The Scaled Advent

Devious back-stabbing
also the villains did stuff too

Picking their way over the dead half-dragon and his defeated undead minions, the group gathered in the main hall to assess the damage. Turns out the damage wasn’t that extensive and Syl’s mending spell was able to bring the bright orange gem to almost pristine condition! With that matter resolved they were ready to explore the rest of the complex. However, before they got very far, a mysterious apparition of a skull materialized in the air ahead of them.

“You must be the ones who destroyed that white half-dragon. Melas said you were a troublesome lot. He also insisted that a half-dragon would be useful to have around, and as far as I’m concerned that turned out to be complete nonsense. While I don’t lament the loss of that scaly abomination, you have now deprived me of many useful undead workers, and that will slow our progress”.

Initially expecting another physical confrontation at the sudden appearance of this creature, the party was more than a little taken aback, by its frank and straightforward communications.

“I am Rabastan, and, although I reside far from here and am speaking to you through a remote apparition, I am in charge of these halls. We believe there is a powerful magical fountain contained behind a magically sealed door in these ruins. The fountain is said to grant special blessings of life to those who drink from it. If you agree to aid me in this endeavor I shall forgive your slight against me and allow you to leave this place in peace.”

Immediately suspicious of anyone who appeared on good terms with Melas, the group attempted to discern if this Rabastan was deceiving them in some way. The illusory vocal conduit in the form of a float skull proved difficult to read, however. In the end the group decided that they had planned to search the rest of the halls anyway and agreed to help find a way past the locked door.

“Excellent! I shall instruct my apprentice to leave you to your work then. He should be around here somewhere trying to solve this puzzle himself. He is a dark elf like myself, and probably the only other living thing left in these halls. You should recognize him when you see him. Farewell!”

With these final works the apparition vanished as quickly as it appeared. The group pressed onward up the stairs in the direction from which the ghouls and shadow mastiffs had come. Entering a long room at the top of the stairs, the team became wary of several dark pools of some unknown substance. Peering in for a closer look, Alston’s keen senses identified the mysterious fluid as dog urine. The group quickly (but cautiously) made their way across the room.

A noise from the next passage caused a brief pause as one by one the wary adventurers peeked their heads around the corner to spot a drow standing over an alter clearly in the middle of some ritual. Upon seeing this Syl, followed closely by Igneel, walked calmly into the room careful not to impolitely interrupt his fellow mage at his work. Peering over the components Syl recognized some of what was being done. Bone, flesh, and grave soil clearly spoke to raising the dead. However, the wood was a mystery for a moment until he recalled the wood woads they had encountered in the forest. Quite pleased with his assessment Syl announced his conclusions as he prepared to stand and watch the ritual through to completion. Kiethri had a different approach. After learning of the necromanctic nature of the spell she immediately insisted the caster stop his spell. Despite Syl’s efforts to encourage her to not interrupt, the dark elf’s concentration had been lost and he dropped his arms to his side in frustration.

“What do you want? I have a lot to do and I don’t have time for distractions. Rabastan already told me you were enlisted to help get beyond the door, so, go figure it out.” Brushing some of his jet black hair back behind his exceptionally long ears, the dark-skinned elf impatiently answered the questions of the group. His name was Nyloth, and, after some probing, Syl was able to determine that he was approximately twice as skilled in the arcane arts as our young wizard (who began to eye the spell book of this necromancer with great interest).

The group learned that misty step, dimension door, and teleportation had failed to bypass the door. Satisfied with the information from Nyloth, and a gruesome report from Igneel of dismembered body parts and an ominous dark pit in the small room behind the necromancer, the party began to move on in the other direction.

Sharing Kiethri’s sentiments on the nature of the ritual, Kaven was determined to interrupt it somehow. As the party left the room, he hung back eyeing the necromancer with a dull stare and filling the area with an…awkward silence. Nyloth finally inquired after the paladin’s fine dragon scale armor, and Kaven used the opportunity to begin a long winded tale of all the groups conquests up to that point. Despite the displeasure clearly evident on his face Nyloth quietly listened to the tale for several minutes. When Kaven reached the point regarding the acid spitting insectoids encountered in Old Haré, he produced one of the vials of acid he harvested from the creatures, and (despite the quick reflexes of the drow) he managed to “accidentally” spill the vial of acid all over the spell components on the alter.

What patience Nyloth had left, disintegrated along with his materials and he fumed as he demanded Kaven leave his presence. The devious halfling barely containing his glee joined the group as they were trying to decipher the unknown script on a pair of columns in the next room. Incidentally , the script was in halfling and Kaven translated to the group a story of a barren valley that was blessed by mother nature with a pure water source that formed a lake which gave life to the great forest that now exists in the area. The door to the next room featured an elaborately carved Oak tree, and in the next room there was a raised dias in what appeared to be a religious meeting house. Again a prominent oak tree was displayed, this time carved into the stone of the far wall.

Backing out past the room with the two pillars the team found a room with beautiful murals painted on each wall and the ceiling. One wall featured the vast expanses of space, one a forested valley from the perspective of a high waterfall, and the last wall was that of a desert with a pristine oasis in the middle. The ceiling featured a painting intended to look as if the viewer were looking up through a lake from the bottom. Recognizing the prominence this temple placed on the oak tree in the last two rooms, Syl searched the murals for a similar depiction. Sure enough he found the oak which was an illusion covering a small space in the wall from which Syl drew a key.

The group found another passage leading to the main hall with the sealed door. Alston observed that the door in fact had a key hole that looked consistent with the key the group had found. There was one last hallway to explore. The one with the glowing gossamer strands dangling down from above. The curious monk decided to lightly touch one of the glowing strands and in so doing were just close enough to see a large spider-like creature hiding in the strands. The team thought it best to leave those alone for the time being.

Now convinced they had found the way through the door, the group planned their next steps. The group quickly decided Nyloth should be destroyed what with Syl hungry for the necromancer’s spell book, and Kaven and Keithri convinced of the dark elf’s evil nature.

A plan was formed. Foradjinn would inform Nyloth that a key had been found and lead him to the door. First they would pass the hallway to the room with the columns (in which Igneel would hide) down the steps to the four way intersection leading to the mural filled room (in which Alston would be hiding), to the hallway with the large glowing spider creatures, and to the hallway leading back toward the magical door where Syl would be standing with an illusion of the key drawing the attention of the unsuspecting Nyloth towards him by proclaiming loud excitement about their discovery. That would be the signal for Alston to step out and back stab the necromancer while the monk would fly down the stairs and shove the wounded wizard into the spider webs. At which point we would all stand back and watch the hapless drow get eaten. To add in an extra measure of defiance against his dark magics, Kaven would stay back and come in to destroy the rest of his components while he succumbed to our brilliant attack plan

Foradjinn was uncharacteristically unconvincing in his first attempts to draw Nyloth down to the trap. “Great job, bring me the key” was the insistent response. Nevertheless, the bard was not persuaded to go and fetch the key, and indicated that if Nyloth didn’t come they would just open the door with out him. Grumbling to himself, he quickly left his work to follow Foradjinn down the hallway.

As they rounded the corner and Syl shouted “Hey Nyloth! Look over here! We found a key! See the key?!” the poor dark elf didn’t have a chance to question the extreme exuberance before the lightning quick elven monk leaped down the stairs and relentlessly beat him again and again punching straight through his feeble shield spell. A final powerful kick sent Nyloth staggering backward down the hall right on the edge of the spider nest. Not finished the monk chased him down with another devastating flurry of kicks and punches. This time the wizard held his ground and stayed out of the spiders reach. Foradjinn joined with a thunderwave spell hoping to push Nyloth just the few more feet back to feed the spiders, but again the wizard resisted. Seeing himself cornered Nyloth tried to cash greater invisibility, but just as he was starting to disappear from view Syl used his own magic to disrupt the weave of illusions their foe was crafting and Nyloth, frustrated that he was still visible, chose to misty step to the other side of the spider webs as he called out “LADIES!!”

At his word three spectral women passed through the walls. Unknown to the rest of the team, as he was busy dumping arcane materials into puddles of shadow mastiff urine on the other side of the great hall,, Kaven became possessed by one of the ghosts. Kaven watched helplessly as the spirit possessing his body made him skewer Sai (whom Syl had sent to recover the spellbook left on the alter) with a javelin. Sensing the sudden absence of his familiar Syl investigated and found Kaven unresponsive to his inquiries. Not sure what to do he attempted to slow the paladin with frost, but continued to miss and soon took a javelin to the leg and began to hobble away seeking some cover.

Meahwhile, Alston attacked one of the other ghosts, while Foradjinn put the sword of Haré’s radiant glow to great affect against the final one. With Kiethri in between keeping them in good health, Igneel was free to pursue the wizard. With his amazing agility he slipped under the webs and proceeded to finish the powerful wizard off with a final flurry of attacks. As Nyloth’s consciousness faded he swore to return and exact revenge against us.

Ultimately, Kiethri expelled the spirit from Kaven and the team proceeded to defeat it while Syl left the exorcism to those more effective than he, and instead ran immediately (although still limping from his javelin wound) to the now dead necromancer’s spell book.

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Dead Beneath the Lake
Organ Recitals and Ogre-Reaching Aspirations

Taking a closer look, Syl identified the woad magic as connected to the runes; nothing good would come from them, he also found.

The group proceeded toward the origin Kaven had witnessed, the halfling leading the way. They dipped down into a valley and up the other side, wading through brush, winding through forest until they reached a clearing. Ahead, a lake lapped upon a shore. Beyond, the forest curled around before hills above. There appeared to be a boulder upon the shore of the lake.

