The Peering Eye

Introduction

The following completes the tale of the heroic villagers of Woodhaven. It continues their story from the start of the Great Battle of Darkkeep.

The Battle of Darkkeep

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Moonday

After valiant struggling of will, prayer and spell, Ethan looses his battle against the power of shadow and starts to succumb. As his body begins to be consumed by negative energy and drifts towards undeath, Stanten Turbett floods his body with the radiant power of Croi. The negative energy in his body reacts explosively to that and the shock has the desired effect. It kills him. Ethan's body, purged of the nefarious shadow energy, ceases to drift into the shadow realms and remains in the mortal world. Staten blesses the body and then starts up the stairs to join the battle raging above.

Appleby and Stuffitt are lashing out at the army with lightning and crossbow bolts respectively, when Vedic Tanner arrives on the roof. The two headed bloodscale lizardfolk leading the army has been wounded several times but is still standing defiantly on the battlefield, directing the assault.
Several defenders have been downed by poisoned arrows.

Ivellios sees a battering ram being brought up the main doors of the keep and casts a confusion spell on the lizardfolk carrying it. Addled by the spell, some of them run away and some of them attack each other. Those fleeing are slain by poison dusk archers under orders from their leader. The ram is dropped as the remaining lizardfolk battle each other.

Bob Charmer calls upon the power of Seilig and of nature to entangle many of the attackers with long strands of marsh grasses. Scores of the attackers are restrained by the twining plants. Tim Tanner bestows the protection of the Chosen on the defenders and calls forth a ring of maces to protect himself. Arkthuus, Ivellios, Charmer, Appleby, Stuffitt and the other defenders continue to focus their attacks on the leader but the power of the Fallen is strong in him and he resists their efforts.

A score of siege ladders, made from the bones of swamp creatures lashed together with swamp vines, are raised and the lizardfolk begin to clamber up. Stronger blackscales move to hold the ladders while the elite bloodscale warriors pick up the ram and start attacking the main doors. The knights behind the door can do little to prevent the onslaught.

All efforts focus the lizardfolk scaling the ladders. The defenders manage to knock away a couple of ladders, but without siege poles their efforts are severely hampered by the blackscales holding them steady. Appleby blocks a ladder to the right of the main doors with a flaming sphere. Ivellios attacks the battering ram crew with a pair of scorching rays but their thick red scaled hides allow them to survive his magic flames. Arkthuus presses the attack with several crossbow bolts but while his shots strike his targets, they do little damage to the monstrous bloodscales.

Then Vedic Tim Tanner leads the defenders in prayer, calling them away from the melee at this most crucial point of the battle. His faith in the gods verging on madness to some eyes. But they have come to trust in his wisdom. They all call upon the power of The Chosen in unison. The Chosen respond and Tim Tanner is covered in a radiant shimmering aura, his mithral plate shining like a living legend from The Book of Creation. The ring of maces whirling around him glows like a swarm of suns as he rises above the roof of the Darkkeep. All eyes turn to see the power of The Chosen manifest upon the field of battle. The clamour of battle is silenced by shock and awe. His confident voice, now magnified to the power of a thousand preachers booms out across the countryside, loud enough the shake shield and skull.

As Ivellios prays in counter point in the background, Tanner exposes the leader of the army as a fallen worshipper and denounces the battle as a Fallen attack on a Chosen temple. Fallen symbols that were secretly cut into the leader's flesh are outlined by Croi's radiance. Stanten then unfurls a huge church banner from the battlements and it too glows brightly in the dim afternoon. Tim's words strike into the very hearts of the army and the lizardfolk's resolve begins to fade.

Charmer prays to Seilig to guide his shot and he looses an arrow at the leader which pierces one of his necks. The left head slumps forward. The creature bellow in rage and starts forward towards the keep. Then Appleby strikes him with yet another bolt of lightning from the stormy sky and the Fallen symbols on his chest crackle with power. Ivellios calls upon Draiocht through the gem brought to him by Khranen and channels his arcane power into a brilliant silver falcon. The falcon shoots towards the bloodscale's remaining head with blinding speed and ploughs into it's target. They skull explodes bloodily and after a moments hesitation the massive bulk slowly collapses, splashing into the dark cold waters of the swamp.

Tanner' continues to speak and the lizardfolk tribes are convinced, through word and action, that they should not be following this heretic or be attacking the keep. The army begins to disintegrate. Many begin to withdraw from battle and the archers refuse to shoot them for desertion.
The bloodscales are not so easily swayed. Their fanatical dedication to the wild marsh druid drives them to press the attack, despite the betrayal of their kin. They smash the ram into the doors of the keep which fly inward, throwing the defending knights across the room.

Then Todd uses the Cape of the Troubadour to disappear from the roof and reappear with a fanfare in the entrance hall, right in front of the startled bloodscales. He brings Ivellios, Appleby and Arkthuus with him. Tanner decides to show the horde the martial might of the Chosen. He charges from the sky and crushes the skull of a bloodscale before it can flee into the keep.
The other bloodscales barge past the heroes, heedlessly exposing themselves to attack, and manage to force their way into the hall. Charmer is in the thick of the battle desperately trying to dodge the blows of the bloodscales but they surround him and he is bitten and clawed to the brink of death. He falls and all fear he has been slain. Then in his hour of need, he prays desperately to Seilig for the strength to continue the battle. His prayers are answered. He opens his eyes and gathers his will to stand once again against his enemy.

Arkthuus and Tanner press the attack against the massive bulk of the bloodscale warriors. Appleby assists by absorbing claw after claw and bite after bite, without succumbing to his many wounds. Ivellios spots that the bloodscales who are flanking the druid have been badly injured and that their guard is down. He speaks the arcane syllables and spreads his arms, pointing at them both. Magic Missiles shoot from his fingertips. Two each. Two beautifully executed shots. Two bloodscales drop dead to the floor. Ivellios and Tin Tan smile. Nice shot thinks Tin Tan. We're easily the best character in the keep. The last bloodscale, to his credit, faces Tim Tanner unafraid. Tim and his allies attack him en masse and soon he falls to the floor. The Battle of The Darkkeep has ended.

Arkthuus and Tanner look at each other with mutual respect. Both fought bravely and well. But now the harder task lies before them. The mediation between the men of The Darkkeep and the lizardfolk of The Dark Swamp.

The Parlay of Darkkeep

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Shaleday

The second half of the lizardfolk army arrives with siege engines.

The two armies merge and there is considerable debate among the lizardfolk tribes.
The Redscales and blackscales assume control and the siege is renewed.

Ivellios, Tanner, Charmer raid the lizardfolk camp at night and destroy several siege towers and catapults.
Tin Tan manages to personally light al of the ones that are not lit but Ivellios Fireball.
Tim Tanner has many spells up and is fearsome to behold. However he is almost slain by the lizardfolk Redscales.
They escape to the keep.

A Church of The Moons Priest comes to parlay with the keep and tells them that if they leave the keep by dawn of the following day they will be allowed to leave unharmed under the protection of the church.
The cleric states that he is not in a position to prevent the army from attacking the keep and slaying all who are present. He pleads with them to leave. He doesn’t recognise Tim Tanner's rank as official or superior to his. He doesn't recognise the Counts claim upon these lizardfolk lands. He is arrogant, haughty and sharp tongued. He shows the minimum respect due to the keeps defenders.

Tanner contacts the church. The Church responds that he must resolve this issue as he sees fit himself to prove that he is indeed ready to accept the mantle of Arch Vedic. He realises that if the crisis is resolved well, he will be officially ordained as Arch Vedic of The North.

As the day passes, both sides prepare for the assault. Some men are sent down to the basement to retrieve materials for the defence. One is attacked and flees to the main hall. He is pursued by a molten mound of eyes, fangs and slime which Ivellios identifies as a Chaos Beast.
They slay the beast and realise that it is in fact the remains of one of the soldiers, who was somehow transformed into the hideous mass before them.

At this point a ghost forms in the main hall. Ethan's spirit is unable to rest and he has returned to help complete the fight that claimed his life.

They make their way into the basement in order to investigate the death of the soldier. They notice that several of the chains stored in the basement for use with the water machinery have been laid out in the halls. When they investigate they are attacked by a chain devil (Kyton). Ethan's ghost manages to take control of it. He then manages to force it to remain still while they others slay it.

Shortly afterwards they are attacked by a Formian Warrior and while they manage to dispatch it fairly quickly this rash of extraplanar attacks is beginning to take a toll on their resources and they have few spells left and a few of them are wounded.

Todd searches the chambers more thoroughly and find a few trinkets to amuse himself…

Fortunately the attacks seem to have abated for a short while. Ethan's ghost moves through the sealed wall at the end of the Torlandish dungeon. Beyond it he finds a shadow asp nest, a large cavern, a grand staircase and an ethereal barrier.

The barrier cannot be penetrated and his purpose somehow prevents him from descending the grand staircase. He follows the cavern for over a mile until it exists in a small thicket hidden from view of the keep. He returns to tell the others of this potential escape route.

Then they spend the night preparing for the attack to come at dawn.

Arkthuus Surveys The Clans

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Shaleday (Dusk)

Arkthuus surveyed the army arrayed against him and knew that the fight was almost hopeless. He had been in hopeless fights in the past. In his youth when he had served as page for Suluuk, they had fought the lizardfolk and carved out a kingdom. He had survived Bloodfarm valley! And he was damned if he was going to run like a craven now that he had finally been given the reward he had waited for all these years. No way.
His knights were with him. Loyal and Brave. None of them were craven and none would flee a battle in the face of death. Good Men. Honourable Men. He wasn't quite so confident in the common soldiers. They would break unless lead properly. The rabble which was all the remained of the camp followers would serve out of fear and he knew better than to trust in them, either in battle or in any other field. Not much of a militia. Perhaps he should just let them go. If the Vedic's Band could find a way for them to flee the keep and find safety he might even consider it. But not while there was hope. And there was still some hope.

He tried to remember the last time he had seen an alliance of so many different lizardfolk clans. It was unheard of for them to co-operate on the battlefield, especially so many different clans and in such numbers! This uprising far surpassed even the worst of the lizard wars that eventually drove the Torlandish armies from Stormwatch. He had thought the centurion to be a braggart and a liar when he had read the reports they had found in the keep. He told tales of three of four clans co-operating in raids, attacking with war bands numbering in the hundreds and disappearing again into the swamps. The centurion had held the keep though. It was only when the empire needed the troops elsewhere and the colony was deemed unprofitable that they left. Fools. This land was a treasure chest for those with the wit, the will and the stomach to exploit it. Knowing Torland though, it may well have been a political decision to disgrace some senator or tribune. Sometimes he wondered how Torland survived.

So what do we face this time Arkthuus? He cast his doubts aside as best he could and tried to focus on studying his foe. Everyone had a weakness, every army even more so. If the lizardfolk could be reminded on their long fought blood feuds perhaps this army would tear itself apart. He extended his spyglass in the direction of the approaching army. It would be a start to identify all the clans arrayed against him. More clans meant more feuds, which was cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

After yesterday's futile parlay he knew that the Church of The Moons was involved with the lizardfolk army. This was not a great surprise to the Count, the Church was constantly meddling in affairs that were none of their concern. Arkthuus was acquainted with The High Reave of Charon Derfel Forc IV and had experienced first hand the hostile relationship he had with the Earl. Suluuk bowed to no man and gave only a nod to the Gods but he always showed enough respect to keep the inquisition at bay. The Vedic who was meddling on his side of this war, had told him that the fallen were behind the lizardfolk invasion. Arkthuus thought it was more likely that the Church had orchestrated the whole affair just to prove a point. The Wild Marsh Druid was probably a Stiuradh priest pulling the string of the lizardfolk nation.

Arkthuus Poten cursed himself for letting his mind wander so easily, as he caught himself moving through idle speculations. The leaders of each of the clans seemed to be reporting to Deshok. He watched a them gather for a final tactical briefing before the onslaught began. Each leader disappearing into a overgrown mound of vegetation leading his retinue outside glaring at each other. Deshok entered first with one of the Two Head Clan. The other three remained outside towering above the others. These Two Heads were a mystery. They had never been seen before by any of the Earl's men and were in none of the centurion's reports. They were lethal fighters. Maybe there way something to this Athru theory after all.

Next an obscenely muscled Red Scale Rager followed the cleric, again leaving his retinue outside. The Blood Scale tribe was also a new arrival and seemed to be a stronger version of the Black Scales, as if the Black Scale Clan weren't tough enough already. It was unheard of for 100 Black Scales to raid together and with a score of Blood Scales and almost a dozen Red Scales driving them forward, they were an army all by themselves. The sight of ten score giant lizardfolk spitting with rage wielding tree sized clubs and charging in your direction was enough to freeze the blood of even a seasoned knight.

In marked contrast to the Black Scales came the all too familiar Poison Dusk leader. As short as a halfling and miniscule compared to the Black Scales, they nonetheless commanded the respect of the other clans. Nearly two hundred marsh rangers from that lowlife, honourless clan of thieves and villains had joined the ranks. The tribes leader was flanked by a score of the black clad scum, who were the survivors of the assassin attack that had almost claimed his life. His throat constricted at the memory of the garrotte crushing his throat that evil night.

It was no surprise to see the Steel Clan here an in great numbers. They had always felt that the Dark Keep was theirs to use as they saw fit. They had send several of their Steel Captains to command the troop of almost four hundred. Their leader Steel Marshal Karthiss was a legendary swordsman and a match for any knight. Why was he here though? And why was his hatred of the Poison Dusk kept in check? He entered the command mound without any sign of the usual enmity to his old nemeses.

The Wood Spitter tribe had long been a thorn in the side of the Colony. They were the most proficient crafters and harvesters of wood that he knew of among the dark nation. They often clashed with the Earl's men and knight of Stormwatch over rights to harvest wood and over prices of trade items. Wood Splitter lizardfolk are easily offended in negotiations and often came to blow while trading, so the Earl banned from Stormwatch and they were forced to do all their trading in Darkbridge. They would loose a lot of gold by rising up against the Earl. If the Earl's won this war of course. Their leader followed, trailed by several bow men. He scanned the army and noted that bows of superior quality had been distributed among the archers. He spotted about thirty archers who carried what appear to be magical bows. The Wood Splitter Elite Archers were notorious.

Next came a figure shrouded in dark shadows and flanked by two rows of strangely clad lizardfolk. Some were robed in white and other wore blackened armor that appeared to be made from bones. These were the priests of the Bone Carver Clan, there was a score of them half for Bas and half for Saol. They rarely ventured out of the swamp and though they were officially part of The Church of The Moons they paid little heed to the day to ay affairs of any outside their clan. Bone Carvers weapons were made from the bones of their enemies and were said to have magical properties.

The Stone Tribe had sent three hundred of their warriors to assist the attack on the Darkkeep. Arkthuus was beginning to wonder just why they hated this place so much. This was as unusual as all the rest. The Stone Clan were primitive in many ways. They had a primeval relationship with stone and their druids had great power over it. They raised many strange constructions throughout the swamps in honour of Cre and Naduir and these structures were to be found all over Stormwatch. Their homes and weapons made unsurprisingly of Stone. Some of their strongest warriors even wore enchanted armor made of Solid Stone, this was the case for two of the bodyguard that accompanied the grey clad Stone Druid leader of the tribe as he entered the mound.

The Dragon Clans standards numbered five. Representing five hundred warriors sent to destroy the keep. Why the Church had allowed the Dragon Clan to openly practice sorcery was completely beyond him. Dragon clan sorcerers were clever enough to hide themselves to hide themselves among the normal troops in order to avoid being singled out by their enemies, but Arkthuus had faced the Dragon Clan many years before and he had become skilled at picking out the wheat from the chaff. He reckoned there were about two score sorcerers hidden among the warriors. The Dragon Clan leader was the last to enter the mound and Arkthuus spotted him only because he was he saw an inconspicuous lizardfolk disappear from the middle of the Dragon Clan camp.

Arkthuus though that all the leaders were accounted for by this stage. Then from behind a ridge concealed from view until now came about a hundred lizardfolk riding giant crocodiles. Several carried clan standards and other carried a new standard, which Arkthuus took to be the Standard of the Croc Riders. The Blood Scales, Wood Spitters, Stone Tribe and Dragon Clan had formed a unified force. This unity was more alarming than the massive jaws of their mounts. The Captain of this Cavalry dismounted and joined Deshok's group.

Arkthuus put down the spy glass and made several detailed notes on some battered parchment. He called a servant and bid him deliver it to the planners in the main hall below. He sent the spyglass with the note as Stuffitt had convinced him that he had a great need of it.

The parchment contained details of the enemy troops and recollections of the lizardfolk tribes. Enemy Troops: Three two headed lizardfolk, 10 Redscale Ragers, 20 bloodscales, 100 Black Scales, 200 Poison Dusk, 400 Steel Clan, 300 Wood Spitters, 200 Bone Carvers, 300 Stone Tribe, 500 Dragon Clan. Included in the tribes are the following specialists. 10 Steel Captains (SC), 10 Blackscale Barbarians (BS), 30 Elite Archers (WS), 25 Sorcerers (DC), 20 Saol/Bas Clerics (BC), 30 Druids (SC) and 20 Assassins (PD), 100 Giant Crocodile Riders (BS, WS, ST, DC).
Clans of the Dark Swamp: Two Head, Druids (TH), Blood Scale, Redscale Ragers (BS), Black Scale, Barbarians (BS), Poison Dusk, Assassins (PD), Steel Clan, Steel Captains (SC), Wood Spitters, Elite Archers (WS), Bone Carvers, Saol/Bas Clerics (BC), Stone Tribe, Druids (SC), Dragon Clan, Sorcerer (DC), Dragon Walkers, Dracotaurs Swarm Herders.

Not good thought Arkthuus. Not good at all. He tried to be thankful that the Dragon Walker Clan of Dracotaurs and Swarm Herder Clan had not sent any troops but his spirit was not in a grateful mood. At least, he thought, the battle will be a worthy end. He quietly looked out over what used to be his domain as the sun went down.

Very Long Talks

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (Morning)

The Count is furious. There was another assassination attempt against him during the night. One of his guards was paralysed and the other poisoned with Black Adder Venom. The assassins fled when the Count came rushing to the door. The poisoned guard was saved by the Count who drew out the poison and gave him his antitoxin. No sign of the assassins was found and the guards saw nothing as they were taken by surprise. The Count believes that they were the survivors of the previous wave of lizardfolk assassins that attacked the keep a few days earlier.

At dawn all the battle plans are ready. Ethan has formulated an excellent series of tactics and strategies to thwart the opposing army. He instructs each member of the keep on their role in the defences. All the spellcasters have been given a carefully selected list of spells to memorise. The non-spellcasters are effectively asked to keep out of the way.

Hundreds of yards away out in the dark and misty swamps, a horn sounds. Soon the ominous sound of slow beating drums started to thud it's way over the still murky waters. More horns join in the cacophony. The lizardfolk are coming.

The heavy catapults and siege towers slow the lizardfolk considerably as they heave them through the swamp. Once the lizardfolk siege engineers believe that the range is sufficient for the catapults they stop their march. They load up the catapults and fire. Massive stones dredged from the swamps are hurled into the air. Muck and water rain down as the rocks tumble through the air seeking the keep. Then the impact. The rocks smash into the keeps roof. The keep reverberates with the ear-splitting crack of the incoming stones. The strong but aging stone roof cracks. The defenders realise that the keep will eventually fall under the weight of this punishment.

After an hour or so the roof is breached and the rubble begins to build up on the floor of the third floor. The situation looks grave. Ethan pleads with the Count to reconsider his decision to defend the keep to the death. But Arkthuus and his knights are honour bound to defend the realm and the cannot countenance the craven act of abandoning the keep despite Ethan's heartfelt pleading.

Ethan surveys the situation and realises that the lizardfolk army has no reason to attack. They know they can destroy the keep by merely loading and firing their catapults. This is exactly what they intend to do. This throws Ethan's battle plans into disarray. For a long time the companions are at a loss as to what to do and lengthy unproductive debate follows. The benefits of fleeing, exploring the dungeons for a weapon, attacking individually, attacking en masse, subduing the Count and then fleeing et cetera are discussed ad nauseum. Nothing is concluded and frustration begins to set in.

Tim Tanner prays to Croi for a vision to enlighten him on how to proceed. The vision he receives promotes more questions. He sees Deshok the Balanced being ordained as Arch Vedic in a Church of The Moons temple. Vedic Tanner is very unhappy about this possible usurpation of his expected position. But how should the vision be interpreted? This is a vision of the future and as John Appleby explains "Always in motion is the future". Does it mean that Deshok is favoured by Croi and they should not interfere with his plans? Does it mean that Deshok will be favoured if he wins that battle of Darkkeep and Tim fails to protect it? Does it mean that Tim must thwart Deshok's plans in order to ensure that this unworthy charlatan is kept away from a position of power within the church. Tanner obviously decides to adopt the last interpretation.

Another resounding crack echoes through the beleaguered keep. Somewhere nearby a chandelier falls to the floor and a soldier roars an angry curse. We've got to do something concludes Todd Stuffitt. "I don't feel like dying just yet" responds John Appleby. "Can't we just leave?" asks the extremely fatigued ranger, who has been finding the confines of the keep too constrictive.

After another series of intellectually stimulating arguments, identical to those that where exchanged in the previous hours, they finally agree to stay and fight for the keep. They are not entirely sure why but they are sure that they will need to escape quickly if the battle goes badly. With that in mind they make a note to unblock the route to the escape caverns at some unspecified time in the future, so that the other defenders of the Dark keep can escape.

The Old Log And Dirty Bishop Trick

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (High Noon)

Sick to death of planning they decide to use the tried and tested SWANT (Spells, Weapons And No Tactics) approach. They use their magic to leave the keep undetected and start to sneak towards the besieging army. This goes well as the enemy is hundreds of yards across the swamp.

Todd Stuffitt and Bob Charmer move stealthily through the soft rushes and dark mud, staying in cover at all times. They reach a point where Todd can hide in the undergrowth and study his foe. They will remain hidden at long bow range and snipe at the Two Headed Champions if the opposing army.

Ivellios uses his magic to render himself invisible and then flies out to a position where he can rain fireballs down upon the unsuspecting lizardfolk on their lethal heavy catapults. He cleverly remains within the cover of the long rushes and pocket mists of the swamp as he approaches, knowing that there will be a few of the enemy with the power to see even those who are invisible.

Tanner has a problem with stealth. Several in fact. Tanner is a charismatic religious leader, clad in the glorious shining plate mail of the legendary Setanta Fochlachan, he wears the bright red Cloak of The Dark Keep Standard Bearer designed to rally troops around the battlefield. He covers all this with the luxurious bright white travelling cloak of a Croi Vedic, which proclaims his position to all who see it. Tanner loves to call upon the power of Croi to surround himself with a shining whirling and lethal ring of maces and to swell his muscular frame to a powerful hulking twelve foot tall champion of the Gods. Tanner is a lover and a fighter not a hider. Clanking visibly through the swamp, sinking deeply into the mires, bogs and soft dark mud tanners cloak is soon filthy. John Appleby accompanies him and using his skills as a ranger and druid manages to guide the metal laden cleric safely toward the enemy camp. Tanner fails to mention that the fly spell he has active is his divine assurance that drowning is not his immediate destiny. Soon though they are close enough for their visibility to be an issue. With strange sound effects playing through the air, Appleby calls upon the power of Naduir and transforms himself into a giant crocodile. He sinks down into the murky swamp water and soon only his eyes and nostrils are peeking above the waterline. Even his large cheesy grin of satisfaction is hidden beneath the surface. Appleby loves being a druid. Using his powerful tail and claws Appleby swims quickly among the reeds towards the lizardfolk army. Tanner meanwhile is forced to cover his travelling cloak in mud and water. He sinks down behind the toppled trunk of a long dead tree and hides as best he can. Lets hope they fall for the old log and dirty bishop trick, he thinks to himself.

