Origin of Isorn't
The roots of the Manlin King
December 2nd, 1081. The progress: still deep entrenched in a war with the manlins. Updates via letters arrived to our intrepid heroes. Nella Sunelle sent a letter to her half-brother, Nathan Bishop, with enclosed a portrait of Richard Bishop. Kao-Tsu Quan received a letter from his beloved wife, Lun Quan, wishing him the best on his adventures. Belcoot addressed a letter to Nathan and Talia Lancaster (Black), updating them on the progress of the army. Not much had changed, however envoys from the manlin forces had been scouted in the Meadowlands, for some reason. Belcoot requested their rendezvous with the main forces, although not with urgency. Talia also received a letter from an unknown source, urging their party to travel to the village of Green Dew (in the Neutral Lands). There they would find a secret supply of Isorn’t‘s Ooze of Alteration, aka the green magical residue that helped transform man and goblins into manlins. The letter suggested if they were to destroy this, it would be a hurt to the enemy. Talia doubted the letter’s validity, but agreed since the village of Green Dew was not far out of their way, it was worth investigating. Taiass Atwari split forces with his friends, having some business to tie up with the court, but promised to meet up with them in Green Dew in a few days.

Three days later, Kao-Tsu, Vivian, Nathan, and Talia arrived in Green Dew. Markedly, they came a bit too late to the village….the tiny town showed distinct signs of ruin from an attack. Green Dew had been long abandoned by its inhabitants. As they searched through the foggy and eerie debris of the village, Kao-Tsu disturbed a magical rune on the floor. Suddenly, they were besieged by magical guardians of the village: gorgons! A furious fight ensued, with Talia and Kao-Tsu pulling out all their tricks; after all, they remembered the last time they fought a gorgon with Belcoot and almost perished. Thankfully, this time they proved victorious, however, with one setback: Nathan had been turned to stone! Vivian shrank his statue and agreed to not play with it as an action figure after some admonishment from Talia. A solution would be found soon for his petrification; for the moment, they should move forward through the town. Kao-Tsu after all had found a magical trail, leading through the woods…..

After about an hour and a half of walking through swampy lands through the fog, Kao-Tsu followed the path and lead his friends to a tiny goblin village. Upon their approach, all doors were slammed shut and windows barred to outsiders. Old distrusting eyes peered with deep-rooted hatred from the cracks in shambled windows onto our heroes as they tentatively ventured deeper into the impoverished hamlet. As the fog deepened, a wizened voice cracked out of the cold silence to the adventurers. “Travelers? Here?? Old Yammel cares not. Surely you seek the story of Isorn’t? For that is the only reason the village of Kull exists anymore…It is but a faded memory and a shadow of what we once were.” Out from the heavy mist hobbled a goblin crone with a walking stick. Interested yet apprehensive, the adventurers listened to her tale.

“Once, our village of Kull was teeming with life. We goblins were not wealthy, never rich, but full with families and farmers and crops. Next to us lived the barbarians of Green Dew. Humans. Hotheaded. Vicious. Cruel. Often raided our crops. But still, what could we do? We were farmers. They were warriors. Strong. Still, we kept to ourselves and so did they, mostly. Until one day. Illam. He was but a boy. Wandered into Green Dew. He made friends with a boy, a human boy. The humans found him. Only saw one goblin amongst many humans. They used his invasion of their territory as an excuse to raid our town! Murder. Rampage. Killed everyone except the oldest of the women who could not bear children. This was our punishment as goblins. Buried all in a mass grave. But HE escaped . . . Isnorn’t. He was a baby still! Dug himself out of the grave, he did. Vowed revenge on the humans. Waited until he was strong, as strong as the humans . . .he killed them all. Every last human. He found something in the swamps, something that made him strong . . . and when he came back, he was not goblin. No, he was more. . . but terrifying. Yammel too scared of him. No longer the scared boy he was. No. Isnorn’t wants more than what we goblins can offer him . . .” the old woman covered her face. “This place is dead now. No more will Yammel hear the cries of goblin babies. All is lost but the old things waiting to die . . . all is lost. . .” Her voice cracked as she cried into her dirty handkerchief. The fog enveloped the old crone as they backed away from the emotional old woman and the haze obscured their view of the village of Kull. Kao-Tsu continued to follow the magical path deeper and deeper into the swamp and they tried to put the story of the old woman behind them. They knew their enemy better now. . . for better or for worse.

Farther into the woods, Vivian (going off the the directions of a bullfrog), discovered the magical trail led to a sinkhole. Uncertain, the threesome jumped into the water, and attempted to swim to the bottom, despite a slight issue with piranhas attacking. Luckily, they escaped, although bloody, and swam to the bottom of the pit, which teleported them to a dry cavern below the surface of the water. The magic of the teleportation also restored Nathan to his human status! After some time resting from the piranha attack, Taiass was also able to catch up with his compatriots. It was agreed that they were most likely walking into a trap of the enemy; however all they could do was move forward.

The next room proved their theory true, as they walked into a temple room with a enchanted sleeping avatar of Mellora, guarded by evil Dagon fish-men. After some difficulty, Talia was able to magically awaken Ariella, the water fey, as the rest of the party slashed and hacked at the fish people. She explained that an aspect of Tiamat had invaded her holy temple to Mellora and had attacked her as well. He had entered her temple after a small goblin had asked her access, which she had granted. . . however, she remembered that upon his exit, he was fearsome, and unnatural. As the adventurers shared a glance and realized she spoke of Isorn’t, pitiless laughter filled the chamber. Ariella shrieked and turned into a trail of water as she saw the familiar figure teleported in behind the heroes.

Isorn’t spoke plainly and cruelly. He told the five that they were the strongest the Calicans had at their disposal, yet they were no match for his might. He offered a choice. Join him, and become manlin, and perhaps a truce could yet be made. As the heroes rejected him, he proved his might, shrugging off their most powerful of attacks. Vivian tore at his flesh simultaneously to Taiass’ stabbing psionic polearm attacks. Talia pulled on all of her blood magic, casting the most forceful of her magic missiles while diverting her very life force. Kao-Tsu’s whirling mantis step hit harmoniously to his best friend Nathan’s unrelenting shield bashes. Still, the manlin did not submit; indeed, he was barely hindered by the five!! Nathan and the others did not go down without a fight. Indeed their fierce leader was dropped three times by his enemy before submitting to unconsciousness. Finally only the monk remained standing before the manlin commander. As Isorn’t prepared a devastating spell against the unmoving Nathan, Kao-Tsu dived in front of his friend’s body, his right arm absorbing the impact of the spell and disintegrating painfully in a blast of white light that knocked both Isorn’t and Kao-Tsu to the side. The pain itself was unbearable and enough to kill a weaker man; Kao-Tsu immediately blacked out.

