The Travelers of Terra

Chapter 10
Craymoon City
  • Upon entering the city, Trello is acting strange, more so than usual. He seems to be very familiar with the city, even more than Tobogo who has actually visited here. A kindly gate guard, Dugan, recognized Trello and informed the group that Trello had lived here time ago. He pointed them to the lower ward, for that is where he thought that Trello had spent most of his time. While exploring the streets of the lower ward, a bolt of color came flying out of a dark and unassuming shop along the street. The proprietor, Aneesh, came out and greeted them. He took them inside and filled them in on his relationship with Trello.
Chapter 9
Perils of the Wild

Having traversed the eastern shore of clover bay, our adventurers turn east toward Craymoon City. Along their way, Tobogo discovers a contingent of shifters who were exiled from his tribe long ago. A group of knolls appear to be holding some strange creature captive. They are holding the creature back with ropes tied around its neck. It sounds to Tobogo as if the shifter traitors are bargaining with the creature’s captors. “It’s not tame! I refuse to pay such a high price for a wild beast! Deadly as it is…it’s worthless unless we can control it!” In his broiling hatred of the traitors, Tobogo charges in and engages their camp in combat. Trello hurriedly scampers after him. “Look who we’ve got here Thorn! Amris’ little whelp!” shouted the shifter Tobogo recognizes as Ashe, the exile.

With a blast of arctic wind, Tobogo sends one knoll wrangler hurtling into the bonfire at the center of their camp. It screams and drops to the ground amid the flames, and smolders there for the rest of the fight, releasing a foul stench of burning flesh into the air. Another knoll nearby succumbs to the piecing wind and falls to the ground. Other knoll combatants, some more conditioned for battle than others, rush in to avenge their fallen allies. They rake and claw at Tobogo, landing vicious blows that injure him badly. Trello runs to his aid, calling out with words of encouragement augmented his a magical, soothing melody that invigorates his wounded comrade. The others also rush in to catch up with Trello and Tobogo, engaging the exiled shifters. Keothi and Aukan square off against Ashe, Aukan pinning him to the ground with writhing tendrils of vines and roots. Trello cleverly pipes a harsh chord that catches Ashe off guard, tripping him up, and causing him to lurch forward to catch his balance. Luck was not with Ashe, and he happened to stumble directly into the arcing upward back swing of Keothi’s great axe. The blade catches Ashe in the chin, slicing into his head from below, and dispatching him instantly. From the back lines, the strange creature (a Destrican) released ear splitting cries that daze and disorient our heroes. Thorn fought fiercely, but was overcome by Dassarius’ venomous serpents called forth from the Nypacean swamps of the Feywild. The Destrican manages to break free from the knolls, savagely assaults Tobogo and lets out another scream to deafen its foes. It then cuts into Keothi, angering him beyond rage, and provoking Keothi to instinctively lash out with his axe, catching the Destrican in a patch of soft flesh. The cut sank deeply, severing a major artery. Blood gushed out in waves as the Destrican’s now failing heart pumped its own blood out of the gaping wound. It fell with a scream that made everyone cringe, and the earth beneath it was quickly soaked with blood.

  • Picking through the camp, they unlocked a chest that contained a scroll with the Detect Item ritual.
  • Moving further eastward, they encountered a wall that would have seemed to have turned them north, had the hearty goliaths not tried to scale it. Upon touching the wall, they discovered it was an illusion. The heroes decided to find the line of the wall to see if they could find the ones who had set it in their path.
  • The heroes came upon an area that was clearly touched by magic of the Feywild. Beautiful golden light shimmered into a clearing of the most magestic forest they had ever seen. They were so entranced they did not notice the dangers present. The very flowers themselves, known as Traveler’s End, attacked them, as well as huge simian creatures, clearly warped by the fey magic, leaping from the trees. It was not long before the once mesmerizing beauty was stained with blood.
  • The party continued to Craymoon. When within sight of the city, they came upon a bridge across the Iounade River, high above the waterfalls overlooking the city. There, the party was ambushed by 6 cloaked figures who teleported into a pincer-like position. They were trapped on the bridge. Two of the figures were melee fighters, one a very large human, the other an orc. Behind them to each side were a total of 4 figures, each with the same cloak, but their hoods were down and they wore Melorin’s amulets of Ventus. They said that while Lord Melorin thought them good sport, they were determined to end the heroes’ progress towards the city. The heroes showed them the gravity of their mistake. One of the cloaked casters escaped by flinging himself over the bridge and floating to safety. One other died in the battle, and the other two only wished they had died. With some… “enthusiastic persuasion” the heroes were able to learn that Melorin was in the city, and close to the bracelet of Kelmar.
Chapter 8
Cry Havoc

As the group races toward the Old Gridan from the south-east, ribbons of smoke can be seen rising in the sky at the horizon. The battle has already begun. Keothi cries, “We must hurry! The siege has already begun. We may be able to turn the tides if we can only get there in time.” Dassarius, running with the lithe grace of his Eladrin kin, shouts, “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!” An awkward silence follows. “It’s Shakespeare.” “Who is this…Shakespeare?” Aukan asks curiously. “He was a great writer…well…uh…from Earth, I mean. We studied his poems and plays in our schools.” Trello chimes in, “Fascinating! One day you must tell me more about this…Shakespeare.”

The morning of the third day of marching, their forces finally arrive within range to survey the area. The southern, main gate is ablaze, with a contingent of orcs, goblins, undead, and other foul denizens literally throwing themselves at the gate to gain entry into the city. Archers on parapets and ground forces alike fight to hold back the waves of attackers. Keothi observes a force advancing on the eastern gate with a battering ram. The defenses on that side also did not seem as strong or well-organized. After outlining a rudimentary battle plan, the group charges the eastern gate along with about 40 Mowandahi soldiers. The soldiers were ordered to form and keep two battle lines, one along the southern side of the enemy and one along the eastern side, cutting off their rear escape route, leaving only their northern side exposed, which is where Keothi and Aukan charged into the fray.

In the center of the enemy forces stood a huge orge, whose skin was pale and pallid, looking very similar to many of the other undead creatures around him. To the north of the enemy forces, their commands huddled in a tight group. It was this group that Keothi and Aukan were focused on. Dassarius, reaching out with his arcane senses, was able to determine that the enemy forces were being controlled or communicated by magical means, and that the source of this control came from the north. He deduced that it was the group on the northern edge of the enemy forces that was in command, and not the ogre.

The group literally exploded onto the battle field. In order to thin out the enemy forces, they focused first on eliminating some of the weaker enemy soldiers, and outnumber and overwhelm them. Dassarius flung a crystal globe into the fray, and it exploded with roaring flames, engulfing 7 or 8 of the soldiers. Tobogo summoned a child wind that eliminated another 7 or 8 enemies. Keothi, in an electrically charged rage, electrocuted any enemies that came too close to him. Tobogo, Trello, and Dassarius then turned their focus to holding back the ogre, who was called Koptila. Dassarius forced a dark nightmare into his psyche, controlling his movements and keeping him away from Keothi and Aukan who were engaged with the spellcasters along the northern line of battle. Trello reacted instinctively, bolstering his allies strength and moving them out of harm’s way. Koptila would try to close in on his targets by teleporting them within his reach. Trello and Dassarius were able to help each other keep a safe distance from the orge.

Keothi and Aukan descended upon the spellcaster group, which consisted of a necromantic Reaver Lord, a Wizard wearing red robes, and two shifters from an evil tribe that rivals the Mowandahi. The Wizard teleported away from Keothi’s opening blow, drawing his attention and his rage. The wizard fell soon after, thanks to Aukan’s ability to call on the forces of nature to hold an enemy in place. Luck seemed to have been with Keothi, who was able to brutally fell one of the shifters and the Reaver Lord. Across the battle field, Koptila, the orge, who was being blasted from afar by Dassarius and Trello’s ranged attacks, could be heard screaming in agony, as Tobogo, in the form of a ferocious bear, clawed into his flesh, rending the life from his body. As the Reaver Lord dissolved into thin air, his chilling voice cracked and cackled a warning, “Lord Melorin will defeat you!! His will shall be done!!”

When this battle came to an end, the ogre, wizard, necromancer, two shifters, and 32 enemy soldiers all fell under the might of these five heroes.

With a mighty swing Keothi flicks the blood from his axe and gives it a quick glance to check for damage. Smoke and dust fills the space where the Reaver Lord once stood. Seeing many of the enemy soldiers running panicked and confused, he shouts “Try to escape and we will hunt every last one of you down so I can personally crush your faces under my boot!! Surrender and we’ll let you live!” Whichever troops were wise enough to surrender, Keothi orders them to be taken hostage for questioning later.

The team searched the blighted remains of the reaver lord and his crew. On the razorclaw shifters they found a pair of intricately crafted matching platinum necklaces, 2 coin purses, and two healing potions. On the wizard, a pair of magical bracers and on the pale reaver lord, a magic amulet in the shape of crude looking V with a skull in the crook of the V is also found. After further inspection, on the forehead of the skull is a raised etching of what looks like an obelisk, oozing with dark, necrotic magic. After careful examination, Dassarius determines that it is magical but he is not sure what its powers are since he is unfamiliar with this kind of magic.

The team meets up with Asura, Yolanda, Arjahn, and Quolema. They look tired and battered, but otherwise uninjured. They are mostly glad that they showed up when they did. A few more minutes and their forces would have been overwhelmed, the doors breached, and the city overrun. They continue gathering what forces they can, organizing them into squads and setting out to track down and eliminate any creatures they can find, fearful of the havoc they could cause to any town or village caught in their wake. Arjahn is staying to tend the wounded.

After debriefing with Prefect Cadmore, Keothi suggests that efforts be made to alert Mayor Eldin of Gridan of the recent attack and that he be persuaded to join in the efforts to bolster the region’s defenses and a common evil.

Dassarius, along with Trello the Bard, and Tobogo the Druid, learn that further information may be garnered about the mysterious amulet from a man named Willum Trint, who resides in the House of Knowledge, and holds the position of Keeper there. They take leave of Keothi and Aukan, and proceed across town to the great library. Originally this building was one of the most important in the city, with a huge domed ceiling and thick, textured columns, heavy copper engravings are emblazoned on the grand front doors and ornate stonework all around. While still majestic, like most of Old Gridan, it has lost its luster, and now looks a mere specter of its former glory.

