The Lost Light

Session Two: The Rumble in the Desert
"Is Wayne Brady gonna have to fight a lich?"

[forgive me for lack of nuance, but:]

Our Heroes, having escaped from their dungeon homes by the mysterious tiefling mage Athrow Heretan, traveled by carriage through the dusty desert plains for a while before they were stopped and their camels slaughtered. They found themselves surrounded by jackalweres, and heard a woman’s voice call out: “Leaving so soon?”

Pique kicked the carriage door open and hopped out, only to see a large lamia and, worse, the Lich King Denegar floating beside her. Our Heroes quickly tried to determine what to do, but after Athrow insisted again and again that the Lich King wasn’t supposed to be here at all, Brandis’ curiosity got the better of him and he took a reeeal good look and discovered that the lich wasn’t there at all—it was an illusion!

With that in mind, Brandis told the lamia to take him: “I’m the one that you want,” he announced, and walked away from the carriage with his hands up. The jackalwere followed close behind, and circled around. Meanwhile, Kittibuss and Athrow snuck around behind the carriage (well, Kittibuss tried to sneak) and removed some weapons from the trunk in the back). After asserting that the others were indeed going to leave, Brandis then unleashed two massive fireballs at the lamia and her jackalwere companions, killing the jackalwere instantly and severely burning the lamia, who managed to roll away without taking the brunt of the fire. The lich king turned out to be an illusion after all, and vanished.

She then started running away, and Our Heroes attacked her with various amounts of success, save for Pique, who fell flat on his face and got dirt in his eyes. Brandis asked her to relent. “Why don’t you drive our carriage for us, since you killed our camels?” he asked. The lamia replied with, “Why don’t you look behind you?”

Behind them were ten giant scorpions.

In response to this, Athrow barely killed the lamia, and seven of the ten scorpions vanished, leaving three to be dealt with. Athrow unleashed a cone of cold, severely injuring two. Pique punched one so hard he stunned it, and then leaped onto its back and plunged its own stinger into its flesh, nearly poisoning it.

A scorpion stabbed Pique with its stinger and injected venom into his body, leaving him nearly dead. He rushed off to the carriage to try and find something to heal himself, and found a potion of healing in the back trunk.

Another scorpions stung Kittibuss and its venom was powerful enough to knock her unconscious, nearly killing her. Brandis burned a hole through one of them with a scorching ray, splitting it in twain. And then I think he killed the other one too, but I can’t remember how exactly.

After this, the group was safe, but also exhausted and trapped in the desert. Athrow searched through the carriage trunk and discovered that someone (probably the driver) had stolen the two canteens and several healing potions that were stored there. He then told them to walk south, as they were closer to the fringes of grassland than they thought. Pique carried the unconscious Kittibuss and Athrow brought some bedrolls, and they walked for six hours until it became close to nightfall. They had passed into the grasslands and spent some time searching for a suitable place to camp, and Brandis luckily found a grotto eroded into a long rock that seemed to be sticking out of the ground. They all settled in for the night and discovered a goblin, Gerkut, who was alone and not hostile.

As they rested, Athrow cast Detect Magic on the dagger the lamia had, discovering that it had some magical properties. He also detected magic coming from the grotto itself, and we will discover what that is … NEXT WEEK.

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The Carriage Ride

[Damn it, had to remove the wiki links. Looks like I’m going to have to redo the wiki pages. BLARG]

The first thing Brandis the sorcerer, Pique the monk, and Kittibuss the bard noticed as they raced out of the Lich King’s lair with the mysterious tiefling was the blast of hot, dry air that slammed into their cold, clammy bodies and filled their lungs. They were in the middle of the desert.

Two years ago, the Lost Light caravan, having just crossed the Strait of Tyral and settled on the Nevelen mainland, was overtaken by a large contingency of undead, led by a dark and powerful Lich King who took our three heroes prisoner, throwing them into the deepest pits of their dungeon. In these two years they were tortured and chained up in individual cells, forced to wear metal headbands that muddied their thoughts, making it next to impossible to think or speak.

“About five months ago,” said the tiefling, who introduced himself as Athrow Heretan shortly after the carriage began moving, “you were relocated to the Jerusucán Desert here in Septech, traded to the Lich King Denegar for reasons unknown to us. This was to our benefit, however, as previously we had no clue where you were. Scouts of ours managed to spy you shackled on a black-hulled sailing ship leaving the Parasidean port four months ago.”

“Wait,” said Brandis. “Who is ‘us’?”

“Ah, of course,” Athrow replied, “my apologies for thrusting you into this situation. We are called the Remnants. We are scholars from Beregin studying the location of divine artifacts that may still contain traces of divine essence, so that we may collect them and use that power to shape a new god.” He paused, taking in the others, then added, “Or … help promote those destined by the prophecy to godhood. Whichever is faster, I suppose. We had, ahem, colleagues within the Temple of the Light who learned of the orbs the deva filled with part of their divine spirit. We were ready to negotiate the release of these orbs into our possession when the temple was sacked. Our colleagues traveled with the caravan, which was then destroyed, and our knowledge of these orbs was lost for several months. We knew that you, Brandis, and your traveling companion Christopher Winchesterson, had touched two of the orbs and absorbed their essences. We have reason to believe that Christopher was killed in the caravan attack, and fear that his divinity was dissolved into nothing, which is very unfortunate.”

He paused, shuffling in the cramped quarters of the carriage. Pique was seated next to him, and Brandis and Kittibuss were across from them, and much more comfortable as they were both smaller. Outside, the desert wind whipped at the side of the carriage and the four camels pulling the carriage snorted and huffed.

“What about the others?” Pique asked.

“As far as we know, everyone besides you three were killed,” said Athrow.

“All our friends—!” Kittibuss exclaimed, and buried her face in her hands.

“What of the dragon?” Brandis asked, obviously eager to ask the question. “And those Dragonborn abominations?”

“Uranbrulf flies free,” Athrow said. “Lady Maralgia and the Tirusian Dragonborn are currently combing Nevelen for any signs of the other deva orbs. The Remnants, in a way, were formed in an attempt to counteract this, as we have reason to believe that the Dragonborn are attempting to resurrect Tiamat, the ancient Goddess of Dragons, or to form a new goddess in her place.”

“That’s … not good,” said Kittibuss.

“It gets worse,” Athrow said. “First, three of the orbs were located in the temple itself, and we can only assume that the Dragonborn found them. And, in addition to the deva orbs, the Dragonborn are searching out the lairs of every evil dragon in Khalin. They believe that the divine essence, coupled with a host and the five most powerful evil dragons in Khalin, is enough to complete their plan. Uranbrulf was the first dragon they found, as he was fat and lazy. But they have found two more, a white and green dragon, both much older, leaner, and fiercer, and it is only a matter of time before they find the other two. In other words, the good guys are about five steps behind at this point.”

“And the deva?” Brandis said. “Are they all gone?”

Athrow shrugs. “We don’t know. The last we heard was of your friend Kesher taking the body of Corcus to the top of the Cherook Mountains to give him a proper burial. He may still live, but it wouldn’t matter, as he imparted some of his essence into an orb as well.”