As the group revived one by one to Ariella’s splashes of water, they realized their luck. Isorn’t had left them alive; for what reason, they did not know. Taiass conferred quietly with Nathan, and a somber tone filled the chamber. There was much the eladrin knew about healing, but this much was for certain; the monk would forever be without his right arm. The wound was cauterized and although it would be painful, nothing else could be done for Kao-Tsu. The monk awakened to his own horrified screams. No jokes could mend his sorrows. Angrily, he agreed to push forward. The aspect of Tiamat still lay in the unexplored chamber ahead. Even though they could not vanquish their true enemy yet, all that was left was to keep gaining strength for the inevitable final battle with Isorn’t.

Taiass versus the Court
Memories and Betrayals

As the warriors prepared for their next moves in battle, Taiass Atwari explained his latest movements in battle. He clarified his reasons for being late to The Battle of Senia; his people were in need of aid. He explained that his people were in need for him to protect of book, a precious artifact that held the names of his “great ones”. If his allies were able to protect this book, it may prove beneficial to his people who may thusly provide aid to the Calican military. Nathan Bishop exchanged a glance with his compatriots. If they were okay with this deal, so was he, despite his misgivings about Taiass’s true motivations.

Next they were off, to Sarol Mansion in the Meadowlands, a few days travel away. As Nathan, Taiass, Talia, and Vivan were prepared to meet at the mansion to guard the book, Taiass was surprised to also meet his former adventuring companions. Apparently they were also tasked with guard duty during this important occassion of the Great Ones. As Taiass gazed upon his former compatriots, he remembered the old times……

Taiass remembered one of their first adventures. Thrace, a half elf and captain of their guard, had gathered them together on behalf of the Court to find and capture Belazara, a worshipper of Bane, who had stolen a vial of fine importance to the Court. The Court was a group of immortals who were attempting to seek immortality and seek balance within the world….the fact that they were undead liches seemed secondary to their greatness. Many had followed their lead, but few had gained their trust. With this adventure, Taiass hoped to gain their favor and eventually immortality for himself. Together, Thrace had gathered Anare, a serious mage wood elf; Keyvan, a gay dragonborn rogue; and Grimm, a stalwort dwarf prone to memory problems; this team plus Taiass were expected to help capture Belazara and help the court. Slashing their way through many a hobgoblin warrior, the adventurers were victorious in their goal, although Belazara was able to escape their grasp….the Court was still victorious. The four warriors, although ordered to disband by the Court, agreed to meet every year at a fixed point in the Neutral Lands to continue their friendship.

Four years had gone by since that time. Four years and Taiass had not been able to rendevous with his former teammates, having being ordered by the Court to spy on the Calican military and integrate himself within their ranks, so deeply that indeed Taiass had not recieved orders from the Court for years. As his former mates gazed on him, Taiass felt no shame. He had only done what the court had ordered him to do. Despite the hating looks, Taiass took his guard on the inside of the mansion with his new friends whilst his old friends patrolled the perimeter. Despite their best efforts, the masquarade party at the Sarol Mansion was ambushed by hill giants and duegers, as well as an invisible foe who attempted to make off with the book of the Court. All of Taiass’ former companions were seemingly killed in the attack, and the mansion was raided by a group of Court superior agents, who blamed Taiass for the failure. As Vivian pawed through the book, she realized Taiass was set up for failure, as the book was empty of writing! The party split up in two directions, distracting the Court’s agents, who dissassembled, unable to locate the party members.

Eventually the party was able to group together. They agreed that their next step should be the Zartinian city of Tor, a day’s travel away, where Taiass’ former friend Moss Gornal, who had gathered together his original team, may know more of who set up Taiass for a fall. Through the merchantile city streets of Tor, they were able to outsmart agents chasing Moss and pay off the guards warding the fat eladrin. Moss coward before Taiass and admitted that he knew nothing, but a madman Quiddis Quo may know something. Quiddis was a conspiracy theorist who had somehow figured out who the court was, although his theories breached on insanity. The party interrogated Quiddis, who attacked them with his pet scorpions but relented his attacks once dominated by the ever persuasive vampire Vivian. Quiddis exchanged information for the “favorite sunrod of the Court” presented by Kao-Tsu. Quiddis admitted that he was the invisible figure who had attempted to steal the book of the court. He had been put up to the deed by a cloaked figure, who met him on a rope bridge just outside of town. He had a schedule to meet with the person that very night!

That night, Taiass dressed Nathan, who was close in height to Quiddis, in beggar’s robes, attempting to disguise the fighter. The counterfeit worked, as the cloaked figure closed in on the rope bridge and reveled his true face to Nathan: Grimm! The dwarf, who had been fooling his memory problems from the start, had been paid off by the NighmareScape and Prince Janus to betray the Court and set Taiass up for failure. On Nathan’s word, the others sprang forward from the woods, and were eventually victorious over the dward and his kenku guards. The court upper agents saw the fight and awarded Taiass with a great honor. He was presented with a case containing the gear of an upper agent of the Court. Taiass now had the full respect of his great Court, although the trust of his friends was beginning to wane….just whose side was he fighting for?

The Battle of Senia
A Frenzied Fight and A Friend Lost

After relaxing for a day in Mixed Bag from the excitement of gaining Ryu as an ally to their cause, the Calican military quickly caught up to speed with our intrepid heroes. Their next orders dispatched them to Eastern Zartinia, to the Ragnor province. Calican intelligence had discovered that in the town of Senia there was a residium mine, highly coveted by the manlin army. Indeed there had been sighting of Lania Lancaster and Zeric Lancaster, Talia’s parents and generals of Isorn’t’s army. It was rumored that the Lancasters were hoping to gain control of the residium mine in order to make some sort of powerful magical weaon. Quickly, the party made haste to Zartinia, although briefly Taiass Atwari broke rank from his comrades, explaining he had business to attend to but would meet them later in battle.

After almost two weeks of journey, Nathan Bishop, Kao-Tsu Quan,Talia Lancaster (Black), and Vivian arrived at the rocky Senia military outpost by a small riverbed. The Calican troops had already been fighting for days and were currently at a stalemate with the manlin and drow forces. Luckily, they had arrived in time; major battle was due to occur at any point! As Talia looked at the state of the troops around her and tried to find the person in charge, she realized, for the first time in her military career, she and her friends were the highest in rank and the sole commanding officers of this military operation. Nathan exchanged a glance with her and he nodded, stepping up to the plate of leadership and accepting the challenges ahead of him. Sgt. Gull Hallem, a up and coming Zartinian soldier, and Sgt. Unak, a grizzled old school Zartinian vet who had fought in the old war, informed Nathan and Kao-Tsu what sort of troops were ready for the battle. Archers, crossbowmen, and mages brought up the rear of the attacks while foot soldiers were plentiful in the front. Also a group named “Razor Squad”, comprised of swordmages, and a small but powerful squad of Zartinian rangers with Komodo dragons were at their disposal. After some light socialization with the troops to raise morale, the battle was about to commence!

