collection of floating platforms and free-floating structures filled with
planar travelers. As the heroes enter they pass through a great circular gate,
just beginning to gain a sense of the chaos and wonder of the Bazaar. It is a
maze of floating earth motes, each crowded with merchants hawking their wares.
Visitors float from stall to stall, swapping platinum coins for all manner of
goods, and there among them they spot larger structures too, some sideways
towers, others spherical buildings, still others might pass for ordinary within
any normal setting were they not floating about, drifting through the
marketplace. Astonishingly, there are no collisions even though everything
seemed to be in motion. Beyond, or perhaps beneath, all of this, there is an
interior wall, hundreds of feet away, and it sports more gates and tall statues
of strange humanoids looking up as if they were watching the commerce’s dance
above.


Danasus offers, “This place is more maze than structure, navigating the stalls
is as much art as science. It is in constant motion; you would be well-advised
to employ a guide. The entire Bazaar is serviced by tiny mechanic clockworks of
varied appearance.”



Even as the elf speaks they begin to notice the dance of these amazing
constructs as they flit through the crowd. Then suddenly one appears in their
midst, a tiny beetle, artfully crafted, with a shiny black head fixed with
horns, a copper-colored shell opened exposing delicate wings and a mass of ting
spinning golden spoked-wheels housed in the beetle’s body.  


 “Do you wish to search the Bazaar now, or would you rather follow me directly
to our accommodations, I have acquired rooms for us within the finest inn here.
The choice is yours as long as you follow the guide, and take care to cause no
harm, travel here is safe enough, but be warned, for the most part there is but
one punishment for transgressions and that is death.” points out Danasus.


As the other agree to follow, Danasus continues, “Very well, we will be staying
at the


Dreaming Spire, an


unusually attractive structure, it looks almost like a tree rising from the
middle of the market. Both the top and bottom contain taverns, the lower is
called Night and the upper tavern is Day respectively. In the trunk, as it is
called, waits the main walled inn of the establishment; it holds about thirty
rooms, three of which are ours. We can take our meals in either tavern. As I
have mentioned, it is the finest inn and taverns within Citadel Mercane,
all expenses have been covered.”

The
Dreaming Spire

 


After they arrive at the inn, Danasus sees to their rooms and excuses himself so
that he can apprise his informant of their arrival and set-up their meeting. He
returns moments later, far too soon, paler than usual, portraying an unusual
level of concern. “There is bad news I’m afraid.” Danasus begins. “I have
learned that our contact was killed in the streets by a huge blue dragonspawn
and some dark angel collaborators, but all is not lost; the bartender held
something in confidence for my contact.”


Danasus presents a small metal box and says, “He said our contact believed
someone was looking for him and so he left this with the barkeep for
safe-keeping.”


The metal box is formed of bronze and featureless save for a thumb-sized groove
on its bottom. Familiar with such items, Danasus places his finger in the groove
and the box floats upward unfolding, then appearing in the center is a
shimmering image of a githyanki. “That is Rel’thrik, my contact, the owner of
the Dreaming Spire.” says Danasus. The image speaks:



“My mission has failed. The Dark Lady’s agents infest this place, and my efforts
for secrecy have proved insufficient to evade them. If you truly wish to make an
alliance, come to Tu’narath and we will find you.”


The illusion flickers and vanishes. Moments later, the box evaporates as if it
had never existed.


Danasus stares at the empty space as if transfixed for a moment and then speaks
out in a confident tone, “My friends, Klarn now awash in flame and agony, a
place the has nurtured us all; a land wherein dragons once ruled the skies
enslaving the people below and they will, if allowed, do so yet again; all that
prevents them is the resistance offered by the daring few who whether for honor
or vengeance refuse to yield. Here now beckons a quest offering danger beyond
reckoning, and we are armed with both steel and sorcery; shall we then agree to
sally forth together against the merciless horde that would opposes us knowing
full well the folly of hope given the certain knowledge that our enemies prefer
death to defeat, and that they number beyond counting? Who among you would heed
this call and travel with me to the very City of Death?”


As one they agree, Bingus, Rikar, Shaden and Finellior all agree.


“I am heartened by your response; first I need find means to pursue this trail
to Tu’narath. Would any of you care to join me in the Bazaar?” asks Danasus.


“I will go.” offers Finellior.


“I should rest, and study.” suggests Bingus.


“Very well, given the apparent danger I suggest you others stay here, feeling
free to explore either of the taverns, one or the other is certain to be to your
liking. Our efforts well likely require some time, hours at the very least, but
we should be back before Bingus studies are complete. I caution, do not speak to
anyone of our mission, and see that you are not the cause of any violence save
only in the exception of your own necessary defense.”


 Hours do pass; one, two, three, four, five and six; as they do Finellior soon
finds he is reveling in the task anxiously seeking to secure a route to the
githyanki city. The bard is determined to negotiate any hurdle in his hunt for
leads. They began at the Bazaar, the air hums with conversation, and in the
crowds teaming with any number of useful types who might prove useful. Danasus
adopts the role of guide, leading Finellior from one location to another and
watching silently as Fin works the crowd. Their efforts prove to be
exceptionally effective. At the start Finellior makes-up a cover story
introducing himself as a hopeful agent, trying to find employment within the
githyanki city. While doing so he prompts Danasus to say what he knows of the
githyanki, testing the water to see what the enigmatic elf might reveal anything
of his own background. Tutoring Fin, Danasus offers, “A little over fifteen
years ago, the Lich-Queen fell victim to a coup, murdered in her palace during a
dread ritual that would have catapulted her to divinity. The city fell into
bloody civil war until a warrior named Zetch’r’r claimed her throne. Some say he
managed this only because he made a deal with Tiamat. While this is hardly
common knowledge, any true ‘Blood’ would likely know this, so this tidbit of
information should aid your efforts.”

Using
Danasus’s hint Fin leverages the information to find out about a couple ships
upon which he might hire on, one called ‘The Merciless’ and another called
“Gith’s Memory”.


Meanwhile back at the Dreaming Spire, Shaden and Rikar perform their own
investigation, starting with which of them will win an arm-wrestling contest.
Soon they found themselves overly involved in their test for the quiet confines
of the Day tavern and they work their way down into the Night tavern. Within the
Night side of the Dreaming Spire they found their contest is more welcome. Soon
others join in and it becomes a rollicking affair. Drinks run freely, as do the
patrons tongues, soon enough the pair hear the names of a sailor or two. All the
while keeping their wits about them while accusing each other of one or another
unfair advantage; so much so that one of the patrons, an intimidating fellow
that appear more devil than man pulls up a chair and offers to judge the
proceeding.


He seats himself in a large chair provided by a cadre of attendants at their
table. Finding it overly crowded by his dozen or so handsome mortal servants the
overly large male unfurls his infernal mien drawing attention to the pair of
large curling black horns which emerge from his forehead, above the long, oiled,
black hair. He smiles and stands revealing brilliant robes of uncertain hues
embroidered with obscene images. Spreading his arms wide in a gesture of welcome
as his playthings scatter, he says, “Greetings friends. Perhaps I can help, I
am Scaramandar.”


Having given no cause to fret, other than his appearance, Rikar and Shaden
continue their contest allowing Scaramandar to judge, but soon the judges
devilish insights prove disconcerting when he guesses the pair have recently
traveled from Klarn, and he goes on inquiring why Rikar was so far from
Feywild’s underworld in the first place? It is worrisome enough that the
arm-wrestlers excuse themselves and head back into their room.


Finellior eventually secures the name of a smuggler, Taikus, of whom it is said
that he knows a ways to move goods in or out of Tu’narath, and soon enough the
pair of investigators find the ‘cutter in his kip’ as Danasus begins schooling
Finellior regarding ‘the Cant’, and together they find the smuggler’s ‘case’ and
Danasus offer some him some ‘garnish’, but when that fails, Fin makes the ‘berk’
an offer he couldn’t refuse. That did it, the smugger was


paying the music just to get out of there, lessons complete.


Fin arranges to have a meet with a Captain J’ladimir, the githyanki captain of
Gith’s Memory, a powerful astral carrack. Finellior found out the captain was
once a githyanki knight, but he resigned when Vlaakith was murdered by a group
of primers. Taikus said the Captain had left the city to become a merchant, but
he had ended up sailing the Astral Sea these past fifteen years. Citadel Mercane
was one his regular ports. Taikus described the Captain as a tall, thin, with
angular features and a short, stubby nose. He has bright blue eyes and mottled
skin of all githyanki. Fin also knew the Captain favored chainmail armor and
carried the distinctive silver longsword of a githyanki knight. According to
what Taikus had said the Captain didn’t like any non-githyanki and he harbors a
deep hatred of those adventurers who had caused his Queen’s death, blaming them,
in part, for his diminished stature, but more importantly Taikus had also said
the Captain hated the new githyanki Emperor, Zetch’r’r, even more.


When they were away from prying ears, Danasus declared the Captain would be
perfect, should they be lucky enough to convince his to ferry them to Tu’narath.
They were immediately off to find Captain J’ladimir and soon they do. Initially
the Captain seems reluctant, but it was clear to Fin that the Captain didn’t
recognize Danasus on any level, but still his dislike of both Danasus and
Finellior was also clearly evident. Taking Finellior aside, Danasus quietly
explains the he could convince the Captain to take them on by means of spell,
but considering the length of the voyage, he warns that such a measure might be
unwise. Fin agrees, but then Danasus reveals a particular insight, which he
shares … “This Captain may not be a Separatist but he certainly supports them.”


Playing off Danasus instinct, Fin casts caution to the wind, and says, “Captain
I wish to add my efforts to the Separatist cause, will you help us?”


And without further comment the Captain agrees. Their mission a success they
pair return to the Dreaming Spire to gather the others, the ship to put to sail
twelve hours hence with or without them.


Demons among Us


 


“We have several brief hours affording us a sliver of time to visit the Bazaar
before our departure. In the Citadel’s Bazaar it is possible to find just about
anything one might desire. While I suggest we stay together, undoubtedly we
would be well advised to do what we can to prepare ourselves for the voyage and
I am not without means; I am pleased to cover any reasonable expenses. I would
rather we are all well-prepared for the trip, than worry over a few coins but if
you prefer you can also sell off any redundant equipment you may be carrying and
finance your own purchases.” suggests Danasus. 


The others agree, and they quickly gather their gear and at Danasus’s suggestion
they leave the Dreaming Spire either alone or in pairs, staggering their
departures to avoid drawing attention to themselves. They gather again as they
enter the Bazaar, each of the newcomers soon stunned by the depth and variety of
the wares they see in the stall and the merchants and patrons alike. Wonder
after fabulous wonder greets them as their senses are overwhelmed by innumerable
offerings from across the planes. Danasus’s remains focused, and Finellior
feigns disinterest, not wanting to appear ‘clueless’ himself. Danasus quickly
begins about the business of buying. He starts with a Potion of Cure Critical
Wounds and then seeks out a Ray of Feywild Sunshine, a Potion of Heroism, a
Shard of Freedom, and another potion, this one of Invulnerability before he
gives into an old vice when he comes across a basher cross-trading in Stimulant
Injectors.

Screams
pierce the Bazaar’s steady hum, presaging a mad rush of fearful shoppers.
Through the fleeing people, they observe a massive demon’s leap from one ruined
stall to another. The demon whips a massive chain about, decapitating three
too-slow patrons. Then two more demons bound into the scene, roaring and
screeching in rage.


The demons are vicious, attacking anything that comes close, but as the see
Shaden and Rikar they seem to gain center their attention, especially after
Shaden puts an arrow in the closest demon’s leg. The beast lashes out with the
chain which stretches an impossibly length tangling painfully around
Shaden; before he can respond the half-orc is ripped off the ground toward the
monster, deafened by the demon’s howls. Fin and Rikar race forward but their
progress is slowed by the fleeing crowd and they arrive in step with the other
two demons.


The monsters are massive, almost twenty feet tall,

resembling giant powerful men but with the heads of bison. They reek of evil,
but also seem dull and recklessly in their violence, like living siege engines.
They attack powerfully without thought or care, heedless of the destruction they
were causing. One of the demons leaps upon Finellior knocking him to the ground
with one powerful stomp and tries to pulverize the bard with its massive
ham-hock fists. Fin squirms, dodging just enough of the blows to avoid being
killed. The third demon attacks Rikar who manages in dodge to monster’s clumsy
attacks finding cover behind the debris of one of the crushed stalls.


Shaden struggles against the chain but it only tightens, Shaden was no match for
the demon’s brute power but then the demon suddenly vanishes, leaving only
Bingus’s laughter. Shaden quickly realizes what had happened and he notices the
demon a hundred feet below exactly where Bingus had sent him. Then he hears
Danasus call out, “Taste now the bitter wages of sin!”


The two remaining demons growl at each other causing the air to shudder with
their outbursts; then they rise into the open air and collide together in an
orgy of frenzied melee. They don’t separate until one of them is dead. Fin
recovers as the demons battle and Shaden races to greet the first demon as it
raises, his blades drawn. The survivor of the demon’s battle staggers over
towards Rikar and Fin offering himself like a lamb to slaughter, Rikar slays it
handily. As the demon falls Danasus relaxes, gathering himself he suggests, “We
should leave now before we run afoul of the law.”


“But we’ve done nothing wrong.” objects Finellior.


“No we have not, but neither do we want to draw any unnecessary attention.”
answers Danasus.


Once the last demon falls, the Bazaar’s commerce picks-up where it left off,
resuming as if nothing had happened. The dead drift away and are eventually
gathered up by locals for rendering but only after first being picked clean of
anything of value. The heroes quickly make their way to Gith’s Memory, as they
arrive they hear one of the Citadel’s rulers, one of the Seven Diamonds named
Trethrix has offered her thanks and a reward to the party who with their
selfless service, had defeated the demons responsible for the Bazaar riot,
calling on these heroes to present themselves to her at the inner gate of
Citadel Mercane.        