Willum Trint is summoned when Dassarius, in his regal and majestic attire requests an audience with him. Willum appears shortly thereafter, an old human man with glasses, a long tuft of hair growing from his chin. He is bald on top, and what hair is growing is long and not wholly unkempt. He wears the scholarly robes of the highest ranking loremasters, with multiple layers and long vertical stripes of color. Three black velvet bars adorn each sleeve, and multiple chevrons and other insignia indicate his rank and educational attainment. He wears a gold medallion around his neck, a symbol of the special honor the Council of Elders bestowed upon him when he became keeper of the tomes some 2 decades ago. As Old Gridan is the site of one of the World Gates and was the center of all happenings in ages past, it has many historical records of the happenings of Terra. He is a grizzled old man, streetwise and savvy. He is most concerned about his own financial state, which is pretty poor, and then of the state of his beloved, ancient tomes.

“Oh, mighty warriors, saviors of Old Gridan, you ask questions of a time long past. It will take me much time and effort to wade through stacks of books, lifting the heavy tomes with my frail body. Much effort… much time, much time…” Sensing that perhaps some gold would be the perfect lubricant for the aged professor, Trello slyly steps forward and subtly places a gold coin in his palm.

“I am old and tired, and it takes a lot to get my wheelhouse cranking, but once something has got me going, I work quickly…”

Loremaster Trint leads them up to a wing of the library that is clearly in disrepair. Scrolls, loose pieces of parchment and open books clutter every corner of this room. After flipping through a number of tomes, he informs them that the symbol of the corroded V with the skull was the symbol that Ventus and his followers used. He stops for a moment and says, “Ah, here it is.” He pulls out one of the many volumes on the history of Old Gridan. He flips through it to the section on the events of long ago, and stops at a picture on the page. It shows exactly what can be seen in the amulet, with only one small difference. The amulet has a small etching of an obelisk on the forehead of the skull. The picture of Ventus’ symbol in the book, does not.

“Huh… that’s funny,” Willum says. With the mention of Lord Melorin, he raises an eyebrow, stares at his stacks of books, and yanks one out of the middle of one pile. He flips through it, muttering incomprehensibly to himself. “AHA… here it is. Melorin Ankh. Ah, yes… I recall these stories now. Nasty piece of work he was. You may recall at the downfall of Ventus, there was a great battle between his lieutenants and the local guard. The lieutenants escaped, but weren’t necessarily unheard of again. Melorin Ankh was one such lieutenant. Things were very quiet after Ventus’ disappearance, but some time later, it is written here that there was some commotion in Craymoon City, and Ankh was at the center of it. The details are vague, but it does say that Melorin Ankh was killed. He appeared to be searching for something, had murdered and tortured several people in the city. There was a confrontation between him and the Magi of Moonveil, where he was overpowered and killed. Ah, look at this. It seems that even at the time of his death, Melorin Ankh was faithful to Ventus, as he still brandished the V symbol about. But do you notice anything special about the drawing of Melorin’s amulet? It also bears the etching of the obelisk on the forehead. I wonder what the significance of that symbol is?”

Trint is conversely also very interested in the new Travelers’ story. Dassarius, with a fox’s cunning, offers to relate the tale for the price of one gold coin. Trint calls for a parchment and ink and pens, and begins furiously scribbling notes as the story unfolds.

Back at the barracks, Keothi and Aukan begin their interrogation of the prisoners that were taken captive after the battle. Aukan attempts to shake some information out of one of the surly looking captives, and not getting a satisfactory answer, bashes him into the dungeon wall, splitting his skull. Keothi steps forward, and tries a more diplomatic approach. Again, unsatisfactory results lead to a quick and painless death. Keothi swiftly crosses his greataxe around the prisoner, and sinks the blade into the back of his neck. The third prisoner is much more cooperative. “Black hooded people came, wearing shiny amulets, and they grabbed at the shiny around their neck and that’s all I remember!” After further interrogation, the Goliaths learn that all of these prisoners seen to have been enlisted against their will, and dominated on the battle field, controlled by black-robed figures with shining amulets. They were wrested from their homes, mostly in the south, near Clover Bay, and the caves surrounding that region.

The team regroups to share the information they learned, and agreed that the City of Craymoon must be their next stop. Before resting and engaging in a bit of merrymaking, Keothi arranges to have word sent to his father that he and Aukan will be heading east, to represent the Goliath Tribes, and he asks that his father send warriors and shamans to aid in the fight against evil on Terra. Keothi also sends word to Asura and her team, to ask them to look out for sings of black-robed magicians wearing V-shaped amulets that seem to have been used to enthrall the army that recently attacked Old Gridan.

Trello learns that the Nentir Inn and the Gnome Taphouse are both excellent place to rest and rejuvenate the spirit.

That night, while deep in his trance, Dassarius he has flashes of memory, of walking down crowded city streets, of seeing violet moonlight streaming through a distant waterfall. He remembers being in someone’s study with Rideon and Kelmar and some other figure whose face never comes into focus clearly enough to identify. The memory is faded, but he sees someone holding Kelmar’s bracelet, hears some muffled words, and a feeling of joy and celebration washes over his consciousness. He awakes with the picture of someone he can’t quite remember holding Kelmar’s bracelet. He knows that he was in Craymoon City.

Chapter 7
A Call to Arms

Upon their return, the group finds that Gridan was recently under siege. Smoke still trailed high in the sky, and the burnt and broken remains of orcs, knolls, goblins, and other undead carcasses lay strewn about the fields outside the city walls. Siege weapons left unmanned and broken down appeared to have done some damage to the main gate to Gridan. Engineers and bricklayers were already working furiously to make repairs.

Eldin informs you that a few days ago a large group of foul creatures came barreling out of Midan Vale to the east. “They were pretty ragtag, not much coordination or strategy. They threw themselves wildly at Gridan’s front gate. We suffered minor damage, but were about to put down their lackluster assault rather easily. Patrols also reported seeing groups of evil creatures moving about the country side, too large to take on themselves.” He angled his head inquisitively and asked, “What did you discover in the north? You are thinking of going back to this Earth of yours?” For a moment he seemed to be staring. “I’m sorry, it’s just with the way you look, your appearance at the beginning of these disturbances, and how much help you all have been, I feel like you belong here. But of course, you must get back to your home. But until them, I hope you can come to see this place as a home away from home.”

After receiving Eldin’s briefing, they go to see the Lavendis brothers, and check on Dr. Cain’s condition. Dr. Cain is excited to show you his newfound knack. Pointing lithely at a tin mug on the table, he slides it across the room into the hands of one of the brothers, who catches it clumsily. He can now move things slightly with his mind. He seems vibrantly well.

During a discussion about the Mithril bracelet and new information about Kelmar’s golden bangle, they are abruptly interrupted by messenger from Mayor Eldin. Gasping to catch her breath, the messenger utters, “Emergency, come right away. Patrol just in…gasp…a large force out of the south…gasp…heading towards…Old Gridan…gulping air…much larger than the first.” She then shoves a crumpled note into Yolanda’s hand. It reads: Old Gridan is not the most well run of cities, we will need your immediate assistance defending the gates. The site of the Worldgate is in Old Gridan, you might want to head that way to make sure it keeps standing.

They arrive harried in Old Gridan, passing by people fleeing to the West. The place is in an uproar, chaos and disorder everywhere. Guards are being harassed by citizens, who look confused, terrified, and uncertain of how to respond. Prefect Delvinious Cadmore seems to be in charge. His fancily braided hair, stylish trimmed beard, golden circlet, royal blue robes, and jewelry indicate his high rank and position. He quickly accepts their aid but says they do not have enough trained troops to put up proper defense. He alludes to political infighting being the primary cause of the militia being disbanded and rebanded several times. “We need more troops, Gridan sent some, but kept most for its own defense.” Shacking his fist in the air, “Dammit Eldin! If these walls fall yours will follow soon after!”

Keothi proposed to ask Mowandahi tribe to aid them. Cadmore scoffs, “They will never come. Things have been…. Unpleasant for some time. They are resentful of our ever expanding city. They want all the world to live in filth and squalor like them do. If you want to waste your time, you are free to go. However, our need is immediate and great.” Offering that he may be able to use his political influence as a Goliath Thaneborn to sway the Mowandahi, Keothi suggests that an away team travel east to negotiate with the tribal chief, while Yolanda, Arjahn, Quolema and Asura stay behind to bolster their defenses. Cadmore agrees, and Keothi turns to him and addresses a band of nearby soldiers, “Have faith and fight with all your might! Your greatest advantage is that you fight to protect your people, your families. Let that knowledge temper your steel and strike fear into your enemies. Remember that those with fear in their hearts fall quickly!”

On their way to the Mowandahi tribal land, they are stopped by heavily armed shifter hunters. “What is your business?” After some brief introductions, “We recognize the Goliath tribe of the Dundran. We will grant you an audience, but not so armed. These are dangerous times.” Keothi was able to convince the hunters to allow them to peacebind their weapons in lieu of surrendering them. They are brought before Amris Mowandahi, Chieftain of Tribe. The main village is built into the land and trees, harmoniously blending in with the ardent scenery. Beautiful homes of polished wood with weaving leaves and vines for embellishments. The exteriors of these finely sung homes are lined with diverse and wild-yet-placed foliage. The chief sits on an ornate thrown in the middle of the great village circle, with an elaborately carved and ancient stone fire pit in center. In a powerful monotone voice, he exclaims, “I am disinclined to lend aid to the heathens of Old Gridan. They have shown no regard for anything beyond their own greed and dominance of the world around them.”