“Could they take the deva and … squeeze some divinity out of them as well?” asked Pique.

“Unlikely,” said Athrow. “The deva are powerful enough that the Dragonborn know not to mess with them. Even Uranbrulf had difficulty in his fight with Kesher. What’s important now is to find those other orbs before the Dragonborn do.”

“We already did,” said Brandis as he worked his mind to try and clear the remaining fog from the headband. “We had Andelu’s orb—Christopher took the essence from it. Then Quinn’s orb, which I touched, was in an ancient catacomb. Aloni’s orb was in a cave but some Dragonborn had found it already, but we managed to steal it back. Victobar did, specifically, as he could look like anyone he wanted.”

Athrow’s face brightened a bit and he began to think. “We might be in luck, then. Perhaps Oterkoth took it after he sacked your caravan.”

“Who’s Oterkoth?” asked Kittibuss, who at this point was trying to memorize names and places for the story she would eventually tell.

“The Lich King of Brynn Valley,” said Athrow.

“Oh, that’s good,” said Pique, “nicely tucked away in the hands of a Lich King.”

“Well, at least it’s not with the Dragonborn,” said Athrow. “Ideally they would have one orb per dragon, and one for the host. That’s six. But since Christopher and you, Brandis, have absorbed the essence of two orbs, that leaves them with four physical orbs and one—”

“Maybe two!” Kittibuss explained.

“… Maybe two bodies with divine essence, ones that can be manipulated into serving as the host of Tiamat.”

“Or the host of whatever the Lich Kings want,” said Pique.

“Yes. Essentially, two forces are trying to hasten the arrival of the New Gods through nefarious means,” said Athrow. “And the Remnants are here to try and stop them.”

“So what do we do next?” asked Brandis.

“I think the next step is to return to the ruins of the Temple,” said Athrow, “and see if we can find the three orbs there.”

“That sounds like a bad idea,” said Kittibuss.

“Well, it’s the only way we can—”

Athrow’s words were cut short as the carriage came to a sudden halt. Ahead of them was the gruesome sound of a camel screaming as something was either crushing it or slicing at it. Brandis looked out of the small side window just in time to see said camel’s body go hurtling into a sand dune, dead, its throat sliced with a jagged cut. The other camels began to shriek and the carriage driver screamed and jostled the carriage as he leaped off and ran away, his screams quickly fading into the distance.

“Never a dull moment,” Athrow said.

(to be continued … ON SUNDAY WHOAAAAAA)

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Lich King's Dungeon
0/10. Would not recommend.

After Kesher left the others to bury Corcus, the caravan of survivors from the temple was attacked by a horde of undead. They were not surprised, as this was business as usual. However, this attack was much worse than those they had encountered previously. Brandis along with two other divine candidates, Pique the human monk and Kittibus the gnome bard, were captured. The rest of the caravan, as far as they knew, had been killed. Brandis, Pique, and Kittybus spent the next two years in the dungeon of a Lich King, their minds addled by magical bands around their heads, tortured regularly and with the seeming purpose of corrupting them and turning them to evil.

One day a Tiefling appeared outside the bars of their cells, unlocked the doors and freed them. The Tiefling led them out of the dungeon and to a carriage waiting outside.

The Lost Light… had been found again.

(YEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAH)

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Et Cetera 5 - Corcus's Final Journey
From the journal of Aeven Tevens

Bahadai, 5 Elcor, 1013, midday

We can see the smoke rising from the Temple of the Light. Cherook is far away now, covered in smoke and rainclouds. The sun is high in the sky. I write this in an old mage spellbook, found deep in a knapsack, with a quill and ink supplied by one of the dead. The book contains no spells, but the runes on the front are an obvious indicator of arcane magics.

I am still in shock over how much destruction and carnage can be wrought in just a few days. My home, our home, is gone; the temple the deva called Amn Nerach lies in ruins. We have so many questions and no answers. Why have the dragonborn come to Nevelen? Why did they sack our temple? What are they seeking, and what will they do if they find it?

We-myself, the other survivors, the adventurers, Kesher, Corcus-we are riding in a ramshackle caravan up what George, the other ferryman, simply called the North Road. He says there are other names it was called long ago, but they mean little to him.

After battling our way through the Hordes, we have found relative peace on the continent. Lake Brynn lies to the west, and this, the Brynn Valley, was once home to a large city known as Brynnendale. This Kesher tells us; the city was destroyed long ago by the First Hordes, and none of us have knowledge of it.

Now we are at the edge of the river Kesher calls Maleir, a broad shallow river, clear enough that the rocks on the bottom are easily seen. Kesher told us a story of Lake Brynn: Once, long ago, before the Hordes, Brynnendale’s mayor was a fat, angry human named Cerl. Cerl had three daughters, Maria, Tore, and Lynnea, whom he treated very poorly. Cerl was afraid of what the outside would do to his children, and so he locked them up in the Mayor’s House, forcing them to do chores and only letting them out briefly for festivals or times when he was going to give a speech.

One day, when the daughters were barely teenaged, Cerl allowed them to leave the house to attend a fall harvest festival. They were to go, make an appearance, and then return home. But the daughters had a plan, and when Cerl began to make a speech about the festival, they snuck off, stealing a horse and carriage and going on a ride.

They spent the day riding, eventually reaching Lake Brynn and, specifically, the stretch of shoreline that sat between the two rivers, Maleir and Beneir. On the shore, they met a handsome young gentleman who offered them a ride on his sailboat. The girls agreed and boarded the boat, and he took them to the center of the lake, where he seduced them. The first two he seduced, Maria and Tore, were willing and consented, but the third girl, Lynnea, refused. Incensed at her refusal, the young man ripped her clothes off and raped her. Lynnea’s sisters were furious and tried to stop him, but he was too strong, and before the night was through, all three sisters were dead. The man threw the bodies into the lake and sailed back to shore, where he was eventually caught, questioned, and executed.

Kesher says that the gods took pity on the poor girls, whose first real experience of the outside world was tainted by the greed of man. They made the water as clear as glass, so that someone noble and pure of heart could dive deep down and find their remains. Since then, Maria and Tore have been found and returned to Bynnendale, but Lynnea still sits at the bottom of the lake, hidden from all but the noblest of hearts.

Christopher is convinced he can find her bones. The other adventurers laughed at him, and I don’t know why.

Bahadai, 5 Elcor, evening

Kesher is leaving us. Corcus is dying, and Kesher wants to give him a proper burial in the mountains to the southwest. The adventurers seemed confused and angry at this, but Kesher assured them that if they were to become true gods, they should not rely on the strength of an old monk. It was a crutch, he said, keeping them from discovering their true potential.

He said he is leaving before dawn tomorrow. He borrowed a cart to transport Corcus’s body. Everyone, including myself, is sad to see him go, not just because he kept us safe, but because he is like our father, the only father left.