From a distance, they could tell the boulder was not naturally formed, though covered with ivy. Foradjinn and Alston approached, managing not to disturb the deer drinking at the lake. Upon closer inspection, they discovered a door frame set in the rough-hewn rock. Beside it, set in the stone, was an indented circle. Next to it, written in common, were words:

“A bond, an oath, a pact
Giving life leads to death
Now act.”

Raising an eyebrow at the sneaking bard and rogue, Kiethri looked up at Kaven. “Why are you guys so paranoid?”

With a smirk, Kaven leaned down out of the saddle to catch up a rock. Winding up, he hurled towards Foradjinn and Alston, startling them out of their furtive study. Syl strode up and aided in their research, pushing at the circle with his staff – it depressed an inch or so, but nothing happened. He mused over the words and came to the conclusion the same time as Alston.

The gnome cut his own palm and pressed the bloody wound to the circle. With a strange sucking sensation against the slash, the door swung open with a grating noise. Inside, stonework formed steps down and to the left.

They all descended the steps, Kiethri bandaging Alston’s hand. The stonework of the interior gave way to more masterful craft, providing acoustics for distant organ music and the faint tink-tink of slow pickaxe noises. As they advanced, they spotted gossamer strands hanging from the doorway of a room to the left; Foradjinn shivered, remembering his ordeal with the teleporting spider not more than a fortnight previous.

Clutching his holy symbol, Kaven sent out his divine sense and affirmed the presence of undead towards the pickaxe sounds. Syl and Alston charged and soon discovered two zombies mining the wall with a deep pit beyond. While the wizard and rogue finished their exercise, Foradjinn studied the wall and found no ore or metal surrounding the holes the zombies had carved thus far.

Moving on toward the organ music, they all arrived at another door. Alston oiled the hinges and eased it open. A beautiful stonework floor stretched out, interrupted by carved ornate columns twenty feet high. To the right and up a few steps, a pair of decorated doors glowed a soft, strange azure.

Alston skirted the door and stealthed down the column hall, passing a gorgeous mural of a forest scene with nymphs and dryads. At the end of the column hall, he found two sets of tall steps bisected by another column, the organ music louder than ever and issuing from beyond them. Above the steps, a glass ceiling allowed faint blue light in to bathe the interior – the sun glowing through the lake and the glass beneath.

Creeping up the steps, Alston spotted two ogres sitting next to a massive organ. Next to them was another decorated door. After Alston’s whispered report, Syl sent his pixie to check the organ and found the player to be invisible. Upon prodding the space before it, the pixie found the unseen player to also be…squishy? “It must be an unseen servant, then,” Syl nodded.

Kaven tried the other door they had passed while Foradjinn and Alston set up traps of ball bearings and spears upon and near the steps. The paladin encountered strong resistance and was unable to force the door. He then discovered another side passage near the steps and cast his divine sense up the stairs beyond the threshold – a few more undead lurked up there as well.

Before Kaven could warn the rest, Alston and Igneel ambushed the ogres and attempted to lead them toward the trapped steps. The latter met with mixed success, stumbling and crashing into the organ, almost cornered by one of the ogres.

Still, thanks to Syl’s fireball wand and one of the ogres not seeing a trap, they were easily dealt with. Complications arose when two dogs bounded down the stairs near Kaven, the paladin only just managing to warn Foradjinn in time. Four gaunt undead archers materialized in place of the ogres near the organ and half the party turned to fight them while more zombies descended the steps into the vengeful swings of a Yondollan paladin warhammer and the blazing white light of the old sword of Haré.

Upon the conclusion of the fight, silence fell for a brief moment. Then, the door near the organ scraped open and a raspy voice yelled out, “Well? Are you coming?” The unknown person slammed the door shut again.

Tense, the party approached, Alston taking point to swing the giant oak doors wide. Within, rich stonework decorated a smaller room around a shimmering void. Before it, more undead awaited them, led by a white-scaled half-dragon creature, similar to the one they encountered in Trokan Keep. From his mouth he exhaled a freezing foggy cloud of ice. “They must not be allowed to leave here alive,” he roared. “Brothers, bring them to their death!”

Whipped into a frenzy, the undead screamed to the attack. Alston ducked between them and attempted to enter the shimmering void, correctly guessing it was a portal. It resisted him, but he did spot an orange gem at the base of it – a power source?

After a frantic first few strikes, the party discovered a critical combination of spells and attacks to turn the room into a kill box. The half-dragon fell with a scream of fury and the others held off the constant supply of fresh undead troops from the portal while Syl put his new crowbar to use.

Levering the orange gem from its setting, he held it up in triumph as the portal shimmered, wavered, and then collapsed. Syl’s grin froze upon his face and the cheers of Foradjinn, Alston, and Kaven fell silent as the dispellation revealed, upon the wall behind the portal, the familiar sign of the Crestin rebellion…

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An Impasse and an Investigation
Old grudges and new problems at the sawmill

Meanwhile, back at the tavern, Syl handed the potion of invulnerability and the red gem to Igneel and wandered over to the barkeep, Karl.

By this time, the tavern patrons had mostly left for the evening. Karl wiped a section of the bar and raised his eyes with a brief smile to the elf wizard as he approached. “So where did your friend get that armor?” he asked, tilting his head toward Kaven.

“Fine elvish craftsmanship. Dragon scales. Et cetera.” Syl filled the disbelieving barkeep in on their adventures and then leaned close. “So. How did you get yourself mixed up with the Thieves Guild?”

The amiable expression vanished from Karl’s face. “I think it’s best you leave now,” he growled.

“Why?”

Karl did not answer save to call out, “Tomas!”

A hulking human with red hair approached from the corner. Karl waved at the inquisitive elf and the rest of the party. “Help these fellas out.”

Syl attempted to backpedal and convince Karl to get him in touch with the guild to no avail. At last escorted from the inn, despite Kaven’s apology, the party returned to the dark streets of Haré. Behind them, they caught a glimpse of Karl pour himself an ale with one unsteady hand.

“Welp. That could have gone better.” With a sniff of disapproval, Syl produced a gleaming bead of crystal and muttered a few words. A tiny wooden cabin popped into existence just outside the inn. “Shall we rest?” He led the others inside to a cozy, small interior.

“You were asking the wrong questions,” Kaven growled, dragging a drunken Igneel in with Foradjinn. Any further conversation was interrupted by a pounding on the door.

Opening it revealed another man, as tall as Tomas but with raggedy brown hair and in plain clothes. His breath stank of drink and his manner of belligerence. “Whadderya doin’ here?” he bellowed.

Through his extended, rambling rant, the party learned this drunk was named Colin and he was the nephew of Sharil, the deceased sawmill owner. “You screwed it all up,” he grumbled, shaking his finger at the group. “I shoulda inherited the mill and Ferrin woulda said all I hadda do was ignore stuff and it would have been fine.” Now, Colin worked as an enforcer for Ferrin. He tried to demonstrate his skill upon Syl and failed due to the elf wizard’s arcane ward.

Despite a possibly favorable attempt to convince him to sell out Ferrin, the resentful man decided to leave and collapsed in a stupor. Foradjinn dragged him off the road and out of the road. Then the party slept.

As the dawnlight beamed through the stained glass of Helm’s Temple, Alston Tumbelly was awakened by a shuffling, then a gasp, then a splash of water upon his face.

YOU HAVE NERVE, ALSTON TUMBELLY!”

Scrambling fully awake, Alston was aghast to find a furious Allie Hollysharp before him. Memories of an evening out, a sly offering of one drink too many, and a theft of a wedding dress from her shop surged to the fore. As she continued to shout abuse and throw the contents of a cold brazier at him, he attempted to explain himself. Dodging between the pews until at last she fell short of breath, Alston produced a gold bracelet and handed it to her, filling the opportune silence with explanations upon apologies.

To no avail. “That’s quite the tale, Alston Tumbelly. My mother warned me about men like you. While your friends are welcome in my store, you are not.” And she flounced away.

Yenen appeared with a sympathetic smile. Further conversation with him revealed Kiethri slept later than normal those days due to her tree ordeal. Also, the weird happenings at the sawmill included some engravings upon trees in the area.

Also, Sir Targen was absent from the town. A meeting of provincial governors was taking place in Port Cecil to discuss the dragons and Captain Moros was ruling in his stead.

Alston left the temple and rejoined the others, discovering the curious hut Syl had conjured for the evening previous. Following exposition by all parts of the group, Syl exited the hut, intent upon starting the day.

This caused his hut to dispell and dumped a certain half-elf bard and elf monk out of their bunks for a rude awakening.

Fortunately for Foradjinn, the shock solidified the laborious lessons and frantic studying over the past week attempting to learn Syl’s sending spell. He immediately put it to use.

“Anaya! This is the half-drowned cat. Are you all right? I’m trying to get to Port Cecil. My allies will help me to free you.”

“Foradjinn! It is so good to hear from you. I appreciate it but I don’t know I need rescuing.”

Disconcerted, Foradjinn sent back, “You’re free then?”

“I’m not free but I live a good life.”

Falling silent, Foradjinn followed the rest into the town, heading for the hall to talk to Moros.

Igneel gawked at everything around him, never having been in Haré before. He caught sight of a man striding east to west. As the man past behind a statue in the middle of the town square, the monk witnessed him turn into a bird and fly away.

“Cool.”