Stepping forward, Keothi genuflects and introduces himself. He then attempts to appeal to the chief’s more open-minded sensibilities, and implies that if Gridan is over taken, his people will be in great danger. The chief replies, “I do not give my blessing for free. Nor will I spill the blood of my people for naught. There is a growing shadow in the world, that much I have felt. Of evils that I seem to have at my doorstep, I will choose the lesser if it shows it has the strength to defend itself. As a sign of good faith, if you as emissaries of Old Gridan help us in our territory, we will lend them aid as well.” He calls the group into his private hut and explains about a trouble in the forest that their hunters could not deal with themselves. He sends the group on a mission with his son, Tobogo, as a guide, and Tobogo’s companion, Trello. Scouts report that a powerful beast has been savagely murdering forest travelers and animals alike.

En route through the forest, strange noises, loud shouting, crunching leaves and sticks, and gnashing metal can be heard. They hear, “The instruction said to meet at the south end of Clover Bay. I think south is down.” “Shut up you fool and keep moving. South is up, any maggot knows that! If we don’t get there soon we’ll miss all the fun.” It is a small band of hobgoblin raiders: a hobgoblin warcaster riding a worg, three soldiers, and two archers.

The forge onward and come to a ravine. This ravine must be a a popular hunting ground. Animals frequent the river and there is an old hunters’ trap near the river. A piercing howl cuts through the air, but something is different about this particular howl. It is definitely a wolf, but it has a strange quality. The group is ambushed by a pack of ravenous canines, charging down the hill from the east and west.

While hunting for what was described to be a great beast, along a path they find a wounded man, who introduces himself as Jamnis Crane. He is crying for help, and covered in fresh blood, deep scratches and cuts. His clothes are ripped and he is very disheveled. “I was traveling to Old Gridan from Craymoon City when I heard shouting and fighting coming from the path ahead. I was afraid and in the middle of unfamiliar wilderness and so I decided to try to travel as quietly as I could. Then, I heard the death screams of two different creatures, and it suddenly went quiet. I froze and listened. That’s when I heard a piercing roar from close behind me and I bolted as fast as I could. I ran, hearing the approaching thud of some hulking beast behind me but I wasn’t fast enough. I remember being pounced on and shoved to the ground. I turned over and fought back as hard as I could, but I can’t remember anything after that except that the beast just ran off. Then you all approached. I beg you, please don’t leave me. I’ll go wherever you go, please don’t leave me alone.”

After proceeding through the woods for many more hours, it became dark, and the group decided to camp for the night. On the way, they find two fresh shifter hunter corpses that Tobogo recognizes: one male (Tureeni) and one female (Shikani). They were savagely ripped apart. Tobogo remembers that they left over a week ago to hunt for the terror.

Interestingly, Jamnis doesn’t seem tired. In fact, as the evening grows later, he seems to be more invigorated the later it gets. His wounds don’t seem to bother him at all either. They make camp for the night in a small grotto. Dassarius takes the first watch.

Late that night, Dassarius’ trance is disturbed by Jamnis, who begins to behave very peculiarly. He advances on Dassarius, taking an aggressive stance, and talking about how much he admires the moon. Thoroughly concerned, Dassarius turns to wake his allies just as Jamnis lets out a bestial growl and grabs Dassarius. Instinctively, Dassarius steps through a thin slit in the fabric of this dimension and into the Feywild, instantly re-entering in a safe location, outside of Jamnis’ clutches. He then wakes his allies while Jamnis contorts and shifts into the shape of a werewolf. Fur sprouts where skin once was and fangs protrude from his now canine maw. Springing into action, the group wakes up and hurriedly readies for battle. Keothi summons his armor with a command word and rushes to the werewolf with Aukan and Tobogo at his side, to put themselves between the wolf and Dassarius and Trello. Teamwork was key in this battle, as the werewolf was ferocious and quick on his feat.

After defeating the werewolf, the group is finally able to rest for the night. The next morning, they head back to Ramkani Village, the home of the Mowandahi. Shortly after their return, a sparrow messenger flutters to Dassarius’ shoulder, and delivers an urgent message from Arjahn. “Old Gridan is about to come under siege. Hurry back, and with reinforcements. Their numbers are larger than we expected.” Without any time for honorifics and celebration, the group bids their farewell to Amris, chief of the Mowandahi. Amris, in his wisdom, pledges to help defend Terra against this terrible threat. He agrees to send an advanced cohort of warriors, with the rest of his troops to follow after funereal rites are completed for Tureeni and Shikani.

The group, followed by a contingent of shifter soldiers, make haste to Old Gridan.

Chapter 6

The Travelers, along with their Terran compatriots, approached the great doors of Farfang Keep after making short work of its inhospitable entrance guards, one of which, seemed to have gotten away. The severe, ancient stone walls loomed high above, dimly lit by a starry blanket of twilight. The wind whistled through the surrounding trees, and occasionally shook loose a rotting shingle or piece of crumbling rampart.

Inside, even more dangerous perils awaited them. Yolanda bravely heaved against the massive entry door, and it swung open with a splintering creak. As they expected, an ambush complete with heavy artillery greeted the Travelers in the main entrance hall of the keep. Astride the far end of a grand, oaken banquet table, hovered two gleaming spheres that pulsed with an electric crackle, and through the eyes of a perceptive warlock, shone with a powerful arcane brilliance. The party soon learned the might of these arcane ballistae, as they fire off fierce blasts of lightning that gave the air a smoldering, metallic smell. Some dodged out of the way of the relentless bolts, some, like Dassarius, took higher ground atop the oak table, leaping up and kicking cobwebbed place settings out of his way. Others were not so lucky. Another pair of Shadar-kai, joined by yet another pair of shadow hounds, flanked the warriors, applying pressure from every direction. One Shadar-kai danced about the hall with an unerring grace, swinging a vicious looking barbed chain as if it were an extension of her arms. The chain came down upon many unfortunate enough to misjudge its path, rending their skin and painfully tearing into flesh. After a fearsome battle, the enemies were vanquished, carnage indoors to match the gruesome sight in the courtyard.

The party, after catching their breath and recovering their strength, moved on to explore down the dark corridors that led out from the main hall. To their shock, they found shambling husks of what used to be potters, cooks, farmers, fathers, mothers. The stench of death and decaying viscera filled these chambers, which appeared to be soldiers’ or servants’ quarters. The party put them to rest with eldritch blast and blade, setting the vile forces free from within their fleshy prisons.

To the west of the main hall, was what seemed to once be a lush garden terrace. Trees and other topiary lined a shallow pool, dotted with lily pads and wild blossoms. The serenity of this spaces design lay in dissonant contrast to the grizzly spectacle on the other end of the still water of the pond. A ferocious beast, which carried the vague personage of a black pit bull, stood guarding a pile of corpses. One body, carelessly piled over another, like hunks of meat. Flies swarmed, the beast snapped its jaws, and from beneath the bodies flew a trio of ghastly apparitions, that let go a chilling scream that sent the party reeling backwards and twisted their minds, wringing the composure out of them like blood from a soaked bandage. The dog, with an acrid exhalation, breathed life into one of the rotting corpses, and it slowly came to life to help defend its new master. Arjhan, wielding his divine influence like a battering ram kept the undead foes at bay, while Dassarius and Quolema rained pain down from afar, and Yolanda and Asura closed in on the hell hound. This battle too was won, but not without a price. The group was badly wounded, and their hearts shaken with the fear of what horrors might still lurk upstairs.

They cleaned their blades and cleared their minds before forging ahead, up the ornate marble staircase that led up to the higher reaches of the keep from the rear of the main entry hall. What lifted their spirits and kept one foot moving in front of the other was the hope of home, comfort, and answers to the mystery of who Kelmar was, and how many of her arcane secrets these walls protected.

Fighting and exploring up through the keep, the party arrived at a landing which seemed to function as a waiting area. A grandiosely decorated door filled the eastern wall of this room. The door, after careful search, was found to be thoroughly locked, and bore an elaborate vine-trellis inspired motif wrought in fine silver. The top-most chamber contained a square altar with a round cut out in the center. Guarding this room were two more Shadar-kai, an Orc bloodrager who glared with bloodshot eyes, and a pair of Shadar-kai witches, who appeared to be examining the table, as if trying to discover secrets held within.

After valiantly felling the leader of these unwelcome guests, and just when they thought they were safe at last, a shadar-kai ambushes Yolanda, and reaches around her neck with a boney arm and a foul looking blade. Immediately after, a shtuck sound reverberated from the walls of this small chamber, the sound of the back of the shadar-kai’s skull being split open. Eyes rolled to the back of his head, mouth gaping, while a splash of dark crimson dotted that floor.

The shadar-kai fell with a lifeless thud, a greataxe still wedged deeply in the back of its skull, revealing a massive figure standing behind it. “Mine” and bending over to reclaim his axe, “I am Keothi, Thaneborn son of Rumal.” In response to many quizzical looks, some from those who have never seen such a person, “I am from a nomadic tribe who have lived along the western coast of the Dundran Mountains for many generations. Our shamans sensed a grave disturbance recently, emanating from the springs that originate deep within the Dundran and empty into the sea. I was sent to investigate the possible cause of this distubance, and the trail of blood led myself and my companion here. I travel with Aukan, my faithful retainer and friend. He is searching the lower floor for any information about our cherished White Lotus.”

After some greetings and mild pleasantries, the Travelers briefly describe the purpose of their quest and share with Keothi the location of the White Lotus and why it was critical to use the Lotus to revive Dr. Cain and recover important information pertinent to the safety of Terra. After discovering a circular inset in the top of the marble table, they place the Mithril bracelet into the groove.

