Right from the start, the five adventurers were split down the middle. Vivian and Taiass Atwari, having spent the most time in the NightmareScape, strongly felt the initiative to go after the phylactery of Prince Janus. Vivian reasoned that vampires and undead were strong enough…if you take away their weakness, they are almost indestructible. Talia Lancaster (Black) wavered, leaning at first for the chance to talk to Bellon, the fallen court spy (who had died under Talia’s brief leadership of the party). As the discussion deepened however, Talia and Nathan Bishop agreed; the Calican army owed something to the people of Zartinia. If there was even a chance that General Tavor Kel was alive, they had to take that chance if Zartinia was to continue to ally itself with their forces. Kao-Tsu Quan, caught in the center, at first refused to make a decision, saying his only choice was to go into the abyss to challenge Lloth for Talia’s soul. When that was refuted as an option, the monk split the party’s vote, saying they should instead go after Zerbo and the mud-boys….more allies would make them stronger, after all. A heated discussion followed, with votes changing sides and each argument getting more intense. It almost came to the fall out of the party; but after all was said and done, they were able to decide with a vote of 3 to 2: they would go to Zartinia.
After a trek of 10 days, the heroes found themselves in the small town of Larek in the mountains of Zartinia. Upon arrival, Kao-Tsu, Talia, and Nathan were surprised to meet Livis, the kobold potion master from Team Mixed Bag. They had not seen the strange little fellow since the Tournament of Nevermore, now almost 2 years past. After some bartering and reminiscing, Livis gave them information about the whereabouts of the General, whom he thought he had seen at the outskirts of town, fighting some over sized manlins. The kobold was kind enough to lead them to that location. As they scouted the area, the party was jumped by extremely large manlins and their pet manticores, guarding an ominous looking, broken and blackened old tower. The heroes drew their weapons to defend themselves, and Livis surprisingly transformed into a volcanic dragon and took to the sky, taking on the fight with the manticores himself! “Good thing we didn’t fight him in the tournament!” joked Kao-Tsu to Nathan, as he dodged a huge rock thrown by the enemy. “What do you mean?” the fighter replied with a half smile as he casually bashed in the skull of a fallen manlin opponent. “Team Tempest was clearly the front runner in our year’s tournament.”
Regardless, after the fight was over, the adventurers were happy to have had Livis’ help. As they parted ways, the kobold told them to venture forth to the tower, but to be careful…rumors were that it was overrun with beholders. Indeed, as they cracked open the stone door, they were immediately set upon by the multi-eyed beasts, who hissed the phrase “Protect the Mother!” as they zapped the heroes with their eye beams. Each creature was felled, and the party continued to travel through the creepy circular tower, which had remnants of failed manlin experiments, traps galore, and dangerous monsters. Vivian was able to infiltrate a disgusting room with beholder eggs incubating in ectoplasm (which the vampire gleefully destroyed, cleaning herself thoroughly afterwards). On the second floor, they found General Kel’s frost blade, which reminded them of their purpose. It could be their target was still alive yet! Also in a room with horrifying vats of discarded manlin experiments, Taiass found a note addressed to “Mother”, explaining in scientific terms how to make manlin. Seemingly the majority of Isorn’t’s experiments had been finished in this broken tower, but he took the letter nevertheless to bring back to Calica. Also notably the adventurers were able to save the soul of a poor fallen beautiful elvish girl from evil beholder magic which had apparently held her soul captive for the past 100 years. Her ghostly soul rose from her coffin, happily clinging to her rescuer, Taiass. She pledged her afterlife to defend Taiass, and her soul took on the form of an eagle, perching on his forearm and nestling against him in adoration. After exploring the remainder of the burned minaret, there was nowhere to go but to a rusted out portcullis room, to confront “Mother” herself. The Beholder’s central eye flashed as they crashed down the door. “Infiltrators!” she growled. “You will never take my prey!” Amongst the filth Kao-Tsu and Taiass simultaneously spied the general, handcuffed and bound to the wall, apparently having been subject to torture. Talia twirled her sword, pulsating with magic, as Vivian popped her fangs. Little did Mother realize SHE would be the be the prey today.
A bloodthirsty fight commenced, but there was no stopping the determination of the Calicans’ this time. All of their build up frustrations over the past adventures were taken out on the mother beholder, who was slewn and her evil destroyed. General Tayvor Kel, tired, injured, but still alive, was rescued by the 5 brave heroes. January 29th, the party arrived back in the Calican camp, which was now on the move. Only a month and a half to prepare until their final destination: the Kofas Valley in the Meadowlands. The armies of Calica, Zartinia and their allies would meet face to face with the manlin forces and the NightmareScape in a final showdown on the banks of the Yomeron River for Nevermore. As the five spent as much time with their families and friends as possible, they realized their time was up….now it was onwards to track their success…or doom!