Mordai, 6 Elcor, morning

We are traveling again. Kesher and Corcus are gone. It’s sunny and warm already outside, cut slightly by the breeze from the lake. The adventurers are fighting, I think because Kesher announced before our departure that Christopher was to be the leader of the caravan. They don’t seem to think that Christopher is going to be a good leader, and judging by the look in his eyes, Christopher doesn’t seem to think that either. Still, his pride overcomes his cowardice, and even though his eyes betray the broad smile on his face, he seems content in leading the group.

Christopher also looks a bit different. Minny swears he has an aura about him, light blue maybe.

We’re moving again. Will write later.

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Session 5 - The night of the ambulatory deceased
"I sure hope John doesn't get his head exploded by a Kobold Psion after we leave."

(Feel free to erase/replace part or all of this entry. I just wanted there to be something in the adventure log.)

After leaving Andelshire on Narcatz it started to rain, and kept raining throughout the day. As night fell the temple survivors arrived at the ferryman’s house. It was built around an ancient stone watchtower, and the ferryman was nowhere to be found. The survivors all took shelter from the downpour inside the house or the keep. The elderly Corcus, whose condition had been deteriorating ever since the attack on the temple, was bedridden and was being watched over by Kesher. After some investigation, they saw that the ferry had been sunk, and that the Tirusian army had passed directly through this area. They feared the worst for the ferryman.

They finally decided to settle in and get some sleep when Kesher, still watching over his sick friend, spotted a zombie through the window. All those fit for combat positioned themselves inside the house, on top of the keep, and, in Brandis’ case, on the roof of the house. They fought off the zombies with relative ease, but then a huge zombie hulk and a skull lord came into view. They knew things were going to get tough. Brandis retreated, flying up to the top of the keep. At the same time, a man wielding a longbow came towards the house from the other side, nearest the forest, suprised to see people battling zombies in his house. He proved to be John, the ferryman. The zombie hulk crashed through the wall beside Corcus bed, greatly annoying Kesher. Kesher reluctantly left his friend’s bedside to give the hulk and the skull lord a good thrashing. With Kesher and John joining the battle, the undead forces were quickly dispatched.

After the battle’s end they explained themselves to John and he agreed to contact the ferryman from the other side of the water, George, with a flare. However, after a misunderstanding and some harsh words with Brandis, he threw out all of the survivors and told them to fend for themselves. Sheepish, Brandis went back to apologize and offer whatever assistance John required. The survivors all pulled the sunken ferry from beneath the water, then worked to repair the broken wall of John’s house. Eager to redeem himself, Brandis threw himselve into building a new wall with the shipwright skills he had gained in his travels. The result was a wall finer and more sturdy than the wall that had been destroyed. John and Brandis then worked to restore the ferry, their argument happily forgotten.

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Session 4 - Andelshire
"The beeeest part of waking up is brain juice in your cup!"

(Feel free to erase/replace part or all of this entry. I just wanted there to be something in the adventure log.)

After fleeing the temple, the survivors came upon a nomadic group that had decided to settle near a river (the Narcaz river, named after one of their fallen friends). Kesher and the other survivors decided to help them fortify their town before they continued on their way. They all helped position stones that would make up the main wall, then Kesher, Corcus, Brandis, and Mykel went to a nearby natural quarry to bring back more stone.

Vic, Torrick, Chris, and Reed stayed behind and tried to tell the people of the prophecy of the Lost Light and the return of the gods. However, one of the leaders of the group, an elf named Leewin, took offense to their message and demanded that they stop. The other leader, a human named Henry, tried to calm Leewin, but had limited success. In the end, they stopped trying to preach to the people and headed off to the quarry to join their friends.

In the quarry, the group was making outstanding progress and ingratiating themselves to the townspeople with their displays of strength, magical ability, and kindness. Corcus, lifting a huge stone, found a tunnel dug into the earth. Mykel, ever the stalwart defender, volunteered to investigate. Crawling down the tunnel, she found a small chamber, barely big enough for the rest of the group. Continuing through another tunnel, she found the den of a carrion crawler, the crawler itself asleep on a bed of rotting corpses and refuse. She also saw the body of some sort of adventurer, wearing some equipment that might prove to be useful.

The rest of the group crawled down to the first small chamber, and Vic stealthily made his way into the crawler’s den, taking care not to wake it. Unfortunately, after making his way to the corpse of the adventurer and attempting to relieve it of any useful equipment, his rummaging woke the huge crawler, who then sleepily made its way towards the entrance of the den, away from Vic. Seeing his opportunity, Vic threw a poisoned dagger at the crawler, immobilizing it in the middle of the room. He then grabbed all of the equipment he could see and ran for the exit. As he neared the exit however, an ankheg burst from the earth in front of him, the shriek of the carrion crawler having roused it from its subterranean slumber. Vic dodged around the ankheg, but was slashed by one of its flailing claws as he passed. Vic turned, standing at the mouth of the exit tunnel. Wounded, out of breath, and with his arms full of loot, facing an ankheg and the enraged carrion crawler, Vic shouted to his friends. “Anyone wanna’ help me out here guys?!”

Brandis, standing at the other end of the tunnel, breathed deeply and exhaled a blast of magic-imbued wind that rushed to Victober and pulled him backwards through the small opening with an audible “Thwooomp!” Once Vic was through the tunnel, Brandis collapsed it with a stomp of his boot and a roll of thunder. The party then crawled out to safety, where Corcus slammed the stone back into place over the tunnel.

After returning with the stone, they discussed the course of action they should take with the leaders, Leewin and Henry. It was decided that the ankheg and the carrion crawler must be exterminated for the good of the town. The next day they headed to the quarry. Corcus removed the stone covering the tunnel to the crawler’s den, then made his way to the center of the quarry, joining a goliath from the town. The two huge goliaths waited until everyone had positioned themselves, then started to jump up and down, beating at the ground, and generally creating a ruckus in order to attract the attention of the underground pests. Six ankheg burst from the ground all around the quarry, and the carrion crawler poured out from its lair.

After most of the ankheg had been killed, the gravely wounded crawler retreated back underground, followed closely by Brandis and Mykel. While the rest of the party finished off the ankheg, they fought the cornered carrion crawler in its den, killing it. The triumphant exterminators then returned to the town for a night of celebration.

In the days that followed, the party lent all the help they could to the town. Torrick healed the townsfolk wounded during construction and taught the healing arts to any keen enough to learn. Mykel drew up plans for the general layout of the town and the construction of sturdy buildings, and afterward did what she could to train a militia in swordplay and defense. Reed taught a few bright students some Warlock spells that would be of particular use against the undead. Brandis expertly calmed any disputes that arose between the townspeople, and tried to be of help in the construction work (but was not used to working with such a large group and was asked to step aside before he caused problems). Vic took a nasty spill off a rooftop and had to be taken care of by a smirking Torrick for a while. Chris helped out where he could.

In thanks, the grateful townspeople insisted that the heroes name their new town. With little deliberation they decided on “Andelshire” after their departed friend. As they prepared for their departure, the teachers among them gave a few last pointers and words of encouragement to their students. Mykel bestowed one of her older (but still expertly oiled and sharpened) broadswords to her most promising student. Likewise, Reed passed on one of her old staffs to the most promising of her students. They then boarded their carriage and departed, the townspeople waving their arms and shouting words of thanks and luck to them until they were out of earshot.