The Mithril bracelet clicks into place, slowly levitates, spins, and projects an image of the three original Travelers. Kelmar appears exuberant and adjusts the “lens”, Marin smirks, shaking his head, and Rideon looks stoic. She backs into position and in a bubbly voice, “Greetings! If you are seeing this, I must welcome you to Farfang Keep and the headquarters of our Plane Gate Project! (Introduces herself and others) It isn’t much, but I hope you enjoy your stay. Heehee, I assume you found my Linking Loop (eyes roll behind her) in your world, and now you get to go on a tour of ours! To get back to your world once you’ve had your fill of all Terra has to offer, simply bring your Linking Loop to any one of our three world gates, (Rideon, “If they’re still standing” she elbows him) and woosh! off you go, back home! Enjoy!” She turns back to the others “was that good how did i sound?” With a wave, she shuts of the recorder. The view crackles and distorts and blinks out. Shortly after, the picture comes back into view. As Kelmar sets up the “camera”, Marin looking around, “There doesn’t seem to be any intelligent life here.” Rideon strokes his chin, “I’m beginning to doubt the fruitfulness of this venture.” Kelmar, jumping back in front of view, “Don’t be silly…(now waving happily at the camera) maybe one day there will be people here, and when they find this Linking Loop, I’m sure they’ll want to know where it came from! Maybe we’ll have better luck with the next world…” The three march into the temple on earth, cast three runes outside the entrance, and scene blinks out as the door closes behind them. Other scenes randomly blink in and out that depict the flow of time and evolution on earth, through prehistory, then an ice age, then cavemen, then a medieval scene, then various members of Dr. Cain’s ex’s lineage, and finally a scene where Dr. Cain is seen trying to convince her not to go, bags of archaeology/camping equipment packed and ready scatter the ground. Fade to black.

Then a holographic globe suddenly appears labeling the locations of the three World Gates, Gridan City, Arnvald Castle and Valdarian City.

Among the broken remains of this room’s former inhabitants, a silver key was found among the belongings of the Orc, which was decorated with light silver filigree. Quickly connecting the silver design on the key to the silver vine motif on the door below, the party proceeded to unlock the door and burst into the room. This time, they were met by the usual suspects of poltergeists and shadar-kai, but they were joined by three shambling undead who seemed to chill the air around them. This room was a master bedroom, with furniture and finely woven linens lining the four-post bed. Lush, velvet sheets and pillows beckoned all to a good night’s sleep, or at least a short rest. On the wall above the bed hung a grand oil painted portrait of the Three Travelers in a luxurious looking frame. Those with keen eyes and careful attention to detail noticed that the bracelet being worn by Kelmar in the portrait was a brilliant gold, and not the silvery mithril that they carried. This led them to conclude that Kelmar’s bracelet and the loop they carried were not one and the same, and that perhaps Kelmar’s bracelet was still hidden somewhere in the lands of Terra.

After rejoining with his retainer, Aukan, Keothi and the others marched back to Gridan City, to report their findings to Mayor Eldin and have a guarded emissary return the White Lotus to the people of Keothi’s tribe.

Chapter 5
In Hot Pursuit

Having retrieved the white lotus, the travelers returned quickly to Gridan. While Q went to report in to Eldin, the rest of the group proceeded to the Temple of Melora. They gave the flower to the high templar watching over Dr. Cain. High Templar Gregan took the flower and prepared a pool of water in a marble basin near where Dr. Cain lay. The party was excused while Gregan and his assistants performed some very complex rituals to extract the components from the flower. While the party waited, they explored the city and refreshed their supplies. After several hours, they were summoned back to the temple by Brother Gerard, an assistant to the high templar. Eldin joined the party as they went into the templar’s study. The flower still lay in the water, though its appearance was much diminished. It was now just a clear crystal flower, though the water now seemed to shimmer with a mystical energy. Propping Dr. Cain up, the high templar administered some of this magical water to him. Color returned to Dr. Cain’s sickly looking skin and he began to stir. Within a few moments, he was awake. Though a bit out of it, he was lucid enough to answer questions about his experience. He recalled searing pain, flashes of images, malevolent intent, strange animals, and a murky forest. He had no memory of the powerful blast he let loose upon Ventus. Having gotten all the information from him that he could recall, Dr. Cain was left to rest for a few days. The group then sought more information from the Lavendis brothers.

The Lavendis brothers were very eager to search Dr. Cain’s mind for information. Together they delved into the depths of Dr. Cain’s psyche and were astonished at some of the things that they found. First, the images that Dr. Cain saw of shadowy beasts in a dank, gloomy forest were familiar to them. They recognized the place as the Forgotten Forest, north of the town of Riverside Rest. It was a place they knew well and had visited frequently in their travels. They also knew the overgrown building that Dr. Cain had seen. That was Farfang Keep, the personal retreat for Kelmar, the human member of the original Travelers. It is located on an island west of the forest. If the creatures roaming the forest were what the brothers thought they were, the people of Riverside Rest might be experiencing some trouble. Upon hearing this, Eldin had his attendants dispatch his fastest messengers to Warden Gemel, the leader of the city. Having seen the thoughts and feelings of the necromancer through Dr. Cain, the brothers shared their conclusions about his motivations. This foray into Dr. Cain’s mind confirmed some of their research findings. Ventus was exceptionally power hungry. He believed that current society was deeply flawed in their checks on magical powers. He felt that the only solution was a genocidal cleansing of Terra, and a reestablishment of society with complete freedom and where there were no limits on individual power. Also, they believed that since Ventus had traveled through the portal to Earth he might be able to recreate the spell that would connect the two planes. Finally, they also discovered that Dr. Cain has somehow manifested psionic abilities. Whether Dr. Cain had latent psionic abilities his whole life or he was infused with the power when he traveled through the portal, the brothers were unsure. Psions are exceptionally rare in Terra. Most spent their lives studying in Rithmithran Tower, to the south of Dunnedale. Since Dr. Cain was still very weak and would have difficulty traveling to Rithmithran Tower, the brothers said they would write a message to their contacts there and ask for assistance investigating this strange development.

The forgotten forest to the north was their only new lead, so the travelers geared up while awaiting a report from Warden Gemel of Riverside Rest. Eldin’s messenger did return with disturbing news. The citizens of Riverside Rest have been reporting strange events. Many have been having terrible nightmares, and many others have reported that they have had the feeling of being watched or stalked at night. Farmers on the outskirts have come forward with tales of mauled and mutilated livestock. Warden Gemel requested aid, and the party was eager to head north to investigate.

After several days travel, the group arrived at Riverside Rest. They were greeted by a relieved Warden Gemel who updated them on the situation. He offered them food and lodging after their long journey. The next day, the travelers requested to see the remains of any slaughtered livestock to see if they could confirm the nature of the animal that has been preying on them. Warden Gemel showed them to a farm to the north of the city where the most recent attack had been reported. They were greeted by two elderly, and very frightened, farmers. They had left the carcass out in the field where it was killed because they were afraid of harmful effects of going near the cursed animal. As they approached the poor creature, Dassarius distinctly felt magical aura still resonating from the carcass. While he could not pinpoint exactly what it was, he knew whatever killed this animal was not natural. Q also noticed from the claw and bite marks that the predator was most likely feline in origin. The group fixed their gaze to the north on the wide swath of ancient and ominous-looking trees that was the beginning of the Forgotten Forest.

The group headed north into the forest. It was already late, so they didn’t get far before they stopped to camp for the evening. In the middle of the night during Yolanda’s watch, she detected the faint howl of an unfriendly creature. She took a mental note of the direction for when they set off in the morning. The next day, an eerie, unnatural fog filled the forest. The travelers moved slowly, hunting for signs of creatures of the Feywild. The fog made their progress difficult. As they searched the Forgotten Forest, they stumbled upon a surprising magical object. It was a rune, glowing blue and floating insubstantial off the ground. Dassarius was able to read it as a runic word, Fel, but was unable to discern its purpose. The group explored all they could with this object, but being unable to move it or otherwise affect it, they took note of its location and moved on. The explorations of the forest also uncovered two more runes, Mec and Cad, at different points of the forest.

The group pressed onward in search of their prey and for any clues as to Ventus’ interest in this place. For such an ominous feeling forest, the travelers encountered little danger and were beginning to feel that their exploration might go incident-free. Those hopes were dashed by the piercing roars of the forest’s fierce predators. A pack of dire wolves and 2 cave bears came bounding towards the group. The party was momentarily stunned by the ferocity of the attack, but they regrouped and pressed the offensive. The group was split, Arjahn and Dassarius handling some wolves to the north, Yolanda engaging a small group solo, and Asura and Q teaming up on two of the creatures a little to the south. The team finally decided to stick together and focus their attacks on one animal at a time. The group came together, taking advantageous positions around the creatures. With their combined energies, the savage animals were quickly put to rest.

The party took a short time to heal. Having felt the savagery of the local inhabitants first hand, the group was much more vigilant as they searched the rest of the forest. As vigilant as they were, it is difficult to prepare for an attack when the aggressors appear out of thin air directly next to you. The group was not completely caught unawares. Several noticed a faint popping sound and the momentary glare of feline eyes around them just before the attack happened. Flashing into existence beside Arjahn, Q, and Dassarius were three of the Fey panthers that they were seeking. The panthers were fierce predators, bounding with such astonishing speed and power they would knock their target flat. As the group was starting to get a handle on this threat, two dire wolves, drawn by the smell of blood, bounded in to get a share of the meat. The party was certainly surprised by the arrival of more ferocious animals, but having fought dire wolves before they were confident they could overcome these animals. Q was having a tough time getting away from one panther that seemed to have locked its predatory gaze upon him. Dassarius moved backwards a bit to give himself time and range to unleash the power of the Feywild upon the creatures when he heard the thud of fast moving, padded feet from behind him. As he turned to look, two more dire wolves bounded out of the underbrush, their fanged maws biting at Dassarius as they leapt. Now the team was getting worried about surviving against so many deadly animals. But they regrouped and shifted their focus towards one creature at a time. It was difficult, but as each creature fell dead, their momentum picked up, and their fury overwhelmed that of the denizens of the forest. Soon, all the animals lay dead, and the group took a rest to tend to their wounds.