The Sympathizer

Sensing
their danger the heroes of Klarn opt to ignore


Trethrix’s summons foregoing any treasure she might be offering and instead head
directly to meet with Captain J’ladimir who had
agreed to give them passage upon his ship Gith’s Memory, a powerful
astral carrack. J’ladimir was once a githyanki knight, but he resigned
after Vlaakith was murdered by adventurers from Klarn many years ago. He left
his city to become a roving merchant, and he had sailed the Astral Sea for
nearly two decades now. Citadel Mercane was always one his favorite ports. As
the travelers approach they see the githyanki captain standing tall, his lean
form high looking down from the quarterdeck. J’ladimir glared at them with
angular features looking down his short, stubby nose, with one blue cold eye,
the other covered by a patch or maybe a strange lens. He was adorned
resplendently in brilliant chainmail armor and he carried a distinctive silver
longsword. As the heroes of Klarn board they find the past seventeen years had
done nothing to soften his disposition toward non-githyanki, particularly those
hailing from Klarn; it was immediately clear that the Captain harbored a deep
abiding hatred for them. As days passed it became obvious that he blamed them,
at least in part, for his queen’s death, but it was equally clear that he hated
Emperor Zetch’r’r even more, for J’ladimir believed that blackguard was behind
his lady’s assassination. J’ladimir may not officially be a Separatist, but he
was sympathetic to their cause. He was very vocal about his resentment of
Tiamat’s surging influence within the githyanki capital. It seemed that his
hatred for their new Emperor grew daily. After nearly two weeks of travel,
Gith’s Memory neared Tu’narath sparking J’ladimir to summon Danasus and
Finellior from below decks where he had forced the party to stay throughout the
duration of the trip. In the ship’s hold the heroes had met two other travelers
from Klarn, each drawn by their own purposes to seek passage; one of them was
named Vimak, father of Ramok, a former ally of the party. Vimak was a towering
goliath warden from the north lands and the second travel was a dragonborn
warrior from Majyst; name Dread Rhogar who was searching for a friend of Bingus
and Finellior, Ssarina the paladin. Bingus made quick friends with both of them,
thankful for the assistance they might well be, but that didn’t save them from
either of them from the gnome’s teasing or his chicanery. Bingus immediately
began calling Vimak, Hagrid after of one of his favorite storybook characters, a
lovable half-giant, half-man who was himself a gamekeeper of questionable
intellect in those storybooks. Both travelers seemed good-natured, and they
accepted being the brunt of Bingus endearing humor in stride. As Danasus and
Finellior approach the Captain he makes no effort to disguise his disgust, but
in spite of his misgivings, he needs little convincing to ferry them into the
city, he even supplies them with the proper documentation to enter the Merchant
District, the only portion of Tu’narath non-githyanki were allowed to be in, but
that was the extent to which J’ladimir was willing help. He offered no other
information about the city, about the current political developments, or
anything else in his disdain for the travelers. The passage on his ship had been
simple and uncomfortable, but they had arrived all the same. The Captain told
Danasus and Finellior his ship would be leaving the day after he dropped them
off pointing out that they had only paid for a one-way trip, which was the only
time the Captain showed anything close to a smile.





Arrival

Gith’s Memory breaks through the shimmering astral essence and there, amid a sea
of sparkling lights, floats Tu’narath. Citadels drift around the city, each a
cluster of spurs, towers, and chains connecting these floating fortresses to
smaller roosts. Dragons with riders soar through the firmament as massive astral
warships perform training maneuvers over the city. Beyond the traffic, beyond
the stronghold’s net, is the city. Although bristling with towers and
strongholds, wormed with roads, and spewing black plumes of smoke, its
foundation is clear. The city grows like tumors all over a dead creature’s
petrified remains. What was clearly a head stands at one end. From its shoulders
stretch six arms, each ending at steel docking towers crowded with ships;
structures armor the being’s torso, extending down to what would have been its
abdomen but is now a crumbling region dimpled with dark caverns and littered
with debris.


A patrolling wing consisting of a half-dozen dragonknights sudden breaks banking
severely reacting to your ship. Almost instantly the Gith’s Memory is
surrounded. The knight in charge calls out to Captain J’ladimir, in the
githyanki’s favored Deep Speech demanding writs of passage and to inspect the
cargo and ensure the ship. The Captain assures the Knight that he has the proper
trade exemptions needed to dock at the stations and presents it to the
dragonknight when she comes aboard. As the Knight see the Captain she
immediately displays a level of deference to J’ladimir making it apparent that
the Captain is either feared or respected enough that the Dragonknight suddenly
decides not to search the vessel and, rather opts to escort it the rest of the
way to the docking station.


Gith’s Memory docks opposite the astral shipyards at one of the city’s docking
towers, it is apparent that this area serves as a primary artery into the city.
As the travelers begin disembarking Danasus pauses just past the threshold, bows
low enough to press his forehead to the ground then stands pulls a wineskin and
takes a swill, and says, “In memory of friends left behind.” Then he warns, “It
is not uncommon for people, particularly those who give the githyanki any cause,
to disappear—snatched by their secret constabularies even before they enter the
city.” And sure enough as if on cue as the newcomers begin their own intense
screening at but the first of a several checkpoints along their route. They find
themselves confronted in the tight confines of an alley as they round a corner,
in front of them, flanked by two hulking dragonborn, is an overly slim githyanki
knight encased in ancient baroque armor and wielding a silver greatsword; behind
him hoovers a hideous githyanki mage, an aberration dangling in the air, the
lower half of its body missing; black lightning crackling at its withered hands,
matching the black fire in its eyes, two more dragonborn stand to either side of
this undead mage. Behind them, the alley opens onto a crowded street filled with
merchants and travelers alike, but then suddenly a transparent wall of magical
energy materializes blocking access to the street beyond.



As they approach, Danasus whispers under his breath “Follow my lead!”


The elf steps in front of everyone else, speaking the githyanki tongue
perfectly. 



“I am the one you are looking for.”

He raises his hand, palm outward, in greeting, two fingers held high … “I
assume you have made appropriate accommodations for one of my station; it would
not serve well to insult an


Representative of the Flame of Reason, we who remain your most opportune
suppliers in these troubled times. I command the full resources of the Order of
the Fiery Heart, and I, myself, a most humble servant of your City, have
traveled far to speak with your emperor


Zetch’r’r … It would not be wise to keep your Emperor waiting, not given the
current state of affairs within Tu’narath.”


The githyanki knight pauses as if bewildered, if only for a moment, then
recovering he says “You will follow!” Danasus bows and replies, “Of
course, if you will but assist me with my gear?”
then flashings silent drow
hand signals behind his back to Rikar relays a second message … ‘Let
me go, I will lead them away.’


The knight scowls, refusing to take Danasus’s gear, “Give it to your
thralls!”


Danasus counters, “But I travel alone.”



“You travel with the drow and the orc-son.”



“You are mistaken; I hired them only to guard me until my arrival here. I have
dismissed them. Do with them as you will. It matters not; I have no need for
them now.”


The monstrous undead githyanki mage closes drifting tight behind the dread
knight, and with a gravely dead voice says, “Weak-minded fool he twists your
mind.”


Danasus flares, his continence slipping, he glows, his anger bright like a fire,
and then feigning disgust says, “No unclean thing, this is control!”
Danasus reaches out with an empty open hand, palm up, and then makes a fist
quickly … the mage freezes in a rigor unable to move. The dragonborn warriors
reach for their weapon looking to the knight for a sign, ready to ponce, but
before they do Danasus approaches the mage, and staring into the fiery blacks
eyes and orders, “Drop the wall!”


The wall vanishes, Danasus turns his attention back towards the knight he says,
“Let us be on our way!”


The knight nods, and says, “Follow!”


Silently, the mage falls in line beyond the knight, and eventually the
dragonborn behind him. 


As Danasus turns to leave he pauses and says, “Go … go now, seek shelter! It
is up to you now.”



Tu’narath Overview


Tu’narath is a sprawling metropolis built atop the petrified remains of a dead
god known only as the One in the Void. Much of Tu’narath remained as it had
always been, but it has not emerged from the tumultuous last seventeen years
unscathed. Vlaakith’s mad rituals had sent shockwaves through the city,
destroying Susurrus, the Palace of Whispers, and reducing the necropolis and the
statue of Gith to rubble. Damage from this event could still be seen by the
discerning eye in adjoining military districts that the githyanki had worked to
rebuild. The Merchant District, however, is more or less intact. Now overrun by
Tiamat’s agents and soldiers, the githyanki still do not allow non-githyanki who
lack any official affiliation with the war effort to venture any farther than
the commercial quarter, and any who might try to push their way into the
neighboring districts would be beset by overwhelming numbers of guards.



Tu’narath:


Under Tiamat’s heel, the former center of githyanki culture has now become a
bastion of the Dark Lady’s strength.



Population:


120,000; Githyanki are still the dominant people in Tu’narath, but they now
share the city with Tiamat’s legions. Unprecedented numbers of devils,
dragonborn, dragonspawn, and other creatures have free rein to go where they
please. Outside of these forces, visitors are still confined to the Merchant
District, where a diverse population thrives.



Government:


After foreigners assassinated Vlaakith CLVII, Emperor Zetch’r’r rose to power.
He now rules.



Defenses:


Most githyanki serve in the military with allegiance to a society found in the
military districts. Military societies raise armies consisting of warriors,
gish, and warlocks. Foremost of these warriors are the githyanki knights who
ride dragons into battle. Numerous floating fortresses are arranged around the
city, and each carrying a full company and a number of pact dragons to intercept
foreign vessels coming too close to the city. In addition, other legions are
housed in the city, these mercenary forces are made up of dragonborn, humans,
devils, abishai, and other creatures loyal to the Dark Lady.



Inns:


The Morningstar Inn; Iron House; The Dragon’s Den; others. The Morningstar Inn
is the most expensive but most popular establishment in the Merchant District.



Taverns:


The Winesink; Filthy Dredges; Nectar House; others.



Supplies:


The Merchant District is the commercial center in the city and one can find just
about anything they could want. Merchants sell from established shops, open-air
markets, or carts along the streets. Businesses cluster together along streets
set aside for trade. Kyndl Street, for example, offers alchemical supplies,
poisons, and ritual ingredients.



Temples:


For as long as Tu’narath has stood, it has never housed an official temple. With
Zetch’r’r’s reign, the city now has a grotesque temple dedicated to Tiamat that
also serves as the emperor’s palace



Exploring the City


The Merchant District is all they can they can see of Tu’narath; githyanki
warriors monitor the district’s gates and patrol its walls, and anyone of them
caught beyond the Merchant District’s walls faces torture and execution, or
thralldom and eventual death. Given that their purpose here was to contact the
Separatists Finellior suggests that the Merchant Districts would likely be as a
good place to start looking as anywhere else. Without Danasus they are on their
own, strangers in a strange land, but soon they find their way to the
Morningstar Inn. Although the Separatists had been taking precautions, their
nemesis Tiamat, is a


greedy, vain, and arrogant goddess who embodied all the strengths of evil
dragonkind, and unfortunately, few of their weaknesses. Tiamat is most concerned
with spreading evil, defeating good, and propagating chromatic dragons, but she
never forgives a slight and


when the Separatists had made contact with the Coalition, their efforts did not
go undetected. Tiamat has spies everywhere, and her agents had intercepted a
message when they destroyed the githyanki waiting in Citadel Mercane. Still
fearing an upset to her plans, Tiamat had dispatched favored servants to
Tu’narath to watch for adventurers from Klarn there as well as at the Citadel
Mercane, and their orders were to intercept and kill any found within the city
before they could make contact with the Tu’narath’s rebels. Opportunity
revealing itself the day after the party’s arrival after they draw attention to
themselves on the common floor of the Morningstar Inn.
                                                                                                                                                                                          



B
ingus,
a devoted follower of Garl Glittergold, the gnomish


god of Luck and Trickery
,
lived his life cultivating the humor within any situation, regardless of
hardships he faced … Such was the way of his faith, and to Bingus specifically,
who sought to spread joy

and laughter that first night at the inn, awkwardly as often was the case, to
his non-gnome allies. Bingus’s plan was premeditated, while in the citadel he
had secretly secured a magic shrinking potion while exploring the merchant tents
of Citadel Mercane; and he had been patiently waiting for an opportunity to
spring his prank, here now within, their caution slipping seemed the ideal
moment for a little levity. Bingus used a mage hand to slip the potion
with Rhogar’s mug of mead, and hilarity followed and the 300+ pound warrior
shrunk to a size that would make a kobold seem huge. The pixie-sized warrior
yelled out from beneath the table. Immediately Rikar grabbed Bingus who had
already vanished magically, disappearing from his seat at the table, but his
giggling gave him away and the drow knew instinctively he had done the deed.
Rikar snatched up the invisible gnome, but he teleported from the drow’s grasp
reappearing visibly near Shaden who followed suit and grabbed him again. Still
snickering Bingus blasts Shaden with a scare spell such that the half-orc
involuntarily drops the gnome while shrinking away from Bingus. Vimak rises
chasing after Bingus and corners the gnome, but by this time the inn’s bouncers
had been alerted and they were on the move to quiet the ruckus, but not before
Bingus uses another spell, instant friends, upon the warden to quiet the
goliath and rejoins the others explaining that Rhogar was sure to recover soon.
Unknown to Bingus his prank had not gone unnoticed; his action had drawn the
attention of both the Separatists and Tiamat’s spies.


The following day they embarked to do some shopping. At Finellior’s insistence
they elect to stay in a group. Bingus had drawn up a list of items he hoped to
find; while the others shopped both Finellior and Rikar worked the street trying
to dig up leads. Initially frustrated, they found out little that they don’t
already know, specifically that Emperor Zetch’r’r now ruled the city, and the
githyanki of Tu’narath were now fighting on Tiamat’s behalf. Zetch’r’r had come
to power after travelers from Klarn had assassinated the Lich-Queen Vlaakith
giving rise to the githyanki hatred of Klarn, in part giving an explanation for
their attack there. Zetch’r’r had now ruled for over 17 years, but many within
the Merchant District believed Zetch’r’r had a hand in Vlaakith’s death himself,
pointing to his close ties to the dragon’s goddess as proof of his treachery. It
became obvious that not all of the githyanki were so willing to fight for
Tiamat. Just as Finellior began to doubt he would find anything new, Rikar
revealed that he had overheard whispers that someone named Vlaakith had returned
and allied herself with the Separatists only to be captured by the emperor’s
warriors. Finellior followed up this lead finding support these rumors and
adding that Vlaakith was now held someplace out of the city. Calling the group
together Fin provide a brief explanation of githyanki history, Vlaakith was the
name of the first ruler of the githyanki race after the disappearance of Gith,
the original rebel leader that united them against the illithids (known as
mind-flayers upon Klarn); a later Vlaakith, had also been known as the
Lich-Queen (or, by her followers, as the Revered Queen), the ruler of the
githyanki that had been assassinated, but she was much later in the line; the
name Vlaakith was more of a title now, and according to Danasus there had been
over 100 Vlaakiths since the first. Fin also pointed out that if the githyanki
had recognized a Vlaakith now, if she were freed, she would likely be able to
rally the githyanki against Zetch’r’r’s tyranny.