Inside the town hall, after greeting their old friend Wilford, the group soon met with Moros. A long discussion ensued in which they tried to convince Moros to arrest Ferrin or investigate him. The various plans suggested, however, did not meet Moros’s unflinching, law-abiding tendencies. It seemed the party hit a dead-end until someone mentioned the tunnel leading under the wall of Haré from (presumably) Ferrin’s house.

“Now, THAT,” said Moros at last, “Changes everything. Give me a day and I shall work up a plan.”

“Great!” Syl rubbed his hands together, visions of spell books within Ferrin’s stash dancing in his head. “Deputize us and we can assist you in bringing this rascal to justice.”

Moros flatly refused, a migraine from dealing with them all well underway. Before booting them out, he paused, staring hard at Kaven. “Where’d you get that armor?”

“Yondalla’s been good to me,” the halfling replied with a pious expression.

“Right.”

Their dismissal abrupt, the group exited and split up. Foradjinn headed to Kartrana’s smithy and commissioned a scimitar which incorporated one of the green dragon wyrmling fangs. He then headed, after asking around for a tailor, to an elf called Jamross. Despite the flamboyant tailor’s disdain for the heavy, cumbersome material, he reluctantly consented to making a warm cloak for the half-elf bard out of some of the owl-bear fur.

Igneel appeared and asked Jamross to fashion a fox mask for him, hoping to look more intimidating. Jamross found it a more exciting job and promised it would be so.

Then Igneel and Syl headed to Allie’s store to pick up some odds and ends. The gnome sold them most of the items requested and proceeded to stare, agog, at the bag of holding into which the elf wizard crammed it all.

Alston and Kaven returned to the temple and asked Kiethri to come along as they investigated the woods around the sawmill. She eagerly accepted, in awe of Kaven’s steed, and rode along with him, the heavenly horse easily accommodating both riders. They joined with Syl, Igneel, and Foradjinn, and proceeded to the sawmill.

In working order once again, the sawmill was a bustle of activity. Andrim, the seventeen-year-old half-elf son of Sharil, welcomed them. He could offer little more information beyond what they had already discerned from Yenen and the others. The workers only glimpsed strange things in the trees, weird shapes and shadows.

So into the woods the group traveled until reaching the first of the marks. High up on the trunk of a tree, what appeared to be a silver “X” joined to the top of a “Y” was embedded. Upon casting Detect Magic, Syl identified the school used as that of Necromancy. His pixie dispelled the magic of the mark; the silver faded, leaving only the indentation in the bark. Farther on, they discovered a second rune, the same as the first but on its side. Aside from the runes, scratches marred the bark six feet up on a few of the trees.

Triangulating, Igneel discovered the center of the runes and also the greatest number of clawmarks as well. Taking out the scythe, Kaven used it to commune with nature. In doing so, a vision came to him, one of wavering, shambling shapes scratching at the trees in the night. His vision followed them away to the east to a vine-covered stone edifice. The reek of death emanated from within the shadowed entrance.

Before he could see more, Kaven snapped out of the vision, interrupted by a humming “wooor” sound. Heading off to investigate, Foradjinn turned too late to deflect an attack from a hulking tree creature who materialized out of a tree next to him. Thankfully, Syl projected his Arcane Ward to soften the surprise attack.

Two more tree creatures wielding clubs and shields joined the fray, demonstrating they could transport from tree to tree to great effect. After a tough scuffle, Kiethri landed the finishing blow upon the final foe.

In the aftermath, Alston studied the bodies and identified the creatures as Wood Woads, creatures born of a blood sacrifice. The sacrificed one would live on in the Wood Woad, protecting a place for years afterwards.

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Fall of Merlin and the Return to Hare

“What do you call yourselves?”
Attunia made a face at her “cousin’s” question. “The ‘Pentatomaids.’ It’s a long name so I call us the Penta.” She continued to tell Syl the Pentatomaids were an extension of the Thieves Guild in Port Cecil. That guild was run by the Dartan family, headed by “a fat guy named Ignasio.”
The suggestion spell still holding, Attunia led them on toward the camp, despite repeated demands and answered refusals between her and Foradjinn for the return of her bow.
Within sight of a clearing, Syl sent out his blink dogs to reconnoiter. Furious barking met their ears soon after and they approached to see a comical sight. In addition to Syl’s summoned beasts, unknown fae hounds danced and chased one another, growling and snapping. Above the rest, a deep booming bark shook the surrounding trees. Attunia clapped her hands to her ears. “Merlin’s dog,” she shouted. “It’s an invisible dog only he can control.”
Another bark and Attunia shivered, eyes clearing. She broke away and dove into a nearby tent, yelling, “MERLIN!”
A scarlet rock-like thing launched from the woods and smashed into the campfire at the center of the clearing. From the ashes and embers rose a blocky figure of flesh and sod which roared and charged the intruders. Advancing, Alston felt something invisible lash out and bite at him but Syl’s Arcane Ward projected out to intervene. The gnome rogue followed Attunia into the tent and dealt the archer a deathblow as she turned to rejoin the fight, another bow in her hands.
The blocky giant, which turned out to be an earth elemental, wreaked havoc among the group as Syl showered the general area with fireballs. Merlin advanced from the edge of the clearing, a hooded, black robed figure who cackled, “The game is afoot!” Breeze blowing and coalescing into a shard of ice which flew toward Syl.
“If the game is afoot, does that mean it smells like you?”
Thrown off by the bard’s insult, the wizard lost control of his earth elemental and set a plague of insects upon the area. Alston looted Attunia’s corpse while Syl distracted the elemental with phantasmal force. Racing back outside, the gnome shot an arrow of entanglement at Merlin.
Meanwhile, Kaven and Cleo, his celestial steed, attempted to keep Merlin’s blink dogs busy with varied success.
Restrained by slithering vines, the wizard fell to the ground. Foradjinn strode over, placing his blade at his neck in an attempt to intimidate. Unsettled but undeterred, Merlin cast a fire orb and teleported away. The uncontrolled earth elemental broke free of the phantasmal force and searched for a fresh target; Merlin froze, having teleported close by but hoping to remain out of sight-
-until a certain maverick gnome cast minor illusion. A loud voice issued from thin air near Merlin, “Hey, look at me!”
The wizard could only squeak in terror as the elemental slowly turned and raised both fists high, then brought them down with punishing force. While the monster triumphed over its jellified foe, Syl advanced from behind to cast ray of frost upon it. Frozen in place, it could do nothing more than swing its massive fists out of reach of the group.
That and fell a few trees on various members of the group standing in line with ones close enough for it to strike. But at last, thanks to a combination of moonbeam and a divine smite from Kaven, it crumbled into dirt once more.
Syl proceeded to tear the camp apart in search of Merlin’s spellbook but only managed to salvage one page from a mostly-burned and blood-spattered volume. The rest of the loot yielded a scarlet gem, an invulnerability potion, and a pair of pelts – one of a bear, the other, curiously, of a winter wolf.
In the interim, Alston attuned to his plundered boots of speed and sprinted around and around the decimated camp.
As late afternoon turned towards early evening, the band traveled back to the road and soon the lights and walls of Haré rose before them. Passing through the northern gate, they spotted a familiar face: Ravenna, the elfish stablemaster. Though understandably chilly toward Syl and Foradjinn for their perceived untrustworthiness concerning the previous loan of her horse, she oohed and aahed over Kaven’s celestial steed.
Then, Alston headed to the temple while the rest proceeded to the Blue Horse Tavern.
Foradjinn wasted no time in finding Kartrana, ordering her another drink and silently extending his arm for a rematch with a grin. Due to her inebriated state, he managed to pull off a win. Still, she held no ill will and was soon enthralled by his tales and new tooth collection. As agreed, she returned his panther tooth for a kobold fang.
Meanwhile, Karl asked Igneel what he would like.
“Surprise me,” the elf monk shrugged.
“I like this one!” the barman laughed. “Where did you find him?”
“A hole in the ground,” Syl muttered.
Kaven chowed down on dinner, oblivious to the stir his armor caused among the patrons.
Kartrana mentioned there was a new owner of the sawmill and that she had done work there to sharpen tools, hearkening back to their last visit. She listened as Foradjinn described another sword he wanted made and invited him to the forge upon the morrow.
Syl talked to the bard playing and found him not to be Zanror.
Stealthing to the temple, Alston entered the dimly-lit sanctuary and sat upon a bench. Before long, a quavering voice echoed through the room, “Who’s there?”
Yennin appeared. “Alston! You’ve returned.”
“I wanted to seek your advice; much has happened since I’ve been gone.” Alston informed him of the fire gnome colony and of meeting Azerda.
Yennin listened with sympathy. “Promises to a god are not to be taken lightly, my son,” he agreed. He identified the religious library in Taiji as a place to find further information on Nagas and his quest for Azerda.
“What has been going on around here?” Alston asked after a moment of silence.
With aid from Danaser, a follower of Melikki from Taiji, they had cleansed the evil tree. However, strange creatures roamed the woods around the sawmill. Andrim had asked Yennin to walk with him some evenings to ascertain their identity but the old cleric had been unable thus far. Targen had received a courier from Port Cecil and a certain sneaky halfling still brooded in the shadows.
Silent for a bit longer, Alston cleared his throat. “And Kiethri?”
“She seems all right.” Patting Alston’s shoulder, the keeper of the temple of Helm arose.
“Is it all right if I stay here?”
With an understanding smile, Yennin nodded and left the sanctuary, leaving the gnome to think along among the flickering candles.