First under Nathan’s leadership, the Calicans pressed forward on offense, attempting to take a hill leading to the mine. Unfortunately they spread themselves too thin and their ranks were split. Many Calican casualties were a consequence. Regardless, they pressed on and were able to defeat a powerful group of drow riders. Through this victory, they captured a critical bridge directly leading to the mine of Senia. After pressing forward, word reached the leaders. Taiass rushed to the front of their lines, back from his mysterious business and ready to help. They could either help interrogate a manlin prisoner giving their troops problems or they could help in the medical triage, where a disease called “the shakes” was affecting their troops. Kao-Tsu agreed, keeping the troops healthy was key to a victory. This choice proved to be a dismal one, as not only could they not prevent the disease from spreading, but Talia and Kao-Tsu fell ill themselves.

Despite their setbacks, the party was frantic to pull themselves together. Gull Hallem brought to their attention the news that a squad of drow was seen going under the city, through the sewers. This was surely their way of getting a surprise attack on the Callicans! Talia agreed to help lead Razor Squad in a secret attack to catch up with the drow and foil their plans. In the dark stank sewers, the squad had difficulty moving about and finding direction. Instead of finding drow they were able to cut off a group of manlin with cave trolls. After a strenuous battle that left the cave trolls scattered in the sewers, a huge explosion was heard from overhead. The ground shook, and the walls began to collapse and cave in around the leaders. Nathan and what little remained of Razor Squad was cut off from the rest of the party and was forced to retreat back to their main camp, trying to find a way out of the maze of sewers back up to the surface. Taiass, Vivian, Kao-Tsu, and Talia marched forward, weary and unhappy with their current situation.

It wasn’t long before the cave in cleared out and they were exposed to the open air. Kao-Tsu was astonished to see the city of Senia practically destroyed as if a nuclear reactor had exploded. The explosion had rutted out over a quarter of the city and turned it into rubble and ash. Both Calicans and manlin had died in the explosion, but apparently the destruction had made two people very happy. Lania and Zeric stood smiling coldly amist the devastation, thrilled at the results at their work. As Talia angrily confronted them and accused them of their evil misdeeds, she realized her mother was truly lost. Lania laughed at her daughter wildly as she spoke of her superiority as the matriarch of the Lancaster family. Zeric, sadness in his eyes, pleaded for his daughter to listen to reason and join their sides as the winning side of the war. Talia shook her head sadly. Her parents were dead to her after all. After a brief yet difficult fight on the edge of crater, Kao-Tsu and Vivian were able to push Lania and Zeric over the edge. As Talia peered over, she saw a shadowy web reach out and snatch up their figures before they hit the bottom of the cliff. This was not the last confrontation of the Lancasters, to be sure.

By the time Kao-Tsu, Taiass, Vivian, and Talia retreated to their home base and regrouped with Nathan, it was too late. Their army had been routed, the manlins had taken the residium mine of Senia, the Zartinians had suffered a huge military setback and almost half of their troops had been wiped out. Not only that, but Vivian was horrified to discover that her faithful retainer, Goo had taken a spear to the chest and had died of his wounds while she had been away fighting the Lancasters. There was nothing to do but pick up the remainder of the shattered pieces of their military and move on. Vivian wept tiny tears as Talia clenched her fists in anger as the men dug Goo’s grave in the rocky earth. Her parents would pay for what they had done to her and her family.

Honor Regained
The Heart of the Meteor and a Rumble in the Park

Hustling through the midnight streets of Epinoch, the adventurers followed the golden streak in the sky left by the second meteor. This time, the falling rock had crashed through the roof of a home, decorated in the decor of the Dragon Mist Isles. As Kao-Tsu Quan gingerly opened the unlocked door, they saw the smoking meteor, this time with a kitana sticking out of the top….and also Shinzu Honda! The mob boss sneered at the group, proclaiming that since the meteor landed in his household it was his property. Taiass Atwari countered his argument, rationalizing that the contents of the new meteor could only belong to the man who came out of the original meteor: Ryu. Honda sourly disagreed with the argument, as evinced by the band of ninjas whom he ordered to attack the intruders to his home with deadly force! Luckily, Taiass, Kao-Tsu, and Talia Lancaster (Black) were able to hold off their attackers as Vivian flew up the stairs and went for a feral assault on Honda himself. The ninjas proved no mettle for the experienced crew, but Honda was able to throw the vicious pixie off of his neck and cowardly escape through a hidden doorway. The mob boss would live to see another day, but the magical sword of Ryu’s was in their possession!

Tired and bruised, the party once again began to head back to their hotel for a much needed rest, until partway there, a magical message echoed throughout the streets of Epinoch. From the heads of eerie green flaming skulls, floating out of thin air and hovering before every doorway, the voice of Lt. Azrael was heard. “For those who would harbor the legendary samurai Ryu Kitaru, know that I demand his presence and capture. I expect him delivered to me in Ybolitos Park by 1am, or else the dead of Epinoch shall rise from their graves and devour this very city. Know that one man is not worth the lives of many, no matter his greatness. You have one hour.” Taiass sighed. Rest was going to have to wait. Again. The heroes began to run to their hotel to find the samurai, but upon their arrival, Macgresh the cleric told them Ryu, having said it was the honorable thing to do, had left on his own accord to turn himself in to Azrael. Talia shook her head in disbelief. This was going from bad to worse.

It wasn’t long before the adventurers were at the park, heading toward a sickly green glow that pulsed with power and shone ominously in the dark sky. A fog rolled in, obscuring their vision of the sleeping animals in the zoo, who prowled their cages in fear, knowing something was afoot in their home. Vivian glanced about her nervously, knowing it was likely that she would have to fight her own that evening if the rumors of Lt. Azrael’s vampire entourage were true. Finally, in the center of the park, Kao-Tsu spotted the green beacon: A statue of Orion Rainblade. However, crucified to the statue by magical bonds and held by an unholy ritual was Ryu! Somehow, Azrael was siphoning off Ryu’s magical essence and channeling it to raise an undead creature from the lake. Azrael mocked the heroes as he raised his control rod, glowing emerald and rippling with magical energy. “It’s too late to stop me! The power of the dracolich will be mine, ALL MINE!” he screamed. Ryu turned his bleeding head to the heroes. “Please, my sword,” he begged of them. “If you kill me now, it will break the conduit and end his power over the dragon. But you must hurry!” The party exchanged silent glance, and after a second of hesitation, Talia took out Ryu’s kitana. “Forgive me,” she asked the hero as she looked into his eyes and drove the kitana into his chest.