While
they discussed this, they had paused within a walled square, and they had barely
noticed as the crowds had thinned, a fact that became clear as they find
themselves alone within the walled square. Two empty bridges crisscrossed
overhead, and an impressive statue depicting a githyanki warrior riding a red
dragon dominated the square’s center. The eerie stillness was broken by an
unnerving chant as a cadre of dark angels appears overhead; they are followed by
the thunderous approach of a hulking humanoid, a strange cross between giant and
blue dragon that enters the square.


The bluespawn godslayer charges across the square slamming into the dragonborn
and yells, “SON OF BAHAMET TASTE MY BLADE!” in the draconic tongue, but
before he can strike again the huge blue dragonspawn vanishes as he is jolted
off to another dimension by Bingus. The angels’ descent falling upon Bingus in a
swarm, but he quickly transports across the square buying him some time.
Throughout the square the battle is joined. In mass the angels prove dangerous,
but on the whole they are vulnerable without the godslayer, the angels vanish
they are struck. Carried away by Bingus’s power the bluespawn finds itself
trapped within a dimensional cascade, falling through a series of hostile
planes, bathed within one destructive energies after another: acid, cold, fire,
force, lightning, death, poison, psychic, radiant, and thunderous waves of sound
crash upon the monster. The creature cries out, but this time in pain and
frustration, until finally it escapes reappearing once more within the square,
all but three of the angels have already been dispelled; those left had
surrounded the gnome. As the godslayer rises to its feet the warden Vimak slams
into the bluespawn knocking it backwards into the one of the walls bricks crack
under the monster weight.


The godslayer growls, “I smell you … The blood rushing under your sweet salty
flesh tiny giant; I hear your pounding heart, teasing my appetite. Hunger weighs
heavily on me.”


He knocks the goliath backward batting him away easily bashing him with the
great skull he uses as a shield, but then Rikar and Rhogar are upon him flanking
the half-breed monster on either side, Rikar with his twinned burning axes, and
Rhogar with his great sword. Finellior busied himself in the center of the
square channeling healing magic to the injured, and then Shaden races past the
bard, boxing the godslayer in … Together the three heroes bring the monster
down.


With the battle over the crowds soon begin to fill the square in a seething
mass. Fin despairs, ‘finding the Separatists here is tantamount to finding
courage in a kobold’ he thinks to himself. Yet even as this realization sinks
in, Vimak spies a hooded githyanki moving through the crowds, watching them. His
eyes fall on the warden lingering for a moment too long, and then he moves off
quickly. Vimak warns the others, and before Finellior can stop him, Bingus casts
sleep spell upon the fleeing githyanki. The githyanki staggers as he
continues, but soon the githyanki slumps into a wall and collapses asleep.



“Why did you do that!”

exclaims Finellior exasperated … “Even if they were going to help us they
never will now.”


“We will just see about that.” answers the gnome. With a wave of a hand and a
whisper of a powerful incantation the gnome casts another spell; the sleeping
githyanki shrinks and disappears, his form replaced by a sleeping rat which
Bingus gingerly picks-up and places within his hat before placing the hat back
upon his head. Finellior stares slack-jawed at the gnome. Bingus grins back and
with a nod suggests, “We should be on our way.”  


Back in their room at the Morningstar, Bingus collapses under the weight of his
hat as the githyanki wakes recovering his full-size and form. He moves for the
door but before he can escape, Bingus casts a friends spell halting the
githyanki in his tracks. Calmly, the githyanki turns back towards Bingus and the
gnome beckons, “Friend?” in the common tongue. Seeing acceptance within
the githyanki’s face, Bingus offers, “We have traveled far to see you, we
stand united again the Dark Lady and her minions … Could you arrange a meeting
for us?”
 


The githyanki agrees and leaves.



L
ater
that evening there is a quiet tapping upon the door of their room. Shaden open
the door revealing the githyanki. Struggling with common tongue, the githyanki
asks them to follow. He leads them out of the Morningstar and around one corner,
and then a second, each time turning right. through the streets to a building
not far … the githyanki ducks passing into a tight ally back towards a familiar
two-story building constructed from stone, encrusted with leering gargoyles, and
supported by flying buttresses, but through a door above which hung no sign,
back into the basement of Morningstar, but within this chamber it has the look
of a gothic cathedral, tall alcoves are covered by rich curtains leading to who
knew where. Double doors on one side lead into the common room, while another
set offers discrete access to the private rooms. The githyanki, Gharvag leads
the adventures through the double doors inside a hidden common room.


 


Within there is an octagonal bar painted black, commands the view and behind it
stands an attractive red-skinned tiefling in a revealing dress. She smiles. The
tables around the bar are empty except for one where Gharvag had already seated
himself. He invites you to sit with a gesture.


The tiefling named, Rhapsody, comments to Bingus in a whisper, “Nice touch
with your spell, but I wouldn’t try it again.”
… Then addressing the group
she announces, “My name is Rhapsody, I am the owner of the Morningstar, and I
have been watching you since you arrived. I am a member of the Separatist’s
movement; this inn is our base and haven. The place still operates as a tavern,
but now only Separatists come here. The githyanki is Gharvag, he has information
you might find useful, but we also need share difficult news about what needs to
be done before we can address other matters.”


Gharvag proceeds, “Although we never expected to see you here, your arrival
confirmed suspicions that our envoys within the Citadel Mercane were now dead. I
am Vlaakith’s counselor, but I have little authority. We share interest in an
alliance, but the new emperor’s secret police and oppressive strategies have
forced us into hiding.”


Finellior understands Gharvag, with Rhapsody translating whenever necessary. The
bard asks, “What do you think happened to your envoys?”



“The emperor’s agents must have intercepted our communications. Zetch’r’r’s
secret police have been rounding up sympathizers all over the city, forcing the
leaders to lay low. We’ve been waiting for word from the envoys, and this
explains the silence.”


answers Gharvag.


Finellior offers, “We are here now. We can talk; a cessation to the war is in
both of our interests.”
 


Gharvag responds, “I’m afraid you’ve come a long way for nothing. Our leader
has been captured and is held at a flying fortress outside of the city. We
haven’t mounted a rescue mission since it would expose more of us to Zetch’r’r’s
reprisals. While Vlaakith lies in chains, there can be no alliance. Should she
become free, however, things might be different.”


Finellior adds, “We are also missing a friend, an elf named Danasus … Do you
know anything of his whereabouts.”


The githyanki answers, “He is also imprisoned with the Fortress of Three
Sorrows.”



“Then our course seem clear, we must rescue both, but I am confused, wasn’t
Vlaakith killed?”

asks Finellior.



“Yes,


the Revered Queen


was destroyed around 17 years ago. I do not agree with the methods used to
remove her from power, but truthfully she was mad. Had she succeeded in her
designs, it would have meant the end for all of us. She is once again our
Vlaakith … Gone now are the deific ambitions which had plagued her, and in their
place is a renewed commitment to our glorious crusade against the illithid.”

explains the githyanki.


Rhapsody interjects, “If we would succeed and to see an end to this war,
other disagreements must be set aside in preference to the benefits of an
alliance.”



“Can you describe this Fortress of Three Sorrows?”


asks Fin.


Rhapsody answers, “The fortress boasts dragons and a full company of
warriors. It hangs in open space within sight from the city, and there are
reinforcements within quick reach of the fortress, it is only one of several
that surround Tu’narath. The sheer brazenness of an attack upon the fortress is
the very thing which might make the foray possible.


The fortress sits on top of a massive statue’s head, a screaming human wearing
an open-faced helm the tower is tilted at a forty-five-degree angle, as if it
was a tumor growing out from the statue’s ear. It is a brooding structure to
which, tethered by chains, hang three smaller towers raised atop astral
detritus, each strung from head’s tear duct … Henceforth called, The Fortress of
Three Sorrows.


How you get to the fortress is up to you. You might travel there via astral
skiff, or by some other means of your own, but the fewer who know how the
better. We offer you this, in assistance.”


Both Gharvag and Rhapsody place some items on the table: an


elongated device resembles an armless crossbow with two handles. Blue energy
shimmers over its surface, which is set with multicolored studs that
periodically rose and receded.


Rhapsody explains, “This is a portal gun, it open temporary portals for short
hop, but it must be used with care
.” 


And Gharvag offers three astral diamonds and a small poach filled with platinum
saying, “And this is more than enough for an astral skiff.”


The Fortress of Three Sorrows


 



“Can you do this?”

Finellior asks Bingus.



“Yes, of course I can … Well at least I think so … No, well I mean, I am sure I
can, but having never tried … At least, not here, one can never be too sure, but
yes I certain that I can open a portal to the fortress.”


answers the gnome.



“And this isn’t one of your tricks?”

presses Finellior.



“No, but that’s kind of funny. It is going to take several hours of preparation,
but I can do this and we won’t need to waste all this treasure on an astral
skiff either.”

responds Bingus.


Intrigued, Finellior says, “Do it!”

Over
the next four hours the team of adventurers take turns watching the fortress as
it hovers on the astral horizon; a massive stone warrior’s decapitated head
tilted on its side with a squat tower rising up from where its ear should be.
Silver chains tether three smaller towers, each floating on tiny islands.
Occasionally, pair of red dragons with riders emerge from the fortress’s maw
only to circle the head and eventually disappear back into the mouth after their
search is completed.


After some discussion, Bingus decides on opening his portal directly on the top
of the central tower of the main fortress. Their plan works perfectly; they
arrive suddenly in the center of the main tower surprising the fortresses
defenders, but they still outnumbered better than 6 to 1. Rikar begin hacking
into the regulars, githwarriors, crowding them upon the main tower. Shaden
attacks their leader a githyanki terrth. The rest of the heroes, Bingus, Vimak,
Rhogar and Finellior attack the nearest of the outer towers, but the plan is
interrupted as the terrth proves to be a greater challenge after he dazes Shaden
with a counterstrike. The terrth’s victory is short-lived, Vimak tosses him
aside and he falls under a hail of blows, and three of the four ballistae towers
are reached and either under attack or already defeated. Rikar finds opens and
explores a hatch set in the center of the main tower dropping to the floor
below. Of the nearer supporting towers, only the northeast tower still had an
unoccupied defender, he aimed his ballista at the approaching goliath and called
out for a focused attack; the teams on the three outer towers coordinate their
efforts with the githwarrior on the nearer tower joining his attack turning
their weapons on the goliath as well. Four ballistae fire, and four ballistae
score hits, the stored energy of their torsion springs unleashed in their heavy
spear-like loads upon the goliath. Bingus yells out fearfully “Hagrid!”


The others still atop the tower turn their attention to the goliath, bloodied,
his charge continues, something akin to fear fills the gith’s eyes as the
goliath races toward him. Warriors from the outer towers continue attacking the
goliath firing crossbows as ballistae are prepped for a second round of fire,
they hit the goliath over and over, bolts piercing his flesh from a half-dozen
fresh wounds, but he reaches the last githwarrior on the tower and he dies
screaming, then Vimak tosses the ballista over the side. Both Finellior and
Rhogar were already calling out to Vimak with inspiring words, as he pulls the
crossbow bolts from his body tossing them to the ground and responds … “Call
me Hagrid, it is a time for new beginnings!”
 

Down
on the lower floor, Rikar was surrounded and fighting for his life, swinging his
paired axes in dangerous arcs to keep his attackers at bay. The defenders on the
second floor seemed especially desperate, as if they were the ones trapped. A
massive red-scaled beast crowned with fire growls at Rikar while a githyanki
leader, dressed in black-enameled plate threatened with a fullblade while
shouting out attack orders. Two githyanki underlings in scale armor still
readied themselves for battle.  A ladder dropped from the ceiling trapdoor,
ending 30-foot below, the distance Rikar had dropped, ending in the tight
confines of the circular chamber in which Rikar found himself. There were iron
doors set in the walls to both sides, and an available spiral staircase burrowed
yet deeper into the tower. Like Rikar before him, Shaden drops the 30 feet to
second floor skipping the ladder, racing to Rikar’s aid. Both the githyanki
kith’rak (the tower commander) and his pet, the redspawn prove to be dangerous
foes, but with Shaden’s aid the pair of heroes are able to drive both foes
backward, providing opening to the now prepared githwarriors who attack them
putting crossbows to good use, and making matters worse, their numbers swell as
the two iron doors open.

Above
on the top of the tower those heroes remaining are forced into retreat at the
approach of the dragonriders; they fly over the main tower reigning fire down
upon the invaders. One after another the heroes’ retreat descending through
hatch in route to second floor, Rhogar lead the 3rd after Rikar and
Shaden, followed by Finellior and Hagrid with Bingus being the last one to pass
through. The defenders numbers also continue to grow, but their leader had been
defeated, overmatched by Shaden and the redspawn was by this time, out of
control and in a frenzy lashing out at any who came near. The defenses of the
tower were near collapse but thoughts of surrender end as two gish’sarath (a
title combining the githyanki words gish or ‘skilled,’ with sarath, or
‘sergeant’ in their tongue) join the battle. The fight expands in the tight
confines as Hagrid, Rhogar and Finellior join in. Bingus stays at the top of the
ladder busying himself with the placing of a wizard’s lock upon the trap door
preventing the githyanki knights from entering and joining the battle.


Rage overcoming him Rhogar, and he focuses his rage upon the foe before him
cleaving a gish’sarath in half and heading down the open spiral stairway. With
the sounds of the battle fading behind him, his raging blood begins to cool as a
dark chant rises from the base of the stairs grabbing his attention, and setting
a chill to his spine.


As Rhogar reaches the base of the stairway he finds himself within a small
square chamber. Suddenly torches flair to life lighting the chamber exposing an
iron door set in the center of each wall. The spiral stairway continues to yet a
lower level but the door on the north wall opens as if beckoning the dragonborn
to enter, and revealing a violet glow from the chamber beyond.


An ancient voice filled with dark power calls out, “Fearless mortal you
have traveled far and overcome many perils to enter this domain … Step forth if
you dare to accept my challenge. All you need do is answer one question and I
will allow you and the others to pass, but be warned if you should fail your
life shall be forfeit and I shall claim your soul.”


Awed and superstitious, Rhogar backs away, heading back the way he had come.
Midway up he is meets Shaden who is himself followed by the others, the foes on
the upper floor having been defeated. A seasoned warrior, Shaden perceives a
worrisome tension within the dragonborn, impatient such concerns, and filled
with his orcish bravado, Shaden pushes his way past Rhogar with a grunt, and he
is followed closely by the goliath. They reach the base of the stairway and head
through the open door straightaway. Past the door they see a young githyanki
woman suspended within a column of violet fire. Her body trapped in a cocoon of


energy, her breathing is slow, and her eyes closed at they enter. Beside the
suspended woman stands a tall slim, horned humanoid dressed in scarlet robes and
gripping a gnarled staff in his hands. He speaks to her softly, in an
unrecognizable tongue before he turns his attention toward the two heroes and
repeats this challenge:

“Fearless
mortals you who have traveled so far, and overcome so much to see me, step forth
if you dare to accept my challenge. All you need do is answer my riddle and I
will allow you to pass, but be warned if you should fail you and the lives of
your friends shall be forfeit in the bargain and I shall claim all of your
souls.”