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Running away to join the pig farm
And another shopping spree in Lylillen

The runaway
As the group neared Grimhollow cave, fondly passing locations where they brutally massacred patrolling hobgoblins earlier in the story, they began to hear the sound of someone singing. A pair of small shoes drying by the water’s edge provided further evidence that someone new had taken up residence in the old cave. Foradjinn dried the shoes, and, while carrying them toward the cave entrance, enthusiastically added his voice to the song. Immediately after the bard began to sing, the other voice stopped. The face of a young boy peeked cautiously out of the cave towards the group, and after some coaxing the child approached the group.

The lad introduced himself as Kyrie, an orphan who was informally adopted by a famous traveling performer Zanmar. Kyrie had enjoyed his life under the tutelage of the famed bard for some time, but it seemed Zanmar had begun to train Kyrie to steal from his enthralled audiences. “I knew it wasn’t right, and so i ran away” Kyrie nobly declared. The adventurers, were less comfortable with a 12 year old child living alone in an abandoned dragon lair. A quick inspection revealed that no fierce beasts had moved in (although something appeared to be whittling away at the dragon corpse in the back), nevertheless, a quick sending spell revealed that Xander of Drift Valley was open to having the boy join him and Caleb (another orphan we met on our first trip to Lylillen) on the farm. Even Kyrie saw the advantages of the proposal that he move to Drift Valley and so it was agreed that the young boy would join the adventurers to Lylillen and make for Drift Valley afterward.

While Igneel showed off his exceptional rabbit catching skills, Syl directed his unseen servant to clean up the cave. Alston indicated some distrust of the boy, who himself acknowledged he was a thief, so, as they settled in for the night, Syl cast alarm around where Kyrie slept.

Indeed late at night the young boy roused himself and began to silently move among the group. Syl watched for a moment then, using minor illusion to project his voice directly behind the poor child, asked what he was up to. A loud yelp escaped from the unsuspecting kid. Fortunately that was all that escaped at the surprise, as it turned out Kyrie was merely heading off to relieve himself.

The travelers roused themselves from sleep (except Syl who was spending his time waiting for the others practicing Sylvan with his Sprite Sisal) had a quick breakfast and set out at a leisurely pace for Lylillen with a lengthy shopping list.

Shopping in Lylillen
Alston retrieved his new rapiers from Thanen, and they were spectacular indeed. Well honed and perfectly balanced for the gnome it was clear the elven smith had great skill. A few test swings had our sneaky friends eyes sparkling with excitement at the two beautiful instruments of death he now held. Next on his list was the dagger Titan had agreed to enchant. There was no answer at the tinkerer’s door however. Crius confirmed that his brother had left for the mages college, but knew nothing about the dagger. He invited the gnome to accompany him to the abandoned house, and after unlocking the door permitted Alston to search the place in the event it was left behind. Determined not to leave without his prize, he searched high and low before finding the weapon left behind with no note (almost as an after thought as the scatterbrained enchanter was leaving). With the promise of bringing flaming death to his enemies the gnome next proceeded to guess at the activation key word. His efforts paid off as he eventually learned the phrase needed to ignite the dagger in a bright burning flame.

Kavendathis also paid a visit to Thanen. The brave paladin, dedicated to protecting others, had commissioned some scale mail be made from the scales of the green dragon they had slain. Defense was his goal, but he got much more. With great pride the smith retrieved a carefully wrapped package. The whole time chatting in excitement about the opportunity to work with such unique materials, Thanen revealed a resplendent suit of dark green armor. The scales, the near giddy elf informed Kaven, were amazing to work with, and exhibited unusual reactions during the creation of the armor. It was discovered that apart from allowing the wearer to move more smoothly and look absolutely smashing, the scales also provide a measure of protection from poison.

Syl immediately headed to Omalen’s place and spent most of the next two days there learning new spells. Omalen being the most formal magic teacher the young elf has had made Syl practically beam with pride at the older wizard’s praise of his ingenuity with the sending spell. Undeterred by electrical shocks and a certain majestic paladin showing off his own magical prowess, Syl studied and practiced with such focus and intensity he was quickly able to master several new arcane formulas.

Igneel, impressed by Thanen’s other works, inquired if the talented blacksmith had anything that might benefit a monk.
“Well, what kind of armor do you wear?” Thanen asked, the reply of “none” came as quite a shock, but not more so than the realization that the younger wood elf more often than not didn’t use a weapon either, preferring his fists instead. “You mean you go into battle unarmored and punch people?, How am i supposed to help you with that!?”

Eventually Igneel produced his unintentionally ostentatious “throwing discs”, and asked if there was a way to improve their effectiveness. “Throwing discs? Aren’t these just gold coi…nevermind. Sure, let’s see what we can do”. With a picture of a throwing star Igneel had from his monastery, Thanen was able to produce several of the deadly weapons…at a one for one exchange for the oblivious monk’s “throwing discs”.

There was a foot race, some bacon, and Foradjinn almost exchanged a sizable sapphire for some basic jewelry making information (fortunately Milana is not nearly so cantankerous as her husband and tried to help the unassuming bard understand the rock’s value and beauty). Foradjinn (intrigued during his earlier arcane studies with Syl) asked Omalen where he might learn more about his magical abilities and was directed to an Arcanist in Port Cecil named Aspar.

Haré via Drift Valley
Eventually it was time to leave Lylillen again, it was decided that the group would accompany Kyrie to Drift Valley and swing by Haré afterward for some unfinished business with the local crime lord, before heading to Port Cecil The journey to the farm was uneventful, prior to their arrival at the farmhouse Syl suggested that Kyrie answer any question posed to him truthfully. Content with his answers they introduced him to Xander. As it turns out the co-owner (and Xander’s brother) Geoffry was uncharacteristically late returning from the solstice festival in Port Cecil. The group agreed to inquire after him as they were already planning on visiting the Capital. Geoffry usually stayed at the Gleaming Star or Laughing Rose inns.

While on the road to Haré the following morning the group discussed their plans for dealing with Ferrin. Alston pretty openly suggested killing him as his preferred option. With thoughts of assassination on their mind the group spied a tipped wagon. Upon drawing closer a woman called out for help. This sounds like an ambush Foradjinn said moving off the road into the trees and casting invisibility on himself. Igneel followed, and Syl (who typically relied on the survival skills of the two travelers) was right behind.

Kaven, upon his magnificent pony Cleo, and Alston along side continued on the direct approach down the road calling out to see if the woman was injured. Sure enough as they drew near the wagon a heavily armored half-orc appeared from behind some boulders on the opposite side of the road from Foradjinn, Igneel, and Sylarise. “They look like they should be able to pay well” boomed the blackguard. Not about to suffer the presence of one who clearly extorts money from innocent travelers Kaven didn’t need a second thought and charged.

With an impressive display of skill Cleo knocked the challenger on his back with a powerful kick of her hooves and Kaven took advantage of the situation by stabbing his supine foe with a javelin. Alston followed the initial charge with his typical deadly precision and scored a solid hit. The half-orc was much tougher than anticipated and proceeded to stand up and begin his own assault. Additionally a halfling who had remained hidden suddenly appeared and with his own deadly skill retaliated against Alston. As Kaven and the half-orc faced off, Syl sent his hounds to aid Alston who was having a difficult time matching blows with the opposing rouge. Despite his opponent’s superior damage output, Alston was kept conscious by Syl who was able to heal him from a safe distance with the help of Sai.

Igneel, with his usual speed and dexterity, charged the woman who had begun firing arrows at the group. A swift palm strike to the chest left the archer stunned and with impressive agility the monk leaped over the fallen wagon to join the fight with Kaven. Foradjinn moved in and pressed his sword to the neck of the incapacitated archer and tried to get her to stand down. Although their enemies considered fleeing the fight both the blackguard and the halfing rogue were cut down before they could escape.

Stepping out of the tree line for the first time in the fight Syl cast suggestion on the archer “Cousin, it is good to see you. Why don’t we visit and you can give us a tour of the area”. The magic befuddling her mind, Atunia brushed Foradjinn off of her and greeted our wizard with a warm smile and an affectionate hug.

The bandits worked for a boss out of Port Cecil “acquiring” magical items. Indeed the haul was spectacular. In addition to some gold Alston retrieved boots of speed from the fallen halfling. Atunia informed us that they double the wearers speed. From the fallen blackguard Kaven received some platinum currency and a ring of evasion, allowing him to auto-succeed on three dexterity saves each day. Foradjinn retrieved the archers bow (which had fallen during the battle) and Atunia informed him that it occasionally (on a crit) seemed to deal truly exceptional damage to foes.