And with that they continued on their way, watching the high, strong walls disappear behind them and hoping fervently that the little town of Andelshire-on-Narcaz would still be there if ever they returned.

[josh sez: i just changed the name from “narcatz” to “narcaz.” good log!]

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Et Cetera 4 - Brandis' Campfire Story

After fleeing the temple, Brandis was quiet for a time. As night fell and camp was made he seemed to make up his mind about something, and approached his companions.

“I… endangered you all. Trying to fight Uranbrulf was foolhardy. I was blinded by hate and pride. I’m… truly sorry, and I feel I owe you all an explanation.”

He drew a shaky breath as Mykel, Chris, Torrick, Vic, Reed, Corcus, and Kesher turned their attention to him as he sat down near the fire pit where they had gathered.

“I was born in a small town in Abaerd called Sindao. I doubt it exists anymore. I was born into a life of servitude… to Uranbrulf. You see, for a long time Uranbrulf had protected the town from the undead hordes, and in return the dragonborn townspeople all but worshipped him. To feed him they kept-”

Brandis’ jaw clamped shut as his eyes briefly flashed red. He drew a hissing breath and continued.

“The dragonborn kept humans. Like livestock. To feed to that red bastard Uranbrulf.”

Around the fire pit, fists clenched and brows furrowed, sympathetic in indignation.

“And I… among my duties in serving Uranbrulf I had to bring his meals from the town to his cave. …Lines of humans, shackled and broken… I took them straight to that red bastard to be eaten. For years.”

Brandis hung his head for a few moments to hide his wet eyes.

“My mother was an outsider, a refugee. She was around until I was about five. She gave me my name. She taught me to hate the dragon and the dragonborn… before she was taken to Uranbrulf’s cave. The slaves, the others, had been there for generations. Resistance bred out of them or beaten out. Nameless and brainless. But they were still human, dammitall.”

“Uranbrulf always had a human servant, a child, to perform various tasks. Mostly for his amusement. He liked to see a human bringing his meals to him, the-” A flash of scales showed under Brandis skin. “Once his servants grew large enough to be a mouthful, they too were eaten of course. I was chosen to be his servant, randomly, after my predecessor had met his end.”

Brandis grew a bit more relaxed now, a bit detached. He had told them the worst of it.

“Once, when Uranbrulf had fought off a particularly nasty undead attack, I had to staunch some of his wounds. I was covered in his blood, head to toe. It burned and stung, but more than that it…. changed me somehow. I’ve since learned what happened to me then. Bathing in the blood of a dragon, as I inadvertantly did, let’s you share in its power. That’s why I had the potential to be a sorcerer. And I think it might answer some questions you must have about my appearance when I get… agitated.”

“Anyway, some of the rest you all know. The Master found me and trained me, returning in secret to the town every year or two to give me new instruction and to check on my progress. Then the order to kill Uranbrulf.”

He shook his head at this, perplexed.

“But now that I know the the true power of an ancient dragon, I have to wonder at the motives, or the sanity of my beloved master.”

“Regardless, at the time I was full enough of hate and pride in my new abilities that I attacked Uranbrulf. I surprised him, needless to say. In fact, to say I surprised him would be an understatement of colossal proportions. It must have been as if a tiny mouse suddenly pulled a greatsword from nowhere and lopped of your arm.”

Brandis smiled and basked for a moment in the memory. Before being sobered by the fresher memory of his recent defeat.

“I suppose it was mostly shock and surprise that allowed me to take his eye. And luck, a lot of luck I’m sure. After his eye was gone he fled, desperate to get away from me. He didn’t even notice that I was near death myself at the time.”

“After that I went down to the town, told them that I had driven away their fat red god. I freed the human slaves, and together we raided the town for supplies, then loaded as much of Uranbrulf’s gold as we could into carts and wagons. We made our way to the coast, and parted ways at a port town.”

His face was mournful now.

“They looked at me… not with gratitude, but with fear and at least a little hate, well-hidden. They had seen me take their parents, their children, their siblings. Take them to Uranbrulf to die. His servants were always hated, outcasts, with good reason. More than that, they had seen the red glow of my dragon blood when I came down from the fight with Uranbrulf.”

“I don’t mind. I deserve their hate for what I did. Freeing them is only part of what I must do to redeem myself. While Uranbrulf lives I still bear the guilt. I still have their blood on my hands. To be free of it I need my- our revenge.”

Now was a face Brandis had never made before. Uncertain. Lost.

“But now… I don’t know what to do. I can’t killl Uranbrulf. I can’t. I can’t surprise him again, and even if I could he is far far stronger now than he ever was when I knew him. I don’t know…”

He shook his head.

“But anyway, I am truly sorry for endangering you all, and I’m thankful you are all safe. If you’ll excuse me I think I’ll try to get some sleep.”

He knew he would get none.

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Et Cetera 3 - Kesher and Brandis

Brandis wakes up with a gasping start, the scarred face of Uranbrulf seared into his mind. His fingers twitch, the tips warming with pure magic. He feels cold beads of sweat run down his temples, his breath comes quickly and heavily. He tries to lift them, can’t. Again, this time jerking his upper body around. Still stuck, even his head is unmovable. He moves his eyes down, then up. He notices the leather wrapped around his forehead, feels the ones wrapped around his wrists and ankles. This does nothing to diminish his frustration.

“Why have I been strapped down?!” he shouts. The caravan stops.

It is midday, one day since the destruction of the Temple of the Light. The survivors have been traveling westward toward the ferry to the mainland. They have a couple more days ahead of them.

Kesher’s blue head appears above Brandis. He smiles warmly, then looks up to whomever is leading the survivors. Nods for them to continue. As they start up again, Kesher walks beside Brandis.

“I strapped you down, Brandis,” says Kesher. “You have a nasty habit of waking up in the moment you slept in. We’ve had to replace many a window—”

“Where is Uranbrulf?” Brandis says curtly. “Is he gone? Dead?”

“He is very much alive,” Kesher replies. “I thought he and I were … matched, but it seems that not even I have the power to destroy him.”

There is a pause, the squeaking of the wagon’s wheels and the light crunch as it rolls along light grooves in the pathway. Brandis says, quietly, “Will you release me. Please.”

“Of course,” says Kesher. He removes the straps and Brandis sits up and at the edge of the wagon. He stares out at the scene behind him: the meadow pathway, nestled between dark forests to the south and the Cherook Mountains to the north. Smoke rises in the distance, from the temple, collecting in a darkening cloud high in the sky. No sign of dragon’s wings beating.

Brandis’s vision becomes fuzzy, and as the adrenaline slows he can feel the soreness in his neck. As he brings a hand up to massage it, Kesher says, “I had to…”

“I know,” Brandis says. His eyes fall to the ground. “I … I am not as powerful as I thought I was. Tell me, Kesher: how was I able to get away from Uranbrulf’s grasp four years ago, yet now the same spell I cast on him does no permanent damage?”