Shaden enters the chamber with the goliath.



“Tell me then, what is it that a poor man has, a rich man needs, a content heart
wants, an empty heart bleeds, a miser spends, a fool saves, and all mortals take
with them to their graves?” 


Bewildered Shaden looks to the goliath who stands with him, equally confused.
Shaden calls back to the others. Neither Rikar, Fin, or Bingus seem confident in
reply, Fin and Bingus debated whether ‘time’ might be the answer, but then, from
the back of the party Rhogar speaks out, quietly at first, but then again with
more conviction … “Nothing … I think the answer is, nothing.” 


Bingus pauses for a moment, running the riddle back through his mind, and then
agrees, “He is right, the answer is nothing.”


Still not fully comprehending the response, Shaden answers, “Nothing!”


The fiend responds, “Well done, calamity averted, bad things befall those
who act in haste. You have earned my audience, I welcome you, and grant you
passage. What other boons may I offer?”


The others begin to filter into the main chamber. Before the
suspended woman, the devil stands, seven feet tall, evilly handsome and human in appearance save
for his small curved horns, a pointed tail, and a cloven left hoof.


Finellior stills himself and asks, “Who is this woman?”



“She is none of your concern. The Great Dragon has cast her lot, it is I who
bore witness to her contract and she must deal with me; for mine is the power
over this woman’s life and death, she is my disobedient daughter, mine now and
forever more.”  



Taking this in Fin continues, “We traveled with a friend, an elf name
Danasus, what can you tell us of him?”



“He is here, I could lead you to him, or free him myself, if you so desire …
There is very little I would deny you, but you must leave this woman to me.”



“I don’t think so.”

answers Bingus. “She needs to come with us. She is the one we’ve come to
rescue, the one they call Vlaakith.”


The devil’s voice swells filling the chamber,



“I have set her blood upon the top of a rock, that it should not be covered or
misused … Taking her would bring an end to all things.



The one you call Vlaakith is gone, the 143rd of her kind, destroyed years past.”


 


Seeking clarification Finellior counters, “Who is she, your daughter …
specifically, what is her name?”



“She is Gith, but her desire for revenge is but a confession of her pain; her
time is now past, she belongs to me now.”



“And who exactly are you.”

presses Finellior.



“I am but a necessary evil, an inconvenient truth … The itch that warns of
infection, I have been called the First King, the Father of Riches, the Iron
Duke, but you may call me Dis Pater. Mine is the power to grant all thine heart
might desire, nothing is beyond my grasp, you have but to ask to see your dreams
fulfilled in excess of your greatest imaginings Suspend your mortal coil, come
revel in the freedom I offer.”


Bingus
acts without warning, banishing the devil to alternate dimension, knowing full
well it was unlikely that he would be able to hold the devil there long he heads
directly for the girl.


Finellior yells, “What are you doing?”  


Bingus answers, “Saving us all! … Doing what we came to do.”


Before the gnome can cross the chamber, a lattice of scalding iron surrounds
him, trapping him within a burning prison. The devil reappears throwing his arms
into the air. A towering angel appears blocking the path to the girl, the
angel’s essence crackles with lightning, and bursts of fire; and blocking the
exit, just beyond the entry, two menacing scaled, humanoids appear, their large
bodies covered in gleaming barbs … They glare at the heroes through evil, fiery
eyes.


Clashes erupt throughout the chamber, the angel pushes the goliath hurling him
across the chamber, and then twin blades appear in his hand, each dripping with
poison. The barbed devils surround Shaden attacking him from either side. Every
move Shaden makes tears his flesh as the devils barbs rip into his flesh, but
neither are they able to fully cage Shaden, his skill with the blade being far
too great for either of the devil’s to contain him. Using all of his skill he
slices into one of the devils forcing it backward, the blade finding purchase
once, twice, then thrice until the devil suddenly disappears in a burst of
flame. The second retreats, seeking an easier target and settling on Finellior.


Bingus grabs the burning bars, and vanishes as flames explode in his wake. He
reappears behind the Dis Pater, and grabs his gnarled staff, pulling it away
before the arch-devil realizes what is happening. Taking advantage, Bingus
vanishes again with the devil’s staff reappearing next to the spell imprisoned
girl.


Hagrid and Rikar attack the angel, but they are no match for the vengeful angel
who ignores them, vanishing and reappearing besides the gnome. The angel’s
blades flash and blood flies as Bingus is left reeling by the angel’s assault.
Rhogar’s own sword falls heavy slicing  the angel with devastating force;
the angel staggers, devolving and transforming into a great ten foot wide pillar
of power stretching from floor to the ceiling. The pillar throws off poison
gases, flames, lightning, frost and acid in all directions … all the energies
associated with evil dragonkind are represented in the pillar’s attack. The
others attack the pillar uselessly as it pursues the gnome about the chamber,
only Finellior efforts and encouragement keep Bingus alive, but he is paid back
for his effort by explosion of fire as the remaining barbed devil hurls a ball
of fire at the bard setting him afire.


Through it all Bingus continues working on the magical energy field surrounding
the girl; welding the Dis Pater’s staff against the enchantment. Bingus tests
his own arcane skill again the devil’s own. The enchantment is strong, but
Bingus using the devil’s own staff adds leverage to his efforts and the imprisoning
spell’s matrix begins to collapse. The woman’s eyes flutter and open catching
Bingus’s own. The angel reforms behind the distracted gnome, his blade clashes
against the gnome’s magical enhanced inix leather armor slicing through it as if
it were non-existent. The angel prepares a final coup de grâce with its second
sword, as the goliath barrels into him, forcing the angel backwards and away
from Bingus, but then the burning lattice of iron gating reappears trapping
Bingus alone with the Dis Pater. Eager to end the contest, the devil advances as
Bingus’s skin begins to burn. The devil closes, but Bingus had already exhausted
his phoenix step spell, consigns himself to wait out his inevitable
defeat, but then strong claws grab him from above … Rhogar’s claws; somehow the
normally wingless dragonborn had sprouted wings and he gently lifts Bingus to
safety. As they rise, Rhogar responds to Bingus’s confusion … “winged,
darkhide armor”
answers the dragonborn to the gnome’s unasked query.


Elsewhere
in the chamber Rikar destroys the last of the barbed devils as Finellior puts
the flames out while retreating into the entry chamber. There to go to work on
the locked iron doors. Shaden works with Hagrid putting a final end to the
angel’s reign of terror. The iron gates disappear and with his allies defeated,
the devil, Dis Pater hisses and backs away, calling out as he retreats.



“O’ to where ‘mid the gust, the whirlwind, and the flaw



Of rain and hail-stones, lovers need not tell



Their sorrows … pale were the sweet lips I saw,



Pale were the lips I kiss and fair to form



There I float with and about the melancholy storm.”



 


The Dis Pater vanishes. The imprisoning spell collapses under Bingus
manipulation. The girl falls to the ground and rises. The others draw breathe
deep, the smell of sulphur hanging heavy in the air. Fin calls to Bingus
exasperated.



“Couldn’t you have at least waited for him to tell us where Danasus is?”


Attending to more pressing matters, Bingus addresses the woman, “So, who are
you, can we be of aid?”



“I am Vlaakith, the one hundred fifty-eighth of the name, and Tu’narath’s
rightful queen, I need nothing from you.”



“But the Dis Pater said there were 143 before you, that would make you the 144th
Vlaakith, would it not?”



“He is the father of lies, and he who was and would torment me again if such a
thing was allowed … Or more correctly his shadow, an avatar.”



“How were you captured?”



“The thralls of he who calls himself emperor attacked me upon my wakening within
the city; they struck down my loyal guards. I resisted, but I was yet too weak,
they overpowered me and delivered me here.”



“Why did the Dis Pater want you, what was it that he was saying?”



“He believes I am not who I say I am.”



“Who does he think you are?”



“Gith”




“Gith?”



“Gith, who led the uprising that toppled the illithid empire freeing the people
of Zarum after a thousand years of slavery; Gith, who vanished after soon after
she succeeded; she whose people took her name, Gith, as their own, as they
settled within the Astral Sea. She of whom, sages have whispered rumors, saying
that she had traded her soul to forge the pact between the scions of Ephelomon
and the githyanki. According to legend, she has been held captive in the City of
Dis, within Hell’s second ring, and there bound to the Archdevil’s will for all
time.”



“So if that was Dis Pater and he’s looking for Gith, wouldn’t that mean Gith has
escaped?”



“If the sages were correct in their assumptions, it would be but one possible
explanation for his presence here, as good as any other.”



“But if it is correct and Gith has escaped, that suggests that the pact is
broken, right?”



“You might make that assumption … I do not care.  I am here, and I am free
… That is what matters now.”



“So, are you Gith?”



“How would it change matters if I was? You want the githyanki out of the war. I
can make this happen, but not here, only within Tu’narath. I will travel there
directly … now.”


Without additional comment the githyanki woman rises into the air floating and
begins to glide smoothly, effortlessly through space in the direction of the
spiral stairway where Finellior was working on unlocking the iron doors.
Finellior pauses from his task, having completed picking the last of the locks.
Seeing the approach of the Vlaakith, he turns prepared to defend himself and
calls to her saying “Wait, we need to find our friend.”  



“I have waited long enough, longer than you can possibly imagine. I will wait no
longer. Your friend awaits you on the floor above, go to his aid and leave this
place. Death is coming; it is at your heels, but you need fear me not.”


The others follow behind the Vlaakith, but Finellior intercepts them saying,
“We need to go to Danasus and we should search this floor, but we need to hurry
… Vlaakith spoke cryptically but she did say danger is coming.”



 



Search they do and they find:


370 pp and 5 potions of vitality, 6 more astral diamonds, fine clothing worth
1,200 gp, 2 gems of valor, 3 potions of vigor, talisman of good fortune, and
4,400 gp worth of residuum.



Midnight Blade (Magic item, level 22) – Midnight Blade


A weapon forged for dark deeds works best when cloaked in shadow                                                                   


+5 Weapon: Heavy blade or light blade


Enhancement Bonus: Attack rolls and damage rolls


Critical: +1d8 per plus, or +1d12 per plus in dim light or darkness


Properties


•           You gain
darkvision.

•          
You take a -2 penalty to attack rolls when attacking with this weapon in bright
light.


•           You gain a +1 item
bonus to attack rolls when using this weapon in darkness.


Utility Power (Aura)  Encounter (Minor Action)


Effect: You activate an aura 2 that lasts until the end of the encounter or
until you dismiss it as a free action. Bright light in the aura becomes dim
light, and dim light in the aura becomes darkness.



Magic item, Gem-Studded Idol of Tiamat – level 21


This golden statue of Tiamat has brilliant gemstones within the eye sockets of
the statues, possession of the feels you and your party with confidence, power,
and a greater understanding of each other and those you encounter.


Properties: Each set of eyes are different types of gemstones, each eye is worth
at 15,000 gp (150,000 gp in all). While the idol is displayed, the individuals
presenting the idol gain a +5 bonus to Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Insight checks
as long as they are within 10 squares of the idol.



They also rescue Danasus.



As they search proceeds, sounds of battle grow until they echo throughout
enclosed levels of the fortress. Rhogar and Rikar go descend the spiral stairway
to check on the sounds. The stairs end in a large natural hangar, the ‘mouth’ of
the fortress. There they witness epic carnage. The cavern includes two wide
alcoves designed to nest the red dragon mounts, and the rest of the chamber is
filled githyanki warriors outfitted in plate armor, the dead and the dying.
Opposite the dragon nests lies storage area, space for astral skiffs and other
supplies, but what catches their attention is the Vlaakith; she floats suspended
in the air just feet beyond the stairs, inches above the ground, calmly,
serenely she attacks near a score of githwarriors. So one-sided is the display,
in truth it could not be called a battle, rather it is an execution. The
defenders try charging at first, but every single warrior that approaches is
struck dead. Others try hanging back, putting their crossbows to the test, yet
one-by-one the defenders rise into the air where they hang frozen in space until
she chooses to drag them forward for their own execution. 


Seconds later it is over, all 16 warriors lie dead, beheaded, at Vlaakith’s
feet. Each head severed by her bare hands. The dragonriders hover at the mouth
of the cave. The dragon breath fire, but it does little to dissuade her. She
rises higher, her clothes burning and by force of will pulls one of the dragons
towards her and says,



“I could easily slay you all, you know this … I know you do, but your wings give
you purpose, use them! Fly to your masters; tell the false Emperor and the Dark
Queen that I am coming. Delay even one second and I shall kill you all.”




As the dragons retreat the knights resist, but the mounts pay them no heed; the
first time Rikar could remember seeing the githyanki flee.


After rescuing Danasus the heroes escape by way of Bingus’s Linked Portal. With
Vlaakith they return to the city and regroup lying low at the Morningstar Inn.
Rhapsody has enough hidey-holes to allow the entire party to disappear, but
there’s not much time, however, for the attack did not go unnoticed and the
emperor’s wrath unleashes a storm like Tu’narath has never before seen. And that
is where we are starting next session.


The Chromatic Bastion, Tyranny IV


 


 


Rhapsody kept the travelers from Klarn hidden within the hidey-holes of the
Morningstar Inn, never daring to allow any of their party to be seen on the
streets, but before long they are summoned; for the attack on the Fortress of
Three Sorrows did not go unnoticed and the emperor’s wrath had been unleashed
upon separatists both imagined and real throughout Tu’narath, and his wrath was
felt hardest within the Merchant District which housed the separatist. Still
getting used to times passage within the astral plane, it was difficult for most
of the newcomers to gauge time, but Danasus has no such difficulty and he
informed them that three days have passed since the assault on the fortress when
they are summoned to meet with Vlaakith. They arrive as explanations are
underway:


 


Talanee of the Chanhiiri speaks, “The
emperor has responded to Vlaakith’s escape by closing off the city. He has gone
mad, executing his own commanders hanging them from the docking towers for all
to see. Many have fled seeking, if not in fear, than because they like us can no
longer support this false emperor’s agenda. Now he installs new commanders loyal
to himself and Tiamat in their place, many of which are not even githyanki.
Military societies still loyal to his throne have mobilized, and lay siege to
the Merchant District seeking to crush us, perhaps it would be best to turn the
travelers over to him and buy us time? Already the emperor has a full legion
with red dragon support sweeping through the district now as we speak, seeking
out Vlaakith and all others who would liberate Tu’narath from the emperor’s
clutches. Our casualties are mounting, even as confidence in the emperor wanes
throughout the city. Tu’narath is now ripe with division and unrest, yet for all
the dissatisfaction, still too few seem willing to rise up against Zetch’r’r as
long as he has Tiamat’s support.”