The group headed towards Atunia’s camp (as she was getting disheartened at the sight of her dead comrades, but didn’t want to burden her “cousin” with such things). On the way to the camp however, the group learned that Atunia had a wizard friend still in the area…

View
Down the Dark Tunnel and Away from Alverston

Making haste to the room with the dark curtain, the gnome and elf passed through the arch, noting the passage was carved out with pickaxes. Pools of water dotted the area. Beyond the arch was a long bridge curving up and over a chasm. Despite their true sight, neither could see the bottom.
About to press forward, Syl froze as the sound of whispered draconic met his ears. “Do you think its okay to come out?” The quiet voice issued from farther up the tunnel back towards the monastery. Not wanting to be flanked, Foradjinn, Kavendethas, and Igneel returned to the main tunnel to lie in wait and see who would come.
Syl and Alston proceeded to the edge of the bridge. High above them, as the walls curved upward to meet the tall ceiling, they saw two manta-ray type creatures, flying in a slow figure-eight pattern.
Step by step, Syl and Alston crossed the bridge without alerting them and went down another tunnel
* * *
The whispers back at the entrance grew louder and bolder. “We have the shark. We can find the rest.”
Figuring they were kobolds, Foradjinn, Igneel, and Kaven continued to lay in wait. Sure enough, two small lizard-like figures approached. Oblivious, they squealed in utter terror as Igneel struck from the shadows. He missed and both turn to scuttle back the way they had come. Foradjinn tossed his shield to trip one up while Kaven tackled the other. The half-elf placed the sword at the throat of the one he tripped. “So,” he said, “Where do you come from? And stop wiggling or I’ll hamstring you.”
Through an extensive interrogation, the kobold revealed the rest of his troop had originally gone to meet their master but were now hiding. They hailed from the Angvar Forest and attacked the monastery under orders from their master. Though reluctant to speak his master’s name, the kobold identified the black dragon as Kyrim. As for the dragonborn who rode the wyvern, he met the tribe and Kyrim a fortnight ago.
At this point, the second kobold escaped. Kaven rose from where he had kept one knee on the creature’s back and pinned it to the cave wall with a javelin.
“Where were you supposed to meet when you were done attacking the monastery?” Foradjinn growled at the remaining prisoner.
With a pitiful whine of fear, the kobold said, “A few days northeast in the forest.”
His interrogation over, Foradjinn took a spear from the bag of holding and replaced Kaven’s javelin in the pinned kobold, hoping to provide a warning to the rest.
* * *
Beyond the bridge, meanwhile, Alston and Syl entered a wider tunnel. A stalagmite wall blocked their way. At the bottom of the wall, an undulating blob of black ooze puddled back and forth. Recognizing it, the two entered a brief argument over who would attack first. Syl reminded his rogue friend he was running low on spells.
At the cost of his rapiers and armor, Alston landed the finishing blow to defeat the Black Pudding. Curiosity unsated even by this time, he and Syl scaled the wall. The elf wizard first made sure to shoot all around the area, remembering the giant roper they fought in Old Haré.
* * *
Igneel snuck to the edge of the bridge. But even his darkvision could not show him the creatures above, nor any sign of his companions. Returning, he reported back to Foradjinn, who was borrowing Kaven’s rope to tie up the remaining Kobold. “Do you think they fell from the bridge?” the monk asked.
“No.” Straightening, Foradjinn wiped his brow. “We would have heard Syl scream.”
* * *
On the other side, the elf and gnome in question walked on until they reached a wall of water flowing sideways. Syl poked it with his quarterstaff and Alston touched it with his hand – both got wet. Alston stuck his head into it and found his true vision disappear.
Not keen on the dispelling effects of the water, they decided to call it a day and return the way they came. After a minor delay at the stalagmite wall, the bridge spanned before them again. Above, the creatures continued their patrol. Careful step by careful step, Syl and Alston headed across the bridge. Smack dab in the middle, eyes glued upon the creatures above, Syl felt a bit of the bridge give way. With an involuntary yelp, he cast expeditious retreat upon himself and dashed to the other side of the bridge, Alston in tow. The creatures dove down upon them, just as both dove into the tunnel. A high-pitched moan echoed throughout the room and into the cavern, sending aching chills down Foradjinn’s back. He shrank from the battle, letting the rest charge forward.
Unable to enter the tunnel due to the size, the two beasts flapped and shimmered, appearing to morph into four.
Syl split the darkness with the wand of fireballs, Kaven called upon Yondalla to rain down a moonbeam, and arrows soon dropped the creatures to the depths of the bridge room.
Turning a glare upon the captured kobold, Syl demanded an explanation. After exchanging stories, they made preparations toward leaving. Foradjinn began to sling the bound kobold to his shoulder but Alston advanced, the gleam in his eyes matching the gleam of his rapiers. The bard lashed out to counter the first strike but the second found a place through the heart of the prisoner.
“You owe me one live kobold, gnome,” Foradjinn snarled and stomped away, dropping the carcass in irritation.
An hour later, they reached the exit and sunlight stabbed at their eyes. The exit opened onto a ledge one thousand feet from the bottom of Mount Alverston. To the east, forest stretched into plains, valleys, and hills of golden brown. Beyond, the sun gleamed off the shimmering sea, captivating an astounded Foradjinn.
Down to the right, the gold faded into grey, a deadness and bleakness miles beyond. They could just make out a clearing with rocks in the middle. To the northwest, a heavily wooded area with a body of water gave way into larger hills, then two smaller peaks. Beyond them, a dark forest painted the horizon.
Deciding to return to Lylilen, the group headed westwards, intending to go around the mountain again. Foradjinn and Igneel headed out to hunt.
“Before you go,” Syl waved at Foradjinn. “May I borrow the wood carving of Anaya?”
Foradjinn tossed it to him and headed out.
Settling down, Syl gazed at the carving, running over in his head all that Foradjinn had told him of his lost friend, sorting all the tales, the descriptions, the ideas, focusing, focusing, focusing, and then cast sending.
“Greetings, Anaya! I am Sylarese Llervu, Duke-Anticipant of the Temple District of Asher-Dan, friend of Foradjinn. He said mention a drowned cat. Where are you?”
Silence greeted him for a second. Two seconds. Ten seconds.
Then, “Hello, Sylarese. I’m glad to hear of the cat. I am in Port Cecil. I’d like to see Foradjinn. Would you tell him for me?”
Needless to say, Foradjinn, upon his return, nearly launched a freshly hunted dead mountain sheep halfway across the foothills in his jubilation. “I must go to her.” He drummed his fingers on his swordhilt, straining his eyes to the distance as if he might see the capital city appear.
Over the course of more sending spells, Anaya revealed she was indeed safe, but not her own. She lived in the bank district on Riffin street. She was enslaved to one called Aeroth. Syl assured her they were coming. “Do not lose hope.”
The party agreed to accompany Foradjinn to Port Cecil at the earliest opportunity, much to the bard’s surprise and gratitude.
Over the course of a few days, they curved round the mountain, passing through the spur where Kaven slid down on his shield. Then, on and on until they reached Grimhollow cave.

View
A Colony Under Siege and the Trespass Upon Azerda

As the monks continued to clean up and take care of their dead and wounded, the group continued to plan their trip down through the mountain. “Through the caves, there is a passage up left which leads to a tribe of eagle people,” said Hirakis. Further along from that passage, he continued, was a basilisk’s dwelling. “The last time when passed through, it was asleep, thankfully.”

The next opening downward was dangerous. All Hirakis would say was they lost a monk within. “Lost?” Sylarese asked. “As in he got lost or he died?”

“He did not return and we are pretty certain he is no more.” And Hirakis would speak no more, moving on in his directions. “Our usual exit is further on. We pass through creatures who like to eat metal weapons. We ourselves don’t have a problem, but…” the dragonborn’s eyes flickered to the three artifacts of Sianodel, “You might find the going difficult.” It was the shortest distance to the base of the mountain.

Farther along, the longer, safer path wound past a colony of Fire Miners. “They are relatives to gnomes,” Hirakis explained. Volcanic activity, intense heat, and bright light would signify their presence easily for any passersby.

With that, the party thanked him and headed out, following the map and Kobold tracks. A new, unidentified opening appeared as they proceeded, turning into a tunnel which crossed and intersected the main tunnel at several junctures. Passing without incident through the basilisk lair, the party ducked between statues and discovered faint scrapes on the top and bottom portions of the new tunnel. It had been dug in a different manner than the main one.

As they reached a portion of the tunnel where the slope inclined at a greater angle, Syl spotted a darker shadow amongst those on the ceiling. The canny elf let off a ray of frost and the group soon found themselves battling a gelatinous creature of goo and acid. Alston landed the killing blow with an arrow, and despite burning his hand Foradjinn managed to get a flask of the putrescent glob for further study.

Coming to the dangerous tunnel where the monk had been lost, Syl paused. Curiosity getting the best of him, the elf sent his Pixie into the cavern. Passing through an arch, the fey creature discovered the cavern increased in size and what light could be projected in did not reflect in a curtain of darkness. The curtain roiled out and snapped at the Pixie.

Syl felt its life vanish. The party decided discretion the better part of valor and continued on their way.

Thirty minutes later, they eschewed the tunnel leading to the metal-eating creatures, finding the kobold tracks led toward the lower entrance instead of that way. Soon, they all arrived at another branching tunnel. Whereas the stonework was rough-hewn on the tunnel walls before, this new tunnel was well crafted and carved. Impeccable craftsmanship and ornate, it could only be the way to the Fire Gnomes.

The sight of a dead Fire Gnome farther in the tunnel gave evidence to the conjecture. Clad in half-plate armor with a spear at its side, the corpse had been pierced in the back by long round wounds, bigger than any tooth or blade. Also, the body still burned with internal heat.

Desiring to investigate, they snuck into the colony. More ornate stonework led to a cavern with four tunnels. Syl took a moment to cast alarm as a ritual.

Alston headed down to the left, curving around until he arrived at an alcove with a dead gnome inside. Across from the alcove was a large stone door at the end of a hall. Knocking on it, he called out. A soft moan came in reply.

Foradjinn took the right tunnel which also curved around to an alcove with a dead gnome. He examined the spear and found it dulled from a violent strike against something quite hard. Passing through the door at the end of the hall, he found a barracks. Some of the beds were still made.