“Uranbrulf is not the dragon he was four years ago. Something has changed within him.”

“He’s certainly not a fat, lazy bastard anymore,” says Brandis.

“I should thank you, Brandis, for saving my life,” says Kesher solemnly. “So, thank you.”

Brandis looks away, noticing Mykel, his swordmage friend and companion, walking among a couple of survivors by the carriage. She glances up at him and smiles.

“I need more power,” Brandis says. “Saving you means little when that dragon is still in the skies.”

“You must continue your training,” Kesher says.

“That dragon is my training,” says Brandis. “Or, it will be my training. Unless … what the Master meant by ‘training’ was ascending to godhood…”

“Ah, your elusive Master,” says Kesher. “I suspect you have not seen him in quite some time.”

“Not since he gave me the skills to become a sorcerer. We have spoken little of him, haven’t we, Kesher? Do you know anything about him? Where he comes from, who he is?”

Kesher pauses. His arms crossed, he lifts his finger up to his lips, eyes narrowed, as if thinking. “Perhaps I should respond by telling you the day I first met your Master.”

“You met him?” says Brandis. “You met him and you never told me about this?”

“There was no reason to,” Kesher replies. “I met him a thousand years ago.”

Brandis stares at him.

“There are things about your Master that not even I understand,” Kesher continues, "but even you must concede that his power comes from longevity and training. He is not a normal human, if he is a human at all.

“I met the Master twelve years after the Cataclysm. In the days before the death of the gods, I had felt strange rumblings within my spirit, prophetic feelings that I could not discern. I know now that they were the nudging of Avandra, or perhaps her angels, telling me that something big was going to happen. Then the Cataclysm occurred, and I felt nothing. My holy symbol felt heavy and empty. I wandered the town I was in, Serekhi, for days, feeling lost and alone. And then, one day, I met your Master.

“Back then he called himself Coren. He was tall, angular, with a narrow, gaunt face and long brown hair. For a while I was certain he was an elf, for his ears were somewhat pointed, but in conversation with him I learned it was merely a trait passed down from his family for generations. Their surname, in fact, was the old language word for “elf ears” – Aeutoei, I believe. I’m not sure if I believed him, though. Perhaps he was a half-elf and just didn’t want anyone to know—"

“Kesher!” Brandis says. “First of all, you knew about the Master for all this time, and you knew that I had been trained by him, and yet you did not tell me this? And secondly, how am I, or you, to believe that this … Coren you speak about is indeed the Master? The Master I know is quite clearly human.”

“Have you ever seen his ears?” asks Kesher.

Brandis begins to speak but then stops. “Well … of course I … have!”

“What did they look like?”

“Do I look like the kind of person who pays attention to what a man’s ears look like?!”

“It is a defining characteristic that separates elves and humans,” says Kesher. “For the most part. When I met him, his tipped ears poked out from behind his long hair, like most elves, which is why I was certain he was an elf.”

“This is pointless,” Brandis says. “Continue your story.”

“Alright… When I met Coren he was a brash young man, steeped in arcane power but unwilling to pursue the typical paths known to arcane beings. In short, he refused to become a wizard, despite how much his guardians wanted him to. Coren had no parents – they were murdered shortly after his birth – and his guardians were two nobles who thought it would be quaint to raise a son of their own. They did, however, strongly wish for Coren to become a wizard, and to attend training at the Mages Guild in Nevelen. Their fear is that he would shy away from this and become a sorcerer instead. But Coren wanted neither. He wished to be a fighter, to use his father’s longsword (the only thing of his biological parents that he kept) and be in the front lines of battle.

“I should not say that it was I who implanted the idea in his mind to merge the two forms, to use his arcane power to enhance his swordsmanship, but we did speak of it at length one summer night in Serekhi, of possible forms and styles of movement, of ways to shield oneself during battle. Many of the techniques Mykel uses today and similar to the ideas he and I spoke of all those years ago, which is the primary reason why I feel your Master is this Coren, or perhaps a descendant of his. Though the power your Master contains leads me to believe that he has been alive for quite some time, for long enough to master all forms of arcane power.”

“That … that is preposterous,” says Brandis. He hops down from the wagon and stops as people pass him by. Kesher stops beside him. “You’re telling me that this Coren fellow and you invented the art of the swordmage? Right then? And that Coren developed it and has continued to develop it for the past one thousand years?”

“I have been alive for fifteen hundred years, Brandis,” says Kesher. “Why is it so preposterous for your master to be alive for a thousand?”

“Why did he teach me to become a sorcerer, then? Why not train me to be a swordmage?”

“Perhaps you were special. The dragon’s blood has sent you down another path, and he wished to nurture it. Have you ever met anyone else besides Mykel who was trained by him?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Then might I suggest you find some. Unlocking the mystery behind your Master might be as simple as collecting all the puzzle pieces. In the meantime, your power will only increase with time and training. Now come, the caravan is leaving us.”

Kesher begins to walk back to the caravan. Brandis stands alone, mulling over what just happened, before he continues onward as well.

[DM’s note: I imagine this will be the first of many Brandis/Kesher moments, hehe]

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Et Cetera 2 - Vic's Questions to Kesher

A night without any undead presence is an unexpected and welcome relief; it seems as though even the lich kings want no part in the events which just occurred. Hidden deep in the forest, the survivors of the assault on the temple make camp. Only nineteen people escaped the battle, two being Kesher and Corcus, the rest being Lost Light and orphans.

Victobar sits somberly, staring out over the countryside for a long time. After a while, Torrick joins him. As a good friend and well-versed speaker, he seems to know the appropriate words to apply at the perfect times. After talking with Tor for a short while, Vic stares again for a few minutes, and then seems to make up his mind. He cautiously approaches Kesher, who somehow manages to look both lost in meditation and openly engaged to Vic’s presence. “Sir, may I ask you a few questions?”

As still as possible, staring ahead at the lands beyond the water, Kesher says, “You are always welcome to ask questions.”

Vic sits next to Kesher. Unsure of where to begin, he hesitantly says, “My mother used to speak of an ancient line of kings and a large empire that, as she recalls, spanned the world over. You have been around for a long time, even before the Cataclysm, haven’t you? Do you remember what the world was like? Do you remember the old gods?”

Kesher turns his head to look at Vic. “That, my child, is not a question I was expecting to be asked. The Old World is not spoken of much these days.” He pauses, looking back out to the sea, his face bathed in the warm glow of the fire. "I do remember the world before the Cataclysm. Such a thing is hard to forget when it is something you desperately wish to return. Before my time in the temple, I was a pilgrim for the goddess Avandra. She was the goddess of change, of freedom and travel. I walked across every land in Khalin, traveled to every city, met with every noble and every beggar. I was young, an initiate back then, with only the vague memories of my past life to guide me. But soon I became something more.