 


Vlaakith silences Talanee with a glance.


 



“If we can but remove Zetch’r’r and break his pact with the red dragons, the
people would rise up and wrest the city free from Tiamat’s grip. These travelers
have proven their courage, their competence, and their ambition. They have
earned their place among us and I would hear their council.”



 


The assembly is restless, and more hostile than not as the envoys enter the
chamber. Danasus turns to Finellior and whispers,
“I will not interfere in githyanki
politics, and I would caution you. I have seen this kind of thing before and I
find it disconcerting. Githyanki are much longer lived than us, their memories
and passions run deeper than you can imagine. Take care; it is not ‘our’ world
that hangs in the balance but Klarn, and this ‘Vlaakith’ is much more than she
seems. It will seem, and very well may be, that she can wrestle thoughts from
your very mind … Seek not to deceive her.”


 


The room hums like a gathering of hornets as the gathered assembly awaits the
traveler’s words. In their cold faces, Fin sees everything from blank stares, to
suspicion, to open hatred; Finellior and Bingus recognize the face of


Talanee while at the same time struggling to remember her name.

Vlaakith stands and the room quiets.
“These travelers have come a long way and have endured many hardships, some
deserved, others perhaps less so; no different than ourselves; regardless they
are now our guests, and they will be treated accordingly. We will hear their
words!”



 


Finellior takes lead and explains:


 



“We, me, our small party, we are not your enemies, not here, and not now. Many
have died on both sides of the war, and I myself, am not from Klarn though I
have many friends there, and I believe your problems are not with Klarn, but
rather their source is here, in Tu’narath. It is your own internal strife that
is of paramount importance now. The bitter differences that set the war in
motion need not continue, in particular because now we share a common enemy,
your Emperor Zetch’r’r. It is he whom has led your people astray. And who is he
serves, I ask you? What is his true intent? Who is his master?”



 



“Why might I ask this? Is not the answer obvious?”



 



“Does the Emperor’s intent truly matter at all or is he in truth just a puppet
to a higher power, the power of Tiamat? Isn’t it her intent that truly matters?
And what would be the result if she were victorious?”


 


The angry of the assembly grows, as does their volume, but not due to any
ill-will towards Finellior, rather he seemed to have found the crowd’s nerve.
Fin continues. 


 



“Perhaps we can find answer to my queries in the events of the day. Today, is it
not Tiamat actually controls your city, her dragons … and whose loyal guards
hang from the docking towers in silent protest of your Emperor’s rule? Is is not
the Emperor who has ordered Vlaakith to be captured … to be imprisoned, enslave,
or destroyed, just as he did the Vlaakith who came before her?”



 


The crowd erupts fury for the moment overwhelming them. Oaths of vengeance are
uttered, along with the chant, “Death
to Zetch’r’r!”


 


Taking advantage of the rising emotion, Bingus addresses the crowd:


 



“Zetch’r’r needs to go, but he is not the true enemy, he serves Tiamat directly.
It is truly the dark goddess’s will that is served in his attack upon Klarn. She
seeks to rule there even as she now rules here. Your emperor has, through his
alliance with Tiamat, embroiled the githyanki in a divine war not of your
making; making you pawns in the hands of the gods.”



 


Vlaakith flinches as Bingus speaks out, a sentiment shared by the assembly. She
responds:


 



“It is true, Tiamat has violated the ancient pact, and we are no longer bound by
its terms.”



 


Finellior asks, “Is it true that no
god has ever ruled the githyanki? Wasn’t it Gith who demanded that the githyanki
be free to rule their own destiny?”



 


Bingus adds, Tiamat is notorious for
her long history of betrayals. Any cursory study of her nature reveals the she
acts only in her own self-interest, a bleak portrait for any who might ally
themselves with the Dark Lady; perhaps you would be better serves by an alliance
with our coalition, an alliance against Tiamat. And we could start right now by
dethroning your Emperor and bringing his reign to an end.”


 


Vlaakith rises and says:


 



“Zetch’r’r the false must pay for his infidelity to the githyanki people with
his life, no longer can we be yoked with such a treasonous cur. His dealings
with outsiders put him in power, and delivered this fate upon him, but we, the
loyal githyanki who stand ready to replace him, should not be seen as the ones
who bring this fate or judgment upon him; not if we are to lay claim ourselves
to the higher principals of loyalty and righteous cause. No, it was outsiders
who put this Emperor in power, let it be by their hands that he is removed,
leaving us blameless and unblemished in his passing to assume the seat of power.
Zetch’r’r has sown this bed, let him reap its bitter fruit.”



 


The assembly agrees.


 



“So we have an alliance?”

asks Bingus


 


Vlaakith responds, “We can do nothing
to end the violence now, and any alliance with your Coalition is of little value
while Zetch’r’r remains in power. Should you succeed in his removal, I will
assume power, and I will withdraw the githyanki from the war. And in
consideration of all past grievances, I will allow for a period of review, a
reprieve to last one thousand years during which time should conflict renew, we
shall not be the cause. Further, first among my verdicts shall be a short-term
alliance between our people, I will dispatch Talanee, and the rest of the
Chanhiir to Klarn to aid your Coalition’s effort to bring the war to a hasty
end, but first you must defeat and slay Zetch’r’r.”



 


Later, in a more private meeting, Vlaakith solidifies her plans with Klarn’s
envoys.



 



“The Emperor’s forces are spread across the city seeking my capture or worse.
You, your people, need only deal with those few forces still guarding
Zetch’r’r’s throne. You will need to head directly to attack the emperor’s
palace, the Chromatic Bastion. Those githyanki who would see me to power will
first spark the uprising, leading strikes against the City’s command centers
taking vengeance upon all those who have betrayed us. We are strong enough to
fight for a time, but we cannot win, and we lack the resources to do this more
than once. We need to rouse the rest of the City to our cause, a thing that can
only be achieved if the Emperor falls. The chaos brought about by our actions
will spread like wildfire throughout the City providing cover for your approach
to the bastion, aside from a few cursory challenges you should be able to pass
through the remnants of the Queen’s District to your goal, the Chromatic
Bastion.”    



 



“What can you tell us about the Chromatic Bastion?”


asks Finellior.


 



“Very little, the bastion is new, it is built upon the ruins of the Lich-Queen’s
Palace of Whispers, and none but those most loyal to the Emperor are ever
allowed within. It is an obscenity, a cathedral built to honor Tiamat’s role the
defeat of Zetch’r’r’s rivals and his growing commitment of githyanki’s service
to the Dark Lady of Avarice. It is a dark place, no doubt filled with shadowy
horrors, the ilk born of such corruption. To get there you must pass through the
Necropolis, a place where Tu’narath’s fallen heroes were accorded the special
honor of being interred within sight of the Palace of Whispers before its
destruction when Vlaakith CLVII attempted to seize the divine spark from within
the One in the Void shattering the old palace. The whole of the Queen’s District
is a ruin now, all save the Chromatic Bastion which Zetch’r’r himself had
constructed.”


The heroes of the Coalition are given a few scant hours to prepare. Danasus and
Bingus study spells, as the others prepare their gear even as the separatists
begin spreading throughout the City in preparation of that they meant to
unleash. Soon the heroes find themselves wandering through the shadowy,
crumbling, mazelike necropolis of tombs and shattered statues that spread out
through the Necropolis in all directions. Paths wend through the wreckage all
leading up to the towering Chromatic Bastion wrought from black stone and fitted
with windows set with multicolored glass. Throughout the city there are
explosions and the dancing light of fresh set fires as Tu’narath heaves suddenly
engulfed in violence. Dragons with their riders search from the skies above as
rebel githyanki move throughout the shadowy streets below drawing their
attention away from the heroes in route to the emperor’s fortification. In front
of the bastion they spy the remains of an obsidian statue, with only two glossy
black legs remaining of what it once was. As they near, the path grows more
convoluted passing through an even more heavily damaged terrain. A yawning
fissure open to one side of the path and crumbling tombs and rubble to the
other; ahead black fire gutters up in columns on either side of the road.


Then suddenly the ghastly shriek of a slaughter wight rips through this hallowed
place alerting other restless dead within their tombs, dark things waken by the
chaos underway throughout the city. The first wight charges and it is soon
joined by others rising from the ground. The heroes led by Hagrid seek cover.
The wights move forward, corpses with a portion of their decayed souls yet
trapped within their withered bodies; unliving thing that yet craved the life
force of livings in an unholy quest to satisfy their immoral appetite for living
souls. The wights are soon joined by even more corrupt souls, those still hidden
in the mausoleums located further down the path. The wights stagger forward,


pallid of skin, with blackened, dirty, long-clawed hands and fierce glowing dead
eyes attacking Hagrid who is the first to challenge them. He tries to use his
great size and power to advantage, he blocks their path, but he finds the
monsters almost impervious to his attacks. Together they claw at the giant,
syphoning his life’s energy, even as their claws begin ripping through his
flesh, but worse than the tearing flesh, is the deathly cold of their withering
touch. The monsters ignore his attacks drawn by his life’s essence like moths to
the flame.


 


Danasus and Bingus back away, making space within the tight confines of the
tombs, and Rikar, Shaden and Rhogar rush to the embattled goliath. Off in the
distance Bingus spies out a glimmer light playing over treasure in the distance
further along the path and begins to move toward the gleaming metal knocking on
the tombs and mausoleums as he walks past. Other undead start to make their
presence known, the older, more malevolent spirits; these made up of incorporeal
undead, birthed by evil intent, and a hatred of the living … vengeful wraiths
and the commanding spirit of an ancient githyanki warrior, an early knight, put
to death by the Lich-Queen when he became too powerful move forward to join the
assault. The ghost still adored in his archaic plate armor, he hating all living
things, still perceived himself as a protector of the city.


 


The wraiths cutoff the paths of both Rikar and Shaden, passing quickly through
the walls of the larger mausoleums; only Rhogar succeeds in breaking through to
Hagrid, but he and the goliath still find themselves outnumbered by the wights,
three to two and they are quickly surrounded. Each of the shambling corpses
closes in, their appearance varied by their appearance at death; one is
lifelike, while another is badly rotten, missing large pieces, ribs hanging
exposed; regardless, of their appearance, each fought effectively, and being
dead, wights felt no pain and fought with strength belying their size. Having
some familiarity with the undead, Rhogar calls out:
“Sever their limbs, if they can’t
move they can’t fight. When they are destroyed the light will disappear from
their eyes!”


 


‘True, all the wights were easily identified by their eyes, which burned with an
evil light, bright like twin stars’, thought Hagrid; fearful because, sturdy as
he was, these wights seemed attracted by Hagrid’s warmer blood, and they
continually swarmed towards him rather than Rhogar, attacking with their
surprising strength; and the wights had a queer, scent that would panic any wary
soul or natural beast. They were a blasphemy, an anathema to the living, horrors
from the grave that should not be, and to Vimak (or Hagrid if you rather), one
who served the primal, natural power of Gaea, the goddess of earth, nothing
would bother him more than these unholy dead things. Hagrid found it worrisome
that these wights might yet retain some semblance of their former selves, their
former memories; worse even than zombies or skeletons, Hagrid thought, even as
his injuries drew heavy upon him. Then sudden he hears shouts of encouragement,
from both Rhogar and Finellior, and the goliath redoubles his efforts heartened
by his friend’s, silently vowing to himself to fight on.



 


Danasus follows Bingus, but then moves past the gnome, heading directly towards
the ghost while calling out to the restless spirit,
“Be gone, fell spirit, your days are
past … Call off your curs, and be on your way, trouble me and my friend no
longer, lest you temp my wrath!”  


 

The
eladrin’s challenge works, the spirit glides swiftly through the air towards the
wizard. Danasus reaches out in the open air standing between himself and the
ghost and squeezes his fist tight magically taking hold the ghost’s animating
spirit, and locking it in space, imprisoning the spirit within his grip; then
redirecting his arm toward the wights, Danasus points one finger, and orders the
spirit, “Destroy them!”


Like a puppet the ghost responds gliding effortlessly through the air towards
the wights.


 


Dodging behind one of the tombs, Shaden backs away from a wraith, still trying
to work his way through to the goliath, but then the wraith takes its head in
hand and hurls it at the retreating half-orc. The head explodes in a wave of
deathly force, cramping Shaden’s muscles like a vise, hampering his movement,
until he can move no more, and then headless, the wraith advances.


 


The second wraith fares worse against Rikar’s flaming axes, who cleave through
the spirit, first with one, than the other driving the spirit backwards until it
retreats through the wall of a mausoleum.  


 


Back amid the wights, the ghost attacks stabbing deep into one wight and then
another; each attack causing little harm, but giving the wights pause allowing
Rikar, Fin, and Rhogar to help in Hagrid’s defense. By the time the ghost
wrestles free of Danasus’s control, one of the wights had been destroyed and
another was crippled, missing an arm. Freed, the ghost turns away from the
wights moving directly into the dragonborn and disappearing in his body.


 


Rhogar’s eyes begin to shine in an evil way; he raises his greatsword slicing it
down hard towards Hagrid. The goliath withdraws, and clearly possessed Rhogar
advances.



 


Ignoring the others, or at least seeming to, Bingus continue move from mausoleum
to mausoleum, skipping, knocking, and calling out,
“Is anybody home?” as he
moves toward the gleaming metal exposed in one of the damaged mausoleums.


 


As the wraith nears Shaden, the warrior wills his muscles to move; viciously
slices into the wraith his enchanted blades, moving at a speed and skill
unmatched by any mortal warrior he had yet encountered … the wraith is no match,
and it retreats, but too slow and Shaden’s attack destroys it.


 


Rhogar and Hagrid collide together in an epic show, but as the goliath reaches
out gripping the dragonborn’s throat with one meaty hand, Rhogar’s eyes clear
and the by strength of the dragonborn’s will the ghost is cast out of Rhogar’s
body. Rikar cuts off the third wight, and together Rhogar and Hagrid fall upon
the remaining crippled wight.


 


With the wights contained, only the ghost remains free, vengeful and mercilessly
it moves back towards Danasus, its sinister intent clear. Danasus glares back at
the ghost, unmoved and says:


 



“There was a time when the restless dead bothered me, but that was before I was
reborn in chaos; learn now what it means to challenge an emissary of City of
Brass!”



 


The ghost is immediately engulfed in an explosion of fire, flames so pure, that
even the ghost’s incorporeal nature cannot save it. The flames do not stop
burning until the spirit is completely consumed in the fire’s feast of
destruction.