As the party wandered, they thought back to those magical runes they found situated in the forest. Could they have something to do with the strange events in the region? The group had killed some Fey jaguars, but they were no closer to solving the mystery of the recent disturbances or the reason for Ventus’ interest in this place. That is when they remembered Farfang Keep. It was on an island west of the forest. Dr. Cain had flashes of the ruined retreat of the original traveler. So the new travelers headed west. When they reached the coast, they could see the island and the keep in the distance but were somewhat disheartened for they could not perceive a way to get there. “Why not take the bridge?” Dassarius asked, somewhat confused as to why the group was talking about making rafts from fallen trees. The group stopped and looked again. While there was no traditional bridge of stone or wood, when they looked very closely they could discern the faint outline of a pathway connecting the two places over the water. To Dassarius it was as apparent as the trees and rocks of the forest behind them. He could see the blue arcane energy lines that formed the bridge quite clearly. As such, he led them to the base of the bridge. When he tried to touch the structure, he found it to be completely insubstantial. Letting his mind open to the forces of the magic around him, he detected that there was a series of five “key” holes at the foot of the bridge that would allow them pass once opened. There was no doubt that the floating runes in the forest were the keys they were looking for. And there were still two more to find. The party decided to search for the other two to see if once all found, the means of opening the bridge for passage would become clear. They knew they had found three runes in the northern and eastern parts of the forest, so they decided to scour the southern and western parts as well. They set off with a new determination and focus, but that focus blinded them from the danger right in front of them. It wasn’t until Yolanda became engulfed in thick, green ooze that they realized their peril.

Before them was a gelatinous cube so large they wondered how they could not have seen it before. Yolanda was able to quickly pry herself loose, but she found herself somewhat dazed from being submerged in this monster’s digestive juices. The rest of the group was starting to take positions around the cube, but it was not going to be that easy. From around them came the now-all-too-familiar howl of dire wolves. Wolves bounded in from the sides and the rear. Attacking with the wolves were two creatures so far unknown to them. Smaller than the dire wolves, they looked no less deadly. They looked like very large, black, savage dogs. Like the Fey panthers, they bounded with astonishing speed. It took a few moments to realize that they were moving faster than any of their eyes could see. They were in fact teleporting around the party, attacking their most vulnerable areas. Arjahn was caught in back against four of the wolves himself. Q, Asura, and Yolanda were dishing out phenomenal damage to the ooze, that is, until it engulfed them all in its horrid, slimy body. Though she was grabbed, Asura found she could still move and attacked the creature from within, slicing away at its innards. With these heroes triple teaming their lethal blows against the cube, it quickly burst in an explosion of gastric slime, no longer able to hold its form together. Considering the odds stacked against him, it was amazing that Arjahn was standing, let alone fighting. Four of the dire wolves savagely tore at him while his teammates were busy with the cube. This particular pack of wolves seemed intent on mauling Arjahn and pursued him wherever he moved. With the cube left splattered across the ground, the others turned to help their besieged comrade. Dassarius unleashed bursts of Eldritch fury, Q released arrows with devastating accuracy, and Yolanda and Asura delivered mighty blows to the savage creatures. Even though Arjahn fell at one point, he drew upon the inspiration of his companions and raised himself to finish the battle. Before long, the fury of the travelers swept across the battlefield, overwhelming and destroying all the foes in their path.

Having encountered so many unfriendly beasts in one day, the group took an extra few minutes to rest and heal. Though they felt better, this last battle truly took its toll and sapped their inner reserves. But they were very close to crossing over to Farfang Keep, so they continued to search for the last two magic runes. They were grateful that the forest allowed them to pass unhindered, though they were still vigilant for any sign of a threat. Combing the forest, they found the two runes they were looking for, Sah to the south and Tur in the east. These rune words were surely connected to the ethereal bridge, but how? Now that they had found five runes to match the five key holes, they headed back to the foot of the bridge to see what they could make of it all.

The group now faced a kind of challenge to which they were unaccustomed. Dassarius examined the bridge and key holes with his arcane eye. He believed that these runic letters were used to assemble a password that would allow them to cross the bridge. But he was unsure of what order the rune letters were to be used. Arjahn thought about the towns and villages or the area. This password puzzle seemed to resemble a type of word game that locals liked to play where they mixed up the letters of words and had to be reassembled. Wisps of memories of the former traveler came to Asura’s mind. She recalled how often powerful mages would use walls of force to protect an area that could only be traversed with the correct password. Arjahn too had knowledge of powerful clerics in time passed using similar magic to protect and preserve from danger. Q was thinking more about how the runes were situated in the forest. Having an innate sense of the layout of the forest, he recalled that three of the runes, Mec, Fel, and Tur, were located in a semi-circular shape on the north and eastern stretch of forest, while Sah and Cad were situated further away to the south. From this, Dassarius surmised that the pass code was probably made of two words, one using the three to the north and one using the two to the south. In their debate over how the words went, Yolanda had a flash of insight. The Traveler in her must have sent a bit of wisdom forward, for Yolanda seemed to notice a connection between the situation of the runes and the placement of the stars above. She felt sure that if they arranged the northern letters in a clockwise order, and the southern letters in a counterclockwise order, they would unlock the bridge. Surprised by her sudden insight and assuredness, and also not having any other ideas, they decided to go with Yolanda’s idea. First, the southern words. Dassarius reached out with the tip of his rod in what he felt was the first of the key holes. As the tip touched, the surface of the arcane lock bristled with blue energy. Each movement of the staff left a trace like that of a paint brush across a canvas. Dassarius smoothly wrote the arcane words Cadsah Felmectur. When he finished the last letter, they seemed to lock in place and crackled and shone with arcane power. Now, the letters and locking mechanism were completely clear to the entire party. From the center of the water a brilliant light erupted, temporarily blinding the group. The light faded as the power began to spread out over the area of the ethereal bridge. Before their eyes the bridge solidified in an almost crystalline fashion, with branches of translucent matter hardening like water in a winter frost. The path to the Keep was now open. The travelers were eager to explore the other side, but were wary about their current state of battle fatigue. Q decided to just scout the area on the other side while the others made camp. He returned sometime later to report on what he saw. With this information the group decided on which way to enter the Keep and rested for the evening.

Early the next morning, the group headed out towards the southern part of the keep. At this end was a very large courtyard, behind which the Keep could be seen. Considering how long ago the Travelers lived it was amazing that any of this place still stood. Still, it was not in great shape. The high outer walls of the courtyard were either crumbling or covered in a variety of foliage. The iron gate across the southern entrance was likewise covered and completely rusted around. Sealing the gate in the center was a lock in the shape of a lions head. The mouth of the lion was the place where the correct key could be used to open the gate. Not having or wanting to look for the key, the party decided to try other means of opening the gate. Q stepped up and quickly and began to use his deft skill to try to pick the lock. He was finding this task difficult and hissed an elven curse at the lock’s antique design and poor condition. Yolanda grew tired of waiting and asked Q to step aside. With a powerful swing the lock split open with a rusty metal crunch. The group parted the gates and stepped into the courtyard.

The entryway had five foot walls of ornate stonework lining the left and right side of the path. What caught the group’s immediate attention were the two life-sized and carefully carved statues behind each of the walls to the left and right. They were statues of two warriors standing atop pedestals, arms resting atop the pommels of large swords propped in front of them. The two statues were both turned towards the path that ran up the center of the courtyard. Yolanda went down the path first. At one point as the path came closer to the center of the courtyard, Yolanda stopped for two reasons. One, she heard the distinctive sound of a pressure plate being activated beneath her foot, and two, immediately after that sound, the eyes of the statues snapped open and fired two concentrated beams of fire at her. The group found cover from at least one statue at a time by moving close to one of the walls. Each member searched the pathway for any clue that would disarm the trap, but it was difficult to concentrate while dodging laser-fire blasts. While Q went forward to search for the trap mechanism, the rest of the group returned fire. Dassarius and Arjahn both released blasts of fire at the statue to the right from their place behind the wall. Yolanda and Asura both tried to scale the short wall and rush the statue, but had difficulty getting over because of the walls slippery and poor condition. They opted to then throw their ranged weapons from the cover of the wall. Age must have taken its toll on the deadly statue, for its eyes blinked out after only a few attacks from the travelers. Shifting to the other side, the group now focused its energies on the statue to the left. Again, Dassarius and Arjahn loosed bolts of arcane and radiant fire at the statue. This wall was in much better shape, and Yolanda and Asura had no trouble scaling it to charge the construct head on. Yolanda made it first, hammering at the statue with her pick. The stone warrior was ready for attackers who dared to approach its base. Its arms sprang to life and gripped the sword affixed to its front. In a smooth arc the sword came down upon Yolanda, but not before she could bring up her shield to block it. Though deflected, even the brash and stalwart Yolanda was shaken by the power of the blow. Asura followed closely behind and charged at the statue to deliver a hefty attack of her own. The warlock and the cleric continued to use their might from afar, while the two melee warriors dealt damage up close. With a few more robust attacks, the eyes of the now broken construct blinked out, its inner fire extinguished. Though thoroughly destroyed, the statues were still quite valuable. Attached to their bases as decoration were several crystal ingots which the travelers took as compensation for their trouble.