“I remember the old gods well. Some were kind, others unkind. Some were a force for justice and good, like Avandra and Pelor; others dwelled within the deepest pits of hell, plotting against the multiverse. Still others walked a neutral path, like the elven god Corellon Larethian, siding with no one, yet followed by thousands. Avandra chose me to be her pilgrim, and I walked the path for her, but in those days worship was given to many gods.

“The world itself was … turbulent. Life is always turbulent. I would say it was peaceful but it never was, it simply seems more peaceful than this age.” He pauses, noticing Vic’s confusion at the term. "Theologians back then described their time as the Third Age, when the gods removed themselves from our world to take up residence in the Astral Sea. The races each responded to this differently — some thought that the gods had forsaken them, while others believed the gods could not live to their fullest in the view of mortals. This, the world after the Cataclysm, is the Fourth Age, I would suppose, though I’ve met no scholar who even speaks of the ages before the Cataclysm.

“As for empires, well … there were many grand empires and republics at that time, but none was grander than the human empire of Shavar Tol. It encompassed the entirety of Nevelen and most of the northern part of Septech, representing both the human’s resourcefulness and their thirst for power. I was lucky to be reborn shortly before the Shavari came to power, and watched as their empire rose to new heights. The Shavari were once desert traders living in what we now call the Kartukst peninsula (in southern Nevelen). They lived a meager but satisfying life until Akir Shavar was born. Akir’s parents, Torin and Esmerel, were from two warring tribes, the biggest Shavari tribes, and had fallen in love in the midst of battle. Their marriage formed the Union, a partnership created to eliminate the civil wars brewing between the Shavari. Their future now lay in the hands of their First Emperor, Akir.

“Akir officially became emperor at the age of fifteen, in the year 3519 of the Third Age. I believe I was 56 when his ceremonial sword was given to him, and I just happened to be in Kartukst during this ceremony. The Shavari were good friends of the deva, for reasons I never quite understood. I was welcomed into his palace with open arms, and I knew, from the glint in his young eye, that this was the beginning of something big.

“For the next twenty years, Akir built the Shavari Empire (which is the literal translation of “Shavar Tol”) into the stuff of legend. His conquest was through diplomacy and tactics, knowledge and humility, and soon Nevelen was his backyard. But, as with all power, it came with greed, and once Nevelen was his, Akir was determined for more. His ships sailed west to Abaerd, where they were met with strong draconic resistance. Apparently his tacticians either did not tell him about the dragonborn armies, or wished to teach him a lesson. Regardless, the lesson did not stick, and Akir doubled his forces in conquest of Septech. He landed in the Irsun, far from any tiefling or halfling cities, and quickly set up camp. Within five years, the northern half of the continent would be his."

A lull in Kesher’s narrative made Vic think it might be over. “What then?” he asked. “Was Akir defeated?”

“In a way,” Kesher replied. "Akir himself died, some say of poisoning, ten years later after landing on Septech. But he had children and powerful men and women behind him, and the emperor’s legacy lasted for nearly five hundred years, despite constant turmoil at the edges of Shavari rule. The dragonborn wanted nothing with humans in general, and thus did not attempt to crush the empire. The tieflings enjoyed the new trade routes and protection. The dwarves and elves suffered greatly under the humans, but their stories were buried beneath Shavari’s greatness.

“Shavar Tol ended the way everything ended back then: the Cataclysm. The gods disappeared, and Khalin crumbled. The first to die were the Shavari, and the other humans, who, while clever, were not used to dealing with the surge of undead, especially without clerics or most divine magics. In an instant, the great empire was reduced to ashes.”

Kesher pauses, his head bowed as he reflects on those days in his own mind. Vic watches him, always interested in the seldom spoke of memories and emotions of his elder teacher. He fidgets with the ring on his finger, then, remembering the story behind it, removes it and shows it to Kesher.

“Before she died,” he says, “my mother gave me this sigil ring. She said it had been passed down through our family many generations and had something to do with our noble bloodline. Does it look familiar to you?”

Kesher takes the ring and studies it. Gold, with a flat top like a signet ring, embedded with an intricate symbol. He smiles when he sees it, but that smile quickly fades.

“It is nothing,” he says, handing it back to Vic. “Memories of a lost time, unimportant to the present.”

Vic doesn’t believe him, but he keeps his peace. If Kesher wishes to tell him, he will, in time.

Trying to change the subject, Vic says, “I’ve been meaning to ask you, did anything come of your interrogation of the tiefling? Do you know who was spying on you and why?”

“They were all spying on us,” Kesher replies. “The tieflings, I mean. Madur and his associates are members of House Elthorne, one of the more … infamous houses in Beregin. Their trade is in the black market, though no one will say that outright for fear of getting a knife in the back. We had suspected them of being spies but did not want to make an incident out of it.”

Vic notices a frustrated look on Kesher’s face. “Madur was one of the prophesied ones, and, had he ascended to godhood, would most likely have filled Vecna’s position, as the keeper of secrets. Now, he is dead, and we have one less potential god.”

“But he was spying on you! He is in league with the dragonborn—”

“Enough,” Kesher says, and the silence that swoops in is deafening. For what seems like an eternity, Kesher is quiet, staring out at the sea. Vic stands, about to leave, when Kesher says, “There are forces at work here that even I do not understand, Victobar. The tiefling knew very little, less than Madur did, I believe, though what is certain is the alliance that seems to have formed between House Elthorne and Tirusia.”

Kesher stands, slowly, and turns to Vic. “Now, enough questions. Let us sleep.” He puts his hand on Vic’s forehead – the usual Kesher greeting – and smiles warmly.

“Sir,” Vic says, “I know we’ve reached a dark pass in the road, but I intend to do my best to bring hope back to the people of Khalin, and maybe together we can beat back the blight that has infested our lands. I would be honored if you would help us.”

Kesher chuckles. “My dear boy,” he says, “I already am helping you.”

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Session 03 - Prologue's End
"Come on, we gotta get back to the temple! We gotta ... we gotta get back to the ship, I can't breathe!"

[The tagline for this session is brought to you by Kirk on LSD]

(This tale was told by Torrick Ripson and Victobar Cobb to the last remaining deva, Kesher)

We were on our way to an old cave that was purported to have been filled with umber hulks in ancient times. We searched along the side of the mountain for the cave to no avail. We did however, find a ragged looking goblin tribe with friendly disposition, although the goblins were in poor spirits. They had been attacked by a band of draconic creatures heading towards the cave, so they were able to tell us exactly where it was. Vic decided to take this as an opportunity to proselytize, and their mood brightened significantly as they listened eagerly to his stories of the new gods. He held his flaming longsword in the air and the goblins were awed by it. He then suggested that the goblins head to the Temple of the Light to help aid the deva for the coming of the gods. The goblins were enthralled, and rushed off in the direction of the temple.

We found the cave easily enough, especially as there were goblin corpses to mark the path. Before we entered, Brandis sent his parrot familiar Shah to scout the cave. Apparently he can see whatever it sees. Thus we went in prepared for all of the scorpions we’d be fighting. Vic decided to collect all of the stingers of the dead so he could make a poison.