 


(In the broken mausoleum Bingus finds a set of:


 



MIRRORED PLATE ARMOR +5 – Level 23


 



This gleaming plate mail lends authority to your voice and can blind
foes with its brilliance.



Armor:

Plate



Enhancement Bonus:

AC



Properties:



·        


You gain an item bonus to Diplomacy checks equal to the armor’s
enhancement bonus.



·        


When an enemy scores a critical hit against you, it is blinded until
the end of its next turn.





MIRRORED PLATE ARMOR +5 – Level 23

 


This gleaming plate
mail lends authority to your voice and can blind foes with its brilliance.


Armor:
Plate



Enhancement Bonus:
AC



Properties:



·        

You gain an item bonus to Diplomacy checks equal to
the armor’s enhancement bonus.



·        

When an enemy scores a critical hit against you, it
is blinded until the end of its next turn.


 


 

Having
defeated the undead, the party moves on rising above the Necropolis to the
highest point of the Queen’s District arriving at the broken statue.



Only the legs, part of the waist, and sword blade remain, but everyone can tell
it depicted a female warrior. Black dust and broken statuary litter the ground
all around the statue and the rubble from an older structure covers the
bastion’s grounds. Reading the base of the statue Finellior realizes that at one
time it had been a statue of Gith, the legendary githyanki hero whose sacrifice
served as the inspiration of both the githyanki and the githzerai name.


 


Turning to Danasus Fin asks, “Do you know how this happened?”


 


Danasus answers, “Vlaakith CLVII’s attempt to seize the divine spark within
the One in the Void caused shockwaves to wash across the district, toppling
Gith’s intimidating statue and the Old Palace of Whispers upon which the
Chromatic Bastion now stands.”



 


Just past the statue lies the entrance to the brooding Chromatic Bastion, an
ugly thing that is squat and unadorned aside from a pair of ornately carved iron
doors, each of which is bordered by a rainbow of colored plates of glass, red
nearest either door, and others, black and white on the left, and green and blue
to the right.


 


Hagrid and Shaden step aside allowing Finellior to inspect the door, finding
nothing, the bard confirms the doors are unlocked and opens the door and quickly
steps inside disappearing within at the right side of door. Four everburning
torches are set in sconces two either side of the entry hall filling the room
with bright light and revealing a 30 feet high ceiling and four narrow columns,
each 3 feet wide, supporting the arched ceiling above.


 


Horribly, a blackened spine hovers in the hall beyond, midway in the hall in
front of a second pair of iron doors set at the far side the room. Pale blue
light from the flickering torches glints off six bright amethysts set into each
ring of the macabre spine. The spine moves independently in a snake-like fashion
as dangles gruesomely in the air casting a queer shadow on the white tile floor,
suggesting the form of a lean female wearing a crown.


 


Rhogar charges, but Finellior strikes the dragonborn warrior with his blade as
he runs pass.


 



“Out of my way, I more of a dragon than you’ll ever be. If I wanted a shield,
I’d make one of you!”

yells Fin.


 


Twin rays of black light flash like eyes atop the spine stabbing into the
dragonborn throwing him into a rigor-like sprawl on the floor of the hall.


 


Shaden and Rikar enter the hall more cautiously, ignoring Finellior’s continuing
complaints.


 


Then all at once a voice fills the thoughts of everyone present, something
ancient, female and alien. She enters their minds uninvited, trespassing upon
their thoughts a force they find themselves helpless to prevent. 


 



‘Aerdaluna? … You here now? … Back to die?’


 



‘Noooo … I will deny you a simple death, a hundred deaths would not be enough
to make you pay for your crimes!’



‘There can be no atonement … You must suffer’



‘I will have your soul that I might destroy you utterly as you tried to destroy
me!’



 



‘I will consume you slowly, forcing you to witness the death of your friends and
countless others as I reign ruin upon your family and your world!’


 


.


Danasus answers, “I don’t know by
what trickery this is fostered, but you cannot be Vlaakith, not now, not here!
We destroyed her, destroyed her utterly. What mockery is this?”


 



‘And yet I am here, what sweet irony that you have joined me here now. Come
taste my gratitude!’



Shaden
and Riker do not wait, they move forward, into the chamber never noticing as the
shadows in the room’s corners of the entry begin moving independently of the
light source, coalescing into vaguely humanoid figures before revealing
themselves as Vlaakith’s most perfect warriors, her dread knights.


 


The knights halt both warriors immediately, striking both Shaden and Rikar
without warning with their silvered greatswords, striking not so much at their
bodies, but rather at the tethering, invisible silver cords that tied their
bodies to their souls to this extra-planer realm; in so doing the knights cutoff
the heroes healing magicks of any kind, regardless of the source.


 


The spine drifts through the air approaching Danasus. The eladrin wizard tenses,
steeling his mind against the psychic assault he was sure would come and when it
does he reverses the attack upon her. Vlaakith CLVII, the defeated lich-queen of
the githyanki instantly freezes, the spine falling to the ground where it lies
quivering, stunned by Danasus’s reversal. Recovered, Rhogar begins hacking at
the dancing spine.


 


In the rear of the chamber, Finellior recovers too, his mind intermittently
filled with a cacophony of uncontrolled emotions: hatred, envy, wrath, pride,
and greed until the source in revealed in his twisted reflection in the glass.
Without thought Fin strikes out shattering the nearest window and finds his
spirit settled in the windows destruction. The bard turns and rushes to Rhogar’s
aid.


                                                                                            


As Fin attempts to move past, the knight shielding Shaden steps out sideways
moving to block Fin’s way, but inadvertently gives way to Shaden and the
opportunity to move past. The spine rises once more as the half-orc approaches,
and launches a new psychic assault this time on the less prepared warrior
switching her focus off Danasus.


 


The attack is more effective upon Shaden, his eyes roll becoming wide white
orbs, and his body goes limp and floats into the air, helpless. Having seen such
a thing before Danasus calls out:


 



“Take me if you would, witch, I fear you not! Nor will I allow you to take
another of my friends!”



 


Behind Danasus, Bingus says, “Allow
me.”
And with a spell the gnome dismisses the spine which vanishes
instantly from their reality.


 


Shaden falls to the ground and begins to wake. Finellior sees to Rhogar’s
healing, and the others turn their anger upon the knights who quickly fade away
in search of their queen. Moments later, the fallen queen breaks free of the
dimensional prison to which Bingus had sent her, but as she appears the heroes
fall upon her in mass and in moments the spine crumbles turning into dust, the
queen’s voice echoes in a final scream within the minds of all present.


 


 


Emperor’s Sentinels


Quickly
Rikar helps Shaden to his feet while Finellior moves to check the double iron
doors at the end of entry hall, there he notices blackened charring around the
seams of the doors along with a faint red glow, the remnant of dissipating heat.
Carefully he opens one of the doors without touching it directly, cautiously
wrapping his hand in thick leather and then pushing the heavy iron door hard and
fast to avoid burning himself. As the door opens a blast of heat radiates from
the chamber causing vision to blur in rippling waves; through the obscuring
heat, Fin makes out the hulking forms of two huge red monster … giant bipedal
lizard-like leviathans with massive heads and jaws lined with long-sharp teeth.
The monster’s massive skulls and balanced by long heavy tails and powerful hind
quarters. The creatures turn towards Fin appraising the bard with the unblinking
gazes of natural predators and then without warning they launch themselves into
the air easily crossing better than forty feet in a single bound closing the
distance separating them from Finellior and the others.


 


The goliath, Hagrid and the half-orc Shaden push their way to the front past
Finellior in a vain futile attempt to hold the door but they are tossed backward
by the sheer force of the monster’s landing, and the monster fearful roar sends
the party of heroes into full retreat. Bingus and Rikar end up in opposite
corners of the main columned entry hall adjacent to the strange stained-glass
windows and suddenly both fall under the window’s influence in similar fashion
as that suffer by Fin earlier. Filled with sudden fit of arrogance Bingus, looks
toward the drow, feeling not but distain for the interloper … Always in the way,
always causing problems; and before he can stop himself, the gnome launches a
cloud of magical daggers at the drow while yelling,
“I should have turned you into an elf
while I had the chance; it could of only improved your attitude. Can’t you at
least try not to be so annoying?!”


 


Dodging the hastily cast spell, Rikar responds in kind,
“Like you can ever really do anything
right … be thankful this arrow isn’t aimed at you!” 
The drow fires his longbow at the closer dragon, the arrow bounces
off the monster’s thickly scaled hide.


 


Bingus replies: “Ha, a shot like that
can only hurt your pride, you pompous buffoon!”
 
And then launches a second attack equally ineffective attack on the drow.
Neither hero was aware their emotions were being subjugated by fell glare of the
windows, each magically crafted by Tiamat’s servants, and not of glass at all,
but rather of the congealed essences of Tiamat’s children, polished into a
glassy finish which projected their natures, the raw emotions: hatred, envy,
wrath, pride, or greed.


 


Fin yells, “Break the windows!” but
finding his friends too far gone to listen he moves deftly using the columns to
screen himself from the monsters, and darts towards Bingus shattering the
nearest window as flames explode behind him.


 


Elsewhere in the chamber, the others take what cover they can but find little,
and still no one succeeds in offering any real resistance to either of the twin
land dragons. Having been thrown to the ground at opposite side of the entry by
the dragon’s initial lunge both Shaden and Hagrid regain their footing and move
past the dragons into the larger chamber, as the rearmost dragon turns toward
them and snaps snarling, but it is cutoff by Rhogar who gets in the way of the
monster’s advance while backing into the burning chamber. All three heroes find
the heat overwhelming as it rises from either one of two fiery
pools
located in the chamber. Hagrid races to the nearest door on the
right and opens the door revealing a small room approximately twenty feet long
and fifteen feet wide, shelves cover the side walls within and each shelf is
heavy laden with thick ceremonial robes woven with a metallic thread. An iron
door stands closed on the opposite wall. Ice rimes its surface. Shaden sprints
toward the opposite door on the left side of the large chamber; fear of the
dragon secretly grips his heart as he reaches for the door, thoughts of the
dragon closing upon him as he pulls the door open with all haste. 


The lead dragon baptizes the entry hall in a curtain of scorching flame
expelling fire from its mouth and nostril in a great bellow, the flames covering
Rikar, Bingus and Finellior. The dragon’s shriek drowns out all other sounds in
the hall. Bingus, now freed from the effects of the window appraises the monster
quickly and calls out uselessly in the deafening tumult,
“Let try and avoid these beasts, they appear to be simple predators, cursed
dragons left over from Klarn!”



 


Bingus quickly realizes that no one can hear him, including, so with a mental
command he orders his familiar, a tiny golden dragon, to fly about the dragon’s
head. The tiny dragon’s antics quickly distract the huge predator; and like a
speeding bullet, Bingus send the little dragon through the broken window. The
huge beast gives chase smashing hard into the main door ripping it from its
frame and runs outside in pursuit of the escaping familiar.


 


Danasus steps out of the shadows in the corner of the chamber and following
Bingus’s lead casts a false charm upon the rear dragon pulling its attention off
Rhogar and the others, the monster roars loudly and turns away charging through
the entry following its twin. When the heavy fanged horror passes, Danasus waves
the others through into the larger hall and follows behind the others.


 

The
door opened by Shaden reveals a second small chamber, again twenty feet long and
fifteen feet wide, at the far end steps descent to a hallway but within this
room two githyanki guards oppose the half-orc warrior. The githyanki were
prepare and they attack immediately, expecting to die they fight even harder
than usual, fighting as if they were possessed. Rhogar races in after Shaden
charging past the half-orc and fells one githyanki with a single blow, pushing
the second backwards. Shaden calls to Hagrid across the large hall shouting,
“We are going this way!”


 


While the rest of the party filters into the burning hall. Out in front of the
Chromatic Bastion the lead dragon snaps its jaws shut upon the small familiar
destroying it. Danasus yells, “Hurry,
they will soon they will be upon us again!”



 


Even as he speaks the first dragon moves to reenter the bastion, but Danasus
uses another charm to turn the second dragon against it and it attacks the first
dragon as it attempt to reenter the bastion. A battle ensues and the entryway
crumbles under the weight of the two dragons. Danasus waits in the burning hall
as Rikar, Bingus and finally Hagrid pass him following after Shaden, but
Finellior pauses and the doors of the burning hall’s iron doors hoping to secure
them. Danasus calls out to the bard.


 


Fin holds his position and says, “Send
Shaden, I think we can secure the doors.”


Shaden peers out of the room and asks,
“Where are the dragons?”


 



“They are heading back this way …”

answers the bard.


 



“Then you come here.”

answers Shaden, and disappears within the room.


 


Frustrated Fin closes the doors and bars the handles with the enchanted blade
they had recovered in the Necropolis. Almost immediately the blade begins to bow
under heavy pressure from the other side of the doors. Again Danasus calls to
Fin, “Hurry you fool!”  


 


Inside the small chamber the number of githyanki had grown as warriors filled in
from adjoining chambers. Leading the way Rhogar fights valiantly, but he is
outnumbered and he holds the githyanki off and long as he can, but as the other
join him, it is too late, bleeding from a dozen wounds the dragonborn collapses.
Rikar is quick to Rhogar’s side, seeing Rhogar lying there covered in blood, the
drow nimbly steps over Rhogar’s body and buries his axe in another githyanki. In
the main hall the doors gives way, their hinges buckling before the enchanted
blade breaks, the sword flies high in the air and Fin runs catching the blade on
the fly, and bolts full speed through the open left door passing Danasus in the
doorway, both dragons fast on the bard’s heels.


 

Danasus
yells, “Go! Get behind me!” and
steps forward raising both rod and staff high commanding the dragons, says,
“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” The dragons
skid across the stone floor coming to an abrupt stop just in front of Danasus,
smoke seeping from the nostril in angry clouds. 



As
Finellior enters, he sees Rhogar lying in the pooling blood, and immediately use
the magic of song too begin the healing of the dying warrior, encouraging the
warrior to rise, and fight again, promising all the while to regale the world
with the dragonborn exploits.