Kavendethas took the tunnel to the left of Foradjinn’s. Through a stone door, he found a large room with a new working of stone upon the walls inside. Benches surrounded four large pool fountains and at the top of the walls were three lines with two inch gaps.

Igneel walked into the center tunnel, entering a square, grand room. A raised stone platform towered ten feet above him. A faint shuffling sounded from across the room. Throwing a coin over there, he heard it grow in volume until a massive hooded cobra creature materialized out of the shadows.

Taking flight, the monk ran past Kaven who had heard the coin fall. “Get in here!” the halfling bellowed to the others. His voice echoed throughout the tunnels, snapping Syl out of his spell. The rest of the group returned and snapped to the attack. The cobra creature reared up, revealing a crimson insignia upon its belly. Its eyes glowed with a sudden flare and lightning lanced from its mouth. The bolt pierced through Kaven, Igneel, and Foradjinn, sending the bard unconscious.

Syl tended to him while Kaven called upon Yondalla to guide his javelin, Alston slashed with his rapiers, and Igneel turned back to land the finishing blow.

While Foradjinn struggled to extract a tooth or two, Alston and Syl returned to the door Alston could not open before. Inside, they discovered a wounded but alive fire gnome. Syl cast cure wounds through Sai, but upon contact, the familiar dissipated in a puff of smoke from the burning skin.

“Is it safe?” groaned the fire gnome in broken common.

“Is what safe?” Alston replied in gnomish.

“The…” struggling to find the right word, the gnome arose, “The vision stone? Safe?” Frustrated with the stilted communication, he beckoned, “Come!” He led them back into the room where they fought the snake creature and ascended the platform. At the top was a flat table with tiles set in cobalt blue. Pressing the bottom left tile revealed plinth, rising through the table and holding a fiery red stone.

Faint with relief, the fire gnome relaxed. “I know not how many the naga took but at least this is safe.” Further conversation between him and Syl and Alston revealed the vision stone was used by the colony to commune with their god, Azerda.

“Can I touch it?”

The fire gnome stared at the elf wizard, expression changing from disbelief to contemplation to worry. “I am not sure,” he sat at last with a reluctant tone of voice. “It will burn you-”

The elf wizard reached out; the fire gnome reached out at the same time as Alston, both shouting in alarm, but Syl’s hand touched the orb.

The room warped around him, wrenching his mind and taking his field of vision warping up the mountain and to the south. Badlands flashed by, a major road, more badlands, then through a dark-colored mountain range and down into the depths of another mountain into a sea of magma. In the middle, Syl stood upon an obsidian island. A booming voice echoed around him. “Who are you?”

Upon his customary greeting with accompanying flourishes, the voice replied, “I do not know you.” Syl’s mind retraced the journey and he opened his eyes underneath Mount Alverston once again. Around him, the grey of his vision snapped into vivid color, the aftereffects of the orb manifesting in temporary true sight upon him.

“What did you see?”

Syl described his experience and the fire gnome’s face fell. “Azerda,” he murmured. “We must see who else is alive.” His complexion had turned pasty. Turning, he headed down the hall opposite the plinth. Alston and Syl followed.

Deeper and deeper into the colony they traveled, the air turning hotter and hotter. Down stone steps, a new cavern opened before them. Pools of magma dotted the cave and a wavering figure approached. The fire gnome spoke to it in a low tone, motioning toward the gnome and elf.

The wavering figure materialized into a solid shape, dropping his invisibility and revealing himself to be another fire gnome with a burning goatee. Face grave, he nodded to Syl. “What did you see?”

Syl repeated his description.

Narrowing his eyes, the goatee’d gnome nodded. “We thank you for your assistance in killing the naga. Now, please leave.”

Pressing for further explanation, the fire gnome explained all the tribes of the fire gnomes possessed a vision stone. The nagas must have been interested in its magic and desired it for itself. “I do not know what Azerda will do because of this.”

Obeying the request, the duo returned the way they had come. In the room with the plinth, Foradjinn, Igneel, and Kaven were still attempting to pry the fangs out of the corpse. They ignored Alston as he ascended to the tile and revealed the fire orb once more. Before Syl could stop him, the gnome placed his full palm upon the vision stone.

Like Syl before him, Alston warped across the mountains and badlands until he stood upon the obsidian amidst the magma. With the voice booming around him, demanding to know who he was, Alston apologized. “My name is Alston Tumbelly. I am sorry for my friend. Is there anything we can do for you to apologize and not let consequences fall upon this tribe?”

Silence met his request, then, “You can indeed do something for me, Tumbelly.” The naga would resurrect and such was their nature; this could only be undone by deep magic. Were Alston and his group to find the source of the naga and stamp them out, then the tribe would be safe. “Seek out the wisest mages in your land.”

Alston returned to himself, wound his now-burned hand in a bandage, and turned his true sight upon the rest. “Let’s go see what was in that mysterious room before this wears off!”

View
Defense of the Monastery
Also starring, Eldunar and the Dinner of Backstories

As the day turned toward late afternoon-early evening, Kaven wandered off to find out more information regarding the hags of Old Haré. He approached the training ground where a dozen or so dragonborns punched and sliced the air under the beady eyes of a golden-scaled instructor named Fronar.

The curious Fronar approached and listened raptly to their tale of travel. Guests were uncommon and word had spread of their presence. After an offer of a future spar, he then turned to their inquiries. “The hags? They’ve been on the mountain before. They used to live on the southern face but something moved them out into the ruins.”

“Do you have any tips on how to defeat them?” asked Kaven, passing a hand over his javelins.

“They avoid conflict if at all possible.” Fronar’s eyes narrowed. “But their magic inspires terror, their claws are sharp, and their bodyguards are monstrous.” Upon hearing of Foradjinn’s deal, he sighed. “Best not to leave that undone or unrendered. Their deals invoke the laws of the Fey and of the Feywild, an off-kilter, twisted place kept straight by deals of all sorts. To renege, well…it would invite calamity.”

Syl, in the meantime, headed to the library. An addition to the temple, it was graced by a gleaming platinum carving set into the brickwork on the northern side. Within, barrels upon barrels, bookshelves upon bookshelves, stuffed with scrolls and a few books. A bemused bronze dragonborn named Saris met the excited elf wizard. “Our order follows the Way of the Four Elements,” he explained. “The arcane is unexpected and rare here.”

Upon Syl’s request, he brought a blue leather tome concerning the first dragon incursion, or the Scaled Advent as the author dubbed it.

Long ago, three orbs of dragonkind came into being. Two were intended to call the chromatic dragons to trap them; one would call the metallics to aid the bearer.

Master Belgarath the Severe, a wizard of that time, discovered one of the chromatic orbs. Over time and study of the relic, he grew in dominion over the younger dragons, could speak and command the attention of the adult dragons, but did not reach a point of controlling the ancient chromatics. From a tower near the city of Crestin, Belgarath sent his raiding armies out among the lands until the seven major cities formed a council to deal with his reign of destruction.

The council learned they needed to retrieve the orb of metallic dragonkind from the frozen northlands to combat the threat. From each city, they chose one hero to send with the others to do so. Their names follow:

From Vel Thoram, Kamal the male dwarf
From Asher Dan, Adrin Sianodel the male elf
From Telfore, Xavvoril the Half Elf female
From Port Cecil, Reuban Drivoro, the male human
From Artesia, Alesia Morel, the halfing female
From Throkari, Medrash Norexis, the male dragonborn
From Taiji, Chih Siao, the female gnome.

To these adventurers, when they discovered the orb, Xekram the platinum dragon gifted each with special boons. Adrin’s was different, receiving the knowledge to craft wondrous items, including the three weapons the group now held. The other six received the “Eldunar.” Each was a special glowing stone which would grant the wielder the boon.

As for the three weapons Adrin forged, placed in a pattern around a patch of Nepenthes sap, they would perform a powerful scrying spell to point Belgarath’s and the orb’s location. The seven heroes performed this ritual and eventually defeated Belgarath the Stern, scattering his armies and destroying his orb of chromatic dragonkind. The second orb of chromatic dragonkind was never found.

His research complete for the moment, Syl cast detect magic on a hunch much to the nervous reaction of Sacris. With a friendly reassurance, the elf wizard completed his ritual and discovered Sacris wielded a magical quill, one which kept his arm steady and unweary. The librarian’s mentor passed it on to him and was also the writer of the book Syl read.

Syl then requested books on beasts and creatures of the land. Sakris obliged, though there was no compilation on hand. Several dozen books contained one or two references apiece of monks of the order encountering monsters on their travels.

“Their travels to recruit apprentices?” Syl asked.

Sacris nodded.

“Do you know of a dragonborn named Marmon?” the elf remembered Karteen the Alchemist’s childhood friend.

“He was one of the last generation, yes.” Sacris’s eyes tightened behind his spectacles. “He did not pass the trials.” With a little persuasion, the librarian revealed the trials did indeed test physical prowess, but the characteristic which would ensure acceptance is compassion. “We can teach our hopefuls the Way of the Four Elements but if they lack compassion, then they will never train among us.”

During this time, Alston was exploring the compound. The gardens were beautiful, the buildings well-kept. He determined the steady growth of skill and time invested in the monastery had brought the rich decor and beauty to the fore everywhere he went. A sense of refinement, untouched by the hustle and bustle of normal village or city, pervaded the place, once again brought on by the constant hard effort by its keepers. Passing the temple, he glanced inside as a dragonborn exited. His brief glimpse showed him a candle-lit interior, the light refracting from a silver object on a pedestal in the center.