After we’d taken care of all of them, a low overhang led us into a watery part of the cave. Here we came upon a battle of scorpions and kruthiks (these weird reptiles that look like this) versus kobolds. Since
they were in the midst of battle, they didn’t notice our presence right away. The cave appeared to deadend here in a dome with shallow water around the edges and a deeper band (a stream?) in the middle. In the deeper water was the vague shadowy form of some apparent giant fire elemental that had died and turned to stone.

Vic took this instant to turn into, again, the oddly short dragonborn (this is becoming a repeating strategy) while Brandis shouted out to them in draconic to take heart. We fought off the reptiles and insects pretty quickly. Then Vic turned with his back facing the kobolds and Brandis came to stand beside and act as his voice. Brandis, Vic and Christopher argued for a couple of minutes over what to do with the kobolds. Brandis hates all draconic creatures and wanted to kill all of them – he considers them cold-blooded murderers – but Chris (who also speaks draconic and could potentially undermine Vic, which would have deadly consequences in front of kobolds) would not kill something not attacking us, and Vic was convinced he could convert them. Eventually, Vic/Brandis called for their leader. The kobolds squabbled for a minute (picture Josh speaking for them in a Gollum voice), and one
called Bilg (Bilg Ates, apparently) came forward. We sent the others to guard the front of the cave (so we could deal with them later). There were some very funny moments with the “leader,” wondering why this dragonborn was travelling with humans and why they have a horse, of all things, hitched to the wagon, as opposed to a drake.

The party searched the cave and found a couple of pots, which are apparently the thrown weapons these kobolds use. Most of them were empty, but a few were full of some stinky black tar. (Apparently this is one of the kobolds’ special attacks.) Vic decided to keep some of the
empty pots to use to store his poison, and, what the heck, a couple of the stinkpots in case they might come in handy. Bilg said that they were to meet with a dragonborn called Tireth who was up ahead. Although this appeared to be a dead end, Bilg led us through the water under the cave wall into another cave room with a ladder to help us climb out of the water.

Here we had to think fast; Bilg raced off to get Tireth, and Vic covered his dragonborn face with a handkerchief to conceal the fact that his mouth wasn’t moving exactly in time with the words that would follow, and Brandis stood behind him to act as his voice.

(This begins Vic’s retelling)
In struts Tireth, a very ornately armored dragonborn with a commanding demeanor. This guy is obviously a badass. He is surrounded by two kobold wyrmpriests who are always at his side. He is very suspicious, and wants to know what this strangely clad, disturbingly short dragonborn is doing here, what unit he is with, and why he is wearing that ridiculous handkerchief over his face. Brandis has concocted a brilliant story, saying that he is not part of the military at all (having learned from the previous experience of being asked for his papers). He was an entrepreneur who had left his homeland to follow the military. He has followed the troops seeking to join the forces and help with the victorious army. But who are these humans he was with? These humans, although wretched and disgusting (Chris spits on the ground, but remains silent), were mercenaries he had hired, as his protectors. Tireth, very surprised, seems to buy this. Speaking somewhat haltingly (and beginning to sound like Ron Burgundy — you can tell that Josh wasn’t exactly prepared for this turn of events), he says, “Well … then … if that is truly your wish … come with me outside, and help me bury our dead companions.” Vic gives Brandis a look like “What are we getting into here?” and they follow.

After the work is done, and the other kobold has loaded the wagon waiting outside, Tireth says, “Come now, leave behind these disgusting humans and come with me to our camp.”

Vic is a little taken aback. “But these are my mercenaries; I have hired them to guard me.”

“They will not be needed now.”

“But I … still owe them for their services. Give me a few minutes … and I will pay them and send them on their way … It will not take long.”

Now there is some furious whispering discussion (all the while as Vic makes a show of fumbling for his purse to “pay” them). Vic tries to come up with several ideas to get them all along, but realizes that Tireth will never let a human in his camp.

“Come, we must go now!” yells Tyrith.

Vic turns to face him and Brandis shouts, “On my way!”

Vic, terrified turns back to look at Brandis, but Brandis shoves his parrot into his pack right behind his shoulder and pushes him forward with a cruel looking smile and a wave, saying “Well, good luck, friend.”

Vic, still not exactly sure of the act, resigns and boards the wagon behind Tireth, and they take off.

“What is your name?” asks Tireth.

“…Kroxor”

Vic, befuddled, realizes that the parrot is quietly telling him what Tireth is asking and then speaking for him. Brandis is speaking through the parrot. Vic also notices that Tireth is carrying a box just the right size to house THE ORB!

“So, uh, Kroxor, you are from Tirusia?”

“Yes.”

“What ward are you from?” asks Tireth.

The parrot explains that Vic is the son of two noble merchants that have forbidden him to join the military, but he’s run away so he could join anyways.

“Do you have any weapons training?”

“I can use this crossbow and short sword.”

Tireth snorts with laughter. “These toys?! You will learn to use a broadsword, like a worthy dragonborn!”

Tireth seems to have really taken a shine to Vic. He leans in close and says, “Listen, I know it
must be tough being so short. You stick with me, and we will make a dragonborn out of you! You’ll be able to help us defeat those nasty humans. In fact, our forces are destroying the temple as we speak.”

Vic’s eyes widen. “The temple?”

“Yes, the dragon Uranbrulf is taking care of those pesky deva.”

Brandis screams the name of his adversary and takes off running in the direction of the temple. “UURANBRUULFF!!”

Cut back to the group. Mikel takes off after Brandis and the remaining three (Torrick, the bard, Chris the swordmage and his servant Reed) are left standing there. They discuss their options and decide to head back to the mouth of the cave and get the wagon because with the
horse’s speed, they will arrive at the temple faster than if they ran from here. They trek their way back and find those kobolds still guarding the entrance. Chris yells out in draconic, “Oh, the dragonborn told us to come here to get the wagon, but you guys keep waiting here,
kthxbai!” and they take off around the mountainside back towards the temple.

Cut back to Vic. They arrive at the camp and Tireth says, “Stay here! I’ll be right back.”

There are a series of tents in a cleared space surrounded by thick forest, but it is completely deserted save for two huge guard drakes to one side of Tireth’s tent and one to the side of
the wagon. Tireth carries the box as he steps out of the wagon and speaks some orders to the drake. It stands in front of his tent while he goes inside, apparently to secure the box.

Vic realizes this may be his only chance, so he jumps out of the wagon.

From the trailer behind the wagon, Bilg shouts, “Wait! Where are you going? Tireth said to wait here!”

psst Brandis!” Vic mutters to the parrot in his backpack.

Brandis responds, “Nature calls, I’m going into those trees over there.”

“Good idea! I will join you!”

“No! You must not; Tireth told you to stay where you are. You must listen, as you are military. Besides, I heard Tireth saying that ‘That Bilg better shape up.’ I don’t think you’re on his good side.”

Bilg’s eyes grow wide, and he says, “Oh yes, of course. You go, I will stay here.”