As the blood gushed from Ryu, the magic from the kitana reacted and sparked the conduit of energy leading to the control rod. Ryu’s body slumped to the floor as his magical bonds released him from the arms of the statue of Orion. Talia staggered back, dropping the kitana. “No! No! You can’t take the control from me! Take them down!” Azrael ordered his retinue, who appeared out of the shadows, mouths frothing with hunger from the spilled blood of the fallen hero. Vivian flexed her claws and bared her fangs as Taiass prepared his mind for battle. He may be facing the great ones, but they were still after his blood, and Taiass would do anything to defend himself. Kao-Tsu and Talia stood back to back as the vampires encircled them. With a burst of fire breath from one side, and a swing of an arcane broadsword, the fight began! The death knight and his followers proved awesome combatants, and it took every resource of the heroes to take them out. But finally the battle was won, and as the party took but a moment to recover, the lake bubbled with magical energy and the dracolich loomed over them, snapping his jaws.

Suddenly, Ryu, still bleeding and grasping at his chest, leaped from the ground onto the tail of the beast. “Distract it! I can take it down if it is focused on you!” Kao-Tsu baited its attacks and dodged nimbly out of the way as the others took his lead, although Taiass and Talia fell prey to the vicious dragon’s breath. Vivian and Kao-Tsu somehow were able to by themselves take enough of the attention away from the dragon to give Ryu the chance he needed to get into position. Ryu, with a sudden burst of speed, ran up the back of the beast and with a single swipe, chopped the bone dragon’s head off cleanly and victoriously. The dragon’s skeleton dropped to the ground in a heap as the samurai stepped from the rubble of bone and magic and came forth unscathed. The heroes stood injured, but in amazement of the hero. Ryu held his heart, still bleeding, but it was clear from the magic that pulsated around him, he would survive this encounter. “You have helped me regain my honor. And for that, you deserve the gift of the heavens.” He plunged his kitana into the ground, and from the weapon, the remaining magic flowed through the ground and into the heroes, boosting their abilities and magical items. The aura depleted itself from Ryu and it was clear, he was now mortal in all sense of the word….but regardless, it was clear, the Calicans had gained a worthy ally in the war effort.

A Samuri Lost....and Found
Parties, Auctions and Favors

The next day, Kao-Tsu Quan checked on the status of his friend, Nathan Bishop. Just as the monk had predicted, Nathan was in NO shape to attend a high society party. Disappointed, Talia Lancaster (Black) left the fighter to soak his throbbing head. At least it would be easier to try get a date to the auction without Nathan over her shoulder. The four friends stepped into the elderly Lady Crescent’s mansion, who inspected their invitation and creakily welcomed them to her abode. Taiass Atwari thanked the “great one”, kissed her hand and expressed his prior acquaintance with the Lady, to the surprise of the others. The lady also mentioned to Taiass that she may need his assistance with a delivery after the auction. Immediately upon entry, they split up and scoped the room for potential dates. Talia spent the night talking about her adventures and travels to the handsome yet foppish gentlemen, but eventually held the attention of a walrus-mustached older fellow. Her knowledge of fighting and arcana impressed the don, and he took her arm honorably and escorted her to the auction. Kao-Tsu, realizing most high society dames may reject him on sight due to his diminutive stature, caught the eye of an unlikely candidate-a half orc woman, who brightened on his approach. After getting into an arm wrestling contest and a foot race with the large lady, Kao-Tsu was able to secure his date without a hitch, as she planted a wet kiss on his forehead and threw him into her carriage. Taiaiss set his goals higher-a beautiful woman, holding her head high and proud as she rejected suitor after suitor. At first his flirtations were accepted and all seemed to be going swimmingly…until he went for a walk with the woman and plucked her a sunflower. “No, I’m allergic!!” the girl wailed, as her face exploded in hives. “Get this elf AWAY from me!!” Taiass was thrown out by the guards, simultaneously as a tiny pixie hit the dirt. “Apparently no one accepts shoulder pixies as the newest fashion here,” grumbled Vivian. “No accounting for taste! I’m the prettiest thing in there!”. Taiass helped her up. They would have to find their own way into the auction. As a nobleman blustered past Taiass, complaining mightily to his carriage driver, a swift knock on the head took care of the problem and a nobility badge was procured. Next stop: the auction of Vax Lamont!

As Kao-Tsu and Talia settled into their seats next to their dates and Vivian and Taiass slipped in to the back of the hall, they looked around them. Several people of note were attending the auction: Shinzu Honda, a Shogun of the Dragon Mist Isles, and also an underground mob boss; Parrel, a red robed mage from the Shifting Sands; and Lt. Azrael, a blackguard from the Nightmare Scape, rumored to halve a retinue of vampires attending him. Whatever the grand prize was, it was sure drawing a lot of attention from many well off people! As the bidding began, Talia noticed one of the items was General Tavor Kel‘s frost blade. “Perhaps it was true that the General fell in battle”, she thought to herself. Finally, after a few hours, the grand prize was revealed. Vax Lamont wheeled out a large cage with a red cloth covering it. “So now, we come to the heart of this auction, and all you have been waiting for!” the halfling declared with a dramatic flourish of his hand. “He fell from the sky only a few nights ago in a crash larger than the heavens! To the highest bidder, you shall receive the most loyal of followers. I give you….the legendary samurai, RYU KITARU!” Lamont unveiled the cage, and the samurai in red armor from Talia’s vision stood in the cell, breathing heavily, eyes darting from side to side. Talia and Kao-Tsu looked at each other. It would be VERY BAD if any of the others in the room were able to procure the warrior before they were. The bidding was fierce and fast, but eventually with a bid of 28,000 gold (practically wiping out their military stipend), they were able to win the auction.

As the room cleared, Taiass, Vivian, Kao-Tsu, and Talia marched up to the stage and Vax Lamont handed them to the key. They freed Ryu, who agreed to be bonded to the Calicans, but the samurai seemed disheartened and weak. In fact as they walked back to their carriage, Ryu collapsed and fainted. “Let’s get back to the hotel, if everyone wants Ryu so badly as long as we are in this town we have targets on our heads!” Talia exclaimed. Indeed, it didn’t take long before their carriage was attacked by none other than Parrel and his mage cronies. The adventurers were able to apprehend the mage lord in training, who confessed that Sh’rayas the Sylvan had ordered him to apprehend Ryu, no matter the cost. Kao-Tsu and Vivian escorted the mage prisoner back to General Lang to send him back to the camp to receive Calican justice, while Taiass and Talia went back to the hotel to let Ryu rest and call for a doctor or cleric.