Twilight blossomed in the sky and a distant gong called all to dinner. In the hall, the group reconvened and exchanged information. “What next?” seemed to be the prevalent question among them. A return to Lylillen to retrieve Kaven’s armor and Alston’s blades seemed to be in order, then back to Haré to report to Sir Targen and deal with Ferrin.

Over the course of dinner with a little prompting, Alston revealed more of his own backstory. His mother died when he was young and the gnome was raised by his father, though the latter favored his two younger sisters. At one point, his sisters died as well, driving his father further into grief. Obsessing over finding a way to bring them back, he then sold his son to a thieves guild. Through Alston’s contacts and his research, they discovered a gold tablet that would resurrect the three. But during the course of a ritual, the tablet shattered into pieces and scattered. Furious, Alston’s father sent him out to retrieve them and to not return home until he had.

Foradjinn and Syl discussed possibly contacting Anaya with the latter’s sending spell. The half-elf bard agreed to give him more details about her to increase the elf wizard’s efforts in reaching out via the spell. Syl then used it to contact Simon’s spirit and reported the dead man was, in Simon’s words, not well, but better than he had been.

Exhausted by exposition and the journey to the monastery, the group turned in for the night.

At four in the morning, the gong resounded across the compound, a note of urgency dashing sleep away. “The temple!” bellowed voices in the distance. “Quickly!”

The group dashed from their room to see an adult black dragon land upon the gate, a wyvern and hooded rider accompanying it, and swarms of Kobolds issuing from a cavern in the side of the mountain.

Syl dashed across the square to the temple as the wyvern rider dismounted and disappeared inside. The dragonborn monks could do nothing but battle the kobolds, many of their number dead or wounded from the surprise attack. Alston, Igneel, and Kaven engaged the kobolds while Foradjinn cast moonbeam upon the waiting wyvern, hoping to cut off the hooded rider’s retreat.

Inside the temple, Syl confronted the figure who had just taken the silver relic from its place. He could see a rust-colored snout extending from the hood. The dragonborn intruder sighed and sent a tidal wave of water to sweep Syl from his feet and to the side. Ignoring the prone and sputtering elf, he exited the temple.

Dueling three kobolds apiece within the dining hall, Igneel and Alston heard a commotion behind them. A quick glance back revealed Hirakis charging to assist, Medrash following while floating off the ground.

Outside, the black dragon joined the fray, his acid breath knocking out Kaven.

Within the temple, a drenched, angry Syl leaped up and attempted to use his suggestion spell upon the wyvern. Failing that, he sent his pixie to confuse the rider as it attempted to retreat with the relic. The rider paused for a critical moment, enough for Hirakis to decimate the last wave of kobolds with a freezing cone of cold. Alston, Igneel, and Foradjinn attempted to distract the dragon but Foradjinn was beaten unconscious.

As the rider shook off the confusion, Syl cast suggestion and called up, “I’ll keep it safe; toss me what you took!”

Once again, a pause and then a silver cylinder glittered as it fell to the ground before Syl. Upon his direction, Sai the bat familiar swooped down and plucked it up, flapping frantically away. Furious now, the rider attempted to cast dominate upon Syl and failed. With a roar of frustration, he called for a retreat and flew off on his wyvern, the black dragon accompanying him.

In the aftermath, Medrash approached Syl. “Do you have it?”

Syl offered the cylinder. “It’s one of the eldunar, isn’t it?”

A weary smile crossed the ancient silver dragonborn’s face. “Yes.” The eldunar given to Medrash increased his constitution and longevity. Thus it was he had lived five times longer than any other dragonborn. Kamal had received a boon of strength. Xavvoril received wisdom. Reuban and Alesia were granted intelligence and dexterity respectively, and Chih was blessed with charisma.

The strange dragonborn, Medrash said in response to Syl’s description, was one of the last generation’s rejects named Risto. As to why he and his cronies wanted the eldunar, that was anyone’s guess. Medrash admitted the eldunar could hypothetically be used by anyone with the proper attunement, so the ownership of an artifact such as that would be reason enough to steal it.

The leader of the monastery turned to the cleaning efforts and said, “If you are heading out today, you will need to travel through there.” He pointed toward the cavern from whence the kobolds came. “On your way, could you find the origins of the kobolds?”

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Path to the Elders

At the bottom of the slide, Alston moved to wrest his wizard friend out of the web while Foradjinn wandered over to the left side of the room. Of the three exits of the room, besides the slide that delivered them, the opening there did not have a cobweb across it. Peering in, the half-elf bard spotted an ornate, untouched bag in the middle of the room, clutched by a skeleton in the middle of an isolated web.

Extending his sword, Foradjinn tried to hook it out. Alston, turning as the freed Syl cast dancing lights, grabbed it and opened it up to find it empty. Disbelieving, he reached in to discover it was bottomless. After a little arcane examination, they discovered it to be a bag of holding. Turning it inside out, they discovered a set of armor and a few weapons.

A loud commotion behind them drew their attention to a green and brown clad wood elf as he tumbled down the slide. Interrogating the intruder, they discovered his name was Igneel Reghare. From Asher Dan, though in a different circle than Syl, Igneel more recently hailed from a small monastery in the southern Saccharine Mountains. On a quest for “inner peace,” the monk had witnessed their entrance into the Four Trees and, greatly impressed, followed.

While the elves and half-elf continued in their discussion, Alston and Kaven did a little exploring, finding more webbed-over tunnels. They also encountered a steady stream of teacup-sized spiders and set to burning and stomping the repulsive horde, Alston testing out his necklace of poison immunity to great effect. Further reconnaissance led to the discovery of a massive web sack. Kaven burned off the top and retreated as the eggs inside started to hatch, their contents chasing him back down the tunnel. Syl decided to take ten minutes and summon his unseen servant. Kaven proceeded to lay about with his war hammer, Foradjinn and Igneel assisting with their slings. The latter revealed he had filed points into the edges of gold coins as a sort of shuriken and, once the last of the spiders fell before the onslaught, set about collecting his ammunition.

His ritual at last completed, Syl sent his unseen servant, Jeeves, ahead with a torch to burn webs away. They continued through the passages, through more and more web-covered tunnels, through various cavernous rooms, finding some evidence of others who had passed through. One set of skeletons belonged to an elf and a half-elf, apparently the victims of a magical trap. Alston discovered a piece of paper in a web and recognized the runes upon it as relating to the spell Mass Cure Wounds.

Further along, in another vast room, they discovered a room with a ten-foot ledge in the middle. Jeeves floated along, burning more and more webs until something whipped through the air and the torch fell to the ground, the ghostly servant dissipating. Syl shot a light arrow near where Jeeves vanished and struck something in the dark. Inside his head came the words, “Dinner that fights back…”

Attempting to follow up his arrow with a fireball, Syl found it missed. Most of the group followed Alston down the small precipice while Foradjinn readied his longbow to cover them. Before he could react, a giant spider with pale white and azure markings appeared out of nowhere and struck him down in one blow. The battle proceeded, the spider’s teleportation causing much consternation among the group as they attempted to catch up to it. Kaven called upon the light of the moon and Igneel endeared himself to Syl by accidentally pushing the elf wizard into the area of its effect. Syl managed to heal Foradjinn who took the opportunity to mock the spider. The combination of their attacks, as well as a fierce bite from Striker the Blink Dog, drove the arachnid from the cave. Alston cast the Mass Cure Wounds scroll to heal them all and they continued through the passages.

In a room bigger than the rest they had seen, they burned their way through web upon web to at last reveal a towering statue depicting a dragonborn monk. In his hand he carried a staff and a book. Upon the book was written “Way of the Body” with “Bahamut” on the back. The room appeared to be a long abandoned place of worship.

Moving on, the party came to a series of giant steps leading upwards into pale light. At the top, they found themselves in a small clearing, surrounded by a vast and tightly-knit forest. Rising up above towards the south, Mt Alverston cut a shadow into the starry sky. A path parted the trees towards it.

Choosing to rest for the night, the party made camp. Foradjinn at last figured out the powers of the old Sword of Haré. Kaven revealed his new celestial steed, courtesy of Yondalla Used Horses and Carts. He then consented to an arm-wrestling match with Igneel, while Syl at last finished enchanting an item that would give their paladin friend Darkvision.

The next morning, they all entered the mountain foothills, then the path up the side. Sheer cliffsides, rocky sections of the path, all made for a rough time going for those who did not possess a celestial Faroe Pony. Coming to a concrete balcony, they found a tall stone pillar, perfectly smooth, rising out of the stonework next to a patch of dirt about ten feet square. Sending Sai up to examine the pillar, Syl reported there was a round disc set into the stone column with a draconic “B” etched into the center. Beyond the balcony, a sixty-foot wide chasm interrupted the path, the way forward continuing across it.

Considering, Syl placed the Staff of Arbor into the dirt and summoned the oak tree. Alston and Igneel clambered up, the former falling out after a misstep while the latter pushed the button. With a rumbling, grinding noise, a stone walkway extended from under the concrete balcony to bridge the gap. They all crossed and continued up the path. An exhausting hour later, the path led them to a mass of sharp brambles with no way around. Syl extended a ginger hand and used Speak With Plants to ask how to pass through. The brambles replied, “Grow more to part the way.”

Obeying, the elf wizard and the others watched as two vibrant bramble strands rose from the earth beneath the rest. The richly colored plants formed into thick, thorny appendages that pulled the mass apart to allow them through.