Vic jumps off into the woods and manages to sneak around behind the tent without catching the attention of the two drakes nearby. He can only see Tireth’s silhouette through the tent, but it
appears that he is securing the small box into a larger box and (unfortunately) seems to be sealing up the container with incantations. Vic considers poking a small hole in the side to get a better view, when he is grabbed very hard on the shoulder. He turns quickly around and confronts the rotting face of a zombie that has caught his arm. He reacts instantly, grabbing a thick branch of the tree above his head, kicking off the ground, and spinning up into the branches, thereby breaking the grip on his arm and clearing him from the reach of any of the five zombies he can now see below.

Brandis!” Vic once again says into his backpack.

There is a short pause as Brandis hurriedly figures out what to do. And then:

AAH! Zombies!”

Tireth comes running, and upon seeing “Kroxor” up in a tree he bursts into laughter and says, “How did you get up in that tree?”

“I had a nature call, so I went into the woods, and zombies attacked!”

Tireth’s laughter soon becomes near pity. “Oh, how pathetic! Get down here and help me fight them!”

Vic shoots at one of the zombies. “No, I’ve got a crossbow, I can shoot them from up here.”

Tyrith makes exasperated noises. “That toy again!” He steps into a zombie and takes it down swiftly with his broadsword.

The other drakes join in and begin to make very quick work of the zombies.

Vic manages to kill a zombie with his crossbow. “Oh whoopie,” says Tireth, “now get down here and fight like a dragonborn, not some pansy with a toy.”

Vic gets Brandis to attempt a diversion. “The zombies moved very strangely, and I think I caught a glimpse of a skull lord farther in the trees!”

“Nonsense,” Tireth replies, “we took care of the skull lord around here when we set up our camp.” Having killed the last zombie Tireth begins to rush toward the wagon. “Now come on! We must go now!” [DM’s note: this is when the tagline was uttered, by your loving DM. -Josh]

Vic jumps down into the trees, and Brandis shouts, “Oh no! A skull lord has got me! AAH! I am dead!”

Tireth stares into the woods for a second as Brandis continues to make dying noises. “You pansy!” he shouts. He whips the drake ahead and the wagon takes off. “I totally misjudged that guy,” Tireth says to one of his wyrmpriests, who merely shrugs in response.

Quickly Vic jumps back into a tree and surveys the situation. The three guard drakes are still there! But it appears the two on the side weren’t specifically ordered to guard the tent, as they left to fight zombies. Vic grabs one of the stink pots out of his pack and tosses some of the tar into the area between the drakes, so that his scent will be disguised. He then tosses a few of the pots to the other side of the camp, so that the crashing noise will send the other two drakes off to investigate. He manages to sneak down and open the back flap of the tent — only to confront a small, quietly growling drake wearing a collar. He quickly looks around and finds a container of meat scraps (drake treats). The drake perks up and stops growling at this. Vic grabs two scorpion stingers out of his pack and squeezes the venom into the meat, then tosses it to the drake. The drake sniffs it for a minute, then scarfs it down.

A few minutes later, the drake is violently vomiting and Vic surveys the chest. Three locks and a sheen which indicates a magic seal. Plus, it is as large as a table, so there is no way he could carry it. He picks the locks, but is dejected for a minute about the magic seal, before he realizes that Brandis can see through the parrot. He pulls the bird out of his pack and Brandis surveys the seals. But Brandis doesn’t know anything about magic seals, so he must defer to Mykel, who is running beside him. So, Vic describes the seal to Brandis, who describes it to Mykel. Apparently the final seal can only be opened by the correct incantation word, set by the seal’s maker. “How will we ever figure out what that is?” Vic asks as he looks around the room for something. His eyes find the drake, lying in a pool of its own vomit and breathing
very raggedly. “Brandis, the Drake’s collar!” Although Vic only sees strange squiggles on the collar token, sure enough Brandis can make out a name. Brandis whispers the draconic word for “Fang” (Vic thinks I should write that it said “Cuddles”) and they hear a pop from the box. Inside is the box with the orb and a shiny new helmet.

In a few moments Vic is running full speed away from the camp cradling the box, and manages to be near enough in time to the party’s wagon coming around the pass that he can call out to his friends to get him. He jumps into the wagon and they race off towards the temple. On the way, they pass the band of goblins, who have erected a ragged banner marked by a crude drawing of Victober’s visage. They cheer our passing.

They round the base of the temple just behind Brandis, who is still running full speed. He has an insane expression, steam pours from his nostrils, and a patchwork of scales are faintly visible below his skin, and he screams, “I am coming for you Uranbrulf!”

Most of the temple is a complete wreckage, and there is a fierce battle raging below. The rest of the party runs up the steps towards the top of the temple behind Brandis. They race to keep up with Brandis until they actually see Uranbrulf, an unimaginably massive ancient dragon. Chris and his servant say “No way am I going up there. We have to go, now!” They wait beside the cart.

Vic is torn for a moment until he catches sight of his friend Aeven running down the steps and shouting, “Victobar! It’s horrible, everyone is dead! We have to flee. There is no hope!”

“But everyone, the deva, my mother!” says Vic.

Aeven grabs Vic by the shoulders. “Vic, your mother is dead! I saw her go down!”

“Noo! My mother!”

Vic races up the steps, and Torrick follows, shouting to him. At the top, they see Uranbrulf, with a massive aura of flame surrounding him, about to finish off Kesher, the elder deva. The other deva are slain, lying nearby. To one side Corcus the old goliath is nearly overwhelmed by kobolds. Mykel stands behind Brandis, off to one side, nearly paralyzed by fear, but valiantly ready to defend her friends. Kesher manages to see the group arriving and yells out, “Get out of here you fools!” just as Brandis steps into the center at the edge of the dragon’s aura and shouts, “Uranbrulf!”

The dragon, apparently recognizing the voice, arches his head around and smiles cruelly. One of his eyes appears to be a blind mass of scar tissue. His words are deep and resonant as he laughs the name, “Brandis!”

“Time I took your other eye!” Brandis shouts, and readies for battle.

Kesher and Uranbrulf battle for a few minutes while Brandis feebly attempts to help. Barely scratching the enormous dragon, frustrated, Brandis shoots his acid orb spell at Uranbrulf’s good eye. If the gods lived, Brandis would praise their name, as the spell hits its mark, blinding Uranbrulf (though only temporarily) and sending him into a rage.

Kesher does some ridiculous monk move in a glowing blue flash and takes the dragon unawares. Uranbrulf sweeps forward, but the monk teleports to his other side, where everyone is standing. Brandis begins running in to attack. Mykel runs to the side to help Corcus fight off the kobolds.

Vic and Torrick by this time have retreated out of sight of the dragon, and have been shouting to Brandis to come to his senses. They see Kesher and Torrick calls out to him. “Brandis has gone crazy! Stop him before he gets himself killed!”

The dragon is still searching for Kesher in a blind fury, and Brandis keeps failing to even attract his attention with feeble attacks. Mykel has managed to free Corcus, and they are rushing out to meet Victobar and Torrick. Kesher catches up with Brandis and gives him a solid
crack on the head to knock him unconscious. Corcus picks him up, and everyone rushes to the cart and flees the temple and the blinded dragon.

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