But their trouble was not over. To get to the end of the courtyard the party had to cross between another set of identical statues. Having already tripped this trap, with the scorch marks to prove it, Q was easily able to identify the row of pressure plates that would have activated the stone watchers beside the path. Rather than try to disarm the trap, the party decided to merely leap over the dangerous tiles. Asura, Arjahn, Q, and Yolanda were confident that they could jump clear over the space, but then they stopped and looked at Dassarius doubtfully. With a sigh, Dassarius winked out of existence and appeared instantly ten feet beyond the row of trapped ground. The rest of the heroes quickly joined him on the other side, though not quite so gracefully. Before them they saw the entrance to the keep. There were two large, intricately carved doors flanked by two equally large and intricately carved statues. Though somewhat sullied from centuries of neglect, the doors and statues were completely intact and still held the essence of their former majesty. The group began to walk towards the entrance but did not get far before they stopped. Sauntering out from behind the two statues was a pack of nasty creatures. From one side came three familiar forms; shadow hounds, sleek and black with bared fangs. From the other came a different kind of creature. They looked like large, hairless dogs. Their skin seemed to have an ashy appearance and the air and ground seemed to smolder with heat around them. The group of creatures came together snarling and eyeing up their new prey.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Asura charged the first hell hound a vicious slashing charge. As she stepped back from her attack Asura noticed that the air seemed ablaze around the creature, but her Tiefling skin kept her well protected. Yolanda did not fair so well after her charge at a different hell hound. Her skin singed with heat that emanated from the foul creatures. This particular grouping of hounds seemed as if they had much experience hunting together, for they cleverly kept the two fighters off balance as they pushed the group further back towards the trapped pathway. As Asura was fending off two of the shadow hounds, she felt the sharp stab of steel in her back, and then she saw nothing. The others were shocked by what they saw. They saw a humanoid creature of slight, wiry build. She had grayish skin, black eyes, and carried a vicious looking greatsword. Her hooded, black cloak seemed to ooze darkness and her form was difficult to discern even though she was in plain sight. Being difficult to see by those not of the Shadowfell was something this Shadar-kai gloomblade enjoyed immensely. Facing such attackers, the Travelers moved back towards the central walkway, hoping to use the walls on either side to bottleneck the attackers, limiting their access to the artillery members of the group. But the shadow hounds easily broke the front line of defenders, teleporting to the rear to engage Dassarius and Q. The party fought furiously against their assailants, and as the hellhounds began to drop, the gloomblade and the shadow hounds made a tactical retreat teleporting out of sight. The Travelers took this opportunity to drop the last hellhound, and as they began to approach the doors, the shadow hounds and gloomblade reappeared surrounding Yolanda. She was instantly overwhelmed and fell from the violent onslaught. It was at that moment something triggered inside Asura. A memory, a sense of something else in the universe surrounding and infusing all that she saw. She unconsciously raised her hand muttering words she didn’t know that she knew, and for an instant, her eyes flashed with arcane energy. From the ground around their foes a vertical column of golden flames erupted and burned all within. Having received hefty damage, the gloomblade winked out of existence, leaving the shadow hounds to fend for themselves. Once the initial shock of Asura’s surprising ability wore off, the group returned their focus to dispatching the savage canines before them. With the addition of the reinvigorated and inspired Yolanda, that was an easy task. With no more obstacles barring their way, the group entered the ancient home of Kelmar the Traveler.

Chapter 4
Search for the White Lotus

The party quickly equipped themselves for the difficult journey ahead. While preparing their equipment, the group took some time to gather information on the Dundran Mountain area. Most of the information was about typical mountainous terrain, but some had heard rumors of Orc movement in the area. As they were gearing up to set out, there was a disturbance at the western gate. Since they were heading that way, the group decided to see what was happening. The remnants of a group of traders from Dunnkeep were straggling in. They reported being ambushed by a band of orcs. All their belongings were taken, as well as 3 women and 7 children. The group decided since they were heading that way anyway, they would track down the band of marauding orcs.

The party headed west, following the swath of destruction and trampled earth the orcs left in their wake. Near sunset on the second day, as the travelers approached Dunnkeep, they encountered a small orc party. It did not take much effort to smite the fowl beasts, but there was something very puzzling about this encounter. Attacking with the orcs were 2 jaguars of the Feywild. They were put down as easily as the orcs, but the party was curious as to how creatures of the Feywild came to be fighting alongside the orcs of Dunnedale.

Over several more days the party tracked the orc raiders west to the Dundran Mountain range. The party would have had to have worried about their food rations had it not been for the amazing hunting abilities of their ranger, and the unorthodox, yet effective, hunting method of their resident warlock. As they reached the foot of the mountains, the orc trail became difficult to trace. Luckily there was only one path that led deeper into the mountains, so the party headed in. After about a day of cautiously delving deep into the mountain range, the travelers came upon what could only be a pathway into orc territory. After all, there aren’t too many ways to interpret pike-mounted heads at the beginning of a trail. Ominous clouds had been gathering all day, but the storm did not break until they reached this point, almost as if nature itself was warning them of the path they were about to take. Despite the gruesome trail post warning, the party took the path, steeling themselves for what was sure to be a difficult fight. Rain pounded on them, making it difficult to see. The lightning and crashing thunder made it even more difficult to detect any danger. They walked along the mountain pass, eyes focusing on the ground in front of them and the tops of the craggy cliff walls to the left and right of the path. It wasn’t long before the adventurers knew they were spotted. Throwing axes rained down on them from concealed attackers 5-10 feet up on the cliff walls. The travelers took cover against the rock walls, returning fire in kind. As if the axe hurlers weren’t enough, the group was also besieged by a horde of orc brutes and minions. This group of assailants proved more resilient then the band that fell on the plains east of the mountain. But they too fell before the strength of the fighters.

The heroes pressed forward. The pathway ended in a large area encircled by shear rock walls. This was where the orcs had made their encampment. Crude shacks lined the outer rock circle. The ground had been trampled to dirt, and now was turning into a field of mud filling with pools of water from the deluge. At the back of the encampment, the party could see hanging cages containing some very scared, but living, human captives. In the center there was the smoking remains of a large fire pit. There were orc brutes and minions to the left and right of the fire. There were some more axe hurlers on top of the ramshackle dwellings. Behind the fire pit was the most startling sight. There stood an unbelievably large orc. He was clad in thick studded armor. His long hair fell wild behind his back, leaving bare a frightening, battle-scarred face. Behind this monstrosity lurked an orc shaman. His back was bent, his skin blistered and joints gnarled. He carried a twisted staff, adorned with feathers and dried, shrunken heads. Strange roots and vines hung from his neck and cloth belt. The orcs were clearly ready for their arrival. Raising a massive great-axe above his head, this orc titan let loose piercing battle cry. The orcs surged forward. With equally stunning ferocity, the adventurers charged forward to meet them.

Arjahn engaged the band of orcs to the left of the party. He quickly pounded the minions to dust, but the orc brute that led them was no stranger to battle. They both fought furiously, each delivering massive blows with their weapons. Meanwhile, Asura and Yolanda charged through the now extinguished fire at the orc chieftain, eager to test their mettle against such a powerful foe. Realizing the damage the axe hurlers could deliver from their position, Q and Dassarius swung to the right in order to end the threat.

The orcs fought viciously against the heroes. For every blow that Arjahn landed, his orc opponent responded in kind. Q and Dassarius found it difficult to take down their ranged opponents while simultaneously dodging the thrown axes. The orc leader was the biggest challenge of all. For every strike against him, he would retaliate with two. Matters were not helped by the orc shaman who used his ill-begotten magic to instill fear into Yolanda and Asura, clouding their judgment and limiting their actions. Nor were they helped by other orc brute and minions who also joined the fray. Once Q and Dassarius took down the ranged attackers, the heroes felt the battle going their way. The ranger and warlock focused on silencing the shaman as well as mopping up the remaining orcs. Asura and Yolanda continued to chop away at the gargantuan orc, swiping at the lesser orcs whenever they could. After many tense moments, Arjahn called upon the fury of Melora and smote his enemy with a righteous brand, the shaman and lesser orcs lay lifeless on the ground. But the great orc was not deterred by the odds against him. He fought more furiously than ever, but to no avail. He too was sent as an offering to the Raven Queen.

The travelers freed the captive humans who were grateful beyond words. Upon searching the encampment the group noticed another pathway squeezed between the might cliff walls. It seemed to lead south, deeper into the mountain range. They were eager to pursue this new discovery, eager to find the key to Dr. Cain’s blight. But being heroes of good conscience, they could not let these women and children fend for themselves after such a traumatic experience. They made another thorough search of the encampment, gathering all the looted goods onto the stolen cart along the wall. During the search of the shaman’s belongings, the group found a disturbing clue as to the reason for the orc attack. On a tattered piece of paper were the words “10 humans.” This did not seem to be a random attack by a marauding group of orcs. This puzzle piece had to wait, as the party had more immediate matters to attend to.

After loading up the goods, the travelers escorted the weary women and children back to Dunnkeep. Along the way, the group asked the commoners if they heard or saw anything else during their captivity. But the group only reported seeing orcs and couldn’t understand their language, so they had no more information. The citizens of Dunnkeep were extremely grateful for the safe return of their people. The party refreshed their supplies, contacted the local authorities about the orc threat in the area, and had an update sent to Eldin in Gridan. Now unencumbered, the party quickly set off back to the Dundran mountains, eager to explore the southern passageway.

After a few days, the travelers stood before the pathway. The carnage at the orc camp remained. No one seems to have come and discovered or disturbed the orcs’ eternal slumber. Without any hesitation the group proceeded deeper into the craggy depths of the mountain.

After walking for some time, the pathway led to a large, cave-like opening. Knowing that the white lotus supposedly grows in a cavern deep under the mountains, the party continued down the path into the pitch black depths of the Dundran.

Seeing the way forward may have been a challenge for average adventurers, but with Dassarius’ enchanted cloak and the fantastically luminescent sun rods, exploring the caverns depths was not challenging. What was challenging was not being killed by the cavern’s local inhabitants. Many large and nasty creatures called these caves home. The travelers discovered this while exploring one offshoot of the main passage. While walking down the side passage the party was surprised by several gargantuan leaping spiders. The spiders clearly had the advantage here, leaping from the darkness and swiping at the heroes, only to disappear again in to the black. Asura and Yolanda chased the spiders to the left of a great column in the middle of the cavern while the others went to the right. Dassarius, noticing the legs of one giant spider behind the great column, seared it with his devastating power from the Feywild. He was very surprised when, as he pursued the now bloodied spider, he found himself ensnared by pincer-like barbed hands. He was now grasped by a nasty cavern choker, whose long arms and spiney hands were designed for strangling its victims from the dark. This new threat left Asura and Yolanda to deal with the spiders while Q and Arjahn aided Dassarius against the chokers. Though initially surprised, the party regrouped and left these monsters as little more than mounds of gore. Only one spider had enough sense to retreat. As it made a final jump to safety, it found itself pinned to the wall with an arrow, a victim of Q’s unerring marksmanship.

The group was about to return to the main passage when Dassarius felt the definite presence of magic. Following his sense, he led the party to a deep pool of water at the southern end of this cavern. Dassarius was sure that source of this arcane feeling came from the bottom of this pool. Arjahn and Dassarius jumped in and swam down to investigate. At the bottom, they found an ornate looking box. Judging by its placement, it seemed to have been placed there on purpose. Wary of just grabbing the box, the two went back up for more expert help. Q went down this time and, after some examination, noticed a trap would be triggered if someone tried to move the box. With dexterous hands and a sharp mind, Q easily disabled the trap and brought the box to the surface. Unlocking the box was just as easy. Inside, the party was happy to discover a Bag of Holding. Not finding anything else of note in the cavern, they went back to the main passage and continued deeper south.