Taiass mentioned to Talia that he had one more mission of the evening. Lady Crescent had asked of him to travel to her mansion after the auction for a favor. Upon their return, she greeted the elf happily and mentioned to Talia that she should use her noble birth name, “Lancaster”, instead of the false surname, “Black”. Taiass raised his eyebrows in surprise. Apparently there was more that he did not know about his traveling companions! Talia looked to the ground sheepishly, and explained to Lady Crescent that the name Lancaster had been abjured by her for a reason, and to please not use that name in her presence. Regardless, the tender old woman gave her instructions to Taiass. She needed 2 boxes delivered to a merchant and to a halfling, and the contents of the boxes were to remain a secret. They were to collect the funds the merchants owed the Lady, and for their work they would be rewarded. Taiass agreed to the work, and they regrouped with the others. Kao-Tsu was found drinking with the cleric of Avandra that was sent for Ryu, and Vivian…..was nowhere to be seen. As they left the hotel, the pixie whizzed past them, giggling happily. In her arms was a small bunny rabbit. “This is Princess Diamond Tiara!” the pixie exclaimed. “Isn’t he just perfect??!?” As Kao-Tsu reached down to pet the small animal, a pair of fangs glinted in the starlight and the rabbit chomped down on his finger. Apparently this vampire rabbit was going to be a bit of a handful.

Although not all went well on Lady Crescent’s deliveries (the halfling refused to pay them and they were forced to fight him in a sewer), regardless, they job was done to the best of their abilities. The cargo got where it needed to be, and Kao-Tsu didn’t even peek at the packages’ content. They returned back to the mansion and received their reward. As they tiredly headed back to the hotel very late into the night, a shining streak of red stretched across the sky. Yet ANOTHER meteor had landed in Mixed Bag! They turned about face and ran in the direction of the meteor’s blazing trail in the sky. If someone was the first to check out this new meteor, it was going to be the adventurers from Calica!

Intrigue in Epinoch
A Meteor Falls in Mixed Bag

Back in the Calican camp, the party split apart briefly to explore their next goals. Vivian was thrilled to find a stowaway in Talia’s bag of holding: Shozen, the stag spirit of the forest! He bowed in reverence to the tiny vampire, declaring his allegiance to the one who fought valiantly against the darkness that had plagued and eventually killed his home. Since he no longer had a forest, he would prefer to stay with the pixie. Vivian clapped her hands in happiness….after all, the white stag was so very pretty!

Meanwhile, Taiass Atwari and Talia Lancaster (Black) presented the notebook of Gull Sunelle (RIP) to Belcoot and General Lang, who poured over the notes, learning the powerful stances and tactics. Their mission to the island had not been a complete failure after all; in fact, the military had gained quite a bit of knowledge!

Kao-Tsu Quan took the unconscious body of Gwendolyn Grimthorne (RIP) to Arthur Kayin Macbeth, hoping that he could somehow save the poor wilden. Sadly, Arthur told the monk that her spirit had long left her flesh. What was left behind was only a splintered piece of the woman that he had once called friend. To bring her back permanently would be impossible, but it would be possible to see her again for a moment. Kao-Tsu agreed to the proposed ritual, and within a minute, Gwendolyn opened her eyes for a brief goodbye. She assured Kao-Tsu not to be sad or blame himself for her death, that she had died with pride and now her spirit could be with her goddess. From her body she picked a single blooming flower, asking Kao-Tsu to always remember her. Kao-Tsu accepted the gift, tears in his eyes, vowing to one day plant the bud in Calica.

Nathan had the difficult mission of telling his father the truth about Nella Sunelle. He broke the news down to Richard reasonably but gently, explaining that even if his father did not accept the girl into their family, he had regardless made a promise to a man on his deathbed that he would help raise her and care for her. Nella was not going to just disappear. Nthan explained, that despite what anger and resentment Richard may feel when he sees the child of his wife’s indiscretion, the girl deserves better respect and honor, as she still has his mother’s blood within her veins. Richard took a long moment, looked at Nella, and embraced the girl gently, kissing her forehead, in a tender familial moment. The Bishop family would sustain.

Later on that evening, the party gathered back together to discuss the events that had transpired. Just as they were discussing where their next steps would lead them, Talia received a vision from Wee Jas, indicating another hero displaced from their time and dimension! In the prophecy, she saw walking lost amongst the streets of Mixed Bag, a human samurai dressed in red armor. She snapped awake and knew their next location was destined to be the capitol of Mixed Bag: Epinoch!

  • * * * *

Thankfully, General Lang agreed to fly the adventurers to Epinoch (a 3 weeks roc flight away). November 14th, they arrived in the capitol of Nevermore’s quirkiest country. The town was dark and foggy, and as they entered the gates Kao-Tsu noticed a relaxed attitude of the guard, quite uncommon and different from Calica. In a matter of moments they discovered why the guard was so lax. As they witnessed a man thief a passerby’s wallet and attempt to knife his target, suddenly a low and empty voice uttered the phrase “Violence detected”. A huge clay golem flew from the sky downward in a whirl, smashing his fist into the thief’s skull. A clap and cheer rose up around the adventurers. “Hooray for the Mud Boys!” a woman cackled. “They never let ’em go!” Kao-Tsu and Talia exchanged a glance. This was not a sight they were used to for sure. By talking (and by bribing) a nearby merchant for information, they were quick to discover that the Mud Boys were the protectors of the city. Any violence they were able to detect within 100 meters radius, and their form of punishment was permanent. Despite this harshness, the people of Epinoch were very happy with their zero level tolerance of criminals. It kept the streets safe and the citizens happy. The golems were invented by the founder of the city, an eladrin named Orin Rainblade (the great great grandfather of Kyleen Rainblade (RIP)), and thier magic had sustained for thousands of years. The Mud Boys were forrmed from a magic well of clay, and despite the magical enchantment beginning to fade (the golems over time had gotten smaller), they were still quite powerful magical beings. The merchant also filled them in on the different sections of Mixed Bag.

Just as the mercant finished talking, a courier rushed up to greet them. He carried on his back a weighty treasure chest. He explained in a breathless voice that he had been traveling for weeks trying to catch up with them. Belcoot wished to give them their long overdue military stipend, and he had been charged with delivery as soon as possible. He handed over the chest, and the adventurers were thrilled with what was inside: 30,000 gold pieces! Kao-Tsu hugged the messenger in gratitude. Finally, something to celebrate!