 


Quietly, Shaden turns away, inwardly ashamed of his failure against the dragons,
and hurls himself with abandon at the githyanki warriors. With Shaden joining
him, Rikar makes short work of the remaining githyanki; Rikar racks up one kill
after another until fully a half dozen githyanki lie dead at his feet. Bingus
moves past the others examining chambers to the south of the hall; there he
finds not but abandoned barracks of the githyanki warriors, each room consisting
of two or more bunks and a small table with a basin and water. By the time
Bingus returns all of the githyanki are dispatched, and Danasus had rejoined the
others. The other had been waiting on Bingus’s return before continuing their
exploration of the bastion. Rhogar was much better, and Rikar had scouted out a
new set of double doors on the north wall and the next chamber. With Bingus in
tow, Rikar leads the party in that direction. The door to the burning hall had
been sealed, as no one was anxious to face the dragons again. Beyond the door it
was easy to hear the monsters rustling about within the fiery chamber. As a
group begins moving north they head up some steps and through a small training
facility. It is a mostly bare room organized for sparring and practice of weapon
maneuvers. The walls hold weapon racks, and the floor is broken up into a pair
of fighting rings, at the far end of this room lies set of double iron doors
Rikar had found. Hagrid moves forward and opens the doors exposing them to an
appalling reek, an overwhelming stench that transcends ordinary decay. The
chamber extends thirty feet and it has a large opening on the far side of the
right wall. Immediately the hall brightens to an almost blinding level as on the
far end of the hall they are joined by a large strange crackling orb of
electrical energy, it appears from the opening to the right at the speed of
light and begins hovering in the corner there near the ceiling, twenty feet
above their heads.


 


Without thinking Hagrid moves past the others in a fashion reminiscent of his
fallen son Ramok, passing through the opening on the right, he climbs a short
flight taking the in one goliath sized step and enter into an odd tiered
chamber. Within the chamber ledges flank a deep pit which is the the source of
the stench. The pit occupies the room’s center. Statues depicting rearing young
blue dragons stand in the four corners of the chamber upon the ledges on either
side of the room; with the statues on the ledges wait two winged humanoids, each
wielding a metal crafted weapon; one with a trident, the


other carrying a mace. Back in the entry the crackling orb of lightning comes to
life, slashing the air with bursts of lightning.



The
lightning strikes Rikar, Bingus, Fin, Rhogar, Danasus and Shaden, and for the
briefest of moments the sphere shifts form to that of a dragon-like creature
formed entirely of energy, then shifting back to its spherical form it vanishes,
leaving everyone dazed in its wake, as the sphere immediately reappears within
the tiered chamber just beyond and high above Hagrid, but before Hagrid can give
any thought to the sphere, the two devils attack, each points their weapons
towards the goliath and the devil discharge their own bolts of lightning.


 


Reaching in his pouch, Bingus fuel energy into his magical ebony fly; it grows
and Bingus immediately takes to air, darting into the large stinking chamber;
quickly Bingus sends the fly into a steep dive and disappears into the deep
yawning pit thinking to take cover there. In the darkness he quickly casts a
light spell which reveals the death masks of a heaping pile of githyanki
corpses, their faces each locked in scowls of pain and horror; their rotting
bodies completely covering the bottom of the large pit to such a degree that
Bingus cannot see a true bottom. Then something darker begins to congeal, a
thick, sickening darkness rises form the pile of bodies; a black mass, terrible
and silent, radiating unimaginable pain and dreadfulness. From this darkness,
tendrils begin spreading, reaching out towards Bingus attempting to engulf the
gnome.


 


The rest of the heroes begin entering the chamber, Rikar heads right and Shaden
to the left, while Rhogar heads directly towards Hagrid racing to the goliath’s
aid. As they fan out, Fin holds the door, calling out directions and questioning
Danasus who stays with the bard, positioning himself behind Finellior.


 



“What are these things?”

Fin asks.


 


Danasus
responds, “I have seen their ilk before,
but I have seen similar things; the sphere may be an animated spell, an
elemental, given a semblance of life, but more intelligent. It may be a ‘primal
storm’, something created or harvested from an evil source … perhaps a dragon …
I am more confident about the other creatures, they are devils, baatezu if you
rather, denizens of the Nine Hells. They will likely be resistant to fire, and I
would expect lightning as well. This smells of the Goddess



Tiamat … She rules in Avernus, the first layer of the Nine Hells.”


   



Inside the chamber Rhogar rallies against the red devils wielding the mace, and
Shaden follows suit taking the fight to the darker devil with the trident; then
Bingus erupts from the pit, the fly’s wings buzzing loudly with darkness still
closes in upon him and his mount, but Bingus races beyond its grasp and lands on
the far side of the room near another set of doubled doors. 


 



“Corellon’s grace, that gnome’s done it again!”

exclaims Finellior.


 


Then creature of darkness smashes Hagrid painfully. The thing Danasus coins a
‘primal storm’ also attacks bringing Hagrid to his knees. Ignoring Rhogar, the
red devil also attacks Hagrid, striking him with a devastating explosion of
sound, an infernal clap of thunder so powerful that it knocks Shaden off his
feet on the other side of the hall, the power of the explosion hurling the over
300 pound goliath towards the pit. Hagrid saves himself by only the thinnest of
margins, and Rhogar makes the devil pay for ignoring him sinking his blade deep
into the devil.


 


Danasus tells Fin, “See to the others,
help the goliath, I will deal with the elemental.”



 


Danasus raises his rod and staff, pointing each at the lightning monster, and
then begins taking turns firing from one and then the other, each releases
bright blue beams of force that strike the primal being unerringly.


 


As
confusion grows throughout the chamber the huge dark visage from the pit float
high, easily dominating the room. Rhogar shouts out loudly to the heroes calling
for an all-out assault upon this new threat.
“Wail down a hail of steel!” he
yells as he leads the charge. Rikar, Shaden and Hagrid answer his call, and
attempt to dodge the monsters flailing tendrils while they bring the fight to
the monster.


 


The heroes’ attacks all pass easily through the darkness’s body, seeming to
cause no hindrance to the creature, at best they manage to sever tendrils, but
these too immediately reform. Surprisingly, it not the heroes at all that the
creature shies away from, but rather it is the devils that seem not to bother
the menacing blackness. The thing shutters as the devil’s approach which gives
Bingus an idea.


 


Darting across the chamber, the primal elemental moves to attack Danasus, but
before it arrives Danasus freezes in it in space; witnessing this Bingus changes
his focus long enough to draw his Orb of Indisputable Gravity and attacks the
frozen elemental causing it to gently fall to the ground. Refocusing, Bingus
then turns his attention to the thing of darkness and blasts the monster with a
fear heightening spell; in the creature’s alien mind the storm devils seem
larger and closer, more intimidating … Without pause the thing of darkness
begins to melt into the pit.


 


Unbeknownst to the heroes, the dark visage was a skin of terror, all that was
left of the githyanki warriors tortured to death in the pit by the devils within
the chamber, fearful it sinks back down, disappearing within the darkness of
pit.


 


Seeing the opportunity, Shaden rushes to the fallen elemental, and strikes it
several times seeking to destroy the fallen creature, Danasus aids the half-orc
firing more of the blue beams of force, magic missiles at the thing until it
implodes.


 

Cackling
like a mad man, Bingus takes to air and flies through the chamber yelling,
“More visitors’ boys, you better finish
off these devils quick! I can’t do everything myself.”


Unbelieving, Fin scoffs in derision.


 


Rhogar lands another blow upon the red devil and the fiend begins to spin
rapidly swinging the iron mace about itself in a deadly arc, smashing Rhogar to
the ground and escaping beyond the dragonborn’s reach.


 


Rikar dances away from the other devil and joins Hagrid at the door abandoned by
Bingus; together the drow and the goliath brace themselves against the charging
githyanki; as they do, the knight reaches out with his mind, his mind
disciplined by a century’s worth of training, and grasps the goliath within a
telekinetic vise and throws him backwards through the air and if he weighs
nothing. Hagrid flies back into the pit catching himself for a second time at
its edge. Alone Rikar bars the doorway and succeeds in keeping the githyanki at
bay by brandishing his paired axes. Fin rushes to Hagrid’s aid. 


 


With final swings both Shaden and Rhogar finish off the two storm devils, in the
process Shaden is throw off the upper tier by the dying devil as he strikes, but
Shaden recovers rolling to his feet and races to Rikar’s side joining in the
defense of the door.


 


As
Fin pulls the goliath from the pit, a black tendril appears wrapping around
Hagrid’s leg, biting deep into Hagrid’s flesh. The goliath rips his leg free and
hurriedly climbs out of the pit with Fin still helping. Finellior’s eyes grow
wide as behind the goliath, the creature of darkness rises again hovering over
Hagrid, dwarfing the goliath. Danasus distracts the darkness firing magic
missiles at the tortured visage, giving Bingus a chance to


summon forth a magic vortex which inexorably draws the monster into nether plane
saving the goliath.



At the doorway the duthka’gith, githyanki half-dragons throw themselves against
the heroes’ two most powerful fighters, Shaden and Rikar. At the start, the
duthka’gith have the upper hand, the power of the duthka’gith’s blows are enough
to bend Shaden over and throw him backwards over ten feet, back into Hagrid, but
again Rikar interposes himself and blocks the githyanki advance. The drow
slashes at the duthka’gith viciously, while deftly avoiding their
counterstrikes. Caught by Hagrid, Shaden quickly returns charging back into the
fray, choosing a quarry among the attackers and hitting him with a cascade of
blades, using both his main and his off-hand weapons, not giving the duthka’gith
an opportunity to fight back; Shaden scores hits time and again with either hand
leaving the duthka’gith injured and bleeding. The injured duthka’gith responds
by breathing fire trying to back off both Shaden and Rikar, but neither hero
yields any space.


 


 In the tiered hall Fin shouts,
“Good work there Bingus.”, only half
meaning what he is saying to the gnome, and understanding the creature of
darkness would soon return, Fin continues,
“Let’s spread out, Danasus, Bingus and I
can all attack from distance, Rhogar and Hagrid can attack from opposite sides
of the pit.” 


 


From behind the duthka’giths, the undead githyanki kryizoth fire mage immolates
itself and begins to cause Shaden and Rikar to self-combust; their bodies’ heat,
and their clothing begins to smolder. Shaden finishes one of the duthka’gith and
leaps at the mage, but the githyanki knight arcs his blade into the half-orc’s
chest smiting Shaden harshly. Once again Shaden finds himself flying backwards,
sailing over twenty-five feet this time, all way back into the tiered chamber.
The knight fills the gap left by the dead duthka’gith, and again Rikar takes on
both opponents, fighting with such skill to make it impossible for the githyanki
to pass. 


 


As expected the horrendous black mass reappears with a mournful gasp, and as
one, the other defenders in the tiered chamber attack. The monster counters
flaying two heroes closest it, Rhogar and Hagrid, but that doesn’t prevent their
attacks and they refuse to retreat, and working as a group they begin to
overwhelm by strength of will and superior teamwork. The monster visibility
diminishes. Again Shaden is quick to return to the fight; this time he uses
Rikar to screen his approach and he leaps past the drow, who by this time was
fully ablaze. Rikar had already slain the second duthka’gith and he was engaging
the knight giving Shaden opportunity to move past and into fire mage;
immediately the fires burning Rikar fade as Shaden’s blade sinks into the mage’s
dead flesh. The tortured visage within the main room shrinks away as the fire
mage dies at the end of Shaden’s blade. Then together, Rikar and Shaden turn on
the githyanki knight. Moments later the battles end in both chambers. The heroes
exhausted and several of them covered with blood, as much of their own as that
of their enemies, but everyone had survived. They gather together in the smaller
room with Tiamat’s statue.


 

The
chamber is dominated by the looming statue of Tiamat. A golden plaque at the
base of the statue reads
‘The Dark Lady of Avarice’
. 
The heroes surround the statue, standing back at the edges of the
chamber, taking in the vast, meticulously carved statue. Three walls of the
square chamber feature double doors, the one they had entered from on the left
side of the chamber; the main doors, blackened and charred like those in the
entry hall, these doors clearly led back into the large chamber with the
dragons, and another set of doors on right side of the chamber which were still
shut.


 


Hagrid is the first to move. He approaches the statue, and one of the statues
heads animates turns towards the goliath releases a blast of greenish choking
gas before Hagrid can react. The goliath reels, unable to breathe, choking, he
staggers backward trying to recapture his air.


 


While Rhogar assists Hagrid, Shaden speaks up,
“Fin this looks like a job for you.”



 



“I may be more schooled than you … Let’s face it who isn’t? But I assure you,
I’m no expert on poison gas breathing statues, besides, I don’t know about the
rest of you, but I am worn mighty thin by all the recent excitement. Perhaps we
should rest?”


responds the bard.


 



“There’s no time for that now.”

says Danasus, with conviction.



 



“Agreed!”

adds Shaden.


 


Bingus flies above the statue on his mount trying to get a closer look, as he
approaches he offers, “Maybe we can
manipulate the statue in some way?”
… Then the statue cocks another of its
five heads and breathes more poison gas upon the gnomes. Bingus crashes choking
in one of the distant corners of the chamber.


 

“Everyone
clear out of here! Go now, wait in the tiered chamber. I spend years in the
mines of Red Rock … A little rancid gas isn’t going to stop Me.”


orders Shaden. 


 



“Not only that, but you’re a half-orc too!”

adds Fin.


 


After the others clear the chamber Shaden quickly climbs the statue, which
shoots more poison gas upon the stubborn half-orc causing him to fall, but time
and again Shaden climbs back on to the statue. The gas is potent enough that
Shaden can do nothing but collapse and roll about on floor struggling to
breathe, but he persists … He falls once, then then twice and finally, the third
time a head turns to breathe, Shaden grabs it in frustration sealing the mouth
forcefully with his hand and this time the statue slides five feet forward.
Shaden repeats his action a second time and then with a third head; each time
the statue slides until finally an opening is revealed to a secret chamber at
the back of the chamber, an opening previously concealed by the statue’s wings.


 


The rest of the party quickly rejoins Shaden as he recovers from the ordeal with
the statue. As they do Bingus, Rikar and Rhogar cautiously peer through the
opening into the now revealed chamber. Through the arched entry they see into a
lavish chamber, the bottom floor of a tower. Soft pillows cover the floor
beneath the stairs spilling out onto the floor beyond; the stairs trace the
interior wall of the first floor leading up to a second level above. The air in
the base of the tower is scented by incense. Across the chamber a heavy brocade
curtain conceals the far side of the room. A disk inset into the floor shines
with blue light. From above, they hear voices. Both are masculine, the first
voice is cultured and refined, but it is all but drowned out by the second much
more powerful voice that booms even as it speaks softly; this voice fills the
entire tower and filtering into the statue chamber beyond. Both of the voices
speak in the draconic tongue. Understanding the language, Bingus, Danasus,
Finellior and Rhogar know they are having a heated discussion regarding the
riotous events underway within Tu’narath.


 


Stepping softly, Rikar enters the chamber and looks upward were he sees the
gargantuan head of an immense red dragon peering down through a hold in the roof
top floor, three stories above; the head of the dragon is large enough to
extrapolate that the dragon itself might be nearly as large as the tower itself.
The dragon’s head is large enough to block the opening in the roof which would
otherwise be open to the sky. Stairs lead up to the third level from the second
floor above … The dragon glares at Rikar and says:


 



“It seems you have other guests. Attend to them. Your house does not seem to be
in order, and our queen will be displeased.”