Confident in the invulnerability and stealth of the ethereal, Ethan's ghost glides serenely over the swamp, wafting through the cover of the reeds and rushes on the material plane, he manages to get very close to the opposing forces before they are made aware of him by lizardfolk sorcerers.

Then the mountain elf wizard appeared in mid air just inside longbow range, a bright sparking streak rocketing towards the heart of the besieging forces. An instant later a bright yellow, orange then red ball of fire blossomed around one of the heavy catapults. It erupted in a flash and was gone. Tin Tan almost wept at the beauty of it. One instant was all it took to prove the power of Ivellios magic. Dozens of lizardfolk were dead or dying from lethal blistering burns. Most of the siege engineers and the larger lizardfolk had managed to dive for cover but were still badly seared and in considerable pain despite their tough scales. The catapult had grown a skin of charred wood and all of the ropes were completely incinerated. The ground surrounding the machine was dried and scorched earth, the vegetation striped in a perfect circle describing the fireball's area of effect. Smoke billowed up from the strike zone and the stench of burnt flesh wafted across the field of battle. The others heard the muffled sound of the fireball's explosion and took this as their signal to engage.

Ethan raced forward towards the catapults. The lizardfolk were alert now though and the sorcerers spotted him. A hail of arrows was unleashed at him but none could pierce his ghostly flesh. Tanner began the ritual to summon a hippogriff from the heart of Croi. The Appleby crocodile surged recklessly forward cursing the massive distance to be covered, the short range of his spells and the twisting tributaries of the Dark Swamp. Bob unleashed a trio of arrows at one of the four Two Head Clan lizardfolk leading the army. Todd remained secreted in the marshy undergrowth studying the same target looking for a weakness he could exploit.

In the chaos of battle, plans fall away in the heat of the moment, time is distorted and twisted by the urgent need of the moment. The moment focuses entirely on the act. The act is often merely a response to the act. In the to and fro of the third clash between the defenders of the dark keep and arrows fell like rain upon the small scattered band of adventurers who dared to attack the entire army unaided. Ivellios unleashed another fireball on the other catapult with similar results and was rewarded with a hail of arrows for his efforts. Protected by distance and his magic Ivellios was wounded by only a single arrow which somehow managed to strike true.

Hippogriffs were summoned from Croi and attacked the ranks to distract the army from the scattered heroes. Most died swiftly. Charmer and Stuffitt sent bolts and arrows into the fray and between them managed to slay on of the hulking red champions.

The Church of The Moons Vedic Deshok the Balanced raced from place to place, casting spells, directing the other priests and sorcerers to cast their own lesser magics and trying to fend off several assaults from the ghost of Ethan Namer. As Ethan closed he directed the elite archers attack one much to Ethan's surprise an enchanted arrow struck true and he knew pain for the first time. Then Deshok tried to command the ghost to cease his hostilities in the name of the sun the moons and the holy trinity. Ethan was forced back. Then after returning through the earth Ethan attempted to possess one of the bloodscales but was resisted and slashed with a massive two handed magical axe. Finally Ethan Name Cei-Liur of Fileadh used his Bas given supernatural powers of fear against Deshok and his companions. Given their affinity to Bas they were unaffected. This provided Deshok with his chance. Priests may not attack each other without sanction. He called on the Bone Clan Priests of Bas and Saol to appeal to Bas to remove the turbulent priest from the battle and preferably recall him to the wall of souls. Deshok concentrated their appeal through himself and the potent prayer was answered. Ethan's ghostly form evaporated from the battlefield, accompanied by a strangled dying cry of frustration from the ancient bard's soul.

As Ethan was expertly distracting the priests and the majority of the army, the druidic crocodile, transformed into John Appleby Sheriff of Woodhaven and he hid in the long grasses preparing to lay down the law. Using the power of Naduir he reached out to the catapults and felt the faint glimmer of life left within the wooden arm of the machine. As he twisted his arm, his magic warped the wood of the arm and wrapped it around the catapult's base, rendering it useless. Needless to say, this attracted a massive and unwanted response from the army and the archers spotted the spellcaster hidden nearby and unleashed a hail of arrows in his direction. Several of the struck true bit no wound was too deep to deter the druid.

The army began to move forward. The dirty bishop was out of useful spells, as was the mountain elf. The yodelling ghost had been destroyed and the scaly druid was fleeing from a hail of arrows. The advantage had been lost. They decided to retreat to the keep to repel the attackers. However Ethan's plan had worked.

The lizardfolk were coming to fight!

The Fall of The Dark Keep

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (Afternoon)

The lizardfolk army swarmed forward, hundreds of them, standards flying in the wind under the dark morning clouds.
Death was coming to the Dark Keep.

Then like a beacon of hope, Sir Eagon Del Fuego appeared on the hill under the shadow of the keep, his armor shone like a lantern in the gloom. His powerful stallion reared in defiance of the approaching army.
"You are of The Fallen and The Chosen challenge you!" he proclaimed as he pointed his lance, which crackled with the divine power, towards the red skinned leaders of the Army.
A two-headed lizardfolk of enormous strength and limited intellect, a minion of Eirleach masquerading clumsily as a disciple of Charon, lustily answered the challenge.
"You will die today human!" he roared almost incomprehensibly in draconic.
The majority of the lizardfolk army were honourable warriors and Chosen followers. They respected a challenge declared and accepted. As the army advanced, all eyes were on the two champions. No one noticed the slim figure that appeared behind the keep and skulked to a hidden position among the reeds. It remained cunningly hidden as it unslung a powerful crossbow. It watched the incoming challengers.
"One way or another", the newcomer thought, "You are going down today."

As the challengers closed and the tension built, their speed gradually increased until they were charging at full tilt. Moments later they clashed. The giant red skinned two-headed lizardfolk swung his massive stone axe, the momentum of all his immense bulk behind it. The axe head, like a sharpened mill wheel, swept inexorably towards the metal clad horseman. Sir Eagon's ducked forward in the saddle but was caught with a glancing blow. He should have been hurled from the saddle by the blow but Sir Eagon was infused by the power of the Chosen and an exceptional horseman. He twisted with the impact and an instant later his lance pierced the giant's heart and pushed out through it's back. The lance was ripped from Eagon's hands as his mount thundered past the dying lizardfolk champion. The giant dropped his axe and clutched in disbelief at the lance that had skewered his chest. His eyes rolled up and a faint whisper escaped his lips. He was dead before he hit the ground. Sir Eagon turned and rode back, his sword already drawn for battle. He smiled in grim satisfaction as he registered that he had won a victory for The Chosen.

The lizardfolk army were not so pleased. Now that the challenge was complete, they were free to resume hostilities and several hundred warriors charged towards him lead by a muscular red scale rager. Sir Eagon turned towards the keep and realised that there was no way for him to enter the sealed building before the invading army arrived. He grimly prepared himself to make a stand beside the hidden figure and perhaps allow the stranger to flee. But the hidden figure had other ideas. He smiled as he saw the red scale rager approach . He waited. And he waited. And he waited. Just as the rager was about to crash into Sir Eagon he fired. The bolt took the seemingly unstoppable rager through the neck and severed his brain stem. Stuffitt had predicted the rager's charge perfectly and had placed the bolt right where he wanted it. The rager dropped like a felled tree inches before Sir Eagon's mount. The rest of the lizardfolk intent on slaying the Chosen Champion were shocked by this unexpected attack but their momentum carried them forward nonetheless.
"I had him," complained the Champion.
"Sorry but playtime is over," responded the assassin as he leaped onto Sir Eagon's mount.
Then all three disappeared in a puff of smoke as axe blows rained down through the air where they had just been.

"TADA!!" exclaimed Setanta's cloak as Todd appeared on the third floor of the Keep in the count's quarters. The defenders gathered there were quite surprised to see Todd arrive mounted on a massive white stallion behind a Chosen Champion. The Heroes of Woodhaven just passed it off as business as usual. Sir Eagon slipped off the horse and dismissed it. Todd taken by surprise as the mount disappeared executed an elaborate back flip and landed casually in a nearby chair with his feet in the table. "Looks like I saved the day again," he bragged. "That's two you owe me junior," he smiled at Sir Eagon. Sir Eagon patience held and he refrained from arguing with the assassin. It was rarely worth debating anything with a follower of Glick. Instead he checked his valuables and went in search of Vedic Tanner. Todd leaped to his feet as an idea struck him. "You peasants come with me!" he commanded, the fearful looking servants and guards who had survived the previous assaults. "We'll throw rubble on them from the roof!" If any of them objected to being called peasants, no one said so and after a nod of agreement from the count they followed Todd up to the rubble strewn, broken roof to look for rocks to throw at the couple of thousand attackers below. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

The attackers finally reached the keep. The single combat, assassination and escape sideshow had distracted both the attackers and the defenders enough that there was little bow fire or spell casting until the enemy was only a few dozen yards away. They began to swarm around the keep. Black Scales raised ladders to scale the walls. Priests blessed the troops. The Siege towers were hauled forward by hundreds of warriors at amazing speed. The Dragon clan sorcerers disguised among the other clan's warriors cast mist spells around the upper floors to blind the defenders. The rubble throwers started falling through the holes in the roof. Then the catapults was fired and two red dots came flying through the air. Two of the lizardfolk army's elite troops, massively muscled red scale Rager barbarians landed heavily on the roof of the keep. The rubble throwers scattered. The Ragers drank a couple of potions and smashed the vials on their foreheads. This hurt. This made them angry. They called on Fraoch and he fuelled their fury. They screamed and charged to the stairs. The rubble throwers leaped out of the way.

Meanwhile Ethan Namer's battle plan was being posthumously carried out. Ivellios burned the mists away from the front of the keep with a great ball of fire. John Appleby stopped one of the siege towers in it tracks by commanding the plants of the swamp to entangle all of the hauling crew. Todd and Bob picked off some of the elite troops below. Then they heard the Ragers approaching. Tanner and Sir Eagon went to defend one of the stairs. The count and his knights went to the other. The ragers leaped down the stairs and dealt vicious blows to the defenders. Never had they encountered such savagery from lizardfolk. Tim recognised the fire of Fraoch's wrath burning in his foes eyes and traded blows with him with equal fervour.

Outside the battle raged on. Ivellios and Appleby used a combination of spike stones and a wall of fire to trap and kill a couple of hundred lizardfolk at the front of the keep. A brilliant execution of Ethan's plan. But soon the magic entangling the siege tower was dispelled and so were both the wall of fire and the spikes. Delayed and hurt the lizardfolk army move on relentlessly. The siege tower arrived at the walls. The scaling ladders went up on all sides.

The ragers had exacted a terrible toll on the defenders. Tim and Sir Eagon were hard pressed and called for support from Charmer. Then, as if in a nightmare, Sir Eagon was felled. His foe was almost defeated having endured an incredible amount of punishment from the champion's sword, the vedic's mace and Charmer's arrows. The rager was about to collapse, only Fraoch fire was keeping him on his feet. But so was vedic Tanner and each was capable of slaying the other. Only luck could decide this. Both enemies slowly backed off. Bob's arrow's splintered against the stone steps as his target retreated.
At the other stairs the Count had been felled by the other rager. But he was still alive. This rager was also barely standing. The rager wanted to retreat and heal, while the knights wanted to rescue Arkthuus. A gesture and a look brought them to a standoff. He backed off and they let him go. Both Sir Eagon and Arkthuus were still alive! The ragers had been pulling their blows to avoid killing them. What was going on? Who had ordered this restraint? Was is Deshok? Why?

Upstairs the ladders were being scaled and lizardfolk warriors were stepping onto the roof uncontested. The siege tower's reinforced door slammed down onto the stone wall and the warriors inside charged out. Many looked almost disappointed to see that they were uncontested. Two more red ragers slammed into the ground, rolled and stood up looking slightly shaken after the impact. A couple of steel captains leaped from the ladders and glanced suspiciously at each other. This was too easy. The only humans to remain contesting the roof were a pitiful looking rabble, some clutching bits of rock others simply shaking in fear. Something was wrong. They ordered a halt to the onslaught and tried to figure out where the trap lay.

Meanwhile below, the heroes realised that they, or more accurately Todd, had sent the commoners to the roof to die. Todd feigned concern and sent the knights to the roof to help the helpless commoners to retreat. The knights were honour bound to protect the weak and had no choice but to ascend the stairs and join the battle. Behind their turned backs Todd grinned and move to assist the Count in his battle between life and death. After brief discussion Charmer grabbed Sir Eagon's body and began to descend the stairs. The druid decided to call the power of the storm while the elf started down the stairs. Vedic Tanner sighed and walked up into the light.

The lizardfolk had finally overcome their suspicion once they had seen the knights arrive and the battle had been joined with considerable ferocity. The knights had formed a loose barrier around the commoners and were fighting for their lives, some of the commoners had limited skills in battle and had recovered enough to fight. The battle was still in the balance but as more lizardfolk were streaming up the ladders and as the steel captains and the red ragers were approaching, it was obvious that the small knot of defenders would soon be overwhelmed.

"You have won this day and we will quit the field of battle. In the name of the Chosen I implore you to let us take our wounded and leave you to your victory. Shed no more blood this day. The Dark Keep is yours," Vedic Tanner towered over the battlefield, gravely wounded and bloodied and leaning heavily on his mace.
"I can only keep these animals leashed for a limited time Vedic," one of the Steel Captains shouted in common. Then in draconic he loudly commanded his troops to draw back.
"The day is ours, the humans are shamed! Give them half a breath to flee before we start the hunt".
The lizardfolk warriors, followers of Cogadh not of Eirleach, were honourable and good soldiers. They stood back and let the wounded bedraggled humans go. The red ragers were not so eager to end the slaughter.
"We must kill these humans!" they screamed at the Captains in guttural enraged draconic.
"Go now! You do not have long!" urged the Captain as a violent argument erupted amongst the lizardfolk.

Todd Stuffitt moved to the count who was unconscious but breathing regularly. He pulled out a slender dagger and stabbed him to death.

Then praying to Glick to guide his hand, he raked the dagger across his chest expanding a red rager axe wound to cover the dagger's mark. His prayer was answered and his hand was guided and the lacerations looked convincing. He added a small drop of poison to the wound and smiled at a job well done.
"He must have been poisoned by the Rager," he practiced his lies in his mind.
Then he noticed the druid standing behind him, with a look of utter shock on his face.
Todd didn't flinch, "Contract" he stated, as if that explained everything.
And a very lucrative contract it was too. Casually he reached over to cut off a couple of fingers as evidence of his successful completion of his contract. Then the knights reappeared, racing down the stairs dragging wounded commoners with them.
"Grab the Count!" one of them ordered another, "I don't trust that little sneak".
Todd dropped the hand and slipped the dagger back into it's hidden sheath unnoticed.

The flight down the stairs was chaotic and panicked. Sweat, blood, fear and fatigue led to a clumsy descent punctuated with cries of pain. The curses echoed down the entire stairwell and throughout the keep. Somehow Todd managed to slip past everyone to reach the ironstone block that barred their escape through the keep's lower levels. He pulled out the scroll he had purloined from the abandoned wizard's chamber. He handed it to Ivellios.
Ivellios read it and whistled, "Impressive."
The last of the routed rabble had arrived by now and had slammed and barred the dungeon's iron door. It wouldn't hold the lizardfolk for long though. Ragers were incredibly strong.
Wasting no time Ivellios started chanting and completed the spell stored on the scroll. A thin green ray of light sprang from his fingertip as he finished chanting and struck the iron block. It glowed for an instant and then disintegrated. Only a fine layer of dust remained of the impregnable block.
"The power of Croi compels you!" shouted Vedic Tanner as he hurled the power of Croi at the shadows that raced forward from the darkness beyond. They never stood a chance and were destroyed, utterly. Then the others charged into the darkness and attacked a nest of shadow asps. Within seconds the snakes were slain.

The room they had entered was an antechamber that linked four corridors. The decorations carved on the walls resembled those in Setanta Fochlachan's tomb, marking this as a DéDannan Ogre built complex dating back thousand of years.
Ethan's ghost had told them that the exit lay to the north and that a great stairs lay directly in front of them. But what caught everyone's eye was the massive glowing symbol on the southern wall. Ivellios had started examining it before the last asp he been slain. This was ancient and powerful magic from the DéDannan era. "It's a shunt," he explained to the gathered refugees. They didn't seem impressed. Odd thought Ivellios, because he was incredibly impressed. Shunts were very powerful and hideously expensive and usually only encountered in buildings protected by the Church.
"We can use it to escape the lizardfolk," he continued.
That was much more like it, thought the refugees. A crash reverberated through the dungeon. The lizardfolk were coming.

Escape in the Darkness

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (Evening)

A redscale rager pounded heavily on the iron door above. They could hear it bending under the force of his blows. It would only be a matter of minutes before the rager and all the lizardfolk host would be down upon them.
Charmer went to scout the way through the caves, knowing that the survivors were in no condition to do this themselves. He didn't get far. As he entered the first cave he spotted a host of lizardfolk. They had found the hidden entrance. He retreated to the DeDannan passages to hold them at bay.
"We can't get out through the caves!" he shouted. "The scaleys found the entrance. There's hundreds of them."
Ivellios broke off examining the shunt's symbols, the red glow of the ten foot symbol of Tionscail giving his elven features a demonic aspect.
"Damn it! I need more time. The shunt won't get us out of the dungeon. It leads into a magically secure area that he ancient DeDannan who built this place called 'The arrivals Hall'. The magical powers at play are quite dangerous teleportation…"
"Can you get us through it?" interrupted Vedic Tanner.
"Of course, but it will take time. I can show you how to use it as well. That'll speed things up."
Ivellios explained the complicated series of magical forces at work and how to use small amounts of magical power to tip the shunt balance and move through it. Todd was eavesdropping from the shadows and managed to hear the conversation despite the clangour of the battle at the cave entrance and the pounding on the door above.
Ivellios, Tim, Appleby and a couple of knights went through the shunt first in case it was a trap. Once moment they were all standing together in front of the red symbol, bathed in the bright red glow. Then they began to glow as well. The entire chamber was bathed in bright red light. They shrank. Slowly at first, then rapidly until they were tiny pinpoints of bright red-white light. The tiny lights, shot towards the glowing symbol and were sucked to it's edge. They raced around the symbols exterior and quickly found it's core and then went through the rock. The light went out and the loud humming sound, they hadn't noticed building to a deep throb, disappeared with the light.
Todd and the others waited in the relative dark in suspense. The battle raged behind them. The moments passed in what seemed like an eternity.
Then the humming began and the symbol's light rose quickly from dull to incandescent. In an exact reversal of the disappearance, the shunt spat out two lights which expanded instantly into Ivellios and Tanner.
"That was incredible," breathed and ecstatic Ivellios Tharanaian
"Yeah great," responded the preoccupied Vedic, "let's get these people moving."
Then he noticed that Bob Charmer was single-handedly holding the north door of the chamber against a host of lizardfolk.
"Need a hand Charmer?" he offered.
"No need," panted the ranger, "They haven't bred a scaley yet that can match my sword. I can hold them. How long do you need?"
"How about a couple of days?" inquired the priest.
"If you could change that to minutes you're on!" Bob was never one for exaggerating.
"You heard the man!" Tanner shouted above the din, "Get the wounded through this shunt and guard the doors!"

Ivellios set to work and started to ferry the survivors through the shunt. To Ivellios' astonishment Todd managed to use the powers of Glick to fool the shunt and activate it do the same. The survivors were reluctant to enter the shunt with the assassin. Rumour had spread like wildfire through their ranks that he was responsible for the death of their Count. They were eager to believe such accusations because they were convinced that Todd had sent them to the roof to die while he fled into the dungeons. A shout from the Sir Torlbold Thrane, the leader of the knights, brought them to their senses, "Ye can follow the assassin, or ye can die here! Get a move on!" A brave few survivors moved to Todd. He told them to concentrate on moving through the shunt. They had little idea of what they were supposed to be doing but tried nonetheless. Todd said a quick prayer to Glick and tried to move them all through the portal. He didn't quite manage it and a backlash of magical energy arced from the shunt and struck him in the centre of his chest. He screamed in pain as the energy seared his chest.
"You're not concentrating hard enough!" he blamed them as the shock subsided. Several of the survivors smirked at this but the ones trying to get through the shunt with Todd looked troubled.
"Do you know what the hell you are doing?" one of them asked, fear getting the better of his anger.
"Just damn well concentrate you stupid peasants", responded the irritated assassin.
He reached out again to attempt to fool the shunt, Ivellios had just effortlessly slipped another group through the portal and he could sense the interplay of magic as he passed. He used the small amount of arcane power he could summon to alter the delicate balance of the massive magicks on the shunt. It was a great effort and to his surprise, the survivors' concentration somehow helped him. They disappeared and were hurled through the shunt.

"Rise and shine champ," Vedic Tanner commanded as he revived Sir Eagon. The old knight felt every year of his age as he woke, not to mention the several huge axe-gashes, broken ribs, enormous bruises and sundry minor injuries. Then as Tim called on the healing magic of Croi and the power of The Chosen flowed back into his body, he remembered he was a Champion of The Chosen. He stood.
"I'm fine," he misdiagnosed as blood pooled on the floor around him and pain contorted his features. "There are others who need you more". He pointed to the impatient queue of survivors at the shunt, palpably on the verge of panic. "Get them to safety," he sent the Vedic to help move the people through. Sir Eagon walked among the wounded and laid his hands upon them. The power of The Chosen brought many back from the brink of death. Although his healing powers were no match for a Vedic's, let alone one of Tanner's power, on the battlefield he could save a man who would otherwise die. That meant something, even in times like these. As he healed, he kept an eye on the ranger's battle at the door. Charmer seemed to be doing quite well, his hatred of the lizardfolk seemed to lend power to his sword strokes and their skills with their axes were no match for the ranger's sword craft. Sir Eagon was ready to assist if needed. He would most likely not survive another fight in his current condition. But if the ranger tired and faltered he was ready to step into the breach no matter what the cost.