Also the biggest news in Epinoch was that a meteor had landed near the shores of Lake Boke and supposedly it was made of immovable material. Upon investigation of the meteor, it was indeed impenetrable material and as Talia noticed, overwhelmingly magical in origin! Indeed, the meteor itself had been cracked open, and as Taiass looked closer, he formulated the idea that whatever was once inside this meteor had been taken out….or had escaped somehow. Unable to do anything about it, Vivian and Talia headed back to their hotel (a swanky establishment in the good part of town called “Hotel Rose Pierre” known for it’s 5 star restaurant and natural hot springs and indoor pool), while Kao-Tsu, Taiass, and Nathan scoped out the seedier parts of town…but with more of a reason to find a tavern there rumored to have the best ribs and ale in town. Dressed to the nines, Vivian and Talia settled down for a nice girl’s night in with fine wine and an elegant meal. While at the hotel, Vivian overheard the nobility speaking about a party being held the next day by a woman called Lady Crescent. Supposedly, after the shindig, a halfling noble named Vax Lamont would be holding an auction of magical items, at which the grand prize to be auctioned off was rumored to be whatever was salvaged from the meteor! Only those attending having an invite to Lady Crescent’s party would be able to attend the auction, and even those invited would only be able to attend the auction if they had a date with nobility or were nobility themselves! Digesting this crucial information, Talia was able to pilfer an invitation off of a soused noblewoman distracted by her fashionable “shoulder pixie” (aka Vivian). Step one was complete-now they would just have to work hard at the party to get dates! As Talia and Vivian walked back to their hotel room, Kao-Tsu and Taiass, both inebrieated, dragged in the unconscious form of Nathan. “Those six buckets of ribs were a little too much for him” chuckled Kao-Tus. “Plus he got into a drinking contest with a coal miner….he may not be in the best of shape tomorrow….I’ve had hangovers before, but never a RIB hangover!” Clearly a good time was had by all, but some may need more recovery than others.
The House that Dagon Built
Search and Rescue

Back in camp, General Lang was quick to request the aid of the party. He had earlier informed Nathan Bishop of a mission to help locate a Zartinian tactician, and the need of that mission was growing more dire as time elapsed. Lang had discovered that the Zartinian, Gull Sunelle (RIP), had traveled to an island off of the Shifting Sands in order to find his daughter, a thirteen year old girl named Nella Sunelle, who had been captured by the manlins. Lang feared the worst for his friend, and as the time passed, the likelihood of his death was greater. The death of Gull Sunelle would be a hardship for the Calicans, as he was a brilliant tactician who was sure to help in the manlin war. Belcoot agreed with Lang, and agreed to release Nathan Bishop, Talia Lancaster (Black), Kao-Tsu Quan, Vivian, and Taiass Atwari for their next mission: the search and rescue of Gull Sunelle!

After 3 days of traveling on General Lang’s pet roc Duncan, the party reached the island offshore of the Shifting Sands. However, the isle was not exactly a welcome sight. A strange misty storm covered the island with foreboding clouds. As Lang moored his magical beast, it fluttered its wings in nervousness, sensing an evil presence on the island. Regardless, the adventurers took heart and ventured into the woods. It was not before long they found an encampment of Zartianians, who lead them to their target: Gull Sunelle. The Gull and his men had been severely injured. Indeed, Gull explained, he had lost nearly half of his men while exploring the isle; an invisible creature had ripped through their camp in the dark of night, crushing the men and roasting their flesh with acid. Nearly all of them were injured, and most of them dead. He handed them a symbol of Dagon, explaining that he found it on the bodies of the enemies his men were able to kill. The wilden and manlin were responsible for taking his daughter. As Nathan explained to him Calica’s need for his assistance in the war, the Zartinian looked on the party leader with a great deal of respect….and reminiscence. Gull promised his assistance and allegiance to the war effort if they were able to find and rescue his daughter. Nathan shook his hand, agreed, and moved along into the woods. Time was short for words, and action was necessary.

As everyone huddled together, the woods got darker and thicker. Soon the trees loomed overhead and blocked out the moonlight. The ravens squawked and scrambled in the bushes eerily, and Kao-Tsu nervously looked over his shoulder, jumping, only to see Vivian baring her fangs at the impending darkness in front of him. As they reached a hill, they were surprised to see a ghostly white stag, feeding quietly and peacefully in the forest. Vivian asked him (speaking in deer) his name and purpose, and as he explained politely he was Shozen, protector of the forest, a slimy, multi-eyed abberation of a bear roared furiously out of the nightfall and savaged the mercurial deer! A battle followed, with the bear being joined by a flock of evil raven and fishy worshipers of Dagon. Shozen was able to escape mid-battle, the bear was killed, and the adventurers persisted in their exploration of the woods, shaken but now expecting horrors to await them.

It wasn’t long before the heroes reached a clearing, and what stood before them was the darkest, creepiest, most broken down house they had ever seen. The very floorboards creaked of evil as Taiass bore his weight down upon them. Wet footprints lead into the house….although there was no trace of mud outside. In the first room, the mood was set by a huge painting, labeled “The Hall Eternal”. It depicted a underwater temple to Dagon with tentacles surrounding the painting, almost jutting though the canvas as if to strangle the viewer. It was signed by “R.U.P”…a name vaguely familiar to some as a famous artist. Glancing at the painting, Nathan shuddered. If this was a sign of what was to come, this night could not pass quickly enough. Passing though, they were quickly attacked by more Dagon worshippers, as well as wildens, and although the battles were horrific, the blood spilled did not compare to the barbarity and monstrosities of the paintings and the rooms in the house. “The Inner Self”, a painting of a human with their guts ripped open and revealed, perched directly over a dinner table set with rotting food in a dining room with barrels of pickled dead women…….“Peril of the Opposing Night”, a painting of pure blackness with only one eye peeking out of a crack that followed the viewer, sat alone in a room with hidden laughter written all over the walls…..“He Awakens Renewed” pictured Dagon in all his glory as it was presented as a showcase piece in a broken down bedroom next to a huge metal statue of Dagon. “Whoever R.U.P. is, he sure loved his Dagon,” thought Kao-Tsu as Vivian bent the statue of Dagon in half, putting the menacing god in an unseemly pose in order to calm her nerves.

The night persisted in its danger as the heroes fought off an abberation who surprised them, attacking them while invisible and spewing acid! Although they were able to spill some of R.U.P’s spare paint on the creature, making it visible, it still posed a mighty challenge, even taking them with it to the astral plane and disturbing their minds with the possibilities of time and space ripping apart at the seams! Through magic and sheer willpower, they were able to escape the plane and slay the beast, although it was a very difficult fight that took much out of everyone, especially taxing Talia’s skills. However, they knew time was pressing…..they must continue to explore the house if they expected Nella to be alive.