 



 


Recap:


 



The party of adventures has earned the ‘opportunity’ for an alliance with
Vlaakith that has the potential of ending the war upon Klarn, halting the
githyanki invasion and saving an untold number of lives, but she can do

nothing to end the violence while the Emperor Zetch’r’r remains in power. Now
the heroes have taken up the quest to remove the Emperor from power, should they
succeed in his removal, Vlaakith would assume power, and withdraw the githyanki
from the war against Klarn; furthermore, has agreed that if the emissaries from
Klarn are success, she of behalf of the githyanki would forgive all past,
including the assassination of Vlaakith



CLVII (157) by previous travelers from Klarn … a crime which the visitor Danasus
has already confirmed to be true. Should it happen this


reprieve to last one thousand years during which time should conflicts renew,
the githyanki swear they will not be the cause.



 



Events are now underway; the Emperor’s forces have been spread thin across the
city responding to countless harassments of the githyanki rebels following
Vlaakith. Should you or they fail; the new Vlaakith will almost certainly be
killed. Klarn’s heroes have this one opportunity to deal with those few forces
still left guarding Zetch’r’r’s throne. The uprising has been sparked, and many
of the City’s command centers are under attack, but alone the rebels cannot win,
and they lack the resources to accomplish this maneuver more than this one time
given that the Emperor’s forces, led by Tiamat’s red dragons will ultimate crush
the rebels. So, the time is now or never if the heroes are to have any chance of
success.



What will happen, who will live and who will die, remains in doubt but either
the Emperor or the heroes must fall, and the fate of a least two worlds are
hanging in the balance.



 



Vlaakith’s final degree is still ringing in echoing through the heroes’
thoughts:



 



“Listen! The darkest hour is upon us, but we have no need to fear and no reason
for anguish.



It has been foretold that I would return, and my blade shines like a thousand
stars, have you not seen our enemies cower before its brilliance.



Mine is but one voice, but you have answered with the shout of a thousand
warriors; while your enemies wail, gnashing their teeth with fear, and well they
should for my anger burns hot as a thousand suns!



Our enemies will be as cinders before our inescapable wrath.



Yes, it has been foretold and I have returned; for long ago it was I who severed
of our chains, foolish are those who thought I would stand idle while the false
Emperor tries to replace them!



I have come to lead us into a new age of glory and conquest, and in our name we
will build an empire to span all worlds, giving no shelter, no succor, and no
mercy to those who would oppose us.



So it has been foretold, and our time is now. Take heart warriors, I, Gith, am
among you, and our victory is at hand!”

 

The Emperor’s Redoubt

 


Quickly
Rikar ascends the spiral stair heading for the second floor. As he climbs the
glimmer of treasure catches his eye as he begins seeing piles of precious coins
lying about in high piles upon the second floor but the drow is more interested
in a second flight of stairs rising to the third level of the tower. A blue
light bolts past striking the dragon hard, a spell cast by Danasus on the bottom
floor of the tower.


The Dragon growls,



“Deal with your visitors!” 


Then dripping his huge head though the hole in the ceiling the dragon breaths
out a gout of flame upon the drow who withers under the impressive blast, losing
consciousness he falls.


Rikar wakes seconds later as his friends race past, Rhogar pausing long enough
to render aid. Nearby Bingus chuckles huddling close to the curved wall of the
tower and whispers, “Special delivery.”
while pointing upward as if
answering an unasked question.


On the 3rd floor above Shaden appears next to a githyanki seated upon
an iron throne, who can only be Emperor Zetch’r’r. Shaden finds himself in a
circular chamber, with banners covering the walls of a wide room. The iron
throne is flanked by burning braziers’ standing at either side, while the
banners cover all the surrounding walls. There is a great circular hold in the
ceiling. The seated githyanki has the bearing of a veteran warrior and he stands
suddenly, not slowed by the black plate armor covering his body. A crude iron
crown rests on his brow, a ruby-encrusted scepter hangs from his weapon belt,
and a silver sword rests easily, already in his hand. He glowers at Shaden with
his one good eye the other is gone and in its place is a fat onyx stone. And
they, Shaden and the Emperor, are in turn surrounded by several of the Emperor’s
scantily clad githyanki women, but what dominates the room is the massive
dragon, who glares through the hole in the ceiling, but then suddenly he looks
upward long enough to allow Shaden a glimpse of the sky above, through the
opening he sees a battle raging above; astral skiffs maneuvering, launching
volleys of spells while pact dragons and their riders close upon them. Time
stops for Shaden as his battle honed reflexes take control, his sword springs
towards the Emperor’s neck, but Zetch’r’r effortlessly parries Shaden’s attack
and spins his heavy silvered blade with a master’s touch, burying it to the hilt
in Shaden’s side, then rips the wound open as he pulls the blade from Shaden’s
torso, showering himself with the half-orc’s blood. 


Shaden collapses down on one knee, as if bowing to the Emperor. Steeling himself
with the pain of the open wound, and well knowing he would likely have only one
chance, Shaden thrusts his sword overhead blocking first one finishing blow then
a second, before trapping the Emperor’s blade between his arm and his wounded
side with a cross-body parry; reactively his body responds, power born of
willful intent surges as Shaden rises sword first, lifting the Emperor it the
air with the power of his strike, and then sweeping the blade in a sudden arc he
knocks Zetch’r’r to the ground with a furious following strike. Bleeding
profusely, shock spreads over the Emperor’s face, his already pale face growing
more insipid by the second. Then the women throw themselves again Shaden in a
mad attempt to save their Emperor. Time still slowed, Shaden becomes aware that
his friends had joined him as tall, powerful Rhogar starts peeling the women off
him, and across the open floor of the third level, he spies out Fin poised to
strike, but then the bard is distracted by dragon as its massive head descends
through the hole in the ceiling, but then Bingus shoots through the opening in
the floor and the gnome casts a spell and suddenly the Emperor is engulfed in
mass of clinging acidic jelly … Zetch’r’r calls out in final, choking, silent
scream, as the women throw themselves upon him. Fin yells,
“Grab the scepter!” and Bingus
complies landing next to Shaden as the Emperor and the women melt together into
a horrid quagmire of flesh and blood.


The great dragon, Vraxanault, the Red
Terror, glares poised to incinerate them. As Fin says, “Great Dragon, do we
not hold the Scepter of Ephelomon?”



“You are a troublesome company. I credit you for your persistence.”


Fin continues, “This is the same scepter
that sealed Ephelomon’s ancient pact with githyanki, he who was Tiamat’s former
exarch, correct?”



“You are well-schooled, bard.”



“Given that we now hold the scepter, I see no reason this fight should
continue.”


Without another word the dragon closes the exchange with a roar of pure rage and
abandons the tower, leaving the heroes alive, and free to explore the tower.


After a short while an astral skiff appear hovering above the roof and voice
calls out from atop the roof of the tower. The heroes climb to roof upon a
magical rope cast to the roof by Shaden. When they arrive they find Vlaakith and
several of her githyanki knights waiting above within the skiff. Surprisingly
the githzerai elder, Odos is also with them, quietly he congratulates the party
on their victory and then Vlaakith asks for the Scepter of Ephelomon. Bingus
bows and hands over the scepter.


 


Taking the scepter, Vlaakith makes ready to leave, saying,
“It’s time to bring this to an end, join
us.”


 


After the heroes have boarded the astral skiff rises again. Vlaakith directs her
retinue to head for the dragon caves at the opposite side of the city. Odos says
nothing more, suggesting patience. The view from the skiff affords the travelers
an excellent view of Tu’narath in flames. Fighting still rages in pockets, but
the sky is surprisingly free of dragons. Soon, the skiff descends and lands on a
large floating rock amid the debris held by the red dragons. There, Vlaakith
steps out and waits. Moments later, Vraxanault the Great, emerges from the most
massive of these caves, he is followed by four other fully grown red dragons.
Before they attack, Vlaakith raises her hands to show them the scepter and she
says:


 



“Children of Ephelomon, our pact is ended and your worthy service is no longer
required.”


 


Without another word, she throws the scepter high into the air where it explodes
as Vlaakith shatters the relic into a million pieces with a telekinetic attack;
the pieces are so small they make no sounds as they rain in a cloud upon the
rough ground. Vraxanault’s eyes narrow for a moment and then it says:


 



“You have been suitable partners these long years. It would be a waste to see
you destroyed. We shall leave, but know this: When we next meet, it shall be as
enemies.”


 


Once again the ancient dragon roars and lifts off, and the other dragons follow
his lead. All across the shattered expanse, more dragons leave their caves, some
carrying blackened eggs, others spitting fire, piercing the air with their
screams. As dragons abandon the city in scores, the few remaining dragons still
mounted descent dropping off their riders to the city streets below before
following their kin. Within minutes, the dragons vanish into the shimmering
void, leaving the city finally, fully under githyanki control. Eventually
Vlaakith addresses at the adventures from Klarn, and says:


 



“We will honor agreements. I will leave your world to its own fate for the next
thousand years, and forgive all prior trespasses providing that in this time,
the people of your world do nothing to break this peace we have brokered today;
further, we make no claim to any of the treasures you have extracted from the
Chromatic Bastion as it and all it stood for will be destroyed. You are free to
stay in the city or to leave, but when you do leave do so with the understanding
that you and yours may never return.”


 


Bingus, politely addresses Vlaakith,
“Thank you, Queen of the Githyanki, thank you … I do not wish to sound
ungrateful, but I have a boon to request … Can we not extend our alliance
further, can you not spare a few of your warriors to our cause on Klarn. Our people
have suffered greatly, and there the battle rages on.”



 


She responds,
“I will dispatch my



Ch’r’ai led by Talanee with whom you are already familiar. They will bring the
rogue githyanki in line or see to their destruction; the war is over; and, I will
see it to a swift end.


When you are ready we will open a portal to either the Well of World or to your
mortal realm to facilitate your return; the choice is yours.”


 


Odos approaches Finellior as says,
“You and your friends, The Brigade,
Bingus, Chen … there are so many to thank, and not only them but also those
friends we have all lost. You must thank them all for me, and know that these
things we have endured have made us stronger, and they were not without purpose.
Vlaakith has now taken command of Tu’narath. Soon, she will have the Chromatic
Bastion razed, and she will build a new structure amid what were the red
dragon’s caves, a symbol of githyanki independence. And she has already extended
a hand of peace to my people. We have stood separate for too long, and it is
time to put the old grudges which have weakened us to rest. We are all Gith’s
children. Those githzerai who accept the peace she has proffered have been
invited to make the journey from the Elemental Chaos to find new lives here
within Tu’narath, and so we will be reunited, and here we will surrender our old
identities of githyanki or githzerai and embrace a new culture together as the
gith. In this you have earned my gratitude.”

As the group prepares to leave, Finellior asks if
while they are here they have permission to inquire into the fate of previous
travelers from Klarn who visited Tu’narath to which Vlaakith assents.

She addresses the assembled Githyanki and Githzerai and the party can
almost feel the devotion that both races are already giving to her:


“I hear your voice on the wind and I hear you call out my name!
Listen, ”
then gazing as if at each on individually, “my child. I am the voice
of your history.
Be not afraid,
come follow me, answer my call, and I’ll set you free.

I am the voice in the astral wind and bloody rain
I am the voice of your hunger and pain
I am the voice that always is calling you
I am the voice, I will remain

I am the voice in the fields when the summer’s gone
The dance of the leaves when the autumn winds blow
Ne’er do I sleep thoughout all the cold winter long
I am the force that in springtime will grow

I am the voice of the past that will always be
Filled with my sorrow and blood in my fields
I am the voice of the future, bring me your peace
Bring me your peace, and my wounds, they will heal”

The gathered people are chanting Vlaakith and the party is
discretly escorted out of the throng where they are now clearly outsiders.

As the group
starts to leave Danasus hears Vlaakith speaking telepathically to him, “As
always, I am grateful for your continued service. The others fell away, but you
have remained ever faithful in our service.  We will remember this  in
our Accession — the prophecy continues. Fare thee well, Aerdaluna.”

Collected Treasure:



Red Orb of Dragonkind Level 24 … +5



           
Implement:


Orb



           
Enhancement Bonus:


attack rolls and damage rolls



           
Critical:


+1d6 damage per plus, or +1d10 damage per plus against red dragons     



           



Power



Daily (Minor Action)


Your next attack with this implement against a dragon, if made
before the end of your turn, gains a +5 power bonus to the attack
roll and automatically ignores any resistance the dragon has.



 



Power



 (Fire) 
Daily (Minor Action)


The next attack you make deals fire damage in addition to its normal
damage types.



 



Power (Charm, Implement)




(Standard Action)



Attack:



Ranged 20 (one red dragon); Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma + 4 vs.
Will; on a hit, the target is dominated until the end of its next
turn. On a miss, you are dazed until the end of your next turn.





Red Orb of Dragonkind Level 24 … +5



           
Implement:


Orb



           
Enhancement Bonus:


attack rolls and damage rolls



           
Critical:


+1d6 damage per plus, or +1d10 damage per plus against red dragons
           



Power


Daily
(Minor Action)


Your next attack with this implement against a dragon, if made before the end of
your turn, gains a +5 power bonus to the attack roll and automatically ignores
any resistance the dragon has.
 



Power

 (Fire) 
Daily (Minor Action)


The next attack you make deals fire damage in addition to its normal damage
types.
 



Power (Charm, Implement)


(Standard
Action)



Attack:



Ranged 20 (one red dragon); Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma + 4 vs. Will; on a
hit, the target is dominated until the end of its next turn. On a miss, you are
dazed until the end of your next turn.
 



 



Regis’s Ruby Pendant +5



Neck Slot – Enhancement Bonus: Fortitude, Reflex, and Will    


Unique: this item cannot be purchased or created with the Enchant Magic Item
ritual.         



Power (Charm)


Daily
(Standard Action) 


You make the following ranged attack against one creature within 10 squares of
you; +30 vs. Will.



Hit:

You designate a specific time or date in the future (for example, noon tomorrow)
or a specific event that might occur in the future (for example, when you next
see the blacksmith). If the designated time or event occurs before you use this
item’s power again, the target is dominated by you (save ends). You do not need
to be near the target or have line of sight or effect to the target to choose
its actions for the purposes of the dominated effect.

 

          
16,000 gp; 600 pp, and two diamonds worth 5,000 gp each; plus a silvery cloak
spun from astral thread, a mithral mirror, and golden idol of Tiamat (each
valued at 15,000 gp); a
nd,
one viable red dragon egg.