The path ascended more and more; Foradjinn soon lagged behind, exhausted by the journey thus far. Soon, though, they arrived at another stone balcony. Upon it, an elevated dais held a strange sloped stone pedestal with a slot on the side and a circular hole on the top which revealed a series of angled mirrors within. Another rift divided the path with no way across. Foradjinn slid the old Sword of Haré into the slot and cast Moonbeam upon the pedestal.

Light blossomed out of the side of the cliff, forming a bright bridge across the gap. Testing it, the party found it to be solidified and crossed. The path on the other side narrowed and turned into carved stairs. Ascending, they rounded a corner and saw before them a crimson brick wall. A pair of red-painted wooden gates with gold inlay was set into the center, a brass knocker affixed on one. Alston availed himself of the heavy ring and was greeted with a resounding deep gong from within.

A bronze dragonborn, clad in a soft red robe, opened the gates. Syl greeted him in draconic. “We are travelers seeking knowledge of the dragons. May we find it here?”

“If you have come this far, yes, you will find the knowledge you seek here.” Introducing himself as Rashazar, the dragonborn invited them in. Within, opulent redwood and gold tones covered all. A plaza of stone where acolytes sparred in unison, gardens, a temple to one side – peace and tranquility reigned over the scene. On the side of one building, a dragon figure in platinum wove through emblems carved in wood – Bahamut.

“My ajarni will tell you of dragons. Should you need assistance while you are here, ask for me.” Rashazar led them across the plaza toward the great hall. Syl and Igneel noticed a series of tombstones to the right of the plaza, placed in a sort of memorial garden. One read “Asher Dan” in elfish.

In the great hall, archways set the ceilings high. Open to the air, there were no doors. Like the rest of the monastery they had seen, the metal-gilded architecture defied its richness with a refined strength and gentility. Up at one end of the hall sat a silver dragonborn, a second silver dragonborn standing behind him. The seated one spoke, “Please approach. We are most pleased to have guests.” His cough spoke of ill health. “I will not stand.”

The two introduced themselves – Medrash the ajarni and Hirakas his servant lived in the monastery with about thirty other dragonborn monks. Adran Sianodel, the old master smith of Lylillen, was buried under the Asher Dan marker in the cemetery outside.

On the subject of the prophecy, Medrash revealed the dragons of centuries ago did not arrive entirely on their own accord but were summoned by wizards. He recognized the Crestin rebellion symbol Syl produced as similar to the one the conspirators of that time used
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The opponents of the dragons and their wizard summoners included an adventuring group who headed north to retrieve a certain artifact. This artifact summoned the metallic dragons to assist in the fight against their evil chromatic brethren. Sianodel, part of the council who summoned them, was dragon-breathed to craft the three artifacts the current party now held.

As to the location of the metallic dragon summoning artifact, Medrash believed it was taken by a dwarf on the council, one named Kamal who took it west under the Saccharine Mountains.

Their interview over for the day, the party was shown to simple quarters. Foradjinn found his way to a bath and then stretched out upon a mat to sleep until dinner, still weary from the road.

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Four Trees and a Sorcerer's Farewell

After the completion of the night’s rest, the journey continued through the foothills northwest of Mount Alverston. The day began mostly clear with few stringy clouds. However, to the east, ominous clouds formed. Foradjinn identified it as quite the storm heading their way and the party hastened down to the treeline of the forest.

Waiting out the storm in the protection of a few giant fallen trees and a tree formed by the staff of arbor, Syl worked on a darkvision enchantment for Kaven. Meanwhile, Alston examined the horseshoes they had found in the ruins of Old Haré. Thanks to his background in research, the gnome rogue identified them as Iron Horseshoes of Speed, able to lend the winds to a mount’s steps should all four shoes be affixed to its feet. Foradjinn continued to struggle through the book Syl loaned him to learn the sending spell. Kraggog decided to widen the hollow while Kaven watched, huddled under his shield from the rain.

Two hours later, the rain lessened into a drizzle. The party continued on. The banks and boulders in the foothills had been loosened by the downpour and rockslides sounded in the distance. Traveling along a pair of fissures, Alston, Kaven, and Kraggog were bowled aside by another rockslide but managed to recover.

With another sending spell to Dostan, the group learned the four trees were “east of the lake on the north side of the mountain.” Sending his familiars out to reconnoiter, Sylarise was pleased to report the lake was nearby.

Camping for the night, Foradjinn went to set out traps with Kraggog. Alston tried practicing his flanking maneuvers with Striker, Syl’s new blink dog. It was met with mixed success.

Night fell and while on watch, Syl felt earthquakes or rockslides nearby. As he continued listening, he could tell they were spaced out in a sort of pattern. Sending his familiars out again, he learned there were enormous shapes moving in the east. Rousing the rest of the party, they all snuck over to see two eighteen-foot tall giants with clubs the size of carts. With each step, the earth shook beneath them.

Syl’s sprite, which was still invisible to the rest, headed over, ascertained their alignment as chaotic evil and that they were hungry, and attempted to engage them in conversation. This, along with a confusion spell and an arrow from a bard with a deathwish, offered little more interest than the stinging of a gnat. Unsettled by how little damage the arrow inflicted and the failure of the pixy’s spell, Syl suggested they let them be and the party agreed. They returned to sleep.

Awakened about eight to a thunderous bellow and the clash of steel on steel from the direction of the lake, the party charged and halted in the tree line. Before them on the banks and patch of grass between them and the large body of water, the two giants were engaged in combat with eight plate-armored orcs.

Whispered conference ensued on which side to back but before a consensus was reached, Foradjinn said, “How about this?” Casting disguise self and tongues on himself, he advanced out of the treeline and shouted encouragement to his apparently fellow orcs, shooting the closest giant with an arrow. Then as he drew closer the disguised bard pulled the Flute of Slumber from his pocket. The dulcet tones of A Little Night Music flowed around and knocked two of the orcs unconscious while the giant remained unfazed. Confused by the arrival of a new orc that looked like them but considering the giants more of a problem at the moment, the orcs resumed their attacks on the giants as the rest of the party sniped from the trees, Kraggog pratfalling in an attempt to sneak around south. Alston sniped an orc. Kraggog, recovering, blasted away with a fireball. Foradjinn insulted a giant twice and suffered a terrific blow to send him unconscious but allowed the orcs an opportunity for extra attack. Kaven sped out to assist, while Syl sent his familiars as an extension of his cure wounds spell and brought Foradjinn out of unconsciousness.

Utilizing phantasmal force upon a giant, Syl made it look as though four small giants with batwings were poking the north giants with sticks, giving the orcs an advantage. In the midst of the battle, the elf wizard and his gnome rogue friend managed to notice the eighth orc flee around the side of the lake and toss a box into the depths.

Kaven, javelin in hand, divine smote the giant swinging at the dazed bard to fell it. The orcs north finished off their giant and turned to the party. Kraggog and Alston took several bad hits before the dragonborn sorcerer flew into a rage and sent scorching rays and thunderwave out in the final blows.

The battle over, Foradjinn picked through, identifying the orcs as special indeed. A curious pair of triangles served as the emblem in the lower back of the orc breastplates. Alston could have sworn he recognized the emblem as originating in the East or Southeast, possibly in Telfore.

Diving after the chest, Syl found the chest in the lake. After a bull’s strength spell from Foradjinn, he retrieved the chest. Alston failed to notice the trap on the chest and after an extended period of attempted prying and lockpicking, managed to open it to be shocked by a lightning spell.

As it opened, the sun glittered upon the contents – gold, platinum, and two cloudy rubies. Syl appraised the gems and discovered they were worth three hundred gold. Taking them, Alston handed them to Kraggog. “There’s your bounty.”

Pocketing them, Kraggog nodded and bid them farewell. Foradjinn handed him the last of his venison and reminded him of the traps they had forgotten to check that morning. “Keep mine when you get there,” he said.

After the farewell, the four headed around the lake to the east, searching for the four trees. Dostan, irritated by Syl’s constant questioning, did not offer any further aid as he had no dealings with dragonborn monks. Even when they discovered a thick tree which divided down into four trunks, nothing stood out to them as an entrance.

Until Syl was inspired to use the staff of arbor to talk to the four trees. “You must know the dragonborn verse to open me. It is the one most dragonborn know.” it said. When Syl recited the prophecy Sir Targen told them, he learned it was not the one that was needed. Once again, the elf wizard sent out a sending spell, this time asking Karteen, the dragonborn alchemist of Orion. He obliged and Syl announced they would need to walk three times around the tree at dusk and “tarry not in the path.”

Taking a rest before dusk, Alston, Syl, and Foradjinn all examined the treasure from the old Haré armory. Alston found the necklace granted immunity to poison. The cloak, Syl discovered, would grant a decent measure of protection for the wearer. Kaven studied the scythe and found it could cast a variety of druidic spells like the staff of arbor, but of a different sort.

Despite several hours studying the sword, Foradjinn only managed to discern it radiated druidic magic; the scrollwork and tiny, delicate runes on the longsword spoke of the skill invested into the blade. Any specifics escaped him.

The sun faded and the party arose to walk three times around the tree. The trunk split in two, revealing the center of the four trunks and a tunnel sloping away into darkness.

Anxious to slide more, Kaven dove down with the others close behind. A few seconds later, Kaven rolled off the side of the slope. Following suit, Foradjinn and Alston dodged out of the way, but Sylarise slid directly down and into a massive spiderweb.

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