On the second floor, they came upon the final painting, “Kannot End Yet…” The painting had a nameplate, “Richard Upton Pickman”, and as Kao-Tsu uncovered the easel, they saw perhaps the most disturbing painting yet….a middle aged man, screaming in raw horror, trapped in the art of his own creation by the dark forces he worshiped. “If this was his house, he got what he deserved” thought Nathan as he destroyed the painting. “This art should never see the light of day again.”

Finally the the last room was before them. As they burst open the door, Taiass was quick to spot Nella in a tank, filling slowly with water. Wilden and the children of Isorn’t blocked their way, and as the heroes spilled into the room, a cloaked figure slowly turned around, revealing to Kao-Tsu’s horror the half manlin, half wilden figure of Gwendolyn Grimthorne (RIP)! Nathan and Talia worked on rescuing the girl as the others focused on disposing of their enemies. Kao-Tsu, in a frenzy, ordered his friends to subdue Gwendolyn, not to kill her, and although Talia and Nathan tried to reason with him, he would not be undone. Eventually the enemies were killed, but as Talia and Kao-Tsu angrily and tearfully fought with each other as of how to dispose of what was once Gwendolyn, the house shook to its foundations. Their argument would have to wait, as the house that Dagon built was crashing to the ground.

The party ran though the woods in a panic. Not only was the house crashing, the whole island was rumbling! They would have to make an expeditious retreat if they were to live another day. As they ran to the Zartinian encampment, more sorrows were in store for them. Apparently the Zartinians had been attacked yet again by the abberations, and Gull Sunell had suffered a grievous wound. The injured leader in thanks gave Talia his notebook, which he promised would have useful information to their military. Gull spoke quietly as he said goodbye to his young daughter. As Talia and Vivian pulled the teary and terrified girl away, Gull requested a final last word with Nathan. Taiass and Kao-Tsu gathered what was left of the soldiers and gave the two a moment of peace.

Gull had a difficult secret to tell Nathan. He told the soldier that he had known him and his family, back when he was stationed in Calica, as a diplomat during the original Calican/Zartinian war. Back then he was working toward a peaceful resolution between their nations. He told Nathan that he knew his mother, and she had been one of the few Calicans that showed him respect and courtesy in the foreign land. During the war they had become intimately close. Indeed he had fallen in love with her, although she had been married at the time. Their indiscretion had resulted in a child….Nella. Nathan never knew about his half sister; during a six month period his mother had claimed to be sick, and during that time period he had been sent to the Calican monastary to stay. It was during that time she had the child. Gull immediately took Nella with him back to Zartinia, knowing that the Calicans would never be able to tolerate a half-Zartinian child during a time of war. Now on his deathbed, he pleaded with Nathan to take care of his half sister. Nathan, awash with conflicting emotions, promised to the Zartinian. She would not be abandoned.

As Nathan stood up next to the dead strategist, the ground twisted below his feet. He could no longer delay. He ran to the roc posthaste, and he gripped the feathers as the beast took flight; his mind was racing with a million thoughts. Kao-Tsu coldly strapped Gwendolyn’s mutilated body to the bird, and Talia gasped as her wounds stung. Taiass and Vivian tried to comfort the panicking Nella, who reached out to her dead father’s hands. As the bird reached the sky, giant tentacles reached out and swarmed the misty island. The land itself was swallowed and sucked into the ocean. As the adventurers flew away, the darkness may have left the island, but it had not yet left their minds.

Assault on Osh'ra-Part Three
The Machinations of Sh'rayas

As Sh’rayas the Sylvan prepared his ritual to attack the brain in the central chamber of Osh’ra, the five adventurers could feel the psionic pulse of the creature. It sent wave after wave of pain to their temples, and it took the strongest amount of will power the party could summon to resist the evil of the monster in front of them. Gripping his head, Sh’rayas was able to stun the brain with magic, but footsteps were heard rushing the door. “Occupy their forces, and I will have enough time to neutralize their psychics! Go now!” the drow ordered the heroes and he pointed to the gates ahead of them.

Indeed, the party met with fierce opposition as they rushed up the stairs and into the next room. Two defilers pulled on the essence of the land and life force around them to damage them, and a bloodthirsty mind blade warrior went toe to toe with Kao-Tsu Quan and Nathan Bishop. Luckily Talia Lancaster (Black) was able to mage hand hot coals into some nearby explosives and nearly take out their halfling assassin while Taiass Atwari and Vivian tagged up on the defilers. The battle was won, but as the heroes finished off their last adversary, a terrible wave of pain overcame their mental capacities and they fell to the ground, unconscious.

About ten minutes later, Nathan awoke and attempted to stir the other party members. The sound of mournful wailing was faintly heard, and Kao-Tsu, still woozy, found a window high above them. From what he could see, Gaul’s forces had halted their attack, but the wailing was coming from the city itself. Nathan narrowed his eyes as he helped Talia back onto her feet. It was time to check on their drow friend’s progress. Everyone gathered together and walked back down the stairs to the throne room to confront Sh’rayas on his progress.

The brain lay a dead and bloodied mess on the floor, and Sh’rayas stood triumphantly before them as the remaining mage lords filtered into the room, now freed of their psionic oppressors. The drow congratulated them on their success, and as they asked him what had happened to the psions, Sh’rayas coolly explained that they had been all killed by the elder’s brain’s passing. Aghast and angry at his cold demeanor, Nathan demanded further explanation. Sh’rayas explained that he told the Calicans that his ritual would neutralize the psions, and by neutralize, he had always meant kill….just no one had ever asked him to go into more detail. Kao-Tsu lashed out in anger as Taiass held back the monk. “Does this mean that we just helped you kill 7500 people????” The drow smiled and looked down at the human. “I suppose it does. However as Head Mage Lord of the Shifting Sands, I will now fulfill my promise to you. Half of the food and weapons will go to the Gaul Who Grasps. And the Calican Military now has use of the largest land army in Nevermore. Does this really seem to be the time or place to be crossing me?” He folded his arms across his chest, and the twelve other mage lords took knee in allegiance to their new ruler. “I think I’m going to be sick,” Talia muttered under her breath as she and her friends left the room to regroup with the military. The Assault on Osh’ra was finished, but at a great cost of life.

Back in camp, the party took a few days to recover and reflect on what had occurred. Nathan took the liberties of filling in Commander Belcoot on Sh’rayas’ actions, but it was agreed that nothing could be done. The drow had put himself into such a position of power that he could not be knocked down without major consequences for their current military operations. For the time being, they would have to tolerate and work with the Sands for the greater good of Calica.