After a complex and vicious series of blindingly fast sword cuts, Charmer diced through the red scale's defences and thick hide. His sword cut up into it's chest under it's ribs. Charmer took a few seconds to catch his breath as the nine foot tall lizardfolk warrior collapsed to his knees and then slowly slumped forward. The black scale behind him was almost as tall and filled the cramped tunnel from the caves to the shunt chamber. He stepped over his fallen comrade, glancing down only to check his footing. He grimly faced the ranger fear and determination written across his dark reptilian features. Bob wiped the sweat from his brow and noticed that his hand was covered in blood. He wasn't sure if it was from the gash on his temple or the deep cut on his upper arm. He was sure that he was going to send many more lizardfolk to the abyss before they took him down. The black scale's stone club was well crafted and as tall as Charmer. It crashed into the marble floor to his left as he danced to the left to avoid it. His sword swept up in a counter blow and he slashed the black scale's arm. Black blood splashed from the wound and the lizardfolk roared. This won't take long, charmer thought as he pressed the attack. Sure enough the blackscale was easily defeated, but he managed to strike a glancing blow to Bob's ribs. He felt the impact crack a couple of ribs and winced as he lost his breath. The black scale went for the death blow as Charmer knew he would and he ducked under it an thrust his sword through it's neck. The blackscale dropped and Bob staggered over him to face the next lizardfolk warrior. The next two were steel clan warriors and merely six foot tall. Bob dispatched them easily. Thrust, parry, shield, duck, twist, kill, step, parry, thrust, shield, kill. He stepped back and waited for more to advance. The blood loss was beginning to tell. His eyesight was blurring and he felt faint.
He barely managed to take down the last foe and a blackscale stood behind him. This was it. Something pulled him backwards out of reach of the stone axe that swept through the air where his dropping head had been. Bob dropped to one knew and slammed his sword forward and it struck the steel clan warrior in the groin.
"Time to go," said Ivellios as he pulled Charmer to the shunt. They were through before the lizardfolk could reach them. They howled in frustration as they realise they couldn't follow their prey. The red scale rager finally managed to batter down the door and led the main force into the dungeon.
He stormed up to the Tionscail symbol glowing red in the darkness. With all his considerable might he slammed his huge adamantine axe into the wall. The blade bounced off the wall and an arc of red magical energy struck the rager in the chest. This made his even angrier.
"Get the sorcerers in here!" he bellowed in draconic.

Beyond the shunt was a pitch black hall, crowded with wounded refugees. Todd slipped a sun rod from Ivellios pouch and slapped it against the wall. Vicious green light smashed into their eyes and they were momentarily blinded. Charmer's keen eyes spotted a strange symbol on the wall. Todd was fairly sure it wasn't a trap as it meant "Light" in draconic. He pressed the symbol and hidden light spells shakily powered up all over the halls. The rooms were all built to house ogre sized creatures and were decorated in the ancient style of the great DeDannan civilization of over ten thousand years ago. This appeared to be a an entrance hall and there were two doors out of it. One headed back towards the keep and the other was in the same direction as the caves. Todd searched for traps and secret doors and found none. They decided to head away from the keep.

Todd opened the door. Behind it was a large well lit chamber. It was a derelict room full of rotten and dusty junk. The chamber looked like it had once been an opulent waiting room for important visitors but that would have been ages past. Charmer noticed that there were several sets of prints in the dust in the middle of the floor and that they had been made at various different times. The most recent being only hours old and the oldest being months old. Todd noticed that the furniture in the room had lasted far better than should be expected after ten thousand years.
This led them to surmise that the area had been sealed off until recently and that then someone or something had destroyed most of the rooms contents.
Charmer managed to distinguish between the various track in the dust. Most of the prints belonged to a decrepit human that seemed so weak that it was amazing that he was able to move at all. Despite this there was no trace of tiredness in his steps. The other prints were varied and strange, and Charmer identified a strange clawed humanoid, a chaos beast, a rhinoceros and dire lion, a chain devil and an human sized ant like creature.
Ivellios stated that it was obvious that these creatures were summoned a arcane magic. But didn't how it was possible given that the area was protected with powerful magics that prevented any kind of magical travel, incorporeal, ethereal, gaseous, astral, phase, etc. The only way in was through the shunt. Perhaps they were being summoned outside the shunt and marshalled here.

Exploring the Arrivals Hall

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (Night)

Todd, Tim and Bob decided to press on to explore their new surroundings.
They left the survivors in the large chamber under the protection of Sir Eagon Del Fuego, Sheriff John Appleby and Ivellios Tharanaian.
They entered a corridor and were not surprised to find a set of three prison cells. The level of magic being used here would make any incarceration highly effective and was commonly used in Church prisons and Draiocht research labs. As they passed the doors, they slammed open and three red shapes moved to attack. The four-armed, red-skinned xills had large insect mandibles, filled with teeth that were covered in toxic ichor which dripped onto the floor.
The battle was over quickly. While the xill were expert grapplers and almost managed to paralyse their opponents with their poisoned bites, they were no match for Bob, Tim and Todd. Todd managed to stab his opponent in the belly with his recently acquired adamantine dagger. The runes along the blade glowed appreciatively as he plunged it into the xills entrails.
Vedic Tanner crushed his opponent's skull with his mace and Bob stabbed his through the neck with his blade. Todd moved to search the body. Much to his surprise and dismay, the bodies disappeared!
"Must be summoned creatures," surmised the Vedic. "That means the summoner must be hiding around here somewhere."

The Vedic realised that they were going to be hard pressed to continue their exploration given the number of wounds they had sustained over the course of the day and decided to hold an impromptu ceremony and appeal to the Chosen to aid them.
All three explorers fervently chanted the "Prayer of Vedic Tanner" and Vedic Tanner Read from The Book Of Creation.

The Prayer of Vedic Tanner

We heroes of the deep halls are,
Harmoniously voiced.
The Glory of The Great we feel,
The Chosen we all praise.

We follow Chosen Trinity,
Oft unified and split.
Cogadh, Croí and Draíocht; Three,
We serve, we never quit.

For Cogadh roar the Charon Verse,
And light The Shining Moon.
For Draíocht chant The Spells of Shale,
And cloak The Darkened Moon.

And so Croí Leads the Cycles Song,
The Palace of the Sun.
We feel approaching healing,
As our prayer is Done.

So here we sing The Ever Song,
We sing it on this day.
And so we hail the Sun and Moons,
of The Peering Eye.

Croi, Seilig and Glick answered their prayers and a whisp of divine power reached them. They were granted the boon of a months rest in an instant. Their wounds were healed and their energy returned. Their magical and martial abilities were increased and they were infused with divine toughness. Delighted with the favour shown them by their Gods they set off once more.

As if in balance to the boons granted to them, they were attacked by a Fiendish Rhino which charged down the corridor towards them.
With a quick flick inspired by Glick, Todd hurled a tanglefoot bag down the corridor and incredibly the tough alchemical goo stuck to it and held it fast! It struggled with the goo and began to rip it apart. Then Vedic Tanner closed and railed upon it with his mighty mace and Bob Charmer struck it with several arrows. The Rhino tried to gore the Vedic but he anticipated the attack and turned it with his shield. Todd, showing off with the reckless abandon of a true Glick follower, tried to tumble past the Rhino. The beast gored him as he tumbled past. Todd howled with pain as the beast's powerful muscles drove the horn through his side. He twisted to avoid being impaled against the wall and rolled to his feet behind the beast. A small trickle of blood on his lips, he returned the favour as he stabbed the beast. His blade found a weak spot in the rhino's hide and sliced into an artery. Blood began to pour copiously from the wound.
The beast bellowed and Vedic Tanner's mace cracked his skull while Charmer's arrows found it's heart. It fell. Moments later, it vanished. "Stupid Summoned creatures", spat Todd bemoaning the fact that it couldn't be searched for valuables.

They pressed forward and entered a chamber at the end of the hall that was particularly well fortified. Waiting for them with an evil grin on it's face was a Kyton. They had faced one of these before and thought they had it's measure. The room was covered in chains and the devil called them to attack.
The chains sprouted barbs, blades and spiked balls and they all lashed out at Todd. The Kyton was a master of chains and Todd's leather armor was no match for them. Soon he was baldy cut and bleeding. He retreated and called upon his magic to render himself invisible. Bob and Tim had engaged the Kyton but his fiendish skin was so tough that their weapons were having little effect. Worse still he seemed to be regenerating. Cuts closed and bruises vanished before their eyes. Tanner called upon Tine to heat the chains and burn the Kyton but at first this seem to have no effect. The Kyton grinned and his face changed to that resemble Ethan's. "Why did you let me die?" Ethan asked. This was Fallen magic the Vedic realised but the face of Ethan Namer on the Kyton's body was disturbing nonetheless.
The Vedic called forth a Mace of Croi which sprang into existence beside the Kyton. It opposed the magical weapon with it's hellish power but the Vedic's power was stronger and the mace struck it with a resounding blow, that it's hellish skin could not turn. It howled in pain. The Vedic smiled.
Charmer struck with another volley of arrows and caught the Kyton's attention. It lashed out at him with it's chains and all four struck true. Charmer was slashed and bludgeoned by the chains but he stood undaunted before the Fallen devil.
Todd snuck into the room with the stealth of a mouse. But the Kyton had incredible powers of perception and sensed his approach. The Vedic evoked another Mace Of Croi and it too struck true against the creature. The creatures chains lashed out at him but clashed harmlessly against the strong magical metal of Setanta's ancient armor. Todd lunged at the creature, his smoking rune-covered dagger glowing with green menace. The creature had sensed his attack though and instinctively turned away from the blow, the blade glanced off the creatures iron hide. The devil glared at Todd who had appeared out of nowhere now that his temporary invisibility was spent. The chains lashed at Todd and knocked him unconscious. The Kyton pressed the attack against Charmer, resolving to deal with the troublesome cleric once the more vulnerable foes had been dispatched. The ranger was badly injured by the chains that battered and slashed at his body and he was forced to retreat.
The Vedic stood alone against the devil. He was enjoying himself. After weeks of overwhelming odds in battles against enemies who were also followers of the Chosen, it was nice to stand toe to toe with a single opponent. Tim knew where he stood with the fallen: over their dying bodies caving in their skulls. And this devil was no match for Tim Tanner. The Kyton did seem pleased with itself now that the others were defeated. Foolish, thought Tim, very foolish.
The Kyton's chains lashed out at the cleric with unprecedented ferocity in a metal storm of blades and barbs. The Vedic stood firm against the attack. Setanta's armor and shield protected him. The chains, which had been slowly heating since the battle was joined, began to glow red hot and burned into the creatures skin. The devil had endured worse and glowered at the Vedic, "You will die here today priest!"
"No, I don't think so," replied the priest as he commanded both of the Maces of Croi to attack. They struck true and battered the devil.
It's hate filled confidence began to waver, "Die!" he screamed and sent another wave of chains at the Vedic. Again they had no effect.
"We've been through this," the Vedic calmly explained as if to a new acolyte, "It is in fact you who are doomed. The Fallen are not tolerated on Talamh".
He hammered the devil with a rapid series of blows from his mace, while the Maces of Croi attacked and the chains burned. Finally one of the Maces of Croi struck the creature a killing blow, striking between Ethan's replica eyes and it fell to the ground and disappeared.
"Who needs healing?" the Vedic asked casually as he found his badly wounded companions collapsed against the walls outside.

Kysiatch has a bad day

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (Night)
The spider crept crookedly along a deep groove in the marble wall. She didn't like venturing out into the open, away from the protection of her lair. She feared the light which had recently flooded her darkened home. She felt exposed. But her master had commanded her too go forth. And so she did. Even now as her legs found the almost imperceptible cracks in the sheer marble surface, she could feel his presence. To her tiny primitive mind his intellect was as vast and incomprehensible as a God's. His power was beyond her limited ability to imagine and she was terrified by him.

he commanded. She scuttled forward unheard and unseen on her eight agile limbs. She hid in a groove and watched. The creatures were colossal things flailing around in some incomprehensible dance. They made noise. It was so loud. She could feel it shaking her tiny frame. It vibrated along the walls and pounded her antennae. Even when they were still, their breath roared across the air. She crouched to hide her sensitive antennae behind a lip of marble.
the voice commanded, she sensed anger and looked up quickly.

Kysiatch was getting worried. He could sense the few thoughts that went through the spider's tiny mind. After the first time he had tried it, he rarely bothered. There wasn't much going on in there. The more of his own mind he pushed into the tiny insect's consciousness, the more he could sense of her surroundings. But unfortunately he had to be careful. Which was very frustrating. Once he had gone as far as taking control of a spider's limbs and controlling it's movement, that had been a memorable experience, he had felt how she moved, how she sensed the world. He understood how to find imperfections in a surface, how to hook your feet into them and use them to walk straight down to a floor that suddenly seemed hundreds of feet away.
It was exciting. He had thrown out a web-strand, which was by then second nature and had hurled himself off the wall into oblivion. The web-strand had caught the wall and he had swung down the giant elastic rope. The air rushed past and the ground arced towards him. It had been exhilarating. Then the stupid creature's speck of a brain had burned out. He assumed it's tiny corpse had been left dangling on the end of the web banging off the wall. Sometimes he almost felt as though he should have gone to see. It was peculiar he thought, with all the thousands of creatures he had summoned to do his bidding, that spider was the only one that he ever felt any connection with.
Kysiatch caught himself. His fear of these unwanted guests, was straining his mental defenses. He hadn't survived over ten thousand years, by examining he emotions. Certainly not for a pathetic creature who had died two thousand years ago. He had never given her a name. She had deserved that hadn't she?
Kysiatch's mind wandered for several more maudlin minutes before he remembered what he was supposed to be doing. The power that bound his frail shrunken corpse together was difficult to control at times and his mind had perfected the ability over the long years to control it without consulting his conscious mind. The process kept him alive but occasionally took so much mental effort that he was left prattling like a demented crone.
When he recovered he gently instructed the spider. .

He insinuated just enough of himself into it's mind to see and hear what was going on in the room below. The Kyton was dead and the infidel priest was looking unbearably smug. Kysiatch really hated priests. Even when the DeDannan had still been a power to be reckoned with, he knew their priests were charlatans, who were failing their race. Tionscail this and Draiocht that. They could all rot! And they all had. But that was the trouble with priests, there were always more. That was why you had to admire High Lord Cromith. Admittedly, he was allied with Athru, consorting with the Gods counted against him in Kysiatch's book, but he had destroyed the workers in Tionscail's temple and desecrated the whole place. Yes! A thousand times yes! The Alhoon had absolutely no respect for the Gods and he had the arrogance and the aggression to do something about it. Kysiatch had feared that temple for millennia and now it was neutered. The Illithid was a forced to be reckoned with. Even the so called Prince of Schliss was his puppet.

The infidel priest was parading around in DeDannan socketed armor and he didn't even know how it worked. He kept bemoaning the foolishness of his companions who had stupidly allowed themselves to be severely wounded by the chain devil. The impudence! Chain Devils were powerful nightmares from the depths of hell, each could lay waste to a battalion of warriors without raising a sweat. All previous invaders had fallen before them. The invaders should be dead! He regained control and instructed the spider, .

The infidels prayers were powerful, and he infused his companions with the power of Saol.
The spider noticed two new colossal intruders moving down the hall. Kysiatch switched her attention to them. One was a human clad in animal skins, bearing a large gnarled piece of unidentifiable wood. It crackled with power, even through the muted understanding of the spiders mind he could feel it. He was already looking forward to examining it in the magical lab once the owner was dead. That shouldn't take too long he thought, given the bloodied and bedraggled state of the druid. That must have been some battle upstairs he surmised.
The druid's companion was a knight of some sort. He bore the symbol of the accursed Church of The Moons so he assumed that he must be a champion. He too was hobbling along the corridor trying to pretend that his wounds were not as serious as they appeared. Pride, Kysiatch thought, can be a dangerous thing. The foul Chosen priest dutifully continued his prayers to his Gods and soon their power had dragged the druid and champion from Bas' door to Compleasc's favor.

The intruders were ready to set off in search of him. It was time to strike back, they would pay for the deaths of his allies. He let the spider's mind go with a final command to keep watch. Then he turned his full attention to the summoning circle. This was the only place, within the Poll Na Deanta arrivals area, in which he could use his summoning powers. He stood beside the circle and started the ritual. His Kyton ally had been defeated after doing considerable damage to the attackers, perhaps a larger creature, with more ferocious physical attacks and more staying power, was what he needed. He called upon the forces of Naduir to provide him with such a creature. He could feel the magical power coursing through his frail body. Power that would allow him to pull and creature from across the planes to this very spot. A dire lion, he thought and it appeared.
It roared. It was massive and strong. It's claws were long and sharp and giant fangs protruded from it's gaping jaw. It's expression of anger and aura of menace were reinforced by the nasty boney spikes on its forehead and by the hell-born, blood colored light shining in it's eyes. Using the luminous energy that bound his spirit to his feeble shell, he poured power into the beast. It's muscles bunched and tightened as he increased it's strength and toughness beyond natural limits. He sent a thought into the massive creature's small mind, an easy task after tiptoeing through a spider's thoughts. he sent, indicating that the creature should follow Misorek, his primary Kyton servant.
Misorek left, trailed by a mountain of fangs and fur. As they disappeared through the shunt, Kysiatch returned his focus to the spider. The intruders had finally moved from the hall back into the barricade room. The door to the failsafe room was the focus of their attention and so, as he expected, they had missed the more important portal, perfectly concealed within the chamber.

The spider’s senses were almost overwhelmed by a world shattering load roar. It stiffened. he projected, . The fearful arachnid inched along the groove and into the barricade room to spy on the group clustered at the door. Kysiatch noticed, with a small degree of concern, that they were not cowed by the outrageous din reverberating through the door. In fact, their faces lit up and their enthusiasm awoke. Misorek flung open the door for the beast and retreated quickly. It bounded through the open portal, turned, crouched and pounced, all in one fluid motion. It was a beautiful sight to behold, as the lethal abyssal creature crashed amongst them, teeth snapping down on armor, claws rending flesh and raking against shields. Blood splattered on the ground, voices cried in pain and the lion roared all the while. The fight was brief though and while the beast inflicted several vicious and bloody wounds, it was slain quickly. It's body vanished as it's essence returned through the circle.

Kysiatch was disappointed. Surely a Dire Lion should have taken at least one of the to The Wall Of Souls? He pondered what to do next as he watched them stride confidently into the failsafe room. The champion who, he now knew from his observation, was called Sir Eagon DelFuego, led the way. He discovered the pit trap, the hard way. Kysiatch's heart leapt when he heard the armor clad buffoon wailing in shock as he frantically grasped for the ledge and then fell into the deep spike filled pit. There was a bone shattering crash when platemail and flesh collided with the pit floor forty feet below.
The warning words 'check for traps' escaped someone's lips as the noise subsided and they wished in vain that they had spoken a few seconds earlier.
"Hello!" called Sir Eagon, in a weak and pleading voice, which was music to Kysiatch's ears.
"I'm still alive down here and in terrible pain, I think my leg is broken!..." he wailed pitifully. This was even better than Kysiatch could have hoped. A broken leg would really slow them down.
The champion's companions started laughing and Sir Eagon heartily joined them.
"Hold on we'll throw you a rope," they laughed.
"He does a great impression of that bard," Stuffitt acknowledged. "We should really get Ethan raised from the dead".
This was all wrong thought Kysiatch, as the intruders pulled a winded and bruised Sir Eagon out of the pit. He should be dead. He was beginning to wonder if the seemingly insane bravado, shown by the intruders, was based on ability rather than mere delusion, as he had first suspected. He decided it was time to call on the biggest creature he could summon. There was no more time to toy with these humans, they needed to be dealt with as soon as possible before they became a serious threat. The energy he needed to summon a creature had returned and he was ready to summon something big. But first he needed some protection. He moved to the circle and with a few candles and other more esoteric objects he prepared it for the binding ritual. He started the incantations to bring forth another Kyton, ready to use his considerable bargaining and persuasive powers to secure it's service. This would be costly but poverty was better than death.

Meanwhile the spider crept into a tiny crack between wall and roof and watched Todd Stuffitt reset the stone clad wooden trap door over the pit.
"I've jammed it, so it should be safe to walk on." he said and stepped on to it to prove his theory.
"I still can't believe that you missed all those spikes," Bob charmer looked at the champion with admiration.
"It was the will of The Chosen," Sir Eagon replied, "and good armor". He pointed to several long gashes in the metal plates that protected his body.
"Let's get going," suggested the druid. "The more time we spend standing around congratulating ourselves the more time whoever is summoning these creatures has to fill this dungeon."
"Right." said Sir Eagon. He reached out to open the door and found it was locked.
"Tim for Todd to shine" the assassin pushed forward and started to pick the lock, "thanks for checking the door for traps, though".
While Todd was working on the lock Sir Eagon examined the door. It was made from solid iron and was at least four inches thick. There was a metal grill in the middle of the door at head height for an ogre. He deduced that it was designed for observing this room because the grill could only be opened form the other side.
"Come on Glick!" Todd prayed for divine guidance.
Vedic Tanner looked at him in disgust, "What kind of prayer was that?"
Todd ignored him, concentrating on his task. After several minutes, he managed to open the ancient lock.

Kysiatch had hurriedly completed the bargaining with his new Kyton ally Geriath and had then summoned another great beast. This time he called forth a creature of even greater size and muscle. He returned his focus to the spider as the thief opened the door to the arrival control room.
Misorek led the creature through the shunt and sent it charging down the arrivals hall to the control room. The elephant unleashed an almighty bellow, trumpeting in defiance as it ran.
The priest Tim Tanner and the druid John Appleby stood in front of the charging gray mountain as it bore down on them, confident that the power of the gods and the power of nature would protect them. An instant before it crashed into them, they both struck it with their weapons. Mace and staff hammered into the elephants skull, the impact was doubled by the force of it's charge. Kysiatch almost looked away, fearing that they would do the impossible and slay the elephant before it could attack. Tanner was driven by the power of Croi and Appleby by the power of Naduir and they were potent in combat. But neither could stop an elephant's charge and it plowed over them and stamped them underfoot. It slowed as it neared the far wall, knocking the ranger to the ground like a rag doll.
The intruders closed cautiously on the huge maddened animal. It lashed out with trunk and tusk, legs and bulk, flailing around the small control room. It gored and stamped and bellowed. The intruders kept their heads and pressed the attack. Stuffitt leapt over a nearby table to avoid it's attacks followed by the ranger who had already been badly gored. They unleashed a barrage of bolts and arrows from behind the protection afforded by the stone structure.
Sir Eagon, John Appleby and Tim Tanner fell upon their foe with a series of blindingly fast sword, mace and staff attacks.
The battle raged and although the elephant was too distracted by the number of assailants to focus a killing blow on any one, none of them had escaped his wrath. The intruders were all badly injured and more importantly, Kysiatch noted, the priest had no energy left for his healing magic. It was time to send in the Kytons and finish this. It would be a sweet victory. The tusken raider had done it's work well.
The elephant was lashing out desperately as it's strength ebbed through bloody wounds. It knew death was at hand. John Appleby raised the Applewood staff high above his head and spun his body. The whirling momentum allowed him to strike with a series of rapid but powerful strikes. The power of Naduir crackled through the Applewood Staff as it connected with the elephant's head again and again. The druid's magic and physical strength combined to shatter the weary animal's skull and it died in an instant. Appleby smiled, such is the way of nature, he thought. Then he slumped to the ground, exhausted and bruised after the battle and he wondered when Naduir would grant him the power to summon such mighty animals.