The main passage opened up into another large cavern. The travelers were instantly on their guard because of the large, thick spider webs that covered almost every inch of the walls and ceiling. Since this was the only way, the heroes went deeper into the spider lair. Towards the back, they noticed a corpse that was somewhat fresh. Well, fresh compared to the mostly decomposed remains of many creatures that were unfortunate enough to find their way down here. As they stepped up to examine the carcass, Yolanda, Asura, and Q were surprised by the leaping attack of several deathjump spiders. At that same moment, spiders of all kinds seemed to swarm out of the very walls and ceiling. One particular swarm seemed to coalesce into a large group and moved together to attack Q. As the heroes responded to this sudden threat, another deathjump spider dropped from its hiding place in the ceiling to attack Dassarius at the rear of the group. A fierce battle ensued as the heroes fought for their lives and the spiders for their dinner. The party was experience battling the deathjump spiders, but this spider swarm was difficult to deal with as there was almost nothing solid for their weapons to hit. Dassarius reached for a flask on his belt and loosed it at the spider swarm. In a flash of light and heat, the alchemist’s fire burst from the shattering glass, dousing the spider swarm in flame and dealing substantial damage to the rippling mass of legs and teeth. These beasts were no match for the battle hardened travelers and quickly succumbed to their might.

The travelers continued to the rear of the spider lair where the pathway now descended in a slope of slippery rocks. As the group cautiously followed, they all felt the ground underneath them violently tremble. Q and Asura had enough footing to jump to the sides of the pathway. Dassarius, Arjahn, and Yolanda did not have such luck. The very ground crumbled beneath them and they fell into the darkness. After a short fall, they became submerged in a rapid underground river which quickly carried them away. The raging rapid continued through several twists and turns before it reached a large pool. Looking up, the three adventurers saw an opening in the rocks above. Desperate for air, they darted up towards the surface. As they caught their breath, Yolanda noticed that all around this new cavern were lots of mounds of dirt, as if something had been digging or tunneling all around. As they exited from the pool, they found out what it was. Dassarius let out a scream of surprise as from the ground emerged several chitinous reptilian creatures. Arjahn knew these animals as kruthiks, and was wary of their churning, barbed limbs. From their nasty sounding clicks and hisses, Arjahn also knew they were not going to be very friendly.

Back in the passage, Asura and Q had to think fast. Since the river followed in the same direction as the passage, they quickly ran down the pathway, looking and listening for any sign as to where the river continued. It wasn’t long before they heard the cry of Dassarius’ surprise echo from further down the pathway. Asura and Q now began running headlong down the path to meet the one comrade they knew was alive, and in trouble. As they ran further, they heard the distinctive sounds of a furious battle. Q rounded the last corner that opened up into another large cavern. He saw his companions being swarmed by several adult and young kruthiks. As he rushed forward to engage, several more young kruthiks emerged from the ground before him. Knowing Asura was right behind him, Q slid past the younglings, moving closer to aid his embattled allies. Indeed Asura came charging in behind Q, savagely slashing away at the kruthiks in her path. Combining all their efforts, they party made the kruthiks wish they had just stayed underground.

Having regrouped and shaken off their latest near-demise, the group noticed a large passageway in the rear of this kruthik hunting ground. The path went back and curved around to the left. As the party walked on, a separate passageway opened up to their right. As they deliberated which way to explore, a choice was made for them. From the ground at the mouth of this new passage erupted the head of a humongous kruthik hive lord. It spat a vile acid upon the party, leaving them burning and weak. As quickly as it was there, the head vanished beneath the ground. The party could sense that it had retreated back in the direction of the new passage way. Knowing they wouldn’t be safe to explore the rest of the mountains depths unless this threat was dealt with, they pursued the kruthik hive lord.

Yolanda was particularly incensed by the hive lord’s acidic surprise and went charging after where she thought the kruthik retreated. The rest of the party followed up behind, but it was Yolanda who first stumbled upon the kruthik lord. It was sitting deep in its nest, surrounded by many of its offspring. Yolanda sprang into action, picking and swiping furiously at the onslaught of barbed, metal-like appendages. Arjahn was next to charge up into the fray, unleashing a scorching blast of lightning dragon breath. Both Yolanda and Arjahn were becoming quickly overwhelmed by the almost endless onslaught of kruthiks. As the rest of the party arrived to engage the kruthik horde, the hive lord used its massive spiked legs to walk around the wall to an advantageous position before blasting the party again with its caustic acid. Though the kruthik swarm was causing grievous injuries, the others decided the hive lord was the biggest threat to their survival. Asura, Q and Dassarius focused all their force on taking out kruthik leader. Using their most devastating abilities, the adventurers laid waste to the hulking beast. But they were far from safe. Both Arjahn and Yolanda had both fallen while holding the surviving kruthiks at bay. It was only through their sheer force of will, as well as some strategic healing, that they were able to keep fighting. Now that the hive lord’s acid was no longer a threat, the travelers were able to fight with their full strength. With their combined might they exterminated the kruthik horde. Weary from the constant barrage of monsters, the group hunkered down in the kruthik nest for an extended rest.

The time passed without incident. The travelers woke refreshed and ready to continue their mission. They went back to the main chamber where they were side tracked by the hive lord. They turned west and continued their search for the white lotus. After walking some time they came to beautiful underground waterfall. But there did not seem to be any other paths to take. This was the end of the line. Searching high and low, they did not find a lotus or a new path. They did notice that the waterfall sounded a bit different at its base than at the top. So Asura dove in the pool at the base of the cascade and swam underneath. She discovered an underwater passage leading behind the waterfall, but it was too long to swim. While she explored below, Yolanda discovered a tunnel behind the waterfall at ground level. Once Asura came up and joined the party, they set off down the hidden passage.

The pathway was narrow at first. But as they walked, it opened up wider and wider. Then, the walkway opened up into a massive underground cavern. The path continued forward, but now was flanked by deep, shimmering blue water on both sides. The walkway led to the middle of the cavern. The water on the sides was narrow at first, but expanded out to the far walls of the tremendous chasm. The back wall of the cave was lined with massive waterfalls, roaring loudly in the subterranean depths. But what drew the attention of the adventurers was at the end of the path. The walkway expanded as it progressed into the cavern to about 60 feet in width. It formed a peninsula in this underground lake. At the end of this peninsula there was a shallow pool of water. Many white and purple colored lotus flowers grew in the water. But in the center was truly an astonishing site. One lotus flower had grown tall, strong stems that lifted it from the water. As the stem got closer to the top, it seemed to turn from plant matter into some kind of organic crystal. The crystal continued to the top where a large, beautiful lotus flower had blossomed. It was not carved, but rather seems to have grown naturally out of crystal. This certainly was the white lotus that they sought. As they moved closer to retrieve the flower, a giant form burst from the water behind them.

Hovering above the water, framed by the billowing waterfalls behind, was a young blue dragon. “Do not disturb the sacred orchid,” it bellowed in guttural common that seemed to shake the very walls of the cavern. The dragon reared its head as its mouth charged with lightning, and the dragon released a blazing bolt that leaped from one hero to another. The dragon was keeping its distance, assaulting the group from afar with its lightning powers. The adventurers were far from helpless, though. Q, Dassarius, and Arjahn , refreshed from their recent rest, unleashed their destructive attacks upon the blue menace. Even Asura and Yolanda, though limited by range, were able to hurl their throwing weapons with enough skill and accuracy to do some serious damage. Dassarius called upon the power of the Feywild to curse the dragon with a powerful psychic attack, causing the dragon to land near the waiting warriors. Once on the ground, Yolanda used her enchanted pick to freeze the dragon within the party’s reach. The dragon proved even more dangerous up close, slashing with its claws and goring with its horn. The heroes were able to land enough blows so that by the time the dragon was able to escape to the air it was grievously wounded. As it flew above the shimmering water of the cavern, Dassarius hit it with one final Eldritch blast that engulfed the dragon in flames, sending its now lifeless body crashing into the water.

Arjahn cautiously slipped into the shallow pool encircling the crystal lotus. The water seemed to revitalize him, filling him with strength and healing his wounds. He reached up and delicately grabbed the flower. As he did, the area where the crystallized flower met the organic base shattered leaving Arjahn holding the white lotus flower. While Arjahn was carefully extracting this natural treasure, the rest of the party was busy gathering treasure of other types. They hauled the dragon out of the water to gather any valuable parts from its body. Yolanda was also able to locate the dragon’s lair and with the help of Asura and Dassarius, they hauled away quite a bit of treasure. They now had the white lotus. It was time to return to Gridan, revive Dr. Cain, and get some answers.

Chapter 3
A Plot Unfurled

After shaking off the necromancers stunning curse, Arjahn was able to administer healing to Dr. Cain. This provided him with just enough strength to pull Yolanda towards him and whisper ”...must…protect…earth…” He then slumped back into what looks like a coma; wounds healed, but still unconscious.

Asura led the charge into the next room to find a large, ornately carved burial chamber, with a beaten and scorched villain struggling to stand back up. “I’m not finished with you yet,” he croaked, pointing a gaunt, quivering finger at Asura. Then in a blaze of dark flames, the necromancer vanished, leaving only a cloudy mist behind.

Surveying this room, the party discovers that this is the final resting place of Aron, Lord Lavendis…at least it was…until our antagonist decided he needed some new digs.

Upon inspecting the headpiece of the staff that the statue of Lord Lavendis was holding, Dassarius had a vision that showed a distant land. In the middle of a thickly forested area there was an ancient temple that contained an identical statue holding the actual staff. After sharing with the group and consulting the map, the party believes that place to be near Valerian City.

They collected Dr. Cain (and what was left of Yolanda ) and hustled back to Gridan. They went immediately to the Temple of Melora to get aid for Dr. Cain. The temple priest that greeted them was alarmed by Dr. Cain’s condition and they placed him in Arjahn’s room until the High Priest could attend to him. The party returned to the barracks to rest for the evening.