Assault on Osh'ra-Part Two
Lost in The Maze of Rajesh

The four warriors bravely fought the fearsome minotaurs as the walls of the maze seemingly pressed in against them. After taking many a magic missile from Talia Lancaster (Black) and a weakening mental attack from Taiass, the beasts were slain and the heroes victorious. As the group continued on through the harrowing maze, Vivian fluttered to the ground in front of them! Arrows pierced her tiny body, but luckily as Taiass and Kao-Tsu Quan examined her wounds, they discovered the bolts had missed her vital organs. Nathan Bishop volunteered his arm, and in no time the voracious vampire was back up, wiping the blood from her delicate mouth. Although she was happy to find her friends again, the pixie clammed up at their mention of muffins and their questions about her about her sudden disappearance. Regardless, the party was united again and as they looked forward, they saw several doors ahead of them…

As they entered the room, Taiass and Nathan were thrilled to see an armory amidst the labyrinth! However when the room magically twisted and landed them on the ceiling, with spikes and sure death below them, their happiness abated. Fortunately the party was able to spin themselves the right away around and correct themselves with little trouble, and they fighters were able to re-arm and re-armor themselves after their fight with the rust monsters had destroyed their equipment.

The next room was dark and cold, and as the adventurers entered, they soon realized why. It was yet another illusion room-this one displayed their darkest fears, laid bare in front of everyone. However because of this link, the party was able to support each other in resisting the fear of the illusions. Still, it was difficult for everyone to cope. Talia had to witness the murder of her brother at the hands of her parents, and endure the mockery of Zula and Lloth herself, who claimed domination over the swordmage’s life. Nathan had to relive the killing of his dog, Indy at the hands of the manlin assassin as well as deal with the visual torment of seeing his dead family members, set aflame and horrifically lumbering towards him. Taiass was forced to observe the trial and death of his friend Lysander, for which he carried the blame. Vivian attested to a similar story…she had a pixie friend for whom she carried the blame of his death, as well the seeing several terrifying vampiric figures of her darkest memories. Kao-Tsu carried with him the burden of abandoning his father to an unknown fate in the Dragon Mist Isles and the worry of loosing his new wife in the war to dark manlin magic. Through the support of each other, they were able to endure the horrifying elements of the room, although Taiass and Kao-Tsu were the most shaken up and severely weakened from the experience. However, after escaping the room of fears, the exit out of the maze was dead ahead!

The party pulled themselves together as they reached the center of the city, goal in sight. Sh’rayas lead them to the final chamber, only to find it blocked! Their foes and guardians of the city of Osh’ra: two Sisters of the Sand, two Chain Fighters, and weirdly enough a giant living cactus. Sh’rayas took on one sand witch by himself, and as the rest of the heroes fought off the guardians, they knew this could be one fight they could not bear to loose! The sand, spikes, and chains flew furiously, but eventually the guardians succumbed to the power of the fighters who outmatched them in combined spirit and guts. Determinedly, the group pressed forward yet again, knowing that despite their best efforts, they were beginning to grow weary and time was growing short for their agenda. Perhaps this was a suicide mission the Calican army had sent them on!

The Assault on Osh'ra
Deeper and Deeper into the Psionic Sand City

October 14th 1081: a day that will live in infamy! This was the day the Calicans brought the fight to their enemy by launching a full assault on the Shifting Sands capitol city, Osh’ra. Sh’rayas the Sylvan was able to sneak the adventurers past the battle and into the garbage system below Osh’ra. After navigating below the city, they could access his lab from a lower passage. The garbage tunnels belched fire and singed their skins as the sweltering but brave companions clambered over the hot mess. With his monkey like agility, Kao-Tsu Quan was able to deftly jump across the steaming piles…but the others weren’t so lucky. Too focused on keeping pace with everyone, the group was surprised by some nefarious rust monsters just as they were about to reach the exit of the flaming garbage furnaces! Also, just as battle was commencing, Vivian looked up, quite disturbed, and sniffing the air. “Muffins!” she exclaimed, and as a horrified expression crossed her face, she rapidly flew away from combat and out of the tunnels! The creatures were eventually defeated, but Taiass‘s armor and sword were badly damaged in the fight, as well as Nathan Bishop’s sword (little used by the shield-bashing warrior, but a loss nevertheless). The bigger loss on everyone’s mind was the sudden disappearance of their friend Vivian….and what did she mean by “muffins?”

Regardless, the heroes moved onward and came upon Sh’rayas’ lab. Together with the arcane assistance of Talia Lancaster (Black), who helped him find the components for his ritual to follow, and with the help of Nathan, Taiass, and Kao-Tsu, who barred the door from the psionic guards outside, they succeeded in getting Sh’rayas what he needed and were even able to get out the back door of his lab without pursuit. The dark elf then lead them to a staircase. Down and down it lead, until finally it ended at a small river with a pontoon next to it. The dark water of the river glimmered eerily against their torchlight, and the adventurers piled into the dusty boat. It seemed no one had been down that way in quite some time. Sh’rayas explained as Nathan rowed them across the river, their next destination would possibly be the most dangerous, for they were heading to the Maze of Rajesh. Navigating the maze, which was full of arcane traps and monsters set up by the mage lords over the centuries to protect their capitol city, was supposed to be an impossible task and was considered suicide by most of the people of the Shifting Sands. Nathan snorted as he shook his head. Impossible? Certain death? A suicide mission? Nothing new for Team Tempest.

As the party stood at the gate of the maze, Kao-Tsu eyeballed the walls. Twenty feet high slabs of unforgiving stone loomed coldly in front of them. A distant roar was heard. Talia shuddered, and tentatively stepped into the maze, turning left as she raised her sword that crackled with magical energy. Taiass pulled out a quill and paper and attempted to scribble a map as they traveled down the twisting and turning passageways, but it wasn’t before long that they were lost. Deeper within the maze, a door opened before the wanderers, who warily ventured through. The doorway lead to a room with 3 illythid statues, but as Taiass attempted to cross the room, arcane energy crackled from gems embedded in the statues’ headpieces and struck the eladrin, greatly weakening him. By working together, they were able to redirect the beams and destroy the statues. However, this room lead directly to ANOTHER arcane trap, an illusion of a forest that was quickly dropping in temperature….teeth chattering and shivering, the weary party was able to convince each other that it was indeed an illusion just in the nick of time. The spell was broken and they were able to move on.

Outside the rooms, Kao-Tsu was able to scale the great stone wall of the maze and gauge their distance traveled. They were approaching the center, or so he thought…but it was difficult walking on the maze walls (without the reassurance of a fairy-dust save) so they continued along the bending walkway. It wasn’t before long that Talia and Taiass were bickering about which way to turn next when the roar they had heard earlier sounded directly behind them. Talia slowly turned, and she came face to face with the protectors of the Maze of Rajesh-a pack of angry minotaurs! And unlike the beasts from Minotaur Isle, these monsters were NOT willing to negotiate.


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