The assassin was already examining the chair he had found behind the table, when the elephant's body disappeared. Kysiatch smiled. There was no way that this mere human could decipher the words on the Poll Na Deanta arrivals area control panel. There was even less chance that he could figure out how to use it. It had take Kysiatch years to master it. Still, he thought, no point in taking any chances. He decided to send in Geriath and Misorek to put an end to the threat. Before he pulled his focus away from the spider, Kysiatch saw the assassin do something that intrigued him. He watched for just a moment longer. The assassin put his hands randomly on the surface of the panel and then closed his eyes. Then he started moving his hands over the panel as if trying to sense something. Then he started touching the panel in a complex sequence of strokes he caused a hum to issue from it. The arcane symbols covering the panel and the walls nearby began to come to life and as Todd continued to poke blindly at the panel, the noise and light grew. His companions began to register grave concerns and looked like they were going to stop him. Kysiatch impotently wished that they would do just that. He could barely believe it but that bumbling human was about to accidentally activate the panel's lockdown sequence.
"No!" he screamed in anger and fear.
A voice spoke and magically all could understand it, "Arrivals Area Lockdown Activated."
The human looked insufferably pleased with himself.
"Who needs Ivellios?" he grinned.
A section of the panel was illuminated in arcane light and it showed a map of the arrivals area in dark green light. The doors on the map were colored red when each locked shut.
They all turned when the exits from the room were sealed. A thick iron door slammed shut in front of them. They knew what this meant: a brief respite from the assault and time to heal. The priest read from a prayer book that, like the druid's staff, reeked of power. Kysiatch wanted it. But there were greater problems to be dealt with. The invaders could not be given time to recover. If they did so, his victory in the coming conflict was not assured. He needed to find someway to override the control room.
He manipulated the magical balance of the shunt and stepped through. He strode through the arrivals hall as quickly as his frail frame would carry him. He unlocked the door to the guardroom and stepped in. He felt a sense of calm flood into him as he entered the room. There were tubes and vials and arcane assemblies of all kinds cluttered amongst the tables in the room. He was glad to be back in his lab but there was no time to experiment now. Not when his millennia long existence was at stake. He surveyed the clutter, trying to determine which items belonged to the original guardroom and which he had added when he converted it to his lab. Then he spotted what he was looking for, hidden behind a discarded lizardfolk head. A simple lever jutted out from the wall at about shoulder height for an ogre. Funny he thought as he struggled to reach up for it, I used to look down at this lever.

Neither the spider or the other occupants of the control room noticed that the red marking of the landing door had changed from red to dark green. All attention was focused on the conclusion of the ceremony that Vedic Tim Tanner was conducting. All of the invaders were chanting a prayer written by the Vedic, which was based one of his revisions of The Book of Creation. When the chant was completed each participant reached out in prayer to their God.
"Croi!"
"Seilig!"
"Glick!"
"Naduir!"
"Croi!"
And in response to the ritual and the devotion shown by the followers, the Gods responded. The lame walked and the sick were made whole. Cuts closed, bruises healed and pain vanished.
Vedic Tanner was well pleased, "Now that, was a prayer!"

Kysiatch watched in horror. He had been unable to breach the room's defenses from the guardroom and now his foes had been healed. The accursed Gods of The Moons were showing them a level of benevolence that was unheard of. This could not be! He had survived here for millennia. Now he was trapped unable to escape. There was only one thing to be done. Summon and bind and many allies as he could and once the door to the control room was opened, he would attack. As this desperate plan formed in his mind, an argument had broken out among the invaders. Some were advocating a retreat, until their magical and divine powers were renewed. Others argued that they should press forward and destroy whatever lay before them, before it could summon even more creatures. Kysiatch had heard enough and broke contact. He moved to the circle and started a binding ritual. Summoned creatures were excellent cannon fodder but they were recalled to their home plane after only a couple of minutes. He needed bound allies now, that could be forced to serve until the invaders had been dealt with. He started the binding ritual and hoped that he could complete it in time.

The spider bereft of the Grimweird's consciousness, still watched the colossal creatures below her with mild interest, though she didn't know why. Using the tried and tested method of blind luck, Todd managed to use the control panel to open the door to the arrival's hall. The hall was wide enough for a couple of ogres to fight abreast and ended at a shunt about as far away as Todd could throw his dagger. One side was decorated with the usual DeDannan symbols but also with frescos of the DeDannan at work in Poll Na Deanta and fighting Ogre Mage armies. The other side was decorated with two life size statues. The first was a DeDannan knight who held the chains of a prisoner, the second was that prisoner, an ogre mage on it's knees begging for mercy. Between the statues under the chains was a decorative bathing pool. The frescoed wall held two doors, but the invaders attention was grabbed by the scarlet glow of an active shunt.

The vedic and druid looked at each other and raced forward to the shunt. A sense of urgency had come to the vedic and he tried to follow his intuition when possible, it rarely let him down. The druid was wise, his intuition was almost as reliable as the vedic's. Right now, it was telling him to follow the vedic. Following Tanner was always interesting. A quick gesture and the shunt's balance shifted. Tim and John disappeared through the shunt and were replaced by an unwelcome new arrival.

Misorek stepped through the shunt and activated his chains. He had to buy time for his master to complete the ritual. Then the invaders would be doomed. All he had to do was guard the shunt and prevent anyone from attacking Kysiatch. He surveyed the enemy. Only three. The Vedic and the druid were missing, possibly hiding somewhere, no time to ponder that now. The champion, the assassin and the ranger were closing around him. He kept his back to the wall. He decided to take the champion first and changed his visage to that of the champion's dead lieutenant.
"Why did you forsake me!?" his voice mimicked the dead bandit.
The champion paled visibly. Misorek smiled and lashed out with his chains striking through the champions armor. This would be easy. Then the ranger's arrows hit. They hurt but the arrows were not made of silver and so the wounds were only minor and would heal swiftly. The champion launched a ferocious attack balancing skill with brute force and he managed to open a deep gash across Misorek's chest. He screamed curses at the champion for his impudence. The assassin was creeping around, looking for an opening for a killing shot. Misorek was ready for that, it wouldn't work. He lashed out at the champion again and scored another telling blow. The rangers arrows were like a persistent swarm of insects, stinging consistently. He would have to be dealt with next. The champion was the real threat and his assault was impressive, his sword cut through a hole in Misorek's defense and slashed his leg. The assassin tried to activate the shunt.
"Not so fast", sneered Misorek in the Infernal tongue as he lashed out to block the assassin.
But the shunt had been a ruse and the assassin whipped his body away from it was soon as Misorek had acted. He ducked under Misorek's guard and plunged a green bladed rune covered dagger into his stomach. Misorek screamed in agony as the dagger bit into him. This assassin knew his trade damn him. The wound was not from silver but it was deep and would take too long to heal. Misorek knew he was in trouble. He lashed out at the assassin and struck two vicious deep gashes in the human's shoulder and ribs, they bled quickly over ragged skin and exposed bone. Then the ranger and the champion attacked again and Misorek was back on the defensive, the champion having managed to open an serious gash in Misorek's lower back while he fought the assassin. It was time for retreat. Misorek called to the Grimweird. No response. That was odd. The assassin's green smoky dagger appeared through the front of his neck. Oh. There was no time for the pain. Misorek was dead.

Kysiatch knew it was too late to complete the ritual of binding when the shunt glowed red. He spun to face the intruders. It was time to make a stand. Kysiatch had been here before and had prevailed. He would prevail again as he had done for thousands of years.
"You were alone for those millennia and slept much," said one of the voices that accompanied him. That part of his mind should have been controlling his bind energy. He would have to meditate later and regain control. Meanwhile the Vedic and the druid had come through.
The were Alone.
At last some good fortune. While Misorek held their companions at bay, Geriath and he could slay these two. With their healers dead the invaders would be easily taken. He reached out towards the lightly armored druid and touched his living flesh. The energy within him, the energy that summoned his allies and held his frail from together, was always hungry. It sucked the druid's life from his robust living body and fed it to the Grimweird.
It felt so good.
He tried to taste the essence of the Vedic, knowing how potent it would be, but the DeDannan armor he wore was too strong a defense and Kysiatch couldn't make contact with his living flesh. The druid attacked and landed a painful blow with each end of the powerful magical staff. It crackled against his emaciated flesh. The pain was intense and he recoiled from it. The druid would die first he decided. The priest held forth the symbol of his God, Croi. Hah! thought Kysiatch Croi was an overrated upstart Godess. He could tell that this foolish priest was about to channel her power through the symbol in a vain attempt to disrupt the energy that bound him. Oh foolish young mortal, he thought, I have been bound with this energy for longer than your church has reigned, your feeble skills are no match for the dark...
The arrogant gloating of Kysiatch's meandering thoughts were interrupted by an excruciating wash of living energy burning with the power of the sun. Pain filled every fiber of his being as the power of Croi was brought to bear upon him by a soul incandescently pure of purpose.
With an iron voice Arch Vedic Tim Tanner of The Church Of The Moons hurled his words at the Grimweird.
"By the Power of Croi and the Church of The Moons, by The Sun, The Moons and The Holy Trinity, be gone unto the night, foul creature of The Fallen. The power of Croi Compels you!"
But I'm not Fallen, thought Kysiatch, as the energy within him struggled in vain to hold his form together. Then his soul was released. His pathetic body burst into fine powder and his loincloth drifted slowly to the dusty floor. Geriath retreated to the summoning circle and was gone.
"Well that was easy" exhaled the suspicious vedic, wondering if it was some kind of trick, "Good old Croi".

The spider felt the passing of her master with as much sadness as her tiny primitive mind could muster. She crawled dejectedly back towards her web-home. She achingly missed his presence as a priest would miss their God. One thought kept nagging at her, like a splinter in her mind: I never even gave him a name...

Dretch Incursion

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (Night)

A dark red storm raged across the broken land. The clouds seethed and boiled above the blackened ground below. Maggots writhed in agony on the carcass of a poisoned beast. He ate them. On the edge of his dull consciousness he could sense their anguish and this was almost as satisfying to him as their putrid taste. Maw had a quiet, undisturbed notion that he was once more than this. More than a drooling, hateful, small, lump of flesh with sharpened teeth eating poisonous rot and roaming the shattered landscape looking for something to kill. Every day was filled with despair and frustration that he was too weak and pathetic to vent his wrath on anything of consequence. Every day was filled with hate. Hadn't he once been a killer? His ineffectual mind was cursed with hazy half formed memories of such things, as if some inept psychic had casually wiped his memory leaving only enough of it to taunt him with impressions better times. Was he being punished. Yes. That was it he realised. He didn't know why but he knew he deserved it. But he could do nothing about it and the painful futility of his existence began to eat at him and he remembered that the same revelation came to him endlessly. Only all consuming anger could move his thoughts from this awful truth so the cycle of rage began again. With almost no effort the fury overtook him and he had to destroy something. He hurled the maggot covered bowels he had been eating at one of his companions, who stared venomously at him, while the stinking larva ridden excrement dripped down his face. He screamed, infuriated and the inevitable combat began once more. Claw slashed against rubbery face. Teeth clamped onto scabby arms. But neither could inflict any serious damage on the other. The two obese bloated figures rolled on the corpse strewn ground surrounded by a mob of their kind. A collective bloodlust was growing. A riot of untamed violence was about to break out among the dretch.

"Get back in line you horrible filth!" roared their commander Illh'asa'thruk'intro'mlai, a massive hulking figure weighing over half a ton and towering over the dretch. To give weight to his order he picked up one of the dretch standing in a circle around the brawlers, bit off one of it's legs and threw it at Maw.
Maw dodged the leg and scrambled to get back into formation. Thruk was completely psychotic and delighted into tormenting every dretch in the platoon. They were all terrified of him. Not least Daq, whose dark green blood sprayed all over the bitter rusted stone. He squealed in pain and terror.
"What the Feo did you do that for you Risen bastard?" he wailed, clutching at the gushing stump. Everyone winced, you didn't call Thruk a Risen, not unless you loved pain. Thruk smiled at the pathetic figure writhing in agony screaming curses at him.
"Oh, I am so sorry your Highness," Thruk apologized, his tone dripping with sarcasm. He reached down and picked up Maq's bloated body, "I didn't realise that I was in the presence of such an important guest."
With a gruesome gristly sound he slowly pulled Maq's arms out of their sockets.
"I'm going to rip off your head you Risen bastard!" screamed Maq's strangled voice.
Thruk was impressed, while the insults were pathetic, the little dretch's anger was powerful. This kind of ferocity was just what the army needed, the dretch deserved a promotion he decided. The tendons in Maq's left arm were marginally weaker and so they broke first. The arm was wrenched away from dretch's body and dark green blood sprayed the onlookers. Maq's boiling rage drove him beyond sane limits and he continued to hurl abuse at his tormentor. His remaining leg flailed, trying to find Thruk's face.
Thruk was rarely impressed, least of all by muck like these dretch but this one was special. He was destined for great things. Thruk had little time for destiny.
He knelt down beside a large jagged rock and rested Maq's head against it. Then he placed his hands gently on either side of the wailing dretch's head, lifted it slightly, smiled and smashed it into the rock. Maq died instantly.
The ruined body slowly turned to black ooze. The ooze began to bubble and all manner of body parts boiled up from the dark living mess. All were silenced by the beautiful power of Athru at work. Then a form began to dominate. From out of the corrupted primordial ooze rose a gaunt humanoid figure dripping with blood colored slime. A single horn bent forwards from the centre of it's leather skinned skull.
"Well done Maq'asa!" Thruk congratulated the disoriented dretch on his promotion to Babau, "Get this horrible lot in line. We've got a job to do!"
The dretch moved quickly, their fear of Thruk driving them forward. To slake his overpowering thirst for revenge, Maq'asa quickly killed one of the dretch, his powerful talons darting through it's eyes. There was no abyssal re-incarnation for that pathetic whelp, it had died quaking instead of using it's anger. The Prison punished weakness.
Maq'asa hurried to keep up with the others.

It was only minutes later when the calling came. A summoner on the material plane of Talamh! A dark greasy red portal opened up in front of him and he was pulled irresistibly through it. A feeble looking creature, covered with dark purple tendrils of energy had called him. A grimweird. He was offering a binding to the material plane in exchange for service. Maq'asa was more than willing, but wanted to see what was on offer before he decided whether to betray this fool.
A chosen cleric entered the summoning chamber. The grimweird's concentration lapsed before the binding conduit could be established fully. Maq'asa was hurled back across the planes to The Prison. No! He had to get to Talamh, damn that priest! He refused to let the connection go and his anger was powerful. It came to his aid again. By sheer force of rage he held on to the conduit. But slowly and inevitably it was slipping through his fingers. There were some things even anger could not achieve.
Then the miracle. A chaotic uncontrolled flux of energy surged along the evaporating connection and smashed into The Prison. The positive divine energy of Croi overpowered the ancient destructive energy of Feo and the grimweird's spirit was smashed. The energies took on a lives of their own as The Prison fueled their chaotic destructive battle. The grimweird's spirit was bound to the summoning energy that had sustained him in his undeath and it lashed out. The grimweird's fury fed Maq'asa's terrible purpose and lent him the strength to hold the portal open. The DeDannan summoning circle at the other end granted it the stability it needed to hold the energy in place. A permanent portal was formed.

Thruk watched in amazement. To him it seemed that Maq'asa had spontaneously created a permanent portal to Talamh. Not even a demon lord could do that! What the risen was going on? He was worried. Maq'asa wanted revenge against him and The Prison itself seemed to grant him strange new powers. He was sure he could kill him, but after the display of power he had just witnessed he wasn't willing to risk Maq'asa returning as a Balor or something even more powerful. This was not good. In The Prison it was always the wrong time to show fear. He decided to make light of the power displayed and to assert his power.
"Alright you maggots! Get your short fat arses through that portal!"
Not one of the dretch moved. He nodded to Maq'asa who killed one, quickly and enthusiastically with his razor-sharp claws. Thruk grabbed one, broke it's arm and hurled it through the portal.
"Move!"
The dretch shuffled forward through the portal, their fear of Thruk outweighing their fear of the unknown. Maw's dim brain sensed that a bad day was about to get a whole lot worse.

When he arrived on the material plane the others were already pounding on the armor of some hated Chosen creature. It had been sickened by the glorious clouds of green gas they had exhaled. Maw took a deep breath, Talamh was a strange alien place and the gas was comforting to him. A glowing red symbol on the wall nearby gabbed his attention. It was a magical chosen symbol, he could feel it. Instinctively he lashed out with his own magic, projecting his fear at it. He felt foolish when his mind caught up with his instinct and berated him for wasting his fear magic against a symbol. Then he was pulled through the shunt.
He appeared in a long well lit hallway. There was no gas here and it felt strange. He inhaled, ready to breathe the gas out into the hallway. A Chosen champion came thundering down the corridor and with one powerful blow cut off his head.

The battle had quickly turned against them after Sir Eagon's impressive decapitating strike. The strange demonic creatures had filled the chamber with poison gas and more were swarming through the shunt. Sir Eagon and Ivellios were unable to do anything but retch. Appleby and Charmer were still in the fight and holding their breath but both arrow and staff were bouncing off the creature's rubbery magical hides and only their most powerful blows were having any effect. They weren't killing them quickly enough. Worse still, Todd had disappeared when the battle had started and Vedic Tanner was nowhere to be seen. When they realised that the Vedic must still be in the summoning chamber beyond the shunt, they knew something had to be done quickly.

Finally, as Appleby and Charmer were slowly forced back by their foes, Ivellios and Sir Eagon recovered from their retching fits. Ivellios called upon the power of Tine's flame and conjured a wall of fire across the hall to block their assailants.
"These creatures are dretch," Ivellios shouted to his companions, "They can endure a considerable amount of heat, but this wall should hold them back. We need to charge through the wall, punch through their lines, activate the shunt and rescue the Vedic. Everyone got that?"
They all nodded. Sir Eagon, backed up by the ranger and the druid, ran through the wall of fire. The pain was intense but was over in the blink of an eye and they survived. They slammed into one of the snarling blubbery creatures and smashed it into the far wall. Ivellios slipped through the newly created hole in the enemy lines and reached the shunt. Before the dretch could react he activated it and pulled his companions through.

Tim Tanner was being badly gouged and bitten by a swarm of dretch when they materialized in front of the shunt inside the summoning chamber. The room was filled with the familiar cloud of stinking poison gas and was crowded with dretch.
Their attention was drawn to a jagged rent in the fabric of reality, glaring at them from the middle of the chamber. The air was slick with evil and hatred throbbed through from The Prison. More dretch were filing through. The battle was joined once more. Sir Eagon and Appleby went to relieve the Vedic who was battling for his life, while Charmer stayed to defend Ivellios. Ivellios didn't register any of this. His attention was focused on the portal. Here we go again he thought to himself. He knew he had to shut down the portal before something serious came through. He knew that the dretch would only be driven through by a more powerful demon, presumably a Hezrou. Thankfully he also knew how to deal a demon incursion. He just hoped his magic was potent enough to close the rift. Tin Tan's voice spoke encouragingly in his mind, . Ivellios smiled.
He threw his magic and his will against the portal. He wrestled with the energy. It was barely held in check by some inexperienced maniac on the other end. The chaotic anger-fueled construction was no match for his skills and he tore it apart with ease. The conduit to The Prison was severed and the portal vanished. The grimweird's soul was sent for judgment. There was a staggering backlash of energy as if an inter-planar bowstring had snapped. It slashed into Ivellios. He almost collapsed. The energy overwhelmed him as magical power filled his frame. He could be transformed into a creature of great magical power by this energy. All he had to do was accept it. Accept Athru. But he did not accept. That lesson, he had learned long ago. He resisted the lure of the dark and stayed faithful to Tine. Tin Tan glowed with admiration.
The incursion was ended and the dretch were stranded. They didn't last long. Appleby lashed out with his staff, broke bones and cracked skulls. The ranger's arrows punched into their rubbery flesh and they fell under his relentless assault. Sir Eagon's sword was unstoppable and he smote his foes. No dretch could stand before him. Their flesh burned where his Chosen sword cut and no abyssal magic could protect them.

When all were slain, the victors said little. They were exhausted. There had been many battles that day and though all had been won, they had taken many wounds. They limped back to the control room. Ivellios took charge of the DeDannan control panel and locked down the entire complex. Then, at last, they slept. Long and deep.

The Return of The Bard

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Croiday

The following day was spent in prayer giving thanks to the Chosen. The Vedic and his acolyte Stanten, performed a ceremony which all attended. Each then gave thanks to their own God in their own way. Saol granted her gift's to Vedic Tanner and he bestowed her healing upon all. The druid called upon the blessing of Naduir and was granted nature's bounty. With this he fed all the survivors. The water from the arrivals hall fountain was purified and by Croi and Naduir and all drank deeply. The day passed swiftly. Only the minor interruptions of prayer, meditation and the needs of the body disturbed their slumber.


Droiday

The following day the adventurers awoke refreshed. Many of the Dark Keep survivors were in foul spirits and several needed to be restrained when their anger at the loss of the count and the keep overtook them. Ivellios and Todd were eager to explore the rest of the complex where they were confident that items of significant magical power or monetary value awaited them.
The grimweird's laboratory, a guardroom in ages past, was locked. After some time Todd admitted defeat, he couldn't pick the lock. He returned to the summoning chamber and sifted through the pile of ash and brittle cloth that was all that remained of the grimweird. He found an iron key, a pair of rings, a belt and an amulet. A short while later they were in the lab.
All manner of strange items and gruesome biological oddities lay strewn at random around the room. What grabbed Appleby's attention though were the bottles of oils and unguents that lay randomly placed about the chamber. He quickly established that there were sufficient components there to attempt a reincarnation ritual. The resolved to delay the exploration until after the druid made the attempt to reincarnate Ethan Namer.
They brought the Bard's body to entrance hall and the druid performed the ritual of reincarnation.
Ethan's friends then invoked to the Gods on his behalf, beseeching them to return Ethan once again as a human and free from the taint of the Dragon of Nagaranthiel.

Appleby: Naduir, breathe the water of life into him.
Charmer: Bas and Saol, he asks you for more time on our world.
DelFuego: Neart, grant his form the strength the challenge his foes.
Fileadh, play him your Song, to draw him back and let your melody describe his true form.
Tharanaian: We know that he has not fulfilled his destiny.
So we ask you Aisneis to please give him the chance to yet again challenge the great wyrm.
Appleby: Naduir, Your wind my breath, fill my lungs and grant me this true re-incarnation to Namer's true form.

Each invocation of the Gods names during the ritual, caught the attention of a fraction of the Gods' minds. Even a minuscule portion of a Gods' mind has overwhelming power.
Ethan's soul was released by the aspect Bas. Naduir's will sent it back with a new human body. Aisneis casually muted the wyrm's power and allowed the Namer to pursue his true destiny. As Fileadh played, the aspect they had invoked wove Ethan's connection to the True Line into his Song. Naduir breathed life into the body.

Ethan Namer awoke. He felt perfect. Not merely healthy, fit, content or happy.
Perfect.
His body was stronger, tougher and more agile, his mind felt quicker, stronger and more certain of it's purpose. He felt in harmony with the Song and realised that before he had always been a discordant tone. The taint of the wyrm had been removed. He was free to choose his own destiny. He reached for his mandolin and began to play. Savoring the moment.
"No time for that now!" exclaimed Todd, "There's treasure to be found!"
Ethan was almost going to resist when he remembered just how much he liked treasure.

The Grim Laboratory

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Droiday (Afternoon)
A rogue dretch was wandering the halls.
It is quickly slain by the party.

Desk
Lying on a highly ornate but ancient and badly damaged Darkwood Desk are:
A red and black oily metal rod. Kellum Rod Socketed: Lesser Empower Rod (Ivellios)

An Adamantine flat piece of metal covered in magical runes. Schema of Black Tentacles (1/day)

An open gem display case of silver inlaid with red dragon velvet: Socket Gems, One of each energy type (6) trinket gem, One of each power type (6) trinket gem, One lesser Balor Gem, One lesser , Solar Gem, One Strong Arcane Gem

Sticking out of a drawer at an odd angle is a jesters sceptre, Rod of Wonder (DMG 237)

The alchemical experimentation table is covered in hundred of magical contraptions, vials, burners, glass coolers, gold reducing jars and so forth worth 5,000gp

Various heads, crushed gems, guano, string etc, 4,000 gp of spell component gems.