In the morning, the group had a meeting with Eldin who was happy to see them return, but very unhappy about the news they brought. He dispatched a team of powerful magi to deal with any remaining undead and reseal the Lavendis tomb. He also suggested that we see the two remaining Lavendis brothers in town to see if they had any additional information about these happenings. As they might be upset about the party breaking into the family mausoleum, Eldin wrote a letter to the Lavendis brothers attesting to the truth of the story the group would tell them. He also paid them a hefty sum of platinum for their services (ka-ching!).

The party then goes to the Temple of Melora to check on Dr. Cain. When they meet with the high priest, he asks the group to tell him how Dr. Cain came to be in this condition. Now having all the information, the temple elder informs the group that Dr. Cain is afflicted with a Lich Possession curse. His body is in perfect health, but his soul has sustained tremendous damage and cannot be cured by conventional means. He tells the group the story of the White Lotus flower which is said to have the power to cure this affliction. Leaving Dr. Cain in his care, the group goes in search of the Lavendis brothers.

The brothers could be found high in their arcane tower. The party was shown up to the brothers’ study where they were busy with all manner of magical study and experimentation. The duo was much dismayed about hearing of the fate of their ancestor’s remains. Upon hearing about how three of the party came to be in this world, the brothers began (as Ryan called it) “googling” information by summoning magic tomes and scrolls out of thin air, quickly searching for any information on the original travelers and this necromancer.

From the information they magi-googled () the Lavendis brothers pieced together the story of the Travelers as such. They were originally three very powerful mages who were particularly interested in teleportation. They had developed a series of gateways that could teleport people and goods instantly between the major cities of Terra. Those gateways have not been operational for quite some time. They also were secretly experimenting with inter-dimensional transportation. The brothers believed that the Travelers had successfully made a gateway to the world of Earth. On their return, they were ambushed by a rival mage named Ventus. With several of his followers, Ventus is said to have killed the Travelers. The battle drew the attention of many guards who engaged Ventus and his followers. The account of this fight is unclear, but it appears that Ventus went through the portal at some point, and was never seen again. The rest of his followers escaped.

The brothers asked how the three even came to find the portal. When describing about Dr. Cain, the matter of the silver bracelet came up. The brothers instantly demanded to know where the bracelet was. The last the party knew, it was in Dr. Cain’s possession. One of the brothers vanished, only to reappear a few moments later with the bracelet. He explained that this bracelet belonged to one of the Travelers and was the reason they were able to go through the portal. They theorized that the Travelers built the gateway so that only they could pass through it. They must have left the bracelet on the other side, anticipating that someone from earth would find the portal and come through. They think that this magical warding is what kept Ventus from leaving the gateway cavern on Earth. They also believe that the reason the three from earth look like the Travelers is to help whoever would have come from earth to blend in with the inhabitants of Terra. However, when asked why they not only had the appearance of natives of Terra, but newfound abilities and knowledge of this world, the brothers did not have an explanation as to how that could be.

Dassarius also mentioned the vision he had when he touched the headpiece in the tomb. The brothers were instantly alarmed and demanded who else they had told about this vision. The group informed them that only Eldin knew, and the other brother vanished this time. He reappeared a few moments later informing his brother that “it’s been taken care of.” The brothers then explained that the location of the staff is very secret knowledge about the Lavendis family history and the temple in the Valerian forest.

The party explained their next steps to the Brothers, who laughed at the idea that the White Lotus even exists. They did admit that it is possible, however improbable and very difficult to find, as the White Lotus is said to grow only in the deep subterranean caverns in the Dundran Mountains.

Chapter 2
Through the Looking Glass

The trip through the portal was quite a doozy, and it appeared that the party went from the frying pan into the fire. After meeting with Mayor Eldin and his mysterious entourage, the group was taking a nice twilight tour of town when they are met by a band of mangy looking mongrels.

Tonight on the Gridan nightly news. The town is under attack!!! Terrifying creatures of old have stormed the city from the North Gate! Mysterious heroes from another world have held them back, saving innocent civilians! They could be headed to your part town town, find out after this short word from our sponsors! (Crawl: Stocks in mead are plummeting…Zombie wolves are eating children…Lamp oil now on sale at Smitty’s…)

The party (btw feel free to come up with a fun team name), after following the trail of undeady messness, came upon a creepy graveyard and trounced the zombies who awoke from the coffins buried below. Your now camped in front of a large, sealed, mausoleum, which has more footprints leading in and out of it. In the middle of the night, your culinary exploits attracted the attention of 2 wandering gravehounds, which you all made short work of (i should have used 3 or 4…next time…next time…).

That blazing skeleton should have stayed in bed…and welcome to the Lavendis Family Catacombs…spooky!

The party made it a few feet down the main entry corridor when they were ambushed by a pack of shadow bats and flanked by a pair of phantom warriors who were none too happy to be having any visitors. Mike, you’ll love this…one of them got dusted and the other escaped by phasing through a nearby wall. Vaarsuvius, ehem, I mean Dassarius, in an attempt to get some distance between himself and the fray, bumped into a clay scout who gave him quite a headache. After taking out a pair of magical crossbow traps, the team got jumped (literally) but a small pack of Imps (but you don’t really know they’re Imps). Spooky! After taking out a double line of skeleton warriors and skeleton flame throwers, the party is ambushed by an old friend and his insubstantial buddies.

Chapter 1
New Beginnings

Dr. Cain will begin: “I have to thank you kids…you saved my life back there. I don’t know how…but you did. When those rats rushed toward me, I saw my life flash before my eyes. I’m honestly not totally sure what’s going on here, but considering the circumstances we’re in, I think it best that I tell you everything I know. First of all, Dr. Walters, as you may have noticed, is not only a friend and colleague…(pregnant pause)...she’s my ex-wife. We met in graduate school in a Cultural Anthropology seminar. Long story short, we got married 5 years later, and had dreams of travelling the world, going on fantastic adventures, and seeing every corner of the globe. The truth is, we never saw every corner, because she was obsessed with the jungle…(he pauses, and puts his hand deep into his pocket, and pulls out what appears to be a silver bangle)...and this is why.”

Dassarius – Before any of us rest, I think we need to talk about just happened. I mean, we go and touch those glowing circles and suddenly we are transformed!!!? WTF?! We have these insane powers.! I can travel around becoming invisible. You guys suddenly have insane strength and a sense of crazy wisdom (especially you Asura). And isn’t it so weird that we all have abilities and characteristics that are similar to when we were normal??? Like, me for example, I was always the one in back of the room..trying every which way to hide from my work, my classes, my professors in the hall..and now I have this ability to literally disappear with a few short steps. And you guys know I was an Earth Science Major, and now I have this uncanny knowledge of the natural world. I was just able to tell that that water was safe for us to drink by looking at it! I was able to tell that those rock formations down the hall…ya know those 4 stalactite pillars were stable. Its like I have all the experience any geologist could ever want, and I only have taken a few classes so far! But these physical changes are weird. I got these pointy ears, and am totally lean and ripped! And you Asura. You have this ability to lead us and have all these tactics planned. You were able to figure out which way to go next, and set up an amazing battle plan to fight off those rats… Although, lets be honest, it was me in the end who cleaned up that crap while you two were whimpering on the floor….HA! And what was with this healing ability? I know you have always had an interest in medicine and are thinking about Med school, and now suddenly you were able to bring us back from near death with just a few words! What do you guys think? And this nut obsessed with the jungle? What is her deal?”

Asura – This situation is certainly disconcerting, our physical and mental changes most of all. As you know I am always very cool and collected. When we first saw those giant insects and spiders, even though I should have been freaking out at their unnatural size, my first thoughts were how to coordinate ourselves to take them out quickly. Even stranger were some surges of emotion that I felt during the battle. There were times in the thick of the fights were I had an overwhelming sense of fury, like the fires of the deepest hell, rise up inside of me. While there are so many questions about what has just happened that it is completely overwhelming, we need to stay focused on the biggest issues at hand: how do we change back and get back home. Dr. Cain, it would be most helpful if you could tell us everything you know, starting with that silver bracelet.”

In his croaky, professory voice, Dr. Cain responds: “You both raise some very interesting points. I too am quite surprised at the…changes (and he leans over with an eyebrow raised to look behind Asura and notices her new tail and horns)...that you’ve all experienced, i have not seen or heard of anything like what has happened to you all…but i must say, you look like you all stepped out of some kind of dungeons and dragons game! As for this bracelet, if you could believe it, this is even more of a mystery. Syl…ehem…i mean Dr. Walters, entrusted me with this many many years ago…this really is what started her obsession with the jungle. (Sigh) According to what she tells me, this bangle was passed down in her family for many generations…and we’re talking about many generations of explorers, scientists, archaeologists… The story of how her family came into possession of it is a little vague, but we do know that it was found deep in this jungle, embedded in a rock face on top of tall rock formation. (To illustrate, he holds up his hand, palm flat, and draws a circle in his palm with his finger with his other hand). Wanting to know as much about it as possible, her family conducted a molecular analysis of the material, and learned that its composition is unlike any known metal we have here on earth. She gave it to me for safe keeping when she left to explore the jungle. She was afraid that if she didn’t survive her expedition, the bracelet would be lost again. And now I’m afraid the only viable direction is to press onward…the entrance is caved in, and i’m afraid that if we disturb the walls around it, we’ll only do more damage.” (He glances ominously at the two large stone slabs that appear to be doors on the north and south sides of this room)

Yolanda sat quietly listening to the others talk about this experience. They were all scared. She, on the hand, was excited. Instead of sitting in Dr. Liebowitcz’s class she was in an unknown place with amazing powers. She understood the others’ anxiety, but she was excited to see what tomorrow would bring. Would be able to fly? Would she be able to wield two war picks? Would she grow a tail?

Dr. C. was showing them all a silver bracelet. Yolanda heard something about keeping it safe and pressing onward. That excited her!

“Let’s press on after a good night rest. Some sleep should calm your…um..our nerves.” Yolanda smiled. She knew tomorrow would bring more extraordinary things.


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