In various stages of creation are, 10 potions (plus 4 of illithid mutation - Athru)

5 Scrolls written on human skin

A Pearl (of Power) earring

Bag of holding Socketed

Hanging in a wardrobe are:
Two full sets of ogre sized high quality clothing and accessories, which are empty socket holding items (two for each slot).Very high quality craftsmanship 2500 gp each

Purple and Gold (Summoner's) cloak of Torlandish design (Augment Summoning)

Spike
A lizardfolk head is jammed on a spike

One an operating table
A tzakandi corpse with it's mouth ripped open, A failed tzakandi experiment being fitted with a morgue tongue, Poison Dusk Clan. He still has a quiver on his back, Sonic Quiver

On another operating table
Another Steel Clan Lizardfolk head. A DeDannan Torso in bardic clothing, Minotaur skull and hooves.

The Journal of Kysiatch
Lying in the middle of the leather upholstered desk is a large well made book.
Kysiatch's level of activity dramatically increased at the beginning of the year when he was visited by the Alhoon Teth Cromith and the prince of Schliss.

Biological spare parts table
Preserved in jars are...
Gutworms, A undead Morgue tongue, An illithid cerebral hood, A undead mummified eye, An illithid rending claw, A Steel Clan Lizardfolk Warrior, An illithid raking tentacle, A Brain in a Jar
On a dissection table , is a warforged dressed as an artist several body parts are missing.

Hanging from a hook
Another Steel Clan lizardfolk lies hanging from a hook. It's brain is missing. Looks like it was extracted by a Mind Flayer. Tentacles hang from it's slack jaw. (The brain is in the jar).

Stylish Darkwood Display Cabinet
(Coated in poison) Ceramic tobacco jar. (450 gp) Tobacco Kysiatch was addicted to it during life and kept smoking it during undeath. The wyssin plant grows on the surrounding hills.

Green glass bottle: Terran Brandy (1 bottle) it's label lists the names of nymphs from the thornwood forest that were tortured, abused and slain in order to distil this foul liquid. +2 to caster level. The bottle is full and holds 40 doses. It is worth 20,000gp in The Prison on Talamh it's worth between 40,000gp and 100,000gp depending on whether a buyer can be found...

20 small vials: Kysiatch's own fungal brew made from blue fungus in the secret chamber. Chamber was a supply room armoury before but now the fungus has taken over. Kysiatch used to sell the brew to Prisoners in order to fund bindings, experiments and purchase magical items.

Various small drawers: Many body parts bought from The Prison. There are all spell components from BVD to be used in experiments.

The party examined the lab and were attacked by brain in a jar.
It was electrocuted by Ivellios then Vedic Tanner turned it and it was then pinned to the door by Charmer.

Tim turned the undead grafts.
Then they were all destroyed.

Todd was offered the hood.
It is too gruesome for him so he declines.

Ivellios reads the Journal of Kysiatch and discovers many intriguing things, including the true purpose of the facility, the fact that Kysiatch was once a DeDannan and that he was trading supplies with creatures from The Prison.

The Grim Library

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Draiday (Night)

They entered the secret chamber once Todd eventually managed to find a well hidden door.
He was poisoned by vilestar. Something unusual prevented his death from this vile poison. No one remarked it.
Everything in the room was covered in blue white fungus. Charmer spotted an iron cabinet covered in vilestar.
Todd decided he didn't want to get poisoned again and so they resolved to come back later.

They entered the library. They were attacked by a summoning ooze. It spewed out lemures.
They were unable to damage them or to get into the room
Charmer killed many with his sonic arrows. Tanner killed the ooze.

Todd was bitten by an oras fethid and contracted filth fever.
Ivellios started to examine the books.
They found many scrolls and valuable books.
Ivellios was attacked by a shadow while studying one of the tomes.

Library
Book of Summoning, all summon spells 9,600 gp
Book of lesser magic, all 2nd level spells 10,000 gp
Tine's Flame, all fire spells PHB & SC 9,400 gp
Ancient DeDannan Magic (2nd Ed Spell Compendium) 10,000 gp
Ezechial's Pact Magic Binding The Beyond 2,000 gp
Basic Psionics 1,000 gp
Golem manual, stone (Sepia Snake protected) 22,000 gp
Tome of Truenames and pronouncements 5,000 gp
Shadow magic of Shale, Gift of Dorchas. (Shadow) 1,000 gp
Book of the Wu Jen 1,000 gp
Tome of the War mage 1,000 gp
Shelf of scrolls 10 medium Scrolls 4 major 12 minor 23,375 gp
Other research books 5,000 gp

Worms of Kysiatch

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Charday

Many of the survivors of The Darkkeep have become ill.
The symptoms are stomach cramps, fatigue and blind rages.
Ivellios consults Kysiatch's Journal and identifies gutworms as the cause.
There were gutworms in the water in the fountain in the arrivals hall.
Although Appleby purified it, gutworms can survive up to a day in purified water.
Ivellios decides to irritate his gutworm into submission by continually urging it to
"Come into my mouth". It doesn't.
Vedic Tanner removes his armour and threatens to kill his gutworm.
It responds by biting Tanner's stomach lining.
Tanner plunges a dagger into his own stomach in an attempt to kill the gutworm.
The blade pierces the creature's head and it is killed.
However it's death throws cause massive internal haemorrhaging and lacerations to stomach, rib cages and other organs. The pain is incredible but Stanten calls on the power of Croi to heal the Vedic and the damage is quickly undone.
"I don't think the commoners are going to survive that." Tim acknowledges.
Ivellios decides to use his magic to solve the problem.
After several hundred attempts to urge the fiendish parasite into his mouth, he casts a suggestion spell and the creature is compelled to struggle up his throat.
Ivellios is on the verge of suffocating with the worm appears in his mouth.
Quick as a snake, Tanner grabs the gutworm in his fist and drops it into one of Kysiatch's glass jars.
"We can examine that later" he suggests. "For now you'll have to live with the worms until we can com up with a better cure." The others, having seen the alternatives are willing to live with the infestation for a while longer.

Ivellios, Todd, Tanner and Ethan spend the day studying the lab and library.
Over night Ivellios dreams become stronger and the urge to go below cannot be resisted.

The Naming of Carraig

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Sunday (Morning)

Tim Tanner and Ivellios decide that it is time for them to venture further below.
The others stay to tend to the injured and sick

Ivellios uses clairvoyance to scan the area behind the shunt.
It is guarded by a blackscale, a couple of stone clan and a couple of Wood spitters.
Ivellios studies the shunt magic and with knowledge gleaned from Kysiatch's Journal, figures out a way to get through the portal and re-materialise in an instant. It is difficult but he feels he can do it.
He uses the control panel to unlock all areas.
Tim Tanner finds the lever mentioned in Kysiatch's journal that unlocks the door to the main stairwell of Poll Na Deanta.

Ivellios moves them through the shunt instantaneously and they attack.
A pair of fiery rays and a flaming spit fell the Blackscale.
A couple of mace blows and a barrage of magic missiles and the other guards are also dispatched.
All were killed to quickly to raise the alarm.

Quickly the pair slipped through the doors and onto the landing.
Todd then sealed the arrivals area.

They descended into the Darkness.
Slumped on the stairs was a stone golem with a burnt out socket gem in it's chest.
Ivellios took the Strong Arcane Gem and placed it in the socket.
Immediately the golem came to life.
"Who the Namer?" it asked.
"Ivellios Tharanaian." the wizard responded.
"What is my Name?"
"Carraig."
"Mission?" it asked.
"Bodyguard." Ivellios instructed.
"How goes the War?"
"It is over."
"Who won?"
"The DeDannan"
"The Ogre Mages"
"They were all killed."
"Good."
The Stone Golem, Carraig was now fully reprogrammed.

These Ibixians are crazy

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Sunday (Afternoon)

They were about to continue down the stairs when they heard the bleating war cry of the Ibixians.
They rushed up the stairs and opened the doors to find the 20 Woodhaven ibixians fighting for their lives.
The Charon priests had fought their way past the lizardfolk army defending the caves.
However they had been pursued by reinforcements and several of them were badly wounded.

Tanner and Ivellios opened the door and they flooded onto the landing.
After launching a few spells through they shut the doors behind the Ibixians.
Tanner contacted Todd and instructed him to seal the landing doors.
The Ibixians began to use Charon's magic to heal their wounds.
The Charon Code allows priests to only cast spells before and after battles.
A Charon priest that cast spells in combat is considered inferior.
Consistent combat spell casting requires atonement.

The ibixians decided that they would stay at the top of the stairs to guard the lower levels from the lizardfolk and use the landing as a staging area for harassing raids.

The Temple Of Tionscail

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Sunday (Evening)

At the bottom of the first flight of stairs Carraig turned on a light switch. Slowly and shakily the level was illuminated.
They faced a set of double doors.
The doors were decorated with the symbols of Tionscail.
In the corners of each door were the symbols of Ealionn, Draiocht, Caomhnu and Fileadh.
Also represented were Tine, Cre, and Aisneis.
All the symbols were easily identified but were ancient versions and clearly not the modern Church of The Moon versions.
The doors were of gold with Adamantine, Mithral, platinum and Kellum decorations. They were forty feet tall and each was fifteen feet wide. They were incredibly heavy. Carraig moved them with ease. They glided quietly as they opened. A sign of careful maintenance or preservation magic.
A couple of Antechambers later they were in the Temple of Tionscail.

A massive adamantine golem of Tionscail dominated the Temple.
Also of interest were, the forge of fire, the warforged creation tables, the sub temples to other gods.
The thousands of items crafted to perfection. The hundreds of carved tunnels all filled to the brim with art and other items from the Temple.
The corpses of warforged artists and craftsmen lying about the room. The expression of rage on Tionscail's face.

The tapestry of Talamh
A tapestry that was woven for over 10,000 years by the warforged clerics of Tionscail and Aisneis, from visions sent to them by their Gods.
The tapestry was over three miles long and stored on enormous spindles in purpose built corridors.
Upon it was the entire history of Talamh, from The Great to The Godswar, from The Chain Gate to the Unification of the Church of The Moons.
The tale of The Company of Wolves and The Edge of Reason also were told.
The secret of The Metarex quest was also told and how High Feeder Lord Teth Cromith XIV managed to escape the oblivion of the Metarex and trail the last Scion of Teth Cthan to Bigany. The Tapestry shows that Teth Cromith XIV and The Prince of Schliss killed the Warforged. Tanner and Ivellios swear revenge and Tionscail accepts their oath. His symbol is burnt into their foreheads. It will remain for a year and a day.

Tin Tan wasn't particularly interested in either Tionscail or humanoid affairs. He was too busy rejoicing in the power of Tine, the only God worth bothering with. Tin Tan drank deeply of the fiery liquids and molten metals of Tine's forge fire. The incredible heat would have incinerated a normal rat in seconds, but to Tin Tan this was the finest meal he had ever consumed. And he gave exultant praise to Tine. Then changes then began to occur within Tin Tan and the temperature of his body increased dramatically as Tine's Forge Fires took hold within him. He began to glow. From that day forth Tin Tan's flames were greater and hotter than any other of his kind. This came as no surprise to Tin Tan, being the best character in the village.

Carraig struts his stuff

AK510-39 Cool Summer End Week 3
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Sunday (Night)

Ivellios, Tin Tan, Carraig and Tanner returned to get reinforcements.
Meanwhile Charmer and Namer set off from the arrivals area to look for them.
Both sides found the Ibixians under concentrated assault from the Lizardfolk.
The Ibixians were again seriously wounded and were fighting in a corridor, alternately rotating their ranks into melee and healing.

Ivellios and Tanner arrived and the Ibixians decided that it was time to launch a serious offensive.
The new comer Carraig, a creature of Charon, was granted the honour of launching the assault.
The Ibixians cleared the corridor to allow Carraig through.
Ivellios launched a fireball into the large chamber beyond and used the kellum rod to increase the power of Tine's Tears!
The larger lizardfolk manage to survive the intense explosion but the smaller ones were incinerated and reduced to ash in an instant.
Despite themselves, Ivellios' companions were suitably impressed.

Then Carraig charged down the corridor and crashed into the bloodscale rager at the far end. The rager was unable to stand his ground and was pushed back into the centre of the chamber.
Tin Tan scurried forward and spat his newly strengthened fires at a blackscale. The fiery glob struck the lizardfolk and burned through his chest. The blackscale fell.
Bob unleashed a volley of sonic arrows at the remaining blackscale. One of these shots was aimed so well it struck the bloodscale in the eye. The power of Charmer's bow punched the arrow into the lizardfolk's brain and the sonic energy bound to the arrow by his magical quiver, exploded in it's skull. The roof of the blackscale's head blew off and the blackscale was hurled backwards. Charmer smiled.

With the two blackscale dispatched by charmers arrows, Ethan charged the rager. Setanta's flail struck true and the rager reeled from the blow.
Vedic Tanner charged forward and struck the rager with another crushing blow.
Still the rager stood and it vented it's wrath on Ethan, it's massive glowing axe slashed a large gash in his arm as Ethan narrowly avoided being split in two.
Carraig lashed out with unstoppable power and slammed his large stone fists into the rager. The golems blows sent the rager reeling and he fled from the assault.
The Ibixians howled in frustration that their quarry might escape and barrelled into the chamber after the fleeing rager. It might have escaped but for Beria's well aimed axe throw which caught it in the back of the neck and dropped it in it's tracks. Beria bleat-roared with laughter, "You can't escape the axe!"

The remaining Ibixians took up defensive positions around the chamber and prepared for the counter attack. They insisted that they didn't need any assistance and encouraged the 'Thinkers' to have a nice tour around the complex while they fought on.
Vedic Tanner and Cei-Liur Namer weren't too happy about leaving Reave Beria to this fate. And managed to persuade them to join the others in the Arrival's area and that they should heal up and then strike out from there.
Ivellios and Tanner helped Appleby and Stuffitt ferry all the Ibixians through the shunt then they rested. It had been a long week.

The Weavers

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Moonday (morning)

In the Woodhaven the villagers were gearing up for the harvesting which was about to start.
In the morning Vedic Tanner and the druid Appleby humbly beseeched Croi, Naduir and Torthulacht for a good harvest in Woodhaven. The Cycles festival of the Rod was only three weeks away. Tanner also prayed to Croi and Bas for the ability to raise the dead so that the weavers in the temple could be brought back from beyond the wall of souls to continue the work of Aisneis and Tionscail.

The Ibixians made a lightning assault beyond the shunt and the others slipped below during the battle.

They returned to the temple. Ethan felt the force of Tionscail's anger when he arrived and saw the slain warforged scattered around the temple. His gutworm was overcome by the divine emotions and it sent Ethan into a rage. It took him several moments for Ethan to compose himself and once he had, he vowed to Tionscail that he would avenge this desecration of the Temple.
They gathered the bodies of warforged for the raising service and chose two weavers. All the bodies were still well preserved.

There were two altars in the Flame Forge. Neither of which could be reached because they were surrounded completely by the molten mass.
Ivellios prayed for Tine's Grace. His prayer was answered and his natural resistance to fire was increased so that he could stand within the forge's flame. Tin Tan was happy to see his master join him in the forge. It was about time Ivellios succumbed to the joys of flame. While examining the magical symbols around the base of one altar Tin Tan figured out how to control the altar platforms and activated the platform to allow the Vedic to pray at the altar.

A small fortune of diamonds was always required as a sacrifice to Bas when raising the dead. They had no diamonds so Tanner prayed. A vision came to him from Aisneis and he saw a safe. He led them to the vestry and there they found the safe and a fortune in gems stored inside it.
With some of these gems Vedic Tanner raised two of the weavers. The expression on the face of Tionscail's statue softened slightly.

The weavers were not interested in talking to their saviours. They were very shocked that the weaving of the tapestry had stopped and so returned to it to catch up with the time they had lost. The party managed to glean a few pieces of information from the weavers but resorted to reading what they could from the tapestry itself because the weavers attention was consumed by their task.
Some warforged bodies were missing, the tapestry indicated that the prince of Schliss had taken them below to conduct experiments.
Presumably the others were left in the temple because of it's preserving qualities. To prevent further desecration of Tionscail's craftsmen, they brought the bodies back to the Kysiatch's halls.

Many other interesting facts were outlined on the tapestry.
The Prince of Schliss was pictured conducting experiments on Lizardfolk and DeDannan in the Tomb of Setanta and in the village of Honeyglen. He has also formed a pact with the Wild Marsh druid. Under the druid's secret protection he was forcing several tribes of Steel Clan lizardfolk to do his bidding. Any villages of Steel Clan who resisted were destroyed. The tapestry hinted that the most vile experiments were still being carried out by the Prince and his followers in the levels below.
Teth Cromith XIV was the mastermind behind the most vile of the experiments. He was allied with Athru and was attempting to create a master race combining, DeDannan, Undead and Illithid traits. The tapestry revealed that he had followed Ambassador Lord Verity Kinnett to Stormwatch from across Time, Space and The Planes. If the signs were being interpreted correctly, he was also in the levels below. Ethan declared that the Church and The King would have to be informed, so that they could deal with Cromith. Tanner, Ivellios, Ethan and Bob were eager to deal with the Prince of Schliss themselves.
To their surprise the warriors of Woodhaven were being woven into the tapestry. The destiny Tanner and Namer were of particular note. Ominous symbols surrounded a mysterious dark figure which trailed them.
The most immediately useful image on the tapestry was a map of Poll Na Deanta.
The central staircase descended hundreds of feet below the dark keep. While the majority of the complex was comprised of layers of mine shafts for an exhausted kellum mine, the construct animation chamber, the elemental power generator, the high security magical experiments level, the prison and the construct storage levels caught their attention.
Ivellios surmised that using kellum in the power generator could allow them to animate the warforged in the animation chamber.

Schliss Raiders

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Moonday (afternoon)

They left the temple having showed considerable restraint in face of the vast wealth therein and descended in search of the construct storage levels.
Carraig's heavy foot steps thudded monotonously on the marble staircase.
Up through the darkness drifted three cloaked shapes. Silent as death they came, to feed on the brains of the living.
A trio of Illithids appeared out of the darkness, floating in the open air in the middle of the stairwell. They struck the explorers with a succession of psychic blasts. The alien psionic energy ripped through their conscious thoughts and paralysed their minds, they all staggered back stunned by the mental onslaught.
The illithids signalled to their grimock slaves to ascend from the dark depths and capture the hapless humanoids.
Somehow Ivellios' mind resisted and he managed to retain his will. He called upon the power of Draiocht to thwart the illithids psychic powers.
Before the Mind flayers could react Ivellios' magic had restored his companions. He threw the kellum rod to Tim Tanner. "Tine Time!" he advised.
Tim Tanner grabbed the kellum rod and called upon Croi for the power of the sun. Sunfire drenched the open air where the illithids floated. The sun-fire burned all the more brightly for the power provided by the kellum rod.
The illithids screamed as the burned, their resistance to magic failing them in the face of Tanner's might. One disintegrated in the blaze while the other two were horribly burned. The blackened corpse of the mind flayer plummeted into the depths.
Ethan and Charmer unleashed a volley of arrows which spelt doom for another flayer. It fell: dead and silent, into the gloom.
The desperate flayer lashed out instinctively with another alien mental blast and this time Ivellios' mind was unable to stand the psychic bombardment. The others still under the protection offered by Ivellios' magic shrugged off the assault.
As Ivellios had done only moment's before, Tim Tanner called upon the power of Draiocht to dispel the illithids powers. Ivellios was revived and the magic holding the cloaked figure in the air was broken. The scorched figure screamed Fallen curses in the name of Schliss as it fell.
They listened for the inevitable crack as the body hit the ground far below. It never came.
"The minions of Athru have many black arts at their disposal," quoted the Vedic. "Well see that spawn of Schliss again".
"Looks like his highness knows were here then," observed Ethan.
"Stop yer yapping. I hear something coming," Bob Charmer barked, his keen ears straining. "There!"

A band of grimlocks hurried up the stairs towards them. One of them moved to touch a symbol on the wall. Then they were engulfed in darkness.
"Nobody panic, I've got a light spell," said Ethan. He sang and produced a light from thin air.
He smiled triumphantly before his noticed that his companions weren't that easily impressed. Tough crowd, he thought.
"Watch this!" Ivellios produced the DeDannan schema with a flourish and invoked its power. A mass of writhing black tentacles sprang from the ground around the grimlocks and they were ensnared. The tentacles began to crush their prey. Charmer casually practiced his archery skills on the hapless would-be attackers and struck down a pair of the with a few nonchalant movement of his arms. The Vedic rushed to Ivellios, grabbed the Jester's Sceptre and pointed it at the grimlock's with unexpected vehemence.
"Hah!" he shouted as he lashed out at them with the jester's chaotic magic.
The entire stairwell was instantly covered in a mass of luxuriant thick green grass.
"That's useless!" complained the Vedic.
Ethan was inclined to agree. Pity Appleby and Stuffitt weren't there to see it. They would have loved it.
"Next time," he consoled the cleric.

The Twisted Golem

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Moonday (afternoon)

They continued the descent as quickly as they could. There was no sense in waiting for reinforcements now that The Prince and Cromith knew how potent their abilities were. They reached the doors to the first storage level and were forced to stop. There was a musical lock barring their way. Ethan examined the door for several minutes and sent him mind back to the years when he had been Setanta Fochlachan. The Bard had often used such locks. He played his Canaith mandolin, in a precise and extremely complex melody and as the delicate music echoed through cavernous stairwell the hundred of tiny lock and catches on the door began to click and move in time. After only a few moments of flawless playing the door unlocked.
The sight beyond the door took their breath away. Stored in massive steel racks were thousands of warforged bodies. Ivellios' keen intellect quickly noted that because the racks were a hundred wide and deep and because there were four level, there must be around forty thousand warforged bodies stored in the complex.
Ethan was stunned. This was not just the army the had been looking for. This could be a nation.
"Well we've found an army!" he exclaimed. "How do we wake them up!"
"No so fast," Ivellios didn't look optimistic. "According the books and the tapestry, we need kellum to animate these guys and we need to put the kellum into the reactor down stairs. Tionscail knows how many we'll be able to activate."
"Damn." Ethan cursed. "The DeDannan left here because the kellum was exhausted. Where are we going to get more kellum?"
Ivellios slowly drew the kellum rod from his belt. "How about this?" He ventured.
"Whoa there Ivellios, have you any idea how powerful that rod is?" interrupted Tim. "There's got to be a better way."
"Yeah it is a nice rod alright," agreed the mountain elf.

"Did you hear that?" he asked.
They all moved to defensive positions. When Ivellios thought he heard something, an attack was usually imminent. They were about to ask Charmer if his exceptionally keen ears had notice anything when they noticed he had gone missing. That was odd.
The lights went out.
"Croi protect us," prayed Tanner.
A twisted frame of blackened metal appeared into the shadows of Ethan's light spell. It was vaguely humanoid in shape and covered in smoky black tendrils of dark energy. Powerful undead shadows reeking with Fallen hatred circled around it. It's twisted metal face grinned an evil grin. It was the herald of The High Feeder Lord. It was the servant of Athru. It had forsaken Tionscail. It was here to kill.
The corrupted golem unleashed the power of Feo and sent a black wave of his hatred at the mortals.
Pain and suffering were the gift of Feo and only the favour of the Gods saved them from oblivion. The power of Charon fortified their bodies against the menace of Feo, but they were badly weakened and Ivellios was barely clinging to life after the assault. Before they could react the shadows surged forward, threatening, mocking and leering. They promised destruction and pain to their prey.
Battered and shaken, Vedic Tim Tanner of Croi pushed himself back up off his knees and opened The Book Of Creation. He prepared to call upon the power of Croi to destroy the vile spawn of Feo. The passages of The Book were indelibly marked in his mind and he spoke them with the power that a truly devout believer.

"And as we walk through shrouded land
In dark and lonely halls
We place you into Bas's hand
To send your souls to walls

Bas is your true master now
Feo's taint is washed away
Your fallen spirit I do crush
Croi burns your sins away"

He moved quickly between the shadows as he prayed and then the symbol of Croi shone from his armoured chest as he roared with all his might.
"In the name of The Sun, The Moons and The Holy Trinity! Begone unto the light!
The powerful shadows had been sneering at the Vedic's feeble attempts to channel the power of the Chosen against them. He couldn't possibly channel enough energy to hurt even one of them.
It was a common mistake.
Tanner's faith and the Book of Creation were a potent combination and Croi had heard his prayer.
A blinding explosion of light lanced throughout the chamber as Tanner's heart lit up like the sun. The searing rays of incandescent light were a mere whisper of Croi's terrible power. Every single shadow was utterly destroyed. The twisted golem clanged slightly as it's flight faltered for a moment, in the wash of positive energy.
"Incredible…" whispered a relieved Ivellios.
Seizing the initiative Ethan roared a Charon war cry and charged the creature. His bardic magic guided his hand and his flail struck true. The creature's metal frame was dented by the force of his blow.
But the golem's face twisted into an evil grin. Already it was beginning to recover from the attack.
Ivellios fled from the golem. His extensive knowledge of arcane lore told him that a golem such as this was impervious to magic. Tionscail gifted many of his creation's with immunity to the powers of Draiocht.
Tin Tan's flaming spittle flew across the room and hit the golem's chest but to the blackened monstrosity it was as water to a babe.
Sharp adamantine claws slashed Ethan and opened deep wounds across his face and chest.
Ethan attacked again but to no avail. The creature seemed impervious to his weapon.
Then the Vedic noticed that the black tendrils had returned. The creature was about to send out another wave of dark energy and there was no way for Ethan to get clear in time.
Tim raced to Ethan. The golems tendrils darkened. Tim leapt through the air. Feo's energy began to lash out. He landed between the golem and the bard and shouted "Light of Croi protect us!"
The utterly destructive hatred of Feo, kills all living things. Only the Gods can stand in it's path.
The wave of oblivion crashed onto the Vedic and roiled over the bard. The destructive bile of a demented God ate at their very right to exist. Death was inevitable.
Inevitable, but not imminent. Ethan's devotion to the Gods was impressive even to the Vedic. He reached out to the light of Croi and found it as his life was being pulled away. He forged the light into a shield. Ethan's devotion bolstered the shield. The shield held. The wave passed in a whisper and they survived. The clerics fell to the ground exhausted. The golem towered over them and flexed it's talons.

Then Carraig's huge fists slammed into it's arrogant smirking face. It staggered back and moved into a fighting crouch. Through the pain and fear, Ivellios was enjoying this. This was the first time he had literally wiped the smile of someone's face. Even if it was a golem.
The two golems faced off. Carraig was over nine feet tall and weighed over two thousand pounds. The smaller warped metal figure looked far less menacing when faced with Carraig's immense bulk. It lashed out with it's claws. They raked across Carraig's stone arms and chest. Sparks flew and the claws bit deep into the stone. Carraig's mind wasn't built to process pain. He barely even noticed the damage.
"Grab him!" ordered Carraig's master from a safe distance, hoping that this would allow Ethan and Tanner to escape.
Carraig extended his thick stone arm and grabbed the dark metal figure by the throat. It lashed at the arm and chunks of rock flew off, but Carraig was unimpressed and maintained his grip.
He hefted the golem as if to test it's weight and then smashed it's head into his own. The animating light in the metal golems eyes flickered as it was pummelled.
It looked very worried. It called on Feo's dark energy again and lashed at Carraig. The destructive magic could have lain waste to an entire army.
Carraig didn't even notice it.
"Tionscail's gift to many of his children is immunity to magic," quoted Ivellios a smirk quietly growing on his lips. Tin Tan had to admit that smashing the fallen golem to pieces with an even bigger golem, was probably the most fun you could have without setting something on fire.
Carraig now had both hands wrapped around the golem's throat and had crushed it flat. He smashed his forehead into it's twisted face. Again the animating magic faltered. The dark golem was desperate to escape and tried to wrestle it's way out of Carraig's mighty grip. It's strength surprised both Carraig and his master.
Thin metal arms pushed back the massive bulk of the stone golem and it levered it's way out of Carraig's unsubtle grapple. As soon as it freed itself from Carraig's rocky grasp, it fled.
Carraig lashed out at it as it ran connecting with yet another punishing blow that bent several of it's ribs. It fled the room and flew down through the empty air of the stairwell, looking for the safety of it's master.
Ivellios called Carraig back. He was badly damaged from several talon gashed but didn't seem to notice.
"Good boy Carraig!" Ivellios patted the golem on the shoulder.
Carraig smiled.

The Envoy of Diisha

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Moonday (evening)
Tanner lead the companions to the safety of the arrivals area to rest and recover. After long hours studying the scrolls and texts in Kysiatch's library Ivellios had gained the knowledge he sought and he used his magic to repair Carraig's battered and scarred body. Carraig stood almost a foot taller once the process was complete. Pride was evident in his demeanor.
A well earned night of rest passed peacefully.
Shaleday (Morning)
Once the Vedic had lead all of the occupants of Kysiatch's lair in praising the Gods, they set off into Poll Na Deanta once more. They descended once again to the construct storage chambers and from there proceeded towards the detention area.
Bob Charmer froze in his tracks. The ranger was listening to something that none of his companions could detect. His bees, he explained after several moments, had detected something strange in the mind of the hive. A presence was coming this way. The druid wondered where Charmer's ever present swarm had gone. Charmer explained that he didn't want to bring them into the deep darkness of the golem factory as they felt uncomfortable there. The bees had created a hive for themselves in the tunnels under the Dark Keep and had been easily able to avoid the lizardfolk by behaving as normal bees. They only attacked in swarm form when threatened. Lizardfolk had little to fear from a normal bee sting, their hides were far too tough for that, so they barely even registered the bees.
The presence was quite close now and Bob felt that it was trying to communicate via the hivemind. He let the presence into his mind.
^Greetings from The Queen of Diisha, Ambassador Charmer^ sent the presence. ^I am Zzo'Gozzar. A soldier of the city and slayer of Reptile-kin^.
^Hello^ reposnded the taciturn ambassdor. ^Do you need help?^
^I do not require assistance, but I offer it on behalf of The Queen. May I join you?^
Charmer eagerly granted the audience and using the magic of his queen, the abeil soldier evaded the lizardfolk army, entered the tunnels and slipped past the guards.They met at the top of the Poll Na Deanta main shaft.
Zzo'Gozzar and Ambassador Charmer quickly found common ground. The abeil was also a ranger who specialised in tracking and slaying lizardfolk.He told Ambassador Charmer of the Queen's gratitude.Thanks to the party's work in Darkkeep, the lizardfolk army had been prevented from attacking Diisha in sufficient numbers. This gave the hive time to strengthen it's defences. He revealed that the Queen had completed her final transformation and was now in command of the formiddable druidic powers which were the birthright of a mature abeil queen. She had recently accepted membership of the Stormwatch druidic council and had then confronted the wild marsh druid. She had warned him of the folly of attacking an abeil hive-city. The lizardfolk leader was wise enough not to open another front in his war at this time.
The queen also pledged to send additional forces from Diisha as soon as they could be hatched. Gozzar was sent as a gesture of good faith and as a protector for the ambassador. Charmer invited him to join them in their exploration.

The Fire Goes Out

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Shaleday (afternoon)

As they continued to the detention level, they were attacked by a force sent by the Prince of Schliss. Charmer, Ivellios and Stuffitt heard the attackers noisily ascending towards them and warned the others.

The footsteps that echoed noisily through the cavernous darkness of the main stairwell accompanied the sounds of mystic chants and solemn prayers as those who could, cast defensive spells. Todd disappeared from view. Appleby imbued his staff with the power of Naduir. Tanner surrounded himself with a wall of whirling maces. Ivellios cast conjured a shield of force.
Four Steel Clan Lizardfolk and a DeDannan Ogre Zombie ambushed them at the door to the storage level.

The lizardfolk had been horribly mutated by the experiments being conducted below and possessed powers similar to those of their mind flayer masters. They bombarded the companions with a series of mind shattering mental blasts. The Gods protected most of them and from the mental assault but Appleby and Stuffitt succumbed and were stunned. After the psychic barrage, came a howling blizzard of cold, so bitter it could only have come from the foul depths of The Prison. A flash of hell-frost snapped through the party and only the icy numbness of the cold made the pain bearable.

Ivellios howled in rage and grief. Tin Tan, a creature of heat and fire, could not endure such cold and was slain. Pain ripped through him as the familiar's spirit was torn from the mortal realm and entered into the eternal fires of Tine's kingdom. Shock froze them. This should not be happening, not to the best character in the village! But there was no time to morn. Indulging shock and grief in a battle such as this would be fatal.

The cold disappeared as quickly as it had been conjured and the conjurer was revealed. Floating in space above the dark shaft was a large blue skinned figure with a black top-knot and a yellow toothed smile. Ethan knew of his kind. This was an ogre mage. Ogre mages were the ancient enemy of the DeDannan Ogre race. They were created by the DeDannan's experiments. Instead of solving the DeDannan's fertility problem however, the Athru cursed experiments had created a new race bent on the death of their progenitors. The Ogre Mage grinned and nodded at the undead DeDannan ogre under his command. The creature's slimy green tentacle flexed sinuously, glistening under the magical lights, then it ducked behind its head. It opened its mouth and belched forth a torrent of psychic illithid bile.
The acidic liquid sprayed over the clustered explorers and they were badly burned. The acid burnt into flesh that has still ice coated and the magical damage had left them badly weakened and in severe pain. Ivellios and Gozzar were in critical condition, dying on the icy acid splashed stone.

This was not going according to plan.
Not by a long shot.
They almost considered retreating.
Almost.

Carraig moved to his masters side. No mark touched his newly repaired body, the gift on Tionscail to many of his children is immunity to magic. He took a healing potion from Ivellios' belt and roughly poured it down his throat. Ivellios began to revive. His anger at Tin Tan's murder lent him strength to return to the fight. He cast a spell and freed Appleby from the effects of the psychic attack. Charmer avenged Gozzar with a rapid series of sonic arrows from his bow and felled three of the half illithid lizardfolk. Ethan lashed out with his flail and killed the last remaining tzakandi. Then Tanner charged the Voidmind DeDannan Ogre and cracked its skull. Appleby completed his summoning spell and a pair of hippogriffs appeared beside the mutant. They started to claw and bite at it, but it's hide was too tough and they made little impression.
The voidmind ogre lashed out with another psychic blast but to now avail. The ogre mage used his magic to render himself invisible once again and sought a better vantage point to press the attack. Charmer's arrows bit into empty as he tried to feather the craven creature.

Tanner and Ethan pounded at the undead DeDannan monstrosity and knocked it senseless, it fell off the balcony and into the empty air. There it was caught by the ogre mage. Appleby sent his hippogriffs after them. Their talons gripped the falling mutant and tumbled with it down into the darkness. Beak claw and Talon met the ogre mage's greatsword as they fell. Charmer raced to the edge and sent a couple of arrows in the ogre mage for good measure. The druid's summoned allies kept the ogre mage at bay with their ferocious attacks and although his sword dispatched one of the hippogriffs during the descent there was nothing he could do to prevent the bone shattering impact that they made with the ground below. He barely escaped with his own life. He flew into the darkness to report to his masters.
Then all was quiet. The danger was gone for the moment, but the party were all in pain and close to death. Acidic and Icy burns covered them all and they saw the wisdom of returning to the safety of the temple.

Meanwhile Ethan examined the half illithid bodies and noted that they were tzakandi, a creature that was created by implanting an Illithid tadpole into the brain of a lizardfolk. The transformation should have taken weeks to complete and even then it should have taken a score of years for the creature's intellect to mature. The Prince and High Feeder Lord must have discovered a way of accelerating the process. This must have been what the purple slimed cocoons they found in Honeyglen and Setanta's Tomb were for. It did not bode well. He turned to explain this to the other but found them absorbed by Ivellios' overwhelming grief as he cradled Tin Tan in his arms.

Ivellios' Sacrifice

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Shaleday (afternoon)

Ivellios laid Tin Tan to rest in the fires of the forge of Tionscail. His brash and boastful mask had slipped away. He made a rousing speech to eulogise his lost companion and humbly beseeched Tine to return the Ashrat to him so that they could continue the work of Tine and the fight against the Fallen.

An aspect of Tine heard the heartfelt prayer and it asked Ivellios what he would be willing to sacrifice for the return of his familiar. Ivellios heart burned with renewed hope. A sacrifice was required. Something of great value would have to be burned to balance against Tin Tan's life. Ivellios was willing to sacrifice anything. His mind darted to the Kellum rod as he prayed. His friends were horrified that he would even consider destroying an ancient magic item of such power in the slight hope of reviving the self absorbed little rat. But Tine was unimpressed by such a trinket.
Bas' price must be paid. A life must be bought from the wall of souls to keep the eternal balance.
Ivellios understood. He nodded to the Vedic and Tanner handed him 5 large fire opals from the temple's safe and started the ceremony of life, praying to Bas, Saol and Tine. Ivellios concentrated as the others prayed and his life force was accepted by the gems. He felt a growing weakness, spells ebbed from his mind, as his energy poured out into the gems. Tanner glanced at him as the ceremony reached it's conclusion and Ivellios mustered his remaining strength to throw the glowing gems into the fire.

Then silence.

Breathless anticipation filled the temple as the ceremony suspended, all hoping, awaiting the judgement of the Gods.
The forge fires bubbled and broke the stillness. A whiskered face popped out of the molten metal.
'Neep!!' shouted Tin Tan with a ratty grin on his smoky face. He splashed around enjoying the heat returning to his body and revelling in the blessing of Tine.
With a quick burst of energy, he leapt out of the flames and into Ivellios' arms. His flames burned intensely at the pleasure of being reunited with his master. Ivellios could feel that Tine had infused the Ashrat with his blistering energy. The heat from his familiar was like a forge.
"Tin Tan!" said Ivellios. "You are indeed blessed by Tine!"
^What did you expect?^ replied Tin Tan, ^I'm the best character in the village! And... I have a gift for you.^
Tin Tan buried his nose in the folds of Ivellios' robes and concentrated. Tine's energy flowed out from him and into his master. It burned away the weakness and replaced the life force that had been sacrificed. Spells of smoke and fire scorched his brain as knowledge of Tine's magic flickered to life. The intense heat welled up inside him and burned. Images of fire ignited in his mind. Flames flickered along his skin. Flame glowed behind his eyes.
^You are now a servant of Tine^, the Ashrat stated with unprecedented seriousness, ^But be warned, Fire is a harsh master.^
He paused. Then winked.
^It's not all bad though, the powers of Tine are great fun!^ He leapt back into the molten metal and started to splash around as if nothing more serious had occurred than a debate over which wood burnt the best.

In celebration Vedic Tanner called upon his divine granted powers and created a massive feast. They ate and drank their fill and the faithful were gifted with healing and divine protection. Todd's Filth Fever was washed away. The gutworms were destroyed and their wounds were healed. They could feel the power of The Chosen within them.

Happy Days for Jo of Kell

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Shaleday (afternoon)

The day Tanner appeared in the village and told Jo of Kell to pack his bags was a joyous one indeed. He would never have left his beloved tavern, his lab and of course his two lovely wives, if not for Tim's persuasive powers. The town council were not best pleased that their defenders had left them in the middle of the war, but Tanner had persuaded them that he and the others would return soon enough and that their absence was required by the Gods. While his wife had agreed with all of Tanner's decisions in public, Jo and his wives had noted heated discussions coming from their home after nightfall. The anger had turned to passion later in the cold night and Jo assumed that a reconciliation had been made. His wives had made several visits around the village, each time passing the Tanner home, in order to keep him appraised of developments. When gold was in short supply gossip was the next best thing. We three are made for each other he thought.

Jo could barely contain his excitement at the unprecedented treasures he had found in Kysiatch's lair. Such wondrous facts, intelligent insights and esoteric ingredients. The face of alchemy would never be the same again. It certainly wouldn't have any eyebrows, that was for sure.
Admittedly it was a bit tedious having to make polite conversation with the count's men but he managed to make that a little more tolerable by spreading all manner of outrageous rumour among them. It really was fun to watch. And that young lady who was so taken with Stuffitt, certainly did enjoy a bit of gossip. He had to admire her facility for spinning the most innocent fact into a beautifully crafted deceit. She was wasted as a knight he thought, she would be better suited to the life of a merchant or even a publican. Stuffitt was a lucky man to have so much of her attention. Especially when it was she who defended him against the nastier accusations from among the count's guards.

The sombre but melodic tones sounded from the control panel and he went to investigate. It was those lunatics returning from another delve into the ancient golem factory. While he was eager to explore the place, he was also happy to let the others explore it for a while and encounter some of it's more dangerous elements. He called out to them using the panel's magical arts.
"What is the password?"
The party looked at one another in some confusion. They were pretty sure that no password had been agreed. Unfortunately once Jo got an idea into his head there was little point in trying to dislodge it.
They decided to guess.
"Ka-Boom?" ventured Tanner.
"Correct! Come on in!" Jo opened the door and the Ibixians flooded eagerly out into the tunnels. A massive battle ensued with the lizardfolk. This time the count's knights had decided to get involved in the fighting. The Ibixians had convinced them that this was the only way to restore their honour after the fall of Darkkeep. In the confusion the party slipped through the shunt and into the arrivals area. The battle raged around them and the Ibixians were really enjoying themselves. A mutual admiration was beginning to grow amongst the Charon priests and the knights. The rages being initiated by the gutworms were having a very beneficial effect on the knights combat abilities and even though the gutworms were fallen creatures, the Ibixians were happy to let the infestation slide temporarily as long as the rages were put to good use. It was best, assumed the Ibixians, to let Vedic Tim Tanner wrestle with such issues.

Prison Break... In

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (morning)

They set out once more and were momentarily delayed Ethan who insisted on visiting the Weavers in the Temple. He examined the tapestry once more and decided that it was important to warn the powers in Stormwatch of the grave threat that faced them. Teth Cromith could only be stopped by those that he inadvertently lead him here. The tapestry indicated that those people were in fact the Bigany Ambassador Lord Verity Kinnett, The blackguard general Azaz Vakar and the Infamous Privateer Merchant Vitorio Garibaldi. The others were unconvinced and after much debate they decided to continue to the detention level.

The detention level was guarded by another enormous set of doors much like those that admitted access to the other areas in the ancient complex. These were thicker and made of magically reinforced adamantine. Despite this they had been forced open. Beyond the doors the detention area consisted of a series of tunnels with several adamantine doors on either side.

Ethan, Todd and Ivellios examined the areas carefully and determined that there were many formidable magical protections in place in addition to obvious physical ones. The walls and doors were all magically reinforced. All communication and travel in and out of the area was prohibited with powerful ancient magic. Many of the cell doors were guarded by a tall metal statue that Ivellios identified as Shield Guardians.

Behind the guardians were occupied cells. The occupants were suspended by adamantine manacles in the centre of the large cells. They were gagged and blindfolded and dressed on in loincloths, their fingers bound in pairs. The cells were encased in antimagic fields and each prisoner glowed with the amber light of a stasis field of the Risen God Caomhnu. The majority of the prisoner were ogre mages.

Again they found evidence of the Illithid's efforts. Two of the cells had been opened. The remains of the shield guardians lay scattered around the polished marbles floor. Twisted chunks of metal were covered in blood and slime. The ranger examined the tracks and deduced that a large party of illithids and mutants attacked the cells, but that a powerful creature had orchestrated the attack. They all jumped to the conclusion that there was only one possible perpetrator. The Prince and his minions had been here.

They examined all the cells and noted that of the one hundred cells only about two score were still occupied. The magic had endured all these years and were still potent. The majority of the prisoners were ogre mages, but there were a few normal ogres there too. Presumably the ogre army generals. There were also a few prisoners of races, including drow and derro. The beholder and black dragon prisoners were of particular interest.

Todd Stuffitt located the detention level armory. After a quick insightful search he found an adamantine safe encased in the reinforced marble wall. The lock was of an unusual circular design. Initially Todd's attempts to pick the lock failed completely. He had no idea how to tackle the lock. Then he remembered how Carraig had been activated. He pulled one of his trinket gems form his belt and placed it in the lock. The chest sprang open. Inside was a considerable cache of weapons. There were several weapons of each size and type. There were also weapons crafted of silver, cold iron and adamantine. These were socketed. Presumably the DeDannan guards were expected to be able to deal with any martial situation and needed these weapons to ensure that they could deal with whatever exotic immunities they would encounter. There were also a dozen healing potions most of which were deemed still safe and potent after examination by Tanner and Appleby.

Todd managed to decipher some of the information left behind by the DeDannan and discovered that the cells that had been opened had held ogre mage prisoners. One of whom was general Kysir DeKirr II a name that Ethan recognised from the history of the Ogre Wars. They took what weapons they needed. Todd took many more and placed them in the bag of holding. He noted a reference among the DeDannan guards documents that indicated a far greater stash of weapons in the main armory. Then resolved to visit it. Surely there would be great treasures held there. After all ten thousand years of crafting should have left a considerable mountain of weapons to be found.
They descended towards it with as much stealth as they could muster. Magic concealing their approach from view. Carraig's heavy footfalls, resounding through the shaft, covering any inadvertent noise. Then Ethan had a better idea.

Teleport With Error

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (afternoon)

Ethan persuaded his companions to go to Stormwatch to inform the Ambassador of the Teth Cromith XIV threat. Ivellios summoned his magic and reached out into the astral plane. They disappeared. Hurtling through the mind numbing vastness of the astral plane Ivellios struggled to focus his mind on the city of Stormwatch. He had not paid much attention to the city when he had been there almost a year ago as he had been hiding among some peasants on their way to founding a new settlement. He had been hiding from disgrace. He remembered that the city had a major port and that it was very close to the water. He focused on that. And the spell ejected them into the prime material plane as requested.

They appeared at the right altitude for the dining room of a restaurant in a major inn in Stormwatch that overlooked the sea port. Unfortunately, while they were at the right height, they were 200 miles to the west of Stormwatch. This left them forty feet in the air and about a mile off the Stormwatch coast, above the cold grey churning sea. A whale spurted freezing salty brine into the air nearby as the wind whipped at their clothes.
They began to fall.

Having anticipated that misfortune would come from defying the laws of nature by travelling through the astral plane, John was ready and he sprouted eagles wings as he started to fall. His new feathery limbs caught the stiff wind and arrested his descent. John Eagleby twisted his wings slightly and turned the dive into lift and he soared up into the air.
His master had taught Todd many useful tricks and one of which was to use magic to turn a lethal fall into a slow drop. Suddenly the plummeting companions were drifting towards the sea like feathers. Todd grinned at the look of surprise and perhaps grudging admiration from the wizard.
They were almost in the water as Ivellios started to cast another teleport spell. The waves were lapping at this feet as Eagleby flew back to him and he finished the spell. They disappeared once again. Tin Tan almost fainted with relief. Tin Tan did not like water. Ivellios aimed for somewhere a little hotter and dryer. As he floated through the astral once more, he focused on the Tine temple in Stormwatch. Even though he had never been there, he had a strong bond with his god, with fire.

They rematerialised in flames. The heat was intense as they stood in the Prime Crucible of the Temple of Tine. Ethan, John and Todd screamed in pain and shock and leapt out of the fire. Todd's reflexes would have put a cat to shame. He was in mid air, coiling and twisting, then landing, rolling and standing before even fire could catch him. He came to rest gracefully, leaning against a wall and casually studied the contents of a pouch he had borrowed from a priest as he had tumbled past.
Ethan wasn't so quick and was burned as the stumbled out of the crucible and fell heavily to the floor below. Eagleby flapped busily to the ground his burning feathers smoking as he tried to beat them out.
Tin Tan thought this was all hilarious and grinned. His amusement was infectious and spread to all the pyromaniacs in the room. The others heard his ratty little laugh and glared at him. He didn't care, after all he was the best character in the village.

The priests and congregation were remarkably tolerant of the intrusion. Ivellios convinced them that he was a fire mage on important church business and was invited to complete the ceremony. Tin Tan remained in the crucible. Ashrats were an unofficial mascot of the Tine church in Stormwatch and to have one as a familiar was considered to be highly fashionable and a sign of Tine's favour.

Ethan persuaded his companions to go to Stormwatch to inform the Ambassador of the Teth Cromith XIV threat. Ivellios summoned his magic and reached out into the astral plane. They disappeared. Hurtling through the mind numbing vastness of the astral plane Ivellios struggled to focus his mind on the city of Stormwatch. He had not paid much attention to the city when he had been there almost a year ago as he had been hiding among some peasants on their way to founding a new settlement. He had been hiding from disgrace. He remembered that the city had a major port and that it was very close to the water. He focused on that. And the spell ejected them into the prime material plane as requested.

They appeared at the right altitude for the dining room of a restaurant in a major inn in Stormwatch that overlooked the sea port. Unfortunately, while they were at the right height, they were 200 miles to the west of Stormwatch. This left them forty feet in the air and about a mile off the Stormwatch coast, above the cold grey churning sea. A whale spurted freezing salty brine into the air nearby as the wind whipped at their clothes.
They began to fall.

Having anticipated that misfortune would come from defying the laws of nature by travelling through the astral plane, John was ready and he sprouted eagles wings as he started to fall. His new feathery limbs caught the stiff wind and arrested his descent. John Eagleby twisted his wings slightly and turned the dive into lift and he soared up into the air.
His master had taught Todd many useful tricks and one of which was to use magic to turn a lethal fall into a slow drop. Suddenly the plummeting companions were drifting towards the sea like feathers. Todd grinned at the look of surprise and perhaps grudging admiration from the wizard.
They were almost in the water as Ivellios started to cast another teleport spell. The waves were lapping at this feet as Eagleby flew back to him and he finished the spell. They disappeared once again. Tin Tan almost fainted with relief. Tin Tan did not like water. Ivellios aimed for somewhere a little hotter and dryer. As he floated through the astral once more, he focused on the Tine temple in Stormwatch. Even though he had never been there, he had a strong bond with his god, with fire.

They rematerialised in flames. The heat was intense as they stood in the Prime Crucible of the Temple of Tine. Ethan, John and Todd screamed in pain and shock and leapt out of the fire. Todd's reflexes would have put a cat to shame. He was in mid air, coiling and twisting, then landing, rolling and standing before even fire could catch him. He came to rest gracefully, leaning against a wall and casually studied the contents of a pouch he had borrowed from a priest as he had tumbled past.
Ethan wasn't so quick and was burned as the stumbled out of the crucible and fell heavily to the floor below. Eagleby flapped busily to the ground his burning feathers smoking as he tried to beat them out.
Tin Tan thought this was all hilarious and grinned. His amusement was infectious and spread to all the pyromaniacs in the room. The others heard his ratty little laugh and glared at him. He didn't care, after all he was the best character in the village.

The priests and congregation were remarkably tolerant of the intrusion. Ivellios convinced them that he was a fire mage on important church business and was invited to complete the ceremony. Tin Tan remained in the crucible. Ashrats were an unofficial mascot of the Tine church in Stormwatch and to have one as a familiar was considered to be highly fashionable and a sign of Tine's favour.

Council of Stormwatch

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Cogaday (evening)

The temple staff were very busy with the war. Ethan used his powers of persuasion to get the Vedic in charge to tell him where the high Reave was. Todd Stuffitt met with his contacts in the Stormwatch underground. After several hours he managed to find the location of the secret command area.

Ethan, Appleby, Ivellios and Todd meet Lord Ambassador Verity Kinnett and General Azaz Vakar. They were deeply concerned that Cromith XIV had appeared on Talamh and quickly resolved to take immediate action. The Bombastic High Reave made a brief appearance during the council, threw his deep voice around and then left. Verity planned to attack Teth Cromith with his allies and requested that the party simultaneously attack The Prince of Schliss as a decoy. They agreed to attack the illithids the following day. Azaz gave Ivellios his arrow of illithid slaying, originally intended to slay the Heir of the Illithid Metarex Empire. Verity placed a psychic protection on Ivellios' mind to prevent the illithids from using their mental powers against him. It was obvious from the conversation that the commanders of the Army did not think very highly of Earl Suluuk Poten.

They were forced to spend the night in Stormwatch because the wizard's spells were expended and he could not teleport them back. The druid went to the walls to attack the opposing lizardfolk forces. He summoned a hippogriff and it slew several lizardfolk including two blackscales. They spent the night in the Church of The Moons temple. Ivellios and Ethan made use of the Shale library. John Appleby communed with nature in the churches small grove and slept in the trees. Naduir called to him and his bond with nature grew. Todd met with some old acquaintances from his days in Stormwatch and made some new ones.

Illithid Skirmish

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4 [Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Croiday (morning)

After several hours of rest, meditation and prayer, they returned to Poll Na Deanta. This time Ivellios managed to focus his mind perfectly and they rematerialised in the arrivals area teleportation chamber. Tim Tanner, Bob Charmer, Zzog'Gozzar and Jo assaulted the lizardfolk with the Ibixians and the knights and allowed them to slip down into the stairwell.

They descend to the armory. They sent Carraig ahead, descending seemingly alone with a torch strapped to his head. Todd hid in the shadows, Ethan and Ivellios were cloaked in invisibility spells, Appleby took the form of a man eating snake. Their descent drew them near to an Illithid who was attempting to gain access to the armory. He was guarded by several grimlocks. A thick adamantite warding door had sealed the armory level entrance from intrusion, presumably in response to the Mind flayers attempts to break in.

The mind flayer heard the golem approach and manifested several of its protective psychic powers as he waited for it to arrive. A shield of protective force sprang into place, he was infused with supernatural vigour and glowing psychic armor formed over his damp dark alien clothing. Ivellios, bored of waiting for Carraig to attack, fired an empowered fireball (1). Tine's Tears! Reflexively, the illithid manifested a dampening field but his grimlock retinue were incinerated nonetheless. Their master however, was unharmed. His alien body had resisted the potent fire magic. In retaliation he mind blasted the area around the golem.

Todd was stunned. Carraig still trundled down the stairs to attack the illithid. It floated across the stairwell's dark yawning chasm to attack Todd. Ethan and Appleby attacked it but it's pernicious psychic protections prevailed. It grappled Todd and managed to wrap it's tentacles around the top of his head. Rows of tiny teeth were revealed as it's sphincter shaped mouth opened. The tentacles pulled the top of Todd's head closer to his doom. Carraig arrived and pulled off two of the tentacles preventing the Illithid from extracting Todd's brain. Appleby and Ethan and Ivellios pressed the assault and their blows struck true, the illithid was badly injured. It began to fall backwards into the chasm hoping to take his prey with him.

Ethan grabbed Todd but the weight was too much, he lost his balance as was pulled forward into the gloom. Appleby grabbed Ethan and was also pulled forward. Ivellios grabbed Appleby and suffered the same fate. They were all about to topple of the edge when Carraig's stone arm closed over Ivellios' shoulder and effortlessly swivelled him back onto the ledge.

Armory Administrator

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 40
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Croiday (morning)

Jo, Bob and Gozzar rejoined the group having dealt with yet another lizardfolk assault. Ethan examined the armory door and deduced that it was a defensive mechanism that had been activated by the rooms' magical wards. He remembered that during his Setanta Fochlachan lifetime, both Tionscail priests and Namer could usually open any door. However once the defensive magics had been evoked only an administrator could dispel them. Todd placed his dagger in an opening on the front of the door. Several humming spells powered up indicating that the door was ready to open. Ethan commanded the ward door to open it did. Behind it was a normal door. He opened it in the same manner.

The room behind the door was simply but expensively decorated. The walls and floor were of polished marble. Light streamed in from high windows and an illusory quartet plays DeDannan bardic music. The walls were panelled in darkwood and there were a couple of bubbling cool fountains. Melded to the middle of the opposing wall was a gargantuan marble humanoid. This was Grundlick, The Armory Administrator. Grundlick has little interest in the affairs of the outside world and he politely refused to offer any advice on any topic.

Ethan told him that all administrators were dead and as a result Grundlick assumed control of the facility. He assumed the position of head administrator at the Namer's command. Ethan persuaded Grundlick to provide some weapons. Five second circle weapons are made available. Jo took a magical adamantine socketed short sword, magical adamantine socketed composite long bow and a magical adamantine socketed chain shirt.
Bob took a magical adamantine socketed mighty composite longbow. Appleby exchanged his prototype baphen-hide armor for a magical suit of ironwood platemail.

Ethan asked Grundlick to determine where the Prince of Schliss was. Grundlick turned on all the lights in the facility. He stated that surveillance was down in six of the mine levels and in all of the lower levels. Ivellios asked for authority to open all doors in the facility. The authority was granted 'In the name of Ivellios'.

Kobold Assassin

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Croiday (afternoon)

They were ambushed by a lost tribe of kobolds in the middle of the exhausted kellum mine, where the lights were dark. Hundreds of kobold archers showered them with arrows. Many kobolds died from Ivellios' fireball (2) response. The others started cutting through them. A kobold assassin called Bromjorix paralysed Gozzar with a single shot from the darkness. Gozzar fell into a trap net held out by kobolds on the lower levels and was dragged off into the mine. Appleby grew wings and moved to locate and attack the assassin. Bob sent the bees to assist. Bob was struck with two poisoned bolts by the assassin. The poison was too strong for him to resist and he began to weaken.

Ethan offered a sum of five hundred gold pieces to the kobolds in return for free passage. Taken aback and pleased by the offer it was accepted. An additional hundred gold pieces secured the location of the prince of Schliss' lair. Bob succumbed to the poison and was paralysed. They offer purchase an antidote from the kobolds for a thousand gold pieces. They pour it down his throat and his recovers enough to stand. While he was no longer paralysed he could barely walk. They used their wands to cure their wounds and then continued on their illithid hunt

The Prince of Schliss

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4 [Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Croiday (afternoon)

They met the King's task force as they descend. Lord Ambassador Verity Kinnett I introduced them to Black Guard General Azaz Vakar, Thief Taker Francesca Vec, Commissioner Chantilly Vegas, Lord Polomious Avalon, Abbott Jethro of Icy Death Abbey and High Reave Derfel Forc IV. The High Reave cured Charmer's of his poison with a resounding blow from his mailed fist and Bob's strength returned. They parted company and prepared for their individual assaults. They descended to the High Security Magical Experiments level and stopped at the main door.

They cast several empowering spells and summoned many creatures. Ivellios commanded the doors to open. A startled mind flayer and several grimlocks were on guard behind the door. A fireball (3) destroyed the grimlocks but the flayer was unhurt. Carraig wrestled with it and it roared in pain. Ethan, Appleby, Charmer, Gozzar and Jo attacked the creature but it's psychic defences kept it alive. However while they were attempting to kill the mind flayer Carraig was grappling, they all hit him a lot. He didn't take offence and was only slightly damaged. Then the illithid concentrated briefly and disappeared. Ethan tried to defy it by using his naming powers but to no avail.

The horde of humans and their menagerie surged into the hall. The Hippogriffs charged a hundred feet down the hall and were mind blasted. The others followed them eager to press the attack. The trap was sprung: tzakandi appeared behind them and another flayer in front. Bob, Zzog'Gozzar, the Bees, the unicorn and three hippogriffs were stunned. Ivellios refused to dispel the stunning magic waiting for a better time to use his only dispel. Jo raced forward and attacked the mind flayer. Ivellios slew a tzakandi with magic missile. Appleby's xorn attacked the flayer and inflicted horrible wounds. Carraig attacked the mind flayer. Appleby killed one tzakandi and resisted a mind blast from another. Ethan was paralysed by the same mind blast Appleby had just resisted.

The Prince of Schliss and two mind flayers appeared at the far end of the hall in deep discussion. They were engaged in telepathic debate with Teth Cromith XIV who had just come under attack by The Council of Stormwatch. They did not notice the battle for a few moments. Carraig and the Xorn moved towards The Prince immediately. Ivellios fireballed (4) him to no effect. This unsurprisingly attracted his complete attention. Jo danced around the his mind flayer foe and twisted in past his defences. He plunged his new adamantine sword deep into the flayers guts and it fell to the floor. Dark purple ichor pooling on the marble as his breath ebbed away. Appleby resisted yet another mind blast from a tzakandi. His staff whirled around, writhing with wooden fangs and lightning and struck the creature in the jaw. It's tentacles whipped around as it's neck snapped and it crumpled to the ground. With so many of their assault force stunned by illithid mind blasts they decide to retreat.

The Prince had other plans. He sent a flayer to threaten Appleby. It stepped through the astral dimensions and moved close enough to use his mind blast. The Prince also stepped through the astral dimension to threaten them all with his extremely potent psychic powers. His other ally disappeared. They have already activated several of their psychic defences.

John Appleby resisted yet another mind blast, much to the frustration of the mind flayer, before moving towards the levels main exit door. Ivellios cast black tentacles and the prince was grappled, his magic resistance unable to affect the writhing black menace. Tin Tan, in an act of heroic bravery typical of the best character in the village, spit a gout of Tine's flame at the prince and smiled in satisfaction as he screamed as it burned. Then he helped his master make a tactical withdrawal. The Prince and the other flayers unleashed their mind blasts. The power of the princes' mind is phenomenal and all succumbed to it's stunning effect. All save Ivellios and Carraig who were of course immune. And John Appleby who resisted the psychic bombardment yet again, still using previously unsuspected inner reserves of mental strength. Jo reappeared from hiding and put the bag of holding over Ethan's head. Ethan's body disappeared into the magical bag and Jo hastened toward the exist. Carraig grabbed Zzog'Gozzar and Charmer and dragged them to safety.

One flayer blocked their escape and Ivellios and Tin Tan attacked it. It's psychic protections saves it's life. Appleby moved away from the prince to threaten the flayer with his staff. When it tried to use it's mind blast Appleby smashed it in the face and broke it's concentration. Jo slips out the main door with Ethan in the bag. Appleby's xorn attacked the mind flayer and it ripped it to pieces. It's remains splashed about as it worried the remains of the flayer. The Prince stepped through dimensions to escape the black tentacles doors and appeared beside Ivellios. Towering above him. Jo dumps Ethan from the bag and returned to help the wizard.

Ivellios fireballed (5) the Prince in a last ditch attempt to battle him but it had no effect. They all fled. As he called down the door to prevent pursuit, Ivellios remembered the arrow of illithid slaying. Damn.

The Illithid formerly known as Prince

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Croiday (evening)

They regrouped and cast what few remaining recovery spells they had left. Jo readied an alchemical infusion which promptly fizzled out. He resolved to better understand this alchemical conundrum immediately as was disappointed to be told to remain with the group. His lab was waiting! Tanner and Stuffitt arrived in the nick of too late, having slipped away from the battle with the lizardfolk and the Vedic started to bless and heal the survivors of the battle. The he casts spells to bolster both himself and his flock for the coming battle. They had resolved to attempt another assault now that the stunning effects had worn off. The assault would revolve around the slaying arrow. If it did not slay the prince they were lost. They believed that the illithids would pursue them if the did not attack soon.

They were right. A massive slug-like creature the size of an elephant emerged from the wall stairwell wall dissolving the solid rock and marble as it moved. It attacked without pause or provocation. Charmer knew this to be strange behaviour for the normally docile delver race. Ivellios noted that it was being dominated and they all presumed that the Prince was it's puppeteer. Vedic Tanner tried to free its mind from the Prince's domination but to no avail. The Prince's hold was too strong for him to break. Ethan Sang to rouse his companions. The Vedic called on the chosen to protected them from the fallen. Ethan smashed the delver with his spear which promptly dissolved. Charmer exploited his knowledge and hatred of all aberration and struck at it's vulnerable sensory sac with a bow strike. The perfectly aimed shot almost dropped the hulking monster. Enraged it fought on. Tanner channelled the power of Bas through his hands and into the creature, it recoiled from his touch in agony as dark tendrils of life were wrenched from it and given to Bas. Jo hurled fire at it and it wailed as it was burnt. Ivellios ordered Carraig back for fear of the creature's power over stone. The delver hit Ethan with it's massive flippers. He barely dodged the full force of the powerful blow. The impact was painful but the acid smeared over his body was more painful still and it began to dissolve the ancient armor of Setanta Fochlachan. Quick as flashpowder, in mind and body, Jo slipped a vial from his belt and poured vinegar all over Ethan to wash off the acid. Then Ethan hit it again and it almost went down. Ivellios called the power of Tine into his belly and breathed dragon fire all over it. The delver despite it's great size and blubbery bulk could take no more punishment. It died and burned. Bob dreamed of his simple life as a beekeeper in Woodstock. Bob had been away for so long, three weeks, that he had forgotten the village's name.

There was no time for mutual congratulations. As the creature died the doors re-opened. In the middle of the hall, the Prince was flanked his two flayer cohorts. Their protections were in place and they unleashed their mind blasts. This time Jo could not escape being stunned. The others prayed feverishly to the Gods to protect them and were protected from the Prince's particularly powerful blast. Bob's prayers were quite begrudging and the unimpressed Vedic made note.

Righteous and mighty Vedic Tanner of Croi charged forward. He stood over twelve foot tall and was pulsing with the power of Charon. His crashed through the prince's psychic defences and struck a resounding blow. Pain and surprise washed over the prince's face. Ethan grabbed the standard bearer's box from the stunned alchemist, yelled 'Forticus!' and the magical power flowed into Bob empowering him with sublime confidence. Bob fired Azaz Vakar's Greater Illithid Slaying Arrow. His arrow struck true. The arrow punched though psychic armor and into the prince's chest. The magic flooded out and Bas' power pulled his fallen soul from it's host body. The Prince cried out to Athru to save him as his soul was bound to the wall of souls but the power of Bas is death and Bas prevailed.
The Prince fell.
The companions advanced to finish his cohorts. But the flayer saw their imminent doom and their decision was automatic. Flee. They grabbed the prince's body and fled to the Far Realm. They Woodhaven attackers experienced a strong sense of anticlimax. The prince was dead and the battle was won.

Too late the flayers cunning ambush was sprung. Tzakandi and Grimlocks began to flood into the chamber to surround the human invaders. More mind blasts were hurled by the tzakandi but to little effect. Appleby's mind was now casually adept at resisting to these affects. The giant sized Vedic Tanner charged forward and demolished a nearby Grimlock with his massive mace. A few grimlocks bravely returned fire before Ivellios flanked by Carraig and Tin Tan took down another. Charmer moved cautiously towards the fray and feathered the neck of another tzakandi. It choked and fell. A kobold sorcerer hit Ivellios with a couple of magic missiles before Tanner sent it flying across the room with another mighty swing of the giant sized mace. Meanwhile Ethan charged into battle against three grimlocks and a tzakandi. They were fortunate to land a couple of axe blows before Ethan slew them. Quickly the word spread among the remaining forces that the battle could not be won. They all scattered. The battle was won. Dimly a distant voice sighed with relief and it's grimlock owner struggled off into the distance amazed to have kept his life.

High Security Magical Experiments

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Croiday (evening)

After a short discussion and a few healing spells, they set off to explore the level. Ethan and Ivellios agreed that according to the writing on the walls this was the high security magical experiments level. In the distance they could hear an alien hum with a hint of a mutant heartbeat running through it. The beat was pierced randomly with telepathic moans and screams of tortured minds.

The opened a nearby door and saw a yellow green semi opaque force field blocking the passage into a spherical room beyond. They eventually determined that there was a control of the wall that allowed to the barrier to be deactivated. Jo of Kell was unable to overcome his enthusiasm and shut off the field.

Everyone went to full alert.

Nothing happened.

Tim slammed the button and the force field slammed up again. They all looked at Jo like he was a madman. They peered beyond the barrier to see that there were mutant creation chambers beyond. These were similar to those found in Honeyglen and Setanta's Tomb. This was where the Tzakandi were being created. In the centre of the spherical room, lying on a table was an Ogre Mage Corpse. It's skull had three holes drilled into it and vile green slime ooze from the wounds. Obviously, reckoned Ivellios, the Prince and his cohorts had been in the process of creating another voidmind ogre zombie. Ivellios sent in a swarm of fire spiders that incinerated everything in the room. They set off to find the great experimentation chamber, hoping to be accosted by some stragglers along the way. They soon realised that the rest of the prince's minions were unlikely to attack and so decided to rest.

Draiday (morning)

They rested for the night and in the morning studied and meditated to regain their spells. Dim noises in the night revealed that the prince's minions had decided to flee. They explored the experimentation level and found several magic experimentation chambers similar the one the prince had been using. Most of the valuables had been salvaged by the fleeing tzakandi and there was little of worth left to investigate. The one other chamber they found that contained mutants in the process of being transformed was scoured with and then consecrated.

The most interesting find was an enormous chamber which was lined with mystical symbols dating back to the time of Tain Mac Lir. These symbols were painted on adamantite and kellum alloys which formed the walls of the sphere. A well crafted but obviously temporary platform reached tentatively out into the open space. A small circular dais was suspended at its end, in the exact centre of the chamber. Ivellios deduced that the chamber was used for massively powerful and dangerous experiments. Wards and abjurations cast upon the walls to create a magical dead zone protected those outside the room from the effects of failed experiments.

These derro are crazy

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Draiday (afternoon)

They descended to the Summoning and Binding level but it was sealed. In order to progress there Fear Iarann animation plans they decided to continue to the Elemental Reactor. At the reactor level, instead of the usual dark chasm in the centre of the stairwell, they found a platform. Ethan guessed that it was probably a lift. Any curiosity about the platform was drowned out by the sounds of battle coming from the reactor chamber through the open entry doors. A band of derro cloaked in shadow, poured out of the doors and attacked with poison bolts. They inflicted almost no damage and their poison was weak. Appleby scoffed at the spider venom he identified on the quarrel lodged in his ironwood armor. "I'm immune o this!" he announced happily. They were quickly slain by Charmers bow and Ivellios' flame.

A battle raged in the main reactor chamber beyond the level's entry hall. They moved into the hall and saw a couple of hundred kobolds in battle with a few dozen derro down in the chamber floor below. Appleby called an ice storm. The freezing hail killed dozens of kobolds and badly injured several derro. They moved forward to the edge of the ramp that lead down into the reactor. They fired spells and missiles into the fray. Ethan and Tanner both called upon the kobolds to lay down their arms and convert to the church. The Derro, they announced, were fallen and would be defeated in the name of the Chosen. The insane derro broke off the attack against the kobolds and charged their new enemy.

The derro moved to the ramp taking heavy casualties and bombarded the party with poisoned bolts from their repeating crossbows. The Bard took several hits and poison entered his blood. But the reincarnation of Setanta Fochlachan was firm of fetlock and strong of thews and he had fortitude to resists the spider venom they had used. Ivellios sent a swarm of fire spiders in amongst the Derro and their feeble magical resistances were no match for the power of the Ivellios' arcane flame. Appleby sent his hippogriff's into the fray which stalled the derro advance. Tanner felled one with a mace of Croi. A hail of arrows flew in from Bob Charmer, dropping another four.

The Derro retaliated by bombarding their attackers with sonic blasts. The blasts pummelled all the attackers on the top of the ramp, bar Tim Tanner who was protected by the divine power of Croi. The sonic blasts were particularly devastating to Charmers bees who were killed in their thousands by the blasts. The swarm was scattered and Charmers link to them was broken. To everyone's surprise, charmer seemed more relieved than distraught by this. Then a fireball exploded in their midst. The source could not be determined.

The battle raged on and soon the spiritual weapons, fire spiders, hippogriffs and arrows had routed the derro. Fire and Fear continued to rain down upon them from above and they were unable to determine the position of the spells. Ivellios remarked that it was probably a derro sorcerer using fly, greater invisibility, mirror image, haste, fireball and cause fear. The last of the routed derro cast spells and became invisible. The aerial bombardment ceased as soon as the derro had been routed. The bard tried to flying around the reactor chamber with an invisibility purge spell to find the mystery caster but their assailant was long gone. Obviously, while derro were insane, they were not suicidal.

The kobolds then emerged to parlay with them. Ivellios looked around for a control chamber for the elemental reactor.

Spiders

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Draiday (afternoon)
John Appleby noticed a mass of spiders swarming around the stairwell. A gigantic spider the size of a fully grown bull baphen descended out of the gloom on an invisible thread and then sprang to attack. Thousands of smaller specimens swarmed and skittered behind looking for an opening. The wounded druid dodged out of the way and the spider's enormous fangs slammed shut over thin air. Dark green venom splashed off its yellow mandibles. Spider venom.

The venom of a hunting spider was designed by Naduir himself to allow the creature to paralyse it's victim without killing it, so it could be stored in it's lair for later consumption. A strong healthy druid would be merely a tasty snack for a spider of this immense size. John smiled. He was a chosen of Naduir and as such he had been granted immunity to all natural venoms. Bad luck for the spider he thought as he whirled the applewood staff around and struck the creatures sensory organs with all his strength. Talons, thorns and lightning were the gift of the staff. The spider reared back in shock at the force and pain of the blow. Then it lashed out again.

It's fangs seized Appleby's shoulder and pierced his ironwood armor. The armor saved his life but the fangs opened a nasty gash and his shoulder was dripping blood and venom. Appleby paid it little heed. There was no time to waste on pain when death was looking for an invitation. He responded with a series of rapid blows but the creature's hide was thick and it's skin was like iron. Each blow bounced off it's hairy black hide until he managed to find the creatures vulnerable eyes and send a stab of pain into its brain.

Lost in reverie and dreaming of elemental energy surges, Jo of Kell hadn't seen the spider approach. The druid was fighting for his life before Jo could react. He turned to see another smaller spider bearing down on him. It attacked, but Jo was too quick and managed to dodge out of the way. Then the battle was joined in earnest, Ethan and Todd heard the clamour from the bloody floor of the reactor chamber and Todd slipped through the astral plane with Ethan in tow. Ethan readied himself for a charge into the melee.

Bob, who had been lost in contemplation of his missing bees, suddenly sprang into action and four arrows sailed down the hallway and into the spider's thick hairy flanks. It roared but was unable to revenge itself against the distant ranger. Angry, it eyed Appleby with greater menace. A baphen sized spider moved in behind Appleby, while more scuttled up to attack Jo, Bob and Ethan. Todd had cleverly used Glic's blessing to render himself invisible. The spiders attacked again. Though the baphen sized specimens were no match for the party, the gargantuan monstrosity had Appleby's measure. It bit him again and injected more venom. Only his preternatural bond with the forces of nature was keeping alive.

Ethan charged in with a mighty flail blow and felled the baphen sized spider flanking the druid. Bob hit with another couple of arrows and the gargantuan spider was visibly weakening. Jo attacked and covered it with burning acid, which smoked and hissed as it ate through the creature's thick hide. Appleby decided it was time for his greatest magic and started to summon a ferocious storm of lightening to strike down his foes. He concentrated carefully on the spell and brought forth the power of storms. The spider took advantage of his distraction, darted past his defences and bit him yet again. The poison had no effect but the massive bite lacerated and pulverised his body and he was now on the brink of death. The pain and shock of the bite broke his concentration and ruined the spell.

Todd held back crossbow tracking the spider. He cautiously and studied the creature, looking for a weakness and waiting for a chance to strike. Ethan moved forward and used the power of the Song to reshape Appleby's body to a healthier state. Then the spider struck the druid again and his work was all but undone. Appleby struck a final blow which glanced off the creatures hide and then stepped back from the fray. The spider moved forward to finish him. A volley of arrows from the archers took it down.

It was an easy task for such powerful adventurers to dispatch the remaining few Baphen sized specimens. The smaller hunting spiders set to devouring the carcasses and left the humanoids alone. Todd looked dejected. The spiders looked like poor targets for thievery. Then he considered maybe tanning or stuffing one. Spider skin shoes had a nice ring to it, he thought. Waste not want not.

Kobold Negotiations

AK510-40 Cool Summer End Week 4
[Charon Guiding, Shale Resting, Cycles Watching]

Draiday (evening)
Ethan's attention returned to Bromjorix, the leader of the Poll Na Deanta Kobolds. He adopted a missionary approach, informing the kobolds of the benefits of joining The Church. The kobold leader was more interested in what would happen if they refused to join. Ethan recounted the bloody history of The Church including the two thousand year unification wars that had destroyed all who were either Fallen, Risen or simply refused to acknowledge The One True Church. The kobold leader did not like the sound of that. He warily agreed to allow a missionary from The Church to come and teach them the ways of the new world. The fact that all of their priests had been slain in the battle was a convenient one that was not overlooked by Ethan. It was well known to him that when an assassin watched over a battle, no one was safe.
As part of the negotiations, Ethan agreed that the kobolds would retain their ownership of the six mine levels that they currently occupied. In return they would tithe to The Church a percentage of their produce, they would convert to The Church of The Moons and would assist in the liberation of Poll Na Deanta. They agreed to participate in the lizard war if the party would in rid them of Ungolaregh, a web spinning spider of colossal size and the nemesis of the kobolds of Poll Na Deanta. The spider had been devouring their kind for generations and controlled all of the sizeable exits from the complex, that lead into the cave network below the swamp. Ethan agreed to slay Ungolaregh when the time was right.

Playing With An Elemental Reactor

AK510-40 Dark Autumn Start Week 1
[Charon Watching, Shale Watching, Cycles Guiding]

Charday (morning)

Jo's mind was drawn to the Elemental Reactor like a moth to a flame. While the others healed and prayed he studied magical texts. He urged the DeDannan bard and Namer to assist him and he bemoaned the absence of the wizard. Ivellios and Tanner had gone in pursuit of the Derro leader. In quick order, Jo's enthusiasm had infected the others and they all assisted in the reactor activation research despite the absence of their mage and their spiritual leader.

There were many references to the generator in Kysiatch's library and Ethan was able to use Setanta's memories and Jo of Kell's creative alchemical insights to determine what needed to be done. The druid's magical knowledge focused on the elemental forces of nature and his assistance was key to understanding the reactor's power source. Bob sat in the library fletching arrows and tried to resist the urge to send one hurtling into one of their incredibly boring arses. Soon their research was completed to Jo's satisfaction and when they examined the arrivals area console map they discovered that the reactor control room was located behind a secret entrance on the stairwell, half a level above the Reactor.

Moonday (morning)

They walked the long dreary walk back down to the bottom once again and by now Jo of Kell was sick of the stairs. He decided that the platform on the reactor level must be a lift and set to experimenting with it. After a quick few attempts he managed to activate it. The lift rose and fell very smoothly and rapidly under its operator's control and Jo was unable to restrain himself from playing with it for several minutes until Ethan interrupted him.

They stopped at that stairwell turn above the reactor level and Todd started to search. Glic was on his side because after only a brief search he discovered a hidden door. The door did not respond to the usual commands, so Todd resorted to his thieves picks and the administrator's dagger. After a few minutes of scraping, jamming and cursing the door unlocked. An amber glow outlined the door with arcane, divine and DeDannan symbols. It opened to Todd's touch.

Behind the door was a long chamber covered in smooth black stone. There were several desks made of polished black marble and a few chairs upholstered in red dragonskin. The dragon leather disintegrated as soon as Jo sat on one so the rest of them elected to stand. Ethan summarised their discoveries regarding the functioning of the Reactor as best he could. There were six elemental spheres held behind six sealed doors in the main chamber. When the reactor was activated the spheres were all moved into position near the centre of the room. The spheres held portals the elemental planes which were activated by charging them with the appropriate energy type: Lightening energy for the plane of Air, Fire energy for the plane of Fire, Cold energy for the plane of Water, Acid energy for the plane of Earth, Negative energy for the Negative plane, Positive energy for the Positive plane.

Ethan continued his long exposition of the reactors internal workings. The greater the amount of energy provided to the sphere the greater the strength of the connection to the plane and the greater the energy provided. An imbalance in the portal connection strength could spell doom. They started to examine the smooth polished surfaces looking for some clue as to how to activate them. Jo blindly prodded at the panels urging them to activate, Ethan named the panels as active and the others followed Jo's example. All of this experimentation was wildly dangerous considering they were messing with the controls of an immensely potent reactor that had been dormant for over ten thousand years. Eventually, without mishap, they managed to activate the controls. The polished marble blinked to life, arcane symbols glowing in amber light across dark surface. Appleby recognised the panel he was examining as an elemental portal energy reflux equalisation control. The other struggled valiantly to understand what he meant by that. They each examined various panels and after a considerable amount of time and puzzling they managed to concoct a plan to activate the reactor based on best guesses, ancient memories and a reasonable understanding of elemental forces.

Prepping the Reactor

AK510-40 Dark Autumn Start Week 1
[Charon Watching, Shale Watching, Cycles Guiding]

Moonday (afternoon)

Bob fought hard against the boredom of such arcane conversations and looked out of the door hopefully scanning for an incoming foe. To his delight he was attacked by a baphen sized giant spider. The others continued with their work knowing that he would call for help if he needed it. Bob was quite happy with this arrangement and the arrows started to fly. Soon there were a couple of dead spiders lying at this feet and a smile on his face. To pass the time he set to butchering and skinning the beasts. Grisly work, but far better than listening to the arcane mumbo jumbo that was being spouted in the room nearby. And he wanted a pair of Stuffitt's spider skin shoes.

All they needed now, Ethan explained, was a sphere of annihilation and several pounds of Kellum. They others looked at him dumbfounded. They were as likely to get the Val-Roi of the Cycles from The Bigany Church to plant the crops in Woodhaven that year. A sphere of annihilation could only be created by arch mages of great power, such as the great Lord Maajii of Az-Ylar. Even Ivellios whose power was growing considerably of late could not yet hope to master such magic. If that wasn't bad enough there was no kellum left in the mines. Kellum was a substance that no one had ever heard of so it was unlikely that it could be found in sufficient quantities elsewhere.

Todd had been searching the room very carefully during all of this arcane theorising and as the others began to despair, his efforts were rewarded. A hairline difference in the etching of designs on the walls behind their flux control panel was highly suspicious to his trained eye. A careful application of pressure here and a magical gesture there and the secret panel was opened. Inside were six kellum ingots. It was no co-incidence that this amount kellum was stored here decided Ethan. They must have all the required components for the reactor stored nearby. Todd tucked away the other contents of the panel for safe keeping.

They continued to search the room and fiddle with the controls and this time Jo managed to activate something. A silver tube as thick as a man's arm and waist high rose from the floor. A golden ball made of an unknown alloy rested on it's top. The surfaces of the shaft and orb were covered in arcane runes. Todd discovered tiny silver tubes that could be folded out from the shaft. Jo determined that the runes of the shaft indicated that the tubes could be used to cast spells and that the golden orb was used to absorb spells. He theorised that the DeDannan ogre wizards who used the facility cast the spells using the tubes and then channelled them into the golden orb in order to open the elemental portals and to create the sphere of annihilation. However the power released by the spells stored in the silver shaft was so great that they might have trouble controlling the elemental power. Appleby explained that if extreme levels of elemental power were released without full control it was likely that everyone within a couple of hundred yards would be disintegrated. That revelation dampened their enthusiasm for a few moments. Then they decided to energise the spheres with their own lower level spells in order to have an easier time controlling the elemental reflux.

It Really Works!

AK510-40 Dark Autumn Start Week 1
[Charon Watching, Shale Watching, Cycles Guiding]

Moonday (afternoon)

After a day of theorising, experimenting and more research in the library, they rested in the arrivals area. Ivellios and Tanner had been unable to locate the Derro leader and had turned their attention to the world above. The lizardfolk had retreated from the constant harassment by the Ibixians and the Darkkeep Knights. They had left the tunnels and the caves uncontested. Instead they had razed the Dark Keep using their catapults. They had also collapsed the escape tunnel. The Ibixians were now busy hewing their way through the stone to the outside world. Ivellios and Tanner were assisting them with magic, to prevent them being crushed in a tunnel collapse.

The following day the others prepared the required spells and headed to the reactor control room once more. They each activated a control panel and readied the reactor. A foreboding sense of great power built up but nothing happened. Then Todd noticed that they hadn't placed the kellum in the reactor chamber. He made damned sure that everything was turned off before he ventured to the chamber and placed the kellum upon the appropriate pillar. He raced back up stairs and took his place at the controls.

They started again and this time remembered to open all of the elemental doors to allow the energy spheres to access the chamber. Then they raised the kellum platform to the conducting area. They each managed to activate their panels and the power levels began to build. Without any great ceremony the druid cast several elemental energy spells at the golden orb. The magic was thrown at the elemental spheres and they erupted with fire, lightning and cold. The bard added acid, negative and positive energy. With consummate skill and a little luck they both managed to balance the energy perfectly. Strikes of energy lashed out chaotically from sphere to sphere as the elements fought one another. The flux of energies would soon rip the reactor and the entire complex asunder if they were not brought under control.

Jo manipulated the spell energy within the silver tube at the top of the column. Even Jo was slightly apprehensive about this part. The spell was incredibly dangerous even when cast correctly. For that reason and because of it's resonance with the power of Feo, it was banned in several arcane orders. If the spell was miscast, the backlash of energy could remove anything it touched from reality, destroying it utterly. The reactor and control room would be destroyed and then the elemental gates would clash together. The destruction would be impressive to anyone far enough away to enjoy the view. None of them would survive. So, no pressure, thought Jo as he offered a quick prayer to Tionscail.

Ethan sang to inspire Jo as he manipulated the arcane symbols glowing in his mind. He connected them as he guessed was correct and then spoke the mystical syllables and made the contorted gestures they commanded. He felt the magic slip out from his control, he spotted his minor error and altered the altitude of his little finger by a degree. A black all consuming ball of nothingness was born in the middle of the chaotic flux of energies and the kellum was sucked up towards it. Success!

Frantically they all rushed to maintain control of the energies that we being were pulled towards the hole in the universe. Each shouted instructions to the other to help balance the forces and the kellum was raised into the centre of the maelstrom. The metal coated the sphere as it absorbed the energies. It was superheated and began to burn. Molten adamantite dripped to the floor far below. The power being produced was tremendous. The weight of it sat heavy on their chests as they struggled to keep the reactor's energy balanced. Their eyes began to glow slightly and the applewood staff tingled in Appleby's hand. In the midst of the thickened air, his bones tingling with the vigorous might of the elements, Bob looked calm and vaguely disinterested. He noted with amusement the panic and serious demeanour of his companions and lamented how much he missed hunting.
"Wake up Charmer!" shouted Ethan who was trying to get him to recalibrate the fire of acid ratio at the positive nexus. Bob guessed and hit a few symbols that seemed right, on the panel he was staring at. Ethan relaxed a tiny bit and smiled. Bob gave a thumbs up to give the impression that he knew what the hell was going on. Stupid reactor he thought.

The energy levels swelled to an alarming crescendo. Ethan was ready. Using the panel labelled 'Arcane Relay Primus Beo' he channelled the energy from the reactor to the collector and up through the kellum alloy conduits to the storage area. The burst of energy dazzled them all and then was gone. The deep rumbling as it reverberated it's way up though the conduits was all that was left in the darkness as the reactor powered off.

Thanks be to Tionscail.

A Nation Awakes

AK510-40 Dark Autumn Start Week 1
[Charon Watching, Shale Watching, Cycles Guiding]

Moonday (afternoon)

"Cool!" shouted Jo. "Let's go and have a look!" he was out the door and onto the lift before anyone could catch their breath. They scrambled after him. There were quite a few fervent prayers of thanks uttered, as the lift rocketed up to the storage level.

When they entered the storage chamber the smell of magically energised kellum hit them like a wall. The storage racks were purposefully animated and were pushing the warforged bodies towards a hole in the floor. Each body was inserted into the hole, as fast as the mechanism could manage. Todd realised that the bodies must be going to the animation chamber. Seconds later they were all charging back to the lift. When they arrived at the animation level they were greeted by the sight they'd prayed for.

The three hundred foot wide chamber held two enormous stone constructions. One, like a shapely bulbous teat descended from the ceiling. The other was it's opposite twin. Between them crackled a thick incandescent energy whose colour wavered erratically through the rainbow. A colossal metal arm was taking warforged bodies from a hole in the ceiling and placing them in the energy pillar before returning to retrieve another. They watched a body as it entered the pillar. It jolted violently as it hit the energy and then went slack and slid down the sides of the stone mound. It hit the floor below and crumpled into a heap. A few moments later the warforged opened its eye and climbed shakily to its feet. It moved to join a small crowd of other newly animated warforged huddled together in a confused group.

Jo of Kell introduced himself and then the Namer. Ethan Named them 'Saighdiuri Amhran'. As 'Soldiers of the Song' he told them they must follow his orders and those of his companions. They all arranged specific salutes.

Ethan: Arm outstretched palm facing away.
Appleby: A hand smack to the heart, snapping to a horizontal salute.
Charmer: Crossed arms and a raised eyebrow.
Todd: Covering the face with a cloak and breathing deeply.
Jo: A confused and distracted spin and question about what was going on.

Ethan named each new arrival. This continued for several hours until the magical energy they had produced in the elemental reactor was expended. Jo enthusiastically kept count. In the end 1700 warforged were animated and Named. Ethan and Jo decided that their education should commence immediately and called upon the Ibixians to assist in their combat training. They were brought to the training level and were assigned to various groups each specialising in different skills. Jo of Kell began to research a series of tests to determine the potential of each warforged they had animated. It would all take time. Time they didn't have.

The Slaying of Ungolaregh

AK510-40 Dark Autumn Start Week 1
[Charon Watching, Shale Watching, Cycles Guiding]

Cogaday (morning)

To fulfil Ethan's promise, they prepared to slay Ungolaregh. The plotting and planning went on well into the night. There would be no SWANT this time. The Kobold Bromjorix was a dangerous assassin and he had fled Ungolaregh several times. The spider was colossal he claimed. Even if he was exaggerating, the spider must still be a potent foe. They rested overnight and in the morning they prepared spells and weapons for battle. Appleby prepared flames to burn her webs and wards against venom to counter her paralysing bite. Jo coated many arrows with a strange alchemical substance he had invented. This substance would stop wounds from closing, he explained to Bob Charmer who wasn't listening, until he heard that it could be applied to arrows. A target of any size would bleed to death quite quickly he claimed. Bob eagerly accepted the coated arrows once he knew how effective they would be in battle.

The made their way with little stealth to the creatures lair and slew a few minor arachnids along the way. When they arrived at her lair, Ungolaregh was uninterested in venturing forth to meet them. Spiders always favour a fight within their own lair. Many kobold spies had died to discover that her lair was fed from many smaller chambers which contained her many thousands of offspring. Appleby had faced one of her children only recently and was in no doubt that arachnid reinforcements would prove very unwelcome. She waited with eternal patience, couched in her thick webs.

The battle was fierce and swift. The colossal spider inched into view concealed by her webs then spewed a fountain of her webbing ooze over Ethan. He was perfectly immobilised as the goo dried to iron hardness in an instant. That was her first mistake decided the druid as he summoned the power of flames and created an inferno around her enormous body. Ungolaregh was as staggeringly enormous as the assassin had promised. Her body could have crushed the Charon arena in Woodhaven or covered the entire main square. The creatures size was no concern to the Druid as his control over summoned flame was great enough to allow him to surround several creatures of such magnitude. The flames burned the spider and her webs. It sealed off the other chambers and left her with only one escape route, towards her attackers.

Todd, Jo and Bob, launched a volley of arrows over the flames and thanks to the creatures enormous bulk they all struck true. Through luck, skill and instinct both Bob and Todd found vulnerable areas. Jo's substance caused fountains of black blood to belch forth from her wounds and the spider was enraged. From under a small hill of sticky webbing Ethan Namer sang to rouse his allies. His voice was severely distorted by the web strands forcing his mouth shut but his implacable courage in the face of arachnid death impressed his companions.

She charged into them and the were hurled back by her bulk. She struck out at both Todd and Bob with vicious bites coated in vile globs of stinking venom. Bob managed to dodge to the side to prevent his head from being sliced off by her reeking mandibles. The impact of her enormous yellow teeth ripped the flesh off the top of his skull as he darted away. Bob had been wounded many times and knew that this injury would heal and the pain could be borne. But he would always be left with the memory of the putrid stench of her appalling breath. That would leave a scar. Todd had to laugh at Bob's expression when the smell hit them. It was bad Todd agreed, but if you had worked in a tannery and sneaked through the sewers beneath, you knew all about bad smells. This rated only a factor seven on the Stuffitt scale.

Ungolaregh's assault relented for a brief moment as she waited for her poison to paralyse the two archers. They had wounded her so very painfully and she would savour those little morsels, piece by piece. But her poison was no match for the druid's magic and they stood before her undaunted. That was mistake number two thought the druid as his crackling staff almost broke one of the hairy black pillars she used for legs. He casually directed a small fire elemental to free the trapped bard and waited for the archers to strike again.

More missiles were shot from the three archers and with Jo's alchemy powering them they ended the conflict rapidly. Bob's last two sonic arrows punched through her eyes and exploded in her brain.
"Nice shot" Jo understated.
Todd was already darting through the sticky webs looking for valuables as the colossal carcass thunderously slammed into the ground. Dust rained down over the victors as they stood back in satisfaction.
From under the web mountain came the wise and inspiring voice of the bard, "Err... could somebody get me out of here!?"